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   Fri, March 12, 2004



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Smackdown: One last, free look at Lesnar
By JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling


Greetings ladies, gents, and other assorted creatures. Jon Waldman here, once again filling in for Dale Plummer. Where he is? Well, I'd hate to let the secret out, but…nah. Too many spoilers on the 'net these days. I think I'll let him discuss it next week.

This week's show should be very interesting. Should the reports by accurate, this is the last time we'll see Brock Lesnar on free TV, aside, of course, from the recap shows. Speaking of which, reports that I've been hearing are that your hero and mine, Paul London, had himself a pretty good match over on Velocity. Be sure to check it out Saturday night.

Now before I get to the actual show report, I want to go into the whole Brock hoo-hah for a second. I can't fault Brock for wanting to leave. It takes a lot to go through the rigorous WWE schedule, and he did have the added times that come with being a top-name talent. He gave us two years' worth of solid match work, exciting moments, and some killer stuff. Should 'Mania be his swan song, I want to be the first to thank him for the effort he's put in for us. Thanks for the memories Brock; you will be missed.

Now, as they say in a far-off land, on with the show.

Smackdown! emanates this week from Atlantic City, the gambling capital of the northeast.

We open this week's show with a look back at Lesnar and Steve Austin's angle. Well, given how both Lesnar and Goldberg are gone, we now know how their match will finish, don't we?

Match 1> John Cena vs. Rhyno

Cena does his usual pre-match rap, severely toned down, as everything is nowadays thanks to "Janip" Jackson.

Now here's an interesting match for one reason, and one reason only. Both men, a few months ago, were heels who relied solely on the power game. Cena has added some aerial moves to his game, along with a couple crowd pleasers (five-knuckle shuffle). Rhyno, on the other hand, has done nothing to change his game plan. Rhyno's intensity-driven schtick worked well in ECW, but it's just sinking here. I mean, when your big pop move is the same maneuver that two other guys are using (those being Goldberg and Edge), you need to try something new.

Cena absolutely dominates this match and has the crowd in the palm of his hand the whole way through. He even pulls out the Protobomb at one point, en-route to the F-U for the win.

Winner: John Cena
Rating: 2.5 out of 10 - Good stuff by Cena and a hot crowd made it fun to watch, but it wasn't anything hugely memorable.

One thing I'll note post-match. One of the fans hands Cena one of the Reebok Pump shoes, which Cena has some fun with. If the heads of Reebok are paying attention, now would be the time to re-introduce the shoes.

Next up is a meeting that Paul Heyman has with the entire Smackdown crew (except Lesnar, Eddy Guererro, Kurt Angle and Undertaker, who I guess was excused since he's still technically dead and all). Heyman gives one hell of a rallying speech, talking about how Smackdown! is theirs to defend against Austin. This was loaded with power and intensity, and I'll be damned if it wasn't one of the best spots of his career.

Match 2> Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Jamie Noble

Chavo and Chavito are on commentary, which is always good for a yuckle and a chuckle.

Now this is a good prototypical match that explains why the cruisers are so hot right now. We get the high-flying, eye-popping moves from Mysterio (including a sweet moonsault press), and great counter wrestling from Noble (especially when he blocks a high cross-body by slamming Rey on his knee!). The match abandons the standard WWE story of face/heel/face dominance, and shows great back and forth action.

Mysterio eventually sets up Noble for the 619, but lo and behold out comes Tajiri and his associates. This, naturally leads to Kidman, Ultimo Dragon and Funaki coming out, and we are set to resume with an eight-man tag. You know, I think it would've been funny if one of the faces and one of the heels were ordered by referee Charles Robinson to switch teams before the match began. Now THAT would be a sweet rib.

Back to the action after the break, and Dragon is doing some great work with Tajiri. Kidman tags in for a brief time, and he gets a pop too. Funaki then comes in and… well, we knew he was going to be the sacrifice. Tajiri's boys take over, as Akio continues to show awesome work, and Sakoda does just as well. While all the action is hot in the ring, the commentary is even hotter, as Los Chavos and Tazz gang up on Cole, eventually getting him to shut up with some hilarious remarks. Seriously, I was laughing out loud here.

Mysterio eventually gets tagged in and reels off some wicked moves, including Code Red! Ooh, methinks the amazing one is none too happy about that. Then again, he did rip off the 619… Anyways, after a big of fun a pier-eight brawl, is left along with Noble. Chavo interferes, but additional interference by Chavito backfires, allowing Myterio to get a Clutching 'Rana on Noble for the W.

Winners: Mysterio Jr./Dragon/Funaki/Kidman
Rating: 6.5 out of 10 - Hot in-ring action the whole way through, and some of the funniest commentary I've heard in the while made for a memorable bout.
Post-match, Shannon Moore and Nunzio come out to add their individual two cents. Overall solid build for Sunday.

Backstage we go for a meeting between Heyman and the other FBI men. Heyman gets a radio report that Austin is at the beer stand, and Paul E. runs off to find Lesnar.

Match 3> Eddy Guererro vs. Shelton Benjamin.

Prior to the match, we get a lengthy but good Eddy promo. Once the match starts, immediate suspicion is drawn up as references are made to Team Angle. Benjamin is dominated by Eddy, despite the well-placed interference attempts by Charlie Haas. Eventually, Nick Patrick, leading to a commercial break, sends Haas to the back.

Back from break, we get some more domination by Eddy until Shelton takes over with power moves. Eventually, Eddy just erupts, takes complete control until a ref bump. Haas returns, grabs Eddy's title, prepares to attack but Eddy's all "get your own sandwich", or title in this case, and ko's both men. Then, we get classic Eddy, as he fakes being knocked out, rises out of the ref's 10 count, then gets the Frog Splash for the 1-2-3.

Winner: Eddy Guererro
Rating: 4 out of 10 - Frankly, I expected more from these two. It was solid, but hardly spectacular.

Post-match, Angle appears for a long-distance stare-down. I was expecting an attack by Haas and Benjamin, but I guess the team Angle reunion will have to wait.

Back from break, we get "highlights" from a Playboy party and hype of the evening gown match. You know, with all the athletically gifted women on RAW, THIS match is getting the most WM attention. Lawler must have got a hold of the book or something.

Match 4> Big Show vs. Two Jobbers

Squash-a-roonie.

Winner: Big Show
Rating: .5 out of 10 - There was something cool when a big guy beat two no-names in the old days of Superstars, but it's just not as cool when it happens on one of the flagship shows.

Backstage, Heyman chats with the APA. Yay.

Match 5> Scotty/Rikishi vs. Bashams

Now this is how the champs should've been booked a long time ago. Doug and Danny do everything they can to Scooter with the ultimate goal of ensuring he can't tag in th ebig man. Great psychology here, and as soon as Rikishi gets in, the match is over following a… superkick? Okay that was different

Winners: Rikishi/Scottie
Rating: 2 out of 10 - The psychology worked really well for me here. The match wasn't much more than punches and kicks, but it meant well.

After some promo for the PPV, the SD! roster comes out with Heyman going to the ring. He brings out Brock who calls out Austin. Eventually Austin arrives, and, much to the hilarious chagrin of Heyman, the crew lets him through, capped off by Big Show encouraging Austin to get at Brock. Man, you'd almost think the roster is pissed off at Brock for some reason. What could that be?

Anyways, rather than rush the ring, Austin calmly retrieves his ATV, stops midway to the back, get off. Brock then climbs out of the ring and the two go at it, with Austin getting the upperhand. Brock begins to bleed as Austin stunners Heyman in the ring. Lesnar re-enters and the two go at it for a while, teasing a match which would actually be a cool bout, until Lesnar bails. Austin eventually loads up his ATV and drinks some beer to end the show.

Well, depending on who is reporting what buzz, Brock either tendered his resignation before or after this show. Methinks, based on the way the show ran, it was beforehand. Why else would you have Austin, the man who left the company almost two years ago because he refused to job to Lesnar, gets the last shot in on Brock that the mass audience will see? Basically, in a round-about way, Austin has completely got his way here, as WWE continues to push the guy, who isn't even a wrestler anymore, as the main superstar.

Where this will all go following 'Mania, when both Lesnar and Goldberg (remember him? He's the other guy in the main event) are gone from WWE, I don't know. There's a lot I could say about how Austin should never have been involved in the match; how Goldberg should've been forced to sign an extension that would've given the match better promo than having a confrontation between Austin and Lesnar that would go nowhere; or how the whole thing should've been done a lot sooner with Lesnar going over, Goldberg being shown the door, and Brock moving on to face the top guy on RAW at 'Mania instead.

I will, however, close with this thought. Now that Austin has basically been allowed to run through Smackdown! and destroy their top guy on TV, as he likely will at 'Mania, where the hell do they go from here? If 'Mania is where it all begins "again", I'm very afraid that we're going to get Attitude redux, and that is not a good thing.


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    Jon Waldman has been with SLAM! Wrestling in 2000. To read more of Jon's wrestling writing, pick up the March 2004 issue of Canadian Sports Collector for articles on Trish Stratus and Rey Mysterio Jr., available at most sports hobby stores and on magazine racks across Canada.