Well the WWE was certainly pushing the “Debra” angle again as the show opens with a recap of the Stone Cold/Rock/Debra nonsense. Still, they would soon come to their senses, wouldn’t they? 

    Jim Ross and Paul Heyman (on his second week of Raw duty, with ECW having held their last show but not yet being officially wound up) introduce us to the show with the promise of The Undertaker and The Big Show clashing for the latter’s Hardcore Title. Kurt Angle is shown in the parking lot pacing back and forth, waiting for someone. 

    Staples Centre, Los Angeles CA – TV Rating – 4.9

    The Hardy Boyz vs X-Pac & Justin Credible

    A title match kicks things off. The Hardy’s have been feuding with the Dudley’s and Edge & Christian so it makes perfect sense for them to defend their titles here against the heat black holes that are X-Pac and Justin Credible.

    Both fine workers, without question, but who cared about them here?  Fear not though, there was a point to this match, that point was to bring together one of the most beloved and world-renowned stables of all time… X-Factor. 

    Yes, this goes to a three minute DQ when Albert interferes to save the challengers from a loss. If we’re being kind we can at least say it was an attempt to do something with hitherto underused guys. 

    We go back to Kurt Angle and he meets an arriving limo that holds the new WWE Commissioner William Regal. You would have thought he would have turned up early for this, his first big day on the job, but instead of apologising, he says that he has to go and address his people. 

    Angle says that the first thing he needs to do is give him a title rematch with The Rock tonight. 

    Dennis Hopper is shown in the crowd before the Radicalz are shown backstage wondering aloud what they should do with Chris Benoit.  Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko walk off, leaving Perry Saturn alone for an attack from Benoit. “One down, two to go” he says. 

    William Regal is now in the ring to make his first official address of the Regal Regime and following from the advice earlier he books The Rock vs Kurt Angle for the evening’s main event.

    He’s going through the initials from his last name, “R is for respect” etc, but he’s interrupted by Chris Jericho who says “G is for Good God Regal, won’t you please shut the hell up”. 

    The catchphrase is over, that’s for sure. 

    We throwback to Regal’s “first night in WWE” from last September when Jericho spoiled Regal’s in-ring etiquette lesson.  That is an etiquette lesson in the ring, not a lesson about in-ring etiquette. 

    Christian vs D-Von Dudley

    The hook for this match is that the winner gets a World Tag Team Title match for their respective team next week on Raw, Of course, Christian has twice cost the Dudley’s the belt in the past week or so which means that D-Von wants his revenge too. 

    The match goes five minutes (two more than the opener did) so it at least has something to it. Considering D-Von was never a noted singles wrestler in his WWE career it’s not too bad at all. Of course, it’s fairly obvious from the start than somehow Bubba Ray will make sure that Christian can’t pull shenanigans again and the Dudley’s will prevail. But it’s quite a fun way of getting there. 

    Vince, showing up to his own show late apparently, and Trish Stratus arrive in a limo and Vince suggests that as we’re in Hollywood he and Trish should go out and perform a live sex show in the middle of the ring. 2001 hey?

    Chris Benoit isolates Dean Malenko next, battering him with a steel pipe and then tells Eddie Guerrero that it’s time. 

    We’re then taken to William Regal’s office and when Jonathan Coachman comes in for a chat we end up with Regal booking Chris Jericho in a handicap match tonight against all four members of Right To Censor. Kurt Angle is then interviewed and promises to not only win the WWE Title tonight but break The Rock’s ankle too. 

    Chris Benoit vs Eddie Guerrero

    No. We’re not holding off on this one until WrestleMania.  Or are we? No, we’re definitely not. Although this is only eight and a half minutes long this is it.  Essentially we’re ending the feud. As you’d expect even with less than ten minutes to play with this is very good stuff. Hard-hitting, back and forth all the way this is just effortlessly good stuff. 

    Think of what they could have done twenty days later at Mania if given the opportunity. Benoit gets the clean win with the Crossface. 

    Of course, what we do get with Benoit at Mania isn’t at all bad, but we’ll get to that, won’t we? 

    At least Eddie gets a spot too. This is heads and shoulders above any other in-ring action we’ve seen so far tonight.

    Of course, we have to follow high-octane wrestling with more Vince & Trish stuff.  And in case you missed all the previous nonsense, they make sure to replay clips of it all.

    Although they don’t go through with Vince’s threat to hold a live sex show, Vince makes sure that Trish tells the world that all the stuff she’s done over the past week has in no way been forced on her by Vince and that she’s quite willing to degrade herself for the right cause. 

    All this is to set up the return of Shane McMahon who refuses to shake his father’s hand and instead punches him. William Regal runs in and causes enough of a distraction for Vince and Trish to hightail it out of there. 

    Right to Censor

    4-ON-1 HANDICAP MATCH: Chris Jericho vs The Right To Censor

    Commissioner Regal is shown watching on from his office as the competitors make their way to the ring. The odds are obviously against Jericho but he puts up a plucky fight. Some dissension between the Goodfather and Bull Buchanan even makes it look like he could pull off the impossible.

    He even temporarily slaps the Walls of Jericho on three of his opponents. But it’s not enough and he’s pinned by Val Venis. This pleases William Regal. 

    The Big Show vs The Undertaker

    After Kurt Angle and Steve Austin have a set-to backstage, again pointlessly involving the presence of Debra before it’s time for the Hardcore Title match between The Big Show and The Undertaker. 

    Show makes his entrance and we go backstage to see Taker revving up his motorbike for the entrance but wouldn’t you know it, Triple H sneak attacks him and taunts the Dead Man about making him famous. 

    Taker challenges him to finish off the job whilst he has a chance but before Trips can do that, Kane runs in chasing HHH off. Show upset that he hasn’t had his match presumably, comes backstage and chokeslams Kane through a table. 

    After a quick look at WWE New York (The Acolytes and Jacqueline are enjoying some food and drink with fans) Steve Austin’s attempt to talk to half the roster sees him tête-à-tête with The Rock. 

    There’s yet more discussion about Debra but at least Rock mentions their upcoming match at WrestleMania. We then see clips from Sunday Night Heat where Women’s Champion Ivory accepted the challenge of Chyna for the belt at ‘Mania. 

    JR confirms the match is official but that he has concerns about Chyna’s recent neck injury.

    Test vs Raven

    Last night on Heat, Raven’s “ninja” associate had been unmasked to reveal Tori (in an angle that was never mentioned again). None of which has anything to do with this title match. At less than three minutes it’s little more than an extended squash with the champion retaining via the Big Boot but Raven does at least get a few shots in. 

    Rock (w/ Debra)

    The Rock vs Kurt Angle

    And so it’s time for the main event and it’s a rematch from the recent No Way Out PPV where The Rock took the title off Angle. 

    Although we’re not expecting a “PPV quality” match in terms of time allotted, there does seem enough time left in the show to give us a decent match-time. 

    I don’t think these two could really have a bad match and as it turns out this is twelve minutes or so of very good action. It’s back and forth all the way.  Angle goes mad with the suplexes, Rock hits back with his trademark blows, and I always enjoy the retro “referee checks the arm three times” gig. 

    Of course, even when Rock is locked in the Ankle Lock with seemingly no way out the fact is that even in 2001 you can’t imagine that the WWE would change the main event three weeks out (after all, where on earth would that leave Debra?) so it’s incongruous that Angle could win. 

    Even allowing for the fact I’m watching twenty years later knowing he doesn’t. Still, the end comes when Angle has Rock in the Lock but refuses to release it even when Rock finally makes the ropes. Interestingly though, Rock taps out with his left hand whilst his right hand is on the hopes. 

    Regardless, Earl Hebner has no choice but to call for the DQ. 

    The main event of Mania is between a challenger who lost at the previous PPV and a Champion who taps out to Angle on TV a couple of weeks before the show too.

    Of course, we have to fit Debra in to close the show. 

    She tries to talk some sense into Angle so he of course slaps the Ankle Lock on her.  Austin runs in to defend his wife, sends Angle packing and then rather than actually checking on his wife he hits Rock with the Stunner and leaves. Debra again stays in the ring with Rock as the show ends.

    There is certainly a fast pace to WWE television in 2001 and there is no doubting that the generally short match-times do at least mean that there’s a lot of things going on and that they just keep coming. Where this show stands out though is the fact that it does also give us two very good TV matches. 

    Sure, Benoit/Guerrero and Rock/Angle would have better matches given more time and all that but they are good entertaining matches despite any promotional flaws that might surround them. 

    We inch closer towards Taker/HHH official for Mania and Ivory/Chyna is now locked in. The rest of the specific Mania build-up continued to revolve around Debra. 

    But there you go…All Roads Lead To Debra

    Photos courtesy of WWE.com