|Date||Sunday December 9 2001|
|Venue||San Diego Sports Arena|
|Location||San Diego, California, USA|
WWF Vengeance 2001
WWF Vengeance 2001 is most memorable for the historic achievements of one man. Chris Jericho overcoming both The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin – in the same night, by the way – to lift the Undisputed Title will always be Y2J’s most noteworthy accomplishment. Otherwise, though, the card is a bit of a disappointment, even if there are some gems amidst the more forgettable outings.
The show (which was the last PPV to be broadcast live on Channel 4 to culminate a troubled working relationship) opened up with a promo involving Vince McMahon and Ric Flair. Basically, this was designed to further the tension between the two WWF co-owners, as well as allowing Vince to rant about having his Kiss My Ass Club closed by virtue of “kissing” Rikishi’s massive arse on SmackDown! There really isn’t much to say about this segment, so let’s move on.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PREVIOUS TV SHOWS? READ OUR PRE-PPV REVIEWS OF RAW & SMACKDOWN!
Scotty Too Hotty & Albert vs. Christian & Test
Talk about two random pairings to open the night from an in-ring standpoint. Scotty and Albert had formed an unusual alliance with the future A-Train being nicknamed the Hip Hop Hippo. When it comes to strange ring names, Matt Bloom must be near the top of the all-time list. The bond between Christian and Test was more obvious due to their similar appearances and Canadian heritages. Even so, this would still be a TV-level contest to start the night, which adds to the B-level vibe that one gets when rewatching Vengeance 2001. In the end, a Baldo Bomb to Christian scored the victory for the babyfaces, which gave them their only significant victory as a combo; Albert would turn heel on Scotty in April 2002.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PREVIOUS PPV? READ OUR WWF SURVIVOR SERIES 2001 REVIEW!
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match
Edge (C) vs. William Regal
Christian may have been in free fall as 2001 was coming to an end, but his old partner/friend/brother/whatever Edge was in a strong position at this stage. The reigning Intercontinental Champion was steadily building himself up as a future headliner, so a title defence against the truly villainous William Regal could only help. I enjoyed this one because it allowed two varying styles to clash and mesh nicely, as well as offering something different to anything else on the card. And when a match achieves the latter goal, it’s bound to be memorable even if the wrestling itself isn’t up to scratch. Thankfully, this one delivered the goods. Regal did try to cheat by unveiling brass knuckles; however, before Regal could use them, Edge Speared him to score the win. However, Regal would defeat Edge in a rematch to become the IC Champ at Royal Rumble 2002.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PREVIOUS PPV? READ OUR WWF SURVIVOR SERIES 2001 REVIEW!
Lita Is Special Guest Referee
Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy
In theory, this should have been a sure-fire classic. The brothers Hardy waging war against one another on a major stage for the first time, with the third member of Team Extreme as special referee. Instead, for whatever reason, Matt and Jeff didn’t click here. Instead, they had a pedestrian clash which was far less spectacular than one would expect from two of the more eye-catching members of the roster.
Matt as a heel made more sense than having Jeff play the villain, but I felt like Matt was still trying to locate his inner bad guy at this point, which he would achieve when he became Matt Hardy Version 1.0 the following summer. Here, though, a combination of Matt being less than believable in the heel role and Jeff having a bit of an off night, all in front of a crowd which seemed disinterested, made for an awkward outing.
Jeff pinned Matt after a Swanton Bomb, though he did push Matt’s feet off the ropes as Lita made the three-count. A handicap rematch on Raw would lead to the feud fizzling out to the point that, by Royal Rumble, all three were back together as a babyface trio, almost as if nothing had happened. As an aside, in their autobiography Exist 2 Inspire, Matt says that he and Jeff had a minor confrontation backstage after this contest. Of course, they would put their on- and off-screen issues aside quickly, and the Hardyz would have much more successful feuds in WWE in 2009 and TNA in 2016.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FIRST PPV? READ OUR WWF WRESTLEMANIA 1 REVIEW!
WWF World Tag Team Championship Match
The Dudley Boyz (C) vs. Big Show & Kane
On paper, this represented a tough task for Bubba Ray and D-Von, as they were defending against the WWF’s two largest performers. In reality, though, Show was starved for credibility and had failed in several previous title shots by this point. Kane had enjoyed a strong year to be fair, but even he was searching for a new direction in the aftermath of The Undertaker turning heel a few weeks earlier. Therefore, though the action was fine, it was nothing to write home about.
Though the behemoths would capture Tag Team gold in 2005 and 2011 respectively, this would not be their night. Instead, Show took the pinfall loss after receiving a double flapjack onto an exposed turnbuckle pad. The Dudleyz’ reign as champs would end around a month later due to the underdog tandem of Spike Dudley and Tazz. That Show couldn’t win the belts alongside Kane, Tajiri or Spike himself, but the smallest Dudley was able to achieve that goal alongside Tazz sums up what a poor year 2001 was for Big Nasty.
WWF Hardcore Championship Match
Rob Van Dam (C) vs. The Undertaker
Now we come to the best match of the night. Unlike Show, RVD had enjoyed a tremendous 2001 (technically half of 2001, actually, since he only made his WWF debut on July 9) and was riding a huge wave of popularity at this point. Undertaker, as noted, had turned rogue a fortnight earlier, making him both a credible threat and an intriguing challenge for Van Dam. Seeing Undertaker scrapping for the Hardcore belt seems bizarre when looking back, but RVD had essentially forced the WWF to elevate the Hardcore crown to a level just below the World Championship, such was the impact that he was having on the product.
And, best of all, the match itself was awesome. These two also had a styles clash, and not unlike Edge and Regal, they clicked fantastically. The match quickly descended towards battling in the crowd, and this led to a rare (in the WWF) spot of RVD hitting a balcony dive on the American Bad Ass. But Taker would rebound, and in the end, he drilled Van Dam with a Chokeslam off the stage onto and through two tables on the floor. A great finish to a great match, then, as Undertaker captured the Hardcore Championship after hitting the spot of the night. Taker (who had recently had his long hair cut short in a jarring visual) would rule the division for a little while, before losing it to, of all people, Maven from Tough Enough!
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE LAST EDITION? READ OUR WWE VENGEANCE 2011 REVIEW!
WWF Women’s Championship Match
Trish Stratus (C) vs. Jacqueline
When she first joined the WWF in 1998, Jacqueline was pushed heavily as Sable’s on-screen rival, and her strong wrestling background made her a worthy addition to the roster. By late 2001, though, her character felt very stale, with her rarely bringing anything new to the table. Which ensured that Trish’s first Women’s Title defence on PPV would be successful. It didn’t necessarily help that Jackie was playing a babyface at this point, reducing the potential drama of the match even further. A backslide allowed Trish to retain as she was still establishing herself as a worthy face of the women’s division. It’s safe to say that she would successfully achieve that goal.
Before we come to the final part of the night, I should note that Triple H was all over the promotional artwork for this card. Yet, on the night, we only got a video hyping up his return, which was officially announced for January 7 2002, on Raw, in Madison Square Garden, New York City. Mind you, the hype video (set to U2’s Beautiful Day) was awesome, and the comeback segment itself would be a classic Raw moment. So, while it was a let-down to not see HHH appear at Vengeance 2001, I guess it worked out in the end for The Game.
WWF Championship Match
Stone Cold Steve Austin (C) vs. Kurt Angle
So, the WCW/ECW Alliance storyline was brought to an end (prematurely, I feel) when The Rock pinned Steve Austin to win the main event at Survivor Series 2001. It was soon decided that a four-man mini-tournament would take place on this very night to unify both the WWF and WCW/World Titles. The latter is something that people forget about this night; by December 9 2001, the “WCW” name had vanished, which slightly dilutes the impact of Chris Jericho’s monumental accomplishment. I should also note that Rock held the WCW/World Title, with Austin being WWF Champion; however, at Survivors, Rock was on Team WWF, whereas Stone Cold headed up Team WCW/ECW. Confused yet?
Anyway, the four-man saga began with Austin defending his WWF Championship against Angle. Since Survivors, Austin had switched from heel to babyface, as well as once again using his most famous theme song. Angle had swapped from face to heel prior to Survivors, before going face again AT Survivors, and then switching to heel once more at Survivors. Hell, now I’M confused. All I can say for certain is that the WWF Title was on the line against these two rivals here. Now, earlier in the year they had met several times, at which point Austin was heel and Angle was face … ah, forget it.
This match is rarely brought up when discussing the shared history of these two legends. But while it’s definitely not their best work, it’s still a pretty good match. I feel that these two had set their bar so high that even a strong outing would be deemed somewhat disappointing. It may not have helped that the outcome was never in doubt due to the tournament format, with Austin pinning Angle after a Stone Cold Stunner (Kurt had endured three Stunners at SummerSlam).
WWF World Heavyweight Championship Match
The Rock (C) vs. Chris Jericho
Though Rock had managed to remain a good guy throughout 2001 (unless you count the quick heel tease on July 30), Jericho himself had slowly been switching towards accepting his villainous roots before turning bad proper, at Rock’s expense, at Survivor Series. This meant that these two were always likely to resume hostilities here at Vengeance 2001. Now, as soon as the mini-tournament was announced, many fans (myself included) fantasy booked an Austin vs. Rock final with two titles on the line. And had that transpired, Rock scoring the win to finally gain revenge from WrestleMania X-Seven seemed the probable outcome.
But few had envisioned that the WWF would run a swerve to make Vince Russo proud. Indeed, after an exciting clash between Rock and Jericho (who always delivered against one another), Vince got involved to try and gain some dignity after the previous week’s arse-kissing shenanigans (reading that statement while considering the significance of this occasion is hilarious). Amidst the confusion, Jericho struck with a low blow and then hit Rock with his own Rock Bottom finishing move to win the World Title. Rock losing was more of a “meh” than a “woah”, with most summarising that it would simply allow Austin to unify both belts without having to defeat Rock again.
WWF Undisputed Championship Match
Stone Cold Steve Austin (C) vs. Chris Jericho (C)
Jericho wasn’t even back on his feet before the glass shattered for Austin to return to the ring. Before they could get going, however, Angle ran back in to chairshot Austin. Jericho seemed to have an open goal, but a Rock Bottom by the now-former World Champion put paid to that. This essentially allowed the match to start with both men down (fitting, since their previous PPV clash also involving Chris Benoit at King Of The Ring 2001 ended in the same scenario), adding to the drama of the high-stakes match-up. Yet, despite the odds being tipped higher in Jericho’s favour (he would trap Austin the Walls Of Jericho on an announcer’s table), it would still surely be Austin’s night, right?
Wrong. After a referee bump, Vince McMahon ran in, only to be cold-cocked by Ric Flair, which would help to set up their Street Fight the following month at Royal Rumble. After Austin submitted Chris to his own finisher while Nick Patrick was still out cold, Booker T ran in, having not been seen since the demise of The Alliance at Survivors (I wonder how many former WCW/ECW wrestlers actually never reappeared on WWF/WWE television after November 18 2001?). T nailed Austin with the WWF belt, allowing Jericho to score the dodgy-as-hell pin on Stone Cold to become Undisputed Champion. Chris may have shocked the world by winning not one but two World Titles, and by defeating the two biggest wrestlers ever not named Hulk Hogan, but it was under the screwiest circumstances imaginable.
Nevertheless, it was still his big night, and afterwards he celebrated with Vince as fireworks went off and confetti fell down. Earlier, Vince had noted how “he who laughs last would laugh loudest”, and he was cackling here, which almost made this more about McMahon than Jericho. A stoney-faced Stone Cold looked on, having lost to Jericho in their only ever singles scrap on PPV. Austin’s feud with Booker T would commence, though it would be over and done with by Royal Rumble. And though we didn’t know this at the time, Austin would never again hold a World Title (or indeed any title) after this night. Also, as a side-note, Jericho’s second book Undisputed has some great stories about how the biggest night of Chris’ career didn’t quite feel as incredible as he may have hoped.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FOLLOWING TV SHOWS? READ OUR POST-PPV REVIEWS OF RAW & SMACKDOWN!
The best way to describe WWF Vengeance 2001 from an entertainment standpoint is that it came and went without leaving much of a lasting impression. And yet there is real historical significance to this card, primarily for Chris Jericho, but also for other performers. But in a year which had so much happening on-screen and off, maybe this was a case of fans struggling to digest the importance of what was happening. It also doesn’t help Jericho that his Undisputed reign would be a bit of a disappointment, losing to Triple H in underwhelming fashion at WrestleMania X8. Nevertheless, for any Jerichoholics, WWF Vengeance 2001 is a vital show to watch, and for most other fans, there are still some good matches to be found here.