WWF KING OF THE RING (2000)- SECOND ROUND:
* Continuing the previous review, the second round of the 2000 King of the Ring features some of the more “Okay, come on- is this really a random draw?” matches, as a few guys fight unrelated opposition, but we have Chyna/Eddie, Rikishi/Scotty, and Crash/Hardcore.
Because Early 2000 WWF: BULL BUCHANAN! Whether you want him or not!
PERRY SATURN vs. BULL BUCHANAN:
(June 18th, Heat)
* Saturn beat D-Von Dudley thanks to DX interference, while Bull handily defeated Steve Blackman.
The much larger Bull uses his size to start, shoving Saturn around, but eats a boot in the corner and a dropkick off the middle. He throws punches but eats a clothesline, but a third straight “whip to corner” reversal sees Saturn back on the advantage, tripping Bull into the ropes and hitting a T-bone suplex for two. But Bull comes off the ropes with a boot and hits his Ax Kick finisher for the quick win (1:51)! Jesus christ that was fast. As a match, this was nothing- Bull was so green they just did three “whip to the corner, but the guy who hits it reverses the charging move” spots to switch momentum, then ANOTHER whip-reversal to set up the finish. 2 minutes for a clean win marks Saturn as the “Jobber” of the Radicalz, which is funny as he was one a lot of fans (including me) assumed was gonna be the biggest star.
Rating: 1/2* (very quick and mobile match, but super-short and a glorified squash)
JEFF HARDY vs. VAL VENIS (w/ Trish Stratus):
(June 18th, Heat)
* Jeff beat Christian with a come-from-behind victory while injured, and Val beat Al Snow clean in a pretty long match. Both guys are in all black, with Trish still managing Val to get herself a “King” in her stable.
Aimless Attitude Era brawl to start, with Jeff hitting the Whisper in the Wind (run-up corkscrew cannonball), but ref Teddy Long is WAY out of position (something that helped eventually get him “fired” and gifted with a huge role as GM). Val takes a power-whip into the corner (from JEFF HARDY?), but scores a back elbow as Michael Cole makes some out of nowhere comment about how “Do you realize that Lilian Garcia is Trish Stratus’s SOUL MATE?” likely referencing an ongoing gag the boys had in the back at the time (probably because neither woman would bang any wrestlers). Long criss-cross leads to a sleeper from Jeff, Val reversing to his Blue Thunder Bomb (backdrop to Ligerbomb) for two. Val puts his head down and gets DDT’d for two, then Jeff reverses a whip and hits the Swanton Bomb for the win… except Trish puts Val’s foot on the rope! The ring positioning made that spot obvious, but that’s fine. Lita comes out as Val hits a powerslam, but Trish STILL grabs Jeff (right in front of Long), allowing Val to hit the Perfect Plex for the win (3:38).
Val was just TEARING around here all match, probably hoping to impress people, as post-Radicalz he was otherwise gonna suffer. Like, he gave his all in here, even though his offense remained pretty basic aside from the occasional All Japan move. Jeff was fine but didn’t even get much of a chance to sell or show off.
Rating: *3/4 (some good effort by Val, but just another short TV match with a dumb ending)
The WWF was often very unsubtle about which member of a tag team was the “superior” partner. It was loud & clear that it was Bubba, for example. Him being a giant attention whore to the level of Bruce Hart helped.
KURT ANGLE vs. BUBBA RAY DUDLEY:
(June 19th, RAW)
* Angle beat Bradshaw, while Dudley beat Big Boss Man thanks to Bull Buchanan. Angle’s in all red, coming out to riff on the Nashville crowd, suggesting they can use tables to “stack their welfare checks on ’em… or inbreed on them” rather that put people through them, as Bubba here is wont to do. Bubba’s still hurt from the effects of being shoved in a dumpster by D-X last SmackDown.
Angle takes Bubba down to start, but quickly gets slapped and Bubba brawls with him- a fast criss-cross sequence sees Angle put his head down and he takes a huge Ligerbomb. Bubba goes up, but Angle’s now suddenly completely fine and belly-to-bellies him off the top and tosses him- Bubba, to his credit, is HOWLING in pain as Angle throws him into the railings and suplexes him on the ramp. Angle misses the moonsault in the ring and Bubba hits a clothesline & Samoan drop for two, and another criss-cross sees Angle take a big Bubba Bomb (sit-out full nelson slam on the ass) for two. Bubba misses a corner charge and takes a German for two, but Angle gets crotched and superplexed for two. A whip is reversed for the tenth time and Bubba aims for the Bubba Cutter, but Angle shoves him off and catches him with the Olympic Slam for the pin at (4:42). Funny how Bubba hits a Samoan drop and Angle does nearly the exact same move with a twist for the pin.
Actually a heck of a match here, and I was not expecting to like it partially given what an ass Bubba has been over the past few years. Both guys tore around at top speed and called it in the ring (for whatever reason they were really obviously doing the “lean in to chat” thing during grapples), with Bubba looking gutsy for taking all that punishment, then smart for reversing on Angle a bunch. You can see the style getting increasingly-fast here, as almost every reversal is done off an Irish whip to keep the speed going- something ’90s Joshi did with its reversals, too. The ending’s almost the same as Angle’s last one, too- an Olympic Slam out of nowhere.
Rating: **1/2 (fast-paced and good, if short)
Pretty much the face X-Pac makes when he’s not winning the match- sharp-eyed viewers have noticed this for years.
CHRIS BENOIT vs. X-PAC (w/ Tori):
(June 19th, RAW)
* Benoit beat Road Dogg after a big schmozz, and X-Pac beat Benoit’s friend Dean Malenko with the same. Benoit’s in red with black again, while X-Pac’s in the usual neon green… and yup, I think I detect Jobbing Face on X-Pac here. He’s one of the most infamous guys for coming down with 1/3 his usual flourish if he’s not winning a match, and aside from his fist pump down the ramp and his reaction during the pyro, he’s pretty muted and just frowning.
X-Pac throws a chop but gets blasted down with one of Benoit’s (I mean, duh), but manages a spinkick after a rapid-fire criss-cross. Benoit hits a chop & backdrop to come back, but X-Pac dumps him and hits his kick series in the corner, but telegraphs the Bronco Buster and its balls-on-buckle. Benoit gets a back elbow & snap suplex, then Tori hits the apron- Benoit dodges and X-Pac clocks her and gets German’d for a near-fall. X-Pac goes into the post and has to make the ropes to avoid the Crossface, but Benoit misses the Flying Headbutt. The Dudley Boyz hit the ring, so X-Pac goes after them until getting caught- the Eddie Bump & Crippler Crossface finish him at (3:39). The Dudleys attack, but Road Dogg runs in and DX hits their finishers and leaves the Dudleys laying so X-Pac can get his heat back.
Rating: *3/4 (the match was fine, but mostly short and disappointing given who was involved)
It’s easy to snark now, but people forget that at one point Chyna was INCREDIBLY over.
EDDIE GUERRERO vs. CHYNA:
(June 19th, RAW)
* So the young lovers are set up against each other, and I think I remember the finish on this one. Eddie’s in black tights with blue, and Chyna’s in leather gear again.
Funny bit to start, as Eddie keeps going for hugs and hand-kisses on his “Mamacita” while Chyna’s trying to do an actual match, so she slaps him- he nearly decks her, but switches to a headlock (great sell of his hesitation there- like his anger was getting the better of him but he just couldn’t do it) and then wins a criss-cross, but Chyna powerbombs him right near the ropes- he of course gets his foot on them. She throws forearms in the corner, but he AGAIN can’t punch her- hilariously, she scolds him while he has a tantrum (“Make up your mind!”), then lures him in with a kiss and throws MORE forearms. The Cartwheel Handspring Back Elbow & press slam have Eddie on the ropes badly, and she grabs a sleeper, but he shoves her off- she nearly nails her trademark Flair Uppercut, but now EDDIE begs off, pleading with her not to pummel his precious balls! His face here is hilarious, and she just can’t go through with it, for which he kisses her hands in gratitude… and rolls her up for the pin at (2:26)! Hahahahaha! And now Chyna storms off to pout while Eddie begs forgiveness.
Well this is a whole different kind of “Psychology” for a wrestling match- one guy unable to go all-out because he adores his opponent and won’t hurt her, but her being willing to blast him… until he successfully begs off and lures her in. I mean, how often do you see THAT? Also, this is some impressive smoke & mirrors, giving Chyna only the moves she can do well and not embarrassing her against a top-flight worker.
Rating: *1/2 (again it’s short, but pretty funny and actually has some interesting character psychology in there)
EDGE vs. CHRIS JERICHO:
(June 19th, RAW)
* One of the big KOTR matches sees the mega-popular Jericho take on the elite tag guy Edge. Jericho suggests Edge wants to be on the cover of Tiger Beat magazine, finding it appropriate because “nobody knows more about BEATING than you, tiger”, complete with a subtle jerking-off motion. Both guys have frustratingly chosen near-identical tights, so we have two blonde guys in long black tights with funky bright designs on the legs fighting each other.
Jericho wins a Canadian Chopfest and clotheslines Edge down all weirdly (he holds his hand out but it’s their BODIES that collide), then a leg lariat & SPRINGBOARD dropkick (not a slingshot one like normal!). Jericho hits a sliding dropkick but we get a neat bit where Edge runs up the steel steps to avoid going into them, then turns around and Spears Jericho when HE tries it. Edge boots the shit out of him and dropkicks Jericho in the tree of woe, then Bret-Harts him into the corner and hits his front electric chair drop (that later got an Edge-o-something name, right?). Jericho can’t get anything going, but finally manages a WCW-like counter by dropkicking Edge coming off the top rope! Jericho lands a Shawn-style forearm, running bulldog & back elbow, but Lionsaults onto Edge’s knees- Edge schoolboys him for two, but Jericho manages his early finisher- the Double Powerbomb, only for Edge to roll over him out of the second one for two. But Jericho trips him up on the ground and puts him into the Walls of Jericho… for the clean tap-out at (5:29)!
Really not bad! Both guys busted their asses and clearly wanted to impress people, setting up some good reversals (one of Edge’s better spears, though I can imagine why most guys don’t try that “run up and over the steps” thing due to the timing) and Jericho to come from behind and go on a tear. The ending was kinda funny as it was the one thing they didn’t really have a “plan” for- Edge gets a rollup, but Jericho just kinda pushes him over into his finisher. No reversal or nothing.
Rating: *** (almost the ideal short match- non-stop action, good reversals, signature moves and a clean ending)
RIKISHI vs. SCOTTY 2 HOTTY:
(June 19th, RAW)
* Stablemates now oppose each other- Scotty’s getting a big push lately, but this is DEFINITELY Rikishi’s year of stardom.
Scotty gets pushed around a bit, but uses his speed and superkicks Rikishi down, then avoids his sit-down from a sunset flip attempt. Rikishi gets a powerslam off a criss-cross and legdrops him for two. Rikishi chucks him around and clotheslines him, but misses the ass avalanche and it’s the bulldog into THE WORM, still wildly over, but Rikishi tosses him out to the floor at “2”. Scott’s back in with speed, but Rikishi just Samoan drops him, hits the Ass Avalanche and hauls him to the corner for the Banzai Drop- Rikishi wins handily at (3:42). VERY quick work- solid big vs. little match till the end, but this made it clear that Scotty was nowhere near Rikishi’s level.
Rating: **1/4 (solid, quick work! Got the crowd-pleasing spots in and gave Rikishi a big clean win during his big push)
The only match I can’t find this round: Crash Holly d. Hardcore Holly (4:17) by DQ, continuing his underdog run.
So this sets up the big Final Eight for the PPV itself- since it’s seven matches they go by lightning-quick. Rikishi beats Chris Benoit by DQ at (3:25) when Chris pointlessly hit Rikishi with a chair, injuring him. Val Venis beats Eddie Guerrero (8:04) via a distraction when Trish & Chyna got into it on the apron, hitting his Perfect Plex for the win. Crash Holly upsets Bull Buchanan at (4:07) after Bull dominated most of the match but misses his Scissor-Kick and got rolled up, giving Crash a THIRD underdog win! And Kurt Angle beats Chris Jericho at (9:50)- Jericho had the match won, but Stephanie McMahon (feuding with Y2J at this time) distracted the ref. Jericho KO’d the ref and Angle got KO’d by Steph’s Women’s Title belt, but Jericho wasted time kissing Stephanie to teach her a lesson, getting caught by the Olympic Slam for the win.
In the Semi-Finals, Rikishi beats Val Venis in (3:15)- Rikishi’s shoulder was badly hurt by Benoit the previous match, but Rikishi handily came back with the belly-to-belly suplex. However, Val messed up his arm again with a chair to end things, setting off a feud between them. Then Kurt finally ends Crash’s run at (3:58), easily beating him with the Olympic Slam. At last, in the KOTR Final, Angle defeats Rikishi with a Belly-to-Belly SUPERPLEX at (5:56) to become the 2000 King of the Ring! This is really a no-brainer at this point, as it completely rehabilitates Angle off of any earlier losses (like the Tazz one at the Rumble) and ensures we see him as a big deal again. Beating the weak Crash by contrast to Rikishi’s tougher competition AND the huge injury angle gives Rikishi a big “out” for losing and makes it look unfair, especially as Angle cheated in the first round.
All in all, a well-booked tournament… until the PPV. Benoit going out like that was kind of stupid, and many of the company’s best workers went out in pretty weaksauce ways, but it told the story they wanted- the name of the game here was to PUSH RIKISHI AND ANGLE, and they went all-out in doing that, setting up guys to give them wins. Crash keeps getting lucky wins until Angle breaks hearts by killing him easily, Jericho gets screwed (AND a visual win), and Rikishi gets hurt. This sets up a Rikishi/Val program I don’t remember, but at least Angle is a made man from this point on, and has a crazy year. Rikishi gets a sorta Main Event push later on and fails, but… well, they had to try. And the fact that they DID actually showed a huge advantage they had over WCW (or WWF at any later point, really)- a guy in the midcard got over so they pushed and pushed him until they found his limit. The real job of a booker is to do precisely that. Yeah it didn’t work out, but YOU HAVE TO TRY.
The obviously shitty part here is you have elite workers like Eddie, X-Pac, Benoit, Jericho & Angle RIGHT THERE and they’re barely put against each other and there’s fuck finishes all over the place. But this runs back to Vince’s distaste for tournaments (since those would be “Dream Matches” that they couldn’t advertise ahead of time), plus the fact that guys have to work multiple times, and that’s tricky if you’re doing the high-workrate style of Eddie or Benoit. Never mind that Vince didn’t think workrate drew, anyways. So instead you just get a bunch of screwjobs that favor angles instead.