SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The following report was originally published 20 years ago this week on PWTorch.com…
WWE Smackdown review
January 23, 2003
Taped January 21 in Albany, N.Y.
By B.J. Bethel, Torch Team Contributor
Beware, my cable company was playing tricks on me tonight so I may have missed some things here and there. My apologies.
Pre-intro: Steph has a big announcement. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with her taking her clothes off or her cutting her last promo ever.
1st Quarter Hour
(1) Chris Benoit pinned Charlie Haas clean. Benoit and Haas traded submission holds; moving on and off the mat. Haas managed to take control of Benoit’s leg, but Benoit quickly took him off his feet and locked on a side head lock. Both men standing, and both guys counter the other with a chicken wing until Benoit clotheslined Haas to the outside. Benjamin quickly ran interference and Haas used the distraction to give Benoit a wrist breaker over the steps. Very even paced and methodical match so far. Haas continued to work Benoit’s wrist in the ring, using his shoulder for leverage and bending Benoit’s fingers towards the mat. Benoit managed a quick roll up for a two count, but Haas quickly kicked out and went back to work on the left arm of Benoit. Charlie clearly has the name of his brother, Russ, written on the tape around his wrist. Benoit kept firing back, once with an arm drag, but Haas kept going back to the wrist, even using an arm bar twist to send Benoit face down on the mat. Another Benoit roll up scored a two count, but Haas made him pay by rolling out and dropping a knee on his wrist. Benoit managed to get to his feet and take Haas down with a DDT. Benoit, protecting his injured wrist, used a series of back elbows to set up a release German suplex. Benoit signaled for the head butt and managed to connect 3/4ths across the ring. Benjamin hopped on the apron , but Benoit quickly pushed him off and locked the CCF on Haas. Haas used a blow to the face to break out and hit a release German suplex of his own. Haas went to the hell once too many times and Benoit reversed a waist lock with a roll up and a cradle for a three count. If you love mat wrestling, it will be hard to top that in terms of ten minute wrestling matches.
2nd Quarter Hour
(2) Rikishi pinned Bill DeMott. Rikishi backed Big Bad Bill into the corner, but Bill reversed and gave Rikishi a couple shoulders to the stomach as well as a choke. Rikishi came back by bashing Bill’s injured wrist against the back of the turnbuckle. Rikishi then locked on an arm bar. Bill managed to punch out, but Rikishi responded by punching him in the wrist. Rikishi kept attacking the arm and eventually took Bill down with a clothesline. Cole said DeMott is basically fighting one handed. Rikishi tried to go off the ropes, but Bill caught him with a standing spinebuster. Rikishi recovered and used the Ass of Doom Drop to pin Bill.
Promo for Nathan Jones, featuring news footage about his arrest in Australia. Cole said the story is he was in solitary confinement for ten years. Hopefully it wasn’t for anything involving a keg of Fosters and a kangaroo.
Josh Matthews asked Big Show if he was concerned about the Undertaker returning to Smackdown. Show grabbed him by his face and looked at him real closely. Show let him go and walked away without saying a word. Matthews looked relieved that Show didn’t lay a big smacker on him.
Matt Hardy explained to Shannon Moore that he screwed up at the Royal Rumble by not catching him when Lesnar gave him an F 5. Moore walked off and Hardy went to Nunzio and asked him to teach Moore a lesson.
Tony Chimel announced an Angle/Mysterio match for tonight.
3rd Quarter Hour
Undertaker came to the ring and received a huge pop. He said there has been way too much talking and not enough ass kicking on the show. ‘Taker said he is here to take care of one guy. They then aired footage of Show tossing Undertaker off the ramp from three months back. He then called out Big Show, who came out wearing a suit and holding a microphone. Show said if he walked to the ring, one of them wasn’t coming back. Show then said he had a contingency plan and he wasn’t coming down to the ring (after baiting the crowd) and that the A-Train was.
(3) Undertaker defeated A-Train by tap out. Undertaker applied a headlock to start. A-train pushed off and won a shoulder tackle, but ‘Taker immediately got up. Train then splashed ‘Taker in the corner and clotheslined him for a two count. A-Train then went for a bear hug. ‘Taker managed to get out, but Train caught him with a knee to the gut. ‘Taker managed to land a clothesline and a big boot to finally take Train off his feet. Undertaker got a two count. Train went out to the floor, but ‘Taker followed him and gave him an elbow as he laid across the ring apron. ‘Taker then attacked Albert in the corners with a splash and a clothesline. ‘Taker then went for the rope walk and landed it, setting A-Train up for the chokeslam, but Train surprisingly got a shoulder up at two. The crowd is really into this. ‘Taker then signaled for the power bomb, but A-Train gave him a body drop instead. A-Train then missed a splash off the ropes. ‘Taker then got caught with the Albert bomb, but Undertaker kicked out at two. ‘Taker then sent A-Train into the corner and caught him on the rebound with a Dragon Sleeper for the tap out win. Very good stuff for a big man match.
4th Quarter Hour
Promo: Sean O’Haire is apparently a politician now.
(4) Edge pinned Shelton Benjamin clean. Cole said Edge’s theme, by Rob Zombie, was nominated for a Grammy. Benjamin didn’t waste any time and went right after Edge. Both men then traded counters until Edge landed a spinning heel kick and a neck breaker for a two count. Benjamin fired back with a release German suplex. Benjamin then used the ring post to put Edge in a bow and arrow position. Back in the ring, Benjamin used a butterfly suplex to get a two count. Duck under and take down by Benjamin, followed by a drop toe hold. Benjamin is arrogantly taking Edge down to show off, but Edge countered a fireman’s carry with his drop down chin lock. Benjamin came back with a clothesline and used Edge’s hands to apply a variation of a camel clutch. Edge finally managed to get out and land an over-head belly-to-belly. Edge got up and landed a couple clotheslines and a face plant for another two count. Edge then set up for the spear but Benjamin leap frogged him. Haas tried to interfere, but Edge punched him out, allowing Benjamin to hit a swank spinning heel kick out of a counter. Benjamin then missed a flying cross body and Edge caught him with a spear to finish the match and to score the pinfall.
5th Quarter Hour
Angle called Haas and Benjamin a couple losers and vowed that Team Angle would not go winless tonight. Angle ordered them both to stay in the locker room. Hmm, I wonder if that will have any implications later?
(5) Nunzio pinned Shannon Moore clean. Nunzio took Moore off his feet and started working his wrist against the ring post. Hardy looked on with a diabolical look on his face. As Nunzio worked Moore’s wrist, Hardy gave Nunzio a wink. Nunzio landed his mid-rope show stopper for a two count and went back to the wrist. Moore caught Nunzio with an elbow in the corner and landed a heel kick off the middle rope. Moore then hit a flying forearm and a flip-over neckbreaker for a two count. An ECW chant finally broke out. Moore then landed his twisting moonsault. Moore then got up when he could have made the pin and instead called for a Twist of Fate. Nunzio countered that into his spinning single-arm DDT for the three count. Moore then ran off as Hardy chased him out of the ring. Hardy then shook hands with Nunzio before walking off.
6th Quarter Hour
Brock Lesnar cut a promo talking about the goals he has met during the past year. His new goals are to F 5 Paul Heyman and to beat Kurt Angle.
They showed Rey Mysterio getting ready for his match. Suddenly, Moore came running by and jumped into an equipment box as Hardy came looking for him.
(6) Kurt Angle pinned Rey Mysterio. Angle came to the ring with Paul Heyman. The fans really turned up the heat for Angle at the start. Mysterio landed a quick leg scissors take over and followed that with a drop toe hold and a drop kick. Mysterio went for a ‘rana but Angle countered into a Tiger Bomb for a two count. Angle then used a back suplex to get another two count. German suplex by Angle scored another two count, and nearly spiked Rey into the mat head first. That wasn’t good. Angle applied a front face lock, but Mysterio managed to body drop Angle out of it. Rey then landed a flying cross body off a springboard and attacked Angle in the corner. Mysterio managed to keep Angle off his feet using his speed, countering Angle’s attempts at power moves with drop kicks. Rey was going for a suicide dive, but the ref stopped him. Rey then dove over the ref into a summer-sault plancha onto Angle. Back in the ring, Mysterio landed a slingshot leg drop for a two count. Angle then missed a corner charge, setting him up for a split-legged moonsault. Angle moved, however, and applied the ankle lock. Mysterio kicked out of it, but Angle quickly got up and hit Rey with an over-head belly-to-belly. Angle then went for the Angle Slam, but Rey countered into an arm drag and set Angle up for the 619. Angle caught Mysterio however, but Mysterio managed to counter his body slam. Off the ropes, and Rey landed a bulldog out of Angle’s wheel barrel for a two count. Rey went outside for his finisher, but Angle caught him on his shoulders, turned him around, dropped him face first on the top turnbuckle and suplexed him over his shoulders into a roll up to score the three count. Heyman tried to celebrate with Angle, but Angle went nuts and attacked Misterio with another Ankle Lock. Edge ran in to make the save as Angle and Heyman tried walking out, but Benoit ran down and caught him and sent him back into the ring with the other faces. Edge nailed him with a spear, Benoit followed with a German suplex, and then they both did it again. The two Canadians then draped Angle over the middle rope to set him up for Mysterio’s 619. Yeah, baby, yeah, that was a match.
7th Quarter Hour
Smackdown’s number one announcer interviewed Stephanie McMahon. Steph said it isn’t a “what” but a “who.” Steph then said he would find out next. She then looked up at a master Hulk Hogan poster on the wall. Geesh, even WWE foreshadowing has the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the crotch!
Back from the break and Voodoo Chile` (Slight Return) is blaring as something really big, really yellow and really red made its way to the ring. Hell, it didn’t even have a black beard. The fans went nuts with a Hogan chant. Hogan acted almost embarrassed. Cole and Tazz remained silent as Hogan soaked in the cheers and the crowd chanted. Hogan grabbed the microphone but leaned over the turnbuckle and appeared teary eyed as Cole announced they were going to a break.
8th Quarter Hour
Hogan finally spoke, saying the Hulkamaniacs are his life and he admits it. Hogan then announced he had just signed a brand new contract. Hogan then promised that Hulkamania was going to run wild one more time. Hogan then said he had a lot of unfinished business in WWE and by the looks of things in the back, he has a lot of brand new things to take care of. Hogan said he is doing it the right way this time. Hogan then promised he wouldn’t let the fans down again and if this is his last run, let this one be the greatest. Vince then came strolling out. Vince then he spoke for the whole arena when he said he was disappointed in Stephanie’s big surprise. Vince then said Hulkamania and Al Wilson had one thing in common; they are both dead. (Why even bring up a bad memory like Al Wilson? For the love of God.) Hogan then said he wanted to make sure he did things the right way since this might be the last ride for him. He then said the first person he wanted to face in the ring and kick the living hell out of was Vince. Vince then said he doesn’t answer to anyone, not even to the man upstairs, and that supreme being is himself. Hogan then punched him off his feet and then through his shirt down on him after he tore if off. Hogan then posed at the top of the ramp as Vince glared at him from the mat.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Wow, what a show. Usually, if you were to tell me I had to watch a show that featured the return of the Undertaker and Hulk Hogan in the same night, you would have to strap me to the family room chair like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, but tonight was a homerun. The matches all ended clean and they were all good, with an exception of DeMott vs. Rikishi, but that was still serviceable for both of them. On top of that, Benoit is really coming into his own as a babyface star and the fans are finally starting to adapt to him in the ring. As long as WWE doesn’t screw it up, the Rumble just might be looked back on as a watershed moment for him…. If I had to pick one of the newer workers in the company to be a break out star, I’m picking Shelton Benjamin. The guy is very quick, has a great presence in the ring and has shown himself to be a bit more innovative in his ring style then most of the other workers from Louisville…WWE has obviously decided to come back firing after some of their debacles from the past year. Austin is already scheduled to return at the next PPV and now they are building Hogan vs. Vince. You only have to wonder if it is a little bit too late. The fans haven’t really responded to any dream angles/returns/feuds over the past several months due to WWE’s bad booking.
NOW CHECK OUT THIS PREVIOUS 20 YEARS AGO FLASHBACK… 20 YRS AGO: WWE Live Event in South Korea Report (1-23-2003): Steiner, Kane, Triple H, Batista, Jericho, RVD, D-Lo, Hurricane, Storm, Booker T, Goldust, Regal