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2002 By The Quarter (January-March)


Liam O'Rourke
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So, for this week's podcast, we're starting a new mini-series tentatively dubbed "2002 By The Quarter", covering a year of drastic change in short bursts by looking at the five or six big stories of each three-month period. Kicking it off with January to March, we have a few questions that we'd love to get some feedback on:

1. What were your thoughts at the time on HHH's return as a babyface?

2. What were you thoughts on the nWo coming in  - what were your expectations, positive or negative?

3. How did you feel about WrestleMania 18?

4. What did you make of the brand extension when it was announced, and of the original Draft show in execution?

As always, the best feedback will be read on the show and you'll be credited accordingly...

EDIT - The show, featuring many of the below comments, is now available to listen to at the following link: https://squaredcirclegazette.podbean.com/mf/download/qi5fa6/SCG_Radio_133_-_2002_By_The_Quarter_Part_1.mp3

Edited by Liam O'Rourke
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2002 was probably the real beginning of me as a "smart" fan; I got back into wrestling in mid-2000, and, before the Invasion, I'd watched the odd bit of ECW, and tracked down some stuff from Japan off the back of reading Foley's first book, and I'd started following wrestling online, though only really through the WWF website and only occasionally looking at news sites, but I wasn't really looking too deep into what I was watching, or overthinking it all that much.

1. I'd quite liked Triple H on getting back into WWE around the time of the love triangle story with Kurt Angle and Stephanie, and later the feud with The Undertaker going into Wrestlemania. Because of the love triangle stuff being one of the better examples of WWE booking "shades of grey" (or at least it felt that way at the time), I never really thought of Triple H as a heel for much of 2000-2001, outside of the Two Man Power Trip and the Austin feud. But he always felt like a logically consistent character, rather than one shifting from clearly demarcated face/heel roles - unlike later years, when you were expected to see him as a corporate suit one week, a leather jacket wearing bad-ass the next, and a goofy joker hawking DX merch somewhere in-between.

Trips' return and Royal Rumble win I was pretty on-board with - but then, having only got back into wrestling in 2000, my frame of reference for the Royal Rumble was Austin's win in 2001, so it felt perfectly natural for the Royal Rumble to be won by a much hyped babyface returning from injury, that sort of felt like what the match was for.
I really didn't enjoy his programme with Chris Jericho and Stephanie, though - it felt like everything that had worked for the love triangle with Kurt Angle wasn't working here, and it all felt far too much like a gimmicky pro-wrestling angle, rather than a coherent story. Jericho working with Stephanie didn't make a lot of sense, and I wasn't keen on Jericho's heel persona at the time. That Stephanie was given so much air-time really started to grate on me, and that Triple H was having fairly dreadful matches with Chris Jericho and, later, Hulk Hogan, didn't help. Any goodwill Triple H had for returning as a babyface was gone by the Hogan match, for sure.

 

2. I was really hyped for the nWo coming in - I hadn't ever really watched WCW outside of random bits and bobs here and there, so knew them more by reputation than anything else, but I had been a big Razor Ramon fan as a kid, so having him back seemed like it would be awesome. Just having some proper stars coming in felt like a really big deal, and after the latter half of the Invasion really downplayed the WCW element in favour of just "The Alliance", the thought of the nWo coming into the WWF felt huge. It was a real "anything can happen now", brave new world, moment to think that the nWo could come into the WWF. I don't know if I even gave much thought to the potential matches or stories, just the idea of it felt massive. Especially with their motivation being that Vince was bringing them in to destroy the WWF, I thought that would tie into the initial idea of them in WCW being that they were still working for Vince, and they'd basically be his heavies but running roughshod over the entire promotion, and a real force to be reckoned with. That within a very short space of time they were nothing more than a generic heel stable, and never meant to feel like that much of a threat beyond the hokey ambulance angle that had way too low stakes (considering The Rock was back a week or two later) was incredibly disappointing.
 

3. It's hard to look back on how I felt about it at the time - it definitely felt, on some level, a step backwards and a bit of a letdown after Wrestlemania 17, which set one hell of a benchmark as the first Wrestlemania I watched since getting back into wrestling. I loved all the Hardcore Title shenanigans - that was pretty much my favourite division at the time. 
The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair, I absolutely loved - I was a big fan of 'Taker's heel work, and the whole angle building up to it was amazing. Even not really knowing who Arn Anderson was, his interference was an amazing moment, and just everything about that match was exactly what I wanted it to be.

Triple H vs. Jericho I already mentioned - just a massive letdown, and a damp squib of a match.

Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall, outside of Hall's sell of the Stunner, was another disappointment. It became pretty clear very early on in the nWo's run that Austin wasn't going to put them over, and had already been making Hall look like a joke well before this match. This is where it became really clear that the nWo just weren't a threat at all - their first PPV matches, and they're losing. I can't remember if Nash was already hurt at this point or not, but him being resigned to ringside duty felt like a waste of a big star, too. Even Austin in this match just felt like he was slumming it - the bloom was already off the rose for the nWo a month into their run, and Austin was starting to outlive his usefulness.

The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan...wow. The rest of the show could have been bobbins, and at least we still had that match, and I say that without ever having been a fan of either man. I hadn't seen anything like it. People question why Austin didn't want to work with Hogan at the time, but it's easy to forget that, before this match, no one really thought Hulk Hogan still had a place at a main event level. There had been years of him stinking it up in WCW, and beforehand I really don't think anyone thought he had a match like this in him, let alone the brilliant few months run he had following it. It really felt like it came out of nowhere.

4. Loved the idea of the brand extension because, again, like the nWo coming in, it was a bit of a "brave new world" feeling - everything was changing, and we had no idea how this would work, where it would lead, or what to expect. Especially as a relatively na√Įve "new" fan, anything new and different was exciting and promising.

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Outside WWE, ROH started in the February and I attended my first ever live wrestling show - FWA in Walthamstow in March after seeing Revival from the previous month on Bravo. Good times.

Will try and answer the questions later today.

Edited by gadge
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1 hour ago, BomberPat said:

2002 was probably the real beginning of me as a "smart" fan; I got back into wrestling in mid-2000, and, before the Invasion, I'd watched the odd bit of ECW, and tracked down some stuff from Japan off the back of reading Foley's first book, and I'd started following wrestling online, though only really through the WWF website and only occasionally looking at news sites, but I wasn't really looking too deep into what I was watching, or overthinking it all that much.

Wow, so many parallels with me there Pat. Although I got back into wrestling slightly earlier (late 99) but like you I watched a small amount of ECW on Bravo and the only Japan stuff I knew off was through Foley's book or relevant clips. After being blown away by RVD at InVasion (coupled with the fact that I was a fan of everyone else that had joined WWE from ECW), me and my friends started getting ECW tapes and watching anything and everything. After that, over the next 18 months I went from WWE fan to watching any kind of wrestling there was and the more indy, the better. That all started with ECW, then FWA, then ROH until I ended up knee deep in tape trader heaven. Anyway, I digress.

 

1) Loved his return as a babyface at the time, I remember thinking it was time we saw a big HHH babyface run, after the short-lived run around August/September 2000 where he was eventually booked as a bit of a blue-eye against Angle. Thought he looked tremendous and how could you not be in awe of the reaction he got when he returned on Raw? I didn't like the feud with Jericho though- thought pairing him with Stephanie was shit given their history and they made him out to be a right chump. I thought he was a fantastic babyface before he turned heel in 2001 but didn't rate his heel run at this point. Their WrestleMania match bored me to tears as well.

 

2) I had hugely positive expectations. Hulk surprisingly exceeded these, as I thought that despite his name value he was a washed-up dead has-been and I thought I'd hate his matches (especially as my tastes were 'workrate heavy' at this time). I was really looking forward to seeing Nash & Hall run havoc, specially Hall- whom I loved as Razor Ramon. Hall turned out to be a huge disappointment and liability, whereas Nash's legs had stopped functioning.

So overall the nWo didn't come close to fulfilling my expectations as a unit, however I thought Hogan was tremendous during the early part of his return. He faded a bit (putting him against Triple H and then Taker were bad ideas) but I remember enjoying his work with Angle, and then he did an awesome job putting Brock over. That bearhug is an iconic moment of Brock's first run in WWE.

 

3) Shit. Really hated it at the time. Mania 17 was insanely good, so it was always going to be hard to top that, but Mania 18 really disappointed me. I loved Rock/Hogan (at the time I remember thinking that Hogan's in-ring was FAR better than it was in the early 90s) and also enjoyed DDP VS Christian- a decent little quick bout. I thought everything else was either a mess or crap. Didn't like HHH/Jericho, Austin/Hall (apart from Hall's stunner sell), Angle/Kane (what a waste of Angle), Edge/Booker or the tag team clusterfuck. I thought RVD VS Regal was a mis-match between two guys I really liked. Quite liked the women's triple threat and I also enjoyed Taker VS Flair- I popped huge for the perfect spinebuster from Double A. Thought the hardcore shenanigans were nowhere as good as the efforts from Mania 16 & 17. Was pissed off that Mr Perfect wasn't on the card and thought him VS Angle would've improved what they had.

So yeah, really disliked the show although I probably wouldn't mind it as much today.

 

4) I was really excited about the brand extension. It seemed like a really clever and innovative concept at the time, and I liked the idea of travelling champions, appearing on both shows and creating feuds on each brand. Of course, that didn't last long and we then had the confusion as to who the top champ was in WWE for the next 10+ years. I can't remember much about it at the time, but I think too much was done on their website rather than really going for it on their TV shows. By this point, all I cared about was seeing where Brock Lesnar was going to end up and who he was going to kill on the show. Everything else in WWE became a secondary interest after his debut.

Edited by PunkStep
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23 minutes ago, PunkStep said:

Wow, so many parallels with me there Pat. Although I got back into wrestling slightly earlier (late 99) but like you I watched a small amount of ECW on Bravo and the only Japan stuff I knew off was through Foley's book or relevant clips. After being blown away by RVD at InVasion (coupled with the fact that I was a fan of everyone else that had joined WWE from ECW), me and my friends started getting ECW tapes and watching anything and everything. After that, over the next 18 months I went from WWE fan to watching any kind of wrestling there was and the more indy, the better. That all started with ECW, then FWA, then ROH until I ended up knee deep in tape trader heaven. Anyway, I digress.

Joining in on the digression - I was a fan as a kid, but tuned out around '97; combination of fast changing childhood tastes and the constant hectoring of my older brother's "don't you know it's all fake?" finally sinking in. Only a couple of kids at my school at the time were into it, so never really saw much of the "cool" side of it.

Moved to Jersey in 2000, and a load of kids at school there were into it. It was playing the demo of the first Smackdown game that got me, then picking up the full game, and gradually starting to watch bits on TV. The first full PPV I watched since getting back into it was Summerslam 2000, and I was hooked very early on, and I started eating up everything I could religiously. One of the Playstation magazines ran a feature on an ECW game, and I picked up Foley's book not long after, and the combination just made ECW sound amazing - started buying wrestling magazines around the same time, so started to recognise names, and I bought some mad "Biggest Stars In Wrestling History!" book, that listed The Dudley Boyz (and extended family) alongside the likes of Gorgeous George. So when Rob Van Dam, Rhino and Spike Dudley and so on all started showing up in the WWF, I was loving life.

 

Back on topic, completely agreed on your point 4 - the travelling champion schtick was awesome, I loved how The Undertaker could be in a main event level feud with Hulk Hogan on Smackdown, while still finding time to have mini-rivalries on RAW with the likes of Jeff Hardy, leading to that ladder match. It seemed the perfect balance, allowing the big names to help build up lesser stars, while also being involved with the other big lads. And the roster was so stacked they could get away with it.

It's probably because I was at a point where I would just take any wrestling given to me, but I really enjoyed those early days of the brand split - Smackdown got a lot of love for being the "workrate" brand, but RAW had this real "throwing shit at the wall" feel to it, with Bradshaw being pushed as a cowboy babyface, them trying to give him the rub of teaming with Austin against the nWo, and the few months where they were seemingly trying to get Bubba Ray Dudley over as a singles star, or making him a modern Dusty Rhodes type. And, of course, Lesnar was just killing it. That debut was extraordinary, and he just seemed so special.

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2 hours ago, Liam O'Rourke said:

1. What were your thoughts at the time on HHH's return as a babyface?

Going in, I was really excited as in my mind Hunter had spent 12 months prior to his injury establishing himself as one of the most reliable providers of exciting main events, and I was ready to be "Fuck yeah, Triple H!" and cheer for him. Unfortunately instead of keeping Austin heel in prep for his return or recognizing that Kurt was default top heel, they ran with Jericho for Mania, and the wheels fell off for Hunter. They did a good job reheating Hunter v Angle as a vehicle to do away with Steph as a barrier to Hunter getting cheers, I wish if they were insistent on Triple H taking the belt from a heel, they'd gone with Angle. Austin, Rock and Hunter on the same side of the fence was doomed to give a lop-sided main event scene so choices were limited, and I understand the logic behind Hunter coming back for revenge on the same guy that exacerbated the injury in that match, but they'd failed woefully to prepare Jericho for that spot (and that's a different rant). We ended up with a predictable title match where the champion looks out of place, a poor build, taking place after a match it couldn't follow, structured in a terribly boring way. Hunter as a babyface was FUCKED.

 

2 hours ago, Liam O'Rourke said:

2. What were you thoughts on the nWo coming in  - what were your expectations, positive or negative?

I was out the loop a little in terms of knowing what to believe from the newz sites at the time so when I read rumours that Hogan and The Outsiders were negotiating to come in, I was skeptical. Even when Vince started mentioning "the nWo" (without names) on Raw, I wasn't sure what to think. In truth, I didn't believe it until I popped the tape in for No Way Out and there the fuckers were. I was cautiously optimistic that "WWF vs nWo" could be a different direction to the McMahon oriented product we'd had for four years and a new direction for top babyfaces Austin, Rock and potentially Hunter to battle every week on TV, even if the matches were going to be crap. How little I knew.

 

2 hours ago, Liam O'Rourke said:

3. How did you feel about WrestleMania 18?

I was gobsmacked in the gulf in quality from Mania 17 despite having access to most of the same talent. Around Rumble time I still really excited about what we might get from the usual main crew and a handful of guys either new or recently moved up. What they delivered had me worried in advance and really disappointed after I watched it. Austin, Rock, Hunter, Taker and Angle are the stars of the day and I wanted to see big climactic matches between them on the biggest stage, but they were all lumbered with wrestlers either past it from a match quality point of view, beneath them on the totem pole, or Kane. Styles clash between RVD and Bill Regal aside, the undercard was uninspiring. Yes, I loved Rock v Hogan as a spectacle and I still do, and with hindsight since Rock was off shortly it was fine, but at the time I was baffled why Rock was drifting away from the title picture and with 2018 insights I recognize Mania 18 as the start of throwing everything at the card in terms of name value even if focus is off the guys you're going to need on TV every week. But as a show start to finish, its pretty ropey.

3 hours ago, Liam O'Rourke said:

4. What did you make of the brand extension when it was announced, and of the original Draft show in execution?

As always, the best feedback will be read on the show and you'll be credited accordingly...

2 hours ago, BomberPat said:

 

I didn't get to see the show at the time but I was excited about it in theory as I felt lots of guys were getting lost in the shuffle. I'd read that Raw was going to be the storyline show and SmackDown the wrestling show although the initial rosters didnt 100% spell that out for me. Tag teams getting split up, I was not a fan of, but I was excited to see what new heels they might elevate to the top with Hunter as floating champion as a face, Rock on SmackDown and Austin on Raw. Yeahhhhhhhh.

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2 hours ago, BomberPat said:

It was playing the demo of the first Smackdown game that got me, then picking up the full game, and gradually starting to watch bits on TV. The first full PPV I watched since getting back into it was Summerslam 2000, and I was hooked very early on, and I started eating up everything I could religiously.

Are you me? I'm exactly the same.

 

1. What were your thoughts at the time on HHH's return as a babyface?

I was excited that another of the top stars was coming back, and I liked the videos hyping up his recovery and return but I don't remember much about how I felt beyond that. He wasn't even the guy I was most looking forward to returning from long-term injury - I remember Benoit and Rhyno both having a year out because of broken necks at the same time.

This HHH run had the Cell match against Jericho that I loved at the time and still have a soft spot for, but that's my highlight.

 

2. What were you thoughts on the nWo coming in  - what were your expectations, positive or negative?

 I completely bought into it. I never watched WCW so never saw the rise and fall (and fall, and fall, and fall and fall and fall) of the nWo. What I had was what WWE told me about them and in 2002 they sold them as a THREAT, and I considered them such. It was three massive names - Hogan, Razor and Diesel - coming back to destroy all our favourites - it should have been great!

And it could have been, were it not for a string of circumstances, foreseen (Hogan goes baby, brand split leading to them having to feud with Bradshaw due to lack of Raw roster depth - plus the fact the ‚Äėpoison‚Äô could now only infect half the company) and unforeseen (Hall gets sacked, constant replacement members - I love X-Pac but once you lost the original combination of three it was done for).

I never gave a thought to how they should have come in during the Invasion. If anything, they were better off being the thing to come along afterwards. Imagine if the Invasion had been great - WWE fights off its greatest ever threat... only for these lads to turn up and suddenly the odds are even more stacked against our heroes. Ah well, at least we got the incredible ‚ÄėLonely Road of Faith‚Äô video and a mega WWE Magazine cover out of it.

 

3. How did you feel about WrestleMania 18?

A MASSIVE disappointment, and still my most disappointing Mania. This is because, like Pat, I'd found my way back into wrestling through the demo of the first SmackDown game and got hooked around Summerslam 2000, so the first WrestleMania I was really there for was X-Seven. That was my bar for what WrestleMania is supposed to be like. I can be forgiven for expecting X-8 to be just as good, right? Well, it bloody wasn't. Not in comparison. Even watching it back now it just feels dark and dingy compared to the gorgeous look of the year before.

I liked Undertaker vs. Flair but there was nothing else on the card that grabbed me like most of the previous WM did. Regal-RVD was no Regal-Jericho. Angle-Kane no Angle-Benoit. That four way tag shite, not exactly TLC II. Rock-Hogan just didn't thrill me in the buildup because I was never a Hulkamaniac. And the main event held no excitement for me.

However - they did do the most gorgeous promotional magazine for the show, which I still have. It ran through every WrestleMania up to that point, full match cards, rundowns, interviews, photos, and then the second half were photo pages of everybody on the roster at that time - and what a roster! If you ever forget how absolutely stacked WWE was back then, look at this magazine. It also held my first glimpses of Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar who were snuck in at the back with the road agents and referees.

 

4. What did you make of the brand extension when it was announced, and of the original Draft show in execution?

I was excited! I'd never seen or heard of anything like this before, and it created the last glimmers of anticipation among the few of us at school who still watched wrestling, speculating who might end up on RAW and who on SmackDown.

As Tazz would say, I'MASMACKDOWNGUY, because I didn't have Sky Sports and couldn't watch RAW, so I actually had a personal investment in the brand extension because I wanted all my favourite guys to be on the show I watched every week! RVD, Undertaker, Edge, Tajiri and so on please.

When the draft happened I kept a list of who was on each show and would update it as people moved between them - I think it got to the stage where the only original draft pick left on SmackDown was Funaki. And those first few weeks and months were exciting, and felt like a new show - on SmackDown at least. Can't speak for Raw, but even if I'd been able to watch both, RAW just didn't appeal. 2002-Austin, the first Bradshaw push, Dreamer eating sick ... no, ta.

Loved the travelling champion element. Shame that after making so much of an Undisputed Champion it lasted all of six months before they made another one.

Edited by HarmonicGenerator
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10 minutes ago, air_raid said:

 I was cautiously optimistic that "WWF vs nWo" could be a different direction to the McMahon oriented product we'd had for four years and a new direction for top babyfaces Austin, Rock and potentially Hunter to battle every week on TV, even if the matches were going to be crap. How little I knew.

The absolute maddest thing about the nWo's WWF run is how quickly they burned through it all. They must have known they were on borrowed time - that one or all three of them were going to fuck things up significantly somewhere down the line.

The nWo's first match in the WWF was Hogan, Hall & Nash vs. Steve Austin & The Rock, and it was on RAW about a week before Wrestlemania! That is an on-paper main event of any pay-per-view, any show, anywhere in the world, any time between 1998 and the mid-00s, and they pissed it away on RAW.

RAW after 'Mania? The Rock & Hulk Hogan vs. Kevin Nash & Scott Hall. That could have been, and should have been, the main event of Backlash, rather than hot-shotting the title on to Hogan. Instead, it was a six minute match on RAW with no build and a count-out finish. The week after? Hogan and Rock vs. Hall, Nash and X-Pac, and it goes five minutes. Same lads again, with Kane thrown in for good measure, goes seven minutes on Smackdown.

They had Nash, Hall, Hogan, Austin, Rock and Hogan all in the mix in the same matches, and they were just throwing them out on TV week after week. Sheer madness - surely the sign of Vince thinking he'd won all the marbles, and didn't need to try any more.

1 minute ago, HarmonicGenerator said:

However - they did do the most gorgeous promotional magazine for the show, which I still have. It ran through every WrestleMania up to that point, full match cards, rundowns, interviews, photos, and then the second half were photo pages of everybody on the roster at that time - and what a roster! If you ever forget how absolutely stacked WWE was back then, look at this magazine. It also held my first glimpses of Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar who were snuck in at the back with the road agents and referees.

I had that magazine! It was an absolute belter. Think I probably had the Mania X-7 one too. Was very keyin my obsessive teenage, "I have to know everything about everybody in this company!" phase to see Jack Lanza and Tony Garea given as much space as half the midcard talent, and I'm not even joking.

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3 hours ago, BomberPat said:

Joining in on the digression - I was a fan as a kid, but tuned out around '97; combination of fast changing childhood tastes and the constant hectoring of my older brother's "don't you know it's all fake?" finally sinking in. Only a couple of kids at my school at the time were into it, so never really saw much of the "cool" side of it.

Moved to Jersey in 2000, and a load of kids at school there were into it. It was playing the demo of the first Smackdown game that got me, then picking up the full game, and gradually starting to watch bits on TV. The first full PPV I watched since getting back into it was Summerslam 2000, and I was hooked very early on, and I started eating up everything I could religiously. One of the Playstation magazines ran a feature on an ECW game, and I picked up Foley's book not long after, and the combination just made ECW sound amazing - started buying wrestling magazines around the same time, so started to recognise names, and I bought some mad "Biggest Stars In Wrestling History!" book, that listed The Dudley Boyz (and extended family) alongside the likes of Gorgeous George. So when Rob Van Dam, Rhino and Spike Dudley and so on all started showing up in the WWF, I was loving life.

Similar- I stopped watching almost immediately after Survivor Series 1996. Just didn't find it interesting and asked myself why I was still watching. Most of the roster were shite, Steve Austin didn't automatically look like the next big star to me (despite WWE having you believe nowadays that he was 'made' after the KOTR promo) and I felt that I had outgrown it.

It was a combination of a few things that got me back into wrestling and one of them, like with you, was a game. I bought a chipped PS1 in 1999 and borrowed WWF Warzone from my friends. As well as this, a couple of the fellow paperboys at the newsagents were also well into it, and kept going on about how good it was now, especially banging on about Austin and The Rock. Finally, it was the death of Owen Hart which gave me the final push into watching Raw for the first time in years.

On the way to a under-18 house & garage night at a Stevenage nighclub, one of my mates said 'Did you hear about Owen Hart? Died last night didn't he, fell from the ceiling when he was doing some sort of bungee jump entrance. Hehehe'. Everyone else laughed, and I remember being quite upset and thinking how much of a shame it was. Tuned in to watch Raw and then gradually got back into it. A combination of the storylines and the characters definitely lured me, especially The Rock. I remember thinking how fucking boss Triple H looked in trunks, compared to this 'shitty posh nob' I remembered from '96. I think it was from September onwards when I was all-in yet again.

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1. What were your thoughts at the time on HHH's return as a babyface?

I wasn't a fan of HHH as a main eventer until after The Rock Ironman match in 2000 but, by the time he got injured in 2001, I was begging to cheer the guy, so I was eagerly anticipating his return at MSG. It was obvious he was going to come back as a face and that his Rumble win would be obvious but I was looking forward to some fresh match-ups on different sides of the face/heel divide. But it quickly became obvious that his extra muscle bulk was restricting his work and that time had passed in the storyline process and HHH was now on a stacked face side of the roster that still boasted Rock and Austin, which it didn't when he went off injured, so he was number three at best. And his title storyline didn't make sense with Jericho and really derailed him. The only heel it made sense HHH tussling with was Angle because of the Stephanie connection and how Kurt had arguably benefited from taking his place as Austin's ally. In hindsight, they should have kept HHH away from the title scene and had him head up something else in my opinion (to follow).

2. What were you thoughts on the nWo coming in  - what were your expectations, positive or negative?

I was very optimistic. They'd made a mess of the invasion but I thought this would be great and have heels and faces eager to team up to try and rid WWE of the nWo but, after the original promo, it quickly became watered down and they were basically just standard bad guy heels. I thought they should have come in, wrecked Vince up, completely ruined the show but it all seemed very generic. Again, in hindsight, if they wanted to turn Hogan face then they should have paired Hogan and HHH off at Mania and done a double turn to give us the Clique as an actual faction that people could play off against and then red and yellow Hogan. Hell, even have Hogan win the title at No Way Out by the nWo wrecking the Jericho/Austin match and then challenging Jericho to an impromptu match, so Trips still ends up as champion.

3. How did you feel about WrestleMania 18?

This was the first WrestleMania that suffered from a roster that was too big and the need to cram everyone on the card. How this card could have benefited from a Money in the Bank ladder match and an Andre battle royal. There was too much stuff crammed together last minute (Edge/Booker & Kurt/Kane) and stuff that had long past its sell-by-date (European and Hardcore titles). You looked back at 17 and realised they'd gone past the InVasion and were a full year on but a lot of guys were stuck in the same spot and just not progressing anywhere. With some tinkering of the matches and the running of the card, this could be an all-time great Mania but outside of Taker/Flair and Hogan/Rock, it's just meh. 

4. What did you make of the brand extension when it was announced, and of the original Draft show in execution?

I didn't like the Brand Extension when it was announced. I had my favourites and I liked being able to sit down every week and watch them, rather than have them cut across two shows with a load of dross to fill it out. Felt they would have been better having a big cull or send some gimmicks down to development for time to 'develop'. I thought the original Draft Show was pretty well done and Vince and Flair played off against each other pretty well but some of the picks didn't make sense and it was perhaps the only time (because it didn't have McMahon involvement) that RAW came out on the short end.

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1. What were your thoughts at the time on HHH's return as a babyface?

I was ready for it on his return. I hadn't been in love with Austin since his comeback in 2000 and I was rarely a Rock guy. I'd missed Trips during the Invasion angle and definitely after Survivor Series when things were a crock of shite. Maybe just me but I wasn't up for undisputed Champ Chris Jericho at that point. The return itself and the Rumble win were fine. The problem was jericho wasn't on his level and their attempts to add drama to that feud killed it. Lucy the fucking dog for crying out loud. Trips was dead by Mania, deader after trying to follow Rock/Hogan and then literally dead when he dropped the title immediately.

2. What were you thoughts on the nWo coming in  - what were your expectations, positive or negative?

Hated the way they came in. That stupid graphic on the chair and Vince bringing them in to "kill my own creation". I wasn't overly fussed about hem by that point but if they'd come in to "takeover" and been put into a feud with the unholy trio of Austin, Rock and Trips, that could have been something. Bringing them in for Mania was probably a mistake - for the nWo. Obviously Rock/Hogan worked out well but the timing was all wrong for them as a group. If Nash's quad was always going to ping immediately then did it really matter?

3. How did you feel about WrestleMania 18?

Didn't like it then or now. The title match is a dud. Austin being stuck with Scott Hall was bollocks. Angle was sidelined. Booker & Edge had a fight over Shampoo. The opener felt below what RVD should have been coming off his 2001. Taker and Flair was better than I thought it would be. The Christian/DDP feud was nice low-card stuff although, again, they'd blown DDP. Rock/Hogan is the only memorable thing on it but even that's rubbish if you care about anything other than how the crowd react. Trouble is, I can't think of a much better card. We'd seen everything. Perhaps the Austin/Rock/Trips triple threat that we never got at Survivor Series 2000.

4. What did you make of the brand extension when it was announced, and of the original Draft show in execution?

I liked the concept. I still do in fairness. I just don't like their execution of it. Too many titles and two world champions ruin it. The original format was probably right. They should have stuck with Brock as the guy appearing on both shows. Raw was dreadful for the second half of 2002. That would have at least given focus to something. And hopefully have tamed the HHH reign of terror, Kane unmasking and Katie Vick. For starters.

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Austin's protestations about Hogan don't carry a lot of water when he refused to work with Jeff Jarrett and refused to job to HHH at Summerslam in 1999.

You could give him the benefit of the doubt for refusing to work with Lesnar because, as he put it, the match belonged on a PPV, but with Austin's history there is every chance he would have went out of his way to undermine Lesnar and not put him over as strong as Undertaker, and, ironically, Hogan ended up doing.

How many times has he done the job only to end up stunning the guy he lost to directly afterwards to get his heat back? He even did it in matches he wasn't involved in like at Survivor Series in 1998.

It was pretty shit of him to virtually end any cachet Scott Hall had left at WM 2002 as well.

Whatever about Hall's backstage behaviour, he has never refused to job to anyone and always did what was best for business in the ring, just ask Chris Jericho, who Hall wanted to job clean to in WCW when the other main eventers didn't want to work with him.

Edited by NoUseforaUsername
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2 hours ago, NoUseforaUsername said:

Whatever about Hall's backstage behaviour, he has never refused to job to anyone and always did what was best for business in the ring, just ask Chris Jericho, who Hall wanted to job clean to in WCW when the other main eventers didn't want to work with him.

Are you really making the case for Hall's professionalism based on him losing a match on live TV that he had been booked and instructed to win?

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When you put it like that.

He meant well though. It's symptomatic of a career in which he's done clean jobs for anyone and everyone and helped elevate several guys.

He's a money mark, not a mark for his own character and his own creative (cough, Austin), who complains that he was held down in WCW and then does the exact same thing when he rises to the top.

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Besides, everyone was at that shit in WCW at this point in time.

Nobodies like Konnan and Stevie Ray were refusing to do jobs. Scott Norton went into business for himself and no sold a four on one beating from the 4 Horsemen. Hulk Hogan fucked up their biggest storyline by changing the finish at Starrcade.

At least Hall would've given someone the rub.

 

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