Taped on February 19th from the Metro Center in Rockford, IL, with Michael Cole and Jerry "The King" Lawler calling the action, unless otherwise noted. Taped for Sunday Night Heat: Tajiri finally picks up a victory, pinning fellow Cruiserweight, The Hurricane. Test pinned The Godfather, Booker T pinned Val Venis, and William Regal pinned Rikishi with the Power of the Punch. Also featured for the live audience only included two dark matches: Albert and Scotty 2 Hotty defeated Brock Lesnar and Ron Waterman, and Mr. Perfect and Leviathan defeated Randy Orton and Shelton Benjamin. To my surprise, this taping date has little in terms of details on my favorite source, so I'm going in cold as far as the non-matches are concerned.
Vince McMahon opens with a pre-recorded statement giving the false impression of denouncing the actions of the nWo and should be held responsible for their actions. He feels certain that everyone will be satisfied by the punishment they receive, and that punishment is to insist that the nWo publicly apologize to the Rock.
Kurt Angle comes out, dressed to compete and looking unhappy. He's not in the mood for the fans and their nonsense tonight. He was robbed off his title shot at WrestleMania, and since then he's been dying to take out his frustrations and promises to stand in the ring all night until someone is stupid enough to face him in a match. Who will his opponent be? Well, tonight, his opponent is...
Ric Flair and Arn Anderson are watching, with Flair talking about needing to get control of things like what Angle and the New World Order have done. The Undertaker interrupts, looking for an answer from Ric Flair. He doesn't care about anything but an answer to his challenge. Flair's answer is "no", and Taker doesn't take it well, calling Flair a coward. "That's the last no answer I'm going to take. Come Monday night, something tells me your answer is going to be yes."
We recap the New World Order and the effects they've had on the careers of Steve Austin and The Rock at No Way Out and the following night on Raw, including a lengthy piece of the Rock/Hogan confrontation that set up their match for WrestleMania. This eats up more than 10-minutes of television, for those who keep track of that sort of thing.
The New World Order come out to face their punishment, all while Michael Cole is doing his over-the-top routine that goes from selling their dastardly behavior to making the viewer roll their eyes. They take turns reading a prepared statement with zero sincerity. The prepared statement even notes that the Rock assaulted Hogan first. HILARIOUS. They tuck away the paper and Hogan says he won't be sorry for what he does to the Rock at WrestleMania. Steve Austin's music hits and he pulls up to the ring in his truck, tire iron in hand. He lays into all three men and makes Hall the focus of his attack. He tries to back up over Hall, but Hogan and Nash pull him to safety. During the break, we see the nWo limo has flat tires and "What?" spray painted across it.
Meanwhile, the nWo are still running from Steve Austin. Wait... where's Scott Hall? Hogan and Nash are selling this like they are teenagers running from Jason Voorhees. We catch up to Steve Austin, and he's got Hall tied up inside a cooler filled with alcohol and Pepsi. Austin can have all the beer, but I won't mind having a lifetime supply of Pepsi. Again, with the knowledge of Hall's personal demons, WHY ARE YOU PUTTING HIM SITUATIONS LIKE THIS?
Ric Flair is on the phone when he's interrupted by Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. I don't know what is worse, Stephanie's screaming over-acting or Michael Cole's screaming over-selling. She threatens to slap the smile off Flair's face but ends up face-to-face with her estranged husband. Hunter says it's like they always say, "life's a b!tch, then you marry one."
Meanwhile, Steve Austin wheels Scott Hall around the backstage area. I'd call him out for kidnapping, but Hogan got away with attempted murder, so what do I know about legal ramifications. Did I mention Hogan's searching for Hall while armed with a snow shovel? THIS is the best you can do with Hogan after that killer segment with the Rock on Monday?
Steve Austin is still running around the arena with Scott Hall taped to a chair. He's treating him as a piece of cheese for the rats to come looking for. When they get here, they'll say hello to Austin's little friend (the tire iron from earlier).
Lillian Garcia is with Billy and Chuck, putting each other over as the greatest. Faarooq and Bradshaw interrupt, telling them to "get their freak on" and take photos with the belts because at WrestleMania, they can kiss each other's a$$ and their belts goodbye.
Nash and Hogan find Hall and fall for the trap. Austin leaves them locked behind the gate and takes Hall for another trip.
Stephanie McMahon (no longer Helmsley) comes to the ring, still using Hunter's "My Time" theme music for her entrance. I know this isn't a hot take, but the commentary feels so over-produced, no doubt because Vince and friends had 2 days with the show in the can to get everything they wanted. Stephanie has an announcement to make. Triple H might be going to WrestleMania, but he'll win the belt over her dead body. She's quickly interrupted by Chris Jericho, who Cole has noted countless times in the last 5 minutes how much Stephanie and Jericho hate each other. He used to call her "filthy", "dirty", and a "trash bag", but he never meant any of those things. He only did it to get a rise out of the people and make them like him, and all that got him was nothing. Now that he's a LIVING LEGEND and Undisputed WWF Champion, he sees her for what she is; a brilliant, calculating, conniving genius. It's because of that genius that Triple H is nothing without her. She continues to double-down on her claims to all her husband's success. She has a great idea, and that's to offer her services to Jericho to get him prepared for his title defense against Triple H.
Speaking of Triple H, he comes out for his scheduled match with the Undertaker, but first, he makes a stop at the announcer table to greet Jericho and Stephanie, leading to a brawl to give us a quick tease for our WrestleMania "Main Event." The Undertaker eventually makes his way to the ring, but just as quickly as he arrives, he departs, throwing shade at Ric Flair for thinking he can put him in any matches that he doesn't feel like competing in.
Steve Austin finally releases Scott Hall from the chair, only to throw him in the bed of his truck. Technically Hall can just hop out, right? No matter, as Austin decides to drive to the ring instead of taking him for a joy-ride around Rockford. Austin sends Hall into the ring and smacks him over the head with a beer can. You know my opinion at this point. Austin grabs the microphone and mocks Hall with a "Hey Yo." He plays to the crowd with the "What" nonsense as he takes a page from the book of Goodfellas about being amusing. Austin offers to kick Hall every time the crowd says "What", then stops after so long because he doesn't want to wear out a good shoe. He pulls Hall to his feet, taunts him more about drinking, and decks him with his "drinking hand." Austin offers a beer and hits a Stunner. He gives Hall a taste of the spray paint treatment to wrap up this segment that felt like it went 6-minutes too long with the material they had.
Final Thoughts: This was a rough episode of Smackdown to get through. It was light on in-ring action and felt like it was thrown together at the last minutes, with a recap of Raw that ate up nearly an entire quarter-hour, countless segments of Steve Austin tormenting Scott Hall (not to mention the main event segment in the ring that couldn't bother to make a match official between them for the future), and then we get the honor of more Stephanie McMahon cutting terrible promos. I did enjoy the stuff with Kurt Angle brutalizing Kane, and we got a title change, and those are always fun to cover. I'm counting down the weeks until WrestleMania so I know I won't have to cover much more of heel Stephanie (for the time being).
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