Steve Austin (c) vs. Kurt Angle vs. Rob Van Dam
Austin and Angle had exchanged the WWF Title over the summer months, but RVD was getting so damn popular he got put into the mix too. Considering RVD only joined the company in July, he’s already in the main event at an astonishing rate. In my opinion he was popular enough for the WWF to switch gears and put the belt on him here leaving everyone suspicious as to where his loyalties lie. Angle, almost the forgotten man, makes a point of starting hard and fast. He’s also the only WWF guy while the other two are Alliance, so Angle gets his ass kicked 2-on-1. Rob must be loving the momentum rise to the top of wrestling and the moment where he points at himself unveils a massive RVD chant. Like at Unforgiven when he lost the belt, Austin goes for the Stunner gut kick and gets caught in an ankle lock. The difference here is RVD has his back to protect the belt. The crowd bite on RVD, big time, and chant his name whenever they can. Honestly, I think they should have struck while the iron was hot and just pushed him all the way here. You don’t get a ton of chances to create new main event stars so you’d better take them. Rob doesn’t cover himself in glory as the storyline has him selling a leg injury and he’s terrible at it. “Arrrgh, ow. Arrgh. Ow. Ow” says Rob as Austin works a half crab. He sounds like a tool. Triple threat matches often have issues related to selling and RVD basically has to stay down selling his leg while Austin and Angle brawl around ringside. Because he’s not good at it, he stays down for a while and then pops up and starts using the ropes, which is why he shouldn’t attempt it to begin with. Angle then turns it up a notch by hitting a capture suplex on RVD and adding in a moonsault. Angle and Austin trade on Stunner attempts, showcasing how well they know each other after a run of main events. Five star frogsplash and both guys move. Stunner! Rob stops the pin, showing he’s in it to win it. Split legged moonsault on Austin, and Angle showing weird selling inconsistency, pops up to save. Angle Slam and Austin saves his title. Austin and Angle go for an announce table spot before faking us out and RVD hits a tope. With all guys down, out comes Vince McMahon. RVD goes after the frogsplash but Angle runs the buckles into a superplex. Weird seeing Rob check his positioning so many times to give Angle the chance to hit the spot. Austin runs back in; Stunner but Angle falls out of the ring. Austin stalks RVD instead and Vince runs in to chair shot the champ. Vince is in the process of ordering Angle back inside; Frogsplash! Angle barely stops the count with RVD one second away from winning the WWF Title. Rob was criticised for being dangerous but Vince McMahon’s chair shot (to the back of the head mind you) busted Austin open hardway. Angle hits the rolling Germans so Shane McMahon runs down to even up the McMahon involvement. Vince lays him out with a sensational diving punch. In the ring RVD is dead weight and Austin nails him with the Stunner to retain. I still think Rob Van Dam should have gone over here as it would have created a load of intrigue toward the end of the invasion angle, but I guess they felt Austin had to stay strong. Rob’s critics pointed out how stiff and dangerous he was and the de-push began. Kurt’s wife Karen was the most vocal detractor of RVD’s style (after RVD accidentally bloodied him, Jericho and others on TV) but I guess that was to allow Kurt to save face. Criticise the boys via proxy. Rob ended up demoted into the IC Title division where he became smoother yet less interesting as a worker. Like they trained the fun out of him. My favourite RVD moments in the WWF all come at the front of his run there; the Hardy match, the great match with Jericho and his interactions at the top of the card that ended here.
Final Rating: ***½
No Mercy 2001
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