NFB Watches Wrestling #89: Raw (24/06/2002)

Fallout from King Of The Ring, yes, it was a show. It’s the 24th June 2002 and we’re in Gund Arena of Cleveland, Ohio for episode #474 of WWE Raw! Your main event tonight: Rob Van Dam defends the Intercontinental Championship against Brock Lesnar!

New Attitude splash, “Across The Nation”, pyro and JR/King welcome us to Cleveland. The entire Raw roster is on the ring apron for some reason. Battle royal time? Nope, here comes Mr McMahon to tell us why they are out here, walking to the ring in a hurry. He’s on the mike to say that he’s been asked one question a lot that he plans to answer tonight. Everyone knows that he’s an unqualified success, and they want to know what his secret is. Tonight, he is going to share that secret. More than anything, his most important quality is…”RUTHLESS…AGGRESSION” (mark the date folks, it’s the beginning an era). He’s beaten every other wrestler promoter in North America, and won, and he faced the USA in a court of law and won, and that was because of ruthless aggression. Oh, and he beat WCW because of it too (think McMahon’s tombstone will have another swipe at WCW on it the way he goes on). The crowd getting nuclear here with the “Asshole” chants, enough that McMahon has to acknowledge them.

Vince wants to know which of the superstars present has the necessary ruthless aggression, which gets “RVD” chants. Bradshaw says he does, Trish is nodding her head, even Spike looks pumped up. Well, we’re going to find out tonight, and there’s one person who isn’t here who does have the needed quota of ruthless aggression. That man is Brock Lesnar. McMahon gets in RVD’s face to talk up Lesnar’s win last night, asking if it bothers him. Van Dam says it does. Vince turns to Bubba Ray and sums up his interference in the Flair/Guerrero match last night. We’ll see how much ruthless aggression he has when he faces Eddie one-on-one tonight (and the crowd goes mild). Next is Jeff Hardy, “Mr Xtreme”, he’s been “buzzing” The Undertaker for the last few weeks, but tonight he will face him in a match, with Matt barred from ringside. Jeff looks very unhappy about this, which makes no sense.

Big impassioned speech as McMahon asks which superstar really wants it, because if they don’t Vince doesn’t want them. The nWo music hits, and out come the monochrome mediocrities. “Hey Vin man!” opens Michaels, who apologises for their lateness. “Ruthless aggression” personifies the nWo, and there are no bigger superstars. They want to extend their services to take out some of the trash in the ring, and Nash suggests that if anyone has a problem they come back to them once they have headlined a few Wrestlemania’s (I wouldn’t brag about those main events too much if I were you Diesel). Booker on the mike in response, suggesting it’s time for the nWo to go (preach), followed by Goldust who says he and T are as tight as it get, boys, homies, practically married. The Bookerman not so pleased with that, but says he will take on any of the nWo tonight.

Vince says it won’t be Booker/Michaels, as Shawn is an icon who has already demonstrated plenty of ruthless aggression. So has Nash, but he’s still injured, and if he doesn’t live up to expectations he’ll be on the unemployment line with Scott Hall (is that what they are calling TNA?). McMahon wants people to reach up and take their opportunities, T grabs the mike to say he’s ready to do so, Vince grabs the mike back and announces that it’ll be X-Pac and Show vs Booker and “your close personal friend” Goldust. The mike gets snatched back and forth, leading JR to hilariously declare “Lot of aggression here” in a deadpan tone, before Vince adds that Michaels and Nash are barred from ringside. T can dig that, sucka. Spinarooni, and fade out, with me distracted by Crash pulling a confused face the one time he is on camera. Interesting opening segment, obviously Vince trying to draw a line in the sand after Austin’s walkout. Let’s see what tonight’s show is life before passing judgement.

After the break, our first match is up.

Bradshaw & Spike Dudley vs William Regal & Chris Nowinski

I hope they told JBL to go easy on Nowinski, he’s just a boy. Recap of what went down last week. Nary a mention of Bradshaw being Hardcore Champ, where if he’s pinned, by anybody, it’s supposed to change hands. Spike flung onto the heels as they come down the ramp, Bradshaw and Nowinski end up legal. Clubbing shots to the back, chops, DDT, two. Big shoulder tackle, corner smashes, more clubing blows, Nowsinki jumps into the Fallaway Slam. Tag to Dudley, running forearm but then he gets dumped out,. Nowinski distracts the ref as Regal gets in a few shots on the outside then feeds Spike back in. Beatdown, powerslam backbreaker, and Regal in.

“Spike wanted to go to Penn State, but he ended up in state pen” says King, is he saying Spike is a criminal? Beatdown offence for half a minute but then a quick hot tag to Bradshaw. He cleans house, one super whiffed big boot to Nowinski, before he and Slick Willy go back to leathering each other. Spike goes for the Dudley Dawg on Regal but gets thrown to the outside, always a sick spot. Bradshaw nails Regal with the Clothesline From Hell, then a roll-up from Nowinski with a handful of tights and that will be the 1, 2, 3 in just under three.

Winners: The Harvard/Blackpool Connection

Verdict: Fast-paced tag, and Nowinski getting out of it without a broken nose from the posterboy of WWE hazing counts as a success in my book.

Nowinski and Bradshaw stare each other down in the aftermath. Oh, the beating is coming college boy.

Backstage Vince is with Sgt Slaughter. There was something he forgot to say out there, and that is there are some people on the Raw roster who don’t belong, and he’s going to be getting rid of them one at a time. First on the chopping block: Tommy Dreamer. #2: Raven. They were stars in “another company I put out of business”, and tonight they will have match: the loser will never again appear on Raw. Well, it’s a match with some stakes at least. McMahon just can’t resist reminding us he won the Monday Night War.

Vince goes into his office where Linda Miles waits, wearing a trenchcoat so you know whats coming. McMahon say this is “an unexpected sulprise…it’s also a surprise” (Good save Vinny Mac). She wants to tell McMahon just how aggressive she can be. Vince is going to give her a chance, in the ring. It’ll be a tag team match: Linda and Molly Holly vs Trish and Jackie. Linda is OK with that, because she loves competition. She’s going to take the “golden thong” award tomorrow night, and gives McMahon, and everyone watching, a preview by taking off the jacket. King dies of happiness (but not literally, mores the pity. I kid I kid).

They get interrupted by the sudden arrival of Deadman Inc, and Miles beats a hasty retreat. McMahon wonders if Undertaker is upset, and Taker confirms that he is. He might have lost the title last night, thanks to The Rock. Taker is here every week, but the Brahma Bull can just show up, give some speeches, and interfere? He wants Rocky tonight. McMahon say Rock’s Raw appearance last week was a once off, and he can pretend Jeff Hardy is The Rock tonight. Tonight, Mean Mark says he’s going to make Jeff Hardy famous, the old fashioned way, before departing. Bit weird to see a three-part McMahon segment, but the first and third segments were decent. The middle one was abhorrent of course. Two steps forward, one step back?

Bubba Ray Dudley vs Eddie Guerrero

Eddie hasn’t even come out and Bubba is setting up a table at ringside. Backstage, Guerrero is with Terri. He’s not intimidated by tables. Bubba jumped him last night, and he won’t tolerate the disrespect. He’s mad as hell, and everyone is about to see the brightest star in WWE: “Latino Heat”. The two trading blows as soon as Eddie enters the ring, Bubba with a big Scoop Slam, Guerrero goes from an Electric Chair into an attempted rana but then has to get out of the way of an elbow drop. Dudley chucking Guerrero around, big elbow shots, but prevented from getting the table. Bubba looking for the Bubba Bomb, countered into a roll-up and that’s it in only a minute.

Winner: Is a roll-up Eddie’s new finisher?

Verdict: These two should have been given more time than this.

Guerrero keeps up the attack in the aftermath, then out to fetch the table. He takes so long with it he doesn’t notice Bubba’s recovery, and walks into a powerbomb through the wood. Suddenly Chris Benoit is here! He floors Dudley from behind, latches on the Crossface and Bubba taps out. A group of refs out to break it up after a bit and Benoit left standing tall in the chaos. Can’t wait for Benoit to be back properly.

A promo for the imminent arrival of one Rey Mysterio follows, with lots of short clips of him zipping around WCW rings. “He’s coming”. Oh hell yes. After the break JR sums up the main event, and then we go backstage where Goldust is dressed up like Steve Irwin, complete with plastic crocodile. He’s not here to go to the jungle, it’s somewhere worse, more vile: the nWo locker room. Nobody’s home, except a sleeping Big Show. Goldust complains about the smell, and then out comes X-Pac from the bathroom. Goldust refers to him as “the rare bandana-wearing grease-rat” and warns us that they “tend to suck”. I laughed. Goldust flees with Pac in pursuit, while Big Show dreams about cheeseburgers. Because he’s fat, geddit?

Elsewhere the Hardy brothers prepare for later. Jeff got himself into this, he’ll get himself out. Matt says that there isn’t any Tag Titles on Raw, so they might as well go for glory themselves. Is this a break-up angle then? Matt wishes Jeff luck and away he goes.

Elsewhere elsewhere, Goldust flees from X-Pac, who runs into a trash can shot from Booker T. “You just went down under you kangaroo jive wombat”, wow. Hey, at least it’s set-up for later.

“Get The F Out”, and onto the next contest, where security are surrounding the ring to escort the loser away.

Tommy Dreamer vs Raven (Loser Leaves Raw)

Man, crazy to see arguably ECW’s most iconic feuding pair in a match like this half-an-hour into an episode of Raw. Raven with corner spears, stomps and a clothesline off a hard corner whip. Knee to the side of the head, two, then Dreamer set-up in the corner so Raven can do that weird looking knee drop from the top. Dreamer with a boot up on a corner charge, Raven back with a Bulldog attempt but Dreamer pushes him off. Dreamer with right hands, swinging powerslam, two. Crowd couldn’t sound less interested.

Raven with the boot on a corner charge now, but then walks into a neckbreaker, two. Raven dodges a corner charge and Dreamer ends up in the ringpost. Back quick enough with a DDT, and the crowd is so quiet that the ref’s counts sound really loud. Raven with a reverse DDT, two, as JR lets us know that the loser won’t necessarily end up on Smackdown. Dreamer hits a Death Valley Driver for the win in under two-and-a-half.

Winner: Dreamer, and who would have thought this would be the end of this feud?

Verdict: The two were fine, I mean God knows they’ve wrestled enough, but it was so short and had zero heat.

Dreamer celebrates with the ringside fans in the aftermath as Raven is escorted away. I think he’ll just be on Heat for most of the next while? JR can’t even muster the enthusiasm to pretend like this is a big deal.

Backstage, Paul Heyman is with the shadow of Brock Lesnar. He’s heading to ringside to intro Lesnar’s official coronation.

Elsewhere, Raven is escorted out of the building, complaining all the way, and suddenly he runs into Matt Hardy. Matt attacks, and Raven is sent into a wall, and then into a car. “Have a nice trip”. Raven is upset, and screams a bit. After the break, we get replays of what we just saw, which I assume is setting up some Heat matches. You’ll never know.

Commentary plays up the Taker/Jeff Hardy match later before we cut to JR and Paul Heyman in the red-carpeted ring. JR outlines what the winner of the tournament is getting, before Heyman takes over to claim that the #1 contendership prize was his idea. His plan came to fruition last night, and he introduces Big Brock, whose music starts playing over Heyman’s words. JR vacates the ring to go back to commentary, why was he even in there in the first place?

Heyman says Lesnar is the answer to all of Vince McMahon’s questions. No man has his desire, his hunger, his craving or his obsession. Paul E asks the crowd to set aside their jealousies, stand-up and applaud the King Of The Ring. A mixture of applause and boos. Suddenly Rob Van Dam is in the ring! Attack from behind, superkick, spinning martial kick, then a springboard martial arts kick that sends Lesnar out. Heyman restrains Brock as Van Dam suggests he get back in the ring. Fade to black. They didn’t belabour this, which I appreciated.

After the break Heyman and Lesnar are backstage with Vince, complaining about what just occurred. Vince asks what they want him to do about it. Heyman doesn’t think Lesnar can wait until Summerslam to become a champion, and suggests Van Dam be forced to put his IC Title on the line against the Next Big Thing tonight. McMahon ponders this, and decides to make the match. A little bit of annoyance on Lesnar’s face as Heyman speaks for him, but I assume it’s too early for a break-up.

Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker (non-title)

Hardy out in facepaint, before we get an actual video package for this contest, which covers the main beats of the last few weeks of encounters. “Somebody’s career is about to be executed”. Well, it’s not Taker’s anyway. The Champ out on the bike as JR informs us Triple H is getting elbow surgery tomorrow after the match on Sunday. I can’t remember if that was a legit surgery or not.

Undertaker goes to work quickly, sending Jeff into a ringpost. Elbow, hard corner whip, and then a big powerslam for two. Hardy tries a few shots and gets a knee to the gut then a boot to the head. Commentary is acting like Jeff is some 12-year-old kid in there with Taker, they remember he beat Triple H in a match once, right? Case in point, nobody home on one of the apron leg-drops, then a big tope to a big reaction. Going for another one off the apron, caught and Taker delivers a big chokeslam, off. Back in, and a big Last Ride plants Jeff. That’s enough for the 1, 2, 3 in just over two-and-a-half.

Winner: The Undertaker, but of course.

Verdict: I feel like they could give Jeff a bit more to do here, this shouldn’t be a jobber mismatch. But hey, Undertaker looked strong.

Taker rides off on his bike, but suddenly Hardy is on the mike, even while sprawled out on the mat. He says Taker has beat his ass many times, but they aren’t done. He wants a match next week, for the title, and not just a regular match: his way to beat The Undertaker will be a ladder match. Crowd is into this. Taker seems struck by Hardy’s balls, and nods his head. Now, why would he agree to this exactly?

JR plugs an encore presentation of King Of The Ring on, and Neurotica’s theme song. Time for our womens tag.

Trish Stratus & Linda Miles vs Molly Holly & Jackie Gayda

Gayda has her last name again. JR admits he feels shame for attacking Holly’s appearance, with the tone of a man who is more bored of this storyline than anything. Holly on the mike ahead of the bell to say it’s an honour to bring dignity back to the Womens Championship. She’s not a sleazy tramp who sleeps her way to the top. Stratus grabs the mike to berate Holly, saying she worked her way to the title. She felt bad about making fun of Holly’s weight – didn’t seem like it – but now it will be her pleasure to kick her fat ass. So, was there some negative feedback from the network or something? That’s two “I shouldn’t have mocked her weight but it’s OK really because she’s evil” type comments in as many minutes.

Brawling to start, Molly and Trish end up legal and Stratus hits a back body-drop. Gayda in and she runs into an armdrag takedown. Miles in, JR makes sure to tell us about her college athletics career because of course, and she puts Jackie into a wristlock for a bit before booting Holly in the head and tagging out. Essentially a repeat of that segment, Miles back in, more wristlocks, they were taught more than this on Tough Enough. Holly with a cheap shot to the back gives the heels the advantage, Holly in, beatdown and a mouth pull. Elbow drops, rope choke, some assistance from Gayda as Trish distracts the ref by complaining. JR goes back to listing off stuff about college basketball.

Some takedowns. A great summarising moment for why this is awful, JR starts talking about how Holly was trained by Dean Malenko, and gets cut off by Lawler making a Thigh Master joke. Miles gets two off a Sunset Flip then radically oversells a few stomps. Snap suplex, Gayda in, to the top very slowly, but Miles able to hit Holly with a drop-kick then crotch Jackie. “Hot” tag to Stratus, she cleans house, Holly breaks up a pin on Gayda off a drop-kick, then in legally. Trish with shots, Chick Kick, two with Gayda breaking it up. Miles takes her out with a drop-kick and dumps her out. Stratus dodges a handsping elbow, Stratusfaction and that’s it in just over four-and-a-half.

Winner: Status, presumably the #1 contender again for getting the pin, and Miles, who does look like she can go a bit.

Verdict: A pretty throwaway tag, but at least they got a bit more time than usual. Still hate this Stratus/Holly feud, it’s one of the worst things of the era.

After the break King oogles a preview of whatever underwear claptrap is happening the following night, before we get a recap of McMahon’s words earlier and RVD’s attack on Lesnar. Backstage Coach is with the man himself. Will he be able to keep up the intensity in his match tonight? Van Dam says he’s motivated every time he goes out there and gets reminded who he is. Heyman and Lesnar rock up, with a furious Heyman saying Van Dam owes everything to him. He rants on for a bit, before Lesnar tells him to shut up! Mild pop for that. Lesnar says tonight he will show Van Dam the meaning of “ruthless aggression”. Cool to hear Brock speak, but there’s a reason it doesn’t happen much.

Elsewhere the nWo walks backstage. Nash and Michaels insist X-Pac and Show get the job done tonight, or they will kick some ass themselves. They are all pumped up, and head to the ring.

The nWo (X-Pac & The Big Show) vs Booker T & Goldust

T and Show to start, circling as the “X-Pac Sucks” chants get loud. Lock-up, and Booker shoved back. Repeat into the corner, with TBS laying on a big chop. Pause, then T laying in some shots and chops of his own, before getting countered into a big Sidewalk Slam. Michaels and Nash watch on from the back as Pac gets tagged in. Shots, and Pac eats a running forearm. Big heel kick, snapmare, knee-drop and Goldust tagged in. Corner clothesline, foot choke, then the world’s worst looking Broncho Buster where Rhodes grinds in a bit too much. Inverted Atomic Drop, clothesline, and this is the most offence Waltman has taken in years. Hip smash, drop-kick from Pac avoided, only for The Big Show to clean Goldust off from the apron.

Show in, shots, headbutt, Scoop Slam, boot, then back to X-Pac. Corner spears with some aggression, another Scoop Slam, leg-drop, two. Into a resthold, Goldust eventually fighting out, gets two off a backslide but then eats a spinning heel kick for two. Michaels and Nash are still watching, if you were wondering. Chops in the corner, corner smash and Show in again. Sit down, Final Cut but T breaks up the count. Corner clothesline, Pac in, kicks, corner smashes and this is all getting a little dull now.

Kicks in the corner, nobody home on the Broncho Buster and we get the hot tag to Booker T. T cleans house, Show nails Pac by accident, Savate Kick from Booker on Show which he no-sells to hit a big right of his own. T hulking up a bit, another heel kick, Scissors Kick, and we get the Spinarooni. Big spinebuster to Pac, tag to Goldust, and the two deliver a double suplex to Show. Booker with a Cactus Clothesline to Pac, Show set-up in the corner, but grabs Goldust’s neck to prevent the Curtain Call. Showstopper and that’s it in just under ten.

Winners: The nWo, who get to stay at four members for another week.

Verdict: It was OK, the nWo’s offence is really limited but Booker and Goldust are over at least. Got a decent amount of TV time, which was in its favour.

Both halves of the nWo celebrate before JR plugs our main event. That’s up after the break.

Rob Van Dam (c) vs Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman (WWE Intercontinental Championship)

You would think this would be worth trying to make a feud out of, with a pay-off at the next PPV. Maybe put Lesnar’s title shot on the line? Speaking of, Lawler announces now that our next PPV is Vengeance, only six months after the last one. Lesnar attacking strong early, lots of corner spears. “Ruthless aggression!” he screams, man this got tired fast. Hard whip to the opposite corner, choke, hard rights, foot choke and have to say the crowd is not hot at all. RVD with a foot up on a charge, springboard martial arts kick, some corner spears of his own, going for the Monkey Flip, Lesnar trying to counter it into a powerbomb like he did last night, but instead Van Dam transitions into a rana. Evolution!

Spinning heel kick sends Lesnar out of the ring, Van Dam going for a springboard crossbody but caught and rammed into the ringpost. Back in, big “RVD” chants, he avoids a back body drop with a back flip, but when he tries another heel kick he’s caught and slammed hard, two. Lesnar is getting a bit better at this, but the crowd isn’t biting just yet, other than for a few of them to chant “Goldberg”. Big belly-to-belly suplex, more corner spears, Van Dam with an elbow on a charge only to walk into another belly-to-belly, two. Rope choke as King reminds us that Van Dam brought this on himself by interrupting the coronation, leading JR to bring up his feud with Bret Hart: “Shut up” is the response.

Backbreakers from Lesnar, Van Dam trying to rally back with kicks, low drop-kick but then Lesnar explodes back with a rough looking clothesline. Bear hug applied, a mild “RVD” chant, and Lesnar just chucks RVD around rather than wait for the comeback. Another hard whip into the corner, then a sort of inverted Snake Eyes with Van Dam smashed into the corner back first. Another, and Van Dam lands awkwardly, though just avoids smashing his head. The lack of Van Dam offence has killed the crowd, has to be said. Lesnar going for another one of those, Van Dam out and pushes Lesnar into the corner. Spinning leg-drop, Rolling Thunder, two. The handstand moonsault variety follows, two again. Crowd waking up a bit now.

Heyman grabs Van Dam’s leg on a whip chain, but RVD able to hit a drop toe-hold then a top-rope martial arts kick to the head. Lesnar prone, Van Dam to the top, but Heyman grabs the leg. Lesnar picks Van Dam off the corner, Van Dam to his feet, spinning heel kick, split-legged moonsault and Heyman is in the ring to break up the count. Earl calls it in just under ten.

Winner (by DQ) (and still WWE Intercontinental Champion): The King of my heart.

Verdict: Much better than the match the previous night, mostly because it got plenty of time, but the over-emphasis on Brock’s offence combined with the inevitable non-finish undercut it a fair bit.

Heyman feeds a chair into Lesnar, but then the Next Big Thing eats a kick through it. Heyman flees with Van Dam in pursuit, into the ring, kick to the head, to the top, and Van Dam nails Paul E with a Five Star. Van Dam celebrates but then gets pulled out of the ring by Lesnar, who lands a stiff looking spinebuster. Commentary desk dismantled, and Lesnar delivers a powerbomb through it, to only a very mild pop. Commentary left speechless as time expires.

Best Match: I guess the main event? Maybe WWE will work something out of it. I hope it’s not the end anyway.

Best Wrestler: Booker T is the main event face that the brand really needs right now.

Worst Match: Eddie and Bubba could have been great, but I presume got gipped for a time as a result of McMahon’s need for a lengthy opening monologue.

Worst Wrestler: The Big Show really needs both a reinvention and a new move-set, because he’s equal parts boring and unhealthy looking out there.

Overall Verdict: Not a bad episode of Raw I suppose, no dud matches at least and the last two were decent. Still, I wouldn’t say a very auspicious start to the era of “Ruthless Aggression”. Onward we go.

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

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1 Response to NFB Watches Wrestling #89: Raw (24/06/2002)

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

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