WCW Monday Nitro/PPVS: 1997

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Do you want to know why WCW was a stupid company? I mean, I could list literally 1,000 reasons and they’d all be applicable, you want to know what is really dumb. Imagine for a second that you’re a paper company whose been competing with a rival paper company for supremacy of the ultra competitive paper industry, stick with me here. This rival company has this goddamn amazing card-stock paper, everyone loves it and they’re buying it up like wildfire. Until one day this piece of card-stock paper suddenly develops human feelings (okay, I didn’t totally think out this metaphor before typing it all out), it becomes disgruntled at the company and believes its being overshadowed by a similar card-stock paper, except this card-stock paper has been brown-nosing the higher ups all this time. So our original card-stock paper gets out of his contract at the paper company, and lest we mention the screwjob of epic proportions that makes the paper that much more filled with hatred toward this damn, awful paper company. The rival paper company signs this card-stock paper, amazed that they were actually able to get their hands on this high quality product that they never actually imagined could be theres. They literally got the other company’s best product in the midst of an intense battle for supremacy over the paper landscape, what could stope them now. ONLY THE STUPIDITY ITSELF OF THIS RIVAL COMPANY. Okay, let’s drop this awful metaphor, how did WCW really get a red hot, and I mean RED HOT Bret Hart and literally do nothing with him. So much happened in 1997 for WCW, so much, but literally all I think about is them having Bret goddang Hart on the payroll and let him just toil around and do absolutely nothing. Not only is this guy a money draw, but, uh, an actual great wrestler who, uh, can put on amazing matches which is what your company is kind of supposed to do. I have zero clue how to run a company, but it just seems like the most common of sense to actually do something with the biggest name in the industry when you get him. Not just have him cut lame promos and at your biggest event of the year just have him be a special referee of a doomed match.

Okay, breathe, let’s talk about something else than the Bret Hart debacle. How about the Hulk Hogan/Sting debacle. It actually amazed me that they legit stretched this feud for an ENTIRE year before the payoff match (which of course was godawful). It was actually impressive that in one sense you were like “let’s get to this damn match already,” but I was also impressed that they were able to prolong this thing for so long.

Honestly, this Bret Hart stuff is bothering me too much and I just want to end talking about this year, but let’s end on some random thoughts.

I know a lot of people hate Diamond Dallas Page, but I’ve always been a fan, even, yes, that he’s not the best worker, but his push seemed such a natural thing to do and he was great in that main event role when he had it.

The Dennis Rodman stuff was amazing because never have I seen someone so obviously just picking up a cheque for doing the bare minimum. Like, his face the whole time was always “can you believe they’re actually paying me THIS much for this.” I feel like I actually remember him delivering one good clothesline, though, or something, so that was good. Oh my god, some of the episodes later in the year were of the 3 hour variety and I legit don’t know if I can go forward into 1998 when all the episodes become 3 hours. Without the commercials it’s like 2 hours+ and it’s such a slog to get through it all, so who knows if I’ll actually even get to it. I also want to watch Thunder even though I know that’s the worst idea ever, but I’m curious about its awfulness that I know I’ll regret if I actually decide to watch. Basically what I’m saying is that my 1998 review will either come out in 5 years, or never. And finally, Steve McMichael sucks so bad, my god.

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WCW Monday Nitro/PPVS: 1996

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 10.44.23 PMWCW Monday Nitro 1996, or how the NWO took over and drove anything that was fun about the program into the ground. I mean, at first glance the idea of the NWO is pretty cool. Two top guys from WWF defecting over to WCW and henceforth really kicking off the battle between the two companies. Unfortunately, right out of the gate, it no longer became a WCW show, but rather NWO Monday Nitro. As I’m sure behind-the-scenes things dictated Scott Hall and Kevin Nash didn’t sign with the company for a couple thousand bucks and a place at the mid-card, oh no, this is WCW, so they paid them an astronomical amount and put them at the top no matter what, with them never relenting the main event status.

Now enter Hulk Hogan, Hulk predictably goes heel, and after all this time it lands with a thud that only Hogan could deliver. Leave it to Hulk Hogan for him to turn heel and somehow be just as cheesy and boring as he is as a babyface. Eric Bischoff would later join, in a hilarious series of moments where he was to be signing Roddy Piper for a match with Hogan, but then just shows up after and revealing, oh yeah by the way, that he’s been an NWO member this whole time. So now the quote-un-quote head of WCW, Bischoff, is a prominent member of the group, although it is pretty hilarious because you can always tell in storyline it always seems like Hogan, Nash and Hall just keep him around to utilize his position as the head of the company to finagle matches and decisions that they want.

One of the chief problems of the group, and something that gets grossly parodied in the years to come, but is actually evident pretty early on is how many members (and tertiary ones, at that) end up in the club. Hogan, Hall and Nash is the perfect sect, but then they add in Bischoff, The Giant, Ted DiBiase, nWo Sting (the dumbest thing ever), Vincent, Buff Bagwell and etc. etc., I’m not going to exert myself and type out all the names. They water this thing down right off the gate and have so many geeks and second-rate guys that it becomes a comedy show of members rather than this tough and intimidating group.

And probably my main problem is the idea that this is group is entirely filled with guys 35+ who can’t work and are getting pushed as THE main thing in the company because of what their image WAS in the wrestling world, while the younger guys toil away in the mid-card. You can literally load up any Nitro and see a match with any combination of Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio etc. and see a fantastic match, yet they continually get shoved down the card because of these nostalgia acts of old men acting like teenagers (but, I mean, it’s also not like DX in WWF was doing anything different, despite being not as old). Related to this they bring in Roddy Piper at the end of the year to face Hogan at their big event of Starccade and I mean it’s fun to see Piper back and it’s a nice jolt to the system to see him go up against Hogan, but less said about any of the actual wrestling the better between these two guys. I mean, nobody can cut a promo like Piper, but that only gets you so far, and only serves the point of WCW’s reliance on past acts and gliding off the popularity of stars made from other companies.

NWO aside, my favourite things from 1995 remained my favourites for 1996, albeit in much smaller doses. The Four Horseman are still great, especially with Ric Flair, who unfortunately was out a lot of the year do to an injury (I think, I never looked up if there was a different reason for this or what). Ric Flair getting interviewed by Mean Gene is something that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of.

Like I mentioned, the cruiserweight matches are far and away the best things on the show, and I guess it shouldn’t be amazing to me how many great matches they had when you saw the talent involved. Conversely, it’s amazing WCW didn’t do anything with them, I mean they eventually kind of did, but nowhere near the heights they would’ve gotten if they actually gave these guys concentrated pushes, but nope, everything must fall to the wayside for NWO to “succeed.”

Lex Luger and Randy Savage remained bores who couldn’t work anymore (or to begin with with Luger), and I thought we finally got rid of Savage, but it looks like he’s coming back again. We finally get Scorpion Sting which I’ve been waiting for, because I could never take the Surfer Sting seriously, but unfortunately nothing really happens and they eventually start booking him like a moody emo teenager where he just hangs out in the rafters looking all sad and gearing up for a year+ build against the NWO that pretty much everybody knows how that turns out…

I’m still entertained by this show, and especially excited now that I’m heading into 1997 where the WWF vs. WCW war really starts cooking and where WCW makes their grand rise as THE wrestling promotion, the one that is unstoppable and is ready to be the king of the wrestling world for years to come, until they do all this WCW stuff that you see dark shades of even now, but eventually gets darkened like a thick sharpie and they go from 100 to 0 real quick.

WCW Monday Nitro/PPVS: 1995

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I’m finally watching WCW and I could not be more excited for my eventual descent into madness. Since Nitro started in September of 1995, this post is going to be pretty short and basically just my brief, random thoughts about my introduction to actually watching WCW. I’m just going to outline the PPVs quickly, since that follows the majorly storylines and then just tack on random thoughts at the end.

The first PPV is Fall Brawl where the heavyweights of the company (literally and figuratively), Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger and Sting, take on literally the biggest four geeks you can think of compared to those guys in Kamala, The Zodiac, The Shark and Meng. Literally my first WCW PPV and that being the main event is the most WCW thing ever, it’s amazing. Even in the WarGames stipulation, which doesn’t do anything for me, it was amazingly lackluster. Really just a means to an end to jumpstart the Hogan/Giant feud with the Giant interrupting at the end.

Halloween Havoc has another of the most amazing WCW things ever, and in theory I’m a newbie to all this, where Hulk Hogan and Giant face off in monster truck battle, as in they actually ram actual monster trucks against each other for five minutes before their wrestling match. They of course scrap afterwards which leads Giant to follow off the dang building and plummet to his untimely death. Except that doesn’t happen and he just shows up on time for his match later in the show with no explanation of how he recovered and looking no worse for wear. This company is amazing.

World War 3 has a 60-Man battle royal that encompasses three rings because goddamn does this company love gimmick matches. This was the biggest cluster I’ve ever seen where you literally could not focus on anything. They had a split screen showing all three rings, including separate commentary, but it only really made the whole thing that much more confusing. Randy Savage won for some reason.

Starrcade was pretty cool because of the whole Americans vs. Japanese world cup thing, where giving us Jushin Liger vs. Chris Benoit as an opener pretty much is tantamount for nothing ever being able to top that. It’s also crazy to see Tenzan wrestle here in 1995 as me in 2016 is watching him in what probably will be his last G1 tournament. He’s so young then! The Ric Flair vs. Sting vs. Lex Luger match was entertaining, and especially because it got Flair the title later which is all I ever want to see.

Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Brian Pillman are so awesome in their own similar and unique ways and I could watch them all day and am so looking forward to their actual good matches among the terribleness that often surrounds it all.

Disco Inferno is the greatest gimmick ever because it’s dated as hell in 2016 and even in 1995 it was dated as hell.

I love watching Ric Flair on my TV screen no matter what he is doing. His promos are the best and him just being a heel all the way through is the greatest.

I’m relatively unfamiliar with actually seeing Lex Luger and his character, body, matches and all that and oh my god it’s so apparent right from the jump that he just doesn’t have IT to be the star that people thought he could be. Obviously, he has the insane body, but his mic skills and work in the ring is just so subpar. He’s just the most bland dude who always seems bored and like his mind is always half somewhere else.

Hulk Hogan is John Cena and John Cena is Hulk Hogan where dude will be main eventing one week and then he’ll just disappear off TV for a couple weeks then reappear like nothing happened. I can’t stand Hogan, but it’s entertaining watching him through all this.

I’m well on my way into 1996 now as I write one, so hopefully I’ll have more to say for that write-up, whenever I finish it, and hopefully I remember to take notes.

WWE Ruthless Aggression Era: 2003

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Honestly, this year wasn’t very noteworthy, judging by the fact that I write hardly even wrote notes during this year (that being said I’ll probably blab like normal in this and it’ll end up being just as long as the past ones). It’s all just pretty run-of-the-mill stuff with nothing amazingly good, but not too much that’s horrible, just kinda bland maybe. Both shows are fully set in their ways of being separated, especially with the split pay-per-views now where one show gets a PPV and they alternate and only come together at the big events. I always said I’d try to make it to WM20 to match up with when I started watching back in the day and maybe stop there, but I got here a lot quicker than I thought, so who knows. Things are getting increasingly clear that the product isn’t what it used to be in the true Attitude years or even the ones following, and now it’s just in kind of a boring and un-flashy groove. People complain about the HHH reign of terror, but I like him generally and as such him always on top doesn’t bother me as much. Anyways, I’ve been thinking it’s time to go back and watch all the Attitude era WCW Nitros and stuff since I’ve never seen them. But, before all that, let’s get into this thing…

The first two pay-per-views were pretty void of anything special. Lesnar wins the Rumble, of course, not only because it cements him of having one of the greatest first years in WWE history with winning the King Of The Ring, beating The Rock at SummerSlam for the title, main-eventing with Undertaker and just generally being on top, to the Rumble win now. It has been telegraphed for awhile that he was going to get his big match against Angle, with their whole shared background of amateur wrestling, so it worked good in storyline as well.

Royal Rumble is also where Scott Steiner got finally had his top feud with HHH for the title, and as expected this whole thing was a mess and not really engaging at all. They had dumb little test of strength competitions because of course Hunter is self-conscious about that going against Steiner. Steiner had no chance of winning and after he had this little program, Steiner would wallow in the mid-card doing worthless stuff with Stacy Kiebler and Test, which somehow they stretched for, like, the whole year. Not like he was that great in the first place, but WWE seemed to be placing him for something good coming into the company, and nothing happened, as should really be expected for their track record.

No Way Out was centered around the return of The Rock and his rematch with Hulk Hogan from last year, which was really just a set-up for the Vince/Hogan match at WrestleMania. The Rock comes in with his new Hollywood Rock heel gimmick and it’s a lot of fun since Rocky hasn’t played a heel in a long time, and it actually works well with his real-life persona of being an actor now, the conceit that he’s this major actor only concerned with himself and thinks that he’s better than everyone else now that he’s making movies. He gets some heat, mainly when he directly insults the fans, but mostly he still gets cheers. The most hilarious thing was Hogan getting screwed out of the win by The Rock and Vince and WWE played it up like it was at the level of the Montreal Screwjob, since the PPV was in Montreal. Also, I had no clue Sylvain Grenier had his introduction (before the La Resistance thing) as the French ref that screws over Hogan. I always love seeing in WWE when guys you know from their major gimmick actually have debuted earlier in some two-bit role.

Alright, so the WrestleMania build:

HHH/Booker: This feud just makes no sense and has NO business being a Mania-pseudo main event or world title match. I mean, I love Booker and all, but I still didn’t think he was main event level at this time and for sure not enough to go against HHH at this time. I’m obviously looking at this from the far future, but it just seems so unmatched and random. Like, it would be more than fine for any other PPV, but for Mania it’s so underwhelming. Also, it’s SOOO goddamn racist, like overtly, not even subtle. When HHH saying people like YOU don’t get to be in my spot etc. It’s was so dumb because with all this overtly racist stuff you would assume that they did it all to have Booker get his comeuppance over HHH at the biggest event of the year, but nope, HHH goes over and it all just falls beside the wayside. I heard the original plan was indeed for Booker to go over, but HHH nixed it, and thus it doesn’t make much sense, besides HHH always wanting to win here.

Rock/Austin: Rock is super fun as the Hollywood Rock and his whole heel business. It at least brings some more interest to his character who is just so sporadic in his appearance anyways that it provides another angle and isn’t just boring face Rock popping up. Also, it’s a cool way to play off him being this whole big Hollywood star now and he is always good at gaining heat. Austin is doing really nothing at all, but I guess it’s to be expected as this would be his dipping of his toes back into WWE before he was out again. It’s basically him feuding with Bischoff. Also, the Rock/Hurricane stuff was fun, giving a guy shine like that in the main event. The match was pretty fun in the end, it was short and almost like a greatest hits of their previous Mania matches, not that it was close to any of those, but just both guys giving everybody all their hits for their last match together.

McMahon/Hogan: This was fine enough, at least it had some real world history so there’s weight to it that had been building for all these years, although it just started in storyline very recently. But, for the love of god, keep Hogan off the mic, he was always fumbling his words. The match was surprisingly good and it’s always hilarious to see Vince McMahon, the supposed non-wrestler and boss of the company, with his buff body looking way more muscular and in shape than the flabby supposed greatest wrestler of all time.

Lesnar/Angle: This was obviously the most hyped match and the one with an actual lengthy backstory and heft to it. They’ve been feuding since, like, November of last year, and although it seems like it’s going on forever, there is at least the goal of Mania which you know will be a grand culmination of it all. I can’t wait for it. They did have a match on SD, but Angle won it sneakily, so it wasn’t that much of a takeaway from the Mania match. Benjamin and Haas is a good addition, giving Kurt his collegiate stable or whatever you wanna call it. The match was fantastic as expected and really I think the best thing to main event the show, since they had several options and were supposedly wavering about what to put on last. The Brock shooting star press botch that has him land on his head will never be easy to watch, and I always yell at my TV for Brock to drag Angle closer to the corner so he wouldn’t have had all that pressure to make that huge distance while flipping, but he never listens.

Taker/Jones vs A-Train/Show: Before all this stuff I was wracking my brain to think of Taker’s match for this and thought it was Show, but then I remembered it was A-Train and then this tag match pops up that I never heard of happening before. I’m almost certain it doesn’t happen, though? Because I only recall Taker facing A-Train and never heard of a tag match around it. Off that, I only sparingly have heard of Nathan Jones and thus he must be around for such a short time, but surely I would’ve heard of him being in a  Mania match, or maybe this match is just that unforgettable. I think he gets gone fast somehow. Also, it was so so stupid how they were building him up in the vignettes as being this Australian prison badass ready to rip someone’s face off, and he comes in and turns face right away and becomes Taker’s little delicate padawan who needs wrestling lessons. It was so bizarre and sudden and took everything away from what he was seemingly built to be. I guess they just lost their luster on him. I really should do some actually research into him and why WWE soured on him so quickly, I mean, it’s so obvious that he sucked in and out of the ring. But, it was hilarious how quick they pushed him high up the card, only to yank him back down just as quick.

Jericho/HBK: I was really looking forward to this match, as they’re both fantastic wrestlers. The build was pretty lame with each basically just interrupting each other’s matches and randomly attacking each other.

Goldberg coming into WWE finally happened and one of the last debuts I was waiting for and I was super stoked to see, as I’ve seen none of his short WWE stuff, besides WrestleMania 20 (ugh). The Rock stuff was the perfect feud and one for The Rock to go out on, for now, and put Goldberg over, not that he needed it. I don’t know how much The Rock has left even beyond his part-time player thing, because I know his Mania 20 match is like his last match for a whole long while. Goldberg actually got a bunch of boos, but I think that was mainly because how much people liked The Rock.

The Evolution stable stuff was weird to start the year. They were establishing it right before WrestleMania, but all of a sudden Orton and Batista disappeared, like not wrestling or just hanging out ringside for HHH, only Flair. Is it because of the Nash thing? I knew they came back later in the year as that’s when it really kicked off. But, it’s weird they were establishing/introducing them as this group and then half of them vanished.

I couldn’t believe that John Cena actually won the tournament Smackdown was having to see who would face Brock for the title. I know we look back at Cena now and be like, duh of course he wins, but I didn’t think he’d win here this early before his MAJOR push. I guess watching all this, though, it’s clear that Cena was pushed from the very beginning as soon as he started. And now especially with his hip-hop gimmick. And it was an actual match too, I thought Brock might squash, but Cena actually dominated for most of it until Brock surprised and hit him with one F5 and got the pin. It’s hilarious to see this mini-feud between the two, looking back with 2016 eyes and how much they’d fight and feud over a decade later. It’s crazy to think that in theory, the seeds for their 2014 feud were planted all the way back in 2003.

Also, they have Roddy Piper being Sean O’Haire’s manager type guy to try and get him over, but it’s not even close to working. O’Haire is just so boring and not engaging at all. They tried to reignite the feud with Rikishi where years ago when Piper hit Snuka with the coconut. Boring, and short match.

Judgment Day was pretty lame. I can hardly remember stuff from it. The Battle Royal was fun for the IC title. And I love Christian like this, he’s perfect as the smarmy heel which he’s been playing forever with no need of a face change.

The classic short singles match for the world title with HHH that ends in a DQ just to keep extending the feud and get to the big gimmick match. So pointless.

Lesnar/Big Show in a stretcher match was at least a fun change of pace as this was the first one in forever. They fought a ton outside the ring more than I thought and thus it wasn’t the most high paced match, not that these two would give that, but it was good enough.

Bad Blood was better. The HIAC match was pretty good, but there was no need for Foley to come back to guest referee. Just another dumb gimmick every year for Foley to pop back up.

Michaels/Flair was good. And Goldberg/Jericho was fine enough for a little stop gap feud for Goldberg. But, you can already tell that Goldberg is just always getting the short-shrift and he’ll never do anything of actual note in the company.

Vengeance was fine enough, I guess. I could care less about Zach Gowen and the whole Vince angle. Undertaker/Cena is a pretty great feud and decent match. Guerrero/Benoit single match, enough said. The triple threat title match was decent enough, but I was shocked Angle won, but it becomes clearer later when Vince turned on Angle and aligned himself with a heel-turned Lesnar.

So, without me looking it up, I never really understood the Zach Gowen thing. Vince must’ve just had a huge crush on the idea of a kid with one-leg who always wanted to be in the WWE, just so he could constantly squash him and beat him up. Dude had zero charisma and is just a bore, especially when they focus sooo much on him. But, then they just got sick of him and turned on him, as it always happens in this company, and eventually just used him as someone for Brock to destroy on his mean streak.

The Kane unmasking was so dumb, there was zero build to it, just one week Bischoff saying if Kane loses against HHH he’ll lose his match. They weren’t even feuding, it would seem better to have it at the end of an epic feud or something, but nope just off the Hell In A Cell against Nash. Obviously they probably wanted something of note to do since it’ll be awhile until their next PPV with them alternating with SmackDown now. It definitely adds a new dimension to stuff, but it’s really just oooh Kane is crazy and a monster, but I guess it does give his character some teeth since he’s been pretty neutered and de-monsterized over the years.

I do like that since each brand doesn’t have a PPV each month to build to that they have to spread things out and have semi-big events like this and later SmackDown has the Angle/Lesnar Ironman match to provide some spark in the downtimes between getting to that next pay-per-view. At least WWE back here was able to stretch together some decent stories from week-to-week and it wasn’t completely aimless like nowadays.

Kevin Nash like Goldberg just seems to have fizzled out so quickly after their one big feud that entered them into the company. It’s such a pattern with the company where their one big obvious feud that kicks them off onto the show will be fun, but once it ran its course they just languish behind-the-scenes. Just like Scott Steiner, too. They didn’t even give Goldberg/HHH its due and buildup and quickly turned it into the Chamber match, but I guess their singles feud would resume later in the year.

Elimination Chamber match was alright. I was semi-surprised that Goldberg went over for the title and thought he would destroy everybody until HHH, then HHH would cheat for the title, but I guess they decided this would be the best time to give Goldberg the title, for at least a couple months. Hey, at least he got one up on the likes of Nash and Steiner.

It’s crazy that leading into SummerSlam in August the WWE title has only been contested by Lesnar/Angle and Big Show since like Survivor Series in November. It’s legit just the same dudes contesting for it. I mean, it doesn’t feel that long, but dang it would be nice if they spruced it up and brought in some new guys.

I can hardly keep track but Angle is heel leading into Mania, Brock face. Brock reigns for a bit as face, then Angle comes back after a few months all face and buddy-buddy with Lesnar which lasts for a couple weeks. Then on a SmackDown Lesnar on the side of Vince turns on Angle and is now heel with face Angle and being the Champ heading into SS.

The match itself was pretty great, as expected from what Lesnar and Angle always deliver. I love to that Lesnar tapping was built into the storyline for the coming months, as this huge thing that not only did he lose but he tapped, and the crowd would chant it at him.

John Cena is now fully in his rapper gimmick to the point where he has a full handle on it and you can begin to see him getting over and the popularity of it with the fans that skyrockets him. I’m a sucker for his raps.

I barely remember anything that happened at Unforgiven.

Oh, yeah, and so Evolution gets established with their theme and all. Which I fucking love. It’s weird because at the beginning of the year it was Orton-less with Batista the guy in the mix, and then it was Batista nowhere to be found and Orton is around. They never mention it either, so I dunno what was up. But, Batista would come shortly after.

No Mercy was pretty unforgettable, too, as these Pay-per-views were back then at the end of the year, outside of when Survivor Series was actually relevant. There was probably no match in recent memory that I could’ve cared less about than the Vince vs. Stephanie “I Quit” match and it was just as terrible as expected. It was all just an excuse to get Stephanie out of the GM chair and put Heyman in.

Lesnar/Undertaker in a Biker Chain match was pretty decent. I always have hated the concept of a weapon on a pole match, as they make a big deal about the first person who retrieves the object off the pole, but it’s not like they automatically win once they get it, or the other person can’t use it. It’s just the weapon is now fair game for both, and isn’t really much of an advantage getting it first, because it’s not like they ever win right after getting the weapon down and using it.

I love watching Survivor Series pay-per-views back in this time, because they actually have Survivor Series matches with a built in storyline and a reason to have them, and not just thrown together today. The RAW one considered the ongoing Austin/Bischoff GM feud that would eventually get Austin kicked off and the SmackDown one was the continuation of the Angle/Lesnar feud. The Lesnar team was hilarious because they somehow got Nathan Jones back from the dead and had the slightly less of a bore of Matt Morgan.

Also, I know Chris Benoit wins the Rumble in a couple month here and I was thinking about it around this time how it seemed so random that they hadn’t even been building Benoit up and was in zero story to speak of. But, then they had Benoit make Lesnar tap out, which was a pretty big deal, and so begins his subtle climb into the serious main event picture and eventually to where he explodes and wins the Rumble and the title (except it was HHH’s).

On the same theme I’ve been paying attention to Eddie Guerrero and his treatment as he’s the one to take the belt off Lesnar in a few months, similar to Benoit, but his rise isn’t quite as apparent. Sure, he’s super over with the fans, but not much is happening storyline wise. I knew he was give up his United States title to Big Show, to clear his way for the WWE title, and for Show to give the title up to Cena at Mania to really get Cena cooking.

Also, it was hilarious how they bring Hardcore Holly back and immediately push him into feuding with Lesnar, like he comes back with these vignettes about being mad that Lesnar was the one to injure him, yet I’m pretty sure nobody remembered that or even cared or knew that Hardcore Holly was gone. I guess they just needed a a stop-gap feud for Lesnar for the Rumble.

The Vince/Undertaker Buried Alive match wasn’t anything special, and obviously just a set-up for Undertaker to return in his Deadman gimmick. This was a pretty underwhelming year for Undertaker, and really had no top feud or main-eventing match, beside the one at No Mercy. The Biker gimmick was getting a bit stale, even though I kinda enjoy it more than most, but it was time for the Deadman to come back.

And then Armageddon was all about putting all the belt on Evolution, because of course. I was so stoked, though, because it’s the beginning of the Randy Orton push and when they start establishing his Legend Killer moniker. I never got to see this stuff and I love this Randy, especially the early days when he was my favourite wrestler when I started watching in 04/05, so I can’t wait to see him keep getting pushed and the eventual Evolution fracturing, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Triple H got his title match, with WWE simultaneously satisfying both needs by getting the title off Goldberg and onto HHH, while also giving Kane his shot at the title, which you woulda thought they were going towards earlier with the unmasking, but they kinda just threw it away here. Then to add to the craziness, HHH and HBK would start feuding again after this, with Michaels actually winning the belt over HHH on the last RAW of the year, which I didn’t think they’d actually do, even though it was in his hometown of San Antonio. And so the build to the Rumble and WrestleMania 20 begins.

It is bonkers to me to think that I’ve watched seven years of WWF/E from the beginning of 1997 to the end of 2003 in the real-time frame of a year. I never thought I’d actually watch it this fast, but it’s been a lot of fun (if a bit less so the last few years) to see all this stuff I’ve known bits and pieces of and especially how it all leads into when I started watching. I first started watching right after WrestleMania 20, and while it’ll kinda suck when I eventually get there since I know all the major storylines and where everything goes, I’m looking forward to seeing it with my 2016 eyes and seeing how I remember it.

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.