Happy Saturday Everyone!
I decided to review this one because not only does it have a Benoit/Guerrero match that I remember enjoying a lot but the DVD release also has a super entertaining fatal four way match from an episode of Smackdown, so I’ll get two good matches to watch here at least, even if the Main Event is notoriously a bit of a slog.
The event is emanating from Sunrise, Florida on the 15th of December 2002
Calling the action are Michael Cole and The Tazz for Smackdown whilst Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler call the Raw the matches
DVD Bonus Match
Fatal Four Way Elimination Match from Smackdown 05/12/2002
Kurt Angle Vs Chris Benoit Vs Eddy Guerrero (Apparently that was how he always personally spelt it so I’ll go with his spelling) Vs Edge
Winner of this gets a Title shot at Big Show on the pay per view. Edge has an injured leg due to an attack from The A-Train, putting him at a distinct disadvantage. This is classic Paul Heyman booking really, as he’s given the babyface an in-built excuse for losing whilst also getting him over just for the simple fact that he’s even competing at all despite the injury. He used to do similar with guys like Jerry Lynn in ECW and it almost always got over.
Edge spends most of the match selling whilst the other three fight amongst themselves, and he does an excellent job at that, selling the injury consistently throughout. It achieves what they are going for by making Edge a big sympathetic babyface, with the crowd popping whenever he manages to get a brief spell of offence. Angle, Benoit and Guerrero were all very much in their pomp at this stage as far as in-ring work went, so the sections where they fight one another is some A Grade level pro-wrestling. The match is just generally very high quality and an example of why this era of the Smackdown show was so good.
It’s like a banquet of great wrestling here, with the action being fought at a quick clip. Guerrero is the first to go courtesy of a Benoit crossface, and some of the crowd seems to be a bit upset about that. Eddy was really good in the match to be fair, so I can see why some of the fans would be bummed out to see him eliminated first. Benoit tries taking out Edge with the move next, but Angle decides to break it up and try to tap out Benoit with the ankle lock just to be a billy big bollocks. The ref ends up taking a bump, which leads to Eddy coming in to hit Benoit with one of the tag belts to set up their match on this show, leading to Edge picking off Benoit with the Spear.
So we’re now down to Angle Vs Edge, and they always had great chemistry together so the action remains fantastic. Angle goes for the win with the ankle lock, but Edge refuses to tap and manages to counter to send Angle out to the floor. They fight out there for a bit as we go to a commercial. When we come back, Angle is working Edge over in the ring, with Edge continuing to do a great job selling everything. Angle’s offence looks good too, with him viciously busting Edge open at one stage after flinging him face first into the steps. It’s not a gory blade job or anything, but the blood is visible.
Edge makes occasional attempts at fighting back and shows some good fire in the process, with the women in the crowd screaming for him like he’s Ricky Morton. Funnily enough Edge was actually my favourite wrestler during this period, even though you’d think I wouldn’t like him due to having the whole “Teen Idol” thing going on. I really enjoyed his wrestling though and I also felt like he was someone on the rise who it was worth getting behind, as matches like this highlighted.
Edge does eventually make the comeback, with Angle bumping and feeding for it nicely, and the crowd continues to be behind him, popping whenever it looks like he might pick up the win. The near falls are done really well, with the crowd buying more than once that Edge might actually be able to do this. Edge has some joy with a Missile Dropkick off the top, so he decides to try heading up again. However, his injured leg delays him and that allows Angle to pop up with a big Angle Slam OUTTA NOWHERE for the three count.
WINNER: KURT ANGLE
This match was basically worth the price of the tape all by itself back in the day when you couldn’t just boot up the WWE Network or YouTube to watch a great TV match, with great wrestling and some excellent near falls between Angle and Edge. Edge definitely gained something from this even though he eventually lost in the end, and there’s a good chance he would have got even more of a push in 2003 if he hadn’t needed to take time off for a serious neck injury
Big Show (In an ill-fitting suit) shows up and Choke Slams Angle following the match to hype the Armageddon match up
Now we’ll move on to the pay per view portion of the show.
We get the old “End Is Near” intro, with Freddie Blassie and a creepy kid doing the narration. Good stuff.
Four Way Elimination Match
Raw Tag Team Titles
Champs: Chris Jericho and Christian Vs Lance Storm and William Regal Vs The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) Vs Book-Dust (Booker T and Goldust)
The story coming into this one was that Goldust felt he had let the team down a bunch of times and was having confidence issues. This led to quite a touching scene where Booker told him that he didn’t want to tag with anyone else, leading to them agreeing to have one more bash at winning the belts here. Powerman 5000 is left intact on this DVD cut of the show, whereas I think it’s usually dubbed out on WWE Network.
This a good opener, with everyone getting a chance to come in and do something in the early stages. The Heel teams mostly wrestle the babyface teams and vice versa, so the crowd always has someone to cheer for. Goldust and Bubba even team up to throw some Dusty Rhodes like elbows at one stage, which gets a decent pop from the Floridian crowd, seeing as Florida was a previous Dusty stronghold back in the day.
The Dudleyz decide they want to introduce some tables to proceedings, but Storm and Regal attack them before that can happen and the match breaks down into all of the wrestlers going at it. Christian takes the 3-D, but Regal made a blind tag so the pin can’t be made, which leads to Regal getting an awkward three count on Bubba. Whatever they were going for there didn’t work, as Bubba seemed to shot try to counter the pin and Regal had to shoot counter it back in order to get the three. Goldust quickly snaps off a powerslam to pin Regal as well, leaving us with The Champs against Book-Dust.
You almost have to ask why they even bothered adding Regal/Storm and The Dudley Boyz to the match, as it’s not like they had much time to do really do much. What they did do was entertaining, but they probably could have just done a standard tag match with Book-Dust challenging and it would have worked fine. The extra two teams weren’t really necessary, and that Regal/Bubba pinning spot seemed really weird and kind of flattened out the crowd. Even the commentators weren’t sure what actually happened there.
We get the inevitable heat segment on Goldust, which he sells really well, with Lawler thinking he is indeed the weak link of the team. Christian is drawing decent heat here actually and he would get a bit of a singles push in 2003 as the Intercontinental Champion. Jericho and Christian are good Heels and Goldust is a good babyface, so they work the formula well and the crowd gets into the idea of Goldust making the big hot tag to Booker.
Booker does eventually get the hot tag and runs wild on the Champs, with them bumping and feeding for it really well and the crowd getting into Booker’s offence. The finishing stretch is done well, with Goldust making the big save for Booker at one stage to show that he is a valuable member of the team. Storytelling eh, fancy that? We get some good near falls between Jericho and Booker, with Jericho surviving a Missile Dropkick and the Scissors Kick, whilst Booker survives a Lionsault and belt shot. The pop for that Booker kick out was great, as the crowd really bit on it. Jericho tries another belt shot, but Booker catches him with the Book End and that’s enough for three.
WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: BOOK-DUST
Good solid opener there, with them working the formula when it got down to the last two teams and the crowd digging the action and story being told.
Book-Dust have the heart-warming celebration together following that, although ironically they’d basically be done in the division by the time Royal Rumble came around, despite them still having plenty in the tank as a team.
Meanwhile, Brock Lesnar is here tonight, and he tells Josh Matthews that he’s here to make an impact.
The A-Train Vs Edge
Edge’s Rob Zombie music is edited out here. This came about because A-Train injured Rey Mysterio, as well as injuring Edge ahead of the four way match on Smackdown, so Edge is out for revenge tonight both for his friend and himself. Train’s music sounds a bit like something you would hear in a Dynasty Warriors game actually. Take out the train noises and replace them with some vaguely Chinese sounding sounds and it would fit in nicely I think.
This was another attempt to reheat Albert as a monster in WWE, but the problem always was that it was hard to book him that way due to WWE having so many big guys working for them at the time. When he went to Japan it worked much better and he did get over as a big foreign monster Heel, both for All Japan and New Japan. In WWE though he was just another big bloke in a card full of them, so it was hard to for him to stand out like that.
This match doesn’t have a lot of heat but it’s not a bad match or anything. A-Train’s offence looks good and Edge sells it well, the crowd just doesn’t really buy A-Train as anything more than an under card guy and it was a struggle to get them to buy him as anything more, although when 2003 wore on and he got some matches with The Undertaker and Chris Benoit he did become a serviceable mid-card Heel who could be an obstacle to be overcome.
Edge spends a lot of the match on the defensive, but he does eventually start making a bit of a comeback in the closing stages. The crowd continues to mostly sit on their hands though. A-Train does get a cool counter to a Missile Dropkick at one stage by kicking Edge out of the air with a bicycle kick for two. A-Train tries to introduce a chair into things (which was his MO at the time) but Edge manages to stop that and we move into some near falls. The crowd does kind of get into the near falls and it looks like they’re about to get cooking, at which point A-Train takes it home by hitting Edge with the chair for a DQ.
WINNER BY DQ: EDGE
Just as it was about to get going they took it home. It was a mostly heatless match, but I thought the wrestling itself was okay. Edge got some heat backstage for this I believe because they didn’t think he did a good enough job carrying A-Train to a good match, but I’m not exactly sure what else he could have done there. It was a low-level feud that the crowd wasn’t really into, so the heat was always going to be a problem and they wrestled as good a match as they probably could have given where they were on the card
Edge gets to hit A-Train with the chair post-match to get some revenge. They kind of had their cake and ate it too with that finish and post-match, and it probably didn’t help A-Train in the long run that they didn’t commit to the push. It felt a bit wishy-washy to be honest, kind of like they didn’t want either man to lose anything, which doesn’t really help anyone.
Paul Heyman is backstage with Big Show. Big Show is angry about Brock Lesnar being here, and wants to complain about it to Stephanie McMahon. Heyman doesn’t want Stephanie to think that they are trying to intimidate her and begs for Big Show to return to the locker room so that he can handle this.
Eddy Guerrero Vs Chris Benoit
Eddy was one of the Smackdown Tag Champs with Chavo Jr during this period. Winner of this one gets a Title shot at either Big Show or Angle down the line. This is one of those matches where the wrestling is excellent but the crowd doesn’t really bite. I think a contributing factor is that Benoit didn’t really have a strong babyface turn, so the crowd kind of sees this as two Heels going at it and isn’t really sure who to get behind. Benoit was just kind of a babyface one week and it wasn’t until the great matches with Angle in 2003 that he really started gaining some traction.
There is some fantastic technical wrestling going on here, including Benoit doing the old Bob Backlund counter to an arm bar that I always love seeing. Eddy eventually takes over with a dive to the floor and works Benoit’s leg over inside the ring in his usual great intense style. Both of these guys were so good at making all the little things count just as much as the big things. It’s why they were able to have such good believable looking matches. Neither man just sits there working a hold, they put some added aggression to everything to make it look like they’re really fighting with one another.
Benoit sells all of Guerrero’s holds excellently before making the comeback with some German Suplexes, which finally succeeds in waking the crowd up and they’re mostly into the closing sections. In a great little moment, Benoit heads up top for a head butt but then sees that Guerrero is moving, so he just climbs down and does some more suplexes instead. Again, one of those little things that makes so much sense and adds another level of realism to things. Rather than doing pre-planned spots it feels like they’re having an actual fight and responding to things organically.
Chavo eventually runs down to try and help his uncle Eddy by clobbering Benoit with a tag belt when the ref isn’t looking, which gets two in a good near fall. Benoit keeps coming and manages to fight Chavo off when he tries to interfere again, leading to a big head butt off the top onto Eddy. Eddy manages to counter the pin fall attempt into his Laso From El Paso submission move, but Benoit counters that into the crossface and that’s enough for the clean submission win to end a great match.
WINNER: CHRIS BENOIT
With a hotter crowd this could have been an all-timer, as the work was top notch and the booking was great too, as they essentially had Benoit beat two men in order to earn a Title shot and show himself to be a deserving challenger for either Big Show or Angle
Paul Heyman walks into Stephanie McMahon’s office to try and get Brock Lesnar banned from ringside tonight. That doesn’t go so well.
We get a video package recapping Dawn Marie trying to seduce Torrie Wilson on Smackdown. The gist is that Dawn Marie wants to bang Torrie, and if Torrie agrees Dawn will call off the relationship she has with Torrie’s father Al. So yeah, this was what OSW would call a “Lesbian Pollen” angle. Al is surprisingly okay with Dawn having a night of passion with his daughter and their relationship is still on.
Dawn Marie and Al Wilson join us, as Dawn is going to show the footage of her and Torrie getting it on tonight apparently. This storyline was goofy and super trashy, but it drew decent enough ratings and filled in the “soap opera” element of the Smackdown show, contributing to the feeling the show had of having something for everyone at the time. Dawn shows some of the footage, where she and Torrie deliver horrible stilted dialogue and eat strawberries. They start making out and Al demands things stop, at which point Dawn agrees and they leave without showing the rest of it. Dawn would eventually bang Al to death on their honeymoon, leading to her and Torrie having a grudge match at the Royal Rumble before the storyline was mercifully killed off. This segment wasn’t good, but I can understand some enjoying it in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way.
Shawn Michaels is warming up backstage.
Batista w/ Ric Flair Vs Kane
Batista had recently jumped over to Raw after being D-Von’s muscle over on Smackdown and had quickly been put with Ric Flair. Batista was severely lacking in polish at this stage and wasn’t renowned for being that good in the ring, but once he started working more regularly with good workers in 2003 and 2004 his skills would improve and he’d end up being a decent worker by the time he left WWE in 2010.
They actually work this one at a pretty quick clip considering how big both guys are, and it’s not that bad. The match has little in the way of heat, which is kind of becoming a trend tonight, but it works well enough as two big dudes slugging one another whilst doing power moves. The highlight of the match is probably Flair picking a fight with Kane outside the ring, leading to Kane no selling his chops and Flair backing off in terror.
This is another match where it would probably be better if it had better heat from the crowd, as the actual action isn’t terrible outside of a notable botch where Batista kind of loses Kane on a power bomb and they have to ad lib a Kane low blow into a clothesline. Kane appears to have it won with a Choke Slam, but he stops to beat up Flair again and that allows Batista to get the Batista Bomb for the three count.
A flat match due to the crowd not really caring, but it was okay for a green guy trading punches with Kane
Kurt Angle is looking for Brock Lesnar.
John Cena and B Squared join us for a rap. Cena had only just started doing the rapper gimmick and it was slowly starting to get over.
We get a video package to hype up the women’s Title match next. Victoria defeated Trish Sratus in a hardcore match to win the belt. Victoria’s whole thing is that she’s nuts and she’s been making enemies, including Jackie, leading to a triple threat match tonight.
WWE Women’s Title
Champ: Victoria Vs Jackie Vs Trish Stratus
Victoria’s t.A.T.u music is still in place here, but I’m not sure if it made the WWE Network cut. This is pretty sloppy in places and they aren’t given that much time to work with, but they are working hard to have the best match they can. In a recurring theme tonight, the crowd doesn’t really care that much. Sloppiness aside, this is pretty fun actually, with Trish running wild a few times and looking good when doing so. There is a notable botch where Trish kicks Jackie and has to delay for way too long in making the cover as Victoria isn’t there to break up the pin. Trish eventually gets a move on Jackie but gets hit with the belt by Victoria and Victoria steals the pin.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: VICTORIA
Too short and sloppy to be any more, but they were working hard
Victoria steals Trish’s hat for good measure following that.
Kurt Angle fires up Brock Lesnar by showing him footage of Paul Heyman cheating him out of the WWE Title back at Survivor Series.
Smackdown WWE Title
Champ: The Big Show w/ Paul Heyman Vs Kurt Angle
Heyman helped Big Show defeat Lesnar for the Title, leading to Brock going on a rampage and getting suspended as a result. Angle agreed to help get Brock’s suspension lifted if Brock in-turn agreed to help even the odds tonight. Angle was ostensibly a babyface here, although he had never really officially turned. He’s just less of a Heel than Big Show is.
This was probably the worst era of the Big Show, as he was wrestling in jeans and a singlet and was barely mobile due to a slew of injuries. He only really got the spot here because WWE liked the intrigue of the whole “can Brock manage to F5 him” storyline, and once that was answered at Survivor Series his Title reign was on borrowed time. Big Show going away for a bit between 2006-2008 was a very good idea on his part, as it helped him heal up and he felt fresh again when he came back for the big match with Mayweather at Mania.
This isn’t the most thrilling match ever, but they do a good job of structuring it and the crowd gets behind Angle. It’s booked a lot like the Vader Vs Ric Flair match from Starrcade 93, with Big Show dominating for the most part and Angle sporadically fighting back from underneath only to keep getting cut off by his bigger opponent. Angle was really on a role at this period and they have possibly the best match they were capable of having.
Angle eventually manages to catch Big Show with a Tornado DDT for a double down before making a comeback with quick attacks and punches. We get our third Missile Dropkick of the night, as Angle uses one on Big Show for a near fall at one stage. Angle even busts out the old Shawn Michaels standing Moonsault body-block to Big Show at one stage, although the execution isn’t that crisp and Angle almost lands on his head in a scary moment.
Angle is just so smooth in this match, it’s really impressive. At one stage he looks like he’s going to do a flying head scissors, but he lands behind and gets the Olympic Slam in a great little sequence, before trying to finish things off with the ankle lock. Big Show looks set to tap from that, but kicks Angle off into the ref, which is the cue for Heyman to pass a chair in to his client. The crowd catches on now and starts chanting for Brock.
Angle manages to clock Big Show with the chair instead though, hoisting the Heel by his own petard, but Big Show is still able to kick out. Big Show flung Angle onto the ref at that two count though, which means there is no one there to register the submission when Angle locks in the ankle lock again. I like that, as it shows that Angle had it won on his own anyway but just got screwed by the ref being down, so it means that if Brock helps Angle win eventually then Angle at least looks like he was capable of doing it on his own too.
The A-Train joins us to put a beat down on Angle, which seemingly is going to lead to Big Show retaining. However, Brock Lesnar now arrives and drops Big Show with a big F-5, leading to Angle making the pin and getting a three count from the revived referee for a big pop.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: KURT ANGLE
This was as good a match as you were going to get out of Big Show during his “dark” days, as they told a good story and Angle wrestled the match of his life in order to try and get it over. I actually loved the ending too, as it not only laid the table for Brock matches against both Big Show and Angle, but they also made sure to show that Angle was good enough to win it in a fair fight and all Brock did was level the playing field to ensure that could happen
Angle celebrates big following that; with the crowd being possibly the loudest they’ve been all night.
Rob Van Dam is at WWE New York, where he predicts that Shawn Michaels will win later.
Three Stages of Hell
1st Fall – Street Fight
2nd Fall – Cage Match
3rd Fall – Ladder Match
Raw World Title
Champ: Shawn Michaels Vs Triple H w/ Ric Flair
This one started in the summer of 2002, where Triple H put Shawn out with a sledgehammer attack at SummerSlam. Shawn returned at Survivor Series to get some revenge by winning the first ever Elimination Chamber match. Thus we have the big Three Stages of Hell match in order to settle things once and for all (At least for the time being).
Flair gets ejected from ringside before the match even starts, which kind of doesn’t make any sense seeing as there are no rules in this so the ref doesn’t really have the authority to do it. This match is long, you could argue overly so in fact. We have 40 minutes of time remaining on the show at the opening bell. Triple H’s right thigh and quad is all taped up and he seems to be notably limping, which doesn’t really help things when they have to put so much time in.
The first fall is a decent match though to be fair, with Shawn turning the tables and attacking Triple H’s back, even dropping him spine first on a chair at one stage. Triple H would normally be the one going after Shawn’s back, so it’s a fun little switch in the usual formula to see Shawn attacking Triple H’s back instead. Triple H sells all of that well before catching a Sweet Chin Music attempt and turning it into a knee breaker, leading to Triple H working the leg.
Shawn now gets a chance to sell, and it shouldn’t shock any of you to learn that he does an excellent job selling his leg. They’ve been working this at a deliberate pace, which makes sense because of how long the match is scheduled to go for, and they’ve been trying to build drama and tell a story, which I can appreciate. I just can’t shake the feeling that the match feels like it’s been artificially extended as opposed to it being a hate filled gruelling match that just happens to be going for a long time.
They fight down the ramp at one stage, which has a fire motif complete with real flames, and Triple H has the idea of setting a 2×4 wrapped in barbed wire on fire. However, it ends up being Triple H himself who gets hit in the head with it, leading to Triple H doing one of his customary big blade jobs to sell it. I like how Triple H was the guy who introduced that into the match only to have it used on him instead. That’s good storytelling. Shawn makes the mistake of nipping up back inside the ring though, which causes him to sell the leg again and allows Triple H to catch him with a Pedigree for three.
Triple 1 – 0 Shawn Michaels
So the second fall is in a cage, with it pin or escape as the rules. Triple H makes sure to fill the ring with weapons before the cage fully lowers. Shawn is soon bleeding as Triple H methodically works him over with all the weapons, with Shawn selling everything well. The crowd reactions aren’t really what you would hope them to be for such a big match with such a long running issue, but then again the crowd has been pretty plop all night.
They squeeze in all the traditional cage spots, such as both men sitting atop the cage wall and throwing punches at one another, whilst Flair comes back down to stack up some tables so that Triple H can try and throw Shawn through them. Shawn manages to fend that attempt off, but the tables remain there for later. Flair ends up in the cage, which leads to him getting beaten up as well. Flair of course blades from that, because he’s Ric Flair, and Shawn ends up splashing Triple H through a table in order to tie things up.
Triple H 1 – 1 Shawn Michaels
I should point out that the Flair Vs Michaels bit was probably the most entertaining part of the match thus far. The crowd continues to not really care about this outside of the occasional big move, and after stretching things out in the first fall it almost feels like they’re rushing through the other ones now. Shawn tries coming off the top of the ladder with a big splash, but Triple H moves and there’s no water in the pool.
Triple H can barely walk, so sticking him in a match that requires him to do some climbing probably isn’t the smartest of ideas. The crowd decides they would rather look at something else in the climactic fall of this big feuding ending bout, which makes me think there was a fight of some kind going on. We get some token slow climbing attempts as both men try to grab the belt, which leads to Shawn getting Sweet Chin Music and seemingly climbing up to win. However, Triple H knocks the ladder over to send Shawn toppling through the tables from earlier, which means Triple H can then climb up to grab the belt and win.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: TRIPLE H
I didn’t think this match was bad, but it was overly long and I found it a bit difficult to get through, with me having to pause it for a little bit before returning to it at one stage. I just wasn’t “feeling it” for the most part, and I generally enjoy the wrestling of both men. I get that they were going for the epic feud ending bout, but Triple H could barely walk and they probably could have just had a 20 minute street fight with a clean finish rather than stretching things out to fit the other two falls in. It really didn’t feel like the other two falls were needed
Triple H celebrates with his belt whilst Shawn lies in the table wreckage.
The DVD cut of this show is an easy thumbs up thanks to the inclusion of the bonus match, but the actual show itself isn’t really that good outside of the excellent Guerrero/Benoit match. There’s still some decent stuff on here, but overall it’s a middling show for the most part. I would say you’re better off watching Survivor Series 2002 instead, as it’s an overall better show in front of a better crowd.
Mildly recommended show