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Default February 23rd, 2003: SuperBrawl XIII

February 23rd, 2003

From Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois

Attendance: 30,878

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

Official Theme Song: "Cochise" by Audioslave

Aguila and Volador vs. The Unbound (w/Father Isaac)

Volador and Aguila have been undefeated since being called up, competing exclusively in prelim matches and on the pre-show. This was obviously a big step up for them, both in kayfabe and in actuality. I thought they did a good job in their first PPV appearance, both performing well as they executed some flashy lucha libre-inspired offense. Alexander was fine, but Mortis was head and shoulders above everyone else in the match. No surprise there.

The luchadors got in plenty of offense and were put across as a team to keep an eye on, but it was The Unbound who got the win with the Fatal Flatliner on Volador. This match was a solid way to start the show, and a good showcase of two of our newer teams as we begin to reload that division.

Grade: B

Hayabusa vs. TAKA (w/Eric Bischoff) vs. "Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels {} (w/Brian Adams)

This was the traditional cruiserweight spotfest. The guys crammed as much flying into the match as they could, and all three did well in that style. Hayabusa and Daniels looked good, but TAKA led the way. He got the biggest reaction from the crowd, and he also produced the most memorable high spot when he wiped out both of his opponents on the floor with a no-handed suicide dive over the top rope.

This was an elimination match as opposed to one fall wins it, so there wasn't the breaking up of pins and submissions you often see in multi man matches like this. (Personally I don't think you should ever book a title match where the champion can lose the title without being beaten.) The first fall of the match came when Hayabusa fought off a Michinoku Driver and pinned TAKA with a Falcon Arrow. He had no time to even take a breath after the elimination though, because Daniels swooped right in and hit the Last Rites to beat Hayabusa and retain his title once again.

Grade: B

Booker T came to the ring to cut a promo. He admitted that he'd lost his way ever since losing his World Heavyweight Championship at Starrcade.

"I was lost, man," he said. "I didn't know how to move past it. But now I know what I gotta do, and I accept it. I accept it all. Yeah, I accept. There's your answer."

And with that deliberately vague and confusing promo, Booker returned to the back. We were left with more questions than answers, but this was a segment that had the crowd invested and got them hotter.

Grade: A

Ultimate Fan Series Opening Round: #2 The Phenomenal Enigmas vs. #7 Bonnie's Dingos (series tied 2-2)
Sean O'Haire (Enigmas) {} vs. Brian Adams (Dingos)

It was originally supposed to be Chris Candido in this spot against O'Haire, but we all know how that worked out. His decision meant that Brian Adams, who has slotted into a role as the bodyguard of Christopher Daniels, had his first match on PPV since the Great American Bash last June.

Wanting to emphasize the one thing Brian does well in the ring (which also happens to be what O'Haire does best), I told these two to just go out and brawl. They did just that. Scientifically it wasn't the greatest, and there wasn't much of a story told, but the match went about as well as expected. Most of the credit for that belongs to O'Haire, because he was leagues better than Brian and really carried him through this. To the surprise of pretty much no one, Sean hit the Widow Maker to make the second defense of his TV title and send the Enigmas to the Semifinals.

Grade: B
If Jamie Knoble loses, he must join The Empire:
Jamie Knoble vs. King Corino (w/Eric Bischoff)

These two had a lot to live up to after their excellent match last month, and there was something tangible at stake this time around. Could they deliver another match of the same quality?

Unfortunately, no. I told them to focus less on the work and more on the story this time around, with Corino going out of his way to try and embarrass Knoble by making him submit once again, and Jamie showing the determination to fight through any pain. That story was told, but it just didn't seem to captivate the audience the way they did last month. The action was fine and it's not like the match was terrible or anything, but it was a huge step down from last month at Sin.

All of Corino's work finally paid off when he applied the figure four right in the center of the ring. Knoble tried to find some means of escape, but Corino's leverage meant he went nowhere. He tried to pull the old standard 'roll over and reverse the pressure' gimmick, but when he got close to succeeding Corino stopped him short with a thumb to the eye. Still Knoble refused to submit, but the pain affected him so much that when referee Marty Rubalcaba made a count with his shoulders on the mat, he was unable to get them up in time. He was true to his word and did not submit, but he'd still suffered defeat and would now have to join The Empire.

Grade: B

Made in Italy came to the ring, but they were not dressed to wrestle. They were still wearing their customary suits, as Mamaluke explained that there was an "Armani emergency" that required their immediate attention, and so they would not be able to compete tonight. Tony actually did pretty good with his delivery tonight. The Steiners came out, with Rick standing back and letting Scott do all the talking. In his own inimitable way, Scott called both of them cowards and threatened to rip their suits off and stuff them down their throats. The fans got a kick out of that, and out of Scotty in general.

Parisi tried to explain that they weren't cowards but instead busy men with busy and diverse lives unlike the simple Steiners, but he struggled to try and follow Scott on the microphone. Made in Italy fled the ring quickly when the Steiners started marching down the ramp, and I think I capped the segment off nicely on color by remarking that Parisi and Mamaluke might have run tonight, but they wouldn't be able to hide from the Steiners forever.

Grade: B-
Ultimate Fan Series Opening Round: #4 Satyr's Hopeful Few vs. #5 The K-Nections (series tied 2-2)
The Unnatural (S.H.F.) (w/Father Isaac) vs. Rob Van Dam (K-Nections)

This was a huge match in the sense that it would decide the winner in this UFS series between two teams that are viewed as strong contenders and got solid fan support in our online prediction game, but it was also big because these two guys had a match on Nitro last month that was an absolute classic. They would theoretically work even harder this time with the match being on PPV, so my expectations were very high. What we got was a second straight disappointment. Like the Knoble/Corino match before it, this one was okay, but 'okay' is a massive step down from their unforgettable first match. Neither guy had a noticeable off night or anything like that, but the match just wasn't great. It was a bit shorter than their first encounter, but I wouldn't have expected a few minutes to make THIS much of a difference.

RVD had been beaten cleanly by Unnatural Selection the first time around and had since done his homework, as any time The Unnatural went for his signature move RVD always had a counter or escape ready. By the same token, The Unnatural rolled out to the floor the first time Van Dam was thinking about the Five Star Frog Splash, and he got his knees up on the second attempt. Both wrestlers were prepared, and neither could seem to solve the other.

Ric Flair ran down the ramp, steel chair in hand, and whacked RVD across the back with it! The ref was about to call for the bell--but then Ric hit Unnatural with a (protected) chair shot to the face! He threw the chair down, spit on RVD, then gave Dustin a kick to the face and shouted "that's what you get for disrespecting the Nature Boy!" The official threw the match out, ruling it a no contest, and Mike and I were quick to point out that based on Arn Anderson's previous comments about the series between Uncrewed's Crew and Scotty's Band of Misfits, there would have to be an elimination eight man tag between the Hopeful Few and K-Nections tomorrow night on Nitro to decide the winner of this series.

Grade: B
Ultimate Fan Series Opening Round: #3 Sin-free Society vs. #6 The Dead Jesters (series tied 2-2)
Fit Finlay (SfS) vs. Bobby Roode (Jesters)

Having figured that Van Dam and Unnatural would put on a fantastic match that had the crowd on the edge of their seats, I told Fit and Bobby to focus on cooling the fans off so we could let them breathe and then build them back up before the end of the night. Even though the previous match hadn't lived up to the hype, Finlay and Roode did their job effectively. They had a basic, unspectacular match with some brawling, where Fit had the upper hand, and some chances for Roode to showcase his power advantage. Roode had him all sized up for the Northern Lariat, but Finlay ducked it and then delivered the Tombstone to win the match and the series for the Society.

Grade: C

We had Shane Helms and Kimberly on Piper's Pit, where Kimberly was interested in trying to smooth things over with Helms, and Roddy kept trying to stir the pot. Roddy's performance was good here, standing out all the more because it's not like Helms or Kimberly really command attention. Helms was unmoved by Kimberly's appeals. He said she'd promised to help take his career to the next level, but all she'd done was drag him down and make him completely irrelevant. He told her that associating with her had been the biggest mistake he'd ever made, and as of this moment he was back on his own. While this segment was nothing special, it was effective at getting the crowd a bit more excited for what was still to come tonight.

Grade: C+

The Jung Dragons (w/Stacy Keibler) vs. The Hardys {}

Figuring that this could be in the running for the most athletically impressive match of the night, I told both teams to go out, hold nothing back and try to steal the show. They attempted to do so, but the results were less than inspiring. In what was becoming a trend at this point in the night, they had a match that was fairly good but failed to live up to my expectations and the expectations of a lot of fans. It didn't help that none of the participants are exactly ring generals, and the lack of logical storytelling was evident. About the only real positive note I can make is I thought Matt Hardy's brawling looked more believable than usual. Other than that, not much to get excited about here.

The Dragons believed they had the match all sewn up as they had both Hardys down on the mat and went for a pair of moves off the top rope, but Matt and Jeff both rolled out of the way. That high risk came up empty and took the wind out of the challengers' sails, and it wasn't much later that Matt hit the Twist of Fate for the win.

Grade: B

Arn Anderson and Bobby Heenan introduced Tony Schiavone as another entrant in the Hall of Fame class of 2003, joining Ric Flair, Randy Savage and one name we've yet to announce. Arn complimented him for all his years of service in WCW and JCP before that, Tony expressed his gratitude to Arn, WCW and the fans, and Heenan cracked some jokes. Pretty basic stuff.

Grade: C
Ultimate Fan Series Opening Round: #1 Uncrewed's Crew vs. #8 Scotty's Band of Misfits (Crew leads 2-1)
Bryan Danielson (Crew) vs. The Destroyer (Misfits) (w/Father Isaac)

There were no special instructions here, and this wasn't a match I expected a ton out of. I figured it'd be pretty good because both guys have talent, but I assumed there'd be four or five matches on this show that were better. But with several key matches underachieving earlier, this was actually tied with the Cruiserweight title match as the best on the show to this point. While it was in the same B range that seemingly the entire show hit, it was on the higher end of that range. It was a good little match that got the crowd hotter, so I was pleased with both guys here.

They obviously worked the big man/little man dynamic, but whereas the smaller guy in that scenario usually relies on quickness and aerial attacks, Danielson's answer to The Destroyer's size and strength was to utilize his submission grappling. It was a challenge to get the big masked man off his feet at times, but after staggering him with a series of elbows and finally knocking him down with a missile dropkick, Danielson applied a grounded chickenwing for a submission win. Uncrewed's Crew wins the series and moves on to face the winner of the SHF/K-Nections tiebreaker.

Grade: B

CM Punk cut a promo in his locker room. He pointed out that we were only about an hour away from Chicago, where he was born and raised, and that's going to make all the difference tonight.

"A lot of people don't like the things that I say, and that's fine," he said. "I could not care less whether someone loves me or hates me, because as long as I'm true to myself, to my beliefs, to my morals and my straight-edge lifestyle, nothing else matters to me. But one thing Rey Mysterio Jr. will learn tonight is that Chicagoans stick together. On a personal level, those people in the crowd drinking their beers and living their unclean lifestyles will never be able to coexist with someone like me. But tonight, they'll look at me and see a Chicago kid fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world, and they'll put their personal feelings for me aside and support the Second City!

"I'll be honest: their support doesn't matter much to me. Luck is for losers and sympathy is for suckers. But I know you, Rey. You're a suck-up. You crave the cheers of the fans, the moral support and the kids wearing your replica masks; you feed off of it. You even thanked THEM for helping YOU win the World Heavyweight Championship at Starrcade! But what are you going to do tonight when you walk down that ramp wearing that big shiny gold belt and hear the boos? What are you going to do when you realize that in one of the few times in your entire career, little Rey-Rey isn't the sentimental favorite of the fans? Everyone knows you're a world-class athlete, Rey, but tonight we'll find out just how mentally tough you are. And you? You'll find out that straight-edge means I'm better than you."

Punk nailed this promo. He came across like a true main event superstar and got the feud and the match even more over than it already was, which is saying quite alot.

Grade: A*

Lance Storm vs. AJ Styles {}

After a string of highly-anticipated matches that underachieved, this show was starting to feel like it was going to be a large step down from our last couple of PPVs. We still had some hope though, if these last two matches could deliver.

They started off tentative, with AJ willingly engaging Lance in some technical exchanges. He held his own, but that was obviously going to work out in the challengers' favor in the end since Lance is portrayed as an elite scientific wrestler. Storm focused on the champion's legs, wanting to ground him and eliminate his high flying. AJ fought back with some hard strikes and picked the pace of the match up, but he missed a springboard attack and was subsequently grounded. That's pretty much how the match played out, going back and forth and changing tempo frequently.

Styles ducked a superkick, hit the ropes and snapped off his beautiful springboard inverted DDT, but when he attempted the Spiral Tap Storm rolled out of the way. From there Lance positioned him so he was in the middle of the ring and bridged back into the Calgary Clutch. Styles refused to tap out but could find no means of escape. The referee threatened to end the match if AJ couldn't demonstrate a reasonable defense, but the bell rang while that argument was ongoing. After initial confusion, the announcement came: the 30 minute time limit for the match had expired, so the result was a draw. Storm released the hold and shouted at the referee to hand him "his belt", but that fell on deaf ears.

Leave it to these two guys to turn the show around. As great as their Nitro match during the Stu Hart Classic was, this was even better. This was a true match of the year contender that thrilled the crowd, and notice was served to Mysterio and Punk. If they wanted to stand out as a worthy main event on this show, they were going to need to be at their absolute best.

Grade: A

Austin got another huge reaction as he came out to the ring. He made it clear that no one was safe from "The Hellraiser"; he was going to stomp mudholes in anyone who got in his way, and that was the bottom line! You know the basic shtick here, but the fans loved it and Austin already seems to be settling into his new gimmick as a rebel, knowing how to get himself over despite having a few more restrictions than he did in WWF, such as no middle fingers, etc. He was continuing on when he was interrupted by...

Eric Bischoff. Eric smiled as he walked down the ramp, but Austin didn't join in the smiling. Eric said he was sorry for interrupting Austin, but he wanted to formally welcome him back to WCW.

"I know things ended...badly between us the last time you were here," Bischoff said, in one of the biggest understatements ever. "But I hope there are no hard feelings between us. I know there are none on my end. I'm sure you were upset at the time, but I hope now you can see that I actually did you a favor. "Stunning" Steve Austin was never going to make it to the top. You had the talent; I could see that. But what you needed was not only a change of scenery, but the motivation to prove people wrong. And you got that motivation when I fired you."

Mike and I called that a ridiculous thing to say, but Austin's reaction was unreadable. He just stood there with a neutral expression and let Eric continue talking.

"People have since called me every name in the book for firing Steve Austin, one of the biggest stars of all time, but what they fail to realize is that without me firing you, you could've never become the star that you did. I put that gigantic chip on your shoulder, and you've spent the last seven or eight years using that chip as motivation to prove the entire world wrong. Everyone knows I'm a humble man who doesn't like to sing my own praises, but I think I can say that I helped create 'The Hellraiser.' But think about this, Steve: how much more dominant could you be if you and I were on the same side? Think about it. You became the biggest star since Hogan--some say the biggest of all time! I set the trends and revolutionized this business forever in the late '90s! Together, nothing could stop us! Whaddaya say? Join The Empire, and 'The Hellraiser' will carve a path of destruction through WCW like nothing anyone has ever seen before!"

The fans obviously booed loudly at that idea, and they urged Austin not to do it. Eric plastered his huge phony grin on his face and held out his hand for Steve to shake. Steve looked at it, then spoke.

"I normally don't like it when people interrupt me, but I'm glad ya came out here Eric," he said, causing Eric's smile to widen. "'Cause there's somethin' I been wanting to say to you for years. And since you're standin' right here in front of me, I ain't gotta send you a damn FedEx. I can look you right in your beady little eyes and tell you that you are one stupid S.O.B!"

Austin booted Eric in the gut, then dropped him with the Stunner to a massive pop from the crowd! He got in Eric's face and talked trash afterwards.

The rest of The Empire started running down the ramp, with King Corino leading the way. Corino came to a screeching halt when he saw that Austin had picked up a steel chair and was ready to take a swing at anybody who dared step into the ring. Austin and Corino had a staredown, with Austin daring him to come and get him and Corino glaring at him from the ramp. Corino and The Empire stayed put until some officials hurried out from the back, and only after Austin had left the ring did they come in and tend to Eric. This was an electric segment.

Grade: A*

CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. {}

The Storm and Styles match ended the string of big matches that underachieved, and that great segment with Austin and The Empire kept the crowd pumped heading into this main event. Now it was time to see if Punk and Mysterio could end the show on a high note.

After an initial fast start from Rey, Punk started brawling and threw the champ off his game. It wasn't long before we saw evidence that the fans reacted in the way we'd figured and Punk had even played up during his promos. A lot of the kids popped for Rey, but most of the adults cheered for the hometown guy despite him being the heel. Since we anticipated that heading in, the guys were prepared for it and worked it into their storytelling, with Rey looking kayfabe confused by it and Punk working subtly more facelike. It made for a really interesting dynamic, and the fact that I let the guys call this one in the ring allowed them to perfectly cater to the crowd's reactions.

Both guys were awesome in this match, but Punk was slightly better. This was a big test for him in his first singles PPV main event, and he more than delivered. This match didn't top Storm/AJ, but that was all but impossible to do. They did match it, which is amazing in its own right. What had been a show that was underachieving was completely turned around in these last two matches.

Punk showed his versatility as he attempted to win the match in a variety of ways. He tried to apply the Second City Stretch, but Rey made it to the ropes before serious damage could be done. He went for the Devil Lock DDT but Rey slipped free. He even cut Rey off on the top rope and tried to execute his rarely-used Punk Plunge (Hunter's Pedigree, except way cooler because it's off the top rope.) That move is difficult to execute though, and as a result Rey was able to block it and hit Punk with forearms and a headbutt to knock him back down into the ring. From there Rey jumped off the top rope and hit a swinging hurricanrana, hooking Punk's legs and holding him down for the 3 count to end this excellent main event with a successful title defense.

Grade: A

Show Overall Grade: A*
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