Reviews

Retro Reviews: WWE No Mercy 2002

The 2002 WWE No Mercy PPV took place several months after the first WWE brand extension took place. The roster was split into two with half the talent on Raw and the others on Smackdown. The Rock was gone as a regular due to his movie career while Steve Austin walked out on the company a few months earlier (he would return in early 2003). Brock Lesnar was firmly entrenched as the “Next Big Thing” holding the WWE Championship in a feud with The Undertaker that carried over from the previous PPV. Also, Triple H was the top heel World Champion on Raw in a feud with Kane during the infamous Katie Vick storyline. Don’t worry, I’ll get into that later.

In addition to that, this show also has one of the best tag team matches in WWE history. It is not celebrated by WWE due to Benoit reasons, but I’m telling you that the foursome of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Edge and Rey Mysterio put on an absolute classic. More on that later as well.

No Mercy did 300,000 PPV buys, which was tied for the lowest of 2002 with Unforgiven one month earlier. On the plus side, it was better than every No Mercy from 2003 to 2008 so you can say business was down for this show, but it’s not like things were great for the rest of the decade.

This show followed Unforgiven 2002 and led to Survivor Series 2002.

Here is the synopsis on WWE Network:

“Brock Lesnar defends the WWE Championship against The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell Match. World Heavyweight Champion Triple H takes on Intercontinental Champion Kane. Plus, Rob Van Dam faces Ric Flair in singles action, Chris Jericho & Christian defend the World Tag Team Championships against Booker T & Goldust, and much more.” 18+ (L,S,V)

The DVD looked like this:

Check out the full list of my WWE PPV Review archive right here. Let’s get to the show.

WWE No Mercy
From Alltel Arena in North Little Rock, Arkansas
October 20, 2002

The show opened with The Undertaker sitting in the locker room looking at his right hand in a cast. Kane sat down next to his “brother” and asked: “So, how was your week?” Taker didn’t say anything, he just looked at Kane. That was fun considering the stories both guys were involved in.

The opening video package focused on Triple H accusing Kane of being a murderer that killed Katie Vick. Oh dear. Eric Bischoff put them in a match with both of their titles on the line. That was the Raw side of things. Over on Smackdown, Brock Lesnar was the WWE Title that was feuding with The Undertaker leading to a Hell in a Cell match.

There was an impressive pyro display in the arena in Little Rock with a loud crowd looking ready to go. They showed the Hell in a Cell structure above the ring. Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler welcomed us since they were on hand to call the Raw matches.

Chris Jericho was up first as one-half of the World Tag Team Champions from Raw. Christian was Jericho’s partner. Goldust was up first for the babyface team while his partner Booker T got a pretty good pop from the crowd.

World Tag Team Championships: Chris Jericho & Christian vs. Booker T & Goldust

Pre-match notes: Jericho and Christian were the heel champions while Booker and Goldust were the faces.

Christian tried a hiptoss, Booker hit him with a clothesline and Booker wanted to go after Jericho, but Chris bailed to the floor. Goldust tagged in with a clothesline on Christian, then a back kick to the head and Jericho tagged in with Goldust hitting an uppercut punch. Goldust with hip attacks on both guys, clothesline on Christian to send him to the floor and Goldust sent Jericho over the top to the floor onto Christian. Goldust punched Jericho, Christian with a cheap shot and Jericho hit a missile dropkick for two. Christian was back in with a side Russian legsweep. Jericho and Goldust exchanged punches followed by Goldust hitting a clothesline. Christian knocked Booker off the apron to prevent a tag. Goldust managed to get a rollup on Christian for two along with a powerslam. Jericho tagged in with an elbow to Goldust, who hit a neckbreaker and Booker tagged in to a big pop. Booker with a jumping side kick on Jericho, then he ran the ropes and hit a forearm. Christian in illegally, Booker kicked him and Booker hit Jericho with a spinebuster for two. Booker got a sunset flip rollup on Jericho for two. Booker with a kick to the chest, but a side kick missed when Jericho moved. Christian went into the ring illegally, Booker with a double clothesline and Goldust hit a double bulldog. Goldust hit a Shattered Dreams kick to the turnbuckle (the idea is that it was to the groin) and Goldust sent Jericho into the same turnbuckle. Goldust got a rollup for two. Jericho with a Walls of Jericho on Goldust, but Booker was there to kick Jericho to save his partner. Booker with a scissors kick on Jericho. Goldust covered for two, but Christian broke up the pin. Booker kicked Christian into the barricade. Booker went up top and hit a missile dropkick on Jericho. Booker did the Spinarooni taunt leading to a huge pop and a lot of flashbulbs going off. Christian ran in with the title, Booker tossed him out of the ring. Jericho went for a springboard dropkick, but the middle rope broke! They had to improvise at that point as Jericho dumped Booker out of the ring and Goldust hit Jericho with a bulldog. Christian put Jericho’s foot on the bottom rope during the pin attempt, so it was just a two count. Jericho hit a bulldog on the title belt while the referee as looking at Christian and Booker fighting in the crowd. Jericho went up top, moonsault on Goldust and Jericho covered Goldust to win. I assume Jericho was going to do a Lionsault, but with no middle rope, he was smart enough to improvise by doing the moonsault off the top. It went 8:46.

Winners by pinfall: Chris Jericho & Christian

Analysis: *** A good tag team match between four talented workers that all went on to have very long careers in wrestling. Even with the rope breaking by accident, they still managed to come up with a pretty good finish to the match with Jericho doing the top rope moonsault since he couldn’t do a Lionsault due to the ropes. The heel champions were very crafty and two of my favorite heels in the company at the time. I liked the pacing of the match a lot. It was all action under nine minutes instead of killing time with rest holds and stuff like that. I enjoyed it as an opener.

Two legends were together up next as “Smackdown’s number one announcer” Funaki interview Al Wilson, who is Torrie’s dad. Funaki kept asking Al abut Dawn Marie making advances towards Al including showing Al her lingerie and even showering with Al while Torrie saw them together. Al had his clothes on in the shower. During the interview, Al didn’t know how to answer any of the questions when he was asked how he feels. When Funaki asked again, Al said he “did not have sexual relations with that woman.” It’s a Bill Clinton line that was a lie. Funaki said it seems like Al Wilson does not understand English, so that’s the joke.

Analysis: This storyline sucked, but it was also a time when gorgeous women like Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie were featured on the show wearing bikinis, lingerie and short outfits a lot, so I wasn’t going to complain that much as a man in my early 20s at the time.

The Smackdown announcers Michael Cole and Tazz were on hand to call the first Smackdown match. Dawn Marie was up first followed by Torrie Wilson, who is mad that Dawn was seducing Torrie’s dad Al.

Dawn Marie vs. Torrie Wilson

Pre-match notes: Torrie was the face and Dawn was the heel. Torrie beat Dawn in a bikini contest and lingerie contest on Smackdown prior to this match. Contest heat!

Torrie hit a dropkick to knock Dawn off the apron to the floor. Back in the ring, two clotheslines and Torrie charged right into a boot to the face from Dawn. Dawn with a shoulder tackle to the ribs, but Torrie came back with a kick to send Dawn out of the ring. Dawn drove Torrie back first into the turnbuckle. Dawn stomped on Torrie’s back and pulled back on her arms as well. Dawn with a sloppy looking body slam followed by a headbutt to the ribs although it looked like a low blow so it drew a mild pop. They did a spot where they rolled around the mat and then rolled over the referee Mike Sparks, who actually celebrated a bit. Dawn yelled at him. Torrie with a kick to the gut, but Dawn hit a clothesline. Torrie with a kick to the chest followed by a suplex for two. Torrie with a dropkick for two. Torrie with a hair toss across the ring, then a catapult into the turnbuckle and Torrie got a rollup for two. Torrie sent a charging Dawn into the top rope and a swinging neckbreaker was enough for the pinfall win at 4:40.

Winner by pinfall: Torrie Wilson

Analysis: 1/2* Bad match between two beautiful women. Dave Meltzer went -*1/2 for this, but I wouldn’t go negative stars. Some spots like clotheslines and kicks were okay. It wasn’t good, though. I’ll leave it at that.

Torrie Wilson celebrated the win and said, “that was for my dad.” Dawn was angry in the ring.

Analysis: The feud would continue leading to a memorable hotel scene at Armageddon 2002 and then Dawn marrying Torrie’s dad, which led to Al’s death on Smackdown. Al actually died legit a few years ago right before Torrie’s Hall of Fame induction. Rest in peace, Al.

Rob Van Dam was interviewed by Jonathon Coachman, who reminded RVD that Ric Flair hit him with a sledgehammer at Unforgiven. RVD went over Flair’s catchphrases, RVD said he doesn’t style or profile. RVD said that he’s “a chair smashing, woo, frog splashing, risk-taking, ying-and-yanging woo Van Dam-ining dude named Rob Van Dam.” That was a bit awkward. RVD left.

Coachman went after Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman and Tracy Dali walking down a hallway with Coach trying to get Brock’s thoughts, but Brock and Paul left. Tracy said there are no accusations – what she said about Undertaker is the truth because he’s a liar and a chat. Tracy said she’s there to see Undertaker get what he deserves inside Hell in a Cell.

Ric Flair was up first as highlights were shown from Unforgiven 2002. During Triple H’s match with RVD, Flair hit RVD with a sledgehammer to help Triple H win. It was Flair’s heel turn to join up with Triple H as a heel alliance. Rob Van Dam got a big ovation as one of the most popular guys at the time.

Rob Van Dam vs. Ric Flair

Pre-match notes: RVD was the face while Flair was the heel. Flair was 53 years old at the time of this match.

Flair bailed to the floor quickly, so RVD followed him with punches and sent Flair into the ring post. RVD with a kick that sent Flair into the crowd. RVD hit the spin kick off the apron onto Flair on the barricade. Back in the ring, RVD hit a jumping kick off the top for a two count. The bell rang to start the match as RVD hit a standing moonsault for two. JR whipped Flair into the corner, Flair failed to do his corner bump to the apron, but then RVD followed with punches. RVD with an elbow and a jumping kick off the middle ropes for two. Flair finally got some offense going with a low blow back kick to the groin and a chop block to the back of the left knee. Flair worked over RVD with punches in the corner followed by some blatant choking. Flair with punches, chops and he wrenched the left knee against the rope. Flair with a thumb to the eye, kick to the leg and a chop block to the back of the left knee again. Flair stomped on RVD as fans chanted for RVD to make the comeback. Flair hit a belly to back suplex. Flair applied the Figure Four Leglock in the middle of the ring, RVD turned it and they got towards the ropes. Flair stomped on the leg. RVD with a sunset flip for two and a backslide pin for two. RVD missed on a dropkick when Flair held onto the ropes, so Flair did a strut leading to “WOO” yelling from the crowd. RVD charged, Flair with a back elbow and Flair went up top, but we know Flair rarely connected with that, so RVD slammed him down. RVD hit the Rolling Thunder splash for two. RVD with a spin kick. RVD went up top and hit the Five Star Frog Splash for the pinfall win at 7:59

Winner by pinfall: Rob Van Dam

Analysis: **1/2 An average match with RVD aggressive early to get payback for Flair attacking him, but then Flair slowed it down like he tends to do. Flair worked over the left knee for several minutes, then when they got past that point in the match, RVD stopped selling it properly when he made the comeback. Flair wasn’t getting pushed at this point, so it was about putting over the younger guy RVD in a clean manner.

RVD celebrated the win. Big pop for him. The fans loved him.

Big Show was shown talking to Stephanie McMahon backstage. Eric Bischoff walked up to Show and Stephanie asking what is going on here. Bischoff said that Show is his property since he’s on Raw. Stephanie backed away. Show said that he hasn’t been on a PPV since July and he hasn’t headlined a PPV in he doesn’t know how long. Show reminded Bischoff he’s a former WCW and WWE Champion, yet he’s standing around with his thumb up his ass because of Bischoff. Eric told him not to talk like that to Eric and asked who the hell does he think he is. Show grabbed Bischoff by the collar telling Eric he’s an angry giant that should be in main events and he threatened to hurt Bischoff. Big Show left.

They showed a video package about the IC Title including memorable moments, controversial things that happened surrounding the title and more. It was the end of the Intercontinental Title at least for now.

Cruiserweight Championship: Jamie Noble (w/Nidia) vs. Tajiri

Pre-match notes: Noble was the heel champion and Nidia was his girlfriend. Tajiri was the babyface challenger. Noble was the champion for four months. The Cruiserweight Title was exclusive to Smackdown.

Tajiri knocked down Noble on the floor and hit a springboard moonsault for two. Noble with a snapmare. Tajiri with a body slam and a knee drop. Tajiri sent Noble to the apron leading to a kick for two. Noble had Tajiri on his shoulders, Noble ran forward and hit an electric chair drop to take down Tajiri. Noble hit a spinning backbreaker for a two count. Tajiri got on Noble’s back, Noble slammed him down for two and Tajiri got a pin for two. Noble with a clothesline for two. Noble with a hard whip into the turnbuckle followed by an elbow to the back. Noble with knees to the ribs. Noble set up Tajiri on the top turnbuckle, Tajiri elbowed him down, Tajiri went for a moonsault, Noble moved, so Tajiri landed on his feet and Tajiri hit an incredible Tornado DDT out of the corner for two. Tajiri was fired up with a lot of kicks to the body followed by a handspring back elbow and a kick to the head for two. Tajiri had Noble on his back, then he spun around and Tajiri hit a bridging German Suplex for two. Tajiri with the Tarantula hold against the ropes for four seconds, Noble ducked a kick and Tajiri did a slingshot into the turnbuckle. Tajiri with a kick to the head, Nidia on the apron, then she kissed referee Brian Hebner and Tajiri complained. Noble hit a Tiger Bomb for the two count. Nidia held Noble’s foot to help him counter a move and give him the leverage, so Noble covered Tajiri for the pinfall win.

Winner by pinfall: Jamie Noble

Analysis: **3/4 They worked hard and had a good showing here, but the fans were dead for most of it. The finish was weak and led to no reaction, but it worked for the heels finding a way to win. Since Noble had the pairing with Nidia, he got a lot of screen time during this run and WWE liked them, so Noble kept the title.

Post match, Tajiri went over to Nidia and kissed her on the lips. Nidia smiled to show that she liked it. Noble didn’t like that, Noble kissed Nidia and Tajiri kicked Noble to knock the champion down. That drew a pop.

Analysis: The crowd didn’t care that much about the match, but they did react to the post match.

Chris Benoit went up to Eddie Guerrero in a hallway telling him that Chavo Guerrero was getting his ass kicked by Kurt Angle. Eddie went up the door asking Benoit if he was stupid and somebody was yelling “help” behind a door. Eddie told Benoit he knows that Angle was going to attack him. The door opened and Chavo was on the ground. Kurt Angle walked out of the room, Eddie tried to fight him, but Eddie was pulled back.

The video package aired for the World Heavyweight Champion Triple H against Intercontinental Champion Kane. It featured Kane talking about how for the first time in his life, he’s happy. They showed Kane beating Chris Jericho to become the Intercontinental Champion. Bischoff said one show, one champion, so the World Champion will face the Intercontinental Champion – winner takes all. Triple H mentioned Katie Vick saying Kane killed her. Kane said that Katie had too much to drink, there was an animal on the road, he had to swerve and Katie died, but it was an accident. Triple H claimed that Kane had too much to drink too. Hunter: “You killed Katie Vick.” Hunter said that Kane would never be able to take his title. Kane came back and he was on fire, so Hunter had to sell the idea that maybe he was scared of Kane.

Analysis: The story was lame, but it was a way to make the rivalry feel even more personal and for fans to get behind Kane. One night after this on Raw was the infamous scene of Hunter (dressed as Kane) having sex with a mannequin they called Katie Vick and it was a funeral home. It was one of the worst segments in Raw history.

Kane entered as the Intercontinental Champion to a pretty good ovation. Triple H was the World Heavyweight Champion that was wearing the title that he was awarded by Eric Bischoff in early September.

Analysis: At this point in the brand extension, WWE didn’t want to have secondary singles titles on Raw or Smackdown. They would change their stance and bring back the Intercontinental Title in May 2003 while Smackdown added the US Title that was part of WCW many years earlier.

Winner Take All for World Heavyweight Championship and Intercontinental Championship: Triple H vs. Kane

Pre-match notes: Triple H was the heel while Kane was the face.

Kane decked Hunter with a punch while Lawler was pushing the story that Kane was a dangerous murderer. When Hunter tried to get some offense going, Kane punched Hunter some more followed by a back body drop leading to Hunter retreating to the floor. Kane with punches, Hunter with a kick and Kane hit a clothesline. Kane sent Hunter into the turnbuckle with Kane hitting a corner clothesline. Kane charged, Hunter avoided it and Kane hit the turnbuckle. Hunter charged in, but Kane was ready with a powerslam for two. Hunter came back with a clothesline to send Kane over the top to the floor. Hunter left the ring, thumb to the eye and a knee to the back into the ring post. Back in the ring, Triple H hit a neckbreaker followed by two more neckbreakers for a two count. Hunter sent Kane into the turnbuckle, Kane with an elbow and Hunter hit a spinebuster for two. Hunter with a slingshot that sent Kane throat first into the middle rope. Kane with punches, Hunter avoided Kane and jumped on the back of Kane with a sleeper that took Kane down to his knees. Kane hit a belly to back suplex.

Kane went for a running elbow drop, Hunter moved and Kane hit a boot to the face. JR was getting tired of Lawler mentioning the Katie Vick story. Kane with a corner clothesline as well as a sidewalk slam. Kane went up top and hit a clothesline. Ric Flair went down to the ring, Flair shoved the referee down and drove Kane’s throat into the top rope. Kane with a boot to Hunter. Flair brought the World Title into the ring, Kane punched Flair and Hunter hit Kane with the World Heavyweight Title. Hunter covered Kane for two. Good pop for Kane getting his shoulder up. The Hurricane showed up to help Kane since he was Kane’s friend. Hurricane punched Flair so Ric went over the barricade. Hunter hit Hurricane with a Pedigree on the floor. Kane sat back up, two clotheslines for Kane, punches and an uppercut punch. Kane with a powerslam for two. Hunter with an elbow to the jaw, then Kane caught Hunter and Kane worked over Hunter with punches. Hunter was seated on the top turnbuckle. Hunter shoved Kane down and when Hunter jumped off the top, Kane got a boot up to stop that. Kane with a kick attempt, Hunter moved and Kane hit the referee Earl Hebner, so Earl was bumped. Kane left the ring, Hunter jumped towards him, Kane caught Hunter and Kane gave Hunter a Chokeslam through the announce table. Kane beat up Flair with punches. Kane went for a pin on Triple H and then Kane blocked Flair from using a sledgehammer. Kane kicked Flair and got the sledgehammer. Kane held the sledgehammer over his head, so that led to the obvious low blow kick from Hunter. Kane picked up Hunter and Hunter hit Kane in the ribs with the sledgehammer. Kane was back up and hit a Chokeslam. Kane covered with no referee there, but then Chad Patton went out to ringside, so Flair pulled him out of the ring and punched him in the face. Flair jumped off the top with nothing, Kane caught him and hit a Chokeslam. Hunter with a shoulder tackle to Kane and a Pedigree connected, Referee Earl Hebner finally woke up and counted the pin to give Hunter the win at 16:13.

Winner by pinfall: Triple H

Analysis: *** A solid match here. The fans really got into it in the last few minutes after Flair got down to the ring. Kane was always booked strong, so it’s not like he lost clean that often and Hunter winning cheap fit what usually happened with him during this heel run. These two wrestled a lot, they never really had a classic match, but it was always pretty good like this match was. They had a lot of hijinks towards the finish with Flair getting involved, the referee bump, the weapons and so on. It was a bit much, but it was still a passable match.

Triple H celebrated with Ric Flair and the World Heavyweight Title. Hunter did not even celebrate with the Intercontinental Title since they killed that title at this point.

Stephanie McMahon talked to Tracy Dali in Stephanie’s office. Tracy said that she didn’t love The Undertaker. Tracy said she didn’t care about the ground that Undertaker walked on. Tracy wanted to let all of this go, but then out of nowhere, she gets this call from Paul Heyman, who knew about her and Mark. Stephanie said so Tracy did have a relationship in the past, sleeping with Undertaker recently, it was all a lie and Heyman put her up to it? Tracy said “between you and I” it was all a lie. Tracy claimed she was going to get Mark back and didn’t care about his pregnant wife Sara. Undertaker showed up, he called Tracy a “lying bitch” and he told Stephanie that he owed her one. Stephanie called Tracy to get the hell out of there, so Tracy left.

Analysis: Bad acting especially by Tracy. I love how Tracy said “between you and I” while standing in front of a camera. Anyway, it was a segment that was done to show that Tracy was lying about her accusations against The Undertaker due to Paul Heyman encouraging her to do it. It was a weak storyline.

There was a video package about Smackdown’s Tag Team Tournament to crown the new WWE Tag Team Champions. They showed a clip of Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit meeting with Stephanie McMahon, who told them they had to behave as a team or else they would be suspended. Angle and Benoit beat Los Guerreros to make the finals of the tournament.

Chris Benoit was up first for his team followed by Kurt Angle. If they come to blows, they will both be suspended for one year without pay, which sounds ridiculous, but that’s what they said. Rey Mysterio and Edge made separate entrances to good ovations since they were both faces. Edge had his “Never Gonna Stop” theme song at this point.

Here’s what the tournament brackets looked like:

For the Vacant WWE Tag Team Championships: Edge & Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle

Pre-match notes: Edge and Rey were faces. Angle was a heel. Benoit was a bit of a tweener, but I’d say he was a heel that was in the process of turning face.

Angle took down Rey with a waistlock takedown followed by some head-slapping. Angle lifted Rey and tossed him towards the corner, but Rey said he is not tagging out. Rey with a fireman’s carry, kick to the leg and a running dropkick. Rey with a boot to the face and a headscissors takedown. Rey with a drop toehold followed by some head-slapping to Angle as payback. Edge with a waistlock takedown, Angle grabbed a headlock and Angle hit a shoulder tackle. Edge with two armdrags to Angle followed by a dropkick to the jaw. Benoit tagged in with a headlock takeover on the mat, Benoit ran the ropes with a running forearm and Edge hit a knee to the ribs. Edge with a gutbuster driving his knee into the ribs. Edge with a backbreaker for two. Edge with a flapjack into the mat for two. Angle got in a cheap shot knee to the back of Edge, so then Edge hit Angle with a Spear while on the turnbuckle. Edge rolled up Benoit, so Benoit kicked Edge into the ropes and Angle with a neckbreaker on the ropes. Benoit with a neckbreaker, Angle tagged back in and hit a kick to the ribs. Angle with a knee to Edge’s ribs followed by a rear chinlock on the mat. After about a minute of that, Edge fought back with a boot to the face, but Angle hit an impressive belly to belly suplex across the ring. Benoit worked over Edge with punches, kicks and a corner whip with Edge taking a sternum bump like Bret Hart when Edge hit the turnbuckle. Benoit worked over Edge with multiple knees to the ribs, another sternum bump into the corner and Benoit hit three German Suplexes on Edge. Benoit went up top, but Edge was back up with a punch leading to Edge hitting a superplex off the top rope.

Rey got the hot tag with a punch to Angle, headscissors to Benoit, drop toe hold sent Benoit to the turnbuckle and Rey hit a corner dropkick. Rey with a dropkick to Angle out of the ring. Rey hit a springboard dropkick on Benoit, who was against the ropes. Angle broke up the pin, so Edge clotheslines Angle out of the ring. Benoit countered a bulldog by Rey by tossing Rey to mat and Benoit applied the Crippler Crossface with Edge breaking that up. Rey kicked Benoit into the ropes, Rey went for a 619 kick, Benoit caught him and Edge hit a missile dropkick, so Rey covered Benoit for two. Rey went up top, Angle jumped up top with a belly to belly suplex, Angle punched Edge off the apron and Benoit covered Rey for two! Great nearfall. Angle was back in with a suplex on Rey for a two count. Angle grounded Rey with a front headlock as the fans got into it. Rey countered an Angle move into an overhead throw of his own, but Angle came back with an impressive belly to belly suplex. Benoit tagged in with a back body drop on Rey for a two count. Benoit with a belly to back suplex for another two. Mysterio made the comeback with a headscissors that sent Benoit into the turnbuckle. Edge got the tag with clotheslines to Angle, elbow to Benoit, back body drop to Angle and a faceplant on Benoit. Edge with a sitout neckbreaker on Angle with Benoit breaking up the pin. Edge with a shoulder tackle on Benoit and Rey hit a Bronco Buster on Benoit against the turnbuckle. Edge with a shoulder tackle to Angle, Rey charged, Edge launched him and Rey hit a top rope hurricanrana on Angle! Benoit up top, Edge covered, Edge moved and Benoit hit a top rope headbutt that hit Angle. Rey knocked Benoit out of the ring. Edge covered for one…two…and no! Angle got his left shoulder. The fans popped huge for that. Angle was back up with a German Suplex on Edge. Rey charged, so Edge launched him in the air leading to Rey hitting a somersault kick on Angle. Benoit was back in with a Crippler Crossface on Benoit, Edge to the ropes, Benoit wasn’t legal and Rey hit a 619 kick on Benoit. Angle with the Angle Slam on Rey. Angle with Ankle Lock on Edge, who fought out of it and got an inside cradle for one…two…no! The crowd was standing and booing at that nearfall because they wanted Edge to win. Holy shit these nearfalls were amazing. Edge ran the ropes, Angle went for a clothesline, Edge ducked and Edge hit a Spear. Edge covered for two with Benoit breaking up the pin. Rey followed that with a baseball slide dropkick to knock Benoit down. Rey ran at Edge, who caught him and Rey did a moonsault off of Edge’s shoulders onto Benoit on the floor! That was so great. Tazz said it was “sick” and he’s right. Edge wanted the Edgecution, but Angle tripped him up and Angle applied the Ankle Lock. Edge countered it into an Ankle Lock of his own. Angle tripped up Edge into the Ankle Lock again, Edge was near the ropes and Edge couldn’t fight it anymore, so Edge tapped out. It went 22:03.

Winners by submission AND NEW WWE Tag Team Champions: Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit

Analysis: ***** This match is amazing. Five stars for me. I think it’s as good as any regular tag team match in WWE history. They got plenty of time, it was slow paced early as the teams tried to wear eachother down and then it had a phenomenal closing portion of the match. That fact that they got over 20 minutes helped a lot too because it made it feel like a big deal. If they only got 12-15 minutes I would have thought it was disappointing, but getting as much as they did certainly allowed them the chance to have a classic match. Most tag team matches have one babyface in peril for a match, but this was so long and so exciting that both faces were the babyface in peril in the match. There were spots in the match where it looked like any of the four guys were going to win. You just didn’t know who it would be. I was amazed by the crowd reaction during some of the nearfalls for Edge. The fans got into it so much by the end, they must have been standing for the last ten minutes and reacting to everything that Angle, Benoit, Edge and Rey were doing. There were definitely some moments where guys were in there illegally, but it wasn’t as bad or as blatant as we see in other wrestling companies. I loved the tag team moves by Edge and Rey while Angle and Benoit didn’t get along, but they functioned well enough to get the win in this match. I had seen it several times before, so the one thing I really paid attention to this time is the crowd. They were so into it and it’s for Tag Team Titles that were new, so it’s not like they were a coveted prize wit ha long history. They were new to WWE, yet the fans cared so much. Why? Because of the amazing work in the match. Those wrestlers won over the crowd with their work. It wasn’t about a storyline or anything like that. It was about the action in the ring.

Bonus Analysis: I don’t go five stars very often especially for regular tag team matches. I don’t know if I’d rate another WWE tag team match at this level, but I have done so for TLC matches. Those are different kinds of matches, though. Dave Meltzer rated it ****3/4 in the Wrestling Observer (available via subscription) and I can see why, but he didn’t really say what prevented it from being five stars. To me, it was five stars because of the work of everybody involved, I don’t think they messed anything, the crowd reaction was so hot and in the end we got a clean finish. Dave also never gave an Angle match five stars while I have about four or five times for Angle matches. This was my 2002 WWE Match of the Year.

Angle and Benoit were announced as the “first ever WWE Tag Team Champions.” That’s a weird name to say for the titles, but it was the first time these titles existed. It’s not like they called them the Smackdown Tag Team Titles like we have in 2021. Referee Jimmy Korderas handed Angle and Benoit the titles. Cole and Tazz put over the match for being an all-time classic match. Angle and Benoit celebrated with the titles.

Analysis: These four guys were part of the “Smackdown Six” known for putting on great matches. Eddie and Chavo were part of it too, so those three teams were the main teams fighting for the titles in the coming months. It gave the titles credibility right away because of how gifted those six wrestlers were in the ring.

The Undertaker was shown in the trainer’s room with the cast on his right hand. The trainer told Undertaker it was unethical to do this – give Undertaker a painkiller shot. Undertaker told him to give him the shot or Undertaker will give it to himself. The trainer Larry gave Undertaker the painkiller shot while shaking his head. That ended it.

Trish Stratus entered for her Women’s Title defense. She got a good ovation and looked lovely in blue. Victoria was the challenger dressed in white. She got to the ring quickly.

Women’s Championship: Trish Stratus vs. Victoria

Pre-match notes: Trish was the face and Victoria was a heel.

They exchanged some slaps leading to Victoria getting a side headlock takeover. Victoria with a shoulder tackle followed by a kick to the head. The fans chanted “We Want Puppies” for them as Trish bounced off the ropes and hit a clothesline. Trish with kicks, then a jumping kick to the head and that got a two count. Trish pulled Victoria’s shoulder into the ring post followed by a clothesline, but then Victoria sent Trish into the ring post. Victoria sent Trish into the barricade. Back in the ring, Victoria with a leg drop over the top for two. Victoria with a monkey flip that didn’t work that well. Victoria up top, so Trish did the handstand against the turnbuckle for a two count. Victoria applied a backbreaker on the shoulder, Trish fought out of it and did a bridging pin for two. Victoria worked over Trish with slaps to the face. Victoria with a body slam. Victoria showed off her power with a spinning sidewalk slam. Victoria to the turnbuckle, Trish put her on her shoulders and dropped back for an electric chair drop for two. They exchanged punches. Victoria bounced off the ropes and Trish hit a Chick Kick for two. Trish hit two neckbreakers in a row. Trish went for Stratusfaction, Victoria fought out of it and Trish got a rollup where she sat on top for the pinfall win at 5:31.

Winner by pinfall: Trish Stratus

Analysis: *3/4 A short match that was intense from the beginning, but like a lot of women’s matches in this era, it wasn’t given a lot of time. By having Trish pin Victoria with a rollup instead of a finishing move, it protected Victoria a bit. I thought that they could have done some more nearfalls in the match to make it more interesting. The crowd didn’t care that much.

Post match, Victoria kicked Trish in the head with a superkick and the referee Jack Doan tackled Victoria to prevent another attack. The announcers talked about how crazy Victoria was. JR said that the rivalry was just getting started, which is another way of telling fans there would be a rematch.

Analysis: The feud would continue after this with Victoria beating Trish for the title at Survivor Series in a Hardcore Match. That match only got seven minutes. I liked their matches together, but they didn’t get enough time.

They showed The World restaurant in New York City with Rikishi on hand to hang out with some fans at the show. Rikishi talked about Hell in a Cell two years ago (at Armageddon 2000) could have ended his career and he’ll never forget that match. Rikishi made it clear that Hell in a Cell is no joke. Rikishi picked The Undertaker to win the Hell in a Cell match.

The Hell in a Cell structure was lowered for the main event.

The video package covered the Brock Lesnar/Undertaker feud including their Unforgiven match that ended without a decisive winner, so the feud continued. Lesnar attacked Undertaker repeatedly including an attack with a propane tank to the right hand of The Undertaker. That led to a storyline that The Undertaker’s right hand was broken, but Undertaker still wanted to compete. Stephanie McMahon, the Smackdown GM, announced that it was a Hell in a Cell match. The video also focused on Undertaker’s Hell in a Cell destruction against the likes of Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley and Rikishi. There was also a woman named Tracy that accused The Undertaker being bad to her, then Undertaker said he hadn’t seen her in seven years and he met her years before his wife Sara, who was pregnant with his child. Anyway, Undertaker kept on fighting back against Lesnar even with the cast on his right hand.

Brock Lesnar was up first as the WWE Champion. It was only two months in his title reign after he beat The Rock for the WWE Title at SummerSlam 2002 had his agent Paul Heyman with him. Cole said that Lesnar chose to enter Hell in a Cell first.

The Undertaker made his entrance with a huge cast on his right hand. The was in Undertaker’s “Big Evil” phase and had the “You’re Gonna Pay” theme song. Undertaker got down to the ring quickly.

WWE Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman) vs. The Undertaker

Pre-match notes: Brock Lesnar was the heel WWE Champion for about two months going into this. The Undertaker was the babyface. Lesnar was the youngest WWE Champion ever at this point at 25 years old. Undertaker was 37.

Lesnar with a waistlock takedown, Taker came back with elbows and Lesnar hit a powerslam for two. Taker with a punch to the ribs of Lesnar with Taker using the cast, so Lesnar was selling it. Lesnar left the ring, he tried to break the door open, couldn’t do it and went into the ring. Lesnar punched and kicked Taker’s broken hand. Undertaker with a punch with the cast that rocked Lesnar and then Taker punched Lesnar in the head. Lesnar was screaming for Lesnar, who was bleeding from the forehead. Lesnar was bleeding on Smackdown, so it was in a similar spot. Lesnar went by the ring apron to blade himself. Taker sent Lesnar into the steel steps and a whip into the turnbuckle. Taker shoved Lesnar’s face into the cage and Taker hit a clothesline. Taker went for a pin on the floor for a two count. Taker raked Lesnar’s head against the cage and then tossed Lesnar into the cell. Taker with a cast shot to Lesnar’s head followed by a leg drop on the apron. Taker with a knee drop off the apron for a two count. Taker whipped Lesnar into the cell while Heyman was there trying to help Lesnar, but he couldn’t do anything. Taker kicked Heyman, who was up against the cell, so Heyman bumped to the floor. Taker whipped Lesnar into the steel steps. Heyman busted open, which was ridiculous, but that’s a Hell in a Cell. Taker pulled on Heyman’s tie to send Paul into the cell repeatedly. Lesnar charged, Taker moved and Lesnar knocked Heyman down by accident. Lesnar finally got some offense sending Taker into the cell and then slamming Taker into the cell. Heyman handed Lesnar his belt, so Lesnar tied the right hand to the belt and Heyman held onto the belt. Lesnar hit Taker with a chair to the back. Lesnar hit the broken hand with multiple chair shots and it even broke the belt. Lesnar tried to rip the cast off Taker’s right hand, but Taker fought back to stop that. Lesnar went back to ripping the cast off, but Taker fought back with kicks to the face.

They were back in the ring with Lesnar stomping on Undertaker while Lesnar finally ripped the cast off the right hand. Lesnar sat Taker on the top rope. Lesnar held onto the top of the cell while standing on the top rope, so he kicked Taker repeatedly. Lesnar was standing on the top, so Undertaker hit him with a low blow uppercut and a bloody Heyman was screaming at ringside. Taker jumped off the top rope with an elbow drop, which is not something he did often, but it looked good enough. Taker covered Lesnar for a two count. Lesnar hit a hangman’s neckbreaker off the top rope, but then Taker kicked Lesnar off the apron into the cage. Heyman was screaming at Lesnar: “We’re losing, Brock!” Taker hit a suicide dive onto Lesnar into the cell. Taker tried to lift the steel steps, but his hand was hurting, so Lesnar threw Taker into the cell and Lesnar hit a clothesline. Lesnar hit Taker in the head with the steel steps, so Taker went down at ringside and did a blade job. That meant Undertaker was busted open and he was bleeding heavily from the forehead. Lesnar hit Taker with the steel steps again. The blood was pouring from Taker’s head like a faucet. Lesnar was celebrating with Heyman. Back in the ring, Taker with some kicks and then Lesnar came back with a spinebuster for two. Lesnar stomped on Taker repeatedly while Taker urged Lesnar to keep bringing it. They exchanged punches, Taker was doing a great job of selling the right hand injury and then Taker hit a clothesline. Taker stomped on Lesnar’s right hand a few times. Taker tried to do the old school rope walk, that led to a pop, but Lesnar pulled him down with an arm drag. Lesnar picked up Taker for the F5, Taker slipped out and Taker hit a Chokeslam! Huge pop for that as Taker covered for the one…two…and no! Lesnar kicked out at two. Taker hit a running splash on Lesnar, then a charge, but Lesnar got a boot up and Lesnar teased a Last Ride, but Taker countered with a back body drop. Taker ran off the ropes, Lesnar ducked and Taker hit a DDT for two. Here’s how bloody Undertaker was in the final moments of this match.

They actually did a zoom on his face where you could see blood dripping like a faucet too. Taker signaled for the Last Ride, but Lesnar countered it with shoulder tackles that sent Taker into the turnbuckle. Lesnar with punches while on the turnbuckle, so that set up right for the Last Ride Powerbomb from Taker. Heyman was screaming at ringside. Taker covered for one…two…and Lesnar got his right hand on the bottom rope to kick out. Undertaker went for a Tombstone, Lesnar countered, landed on his feet, lifted Taker onto his shoulders and Lesnar hit the F5 for the one…two…three and the pinfall win! It went 27:18.

Winner by pinfall: Brock Lesnar

Analysis: **** This was an excellent WWE Title match that lived up to the hype in terms of delivering a violent, bloody Hell in a Cell match. Both wrestlers bled in the match with even Paul Heyman doing a blade job as well. The first half was more of a slow-paced brawl while the second half of the match was more interesting. There weren’t a lot of pin attempts or submissions for most of it, but that’s okay because it was about causing punishment to eachother. I had forgotten about how bloody this match, but seeing Taker’s blood again was pretty wild. This was probably the bloodiest I had ever seen Taker in a match. I also thought Taker did a tremendous job of selling the right hand throughout the match. I loved the finish of the match. They did that dramatic nearfall with Taker hitting the last ride, going for the cover and Lesnar getting his hand on the bottom rope to kick out. Then you had Taker going for the Tombstone, Lesnar countered it by landing on his feet (that’s amazing) and then hoisting up Taker onto his shoulders. That’s not easy to do to a 300-pound man after wrestling for nearly 30 minutes. It showed how much a freak Lesnar in terms of his power. That finish put over Lesnar in a big way.

Post match, Lesnar grabbed the WWE Title at ringside. Lesnar walked around ringside with the WWE Title while Tazz pointed out that Lesnar beat Hulk Hogan, he beat The Rock and now he has beaten The Undertaker as well. Lesnar put the WWE Title around his neck and he climbed up the Hell in a Cell structure. Lesnar stood on top of the cell with the WWE Title and held up the title while on the cell. Lesnar posed with the WWE Title on the cell. That was the end of the show.

Analysis: It was the end of this feud. Lesnar’s title reign wouldn’t last much longer because he dropped the gold to Big Show at the next PPV, Survivor Series, and then he would go face. Fans were starting to cheer Lesnar a bit in some arenas I think because he was such an impressive athlete, so WWE decided to turn him into a top babyface until the summer of 2003.

This event had a runtime of 2:46:15 on WWE Network.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Show rating (out of 10): 7.5

A great show carried by the two Smackdown matches with the Tag Team Title match as an all-time classic matchup and then the violent WWE Title match inside Hell in a Cell. It wasn’t the PPV of the year or anything like that because SummerSlam 2002 is an all-time great PPV, but it was definitely one of the better shows of the year.

If you’ve never seen the Angle/Benoit vs. Edge/Rey match, I highly recommend it. They worked so well together. I don’t want to say it was flawless wrestling, but it was such an outstanding match. What really stood out also was the crowd was so engaged in int while there were parts of the show where they didn’t seem to care that much.

The Raw matches were okay, but not at the same level as the Smackdown matches. I didn’t really like the Triple H/Kane feud that much. The story was silly and the was just average. Smackdown was clearly the better brand in the second half of 2002 and into 2003.

 

FIVE STARS

  1. Kurt Angle – I don’t include Chris Benoit in this, but if he didn’t murder people then he’d be here too.
  2. Edge/Rey Mysterio
  3. The Undertaker
  4. Brock Lesnar
  5. Chris Jericho/Christian

 

OPINIONS

Best Match: Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit vs. Edge & Rey Mysterio (***** out of 5)

Worst Match: Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie (1/2*)

Most Memorable Moment: The end of the WWE Tag Team Title match just because it’s an all-time classic and all of the drama that built up to the finish.

That’s all for me. Check out the full list of my WWE PPV Review archive right here. Thanks for reading.

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My contact info is below.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

 

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