The Dudley Boyz (WWF Tag Team Champions) vs. The Hardy Boyz (WCW Tag Team Champions) – Steel Cage Unification Match
I had a tough time deciding what to review for this show. One was limited resources (well, not a problem anymore!). The other was the fact that this show either consists of short matches (European Title, Tajiri vs. Regal), long matches (main event) or individuals I have reviewed a lot lately (Edge). I settled on this match as a result of it feeling like the final chapter in a storied tag team rivalry. The Dudley Boyz were the current WWF tag team champs and still had Stacy Keibler accompanying them to ringside. The Hardy Boyz had gained the WCW tag team straps making this a true unification match. One of the biggest issues I had with the Alliance storyline overall was how quickly and interchangeable the belts of the different promotions changed hands. There was not enough substance made to the fact that Alliance members had the WWF belts and WWF members had the WCW belts here. The steel cage stipulation is also interesting since the ladder match was played out by this point and something different was required to blow off this feud.
Matt and Bubba start off the match with a quick pace. Matt is showing good aggression and firing away with some good punches. Jeff is tagged in and he started out the match wearing his hat. Why? Bubba gains the advantage to my enjoyment because I still can’t get over the hat. D-Von gains the first real advantage of the match with a Dudley Drop and back elbow. The cage has not been utilized thus far in the contest or even really teased making it tough for it garner a huge reaction when it does come into play later on. Bubba clobbers away on Matt and is using his size advantage well to show how punishing his strikes are.
Jeff Hardy is able to get the hot tag and this match blows straight through some traditional tag structure considering I can see the timer on the YouTube video. The crowd also is not what I would call electric. They like the Hardys and boo the Dudleys but it is not a huge reaction either way which is odd considering the match takes place in North Carolina. The cage is used for the first time when the Dudleys scale up to escape I presume. Matt hits D-Von with a side Russian legsweep from the top. Bubba evens things up with a Bubba Bomb to Jeff. Bubba scales the cage but he gets thrown off the top rope by Matt. The Dudleys double team Matt sending him right into the cage in the most vicious spot of the match so far. Bubba tries the same thing for Jeff but he hangs on and climbs furiously up the cage. The Dudleys then give a Doomsday Device with Heyman shouting “What a rush.” All sense of a tag structure is out the window now which kind of infuriates me because they were committing to that in the early going. Either make it all four guys in the ring at the start or have the referee show some sort of authority. Nasty spot happens here where Matt is between the cage and ropes and Bubba squishes him like a bug.
The Dudleys climb to the top rope and both miss a move allowing Matt to get a double clothesline from the top to give the Hardys some life. Again the pop is slight because of the structure of the match not playing to this being a monumental moment within the tone of this match. The Hardys give Bubba a double back body drop. The Hardys then are able to hit a combination legdrop/splash from the top rope which D-Von has to break up. The Hardys are trying to escape the cage (another pet peeve I have with WWF cage matches). D-Von smartly hooks Matt to the top of the cage and hits the Wassup drop. Stacy is told to get the tables and we head to the finish.
Stacy bribes some time with Nick Patrick and she is able to steal the key and open the door allowing the table to come flying in. Matt sends Bubba to the canvas with him taking a big back bump to the canvas. Matt is able to escape leaving his brother alone vs. both Dudleys. Heyman brings up the selfishness of that act. Jeff is up on the top and the crowd pops because they know what is coming next. Jeff goes for a Swanton bomb from the top of the cage but he misses and the Dudleys pin his prone body to unify the titles to Heyman’s delight.
As per usual, I scaled the internet recappers after rewatching this match to see where this would slot in. I was a little alarmed to see a general consensus of this match around the *** region and can only chalk that up to the bumps that were taking in the match. I absolutely hated this match on a lot of levels and think it failed to make sense. They were determined to make the Matt/Jeff dissension angle happen and logic went out the window. Matt leaving is without a doubt a dumbass decision and one Jeff shouldn’t have tolerated for a second. If Matt wanted to be more subtle in moving away from his brother or be more clever as a heel tactic, this was the wrong choice as well as it put a big bulls-eye on his back. The Dudleys are seen as consistently smarter throughout the match and unwilling to take as many chances as the faces. The escape or pin stipulation also annoyed me because of the way the finish played out, a pinfall attempt by the Hardys would have made a lot more conventional sense. The bumps feel flat for me as well. We had seen a bunch of crazy shit in the two years up to this match and I think a storyline fueled, bloody blow-off cage match would have been a refreshing change of pace and much better in hindsight. Instead we get spots that have no impact with me and a storyline within the match that I can’t make any sort of sense with within the confines of the cage stipulation. Kill me but I’m ranking this lower than BOD vs. Kronik from Unforgiven because that match at least made sense structurally.
Final Grade: *1/2