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by Scrooge McSuck
- Thank you to the WWE Network and my eenie-meenie selection choice. I'm surprised I've never tackled this before, but then I noticed 2001 is pretty bare in the archives, so what do I know? Presented live from the Gund Arena in Cleveland, OH on July 22nd, 2001. Jim Ross and Michael "Irony" Cole are at ringside to call the action. Earlier in the night on Heat, Chavo Guerrero Jr. defeated Scotty Too Hotty, so there's 1 victory for Team WCW/ECW.
Opening Match: Edge & Christian vs. Lance Storm & Mike Awesome (WCW):
Christian comes to the ring embracing Edge's King of the Ring Trophy, a sort of slow-burn that lead to his "heel" turn in September. I use quotations because Edge and Christian never really turned face, they just started wrestling heels and it took organically. Cole and Ross make sure to note that Awesome fired the first major shot in the war... by winning the HARDCORE Title. Yeah, I'm sure that really pissed off Crash and Billy Gunn. Storm's "If I can be serious for a moment" is quickly interrupted by the entrance of E&C. Crowd is pretty hot from start to finish, a trend that follows for most of the significant matches on the card. How hot is the crowd? They go nuts for the "small package is reversed by the illegal partner" spot! Christian takes a good whooping, and it's clear Storm is carrying Awesome's sluggishly moving around to the point you have to question is motivation. Hot finish. Storm lays Edge out with a Superkick, but the Awesomebomb is countered by a Spear from Christian, and Edge lands on top for the three count at 10:10. *** Good match to kick off the PPV.
Earl Hebner vs. Nick Patrick:
You want to know how hot the crowd still is? They're into THIS match. Mick Foley is YOUR Special Referee, for reasons I don't care to remember. Nick Patrick has three other WCW referee's with him (Charles Robinson being the only one I recognize), while Hebner has the entire WWF Crew (Long, White, Chioda, Korderas, and even more). Most of the match is ugly punches from Hebner and some comical bumping from Patrick. The EVIL WCW referee's gang up on poor Earl on the floor, but the WWF referee's make the save and Foley throws them from ringside. 30-seconds later, Hebner hits Patrick with either an ugly Spear or even uglier cross body, and it's enough for a three count at 2:50. * We call this stuff "entertaining crap." That's the difference a hot crowd makes.
The APA (WWF Tag Champions) vs. Chuck Palumbo & Sean O'Haire (WCW Tag Champions):
Non-Title Match, for obvious reasons. The PPV sold 700,000 buys with most of the Champions in Non-Title roles. The name "Natural Born Thrillers" does not carry over from WCW, as we're constantly told that O'Haire and Palumbo are indeed the WCW Tag Team Champions. The APA won the WWF Tag Titles from the Dudleys a couple of weeks earlier on Raw, their last reign with the belts, for the record. Mostly a forgetable brawl. Palumbo and O'Haire are too green to really do much other than a highspot here and there, and the APA are NOT the opponents to get them over. It's pretty much brawl, highspot, brawl, highspot, until Bradshaw lays out O'Haire with the Clothesline From Hell and the WCW Tag Team Champions do a clean job their first time on the big stage at 7:17. *1/2 I wasn't feeling this one, but out of respect, I had to give it a slightly higher rating than the battle of the referees.
X-Pac (Light-Heavyweight Champion) vs. Billy Kidman (Cruiserweight Champion):
Kidman reminds us in a pre-match promo that X-Pac does indeed suck. The crowd boos X-Pac out of the building despite all of WWF being babyfaces. Kidman was always a favorite of mine from the few times I watched WCW, so I gladly cheered him over X-Pac by default. Remember when X-Pac formed the stable "X-Factor" and they had that AWFUL theme music from Uncle Kracker? Thank you WWE Network so I could hear that lovely tune, again. X-Pac must be doing the job, cause he's working a bit lazy... screw it, that's X-Pac period at this point. Decent highspots from Kidman, but X-Pac keeps slowing things down. Kidman dives off the top and into an X-Factor, but somehow kicks out at two. X-Pac goes for the Bronco Buster, but he meets a foot in the coin purse, and the Shooting Star Press finishes at 7:12. **1/2 Too short to really get going, but Kidman looked good in the few minutes he was allowed to showcase his talents.
William Regal (WWF) vs. Raven (ECW):
HOLY styles clash, Batman! This just screams desperate filler. I like Raven, I like Regal, but my goodness, this match has ZERO chances of getting the crowd pumped up. One problem I have with the "Invasion": Guys like Raven, who jumped to "ECW", are still using their WWF produced (and rather lame) theme music. They trade near falls, but nobody cares. Regal tries to get things going working a babyface style, but it's just not working. Match mercifully ends when Taz(z) runs in and attacks, allowing Raven to put Regal down with the Raven Effect at 6:34. 1/2* That was about 4-minutes longer than it needed to be, just from how poor of a decision it was to put these two together and expecting anything other than a disaster.
Big Show, Albert (IC Champion), "The One" Billy Gunn vs. Shawn Stasiak, Kanyon, Hugh Morrus (WCW):
Yet another piss break match. Yes, ALBERT is your Intercontinental Champion, buried in one of, if not the, most meaningless match on the card. Stasiak still has his Mr. Perfect inspired theme music from WCW, but no one bothers to explain why. Seriously, how depressing is everyone's role in the company at this point? You're the second most important Champion in a meaningless shit match, or the Big Show, who's a glorified Jobber at this point, or THE ONE Billy Gunn... I don't even need to make a joke about that one. Brawl to start, and from there it's just one heatless spot after another because the fans don't care for anyone involved. They do start a mild "Meat" chant, Stasiak's only noteworthy contribution to WWE. Finish sees an ugly, awful, crappy spot that sees Stasiak forget that he's not allowed to pin someone when another, more legal partner is already occupying the space. Morrus pinned Gunn, by the way, at 4:23. DUD Awful match. The faces clean house afterwards because Big Show circa 2001 needed to protect his image.
Tajiri (WWF) vs. Tazz (ECW):
Will the parade of meaningless filler ever end?! Tajiri teased joining the squad of WCW and ECW, but ended up devoting his life and career to honor the WWF and thus we have this match. I guess it's WWE's idea of a midget match, considering the tallest participant of the match is the referee at a whopping 5'5". Size doesn't measure talent, but I don't see this being a 4-star classic. Good back-and-forth action, with Tazz throwing Tajiri around with a wide arrange of suplexes, while Tajiri concentrates on kicks. He locks Tazz in the Tarantula, a spot I just never liked for the sake it's an illegal hold. The Green Mist of Doom™ makes an appearance, and the roundhouse kick finishes Tazz at 5:43. *1/2 Decent for what there was, but it's hard to get into a 5-minute match, and hey look, it's another cheap finish. Shenanigans have reigned supreme in all of the meaningless undercard matches... who would have guessed that?
WWF Hardcore Championship Match:
Jeff Hardy © vs. Rob Van Dam:
Here we go with something to marvel at and wonder how we never questioned the long-term effect such brutal bumps could take on the human body and brain. Before the match, RVD KO's Matt with a chair to show he means business. RVD gets the biggest babyface reaction of the night, and WWF wisely capitalized on that and kind of used him as a tweener despite working under the heel camp. Both men flash their athletic abilities early, and quickly take it to the floor. Jeff tries to run the rail, but RVD hops on with him and knocks Jeff into the crowd. Jeff slowly mounts his comeback, planting RVD with a STIFF sunset flip Powerbomb to the floor. Jeff pulls out a giant Ladder (it's got to be a 15-footer) for reasons unknown, and after climbing to the top, RVD recovers and knocks it over, with Jeff crashing to the concrete floor. OUCH? Brawl up the ramp, and Jeff again takes control, only to take a Van Daminator, and getting knocked into an empty pit in the middle of the entrance ramp! He's busted hardway, too, it appears. Back in the ring, RVD's split leg moonsault meets knees. Jeff with the DDT complete with awesome RVD bump, but the Swanton Bomb misses. RVD recovers, hits the 5-Star Frog Splash, and we have a NEW Champion at 12:24. **** It's practically an extended squash for RVD, but Jeff's offense, regardless of how little, is strong enough to convince you that he just might be able to pull off the upset. Either way, I had a lot of fun watching it, and it holds up nearly a decade since the last time I remember seeing it from start to finish.
Bra and Panties Match:
Trish Stratus & Lita (WWF) vs. Stacy Keibler & Torrie Wilson (WCW):
For the second match of the night, Mick Foley is YOUR Special Referee. If the Senior Referee's can have a match featured on PPV, then why not the Diva's? You know what this match means? T & A. Seriously, Torrie and Stacy cut a promo earlier in the show basically flaunting over each other's bodies. I'm a heterosexual male and find three of the four women in this match incredibly attractive, but it doesn't mean I'm going to want to sit through this. We get awful cat-fighting and even worse "wrestling" for about 4 minutes while everyone claws away at each other's clothes. Trish plays Hulk Hogan, no-selling before ripping Torrie's pants off. You don't usually see the bottoms go first, but this is an INVASION, and dammit, we don't have time to worry about shirts first! Stacy gets her clothes ripped off too, and Team WWF wins at 5:04. DUD Next...
The Inaugural Brawl:
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin (WWF Champion), Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Kane vs. Booker T (WCW & US Champion), Diamond Dallas Page, Rhyno, Bubba Ray & D'Von Dudley:
This might explain the deep use of filler for the undercard. That's some heavy star power from WWF, and the best that WCW and ECW could scrape together. Surprised Tommy Dreamer wasn't used, since he's still a relevant ECW "top name" despite never being that good of a wrestler to begin with. Awful note: in a pre-match promo, Sara Undertaker casually calls her husband "Mark". Imagine someone doing that during the Deadman Era(s): NO THANK YOU. Keep kayfabe alive for the love of Christ! To catch everyone up... Angle wanted to prove he can lead team WWF, Jericho wanted to prove his allegiance to team WWF, Vince McMahon needed THE OLD Stone Cold back, and Booker T was kind of awesome, but I didn't really care for the Dudleys and Rhyno being used in such an important role. Everyone gets separate entrances, including all three McMahon's (Vince, Shane, and Stephanie, in this case).
Wild brawl to start, with Austin getting his entrance (and an amazing face pop) during the fracas. He singles out Rhyno to start the match officially. Rhyno takes a pounding for a few minutes until a mistake from Jericho allows him to tag out. It's a very standard formula 10-man tag from this point, with Jericho and Angle taking most of the punishment. I did notice a lot of spot calling, especially from DDP and Booker T, which makes sense when they'e working with WWE Lifers (or basically anyone but Jericho, since guys like Austin and Taker didn't work in WCW during the heydays of DDP and Booker T's careers). The last 5-minutes or so is another crazy brawl that sees Undertaker and DDP disappear into the abyss of the crowd, D'Von chokeslammed through a table by Kane, Kane suplexed through a table by Rhyno and Bubba Ray, Rhyno and Jericho taking each other through a table, and Angle making the heroic comeback on Booker T until Stone Cold betrays the WWF and KO's Angle with the Stunner. Booker T covers for the reluctant three at 29:03. Nice nod for referee Mike Chioda to question Austin's actions before being forced to count. Team WCW/ECW celebrates as we fade to black. *** Great start, great finish, so-so middle, but a satisfying Main Event with a nice twist finish. I was shocked and horrified with Austin's heel turn, a run that nobody asked for and everyone demanded an end to as soon as possible.
Final Thoughts: It's not winning any awards for best PPV of all-time, or even for the year (WrestleMania X-Seven says hello), but concept behind the structure of the show was such a fresh idea that it makes it a unique experience. The Main Event isn't great, but it delivers on being a wild brawl (for the most part), RVD is introduced and put over strong in his first PPV match, and except for the middle portion of the show featuring undercard hell, the crowd was incredibly hot all night. Mild Recommendation to give this a look, but don't try and play Fantasy Booker: You'll just depress yourself.
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