On October 3rd, the wrestlers of Smackdown will participate in the seventh No Mercy pay-per-view event. The main event (JBL vs Undertaker) really doesn’t capture the imagination very much, and thus far the card isn’t shaping up to be the best. That’s a real shame, since No Mercy has played host to some real classics over the years, as well as some very memorable moments in WWE history.
Hey, did you know that the very first No Mercy was a UK event? That’s right, it emanated from the Nynex Arena in Manchester on the 16th of May, 1999 and seeing as how it was a UK event, it was . . . . . pretty bad unfortunately. Well, by pay-per-view standards at least. There was 8 matches total with what looked a decent card on paper, including Steve Austin vs. Undertaker vs. Triple H in the main event, Shane McMahon vs. X-Pac in an enjoyable enough outing, Nicole Bass vs. Tori in a poor excuse for a women’s wrestling match, Gillberg vs. Tiger Ali Singh in a comedy match, and Droz vs. Steve Blackman. But the quality of much of the action left a lot to be desired, no titles changed hands and the outcomes to most of the matches were frustrating. Disappointing really – good preparation for Insurrexions and Rebellions to come . . . . .
The undercard fluctuated between ok and dreadful, and the main event was a big disappointment. The Corporate Ministry made a lot of (too many) appearances, including during said main event, and overall, the feel of the event wasn’t of a proper pay-per-view standard. The same problem here, as it would be with Insurrexion and Rebellion – not of the standard of American pay-per-view shows. It was a glorified house show really.
The first No Mercy pay-per-view proper took place later in the year on the 17th October 1999 at the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, and was a marked improvement. Overall the event was mixed in terms of match quality, but came good where it mattered – an excellent main event/championship match and a seminal ladder match that made the careers of the four young grapplers involved. Unfortunately, it also involved Ivory vs Fabulous Moolah (who was over sixty) for the women’s title, Moolah winning on a rollup in a match which almost did irreparable damage to the title and women’s wresting as a whole. The stuff of nightmares.
This was also the night when Chyna became the first female Intercontinental champion in history by defeating Jeff Jarrett under “Good Housekeeping” rules (basically a hardcore match with household items as weapons). Why you may ask? Well the buildup to the match was that Jarrett had spent months saying how women were inferior to men and should be in the kitchen, not in the ring. Pretty much everyone knew that Chyna would win seeing as how Jarrett was jumping to WCW the next night. In fact, his contract was up the night before the pay-per-view, and he got paid a lucrative amount of money to wrestle and lose. Jarrett got the pin after hitting Chyna with the title belt, then the match was restarted because the belt wasn’t a household item(!). Chyna then got the pin after hitting Jarrett with a guitar (yes a guitar is a much more believable household item than the title belt is!).
The match of the night was The Hardy Boyz vs. E&C in an absolute spot-fest of a ladder match. It’s regarded by many as the match which launched the careers of all four involved, and set us on the road to the awesome TLC series some time later. All four guys gave it absolutely everything they had in them (effectively beating the hell out of themselves and each other) and the result is a four-and-a-half star match. Jeff Hardy won after reaching the top of the ladder and grabbing the bag of money (they also won the valet services of Terri, but that didn’t last long, thankfully). One of those matches that’s a defining moment in wrestling history – for me at least.
Elsewhere, The Rock beat The British Bulldog in a nothing match, Mankind vs Val Venis was an excellent card-filler, one of Val’s best and one which also showed Mick’s ability outside of the hardcore stuff. Finally in the main event, Triple H beat Stone Cold for the first time on pay-per-view (or so I believe) in a very good WWF Championship match. This was a great piece of brawling that included an excellent chair beatdown by Austin, and some great back-and-forth action. Triple H eventually won to retain his title when the Rock came out with a sledgehammer and accidentally hit Austin with it. Pretty damn good event overall.
Following on from the rather good October ’99 event, No Mercy 2000 upped things still further. It came at a time when WWF could seemingly do no wrong as far as pay-per-view was concerned, and was another in a long line of excellent events in 2000. It had several solid matches, few bad ones, and two match of the year contenders.
The Dudleys Table Invitational was a great quick-paced opener. Pretty good table match, if somewhat predictable. Next was a spectacular Cage match between X-Pac and Chris Jericho, with a pretty good and original finish which came when X-Pac and Jericho tangled atop the cage. Jericho did a Walls of Jericho, then X-Pac kicked Y2J off the top onto the ring. X-Pac jumped on the door and thought he had won but Y2J made the save by kicking the door and subsequently won.
William Regal vs. Mideon was, as you can guess, terrible and the worst match of the night. The Hardy Boys vs. Los Conquistadors (Edge & Christian) was not of the standard of their match the previous year, but still had some great high spots by the suicidal Hardys. Triple H vs. Chris Benoit was a wonderful match. This was back when Triple H was carving out his (at the time deserved) reputation as the hardest worker in the WWF and one of the best in the business. Benoit, even at that stage, was one of the best wrestlers in the world, so naturally this match really stole the show, just spectacular work by both parties. The Rock vs Kurt Angle was also great, and was one of the best matches The Rock was a part of in 2000. Absolutely brilliant work from both men, and the night that Kurt won his first WWF title. Pity though about Stephanie’s interference; there’s only so many times you can see that woman get Rock-Bottomed before you lose interest.
The only slight disappointment for me was the No-Holds-Barred grudge match between Stone Cold and Rikishi. The Rattlesnake’s first in-ring action in just under a year, I thought, could’ve and should’ve been so much better than it was. In the event, we got a one-sided affair, effectively a hardcore match. Rikishi barely got any shots at Austin as Stone Cold slammed him onto the concrete, hit him with a chair, almost put him through a table before he threw him into the back of his truck and drove him to the parking lot entrance. Then he kicked him into stone barriers and attempted to pretty much kill Rikishi by ramming into him at 70 miles per hour. But right before he could hit him a police officer was making his rounds and ended up getting slammed by Austin’s truck instead of Rikishi. Then some more officers came and actually arrested Austin for attempted murder and vehicular assault!!! Makes Eddies Guerrero’s run-in with the law look tame by comparison. In the end, it was ruled a no-contest. Disappointing enough to be honest, especially since this was the match that was used to sell the pay-per-view.
Arguably the best and most memorable No Mercy event to date took place on October 21st 2001 in the Savvis Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Coming at the height of the Invasion angle, a time of poor pay-per-views and questionable booking, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this event isn’t the best – but you’d be wrong. With one absolute classic, a few excellent matches to go along with it, and a first ever lingerie match as well, No Mercy 2001 was overall an excellent event.
The choice action on the undercard included the Hardy Boys vs. Lance Storm and the Hurricane in a very decent opener, with lots of near falls building up to an exciting climax. Test and Kane clashed in a slow-moving but ultimately satisfying match, not bad for two big men and better than expected. Edge and Christian clashed over the Intercontinental title once again in a very enjoyable ladder match. And for those of you that like your Divas gimmick matches, the event also included the first ever lingerie match between Torrie Wilson and Stacy Kiebler. Just don’t expect too much wrestling obviously.
The only real disappointment on the undercard was Booker T vs. The Undertaker. At the time, ‘Taker was selling nothing and had gone very slow and ponderous, and this shows. Disappointing considering the two big names that were in the match.
Now lets get to the good stuff. World Champion Steve Austin defended his title against fellow alliance member Rob Van Dam and American hero Kurt Angle in a very good triple-threat main event. The action was fast-paced from the start and all three men gave a very good account of themselves. It’s a shame that this is pretty much the only time that Rob Van Dam has been given a proper chance to headline a pay-per-view (matches like the Elimination Chamber aside). This is also the match where Vince opened up the back of Austin’s head with a pretty nasty chair shot. Very good match overall, if a little short.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the match of the night (and a real match of the year contender) was Chris Jericho challenging The Rock for the WCW World Title. In a quite brilliant match, Jericho finally “won the big one” in a real mark-out moment if ever there was one. The action throughout was fluid and exciting, the two involved really brought the crowd into the match, and a series of near-falls, counters and kick-outs had brought the arena to a frenzy long before the finish, which came when Jericho used the Breakdown to drive Rock’s face into a steel chair that had been thrown into the ring by Stephanie. A truly superb match without a doubt.
One year later, and WWE were again having trouble with putting together good pay-per-view events. No Mercy 2002 followed on from the lacklustre and pretty disappointing Unforgiven the previous month, and so it was a bit of a surprise at the time that WWE recovered from that and put together an event that was actually very entertaining and included several outstanding matches.
The event emanated from the Alltell Arena in Little Rock, Arkansas on October 20th, 2002, and included a good, solid tag-team title match with newly-crowned champions Christian & Jericho going up against Booker T & Goldust. This was followed up with a couple of fairly dire matches (Dawn Marie vs Torrie Wilson towards the beginning of the seemingly never-ending and gut-clenching Dawn/Al Wilson storyline, and RVD vs Ric Flair) before Jamie Noble and Tajiri picked things up again in a good, fast-paced and exciting Cruiserweight championship match.
This brings us on to World Champion Triple H (his first defence since being given the former WCW title) going up against Intercontinental Champion Kane. Let us not forget that this, the culmination of their feud, was also the culmination of the most ridiculous and cringe-inducing storyline in wrestling history (yes, even worse than Dawn/Al) – that’s right, this was the night that poor Katie Vick was finally allowed to rest in peace (along with the rest of us) as the angle finally ended. And as if we needed another reason to hate this match, this was the night when the Intercontinental title was laid to rest, seemingly forever.
So, after all that, was the match any good? Well . . . . . it was average. At this time, Triple H was going through a difficult spell as far match-quality went, and Kane was never going to be able to carry him to a great match – so what we got was just an average outing. But hey – it wasn’t as bad as HHH vs Scott Steiner would be three months later!
The match of the night (and again, a match of the year contender) was the final of the tournament to crown the first ever Smackdown tag-team champions, which featured Edge and Rey Mysterio vs reluctant tag partners Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit. WWE really did a good job of building up the new belts to mean a lot, and the four involved went out and had a five-star match. Truly superb, and highly recommended.
Finally, Undertaker proved that his shenanigans the previous month (he changed the proposed ending of his title match with Lesnar at Unforgiven from a clean loss to a DQ win, much to the chagrin of the crowd) was not because he was reluctant to put ‘The Pain’ over by losing about as clean as humanly possible in the Hell In A Cell main event at No Mercy. The match was the best HIAC for some time, and was an absolute bloodbath. And both men were able to come out of it looking stronger and with more momentum than when they went in, which is rare. In addition, this was the match which really made Brock Lesnar – forget about Rock or Hogan, the sight of Lesnar standing atop the cell at the end over a bloodied and battered ‘American Bad-Ass’ was truly a lasting image.
Finally, on 19th October last, No Mercy 2003 emanated from the First Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. If this was the last one to date, then it pretty much mirrors the quality of the very first No Mercy from May 1999. The card ranges from the bad (The Bashams vs Bradshaw & Farooq), to the ugly (Vince vs Stephanie) to the downright ridiculous (Matt Hardy jobbing to Zack Gowen) and very rarely does it rise above average (Angle vs Cena is probably the best match on it). Very disappointing overall, and we can only hope that this year’s event is better (let’s not hold our breath though).
At least Chris Benoit once again proved what a talent he is by dragging a decent match out of A-Train, while Eddie Guerrero somehow had a good, solid eleven minute match with the ridiculously overweight Big Show. And while the main event biker-chain match between Undertaker and Lesnar wasn’t anything special, at least it was a good beginning to Undertaker’s feud with Vince (whose interference cost him the match). But it was far from the quality of the 2000 and 2001 events, for example.
So that’s No Mercy – a mixed bag over the years I think you’ll agree, but some great moments as well. Please check back next month when I’ll be giving the same treatment to the second longest running WWE pay-per-view; Survivor Series.