Before each Vintage Vault edition of the Place to Be Podcast, Chad Campbell will select one match from the show and give an analytical breakdown of the action.
The Rock vs. Rikishi – Survivor Series 2000
Fall 2000 is one of those blackholes I have in wrestling throughout the 20 years I have been a fan. I moved from Alabama to Georgia in January 2000 and was successfully able to convert a few friends to the wacky world of wrestling in the first part of the year. Fast forward to the fall and the disappointing payoff to HHH/Angle/Steph storyline made most of my casual friends give up watching. The other big discovery that occurred with my move was me finding the world of tape trading on the internet. It was right around this time that I first dipped into serious tape trading of older U.S. stuff as well as Japan. This put all of the modern day WWF product on the backburner until I attended Armageddon 2000 live in Birmingham.
Having laid that framework down, the Rikishi heel turn and reveal of himself as the driver running over Steve Austin is met with more of a “Huh, that is odd” than straight visceral hatred that some seem to reflect on the heel turn with. I wanted to revisit the match he has vs. the Rock from this show because it seems like their most high profile match they ever had together and it also should be interesting to see how over Rikishi was coming off being marginalized due to HHH being the mastermind of the plan. Would the hatred carry over to the match since The Rock was the person Rikishi did it all for?
Rikishi comes down the aisle with some cool music and a pretty swank looking robe. His heat is not very good on the entrance and already JR and Lawler are talking more about HHH masterminding the whole plan instead of the match occurring right this instant. It is easy to tell that Rikishi has been marginalized to an extent. He takes off the robe revealing the same thong get-up he wore as a face and I have to side with Justin Rozzero in that a new in-ring outfit would have benefited him greatly as he looked more like a comedic mid carder with his current gear. Rock gets a huge pop and the fight is on.
Rock starts the match off with a house of fire and the crowd is really into it. He gets a backdrop on Rikishi and goes to grab a chair. Fired up, pissed off Rock is my favorite iteration over the smart ass, catch phrase version. The referee (I know it’s Tim White but WWF doesn’t acknowledge him so why should I) grabs the chair allowing Rikishi to superkick Rock and gain the advantage. Rikishi focuses on the chest with some punches which looks unique but makes it sort of tough to focus on for a prolonged period of time. Rock gets a quick flurry but Rikishi quickly hits a sidewalk slam to stunt that.
Rock recovers sending Rikishi to the outside after he charged in. He follows that up by sending Rikishi into the steps and he is doing a good job of still selling his chest. On cue, Rikishi comes back sending Rock into the timekeeper’s table and the guardrail. Referee gets socked. Rikishi looks under the ring and finds a sledgehammer. I know this is one of those wrestling things, but why would that be under the ring? Rock avoiding the sledgehammer shot didn’t do Rikishi any favors as he is so slow that Rock ends up punching him in the mouth before Rikishi gets his shot in. Rock then hits a Rock Bottom and we are headed toward the finish.
Slow cover for The Rock with the recovered ref gets a two. These are some of the best Rock punches I have ever seen but it is stunted with a Rikishi headbutt into Rock’s chest in my favorite spot of the match. Rock again fires back and this time Rikishi thwarts him off with a Samoan drop. This is good strategy in making Rikishi look resourceful. Rikishi sits on him in what should have been the finish but The Rock kicks out. Crowd is now firmly behind The Rock to get up. I stand corrected on how Rikishi has been able to keep this match focused on the chest. Rikishi gets more offense to the corner and gives him the stinkface. I hate that move for a heel and it doesn’t fit in at all in the context of this match or Rikishi’s strategy. Sure enough, The Rock is able to fire off a clothesline due to having 30 seconds to recover. Rock ducks the superkick and hits a weak People’s Elbow for the win. Anyone blaming HHH for his pin of Booker T in the WrestleMania 19 match needs to take a long look in how long it takes The Rock to cover Rikishi here (around 25 seconds). I understand that he was again selling Rikishi’s damage but it did make Rikishi look weak overall in being down for the count with just that. Rikishi gives him a huge beatdown afterward to retain his heat.
This is an interesting match that I think works better in a vacuum than looking at the overall theme. The crowd was hot, Rock did a good job selling, the work was pretty snug, and Rikishi had a focused game plan looking resourceful. The ending didn’t make much sense to me and was too definitive for The Rock given the match layout. The post-match beatdown just reaffirmed that and the bold choice here would have been for Rikishi to win outright. The ending of this match just seemed to reaffirm that no matter what; Rikishi was not one of the top guys in the promotion.
Chad’s Rating: ***