Presented LIVE on TNN from the AllState Arena in Chicago, IL. Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler are calling the action, unless otherwise noted. We're 24-hours removed from No Way Out, where the nWo made their first impressions and cost Steve Austin his chance at winning the Undisputed Championship. Oh, and Triple H lost his title shot for WrestleMania. I'm sure he won't win it back within the next week or so. Dark matches for the night include Billy and Chuck defeating Randy Orton and Shelton Benjamin, and (checks notes) Spike and Tazz defeating BROCK LESNAR AND LEVIATHAN. Holy crap, someone dig into the archives and unearth that gem.
Steve Austin, with chair in hand, comes out to kick off the night. Wow, we don't get a recap of the PPV first OR The Raw intro? Austin must mean business to change the format of the TV production. He snatches a microphone and even grabs his cooler of cold ones. That can only mean one thing: an in-ring protest. Austin says he's pi$$ed off. He had Jericho where he wanted him and three pieces of trash stuck their nose where it didn't belong. He tells the nWo to bring their a$$es to the ring right now. He can wait all night long if need be. To my surprise, Hogan, Hall and Nash make their presence known immediately, but hang back at the top of the ramp. Austin promises three Stunners with some stink on it. They tease coming to the ring, but turn tail. Austin calls them chicken-sh!ts, and wow, he didn't get bleeped by the censor. Austin promises to not leave the ring until they bring their a$$es to the ring. All they're doing is pi$$ing him off more.
We come back from commercial break and Austin is still in the ring. Kurt Angle, with Chicago's finest and cheapest security, comes out and says if anyone is taking valuable air time it should be someone going for a title at WrestleMania. Austin responds by chucking beers at him. Angle says if there's one thing he can't stand, it's a crybaby. Austin has a pretty good arm to throw from a seated position and nearly hit Angle at the top of the ramp. Angle gets in the ring to make his announcement anyway, and promises to win the Undisputed Championship. Austin picks the legs and unloads with right hands.The "off-duty cops" finally get involved and handcuff Austin while Angle taunts him with his own "What" chant. Angle is going to WrestleMania while Austin is going to jail. Jim Ross calls it "heartbreaking", I call it "trying to recapture the magic of 1997-98". As Austin gets loaded into the backseat, Scott Hall takes advantage of Austin's predicament and taunts him as the police depart the arena.
Kurt Angle and Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley are celebrating screwing over Triple H, but here's Ric Flair to give them a reality check. He liked the match last night so much, he wants them to run it back tonight. Kurt Angle vs Triple H for the title shot, and if Stephanie gets involved under any circumstances, Triple H automatically gets the shot.
The Undertaker storms into Flair's office, and Flair is ready to throw hands. Taker wanted to take Flair in the hall and whoop him, but instead he wants Flair in the ring at the grandest stage of them all, at WrestleMania. Flair says maybe 10 years ago he would step in the ring, but he rejects the challenge. Undertaker says he'll see what he can do to change Flair's mind.
WrestleMania Moment presented by Sour Skittles: Kane assaults Pete Rose at WrestleMania XIV.
The nWo tease leaving, but Hulk Hogan says he has personal stuff to take care of and asks for them to send the car back in about half-an-hour.
"Hollywood" Hulk Hogan makes his way to the ring, ready to cut his first in-ring promo on Monday Night Raw in nearly 9-years. Despite being a poison brought in to kill the WWF, the crowd is still giving him a mostly positive reaction while J.R. is selling to the audience that Hogan is a despicable POS. Hogan says it feels great to be back in the WWF and credits the WWF in making Hulkamania. They (Hulk and the fans) fought the Russians, the monsters, and even the 700-pound Andre the Giant together. J.R. calls BS on the weight of Andre. Something happened along the way and the people turned on him. He never wanted to leave the WWF but the fans drove him out (he tries to squash the "What" chant, unsuccessfully by attaching a "cha gonna do?" at the end of one) and compares it to sending Michael Jordan out of Chicago. He's the reason the fans are here and the reason wrestling is as big as it is today. He's the biggest star and there will never be a bigger star in wrestling than "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan.
This brings out The Rock, walking with a purpose. J.R. says it looks like wrestling's past is going to meet wrestling's future, then takes a swipe at Hogan's age, noting Rock is a "young man" when Lawler noted the difference in experience. Rock says who would've believed that Hogan and the Rock would share the same ring. Rock agrees with Hulk on some things, but asks if he really thinks it was the fans who drove him out of the WWF. Hogan tries to reply and gets shut down with a "it doesn't matter." "They loved you. They believed in you, and dammit, the Rock believed in you! But you know what happened? It was years after years after years of you eating the vitamins, saying the prayers, ripping the t-shirt off, running wild over everyone. "What'cha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild over you?!" The Rock will tell you what the people did. The people ran right to the toilet, pulled their pants down, and took one big Hulk-a-crap every time you opened your mouth."
The Rock says without a shadow of doubt that Hulk Hogan is a legend and an icon, quite possibly the best ever. Seeing as he's back in the WWF, the Rock has one thing to say. "You talk about headlining WrestleMania after WrestleMania after WrestleMania... well Hulk Hogan, how about headlining one more WrestleMania with the Rock?!" The crowd splits with chants of Hogan and Rocky as both men look on, with Hogan finally breaking the silence. Hogan calls Rock "flavor of the month." He asks Rock what makes him think he's as big a star as he is. Rock cuts him off and simply asks "yes or no." Rock paints him a picture, a fantasy match-up that transcends the industry and settles who is the absolute best ever. Maybe it's not up to them to decide, maybe it's up to the people. "Do they want to see the Immortal Hulk Hogan go one-on-one with the Great One?" Rock plays to the crowd, cupping his ear, waiting for a response. "Yes... or no?" Hogan finally responds "Yes. It'll be a pleasure to kick your a$$ at WrestleMania."
Hogan offers a handshake and pulls him in tight, wishing him luck, because he's going to need it. Rock holds firm on the grip, pulling Hogan back in and replies "Not as much as you... brother" before planting Hogan with a Rock Bottom! The celebration is short-lived, as Scott Hall and Kevin Nash jump Rock at the top of the entrance ramp. They feed Rock into the ring where Hogan lays into him with the weight belt. "Do you think the Rock regrets his actions now?!" Hall with "the move we used to call the Razor's Edge" to a babyface pop. Nash with the Jackknife Powerbomb. Nash and Hall peel Rock off the apron, holding him open for Hogan to bash him over the head with a hammer. Hogan plays to the crowd some more before dropping the leg and covers while Hall makes the three-count. They give Rock the spray tag treatment to add further insult to injury. Rock gets taken out on a stretcher, BUT WAIT, THE NWO ISN'T FINISHED. They block the exit and chain the doors of the ambulance shut. Hogan climbs into a nearby semi, promises to "lay the smackdown on his crippled ass" and plows into the side of the ambulance. When all is said and done, the three nefarious goons check out their dirty deed and run like a group of pre-teens who just toilet papered their neighbors lawn. I don't think we needed all the gaga after Rock got stretchered out, but this was a hell of a segment and immediately gives us a match for WrestleMania that we can look forward to.
Michael Cole is backstage with Kurt Angle, who no-sells what happened to the Rock and is still disgusted by Ric Flair's decision to not only put his title shot on the line, but banning Stephanie from ringside as well. He's going to beat Triple H tonight and end today on a good note.
Angle continues dishing out the punishment in the corner. He misses a charge and smacks his shoulder on the post, buying Triple H time to recover. He lays into Angle with right hands and takes him down with a neck breaker. The crowd starts popping and everyone is looking away from the action, so who knows what is going on in the crowd. Whip and Hunter with a knee to the face, followed by a DDT. Whip is reversed and Trips puts on the brakes to avoid running into Chioda. Angle fights out of a Pedigree while the crowd is still distracted by something happening elsewhere. Angle with a back suplex. He climbs the ropes for a moonsault but Hunter follows and brings him down with an electric chair drop for a near-fall. Angle's head smacking the canvas is a strong enough example why that spot should never be done. They fight on the floor again, with Hunter going splat after taking a third belly-to-belly suplex. Angle stops to talk smack with Jericho and uses one of his belts to lay out Helmsley. The referee wastes time arguing with Jericho and takes forever to get in position to count the fall. Angle with the German suplex trio and THE STRAPS ARE DOWN. Angle with the Ankle Lock, but Hunter gets to the ropes to force the break. Hunter with a handful of tights, sending Angle face-first into the turnbuckle. Angle counters the Pedigree and reapplies the Ankle Lock. Hunter rolls through to break the hold and hits the Pedigree to regain his title shot 12:03. "FINALLY SOMETHING FAIR HAS HAPPENED!" Better match than what we got at the Pay-Per-View, all thanks to cutting Stephanie out of action. ***¼
Final Thoughts: The historic face-to-face with Hulk Hogan and The Rock easily makes this an episode worth checking out at some point, even if they overbooked things with the whole "Semi running repeatedly into an ambulance" gimmick. It also gives us a match to look forward to at WrestleMania. Oh, and Triple H regained his shot and will challenge Chris Jericho for the Undisputed Title. The rest of the show might as well have been a black screen, with a few matches that didn't serve much purpose other than to fill time.
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