It’s the night after the biggest show on WWF’s calendar, so you know what that means: Smarkamania baby! Or maybe not this long ago. It’s the 18th March 2002 and we’re in the Molsen Centre of Montreal, Canada for episode #460 of WWF Raw! Your main event tonight: Hulk Hogan and The Rock team up to take on whats left of the nWo!
The big non-kayfabe thing to remember here is that Steve Austin has no-showed the event, later citing burnout/problems with creative as the reason, so I presume there’s been some last-minute changes to the script. I bet he was meant to be involved in the main event somehow. Attitude splash, “Thorn In Your Eye”, fireworks and a hot crowd greet us from Montreal. Then again its always a hot crowd there. JR and the King on commentary, who announce that our new Undisputed Champion Triple H will be here later, as will Linda McMahon who has “a big announcement”. Is it about Stone Cold?
Lillian Garcia introduces Hollywood Hulk Hogan, who is out to the nWo theme and in nWo gear. The crowd going crazy, I will never fully understand it. Hogan milks it in for a bit as the noise just gets louder and louder. “Damn I love you guys”. Hogan says he expected to have the greatest match ever with The Rock, and also expected that Nash and Hall would respect him. He further expected (using that word a lot) to be the only icon in the WWF, and that he would beat Rock to within an inch of his life. He also didn’t expect (come on now) the crowd to stick with him and chant his name, which the Montreal crowd enthusiastically bites on. He thanks the crowd, and thanks The Rock. He came here to embarrass Rock, brings up the awkward fact that a few weeks ago he hit him with a truck, very deliberately brings up the fact that he pinned The Rock in a tag match (gotta get my heat back brother), runs down their Mania match, and says he never expected any of it. “Rocky sucks” chants, jeez. Hogan has one more thing he wants to say: someday Hogan and Rock will square off again. You can bet that was part of the contract too.
Anyway, this brings out the man himself. He milks the crowds reaction for a long time too, and their dueling chants. Keeps getting booed on his “Finally…” but the crowd chants along when he delivers it anyway. I wonder if they are using up this much time to make up for Austin not being there. Rocky adds that “Hulk Hogan has come back to his Hulkamaniacs” and the crowd explodes. Ugh. Rock verbally felates Hogan for a bit, and thanks both Hogan and the crowd for their passion. As for Hogan’s challenge, it would be Rock’s honour to accept. Just 11 months away folks!
Rock next calls Hogan out on his nWo colours, and Hogan responds by tearing the shirt Hogan-style. This brings out the Outsiders of course, to mild boos. Nash mocks Hogan’s “act of defiance”, says Hogan turned on them before they turned on him, and all of this is getting the “what” treatment from fans. Gives out that Hogan didn’t help them with Austin, and says Hogan is poison to the nWo. Nash genuinely emotional about all of this, to his credit, but this opening segment is past the 20 minute mark, so could do with wrapping up.
Rock jumps in to run Nash down for his interruptions, and challenges Nash to inject some lethal poison tonight. Hall on the mike next, and looking a bit worse for wear. Rock and Hogan want some of Hall and Nash tonight? Rock mocks Hall’s slow manner of speaking, which gets the crowd back on his side, and says he’ll inject some boots straight up their candy asses. This leads to Hogan adding “Just bring it”. Nash asks if Hogan is ready to choke again, and The Rock asks “whatchagonnado” when he and Hogan team for the first time? God this felt long, nearly a third of the entire show, but thankfully winds up now. So our main event has an old man who can barely go, a guy in real bad shape who can’t go, an injured guy, and The Rock. Must watch TV.
As an aside, so telling of Hogan’s clout that the night after Triple H won the big one it’s Hogan opening the show, and cutting Nash and Hall loose to boot. The reactions speak for themselves, but looking back Hogan winning the strap within the next month no longer seems as surprising, even if it’s still disgusting.
After a break onto the first match of the evening, and it’s a title match to boot.
Rob Van Dam (c) vs Christian (WWF Intercontinental Championship)
So Christian loses a European Title match the night before, and then gets a shot at a bigger title? And he’s been on a losing streak recently too? Sense, this makes none. Big love for RVD, big hate for Christian. Punches from Christian, into the corner, Van Dam hits an elbow, then a second rope head kick. Shoulders in the corner, Christian gets a foot up, and then hangs RVD on the ropes. Shoulder charge sends the champ into the barricade. Back in, stomps, Van Dam rallying back, hits a spinning heel kick. Roll-through into that corner flip, out of a Reverse DDT attempt and able to get Christian down and hit the Rolling Thunder. No-selling, Christian straight back up to hit that Reverse DDT, but then leaves the ring, grabs the IC belt and walks away like he’s won the thing. DDP comes up behind, shoves Christian back into the ring. Another heel kick, Five Star, 1, 2, 3 in under three.
Winner (and still WWF Intercontinental Champion): Mr Monday Night, off to a good start with his reign I guess.
Verdict: Short, and a bit nonsensical in terms of challenger or the challenger’s behavior. I guess the Christian/DDP programme is going to keep going then? Crowd happy anyway.
We don’t even get to see a tantrum as we go backstage, where Chris Jericho arrives. He attacks a security guard who has the temerity to mock him for losing the previous night. Extended beatdown, and Jericho even spits on the guy, now that’s vicious heel territory. Hmm.
JR and Lawler run down some later events, which is going to include Billy & Chuck defending the Tag Titles against the Dudley Boyz. But first…
Trish Stratus vs Lita
Chapter 47 in the Stratus/Lita rivalry, brought to you by Burger King of all sponsors. Lita out in a cool luminescent top, like a proto-Naomi. No reason for this other than “They were in a match last night”. Shoving, Lita takes Stratus down, back up and punches. Trish with a hard clothesline for two, then a headlock. Lita out of it with a reverse suplex, as JR tells us that Jericho has left the arena. Maybe he was down to face Austin. Wolf whistles as Lita hits a head scissors takedown, looking for the Twist of Fate but Trish out it. Stratus hits a head kick, but Lita pushes off of the Stratusfaction. Lita hits her Moonsault, and that’s it in only a minute-and-a-half.
Winner: Lita, barely working up any kind of sweat.
Verdict: Short enough that it’s hard to have one. Less botches than last night.
Jazz appears to attack Lita in the aftermath for some reason, and when Trish comes to her defence Ivory appears. The heels leave the faces lying, slap hands and stalk off. Think Ivory might have turned up at least partly so commentary could promote the ongoing second season of Tough Enough.
After the break, we get thrown to Linda McMahon’s office at WWF Headquarters. She thanks the wrestlers and the fans for Wrestlemania, and says the board of directors has come up with an “action plan” for the future: a brand extension! Ric Flair is getting Raw, Vince is getting Smackdown, and one week from now a draft will take place of the roster, excepting the Undisputed and Womens Champions, who will jump between both. A lot of corporate speak follows, and the question has to be asked as to how the BOD can do this if McMahon and Flair are the co-owners.
Anyway, this was a pretty big deal at the time, the first time they split the roster up, and probably the biggest organisational change to kayfabe WWF ever. A reaction to how bloated things had become since the Fed subsumed what was left of WCW and ECW with the Flair/McMahon feud as a cover, the concept is interesting, but needs some fine-tuning already: so Triple H and Jazz will run between shows, but one of Raw or Smackdown won’t have any need of a tag division? The framework would get changed up fast enough, and Draft Day next Monday sounds like something you really would want to watch.
Vince is seen stalking backstage, and after the break he heads to the ring. He says to “this unusual French-Canadian crowd” that he will no longer be on Raw, and wants to give a heartfelt goodbye. The fans cheer as Vince insists they’ll miss him, his “oratory”, and “presence” as King asks for Vince to take him with him. The crowd starts chanting Vince out of the building, earning a “Shhhuuut up”. He says Raw is getting the consolation prize of Ric Flair, and he’s no Vince McMahon, lacking the killer instinct, marketing savvy, mind manipulation, and now the “Hey, hey, hey Goodbye” chant is deafening, louder than the reaction Hogan was getting. A reminder that this is the same stadium that the Screwjob happened in, so they have reason to legit hate McMahon. McMahon predicts Flair will be a miserable failure, and out comes the Nature Boy, with a bandage on his head.
The McMahon/Flair feud had gotten pretty tired, four months old at this point, so it made sense to split them up. McMahon runs his counterpart down, mocking his injuries from Mania. He enjoyed every moment of Taker’s beatdown on Flair, and I do love megaheel Vince mocking Flair for having to hold onto the ring rope to stay standing. The crowd goes back to “Hey, hey, hey, Goodbye” as Flair grabs the mike. Says he always feels overwhelmed by Vince’s presence, but if he’ll shut up Flair will say whats on his mind.
Says Raw is Vinny Mac’s baby and Flair pauses to let the “You screwed Bret” chants get some time (“Get over it” says King), before saying Vince used Raw to flaunt his wealth and nepotism. But it was always about the Superstars, not Vince, and Flair promises the Raw brand will soar without McMahon. Crowd singing again as Vince moves to leave, but then grabs the mike back. He offers a coin toss to determine who gets first draft pick, Flair agrees, and Vince wins. Was it a same face coin, ala Two-Face? Vince says starting from next week, he wins and Flair loses.
Vince decks Flair with the mike, and starts mocking him with taunts. But of course Flair up fast enough, beats McMahon down and locks in the Figure 4 for a bit. Woo! Flair heads to the back while Vince licks his wounds. Looking forward to Draft Day! No more McMahon/Flair! Woo!
JR plugs WWF.com, and we go into our next match.
Booker T & Kurt Angle vs Edge & Kane
Someone call Teddy Long, because two single feuds are combining for a tag match. King calls this “the biggest Raw ever”, and a reminder that we’re nearly an hour in and have had two matches of less than five minutes between them. Thunderous “You Suck” chants for Kurt, and the crowd goes comparatively mild for Toronto’s Edge. The heels vacate the ring for Kane’s entrance, but the Big Red Machine drags Booker inside by the hair to start. Hard whip, Booker T gets an elbow, then walks into the Sidewalk Slam. Kane to the top to hit his flying clothesline, but Angle breaks up the count.
Kane distracted by Angle, and eats a superkick. Angle in, to big heat. Kane locks on a choke, but Booker intervenes. Heels double-teaming Kane with a suplex while Edge remonstrates with the ref. Booker looking for his Scissors Kick, but Kane dodges and hits a clothesline. Tag to Edge, he floors the legal Angle, back body-drop, inverted Atomic Drop to Booker, heel kick to Angle, fast and furious stuff. Edge to the top, Angle intercepts but flung off, and Angle eats a missile drop-kick. Booker breaks up the count, Kane throws him out and follows, back in the ring Angle counters Edge into the Ankle Lock, but lets go when Kane comes in.
Kane delivers a Chokeslam, he and Booker exchanging strikes, Kane clotheslined out and Booker follows. Edge looking for the Edgeacution, Angle counters into an Angle Slam but Edge out, and Edge dodges a Booker kick which Angle takes instead. Edge with the spear on Angle, two. Kane drags Booker out again, doing that spot a few times now. Edge looking for the Edgeacution again, countered into a roll-up where Edge ends up on top for two. No let up in this one. Edge dodges a charge and Angle clears Kane off the apron, then hit with the Edgeacution for the 1, 2, 3 in just under four.
Verdict: So fast-paced it was hard to keep up with, even for its short length, all four of these guys can go. Very enjoyable stuff, but honestly could have used more length and a more measured approach.
Commentary says this constituties an opportunity for Edge, I guess in a feud with Angle?
After the break straight into another title match.
Maven (c) vs Al Snow (WWF Hardcore Championship)
Still missing “Tattoo”, this placeholder music sucks. Maven chucks some stuff into the ring as we get our first mention of the next PPV, Backlash, brought to you by Castrol GTX. Al Snow down like a house of fire to take on his Tough Enough protege, and floors him with a clothesline on the outside. Snow beating down Maven, then chucks him hard into the ringsteps. Guys in ringside seats are delighted. Maven reverses another whip to send Snow into the barricade, then hits the Maven Drop-Kick, and I capitalise that because he doesn’t have many other moves. Into the ring, Maven smashes Snow with a trashcan lid, Snow returns the favour a few times, and it does have a nice echo. Suddenly Spike Dudley shows up with Stop sign and, just like last night for some reason, a ref. There’s already one here! He nails Snow but then gets back body-dropped out by Maven.
Suddenly a big hulking blond-haired guy is in the ring, with Paul Heyman screaming in glee at ringside. JR proclaims “It’s Brock Lesnar!” and that of course would mean nothing to most viewers back then, but means a hell of a lot nowadays. Yes, this is the Beast’s on-screen debut, all of 25 years, after spending some time in OVW (hence why JR kayfabe knows who he is, calling him “the hottest free agent” in the business). He spinebusts Snow onto a can, gives Maven an as yet unnamed F-5, no-sells a top-rope double axe handle from Spike, and then crushes the littlest Dudley with one of those bone-crunching clotheslines he used to do. At Heyman’s direction he dead lifts Spike up into a powerbomb position, and then hits three brutal bombs one after the other. The crowd pops for Heyman as he enters the ring to raise Lesnar’s hand, and it is Heyman they are excited to see because the chant is “E-C-Dub”. JR asks “What’s next?” as we go to break. I believe it is meant to be “Who’s next?” Jim.
Oh right, the match. Um, I guess its over?
Winner: No contest I suppose? Maven retains the Hardcore Title.
Verdict: Quick bit of Hardcore action, but this was all about Brock. Very impressive stuff from him, the triple powerbomb spot to Spike made him seem like a super-powerful monster. Nice to see Heyman again, back after a four month absence, and he’s perfect for this role as Lesnar’s manager/agent/advocate/counsel. I’d be dying to see more of this guy back in 2002. How times change.
After a break we get a replay of the Lesnar inspired mayhem as JR and King speculate on Heyman’s involvement. A plug for the main event, and a replay of the Montreal ovation for Hogan. You don’t get crowds that loud anymore, mores the pity, and I don’t just mean in WWE. We get the Greatest Hits of that opening segment, I guess because they have more time to kill: remember, no Austin, and also no Taker or Jericho (minus that brief backstage bit) tonight.
Backstage Matt Hardy and Lita are making out, to King’s delight. They talk gooey as William Regal walks up. After sarcastically complimenting them on their love, Hardy bites back that Regal shouldn’t be mad just because he is getting any. Regal evilly opines on the chances of the Hardy’s being broken up by the draft, or Matt and Lita, leaving them silent and worried looking. “Ta ta”. Evil Regal is amazing in these bits, it’s positively Shakespearean the way he enjoys pouring poison. Plus, this segment gets across how the draft might break teams up which, of course, is exactly what is going to happen.
After break Triple H’s later appearence is plugged, before the next, and last, title match of the night.
Billy & Chuck (c) vs The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von) w/Stacey Kiebler (WWF Tag Team Championships)
What have the Dudley’s done to earn this shot within the last 24 hours? Chuck and D-Von to start, exchanging strikes, both down off a double clothesline. Bubba Ray and Billy in, and Bubba chucks him around, Sidewalk Slam, back body-drop and an interfering Chuck clotheslined out. Crowd going from “We want tables” to cat-calling Kiebler. Scoop Slam to Billy, Whasssup, but Chuck breaks up the count. Stacey onto the apron to try and distract Billy, nothing doing, he hands D-Von what I think is still called The One And Only, but then Kiebler in to just hit Billy with one of the belts. Nick Patrick seems to wait a second like he can’t heleive she just do that, and calls for the bell in less than a minute-and-a-half just as the Dudley’s hit Billy with a 3-D.
Winners (by DQ) (and still WWF Tag Team Champions): Hard to tell Billy & Chuck apart sometimes, you know that?
Verdict: Not much of a match. Kiebler’s interference made no sense.
Bubba is going for a cover, and is enraged when he realises that Kiebler messed up. Ah, so they’re breaking them up. Kiebler tries to leave, Bubba Ray drags her back by the hair and tells D-Von to obtain some wooden support structures. Table set-up, and Bubba delivers that crushing Avalanche Powerbomb through it. Always a mental looking spot, and yes we get the crazy Bubba stare after. I’m sure he enjoyed doing that, given his noted antipathy to Kiebler backstage. Never a fan of these kinds of intergender spots, but the Dudley/Kiebler connection was doing nothing for either party really. King pipes up here to claim that we should “forget about bombing Afghanistan, we should bomb Dudleyville”. Wow. Replays, and the Dudley’s take their leave.
After the break, time to play the Game. I was wrong about the single Undisputed belt debuting here, Triple H still has both the WWF Title belt and the old WCW belt. Our champ out limping, and perhaps with some wounded pride that he didn’t get to be the first person out after for this show after, you know, winning the strap in the main event the previous night. HHH milks in the reaction, which is nowhere near as loud as it was for Hogan or Rock, for a little bit and gets on the mike. Says he suffered a career threatening injury a year ago, and he doubted he would ever come back or be as good as we was. But he’s now proven he has by winning the big one, to himself, the world and Y2J. He’s the recreation and he is that proficient. Standard stuff so far.
He’s happy and wants to spread the joy around, so he has some footage from Mania to show. Of course, said footage is Steph getting Pedigreed. Triple H smiles, and out comes his wife, in a black neckbrace. “Slut” chants immediately. She announces that Jericho wants a re-match for the Championship, and he wants it next week. HHH is game, but suggests that it should be a handicap match, with Jericho teaming up with “another WWF Superstar”. Stephanie agrees, saying “Who’s dumb now?” only for Hunter to announce that she, of course, will be the partner. Why does he get to decide this? Further, if he wins he wants Stephanie gone from the WWF, because he’s sick of “the bitch”. She says she’s scared of getting into the ring with him, and successfully goads the crowd into another edition of “Hey, hey, hey goodbye”. She was always willing to provoke the crowds. HHH asks if any of the Montreal fans want Steph to stay, and if any want her to leave, and you can guess the responses.
SMH freaks out, and Triple H says if Steph doesn’t agree he’ll hold out for the rematch for the maximum 90 days allowed, when he’ll be recovered and Jericho might be drafted to the wrong show, or something. Steph ends up agreeing to the terms, and says Jericho will leave the Game “a crippled mess”. Triple H suggests Steph get more neckbraces to match her other dresses. The casual spousal violence is not doing this feud any favours really, even if Stephanie has so much heat it’s scary.
After a break and a shot of the Outsiders backstage, time for the main event.
The nWo (Scott Hall & Kevin Nash) vs Hollywood Hulk Hogan & The Rock
The nWo have fallen so far so fast that they get the “already in the ring” treatment here a month after an entire PPV was built around their return. It strikes me that in perfect booking land this would be the main event or a major match at Backlash, where the nWo could get some serious heat by winning, perhaps with the help of some new member (like, say, Shawn Michaels). But I think the bookers know there is only so much more they can get out of Hall and Nash.
Hogan out to some Jimi Hendrix riffs. He and Rock rush the ring, and less than seven minutes left in this show, so whatever happens it will be short. Brawling, Rock clotheslines Nash out, as Hogan floors Hall. Hogan and Hall your legal men, Hall floored off a clothesline, Scoop Slam, and Hogan throws his bandana at Hall. Corner smash and elevated punches, and the crowd is happy to count along. Finishes with a head bite. Rock and Hogan punching Hall back and forth, and a tag to the Brahma Bull. Facebuster, shot to Nash, spinebuster to Hall, and Rock looks for the People’s Elbow, but Nash grabs the leg.
Hall sends Rock down with a clothesline and in comes Nash, who is meant to be injured remember. Able to hit a bit Sidewalk Slam for two, “and The Rock somehow kicks out”. Really? No sign of a bicep problem as Nash lays in shots in the corner, then an elevated foot choke. Hall helps with a clothesline, then comes in again. Beatdown, stiff-looking punches, but Rock eventually rallies back, only to walk into a Fallaway Slam for two. Think that’s the only move he can do. Nash in, seated rope choke while Hogan remonstrates with the ref. Hall in, stomps, Nash in, stomps, looking for Snake Eyes but The Rock out to hit a Rock Bottom OUTTANOWHERE.
That’s the signal for the hot tag that the crowd is dying for, and Hogan hulks up rapidly to send Hall down, looks for Nash but he’s not there, way to blow the hot tag. Nash eventually shows up just to get dumped out by Rock. Big boot to Hall, Atomic Leg Drop, but Nash pulls Hall out at two. They regroup on the outside, but then think better of coming back in, and Tim White counts them out in just over six.
Winners: Hogan/Rock, not exactly Rock ‘N Sock.
Verdict: Alright tag I suppose, with a dumb as hell ending. Who did this help?
The crowd shits all over the finish, rightfully so and Rock looks pissed enough to make me wonder if someone went into business for themselves here. That’s all we’ve got time for, as JR promises this feud is far from over (only one person over here, brother).
Best Match: Hard to call, with only one match going over four minutes. I suppose I’ll give it to the Edge/Kane vs Angle/Booker tag, that was fun and manic, in a good way.
Best Wrestler: You know what? For taking that powerbomb from a guy who hated her, I’ll give it to Stacey Kiebler. You won’t see this every day.
Worst Match: Lita/Trish got 90 seconds when Hogan got a half-hour at the start.
Worst Wrestler: I’ll go for Hall, who looks like a guy who can do one move, with strikes, for a few minutes before he starts nearing a collapsing state.
Overall Verdict: Not a great Raw for actual wrestling, with too many super-short contests in favour of retreading Mania feuds. Raw could do with at least one less “someone in the ring talking for 20 minutes” spots too. But, at least the draft has been set-up. Four and a half weeks to Backlash!
To view more entries in this series, click here to go to the index.