(The one with LOLHUNTERWINS)
This one is interesting, and a bit difficult to write, actually. With this entry we are right in the teeth of Triple H’s Reign of Terror, when he was Terra Ryzing (sorry, everyone) the WWE. Hunter was square in the middle of his "I’m the coolest and the best and I love insulting all of you pathetic challengers who can’t hope to beat me, even though it makes me look worse to beat guys I’ve spent the past five weeks insulting" era, stretching roughly from Royal Rumble 2002 to around WrestleMania XXI.
I am a longtime Triple H mark, have been for over 15 years, but even I have to admit this entire era was overkill. This event was no different.
The thing about this pay-per-view (PPV) is that for about five minutes, Bill Goldberg looked like the unstoppable monster who devoured WCW in 1998. Then, in about two minutes, it all went away, never to return. You could make a comparison to Team WWE vs. Team Nexus at SummerSlam 2010 in that it had an unneeded victory for an established superstar coming at the cost of elevating a hot challenger.
Here’s how we ended up here.
Bill Goldberg debuted in WWE the night after WrestleMania XIX. He had a quick mini-feud with The Rock to get him over in front of the new(ish) audience, then had a nothing program with Chris Jericho and Lance Storm. This led us to SummerSlam.
Goldberg challenged Triple H to a match for the Big Gold Belt (the WWE version, anyway). Eric Bischoff, then one of two Raw general managers/authority figures, made the match a regular one-on-one match with no disqualifications. Nothing too crazy, right?
Well, later on during the very same Raw, the other Raw general manager/authority figure – Steve Austin – sobered himself up enough to announce the match would be an Elimination Chamber, with Goldberg vs. Hunter vs. Kevin Nash vs. Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels. Triple H had hurt his groin and could barely walk, let alone wrestle, so the decision was made to protect the champ by having other guys carry the in-ring workload.
I shudder to think what a match between Goldberg and a hobbled Triple H would look like.
The Raw before SummerSlam had the usual WWE go-home segment where every participant in a multi-man match has an interview that devolves into a brawl. This was a very paint-by-numbers program. However, as I’ve previously mentioned, paint-by-numbers isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Triple H's time on top was lacking from a both a creative and business standpoint. Now, to be fair to Triple H, neither one of these things are entirely his fault (or even entirely in his control) but as the man himself said on his new DVD, "When you are the champ, everything starts and stops with you." No different than a waiter at a steakhouse getting a bad tip because the food was overcooked, Triple H gets a bad rep for dominating a stagnant era.
Main Event Time
Let’s get to the match.
It’s a pretty damn good.
The Chamber, for those who don’t know, starts with two guys in the ring. Every few minutes, another person gets released from a "pod" (sort of like a big penalty box) and the match progresses until one man is left standing. WWE did the right thing by starting us off with Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho, who had a great few minutes to kick off the action. The crowd was super hot, chanting "GOLD-BERG" over and over again. Randy Orton and Kevin Nash entered, the crowd kept chanting "GOLD-BERG" again and again. Nash was eliminated and the crowd responded by chanting "GOLD-BERG" again. Michaels, Orton (always jarring to see a less-lean, less-tan, less-tatted up Viper before he was a Viper) and Jericho did some pretty cool three-way spots, and the crowd showed their appreciation by chanting, you guessed it, "GOLD-BERG".
Finally, it came down to Goldberg and Hunter in the pods. Hunter’s number came up, but before he could do anything, Michaels superkicked him and left him for dead inside the pod. This was a brilliant piece of booking to limit the injured champion.
When Goldberg was freed from his pod, he looked like DA MAN circa 1998 (h/t Bobby Heenan). He speared Orton for the pin right away. He speared Jericho through one of the pods (that looked super painful). Michaels put up a token fight, but was speared and Jackhammered as well. Bonus points to Michaels yelling "Careful Bill!" as he was being hoisted for the Jackhammer.
Finally, it was down to Hunter and Goldberg. Ric Flair, HHH’s manager, shut the pod door Hunter was still hiding in to keep him safe from the monster. Goldberg broke through the plexiglass and started destroying Hunter, much to the crowd’s delight. He was measuring the champ for the spear when "The Nature Boy" threw in a sledgehammer.
Bing, bang, boom; pinfall. Done. Heat gone.
To add insult to injury, Orton, Flair, and Triple H handcuffed Goldberg to the cage and proceeded to lay into him. Flair gave him some color with a razor blade, which looked like all sorts of fun. Remind me to never let anyone else slice me open.
(The picture I was going to post is a little graphic, so I linked it here.)
Goldberg went on to win the title at the next PPV (Unforgiven) in front of a crowd that was nowhere near as hot and at a PPV bought by 100,000 less people. However, even when he was champ, he still played second fiddle to "The Game" and the rest of Evolution, and people never got behind him again like they did at SummerSlam.
Curtain Jerker’s Star Rating – Overall, 3½. The match itself was good, but the wrong guy won.
Up Next - This one started off as a one fall to a finish, grew to what was basically a two out of three falls, but the guy who won the first two falls still lost the match.
Also in this series: