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Author: Subject: Brand Split 2002
Flash
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posted on 11-16-2016 at 02:31 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Brand Split 2002

Still trucking along in my re-watching of Raw and SD from 96-97 to present and figured I'd share my thoughts 14 years removed from the hype. I think it's also a neat time to look back at this as we are in the early days of a new brand split.

Basically as part of the fall out from the Invasion, Steph' and Shane sold their stock to a consortium that turned out to be Ric Flair, which made Flair a 50/50 owner with Vince of the WWE. In order to "kill" the WWF Vince brought in the NWO... which essentially resulted in them losing to Austin and Rock. Flair meanwhile wound up tangling with Undertaker at WM; which despite Vince doing so repeated with various talent (see Austin, HHH, his kids), was now somehow the worst thing he could think of so he tries to get the board of directors to side with one of them over the other... Vince would prefer it be himself.

Long story short, the board via Linda McMahon and taking a page from Solomon, decides that they should saw the baby in half with Vince getting SD, and Flair getting Raw. PPV's will be shared, and once Jericho and HHH settle their business, the champ will basically work both brands going to the brand of the guy he would eventually lose to (so in month one HHH loses to Hogan who was a SD talent, so HHH goes to SD).


Raw:
*'Member when Brock Lesnar did stuff aside from suplexes? Brock looked good here.. like he wasn't skipping leg day in the gym, and moved really well for a beast of a man. His first month and a bit was largely coming in squashing smaller guys before taking on the Hardy's. Brock of course was on the fast track to the top, so he beats down the Hardy's but in doing so takes a couple nasty chair shots to the head.

*Bradshaw seems to be one of the guys that they are trying to get over out of this... He's a ways away from being JBL, but would go on to team up with Austin some in facing what's left of the NWO.

*They should have just dropped the whole NWO... Flair suspends Nash for poking him... had to look it up, but sounds like it was due to Nash ripping a bicep or something... with Hogan on SD and now a face the NWO consisted of Hall and X-pac... not exactly a threat.

*Taker was the big heel on Raw... kind of doing his big evil thing... Sarah is back at home and he's sporting short hair now. Taker was pretty decent as a heel, but they kind of put him into a feud with Austin. Austin feels a bit like he's going through the motions... the one champ thing probably pushes him down the card a bit, so he's kind of an aimless top guy.... Not alone, as SD has a few guys that are in the same boat.

*Bubba Ray Dudley was separated from Devon; they were trying some stuff with him, but for whatever reason it just didn't work... maybe the crowded roster hurt him a bit, which is a shame given how highly regarded his later singles TNA run would be.

*RVD, Guerrero, Perfect, and the Hardy's all kind of round out the Raw side of things.. Guerrero would go on to feud with RVD for the IC belt... I don't know, just not an RVD fan... impressed with what he could do, but felt very spot monkey with a catch phrase that bordered on being as bad as Del Rio's "Destiny" years later.

Smackdown:
*Hulk is the big one here, as the fans are still over the top in love with having the Hulkster back... he'll go on to face HHH at Backlash in month 1 of the brand split where thanks to some interference from Jericho and Taker would take the title.

*Rock, Angle, and Jericho are all a bit lost in the shuffle... upper card stuff in month one, and after wrestlemania despite being the first overall pick the Rock wandered off TV to go promote the Scorpion King (need to watch that again... it was fun). Despite technically main eventing WM, Jericho is inexplicably left off of Backlash altogether outside of a run in... although what can you expect when you are the fourth most important guy in the feud behind HHH, Steph', and their dog...

*Edge was probably their big breakout guy they were getting behind on SD... he'd go on to feud with Angle, and share some screen time with Hogan.

*Billy and Chuck were definitely a project, be it as a comedy act or just something to get some headlines with their are they or aren't they gay storyline they got a lot of TV time.

Initial thoughts:
2002 brand split has been better than 2016, but that's only by virtue of the number of super over guys that they had on the roster at the time, so much so that they didn't really seem to know what to do with some of them... they get points for trying to build up some new stars... Hurricane, and Tajiri were probably the lower mid-card break out guys, with Edge, RVD, and Brock being guys they rightfully pegged as long term top of the card guys that they'd want to invest more time in building... so they definitely were trying to build stars. The single championship between the two brands probably hurt the whole separate brands idea, along with shared PPV's. Tough to compare the 2016 brand split as you don't have the top level quality that you had in having a Rock, Jericho, Austin, Hogan, and Undertaker at your disposal, but by comparison I think you have more blue chip guys who are already very over in 2016, and just need some great stories/feuds to take them to that next level.

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janerd75
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posted on 11-16-2016 at 05:03 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Nice write-up, Flash! Since we're well into the new brand split and this is the first Survivor Series since it's inception, I've been kinda trying to re-remember the v1.0 by watching some youtube videos and now your list makes for a handy guide for things to search for. Bueno!

Also,







Janny 11:19 says I JUST ATE YOUR ASS

Catch-As-Catch-Can: The Non-Specific Wrestling Thread

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posted on 11-17-2016 at 01:29 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Man there was nothing left for Austin to do. He just spent summer going another round with Taker and then doing another anti-authority angle. Should have had a little mini-feud with Mr Perfect while they builded up new heels for him.
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Flash
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posted on 11-17-2016 at 02:30 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Lol, thanks... I remember a month or two ago thinking that wow, I'm creeping up there in post counts... hell, with how lengthy most of my posts tend to be I'd probably be at double that by now if I got a little more concise

Looks like you're creeping up on 3000 as well there Janerd.

Working our way towards Unforgiven, the 2nd PPV in the brand split era, and they are still working on building some new stars... kind of
a combination of showcase and push: I'll explain more below.

Raw:
*Bubba Ray Dudley get's a match to open the show (or maybe it was Trish w/ Bubba and Stevie Richards with Jazz mixed tag deal), and plenty of talk about him as he does his best to regain the hard core title against Stevie Richards... Jazz (man was she jacked) interferes, and because the Hard core title had that 24/7 rule lot's of visitors popping in... So Bubba get's the push; but the bottom card guys get a bit of a showcase match as you see Raven pin the newly crowned Bubba for the title, Crash Holly takes out Raven for the title, followed by Trish Stratus snagging the title before Stevie takes her out... so like 4 title changes to open the show but we are still right back to where we started.... Absolutely vicious power bomb through the table as Bubba gets the fire extinguisher in the eyes and mistakes her for Jazz... Up here in Canada they used to cut to crowd shots whenever a man would attack a woman so I hadn't seen that before... Trish is a champ for taking that as that was a brutal table spot.

*Flair missed Austin's foot on the ropes at Backlash as he was the special ref in Austin's match against Undertaker for the #1 contender spot... Austin is... well, a Dick to his employers generally under the best of circumstances... Taker is the number one contender and Flair seems to be on the slow burn to heel town as he tries to make it up to Austin with various things going wrong... including Big Show turning heel on Austin to join the NWO... er, well... Hall and X-pac (who's been running around in Kane's match for the last couple weeks). Big show has been in the WWE for about 3 years, and I've honestly given up on counting how many heel/face turns he's had thus far... like 15 would be my honest best guess.

*HHH was not happy with Taker interfering in his title match with Hogan the week before, so he busts Taker open and gets arrested for his efforts. That's likely all the revenge HHH would get as he's now SD property, and if memory serves me right I think him and Jericho are destined for a HITC match.

*One of the nice things about this brand split is more Steven Regal... that guy was just awesome in his peak. Sadly another guy who's career was probably damaged by substance abuse. Not so cool was that he wound up feuding with Spike Dudley... Spike was a novelty, and very over in some circumstances, but I think out of all the wrestling tropes the David versus Goliath, or little engine that could one is probably my least favourite.... then again, looks like it will be a returning D'Lo Brown stepping up to face Regal instead for the European championship.

*'Member UK Exclusive PPV's? Looks like we'll get Insurrection before Unforgiven.

*You know how J.R. is generally regarded as one of the best announcers of all time... he had his fair share of shitty corn spun sayings that even King could barely make sense of... also, let's not forget that Undertaker himself had to ask Ross to stop calling him Booger Red.

*Booker T and Goldust are a thing that for some reason I didn't think happened until a few years later... oh well, they are gold together. Also, I think I know where John Cena got his fashion sense from as it retroactively looks like Goldust was doing an impression of jersey wearing Cena.

*Guh.... Shawn Stasiak just sucks... I know his dad was a former WWWF champion, but the guy just looked like a juiced up tool. Can't remember if it was this go around, or his one before this one with the WWE where he got fired for recording guys he was riding up the road with... either way, he's Brock's next victim.

*Tough Enough was just a crappy idea... soooooo sick of the constant ads for it, and in show segments. I think it was Rick way back when who commented about how the WWE probably knew that Maven was always going to be saddled with the stigma of coming out of this, and thus would never be a success... that it might be the later guys who did... Tough enough 1 gave us Christopher Nowinski, who if he hadn't been saddled with concussions might have been a star, but really it wasn't until T.E. III that we get John Morrison and then Miz a year later... You know the concept may have sucked, but the five or six talents they got out of it who made them money, plus whatever the show itself made, probably is why we keep seeing them try and bring this back.

*Get the "F" out... again, thought this was a bit later, but it's now the birth of the WWE.

*WWE wrestlers steal a lot... belts, gold medals, mops, motorcycles... ect.

*Okay, watching Hogan not be able to work Undertaker's stolen motorcycle as he threatens to drive it up the ramp and run down Taker sounds good on paper... In reality it keeps stalling out and Taker pantomiming please don't run me down was hilarious... more so as JR keeps trying to make excuses by saying Hulk is just trying to psyche out Taker despite how obvious it is to everyone that the damn bike is sputter, or Hogan can't work it... Hogan then jumps off the bike, runs backstage... presumably to get instructions on how to drive a motorcycle... and then runs back to the bike to drive it backstage finally. Honestly, even Taker being skilled on the bike always looked dumb having to slow to a crawl when he circled the ring when he was a face doing biker-taker gimmick. Hogan would then park the bike in front of a transport truck and get into the truck to run over the bike... shouting for Taker to come out or you know what's going to happen.... yup, great time for an ad... as Hogan continues to look like a crazy old man sitting in a truck yelling at no one when we come back.

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Flash
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posted on 11-17-2016 at 04:00 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Just wrapping up the last Raw before Unforgiven 2002 and a couple of highlights in here...

*Flair turned on Austin and is now a full heel, but interestingly enough he books himself for a title match against Hogan... that's right, 10 years after Vince got cold feet and pulled the plug on their WM VIII planned match, we finally got Flair vs Hogan in a WWE ring (I'll have to get back to watching WCW again some day, but from what I recall they did lock up there, also the WWE ring part is a bit wrong as they did do a house show circuit, so I should say WWE tv). While they gave it away on a Raw match, they did give them lots of time and the crowd was in to it... shame they overbooked it as a no DQ match which saw the NWO run in, Bradshaw, and then having Austin ultimately settle things to put heat on his match he'd go onto have against Flair and Big Show at Unforgiven... still, cool moment.

*The infamous plane ride from hell! Again, I knew from history that Hall wasn't in the WWE all that long, but I forgot how quick it was... for some reason I thought Lesnar was a bit more established as well... anyway, Hall got the boot from the WWE leaving the NWO as X-pac and Big Show... if memory serves me right HBK or Booker T wind up in the mix at some point later, but man talk about a train wreck finish for one of the all time biggest groups/angles in wrestling history... (well, if you discount whatever the hell they did in TNA as "The band"... although I guess that HHH vs Sting match from a year or two back was a nice send off to the NWO). Sadly I do believe this will also mark the end of Mr. Perfects WWE return as well, as I think the plane ride also cost him his job too... shame as they did a couple of the old vignettes of Perfect beating some expert, but they never quite went anywhere with him even before turfing him.

*Tommy Dreamer has earned his way back onto TV, although its by brushing his teeth with the same toothbrush he just brushed his dogs with, drinking urinal water, and shaving his tongue... dumb stuff, but I'll admit that the "what, it's colder than regular water" line got a chuckle out of me.

For those keeping score at home the Raw Roster kind of looks like this from top of the card to bottom, and some feud groupings.

Hogan (champ- both brands)
vs
Undertaker

Austin
W/Bradshaw
vs
Flair
X-pac
Big Show

Bubba (hard core)
Trish (women champ)
vs
Richards
Jazz

Booker T and Goldust (comedy act)

Brock w/ Heyman vs Hardy's

Guerrero (IC) vs RVD

Regal
Brown

Justin Credible
Crash Holly
Raven
Molly Holly
Spike Dudley
Probably missing a few guys... Saw big boss man in a lumberjack match, but he hadn't been on Raw yet that I could recall.

So Kane being written out (can't remember why, but X-pac did it), Nash injured, Hall fired you can kind of see how the Raw side got a little depleted... but still, Brand split 2016 is definitely way ahead on depth. In saying that, with only one monthly PPV they would seem to have a nice formula down (title match alternates brands, top feud for each brand, mid card feud or two from each brand and some throw away matches)... but nothing really too different form what they had before the brand split... so again, points for the 2016 split.

Few last thoughts...

*Too much blood... I don't think that a raw in the last umpteen weeks has gone by without a good amount of colour being done. I'm not adverse to it, but it was just overused in this period so that it stopped meaning something.

*Big Show (w/ Flair) will face Austin at Unforgiven... another one of those should have happened years before matches. It's hard to argue against a Rock versus Austin WM match as they've generally been gold, but in the build up to WM XV Rock and Foley were probably a bit played out, but not so bad that you couldn't have wrung one more title match out of them leaving your main event as Austin vs Big Show w/ McMahon... Big show got a great début at St. Valentines Massacre when he saved McMahon (and cost him the match) when he threw Austin through the cage wall... Yeah jobbing the big show out (you could have Austin pin McMahon instead) a month into his début would hurt (come to think of it, they did that anyway against Foley) but it would have been a huge match and a great finish to Austin vs McMahon as Vince went out and got the biggest monster to beat Austin... instead we got a rushed Rock vs Austin feud, Big Show vs Foley over who would ref, and the hottest angle of SC vs VM kind of dropped with one giant loose end... Show would of course falter into countless heel/face turns, and lower card stuff... So in a weird way looking forward to Austin vs Show... just should have happened 3 years before.


[Edited on 11-17-2016 by Flash]

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Flash
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posted on 11-18-2016 at 04:17 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Jumping over to the SD side of things...

*I think we get so inundated with crazy Vince stories that we sometimes forget what an entertainer the man actually is... Case in point, his mocking of Hogan and HHH with impressions of each of them had me genuinely laughing out loud. Undertaker already has dibs on Hogan for the title match at Unforgiven, so HHH and Jericho are destined for a HITC match in a few weeks... in the mean time the two of them will face off. You know, for the lazy bugger that seemingly barely worked in WCW, Hogan's generally had at least a 10 minute match a show, and as champ he's pulling double duty on both shows.

*HHH needs to realize that track pants, and a leather jacket with a jean jacket over top of it is not a good look... especially when you already look like you've been juicing like crazy while you were off getting your quad repaired.

*I miss Kurt Angle... has there ever been a more all around gifted superstar who just clicked as quickly as he did? I mean by this point he's been in the WWE for 2-3 years (quick check and he débuted on TV November of 1999) and here we are May 2002 and he's had multiple world title reigns, faced off against Austin, Rock, Jericho, Taker, HHH and countless others and not once has it felt like he was the guy being pushed on us... the whole gullible wholesome idiot who wants to be loved and who can kick most guys ass was just a goldmine of a character for both face and heel antics.

*It was still almost a decade before they successfully unleashed Mark Henry as an unstoppable beast, so this was attempt/character number 3 or 4 to get him over (I seem to remember reading that Henry was one of the rare times that Vince signed a locked in guaranteed money deal for like a million a year)... So this go around was that Henry was fresh off winning some worlds strongest man competition so each week featured some feat of strength while the SD locker room (often lead by Faarooq) bet on whether or he could lift a car, bend a frying pan, a metal rod... ect. Generally speaking one of Test, or Christian would be the loser in the bet and then either storm off, or club Henry with the bent object leading to a match.

*The other big story is that Edge is probably getting his biggest singles push, with the first being his feud with Christian, followed by a brief feud with Booker T. He's facing Angle now in what will culminate in a hair vs hair match, and this is definitely designed to be a major feud for Edge as while Angle went over at Backlash, we all remember how this particular feud ended right?

*Reverend Devon wasn't a bad gimmick... not sure why it never quite took off.

*Randy Orton get's the pat on the back treatment from Vince who ranks his pedigree and let's us know he expects big things, that is until he has to leave the office for a moment leaving RKO alone with his assistant Stacy Keibler who badly attempts to seduce the mantard that a is Orton... Vince comes back in and Stacy cries rape, so Vince decides that for a punishment Orton will face Bob Holly. Man Orton looks so young here... like what 22? He still didn't have his full on shoulder tat's, and just had the one bicep tattoo. You could definitely tell that it was his admittedly impressive drop kick that they tried to use to get him attention.

Smackdown's Roster kind of breaks down like this...

Hogan (Champ, both brands)

HHH
Angle
Jericho
Edge (getting a big push)

Billy and Chuck, w/ Rico, the ambiguously gay trio

Henry
Faarooq
Test
Christian
Lance Storm
Hurricane
Reverend Devon
Albert
Scotty Too Hotty
Rikishi

Al Snow and his attempts to get Maven over

Bob Holly
... and Randy Orton just made his début.

Still a bit on the thin side, but for some reason Smackdown seems to feel a bit deeper. I think, and knowing where Smackdown is going in the next few months we'll see Deacon Batista make his début, and a fresh faced John Cena likely isn't far off either. Maybe it's because Vince is around and is a character, but you've got Angle, Jericho, HHH, Hogan, and an emerging Edge carrying a lot of TV time, whereas on Raw it's pretty much just Austin and Flair doing the heavy lifting for promos.

In the short run as we build up

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Flash
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posted on 11-22-2016 at 04:53 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Some decent stuff in between Unforgiven 2002 and KOTR 2002, but it's probably more interesting because of some behind the scenes stuff, and some reshuffling... I'll explain more below:

*From Smackdown the obvious highlight is Kurt Angle trying to convince everyone that he miraculously re-grew his hair in 24 hours thanks to a bad wig and wrestling earguard/chinstrap... Him and Edge had a very good cage match that saw Angle doing his best Buckwheat impression as the Whig began to slip and wound up standing on end... The cage match is definitely worth checking out, and on the whole the WWE is doing a bang up job of that kind of "stickiness" that Rick talks about, and one thing flowing to another... for instance Angle to impress McMahon clocks Hogan from behind, so Hogan pitches in to help Edge in the cage match later... They also have some interactions with Jericho and Angle teaming up against HHH and Hogan, with both Taker and Edge kind of on the fringes running in... all in all it makes for a nice soup of ending one set of feuds and transitioning into some future feuds.

*Coming out of the above we get another go around between Hogan and HHH... not a bad match, and the crowd is still massively into Hogan. HHH will win, and go on to face Undertaker... which if you go back a few weeks before he attacked Taker in revenge for costing him the title against Hogan.... OMG, it's like the WWE was planning some stuff in advance!

*The KOTR tournament kind of throws everyone else's stories by the wayside as there is a lot of one off... Jericho whines about having to fight after his and HHH's HITC match, Reverend Devon is fairly entertaining in his new gimmick with a very different Batista following in tow... Orton is getting the new guy showcase push... bottom of the card duty, but you know he's someone they've got their eye one.

*The shitty has got to be the developing relationship between Maven and Tori Wilson... lot's of sexual innuendo, but honestly what makes it is a jealous Tajiri stalking around and frequently kicking Maven in the face... God Damn Tajiri was just awesomely funny and just plain awesome as the scheming Japanese bad guy.

Meanwhile, over on Raw....

*Tommy Dreamer's comedy act is in full swing, be it eating hot dogs off the floor, or drinking the Undertaker's tobacco spit cup, or carrying a bucket of vomit around with him.. pretty terrible juvenile humour, but Dreamer is so loveable, and Taker demonstrates some surprisingly strong comedic chops as he can't stop retching while watching Dreamer do disgusting stuff while Taker beats him down.... The comedy is not for long, as fresh off of their loss to Brock Jeff Hardy decides to make a name for himself and attacks Taker form behind knocking him into Dreamer's puddle of puke (can't believe I just wrote that...)... This sets up some Raw weekly TV feuding between Taker and the Hardy's.... this was never about giving the Hardy's a win, but it was nice to see them take on the big dog, which win or lose helps get them more over. Overall Taker's I'm the champ with a persecution complex is fairly entertaining.

*One of the shittier plot lines if Molly Holly's giant ass... yup, Vickie Guerrero wasn't the first to get the body shaming... In saying that, this was probably one of the first times that Trish got to really wrestle someone who could go, so the basis of the feud sucked, but the in ring stuff was good.

*Brock keeps beating on people en route to being the most obvious KOTR winner ever... it's funny, a comparison between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns would be kind of interesting exercise one day... both were clearly tagged as guys Vince wanted to build around, but for a crammed down our throats as Reigns was seen as, he can't hold a candle to how over-pushed Brock was (Champ in 6 months, and really... never a moment in doubt).

*Booker T is doing a great job of getting over as a face... having Goldust to play off of really helps... in a nutshell the story is that the NWO now consisting of X-pac, Big Show, and Booker is crumbling from within until Nash comes back and tries to set things right again... for that he looks to his friend HBK to come back... HBK does his best to blame Austin for stealing his spotlight, so you have to wonder if the long term plan might not have been some kind of continued NWO vs Austin feud culminating in Austin vs HBK II.... uhn uhn, not going to happen... first order of business is to superkick Booker in the face, and out of the group... Getting the impression that this isn't the HBK that likes to play with others yet either... so the NWO is kind of just there... Big show is already on heel/face turn 75, X-pac sucks, Nash can't wrestle, and HBK is not giving any indication that he's going to wrestle for a while either... Some interesting parts in here, but really just a mess.

*Austin... where did they go wrong... The Austin vs Authority figure is in full go mode again, but we know Flair ain't the real boss, only the pretend one... so it's not only a rehashed idea, it's no where as good as the first go around. We get a decent Austin vs Flair match where the loser becomes the others personal assistant, and Austin can't throw a punch... pure wrestling... not a bad match, they seemed to get lost a few times and go back to just chops too many times, but heck, Flair vs Austin is something that just from a legend vs legend POV has aged well.

Then Austin went and walked out...

This is where you can see they just got lost on what the hell to do... I do believe the rumoured match before Austin walked out was Austin vs Brock... probably a bit silly when Brock was inked in for the KOTR already... So instead we get Vince vs Flair for the control of the WWE... lots of blood in this one, and thanks to a Brock assist McMahon is back to running the whole WWE (there are at least 4 ads per show telling us to get the F out...). Losing the face of your company probably does cause some scrambling... the WWE wasn't quite as dependent upon Austin by this point (Rock was already announced as coming back anyway), but Raw is dropping guys like flies by this point at the top of the card.... the Brand Split will continue, but you can see them changing direction a bit at this point... Shame, as Austin versus Guerrero was winding up before Austin bailed, and that could have been a pretty good 1-2 month feud to get us to Summer Slam.

Vince's dealing with Austin leaving was... weird... Vince does a big speech about how Austin let everyone down, owes everyone an apology, and talks about how Austin had walked out before... they then in the next segment hit Austin's music only for Guerrero to come out to garner some heel heat, and then Vince does a backstage segment about how a mysterious "he" is coming... "he" must be Stone cold... which they carry over several segments until we find out that "he" is the Rock... The Rock, the guy who just disappeared several times over the last few months filming a movie, and who'll shortly be gone again in a month or two, comes out to give the rah-rah WWE screw you Austin speech for bailing on us... Yeah the Rock is loved and can do it like no one else, but in the moment a bit of an odd choice.

I've also head the term "ruthless aggression" thrown out, so I guess we are heading into a new era now...

KOTR coming up... thus far it breaks down as such:

RVD, Jericho, Test, and Brock as your final four for the KOTR tournament.
Hardy's taking on Raven and Stevie Richards.
HHH vs Undertaker for the World title.
Angle vs Hogan
Flair vs Guerrero.... which you probably would have to assume would have been Austin vs Guerrero.

Oddly Booker T is on the sidelines again for a 2nd month in a row despite having a story, and being pretty over... I'd have probably subbed out the Hardy's instead... let them sell Taker's beat down... ah well, the downside of a crowded card I guess.

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Flash
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posted on 11-24-2016 at 03:01 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
KOTR has come and gone; Brock in a shock to absolutely no one, is your KOTR going over RVD in the end which sets up a mini feud to bide time as for the 2nd time ever (? I know, or think Billy Gunn got a title shot at Summer Slam) the king gets the main event at Summer Slam in 2 months.

Also of interest at the KOTR was that Hogan tapped out to Angle, which if the WWE and my memory is to be believed, this was the first time that Hogan ever submitted in his career. Bit of conflicting styles; Hogan's power moves versus Angles wrestling, but again one of those matches that's worth hunting down as maybe not a dream match, but still a rare match between two legends.

Lastly, either pre-planned, or to cover for Austin's departure the Rock wound up doing a run in on the match between Taker and HHH for the undisputed title. HHH's elbow is already wrapped up, and on the following SD they announce that HHH will be on the shelf for a few weeks... not sure if that was a legit, or storyline thing... if memory serves correct this was HHH's phase where he came back so huge after his injury that he lost a lot of his movement and seemed to be a bit banged up every few months.

With that... welcome to the "Ruthless Aggression" era...

RAW:
*Raw kicks off with McMahon at the centre of the ring surround by the entire Raw roster where he announces that he's looking for some ruthless aggression and that there is always opportunity in the WWE. The NWO interrupts, and Vince puts over HBK on the mic', but says he won't be wrestling... neither will Nash because he's still hurt, leaving X-pac and Big Show. Booker T and Goldust interrupt the Vince and the NWO lovefest and sets things in motion of later in the night... Which Goldust and Booker T freaking' own, as the strange one does his best crocodile hunter impression to trick X-pac into running into a trap... aka Booker's boot to his face.

*Raw definitely got the short end of the new talent stick, as probably their biggest début was Christopher Nowinski... Now over-repetitive Harvard gimmick aside, I always thought that he had a good look, seemed comfortable talking, and would probably have developed more in the ring had he not run into the concussion troubles... Well, I guess they also had Brock.

*Jeff Hardy continues with his Raw exclusive feud with Taker... think plucky underdog who won't give up despite getting beat down week after week and that's the feud in a nutshell. Jeff takes another beat down, but while lying on his belly in the ring he calls out Taker for a ladder match next week.

Overall Raw has probably had more problems locking down a roster, but generally delivers a few decent matches per week with a few surprise ones that are worth a watch. On the whole the WWE is clicking along quite well. Raw might now be developing the new talent quite the same, but there are plenty of sophomore talents like RVD, Booker T, and guys like Jeff Hardy getting some singles pushes that they didn't quite get before. Eddie is back, Benoit is kind of back... he's listed as injured so he can hang around Raw despite being a SD talent, but never shows up on SD. The whole NWO thing is a bit of a burden in that you've got your biggest names that just kind of hang around chewing up scenery.

Meanwhile over on SD:
*Youth is the name of the game as we've still got RKO getting the slow push against mid card guys, but this week saw the début of a very young looking John Cena who answers a Kurt Angle open challenge. Worth watching the match simply based on the fact that it's the start of one of wrestling all time biggest names... the match is decent; maybe too many pin attempts, but some nice back and forth and the multiple pin attempts from Cena fits well with a guy who's trying to steal one from the best in hate game. It's also funny that within a few months Cena was apparently rumoured to be close to getting turfed as McMahon didn't see money in him... close call. Anyway, Cena is given the million dollar treatment and rises to the occasion in facing Angle... even the post match jawing between the two is decent, and as we later cut to Cena backstage we see a bunch of veterans... including the heelish Undertaker congratulate him.

*Angle isn't done for the night, he'll later come out and ask for a title shot against Taker next week... should he survive Jeff Hardy... and winds up attacking Taker. You know, I can't say enough nice things about just how great Taker is... it's even just the little things like stooping down a bit while he talks to Angle in a bit of a condescending way...

*Mark Henry is getting a lot of TV time; mostly squash matches but plenty of clips of him entering and winning various strong man competitions... honestly; the guy is a beast... like just what he can do is in incredible.

*Awww... so Jamie Noble and Nidia are kind of something... he let's Tajiri have a taste, and if they win their match later he promises Tajiri more than taste... the scene ends with Tajiri chewing Nidias gum.... eeeewwwwwwww.... girl germs.

*You know, I know the SD set is older than the brand split with the big fist smashing through the set, but they've also added stuff like little pop up windows as talent come to the ring with little entrance videos in them that they don't do on Raw... just little touches that tell you that you are watching a different show than Raw.

*Lance Storm and Christian are starting up their UnAmerican's gimmick... Test is on SD and I remember him being on there, but for some reason I remember Regal also being in the group but he's on Raw... Trade down the line maybe?

*SD also tries to lead the way in gratuitous (is there such a thing) T&A as week after week they trot out Tori Wilson in some skimpy thong, only for Stacy Koehler to try and top her... now you can throw in Dawn Marie into the mix...

*Maybe because it was in a tag match, but overshadowed by Cena début was Batista's in ring start as he teams with Devon against Orton (whom he squashes for the win) and Farooq. You know, outside of maybe the current wave of talents where you had the Shield all ascend to lofty heights in wrestling, and Balor, Zayn, and Owens all début in close proximity to one another has there ever been a class like this 2002 group of Cena, Batista, Orton, and Lesnar? I mean between them they have at a rough count 37 world title reigns, 6 royal rumble wins, a half dozen or so tag title reigns, and several IC/US reigns.... maybe an interesting poll one day; Best WWE year/class.... I mean it's crazy to think of the sheer amount of legends the WWE unearthed/developed between say late 99 and 2002, and then how few they developed until what... 2010-2011 or so... not saying they were devoid of talent in the intervening years as guys like the Miz and CM Punk came out of those lean years... but man, either what a hot streak, or what a cold streak.

*In closing we get a main event match between Jericho and Hogan (see, like I said... not every match was a OMG Work rate match, but lots of nice gems in the mix of some nice legendary pairings) which see's Y2J standing tall at the end poised to slam a chair into Hogan's head... Edge; looking maybe the biggest I've ever seen him look, makes his return, leaving us with a fun (and it seems obligatory that everyone do it) combo Hogan/Edge doing the Hogan ear call and pose down to close out the show.

Overall SD seems more focused on building stars, but maybe guys that will need to develop a bit more... Raw tries for the bigger moments, but SD seems to deliver a few more good matches, and clicks along at a faster pace... I'm split on which one I like better from a brand split POV, but like I've said a few times lot's of good stuff in here fro both shows.

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posted on 11-24-2016 at 06:21 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
So Raw July 8 2002 edition is a bit of an interesting one.. as a whole probably one of the weaker episodes; maybe due to the NWO stuff being so front and centre as they try to recruit an at home and recuperating HHH into joining them via various threats, but this episode is notable for probably two reasons:

*The Jackie Gayda match.... yup, that one... the one where she teams with Nowinski against Stratus and JBL (who seems to be in need of an identity, as no he runs around with a bull rope, cowbell, cowboy boots and hat, and black trunks). You could easily YouTube this match... it's not as bad as I think the legend it has become, but it's pretty bad.. Trish tries a spring board off the ropes at one point and Gayda just kinda stands there. Another spot see's Trish coming off the ropes in an attempted bulldog bug really just skims Gayda's hair... Gayda stands there for a second, then drops like she was shot... all in all about 6 minutes of not good.

*Kevin Nash continues to collect a WWE paycheque with almost zero ring time.... yup; on the very night where he's medically cleared after hurting his arm at a house show and being on the sidelines, Nash dresses for a 10 man tag match where he gets in maybe 15 seconds of ring time before he blows out his knee with a very audible scream before the ref throws up the X (You know, I'm trying to remember when that became a thing we all knew about, and I think it might have started with this match? Anyone?). Nash must have been in the mix for the original finish as everyone kind of just shuffles around... Bubba Ray (his opponent) actually walks over to Nash, squats down outside the ring and starts chatting with him... after a few moments X-pac walks over and starts delivering some weak push kicks to Bubba's head, and then squats down and starts talking to Nash himself who just lays in the corner like a lump... Eventually big show saunters over and starts talking to Nash as well before he locks up with Booker T, takes him out and the NWO "win" what would be the last of the NWO we would see for what... 13 years?

It's a shame that this Raw was so... meh... as the July 1 raw from the week before had the Taker vs Hardy match which was definitely worth checking out.

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posted on 11-27-2016 at 08:16 PM Edit Post Reply With Quote
IIRC Nash went down with a torn quad. The way he reacted was pussified even more, when HHH tore his quad, video caught it and he finished a pretty brutal match...on a PPV me thinks.





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posted on 11-27-2016 at 10:31 PM Edit Post Reply With Quote
HHH injury happened on a Raw in a tag match between Y2J/Benoit and HHH/Austin for the tag title... I will typically fast forward through most Benoit matches, but that was one that I still watched because it was such a great match... maybe even more so now that we know how hurt HHH was, and yet still continued on.... kind of ads a new dimension to it from a how to the pro's react when things go wrong.

Just to clarify (because I mentioned both of his injuries); the Raw match I just wrote about that spelled the doom of the NWO Nash did blow out his quad... I don't wish harm on anyone, but it was almost comical to watch as he pretty much just does a big boot, and then kind of stumbles to the corner with a yelp. That was Nash's first match back from some kind of bicep tear/strain, which he sustained/exacerbated during a house show, and was pretty much why he was NWO member to never get a one on one match, and generally played outside the ring shenanigans, or was buried in 6 man tag matches... In contrast to the HHH injury and how they soldiered through the injury and adapted, this particular Nash injury just lead to a lot of confusion and shuffling around.

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posted on 11-27-2016 at 10:45 PM Edit Post Reply With Quote
I'll hop back into breaking down the 2002 Brand split in a moment, but just watched something really cool on Smackdown that I really wish they would do a bit more of from time to time...

We get a Brock Lesnar vs Mark Henry Match- quick cut to backstage post match for some verbal sparring between Bischoff and McMahon; it then goes to a commercial, and we come back with Lesnar coming through the curtain with Heyman in tow... the camera follows him as he comes up to Hogan to exchange some words (Hogan is facing Angle in the main event for who gets to face Lesnar next week on SD)... the camera continues to follow Lesnar past Rico, Chuck, and Billy arguing and Lesnar casts them a look and keeps on walking... the camera decides to stay with the ambiguously gay trio for a few moments when Billy and Chuck leave just as Cena walks up... Rico and Cena exchange some words to set up things later between them, and Cena departs.. the camera then stays on Rico who goes on the move only to run into Angle (literally)... Since Angle is infinitely more interesting than Rico it's time to follow Angle who runs into Brock and they exchange some words to close out the loop.

Think Hitchcock's "Rope" or, the opening few minutes of Boogy nights... just kind of an interesting "the backstage is always happening" kind of POV that made a few throw away segments much more interesting... I wouldn't do this all of the time, but it was a really cool follow the action kind of segment that in the span of 3-4 minutes set up maybe 4 different plot threads.

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posted on 11-28-2016 at 05:00 PM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Good stuff flash, thanks for the walk down quasi memory lane!





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posted on 12-27-2016 at 07:25 PM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Kind of lost interest in dissecting the 2002 brand split because 2002 probably has to be one of the worst years in wrestling... pretty much every eternally shitty wrestling angle you could think of came out of 2002:

*Katie Vick
*Al Wilson
*Billy and Chuck
*HHH just being given the world title
*Scott Steiner
*Testicles... as in Test and Stacey Kiebler's attempts to get Test over (ship had sailed)
*Erik Bischoff

In saying that we also got some pretty good stuff in 2002 as well:

*HBK's return
*Brock vs Undertaker
*Emerging stars Cena, Batista, and Orton (who's Orton updates while he was out with a buster shoulder were actually pretty good... well timed to interrupt something cool and garner heat as Orton prattles on about how much we missed him)
*The Elimination Chamber
*A pretty decent tag division(s)
*Women's division getting a lot better... well, on Raw anyway (Trish, Victoria, Jacqueline... Lita will eventually join them)
*Erik Bischoff (yup, he makes both lists as he could be simultaneously entertaining and annoying as hell)

Katie Vick was mercifully shorter than I remembered it being, but that Al Wilson shit went on waaaaaaaaaaaaay too long, and between old man saggy balls gross factor, and the rapey Dawn Marie preying on Torrie Wilson the creep factor was high... Billy and Chuck had some entertaining moments, but the end game was always going to be that there was no way in 2002 WWE two "gay" characters were going to be treated as anything more than a comedy act.... actually I was mildly shocked to see just how many homophobic slurs were caught on camera (in ring trash talking for the most part... lot's of sissy boys, Mary's, and I'm positive I heart a faggot in there at one point)... or even outright intended to be on camera: See any Rock, Michael Cole/Coach interaction.... go back a few years to HBK pantomiming blow jobs at guys for heat, and then leap forward to modern WWE where CM Punk has to write apology tweets for calling a guy a "homo" and the WWE has come a long way... I'd actually be curious to read Pat Patterson's book to see how it was behind the scenes, as there were a number of well known (at least behind the scenes) gay wrestlers at the time that were employed for years, so it could be that the locker room was safe place but our language sensibilities hadn't fully emerged quite yet in 2002.

2002 was also a year where a few big names took a backseat... not Kurt Angle's most memorable year, although to be fair his major feud was with Benoit and more than a decade removed from that dark day my finger still automatically finds the FF button, or my attention zones out completely (a further shame as this was also a banner year for Eddie Guerrero, but largely in a feud/story with Benoit), although he did close out the year with a title shot against the Big Show, and I do believe he was on course to face Brock at mania. Jericho fell from the lofty heights of first undisputed champion to first the IC, then the tag division... although to be fair he remained a strong staple of whatever TV show he was on. RVD got a title shot and started the year strong, but the number of stars each show boasted meant that he was probably due for a cooling off period... actually it's funny with guys like RVD and Rey Mysterio... I'd come to dislike both guys for their paint by numbers formulaic matches later in their careers (I get that the 619 is a bit crowd pleaser and thus you want to do it for each crowd, but guhhh... it just sucked after a while...)... a kind of retro-active dislike was in full bloom against these guys wherein I just couldn't get behind them not because of what they were doing now, but because of what they would do... like a kind of eternal X-pac heat leaving you to wonder if X-pac was ever truly liked?

The 2002 Brand split was a bit of a jumble.... I think in the end once it settled down (they did a LOT of talent raiding back and forth between the brands) Smackdown emerged as the more solid show, but Raw was definitely the more innovative show... both had some terrible, terrible stuff... but both had an all-time great feud come out of the year as well (HBK vs HHH, Taker vs Brock). They definitely settled into their "characters" by the end of the year a bit more, and with the rosters locked I think we have a solid foundation for 2003, and year two of the brand split.

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posted on 12-29-2016 at 01:37 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
So scratch that for Angle not doing much in 2002; he got to cap it off by winning the world title from Big Show... what sucked, for Big Show anyway, was Paul Heyman basically trying to massage the real reason that Big Show wasn't a draw as champ, into how this was in story good for him and how he should continue to help Angle... who just beat him with the help of Lesnar, in a somehow consulted plan that it was all done to further screw Lesnar... despite the fact that Lesnar was in story suspended...

So yeah, Angle's champ, and he's going to feud with Lesnar... so despite how we got there sucking, the end result should be good.

Smackdown is a bit of a one horse show, but they also just introduced Benjamin and Haas as Angle's muscle, as Angle's knee is pretty legit busted up so we'll get the slow burn to get us to him squaring off against Lesnar. The B story continues to be Benoit and Guerrero, with a C story being Edge... and Albert.... meh, it's the build to the Royal Rumble, so it's natural some stories are going to fall by the wayside a bit, although the Rumble is best when the Rumble match itself can be used to further a feud in lieu of 30 guys just tugging and pushing on one another (so like Janerds last birthday party? Zing!)

Meanwhile over on Raw....

Last week Scott Steiner beat HHH in an arm wrestling match... so this week; a pose off.... yup, on the heels of maybe one of his greatest feuds against HBK, HHH is finding himself back in the land of Katie Vick level storytelling... and people think he used his backstage stroke to only get the good stuff?

Skipping past that crap fest, 2 weeks ago gave us Y2J coming out to lip off to HBK about how he's a has been who let them all down only to get some sweet chin music to his face... but the seeds of an all time great feud were set in that same promo... this week gives us a very nice promo work between HBK and Y2J... Jericho comes out to whine about how he needs to get his career back on track and become the world champ again, HBK comes out to tell a story about how Y2J needs everyone's approval- that he still hasn't matched his accomplishments, Jericho counters with him beating two guys in one night to win his first title, two guys Shawn has never beat... the race is on to demand the first entrant spot in the rumble to prove just how good they both are leading to some physicality..... oops, not so fast; Orton interrupts to let us know his injured shoulder is back to 93% mobility... nice bit of heat for Orton as he gets to run his mouth for a bit after spoiling a fight between HBK and Y2J that the fans wanted to see... Orton runs his mouth a bit too much and gets punched in the mouth for his troubles, Jericho ever the opportunist takes out HBK from behind when RVD runs in to attack Jericho; Orton lends a hand and Christian runs in to attack RVD, followed closely by RVD's new BFF Kane to clear the ring.... fantastic segment- great promo work to advance a slow burn storyline, teased violence with just a taste- both guys get their moment in it, and then the ring gets cleared by fringe players who have various storylines with other people in the ring (the Canuck's had been feuding with team RVD/Kane). From reading one of Jericho's books it was amazing to see just how close HBK was to wandering off into the sunset again after his feud with HHH... that their initial promo between Jericho and Michaels was just supposed to be a throw away spot to let HBK get his heat back for losing to HHH.

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posted on 12-29-2016 at 03:55 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Holy shit is that HHH-Scott Steiner feud the most homo-erotic craptacular feud in the history of wrestling....

Week 1: Arm wrestling competition
Week 2: A pose down where I kid you not as they were both greased up and striking various poses and getting into one another faces I'd swear they were within an inch of turning into some Korean fan fiction (South park reference) before all of the obvious wrestlers who were plants attack Steiner... they couldn't have been more wrestlers incognito if they were wearing fanny packs and zumba pants....
Week 3: Steiner wants a weight lifting competition... for a moment HHH makes the feud relevant when he says he doesn't care about all that stuff and was playing with him... physicality erupts and what does Steiner do.... strips HHH to his underwear.

I vaguely remember their match not being good... like Steiner getting blown up and pretty much falling over inside of five minutes bad... That will have to wait for tomorrow though.

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posted on 12-30-2016 at 01:47 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
So the Royal Rumble was decent enough; still plenty of the over arching crap stories running around in there, but HHH vs Steiner was better than expected... I mean it was just brawling and suplexes (so a Brock match?) but it was far better than the feud that lead to it... in saying that, the two are already squaring off for round two (HHH "won" by getting deliberately DQ'd)... except this time he has Evolution at his back.

A note on Evolution: this came together far slower than I remembered... I had thought that they emerged shortly after the brand split, or at least once Orton and Batista wound up getting traded to Raw... but we got a good month or two of Orton news updates, and a bit of a singles run by Batista with Flair by his side... Flair also played lackey to HHH, so it was inevitable they would all come together, and so they did to lay out Steiner and close out Raw.

Booker w/ Goldust continues to get a lot of spotlight moments; if I remember right he'll go on to face HHH for the title, so it makes sense to start positioning him for bigger things... Test is still getting pushed with Stacey by his side, but it's a one-note joke... Test is probably one of those really big what if wrestlers... he was red hot after his feud with Shane and well positioned to face HHH in what should have been a great feud, but (and I once not too long ago wrote to JR asking what was up with that) backstage and personal demons contributed to him not getting pushed.

Bischoff, with his job on the line after being challenged by McMahon to make Raw great, has decided to call out Austin... kind of sad to know that Austin will be coming back, but it will pretty much be to wrestle Rock at WM19 in a great match, and then that's it; in ring career over.

Jericho and HBK put on a great story at the Rumble... HBK got the #1 spot in the Rumble and Jericho opted for #2; he had partner Christian pretend to be him during his entrance so he could attack Michaels from behind and bust him open... with HBK eliminated early Jericho went on a tear lasting nearly until the end, only for a newly bandaged HBK to come back looking for some retribution and helps get Y2J eliminated..

Brock won the rumble btw...

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posted on 1-3-2017 at 05:18 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Just got done with No Way Out 2003, and the WWE is definitely kicking things into high gear with one of their better PPV's... the PPV itself was solid enough on it's own, but as a major building block towards WM XIX it made a number of feuds a bit more must see, and put some players on the board. No Way Out was the WWE's first time back in Montréal for a PPV since the infamous 97 Survivor Series, so the crowd was definitely hot for a pretty loaded card.

On the SD side:

*Undertaker is back, and looking for revenge against Big Show for putting him out when he threw him off the stage several months back. The story here is that Taker is got a new mantra; Shut up and fight... so he wants none of Heyman and Big Show's various games which include: A singing telegram expressing how sorry he is delivered by a very young Brian "Spanky" Kendrick (who seems to be up for pretty much everything, as outside of dressing up a like a bellhop/telegram guy, a week later he was streaking), and a returning Brother Love... both of whom either enjoyed a last ride, or choke slam. The match itself wasn't bad- few good spots with Taker winning by busting out a new move with the Hell's Gate Triangle Choke hold... post match shenanigans saw Albert come to Big Show's aid.... This would definitely go on to be one of Taker's crappier WM Streak matches, as he would kinda team up with protégé Nathan Jones... whom we all know would go on to be one of the WWE's more celebrated big man failures, as they would hide him in various tag matches and run ins, only for him to quit during an Australia tour later on... on the plus side, he was a good bad guy in the last Mad Max movie.

*Team Angle would go on to capture the tag titles from Los Guerrero's, and Angle was caught between finishing up his business with Benoit, and marking time until he faces RR winner Lesnar at Mania... So a Six Man tag match is in order with Edge rounding out the face side of things, well... that was the plan anyway, as Edge was written out via backstage attack as he would be on the shelf for about a year after having to get his neck fused. Good set up match to put heat on the pending Angle vs Lesnar match, and Benoit would get Haas to tap out, which would help set up a triple threat tag match at WM.

*Matt Hardy v.1.0 with his Mattitude follower Shannon Moore following him around has set his sights on Billy Kidman, and more specifically Kidman's cruiserweight title... 'cept Hardy's got to cut some weight to qualify for the title match, which makes for some pretty entertaining commentary from Hardy... I also am really digging the Matt fun facts that accompany each of his entrances... Hardy wins, because impressive Shooting Star Press aside, Kidman's biggest accomplishment was bagging Torrie Wilson. I don't watch TNA, but I had forgotten just how entertaining Hardy could actually be... might be time to check out Broken Matt.

*Last on the SD side is a returning Hogan... who seems to routinely get about a 10 minute standing ovation each time he pops his head out to cut a promo... Vince; who claims credit for creating Hulkamania, and blames Hogan for various backstage heel tactics, leaving for WCW, and testifying against him in the government steroid trial, doesn't like that Hogan is back and aims to do something about it... before we jump into that though, just want to say that the McMahon vs Hogan feud is great thus far... it's the right over the top moustache twirling bad guy McMahon versus the super over Hogan, but there's more than enough real stuff being thrown in there... you know it's going to happen at WM, and it won't be a workrate classic, but you also know these two are going to go all out to entertain...

But first, we get Rock vs Hogan II... I had completely forgotten about this one, which is a shame as the Rock was just incredibly dickish in his full on Hollywood mode because the fans cheered for Hogan... they made great use out of the live via satellite... which were all clearly pre-recorded but a testament to just how great Rocky was on the stick that he could still get the audience riled up by refusing to appear in such illustrious places like Green Bay, or Philly... Hogan holds up his end well enough as the face, and outside of the two squaring off in the ring for some more verbal jousting (and Rock spitting in Hogan's face) the week before the PPV, this one was largely all done through mic work, with a heavy emphasis on setting up Hogan vs McMahon... Rock was damned entertaining; with his new look, incredulous reactions to being called a Jabroni, and just an all around great heel... the slowed down Hollywood entrance he started using here really worked as well.

The match itself was not quite as super charged as their first WM match, but it was very entertaining... lots of spots back and forth, and Rock was in full cocky heel mode... Rock would win when he gets laid out and Hogan goes for the leg drop finish only for the lights to pop off... Ref's out, and everyone is confused until McMahon comes down to ring side... at that point the ref (Sylvain Grenier before he would début as a wrestler) slides Rock a chair which Rock promptly smacks Hogan upside the head with... 3 count and Rock gives McMahon a high five as he exits the ring... Hogan is a mess which leaves him prone to McMahon doing his best impression of the Hogan hulking up and shirt rip... fun stuff.

Over on the Raw side....

*Well, thank goodness for the Jericho vs HBK feud, which has been definitely building up steam... but since we are in Montréal we are going to take a brief break from it and HBK gets the night off... Jericho will instead take on Jeff Hardy, whom he beats, only for HBK to do a run in attack on Y2J to a chorus of boo's... the rest of Raw's stuff is... well, it's something...

*Austin is back... after being told his job is on the line unless he wow's McMahon Bischoff decides to bring back Austin who hasn't been seen since he walked out on the company... McMahon decides that Bischoff should face Austin one on one, which for as cool as it was to get Austin back, was really just a celebratory beat down non-match... still, Austin's back, and Bischoff got some decent heel heat along the way as he PUT A CINDER BLOCK ON JR'S HEAD AND CRUSHED THE CINDERBLOCK BY STOMPING ON IT... yeah, sometimes wrestling kind of stops worrying about stuff like making sense, or not attempting to murder your announcers to piss off their best friends.

*Evolution isn't quite Evolution yet, but the four are together and do have the name... just not quite established yet... still, they were enough muscle to help HHH dispatch Scott Steiner thankfully... terrible match, HHH wins... Raw just can't quite get the title stuff right... Kane (Katie Vick story), Steiner, and a poorly used Booker T (who deserved more) would rule most of the year... a brief RVD feud, and a great HBK stuff is the only thing that saved HHH's run along this stretch... shame, because Kane would recover by teaming up with RVD, and Booker teaming with Goldust (who I finally found out got his stutter twitch thing he does from Evolution throwing him into an electrical panel... yup, more attempted murder) were all very good.

Anyway... it's the Wrestlemania stretch now; and WM XIX is long regarded as one of the best WM's... Al Wilson, and Scott Steiner are now in the rear view mirror, so looking forward to some good stuff coming up. (Watching the post No Way Out Raw now... great opening promo from the Rock, and his interactions with the Hurricane alone make the episode worth looking for)

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posted on 1-4-2017 at 05:00 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
So I'm getting into a stretch where my viewing of Raw was starting to be hit and miss, and where I completely missed SD for the most part (which might explain why I couldn't remember Rock vs Hogan II), or maybe I did see some of this and just blocked it out...

*HHH vs Booker T is shaping up... nice win for Booker taking a battle Royale for a shot a HHH's title... which is then completely negated by HHH and Flair's completely racist promo's against Booker which relegated him to some tap dancing minstrel show entertainment, bathroom attendant, or driving miss daisy chauffeur... which might... might be cheap heat enough if Booker overcame in the end... but we've all seen WM XIX and know that he doesn't.

*Jericho and Michaels continue to exchange run ins, and sneak attacks against one another... good stuff.

*Test is in the process of going heel... by neglecting Stacey and hanging out with Girls Gone Wild chicks... shitty stuff. ETA: Even more shitty stuff when you take the time to Google Joe Francis and the numerous charges against him... some guy you got into bed with there Vince.

*Austin and Rock are circling one another... this is a bit messy, but there is so much good in here that it works... at the crux of the feud is that Rock has done it all... except beat Austin at Wrestlemania... but we've seen these two lock up a bunch in the past so the trick is keeping them apart... truth be told it probably owed as much to Austin being banged up. As a diversion, to varying degrees of success we get a lot of verbal jousting and feuding between Rock and the Hurricane... which is gold... and some hit and miss stuff between Bischoff and Austin... which seeing Bischoff get stunnered is entertaining enough, but Austin vs McMahon it was not... in fact this would be the second such attempt to recapture that lighting in a bottle, as they tried to do the same with Flair vs Austin before Austin walked out, and that was a bit of a dud as well... still; the whole mix works well spread out over the show with various backstage segments, and announcements for next weeks Raw that it does what it needs to; entertain.

*Last thing for tonight... Val Venis might just be one of the biggest misses in the business... as case where the gimmick probably both got him a lot of attention right out of the gate, but also probably put a glass ceiling on how far he could ever go... what we've been getting the last month or two is Chief Morley... a #2 to Bischoff, and a very pronounced attempt to distance himself from his old gimmick... the guy could talk, had a great look, and was competent in the ring... but I think people wanted to have the fun Venis back again, and the Chief was just boring feuding with the Dudley's and teaming with The UnAmericans... all of which surprisingly got a good amount of ring time and story time, but not enough talk time to make you really care about any of the players like you did even a few months before.

[Edited on 1-4-2017 by Flash]

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posted on 1-4-2017 at 03:35 PM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Really enjoying your recaps Flash, THANKS!

I recall feeling like FU WWE for how they handled Booker. He went into WM with zero chance and what could have been a compelling long story telling match was blown. WWE ego and timing screwed it up.

I'm also reading with curiosity if you think the writers on the "main event" wrestlers were so much better than the support wrestlers. You kind of allude to it with your take on Val Venis. I seem to recall a revolving door on the writing staff somewhere in this time frame. I also took a powder on watching most of wrestling somewhere along the lines here.





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posted on 1-4-2017 at 08:52 PM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Thanks Merc', I've kind of been winding my way through the attitude era, and beyond for the last year or so now... it started with a thread called Attitude Era Follies, and then 15 years since the Invasion, to this current thread with the brand split and beyond... it's been a nice outlet as I've been slogging my way through, and with the hindsight of history it's sometimes interesting to see just how much of a plan the WWE actually had (news flash, not that often), how much worked out for them by getting behind a certain guy, who they maybe missed out on, and also getting to track a few future superstars that we know will be a big deal and at what point maybe the WWE realized this... anyway, I've worked my way through about 5 years of WWE television and PPV's (although to be fair early Smackdown had some pretty big holes in it, but when and where I missed an episode that they later went back and added it's not a big deal as they were pushing big stories through both shows, so the recaps on Raw for what was important was still pretty detailed).

How the different writers treated the mid-card and the main event guys is a bit of a up and down drama, and with it being wrestlemania seasons (in this case WM XIX) it might be tough to judge as the top of the card naturally got the bulk of the time, but it's something I'll be able to touch back on shortly as I'm sure it will be back to star building mode once we get past WM... well, hopefully. I think the other thing to keep in mind is that Sunday Night Heat was still a thing at this time, and would generally feature a solid mid-card bout and some B level story, with a few showcase matches and the rare appearance of an A-Lister slumming it to spike ratings (outside of the once a month when the show was used to hype that months PPV, and generally then it would feature some backstage segments to put the last minute polish or a stipulation for a main event match later that night)

I will say this though... about the mid vs upper card players... for a stretch there the WWE was firing on all cylinders with trying to build stars, so you had a LOT of intereractions... Jeff Hardy facing off against Undertaker in a mini-Non-PPV feud, Matt Hardy kind of intertwined in there, with occasionally heat between the two brothers... the UnAmericans got plenty of time mingling with different top guys, Orton got a lot of time even while hurt to develop his character... Cena is kind of a funny one as he débuted against Angle in a close match and then got to pal around with Taker for a while (Honestly, whereas outside of one feud with HBK that worked for HHH, and the rest being him burying or being locked into shitty feuds with other guys, Taker was the complete polar opposite as he seemed gracious enough to work with everyone... Mideon eliminated him in the rumble, the Hardy's, Tommy Dreamer during his gross out everyone phase, and then being the guy who made Lesnar, or at least put that final stamp on him as The GUY... Taker doesn't get enough credit for the 2002-2003 stretch... maybe even beyond that as I know he would go on to play a big part in making Edge into a main eventer as well).... Really the WWE found the perfect formula for a stretch there as even if they lost the mid-card guys got enough of a spotlight on them that they then went off and did other stuff they were still interesting... well for a while... like Jeff Hardy got that monster push, but then wound up alternating between HBK's new little buddy, and doing run ins to save Trish from Stevie Richards, and Jazz.

The last little stretch of mid card has been kind of sloppy... like too much time devoted to this Girls Gone Wild stuff... Test got a lot of attention with the Testicles thing, but it was like a one note joke and by the end it was like who cares... probably why they turned him heel later... lots of B story with the Dudley's and Kane/RVD and Morley/UnAmericans (well, Storm anyway, as Regal was either hurt or suspended as I seem to recall he was still battling some demons around this stretch). The ladies got a lot of time on Raw, and with Victoria, Trish, Jazz, Jacqueline all running around (Lita was hurt) there was some good and competent stuff... then there was tuff where either due to just not caring, some backstage issue, or not finding the right mix you get stuff like Cena getting a push and them deciding he needed some muscle... first it was Tyson Tomko or T-square as Rapper Cena called him, then for one night it was Red Dog... who the very next Raw would show up under a completely different name (Rodney Mack) and take the place of D-Lo Brown as Teddy Long's client in a white people hold black people down storyline... no explanation was given other than the WWE needed a new black guy, and apparently D-Lo got released from his contract. Orton and Batista wound up being muscle with occasional spotlights... still treated like enough of a big deal as they were either flanked by HHH or Flair... but not really given a story (although to be fair to Orton he was still rehabbing his shoulder)....

So there was a mid-card... it got attention... plenty for some guys like Matt Hardy for example... but for the most part it was a lot of variations on the same theme, then something out of left field... lather, wash, rinse, repeat...

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posted on 1-4-2017 at 10:32 PM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Wrestlemania XIX is here, and for the most part it's been a well built show with several "must see", matches, and the worst of the lot being at least compelling and decently built... Before we jump into that though, there's a few things I wanted to touch base on:

*John Cena is back to getting a pretty big time push, turns out that Vanilla Ice costume and rap he did back in October paid off for him as until then the rumour was that Vince was not impressed with him, and his days might be numbered with the company... He's spent the last few weeks doing either pre-taped vignettes calling out Lesnar, or pre- or post-match promos against the beast and how he wants to face him... nice build, and on the go home show Cena calls out Brock who doesn't show up, so in a nice touch that I wish they would do with more heels from time to time... Cena goes looking for Brock. They lock up backstage, only for Angle to also attack Brock.

Well done build up for Cena... he will go on to face Lesnar at Backlash for the title which we know he won't win, but it will be a nice launch pad to a very solid mid-card run which then lead to maybe the WWE's biggest merch' cash cow in history... but where they fail is that Cena is completely absent from Mania... which makes me think that Cena taking the place of Nathan Jones, and then turning on Taker post-match would have been just as good of a launch pad for Cena, or they should have sandwiched a squash match into the card for him (he pretty handily beat Rikishi in the go home SD)... I mean really, hard to argue that the WWE mismanaged Cena when he's become... well, John Cena, but still a bit glaring to leave him off your biggest card when you are spotlighting him so well leading up to it... Still, nice groundwork laid for Brock's post-WM feud.

*Too much blood... honestly I think someone shows colour at least once a week on both show, which leaves you kind of "meh" when it happens... for example on the 2nd last show McMahon sneak attacks Hogan with a chair shot, then stabs him repeatedly with a pen, and then forces him to sign the contract in his own blood... the act was more gross than heinous, and seeing a bloodied Hogan was nothing new (Brock rubbed his blood across his chest a few months before). The WWE has done a great job of re-training us fans as to what constitutes violence... something that has probably brought wrestling violence back into perspective, and probably preserved a number of careers along the way... I'm still dumbfounded by stuff that even just 14, 15 years ago the WWE was doing (homophobic comments, excessive violence, smearing/interacting with others blood, smacking each other repeatedly in the head with stuff, some pretty misogynistic behaviour) that has become just completely taboo now... credit to society for how much we've grown I guess, and credit to the WWE for changing.

*Last thing; it's amazing just how much of a time capsule the WWE is in ways that other TV isn't necessarily... credit maybe to their show being scripted weekly, and being live more often than not but just the amount of historical events you can kind of gauge by watching the show; 9/11, elections, celebrities, fashion trends, and (see above) cultural changes as to how we perceive certain behaviours... it's like going back and reading old comic books where you have Captain America punching out Hitler, Superman and Batman mocking the evil "Japs", Spider-man's BFF Flash Thompson going off and fighting in Vietnam... a lot of media these days tries it's best not to fall prey to being dated, but that's something the WWE has never been afraid of much to their credit... those post 9/11 shows are a source of pride (even as a non-American), the constant cheering for the troops as they deployed for Iraq and Afghanistan were also a reason to give pause knowing what we know now... it's a first hand snap shot into history, and those should be treasured (unrelated, but one of the coolest things I ever watched was WWII in Colour on Netflix... the amount of archival footage they had of even the mundane was staggering, and just such a different view of history being brought to life beyond the history text books... the colorization was a novelty, but it was a nice hook and really brought history to life).

Anyway... will start a new post for Wrestlemania XIX... God only knows how many times I've written one of my rambling monstrosities only to hit some button erroneously and lose the whole thing, and now seems like a good spot for a break.

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posted on 1-5-2017 at 05:47 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Wrestlemania XIX:

The card is such...(in reverse order)

*Lesnar challenges Angle for the WWE title
*Rock vs Austin
*Hogan vs McMahon
*Booker T challenges HHH for the World title
*Y2J vs HBK
*Team Angle Defends against Los Guerrero's and Benoit/Rhyno
*Trish challenges Victoria for the Women's title
*Undertaker takes on the team of Big Show/A-Train
*Rey Mysterio challenges Matt Hardy for the Cruiserweight title

I didn't see it, but apparently RVD/Kane lost to Morley/Storm on Heat.

Interesting bit of booking in that it was pretty balls to the wall for the last hour or two as the last five matches were all pretty must see, and even in hindsight I'd say that the Lesnar, Rock, and HBK matches are all going to forever appear in many best of collections... heck, even the Hogan vs McMahon match would probably make the cut just for how crazy and epic of a showdown it was. The Booker T match was actually pretty decent as well, too bad the feud leading to it wasn't that great as I think that robbed some of it's lustre... The rest of the card was solid, with some hit and miss in there, nothing worse than a B letter grade in my estimation, and they all benefitted from a solid build up.

Individual thoughts:
*Not much I can add to the Y2J vs HBK match; it's a classic, and the most match mutual hug of respect after HBK won, only for Jericho to kick him in the family jewels is probably one of the most brilliant booking decisions I've ever seen... HBK get's the clean win and wins the feud, but Jericho walks out just as respected and with a tonne of heat.

*Lesnar goes over Angle and they actually do end with a mutual celebratory hug... not that Brock probably remembers it, as this was the match where he attempted a shooting star press to close out the match only to land on his head and you could tell he was just about out on his feet after that... nasty spot that will probably overshadow the match itself in conversation, but Brock really was the Big Thing by that point, and you couldn't ask for a better opponent than Angle. Honestly, Brock débuted the night after WM 18 and within a year he had 2 title reigns, a KOTR win, and a Royal Rumble win under his belt... and people think Reigns was/is over-pushed? Thing is, with Brock it worked, but no wonder the WWE thinks they can do it, it's already worked for them a few times before to varying degrees of success.

*Rock vs Austin was fantastic... it's a shame that Rock wound up going on to face Goldberg on his way out a month later, but as far as a last match for Austin goes you couldn't ask for better... honestly, I can see why he wouldn't want to lace them up again, it would be hard to top that, and while it wasn't some up and coming kid Austin put over on his way out the door, he did do the time honoured tradition of laying down on his way out the door.

*Hogan vs McMahon... brutal and bloody, but entertaining as hell... I mean it's not a workmate classic by any stretch, but both guys played their parts very well... hell, McMahon may be the craziest SOB to ever set foot the ring as at what age 56-58 (I'm too lazy to look it up) he's wearing one of the bloodiest faces I've seen in wrestling as he climbs up on top of a ladder to deliver a leg drop through a table onto Hogan... and that wasn't even close to the finish. McMahon's grimacing crazy eyed face popping up over the ring apron in a close up is such a classic shot that tells you everything you need to know about McMahon's character. Little bit of an overbooked finish saw both men laid out only for Roddy Piper to run in and have a hard time deciding which of the two men he'd like to take a swipe at before laying out Hogan with a pipe... that leads to him bailing, and crooked ref Sylvain Grenier making a run in to do the crooked count... Hogan Hulks up and hits all his classic "you" and finger wagging stuff before taking out both Grenier and McMahon for the win... post match Shane shows up to check on dad, Hogan lets him in the ring as the two lock eyes before Hogan leaves. Honestly... I get why some revenge against the crooked ref makes sense, but I'd have left it for a SD feel good moment and used Piper to get you to pretty much the same finish... still, worth watching as a spectacle.

*Booker vs HHH was actually a pretty good match, and Hunter sold better than you would have expected from the feud (although Booker did leave him bloody at one point on a Raw), but still ended with HHH retaining... which I have a bit of a beef with... I mean I get that the night was pretty heavy on faces going over, but there was enough balance that one more wouldn't have broken the bank... especially after that feud... a quick Wikipedia check would show that at Backlash the World title wouldn't even be defended, and then after that it looks like HHH would go on to feud with Kevin Nash... I mean couldn't you have put Booker over, and then hotshotted the title back to HHH either on a Raw, or at Backlash?

*Maybe the nights bit of a clunker was Taker beating Big Show and A-Train... pre-match the two villains took out Nathan Jones... who for the life of me I can't figure out what the WWE was doing... I mean they did their damnedest to hide Jones... they've announce his first match, but then pre-match they'd do a backstage spot where Jones took out his opponent (clearly he didn't understand the whole wrestling in the ring thing), and then they wrote him out of the WM match... I get why Vince would have a hard on for the guy as he looked great, but man... if he wasn't ready, why put him on TV when OVW just gave you the likes of Orton, Cena, Lesnar, and Batista among others (Haas, Benjamin... ect), so clearly you had some competent trainers down there... I did a bit of a digging into this and some Visa issues due to Jones criminal record might have played a part... still, if he couldn't wrestle, or could not wrestle... don't put him on TV.

*The rest was fun, and overall aside from "WWE's favourite band" Limp Biskit being shoved down our throats three times over the course of the night I don't really have any complaints... Trish won in a decent match, Hardy retained, and so did Team Angle.... shame that Cena and Hurricane didn't get some kind of appearance given their pre-mania pushes, but Scott Steiner... who just main evented the Raw side of the equation for the last two PPV's was left off the card entirely, so... fair trade?

Just starting to watch the post WM raw now... lot's going on, so I'll close with this: if you are going to end your show with a surprise reveal of Goldberg having signed with the WWE... maybe don't do an ad spot advertising him appearing at Backlash?

[Edited on 1-5-2017 by Flash]

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posted on 1-6-2017 at 02:27 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
We are now in the post-WM era, and we get a bit of a reset on things now... a few highlights:

*Bischoff can't beat Austin, so he'll medically suspend him... somehow sleazy E got his hands on Austin's legit medical records and Austin isn't medically cleared to wrestle... Bischoff will get a few weeks of mileage out of this feigning Austin entrances to piss off the fans. I'm a bit split... we know Austin will come back as co-GM/Sheriff of Raw so best to get the heel heat out of it, but at the same time Austin was such a legend and big deal to the company that him doing a honest thank you, and walk away only to be offered a job by Linda feels like it might have been a bit more befitting of his stature... oh well, done is done.

*Raw is definitely taking a more stunt booking approach; as we've got Rock back briefly, Goldberg débuts to feud with Rock and tell him he's next (their subsequent week two showdown was good stuff as they get face to face and the Rock just say's "Nope" and walks away smirking), and then Kevin Nash comes back to in ring action, because he can't stand to see former best buds HBK and HHH wanting to tear one another apart... again; maybe the short turn around time to Backlash made the WWE panicky, but don't hype a 6 man match between Booker/Nash/HBK vs Jericho/HHH/Flair before you even get to that point in the story... talk about cart before the horse and there being no surprises, or emotional involvement. Lita also comes back after about a year on the shelf, only for Eric to get all lecherous around her.

*RVD/Kane are your tag champs now after going over Morley/Storm, and have a feud running now with the Dudley's... we kind of got this for the past month, so nothing exciting here really.

*The Hurricane continues to get a decent, but aimless push... couple of good Raw matches against HHH and Y2J.

*Other kind of mixed bag stuff going on... JR quits due to Bischoff's outting Austin's medical condition (I couldn't find a non-story reason for this, so we'll see how long he's out). Steiner continues to drop down the card faster than it took to write this sentence... he's been relegated to debating with Christopher Nowinski over the Iran/Afghan war (a peak ahead shows that he'll be left off the Backlash card and dropped to the Heat pre-show to have a match with Rico). Trish is feuding with Jazz, and Teddy Long and Rodney Mack continue their war against the "man"... no one cares.

*Final thoughts: They dropped the ball with Booker T. Even the go home show before Backlash was a Wrestlemania rematch, but it was reffed by HBK so the heat was on an HBK vs HHH feud more than it was on Booker... Honesty putting the title even briefly on Booker would't have been a mistake, like I said he could have dropped the title back within a month having been stronger for it but wouldn't have had to be the "man" and carry the brand... HHH, HBK, and Jericho were hot commodities, you had Austin kind of bouncing around, Rock, Nash, and Goldberg all there... instead we get a 6 man tag, and 2 months of Nash vs HHH which pretty much rehashes the same feud template as HHH just did with Steiner (DQ the first PPV, win the second).

Over on SD...

*McMahon can't beat Hogan, so his big plan is to pay him to stay home... okay it's different, other than that's almost what Bischoff just did to Austin, but since Hogan is coming back as Mr. America I'm kind of curious why they bothered going this route. We get no Hogan a week later, but after more than a decade it's the return of Piper's pit; great segment as Piper and McMahon cut loose on one another... mostly spare tire jokes at Piper's expense, and then some very cutting observations that McMahon has failed numerous times in his various business ventures, and has only ever succeeded in the one business that his daddy gave to him... good stuff (SD# 190 as a whole is a good episode for this, and the Cena match)... the Piper segment runs very long as Rikishi comes out with a coconut to talk about how Piper shamed his family years ago; Sean OHaire... who is a real life POS (deceased now) attacks from behind... O'Haire had been running a devil's advocate character that was actually pretty good... Rikishi gets the coconut smashed over his head to close out the segment.

*Smackdown comes out red hot with both the stories, and star building post WM... Angle is going to be on the shelf with a bum neck, and Brock is MIA for the first show back so Steph' announces a tournament for the #1 contendership to Brock's title... Week one has a good match between heel Cena and Eddie Guerrero, Rhyno goes over A-train... can't remember who Benoit beat, and Taker beat someone else (starting to blend together)... your final four will be tag partners Benoit and Rhino facing one another, and Cena vs Taker.

*Go watch SD # 190... Taker vs Cena is a brilliant match; Cena is cocky, and runs his mouth before the show... Taker's POV is that you want to lay him out in the ring that's fine, but don't disrespect him backstage... the first half of the match is Taker really taking it to Cena, Cena then at the half way mark sneaks a sucker punch with his chain and padlock he used to wear around his neck... he then alternates between working Taker's previously injured arm and intentionally trying to get Taker counted out... Going back in time for a moment SD over the last few months saw the début of the Nunzio and the FBI with their gangster gimmick which put them into a feud with Nathan Jones (ugh... so bad)... which lead to a very entertaining backstage Godfather-esque sit down with Taker... long story short; they set up Jones so that he's out of the arena (being questioned by the police due to his criminal history and some missing money)... the FBI does a run in after a ref bump on Taker, and Cena gets the win to go on and face Benoit for the #1 contender spot for Brock's title. The next week Cena will go over Benoit in a good match, and it's on between Brock and Cena at Backlash.

*For the rest of the show... Team Angle and the Guerrero's will feud over the tag straps... good wrestling, hokey racist verbal sparring (Eddie's mom is a maid/housekeeper)... far too much attention devoted to Torrie appearing in playboy... Sable comes back to have a bunch of catty backstage spots with her... Benoit will feud with the FBI (he won't make the Backlash PPV) and Rikishi and O'Haire will feud.

*Final thoughts: Smackdown is in star building mode, and it works as you've got the whole roster involved at various levels, coupled with some great matches... SD beats Raw's stunt booking/variety show approach... love me the Rock's Hollywood character with his Rock Concerts (Goldberg meeting Gilberg was fantastic), but SD finds the formula of a strong mid-card and upper card clicking together. They find a different tone for both shows, but there seems to be a shortage of ideas as the Austin and Hogan storylines seem too much alike, and once Piper's pit came back the WWE launched Jericho's Highlight Reel within a few weeks.

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posted on 1-10-2017 at 06:57 AM Edit Post Reply With Quote
Bit of a new era in the brand split, following Judgement day the two shows have now formally split from one another even for PPV's... which makes this thread a bit easier to manage as trying to remember two different shows highlights and lowlights was getting a bit tricky... bonus; it will be interesting to see how each show tries to craft a full PPV from top to bottom as by the time you throw in a tag, upper card, and title match from each brand you are at 6 matches already... throw in a ladies match, and typically a CW match from SD and it doesn't leave a lot of PPV time for others.... which is good, because call it a short turn around, a WM hangover (figured Backlash would have cured that), or just a shortage of ideas going around and you wound up with one of the more disappointing cards.

To recap:
*A month after getting a shot at Lesnar's title Cena finds himself in the opening match, a 6 man affair where he teams with 2 of the FBI to take on Benoit, Rhino, and Spanky. One thing I totally didn't know is that Spanky was the one who started the whole "CENA SUCKS" chant... the two had a bit of a rap battle that was quite entertaining, and Kendrick ended his with those two words which will go on to follow Cena for the rest of his life. Fun opener, heels win.

*La Resistance defeated the team of Test and Steiner... just an ill advised match... you have La Resistance who epitomize cheap heat... maybe it worked as this was 2003 and patriotic fervour was still at an all time high with the troops deployed, but it's a one note shallow type of villainy that I don't think carries you very far... on the other side you've got Test who's clearly going full on heel but they keep somewhat holding him back to feud with Steiner down the line, and Steiner who the WWE clearly grew to regret signing and were just letting him ride out his contract... Stacy Kiebler was the most over person in the whole match. La Resistance wins.

*A very good tag ladder match saw Tajiri filling in for Chaco and teaming up with Eddie as they went over the WGTT aka Team angle... not the OMG huge spots type match, more like a good free TV ladder match, but very good none the less.

*Christian wins the Raw Battle Royale to bring back the IC title last eliminating Booker T. Booker eliminates Christian but the ref doesn't' see it, so Christian sneaks back in and sends the Bookerman out to the floor to win... nice launch pad for Christian who will show up the next night with new threads and a new haircut to go with his gold... Christian has really been hitting his stride out there on his own and teaming with Jericho... he even turned on Jericho in the match, which they teased a confrontation on the next nights highlight reel only for Jericho to congratulate him and say he'd have done the same thing. Fun battle Royale... they are always a bit of a mess and you had a good idea where this one was going, but it strengthened the mid card and that's a good thing.

*This era for the women was such a mixed bag... one the SD side you had Torrie beating Sable in a bikini contest, whereas on Raw you had Jazz retaining in a fatale four-way with Victoria, Trish, and Jacqueline which was good stuff.

*Mr. (Hogan) America defeated Piper with the help of crowd plant Zach Gowen (the one legged dude)... which is really what this whole story was about outside of the whole let's unmask Hogan thing. Still, Piper vs Hogan is always a treat and given that it is THE FEUD that most people my age remember I'm amazed that they didn't headline a WM... I guess stuff like THE MAIN EVENT were bigger deals in hindsight when you didn't have a PPV every 3 weeks like we do now... still, I'll have to hunt down some of their battles in WCW as I hear that's one of the few good things from WCW.

*Nash wins via DQ over HHH for the World Championship... it was pretty much what you would expect, and might have been decent if they didn't just do the same story right before WM with Steiner in place of Nash.

*Brock beats Big Show in a stretcher match... bit of a hand from a returning Rey Mysterio as the genesis for this match was Mysterio doing a stretcher job when he and Big Show squared off at Backlash only for Show to pick up Mysterio on the stretcher board and slam him into the ring post... that was a nice spot, and a reminder of just how much of a giant and power house the big show is (they did another spot where he basically one handed power pressed Mysterio above his head to throw him which was also cool)... anyway Brock and Show had heat earlier in the year, and the story is why doesn't Big Show pick on someone his own size... the whole stretcher match concept was really hyped up as apparently the last one was like 12 years before involving Andre the giant... Brock wins with the help of a forklift... not exactly the brutal affair they hyped it up as, but a solid big man match with a feel good ending.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
*Bit weird that Goldberg was left off the card given that he was a huge acquisition and just went over the Rock, and that some guys who they were pushing on TV continue to be a bit marginalized on PPV's... I think this is why they ultimately went with the full on PPV split as time and roster management was one of their bigger problems... we'll see if it resolves itself any better going forward now that the split is full on. Too much time was devoted to crap... although maybe ladies in bikinis equals ratings... I dunno... but Sable and Torrie got a LOT of time... SD continues to win with using their full card a bit better... Raw is like a three ring circus with Austin/Bischoff doing comedy bits, various stunt booking and all that... but storywise they just can't find their groove... Smackdown has it's act together the ladies stuff not withstanding... top to bottom the show gives you a decent match or two each week, generally builds towards something, and throws in the odd bit of fun without trying to pander for laughs constantly.

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