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Dr. Tom's Smackdown! Report: 1/23/03

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Guest TSMAdmin



Tonight, GM Stephanie McMahon tells us how special an episode we have to look forward to tonight, as The Undertaker returns. Steph also says she has a bombshell of her own to drop tonight. I’ll listen to anything she says as long as she wears low-cut dresses and leans into the camera a lot.


On tape from Albany, NY, this is WWE Smackdown! for 23 January 2k3. Your hosts are Michael Cole and Taz(z).


Opening Match: Chris Benoit vs. Charlie Haas (with Shelton Benjamin). Benoit starts with an armdrag, then each man does some basic armwork. Benoit trips Haas and goes to the leg, but Haas takes him down and grabs a facelock. Benoit does another armdrag and slaps on a hammerlock, but Haas takes him down with a drop toehold and slaps on a legbar. Benoit shoulderblocks Haas down, and a shortarm clothesline sends Haas bailing to the floor. Benoit pursues him, but Haas capitalizes on Benjamin’s ref distraction to assault Benoit and smash his wrist into the steps. Back in, Haas drops the knees on the lower arm and hooks in a keylock.Haas keeps working the arm, and Tazz wisely talks about the psychology here: Benoit can’t apply the Crossface with a bad wrist. Benoit clubs Haas and grabs a quick rollup, but Haas is undeterred and goes back to the arm. He locks in a wristbar, which Benoit eventually escapes with an armdrag. Haas uses the ropes to work over Benoit’s arm. Benoit starts to rally with a kick and some chops, but Haas shrugs it all off and goes back to the wrist. A closeup shows “Russ” written on Haas’ wrist tape, in memory of his late brother. Haas covers for 2. Benoit knees him in the back, then kicks him in the gut and DDTs him. Both men are down. Benoit gets up and elbows Haas down, following it up with a one-armed backdrop. Benoit is selling the arm like a FUCKING MAN. German, but Benoit has to make it one of the release variety because of the arm. He goes up and hits the Kamikaze headbutt, but can’t cover becuase he hurt his wrist. Excellent. Benoit knocks Benjamin off the apron and ducks Haas’ charge at his back. He grabs the Crossface, but can’t hold it for more than a second. Haas capitalizes with an overhead suplex. He goes for a German, but Benoit reverses it to an inside cradle for the 3 at 9:01. Awesome psychology here. Great booking, too, as Benoit still picks up the win, but makes Haas look like a million bucks in the process. 7/10

(Winner: Chris Benoit, pinfall via inside cradle at 9:01)


Meanwhile, Taker rides his bike around, for those who missed the opening announcement of his return.


Rikishi vs. Bill DeMott. I’m going out on a limb and saying this match won’t be as good as the one before it. DeMott has a cast on his arm from the Rumble. They lockup, which DeMott breaks with a weak knee to the gut. Rikishi slugs away in the corner, but DeMott pokes him in the eyes to reverse things. DeMott puts the boots to Rikishi, but Rikishi knees him and rams his bad arm into the turnbuckle. Avalanche, and Rikishi goes to the arm. DeMott slugs out of an armbar, but Rikishi slams his arm into the ring a few times. He drops the leg on the arm, brother, and clotheslines DeMott down. DeMott hits a desperation spinebuster, but Rikishi superkicks him and finishes things with the Banzai drop – with DeMott’s arm folded across his chest – at 4:17. About as good as last week’s affair, which is to say, not very. 1/10

(Winner: Rikishi, pinfall via Banzai Drop at 4:17)


The new Nathan Jones promo airs, the one with the news anchors talking about him being a monster. They should make videos like this for everyone who’s about to debut.


After the break, Not Tough Enough asks The Big Slow if he’s concerned about Undertaker’s return, since Slow “threw” him off the stage and all. Slow grabs Matthews’s face and breathes heavily, and I'm not sure if he's going to kiss him or answer him. He does neither, electing to just walk off.


Meanwhile, Matt Hardy v1.0 blames his Royal Rumble loss on Shannon Moore and says the lad needs more lessons in MATTITUDE~! Matt beseeches his opponent, Nunzio, to make sure Shannon gets a Mattitude adjustment.


Undertaker hits the ring, and comments on the quantity of talking vs. ass-kicking. He has nothing but bad intentions on his mind tonight. I wonder: if the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, does it mean that his bad intentions mark the Undertaker for heaven? UT plays footage of Slow tossing him off the stage, and demands he waddle out. Slow promises a beating if he has to walk down the ramp. I guess he’d need revenge for being winded, or something. Slow has a contingency plan: A-Train, who heads to the ring.


Undertaker vs. A-Train: UT starts with a headlock, but gets dropped by a shoulderblock. A-Train avalanches Taker and clotheslines him for 2. He grabs a bearhug at the 1:00 mark – what is this, a Big Slow match? UT slugs out of it, but A-Train knees him off the ropes. UT wins a brawl and hits the leaping clothesline, and adds a big boot for 2. A-Train bails, so Taker decks him on the floor and rams him into the announce table. UT elbows A-Train on the apron, then legdrops him on the apron. Back in, UT hits the corner clothesline, then the ropewalk. UT hoists A-Train for a one-armed chokeslam (much more impressive than some of the weaker ones he did before his hiatus), which only gets 2. A-Train backdrops out of the Last Ride and hits the Derailer (the erstwhile Baldo Bomb), which also gets 2. UT blocks Snake Eyes and locks in the Dragon sleeper, forcing A-Train to tap at 5:41. Decent enough slugfest, and good enough for government work. 3/10

(Winner: Undertaker, submission via Dragon sleeper at 5:41)


Another good intro video, as Sean O’Haire enlightens us on the evils of the government and taxation. His character could be very interesting.


Shelton Benjamin (with Charlie Haas) vs. Edge. Benjamin takes Edge down amateur-style and grabs a facelock. Edge works the arm to escape, but Benjamin has a drop toehold waiting for him. Edge elbows out of a hammerlock and hits a leg lariat. He gets 2 off a swinging neckbreaker and slugs away in the corner. Benjamin stops all that close-fisted stuff with a German suplex. He drags Edge over to the corner and uses the post for a bow-and-arrow. Nice. Back in, Benjamin hits a butterfly suplex for 2. He stands over Edge, taunting him, then drops him with a double-leg takedown as he tries to get up. He stalks Edge again, using an amateur takedown this time. Edge tries to get up a third time, only to get brought down with a drop toehold. Benjamin’s playing an effective dick already. Edge escapes a fireman’s carry and turns it into the Edge-O-Matic. He tries for the Impaler, but Benjamin blocks it and hits a conventional DDT for 2. He locks in a criss-cross chinlock, which Edge finally escapes with a modified snapmare. He follows with an overhead belly-to-belly (does EVERYONE do that move now?) and a faceplant for 2. Benjamin leaps clean over the spear, then tries a superkick, which Edge has enough guile to block. Undaunted, Benjamin turns it into a rolling heel kick. Very nice. Benjamin misses a rebound clothesline, though, and Edge hits the spear this time, getting the win at 5:42. This was a solid match with a few neat spots, but it wasn’t as good as the opener. 5/10

(Winner: Edge, pinfall via spear at 5:42)


After the break, Kurt Angle chides his charges for the loss of moments ago. He preaches the three I’s, chastising Haas for his lack of intensity and Benjamin for his lack of intelligence. (RACISM~!) Angle promises the Team won’t go 0-for-3 tonight, and vows to show the youngsters how this here rasslin’ thing is done.


Nunzio vs. Shannon Moore (with Matt Hardy v1.0). Shannon escapes a quick waistlock, and they exchange takedowns. Parity, your theme of the night. Nunzio pounds Shannon and faceplants him. He goes after the left arm, running it into the post a couple times before applying an armbar. Nunzio knees Shannon on a charge and hits a top-rope Fameasser for 2. Back to the arm, but Shannon makes the ropes. Nunzio takes him down again, but Shannon worms his way back into this one with some elbows. He hits a leg lariat out of the corner, and follows it up with a flying forearm. A rolling neckbreaker gets 2, and Shannon goes up. He hits a corkscrew moonsault – in the same sense that Jeff Hardy hits them – for 2, then pulls Ninzio up. He might have had the pin there, but Shannon tries to impress Matt by using the Twist of Fate. Nunzio counters it, though, and turns it into the flying armbar DDT for the win at 3:32. Pretty empty match, which basically served to continue the story of Shannon trying to impress Matt. 2/10

(Winner: Nunzio, pinfall via flying armbar DDT at 3:32)


Brock Lesnar talks to the faceless interviewer about being goal-oriented: NCAA champion, King of the Ring, Undisputed champion, etc. Since the betrayal of Survivor Series at the hands of Paul Heyman, Brock’s goals were to beat the Big Slow, and win the Rumble. Done. Now his goals are to F5 Heyman, and beat Angle for the title. Pretty bland interview, really; Brock’s done better.


Meanwhile, Shannon hides in one of the foot lockers as Matt runs around looking for him.


De Facto Main Event, Non-Title Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle (with Paul Heyman). Angle starts with good old armwork and buries a knee in Rey’s gut. Rey takes him down with a headscissors and follows with a heel kick. Rey hits a dropkick and tries for a hurricanrana, but Angle counters with a powerbomb. HIGH back suplex gets 2. Angle chokes Rey on the ropes and clotheslines him for 2. A snap German suplex drops Rey almost directly on his head, and gets 2. Angle goes to the facelock and tries a suplex with it still applied, but Rey counters with a suplex of his own. With the facelock, it looked similar to a Northern Lights suplex. Rey hits a springboard crossbody and a dropkick. He takes Angle down with a headscissors out of the corner, forcing the champ to bail. The ref stops a highspot, but Angle capitalizes on him turning his back by nailing a nice somersault plancha. He rolls Angle in and follows with a springboard legdrop, for 2. Rey does a Flair flip on an Irish whip, resting atop the ropes as Angle posts himself on a charge. Rey misses a springboard moonsault, and Angle is on him like a cat with the Anglelock. Rey rolls thru it, but Angle is right there to nail an overhead suplex. He tries for the Olympic Slam, but Rey counters with an armdrag. He drop toeholds Angle into the second rope, but Angle catches the 619. Rey escapes the resultant powerslam and hits the wheelbarrow bulldog, for 2. He goes for the West Coast Pop, but Angle hangs on, hotshotting him in the corner, then turning that into an electric chair drop, finally bridging into a rollup for the pin at 7:19. That was certainly an interesting sequence. I’ve always thought Angle and Rey worked well together, despite the clash of styles that should result, and this was another example of that. 6/10

(Winner: Kurt Angle, pinfall via Rube Goldberg rollup at 7:19)


After the bell, Angle takes advantage of the situation by grabbing an Anglelock and cinching it in. See, there’s an excellent lesson in intelligence for Benjamin (capitalize on a downed opponent), and a lesson in intensity for Haas (never stop attacking your opponent). Every team should have a leader like Angle. Edge runs in, though, spoiling Angle’s excellent lesson for his team. Angle starts up the ramp, only to be chased down by Chris Benoit. He beats on Angle and tosses him into the ring for a German suplex. Really, is that any way to object to someone’s lesson plan? Edge adds a spear, and Benoit follows with another German. Team Angle is nowhere to be seen, since Angle told them to stay in the back. That was a cunning move on Angle’s part to teach them integrity, obviously. What a mentor and leader Kurt Angle is.


Meanwhile, NUMBAH ONE Announcer Funaki asks Stephanie what her surprise is. She says it’s not a what, but a who, and it’s next. She stares at a Hollywood Hulk Hogan poster as we go to commercial. This’d better not be another “invitation to appear.” If it’s not, though, why give something away like that?


After the break, cue the Jimi, and it’s indeed Hogan who walks out onto the stage. Gone is the black stubble beard beneath the blond moustache, which make sense since Hogan’s not a heel anymore. Hogan gets about a ten-minute ovation, with multiple “Hogan!” chants. If that were me, I know I’d have a hard time staying away from that kind of addictive spotlight. The ovation is so long, another commercial is required. After the break, the cheering continues until Hogan admits that the Hulkamaniacs are his life. Yeah, that’ll quiet ‘em down. Hogan announced he’s signed a new contract and Hulkamania will once again run wild, brother. Hogan says this might be his final journey with the Hulkamaniacs, and promises not to let them down this time. Apparently, there is an objection to be raised, as Vince McMahon comes to the ring. Vince announces that he is terribly disappointed with Stephanie’s “big surprise.” Vince reminds Hogan this isn’t 1985 (good thing – I’m not sure he knows), and says Hulkamania and Mr. Charisma have one thing in common: they’re both dead. Hogan says he wants to throw it down with Vince in the ring, which spurs Vince into an Uppity Rich Guy routine. Hogan tries to persuade Vince into the match by laying him out in the ring and throwing his sweaty T-shirt down on him. Gee, I can’t wait to see two guys who have more than a century between them in the ring, can you?


The breakdown:


The Good: Team Angle gets tonight’s high honors, individually participating in three good matches. They all managed to look good, even with Benjamin and Haas losing. As an Undertaker mark from way back when, it was good to see him return, even though it looks like he’ll be working with a pair of useless slugs.


The Bad: Rikishi and Bill DeMott hopefully had their last match for a while. Brock’s promo was bland and unfocused, and certainly not indicative of his improvement in that area. And while Hogan might be good for nostalgia pops, I don’t want to see him wrestle, especially not against someone who’s knocking on Sixty’s door. By the way, where were Los Guerreros and Team Cracka tonight?


The Ugly: Nothing ridiculous or offensive to the intellect this week.


Overall: With Team Angle’s matches leading the way, the in-ring action was an overall winner this week. Undertaker and A-Train had a decent enough match, though the other two on the card were completely forgettable. Nothing out of the ring jumped out and grabbed me this week, and the last half-hour was pretty much a wasteful trip back to 1985. This wasn’t quite as good as last week’s show, but it’s still better than average, and still orders of magnitude better than Raw. 6.5/10


Dr. Tom

Holler at me here.

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