TLC: Tables, Ladders And Chairs: Review/Recap

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The New Day Defeats The Usos and the Lucha Dragons to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship in a ladder match:

This year the ladder match opens the show once again and once again it steals the show right out of the gate. Originally, I thought and expected the ladder would go to the Owens/Ambrose Intercontinental match, which would’ve been great in its own right, but after seeing this I’m glad it went here. I can’t even remember the last time WWE had a multi tag team ladder match and that alone provided a fresh aspect to a match we haven’t seen in awhile. Of course, as expected, this thing was just a gigantic spot-fest with all three groups utilizing their high-flying abilities (+ Big E) for some fantastic moments. Highlighted by the incredible Solina del Sol delivered by Kalisto to *insert name of the correct Uso* off the top of a ladder in the middle of the ring, collapsing down through a ladder wedged in between the ropes. I can’t remember a move in recent memory that made me jump out of my seat like that. Big E also did a pretty cool move where he was trapped under a ladder and bench pressed it off him while the Lucha Dragons were climbing the ladder. I’m always amazed that people still find new and inventive things to do in ladder matches after all these years and this thing definitely delivered.

I think the New Day are getting a bit stale, due in large part to their constant long-winded promos that they deliver each time they’re out, but it was no question they were going to retain. It’s hard to tell when their time will run out with the belts, I’d imagine sooner rather than later, but still expect them to be a major player in the tag division for the foreseeable future. It seems like only a matter of time until the Lucha Dragons get a run with the titles, hopefully only pushing Kalisto’s stock even higher, because that dude has star potential.

Rusev Defeats Ryback:

This is just a dumb, filler of a feud that was pretty meaningless and lacked any teeth whatsoever. They tried to to this whole thing of Lana feigning getting attacked by Ryback and such, but it’s all just so boring and pointless. I remember they tried doing this feud a few months ago and nothing happened to it, unfortunately they actually went forward to this. I find Ryback pretty boring and he’s pretty much lost in the shuffle nowadays after his Intercontinental reign went down in flames. Rusev on the other hand is a better worker than he’s given credit for on the card, and has been wallowing in sub-standard stuff to what he’s capable of since he got run over in the Cena feud from earlier this year. It wasn’t a noticeably bad match or anything, just wildly forgettable and unnecessary.

Alberto Del Rio Defeats Jack Swagger to retain the United States Championship in a chairs match:

Del Rio obviously was going to retain over Swagger, who only got this title match because of the connection of his former manager Zeb Colter being Del Rio’s manager now. Except for the fact that Del Rio broke things off with Zeb the previous week, possibly hinting of interference or an appearance by Zeb in this match to return to Swagger’s side, except nope, none of that happened. Del Rio won in this chairs match (which might be the dumbest gimmick match currently used) with little fanfare, with the most noticeably dumb thing to happen in the match was when Swagger had Del Rio in his ankle submission Patriot lock move where Del Rio proceeds to get out of the move and no-sell it, walking around perfectly fine, but not only that it leads directly into the finish where Del Rio’s does his stomp off the top rope, driving his supposedly injured foot into Swagger, but showing no effects, and getting the 1-2-3. So, Del Rio keeps the belt, until presumably Cena comes back in the ensuing months and takes it back. You don’t just get to keep your win over Cena.

The Wyatt Family defeats The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno in a tables match:

This feud was presumably made because a. Like 90% of why the Dudleyz came back is so they could compete in a tables match at this PPV and b. to get the Wyatt’s a win in a feud, even if it’s against some 40-year-olds. That’s the biggest thing to come out of this thing, the Wyatt’s actually got a win over somebody, whether it actually means anything. It’s funny because WWE always projects the Wyatts as this immovable faction full of creepy ass-kickers, except for the fact that they lose to pretty much every body they’re in a feud with. It’d be nice to see them actually get meaningful wins and put some tangible cred behind their names to book them into an actual top force, not just glorified jobbers. This one was at least a step in the right direction with the Wyatts dominating having only Erick Rowan (the Wyatt family member that I think the other family members couldn’t care less about) be eliminated while the rest of the team stood strong the rest of the match.

Dean Ambrose defeats Kevin Owens to win the Intercontinental Championship:

This was really the only surprise of the night for me, Ambrose finally getting a win and getting the taste of some gold as he was on fire for a lot of the year, but never got anything done. Owens with the title was great, as he has been in every storyline, and I just don’t think we were close to telling the end of his story with the belt, granted I’m sure he’ll be chasing his rematch down. Not really sure what this means going forward for both men, there was always the rumoured Sami Zayn feud for Owens now that he’s coming back and looks less and less destined for NXT in the long run. Does Dean Ambrose settle in as the Intercontinental champion and try to give his U.S. title reign a run for its money?

Charlotte defeats Paige to retain the Divas championship:

I’ve never been invested in this feud, but I don enjoy the how it seems WWE doesn’t even know who is heel or face in this thing anymore. Charlotte literally plays the full out heel in this match for her first time, and thus Paige is playing the babyface role, where just a few weeks ago she was heel and a few before that she was face. Then in a post-match segment Charlotte is being a dick to Becky Lynch, along with Ric Flair, but then she seems to be legitimately regretful to things she said to Becky while her father keeps yapping away. It doesn’t make much sense, especially when Charlotte as a full-out heel is a lot more interesting and fun, anyways.

Sheamus defeats Roman Reigns in a TLC match to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship:

This thing went as expected with wins teased for both until the inevitable run-in by the League of Nations members to beat down Roman to help Sheamus score the win. There were a few moments where they got me and I thought Reigns might overcome all the odds against the interference and Sheamus’ sure win and take the title, but nope, at least not for another 24 hrs. or so…

That would’ve been the expected WWE ending and have the show close out there, as they’ve done time and time again. But, nope, this time Roman had enough and snapped on Triple H spearing him, beating him down, slamming him on a table, elbow dropping him through said table that didn’t break on the first go around, spearing him again after deciding he just wasn’t done after walking up the ramp. Reigns beat HHH down, HHH sold hilariously flopping around like a fish for some bizarre reason and for once Reigns actually looked like a beast that his look so much demonstrates he should be. This silent ass-kicker who just destroys with no regard for consequences or repercussions that could come. It looked like a step in the right direction for Reigns.

So, since I’m writing this after the Raw that followed the PPV, it would be kinda foolish not to talk about that since it’s directly follows from the events of the PPV and includes something pretty big. Nope, Reigns wasn’t taking the title from Sheamus on the Sunday night PPV, instead he took it on Raw completing a mini-arch for Roman over the two nights that actually genuinely seemed to cash in on a storyline with him that seemed relatively unforced.

Stephanie opens Raw with Reigns saying she’s not going to fire him because Triple H didn’t want to (I have no reason why he didn’t want to, and I hope they actually explain this when Triple H comes back), but she claims some guy named Vince McMahon is coming to the arena and he of course has the superseding end-all opinion on Reigns’ employment. Then because Stephanie is Stephanie she slaps Reigns a couple times. Later in the show Vince comes out lambasts Reigns, Reigns calls him an old man and just because of that he gets a world title match that night that if he loses he gets fired but if he wins he gets the title(?), and then Vince kicks Reigns in the balls and then it becomes crystal clear that Reigns is winning the title since Vince and co. backstage would never have their golden boy Reigns get doubly humiliated by Steph and Vince that way without him achieving something memorable in the end. So, in the main event Vince tries to provide a distraction to the ref, only to receive a Superman punch from Reigns which Vince sells beautifully, a brogue kick hits Sheamus that he amazingly kicked out of, into the spear for the win. Then cue the Philadelphia fans cheering Reigns in this rousing coronation of the man finally winning this title. Yeah, you read that right, the same city that booed Reigns out of the building this past January when he won the Rumble and his right to the WrestleMania main event and world title shot, cheered this man because for the most part things actually worked this time and the dude had enough crap piled on him, just give it to him and let him run with it already. Plus, people seemed to have rather wanted to put the tile on a dead fish than have Sheamus continue to run around with it.

Now where they go with it I have no clue. Obviously at least up until the Rumble Reigns and Sheamus will continue to feud with it, but after that I have no clue. It seemed like Reigns would be winning the belt at Mania with his celebration on that grand stage, but looking back now I think there’s no way WWE could last that long keeping the belt off Reigns, and really they couldn’t have kept it on Sheamus much more than they have. So, who wins the Rumble to go against Reigns. Realistically there’s only like three options Lesnar, Cena and Undertaker. Who legitimately else has a shot that they would let main event what they are attempting to make their biggest Mania yet. That’s it, and I doubt it’ll be Taker in the title picture. Lesnar seems like the best bet, since they could do the rematch since last year, even though I don’t think there’s a single person clamouring for that. It’s been rumoured WWE would like to do the whole Cena vs. Reigns Mania match with Reigns going over and Cena passing the torch, but is it time for that now? Who knows, but it seems like WWE doesn’t have the most varying options what to do with the title since their roster seems thinner and thinner by the day. Hell, at the end of Sunday night it seemed like it was going to be a Reigns/HHH feud going forward whether that would be at the Rumble or stretched to Mania, but now Reigns has the title, so what now. Killing two birds with one stone and having HHH go for the title would be hilariously amazing and I probably shouldn’t joke about. I look forward to looking back at this in four months and laughing.

Anyways, that’s where things stand and I’m semi-excited to see where things go, even if I’ll probably be let down. I was actually really optimistic for the PPV, and while it ended up being pretty disappointing, the Raw angle with Reigns winning the title on TV (something unseen in over four years) has my interested peaked. I’ve never hated Reigns as much as most, I definitely had my problems with him, and he’s definitely much better now, even if his promos do suck. But, I’m glad they finally stuck the belt on him and hope they just run with it and I hope it’s as great as they think it’ll be. I think Regins will get better just with the belt around him through some sort of osmosis, but we’ll see.

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NXT TakeOver: Respect: Review/Recap

NXT TakeOver: Respect

Finn Balor And Samoa Joe Defeats Scott Dawson And Dash Wilder:

Now I don’t think it was much of a surprise to anybody that Balor and Joe would make it to the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Classic, whether they won it or not, but with Balor having the title and Joe making no bones that he wanted it, this thing had some seeds that were obviously going to play out throughout the whole tournament, which I’ll get into a bit later.

The match itself was fine, nothing amazing, nothing great, they booked it with Balor getting the leg injury and eventually would tag out Joe, seemingly none to happy with this, and Balor would hit the coup de grace for some reason, because he wanted all the glory of the win? Or something? I don’t know, surely this would set up things for later in the night…

Baron Corbin And Rhyno Defeats Jason Jordan and Chad Gable:

Now, damn, this was a match I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was, and arguably the match of the might. You know what you’re going to get with Rhyno, the brawler who uses his power game to dismantle opponents, and Corbin is basically the same, except he’s on his way up while Rhyno is at the tail end of his career. Corbin has done nothing to excite me, although, his match with Joe at Brooklyn was some underrated stuff, but damn if he didn’t impress in this match. He worked well with the varying styles of Jordan and Gable and was paramount in a few nice strings of moves and reversals that showed off some of his technical side over the “let me just hit and slam you real hard.”

On the other side of the coin, Jordan and Gable were more than up to the task and showed why they should be one of the tag teams to build around in the division. I though for sure they would make it to the finals and actually win this thing, giving a rub to them and catapulting them in the division, but nope, Corbin and Rhyno for the win. Great match, nonetheless.

Asuka Defeated Dana Brooke:

I seem to be alone in this, but I’m a big Dana Brooke fan and see a ton of potential in her. Where she isn’t a woman who’s parading all on looks like a bunch of the main roster divas, and nor is she a technical wrestling wonder like Bayley or Sasha Banks, but rather she’s really just a bare bones wrestler who definitely uses a more power move set than normal in the women’s division. She’s not amazing by any stretch, but she’s definitely been making strides and can be very good on the mic in her heel persona.

But, the real story here is Asuka, a women’s star unlike any other in the division so far in NXT. She’s got the foreign Japanese aesthetic, which as a wrestler is always money, she’s weird and creepy with her masks and deadpan reactions to everything that just give the hint of a tactical killer underneath. So, Asuka gets her win in her first match, of course, in a glorified squash.

I’d imagine they’ll continue this feud for a little bit with Asuka facing off against Emma at the very least, which should be fun. I don’t see Asuka in the title picture right away, they’ll probably want to assert her a little more and get her some wins and steam before the eventual Bayley showdown I’d imagine.

Apollo Crews Defeats Tyler Breeze:

And just like Asuka, Crews is on his way up and Breeze has been around NXT forever it seems now, while everyone has passed him, so Crews pads his resume with a win over the vet. Crews, no doubt, has that major champion look, he’s a beast with all the power moves that his physique would suggest, but also is mobile with the best of any cruiserweight. It’s obvious they’re gonna push him to the moon and really I think it’s only the booking that tells how viable he will be as a champion, as his look and move set are very confident in their own right. I don’t think he’s ready for the title picture now, as there are much more interesting match-ups for Balor right now, but we’ll see.

And poor Tyler Breeze, dude has been in NXT for so long just to see the likes of Neville, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and so on not only surpass him to the title, but see time on the main roster. I really don’t know what their plan for him is nowadays. He does work wonderfully in the spot under the main event against a special attraction like Jushin “Thunder” Liger, which was a perfect match for him, in the sense of opponent and story. But, he just always seems to be the bridesmaid and never the bride when it comes to the title picture and never seems to get the chance to be THE guy, even when fans love him. I don’t know what’s next, Balor seems set with the title for awhile, and I don’t know what Breeze losing in the title picture again really does, and he doesn’t really seem prime for a call-up, and his gimmick complicates things, too. So, I guess we’ll just see him trucking along like he has been, I’d imagine. The biggest fantasy booking that always pops up is him facing William Regal at the Takeover event in the United Kingdom and that would be amazing on so many levels, but I don’t see it reasonably happening then.

Finn Balor And Samoa Joe Defeats Baron Corbin And Rhyno:

So, yeah, basically since this whole thing started I was 100% certain that Balor/Joe would team to the finals, with planted seeds of dissension (which did take place) until the last match where Joe would turn on Balor and cost them the match, setting up their title picture, and putting over a young tag team (*ahem* Jordan and Gable *ahem*) and things would go on their way. Balor had that leg injury story from the first match that continued on into this one, and I thought for sure that story would then be used by having Balor cost him and Joe the match and Joe lashing out in anger. But, nope, none of that happened at all. As we know, Corbin and Rhyno moved on and then Balor and Joe defeated them without much fanfare in nothing match, really.

They didn’t even do anything with Balor’s injury, it hampered him a bit, but eventually he just hit the coup de grace again at the end, with no ill effects and won the match. Like the Charlotte leg injury to win at Night Of Champions I have no clue why they booked that injury storyline when it added nothing and did not affect the outcome one bit. I mean, sure it was an easy story to book the Joe turn, but it doesn’t make it any less of a draw. And I mean, neither of them really don’t have to turn heel, and maybe they do it that way where it’s not face against heel just wrestler giving another worthy wrestler a shot, who knows. But, now is the time for Joe to get that title shot, where he came in guns a-blazing Unstoppable, which seemed to be setting up Owens/Joe for the title, but with Owens ascension to the main roster that never happened, and since Joe has just been wallowing around outside the main picture. We shall see.

Bayley Defeats Sasha Banks 3-2 in a 30-minute Iron Man match:

Many cried foul when the first Bayley/Sasha match didn’t main event Brooklyn, but with that the stature of that event and given that Balor/Owens was the bigger long-standing feud it was never going to main event. But, coming out of that with the men’s title having just had its feud finished and no real direction, the Bayley/Sash rematch aka Sasha’s last NXT match was the clear-cut and well-deserved choice to main event the next Takeover.

I can’t remember the last time I looked forward to a match this much, especially when it was 99% certain who was going to win. The build-up was great, mainly due to how much each competitor embodies their own side. With Bayley the baby-iest of babyfaces, with her bright colours, exuberant attitude and literally hugging people as part of her gimmick. Compared to Sasha the arrogant, cock and brash heel who will showboat and flaunt to prove her point and might even just ridicule the a little girl in the crowd. A rivalry of character-types that goes back to the beginning of time, and doesn’t get old when it’s treated as well as this and held up by such strong and defined characters.

I don’t got to tell you the match was great, that’s like asking if Michael Jordan still has his hoop earring in (thank you, Drake), it’s just an assumed fact. After all the continued five-minute and less matches that populate the women’s division on the main roster, it’s refreshing to see that, yes, that you can give two excellent female wrestlers the same amount, and more, as the men and they’ll put on an equally, if not better match. Because Bayley and Sasha aren’t just two of the best women’s wrestlers in the whole company, they are just plain and simply two of the best wrestler in the company.

So, Baylely wins as she was going to do and firmly entrenches herself in unknown territory, she is the IT woman in NXT, everything now rides on her shoulders. Long gone are Charlotte and Becky who would balance great matches from her, they’ve moved on to the main roster. Sasha has, too, but having been champion she clung on just a bit longer to face her real life friend and kayfabe enemy. Bayley stands and celebrates in the ring alone with her title, Sasha the last of second-last horsewoman collapses in tears in front of the NXT roster on the entrance ramp. It’s the end of the beginning for Sasha, stepping stones past with the majority of the river still in front of her, leaving her mark on the past. Bayley gets the mantle and title now, hoping to build and inspire the next set of great women wrestlers who seek the title that she so desperately covets.

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.