Thanks to http://www.digits.com for their badass righteous free counters
Hi, welcome to my little (very little) contribution to BTM II: The Revenge. A few notes off the top regarding various things:
- This site
ROOLZ. All other sites at which I've worked SUCK BUTT. That is all.
And now, to the topic at hand: WWF Wrestlemania XVII. I figured I'd do this as a BTM re-launch thing, since it's topical, I actually saw it, and I do believe I've got at least one or two things to say regarding it; whether they make any sense is, of course, still to be seen. Let's find out, shall we?
From the Sky Dome, Toronto Canada, home of really scary, large, radio hosts.
Hey, Saliva performs. With me, this is a total no win situation- even a band whose music DIDN'T feel like someone urinating in my ear would annoy me at this point, but these guys are simply beyond the pale. I believe the first time I saw this, I spent this entire section opening Chinese food and making jokes with Peter about how horrid this "performance" was. Not having that luxury this time, I spend it rambling here and wondering who the heck thinks "get your ass up off your shoulders" is a proper way to get in with an already hostile crowd. Oh well, there's a reason they're performing for WWF target audiences.
Hey, look, a Wrestlemania hype package! Hey, guess what, you already have my $50, so fuck off and get a match in the ring! You can't repair months of bad build with a 2 minute package of memories, even if it's a really good one.
1. RVD/Regal kicks things off, for the IC strap. My initial thought on this one was that it was apt to be a total style clash from hell type deal- RVD being quasi-lucha, quasi-indy highspot, loose-working guy, and Regal being stylistically a European stiff type, in all the various potential applications of that phrase. What I get is actually a quite well worked match, with the RVD character's overconfidence (early finisher attempt) and the Regal character's desperation (brass knucks in the first minute of the match, attacking RVD as he enters the ring from his entrance) nicely setting up the standard WWF formula match (face dominates, heel comes back and dominates, big face comeback, hit the finish). In addition, RVD does a heck of a job bumping on moves like Regal's neckbreaker and the EVIL AJPW-ESQUE half-nelson suplex he busts out, the easy highlight of the match. Add into that the fact that the right man goes over (RVD) and the match is well placed to get the crowd up (if only that were a theme tonight….), and the whole thing is really quite a pleasant way to spend a few minutes. Call is somewhere in the ** 1/2-*** range, and fun at that. Good start to things.
And here's a promo with Christian, revealing again just how totally not good he can be for vast stretches of time. As his ex-partner will reaffirm later in this tape, both he and Edge have a much larger reputation based on personality than they do an actual track record of performance; and Christian's actually the better of the two currently. Together, they're something like the Michael Olowokandi of wrestling just now- high draft picks who constantly show flashes of brilliance, enough to tantalize, but are never able to sustain that quality for an extended period of time. Frankly, I fault the WWF for that more than anymore- when the vast bulk of your professional career is spent wrestling 4-8 minutes matches, with the only longer runs involving mass furniture, it's difficult to work on your craft in any rally in-depth manner. Hence, I tend to find even their rare quality performances annoying these days, as they tend to thrill me rather less than they simply remind me of all the potential that's going unrealized.
2. All that bitching aside, hey, look, a match (Euro title)! And, they try to use Christian's living in Florida to keep him heel. And, he's wrestling DDP. And, DDP's not over. And, wow, the crowd is totally dead as a result. Good planning there; was it really SO necessary to attempt to get DDP a face reaction here? The match itself is of that slightly-above-Raw-quality class usually put on at about this position on the card of most PPVs, by about this calibre of performer, month after month: the length is slightly more than Raw standard, the move selection is essentially the usual complement for both guys with one or two additional tricks thrown in (DDP's Liger Bomb and gutwrench gutbuster, a semi-nifty Diamond Cutter/DDT reversal sequence near the end), there's really nothing much of a storyline to go on, and the finish comes basically out of no where off of a WWF Devastating One Move Finisher. That's not to say that there's anything WRONG with this (though I maintain there has to be SOMEthing better to be done with Christian), just that this is the sort of match that every WWF fan has seen about 7 million of. * 1/2-**, and moving on….
Rock. Coach. The praying, the yelling, the catchphrases, the ritual of sublimated homoerotic drives converted into the display of hypermacho aggressive/dominating behavior. All combined with the wearing of tiny, tiny shorts and the ripping off of shirts. Rather speaks for itself, no?
3. Goldust and Maven here have about 1/3 of a match, leading to an extended hardcore title clusterchase throughout the rest of the show that I suspect was booked mostly to get people on the show to pick up Mania paychecks. HEH. HEH. See this gag? IT RUNS. SO FUNNY. I'm sure even the portion of the audience which makes a regular habit of drooling on itself is quite done with this stuff now, meaning both the 24/7 stip and the title (and match type) itself, especially given the overexposure of the very idea via TLC matches, Hell In A Cell and the like. This segment concludes with Spike "winning" the "title" and running off.
Ads, which I hate.
Drowning Pool, which I hate more. I take these things as something of an insult, actually: they can put any damn thing they like on a free show and I won't complain that much, because it's FREE: but for $45, it's a fucking insult to expect me to sit through ads and crap like this. On the bright side, all 65,000 or however many Canadians in the Skydome seem to agree with me, as DP gets booed in rather amusing fashion towards the end of their, uh, "performance".
Don't worry, I like some of the later stuff a lot more.
But not this Crash/Spike/Al Snow/Shane Helms hardcore segment. Helms runs off with the title, but misplaces his dignity on the way.
OH GOD, THE WWF, IT'S SO DAAAANGEROUS! Don't do this at home kids!
Thank god, it's Kurt Angle. His pre-match speil runs over the Canadian pairs figure skating hoopla, to fine effect. As a general policy point, I'm not gonna try to tell YOU what's funny, but this was pretty good stuff to me, as is most of his work. Before the match starts, by the way, just pretend I did a lot of bitching here about Angle being too talented for this position on the card, and being misused, and all that. I'm sure you can fill that part in as well as I.
4. Angle commences the match by waffling Kane upside the head with the ring bell, immediately putting us into WWF In-Match Storyline #1: Talented But Small Heel Who Can Only Gain Offense Against The Large Face By Cheating. This in turn tells you a lot about the match you're going to get as well: pretty good qualitatively due to the talent involved, but fundamentally determined by the totally formulaic pattern it's constrained to follow. For better or worse, that's what you're going to get out of the WWF, now more than ever, and it's the fundamental idea behind a great deal of the product they put out, both in the ring, and more generally in the tone and contour of their product as a whole. The catchphrases they employ in promos, easily repeated phrases designed to draw a set reaction and to be easily marketable, are mirrored quite exactly in their wrestling, which is how you end up with perhaps, top to bottom, the most talented North American wrestling roster ever, yet an average moveset per man of about 4 "signature moves". It's a live action video game.
What? An actual match here? Aw fuck, forgot about that
Said match is in fact quite thoroughly decent when Angle is in charge, and rather slow when the other guy is. There was a period, about a year or so ago, when it looked as though Kane was set to be a really decent big man worker, bordering on the quite good, but injuries (elbow, I believe) slowed his progress at the time, and for whatever reason, he seems to have not got his progress back on track. He's acceptable here, but it's mostly the punch-kick stuff that forms a lot of WWF offense, and there's not much in the way of a visible story to it. He does manage to sprinkle a few nice power moves in however, like a two-handed lifting choke, and does a nice enough job of bouncing about during the periods of Angle's offense. To Kane's credit, they do a good enough job in this portion to almost escape the formula, as Kane bumps well enough to make Angle look legit offensively; the periods of Angle's dominance are too small, however, to really get the effect across. It's more of a "he got a lucky shot in" deal. And, tellingly, the crowd does not respond much to Kane's face spots, despite Angle's being massively over as a heel. The finishing sequence, featuring the mask rip-Angle slam-ankle lock-top rope flip-Flair pin progression, was really the first part of the match to escape total formula status, and as such was quite good both in playing off Kane's SmackDown submission and allowing Angle to do the work, and Kane to do what he's good at, namely falling down. **, less a bit for the blown finish, and quite acceptable-ish.
A penis joke. And a Godfather sighting. Which is it's own type of joke. And eh, I've no heart for a Russo joke of my own, they've all been done.
Let's just hope the Russo jokes really ARE only jokes….
5. Flair vs. Undertaker: Can ya GUESS who I was rooting for when I watched this live? Ah, but it was not to be….
The match itself is really a miracle of good planning, proper use of brawling, mass experience at work and FLAIR POWER. The old man was really in magnificent shape for this match, all things considered, and he carries it all the way through, though Taker, to his immense credit, works hard as well. The setup to the match is, in fact, quite simple: Flair does his Furious Righteous Anger bit and brawls in his best imitation of matches like Flair-Funk II, and in the other 80% of the match, Taker murders him, over and over again. Virtually all the transitions are either Flair over Taker via cheating or taker's overconfidence (the ropewalk spot, for example), or Taker over Flair via massive power move, which, sadly, is as it ought to be at this point, age, activity, and size considered. The basic contours of the thing are WWF standard: face comes out strong early, heel dominates the majority of the middle portion, face comeback, hit the finish: what separates this from, say, Angle-Kane is both the immensely stronger storyline, the much superior work, and the freedom to utilize large amounts of appropriate extras (blood, Arn's run-in, brawling filling 75% of the work). In addition, there's a variety of other nice touches: Flair's back injury being brought up, Taker's pulling Flair up at 2, etc. All in all, it's about the worst ass kicking you'll see this side of a Kobashi match, and it's a million times better than it should be. There are issues: Taker STILL can't sell for shit (3 or 4 lead pipe shots and he won't leave his feet?), the inevitable figure-four spot has NO build even though a long knee work sequence would make sense here, and the whole thing is first cousin to Hogan-Rock later on this card in that it's much more driven by story and nostalgia than it is by actual work. Thus, if you're not much into that story, you're likely to have a much lower opinion of this match than, say, me. In the end though, minus a totally superfluous ref bump, the chair shots-aborted powerbomb-Tombstone finishing sequence nicely ties the whole deal up, even with the wrong man going over for the storyline. I'd love to gush about this match, but that last bit really does stick in my craw- the whole match was built, story-wise, for a miracle Flair win that never came, and as a result, I can't say they went the right way with the main pillar of the match. In the end, I'd say ** 1/2ish, fun, but ultimately unsatisfying, and less enjoyable with each subsequent viewing.
Booker promo, of GI Bro level stupidity. Man, is this guy a total waste in every way, shape, and form at this point. I hope he's getting paid well, because there really is no other excuse for this on anyone's part, him for putting up with it or them for subjecting him to it.
6. Edge vs. Booker. Wow, how much underachievement can you fit in one match? Booker was supposed to be the big WCW star of the Invasion (remember, all those years, er, months ago?) and has ended up as one of the most "eh" midcarders imaginable, a B- worker, C+ promo, just a guy hanging around. Edge, meanwhile, continues to all but regress as a wrestler, with every nifty moment like his Billy Gunn promo after KoTR last year matched by months on end of boring, formula matches, bland promo work, and dead-in-the-water character development. For sure, that's as much the system's fault as it is his, but he's not doing much that's visible to break free of the constraints imposed on him.
The match itself by all rights should be a hair vs. hair match, but I'll not hold that against it. What I WILL hold against it is that, depending on your frame of reference, this is either Every WWF Midcard Match On A PPV, 1999-present, or Every WCW Main Event, 2000. Which is to say, it's formulaic (there's that word again….), has little internal drama, and looks for all the world like each guy trying to cram as many "signature spots" as possible into a 10 minute envelope. In addition, it has the added non-virtue of being sloppy without the work quality of Angle-Kane which made me forgive that finish's botching, and the selling, particularly on Booker's account, it atrocious (when the man hits you with a flying kick to the head, HE gets up first, NOT YOU. Jesus.) There were some nice moves and all, and both men worked hard, and it was athletic, but in the end-blah. *. I did not enjoy.
Molly's a sheisty bitch, ain't she?
7. Hall vs. Austin: and who would have guessed AUSTIN to be the one to flake out after this match? I suppose he was due, though; every OTHER main event guy has done it at one point or another- it's like the title has a Get Out Of McMahon's Doghouse Free card taped to the inside of it. In the interests of full disclosure, I must mention that I'm a total Hall fanboy, so in a fan-way I loved this just for his presence. This match though, even were I still doing PBP, would be virtually untranscribable: a solid 90% of it is variations on "punch", with the only real variety coming from the occasional "signature move" or a change of location (I punch you, you punch me, roll to the floor, repeat). Which is to say, this is the bane of the WWF's PPV offerings of late: a Raw Brawl masquerading as an actual semi-main event payoff contest. I'm rather torn here, actually- it's place on the card would indicate I say something more about a match like this, as would the star power of the men involved, but the match they produce is so totally by-the-numbers, so nondescript, so I've-seen-it-10,000-times-before, that there's really not much more to say. Which in the end says quite a bit, I guess. Too much pointless brawling (as opposed to Flair-Taker, which had purposeful brawling), too much random interference, and a stupid Austin-kills-everyone finish, leaves me very unhappy. *.
8. Dudleys vs. Hardys vs. Ace & Gary vs. APA: the inherent stupidity of Saliva, and a grown-ass man screaming "get the TTTTAAAABBBBLLLEEEEESSSSS" ALMOST makes me happy again, but then I realize that I care so little about everyone involved in this match that I am actually rooting, presuming a lighting rig doesn't fall and kill everyone involved, for Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo. Geezis. I really need to watch some good wrestling soon to get this all out of my system. I admit, I was influenced by Pete marking out for their theme music the first time I saw this; I think he may still be laughing over it. This match is in it's essence not unlike the versions of these they've always thrown out once every 3 or 4 PPVs, in that it starts with round-robin brawlovision, to get everyone in for their cup of coffee and because no one in this match can do much else, proceeds to the quick elimination of the teams that really suck so bad even the WWF knows it (adios, APA), goes through the "endless feud that JUST WON'T DIE, DAMMIT" section (Hardys/Dudleys), and concludes with an ending sequence featuring, as these often do, a "surprising" winner who really isn't (the faux gay guys). If you've seen one of these things, chances are you've seen them all, in essence. Had they not broken up the Dudleys/Hardys feud in the draft last month, you would be reading here a lengthy rant about how insipid and generally annoying that feud was. I hate both teams and all wrestlers involved with a passion at this point.
Hogan wards off the now for his match with Rock.
Molly gets leveled by a door and loses the…who gives a shit?
9. Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock: and now, finally, the reason I bought this bleedin' PPV in the first place. How does one really judge a match like this? If you want to enjoy your wrestling the way, say, Cobo here does, (and his way is perfectly valid, of course) you look at the actual quality of work involved, and you say "hey, this pretty much sucks" (because it does, of course), and you end up saying something like "fun crap, * 1/2". If you enjoy it the way I do, this is your reaction (from the first time I saw this, live):
nWo music hits; Pete and I begin marking out MASSIVELY, and quickly admitting we're both rooting for the big orange guy. I do a bit of the Hogan air guitar bit, after experiencing a little thrill hen he himself does it. I miss the Hendrix music, but hey, can't have everything.
The Rock emerges, after MASS Hogan cheers from the crowd; for the first time I can remember, in over 4 years, Pete boos the Rock. Biggest Rock fan I know. And he doesn't even WATCH wrestling much these days, but he's catching the vibe too.
And the crowd is going batshit for Hogan, as me and Pete look at each other and both say "this is going to be AWESOME!" at the same time. Hogan wins the lockup and the test of strength, then poses; me, Pete, and 60,000 plus in Toronto all go crazy. Star rate that.
Somewhere in here there's a wrestling match; I remember a lot of punching, and me and Pete marking out over the return of the Dread Back Rake and laughing over Hogan actually USING A MOVE (back suplex), and a lot of nifty faceoff moments. Mostly, I remember laughing and cheering a lot, and eating my Chinese food, and sharing a great moment of shared nostalgia with a friend. I remember actually standing up in anticipation during the big legdrop-rock bottom-people's elbow finishing sequence, and loving, for a moment, the big face Hogan turn after Rock's pin. I remember thinking that it could have been an even better moment if they'd gone ahead and done the posedown and played "Real American".
And in the end, THAT is what this match is about- giving fans a MOMENT. Something to share with a friend, something to remember in years to come even; a chance to reconnect with where and who you were when Hogan was around last. Maybe you were like me, a little kid in the summer of '90, sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday morning with a bowl of sugary cereal and "WWF Superstars", falling in love with this most bizarre of entertainments a little more each week . Maybe you were someone totally different; it really doesn't matter; I didn't even LIKE Hogan as a kid; Bret Hart was my man, first, last and only. But Hogan reminds me of those days, when it was all so much easier to get through life, and you could count on a man in yellow and red each week to wave the flag and stand for what's right. It reminded me of childhood, meeting Pete and my other good old friend Seamus and bonding over our wrestling fandom, of rediscovering wrestling in late '97 via Hogan's WCW, and how much fun I've had since I got back into it. And more than anything, it reminded me of how much FUN this can be. I had a SHITLOAD of fun watching, rooting, reminiscing, and knowing that so many people were doing the same thing right along with me. HELL NO I'm not going to star rate that or catalogue punch-to-move ratios, I'm going to tell you that if you have ANY interest in what makes American wrestling tick, you MUST see this, because everything that's good about it is RIGHT HERE. You might just even have some fun doing it. Hell, as I just typed that sentence, Hogan hulked up on the monitor next to me, and even nearly a month later on second viewing, I still got pumped up watching it and had a smile on my face. You can't beat that, my friend. You can't beat it even half way, BROTHER. Eighty billion stars.
WWF Forceable Entry: When Promotional Tag Line Go Very Wrong
Big Show at WWF NY, the only place on earth where the factors of his salary and appetite produce a negative result. Not that I GO there ever, but I'm told the prices are, well, similar to suffering a Forceable Entry.
10. Women's match: I'm really not going to dignify this. Sorry. Goodness knows, I like a good Luchadoress as much as the next guy, but this is NOT good wrestling, and I am NOT into WWF women. Bleh, bah, feh, ptooie, fnyh, and gah. Jazz wins by hurting someone with a surprisingly nice cradle DDT from the second buckle. Let's move on.
11. HHH vs. Chris Jericho, World Title: Hated this. Hated it with all the burning, fiery, passion of my soul, especially after the greatness of Hogan-Rock. The entrances alone gave me some godawful nondescript Nu Metal trash band doing the 17 billionth version of HHH's theme in the past year alone, I think, PLUS Stephanie McMahon, whose very presence keyed me into roughly half the major spots in the match before they even happened (this being the main event at mania gave me the other 50%). True fact: if you don't have the amazing intangibles of Rock/Hogan going for you, you have to make it up with an actual good MATCH, and this failed that test on every level. It was, in fact, a microcosm of everything bad about WWF 2002 in one match. "Huh?" you say? Let's break it down as the match progresses:
- We begin
with a faceoff, which would be fine, except that a) it reveals just how
steroided each man is and b) the actual feud here is between HHH and Steph,
so a faceoff with Jericho is, shall we say, beside the point. I am unmoved
at this point, as fan or critic.
I hated this on a whole variety of levels, and I seriously would rank
it in the EASY lower 5 Mania main events ever, down with the Sid/Taker
and Hogan/Bundy 's of the past. All in all, and annoying waste.
And that, mon freres, was Wrestlemania 2002. All in all, I liked the show, and thought it was a good waste of my time and (someone else's) money- and really, what more do you want out of a wrestling show than that? A moment, with all it's attendant multiple levels of meaning, like Rock/Hogan is really just gravy. I find the show interesting, in the end, for two main reasons: first, for the historical nature of it being Wrestlemania, and the Hogan/Rock match; and second, for what that match and HHH/Jericho says about where the WWF is in 2002.
On the one hand, a match like Hogan/Rock is everything good about the WWF: drama, spectacle, a great moment for the ages for wrestling fans. It's something you'll remember, if you're a WWF fan, and talk about with your friends years from now, and it was a hell of a lot of fun at the time. On the other hand, you have the absolute mess that was HHH/Jericho: total lack of drama, utter predictability of spots and match design (which in turn lead nowhere themselves), and a face that, in the end, I suspect a lot of people just can't get behind in the way they do other potential candidates (Rock, Austin, Angle. RVD). I love HHH when he's on, but as a face- he lacks something these days, and not just in his apparently eroded ringwork. And even if you're the biggest HHH fan out there- you know what I mean.
So, for that little historical and stylistic trainwreck of a two match sequence (women in spandex don't count), the fact that it's Wrestlemania, the Moment of Rock/Hogan, and some other pretty ok wrestling (RVD/Regal, Angle/Kane, UT/Flair), I'd give WWF Wrestlemania 2002 a thumbs up. Chances are you've already seen it though, so that's really a "for novelty purposes only" recommendation, I suspect ;-).
See y'all the next time we do this thing we call Buster Time….
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