WrestleMania XIX

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James Dixon: Coming two years after WWE engulfed the industry and signed up all of its top talent, 2003 sees the company with one of the strongest rosters it has ever had at its disposal. It’s an eclectic mix, with veterans and legends from the past sharing the spotlight with modern day super-workers, built smaller but able to move around much quicker and with more intensity. Unfortunately it was also around this time that some of the booking became really baffling, and at times detrimental to the product. Y’know, like Triple H fucking a corpse on live TV. For that you can thank the fruit of Vince’s loins, one Stephanie McMahon. The period is somewhat undefined too, caught in the fallout of the Attitude Era’s demise, but not yet in the Ruthless Aggression era that saw the debuts of future main eventers like John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista.

The staging for WrestleMania XIX is somewhat unique. Coming from Safeco Field in Seattle, home of the Seattle Mariners baseball team, the aisle is forced to curve (a galling sight for anyone used to Reality Era WWE, where every set is a Raw facsimile with a ramp to the ring and little to distinguish it) and the seating is all over the place, rather than in set, defined, cubic tiers. It looks good, certainly unique and vast, but is ruined by the open-air setting. Like all outdoor shows, the majority of the sound is lost to the heavens and thus the matches tend to come across as far less heated than the visible animated and excited crowd reaction suggest. It’s a shame, but is an issue that blights most stadium wrestling events.

Clash of Champions 2016

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Arnold Furious: We’re in Indianapolis, Indiana. Hosts are Michael ColeByron Saxton and Corey Graves.

 

WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows
We’re on day 399 of the New Day’s tag title run. Xavier holds the microphone upside for some reason. It looks weird. The challengers start fast and demolish the incumbent champs, including Xavier on the floor. Big E usually results in New Day winning so it’s good for the champs that he’s working. He struggles to get going against the challengers though, who are organised and aggressive. The New Day look surprisingly weak in the process of taking a hiding. Trouble in Paradise and the Big Ending would beat Anderson if Gallows wasn’t on hand to make a save. Moments later he takes Francesca to the face and New Day retain. 400 days and counting! The babyfaces had to cheat to win and Anderson is looking increasingly useless, due to losses mounting up. I’m not overly bothered about the team though so I can live with more New Day. They’re closing in on some all-time records. The lineage for these belts only goes back to 2002 so New Day already have that record. The all-time WWE tag record is Demolition, which was 478 days. That was in the late 80s though when there were loads of great tag teams. The scene now is not that good.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Video Control takes us backstage where an exuberant TJ Perkins is on a WWE PPV. 2016 has been a crazy year.

No Mercy 2000

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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.

Fully Loaded 2000

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Arnold Furious: My wish list for this book was basically as follows: Royal Rumble 2000, No Way Out 2000 (for Mick Foley’s farewell double shot) and Fully Loaded 2000. Those were the three shows I was really eager to review. For those who don’t recall, this is a fine show. A snapshot of the year. It features a triple main event as the WWF took their three most promising midcard talents (Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit) and threw them against their three most established top card talents (Undertaker, Triple H and the Rock). It was an attempt to examine the glass ceiling to see if any of them belonged above it. By all rights Jericho should have been above it already, having beaten Hunter for the WWF Title only to have the decision reversed when Earl Hebner admitted a fast count. Like James has stated elsewhere, I thought it was Jericho’s time and striking while the iron was hot could have given him a massive boost as a talent. 2000 may have been the Rock’s year but him not winning the title at that point wouldn’t have been an issue as he was already monstrously over and it wouldn’t have hurt him at all. Whereas Jericho winning would have taken him to another level and the WWF would have gained a main eventer.

Tangent: This was the third and final Fully Loaded PPV. An event that debuted in 1998 and a spin-off of the DX push, featuring Hunter crotch-chopping on the poster. Fully Loaded was replaced in 2001 by the InVasion PPV, with the title being too wishy-washy to promote a massive WWF vs. WCW storyline. When the 2002 schedule rolled around Fully Loaded had disappeared for good, replaced by the even more generic Vengeance. Not that Vengeance retained its PPV status for that long, replaced in 2008 by the Night of Champions, which sounds a bit lame (like an SMW special), before briefly reappearing in 2011 to fill a gap. We’re in Dallas, Texas. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

Judgment Day 2000

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James Dixon: We start, like every good paid event should, with a backstage segment featuring the McMahon clan. Vince sends Jerry Brisco to go and get everyone coffee, while running down tonight’s card with his DX buddies and Shane McMahon. Unfortunately for Brisco he is the current Hardcore Champion, and thus he doesn’t manage the journey for coffee because the Headbangers attack him. We then see Shawn Michaels, the referee for the main event Iron Man Match tonight, walking down the corridor clad in incredibly tight fitting shorts. This should all have happened later on, or on Heat.