OK, let’s try this brand split idea again: that means you aren’t supposed to be here Vince. It’s the 8th April 2002 and we’re in the America West Arena of Phoenix, Arizona for episode #463 of WWF Raw! Your main event tonight: Stone Cold takes on Scott Hall to help determine Raw’s #1 contender for the Undisputed Title! Scott Hall? Really?
Attitude splash, and a video package sums up the situation with the main title programme, ending with the Triple H/Hogan showdown. Considering neither is going to be here tonight this feels a bit odd as a opener. “Across The Nation”, pyro and JR/King welcome us to Phoenix. They tell us that Undertaker and Stone Cold are upset about the title situation, just in time for Undertaker to ride his bike to the ring.
The Deadman looks a tad miffed alright. He wants someone to explain whats going on to him (well, basically a bunch of men pretend to fight. Oh, he means about last week’s announcement). He sums things up for what will be the third time already, as the crowd “whats” along, and he even proclaims the situation “bullshit”, which doesn’t get a bleep for whatever reason. Whoops. He refuses to leave the ring until somebody explains how all of this has come to pass, and this brings out Ric Flair.
He’ll give Taker an explanation: he was too ambitious on his first day. McMahon did have the right to make the Backlash championship match, and it feels weird that they don’t try and pin this on some McMahon underhandedness, Flair just looks like a moron. He tells Taker he will get to make the Championship match after Backlash, but Mean Mark isn’t buying it, calling the Nature Boy a “no-good son of a bitch”. He thinks Flair is holding a grudge from his Mania beatdown, but adds that Ric can make it up to him by making him the next #1 contender “for the championship match after Backlash”, which is just awkward phrasing.
Before the Deadman can make good on threats to re-live Wrestlemania, shattered glass heralds the arrival of Steve Austin. After going up all four corners he drinks in the crowd heat for a moment before summing up the situation again to lots of “what”. He describes Taker’s “stupid” bandana, tattoos, clothes and boots, which seems a little childish for Austin. He mocks Undertaker’s pretensions at being dead and riding a bike. Austin’s watch tells him that Flair needs to make a decision, and infers strongly the answer is “Stone Cold”. Crowd super happy with the opportunities to “what”.
Flair hums and haws, says Taker has been threatening him non-stop and interfering in his matches, while Austin stunned him last week (Austin smiles an awesome crooked smile). He’s not Vince, and anyone who puts their hands on him will have hell to pay. There will be two #1 contender matches tonight: Taker against RVD, and Austin against Hall. Why Hall? Why not Kane or The Big Show? Apparently only Taker and Austin can actually win #1 contender status here, which seems dumb. Anyway, Taker proclaims Flair “full of crap”, demands his #1 contender status, mocks “cueball”, and that produces a brief fistfight. Taker knocked out of the ring, Flair beats a retreat and the refs intervene. This segment ran a bit long, but I did like Flair’s reasoning and unwillingness to let things go regards assaults on him. He fails to adequately explain how things are going to end up with two #1 contender matches though. Two big matches lined up, but only feeling happy about one of them.
After the break, the Bubba singles run continues.
Bubba Ray Dudley (c) vs Booker T (WWF Hardcore Championship)
Man, what’s Booker doing in the Hardcore division? The Bookerman on the mike beforehand, to say that people don’t want to see a Hardcore match, they paid their money to see a Spinarooni. He indulges the crowd as his theme music starts again, and asks what Bubba has in response. Dudley demands some funky music “for this white boy”, and proceeds to give us some awesome “Dad at a wedding” moves, before Booker attacks.
Strikes, and T clotheslined out. Whip reverse sends Booker into the steps, and Bubba rolls him in before grabbing some goodies from under the ring. Back in, dodges a lid shot and hits a reverse suplex for two. “We want tables”, naturally. Scoop Slam, but nobody home on a top rope Vader Bomb. Side kick from Booker, then boots in the corner. Bubba back with rights, but T able to get a knee to the gut. Scissors Kick, but no pin, I thought that was his finisher? Instead some trashcan shots to the head, but Bubba able to counter back with a Samoan Drop. Shots and chops, clothesline, another Scoop Slam, elbow drops, then an falling axe-handle. Getting lots of offence, and the insane look in his eyes can only mean one thing. A table put into the ring, but then Bubba takes a spinebuster. T sets up the table, is setting Bubba up on it, when Goldust suddenly arrives. Lid shot to the back of Booker, followed up with a DDT. Goldust looking to make a move on Bubba, but countered into a powerbomb through a table, and that will be a pin in just under four.
Winner (and still WWF Hardcore Champion): Bubba Ray Dudley, again being made to look at a higher level than previous.
Verdict: Normal hardcore action. Nice to see Bubba hanging with mid-tier guys like Booker, but again not sure how long it will last. Goldust turning up was a bit silly, as was Bubba pinning him to win. Why not just take off?
Bubba graces us with a few more dance moves up the ramp before we get out first ad for Backlash, focusing on the main event. Another ad for that terrible Drowning Pool Triple H song, and then Coach is with Trish backstage. We get to see the end of the, ahem, gimmick match with Terri and the subsequent Molly Holly attack. Stratus faces Molly tonight, and Trish says she’s pissed and will show Molly how pissed tonight. Great, OK. Suddenly William Regal is here, dismisses Trish and her matches, and tries to turn attention to his upcoming title match with Spike Dudley. Trish reminds Regal that Spike pinned him last week, and that sets the Euro Champ off. He insists that the loss was an accident, just like Spike was to his mother “and an abortion to society”. Jesus Christ. Regal says he will turn Spike into a vegetable. Way to both freak me out a bit and take the spotlight off of Trish.
Elsewhere, Terri, now an interviewer apparently, is with Kane, who is flicking through the Divas calendar. “Just because I have a burnt face, doesn’t mean the rest of my parts aren’t working”. What has happened to Kane recently? First that promo on Smackdown, now a masturbation joke? I mean, I’m not opposed, it’s just not really him. Terri notes that Kane has been approaching life differently, and Kane replies that he has been inspired by the fan support of his “Kaneenites”. He now knows that freaks are cool, name-drops the local sports team for cheap heat, and looks forward to his match with X-Pac tonight. “Just like the lion roars, and the chicken clucks, it’s a simple fact of life: X-Pac sucks!” Good stuff, I like what I am going to call Komedy Kane.
Elsewhere elsewhere, X-Pac gets ready for his match with the other members of the nWo. He says he wants to face Kane alone, and Hall and Nash acquiesce. Out of earshot, they call X-Pac a “giant killer”. No inference that they will show up anyway, but I have a funny feeling. That match is next.
X-Pac vs Kane (Falls Count Anywhere)
This feels like it could have been a PPV match, with the right build. Pac with the advantage to start, strikes in the corner, with one jumping head kick that looked a little stiff. Kane back with his own strikes, and a similarly brutal looking big boot. Press Slam, and X-Pac clotheslined to the outside. Quickly into the crowd, and I guess we’re heading to the back. Nice overhead pan shot of the two guys moving through the crowd, and we do indeed end up backstage.
Kane in control, Pac being flung into things, but suddenly Hall and Nash are here with pipes. Kane beaten down, Pac joins in with a chair shot to the head, and that’s enough for the pin in just under two.
Winner: X-Pac, and is this the first actual nWo win since their return?
Verdict: So short it was essentially meaningless. The stip seemed to exist just to get Kane pinned, and he wouldn’t have many shorter losses in his career.
Pac decides to add another chair shot, and I’m assuming (and hoping) that it’s angled in such a way that it doesn’t make contact. He rips off Kane’s mask, but makes sure we don’t see his face, before Bradshaw arrives to chase the nWo away. BradKane! KaneShaw!
After the break we get a replay of the end of the FCA match, and then we see EMT’s tending to Kane with Bradshaw. Elsewhere, X-Pac wears Kane’s mask in a mocking fashion, until Flair turns up, unhappy. He gives out, and decides to suspend Nash indefinitely (“without pay!”). Nash threatens to sue Flair (because that is so badass. These chumps aren’t a “New World Order”, they’re grumpy old men). Anyway, Nash has a arm injury and this time it appears to have been real, so this is how they are writing him out. He’ll be back in a few months.
William Regal (c) vs Spike Dudley (WWF European Championship)
A recap of last weeks match as Regal walks to the ring. He pulls the same shenanigans this time around, distracting the ref with the clumsy drop of knucks, before secreting another pair in the turnbuckle. While he’s not looking though Spike rushes down, grabs the knucks and brains Regal with them in the back of the head. Bell rings, Spike covers, and that’s it in seconds.
Winner (and new WWF European Champion): Spike Dudley, in what might be the fastest title match in WWF history.
Verdict: I liked Regal getting his comeuppance here, and Spike showing his smarts, the match itself was a non-entity and I suppose doesn’t do this belt many favours.
Spike gets the belt and heads to the back quick, as Regal remains KO’ed. We get a replay of the whole match, as commentary expresses their astonishment. Backstage, Coach grabs Spike, just as he is congratulated by Tommy Dreamer, Jacqueline and Big Show (remember that tag team?). They all celebrate by pouring stuff on Coach. Last to rock up is Bubba Ray, who clasps hands with Spike in what I assume is a mending of fences since the Invasion storyline. Genuinely nice moment. New Dudley Boyz?
After the break, the first of two #1 contender matches tonight, the nature of which has still not been explained.
Rob Van Dam vs The Undertaker (non-title) (#1 Contenders Match For The WWF Undisputed World Championship)
Van Dam being the IC holder seemingly meaningless here, in the then most current example of WWF treating that belt as a trinket when it suits them. This really could have been a PPV feud. Taker starts out hard with shots that drive Van Dam back, then a rope choke, then knees to the gut. Corner clothesline gets two, more shots, but eventually Van Dam gets a foot up, but only so he can stumble into a Sidewalk Slam for two. Stomps, to the apron, elbows to the face, boots then Taker goes for a leg drop but nobody home. Baseball Slide from RVD, then an asai moonsault from the apron. Van Dam able to lay in some kicks next to the announce table, but Undertaker back quick enough with a knee. Looking for Snake Eyes into the ringpost, but Van Dam out and gets the shove.
Back in, and RVD hits a rubbish looking springboard kick for two, real “didn’t get all of it” (“a glancing blow” is what JR says). Rolling Thunder, to the top, but crotched before any thoughts of a Five Star. Taker follows him up, and nails a top rope superplex for a big bounce. Only two though. Taker drops an elbow on Van Dam’s head, a little rough, but only two again. Deadman looks annoyed, grabs a chair from ringside, scares Hebner into falling over, but then walks into a Van Daminator! So rare we get to see that in WWF/E. Looking for the Five Star, but instead RVD launches himself onto a suddenly appearing Eddie Guerrero. Guerrero driven off, Van Dam in, walks into a chokeslam, but only two off a delayed cover. Undertaker looks stunned. Looking for The Last Ride, Van Dam out, kick takes Taker’s leg out, top rope head kick, back to the top, now hits the Five Star Frog Splash, but as the ref checks on Taker Guerrero nails Van Dam with the title belt, then goes back to writhing in agony on the floor. Can’t wait for that to be a face move. Very slow cover, and again Van Dam kicks out, man they are putting him over huge. But he’s still not ever going to beat Taker, and The Last Ride finishes it nine on the dot.
Winner (and new #1 Contender for the WWF Undisputed World Championship): The Undertaker, getting people (he likes) over like always.
Verdict: Started slow, then got a hell of a lot better. Last few minutes were golden. Van Dam looked great in defeat, Taker gets to move on, and the RVD/Eddie feud was well served.
Taker jaws with the crowd as Guerrero smirks from the ramp. After the break we get a replay of what just happened, before Jazz turns up at commentary sporting a large shiner to her left eye, which JR tells us occurred at the hands of Trish Stratus at a house show. Jazz stays silent despite any entreaties for her to talk. Backstage, Terri is with Molly (JR throws to this by calling her “Coach”). Molly says the superhero gimmick was holding her down, and she’s sick of seeing bikini matches. Terri counters that Molly must just be jealous of the “more desirable” divas. Ugh. Molly insists she is just as desirable. Please, spare me this. Enough to say that Molly is taking the Ivory role in the womens division.
Trish Stratus vs Molly Holly
Trish meets Molly on the ramp, into the apron and then into the ring. Strikes and chops into the corner, corner flip but Holly lands on her feet, only to eat a drop-kick. Molly takes a break on the outside, as Jazz keeps staring silently. Holly is taking a full-on powder before she gets dragged back to the ring. Holly back with shots and chops of her own, then a nasty kick to the head and a running clothesline. Prone chokes, hard whip to the corner, then a double reverse handstand elbow, always awesome. Jazz still isn’t talking as Molly puts in a beatdown, despite Jerry’s entreaties. I wouldn’t talk to him either.
Trish prone, Molly heads to the top, but crotched, and Trish able to hit that handstand rana on Molly from the top. She’s then out to confront Jazz, Holly tries to attack from behind, Stratus goes for the Stratusfaction off the apron but Jazz nails her with the Womens Title belt in the process. Somewhere in the middle the ref was distracted, Molly rolls Trish in, backslide pin, and that’s it in just over four.
Winner: Molly Holly, so I guess she’s the new #1 contender?
Verdict: Fine as womens TV matches for the era go, with the finish a little bit overdone.
Jazz remains silent on commentary as Holly storms off. JR decides to just run-down the established card for Backlash, which by now consists of only one match, the Undisputed Title bout.
Backstage, Brock Lesnar is with Paul Heyman. Heyman says Phoenix is the worst audience in the world, with bad sports teams, and they won’t respect Lesnar’s power. He urges Lesnar to not attack the fans, and to focus on his in-ring performance. A bit weak as far as Heyman work goes. An ad for WWF house shows, a look at the outside of the arena where some random people mug for the camera and that next encounter is up.
Out comes the future Beast with Dangerously and jeez, Lesnar’s music is really awful here, pure generic trash. JR informs us that Heyman is officially Lesnar’s agent. Heyman on the mike, soaks in the crowd boos for his insulting of the local sports team, and he’s happy to wait, because they can do anything they damn well please. He wants to educate us on some Lesnar facts as to why he has Heyman in his corner. He groomed Stone Cold and The Undertaker, turned ECW into what it was and was the progenitor of Attitude. He can spot “the Next Big Thing”, and we have ourselves a moniker. Brock’s an NCAA Heavyweight Champion, he’s invincible, invulnerable, indestructible, impervious and the reigning, defending, undisputed, and oh wait, no.
As proof of what Heyman is saying, he queues up a highlight reel of Lesnar’s run of destruction, which has a particular focus on his annihilation of the Hardy’s last week. Heyman runs down some of Lesnar’s victims, and suddenly the Hardy’s are here through the crowd to attack from behind. Beatdown, Lesnar set-up, but he catches Jeff on the Poetry In Motion attempt and flings him out over the top, then gives Matt a Press Slam to the same effect. The Hardy’s come back with chairs, Lesnar still able to fight them them off, but when he tries to set Matt up for a powerbomb he gets nailed in the face by a Jeff chair shot, now that looked like it would rattle some teeth. Matt adds another unprotected hit, and Lesnar, still standing, does retreat to the ramp as Heyman convinces him to withdraw. The Hardy’s left standing tall. We have ourselves a feud, but man were those chair shots really necessary? They looked scary, even if Lesnar took them like a champ.
Now a good time to note that this is just after Lita damaged her neck to the point of needing significant surgery a few days before, while filming a scene for the TV show Dark Angel (she was asked to give a hurricanrana to an untrained stunt women, and guess what happened?). She won’t be wrestling for over a year, but I think she might make a few appearances here and there. Damn shame, not least because the division could really have used her, it’s thin as anything at this point.
After the break, we have ourselves yet another Smackdown campaign mode match.
Mr Perfect vs The Big Show
Why are these two going at it? Perfect on the attack, but Show no-selling and back with his own super hard chop that sends Perfect out. Another added on the apron, then Show comes out to fling Hennig back in. Perfect looking a little lost for ideas, and gets destroyed with a clothesline. Show avoids a ref bump on a dodged charge, and Perfect able to just about hit the Perfect Plex after, but only for two. Bad sign when people are kicking out of your finisher. Show ditches the spandex straps, Showstopper Chokeslam, and that will most definitely be it in just just over 90 seconds.
Winner: Show, and you would think they were pushing him up the card based on this wouldn’t you?
Verdict: A squash you would not expect in this slot. What’s Perfect’s role here? He’s too experienced to be this kind of enhancement talent.
Backstage Austin heads to Flair’s office, but the Nature Boy isn’t home. Stone Cold decides to take Flair’s chair to put his feet up and wait it out.
After another ad for Backlash (featuring one match!) and the Divas Calendar, JR and Lawler sum up the entire title picture situation again and we get a replay with highlights of the Austin/Taker/Flair segment earlier, then the Taker/RVD match. Backstage, Flair turns up to stop Austin from throwing his pens away. Austin wants to know what the story is with these #1 contender matches. Flair clarifies that if Austin wins the second match he will face Undertaker at Backlash. Why not just say that at the start of all this? That match will be up next.
Scott Hall w/X-Pac vs Stone Cold Steve Austin (#1 Contender For The WWF Undisputed World Championship)
Austin attacks the moment he is in the ring. Let’s see if Hall has more than one move in his arsenal this time. Stone Cold dominating with strikes and chops, then choking Hall with his jacket, which Hebner only barely intervenes on. Hall on the ropes, and gets a sit down splash. Scoop Slam, two. Awkward wrist-lock into a clothesline, and Hall looks rough. To the outside, more chops, but Hall finally gets in a few strikes for his first offence. Back in, whip into the corner where it looked like Hall wasn’t sure if he was meant to reverse. Finally gets some room by dodging a charge and sending Austin to the outside. Ref distracted, Pac and Austin are brawling, but Austin gets the upper hand and puts Pac into the barricade.
Back to Hall, sent into the ringsteps, then back in. Looking for the Stunner, but Hall out of it. The most one-sided main event of this run so far, but Hall able to get some space with a sneaky low blow that Hebner misses. Austin kicked out so Pac can lay in some shots with Hebner again looking the other way. Hall putting in the beatdown, avoids an Austin comeback momentarily with a clothesline counter to a hiptoss. Sleeper for a bit, and a bad moment where Hall falls to one knee when Austin goes for the reverse suplex, and has to be awkwardly lifted back up to a standing position to get the move done. Hall on the ropes again, but avoids another sit down splash.
Hall to the second rope, but gets a shot to the gut off an axe-handle attempt. Double clothesline spot leaves both men on the mat. Pac gets in another shot, but that doesn’t stop Austin getting a takedown followed by mounted strikes. Terrible Lou Thesz Press where Hall just crumpled, Pac knocked off the apron, but when Austin goes for the Stunner he gets pushed into Hebner. Spinebuster to Hall, and another to Pac. Suddenly the Undertaker is here! He lays in some shots, hits a chokeslam, and suddenly Bradshaw is here too. Shots to Taker, he gets clotheslined out, and they starts brawling at ringside. The Ministry of Darkness has exploded! In the ring Hall gets a cover, but Austin out after a slow two. Taker and Bradshaw fight through the crowd and out of our minds.
Hall hits his Fallaway Slam (drink!) and in the process Hebner gets taken out again. Hall and Pac beating down Austin, and now out comes Flair. I was expecting Kane. He pulls X-Pac off of Austin, Hall goes for the Razor’s Edge, we all know he isn’t capable of it, and he takes a back body-drop instead. Stunner to X-Pac, another oversold Stunner to Hall, and Hebner has recovered enough to count the fall in just over nine-and-a-half.
Winner (and I suppose co-#1 Contender for the WWF Undisputed World Championship): Stone Cold. Not bad for your first match after a two week no-show.
Verdict: Rubbish, and Nitro-esque in the way it devolved into run-in after run-in. Hall looks apathetic, and a bit dangerous, in the ring.
Flair raises Austin’s hand and immediately takes a Stunner, to JR’s shock. Austin celebrates with beer as we close up.
Best Match: Taker/Van Dam by a country mile, could stand to see more of those two in the ring.
Best Wrestler: Austin, for getting something half-way legible out of a terrible Hall.
Worst Match: Kane/X-Pac promised a bit and delivered very little.
Worst Wrestler: Get Hall out of the ring before he hurts somebody.
Overall Verdict: An uneven episode in a lot of respects. One good match, a lot of average stuff or lower around it. Feels like Raw needs a bit more in terms of concrete feuds to be building around.
To view more entries in this series, click here to go to the index.