Sunday, December 19, 2021

Ruthless Aggression Era Project: WWE Smackdown Review - April 17th, 2003

WWE Smackdown 
April 17th, 2003
Norfolk, Virginia

WWE Champion: Brock Lesnar (since 3/30/03)
WWE Tag Team Champions: Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas (since 2/6/03)
WWE Cruserweight Champion: Matt Hardy (since 2/23/03)

Michael Cole & Tazz

Video package highlighting the #1 contenders tournament from the past few weeks. Tonight, we have the finals in the form of John Cena vs. Chris Benoit to determine who will challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at Backlash in two weeks. 

1) Rey Mysterio & Tajiri vs. The Big Show & A-Train 

Ok so if you’re watching WWE at this time, you know all these guys are delivering so this being a banger is no surprise. Mysterio is the hottest of them all, Tajiri is still fresh, Show’s career has been hit or miss, but in late 2002-03, he really is the perfect big man. Then you’ve got A Train who is just a blast at hoss fights. So yeah the story is simple due to the size dynamic and they deliver a thrilling little TV tag. Show & Albert win, but Mysterio gets the last laugh by knocking Show to the ground after the match which apparently embarrassed Mr. Show. 

Match rating - ***

Back from commercial, we see Big Show slamming his head into a fence while A Train wipes green mist out of his eyes. Show starts yelling that everyone was laughing at him for falling down when Rey hit him with the 619. Show says he’s gonna go to Steph and demand a match with that “half pint masked freak” Rey Mysterio. 

Michael Cole introduces the WWE Champion Brock Lesnar.  It's a pretty rough attempt at a babyface champion promo, but the crowd still loves him and I do so that's ok. This segment is saved however when John Cena comes out and lord have mercy...


Cena really turns up the heat here and nails this promo. It’s moments like this where you can easily see why WWE chose to go with Cena as the guy, he just exudes confidence and humor. Cena says Brock was the next big thing, but he is the next best thing and he is gonna prove at Backlash that he is bigger than everyone including the championship itself. CHRIS BENOIT is out next and he begs to differ as they face later on for the #1 contendership. Benoit says Cena knows nothing about respect and talks about why he should respect the championship.. even if you don’t respect who’s holding it. Brock gets in Benoit’s face asking if he doesn’t respect him, Benoit returns the question, Cena feels left out and screeches that they both better put some respect on him LMAO. They look his way and Cena looks scared. Brock throws out the idea that they all agree to respect whoever wins between the two of them tonight. Brock and Cena reluctantly shake hands. When Benoit shakes Brock’s, Cena cheap shots him to end the segment. This segment fuckin rocked. 

2) Eddie Guerrero (w/ Chavo Guerrero) vs. Jamie Noble (w/ Nidia)

“Not everyone in Virginia lives in a double wide.” -Michael Cole 

Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas come out before the match and imitate the Guerrero’s accent and make a terribly racist joke toward their mother. This distracts Eddie and allows Noble to charge him at the bell. Noble uses this to throw a flurry of offense at Eddie before getting even more thrown at him and getting put away. 

Match rating - **1/4

After the match, The Guerreros talk some shit of their own saying the rumor is they don’t just take each other down all the time, they GO DOWN on each other all the time. Haas & Benjamin get pissed and storm the ring.. or attempt to. Guerreros knock them off the apron before they can even get started.

Back from commercial, we get a recap of all the recent Taker/FBI shit and the Taker/Cena match last week. Taker is out for a few weeks due to surgery. But earlier tonight, apparently, Nathan Jones beat the dog shit out of FBI in the parking garage.

Backstage, Sable shows Torrie her tits and tries to seduce her into them changing in the locker room together. Torrie rushes off because she has a match coming up.

Piper’s Pit time. Piper replays the Snuka coconut segment from forever ago again. He says he came back because he found the new millenium’s wrestler and someone to have his back… Sean O’Haire. O’Haire comes out and says he’s honored to be aligned with him and that he might be the only person he knows who’s more evil than him… but IM NOT TELLIN U SOMETHIN U DONT ALRESDY KNO or whatever. Jimmy Snuka comes out. He and Piper come to blows. O’Haire knocks the shit out of Snuka. Rikishi makes the save. Rikishi and O’Haire face off at Backlash in two weeks. 

3) Torrie Wilson vs. Nidia (w/ Jamie Noble) - Special Ref: Sable 

“That’s one sexy monkey.” -Tazz 

Well, this happened and I give them half a star for showing up. It starts off with decent effort then a sloppy back body drop and drop kick send this off the rails. Not to mention Sable moving around like she’s never been a ref in her life which.. she probably hasn’t. But yeah.. this was not good. The commentary was the funniest part. Torrie drop kicks Noble off the apron and hits a swinging DDT for the win.

Match rating - 1/2* 

4) Matt Hardy (c) (w/Shannon Moore) vs. Brian Kendrick 

Fuck yes!! Spanky has been killing it in this WWE run so far and this was no different. Hardy is the perfect opponent for him in his current role. Kendrick hits a lot of fiery and flashy stuff including a sick full nelson style flatliner for a two count. He really has Matt reeling and the crowd loved it because they’re so annoyed with the Mattitude shit. Kendrick goes for sliced bread, but Hardy reverses and hits Twist of Fate to win and retain. Show me a better sub 5 minute wrestler than Kendrick on this roster.. you can’t. 

Match rating - **1/2

Nunzio is in the back. Palumbo & Stamboli are hyping him up for his match with Nathan Jones… next.

OH HELL DIVAS DESERT HEAT DVD AVAILABLE ON FYE SOON!!! I remember seeing this ad as a kid. 

Clips of Bradshaw and Ron Simmons visiting injured troops. 

5) Nunzio vs. Nathan Jones

This just basically turns into a cluster fuck and ends in a no contest. Jones beats the shit out of Nunzio AND FBI. Then the numbers catch up to him and they smash his leg on the steps and shit. 

6) John Cena vs. Chris Benoit - #1 Contender’s Tournament Match Final 

“If you ever go broke, rent the space between your teeth.” -John Cena 

Cena also raps about letting his nuts hang. Wow King John. Thank you for this holy shit. So, yeah. This tournament has been Cena’s first big push and he’s delivered in all the matches so far. This one.. is a tough one to dissect. This was worked more towards Benoit’s style and it did make Cena definitely look green, however Benoit also helped guide Cena along and I think matches like this are probably what led Cena to becoming what he would become in the next 3-4 years. It was just suuuper obvious Cena was out of his element. But this is the shit that needs to happen to get someone where they need to be. Cena gets the win here which my immediate reaction is damn.. why? He was so clearly not the better man, is he really ready for a PPV Title match? Then I caught myself because this is something we never see WWE do anymore. Shit, fans had to “hi-jack” a show just to get a 13 year veteran into a high profile title match. With Cena, they threw him to the wolves and gave him these big matches almost off the jump because they believed and had faith in him. And it proved to be more than just the right decision. So yeah. This is very interesting to look back on through that lense as well. But Cena wins off some pinning combo exchanges and he finally secured the three count sitting down on Benoit’s face and holding the legs so Benoit still looks strong, just like he got caught in a predicament. Cena faces Brock at Backlash for the title and I’m pretty excited. This is the direction they’ve clearly been building even since before Mania (also something they never do anymore.. extensive planning that they stick with ?!?!) so hell yeah. Cena celebrates from the ramp, but also looks shocked to close the show. Benoit is frustrated and pissed. Good shit. 

Match rating - ***

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