Alltell Arena – Little Rock, AK – Sunday, October 20, 2002
Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler are on commentary for RAW, while >Michael Cole & Tazz call the action for SmackDown.
World Tag Team Champions Chris Jericho & Christian defeat Booker T & Goldust at 7:55 to retain the titles. Jericho and Christian have been the Champions since 10.14.02, and this is their first defense. They pretty much follow the formula here, with the challengers controlling early, then getting cut off. The Champions take heat on Goldust for a bit, and then Booker gets the hot tag. The referee loses control and there’s action all over the place. Late in the match Christian introduces one of the belts, and when Jericho goes for a springboard move the middle rope breaks. That always sucks. Booker and Christian fight into the crowd, and with the referee momentarily distracted Jericho hits Goldust with a bulldog right on the title belt. Jericho then improvises and hits a moonsault from the top rope to get the pin. Good tag team formula stuff here and a good choice to open the show. It sucks that the rope break but these guys are pros and they worked with it.
Torrie Wilson defeats Dawn Marie at 4:57. This match is happening because Dawn is banging Torrie’s “father,” which she decided to do because she was jealous of all the attention Torrie consistently gets. While these two aren’t exactly the greatest women’s wrestlers, to their credit they go out and fight like they’re mad at each other. They mostly brawl for a few minutes, and Torrie snaps off a swinging neckbreaker to get the pin. This was short, and actually not terrible.
Rob Van Dam defeats Ric Flair at 8:05. Flair turned on RVD last month at Unforgiven, causing him to lose a World Heavyweight Title match to Triple H. RVD wastes no time going after Flair, taking the fight to him on the floor and in the ring. Flair goes low and starts working the leg, no doubt to get ready for the Figure-Four. Indeed, Flair does use the Figure-Four, but RVD is able to turn it over and then gets to the ropes. RVD recovers and hits Rolling Thunder and the Five-Star Frog Splash to get the pin. That was just kind of there, it had to happen because Flair cost RVD the title, but there really wasn’t any chemistry there to speak of.
Cruiserweight Champion Jamie Noble defeats Tajiri at 7:20 to retain the title. Noble has been the Champion since 6.23.02, and this is his eighth defense. They start off hot, with both men dishing out offense. Noble lands the first big move with a swank electric chair drop for two. Tajiri fights back with strikes, and he tries to quicken the pace. Noble tries to keep Tajiri grounded to keep him from unloading with his patented vicious kicks. Tajiri is able to land the Buzzsaw Kick, but Nidia distracts the referee. Noble uses the distraction to hit the Gibson Driver but it only gets two. When Noble goes for another one Tajiri counters and goes for a Victory Roll but Nidia gives Noble the leverage he needs to block the move and score the pin Owen Hart style. This was all action but not much of real substance going on, which is fine in small doses.
After the match Tajiri forces himself on Nidia, who seems to like it. Noble then shows him how a real man kisses a woman, and Tajiri takes a cheap shot.
World Heavyweight Champion Triple H defeats Intercontinental Champion Kane at 16:15 to unify the titles. HHH has been the Champion since 9.2.02, and this is his fourth defense; Kane has been the Champion since 9.30.02 and this is his first defense. This was early in the “two world titles” days, and would be the end of the Intercontinental Title for seven months. Kane overpowers the World Champion to start. Triple H recovers and takes over and now he’s in control for several minutes. Man, he looks so weird without a beard. Kane makes a brief comeback, but Triple H cuts him off with a sleeper. He escapes it and tries an elbow drop but Triple H moves. Kane finally lands a big boot and throws Triple H into the turnbuckles. He hits a sidewalk slam and the top-rope clothesline. At this point Ric Flair comes down to interfere, and the referee gets bumped. This allows Flair to get the belt to Triple H, who hits Kane in the face with it but only gets a two-count. The Hurricane runs out to help his tag team partner by taking Flair out. Unfortunately for him Triple H gives him a Pedigree on the floor. Kane uses that time to recover and is on fire now, and the crowd pops pretty big for him. Triple H avoids a big boot, which hits the referee instead. Kane charges and Triple H back drops him to the floor. Kane recovers and Choke Slams Triple H through the Spanish Announce Table, and then knocks Flair down. He throws Triple H back in the ring and tries a cover but the ref is still out. Flair brings the sledgehammer in the ring and Kane takes it away from him. Triple H is able to hit a low blow and goes to hit Kane with the hammer. Kane tries a Tombstone but Triple H hits him in the gut with his favorite weapon. He tries to hit him in the face but Kane blocks it and hits a Choke Slam. A new referee comes down to make the count and Flair pulls him out of the ring. Flair goes to the top and gets caught in a Choke Slam. Triple H recovers and is able to hit the Pedigree, and the original referee recovers and counts the fall. That seemed like a lot to protect Kane, but at least the ridiculous overbooking woke the crowd up. The match wasn’t great, but luckily it wasn’t the main event of this show. Kane had just returned from surgery and was never that good to begin with, and Triple H had returned from surgery 10 months earlier but still hadn’t managed to get his groove back. In fact, he really wouldn’t until over a year later.
Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit defeat Edge & Rey Mysterio at 22:01 in a tournament final to become the first WWE Tag Team Champions. Angle and Benoit beat John Cena & Billy Kidman and Los Guerreros to get here, while Edge & Mysterio got by Brock Lesnar & Tajiri and D-Von Dudley & Ron Simmons. All four men are ready to go from the opening bell, and waste no time going after each other. Angle and Benoit try to keep their opponents grounded, but Edge and Mysterio have too much fire to stay down. All four of these guys are just ON tonight, hitting everything with precision and keeping up a ridiculous pace. If I’m not mistaken, this was the first time anyone pulled off the “toss your partner into delivering a super hurricanrana” spot, as Edge hurls Mysterio into Angle perfectly. They continue with awesome spots and reversals, like Mysterio breaking up a Crippler Crossface with a 619. Benoit gets dumped to the floor and Edge throws Mysterio into a moonsault to take Benoit out. Angle and Edge then trade Ankle Locks, but Angle is the one able to coerce a submission to give himself and Benoit the first reign as WWE Tag Team Champions. A good friend of mine described this match as “fire” and it’s hard to argue with that. It may be the finest tag team match of all-time, with perfect work from everyone involved and a fast pace for over 20 minutes. It built well, engaged the crowd, and played to all the participants’ strengths. Yeah, I think it’s the best.
Women’s Champion Trish Stratus defeats Victoria at 5:30 to retain the title. Trish has been the Champion since 9.22.02 (her third reign), and this is her fourth defense. These two sure have a lot to follow. They start off with aggression, brawling in the ring before taking it to the floor, where Victoria rams Stratus into the ring post. It doesn’t affect the Champ for too long though, as they trade more moves back in the ring. Stratus goes for Stratusfaction but Victoria blocks by pushing Stratus up over her head. The resourceful Champion grabs a quick O’Connor Roll to get the pin and retain. After the match, Victoria attacks Stratus with a brutal kick to the face. This was brief but they did a nice job with the time they had allotted. Stratus winning with a rollup is fine, because coupled with the post-match attack it gives the feud juice to keep going.
WWE Champion Brock Lesnar defeats Undertaker at 27:15 in a Hell in a Cell match to retain the title. Lesnar has been the champion since 8.25.02 and this is his second defense. Michael Cole reveals that entrance order is the champion’s prerogative, so now you have an answer for anytime someone asks “why are the champions coming out first?” Undertaker has a cast on his broken hand. Tazz explains that Undertaker had his hand numbed before the match. Lesnar goes to work on the hand, and Undertaker screams so we establish that he feels pain in the hand. Even so he comes back on the champion with a punch to the face, and then another shot to the head. The cut on Lesnar’s forehead has been reopened. Falls do count anywhere, for those keeping score at home. Undertaker goes over to Heyman and grabs him by the tie and busts open his head. Lesnar comes charging and Undertaker moves, so Heyman takes the impact. Minutes later Heyman takes off his belt and gives it to Lesnar to use as a weapon. He uses it to tie Undertaker’s hand to the cage and then abuses it with a steel chair, and keeps hitting him until the belt breaks! Then he tries to rip the cast off, so Undertaker fights back with a bunch of punches with his broken hand. Lesnar FINALLY gets the cast all the way off. After several minutes of Lesnar working on the hand, Undertaker comes back and knocks Lesnar off the apron and the back of his head cracks against the support beam. Lesnar is bleeding from the back of his head now too, while Heyman screams “Brock we’re losing!” That’s great. Lesnar comes back with a big clothesline, and then he is able to use the steel steps and bashes Undertaker in the face. Undertaker is GUSHING blood at this point, easily the worst blade job I’ve ever seen in WWE, at least until Eddie in 2004. Back in the ring Undertaker fights back with his broken hand. Lesnar responds with a spinebuster. When Cole says that blood is “literally pouring from his head,” it may be the first instance of a WWE commentator using the term “literally” correctly. Undertaker continues to punch with his broken hand, and Cole justifies it by saying he just doesn’t feel pain anymore. He goes up for Old School but Lesnar pulls him off the ropes. Lesnar tries the F5 but Undertaker slips out and delivers a chokeslam, with the broken hand. Undertaker goes for the Last Ride but Lesnar runs him into the corner and drives his shoulder into the gut. He goes up for mounted punches, and Undertaker predictably hits the Last Ride. When he covers Lesnar the blood is dripping off his head into Lesnar’s mouth. That’s disgusting. Lesnar grabs the ropes to avoid getting pinned. The crowd bought that. Undertaker tries the Tombstone but Lesnar reverses it and throws Undertaker into a fireman’s carry and hits the F5 to retain the title. If you read my review of the match you’ll see how often I noted Undertaker using his broken hand as offense. If you take that stuff out of this match there would be nothing I didn’t like about it. It was sick and brutal had all kinds of cool spots and gore. I still think it’s a great match but if Undertaker had found different things to do besides throw right hands and maybe use his other hand for the chokeslam, it would be rated higher.
The WWE Tag Team Title match steals the show (and the year, pretty much), and the main event delivered on gore and spectacle, making this show an easy recommendation to watch. The rest of the show is pretty middling stuff, but those two matches are more than enough to justify the recommendation.