SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
This was originally published 15 years ago today on PWTorch.com…
APRIL 24, 2003
TAPED TUESDAY IN NASHVILLE, TENN.
-Michael Cole and Tazz introduced the program.
-John Cena came out to the ring and said he was going to give everyone the Cliff’s Notes on the life of John Cena. He bragged about beating Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Undertaker to become no. 1 contender for the WWE Title. “This dirty white boy right here (beat them). And who’s going be the next WWE Champion? John Cena.” Cena said he had some top secret footage to show later that would prove he is disrespectful, heartless, and undeserving of the WWE Championship. He was then interrupted by Rhyno, his opponent.
1 — JOHN CENA vs. RHYNO
I’m really glad WWE booked this match because, as I’ve mentioned in these reports the past couple of weeks, it’s vital that Cena do more than talk if viewers are to take him seriously as a threat to the monster Brock. Wrestling Rhyno gives Cena a chance to prove himself in the ring against a credible opponent. Rhyno took early advantage, but Cena aggressively made a comeback at 0:40 with a series of knees to his face. He followed with a legdrop across the back of Rhyno’s neck as he was draped over the middle rope. Cena followed up by going to ringside and slamming Rhyno against the ringside barrier. He then choked him from the first row of fans. Cena then went to an armbar, which in Wrestling Psychology 101 might have seemed like the right thing to do in theory, but three days before a title match against Brock, Cena needed to stay aggressive, if not maniacal, to get himself across as someone totally geeked to be getting the title shot and wanting to get rid of Rhyno quickly. Rhyno came back with a backdrop at 3:00. Cena escaped a bodyslam attempt and then surprised Rhyno with a quick roll-up and used the ropes for leverage and got the three count.
WINNER: Cena at 4:43.
STAR RATING: * — Disappointing match and disappointing finish. I liked that this match was booked, but Cena needed to win with his finishing move. Rhyno can recover from doing a decisive job at this point because, after all, this is Cena’s month. Cena can do a decisive job to Rhyno when it’s his month to headline a PPV. Cena seemed to just slip by Rhyno. That’s not good enough. That’s trying too hard not to hurt anyone when the only goal should be to build Cena. Cole sold Cena’s win as “huge,” as if the no. 1 contender who is supposed to be a threat to Brock should have trouble with Rhyno, who has yet to ever have a WWE Title match.
-They showed Roddy Piper and Sean O’Haire arriving at the arena. Piper said “Hot Rod (is my name), that’s why I got six kids.” It didn’t take him long to send the signal to anyone who might doubt it that he is indeed a 100 percent straight heterosexual, did it?
-Cole and Tazz talked about the Mr. America promo that just aired. They speculated about what he looked like.
-Footage aired of the FBI approaching Benoit backstage. They said they bet on him to beat Cena, but since he lost, they owed him money. So that’s how it works? That’s scary. They told Benoit he had “until today” to pay them back. Benoit said they can collect out in the ring. Nunzio accepted the challenge because “it’s been about a week since I whacked somebody.”
-Josh Matthews interviewed Sable backstage. He asked her about the Sable Invitational. Sable asked Matthews if he “knew what it was like to voluptuous breasts.” He understandably didn’t. She pulled open her dress to reveal her bra. She came on to him and said there is nobody more qualified to judge female bodies than her.
-Footage aired of Sable, Rey Mysterio, and other WWE talents visiting troops. They had some nice things to say about supporting the troops. Sable was very well spoken.
-Highlights aired of Nathan Jones getting his ankle smashed by the FBI last week. Cole said Jones was at home this week recovering. Speaking of recovering, Vince McMahon has done a phenomenal job making something out of Jones by working around his ample limitations.
2 — NUNZIO vs. CHRIS BENOIT
Chuck Palumbo and Johnny Stambolli attacked Benoit before the bell as Nunzio distracted the ref. Nunzio went on early offense. They went back and forth with both getting in ample offense. Benoit reversed Nunzio into the Crippler Crossface for the win. After the match, Stambolli and Palumbo attacked Benoit, holding him so Nunzio could slap him. Cole said in the FBI’s world, it’s the last man standing that counts and nothing else. Benoit was left lying.
WINNER: Benoit at 4:28.
STAR RATING: *3/4 — Well-executed action with good pacing.
-Funaki and Tajiri were shown backstage laughing at video footage of Big Show getting humiliated last week by Rey Mysterio & Tajiri. Show barged in, scared them off, and then knocked over the TV set in anger.
3 — REY MYSTERIO JR. vs. CRASH (w/Shannon Moore, Matt Hardy)
Only one quick fact this week: “Matt only uses lowfat salad dressings.” Matt Hardy introduced his newest Mattitude Follower, Crash. Good opening few minutes. Rey springboarded off the top rope onto Crash and then followed up with a tornado DDT for a near fall. Rey whipped Crash into the ropes, knocking Shannon Moore off the ring apron. Rey followed with the 619 followed by a top rope legdrop for the win. Matt Hardy held his head in his hands after seeing his new MFer get pinned.
WINNER: Rey at 4:05.
STAR RATING: ** — Good action packed into a short TV match.
-Cena told A-Train backstage that it’s not about his match against Brock later, it’s about hurting Brock later. He showed video footage of what happened last time A-Train and Brock met, a clip of Brock messing up the F5 and dropping A-Train on his head. It was scary looking footage to be sure. A-Train screamed in his best Road Warrior Animal voice that “tonight he will feel my pain!”
4 — RIKISHI vs. RODDY PIPER
The pale and out of shape Piper had the guts to wear just black wrestling trunks and not cover up his aging body. He used cheapshots against Rikishi early including low-blows and eye pokes. Rikishi fought back quickly. Piper flat-back bumped despite his artificial hips. Rikishi stomped Piper’s gut and then splashed him in the corner. O’Haire jumped to the ring apron, but Piper punched him to the floor. When Rikishi set up the Stinkface, O’Haire clotheslined Rikishi from behind for the DQ.
WINNER: Rikishi at 1:39.
STAR RATING: 1/4* — It was fine for what it needed to be, but it didn’t develop into much given Piper’s limitations at this stage of his career (several years past retirement – not that he did much more in the mid-’80s, either, though).
-Sable came to the ring to judge her Sable Invitational. I was skeptical of both Piper and Sable being hired, but they’ve both won me over the past few weeks. Besides Piper putting in better than expected mic performances, striking the right tone without being either boorish or over-the-top (both of which he’s been guilty of elsewhere in recent months), he is also working with O’Haire, giving him an important rub since he is likely going to be a big part of WWE’s future. Meanwhile, Sable has been really good behind the mic and with her facial expressions and body language. She also looks really good – good enough to fit her part of a jealous senior diva perfectly. Sable introduced Nidia, Dawn Marie, and Torrie Wilson. Nidia did a hideous dance for her performance. When Torrie did her performance, she came on to Sable, even rubbing up against her. Cole and Tazz oogled and said she was the obvious winner. Sable said there was a winner – hands-down – but then swerved everyone by announcing a tie between Marie and Nidia. Torrie was upset. Marie and Nidia attacked Torrie afterward.
-The Guerreros psyched each other up backstage about how things have “gotten personal” between them and Team Angle. To prove they were serious, they began ranting in Spanish.
-In a pre-taped promo, Team Angle talked about being tag champs and dedicated their victory over The Guerreros at Backlash to Kurt Angle.
5 — CHAVO GUERRERO (w/Eddie Guerrero) vs. SHELTON BENJAMIN (w/Charlie Haas)
Cole acknowledged that Angle had neck surgery which was successful. In the end, Guerrero had Benjamin rolled up when Haas kicked him in the head. Benjamin then rolled through and pinned Guerrero with leverage from the ropes. After the match all four brawled.
WINNER: Guerrero at 6:05.
STAR RATING: *3/4 — Nothing special in the ring, but okay.
-Backstage Cena cut a promo about Lesnar as A-Train shadow boxed in the background. He said A-Train was coming.
6 — BIG SHOW vs. TAJIRI
Big Show manhandled Tajiri in the opening minute, including a monster chop that drew ohhs and ahhs from the crowd. Tazz said, “If his hands are that big and his feet are that big, then his…” and trailed off. Tajiri came back at 2:00 with a series of rapid-fire kicks, but when he bounced off the ropes, Show kicked him in the back. He signalled for the big chokeslam, but Rey’s music interrupted. It’s nice of the music director to cooperate with this mid-match interruption. Rey didn’t come out, though. Tazz said maybe the control truck screwed up. Cole sarcastically said the truck never screws up. Tajiri took Show down with a surprise kick, but Show blocked the next kick and then chokeslammed Tajiri. Rey then distracted Big Show from the opposite side of the ring. Show chased him away and then kicked the chairs. Rey surprised Show from behind and Show tripped and fell. Cole said Rey embarrassed Big Show for the second straight week. In fact, the ref counted out Show. He threw another fit.
WINNER: Tajiri via countout at 4:04.
STAR RATING: * — Nice kicks from Tajiri while Show played his part well by being intimidating without making Tajiri seem like total fodder. Show throwing a fit over losing is a nice touch that doesn’t happen much anymore, which is a wrestler actually making a big deal about losing. His embarrassment over losing makes wins and losses seem more important.
-A Goldberg montage aired hyping that he’d take on Rock at Backlash. When people talk about WWE’s commitment to the brand split, this is an example of sticking to it. How tempting would it have been for them to figure out a way to explain why Rock “decided this week” to just show up on Smackdown to taunt someone or just sing “out of Goldberg’s reach,” on to have Goldberg crash the show and go after Rock. They could have justified doing that pretty easily, but instead are sticking to the separation and merely running a commercial. That shows Vince McMahon isn’t wavering on his commitment to the brand split, despite some mistakes along the way.
-They came back from break with a close-up of Stephanie McMahon’s ass as he leaned over a backstage desk. She then turned around and asked, “Have I got your attention?” She smiled and said she realizes she’s no Torrie Wilson, but that’s part of what makes America great – different bodytypes (what?). Anyway, she said she is proud to be an American and is proud to announce the signing of the newest Smackdown superstar, Mr. America. Then a vignette aired with American images of a bald eagle, JFK, MLK, and President Bush.
-Cole and Tazz previewed Backlash. The one thing this show has fallen short on is really driving home a sense of immediacy regarding the PPV coming up in just three days. The segments focused on the PPV feuds, but it could have just as easily been two weeks before the PPV. There just hasn’t been a sense of a crescendo, but perhaps the main event coming up next will accomplish that.
-John Cena came out and told them to stop his music because it’s time for a freestyle session. He said talking to Brock is like talking to a caveman, he might as well be drawing in the same. He said with a knife and a dictionary, he still couldn’t cut a promo right. He made reference to his previous name, Prototype. He concluded that he is fearless and just doesn’t give up.
7 — BROCK LESNAR vs. A-TRAIN (w/John Cena)
A-Train practically towered over the smaller Brock. They engaged in various tests of strength and struggles for leverage in the opening two minutes. Cena watched the match intently from ringside alongside Cole and Tazz. Cena said Cole has the street cred of Macauley Caulkin. Cena distracted Lesnar, which gave A-Train a chance to knock him off the ring apron with force. Cena trash-talked Brock. In the ring A-Train scored a two count on Brock. Cena complained about the ref being out of position. It would have been smarter for Cena to say he was glad A-Train didn’t win yet because he wants him to take more out of Brock before beating him. A-Train slowed the match down with a headlock as Tazz expressed his doubts to Cena that he could beat Brock on Sunday. Brock fired back with a spinebuster. A-Train came back and hit the Derailer, but Brock kicked out. When Brock went for his finisher, Cena interfered prompting the DQ. He stood over Brock and yapped at the audience, then gave Brock his Death Valley Driver. He strutted around the ring, then grabbed Brock’s title belt at ringside. Cena bashed Brock in the head with the belt as soon as Brock struggled to his feet. Brock bled from his forehead (although just slightly).
WINNER: Brock via DQ at 10:55.
STAR RATING: **1/2 — Decent TV match with a copout ending. I’m surprised they didn’t sacrifice A-Train before the Cena run-in. It shows their dedication to protecting A-Train at this point. Train continues to be really solid in the ring in his execution and is showing improvements on facials and body language.
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