Jazz vs. Trish Stratus
Despite all the hell I've given this division in the past, throughout its baker's dozen relaunches, I can't help but admit it... business has indeed been picking up. I sure as hell don't think Trish should be the champion, but at least we're still getting the kind of well-booked, well-wrestled matches that gave the division new life last summer. Hey, Jackie and Jazz actually gave us something of a well fought matchup this past Monday night, even though it was way too short to be worth much of anything in the aftermath. And, with Chyna safely removed from the WWF's extended family, Jazz is playing the part of the super-physical monster as well as anyone's ever done before. With those brutal DDTs, that violent winning streak and the air about her to make it believable, Jazz could be going places in a hurry. She won't be able to do much with Trish this Sunday Night, but at the very least it isn't another lingerie match, with the gold at stake. I can watch this one without the threat of my girlfriend walking out of the room angry. Jazz deserves the win, but I get the feeling Trish is the centerpiece of the division right now, and can't afford to lose.
Winner: Trish Stratus
Dudley Boyz vs. Tazz & Spike Dudley
Tag Team Championship
A surprisingly interesting title matchup. Spike's been absolutely worthless since he parted ways with Molly, taking a few incredible bumps without a purpose and just sort of treading water for months. Teaming with Tazz, another superstar who never hit the high water mark everyone expected he would, seems almost natural. Winning the Tag Team titles was simply unthinkable. Now that they have, however, what we've got is a great little match between four of the most notable ECW alumni still working on television. I really hope this one's given the time and freedom to become what it has the chance to be later tonight. As for a winner, I've got to go with the Dudley Boyz. They've been too intimidating, too dominant these last few months to lose the gold just that easily.
Winners: The Dudley Boyz
Edge vs. William Regal
Two guys who have been treading water for about the last six months, with no real end in sight. Edge's character just went totally flat after his quiet feud with Christian ended, and Regal's been in freefall since his turn the day after Summerslam was instantly negated by a nonsensical Kurt Angle about-face. That, and Regal's entrance theme really sucks... it's tough to make any sorts of improvements when you're already a step behind on your way to the ring, the result of poor music selection. And in addition to their individual troubles, these two have already given us a largely forgettable match in the recent past. Perhaps now, with a little more motivation behind their actions, the emotion will be a little higher and the final product a step up, but will even that be enough to recover what's likely the lowest profile match of the night? Both these guys need a tremendous shot in the arm, but it ain't gonna come in a match with one another. Regal uses the brass knucks and gains the gold through a back door, and both men move on.
Winner: William Regal
Ric Flair vs. Vince McMahon
Well, you knew it was coming when Flair first returned to the federation... but I don't think anyone really thought it would happen this soon. The Nature Boy will be back between the ropes in an active role this Sunday Night, facing off against his business partner of what... a month? Anyone else feeling a mite rushed? The tension between these two have been quality, hyping the match without sacrificing the legend of Flair nor the untouchable character of McMahon. Remember when WCW tried this same thing near its end, with the Flair vs. Russo angle? Not only did it completely humiliate and detract from what makes Ric so great, but it had little to no payoff, and Vince Russo's character was ultimately sacrificed when he put himself over a 15 time World Champion. Sure, there are times when i dearly miss WCW, but this is not one of them. It should be interesting to see how this one plays out... how much time they spend in the ring, what sort of wardrobe Flair wears in action... how many faces you can name during the inevitable run-ins. Still, you're fooling yourself if you think this is going to end here and now. Flair / McMahon has the potential to grow some enormous legs, and I get the feeling we're only looking at chapter one right now. Even though John C's famous "humiliated on RAW = a win on PPV" formula points directly to Ric Flair in this situation, I'm gonna go with the Poppa McMahon anyway. It makes the most sense to continue the chase here, running with the fans all the way to Wrestlemania.
Winner: Vince McMahon
The Rock vs. Chris Jericho
Undisputed World Wrestling Federation Championship
This is quickly becoming the real breakthrough feud of the "season" between Summerslam and Wrestlemania. From that unforgettable parting of ways on RAW so many months ago to this past Thursday's superb vocal confrontation on Smackdown, these two have really lined every step of the way with gold and diamonds. Their promos have always been on target, and in the ring? Rocky / Jericho has already proven to be well worth our time in the recent past, and now that Jericho's in head-on heel mode, things will just be that much more electric when they start exchanging rights and lefts at the ten minute mark. Though he's been playing the real pussy lately, I'd imagine Jericho will shift his role to a more competitive champion after things have warmed up here, because otherwise it's just gonna be one long squash match. And, in the same vein as my prediction for a Steve Austin / Kurt Angle main event at last year's Wrestlemania, I'm gonna go out on a thin, thin limb this year and predict Chris Jericho is gonna hold the gold walking into the big Toronto event this March. If Rocky wins the gold, Y2J will recapture it within the next couple weeks. Regardless, my money's on the Canadian.
Winner: Chris Jericho
Royal Rumble Match
Despite what the early inclinations leaned toward, there remains quite a drop between the most likely winners here and the obvious also-rans. Without question, this is shaping up to be a Rumble that could rival the 1992 brawl for rights to the title "greatest of all time." With Triple H white hot off his comeback, Stone Cold riding a new wave of popularity, the Undertaker threatening as never before, a few wild cards like Booker T and Rob Van Dam thrown in to keep fans guessing, and Kurt Angle chasing his first ever Rumble victory, this is one of the toughest matches I've ever attempted to predict. Last year, there was little doubt in my mind that Austin would be the winner... this year, though, he's got some competition. The most obvious choice is HHH. Just about every fan in the stands expects him to main event Wrestlemania, and this would be his golden ticket there. But while it's tough to go against 'the game', I think there's a card to be played that almost everyone is overlooking. Can't imagine Kurt Angle main eventing the biggest event of the year? Start firing up your imagination. Almost everyone watching Sunday Night has completely eliminated Angle from the list of possibilities in their mind, which is just the kind of situation the Olympic Hero feeds off of. If I were to predict a main event for Wrestlemania today, I'd go with Jericho vs. HHH, and that seems much more likely than Angle / Rocky, but there's just a hunch I can't really shake about this one. I'm gonna put my money where my mouth is and go with the Olympic Champion here.
Winner: Kurt Angle
I know I kind of poo-pooed on a couple matches on the undercard in the writeups here, but despite my overly pessimistic writing style, know this; the 2002 Royal Rumble has a chance to become the very best in the event's long history. The triple main event is dy-no-mite, and the undercard is absolutely nothing to shake an angry finger at, even if Edge / Regal does turn out to be simply mediocre. Sure, it'd be nice to have a blistering cruiserweight match to open things up here, but it'd also be great to see Eddy Guerrero back on my TV this week, too. The point being... you can't get everything you wish for, and you should just be happy with what's in front of us right this very moment.
until next time, i remain