NFB Watches Wrestling #80: Raw (27/05/2002)

OK, let’s start heading to King Of The Ring. It’s the 27th May 2002 and we’re in the Skyreach Centre of Edmonton, Canada for episode #470 of WWE Raw! Your main event tonight: Eddie Guerrero defends the IC Title against Rob Van Dam in a ladder match! Hey, when did Raw become awesome again?

New Attitude splash, “Across The Nation”, pyro and JR/King welcome us to Edmonton. They announce our main event, Bubba Ray Dudley vs Brock Lesnar, before throwing us to The World which is full of sailors for some reason.

Edmonton explodes as the familiar strains of “Whatever” by Our Lady Peace break out, and here comes hometown boy Chris Benoit, who has been out injured for the better part of a year. JR plugs Benoit’s appearance in a local paper, where he was “front page news” (he was on the header). He soaks in the love for a bit, with Hogan-level adulation from the crowd. Benoit says it feels good as hell to be back. McMahon drafted him to be on Smackdown, but there’s no way the ‘E is going to come through Edmonton without having him there (take that brand split!). He’s only a few weeks away from a return, where he will again prove he’s the best damn technical wrestler in the world today.

“Latino heeeat”. Out comes the IC Champ, as JR outlines that Austin is on his way to the show, delayed by a “family emergency” suffered by Debra . Hmm. Guerrero says it’s good to see Benoit, and I’ll be honest seeing these two in the ring together is bringing up all sorts of feelings for yesteryear. Eddie says he missed Benoit, but misses his jealousy most of all. He was always jealous of him, because out of all the Radicalz – remember them? – he was the one with all of the talent and charisma. “He’s disingenuous and he’s sarcastic” says JR, like we are in a courtroom. Guerrero continues, a bit angrier, saying Benoit’s jealously has always blinded him, and he was always trying to hold him back.

Benoit just stares daggers as Eddie continues, reminding us all that he is Intercontinental Champion, he beat RVD and last week he accomplished what Benoit never could, by laying out Austin “stone cold”. Benoit says he can’t change Guerrero being the IC Champion, but RVD can. As for Guerrero being a better wrestler than him, which gets laughs from the crowd, tonight they will find out if Eddie can have a better ladder match than him. He might, actually. As for what happened with Austin, it takes a real tough guy to hit someone from behind and then run. Guerrero wants to go right now, shirts are removed but here comes Flair to stop anything fun from happening.

He asks if Benoit can’t be civilised. After sucking up to his hometown fans, he’s starting a fight: “Typical Canadian”. What? After polling the crowd, Flair decides he won’t let Benoit and Guerrero go at it, and also announces Stone Cold won’t be here tonight, and if he tries there is a special welcoming committee waiting for him. Austin remains benched, but Benoit isn’t. But he’s a Smackdown guy, and he doesn’t belong here. Security is called, and Benoit reluctantly departs. Weird end to this segment, but I presume Benoit will be involved in the main event to some degree. Reading up on this period recently, I understand Austin had actually requested Guerrero and Benoit being put on Raw because he wanted new people to feud with, but as we will see pretty imminently – something that happened around four days after this episode is the real beginning of the end of Austin’s in-ring career, but we’ll get to it – it all fell apart.

After the break we see Benoit, still shirtless, being escorted out the back of the arena. You’re going to be better off on Smackdown mate. First match of the night up next, and it is another overbooked-looking doozy.

Trish Stratus (c) & Spike Dudley vs William Regal (c) & Molly Holly (WWE Womens Championship) (WWE European Championship)

So, lame intergender rules (only male-on-male or female-on-female) apply here, if either champion is pinned they lose the title. I said it the last time they did this, but this is too convoluted to be on TV. Backstage after the face entrances, Molly expresses nervousness to slick Willy about being in the ring with Spike Dudley after their previous relationship. Continuity! She’s nervous because he’s a pervert having “tried to go to second base with me”. Regal is apoplectic at this revelation in the way that only he can do. She was much too good for him anyway he insists. Loving this power couple.

All this talking about bases makes King “want to slide into home with Trish”, and ugh, ugh, ugh, why. Spike and Regal to start, floors the Champ with a forearm, drop-kick, another, to the top, and a really awkward looking sit down splash for two, looked like Dudley’s leg came down on Regal’s head. Elevated punches in the corner, flying crossbody, two. All Spike so far, now he hits a rana, roll-up for two, and Regal skitters over to bring Molly in. She slaps Spike, he thinks better of it and Trish comes in.

Boots in the corner, clothesline, two for Stratus. Chick Kick, two, chops, but Regal grabs Trish’s hair off a whip to change the momentum, before adding a running knee with the ref distracted. Two for Holly, adds a rope choke, faceplant, elbow, and the crowd is really dead for Molly’s offence. Throw, Trish suddenly counters into a backslide and that’s it OUTTANOWHERE in just over three.

Winners: Trish Stratus, who retains the Womens Title, and Spike, who fails to win the Euro Belt, but doesn’t seem to care. Oh, Regal retains too.

Verdict: Needed way more time, ending really suddenly. I have time for this story, but WWE has to work with me a bit.

Regal dumps Spike out and Molly floors Trish with some handy brass knucks to leave the heels standing tall at the top of the ramp. “It’s the only thing hard in his rights” says JR about the knucks, jeez. Stratus has to be helped to the back, with King even laying off the sexual overtures for a minute.

Backstage, Hardcore Champion Steven Richards is with Terri. Richards says Jazz has just had a knee operation so isn’t here tonight, before complimenting her on her cuddlyness. I’m assuming this surgery was the reason for the sudden dropping of the belt to Stratus? Jazz won’t be back until 2003. Anyway, Richards’ words offend Jacqueline who has appeared from nowhere. Richards says she’s just jealous, prompting her to kick him in the shins, get in a shot with the mike and go for the pin. Two, and Shawn Stasiak pulls her off, goes for the pin himself, two, and then he gets belted by Big Boss Man and his night stick. Those two brawl, and Terri decides to take her opportunity to pin Richards.

New WWE Hardcore Champion: Terri

Stevie immediately rolls Terri up, exposing her underwear of course, for the 1, 2, 3.

New WWE Hardcore Champion: Stevie Richards, with this being his 11th reign now according to Wiki.

Elsewhere the nWo hangs out. Nash declares it’s a new era for the nWo, with Big Show taking on Bradshaw later and X-Pac/Booker taking on the Hardys. Anyone who loses is out of the nWo, and will receive an ass-kicking from Nash. Is he even able to lift his leg right now? T complains about the nWo’s theme music, and wants to retain his bass-heavy number. Nash is seemingly agreeable. T and Pac leave for their match, and we see Goldust hiding in a…bathtub? Man, that’s random.

The nWo (Booker T & X-Pac) vs The Hardy Boyz (Matt & Jeff)

The Hardys in their first defence of the NFB Head Canon Raw Tag Team Championships here, the only reason to really be interested in this one: lacking a real tag division, there’s no reason for the Hardy’s to still be together, other than making the teens squeal. “The Hardy Boyz are cool” says King, with all of the enthusiasm of a man who once had to ask what “cool” meant.

Matt and Pac to start, lock-up armada take down from Waltman to immediate “X-Pac Sucks” chants. Roll-up from Matt, two, Pac with shots into the corner, kicks, but Matt with a foot up on a charge. To the second rope to drop the leg but Booker in to interrupt the count. T in legally but walks into a takedown. Jeff in, double elbows, double drop, two. Running crossbody, and X-Pac breaks up the count. Matt in and runs into a flapjack onto the ropes. Pac in, spinning heel kick, but Matt able to hit a double clothesline on both nWo members. Hot tag to Jeff, double drop-kick, jawbreaker to T, heel drop to Pac, then a Poetry In Motion to Booker, then another to Pac. Crowd’s dead, maybe because this has gotten very samey.

Booker able to come back with a savate kick to Jeff, kick to the mid-section, Scissors Kick with a blind tag, Matt cleaned off the apron, Pac hits the X-Factor and that’s it in just over three-and-a-half.

Winners (and new NFB Head Canon Raw Tag Team Champions): The nWo, what an accolade!

Verdict: Pretty basic tag. The Hardy’s have run out of steam big time and the nWo don’t have enough momentum going for them, at least not yet.

Booker on the mike afterward to complain that the people aren’t here to listen to the nWo music, they came here to see just one thing: the Spinarooni! He gives this to the crowd, and walks off. It seemed at first like it was going to be more dissension in the ranks, but T and Pac walk off without a sign of in-fighting.

Backstage, Paul Heyman walks up to Trish’s dressing room to talk to a trainer, inquiring on Stratus’ health after earlier. Once the trainer is gone Heyman decides to enter the locker room with presumably nefarious intent, only to walk into Bubba Ray Dudley. Heyman tries to talk him down but Bubba chucks Paul around for a bit then squares up. He’s been waiting eight years to do this – continuity! – and has two things to say: Stay away from Trish, and he’s got the “next big thing” for Brock right over here. Is that a penis reference? Heyman gets thrown around a little bit more, which is admittedly quite satisfying. Shame Bubba is about to be fed to Brock.

After the break Tommy Dreamer is in the ring for some reason. He’s here to clear up some confusion by saying he’s just a normal guy. He breaks from his speech to go ringside to beg a bite of a hot dog off a guy. The hot dog get dropped, stood on, but Dreamer takes a bite anyway, to the disgust of the crowd. Back in the ring, Dreamer repeats that he is a normal guy, but The Undertaker of all people has seen enough.

Here comes Big Evil. Dreamer stands his ground in fairness to him. “Taker” chants, no guys he is the heel. Deadman on the mike, tells the “normal average guy” that he is the Undisputed Champion, and Dreamer is on his time. His suggestion is for Dreamer to “hit the bricks” before he beats up another ECW alum presumably. Mean Mark suggests he retired Hulk Hogan and beat RVD with no trouble at all, and wants to know why Dreamer thinks he can stand in his yard and take up his time. He demands Dreamer leave, but then relents and asks if Dreamer would like a shot at the title. Dreamer would, but psyche, he’s not going to get one because he’s not worthy, and neither is anyone else in the dressing room.

But since Dreamer likes to entertain the people by doing disgusting things, Taker has something for Dreamer: a cup of his tobacco spit. Dreamer is not enthusiastic, but Undertaker isn’t asking, he’s telling. He’s taking the chew or he’s taking the rest of his meals through a tube. Taker adds whatever he was chewing, and Dreamer is compelled to drink up. He surprises us all by saying he likes the taste and Taker attacks. Beatdown with a flying clothesline, and Dreamer sent to the outside. Chair wrapped around his head, and Dreamer goes for a trip. “Now, that’s disgusting” says Taker to finish this off. Could do with less of the gross out, less of heel Taker. Total dud of a segment. We didn’t get another match because of this.

Backstage, Heyman is with Lesnar. Heyman says when Bubba was pushing him around he was envisioning Lesnar, and that means he’s punked Lesnar out. Is Brock going to let Bubba Ray do that? “No”. Well, it’s an improvement on his promo skills I guess.

Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman vs Bubba Ray Dudley

JR reminds us that Lesnar has yet to be pinned or submitted. Lock-up, Bubba shoved back but right back with a big right hand. Lesnar on the attack, corner spears, hard whip into the opposite corner floors Bubba, and Heyman starts creaming in delight. Corner choke, but Bubba back with strikes and chops, and Lesnar takes a powder under the assault. Bubba follows, brawling at ringside, and Bubba reverses a whip to put Lesnar into the ringsteps. Back in, open hand chops, and here comes the “We Want Tables” chants. Bubba with shots, elbows, then a big neckbreaker for two. Making Bubba look good here.

Looking for a Full Nelson, Lesnar powers out and floors Bubba. Knee strikes, suplex, then Lesnar locks on a modified bear hug, with a lift to boot. Bubba fading, but keeps the arm up, Fighting out of it, but then walks into a belly-to-belly throw for two. Bubba back with a kick, then nails a German. These two are going to town with the power moves. Flapjack, clothesline, Sidewalk Slam, two, as Heyman shouts “No, no, no!”. Bubba Bomb, Heyman on the apron to distract Little Naitch, so no count. Dudley after Heyman at ringside, into the ring, cornered, but Bubba dodges a Lesnar splash that floors Heyman instead. German from Bubba, but only a near fall, and the crowd thought that was it. Heyman grabs Bubba’s leg off a whip, and the distraction is enough for Lesnar to hit the still unnamed F-5 for the pin in just under six.

Winner: The “undefeated” (except for tags) Lesnar.

Verdict: Hell of a match actually, these two were just chucking each other around and both looked great. Nice to see Lesnar get an actual threat to him to feud with, and the Heyman stuff with Bubba actually elevated it. This could have been PPV level with a bit more build and time.

Heyman and Lesnar stand triumphant, as Ross indicates this won’t be the last time Brock and Bubba go at it. The main event is plugged before we go backstage, where Coach is apparently waiting for Stone Cold to arrive. He spots Raven just sitting around, and asks if he has seen the Rattlesnake. Raven says Debra has no family emergency, that the problem is Steve Austin’s. Some maudlin poetry follows, the gist of which is that Austin knows how weak he really is. “He’s sitting in front of a ‘No Smoking’ sign, how prophetic” says JR in response to this, what?

The Big Show vs Bradshaw

Oh good, more of this feud that just refuses to die. Bradshaw in like a house of fire, sending TBS flying with a chop block. Clubbing blows, chops, and now Show back with a hard clothesline. Headbutt, another, kicks in the corner, a big chop. Throw out of the corner, didn’t look great, then a clothesline that also didn’t look too good. Crowd very quiet for this. Another headbutt, big Scoop Slam, elbow drop, another headbutt, come on Show, change the record.

Bradshaw with a foot up on a corner charge, repeat, dueling shots, then running big boot from Bradshaw, then he basically hits the Clothesline From Hell OUTTANOWHERE, but Big Show just staggers back. Way to cut the legs out from Bradshaw. Goes for another big boot, Show dodges, Bradshaw crotched and then walks into the big Chokeslam for the 1, 2, 3 in just under two.

Winner: The Big Show and fans of headbutts everywhere.

Verdict: Man, they buried Bradshaw out there, in a match where he took offence for 90% of it, had the other guy basically no-sell his finisher, and then get pinned clean straight after. Did JBL step on some toes backstage around now or something?

Show marches off straight away. Backstage, the rest of the non-injured nWo celebrates, though X-Pac struggles with Booker’s “speak”. Suddenly Goldust is here, just with black-and-white face paint and an nWo t-shirt. Pac is outraged, but T defends Goldust, though notes he looks like a “freaky deaky Oreo cookie”. Pac marches off to tattle on Goldust to “Kev”. Booker does not look impressed.

Over at The World Al Snow is with the four remaining Tough Enough 2 contestants. Jake Sokoloff (not even a Cagematch profile) squares off with Kenny Layne (the future Kenny King, and, at time of writing, a ROH Tag Team Champion). Jake wins it easily enough, and whips off the shirt to celebrate with the surprisingly raucous crowd. For the women it’s Linda Miles (the future Shaniqua, aka the Basham Brothers’ dominatrix) and Jackie Gayda (future manager for real-life husband Charlie Haas) and of course Miles wins pretty easily. These arm wrestling contests in Tough Enough were always dumb: this crap does not make a good wrestler. Case in point: go watch Daniel Puder pin Mike Mizanin’s arm in half a second in season four, and then remind yourself who went on to be one of the best heels in wrestling.

Back in Edmonton, Terri is with Rob Van Dam. He congrats Terri on winning the Hardcore Title for all of 15 seconds and pretty sure you can hear the crowd chanting “We want tables” in the background, do take a guess when this was filmed. Terri asks if Van Dam is feeling any trepidation, and RVD says the IC Title is worth it. Nobody climbs the ladder of success as high as RVD. I geddit.

Elsewhere, Coach is now waiting outside for the Rattlesnake, and a truck pulls up. Coach is very excited, but it turns out to be Howard Finkel, panicked that he is very, very late. He rants to Coach about his miserable journey, and Coach looks disgusted. I do love when Finkel gets into these skits backstage, he’s such a bad actor but it is very endearing.

Crash Holly vs Goldust

No context for this one, and poor Crash gets the “already in the ring” treatment. Circling, lock-up, Goldust with two arm-drags, another lock-up and Rhodes maintains the advantage. Holly with a sudden roll-up for two, then a few drop-kicks, but Goldust back with that Dusty-uppercut. Elevated reverse DDT gives Goldust the win in just over one.

Winner: Goldust

Verdict: Just an excuse to have Goldust in the ring for what comes next.

The nWo theme hits and out comes Kevin Nash. Goldust retreats quickly, and Nash decides to give a big boot to Crash Holly for some reason. Nash throws up the “Too Sweets”, Goldust apes him, and we are left with the two staring back at each other. I’ll admit, this is much more interesting than the “Nash beats up Goldust for disrespecting the nWo” that I expected, so I’ll give it that much.

Backstage, Ric Flair is on the phone when Eddie Guerrero rocks up, calling him “El Patron”. Eddie has concerns about the ladder match, and more specifically that Austin might be around. Flair re-iterates that he has the welcoming committee in place, and wishes Guerrero luck. Guerrero doesn’t look convinced. Hmm. What are the odds that Benoit is the welcoming committee?

Elsewhere, RVD heads to the ring. The main event is up after the break.

Eddie Guerrero (c) vs Rob Van Dam (WWE Intercontinental Championship) (Ladder Match)

Guerrero out first, and holding the strap, neither of which is typical for a title/ladder match. Hebner has to tie the belt up, and I always thought we never saw them do that in case the ref messes it up. Big reception for Van Dam. A good twenty minutes left in the broadcast, so expecting something big here.

Dueling punches, and a backslide dodge sees Eddie land on his face, whoops. Dodges a heel kick, then a clothesline, waist lock chain and now Van Dam hits the spinning heel kick. Guerrero out of the ring, RVD looking for a springboard crossbody but Eddie with a right hand to send Mr Monday Night down. Van Dam back quick, Eddie sent into the ring post, then hung up on the barricade for RVD to hit that spinning leg-drop from the apron. Lighting fast start to this one.

Van Dam looking to send the Champ into a handy ladder, but gets reversed into it instead with a sickening crunch. Guerrero follows up with a suplex. The ladder gets chucked on top of Van Dam, and Eddie tries to awkwardly set it up on top of his opponent, but there’s something wrong and he chucks it away instead. Back in, Latino Heat with some shots then a really hard elbow off a whip, looked stiff AF. Huge “Eddie sucks” chants as Guerrero lays in some stomps, he drags Van Dam to the corner and wraps a leg around the post. He grabs a chair and adds a shot to the same leg. Back in, stomps to the leg, another big suplex and it’s all Eddie now.

Into the corner for strikes, but Van Dam suddenly reverses it into a monkey flip. Eddie responds quickly, and hits a powerbomb, that’s unusual for him. Guerrero out to grab another ladder, but takes a drop-kick through it when he tries to get into the ring. Van Dam follows off with an asai moonsault off the apron through the ladder, looks brutal and gets a mild “Holy shit!” chant. Suddenly the crowd comes more alive with the sight of Chris Benoit coming down the stairs. He shows a ticket to a steward, so I guess he is entitled to be here. That sends us to a break.

When we are back we get a replay of Eddie using a ladder for a head shot, as Benoit watches on from the front row. Back in, Guerrero has a ladder set-up, and goes for the gold. Van Dam suddenly on to top, and drop-kicks the ladder to send Eddie sprawling, big pop for that. “He flipped like a cheese omelette!” says King, in despair. Ladder prone, Van Dam counters a Tilt-A-Whirl into a backbreaker, lays Eddie on the ladder and hits the Rolling Thunder. Busting out all the big spots now. Van Dam sets up the ladder, heading up, Guerrero up on the other side, dueling strikes, Guerrero ramming Van Dam’s head into the ladder, and then hits a Sunset Flip from the top of the ladder! Hard, hard landing for Van Dam and the crowd was into it.

Guerrero heading up, and suddenly a fan is in the ring. Oh, so this is that ladder match. He knocks the ladder over, Eddie lands on his feet, and is able to get a shot in on the moron before the ref and security drag him away. It happens sometimes, but you’d hope security from that side got a bollocking, imagine if Eddie was higher on the ladder and came down on the ropes or something? As it is the guy can count himself lucky one punch from Guerrero is all he got. The crowd cheers of course. “Bit too much emotion” says JR, trying to downplay it all. “Why don’t you jump in there JR?” asks King.

Back in the ring Guerrero lays Van Dam out again then heads up again. He could go for the belt but instead hits a Swanton from the top! Damn, now that’s a spot. Up a bit too quick to grab a chair, shot to the back, shot to the leg. Van Dam the one up a bit too quick this time to get in some shots, Guerrero left in the corner, and takes a running drop-kick through the chair that JR incorrectly calls the “Van-Daminator”. Ladder put on top of Eddie, and RVD hits his split-legged moonsault, damn that looks sore as hell. Big “RVD” chants. Van Dam clambers up the ladder, but gets pulled off, then suplexed into the ladder, big spots being busted out.

Eddie sets the ladder up in the corner, some shots to Van Dam, but when he tries a whip RVD reverses it hard. Trying for another corner monkey flip, Guerrero out of it, dodges a martial arts kick from the top but then walks into a monkey flip into the ladder, it was mostly leg contact but still looked painful. Ladder put on a prone Eddie, and now Van Dam hits the Rolling Thunder on that combination. It has to be remembered, in a time when such spots are relatively common, this was kind of new for the Fed.

Ladder set back up, Guerrero has a chair, but this time Van Dam does nail an actual Van-Daminator. Ladder set-up in the corner, Van Dam to the top, and it looks like what would be, as King says, a “Ten Star Frog Splash”, but RVD slips and he comes crashing down. Crowd pops but then gets very quiet, that was definitely not planned. Guerrero to the top (rope), intercepted and tossed to the outside. Van Dam sets up the ladder, heading for the IC Title, he’s got a hand on it and just as Eddie gets back in the ring he has it down in twenty-and-a-half.

Winner (and new WWE Intercontinental Champion): Rob Van Dam, botch or no botch.

Verdict: Not quite the classic some think it is I would say. Some very good spots, but one alarmingly huge botch that basically ruined the ending. The fan interference wasn’t a great part of it either. Still, this is the sort of thing that should have been on at Judgement Day.

Van Dam celebrates with the strap, but then Guerrero attacks with a ladder to send Van Dam out. Breaking glass, and here comes Stone Cold. Eddie tries to flee but Austin drags him back. Stomps, mounted punches and Ric Flair and Arn Anderson are suddenly in the ring. Crowd is nuclear. Austin dispatches the authority figures with punches then back to Guerrero for more stomps. Back body-drop to Flair, AA kicked out, and Benoit is in the ring, whipping off the shirt as he does so. Austin and Benoit standing tall, and then Benoit attacks! Beatdown on Austin, Scoop Slam, Guerrero to the top and hits a Frog Splash. “Was this a set-up?” asks JR, well duh. Benoit and Eddie embrace as Flair and Anderson gloat from the ramp. Bit of a equine look to these four, wouldn’t you say? The broadcast runs out of time with JR mid-sentence.

Best Match: I’ll stun everyone by saying Lesnar/Dudley. Only three minutes long but those guys were tearing into each other, and I just enjoyed it more than the main event.

Best Wrestler: I can’t give it to Van Dam after he nearly killed himself, so it has to be Guerrero. Opened the show and closed it, some huge spots and he did it all despite the idiot trying to kill him mid-match.

Worst Match: Goldust/Holly was literally just so they didn’t have to come up with a different reason for Rhodes to be in the ring.

Worst Wrestler: Big Show looks out of shape and has a very limited moveset.

Overall Verdict: A better edition of Raw than we have seen recently, with some exciting signs for whats ahead. Eddie/Austin, Benoit/Austin, a new Four Horsemen, it’s all good. But alas, before the week was out Stone Cold was going to start ruining it. We’ll get to it on the next Raw. Until then.

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

This entry was posted in Reviews, TV/Movies, Wrestling and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to NFB Watches Wrestling #80: Raw (27/05/2002)

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

  2. Pingback: NFB Watches Wrestling #82: Raw (03/06/2002) | Never Felt Better

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