Remember When: Chris Jericho vs Triple H – Fully Loaded 2000

This is a first installment of what I hope to be a monthly thing.  I want to reminisce about something a match, angle, or moment that happened in this month in the past. My first one is a match that I love quite a bit that happened on July 23rd, 2000.

All images are courtesy of WWE Network.

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The first half of 2000 was pretty good for WWF.  WCW was in decline and I don’t think was seen as much of a threat any longer.  However, they were starting to lack star power at the top of the card.  Mick Foley had retired; Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Undertaker were both out with injuries.  This really only left Triple H and the Rock at the top of the card and boy did it get repetitive.  Undertaker eventually returned with his American Bad-Ass gimmick and that injected some new life, but these were three men that had been in the main event scene for quite some time.  This is where Fully Loaded 2000 comes in.  The event had three main event matches that were meant to introduce new blood.  The Undertaker was feuding with Kurt Angle, the Rock was defending his WWF Championship against Chris Benoit, and in the match I want to spotlight we had Triple H taking on Chris Jericho in a Last Man Standing match.

The build to this match was kind of a long-term one.  Chris Jericho challenged Triple H months prior to a WWF Championship match and actually beat him.  The decision was reversed due to the referee admitting that he administered a fast count.  Later on down the line Triple H would go on to defend his title against a mystery opponent that was revealed to be Jericho.  The match, like the previous one, was a good one and Jericho almost walked away with the championship again.  Each match the two of them had only highlighted that these two should eventually lock up on Pay-Per-View because they could tear the house down.

The lead in to this match was that Jericho had kissed Stephanie McMahon, Triple H’s wife, at the previous PPV King of the Ring.  This led to the rest of D-Generation X involving themselves in one of Jericho’s matches which in turn led to Jericho costing Triple H a shot at the WWF Championship.  Jericho would further involve himself in Triple H’s business by causing him to get a stinkface from Rikishi and losing to legendary jobber, the Brooklyn Brawler.  Things would escalate even further when Jericho came out to interfere in a match where it looked like DX was about to break up, but it was actually a set up.  The assault ended with Jericho being left battered and bloodied.  Jericho would go on to demand a Last Man Standing Match against Triple H.

This match was pretty important to Jericho’s career going forward.  While he was able to showcase his charisma, humor, and technical ability in previous feuds and matches, he hadn’t quite shown the toughness needed to be taken fully seriously by the fans.  He started this one off with a flurry of fast paced offense.  When Triple H went on offense Jericho absorbed a great deal of punishment to his taped up ribs but he wouldn’t stay down.  A wicked DDT, a sleeper with body scissors, a pedigree, and a few chair shots wouldn’t keep him down either.  He would keep getting up and asking for more.  Eventually Jericho was able to turn things around and bloodied Triple H with a chair shot.  Jericho would be ruthless after this by bulldogging Triple H onto a chair and locking in the Walls of Jericho for a lengthy period of time.  He only broke the hold when Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley involved herself in the match and was also put in the Walls of Jericho.  The finish would see Triple H laid out on an announce table with Jericho about to attempt a Lionsault but Triple H would hit a low blow and back-suplex Jericho and himself through the table.  Triple H would make it up right before the 10 count, but collapsed after the referee called for the bell.

This match really felt like Triple H paying forward the toughness that he got to show in his matches against Cactus Jack.  I know Triple H gets a lot of (justified) flack for burying talent back in the day, but his main event run in 99-01 was solid.  Jericho made the most of this match and Triple H made him look like a million bucks throughout by selling his ass off.  Even in defeat Jericho looked strong as Triple H needed to be helped to the back.  I highly recommend this match as it is one of the best Last Man Standing matches WWF/E has ever done.

Aggressive Expansion

So something weird is happening with WWE and I’m of two minds about it.  They seem to be more open to partnerships with indie companies.  Adam Cole recently defended the NXT North American Championship in Evolve Wrestling against WALTER.  Kassius Ohno wrestled in the Super Strong Style 16 tournament for Progress Wrestling this year.  Hideo Itami is going home to wrestling longtime rival and tag-team partner Naomichi Marufuji in NOAH.  It’s incredibly fascinating to see things that probably wouldn’t have even happened 5 years ago happening now.  It gets more eyes on these promotions and their talented rosters.  It also helps generate more buzz within the business so lapsed or new fans may want to check out new things.

There’s another side to this as well.  Ring of Honor was recently going to try to run a show out Madison Square Garden.  It had seemed like things were pretty much a go until they weren’t.  The scuttlebutt is that a high ranking person within WWE made a phone call and got the event cancelled.  ROH brass is understandably upset about this and it sounds like they’ll fight it.  Other companies, like Impact or MLW, seem to be flying just under the radar enough to gain buzz with fans but not enough for WWE to view them as competition…yet.

I wasn’t really a fan of wrestling at the time, or even old enough to have an opinion on the matter, but this does sound a lot like what the WWF used to do back in the territory days.  They’ve updated it for modern times so instead of squashing everyone, they’re going to partner with some, especially international promotions like Progress (United Kingdom) and NOAH (Japan) so they can get their foot in the door in a new market.  Once in that market if you’re seen as a competitor, something that ROH is due to their relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling, they may try to cut you off any way they can.  It does seem that WWE is trying some aggressive expansion and now that they have some extra money to throw around due to their Fox deal, they might be able to pull it off.  What I think they may fail to realize though is that competition does make for a healthy market and if they decide to absorb their competition again, like they did with WCW and ECW, the current burgeoning boom period we’re in may come to a quick end.  We may soon find all of those available options on the WWE Network.

Did It Deliver?

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I wrote a little about dream matches and my expectations of Samoa Joe vs Brock Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire a few weeks ago.  Now that the match has actually happened did it meet my expectations?  Initially I wanted to say it just fell a little bit short, but now that it’s been about 24 hours I would say that it did.  The match actually did a few things that surprised me.

Obviously spoilers are incoming.

The first thing that surprised me was how even in defeat Joe looked like a monster.  It’s not often that people come out looking strong after a loss to Brock, but Joe took him to his limit.  The crowd even got behind Joe to the point of chanting “Joe’s gonna kill you” at Brock.  While that chant is infectious, they bought into the fact Joe could beat Brock.  Not many people have had that honor since he’s come back.

The match itself was short and violent.  It started with Joe jumping Brock before the opening bell and putting him through an announce table.  The rest of the match was high impact moves from both men and ended with Joe being pinned after a single F-5 from Lesnar.  At first I was a bit peeved about this, but I think this was actually a good call.  We’re in an era where a lot of matches end with multiple kick-outs after finishers so it was a breath of fresh air to see one finisher put someone away.  Not every match can be Omega/Okada and sometimes a violent sprint can be satisfying.

Even though it was just one finisher that put Joe down, he didn’t seem to stay down.  As Brock and Paul Heyman left Paul kept looking back at the ring to make sure Joe didn’t attack again.  It really felt like Brock wasn’t trying to win the match as it was to escape getting choked out by Joe.   For the first time since his return it seemed like Brock was desperate.  That desperation wasn’t there in the Undertaker or Goldberg feud.  His primary goal was to conquer, but with Joe it was just survival.  Brock looked beat up as he looked back in the ring and Joe looked like he wasn’t finished yet.

The build-up was amazing and Joe stepped up his game big time.  Heyman was on point as usual and Brock seemed to be pretty motivated.  In my opinion the match delivered.  I didn’t get the feeling that things were over, especially from the murder stare that Joe was directing at Brock.  Even if it’s not at Summerslam I’m hoping these two cross paths again.

Pipebomb Thoughts

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6 years ago CM Punk grabbed the brass ring he had been chasing since he first came to the WWE.  I caught most of the famous “Pipebomb” promo as it was airing.  I decided not to watch Raw that night since it was just easier to do something else and follow the results online.  That way if something cool happened I could still check it out.  Punk with a mic and wearing a Stone Cold Steve Austin shirt sort of grabbed my attention on the message board I was following.  The promo really resonated with me since I had been pretty frustrated at my job at the time and you could tell Punk was too.  He knew he was better than everyone else and had to deal with the self-defeating actions of management.  It was his moment and he probably didn’t know if he’d ever get another one so he did what he does best and that was run his mouth.

In a way you could almost predict how Punk’s story would end with the WWE.  WWE was still firmly attached to John Cena and really failed to capitalize on the mainstream exposure that Punk brought them after the promo.  The promo was so effective because it blurred the line of work and shoot, real or fake, and generated a lot of buzz because of this.  It got a mention on ESPN and other sport sites were covering it.  It   You can still do a Google search on “Pipebomb Promo” and there are articles that wonder how much of it was scripted and how much of it wasn’t that are still written whenever the anniversary comes up.  Punk’s momentum was diverted within a few months and would ultimately be one of the many reasons he left the company on bad terms 3 years later.

It’s hard to believe that it was 6 years ago because so much has changed.  He’s been gone from WWE for about 3 years now and I’m doubtful he’ll ever come back.  If he returns to a wrestling ring I think it’ll be to help a promotion get more exposure.  I could see him going to New Japan, possibly joining the Bullet Club.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he popped up at a local promotion like AAW either.  I’d love to see him come back in a way that would bring back the fire from this promo.  I think no matter what he does with regard to wrestling he’ll do it on his terms.

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Dream Matches

Dream matches are a rare thing.  They’re the ultimate “what-if” because rarely do we ever get a match where the competitors are in their prime.  WWE had a chance to give us Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 8, but by all accounts they got cold feet when a Madison Square Garden crowd was rather ambivalent to a match they had at a house show.  We got Macho Man and Flair instead, which I think was the better option anyway.  WCW eventually got the Hogan and Flair match and it was too late.  ECW gave audiences Sabu vs Cactus Jack and that wasn’t as good as it could’ve been.  This would be rectified later, but considering Cactus Jack was still under contract with WCW they didn’t get as…extreme as they could have.  We’re a few short weeks away from another dream match.

Currently WWE is building up their, ugh,  Great Balls of Fire PPV with the main event being Samoa Joe taking on Brock Lesnar.  After years of languishing in TNA, Samoa Joe showed up in NXT revitalized.  If you followed Joe’s career, it was liking WWE had gone back to 2004 and somehow plucked him from time.  He was in better shape; he moved faster, his promos had fire.  On the Raw from 6/5 he had a tremendous promo with Paul Heyman and both men did a great job selling the match.  I don’t doubt that Joe will bring his best.  Heyman will also bring his best to help the selling of the match.  The wildcard in all of this is Brock Lesnar.

Since showing up in the WWE again, Brock has been pretty hit or miss.  The man is being touted as a “must see” attraction and early on in his return he was.  Then “Suplex City” happened and all of Brock’s matches have been formulaic.  None of his matches from 2016 really stand out and I though his feud with Goldberg was mostly forgettable.  If Lesnar actually gives a damn this match could be one of the all-time greats.  If Lesnar shows up not caring, then it’ll just be Joe getting tossed around for about 10-15 minutes and the crowd will shit all over the match.

However, Joe is no stranger to dream matches.  His first major one was in Ring of Honor against the legendary Kenta Kobashi and it was an incredibly hard hitting match.  In fact, it’s that match that might serve as a template for his match with Lesnar.  It featured a lot of suplex variations and strikes, which is likely what the match with Lesnar will have.  Later on in TNA he would go on to have a great series of matches with Kurt Angle when the Olympic Gold Medalist first appeared there.  These matches also featured a lot of suplexes, but also had a strong focus on submission wrestling.

The story for the match is a no-brainer.  Brock is the guy who’s had opportunities given to him by WWE and doesn’t put in a whole lot of work.  Joe is the guy who has spent the last 15 years kicking and clawing for his place.  Brock has something Joe wants and Joe will come to take it, as he has done in his short WWE career.  For the in-ring work I’m hoping we get a nice mix of old school King’s Road style All-Japan wrestling with some cool submissions thrown in.  In any event it’s the most I’ve looked forward to a (main roster) WWE main event this year.

How Did You Become A Fan?

When I tell people I’m a wrestling fan they usually ask one of two things.  If they’re not a fan themselves, they’ll ask why I like something that’s fake.  I really hate that question because being a fan of wrestling is really no different than being a fan of a comic book, movie, or TV series.  It’s storytelling done in an entertaining format.  If they’re a fan, they’ll ask me how I became a fan.

I remember watching wrestling pretty early in my childhood, but it was never for very long.  I know I watched old episodes of World Class Championship Wrestling and I even remember seeing the old Piper’s Pit segment where Andre turned on Hogan.  It wasn’t until about a year later that I got hooked.

It was a Saturday morning episode of either WWF Superstars or WWF Challenge, I can’t remember which, but they were spotlighting a recent episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event.  They were highlighting a recent match between the Honky Tonk Man and this man:

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Macho Man Randy Savage and his manager Miss Elizabeth

They showed some highlights from the match, but mainly the end of it.  Macho Man had the match won and Honky’s buddies, The Hart Foundation, broke up the pin and the three of them beat the Macho Man down.  Honky got his guitar and was about to smash it over Macho Man’s head when his manager, Miss Elizabeth, came in to prevent him from getting hit.  She eventually left and Macho got smashed anyway.

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Ouch

A few minutes later Miss Elizabeth came back with reinforcements:  the current WWF champ, Hulk Hogan.  The two of them cleared the ring and faced off.  Eventually they shook hands and this led to the creation of the Mega-Powers.  This was also the angle that absolutely hooked me: the rise, fall, and redemption of the Macho Man Randy Savage.

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The formation of the Mega-Powers

To this day I still don’t know why this particular moment was what hooked me, but it did.  I became a huge fan of the Macho Man and this led to me being a lifelong wrestling fan.  What keeps me hooked and what keeps me coming back varies over time.  It might be a killer storyline that draws me back in, like the several years’ long feud and friendship of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn or Kevin Steen and El Generico as they were formerly known.  It might be something like finally discovering how cool an indy promotion is like Progress Wrestling.  All I know is I love it and I’ll probably always be hooked.  So now I’ll ask you, how did you become a fan?