Happy Wednesday Everyone!
I’ve reviewed the Opener and Main Event of this show already and the rest of the show has a couple of matches that I remember being good, so let’s do a full review of it. 2003 was a rough year for the WWE both creatively and financially, as they produced a number of lousy shows with the ratings and buy rates continuing to drop off from the peak of the Attitude Era two years prior.
This show was originally built around a Goldberg Vs Triple H singles match, but then Triple H got injured and they decided to pile six guys into the Elimination Chamber in hope of popping a buy rate and taking the strain off Triple H so that he didn’t have to carry Goldberg in a singles outing. Elsewhere we’ve got Brock Lesnar taking on Kurt Angle and the freshly re-monstered Kane against Rob Van Dam.
The event is emanating from Phoenix, Arizona on the 24th of August 2003
Calling the action are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler for Raw, whilst Michael Cole and Tazz take the Smackdown matches
Raw Tag team Titles
Champs: La Resistance (Sylvain et Rene) Vs The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von)
La Resistance were doing the “Evil Frenchman” gimmick due to Vince McMahon being pissy that the French wouldn’t agree to take part in the illegal war in Iraq. The Dudleyz had always been announced as being from Dudleyville but now they are magically from New York so they can do the whole Pro USA gimmick. Rob Conway had debuted by this stage as a French sympathiser and he had been doing the “disguised mystery man” gimmick where he would jump the babyfaces.
This has decent crowd heat and the action is solid in the early stages when The Dudleyz are on offence. The crowd of course wants to see tables, but they don’t get them right away. They do enjoy seeing The Dudleyz give the Heel Champions a kicking though, with the cheap xenophobic angle working with the audience for the most part. Eventually a Sylvain cheap shot on Bubba leads to the cut off and the Champs work Bubba over with basic stuff.
Bubba does a decent job selling it, but the Champs were pretty green at this stage so they’re kind of limited. Rene does show some good charisma though and he’d be a pretty entertaining solo act in 2004. Bubba eventually catches Sylvain with a Bubba Bomb and its hot tag D-Von, who does a nice comeback and the Champs do a good job bumping and feeding for it in all fairness to them. D-Von gets a powerslam on Rene for two, which leads to things breaking down following that.
Both teams have chances to win it and eventually all four guys are going at in the ring, and it’s quite exciting actually. The Dudleyz seem to have it won with the 3-D on Rene, but Rob Conway clocks D-Von with a camera behind the referees back, which is enough for the three. Spike Dudley tries to make the save following the match but he gets clobbered with the camera as well.
WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: LA RESISTANCE
That was fine, even if the storyline was pretty cheap and tasteless. The Dudleyz would win the tag belts the next month in a tables match
Jonathon Coachman interviews The Dudleyz following that and points out that La Resistance were clever, even though what they did was nefarious. The Dudleyz are not impressed though and state so.
Eric Bischoff is warming up backstage for his match with Shane McMahon later. Intercontinental Champ Christian comes over to offer his assistance, but Bischoff states that he has a plan. Christian, Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas and John Cena were all left off this show so that the likes of Bischoff, Shane and Albert could get on instead and the internet was not pleased about it at the time. Christian is annoyed he was left off the show and Bischoff blames co Raw GM Stone Cold for it.
We see footage of Vince McMahon’s hired gun The A-Train taking out Stephanie McMahon and The Undertaker in the build up to this event.
The A-Train w/ Sable Vs The Undertaker
Sable was Vince’s mistress in storyline (after she had sued the company in real life for sexual harassment) so she’s here managing A-Train, seeing as A-Train beats people up for Vince and all. This was of course one of the many attempts from WWE to push A-Train like a monster Heel, but WWE was filled with so many big guys at the time that it was hard for fans to buy him in that role. However, when A-Train went to Japan where wrestlers are on average a bit smaller, the monster booking worked a treat and he became a genuine star over there as Giant Bernard.
Taker shines on A-Train to start, with it mostly being punches and kicks, and it has good energy. A-Train eventually low bridges Taker and works over his ribs, ribs that had previously been injured by John Cena and Train had exacerbated the injury with a weapon shot on Smackdown. Taker does a decent job selling the mid-section and A-Train’s offence looks good, but the crowd doesn’t really buy A-Train as a threat to Undertaker and the crowd reactions aren’t great for this as a result.
A-Train has worked this fine, but he’d just been typecast at a certain level on the card and they just couldn’t elevate him past that no matter how much they tried to push him. Eventually we get the double clothesline and that leads to Taker making the comeback from the double down with punches, which wakes the crowd up at least. The crowd is into Undertaker but have no interest in watching him sell for Prince Albert, so the match has had spotty reactions as a result.
We head into the closing stretch, with the ref taking a bump and A-Train getting the Baldo Bomb for two in a good near fall. The crowd bit on that, so they at least thought A-Train was capable of winning, which is something. The ref gets bumped again, which leads to Train bringing in a chair. Taker kicks the chair into Train’s face for two from the revived ref, as this match is picking up a bit now. Taker manages to get the Choke Slam soon after and that’s enough for three.
WINNER: THE UNDERTAKER
This was decent actually, with just a lack of crowd heat hurting it, although they got into it a bit more in the closing stages. Taker sold the ribs well and the crowd bit on an A-Train near fall, so they mostly achieved what they wanted to with it
Undertaker grabs Sable post-match so that Stephanie McMahon can return and attack her, which gets a big pop from the crowd. A-Train drags Sable to safety though, meaning this matter will be resolved on another day. Undertaker and Stephanie being all chummy is always funny considering Undertaker once tried to abduct and marry her once, but wrestling is weird like that.
Hype package for a Brock Lesnar DVD. I seem to recall the feature presentation on that being kind of meh outside of some interesting stuff about Brock’s pre-main roster debut. It had some great extras for the time though.
Coachman asks some fans who they think will win the Main Event, and they all pick Goldberg.
Eric Bischoff Vs Shane McMahon
The story here was that Shane McMahon returned to the WWE to feud with Kane after Kane attacked Linda McMahon. Vince McMahon wasn’t down with that though and made Eric Bischoff prevent Shane from getting involved, which led to Eric and Shane having a feud for a bit until it was time for Kane and Shane to wrestle one another. Bischoff defeated Shane thanks to Kane, and then put the moves on Linda McMahon for good measure, thus setting up another match between the two here at SummerSlam.
Bischoff was such a fantastic smarmy Heel, although it’s laughable that Shane McMahon can batter him so easily in this feud considering that Bischoff legit knew karate. Bischoff decides to cut a cocky promo before the match about what happened with Linda, which only leads to Shane getting even angrier and then clobbering Bischoff. Bischoff actually sells pretty well, although his bumping isn’t especially crisp. Shane’s offence doesn’t look great, although in 2003 he could at least work for a little bit without getting totally bushed after doing a couple of moves.
Eventually Bischoff’s plan becomes clear, as Jonathon Coachman makes a pretty effective Heel turn by blasting Shane with a chair and teaming up to help Bischoff put a beat down on Simba. Bischoff makes the match a Falls Count Anywhere bout, and then cuts the mics of Ross and Lawler so that Coachman can do mocking commentary of his own. Coach is actually pretty entertaining in the role as well, but before Shane can be finished off, Stone Cold Steve Austin joins us for the rescue.
Coach points out that Stone Cold can’t do anything to him unless first physically provoked, which was a ruling Linda McMahon had introduced, so Shane shoves Coach into Austin so that he’s allowed to batter him, which he promptly does. Shane also takes a limp Bischoff and has him slap Stone Cold, so Bischoff eats a Stunner. Shane decides he doesn’t want to win just yet though and does the big elbow drop through the commentary table instead and that’s enough for three.
WINNER: SHANE MCMAHON
I’m not sure I can rate that, as it was more an elongated angle than an actual wrestling match. What I will say is that crowd seemed to enjoy it, so I guess it worked. Coachman was entertaining in his role and the fans loved seeing Stone Cold show up. At the time it was annoying because this was time that could have perhaps been dedicated to getting actual wrestlers over, but 19 years on that aspect is a bit less irksome and instead I could see it for what it was, which was an angle the live crowd enjoyed where everyone involved did what they needed to do, outside of maybe Shane who was kind of the weak link here
We get a WrestleMania recall of Mania XII. This was because the next Mania was going to be XX (This was back when they still numbered WrestleMania events).
Kevin Nash is warming up.
Ric Flair and Randy Orton discuss strategy for later. Orton says he understands his job, but wants to know what happens If Triple H gets eliminated before he gets in there. Triple H comes over and says that there is no what if.
Fatal Four Way for the WWE United States Title
Champ: Eddy Guerrero Vs Rhino Vs Chris Benoit Vs Tajiri
Eddy had previously tagged with Tajiri, whilst Rhino and Benoit had been a tandem, but both alliances have fallen apart and now all four guys are going after the US Title held by the currently Heel Eddy (although he would soon turn babyface and get a push all the way to the WWE Title). This one is all action, especially as they only have just under 11 minutes to work with. Eddy mostly hangs out on the outside in order to let the other three wear one another down, because he’s a sneaky Heel and all.
The wrestling is really good, as all four of these guys can go and all four of them also have their own character aspect to cover, with Eddy as the sneaky villain, Rhino as the powerhouse, Tajiri as the quick paced kick master and Benoit as the rugged wrestling machine. As a result all of the four wrestlers bring their own flavour to the contest and its fun to see them all interact with one another.
The finishing stretch is really good, with the match devolving into Finisher Madness™, where all four wrestlers take it in turns to hit big moves and submissions in an attempt to pick up the victory. The action remains exciting and the crowd gets into the near falls and submission teases. Eddy continues to bring the good character work, with a number of fun facials and cheating antics, including him countering a Rhino GORE with a belt shot. Tajiri and Benoit end up spilling out to the floor and Eddy gets the splash on Rhino for three.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: EDDY GUERRERO
This was good abbreviated fun. Give this an extra 4-5 minutes and I think it could have honestly been a classic
Shawn Michaels is taping himself up for later
Earlier on HeAT, Matt Hardy Version 1.0 gets a forfeit victory over Zach Gowen due to Gowen having a broken leg thanks to The Real Brock Lesnar.
We get a video package to hype up the next match between The Real Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle. The former was actually getting promoted as such at the time because the idea was that he’d gone from being a smiling pandering babyface back to being the Brock he was when he first debuted, i.e. an unstoppable scary monster. Brock is now a big meanie who works for Vince McMahon, and the turn happened when he and Vince beat up Angle inside a cage. They extenuated the turn by having Brock destroy both Zach Gowen and Brian Kendrick on Smackdown to get across how mean and scary he was. Brock had defeated Angle at WrestleMania XIX and this is the first pay per view singles match the two have had since then, with the only other meeting being a Triple Threat involving Big Show where Angle won the belt.
Champ: Kurt Angle Vs The Real Brock Lesnar
They work it amateur style to start, and that’s of course very good due to both of them having amateur backgrounds, and they do the classic storytelling by having babyface Angle out wrestle Brock in a fair fight, leading to Heel Brock turning it into more of a fight in order to gain an advantage. It’s a story as old as time but it almost always works, especially when you factor in Brock being a cocky bully who doesn’t like being shown up. Brock gets sick of being arm dragged at one stage and heads out to fling the steps around and intimidate the ring announcer, coming across as a Grade A jerk in the process.
Angle manages to survive Brock’s brawling and gets a suplex back inside, only for Brock to press Angle over the top rope to the floor for the cut off, which is technically an underhanded thing to do, although it used to be a babyface spot for British Bulldog back in the day. Brock flings Angle into the steps for good measure just so we know who the bad guy is and then he works Angle over inside the ring, with Angle selling it well and Brock showing off some good Heel character work. Brock was more of a bully during this run that was portrayed as not quite as tough as he thought he was, as opposed to his Heel run in the 2010’s where he was booked as an all-conquering beast.
In some ways this version of Brock was a little bit more interesting as he had layers and wasn’t so one dimensional, but he was also far more over as the unstoppable conqueror, which is kind of professional wrestling in a nutshell really. Angle eventually starts making a comeback, although it’s now harder for him as Brock has been working him over and it’s worn him out, which just makes Brock’s superior size all the more pronounced. Angle still manages to hit Brock with a trio of German Suplexes though. Brock replies with suplexes of his own, as these guys are just flinging one another around and its great action.
Heading into the finishing stretch we get some good near falls, including Angle countering an F-5 into a DDT at one stage, and the crowd gets into the action. Angle does the all-time great spot of putting his straps back up, all so he can take them down again, which will always be awesome, which leads to Angle locking in the ankle lock. Brock manages to counter out of it, but that leads to the ref getting bumped in the process. Angle gets a wacky submission hold of some kind where he wraps his legs around Brock’s head whilst also applying a waist lock, which he transitions into the ankle lock.
This leads to Vince McMahon joining us with a chair shot to rescue Brock, which adds to the idea that Brock isn’t invincible and does need help even though he’s also big and scary, which again was a slightly more interesting character than just “big dude who kills people”, although Brock was good at that one too. Brock manages an impressive one legged F-5 following Vince’s chair attack, but Angle kicks out at two in a good near fall. I’m kind of surprised that wasn’t the finish actually. Brock tries another F-5, but Angle counters this one into the ankle lock and Brock actually taps this time to give Angle the victory.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: KURT ANGLE
The booking was kind of strange here, as they’d gone to a lot of trouble of reheating Brock by having him kill people and then they immediately had him lose the first big match he had, which felt kind of counterproductive. He would win the belt from Angle later on in the year in an Iron Man match and then moved onto a feud with Hardcore Holly (Yes, Hardcore Holly. No, I’m not making that up, Brock Lesnar spent months feuding with Hardcore Holly over the top belt in the promotion). The match itself was excellent, with Brock showing off some good character work and Angle doing a great job fighting as the gallant babyface against a cruel bigger opponent. It had good wrestling, good storytelling and a fantastic closing stretch with some tight near falls and submission teases. I’m just surprised they put Angle over. Maybe they felt the show had enough Heel wins as it was and they’d give the fans a crumb of happiness, which isn’t the worst idea I guess?
Angle gives Vince an Olympic Slam through a chair following the bout, which was a birthday gift for Ol’ Vinnie Mac.
Goldberg is shadow boxing backstage.
We get a video package to hype up the match between Kane and Rob Van Dam. Kane had lost his mask to Triple H and gone crazy as a result. They did add an interesting aspect to the character, in that Kane actually was burned in his youth but the physical wounds healed. However, he still thought he was burned and disfigured, which actually raised an interesting question of what it means to be both physically and mentally damaged. Of course WWE did it in a pretty unsubtle route one common denominator kind of way, but at least they were TRYING to do something a bit different and it was actually a clever explanation as to why Kane wasn’t actually burned when he took his mask off. Anyway, Kane gave Linda McMahon a Tombstone Piledriver, thus earning the ire of Shane McMahon, but he had been in a tag team with RVD and had turned on him when he lost his mask, so this match is just to pay that off so that they can move on. RVD had been booked as a complete afterthought in the feud and the result of this match was never in doubt.
No Holds Barred
Kane Vs Rob Van Dam
This match is all about RVD trying to use weaponry and speed to keep Kane on the back foot, with it sometimes working out for him, whilst Kane dominates when he slows it down and keeps RVD stationary. It’s a straight forward story but they do a good job telling it. Outside of a few chants though, you never really feel like the crowd believes that RVD has a chance to win, unless Shane McMahon runs down to help him. This was kind of the problem they had with already making it clear that Kane and Shane would be the next feud, as it made RVD a lame duck opponent.
RVD doesn’t get completely squashed here, as he gets to his leg drop over the barricade (drawing a mild “EC-Dub” chant in the process) and also does some chair based offence, because he’s RVD. Kane does get the balance right of selling for RVD whilst also still giving off the vibe of being a big scary monster, and RVD looks good on offence when he’s given the chance. The crowd enjoys seeing RVD kick chairs into Kane’s face as well. RVD tries the Van Terminator at one stage, but Kane manages to move out of the way and then gets a Tombstone onto the steps outside before chucking RVD back into the ring for three.
Well, they tried to make it not just RVD showing up to get killed so that Kane could focus on the REAL issue with Shane McMahon, but the fans knew what was going on here and it permeated the match itself with them not really believing RVD had any real chance. And to be honest, having Kane lose to RVD here would have been kind of ridiculous as this incarnation of the character had potential to challenge for the Raw Title and losing to RVD would have been a waste when Rob was really just Intercontinental Title level during this period and wouldn’t become a top belt level guy until 2006 when he had the One Night Stand match with John Cena. I suppose they maybe could have had RVD kick out of the Tombstone causing Kane to do it again in order to give him something coming out of this, but that wasn’t his role here. The match itself was decent, although it probably would have had better heat had the fans thought RVD had a real chance to win
Terri Runnels tries to interview Eric Bischoff in the medical area, but he’s not interested. Linda McMahon shows up and slaps Bischoff to get some payback. Sometimes I feel sorry for Bischoff that he was brought in to be constantly humiliated like this, but then I remember how much of a berk he is and I go back around to thinking he deserves it.
Ric Flair gives Triple Hone last pep talk.
Champ: Triple H w/ Ric Flair Vs Randy Orton Vs Chris Jericho Vs Kevin Nash Vs Shawn Michaels Vs Goldberg
This was originally supposed to be Triple H defending against Goldberg singles match, with WWE even going as far as to announce it and start hyping it. However, Triple H ended up tearing his groin, so they decided to turn the match into a Chamber bout instead so that five other guys could do the wrestling and he wouldn’t really be required to do much. They pushed heavily in the hype that Triple H had lost the first ever Chamber match back at Survivor Series 2002 so as to make the fans think that it would happen again.
Goldberg is insanely over here, so much so that he gets a bit overly excited and falls over during his entrance. Triple H has long trunks on, which I think was because they would support the groin. They don’t look too good on him though and it’s no shock that he went back to normal trunks once his injury issues subsided. For some reason they dub Goldberg’s WCW music in over his WWE theme here, even though it always used to be the other way around with WCW footage for years prior to The Network era. I honestly have no idea how these music rights even work anymore. Do they not own their own theme that they created for Goldberg?
Jericho and Shawn start us out and it’s the usual good action between the two, as they trade pin attempts and dodge the others’ finisher attempts. It’s a fun little segment actually. Orton is the first out of his pod and he was already mechanically sound at this stage but hadn’t quite fully formed his heel character yet. The action remains good, but the crowd isn’t massively into it for whatever reasons and spend large chunks of it chanting for Goldberg.
The steel floor around the ring always looked awful to take bumps on and I think they’ve made it less treacherous in recent years. Nash is out next and goes right after Jericho due to Jericho giving him a haircut on a previous addition of Raw. Jericho bleeds as a result of that attack, which leads to Nash attacking his buddy Shawn for good measure. That proves to be his undoing however as Shawn plays him some Sweet Chin Music in response and that allows Jericho to pin him for three.
Kevin Nash Eliminated by Chris Jericho (1)
That was a good use of Nash actually, as he came in and got to look like a monster for a bit before getting eliminated before he could really drag the match down in any way. He decides to be a sore loser and attacks everyone. Triple H is supposed to be next out of his pod, but Shawn hits him just as it opens, which sends him back into the pod so he can sell and not have to do anything. Everyone starts pulling themselves up following Nash’s rampage, just in time for Goldberg to be released from his pod. That goes exactly as you’d expect, with Orton eating a Spear and getting pinned.
Randy Orton Eliminated by Goldberg (1)
Jericho is next up to the slaughter, as Goldberg Spear’s him through one of the pods in a great spot. Not only has Goldberg’s execution been spot on but everyone is selling his stuff really well also. This whole section of the match is just done perfectly by all involved. Shawn does get a flurry on Goldberg, but that doesn’t last long and a Spear and Jackhammer end his night soon after.
Shawn Michaels Eliminated by Goldberg (2)
It’s not long before Jericho’s night is over also, as a Spear and Jackhammer send him to the showers.
Chris Jericho Eliminated by Goldberg (3)
Triple H tries to stay in his pod, with Flair holding the door shut, but Goldberg punches his way in like he’s in an action movie and then drags Triple H out to lay a whupping on him. The crowd is absolutely loving it and is all on board with a Goldberg win, but sadly they are to be denied as Flair passes Triple H a Sledgehammer through the holes in the cage and Triple H catches Goldberg with it to pick up the last gasp win and deflate the crowd.
Goldberg Eliminated by Triple H (1)
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TRIPLE H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: GOLDBERG (3)
I’ve heard the defence for Triple H winning here (This meant Goldberg could now chase and win it from Triple H in a singles bout to make it mean more, this would give fans a reason to stay invested as football season began instead of tying things up in a nice bow with a Goldberg Title win, Goldberg hadn’t been getting reactions like this very often so WWE would have had no idea how into him the crowd would be etc) but my opinion is that they should have just pulled the trigger here
Goldberg was the hottest he’d ever been in his first WWE run and failing to win here took considerable steam from him. Triple H had an out due to his injury and rematches could have been sold on that story point once he’d healed. Obviously Goldberg’s second WWE run has kind of overshadowed this whole period, and that’s probably how people will remember his WWE days in the future, but this was still a missed opportunity in my opinion
The match itself was fun and fought at a quick pace, with something interesting usually happening at all points and some great selling by the likes of Shawn and Jericho to get the two big monsters over
Evolution do the big Horsemen beat down on Goldberg post-match to anger the crowd even more, but by the time Unforgiven came around the feud had cooled considerably and Goldberg’s eventual revenge didn’t really mean much.
There was some good wrestling on this show but some of the booking let it down. For instance, had Goldberg won the Main Event to send everyone home happy I think the good would eventually outweigh the meh and the show would be thumbs up overall. Triple H winning left a bad taste though and that leads to me more going for a thumbs in the middle instead. Your own personal mileage may vary.
Personally I would have had Brock defeat Angle to deflate the crowd but then have Goldberg plough through everyone to win the Chamber match so that everyone was up at the end and the show ended on a high. Angle didn’t really need another month or so as Champion and Brock really should have won to capitalise on his Heel turn, whilst Goldberg was over like rover here and winning the belt could have very easily cemented him as the top babyface on the Raw side.
Mildly recommended show