Steve Cook continues the stroll down memory lane with a look at the year that could have been: 2001.
2001 could have been a great year in wrestling history.
Sure, losing WCW & ECW in the first three months was a tough blow. It could have been overcome if the WWF managed to capitalize off of it and put together a compelling storyline based off of something that everybody had wanted to see since the beginning of the Monday Night War. I can’t count how many WWF vs. WCW debates I listened to or took part in, and how many times somebody would chime in with “Well, ECW’s better”. Every single wrestling fan wanted to see these promotions face off, and the WWF could have spent years afterward printing off money from it. Oh, and just after buying WCW, the WWF had one of their hottest shows ever: WrestleMania X-Seven. Sure, it ended probably the dumbest way they could have ended it, with Steve Austin turning heel & aligning with Mr. McMahon, but that shouldn’t have mattered too much. They should have had no problem turning all of this into gold.
That didn’t happen. The Invasion was botched beyond belief, and instead of increasing their fanbase by drawing in WCW & ECW fans, the WWF scared a lot of those fans off for good. Indeed, many WCW fans didn’t even make the move to Raw the week after the simulcast where Shane McMahon revealed that he now owned WCW. It was an unmitigated disaster, with some positive moments that we’ll get to.
Oh, and 2001 was also a disaster from a non-wrestling perspective, but we’ll get to that too. We continue my Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration by looking back at a year many of us would prefer not to.
5. SmackDown after 9/11
Many people have wondered why pro wrestling has been so insistent on continuing during the pandemic. It’s nothing new. Vince McMahon has always envisioned his programming as something that people can turn to when the world is facing rough times. That’s why it wasn’t surprising when the WWF held a live SmackDown taping just two days after the events of September 11, 2001. They had to postpone their scheduled taping the day of, but opted to run live on UPN Thursday night instead of cancelling the show outright.
Was it awkward? At times, absolutely. Stephanie McMahon’s speech comparing the terrorist attack to her dad being targeted by the US government several years earlier still ranks high on the “WTF did I just hear?” list. As a fan, having SmackDown on that evening gave me something else to think about. There is something to be said for that, and it explains why major wrestling promotions continue doing their business while most other sports & entertainment businesses have paused.
4. A Lost VAPA Video
Visual And Performing Arts was a class we required to pass in order to graduate high school. Kentucky getting all cultural, right? I remember a couple of things about this class. One was a fellow student that was an even bigger wrestling fan than I was. He was doing the backyard stuff, always wearing Hardyz shirts and had big dreams of making it in wrestling. I don’t think he ever did, but he was a good kid.
We had to make a video about a famous written work, and were assigned Beowulf. This turned into me doing my best William Regal impression as narrator, every fight scene being acted out, and some of us dressing up in white shirts & black ties as the Right to Censor to attack at intermittent times. Ah, it was a classic. I have no idea what happened to it, sadly. We had all sorts of weird video projects that I have no idea what happened to them, but were very fun making.
Also sadly, my performance didn’t impress the girl in class I’d had a bit of a thing for since elementary school. Especially the show-closing scene where a rolled up poster board was winged full-speed at my lower mid-section. That one stung, in more ways than one.
3. Raw & Honors Night
May 14 was an interesting night. Raw was coming to Cincinnati, and my dad & I had tickets to attend. However, it was also Honors Night at my high school, and I was scheduled to be awarded something. This has been a pretty common theme throughout my life: either everybody wants me somewhere at the same time or nobody wants me anywhere.
We managed to do both, getting to Cincy in time for the live Raw portion of the show. Looking at the card now…I wish we’d skipped my accepting an award for best student in Global Issues.
WWF @ Cincinnati, OH – Riverfront Coliseum – May 14, 2001 (12,022)
Leviathan pinned Nick Dinsmore at 4:05 with a back suplex into a modified uranagi
Randy Orton pinned Rico Constantino at 5:54 with a wheelbarrow suplex
Scott Vick pinned Steve Bradley at 4:08 with the Kryptonite Krunch
X-Pac, Albert, & Justin Credible defeated Chris Harris, Doug Basham, & Rob Williams at 4:27 when X-Pac pinned Williams with the X Marks the Spot
WWF Light Heavyweight Champion Jerry Lynn pinned Essa Rios at 5:13 with the tornado DDT
Billy Gunn pinned Race Steele with the One and Only at 3:55
Haku pinned Chris Michaels at 4:15 with the Tongan Death Grip
Rikishi defeated Kurt Angle via disqualification
Matt & Jeff Hardy defeated Perry Saturn & Dean Malenko (w/ Eddie Guerrero & Terri)
WWF Hardcore Champion Rhyno defeated Crash Holly
Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit defeated Edge & Christian
WWF Women’s Champion Chyna & Lita defeated Ivory & Molly Holly
The Big Show, the Goodfather, & Bull Buchanon defeated the Acolytes & Test
Kane defeated WWF Tag Team Champions – WWF World Champion Steve Austin & WWF IC Champion Triple H (w/ Stephanie McMahon) via disqualification
I missed out on early Batista & Randy Orton appearances, along with Wildcat Chris Harris and motherfreaking HAKU! Raw itself…not the most memorable show. Benoit/Jericho vs. Edge & Christian was good, the rest was pretty much there.
Looking back now, what stands out to me is my dad being willing to drive me to both of these things. He’d gotten bored with the wrestling thing, but still went along in an attempt to make me happy. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but now, after having made that drive and parked downtown many times myself, I realize that wasn’t easy.
I’ve never really given him enough credit for it, but he did the best he could as a dad with what he had to work with.
2. Fun With Austin & Angle
Not everything about Stone Cold Steve Austin’s heel turn sucked. Austin was amazing in the role. He could be serious, or he could be hilarious. I was a big fan while it was happening, but unfortunately I was in the minority. No matter how good Austin was as a heel, the fans just didn’t want to see it. A shame. There was plenty of good stuff during that time period, especially when Kurt Angle got involved.
Austin & Angle were both banged up and needed some time off. They needed to stay on television because people still wanted to see them. (A lost art nowadays, especially in WWE. Somebody gets hurt and we don’t see them for months. Why can’t they have guys like Xavier Woods do stuff on TV and keep his name out there? Never made any sense to me.) The idea was hatched to have them hang out with Vince McMahon and do some killer comedy that still holds up pretty well today.
And it eventually led to a feud when Austin joined “The Alliance” and Angle stood behind his owner. Good times.
1. A Power Outage
July 9. The power at my house went out sometime in the morning and was out for most of the day. I don’t remember what I did for most of that day, but I do remember what I found when I turned on Raw at around 11 pm or so when the power came back on: a bunch of former ECW wrestlers walking through the crowd to the ECW theme song. Given there was no prior warning or rumor of this that I had seen, I was pretty confused as to what the heck was going on.
I was pretty excited though. The WCW Invasion had already shown signs of fatigue. It wasn’t quite hitting the way most of us fans thought it would. Maybe some ECW flavor would liven things up? It certainly had the potential to…until a few minutes later when WCW Owner Shane McMahon introduced the new ECW Owner, Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley.
Then it went from being a potential cool ECW thing to yet another twist in the McMahon Family Saga. One of the main reasons 2001 is remembered as a disappointing wrestling year. WCW & ECW went out of business, and we didn’t even get a good or even a unique storyline out of it.
AJ’s Controversial? Wrestling Opinions 10.12.21
AJ feels like spouting off about a few wrestling topics that bug him. How controversial are they though?
As Eric Bischoff, President of WCW once said, Controversy Creates Cash…no I’m serious; it’s even the title of a book that he did. Everyone has their hot takes on professional wrestling and some are always wide eyed and kind of shocking to some. There are some of us that will have same opinions or chastise me on a show or an article maybe but hey, don’t hate the player, hate The Game.
Maybe there are some that the readers at home agree with or you want to also be the one to chastise me, @PhenomenalAJB on Twitter. This one is going to be fun!
#1- There are more things than just WWE/AEW and are better majority of the time
There are many people that will rant, rave and complain that the mainstream product is so bland and boring and the classic, “Who even watches this trash?” Whether you love the flippy dippy do’s like I don’t or long drawn out storylines that peter out very quickly because fans aren’t invested in a story or character. To those people, I will say something very bold, very confusing and very… very controversial…
THERE ARE OTHER COMPANIES YOU CAN WATCH ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS IN VARIOUS MEANS ON YOUR OWN TIME!
I don’t know how and I don’t know why that this is even a topic. “TNA has been dead for years” No it hasn’t. Pay $1 USD for Impact Plus on YouTube so you can watch it without commercials at 8:30 Eastern. “Two hours is too long!” NWA and MLW both go for an hour on their respective YouTube Channels as well and if you want to watch, you can hop in at any time. Everyone has something for everyone and you might find your new favorite wrestler in a matter of minutes into an episode. I would never have known who Eli Drake (now LA Knight on SmackDown Live), Alexander Hammerstone or even in the early stages of TNA Impact, AJ Styles, was! You can watch more than what is broadcasted on your TV. Is it easier? Of course but, there is so much more than just the popular option.
#2- Belt Collecting now is just redundant and moronic
Back in 1996, Ultimo Dragon famously has a picture of him holding TEN championships looking like an amazing superstar with amazing defenses. What people don’t know is, that was because eight championship belts were united in a tournament called “The J-Crown Championship” with the adage of ‘All or Nothing’. He lost them one by one but, it was to show that he was the best Junior Heavyweight (or Cruiserweight/Light Heavyweight) out of everyone in various promotions.
People after that really haven’t belt collected other than unifying championships to a grand caliber… then Austin Aries showed up. Aries kind of revised the gimmick and brought it back to light. Newer fans might have thought this was cool but older fans kind of groaned and grumbled. I was one of them but, nothing is original in anything anymore so it’s a fresher concept at the time back in 2018. He did surpass Ultimo with ELEVEN championships but it seemed everyone started doing it to an extent after. Matt Cardona, after being released from WWE, started doing it, getting up to six championships before dropping them. As of right now, not necessarily solo belt collecting, The Bloodline has a stranglehold of the World Championships for both Singles and Tag Teams, we had Becky Two Belts, Bayley wanted Dos Straps but nothing makes this worse than Kenny Omega’s stint as a belt collector.
I am not and will never be a Kenny Omega fan. I don’t see the appeal, I don’t see the amazement or anything like that out of him. I’m impressed he did three 35+ Minute IWGP Championship matches against Okada because that takes a lot of stamina to do so but, that’s about it. When he won the AEW Championship, alright. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that since he helped build the company up. The Triple A Megas Championship… nothing too wrong here. I hate that he had five defenses in two years but he vacated it due to his injuries. It wasn’t until Don Callis and Omega popped into Impact and made the Hogan Era of TNA look like a dream… okay ALMOST but still. Kenny defeats Rich Swann and Moose in two different matches and has everyone else carry the belts while holding the AEW Championship. I understand heel tactics and mentality but at one point in an interview about going for the Impact Championship, he compared it to a common Comic Book and the AEW Championship as Superman Issue #1. I understand trying to be a heel in this story but you boost your clout, not rain on what you are going after. Heel or Face, belt collecting has just been a cluster within itself in the past four years and it honestly needs to stop.
#3- Overuse of Certain Moves
This one is a more recent problem that I have seen and no, I wish EC3 paid me to say this but it is true and very annoying to even bring up but here I am, wishing for Carter money and a fifth Rum & Coke…
Stop. Overusing. Moves. Because you think. They were cool.
If I had a shot for every time a Canadian Destroyer, Superkick, Suicide Dive, Avalanche (Insert High Spot here), Dual Dropkick spots where they cancel each other out or opposing members do back to back high spots on the prone partner spot… I would not have written this article due to death… even if it was water, I would have died due to drowning. They don’t look cool anymore when everyone does it. It’s bland. When Petey Williams wrestled in his last return to Impact, the Destroyer looked very… stale. Superkicks are the new DDT apparently (another Finisher turned common everyday move) and most people that do dives mess it up in some way shape or form whether it’s their feet get caught in the ropes, they didn’t get a full launch or they overshoot it. Having your own move special to you is difficult now but different wrestlers do their own styles or the pay homage to a family member or a wrestler that they interact with or ask permission… or asked to stop.
How’d you feel if you watched WCW and WWF in 1997 and saw DDP do the Diamond Cutter and HHH did the Pedigree Pandemonium and say they do the same move? That is exactly what happened too if Dallas didn’t ask Hunter to stop using it. We might not have the RKO out of nowhere or an iconic move that seldom bigger names use today.
That’s my list. I said before if you agree with my list and if you don’t and want to throw hate my way… @PCTunney is the hate mail account so enjoy!
AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.
With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.
1. Johnny Gargano
Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?
WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.
2. James Storm
This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.
Watch your Money and your Alcohol.
Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”
3. Big Cass
Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.
Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.
4. Bronson Reed
The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.
Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?
5. Bray Wyatt
And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.
To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.
– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!
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