WWE SMACKDOWN! 9/5/02

Today is indeed a glorious day, friends, as it is NFL Kickoff Day! It’s amazing how much more I’ve come to prefer football over baseball the last few years. My hometown Ravens will probably do somewhere between mediocre and sucking the savage sausage, so I’m not looking for much there. I’ve gotten a few requests for predictions this season – because aren’t all wrestling writers football experts on the side? – so if you want to see them, you can find them here.

Speaking of the NFL, Smackdown was pre-empted in my area for a preseason game last week, hence the lack of a report.

On tape from the land of cheese and titles, this is WWE Smackdown for 9/5/02. Your hosts are Michael Cole and Taz(z).

Opening Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Billy Gunn (with Rico and Chucky-poo). Billy jumps Rey and pounds him down. Gorilla would have called that one a “Pearl Harbor job.” Billy hits a tilt-a-whirl slam and Snake Eyes for 2. Rey dropkicks his leg, but Billy takes his head off on a clothesline for 2. A nice “Rico sucks!” chant starts. It’s cool that Rico’s getting heat, but I’ve never liked it when someone at ringside gets more heat than the men in the ring. Rey finally gets some offense, hitting a handspring headscissors and following it up with a springboard dropkick. He goes for the 619, but Chuck uses Rico’s clever ref distraction to pull Rey out and clothesline him on the floor. Billy covers for 2. He goes for a military press, but Rey turns it into a victory roll for the win out of nowhere at 5:06. The wrong guy was in control of this one for too long, and it ended up as a squash with a fluke ending. I don't see the point of this kind of match for Rey after Summerslam. 1/10

Rico gets on the stick and consoles Billy by telling him this is going to be the greatest moment of his life. Rico implores Chuck to dig deep in his tights and pull out the love, as I consider changing the channel. Hmm, it looks like a ring box. Chuck gets down on bended knee and asks Billy to marry him. Yeah, that worked SO well for Too Much a few years ago, didn’t it? The fans seemed receptive to the idea, but if there’s backlash against it, it could RUIN these guys’ careers. In Gunn’s case, that’s no loss, but I’d hate to see Palumbo’s future ruined by a bunch of jackasses chanting “Faggot” whenever he comes to the ring.

Cruiser Title Match: Jamie Noble (with Nidia) vs. Shannon Moore. I like how they keep calling Moore a “rookie.” Arm work starts, which segues into each guy getting in some shots in the corner. Moore gets a heel kick for 2, then kicks Noble out of the ring. He follows with a nice tope con hilo, and takes it back in right away for 2. Moore gets a running kick to the corner, but Noble rallies with a clothesline and a back suplex for 2. Backbreaker gets 2. They brawl, controlled by Moore, who does a good rolling neckbreaker for 2. Moore does a turnaround bodypress off an Irish whip for 2. Moore hits a very nice corkscrew moonsault for 2. Jeff Hardy WISHES he made half that much contact. Moore goes for his finisher (the victory roll), nut Noble reverses for 2, and Moore reverses that for 2. Nobles posts himself on a charge, but manages to counter Moore’s top-rope ‘rana try with a powerbomb. Noble finishes with the Tiger Bomb at 5:10. This was a solid all-around match, and quite fun to watch. 7/10

Meanwhile, Paul E. Dangerously implores Brock Lesnarberg not to take Randy Orton lightly. He’s still alive? Orton pops on camera to confirm that he does, indeed, still have a pulse.

After the break, Edge and Rikishi discuss tonight’s main event. Rikishi gets all philosophical about the “ass of life”and how it relates to him shoving his unwashed derriere in his opponent’s faces. Sartre, he ain’t.

Nontitle Match: Brock Lesnarberg (with Paul E. Dangerously) vs. Randy Orton. Orton rushes the ring and starts a brawl. Ah, the exuberance of youth. He kicks at Brock’s leg, but Brock pounds him and hits a nice overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Brock tosses Orton on top of the post to the floor. A “Lesnar sucks!” chant kicks up as Brock beats on Orton outside. Back in, Brock kills Orton with a clothesline for 2, then spears him in the corner. He charges, and Orton raises the boot, but Brock catches it and flashes a knowing smirk. Nice spot to put him over as a learninf, thinking champ. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Brock puts Orton over his shoulder and rams him back-first into two different corners. Brock hits a modified gutbuster, but Orton elbows out of the second and goes on the offensive. He dropkicks Brock’s leg, hits a unique backbreaker, and goes up. Orton comes down with a plancha, but Brock rolls thru it, picks him up in one motion, and hits the F5 for the win at 5:28. THAT was an impressive sequence. Very well-constructed match for Brock, designed to make him look indomitable while giving Orton just enough offense to keep the crowd involved. Well done. 5/10

After the break, Stephanie McMahon signs Crash Not-Holly’s contract. Reverend D’Von Damn Dudley comes in and plays the PTC by protesting the sinfulness of the Billy/Chuck scene earlier. Steph informs him that their “commitment ceremony” will be next week. It's kinf of funny watching her avoid saying "gay" or "wedding." D’Von gets in a good line when he quips, “It says Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

Mark Henry (with canned heat) vs. Tajiri. Tajiri starts with some kicks, but Henry tosses him around and clubs him. He blocks the handspring elbow with his MASSIVE GIRTH. Tajiri gets some token offense in, but he can’t hook the Tarantula, so Henry tosses him around some more and powerslams him for the win at 3:07. Wow, those Mark Henry matches, always so varied and exciting. Yawn. DUD.

Stephanie moderates a face-to-face interview between Brock and The Undertaker. Brock recaps his accomplishments for us, both amateur and pro. He makes a big deal of being 25, which Taker uses to play up his inexperience. Paul claims UT is distracted by his pregnant wife, but UT isn’t buying it. PLEASE don’t bring her back to TV. UT decides he’s had enough of Paul’s cracks, so he goes after him, only to be cut off by Lesnar. Can’t two guys just fight for the belt anymore because one has it and the other wants it? Why do we have to bring pregnant wives and things like that into it?

Reverend D’Von Damn Dudley vs. Batista. D’Von pounds Batista right away, but the rookie whips him into the corner hard and choke tosses him down. D’Von bails for a chair but gets clubbed. The ref takes that chair away, so D’Von finds another one and clubs Batista across the back with it. He drops an elbow for 2. Batista kicks him in the gut and finishes with the sitout powerbomb at 1:45. Batista is certainly an impressive physical specimen, but this was too brief to do anything with. 0.5/10

Meanwhile, Nidia asks Noble if they’re ever going to get married. Noble says yes, but his amusing facial expressions tell a different story.

After the break, Matt Hardy tells Shannon Moore he exists to inspire. Well, I’m inspired not to talk like a hick and get outshone by my fruity brother. Hardcore Holly offers similar sentiments.

Meanwhile, Eddy Guerrero and Kurt Angle talk about being robbed of the #1 Contender spot last week. It’s Spanglish vs. Hip Whitey again, and Angle even calls Eddy “Cheech.” Angle decides to substitute some uncharitable animals in “Rabid Wolverine,” leading to a staredown with Chris Benoit.

Matt Hardy vs. Hardcore Holly. Matt grabs a rollup right away for 2. Holly counters with a backslide for 2. Holly controls the brawl, only to take a neckbreaker for 2. Holly tosses Matt out and whips him into the post. In the ring, a back suplex gets 2 for Holly. He puts Matt up, but Matt elbows him down and follows with a moonsault for 2. Side Effect gets 2. Holly nails a powerbomb for 2, but Matt comes back with the second-rope legdrop. Best Dropkick In The Business gets 2. Matt counters the Alabama Slamma with a rollup for 2. Holly shoves out of the Twist of Fate, but Matt rolls him up with a handful of tights. Holly reverses that, and employs a handful of jeans for the pin at 5:04. Good enough for government work. 4/10

Meanwhile, roving reporter Funaki gets Rico’s thoughts on next week’s “commitment ceremony.”

Meanwhile, Crash gets some brief encouragement from cousin Hardcore.

Crash Not-Holly vs. The Hurricane. Hurricane slugs it out with Crash and stands on his groin in the corner. That’s not very nice for a superhero to be doing. You don’t see anyone in the Justice League doing that, do you? Hurricane hits a vertical suplex and goes up for a placha, which gets 2. Crash hangs him on the top rope and gets a back suplex. Eye of the Hurricane leads to a second-rope rolling neckbreaker for 2. Shining Wizard gets 2. Hurricane misses a splash in the corner, and Crash is nice enough to reciprocate by posting himself. Hurricane pulls Crash up, and brings them both down with a nifty top-rope swinging neckbreaker. Crash steals the win with a rollup at 3:50. I was digging this one until the cheap ending. 5/10

Main Event, Six-Man Tag: Kurt Angle, Eddy Guerrero, and Chris Benoit vs. Rikishi, Edge, and The Undertaker. One of these things is not like the other, one fatass just doesn’t belong ... Rikishi and Angle start, but Angle wants Taker, so he tags in. UT works the arm, but gets kneed and pounded. He comes back with a big boot, and the legdrop is good for 2, brother. Angle scampers away from a chokeslam and tags in a reluctant Benoit. Benoit kicks the snot out of UT in the corner, but it’s no-sold a second later when UT tosses Benoit into the corner for a pounding. Rikishi comes in, and he plants Benoit with a sitout spinebuster. Benoit gets whipped into Guerrero and takes a Samoan Drop. Edge and Guerrero tag in, and Edge gets a quick flying jalapeno and powerslam. He climbs the corner for some punches, but Angle hangs him on the top rope. That compels UT to chase Angle, allowing Eddy and Benoit to double-team Edge. Eddy gets 2 off a vertical suplex. Angle comes in for a suplex, then Benoit gets the quick tag and backbreakers Edge for 2. Eddy slingshots in as only he can, and dropkicks Edge off the ropes. Angle suplexes Edge for 2, as UT had to make the save. Angle goes to the chinlock, which Edge fights out of, and – in a sequence I loathe – uses his finisher (the Impaler DDT) as a transition move to set up the hot tag. Benoit blocks the tag, but Edge drops Angle with an enzuigiri and makes the hot tag to Undertaker. UT cleans house so well, I think he has a future with Holiday Inn. While he’s at it, my den could use some vacuuming. Angle takes Snake Eyes, then everyone comes in and hits some signature moves. Angle ends up taking the Stinkface, which strikes Benoit as very funny. Angle is understandable sensitive about having his face enveloped by a fat man’s ass, so they duke it out and take it outside. That leaves Eddy alone in the ring with all three faces behind him, and he realizes that with a very funny “Oh shit!” look. He tries to weasel his way out of it, but ends up getting pinballed for his troubles. Edge spears him and shoves him into a forced Stinkface, and Taker adds the academic chokeslam at 10:55. Well, it looks like Angle will be a face in time for the anniversary of September 11th. Solid if unspectacular main event, but the crowd was very hot for it, particularly in the latter half, so I’ll give it a little extra. 5.5/10

The breakdown:

The Good: Eight matches will always rate highly with me, as I prefer actual wrestling to sportz entertainment shit. I had four of them at 5/10 or higher, so the wrestling was solid on the whole. Noble and Moore put on an excellent match, Lesnar won a very well-constructed match, and the crowd was way hot for the main event.

The Bad: Mark Henry continues to put me to sleep with his fat strongman offense. (By the way, for those who’ve asked, you know it’s canned heat when you hear a big pop for the guy when he comes out, then see all the fans sitting on their hands and generally not giving a shit.) Batista and D’Von might yet turn into a watchable feud, but a two-minute squash isn’t going to help things. I didn’t like Undertaker’s wife getting brought into the face-to-face interview segment. I realize he’s basically playing himself, but I just don’t like it when real life is brought into wrestling. Sara showed last year that she really didn’t belong on TV; this “angle” doesn’t, either.

The Ugly: Raw has its taboo in the threat of burning the flag, so I guess Smackdown needed something to rate on the deviant scale. So we get the gay wedding. We’ll see if they go through with it this time, but I really don’t think anything good would come of it if they did.

Overall: I saw the announced matches and wasn’t very impressed, but this was a surprisingly decent episode from the wrestling side. It definitely had its faults, many of which were quite apparent outside of the ring. (Hint: gay wedding.) I liked a lot of the wrestling, so it's a shame that the good can't overcome the bad this week. Call it average, and that might be a little generous. 5/10

Dr. Tom