Triple H (c) vs. Cactus Jack
[Royal Rumble 2000]
Interesting that they don’t bill Cactus as being from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico as Foley was from New York (Long Island). Plenty of “Foley is God” signs out there. To this point I feel Mick’s best match in the business was his classic with Shawn Michaels at Mind Games, despite the lack of finish. That’s about to change. The only beef I have with this match is that it should have gone on last, after the Rumble. Mick jaws away before the bell, which Foley said in his book Have a Nice Day was actually him asking about Hunter’s cologne. He does it very aggressively though. Foley was so broken down by 2000 that it’s a minor miracle he can move around with the athleticism that he does. I guess he knew he had two matches left, so he could leave it all in the ring. This is reflected in his WrestleMania performance, when he’d been retired for a month and his body had fallen apart. This match though is all about progression and building. They start out on the floor brawling and Cactus takes a shot with the ring bell, which was enough to put Mankind down. But Cactus Jack isn’t Mankind. Not anymore. He’s gained a mythical power that lifts him above that. Hunter grabs a chair so Jack demands a shot with it and Hunter delivers. Cactus goes down like a sack of spuds, but he gets back up! They don’t do much wrestling, they don’t need to, but Cactus inserts swinging neckbreakers and backdrops on the floor, as if to pay homage to wrestling in an unusual setting. They insert a much maligned crowd brawl (in that I hate all crowd brawls) but it’s merely to get to a New York style alleyway part of the entrance. This leads to Hunter taking a suplex on a pallet. Much to Hunter’s horror, he discovers a piece of wood stabbed him in the leg during that spot. Not for the last time, Hunter just carries on. Lots of blood from that and it’s right in the calf. That would hinder the mobility of a normal man. For all the flak we’ve given Hunter, he sure knew how to man-up and work with pain. In order to push the envelope Cactus grabs his 2×4 wrapped in barbed wire, which gets a massive pop. As per usual Cactus bringing a weapon in backfires, as Hunter nut shots him and uses the 2×4 on Jack. It’s vicious. The WWF has seen nothing this violent beforehand. Double arm DDT, but in a rare moment of weird selling, Cactus stays down for too long before pinning. Hunter rolls his shoulder while the ref is hiding the 2×4. “Where’s the bat?” screams Cactus at Earl Hebner. Mick lays out Hugo Savinovich for not giving him the bat from under the Spanish announce table. Hunter then takes a 2×4 shot right in the noggin. It’s a beauty. Hunter kicks out and the fans are already biting on the near falls. Also Hunter is bleeding like a stuck pig from the head and the leg. He’s having to earn this title in blood, sweat and tears.
Like his hero Ric Flair, Hunter’s blond hair is turning a shade of red as Cactus beats at his bloody head. It’s a crimson mask! Cactus remembers his last match with Hunter and goes for a piledriver on the announce table to replicate that famous MSG win from RAW in 1997. Hunter feels it coming and backdrops out, breaking the table before the main event. It’s at this point that JR spots the puncture wound in Hunter’s calf and sells the hell out of it. He’s been working with that for 10-minutes! Hunter sets for the Pedigree and unfortunately does it in line with the buckles, rather telegraphing the reversal. Hunter then face bumps onto the barbed wire… for 2. Hunter has juiced so much that the fans buy everything as a near fall now. Cactus Clothesline sets up Cactus to take a hip toss onto the ring steps. Cactus follows that with yet another knees-first bump into the ring steps, which makes you wonder if he was planning on walking after this match, let alone wrestling a main event the following month. Hunter, always the cerebral assassin, takes out Cactus’ leg. This allows him to grab handcuffs and cuff up Foley. People get depressed at the sight of Cactus getting cuffed as it brings back memories of the Rock’s brutalisation of him at the Rumble in 1999. It also ends the fans’ hope that Cactus can win the title. Hunter goes after the ring steps but Jack manages to drop toehold him, in a superb piece of defensive wrestling. Hunter then wears him out with a chair, which creates a great visual as part of the chair breaks off and flies towards the crowd. Sometimes props can magically help you create a better visual. Hunter is far safer with his chair shots than Rock was a year earlier. As Cactus starts begging Hunter to hit him properly, the Rock runs out and chair shots Hunter so the cops can unlock Jack’s cuffs. Now it’s a fair fight again and Cactus’s first call of business is to hit that piledriver on the table. The Spanish table does not oblige and stays in one piece. Because it’s not falls count anywhere Cactus has to take it back into the ring, and on the way picks up a massive bag of thumbtacks. Stephanie McMahon can’t take it anymore and runs out to appeal to Cactus’s sense of fair play. Hunter takes the opening and backdrops Jack into the tacks. Great sell from Stephanie on that. PEDIGREE! ONE-TWO-THR…NOOO! KICKOUT! This was outstanding business as the Pedigree was death and nobody ever kicked out of it. Hunter’s one-legged complaint to the ref is brilliant, but as soon as Cactus is up a second Pedigree on the thumbtacks gets the job done. A brutal ballet that had a ridiculous escalation of violence for the WWF. It was a massive breakthrough for hardcore wrestling to see the WWF Title defended in such a manner. I know some purists aren’t keen on this, but I love Mick Foley as a talent and this was his moment to shine in a way that no one else could. The match with Shawn Michaels was a demonstration of how brilliant he could be in the WWF’s PG-13 environment. This is a demonstration of what was possible when the rulebook gets thrown out of the window. Hunter’s selling and bleeding made the match, and the match made him.
Final Rating: *****
WWF Intercontinental Championship
WWF European Championship
Kurt Angle (c)(c) vs. Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit
Angle comes in with both titles but they’ll be decided in separate falls, so the first fall is for the IC Title then the second for the European Title. You’d think it’d be the other way around but such is booking in the WWF sometimes. Jericho cuts a pre-match promo, which is as daft as he is but causes crowd adoration. Three way matches are usually a bad idea as they have kooky selling and weird psychology. Luckily all three of these guys are great workers so it’s less of a mess than it might have been. The selling is still odd. Benoit goes to the floor early and spends a little too long there. It’s all a bit disjointed and they might have been better off having Angle wrestle Jericho first, then Benoit or vice versa. Jericho takes the first big bump off the match, off the top rope and into the announce table in the same bump Foley will later take in the main event… only Jericho lands it. I like how Lawler notices that Jericho wrestles like a heel because he’s spent most of his recent career as one. It’s like Ventura pointing out Hogan’s flaws, only Lawler is less creative. Angle demonstrates an issue with his finisher when he hits a back suplex and it looks remarkably similar to the Olympic Slam. The match is a mess but at least everyone executes their spots clean as a whistle, seeing as they’re all top guys. Angle’s suplexes are a thing of beauty and his learning curve is amazingly steep. It puts the Rock’s improvement from 1996 into 1997 to shame, which is saying something. They run a nice counters spot in the corner as all three guys get onto the same page. Moments like that would proliferate later, better, triple threat matches (like those from TNA featuring A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe). Chicken-wing on Jericho and he passes out leaving Benoit to save. Benoit tosses Angle into the crowd, Jericho is still out so Benoit finishes him with the Swandive headbutt for the IC Title.
Benoit goes immediately for another pin and Angle has to sprint back in to save his European Title. Angle goes up for a moonsault, Jericho crotches him and Benoit back suplexes Jericho off, freeing up Angle for the moonsault, which misses. Good sequence. Jericho gets the Walls on Kurt but Benoit saves. Jericho just about hits his double powerbomb on Angle but Benoit interrupts the pin with the rolling Germans. As the natural fatigue selling kicks in, they’re able to structure a better match. The selling is more consistent. Timmy White eats a flying forearm off Jericho but Chris turns into the Crippler Crossface and taps out. There’s no ref or Benoit would have been a double champion. Benoit’s attempts to revive the ref crack me up. “Ref. Ref. Ref. REF. REF. REEEEEFFFF. REEFFFFFFF!” As if he’s only staying down because he’s hard of hearing. Benoit misses the Swandive on Angle and Jericho hits him with a Lionsault for the European Title, thus jobbing both titles off Angle without him losing either fall. The match got better and smarter as it progressed.
Final Rating: ***¼
Last Man Standing Match
Triple H vs. Chris Jericho
[Fully Loaded 2000]
This is the peak of Jericho as a babyface in the WWF as he’s shown as an equal to Triple H and this isn’t long after he briefly beat Hunter (via fast count) for a phantom WWF Title run. The opening shine sees Jericho beat the crap out of HHH and if there’s one thing Hunter did well in 2000 it was getting other people over. Something he’s totally failed to follow up on ever since. You look at the respect he gives Foley, Rock and Jericho in 2000 and you can see how it made them. Having people go over on your big stars is how you make new ones. Jericho got over because he beat Triple H up. Triple H didn’t lose any popularity and if anything he got over even more because the smart fans respected him for doing the hard work. As for the marks, he’d have them forever because he’s got a cool entrance and a cool finisher. It almost pains me to watch Hunter in 2000 because he was such a tremendous talent and yet he deliberately stopped being so. Jericho has an out, like Taker did, as Hunter injured his ribs with a sledgehammer prior to the PPV and HHH works that area. Like a bastard. There’s a bit where Hunter rams his shoulder into Jericho’s ribs in the corner relentlessly. It shows both his cardio and his aggression. He’s a beast. Jericho takes such a beating on the ribs that you feel he’s done, which is a huge turnaround from the opening shine. Jericho gets a series of hope spots culminating in the Lionsault, which gets knees into the injured ribs. Because Jericho can’t catch his breath he can’t stand. Hunter goes to finish with the Main Event Sleeper, eager to capitalise on the situation he’s created. Jericho does a great job of selling how close he is to being finished with his rubber legs and his begging Hunter to kick his ass, if he can. Jericho manages a weak crotch chop; Pedigree!
The crowd loved the crotch chop. That should do it, given that the match has been suitably brutal, but Hunter played the cerebral approach and did the work. As Jericho starts to stir Hunter bails for a chair, pissed off that Chris won’t stay down. He even chair shots the ribs, continuing his unrelenting focus. The escalating violence was a trademark of Hunter’s best matches. Hunter figures a Pedigree on a chair will do it but Jericho goes low to save himself. Jericho comes back with a chair shot and Hunter bleeds a gusher off that. It’s hideous, a massive cut and loads of juice from it, with Hunter once again sacrificing his own wellbeing for the good of the match. Now it’s a total reversal as Hunter has the weakness and Jericho, like a shark, smells the blood. But those ribs are always a weakness for Hunter to exploit too, so the match goes back-and-forth with one aspect countering the other. The match had previously worked on a “periods of dominance” strategy. This new back-and-forth creates an exciting conclusion as the match is wide open. They duel with monitor shots but both survive the 10 count. Pedigree is countered into the Walls of Jericho and Hunter taps out but that’s not in the rules. Jericho just wants to cripple Hunter’s legs so he can’t stand. Hunter gets into the ropes then realises there’s no DQ so the ref can’t break it. Steph realises that means she can interfere and jumps in there only for Jericho to slap her in the Walls of Jericho and Hunter has to save. The timing of that is a bit weird as Hunter has to recover his legs way too quickly, but then wouldn’t you to save your wife? Hunter pulls out the sledgehammer but misses and he gets catapulted into the post. Jericho gets in one of those sledgehammer punches to set up a table spot. Hunter goes low to block it and back suplexes Jericho through the announce table. Jericho’s defence for losing is that his head hits the floor after the table, and Hunter gets up, just, and Jericho stays down. Great match. Another classic from Hunter’s 2000 run and Jericho’s defining moment as a WWF wrestler, in that he was good enough to mix it up with the main eventers but ultimately he wasn’t better than them. He was so, so close. Don’t even get me started on his eventual title run where he took backseat to Stephanie and Triple H having marital issues!
Final Rating: ****½
The Rock (c) vs. Chris Benoit
[Fully Loaded 2000]
There’s a strange stipulation here where if Rock loses on DQ the title changes hands. Which rather begs the question; why doesn’t Shane McMahon just run in and hit Benoit as soon as the match starts? Having these guys work together had a twofold bonus; it helped Benoit to understand “sportz entertainment” and what he needed to do in main event matches, and also improved Rock’s in-ring because as WWF champion he simply had to measure up to Benoit. Rock’s explosive in-ring is complemented well by Benoit’s uncanny in-ring skillset. It makes for a wonderful beginning where Benoit and Shane bounce all over the place for Rock. Benoit’s ability makes it easier for the Rock to hide his shortcomings as a wrestler and it creates a very good title defence. Shane’s presence is a slight distraction and he sets up a Benoit belt shot for a near fall that you feel he doesn’t need. With Benoit being a technical master, he could just outwrestle Rock. Indeed he seems to counter pretty much everything into suplexes before hooking the Sharpshooter. Rock makes the ropes but Shane interferes again by lowbridging Rock to the floor. The timing was flawless on it with Shane leaping into position at the last half second. Rock responds to the leg work with his own and a figure four. Mirroring has always been a good wrestling strategy but Rock’s approach is more like “an eye for eye” keeping himself creative in the process. The Rock’s energy combines well with Benoit’s workmanlike approach and this is a great main event because of it.
Hunter had introduced violence into the main events and blood to distinguish his stuff from Austin’s arena covering brawls. Rock distinguished his main events by having them take place at frenetic pace and actually delivering in the ring, not around it. Rock has a few moments where spots appear to be on the verge of going wrong because of the complexity or the difficulty levels involved, but everything ends up working. Chalk that up to Benoit being a ring general. It makes you wonder why WCW never pushed him like this. Benoit can’t talk and has very little charisma but he’s a machine in the ring so he’s suited to facing off with charismatic babyfaces like the Rock. Spinebuster sets up the People’s Elbow but Shane distracts the ref on the pin and Benoit kicks out. As the spots continue you can see Benoit slowly coaching the Rock into the bigger spots, making sure nothing goes wrong and yet keeping the pace of the match high. It’s masterful stuff and Rock really does a terrific job of keeping up. It’s smart, hard work. Benoit brings a chair in but Rock steals it. Shane sneaks in and bashes the ref in the back, making the ref believe the Rock did it, which is again well-timed stuff from all involved. Rock gets the Crossface on Benoit but the ref calls for the bell. Rock thinks he’s won by submission but the ref announces Benoit wins via DQ and is the new champion. Benoit celebrates with Shane and the belt and, like Jericho before him, there’s a bittersweet moment where he thinks he’s the champion. The WWF sure liked messing with these guys in 2000. Rock blades after the bell, courtesy of a Shane chair shot, but out comes commissioner Mick Foley to straighten everything out and he orders the match to continue. The fans who’d been pelting the ring with Styrofoam cups are able to settle down again. Benoit gets the rolling Germans to set up the Crippler Crossface but Rock survives. The timing on Rock dragging himself into the ropes wasn’t right at all. It didn’t feel like there was any tension behind it despite Rock bleeding all over Benoit’s arm. Rock Bottom out of nowhere wins it and rather takes away all the hard work of the previous 20-minutes. However it was still a hard fought contest and one of Rock’s best singles matches to this point.
Final Rating: ****¼
WWF Tag Team Championship
Edge & Christian (c) vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudleys
If Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon set new standards for spectacular gimmick bouts with their ladder matches together in 1994 and 1995, then Edge, Christian, the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz raised the bar to previously unimaginable heights at the turn of the century with their incredible table, ladder and chair-based stunt festivals. Unofficially kicking off in October 1999 when doubles ladder match put Edge, Christian and the Hardys on the map at No Mercy ‘99, the Dudleys were added to the mix for a sensational triple team ladder bout that stole the show at the otherwise meek WrestleMania 2000. Since then, the Dudleys have introduced regular table-smashing to WWF audiences, while “chair expertise” has been crowbarred in as the speciality of Edge & Christian, giving each tandem a foreign object-based gimmick. And now, for the very first time, those elements are about to come to a head, and the results are spectacular…
One of the many great things about the match is how it escalates in nuttiness, the spots getting bigger and bigger and bigger as they go. For example, they throw chairs at one another before the ladders even come into play, and when they do, nobody goes crashing through any tables for a good little while. It’s perfect that way because you “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” at each spot slightly crazier than the last, but they never feel like they’re regressing at any point. Christian for instance takes a full nelson bomb off a ladder which draws very audible gasps from the audience, a reaction it might not have enjoyed had the tables already been in play. Jeff then gets pushed onto a ladder balanced atop another, creating a see-saw effect that whacks Matt in the face. On the one hand that’s a great spot, because unlike a lot of ladder-based spots, you just don’t see it coming. On the other hand, it’s the same spot that caused Joey Mercury’s nose to explode in disgusting fashion at Armageddon 2006, so I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with a ladder match in their immediate future.
The tables are then brought in with Christian eating a 3D through one, usually a sure-fire match-ender, but not here. The Dudleys then stack two tables side-by-side atop two other tables, but Edge cuts them off with a chair before they can do anything with them. That’s yet another great thing about this match because so often in these types of matches you’ll see someone set up a table only to crash through it seconds later in the most blatantly contrived manner possible. Sabu was notorious for it in ECW, but here it makes total sense that the Dudleys would set the tables up this way since they had success with a similar set-up just two months ago at King of the Ring, where they powerbombed Road Dogg from the ring through two stacked up tables, and the fact they get cut off by Edge means you completely forget the tables are set up in that manner anyway, making their eventual impact that much greater.
I also think six guys across three teams is probably the perfect number for this kind of match, because it allows for two to four guys at a time to rest and/or stay out of the way (under the pretence of selling of course) while those left standing perform their next high spot. When you have more guys in the match (such as later Money in the Bank ladder matches with ten wrestlers in there), you’d see guys drop to the floor and play dead for lengthy periods after just a couple of minutes, having taken moves that weren’t particularly impactful-looking, and it hurts the credibility somewhat. You don’t get that here because you also have the advantage of passing off somebody’s lack of involvement as taking a respite if their partner remains active. Simply put, the tag team format of the match allows Jeff Hardy to spend a few minutes selling the pain after missing a senton off a giant ladder through a table (on the outside, mind you), but also spend a few extra moments catching his breath even after recovering as big brother Matt goes to war in the ring. I also loved that Bubba moved on that senton since he got nailed with it once before, in the aforementioned WrestleMania 2000 match. Progressive psychology at its finest.
Remember those four tables the Dudleys parked on the outside of the ring? Bubba clambers up the giant ladder (now firmly planted in the ring), but gets pushed off sideways by Edge and Christian, sending him flying over the top, through the tables, and ending up a broken heap on the floor. Absolutely insane, and how he never blew his shoulder or elbow (or both) out doing a stunt that risky, I’ll never know. And that’s not even the most ridiculous bump of the match! Lita runs in and returns fire by pushing Edge and Christian sideways off the ladder, resulting in them both landing balls-first across the top rope, and then Matt begins to climb the ladder in what pretty much everyone had pegged as the big hometown hero finish. Not so. D-Von recovers just in time to tip the ladder from the opposite side, sending Matt over the top through two ringside tables BACKWARDS. He could easily have broken his neck doing that, especially if he’d come down across the ringside barrier. Just absolutely bonkers.
You’d think that would be it for the nuttiness, but Lita goes to check on Matt so Edge blasts her with a stiff spear, her head landing barely an inch away from the cold, sharp edge of an errant ladder laid across the floor. You think about how sore everyone in this match must have been for a month afterwards, but they’re playing with such narrow margins that even watching it back years later you can’t help but grimace at how close they all came to doing permanent damage had they just been a couple of inches either side off target. Finally, Jeff and D-Von, the last apparent survivors of this whole incredible car wreck, climb up and each grab a belt, but Edge and Christian pull the ladder out from beneath them, resulting in an impromptu game of Hang Tough. D-Von suddenly falls flat on his back, leaving Jeff alone with the belts for the second false finish as the crowd just absolutely explodes… but he can’t get enough purchase to unhook the belts, so Edge and Christian SWAT him down with a ladder, then climb it to retrieve the belts.
Just absolutely incredible stuff that built and built and built to the finish with the spots getting riskier and more intense as they went along, and just when you thought they couldn’t top themselves, they did over and over again. Perhaps even better than that was that not a single spot was missed, nothing felt out of place, everything was completely organic, it ebbed and flowed like any great pro wrestling battle should… Obviously there’ll be some who feel a stunt show like this shouldn’t compare to a technical classic, but wrestling has many forms, and as far as those stunt shows go, this one was damn well perfection.
Final Rating: *****
Summary: What a tape this is. Four of the five matches on offer break 4* and two of them were awarded the full boat of 5*, with only the curious inclusion of the three way causing any head scratching. I guess they just wanted to get a match from the big show on there, but there was so much better stuff around in 2000 featuring all three of those guys, that they rather missed a trick here. Still, no complaints, because this is a collection of four truly memorable matches from one of the most rewarding years for in-ring in company history. Obviously as ever with these things there is little point in owning this if you have the PPVs already, but if not then it gets the highest recommendation.