NFB Watches Wrestling #88: WWE King Of The Ring 2002

The end, for this tournament as it’s own PPV, is here! It’s the 23rd June 2002 and we’re in the Nationwide Arena of Columbus, Ohio for the 2002 WWE King Of The Ring! Your main event tonight: The Undertaker defends the Undisputed Championship against Triple H!

A video package recaps the King Of The Ring winners since 1994, but of course makes sure to skip over Ken Shamrock and Billy Gunn’s victories. The four semi-finalists talk up the tournament over rapid-fire highlights, then all say the name of the thing over each other. Now they focus on the tournament, after a few weeks of it being a total sideshow.

“Ride Of Your Life”, pyro and JR/King welcome us to Columbus. The electric chair set is still in use, always looks badass. The arena is packed, The World is packed, and JR plays up our main event. But before all of that…

Chris Jericho vs Rob Van Dam (King Of The Ring Semi-Final #1)

Y2J mocking Van Dam as he comes to the ring, but the crowd very much on Mr Monday Night’s side, big “RVD” chants. Lock-up, hammerlock chains, wristlock chains, Van Dam with kicks, headlock from Jericho, knockdown, leapfrog chain, some ducked clotheslines and now Van Dam with a takedown. Dueling arm drags, dueling drop-kicks. Nice technical start to this one. “R-V-D”, Jericho with a slap, Van Dam back with a hard kick. Shots in the corner, whip to the opposite, and we get a Monkey Flip. Spinning leg-drop, two. Jericho back with a flying forearm, mounted punches as the faint strains of “E-C-Dub” are heard.

Shots from Y2J, spinning heel kick with a good connection, Van Dam on the apron, where he dodges a springboard nothing that sends Jericho sprawling to ringside. Van Dam gets a big reaction with a somersault plancha, kick to the head, then back in. Van Dam to the top, hits a martial arts kick to the head, Jericho prone, Van Dam back to the top, but crotched when Y2J pushes the ref into the ropes. The crowd was hot, now deflated. Jericho follows Van Dam up, and nails a superplex for two. “Jericho Sucks” annoys the man himself as he lays in some shots in the corner. Van Dam with a boot up on a whip, drop-toe hold into a pin for two, that was neat. Jericho back with a clothesline, two. Turnbuckle pad removed, the ref trying to intervene, and as he fixes it he misses an inside cradle from RVD and only counts to two off a delay. Crowd has definitely died down a bit.

Jericho with a takedown, rope choke, then a tape choke, and you’d think that should really be a DQ, right? Another rope choke, but nobody home on the hip attack. Jericho back quick enough with a knee to the mid-section, then a Bow And Arrow for a rest. Van Dam eventually out of it, Jericho sends him into the corner but then ends up in the ringpost when Van Dam dodges a charge. RVD with shots, spinning heel kick, another one, then a martial arts kick to the face off a springboard, two. Jericho sent down, Van Dam with that handstand moonsault, very near fall. Jericho back with a standing enziguri, two, both men back running at each other, Y2J dodges another heel kick, lands a German, two. Very good back-and-forth now.

Shots, a knee, kick to the head, but then Y2J runs into a Flapjack onto the rope. Split-legged Moonsault, two, that gets boos. Corner spears, but Jericho counters the last one into a pin, then transitions into the Walls, but Van Dam counters into a roll-up for a very near fall, thought that was it. Jericho tries a strange looking drop-kick, catapulted but lands on the second rope, then takes a boot on a second rope-nothing. Van Dam charges into the exposed turnbuckle, roll-up, Jericho has his feet on the ropes, but Van Dam out at two, crowd thought that was it. Jericho adds a Bulldog, lands on his feet when Van Dam dodges the Lionsault but then eats another spinning heel kick. Van Dam to the top, nobody home on the Five Star, Y2J hits a Lionsault, only two. This one has caught fire now.

Big “RVD” chants, corner kip-up avoids a Jericho charge, but then an attempt at a rana is countered into the Walls. To the ropes quick, Jericho jawing with the ref, pulling on Van Dam’s hair, corner smash, to the top, Van Dam dragged up after, and Y2J somehow ends up crotching himself. Jericho ends up in the middle of the ring, Five Star Frog Splash and that will be all in just over 14-and-a-half.

Winner (and progressing to the King Of The Ring Final): King Robert?

Verdict: Pretty good, these two went to the higher PPV level pretty easily, and they suit each other. A couple of miscues where they didn’t anticipate the crowd very well, but I have a feeling this may end up match of the night.

Lawler hits the ring to have a chat with Van Dam. He asks if he has any preference for a Final opponent: “Whatever”. It doesn’t matter if it’s Test, Lesnar “or Godzilla”, Rob Van Dam will be King Of The Ring. Suddenly Jericho attacks from behind. The Walls locked in, “I’m the King Of The World!”, and a pile of refs and Fit Finley have to break things up. Huge boos for this as Jericho is dragged away.

Backstage, Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman watch what just happened with big smiles on their faces. Heyman mocks Van Dam’s comparison of Lesnar with Godzilla, proclaiming that they still don’t get it. Godzilla was fake, but Lesnar is real (or should we say simulated?). Now is the time to prove that he’s the next King Of The Ring.

Test vs Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman (King Of The Ring Semi-Final #2)

Heel-vs-heel here, as JR describes this as a “breakthrough” opportunity for Test, a man who has been in the company for nearly five years. I’ve got news for you Jim, he ain’t ever breaking through, “young stallion” or no. Staredown, circling, lock-up, that lasts a while but eventually Test is backed up. Strikes, corner spears and the “Goldberg” chants start in earnest. Test back with a few big clotheslines, and Lesnar flees to the outside to avoid the Big Boot. Conferring with Heyman, who advises him to “watch the boot”, helpful advice, and eventually back in.

Test with some strikes, into the corner, elbows, stomps and Lesnar is in trouble. Test with a few more elbows, but then walks into a spinebuster. Elbow drop from the Next Big Thing, stomps, some more corner spears, and the crowd is dead silent, enough you can hear Nick Patrick asking Test if he wants to call it. Hard whip into a corner floors Test, more stomps, now Test trying to rally back but quickly hit with a reverse suplex for two. Test picked up, backbreaker, but he’s no selling it to hit an inverted Atomic Drop, and Lesnar returns the favour to immediately hit a swinging powerslam for two. Some strikes back and forth, Test able to just about hit a Sidewalk Slam, but the crowd just cannot get into this one.

Lesnar with strikes, some more corner spears, yawn. Test back with a corner clothesline, another, Full Nelson Slam, two as Heyman screams in terror. Looking for the Pumphandle, Lesnar out of it, trying for a German but Test fights out. Looking for the Pumphandle again, and this time he hits it to an actual pop. Only two though. Test calling for the Big Boot, Lesnar dodges, looking for a powerbomb, Test out of it, nails the Big Boot but Lesnar kicks out to the shock of everybody. Looking for it again, but Heyman on the apron to distract Test, though it sort of looked like he missed his cue by a second or two, Test had to wait awkwardly by the ropes. Lesnar able to hit the F-5, and rest assured Test isn’t going to get to return the favour by kicking out of Brock’s finisher, the match finished in just over eight.

Winner (and progressing to the King Of The Ring Final): King Brock?

Verdict: This was pretty good in the ring, but the heel-vs-heel dynamic meant the crowd was just dead for most of it. They tried to “make” Test with a few big moments, but having Lesnar kick out of his finisher is a proper burial and no mistake.

Lesnar heads to the back. He will face Van Dam in the Final in the penultimate match of the evening.

Backstage, Coach is outside the Raw locker-room, looking for comment on who will win the King Of The Ring. He manages to corner Bubba Ray, who praises both Lesnar and Van Dam, but thinks it will be the Next Big Thing. He wishes it was him of course, but he’ll find another way to make an impact. Interesting choice of words, considering. Good to see him put Lesnar over.

Elsewhere, Marc Lloyd is outside the Smackdown locker-room with the same purpose, but he doesn’t even have to go in, with Lance Storm and Christian coming out. They are unhappy about the Canadian defeats tonight, and the “all-American” Final. Christian says this just proves what Storm said last Thursday is true. America is the most prejudiced country in the world, and the entire world hates America. It’s important that Canadians rise above the pit of hate, and fly the flag for civility, tolerance and peace. They head off. JR acts genuinely confused by this. It’s not that complex Jim.

Cut to Cole and Tazz in a different part of the arena, introducing the Cruiserweight Championship match. They run down the feud and you get Tazz talking about Noble as a “big time threat” and Cole talking about Nidia as a “vengeful witch”. An honest-to-God video package follows, that’s nice to see for this division. Basic points of the feud, with an emphasis on how Nidia is some kind of sexual deviant, to very dramatic music. I wonder if this is what she thought things would be like when she won Tough Enough?

The Hurricane (c) vs Jamie Noble w/Nidia (WWE Cruiserweight Championship)

Nidia still wearing Hurricane’s cape. The crowd goes mild for Cane, so I suspect this gimmick is reaching its end of life. Bell rings before the ref has even lifted up the belt, come on guys. Lock-up, both men pushed back-and-forth. Break, waistlock from Helms, then floors Noble with a right. Roll-up for one, some counters between both men, Nobel scores with an elbow then stomps in the corner. Corner spears, that’s a theme for the night, Cane back with his own elbow, and the crowd simply does not care about this one.

Helms with a big forearm, looking for the Chokeslam, Noble fights out of it but then eats a superkick for two. Head scissors as JR, bored sounding, starts talking about Guerrero/Flair. Mild “She’s A Crack Whore” chants from the crowd. Noble out of it, looking for a suplex, Cane lands on his feet, exchanging shots, and it looks like Nida missed a foot grab spot. Hurricane out to pursue anyway, and this allows Noble to get the advantage with a hard clothesline. Back in, two. King keeps talking about Nidia, JR suggests he likes her “because she’s breathing”. Hard whip into the corner sends Helms sprawling, rope choke as Nidia mocks him, but this one just has no heat at all. Snap suplex, two, abdominal stretch into a reverse suplex, two. Real sense of this one just going through the motions, in comparison to some of the faster paced contests from this division on TV.

Hurricane back with a small package for two, crossbody for two, but Noble back with a well-executed Electric Chair Drop, two. Sitting Abdominal Stretch so Nidia can jaw a bit more with Cane, out of it eventually, back slam, two. Awkward jawbreaker from Noble, into a sleeper, man this one has had a lot of rest-holds, what gives? Hurricane fighting out of it, dueling strikes, reverse suplex attempt from Noble, Cane lands on his feet and nails a neckbreaker. More dueling strikes, Hurricane with a big clothesline, head smash in the corner, and then Helms hits the Overcast, but Noble kicks out. I thought that was his finisher? Crowd didn’t react anyway. Noble back with a bridging German for two, looked a bit ugly, then Helms hits a Final Cut, two.

Hurricane gets a mild pop as he reclaims his cape temporarily, before Nidia tears it off him. Noble tries an ambush, but Hurricane able to counter it into a suplex over the top rope. Noble might have been meant to land on the apron, but he fell to ringside. Cane to the top, and hits a big air crossbody, that’s the move of the match so far anyway. Noble sent back in, Nidia with another distraction, and that allows Noble to hit a Baseball Slide. To the top dragging Hurricane with him, looking for a superplex to the outside, Helms fights out of it, then hits an Avalanche Neckbreaker to the mat! Damn, that came OUTTANOWHERE, and the crowd was into it. Nidia on the apron to distract the ref from a count, Cane goes to intervene, dodges a Noble charge and Nidia goes flying. Hurricane nails the Chokeslam, but somehow it’s only two, what the hell? That’s two finishers. Cane to the top, crotched, Noble hits a powerbomb into a pin, Nidia removes Cane’s foot from the rope and that’s it in just under 12.

Winner (and new Cruiserweight Champion): Jamie Noble, just two matches in.

Verdict: Really flat from two guys who should have been a lot better, they just seemed really off. Combined with the heel being allowed to kick out of two finishers (three if you count the Final Cut) and the whole thing was odd. A bit of a burial for Helms it has to be said. I recall Noble has a lengthy reign, but it’s off to a not great start. Crowd was dead for most of it.

Replays of the finish as Noble and Nidia make out in the ring before departing.

Footage of Sunday Night Heat which shows The Rock arriving in the arena. “Something is on his mind” says JR, as he wonders why Rock is here. I’m wondering too. Backstage Terri is with Eddie Guerrero, who gets a little handsy with her in a very creepy fashion. Footage of he and Benoit’s beatdown of Flair last Monday plays, and Terri wonders if Eddie is worried about a reaction. Guerrero says hello to his brothers, cousins and other family members which includes “a foster kid we picked up over the weekend”, what? Guerrero goes on to mock Flair, and insists the idea that he is worried is crazy. He’s in the best shape of his life, and Flair can’t do half the moves he can (I’d say half is generous). Flair has one last run in him? The only run Flair has left is the run to the retirement home. And Latino Heat is going to put him there. Very odd promo from Eddie.

Ric Flair vs Eddie Guerrero

Flair has new music for some reason. I don’t ever remember him getting a new theme. This one is rubbish, just low-effort orchestral music. Flair has liberally applied some fake tan for the occasion, he looks a state. Crowd dead silent when Eddie comes out, no cheers, boos or anything, that was weird.

Circling, lock-up, Flair backed up. Circling again – well Eddie is circling, Flair just stands there – lock-up, now Guerrero pushed back. Latino Heat with a knockdown, and a pause so Eddie can give us a “woo” and a strut. Circling, lock-up, leapfrog chain and Guerrero scores with a drop-kick. Flair to the outside, and Guerrero suggests he might have a bad back, nice. Back in, lock-up, Flair backed up again, now he gets Eddie in the corner and lays in a big chop. Guerrero to the outside now so Flair can woo and strut. Back in, Flair with strikes, more chops in the corner, more strikes, more chops in the corner, more strikes. He hasn’t hit a wrestling move yet.

A big chop floors Guerrero and he heads to the outside for another break. We need these so Flair doesn’t collapse I assume. Sign of the night: “Eddie Guerrero Mows My Lawn”, some racists at ringside n Columbus. Latino Heat takes his time getting back in the ring so we can pad this one out, eventually somersaults in. Drop toe-hold into a prone facelock, Flair counters into a delay suplex, his first move of the contest. Guerrero dodges another chop, hits a drop–kick to the knee and then lays in some stomps. Leglock, with Flair laying right next to the ropes but not reaching out, come on Ric.

Flair gets two off an inside cradle, Eddie back with chops in the corner, Flair flop, and now Guerrero puts on a sort of knee-lock. Leg wrapped around the ringpost, springboard stomp, more strikes to the left leg, I assume this is build for the use of the Figure 4. Crowd has died big time. Springboard strike to the leg again, and now Eddie does put on the Figure 4 in the middle of the ring. Two when the shoulders go down, and I notice that at some point Flair did some blading. Flair trying to battle out, and eventually gets to the ropes. Guerrero maintains the offence with a beatdown in the corner, really awkward snapmare, then a neckbreaker, but Flair fires back with chops. Another snapmare from Eddie, is this all Flair can take or something?

Crowd is deathly quiet and you can’t really blame them. Eddie with a headlock, Flair out of it eventually, Guerrero with chops, Flair back with some of his own, then back-and-forth for a bit. Guerrero ends up leaping out of the ring on a charge, where I think the idea was Flair tossing him out but either Eddie leaped too high or Flair miscalculated, either way it looked terrible for a nasty bump. Back in way too quick, Eddie hits a suplex, to the top, and moron Flair rolls out of the way a few seconds too early, so Guerrero looks like a dimwit when he tries to land it. Get this pathetic old man out of the ring, honestly.

Eddie floored off a chop, now Flair looking for the Figure 4, and here comes Chris Benoit, shirtless, down the ramp. Figure 4 locked in, and Jesus Christ they are literally right next to the ropes, you wouldn’t even have to extend your arm, this is basic, basic stuff. Guerrero eventually decides to get the rope-break, chops in the corner from Flair, stomps, looking for another suplex, countered into a roll-up with the tights, but only two. Eddie follows up with a backslide for two, some headlocks countered back and forth, bridging pins from both guys get two. More chops in the corner, change the record Ric. Guerrero back with an elbow, to the second rope, intercepted, but Latino Heat able to counter into a Tornado DDT. Cover, but Flair gets a foot on the rope at two. Please let this end soon.

Eddie with a choke, Benoit still just standing at ringside, mounted punches, the ref pulls Guerrero away, and Benoit takes the opportunity to pull Flair out and put on the Crippler Crossface for a few seconds. The ref eventually decides he’s not blind and dismisses Benoit. As the ref escorts Benoit away Bubba Ray Dudley is suddenly in the ring after coming through the crowd. Bubba Bomb, and he flees with Benoit in pursuit. Flair crawls back into the ring, gets a cover, slow count and it’s enough in just about 17.

Winner: A living embarrassment.

Verdict: One of the worst matches of this series. Flair is utterly incapable of a PPV level match, and not even as good a worker as Eddie Guerrero could carry him to something decent. Flair did two wrestling moves in nearly 20 minutes. And then they make Guerrero look like a chump with the finish, even worse.

Benoit back to the ring in the aftermath, but Flair able to amble away victorious. At least Eddie/Bubba might be OK?

“Get The F Out” promo, the skeezy PUA version, then we go to The World where your hosts are William Regal and Chris Nowinski. They are complaining about the slow service, and Nowinski mocks the waitress for going to community college. She sticks her finger in his food, which looks like plain pasta. Man, The World ain’t doing so good, huh?

Trish Stratus (c) vs Molly Holly (WWE Womens Championship)

Oh God, here we go. Recap of the feud as Holly heads to the ring. Stratus with one of the loudest pops of the night, as the bored crowd wakes up. She’s fired up, the ref keeps them apart for a bit for some reason, but eventually Holly gets a hard shove to start. Scoop Slam, elbow drop, two. Stratus back with a Pump Kick but then runs into a back body-drop. A faint “She’s A Fatass” chants that Jerry tries to encourage. Stratus takes the advantage, head smashes to Molly but then Molly able to transition into an armbar, nice. In this for a while as Lawler spouts on about things or something.

Stratus eventually counters into a roll-up for two, Holly maintain the beatdown, until Trish is able to jump up into an Electric Chair position, then into a Victory Roll for two, that was cool. Hard whip into the corner, deep pin roll-up, two. Crowd couldn’t care less about this one by the way. Foot choke from Molly, drop-kick sends Stratus out, then she’s driven into the apron a few times. Hard whip puts her over the barricade with a camera man moving out of the way only at the last second. More situational awareness needed for that job friend. Back to ringside, beatdown, then back in. Some mild boos from ringside for all of this.

Chick Kink sends Molly to ringside, but she’s back up and to the top quick enough. Intercepted with shots, Trish then hits that handstand rana off the top. Chops, Stratus mocking Holly’s weight, then hits a running clothesline. Sloppy drop-kick, Chick Kick again, looking for the Stratusfaction, Holly pushes out of it and hits a bridging German, and the ref pulls out of the third fall because Trish is late with the kick-out, oops. Holly with a clothesline, to the top, Molly-Go-Round but nobody home. Roll-up from Trish, countered into one for Molly, handful of tights, and that will be all in just over five.

Winner (and new WWE Womens Champion): The greatest unintended babyface in WWE history.

Verdict: Pretty throwaway. Stratus wasn’t at the races for parts of this, crowd was uninterested, commentary was a disgrace and whole feud is an embarrassment.

Holly stands tall with the title belt as JR lays into her for her weight and her cheating. What an image for 2002. Backstage, Marc Lloyd is with Kurt Angle, still wigged, and asks what he thinks of the “Battle Of The Real American Heroes”(who is calling it that, honestly)? Angle says Hogan has never done anything for America, unlike him, but for some reason he is the one who is booed. Two years ago he won the King Of The Ring, last year he wrestled three matches in one night, and this year he’s going to make Hogan tap “faster than Mr Bojangles on speed” (what?). He’s the real deal, and the WWE’s only real American hero. Off he goes. You’d think they’d have Hogan give a fiery promo in this spot instead, because God knows he won’t be able to hang with Angle in the ring.

Cole and Tazz perform an intro for the Angle/Hogan match, saying all Hogan “wanted to do, was retire”, uh huh. Video recap focuses on that, Hogan’s desire for a match with McMahon, and only then into the Hogan/Angle stuff. They play this super serious in the editing, but then lots of comic shots of an unwigged pantsed Angle at the same time. Make up your minds!

Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs Kurt Angle

Ohio is alive for Hogan, though not as strongly as other places. “Angle has done it all in the WWE, except beat Hulk Hogan”. Well, he hasn’t beaten Bret Hart or Yokazuna either but we aren’t going on about that. Circling, big “Hogan” chants, lock-up and Angle flung back to a big cheer. Circling, lock-up, Hogan with a headlock, Angle trying to counter, wristlock duel. JR tells us that they’re live “in Africa and South Africa”, like those are two countries that make up the entire continent. Eventually a break, knockdown from Hogan and Angle takes a rest on the outside. What is this, a replay of Flair/Guerrero?

Angle eventually back in, kick to the mid-section, shots in the corner, awkward whip where Hogan just has no speed in him at all, then a clothesline from Angle. On another whip Hogan sidesteps and “sends” Angle out, but he did it from so far away from the ropes that it looked super unnatural. To the outside, exchanging shots, Hogan breaks the count, thumbs to the throat, then back in. Head smashes in the corner, then a hard right as the crowd counts along. Trying to take the wig off, and Angle gets in a low blow with the ref looking elsewhere. “How do you see everything JR?” asks King in deadly earnest when Ross criticises the cheating.

Anlge with stomps in the corner, chops, strikes, Hogan tries to come back but takes a thumb to the eye. Reverse suplex, another, two. Looking for a forward suplex, Hogan counters into one of his own. Ducks a clothesline, Scoop Slam but Angle back with a Sleeper. Hogan goes prone as Angle tries to sell this being a hard move, fading, arm drop spot, Hogan rallies back before three, fighting out of it and puts in his own Sleeper, but this is countered into another reverse suplex, and boy did that suck the life out of the crowd. While all this is going on they talk about Angle’s 1996 Olympic win, where Lawler misidentifies Angle’s Iranian final opponent as Iraqi.

Angle hits an Angle Slam, two, Hogan hulking up, strikes, big boot, but instead of going for the Atomic Leg-Drop he rips the wig off instead. A bald Kurt gets out of the ring and demands the ref get him his wig. Nothing doing, Angle heads to the back, but when Hogan puts on the wig he comes charging back in with a chair that has been helpfully left on the ramp. Looking for a shot, Hogan ducks, and the chair bounces off the ropes and into Angle’s face. Big boot from Hogan, Atomic Leg-Drop but nobody home! Angle counters into the Ankle Lock, drags Hogan back from the ropes, moves around a bit and then to my genuine astonishment Hogan taps out in just over 12.

Winner: Kurt Angle, proving once and for all that he is better off bald.

Verdict: A predictably dull affair, but with one of the more surprising endings of this series. Hard to believe Hogan was happy to both lose and agreed to tap out in this fashion. Is this a sign that they know it’s diminishing returns with him?

Backstage Booker T drinks some water when Goldust rocks up dressed as…The Rock. He drops some catchphrases, and suddenly the real Rock is standing behind him. A suitably chastened Goldust stops talking, so the real Rock can drop his own catchphrases. T comes back with his Rock-themed catchphrases, Goldust gets in on the “fun”, but gives up quick. Booker says he and Rock will never see eye to eye, but he respected what Rock said on Monday. Rock reiterates that anybody who doesn’t want to be in the company can “Get The F Out” and then mocks Goldust’s mannerisms. He’s here to watch the Undisputed Title match (not the King Of The Ring Final?) which is much bigger than The Rock Bottom, the Spinarooni and whatever finishing move Goldust has. Goldust explains that he has plenty “of ammunition in my cannon” before the Great One thankfully cuts him off. “Stop rubbing yourself man” says Rock to Rhodes, then recommends Booker kick the nWo’s ass. He cuts Goldust off when he tries to do the closing catchphrase, delivers it himself and then heads off. Please tell me The Rock’s involvement tonight is more than this? Pity they couldn’t give Booker and Goldust a match against the “able-to-wrestle” members of the nWo tonight instead of this, though I do apprciate Rhodes’ comedy.

Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman vs Rob Van Dam (King Of The Ring Final)

Van Dam is introduced as “coming down the aisle”, which I haven’t heard in a while. Lock-up, Van Dam shoved back, RVD ducks a clothesline and lays in some shots. Repeat with kicks, avoids a back body-drop and hits a superkick. Corner spears from Mr Monday Night, but Lesnar catches Van Dam on an attempted Monkey Flip and lands a really hard-looking falling powerbomb, wow. Stomps, RVD selling like crazy, now driven spine first into the corner. Repeat, big swinging powerslam, two. Backbreaker, another, then a bear hug. Crowd apathetic for this one, I think they know as well as I do who is going over.

Into the corner, spears, Lesnar steps back to hit a bigger one and Van Dam able to dodge. Lesnar ends up in the ring post, RVD with some kicks, including a really badly whiffed one. Van Dam can’t get him down until he goes to the top and lands that martial arts kick to the head. Rolling Thunder, two, with a big kick-out. Heyman keeps screaming “Title shot!” over and over again. Brock prone, Van Dam to the top, hits the Five Star, but Heyman up on the apron to drag Van Dam’s head on the ropes with Little Naitch looking the other way. Amazingly Van Dam falls back on top of Lesnar, but only two. I bet that spot was Heyman’s idea, it was cool. Van Dam, knocks Heyman out on the outside, to the top again to try a crossbody, but caught, F-5 and that’s it in only five-and-a-half.

Winner (and the 2002 King Of The Ring): The Next Big Thing, the rocket-pack has been activated.

Verdict: Disappointingly short given there was still 45 minutes left in the show: they could have have taken five minutes off of Taker and HHH? Looking back at other tournaments I think only Austin/Roberts was a shorter final. One really good spot, the rest was nothing. A rubbish end to a bit of flat tournament, and less surprising then that this was the last time it was its own PPV. It’s clear WWE just doesn’t value this concept enough, and evidence of that is how we cut away from any celebration lickity split.

Backstage, Triple H heads to the ring, when he is suddenly face to the face with the nWo. Staredowns turn into hugs, the nWo tell the Game that if he needs them out there tonight all he has to do is throw up the Too Sweet. Haitch looks a tad confused, and continues on his way. Shenanigans!

Cole and Tazz introduce the main event. Cole looks really sweaty for a guy who has been on-camera for less than 30 seconds tonight. Video package follows: they try to make out Taker as an unstoppable monster until Triple H got involved with him, to a soundtrack that sounds like something from Batman Forever crossed with Aladdin. A surprising amount of time dedicated to HHH breaking a camera too, I think Vince cared a lot about that.

Back in the arena, Paul Heyman has joined the commentary desk. Lawler isn’t leaving though. Heyman says Undertaker and Triple H are fighting for the right to lose to Lesnar at Summerslam. JR just cares about whether Paul E is sticking around. “What, you don’t want me around?” JR and Heyman were a better commentary team for nine months than JR and Lawler ever were, for the record.

The Undertaker (c) vs Triple H (WWE Undisputed Championship)

Nearly 30 minutes in the broadcast left at the bell, so they are going for epic with this one. Heyman has no preferences for a winner, saying Lesnar could end “the 11 year legacy of the Deadman”, and man was that prescient. Jawing and a staredown to start, then dueling shots. Taker getting the better of it but then runs into a few elbows. Shots in the corner, Undertaker puts HHH into the opposite, body shots, but Haitch explodes out of a corner whip to hit a choke takedown. Deadman clotheslined out, some ringside brawling, and Mean Mark sent into the ringsteps. Taker trying to get back in but dragged out, and whipped into the steps again. Lots of shots from the Game, back in, now Undertaker with strikes, it’s like a mock UFC match so far, not wrestling.

Triple H set up in the corner, but dodges a big boot that means Taker crotches himself. Elevated punches in the corner, enough strikes to the head to fill the entire PPV in a few minutes. Undertaker back by dropping HHH on the turnbuckle, that gets two. Forearm ground against the face, more strikes, corner smashes then strikes to the lower back. Very dull so far, it has to be said, and the crowd seems to agree. Haitch back with some right hands himself, but then runs into a Sidewalk Slam. Leg-drop, two, rope choke as JR and Heyman bicker about The Rock’s lack of appearance in the ring tonight. The Game set-up hanging over the apron and gets nailed with an elbow, then more strikes, then the leg-drop again. Back in for two, and the crowd is totally nonreactive to any of this.

Corner smash, Triple H with a shoulder on a charge, back with strikes but then Taker able to get back the advantage with a big boot for two. HHH tossed out, and the most entertaining part of this match so far has been Heyman’s promo work on commentary. Some ringside brawling, and Haitch able to hit a suplex, again almost no reaction. Back in, Undertaker scores with a clothesline, another leg-drop, are you kidding me with this? Gets two, Mark picks the Game up and sets him on top, looking for a superplex, but Triple H fighting back and knocks Taker off. More strikes as Heyman claims that Brock Lesnar scared The Rock out of the arena. Fast whip chain, the fastest these two have gone, and The Undertaker hits his flying clothesline for two. He removes a turnbuckle pad as the ref helpfully looks elsewhere, goes for a corner smash but HHH fights out of it. The Deadman settles for a whip to the other corner, corner clothesline, stomps, but then gets whipped himself into the exposed turnbuckle opposite. A bit a life in this one finally.

Neckbreaker from Haitch, dueling strikes, and the Game nails a spinebuster for two. They repeat the corner whip spot only this time it’s Triple H going into it, but he no-sells to hit the high knee for two. Taker back with that running DDT, two, more corner whips, more dueling strikes, Undertaker looking for the chokeslam, HHH out of it, looking for a Pedigree, but countered into a catapult into poor Earl Hebner, before Taker adds a corner clothesline. Double clothesline spot sends both men down.

“If you smelllll….” and out comes The Rock. He heads straight for Paul Heyman, who flees into the crowd, and now Dwayne puts on a headset to clarify he was not punked out earlier by Brock Lesnar. He joins commentary and I bet the crowd is very confused. They certainly got excited for a second, but not so much anymore. Undertaker to his feet, out to grab a chair, back in, looking for a shot but Triple H stops it with a kick. Facebuster knee and then Undertaker clotheslined out hard with a “whoahhhhh”. HHH following, strikes, Taker with another big boot and then he gets a reaction from the crowd by doing the same to The Rock, who sends the Spanish announce team flying with his oversell. Getting a bit messy now.

Taker has the chair again, looking to give Haitch a taste but now The Rock goes on the attack. The Great One has the chair, but Taker ducks and the Game takes the shot instead. Undertaker able to put The Rock into the ringpost, and in the intervening time Triple H has bladed. Back in, still no ref, Mean Mark calling for The Last Ride, and hits it, though it took a while. Nick Patrick suddenly appears, but only counts a near-fall. A pissed off Undertaker gives him a right hand, and now The Rock is back in the ring to layeth the Smackdown. Rock Bottom, and the Brahma Bull takes his leave. Big “Rocky” chants. Only missing a Lesnar run-in now. Or the nWo.

Triple H stirring, very slowly gets an arm over The Undertaker, Hebner with a very slow count, and of course it is only two. Man Taker is overselling that Rock Bottom. Fans still chanting for The Rock, showing you how little they care about whatever these two are trying. Both men slowly to their feet. The Game nails a Pedigree, slow cover, Hebner has suddenly fallen asleep again so no count. Low blow from Mean Mark as HHH tries to get the ref going. Roll-up, with the tights, and Hebner counts a very slow three for a very strange finish in about 23.

Winner (and still WWE Undisputed Champion): The Undertaker, in not one of his best title matches.

Verdict: Very poor effort. Slow, strike-heavy, and then got super messy with The Rock’s involvement. Silly finish was the rancid cherry on top.

The Rock is back at the top of the ramp, jawing from a distance, and suddenly he sprints to the ring. Dueling strikes, whip, spinebuster, and then The People’s Elbow. Crowd popped for this at least. The Rock’s music hits, but suddenly Triple H is up to nail a Pedigree. Then Undertaker hits HHH with a chokeslam, because everyone needs to get their heat back. He raises the title as he stumbles off. This was woeful, the kind of thing you should do on the go-home show, not the PPV.

Best Match: I suppose it has to be RVD/Y2J, those are two reliable guys who could wrestle a good match with each other with their eyes closed.

Best Wrestler: Kurt Angle, for carrying an entire feud, payoff and all, on his back. He was starting to deal with greater and greater neck issues at the time, and wasting him on Hogan is just stupid.

Worst Match: A few candidates, but I’ll go with the King Of The Ring Final just because of how short it was. Two guys who could have put on a better match, but didn’t get the chance.

Worst Wrestler: Woo!

Overall Verdict: Very poor show, with one good match, a few mediocre ones and more than one dud. So much of the roster looked in first gear, and there were bad booking decisions throughout. It’s reflective of how limited things are in creative at the time I suppose, but both brands need a serious boost in the arm. At least there’s a smidge of long-term booking happening at the top of the card. This one is a definite miss overall though.

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

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

1 Response to NFB Watches Wrestling #88: WWE King Of The Ring 2002

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s