Torch Flashbacks PPV FLASHBACK - Infamously dangerous KOTR PPV 14 yrs. ago today - multiple injuries, Shane McMahon stunt match, more (includes Keller Cover Story on need for change)
Jun 24, 2015 - 1:02:42 AM
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At the tail-end of the Monday Night Wars/Attitude Era, the 2001 King of the Ring PPV captured a need for change. Multiple injuries came out of the PPV 14 years ago, including a neck injury to Chris Benoit.
Over the past 14 years, WWE has taken steps to tone down their in-ring style and wrestlers have wrestled smarter. There are still glimpses of a reckless style from time to time, but nothing quite like the 2001 KOTR PPV that showed that enough was enough.
PWTorch Newsletter Cover Story
Originally Published June 2001
HEADLINE: Increased violence in WWF unnecessary and risky
SUBHEADLINE: King of the Ring results in collection of injuries without any tangible benefits to justify risks
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
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The WWF locker room after the King of the Ring PPV ended looked like a scene in a ratings sweeps week for E.R. Blood everywhere, moaning and wincing, and body parts being iced and taped. Steve Austin suffered a hand injury, Kurt Angle suffered a potential broken tailbone and was knocked out briefly, Chris Jericho suffered a concussion, and Chris Benoit wrestled his last match before taking months off to recover from surgery this week.
If Shane McMahon were a full-time wrestler, without the luxury of weeks to meticulously plan and plot and practice his match, and without months to recover afterward, he couldn't put on matches such as the one last night.
Kurt Angle doesn't have those luxuries, but as a result of Sunday night's overly ambitious stuntfest, he may miss extended ring time. Plus he banged his head, doing who knows what kind of damage due to his vulnerable state, having just suffered a concussion a few weeks ago. Even more astounding, he partook in a 20-plus minute stuntfest with Shane McMahon after wrestling two other matches earlier in the night.
Meanwhile, Chris Benoit is about to miss three to six months of ring time. Perhaps those repeated top rope headbutts that Harley Race warned Benoit against are the cause? Benoit, facing surgery, decides to go all out rather than take it easy in a match in which he could have gotten away with coasting. Everyone would have understood.
In the main event, Chris Jericho lands on his head overextending himself on a Lionsault attempt.
Booker T, either overexcited or careless or just plain green, tosses Steve Austin past the table Austin was supposed to land on. Austin hits his head on a chair and lands on his hand which he put beneath him to soften his landing, ending up with a sore back and an injured hand. The tables are designed to create the image of catastrophe while actually breaking falls. You need to land on it for that to work.
The moves leading to injuries aren't necessary ingredients in entertaining fans and making loads of money. There are simply more efficient ways of drawing money than employing a wrestling style that could land many wrestlers into premature retirement or repeated costly stays on the disabled list.
Benoit's neck problems surfaced after his TLC match on Smackdown, a throwaway TV match that was barely mentioned after it happened. What would have been a landmark match of the year five years ago is now "just another TV match."
When "just another TV match" is triggering injuries that require invasive surgery and three to six months off, it's time to begin evaluating the chances the WWF is asking wrestlers to take or letting wrestlers take. Since the WWF's incentive-based contracts encourage such risks, maybe it's time to show some responsibility and reign in wrestlers who are overambitious in their desire to stand out from the crowd.
Shane McMahon is another story. He doesn't have an incentive-based contract, so why did he go through glass twice? Is Shane trying to prove to the locker room of wrestlers that he is paying his dues or is he is trying to prove himself to his father? Either way, someone should step in and slow him down. What if Vince McMahon is letting Shane risk serious injury because in a way he rationalizes that it exonerates him from being criticized for letting others take similar risks? After all, if he lets his son take those risks, they must not be all that dangerous, right?
No matter what the reason, there is no point in Shane taking all of those bumps. Once through the glass would have been sufficiently controversial and extremely dangerous. Going through two glass walls and then taking additional bumps onto the broken glass is overkill, if not barbaric.
As great as the match was--and by so many standards it was a great match--it was unnecessary. Less could have been more. It's all about how its sold--by the wrestlers in the match, the announcers, and the follow up on television this week. As the TLC match on Smackdown showed, or the Benoit-Angle match on Raw last week showed, a great match with daredevil stunts means nothing if there is no follow up. A horrible match (Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant) or run-of-the-mill match (so many Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes or Von Erich vs. Freebird matches) with proper build up and follow up can become legendary.
The WWF is wasting the equity that comes from making a big deal over occasional shocking moves. By their current approach they are making them instead seem commonplace, hardly worth noting. WWF wrestlers are too talented to have to resort to this garbage-at-the-expense-of-finesse-and-psychology approach that the New Jacks and Mikey Whipwrecks and Sabus thought they had to take to get noticed.
All the blame shouldn't fall on Paul Heyman. While he's certainly far from a conscientious objector to this style, Shane was taking crazy bumps and the WWF was underplaying potentially landmark matches long before Heyman arrived.
The WWF has a problem. They have lost perspective. They need to slow down, take a deep breath, and not think like ECW did--that the way to get out of a rut or increase business is to become more extreme every month. WWF management has to step in and say, "No more. It's gotten out of hand."
If not for the principle of it, for the practicality of having healthy wrestlers able to work. For the practicality of not having athletic commissions reevaluate the freedoms now afforded the WWF. For the practicality of not arming another activist group with footage that would make any politician cringe.
Then they need to put more thought into their booking--do their jobs so that every subtle move a wrestler executes means something, rather than relying on wrestlers to do outrageous stunts in order to stand out. A good step in that direction is to begin planning their storylines and big TV matches weeks and in some cases months ahead, and making sure they build in adequate time to milk them for all they're worth, not letting even one top-of-the-cage move or swing of a weapon get by without it meaning something.
People are getting hurt. And even if people weren't getting hurt, it's still totally inefficient. Once viewers are sufficiently shocked, they're being shocked again and again--all within the same match--thus becoming numb. Fans are flat out being conditioned to think that this stuff must not hurt at a time when it hurts more than ever.
The WWF is really becoming like the Road Runner cartoon, except the anvil really does hurt and the wrestlers don't reappear in the next scene without a scratch.
WWF KING OF THE RING PPV
June 24, 2001
East Rutherford, N.J. at Continental Airlines Arena
Jim Ross and Paul Heyman introduced the show.
Dallas Page walked to the ring to his new WWF customized entrance music and gave a promo to almost zero heat from the crowd. He said he'd be sitting at ringside the entire night, so Undertaker knows where to find him... Ross and Heyman talked about the rumors that if Chris Benoit or Chris Jericho won the WWF Title, they'd defect to WCW on Raw...
(1) Kurt Angle pinned Christian at 8:16 to advance to the King of the Ring finals. When Christian had Angle pinned, Shane yanked Christian off of Angle. Angle then put Christian down with the Angle Slam. (**)
Backstage Jonathan Coachman interviewed Steve Austin (w/Debra). Austin said he is sure Vince McMahon loves him. He no-sold the rumor of Benoit and Jericho defecting, giving Coachman a blank stare... Heyman interviewed Page at ringside. Footage then aired on the big screen of Page being secretly filmed eating at a restaurant earlier in the day. Page was outraged at someone invading his personal life.
(2) Edge pinned Rhyno at 8:51 to advance to the King of the Ring finals. Edge sidestepped a Rhyno gore and hit the Impact DDT for the pin. (**1/4)
Footage aired from Heat earlier in the night when Spike Dudley challenged the Dudleys to a tag title defense, but he didn't have a partner yet. Ross asked Spike live if he had a partner. Spike said he did, but wouldn't reveal it yet. The Dudleys confronted Spike and told him he was always the family disappointment... Tazz interviewed Chris Jericho who refused to confirm or deny the WCW rumors...
(3) D-Von & Bubba Ray Dudley beat Kane & Spike Dudley to retain the WWF Tag Team Titles when Bubba pinned Spike at 8:24. Kane was Spike's mystery partner. The Dudleys finished Spike with a 3D. Afterward Kane chokeslammed Bubba through a table. (*1/4)
Christian wished Edge good luck backstage... More secretly taped footage aired of Page walking outside of the arena earlier. Page again called out Taker... Billy Gunn at WWF New York complained about not even being entered into this year's King tourney. He said it was pathetic he was sent to WWF NY instead...
(4) Edge pinned Kurt Angle in the King of the Ring finals at 10:20. Before the match Angle asked Edge to step aside to avoid a rift in their friendship. Edge attacked Angle instead. Christian walked to ringside, distracted Edge for a moment giving Angle a chance to take over. Edge tapped out to an Anklelock, but the ref was down. Shane McMahon entered the ring and gave Angle a big spear. Edge then hit the Impact DDT and the groggy ref made the three count. (**1/2)
Tazz interviewed Chris Benoit, making his first TV appearance in a long time. Benoit also refused to acknowledge the rumors of him jumping to WCW if he won the WCW Title... Page continued to sit at ringside impatiently waiting for Taker... Christian congratulated Edge backstage for his win. Edge seemed irritated by Christian's excited attitude intruding on his moment...Angle ranted and raved backstage, saying now he realized why Shane helped him win the first match - because he wanted him to have to wrestle twice before getting to him later... Ross and Heyman plugged the next PPV as "Fully Loaded," losing some credibility with viewers who already got cable guides advertising "Invasion"...
(5) Jeff Hardy pinned X-Pac to retain the Light-Heavyweight Title at 7:10. Some botched spots in an otherwise solid match. Jeff countered the X-Factor by dropping X-Pac's chin into his head. Jeff then hit a top rope Swanton Bomb for the pin. (**1/2)
William Regal talked to Tajiri about wanting to see Shane get his comeuppance backstage. Austin called Vince McMahon on Regal's office phone and told him about the Benoit/Jericho/WCW rumors. He told him to get to the arena right away... More secret footage of Page aired. Page then walked to center ring and called for Taker. Taker's music began and he walked to the ring slowly and deliberately. He then went after Page in the ring and dominated offense in the ring and at ringside. Page got brief offense by using a chair, but Taker quickly tackled Page on the announcers' table. Five minutes into the match Page retreated through the crowd. Flat segment... Austin asked a backstage worker how long it will likely take Vince to get from Greenwich, Conn. to the arena. The estimate was 90 minutes...
(6) Kurt Angle pinned Shane McMahon at 22:58. They went at it hard and fast early. Angle bled hardway from the forehead right away. Angle gave Shane some stiff forearms, then floated over him a few times amateur style. The forearm shots caused a cut inside Shane's mouth. At ringside Shane leaped off the ringside barrier and nailed Angle with a flying forearm. Ross asked if there is a chance Shane won't take. Shane whipped Angle with a kendo stick. Shane speared Angle into the ringsteps at 8:30. At 10:00 Shane applied an Anklelock and then a Sharpshooter. Shane did a little dance and flattened Angle with a punch and scored a two count. Shane nailed Angle with a trash can several times. Shane climbed to the top rope, took a deep breath, and executed the Shooting Star Press, but Angle moved. It wasn't graceful, but it was impressive. A small "Holy s---!" chant broke out. Angle then took over offense and backdropped Shane over the top rope to the floor. They brawled up the aisle toward the entrance set. Angle suplexed Shane into the wall of the set, then Angle suplexed him into it a second time and Shane crashed through it, shattering the glass set. Shane began bleeding hardway from the face. Angle was bleeding from several places on his body. Angle suplexed Shane into the next frame of the KOTR set, but that didn't break. Shane bumped onto his head again. Angle tried again, and it didn't break a second time. Angle decided to throw Shane through head-first. Angle fell back onto the broken glass, and then got up and had glass stuck to his back. Back in the ring Angle covered Shane, but Shane kicked out. The crowd popped as Angle practically cried in frustration with having to continue. When Angle went to hit Shane with a trash can lid, Shane low blowed him and then hit him in the head three times with the lid. Shane then gave Angle his own version of an Angleslam. Shane slowly made the cover and scored a two count at 24:00. Angle began beating Shane with a board. He then used the board as a platform on the top rope and gave Shane the Angleslam off the top rope to the mat. The crowd popped huge for the move. Angle crawled over to cover Shane and scored the pin at 25:58. (****1/4)
(7) Steve Austin pinned Chris Benoit in a three-way match with Chris Jericho at 27:50 to retain the WWF Hvt. Title. The match consisted mostly of Austin fighting Benoit while Jericho was knocked out or Jericho while Benoit was knocked out. Whenever Jericho had Austin pinned, Benoit intervened - and vice versa. Benoit, despite his neck condition, gave Austin five unreleased German suplexes at 18:00. Jericho then put Austin in the Walls of Jericho. Benoit then put Austin in a Crippler Crossface. Austin tapped out, but the ref wouldn't allow it since there can only be one winner. The match continued, and Jericho and Benoit finally began fighting each other all out. Booker T then attacked Austin at ringside, giving him an axe kick and then slamming him onto the announcers' table. Austin landed hard, hitting his head on a chair during his fall. Booker retreated. Jericho went for a Lionsault on Benoit in the ring, but came up short and practically landed on his own head. Jericho threw Austin into the ring and hit a top rope moonsault. Benoit yanked Jericho off of Austin and then hit a top rope headbutt and covered Austin. Jericho yanked the ref out of the ring. Benoit gave Jericho a top rope back suplex. With both Benoit and Jericho KO'd on their backs, Austin delicately crawled onto Jericho and scored the three count. (****)
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He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
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