Photo: WWE

Retro Pops & Botches: WWE Smackdown – 02.20.2003

 

Evening, folks! I’m Bachur, and I welcome you back to Pops & Botches: The Lesnar Years. Where we left off, Team Angle succeeded in singles efforts, Matt Hardy ran out of steam, Nunzio brought in some backup, Chris Benoit tapped out the A-Train, Chris Kanyon did a shit segment, Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie brought back a classic and Brock Lesnar killed several people. You can watch this week’s episode here. We’re just days away from No Way Out, daddy! Next Big Thing!

POP: Rock in A Hard Place

We open the show with a special, LIVE appearance from The People’s Champ himself. This marks the debut of perhaps the greatest outfit in pro-wrestling history: leather pants, leather vest, oversized belt buckle, sunglasses. There’s a lot to be said about The Rock throughout the many stages of his career, but nothing, NOTHING, will EVER compare to this fit. It is perfect from every angle. He doesn’t have the Hollywood Rock theme song yet, but we’ll be there shortly. Rocky gets a mixed reaction, cause you can’t show up looking like that and expect no resistance. After giving the crowd the same look he gave that time Roman won the Rumble, he tries to salvage his schtick only to be met with Hogan chants. This is a very special type of heel Rock promo, where he starts off in denial and gradually descends into anger.

What’s perfect about heel Rock is that he talks the same as face Rock. He’s doing the exact same routine. The people don’t boo because he’s extremely annoying, that’s how he’s always been. They boo because he went Hollywood. Rocky’s act didn’t change, the circumstances changed. Of course Rock is confused, he did the “FINALLY…” gag and people booed. To his face. He mimics The People’s Champ, and when the people boo, his act slips. For example, Rock tries to reason with the crowd before being interrupted by his ringing cellphone, and this happens:

Rock’s gotta take care of some business real quick, just… do the Rock a favor, keep it down a little bit.
*on phone* Yeah? Oh, wh—hell yeah! Yeah, the Rock is gonna fly out tonight! What do you think the Rock is gonna spend one more night surrounded by all these hicks? NO WAIT, HOLD ON–
*off phone* No no no no no no no! I didn’t mean—NO! Rock’s not talking about you people, I’m talking about all the hickory trees that are outside! Indianapolis, full of hickory trees! […] Now, KEEP IT DOWN!

Rock asks the crowd if they really want to boo him, and they do. He gives them one last chance to get back on his side, and they boo even harder. It’s at this point that Rock’s mask slips all the way off. Now, if this were any other heel, he’d do a couple catchphrases, talk shit on Hogan, and leave. Rock does a couple catchphrases, talks shit on Hogan, and then he keeps talking. The guy’s got a mic in his hand, and he’s got all the time in the world. He’s a kid in a playground. He knows how crowds think, how they react, and he starts to toy with them. When the crowd tries to join in on his catchphrase, he gets offended. “What are you, a bunch of sheep? Have some self-respect, for [EXPLETIVE] sakes”. By the time he’s done, the crowd cheers. Goddamn.

Hogan eventually gets to the arena, wearing… this. I don’t know how to describe it other than “Smallville Justice League version of Vibe”, but that’s about as obscure a reference as I can muster. SmackDown’s Number 1 Announcer Funaki (INDEED!) tries to interview Rock, but gets bounced by security. Look, I can take being an insanely obnoxious sellout, but big leaguing Funaki? That’s a bridge too far. After failing to get a minute of Rock’s time, Hogan heads down to the ring. Rock follows him out, and the two finally face off. They try and re-do the Wrestlemania X8 spot to zero reaction, because we’ve already seen that. Rock is a little parched, so he asks someone to give him “some People’s Water”. Rocky beats around the bush for a bit and demands an apology from Hogan for calling him a “Rockajabroni”. Yeah, that cut deep, apparently.

Rock reminds Hogan that his career resurgence, his WWE title run, the rebirth of Hulkamania, it’s all because of him. Rock made Hogan relevant again because, and I quote, “The Rock is your friend!”. Rock’s body language is absolutely on point here. He keeps himself at least seven feet from Hogan at all times, and whenever Hogan moves a muscle, Rock takes three steps back. All while demanding Hogan apologizes. Just an unbelievable shithead. Hogan replies that his career resurgence happened thanks to ALL THESE HULKAMANIACS BROTHER. Rock goes full Clown Mode and talks shit again, so Hogan starts ripping his shirt. He doesn’t finish, meaning his shirt just ends up split in half showing off his titties. Incredibly stupid visual. Like any good chickenshit heel, Rock cowers on the apron, offers a handshake and spits in Hogan’s face. Hogan, would you PLEASE do something about your shirt.

SLIGHT POP: Wrong Stop

Last week, Chris Benoit and A-Train had a pretty damn good TV match. For reasons unknown to me, they’re doing it again. My best kayfabe guess is that Train might’ve asked Stephanie for a rematch, but they don’t care to explain it. Train attacks Benoit before the bell and quickly lands… a Muscle Buster?! Wait, was Samoa Joe doing Muscle Busters in 2003, or was he still finishing matches with an Emerald Flowsion? When the hell did A-Train get such a dope moveset?

Train tries to finish the match immediately, but Benoit reverses the Derailer into a Crossface like he did last week. Train powers out of it, so Benoit floats over and locks it on the opposite arm. A-Train powers out again, Benoit shifts around and lands a German. After a few reversals, Benoit counters a kneelift into a schoolboy and outwrestles the big man for the second week in a row. Neat sprint from these two, just shy of two minutes. I’ve read that they went short due to a Benoit arm injury, but hopefully he’ll be 100% by No Way Out. Shout out to Tyson Kidd, by the way! We miss him dearly.

BOTCH: Bullfighter

Nunzio’s newest heavy Johnny “The Bull” Stamboli makes his SmackDown debut against, who else, Rikishi. Please note, this is the second time Rikishi deals with a prelim heel crony nicknamed “Bull” since November. They haven’t decided to call these guys the Full-Blooded Italians yet, so they’re just Nunzio’s family for now. Nunzio and Chuck get ejected from ringside, but Stamboli (pronounced “Stromboli” by Tazz, natch) makes an immediate impression by gorilla pressing Rikishi. Huge pop for that, holy shit. He tries to show off a little more with a springboard legdrop, but his legs are a slightly tired from pressing 350, so he slips. Understandable. Rikishi catches Stamboli with a Samoan Drop and signals for the Rump Shaker… And then he just kicks Johnny in the face and pins him after like 90 seconds. Not the best way to debut a guy, I gotta say.

Rikishi gets beaten up by Nunzio & Company afterwards, which would be pretty intimidating if their new beefy equalizer hadn’t just lost like a chump to a transitional move. It’s extra weird considering Stamboli is 6’2, 240lbs and jacked as all hell, and he’ll never amount to anything. Palumbo’s like 6’5, 280 too, and he never did much after the Billy & Chuck split either. I know Stamboli and Palumbo aren’t huge What Ifs, but I do wonder what makes them so different from guys like Cena, Orton and Batista. I mean it could be that they’re Power Plant guys and not OVW alumni, but c’mon, WWE wouldn’t be petty enough to keep people down because they didn’t go through their developmental syst—on second thought, yes, yes they would be.

POP: Lie, Cheat, Steal, Repeat

He’s Eddie! He’s Chavo! They’re Los Guerreros!

Oh my god, YES. Time for the vignettes. This is the official start of the Guerreros’ face run, which will eventually snowball into a main event spot for Eddie. Well, I assume the idea was to turn them face, cause in context, these vignettes kinda come out of nowhere. The Guerreros are already a SmackDown staple, and they’ve been on the show every week for quite a while now. But hey, with Team Angle at the helm and no other proper teams to speak of (Edge and Benoit don’t count), we might as well shine a spotlight on Eddie and Chavo for a bit.

The best part about the whole deal? Their face turn essentially boils down to “these guys are also horrible people out of the ring”. In their first vignette, they run into a cute woman taking her baby out for a stroll, hit on her, come up with some bullshit meaning for her daughter’s name in Spanish, call the baby ugly, and steal everything the mother has. Baby bottle included. That’s the face turn. WWE’s doing a “Mexicans who steal” gimmick, and these guys are so good at being dicks, they’re about to turn it into gold. You gotta love these two.

POP: Weight Matters

If Matt Hardy can make weight, he will challenge Billy Kidman for the Cruiserweight title this Sunday. For now, Matt partners up with his MF’er Shannon Moore for tag action against Kidman and Rey Mysterio. Our Matt Facts for the day? “MATT IS MISERABLE WHEN DIETING” and “MATT FINDS SHANNON VERY HARD TO TEACH”. We get a little backstage segment where Matt takes off all his clothes and barely makes it to 220, so it seems the match is set. I could go on and on about how the Number 1 Contender to the Cruiserweight Championship isn’t really in the division, holds no wins over the champ and just took an L to Rey Mysterio (who may or may not be in title contention, it’s a Schrödinger situation) but Jamie Noble was champ for 146 days and ate pinfalls for 140 of them, so it’s no big deal.

Also, there I was talking about the tag division, why aren’t either of these teams going after the tag titles? Matt and Shannon are color-coordinated and everything! I don’t know why SmackDown doesn’t do these Cruiserweight tag matches every week, they’re a blast. Good work, fun spots, quick pace. Shannon looks better in the opening seconds of this match than he has in the last six months. Jesus, have I really been doing this column for that long? Billy and Rey also bring back an Edge/Rey classic: The pop-up Frankensteiner. So damn clean. Billy and Rey get rid of Shannon, but Kidman turns right into a spiked Twist of Fate for three. Matt Hardy’s pinned the Cruiserweight Champion! The diet works!

BOTCH: Tik Tok

oh god not again

Michael Cole sits down with Boggo Road’s own Nathan Jones for an interview. Yeah, remember Nathan? We haven’t seen his vignettes for a while. Go back and watch them, they’re the only thing you’re going to remember. Jones will make his debut next week on SmackDown, so Michael Cole asks him what his goals are. Oh gee, I wonder! Probably to form a team with Brian Kendrick and go after the tag straps. Actually, come to think of it, that sounds kinda cool. Nathan says he wants to be the next WWE Champion (good luck with that my man) and then he, uh… How do I describe this? He starts to shake uncontrollably, does a Noob Saibot voice, goes full Heidenreich and gets up close and personal with Cole. Take a look for yourself, it’s even worse than it sounds.

So basically, picture Karrion Kross, except taller, uglier, less talented and no Scarlett. I guess he’s coming for the Undertaker. Cool. Nathan Jones, coming soon.

???: A Dead Man and His Dog

The Great Undertaker/Big Show Gift Feud continues with not one, but TWO crates. Taker’s rocking perhaps his laziest look yet. He doesn’t even have his merch on, just a shitty gym teacher undershirt tucked into leather pants. Taker gets right into it and opens the smaller crate, only to find… a puppy! Please enjoy this picture of Undertaker and his Underdog. Taker gives the dog to a stagehand (which the crowd boos, obviously) and attacks the other crate. Thank god his grandma wasn’t in there. No, the other crate is empty, a diversion for Big Show to finally strike. Show chokeslams Taker and leaves him out cold, which is very unusual. Most times, Big Show just gets his ass kicked. Maybe he’s been feuding with Brock too much.

BOTCH: Shake, Paddle & Roll

what the fuck

After their intense spanking confrontation last week, Torrie Wilson and Nidia face off in a Paddle on a Pole match. This is the first “On a Pole” match of The Lesnar Years, but it won’t be the last! Oh, just you wait until the Biker Chain match. Apparently, the winner is the first person to get the paddle off the pole. They can then use it to beat their opponent, but I guess they don’t have to. They can also just leave. Nidia and Torrie are still gonna meet at that Girls Gone Wild PPV, so we’re getting a taste of the proverbial Wild Going tonight.

Torrie has the match won with her patented shitty neckbreaker, but both Dawn Marie and Jamie Noble interfere. Jamie almost kills Torrie with a snap powerslam, which is intriguing because Torrie weighs like 130. Surprisingly, Nidia wins! First time I’ve ever typed that. She spanks Torrie with Jamie’s help before Funaki runs down to assist. Tune in to the Girls Gone Wild PPV, sometime in 2003.

POP: CAN’T WAKE UP

Let’s take a second and acknowledge the No Way Out theme song, Evanescence’s hit single “Bring Me to Life”. You may remember this track from the Daredevil movie, and also every AMV made between the years 2006 and 2012. I cannot believe this is real. Is there anything more 2003 than this picture of Triple H vs. Scott Steiner with the Daredevil soundtrack playing in the background? Other than maybe the Iraq War?

POP: Tri-Angle

Kurt Angle prepares for his WWE Championship showdown against Brock Lesnar later on, which will happen and won’t be a swerve. He tells Team Angle that he’ll lead by example and break Brock’s ankle. I only recap this segment because it includes this still of Charlie Haas holding the WWE title. Someday, Charlie, someday… Also, John Cena’s got a knee injury now, and he swears revenge on Brock Lesnar. I’m sure John Cena will have the last laugh on this matter. In our main event, Brock Lesnar challenges Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship. Except… Kurt gets a mic and explains that, while he agreed to a match, he never specified the stipulation. If Brock wants to wrestle Angle, he’ll have to beat Shelton Benjamin. And if Brock wants to wrestle Shelton, he’ll have to beat Charlie Haas. It’s a Team Angle Gauntlet. Leadership by example.

Brock Lesnar vs. Charlie Haas ain’t exactly a fair fight, but Charlie manages to outwrestle the big man early on. He even lands a fantastic German on the Suplex City guy, but he celebrates too early and Brock rebounds. Brock dominates and, just for the sake of flexing, turns a military press into the F5 for the first fall. Brock/Shelton up next, and to my surprise, this is the only time these two have wrestled one-on-one on WWE TV. WWE likes to bring up the history between these guys, but they never managed to capitalize on it, did they? Shelton tries to target Brock’s left arm, so Brock deadlifts his armbar into a powerbomb. We’ve seen that spot a lot over the years, but this may well be the first (and best) instance of it.

Kurt interferes to give Shelton an opening, but Brock doesn’t fall for it. In fact, he may be the only wrestler in history to not fall for Shelton’s “Superkick, reversal, Dragon Whip” spot. See? He’s got him scouted! Brock beats Shelton with… I wanna say an Angle Slam, but it’s really just a spinning back suplex. The Angle Slam is set up more like a Torture Rack than a—nevermind, doesn’t matter. I’d complain that Brock just ran through the tag champs, but he’s been running through plenty of people lately. And let’s be real, tag guys aren’t gonna beat Brock one-on-one. So, we’re down to two. Brock vs. Angle, and Brock’s barely broken a sweat. Angle finally gets to the ring, squares off with Lesnar, and Heyman IMMEDIATELY hits Brock with a chair for the DQ. The bell rang, and the match clocked in at one second. Fucking outstanding.

Brock tries to get some payback and finally F5 Heyman, but Team Angle run in to kick his ass. Angle locks Brock in the Ankle Lock before Benoit and Edge show up to help. Looks like we’ll have to wait until Wrestlemania for that title match. Who will leave No Way Out with their hand raised?! Probably not Edge!

The Alliance to End Anglemania

And that’s our show! Join us next time for No Way Out, featuring:

  • Jeff Hardy vs. Chris Jericho
  • Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Eric Bischoff (???)
  • Kane & Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm & William Regal, World Tag Team Championships
  • The Undertaker vs. Big Show
  • Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock
  • Matt Hardy vs. Billy Kidman, Cruiserweight Championship
  • Brock Lesnar, Chris Benoit & Edge vs. Team Angle
  • …And Scott Steiner vs. Triple H, World Heavyweight Championship. I’m not ready for this.

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