Well alloha again, has been a while again but I’m back, just in time to review the year 2003 in the WWE. Whilst the WWE managed to improve upon its abysmal product in 2002, there was still enough to complain about to keep me around. So join me as I repeat my 2002 review format by looking at what I consider was actually good and what was really, deep down, utter garbage, contrary to the belief of the majority of you WWE followers.
It would be a bit harsh to call most WWE fans brainwashed, all I’m trying to say I suppose is some things again this year took a bit of harsh criticism, whilst others didn’t get the criticism they deserved. Unlike last year, when there was tonnes, and I mean TONNES of utter crap to consider (n.W.o. angle, Taker’s title run, Hogan’s title run, HHH’s title run, the GM angle, etc), chances are you’ll probably agree with my 5 evils and innocents of 2003.
Before I start though… it has been a while so excuse me whilst I rant a bit. So… um… Armageddon… yeh. The less said the better. I don’t mind Evolution (believe it or not), and I’ve even got used to the fact that the legendary Ric Flair is now simply the guy walking 20 miles behind in the shadows during HHH’s entrance every week… but really… agh. I understand why they did it… but I just HATE it. I’m willing to let it pan out though… hoping that this whole Evolution running the show angle doesn’t last longer than it should. Who knows, after the entertaining 3v2 match they had on Raw the other night, it could be entertaining. Perhaps HHH’s New Year’s resolution will be to help his opposition benefit from a feud with him. I don’t think it was any coincidence after all that as soon as a credible opponent for the belt arrived, Raw improved.
Talking of credible opponents for a world title… Bob Holly. Yes… Bob Holly. He is the number one contender for the Smackdown title. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD… WHY? The only theory I can come up with is that they just randomly did ‘eeny meeny miny mo’ down the SD roster and the finger landed on Holly. Otherwise, do me a favour. Stop a second, and just think of possible reasons for Holly being in the main event. I’ve tried, and I kid you not… I just can’t get my head round it and that’s even after watching some of the lowest points in the WWE’s history. Don’t say ‘loyalty to the company’ either. Two words… Brooklyn Brawler. What makes me sick is then for ignorant MORONS (that’s right, F****** MORONS) calling for the young marketable and talented champion, Lord Brock of Lesnar to job to this midcard ex-cart driver Sparky Plug Bob Holly. If you are one of them… go do me a favour (besides throwing yourself out a window)… go get a copy of Smackdown:Here Comes The Pain. Now look at the front cover, with Brock Lesnar on the front. Now imagine instead of a picture of Brock covered with silver paint… Bob Holly! And in newspapers such as the Daily Record (boycott it), advertising the WWE’s latest tours… there would be a picture of… Bob Holly! The ultra charismatic, technically gifted, money making Sparky Plugg himself!
Sorry folks but the Bob Holly push just makes me so angry. Now to the point. Starting with the things that have been getting a hard time this year but haven’t deserved it; the innocents of 2003.
Innocent Number 5)
Don’t get me wrong… I don’t particularly love the guy either, and I realise that no matter how hard the WWE try to kid themselves… this guy is NOT the next Rock. The Rock had something that one in a million people have entertainment wise. This guy just doesn’t. However, that doesn’t make him crap instantly. Sure he hasn’t been around all year either, but he’s been around long enough to cause an impact (storyline wise) and get a lot of slack whilst doing it. Perhaps its because most fans don’t really like evolution (or are apathetic towards them) that it’s the case… I dunno, but his recent IC title win is probably the worst thing that could have happened to him right now, as the US and IC titles continue to prove themselves to be heat drainers.
Again arguably Orton has none, and has yet to have any real decent matches (he never will without being carried at this rate), and by this stage you are probably wondering why he is number 5 innocent rather than being in with the evils. Well here’s where I have to come in and defend the lad. Surely it makes no sense to flap our gums about how new superstars should be created and then as soon as one comes along we moan about it. Then again you could easily argue that why should we have to accept the crap we are given rather than those we genuinely want to see pushed (ie. Eddie Guerrero). And if you did that I’d have to say… agh. Look, just shut up, Randy Orton is getting a hard time compared to the other crap lurking on either WWE roster. There is a huge difference after all between pushing someone like Mark Henry down our throats and someone who I suppose at least brings something to the table. Even if it is just a set of rubber nipples.
Innocent Number 4)
Ok, ok, ok. Don’t even start me here. Sure, he is currently doing a great job as the worst US champion in history, but let us not forget the big man’s work for the first 6 months… His feud with Lesnar and his run as a main eventer for the first half of the year for me proved that Show can indeed be booked to be entertaining, and it doesn’t involve him carrying some sorry excuse for a belt which barely covers his right nipple. Surely management realise just how stupid Big Show looks with the belt, and how its ruining him and the belt at the same time.
Anyhow, this man is innocent I tell you… even if it’s purely for his work with Lesnar and then Angle (arguably he was carried the whole way) from Royal Rumble to Vengeance (that’s 7 months after all). A lot of people have it in for the big man, but I always maintain that you need an old school huge guy in the mix just to make things interesting. Hence why I was a 3 minute warning mark (he says in passing, hoping nobody will notice). So Big Show, innocent, although if his US title reign continues into 2004 he may well find himself in the evil slot for 2004. Remember the stretcher match with Lesnar… even the most smarkiest of you must have enjoyed that!
Innocent Number 3)
Vince v Hogan and Vince v Taker
I’ll be the first to admit it; I was so sceptical of Hogan v Vince at Wrestlemania XIX. I slated the idea at every opportunity, and hated the feud. Then… when I saw the buildup package they played to hype the match just before it, I had a change of heart. I actually became interested in Hogan v Vince and expected an ok match. I didn’t expect what I personally would define as a Wrestlemania classic match.
Sure, many of you will probably question that opinion, but I can’t see its entertainment value being questioned much. Same goes for the short but entertaining Vince v Taker – Buried Alive match… although I must have been the only idiot out there to actually think Vince would get buried and bring himself back in some stupid paranormal gimmick. What do you mean it wouldn’t have worked? Sorry people but I have to stick up for the best of Vince’s evil promoter wrestling matches this year, and whilst the point of both was questionable (such as why he cared whether Taker was champ or not), in my opinion they really worked. Overdone in places but in this situation perhaps the ends justify the means.
Innocent Number 2)
And you know it. Damnit… one of the best moments of the year in my eyes… CHAIR SHOT…. And the camera pans to see DAMNIT THAT EVIL SON OF A GUN COACH. His heel turn goes down for me personally as one of the most unexpected things I’ve ever seen, and whilst his commentary for No Way Out and Backlash was nothing short of woeful, his performance post-Summerslam has surely won his forgiveness from you bloodthirsty lot. Bar that JR/King v Snow/Coach match, which we must never, EVER speak of again, Coachman (and his outstanding entrance theme), has somehow become… dare I say… entertaining. For instance his appearance just after Austin had lost the 5v5 match at Survivor Series… classic. I love heel Coachman… and as long as he isn’t commentating on the main TV shows, I’m happy. So lay off what was in my opinion one of the best heel turns I’ve personally ever seen, and in turn one of the most entertaining non-wrestler characters on Raw today. How can you not boo this guy?
Innocent Number 1)
Put away the big stick and hear me out. Sure… we all know why Goldberg does indeed suck by default, no argument required. I mean who else manages to almost kill every person they spear, fall over during their entrance and generally look about as stiff as well… you know. Goldberg is indeed the second coming of the Ultimate Warrior… he’s not a wrestler… in any sense of the word, the guy has little charisma after all… yet somehow he’s over… somehow everyone loves him (well… now they do anyway, took a bit of convincing though, and fair enough). And that on its own has to be taken into account, as it should have been for the Warrior (look for my article defending the Warrior soon).
The guy is a draw, for what that’s worth these days, and surely in turn that’s good for the WWE (again whether you love or hate it it’ll depend whether that’s a good thing). And this year we’ve experienced bad Goldberg; his match with the Rock being one of the WORST I’ve personally ever seen. We’ve experienced good Goldberg; the fans going mental for him as he looked his best at Summerslam, as he tends to do when he’s allowed to play his character properly by destroying everyone. And we’ve seen ugly Goldberg; such skits as the one where he wore Goldust’s wig. And we all laughed… well the writers did… while Russo claimed someone stole one of his brilliant ideas. Basically… why I feel Goldberg is getting a hard time is because for me it was no coincidence that Raw became more entertaining as soon as Goldberg got involved in the championship scene.
Both his performances in the elimination chamber at Summerslam and his match with HHH at Survivor Series showed that when he’s allowed to be Goldberg, this guy can be entertaining. Don’t ask me why. Just don’t give old Stiffberg such a hard time, because at the end of the day there’s big nose to complain about, or if Smackdown is your cup of tea, there’s Bob Holly. He isn’t brilliant, but for me he’s had a good year by his standards.
And now… those things that you may have found yourself sticking up for this year… and I stress may, which were instead actually some of the worst aspects of this year in the WWE. So here are those evils…
Evil Number 5)
Surely I don’t need to explain this one. Be it with Torrie Wilson, Stephanie McMahon or Zach Gowen… anything she was involved in this year has been nothing short of cringeworthy. And every time I see Vince sticking his tongue down her throat…. It really is quite sickening to be frank, not to mention pathetic and pointless. Someone remind me why down the line storyline-wise that Linda couldn’t divorce Vince? Seriously, someone please e-mail me and remind me why Linda remains married to Vince storyline wise when he’s cheating on her constantly… and on national television. Or perhaps I don’t want to be reminded of the terrible angle that cleared that question up.
Anyhow, Sable… isn’t it interesting how they’ve just decided to ignore that she actually wrestled and is a former woman’s champion? At what point did she lose the ability to kick the crap out of women like Jacqueline, let alone Stephanie McMahon? Whenever she’s on the microphone it’s time to reach for the remote and I’m personally yet to be entertained by anything she’s been involved in yet. Getting rid of Sable would be one of the first steps I’d take to returning Smackdown to the greatness it once had.
Evil Number 4)
The Shane McMahon v Kane feud
Sure, the ambulance match perhaps was another case of the end justifies the means… but this feud almost nearly killed Kane’s heat, and was again pretty embarrassing to watch. I can’t remember how this feud exactly linked to the woeful Bischoff/Linda McMahon sketches… but it did, and was almost as bad… and didn’t have a Coachman heel turn in there either. The last man standing match almost single handedly killed Kane’s heat dead, with Shane technically only losing to Kane because he missed one of his standard Shane O’Mac cardboard-of-doom bumps.
At least both guys came out well after the Ambulance match… whether that was sheer luck on the WWE’s part or not I don’t know, but at the end of the day why was some non-wrestler able to give Kane a harder fight than some wrestler like RVD? And before you start moaning, when I’m putting this feud as an evil, I’m technically covering the whole crap, from the Bischoff v Shane match right through to Kane doing us a favour and removing another McMahon from TV for a while. It’s interesting that after wanting Shane back for ages most of us couldn’t wait to see the back of him again. To summarise, non-wrestler, in particular a McMahon, helps to ‘put over’ another worker by almost blowing all the heat they’d built up. Enough Shane O’Mac for us all this year… there’s spot wrestling after all… and then there’s bad spot wrestling.
Evil Number 3)
The Vince v Stephanie feud
And I mean the whole of this monstrosity, from the Zach Gowen v Vince match and the Sable v Stephanie match. Didn’t they realise that they’d kinda done the whole daddy’s little girl v daddy’s little whore kind of angle before? Only this time… it was even worse and made it on to PPV. Oh joy. Oh wait… I forgot… Vengeance was great wasn’t it? How silly of me. I’ll maintain it ’til I die… Vengeance 2003 was crap. Face it. If you stuck up for it… chances are you were one of the suckers who paid for it! I’ll admit I really wanted to see that triple threat (Big Show v Angle v Lesnar) though… so you got me there. So anyway… this crap feud… and I mean CRAP feud… pray that we never have to see that type of nonsense again, and that the ‘first ever father v daughter’ match was also the last one.
Quite frankly I’ve never been so ashamed of being a wrestling fan. Well I have… but you get what I’m saying. The commentary couldn’t have been any worse for it as well, as they tried to make us feel bad about the fact that Stephanie was TAKEN OFF TV! YAY! Agh… No Mercy… don’t even start me on that PPV… they stole 3 hours of my life again you know. As far as the PPV matches go this year for Vince he was 2 and 2 in my books… Taker and Hogan were successes because they seemed to have a point and star power to back it up… Stephanie and Gowen… well… let us never speak of them again. Just have to mention though my disgust at the fact that whilst Vince got a clean win over Gowen… Matt Hardy had to job to him. Gotta love the WWE eh. One of my least favourite moments of the year this feud was… so you can imagine how bad number 2 and number 1 are.
Evil Number 2)
Numerous undeserved pushes on Smackdown
Granted many of these have come towards the end of the year, but they have single handedly taken Smackdown from the great product it was at the start of the year, and managed to ruin it within 12 months. And what better way to do it than to push people with no talent or no heat. Step up Zach Gowen, A-Train, The Basham Brothers, Matt Morgan, Nathan Jones, Ernest Miller and my favourite one of all… Hardcore Holly. WHY?
Perhaps someone in the back at Smackdown misunderstood when they heard a lot of people calling for new stars to be created, while Raw was filled with ‘old has-beens’. Yes new stars are a good thing… but I’m afraid a one legged circus act, a hairy big man, a dull generic tag team covered up by an awful gimmick, a…. big… guy… and someone who quite frankly is up there with the most awful of WCW imports along with a guy who might as well have ‘midcarder’ tattooed on his forehead… just wasn’t what we had in mind.
If anything I’m only being harsh on Zach Gowen and A-Train, but neither warranted being in the upper brackets of the card for their outstanding performances. And all this whilst Eddie Guerrero gets his heat sapped by having to be thrown into some tag team he doesn’t need to be in. (everyone seems afraid to say that being with Chavo is draining/has drained Eddie’s heat… but it’s the case unfortunately. Eddie could be something special if used right… and he needs to lose Chavo as quickly as possible. Putting over the Basham Brothers when Austin once singled him out as one of the guys he’d most like to work with. Go figure.)
If Smackdown continues to just push these random nobodies into our faces… you have to wonder who, but the avid, and I mean avid, WWE fan will continue to watch it. Take for instance this situation. Imagine yourself as a reasonably casual fan for just one second. You switch on… there’s Brock Lesnar in the ring with Paul Heyman (so far so good). Also there, A-Train and Matt Morgan (not so good). Still, to a casual fan they are all pretty big guys, and look reasonably cool, although Morgan really does need something as he continues to be the most generic thing I’ve ever seen on TV. Now you listen on to hear the main event booked as…. A-Train and Matt Morgan v HARDCORE HOLLY AND SHANNON MOORE! Woah. That’d have me hooked. I rest my case. Sort it out Smackdown, I don’t know who the genius is coming up with these pushes… but I’d really like to meet them. In a dark alleyway of course.
Evil Number 1)
HHH’s Title run and EVERYONE involved
Now I feel a bit harsh putting this as number 1, and no doubt you’ll all say I’m being anti-HHH as usual. However, when you think about it, it gave us at least 6 months of awful TV, and I mean Ernest Miller awful. I loved it though as a HHH hater I have to admit, witnessing 4 of big nose’s worst ever matches this year in 6 months.
His 2 five star classics with Steiner and then 2 maybe 4 and a half star efforts with Kevin Nash were memorable… if purely for their downright awfulness. The old formula of the big badass face can beat the crap out of the heel whenever he gets his hands on him, yet the heel always escapes or cheats, really didn’t work for either Steiner or Nash. The similar formula for the underdog Booker T didn’t work either, with each guy coming out looking far worse than before the feud with the champ himself. Obviously big nose did his opponents no favours, as he just so happened to look so much better than the guy that lost in each occasion bar the first Steiner and first Nash matches (which he never lost anyway remember). That doesn’t cover up however the fact that everyone else involved in that diabolical title run was to blame to an extent as well.
Steiner was downright awful, and never should have been pushed to the top straight away, to be frank he just wasn’t wanted by the fans. Booker can be blamed a little, he was squashed… at Wrestlemania of all places. Nash though, was a different story… as he helped me realise where everyone had been coming from beforehand. This year was indeed the year I realised just how bad Kevin Nash really is. You can put a hell in a cell there, you can put a goddamn pit of death there or whatever type of stupid Russo-esque gimmick match you want… but you can’t make HHH v Kevin Nash a good match. And Nash was moaning after he was left nowhere to go (storyline-wise) after jobbing to HHH… forgive me for thinking you should maybe think these things through in advance Mr. Nash. Then again that would make sense, and with this HHH title run nothing made sense.
I understand, and I’ve always been one of the few people to stick up for his long title run helping to establish credibility for the title, instead just criticizing the way the WWE went about it. It would have been so much better if HHH was cheating his way all the time instead of this whole semi-cheating nonsense of kicking out of the opponents finisher, cheating and then finishing it with a pedigree to mask the cheating. It’s a clever thing that HHH always does, I don’t know if many have noticed it, but it’s the last action in a match that the fans always remember, and if they just see him finishing the match with a pedigree after some minor cheating such as a low blow, or interference from the guy in the corner (Ric Flair I think… can never really see him well in the shadows) then he’s going to look better to them.
Anyway, then there was the Summerslam nonsense (a lumberjack match inside a cage labeled as an elimination chamber match apparently), where Goldberg really should have got the title, although its all worked out the way the WWE had planned I assume. Granted things are improving on Raw now, but that’s only after Goldberg produced some much-needed credibility to the challenge for the WCW, I mean Raw world title. As much as you may think this is biased… you can surely not deny just how bad the Raw main event was for just over half of this year.
Like I’ve said before, I think unfortunately the recent woeful Smackdowns may have caused many to forget just how bad things were. Don’t make me force you to watch Steiner v HHH again! Technically this should be a joint award to Steiner, Nash and HHH, with HHH accepting it as he was the man who helped the most in making it my worst aspect of the WWE in 2003.
So there ya go. Hopefully you won’t disagree with any… if I’ve said anything that you disagree with and have a decent enough argument to make me look silly, then feel free to e-mail me it. Until then, it’s been a hell of a better year in 2003 than the shambles that was 2002, and I’ll finish off with my five favourite matches of this year;
1) Chris Jericho v Shawn Michaels – Wrestlemania XIX
2) Chris Benoit v Kurt Angle – Royal Rumble 2003
3) Brock Lesnar v Kurt Angle – Smackdown – Iron Man Match
4) Brock Lesnar v Big Show – Judgment Day 2003 – Stretcher Match
5) Team Austin v Team Bischoff – Survivor Series 2003
Again, you’ll totally disagree with them no doubt but that’s purely my personal choice there. Until next time, happy New Year, and hopefully 2004 will be an even better year for the WWE and wrestling in general.
And again, Matt Hardy for the Rumble!
Ciao for now.