Welcome to the return of the Wrath of Tito. No Smackdown review column? Nope. I didn't watch the show. Why? Well, I figured I needed a break from it all, so I took the night off and refused to watch and I won't be watching the upcoming RAW special this Monday. I've "shut it down" for the year 2002, and I should be back in full swing for 2003.
But there's a catch. I'm going to watch through Wrestlemania. After Wrestlemania, the WWE usually goes into a slump, and pushes ridiculous Pay Per View headlines like Kane/Undertaker vs Austin/Triple H, Hulk Hogan vs. Triple H, Triple H vs. Undertaker, Hulk Hogan vs. the Undertaker, and so on. Hell, the WWE even screws up money making angles during the Summer months after Wrestlemania, such as the Invasion angle, etc. If the following months suck extremely bad for the WWE in the Spring/Summer of 2003, I'm FINISHED with the WWE. I'm serious this time. I'll pack up the Tito gimmick and hit the road.
The months of January, February, and March are the best months the WWE has, and the rest of the months, besides August, have just been terrible for the past 2 years. I feel that I no longer want to torture myself by watching this shit for 2 hours every Monday or Thursday, and then writing about it, presenting myself as though I'm a negative person. But I'm not. I WANT to watch, I WANT to be a fan of this material, and I WANT to be proud that I'm a WWE fan. I can only say that I'm partially a fan of the product, liking several of the great workers on Smackdown while strapping myself to a chair to watch RAW.
2002 was a bad year for the WWE. Ratings dropped. Attendance dropped. Buyrates dropped. Merchandise sales dropped. The WWE stock dropped. Wrestler salaries dropped. Many on the payroll were dropped. The WWE has roughly cut their audience in half from 2001 to 2002, and it's always blamed on being a "trend". OK, so you'd say that fans would pop for an Albert push in 1998-2000 and not in 2002?
So what all happened in 2002? Let's hop into my famous Time Machine© and see what happened.
(QUICK NOTE: TITO AWARDS TOMORROW!!!)
The end of 2001 helped paint a bad picture for 2002. The end of 2001 saw the WCW/ECW Invasions come to an end, which was supposed to be a money feud for the WWE. It wasn't, as the WWE added too much of their talent to the WCW/ECW side and the Alliance stable was made out to get embarrassed by the WWE roster. Then, after Survivor Series, the WWE brought in Ric Flair to become a part owner in the WWE, as he bought up Stephanie and Shane's stock when the McMahon kids needed money to fund the Alliance. Although Flair should have been brought in for the Alliance during the Invasion feud, it was still nice to see Flair appear on WWE television and delivering great promos.
The eventual idea for Flair and Vince McMahon was to split the WWE roster, something that Vince wanted to do when the Invasion angle was going on, pitting one show with WCW/ECW wrestlers and another with WWE wrestlers. Of course, Vince changed his mind and wanted to destroy and humiliate the WCW/ECW guys instead. However, during the beginning of 2002, 3 wrenches were thrown into the "split" plans, and their names were Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall.
At the end of 2001, Kevin Nash's BIG WCW finally ran out. Nash's free money ran out, and he needed work. Scott Hall, on the other hand, was fired from WCW sometime in 2000, and was in need of work as well. Hulk Hogan, however, was dealing with the death of his father, although he had some talks with the WWE during 2001 about coming in. Hogan still had his WCW lawsuit regarding Vince Russo's actions at Bash at the Beach 2000 pending, too. The early beginnings of the Flair vs. McMahon feud were shakey, especially given that many fans were upset about how badly the Invasions failed. Ratings were somewhat slumping for what should have been a hot month in January, leading into the Royal Rumble, so Vince McMahon put up some money for some old talent.
All 3 former New World Order members, Hall, Nash, and Hogan, were signed immediately for deals of very limited dates and some good guaranteed money ($600,000 to $800,000), with the opportunity to earn more with bonuses. All 3 wrestlers were brought in as a quick fix to the ratings problems, but they only had short run effects. The big impact would come later as Hulk Hogan began feuding with the Rock. During one night on RAW, Hogan ranted on the WWE crowd about his influence in pro wrestling, and the Rock confronted Hogan. What we saw was a great moment in wrestling, in which the two would put on an awesome staredown. Of course, Hogan would then run a semi-truck into the injured Rock's ambulance later that show, but the moment in the ring was very nice. This feud would have been even bigger if the Rock wasn't out refilming parts of the Scorpion King, a movie in which did very well for a professional wrestler in the lead role. At Wrestlemania 18, the Rock and Hogan made the large Toronto crowd scream as loud as possible, and they were especially in favor of Hogan during that match.
Another feud came about, and this one was over the Undisputed Championship, a belt created at Vengeance 2001 when Chris Jericho won a mini-tournament to win both WCW and WWE belts. Jericho would hold the title for 2 months, barely getting by as champion, and he would have to face the winner of the 2002 Royal Rumble: Triple H. The Game made a very impressive comeback from a torn quad injury, although many suggest that he came back too early or came back too bulked up on muscle. But anyway, he'd come in and win the Royal Rumble, and now focus on Jericho for Wrestlemania. Instead of just a normal feud between Jericho and Triple H, Jericho joined forces with Stephanie McMahon, Triple H's separated wife in the storylines, and we'd get lovely feuds over Lucy the Dog and hand lotion. The bad storylines ruined what could have been a good Wrestlemania main event or something meaningful for Jericho's career. Instead, Triple H would beat Jericho for the title at Wrestlemania, and Jericho hasn't honestly recovered or looked good when put in the main event scenario ever since.
During the beginning of 2002, Steve Austin was unhappy. He felt that the storylines within the WWE just weren't up to par with what the WWE was doing through 1998-2000. Things got worse when the nWo arrived, especially the presence of Hogan and Hall. With Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin was practically run out of WCW in 1994. Hogan came into WCW during the Summer of 1994, and had several of his friends hired, such as Brutus Beefcake, Ray Traylor, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Austin was US Champion at the time, and he was then threw into a feud with Jim Duggan, which he was totally embarrassed and jobbed out to Duggan. Then, Austin suffered an injury (bicep, I believe), and was immediately released by WCW, which you could say obviously made him bitter towards Hogan.
But Scott Hall was a major problem. With the New World Order, the plan was to hold back Kevin Nash as much as possible in the ring, given his problems with injuries and poor ringwork. Therefore, the plan would to push Scott Hall as a wrestler, and with Hogan wrestling the Rock, Triple H going after the World Title, and Undertaker in a good feud with Ric Flair, Austin had nobody to fight at Wrestlemania. Chris Benoit's injury needed more time to heal, while the WWE didn't want to exhaust the Angle vs. Austin feud, which headlined several Pay Per Views in 2001. So the WWE put Austin with Scott Hall. Austin knew about Hall's habits from witnessing Hall during his final WWF days in 1996, where Hall was in and out of rehab for drugs and alcohol. Hall wasn't recovered from his substance problems, finding it hard for Austin to work with the bad guy. At Wrestlemania, Hall was hungover or something problematic, in which it led to Austin getting somewhat of a squash win over Hall. The next night, Austin had enough and walked out of the WWE for several weeks! Hall, on the other hand, would have a few more moments of life before getting fired after partying WAY too much on the European tour (as did Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig, who returned to the WWE at Royal Rumble 2002).
With Austin out, the WWE wasn't hurt too badly because his feud ended with Hall at Wrestlemania. The idea of the Split came back into play, as it would become the WWE's idea to keep things fresh for the cursed Spring/Summer months. The RAW that featured the Split was rather unique, as the WWE had the draft results scrolling at the bottom and Stephanie McMahon was kicked off of WWE television during the Triple H vs. Chris Jericho/Stephanie bout. To Stephanie's credit, she stayed out for a good while and has made her character more watchable now than before by not overexposing herself. But anyway, Vince and Ric Flair drafted wrestlers, where Vince would head up Smackdown and Flair would head up RAW.
The rosters were rigged, obviously, as RAW featured taller or more established wrestlers, along with the women wrestlers and Austin/Undertaker, while Smackdown featured smaller wrestlers, like stronger midcarders (Jericho, Angle, Benoit[although Benoit would begin wrestling on RAW]), Cruiserweights, and Rock/Hogan. Triple H was the Undisputed champion, and he could "travel" to both shows from being champion. The ideas seemed good, but things soon fell apart with the shows focusing too much on main eventers and blew up when Austin walked out once and possibly for all (although rumors persist that he'll return sometime in 2003). Austin would join the RAW roster, but soon get annoyed with the creative decisions of the show. And then wrestling and LOSING to a newer wrestler became the last straw, and Austin walked out of the WWE. That threw everything into whack, as Austin was feuding with RAW owner, Ric Flair, at the time, and to compensate for this, Vince rewrote the script to have a Flair vs. Vince match to decide ownership of the WWE. Vince won, of course, and Flair would become a talent of RAW, while Vince stroked his ego on 2 shows now instead of just one. Austin would become shitlisted from the WWE, upsetting many wrestlers and close friends, like Jim Ross. Lately, though, Austin's actions seems forgiveable due to business declines.
So who was that wrestler that Austin didn't want to lose to and made him walk out of the WWE? His name was Brock Lesnar, possibly the story of 2002. In the late 1990's, the WWF and WCW had a bidding war over the Heavyweight NCAA amateur wrestling champion from Minnesota. The WWF won, and Brock Lesnar was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling for several years of seasoning. Because he was a product from the bidding war, Lesnar had a big guaranteed contract, and when you have a big contract in the WWE, you're going to get pushed no matter what (Big Show and Mark Henry, are good examples, although Henry can't stay injury-free). Lesnar was brought in with Paul Heyman as a manager, and was slowly pushed to become a main eventer. Lesnar won the King of the Ring 2002 to become the #1 Contender for the Undisputed Title at Summerslam 2002. The WWE tried numerous attempts to get main eventers to lay down for Lesnar, such as Austin, but one man put him over once and for all: the Rock, who was Undisputed champion at Summerslam. Rocky put Lesnar over cleanly, and at that define point, you could say that Lesnar was seriously ready to be where he was pushed at. Rocky would be off to film another movie, where he's been ever since. Rock should be back in the WWE by Wrestlemania.
After a dry Spring/early Summer season of programming, the WWE had a hit with Summerslam 2002, arguably the Pay Per View of 2002. Aside from the clean win by the Rock, Shawn Michaels made a wrestling comeback and put on quite a match against Triple H. The match was quite violent, especially given the condition of HBK. Easily Triple H's best match of 2002. Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle was quite good, too.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the NWA-TNA real quick. In 2002, they decided to take their wrestling shows to a weekly Pay Per View broadcast for only $9.99 per month. Their shows featured several former WCW and WWE midcarders, along with a group of independent stars. Their brightspot has been the X title division, which is like a physical cruiserweight division. NWA-TNA is led by the Jarretts, and hasn't faired that well on Pay Per View, leaving some with questions at how long they'll be able to last on pay TV. The idea is to butter-up some cable company to give them a television spot or something. Throw that idea out the window the second Vince Russo took over as booker for the company. After turning down a position as "consultant" in the WWE, he took the job full time and has created messy storylines ever since. The NWA-TNA is going to feel the wrath of Russo like WCW did, as this company's chances of surviving on Russo's Shock TV booking are slim to none.
One death that got to me in 2002 was of Davey Boy Smith. After years of drugs and physical abuse taken by his body, the British Bulldog passed away, just a few days or weeks before possibly making his WWE comeback. I've always liked Davey Boy in the ring, whether it was as a member of the British Bulldogs, in singles action, tagging up with Owen, or as a member of the extended Hart Foundation of 1997, Davey Boy left an impression on professional wrestling which will always be remembered by yours truly. Sadly, former WWE tag team champions, Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith, are both gone already.
The Fall months in the WWE was a constant struggle. On the RAW side, they tried too much shock value instead of focusing on newer talent, which was the intended purpose of the "split". The worst moment came when Triple H was feuding with Kane, and brought up a crazy story about how Kane was a murderer, rapist, drunk driver, and a necrophiliac. Mind you, Kane was supposed to be locked away for years before making his WWF debut to chase the Undertaker. The angle went so far as having Triple H dressed up as Kane and screwing a fake woman in the coffin, who was supposed to be Katie Vick. The angle did NOT draw ratings. Desparate for a big time feud, as any other Triple H opponents weren't fairing well against the Game, the WWE went to the well twice with HBK vs. Shawn Michaels, as that feud headlined 2 shows in a row for Pay Per Views. The rest of RAW was badly organized, and RAW's ratings dropped in 2002, greatly.
Smackdown, on the other hand, had its ups and downs. On one hand, you had guys like the Guerreros, Rey Mysterio, Edge, Kurt Angle, and Chris Benoit putting on incredible matches, even making the newly created Smackdown Tag Team Titles very worthy of their creation. The Benoit/Angle vs. Mysterio/Edge tag matches were TOP QUALITY. You could pair any of those 6 guys against each other, and the match would at least be good. However, Smackdown had its problems. Brock Lesnar was dealt some very bad feuds after getting the HUGE clean win over the Rock at Summerslam. The Undertaker AND the Big Show were both shipped over from RAW to create World Title feuds with Brock. The matches against the Undertaker were respectable, especially the Hell in the Cell one, but the WWE storylines had the Undertaker suffering several "injuries" to make Brock's victories look weak. Then, the Big Show was mega-pushed from the second he arrived on Smackdown, and even beat Brock Lesnar for the World Title at Survivor Series (that result COULD have been from Big Show breaking Lesnar's ribs at a houseshow, but who knows?), injuring Lesnar. At least, though, the WWE got smart and put the Undisputed title on Kurt Angle at Armageddon 2002, and we'll see what this forming of the new Heyman stable will do for 2003. I'm optimistic about it, especially with the Team Angle tag team and using Heyman as a big mouthpiece for Big Show.
Also happening at the end of the year... Scott Steiner was finally brought into the WWE. He went back and forth on where he'd join, as he finally joined RAW when Stephanie McMahon wouldn't give him any booty to sign. Steiner joined RAW, and as a "signing bonus", he received a RAW Title shot at Royal Rumble against Triple H. That should be good, unless Steiner is made to look like a fool, like many of the other Triple H opponents. Albert received a mini-push, thanks to Vince McMahon, who LOVES the bigger wrestlers. It appears that the WWE has come to its senses about Albert or A-Train, as he seems to have been depushed, although I have my doubts. We'll see if the proposed feud between A-Train and the Undertaker isn't restarted when the Undertaker comes back from his hiatus. Also, there are RUMORED talks of bringing in Bill Goldberg for a possible short term deal in the WWE. This would likely center around Wrestlemania, which could be a stacked card in 2003.
And how could I forget the return of Eric Bischoff?!?!? I couldn't fit it in anywhere, so why not at the end. After talking with the WWE here and there, the Bisch finally made his way onto WWE television as "General Manager" of RAW. After Vince became 100% owner of the WWE again, he assigned 2 General Managers to head up his shows. Bischoff got RAW, and Stephanie received Smackdown. Both, I'll admit, have done well in their positions. Bischoff, especially, who seems to have regained that cocky attitude he once had on WCW Nitro. His interaction with RAW talent and Stephanie has been rather entertaining, to say the least. I'm happy to see him on WWE television every week, although his surrounding show isn't very strong. Bischoff would gain a personal assistant in Sean "Val Venis" Morley to possibly jumpstart Morley's career, as he's a great wrestling talent just wasted in WWE dark matches.
A couple other odds and ends things. WWE and Acclaim video game company are currently fighting over the rights to Extreme Championship Wrestling. Both want to video footage to make MEGA-BUCKS through video tapes. The WWE played dirty, too, as they filed a lawsuit against Acclaim for distributing WWF games out of license. Acclaim disputed this as an inventory issue, as you can find Attitude or Warzone, especially for Playstation, at any store in the discount bin. Sean Waltman (X-Pac) and Joanie Laurer (Chyna) became engaged recently. Congrats to them. Hulk Hogan has been at home lately, as a dispute over the Australian tour came about between Hogan and McMahon. Hogan's contract runs out soon, but many suggest that he'll be back for one more Wrestlemania... Kevin Nash ripped his quad muscle during the Summer in his first match back from a bicep injury. He was only in the ring for, what, 11 seconds, before the quad tore, which is said to be worse than Triple H's injury. Nash was in line for a HUGE push, but that will have to wait until around Wrestlemania. Quad rips are very hard to come back from, especially for a man of Nash's age.
I thought that while 2002 had some great performances, it was a lackluster year overall. The Smackdown roster has been excellent, but the attempts at creating angles to further business in the long run have come up short (NWO, the split, Necrophilia, HBK vs. Triple H, pushing Big Show/Albert, etc.). I believe that 2002 has suffered from problems at the end of 2001, which had a blown WCW/ECW Invasion angle hanging over them from what COULD have been. RAW, in my opinion, needs to up its workrate. Pushing Booker T and Goldust is a great idea, but that should have been done months ago. Triple H, now the champion again, needs to get some good opponents to defend his belt against, instead of an opponent to squash and embarrass to never fight them again. When Edge, Mysterio (who was a great pick up for 2002), Angle, Benoit, and the Guerreros are whipping out great matches night after night, it should be a no-brainer on who Brock Lesnar should have been fighting, instead of the Big Show or the Undertaker. Use your head, WWE, or 2003 will see the WWE actually losing money for the first time since 1997. 'Nuff said.
LAST WORD: I hope you enjoyed my History of 2002. I hope I didn't leave out too much, as the only resource I had were the results of Pay Per View shows, while the rest of my History came from what I remembered this year. I hope you enjoyed it, and anything you'd like to discuss with me concerning this year's history can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, which is were you can always send me feedback. Thanks, and I'm hoping for a great year of wrestling in 2003.
Check out the Valley Wrestling Federation and Willygoat Xtreme Wrestling. Two great backyard feds.
WRESTLEPALOOZA.com - Audio Show, Columns, News, and more!
KOLTERSHOCK!!! - A site that you shouldn't view with small children present!
X-Entertainment.com - One of the most entertaining pages on the net!
@I should be back tomorrow with my FAMOUS 2002 Tito Awards.
Take Care, and Thanks for Reading.