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TORCH FLASHBACK: NWO hits WWF 11 years ago, attacks Austin & Rock to set up top WrestleMania matches

Feb 17, 2013 - 2:13:49 AM
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TORCH #693: COVER STORY

NWO attacking Rock highlights memorable Raw
WrestleMania taking shape with intense angles involving Hogan-Rock and Austin-Hall
By Wade Keller, Torch editor


All doubts about the long-term effectiveness of the NWO have not been erased. Many of the short-term doubts have. The Feb. 18 Raw did what the No Way Out PPV failed to do the night before - energize the WWF in a way that it hasn't been in years.

Although the Rock-NWO parking lot angle is what stands out from the show, there were several outstanding segments of the show, from Steve Austin's in-ring sitdown strike, to Kurt Angle's attempt to talk him out of it, to the in-ring verbal sparring between Rock and Hogan, to the final match with Triple H regaining his WrestleMania title shot from Curt Angle. There were other strong segment mixed in, also.

As lackluster as the PPV was, it did set the stage well for an outstanding edition of Raw, one of the five most memorable ever. Whether it translates into a huge boost in business will be proven over the next month or so. The immediate impact will become clear over the next two weeks as TV ratings for Smackdown and next week's Raw are tallied.

It is going to be tough for any match to seem like the main attraction other than Rock vs. Hogan. The build-up to that match on Raw was outstanding. The WWF drew upon the history of Hogan, and the generation-separated parallels between Hogan and Rock. Their chemistry in the ring was strong from the get-go.

The WWF has not gone outside the arena for a hard-hitting angle in a while. They've done comedy skits at a church and a grocery store, but the semi ramming the ambulance had a different tone to it. The intensity of the angle, and how the angle was sold by the announcers afterward, was on a level different from anything the WWF has offered over the past two years.

The NWO's WWF debut didn't get off to a strong start, though. At the PPV, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Hogan walked to the ring before the first match. Nash talked first. He said he was there to set the record straight. He said he couldn't believe the looks wrestlers gave them in the back. He said they have a ton of heat "with the boys." He said the NWO has been referred to as "poison" and "cancer" and "self-serving." Fans chanted "What?" and Nash wisely ignored it. Nash said some even called them "company-killing bastards." Nash looking hurt, then indignantly asked, "What is it we've done?" What did we do? All we want is a fair chance, a clean slate. We want to prove to you great fans not only can we do it, but nobody does it quite like us."

Hall then said, "Hey, yo!" A muffled cheer came from the crowd. Hall said, "We're not the bad guys, we're a bunch of marks. We're fans. We just want the opportunity to work with some of the great WWF superstars. Hall reiterated Nash's plea for "a chance." He said he wants the fans and the boys in the back to give them a chance. He said maybe they'd even have a chance to have a few beers with the wrestlers. Nash and Hogan scolded Hall, saying no drinking at work.

A choked up Hogan then agreed with what Hall and Nash said. He added that Vince McMahon is responsible for giving them another chance. He thanked Vince for having faith in them.

Ross said he isn't convinced and warned people against buying into what they said. Lawler was willing to buy into their claims, of course. Ross said they have their own agenda. "They built up one company, then destroyed it, the old WCW," Ross added. Lawler said, "Maybe they've changed for the better."

Ross wasn't the only one not buying the NWO's line. Later on the PPV, the NWO ran into Steve Austin backstage. Hall offered Austin a six pack of beer. Hall said it was a gift. Austin said, "What? That's for me? You heard I liked to drink beer? Well, I ain't thirsty." Hall told him to save the beer for later. Austin took the beer, then threw it over his shoulder. Hall, Nash, and Hogan stepped back and let Austin walk through. They seemed disappointed that Austin "wasn't giving them a chance."

Even later the NWO approached Rock backstage as he applied an icepack to his neck. Rock agreed to pose with Hogan for a photo. Hall snapped it. Hogan said, "So much for The People's Taste." Rock stopped Hogan and asked him what he said. He interrupted before Hogan could answer and mocked all three, making references to Razor Ramon and Diesel. He told Hogan to stick the camera up his candy ass. The NWO just stood and grimaced. Rock's quick promo may have been the high point of the entire PPV.

The NWO showed their true intent by the end of the PPV. Austin hit Jericho with a Stunner later in their match, but then the NWO ran to the ring and attacked Austin. Hall dropped Austin on the back of his head. Jericho covered Austin and the groggy ref, who missed the NWO attack, made the three count.

The NWO returned to the ring to further attack Austin. Austin took Hall down and threw some punches, but the NWO soon overwhelmed him. Hall gave Austin a Stunner. Hogan got a spray can and painted "NWO" on Austin's back.

It was perhaps too close to Nitro for comfort. It seemed as if the NWO was going to be just a rerun of what they did in WCW. What the PPV angle didn't show off was one big difference that would exist now versus the NWO's work in WCW. The NWO's PPV run-in could have been on anyone. Austin didn't get a chance to interact with them. He was KO'd and painted. The reason the NWO may work in the WWF and not seem like just a rerun is the fresh chemistry with the WWF's top stars, something that became clear on Raw. Rock's interaction with Hogan was the highlight, but Austin's reaction on Raw to the PPV beating the night before also showed that having fresh opponents will make the NWO itself seem fresh again.

The WWF has a strong cast of babyfaces to work with the NWO than WCW offered. In WCW, Sting was the top opponent, and he didn't talk or wrestle during the peak period of ratings. The NWO dominated WCW. The fan perception now will be "the NWO gang has met its match." Now the key for the NWO is to deliver in the ring. Doing run-ins and spraying painting backs is one thing, delivering a quality match in the ring is another. The NWO probably won't wrestle between now and WrestleMania, which means their weaknesses won't be exposed, but it also means WM will be their first matches back.

The Invasion angle last summer drew one good buyrate. The WWF needs more than one good buyrate at WrestleMania to justify the NWO acquisition. The matches have to deliver. With Rock and Austin involved, though, the odds are strong the WrestleMania matches will not live down to people's worst fears.

***

WWF No Way Out PPV Report
February 17, 2002
Milwaukee, Wisc.
Report by Wade Keller, PWTorch editor


Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler introduced the program. The NWO came out for their pre-show interview (see Cover Story).

(1a) Tag Team Turmoil: Lance Storm & Christian beat Albert & Scotty 2 Hotty in 3:00.

(1b) The Hardys (w/Lita) beat Storm & Christian when Jeff pinned Storm in 6:00 (overall).

(1c) The Hardys (w/Lita) beat The Dudleys (w/Stacy) when Matt pinned D-Von in 11:00. A few minutes into this action, Lita and Stacy got into it in the ring. Lita then climbed to the top rope and gave Bubba a nice Litacanrana. Matt schoolboyed D-Von for the three count. Afterward D-Von hit Matt from behind.

(1d) Billy & Chuck beat The Hardys (w/Lita) in 1:00. Ross predicted it wouldn't last long because the Dudleys took so much out of the Hardys. He was right.

(1e) The APA beat Billy & Chuck when Bradshaw pinned Billy after the Clothesline from Hell in 17:00. Back and forth action. Overall a good, fast-paced opener, but largely forgettable. It was functional as a way to parade a series of wrestlers and ring entrances in a short period of time. (**1/2)

Ric Flair said if the NWO gets out of line, he'll take care of them. Undertaker interrupted and said that he better worry about him, not just the NWO. He again said he just wants some respect. Flair just stared down Taker, seeming to be wondering what he was planning.

(2) Rob Van Dam pinned Goldust at 12:15. Ross admitted he didn't know why Goldust was after RVD. RVD set the tone early with flying moves in and out of the ring. At 4:00 Goldust took over with his more methodical paced basic (old style) offense including forearm drops and slingshots. Ross called it a great gameplan by Goldust just as he applied an upperbody chinlock. At 9:00 RVD came back with offense, although he accidentally slipped while climbing to the top rope. Eventually, though, RVD hit the Five-Star Frog Splash for the three count. Overall, barely an average match. Not bad, but the crowd wasn't much into it other than RVD's signature spots. (**)

The NWO-Austin backstage skit took place.

(3) Tazz & Spike Dudley beat Booker T & Test at 7:58 to retain the WWF Tag Team Titles. After a two count, Test yelled at the ref that he had a three count, then shoved the ref. The ref shoved back and pushed Test right into the Tazzmission. Test tapped out immediately. Another okay match, but the crowd seemed bored. (*3/4)

Johnathan Coachman asked Rock about his condition. Rock said Undertaker thought he disrespected him, and that's why he injured him. Rock said Taker has no idea what it's like to be disrespected by The Rock.

(4) William Regal pinned Edge at 11:18 in a Brass Knuckles on a Pole match so he retained the Intercontinental Title. Edge attacked Regal during his entrance. Fast start to the match with Edge on offense. He went for the knux on the pole right away, but Regal cut him off quickly. As with the Goldust-RVD match, when Regal took over offense, the pace of the match slowed considerably. Regal applied an abdominal stretch at 4:00. Edge fought back and tried to climb the pole again, but Regal knocked him to the floor. Regal took what seemed like ten minutes to work his way over to Edge on the floor to seize the opportunity at attacking his fallen foe. Edge came up bleeding from his mouth. Regal went for a submission in the ring. Regal went for a powerbomb on Edge on the ring apron, and Edge was supposed to block it, but they lost their balance and tumbled to the ground. Regal took the brunt of the bump, landing flat on his back. Edge was able to catch his arm on the ropes to control his fall. Edge caught Regal with a spear at 10:00, then got the brass knuckles which Regal had kicked to ringside after they got them off the pole. Regal surprised Edge with his own set of knux hidden in his tights and scored the pin. Another solid yet far from spectacular match. The wrestlers sold the beatings they took believably. (**)

Lillian Garcia interviewed Kurt Angle who said he didn't win his Gold Medals at a State Fair, he won them because he was the best in the world. He said Stephanie lying about her pregnancy was the best news he ever heard because Triple H would be a terrible father. He then told Triple H that tonight he's gonna be Triple H's daddy.

(5) The Rock pinned Undertaker at 18:20. Rock stormed the ring to start the match. Taker, though, dominated the early minutes of the match. Undertaker's deliberately paced beating of Rock moved to the crowd where they went back in time to 1998 when crowd brawling seemed mandatory for every match. Rock made a full-fledged comeback at 14:00. Taker got so frustrated that he knocked over the ref and then took a lead pipe out of his motorcycle. Flair ran to the ring and attacked Taker. Flair chopped Taker. Taker no-sold it and then gave Flair a boot to the face, knocking him to the mat. Taker entered the ring with the pipe, but Rock had enough time to recover and he blocked it. Rock applied the Sharpshooter at 17:00. Vince McMahon ran to the ring and yelled at the ref. Rock released the Sharpshooter and threw Vince into the ring. Taker got up and went after Rock, but Flair entered the ring and hit Taker with the lead pipe. Rock then hit the Rock Bottom and scored the pin. Satisfying finishing sequence with good timing from everyone. (**1/2)

Mr. Perfect spoke live from the stage at WWF New York. He showed off his physique and said that it is perfect. Another by-the-numbers Curt Hennig interview.

(6) Kurt Angle pinned Triple H at 14:55 to steal the WrestleMania title shot away from Triple H. Angle went to clothesline Triple H, but Triple H ducked and he hit special ref Steph inadvertently, knocking her off the ring to the floor. Several WWF officials helped Steph to the back. Triple H waved goodbye to Steph. The crowd was more into Triple H's offense early in the match than anything else on the show up to this point. After a ref bump at 11:00. Steph ran back to the ring to count Angle's cover on Triple H. She counted three two counts. Triple H kicked out of an Ankle Lock attempt and kicked Angle into Steph. Steph went down again. Angle yelled at Steph to get up. Triple H planted Angle with a DDT, but there was no ref to count Triple H's cover. Angle brought a chair into the ring, but Triple H knocked the chair out of Angle's hands and gave him the Pedigree. As ref Tim White began to count, Steph elbowdropped him. She then kicked White between the legs. Triple H walked up to Steph and set her up for a Pedigree. Angle, though, intervened with two chairshots. He then gave Triple H an Angle Slam. Steph counted to three. Angle celebrated with Steph in the aisle as Triple H coughed up flem and held his head in pain. (****)

They showed Angle backstage celebrating. He walked out in his wrestling gear with a towel wrapped around himself looking for his car. He drove away cheering.

(7) Chris Jericho pinned Steve Austin at 22:24 to retain the WWF Hvt. Title. Ross said that the winner of this match "presumably will go to WrestleMania to face Kurt Angle." Good paced opening few minutes. At 7:00 Austin hit three superplexes in a row. Ross's selling of the three superplexes seemed less intense than the situation called for; maybe the dead crowd wore away some of Ross's usual enthusiasm. Jericho hit Austin with two Lionsaults at 18:00, although as usual Ross had to apologize for the move's lack of apparent impact. Jericho went to ringside and grabbed his title belt. As the ref talked to Jericho, Austin charged, knocking Jericho into the ref. Austin sidewalk slammed Jericho onto the belt and went for the cover, but Jericho just kicked out. Jericho countered Austin's Stunner attempt and rammed him face-first into the belt on the mat. Austin kicked out at two for a small crowd pop. Jericho went to clothesline Austin, but Austin ducked and he clotheslined the ref out of the ring. Austin applied the Walls of Jericho, but no ref was around to see Jericho tapping out. This assured that Jericho was going to win the match since heels never tap out when the ref is down if they're going to lose later; instead, that spot is always done to give a babyface a moral victory before eventual tainted defeat. The NWO then attacked Austin leading to Jericho's win. (****)

***

WWE Raw TV Results
February 18, 2002
Chicago, Ill.
Report by Jason Powell (now of Prowrestling.net)


-Overall score (8.5): The WWF rebounded from a letdown of a pay-per-view by delivering its biggest angle in years.

-High Point: The Rock-Hulk Hogan showdown in center ring was truly a historic moment. Both wrestlers shined during the promo segment and the crowd's reaction was split, which was similar to the way the crowds reacted to Hogan and Ric Flair years ago, or Chris Jericho and Rock late last year.

-Low Point: The Hardys returned to Raw for the first time in over a month and picked up right where they left off, which is a bad thing in their cases. The writers should have been able to come up with a hot angle for these two during that month. Instead, the Hardys dressed the same, wrestled the same, and even beat one of their usual tag opponents.

-Review of the Show: [Q1]... Hosts: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler... A WWF graphic aired to start the show... Steve Austin stormed to the ring carrying a chair while the announcers introduced the show. Once in the ring, Austin called out the NWO. Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash walked onto the stage. The huddled momentarily, then walked backstage. Austin announced that he wouldn't leave the ring until the NWO came out to face him... [C]... A graphic aired noting that WrestleMania X-8 was only four weeks away... Austin sat in the ring and once again demanded that the NWO come out to face him. Instead, Kurt Angle walked onto the stage with five security guards and ordered Austin to leave the ring. Austin to threw a beer can at him. Angle told Austin that the security guards were off-duty policemen, and said they would press charges if Austin hit them with a beer can. Angle walked to the ring with the policemen and stood on the ring apron. Angle repeated his demand, which was met with Austin's middle finger.

[Q2]... Angle announced that he was going to WrestleMania. Austin got up and attacked Angle from behind. The policemen stepped in, handcuffed Austin, and hauled him backstage... [C]... An ad hyped the WWF's upcoming "Fear Factor" appearance... A shot aired of the NWO taunting Austin, who was sitting in the back of a squad car... (1) The Hardys (w/Lita) beat Lance Storm & Christian at 4:45. Late in the match, Christian hit a reverse suplex on Matt, but couldn't get the pin. Christian flipped out, as is becoming the norm. Speaking of the norm, Matt hit the Twist of Fate on Christian, leading to Jeff hitting the Swanton Bomb on Christian for the win... Backstage, Ric Flair interrupted a Kurt Angle and Stephanie McMahon conversation and booked Angle in a match against Triple H for the WrestleMania title shot. Flair stated that if Steph interfered, Triple H would win the title shot...

[Q3]... [C]... A video aired for a piercing act that's coming to WWF New York... Backstage, Undertaker searched for Ric Flair's office... The announcers hyped the Angle vs. Triple H match... [C]... Backstage, Undertaker challenged Flair to a WrestleMania match. Flair said he would have accepted the challenge ten years ago, adding that he's retired. Taker said he was planning to do a few things to change Flair's mind... [C]... Highlights aired of Kane attacking Pete Rose at a past WrestleMania... Outside the building, the NWO members walked toward their limo. Hogan stopped and told Hall and Nash to leave without him, explaining that he had some personal business to tend to... (2) Kane beat Mr. Perfect with a chokeslam at 2:06. Before the match, Perfect pointed out Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears and ripped the team... A shot aired of Hogan walking backstage... [C]... The announcers started previewing the Triple H vs. Angle match, but the NWO music video interrupted them. Hogan walked out and headed to the ring for a promo. "You know guys, it feels great to be back in this ring in the WWF," Hogan said. He credited the company for making him a star and said he and the fans had faced Russians, monsters, and Andre the Giant together. Hogan then complained that the fans turned on him. He said he once planned to end his career in the WWF, but claimed the fans turned on him like the people of Chicago turned on Michael Jordan. Great line. "You can kiss my ass," Hogan said. "I'm the reason you are all here. I'm the one who put wrestling on the map." Hogan said there is no one in the business who has drawn more than he has. "I'm the biggest star, past or present, in the wrestling world today." The Rock walked to the ring and engaged in a lengthy staredown with Hogan. Rock took the mic and asked Hogan if he really believed the people drove him out of the WWF. Rock told Hogan he drove himself out of the company. Rock said the people used to believe in Hogan and admitted that he once did, as well. Rock challenged Hogan to a match at WrestleMania.

[Q5]... The crowd began chanting both wrestlers names simultaneously. Surprisingly, the Hogan chants seemed to outnumber the Rock chants by a small margin. Hogan referred to Rock as a flavor of the month and asked him what made him think he was good enough to be in the same ring. Rock polled the crowd, asking them if they want to see Rock vs. Hogan. The crowd popped as Rock mocked Hogan by cupping his ear. "You know, Rock, (the people) are right, it will be a pleasure to kick your ass at WrestleMania," Hogan answered. The wrestlers shook hands to seal the deal. Hogan wished Rock luck, adding that he'll need it. Hogan started to walk away, but Rock held onto his hand and said, "Not as much as you will, brother." Rock gave Hogan the Rock Bottom. Rock left the ring and headed up the ramp, only to be attacked by Hall and Nash. Hall and Nash beat Rock down the ramp and threw him back inside the ring where Hogan whipped him with a weight lifting belt. Hall and Nash entered the ring and continued the attack. Hall hit the Razor's Edge on Rock. Nash followed up with the Jackknife powerbomb. Hogan pulled a hammer from underneath the ring and hit Rock with it before dropping the big leg on him. Hogan covered Rock as Hall and the crowd counted the pin... [C]...

[Q6]... A shot aired of the EMTs stretchering Rock into an ambulance. Once Rock was inside, the ambulance pulled out of the building, only to be stopped by an semi-truck pulling in front of it. A limo pulled up behind the ambulance, blocking it in. The NWO emerged from the vehicles and scared off the EMT crew. Hall used a chain to seal Rock inside the ambulance. Hogan climbed into the semi-truck, backed it up, and drove it full steam into the ambulance. Hogan backed up and rammed the truck in the ambulance two more times. The NWO looked inside the ambulance, climbed into their limo, and sped away... [C]... A shot aired of an emergency crew trying to remove Rock from the ambulance... At ringside, Ross and Lawler criticized the NWO for going too far... (3) Booker T beat Godfather (w/escorts) at 2:17. During the match, the escorts sold the crash by talking about it amongst themselves at ringside... In the parking lot, the police arrived while firemen and emergency workers continued their attempts to remove Rock from the ambulance...

[Q7]... [C]... The announcers updated the situation by saying that the police had ordered all cameramen to move away from the area. Lawler explained that there was a gas leak and the police were concerned about a possible fire... (4) Rob Van Dam & Edge beat Goldust & William Regal at 4:07. During the match, the announcers continued to sell the angle. Meanwhile, the live crowd got back into the swing of things by chanting "RVD." In the end, Edge speared Regal and locked him in a new leg lock for the submission win. The move was similar to the Sharpshooter, only Edge never rolled Regal over... A shot aired of Rock's ambulance leaving the building... [C]... The announcers recapped the NWO angle...

[Q8]... Backstage, Michael Cole asked Angle if he would be able to concentrate on his match. Angle said he was troubled by what happened, only to explain that he thought Cole was talking about Flair forcing him to wrestle Triple H again... Chris Jericho joined the announcers on commentary for the main event... [C]... (5) Triple H beat Kurt Angle to win the WrestleMania title shot at 11:59. The wrestlers traded offense while Jericho bragged about beating Austin at the PPV.

[Q9]... A fight broke out in the stands, causing the crowd to turn its attention away from the match. Later, Angle caught Triple H in the ankle lock, but Triple H reached the ropes. Triple H went for the Pedigree, but Angle blocked it. Angle went for the ankle lock again, but Triple H avoided it and hit the Pedigree for the win. Afterward, Jericho climbed onto the announcers' table and stared at Triple H to end the show...

[Torch art credit Grant Gould (c) PWTorch.com]


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