WWF in Providence
|Guest columnist: Michaelangelo
On Site Report: Heat/Smackdown Tapings
Hey folks! Reports of my death have been yadda yadda yadda. I still live, and that's more than I can say for WCW and ECW at this point. For the four or five of you who remember me, I am Michaelangelo, longtime [slash] Wrestling columnist on a semi-permanent hiatus. Now and again, I drag myself out from under the retirement rock and I push out a piece of writing to CRZ. Here's another one, you lucky, lucky people: a spoiler report of the Heat/Smackdown tapings this week from Providence, RI.
CyanIndigo and I arrive at the taping about 45 minutes before the show starts. The crowd consists of the usual rabble associated with such an event. There are plenty of parents and children, a bunch of guys dressed as RTC members, tons of Rock and Stone Cold merchandising victims, and the occasional confused guy still wearing a tattered NWO t-shirt. Hold onto it tight, friend, maybe they'll be back.
There are quite a few large trucks parked around the Providence Civic Center. The one that stands out is emblazoned with the XFL logo. CyanIndigo scoffs. I join her.
We make our way to our seats. Section 107, lower tier. Our seats are damn near perfect as we are right next to the cameras, about 15 or so rows from the floor almost perfectly lined up with the ring. Yep, that hour in line in the freezing New England weather six weeks ago almost seems worth it now. Almost.
In spite of the assurance that our section will NEVER show up on camera, most of the people around me have signs. I really don't mind sign-toters at all, as long as the signs are creative and show some sort of forethought and planning (proper spelling helps too). Two rows ahead of us, a group of teenagers are using a black magic marker to write their signs as we wait for the dark matches to begin. The best they come up with is "U can Y2J my KYJ" or something like that. See what I mean?
A Canadian flag being waved in the upper section draws a lot of boos from the crowd. This kid would find his way all over the arena during the course of the night, one more than one occasion being forced to fight with anxious and presumably drunk crowd members who try to yank the flag out of his grasp.
A sign down by ringside declares "Phuck X-Pac".
Tony Chimmel comes to the ring and the crowd pops big. It's time for the show to begin. He gives us the rules of the road and announces the contestants of the first match.
Dark Match 1: Bo Dupp vs. Scott Vick - Bo Dupp is wearing double strapped purple tights, so I immediately note that he will lost this match. The affair is slow and sloppy, and garners at least two "boring" chants from the crowd. I was too busy watching the people in front of me sit down to notice how the match ended, but Vick took the win, as expected.
Dark Match 2: Chris Chietti vs. Nova - Big pop for Nova, partly because some people recognize him from ECW, partly because he has a name that's catchy. The "E-C-DUB" chant starts off right away. Admittedly, these two put on a great show and the crowd is into it. Nova nails Chietti with a strange "elbow drop to the groin on a sit-down powerbomb" move that gets "ooo's" from the audience. Chietti kicks out and hits his finisher, a fireman's carry that swings into a powerbomb and gets the win. Nova sells the move all the way to the back.
Jonathan Coachman and Michael PS Hayes take the announce table and that means that Sunday Night Heat is about to start. Chimmel confirms.
Heat Match 1: The Hardy Boyz w/Lita vs. Kaientai - Monster pop for the Hardies and three times that for Lita. Kaientai run down the Hardies in their unmitigatable fashion and then start in on Lita, her thong, and even go all Beatles on us by calling her "lovely Lita meter maid." "In-DEED." The match begins and the "Lita" chant starts right away. A funny spot sees the Hardies tie up both members of Kaientai in trees of woe, bow to each other, and give double dropkicks to the helpless evil ones. The rest of the match is academic at this point. Lita hits her hurricanrana on Funaki outside the ring as Taka eats the combo of Poetry in Motion, Twist of Fate, and Swanton Bomb. 1-2-3. Lita and Matt celebrate with a romantic postmatch embrace.
Heat Match 2: Test vs. Haku for the European Championship - Test controls the match until he tries to headbutt the big Samoan, nearly knocking himself out. Naturally, since it failed the first time, he tries it again and Haku seizes the opportunity to manhandle the big Canadian for a while. The end comes when Haku spends a little too much time waving his arms around in preparation for the Tongan Death Grip and Test counters with a big boot to the face for the pinfall win.
Tony Chimmel shills some WWF merchandise and is nearly booed out of his shoes. Worth a chuckle or two, I think.
Heat Match 3: Light Heavyweight Champ Crash Holly w/Molly Holly vs. Perry Saturn w/Dean Malenko in a nontitle match - Terri is conspicuous by her absence this evening. Instead, Perry is wearing some sort of gray, furry Scotty 2 Hotty hat that causes the crowd to collectively furrow their brows in a vain attempt to understand this fashion motivation. A "we want Terri" chant opens things up for us as the combatants square off. The match sees both Dean and Molly interfere, Molly botching her top rope somersault butt slam on Saturn. Dean stalks the little blonde at ringside and threatens to kiss her, which causes Crash to take a grab at him. The Iceman hot shots the champ, who staggers into Saturn's fisherman side suplex and does the job. Postmatch, Crash seems to have juiced hardway and may even be sporting a broken nose. He looks pissed off as he leaves the ring, so it's anyone's guess.
The Blue Rope Team heads to the ring to get us ready for Smackdown, but is quickly called away as Eddie Guerrero music kicks up and Latino heat stalks to the ring. Oops, I guess they forgot about that promo. Long story short, Eddie thinks he should be European Champ since he has European blood and Test is just a Canadian. He challenges the big blonde champ to a match at Wrestlemania.
The Blue Rope Squad is back and this time, they actually start working as Lillian Garcia comes out to sing us the National Anthem. Damn, this girl has a great voice. If only she could announce half as good as...sorry, sorry. I won't go there.
Chimmel: "Buy some Austin merchandise!" Crowd: "Booooo!"
Michael Cole and Tazz procure spots at the announce table and Chimmel tells us that the pyro display will signal the start of Smackdown. BOOM! BOOM! POPOPOPOPOPOPOPOPOPOP! BANG! Wow, he was right!
As the camera swings around the arena, I note some more signs. One says simply, "Poo." I like that. Another says "X-Pac u suck and nobody likes you." I like that one too.
Smackdown Match 1: Chris Jericho vs. Raven for the Hardcore Championship - Big pop for Y2J, but no mic time. Bummer. Raven immediately takes a spill off the apron into his shopping cart and Jericho launches him over the barricade and into the crowd. The two fight into the back and manage to find their way into Commissioner William Regal's office. Jericho smashes a framed picture of the Queen over Raven's head but gets waylaid by William Regal from behind. regal shatters a vase of roses over Jericho's head but takes a shot to the face with a crumpet-filled silver serving tray by Raven. In a move that confuses one and all, Raven covers Regal for the pin and retains the title. Huh? Um, ok.
The Ovaltron shows us a replay of the Rock eating an Austin stunner last week. Austin and Rock will be face to face tonight!
We get a replay of the whole "restraining order" angle between Steph, Undertaker, HHH, and Kane.
Coach interviews Regal backstage. Regal is noticeably upset at being besmirched by that scruffy Hardcore Champion raven and has decided to add him to the Big Show/Kane match at Wrestlemania.
Tazz and Michael Cole get the spotlight, but those of us in the arena cannot hear a word they are saying.
The Ovaltron recounts the entire Vince/Trish/Shane ordeal from the forced stripping to the beatdown on Shane from Monday night.
Backstage Stephanie McMahon Helmsley and HHH talk about beating up Shane and then focus on HHH's match. Seems he and The Big Show are taking on The Undertaker and Kane. HHH excuses himself to go "take care of some business before the match." Steph tells him to be careful.
Replay of Austin taking a Rock bottom on Monday night.
Backstage HHH and Show discuss strategy.
Okay, by now, the crowd is getting antsy. They REALLY shouldn't string together so many backstage segments and replays like this. the crowd did not pay $40 a ticket to watch TV, Vince.
Smackdown Match 2: Grandmaster Sexay, K-Kwik, and Steve Blackman vs. X-factor (X-Pac, Justin Credible, and Albert) - Crowd pops decent for Sexay's team, but my guess is that they are popping for anything happening in the arena after 25 minutes of watching the Ovaltron. Damn, K-Kwik is cut! I'd love to have those abs. The match is okay, I guess. A notable spot is Albert nailing Sexay off the top rope with a high bicycle kick to the chest. After some minor confusion, Credible and X-Pac nail K-Kwik with a double superkick for the pin.
Backstage, the Undertaker arrives and is ambushed by a HHH sneak attack.
Chimmel: "Buy this plush Scotty 2 Hotty worm!" Crowd: "Boooooo!"
Tazz gets some mic time in the ring and runs down the RTC. He says he will choke out every last one of them, including "that slut Ivory."
Replay of HHH getting the better of the Dead Man. This leads into Undertaker finding HHH backstage and stalking him. HHH leads Taker into his dressing room where Stephanie and a whole bunch of cops are waiting to have him arrested for breaking the restraining order. Taker waves all his rights, as they cuff him and sit him down on the couch. Stephanie has not decided if she will press charges yet, so she tells them to hold him until she does.
Having considered the new developments, Commissioner Regal rebooks the HHH/Show vs. Taker/Kane match and makes it a handicapped match with Kane on his own against his opponents.
STILL backstage, J.R. preps Steve Austin for his interview with the Rock tonight. J.R. warns Austin to keep his cool. Austin says to worry about the Rock, not the Rattlesnake.
EVEN STILL backstage J.R. meets the Rock. Rock wants to know what the interview climate will be like. J.R. says it's just talking. Rock says, "Maybe."
Road to Wrestlemania promo.
Once again, the crowd is getting anxious and impatient with the lack of in-ring action. They run what is obviously a taped segment of Austin, J.R., and the Rock talking about Wrestlemania. The piece is long and repetitive, with both men trying their hardest to express "respect" while still fanning the flames of hatred for one another. I will spare you the full recap, and allow CRZ to do what he does best in his transcription after the show. I will say this, though, the crowd is nearly rabid by this point. A "we want our money back" chant starts up as a result. I have a scary thought. With ECW and WCW essentially off the map now, this is the only game in town, and Vince is obviously not catering to the arena fans during these tapings. Chew on that a while.
Backstage ("We want our money back!") the Undertaker is still in cuffs. The cops insist that HHH and Stephanie tell them whether or not they are pressing charges. HHH assures them that they will inform the police as soon as his match is over.
Aerosmith is at WWF New York tonight.
Smackdown Match 3: The Big Show and HHH vs. Kane - Kane manages to hold his own for a while and dishes out some punishment to both his opponents for a while. A funny spot is The Show nailing Kane with power move after power move only to have Kane do the "Zombie Situp" after each one. A minor ref bump sees HHH kick Kane in the nards to escape a chokehold. Kane then falls into a Big Show chokeslam and gets pinned. Postmach, HHH and Show beat the tar out of Kane with a steel chair. HHH almost shoves Chimmel over the barricade getting the chair, a spot which causes one of the sound guys to burst out laughing. Helmsley puts the chair on Kane's neck and sits down on it, talking smack into the Big Red Machine's helpless face. Backstage, Taker fights his way out past the cops and heads to the arena. He runs down the ramp, still handcuffed, fights off five more cops and gets into the ring. Naturally, he is quickly overwhelmed but HHH, Show, and the cops. The Game then reveals that the cops are not really cops, but some "friends of his." They cuff Kane as HHH pulls a sledgehammer from under the ring and introduces it to Taker's head, busting the Dead Man wide open. HHH and Show leave victorious as Kane and Taker slowly get to their feet and make their way out of the arena.
Replay of the gruesome blade job by Taker.
Backstage, Austin is sitting in a forklift drinking a beer. Huh?
Backstage, all three Dudley Boys head to the ring.
Backstage, the Hardies challenge the Dudleys and Edge & Christian to TLC2 at Wrestlemania.
Replay of the double Tag Team Title changes on RAW.
Smackdown Match 4: Buh Buh Ray, D-Von, and Spike Dudley vs. Edge, Christian, and Rhino - Lots of chants in this one. "E-C-DUB" is one. "We want tables" is another. The match is by the books for the most part, but you can tell that Spike and Rhino are trying hard to impress. Spike plays face in peril for a while until a hot tag leads to a Wazzup drop on Rhino. D-Von actually gets a table in the ring, but Just as they are about to put Edge through it, Christian pulls it out of the way and sets it up in the corner. Guess where this is going. Things break down quickly and before you know it, Rhino gores Spike through the table. Looks like some sort of no-contest ending, but the crowd digs it, so no worries.
Backstage, Vince McMahon is making himself a cup of coffee when he feels someone watching him. He turns to face The Rattlesnake who tells Vince that, if anything happens to Debra, he holds both the Rock and Vince responsible. Vince makes the scared face, then changes to the growling face as Austin walks off.
Stacker Boot of the Week is Chyna's DDT on Ivory from RAW.
All five members of the RTC come down to the ring. Bull and Goodfather kick Michael Cole out of his spot at the commentary table and form bookends around Tazz, In the ring, Ivory runs down Chyna, Venis runs down the WWF fans, and Steven Richards runs down Tazz. Richards gets down into Tazz's face and threatens the thug. Tazz responds by decking Richards and choking him out. The numbers overwhelm him, however and he gets the royal beatdown by the guys with the ties. Who will make the save? It's the APA! Lucky for Tazz, they decided not to hit the Friendly Tap on this visit to Rhode Island. Farouk and Bradshaw run off the RTC and Help Tazz up.
Backstage, Benoit and Angle discuss strategy. Angle wants to break the Rock in two like they almost did on Monday. Benoit smirks.
Backstage, the Rock is heading to the ring.
Some guy behind me has been yelling "Security, sit down!" all night. I have NO IDEA WHY.
The Lugz Boot of the Week is the Rock Bottom to Austin on RAW.
Backstage, Austin cracks open a beer and sits in front of a monitor.
Smackdown Match 5: The Rock w/Debra vs. Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle - Vince comes down after the heels and takes the spot at the commentary table left vacant by Tazz. The Rock and Debra come down to the ring, and it's on. This match is much like the one on Monday, but a little faster paced. Angle pulls a new move out of his ass and hits a Missile Dropkick on Rock from the top rope. The affair is back and forth until Benoit locks the Crossface on Rocky but Angle drapes the rock's foot over the rope, causing the ref to force the Crippler to break the hold. Angle tags himself in, as Benoit fumes. It isn't long before Angle ends up in a Rock Bottom and takes the pin. Postmatch, Benoit attacks the Rock. Rocky drops Benoit with a Spinebuster and locks on the Sharpshooter. Angle has recovered but simply watches the Rock crank back on the hold. Angle smirks and heads up the ramp, leaving Benoit to twist in the wind. A bunch of refs come down to get Rocky to release the hold, to no avail. Vince Jumps up from his spot and gets in the ring. He yells at the Rock to break the hold. A ref gets too close to McMahon and gets decked for his trouble. Meanwhile, Rocky has released Benoit and nails Vince with a Rock Bottom. Angle charges back to the ring and locks on the ankle lock. Cut to backstage, Austin gets up and heads off camera. The crowd pops. A moment later, Austin sits back down in his chair with a fresh beer! The crowd boos! Angle keeps releasing and reapplying the hold and, finally, Austin heads down to make the save. Angle gets a Stunner and Austin clears the ring. He and Rock lock eyes. Rock gestures for Austin to step back and lays the belt down before giving The Rattlesnake the "bring it" hand gesture. They come to blow! The crowd is going apeshit! The slugfest ends when Austin ducks the spit punch and applies a solid Stunner to the champ. I am guessing this is about where the taping ends.
Rocky rolls out of the ring as Austin poses with the belt. Eventually Rocky gets his belt back and Austin tosses him a beer. Rock stalks around the ring and grabs a microphone. He says, "Austin, you got the Rock tonight, but I'll see you at Wrestlemania." The two slap their beers together, guzzle, and the Rock leaves. Meanwhile, Austin poses around the ring, drinking beers and raising hell. He hands Debra a beer and she takes baby sips to a big pop. Austin then gets in the ring and tears his shirt off a-la Hulk Hogan, does some more Hogan poses, and drinks more beer.
A fan jumps the barricade and locks onto Austin's leg for a moment before security drags him out. Austin celebrates a bit more and then leaves the arena.
I deliberately was repetitive with the "Backstage" references. The crowd was quite angry at having spent a lot of money to watch more than half the show take place on the Ovaltron. I don't expect it will get better anytime soon, but I, for one, will think twice before paying for tickets to another WWF televised event.
Wanna write me? Go ahead! I am at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am Michaelangelo and will be for a while.Michaelangelo