Monday Night Raw – April 1, 2002: The Fools In Red

Monday Night Raw
Date: April 1, 2002
Location: Pepsi Arena, Albany, New York
Attendance: 9,000
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

It’s time for the first show of a new generation as Ric Flair is officially in charge of Raw with a roster all its own. I’m really not sure what to expect here as almost all of the stories are restarting, save for Kane vs. the NWO for reasons that I don’t want to understand. Oh and Raven won the Hardcore Title to bring that “division” to Raw. Let’s get to it.

Ric Flair joins us with the new WWF Undisputed Title and promises to make everything new. That includes signing Steve Austin to a new contract, which is indeed new and not someone we’ve seen for years who is way past his prime.

Opening sequence, including the debut of Across the Nation. I always liked that one.

We’ll see Kane vs. someone apparently named X-Pac. I say apparently because he doesn’t have a graphic.

Intercontinental Title: Rob Van Dam vs. Booker T.

Van Dam is defending and the big idea here is that we’re starting with a match. You know, aside from that promo that started the show. A hurricanrana puts Booker down to start and my goodness Van Dam is over. As usual, anything that lets the fans participate (such as the finger point) is almost a guaranteed way to get fans behind you.

Booker forearms him down and puts on two chinlocks less than four minutes in. You don’t often see Booker being that lazy and it’s rather surprising. Van Dam comes back with the usual but misses Rolling Thunder. The Spinarooni gets a huge pop and Booker nails a superkick, only to have JR distract me by saying “he’s not Buckwheat on crack.” There’s a line you would never hear today. Booker’s superplex is broken up and the Five Star retains the title.

Rating: C. Just a basic wrestling match here which isn’t exactly a rousing start to the new era. I like the idea of starting the show with wrestling and the match was fine but nothing we haven’t seen before. Van Dam always felt like the guy you put the title on so someone bigger can take it off him and Booker isn’t that person.

Post match Eddie Guerrero runs out for his return and beats Van Dam down. Now that makes things feel more important.

Here’s Vince McMahon as the Brand Split is already feeling unimportant. He’s here to sign Austin but let’s go to a break before Steve comes out. Back with security around the ring Lawler: “What are they out here for?” JR: “Security reasons.” Here’s Ric Flair to threaten to throw Vince out, arguing ensues and time is wasted until Ric sends out Big Show to carry Vince to the back. This took up WAY too much time and accomplished nothing.

During the break, Show literally threw Vince out of the arena.

William Regal vs. Spike Dudley

Regal’s European Title isn’t on the line. The evil referee takes away Regal’s hidden brass knuckles to start but Regal beats Spike into the ground anyway, including a sweet diving drop toehold. A half nelson suplex sends Spike outside as the announcers discussing folding similies. Spike comes back with some headbutts to the ribs and a quick Dudley Dog for the fluke pin.

Rating: D. I’m assuming this sets up a rematch for the title next week though just having Spike pin Regal doesn’t have me the most interested in them fighting for the title. Then again there’s very little that’s going to make me care about the European Title in the first place so they didn’t have the best chances in the world.

The NWO takes over the APA’s office, which has been moved from Smackdown to Raw despite the team being split up. Even the trash and table are in the same state after the brawl.

Post break, Crash tells Bradshaw what the NWO did. Bradshaw goes off to take care of it and Crash chuckles.

Terri yells at Trish for being all snooty now that she’s on the cover of the Divas Magazine. Flair comes up and makes a paddle on a pole match.

Debra won’t let Coach into Austin’s dressing room.

The NWO spray paints the APA’s door and beats up Bradshaw, who comes through the door like a gentleman, without much effort.

Hardcore Title: Raven vs. Bubba Ray Dudley

Bubba is challenging and they get right to the weapons, drawing the required ECW chants. Some elbows have Raven in trouble and it’s time to throw oranges (JR: “Not the citrus.”) at the champ, but not before Bubba does some juggling. Back in and Raven grabs a sleeper in a hardcore match so the announcers talk about the upcoming paddle match. A trashcan lid to the head puts Raven down for the middle rope backsplash and IT ACTUALLY HITS. Bubba looks stunned for a second before covering for two. The Bubba Bomb gives him the title a few seconds later.

Rating: D. So that’s the start of Bubba’s face run and I actually bought into it at the time. Looking back it might not be the best idea in the world but at least they’re trying to make new stars with Bubba and Bradshaw. As I typed that, the reality set in all over again and it’s clear that this was destined to fail but at least they were trying.

Vince is still in the parking lot (with a camera in his limo for no logical reason) and says he’s sent someone to get Austin for the signing.

Here’s Flair to present HHH with the new title. Flair praises HHH for his comeback but gets cut off by the Undertaker, who says Flair drafted him here to embarrass him. Undertaker brings up beating Flair at Wrestlemania XVIII. The fans keep up the WHAT’S so Undertaker it says if you keep saying WHAT you sleep with your own sister.

Back on point, Undertaker says he beat HHH the same way at the previous Wrestlemania so it sounds like Flair is trying to show him up. Violence is teased but here’s HHH to be the big hero. At least we get one last look at the awesome Attitude Era title. HHH, in that slow voice that only he can do, says he’s the Undisputed WWF Champion and that big belt says Undertaker can’t beat him again. A match is made for Backlash and Undertaker isn’t interested in fighting before then.

Hardy Boyz vs. Boss Man/Mr. Perfect

I guess Wrestlemania VII is all forgiven. Apparently the solution to Boss Man being the same character who hasn’t been over in years is to get rid of the “big”. A way too early Twist of Fate is broken up and Matt is in trouble. The veterans start taking over as JR sounds miserable talking about the upcoming women’s match. As is almost always the case in these TV matches, the beating only lasts for a few moments before the tag brings in Jeff. The Twist of Fate and Swanton are enough for the quick pin.

Rating: D+. So you know how the Hardys are one of the best tag teams of all time? Well they still are and they’re capable of beating a makeshift team who had only teamed together a few times before this. Boss Man and Perfect aren’t the most interesting guys in the world at this point and neither would be around much longer.

Post match Brock Lesnar comes out and destroys the Hardys to set up his first feud.

Terri vs. Trish Stratus

Paddle on a pole and they’re in bikinis. Thong jokes are made, puppies are requested and a bulldog allows Trish to get the paddle in just over a minute.

Before the paddling can occur, Molly Holly comes out and destroys Trish to give her a real match. Trish gets the paddle broken over her head to make it serious.

Vince promises he’ll get this done tonight. Like he promised last week was his last night on Raw.

Austin is here and tells Flair to let Vince inside so they can handle this after the main event.

We look at Kane’s amazing promo with Rock and Hogan. Rock being confused by Kaneannites is still great stuff.

Kane vs. X-Pac

X-Pac has Hall and Nash at ringside but Kane beats him up to start. Some kicks send Kane outside though Hall pulling the ropes down might have helped too. Nash adds in a big boot and X-Pac does his spinning heel kick, only to be launched out to the floor. Back in and the Bronco Buster has gets no reaction so Kane powerslams him for no cover. Kane finally has enough of the interference and punches Hall in the face, drawing the Outsiders in for the DQ.

Rating: D. I’ve been watching some Raw’s from 1996 lately and it’s amazing how different X-Pac became in the years since then. There was no fire here and it was a bunch of greatest hits, or as great as X-Pac ever got. I have no idea who thought Kane vs. the NWO was going to be entertaining and so far they’re being proven wrong.

Bradshaw comes in for the save and house is cleaned. For some reason Kane’s pyro fails, meaning two things had no heat here.

Here’s Flair for the Austin contract pitch. Before he can get very far, here’s Vince (JR: “No one walks like that.”) to say his intellectual sperm (Vince: “Yes I said intellectual sperm.”) that brought us here today. Vince takes credit for pay per view and growing the WWF to an international level. He also knew the Ringmaster wasn’t going to cut it and invented the Stone Cold character. This brings out Austin to ask Vince about the contract and play the WHAT game for a bit.

Austin reminds Vince of their history together and does some WHATing with Flair too. Austin asks if Vince had a chance to see this and flips him off. He’s intrigued by both offers because of both men’s success and agrees to sign with Smackdown. Austin tells Flair it was just business and asks where he signs. Before he does, there’s one more thing: April Fools. Vince gets a Stunner and Flair freaks out. Beer is served and Flair gets a Stunner of his own, followed by Steve signing with Raw to end the show.

Overall Rating: D. This Brand Split is in trouble early and there’s really no way around it. Raw has almost nothing going for it with the highlight of Austin who clearly isn’t all that fired up to be here. Most of the young talent is over on Smackdown and everyone knows it but Raw is the flagship and gets all the attention. There’s very little to talk about here and it wasn’t an entertaining night, which is hardly how you want to start things off.

 

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