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WWF Smackdown - January 17, 2002

by Scrooge McSuck

The Rock

Taped on January 15th from the CenturyTel Center in Bossier City, LA. Yes, that's a place WWF went to for television, I'm as surprised as you are. Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler are calling the action, unless otherwise noted. We're only a few days away from the Royal Rumble, and with the entire card known, there's a strong chance there will be a lot of rehashing the stuff we've seen over the last couple of weeks with an under-card that is a mixed bag of "McMahon vs Flair" and "everything else." Also, no matter how hard they try, I'm sorry, but no one has a chance at winning the Rumble Match other than the returning Triple H. Matches taped for Heat included Perry Saturn def. Shawn Stasiak, Albert def. Funaki, and Scotty 2 Hotty def The Hurricane. This was only featured in international markets, and my most recent searches came up empty, so I'll never know if I'm missing a 5-star classic.

The Rock has arrived and comes across Steve Austin, sipping on a beer. Austin is here to give the Rock some good news: "Stone Cold Steve Austin is going to win the Royal Rumble." That means some bad news too. When the Rock beats Jericho for the Undisputed Title, that means he's facing Steve Austin at WrestleMania, and last he checked the record books, it's 2-0 Austin when they've met at WrestleMania. Rock didn't need the reminder of his failures at WrestleMania. He thinks about it all the time, and the last time he thought about it was Survivor Series when he beat Austin. Rock tells Austin to do his thing, and he'll see him at WrestleMania (Spoilers: NOPE... well, not until the following year, at least). TONIGHT: Steve Austin and TRIPLE H take on Kurt Angle and Booker T. Wow, you're giving away Hunter's first match away on FREE TV? Not even Monday Night Raw mind you. That's certainly a decision I wouldn't have gone with if you were to ask me to book the show 100 times.

Rob Van Dam vs. William Regal:

With RVD as one of the upper-tier names for a Rumble with no chance of winning, and Regal challenging for the Intercontinental Championship, my best guess is that RVD wins after Regal' power of the punch backfires, since booking protocol is to have someone lose on the go-home shows of a PPV where they have a strong chance of winning the title, especially with how Regal stole a victory on the latest episode of Raw. Still waiting on the debut of Regal's Bond Villain theme music. Lockup and RVD grabs a side headlock. They run through a few counters until RVD sweeps the leg and hits Regal with a spinning leg drop. Whip is countered with a forearm and Regal flips RVD on his face with a release German suplex. Regal comes off the ropes with a knee to the face for two. Regal continues to dish it out with a series of forearms. Loud "Regal Sucks" chant as he applies a straight-jacket chin-lock. RVD counters a short clothesline with a back body-drop and surprises Regal with a rolling schoolboy for two. Regal quickly regains control and sits across the back with a cross-face. RVD fights free with elbows to the body. Whip is reversed and RVD with a pair of heel kicks, followed by a running senton for two. Regal meets an elbow in the corner and RVD follows with a flying cross body for two. Regal sends RVD face-first into the turnbuckle and fetches something from under the timekeeper's table. Back in the ring, RVD comes off the top with a missile dropkick. Regal cuts RVD off in the corner with the Power of the Punch, and that's good for the three-count at 5:08. I'm honestly surprised by that finish. Decent while it lasted. **

Kurt Angle is searching for the Rock's locker room and doesn't take kindly to a backstage hand acknowledging him as "Kurt." When we come back from commercial, Angle has arrived at his desired destination. Angle says it'll be the Rock and Angle in the Main Event at WrestleMania. Sorry Kurt, you're pegged far lower on the card than that. The Rock humors him for a few seconds before telling Kurt to wake up from his dream, because everything he just imagined isn't going to happen. Reality is the Rock will head into WrestleMania as Undisputed Champion and leave as the Undisputed Champion.

Tajiri (w/ Torrie Wilson) vs. Billy (w/ Chuck):

We're reminded this is a Non-Title Match. I'm sure I could figure out that Billy doesn't meet the weight requirements of the Cruiserweight Championship. Billy just beat Tajiri on Sunday Night Heat, and along with Chuck defeated Tajiri and the Hurricane on Raw, so this feels like lazy filler. Tajiri and Torrie continues to be the Oddest Odd Couple in the WWF. Lockup into the corner and Billy takes liberties with him. Whip across the ring, Tajiri brings up a boot and comes off the ropes with a spinning head-scissors. Tajiri with an enzuigiri. Billy counters a wheelbarrow bulldog with a sit-out face-buster. I think there's an effort to get over "Billy and Chucky", but they abandoned that quickly. Tajiri rocks-a-Billy with a Super-Kick, followed by a Tornado DDT for two. Whip is reversed and Tajiri hits a handspring elbow for two. Billy gets caught in the Tarantula. Chuck runs in and gets blasted in the face with the green mist, but this distracts Tajiri long enough for Billy to recover and hit the Fame-Asser for three at 2:43. All this happened in clear view of the referee, so while Chuck didn't make physical contact, he breached the area of combat, and Billy should have been disqualified. Post-match, Chuck lays Tajiri out with a Super-Kick. Cruiserweight Champion, ladies and gentlemen.

Now Triple H is entering the Rock's dressing room without permission. This feels like someone booking an EWR show, and they had 3-minutes to get it done, so they just ran with the same backstage segments over and over to pad the lineup. Sunday is a big day for them both, and Rock knows him better than anyone. Like everyone else before him, Hunter promises to walk out the winner (Spoilers: you know the gag by now). Rock promises to leave as Undisputed Champion, then Hunter tells him "Only until he gets to WrestleMania."

Lillian Garcia attempts to get a word from Trish Stratus ahead of her title defense against Jazz, but Jazz attacks before she can say anything and slams Trish's hand inside a shipping crate to make her point. They couldn't do a second take of this so that Garcia's flub of saying Jackie is challenging Trish wasn't left in there?

The Boss Man vs. Diamond Dallas Page:

I honestly can't tell you when DDP last wrestled on Raw or Smackdown. If DDP wins this match, he will be reinstated in the WWF and allowed participation in the Royal Rumble Match. How nice of Flair to look out for his fellow WCW alumni. This is quite the random match to have in 2002 WWF. Lawler says, "no one beats the Boss Man." SURE, KING. Lockup to the corner and Boss Man with a sucker punch over the shoulder of referee Teddy Long. Whip across the ring, WITH AUTHORITY. DDP fires off a series of strikes and finishes the combo with a discus clothesline. Boss Man cuts him off with a big boot and grabs a choke. Whip and Boss Man with a spine-buster. Cole says DDP could have a future as a motivational speaker. DDP counters a sleeper with a jaw breaker and hits another discus clothesline. Boss Man with a blatant low blow to counter the mounted corner punches. DDP slips out of a slam and the Diamond Cutter finishes at 3:09. Boss Man took the move like a Stunner. Bad match with a dead crowd. This was a taped show, and they couldn't bother to do a little more sweetening?

The Undertaker is lurking around the Rock's locker room. Has he been standing in the corner this entire time?! At least Taker makes it short and sweet.

The Rock has had enough of people rudely entering his locker room and brings it to the ring. Did you know he's challenging Jericho for the Undisputed Championship at the Royal Rumble, and that the Champion faces the winner of the Royal Rumble Match at WrestleMania? Rock cracks a joke that it seems like everyone is going to win the Rumble, because Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Triple H, the Undertaker, Big Show, and Booker T have all said it. Heck, he just got a post card from Goldust saying he would win the Royal Rumble. THE JABRONI HOLDING THE CAMERA IS GOING TO WIN THE ROYAL RUMBLE. Rock demands the camera (with suitable "Rock Cam" graphic") and gives him the opportunity to wave hello to his family and boyfriend Mike (because homosexuality was still something used casually for a cheap laugh). There's a six-year-old kid in the front row that says he is going to win the Royal Rumble. This hot little momma right here thinking about the Rock's strudel says she's going to win the Royal Rumble. Now that the fun and games are over, Chris Jericho interrupts. Again, for the UNDISPUTED WORLD CHAMPION, he's positioned way down the depth chart. He's mad that the Rock hasn't mentioned his name one time and that everyone is worried about facing him at WrestleMania. Oh great, "transitional champion" is used in a promo. WINK-WINK stuff like that was slipping through the cracks in 2002?! Jericho says the most painful thing is the truth, and the truth is Ron Killings (just kidding, we're about 7-8 months away from that. NWA-TNA wasn't even a thing yet!). Rock can face whoever he wants at WrestleMania, because it won't be for the Undisputed Title. Rock lets Jericho know that everyone knows who the better man is, and that's the Rock. This segment keeps dragging, attempting to put it over as a big deal when it's not even the biggest match featured underneath the Rumble Match.

Rikishi vs. Christian & Lance Storm:

This is advertised as a Handicap Over-The-Top-Rope Challenge, no doubt inspired by the AWA Team Challenge Series. You'd expect them to do this match with the Big Show or Kane involved. While neither man has a hope in hell of winning the Rumble, they have a little more credibility at this point than Rikishi, who missed most of 2001, and lost all his momentum with that heel turn in the Fall of 2000. Christian and Storm attack immediately, but Rikishi runs through them with a double clothesline. Christian's sunset flip backfires, but Storm saves with a running heel kick. Why do a SUNSET FLIP in a BATTLE ROYAL RULES MATCH? Rikishi fights them off again, planting Storm with a Samoan drop. Storm gets crushed in the corner and gets the Stink-Face for his troubles. Rikishi with a Super-Kick, eliminating Storm at 1:29. Christian tries to take advantage of Rikishi having his back turn, but it fails and Rikishi dumps Christian at 1:42 for the meaningless victory. Big Show makes his entrance for the battle of the big boys. Show goes up and takes a Samoan drop, then makes the comeback by scooping Rikishi up to walk him halfway across the ring before dumping him out. Then the APA come out and Big Show is knocked out with the clothesline from hell. Bradshaw tries dumping Faarooq, who is all "what the hell man" in a match where it's EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF. They make nice and now Faarooq tries dumping Bradshaw. Kane interrupts their bickering and is the last man standing tall. My biggest takeaway from this is how little chance Christian and Storm have on Sunday.

SHOCKING footage taped earlier today caught the Dudley Boyz "disturbing attack" on the WWF Tag Team Champions. The disturbing behavior turns out to be a basic street fight where the Dudley Boyz jumped Spike and Tazz from behind. Oh, sorry, they gave Spike a 3D on the concrete. I don't know if I'd call that disturbing. Maybe not the wisest decision from Spike to take that move on that surface, but he's a grown man and can make his own decisions.

Debra (still there!) is still mad about what Stephanie said to her on Monday and vents her frustration to her level-headed husband.

Kurt Angle and Booker T are preparing for their match, but at the Royal Rumble, blah blah blah everyone for themself. I was expecting a bunch of filler and it's not disappointing me on that hunch.

Edge vs. Test:

Another Non-Title Match, though in this case, it's all about preserving an advertised match for the PPV. DID YOU KNOW TEST HAS IMMUNITY FOR ONE YEAR?! He's such a threat for the Royal Rumble, he's neither entered the Rock's locker room uninvited nor ran in during that dumbass segment that started as a handicap battle royal between a fat guy and two skinny dudes who need to add their weight together to match the opponent. Lockup and Edge grabs a waist-lock. Test counters with an elbow on the chin but is quickly caught by surprise with a hurricanrana and spinning heel kick for two. Test ducks under a clothesline and plants Edge with a full nelson slam. Whip across the ring and Test charges in with a clothesline for two. Edge pops up and hits an enzuigiri out of nowhere. Test gets planted face-first in an odd-looking move. He blocks the DDT, backing Edge into the corner. Edge counters the pump-handle slam with a reverse DDT for two. Edge with a clothesline, taking Test over the top rope. This match feels like a backdrop to recap everything that happened so far on this episode. Regal comes out for a sneak attack, but Edge sees it coming. He intercepts a chair from Test to whack Regal with it, then he whacks Test for the Disqualification at 3:43. After the decision is made, Nick Patrick takes a chair shot as well. I'm sorry, I don't have much feeling for Edge vs Regal, no matter how many times they interact.

Triple H wants Stephanie to stay in the back while he takes care of business in the ring.

Triple H & Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle & Booker T:

Giving away Triple H's first match for free on NETWORK TELEVISION. The ratings couldn't have started falling that hard already. I say this a lot, but how did Booker T get to keep his WCW theme music for as long as he did? As one of the few WCW original themes that slapped, it was nice to see it survive. Hunter and Austin exchange words but are aware enough to see Angle's ambush attempt. Austin pounds on Angle in the corner and counters an inverted atomic drop with a clothesline. Booker with a distraction, allowing Angle to take control. The advantage is short lived as Austin hits Angle with the Stun Gun for a near-fall. Booker tags in and walks into a clothesline. Hunter in for the first time and puts the boots to Booker in the corner. He hits a sloppy neck breaker and takes a shot at Angle on the apron. Booker surprises him with a jumping heel kick and tags in Angle, who immediately gives up control. Austin with a suplex and knee across the chest. Booker offers more assistance from the apron. Crisscross and Austin plants Booker with a spine-buster. Booker blocks a Stunner and nails Austin with an awkward spinning heel kick. Lawler's math is terrible, saying Angle and Booker are good enough to beat the other 29 guys in the Rumble. Austin teases a comeback, hitting the Thesz Press, but Angle cuts him off with a release belly-to-belly suplex. Booker with the scissors kick and celebratory spin-a-rooni. Booker with a jumping heel kick but Hunter saves. Austin fights off both men and finally makes the tag to Hunter. He runs wild with clotheslines and a running high knee. Angle and Booker get dumped out and Austin and Hunter almost come to blows. Angle gets dumped out again and Hunter plants Booker with a spine-buster. He sets up for the Pedigree, but Angle saves. Angle gets dumped for the third time in 60-seconds. Austin with a Stunner and Hunter finishes Booker with the Pedigree at 9:51. After the match, the Undertaker shows up at the top of the ramp to have our awkward stare down that will mean nothing on Sunday. Match was fine, but all over the place at the end. **

Final Thoughts: There's no doubt I'm ready for the Royal Rumble. Not because it looks like an amazing card, but the build has been so lazy and lackluster for most of it that I'm ready to put it behind me. My original instincts of starting with the brand split seemed to be the right call, but we got some important stuff coming dammit, and I'm going to get through it. We've covered the 2002 Royal Rumble in the past, but you know we need to re-visit that show for the sake of this series.

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