NFB Watches Wrestling #79: Smackdown (23/05/2002)

OK, let’s try the fallout from Judgement Day again! It’s the 23rd of May 2002 (filmed on the 21st) and we’re in the Bancorp South Center of Tupelo, Mississipi for episode #145 of WWE Smackdown! Your main event tonight: Mark Henry vs Chris Jericho! Ha, no, that’s just the last match. Hulk Hogan’s “retirement” is the main event.

New Attitude Era splash, the same recap of Judgement Day that played on Raw, “Beautiful People”, pyro and Cole/Tazz welcome us to Tupelo. Cole confirms that Hulk Hogan will be retiring, and giving a “Farewell Address” tonight. Yeah right, yeah right, yeah right. Before any of that, it’s a little bit of a legit dream match for me.

Triple H vs Lance Storm

Storm on the mike coming down the ramp. Catchphrase, and Storm says Sunday proved Triple H isn’t the top athlete he claims to be, he’s a barbaric, bloodthirsty animal. Storm is here to give him a lesson in wrestling, and of course it starts with Triple H decking him. High knee, clothesline, big “Triple H” chants. Storm back with a jawbreaker, then a cool-looking spot where Storm runs HHH to the ropes, leaps over and slams the Game’s head into them. Who else does that on this roster? Back in, strikes, and Haitch back with that knee smash. Choke, whip chain and Storm hits a huge standing drop-kick. Corner smash, elbows, chops, then a hard whip into the opposite corner. Stomps, one of which is badly whiffed, then a rope choke. Shots in the corner, leg choke and Triple H has actually been busted open.

Storm dropping elbows on the apron, gets two. Another rope choke, and this one has lost a bit of the early momentum. Storm gets some of it back with a huge springboard clothesline three quarters of the way across the ring. Mounted punches, but now HHH rallying back. Dodges a corner charge, nails a big neckbreaker, spinebuster, two. Storm ducks a clothesline and just about nails a superkick, then locks in the half-Boston Crab. Haitch to the ropes, then eats another superkick. Storm to the top, but Triple H shoves the ref into the ropes, crotching Storm! Heel turn incoming? HHH hits the Pedigree for the 1, 2, 3 in just under six

Winner: Turn heel, turn heel, turn heel.

Verdict: Nice to see an actual match on TV, and while Storm was never gong to win he got put over pretty huge. Pretty happy with this as an opener, and better than any of the matches on the last episode of Raw.

Backstage, Christian is with Kurt Angle, whose head is off-screen. Angle says he has to go out tonight, and shows off his Olympic medals, which he didn’t win by backing down. He has to treat tonight as a chance to show courage. Christian says it will be good that the “You Suck” chants will be different, and attempts to not-so-subtly get a chant of “You’re Bald” going, what is he, a secret face? Making sure his face is obscured by a mirror, Joker-style, Angle heads off to the ring.

Elsewhere, Stacey Keibler meets with Test. Were they dating in real life at this time? Stacey says McMahon is looking for a favour, and Test says he can’t do the kind of favours that Keibler does. Yuck. Stacey says Vince is jealous of Randy Orton, going off on a brief tangent about how young and attractive he is, and wants Test to take care of him tonight. Test agrees, and gives Keibler a very full-on kiss, with a dip, afterwards. I know they dated at some point, but this still made be shudder a bit. Cole says Vince will be furious, making me question how this “backstage camera” thing is meant to work.

In the area proper, Angle’s theme music plays, with no appearance. It re-starts, and after a minute out comes Kurt, wearing the most obvious wig, attached with a wrestling head-piece. Looks amazing, have to say. Tazz compliments Kurt on his Rogaine success, awesome. On the mike, Angle says it was a miracle when he won an Olympic gold with a broken freaking neck, but his hair supplement work this week is an equivalent. He even let it grow out a little just for kicks. He’s sorry the crowd won’t see “some bald pathetic loser”, but there’s always Hulk Hogan to look forward to. He says Edge’s win on Sunday was a fluke, but he won’t be an object of ridicule. He’s going to go try out some brand new moose he just bought.

This brings out Maven of all people, in a Smackdown shirt where he sort of looks like a Rock impersonator. Maven says there is no shame in being bald, and Angle might even look better (how prophetic). He suggests Angle take off the rug, as his fans wants to see him in his natural state. Angle’s response: “Do I know you? Do you work here?”. Amazing. Kurt belatedly recognises Maven as “the guy who won a contract on MTV or something” and says that if Maven wants the supposed wig off so badly he can come on down and take it off himself.

Maven thinks about and rushes the ring, which seems staggeringly unwise. Angle beats him down quick, but then eats the patented “big-time” Maven drop-kick. Maven tries to tear the wig off, but Angle able to counter into a German. Angle retreats, only for Edge to come out for a proper pop. Trying to wrestle the wig off, but here comes Christian to pull Edge off. The heels retreat, headpiece intact, and Edge and Maven glare. Tag later then?

In a 7-11, Rob Van Dam bullies children into getting his Slurpee Cup. Moving on.

When we’re back Stacey Keibler is dancing on the commentary table, which is pretty notable as far as jackknife transitions go. “There goes my zipper” says Tazz, excuse me while I throw up. Keibler is out for the next match.

Test vs Randy Orton

Cole announces that Keibler is getting another Womens Title shot on the first episode of new show Velocity in a few days, and this will be a Bra and Panties match. Well, that killed any interest I had in deviating from the main shows to check that out. “There’ll be zipper popping all over the place!” please Tazz, Tazz please. Stacey isn’t just out here to dance, and joins Cole and Tazz on commentary. She ogles Orton as he comes out to a surprisingly big reception.

Test offers a hand, but it turns into a slap and a beatdown. Corner smashes, elbows, stomps. Orton awkwardly thrown over the top rope, back in, ducks a clothesline, then hits two drop-kicks. Test back with a knee to the mid-section, then hits a Pumphandle Slam. Two, and Test pulls Orton up for more punishment. Cole announces that Maven and Edge will take on Kurt and Christian later, really showcasing how little they care about the ongoing match.

In the ring, Test misses a Big Boot and crotches himself. Orton adds a few rope wriggles, then lays in the running forearms. To the top, intercepted, Test follows him up but gets knocked down. Orton with the big crossbody, Test rolls through, two. Orton with shots, Test looking for another Pumphandle, Orton counters into a roll-up, two. Orton sent into the ringpost, but then dodges a charge, roll-up, two. Test looking for a Full Nelson Slam, countered into a roll-up again, two again. Test with a reverse swinging cutter, and that’ll be the 1, 2, 3 in just over three-and-a-half.

Winner: Test, and Stacey I guess.

Verdict: Fine for how short it was, Orton made to look good and liked the story of him just looking for roll-up wins the whole time. But where is this Orton/Keibler stuff going?

Backstage, Mark Lloyd is with The Undertaker. He cuts off the question, and says he told the world what he was going to do, and he did it. That means he is the best in the world, and the man to beat. He’s sure there are aspiring challengers, but they have to step into his yard, look him in the eye and take the title. He doesn’t see anybody out there who is ready to step up. Lloyd suggests that Taker lost the title on Monday, and we cut to a highlights package of the whole RVD thing. “And your point is?” asks Mean Mark. His foot was on the rope in fairness. He wants to get back to the reason he’s here in the first place: to witness the death of Hulkamania. Exeunt. Hmm. On the face of it, if asked, I would say the list of potential Smackdown challengers probably goes no further than Triple H and Edge right now, but they’ll probably foist some manner of Hogan re-match on us.

Elsewhere, Rico stares lovingly at his WWE Tag Team Title belt. B&C rock up, and say Rico shouldn’t get too attached. Rico agrees, saying the win was a fluke. The gold doesn’t go with any of his clothes, and Billy & Chuck deserve to be Champions. He’s going to prove he’s still faithful. Hugs, but Billy & Chuck don’t look too convinced. Rico goes back ogling the gold.

Elsewhere elsewhere, Jericho goes though the halls with a plaster on his forehead. He runs into Farrooq and complains that he has to work tonight a few days after taking the beating of his life last Sunday. He has no desire to work, and wants protection tonight. He has a lot of money to pay, but Farrooq says the only thing he should be paying is attention. He walks off, leading to to the appearance of Mark Henry, who announces he is Y2J’s opponent. Evil smile. Jericho and Henry are an odd pairing it has to be said.

Edge & Maven vs Kurt Angle & Christian

Maven butting in on ready-made feuds between the other three. Recap of what happened earlier tonight, as if it was really needed. Heels rush the ring, and Angle ends up legal with Edge. Beatdown, but Edge back with a bit of an awkward spinning heel kick. Edge-A-Cution, is that not a finisher anymore, but while Edge tries to get the headpiece off Christian tags in and attacks. Edge back with a flapjack and in comes Maven. Christian with a few shots but then Maven hits a spinning heel kick that looks better than the one Edge did.

We cut backstage briefly to see Torrie Wilson and Trish Stratus hanging out, as we get a reminder of the world’s worst romantic plotline in Torrie/Maven. In the ring the heels get in a double team and Angle nails a belly-to-belly. Backbreaker from Christian, two, chops in the corner, Angle with a choke, Angle in as Tazz posits that Maven is jealous of Angle’s hair. Kurt taunts Edge, Edge restrained by the ref, and Maven nails a low blow OUTTANOWHERE. Tazz wonders if Al Snow has been teaching Maven dirty tactics.

Hot tag to Edge, clears house, back body-drop to Christian, another to Angle, reverse DDT to Christian but Angle breaks up the pin. Double clothesline knocks both heels down, Maven in, things break down a bit. Angle hits the Angle Slam on Edge, Maven with a DDT on Angle, to the top, and hits a missile drop-kick on Christian, two. Angle with a German to Maven, then walks into a faceplant from Edge. Spear to Christian from Edge, Angle dumps Edge out, then gets dumped out by Maven. Christian looking for the Unprettier, countered into a roll-up, and Maven gets the pin in just under four-and-a-half.

Winners: Long hair and none.

Verdict: Fun tag, even with the short length. A bit chaotic towards the end, but otherwise fine.

The faces celebrate on the ramp as a still wigged Angle remonstrates in the ring.

Time for the Panasonic “Smack Of The Night”, and its Bubba Ray Dudley getting put through a table by Reverend D-Von and Deacon Batista last Sunday. Que said religious tag team, with new gospel choir music and Batista wearing the collection box like a manpurse.

Reverend D-Von w/Deacon Batista vs Rikishi

No context for this one. This has the potential to have bunches of interference. D-Von on the mike after all, says Kish is a disgrace, and needs “to get the hell…I mean get the heck” to the back and put some clothes on “you heathen”. Rikishi cuts him off with a right hand, then hits a terrible looking clothesline. D-Von tries a Sunset Flip, avoids the drop, then skitters to the corner.

Suddenly Rico is coming out, in the ring Kish hits a belly-to-belly slam, corner smashes, but the Reverend gets in a sneaky low-blow with Rico distracting the ref. Toss, D-Von with strikes in the corner, and now Billy & Chuck are coming out. Just waiting on Bubba Ray at this point. D-Von with a throat shot off the apron, trying for a suplex, nothing doing, Kish looking for a slam but Batista pulls out the leg for D-Von to get two. Rikishi with right hands, D-Von back with a DDT, Rikishi no-selling and hits a superkick. Pop-up cutter, and this one looks pretty terrible compared to last week. Batista onto the apron to distract the ref, Kish knocks him down, hip smash in the corner, the Reverend in position, Rikishi calling for it, but Rico in to give Kish a belt shot with Batista distracting the ref. That’s enough for the pin in just over three.

Winner: Reverend D-Von, on a bit of a roll.

Verdict: Not much to say here, Kish guilty of some botches and the thing was let down by the interference spots.

Batista in to beat down Rikishi and hit a spinebuster. After, Rico in to console Kish, but he gives a sneaky thumbs up to B&C before heading off. Too many cooks feel to all this.

Backstage Chavo Guerrero watches footage of his uncle beating up Stone Cold on Raw, and expresses his approval. Suddenly ace reporter Gregory Helms is here. He asks if Chavo is responsible for the “dastardly” notes for the Hurricane, and Chavo says he doesn’t need to leave notes, as he has a match with Cane tonight and will be taking his title. Guerrero leaves, and Helms sniffs out yet another note! “I’m not tall and I’m not fat, but I left you a clue, what’s up with that?” Said clue is a packet of beef jerky. Huh? What is up with this?

Elsewhere Lloyd is with Triple H. The Game says there are no winners in Hell In A Cell, just survivors. Storm found that out tonight, and now HHH’s focus is on the Undisputed Championship. Suddenly Storm arrives. He says the Game’s luck is about to run out, leading to Test hitting a big boot that sends Haitch through the Smackdown set! Does Test really want to start feuding with Triple H again? Does he really want more broken noses?

The Hurricane (c) vs Chavo Guerrero Jr (WWE Cruiserweight Championship)

Tazz confirms that Joey Numbers back in Brooklyn doesn’t know who is responsible for the notes, and if he doesn’t know then no-one does. I’m surprised Joey Numbers never turned up in some fashion. Good to see Chavo getting some Smackdown time, being a mainstay of Jakked or dark matches in his WWE tenure thus far. Starts with a shove, Cane back with a poke to the eye, knockdown, running chain and Hurricane catches a leaping Chavo to hit a powerslam for two, nice spot. Guerrero back with a reverse suplex, uppercut, Cane set up in the ropes, kicks, drop-kick, two. Hurricane back with strikes but then eats another drop-kick. Chavo looking for a suplex, Hurricane battles out of it and hits a big clothesline. Hard whip to the corner, neckbreaker, two. Chavo back with his own spinning powerslam for two, Cane up looking for the chokeslam, Chavo out, repeat the spot, Chavo out, Cane to the second rope and hits a very loose looking Blockbuster that he apparently calls the “Overcast” for the win in just under three.

Winner (and still WWE Cruiserweight Champion): The Hurricane, for now.

Verdict: Short, but they showed off what they could do at least. You’d think they’d be pulling the trigger on this notes storyline, but nothing as of yet.

We cut straight backstage, where Stacey Keibler is with Vince McMahon, trying to play off her kiss with Test earlier. Vince doesn’t care, because history is being made tonight. He compares Hogan’s retirement to events like the Gettysburg Address, when Jericho walks in. He wants to know what McMahon’s problem is, putting him in a match with Mark Henry. Vince tells him to think of it as an opportunity, to see if he can beat the worlds strongest man. Y2J responds in the affirmative. This seemed superfluous.

The Subway Slam of the Week is a few things from the Hell In A Cell, mostly Tim White getting repeatedly pummeled. Cole confirms that White suffered a separated shoulder and will be out for a while. Just planning out those suicide skits. Time for the wrestling main event.

Chris Jericho vs Mark Henry

Jawing, Jericho with kicks then walks into a big boot. Big shot in the corner, corner splash, chops, then a throw. Y2J looking in a lot of pain, Henry to the second rope but nobody home on the Vader Bomb. Jericho has been busted open for some reason, trying to mount something but then Henry just lightly jogs into Y2J and sends him down. Jericho with a foot up on a corner charge, coming off the second rope but caught, pumped up and down then dropped. Jericho hung up on the ropes, Henry with a sit-down splash, and it looks ugly as hell, he goes right into the back of Jericho’s head who then flips and hits the apron with his crown. Really dodgy looking.

To the outside, Jericho out of a slam to put Henry into the ringpost. Grabs a table, Henry knocks it away and sends Y2J back in. Grabs a chair of his own, the ref takes it away, and in the process somehow misses a chair shot to the back from Jericho who is enough for the 1, 2, 3 in under three-and-a-half.

Winner: Chris Jericho, the great survivor.

Verdict: One very scary spot the only really memorable thing from this one, that did very little for either man.

Jericho flees up the ramp, before commentary hypes Hogan’s farewell address, which is up after the break.

“Voodoo Child” heralds the arrival of Hollywood Hulk Hogan. “Ladies and Gentlemen, experience Hulkamania for the very last time” says Cole, and I wonder if anyone over the age of responsibility actually though Hogan was giving it up? For the record his last televised match was a loss to Sting at TNA’s Bound For Glory in 2011, and last recorded match was a British house show for TNA a short time after in a six-man tag. So you have a decade of the Hulkster after this to look forward to, brother.

Big reception for Hogan, but of course, with Tupelo trying to outdo the Canadian crowds. Huge, sustained “Hogan” chant. Hogan says he was born Terry Bollea (breaking kayfabe, that will convince people this is for real!) and his parents worked hard to support him. One day 20 years ago he got the chance to enter the wrestling business, and he’s had a blast performing for audiences around the world. But there’s one thing he regrets, which is the passing of his father a few months previous to this. Way to cut off my snark there Hulkster. His father watched Raw and Smackdown to the end of his life, and before he died he told Terry he needed to go back to wrestling, and specifically needed to go back to the WWF. He couldn’t have done that without the Hulkamaniacs’ help and encouragement.

There comes a time when every man has to step down. “You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them” and I only wish Hogan had known when to walk away, and when to run. He thanks the fans for believing in him and for all of the memories. He knows Hulkamania will live forever. “From my heart, Hulkamaniacs, thank you”. Cue music. If this really had been the end I think people would have forgiven a lot of Hogan’s performances in the last few months, but of course, it wasn’t.

And to prove the point out comes McMahon with that trademark swagger. He’s on the mike to say that the world is coming to an end because Hogan is announcing his retirement. And where is he making this important announcement? Well, it’s in “the very rectum of Mississippi”, and that gets some boos. He knew Hogan was going to pull some kind of stunt like this, and tells the Hulkster there is no chance in hell he is retiring. Wait, what? The crowd suddenly cheering this unintended face turn.

He’ll tell Hogan why and it’s because ten years ago Hogan walked out on him, and now he has a contract and if Hogan leaves he’ll sue him and his family for everything he’s got. The only way he’s going to leave the WWE is in a pine box. Vince reminds us that he created Hogan and owns Hulkamania. He’s going to milk it “until the day you DIE!”. Hogan has heard enough, grabs Vince by the lapel and says he may retire one day, but it won’t be until Hogan kicks Vince’s ass. Right hand! A whip with the belt! And now Undertaker is out to ambush Hogan. Shots, Hogan rallying back, running double axe-handle, and Taker waits patiently for Hogan to jog up and clothesline him out of the ring. McMahon and Taker scurry away as the crowd goes predictably nuts. “Hulkamania” is stronger than ever! Oh God, no. Very strange segment it has to be said, the retirement fake-out is par for the course, but you would think they were building to an immediate McMahon/Hogan match with this, and not months and months down the line.

Oh, and that’s the end of the show.

Best Match: It has to be the mid-match tag I suppose, and Smackdown has gotten into that pattern of having that one multi-man baller per show.

Best Wrestler: Lance Storm, who is so good in-ring it’s a literal crime he has been so mistreated out of it.

Worst Match: D-Von/Rikishi was let down by some of Rikishi’s botches and the many interference sports.

Worst Wrestler: Mark Henry could have seriously hurt Jericho with that sit-down onto the ropes.

Overall Verdict: Still head and shoulders above Raw, Smackdown could do with some longer matches and a better direction for its stories coming out of Judgement Day, but is still watchable. I do think Hogan is rapidly running out of time on the crowd love though.

To view more entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

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1 Response to NFB Watches Wrestling #79: Smackdown (23/05/2002)

  1. Pingback: NFB Watches Wrestling: Index | Never Felt Better

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