Oh boy a big, big debut tonight. It’s the 27th of June 2002 (filmed on the 25th) and we’re in the AllState Arena of Chicago, Illinois for episode #150 of WWE Smackdown! Your main event tonight: Hulk Hogan vs Chris Jericho! Is he going to tap to Y2J too? But who cares about that, this is all about the opening segment.
New Attitude splash, “Beautiful People”, pyro and Cole/Tazz welcome us to Chicago. Vince McMahon is already in the ring, as commentary announces our main event for later. On the mike, McMahon introduces us to his friend, the man who made Hulk Hogan tap out, the only Olympic Gold Medalist in WWE history, “Kurt Anguuulllllllll”.
Cole describes Angle/Hogan as “an incredible match” and a “stirring performance”, ugh. Angle still wigged and serenaded with “You Suck”. On the mike, Angle says he’s the poster boy for ruthless aggression. He made Hogan tap out, he beat Undertaker last week, but he still has to deal with the lack of appreciation from “you people” (drink!). He doesn’t suck, the crowd does. All they do is mock him and try to break his concentration. He won’t accept the joking about his baldness anymore, and whips off the wig. Actually a bit of a face move. He challenges the crowd to mock him now, and says nobody can ruin his mood.
In fact, he’s in such a good mood that he’s willing to show one lucky individual what ruthless aggression is all about. He issues a challenge to anybody in the locker room that he has never faced before to come out and take their shot. Stupid people in the crowd start chanting “Rocky”, are they new or something? Who wants to seize the moment? Future superstars want to climb the ladder, and now is their chance. With no-one showing up, Angle says he’ll take it easy on them. An instrumentalist version of “Beautiful People” hits and out comes a young looking guy with a fade and red trunks, to a mild reaction. Cole says “I know this guy…”AND HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA”(he doesn’t, but wouldn’t it have been good craic?).
God damn, this makes me feel old, nearly twenty years later. Cena had started out three years earlier in California’s UCW, before having a few try-out dark matches at Raw and Smackdown tapings where he wrestled as a quasi-cyborg character called “The Prototype”. In 2001 he was signed up to OVW where he was a main event guy, feuding with Randy Orton and The Leviathan (aka Batista), forming a tag team with the future Rico, and holding their top strap for a while. In fact, he’s still going to be making appearances at OVW for the next few months. He’s been making odd house show/dark match appearances for the ‘E for a while now, but the rocket-ship to the moon really begins here.
Cena gets in Angle’s face as your Olympic Hero asks him who the hell he is, and Cena provides his name. Angle wants to know what one quality Cena exists that makes him think he can face the best in the business. Cena, the vein in his neck throbbing and and a crazy look in the eyes, replies “RUTH-LESS…AGGRESSION” to give us the big epoch-defining moment and lays in a shot.
John Cena vs Kurt Angle
Big Match John with a takedown, mounted punches, Angle up and then Cena clotheslines him out hard. To ringside, Angle into the ringpost, then back in. Cena ducks a clothesline, whip, back body-drop, then flooring rights. Angle trying to beg off but Cena only adds a corner splash for two. Crowd into this. Angle with a roll-up for two, Cena back with a clothesline, Angle back with an Ankle Lock but Cena counters out quick. Angle able to hit a German to get some time, then another as Cole keeps saying that Cena is a “young talent” coming up through “the system”.
Angle with stomps, going for another German, countered into a roll-up for two before Cena walks into a stiff clothesline. Shots in the corner, Cena left sitting and Angle delivers a slap. Suplex, two, and Angle puts in a front headlock for a breather. Cena fighting out of it and delivers what I can only describe as a delay belly-to-belly suplex. Both men slowly to their feet, Cena with right hands, running forearm, then what I can only describe as a pop-up double-handed chokeslam for a near fall, crowd thought that was it. Angle tries for an Angle Slam, Cena out of it and nails a DDT for another near-fall. Crowd again thought that was it, he’s got them so far.
Cena into the corner off a reverse whip, but dodges a charge so Angle ends up in the ringpost. Roll-up from Cena for two, small package for two, and the crowd is dying a bit with maybe a few too many near-falls too quickly. Swinging powerslam, two, it’s all Cena, who goes for double covers a few times. Angle back with a takedown, transitions into a modified backslide and that’s the three in just over five-and-a-half.
Winner: Angle, but come on, it was really Cena.
Verdict: Hell of a match, perfectly booked to put Cena over huge. Crowd was into it, Cena looked great, but Angle still got the win (clean). Everybody wins.
There’s an interview Angle gave later where he talks about this match, and says his goal was to try and make Cena “tired”. Well, it doesn’t seem like he was able to. Cena offers the hand in the aftermath, but Angle laughs at him and walks off. Jawing at each other from a distance, and Angle marches back down the ramp annoyed, before taking a powder and heading off, to boos. “We haven’t heard the last of John Cena”. You’re telling me.
After the break, a crowd of mid-carders – Faarooq, Kidman, Rikishi – congratulate Cena on his debut backstage. They all suddenly vanish quick as The Undertaker rocks up. He looks Cena up and down and asks for his name. He offers a hand, Cena takes it. “Nice job” and a crowd pop. Cena is left looking at his hand in awe. I assume this is the beginning of the Taker face turn, but wow, they are commited to making this kid look like the real deal right from the off, huh? I thought they were doing a lot to put Orton over when he debuted a while ago, but this is something else.
Billy & Chuck (c) w/Rico vs Hardcore Holly & The Big Valbowski (WWE Tag Team Championships)
I’d love to know how they are justifying this random assortment getting a title shot, but the Metrosexuals are probably just due a defence. Cole says he was very excited when he heard about this match, and says this with the same gusto he reserves for plugging Greyhound Buses. Apparently Holly and Venis have been talking about teaming up for years. Uh huh. Holly and Billy to start, Holly with a knockdown, leapfrog chain, again and Billy runs into a drop-kick,. Clothesline, Chuck and Valbowski in. Drop toe-hold sends Chuck down, shots in the corner, Valbowski with a leg up on a charge, big boot in the middle of the ring but then takes a hard clothesline. Chuck back with strikes, runs into an elbow, Scoop Slam, kneedrop, two. Tazz says Billy and Chuck have been Champs for months now, so I guess they’re pretending the Ricoshi thing never happened.
Holly back in, another Scoop Slam and both faces drop some elbows. Awkward whip reversal that was done within a foot of the rope, and Billy in to hit a drop-kick that the ref seemingly doesn’t care about. Holly sent out so Billy can work him over a bit, back in, Billy legal, beatdown. “Billy has done wonders for Chuck” says Cole. “Kinda like the wonders I’m doing for you” replies Tazz, nice. Beatdown on Holly with a rope choke, but Hardcore back with a reverse suplex. Rico tries to stop the crowd from geeing the faces up, to no avail.
Hot tag to Morley, he cleans house, neckbreaker to Chuck, Billy sent out, spinebuster to Chuck, looking for a Fisherman’s Suplex but Rico in the ring to distract only to get nailed with an Alabama Slam. In the middle of the chaos Chuck hits a superkick on Venis, Billy adds a Famouser and that’s the 1, 2, 3 in under four-and-a-half.
Winners (and still WWE Tag Team Champions): Billy & Chuck, who still have no one to really feud against.
Verdict: Actually decent enough, Holly and Valbowski could be a half-decent tag team if they were actually allowed to establish themselves a little. But all these B&C matches are getting rather samey.
Backstage Torrie Wilson ogles herself in a mirror because the “Divas Undressed” special has, to my regret, been re-scheduled to Saturday night. After the break she comes out to the top of the ring (introduced as “the gorgeous Torrie Wilson” in case anyone doubts why she is here). She walks around in her underwear for a bit as I wonder why I ever liked this show at the time. (I was 14. This is why).
“Earlier today” Jamie Noble was with Nidia in the locker room, and Tajiri is there too like a peeping Tom. The new Champ offers Tajiri “a taste”, and Nidia plants one on him. Noble promises more of the same if they win later tonight. Tacreepi (I’m sorry) is delighted at the prospect.
Commentary informs us that Triple H is missing tonight on account of injuries he has sustained at the hands of the Undertaker, and won’t be back for a few weeks. Tazz thinks he might be here next week. Please don’t watch something else. Backstage, Hulk Hogan arrives.
Burn Of The Night time, and it’s Lance Storm railing against America last week. “America Sucks!” Sick burn! This leads into our next contest.
Lance Storm vs Mark Henry
Cole claims Storm is trying to turn Smackdown into “an international incident” during his entrance, which gets mild boos from the crowd: “This isn’t Kashmir for God’s sake”. Another “Earlier Today” segment has Storm telling us “on behalf of the citizens of the world” that he will beat an American. You’d think Henry would come out with an American flag or something, but no. We get thrown to footage of Henry at “the annual Strongman Barbell Dinner” where he lifted a 172 pound dumbbell. I assume this was a shoot accomplishment? A wiki search tells me it was. You do sometimes forget, because of his mid-card role here and the way it’s used mostly for skits, that Henry is regarded as one of the greatest strongmen ever.
Lock-up, Storm flung back but avoids a corner splash. “USA” chants. Storm tries a headlock, gets lifted up, whip chain but Henry is unmovable. Press slam where Storm lands a bit awkwardly, he was going for a Sunset Flip but it didn’t work out. Storm picked up and put on the top, gives Henry a slap and then gets chopped to ringside for a huge reaction. Flung back in one-handed, Jesus Christ, Storm begging off but then hits a poke to the eye. Chops and strikes in the corner before he’s flung back again. Shoulder block, then a bear hug which Storm gets out of with a bite. Strikes, Henry whips Storm into the ring post, Press Slam into a forward slam, Storm left prone but nobody home on a Vader Bomb. Storm back with a springboard drop-kick to the head, looked cool. Superkick and that’s it in just over two.
Winner: Citizens of the world!
Verdict: Man, Henry looks incredible sometimes, but his moveset is pretty limited. Storm the perfect guy to put him with in many ways, but the clean finish was strange.
Christian comes down the ramp to celebrate with his best friend. Make them a tag team already!
Backstage, Undertaker is here, and gets on his bike. The Slam Of The Week is brought to you by Eight Legged Freaks, and it’s Jeff Hardy getting annihilated by The Last Ride on Monday. It got him a title match though.
Out comes Taker, to a loud reception. “Undertaker’s a bad apple” says Tazz, that seems like a bit of understatement. On the mike, Deadman says he has to get a few things straight. He’s the Undisputed Champion, and no one else can make any claims. He was supposed to defend his title against Triple H one-on-one and even though he won, he’s angry that The Rock thought he could get involved. Huge “Rocky” chants, this crowd are clearly expecting him. Some highlights follow, and Taker says Rock almost cost him the title. Now, Mean Mark has some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we can all set our VCR’s for July 11th, because that’s when The Rock returns. This actually gets a mix of boos and cheers. The bad news is that Undertaker will beat Rock down on that date.
Taker is sure The Rock is out in Hollywood getting ready for his big return, but the Champ suggests he take the time to watch Raw so he can see what he’s going to do with Jeff Hardy with a ladder. That’s just a sample of what will happen when Rock is back, and suddenly Kurt Angle comes out. He gets in Taker’s face and says all he does “is talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.” But Kurt is a man of action, it’s true, to which Undertaker says that Kurt is, in fact, a punk (this is childish stuff). Angle is just here for one reason. He doesn’t know why Taker is having a ladder match with Jeff Hardy (me neither) but if Undertaker wins he wants a title match next week on Smackdown. The crowd goes mild at this suggestion.
Undertaker says he has a motto, which is why put off kickng someone’s ass next week when he can do it now (I’ve never heard him say that before). Angle begs off on account of his “tune-up” match earlier, and Taker mocks Angle for almost losing to “a damn rookie”. Angle demands an answer to his challenge, and Mean Mark makes it real clear: anytime, anywhere, anyhow, it’s on. So, that’s a yes then? Kurt is happy with this, and decides that since he likes gold so much, he’d like to hold the Undisputed Title belt. Taker normally wouldn’t allow that, but gives Kurt the chance on this occasion…because it’s as close as he’ll ever come. Angle attacks, takedown, and the Ankle Lock put in for a few seconds before Angle lets go and flees the ring with a big smile on his face. Staredown. OK, it’s a title match with a bit of build, I’m down. It strikes me that this is also a way to build hype with the smarks for Monday, as Taker/Angle would be heel/heel right now, so WWE might be trying to get across the idea of Hardy winning the big one. Hmm.
After the break, Torrie Wilson is back out again. She’s changed her underwear and walks around the ramp for a bit so we can all have a good wank. Cole gives an outline of the “thong-a-ton” coming up, and Tazz mocks him for his apparent expertise. Cue the intros for our next match, thank God.
Test vs Rikishi
Cole plays up Test’s King Of The Ring run, and Tazz says he has a big future ahead of him. Five years he’s been here! Test attacks before the bell but Rikishi gets the advantage with strikes. Test able to back Kish into the corner for his own strikes, but then hard whip into the corner followed by a belly-to-belly slam. Test back with a reversed whip and then a big corner clothesline. Stiff looking elbows before he takes a break to jaw with Chioda, and it gets bad enough that Test gives Chioda a shove (“I don’t know what just happened here”, great Tazz). Kish able to attack, Test ducks a superkick and then hits a Scoop Slam. Calling for the Big Boot, Rikishi ducks and hits his superkick for two. Test dragged into the corner, but has the knees up on a Banzai attempt, which seems like a low blow? Follows up with a big clothesline that sends Kish spinning, that get a reaction from the crowd. Jawing with Chioda again, looking for the Test Drive, Rikishi pushes out and the ref goes flying. Test nails the Big Boot, cover, but the ref calls for the bell in just over two-and-a-half.
Winner (by DQ): Rikishi, again reduced to being the facilitator of other stories.
Verdict: Short and unimportant, but it is furthering one of Smackdown’s better heel-driven things, so I guess it was OK. And hey, Test actually has a point.
Test is furious, argues with Chioda and gives him another shove. Chioda flees, and Kish able to give Test a corner splash. Calling for it, and Stink Face delivered, first time in a while. Christian is suddenly in the ring, and eats a superkick, and Storm is here too but wisely thinks better of getting in the ring. Rikishi departs, leaving the three Canadian heels in the ring complaining.
Backstage, Hogan barges into Vince’s office. McMahon wanted to see him, and wants to let him know how upset he was over his loss at King Of The Ring. He’s never seen Hogan submit, and has a grin on his face as he recounts how he thought Hogan might have cried. As the man who built Hulkamania – that gets some boos – he would hate to see Hogan tap out to the Walls of Jericho. Hogan does some finger jabbing – unlike others, Vince does not keel over and end the Monday Night Wars in the process – and declares “One day Vince…one day” before walking off. Nine months and counting. Vince has a pin-up of Stacey Keibler up in his office by the way, that seems lame for him.
Elsewhere, the Canadian Super-Friends remonstrate on what just happened. All of the officials, and all of the Americans, are prejudiced. Test agrees with Storm: America sucks. “What the hell is going on?” asks Cole, man commentary is acting really out of it tonight.
Jamie Noble & Tajiri w/Nidia vs The Hurricane & Billy Kidman
Nidia introduced as Noble’s “girlfriend”, that’s weird, but better than Tazz calling her “a gorgeous toe-mate-ah”. So this is the entire Cruiserweight division in one match again, huh? Cane and Tajiri to start. Lock-up, overhead takedown from Helms and Noble flees the apron when the former Champ comes after him. Tajiri with a Scoop Slam, Noble in, Cane laying into him, he flees to ringside, Cane in pursuit, back in and hits a clothesline and a Shining Wizard for two. Noble back with his own short-arm clothesline, Tajiri in, double-teaming Cane, Helms trying for the double chokeslam, that’s not happening, the heels going for a double reverse suplex but Hurricane just about able to land on his feet and then a double Bulldog. Happening fast this one.
Kidman in, double hip-toss sends Tajiri down, then Kidman swings Cane into a senton onto his opponent. Kidman avoids a Snake Eyes and counters into a spin, then an armdrag. Tajiri back with a handspring elbow, Noble in and walks into a powerbomb and a deep cover for two. Nidia grabs a leg of Kidman on a whip, and the distraction lets Tajiri get in a kick. Kidman getting beaten down, Tajiri in, chops, Kidman back with his own strikes but then runs into the Tarantula. Tajiri flashes us an evil smile. What happened with his Maven/Torrie feud?
Tajiri looks for a Tornado DDT out of the corner but it’s countered into a sit-out powerbomb. Hot tag to Cane, Tajiri tossed out, Noble dragged in and Cane puts in some mounted punches. Noble tries a kip-up escape from a corner whip but gets flipped to the outside instead, hell of a bump. Superkick from Tajiri gets two, tag to Kidman, Hurricane hits the Chokeslam on Tajiri then takes Noble out with a springboard crossbody. Kidman hits the Shooting Star on Tajiri for the win in four-and-a-half.
Winners: Cane and Kidman, the face portion of the Cruiserweight division.
Verdict: Hectic action, a lot of fun to see, but would be good to get some new people into this division: the last four Cruiserweight Champions were in here I think.
Backstage Torrie Wilson walks around in a bathrobe when she runs into Stacey Keibler, also in a bath robe. You can see where this is going. They argue about spotlights, and decide to let the people decide who looks better. “Are they both coming out here!?” asks Michael Cole like he’s 13-years-old. Anyway, Wilson comes out and gets her entire skimpy ensemble introduced by the announcers, then Keibler, and then suddenly Dawn Marie too. A very nervous Marie on the mike to run down the other two, and croaks her way through some generic putdowns. Things degenerate into a slapfight, and refs break it up. This couldn’t end fast enough.
Backstage, Lloyd is with Y2J, asking about his match with Hogan tonight. Instead of that, Jericho wants to talk about his beatdown of Edge three weeks ago. Footage is shown, and Jericho says he has a choice tonight: make Hogan tap to the Walls, or pin him with a Lionsault (no one gets pinned with that anymore Chris). He doesn’t mention the Breakdown, remember that? Instead of those options, maybe Jericho will finish Hogan like he finished Edge. He walks off. Random all-over-the-place exchange here I assume the reminder means an Edge run-in is coming.
Rey Mysterio is coming to the WWE and he can’t get here soon enough.
Reverend D-Von & Deacon Batista vs Faarooq & Randy Orton
Batista’s match debut on TV, and Cole/Tazz coo over his physique, which is impressive. No context for this one, that starts with Orton and D-Von legal, Orton hits a few hip tosses and arm drags before a Sidewalk Slam for two, D-Von back with a drop-kick into the corner, spinning elbow, shots in the corner and a knee choke. Orton set-up on top, D-Von up after him looking for a superplex but knocked off so Orton can hit a top-rope Bulldog. Faarooq in, back body-drop, swinging powerslam, looking for a Dominator maybe but D-Von out of it to hit a DDT. Scoop Slam, to the top, but nobody home on a headbutt. Orton in, to the top, big crossbody, two. Orton hits a drop-kick, D-Von with a blind tag and in comes Big Dave finally. Floors Orton with a clothesline. Faarooq cleared off the apron, Orton shoved into the corner, huge Spinebuster and that’s it in under three-and-a-half.
Winners: Batista, and D-Von was there too.
Verdict: Damn, they made Batista look pretty good for 30 seconds of offence. The Reverend a bit of a comparative chump really, getting knocked around by the rookie.
Cole plugs WWE Shopzone, and lets us know how we can order a catalogue by post. I was there Gandalf. I was there 3’000 years ago. Commentary then plays up The Rock’s return, and plugs his next return in a few weeks. Our main event is up next.
Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs Chris Jericho
Silence on commentary for Hogan’s entrance, audio problems? Not an enormous crowd reaction by his standards it has to be said. Jericho ambushes Hogan to start, shots in the corner as the huge “Hogan” chants start now. Elevated punches, but Hogan out of the corner with some big clotheslines and rights. Back body-drop, Scoop Slam, but nobody home on an elbow drop. Y2J back with shots, chops before Hogan counters a whip and tries to throw Jericho out. Jericho skins the cat but then walks into another right hand. Only one person gets momentum here, brother.
Hogan with his own elevated punches that the crowd is only too happy to count along too. Ref distracted breaking it up, and Jericho lands a low-blow. Reverse suplex, cocky pin, two. Hogan set-up on the ropes and takes a hip attack. “Jericho Sucks” chants that the man himself does his best to encourage. Hogan rallying back with strikes, but then walks into a DDT for two. Abdominal stretch for a bit, Hogan eventually rallying out and chucks Jericho around. Dodges a corner charge to send Jericho flying into the ring post, hulking up, shots, Big Boot attempt but Jericho dodges. Looking for the Walls, but Hogan counters out it, and sends Jericho spinning in the process. You can be sure that was 95% Jericho.
Y2J avoids another back body-drop, hits a Bulldog, Lionsault, but no-one gets pinned by that anymore. Hulking up re-commences, crowd is nuclear, right hands, Big Boot, but Jericho has the wherewithal to fall out of the ring. Grabs a chair, back in, and a bit of a weird moment where it looks like the boot through the chair spot but Y2J sort of dodges, only it looked a bit awkward. Either way, Hogan gets brained and the ref calls it in just about six-and-a-half.
Winner (by DQ): The immortal Hulk Hogan, because you best believe he wasn’t losing a fall two nights in a row.
Verdict: What can you say at this point? Hogan’s not up to it but the crowd reaction when they get going is undeniable.
Jericho out to set up the ringsteps, then chucks Hogan out. Shot to the back, Hogan set-up on the steps, but before Jericho can nail him like he did Edge, Jericho’s theme music hits. It’s Edge! He parrots Jericho’s entrance as Y2J acts like he’s seen the dead rise. Edge in like a house of fire, right hands to Jericho, who then gets clotheslined out. Hogan chucks him back in, corner spear, spinning heel kick, Jericho tries to flee through the crowd but Hogan grabs him and puts him back in again. Spear, and the faces are left standing tall. That makes for a refreshing change. Rest assured Hogan’s music plays us out of course, as he and Edge pull Hogan’s taunts.
Best Match: I suppose it has to be Angle/Cena, they did their damnedest to get Cena over and both guys looked good in the process.
Best Wrestler: Jericho, for once again managing to make Hogan look somewhat capable of a main event.
Worst Match: I suppose Test/Rikishi, just because of how short it was, but it was alright.
Worst Wrestler: You know, I don’t think that Faarooq actually did anything in his tag.
Overall Verdict: Decent episode it has to be said. The Cena stuff makes it stand out of course, but I wouldn’t say there were any bad matches, and we have a few feuds that are evolving a bit. The week after a PPV you can’t really ask for much more.
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