Who is the new GM? And, completely unconnected, those “loser leaves town” stips don’t really count, right? It’s the 18th July 2002 (filed on the 16th) and we’re in the First Union Centre of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania for episode #153 of WWE Smackdown! Your main event tonight: Kurt Angle takes on The Rock!
New Attitude splash and into a recap of McMahon’s “shake-up” last Monday night. Weird twangy sound effect and distorted music for Bischoff’s arrival and a focus on his goal of signing Triple H for the red brand, and maybe The Rock. “Beautiful People”, pyro and Cole/Tazz welcome us to Pennsylvania. The main event is plugged, as is Vince’s announcement of the new GM. But before any of that…
Chris Jericho vs John Cena
Commentary plug a concert called “Ozfest” that Fozzy are singing at? At least there’s no pandemic for them to fan the flames on. During Y2J’s entrance we cut to Marc Lloyd outside the arena, waiting for the new GM. I bet that pissed Jericho off. Cena gets an honest-to-goodness pop as we see highlights of his victory over Jericho last week. Staredown, jawing, a slap from Jericho, Cena bites back and away we go. Cena with a hip toss, then counters a standing rana into a spinebuster for two, nice. Whip chain and Cena sent out on a drawbridge spot. To the outside, brawling, more slaps from Y2J, then back in.
Jericho to the top, but takes a drop-kick off a top-rope nothing. Strikes from Big Match John, flying forearm, then a bit of a weird release German, where Cena released a bit too early. Follows up with a better belly-to-belly for two. Jericho back with a roll-up, trying to transition into the Walls but Cena out of it to hit a DDT for two. Jericho avoid a drop-kick, nobody home on the Lionsault, roll-up from Cena gets two-and 3/4. That’s enough for Jericho who nails a blatant low blow in front of the ref in just over two-and-half.
Winner (by DQ): Big Match John.
Verdict: Pretty much what we have already seen from both guys, and ended way too quick. But I presume they are building to something more, maybe even this Sunday?
Jericho locks on the Walls, and Cena sells this like death. Refs drag him off, but Y2J grabs a chair to add some more punishment with a few shots. Pretty much replicating the Edge stuff from a few weeks ago I suppose, so I bet we are getting a match in a few days. Jericho is eventually compelled to leave.
Outside the arena, a lino pulls up, but it isn’t the new Smackdown GM, it’s Eric Bischoff, who gets booed. Lloyd asks him why he is here, but Bischoff just laughs and walks away. After the break commentary plugs the webcast of Vengeance. NINE NINETY NINE MIGGLE. Backstage, Bischoff runs into Randy Orton and they would be seeing a lot more of each other, huh? He plays nice and asks where Hogan’s dressing room is. It’s down the hall, and he walks right on in. Hogan doesn’t look particularly pleased to see Eric, denying a handshake or a hug. Bischoff says it will be just like old times, and he’s going to reinvent the wheel. Hogan criticises Bichoff’s plan to sign Triple H as a “down south” thing, and that’s a reference that I think a lot of people will just be confused about. Hogan knows Bischoff is just here to talk to The Rock, and the meeting of minds here ends with Bischoff leaving and Hogan scowling. They could have done more with this, considering the history.
The Hurricane vs Chavo Guerrero
The cruiserweight division just got 20% bigger with Chavo’s return to the ring. No context for this one, so expecting a bit of a spotfest. Dueling strikes, Cane with a knockdown, whip chain, Hurricane lands on his feet off a reverse suplex attempt and nails a jumping neckbreaker. Follows up with a back body drop, then a big crossbody off the top for two. Guerrero back with a leg-based takedown, and Helms may have blown out his knee with that one. Chavo maintains the attack to surprisingly loud boos, and starts working the leg over the ringpost. Hurricane set up in the Tree Of Woe so Guerrero can land a drop-kick. Trying to rally back, looking for the Chokeslam, but the damaged leg won’t allow it.
A drop toe-hold puts Chavo back in charge, and he keeps working over the leg. Cane pushes him off, lands a Shining Wizard, two. Shoulder out on a corner charge, and lands a Blockbuster from the second rope, and Guerrero gets a rope break on the subsequent pin. Helms trying for a suplex, but Guerrero counters into a knee drop before putting on a modified half-Boston Crab he’s able to transition into a powerbomb, then into an STF. Very nice stuff, and Cane taps out in just over four.
Winner: Chavo Guerrero, who has genuine heat.
Verdict: Not what I was expecting at all, after the first 30 seconds we settled into a slower-paced exhibition of smart heel Chavo working over body parts and beating down Cane methodically. Really liked it, a refreshing change of pace.
Chavo on the mike in the aftermath to berate the crowd and declare himself the “premiere Latin cruiserweight” in the WWE, but all he can see is “propaganda” on Rey Mysterio Jr. He’s sick of hearing “He’s coming” and he’s here right now to declare that next week Rey Mysterio will make his WWE debut against him. I’ll watch that any day of the week.
Outside the arena another limo pulls up, prompting Tazz to ask if anyone takes a taxi anymore. Instead of the new GM it’s Mr McMahon. He tells Lloyd the new Smackdown GM is already here, and heads off to meet Bischoff. After the break Bischoff is chatting with Rico, and is less interested in his offer of “services” and more interested in where The Rock is. Vince appears, and Bischoff explains he’s here to check out the competition face-to-face, not that there is anything the new Smackdown GM will be able to do to stop him from signing Triple H. He’s on his way to see The Rock, and McMahon seems delighted at all the skulduggery.
Commentary hypes our main event again, and then the main event of Vengeance. The Undertaker is here too, and earlier tonight Cole was able to sit down with the Champion. It’s one of those empty arena ringside affairs. Taker says he’s the Undisputed Champion because there is nobody who can beat him in a Championship match. The Rock took his shot at him during King Of The Ring, because he knows one-on-one and face-to-face that he can’t beat The Undertaker. He showed that he was The Big Dog when he came down and kicked the asses of both his opponents last week. Angle is just the “third dance partner” of the Triple Threat, and is living in a fantasy world since he won the non-title match a few weeks ago. He thinks he made the Deadman tap, but the reality is that the Champion pinned him. Sunday at Vengeance, they’re going to get a lot of things straight. Both of his challengers will find out why he is the American Badass, and why the ring is his yard. A bit exposition-filled for my liking, but this was a little different at least. I prefer seeing Taker live for this kind of stuff though.
Billy & Chuck w/Rico vs Hardcore Holly & The Big Valbowski
I honest to God forgot for a second that B&C had lost the Tag Titles, and was wondering where the belts were. Billy and Holly to start, lock-up, Holly backed up, strikes, Hardcore coming back, knockdown floors Billy, leapfrog chain and Billy eats a drop-kick. A counter chain, that rope-assisted kick to the midsection from Holly, clothesline, two. Chuck in, takes an Inverted Atomic Drop and here’s Valbowski. “Some big beefy dudes in there” thanks Tazz. Venis with a boot up on a corner charge, some more boots to the head but then Chuck with a clothesline. Morley back with an elbow to the head, bit of a loose Scoop Slam, knee drop, two. Holly in, Chuck gratefully jumps into a Scoop Slam, double elbow drops from the faces, some nice offence there. The heels take control with a blind tag to Billy and a flapjack into the ropes for Holly.
Really bad spot where Holly falls out of a powerslam position and then Chuck shoves himself into the corner without contact, looked terrible. Holly lands a reverse suplex, hot tag to Valbowski that gets an actual pop, he floors Billy a few times, cleans Chuck out, drop-kick and Chuck clotheslined out. Blue Thunder Bomb to Billy and Chuck gets back in to break up the count. Things breakdown briefly, Rico in to nail his Spinning Heel Kick on Valbowski, Holly Cactus Clotheslines Rico out, and Billy only gets two on the subsequent pin. Crowd suddenly quite hot. Looking for the Famouser, but Billy instead walks into an Alabama Slam. Valbowski to the top to add a Money Shot and that will be all in just over four-and-a-half.
Winners: Hardcore Nudity.
Verdict: Short tag but they got the crowd going somehow. Holly and Valbowski are surprisingly over in New Jersey it seems. Not sure how much longer Billy & Chuck can last without holding the tag belts, but they are still working as a heel team so far.
Commentary plugs Vince’s GM announcement before we get the “Extreme Blast Of The Night”, brought to you by the JVC Tower Of Power. Now there’s a mouthful. It’s Rikishi “stealing” a win over Test last week before the melee that followed. Which leads us nicely into…
Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Edge & Rikishi vs The Canadian Best Friends (Lance Storm, Christian & Test)
The faces all out to Hogan’s theme music, of course. The heels haven’t been officially named yet, so they are still CBF to me. Huge “Hogan” chants, but rest assured he isn’t going to be doing the heavy lifting to start, that’ll be Rikishi with Christian instead. Kish with a big back body drop at the start, tag to Storm, but Rikishi takes them both out with a double clothesline. Tag to Edge, to the top, flying forearm to Storm then Christian clotheslined out. Test trips him as he tosses Storm around, and that lets Mr Serious get the advantage. “Hogan” chants are reaching nuclear level as Edge gets beaten down.
After the break Edge is still getting worked over by Test, big clothesline then into a sleeper. Why not save that for the ad break? Arm drop spot, Edge rallying back before three, but Test then nails a pumphandle. Calling for the Big Boot, Edge ducks, and nails a Faceplant. Crowd so hot right now. Hot tag to Hogan gets stopped by Christian clearing him off the apron, to heavy boos. Things breakdown briefly, and Edge gets beaten down by all the heels. Storm legal, hard whip into the corner, looking for a crossbody off the top, but countered into a swinging powerslam. Now the tag to Hogan, who very gingerly gets into the ring.
He cleans house, things breakdown again, and Hogan left alone with Storm. Superkick gets two for Storm, Hogan hulking up, calling on the shots, strikes of his own, tag to Edge, corner clothesline from Hogan, corner spear from Edge, hip attack from Rikishi, and now Kish is alone with a prone Storm. Before he can hit the Stink Face Test is in to hit the Big Boot, Hogan in with strikes, big boot, calling for the Atomic Leg Drop but Christian in to hit him with a reverse DDT. Edge in now to hit his brother with a Spear, then Storm with an Edge-A-Cution for the 1, 2, 3 in just over six.
Winners: America’s heroes, and Edge.
Verdict: Crazy fast paced, even with Hogan there to slow things down, Maybe got a bit too messy in the last two minutes, but have to say it was entertaining.
The faces stand tall, so are probably losing on Sunday. Backstage, The Rock warms up when Eric Bischoff arrives in his locker room. He introduces himself and gets right to the point: he wants The Rock on Raw. He paints a picture of the two of them taking Raw and The Rock to places he’s never been before, and Rocky listens to the chants of his name for a bit before replying. Inevitably, he has circled back to Wilkes-Barre. The Rock will be on Raw, but before Bischoff can get too excited, he makes clear he isn’t signing any deal.
He’s going to be on Raw because of what he does on Sunday, which is to defeat the “American Badass” and “American Baldass” and walk out Undisputed Champion. That means he can go on any show, and The Rock means any show. He can be on Raw, Smackdown, The Osbournes or even Frasier (I would go bankrupt financing that idea). Bischoff wishes he had The Rock on Nitro, and The Rock would have liked that too, only he was too busy putting WCW out of business. Nothing personal, and the Great One departs, leaving Bischoff stone-faced. Lot of energy from Dwayne here, and I could stand to see a little bit more of these two bouncing off of each other.
Burn Of The Night time, and it’s McMahon introducing Bischoff on Raw. That’s a burn? This leads to Vince coming out to the ramp to make his big announcement. He’s healthily booed of course, and admits he’s never seen such concern on the faces of WWE superstars. If any Raw wrestler thinks the grass is greener, they are free to negotiate with Smackdown, or vice versa (so, does the Draft not mean anything then?) People thought he had lost his mind when he named Bischoff as Raw GM. Bischoff tried to put him out of business, but he is the best person for the job, and he enjoys ruthless aggression.
Which brings us to tonight. It’s the best person for the job, and like Bischoff they tried to put him out of business (I’m surprised we didn’t get a Heyman chant). Raw deserved Bischoff as Raw GM, but he’s not sure if Smackdown deserves their one. With that in mind, here it is: Stephanie McMahon!
She gets one second of a cheer, then heavy boos. New funky theme music and a business suit mark her out, as we get a glimpse at a “shocked” looking roster backstage. So, “loser leaves town” lasted a few months then. Stephanie on the mike and sounding a little croaky it has to be said. She welcomes the people to her show. She says Bischoff is a parasite, and amid “slut” chants she says she won’t let him screw her family or screw Smackdown. The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Edge and Triple H (“the greatest ring general in the world today”, wow) are staying right where they are. The egg will be on Bischoff’s face when Triple H returns to Smackdown. The only advantage Bischoff has over her is three days (cool line in fairness).
And her first official act is right now, which is to throw Bischoff out of her building. And off she goes, the camera following her through Gorilla and into the arena. Doesn’t take her long to find her fellow GM, who is chatting amiably with the Canadian Best Friends. She squares up to him, and gives him a few minutes to leave the building. Bischoff is compliant, but not before warning her that a lot can happen between now and Sunday. Nice tension between the two from the beginning.
So, yes, Stephanie is back. Of course she was never really gone, and had been steadily more involved in booking of shows for years, this was just the apex of it. As far as I remember Paul Heyman was either the head of Smackdown creative by this time or very close to it, but McMahon was involved at that end too. This on-screen role was an effort to pivot her in the public eye more into that role – as opposed to just being the shrieking magnet for “slut” chants she had spent the last few years as – and as far as I remember would have some success. But we’ll see as we go along. Her first speech here isn’t so good, some nerves at being presented as a face for the first time since her early on-screen run clearly apparent. But hey, it’s good to see a woman getting this kind of on-screen authority role.
Time for the Smack Of The Week, brought to you be some Reebok rip-off of Air Jordans. It’s Billy Kidman pinning Jamie Noble last week, which is oh so convenient for what is up next.
Billy Kidman vs Tajiri
Commentary reacts to the announcement, wondering how Triple H is going to take it, as he has been spotted “in the area”. They also confirm that Noble will be defending the Cruiserweight Championship this Sunday against Kidman, so there’s your spotfest for the evening. Lock-up, Tajiri with strikes, Kidman back with a flipping hip toss. A few chains, Kidman hung up on the ropes off an Electric Chair, and Tajiri in charge for a bit with strikes and chops. Kidman runs into a Tarantula attempt but gets out of it, only for Tajiri to lock it in a second later anyway, that was a weird spot that the crowd did not go mad for.
Tajiri with mounted punches,, rope choke and some hard kicks. Snapmare and into a resthold. Kidman out of it, some more running chains, and Kidman nails a drop-kick to counter Tajiri’s handspring elbow. Now some clotheslines, into a firemans carry neckbreaker, two. Looking for a Bulldog, Tajiri throws him off, and lands a superkick for two. To the top, moonsault, Kidman dodges, Tajiri landed on his feet but then walks into a sit-out powerbomb. Tajiri in position, Shooting Star and that’ll be all in just over three-and-a-half.
Winner: Billy Kidman and reverse momentum theory.
Verdict: Fine for what it was, but just too short. All set-up for…
Noble appears and attacks, Kidman briefly on top until Tajiri adds some green mist to the mix. Noble lands a powerbomb, and he and Nidia stand tall while the crowd gets their loudest for the whole segment with boos. Well, it’s a feud at least. Backstage, Jericho arrives into Stephanie McMahon’s office. He congratulates her on her appointment, and says he can’t imagine a better person for the job. McMahon wants to give him some compliments back, and comments on his lack of selfishness in backing out of his Vengeance match with Edge, and he deserves a reward. Therefore, he’ll get his Edge match after all, only it’ll be next week on Smackdown. An abashed Y2J says this is just what he was hoping for, and walks off with a scowl on his face. “That bitch!”. OK, we lasted a good 15 minutes without that kind of stuff.
Another promo for Rey Mysterio’s imminent arrival, now with a lyricless version of his theme tune. Can’t wait! Backstage, The Rock is ready for action. The main event is next, but before that commentary runs down the Vengeance card and the theme song. It’s confirmed the CBF are putting Christian and Lance Storm up to take on the Tag Champs, and we will also have Triple H making his decision between Raw and Smackdown. That is advertised like it’s a match, so I imagine it’s going to take up a good half-hour of the show. Kurt Angle’s entrance music hits before they can even plug the Cruiserweight Title match, so we must be short on time.
Kurt Angle vs The Rock
Angle on the mike for his entrance. He will become the next Undisputed Champion. It’s a foregone conclusion since he made The Undertaker tap and tonight he will force Rock to do the same. Oh, it’s true. But instead of The Rock coming out next it’s The Undertaker! After the break Taker has taken a seat ringside. Out comes the Brahma Bull now and in hot (“Beeline, beeline!” shouts Tazz, amazing). Angle knocked around a bit, big clothesline, then clotheslined out. Crowd very hot.
To ringside, Angle drilled into the ringsteps, then sent face first into Undertaker’s bike. Taker stays where he is for the moment. Reverse suplex on the ramp, into the apron, looking to whip Angle into the bike but Angle counter, takedown and Rock catapulted into the ringpost, bouncing off in that way that only he can. Back in, Angle on top now, stomps, foot choke and jawing with Taker. Suplex gets two. Strikes in the corner, big “Angle Sucks” chants, more strikes, chops, but now The Rock reverses it and lands a few of his own. Counter chain, big belly-to-belly throw, two. Angle out of another grapple, and lands a release German. Pause. Good energy to this one so far.
Angle lands another German, hangs on for a second and a third, two. Deadman continues to watch intently. Strikes from Angle, Rock looking unsteady, knocked down again, but now rallying back. Angle avoids a back body drop but then walks into a big clothesline, Samoan Drop, two. Nice fluid offence. Angle with a high severe suplex OUTTANOWHERE for two. Elbows on the apron as Angle taunts the Champion. Back in, stomps, Angle keeps going back to jaw with The Undertaker, now Rock battling back again, rolls through a running crossbody to get two, then floored with a clothesline. “Pancaking the Peoples Champ, not pretty”.
Angle lands a belly-to-belly as we get a replay of that last stiff clothesline. Another belly-to-belly, two, and into a resthold. Angle uses the ropes for some leverage with the ref looking elsewhere, and this spot has lasted a bit too long. Arm drop spot, Rock gets it up at three, fighting out of it, strikes, laying the Smackdown, but then walks into an Angle Slam with huge elevation! Rock gets the shoulder up somehow, great sequence after things got too slow.
Leg-based takedown surprises Angle, and Rock locks in the Sharpshooter. Angle to the ropes quick enough, Rock looking for the Rock Bottom, Angle out of it and hits another stiff clothesline. The straps come down, but Rock kips up and lays some more smackdown to a big pop, and Angle sent to the outside. Rock follows, and when Rock goes for a clothesline Angle ducks and Undertaker takes it instead. Angle back in control, some head smashes onto the announce table, back in and the Ankle Lock is briefly locked in only for Rock to roll out. Rock back with a DDT, two.The Undertaker is up on the apron, Rock cleans him out, then plants Angle with a spinebuster. The People’s Elbow gets cut off by Taker rushing the ring and delivering a clothesline, and the ref calls it in just over 12.
Winner (by DQ): The Rock, who hasn’t missed a step it seems.
Verdict: Really good stuff, I always thought we should have seen more of The Rock and Angle, they always seemed like they suited each other really well. Non-finish sucked of course, but it’s all build for the blow-off on Sunday.
Crowd not happy of course, as Taker lays in some mounted punches on Rock. Angle suddenly has a chair, and Taker gets a back shot as he goes to chokeslam Rock. Rock ducks a similar attack, goes for the Rock Bottom, Angle fights out, takedown, Ankle Lock and The Rock taps! Wow, that is a surprise. Angle relents after a little bit and stands tall. Great post-match stuff actually, made Angle look super good, but I suppose this is a sure sign he wasn’t going over when it counted.
We cut to outside the area very quickly where Marc Lloyd has spotted Triple H! He asks who he is going to sign with, but before he can answer Stephanie arrives. She wants to talk, strictly business. HHH is surprised that she doesn’t want her lawyer present, and a contrite Stephanie says she deserved that, what? Triple H Pedigreed her a few months ago! This Sunday is when Haitch will make his decision, and he’ll hear both sides. Before he leaves he gives Stephanie something approximating a sexy look, then asks if she gained weight. He enters a waiting limo, and Eric Bischoff is also a passenger! He tells Steph he’ll see her Sunday and drives off. “You bastard!” One of Smackdown’s more entertaining endings, I’ll grant.
Let’s look at the Smackdown side of the card for Vengeance:
Noble/Kidman – With Mysterio about to arrive and become the division’s top babyface, it makes no sense to take the strap off Noble. Should be a good match though.
Edge & Hogan/CBF – It’s set-up for an Edge heel turn, but I don’t remember that being a part of the era. Heel champions probably makes more sense right now, and the future Un Americans have done enough good promo work and got enough heat to justify a change.
Cena/Jericho – Jericho was always a good hand to get new people over, but Cena has gotten his win and Y2J is owed one back. Big sign of how much they liked Cena at the time.
Taker/Rock/Angle – I know how this one ends, but am expecting something really good. Rock can clearly still go, Angle can carry anyone and Taker’s recent limitations can be covered up in the format.
As for tonight…
Best Match: The main event, I really wish we had gotten another Rock/Angle one-on-one on PPV sometime.
Best Wrestler: Edge, who had to carry two people to a large extent in his match.
Worst Match: Cena/Jericho needed to be longer, but I suppose it was just build.
Worst Wrestler: Not going to be breaking too much of a sweat tonight, OK brother?
Overall Verdict: A good episode that did a great job at building the Smackdown side of Vengeance. I’m more hyped for that show than I have been for any PPV of this series, so I guess we can call the last month a success. On we go.
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