WWE No Mercy 2003 Review feat. Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker

Logo for WWE No Mercy 2003
Image Source: WWE
CompanyWWE
EventWWE No Mercy 2003
SeriesNo Mercy
Edition6
FormatPay-Per-View
DateSunday October 19 2003
Venue1st Mariner Arena
LocationBaltimore, Maryland, USA
Attendance8,500

WWE No Mercy 2003

When someone mentions “WWE No Mercy 2003”, the first match that comes to mind is Vince McMahon vs. Stephanie McMahon. Yes, that is a real match that actually took place at this event. It’s a shame because, when rewatching this card, there are several matches that are worth remembering with more fondness. Still, when a wrestling card hosts the first ever “father-daughter” bout, I guess it’s hard to divert one’s attention elsewhere.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PREVIOUS TV SHOWS? READ OUR PRE-PPV REVIEWS OF RAW & SMACKDOWN!

WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match

Tajiri (C) vs. Rey Mysterio

It’s fair to say that the cruiserweight division has very rarely been a priority to WWE. But there have been times when the junior heavyweight ranks could lay claim to playing an important role in the product. This opener to No Mercy 2003 would be a good example, primarily due to the combatants involved. Tajiri is a low-key favourite of mine throughout the years, while Rey Mysterio is, obviously, an all-time legend. Put them in the ring together, and chances are you’ll have magic. And that would be the case here. Tajiri had captured the CW Title from Rey in September, turning heel in the process, so this marked Rey’s opportunity to reclaim the belt.

Fans were treated to an awesome match between two cruiserweight legends who were in their prime. Mysterio had Tajiri beaten with a 619 and West Coast Pop, only for two “fans” to run into the ring. Amidst the confusion, Tajiri struck with a Buzzsaw Kick to retain, and we soon learned that Tajiri knew the “fans”. They would be renamed Akio (later Jimmy Wang Yang) and Sakoda, and they would be aligned with Tajiri for a while. Rey finally did regain the Cruiserweight crown from the Japanese Buzzsaw on the first SmackDown of 2004.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PREVIOUS EDITION? READ OUR WWE NO MERCY 2002 REVIEW!

Throughout the night, Vince McMahon would discuss his wicked plans to defeat his own daughter, with his own wife Linda trying and failing to make him see sense (though Vince did add a stipulation where Stephanie could pin or submit him, being a fair dad and all). I mention that here because one such speech occurred at the “What?” staircase. What, you may ask, is the “What?” staircase? I shall explain.

Back in 2001, a SmackDown episode featured a backstage promo with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Spike Dudley and Molly Holly. It was in the very same arena, and in front of the aforementioned staircase. During their chat, Austin would say “What?” for the first time, with the catchphrase eventually becoming a phenomenon. For a good while, WWE would present promos in front of the staircase, seemingly as a tribute. So, next time WWE presents a show in Baltimore and you see the staircase in the background of a segment, think “What?”

Chris Benoit vs. A-Train

Next up, we had WWE’s ongoing attempt to make A-Train a major superstar. Fans were always reluctant to accept Matt Bloom as a top heel, likely due to his cartoonish appearance and his dumb ring names. A-Train is still more sensible to say than “Albert”, but not by much. With a regular haircut, no body hair and a proper name, he may have eventually become WWE Champion. Seriously. He could definitely wrestle. And evidence of that was presented here, as he and Chris Benoit put on a thoroughly adequate back-and-forth match (admittedly with little reason to exist).

Unfortunately, this bout is most notable for a near-tragedy. At one point, a steel chair found its way into the ring. With the metal seat laying on the mat, Train avoided a sunset flip by Benoit, and accidentally dropped him on his head on the damn chair. For a split-second, some were wondering if a serious, career-threatening botch had just occurred. Thankfully, Benoit was okay, and he eventually submitted Train with the Sharpshooter to win. Given his low-card position here, it’s strange to think that Benoit would win the Royal Rumble three months later, and the World Heavyweight Championship main event at WrestleMania XX shortly afterwards.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PREVIOUS PPV? READ OUR WWE UNFORGIVEN 2003 REVIEW!

Zach Gowen vs. Matt Hardy

One of the forgotten stories of 2003 in WWE concerns Zach Gowen. The company’s first ever one-legged wrestler had been prominently featured for a few months, before his profile was noticeably downgraded. This match had been scheduled for SummerSlam, but Gowen was kayfabe injured by Brock Lesnar in a shockingly bloody angle. Shannon Moore would be in Matt’s corner, though only after Hardy rescued Moore from a backstage attack by John Heidenreich, who had been searching for Little Johnny (an even more forgotten storyline from 2003).

Here, Matt would plan to give Zach the beating he had hoped to dish out two months earlier. But The Sensei Of Mattitude would be denied. Pulling off the upset victory, Gowen struck with his legitimately awe-inspiring top rope moonsault for the win. Ultimately, Zach would only be around for a little while longer before being released. Matt, meanwhile, would be switched to Raw in November, splintering his alliance with his “little MF’er” (Mattitude Follower) Shannon.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FIRST EDITION? READ OUR WWF NO MERCY (UK) 1999 REVIEW!

The APA vs. The Basham Brothers

Having been very popular in 2000-2001, by 2003 Faarooq and Bradshaw were starting to feel like old hat. Their APA gimmick worked more so because of the novelty of them protecting other wrestlers in various situations. The beer-drinking and cigar-smoking may have created a relatable image for the duo, no doubt. But having these guys simply be a tag team with occasional references to their past wouldn’t be successful. Bradshaw changing his appearance to not even remotely resemble his former self created confusion too.

All of which meant their fairly fresh opponents The Bashams (Doug and Danny, accompanied by Shaniqua a.k.a. Linda Miles) were likely to win. And so they did after Shaniqua struck Bradshaw with a club. The Bashams (who had a sadomasochism gimmick, because it was the TV-14 era) would win the WWE Tag Team Titles from Los Guerreros days later. As for The APA, they would continue treading water until Faarooq retired and Bradshaw became JBL in March 2004.

Father-Daughter I Quit Match

Vince McMahon vs. Stephanie McMahon

Imagine reading this match format to a non-wrestling fan. A father fighting his own daughter in a match with a violent stipulation. Well, you know what they say. “R-A-S-S-L-I-N, that’s rasslin’!” If things weren’t ludicrous enough, Vince was accompanied by his increasingly-close sidekick (and former rival) Sable, while Linda accompanied her own daughter. If Shane hadn’t been involved in a blood feud with Kane over on Raw, he’d have likely been involved here too.

Obviously, this could not be taken seriously as an actual match. As a spectacle, it isn’t too bad, and the Baltimore crowd were legitimately invested. Does that mean that the intergender battle of the McMahons achieved its purpose? Some would say “yes”. Despite Stephanie’s best efforts, though, Vince would trap her in a lead pipe-assisted chokehold (I shouldn’t laugh, but the visual is darkly comical). Linda, fearing for her daughter’s health, threw a towel into the ring, meaning that Stephanie did not quit, though Vince had triumphed.

If Vince had lost, he would resign as WWE Chairman, while Stephanie’s job as SmackDown General Manager was at stake. Therefore, by losing, Steph’s 15-month tenure as SmackDown GM had ended (Paul Heyman would replace her). This, hilariously, was the storyline reason for Stephanie to leave television as she prepared to marry Triple H in real life. If you need time off from work for a wedding, where else would you complete your notice by having a fight with your dad?

Afterwards, Vince proved how much of a heel he was by grabbing Linda by the throat (yep) and lightly shoving his wife over. He would follow this up by necking Sable. Again, I shouldn’t laugh, and Vince had long reached the point of being overpushed (we’ll return to him later on). But his character was so bloody evil that it borders on comedy, to the point of him almost becoming a babyface.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE LAST EDITION? READ OUR WWE NO MERCY 2017 REVIEW!

Kurt Angle vs. John Cena

This is arguably the least significant of their singles battles, and yet to me it’s their best. Angle was very much in his prime at this point, and could be relied upon to get a near-classic out of almost anyone. Meanwhile, Cena was about to turn babyface, and he was clearly going to be a major player in the future.

But despite his success thus far and his initial debut against Kurt, he still needed a blow-away match to really establish him. A must-see encounter was the only thing that Cena lacked at this point. But Angle definitely gave him that here, and the two put on a fantastic display. The clear match of the night, this was simply awesome stuff from bell to bell. Also, it wasn’t obvious who would win, meaning that Angle was the clear favourite, but a Cena triumph wasn’t out of the question.

In the end, we were able to see something that WWE would never present again once Cena became The Guy: he tapped out! That’s right, Cena submitted to the Ankle Lock after Kurt had grapevined the leg. This isn’t surprising considering how effective Angle’s move was, but even so, it’s almost stunning to see Cena submit. It’s like seeing Hulk Hogan or The Undertaker submit; it just doesn’t happen. I also must mention Cena’s hilarious and edgy pre-match rap. John’s freestyle rapping character was awesome especially while he was a heel, because he didn’t hold back and came out with all sorts. No wonder he would turn babyface just weeks later. We are still waiting for Cena to turn back heel almost seventeen years later.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FOLLOWING PPV? READ OUR WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 2003 REVIEW!

WWE United States Championship Match

Eddie Guerrero (C) vs. Big Show

This feels like a weird pairing, and so it would prove. To some, Guerrero had reached his career peak here by simultaneously holding the WWE Tag Team and United States Titles. Yet, at first glance, this particular October week would mark a big stumble for Latino Heat. Though he tried to work around the giant, Eddie was unable to get a great match out of Show. That isn’t a criticism, though it just proves that not everyone can click in a match based around chopping down a giant.

After Eddie had kicked out of one Chokeslam, Show hit his finisher for a second time to win the belt. Show would hold it (practically hostage, as he rarely defended it) until WrestleMania XX, when John Cena captured the gold. As for Eddie, two title losses in a week seemingly spells disaster, but there would be a method behind the madness. By February, Eddie had broken away from Chavo Guerrero and had won the WWE Title. Few had seen that coming, even as recently as No Mercy 2003, which only makes his triumph more astounding.

WWE Championship Biker Chain Match

Brock Lesnar (C) vs. The Undertaker

The main event of No Mercy 2003 would mark the first and only Biker Chain match in WWE history. This is also the only time that a pole match would headline a WWE Pay-Per-View. And Vince Russo was in TNA at the time! Lesnar and Undertaker battling again would be a challenge; not from an in-ring standpoint as both were very much capable of delivering awesome action. But they had delivered a brutal and extremely bloody Hell In A Cell clash at No Mercy 2002. Having them renew their hostilities in a less aggressive manner seemed poised to set fans up for a letdown. After all, why continue a feud (even after a delay) after HIAC unless you have a stipulation which could top the Cell?

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FOLLOWING EDITION? READ OUR WWE NO MERCY 2004 REVIEW!

Therefore, judging this contest with their past (and even future) battles in mind, this feels a bit second-rate. As a one-off match with no context, however, this would be considered a great main event in 2020. This was the original version of Lesnar at his best, being a brilliant all-rounder with frightening power. Meanwhile, the Big Evil character had given Taker a strong year on the blue brand, and he put in another quality performance here. Here, the chain was to be used as a weapon once it had been retrieved, rather than it directly deciding the outcome.

After taking out the interfering FBI with a dive, Taker grabbed the chain to finally use on Lesnar with vicious intentions. But that’s when Vince McMahon resurfaced, shoving Taker off the top rope. This allowed Brock to get hold of the chain and whack Taker with it; he then drilled him with an F5 to win the match and retain his WWE Championship. Though Lesnar had won, the real focus was Vince, who was seemingly the company’s top heel based on this show. This would lead to Vince vs. Taker under Buried Alive rules at Survivor Series, which would bring an end to the latter’s American Bad Ass persona.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FOLLOWING TV SHOWS? READ OUR POST-PPV REVIEWS OF RAW & SMACKDOWN!

WWE No Mercy 2003 has one particularly controversial match which sadly overshadows what is otherwise a very enjoyable card. Tajiri vs. Rey, Angle vs. Cena and Lesnar vs. Undertaker are all well worth reliving. But Vince vs. Stephanie is hard to ignore, despite the over-top-nature of the McMahon family storyline. The rest of the show is skippable. Check out the three top-quality bouts, and try not to laugh as Vince reaches a new level of insanity.

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