Vintage Vault Reposts are Pay-Per-View recaps with Justin and Scott’s commentary, including star ratings. Please note, these were written in the past and may have dated references. With John Cena and Randy Orton set to square off at TLC to unify the WWE and World Title, we take a look back at Vengeance 2001 and the first crowning of an undisputed champion.
Steve Austin defeats Kurt Angle to retain WWF World Title with a Stone Cold Stunner at 15:01
Fun Fact: The night after the Survivor Series, everything reset. The Invasion storyline was pretty much forgotten. By the end of the show Vince went back to being a hated vindictive heel, and Angle went from WWF hero to a smarmy selfish heel. With the Alliance vanquished, Vince and Kurt Angle came out the next night on Raw. Vince was holding the WWF Title belt, still owned technically by Steve Austin. Vince was to strip him of the title and hand it to Angle as a reward for turning on the Alliance the night before at Survivor Series and helping the WWF win the “Winner Take All” match. Well, Austin was still technically champion since Vince said all title holders would retain jobs regardless of what side it was. As Vince was about to hand the title to Angle, and as he was saying “As the sole owner of the World Wrestling Federation”, you suddenly hear the familiar start of Also Sprach Zarathustra. In case you’re not familiar with the title, it’s the theme of The Man! WHOO!! Ric Flair comes walking through the curtain and Charlotte goes insane. Vince and Kurt are dumbfounded, but Flair clarifies. If you remember, Shane and Stephanie sold their stock in the WWF to a “consortium” so they could buy WCW and ECW respectively and attempt to put the WWF out of business. Well, the consortium was the Nature Boy, and now he and Vince each own half of the WWF. Later that week on Smackdown, Flair wanted to combine the WWF Title and the World Title (former WCW Title) into an Undisputed Title by having Stone Cold and Rock face each other at Vengeance. Vince comes out and poo poos that idea. Instead he says there should be a mini-tournament, with Austin taking on Angle, Rock taking on Jericho, and the winners would meet afterwards for the Undisputed Title and thus the stage was set. We also got a fantastic montage to open this show. The montage featured clips of WWF and WCW champions of the past to help build the importance of the title merger.
Fun Fact II: Since Flair’s WWF departure in 1993, he returned to WCW and won back what was considered “his World Title” at Starrcade of that year against Vader. Flair would be a capable champion as always, until the arrival of Hulk Hogan. Then everything changed. The NWO was born and Flair would be a misused pawn in the Hogan/Bischoff/Nash game of wrestling. By the time WCW folded and Flair lost to Sting on the final Nitro, Flair was a self-proclaimed shell of his former self who was out of shape and had no self-confidence. He passed on the Invasion to keep earning Uncle Ted’s guaranteed money and this return was much better for him and for the WWF.
Scott: This has been one of the most unusual feuds in recent memory. Both these men have put on outstanding matches from July till now. First off, the level of brutality and punishment is high, but the most important factor is the bouncing of sides in this feud. Let’s recap: at Invasion, both guys were babyfaces and Austin turned heel. If you remember Angle got a crazy response from the Cleveland crowd. Then, at Summerslam, Angle is a way over face and Austin a hated heel and that was ditto at Unforgiven when Angle won the title in his hometown. At No Mercy Austin was still the heel, but RVD took some of the juice from Angle’s heat and Kurt’s started to fade. By Survivor Series Austin was still a heel, but respected for his loyalty, and Angle was on the heel side as well, but then hit Austin with the belt to help WWF win, yet still comes off as a selfish jerk. By the end of the Raw the next night Angle looks exactly as he did at the beginning of the year. The match is good, but a little tiring although many feel it’s the best match of their series. I like the Summerslam match and the Unforgiven rematch was good, although not as violent. You were figuring with the win here that Austin and Rock would meet in the final anyway, but obviously if they wanted that they would have taken Flair’s match and not done the whole Vince switcheroo. Austin wins and moves on to the finals of the mini-tournament. Angle started the year as WWF Champ, he ends the year in storyline limbo. Grade: **1/2
Justin: After a six month war filled with hysterical comedy and violent battles, we get the final blow off to the epic Austin/Angle war. The crowd was fully behind Austin here as they were happy to be able to cheer him on once again. Angle is back to being the arrogant jerk and all is right with the world. Angle’s heel turn was well worked as he claimed that nobody thanked him for saving the WWF and he felt no love other than from Vince. In a swank little double turn, Vince and Angle were now heels while Austin was repositioned as a face. The two men counter wrestled early on, trading off offensive series and battering each other. Kurt starts to generate some great heat as he brutalizes Austin’s leg and ankle and the match really got cooking when Kurt got on offense. Austin would rally and sneak in a Stunner to pick up the win and advance to the finals. The pop for Austin’s win was huge and capped off another fun, yet abridged, match between these two. Grade: ***1/2
Chris Jericho defeats the Rock to win the World Title with a Rock Bottom at 19:05
Scott: This was the biggest shocker of the night and the glass ceiling was another moment closer to being shattered. When Jericho won the World Title at No Mercy, it was the first time that the future seemed to be overtaking the past. Vince realized that the Attitude Era was maybe running its course. Maybe not in the sleaze/storyline department, but in who will be executing the strategy? Austin burned up any time his neck had left having one of the best overall years of his career. The Rock may be on borrowed time also but for different reasons. He’s ready to hit Hollywood, and so Vince needs to look at the future, even at the risk of being safe. Guys like Jericho needed to be groomed as the future of the company, regardless of who likes or hates him. Fortunately with the purge of WCW and ECW and the influx of talent the bookers have a fresh group of talent. Booker T is clearly one that will stick around, as you see in the final match, as will RVD and a few others. The match is great, as were their two previous matches at No Mercy and on Raw a few weeks later. This was the best two-year stretch of Rock’s career, as he was the best at putting guys over to look like superstars. Not that Jericho needs prodding, he was always meant for stardom. Of course he just needed the opportunity, and he certainly wasn’t going to get it in WCW with those cronies. Even in the WWF he’s had his detractors. Now, Vince is handing the ball off to him and he’s going to carry it. The first step was winning the title at a secondary show in October; this is the much bigger step, as he’s winning a bout that puts him one match away from the biggest prize in the industry. Grade: ****
Justin: The hottest feud of the final quarter of 2001 rages on here and the stakes are even higher this time around. Rock seemed to be on a crash course with Steve Austin and many figured they would meet here to finally unify the belts. However, Chris Jericho had other plans and was looking to finally bust the glass ceiling and win the big one. Jericho would control early and gain some solid heat. The first portion of the match was a bit of a slower pace than normal for these two and the crowd was a bit up and down due to it. Rock worked in his picture-perfect comebacks, as always, which helped the crowd stay with them through the slow moments. After a couple of back and forth battles, Vince would make his presence felt and cost the Rock the match, handing Jericho the upset win. The match was solid overall, although not up to their usual standard. The finish totally carried things as it was red-hot and the crowd was rocking. Grade: ***1/2
Chris Jericho defeats Steve Austin to win WWF World Title and unify the Championships after a Booker T belt shot at 12:37
Scott: Wow. I guess if you really look at it this isn’t a surprise. Why have Jericho waste time defeating Rock if he’s just going to lose to Austin anyway. The logic would be that Stone Cold, the poster boy of the WWF resurgence, would be the Undisputed Champion. However in reality Austin was running out of time and since it’s the dawning of a new year that means the WrestleMania XVIII plans need to start shaping up. That means a heel needs to be at the top of the ladder. Jericho has really earned this chance. He spent the first half of the year being stuck in an insipid feud with William Regal and then was lost in the shuffle at the start of the Invasion, being relegated to the lower mid-card making boob jokes to Stephanie McMahon. Then as we head to the fall he’s put in a feud with the Rock and wins the WCW Title for the first time. With the victory, and the subsequent Vince McMahon celebrating afterwards, Jericho is officially heel and is Mr. McMahon’s favorite. Fortunately McMahon splits from Jericho so he can run on his own, but as we see over the next few months he really isn’t on his own. As for Austin, this may be the sign that perhaps Vince was going to adjust his role into an upper mid-carder who will help the younger talent get over. Austin’s 2002 will be marred with controversy. The match isn’t bad, but the two big things to note are not only Jericho’s win, but the interference of Booker T, who cracks Austin with the title belt that led to Jericho’s win. That’s a sign that the higher-ups think highly of the Booker-man, even though his PPV record to this point is 1-4. In any event, the unlikeliest of the quartet going into this show is the Undisputed Champion, and that’s ok with me. Grade: **1/2
Justin: After upsetting one mega star in the previous match, Jericho advances to battle the top dog in the WWF for both World titles. Before the match can start, Kurt Angle makes his presence known again and jumps Austin. The match was your standard main event style brawl and it totally woke the crowd back up and roped them into the drama. In a weird twist, it seems that Austin has surpassed Rock to once again become the most popular star on the block. A part of that could be that the fans were still happy to be cheering Austin again after having to hate him for most of the year. After a lot of back and forth and a fun battle, Vince would run Nick Patrick out to try to screw Austin. Ric Flair would have no part of that, though, and he quickly hustles down and takes Patrick out. That would lead to a Vince/Flair brawl and some eventual interference by Booker, which would lead to a brief feud with Austin. Thanks to the interference, Jericho picks up the major win and is now the man to beat in the WWF. He could have used a clean win here, but to be honest, nobody won clean during this time period, so it isn’t that bad of a transgression. Regardless, this was a huge win for Y2J and the sign that Vince and company were set to get behind him in a major way. I actually really liked this match, especially the heat, over booking and pacing, so I am going to go quite a bit higher than Scott here. Grade: ****