Trish Stratus vs. Stephanie McMahon No Way Out 2001
I am a sucker for unconventional matches being successful. Truth be told, Paul E Dangerously vs. Jim Cornette from Great American Bash 1989 has as good a chance of hitting my DVD player as Savage vs. Steamboat from WrestleMania 3. The match reviewed today has quite a reputation as being a much better match than expected coming in. Coming off the doldrums of the 1999 women’s division and one month following the Chyna vs. Ivory debacle at Royal Rumble 2001, women’s wrestling in the WWE was still seen as basic filler and mostly an opportunity for eye candy for the audience. Trish now is seen as one of the best women wrestlers in WWE history but she certainly didn’t have that reputation in early 2001. Stephanie will never be confused for Aja Kong in the squared circle. I was anxious to see whether this was a good match period or a “good for the competitors” match.
The two main components that make this match work is the intensity and hatred between the competitors and the overall match structure. The match lasts around 8 and a half minutes which was the perfect amount of time for the ladies to tell a cohesive story but not have to recycle old spots or look foolish and out-of-place. The match also has a smartly worked structure with Stephanie as the defacto face. Face vs. face and heel vs. heel matches are typical the toughest matches to perform and they avoided any such awkwardness or dead crowd heat by Stephanie being the face in this match. She gets a quick shine sequence, and then gets worked over by Trish for 2-3 minutes. The ending stretch was played out well with Steph getting her comeback leading to the spot where she sends Trish to the outside and slams her head on the announce table. We then get a double KO spot inside the ring leading to the finish involving William Regal. Even though the finish was not clean, it left the door open for more story to be told while this still felt satisfying as a standalone close to a chapter in this feud.
The other big asset in this match is the hatred and intensity the women were able to convey towards one another. Trish and Steph were fairly stiff with their strikes and also delivered some powerful high impact moves like a bulldog, DDT, and powerbomb. These were fairly uncharacteristic for female matches of the era. After seeing Chyna’s awful bump and subsequent acting job at the Rumble both Steph and Trish should be commended for their facial expressions and pace throughout the match. The payback spots for Steph including the water throwing and spanking were done within the confines of the match and storyline and didn’t feel like a quick glam shot for some T&A themes. Trish really stepped out of her shell with this role overall and it plateaued her to be the cornerstone of the Diva’s division for years to come.
The aftermath of this match didn’t exactly result in much more prominence for the women’s division but this did show the WWF brass that two women engaged in a feud could be trusted to go out there and have a confident match. They would use this template for special occasions like Lita main eventing Raw and even the Mickie/Trish feud of 2006. Is this a great match in a vacuum? NO. It is however a key component that adds to the reputation of one of the greatest WWF PPV’s of all time. That is an accomplishment in of itself.