Fastlane: Review/Recap

RESEM50037fastlane2016MEBecky Lynch And Sasha Banks Defeated Team B.A.D.:

Don’t really have much to say about this. It was actually a pretty good match, all things considered, from both teams and did a decent job kicking off the night and managed to avoid any kind of gaffs (unfortunately the latter women’s match wouldn’t be so lucky). This thing is obviously just a way to build up the feud of Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks going after Charlotte and the Diva’s title. I’d presume it’ll be a three-way for the belt at WrestleMania, or just a straight up Sasha/Charlotte match. I’d be more keen to the Sasha/Charlotte match because you know that both the company and the women want a star-making match of not only showing off the skills of the women on this huge stage and they can be just as good if not better than the men, but they also want to make huge starts out of these women as the torchbearers for the division for the next decade+. So, it’s easier to make a great singles match with planned ideas, spots and fluidity (the latter part which often plagues divas matches) than to create a great triple threat match which often includes dealing with a lot of timing issues and having to eliminate one person so much that it always seems like a revolving singles match. Anyways, I’m not complaining either way, and I’m sure either match will be great, I just sense that this is a match execution that they’ll want to pull off in spades to further benefit and lend credence to the division as wrestlers.

Kevin Owens Defeated Dolph Ziggler to retain the Intercontinental Championship:

This was your prototypical Kevin Owens/Dolph Ziggler TV match that was really no different than the last 567 times they faced off. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad by any stretch. They’re basically the king of kicking off shows, and if it wasn’t for that extra women’s match that’s what they would’ve been doing, although this was basically the same. Owens was obviously going to win, since he just won the belt and WWE seems like they actually have and want Kevin to do stuff (not that it’s apparent lately) and Ziggler has been doing nothing since that whole Rusev/Lana thing that we’re probably just better off forgetting.

I have no clue what Kevin Owens will be doing for WrestleMania. I’m thinking either a program with AJ Styles for the title, which I’d love, or maybe a program with Chris Jericho for the title, which would be fine, especially since Owens/Jericho worked a bunch on house shows over the past year and their dueling promos would be a lot of fun. I mean, a Sami Zayn feud would be awesome, but I don’t think that’s happening so soon, especially with Zayn dealing with NXT stuff, but I wouldn’t fret since I’m sure we’ll be getting a lot of it over the next decade.

Big Show, Kane and Ryback Defeated The Wyatt Family:

This wasn’t even all that bad! I was surprised! I couldn’t even think of a match I’ve been looking forward to less than this one (although, I feel like I say that on ever PPV review I do). I mean, it makes absolutely no sense why didn’t give the Wyatts the win, as that seemed a foregone conclusion. The booking on the Wyatts is the most schizoprenic, they’ll languish in the background and lose to everybody, then they’ll be pushed like they finally want to build them as legit monsters who win and dominate, but then they’ll just get pushed down again and back to scrape the doldrums. In a perfect world it would be cool to see the Wyatts as legitimate threats and not just glorified jobbers in the skins of people who in theory would be a lot more successful.

Charlotte Defeated Brie Bella to retain the Divas Championship:

Oh, man, this thing was terrible. Not too many other ways to put it. The whole match both Brie and Charlotte seemed to be on a completely different page. This is where that fluidity thing I mentioned in the Sasha, Becky/Team B.A.D. thing comes into place. Often in women’s matches they’ll seem so stiff and so hesitant of the next move and spot that it becomes so blatantly and painfully obvious that this is staged and everything is pre-determined. There’s no seamless back-and-forth, but rather waiting and stumbling around to set up the next move, or wait an unrealistic amount of time to do something or just do something so strained and removed that it looks painfully manipulated. This match was that idea in a nutshell. There was countless times where Charlotte would have to do some many unnatural delays or moves to make sure she and Brie were in the proper position to do a move that it was so blatantly stunted. It wasn’t just Brie, where I think the problem lies in both women being not having much experience with each other and neither really taking charge. The whole thing culminated in a finish apropo of the entire match with Brie having Charlotte in a single leg crab, until she decided to seemingly launch herself into the ropes and give up the move only for Charlotte to magically recover put her in the figure-8 and win. What you were supposed to know is that Brie’s leg was injured and thus the pain of putting pressure on her leg in that move launced her out of the move? I dunno, it was a bad match and a bad finish. Charlotte will redeem herself at Wrestlemania with some more worthy competition, and Brie I’m sure will have a better showing as she winds her career down and remains thankful that this wasn’t her goodbye match.

AJ Styles Defeated Chris Jericho:

Looking back Chris Jericho was pretty much the perfect fit for AJ’s first feud in WWE. They’re both decade+ vets in the business, are of similar sizes and can put on great matches with seemingly anybody. In the end I never got that classic match I expected from the two that I know is in both of them, but instead we just got some really, really good matches, which especially on this show shouldn’t be anything to complain about. I think, funnily enough, that this match was similar to the Brie/Charlotte match (I know.. hold on, let me explain), but on the opposite side of the spectrum. As good as the matches were and this one was, both men just seemed to slightly be on different pages. Whether it was AJ still getting used to the new ring and relative new style (yet he’s still better than 95% of the roster being this new to the company) or if it was Jericho’s age and style not being able to keep up with AJ. Sometimes you’d see them just off on a spot, like that AJ springboard off the ropes to Jericho drop kick, where to anyone less skilled than them it would look blatantly obvious, but instead these guys are so good that slight misses go largely undetected.

I also had a pretty big issue with having Jericho kick out of the Styles Clash, especially when he was just going to give up the submission to Styles, anyways. I would’ve loved to have seen them build up the Styles Clash as this great move, maybe not Japan levels of building it up, but at least have it built up enough to help out another guy that could use the rub rather than wasting it on Jericho a week in. Especially when they have AJ using the calf slicer as his main finisher now and the Styles Clash could’ve been used as a “big match” move that AJ only busted out when absolutely necessary. We’ll see, though, I guess I should just be happy they gave AJ the win over Jericho and actually made him tap out.

The Cutting Edge Peep Show with The New Day:

I rolled my eyes at first because it just seemed like a lame time filler to pimp the new Edge and Christian show, and it was that, but the dreaming side of me actually thought they’d use this to debut Enzo and Cass on the main roster to feud with The New Day into Mania. But, nope, as soon as The New Day started talking about the League of Nations I knew this thing was only destined to get worse. It makes total sense in retrospect that they’d go with this feud since neither has nothing to do, but I could care less. The New Day act is sooo played out with me and always goes on about 5 minutes longer than it should. As if things couldn’t get much worse on this show…

Curtis Axel Defeated R-Truth:

Yep, you read that correctly, the co-main event match on this show was Curtis Axel with the Social Outcasts beating R-Truth in two minutes when a Goldust accidental distraction led to the pin because we absolutely needed that story continued on this show. How this makes it on, even as a dumb time filler when Kalisto/Alberto Del Rio languished on the pre-show is beyond me, because you know full well they could’ve just shifted things slightly and had that match on here to at least bring up the mean.

Roman Reigns Defeated Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar:

The theme of this show really was if you came into it expecting exactly what everybody knew was going to happen (which it did) then it probably didn’t bother you too much. As much as you might’ve wanted Ambrose to win and how fun it would be to throw a wrench in everything, you knew WWE wasn’t doing anything to mess with the story they had of Roman and Triple H with Roman gunning after that belt yet again, he’s already won it twice somehow! The match was good, nothing amazing and pretty serviceable to all. It will never get old watching Brock get built up like the monster he is and just destroying guys left and right.

I’m writing this after RAW, so WrestleMania is becoming a lot more clearer. We got the match that nobody say coming with Shan McMahon coming back to the company to face Undertaker in a Hell In A Cell match to win the rights to Monday Night Raw. I’m sure there will be a lot of strings pulled from now until then and the match itself will probably be a cluster in terms of guest spots and smoke and mirrors towards whoever will win. Regardless, I’m excited for the match and at the very least the idea of it because it sounds like the most fantasy booking thing ever, especially in 2016.

Dean Ambrose is facing off against Brock Lesnar in a street fight, which sounds amazing and has the potential to steal the show. The street fight stipulation is a good idea, because it’s the only way that things can sway in Ambrose’s favour towards a fair and believable fight, because realistically Lesnar should mop the floor with the scrawny Ambrose. I’m much more excited about this than I am the before rumoured idea of Lesnar/Bray Wyatt which was seemingly being set up at the Rumble. I was looking forward to the legit Lesnar/Wyatt match, but not the tedious month+ long build up of boring promos and attacks.

I don’t know what’s truly happening with the tag belts outside of New Day/League Of Nations feud, but don’t know how that’ll play into WrestleMania. They’ve been putting together a few tag teams of late like Social Outcasts, R-Truth/Goldust, plus the Dudleyz and Usos feud that seems to be happening and now it seems like Styles/Jericho are going to be a team which I’m not the biggest fan of. So maybe they’ll do a big multi-team match like they did last year?

It seems like the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal will be back, as it’s now just an easy match to throw all your leftover guys into, and especially since a ton of the big guys have nothing to do like Big Show, Kane, Ryback, the Wyatts etc. I have no clue what this means for Bray Wyatt as I can’t see anyone relatively big or decent for him to feud with that he hasn’t faced already. Who knows.

Of course you got John Cena posting cryptic things on Twitter about him pushing hard to make some certain goal. Hmmmm. This is the same dude who posted about him struggling to regain the mobility in his weak arm and then two days later posted him squatting 300 lbs. The dude is a freak, so he’ll probably be back, but I have no clue facing. The fantasy booker in me wants John Cena vs. AJ Styles for the dream match we’ve always wanted over the past decade.

And, oh yeah, that whole Triple H vs. Roman Reigns for the title thing. It’s hilarious that WWE thinks that continually putting bigger and bigger things in front of Roman for him to “overcome” to win the title will somehow get people to like him, yet it’s having the opposite effect where it gets comical how much he beats out to get what he deserves. I’m sure there will be a special ref or special enforcer or people in each of their corners or whatever, but I don’t think much will work and the fans are just too far gone on Reigns in this iteration to see him win like this.

I was getting pretty skeptical of Mania with all the injuries, lack of big matches and the mess the world title picture is, but the whole Shane/Undertaker thing has really piqued my interest and the Lesnar/Ambrose thing is bound to be a lot of fun. Plus, I’m sure they still got a few surprises up their sleeves since it’s the “biggest WrestleMania of all time” (haven’t you heard!?!?), and given we’re still more than a month out a lot is bound to change, but I’m back excited for Mania, and hey, we at the very least get an NXT Takeover special to look forward to, no matter the Mania card.

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WWE Ruthless Aggression Era: 2002

WWE Ruthless Aggression

Another year down and what a trip it was. It was truly a random and weird year that had so many new and unique elements from the past year, good and bad, and definitely was a worthwhile direction after the disastrous year that 2001 was. From countless new superstar debuts that would could continue to define the company to this day, to the brand split, returns, high-concept matches and Triple H having sex with a corpse. It was quite the year to say the least. Let’s get into it…

The year starts off with the return of Triple H, someone who I thought was still months away from returning, and of course this is all leading to his MIRACULOUS recovery and OVERCOMING THE ODDS to take the belt off Jericho, oh yeah, he’s still somehow the champion. I always keep coming back to how things would’ve been different possibly in with the invasion if people like Triple H, Benoit and Guerrero were healthy and how if any things would be different. Anyways, Triple H is back, and as demonstrated by the constant video packages of him getting stronger and fighting to get back, he was going to be shot to the moon when he got back. As a face, nonetheless, which is often weird to see him play.

It’s nice that they actually made the Royal Rumble match a storyline. This is like the first time since I’ve started watching in 1997 that they’ve actually had super stars really talking about entering and winning it. In the past the lead up to it has been non-existent. It helps to easily give guys storylines. And it’s big important guys, too, like HHH, Taker, Angle, Show, Kane. Really provides some heft to it and makes the Rumble match that much more interesting.

Vince McMahon and Ric Flair have a little feud going on how they’re basically co-owners of the company now, with Flair getting Raw and McMahon Smackdown. It does help to elevate Smackdown as a more equal brand, especially since this is before the eventual brand split, and provides Vince something to do, which would be his last major on-air thing for the year.

Goldust and Val Venis are back, one of many of the random superstars that just disappear and you go “oh, yeah, they were gone.” Bringing back some Attitude Era nostalgia. Billy and Chuck are also a thing now, with Billy Gunn trying his best to stay relevant however he can, and this one works surprisingly well for a bit, and they actually get over for a small while.

Anyways, on to the Rumble that Triple H wins, of course, because he’s just gotta win the title at Mania. Jericho beats Rock to retain the title through about 3346 different ways of cheating. Jericho is just a transitional champ, basically. Feels so unimportant, especially with Rock, Austin, Angle, HHH, Taker, they all seems so much better and main event than Jericho who still kinda feels like he doesn’t belong and too early. It seemed like a big deal when Jericho won to became the first undisputed champ, and he got a rub, but especially being a heel it didn’t really give him the push to the next level of top-tier talents like I’m sure they wanted to. Especially when he was just destined to lose to one of them very soon, ie. Triple H.

Triple H is face, of course for now, he turns on Stephanie after she was lied about having a baby. Sets up a no. 1 contender’s match at No Way Out that Angle wins to get the chance at the tile, but, nah… of course Triple H just wins his opportunity back at the next Raw. Because it’s Triple H, and of course he’s going over.

The Rock and Undertaker have a pretty fine match, which is really just a stop gap for them until their WrestleMania feuds get kicked off. Also, oh yeah, Stone Cold Steve Austin is still a thing, remember that guy? The most popular and over star in the company’s history or something? I can’t remember. Anyways, Austin is pretty much lost at sea in any storyline, due basically to his unhappiness with the company at the time and not really wanting to work. It’s crazy how his in-ring tenure just begins to disappear like this and how he hardly becomes a thought, just a few short years after he was carrying the company on his back.

So, finally a few months into 2002, Vince gets some of the top WCW stars that he so desperately needed during the invasion angle to make them seem relevant in Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall as NWO. It’s unfortunate it turned out as it did, but there’s few things I’ve been looking forward to more than the Rock/Hogan Mania match. Even though this iteration of NWO looks so boring and not harmful when it’s just three old dudes trying to remain relevant and badass.

Undertaker and Flair spar on their way to their Mania feud in so many different ways. This was actually one of my favourite builds of the year as both men seemingly held nothing back and everything descended into very personal attacks, like with Taker targeting David, Ric’s son. Flair cut some amazing promos, too, which really played off how emotional he gets and they felt painfully real.

The WrestleMania X8 card itself seemed pretty lackluster with a ton of filler matches. Matches like RVD vs. Regal, DDP vs. Christian, Angle vs. Kane, Edge Vs. Booker T (well, besides this one, because Edge and Booker were fighting over a Japanese shampoo commercial, yep.) and so on had very little build and were obviously just there to fill out the card and give some people something to do.

Stone Cold vs. Scott Hall seemed like it might have some potential, but it actuality it was short, boring and didn’t really seem to accomplish much with neither man seeming that into things. Triple H vs. Jericho was fine, but so uneventful and really containing nothing memorable of it in and of itself, besides the unofficial begin of Triple H being THE top guy without the likes of better guys like Rock and Stone Cold blocking his way. The build up with comedy bits between Stephanie and Jericho did nothing to lend credence to the feud and neither did the HHH/Stephanie split.

Of course, the biggest match, which somehow didn’t main event, although in nowadays booking totally would, the Rock/Hogan match didn’t disappoint. The crowd was nuclear and you could just feel the electricity radiating out of that ring. It’s almost surreal to think about these two top stars of their own begone generations facing off in one of the biggest contests of all time and thankfully Hogan didn’t go over.

Post-Mania dealings are all about the brand split and subsequent draft, which might be one of my favourite WWE things of all time, as well as the brand split which desperately needed to make something of Smackdown and which eventually exceeds amazingly well.

The draft was hilarious because it varies so much, as WWE often does, in strictness of rules and regulations when it comes to superstars being drafted and later traded or whatever. Like, Flair was somehow allowed to draft NWO, a group of three, with one pic. In the coming months they’d make a big deal of orchestrating a trade between the two brands, but then superstars would just defect to the other brand, with no repercussions, so it’s like it didn’t really matter where you got drafted, there was no actual checks and balance system, just whatever they felt like at the time. Like, later Batista and Randy Orton would go to Raw and the commentators were like “oh, yeah, they’re on Raw now, for no particular reason.” I mean, I know this is fake, scripted wrestling and the WWE rarely has concise continuity, but it’s just hilarious how little any of it really matters.

Also, a little someone who would become the dominant force of the year and would have an impact that few probably thought it would be as big throughout the years, Brock Lesnar debuted, and in the most Brock Lesnar way. He would literally just show up during random matches and just own everybody with F5’s and then leave. When he actually settled down and became a part of the actual roster he feuded with the Hardyz to start off with, which I guess was kind of a nice way to introduce him with a team he could go over and destroy.

So, Backlash happens which is pretty uneventful minus a great no. 1 contender’s match between Undertaker and Stone Cold that Taker cheats to win and the whole main event picture. So, it’s Hulk Hogan vs. Triple H for his newly won title and I really just assumed that Triple H would continue to keep getting the major rubs as the guy on top, go over the old Hogan and continue his ways. But, nope, Hogan won the title off Triple H who didn’t even survive a pay-per-view with it. It makes sense, though, Vince probably wanted that big shock and have Hogan carry around the Undisputed belt for a bit with the whole nostalgia factor until he gave it up shortly after to an actual worthy competitor, as he eventually did.

This also feels like when Undertaker finally got a true hold of who and what his American Bad Ass character really is. Where he just became this ruthless, asshole heel who was someone you didn’t want to mess with, and really encapsulated the bad ass biker look.

Randy Orton debuts and it’s so funny to see him all shaggy haired and wet behind the ears as a rookie compared with how we know him now. He’d pop up in random tag matches and have a mini-feud with Hardcore Holly. Later in the year he was put on Raw where he was subsequently injured, but they kept him relevant with this curious bit where he would pop up as this breaking news video where he heeled it up as a smug, smartass thanking the people for wishing him well during his recovery (which no one was doing) and they obviously had big plans for him if they wanted his face on TV every week or so, even though he was injured.

Batista debuts, too, in more bizarre terms than Randy (later Evolution mates), becoming a disciple of newly gimmicked D-Von’s preacher role as basically his muscle and a new dude for him to tag with. It didn’t last long, Batista would eventually end up on Raw where he would be groomed by Ric Flair, sowing the seeds for Evolution.

They had some really good momentum going into Judgment Day with the Underaker/Hogan feud that would eventually take the belt off Hogan at the PPV, which included Hogan doing literally the worst sell job to the chokeslam ever. The continued Triple H/Jericho feud was becoming a bore to me, but putting the match in Hell in a Cell at least provided some spark, although the match itself was pretty unmemorable, hmmm, sensing a theme in their matches. Most importantly, though, we had the Edge vs. Kurt Angle hair vs. hair match, in the culmination of an awesome feud that was based around comedy that both men do so well. I had never actually known how Angle went from hair to bald, and for some reason never assumed storyline reasons.

It’s funny because I’ll often forget about the brand split and be like “wow, Angle wasn’t even on this episode of Raw… wait, oh right, there’s an entirely different show.” It’s so crazy to think of the depth of talent they have to fully stock two relatively equal shows, in their own ways, of course. They each would have their own strengths, with Raw having some of the more traditional big names, but Smackdown would become the show to watch WRESTLING with the likes of Benoit, Angle, Guerrero, Mysterio and so forth. It’s just kinda crazy to think they were literally running two shows, that would only become more separate and were both very WWE, but created and re-ienforced their own identity.

Continuing with the randomness of the year, Shawn Michaels returns after, like four and a half years to seemingly little fanfare and joins with the NWO with him just doing random poses and stuff. It was a very weird position to bring him back as, but likely things would later get better with him, and he’d actually be wrestling, again.

Chris Benoit returns after his long injury, and of course they bring him back in his hometown of Edmonton and of course Vince being Vince they turn him heel in his hometown, which is sorta fun. Eddie Guerrero returns, too, and everything for the eventual rise of Smackdown in the latter part of the year is starting to fall in place, even though they were still on Raw.

Booker T is so funny, like, he can get to Kurt Angle levels of comedy, he’s so good. His partnership and schtick with Goldust is so perfect and they’re the perfect combination of randomness to put together.

Brock Lesnar continues to own and absolutely demolished the King Of The Ring tournament to take the crown. They do a smart thing this time around, which makes a lot of sense, giving the King Of The Ring winner a championship match.

The Rock, apparently, gets down promoting The Scorpion King or whatever Hollywood thing he was doing and comes back, obviously in prep to face Lesnar at SummerSlam. The past two years really The Rock is basically just a part-time player, doing his Hollywood stuff and only popping up at a few of the big events to have a big match, then he literally disappears again without WWF mentioning a word, and then repeat.

The Raw right after Vengeance Vince literally calls this time period “Ruthless Aggression,” so I don’t think there’s much of a doubt this is very much the first year of that era and nowhere near the Atittude Era. And then just like clockwork, who appears? John Cena, of course. On the following Smackdown Cena debuts with his infamous match against Angle. I’ll never get tired of seeing early Cena with his nerdy looking hair and plain appearance. The company was obviously super high on him at the time, as he featured in a ton of matches on following Smackdowns, including main-eventing some of them, and even had a mini-feud against Chris Jericho that would lead into Vengeance that he’d win.

The Undertaker vs. Jeff Hardy ladder match was just as epic as it was hyped to be. And in the loss totally made a star out of Hardy as a single competitor and one who could believably compete on his own. What a coming out party. I love the storyline that preceded Hardy taking on Taker. Where he was basically just bored living this easy, comfortable life of flying city to city wrestling and repeating. So, he needs a spark in his life something that matters, so he challenges the big dog, and eventually gets beaten down, but gains the respect of Undertaker and Flair and sets the roots of his singles career.

The Hardyz along with Edge & Christian actually managed to split them up from their tag teams and work them pretty successfully as single stars. Jeff was great, and would only get better, as that high-flying, risk-taking star, Matt had the V1 gimmick, which I’m not sure what the general consensus was, but I loved it for some reason, especially how technologically dependent and wringed in dry humour it was. Edge only gets better as a singles star and is a focal point of the Smackdown rise, while Christian enjoys some fun as part of The Un-Americans with Lance Storm and eventually Test, who just get constant rise out of all the Americans. I can’t believe I never heard of this tag-team/stable before, because it was a perfect gimmick for all of them, with guaranteed heat that they were all so good at getting, even when it wasn’t this easy. On the other hand, the Dudleyz split was pretty unsuccessful, Bubba was, uh, just his crazy self still, but hanging around with a girl occasionally, and D’Von’s preacher gimmick fizzled out fast. It’s no surprise they put them back together at Survivor Series, as it’s obviously how they work best.

Eric Bischoff comes in as general manager of Raw and I couldn’t be happier to see him. When I first started watching wrestling, a few years after this, he was GM and I absolutely love his smarmy asshole-ness and he fits perfectly as the authority figure. I’m too young to have experienced WCW, so I literally knew of Bischoff as Raw general manager before I knew anything about him and WCW, so I’m in a weird place. I can’t imagine how weird it must’ve been for people back in 2002 to see Bischoff randomly appear like this on WWE programming and become a focal authority point for it.

Stephanie McMahon is a great choice for Smackdown GM as well, she provides a nice foil to Bischoff, someone who’s like a thorn who constantly gets stuck in his side when she steals superstars to her show. She shifts back-and-forth between face and heel mannerisms, but it’s refreshing to see her out of the constant Triple H storylines, for the time being.

So, yeah, The Rock takes the title at Vengeance because it makes sense putting the belt on him being a grade A talent, his popularity as a movie star, heading into the number 2 show of the year, and the prospect of putting him against a Brock Lesnar character who seems unbeatable.

The only thing that could be bigger than that, though, is the wrestling return of Shawn Michaels. I’ve been waiting for his SummerSlam match with Triple H ever since he left all those years ago (months in my real life time, but still). Man, it’s almost surreal having HBK back, I know I’ve watched all these years in just a few months, but it really does seem like forever. It’s crazy to think that he literally went out right before/as the Attitude Era was commencing and is now coming back after it ends. Like he missed a whole era of wrestling. I can’t even imagine how things would be different with throughout the whole thing.

Triple H as a face, or psuedo-face wasn’t meant to last, of course, so he eventually turns on HBK during Michaels’ recruitment of HHH into NWO, which makes so little sense, especially since they were former DX members, but anyways. I mean, honestly, it doesn’t take much to build this feud with them, with all the shared history, but they do a good job, especially with HHH getting to turn back into his sadistic side.

This SummerSlam PPV gets hyped up a lot as being one of the best the company has put on, it’s really good, but I don’t think it’s anything fully amazing or anything, though. Rey Mysterio joins the Smackdown fold, finally, and puts on a classic with Kurt Angle to kick off SummerSlam. It’s literally not in Angle’s DNA to put on bad matches. Ric Flair faced off against Chris Jericho, another of Flair’s random feuds of the year as a wrestler, and one of Jericho’s, too. Chris Jericho had kind of a down year here, especially coming off his monumental one of last year, and never really got to be in the main event picture, but was just stuck in small, random feuds and the tag-team scene. Undertaker also feuded with Test for some reason, just to give him something to do, I guess, which he easily won.

The Shawn Michaels/Triple H street fight was a lot of fun and lived up to the years of hype surrounding the return of HBK. They went long, and even though I was sure Michaels was going over, it still told a pretty good story and had many spots where it seemed like Triple H would believably go over.

The Brock coronation begins when he defeats The Rock in a relatively one-sided affair and one that was a lot more shorter and succinct than I expected and just like that Brock Lesnar is the Undisputed champion of the company and The Rock disappears without a word.

Oh, my god, l I never really fully understood the “Triple H didn’t want to work Tuesdays things” and so they legit just brought back the Heavyweight title and just gave it to HHH because he didn’t want to work Smackdown and fight for the supposed one Undisputed title. I mean, I guess it makes sense to have two separate titles with the brand split, but it’s listed as the UNDISPUTED title and it hardly had any time to breath, and they just gave it to HHH. Amazing. Like, Bischoff just gave Triple H a world championship, no tournament or anything, and now all of a sudden each brand has a world title, which I like, but it’s hilarious how randomly and low-key they do it.

Unforgiven was a pretty boring placeholder PPV with Triple H easily defending his title against RVD, of all people. At the very least, it was used as a way for Ric Flair to turn and align with Triple H, which at the time is kinda fun, giving Triple H someone to bounce things off, and also gives Flair some direction, which he desperately needed these past few months ever since being ousted as GM. The Lesnar/Undertaker feud is a lot of good work, though, especially when Brock and Heyman use Sara against Taker, makes them even more slimy.

Finally, the HHH/Kane/Katie Vick storyline. This was actually a ton of fun and random and so not what they’ve done recently and was a such an Attitude outlier of a storyline. It was actually so nice to have someone feud with Kane and he actually got to be a part of the meaty story and had a backstory and not just some silent, grunt who beats people up for no reason, except for being a DEMON FROM HELL. HHH prodding him was the best and so slimy and dickish of him. At least it wasn’t your same old title match, where it’s the ol “I’m better than you, no I’m better than YOU.” Their title match at No Mercy was pretty boring and didn’t match the build-up, and obviously HHH won. I don’t fully understand why they used it to get rid of the Intercontinental title, making it title for title was cool, but just completely getting rid of the mid-card title seemed weird.

Smackdown needed their own tag belts, so they had a tournament that concluded at No Mercy with Benoit and Angle winning the title. It was pretty clear they were winning ever since the storyline started with them being begrudgen partners, but they’re fantastic wrestling and in a storyline together, so it works all the way around. Especially, with the calibre of tag teams like Los Guerreros and Edge and Rey Mysterio, my god. The Smackdown 6, what a time to be alive.

If that wasn’t enough, No Mercy was capped with a brutal, epic Hell In A Cell match between Brock Lesnar and Undertaker that completely lives up to its hype. This was another of several matches this year that I couldn’t wait to get to, and it delivered and more. Such an even bigger rub for Lesnar to take out Undertaker in the match that made him famous.

Hey, you remember the Big Show who literally has done nothing of note and has been in no storyline at all in, like, two years? Yeah, well, he literally complains about this basically to Bischoff, Bischoff does nothing, so Show defects to Smackdown and gets a title match with Lesnar at Survivor Series. Huh? It’s hilarious how they do this because Big Show has literally not been a factor in anything in sooo long and they just plug him into this feud with Lesnar from 0-100. I guess they probably wanted someone who looked imposing towards the insane mass of Lesnar and Show definitely fits the bill. So, of course, after all of building Lesnar up from destroying everyone in his path, winning King Of The Ring, taking the title off The Rock at SummerSlam, defeating Undertaker in Hell in a Cell, after all of that, at Survivor Series Lesnar owns Big Show, but Paul Heyman turns on Lesnar and Big Show gets the win and the title thanks to a little steel chair action. It’s kinda dumb, I would’ve liked to have seen Lesnar keep being built up as a monster, but springing him on his own and having him be a sort of babyface to take revenge on Heyman and Big Show works decently enough.

The Raw part of Survivor Series was, oh, just the introduction of a little match called the Elimination Chamber. I completely forgot it debuted this year and was so excited when I found out. It’s crazy to see Bischoff hype it now with us looking back, but it must have seemed crazy and out of this world at the time. The match itself more than lived up to the hype and must have been a relief since it very much have devolved into a cluster with the newness of it and all the people. Rob Van Dam was the star of the show, creating amazing moves and just generally being a rag doll, even though he was the first one out. I couldn’t remember if HBK or HHH won or not, but Michaels going over works, gives him his moment with the title and allows the feud to be stretched on, as it would to the next PPV.

Leading into Vengeance, Angle won the no. 1 contendership for the title against Big Show, as Brock couldn’t get his rematch and was eventually later suspended. This led to a weird thing where instead of just a Lesnar retaliation of Big Show, Angle was injected into this feud, with Lesnar helping Angle win the title of Big Show at the PPV. But, Angle would eventually become an adversary of Lesnar’s when he teamed with Heyman, so now Heyman had Big Show and Heyman. It’s a little convoluted, but I guess they just want to stack the deck as much as possible against Lesnar, so his overcoming of those two and regaining of the title will be that much greater.

The Triple H/HBK feud concludes, I believe, for now in another great match and just another top-tier effort following their other big matches at SummerSlam and Survivor Series. I knew they faced off in this epic Three Stages of Hell match, but I had no clue it was so soon, and didn’t think they’d put it on maybe their weakest PPV generally, the one in December. Anyways, it was an enjoyable match, even if the first street fight stage went on wayyy too long and subsequently the last stage with the ladder match was vastly under-used and was a letdown. It’s actually kind of crazy, too, the amount of bumps HBK took in this match, the SummerSlam match, and the Elimination Chamber match, especially due to the hardcore nature of all of them, given his situation with his back. Like, he went all out and didn’t seem concerned at all about an injury that put him out for over four years, it almost makes me cringe seeing him put all that pressure on his back, but I guess things worked out relatively well in the end.

So, that’s basically it, at least with storylines that are largely contained to this year. All in all I had a ton of fun with this year and it was so needed and the perfect antidote to the staleness and sub-par 2001. There was just sooo much jam packed into this year from returns, debuts, epic stipulation matches, the breadth of the draft and brand split, fun storylines (I didn’t even talk about the whole Dawn Marie, Torrie Wilson, Al Wilson storyline, although, I wouldn’t really classify it as fun), and really just the start of a whole new fresh direction that was divorced from the Attitude Era and bred out of the ashes of the invasion angle of the last year.

Through all this I’m really looking forward to 2003, especially because it’s one of my biggest blind spots of WWE. I’m aware of broad things that happen from the Rumble to WrestleMania 19. But, don’t really know or recall much that happens from then into 2004, so I’m really looking forward to it and hoping it remains fresh to me. I first really got into wrestling right after WrestleMania 20 and subsequently know everything about the next couple years after that, so I’m going to relish in this next year being somewhat in the dark and hope that the fun of 2002 only continues.

WWF Attitude Era: 2001

WWF Attitude Era: 2001

WWF Attitude Era: 2001

*deep breaths* Okay, I got a lot to say about this year, oh, god, I took a lot of notes for this. *more deep breaths* Let’s do this…

I wrote about it last year with 2000, where it was the first year I lost my momentum a bit watching episode-to-episode and wasn’t really engaged or enamored with anything, and boy, that continued well into 2001. The end of 2000 was pretty aimless and thus continued right into 2001 and all the way up until Wrestlemania when things started to get a semblance of a direction. With the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin, it was all about his push going into Wrestlemania and doing so as basically playing a psuedo-heel character, obviously foreshadowing his turn at Mania.Kurt Angle still had the WWF championship, which I’m really surprised they kept on him for as long as they did, but once Austin won the Rumble it was all but certain, even with hindsight, that they were just setting up The Rock to take the belt off of Angle for The Rock/Austin rematch. I couldn’t believe at the time that the Austin/Triple H Three Stages of Hell match didn’t main event No Way Out, I thought for sure it would, but I guess they felt the Rocky/Angle ending was more suitable with how it turned out.

The build up to Mania was pretty lacking, in my opinion. The only feud with longstanding history is Austin/Rock, but they haven’t done much with it, or anything special. Since both are technically faces even though they’ve never really liked each other. Austin has been pretty heely since the start of the year, but it doesn’t really work and he’s over as always. The Rock/Austin hype video was so painfully 2001 with the Limp Bizkit My Way song playing over it, a trend that would only continue throughout the year with the company using songs from Drowning Pool, Marilyn Manson, Creed, Puddle Of Mudd and others. Oh, god, the nostalgia is so strong and I miss this music so much in a way that I’m not entirely sure if fully ironic or not.

Now everything from January to Mania was pretty boring until the WCW buy by Vince the week leading into Mania which made things really interesting and totally kicked their rivalry into gear. I like McMahon’s presence again as the company owner with all seeing power, especially IRL now that he literally bought his competition. I’ve said before that I’ve been looking forward to the Invasion more than anything starting this Attitude Era watch through even though I heard it was bad (oh, we’ll get to that…) and this just ratcheted up my interest about how fun things were (hopefully) going to get.

Taker/HHH came out of nowhere and I guess at this point it makes sense that they’d fight, but knowing what I know in 2015 it’s kinda boring. I kinda didn’t realize that, duh of course Biker Taker would have some wins during the streak, I kinda just assumed it was all epic deadman stuff. I wasn’t really prepared for the weirdness of Biker Taker at Mania. They don’t really have much for HHH in the main event since Austin/Rock and the McMahon stuff doesn’t really concern him.

It’s a shame Angle basically fell off the face of the earth after dropping the belt to The Rock so he could face SCSA. Angle has no story and they literally through him in a storyline through against Benoit since they both don’t have a match. Now, that match was incredible with two of the best WRESTLERS going at it, but there’s no story or draw beyond that.

Wrestlemania X-Seven was the first four-hour mania, something that would change how they would do things regarding the event that goes all the way to the present. Now, everywhere I went I kept seeing how this was not only one of, if not the best Wrestlemania, but one of the best WWF pay-per-views of all time, so my hype and anticipation were very high. They really tried to cram this Mania with as much stuff as possible, especially with their whole “the next Wrestlemania is the best Wrestlemania” mantra they’ve had going for the last few years now.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really get the hype for the PPV. Don’t get me wrong, it was good and not bad in any stretch of the imagination, I just don’t see what a lot of people saw that makes them think it’s so otherworldly special. TLC II was a lot of fun and exactly what I expected, the Shane/Vince match was fine enough, even with bringing in Mick Foley to randomly guest ref just to try and wring more buys, except for that classic Shane spot where he kicks the garbage can into Vince’s face from off the ropes across the ring, it just gets better every time. The Rock/Austin match was good, nothing amazing, I wasn’t really a fan of the heel turn, but eh, at the time it was something different to see (that would actually just get worse and worse, ie. Austin as a heel).

Now I’m going to take a brief intermission to discuss what years exactly constitute the “Attitude” era. Looking it up online you’ll see similar timelines, but all vary from when it starts and ends, and me coming in from the outset I had no clue when to start. I saw King Of The Ring 1996, I saw Survivor Series 1997, I saw Wrestlemania 1998 and on the flip-side I saw just as many ideas as to when it ended, something I was less concerned with at the time. So I settled on January 1997, because I have OCD and couldn’t stand starting in a random month in the year, I had to start at the beginning of the calendar year, even though wrestling is year round and doesn’t adhere to start and stop schedule. Anyways, as I wrote previously, much of 1997 I don’t think was the Attittude Era, and I think I’d agree that it technically started at Survivor Series, specifically that RAW after the screwjob, but it doesn’t really become the “Attitude” era as we know it until 1998. And now having watched to the end of 2001, I would retroactively agree that the end of Wrestlemania X-Seven with the Austin heel turn and allegiance with his sworn enemy for the past three years that catapulted the era into the phenomen it would become and what truly defined it was indeed the end. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, and I know this is going to sound weird, but everything after that just FELT different and not of the “Attitude” era. Most notably I would not consider the Invasion part of the Attitude era, and thus it took up the majority of the latter part of 2001. As well as the remodeling of the SmackDown set with the fist, didn’t scream “Attitude Era” to me, it screamed of a new phase they were leading into. You probably don’t care about this, and this post is long as hell and I haven’t even begun, but this was a major source of contention for me, and I’m actually surprised at how much of a definitive answer I came up with myself. I expected it to be a lot more ambiguous.

So, post Mania The Rock got beat down by McMahon/Austin and now HHH so he could go do The Mummy Returns promo stuff and kick off his whole “superstardom eventually taking over Hollywood” thing. Things got really boring and directionless right after Mania again with HHH/Austin teaming up and Taker/Kane partnering up with both teams feuding. I kind of thought with the WCW buy right before Mania that the Invasion storyline would start right after, but nope it was another boring couple of months. I was really bored by the Taker/Kane thing, as I like them separately, but at this point they are both far less demonic and scary now and thus lose their bite. Benoit vs. Angle never gets old, though.

And then que HHH’s infamous quad injury that puts him out for over a year, which put the dire main event situation into even more barren straits. Thus they kicked up Benoit and Jericho into the upper card/main event which was a lot of fun and a breath of fresh air/they basically have nobody else to feud Austin with since HHH and The Rock are gone and Austin just came out of a feud with Undertaker and Kane.

Benoit and Jericho win the tag belts off Austin/HHH because of course they weren’t going to hold them for THAT long. Then Benoit/Jericho had a TLC match with the Hardyz, Edge & Christian and the Dudley Boyz on SmackDown of all things and it was amazing and surreal that they put something that great on their B-show. Those were the days. So, things leading into King Of The Ring seemed promising, with the triple threat main event of Austin/Benoit/Jericho and with the King Of The Ring stuff always being fun, plus someone just so happens to be stalking Undertaker and his wife Sara… Here we go.

I was racking my brain trying to think of who it could be who was stalking Undertaker and his wife, taking weird voyeuerisitc videos of them at their house, which was actually pretty creepy, all credit due. I was pretty sure it was someone from WCW, but I had no clue and never even recalled this feud from before, and I guess now I know, with good measure. And, then, this masked dude copies the Undertaker, rolls down to the ring on a bike like Taker, gets in the ring and IT’S ME, IT’S D-D-P. And, damn, I had no clue it was going to be him, and I’m a huge DDP fan and didn’t even know about this feud (but, really, with the information I know now, it was hardly that. I was so excited for them to face off at King Of The Ring in singles competition, but nope, they just had a staredown and Taker pummeled him. More on this continuing disappointment later.

Another of the big landmarks of this year that I had been looking forward to was the infamous Shane McMahon/Kurt Angle street fight, and boy, this thing lived up to the hype and more. Shane is just so game to go all out and nobody is above him as a challenge to have a great match out of, and Angle could pull a great match out of anyone, but with Shane he didn’t have to at all, he was more than up to the test. Just a brutal, taxing affair that you could see both men work wondrously how tired they became throughout the match and how it slowed down and really told a fantastic story.

So, after Mania things were boring again and admittedly my watching slowed down, but leading into King Of The Ring I knew the Invasion was just about to kick off, I mean, duh, the PPV after KOTR was entitled Invasion. Pretty good hint. Anyways, let’s get into it… what I’ve been waiting to see and talk about the WCW/ECW invasion of WWF, what could go wrong…

There was like zero WCW talk, or Shane in the two months after Mania, but right after Judgment Day it starts to get peppered in with Shane showing up and random WCW people interrupting a match or two, like Lance Storm in Calgary. Nothing really full takeover, though, until after KOTR when it really kicked off. I really didn’t know if it was going to be a storyline that affected the entire card, it was, which was nice that it at least tried to give everybody something to do, or at least developed a through line that they could use for stories. I was gonna give the storyline as much of the benefit of the doubt as possible, I was in on Shane vs. Vince and WCW vs. WWF, and even with the eventual addition of ECW it seemed like just the asset WCW needed to be on par with the WWF.

See, that’s the thing that made the Invasion in dire straits from the first place. The big stars like Sting, Hogan, Flair, Steiner and such didn’t invade, it was people like Chuck Palumbo, Sean O’Haire, Mike Awesome, Chris Kanyon and Shawn Stasiak among others. The rest of the invasion roster was filled with people already on the WWF roster who had previously worked for those companies to try and give them some power and credence like The Dudley Boyz, Rhyno and Tazz. Now I love Booker T and DDP, the biggest stars of the WCW side of the invasion, but in no universe at that time did they hold a candle to Stone Cold, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Undertaker or Kane. They were seriously mismatched and it was just so unbelievably that this other side even had a fighting chance.

Now leading up to the PPV Austin had been a bore, literally. He was suppsoed to be a heel, but people would keep cheering him in the wake of Mania, because they loved Austin no matter what. He would continue to get more heat, but it just never equated to what the WWF in theory thought he should get and what in a normal situation someone like him would get. But, then he became this docile semi-idiot who would hug Vince and seemed like a neutered boring version of his past self.

The Invasion PPV was a mess, as should have been expected, with forgettable match with forgettable superstars after forgettable match with forgettable superstars. The main event was an all-stars type match with the best from each side going after each other, nope, you wouldn’t get just Taker vs. DDP. So, of course, with the minimalist set-up about whether Austin was a team player he, of course went the other way and turned on his team, stunning Angle and letting Booker T get the win.

And then if that wasn’t enough, the “Invasion” angle was around for FOUR more ppvs to the end of November, and it just fizzled more and more out as it when on through the September and October months. I was semi-shocked to see The Rock was actually returning, mainly to hype up SummerSlam, and it was great to have him back, but his feud with Booker T and Shane was a dud, and Booker was 0 for 2 with WWF feuds so far. I really thought they might spare The Rock from this and keep him out after, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they brought him back earlier to spark some life into the whole thing.

The Taker/DDP feud had so much potential to me, but they didn’t even go one-on-one, which was baffling to me. There was so much they actually could’ve done with it, but all they did was book them in tag matches and then just have Taker/Kane run over the other WCW teams. And thus DDP was even more aimless, so then towards the end of a year they gave him some motivational speaker gimmick which suits his weird deranged sensibilities and manner of speaking so well, but it doesn’t look like he’s even long to stay. What a waste.

The one positive about all this was the emergence of Kurt Angle as a babyface and his feud with Austin for the WWF championship, which was just fantastic and engaging work from both sides. It can’t be said enough how hilarious Angle is in his clueless American hero jock gimmick who tries to buddy buddy up with Austin. The dude deserved an Emmy for the little hat and milk truck episodes alone.

At Unforgiven Austin finally got toppled for his title and at first I was kinda surprised they had Angle do it at a seemingly nothing PPV, but then it was in Angle’s hometown and the first PPV after 9/11 so of course they’re gonna give it to the all-American hero. I was really hyped about this and Angle was on top of the company now more than ever with the title, but then they gave Austin back the title on RAW after William Regal turned, like, uhhhh, okay. That was all fun and good for nothing then. Back to the status quo.

One of the other few positives that spurned out of the Invasion was the presence of RVD who slowly became more and more popular, even though he was an Alliance member until he was basically like a face in the heel Alliance faction. Plus, he basically always puts on great, fun matches that at the very least are fun to watch since his moveset is a nice break from everybody else. His matches with Jericho, who also utilizes several different styles were top notch.

I was looking forward to No Mercy in October with the RVD/Angle/Austin match, but it was kind of a letdown. I loved the Jericho main event push as he just kept getting hotter and I was pretty shocked that he took the WCW title off of The Rock, but I guess Vince was buying high on him (especially evidenced by later). And then of course Jericho decides to slowly turn heel. It seems like it’s the year of not remaining face or heel for that long and once you get over on one side, for some reason they decide to turn all the momentum against them and I can’t say they won any favours doing this. I just don’t get it. Speaking of…

And then Angle turns on the WWF to align with the Alliance leading into the Survivor Series match that will decide whether the WWF or WCW takes control of the company, hmmm, I wonder who’ll win. It seems they basically turned Angle just to try and get the teams to look more even or something? I dunno, it doesn’t matter he turned again when he cost Austin the victory and was portrayed as a double agent type deal, but also was implied that that wasn’t his motive the entire time, who cares, it really doesn’t matter.

Now with hindsight while the Invasion was in its infancy stages I originally thought it was so dumb having Austin be heel all this time and lead the Alliance against the WWF, but now that I think about it it kinda makes sense. The Alliance needed a huge top credible star to literally be their leader and give them some credibility. Because they got all the B-star WCW players they had nobody, so having Austin at least gives them the strongest wrestler at the time and somebody who could and did carry them. Booker T and DDP are the closest, but they can’t do that. Booker T was trying but they got off that train pretty quick. And DDP just fizzled out.

And to wrap this whole thing up Vengeance provides one of the biggest swerves of the year, even thought I already knew its result, the unifying of the WWF and WCW is won by none other than Chris Jericho. While it seems like a weird choice in hindsight, I’m curious to how much of a surprise or expected it was at the time for people watching. And all it does now is capping his heelness as the top guy with both belts who topped THE two stars of the Attitude Era. It’s a curious choice, but I’m interested to see where they take things and if Jericho can actually carry the main event since he’s THE guy now. We’ll see. And that’s it for the year.

I promise I’m done now. Almost 4,000 words of this and I’m so sorry. But, it’s a lot fun and easier to write about things when they’re bad or just plain baffling than things that are just straightforward great or enjoyable. I knew at the very least the Invasion angle would be entertaining to watch, and it definitely was, just not in the way that was probably expected. 2002, do your worst.

Random notes I couldn’t fit elsewhere/let’s just make this thing even longer:

  • Chris Benoit got injured right before the Invasion stuff, and damn, they just suffered so many injuries this year to top stars that were involved with the main event picture. Who knows if and what the Invasion would of looked like with Benoit in it since he was ex-ECW and WCW.
  • William Regal and Tajiri are all sorts of adorable together, I forgot how much I loved Tajiri in the ring and his antics off screen.
  • One thing that majorly sucked this year was the disintegration of the tag team division especially from Judgment Day and beyond. The only real teams left were The Dudley Boyz and The Hardyz (who had their own little rift). Edge & Christian broke up, which was actually pretty fun stuff, with Edge getting to do some more serious singles stuff and Christian getting to play this ridiculous, self-obsessed goofball that was just a shade different to what he usually did. But, doing so there was nothing to the division, especially when Undertaker and Kane would dominate. All the WCW teams were terrible and had no staying power. It was a shame, especially since the division had so many great, established teams the past few years, but hopefully it’ll shape up after the effects of the Invasion have been shaken off.
  • Man, I really thought Big Show was a big player around this time, but I guess not. He was literally hardly nowhere to be seen the whole year and far away from any main event or even worthy storyline. They attempted to team him up with Billy Gunn, and that lasted for, like, two weeks and then he disappeared again. I’m not the biggest fan of him, but you’d think they would have something for him, not even Invasion stuff being ex-WCW, a storyline they tried with him, but never revisited. Even though it was kinda boring him pledging his allegiance to WWF even though he used to be WCW.
  • It literally took me until November to realize that not only was there no women’s title anymore and women weren’t competing for it, but also the laster holder of it was Chyna who I also just realized I hadn’t since, oh, like, right after Wrestlemania. I guess that just goes to show how well they booked the women that I completely forgot they weren’t even competing for a title and Chyna just vanished with the belt up for grabs at the end of the year.
  • Going off that, I don’t know if it’s just my lack of attention, but I can’t count how many times it’ll just dawn on me that so-and-so superstar hasn’t been on TV for months and I’ll look it up and they got injured or just take off. I’m so bad at realizing these things, but I guess it also goes to show that these people weren’t really that memorable or doing anything that engaging in the first place.

WWF Attitude Era: 2000

WWF Attitude Era: 2000

WWF Attitude Era: 2000

Hey, another year down, and this time I actually took brief notes while I watched, so hopefully it’ll better trigger my memory. Let’s go through this thing in sequential order/whenever I felt motivation enough to jot down a note.

The Triple H/Mick Foley stuff to start the year was some pretty great stuff, with Triple H fully entrenched now as the top heel with the belt and a hold on the company through his relationship with Stephanie McMahon. They’re both a juxtaposition of styles with Triple H being the more technical wrestler with Foley being of the more whatever-it-takes brawler type, but both meshed in the middle with their skill at hardcore matches. Thus we got an excellent street fight match at the Royal Rumble (including a really fun tables match between The Dudley Boyz and Hardyz that really kick started these TLC gimmick matches in the tag division) draped in blood featuring thumbtacks, barbed-wire bats, handcuffs, trash cans and all that and both men put on an excellent show. Their Hell In a Cell match at No Way Out to blow off their one-on-one feud was also very good and continued the lineage of Foley taking ridiculous Cell spots.

The lead up to WrestleMania was pretty disappointing and lacking to me. The Rock beat Big Show to win the Royal Rumble, but under some controversial means where his feet basically touched before Show’s and probably really shouldn’t have been the winner, I have no clue if this was intended or not, but thus they feuded over the spot for a bit. The different permutations of the main event leading into Mania was maddening, it literally changed every week and basically undermined the Royal Rumble and every new number one contender as they legit just had new number one contender matches each week. I didn’t think they’d actually let Big Show main event Mania, but I guess they got away with it when they finally settled on a four-way between Triple H, The Rock, Big Show and Mick Foley, which I was not looking forward to at all. There was a pretty clever twist when each McMahon was backing a man with Stephanie with Triple H, Vince with The Rock, Shane with Big Show and Linda with Foley. The match wasn’t very good and overlong and I thought for sure The Rock would take the belt from Triple H, but nope he retained to cap off a very lackluster Mania. I was really feeling the absence of Austin and Undertaker as they were the stars of the last couple years and didn’t really feel like the other guys did a good job of carrying the show without them.

The funniest thing was that leading up to Mania Big Show was booked as this big, strong, imposing mean bastard who was main event tier and then right after his big show(ing) at Mania 2000 he was booked as a big, dumb comedy act who dressed up in costumes and danced with Rikishi. It was amazing the 180 they pulled.

We also finally got the debut of Christ Benoit, which I was looking forward to, along with Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturan as the defected from WCW. I enjoyed their little storline to begin where they were The New Radicalz and just beat people up as the new guys, but it was eventually clear that Benoit was the main one they would push as they pretty quickly got separated. And of course Eddie wouldn’t get the big push right away, but would do some nice work with Chyna that really sold his comedic chops and acting ability, not to mention how good of a wrestler he was of course.

I finally saw the whole Mae Young giving birth to a hand thing and it was just as messed up and dumb as I imagined. Basically just a reminder that, yep, I am still indeed watching the Attitude Era.

Chris Jericho really started to heat up even more with the fans and they loved everything he touched and said, especially due to them putting him over for the belt on Raw, for however briefly. Even still it’s obvious that with Austin gone on injury that The Rock is still the THE star of the business who gets incredible pops. It’s hard to tell who got a bigger pop at the height of their stardom, but it’s probably Austin by a hair.

I have a special place in my heart for Too Cool, going back to the days when Scotty 2 Hotty was my favourite wrestler when I first started watching all this garbage, for reasons that really boil down to how cool it was that his hair came out the top of his hat. But, anyways, I was surprised how over Too Cool was when they started out and they were actually working some main event matches on TV and ones with Triple H and The Rock, although it didn’t last too long and they wen back to being low card gimmicks. It was also pretty obvious that they wanted to push Rikishi up the card and he was the only one they really cared about because #Samoan.

Speaking of Too Cool, the tag team division was stacked at this time, with Too Cool, The Dudley Boyz, The Hardyz, Edge & Christian, Crash and Hardcore Holly, The Acolytes, Test & Albert, D-Generation X and later Right To Censor. They definitely had options although not all the teams were always at their peak, because they all couldn’t be, but each slided in and out nicely for some solid mid-card matches.

Edge & Christian are the best and their dumb frat boy humour always works on me because it’s so dumb and they both play perma-fried bros so well. They would later get a nice push with Kurt Angle, further doubling down on the dumb, oblivious guy theme. The best running joke with E&C was when they’d always try to fake injuries to get out of matches and would do whatever it takes to not defend their belts. Just the best.

I have another special place in my heart for Right To Censor, and I even vividly remember making their logo as some kind of pop-up art project in school as a kid, and no I have no idea why of all the colourful superstars of the time I picked a Right To Censor logo to ape. I really love their gimmick as an extension and pesudo-commentary on the Attitude Era’s awful treatment of women as just piece of meat to parade around in the smallest amount of clothes possible and book solely in matches where they strip each others clothes off. They would always get immediate heat with their entrance theme which was a bunch of annoying alarms that wouldn’t stop. And even better to fulfill the whole irony quotient The Godfather and Val Venis, the pimp and porn star gimmicks of years past would join and renounce their ways.

So, then at Backlash The Rock finally won the title over Triple H and they feuded into Judgment Day into a one hour Iron Man match which was a super cool concept to actually pull off (that they would never do nowadays) even if the match wasn’t all that great. Shawn Michaels was the special guest referee and The Undertaker made his glorious return in his infamous biker gimmick (lol!) screwy finish, screwy finish and Triple H had the belt back.

King Of The Ring happened with Kurt Angle (more on him soon) amazingly winning the titular title of the PPV and The Rock won the title back because the world championship in the Attitude Era is basically a hot potato that goes from person to person, even in weird tag matches where you can win the singles title, like The Rock did.

And then Chris Benoit’s push coincided with The Rock’s title reign and oh, damn, they let Benoit man event a pay-per-view this yearly and I was surprised, but it was a lot of (brief) fun. He’s not really the best on the mic, but his in ring work was in matched and he literally put on a fantastic match with everyone, so it was always worth paying attention. This also included the Triple H/Chris Jericho feud in a Last Man Standing match which included great work as always by both of them. And then with his sublte into not-so-subtle macking on Stephanie McMahon Kurt Angle’s push into the main event slowly began to crescendo. Thus Kurt and Triple H feuded for a couple pay-per-views, basically over Stephanie, it went on a little bit too long for my taste, but Kurt made it all work. Angle is the best because he’s so good at doing dumb comedy bits and selling them amazingly with his naivety and commitment, but at the same time he’s totally believable as a main eventer who can kick ass and get it done with his technical prowess. He really was the perfect guy in WWE to measure their incessant want for dumb comedy, be entertaining and actually wrestle a good match.

And then everything culminated with Kurt taking the title from The Rock, which I really wasn’t expecting, I thought it was way too soon to put the belt on Kurt, but I always forget how much they love flip-flopping the title. And of course he was great with the belt as a little twerp who tried to get out of everything.

Kurt then took the backseat to the returning Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was awesome to finally have back, but oh my god, like a repeat of the build-up to Mania, the storyline of WHO RAN OVER AUSTIN, took forever and had a bunch of fake-outs and then it was finally revealed to be Rikishi (lol!) who thus turned heel into bad man Rikishi (lol!) with some dumb reasoning about the #Samoan connection between him and The Rock as to why it was done.

To finish off the year we had the big Armageddon Hell In A Cell match between *takes a breath* Kurt Angle, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker and Rikishi. Which one of those names doesn’t belong? Either way, I was really looking forward to the match, and it was indeed good, but nothing great, which was fine by me, because I kind of half-expected everything to cancel out and it’d be terrible.

And so I guess the final thing to end the year was Mick Foley getting ousted as commissioner, oh yeah, Mick Foley was commissioner for the majority of the year after he came back from retirement. I really didn’t talk about it because it didn’t really do much for me, mainly Foley’s comedy schtick where he would always be in random places backstage taking up office and all his pandering to the crowd. He was a pretty hollow replacement for a figure in power, although I do obviously know he was like that to differentiate from the Vince’s and Shane’s in the past.

I honestly didn’t really dig this year as a whole, it was very inconsistent and could never maintain steam, or when it did it would grasp onto something for wayyy too long and drive it into the dirt. The lack of Austin and Undertaker hurt things, as they were huge reasons why I loved the last couple years and of course Taker’s new gimmick takes some getting used to. It also felt less of an “Attitude” type year as the previous ones, I think mainly because they were fully entrenched in this new identity and were set on a pretty straightforward cruise control. The Rock was great, as always, even if he did get semi-overshadowed later in the year, but that was mainly due to Angle with the belt which was a pretty good change of pace. I was gonna take a break after this year (it’s been four years!) since I’m semi losing steam on a lot of things, but the promise of WrestleMania 17 (which I’ve been told is the best) and my intrigue of the whole invasion angle has me piqued to see how much further I can last.