Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: Judgment Day 2001

Kane vs. HHH  ( C ) – Intercontinental Title Chain Match

I really struggled with which match to select for this show.  Nothing screamed out to me as either uncharted territory in my chronicles so far with these pre-viewings or an absolute classic match that I felt needed to be reevaluated.  I landed on this match for a few reasons.  One, this is HHH’s last PPV match of 2001 as he would tear his quad the next night on Raw.  HHH up to this point has had a real solid year on PPV with an all-time classic vs. Austin at No Way Out and a variety of matches that most wouldn’t classify as great but also not horrible either.  Second, it feels weird to see these two individuals compete in an IC Title match this late in their career.  HHH as the champion overall is in fact bizarre.  The Two Man Power Trip hoisting all of the main titles in the air to close out Backlash was a cool visual, but instead of a main event level star having the IC Title elevating it, it actually seemed to devalue and make the title look even more inconsequential.  HHH would only go on to win one more IC championship after this and that was effectively killing the title dead when he merged it with the World Title against Kane the next year.

The backstory for this match coming in was fairly simple.  Feuding back and forth throughout the last month or so, Kane ended up having his arm “broken” at the hands of HHH when he used a chain.  The chain stipulation in this match is used like a traditional strap match in wrestling history with it being attached to both competitors.  HHH gets off to a quick start and has an early attack on the arm before they can be connected with the chain.  This was a good opening gambit cutting a quick pace for the overall match and making HHH look ferocious on his attack.  I have never been too keen on the cerebral assassin tagline attached to HHH as sometimes it can make his matches grind to a halt and I convey his offense as more lackadaisical than cerebral.  It was excellent and heated in this early going as he mixed in a variety of chain shots, post shots and slamming the forearm to the canvas. Kane goes to regroup on the outside and HHH hits two big chairshots.  One of the shots is delivered to Kane’s back and the other is to his injured arm.  The chain is finally connected to the competitors and this gives Kane a quick comeback and he fires back with some good stiff shots.

HHH nips this in the bud with a kick to the injured arm and some more varied offense using the ring ropes to his advantage.  He goes to the outside and uses the chain for leverage to inject more damage onto Kane’s injured limb.  He doesn’t simply walk back into the ring but instead does a double axe handle from the top rope with the chain for a two count.  Kane gets slammed into the steps and is taking quite a beating here.  HHH uses the chain to his advantage, slinging it up against the injured arm that is lying prone on the steps.  Stephanie has a great sadistic look on her face at ringside.

HHH grabs a chair and throws Kane into the ring.  Kane gets his biggest offense move of the match at this point when he jerks the chain with HHH still on the outside and he goes crashing into the post and chair in a good-looking spot.  HHH hits a gusher and Kane is great at throwing him into the steps and with a clothesline on the outside.  It is refreshing to see Kane show this much aggression and the crowd reacts accordingly given him a great reaction during this sequence. Kane focuses his attack on the cut and wraps the chain around it in a gritty visual.  Kane then hangs HHH on the outside with the chain. I will commend Kane for not using his injured arm throughout this attack as when he wraps the chain around HHH, he always does it with his healthy arm.

Kane goes to the top for his clothesline but HHH jerks him off from the top.  We are now headed to the finishing sequence as both men have dished out a lot of punishment and made this match feel like a battle in just over 10 minutes.  Stephanie is extremely concerned on the outside. The back and forth spots on the outside here are my least favorite sequence of the match up to this point. The spots look good and are vicious culminating in Kane powerslamming HHH onto the floor, but there is too much back and forth action between the two and both seem to forget the strategy that gave each of them an advantage throughout the match.

Back in the ring, Kane blocks a pedigree attempt and hits HHH right in the nuts.  Kane, for his part, goes back to the head attack and in a good callback from earlier, he is able to hit the clothesline from the top with the chain wrapped around his hand.  Kane hits a chokeslam and the end looks to be near.  Stone Cold interferes on HHH’s behalf but Kane dispatches of him to the outside.  This does allow HHH enough time to get a low blow on Kane.  Austin grabs a chair and aims for Kane but instead pastes HHH.  Another punch sends Austin to the outside again.  Kane then pins HHH to a massive pop and is the new IC Champion.

I really enjoyed this match and think it is by far HHH’s second best PPV outing of 2001.  In my WM 17 review, I explained the qualms I had with that match and thought the crowd brawling and illogical spots involving the ref bump, made the match suffer overall.  Everything was streamlined here and we had a complete, coherent story told within the 12 minutes of the match.  The only spots of the match that didn’t play into the HHH’s wounded head vs. Kane’s injured arm narrative were the sequence on the outside that I mentioned previously.  It is refreshing to see Kane work a match this motivated and be rewarded with a huge pop at his victory.  I welcome people to rewatch this one again closely as it is a match that I wasn’t looking forward to going in but thought it was terrific overall.

Final Rating: ***3/4