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Default April 21st, 2002: Slamboree



April 21st, 2002

From Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo, Japan

Attendance: 12,000 (sell-out!)

Announce Team: "The Professor" Mike Tenay and Bret "The Hitman" Hart







Quote:

Sean O'Haire vs. Shane Douglas {}

Douglas' first title defense was against 1/2 of the Natural Born Thrillers (the half that is generally considered to have the higher upside.) I felt it was time to take the United States title off of Rey Misterio and considered several candidates, including both King Corino and Chris Candido of The Empire, but instead went with Douglas because he was red hot after the feud with DDP and I wanted to keep the forward momentum going. Shane was motivated to prove I made the right call in putting the belt on him, and I thought he did a good job there. This match was overshadowed by some of the bigger ones later on in the show, but it was pretty good in its own right. It was a nice way to start the show.

The story of the match was that O'Haire was physically superior, as he was both stronger and had more raw athletic ability than Douglas. Therefore Shane would need to rely on smarts and technique if he wanted to retain his title. Despite some cool spots where O'Haire got to show his stuff, Douglas' strategy of focusing on the challenger's legs throughout the match paid off in crunch time when his knee buckled while attempting to hit the Widow Maker. All Douglas had to do was fall on top of him and hook the leg to make his first successful defense.



Grade: B
Quote:

Shane Helms stood in the ring to await the man who accepted his open challenge, and the fans in Tokyo gave a nice reception as Hayabusa came to the ring. I signed Hayabusa shortly after FMW went out of business last month, and my plan was to debut him here in this spot. He's tremendously talented and exciting, but it'll take time to get him over in front of our American audiences. Here in Japan though, he was guaranteed to get a good reaction right away.


Grade: C-
Quote:
Hayabusa vs. "Sugar" Shane Helms

I told these guys to go out and have a fast-paced match full of high spots. That's always been Hayabusa's strong suit in the tapes I've seen, so I wasn't surprised to see him excel in this match. Helms didn't exactly struggle in the environment either, but this was definitely the Hayabusa show. He pulled off many of his signature high flying spots, including a corkscrew senton, springboard spinning heel kick and springboard moonsault. Helms got in some good shots of his own, but when he went for the Vertebreaker, Hayabusa fought free and hit a tiger suplex. From there he went up top and won the match with a move of his own creation, the Phoenix Splash.


Grade: B
Quote:
Vampiro, Chavo Guerrero Jr. and American Dragon vs. Salvation (w/Father Isaac)

Vampiro came to the ring alone, but Chavo Guerrero Jr. led American Dragon to the ring just before the bell and volunteered their services as his partners. Vampiro didn't show much reaction, but referee Charles Robinson allowed it and we had a six man tag rather than a 3-on-1 handicap match. (When I first plotted this PPV out last month it was actually going to be a handicap match, but I saw an opportunity to use this Chavo/Dragon story and work them in.) Chavo and Dragon did some work, but the focus of the match was on Vampiro attempting to get his revenge on his former Salvation "brothers." Maybe we should've focused more on Chavo and Dragon and less on Vampiro, because he was the worst performer in the match by a wide margin. He looked especially bad as he chased Isaac around the ring with all the intensity of a slug.

Between the overwhelming power of The Destroyer, the erratic brawling of The Unnatural and the ruthless creativity of Mortis, Chavo looked progressively less interested in battling Salvation as the match wore on. After Vampiro ended a run of Salvation dominance and began crawling towards the corner, Chavo hopped down off of the apron. American Dragon looked down at him in confusion, and Chavo shook his head and told him that "it's all about timing." Dragon slowly followed his self-appointed mentor up the ramp, leaving Vampiro to his fate. Isaac laughed and shouted that it was time to "put him out of his misery", and so it was. All three members of Salvation gave Vampiro a severe beating before Unnatural Selection ended it.



Grade: B-
Quote:

Why did these three women all meet together backstage? To discuss a strange letter sent to all three of them, of course. They showed the letter to the camera man, who zoomed in to get a good shot of its contents. It was printed on a piece of old computer paper that looked straight out of the '80s or early '90s, the kind with the perforated edges with the holes on the sides.

I want YOU!

...to join me on the Call to Action Campaign 2002!

Coming soon!!



Grade: C
Quote:
"Nature Boy" Ric Flair and Sting vs. The Empire (w/Eric Bischoff and Tammy Sytch)

Stop me if you've heard this before: Ric Flair was the weak link in this match. Sting was showing his age somewhat too, but at least he was able to keep up with his younger opponents reasonably well. It's a constant struggle for Ric though, even if he's still over enough and smart enough that his matches are never downright awful. We kept it simple and focused on the story here. It was an interesting story too, at least in my opinion. We ran with the idea that Flair and Sting had wrestled against each other so many times over the years that they knew each others' styles very well, and it actually made them a more formidable team and gave them an advantage over their younger and more fit opponents, who had rarely shared the ring either as opponents or partners.

Seeing that Flair had Corino on the mat and was softening him up for the figure four, Sting preemptively knocked Candido off of the apron and fought with him on the entrance ramp. Ric gave a "wooo" and prepared to slap on his signature submission, but Bischoff climbed onto the apron and grabbed his attention. Mike and I sold the idea that being the dirtiest player in the game, Flair surely recognized it as a trap. But he hated Bischoff so much that he couldn't resist a chance to clobber him. He abandoned the figure four and took a swing, which Bischoff was ready for and avoided by jumping right back down to the floor. Corino sprung the trap, low blowing Flair while the referee was yelling at Bischoff. He spiked Ric with the piledriver, and Sting was unable to make it back in time to break up the pin.



Grade: B-


Corino taunted Flair after the match and put his foot on his chest. Sting came back into the ring and got in his face, threatening to knock him out if he didn't leave. Corino backed off, only for Candido to hit Sting with a clothesline to the back of the neck! Both Candido and Corino put the boots to Sting for a bit before throwing him through the middle ropes out onto the ramp. But it didn't stop there.

Flair recovered enough to get back up and make a beeline for Bischoff, but Candido and Corino cut him off before he got there. Together they beat Flair down onto the mat, but Bischoff wasn't satisfied with that. He ordered them to hold Flair in place, and had Sytch pass him one of the baseball bats Flair and Sting brought to the ring with them. He made a big production of winding up and taking a few practice swings as Candido and Corino extended Flair's left arm, leaving it vulnerable...

...and smashed Flair's arm with the bat! Ric sold it like a champ, immediately screaming in pain and rolling around on the mat as Corino and Candido let him drop. The Empire left the ring and walked back up the ramp, satisfied with their work. That left Sting to come back in and check on Flair, and we also had Arn Anderson come out too as an homage to their well-known history. Arn frantically waved to the back and called for help as Mike and I speculated on how much damage had just been done to Ric Flair's arm.



Grade: B
Quote:
As a short transition between that major angle and our next match, we aired a video promoting our next PPV, Mayhem, on May 19th. The focus of the video was on the debut of the titular 'Mayhem' match. Basically it's the Royal Rumble, except the eliminations are by pin, submission or TKO rather than over the top rope battle royal style. The winner challenges for the world title at the Great American Bash.


Grade: B-
Quote:

Madusa vs. Etsuko Mita {} (w/Eric Bischoff)

Mike and I put over the credentials of Madusa, but said it had been quite some time since she'd taken on elite competition. The question was, could she still go at a level good enough to hang with an athlete the caliber of Mita? Within the context of the match she came out strong with some early offense, but faded once Mita turned the tide with a swinging neckbreaker. The reigning champion never looked back after that, proving her superiority by finishing Madusa off with her innovation and greatest weapon, the Death Valley Driver. Bischoff did a good job at enhancing the match in a supporting role on the floor without overshadowing the action, and he smugly counted along as Madusa was pinned.

Madusa was great in her day, but her day has passed. Mita was just on a different level for in-ring performance. That wasn't a surprise to me though. Madusa was brought in specifically as a name for Mita to beat that Western fans would recognize, and she did her job. Her short-term deal with us will be up in a few days, and she'll go back into retirement and focus on her new career as a monster truck driver.



Grade: B-


Bischoff grabbed the mic after the match, but seeing as we were in Tokyo, he simply handed it to Mita and she was able to speak for herself for a change. I told her (or told her translator, whatever) what I wanted her to say in broad terms and let her handle the verbiage. Obviously I didn't understand what she was saying, but based on the crowd response it seemed like she did a good job. She was to boast about how easily she'd defeated a so-called legendary women's wrestler, and say that if this was the best competition WCW could offer her, she was going to be the World Women's Champion until the day she retired. Bischoff couldn't understand her any better than I could, but I thought he did a good job at silently standing behind her and contributing to the tone of her promo with that smug little smirk of his.







Two women took exception to Mita's claims and walked down the ramp to confront her. Manami Toyota appeared in a non-wrestling segment at Sin in January when we first started laying the groundwork for the division, but Mike and I put her over again as a woman that was regarded by some experts as the most talented wrestler in the world, regardless of gender. This was the first TV appearance for Toyota's occasional tag team partner Toshiyo Yamada, and Mike and I talked her up as a tough as nails fighter with some lethal kicks. It'll take some time to see how the American audiences react to it, but her no-nonsense bad ass gimmick got a very good response tonight.

I told Toyota to respond to Mita's boasting by saying the competition was only just beginning in this division, and if it was a challenge she wanted both she and Yamada would be happy to provide it. The crowd reaction wasn't quite as good as I was expecting it to be, and one of my Japanese assistants informed me that Manami both looked and sounded nervous during her promo. Regardless, Mita and Bischoff reacted by slowly backing out of the ring, with Mita scowling and holding the belt up in the air once she was about halfway up the ramp.



Grade: C+
Quote:
Ultimate Fan Series Finals: #2 Agents of Chaos vs. #4 The Dead Jesters (Agents of Chaos lead 2-1)
"Big Poppa Pump" Scott Steiner (w/Midajah) vs. Jeff Hardy


Though both of these guys made their names as part of a tag team (each with their older brother no less), Scott had since become a 2-time world champion singles wrestler. Mike and I pushed the idea that many fans and analysts believed that Jeff's career would one day take a similar path, and talked this up as a real test for both men to see where they currently stood. Many, myself included, thought this had a shot to steal the show. They did not disappoint. Between Scott's suplexes and power moves and Jeff's aerial stuff, this match was awesome. Jeff even showed some improved fire and aggression in some brawling sequences. About the only drawback to this match was that they didn't really tell a great story, at least not in a manner that could draw that huge emotional investment from the fans that the all-time classics have. Still, it didn't change the fact that this match was something special. This was the best Scotty's looked since that match with Mutoh in August, and Jeff's performance only reinforced my belief that he'll be a huge main event star for us in the future.








The match was still pretty much in a stalemate when Lance Storm appeared at ringside. Mike and I were quick to speculate about his purpose. While the Hardys had made their debut by interrupting a True Heroes promo and the Heroes subsequently convinced Totally Buffed to try and take them out, Lance was a fellow member of the Dead Jesters and thus had a vested interest in seeing Jeff win this particular match. Indeed, Storm stood on the ramp right next to the ring and began clapping his hands while shouting encouragement to Hardy. Jeff and referee Nick Patrick looked at him in confusion, but he just kept shouting phrases like "go get 'em!" and "do it for the Dead Jesters!"








While all of this was going on, CM Punk came around from the other side and slid a steel chair right to Scott Steiner. Steiner looked surprised by the aid, but shrugged his shoulders and clobbered Jeff in the back with it while Storm continued to hold the ref's attention. Big Poppa Pump kicked the chair out of the ring and covered Hardy, with Storm conveniently walking back up the ramp just in time for Patrick to make the count. The Agents of Chaos won the Ultimate Fan Series, with an unlikely assist from the world tag tem champions!


Grade: A



We had the other members of the Agents of Chaos join Scott in the ring after the match for a celebration. It was a bit tricky to manage since none of them could cut a promo in front of the Japanese audience, so we just had them celebrate without talking. Scott and Rick were of course celebrating together, and they did acknowledge Jindrak with some high fives and back slaps. Jindrak offered a high five to The Unnatural, who just stared at him with a complete lack of emotion until Mark backed away, looking disturbed. The fans seemed entertained by Scott, who is pretty over in Japan, but they didn't quite know how to react to Dustin's gimmick.


Grade: B-
Quote:

AJ Styles vs. TAKA {} (w/Eric Bischoff)

Though we did have that celebration angle as a buffer, the great match between Steiner and Hardy was still fresh in the fans' minds as Styles and TAKA came to the ring. That was a tough act to follow, but I had a great deal in faith that both of these guys would be up to the task. They definitely delivered. It wasn't quite good enough to match what had come before it, but it was still a fantastic match of its own. Unlike many cruiserweight matches, I didn't give AJ and TAKA any special instructions like going heavy on the high spots or pulling out all the stops to try and steal the show. I just let them do their thing, and their thing was pretty damn good. They did some mat wrestling, they did some high flying, and they went back and forth in a very exciting match. AJ held up his end for sure, but TAKA was awesome. This match also suffered from the occasional dip in storytelling, but the action was tremendous.

The finish was a highlight reel moment to be sure. After hitting a tornado DDT, TAKA went to the apron and flew at AJ with a springboard dropkick. AJ caught him out of mid-air, hooked his legs underneath his arms and executed the Styles Clash! Bischoff's jaw dropped at the sudden reversal of fortune, but he could do nothing but watch in horror from the floor as the referee counted once...



twice...




...three times! AJ Styles is the new cruiserweight champion!



Grade: B+
Quote:

The Road Warriors vs. True Heroes {}

I had high hopes for both the UFS finale and the cruiserweight title match, and both of those matches went as well as I could have possibly hoped for. I wanted a bit of a buffer between those matches and the main event, and that's where this tag team match came into play. This wasn't an official cool down match; I didn't specifically tell them to bring the crowd down or anything, because we weren't going to have time to work them back up before the main event. I just assumed that this match wouldn't blow people away as much as the two that came before it, and I guessed right on that.

It honestly was a better match than I expected, but that's pretty much all about True Heroes. Hawk and Animal did have their team chemistry and years of experience to fall back on, but they were never great in the ring even in their prime, and their prime has been over for quite some time. Punk and Storm had their working boots on tonight, and they carried the Road Warriors to a quality match. Punk looked pretty visibly angry as it became obvious that Hawk was wrestling the match impaired. I don't blame him, but at least he and Lance showed their professionalism.

The Warriors did a few basic power and double team spots and set up for the Doomsday Device, but Hawk was shoved off the top rope by Punk and fell (softly) to the mat. Punk then helped Storm down off of Animal's shoulders and they put him down with a double back suplex, and Lance finished Hawk off with a spinning heel kick off of the top rope. This match marked the end of Hawk's three-appearance talent trade deal with us, and he's back to New Japan full time. It couldn't have come any sooner, because he was with us for all of a month and failed at least three drug tests, including two on the same night. Animal still has over two years remaining on his contract and I'd rather not eat all that money at one time by releasing him, but I'm not really sure what I can do with him.



Grade: B
Quote:

Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Rob Van Dam {}


Special Guest Referee: Booker T


We aired a pretty lengthy video before the match recapping all the history between the three men; the US title wins for Rey, the WCW debut of RVD all the way up to him winning the world title from Scott Steiner at Starrcade, and the great match the two had last month. Then it abruptly cut to a piece that covered Booker's obsession with regaining the world title he thought should've been his all along. That obsession motivated him to wreck last month's main event and then cost Rey the US title against Shane Douglas, and it led to him being inserted into this match as the special referee. This was some fantastic stuff by our production crew that helped draw out the popularity of all three guys, make them come across as big stars and get the storyline over.


Grade: A*


With the "pregame" done, it was go time. RVD and Misterio had a lot to live up to after their classic last month, as well as a couple of great matches earlier in the night. They wrestled a similar style of match, showcasing their athleticism and doing a lot of really cool-looking things within the context of trying to win the match and walk out with the championship at the end of the night. My expectations for this one were sky high coming in. They tore the house down in Australia, but our analysis suggests that both guys are even more popular in Japan, with RVD in particular having gotten over huge with how heavily we've featured him on our TV shows and PPVs airing on TV Asahi. Given that, I figured they'd be able to draw the fans in even more and turn their awesome work into a legitimate match of the year contender in the entire business. Unfortunately, this was not RVD at anywhere close to his best. He was all over the place tonight, with several mistimed and sloppy spots that hurt the match in some crucial points. The work in general was still high quality and the match was very strong, but afterwards I couldn't help but wonder what might've been had we gotten a usual RVD big match performance.

The key difference in the story telling this month was of course the presence of Booker T as the guest referee, and that created a lot of intrigue. There were multiple points where both wrestlers had near-collisions with Booker that led to staredowns and arguments. We got across the mutual disdain between Booker and both combatants, and the camera work and facial expressions of Booker established how badly he wanted to attack both men. Yet he didn't, because the stakes were so high for him. Knowing that he would get a world title shot if he called the match right down the middle, Booker reined in his temper and focused on getting through the match without causing a scene.

It had been over thirty minutes since the opening bell, yet RVD and Rey were still busting out the acrobatic maneuvers. A dizzying back and forth sequence saw counter after counter, with RVD catching Rey on a diving hurricanrana attempt and going for a running powerbomb, only for Misterio counter it with a headscissors that sent Van Dam over the top rope and onto the entrance ramp! Rey went right to the top rope and leapt out for a flying tornado DDT, but RVD caught him and hit a Northern Lights suplex on the ramp instead! RVD threw Rey back into the ring and hit a modified Rolling Thunder in which he jumped from the ramp, over the top rope and back into the ring, landing right on Misterio's chest with the somersault senton finale. RVD hooked the leg, and Booker dropped down and counted once...




twice...





...after a glare at Van Dam, Booker counted for the decisive third time and RVD retained his title!



Grade: B+


The timekeeper handed Booker the world heavyweight title, and he went to present it to Van Dam. Unlike most referees though, he chose to "present" the belt to the champion by smacking him in the face with it!

Mike and I were quick to point out that Arn Anderson's stipulation only applied while the match was going on. Now that it was over he was free to do what he wanted, and he was making full use of that freedom. He dropped the title and just as emphatically dropped Rey Misterio, who he picked up and threw over the top rope and onto the ramp. He picked RVD up off of the mat and sent him right back down with the Book End. Then his attention turned to the title itself. He picked the belt up and held it in the air, and gave RVD a stomp right to the face for good measure before dropping the belt on the chest of the fallen champion. Mike went into hype mode for the world title match at next month's Mayhem, but he went too dramatic and sounded inauthentic. RVD was the standout of this angle, simply because he's so over in Japan and the fans react big to anything that happens to him. It was a great way to build heat for next month, and an equally great way to sign off.



Grade: A*


Show Overall Grade: A

Last edited by The Final Countdown : 07-26-2017 at 08:51 PM.
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