The future is now with this brand’s first proper show of the split era. It’s the 4th April 2002 (filmed on the 2nd) and we’re in the Blue Cross Arena of Rochester, New York for episode #137 of WWF Smackdown! Your main event tonight: The Rock vs Chris Jericho have yet another match!
Attitude splash (still) and Vince is relaxing on a couch in his office. He says Flair named Undertaker as the #1 contender on Raw, but the board of directors decided whoever won the coin toss for the #1 draft pick would also get to name the #1 contender for the first brand split era PPV, and he’ll be doing that tonight. Hang on, the coin toss was Vince’s ad-hoc idea after the brand split was announced, the “board of directors” had nothing to do with it. This is a bit of a retcon. I’ll go into what some of the thinking behind this about-face might have been later.
“Beautiful People”, puro, and we are welcomed to Rochester by Michael Cole and Tazz: the King is dead, long live Brooklyn. They announce Edge will face Kurt Angle later, before Angle comes to the ring. He’s out here to tell us that he’s willing to face HHH at Backlash. The crowd is in “what” mode, and Angle decides that, despite being “dissed” by them, he will list the reasons why he deserves the title shot. He’s beaten Triple H a lot, he’s an Olympic gold medalist, he’s adored by children and senior citizens worldwide (“especially the sick ones”) and he has 26 more reasons to get through before Chris Jericho suddenly appears.
Y2J says he never got a one-on-one rematch for the title, and he declares that he is not a has-been, obviously trying to set the crowd of which he does successfully, though I think they are chanting “asshole”. He’s taking that championship opportunity. Angle, in a moment of genuinely clever wordplay, says Jericho’s opportunity “already has-been completed”. Jericho reminds Kurt the last time they met Jericho beat him (Rebellion 2001 I think) and further suggests that they have a match tonight for the title shot. They shake on it, and the roof comes off the place for The Rock.
“Finally”, and this crowd is nuclear. No one deserves a shot more than him…wait, maybe there is someone else. The crowd bites with “Hogan” chants. Rock knows he’ll get a title shot in future, milks in the “Hogan” chants a bit more, thinks they should give the Backlash shot to a legend, an icon, and hilariously Angle thanks The Rock for his support. Rock cuts him off to announce he meant Hulk Hogan, and Jericho looks outraged. Y2J and Angle both get the “It doesn’t matter…” treatment when they protest. Rock adds that this is “the People’s Show”, and whips the crowd into giving their sheep-like support for “Hogan”. Cole declares it “unanimous”, but I heard one guy chanting “Angle”. “If you smell…” and that’ll do it for a pretty entertaining opening segment, that only mildly outstayed its welcome. A little sad to see Rock trotted out to cover Hogan’s elevation though.
Backstage, Albert and Scotty 2 Hotty confab before their title shot, and both proclaim their readiness. I had completely forgotten they were a tag team.
Billy & Chuck (c) w/Rico vs Albert & Scotty 2 Hotty (WWF Tag Team Championships)
Albert and S2H got the “already in the ring” treatment after the break, so I don’t fancy their chances, but at least they are new challengers. Scotty and Chuck to start, Chuck with shots, flip chain, and Scot gets a neckbreaker for one. In going for the tag Chuck makes extended contact with Billy’s groin, “hilariously”. Billy in, floors Scotty off a few clotheslines, and Chuck gets in a beatdown off an Albert distraction. Chuck in legally, takes some slaps, comes back looking for a powerslam, Scotty out and nails a superkick.
Hot tag to Albert, clears house, rolling powerslam to Billy, Chuck put out, corner splash to Billy. Tag to S2H, Rico onto the apron and Albert leaves the ring to pursue, only to get floored by Chuck. In the ring Scotty hits a Tornado DDT, no count as the ref is distracted, Rico in to nail a spinning heel kick, and Billy gets the 1, 2, 3, in just over three.
Winners (and still WWF Tag Team Champions): Billy & Chuck, who are fighting champions if nothing else.
Verdict: Standard TV tag where they just cut out the opening act.
Albert confronts Rico after, Scotty gets the bulldog, looking for the Worm, but then Albert nails him with a pump kick, and you can literally hear the air leave the room. Extended beatdown ending with a Baldo Bomb, with typical “You were holding me back!” jawing, as Cole brilliantly claims “These guys were like brothers!” Yeah, I’m sure. Heel Albert is not going to be up to much, I have a feeling.
Backstage, Mark Lloyd waits to speak to Mr McMahon. After the break, out comes Vince, who is confused about who Lloyd is. Has he decided who the #1 contender is? McMahon could care less about the public, because he knows what they want better than they do. It’s a bigger deal than Mania, and that’s why Triple H is going to defend against…Hulk Hogan! Weird promo, considering what it was leading up to.
So, what was the story here? Honestly, I think that McMahon was smart enough to know that the Hogan love-in had a time limit, and they should make hay while the crowds were hot for him. That meant Taker getting bumped, which I’m sure he was just delighted about, and Hogan getting elevated to the main event despite doing nothing in kayfabe to deserve it. They could have at least let him win a #1 contenders match or something, but nothing doing. The way in which they do it here screams disorganised, with Rock’s endorsement meant as a cover for how quickly it is all being done.
Elsewhere, Jericho is outraged. He confronts The Rock, claims Hogan has never done anything in this business, a bit of a stretch, and he couldn’t even beat Rock (true). Jericho runs down all the time he has beaten The Rock, and Rock suggests he do it again tonight. Y2J agrees, and we have a main event. These two wouldn’t stop wrestling each other in the latter half of 2001/early 2002, so I can take or leave this to be honest.
Christian vs Diamond Dallas Page
A Wrestlemania rematch, sans title, and it actually gets a video package for some reason. This one recaps Christian’s temper tantrums, Page’s efforts to be a spiritual advisor, Christian’s sudden but inevitable betrayal and Christian’s loss at Mania. There were some developments since, you know? No idea why this match needed this, when the Mania match didn’t have anything.
DDP gives a smile, dodges a strike and back with his own. Leapfrog chains, and Christian flipped over and then clotheslined out, and the crowd pops for Page. Gets dropped on the ropes as Christian comes back in, Side Russian Leg-Sweep gets two, then a brief resthold. Page looking for the flip again, transitions into a pin for two, thats countered into a Christian pin for two, then Page counters again into an Electric Chair Drop, very nice sequence. Dueling strikes, discus clothesline from Page, then the sit-out powerbomb for two. Christian no-selling, up to hit a reverse backbreaker for two. Page with an elbow to the face on a corner charge, but Christian able to hang onto the rope to avoid a Diamond Cutter attempt. Page with a roll-up for two, then the Reverse DDT from Christian for two. That’s enough to set-off the temper tantrum, to Tazz’s genuine-sounding dismay. DDP goes to assist, thumb to the eye, Unprettier, and that’s it in just under three-and-a-half.
Winner: That sneaky Christian.
Verdict: Was good for what it was, these two can go. I like Christian playing possum with the tantrums.
Christian runs off celebrating his successful deception.
Backstage, Kurt Angle is talking to himself, remonstrating on McMahon’s decision for the Backlash main event. Edge walks up, and has a peace offering for Angle, some old pictures he just found in his attic, of Angle’s successfull moments in wrestling. Unbeknownst to Angle, they have captions on the other side, such as “You Suck”, “Yes, I Do Suck”, “And I’m A Dork”, “It’s True” and “P.S., I Have No Testicles”. Edge walks off, and Angle is, naturally, upset when he discovers the truth. A little childish, but I’ll take it, it’s like that Wayne’s World bit “This man has no penis, I have proof”.
Elsewhere, the Game walks through the hallways. After the break he heads to the ring, because he has a match to sell. He outlines the situation regards the changing Backlash main event, basically recapping everything we have seen so far tonight. He understands the Deadman might be upset (I’ll bet he was) but the title is going nowhere, and when Triple H is done with Hogan he’ll be waiting for Taker. I bet Levesque wasn’t too pleased about this situation either. Only room for one piranha in this company.
Anyway, this brings Hogan out, and he’s back in his red and yellow, which even heel Tazz appreciates. Straight away though, he gives us “He don’t sweat the Game, he knows the Game is on his game”, which is probably the call of the night. Crowd is red-hot for Hogan, as you would expect. These two are such well-known backstage politikers I’m surprised they don’t bring out podiums and just have a debate. Hulk says he was just as surprised as Hunter was to hear Vince’s announcement. I still think a title run might have been a condition of his return. He recaps his feats at Wrestlemania I, III, 18, and man there is a big gap there isn’t there? Hulkamania is back, brother. If the fans believe in him, and believe that he deserves a shot, he’s going to take it. The crowd agrees.
HHH says it’ll be an honour to be in the ring with Hogan, but a little part of him will be sad, because he’s going to have hurt someone he’s looked up to his whole life. Think we’re seeing the start of a heel turn here. Triple H won’t hesitate for one second, and Hogan is just another obstacle to be run down. Nice subtle reference to the vehicular manslaughter attempt on Austin there. Crowd remains hot for Hogan. Nothing will come between the Game and his title because, brother, he’s the Game, etc. Triple H goes to leave, but Hogan wants the last word, because of course he does. Hulkamania is going to rise-up, whatchagonnado, etc. Staredown. Crowd very, very into this, and I suppose it would make me somewhat interested in seeing Backlash’s main event, if only because I want HHH back where he belongs, as the bad guy.
Commentary hypes the next match, on after the break.
Edge vs Kurt Angle
The contrasting sponsors of Tobacco is Whacko and Footlocker bring you this one. Angle in hot, and Edge beaten down. Back with a spinning heel kick, before he walks into a huge German Suplex, two. Chops in the corner, belly-to-belly throw, looking for the Angle Slam, Edge out and hits his facebuster for some time. Shots, dodges a clothesline, fallback slam for two. Angle tied up in the ropes, Edge taunts him, and hits two spears on a trapped Angle, which do look kind of brutal. Angle to the outside, grabs a chair, but intercepted by Edge before he can use it, though the chair is still in the ring. Um, ref? Edge hits a back body-drop when they are back in the ring, but when he tries to follow-up with a spear Angle has the chair as a shield, Bret Hart-on-Goldberg style. The ref has seen enough in just over three.
Winner (by DQ): Edge, the wacky prankster.
Verdict: Nice preview for whats to come, with a sadly inevitable non-finish. Spear spot was cool.
Angle tries to brain Edge with the chair but the future main event mainstay dodges and Angle beats a retreat. Cole promises us that we haven’t heard the last of this one. Well of course.
Backstage, Torrie Wilson is oiling up for some reason when Billy Kidman rocks up. He’s happy to be back, and while he knows Wilson, his ex/hated rival in WCW, will be there, he’s going for the Cruiserweight Title. They hug, just as Tajiri arrives. He is outraged in Japanese, and insists on a cheek kiss from Torrie, followed by a lip one. Que a cheeky smile to Kidman. Love this. Obvious heel turn coming between these two guys.
Tajiri (c) w/Torrie Wilson vs Billy Kidman (WWF Cruiserweight Championship)
Lock-up, elbow-lock from Kidman countered into a drop, then a nice rana. Kidman back with his own, a few dodged heel kicks, tosses, and both men equally matched. Kidman tries a clothesline, but nobody home but Tajiri’s boot. Springboard moonsault on Kidman after he vacates the ring to only a mild pop, back in, but Tajiri eats a drop-kick off a top-rope nothing. Back with a spinning heel kick for two, looking for the Tornado DDT but Kidman counters into a powerbomb, nice. Kidman to the top, looking for the Shooting Star but no water in the pool. Superkick from Tajiri as a follow-up, but only a near-fall. The Champ looking for the Tarantula, but Kidman able to dump him off and to the outside. Back in, looking for it again, this time successfully, but then he gets distracted seeing that Wilson is holding the title belt for some reason. Kidman sneaks up, roll-up with a deep pin, and that’s enough in just under three-and-a-half.
Winner (and new WWF Cruiserweight Champion): Billy Kidman, so I guess we know who is getting the heel turn.
Verdict: Perfectly serviceable cruiserweight action, it just wasn’t long enough for a title match with a change.
Kidman walks off in triumph and Tajiri gets on the mike. Here we go. He seemingly demands Wilson enter the ring, he gives out in Japanese to well-placed “what” chants, Torrie looks freaked, and we even get a bleep from the network, so must have been bad. Tajiri walks off, so I assume Torrie has been dumped. “It was an innocent mistake!” cries Cole. Aren’t they always?
Backstage, Vince complains about Maven losing the Hardcore Title to Smackdown, and he is pretty red-faced too. Pan out to reveal that McMahon is talking to Bob Holly, who is tasked with exacting some retribution on Maven. Holly remarks that if he had been a trainer on Tough Enough 1, Maven wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. He might have been literally killed mate, considering some of the BS Holly got up to on later seasons. Holly leaves to prepare for that encounter, and in walks Stacy Keibler. He insists she calls him “Vince” because both shows need to be run by horny old men. She’s here to offer her services to McMahon as an “executive assistant”, after enjoying his thoughts on “intellectual sperm” on Monday night. Odds on that Vince wrote this himself, and probably insisted on Stacy grabbing his arm too. Vince leads Stacy to his casting couch as we go to break.
After the break, Vince makes a show of adjusting his clothes with Keibler nowhere in sight, just in case you weren’t feeling bad enough about your niche hobby tonight. In walks D-Von Dudley of all people. He complains about the Dudley split happening over Vince and Flair’s feud “and so on and so forth”. Wow, D-Von is struggling. Vince insists he wanted Bubba too, but is hoping D-Von is ready to step up. He tells him to get out of his office until he figures out who he is, ie, get a gimmick change.
Elsewhere, Maven is with Al Snow. Snow runs down the highlights of Maven’s career thus far, and says that Maven should be happy about the “ass-whopping” he is about to get tonight, as a year ago he’d have to venture into the darkest part of town to have a similar experience. Oh Al. “Remember, God is always with you, and you’re sure as hell going to need him tonight buddy”. I love Snow’s pep talks.
Maven vs Hardcore Holly
Genuinely concerned for Maven here, but at least, with 15 minutes and a main event left, it will be short. Lock-up, Maven dodges a hard chop and lands a spinning heel kick for two. Holly back with shots into the corner, chops. “Hes mean, he hates everybody, I love Holly” says Tazz. Maven hung up on the ropes for a kick to the stomach, Inverted Atomic Drop, clotheslines, sweet drop-kick (Holly had one of the best in the business), Scoop Slam, to the top, but gets the boot on a top-rope nothing. Maven to the top to land a missile drop-kick for two, Holly straight back up to hit the Alabama Slam for the 1, 2, 3 in just over two.
Winner: whocares (congrats if you get that, fellow member of the Glahgah community)
Verdict: Very short, and Holly was relatively restrained, so I guess I can’t complain too much.
Cole and Tazz recap the events that led to tonight’s main event, and we get the full replay of Rock and Y2J’s encounter backstage. The Rock heads to the ring and after the break we get to it.
Chris Jericho vs The Rock
Cole plugs that Jericho’s band, Fozzy, will be playing at WWF New York tomorrow. I can’t believe they have been around that long. Jericho rushes to meet Rock on the ramp, but the Brahma Bull gets the advantage quick. Jericho thrown into the side of the ring, the smackdown laid, and the two end up in the crowd for some brawling. Jericho hip-tossed into ringside, but then avoids a clothesline, takedown, and Rock catapulted into the ringpost. Now into the ring and things start officially.
Y2J on top, screaming “I’m not a has-been!” between shots and chops. Rock comes back with his own, but then cut-off with a spinning heel kick for two. Mounted strikes, then some standing ones. Jericho to the top as the crowd comes alive for Rock, but the crowd can’t prevent a missile drop-kick, for two. Big suplex, Hogan-esque standing pin for two. (“Arrogant idiot” says an outraged Cole). Rock trying to come back, Jericho with a takedown, but Rock to the ropes before he gets put in the Walls. Jericho back to the top, but crotched for his troubles. The Rock up after Jericho, and hits a second-rope superplex, both men down. Good energy to this one, as both guys pull out the greatest hits after 20 encounters in the last six months.
Rock flooring Jericho with big shots, belly-to-belly throw, DDT, two. Electric offence has the crowd going. Rock dodges a running clothesline, and Tim White takes it instead. Rock puts in the Sharpshooter, no ref, and here comes Kurt Angle anyway. He gets smackdowned and out of the ring, only for Rock to then get floored by Jericho. Y2J teasing the People’s Elbow, Rock kips up, spinebuster, and now The Rock looks for the People’s Elbow, only to get cut off by Angle. Angle Slam, Jericho into the cover, slow count and Rock out at two. Edge arrives to take on Angle, and they brawl at ringside and then into the crowd as security struggle to keep people back.
Back in the ring, both men are down as White counts, but both up at eight. Rock with big rights, looking for the Rock Bottom, Jericho out and nails a bulldog. Looks for the Lionsault (that Tazz incorrectly calls a moonsault, come on man), knees up, Rock Bottom and that’ll be all in just over seven-and-a-half.
Winner: The Rock “who gets the Chris Jericho monkey off his back”. Thanks Cole.
Verdict: Good stuff, one of their better encounters honestly, maybe because it was shorter than usual. The interference didn’t ruin it either.
Must have been very short on time as the show ends very quick afterwards.
Best Match: I guess I will give it to the main event, which was a fun TV match that managed to avoid a sense of staleness it had no right avoiding really.
Best Wrestler: Kurt pulled double duty tonight in his own match and the main event, and looked great in both instances.
Worst Match: Holly/Maven seemed like an excuse to just batter the new guy, even if the end result wasn’t too bad.
Worst Wrestler: I know he’s able to pivot into A-Train from here, but Albert is one of the least impressive big guys on the roster right now.
Overall Verdict: This was good fun, no very disappointing matches and the main event popped. A sense of progression towards Backlash too, with a title match and one big feud in Angle/Edge. It feels like Smackdown is on surer footing than Raw really.
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