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Retro Pops & Botches: WWE SmackDown – 06.26.2003


Evening, folks! I’m Bachur, and I welcome you back to Pops & Botches: The Lesnar Years. Where we left off, The APA returned to WWE, the United States Championship Tournament kicked off, Vince McMahon and Sable bullied a one-legged kid and Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar ended in a no-contest once again. You can watch this week’s episode on the Cock or on the Network. You can also check out all previous entries under the Lesnar Years tag. Next Big Thing!

BOTCH: Fake Jordans

LIVE (taped) from Madison Square Garden, the home of WrestleMania XX, we open tonight’s broadcast with John Cena’s MSG debut. Just kidding, we open with a 3-minute recap of the Vince McMahon/Zach Gowen feud because it’s the only thing that matters in this fucking show. More on that later, though. It’s a special night for Big Match John: July 26th, 2003. Just one day away from the one-year anniversary of his WWE debut in Kurt Angle’s Open Challenge. Time’s a hell of a thing, huh? One minute, you’re wearing a backwards hat and an oversized Celtics jersey, rapping about how low your nuts hang, and then you wake up a 45-year-old man with JBL’s haircut wearing a satin three-piece suit to issue an apology for your comments on the sovereignty of Taiwan. Man, I just bummed myself out.

Back to 2003! Instead of the usual freestyle, we get a proper heel promo from John. He’s here to let all the “Michael Cole White Boys” know that, in just under a year, he’s become SmackDown’s most respected veteran. He’s a legend already! If you’ve watched any episode of SmackDown for longer than five minutes you can probably guess who John’s next feud will be based off the words “legend” and “veteran” alone. Anyways, to commemorate the debut of THE SmackDown Legend one year ago, Cena’s issuing an open challenge of his own. The John Cena Open Challenge starts NOW, and if you want some…!

…Eh? Hey, wait a second, I know who that is. That’s Orlando Jordan. Trained by Rocky Johnson, Orlando held the United States Championship for +170 days back in 2005 while he was a part of JBL’s Cabinet stable. It’s okay if you don’t remember that, though. All anyone remembers about Orlando is that he lost the US title to Chris Benoit in 25 seconds on PPV. And then it happened three more times in a row. Benoit was literally speedrunning. OJ is probably one of WWE’s most fumbled “Future Stars” ever, which covers a lot of ground! Like, think of all those future stars WWE gave up on: René Duprée, Muhammad Hassan, Ken Kennedy, Wade Barrett, Carlito. And then there’s Orlando, whose lone shred of historical significance is getting repeatedly squashed by a guy who will never be mentioned again on TV. His entire legacy boils down to this image.

Oh, right, he also had a run in TNA. I’d rather not talk about that.

Yo yo yo… this is the best we could do? A Billy Blanks lookalike b[EXPLETIVE]?
Man, I will rip through you real quick
Like Larry Bird when he ripped the Knicks
Yo man, I represent a real city, Boston, we got class
You can have New York, rookie. You fit right in with the trash!
What ab—

Orlando clotheslines Cena mid-rap and loses his grand MSG debut in under two minutes via shitty roll-up. Not much to say, really. Cena attacks OJ after the bell and hits the FU, prompting RESPECTED SMACKDOWN VETERAN LEGEND the Undertaker to show up for the save. And you guessed it, Cena vs. Taker at Vengeance. Undertaker gives Orlando a little show of respect, which will no doubt be replayed ad nauseum on all those Orlando Jordan video packages for the next 20 years.

BOTCH: The City That Sleeps

Sticking with Taker, we smoothly transition into our next match: Undertaker and the APA vs. the Full-Blooded Italians. The FBI have a new theme song, a 1:1 copy of the “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” instrumental. I’m barely joking, it sounds exactly the same. This match is kinda funny, in a way. We’re in MSG, we got the Undertaker in action, it’s the return of the APA, the second match on the card, and the crowd is already dead. They could not give a shit about the FBI or Bradshaw or Ron Simmons. They make some noise when Taker hits his moves, but the rest of the match sounds like you got lost in an airport with Michael Cole and Tazz doing play-by-play. It’s probably a sign that the FBI failed as a heel stable when they can’t even build heat for a Bradshaw hot tag.

The faces get the win after a very slow and very boring bout, and Taker can FINALLY move on from this FBI feud for good. It’s the APA’s problem now. There is a silver lining though! Since Bradshaw gets the win with the Clothesline from Hell, allow me to introduce a brand-new section to the weekly column:

Jesus Christ, Bradshaw

Starting now, this is where I’ll post gifs of Bradshaw’s Clothesline from Hell strictly for my own personal amusement.

Best finisher of all time. You know I’m right!

???: We’re in the Money

Though Jamie Noble isn’t booked tonight, we see him out on a date with Nidia on the streets of New York. After being rude to some tourists, they’re approached by a random attorney with some very important news. Yeah, it’s one of those attorneys who go out of their way to look up WWE’s touring schedule so they can personally travel to the next show and run into wrestlers in the middle of the street instead of just placing a phone call. Whatever, the guy tells Jamie that his Aunt Lucille has died. Which is strange, because Jamie doesn’t have an Aunt Lucille. Nevertheless, Jamie’s inherited the sum of $827.000 dollars. He and Nidia are quite happy about it. Jamie tells Nidia to give the man “one of ‘em special kisses” and Nidia starts undoing the guy’s belt. The Nobles are going to Applebee’s tonight!

FINE: 2-Count City

The US Championship tournament continues with SmackDown’s hottest matchup: Matt Hardy vs. Rikishi. Matt’s officially a heavyweight again, so it makes sense that he’d get a tournament slot. Rikishi makes considerably less sense here (all he’s done since Mania is lose to Sean O’Haire) but he’s Rikishi, he’s always around. Our Matt Fact for today? “MATT HAS BETTER ABS THAN RIKISHI” Conspicuous by their absence are the MF’ers, Shannon Moore and Crash Holly. Shannon will be back in just a few minutes, but we’ve sadly seen the last of Crash Holly in WWE; he’d get released from his contract just a few days after this episode aired. He’d work a few NWA-TNA PPVs before committing suicide in November of 2003. A tragic end for one of the most entertaining wrestlers from one of WWE’s hottest periods. Farewell, Little Elroy.

I’m not sure how to move on from that and talk about Matt vs. Rikishi, but I’ll do my best. The big highlight in this match is the return of another all-time great WWE finisher: the dreaded Rikishi Driver. Fucking outstanding. If Rikishi kept dropping guys on their heads left and right, he would’ve been a 5-time world champion. What’s even more impressive is that Matt kicks out at 2 like he got hit with a Skull Crushing Finale. And then Rikishi kicks out of the Twist of Fate! It’s a regular Mania main event here in the middle of SmackDown. A second Twist of Fate with an assist from the exposed turnbuckle seals the deal, and Matt moves closer to that coveted United States title.


After weeks (two, to be exact) of build, Los Guerreros Orientales put their tag titles up against Piper Evil Inc. If you somehow know who all these wrestlers are but don’t know the context of why they’re together, this match probably looks weird as hell on paper. And yet, I have shockingly little to say about this! You know, other than “it ain’t great”. It goes around three minutes and Roddy takes the fall off a Frog Splash after getting a face full of mist.

Tazz: Crafty veteran Roddy Piper, this ain’t his first barbecue! He definitely doesn’t look like he’s missed a barbecue…

It speaks to how little this Piper partnership is helping O’Haire when he’s out here working a nonexistent tag title program while the US Championship tournament completely passes him by. That said, there was a non-zero chance that Piper and O’Haire could’ve won the titles to work a program with Mr. America and Zach Gowen, so… be grateful for what you don’t have, I suppose?

BOTCH: Members Only

Previously on The Zach Gowen Chronicles, Vince McMahon and Sable set up an elaborate scheme to mindfuck a guy who has no reason to be here and keeps showing up every week. Stephanie wasn’t too happy about it, to put it mildly. Something about last week stuck with Vince (maybe the part where his daughter accused him of coercing her into doing sexual favors), so he comes out to speak his mind. Set your stopwatches, this shit is going LONG. Vince asks Zach and Stephanie to come out and—good god almighty. Uh, sorry, got distracted for a second. Vince tells Steph that she’s always been daddy’s little girl, and always will be. Nonetheless, he admits that he did, in fact, ask his 17-year-old daughter to “close certain business deals” for him. And then he says this:

And it’s almost as if… it’s almost as if I—even though I didn’t, it’s almost as if I… personally deflowered you.

What the fuck is wrong with this guy, man. As an added bonus, and I’m not even sure I should mention this, but I just noticed there’s a dude in the crowd holding a 14/88 sign. I don’t even know what to say. Vince turns his attention to Zach, and I have to ask, does Zach Gowen own literally any other shirt? Or any other pair of pants, for that matter? He’s worn this exact same outfit six weeks in a row. Vince tells Zach that, as strange as it may sound, he’s jealous of him. Vince may be a billionaire, he may have accomplished everything a man can hope for, but he’s never done the things Zach has done. He’s never looked at death in the eye and spat right in her face. At his core, Vince McMahon wants to be Zach Gowen.

It’s funny to look back at this angle, to see how hard Vince and co. are working to put Zach over, only to realize how small the payoff turned out to be. Vince apologizes to Zach for everything that’s happened these past few weeks, but Zach won’t accept his apology. In fact, Zach tells Vince to fuck right off (and he gets a great pop, too!). Surprisingly great babyface promo from Zach here, I must say. Zach couldn’t give less of a shit about Vince’s apology, the only thing he wants out of him is a WWE contract. Vince tells Zach he’ll get it… under one condition. He must earn his contract by joining a very special club. That’s right, it’s the Vince McMahon “Kiss My Ass” Club. Zach gets on his knees, puckers up, and punches Vince straight in the dick. This feud will continue, unfortunately.

SLIGHT POP: Here Be Dragon

Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come! Ultimo Dragon makes his SmackDown debut in Madison Square Garden. The last student of Bruce Lee (allegedly), Dragon is one of the undisputed great Cruiserweights of all time, a foundational talent that would shape a new style in professional wrestling and inspire a whole generation of flippy guys. And he looks cool as hell, too; probably one of the greatest gears in wrestling history. Got to love his spiky poncho. To their credit, WWE make Ultimo out to be a big deal here: Rey sits in the commentary booth and puts him over as hard as possible. Another big-ish Cruiserweight star pops in for this match as well: none other than Billy Kidman, seen here with his lady friends. Billy’s been out of action since March, and I won’t lie to you, I’ve missed him dearly.

Ultimo’s first WWE opponent is reprobate MF’er Shannon Moore, which explains why the match isn’t that good. It’s fine, Ultimo hits his big spots and they don’t fuck anything up, but this match drives home just how important a good Cruiserweight base is. See, one of the underrated keys to having a good Cruiserweight match is having someone who can properly position himself in all the right spots, allow his opponent to hit all his cues smoothly and sell it well. Shannon Moore, bless his heart, is not particularly good at this. Again, the match doesn’t fall apart, but it’s noticeable. If Ultimo was in there with Jamie Noble, Eddie Guerrero or Psychosis, he’d come out of this looking like a million bucks. He beats Shannon with the Asai DDT – love that move – and the Cruiserweight division should have a new major player on its hands. Emphasis on should.

BOTCH: Team America

americaaaa, fuck yeah

Time for the main event! Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle and Mr. America (the Super Friends) take on the Big Show, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin (the Wight Boys) in 6-man action. Yet another match that looks kinda funny on paper. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like babyface Brock and babyface Angle as much as the next guy, but the mere concept of these two being all buddy-buddy with Mr. America is really stupid. It’s one of those things where WWE assumes babyfaces are automatically friends even when there’s no real reason for Brock or Kurt to hang out with Mr. America. Especially when you consider both guys have had their issues with Mr. America’s good friend Hulk Hogan in the past. Big issues.

Speaking of Kurt, I must admit there’s something slightly off about him. It’s strange seeing Kurt do a babyface comeback with clotheslines, haymakers and crossbodies instead of double-legging people to death with his veins popping out. Mind you, this is Kurt Angle, one of the greatest to ever do it, but you can tell he’s not in his element as a pure babyface. We get a “USA” chant, which confuses Tazz since every wrestler in this match is American. The match itself is alright, though awfully underwhelming as an MSG main. Kurt, Brock, Charlie and Shelton put in the work, but the whole match builds to a Mr. America hot tag. And as you all well know, Mr. America’s hot tag is the same goddamn sequence you’ve seen about a million times. No sell, big boot, leg drop, cheap pop.

But wait just a minute, folks!!! Before Mr. America can get the win over these dastardly heels, Vince walks out on the ramp dragging Zach Gowen’s body behind him. I swear, this angle is like a parasite feasting on the rest of the show. The hideous sight of Vince McMahon distracts Mr. America, who promptly walks into a Chokeslam to give Show’s team the win. I honestly didn’t expect these guys to beat Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle and Mr. America, that’s like hitting three jackpots in a row. Stephanie runs out to try and protect poor Zach, which gives Vince an idea. Next week on SmackDown, it’ll be a handicap bout: Stephanie McMahon & Zach Gowen vs. the Big Show. Even though Show is currently feuding with Brock and Angle and has no reason to get involved in this shit. Remember: Vince McMahon is the only important person on SmackDown.

And that’s our show! Join us next week for SmackDown, featuring:

  • Nunzio vs. Rey Mysterio, Cruiserweight Championship
  • Chris Benoit & Rhyno vs. The Basham Brothers
  • John Cena vs. Billy Gunn in a United States Championship Tournament match
  • Orlando Jordan vs. The A-Train
  • Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin vs. Eddie Guerrero & Tajiri, WWE Tag Team Championships
  • …And Stephanie McMahon & Zach Gowen vs. The Big Show!

Make sure to leave a comment below (I’ll read ’em!), share the column around and join the Discord. SmackDown!