Can Raw make good on efforts to make new stars? What do you think? It’s the 8th July 2002 and we’re in the First Union Center of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for episode #476 of WWE Raw! Your main event tonight: a ten-man tag team match featuring half the roster!
New Attitude splash, then into a recap of Undertaker’s match with Kurt Angle on Smackdown. Still love that use of the triangle choke. Things turn red and flashy for Angle’s post-match attack. Here’s Vince McMahon to address us from, I presume, backstage. He tells us that because Taker has defended the title twice in a week, he has the night off tonight, which gets boos. Taker is getting ready to “welcome back” The Rock on Smackdown, please tune in. Furthermore, Vince is adding Kurt Angle to the Vengeance main event “in the interest of fairness”. OK, I’m down. He thanks us with a creepy tilt of the head, and on we go. That main event sounds like a banger actually, with Taker’s current limitations easily covered by a third man, especially when that third man is Kurt Angle.
“Across The Nation”, pyro and JR/Lawler welcome us to the City of Brotherly Love. Straight away out comes Booker T, “dressed for combat” as JR puts it, but without a match scheduled. The nWo has promised to take him out, says commentary. T on the mike to ask Philly what’s up. All week long, he’s been hearing he needs to watch his back. The nWo can do whatever they want to him, he doesn’t care, but he’s going to make two promises: he isn’t going to end up like X-Pac, and he wants the nWo right here, right now. He might get his ass kicked, but you got to bring some to get some. He says “some” in a few more sentences that I find it a little hard to understand, so I guess you could say I can’t dig that, sucka.
Instead of the nWo though, it’s Eddie Guerrero who comes out, also dressed for combat. He gets in Booker’s face, and is on the mike to wonder who T is calling a sucka? If anyone is a sucka, it’s Booker T. The nWo is going to kick his ass on their terms, not his (why is Eddie their cheerleader?). After what happened to him last week he decided he was going to work out his frustrations on the first guy who ran his mouth tonight, and that’s apparently Booker. T has heard enough and attacks, Little Naitch appears and we have ourselves a match.
Booker T vs Eddie Guerrero
T on top early, strikes, knockdown, heel kick, chops, knee to the mid-section, Looking for the Scissors Kick but eats a one-legged drop-kick instead. Eddie with kicks in the corner, roll-up for one, then a very stiff looking elbow charge, you could hear a real slap of skin there. Another roll-up, with some help from the ropes, but only two. “Eddie Sucks” comes out of the crowd big. Guerrero maintaining the beatdown, strikes in the corner, T back with his own but then taken down by the leg. Latino Heat working over the leg a bit, which is smart considering that’s a lot of Booker’s offence.
T able to hit a Savate Kick but hurts his leg enough that Eddie is able to maintain the offence. Suplex, two, reverse suplex, then Guerrero with a running snap-back neckbreaker for two. Crowd quite quiet for Guerrero’s offence. Off a corner whip Booker gets a corner kip-up, transitions into a modified Sunset Flip pin and that is it OUTTANOWHERE in just over three.
Winner: The Bookerman, and how can he be this over and not be in title contention?
Verdict: Was going good until the very sudden ending, and with the delay in the bell ringing and Booker’s music coming on I suspect it may not have been the plan.
Guerrero attacks but T sends him out with another big kick. Looking for the Spinarooni but Chris Benoit is here to attack. Beatdown from the Radicalz and now Goldust is out to make the save. Only he gets beaten down himself soon enough. And here’s the Dudley Boyz 2.0, with chairs! Shots to the back send the bad guys out, and we cut to commercial pretty quick. Maybe they just ran out of time on this opening segment.
Another Rey Mysterio promo, to the “Don’t Try This At Home” music weirdly enough. OK then.
Backstage, Goldust is with Booker T. He says they are once again victorious, and leads T in a victory dance that Booker does not appreciate. He’s worried about the nWo, and warns that Goldust is liable to get beaten up again. Goldust says he’s going down like Jon Bon Jovi in Young Guns 2: in a blaze of glory. Now that is a niche reference. He leaves, and T is distracted by what appears to be X-Pac coming out of a sidedoor wearing the Kane mask (remember Kane? When is he back?). He attacks, beats the guy down, but of course it’s just someone who looks vaguely like Waltman. T is suitably abashed, but heads off without really being of much help. Whoops.
Elsewhere, Coach is with Trish Stratus and Jackie Gayda. We get a recap of what went down last week, right down to the pantsing. Trish says Molly got what was coming to her. Jackie says it was her fight, and she didn’t need Stratus to get involved. She says she’s more beautiful, along with taller, and Stratus is just jealous (all delivered like Dean Learner in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace). Stratus says Gayda is living in a fantasy world, and suddenly Chris Nowinski is here. He couldn’t help but overhear, and says the cowboy that Trish is wearing is proof she is the one, in fact, living in a fantasy world. Trish suggests they settle things in a mixed tag, where Trish will have a mystery partner (Jeez, I wonder who it will be?). Nowinski wonders if her partner will be Yosemite Sam, and Stratus decides to just ruin any slight expectation and announce that it will be Bradshaw. So, Trish can just make matches now? Is portraying Nowinski as dim-witted intentional?
Time for another “People’s Moment” ahead of The Rock’s return, and it’s him implying Lillian Garcia is wet around him…with perspiration, Strudel, etc. Always hated that crap. Garcia is in the ring to do intros for the next match, with this goofy smile on her face that looks very, very forced.
Chris Benoit w/ Eddie Guerrero vs Bubba Ray Dudley w/Spike Dudley
This one could be stiff as all hell. Recap of last week’s shenanigans during the heel entrance before we see the Dudley’s backstage, bumping into Goldust dressed like a Founding Father. He proclaims that he is Ben Franklin who has come through time to give them an important message. He saw what they did to help Booker T and Goldust, and he thinks they should all join forces to take care of the nWo. Bubba criticises Franklin’s Santa Claus accent, and says they only came out earlier to get at Benoit and Guerrero. They don’t even like T or Goldust. Franklin tells them that the Founding Father’s didn’t always get along either, but they were in it together to fight the British, just like they should be in it together against the nWo. Bubba is unimpressed, and walks off. Cut to Benoit standing around awkwardly in the ring. They couldn’t do this segment elsewhere?
Benoit attacks when Bubba Ray Dudley is in the ring, hard whip to the corner floors Bubba. Elbow knockdown, stomps, beatdown in the corner, Bubba reverses it to get in his own shots, then a big reverse suplex. Scoop Slam, to the top but intercepted. Benoit follows, looking for the superplex, but knocked down. Benoit able to avoid a Senton, trying to hit a German, Bubba resisting, Benoit lays in some shots to the back of the head and able to hit it now. I like that spot, makes Benoit look very vicious and determined.
Knockdown, two, exchange of chops and then Bubba hits a German of his own with big air, looked impressive. Big Sidewalk Slam, gets two, as Eddie attacks Spike on the outside. Benoit attacks on the distraction, but Bubba quickly counters into a Bubba Bomb. Guerrero chucks Spike into the ring on top of the referee to stop the count, lots of distracting going on, and in the middle of it Benoit puts on the Crossface for the submission in just under four.
Winner: Big Match Chris.
Verdict: Some nice spots but these guys deserve more time than this.
The heels commence a beatdown on the faces in the aftermath, with Bubba flung into his little brother and then put back into an Eddie-assisted Crossface. Out come T and Goldust for the save, to a surprisingly mild pop. The heels flee. There’s only one way to sort this chaos out: WHARGAMES!. Or maybe a big tag, I dunno.
Cut to a Chris Nowinski package of all things. He talks about his time at Harvard playing football. It’s actually a bit of a face promo really, Nowinski is just talking honestly about Harvard’s sports programme and some of the sights on campus. Where’s the arrogance? It’s left to JR to try and make the point after that Nowinski shouldn’t be such a sneaky bad guy afterwards. Very strange insert.
Commentary play up the Vengeance main event, and last weeks ladder match, the latter of which gets a highlight package. “Earlier today”, Ric Flair meets Jeff Hardy backstage and compliments him on his performance, comparing it to the heights of his day. After Jeff leaves, pan to Stevie Richards who gives Flair a sarcastic slow clap. He says Flair’s “day” must have been the Roaring 20’s, and it’s guys like Flair who have taken the spotlight from guys like him. He wants Flair’s run to end, and Flair wants a match tonight. Richards accepts, and gets in a cheap shot before walking off. I like Richards getting a higher profile match than usual, but him being inevitable meat to prop Flair up is not so good.
Trish Stratus & Bradshaw vs Jackie Gayda & Chris Nowinski
Remember when Trish was the default #1 contender for the Womens Championship? Wasn’t that just a week ago? At commentary Lawler ogles a foldout of Trish in what looks like a ballgown of some kind from WWE Magazine, OK then. Bradshaw remains the Hardcore Champion, and is still coming to the ring with a bullrope and a Stetson. “Didn’t you like that tour of Harvard he gave us earlier?” “I was moved, I felt like one of the Kennedys”.
Nowinski and Bradshaw to start, and Big Chris challenges Bradshaw to some kind of three-point stance challenge. He quickly chickens out and tags in Gayda. Bradshaw sticks around for a few seconds to tease some male-on-female violence, then in comes Trish. She takes down Gayda a few times, Nowinski interrupts a count, and things get confused as Bradshaw comes in. Gayda is out of position for a springboard spot from Stratus that has to be aborted, looked awful and gets boos from the crowd.
Gayda with a rope choke, in comes Nowinski to try an elbow drop, and another, but Stratus dodges both times. Bradshaw in, big boot, Fallaway Slam and Nowinski bails out to let Gayda in, who in fairness to her attacks Bradshaw. He shrugs her off in a gentle fashion so he can chase Nowinski around at ringside, while in the ring Trish beats down Jackie. The men vanish into the crowd as Gayda comes back with a foot choke, Trish set-up on top, Gayda following, looking for a superplex but knocked off. She lands on her feet, and from the way she reacts I have a feeling she was meant to fall. She makes a charge, gets a boot from the corner and now goes down. Trish tries for a top-rope Bulldog, and Jackie is so out of position that she basically no-sells it for a second then hits the ground way too late. About the worst botch I have seen in this series, even as JR tries to say that Trish got contact with Gayda’s hair. To make it worse Gayda clearly kicks out of the resulting pin at two, but the match is called in just over three.
Winners: Bradshaw and Trish, but this isn’t doing much for either.
Verdict: “And mercifully it’s over” was JR’s call at the conclusion, which is a good summation.
You can see Trish mouthing angrily to the ref at the conclusion, so Gayda either was dangerously green or went into business for herself. This is her last WWE TV match for a while, as she was promptly sent to OVW and we won’t be seeing her again on this series. Stratus vacates the ring promptly. Backstage, Guerrero and Benoit complain in angry terms about what has happened so far tonight, when the nWo suddenly rocks up (just as Eddie says “Can this night possibly get any worse?” and I laughed). Benoit is confrontational from the off, which I like, and takes exception to X-Pac telling him to “chill out”. Big Show suggests there is strength in numbers, and things are left on that needlessly cryptic tone. Michaels dallies to tell Benoit and Guerrero they’ll be interested in what he is about to say out in the ring.
Another People’s Moment, and this time it’s a montage of Rock promos where he’s running down other wrestlers. Tune in Thursday, please!
The nWo come out, and Michaels gets on the mike to say you are either with them or against him. Her thinks Triple H was with them at King Of The Ring, and we get highlights of their brief hallway meeting at the event. I wouldn’t exactly call it a pregnant moment really, but Michaels says it brings a tear to his eye. Now Michaels is extending the offer for HHH to “come back home”. He brings up their previous friendship, the Curtain Call (“Show, you weren’t here yet”, ha!). HBK says all they had was each other, and amazingly a voice clear as day comes from ringside saying “Get to the point!”.
Michaels says they have heard no reply from Haitch, and while the nWo is forgiving they won’t be ignored. The Game used to be the baddest SOB in the company, but now all he does is try and win the approval of the fans. Michaels gives an ultimatum, saying “Hunter” has to stand with them or against them within two weeks. The Kliq is for life, and within two weeks Triple H will make the best, or last, decision of his life. That’s a bit too threatening for me really.
Nash’s turn next, and he complains that he has had to spend months watching everyone else have fun in the ring (is that what he would call it?). But he’s in his gear tonight, and is cleared to wrestle, which gets a mild pop in fairness. He has a lot of aggression built up, and he wants some physical contact (weird way of putting it). He wants to take care of Booker T and “Fairydust”, and invites Benoit and Guerrero to join them for a ten-man tag against T, Goldust, the Dudley’s and whoever the faces can muster up as a fifth man (since when does Nash make matches? And wasn’t Benoit basically telling the nWo where to go five minutes ago?). He thinks Triple H won’t turn his back on family, but if he does what Nash does to Booker T tonight will be a demonstration of what will happen to him.
Backstage, Ric Flair walks to the ring. His match is next.
Ric Flair vs Stevie Richards
Richards’ hometown, but no pop. Lock-up, Flair knocked down with a shoulder tackle, back with a chop, strikes, another chop, stomps. “Flair is in great shape”, oh please Jim, no amount of tape will prevent that kayfabe from breaking. More shots and chops and stomps, just this time in a different corner. Stevie tossed out, Flair with a beatdown, back in, Richards rallying with a back body-drop, but then ends up floored when Flair dodges a drop-kick. Elbow drop, and back to the shots in the corner, come on now. Some lame counters in the middle of the ring as Richards avoids a back body-drop and Flair battles out of a DDT. Flair hits a reverse DDT, slaps on the Figure 4, and Richards taps in just over three-and-a-half.
Winner: Nature Old Man
Verdict: The list of wrestling moves Flair was able to pull off in this one: Elbow drop, reverse suplex, Figure 4.
Crowd only mildly into this one as Flair heads off. Poor Richards, to be fed to such a joke like this.
After the break, out come Brock Lesnar, dressed for combat, and Paul Heyman. Heyman on the mike and starts with a “Though I walk through the valley of the extreme, I fear not reprisals from my enemies”, and the obvious ECW shout-out only gets a small amount of reaction. It’s not King Of The Ring 1995, that’s for sure. He says he and Brock have a big interest in the main event at Vengeance, as whomever wins will be the sacrificial lamb for Lesnar at Summerslam. He then announces that the Lesnar/Van Dam match at the same show is now for the IC Title. I mean, he already had a shot at that, but whatever. Lesnar is walking out of Vengeance Intercontinental Champion. Heyman created RVD (“right here in Philadelphia!”), but exploited him like he exploited the Dudley’s, Tommy Dreamer, Rhyno, Tajiri, and all to satiate the bloodthirsty denizens of this city (that gets cheers for some reason).
Philly residents called him a mad scientist and a genius, and because of that he was able to sign the man who will dominate the industry for the next 20 years. Heyman then gets interrupted by Tommy Dreamer, who doesn’t even get his entrance music played, come on. He holds a kendo stick, but I suspect he’s about to get fed to Lesnar like Richards was to Flair. Big “E-C-Dub” chants for his arrival. Dreamer says Heyman didn’t make anybody, and the people who busted their asses in ECW did it for the business and for the fans. “Are you done?” replies Heyman, and suggests Dreamer go to the back so he can eat something disgusting or dunk his head in a toilet, which is all he’s good at it (the Smark is strong with this segment).
Dreamer adds that before he was the crazy guy, he was the innovator of violence, and there is no beating from Big Brock that he couldn’t take. Let’s take it to the extreme, and Dreamer puts in a kendo shot on Lesnar’s legs from the outside, then in for a few more that send Lesnar to the outside. Big “E-C-Dub” chants as Dreamer grabs some chairs from under the ring and lays in another kendo shot. Chairs set up, and then Heyman for some reason enters the ring to try and sneak attack Dreamer. Tommy not having any of that and looks to powerbomb Heyman onto the chairs, but Brock intervenes. To the outside, F-5 to Dreamer, and suddenly RVD is here! He lays out Heyman in the ring, and adds a tope to Lesnar on the outside, then a superkick. He grabs a chair, to the top with Heyman sitting in the opposite corner, and Coast-To-Coast with a chair lands with a sickening crunch. God damn. RVD stands tall, and we all forget about Dreamer I suppose. Lesnar drags Heyman away as we see replays. More replays after the break, and you have to admit that the crowd finally woke up for it all.
William Regal (c) vs Jeff Hardy (WWE European Championship)
What is this about? So the reward for losing an Undisputed Title match, that you didn’t really deserve in the first place, is a midcard title shot? No wonder the Euro Title is just a bauble when it is booked like this.
Hardy attacking from the off, and hits an early twisting crossbody from the second rope. “Regal Sucks” chants as Jeff goes to the opposite corner to hit the Whisper In The Wind with Regal waiting in position helpfully. A few roll-ups for near-falls, heel drop, but now Regal able to get in a shot and put Hardy out. Working Mr Xtreme over on the outsider as JR notes Regal was fighting grown men before Jeff had a drivers license, nice comparison. Back in, stomps,and a double underhook powerbomb into a pin for two. More stomps, uppercut, Jeff back from the apron and gets a Sunset Flip for two. Regal back with a Regal Cutter, that Ross calls a “modified neckbreaker” come on.
Running knee gets two for the Champ, rope choke, waving to the crowd and into a resthold. Hardy out of it but then eats a hard elbow, then an elbow drop, two. Regal looking proper vicious. Looking for a suplex, countered into an arm drag where Regal reacted a tad too slow, then Hardy gets two off a running forearm. Hardy dumped out, and Regal uses the distraction to remove a turnbuckle pad. Hardy drop-kicks him into the corner, then hits an unnamed Slingblade. Top the top, Swanton and that’s it in just under four-and-a-half.
Winner (and new WWE European Champion): Jumping Jeff.
Verdict: I know the thinking is that putting a midcard strap on Jeff continues the singles push, but how is this seen as anything other than a step down for him after the last few weeks? They should put him in a big feud with someone like Guerrero or Benoit.
Hardy celebrates as I mourn the Euro belt. It was never very important and they would have been better off replacing it with some kind of TV Title years ago, but it’s still a championship: swaps deserve more work than this.
Another People’s Moment: this time it’s Mankind’s “This Is Your Life” segment, specifically The Rock running down his high school girlfriend for not having sex with him. What a hero. He’s back Thursday, in case you have forgotten. JR runs down the Vengance main event, looking forward to it.
Backstage, Coach is with William Regal. He starts weeping like a little girl and collapses onto the floor. He’s comforted by Chris Nowinski as he whimpers, and gets carried away. Amazing. No one does it like Regal.
Elsewhere, Bubba and Spike address someone off-screen. They’ve been through a lot together, especially in Philly. People used to make fun of them in the bingo hall up the road, but they did it all for one reason, to get to WWE (really?). Who’s the most extreme, the most hardcore, that they could ask to go toe-to-toe with them against the nWo, Benoit and Guerrero? Bubba urges his subject to do it for himself, his roots and this town. But most of all because he’s (pan across) Rob. Van. Dam. He nods his assent, and it’s on.
Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit & the nWo (X-Pac, The Big Show & Kevin Nash) w/Shawn Michaels vs Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Goldust, Bubba Ray & Spike Dudley
Joe Frazier is at ringside, in case you were interested. So this is a lot, huh? Especially with ten minutes left. The faces all come out to Van Dam’s music, which I appreciate. If I don’t get a train of finishers I’ll be very disappointed. The teams face off, and we start with Van Dam and X-Pac. Lock-up, whip chain ends with a Monkey Flip from RVD. Leapfrog chain and Van Dam nails a spinning heel kick, standing moonsault into a pin (that JR calls a pinning predicament, nope) for two. Goldust in, Inverted Atomic Drop, clothesline, shots in the corner. Pac reverses it, hard whip into the opposite corner but then back with a singing powerslam, nice.
Bubba in, Scoop Sam, dancing elbow drops, two. Spike in, off the top with a double axe-handle. Nails a rana, but then Pac back with a reverse suplex. Benoit in, knee to the midsection sends Spike spinning, then a suplex facebuster. Eddie in, and he hits a springboard senton off a Benoit Scoop Slam. Beatdown on Spike, but he scores with a drop-kick and gets the tag to Van Dam. Eddie attacks with strikes, but then put into the corner to get huge air from a Monkey Flip. Benoit in, kicks, reverse suplex, Scoop Slam and in comes The Big Show. Headbutt, Van Dam shoved hard into the corner, open hand chop then a big throw. Delay suplex that lands with some authority. Best use of Show really, this kind of stuff.
X-Pac in, knee drops, knee choke, chops, kicks in the corner, Van Dam ducks a clothesline and back with a superkick. Scoop Slam, does everyone have to hit one of those tonight? Pac prone, Van Dam to the top but Michaels up on the apron to crotch him with Hebner distracted. The faces don’t intervene for whatever reason. X-Pac laying in shots but RVD gets some room with a spinning kick and tags out to Bubba Ray. Knockdowns, he attacks the people on the apron a little ineffectually, Big Show comes in, Bubba can’t send him down, Michaels grabs his leg, Bubba drags him up onto the apron to a bit of a pop, Van Dam takes him down again and goes on the attack. He chases Michaels up onto the top of the ramp, and gets blindsided by Brock Lesnar! Huge clothesline, then an F-5 on the steel!
In the ring Show hits a reverse suplex and then, you guessed it, a Scoop Slam on Bubba. Benoit in, hard whip into the corner, stomps, repeat. Van Dam is carried away by refs. Guerrero in, strikes, but Bubba back with a big back body drop, and in comes Booker T. He cleans house, side kick to Pac, looking for the Scissors Kick but Nash intervenes with a clubbing shot from the apron. Nash tagged in, and the crowd is hot for this. He nails T with a big boot, looks to attack the face corner and then collapses. This would be the infamous ACL tear he sustained literally seconds into his in-ring return, and he won’t be back for another while because of it.
Things break down as Nash screams in pain, and in-between a lot of brawling Shawn Michaels gets in the ring and nails Booker with Sweet Chin Music. Big Show adds a Chokeslam and has apparently been declared the legal man because the ref counts the fall in just under nine-and-half.
Winners: The Bad Guy Alliance.
Verdict: So, the way this match was put together puts a spotlight on the lack of depth on Raw right now, with an absence of many big names, but I appreciate the one-night storyline they told here. If this was build to maybe a Survivor Series match between these teams – hell, why not do it at Vengeance, a show with only two announced matches right now – I’d have more time for it. The match itself was fine, but obviously the finish was kaput as soon as Nash was injured. They covered as best they could.
The nWo checks on Nash as Lawler tries to cover by saying others are hurt too. Michaels on the mike to say what Triple H see’s here is his future. He’ll stand with the nWo, or end up face down like all the rest. Seemed like a covering promo from HBK. That will be all for tonight. And, as it turned out, it would be the end for the nWo. We’ll talk about that next week.
Best Match: Nothing really great here, I suppose I was enjoying the main event before the finish.
Best Wrestler: Benoit I’ll say, he’s working hard to get back up to speed and has got that viciousness down pat.
Worst Match: The intergender tag, some sloppy stuff there and in support of two feuds that aren’t working.
Worst Wreslter: Jackie Gayda needed to get sent to developmental sooner than this.
Overall Verdict: I liked the main event story for this one, it was a good example of one-night plot, but overall this was a lacklustre, no good matches, only one match from Raw announced for Vengeance, and signs that the red brand has hit a brick wall creatively. Some big changes were coming, and I think nights like this are why.
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