Monday Night Raw – September 23, 2002: The Bad Times Are Here

Monday Night Raw
Date: September 23, 2002
Location: Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, California
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

It’s the night after Unforgiven and the big story on the Raw side is Ric Flair joining forces with HHH to form….well to form nothing at the moment but that’s the only noteworthy thing that happened last night. I’m worried about what we’ll be getting going forward but that’s so often the case around here. Let’s get to it.

Women’s Title: Trish Stratus vs. Molly Holly vs. Victoria

Trish is defending after winning the title last night. Victoria goes after the champ before Molly even gets to the ring and the fight is on in a hurry. As Lawler asks if Trish is the hottest Women’s Champion ever, the challengers start double teaming Trish as you might expect them to do. That earns them a double clothesline and some signature stuff but Molly lifts her up for a toss out to the floor (and one heck of a bump). Back in and Molly avoids Victoria’s moonsault, setting up a collision to knock Molly into Trish’s rollup to retain the title.

Rating: D+. The match was nothing to see (save for that nasty crash to the floor) but this was quick enough to not overstay its welcome. The women just aren’t good enough at this point to work a long match so it’s a good idea to keep things short here. Victoria looked a lot more aggressive here and that’s the best thing possible for Trish and the title.

Booker T. and Goldust show some of the roster clips of last night with Eric Bischoff getting humiliated. Goldust: “I haven’t seen anything that bad since Chris Jericho’s last Fozzy concert.” As a bonus, Goldust has a picture of Bischoff with Rikishi’s thong replacing the face. Rico: “That’s disgusting! I’M TELLING ERIC!”

Bischoff welcomes an unnamed face to the Raw side when Rico comes in. Eric wants to know where Rico was last night but it was Bischoff who sent them out on the town. Anyway Rico tells him what Booker and Goldust were up to and Eric is ticked.

After a break, here’s a ticked off Bischoff in the arena. Bischoff isn’t cool with the fans booing him but more importantly, Vince McMahon has issued a new decree: there’s a freeze on all contracts and no one gets to jump between shows unless there is an official trade. However he made a few last minute deals before the deadline with details coming later.

For now though, Booker needs to come out here RIGHT NOW. Bischoff wants an explanation but Booker calls him a skippy hippie. Booker keeps making jokes about last night and says Bischoff’s breath is heinous like a fat man’s anus. Cue 3 Minute Warning and Rico for the beatdown with Goldust’s save going nowhere.

Post break, Rico offers to face Booker tonight and Chris Jericho comes up to demand a shot at Goldust for the Fozzy insult. Eric agrees but makes it an Intercontinental Title shot. That’s a very face move for a heel boss.

Jeff Hardy vs. Big Show

Jeff goes right after him to start and actually hits something like a suicide dive. That’s not what you do to a giant though and he tosses Jeff over the top so we can have the opening bell. Back in and Jeff dropkicks him in the knee and hits the Swanton across Show’s back for what is likely his only near fall. Show just blasts him with the overhand chop to bust open Jeff’s shirt. That’s enough for Show as he plants Jeff with the chokeslam for the pin.

Rating: D. I’m so glad we’re getting the renewed Big Show push because I just don’t want to imagine a WWE without it. Allegedly Hardy was rather, ahem, unable to perform last week so this might have been punishment as a result. I’d rather have that instead of “comedy” but Big Show might not be the best choice to push.

We look back at Tommy Dreamer beating up Christopher Nowinski two weeks back.

Nowinski is in a classroom and wants to fight dreamer. Post break Dreamer shows up and gets caned down. Dreamer puts him through the ceiling and the beating just keeps going because we NEED hardcore stuff around here without actually having hardcore matches.

Randy Orton vs. Steven Richards

Here’s one of the talent jumps but it’s not clear if he was the mystery man earlier. Orton hits his quick dropkick as the crowd is just silent for this. Richards slows things down and gets two off a side slam. The rather slow pace continues until Orton slips out of a neckbreaker and grabs a belly to back suplex.

Commentary would suggest that the company wants Orton to be the next Rocky Maivia but it’s not quite working. How can Orton be considered a blue chipper without a Jheri Curl? Orton’s backbreaker and powerslam get two each, only to walk into the Stevie Kick for two. That means a freak out session and choking from Richards, only to eat the high crossbody to give Orton the pin. Lawler: “THIS KID IS PHENOMENAL!” Just….no Jerry.

Rating: D-. Above all else this was incredibly boring. Orton has no character at this point and there’s only so much you’re going to be able to do in a match against a low level nothing like Richards. It’s a really boring match and that doesn’t make Orton seem like the bright star that the announcers are pushing him to be.

The Union Underground performs Across the Nation (Raw’s theme) while some Divas dance. Lillian looks like she’s just enjoying the song, Terri looks like she has no idea what she’s doing (might not be her kind of music) and Jackie is having a great time while barely staying in her top. Stacy is miles ahead of all of them as she looks amazing and clearly has done this kind of dancing for a long time.

Here’s Flair for the big explanation. Last week, HHH yelled at him and said Flair was pathetic. HHH was right and it’s because Flair was too busy listening to the fans. When he was a kid, HHH wanted to be Ric Flair (or Hulk Hogan if you listen to the story from back in April) and now Flair is going to try to pull that off.

If HHH is willing, Flair is going to teach him how to get to another level. Flair’s payment is very simple: he gets to be by the champ’s side and spend the twilight of his career on top where he belongs. Rob Van Dam tries to interfere but HHH beats him down from behind. The double team is on until Bubba Ray Dudley makes the save.

Two notes here: first of all, they kept this short but covered the point. We know why Flair did it and we know what he gets out of it. Simple yet effective, as promos often need to be.

Second, this is a great example of how important it is to have the right character in the right role. I can accept the idea that HHH is a huge Flair fan and wants to be just like him. There’s no specific reason but it’s something I could accept at face value. For an example of it going bad, look back at AJ Styles doing the same thing in 2010. I can imagine AJ being a Flair fan but I absolutely can’t believe one of the most natural faces ever being a Nature Boy clone. You need to have the right kind of character for any given role and it works very well here, which is why the angle should work as well as it’s going to.

Post break Bubba and Van Dam say this is the people’s show and demand a tag match tonight. Bischoff comes up to say it’s his show but allows the match anyway.

Intercontinental Title: Chris Jericho vs. Goldust

Jericho is defending and these two are somehow still active fifteen years later. Goldust gets in a quick hiptoss and catapult to send him into the buckle. The champ comes right back with a bulldog and cranks on the neck as we hear about how big a band Fozzy really is. With that going nowhere, Jericho hits an extended trash talk sequence. It’s enough for Goldust to fight back with something like a Boss Man Slam/chokeslam but the Curtain Call is broken up. Goldust will settle for a powerslam but the referee breaks up Shattered Dreams. Jericho gets in the enziguri and the Walls retain the title.

Rating: C. Not bad here, as you might expect. I don’t think anyone was going to buy Goldust as a full fledged threat to win the title but you’re going to get a completely watchable match out of him. I’m still not entirely sure why Jericho has the title again but he’s far from the worst choice.

Tag Team Titles: Un-Americans vs. Kane/???

Kane is challenging along with his partner…..the Hurricane? Again it’s not clear if he was the one who was in Bischoff’s office or not but it doesn’t really matter. An early Blockbuster puts Christian down but the rest of the team jumps Hurricane on the floor. Kane does his best angry stare for the save and it’s Christian getting in a few stomps of his own. We hit the chinlock for a bit until a clothesline puts both guys down.

Hurricane dives over for the hot tag and the fans react as strongly as they can. House is quickly cleaned until Regal gets in a title shot to Kane’s head. Er, mask. Either way, it only gets two and Regal and Test are both ejected for their efforts. Charles Robinson trying to be intimidating is one of the best comedy spots of the year. Hurricane gets a sloppy hurricanrana on Christian and heel miscommunication sets up a double chokeslam (eh cute) for the pin and the titles.

Rating: C-. I’m so glad we had the Un-Americans all over the show for so many weeks to have them lose to the latest thrown together team. I’ve seen worse matches though and Hurricane is always entertaining, at least for a quick laugh. Not bad here and the fans got into the American victory, which is the whole point here.

Post break Hurricane says he and Kane are perfect together because they both wear masks and both use chokeslams. Tonight it’s time to celebrate and Kane says freaks are cool. Hurricane is ready to go to the Hurricave but Kane stops to kiss Terri before leaving with his partner.

Regal isn’t happy but says the team will regroup.

Booker T. vs. Rico

Booker hammers away in the corner until Rico reverses and fires off some kicks to the head. That springboard version always looks good. A kneelift only seems to fire Booker up and it’s the forearm into the Spinarooni. The scissors kick ends Rico in short order.

Post match it’s 3 Minute Warning for the beatdown and Goldust for the failed save. The difference is Booker is in gear instead of street clothes like earlier and Goldust actually hits Shattered Dreams on Rico before getting taken apart. Totally different idea you see.

Bischoff makes 3 Minute Warning vs. Goldust/Booker T. for next week. Again, not exactly a heel move. It’s putting them on square footing and taking away the Samoans’ advantage. How is that a heel boss?

Van Dam says he’s at peace with HHH and Flair but isn’t impassionate despite his bad ribs.

Bubba Ray Dudley/Rob Van Dam vs. HHH/Ric Flair

After some long entrances, HHH jumps Bubba from behind and gets backdropped for his efforts. The fans want tables but get Flair, who has no issues with Bubba, making this kind of pointless. Some shoulders put Flair down as JR thinks Ric is going through “the change of life”.

It’s right back to HHH as Bubba seems a bit hesitant to tag in the injured RVD. Bubba gets the better of a chop off with Flair before it’s off to Rob for a series of kicks. Rolling Thunder isn’t the best idea and HHH doesn’t stay down long enough to really validate the pain on the bad ribs. HHH gets in a belly to back suplex but the hot tag brings in Bubba a few seconds later.

The fans react like they’re watching an Orton match and only pick up a bit as Bubba hammers on Flair. House is quickly cleaned and Van Dam plays D-Von on What’s Up. It’s table time but HHH shoves Van Dam off the top. A throat snap across the top knocks Bubba into a Flair rollup (with tights) for the pin.

Rating: D+. This was awkward with the wrestling not being great and the story being sort of all over the place. It’s clear that they’re setting up Bubba as the next challenger (which is likely only going to be short term) and I’m really not sure how that’s going to work. The story makes sense but I’m not sure if Bubba Ray Dudley is going to work in that role no matter what. Van Dam really does look like a one off challenger and that’s a really bad thing given how second rate he looked next to HHH.

Bubba saves Van Dam from a low blow and almost completely misses the table when powerbombing HHH. The champ hit the corner and the table didn’t even break, causing the crowd to go almost silent. Van Dam legdrops him through the table (makes sense due to the bad ribs) instead to end the show.

Overall Rating: D. The bad times are here and that’s got me worried going forward. There was WAY too much 3 Minute Warning vs. Goldust/Booker T. (a fine feud on its own but it was a lot of overkill here) and too many nothing matches (the opener, Orton and Hardy vs. Big Show) to fill out a two hour show. Cut out some of the filler (like the concert, which felt completely tacked on) and turn it into some better stories and the show will improve. As for now though, Raw is back to its normal horrible.

 

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