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2002 was probably the last year of my peak-WWE fandom stemming from me getting hooked on wrestling in mid-2000. I loved it so much I remember going sledging near our house right at the start of the year and my mind was on what they might have planned for the Boss Man's return after he showed up on SmackDown to clobber Austin. 

It was also the end of the boom period. Rather than during the Invasion, it was 2002 that caused my wrestling-watching friends to drop off one by one. My friend David was the person who had Sky Sports, and was my hookup for every PPV I'd seen up to that point. After King Of The Ring, he stopped recording them (Vengeance was on Box Office if I remember correctly) and had ceased watching or caring altogether by the time Kane unmasked the following year. The two girls at school who watched lost interest after Jeff Hardy's Raw main event against Undertaker didn't result in anything meaningful. And then it was just me. But since ON Digital (or ITV Digital) had collapsed in the spring, we'd got Sky and I managed somehow to convince the parents we should have Sky Sports in the summer holidays, and managed to see every PPV from Summerslam to Survivor Series. I watched the occasional Raw but was [Tazz]A SMACKDOWN GUY![/Tazz] through and through. Raw was on too late at night, when the TV was otherwise occupied, and had too much risky content for me to dare watching with others in the room. Sanitised Smackers on Sky One Saturday mornings was ideal. The Bottom Line caught me up on Raw.

Instead of a mass wall of text I'm going to do two lists of stuff I liked and didn't like in 2002:

Things I liked

 - The announcement of Goldust, Val Venis, Godfather and Mr Perfect coming back to be in the Royal Rumble. It made the Rumble feel a big deal. Even the two who hadn't been off TV for a year was exciting because they were back in their old gimmicks after RTC disbanded.

 - The Lonely Road of Faith video.

 - The idea of the nWo, who I'd heard of but never seen, coming to 'poison' the WWF. It felt quite superhero-y in a way. The WWF had overcome its biggest foe but WAIT THERE'S A BIGGER ONE.

 - The best series of Tough Enough?

 - Forceable Entry. The best CD they've ever done. I listened to that over and over for bloody months.

- This cover of the WWF Magazine making the nWo look cool as fuck.

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Okay, in retrospect maybe not as cool as I thought but I still want a t-shirt.

 - The gorgeous, utterly gorgeous souvenir magazine they brought out before WrestleMania X-8. Still my favourite ever piece of merch.

 - The idea of the brand extension. Probably the last excited schoolyard conversation about wrestling was about who might end up on which show.

 - That backstage segment with Rock, Hogan and Kane with the introduction of the Kanenites.

 - Brock's initial rampages with triple powerbombs and destruction of the midcard.

 - Spike Dudley bumps. Like this killer chokeslam from Taker.

 - SmackDown coming off pretty damn well in the draft, with most of my favourites ending up on there and most of the people I didn't like being on Raw.

 - SmackDown really taking advantage of the draft and feeling different to Raw. The cruiserweight division, Edge's initial singles push, Mark Henry almost getting there for the first time.

 - Torrie and Stacy both being on SmackDown. :love:

 - Those never-ending pops for Hogan that were probably staged but I loved anyway.

 - Hogan's Hendrix music.

 - Planet Stasiak.

 - The Triple H-Jericho Hell In A Cell match from Judgment Day, which I loved so much at the time I bought the DVD so I could watch it again.

 - Austin fucking off. I never liked him that much as a face and there was nothing for him. He actually felt like a relic - as did much of Raw by this point - so I didn't miss him.

 - The hype around Mysterio coming to WWE. From initial mentions on the Ross Report to the vignettes to his first match and then the dive from the top of the cage. How to make a guy instantly a big deal.

 - The brand war between Bischoff and Stephanie where every week, wrestlers would 'defect' from Raw to SmackDown and vice-versa. Amazingly it was one of the only times where this didn't mean 'Raw takes all SmackDown's best people'.

 - Jeff rising to the challenge in the Ladder match against Taker.

 - Summerslam. Top to bottom one of my favourite ever PPVs.

 - That ending to HHH-Michaels. YOU BASTARD, HHH, HE WAS YOUR FRIEND.

 - 'Proper' tag teams slowly starting to re-establish themselves, like Billy & Chuck and 3MW, both of whom I liked purely because they were a 'proper' team. Even the Un-Americans, simply because they had a team name.

 - Matt Hardy Version 1 and his Matt Facts. I did buy that t-shirt.

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 - Funaki, Number 1 Announcer. Only member of the original SmackDown roster who never got moved to Raw or released, I think.

 - Raw Roulette. Still probably my favourite episode of Raw. The TLC match felt like such a huge deal.

 - Trish, Molly and Victoria doing their damnedest to establish a women's division (even back then WWE.com would talk about this, and cited Finlay as their trainer).

 - "So, how was your week?"

 - The establishment of the SmackDown Six, though I didn't know them as that at the time. Brilliant matches week after week for months on end.

 - The excitement about Steiner debuting. Felt like a huge deal.

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 - Survivor Series. See Summerslam.

 - Shawn Michaels vs RVD on Raw. Legitimate dream match for me. Still never seen it.

 - RNN.

 - Booker T and Goldust winning the Raw tag titles. They'd been the best thing about Raw all year so it was wonderful seeing them recognised.

 

Things I didn't like

 - The nWo pretty much as soon as they debuted except for when they brought X-Pac back. Underwhelming impactless debut, that shite with the ambulance and the truck, that shiter shite with Austin trying to shoot Hall and Nash but it was a net, the post-extension balls-cutting-off where the 'poison' was actually only going to poison one of the two brands, and the rapid dilution into nothingness. Shawn Michaels' beret gets a pass.

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 - WrestleMania X-8 itself. What a fucking disappointment compared to the previous year (my benchmark for Manias as it was the only one I'd properly seen up to that point). I liked Undertaker-Flair but at the time that felt like straw-clutching, 'best of a bad bunch' kind of enjoyment.

- The draft destroying the tag team division by breaking every fucking team up.

 - The draft resulting in Bradshaw's first big singles push.

 - The 'Tommy Dreamer will eat ANYTHING' gimmick.

 - Raw's attempts to recapture Attitude 'edginess' in general. SmackDown felt like it had evolved from back then. Raw was stagnant as anything all year. They both got shiny new logos and sets but SmackDown's was so much better.

 - I was happy when Taker won the title but could have done without him and Hogan trying to out-biker each other in the buildup.

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 - The 'Molly Holly has a fat arse so she's a heel' storyline. That may not have been 2002 but I think it was. She didn't, I should add.

 - X-Pac fading away in the summer, never to wrestle in WWE again. It was brilliant having him back in a prominent spot for a few months, though.

 - Jamie Noble's Cruiserweight Title reign. Went on bloody ages and wasn't interesting at all.

 - All the midcard titles being merged and then eaten up by the World Heavyweight title. Especially the European, but especially the Intercontinental. Fucking outrageous they did that even now.

 - Brock's rapid rise to the WWE Title. I didn't like how quickly he'd come from nothing to being the Champion when they had so many stars who'd been around longer.

 - Rock fucking off again. He did come back as Hollywood Rock though, which makes it okay.

 - Two world titles. The WHW never felt like a real one.

 - Unforgiven's main event ending in a DQ. Bullshit finish.

 - HLA. Don't come into the living room, parents, please make this segment stop soon or I will die of embarrassment if they catch me watching Raw.

 - Katie Vick. When I think of Attitude, that's what I think of. Appalling on all levels. What were they thinking.

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 - Brock and Taker in the Cell. I'd become accustomed to the mindset of 'Hell In A Cell = a big stunt' so when this didn't have any I was disappointed. I was wrong, but I didn't know that then.

 - Triple H from the autumn on to be honest, first Chamber match aside.

 - Steiner going to Raw and not SmackDown. There was no saving him after that.

 - Me not getting to see Three Stages Of Hell which I was sure would be three times as good as their Summerslam match. My predominant thought after finally seeing it was 'how'd they do that bit where Shawn swings the flaming board at HHH's face? How was he not burned?!'

 

And that's not even mentioning things like Reverend D-Von's music, the Guerrero-RVD feud, Hardcore Holly smashing DDP into retirement, getting the F out, or the gay wedding. 2003 saw my love for wrestling fade a little, and it wasn't until the Wrestling Channel debuted that it got a shot in the arm again.

Edited by HarmonicGenerator

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Its easy to list all the stars on the books in 2002 and question why they weren't able to produce a better show, but almost nobody of note was peaking during that year. Everyone outside of the SmackDown 6 were either too old or too young.

Its like saying Everton should've won the league under Walter Smith because they had Wayne Rooney and Gazza.

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That post from HG is incredible. Kudos.

As for Austin walking out, I've actually just read this period in Fin Martin's Powerslam Through The Years Ebook. He writes that Austin v Brockwas scheduled as a King of the Ring qualifier on the June 10 Raw - with no build up. When Austin walked out that afternoon they cobbled together a Flair/Vince match for total control of the company- they were running Raw and Smackdown respectively at the time.

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Brilliant post @HarmonicGenerator! And I'm not just saying that because you've had to write it out twice. I too had the Matt Hardy shirt and had Forcible Entry (probably the most unintentionally problematic album title ever) on repeat constantly.

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1 hour ago, HarmonicGenerator said:

Shawn Michaels vs RVD on Raw. Legitimate dream match for me. Still never seen it.

It’s worth a watch for the novelty factor. 

Wasn’t the best though. Decent but you get the feeling there was definitely a better match to be had between those two if they’d revisited it when Shawn had really got back in the groove a few months later.

Shawn looks so odd there though. Weird hair length and even weirder tights when he was in that brief phase of trying to break away from the HBK tights with the hearts design. Here and at Survivor Series in the Chamber he looks like he lost his luggage and had to raid the lost property box backstage for ring gear. As disappointing as I found the Three Stages Of Hell match at Armageddon, at least he went back to the classic HBK look. That other shit just wasn’t working for him. Especially the poo brown kegs/bowl-head combo at Survivors. Looked a right wally. 

2002 was a real hit and miss year for me. Some things I loved like the NWO return (before it went cack), Scott Steiner’s debut, Matt Hardy V1, Brock’s emergence, Booker and Goldust’s odd couple team on Raw, the Smackdown Six matches, Mr Perfect’s return (before it went cack, so really just the Rumble return itself then) and I thought early Victoria when she was all demented and evil and had Stevie Richards as her bitch was great too. 

Kurt Angle in particular had a blinding year in-ring. Absolutely loved his series of matches with Edge, the two on PPV and a cracker on Smackdown around Sep/Oct I think. The SummerSlam opener vs Rey Mysterio is fantastic, Unforgiven vs Benoit was ace and I even enjoyed his match with Hogan at KOTR for what it was. On top of that he had really fun TV matches with Eddie Guerrero, Benoit, Rock and Cena. In hindsight though, 2002 probably  more than any other year fucked his neck badly. Or at least was the start of it getting really bad. And of course by early 2003 the house of cards his neck was made of started to really collapse and the WrestleMania headliner with Brock was even in jeopardy. 

The shite was really shite though. Like others have said Austin, Taker and to a lesser extent even Rock felt stale by 2002. Austin was having crappy matches left and right. I hated Austin vs Jericho at No Way Out. Austin vs Taker at Backlash wasn’t much better either. And Triple H vs Taker at KOTR was abysmal. KOTR pretty much as a whole was terrible. Most of Raw in general was awful in 2002, I thought. Booker and Goldust were the main saving grace for me. 

WWF changing to WWE is something I still haven’t fully accepted either. 

 

Edited by wandshogun09

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