Monday Night Raw – July 15, 2002 (2016 Redo): Back to the Beginning

Monday Night Raw
Date: July 15, 2002
Location: Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

This is a big one. Last week it was clear that something had to change around here after one of the most dreadful nights in the history of this show. It’s not so much that the wrestling was bad (save for the mixed tag) but there was almost nothing worth watching and one boring match after another. Things really do need to change and change they will. Let’s get to it.

Undertaker is in his locker room with…..Paul Heyman? Maybe a Mean Mark reunion? Heyman takes credit for tonight’s main event (Undertaker/Brock Lesnar vs. Ric Flair/Rob Van Dam) because he’s looking forward to Undertaker vs. Brock at Summerslam. Undertaker is ready to make Brock famous and Heyman gets out as fast as he can.

Opening sequence.

Here’s the NWO to open things up. Actually it’s just their music as Vince McMahon comes out instead. Why did he do that you ask? It’s because the NWO is gone for good, no matter what. That’s certainly an improvement and it’s not like those that story was doing anything for anyone other than Shawn and the now injured Nash.

Vince goes over some of the World Champions in the company’s history (omitting some big names and getting some major reactions to some others) but says it’s time for a new era. The shake up of both shows begins right here because both show will have a General Manager. Vince says “General Manager” about ten times and kind of threatens the audience with what’s going to happen. The roster is sitting in the back watching the announcement because that’s what wrestlers do.

Flair thinks the new boss will be a McMahon.

Jeff Hardy/Dudley Boyz vs. William Regal/Eddie Guerrero/Chris Benoit

Elimination rules so this has a lot of potential. It’s a big brawl to start with Spike forearming Eddie for a way too early two count. Spike tries a sunset flip but gets small packaged to get us down to 3-2. Bubba gives Eddie a Bubba Bomb but Regal breaks up the cover and drags his partner into the corner for the tag off to Benoit.

The beating goes on for a bit until some Dudleyville right hands take Benoit down. Jeff comes in off the hot tag so house can be cleaned, only to have Eddie pull him down from the floor. The fast pace continues with Eddie taking Jeff’s head off with a clothesline and Regal hitting his weird jumping knees. A butterfly suplex gets two and the fans are staying right there with Hardy (Odd pink/white shirt aside. It looks like he poured paint over his head.).

Bubba makes a save and everything breaks down into the huge brawl. Eddie throws in the European Title with Bubba nailing Regal in the head for the DQ. A Swanton Bomb gets rid of Regal and we take a break with Benoit/Guerrero vs. Hardy to go. Back with Jeff grabbing his double legdrop rollup to get rid of Guerrero. Benoit snaps off a German suplex but gets caught by the Whisper in the Wind. Cue Eddie for another distraction so Regal can get in a brass knuckles shot to knock Jeff silly. The Crossface on the unconscious Hardy gives Benoit the win.

Rating: B. Now this is more like it. They were beating the heck out of each other at a frantic pace which is the kind of opening match you never get around here. To top it off they even managed to keep a champion strong as it took three people and a brass knuckles shot to put Hardy down. Well done all around here and a really good opener.

Bubba and Spike save Jeff from going through a table.

Coach speculates that the new GM could be Mick Foley or Vince’s brother (there’s a name you almost never hear about) but Heyman thinks it’s him. Paul goes up to see Vince but a woman comes in to tell Vince that the new GM just arrived. After a break the new GM comes in and it’s…..Shane McMahon, who isn’t the GM. Well so much for that. Shane is here to make sure Vince doesn’t screw things up. Vince: “You tried to put me out of business and now you have this concern?” Remember that line when we get to Smackdown. Shane knows who it is and thinks the new GM is a parasite.

Tommy Dreamer and Van Dam don’t know who the GM is but Rob had fun beating Heyman up last week. Rob leaves and Steven Richards comes in to set up a Singapore Cane match for later. Stevie canes Dreamer for a little preview.

Tommy Dreamer vs. Steven Richards

Canes are legal. The brawl heads outside early on with Dreamer picking up the steps (dude follow the rules) and getting caned in the jaw for his efforts. It’s a strong enough shot to draw some blood and Stevie suplexes him onto the ramp. Back in and Richards hits him a few more times as there’s only so much you can do with Singapore canes. Dreamer says bring it on and unloads on him with the cane. The DDT gets two but Richards’ superkick gets the same. Dreamer grabs the damaged stick and SHATTERS IT over Steven’s head for the pin.

Rating: D. The match was an excuse to do violent stuff to each other and that’s fine enough for something this short. It wasn’t the worst match in the world or anything and this was just over a year since ECW went under, meaning it doesn’t feel as pitiful as some of the nostalgia pushes like we’ve seen over the years.

Booker T. says that even though the NWO is dead, he still has issues with the Big Show. He wants to see a Coacharooni because Rock isn’t the only one who can mess with the Coach. The dancing isn’t that impressive and Lawler wants to know if Coach is Caucasian. Booker is all fired up….and here’s Eric Bischoff. Yes seriously, THIS is where they decided to debut him.

Here’s Vince in the arena to introduce the new General Manager: ERIC BISCHOFF! It doesn’t have quite the impact since we just saw him before the commercial. I’ve never understood that thinking and it really does hurt what should have been a huge moment. Bischoff talks about running the real WCW, meaning not the watered down version that invaded this company.

We hear about all the signings he made to show off his ruthless aggression. Next up are the Raw spoilers as the crowd is just dying listening to this speech which has NOTHING to do with what’s going on here. Nitro changed the face of sports entertainment forever and Bischoff made Vince keep up with him.

Bischoff was THIS CLOSE to putting the WWF out of business (not quite) and now it’s time to turn this show around. Eric says we’ll start things on Vengeance when he’ll sign the one piece of talent he never could get his hands on: HHH. So we’re just supposed to forget the Jean-Paul Levesque days? Bischoff promises to put the E back in WWE to FINALLY wrap this up.

Post break Bischoff sucks up to Undertaker despite him never coming to WCW (“I guess loyalty meant more to you than money.”) but Bradshaw scares the new boss off.

Women’s Title: Molly Holly vs. Trish Stratus

Molly is defending and I have no idea why this isn’t on Sunday’s pay per view. Lawler’s monitor goes out and the thought of not being able to see Trish terrifies him. Why he can’t just LOOK UP isn’t clear but I guess it’s a Bischoff rule. A running flip neckbreaker gets two for the champ and Trish trips trying a clothesline. Molly gets two more off a backbreaker and easily counters Stratusfaction into a rollup with feet on the ropes to retain.

Ric Flair isn’t interested in Bischoff.

Big Show vs. Booker T.

Show easily takes over to start and gets in an impressive looking suplex. A whip sends Booker into the corner and Show casually leans into a raised boot. Booker Cactus Clotheslines him to the floor but misses a chair shot. Show grabs the chair instead, shoves the referee and chairs Booker for the DQ.

Rating: D. So wait. They split up the NWO and NOW they make Show tough again? As usual Booker gets to look like nothing for the sake of another Big Show push because the real money is in Big Show and his bad fitting singlet. I really don’t get this but if Booker wins the rematch via pin, it makes up for a lot.

Show chokeslams Booker through the announcers’ table.

Heyman talks about Bischoff while Brock Lesnar lifts a piece of the set. You know, as monsters do. Paul has a plan for the tag match and Lesnar is pleased.

The announcers pay tribute to Jimmy Miranda, the head of the merchandise stands. I’ve heard Austin and Jericho speak very highly of him.

Hardcore Title: Christopher Nowinski vs. Bradshaw

The title now has a Texas flag design and I actually kind of like it. Nowinski is challenging of course and tries to get out of the match. Chris offers to lay down so Bradshaw can get the pin but IT’S A SWERVE! I mean, the SWERVE doesn’t work but at least he tried. The beating takes Chris into the back where Johnny the Bull jumps Bradshaw and wins the title.

Show comes in to see Bischoff and gets a match with Booker on Sunday.

Johnny the Bull thanks Eric for the chance and gets clotheslined so Bradshaw can get the title back.

Undertaker and Lesnar have a showdown.

Undertaker/Brock Lesnar vs. Rob Van Dam/Ric Flair

Flair and Undertaker start things off with some early chops actually setting up a WAY too early Figure Four. Undertaker will have none of that so Flair hits him low, only to have the champ get in a chokeslam for two. It’s off to Lesnar who throws Ric all over the place and gives him the triple backbreaker. Undertaker gets a thumb to the eye but you don’t need to be able to see to superplex Flair into a big crash.

A great looking powerslam plants Ric again but Flair is able to get over for the hot tag. Van Dam kicks Brock down and gets two off Rolling Thunder to Undertaker. Everything breaks down and Brock gives Flair the F5. A kick to the chest sets up the Five Star hits on Lesnar, only to have Undertaker plant Rob with the Last Ride for the pin.

Rating: C. This started off slow but a hot ending really helped pick it up. I’m really not sure why they didn’t just have Flair lose here as you would think he was the perfect option to do the job. But hey, that’s the point of the Intercontinental Champion right? Lesnar continues to not look great but putting him in there with people like Flair and Van Dam should do him some good.

Bischoff calls Rock and says he’ll be at Smackdown to sign him.

Overall Rating: C+. The show worked well enough but the Bischoff speech in the middle just crippled the whole thing. I liked the wrestling better this time around but there are still a lot of things in their way. We’re now pretty much back to where we were with the two owners (or at least we will be after Smackdown) and that’s…..not the most interesting idea in the world. Raw can be good if it can get out of its own way but given the way things have been going in recent weeks, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

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