James Dixon: Harking back to old school releases from days long forgotten, this is a compilation tape promising “action”. Replacing what would have been the superior Sean Mooney as host, is the far less endearing Jonathan Coachman.
WWF Hardcore Championship
Raven (c) vs. Tazz
First up is the WWF’s answer to what they perceive to be ECW; the hardcore division, taken from the New Year’s Day episode of RAW from 2001. The two brawl around the building as is customary in these things, with one particularly unpleasant spot seeing the two battle into a women’s bathroom, where Tazz flushes Raven’s head in a piss-filled toilet. Charming. As ever, others want to get in on the act and the Holly trio and Steve Blackman join the fun. Raven wallops Crash with a fire extinguisher and then pins him to win the match, which doesn’t make any sense at all.
Final Rating: ¼*
WWF Hardcore Championship
Rhyno (c) vs. The Big Show
Four months later Rhyno was the reigning champion, because he was another ECW guy that the WWF didn’t quite understand what to do with. In many ways he was similar to Tazz, in that ECW booked him well and made him seem like a monster even though he was chunky and short, the opposite of what the WWF want. Thus, they squandered his undoubted talent and made him work these short and pointless garbage matches. Big Show can probably empathise a little, though ironically he has the opposite problem in that he is too big for the brain trust that is WWF creative to come up with how to book him. How is it hard to book a giant? Keep him strong, put him in fairly short matches, don’t use him on television every week and kill the special attraction, and this is key; do not have him do half assed comedy weapons matches where he sells being hit with a bin lid like he was just shot. Because Rhyno has been with the company for, oh a couple of months at most, the WWF obviously has to job him endlessly until he learns how to work in a way that they feel is marketable. And also learns how to grow six inches. A chokeslam onto a soft aluminium bin ends it.
Final Rating: ½*
WWF Hardcore Championship
The Big Show (c) vs. Chris Jericho
A week later in Canada, Chris Jericho is forced so low down the card that he is competing for the jobbers’ comedy belt. They sure were on the ball in 2001. The match is very short, or at least what we get shown here, with Jericho kicking the steps into Big Show’s face (which is telegraphed horribly by the lumbering Show) and then winning the match following a Lionsault to add the Hardcore title to the tag team gold he already holds. But as he is walking up the ramp Rhyno appears through the curtain and smashes Jericho with a Gore, taking advantage of the 24/7 rules to reclaim the title. The footage of the match is too short to rate, but that Gore on the ramp was pretty sweet.
We change tact for a new form of action, according to Coach, one that promises the liberation of puppies but almost never delivers. Yes, the dumb Divas and their staple bout of the pre-PG era: the bra and panties match.
Bra And Panties Match
Trish Stratus vs. Ivory
This comes from March 2001 on SmackDown! and Ivory is the reigning WWF Women’s Champion. She is also part of Right To Censor, and thus refuses to compete in this “degrading encounter”. Trish isn’t interested and jumps her, and the match is on. Is Trish ripping Ivory’s clothes off against her will a form of sexual assault? Things don’t last more than 30-seconds before Chyna wanders down and forces Ivory’s garments off, as the build for the pair’s match at WrestleMania X-Seven continues. Much like in that bout, Chyna is completely, overwhelmingly dominant here. Ivory scarpers with her, erm, tail between her legs, thoroughly humiliated by the experience. Again, this can’t really be rated.
Bra And Panties Match
Terri vs. Trish Stratus
From May, and this is the only kind of match that Terri can actually do, because she is not a wrestler by any stretch and has zero aptitude for in-ring competition. She sure can gallop around the ring though. Paul Heyman on commentary mocks the WWF’s absurd booking and treatment of its womenfolk, claiming this is in keeping with the spirit of the Funks and the Briscos. The whole thing when looked at objectively is a somewhat perverse voyeuristic practice. “Come to the sports entertainment and see our girls pretend to fight in a really fake looking way while trying to strip each other of their clothes”. Usually the stewards need mops for those kind of shows. Questionable moral practice aside, this is what it always is; two girls rolling around and embarrassing the great traditions of the business before revealing as much skin as the network will allow. This time though, we have the added bonus of Perry Saturn wandering down and revealing himself to be wearing a bra and thong of his own. Hey, nothing sells tickets and signifies career progress like a man turning to cross dressing. I know he used to do it in WCW too, but if the WWF are going to copy their harebrained ideas then we might as well all pack up and go home. The distraction causes Perry’s manger/girlfriend/whatever the hell Terri to get her skirt ripped off, costing her the match and revealing her barely covered ass. And by barely covered I mean fully exposed, with only the tiniest sliver of skin coloured thong visible at the very top or her cheeks. Other than that, there is more crack on display than at a Sunny house party.
Final Rating: DUD
Joy of joys, the next segment is the “recent evolution” of Perry Saturn! It starts with the APA repeatedly powerbombing him on his head during RAW, in a couple of really vicious bumps. Backstage Saturn’s eyes are crossed, and all he can manage to mutter is “You’re welcome”. Then on SmackDown! things get worse for poor Perry, when Raven hits his Raven Effect DDT onto a steel chair. Backstage, Terri is concerned. Rightly so it seems, because Saturn comes out of his locker room acting all loopy. To SD again and Saturn teams with Dean Malenko against the Dudleys, but spends the majority of the match stood on the outside staring out the timekeeper. When the Duds hits “Wazzup” Perry grabs a pair of their glasses and mounts the top rope, as he wants a go of doing the move… on his own tag partner! The Dudleys are amused and let him. Saturn then grabs a mic, pushes D-Von and tells him to “Get the muffins… You’re welcome”. That rather dies with the crowd, and Saturn gets drilled with 3D to finish the match. These silly antics continue over the next few weeks, with Saturn and Terri going out on a double date with Dean and a random model. Saturn, who orders a bowl of mustard and a side order of crayons, gets hit on by Dean’s date, and it pisses off Terri. Deciding she has had enough, Terri goes to wallop her with a tray but misses and hits Perry. Yes boys and girls, repeated blows to the head ARE funny. Chris Nowinski would hate this angle, he really would. Instead of getting Perry proper treatment, the WWF continues to book him in weapons matches, and he squares off with Test on SmackDown! in a hardcore match. Saturn tries to belt Test with a mop but a kick in the face, another blow to the head, wins it for Test. Afterwards, Saturn gets all concerned for the wellbeing of the mop, and thus “Moppy” is born. Clearly inspired by Tom Hank’s character in Castaway, who makes friends with a volleyball, Saturn gives the mop a face and treats it like a person. A jealous Terri (yes, she is jealous of a mop) asks him to chose between them. He chooses Moppy. He chose… wisely. Now while I cannot condone using concussions and head injuries as a silly angle now, at the time the issues caused by repeated head trauma were not widely known. The WWE later developed a very commendable attitude towards concussions and other head injuries, working alongside Chris Nowinski to get better educated on the subject and introducing ImPACT testing to make sure guys were okay to work after suffering blows to the head. So while this Saturn stuff is all slightly unsettling viewing when you consider what concussions did to his one-time Radicalz partner Chris Benoit, the intention was merely light entertainment and it was never supposed to be taken too seriously, and when viewed from that perspective it is a lot of harmless fun.
Vince McMahon’s obsession and affair with Trish Status comes next, starting when Steph talks to Vince (who is supposedly at a soup kitchen) on the phone during the Christmas Day episode of RAW, and hearing a woman’s voice in the background. Vince claims it is just some giddy women thrilled to meet him, and throws in a McMahonism: “Quite frankly Steph, they’re asking for me to come back and ladle out some more soup”. Steph confronts Trish about the rumour that she was the “giddy woman” and becomes increasingly disturbingly jealous about the Vince-Trish affair. There is every chance that this may well have been the start of a proposed Vince/Steph love affair/pregnancy story that Vince had talked about doing… because he is a nutcase. Thankfully more than a few people talked him out of that one, Steph and Shane included. It all boils down to a match between Steph and Trish at No Way Out, which was the idea of WWF commissioner William Regal. Vince warns Regal that because the match was his idea, that he has to “do the right thing” with regards to engineering the outcome. Regal gets flustered trying to decide, and in the end drills Trish so Steph can win. Seemingly that was the wrong decision and he is forced to team with Steph against Vince and Trish on RAW. At one point it looks like Vince may deck Steph, but instead he turns on Trish and the three beat her up and throw dirty mop water on her to “clean this situation up”. Yuck. Vince calls her a toy he got bored of, which translates to: he got to kiss her on screen and now it is someone else’s turn to be part of his disturbing middle aged crisis fantasies. The next week on RAW, Trish begs for forgiveness, leading to an infamous and controversial angle where Vince tells her to get on her hands and knees and crawl around like a dog. “I want you to tell me in dog language just how sorry you are. Speak Trish, speak. Bark like a dog! Come on, tell me you’re sorry!” What the hell were they thinking with this? Vince later made Trish strip down to her bra and panties, which is shown only in photos, and when she takes her bra off it convinces Vince that she has done enough. “You have no idea how far I would degrade myself for the right cause” she tells him. Oh that could be said of many people who have worked for Vince. After Vince kisses Trish in front of Linda on SmackDown!, Shane turns up on RAW and batters him for his indiscretions, leading to their match at WrestleMania X-Seven. The WCW purchase is deemed so insignificant to their rivalry that it is not even mentioned.
Shane McMahon vs. Vince McMahon
This is the well executed and very well booked smoke and mirrors brawl between father and son from WrestleMania X-Seven, which is joined in progress with Shane diving through a table from the ring. Shane being out cold allows the sedated Linda (though it is hard to tell much difference to the norm) to be wheeled out, and then Trish and Steph take centre stage. Trish slaps Vince to break up their relationship for good, so Steph slaps her in return, and that leads to a brawl. Guest referee Mick Foley breaks it up so Steph slaps him, then legs it down the aisle with Mick and Trish in pursuit. But then the footage from the bout suddenly ends, cutting out the best part (Linda’s zombie rise from the wheelchair to kick Vince in the plums)! Well that is a very strange editing choice, I must say. Once again, not enough of the match is shown to rate, but the full thing is an easy *** slice of sports entertainment.
On SmackDown! Spike Dudley annoys Crash Holly by talking to his cousin Molly, leading to a match later on. We see the last five seconds, with Spike winning, which pisses off Hardcore Holly. Spike and Hardcore then have a match, which we get a little more of. Hardcore wins but he is still ticked off with Crash, who gets hit with a 3D following the bout. The Spike-Molly relationship continues to blossom as an Attitude Era version of Romeo & Juliet with the addition of incest, tables and man-on-woman violence. The Hollys and the Dudleys have a match on RAW which ends when the Duds 3D Hardcore through a table. They spot Molly and try to powerbomb her through a table, because they are the Dudleys and that is what they do, but Spike pleads with them not to. Bubba pie faces him, so Spike lies on the table to protect Molly from the impact and sacrifice himself. On SmackDown! Spike tells Molly through the camera that he “really likes her”, and she responds from WWF New York on RAW that she “really, really likes him too”. During a match on RAW soon after that, the two end up face-to-face in the ring with everyone else down, and they do the clichéd slow movie walk towards each other before finally embracing with a kiss. Aww. The crowd mostly pops this, and the whole angle and love story has actually been really well booked, with an air of innocence (well, tables aside I guess) that you rarely see from WWF storylines. I suppose we have Steph and her team of soap opera writers to thank for this one. Hey, at least someone on the undercard actually had a storyline. Guys in the PG era would have given anything for an angle like this.
Steve Austin is the next focus, as the tape finally gets a bit of star power. A brief highlight video shows Austin turning heel at WrestleMania X-Seven and joining forces with Vince McMahon. To SmackDown! where Jim Ross interviews Austin and tells him he feels like he is losing his best friend. Austin doesn’t care, knocking JR’s hat off and telling him to take a swing at him. Ross declines and apologises for getting out of line, but Austin belts him from behind and beats on him. Vince comes out and makes him stop, then tells him to bust Ross open. Austin obliges. Three months later Austin is forced by Linda McMahon to defend his WWF Championship against both Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho at King of the Ring, and he is livid about it. He forces Vince to choose between him and Linda, then goes on a rampage attacking people. He starts a petition to get the match cancelled, but Spike Dudley rips it up when Austin insults Molly by calling him a bimbo. Austin is incredulous and cries to commissioner William Regal about it and demands a match with him. We see very brief footage of Austin beating Spike on SmackDown! before going back to Austin’s ultimatum to Vince: him or Linda. Vince is torn and tells Austin that “I think you know which way I’m going to go” implying he will choose Linda, but Austin misunderstands and thinks Vince is going to pick him, and gives him his favourite hunting crossbow and hat as a present. Hang on, just a few months ago Vince and Linda were getting divorced and Vince was dicking around, literally, with Trish! It’s sometimes impossible to keep up with the McMahon family leanings and relationships. In keeping with most everything else on this tape, just as one’s appetite is whetted, we move on to something else. How frustrating.
Vince McMahon and his “challenging year” are featured next, and the Vince-Linda issue is covered, with Vince sharing his opinion that he believes divorce should be outlawed. Vince, as a “role model for America”, refuses to grant Linda a divorce. For whatever reason, Debra comes out and tells Vince she doesn’t believe a word of what he just said, and that he has had a negative influence on her husband Steve Austin. Vince denies all accountability, something he has become pretty good at over the years, but does say he is proud of what Austin has become. Vince then tells Debra that she is the exception to the old adage that “behind every good man there is a good woman”, so Debra slaps him. Meanwhile, Trish over at WWF New York says she will fully support Linda if she wants to go through with divorcing Vince. Time travel then occurs, as we go back a month to Vince buying WCW and the famous simulcast on RAW and Nitro. We see Shane informing Vince, from Nitro, that he has bought WCW, which is footage that should obviously have been shown earlier when the Shane-Vince feud was covered. The schizophrenic editing continues as we skip forward three months to June and a backstage segment with Kurt Angle, Steve Austin, Vince McMahon and hanger on Debra. Kurt tells Steve that they have a lot in common and could “almost be related”, then we go to the segment in the ring where Austin tells Kurt that he is no longer welcome in the Vince-Austin relationship and calls him a jackass. The two then bicker, with Angle professing that he is a hero, but Austin squabbling back that he is a jackass. Vince has had enough of the childish jaw jacking and tells them to fight, but instead they take turns hugging Vince. I love the Austin-Angle-Vince segments and relationship, I think it is one of the finest things the WWF ever did in the post Attitude Era. As I have said before; the Austin heel turn was a huge mistake for business, but the character was a riot.
Now the WWF’s worst ever botch: the invasion angle. Instead of making millions of dollars for years on end and running two viable companies that toured separately, instead the WWF systematically destroyed everything about the fantasy warfare that fans had been begging for over the last decade. Not only did they not bring in the key players and big stars that would have made a difference (the likes of Goldberg, Hulk Hogan, Scott Steiner, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Jeff Jarrett, Ric Flair, Rey Misterio Jnr and even Eric Bischoff) but they also booked the whole thing like it was just another scripted storyline. We start out with Mike Awesome winning the Hardcore title in the hallowed halls of MSG, prompting Vince to declare that “he raped me”. Booker T then shows up at WWF New York and calls out Austin, so ‘Stone Cold’ and Kurt Angle go to find him, only to discover he has already left and gained access to MSG, where he beats up Vince before fleeing. A decent start, but hardly the mass hostile takeover attempt the thing was screaming out for. Within a few days it became all about Vince and what a stud he is, when Torrie Wilson turned up backstage on SmackDown! and implied that she wanted to nail him. A jealous Austin hugs Vince, and when McMahon invites Torrie to dinner, Austin says “I’ll check my schedule”. “Me too” says the equally oblivious Angle. It’s funny stuff, but this is supposed to be the ultimate showdown between the two biggest wrestling companies in the world, there is no place for silly comedy. Alas the courtship continues, with Vince and Torrie looking for a place to shag, but finding themselves frequently interrupted by Kurt and Austin. Torrie takes Vince to a laundry closet and strips him off, then tells him to close his eyes. When he opens them, he sees his wife Linda standing there in Torrie’s place. Yes, it was a set-up all along. Vince stammers a denial while stood there in his pants, but Linda has heard enough. So now the potentially biggest angle and feud in the history of wrestling is serving as a mere backdrop for the trials and tribulations of the McMahon family.
And it gets worse too. After the WWF nearly saves the angle with the reformation of ECW on RAW, they then blow a year’s worth of storylines in one night by having the WWF and WCW unite (which made no sense) to combat the ECW threat, only for the WCW and ECW crews to merge into one big super faction. This sort of made sense because of the sheer lack of star power on the WCW side, but it meant that the invasion was in fact not an invasion at all, but rather just a faction of WWF midcarders and a few new names alongside them. It could have been avoided if the WWF had brought in all the big stars from WCW, but they didn’t want to pay the contracts. Ultimately they all, except Jarrett, ended up back with the company on fat contracts anyway, and they would have easily repaid what they were earning with the mass amount of tickets and merchandise revenue they would have generated, not to mention the buyrate spikes. Things actually get even worse before the night is out, with Shane introducing Stephanie McMahon as the new owner of ECW, instantly killing the entire thing dead on the spot. The last thing ANYONE wanted to see was the McMahon fingerprints all over this thing. Eric Bischoff should have been leading WCW, Paul Heyman ECW and Vince the WWF, with the rest of his family off television and out of the way. As soon as they were involved it was just another angle and despite the strong buyrate for the InVasion pay-per-view, it was just a spike because of the novelty. After that things flattened out and the whole thing was dead in the water by Survivor Series just four months later. I specifically avoided covering any invasion era shows in this volume because of how furious it makes me, and now I am all riled up about it. Well over a decade later, the missed opportunity and unfathomable booking still pisses me off.
For reasons I cannot begin to explain, we go back to April prior to the invasion, for the fantastic segments with Steve Austin and Kurt Angle singing to Vince McMahon backstage. I love these things, but why are they being shown now? Honestly, you can get a headache from watching this. It’s impossible to follow!
Fast forward again to Vince begging Austin to become the “old Stone Cold” once again and lead the WWF into InVasion. He wants the needy, guitar-playing, hug-giving Austin to disappear and the ass kicking Austin to return. He begs for Austin to beat him up and give him a Stunner, but Steve walks away dejected. Austin spends an episode of RAW in a bar contemplating what to do, while the WWF faction gets inspired and focused thanks to stirring speeches from Bradshaw, the Undertaker and the legendary ‘Classie’ Freddie Blassie. Meanwhile over in the WCW/ECW locker room, Steph rouses her troops. Yeah, you can see why this failed. While the Steph stuff undoubtedly sucks, the Austin inner turmoil is fantastic and the brilliantly made music video outlining all of this causes goosebumps, especially when Austin snaps and hits the arena, taking out everyone that moves from the Alliance side. The old ‘Stone Cold’ had indeed returned, and on SmackDown! the following week Vince sings to him to welcome him back. Austin tells him his guitar is out of tune and then smashes it over Vince’s head to a big pop. Then as InVasion, Austin nonsensically turns on the WWF and joins the Alliance, becoming the new leader of the group. They needed the injection of star power for sure, but Austin shouldn’t have been that guy. Austin should have been the one leading the WWF in the fight. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it made sense, but Austin spent the entirety of the InVasion main event beating on the Alliance, only to join them at the end. It’s one of many, many plot holes. Austin’s justification for turning on the WWF? Vince was hugging Kurt Angle and grooming him as the next WWF Champion. Right, great.
To counter the defection of Austin, Vince reinstates the Rock. Shane however makes a play for him, reminding Rock what Vince has done to him over the years. We don’t see the payoff, instead seeing Kurt Angle beat Booker T to win the WCW Championship and thus giving the wacky scenario where the WWF Champion is with WCW and the WCW Champion in with the WWF. Oh, did I say wacky? Sorry, I meant FUCKING STUPID. To annoy me further, Coach then says we are wrapping up and thus we don’t even get to find out whose side Rock joined. What an incredibly annoying tape!
Summary: It’s all over the goddamn place. Six months of action, cut up and shuffled around, with illogical and baffling editing decisions that confuse timelines and ruin the flow of the stories shown. It’s a shame too because if it was done coherently with a sense of structure, it would be a good tape. There is a lot of very entertaining footage on here, but it is strictly snippets and the impact is lost for some of the stuff with it appearing out of context. The inclusion of the invasion angle ruins things for me too, because that whole period of time really killed wrestling for me. As a tape to throw on and relive some footage rarely revisited by WWE it is worth your time, but it certainly doesn’t work as a timeline piece.