Stone Cold is still not here. Psych, April Fools! It’s the 1st of April 2002 and we’re in the Pepsi Arena of Albany, New York for episode #462 of WWF Raw! Your main event tonight: Kane vs X-Pac! So they are getting that feud going again. But it’s really going to be Stone Cold Steve Austin deciding which brand he’s going to sign with.
Ric Flair is in his office, and announces that Raw is entering a new era, signified by the new graphics that pop up for his name which are all steely and furnace like. Tonight, he’s going to do everything in his power to sign Stone Cold, and is also presenting the brand new Undisputed Championship belt, a snazzy gold affair that he holds up, to Triple H. Always loved that design, looks, well, valuable.
Brand new theme song “Across The Nation” by The Union Underground, plays over the new opening titles, because Attitude is dead and gone. Pyro on the new stage, and JR and King welcome us to the show and rundown some of the coming attractions, including Kane/X-Pac, but there’s some production screw-up, because the graphics only show Kane. Maybe they didn’t have a picture for Pac? Onto the first contest, “a championship wrestling match” as JR calls it really awkwardly.
Rob Van Dam (c) vs Booker T (WWF Intercontinental Championship)
JR gushes about how we are starting a new era with this match, but lets see if the match goes beyond five minutes before we start making such claims. Apparently JR and King are now Raw exclusive, so I’m going to be enjoying Smackdown more anyway.
Circling, lock-up, leapfrog chains, and RVD gets the advantage with a standing rana. Lock-up, Booker with chops to “woos”, but Van Dam back with a stepover heel kick. Shoulder charges into the corner, but then gets hung on the ropes with a charge. Clothesline, Scoop Slam, Sidewalk Slam, two. JR tortures us with a complicated allegory for Van Dam’s “educated feet”, one of which went to Yale apparently. King is predictably confused. In the ring, Booker heel kick, then a resthold. Van Dam rallying back, but then takes a superkick for two. Another resthold, not sure this is strictly necessary. Van Dam comes back again, running spinning heel kick, both men down.
Slowly back to their feet, trading shots, Van Dam on top, and hits that corner roll-through flip. To the top, head kick, near fall. That’s a weird move Van Dam does occasionally that looks very unimpressive. T with a kick to the mid-section, but Van Dam dodges the Scissors Kick. Another heel kick, then a trip kick, but nobody home on Rolling Thunder. Booker gets a pop off the Spinarooni, heel kick, two. Crowd rallying behind RVD now, he survives some chops and a roll-up for a near fall, counters with his own for two, then eats a Savate Kick. RVD set-up on top, but Booker knocked off, Five Star Frog Splash and that’ll do it in just over six-and-a-half.
Winner (and still WWF Intercontinental Champion): New era, same RVD.
Verdict: Felt like an actual match, which was a change from the last few shows. Really good encounter bar the second resthold spot, solid stuff from two good workers.
RVD celebrates, but is then ambushed by Eddie Guerrero! Oh hell yes. He beats down Van Dam, heads to the top, and hits his Frog Splash. This is Guerrero’s return having been sacked by the Fed five months previously for drink driving, hoping we can get some good stuff from him in this era, before he really took off in 2003. We start with the Frog Splash War.
Before we even get to a break Vince McMahon appears out of the crowd to nuclear heat. He takes to the mike and announces he’s here to sign Stone Cold, and he knows Austin wants to hear what he has to say. He introduces Stone Cold, but nothing happens. JR cuts to commercial. They’ll be teasing this out all night, don’t you worry.
After the break the ring is surrounded by security. Vince says he isn’t leaving until Austin signs his Smackdown contract, and that brings out Flair. Vince says “Money talks and bullshit walks”, I’m sure the network loved that. He insists he’s going to sign Austin, but Flair retorts that McMahon doesn’t have a ticket and needs to get his ass out the door, before bigging up the new set for some reason (even King agrees that it’s nice). Vince still refuses to leave, and JR suggests pepper spraying him. McMahon reminds Flair that he beat him 1, 2, 3 last week.”Come out here Austin, damnit!”. Flair says Vince needs to get a grip, surveys the crowd on what they think Austin should do to predictable results. He doesn’t want to have to take off his jacket to give Vince a “Royal Rumble” moment, referencing their awful street fight in January.
Vince says nobody is big enough or bad enough to take him out of the ring, and weeeeeellllllll, it’s The Big Show! Looks in good shape too, I like the beard. He insists Vince leave, the crowd agrees (“Shut up, damnit!”) and Show cuts McMahon’s protestations off by dragging him out of the ring by the throat, then fireman carrying him to the back. After the break we get footage of Show bringing McMahon to the door, where he gets literally thrown out, the mike still in his hand. Loved that shot. I’m sure Show enjoyed it too.
William Regal vs Spike Dudley (non-title)
Why are these two in a match? Regal gets patted down for any foreign objects, but the ref misses his armpits, and Regal stashes some knucks in the turnbuckle. Regal then doesn’t notice Nick Patrick taking them away (“That’s a form of shoplifting isn’t it?” asks King). Lock-up, Spike thrown back. Lock-up, takedown, and Regal just lets Dudley go. Shots in the corner, Spike back with a roll-up for one, drop-kick to the knees but then the Euro Champ with a stiff-looking elbow for a few pinfall attempts. Spike back with a jawbreaker, another roll-up for two, but then Regal back with a drop toe-hold and forearms to the back of the head, vicious looking.
Suplex for two, Spike out of a reverse suplex attempt, but then sees his drop-kick blocked. Half-nelson slam sees Spike folded up sort of grotesquely, that looks rough AF. To the outside, where Regal chucks Spike against the ropes so he bounces onto the floor, haven’t seen that before, nice move. Back in, forearms, as JR gives us our first mention of of an upcoming British PPV, the as-yet unnamed Insurrection in May. Spike back with some headbutts to the gut, but thrown off hard when he tries to attack in the corner. Regal looking for the knucks, nothing doing, Spike surprises him with a Dudley Dog OUTTANOWHERE and it’s enough for the win (and a big pop) in just over three-and-a-half.
Winner: A laughing Spike, framed against a hilariously disgusted Regal.
Verdict: Good stuff from these two, Spike made to look capable instead of just a lucky underdog, Regal made to look vicious, and a rematch set-up. A solid affair.
Backstage, the nWo roams the hallways. Hall complains about Flair, and wants to get his hands on Austin (I bet). Pac looks forward to his match with Kane, before they happen on the APA office, still trashed since Smackdown. But, that was in a different city? Whatever I suppose. The nWo rights the table and opens some beers.
Elsewhere after the break, Bradshaw hangs out with Jacqueline, both expressing regret that “Ron” isn’t around (though the future JBL comforts himself with the thought that there is “twice as much beer”). They are interrupted by Crash Holly, who informs Bradshaw about the nWo taking over their old office. Brad and Jaq stalk off to investigate, while Crash gives a mischievous laugh. What is he, Mr Mxyzptlk?
Elsewhere elsewhere, Trish Startus shows off some of her fine WWF merchandise, before Terri rocks up, and this is going nowhere good. Terri complains that Trish thinks she’s too good to talk to ever since she appeared on the cover of the WWF Divas magazine (held up prominently, cover out, available at all good magazine stores). Terri says she is the “diva of all divas”, like that is a title anyone would really want. Trish warns her to get out of her face, and I’m wondering why we aren’t focusing on Stratus being a de facto #1 contender for Jazz, it seemed like that is what they were building towards. Flair walks up, flicks through the magazine like a dirty old man, and then casually announces, I kid you not, a “Paddle on a Poll” bikini match between the two. Presumably off camera Flair rips off the mask to reveal he was Vince Russo the whole time. Trish says she can show ass and kick ass. “Lot of ass talk” comments JR, in the call of the night, week, month and year.
Elsewhere elsewhere elsewhere, Coach talks to Debra outside of Stone Cold’s locker room. Has Austin made his decision? She says he hasn’t, but he will decide tonight. Not much on-camera time left for this couple, for good reason. We’ll get to it.
Elsewhere elsewhere elsewhere elsewhere, we go to our fifth consecutive backstage segment as the nWo tags the APA door. Bradshaw charges in, breaking down the door, but only gets as far as flooring X-Pac before he eats a boot from Nash. A few chair shots leaves Bradshaw lying, as the nWo stalk off. We get to go back to this being a wrestling show after this right?
Commentary hypes a Hardcore Title match as we go to break. After, we get a recap of the nWo attack on Bradshaw, then onto the match.
Raven (c) vs Bubba Ray Dudley (WWF Hardcore Championship)
Bubba’s big single debut. He catches some of Raven’s junk as he throws it into the ring and flings it back. Nice spot to start as he catches a crutch, swings it full force at a ducking Raven, then takes a shoulder to the gut. Bubba lays in some hard shots after, then a falling elbow (“Take this you sick freak!” he says). Raven chucked out, Bubba has found a bag of oranges out of nowhere, and gets a pop when he juggles them for a second before braining Raven. Raven back with a crutch shot to the back, into the ring, and Raven dodges a Bubba Bomb attempt with a low blow. Bubba taken down, and Raven lays in duel-wielding trash can lid shots. Unprotected head shot with a Stop sign, only two. Sleeper hold (“Sleeper hold in a a hardcore match!?”, King is dismayed). Bubba out of it with the Stop sign, and the crowd is surprisingly quiet for this one now. Dueling shots, Bubba with a stiff clothesline, Samoan Drop, two. “We want tables” chants, and good luck getting beyond that.
Raven sent down on a charge with an elbow, Bubba to the top but cut off by a fire extinguisher release. Raven tries to follow him up, knocked off with a lid shot, then a senton for two. Bubba sets up a chair, but then gets drop toe-holded into it, but only two. Looking for the Raven Effect, countered into the Bubba Bomb, and that’s enough in just over four.
Winner (and the new WWF Hardcore Champion): Bubba Ray Dudley, the “new King of Hardcore”
Verdict: Fun garbage wrestling match, loved that juggling spot. For now it does seem like they have a commitment to pushing Bubba as a singles guy, but we’ll see how long it lasts.
Vince is on the phone in his limo, and he isn’t leaving. “Exclusive Smackdown contract” must be the words of the day. He has sent someone in to get Austin, and is confident of getting that signature. JR plugs Triple H’s appearance, coming up next.
After the break, Ric Flair makes his entrance with that snazzy new championship belt. He describes the Undisputed Title as “the most coveted trophy in all of professional sports” and that’s a reach. He plays up Triple H’s return for injury, Royal Rumble win and Mania main event triumph, and here comes the man himself. But wait! That’s Limp Biscuit’s “Rollin”!
It’s the Undertaker! (“Booger Red himself” “…Booger Red?”: commentary is knocking it out of the park here). Taker heads to the ring (“We need to adjust the colour on our TV, he’s not red” “Well…he used to be”: keep it coming guys). On the mike, the Deadman says that Flair is embarrassing him, expecting him to sit back and watch him hand the new belt to the Game. “what” is the crowds response. Taker takes Flair back to their Mania match, but breaks from his words to say “Why don’t you say “what” if you like to sleep with your own sister?” which gets a nice meld of what I can only describe as “Whaaaheyyyy!” Is this the first recorded instance of some wrestler pushback on the “what” chants? They are dampened slightly, but soon come back loud. Taker reminds Flair that he beat HHH at Wrestlemania X7 (awesome match, as an aside), and thinks Flair is trying to show him up. He promised Flair an existence of Wrestlemania moments, and off comes the jacket. Bit of a confusing vibe to this.
This brings out the Game, still holding the double belts. Staredown, “Triple H” chants. The champ acknowledges the X7 result, but that was then and this is now. He has 15 pounds of gold that says Taker can’t beat his ass again. Taker suggests Triple H put his money where his mouth is, and put it on the line at Backlash. Triple H agrees. Interested in seeing how this turns out, given that I know what the actual main event at Backlash is going to be. Anyway, HHH decides there’s no point in waiting, and he’s ready to go right now. The shirt comes off, but Taker backs down, insisting that “Backlash will be just fine”, to boos. He grabs the new belt, which even has Triple H’s name on it, and puts it on HHH’s shoulder, suggesting he hold onto it while he still can. JR plays up Backlash’s, ahem, confirmed main event, as Taker walks out. Good segment once Triple H came out, before then it was a bit odd. Triple H/Taker is money, just makes me sad we didn’t get to see it.
JR and King rundown upcoming matches on the card as Lawler drools over Terri/Stratus, ugh. Next match is up.
The Hardy Boyz (Matt & Jeff) vs the Big Boss Man & Mr Perfect
This match brought to you by Mint Skittles (“Feel The Kiss, Taste The Rainbow”, what a slogan) which seems like a terrible idea for a sweet. Matt and Jeff’s opponents are a bit of a thrown-together outfit of undercard guys, it’s like an early era Smackdown campaign mode pair. A reminder that there are no tag titles on Raw currently. Heels beating down to start, and Perfect and Matt are legal after Jeff is tossed. Drop-kick, BBM in, strikes, then a hair pull into a throw, and Matt sells really well. Sidewalk Slam, where Boss Man lets go and then pins, which seems weird given the move is designed to be a pin. Two anyway, Perfect in, stomps, Boss Man in, running shot to the belly as the crowd gives their judgment on what they are seeing with a “We want Lita” chant.
Matt gets some room by dodging a corner charge from Boss Man, Jeff rallying the crowd and gets the hot tag. Clears house, running clothesline to BBM, jawbreaker to Perfect. Poetry In Motion sends Perfect out, Boss Man back with a big boot to Matt. Jeff runs into a spinebuster, but gets a rope break on the pin as Perfect and Matt brawl ringside. Jeff set-up on top, Matt intervenes, Twist Of Fate, Swanton, Matt takes care of Perfect and Jeff gets the 1, 2, 3, in just under four.
Winners: Matt & Jeff, which makes them my default head canon Raw Tag Team Champions.
Verdict: Alright tag, the heels were not up to much, but this was very plainly not about them.
The Hardys celebrate, but then guess who? Brock Lesnar comes through the crowd and attacks both from behind. Enormous spinebuster to Matt, F-5 for good measure, Jeff looks for a rana off the top but caught and triple powerbombed for his trouble. Brutal looking spot, and you have to ask how necessary it is, given the likelihood of injury. Heyman raises Brock’s hand as we get thrown to a replay. I’m willing to give this fifth example of Lesnar just attacking random people a pass, as I vaguely recall it leads to his first proper feud. About time.
Backstage, a bikined Terri oils up, to King’s delight. That “match” is next.
Terri vs Trish Stratus (Paddle On A Poll Bikini Match)
JR sums things up nicely by starting his comments with “The rules of this match, as if anyone cares…”. I’m not going to go into too much details on these contests because they are as one-note as King’s commentary. Terri slaps Trish, pounds her head into the mat for a bit, then into the corner. Going for the paddle, pulled off by Trish into a powerbomb position, Terri out, but then takes the Stratusfaction. Trish retrieves the paddle in just under a minute-and-a-half.
Winner: Nobody, we are all losers here.
Verdict: What do you think?
Before Trish can use the paddle and presumably make King explode, Molly Holly, going by that name on commentary, intervenes. Terri kicked out of the ring, then Holly smashes Trish in the face with the paddle, that snaps. Actually looked like a brutal spot, though I’m sure it was well-gimmicked. Molly stalks off, to new generic theme music. Holy gimmick change Hurricane!
In the car park, Vince is on the phone to…someone. Says he’ll find a way to get Austin to sign, but is having trouble getting back in the building. He’ll find a way in. Lazy way of delivering exposition. An ad for WWF Forceable Entry (featuring Drowning Pool’s awful theme tune for Triple H) and we get a look at WWF New York. JR plugs it hard, and it does look jammed in fairness.
Ric Flair is also on the phone in his office, and in comes Stone Cold. He tells Flair he wants Vince in the building tonight, as its only fair he gets to hear him out. Flair is shocked, but decides to go along with Austin’s idea that he and Flair met him in the ring after the next match to discuss it. I wonder how it will urn out? Austin doesn’t exactly look very enthusiastic about any of this.
JR and King discuss what we have just seen, then go over the nWo situation. We get a replay of the “Kaneenite” promo from Smackdown, then highlights from the resulting match. Backstage, Kane walks to Gorilla ahead of the “main event”.
Kane vs X-Pac w/Kevin Nash & Scott Hall
“THE WONDER OF THE WORLD IS GONE…”. Oh my God, it’s “Slow Chemical”! Is this actually when that debuted, or is this a later insert? Always enjoyed it myself. Anyway, there’s a match. X-Pac with strikes to start, but Kane back quick with a Tilt-A-Whirl. Strikes in the corner, but Pac gets a boot up on a corner charge. Press Slam follows, and I don’t need to tell you who delivers it. Pac dodges a clothesline, hits an enziguri, some kicks, but Kane no-selling. Corner clothesline, Sidewalk Slam, to the top, but Hall up on the apron to distract. That lets X-Pac hit a drop-kick that sends Kane tumbling to the outside. Hall with cheap shots as Pac distracts Hebner, then looks for a springboard crossbody to the outside, and we don’t see Kane catch him because Hall and Nash are blocking the camera. This ain’t Nitro folks, get your heads in the game. Pac able to wriggle out of the hold, and push Kane into a Nash boot. I presume the ref wasn’t looking?
Back in with X-Pac delivering beatdown offence, and hits a spinning heel kick to cut off a comeback. Kane powers out of a pin so hard that Pac gets chucked to the outside, and Hall gets in another shot with Hebner looking elsewhere. Pac hits a sweet missile drop-kick, but Kane sits up. X-Pac trying to keep Kane at bay, and I note no “X-Pac sucks” chants just yet. Kane pinned in the corner, and X-Pac able to hit a Broncho Buster. Kane no-sells it, comes back with clotheslines, pop-up drop, and counters another heel kick into a powerslam, nice. Despite Hall interference, Kane is still able to hit a big boot, then floors Hall on the outside. To the top, flying clotheslines, calling for the Chokeslam, but the nWo just abandon the pretense and attack, with Hebner calling it in just over five-and-a-half.
Winner (by DQ): GIVE ME WHAT I COULD NEVER ASK FOR
Verdict: Kane and Pac are well used to each other and could wrestle a two star match with their eyes closed. But inevitable non-finish made it a bit lame.
Beatdown on Kane, but here comes Bradshaw to even the odds a tad. The nWo is cleared out and retreats, then hilariously Kane does his fire taunt and it takes a few seconds for the pyro to actually go off. I think I was too harsh on Nitro production. I presume we’re going to be getting Kane and Bradshaw against the nWo next week?
Backstage, Vince is granted access to the building and heads for the ring.
After the break Flair is already in the ring. He summarises why he is there, and out comes McMahon. He asks if Flair is prepared to lose again, and then decides to say that it was his “intellectual sperm” that “fertilised the egg of pro-wrestling”. Wow. He brought the WWF to where it was by popularising PPV, while Flair was just flipping over the top rope. It was also him who saw that The Ringmaster “wasn’t going to cut it” and introduces the world to Stone Cold. Coming dangerously close to breaking kayfabe here, but luckily some breaking glass cuts Vince off instead.
Austin plays to the very happy crowd. Vince compliments him on his “what” t-shirt, and I can hear Homer saying “The man never said “what” in his life”. The crowd happy to fill in the pauses between Austin’s sentences as he runs down the situation, until McMahon finally snaps and gives us a “Shut up damnit!” Stone Cold runs down the various ways that Vince has screwed him over the years, then turns to Flair and basically pulls the same routine. He respects Ric for his world title runs, and Vince for what he’s done for the WWF. He offers McMahon a hand and says he’ll sign with him, and Vince is gleeful that Austin is now “Smackdown property”. Vince tells Flair that business is business, and Flair says he’ll always hate his guts.
Austin signs the Smackdown contract, but has one other thing to say: April Fools! Stunner! Flair is exultant, grabs a case of beer, shares one with Austin and drops a knee on one of the cans too, like some crazed old man drinking under a canal. “Stone Cold is on Raw!” is repeated a few times. I’m begging Stone Cold to stun this man, and stun him he does, before signing the Raw contract. Beer, celebrations, and one more Stunner for Vince before the credits role. Never really in doubt where Austin was headed, but I appreciate that they tried to make main event slot lemonade out of Austin’s no-showing lemons.
Best Match: I’ll go for the opener, really solid IC match between two guys who are well capable of putting on decent matches night in, night out.
Best Wrestler: I’ll actually give it to Spike Dudley, he got Regal over well while making himself look like more than just a lucky underdog with his offence.
Worst Match: Terri/Trish, and there is nothing else to be said.
Worst Wrestler: Big Boss Man is on the way out of the Fed soon enough, and shows like this are why.
Overall Verdict: Decent introduction to brand split era Raw, as the WWF finally starts setting up Backlash. Leaving aside the awful womens match, there wasn’t really a bad contest, and the intervening segments were fine. Don’t know how much more they’re going to be able to get out of Austin though!
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