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WWF RAW- January 7, 2002

by Scrooge McSuck

Triple H

Presented LIVE from Madison Square Garden, with what I can only assume is a sell-out crowd adjusting for the gargantuan stage eating up a few thousand seats. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are calling the action, unless otherwise noted. In case you were living under a rock, the big hype for the show is the return of Triple H after a 7-month absence due to tearing his quadriceps in a tag team match the night after Judgment Day.

Dark matches that evening featured some OVW names that would be brought TV regularly in early 2002: Brock Lesnar defeated Rico Constantino, and Randy Orton defeated Ron Waterman. 2 of them were pillars to build on, one was turned into a manager who occasionally wrestled, and the other never made it to the main roster. I don't think I need to detail which men fall under each of those descriptions. For Jakked/Metal, the Hurricane pinned Funaki, Crash Holly pinned Prince Nana, Perry Saturn pinned John Jirus (a.k.a. Xavier), and Christian pinned Low-Ki. Obviously not a star-studded lineup, but a couple of interesting names there for the enhancement talent.

Just to get it out of the way, the Raw intro feels dated already, having retained the same look and song for a couple of years. I'm not saying intros need to be changed constantly, but 2002 Raw doesn't have that same 2000 feel, and that's what the video looks like, complete with DX era X-Pac still spliced in. We're promised a TAG TEAM CONFRONTATION FOR THE AGES when Stone Cold and the Rock face Booker T and the Boss Man. Oh, and Triple H returns.

Vince McMahon, with a mysterious package, comes out to open the show. YAY. I haven't seen this segment in 20 years, and I already know what to expect. Vince vs Flair is being pushed harder than any other match at the Royal Rumble. Vince even says it is more important than the return of Triple H. Vince promises to show highlights of Flair's heyday against the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, and "The Man They Call Vader." That WCW library is already paying dividends. I can't tell if we've got dubbed music or not, but I'm leaning towards the "it is" response. To my surprise, none of the clips are embarrassing, so Vince is already treating Flair better than Eric Bischoff. We recap the return of Ric Flair on November 19th and Flair sucker-punching him to announce their match at the Rumble. Vince has a shiner that is credited to Flair attacking him on the recent episode of Smackdown. Vince says he's going to prove he's the man and goes to the box. Inside is a white wig and purple Flair robe, giving Vince the opportunity to do his best (worst) Ric Flair impression. Flair interrupts, unamused by Vince's antics. Vince is prepared for the occasion and whacks Flair across the head with a lead pipe. Do I have to tell you that Flair blades Vince hops on Flair's robe like it's a Three Stooges short film. He parades Flair around the ring for the world to see before dumping him through the ropes. Vince continues the assault, throwing Flair into the steps and throwing some pathetic kicks.

Rob Van Dam vs. Test:

RVD has his tights and hair band color-coordinated, for those who pay attention to that stuff. Ross says Test is a guy with an attitude problem and bullies' people because he has immunity from being terminated (see the Survivor Series 2001 recap for explanation, I guess). Test drives a knee to the midsection. Whip to the ropes, RVD flips over a back body-drop and connects with a heel kick for two. Test catches another heel kick and plants RVD with a back suplex. Whip to the corner and Test charges in with a clothesline. Why are we grabbing chin-locks in matches that rarely go 4-minutes? RVD escapes with elbows, but Test stays in control by whacking him across the back. RVD flips through a suplex and takes Test off his feet with a basement dropkick. RVD with a springboard kick to the chest. Test cuts him off again, but RVD counters the Pump-Handle Slam. He lays Test out with a heel kick and goes to the top rope, but Test knocks Tim White into the ropes, straddling RVD in the process. Test covers for two and pitches a fit, trading shoves with White and getting rolled up for a near-fall. RVD avoids the running boot and knocks Test out of the ring with an enzuigiri. Test fetches a chair. White tries to intercept, but Test shoves him down. RVD connects with the Van-Daminator, and the Five-Star Frog Splash finishes at 3:45. Lot of stuff happening in a short package. The Test "push" was annoying, and I couldn't wait for it to end.

Kurt Angle is annoyed, interrupting Jonathon Coachman for hyping up Triple H. Angle says he's the one with a big announcement, so he's the one that should be interviewed. He refuses to give Coach answers to some "pity questions" and is going to show everyone that tonight is his night.

Trish Stratus is hosting from WWF New York in Times Square. Terri Runnels interrupts, and they're setting up a wet t-shirt contest for later in the show. Yes, the WOMEN'S CHAMPION is wasting time in a "match" that is nothing more than exploiting sexuality instead of being treated as a legitimate athlete.

Scotty 2 Hotty & Albert vs. Billy & Chuck:

Billy and Chuck are still using Gunn's music from his "The One" Billy Gunn days. Billy says if anyone should be in a wet t-shirt contest, it would be him and Chuck, because of their fabulous physiques. He asks Chuck to pull out his hose, and the music of Scotty and Albert thankfully interrupts. Babyface Albert is always an odd thing to see. He plays into the whole "Hip-Hop Hippo" thing, so credit there for commitment. Albert and Billy start. Billy grabs a side headlock, but Albert throws him off. Albert blocks a whip to the corner and connects with a short clothesline. Billy and Chuck get knocked into each other and do the spot where one man falls into the other's crotch. Scotty with a neck breaker on Chuck for two. Billy with a cheap shot from the apron, allowing Chuck to take control. Scotty slips out of a running powerslam and plants Chuck with a DDT. Albert in with the lukewarm tag, running wild with right hands. Whip and Albert with a powerslam on Billy for two. We get heel miscommunication, setting up Billy for the Worm. Chuck saves and knocks Albert out of the ring with a Super Kick. Scotty's too distracted fighting off Chuck, allowing Billy to hit the Fame-Asser for three at 3:44. Not much heat here, and can you blame this crowd?

Sharmell is backstage with Chris Jericho. Remember when she was a backstage interviewer? Jericho cuts her off to put himself over. He applauds Vince for leaving Flair in a pool of his own blood and promises to defeat the Rock for a FIFTH time. He's not happy he needs to meet Rikishi in a Non-Title Match, accusing Flair of putting him in the match for the sake of being humiliated with a stink-face.

Michael Cole is backstage acting like an interviewer. What happened, did someone miss their flight? Steve Austin enters the scene and annoys everyone with the "What" routine. Triple H is here, if you haven't been paying attention. He understands what Triple H has gone through having to overcome a career threatening injury (SHUT UP. A torn quad is hardly career-ending for a professional wrestler). Austin says he's going to be part of the Royal Rumble Match. I. HATE. THE. WHAT. GIMMICK. SO. MUCH.

Jerry Lawler shows off a Super Soaker. He'll MC the wet t-shirt contest between Trish and Terri.

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
Edge (c) vs. Lance Storm:

SummerSlam '01 rematch! Storm opens with a flurry of right hands. He makes a trip to the top rope and gets nailed on the way down with a dropkick. Edge with a pair of elbows, followed by a back body-drop. Storm blocks the DDT, and they trade roll-ups until Storm applies the single-leg crab. Edge gets to the ropes to force the break and throws more elbows. Edge with the DDT out of nowhere to retain at 1:11. You can tell they were rushing through things, but these two getting 71-seconds is an insult. Immediately after the match, William Regal returns from having his nose busted at the hands of Edge, jumping him on the ramp and gives him the POWER OF THE PUNCH with the loaded left hand.

Kurt Angle is with Christian backstage, pondering what the big deal is about Triple H returning. Angle is the one who single-handedly saved the WWF at the Survivor Series.

The Rock & "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Booker T & The Boss Man:

One of these names is not like the others. One of these names doesn't belong. IF YOU COULDN'T GUESS, IT'S THE BOSS MAN. Boss Man is introduced at 305 pounds, so maybe that's why they dropped the "Big" from his name. He's still wearing the riot gear that he debuted in the Fall of 1998. Who knew in January 2002 we were seeing the last of the Rock as a full-time professional wrestler? Who remembers so many WWF superstars having websites dedicated to themselves? Why am I asking so many questions? Rock and Austin don't waste time, bringing the fight to the floor. Austin chases Boss Man into the ring and hits the Thesz Press. Austin unloads with mounted rights and drops the F-U elbow. He continues dishing it out, knocking Boss Man over the top rope and turning his attention to Booker. Crisscross in the ring until Austin hits the Stun Gun. Meanwhile, Boss Man gets knocked around by the Rock. Booker cuts off the mounted rights, but Austin blocks the atomic drop and lays him out with a clothesline. Rock in legally for the first time to unload with rights and bounce off the ropes with a diving clothesline. Boss Man counters a whip to the corner and follows in with an avalanche. Booker in and he's hit with a clothesline. Boss Man pulls the ropes down, causing Rocky to fall to the floor. Back inside, Booker boots the ribs that Boss Man whacked with the nightstick. Rock teases the comeback, throwing Booker overhead with a belly-to-belly suplex. He sets up for the People's Elbow, but Boss Man saves, and Booker hits the Book End. Austin charges in and hits a spine-buster for the hell of it. Boss Man keeps Rock in the ring, pounding on the body. Whip and Boss Man with a clothesline for two. Booker with a "straight martial arts kick" (Super Kick) for two. Rock and Booker take turns throwing chops in the corner. Rock avoids the Axe Kick and connects with a DDT. Austin with the hot tag, running wild with clotheslines. He takes Boss Man over with a sorry looking back body drop. Booker saves, but Rock takes care of him, leaving Boss Man to eat the Stunner to end this at 8:21. Afterwards, Austin and Rock share some beer. MSG got to enjoy a Super Team and remained hot for most of the match. **

Rikishi vs. Chris Jericho:

Non-Title Match, since Rikishi is a non-threat at this point. Injuries kept Rikishi out of action for the duration of the Invasion angle, and never found much success once he came back, floating around for a couple of years before being released in the Summer of 2004 for weight issues. Rikishi avoids a jump attack and unloads with right hands. He hits a clothesline and avalanche, but referee Nick Patrick gets in the way of things, allowing Jericho to powder out. Rikishi follows, throwing more rights and giving him a taste of the announcer's table. Jericho avoids being used as a battering ram and sends Rikishi to the post. Back inside, Jericho with a missile dropkick for a two-count. Rikishi teases a comeback until missing a leg drop. Jericho comes off the ropes with a bulldog. Rikishi avoids the lionsault and plants Jericho with an Alabama Slam. Jericho gets sent to the corner and Rikishi connects with a Samoan drop. Rikishi sets up for the Bonzai Drop, but Patrick gets in the way again. WHY? Rikishi misses the Banzai Drop, with Jericho rolling to the floor to grab a championship belt. Rikishi avoids the belt shot and knocks both Jericho and Patrick into the corner. Jericho avoids danger, giving Nick Patrick the full effect of a Stink-Face. Jericho knocks Rikishi silly with the belt and covers for three at 4:29, despite Patrick not looking and Jim Ross insisting Rikishi had his shoulders off the canvas. WHAT THE HELL WAS THE POINT OF THIS? ½*

Torrie Wilson, Tajiri, and Big Show are backstage to talk about the return of Triple H. Kurt Angle calls them a bunch of teenagers at a Ricky Martin concert. Angle reminds everyone Triple H made life miserable. Big Show gushing over Triple H does seem a bit odd. I get hyping the return of one of your stars, but this is going above and beyond.

The Dudleys, Spike, and Tazz cross paths backstage. I guess we're running it back despite Bubba and D'Von getting a decisive victory on Smackdown. Bubba asks if Tazz is getting ready for Sunday Night Heat. Tazz promises to take Bubba back to where they come from as they trade remarks that harken back to their ECW days.

WWF Tag Team Championship; Hardcore Rules Match:
The Dudley Boyz (c) (w/ Stacy Keibler) vs. Tazz & Spike Dudley:

I swear I'm going to mention in every show I cover that Stacy with the Dudley Boyz is such a random thing that I keep forgetting it existed. Anyone want to take bets on if she's sexually harassed again, or if a Dudley is taking an unprotected weapon shot to the head? The fight starts in the aisle, with Bubba whipping Spike with the title belt and sending him into the steps. Meanwhile, D'Von hits Tazz with a spinning back elbow. Bubba pulls out the plunder and brains Tazz with a trash can lid. Crowd chants "we want tables". Spike avoids being hit with the fire extinguisher. He tries a sunset flip and gets blasted in the face. Bubba smacks Tazz around some more and D'Von hits the WASSUP flying headbutt to the family jewels. Bubba whispers to D'Von to get the tables so the crowd can't sing along with the heels. THANK YOU. Spike hits the Dudley Dog on D'Von and smacks Bubba across the head with a Stop sign. Tazz with the Tazzmission on D'Von, but he lets go to save Spike from being thrown through the table. Stacy hops on the apron to show off her goodies, but it ends up distracting Bubba instead. Tazz with a suplex, bouncing Bubba off the table. Spike with the Dudley Dog through the table and we have NEW CHAMPIONS at 3:46. Spike jobbing at every opportunity to his half-brothers for most of 2001 finally pays off! At least the crowd was into it, but this was mindless stuff with weapons and nothing else.

The Undertaker with a pre-tape talking about Poochie the Rockin' Dog.

Jerry Lawler is in the ring for our prestigious WET T-SHIRT CONTEST between Terri Runnels and WWF Women's Champion Trish Stratus. When I think of wet t-shirts, I usually imagine using a white shirt, but both women are wearing pink. Terri goes first, does her routine, and before Trish can get sprayed with the Super Soaker 7800, Jazz jumps her from behind. Lawler saves and Jazz randomly dropkicks him in the knee before bailing out. Before I bury this segment completely, we must remember Trish wasn't an in-ring vet. Until she won the title at Survivor Series the previous November, she was a "gimmick" match girl, wrestling in a kiddy pool of thanksgiving gravy and bra and panties matches, so I can understand the concept behind the feud with Jazz, a wrestler, not taking kindly to a championship belt held by someone who doesn't represent wrestling the way she does. Of course, Jazz is the heel, and Trish is the hot blonde, so mixed messages and all that. By the end of 2002, Trish would have a lot more respect on her name for immense improvement in the ring.

In the main event segment, Triple H finally returns to the WWF, and the crowd loses their mind, giving him honestly one of the greatest reactions I've ever heard. Based on this reaction, you'd think Triple H would be a long-time babyface the fans would never grow tired of. Oh 2002, you're a cruel mistress. This entrance goes long enough that the music loops. "Like him or not, this man deserves respect." At times it feels like J.R. is trying to play it like we don't know his intentions, then a minute later gushes over him like a true babyface. Triple H says in case we've forgotten that he's the game and you can bet you're a$$ he's back. Tonight, he officially enters the Royal Rumble. Kurt Angle interrupts, to the chagrin of J.R. Angle steals Hunter's thunder, also declaring for the Royal Rumble (joining the likes of Stone Cold and the Undertaker). Angle rags on Hunter milking a quad injury while he won an Olympic gold medal with a broken FREAKIN neck. Angle reminds us this is his first Rumble and brags about whipping Hunter at last year's Rumble. Hunter doesn't take kindly to those words and hits Angle with a spear. He unloads on Angle with right hands but is caught with his head down and thrown with a German suplex. Hunter pops up and hits Angle with a clothesline. Boot to the midsection and Angle eats the Pedigree to close out the show. "That's what happens when you steal the spotlight from the Game." HAHAHAHAHA...

Final Thoughts: You have the big return of Triple H, which was the big selling point of this episode. Other than the Tag Titles changing hands, there isn't much else to get too excited about. Vince vs. Flair is being pushed harder than any other match, and we've got a bunch of short matches that are just filling time. Based on what is going on, we can probably add Trish vs Jazz for the Women's Title at the PPV, and Regal attacking Edge seems to be a recipe for a spot on the show as well. We'll see how things play out on Smackdown and maybe they'll give us some more names for the Rumble. With Hunter, Austin, Angle, and Taker all declared, there's probably no heavy hitters left with a reasonable shot at winning.

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