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Default January 2003: Road to Dancing with the Devil


January 6th, 2003

From the Butte Civic Center in Butte, Montana

Attendance: 7,500

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

The show opens with a video package highlighting some of the major events from Starrcade, including Rey Mysterio Jr. winning the World Heavyweight Championship, Ric Flair swerving Rob Van Dam, and the Hardys prevailing over True Heroes to become 2-time World Tag Team Champions in an unforgettable ladder match. (B-)

The first thing in front of the live fans is the Hardys limping to the ring to bask in their huge win at Starrcade. They give credit to the True Heroes for hanging tough with them and giving them all they could handle, but say that at Starrcade they proved that the greatest tag team in the world is Matt and Jeff Hardy! The speech is interrupted by the Jung Dragons, who say that they're tired of being ignored and put on the back burner while all the attention goes to the Hardys and True Heroes. They point out their own win at Starrcade, and say that it's time to finally give the Dragons a chance--a chance at the World Tag Team Championship! The Hardys point out that they don't make the matches, but say they'll be happy to meet the challenge if the championship committee signs off on it. (B)

Norman Smiley stepped up to the plate as the challenger tonight, and "Black Magic" gave Fit Finlay quite a tough test. He was unable to fully lock in his Norman Conquest submission though, and Finlay won the match with his Tombstone for his 9th successful defense, putting him just one away from having the option to vacate the title and challenge for the US belt. (C+)

Lance Storm in-ring promo; he says CM Punk thankfully avoided serious injury, but he'll still be out of action recuperating for a bit thanks to the actions of "those reckless circus freaks" the Hardys. He vows that he won't be idle while Punk is out. "In case everyone's forgotten, I made it all the way to the Semifinals of the Stu Hart Classic. I can beat anyone in WCW one on one, and to prove that I'm issuing a challenge to the so-called franchise of WCW: Sting!" Sting steps out to accept the challenge! (B+)

Post-Starrcade footage: Harry Smith apologizes to his father for getting distracted by Stacy Keibler and costing them the match. Davey waves it off, telling his son that he's inexperienced and still learning the ropes, and mistakes are bound to happen. Disco Inferno saunters in and insults both of them, leading to a challenge for a one on one match between Disco and Harry for tonight on Nitro. (C-)

The Unbound looked just as impressive in their second outing as a team, surviving anything Hayabusa and Jinsei Shinzaki could throw at them before finishing Jinsei with their tandem finisher, the Fatal Flatliner. (B)

In a short clip, Rey Mysterio Jr. arrives at the arena with the World Heavyweight Championship over his shoulder. He'll address the fans live later tonight. (B)

Teddy Hart drops by Kidman's locker room to thank him for the wrestling lesson during the Cruiserweight Shootout at Starrcade and wish him luck in the title match against Christopher Daniels he's been granted for Sin. Kidman says he appreciates it, and they shake hands. (C+)

The Empire cut a locker room promo. Bischoff says that Starrcade didn't go exactly as they planned, with Palumbo losing the street fight and Candido failing to win the #1 contender's match, but King Corino getting his hand raised was a net positive. Corino candidly asks Eric if he made arrangements with Ric Flair without telling him about it, and Eric assures him he did not. "I don't know why he helped us, and honestly I don't care. We've already broken him and ended his career, so if he wants to be a thorn in RVD's side, I'm happy to leave him be." (B+)

Disco Inferno had talked a big game in insulting Harry Smith and saying he wasn't deserving of a spot in WCW, but Harry made him eat those words with a running powerslam in what turned out to be a surprisingly one-sided match. (C-)

Post-Starrcade footage: Bobby Roode tries to console Booker T. He tells him it's only a matter of time before he's a six time champion, but Booker doesn't seem to be hearing him. He just walks and stares straight ahead as if in a daze. (B-)

Spotlight Segment:

The familiar theme of Ric Flair brought the Nature Boy to the ring, to a mixed reaction from the fans. (People will always pop for Ric, but RVD may be our most over face, making him an ideal person for Ric to turn on.) After "woo"ing and running through some catchphrases, he told everyone in no uncertain terms that he is not and will never be associated with The Empire. He still hates Eric Bischoff's guts as much as he ever did, and that's not going to change. But he said this for Bischoff: at least he's honest about hating Flair.

"Yeah, all you people "woo"ed when I came out here, and you cheered when I showed up at Starrcade. Everyone pretends to love and respect me, but what happened when I was forced to retire, huh? You all moved on! You didn't need the Nature Boy anymore, because now you had your Hardys and your Mysterios and, yes, your Rob Van Dams to cheer for. After thirty years--THIRTY YEARS!--of pouring my blood, my sweat and my tears into this business, you people acted like I never even existed! Yeah, I'm talking to you, fat boy!" Ric screamed, taunting a fan in the front row wearing an RVD shirt.

"And it's not even just you ungrateful fans who ignored the Nature Boy. After my so-called best friend screwed me over and ended my career, he didn't even give me the courtesy of returning my phone calls! All these wrestlers who claim to idolize me, who say they wanted to be pro wrestlers because they grew up watching Ric Flair? Not one visit! Not one call! Not one e-mail! They forgot about me, all of them! And that includes Rob Van Dam! He didn't have one word to say to me, until he knew he was in trouble at Starrcade and needed somebody to watch his back! Yeah, then he was on his knees, begging the Nature Boy to save his ass, and if I'd done what he wanted me to do, he would've shook my hand and then forgot all about me as soon as the night was over! Well guess what? RVD won't be forgetting the Nature Boy any time soon, not after I punched his lights out, and neither will any of you! Because if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: diamonds are forever, and so's Ric Flair! I'm not going anywhere, so get used to it! WOO!"

Arn Anderson came to the ring, looking sad. He said he kept his distance from Ric, sure, but only because Ric was furious with him for making the judgment call to end the match at War Games. And even if the spotlight had no longer been on Ric, that didn't mean anyone had forgotten him. His contributions to the sport, his legacy, his career, all of it was second to none, and he would never be forgotten. But what he did at Starrcade, aiding Eric Bischoff of all people, and now complaining like a neglected toddler, was only tarnishing his legacy. Ric flew off the handle at that, screaming that if anyone was tarnishing their legacy, it was Arn. "You used to be one of the Horsemen, one of the studs of this business! And look at you now. You're just a corporate, kiss-ass sellout!" Ric punctuated his point by spitting in Arn's face, and Arn looked stunned as Ric tossed his suit jacket off and stalked back up the aisle. I think Arn could have done a better job here, but I think I did a good job on color as I played up the tension between the former friends, and Ric's insecurity.

Grade: A

Sean O'Haire ran right through poor Billy Kim in a squash. (C)

Shane Helms and Kimberly are seen arguing backstage before Helms stalks off, leaving her alone. (C-)

Post-Starrcade footage: Shane Douglas kicks open AJ Styles' locker room door as the new United States Champion is unwinding. Douglas angrily tells AJ that he might have somehow gotten his hand raised, but Shane's the greatest US Champion of all time and he won't let this stand. AJ taunts him by pulling the US belt out of his travel bag and dangling it in Shane's face, to which Douglas snarls and tells him to enjoy carrying that around while he can. (A)

Volador Jr. and Aguila used their high flying ability to defeat the larger team of Mike Sanders and Shawn Stasiak. (C+)

Bobby Heenan interviews Made in Italy, who say that the fans might think they'd seen a high point in tag team wrestling in that ladder match at Starrcade, but that would be a distant memory once they were graced by the in-ring presence of the pinnacle of elegance, class and teamwork. (C)

Our main event saw the now-unmasked Bryan Danielson taking on King Corino. The former American Dragon not only didn't let the loss of his mask get him down, if anything he was even sharper. He frustrated Corino with his scientific wrestling acumen, and the self-professed King was unable to break through on his own. Fortunately for him he got an assist from Chavo Guerrero Jr, who assaulted Danielson and suplexed him on the floor before rolling him back into the ring, where Corino was more than happy to pick the bones. (B+)

Spotlight Segment:

Rey Mysterio Jr. made his grand entrance as champion, with Mike Tenay trying and failing to get over how historic this night was (it really was, though. In his wildest dreams, do you think Bischoff ever thought this guy would one day be the world champion when he signed him?) He displayed the belt for the cheering fans, and delivered a speech "from the heart" (it was actually heavily scripted, but you get the point.) He said no one ever thought this would happen. People told him he was too small to even make it in the wrestling business, never mind becoming the World Heavyweight Champion. But he'd always believed in himself, and his victory at Starrcade was proof that if you work hard and believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything. He thanked his family, from his parents to his uncle, the original Rey Mysterio, who did him the honor of allowing him to wear the Mysterio mask and carry on the tradition. He also thanked his friends who'd supported him his entire career, and last but not least all of the fans.

"Every time you guys cheer for me, it motivates me to work that much harder and fight that much tougher. I might have Mexican roots, but this kid from San Diego is living the American dream, and I thank all of you for supporting me!"

The lights went out at that point, and then an eerie red hue bathed the arena as a face appeared on the video screen.

The Unnatural offered his "congratulations and condolences" on finally making his dreams come true. It was a momentous win, no one will deny that, not even him. But the story does not end there.

"An American dream, you say? I know a thing or two about that, Rey-Rey. Once upon a time I tried to make my own 'American dream' come true, and it ended only in failure, disappointment and heartbreak. Yes, you made your own dream a reality at Starrcade, but this is no fairy tale, and you shall not get your happily ever after. Because at Sin, I will see to it that your 'American dream' will morph into your deepest, darkest nightmare."

Grade: A*

Show Grade: A

January 11th, 2003 (taped January 7th)

From the Kyoto Prefectural Gymnasium in Kyoto, Japan

Attendance: 7,928

Announce Team: Joey Styles and Tracy Brooks

Chigusa Nagayo dispatched of Sonoko Kato with the Super Freak. (B-)

Nagayo post-match promo; says that if Aja Kong wants to prove she's truly championship-level, she can do it against her at Dancing with the Devil, since she herself was the first and best AAAW Singles champion, winning the belt three times. Kong responds from the back, saying that Chigusa might have been the first champion and she might have won the belt three times, but her third title reign ended at Kong's hands one year ago, and she will personally ensure that it remains Chigusa's last championship victory. (B)

In a big Dancing with the Devil preview, Meiko Satomura, Alexis Laree and Kyoko Inoue teamed against their respective opponents, Shinobu Kandori, Etsuko Mita and Takako Inoue. All six women got their chance to shine as they battled their rival, but in the end Satomura got the edge on Kandori with her Scorpion Rising kick. (C+)

After a video recap of Rob Van Dam vs. King Corino at Starrcade, it is announced that RVD will be back this Monday on Nitro to address Ric Flair's betrayal. (A)

It had now been made official that Nattie Neidhart and Melissa Anderson will take on Daffney and LuFisto (replacing the fired Mayumi Ozaki) at Dancing with the Devil, but tonight Melissa and LuFisto went solo. There was predictably ample involvement from both partners, with Daffney directly interfering and helping LuFisto steal the pin. (B-)

Manami Toyota's World Championship wasn't on the line in the main event, but it was vital for her to defeat freelancer Tsubasa Kuragaki and keep her confidence up heading into her big rematch with Devil Masami. Tsubasa gave a solid outing, hitting Toyota with multiple variations of the backbreaker, but it was Toyota who prevailed with a bridging double underhook suplex. (B-)

Toyota is having her hand raised, but Devil Masami appears from out of nowhere and catches her in the sleeper hold from behind! Toyota struggles but Masami's grip holds firm, and the champion is put out. Devil stands over the champion and holds up the title belt as the show closes. (A)

Show Grade: B



Fan Scorecard:

World Women's Championship: Devil Masami vs. Manami Toyota {}

AAAW Singles Championship: Chigusa Nagayo vs. Aja Kong {}

Alexis Laree vs. Etsuko Mita

Kyoko Inoue vs. Takako Inoue

Meiko Satomura vs. Shinobu Kandori

Melissa Anderson and Nattie Neidhart vs. Daffney and LuFisto

What will be match of the night?

How many championships will change hands?

General diary comments/questions/critiques:
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