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One Time
July 8, 2003

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


I'm going to ask you to close your eyes, and imagine a wrestling paradise.  A vast dreamland where Booker T wins singles titles.  Where Goldberg and Scott Steiner are not seen or mentioned even once.  Where even World Champion Triple H is relegated to a 10 second bumper hyping his appearance on Heat, but is otherwise absent.

Such a show sounds like two hours of Wrestling Nirvana to you, doesn't it?  You know, the one that's three blocks north or and runs parallel to Enchilada Nirvana....

Well, I know I usually have fun making fun of the smarks and their all-to-predictable tendencies, but on this night, well, a show that was apparently booked to appease that kind of fan actually came off pretty well.  Nowhere near Wrestling Nirvana, mind you, but a big step up from last week.

Here's the story:

Video Package: All Kane, All the Time, leading up to him chokeslamming Bischoff off the stage last week.

Start the Show: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are your hosts, and they fall all over each other to remind us that we're live from MONTREAL.

Big Chad Patton Promo 

Oh, wait, I guess the ref ISN'T the focus of this promo.  It's Stone Cold Steve Austin, who's back in the saddle after some food poisoning last week (which, in some allegedly comic moments, was exacerbated by Austin's love of beer and Mexican food, which he continued to enjoy even while ill).  Things eventually turn to more serious matters, and we find out that the reason why Chad Patton is in the ring is because Austin wants to have a little rematch from last week's Bischoff Masterpiece: a little match for the IC Title.  And he wants it now.

Christian vs. Booker T (IC Title)

Booker comes out first, then Christian.  But Christian says he's already defended his title against Booker last week, and this week, he's just going to walk away and get counted out.  So Austin makes a new rule: the title will change hands on count-outs and DQs.  So Christian decides if he doesn't actually get into the ring, the match can never officially start, and he cannot get counted out.  So Austin goes out, grabs Christian, and THROWS him in the ring to start the match.

Good stuff here, with the Montreal crowd way into it (and pretty well behind Booker, despite Christian being one of their own countrymen).  They're way up for all the near falls ("TWOOOOO!") and everything.  First portion of the match builds up to Booker landing the scissors kick and pinning Christian at about the 6 minute mark; but after he'd already counted three and signaled for the bell, ref Patton notices that Christian's foot WAS on the ropes, and insists on a restart.  During this confusion, but promising that the match would resume, they expose us to some:


When we come back, we're picked things up even another notch, and there is a series of convincing near falls for both guys.  Another couple minutes of action later, and Christian is apparently convinced that his title run is in jeopardy and simultaneously experiencing short term memory loss, because he goes out and grabs his title belt and swings it at Booker T, apparently wanting to get DQ'ed (?)... but Booker ducks it, lands a kick to the gut, and hits another scissors kick, this time in the center of the ring.  Booker makes the cover.  1, 2, 3.  We have a new InterContinental Champion, kids.  Booker celebrates for 2-3 minutes, and the crowd is definitely giving him some love.

I didn't get the logic of the last spot with the title belt in play, but this whole match was really good, so I'll excuse that brain fart.  Great work putting together some convincing near falls, great heat from the crowd, and the big finish with Booker going over all made it fell like a bona fide big deal.  Probably about 12-15 minutes all told for the match, and another 3 or so for Booker's big celebration.  Quality way to start the show.

Backstage: Steve Austin is watching Booker celebrate with RAW Rookie Mark Jindrak, who probably said something about "Someday, that will be me," if only the audio hadn't been totally shitty during this bit.  Then Nick Patrick appears and tells Austin he has to come with him, there's been an emergency.


Backstage: Austin, medics, and the Dudley Boyz (Bubba and Spike, but not D-Von), are crowded over Tommy Dreamer's bloodied and lifeless body.  Obviously, somebody did a number on him.  Bubba, self-proclaimed Best Friend of Tommy Dreamer, is very upset.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler talk: tonight, more than six years after the fact, Shawn Michaels will address the Montreal Screwjob on a special edition of The Highlight Reel.  Whoa, that came out of left field.  Here, to help us remember what that whole thing was about, is about 3 minutes of highlights from Survivor Series '97, the last time Shawn was in this building.

Teddy Long, Rodney Mack, and Rosey vs. ?????

Teddy Long gets on the stick, and sort of gets the idea across that he's very happy to welcome Rosey to his stable of wrestlers, but very rapidly, the segment is cut off in favor of a cut to:

Backstage: Dreamer's getting loaded into an ambulance.  Looks like Spike's going with him to the hospital, but Bubba's gonna stay here, because he thinks he knows who did this, and he wants revenge.


Rosey vs. The Hurricane

OK, so it's just Rosey wrestling, and his opponent is the Hurricane.  Glad to have that cleared up. There's barely enough time here for JR and King to hype Mick Foley's appearance on "The Today Show" and tell us that the reason Chris Nowinski isn't here is because of post-concussion syndrome before Rosey scores the clean pinfall with a Samoan Drop.  If it was 90 seconds, I'd be shocked.  

After the match, Teddy gets in the ring to celebrate with Rosey, and then tells him to keep on pounding on the Hurricane to show him who's boss.  But Rosey doesn't like being ordered around, or something, because he suddenly just shoves Teddy into the corner and starts threatening him.   So Rodney Mack comes to the rescue, attacking Rosey from behind.  He manages to leave Rosey lying when all is said and done.

Huh.  Nothing of a match, but my annoyance at having the Hurricane's tag angle dropped aside without a mention, this might be the closest they'll ever come to getting people into either Rosey OR Mack.  If only they HAD mentioned Hurricane's Great Tag Partner Search, I'd think that we'd be heading towards Rosey/Hurricane vs. Mack/Nowinski in a match where exactly one member of each team is over, which might help the other one out a bit.  But they didn't.  So I'm suspicious about their ability to be that clever. 

Backstage: Bubba Dudley has found Ric Flair and Randy Orton, and is accusing them of picking up where they left off last week with Dreamer, and that they attacked him in the locker room.  But Flair and Orton claim innocence, something about sucking down some protein shakes when the attacks happened (following up on the previous week's ambiguously gay groping and pointing this was NOT the alibi they should have gone for!).  Out of nowhere, Austin shows up and tells Bubba to settle down, and if he wants revenge, to do it in the ring later tonight: Bubba and a Partner of His Choice vs. Flair and Orton.  Then, suddenly, Jackie Gayda materializes and says something terrible has happened and Austin has to come with her.


During the break: Austin and medics found Rico laid out in the backstage area, bloodied, but in a bit better shape than Dreamer.  Rico, at least, can speak, and says, "I think it was Kane" when Austin interrogates him.  Aha.

Steven Richards and Victoria vs. Val Venis and Gail Kim

Val Venis was apparently assigned to this segment by the Random Match Generator.  But that's OK, I guess.  Gail and Victoria (fresh off being the last two in the ring last week in the Women's Title Battle Royal) start off, and do a minute or two of decent back and forth work before tagging in the men.  Neither Richards nor Val can secure a significant advantage (no doubt because they know each other so well and have each other so perfectly scouted back from the RTC days... not that anyone would ever mention such a thing), so we go back to the women.  Val and Steven powder out after a clothesline over the top rope, leaving Gail to pin Victoria following a Frankensteiner.  Zero complaints here; and OK 5 minute match that was supposed to convince people that Gail Kim's for real, and seemed like it succeeded.

Backstage:  Trish Stratus is stretching and chatting with Ivory about which one of them should go steal Vince's cell phone so that they can hang up on CRZ and get in touch with me about our plans for this weekend when Test shows up.  Ivory's gone, and after briefly playing along with Test's cheesy come-ons, Trish finally tells Test "No thanks," and asks him to go away.  Test says he doesn't take no for an answer, and grabs Trish's arm, which is Kevin Nash's signal to walk out from the shadows to inquire if there's anything wrong, here.  Test tries to beg off, but Nash decides tonight would be a good night for Test to try picking on somebody his own size.  Nay, somebody bigger.  In the ring.  Later tonight.  


The Highlight Reel w/ Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels

Jericho comes out to a monster babyface pop, and proceeds to play it up.  He is completely sympathetic to what these fans are feeling, and says that Shawn Michaels' actions 6 years ago here in Montreal make him sick.  Tonight, he promises, there will be an apology.  First, some more footage of Bret Hart getting screwed in '97.  "We Want Bret" says the live crowd.  Jericho sucks up again by telling them he agrees completely.  But tonight, we have to settle for humbling the man who stole Bret's WWE Title:  Shawn Michaels.

Michaels makes his entrances, getting massive boos and also "asshole"  and "You Screwed Bret" chants.  He even plays into it with that circa '97 understated cockiness that makes me think he'd still make a great heel today, if only Jesus would let him.  Michaels starts to make an apology (now, the crowd fires up a "bullshit" chant), and seems like he might be genuinely sorry for his role in the Montreal Screwjob.  But then, in a nicely played heel moment, Michaels says the thing he's most sorry for is the fact that fans in Montreal haven't gotten on with their lives.  Beautiful!  In the US and everywhere else in the world, they don't care about 1997 anymore.  But here in Montreal, they're still obsessed with something more than six years old.  [Good Lawler line: "Cats have nine lives, but the people here in Montreal don't even have one."]  When the crowd keeps railing on HBK with "You Screwed Bret" chants, Michaels retorts, "So what?  I had a job to do, and I did it.  Get over it."

At this point, Jericho started interjecting himself into things, basically acting like he was the voice of the crowd (using "We" when asking Michaels questions).  This led to Michaels responding, "What are you, Mr. Canada?"  When the crowd popped HUGE for that, and Jericho again played it up, Michaels then dropped the bomb, "OK, then, tell them why you live in Florida, you know, in the USA?".  Now the crowd is confused, and Jericho tries to backpedal, saying this isn't about him, it's about Bret Hart and 1997.  That gives Michaels the chance to again suggest it's time to get over '97; he tries to help out the crowd by giving them something else to obsess over, like how he beat their countryman Chris Jericho at WrestleMania.  Maybe it wasn't as big a deal, he says, but at least it's happened in the last year.  The crowd didn't really like that, but Jericho took special exception.  Suddenly, the interview veers off into a new direction and Jericho and Michaels look like they're ready to have a match here tonight.

Michaels, doing the purely babyface thing, eventually throws down the gauntlet, and says, "Let's do this right here, right now."  And Jericho, doing the purely heel thing, begs off.  Jericho turns the tables on the live crowd, saying that he's "The King of Bling Bling," and with the Canadian economy in the shitter the way it is, wrestling a main event against Michaels in Montreal would be like wrestling for free.  Instead, Jericho suggests they have their match in two weeks, in his town, Hollywood, CA.  [Actually, LA, but OK, whatever...]  Michaels gives Jericho one last chance to impress his countrymen here in Montreal by doing the match tonight, but Jericho says "No thanks," they boo him, prompting Jericho to say, "Screw Montreal." On his way out of the ring.

Wow.  That didn't go quite the way I'd have expected.  Not that I could have expected anything, since the segment itself came out of left field.  Awesome stuff while HBK was playing a heelish role and while Jericho was Captain Canuck (or Mr. Canada, or whatever).  And I really loved the idea of flipping them back into their usual roles (Michaels as face, Jericho as heel), but unfortunately, the last few minutes kind of fell a bit flat simply because the Fed underestimated Montreal's resistance to letting bygones be bygones.  Hell, you want to bring up the Montreal Screwjob, and I don't care WHERE you are in the world, Michaels probably has to be the heel in the situation and Bret the babyface (unless you want to leave Shawn out of it and use Vince as the heel).  Trying to use the "Screw Montreal" cheap heat as the only way to turn the tide with regard to Jericho just wasn't enough.  The fans were too into his rap to be swayed by such one-dimensional efforts.  Like I said, awesome stuff for the first three-quarters, and then as much as I liked the idea of Jericho going back heel in theory, Canada's just too screwy a place for it to click in practice.

Backstage: Austin walks into his office to find Kane sitting in his chair.  Kane says, "We have to talk," right as we cut to some...


Backstage: Austin and Kane are talking, and basically, it sounds like Kane wants to quit, and Austin thinks that's stupid.  Austin thinks if Kane's afraid people will make fun of him for how he looks, he wrong. He thinks if Kane would just go out there and kick ass in the ring (instead of doing it backstage), people would love him and cheer him.  To prove it, Austin says he wants to take Kane out to the ring and see how people react.  Kane's not sure if he wants to do that or not.

Kevin Nash vs. Test

I'll eschew the expected Diesel vs. Diesel Jr. jokes, and just tell you that this match was probably nowhere near as bad as the smarks would like to have you believe.  Maybe a bit one-dimensional, sure, but it moved along well enough, and everything looked solid.  It's hard to suck at the smarks' preferred epic/minus-stars level when they only give you 3 minutes to work with....  Finish had Trish come out when Nash looked like he was in trouble; she managed to distract Test, but put herself in harm's way to do so.  When Nash decided that saving Trish was more important than focusing on the match, he wound up being distracted long enough that Test could load up the Big Boot for the pinfall win.  After the match, Test also roughed up Trish for a minute or so before leaving.

This sort of match is the perfect counter-example to last week's problems.  Here, they did a 45 second segment earlier in the show to set this up, which meant it didn't totally die with the live crowd.  Then, they kept the match itself concise (like I said, about 3 minutes, maybe), which is fine when you don't have two Benoits up there in the ring.  And finally, the post-match angle not only provided Test with another nudge towards full prickishness, but also played into a later story regarding Trish (contrary to last week when there was no post-match angle, as I'd expected, to give us a reason for why we'd just sat through La Resistance vs. Spike/Hurricane).  I mean, Nash/Test will not go down as anything memorable, but it was a perfectly constructed segment to fill up some time on a Monday night.  Entertaining and "sticky."

Backstage: Terri interviews Booker T, who goes off on a tangent about how much bigger his smile is now that he's won the IC Title.  He's gonna do the town tonight, and he invites Terri along for the ride.  OK, so does that lead somewhere, or was it just a silly off-the-cuff thing to make Booker seem like a wild and crazy fun guy?


Chris Jericho vs. Mark Jindrak

As previously noted, the crowd did NOT want to boo Jericho, but that was the only option the Fed gave them here.  And they did not want to care about Jindrak, who in an homage to last week, was just thrown out there with absolutely no reason for fans to give two shits about him.  So there were some "boring" chants, and this one did not go over so well.  Jindrak still looked pretty decent in the spots they gave him, but in the end, he tapped out cleanly to the Walls of Jericho at the 5 minute mark.

Well, if Test/Nash was the antidote to last week, this was more of the same poison.  They miscalculated Montreal's willingness to boo Jericho unconditionally, and also did nothing to prop up Jindrak in his debut (poor audio or not, 10 seconds of face time with Austin earlier in the show wasn't gonna cut it).  Fixing this segment could have been as simple as resigning oneself to the fact that Canada is Bizarro Land:  find a way for Jericho to stay a Canadian Hero after the Highlight Reel (while still setting up him vs. Michaels in 2 weeks), tell Jindrak to work heelishly here, and you probably have the live crowd eating it up.  Just a guess.


Trish Stratus vs. Molly Holly (#1 Contender's Match)

OK, so you send two of the more proficient in-ring workers in the women's division to the ring with a shot at Gail Kim's title on the line.  You send them in there with a pre-existing story arc concerning Trish's injury at the hands of Test.  You send them in there with a full 5 minutes or so to tell a story and hit some cool moves.  So why do you not put a muzzle on Jerry Lawler?  Instead of focusing on what might be important here, he's singing nursery rhymes about being able to see Trish's thong.  Man alive, I admit I couldn't help by be mildly distracted by that, too, but c'mon, maybe make a half-funny joke about how Trish is stealing Lita's shtick and move on; that's how the grown ups play.  They had Trish selling a sore shoulder this entire match, but that seemed more an afterthought to Lawler's usual ramblings than anything.  Too bad, since it seemed obvious that a lot of thought had gone into setting up the psychology of the match to play up the fact that Trish was already injured.  The finish was when they finally decided to put the pieces together in crystal clear fashion for the dense fans at home:  Molly locked in a "reverse camel clutch" (JR's term, and it seemed very apt), and Trish had no choice but to submit because her shoulder just hurt too much.  Molly wins and gets a title shot next week on RAW; Trish loses another match, but this time, she can blame it on someone else (Test).

As good a women's match as you'll see.  Me, I like the idea of the women's division enough to be mildly disappointed in the lack of focus to the overall presentation in this match...  but I know a lot of you don't give a damn about the divas if they're not disrobing or wrestling in pudding, so I won't get into a whole big thing here.

Backstage: Austin is again in Kane's face, telling him to each come out to the ring with him later tonight, or just walk out and be nothing but a lousy quitter.  Kane says, "I'll do it," but nobody knows which of Austin's options that was in response to.


Ric Flair/Randy Orton vs. Bubba Dudley/Rob Van Dam

RVD is brought out as Bubba's mystery partner, which is a good choice, since he's got pre-existing issues with Evolution, and also lends a bit of heft to this, our apparent Main Event Match.  JR tells us D-Von is out tending to "personal business," but doesn't elaborate, even when Lawler pesters him like a jack-ass.  And Spike is at the hospital with Dreamer, so that's why Bubba had to go outside the family here.   Nothing here really seemed to get on track, and the finish came at a point that felt way too soon for our final match of the night (maybe 5-6 minutes, tops) when Spike Dudley made a surprise return to prevent Orton from interfering, allowing RVD to hit the Five Star Frog Splash on Flair for the pinfall win.

Acceptable, but not much more than that.  I'm gonna guess they were running a bit late, because these guys could have all gotten together on the same page and had a viable main event-type (8-10 minute) match, I think.  This wasn't it, though.  So maybe they had to cut things a bit short, which led to some discombobulation....


Main Event Promo with Steve Austin and Kane

Austin came out first, and restated his belief that if Kane would come out, these fans would welcome him.  After a minute or two, Kane's music hits, and he did make his big entrance, towel over his head and all.  Kane got a huge pop, just like Austin said, and Austin tells him, "See, I told you this ain't a beauty contest. It doesn't matter what you look like if you kick ass."

To remind the fans of just how much ass Kane can kick, Austin decided to load up some footage from last week.  When it gets to the part where Kane chokeslams Bischoff, Austin asks for a replay, and then opines that when Kane did that to Eric, it was "hilarious."  Ooops.  Wrong word.  Off comes Kane's towel.  He says, "I thought you said you weren't going to make fun of me."  Austin says he wasn't making fun of Kane, it was more a joke on Bischoff.  But it's too late, Kane's flipped out.

Kane attacks, taking Austin out with the clothesline, but Austin gets up and fights back.  He even grabs a chair and bloodies Kane with it (first blade job for the unmasked Kane).  He eventually hits a Stunner to a huge pop, and starts celebrating with beers.  But Kane does the Zombie Sit-up, and attacks Austin again. This time, Austin can't fight back, and he's left KO'ed after a chokeslam.  Kane looks scary as the crowd boos and we fade to black.

Hmmm.  Last segment was kind of like some of the Bischoff/Kane stuff from last week: sort of awkwardly constructed without good logical flow, but PACKED with cool and interesting ideas.  Mostly, I'm talking about how contrived it felt for Austin to slip in the word "hilarious" when he it's not something he'd normally do, and for Kane to get pissed about it.  That was the lynchpin of the segment, and it was forced.  But there was tons of neat stuff.  The visual of Kane no-selling the Stunner and doing the Zombie Sit-up in the background while Austin got beers in the foreground was perfect, the sort of thing you need to do to subtly build back that monster credibility.  The bloodying of Kane was cool, too, but maybe even was one too many cool things to squeeze in; that's the thing that could "humanize" Kane, remind us he is a man, but if that's how you want to use it, it should have been held back for a while till he were sold on his monstrousness.  In any case, I think Kane should have been more clearly spooked by the sight of his own blood; that never happened while he wore a mask, and you have to think that more trauma to his face would freak him out, anyway.

But enough of that for now....  good show as a whole, and a nice step forward in terms of meshing wrestling and entertainment and creating that "sticky" feel over the previous week.  Jericho/Jindrak was the only segment that fell short with me, and even there, I understood why the Fed did what it did, and recognize that it was probably only in hindsight that they could have known that Montreal wouldn't want to accept Jericho returning to heel status, therefore causing that match to flop.  

So no major complaints.  Just the usual slate of minor ones.  More fall-out, thoughts, and ratings data tomorrow in OO. 


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