By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Chris Benoit Challenged Kurt Angle to a Match at WrestleMania 17
It's amazing to me that WWE waited until the very last week before WrestleMania to officially announce a match for Angle at the event. Then again, I guess WrestleMania 32 is a week away as of this writing and AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho has yet to be confirmed for the card. They might have been teasing this match weeks in advance and I wouldn't know because is the only episode I've watched from this time period. If nothing else, it gave us this glorious promo from Angle, who was always a gem on the mic, and a good back-and-forth with Benoit. He was never the strongest mic worker, but Angle carried him to a solid segment.
Tazz def. Val Venis in a Lumberjack Match
As stacked as WrestleMania 17 was, the six-man tag team between Right to Censor and APA and Tazz was whatever, and so was this hype for it. The bout barely began before they were going straight for their finishing maneuvers. I guess it was a good thing that the match was kept relatively brief, but it was total throwaway, which wasn't surprising for a Lumberjack match.
WWE Commissioner William Regal vs. Light Heavyweight Champion Crash Holly Ended in a No Contest (Non-title)
The Light Heavyweight title was a complete afterthought here, but it wasn't as if it mattered much anyway seeing as how the title was done away with not long after. I was wondering why Doink the Clown was hanging around in the crowd and was baffled why he got involved here, so Chris Jericho's disguise was well done. I know I've seen that clip before yet I still didn't see it coming. It was just as short as the Lumberjack match, but it did a better job of building to the match at WrestleMania.
Shane McMahon Interrupted Mr. McMahon
Obviously, this segment is best remembered for Shane revealing that he, not Vince, was the new owner of WCW, but I had never seen the first half of it before with Vince running down the WCW roster. I'd question whether the purpose was to experiment with how the crowd would react to some of WCW's biggest names, but very few of them were immediately signed when the company went under, anyway. It was an entertaining (albeit unnecessarily long) promo if nothing else. Needless to say, Shane "buying" WCW had plenty of potential that was later squandered with the awful Invasion angle.
Chris Benoit and The Hardy Boyz def. Kurt Angle, Edge and Christian
I was really looking forward to this match when it was announced earlier in the evening because of who was involved, but it was ultimately disappointing due to them having their time cut short. They made the most of the three minutes there were allotted, but it failed to meet my expectations. On a side note, Rhyno made his WWE debut the week prior on SmackDown, so his post-match attack marked his first ever appearance on Raw.
X-Pac def. European Champion Test (Non-title; Eddie Guerrero Served as Special Guest Referee)
X-Pac and Test were set to meet for the European Championship that Sunday at WrestleMania, hence why Eddie was the special guest referee for this match. It was basically what you would expect with Eddie ignoring X-Pac's cheating, leading him to him scoring the victory. By this point in the show, the crowd just didn't care about the contest and it's hard to blame them. The match was just kind of there with no real substance.
Mick Foley Returned
Well, this was random. I mean they did a great job of catching viewers up to speed with where Foley was prior to his return on this show and what led to his departure back in December, but his involvement in the McMahon Street Fight at WrestleMania felt forced. It was almost a case of retrospective storytelling with Creative going back and filling in the logic gaps by explaining away why Foley was able to appoint himself as the referee for the match, but why wouldn't he have come back sooner? He was a welcome addition to one of my favorite WrestleMania matches and maybe it was the plan the entire time, but six days before the event, it felt like it came completely out of nowhere.
Big Show def. Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho (Non-title)
Ah, a clash of the future JeriShow tag team partners. Similar to most of the other matches, the in-ring action was overshadowed by everything else going on at ringside with Kane and Raven (who faced Big Show in a Triple Threat match for the Hardcore Championship at WrestleMania 17) as well as Regal, Jericho's arch-rival. Two feuds were furthered with one match, but said match was virtually a waste.
WWE Champion The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin def. The Undertaker and Kane
With so much star power, you would think this match would have gone a lot longer than it did as opposed to four or so minutes or so, especially with WrestleMania on Sunday. But apparently not. It was a decent match while it lasted, but nowhere near as great as it could have been, which was the theme for most of the show. Rock vs. Austin received more focus than any other match on the card, but as we all know, the event would end up being one of the greatest of all-time.
Of course, this show has plenty of historical significance with it being the night that Shane McMahon announced he "owned" WCW, but everything else about it was completely missable. Even the Foley return was weird. I wouldn't recommend watching the episode in its entirety unless you really enjoy Attitude Era content and are nostalgic for it, but at the very least re-watch the segment with Vince and Shane and remember what could have been with that storyline.