Please note, starting next week, NFB Watches Wrestling will move to Thursdays.
The last show before the brand split becomes manifest, so the last chance for some horse-trading shenanigans. It’s the 28th March 2002 (filmed on the 26th) and we’re in the First Union Centre of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for episode #137 of WWF Smackdown! Your main event tonight: Kurt Angle and Vince McMahon take on the team of Triple H and Ric Flair! Wow, what an evolving partnership!
Attitude splash, Beautiful People, and one presumes the main titles will be changing from next week so certain people aren’t on them. Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler announce a six-man tag for later, with Rock, Hogan and Kane teaming up to take on the nWo. I guess Austin is still not around huh? This is the last night Raw and Smackdown stars are under the same roof, with Vince and Flair also hanging around, so sparks are guaranteed.
Booker T vs Diamond Dallas Page
What is this, Nitro in 2000? This match coming out of the tag encounter on Raw. Lock-up, Booker takes the advantage, chops and kicks in the corner. Page back with some of his own, then walks into a heel kick for two. A ticker shows us the Smackdown roster, distracting me from a DDP jawbreaker. Discus clothesline, T back with a knee to the gut, but Page avoids the Scissors Kick. Slightly off sit-out powerbomb gets two for Page, but Booker up and no-selling in no time, hitting a superkick. DDP the one no-selling now, hard whip into the corner for Booker, then Page hits the Diamond Cutter. Before he can do anything else Brock Lesnar appears from out of the crowd to give Page a spinebuster, and then F-5 him to boot. I didn’t hear a bell, but the match is over in just over two.
Winner: No announcement, though I suppose it should be DDP by DQ right?
Verdict: Was fine until Lesnar showed up. Not sure four shows in a row of him stealing other peoples heat is required, now that he’s been drafted. Time for him to have an actual match.
After the break Kurt Angle heads to the ring to the familiar strain of “You Suck!” and “what”. Says he was an Olympian with a broken neck for “you people” (drink!) and the crowd sucks too. He expresses his disgust at Stephanie leaving the WWF, and wonders if Philly really is the city of brotherly love. He won’t let her leaving go unrecognised, and hilariously asks for “a moment of silence” for Stephanie. She’s not dead. The lights even dim and we get a picture of her on the tron. The crowd boos of course, even with King telling Cole to “shut up”. Kurt threatens to beat some respect out of the crowd, but before he can make good out comes Vince McMahon. “Asshole” chants as Vince runs the crowd down for “desecrating” the McMahon name. He blames Triple H for what happened. The crowd cheers when Vince says HHH beat his daughter up, because of course. He’s a real “sonofabitch”, and Vince blames the Game for every bad thing Stephanie has ever done. It is a long list too. McMahon promises to make Triple H’s life hell when he’s on Smackdown, and that brings out the Undisputed Champ.
Big love for the Game. He runs down Vince’s claims about him, and concludes “you ain’t seen nothing yet”. If Vince screws with him, he’ll make the boss’s life a living hell. He decides Kurt is right and they should honour Stephanie, specifically her last moments in the WWF. That means highlights of the end of the match on Monday as Cole explains whats happening, like it is needed. Angle demands a match with Triple H, but Vince wants a piece of Triple H himself. HHH will take either or both on, and Vince makes it an official handicap match. “Wooo!” Out comes Flair to clasp hands with the Game. He says Vince isn’t making the rules alone on Smackdown yet, and the match tonight will be a tag: him and Triple H against Angle and Vince. One last round for Flair/McMahon I guess. Awkward moment where Triple H has to remind Flair to clasp hands again, and we’re done. Took a long time to set that match up.
After the break, the Dudley Boyz are in the locker room. They have a tag title match, and if they win they get to stay together as a team. Wish they’d made more of that, this is the first you’d have heard of the idea, they could have built to it throughout the night. This could be their last match together (ha!). Bubba says if that run has to end, nowhere better that Philly, their hardcore stomping grounds. Time to take Billy & Chuck to the extreme. Testify! Breaking these guys up remains a bad move, even if its a bit necessary owing to the staleness of the division.
Billy & Chuck (c) w/Rico vs the Dudley Boyz (WWF Tag Team Championships)
They really do just hand title shots for these belts out to anyone don’t they? They desperately need to get some new tag teams going. Separate title cards for Bubba and D-Von, which is a nice touch. Bubba and Chuck to start, Chuck with strikes in the corner, reversed by Bubba as the “Tables” chants start in earnest. Bubba breaks out a drop-kick for two, nice. D-Von in, double shoulder charge to Chuck, two. Billy in, walks into a huge hip toss, then a flying shoulder that has big air, then a neckbreaker. The Dudley’s clearly trying to show what they can do individually. A double collision spot sends both men down.
Bubba and Chuck in, Bubba dominating, back body-drop to Chuck, suplex to Billy, DDT to Chuck, two, Samoan Drop to Billy. Chuck drops on elbow on Billy accidentally, then Chuck takes a Bubba Bomb. D-Von in to help give a double flapjack to Billy, Bubba pursues Billy, D-Von to the top, but distracted by Rico. Chuck follows D-Von up, but taken onto the top of Bubba for the Dudley Device. Rico distracts the ref from a count, and D-Von chases him up the ramp. Billy nails a Famouser on Bubba, and Chuck gets the pin in just under four.
Winners (and still WWF Tag Team Champions): B&C. Not this way damnit!
Verdict: Short, exhilarating tag. Bubba and D-Von brought it with some big moves, clearly trying to establish themselves ahead of single runs, so this one was actually quite interesting.
King mocks the Dudleys, but shuts up as D-Von races back to the ring. Billy dumped out, 3-D to Chuck. Scoop Slam to Billy when he comes back in, Whassup, and D-Von is instructed to obtain tables. “E-C-Dub” chants as said table is set-up, as King tries to get a “Bingo Hall” chant going instead. Billy takes the 3-D through the table, and Bubba has burst a blood vessel in his eye at some point. Bubba and D-Von embrace, and the crowd cheers. How long would this break-up last?
After the break, the soon-to-be-split APA drinks and plays cards in their office, commiserating. They came in drinking beer, and that’s how they will go out. They call Tajiri and Torrie Wilson over, and ask Tajiri to get everyone together for one last APA party, but insist Wilson stick around for a game of strop poker. Wilson readily agrees. Are we going to see an embarrassed Bradshaw and Faarooq later?
Elsewhere, Matt Hardy and Lita are with Lilian Garcia. They express their happiness that Team Xtreme hasn’t been broken up, only to be interrupted by Chris Jericho. They make Y2J sick, and he’s livid that he is now stuck on Smackdown. Until he has the Undisputed Championship back, he will never be happy again. Matt agrees, because nobody wants to be “a has been”. That’s enough to set Jericho off, and he attacks the two from behind before scurrying off.
Elsewhere, elsewhere, Rock greets Hogan in the locker room. He outlines their match with the nWo later, their last chance to whoop some candy asses. Hogan reminds Rock that Kane is their partner, and is worried if they can trust him, since he scares Hogan. What, does he have more pull with Vince? Rock insists Kane is no King Kong Bundy or Kamala, but he is “one big scary cat”. Speak of the Devil’s Favourite Son, here he is. Rock asks if he’s ready to whoop some ass. Kane replies in the affirmative, and asks if Rock is ready. When Rock starts to reply, Kane cuts him off with an “It doesn’t matter…” and the crowd erupts. Kane proceeds to give a Hogan-esque promo about the millions (and millions!) of Rock fans, and all the Hulkamaniacs and all of “the Kaneenites” who will watch the three men run wild later. Hogan poses follow. The crowd is all over this. It’s very character breaking, but I love seeing wrestlers like Kane pulling this stuff out of nowhere, it’s great. It reminds you he was willing to take the piss out of himself long before hugging Daniel Bryan. That match is after the break.
Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Kane & The Rock vs the nWo (X-Pac, Scott Hall & Kevin Nash)
This really could have been a PPV match, especially if Austin had been there. Still not one mention of the Kane/X-Pac history. He stole his girlfriend for crying out loud! Given that there’s no clear explanation as to why Kane has involved himself in this feud, you would think that is an obvious route to take, all you need is a brief “I couldn’t stand to see X-Pac slither his way back into the WWF” promo. You could even spin it out into a singles feud later. But no, Kane is just a stand-in here, and that is all that he will be really. The best they can do is claim Flair is using Kane to keep the nWo in line.
Rock and Pac to start. Crowd hot for this one. Rock with a headlock, then a shoulder block, leapfrog chain, then a big double hip toss from Rock. Wristlock chains and Pac walks into a belly-to-belly throw for two. Spinning heel kick from Pac, and in comes Hall. He gets as far as throwing his toothpick before getting the smackdown laid on him. Clothesline gets two, but a crossbody attempt is countered into a Fallaway Slam for two. Does Hall have another move in him? We’ll see later.
Nash in, shots in the corner, but Rock rallying back before getting cut off. Hall in, dueling shots, and Hall runs into a spinebuster. Tag to Hogan to a huge pop. He cleans house, double clothesline to Pac and Hall. Pac tossed out, big boot to the chest of Hall, Atomic Leg Drop, but Nash breaks up the count. Nash tagged in officially, Sidewalk Slam for two, and Hall is bleeding from the forehead, I assume that’s unintentional. Hogan getting worked up in the corner by Nash, then Pac, then Hall. Sleeper from Hall to huge “X-Pac Sucks” chants (“Listen to the Hulkamaniacs!” covers King). Hogan survives an arm drop spot, and I like X-Pac selling shock on the apron. Hogan with a reverse suplex leaves both men lying.
Hot tag to Kane, to the top, flying clothesline to Hall. Tilt-A-Whirl slam to Pac, Nash off the apron, Sidewalk Slam to Hall. Big boot to Nash, Pac clotheslined out. Things break down, Rock dispatches Nash, Pac tagged in, somehow Kane ended up prone in the corner, but catches Pac on a Broncho Buster attempt. One Chokeslam later and it’s over, in just over six-and-a-half.
Winner: Kaneenites everywhere.
Verdict: Actually pretty good, had a nice pace to it and Pac was able to cover for the other two’s limitations quite well. All three of the faces made to look good.
Commentary seems to indicate that Kane and the nWo will continue their issues on Raw, but we’ll see.
After the break, no between match segment, into the next match.
Chris Jericho vs Matt Hardy w/Lita
Matt and Lita out in neat luminescent jackets. Hardy charges the ring. Exchange of punches, and Hardy takes Jericho down. “Can you tell me what Lita sees in Matt Hardy?” asks King. “He’s a probably a wonderful guy” says Cole, with the cadence of an internet nice guy secretly wondering why Lita never looks his way. Matt counters a drop-kick into a catapult, Scoop Slam, to the second rope, and drops the leg for two. Matt back to the top but crotched, into the Tree of Woe, and Jericho nails some shots. As the ref tries to dislodge Matt, Lita hits a Litacanrana off the top rope. Side Effect gets a near fall, then Jericho counters a Sunset Flip attempt into an attempted Walls. Hardy pushes off, and Jericho goes flying into Lita on the apron. Looking for the Twist of Fate, Jericho counters with a low blow with the ref looking at Lita, Walls of Jericho and Hardy taps out in just over two.
Winner: Jericho, settling back firmly into the mid-card.
Verdict: A bit of a one-sided affair, given the brand split I’m assuming this doesn’t go anywhere for Y2J, but might lead to something for Matt and Lita.
King gloats that Matt won’t be up to much with Lita tonight, what with the low blow and all, and Jericho lays in a vicious enough shot at Hardy’s ribs. On his way out he decides to put Lita in the Walls as well. Cole says this was “for no reason”, but she did interfere in the match in fairness. Lita is left screaming in agony .
Backstage, half the roster is drinking with a declothed APA, playing cards and sharing memories like it’s March 2001 in WCW. Christian ruins the mood by bringing up a time when he and Edge jumped the Acolytes, but then it gets gets turned back up when Tajiri wins a hand. This apparently means Torrie has to take her top off, but she swerves us all by choosing a necklace instead. Christian laments being one card away from a Royal Flush, throwing a hilarious tantrum. “Damn”. I love this stuff, and it is actually making me a tiny bit sentimental. At the time I would have absolutely bought that the roster was being permanently broken up.
Rob Van Dam (c) vs Test (WWF Intercontinental Championship)
This is a step down from Angle anyway, in terms of Vince trying to get the IC Title away from Raw. Test with early strikes, catching Van Dam off a top rope crossbody, but RVD wriggles out and nails a superkick for two. Test back hard, RVD hung up on the ropes, out of a suplex attempt, low drop-kick floors Test. Springboard kick, second-rope moonsault for two. On commentary, King frets about where he is going to end up, and decides he wants to be on the show with the best puppies, ugh. Test ducks a heel kick, Full Nelson Slam, but Hebner spots Test’s feet on the ropes on the ensuring pin. Test is annoyed, gives Hebner a hard shove, and Hebner shoves back, with Test sent straight into a heel kick for two. They actually bring up Test’s “immunity” here, so I was wrong about that being completely dropped. Van Dam with shoulder charges into the corner, looking for a Sunset Flip, Test holding onto the rope, but Hebner kicks his hands clear. Only two though, and Test straight up to hit a stiff looking clothesline. Test eyeing Hebner, doesn’t spot Van Dam coming up from behind, Sunset Flip, fast count, and that’s the win in just under two-and-a-half.
Winner (and still WWF Intercontinetal Champion): Rob Van Dam, with the help of a conniving Earl Hebner. “You screwed Test! You screwed Test!”
Verdict: Was fine, might set-up an actual programme for Van Dam and Test. Can’t ask for much more with the total lack of set-up.
After the break, Coach is with Raven backstage, asking about his Hardcore Title shot tonight. “They say we destroy the things we love, but the things we love destroy us”. Nice Oscar Wilde quote. Maven is going to get the “Raven Effect”, along with other nonsense. Raven is a lame duck in the Fed, since the moment he walked in.
Maven (c) vs Raven (WWF Hardcore Championship)
King calls the champ “Staven”. Raven out with his cart of tricks, but takes a cannonball drop-kick through a trashcan as he fills the ring with stuff. Into then ring, Maven goes into the ring post on a dodged charge, then takes multiple trash can lid shots. Maven back with a few of his own, including a running shot. Maven sticks a broom between Raven’s legs and takes him for a ride. On a charge Raven able to counter Maven into a drop to the outside, but Maven back quick with a missile drop-kick. Gets two before Tommy Dreamer shows up to pull Maven off, and a surprisingly low pop given the city we are in. Maven avoids a cookie sheet shot comes back with a tackle, but then gets thrown into a drop toe-hold onto a chair. Raven Effect, and that’s it in under two.
Winner (and new WWF Hardcore Champion): Whataboutmeeee?
Verdict: Short, but fun hardcore action. Hopefully we see more of Dreamer in the future.
King suggests Vince will be mad, and that “Oscar Wilde will be turning over in his grave”. I bet he is King, I bet he is.
Backstage, Vince laments that Smackdown has now lost the Hardcore Title. Why not send someone to get it back then, it’s 24/7? He vows to get Steve Austin on Smackdown, and Kurt says he’s heard Austin will be on Raw Monday night. Don’t tempt fate. Angle says it’s an honour to be Vince’s tag team partner, and they shake hands. Some room for dissension there.
After the break, Cole and King run down the draft picks for both sides. Backstage, the party is ongoing in APA HQ, where Hurricane passes out from chugging a beer. Given Helms’ issues with alcohol, this is not quite as funny in retrospect. William Regal shows up, runs down the “lowlifes” present, and reminds the APA he called their split last week. Bradshaw says they are out of beer so the party is over, and the Acolytes beat down Regal and leave him laying while everyone else runs out. The two walk through their door, close it, and put their handle sign to “Closed”, to boos from the crowd. Hand clasp, and they walk off in different directions, to cheers. Considering how frequent, and enjoyable, the APA skits were in the Attitude Era, this does feel like a significant end actually, and the APA office earns a spotlight finale.
Vince McMahon & Kurt Angle vs Ric Flair & Triple H
Vince out looking too tanned, too muscly and too glisteny for a man of his age. Flair out in dress pants for some reason. “He looks like a bottle of milk” says King. Did Flair forget his gear or something? Lengthy Triple H entrance, and you’d never think they only had ten minutes left. Some arguing about who is going to start, and it’s Triple H and Vince. HHH acts overly-scared of McMahon’s Hogan-posing, so tags in Flair instead.
Woo! Angle tags in to spare the boss, circling, Flair with his walk, lock-up, Flair backed into the corner, but back with a thumb to the eye. Chops, and a tag to the Game. Beatdown in the corner, foot choke, and a boot to the face after a corner charge. Angle able to come back with a belly-to-belly suplex, some shots, but HHH back with a clothesline. Flair in, and he and HHH take turns with chops and woos. Sleeper to Kurt, Angle reaching to Vince but McMahon not exactly straining to get tagged in. Angle able to takedown Flair, and he starts working over the left leg. Now Vince accepts the tag, and he starts working over the leg too. Surprisingly little heat on McMahon really. Trying to drag Flair outside, Triple H intervenes, and a double team on Flair when the ref is too busy ordering HHH back. McMahon puts the leg into the ringpost and then goes for a Figure 4, but pushed off.
Flair trying to rally back but a tag to Angle cuts him off momentarily. With HHH distracting the ref Flair hits a low blow, looking for the Figure 4, but Angle counters into the Ankle Lock. Triple H isn’t having that, and is in to deliver a DDT. Angle back up first, tag to Vince, and now he is able to put in the Figure 4. Flair not exactly selling it very well, and eventually gets it turned over, which gets an actual scream of horror out of King. Angle breaks it up, and gets the tag, as does Triple H. Neckbreaker from the Champ, spinebuster and McMahon breaks up the count. Vince dumped out by Flair, Triple H looking for the Pedigree but Vince in to nail the Game with one of his belts with the ref escorting Flair out. Triple H out at 2 and 999/1000ths, and now Vince tagged in.
Axe-Handle to HHH, Vince mocking Flair, and walks into a big clothesline. Flair tagged, to the top, and delivers a very strange looking forearm to a standing Vince. Chops and McMahon is screaming in agony. Shot to the face, Angle intervenes, Triple H dumps him out and the ref follows, Flair looking for the Figure 4 but suddenly the Undertaker is in the ring! Big boot, Taker throws Vince over Flair and that’s the 1, 2, 3 in just over nine.
Winners: The best chums
Verdict: Was alright really, at least Vince didn’t dominate things totally. Could have done with more Triple H/Angle.
Vince celebrates on the ramp and that’s all folks.
Best Match: To my surprise I’ll give it to the six-man, which despite the deficiencies of half the participants was a pretty good watch.
Best Wrestler: Kurt Angle can go, can carry, can sell, he can do it all.
Worst Match: Jericho/Hardy seemed especially pointless and filler-like.
Worst Wrestler: Raven can do a DDT and weapon shots. What else can he do?
Overall Verdict: WWF is spinning its wheels here, ahead of the brand split officially starting next week. No build for the upcoming PPV either. A few decent contests, but this is otherwise pretty skipable, save for those backstage segments.
Quick Thoughts On Hell In A Cell 2021
-Natalya/Moore: Acceptable Kick-Off fare and little more. Still, good to see the women getting this slot for once. Worth watching.
-Belair/Bayley: Found this a little dull if I am being honest, Belair doesn’t really need this gimmick to get her strengths across and heel Bayley is better in the ruin-up to her matches then in the pay-off. Skippable.
-Rollins/Cesaro: Hell of a match actually, these two can go, and even if it is repetitive I would watch them one more time. Give it a look.
–Bliss/Baszler: This feud has been a disaster, and this supernatural mumbo-jumbo isn’t working anymore. I can see it all being dropped very quickly when crowds come back and start booing it consistently. Skip.
-Owens/Zayn: I appreciate that they tried to freshen this up with the throat injury angle, but at the end of the day it’s Owens/Zayn again. They’ll never put on a bad match, but I’m not sure they can give us a five star anymore. Inessential.
–Ripley/Flair: I’m surprised to find myself sick of this pairing, but here I am. I find Flair and her undeserved elevation to title matches as a gimmick really hard to tolerate, and Ripley should be working with other people now. Not required.
-Lashley/McIntyre: One match too many, and there was nothing they could really do to dispel that feeling. This whole thing has devalued both men and the belt they are feuding over. A boring conclusion, with a lame ending. Disappointing.
–Overall: A pretty underwhelming show, where WWE is showing that it’s more concerned with wheel-spinning then actual making new stars or elevating anyone who really deserves it. They need to do better than this.
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