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The SmarK Royal Rumble Countdown: 2003

- Thanks to all those who bought "Tonight...In This Very Ring" over the weekend, temporarily pushing it as high as #2000 on the Amazon rankings for most of the weekend. They should be shipping from Amazon soon and in bookstores by the end of the month, so hang tight!  (2012 Scott sez:  Unfortunately none of my other books came close to those sales numbers, which is why “Tonight…” is the only one to date that I actually made royalties from over and above the initial advance.  Or maybe my agent was just screwing me out of hundreds of hard-earned dollars all this time.  Either way.) 

- Live from Boston (2012 Scott sez:  BOOOOOOOOOO!), which rhymes with Austin. Is this a sign of his impending return? STAY TUNED!  (2012 Scott sez:  Kind of was, yeah.) 

- Your hosts are JR & King & Cole & Tazz.

- Opening match: Big Show v. Brock Lesnar.

And here I bet Show thought he was done with being an opening match job guy. Show wins the lockup battle to start, but loses the power battle in the corner. He blocks a suplex, but Brock goes to the knee and gets a second try. Another one hits, but Show blocks a third and dumps Brock, who takes his customary bump. Back in, Show stomps away in the corner and tosses Brock around. Charge misses and Brock throws him with a release german for two. Heyman trips up Brock, putting Show back in control with a big boot and a sideslam. Show is sucking wind. Chokeslam is reversed with Benoit's counter-roll for two, and Brock hits another suplex. Heyman gets brought in involuntarily, and Brock's F5 attempt is stopped by Show with the chokeslam. But c'mon, like this is gonna get anything, and indeed Brock is out at two. Another chokeslam attempt is reversed by Brock and the F5 finishes at 6:28. Short and inoffensive. **  (2012 Scott sez:  Show and Lesnar had some weird freaky chemistry together for some reason.  This wasn’t a great example of it, but there was a B-show main event with them later in the year where Brock was throwing Show around the ring and it was kind of awesome.) 

- RAW Tag team titles: King Regal & Sir Lancelot v. The Dudley Boyz.

(2012 Scott sez:  My “King Regal” joke was actually just 5 years too early.)  Bubba and Storm start and Bubba gets a hiptoss, but Storm hammers away in the corner. Bubba slugs back and gets a half-powerbomb and works the leg for some reason. D-Von comes in with the elbow, and he handles both Regal & Storm and drops an elbow on Regal for two. A cheapshot turns the tide and Regal gets a Northern Lights suplex for two. Storm gets an elbow for two. Regal works the arm and monkey-flips D-Von back into the corner, where Storm chokes him out. The dreaded neck vice is YOUR resthold du jour. Hot tag Bubba and he gets a backdrop on Storm and splashes both guys in the corner. Sideslam on Storm gets two. Release german gets two. Bubba Bomb gets two. Whazzup Drop sets up a flapjack for Storm that gets two for D-Von. Queef Morley comes out to protest something by the Dudleyz, allowing Regal to load up the Power of the Punch, but he walks into 3D and D-Von finishes Storm with the knux to win the titles at 7:26. Kind of a strange ending to a short match. Both teams are so stale that I still don't get the point of taking the titles off BookDust in the first place. **  (2012 Scott sez:  This whole era, outside of the Smackdown Six,  was a dead zone for tag team wrestling, actually.  Dull teams like Regal/Morley, Kane/RVD, Rikishi/Scotty, The Bashams…just a bunch of mix-and-match nothings.  And I STILL don’t get why BookerDust only had the belts for a month.)

- Dawn Marie v. Torrie Wilson.

They air the entire Al Wilson saga before the match, as though ANYTHING is gonna help this have heat. (2012 Scott sez:  Oh man, AL WILSON.  Now there was a storyline for the ages that I had totally blocked out of my mind until now.)  Dawn attacks to start and stomps away. Neither girl gets a reaction from the crowd coming in, by the way, showing how effective the angle was. Torrie tosses Dawn around and catapults her. A suplex is blocked and Dawn takes her down with something vaguely resembling an armbar takedown. Dawn keeps working on the arm and gets two. She switches arms out of nowhere and starts working on the left instead of the right, which Torrie then ignores before walking into a flapjack. They collide in an obviously fucked up spot and Torrie gets a bad backslide for two. Torrie gets a couple of armdrags for no reason in particular, but Dawn comes back with a springboard clothesline that's on par with Bull Buchanan's. That's not a compliment. Torrie finishes with a neckbreaker at 3:38. Dawn promises that it's not over. Normally I'm not one for bait-and-switch, but I'd be happy to see them break that promise. -*

- RAW World title: HHH v. Scott Steiner.

Steiner has a big "#1" added to his tights in the colors of the US flag. See, he may be a roid freak with anger issues and crippling injuries, but he's AMERICAN! HHH has odd- looking red tights tonight, which I guess means that Steiner gave it to him extra hard before the match and he's bleeding all over. JR notes that Steiner is a very emotional bed. HHH is the Cerebral bed. Steiner pounds away to bed. Okay, enough of that. (2012 Scott sez:  I did that bit on a dare, in case you’re wondering.)  More punching and Steiner has nothing and it's obvious. He's sucking wind 15 seconds in. Press slam and he's barely able to get HHH in the air, and HHH bails. JR notes that he's trying to stop this offensive bed. (2012 Gorilla sez:  WOULD YOU STOP!) Steiner keeps pounding away on the floor and sends HHH into the post backfirst, indicating that a bearhug will be forthcoming. See, with Steiner you call the psychology according to the restholds he's most likely to use.

Suplex back in gets two. Steiner stays on the back and keeps chopping, with no force. He's done. Boston Crab, but HHH makes the ropes. Steiner keeps elbowing HHH on the mat and stomping away. Facecrusher from HHH, but Steiner no-sells and goes to the predicted bearhug. The crowd is rapidly losing patience with the match, rightly so. (2012 Scott sez:  This is the point where almost anyone else but HHH would call an audible and just go to the finish before the poor bastard died of oxygen deprivation out there.  But no, HHH wanted to prove he was a miracle worker.)  HHH escapes, but walks into an overhead suplex. That's one. Flair pulls HHH out of harm's way, which is lucky because Steiner is pulling all the oxygen in the first six rows into his lungs. Steiner misses a charge and HHH stomps away and tosses him, as we get another exciting sequence on the floor. Back in, neckbreaker gets two. I try to make another joke out JR's call, but he goes into one of his patented run-on sentences that go on for like a minute. Steiner comes back but falls victim to the MIDCARD NECKBREAKER OF DOOM for two. Steiner is FINISHED. I mean, we're talking Ultimate Warrior after 20 minutes with Hogan in 1990 territory here. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE is reversed by Steiner into a catapult, but he's so out of it that HHH has to do all the work. T-Bone suplex and Steiner COLLAPSES due to being gassed, and they do a horrible tombstone reversal sequence that leads to HHH saving it with a neckbreaker that was so badly done it was nearly a Diamond Cutter. It gets two and the crowd starts turning on Steiner. (2012 Scott sez:  Oh yeah, I forgot they actually tried to bring in BIG POPPA PUMP as a BABYFACE.  HHH, ladies and gentlemen.)  HHH gets a suplex and goes up, but gets caught with another overhead suplex from Steiner. That's two. Steiner is STILL unable to stand up without crawling up the ropes, and they slug it out, leading to Steiner getting a backdrop and a third overhead suplex. Four of them. Now the crowd is catching on that Steiner has nothing else in the arsenal. A fifth and the crowd is getting sick of it.

Belly to belly gets two, and the crowd is booing Steiner. Tiger bomb is completely blown by Steiner, and he's now a heel as far as the crowd is concerned. JR & King are now in a really bad situation, because they have to continue putting the match over as something good, but it's obviously a disaster at this point. HHH goes up and Steiner gets a superplex for two as HHH desperately bumps all over to keep Steiner in the match. HHH and Flair try to take a powder (which I would have happily taken at this point), but Steiner chases them down and hits HHH with the belt, drawing blood. What exactly would have cut HHH open there? The leather edge? (2012 Jim Ross sez:  JUST STOP THE DAMN MATCH!)  Back in, Steiner gets a SIXTH overhead suplex, which draws open boos from the crowd. HHH bails again, trying to put over Steiner by running away, but only pissing off the crowd even worse. They should have realized the problem and gone home long ago. Back in, Steiner does some sad pushups, unable to even do that properly at this point, and keeps pounding away in the corner as the match has lost all semblance of flow and storyline. This is like a textbook lesson on what NOT to do. HHH bumps the ref to try to draw a DQ, but Hebner isn't selling, and the MATCH MUST CONTINUE. (2012 Scott sez:  Again, they should have just called the audible and did the DQ.  Unless Vince was getting kicks watching this horror show unfold, you never know.)  The crowd doesn't know whether to cheer or boo. Another lame suplex from Steiner gets two, and he's still got nothing else. HHH goes low (turning himself babyface) and gets a rollup for two. The crowd is just booing everything out of spite at this point. HHH gets the phallic sledgehammer from under the ring (which is the fake one because he doesn't bang it on the steps first) and Hebner is so sick of the match that he calls a DQ at 18:13, which is enough for the crowd to completely turn on the match and boo both guys out of the building. Steiner comes back and cleans house with the sledgehammer, drawing more boos from the crowd, and guaranteeing himself a one-way trip back to the WWA. I would be SHOCKED if Steiner makes it to Wrestlemania after this debacle. -**1/2 (2012 Scott sez:  He certainly didn’t stay in the main event past Wrestlemania, but amazingly he got ANOTHER PPV main event to stink up.)  HHH tried, but no one gets Freakzilla over DUD at this point. Buh-bye, Scott, hope you enjoyed your month in the WWE. By the way, for those who praised the WWE for keeping them separate as "great booking" to build interest in the match, I hope you now understand why they were kept out of the ring leading up to this. Go ahead, Steiner drones, defend this shit, I dare you.

- Smackdown World title: Kurt Angle v. Chris Benoit.

Well, they've got their work cut out for them following that crap. Benoit takes him down and tries a Sharpshooter, but Angle bails. Back in, Benoit mule kicks him and escapes a sleeper with an armdrag, then legdrags him into another Sharpshooter attempt, but Angle makes the ropes before he can finish. Angle sends him into the post and pounds on him, and gets a suplex for two. They exchange chops, which is rather dumb of Angle, and Benoit takes over. Boomerang clothesline and knee to the gut get two. More chops and he knees Angle down, but gets suplexed onto the top rope to stop the rally. He necksnaps Angle and drags him onto the apron, where they slug it out, and Benoit DDTs him onto the apron. Coolness. Back in, Benoit gets two. He goes up, but misses the headbutt, and then counters an Angle Slam into a Sharpshooter. He really needs to start using that as a finish. (2012 Scott sez:  He made Shawn Michaels tap to it at Backlash 2004 in Edmonton, the only PPV to date I’ve ever attended.)  Angle makes the ropes. Backdrop suplex gets two. He walks into an overhead suplex from Angle (done with snap and force, unlike Steiner's sloppy throws), however, and bails. Angle stomps him on the floor and they head back in, which Angle short-arms him for two. Angle hits the chinlock and they turn it into a mat sequence as Benoit armdrags out of it, but Angle snaps off another overhead suplex. Nasty backdrop suplex gets two, and Angle goes back to the chinlock. Using the bodyscissors is a nice touch. Benoit fights out again, and they collide with clotheslines for the double KO. Crowd is into it, which is always a good sign. Benoit fights back with clotheslines and gets a backdrop to set up the rolling germans, but Angle reverses to his own, which Benoit then reverses to one more of his own. (2012 Scott sez:  In retrospect, dropping each other on their heads multiple times in multiple matches didn’t help the future health of either guy.  Still looked awesome, though.)  Benoit gives him the SNOT ROCKET OF DEATH and goes up, but Angle hits him with the Pop Up Superplex for two. See, blowing snot on your opponent is never a good idea. Lou Thesz did the same thing in 1938 and nearly lost the title as a result. Benoit counters the Angle Slam with the crossface, but Angle pulls himself to the ropes. Benoit hauls him off and gives him an anklelock, but that allows Angle to reverse to his own. Benoit counters again back to the crossface, but Angle rolls him over for two. Benoit snaps him right back into the crossface. Angle rolls through, but Benoit doesn't release, and that proves to be a mistake as Angle hits him with the Angle Slam out of that. It gets two. That's an awesome sequence with no booking trickery needed to pop the crowd. Angle grabs another anklelock, and Benoit has nowhere to go. He powers out instead and tries another german, but Angle reverses, which Benoit then counters with a rollup for two. Another german for Benoit, but Angle reverses to his own, but Benoit reverses and Angle takes that sick upside-down bump onto his face off it. This is just breathtaking stuff. Benoit goes up again and hits the flying headbutt from 3/4 of the way across the ring as the crowd is actually chanting for Benoit now. That gets two. (2012 Scott sez:  That flying headbutt…I wish he would have learned something from Dynamite Kid about doing that.)  Crossface again, but Kurt rolls out and tries a powerbomb. He drops Benoit on the turnbuckle, into the Angle Slam, and that gets two. I was calling that as the finish while watching live. Benoit takes him down again with the crossface, and Angle is stuck, but he rolls through again into the anklelock. Benoit fights it off, but Angle won't let go of the hold. Benoit rolls off again, but Angle stays on it. Another reversal, but Angle rolls with him and holds on. One last counter for Benoit, but Angle turns it into a heel hook to finish at 19:47. But I bet that according to HHH, neither of these guys know how to work. (2012 Scott sez:  I think he did say something along those lines previously.)  This is your first match of the year contender, but with the setup of the awards it'll be forgotten by November. (2012 Scott sez:  I know it didn’t win the WON match of the year, but it won a lot of other ones.)  ****3/4 I'm deducting 1/4* for the chinlocks in the middle, for those who will inevitably ask. The crowd then shows huge class and gives Benoit a standing ovation after the match for the effort. See, now they've got a dilemma - they've built up Benoit as a big babyface now, but they have nowhere to go with him because Brock-Angle is carved in stone for Wrestlemania. My solution? Move him to RAW and put him over HHH for the World title, thus keeping the momentum going and giving HHH a fresh babyface to feud with.  (2012 Scott sez:  BOW DOWN TO THE MOTHERFUCKING KING.  OK, I was a year early, but ultimately correct.) 

- Royal Rumble:

The Fink announces 2-minute intervals, but JR announces 90 seconds. You know, another promotion used to have those sorts of coordination problems, and look where they are now. Jericho attacks Shawn from behind to start and pounds away, then grabs a chair and busts Shawn open with it. Chris Nowinski is #3, and he allows Jericho to continue his assault. Jericho tosses Shawn with ease, thus completing the slaughter. At this point I thought they may have figured out what to do with Jericho for this match, but sadly that wouldn't last. Rey Mysterio is #4 and he hits Jericho with a dropkick and a flying headscissors, but gets powerbombed and clobbered with a forearm. Nowinski seems content to play cheerleader. Jericho blocks a charge and tosses him, but Rey hangs on and comes back in with a springboard dropkick, as Nowinski finally joins us. Edge is #5 as the intervals are all over the place and he cleans house with spears. How hard is it to time 90 seconds? They send Jericho into the corner post and out, but he's through the middle. Rey and Edge decide to rassle, and Edge misses a spear, and Rey misses a 619. Rey takes him out with a headscissors, but Edge only hit with one foot (supposedly). Back in, Edge blocks a rana with a powerbomb. Christian is #6 as the interval is closer to two minutes now, and he reconciles with Edge, but Edge turns on him. Well, I thought he was sincere.

Nowinski tosses both Edge & Rey, but they both hang on and hit him with missile dropkicks. The timing was off and Edge lands on his face. Ouch. Rey adds a broncobuster for good measure and we're still at two minutes as Chavito is #7. He does a lucha libre sequence with Rey and gets 619'd. Another one for Christian. West Coast Pop for Nowinski eliminates him, as Rey hangs on to stay in. Jericho dumps him soon after. Tajiri is #8 and he kicks people into mush, but gets suplexed by Chavo. Tajiri gives him a Gory Special and fights with Christian in the corner as things slow down a bit. Bill DeMott is an ANGRY and INTENSE #9. He hits guys at random, but can't toss Jericho. Nothing much going on until Tommy Dreamer is #10. Thank god they dropped Damaja so that Dreamer could keep his spot. Dreamer brings plunder and goes nuts on everyone with it, busting open Jericho hardway with the cane. Edge canes DeMott out, and Jericho & Christian get a con-chair-to on Dreamer and toss him. Crowd doesn't like that. (2012 Scott sez:  Boston is stupid anyway and obviously they and their fans are biased against Canadians.)  Tajiri hits Christian & Chavo with a handspring, but gets the Tarantula on Jericho, and gets sent out. Well, that was dumb of him. Bull is #11, heat completely gone without Cena. Edge gives him a mercifully quick exit. Edge gives Chavo the old No Mercy N64 treatment, tossing him then spearing him off the apron. He tries the same on Jericho, but turns his back too soon, as Jericho pulls himself back in and dumps Edge & Christian at the same time to clear the ring for the first time at 16:17.

RVD is #12 and they slug it out, but Rob superkicks him and pounds away in the corner. Springboard kick and Rolling Thunder, but Jericho chops back. Rob catapults him out, but Jericho hangs on again. Matt Hardy is #13, with Matt Fact: He strongly dislikes mustard. (2012 Scott sez:  Matt Facts would be SOOOOOO much more entertaining now.  It’d be like “Matt Fact:  He crashed his car into a tree because he got high and thought the ash-tray was making a pact with the seatbelt against him.”) Side Effect for RVD and the heels work over Rob while Shannon Moore plays cheerleader at ringside. Rob escapes a double-team situation and kicks both guys down, but Jericho bulldogs RVD, and then misses the Lionsault. Rob goes up with the frog splash as Eddie Guerrero is #14. He goes after Rob and Matt, but gets monkey-flipped by RVD. Rob fights to get him out, but Mattitude saves the day. Frog splash for RVD, but Matt turns on him and gives him a Twist of Fate. The cheating torch has been passed. Jeff Hardy is #15 and Matt wants a truce, but Jeff attacks with a forearm and jawbreaker. Matt is just so much better than Jeff at this point that it's scary. (2012 Scott sez:  Boy, that sure changed.  Well, they’re both just scary now, but Jeff clearly surpassed his brother in every way in the ring within a couple of years.)  Jeff tosses Matt, but Shannon sacrifices himself and blocks Matt's landing, thus keeping him in. Jeff goes up for the swanton, but Shannon again saves the day, using his body to block the move. Jeff does it anyway. This Matt & Shannon stuff is a riot. Rosie is #16, adding nothing. Everyone does the usual fighting on the ropes with nothing gained. Test is #17. He starts hitting guys with clotheslines, but he's nothing without Stacy. (2012 Scott sez:  I wonder if she ever thinks back to her time with Test while getting banged by George Clooney?  I’m gonna go with “No.”) He dumps Jericho, but he hangs on again. John Cena is #18, rapping for the entire interval until RVD tosses him in and Charlie Haas is #19. There's too much deadwood in there right now. Nothing going on. Jeff goes up like an idiot and RVD causally shoves him out. NEVER go to the top in the Rumble. Eddie hits Jericho with a rana as Rikishi is #20. He superkicks a bunch of guys (someone call Shawn!) and has a showdown with Rosie. Don't even ask me the relationship there because I can never keep track. I think they're cousins. Stinkface for the Matt/Shannon tandem is stopped by Rosie and we really need to thin out the ranks. Jamal is #21 and he hits Rikishi with a superkick, but Rikishi goes back with his own. Stinkface for Jamal and everyone's laying around on the ropes. Kane is #22 and he starts hitting guys at will. Rosie is gone. He chokeslams the MFers at once, but can't toss Jericho. Shelton Benjamin is #23 and Team Angle goes right for Cena while Matt saves himself from elimination again. Booker T is #24 and he axekicks Kane right off and gives us a Spinarooni. He dumps Eddie and A-Train is #25. He gets his shitty offense on a few guys before walking into a superkick from Rikishi. Rikishi tires to dump Jericho, but no dice. Shawn runs in and goes after Jericho in a really poor show of sportsmanship, fights off a few guys, and distracts Jericho long enough for Test to toss him. This seems to be building to Shawn v. Jericho at No Way Out next month. Where Shawn is supposed to be a babyface and Canadian Chris Jericho is supposed to be a heel. IN MONTREAL. Find the logical gap there. (2012 Scott sez:  Luckily they held off until Wrestlemania.)  Jericho's exit kinda deflates the crowd because the winner is obvious now with no one else left. Maven is #26 and he gets nowhere fast against Kane. Goldust is #27 with no hope of winning and everyone knows it. He gets some token offense but Team Angle sends him out right away. Crowd turns on that decision. Booker T also falls victim to them. That leaves no one for the crowd to root for. Batista is #28 and he tosses Test and the crowd still doesn't give a crap about him. (2012 Scott sez:  Give it two years, they would.)  Rikishi goes next. Brock is #29 and is the obvious winner. Team Angle and Matt Hardy all feel the pain and go to the showers. Undertaker is #30 as JR is ready to start sucking some Callaway dick. He fights everyone off and sells nothing, dumping Cena and Jamal. (2012 Scott sez:  This would of course be the last time Cena would be unceremonious deadwood in a Royal Rumble ever again.)  You can tell he's not winning because he gets to eliminate everyone. (2012 Scott sez: Still in my anti-Undertaker place, I see.)  Maven's deadly dropkick fails to work this year, as he gets chokeslammed back into the undercard and tossed by the almightly Locker Room Leader.  (2012 Scott sez:  Oh geez, I was using the Other Arena name for him there, kill me now.)  A-Train stops the path of Ben-Gay with the Mehshugganator, and we're down to six. Rob hits A-Train with a spinkick and Batista with a leg lariat and the people left in the match should tell you loads about the thinking when business is down. (2012 Scott sez:  Ironically, Batista ended up turning the company around in 2005, so Vince was right on that one.)  Kane & RVD eliminate A-Train, but Rob makes the mistake of trusting Kane and gets dumped.

Final Four: Undertaker, Kane, Batista & Brock.

The match completely dies now as we're down to three slugs and Brock. Kane works over Brock while UT punches Batista. Such excitement. Batista gives UT the MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER, but even such a devastating move can't stop him. Kane & Batista work over Lesnar, but he fights back and F5's Kane. Brock & UT slug it out, but Taker gets the big boot (called rather loudly). Brock accidentally almost dumps Taker, but pulls him back in, only to get tombstoned by Taker (badly). UT dumps Batista, then suckers Kane into an alliance and dumps him, too. Brock then weakly tosses UT to win the match at 53:47. God forbid they let anyone else look strong with Undertaker in there. Match was better than usual thanks to the stuff being done by the cannon fodder at the bottom, but once the stiffs started filing in around #25 it was downhill again, and really needed a stronger finish for Brock. Better than last year's, at least. ***3/4  (2012 Scott sez:  That’s the exact same rating I gave the 2002 Rumble, so I’m not sure where I got that assessment from.) 

The Bottom Line:

They completely dropped the ball with Jericho, giving him a half-assed longevity push before weakly sacrificing him to Test. That's the same kind of "good news/bad news" scenario that ran all through the Rumble match, as they had a chance to do big stuff and didn't. Benoit/Angle pretty much saved the show, but as noted, they have nowhere left to go with Benoit without changing the title. And I'd pull out the Hot Pokers for HHH/Steiner, but I don't think the feud needs anymore gay undertones.

Benoit/Angle is must-see, the Rumble is for fans only, and the the rest is pretty much must-miss. Thumbs in the middle. (2012 Scott sez:  Sounds about right.  A totally forgettable show outside of the World title match.)