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Matt’s Retro Review: WWF Championship 2001

Matt Davis is back with a look at the WWF Championship in 2001. This edition features The Rock, Kurt Angle, and Steve Austin!



Kurt Angle WWF Championship

Matt Davis is back with a look at the WWF Championship in 2001. This edition features The Rock, Kurt Angle, and Steve Austin!

Welcome to the 16th edition of the Retro Review on The Chairshot! This will be a biweekly article here on The Chairshot because we have a lot to discuss! In starting, my question for you is; have you ever had a discussion with a friend or in a group online about who is the greatest champion of all time? What is your defense of your claim? Wins? Quality of matches? Length of reign? In this weekly article, I will be looking back one year at a time and evaluating one specific championship in each article, with a yearly grade ranking and overall grade ranking and as we progress through the years, I will reveal who I believe is the best champion of all time.

To start us off, I am going to discuss the most recognizable championship in the history of wrestling, the WWE Heavyweight Championship. These articles will not discuss the “Big Gold” World Championship, Universal Championship, or any other recognized heavyweight championship in WWE, those will be discussed in other articles. During these reviews, I will count matches aired on weekly television, PPV, and matches also released on VHS and later on home media.

Kurt Angle (October 22nd, 2000 – February 25th, 2001)

  • Record: 18-13
  • Clean Losses: 5
  • Successful Defenses: 4

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Kurt Angle d. The Rock, October 22nd, 2000, No Mercy
  • Kurt Angle d. Steve Austin, Undertaker, The Rock, Triple H, & Rikishi (Hell in a Cell), December 10th, 2000, Armegeddon
  • The Rock, Steve Austin, & Undertaker d. Kurt Angle, Kane, & Rikishi, January 18th, 2001, Monday Night RAW
  • Kurt Angle d. Triple H, January 21st, 2001, Royal Rumble
  • Kurt Angle d. Triple H & The Rock, February 1st, 2001, Smackdown

Thoughts: Overall, it’s a strange reign. To me, the WWF Championship didn’t feel like it belonged to a legitimate main eventer here. That is not an insult to Kurt Angle’s amazing technical skill, but, look at the surrounding talent- Undertaker, Kane, Rock, Triple H, Steve Austin.. that’s a who’s who of main eventers all involved with chasing the title during this reign. Angle was definitely overshadowed. One could argue that star power is what did make him a star, being able to put on top quality matches with these guys in main events of PPVs is what legitimized him, but, during this actual reign he was made to look sloppy and lucky, often barely escaping. They never pulled the trigger, often hiding Angle in a lot of tag team and six man tags throughout this reign, which is why he had 13 losses but was only pinned 5 times. 

Grade (A+ through F ): C-

The Rock (February 25th, 2001 – April 1st, 2001)

  • Record: 7-2
  • Clean Losses: 1
  • Successful Defenses: 0

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Steve Austin d. The Rock, April 1st, 2001, WrestleMania X-7

Thoughts: Ooomph. Like hearing the sound of a car crash here. Rock wins the title from the floating turd that was Angle’s reign and didn’t exactly look great for beating such a “low hanging fruit”, to never defending the championship once over five weeks to having arguably, and by arguably I mean there’s no argument at all, the single greatest three week build to a Wrestlemania main event ever with Stone Cold Steve Austin. Their match is regarded as one of the most exciting Wrestlemania main events ever, with a heel turn absolutely no one saw coming. In fact, many people believed it was The Rock who would turn heel, because he was leaving shortly to begin filming a movie. It gets points for how important and exciting the road to WrestleMania was, but nothing else.  

Grade (A+ through F ): D+

Steve Austin (April 1st, 2001 – September 23rd, 2001)

  • Record: 13-12
  • Clean Losses: 6
  • Successful Defenses: 5

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Steve Austin d. The Rock, April 1st, 2001, WrestleMania X-7
  • The Rock d. Steve Austin (Steel Cage), April 2nd, 2001, Monday Night RAW
  • The Hardy Boyz & Lita d. The Power Trip, April 9th, 2001, Monday Night RAW
  • Steve Austin & Triple H d. Undertaker & Kane, April 29th, 2001, Backlash (WWF Tag Team Titles)
  • Steve Austin d. Undertaker, May 20th, 2001, Judgement Day
  • Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho d. Steve Austin & Triple H, May 21st, 2001, Monday Night RAW (WWF Tag Team Titles)
  • Steve Austin d. Chris Benoit (by referee stoppage), May 28th, 2001, Monday Night RAW
  • Steve Austin d. Chris Benoit, May 31st, 2001, Smackdown
  • Steve Austin d. Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho, June 24th, 2001, King of the Ring
  • Team WCW d. Team WWF, July 23rd, 2001, InVasion
  • Kurt Angle d. Steve Austin, September 23rd, 2001, Unforgiven

Thoughts: There are not enough words to emphasize how great this reign is. It was methodical in almost every way. Steve Austin did what no one thought was possible, he carried the WWF Championship as the most hated heel in the WWF for six months, and made almost every single marque he had must watch. 11/25 matches are “Recommended Matches” with five of those being on weekly television! Here’s the important part: I usually hate when champions lose cleanly in non-title matches and mark down reigns because of it. But not here. He only lost cleanly three times, and all three times felt like it was special and important to the person who beat him. They either won a championship, defended a championship, or received a championship opportunity because of it. That aside, I also want to point out that the world of wrestling received a shock wave of changes immediately before this reign happened, and the ripples effects and after shocks of both ECW and WCW going out of business were felt in this reign. The Two Man Power Trip was as exciting as you could get in terms of hating two men who were so vile and bad, you wanted to see them lose, which sold tickets and sold PPV buys. But after Triple H was hurt, and The Rock left, the company was forced to dig deep, and Austin carried the company through one of it’s most awkward times. The InVasion. He was masterful. Unlike most other WWF talent which “turned face” during the InVasion, Austin actually joined the Alliance in the summer, to continue his amazing heel run. This reign has created some of the most memorable moments in WWF history, including the creation of The Hurricane character, the singing of Wind Beneath by Wings from Stephanie to Austin, the What?! chants, Jimmy Crack Corn, among others. From Power Trip to the Invasion and everything inbetween (including one of the best matches of the year in the triple threat match at KOTR), Austin was gold. He was so good in fact that when he finally lost the championship to Kurt Angle in Angle’s hometown the reaction from the crowd is one of the biggest cheers you’ll ever hear. This is his best reign as WWF Champion and one of the best reigns of all time.

Grade (A+ through F ): A+

Kurt Angle (September 23rd, 2001 – October 8th, 2001)

  • Record: 4-2
  • Clean Losses: 1
  • Successful Defenses: 0

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Kurt Angle d. Steve Austin, September 23rd, 2001, Unforgiven
  • Kurt Angle & The Rock d. The Dudley Boyz, September 27th, 2001, Smackdown
  • Steve Austin d. Kurt Angle, October 8th, 2001, Monday Night RAW

Thoughts: Historically interesting reign here, even though it was only two weeks long. He obviously didn’t have a chance to defend the championship, but half his matches being Recommended is a good ratio! The reaction of the championship change when he won it makes this more than a nothing reign. It was absolutely needed and the exact right time to do it, to prove Austin was vulnerable. Nothing is more dangerous than a vulnerable and paranoid Rattlesnake. That being said, not much else happened in this reign, other than the WWF and WCW World Heavyweight Champions teaming up on RAW, which was cool.

Grade (A+ through F ): D

Steve Austin (October 8th, 2001 – December 9th, 2001)

  • Record: 8-5
  • Clean Losses: 2
  • Successful Defenses: 4

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Steve Austin d. Kurt Angle, October 8th, 2001, Monday Night RAW
  • Steve Austin d. RVD & Kurt Angle, October 21st, 2001, No Mercy
  • Team WWF d. The Alliance, November 18th, 2001, Survivor Series
  • Steve Austin d. Kurt Angle, December 9th, 2001, Vengeance
  • Chris Jericho d. Steve Austin, December 9th, 2001, Vengeance

Thoughts: The end of 2001 saw the 6th and final reign of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the end of The Alliance/invasion, and the beginning of a new era in the company as a whole. You could say that The Attitude Era officially died the night Jericho unified the world championships, though many have different arguments. Vengeance saw the first ever tournament to crown an Undisputed Champion, with Chris Jericho defeating The Rock and Steve Austin in the same night, catapulting his career from good and enjoyable to legendary in one night. The ability to say you beat two of the best of all time in the same night for both their championships is something no one else can say, and beating Austin in the last match was the right call. It was yet another example of Austin knowing when and how to lose, when he gave Jericho a career defining victory. This entire reign was a transitional reign to put Jericho at the top of the company, but also to end one of the greatest years in company history on an amazing note. Austin had his best reigns with the title as a heel, holding it twice, and having overall better and more enjoyable reigns as champion in 2001.

Grade (A+ through F ): C

Overall WWE Champion Ranking

  1. Hulk Hogan (January 23rd, 1984 – February 5th, 1988) – A+
  2. Steve Austin (April 1st, 2001 – September 23rd, 2001) — A+
  3. The Rock  (June 25th, 2000 – October 22nd, 2000) — A
  4. Bret Hart (March 20th, 1994 – November 26th, 1994) – A
  5. Triple H (January 3rd, 2000 – April 30th, 2000) — A-
  6. Yokozuna (June 13th, 1993 – March 20th, 1994) — B+
  7. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (April 5th, 1992 – September 14th, 1992) – B
  8. The Rock (November 15th, 1998 – January 4th, 1999) — B
  9. Undertaker  (March 23rd, 1997 – August 3rd, 1997) — B
  10. Shawn Michaels (November 9th, 1997 – March 29th, 1998) — B
  11. Bret Hart (October 12th, 1992 – April 4th, 1993) — B-
  12. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (March 27th, 1988 – April 2nd, 1989) – C+
  13. Triple H (September 26th, 1999 – November 13th, 1999) — C+
  14. Steve Austin (October 8th, 2001 – December 9th, 2001) — C
  15. Sgt. Slaughter (January 19th, 1991 – March 24th, 1991) – C
  16. Hulk Hogan (April 2nd, 1989 – April 1st, 1990) – C
  17. Triple H (August 23rd, 1999 – September 16th, 1999) — C
  18. Bret Hart (August 3rd, 1997 – November 9th, 1997) — C-
  19. Kurt Angle (October 22nd, 2000 – February 25th, 2001) — C-
  20. Hulk Hogan (March 24th — November 27th, 1991) – D+
  21. Undertaker (May 23rd, 1999 – June 28th, 1999) — D+
  22. The Rock (April 30th, 1999 – May 21st, 2000) — D+
  23. The Rock (February 25th, 2001 – April 1st, 2001) — D+
  24. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (March 29th, 1998 – June 28th, 1998) — D
  25. Ric Flair (January 19th, 1992 — April 5th, 1992) — D
  26. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (June 29th, 1998 – September 27th, 1998)– D
  27. The Ultimate Warrior (April 1st, 1990- January 19th, 1991) – D
  28. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (March 28th, 1999 – May 23rd, 1999) — D
  29. Ric Flair (September 14th, 1992 – October 12th, 1992) — D
  30. Diesel (November 26th, 1994 – November 19th, 1995) — D
  31. Triple H (May 21st, 2000 – June 25th, 2000) — D
  32. The Rock (February 15th, 1999 – March 28th, 1999) — D
  33. Kurt Angle (September 23rd, 2001 – October 8th, 2001) — D
  34. Big Show (November 13th, 1999 – January 3rd, 2000) — D-
  35. “Stone Cold Steve Austin” (June 28th, 1999- August 22nd, 1999) — D-
  36. Mick Foley/Mankind (January 4th, 1999 – January 24th, 1999) — D-
  37. Bob Backlund (November 23rd, 1994 – November 26th, 1994) — D-
  38. Psycho Sid (November 17th, 1996 – January 19th, 1997) — F
  39. Psycho Sid (February 17th, 1997 – March 23rd, 1997) — F
  40. Mick Foley (January 26th – February 15th, 1999 ) — F
  41. Shawn Michaels (January 19th, 1997 – February 13th, 1997) — F
  42. Bret Hart (February 16th, 1997 – February 17th, 1997) — F
  43. Undertaker (November 27th, 1991- December 3rd, 1991) – F
  44. Hulk Hogan (December 3rd, 1991 – December 4th, 1991) – F
  45. Kane (June 28th, 1998 – June 29th, 1998) — F
  46. The Rock (January 24th, 1999 – January 26th, 1999) — F
  47. Mick Foley (August 22nd, 1999 – August 23rd, 1999) — F
  48. Yokozuna (April 4th, 1993 – April 4th, 1993) — F
  49. Hulk Hogan (April 4th, 1993 – June 13th, 1993) — F
  50. Vince McMahon  (September 16th, 1999 – September 20th, 1999) — F

**Speaking of championships, I am currently designing custom made championships and shirts for your wrestling figure collections! Check out the page at Grand Slam Creations – Custom Wrestling Belts & Accessories on Facebook, give us a like and a follow and share with your friends! 

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