Alerus Center – Grand Forks, ND – TV Rating – 3.9

    We’re straight into Michael Cole and Tazz welcoming us to the show tonight, with the news that Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho will be defending their World Tag Team Titles tonight against the team of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. Presumably, anyone who is a main eventer hasn’t got to the arena tonight yet so we start things off with a match.

    Kurt Angle Vs Hardcore Holly – King of the Ring Qualifier

    Angle has got his requested match with Shane McMahon at KorR but our Olympic Hero isn’t satisfied to settle for that and also wants to defend his Crown from the previous year too.  On Monday he was teaming with Hardcore Holly but it was never meant to be an on-going thing and for those of us keeping count, Angle was responsible for breaking Holly’s arm the previous year.  The commentators even mention that at one point.  The two have a pretty “working stiff” back and forth match and do revisit the moonsault spot that left Hardcore with a broken arm previously.  This is a perfectly good TV match that does exactly what it has to do.  Angle takes the win with the Olympic Slam. 

    Kane is backstage lacing up his boots whilst also trying to calm down The Undertaker who simply can’t take this anymore.  It must be serious if he was at the show so early.  Taker is here to confront Shane McMahon after Vince suggested on Raw that he might be the one behind the stalking of Taker’s wife Sara.  Taker decides to wait in the parking lot. 

    Which is where we find him on the other side of an ad break.  Heaven help Shane when/if he shows up. 

    Stone Cold is on his way out in the arena to cut a promo next.  This is one of those where they send someone out to talk for a few minutes to hype the main event, which at least makes a change from someone “without an opponent” for the night walking out and being interrupted by someone.  And whilst nothing much happens in it, it’s entertaining enough and it lasts less than five minutes.  Job done. 

    Spike Dudley and Molly Holly’s blossoming romance continues backstage as the two tell each other that they really like each other.  They move in for a kiss but suddenly find Perry Saturn in between them and they both kiss his shiny bald head instead.  Saturn mumbles something about monkeys and sign language which may be a metaphor for the “beating up job boys is a bad idea” situation he finds himself in. 

    Then we’re with Vince, who is on the phone to someone telling them that the tag team titles are as good as in the bag tonight.  William Regal and TAjiri interrupt as Regal has had more reports about the “WCW 1” limo circling the arena.  Vince sends Tajiri to get him some popcorn as Regal tells him that he has alerted security.  Vince says that Regal should let the limo in as Taker wants to knock seven bells out of Shane tonight. 

    Jerry Lynn Vs Jeff Hardy – Light Heavyweight Title

    Beyond an annoyed promo from WWE New York effectively (and bafflingly) blaming JR for holding him back we’ve not seen much of Jerry Lynn on TV or PPV recently.  That he’s showing up here to defend his title is probably not good news for him.  Because after all, you can’t lose your title if you never defend it.  I mean, it’s wrestling, so you can.  But you get the idea.  The match itself is one of those perfectly acceptable short TV matches that never really has the time to be dull.  To the surprise of absolutely no-one, Jeff wins which means he joins Matt as being a singles champion.  It’s fine for what it is even if it effectively marks the beginning of the end for Lynn.  Not that he was really going places anyway. 

    We get another “Stalking Sara” clip next.  This time it’s in a parking lot and Sara has presumably been or is going, shopping.  The mysterious voice drones on about Sara thinking she’s safe in such public circumstances but that he might just provide her with some company.  And I know this is wrestling, but for someone who is being stalked Sara never looks remotely concerned about anything.  Maybe she doesn’t watch Raw or Smackdown. Maybe she’s no idea why her husband is walking around looking for someone to obliterate. 

    Presumably, Taker doesn’t see this latest vignette as we see him out back when the WCW 1 limo pulls up.  Taker demands Shane comes out but when he opens the door it’s not Shane in there.  We never see who it is or get any explanation for it.  Taker orders the mystery person to find Shane and tell him he’s looking for him.  Again this is never explained. 

    Then Spike and Molly have their latest attempt to share a first kiss but this time it’s popcorn-wielding Tajiri who ruins the moment.  Spike and Molly leave to find somewhere more private but will probably show up again soon in yet another busy corridor. 

    Elsewhere in the arena, Steve Austin is talking to his wife Debra. He isn’t happy that the Two Chris’ are the tag team champions but that as he has a partner who listens to him and doesn’t make mistakes he’s confident that he will be winning those titles tonight.  At this stage, they are still sowing seeds for an Austin/HHH confrontation that we’ll never really get. 

    Hello Mick Foley, wandering around backstage.

    Kane Vs X-Pac – Intercontinental Title

    Kane’s “fighting champion” IC title run continues as he once again faces off with former tag team partner X-Pac.  There’s always the worry with 2001 X-Pac that he could actually be booked to win something like this for no real apparent reason.  Thankfully he doesn’t and outside of a few of his trademark kicks and chops he doesn’t really make much of an impression here.  Again, and stop me if you have heard this one before, but it’s a perfectly adequate 4 minute TV match that neither particularly thrills nor particularly drags.  Kane wins by a power-bomb.  Post-match there’s a three-on-one beating from X-Factor which sees Albert come out on top.  It’s a push no one really wanted. 

    Chris Jericho is backstage preparing for his main event tag team title defence later when Mick Foley wanders in to apologise for hitting Chris Jericho with a Steel Chair on Raw and costing him the WWE Title.  No one watching believes that other than for that Jericho would have won but at least the bookers are trying here.  Chris says he appreciates what Foley was trying to do but in future to stay away from his title shots.

    After commercials, William Regal makes his way to the ring and he is not in a good mood.  Mick Foley, he says, disgraced Raw with his presence on Monday and says that Foley was trying to rob the WWE Title from Austin and it was only by the good grace of Regal that this was prevented.  And yet in return, he got a gob full of Mr Socko.  Regal says William Shakespeare would be turning in his grave at the thought of Foley being known as an author.  Naturally, this brings Foley out for some banter (he gets in a couple of besmirched references) before Regal has had enough and calls security on him.  This was an absolute waste of ten minutes as it leads nowhere and gives us nothing.

    Shane McMahon has been allowed backstage and he sees Test, who congratulates him on the WCW “invasion”.  Shane wants to find Taker, but Test doesn’t think that is a good idea.  Shane is playing the hard-man though and says it is something he has to do. 

    There are more plugs for Foley’s latest book before we’re introduced to Jared and Nicole Giffey in the crowd.  Seems like they got married in the arena prior to Smackdown.  That’s fairly cool. 

    The Dudley’s Vs Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn

    This match between four ECW alumni is going nowhere even before Perry Saturn hops off the ring apron because he’s seemingly infatuated with a pair of Dudley’s glasses.  When Malenko goes for the tag there is no one there so he gets hit with the “Wassup” Head-butt (if that’s what it’s called).  Saturn by this point has put the glasses on and climbs to the top rope and wants to hit Malenko with the same move.  The Dudley’s seen no reason to stop him so he does.  Saturn then gets on the microphone and tells D-Von to “get the muffins”.  They are less amused by this and hit him with the 3D to end things.  

    Can Spike and Molly finally share that first kiss?  No.  This time Kaientai (with voiceover) interrupt and say they are against love because they are “evil” but that they will allow this kiss if they can watch (apparently they are lonely).  Spike and Molly don’t seem to like this idea and just walk off shaking their heads.

    Shane is looking for Taker but finds Kane.  However before we can get much further, Taker finds Shane and wallops him and threatens him and wants answers from Shane.  Kane intervenes, reasonably surmising (without explicitly saying it) that there might be a reason Vince would want to point the finger at his son.  Taker punches an ice machine and slumps to the floor, distraught that he hasn’t found the answers that he was looking for.  

    We see The Hardy’s leaving the arena with their respective singles titles (Bill Watts clearly isn’t in charge) which is really just an excuse to see Edge & Christian watching this on a monitor and not liking the fact that Matt and Jeff hold singles gold when they don’t.  The two gently bicker about both being in the KotR tournament and how it would be a dream come true if they met in the final.  There’s a clear tension between the two, folks. 

    Vince is backstage preparing for his match and William Regal comes in and wants to be the first to congratulate him and Austin on winning the belts.  Even Vince seems to think this is a little presumptuous but Regal practically guarantees it. 

    Edge Vs Test – King of the Ring Qualifier

    Christian is at ringside so even though it’s highly unlikely that after going to great lengths to tease a possible Edge/Christian final that they’ll knock Edge out so soon there is at least the possibility that something could “go wrong” here for the multi-time tag team champions.  Test gets the upper hand early by laying into Edge but some nefarious shenanigans outside the ring lure Test into taking a clothesline from Christian.  The two go back and forth in the ring and actually try and work in some selling and psychology as they go along.  In the end Christian saves his buddy by putting Edge’s foot on the ropes during a Test pinfall attempt and whilst Test takes this opportunity to take it to Christian the distraction is enough for Edge to hit the Impaler DDT and advance in the tournament. 

    Benoit (in his first appearance of the night) and Jericho are walking around backstage s we know the main event is coming.  Post-commercial they make their way to the ring but as Tony Chimel gets ready to announce their opponents, William Regal’s music hits up and our commissioner has something to say.  Before they get to their title match with Austin & Vince, they have a non-title match against the APA

    Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho Vs The APA

    Because our tag team champions are fearless babyfaces (quite correctly, I add) they don’t think that they could just lie down for their opponents (or offer them more money to do their bidding) to mess with the Commissioner and their title match opponents.  No, they just gut it out and go a gruelling 2 and a half minutes with Bradshaw and Farooq.  It’s actually a very solid encounter and one that suggests a “proper” match between the duo’s could be very good.  The Chris’ win but Regal has another shock for them in-store.

    Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho Vs The Big Show & Rhyno

    Again our plucky babyfaces Chris duo have no thought about laying down and conserving energy and the two teams go at it.  Despite all his many losses to lesser stars, it’s the Big Show so just by his pure size he’s a dastardly threat.  It’s a reasonable match that goes to a non-finish when Rhyno gets DQ’d for using a chair.  Of course, he doesn’t care at all and although it’s never really explained, as he carries on with the chair shots you presume that he is doing the bidding of Vince (or Regal maybe) in order to severely weaken the tag champs. 

    Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin & Vince McMahon – World Tag Team Titles

    So we’re finally at our scheduled main event.  Jericho is down on the outside and Benoit is hurting in the ring.  Vince goes for an immediate cover but it’s to no avail.  Benoit gets him in the Crossface but Austin makes the save.  Benoit tosses out his German suplexes on Austin before Stone Cold puts the crossface on Benoit.  Jericho puts Vince in the Walls of Jericho and whilst Vince taps he’s not legal so it doesn’t count.  To make sure we know who the real stars are Austin hits the Stunner on Benoit and it’s only that the ref is too busy with Jericho and Vince that the match doesn’t end there.  But in the melee, Benoit is able to roll up Austin and grab the tights for the three count.  Sure, neither can beat Austin in singles matches, but at least Benoit has a pinfall over Austin.  It’s fine, albeit rushed, WWE Main Event territory of the era.  And although the currency of seeing Vince in the ring would devalue over time (it already has here to some extent) it’s odd to see him in a four-minute match on a 2001 TV taping. 

    I can’t pretend the show is brilliant.  Too much of it feels like filler that doesn’t really matter and whilst the KotR qualifiers are leading us through the tournament they never feel like must-see matches and you would lose nothing by skipping a week and seeing the updated tournament brackets.  Any thought that Jericho and Benoit were going to be pushed to the moon are already subsiding as it’s clear that the WWE don’t really know what to do with them in that sense and that neither are going to be defeating Austin for the belt any time soon.  And with two weeks to go, we still don’t have a KotR World Title match/main event booked. 

    Overall, not an offensive show by any means but if you have a couple of hours spare to watch a WWE show, I wouldn’t be pointing you to here.