Rhyno vs. Edge – King of the Ring Semi-Finals
King of the Ring 2001 is a weird PPV in a sense that it had some highly rated matches, infused Chris Benoit into a PPV main event for only the third time in his WWF tenure and showed an increased push for another singles star in Edge. With all of this going on, it is odd how inconsequential the whole show feels and even though some of the big developments that will shape the company in upcoming months have already occurred, this show feels like a bridge to the big invasion that is looming. I decided to pick this KOtR semi-final match to match the feel of the overall show. This feels like a relatively important match with two guys who were fairly even position wise in the company coming in. Hell, these two guys were also buddies. Rhyno was praised fairly heavily by me for his work in the hardcore title match he had with Raven at Backlash. Unfortunately, after regaining the hardcore belt a few weeks early and being poised for another lengthy reign, Rhyno was defeated by Test on June 12 for the strap. Spoiler alert is that he regains the belt the night after this show, but that was only used to advance the appearance of a debuting WWF superstar. Edge has also had a weird plight between winning TLC 2 at WrestleMania 17 and here. Edge had started to branch out doing more singles work and also getting more applause from fans along the way. I liken it to the 1989 singles run Bret Hart went on to test out the waters. This was the first big singles tournament he was entered in and this match in particular felt up for grabs between the two opponents.
The friendliness goes out the window right away as Rhyno spits in Edge’s face and they throw down at the onset. This results in Edge hitting a leg lariat to gain the early advantage. I really liked that opening to show that the King of the Ring moniker is more important right now than any friendship the two have. After a minute of back and forth action, Edge hits the first substantial move of the match with a dropkick to Rhyno sending him from the apron to the floor. Edge goes outside to inflict more damage but Rhyno is able to reverse Edge’s plan and send him into the guardrail. Edge then crotches Rhyno on the guardrail and this match feels pretty disjointed so far. They wander down the aisle and again Edge gets sent into the rail. OK, can one guy gain an advantage here?
Rhyno does put together the first glimpses of a control segment when he retreats back into the ring and tears off the middle turnbuckle pad. He sends Edge into the middle turnbuckle making the focus of his attack Edge’s midsection and rib area. A spear into the corner keeps up the attack. Heyman and Ross have done a very good job so far keeping their personalities aligned while interjecting the overall storyline of the match. Rhyno hooks in a body scissors and has taken over the control on this match as the crowd starts to rally for Edge. Edge fires back with some fairly weak looking strikes and Rhyno again cuts him off. Rhyno goes up to the top and hits a massive splash for a nearfall. I am really impressed with how Rhyno can mix up his spots and wrestling style depending on the match he is wrestling. The match at Backlash was all about nutty weapon spots and building to the shopping cart finale. This match has taken a more traditional route and so far I have again been a lot more impressed with Rhyno than his opponent. Edge starts his comeback with an inverted atomic drop and a neckbreaker but the crowd is really dead for this. We get a struggle battle on the top rope resulting in an Edge sunset flip from the top for a near fall. Rhyno hits a spinebuster and sets up for the gore but Edge has the same idea and both competitors hit head first on spear attempts in a well done spot. Rhyno gets the pinfall but Edge kicks out. Rhyno goes for another gore but gets slammed into the turnbuckle and Edge hits the impaler DDT to advance to the finals against Angle.
This match was decent, second on the card match fodder but it also didn’t capitalize on a few opportunities it had to be better. The opening was heated and Edge was gaining the advantage which was weird since Rhyno was known as the more hardcore brawler at this point. There was also way too much back and forth throughout the match and transitions would seemingly come out of nowhere. The last problem I have with the match was that Rhyno’s control work didn’t really pay off all that much besides the fact that Edge avoided the gore and that Rhyno’s over-zealousness cost him the match. Rhyno impressed me here as being able to control an eight minute match with decent moves. The Jersey crowd was not ready to cheer Edge on here yet as evidenced by his tepid reaction when he garners the victory. Overall, this is a decent if forgettable match much like most of this show.
Final Rating: **1/4