Lee Maughan: From the Pepsi Arena in Albany, New York (the same building incidentally that hosted the 1992 Royal Rumble, and 2006’s New Year’s Revolution.) Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.
The Dudley Boyz Tag Team Elimination Table Invitational
This is tornado rules with two teams in the ring at a time, and a new team enters when one team is eliminated by having a member of that team put through a table. Imagine sort of a Royal Rumble/Survivor Series hybrid. Too Cool are team #1, a pair of hip hop white guys, dancing down the aisle to some techno pop tune, table underarm like some sanitised Saturday morning cartoon incarnation of Public Enemy. They’re followed at #2 by a duo making their collective debut on a WWF pay-per-view (although they were actually teammates at last November’s Survivor Series), the thrown together Lo Down of D’Lo Brown and Chaz. The plain tracksuit bottoms they sport are incredibly lifeless, giving the team a distinctly jobberish look, and the lack of a singlet for D’Lo really exemplifies why he wore one for almost the entirety of his career. Not a good look for him at all. Unfortunately, this first “mini-match” of sorts has absolutely nothing going for it, then Chaz gets shoved off the top on a superplex attempt as D’Lo simultaneously misses a frog splash, both crashing through tables, and that’s it for them. Thanks for coming, guys.
Team #3 are Tazz and Raven, disappointingly enough. I say disappointingly because if you’ll recall, Raven only debuted in the WWF last month at Unforgiven, and already he’s been placed in a thrown-together team with Tazz, a guy who’s hardly been on a roll himself having just come off an announcer’s feud with Jerry Lawler, the team being presented as also rans in a throwaway gimmick match opener. Furthermore, Raven is already being systematically stripped of his identity, appearing here in a plain black t-shirt rather than a cool band shirt, and his jean shorts aren’t as ripped and tatty as they usually are. Before long, he’d be coming to the ring not to the suitably disaffected punk and grunge tunes that accompanied his ECW and WCW runs, but a Jim Johnston generic rock chugger complete with actual raven calls, and he was soon sporting a clean white shirt and black leather shorts like some kind of Bizarro World Raven. What a criminal misuse of talent that would prove to be, though according to Raven himself in a shoot interview years later, he had been told by a writer that Vince’s first words at one booking meeting upon hearing the news of his signing were “Who the fuck hired Raven!?” Jim Ross was the responsible party, by the way. The only reason I can find for Raven to have even been paired up with Tazz at this point is that they both had a connection to ECW, although they actually crossed paths very rarely in the land of Extreme. Still, as we’re in New York tonight and as either of these guys alone have more personality than D’Lo and Chaz combined, this portion of the match garners a much bigger reaction than the last, and is infinitely more interesting. The crowd also get more into it as Too Cool start breaking out their signature stuff, in particular Scotty 2 Hotty doing the Worm under a table, and a surprisingly vibrant “You fucked up!” chants kicks up when Grandmaster Sexay tries a sunset powerbomb to the floor, only to smash a ringside table to pieces with his feet. That Scotty eats a double superplex through a table moments later suggests they could have just gone home early or called an audible and explained that both members of the team needed to go through tables to be eliminated (especially in light of the fact that both members of Lo Down had suffered the same fate), but JR blathers around in an attempt to conjure up an explanation before settling somewhere along the lines of “it was an accident, so it doesn’t count”. So take note, footballers; Next time you score an own goal, just protest that it was only an accident and the boffins at FIFA will no doubt have your transgression stricken from the record!
The crowd absolutely explode with the arrival of team #4, the Dudley Boyz themselves in case you couldn’t guess, and that gets the “ECW!” chants going. Tazz quickly takes a Bubba Bomb and Raven is the lucky recipient of tonight’s Wazzup Drop, before Tazz makes a minor comeback with a T-Bone Tazzplex. “Minor” is certainly the key word there as the Dudleys immediately take back over, and D-Von puts Tazz through a table with a Dudleyville Jam. Our final team are of course Right to Censor, here represented by Bull Buchanan and the Goodfather. Bull wipes out the referee with a lariat, which given its accidental nature shouldn’t count, according to JR law, which should immediately tip you off to the finish. And indeed, Bubba Ray powerbombs Bull through the table, but Goodfather smashes Bubba in the head with a steel chair and lays him amidst the wreckage, dragging Bull out just in time for the referee to revive and call it for RTC. A second referee quickly arrives, explains the situation, and a quickie restart sees Goodfather go through a table courtesy of a 3D for the real finish. Taken as a series of individual matches as some may view them, these were all fairly sub-SmackDown! standard TV throwaways, but when viewed as a single narrative, which is the way the whole thing was actually booked, it’s not bad. No one segment particularly outstays its welcome, the shortness of some of the individual bouts is a help rather than a hindrance owing to the structure of the piece, and the whole thing builds in an increasingly exciting manner. Too Cool save their best spots for their second match, then the guys more associated with hardcore get involved, then comes the team the match was designed for, before it all ends with the big showdown against the annoying heel group, complete with a silly Dusty finish to keep RTC somewhat strong, whilst still giving the crowd what they want. I can’t really complain about any of that.
Final Rating: **½
– Out in the parking lot, Rikishi waits on the arrival of Steve Austin whilst slowly stroking his giant tool. It’s a sledgehammer. If you’ve ever heard the term “sledgehammer of plot”, this is the most literal interpretation of it. If you’ll recall when Austin returned at Unforgiven last month, Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley presented him with his baseball cap from the night he was run over, and now Rikishi is walking around carrying the signature weapon of Triple H. Hmm, I wonder who could really have been behind that hit and run assault?
– Elsewhere, Trish, Test and Albert plan to let the tits fall where they may, which is the same strategy I employed the last time I got dragged along to the Little Black Book lap dancing club for a mate’s stag party.