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WWF Smackdown - March 7, 2002

by Scrooge McSuck

The Rock

Presented LIVE from the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, TX, with Michael Cole and Jerry "The King" Lawler calling the action, unless otherwise noted. Taped for Sunday Night Heat: Diamond Dallas Page pinned Lance Storm to retain the European Championship, Bradshaw pinned Chuck (Don't Call Me Palumbo), and Mr. Perfect pinned Rikishi after interference from Test. WrestleMania (X-8) is just TEN DAYS AWAY! AND THEY STILL WON'T IDENTIFY IT AS #18!

Ric Flair is WALKING with a purpose until he violently attempts to break into Undertaker's locker room. Taker, meanwhile, is comfortably relaxing and watching his beatdown on David. "Hey, your boy's a bleeder just like Arn Anderson!" Since Flair can't get into the locker room, he's going to the ring. After the opening (still Manson's "The Beautiful People"), Flair gives us a recap of his return to the WWF. He looked forward to being an owner and it was McMahon who pushed him into walking that aisle one more time at the Royal Rumble, and that was supposed to be it. Then the Undertaker threw out the challenge for the grandest stage of them, but Flair denied him. Undertaker jumped Arn Anderson, and he almost jumped, but Arn warned him that it wasn't worth it. Today is David's 23rd birthday (REALLY? THAT'S ALL?!) and he's celebrating by being laid up in a hospital bed because of the Undertaker, and that finally got his attention. Flair says Undertaker's trophy case isn't large enough to hold his career. As of tonight, Ric Flair is a wrestler again, and at WrestleMania, Flair promises to bleed. He smacks himself around and opens a cut above his right eyebrow. Undertaker makes his way out, stopping at the top of the ramp. He says Flair needs to calm down and that he's taking the fun out of this, and now he's not sure he wants to fight at WrestleMania. He's willing to be the bigger man and forgive Flair for everything he's put him through.

Stephanie McMahon is WALKING and crosses paths with Triple H. He compliments her on her skin clearing up, then Stephanie rubs it in his face about losing on Raw because of her interference. They start bickering over splitting their belongings, including the beloved Lucy. "Why do you want the dog? Isn't one bitch in the house enough?" Wow, Triple H, you sound like you really care about your dog by using the technical term of "bitch" to describe her.

WWF Hardcore Championship Match:
Goldust (c) vs. Rob Van Dam:

Why is RVD wasting his time challenging for the bum title when he's got a date for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania? William Regal is sitting in on commentary to telegraph the result. RVD opens with a tope con hilo. Goldust reverses a whip to the barricade but gets dumped into the crowd. RVD misses the spinning heel kick from the apron and Goldust lays him out with a clothesline. Goldust has gold-painted weapons under the ring and smacks RVD over the head with a trash can lid. Whip to the ropes, RVD puts on the brakes and casually whacks Goldust with a can lid. Monkey-flip out of the corner sends Goldust crashing onto a chair. RVD wipes out Regal with a baseball slide, but that allows Goldust to regain control, taking RVD down with a lariat. Goldust sets RVD up for Shattered Dreams but RVD escapes the ropes and dropkicks a trash can into Goldust's face for a two-count. RVD uses the chair to hit Goldust with a basement dropkick. Suddenly, Regal pops on the apron, KO's RVD with the knuckles, and Goldust rolls him up to retain at 2:52. Just a clunky hardcore match until we got the predictable outcome.

I assumed the song was edited off of broadcasts (episode run times are all over the place), but we're told the official theme song for WrestleMania X-8 is "Superstar" by Saliva (available on their album, Every Six Seconds). Oh, sorry, there's TWO theme songs, but they don't tell us the other one during this segment. That song would go on to live in my memory as the theme song for Legends of Wrestling II (available on Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube).

Lengthy recap of the nWo saga that played out on Monday Night Raw, including the attack of Steve Austin, bullying backstage personnel, and treating Spike Dudley like a rag doll.

Chris Jericho finally makes another appearance, delivering Stephanie her water. He whines about being a delivery boy, but Planet Express can't function without him. Stephanie keeps making grand promises to help Jericho defeat Triple H. She pulls out the first robe Triple H had, given to him by Killer Kowalski, and she's giving it to a REAL Champion. Jericho promises to wear the robe to the ring for his match against Kane. They awkwardly share a hug that neither is comfortable with, so at least THIS portion of the story is being told well.

Non-Title Match: Tajiri (Cruiserweight Champion; w/ Torrie Wilson) vs. Booker T:

Of course this isn't a Championship Match. We get the recap from last week where Tajiri said Booker T's hair looks like "Buckwheat on crack." Booker T is still upset he didn't get the contract deal for the Japanese shampoo endorsement. Michael Cole claims countless fans on their tour of Southeast Asia told him they were happy that Edge, and not Booker T, got the contract. GROUNDBREAKING, IF TRUE. Lockup into the corner, Tajiri ducks a right hand and unloads with a flurry of strikes. Booker counters a whip with a short clothesline and works him over in the corner. Tajiri surprises Booker with a missile dropkick and follows with a standing moonsault for two. Tajiri takes the knees out of Booker and hits a basement dropkick. Tajiri with a roundhouse kick for another two-count. Whip is reversed and Booker plants Tajiri with a spine-buster. Booker with the Scissors Kick for three at 2:28. Poor Tajiri hasn't successfully defended the Cruiserweight Title on Raw or Smackdown in what feels like forever. After the match, Booker with a jumping heel kick. Edge runs out for the save and hits the Spear. Tajiri got to look good for about 45-seconds before doing the job in two moves.

We get a montage of the Rock that I'm 100% sure had licensed music in the original broadcast, because this sounds too generic, even for in-house WWF production.

Speaking of, FINALLY, THE ROCK HAS COME BACK TO SMACKDOWN! This is Rock's first appearance since the nWo took him out on the February 18th episode of Raw. I honestly thought he came back much sooner than that, but we're a little over a week away, so we need to get him on TV a little bit, even if the match already sold people on the PPV. Hogan vs. Rock is sold as "Past vs Future", but the funny bit is Hogan would maintain a more consistent working schedule for the company going forward, though Rock headlining back-to-back WrestleMania's with John Cena obviously shattered whatever argument that is with total dollars made. The Rock is a lot of things, but above all else, the Rock is human, and he made a mistake. He was happy to see the nWo here, because he wanted Rock vs. Hogan at WrestleMania. Rock says it's more about Past vs Present, it's about proving who is the best ever. He was so obsessed with what Hulk Hogan was that he forgot what Hulk Hogan is; a jaded self-centered son-of-a-b*tch. You can argue who is bigger, but there's no doubt who is better, and everyone knows who that is. Hogan made the biggest mistake by not finishing him off when he had the chance and offered for Hogan to finish the job… tonight. Hogan comes out, with Hall and Nash by his side. If he wanted to, he could kick Rock's crippled a$$ without breaking a sweat, but he's waiting until WrestleMania when Rock is 100%. At WrestleMania, the millions of fans who were his fans first, will witness him kicking the Rock's a$$ and he doesn't want to have any excuses. Rock doesn't like that answer and invites Hogan to come on down like this is the Price is Right. "Who ever thought the man with 24" pythons would have half-inch testicles?" After a short conference, Hall says he's not afraid to take advantage of a cripple and challenges Rock to bring it. Rock says when he's done going through Hall, Hogan is next.

Al Snow & Maven vs. The Undertaker:

I hate to repeat myself, but who had Maven on their bingo sheet of "wrestlers people are talking about in 2023" this far removed from his in-ring (WWE) career? Taker attacks Snow from behind and works him over in the corner. Whip across the ring, Snow puts on the brakes and throws some rights of his own. Double reversal and Snow with a DDT out of nowhere for a two-count. Taker cuts Snow off with a big boot. Maven comes in for the save, but Snow cuts him off by telling him to get out of the ring. DUMB. Taker wipes both out with clotheslines and takes his time working over Maven. Whip to the corner, Taker with snake eyes and a big boot but Snow saves. Taker sends Snow into the steps and plants Maven with a chokeslam. He pulls Maven up at two and rubs his elbow across the face. Taker with the Dragon Sleeper and Maven tapes at 3:19. After the match, Undertaker grabs the microphone and tells Flair if he wants to fight him at WrestleMania, the answer is YES, ON ONE CONDITION; Flair needs to walk down here, get on his hands and knees, and beg for the match. Flair doesn't waste time rushing the ring and laying into Taker with chops. Taker tries running, but Flair hops on his back. They brawl into the crowd, with a plant getting whacked as referees separate them. "We've never seen Ric Flair like this before!" I guess Michael Cole didn't watch a lot of WCW.

Non-Title Match: Chris Jericho (Undisputed Champion; w/ Stephanie McMahon) vs. Kane:

As promised, Jericho wears Hunter's old robe to the ring, no doubt legitimately used from his days in the East Coast indies. Kane continues to be featured regularly in high profile matches and doesn't have a match for WrestleMania. Jericho trash talks and gets a right uppercut for it. Whip to the corner and Kane with the double goozle. Jericho keeps wasting time and gets slammed off the top rope. Whip to the ropes and Jericho powders out, threatening to walk out on the match, but Kane snatches him by the hair and brings him back in with a suplex. I love that this sends Steph back to the timekeeper to return the robe and belts. Jericho counters the flying lariat with a dropkick to the midsection. The advantage is short-lived as Kane catches him off the ropes with a back suplex. Kane charges into the corner with a clothesline, but a second visit meets the boot. Jericho spins out of a side slam. Teddy Long is conveniently distracted by Stephanie as Angle hits the ring, hits the Angle Slam, and Jericho finishes with the Lionsault at 2:58. After the match, Kane and Kurt Angle brawl around the arena. Kane's music accidentally plays and here comes Triple H to clean house of Jericho. He teases a Pedigree on Stephanie, but Jericho pulls her to safety. At least Trips has his cherished robe back.

Highlight package featuring the WWF's recent tour of Southeast Asia.

Ric Flair is being charged with assault by the geek and escorted out of the building in handcuffs.

Kane is looking for Kurt Angle. "I'm not mad Kurt, I just want to talk." WHAT AM I EVEN WATCHING? Angle "ambushes Kane from behind" (Cole's words) and the brawl is back on! If not for the lack of ridiculous gimmick matches, I'd ask if Vince Russo had conversations with the creative team considering how all over the place this episode has been.

"Tear Away" by Drowning Pool is the other theme for WrestleMania, and they'll be in Toronto to perform live!

Lita vs. Stacy Keibler:

Stacy's using Kid Rock's cover of "Legs", which means I just mute the show instead of fast forward, because... you know. They hype a show called "WWF Divas: Sex on the Beach" for next Wednesday on UPN. Stacy hits the standing heel kick and covers for two as soon as the bell rings. Whip is reversed and Lita hits a modified Blue Thunder Bomb for three at 0:42. Cole says there won't be much cover next Wednesday with "Sex on the Beach." Sounds like they're trying to trick prepubescent males into thinking they might get some NC-17 content. After the match, Lita says she wants some gold, but then Stacy wants some more. She gets hit with a Twist of Fate, followed by a moonsault. Here's Jazz to make the save for the heel and plants Lita with a DDT. I don't think Lita needed to pull off the moonsault, but that's me thinking it was going above and beyond.

Triple H and Stephanie McMahon keep arguing, and I'm supposed to believe Steph still has a car given to her for her 16th birthday (I'd wager she would've wrecked it before her 17th, or at least left it in disrepair shortly after). Then the big reveal is Hunter had it cut in half, because everything is split 50/50, and he wasn't sure which half she wanted. Oh, and the alarm still works after she kicks it. HAR HAR.

The Rock vs. Scott Hall:

I'm not saying it was a slam dunk, but this could've been featured as a draw for Backlash or another PPV coming up after Mania, but with Hall's history, I can't blame them squeezing what they could out of him before the wagon lost its wheels. Hall comes out alone, and he's wearing his regular ring gear. Rock rushes the ring and unloads with rights. Whip to the ropes and Rock with a diving clothesline, followed by a DDT for two. Hall cuts him off with a thumb to the eyes and follows with a clothesline for two. Rock kips up, hits a spine-buster and turns Hall over with the Sharpshooter, but here comes Hogan and Nash to create the necessary distraction for Hall to take control. Where's DDP to show Rock how to do a taped ribs gimmick? Rock battles back until Hogan trips him up and works the ribs while the referee looks at the lights. Back inside, Hall covers (with feet on the ropes) for two. Rock teases another comeback until Hall catches him with a fallaway slam. He signals for the Razor's Edge, but Rock counters. Rock Bottom connects and here's Kevin Nash to make the save and draw the DQ at 4:00 (that is never announced). Rock clears him out, and now Hogan is in the ring. We get the 3-on-1 assault until Steve Austin makes the save with a steel chair in hand. Kevin Nash takes most of the punishment and gets sent over the top rope.

Vince McMahon comes out looking upset and announces Steve Austin and The Rock will take on the nWo on Monday Night Raw!

Final Thoughts: Not much for the wrestling on this show, as they went hard into pushing matches for WrestleMania. It looks like Angle vs Kane is a lock for the card, and now we've got Lita throwing her name into the conversation for a Women's Title Match, but where have the Tag Team Titles been lately? Hunter vs Stephanie/Jericho is still hot death and I'm continuing my countdown until I don't have to worry about them being a heavily featured storyline. With the announcement of Austin and Rock vs Hogan, Hall and Nash, with several days' notice, it feels like a Hail Mary pass to draw in extra viewers and give them the final hard-sell for Mania.

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