"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
Translation: if you have a plan, put it into action, or that plan is useless.
On the night Kurt Angle made his WWF in-ring debut, Triple H put a plan into motion to seize total control of the WWF. He hired Rikishi to take out Stone Cold Steve Austin, his biggest rival. With Austin out of the way, Hunter had little resistance—other than The Rock (and to a lesser extent, Mick Foley)—to rule the World Wrestling Federation. Hell, Vince McMahon all but signed off on it. Eventually.
But eventually, Hunter would have to answer for his evil deed. A near-life for a near-life. Austin was left for dead in November 1999 during the Survivor Series, Triple H was left for dead at the end of the 2000 Survivor Series.
But then again, this is wrestling and no one really dies forever, and finality eventually had to be reached. It would come on February 25, 2001 in the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Home to many championship boxing matches, it’s the home to No Way Out 2001, the subject of this week’s Live Retro Blog.
Yes, today is indeed the sixteenth anniversary of No Way Out 2001.
Right, that finality I was talking about? It’ll come in the form of Three Stages of Hell, a best-of-three falls match with three different rulesets: a straight singles match, a street fight, and if necessary, a steel cage match where only a pinfall or submission can win the bout.
In the main event, Kurt Angle will defend the WWF Championship against The Rock, who can make history this evening with a win (a win by Rock will give him six WWF Championships, more than anyone in company history).
Also on the undercard, The Dudley Boyz, Edge and Christian, and The Brothers of Destruction face off in a three-team tables match for the WWF Tag Team Championship, four men will face off for the Intercontinental title (Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and X-Pac), and in a WWF first, a “Right to Nudity” match between Steven Richards and Jerry Lawler. If Lawler wins, The Kat can get naked on WWF programming all she wants. Or... something like that. If Richards wins, Kat has to join RTC. Plus two of the three most important women in Vince McMahon’s life face off when Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley takes on Trish Stratus. For female dominance and stuff.
Live retro blog begins at 8pm Eastern Saturday. That’s 7pm Central, 5pm Pacific, 3pm Hawaiian, and 1am early Sunday in Britannia. Everywhere else, figure it out. Of course, active WWE Network subscription is required, as we’ll be watching the Network of the show. If you watch any other version, you’re taking a chance, even if it’s the VHS or DVD version. This blog will be treated as live, so you’ll need to refresh often. GIFs and pics are okay, but don’t abuse it.
Hi! I’m Eddie. Let’s watch some retro wrestling.
Rated TV-14 DLV.
WWF Attitude signature opening.
Promo package highlighting the two featured bouts; the Three Stages of Hell bout gets considerably more focus.
BURNING TREE, PYRO, AND BALLYHOO! February 25, 2001. From the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, WWF presents No Way Out. 15,223 in attendance with 590,000 homes watching on PPV. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on the mic. They say there's a special feeling in the air tonight. I guess we'll have to see.
Match 1: Billy Gunn defeated Raven in 2:26 to win the WWF Hardcore Championship. The Holly cousins and Steve Blackman rush the ring (Crash disguised as a popcorn vendor). Billy takes a beating and Raven regains the hardcore title at 3:17. Ninja and Molly Holly appear. Raven tries to take out Big Show, but to no avail. Show chokeslams Raven and Big Show wins the Hardcore title at 4:20. Oh dear. 7'2”, 500 pound hardcore champ.
During Sunday Night Heat, WWF Champion Kurt Angle arrives and is immediately greeted by Kevin Kelly holding a microphone. After the beating he gave The Rock on Smackdown, Angle's confident that he'll retain.
Backstage, ring announcer Lilian Garcia puts on the backstage reporter hat and interviews Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero. Eddie says the match is more than about the Intercontinental title for him; he wants to get payback for Chris Jericho sidelining him for two months, and Eddie's gonna return the favor by putting Y2J out for good. He also warns X-Pac to get in the way, or he'll be on the sidelines too. Chris says it's every man for himself, but either he or Eddie is leaving with the title.
Match 2: Chris Jericho defeated Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and X-Pac in a fatal four-way match to retain the WWF Intercontinental Championship in 12:17. Good match, but why is X... Pac even there? Seriously. Seriously. Seriously. I'm glad he got pinned. Jerk.
Backstage, Triple H is getting his wrists taped for his Three Stages of Hell match later.
Meanwhile, Vince McMahon discusses the Stephanie-Trish bout with commissioner William Regal. McMahon reiterates that Steph's her baby girl while Trish is her good friend. And that Regal—who came up with the idea for this match to begin with--will do the right thing when the time is right. When Vince leaves, Regal admits he has no idea of what the right thing is.
A video package involving the WWF's two “dominant females” brings us to the following contest.
But first, we cut to WWF New York where a wild Busta Rhymes appears. And WWF European Champion Test, who certainly has an opinion of both Trish and Stephanie. Test hopes the two kill each other (more or less) and we'll know who's “the biggest trashbag ho” in the WWF is.
Trish is heading to the ring, and William Regal runs into her. Regal wants to know what “the right thing” is, and Trish basically ignores him, saying she's got a bitch to slap. We see Stephanie make her way towards the ring as we go to break.
RAW is WAR on TNN promo.
WWF: The Music Volume 5 promo. Good album, but Volume 4 is better.
Match 3: Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley defeated Trish Stratus in 8:29. You know... not terrible. Trish was just a year in and of course Stephanie's not a wrestler, damnit. Anyway, Regal did play a role in the outcome, putting Stephanie's foot on the bottom rope on a Trish pin attempt and Regal delivering the straitjacket neckbreaker to Trish after Trish slapped the piss out of him. Was it the right thing? Guess you'll have to watch RAW is WAR to find out.
Promo for Wrestlemania X-Seven.
Regal runs into Vince McMahon. Apparently, William has chosen poorly, and he and Vinnie Mac are gonna hash it out in the ring. Regal and Stephanie versus Vince and Trish on RAW. Nope, won't be awkward at all.
A video package of the events leading to the Three Stages of Hell match leads us to the following contest.
But first, we see Triple H exiting his locker room and heading to the ring. Meanwhile, Michael Cole catches up with Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Cole: “Stone Cold, are you ready to enter hell, next?”
Austin: [stunnering intensifies before walking away]
This was an actual exchange on PPV, everyone.
Match 4: Triple H defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin 2-1 in a Three Stages of Hell match in 39:27. Instant classic. Austin wins the singles match in 12:20 to the shock of many. Look, Austin may have been diminished, but he was once upon a time one of the best pure wrestlers in the world. Triple H wins the street fight in 14:51 to tie it up to the shock of almost no one. And the two just happened to leave a lot of toys in the ring from the street fight, so they get to come into play in the cage match. The match ends with Austin KO-ing Haitch with a barbed wire 2x4 while Hunter KO's Austin with a sledgehammer. Gravity does the rest, and Hunter wins the cage match via science in 39:27. And Haitch still gets stunned after the final bell. So... nobody won? Seriously though, awesome match, and you should go watch it. Do it. DO IT. (FUTURE EDDIE ALERT: Still holds up 16 sweet years later. I know it's not fashionable to say about matches from the Attitude Era, but it applies here. GO WATCH THIS MATCH.)
Lawler ducks out to prepare for the next bout and as JR narrates Jerry's beatdown from Smackdown.
Backstage, a prayer circle with the RTC, while somewhere else, The Kat slips on a trench coat. If Lawler wins, I'm guessing it's coming right off.
Oh, and Tazz joins the commentary table. I might be wrong, but I think this is his first commentary gig since that one match he did for ECW back in the day. (Quick Google search: it is. Tazz would become the new color guy for Smackdown when Lawler quit. More on that later.)
Match 5: Steven Richards defeated Jerry Lawler in 5:31. The Kat grabs Ivory's WWF women's title belt and goes for Richards, but pops Lawler instead. Oops. Post-match, the RTC immediately rush the ring and basically kidnap Kat. With the loss, Kat is officially a member of RTC.
We get highlights of what led to the three-team tag title match, and Michael Cole interviews the Brothers of Destruction. Undertaker's about the gold, but he's also about hurting the other four guys. I mean, as long as his priorities are in order, I guess.
If They Only Knew, Chyna's autobiography is #2 on The New York Times Bestseller List in nonfiction.
Match 6: The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von) defeated Edge & Christian and The Brothers of Destruction (Undertaker & Kane) in a triple threat tag team tables match to retain the WWF Tag Team Championship in 12:04. 3D to Christian put it away. Haku and Rikishi run a distraction to cost the Undertaker and Kane the titles.
A video package of the Rock-Angle feud brings us to our MAIN EVENT.
But first, Michael Cole is with The Rock. Michael asks is he ready despite the beating he caught on Smackdown. Rock says the countdown to the end of Kurt Angle’s WWF title reign is over. No catchphrases. Angle's getting Serious Rocky. Oh dear.
Match 7: The Rock defeated Kurt Angle to win the WWF Championship in 16:53. Rocky's made history: he is the first six-time WWF Champion, and oh, by the way, he doesn't turn 30 until May 2, 2002. Ric Flair may want to look over his shoulder. Rocky may run down the record—before his 40th birthday. Great match, but topping Three Stages of Hell was an impossible task. Also, why was Big Show there? Seriously. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. (FUTURE EDDIE ALERT: 16 years later, and I'm still trying to figure out why.)
Oh... you know the win also means a second Rock-Austin Wrestlemania main event in three years, right? Who's excited? This guy is.
EDDIE MAC'S QUICK REVIEW
So... about that whole RTC angle: we never got a proper resolution. Two days later, WWF decided to let The Kat go. Why Kat got fired depends on who's telling the story. Jerry Lawler, Kat's wife at the time, quit the company in protest. After RTC went 0-2 at Wrestlemania X-Seven, they weren't long for this world, and by the end of April, the group was disbanded at the hands of The Undertaker.
Skip the Richards-Lawler match. Watch everything else. Watch Three Stages of Hell again in place of Richards-Lawler. 10 out of 10 on the strength of Austin-Haitch alone.
Next weekend is Fastlane, so no Retro Live Blog. Back in two weeks with a Wrestlemania edition of the Retro Live Blog.