The current brand split in WWE between Raw and Smackdown is nothing new. Indeed the company first tried something like this way back in 2002, with Ric Flair running Raw and Vince McMahon running Smackdown. WWE had a show every Sunday called Heat, which was pretty much just a recap show featuring a few matches from lower card wrestlers as well to fill the hour out. When the brand split happened, Heat became a show dedicated to the Raw brand and featured only Raw wrestlers. Feeling that Smackdown should have its own equivalent, WWE created a new show called Velocity featuring the Smackdown roster to air every Saturday.
I always liked watching Velocity back in the day as it often featured action from guys in the Cruiserweight division like Brian “Spanky” Kendrick, Jimmy “Akio” Yang and Paul London. These wrestlers normally didn’t get onto Smackdown, and when they did their matches were usually pretty short. On Velocity they tended to get more time to have an actual match, so I would usually tune in to see them. I would often record the show, partly because Velocity was on late at night in the UK, but also because I would fast forward through the Smackdown recap sections as I would have usually watched Smackdown for that week anyway.
I’m mainly reviewing this because I fancied a trip down memory lane and I also thought the main event stood as a good example as to how far the WWE has come in relation to the treatment of its female talent. I’m equally as sick of the whole “Stephanie McMahon invented Women’s Wrestling” narrative that WWE push all the time as everyone else, but there’s no doubt that things have definitely improved for the women wrestlers in WWE, as the stipulation in the main event will no doubt highlight.
The event is emanating from Tupelo, Mississippi (Which I shockingly spelt correctly on my first attempt! Absolute fluke on my part to be honest, but I’ll take it)
Calling the action for your debut episode of Velocity are Michael Cole and Al Snow. Eventually the gig would go to current Impact Wrestling announcer Joey Matthews, with colour commentary being provided by Ernest “The Cat” Miller.
The show opens with a video of cars and other quick vehicles inter spliced with clips of Smackdown stars such as Rock, Hulk Hogan, Triple H and Kurt Angle. I don’t think any of those guys other than Angle ever actually wrestled a match on Velocity, but I guess they felt they had to include them seeing as this is supposed to be a Smackdown branded show.
Tajiri Vs Billy Kidman
We get clips showing Tajiri covering up Torrie Wilson during a bikini contest the prior week to establish that he’s a heel for first time viewers. These two men competed in a series of great matches in early 2002, with the most high profile one being at Backlash 2002 where Tajiri won the Cruiserweight Title. This is mostly mat based to start, which isn’t really what people wanted from the Cruiserweight division, even though the wrestling is absolutely fine.
Tajiri drops a knee to a downed Kidman and taunts the crowd, which allows Kidman to recover and run wild with an arm drag and a rana to send Tajiri outside. Tajiri skulks around ringside, so Kidman takes him out with a baseball slide and throws him back inside where he gets a nice springboard leg drop for two. Tajiri replies with a kick to the face and then flings Kidman shoulder first into the ring post as we take a break.
Back from the break, Tajiri is working over Kidman and yelling at the crowd whenever the opportunity presents itself. Kidman fires up whilst in an arm bar but Tajiri destroys him with some stiff kicks to put a stop to that before cinching in a bow and arrow lock. Tajiri lets Kidman out and ends up on the receiving end of a desperation running cross body, but he is able to bridge out and deliver some more nasty kicks. Evil Tajiri was fantastic it must be said. He was genuinely threatening despite his size.
Tajiri goes for the Tarantula, but Kidman is able to fight him off. Tajiri drops Kidman’s arm over the top rope in response and goes for a quebrada, but Kidman is able to roll out of the way. Kidman unloads with some right hands and gets a big clothesline for two. Tajiri replies with a big DDT, but Kidman is also able to kick out at two. Kidman counters a Tajiri rana attempt with a powerbomb and gets two from the resulting cover.
Tajiri flattens Kidman with a big kick to the face but Kidman is just out at two. Kidman blocks a Tajiri handspring elbow attempt with a dropkick to the back of the head, but when he tries to follow up on it Tajiri is able to catch him in the Tarantula. Things seem bleak for Kidman, which is Torrie Wilson’s cue to come down to the ring in a fetching red bikini to distract her former beau Tajiri. Kidman gets a roll up on distracted Tajiri for two. Not content with just a visual distraction, Torrie trips Tajiri up and Kidman seizes the opportunity to hit the man from Japan with a face buster to pick up the win.
WINNER: BILLY KIDMAN
I could have done without the distraction finish, but it at least made sense in storyline seeing as Tajiri had been a very controlling and unpleasant boyfriend whilst they were dating and this gave her a chance to get him back. Funnily enough her actual real life boyfriend at the time was none other than Tajiri’s opponent in this contest.
We get still clips from the previous Pay Per View event Judgment Day, where Edge defeated Kurt Angle in a hair vs hair match and shaved the Olympic Hero bald. This is followed up by clips from Smackdown, where we see Angle show up wearing a goofy wig so that he doesn’t have to show everyone his new bald hairdo. Classic heel antics from Angle there, and he even brags about trying out some new hair moose he just bought!
Angle is then interrupted by WWE rookie Maven, who sports a shaved head himself, and encourages Angle to take the wig off. Angle is not impressed with Maven’s interruption and demands Maven come down to the ring to remove the wig himself. Maven does indeed come down to the ring and manages to floor Angle with a dropkick, but when he goes for the wig Angle fights him off with a German Suplex. Edge runs down to have a go at removing the wig himself, but he gets jumped by his brother Christian, who helps Angle to the back.
We cut to footage of a tag match between the four men later in the night. The closing stages make it look like an entertaining match. The match ends with Maven pinning Christian with an Oklahoma Roll to give himself and Edge the victory. Angle’s wig remains intact for the time being, but his hairless dome would eventually be revealed courtesy of fellow baldy Hulk Hogan
Hardcore “How Do You Like Me Know?!” Holly Vs Val Venis
Holly was getting a sort of push during this period as Vince McMahon’s hired gun. McMahon was going through one of his regular phases of booking himself to be romantically linked with one of the women on the roster, with the woman in question this time being Stacy Keibler. During one night on Smackdown, a young fresh faced Randy Orton had debuted and had had the temerity to flirt with a smitten Stacey. Jealous of the young rookie, Vince decided to punish Orton by putting him in a series of matches with noted grizzled veteran Holly, who brutalised him the way only a thoroughly grumpy sod like him could do.
Venis had come to Orton’s rescue during one of Holly’s attacks, so this match here is a result of that intrusion. Holly unloads with some stiff chops to start but Venis replies with some of his own and hits a nice under hook suplex for two. Venis unloads with some punches on a downed Holly, but stops to yell at the referee, which allows Holly to hit a Stun Gun to take over.
Holly kicks Venis right in the gut whilst hanging him up in the ropes and then follows up with a vertical suplex for two. Venis keeps fighting and manages to hit a powerslam for two before making the comeback with clotheslines and big back body drop. Venis manages to hit the Seaman’s Suplex, but Holly is out at two.
Venis follows up with another one of the big moves in his arsenal in the form of a Blue Thunder Driver, but Holly is once again able to sneak his shoulder up before the referee can count three. Holly gets a desperation roll up for two but ends up on the wrong end of a spinebuster after Venis kicks out. Venis heads up top for The Money Shot but Holly is able to roll out of the way and hits a bit dropkick right to the mush of a recovering Venis for the three count.
WINNER: HARDCORE HOLLY
This was two experienced guys going out there and having a perfectly serviceable match. Venis got a decent amount of offence in before Holly was able to get the clean win. The only reason it doesn’t have a higher rating was that it was a little on the short side and didn’t have much heat from the crowd. At the end of the day though, the point of this match was to give a Holly a battling win whilst also making Venis look good, which is what it achieved so bravo says I!
We get a funny commercial where Rob Van Dam accosts a fan for drinking out of a Rock Slurpee cup instead of one of his own. RVD forces the kid to use a cup sporting his visage and then hands out a bunch more of them to other customers. The highlight is RVD walking into the store wearing jeans and his singlet. Why couldn’t he have just worn either his gear or standard clothes? Making him wear a combination just makes him look even more ridiculous.
We cut to still clips of The Undertaker defeating Hulk Hogan at Judgment Day to win the WWE Title. Cole and Snow say that rumours going into last week’s Smackdown were that Hogan was thinking of retirement. We cut to footage of Hogan in the ring on Smackdown addressing the fans. Hogan looks like he will indeed retire, and tries to say goodbye to the fans, but Vince McMahon interrupts the moment to say that Hogan can’t retire as he has him under contract and won’t allow it. I’m not sure that’s actually legal on Vince’s end to be honest, but when has that ever stopped him?
McMahon says that he owns Hulkamania and that he intends to milk Hulkamania for every cent he can until Hogan finally pops his clogs. Hogan is displeased by these comments and punches McMahon. This is Undertakers cue to run down to the ring to help the boss. Hogan rallies however and clotheslines Undertaker out of the ring before celebrating with the crowd.
Hogan would eventually leave WWE later that year when they couldn’t agree a finish to a proposed match between him and Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. Seeing as he had already done the honours for Brock on an episode of Smackdown, Hogan wanted to beat him in the rematch and win the title. WWE didn’t want him to be champion so the deal fell through. When he eventually came back in 2003 it was for a match with Vince McMahon at WrestleMania XIX and the Brock rematch idea was dropped.
Bra and Panties Match for the WWE Women’s Championship
Champion: Trish Stratus Vs Stacy Keibler
Prior to the Women’s Evolution, the women of WWE weren’t treated with the same level of respect as they are now. Case in point, this match, where the way to win is to strip your opponent down to her knickers before she does the same to you. Cole says that this match is an example of Vince McMahon stacking the deck against Trish in favour of his mistress, seeing as Stacy only has to rip clothes off and not actually out wrestle her to win. That pretty much sums this whole match stipulation up really; wrestling ability isn’t required or even wanted.
Stacy jumps Trish to start and then chokes away in the corner before going for Trish’s top. Trish fights her off however and goes for a bulldog. Stacy is able to counter this and ties Trish up in the ropes so that she can rip off her top. Trish is none too pleased by this development and responds by tearing off Stacy’s top to restore parity. Trish unloads with forearms but Stacy counters an Irish Whip and hits a rebounding Trish with a spin kick. Stacy goes for the pants but Trish is able to counter and de-trousers Stacy to claim the victory and retain her title.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TRISH STRATUS
I do often wonder how women of my age who lived through this era think about these sorts of matches. It must have been weird to be a 14 year old female wrestling fan watching crap like this back in the day and believing it was the height of what women could achieve in the American industry. Granted there was actual women’s wrestling in WWE during this era as well, with the likes of Molly Holly and Jazz being particularly good wrestlers within the ropes, but this sort of stuff was pretty demeaning. I could continue to rant but I think it’s probably best just to think those days were a different time and just be happy that that stuff like this doesn’t really happen in WWE anymore.
Unpleasantness of the main event aside, this was a decent first episode of Velocity with two good matches. Ultimately, when it comes to judging a weekend recap show like this, the only criteria you can really base it on is whether the matches were watchable or not. A lot of the time the matches on Velocity or Heat weren’t really there to advance storylines. They were often just matches for matches’ sake.
None of the matches on this show really advanced anything, as Torrie was doing the distraction stuff to Tajiri on Smackdown anyway whilst Trish and Stacy’s feud was pretty much over by the time this show took place. There was some decent wrestling on offer in the first two matches and the Smackdown recap sections worked as a way to update you on goings on in blue brand whilst giving you a hook to watch the following Thursday. For that reason, this is recommended if you have a spare 45 minutes to kill and fancy some 2002 era WWE.
Thanks for reading
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