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WWE Ruthless Aggression Review: Innovations

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The second season of WWE’s Ruthless Aggression features an episode called “Innovations” covering the unique match types WWE created during the Ruthless Aggression era.

Here’s the synopsis of this episode on WWE Network:

S2 | E2: Innovations

“As WWE embarks on a new era, the creation of new innovative concepts such as Elimination Chamber, Money in The Bank and Taboo Tuesday invigorates WWE programming.”

I have previously reviewed the Securing The Future episode from season two. Let’s get to it.

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The Ruthless Aggression series intro video aired. The narrator for season two is WWE Smackdown announcer Pat McAfee.

They showed a famous Raw moment from September 1998 when Steve Austin drove a Zamboni into the building and hit a clothesline on Vince McMahon to a huge ovation. It led to them talking about the Attitude Era with JBL saying it was the wild west where you could do anything you want. They mentioned the creation of Hell in a Cell while showing Mick Foley’s crazy bump. They mentioned the creation of the Tables, Ladders & Chairs (TLC) match. Highlights were shown of other crazy spots in matches. Former WWE writer Brian Gewirtz said that you could push yourselves further or come up with the next thing. In June of 2002, Vince McMahon was in the ring calling out his superstars wondering who has enough Ruthless Aggression.

They showed some newcomers that came to WWE like Rey Mysterio, Eric Bischoff, Booker T (a year earlier), Rob Van Dam (also a year earlier), Ric Flair (late 2001 for his second WWE run) and more to revolutionize the landscape of WWE. Bischoff said that you had to rally your team to refocus, re-energize and new ways to tell your stories or present your product.

That led to the Raw Roulette with Bischoff saying people still ask him about it. They had Brian Gewirtz and Bruce Prichard saying that Eric Bischoff was great for stuff like that because he innovated things in WCW as well. Brian mentioned William Regal and Goldust in showgirls. Regal said that it was his favorite thing he has ever done and he got to pull off all of his comedy skills in that segment. Brian Gewirtz said it was like having a pay-per-view styles show on Raw. They showed when Eric Bischoff set up the first Tag Team TLC Raw in 2002 with Adam Cole talking about how incredible the match was. Kane said he wanted to express more creativity and it was just awesome.

The Raw Roulette discussion continued as they showed when Lita had to face Victoria in a Steel Cage Match. Lita loved the idea and was excited about it. Lita enjoyed being able to be creative in a match like that.

They moved on to talk about a new match concept called the Elimination Chamber. Gewirtz thought they did Hell in a Cell in a bit too much, but they wanted something brand new and different, so that led to Elimination Chamber. Gewirtz found the video packages about it to be entertaining. They chose to debut the Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002 in Madison Square Garden.

Triple H said that the first time he saw the Elimination Chamber in person at MSG, he thought: “Holy s**t!” They showed a clip from 2002 with Hunter saying: “We’re all f**ked.” Shawn Michaels had a first thought that it was: “Big. Pretty cool looking.” RVD said that he was thinking of new ideas that he can pull off. Chris Jericho was shown wondering if you could stand on top of the pod. Booker: “Somebody gonna get f**ked up tonight.” He was right about that! RVD was shown on top of a pod trying to figure out how to stand there.

A video aired about the first Elimination Chamber match with Triple H defending the World Heavyweight Title against Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Kane, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels. They’re all Hall of Famers. Booker joked that they were like crash test dummies while RVD said it was a steel grid that they were getting bodyslammed on. Hunter said that it wasn’t designed to work in and it was the hardest structure he’s ever been in. Kane said that it was a lot more complex than a regular match.

(It wasn’t mentioned on here, but Triple H is the person credited with coming up with the Elimination Chamber concept. The idea was to do something like WarGames, but with one ring instead of two.)

They showed the infamous spot where RVD went up to the top of the pod with Hunter laying on the ground thinking that RVD can’t stand up straight and wondered if he could jump there. RVD said that it was not an easy calculation and he was off. Rob said he overshot a little bit, then his shin came across Hunter’s throat. Hunter said it was going tragically in the wrong direction because of his throat injury. RVD said he felt horrible about it and he didn’t even know that Hunter was hurt that bad. Prichard wondered how Hunter even hobbled around the ring and said that you did what you had to do to survive. They showed Michaels pinning Jericho after a superkick and that led to Shawn facing off with Triple H as the final two. Michaels hit an elbow drop off the top of the Chamber. Hunter hit a Pedigree, but was slow to cover for a two count. Michaels with a back body drop followed by Sweet Chin Music for the pinfall win to become the World Heavyweight Champion in his second match back in over four years. McAfee correctly stated that it was a huge success.

(I have reviewed every Elimination Chamber match and I think that first one is still the best of them all.)

They showed highlights of the second Elimination Chamber match at SummerSlam 2003 with Bill Goldberg dominating the match. Goldberg said it was another place to be violent and figuring out what to do with this person in this spot. Goldberg went for a Spear and Hunter hit him with a sledgehammer to win the match. They showed another Elimination Chamber match with Triple H surviving again and yet another Elimination Chamber. Triple H went on to win four Elimination Chamber matches.

The next match concept discussed was the very successful Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Chris Jericho did a promo on Raw on February 28, 2005 talking about the match concept. Brian Gewirtz said he came up with the match with Michael Hayes and collaborated with Chris Jericho about it. Gewirtz said if you had a big group ladder match at WrestleMania, what could you do if it’s not for the title. Gewirtz talked about the prize for the winner saying they thought about a title match for the next night, but then Vince McMahon came up with having a year to cash in as opposed to the next night. They showed Eric Bischoff explaining the rules.

Brian Gewirtz said that Edge was pissed off about participating in this match. Edge said he was tired of doing ladder matches at WrestleMania and thought maybe he was better off not being on the show. They showed some clips from WrestleMania 21 weekend in Los Angeles in 2005. Edge said he was talked into it and said he sounds like a dumbass for not understanding what it was and what it could be.

They showed comments from Christian saying they all deserved a spotlight and they were ready to take that next step. Edge spoke about having Shelton Benjamin in the match, so they tried to think of spectacular moves and Shelton got to do some awesome spots in the match. Christian said it became a staple of WrestleMania as a big deal. Edge laughed that he was so glad he was talked into the match.

(Like the first Elimination Chamber match, I thought the first Money in the Bank match may be the best of them all. I really liked the Men’s Money in the Bank match in 2021, so that might be the best now.)

They spoke about the cash-in attempt with Gewirtz saying they thought it would be traditional where the winner cashes in at SummerSlam like the Royal Rumble winner gets a title shot at WrestleMania. Christian said that when Edge won it, we saw that he could cash in at any time. Paul Heyman spoke about how a champion is in a perilous position against a challenger that could come out at any time. They showed New Year’s Revolution 2006 when John Cena survived a brutal Elimination Chamber match to keep the WWE title. After the match, Vince McMahon announced that Edge was cashing in Money in the Bank, so Edge and Lita entered to set up the match. Edge said he didn’t know Money in the Bank would be this until he handed that briefcase over to Vince. Moments later, Edge hit Cena with a Spear and became the WWE Champion for the first time. Edge is such a cool, fun moment any time you get to do those firsts. Gewirtz said Edge admitted that it was a good thing for his career.

They showed highlights of other Money in the Bank ladder matches in the years that followed. Christian said he was super happy with what the match would become. RVD said that Money in the Bank was the high point of his career at that point.

They showed WrestleMania 24 in Orlando with John Morrison talking about his moonsault ladder spot. They showed some of the cash-in moments like RVD beating John Cena to win the WWE Title and Edge cashing in on Undertaker to be the World Heavyweight Champion. Michael Cole and Bruce Prichard talked about how exciting of a moment it was when somebody would cash in or threaten to cash in Money in the Bank.

The show moved on to talking about some bad match concepts like the Concrete Crypt Match that Paul Heyman announced for Paul Bearer. Bruce Prichard said somebody came up with a Concrete Crypt. Gewirtz said Paul Bearer was buried in the oatmeal while Paul had to scream “nooooo!” Bruce said it was likely one of the worst things he was ever involved with. Edge said you’ve gotta take swings and you’re not always going to knock them out of the park.

The next bad match concept was Punjabi Prison with Gewirtz noting it was another Smackdown idea. Adam Cole said it looked awkward, it was tough to climb and it was a tough night for the guys in the match. It was Undertaker and Big Show although they don’t mention it was supposed to be Great Khali instead of Show in that first match. Bruce said if it’s too hard to explain something, you need to simplify it or abort.

(I would have loved to hear The Undertaker talk about how bad of an idea the Concrete Crypt was. Of course, WWE did bring the match back again in the 2000s and even in 2017, which was a terrible match between Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton.)

The next concept they discussed was Taboo Tuesday in 2004. Vince McMahon told the fans that the power was in their hands. Jim Ross was shown saying that they had four million votes for the show. Paul Heyman said that the audience got to pick what they wanted to see. Mickie James spoke about how they were getting live feedback from the fans, so it was ahead of the curve. Gewirtz said that if you don’t have it be legitimate then the whole thing collapses. Gewirtz said that the voting was legit. Bruce said that Taboo Tuesday wasn’t easy to control. Bruce said that the fans surprised them (WWE) a few times.

Shelton Benjamin spoke about how he got voted in to face Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Title with Shelton saying he assumed Batista was going to get voted into the match. Shelton said he didn’t know if he was wrestling that night and neither did Jericho. Benjamin spoke about having the match on the fly and they showed Benjamin hitting the T-Bone Suplex to win the IC Title. Shelton didn’t know he was winning until Jericho didn’t kick out.

Christian talked about how it was weird having a PPV on a Tuesday and he said he liked the concept. Mickie James said it was a smart resource tool to gauge the audience to see where they were at. Christian said that they were interesting, innovative and probably a reason why they don’t do them anymore. Bruce Prichard said that the larger audience wants to know what they are going to get, and the audience not knowing what the attraction is going to be is what led to those not being highly viewed PPVs.

(Taboo Tuesday was definitely not a big success. The Tuesday PPVs did low numbers for the 2004 and 2005 shows, so they created Cyber Sunday in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Those weren’t a huge success either, so the concept went away. Five years is a decent run, I guess.)

They mentioned the Byte This show from the early 2000s era. A clip was shown of Vince McMahon in May 2002 talking about how the reason they have survived is that they are always in a state of flux and that’s where they were. Paul Heyman spoke about how WWE knew that there was a fascination about the behind-the-scenes in WWE. Michael Cole said for years, you had to call a 900 number. Lita said that Byte This was innovative at the time. Cole said that things like that were getting more popular and diehard fans sink their teeth into that. A clip was shown of Steve Austin complaining about how the writing on WWE programming sucked and was piss poor. Brian Gewirtz said that the writing team didn’t have anything to do with Byte This and there’d be things like Steve Austin hated them? He seemed shocked by it at the time.

Bruce Prichard said he hated it – referring to Byte This. Bruce said that they’re an entertainment company telling stories, so if you are telling one story on a platform and another platform is telling a different story, it’s hard to tell the difference. They showed JBL praising John Cena on Byte This and then calling John Cena a “piece of garbage” on Smackdown. Bruce said it was a little confusing and he was not a big fan. They mentioned that Byte This got a boost in 2005 as we got a clip of Bret Hart saying he wishes he got to work with Kurt Angle.

They talked about the most Byte This infamous episode featuring Matt Hardy, Lita and Edge due to Lita cheating on Matt with Edge. Bruce said that a segment of the audience would start Matt Hardy chants. Prichard said that the internet community kept stirring it to the point that it was difficult to ignore.

Lita mentioned a specific episode of Byte This where Edge, Matt Hardy and Lita were told to say what they were feeling, but she felt like that wasn’t how this is supposed to work. Matt said that Edge & Lita were in one room while he was in another room with Matt saying he remembered saying stuff back and forth to eachother. It was August 19, 2005. Edge talked about how they are human and everyone makes mistakes. Gewirtz said that people watching from home knew that Byte This was real while the other stuff wasn’t real. Hardy ripped on Edge because when Matt was out hurt, Edge did everything he could to get inside Lita’s head and her pants. Edge replied saying that Matt couldn’t supply what a real man needs to supply. Matt said that the mudslinging got real bad. In 2005, Matt ripped on Edge (Matt called him Adam – Edge’s real name) for being married and divorced multiple times by the time he was 30. Edge ripped on Matt for only having one girlfriend by the time he was 30. Matt said it was a good thing that Edge ruined. Present day Lita said it was super uncomfortable. Bruce said that the best stories were based on reality. Edge and Lita walked off the 2005 interview while present day Matt said it was an amazing moment. They showed Matt’s incredible leg drop off the steel cage on Edge in the ring.

Edge said it’s hard to come up with something new and something new that will work. Paul Heyman spoke about how it was so important to keep offering something new while saying you had to be forward-thinking or else it was like walking up a down escalator. Kurt Angle said that they needed different types of shows so they could make it different from the previous era. Morrison said that it was about creating a different experience. Christian said that maybe the first version becomes something else after.

They were in the final moments of the show so it was mentioned that Elimination Chamber is still a staple of the WWE calendar. In 2017, the Chamber was revamped with a new streamline design. That led to more room on top of the pods. It was also led to padding instead of steel, but that was not mentioned.

Money in the Bank has led to unpredictable moments year after year. They showed Miz cashing in Money in the Bank on Randy Orton to become WWE Champion. Adam Cole said it created buzz and excitement that there hasn’t been for a long time. Seth Rollins was shown cashing in to win the WWE Title in 2015. Heyman spoke about how WWE was very forward-thinking. Big E’s 2021 Money in the Bank win and WWE Title cash in was shown. They also showed highlights of the first women’s Elimination Chamber match.

Heyman: “That’s the natural progression of WWE. That’s why this company has stayed alive while all others have failed.” Then it showed a clip of Vince McMahon saying: “That’s because of Ruthless Aggression.” That was it.

This episode has a runtime of 44:29 on WWE Network.

 

Final Thoughts

I thought it was a good episode. WWE should absolutely pat themselves on the back for creating match concepts like Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank because they are great concepts that have worked very well. Elimination Chamber will be 20 years old next year. I also give them credit for mocking some of the concepts that didn’t work like the awful Concrete Crypt Match, the Punjabi Prison and Taboo Tuesday although that one had five PPVs if you count Cyber Sunday as well.

I think my favorite part of this was the behind-the-scenes footage of the first Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002. It’s pretty telling that Booker T predicted something bad was going to happen and then a few hours later, RVD’s knee went across Triple H’s throat and that made it hard for Hunter to breathe throughout the match. I’m glad they included those clips to show us what the wrestlers were feeling at the time.

It was also cool how they had Edge admit that he didn’t want to be in Money in the Bank originally, but then he did it and was obviously glad that he did.

 

In case you missed any of my previous reviews in the Ruthless Aggression series, the links are below.

Season 1

Episode 1 – It’s Time to Shake Things Up

Episode 2 – Enter John Cena

Episode 3 – Evolution

Episode 4 – Brock Lesnar

Episode 5 – Raw vs. Smackdown

Season 2

Securing The Future

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Thanks for reading this review. My contact info is below.

Email: mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter: @johnreport