On This Day: December 31, 2001 – Monday Night Raw: Closing Out The Year In Style

Monday Night Raw
Date: December 31, 2001
Hosts: Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole

There’s not much to say here because it’s a Best Of Show. I don’t know if this includes matches from Smackdown or not, but to the best of my knowledge there’s nothing new on here. Therefore I’ll be cutting and pasting anything from Raw and redoing anything from Smackdown, so don’t stop reading now and go on to the full thing. I’ll wait here while you do it. Let’s get to it.

Michael and Jerry are in an empty arena and complains about being here with Lawler. I think this is a three hours special.

It’s a top ten as selected by the fans. The matches on the show are clipped but I’ll be posting the full versions of them. I won’t be including backstories but check out the full reviews of the shows if you need them. Odds are you won’t though. In case you’re incredibly dense, all shows listed are the 2001 versions.

#10: Royal Rumble – IntercontinentalTitle: ChrisBenoitvs. ChrisJericho

I’ve always loved the prove me wrong line that Benoit had. It was perfect for him as it was short and sweet and correct. That’s all you need a lot of the time. Jericho has a bad shoulder here too to offer some psychology to the match. It helps here as your arms can help you climb a ladder so if nothing else it fits the flow of the match here which can often be the most important part of the match.

They bring the ladder in and somehow we get even more physical than we already were in this match. This was some of Jericho’s best in ring stuff around this time as he was clearly having a blast. See, the difference between WCW and WWF is that here, Benoit and Jericho are likely going to steal the show. They did it in WCW as well but there they would likely just do the same thing again until they jobbed to a 42 year old that didn’t need a push at all.

Here, Benoit would be a workhorse that got all kinds of praise and big matches while in less than a year Jericho would be world champion. Ah here we go. It’s ladder and other weapons time. After some stiff shots in the ring, Jericho goes to the floor and grabs a chair. Benoit launches a suicide dive at him but goes straight into the chair in a great looking spot. And see, Jericho SELLS THE SHOULDER. How hard is that for people to learn?

This turns into a game of top this as they come up with more and more ridiculous ways to hurt each other with the ladder. One of them is Benoit being tied into the ladder on the second rope and Jericho hooking a side Russian legsweep on him, bringing the ladder down with them. There’s stuff in here straight out of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

Benoit gives Jericho a belly to back suplex over the top rope. That’s cool looking if nothing else. Climbing back in, we have a fight up on the top of the ladder, which leads to the spot of the match. Jericho knocks Benoit backwards, and puts THE WALLS OF JERICHO on him on top of the ladder. To say this looks both incredible and painful is a total understatement. That just got this match a much higher grade.

Benoit goes off the ladder but has the energy to kick it over to save the title. This is great stuff here. Back on the mat, Jericho gets caught in the crossface and taps, but obviously this means nothing. There’s at least some psychology here as Benoit already has Jericho’s shoulder hurt so he works on it. That’s at least smart. Since there’s nothing else to do, Benoit is picked up and just thrown into the ladder.

Why not? Sometimes the best solution is just to beat the other person up with the ladder. It’s working here if nothing else. In yet another great visual, we go to the top for a suplex but Jericho is shoved off. Benoit goes for the swan dive, and the whole crowd just rises to their feet to watch in amazement at what they’re seeing. That’s how you know you’re doing a great job: the crowd responds to you.

We finally get one of the first dead spots of the match which is perfectly acceptable in this case as they’re half dead. This lasts all of four seconds though as Jericho comes back in with a chair and just wears out Benoit with it while he’s standing on the ladder. Benoit gets pushed off and bounces off the ropes, then the apron and then the floor, which is enough for Jericho to get the belt. DANG that was painful looking. The highlight package of this match doesn’t do it justice.

Rating: A. This was a freaking brutal fight. They beat the living crap out of each other here and are going to be hard to top. For some reason this match isn’t really remembered, and that was the case even before Benoit was deleted from history. These guys went at it like no other and beat the living tar out of each other. Go find a copy of this as it’s definitely worth it. Great brawling match with tons of brutal spots.

There’s some banter between Jerry and Cole during the spaces in between but it’s just filler talk so I won’t be mentioning it here.

#9: Wrestlemania – Undertakervs. HHH

Back then, HHH was a bigger star than he is now. He beat Austin, the king of the world, twice in one night the previous month. Taker was about 8 months into his biker gimmick and was a step behind what he used to be at though. However, this was his hometown and it’s Wrestlemania, although this is before the Streak became important.

Motorhead plays HHH to the ring and it is freaking awesome. They play the verse and chorus all the way through before we cut to a long shot of the arena and we see Triple H, Start Game flash on the screen, then a small object appears beneath it. Cut to a shot of HHH and then back to the arena. My goodness these stadiums are awesome. The live band is always cool as they play him through the long walk down the aisle.

 

HHH does a double water spit so you know this is an important show. The song ends and HHH paces back and forth. We hear gong strikes, and the lights go out. DEAD MAN WALKING. Instead of walking down the huge ramp, Taker drives his bike down instead in another famous shot. The cool thing here is it’s long enough that he can crank it up and gets the bike flying down the aisle. Taker jumps in the ring, rips the shirt off and we’re on.

Just as Taker is about to start the fight, JR mentions that he is 8-0, undefeated at Wrestlemania. Ladies and Gentlemen, the streak is born. That’s the first time that it’s mentioned on WWF television to my knowledge, but certainly the first time at Wrestlemania. The fight starts on the floor with Taker hammering away. Guess what Taker knocks HHH through. Go on, I want you to guess. It rhymes with French announce table. You guessed it. Twice in one night has to be a record.

 

They slug it out in the ring and the knee to the face gets HHH nowhere. BIG back drop puts HHH down. Powerslam gets two and a big clothesline takes down HHH. Old School is countered. Not sure how HHH knew it was coming. Might be that Taker shouted out OLD SCHOOL right before he went for it. Just a hunch mind you. The Game hammers away on Taker including a trio of elbows. That and a neckbreaker gets three straight two counts.

 

HHH goes after the ref and gets shoved back which gets a huge pop. My goodness this crowd is white hot. Six minutes in and HHH gets the sledgehammer. Referee takes it from him so HHH tries a Pedigree which is blocked into a catapult and the referee goes down. Chokeslam gets two because the referee was slow thanks to him getting bumped.

 

Taker, being the ticked off man that he is, beats the referee up because of this. The throw that Taker sends HHH to the floor with is either great selling or a real throw. We go into the crowd and actually wind up at the production tower which has been seen maybe twice in company history. This is what the cameras sit on in the arena and where the sound is adjusted etc. Quite simply if they screw up here, the PPV goes off the air.

HHH now has a problem. He’s trying to run from Taker, but the only way to run is to keep climbing the tower. HHH finds a chair up there though and lands about 10 sick chair shots to Taker. They’re in a tiny place so Taker is laid out and HHH just hits him wherever he can with the chair. Great visual on that. Taker gets up and catches HHH after the Game poses. The flashbulbs are going so crazy it’s hard to see them for a little bit.

 

He then chokeslams him off the tower. Now think about why this is cool. No one has ever seen them fight here before so it’s unknown. There’s no referee as Taker beat him up. Most importantly, we don’t see HHH land. What did he land on? That’s what makes this cool: the total mystery of it. Sadly, we see he landed on a big pad, but it still must have knocked him out a bit. If not, the elbow Taker drops on him does. What’s a good American Tough Guy to do now? He beats up the EMTs of course.

They fight back to the ring and the referee is still down. What the heck? He got kicked and elbowed, not shot in the forehead. Taker gets the hammer and a low blow to make him drop it a few seconds later. Heyman talking about how dangerous weapons are is either a rib by him or the best unintentional comedy I’ve heard in a long time. HHH gets a tombstone countered because he’s not the Undertaker, and Taker breaks out the Tombstone for maybe the first or second time in a year plus.

 

The crowd loves it, but still there’s no referee. In a sweet finish, Taker goes for the Last Ride but HHH picks up the hammer and nails him in the head with it. That somehow only gets two. Taker is bleeding and HHH sends him to the corner to rain down right hands. He pauses for a split second to yell at the crowd, and Taker reaches up and grabs him before stepping forward, lifting him into the air and drilling him with the Last Ride! He gets the pin as the crowd explodes.

Rating: A+. This is an outstanding match and would have main evented any other show of the year. The story was great, the fighting was off the charts, and you never knew who was going to win until the very end. Excellent job from both guys involved and probably the true forgotten classic in Wrestlemania history.

These are heavily clipped as the previous match ran about 20 minutes live and was less than ten here.

Flair wishes us a happy new year and gives us the top five shock moments of the new year:

5. ECW returns and joins with WCW to form the Alliance with Stephanie as co-owner. That’s still one of my favorite moments ever, partially because of how great Stephanie looked in that pink dress.

4. Booker T cost Austin the Undisputed Title match at Vengeance.

3. Drew Carey in the Rumble.

2. Undertaker turns heel and destroys JR, making him kiss Vince.

1. Ric Flair is the new co-owner.

No Shane as WCW owner? I’m sorry but no. This list is officially a failure.

Back to the the countdown.

#8: King of the Ring – ShaneMcMahonvs. KurtAngle

It should be noted that this is one of my favorite matches ever so I’ll be biased in it. Wait, they’re my reviews so I’m biased towards myself, so it’s fine. Angle throws his medals down on the way to the ring so you know this is serious. Again, JR says that after I typed it so I win again. Angle is just beating the tar out of Shane to start here. And just as I say that Shane starts throwing lefts and fights back.

With Shane on the floor, Angle gets on all fours and wants to go amateur, which is more popular that pro in certain areas other than wrestling. Naturally Angle easily gets out and beats on Shane even more. In a nice looking move, Angle hits a gutwrench but it’s overhead instead of to the side. It looked cool. Angle is just throwing Shane everywhere. It looks like a squash but don’t worry. It’ll get better. Shane has had three punches and an armdrag.

He offers Shane another amateur attempt but this time Shane just punts him in the ribs. That’s followed by a jumping back elbow making him awesome. On the floor now, Shane gets on the railing behind JR and Heyman and jumps over both them and the table to hit Kurt with a clothesline in a sweet spot. The guy was athletic and no one can ever argue that.

It’s certainly more entertaining than seeing Vince out there making a fool out of himself. And we have a kendo stick which Shane can swing really well. He actually breaks it over Angle’s back which has to feel awful. Shane uses armdrags on the floor to send Angle into the railing which is a nice spot. Shane goes for a cover and Angle bridges out of it. Think of the Matrix move.

Shane does the smart thing and just hits him in the stomach. Angle does this three times, showing off his stupidity. It’s weapons time now and Shane is dominating. Ankle lock by Shane and Kurt just kicks him in the face. Nothing wrong with that. We get a Sharpshooter attempt and Shane botches it but gets it eventually. It looks bad but it’s ok I guess. Granted almost no one gets it right so it’s fine.

Shane is just beating the heck out of Angle here. He puts a trash can on his stomach and goes to the top for a shooting star press which misses but looked solid. The fans get a hokey smoke chant going as they’re impressed here. We hit the floor again and Shane hits a suplex, which breaks Kurt’s tailbone. He’s legit hurt which makes the rest of the match even more impressive. His solution to Shane fighting back: slam Shane’s head into a wall. I like the simple ideas.

 

In the sickest bump you’ll see in years, Angle suplexes Shane over his head into one of the glass walls with KOR (what, no love for the?) on them. The problem is that it doesn’t break and Shane lands on his head which goes THUD. It sounded and looked SICK. Shane is more or less out of it.

Angle, pissed off that it didn’t work, picks him up and does it AGAIN, this time having it work, drawing another holy crap chant. Angle’s arm is bleeding. We’re under the stage now and Angle suplexes him again and AGAIN it doesn’t break. Shane is busted. Angle goes for another suplex and it doesn’t break. In essence, Shane is being thrown into a wall. Kurt is PISSED and just picks him up and launches him through a glass wall.

Shane looks like he’s been beaten by an army and raped by a bear while being run over by a train. Angle is spent too. Everyone is just bleeding awfully. Angle gets an anvil case and puts Shane on it to wheel him back to the ring. That’s a good idea as he’s just dead weight at this point. We’re back in the ring and Angle covers Shane. For two. The place pops like a freaking teenage girl for that. We get a replay where we can see Kurt’s face and he looks like he wants to cry.

A low blow connects and Shane isn’t dead yet. He gets a trash can lid and just pops the heck out of Angle and hits an Olympic Slam for two. Both guys are just freaking spent. Shane gets catapulted into the corner where he just kind of collapses. Angle gets a board from somewhere and just beats Shane about the back and shoulder with it. There’s something awesome about that.

He sets it up on the copes and climbs to the top where he this the Olympic Slam from the top rope. I would say Shane lands in the middle of the ring with a thud, but as they said in Con Air, “the word ain’t land. It’s crash.” They show a bunch a replays and the slam looks cooler and cooler ever time. I mean Shane just explodes on the mat and it looks amazing. Shane’s best match ever by about 1000 miles. They carry him out and he’s just gone. The Slam off the top got the pin if that wasn’t clear.

Rating: A. This was just freaking brutal. It’s a great street fight where you never really believed Shane was completely out of it. That’s a great thing to be able to say, but Shane took the best beating I can recall anyone taking in a long time. Find a copy of this match as it’s right up there with any beating I’ve ever seen.

We get a video from the 9/11 show, with Lillian singing the Star Spangled Banner. They don’t show the whole song. Seriously? You clipped the national anthem two days after September 11? REALLY? Lillian hitting the high notes on this still gives me chills. That’s pretty awesome.

#7: Monday Night Raw – May 21, 2001 – Tag Titles: Steve Austin/HHH vs. Chris Benoit/Chris Jericho

 

Here we go. Austin vs. Jericho gets us going and one of the belts is laying in the ring. Austin takes over with pounding boots but Jericho snaps off a cross body for two. A top rope elbow to the head scores for Jericho and he works on Austin’s arm. HHH comes in and the Canadians take over. Benoit chops Austin HARD and then hits a snap suplex for no cover. There’s a superplex for two as HHH saves.

 

Jericho comes in to even things out but it lets the champions take over. Benoit is like screw that and pounds them back, hooking the Crossface on Austin. HHH comes in with a big chair shot to break it up but Benoit kicks out to a big pop. Benoit goes into the steps for no count as he kicks out before the one. Austin pounds away on him and it’s off to HHH who hooks a cheating abdominal stretch.

 

Make that a sleeper as Benoit is in big trouble. Benoit manages to fire off a suplex to put both guys down and an enziguri is good enough for the hot tag to Jericho….but the referee doesn’t see it. The fans don’t like that at all. Jericho goes off with Austin on the floor as HHH hits the Pedigree. There’s no referee though so Jericho goes up and takes HHH’s head off with a missile dropkick.

 

There’s your hot tag to Jericho and he takes on the now legal Austin and HHH at the same time. Thesz Press is countered into a spinebuster and then the Walls but HHH makes the save. That right there, that save, resulted in HHH tearing his quad off the bone and would put him out of action until January of 2002. You could see HHH’s leg just stop moving. His leg is dead weight now.

 

HHH is like screw this potentially career ending injury and goes to set up the announce table. HHH loads up the Pedigree but Jericho counters into the Walls on the table, and remember that HHH has a torn muscle. FREAKING OW MAN!!! Benoit hits the swan dive on Austin but there’s no referee. Stunner to Benoit gets two as Jericho pulls the referee out. Lionsault gets knees and HHH finds the sledgehammer from somewhere. The second Lionsault hits but the hammer hits Austin and Jericho gets the pin and the titles as the place erupts!

 

Rating: A+. WOW this match holds up really well. After Jericho gets that hot tag, this is full speed ahead the rest of the way. The energy in this is great as they did everything they could to keep the Canadians down but in the end, HHH messes up to end it. Notice one very important thing here: Jericho had Austin (presumably) beat with the Lionsault, so it’s not like they got dominated the entire time and won on a mistake by the other team. That’s huge and it makes Benoit/Jericho look far stronger as the new champions.

We’re four matches in and the lowest rating is an A. That’s insane and we’ve got a bunch of great matches to go.

Rikishi gives us the top five kisses of the year.

5. Regal kisses Vince to open Vince’s club.

4. Lita kisses Matt.

3. Rock makes Vince kiss Rikishi to “close” Vince’s club.

2. Rock kisses Trish. That looked like something from Hollywood and of course it went nowhere.

1. Angle gets his gold medals back out of Benoit’s tights and he kisses him. Angle is always great at comedy.

We get a look at things that are in movies that the WWF also has with a highlight package of each. We get music, romance, betrayal, revenge, toilet humor and old-fashioned fun which is pretty much a bunch of “funny” moments. This runs about five minutes in total and is actually pretty funny. There’s WAY too much stuff in it to list though.

We get a quick look back at Tough Enough with Maven and Nidia winning. If you don’t remember them, that shouldn’t surprise you at all. I did really like the theme song though. One of the male runners up is more famous as Josh Matthews.

#6: No Mercy – Torrie Wilson vs. Stacy Keibler

This is a lingerie match which means they wrestle in it. Let’s get this over with. I can’t stand these kind of matches. I mean, the girls look great but when I can see them in even less for free on the internet, what’s the point? Stacy has a riding crop or something and spanks Torrie and the referee. They “wrestle” for a bit and exchange a bunch of rollups. Torrie wins with a handspring elbow. This was worthless.

Ok so not everything was great. The girls looked hot though.

We get a video of Rock returning to the WWF and Rock Bottoming both Vince and Shane before joining the WWF.

#5: Survivor Series – TeamAlliancevs. TeamWWF

After literally ten minutes of introductions, we’re ready to go. Stephanie dancing to Booker’s music was either funny, hot, or just plain sad. I can’t decide. Immediately it’s Rock vs. Austin, which makes sense I suppose as they’re the real core of this feud. Before you get any other ideas, this isn’t WWF vs. Alliance. It’s a WWF angle, plain and simple. Both guys hit the Thesz Press and the F U elbow with Shane saving Austin despite him not particularly needing it.

Booker vs. Rock follows as we redo Summerslam from this year. Booker was the WCW Rock, complete with the catchphrase to open his song, the People’s Champion mantra, and the finishing move. And that is reason 384 why WCW failed. I need to make a list of that someday. Shane saves Booker this time, so at least that makes sense. WCW violence erupts as Jericho beats up Booker for a bit.

Ross and Heyman argue over who put ECW out of business which is amusing, mainly because according to storyline purposes it’s still in business but whatever. RVD gets a pop and a half. Jericho and Van Dam have a good little match here, as Jericho is wrestling his light weight style which is where I always thought he was best. Today he tends to use the heavyweight style which just doesn’t work that well for me. Jericho hooks the Walls on a counter and Heyman is PANICKING.

Shane of course makes the save though. After a double tag it’s Kane vs. Angle which is an interesting match to say the least. Angle was in between stages in his career here as he’s somewhere between All American good boy and rampaging psycho that knows more ways to hurt people that should be legal. He had recently made Kane tap and Angle Slammed Big Show, so obviously he was on a role at the moment.

Also, this was just after he and Austin had finished an awesome feud with Angle hitting levels of intensity in promo cutting that I didn’t know existed. Those two beat the living tar out of each other, throwing each other all over the place with suplex after suplex in something that was just plain awesome. And because this is pro wrestling they’re friends a month later. Just as I say this, Angle gets a sweet German on Kane. Shane saves Angle as that’s number four.

Now we’re up to Taker and Angle, which is nothing short of a classic most of the time except for when it’s not. Taker hits a sweet kick to Booker’s head to take him down, and of course Shane makes the save again. It makes sense if nothing else though, as he’s the guy with everything to lose. Taker goes for Old School as evidenced by shouting OLD SCHOOL! I really don’t get the point of him doing that. It’s not like he used a wristlock that often.

After Shane makes another save to save us from Booker and Taker’s slow section, Austin comes in. The fans are still way into him, which goes to show how popular he was. Austin vs. Taker really was an epic rivalry. It’s kind of reminiscent of Hogan and Andre when you think about it. You have the big vocal face of the company vs. the guy that’s great but stays in the background most of the time. It’s a simple story but it goes in depth once you look into it a bit.

After the second Old School in about three minutes, Shane…oh screw it you know what he does by now. Taker just starts punching the heck out of Angle which never gets old. Heyman finally does what everyone has wanted to do for years and asks JR what the deal is with his obsession with taking men to the woodshed. Ross has nothing to say as Big Show comes in for the first time, rocking that one piece swimsuit he used to wear.

Naturally he lasts about a minute as an Angle Slam, axe kick, 5 Star and a Shane elbow drop end him to make it 5-4. Can the forces of evil really overcome the forces of good? Dang if I know as there’s at least half an hour left in this match. In a funny moment after the pin, Shane is dancing around celebrating as Rock is waiting on him. The Alliance guys point it out to him and he slowly stops dancing before turning around and looking scared. That was great.

Rock’s punches seem to miss by about a mile to me, but maybe I’m missing something. After a Kane chokeslem, a Taker tombstone and a Lionsault, we’re tied up. Heyman as usual is priceless during this. Angle comes in now as we need a spatula for Shane. I love how Heyman is freaking despite the fact that Shane got the same treatment that Show got earlier. Also I love how he complains about how stupid Show is, despite him taking Show in as the ECW Champion in about five years.

It’s Angle vs. Jericho now in another match that has a natural rivalry that I’ll never get tired of watching. I’ve come to the conclusion that Booker is just flat out boring. He’s been in there about three times now and he’s just killed the momentum every single time. He’s slow and boring, which is a bad combination to consist of.

Ross points out the same thing I noticed earlier about how the WWF is mainly power, which makes sense as most of the Alliance guys are finesse or technical guys, which is either a very subtle and nice touch, or a complete coincidence. The WWF team beats up RVD, prompting Heyman to say he believes they’re trying to isolate him. Well thank you very much for that. I never would have noticed.

Booker and RVD are in at the same time with Kane, who naturally gets no help from his partners because, you know, that would be helpful. Van Dam had pinned Kane and Taker this past week, so he’s hot right now which is kind of a joke considering Kane is in there, but it wasn’t that funny. I need to work on my comedy more I think.

The Five Star (which is still the most amazing live move I’ve ever seen) hits but Kane grabs Van Dam by the throat, leading to Booker running in, which leads to the massive brawl that you knew was coming. During the fracas, Van Dam hits a kick from the top to eliminate Kane. In a cool moment, Taker has one member of the Alliance in each of the corners and keeps them there by running back and forth, clotheslining them all in order.

He does about eight clotheslines in a row before knocking Booker to the floor. Angle takes a Last Ride but Booker comes in with a chair. Taker knocks him down but walks into the Stunner. Angle is dragged over and despite not being legal, gets the pin. That takes us down to Rock and Jericho vs. Austin, Booker, RVD and Angle. Dang that’s a lot of gold between six guys. Booker kicks/knees the heck out of Rock.

Rock hits a DDT and covers Booker but it doesn’t work, which it shouldn’t have any way as Booker’s shoulder was about right inches off the mat. Booker is thrown into Angle, allowing him to be rolled up to make it 3-2. I like that actually, as it’s not something stupid and it actually makes sense for Booker to go out that way.

Rock hooks a cool move on Van Dam as RVD’s back was to the Great One and Rock more or less powerbombs him down, but does it with one arm so it’s like a roll up from the top which gets two. Jericho is finally back in and they nearly botch a spot, but Jericho makes a last second save to turn it into a swinging neckbreaker. That was nice. In a sequence that’s just flat out awesome due to what it means now.

Jericho avoids a split legged moonsault and hits the Breakdown for the pin on Van Dam, which looked awful because Van Dam dropped to a knee so the move got ZERO reaction. The reason it’s cool is Van Dam missed what is now Morrison’s finisher to get caught in Miz’s finisher. That’s awesome and one of the biggest reasons I love watching old wrestling. You get to see stuff like that which wouldn’t have meant a thing eight years ago but now is kind of cool, or at least it is to me.

Who would have guessed it would come down to the four guys that have been fighting on both sides? We have two fights going on at once, with Austin hitting a slingshot on Rock, who of course oversells by more or less throwing a flying headbutt into the post. Heyman says they can find a spot for Rock if nothing else for his t-shirt sales.

We move to Austin vs. Jericho which is a feud that could have been great but never happened, I guess due to a generation gap. I think I might see why now as they badly botch a spot and the bad attempt at a save just fails miserably.

Jericho and Angle are in there now and Jericho hooks the ankle lock as we continue to shame the history of Ken Shamrock, who would win the TNA World Title in about nine months. Actually it was the NWA World Title at the time, but it was exclusive to TNA so whatever. The heels take their time beating on Jericho which at least makes sense. It’s fairly slow and boring, but it’s working to an extent I suppose.

We get a double hot tag to give us Rock vs. Angle. Rock hits the awful belly to belly to set up the even worse Sharpshooter to which Angle shockingly taps. More on that later. Since Rock is a jerk, he won’t let go until Austin knocks him off. Heyman’s panicking is just great here. Jericho can’t get the Walls, but Austin does of all things, but they last about a second. Austin is bleeding, and of course it’s profusely since it’s PPV.

Since it hasn’t been mentioned all match, we suddenly remember that Austin might be jumping, despite Vince saying it was nonsense. Austin counters Jericho’s roll up into one of his own, and wouldn’t you know it, the final two are Rock and Austin. For the life of me, I NEVER would have seen this as the final two. Ok that’s a lie but whatever. As Austin and Rock are getting going, Jericho hits Rock with the Breakdown, which technically should be a DQ.

Actually it shouldn’t be since it’s his own team so never mind. Rock naturally kicks out. Jericho heads back to the ring but Taker comes out for the save. That’s a feud that sadly never happened. They just had their first match in September of this year. That’s saying a lot. If Rock ever sold any big spot properly I think I’d have a heart attack. I get the point in doing it, but it’s just way too much most of the time, at least in my eyes.

They fight to the floor and land in the most famous of all places. Rock lands some punches square in the shoulder of Austin which for some reason keep him down. Ross and Heyman are just laying into each other on commentary and it’s great. I have no issue with the announcers being biased in circumstances like this. Austin hooks a bad Sharpshooter because we have to have a Montreal reference at every major show in history.

Austin isn’t even leaning back on it so it just looks like Rock has his legs up. There’s no heat on the move at all from the crowd because it looks so awful and no one buys that Rock is in a lot of pain at all. A belt shot from Austin misses and it’s the third bad Sharpshooter of the night. Man is this some golden edition of the Montreal reference package or something? It’s a sad thing when Rock’s Sharpshooter is better than someone else’s but that’s the case here.

In a cool scene, Austin has the WWF belt and is holding onto it as he tries to get to the ropes. For once, Ross points something out and says being champion is Austin’s life and is the reason he won’t tap. That’s just wrong because it’s been made clear that champions won’t get fired, but at least Ross is trying. In a stupid thing, Austin gets the ropes but Rock pulls him away, so Hebner keeps checking for the submission. Yeah that makes a lot of sense.

On the second time though Earl makes him break it. What’s the point of that? Y am I wasting my time trying to figure this out? Since it’s Rock vs. Austin, Rock hits a Stunner, allegedly on the inventor of it, but I don’t see Mikey Whipwreck anywhere. Nick Patrick runs out to pull Hebner out to prevent the three as Heyman says he’s a licensed official.

For some reason the idea of taking the test for your refereeing license amuses me. What’s the test like? If you mess up more than three counts you don’t pass? Do you have to learn how many taps there are in a proper tap out? Ok it’s not as funny as I thought it was. Austin hits a Rock Bottom of his own but of course he kicks out. Austin beats up Patrick, because that’s just what he does.

Since it’s a major PPV, Hebner goes down. Rock takes another Stunner and amazingly only oversells a bit. There’s no referee though as I wonder why Vince doesn’t just call for the bell on his own. It’s his show, so it’s not like it would be mind blowing. Angle runs out and screws the Alliance by hitting Austin with the belt straight into the Rock Bottom for the perfectly timed conscious Hebner to end the Alliance. The crowd was electric over this.

Heyman is at a loss for words, which shows how huge of a moment this is. Ross screams that Heyman is out of work AGAIN, which is great. Fink’s announcement of the winning organization is absolutely perfect. Stephanie is crying badly as the WWF guys are celebrating. What I meant earlier was that Angle was apparently sent into the Alliance by Vince, and it turned out that Angle, not Austin, was the one that would turn all along.

This wound up pissing off Taker, setting up his heel turn and massive haircut. Oh look, it’s Vince to take credit for something that he played absolutely zero part in. It’s good to know that some things never change. The sight of Vince holding up his arms in triumph in a WCW town no less takes us out.

Rating: B. The two problems here are very obvious. First of all, there was zero chance that the WWF would lose. Second, it was beyond obvious that it would come down to Austin vs. Rock in their I guess 23rd PPV ending fight. The match itself is good if not very good, but there’s just no drama whatsoever, which they clearly tried to put in by having Jericho and Rock against four guys and then Jericho screwing Rock.

Even still though, the ending was never once in doubt. I get that it had to be that way, but they booked themselves into a huge corner here and it showed badly. I don’t think this could have been a classic, but it was about as good as it could have been.

To give you an idea of how much these matches are being clipped, that match ran roughly an hour counting entrances. Here’s it’s about eight minutes.

Trish gives us the top five slaps of the year.

5. Debra slaps Vince for saying she’s the exception for the behind every great man there’s a great woman saying.

4. Molly slaps Austin for calling her a bimbo.

3. Debra slaps Undertaker for being a jerk. She slaps him twice.

2. Trish slaps Vince to turn face at Wrestlemania.

1. Stephanie slaps Linda who apparently is weaker than a referee, being knocked out by a single slap.

Back to the matches.

#4: InVasion – HardcoreTitle: RobVanDamvs. JeffHardy

Why all the TNA on TNA violence? RVD’s outfit is tiger print of all things tonight. He looks like Tony the Tiger in spandex. This should be fun. Hardy isn’t a huge deal yet but he’s in the midcard. Van Dam is WAY over. Crowd is red hot for this as it was more or less the second featured match on the card. Hardy goes for his run the rail spot and Van Dam makes the stop by jumping up on it to stop him. Nice.

Into the crowd now. This is totally sloppy and totally a mess but since it’s a hardcore match, it’s working rather well actually. The crowd is helping it a lot also. Van Dam takes a bow which is a very nice touch. With Van Dam on the apron, Hardy slingshots over the ropes into a powerbomb to the floor. Sweet looking spot and it’s ladder time. This had to happen. In another sick spot, Hardy is on the top of the ladder, and I mean the big one, and is pushed off and crashes to the floor.

This was what gave us the “How do you learn to fall off a 20ft ladder” soundbyte. In another, say it with me, sick spot, Van Dam is crouched but jumps into the air for a Van Daminator that looked GREAT. It knocked Hardy through the hole into the stage to the floor. We’ve reached the part where it’s just them beating the living crap out of each other and the fan are flat out eating it up.

The belt is in the ring as Hardy gets a nice German Suplex. Jeff is bleeding a bit. Swanton misses. With Jeff down, Van Dam puts the belt on Hardy’s chest and hits the 5 Star for the pin. Fun match.

Rating: B+. This is a great example of a match where you have to consider what was going on out there. This wasn’t meant to be a mat clinic or anything. This was about high impact, high intensity over the top spots and that’s what the fans got. This was fun and the crowd loved it. Great match.

Rock is in the back on the phone and notices the camera. Apparently he’s hosting a top five segment but forgot he agreed to do it. It’s the top five put downs of the year but he abuses the guy holding the boom mic for a bit first. The guy is taller than Rock but he’s wearing a WCW shirt. Rock makes him remove it. Rock: “GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY PUT THE SHIRT BACK ON!”

5. Rock to Stephanie about how cheap of a slut she is.

4. Edge to X-Pac: “1998 called and they’re sick of you too so come join us in 2001.”

3. Big Show imitates Positive DDP.

2. Jericho making fun of Stephanie’s breast implants. Jericho ripping Stephanie never gets old.

1. Rock rips Booker T for being stupid. Rock: “Teacher asks what’s 2+2. Booker T says THOMAS JEFFERSON SUCKA!”

#3: Wrestlemania – WWF World Heavyweight Title: Steve Austin vs. The Rock

This is made No DQ just before the match starts which is a surprise to everyone and it comes back to play a factor later. JR’s saying WHAT as soon as that’s announced made me laugh quite loudly. The glass shatters and the ovation is deafening. Austin is so over it’s amazing. He hits the first corner and the pop grows somehow. He turns around to cross the ring and it’s as if everything goes into slow motion. Austin climbs to the middle rope, throws two fingers into the air, and the flashbulbs go insane. It’s that moment that defines this whole show I think.

 

All of the other great matches all night long, from the wrestling classic to the ladders to the war we just saw, none of that means anything anymore and every single eye in the building is on this man right here. It’s the peak of Steve Austin’s popularity and it’s amazing to say the very least. JR’s commentary is absolutely perfect here. It’s that perfect voice that we all know, but the words simply couldn’t be better. He builds this match up to be as epic as it should be. The music ends, and we hear the sound of his opponent.

Rock comes out to an INCREDIBLY mixed reaction. He’s either being cheered all the way to heaven or being booed out of the building. Not sure which. He hits the corner, throws the belt over his shoulder with his arm raised in the air, and we get the staredown from one side of the ring to the other. The feeling is all there too. You can tell what you’re watching is absolutely epic and it feel just right.

 

The fight starts almost immediately with Austin jumping Rock as he gets off the ropes. Thesz Press takes down Rock seconds into it but Rock fights back with a swinging neckbreaker. Rock Bottom and Stunner both don’t connect and we hit the floor. Out into the crowd they go with neither guy keeping an advantage at all. Back to the ring now with Austin having a brief advantage.

 

Superplex gets two and Austin takes the turnbuckle pad off. Rock fights back to massive booing and a clothesline for two. Back out to the floor again and Austin gets a shot with the bell to take Rock down. Rock is sent onto the table which breaks on a delay so the camera misses it. This is so epic. These two are the biggest stars in the world and this is the biggest match of the year. What more can you ask for?

 

Austin hits a neckbreaker for two. Mudhole stomping commences but Rock comes flying out with a clothesline to huge boos. More slugging it out with Rock in control now. Rock grabs the bell and gets a shot to the head with it for two. Austin is busted open and Rock hammers away. Oh man he’s bleeding BAD. Back to the floor again and they fight it out even more.

 

Another important thing to note is Ross. Ross has been mostly reserved all night but now he’s pouring it on. This makes this look FAR more interesting and intense while at the same time not diminishing the other stuff. Austin gets a slingshot to send Rock into the post. Monitor to the head and Rock is down on the floor. THAT gets two.

 

Austin flips Rock off and gets caught in the Sharpshooter for his efforts. Rock is busted now too. Great throwback here to Mania 13 as Austin screams in the hold. Rock pulls him back to the middle and Austin is in big trouble. Finally there’s the rope. Now Austin throws it on Rock and the people are loving it. After it gets broken it goes on again and this time it’s a rope used to escape. HUGE booing when he gets there too.

 

The Million Freaking Dollar Dream goes on and the bloody Rock is in trouble. Rock pushes off the corner ala Bret vs. Austin at Survivor Series 96 but this time Austin kicks out. Little things like those make matches AWESOME. Rock gets a Stunner out of nowhere for two.

 

And now we set up the ending as Vince McMahon is here. Both guys get spinebusters but Rock’s sets up the People’s Elbow. Vince slides in and breaks that up though, shocking everyone. Rock chases Vince but runs into a Rock Bottom from Austin for two. Crowd is losing it on these kickouts. Stunner is blocked and there goes the referee again.

 

A low blow puts Rock down and Austin asks Vince for a chair. Vince cracks Rock with it as the crowd isn’t sure what to do. Vince puts the referee back in but THAT gets two. A Rock Bottom out of nowhere but Vince has the referee. Rock pulls Vince in but walks into another Stunner for ANOTHER two. Austin is all pissed off now and Vince hands him a chair, drilling Rock with it for two. Austin absolutely explodes, drilling Rock with the chair an insane 19 times and getting the academic pin for the title. Rock is DEAD.

 

Rating: A+. The repeated finishers and chair shots hurt this quite a bit, but the crowd, the commentary and the overall feeling push this to the sky easily. Epic feeling the whole match and the crowd was in the palm of their hands. Not great wrestling, but the crowd carries this to greatness.

Austin and Vince shake hands, ending the Attitude Era and also ending the superpower that WWE was and marking the beginning of the decline of the company. They share a beer and another Stunner to Rock ends this very long but incredible show.

Cole says three matches are from Wrestlemania. I’m 99% sure I know the two remaining matches now.

Debra has the top five food moments.

5. Jericho hits Stephanie with a pie.

4. Debra hits Austin with a cookie sheet. That was a great shot too.

3. MILK-A-MANIA!!!

2. Austin vs. Booker in the grocery store. That’s a favorite of mine.

1. Rock talks to Lillian about strudel. He asks her if she would like some and she’s gone, saying she’d love it more than anything. Rock asks for a little professionalism.

I was right about the first of the two matches.

 

#2: Wrestlemania – TagTitles: Edge/Christianvs. HardyBoysvs. DudleyBoys

This is yet another match with no story but it never needed one. These three teams all wanted to be the champions and this match was fairly obvious. The Dudleys come in as champions here. All four faces jump the Canadians to get us going here. The Dudleys hit a flapjack to Christian as the beating is on. The Hardys take down the Dudleys for awhile until Edge and Christian bring in a ladder.

 

Edge grabs a chair and he and Christian stand on Matt’s balls in the corner. A double drop toehold by the Canadians puts Jeff into the chair. Edge tries to get the belts but Jeff makes the save. The Hardys get a double baseball slide into a ladder into the Dudleys on the floor. Using a pair of ladders, Matt drops a leg and Jeff drops a splash on Christian at the same time. Nice move.

 

There goes Matt’s shirt and there go the girls. What’s Up to Edge And now it’s table time. Edge is laid out on one so Bubba picks up Jeff and powerbombs him right through Edge and in turn the table. On the floor now and the Dudleys stack up two tables on top of two more tables for the big spot later in the match. Paul talks about Big Daddy Dudley’s construction company in Dudleyville. Oh dear.

 

More ladders are brought in and in a spot that still makes me and the crowd breathe in, Bubba takes a ladder and just bashes Matt in the head with it. That has to hurt. All six guys go up at once and all six guys come crashing down almost at once with some hitting ropes, some hitting mat and some hitting ropes. Christian goes flying to the floor which looks AWESOME from the above the ring camera.

 

He sets up a table on the floor as Edge tries to go up. Spike Dudley who was injured by Edge and Christian’s friend Rhyno, comes out and takes down Edge and hits a Dudley Dog to Christian through the table. Jeff goes up but it’s Rhyno out now for the save. Gee I wonder who will come out to help out the Hardys. Rhyno destroys everyone and here’s Lita.

 

She stops Edge from going up but gets caught in a gorilla press by Rhyno. Spike saves her and it’s a Litarana for Rhyno. Spike hits Rhyno with a chair and he falls into a ladder, sending Edge down. Dudleyville (Doomsday) Device to Rhyno and he’s finally down. Lita takes her top off (looking incredibly good in a black bra) but walks into a 3D. Chair shots by the Canadians take out the Dudleys and Edge wants the big ladder.

 

Jeff gets the large ladder though and hits a Swanton onto Rhyno and Spike who are both on tables. Spike takes the whole thing and Rhyno’s table doesn’t even break. That was ALL Spike. The big ladder is in the ring now and set up in the middle of the ring. Christian and D-Von go up but Matt moves the ladder under them (with a shout of HERE WE GO first) and they’re stuck hanging there.

 

After both fall, Jeff walks across the top of the three other ladders (kind of as the third one falls) to get to the titles. The big ladder is in the corner and Jeff goes up a regular one. The ladder is moved by Bubba and since Jeff’s feet were on it, Jeff goes swinging in the opposite direction, right into a spear by Edge from the super ladder, which is not only Edge’s Wrestlemania moment, but the moment that made him a star.

 

Back after about 5 replays with Bubba and Matt going up the big ladder. Rhyno shoves the ladder over and they go crashing through the four tables that were set up at ringside earlier. D-Von and Christian go up but Rhyno gets beneath Christian and climbs up with Christian on his shoulders, giving him the needed assist to win the titles again. Incredible match all around to say the least.


Rating: A+. These guys nearly killed each other. You can see that it’s miles better than last year because they knew what they were doing to a greater extent. That spear from Edge more or less ended Christian’s usefulness in the WWF as Edge began to get the singles push from here on out.

 

Either way, this match is great as it’s a total spot fest but it is still better than all of the MITB matches that would follow in its footsteps. If you’re bored here, go get a blood injection. The crowd ate this up and it just clicks all around as they somehow top the other matches they had which are also greats.

We got a lot more of that match and with a lot of time left, if the #1 match is what I think it is, we can fit almost all of it in.

We get a highlight reel of Austin saying WHAT. That’s a pretty great catchphrase for how big it was in 2001.

I was right about #1 too.

#1: No Way Out – Steve Austin vs. HHH

First fall is a regular match, second is street fight, third is cage. MASSIVE pop for Austin, but the crowd has been white hot all night. I’m surprised that this is in the middle of the card but you know it’s going to get some time. Maybe they want to do this so the crowd isn’t spent at the end? Naturally it’s a slugfest to start. Mudhole is stomped 30 seconds in. Big old AUSTIN chant as he dominates early on.

Modified hot shot to take down Austin though as this is fast paced for the most part. Pedigree is blocked into a DDT on the arm which I need to learn the name of. We head to the floor as Austin works the arm. This is a regular match but Austin ramming HHH’s arm into a post about 6 times is perfectly fine? HHH can’t do the Pedigree because of his arm, which is SELLING! Simply shaking your arm is passable, but having it prevent you from doing your moves is SELLING.

Thesz Press and Austin is dominant so far. HHH gets his foot up when Austin is coming off the ropes, but for once Austin actually has his arms up to look like he’s doing a move. I hate when people just jump into it for the sake of jumping into it. Neckbreaker takes HHH down but it doesn’t do much due to the weak arm.

HHH goes after the knee which is Austin’s weak point as well. He goes for the leg into the post thing but Austin counters and HHH and the nose of doom hit the post. Back to the knee as HHH takes over with a figure four. Austin gets out and does a nice move where he gets HHH n the mat and beats on him with his leg. Cooler than it sounds. Thesz Press and the elbow get two.

Everyone counters everything and we slug it out. HHH gets a kick to the knee and goes to the middle rope. He jumps into the boot though and Austin hits the Stunner for the completely clean pinfall.

No rest period between falls and we’re right back at it again. It’s a street fight now and we hit the floor. Austin’s knee is ok I guess as he hits some suplexes on the floor. Monitor connects with HHH’s head and apparently it’s broken. Naturally we head into the crowd and it’s all Austin. Back in the ring and Austin destroys HHH Rock-Style with a chair.

After nearly murdering HHH we head back to the floor where Austin finds a 2×4 wrapped in barbed wire for no apparent reason. A low blows allows HHH to blast him in the face with it though and Austin is bleeding. HHH sets for the Pedigree on the table but Austin counters and sends him through the other table which EXPLODES. Awesome stuff so far if you can’t tell.

Back in the ring a bell shot (Austin brought it in earlier) gets two for HHH. This is a war with both guys hitting all these big shots out of desperation. Back to the neck with a neckbreaker onto the chair for two. Backdrop by Austin sends HHH free falling over the top. Cool looking drop. More weapons stuff on the floor but the intensity and selling is making it work.

You can barely hear Lawler here as his mic is messed up or something. HHH finds a sledgehammer and Lawler accuses JR for putting it there. Back in the ring again and a Stunner is blocked by a sledgehammer shot to Austin’s head. Pedigree follows that and thankfully that ties us up at 1-1. I would have rolled my eyes very heavily if Austin had kicked out of that.

The cage is lowered as we get a quick break. It’s been about 30 minutes so far and nothing but awesome. Austin is more or less dead and eats the cage again. HHH gets the barbed wire 2×4 and rips Austin’s face open a bit more with it. The sledgehammer and at least one chair are also in there with them. Make that two chairs, one of which saves Austin as he blasts HHH in the head with it.

HHH gets it in the face (I would have thought that would have been Stephanie but whatever) for a long time but gets a DDT out of desperation onto the chair but it only gets two. The crowd is a bit silent but it’s pretty clear that the fans know nothing is going to end without something huge. Austin comes back and goes OFF on HHH who just collapses face first out of the corner.

Game tries to bale but he Austin makes two saves, culminating with an old school slam off the top rope. Stunner is blocked but the Pedigree hits for TWO. The place erupts on the kickout and HHH is shocked. Another is blocked and HHH gets hit with a slingshot into the cage. Stunner hits and both guys are out. After the break Austin covers for two as this is awesome. HHH gets the hammer and Austin gets the 2×4. Both swing with everything they’ve got and connect, but HHH falls on Austin for the pin. I think I need a cigarette.

Rating: A+. Without question, this is awesome. Any of the three falls is great to say the least and the ending was perfect. Both guys are protected but not in a way that makes it look like they’re being protected. HHH got lucky and won it, as Lawler says that it’s not fair to say either guy really won. Just an absolute WAR with these two beating the living heck out of each other and making the crowd love every minute of it. With 40 minutes of these two beating each other to death, how is it not a perfect match?

Ten matches and absolutely nothing from Smackdown. Austin vs. Benoit can’t make the list? Well to be fair it was fan voted and I don’t think many people watched Smackdown back then.

Lawler and Cole wrap things up.

Overall Rating: A+. Look at the ratings I give this and tell me what you think I’m saying this is. A DVD of the full versions of these matches wouldn’t stay on the shelves long enough, although it would be roughly seven hours long if you included entrances. The impressive thing is they left off A TON of stuff. When three of the best ten matches are from Wrestlemania and they left some good stuff off that show too, you know it’s a great show. Anyway this is great and almost everything from 2001 is mentioned here. Check this show out, but have Youtube open to see the full versions of the matches.

2001 was a very important year for the WWF, but overall it’s looked back on as a year of lost opportunities. At the end of the day, Vince McMahon owned WCW and ECW and ran the biggest angle of all time inside of six months and botched it worse than anything has ever been botched. You could very easily call this the worst blunder in the history of wrestling and get very few arguments. That’s the legacy of 2001 and that’s a shame.

It’s a shame because as you can see here, there was some AMAZING wrestling in the year, possibly better than any other year. The whole feuds of Rock vs. Jericho, Benoit vs. Austin and Jericho vs. Austin are only touched on here and those matches alone were match of the year candidates. This was an excellent in ring year and you would have some great times going back and checking out these ten plus a lot more matches from the year. The problem is the blown chances overshadow that stuff and it brings the rest of the year down.

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