Trish Stratus vs. Jacqueline
If anybody on the current roster's gonna bare nipple, I suppose it would be Jackie... she's got a pretty colorful history in that regard. Like Dave said, they're really trying to get this division off the ground, which is a pretty remarkable feat when you consider there's no real centerpiece around which they've based things. In the past, the WWF has tended to center this whole thing around a single athlete, be it Wendi Richter, Sable, The Fabulous Moolah or Chyna... and that's something that's drug it down. Now they've suddenly decided to push their balls out to the forefront and parade it along, no matter how poor the initial reactions are. So.... yeah, what's stopping them from using the same 'wait and see' attitude with the Cruiserweights? Lawler will say "puppies", the wrestlers will roll around with fistfulls of each other's hair, and Trish will miraculously hold onto the title, even though she shouldn't really even be more than a valet.
Edge vs. William Regal
I've actually been enjoying Regal's recent use of brass knucks. It's a throwback to the old time heels, when they didn't have to throw people off bridges or drop trucks on their opponents to get over... they just had to break the rules and act undesireable. Funny how the fact that he's doing nothing more than using illegal objects in the ring sets him apart nowadays, isn't it?
I've got to agree with the sentiments Dave expressed above. The whole internet schebang about "ohh, Edge is gonna job because his leg's hurt" just doesn't work in this case, for the very reason the ol' Spinner pointed out just a few short sentences ago. These are two guys that are just a couple lucky breaks away from landing on the top of the card. Unfortunately, I don't think they'll get there facing off against each other. The segments they had together this week just didn't feel real to me.. they were lacking the emotion, and seemed more like skits on a wrestling show and less like two guys who want to tear each other apart. And, of the two, Edge has a bit of an advantage in my eyes.
Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy
Special referee: Lita
No matter what direction they take here, it's gotta be an improvement on where the Hardys were a couple weeks ago. And if they do pull the two brotha turn on Lita, the crowd's gonna be on a hunt for their blood in the weeks to come. A really sweet new direction for these two, that I honestly didn't see coming until I read Dave's words a couple seconds ago.
Regarding the match, however, I'm less than enthusiastic. Sure, these guys are amazing athletes, and sure... they've been one of the most solid teams in the WWF these last few years. Unfortunately, in the few times they've actually faced off against one another in the past, they've done nothing but disappoint. I've had my hopes up about a match like this for years, and now that it's come to pass, I can't shake the feeling that I've seen it before and it wasn't good. So I'm refusing to really build this up in my mind. That way, I've at least got a chance of being pleasantly surprised.
I like Matt in this one. If they're gonna do the straight split, he's the one with the most momentum. While Jeff's remained the sympathetic, injured face who always hits the crowd pleasers, Matt's been slowly but surely developing his own personality. He's the one we've seen the most of these last few weeks, and he's the one that's likely to get the big push coming out of the gates. Only time will tell if he falters or runs with the opportunity.
Winner: Matt Hardy
Big Show & Kane vs. Dudley Boyz
Tag Team Championship
The WWF Tag Team division, once a high and mighty institution, is just about this close to going the way of the dodo. In addition to the teams Dave mentioned during the division's peak, you had potential simply spraying out of every corner of the WWF, with the Hollys, Kaientai, Too Cool, T&A and even the Acolytes really rounding things out and completing a slam bang collection of tag team specialists. Now it seems like the bookers have to create new teams on the fly, just to keep the belts in active contention. Where were the Big Show and Kane one month ago? Probably the same place they'll be a month from today... in singles action.
With so many possible superstars getting their walking papers from the WWF development territories lately, I'm really starting to wonder about the writers' intelligence. Would it have been too much to ask, to call a couple of them up as a set of tag teams, give them a little bit of time to get over on WWF TV, and then feed them to the Dudleys for their big chance to shine in the spotlight? If one thing's for sure, it couldn't have hurt. The Dudleys retain, and Kane and the Big Show have personal problems... leading to the singles match of the century next month. You thought their King of the Ring '98 match, featuring the debut of the 'choke heard round the world' was great? Wait until you see what these two have cooked up next month.
Winners: The Dudley Boyz
Undertaker vs. Rob Van Dam
So it'll be the Taker's first real match since turning on the WWF (and his hair) a few weeks ago on RAW. Should be interesting to see how it affects his performance in the ring, if nothing else. It's no secret that I'm no fan of the current Undertaker character. I've been among the loudest of the Deadman's critics these past few months, and I still don't think turning him heel was such a stupendous thing to do. If anything, that just means we'll have to suffer through that much more of him on the mat, as there's no way he's gonna ride off into the sunset as a heel. But even I have to acknowledge his past record of putting over the next generation of new talent, even if he didn't personally agree with what they said or what they'd done. I might be going out on a limb here, but The Undertaker's made just as many careers in the WWF over the last ten years as Ric Flair did in WCW over that same time period. Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Bret Hart, no matter what the name, they all passed through the Undertaker's test at some point on their way to the top.
And, in a way, this'll be a big test for the taker himself. If he does as Dave thinks he will, the unanimous respect of his legendary character will be knocked down several notches in the eyes of the wrestling collective. If he lets his own feelings get in the way of the company's future well being.... what could he have cared about the WWF in the first place? However, if he gives Van Dam a fair shake, if he sells and does so consistantly, there might be a word or two of apology due.
Personally, I don't think it's gonna be a very entertaining match. But the end result should be both interesting and informative. RVD isn't going over clean, of that I've got no illusion. But I'm not so sure the Undertaker will be having as easy a time as everyone seems to think, either. The Deadman's got my vote, but it's gonna be closer than you'd like to believe.
Winner: The Undertaker
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle
World Wrestling Federation Championship
The WWF's treatment of its perceived "top two" heels in Jericho and Angle these last few weeks has been interesting. Not only have they lost with regularity, but they haven't even looked very strong in doing so. Hell, Jericho even took clean pinfalls from both Austin and the Rock. How that builds a credible main event threat is beyond me, though it's not too late in either case to do a complete about face and arrive with the title firmly beneath their arms this Monday on RAW.
As Dave has once again already mentioned, Austin and Angle have been putting on classics without fail these last 4 months. They won't have a bad one tonight, no matter how overbooked it winds up being. They're just so familiar with one another by this stage, it isn't a question of whether the match will be good or bad, it's an issue of how good. Unfortunately, I don't share Dave's enthusiasm about the Olympic Hero's chances. Sure, it'd be a cool thing to see Austin returning the favor done to him by Angle several months ago on RAW, but it just isn't in the cards this evening. Despite possible Booker T interference, the Rattlesnake's going to the main event. If this crowd doesn't see a stunner at least once, they're likely to riot.
Winner: Steve Austin
The Rock vs. Chris Jericho
As a firm subscriber to John C's policy ("job on RAW, win on the PPV"), there's little question in my mind that Jericho's going to the final match this evening. The real question here is just how clean that path will be. I really can't see the Rock falling very far, if at all, from a loss to Y2J here tonight... where on the other hand, Jericho would simply soar with the credibility of finally scoring a clean, solid, non-chair victory on one of the top names in the industry, in a high-profile situation.
Like Austin and Angle, Jericho and the Rock have been working together almost exclusively for several months, and as such have developed something of a rapport together, both on the mic and in the ring. They play off of one another wonderfully on the stick, and have an undeniable chemistry together in the ring. What needs to be done here is a firm definition of both men's roles in the scheme of things. If Jericho's going to be the vicious, egotistical, prick heel bastard, he needs to really act it here. He needs to show no mercy to Rocky when the advantage is his, and he needs to have no hesitations. On the flip side, of Maivia is to be the calm, cool, collected champion, he needs to have a firm grasp on Jericho's ringwork. He needs to appear as though he's always in control, even when he's getting his teeth kicked in. If these guys can manage that kind of definition, this match will be truly memorable... both for the action contained therein, and for the necessary evolution of both of their stagnation characters.
Winner: Chris Jericho
Steve Austin vs. Chris Jericho
This past Monday hinted at it, and I think Sunday's gonna blow it open. Jericho really needs to look like a threat to even scratch Austin's front here, which just re-emphasizes the importance of that definition in his earlier match with Rocky. Having already dropped one clean on RAW to Austin very recently, Jericho's got a lot of catching up to do if he wants to sell the live audience on his chances at becoming the first Unified Champ.
Still, if you have to choose one "go-to" guy when it comes to turning a crowd in one fell swoop, that guy's gotta be Chris Jericho. He did it with regularity in WCW (hell, the guy turned an incredibly pro-Jericho Canadian crowd with two short sentences back in his heyday), and given the chance and a firm push, he can do it in the WWF.
Not only that, but he's got the skills to keep up in the ring with Steve Austin. Together, I believe the two can tell quite a story between them... so much so, after thirty minutes they'll have the live crowd falling out of their chairs over a clothesline or belly-to-back suplex.
Add in to that the ominous cloud of HHH's return hanging over the main event, and you've got a recipe for success that can't be screwed up. In case you missed it, Parade Magazine, a supplement to newspapers around the nation, pretty much confirmed plans to reintroduce HHH soon, if not tonight, as he was featured in one of their reader questions early in the issue. So if an when he does return, who's he gonna be feuding with? Both Austin and Jericho are solid bets, with my money leaning a little more towards Y2J.
Winner: Chris Jericho
until next time, i remain