As many of you are aware, WWE Network is pretty packed with all sorts of content. And as you may also know, we here at Place to Be Nation love long term, in depth projects. So, as part of this initiative, members of the PTBN Staff are choosing programs at random and after watching each program, they will share their thoughts, notes and recommendations with our readers. So, settle in and enjoy this epic ride through wrestling history!
Smackdown! October 31st 2002
Run Time: 83 Minutes
Why Jacob Why???: Since this edition be running right around Halloween, I thought I’d pick one of the more Halloween-centric WWF/E shows. Plus, it’s an excuse to watch the Smackdown Six.
Aaron George: Matt Hardy enters the Halloween party with a boom box blasting his theme song. Sure he could have entered without it, but what kind of Mattitude would that project? Before long he’s declaring Moolah and Mae Young to be “Version BC” and quickly notes that their Mattitude has all dried up. We would have been treated to sheer perfection if only he had blasted that sweet boom box on his exit.
Brian Bayless: While seeing John Cena dressed as Vanilla Ice and rapping was great and ended up elevating his career, I though the brawl between Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle backstage at the party was the best of the night. It had everything from comedy (We saw Brother Love revealed behind the Scream mask & costume, the same costume Angle was using to avoid Benoit earlier in the show) and a wild brawl that saw Benoit break a bottle over Angle’s head just before getting put through a table with an Angle Slam. And poor Shannon Moore got tossed across the room by Angle.
Jacob Williams: It feels like cheating to pick the entire Halloween party. At the same time, it’s hard to narrow it down because a lot it was very fluid. If I had to pick one bit, it would be Tajiri’s romantic encounter with Mae and Moolah. His facials were classic.
Calum McDougall: “OOHHH YEAAAH!!” – there was only one winner in this one for me and it was Matt Hardy at the Halloween Party. From him coming in with his own music playing on a boom box to calling Mae and Moolah “Version B.C.” and everything in between, it was brilliant stuff.
Dave Hall: Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit brawl at the Halloween Party. The seeds of this segment lay in the earlier segment where Benoit was looking for Kurt, who was hiding under the Scream outfit. Following Angle’s match with Eddie, Kurt comes back to the party looking for Benoit. Kurt’s approach to the “Scream Character” believing it to be Benoit was a good call back to the earlier segment, and I loved seeing the cameo by Brother Love. The brawl between the two men following this was awesome, using the tables, wall and other party elements.
Aaron George: It’s the brown water match and it’s not even close. Sure every other match on the card was technically better, but Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson gave us a “stiff” (as per Tazzzzzzzzz) match that will always be etched into the annals of time as simply the best to take place in a pool of liquid shit. They can tell us it’s chocolate, but honestly what kind of chocolate has that consistency? It’s liquid human shit which is clearly their metaphor for the poopstorm that is coming in the form of this feud. Was the ref rolling around silly? Sure. Were Torrie’s chops DIRECTLY to Dawn’s breasts the best since Flair/Steamboat in 89? Absolutely. The best part was after the loss Dawn gave Torrie a look that clearly said, “Yeah? Well I’m going to fuck your dad.” A threat I have often used but have very rarely carried out. I can only imagine Vince McMahon Sr. looking down from Heaven, beaming with pride as his son carried on the family business. ******
Brian Bayless: Edge vs. Chris Benoit was an excellent TV match. The work was crisp and the finish made sense as it continued the friction between Angle and Benoit, who were the Smackdown Tag Team Champions.
Jacob Williams: On a show with some quality wrestling, the opener between Benoit and Edge felt like the most complete match. I love that they could come out and just have a great, straight-up match to start the show.
Calum McDougall: As good as Edge vs Benoit and Angle vs Eddie were, my favorite match was actually Brock Lesnar vs. Rey Mysterio. This match had three distinct parts to it – the early section with Rey out maneuvering the big man, followed by the middle part where Brock throws Rey around like a rag-doll and finally the end where Big Show comes out and manhandles both of them, looking like a complete beast in the process. Great stuff for the short time it was on, and call me crazy, but I wouldn’t mind seeing another Brock-Rey match in 2018.
Dave Hall: Kurt Angle vs Eddie Guerrero. On a show with so many options for the title of Match of the Night, Kurt and Eddie absolutely stole the show. Kurt was a wrestling machine, and looked amazing in the ring, while Eddie was crisp and quick. The two men countered each other finishers, and put on a clinic. The match built really well to some great action in the last few minutes, and a decent ending for a TV match. Benoit’s interference was appropriate to the storyline, and I loved how he took out Eddie and Chavo as well, demonstrating he was not working with them.
Most Cringeworthy Moment
Aaron George: I’m not going to say that Stephanie McMahon isn’t an attractive woman, but on a show with the aforementioned Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie, does EVERY person who comes into Steph’s radius have to fawn on her as though she were Helen of fucking Troy. Are those the tits that launched a thousand ships?
Brian Bayless: Eric Bischoff making out with Stephanie McMahon after he was in her office wearing a Vince McMahon mask was something I never need to see again in my life. It was creepy in the worst way possible.
Jacob Williams: Sorry Michael Cole, but awkwardly perving out during the women’s pool-of-chocolate-sauce match can’t compete with Bischoff forcing himself on a woman 20 years his junior in a weird incest roleplay.
Calum McDougall: The piped-in cheers every time Stephanie McMahon was on the screen. Now I know that all of the cheers on SmackDown at this time were piped in, but there was no reason for Stephanie’s to be top-tier babyface loud other than pure ego. Only Brock and maybe Edge got louder “cheers”. I don’t know whether them going to these lengths to show Stephanie as being popular is cringy or outright infuriating, but it certainly rubbed me the wrong way.
Dave Hall: Dawn Marie vs. Torrie Wilson.This segment showed us just how far women’s wrestling has come in 16 years. This match was horrible to watch, with the two women degrading themselves in little clothing and in a pool of chocolate milk. I hated every moment of this match, including the customary referee gets rolled over spot. I am so glad the women’s evolution means we don’t have to see this crap any more.
Aaron George: I’m still laughing at the image of Al Wilson dressed up like a greaser. Still.
Brian Bayless: Tajiri’s facial expressions while Mae Young forced him to be her boyfriend. He is one of the more underrated comedic performers in wrestling.
Jacob Williams: Again, I can’t say enough about Tajiri’s face after the Mae Young smooch. I love Tajiri.
Calum McDougall: “He’s saying Do La Ray, you know what that means Cole? It means “I’m beating up Kurt”” – Tazz doing his best to boost the sales of his Spanish to Red Hook dictionary.
Dave Hall: With so much good “in-ring” action, there were not a lot of amazingly funny lines. However during the Eddie vs Angle match, Tazz made the comment “I like Guerrero… I like Kurt… I like everyone on the Smackdown roster except you Michael Cole”. Also John Cena’s “Vanilla Ice Costume” was a great reminder of how he broke out in the WWE. But when he told Stephanie that Vince was looking for her, and she called him out, and he then did the “damn, I look stupid moment”, I laughed out loud. Was a great reminder that John Cena has more in his character than the hustle/loyalty/respect stuff we have seen since about 2005/06, he can do good comedy and was willing to poke fun at himself.
Aaron George: The entire concept of doing a Halloween show was a TON of fun, and made the show instantly memorable. They should do more theme shows today. I know that they are actively going for homogenous, but a curve ball like this would be more than welcome. The costumes were almost universally silly. Faarooq playing Charles Wright was bang on, and while you’d think that Chuck Palumbo dressed as a Native American would go down as 2018’s most offensive, you’d be horrible mistaken as the honor easily went to the fan dressed as the Rock in full blackface. Almost all the matches were top-tier television matches. “YEAH MY DURANGO, NUMBER 95,” is possibly the most Rob Zombie lyric ever. There is something beautiful about Chris Benoit simply avoiding Edge’s top rope dropkick rather than finding a way to kick him six times on the way down. Benoit also sells a turnbuckle drop in what can only be described as “like when you’re about to uppercut Von Kaiser in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.” Teenage Brock Lesnar is always a blast to have around. Kurt Angle staring angrily into the audience as they chant “You Suck” is waaaay better that the smiling Kurt we get today. He STILL doesn’t get why they are booing him. He also has the best near falls in the business. I could also watch Brock throw Rey Mysterio around all day. Even then he was one of the better sellers in the business. Speaking of best in the business: Tajiri’s kicks. Oh and the Brother Love reveal was great.
Brian Bayless: The party segments backstage were amusing enough and some of the costumes were funny (Chuck Palumbo as a Native American and Disco Tajiri) while some were just lame (Phantom of the Opera Billy Kidman). And while not as good as Edge vs. Benoit, Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero was a solid match ending with Benoit whacking Angle with the belt setting up Eddie to hit a frog splash for the win. Matt Hardy with his Version 1.0 character was amusing and I liked his entrance into the party. The Pudding match between Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie was surprisingly intense and I can only imagine how hard Vince was laughing backstage after Torrie tossed ring announcer Tony Chimel into the pudding. And of course, Al Wilson dressed as a greaser was a sight to behold.
Jacob Williams: The Halloween stuff was a fun throwback to mid-80s TNT campiness that gave everyone a chance to show their personalities. I love any situation that shows that the wrestlers all hang out backstage and are basically coworkers. Smackdown had a nice roster who were either fun characters, amazing wrestlers, or a combination of both. Tazz and Cole are a fun commentary team that really fit the show.
Calum McDougall: The way the Big Show was presented was really good. It’s hard to imagine in 2018 that there was a time where people actually believed that Brock Lesnar couldn’t beat the Big Show. At least I believed that anyway… Tazz trying to call the Torrie/Dawn “match” as an actual athletic contest was excellent stuff. I watched this show on the Friday before WWE Evolution, and this really does show how far women’s wrestling has come in the last 16 years.
Dave Hall: Pretty well the entire show was a highlight. The in-ring product was amazing, and as much as I wanted to hate Chris Benoit, I loved his match with Edge and his brawl with Angle. Matt Hardy Version 1 was great, and a good reminder that Hardy always the better “character” to his brother Jeff. Brock Lesnar was awesome in the ring, although I felt he sold a little too much at the end of his match with Rey. Big Show was booked as the monster heel he excelled at. This show was a reminder of how good all these guys were in 2002, and also how much WWE missed the mark with so many of them over the years.
Aaron George: Big Show wrestling in his street clothes is awful. Is that business casual for him? He just looks like a god damn slob. His line delivery is worse. Is he bored? Stoned? Or did he simply study at the Stephanie McMahon “Petulant Child” school of acting? Seriously go back and watch how she says REY MYSTERIO in the opening segment when she gives him a match with Brock. Who on Earth talks that way? What on Earth was the point of the Bischoff/Stephanie kiss of weirdness? I know that she’s a sex symbol for the ages, but poor Eric simply doesn’t know what to do with himself after kissing the slutty witch of the east. Fuck Big Show for clearly ruining what could have been an awesome dream match. While I’m at it like me correct something I said earlier: there is no way Vince Sr. is in Heaven. Especially when you have a best friend named “Toots.”
Brian Bayless: One of the main goals was to build up Big Show as Brock Lesnar’s title opponent for Survivor Series and man did he fail tonight. His street clothes looked was terrible, his conditioning worse (he was gassed after beating Rikishi in a match that lasted under three minutes long), and the cut a terribly long promo that no one seemed to care about. Stephanie McMahon’s segments were all awkward tonight too.
Jacob Williams: The feud between Lesnar and Big Show was lackluster. Show looked so bloated and out of place in his biker dad jeans against a young stud like Brock. Show gasping through his promo and Brock’s stilted delivery of an S-Bomb in his response didn’t help matters. The women having to wrestle in a kiddy pool filled with Ovaltine was not a high point either.
Calum McDougall: The Big Show promo was unnecessarily long, he made the point, then made it another 2 or 3 times before Brock finally appeared. Also, Eddie Guerrero’s very noticeable bacne is a sad lowlight in retrospect.
Dave Hall: The only real lowlights for me were the segments involving Stephanie. The first segment seemed just an excuse to show off Stephanie’s breasts, while the kissing segment with Eric Bischoff, while humorous, was not necessary. With the amazing in-ring action, it made Stephanie’s part in the show seem really self-indulgent.
Wild Card BABY!!!
I Can’t Believe This Got Over: It’s not rap. It’s bad slam poetry. It became worse slam poetry. – AG
Al Wilson Tidbit #1: Paul Heyman created the Al Wilson storyline and according to Torrie Wilson, Heyman gave her the option to use an actor in the role or her actual father and Torrie went with her dad because she rarely saw him and thought it would be fun as he used to act when he was younger. – BB
The Award for Most Misplaced Optimism: “Exciting times ahead in WWE after the signing of Scott Steiner.” I don’t think this one needs much explanation, let’s just let it sink in. – CM
Best Babyface in Peril: Person in the bear costume. – JW
Number of Sexual Assaults: 3! Mae Young accosts Tajiri. Eric Bischoff forces himself on Stephanie. (who is into it???) The letch in the Kane mask filming Dawn Marie. Someone should show Randy Savage footage of this guy to clearly demonstrate lust in the eyes. There is no way his hard on didn’t pierce someone’s back in front of him.
Al Wilson Tidbit #2: According to Dawn Marie, the toughest thing for her to do was kiss Al Wilson. However, Vince McMahon loved watching them kiss and even said he wanted to see “tongue.” – BB
Memories Are Forever: Looking at Brock and Kurt in amazing ring shape, and much smaller than recent years, Matt Hardy’s early character development, John Cena’s freestyle rapping and Edge using more counter wrestling really brought back some amazing memories of what these guys could do at the time. Watching this show made me think of the little things that seem to be missing today. – DH
Best Tidbit: According to Wade Keller of “Pro Wrestling Torch,” Brock Lesnar was originally going to defend the title against Hulk Hogan at Survivor Series 2002 but Hogan backed out, reportedly due to refusing to put Lesnar over. After contemplating between Chris Benoit and Big Show as replacements, Vince McMahon ultimately decided to go with Show despite Heyman pushing for a Benoit/Lesnar program. – BB
Best at Fooling Security Staff: The master of disguise Eric Bischoff strikes again. Twice now in 2002 Easy E has managed to get past SmackDown security just by wearing a mask. Extra points awarded for a good Vince impression, but points deducted for this not being as good as Billy and Chuck’s wedding. – CM
Al Wilson Tidbit #3: Dawn Marie also said that the Al Wilson angle was supposed to go on even longer with lawyers and Torrie’s brother added to the storyline but that all got nixed. – BB
Least Likely to Still be Full Time in 2018: Out of everyone on this show, who would have thought that it would be Rey Mysterio, the man of 619 knee operations, who would be the only one still wrestling full-time for WWE in 2018? – CM
I Really Tried…: I found it so hard watching Chris Benoit on this show. I really wanted to just overlook and hate him, but his match against Edge was amazing, and his brawl with Kurt was also great. As much as I wanted to, I just could not hate Benoit in this show, and I find myself really conflicted because of this. – DH
Aaron George: This was a fun, easy watch littered with great television matches and memorable moments. It’s easy to think of Smackdown as the “B” show, but it was clearly running on all cylinders here. Now someone please give me 75 minutes of Brock Lesnar manhandling Rey Mysterio! RATING: 7/10
Brian Bayless: The Halloween party theme worked really well and usually the WWE Holiday themed shows tend to be weak. It is also memorable for the creation of Cena’s rap character. We had a really good match and an intense brawl between Angle and Benoit. The Big Show segments were terrible but overall a fun show that breezed along. RATING: 7/10
Jacob Williams: This was a finely constructed piece of wrestling television. The Halloween stuff was enough to give the show a unique feel without smothering it. Just about everyone on the show looked to be pretty over and had something at least semi-meaningful to do. Plus, there were good matches to round everything out. Aside from the questionable Big Show spot, Smackdown looked to be in a pretty great groove at this point, so this show was a breezy watch. RATING: 7/10
Calum McDougall: It’s easy to see why SmackDown in ’02 was highly thought of at the time and is fondly remembered to this day, this stuff holds up so well. I had a smile on my face from start to finish, as this took me right back to when I would watch this on a Saturday morning. It was a fantastic trip down memory lane. It would be difficult to put on a bad show with this roster, and the quality of matches that they can and did put on was outrageous. I loved this, excellent stuff. RATING: 9/10
Dave Hall: This episode of Smackdown was awesome. 4 great matches, some good brawling out of the ring, John Cena giving us some freestyle and some good booking made this card one I would watch again. The only thing stopping it from being a 10 out of 10 was the Dawn Marie vs Torrie Wilson fiasco, and Stephanie’s self-indulgence. I may just need to watch some more Smackdown from this era… RATING: 9/10
And we are out! Where will the Network Adventure travel to? Which Coliseum will be conquered next? Which of these assholes will quit the project in an indignant rage??? Find out in TWO WEEKS!