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Matt Spaulding



No Big Deal, Right?

NO WAY OUT WRAP: The machine and I were both 3 for 6.

So I'm watching the nWo just beat people up at will on Raw last week, and I don't know if I'm the only one whose brain works like this, but I'm thinking to myself:

Isn't this how the Invasion should have started?

The nWo came in and started right at the top - costing Steve Austin the WWF Title; nearly destroying the Rock by crashing his ambulance. If you're gonna attempt to pose a threat to the WWF as a whole, this is how you're supposed to go about it, not by kicking Perry Saturn in the head during an opening match. So I was pretty optimistic at the beginning of this.

Then Austin kidnapped Hall and locked Hogan and Nash in a cage on SmackDown!, and I realized that the nWo had just absorbed more payback in one night than in its entire run in WCW. I actually thought this was good, because it seemed to show that the WWF would actually put up a decent fight.

But after the first week, the excitement ran out. At first I just thought it was another instance of TV suffering because of Rock's absence (Don't buy it? Remember how boring last May was until Judgment Day?), but even after he returned, something seemed off. The "must-see" element wasn't there for the entire show like it had been at other points. Then it occurred to me what the problem was.

The nWo, just like the Invasion, is not being played up as the big deal it's supposed to be.

Where's the manipulation? Where's the backstabbing? Where are the other wrestlers huddled in corners talking about the nWo? Where's the random violence? Where's the angry mob? Hell, where IS the "lawn dart" moment? (And I agree that Spike Dudley doesn't quite count.)

Shouldn't all of those things have happened yet? Or shouldn't we at least be building to them?

Even apart from the nWo, we're hours away from WrestleMania 18. It marks the end of the wrestling "year" for the WWF and is where you'd expect a lot of long-term issues to be settled. But looking at the card, there's only one match that settles a feud that's been going on for longer than a month. (And that's if you want to consider the Triple H/Jericho interview segment the night after the Rumble part of their feud.)

Shouldn't a jealous Booker T have demanded a piece of Austin or RVD by now? Shouldn't we be getting the Edge/Regal blowoff (or, ideally, Edge/Christian) here? Why hasn't Test's summer and fall push gotten him anything here? What about a resolution to Austin/Angle? Or Austin/Rock? If I didn't know this was WrestleMania, I think I'd think it was Fully Loaded or something.

The nWo is supposed to be a poison seeping through and corroding the WWF. And WrestleMania is supposed to be the biggest pay-per-view of the year.

It sure doesn't feel that way.


WWF European Title Match: Happy Dallas Page vs. I Thought I Knew Him

In the midst of a losing streak, Christian lost the European title to Page. A later loss to Edge set him off, and he said he was quitting. He asked Arn Anderson for his resignation paperwork when Page showed up and talked him out of it. But Page's positive thinking lessons haven't taken to Christian, who thinks Page is trying to manipulate him.

TNM Says: Christian (9:26 Unprettier --> pin) Diamond Dallas Page

What I'd Do: "European Champion Diamond Dallas Page" doesn't sound at all right. New champ.

What They'll Do: The reinforcement of Christian's heel status tells me that he's getting the gold.

Triple Threat WWF Women's Title Match: Jazzz vs. Twitch Stratus vs. Lita

Jazz won the strap from Trish two weeks after Trish beat her at the Rumble. Lita declared herself in the hunt after a win over Stacy Keibler, while Trish got disqualified during a rematch and went psycho on Jazz, possibly popping a bra strap while doing so. This past week, an errant kick by Trish cost her and Lita a tag match, then the two faces got into a scuffle on SmackDown! because They Plain Don't Like Each Other.

TNM Says: Trish Stratus (20:08 Stratusfaction --> pin Lita) Lita & Jazz

What I'd Do: Well, Jazz is losing regardless. I'd give it to Lita...

What They'll Do: ...but I think Trish will get it back.

Sucka T vs. The King of Awesomeness

Booker was in the running for a TV commercial spot for a Japanese shampoo. He blew the audition but didn't realize it, and Edge got the part. In keeping with Booker's personality trait of being jealous of anyone more popular than he is, he got pissed and badmouthed Edge, who responded with a challenge for this match.

This could sneak up on us and rule all.

TNM Says: Booker T (7:41 Ax Kick --> pin) Edge

What I'd Do: Well, OF COURSE I'm putting Edge over in his hometown.

What They'll Do: I don't think Booker has a singles win on a WWF pay-per-view yet. And against the hometown kid who was in the crowd the last time WM was in Toronto, it's not happening here, either.

WWF Tag Team Title Fatal Four-Way Elimination Match: Totally Buff 2002 vs. Just Send Beer Money vs. The Dudley Boyeeez vs. Flippy Flippy Bang Bang

The APA won Tag Team Turmoil at No Way Out to earn a shot at champs Billy & Chuck at WrestleMania. But an ambush during "Men's Night" at the Friendly Tap prompted the angry Acolytes to take their shot at the following SmackDown!, which they lost. A week later, the Hardys and Dudleys were thrown into the mix.

This is Billy's... ninth reign as a WWF tag champ? If so, it breaks his tie with Foley.

TNM Says: APA (4:43 Bradshaw powerbomb --> pin Bubba Ray) Dudleys; APA (16:40 Clothesline From Hell --> pin Billy) Billy & Chuck; APA (20:15 Dominator --> pin Jeff) Hardy Boyz

What I'd Do: Just put the belts on the Dudleys already and rebuild the division that way.

What They'll Do: Well, they jobbed the Acolytes to set up a four-way, so I don't think they'll win. For some reason, I'll say the Dudleys take it.

WWF Intercontinental Title Match: Brass Knuckled Ass Kisser vs. The Whole Show

William Regal finally dispatched Edge in the brass knuckles on a pole match at No Way Out. After Van Dam got past Goldust, he beat Big Show in a triple threat #1 Contender's match to get this spot. He pinned Regal in a six-man tag on Monday's Raw.

TNM Says: William Regal (13:57 Regal Stretch --> submission) Rob van Dam

What I'd Do: It's RVD's time. New IC champ.

What They'll Do: The above.

Olympic Villain Kurt Angle vs. Big Red

Angle beat Triple H for the WrestleMania title shot at No Way Out, but lost it the next night in a Flair-mandated rematch. During a match against Kane on the following SmackDown!, Angle went off and tried to break the big man's ankle. Kane would come back to cost Angle the title, and back and forth things went.

Angle gave the Slam to Big Show on Raw, then got him to tap to the anklelock.

This could also be a sleeper - they've done some good stuff before.

TNM Says: Kane (14:46 side suplex --> pin) Kurt Angle

What I'd Do: Angle wins to get back in the title hunt.

What They'll Do: If Pete Rose shows up, Angle will win and Rose will get Tombstoned. If not, Kane will take it.

No DQ: Ric By God Flair vs. Hell on Wheels

At No Way Out, Vince tried to help Undertaker in his match against Rock, but Flair intervened and stopped him, leading to a Rock victory. The next night, an unhappy UT found Ric and challenged him to a match at WrestleMania. Ric said he'd think about it, and said "no" a few days later. Taker didn't like that.

So he asked again. Another no.

So Taker decided to pry a yes out of Ric by beating up Anderson. When that didn't work, he attacked son David during a training session in Stamford, which broke Ric's resolve. Then, when Ric finally accepted, Taker teased backing out of the match, but didn't.

Vince used Ric's emotional state to seize temporary complete control over the WWF, and he made this match no-DQ.

Undertaker has never lost at WrestleMania. Not even Hogan can say that.

TNM Says: Undertaker (13:13 Last Ride --> pin) Ric Flair

What I'd Do: I'd have Flair win because he should.

What They'll Do: The split's coming, which means that Flair will need his sanity back, so he will be the one to end UT's WM streak.

The $64,000 Question vs. Scott Free Hall

The nWo's first big move was to interfere in Austin's title match at No Way Out. A Hall Stunner took Austin out, and he ended up losing the match. Since then, it's been Austin hunting down the nWo and Hall specifically - Austin almost running Hall over with his truck, then wheeling him bound and gagged around the building on a SmackDown!; Austin getting a cinderblock smashed on his knee after a Raw match; Hall knocking Austin out with a wrench shot to the head, then giving away his beer to Hogan and Nash; Austin giving Hall a real Stunner in the ring during SmackDown! last(?) night.

TNM Says: Stone Cold (19:23 Stunner --> pin) Scott Hall

What I'd Do: Have Austin lose, since it looks like he's gonna be tied up with the nWo for a while.

What They'll Do: Well, I think someone from the nWo has to win something tonight, and since Nash has no opponent, I think Hall's going over here.

Our Champion vs. Petrified Wood Hogan

Not concerned about the alleged poisonous cancer that the nWo represented, Rock interrupted a Hogan promo to challenge him to a "dream matchup". Hogan called Rock a "flavor of the month" and a "flash in the pan", lumping him in with all the others who thought they could challenge his legendry. He accepted the match, and got a Rock Bottom for his efforts. Then Rock got an nWo ass-kicking that didn't end until the ambulance carrying him to the hospital afterwards was jackknifed by a Hogan-driven semi.

After taking some time off because The Scorpion King MUST BE SAVED (it comes out NEXT MONTH, for Flair's sake), Rock came back with a clear head, remembering that the Hogan he grew up watching was now nothing more than a delusional has-been.

TNM Says: Hogan (12:12 clothesline --> pin) The Rock

What I'd Do: Rock has to beat Hogan. Right? Right?

What They'll Do: Rock will win - but I don't think we'll be done with this.

Undisputed, Unified, WWF Title Match: Champ Jericho (w/The Corporate Bitch) vs. Game Boy

The vengeful Stephie Mac offered her services (ahem) to Jericho as a "business partner" to help him prepare for the big WM match against Triple H. Jericho reminded HHH that he'd aggravated the quad injury he suffered in May by putting him in the Walls on the announce table. (Aside: I've wondered if Jericho actually had any idea what had happened to HHH when he did that.)

Triple H won the Rumble, but lost the privileges that came with it to Kurt Angle at No Way Out, only to win them back the next night. He absorbed a Jericho sledgehammer attack to his surgically repaired leg on Raw, and admitted he wasn't at 100 percent. But he doesn't care - he'll leave Skydome as the champion even if it kills him, he said.

Man, the build to their Last Man Standing match at Fully Loaded 2000 kicks this in the ass.

TNM Says: Triple H (8:09 Pedigree --> pin) Chris Jericho

What I'd Do: This whole "heel wins the main at WrestleMania" business? That's gotta stop. That's just GOT TO STOP.

What They'll Do: I think the WWF will agree with me here and give Triple H the title. The worst thing at this point will be if Steph DOESN'T eat a Pedigree, since they've teased it every damn show.

Small Packages:

  • Triple H is a dog lover? Who knew?
  • Who did David Flair piss off to get stuck with the old Meat tights?
  • Follow me on this one: If Stephanie's angling for fifty percent of Triple H's future earnings, isn't it to her advantage for him to become champ? At what point does misguided vengeance override simple greed? I'm curious.
  • Oh, and not to sound like a smarky smark smark, but if Triple H had turned face the day after X-7, would we be having these problems?
  • But you know what I keep telling myself? "Things could always be worse."

    Matt Spaulding
    [slash] wrestling

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