Introduction - As we paid remembrance to Eddie Guerrero last week, it really dawned on me how Eddie and Chris' near simultaneous title wins really sold me as a casual fan on the wonders of wrestling storytelling, that any babyface can overcome the odds and win the big one. And the beginning that nirvana, which began for me at Royal Rumble 2004 with Benoit's trip up the card, would continue the next month as Eddie's career peaked. What about the rest of the show though? Does it hold up? Let's find out!
Torrie and Sable cold open - I feel like someone (Vince or Dunn I'm sure) looked at the card and said, "You do know Torrie and Sable are two of our most mainstream-visible properties right? Don't you think they need to be on the show?" and the head writer said, "Oh shit you're right! Uhhhhhh just stick 'em in the cold open."
Sable's voice sounds like a dead cat is crying out it's last moments of agony while someone is raking its sharpened claws against a chalkboard, but the crowd like it enough because PUPPIES JR. Torrie at least serves as a decent-ish emcee and puts over the guys in the back. They do the lightest lesbian innuendo and just leave. Interestingly, the English team throws to the Spanish announce team to lead us into the video package, which is appropriate considering the greatest Hispanic wrestler to ever live is main eventing.
Opening video package - Possibly one of the best of all time? Lots of dramatic put downs by heel Lesnar and passionate speeches from Eddie about how he's been to the top, which Lesnar pivots into self-assured cockiness, while Eddie plans to exploit Brock's pre-occupation with Goldberg and how he's facing Latino Heat, the concept that's the power of him and all the fans cheering for him. Absolutely wonderful.
Another awesome detail is that we have Rey Mysterio's WWE Originals song as the PPV theme. This might be the most purposefully Latino-centric Pay Per View a company in the United States has ever done, and it's likely the event horizon that created the Latino fanbase for Smackdown that didn't leave until Rey started to wind down.
3-on 2 Handicap Match WWE Tag Team Championships
Scotty 2 Hotty and Rikishi (c) vs The Basham Brothers and Shaniqua - 3.5/10
After winning the title, Shaniqua retaliated by nearly killing Scotty with a lariat so that's the setup for this match. The Bashams have also lost a lot of their bondage gear, so they look as generic as Gemini.
The Brothers have the advantage very early, but the babyfaces take control. Even when the heels break up a big tease of Shaniqua getting the Stink Face, they're still in control. Doug goes full "Mortal Kombat dizzy animation" when selling Rikishi''s "hard headed savage" gimmick. It looks like there was a blind tag that was a miscue because everyone just kinda ignores it. Between this and Doug nearly spiking himself on a Tilt-a-Whirl head-scissors, the Bashams look green as goose shit. Scotty kips up on a head conk Double Down for the worm, which doesn't look nearly as cool as when HBK would kip up off the forearm, and Shaniqua breaks up The Worm with another lariat, just in case you didn't see Smackdown I guess. Shaniqua tags in and gets some very basic offense in, while we're also straddling that weird Road Dogg vs Chyna at King of the Ring 1999 vibe of "This is an athletic competition, but we mustn't strike a lady". when Scotty chokes Shaniqua as a hope spot. Anyway, she tags Danny in and Danny works on Scotty. Shaniqua tries to powerbomb Scotty when she's tagged in again, but lands wrong on a shoulder toss counter. Rikishi gets tagged in, and The Bashams offer themselves to be ran wild on. Shaniqua tries to get in on a sleeper but Rikishi just bucks her off. The Bashams try to run interference, but Scotty cuts them off both times. Rikishi blocks a Shaniqua lariat which invalidates the one thing she can do, and is summarily killed via Rikishi's ass off the top rope for the three.
The heels looked like geeks, and Rikishi just looked like he didn't want to be there. Pay Per View quality matchup everybody!
Nidia vs Noble package - Decent Noble is the white trash DDP to Nidia's Kimberly. Nidia is (supposedly) running through Noble's money and Noble is being abusive after she was blinded by Tajiri's mist.. But the blindness was a rouse, and Nidia challenges him to a blindfold match. A mink coat also gets shredded.
Boyfriend vs Girlfriend Blindfold Match (Jamie Noble is blindfolded)
Jamie Noble vs Nidia - No rating, great segment
The gimmick is that Nidia is the Bugs Bunny to Jamie Noble's Daffy Duck, making a fool out of him. In terms of a comedy match, this wasn't half bad. Everything was tightly choreographed and Nidia has a great fun babyface energy. All it takes is Noble to cheat once to get Nidia off the top rope and into a choke submission for the win, and he gets to look creepy as a Nidia lays prone.
Nidia gets comedic comeuppance, but Jamie gets to look like a creepy chauvinist standing tall at the end. Everybody wins.
Kurt Angle interview - nonsense. Angle was attacked on Smackdown 3 days ago and thinks either Big Show or John Cena did it because of the triple threat match tonight. Cena shows up and says that he'd do it right to his face, and the two brawl. Does this go anywhere.
World's Greatest Tag Team vs APA - 7/10
Heel member of tag team injures babyface member of tag team a week before the PPV. Hmmm sound familiar? And Bradshaw won the match despite it all!
At least when the babyfaces take control here, they play into what the commentators are saying about this match being strikers vs grapplers. Also Bradshaw uses the injured hand for clubbing blows but this seems in character enough that I'll let it go. Farooq misses a shoulder tackle so now both guys have a bad arm which is a subversion of expectations and makes WGTT look incredibly competent. Tazz compliments WGTT on not jaw jacking as they work Farooq's arm. Haas jawjacks, and that gives Farooq he needs for a spinebuster double down. Brilliant! Bradshaw tags in and runs wild as it breaks down into a four way. Farooq gets run into the post, and Bradshaw Clothesline from Hell's Haas, the illegal man, allowing Shelton to hit a superkick for the three.
This match was excellent. WGTT looked good, and APA looked strong, even though you can tell they're starting to be wound down.
Goldberg gets shown to his seat - I always mark out for, "The only clothes I own advertise Santa's Slay" era Goldberg, anyway this leads to...
Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar video package - Perplexing. Why are they airing a video package about a high profile audience member confronting a Smackdown contracted wrestler?
Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar and Goldberg segment - TERRIBLE Why is Paul Heyman antagonizing an audience member, seems kinda goofy to me. Brock shows up to antagonize Goldberg. Goldberg jumps the barricade and gets jumped by Lesnar. Goldberg counters an F5 and hits a Jackhammer. He is then arrested.
This was in the era where they took the brand extension seriously and treated every bit of cross-brand ska like Scott Hall showing up on Nitro. Problem is, that immersion is completely broken when:
A. You have video packages describing every little thing to the layman (a habit they still haven't broken today).
B. You ham fist a barricade jump so obviously it doesn't come across as organic.
Hardcore Holly comes out to assault Lesnar (always good to see when they let wrestlers remember feuds) , Lesnar and Heyman runs away, and now Rhyno is out for...
Rhyno vs Hardcore Holly - 4.5/10
Michael Cole has to hurriedly explain that this issue began three nights ago on Smackdown. Man, I'm sure the writers don't miss brand exclusive PPVs anymore huh?
The guys wrestle a basic match to the backdrop of babyface commentator Cole and quasi-heel for one night Tazz bitching about Goldberg showing up. The commentators throw to the Spanish announce team during a double down, really grinding in that "Hey Spanish speaking folks we have people that speak your language calling the action please like our product"
The only thing of note is that Holly takes a Gore rolls out, reverses an Irish Whip into an Alabama Slam for the win, which was lame.
Chavo vs Rey video package - Meh. Eddie is attacked by someone, Rey thinks Chavo did it so they get into a pull apart. Rey gets jumped a few times so he brings his friend Jorge Páez as backup. Chavo is racist and anti-lucha to Rey for some reason.
A spooky video package heralds the return of Undertaker at Wrestlemania 20 - I'll always have a soft spot for these video package specifically. This kind of presentation stole my heart as a new fan.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Rey Mysterio (c) (w/ Jorge Páez) vs. Chavo Guerrero (w/ Chavo Classic) - 8.25/10
Standard lucha greatness until Chavo Classic has to go to the opposite corner to block a West Coast Pop, and then has to pretend not to see Jorge behind him and get knocked out. Jorge gets sent to the back, and the match continues after Rey dives onto Chavo, who's exited the ring to tell his pops to "Get up" like a bastard heel. They do the Dean Malenko stomach breaker spot but it doesn't look as clean. Chavo works the abdomen but when Rey fights back this match becomes MOVEZZZ which the crowd is hella into. Chavo picks his spot and knocks Rey off the top rope, and Chavo rolls him up with tights to win.
This was a great match!
Josh Matthews interviews the Chavos - excellent. They happen to conduct the interview in front of Eddie's personal locker room, so Chavo gets to channel Owen Hart and call his family member who he's quasi feuding with a loser.
The show a tale of the tape for the Triple Threat and the only thing they have for John Cena is "PHD in Thuganomics" which will always bring a smile to my face.
Number 1 contender Triple Threat Match
Kurt Angle vs Big Show vs John Cena - 7/10
The story of the match at first is that Angle and Cena take turns teeing off on Big Show while the other watches and insults them. This rules and I wish this happened more often. Show watches Angle and Cena do some stuff but doesn't show near as much personality. Show breaks up a pin and now we begin proper. Cena and Angle get dominated by Big Show while the other sells on the outside. Even under threat of an apron German Suplex and Cena's assault, Big Show still dominates, and it takes Angle low blowing him when the ref knocks him out of position to get the advantage. I guess we were a couple years away from universally deciding Triple Threats were no DQ. Anyway, Cena and Angle are outside the ring and the referee starts a 10 count (?) but they get back in. Angle and Cena get signature moves off but Big Show being a distraction, or, in Angle's case, breaking up the pin prevents it. It becomes big man vs little man and until Cena gets momentum. He pumps up his Jordan (which, after some research, allows the shoe to take the shape of your foot, which sounds like something you should do before hand) It takes Cena and Kurt to knock down show. The guys start peeling off finishers, Show fucks up Cena's kayfabe injured knee, and angle picks it and makes Angle tap out with the Ankle Lock..
Another great match, about on par with WGTT vs APA for me.
We get a Brock vs Eddie tale of the tape, and then...
Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero video package - Great! Eddie won the Smackdown Royal Rumble to get here. Focuses more on Eddie's climb back from addiction than the opener. Eddie has also pinned Brock before, but the circumstances aren't elaborated on.
Brock Lesnar (c) vs Eddie Guerrero - 10/10
Brock goads Eddie into early lockups, Brock talks trash and Eddie pops off in a way only he can, but gets swarmed by Brock immediately. Eddie takes the biggest fucking backdrop I've ever seen. Eddie gets momentum again, but Brock overpowers him. Brock manages to both dump Eddie on his head and maintain enough control for a big swinging powerbomb that looks insane. I was expecting a hotter crowd, but the prevailing chant seems to be "Goldberg", maybe that's why they took him out of the venue early, to avoid the chants? Anyway, I also feel like fans today would actually be cheering the babyface in this situation, not calling for an interference. Eddie is slowly getting the crowd into chanting for him, but Brock throws him around some more. Brock keeps Eddie out of the ring to be an asshole. Eddie hot shots Brock and the two battle to get to a "Knee to ring post spot, which has the crowd into it. Eddie breaks the count with a shit eating grin to the ref, fucking perfection. Brock counters it this time though, but he's still selling. Even still, he manages a Delayed Fisherman's Buster because he is a mutant. The way the crowd goes from cheering for Eddie when he's on offense. to silence when Brock is on offense shows you hoe believable of a champion Brock is. That's because even with a bum knee he's still more powerful than most humans. Eddie takes a gnarly German Suplex. Brock goes for a big corner knee lift as he did earlier, but he misses and that brings us back to the bad knee. We nearly miss a plancha because of replays. Eddie hits the knee with a dropkick again and hits a back suplex, his first suplex of the match. Eddie takes a hot shot but manages to counter the big choke lift into a kneebar. and then an STF. Even though Brock breaks the hold, Eddie stays on the knee, and Brock is actually fumbling now, but still blocks a Figure Four attempt. Brock gets a Belly to Belly out of nowhere. Eddie gets in a beautiful head scissors, and NOW he gets into the figure four. I like how they're telling sub-stories within the grander story. Eddie has Brock so beaten down he can transition the Lasso into an STF without incident, but Brock can STILL peel off a German Suplex. Now Eddie is back to desperation, driving Brock's head into the corner to get out of a sleephold instead of just elbowing out. Eddie misses a Missile Dropkick and now it's back to Brock. Brock does an NCAA gut wrench and when Eddie tries to power out, does a Gutwrench Suplex. Brock goes back to his amateur wrestling gut wrenches, but Eddie powers out. Head-scissors, Three Amigos, Frog Splash, and Eddie misses! which hurts the ribs/chest that Brock has been working over all match. The ref gets knocked out in the momentum of the F5. Brock grabs the title, but Goldberg runs down and spears Lesnar, which only gets Eddie a 2 1/2 count. Eddie misses his own title shot, but counters an F5 to a DDT on the title! Frog Splash! Eddie wins!
This is basically on par with HBK vs Taker at Badd Blood 1997 in terms of having a story to tell and never losing sight of the through line, and everything making context. What put this above and beyond for me were the little things. Goldberg didn't interfere to help Eddie, so much as he interfered to stop Brock from comiting an injustice with a weapon. And even then, Eddie didn't just scooch over and pin Lesnar, he used the trickery that made the people love him. A special part of watching this match is keeping an ear on the crowd. They were sooooo prepared to be disappointed, to the point where they only really blew up when Goldberg came out, when it felt real for them. This ruled, and I'[d classify this as must watch.
Post match - We get one of the most iconic title celebrations of all time, with Eddie doing a crowd dive and having to be physically extracted by security. Between this and his moment with his mom and Mondo, this was the best possible way we could have faded to black.
WGTT vs APA, the Triple Threat, and Rey/Chavo are things I'd consider great, but what puts this PPV over the top is of course Eddie vs Brock, which, as I said, is must watch pro wrestling..<<