Albany, New York
January 23, 2003


The Rumble is in the books, now we look towards Wrestlemania, with a minor bump in the road that WWE likes to call No Way Out. Last year, No Way Out became a much more important show than in year’s past… thanks to the announcement that Hogan, Hall, and Nash would arrive on February 19, 2002. This time around, Bischoff has opened up inquiries to getting Stone Cold Steve Austin to come back to Raw officially at No Way Out. So the PPV certainly has taken on a more important heir, but is in the hardest spot any show could be, wedged between arguably the two biggest shows of the year, though SummerSlam will forever be my favorite. Tonight the road to No Way Out continues, and Wrestlemania gets a little closer. Michael Cole and Tazz are ready from the Pepsi Center in Albany, and so am I, especially after a very successful Raw in my opinion… SmackDown actually has something to live up to this week.

Stephanie in her office welcomes us to a very special SmackDown, saying that tonight one of the greatest stars in history returns this evening… the Phenom, the Undertaker. That’s not all… Bischoff drops a bombshell and invites Austin to Raw, but Steph has a bombshell of her own… “ladies and gentlemen, stay tuned for a big surprise.

Angle has sprung for some Evil Knievel warm-up Team Angle suits and SB and CH are sporting them… but Haas loses his as he has a problem, a problem from Edmonton. Basic counter mat wrestling early but it appeared that Benoit had the intensity and also the power advantage. Benjamin on the floor caused a distraction to both Benoit and Mike Chioda as Haas slammed Benoit’s left hand into the steel steps and began to dissect it back inside the squared circle. Haas kept it basic, strikes and submissions, which is exactly what he needs to be doing at this point. It was all offense on the arm, armbars and key locks and short forearms and attempts to separate the joints and it worked, though the fans seemed a little less than enthused. Haas’ strategy did not lend itself to crowd involvement, but everyone in the building could see what was going on and that made it effective at least on one level. After several cut offs, Benoit finally established his comeback with a DDT at 7:07. Both men down after that move as Chioda began his count, only reaching six though. Benoit all over Haas with a back drop and a release German suplex, then signaled for the Swandive Headbutt. Long way to go to reach Haas but he connected perfectly as Benjamin then quickly jumped on the apron to make sure there was no pin… Haas caught in the Crossface but the left hand gave way on Benoit and he couldn’t keep it on. Benoit then came up with a rollup counter and won it, leaving Haas and Benjamin both in disbelief.

The Undertaker on his bike as he has arrived to SmackDown.

EXTREME BLAST OF THE NIGHT (JVC): From last Thursday, it was Bill DeMott over Rikishi with a Rumpshaker saving powerbomb… and some tights.

Revenge match from last week… should be no more interesting than that one was, as DeMott despite having talent… will always be that guy everyone sees as intense but incredibly monotonous and uninteresting. Cast on Bill’s left forearm, he suffered nerve damage when he landed after being eliminated from Sunday’s Rumble. Rikishi then worked over the arm of DeMott… wow we’ve seen that same style of attack in two straight matches, but this time it was the face doing it so the fans seemed to react better overall. DeMott tried to fight back with one arm, acting the face and Rikishi obviously not, completely having Bill at his mercy, and showing him none. A DeMott spinebuster out of desperation took everything he had out of him, but gave him a few more seconds at least. Superkick from Rikishi in perfect position for the Rumpshaker and after placing the arm across DeMott’s chest… that would be all.

Nathan Jones promo once again… they really do want to put some steam behind this guy.

Raw brand comes to Chicago for Raw Monday, next Fri in Minneapolis, next Sat in NY at MSG, next Sunday in Binghamton, and two Mondays from now… the nation’s capital.

Josh Matthews wanting words with the Big Show as the giant was on his cell phone, wondering if Show is at all concerned about the Undertaker’s return. Big grabs Josh by the head and gets within a centimeter of it… intimidates him, then walks away.

Matt Hardy and Shannon Moore, with Matt saying Moore continues to screw up but at the Rumble, he saw a glimpse of Mattitude… kicking him back in the ring, but where was Shannon when the F-5 to the floor happened. It’s Shannon’s fault that Matt lost the Rumble… Shannon can’t believe what he’s hearing. He wants to see Nunzio get a Mattitude adjustment… lets Shannon go as Moore goes into the ladies locker room. Matt goes up to Nunzio, who is only a few feet away working out. Hardy wants Nunzio to teach him a lesson… Nunzio has no problem, relating to situations back home in his own family involving shoplifting. “Nothing would make me happier than if you would give Shannon a Mattitude adjustment.”

Tony Chimmel announces Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio for later and says Steph wanted to reiterate that her big surprise is still to come.

Undertaker in a new red Big Evil shirt jumps back on his bike, but where’s he headed?

Undertaker comes out after the break, pounds his heart and gives it to the fans atop the ramp before entering the ring to address the world. “It’s been a while. Now I’m not going to waste a lot of your time because in my opinion there is way too much talking and not enough ass kicking. I’ve been sitting at home for the last three months thinking of nothing but ass kicking. I’ve got one thing on my mind tonight and it’s revenge. I’m here tonight with nothing but bad intentions. There’s one guy, you know who it is, and believe me, I’m going to get me some. Those of you who don’t remember what happened, I’m going to roll some footage and refresh everybody’s memory. (Footage of the Show’s ambush three months ago, a WONDERFUL segment might I add with the press slam off the stage… it was the sell that did it, from the agents and the boys.) Now there’s an old saying that says that which does not kill you makes you stronger. Big Show, I’m going to give you the opportunity that you did not give me… I’m going to let you walk down here face to face and get your ass kicked. Don’t waste my time boy.”

Big Show’s music hit and he appeared still in the suit and holding a microphone, so prepare for a pantload Take. “Look, I could come down this ramp and the beating I threw on you three months ago will be nothing compared to the beating I’ll throw on you tonight. Now you know if I walk down this ramp, one of us isn’t coming back up. Now just incase the one of us that’s not making it back up the ramp happens to be me, I have what my agent likes to call a contingency plan. So you know what, I’ll come down this ramp (takes off the jacket) right now, right here in Albany, New York. But oh no, it’s not going to be me… your challenge Mr. Undertaker is going to be answered alright. Your challenge is going to be answered by the A Train!”

The Baldobomb has been replaced… it’s also not the A-Bomb or anything else JR called it, Tazz points out… it’s called the Derailer. Taker went down on a shoulder block and then took a corner avalanche and a clothesline that scored a two count, but not a three… and that’s what Train needed. Bearhug on Taker in very high position early but Taker fought out of it, absorbed a bit more punishment, then hit his flipping lariat and a big boot that was nearly enough for the victory. Train met the announce table as the Phenom began to dominate both the tempo and the match itself. The apron leg drop looked great, as it usually does, and the Train was in major trouble. Taker went old school with the rope walk and measured the train for the chokeslam, getting the job done… but Train raised a shoulder at 2.9, surprising everyone including Big Evil. Last Ride signal… that’s a big boy though, and he countered with a back body drop before missing a splash. Train connected with the Derailer but this time it was Taker who wasn’t quite ready to go down for the count, kicking out and enraging the A-Train. Taker locked on the standing dragon sleeper, called Taking Care of Business… and that was it.

Sean O’Haire promo number three… this time advising us to stop paying taxes… using quotes from forefathers, saying the officials are not representing us, no taxation without representation. The gimmick is fantastic… and O’Haire is cutting some world class promos. What he appears to be, wearing all black and having the look he has… is the bad conscience we all have inside.

One might think Benjamin will definitely win here… but I’m not sure considering Kurt Angle is nowhere in sight as of yet… perhaps that will change. Edge took control of the rookie sensation but caught a release German suplex off a counter as Benjamin locked a bow and arrow on the ringpost, which looked even better than it sounds. Edgeomatic at 2:23 after a counter, but Benjamin slipped under the Edgeacution and hit a beautiful short clothesline that reasserted his control over the contest. One of my favorite submissions… the self-choke, as Benjamin crisscrossed the arms and pulled them behind Edge’s head, torquing the entire body… really worked well but Edge made it to his feet and hit a snapmare variation to release the pressure. An overhead belly to belly gave Edge the time to catch his breath, and it was a flying forearm, an Edgeline, and the faceplant that got a close near fall. Flapjack from Edge who telegraphed the spear… Benjamin leapfrog and after knocking Haas off the apron, Edge caught a superkick but Shelton hit maybe the move I’ve seen him use the most that I really like… the reverse spin kick, but a spear would win it for Edge after the kickout.

After the break, Kurt Angle reprimanding Haas and Benjamin for making him look bad as his representatives tonight. None of their responsibilities include losing… Team Angle stands for the Three I’s… intensity, integrity, and intelligent. “Cripes, Charlie you had no intensity whatsoever out there… “ It wasn’t intelligent for Benjamin to take the spear… all they have to do is win. Team Angle is not going 0-3 tonight. Angle wants both of them to sit right where they are and watch exactly how an Olympic and WWE Champion gets the job done. He’s embarrassed and ashamed of both of them.

Neither got an entrance, pretty much cut straight to the bell here as Matt looked enthusiastic towards Moore unless his back was turned… beautiful face drop to counter a catapult and Nunzio went after the left arm, which is his lifelong goal in the ring. Too bad tonight two matches have centered around an arm, eventually that has to wear on people. Nunzio hit the Sicilian Slice (thank you Tazz for calling it that) and got a two count, then went right back to the arm. Moore with a nice back springboard leg lariat and then a flying forearm as Moore was pumped up… somersault neckbreaker got a two count as Matt Hardy seemed concerned. Moore dominating the last minute or so hit a corkscrew plancha off the top and said “Version 1… Twist of Fate,” trying to impress Matt as he went for his move. Nunzio countered into his flying springboard armbar takedown… Tazz said “Arrivederci” on that one, not sure if that’s a name or just an apropos comment.

Ad for Undertaker’s Collectors Edition magazine

Brock Lesnar in a taped interview… saying he’s goal oriented, first to become NCAA Champion, to make an impactful debut the day after Wrestlemania, to become King of the Ring, to beat Rock at SummerSlam, to beat the Undertaker in the Cell… he accomplished them all. Then it was Paul Heyman’s betrayal that cost Lesnar the Championship and his undefeated streak. Since then, two more goals stand out over others… to beat the Big Show and win the Royal Rumble, which he did. Two more goals now to accomplish, to F-5 Paul Heyman and then beat Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania for the WWE Championship.

Rey putting on his mask as he’s set for Kurt Angle, that match is next. As Rey walks, Shannon nearly knocks him down as he’s still running from Matt… leaping into an empty anvil case. Matt is a few steps behind, screaming for him to come out and take his beating like a man. “Come on out you little MF er…” not knowing where he is as of yet.

SmackDown heads to Saskatoon on Saturday, Regina on Sunday, Milwaukee on Monday, taping in Green Bay on Tuesday.

WWE REWIND: Angle telling Team Angle earlier tonight to sit and watch him get the job done against Rey Freakin’ Mysterio.

MATCH 6: KURT ANGLE (W/ Paul Heyman) VS. REY MYSTERIO (Non-Title)
Beautiful sit out powerbomb to counter a hurracanranna at 0:43 after Rey had started quickly. Paul has not been seen all night but pops up with Kurt for this non-title match. Kurt with a sick German spike release suplex and somehow Rey kicked out of it… I know I wouldn’t have. Rey had plenty of fight in him and used the speed to keep Kurt off guard, but it seemed like David vs. Goliath this time around. Rey hit a beautiful catapult backspring counter into a headscissors, then connected on Kurt over the top to the floor… springboard guillotine back inside and barely missed the three count from Brian Hebner. Angle posted himself as Rey bridged up on the top rope, then came off the top with a springboard moonsault that missed the mark… ankle lock but Rey rolled through just in time to catch an overhead belly to belly. Kurt took the straps down but Rey used an armdrag to counter the Angle Slam, drop toe hold and now time for the 619… Kurt caught him but then took the wheelbarrow swinging bulldog that got a 2.9 in what is easily the match of the evening. Angle countered the West Coast Pop… then hit a flat out amazing move… Rey caught on his shoulders as Angle spun him, dropped him face first on the top rope and then hit a vicious suplex with a floatover all in one motion. That was all she wrote. Edge first hit the ring to save Rey, then Benoit hit the ring to uneven the odds… release German from Benoit and then a spear from Edge as Angle was getting brutalized. Another suplex from Benoit to the Champion… then a set up on the second rope for Rey to connect with the 619… Benoit held on to make sure this one worked.

Stephanie in her office as Funaki comes in wanting to get the scoop on the surprise. “My surprise tonight, next, is not a what, it’s a who… but you’re going to have to wait like everybody else. But you’ll find out next, okay, thank you.” After Funaki leaves, Steph is staring at something… and the camera pans over to see it, a poster of a flexing Hulk Hogan.

As soon as the show came back live, “Voodoo Chile” hit the speakers and out came the Hulkster, and the roof blew off the Pepsi Center. Ridiculous pop that just would not stop, Hogan could only stand in the ring and acknowledge it, and when he pumped himself up it managed to get louder somehow. Hogan had lost the black tinted portion of the beard, truly looked like old Hulk (though older)… and the “Hogan” chant and that entire moment really did cause serious chills as I tried to type. Very similar to the pop he got last year on a SmackDown telecast, maybe something I’ve never seen before and would never see again, but this was very close. What an amazing moment this was… Hogan did the tears and the wow looks, having something important to say but not able to get it out. Commercial break.

Back after the break… still no talking, just fans reacting and Hogan standing with a smile and inside saying “All of the people who think I’m whatever… bite me.” Finally he points to the mic, saying he has to speak. The fans don’t relent, chanting “Hogan” to an insane decibel level. “Okay Maniacs, you are my life, I admit it! You know Hulkamaniacs, I came here tonight to make one announcement, and that announcement is I just signed a brand new contract! Hulk Hogan is back jack, and one more time, all over the world, Hulkamania is going to run wild brother. But you know something Maniacs, I’ve got a lot of unfinished business in the WWE, and apparently by the looks of things in the back, I’ve got a lot of brand new business I’m going to have to take care of. But this time, I’m going to do it the right way. This time, with the red and yellow on, I’m going to do it with each and every one of you. Hulk Hogan and the Hulkamaniacs are going to walk into battle together dammit and I don’t care how high the deck is stacked against us, I don’t care how strong the forces are against us, we’re going to march into battle and fight the forces of evil brother. And I don’t care what it takes, one way or the other, we’re going to come out victorious Maniacs. But you know something, I’m going to have to be quite honest with you, this might very well be our last journey together, but I give you my solemn word, I will not let you down this time. And if this is our final hour together, let this be the greatest one of them all!”

Vince McMahon’s music hit and out he came with a look of both shock and utter dismay on his face. He makes his way down to the ring with a shocked half grin, as if to say… well I’ll be damned, but not looking pleased. Then it goes to frown and old Mr. McMahon. “I admit I arrived here just a few minutes ago, like all of you I was curious… and I know I speak for everybody in this arena when I say, I am terribly disappointed. Stephanie, Stephanie I give you the autonomy to run your own show and make your own decisions and you give me this? Hogan this is not 1985, this is the year 2003… and I don’t want to offend you or anything, but I would suggest to you that Hulkamania and the recently departed Al Wilson have one thing in common, they’re both dead. (HEAT and McMahon cracks a smile to jeer, the Asshole chant returns.) ‘Well Mr. McMahon, you’ve just given me an idea. Seeing how this might very well be my last comeback in the WWE, I want to make sure I do things the right way. And the first WWE superstar I want to climb in the ring with… the first WWE superstar I want to face nose to nose, and the first WWE superstar that I want to kick the living hell out of... is… you!’ Who the hell do you think you are?! (Another classic Vince phrase and look.) Let me remind you of who I am. I don’t answer to Hulk Hogan. I sure as hell don’t answer to any of these people in this arena. Hell I don’t even answer to the man upstairs. I only answer to one supreme being, and his name is Vincent Kennedy McMahon! ‘Well Vincent Kennedy McMahon, maybe this will help you make up your mind.’”

Hogan decked Vince and ripped off his shirt, throwing it at McMahon’s fallen body before leaving. The show ends with Cole and Tazz asking if McMahon will accept Hogan’s challenge.