January 26, 2010
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero
December 14, 2003
TD Waterhouse Centre
Buy Rate: .45
Announcers: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler
Sunday Night Heat
Rico (Constantino) defeats Jon Heidenreich in 1:28
Pay Per View
1) Booker T (Booker Huffman) defeats Mark Henry with the axe kick at 9:20
Fun Fact: Booker defeated Mark Henry on the 11/17 Raw. The next week, Henry got revenge, defeating Booker in a street fight. On 12/1, Henry assaulted Booker after a match with Test and left him laid out. Henry would get some licks in again the next week heading into the rubber match here.
Scott: Our opener is a slow, lumbering power match. Mark Henry’s character was redone, again, after injury and now he’s part of Teddy Long’s “Thuggin & Buggin” faction, which really has had some but not a lot of traction. Booker was very popular at the start of the year and some say was a victim of circumstance that he didn’t win the World Title at Wrestlemania, but then his back started to act up and he was sent to the sidelines, now he’s returned with new vigor, longer cornrows, and just about the same fan excitement. Unfortunately this match isn’t suited for him and its fairly slow and plodding. This match showed that everything about Raw was off in 2003, including the commentary. JR says that Henry still has a lot of inexperience. I was baffled at that comment since 2003 was Henry’s seventh year in the promotion! Sure he’s been on and off with injuries but he was around for a major portion of the Attitude Era. So I seriously doubt the validity of that statement. Cole & Tazz were head & shoulders the better broadcast team in 2003 and this show proved it. Booker wins it with his axe kick and his year is complete. The match wasn’t offensive crap, but I was expecting a little more. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Our opener is a spillover from the Survivor Series. Since that show, these two men battled in one shape or form each week with Henry gaining the advantage over the final three weeks. Henry overpowered Book early but the crowd was solidly behind Booker all the way through, rallying him into the match. Booker actually worked a different style here as he flew around the ring quite a bit, playing off of Henry’s power offense. Henry would begin wearing him down and the match slowed up a bit, but I enjoyed the story it told. It was simple, smart and effective: could Booker outlast Henry’s impressive power and steal a win. Booker bumped around nicely before sneaking out a win, completing the story of the bout and winning the rubber match. Both men looked strong here as Henry dominated the match but Booker showed smarts and outlasted him for the victory. This wasn’t anything special, but was a solid opener that got the show off to a nice start. Grade: 2
Fun Fact: The 12/1 Raw began with an appearance by Mick Foley. He announced that he would be replacing Steve Austin as Co-GM and was starting a petition to bring Stone Cold back to Raw. Foley spent the night randomly firing various stars before revealing that nobody was actually fired and he was just trying to show Bischoff a lesson about abuse of power. The next week saw a surprising reunion as the Rock made an unannounced return to save Foley from an attack by La Resistance.
*** Mick Foley comes out to discuss the state of Raw and pimp his Austin petition when Randy Orton and Ric Flair came out to get in his face. Foley then announces that Orton’s match would be next. ***
2) Randy Orton defeats Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski) to win Intercontinental Championship with an RKO at 17:59
Fun Fact: On 11/17, Rob Van Dam was defending his IC title against Ric Flair when Randy Orton interfered and dropped RVD with an RKO. Earlier that night, Eric Bischoff had announced that all the members of Team Bischoff were allowed to request one favor. Orton cashed his in for an IC title match at the PPV. The following week saw the return of Raw Roulette and Orton spun a Legend Killer match and his opponent was Sgt. Slaughter. Orton beat him quickly but RVD came out and ran him off. On 12/1, RVD pinned Orton in a six man tag match when GM Foley counted the pin. The next week, Batista defeated RVD in a non title match. After the match, Foley announced that he would be the referee for the PPV match.
Scott: This was Orton’s coming out party of sorts. Sure he faced Shawn Michaels at Unforgiven, but there he had one of the greatest of all time helping him along. Here he’s facing a ring veteran, but Orton was the spotlight here and needed to dictate a bit more. On paper the match probably would look really good, and it did to a certain extent come off well on TV, but Van Dam didn’t seem to have that same sizzle that he normally does. He seemed to more or less go through the motions while Orton dictated a pretty simple pace. Having Ric Flair at ringside and Mick Foley as special referee of course doesn’t hurt either but sooner or later the heel has to take control. At one point, Van Dam actually calls out a spot very audibly, which really tells you that he mailed this match in. Orton drills the RKO and wins the title. I was kind of shocked he won, but it also told me how the night was going to go with the other title matches. Orton looks like he has that certain something, but definitely needed more seasoning. I did like at the end when he was holding the title and treating like it was something very special. The IC title needed that kind of attention after being eliminated in 2002 and then brought back but lost in the booking shuffle. Overall a good match but if RVD put a little more into it there was a chance it could have been much better. Grade: 2
Justin: RVD’s title reign has been somewhat of an afterthought as he really hasn’t done much of note with the belt. Randy Orton was gaining steam and was clearly being positioned as the breakout star of Evolution. Heading into the match it seemed fairly obvious that Orton was getting the strap. The only question would be whether Orton could deliver a high caliber PPV singles match. The two worked fluidly early with a nice back and forth. RVD was flying around, Ric Flair was active around ringside and Foley was calling things down the middle. Orton wrestled a smart match, using RVD’s high risk style against him, starting with shoving RVD to the floor off the top rope. RVD had a good mid-match comeback and got a few near falls to get the crowd hooked back in. Orton would regain control and turned to the one move that many fans would criticize him over for the next three years: the chinlock. Here, he does rely on it a bit too much and it slows the match down but the fans didn’t seem to mind and they stayed right with RVD. Orton made up for the chinlock with a nasty hanging DDT that looked like it crippled RVD. Flair would try to intervene but Foley took him out before he could attack RVD. Orton would take advantage of the distraction and pick up the win and title with the RKO. This was fun match with Orton outlasting RVD and using his finisher to put him away. It was a long, solid match and a good win for Orton. RVD puts him over cleanly and helps to continue to establish the RKO as a lethal finisher. Orton rolls on and starts what will be a banner night for Evolution. Grade: 3
3) Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) & Christian (Jay Reso) defeat Trish Stratus (Patricia Stratigias) & Lita (Amy Dumas) in a Battle of the Sexes match when Christian pinned Trish with a roll-up at 6:37
Fun Fact: On 11/17, Chris Jericho had Lita as a guest on the Highlight Reel. During the segment, he brought out Matt Hardy, who had recently been traded to Raw. He and Lita acknowledged their love but before we could hear any more, Molly came out to make a match. It would be her and Eric Bischoff against Matt and Lita. If Lita and Matt won, Lita would get a title match but if they lost, Lita had to leave Raw. Later that night, Matt turned his back on Lita and allowed her to be pinned and kicked off Raw. Matt said Lita was selfish for not joining him on Smackdown and that he was done with her. After the bout, Lita was leaving when Christian stopped her and told her he used his Team Bischoff favor to get her job back. A few minutes later, Jericho continued his recent flirtation with Trish Stratus and was able to convince her he knew nothing of Matt’s plan and he was even able to earn a kiss from Trish. The next week, Lita was facing Victoria in a cage match when Matt came down and slammed the door in Lita’s face, costing her the match. Christian came down to help her as he seemingly continued to try to win her love. The Jericho & Trish flirtation also continued that night as well as Jericho continued to put on the full court press with an interested Stratus. On 12/1, Trish and Jericho teamed up to defeat Rico and Jackie Gayda. Later that night, it was revealed that Jericho and Christian had a bet to see who could nail their respective lady first. And the stakes were $1 Canadian. As they were discussing their bet, Trish overhead everything as she was heading to Jericho’s locker room to give him a hockey jersey as a gift. The next week’s show opened with all four in the ring as Jericho and Christian tried to apologize with flowers and candy, claiming their conversation to be a joke. The ladies didn’t believe it and instead tossed the gifts back in the guys’ faces. Bischoff then announced that they would face off in a Battle of the Sexes match at the PPV.
Fun Fact II: According to rumors at the time, Jericho and Trish were writing this angle themselves.
Scott: I know this match was more or less to set up the storylines for this group in 2004 but the match was tough to watch at times. I did like Jericho’s character slightly sliding to the face side while still being sharp as a heel in the ring. Christian still acts like a good asshole heel, but the girls weren’t meshing with the guys when it came to the in-ring work. Trish wasn’t that bad since she’s been wrestling all year but Lita is still coming back from injury and has looked out of sorts against other divas like Molly. So in this instance she really seemed out of place with the other three in the ring. Christian gets the cheap pin, Jericho feels guilty and the storyline moves on. So everything was accomplished, even if the match was haphazard. Grade: 1.5
Justin: During a time period not known for its quality storylines, these four really delivered a compelling, different angle that felt quite real thanks to the delivery and basic qualities. Christian and Jericho really had good heat on them for their indiscretions and the drama was very palpable. Despite the outing of the bet, it still seemed as if Jericho had feelings for Trish whereas it was clear Christian couldn’t care less. Jericho made it obvious that he did not want to fight here but he was dragged into things by the other three. Christian was pretty vicious and I credit the ladies for taking the bumps. Trish and Lita were aggressive and smart as they ducked and dodged the guys. Jericho was eventually forced into action and the whole while he was screaming at the women, asking if this was really what they wanted. Christian would hit a stiff clothesline on Trish but Jericho refused to cover her, allowing Christian to pick up the win for the team. This story is far from over and this match told the story well and helped further the angle nicely. Grade: 2
4) Shawn Michaels defeats Batista (Dave Bautista) with Sweet Chin Music at 12:21
Fun Fact: On the 11/24 Raw, Shawn Michaels was assaulted by Evolution thanks to his Chris Jericho, his Raw Roulette partner, walking out on him. It was later announced that Michaels would take on Batista at the PPV as he continued to look for retribution for Batista costing him the Survivor Series match.
Scott: So officially Shawn Michaels took on every member of Evolution in 2003. Not all on PPV, as he faced Triple H on PPV in 2002, but after facing Ric Flair at Bad Blood and Randy Orton at Unforgiven, Michaels takes on the muscle of the group. Now he laid down for Flair and Orton, but I guess Batista needs to pay some more dues before getting a win over a guy like HBK. Batista definitely had the look the bookers are looking for, he’s right up Vince’s alley: big, muscular, imposing. Of course his move set is still very raw and needs quite a bit of seasoning. So it doesn’t hurt to put him in with Shawn and let him get a workout. That’s pretty much what they did for Orton against Shawn at Unforgiven. Orton got the win there because he’s a little more ahead than Batista, as evidenced by his IC Title win earlier in the night. Some say that Shawn can’t carry guys like he used to, and this match wasn’t as good as it should have been. Well this isn’t 1996 anymore and Shawn isn’t fighting TL Hopper or Duke Droese. Batista will be a star soon, but right now putting him in with HBK is the right thing to do. It’s amazing how some pundits thought Batista was nothing more than a piece of meat who will be forgotten someday. Vince clearly had things in place for this guy down the line, but right now he’s not ready and putting him in a singles match with someone not of Shawn Michaels’ caliber would have been a disaster. Batista’s night would get better, but Shawn gets his revenge for Batista powerbombing him at Survivor Series and ending Steve Austin’s career. Shawn would get back in the title picture after this, and Batista would continue in his role as the Arn Anderson of Evolution. Grade: 2
Justin: After his stable mate picked up a big win earlier, Batista was also looking to make a name for himself by taking out a major player. This was a test for Batista to see if he could deliver a big PPV match with one of the best. Michaels used his wiles to outduel Batista early but Batista would overpower him and start to work the back. Overall this was a basic big man/little man match with both men playing their roles well. Michaels’ selling was getting so good that you would think we had turned the clock back to 1997. Batista tossed him around with his power moves and you could feel Michaels’ pain penetrating the TV. Batista cut off a nice comeback and really looked strong and dominant. Michaels would sneak out the win but he was lucky to do so as Batista really dominated the match. This was similar to the opener in that both men came out looking strong and their respective characters continued to grow. Batista passed his first major test and despite the loss, Evolution would continue to dominate the night. Grade: 2.5
5) Ric Flair (Richard Fleihr) & Batista (Dave Bautista) wins a tag team turmoil match to win World Tag Team Titles
Hurricane (Gregory Helms) & Rosey (Matt Anoa’i) beat La Resistance when Hurricane pinned Rob Conway at 3:16
Mark Jindrak & Garrison Cade beat Hurricane & Rosey when Jindrak pinned Hurricane at 3:34
Mark Jindrak & Garrison Cade beat Val Venis (Sean Morley) & Lance Storm (Lance Evers) when Jindrak pinned Venis at 7:17
The Dudley Boys beat Mark Jindrak & Garrison Cade when Bubba Ray (Ray LoMonaco) pinned Jindrak at 11:29
The Dudleys beat Scott Steiner (Scott Rechsteiner) & Test (Andrew Martin) when Bubba pinned Test at 16:38
Ric Flair & Batista beat The Dudleys when Batista pinned D-Von (Devon Hughes) at 20:48
Fun Fact: After his partner Jamal was fired from the WWF in June, Rosey formed a brief alliance with Teddy Long and Rodney Mack. Rosey quickly severed ties with them and befriended the Hurricane, who began to see some potential in Rosey. Rosey bought into the hype and became Hurricane’s partner and a Superhero in Training, or S.H.I.T. for short. In between matches, they were also featured in various training sketches by the two.
Fun Fact II: Lance Cade started his career training under Shawn Michaels in 1999. After graduating, he spent a brief time in Japan before WWE signed him to a developmental deal. He worked on his craft in HWA and OVW before being called up to Raw in June 2003. Upon his debut, his name was changed to Garrison. He defeated Lance Storm in his first Raw match on 6/16. When Cade next appeared on 7/28, he had a new tag team partner with him, former WCW tag team champion Mark Jindrak. Jindrak had also been in developmental since the 2001 WCW buyout. He was perpetually rumored to join Evolution over the summer before finally settling in as a partner to Cade. The two spent the rest of 2003 mixing it up with the rest of the tag division.
Fun Fact III: On the 6/16 Raw, Lance Storm was wrestling Garrison Cade when GM Steve Austin came out on the ramp and pretended to be falling asleep due to the boredom of Storm’s matches. After that, Storm joined Chris Jericho’s quest to have Austin removed as GM. Over the fall, Storm slowly started turning face and eventually joined forces with Val Venis, who tried his best to help Storm loosen up. It was also revealed that Storm was…well, well endowed.
Scott: So a lot of analysts and writers got so bent out of shape over this match. Why have a tag team turmoil match and have all these guys work so hard for fifteen minutes and have the Dudleys earn the win and retain their titles. Then all of a sudden out comes Bischoff to add the Evolution guys and they take the titles. Well DUH! That's the whole storyline, that Bischoff is a puppet for Evolution. That's the whole storyline. The heels do the least work to swipe the belts. The match itself is ok, mostly because Jindrak & Lance Cade were working the middle of the match and they slowed things down. The Dudleys brought the crowd back into it, but then deflated when Batista & Flair did the dip-se-do and took the titles. I personally was very excited because this finish pretty much tipped the hats of the bookers as to who was going to win the main event. Regardless the match itself was nothing special but nothing offensive, which has pretty much been the tone of this entire show. Batista wins his first title, Flair wins his first tag title since I don't know when, and Evolution is one step away from cleaning everything up. Grade: 2
Justin: It’s time for the yearly December PPV tradition: the tag team turmoil bout. The Dudleys are the champions and the division on Raw was actually starting to gain some steam with an influx of different teams. La Res opens it up with Hurricane and Rosey, a team that was getting a nice little following. The superheroes get a good pop and Rosey looked strong as he overpowered the Frenchmen. Conway showed some nice energy too but he ate the pin after an impressive looking rocket launcher splash. Cade & Jindrak were next and they had the most impressive run in the match despite wrestling as basic as it gets. Their fall with Storm and Val was simple, smooth and effective and Cade & Jindrak cheated to pick up the win, continuing their slow burn heel turn. The champs were out next and they got the biggest pop of the match. Once they got in there things turned into the usual roughhouse fight involving them. After they took out Cade & Jindrak, they were left to battle Scott Steiner and Test, who came in as arrogant and cocky as ever. The match really slowed down at this point and they totally lost the crowd. Test and Steiner were cheating away but there was no heat at all on them. The Dudleys finally got the win but were exhausted and basically collapsed on the mat. It was then that Eric Bischoff announced there would be one more team added to the match: Ric Flair and Batista. Evolution would take advantage and quickly pick apart the Dudleys to win the belts. After losing to Shawn Michaels, Batista comes back strong to continue Evolution’s super push. Overall, this was a basic turmoil match that was mainly pretty heatless outside of the start and finish. Grade: 2
6) Molly Holly (Nora Greenwald) defeats Ivory (Tina Moretti) to retain Women’s Championship with a roll-up at 4:23
Scott: This was clearly a throwaway match to spell the crowd before the main event. At least it was a title match. Of course Ivory's barely been on TV and just hit Raw to give Molly a decent opponent since both Trish and Lita were occupied with other matches. So give Molly just somebody that won't embarrass herself against her. Speaking of Molly, she really had a pretty good year. She was in the title feud, put on decent matches and got the crowd to pretty much hate her. Whether it was against Trish, Lita or anybody she always did her part to keep a good match going. This match isn't bad, as Molly cheats to win and retains the gold. Not much more, let's go to the main event. Grade: 2
Justin: This match literally screamed: “we need to fill five minutes, get out there”. Ivory really hadn’t been doing much of anything but she earns a title match here with the stalwart, prudish champion. The crowd had vanished at this point and they clearly couldn’t win them back. There really isn’t much to say here. It was random, bland and a bit sloppy. The most it accomplished was getting Molly a high profile title defense. In the words of Blackstreet, “Ain’t nothing going on but the rent.” Grade: .5
7) Triple H (Paul Levesque) defeats Kane (Glen Jacobs) and Goldberg to win World Heavyweight Championship when he pins Goldberg after a Kane chokeslam at 19:28
Fun Fact: On 11/17, Eric Bischoff offered Triple H a rematch with Goldberg. Instead, Hunter requested a 3-on-1 handicap match and Eric obliged. Evolution would win after Batista hit a powerbomb and Triple H hit the Pedigree. They assaulted Goldberg until Kane came out to stop them. Kane then turned to Goldberg and beat him down as well as it was announced that Goldberg and Hunter would face off the next week. A week later, Goldberg and Triple H wrestled a short match that ended in a DQ when Randy Orton got involved. Kane then came out and a big brawl erupted. After the match, Triple H bullied Bischoff into a rematch and Eric announced that Goldberg would defend against Kane and Triple H at the PPV. On 12/8, Goldberg and Kane battled in a lumberjack match that ended in DQ when Orton again interfered.
Scott: So we have reached our main event. Goldberg has kept Triple H at bay since September when he finally took the brass ring away from The Game. Bounties, run-ins, gang attacks, but Goldberg retained his title at Survivor Series. Then Kane, red hot after his feud with Shane McMahon, wants a piece of the World Title pie. So here we are, as Goldberg could lose his title and not get pinned. Looking at this match, you're thinking, “wow three lumbering power guys, this match is going to be ugly.” Yes I consider Triple H a power guy, just as much as the other two. Guess what? That's exactly how this match went. Triple H used his evil wiles to try and screw with Kane's mind, make him do all the work on Goldberg, then steal the pin. He did that for most of the nineteen minutes of this match, whereas Kane and Goldberg did a major portion of the work. Triple H must have been healthy, since he's wearing his regular tights again and got rid of the fatty bike shorts. So I wonder why he didn't do more in this match and instead had Kane and Goldberg lumber through most of this twenty-minute snorefest. When I first watched this match I thought it was a good, old school type match. Watching it again, it was Triple H doing a lot of heel chicanery with Kane and Goldberg going slow power move for slow power move. In the end Kane chokeslams Goldberg, and Triple H swipes the pin and wins back his World Title. That of course wasn't a shock since the rest of Evolution was wearing gold. You didn't think The Game was going to be belt-less while everyone else was a champion? So in terms of any drama as to who was going to win that didn't exist. It was just a question of how it was going to end. I was surprised that Goldberg actually ate the pin, as I thought that Kane would get jackhammered and Triple H would steal the pin that way. Regardless The Game completes Evolution's sweep and royalty holds the gold. The match? It was quite forgettable. Grade: 2
Justin: Kane’s push continues here as he is vaulted into the main event scene as an ancillary piece to the ongoing Triple H/Goldberg saga. Goldberg gets a good pop here as he makes his way out for another defense. Triple H is looking better here after rehabbing the groin and getting into shape. I think this really should have been a Goldberg/Kane showdown with Triple H taking the month off, but it wasn’t in the cards with the planned Evolution domination. Goldberg was finally looking comfortable out there and looked good as champ as the crowd chanted for him and he dictated the pace of the match. The match was really just a solid power battle with lots of back and forth action. Goldberg was really starting to get over despite having his legs cut out from under him seemingly each week. He really deserved a longer run as Champ and he really could have developed into that franchise face star they needed so badly at the time. I thought hunter being in the match took away from it early as Goldberg and Kane were in a good groove but he would keep interjecting and breaking the flow, making the match choppier than it needed to be. A Goldberg vs. Kane singles match felt fresh but Hunter just felt played out. There was some nice continuity here as Goldberg tried to Pillmanize Hunter’s ankle just like Batista did to him back in October. Hunter would sneak free and use the chair to break up a good Goldberg/Kane brawl on the floor. At this point it seemed like Hunter would always break up the interesting parts of the match. During the brawl on the floor, however, he finally kicked it into gear and got into the match, which really took the whole thing up a level. The match really started getting hot when Kane dropped Hunter a chokeslam on the ramp and then ate a big spear from Goldberg. The crowd was fully behind Goldberg when he started hammering Kane and Hunter down to the mat in a cool slugfest segment. Hunter definitely got better as the match wore on and turned into a war or attrition. Evolution would finally hit the ring and Batista would help Hunter win back his strap. Goldberg really should have won here as he needed the win to push him up a level into the face of Raw, but there were bigger plans afoot for that belt and it needed to be on a heel to get it done. The Evolution push is now complete as the entire stable is wearing gold. This was a much better match than I expected and totally surprised me but then again I am a mark for big dudes pounding the shit out of each other in a slugfest. Grade: 3
Scott: Scott: The final PPV of 2003 is a dull, slow-paced boring affair that didn't have one standout match in it. The opener wasn't bad, but the RVD/Orton match should have been a lot better than it was. The rest of show was pretty dull, as even Shawn Michaels couldn't spike the grade that much. The main event was boring and predictable as Triple H wasn't going to lose while the rest of his faction had championships. This show pretty much summed up every Raw-only PPV in 2003. Dull, slow moving shows with little action and predictable outcomes. The mid-card was just not as hot as the Smackdown mid-card was, even with Shawn Michaels in there. The Dudleys and sloppy new teams like La Resistance, who took time off when Sylvan Grenier was injured, carried the tag division. Triple H got a lot of crap for keeping the title so long, but it was only to build to Goldberg's inevitable title win, and even that was botched. Raw would rebound and become the better brand in 2004 as Smackdown would suffer injuries to its mid-card. 2003 did have its high points, but most of them were on Smackdown. Raw had fewer ones, and none of them were at this show. Raw definitely needed some freshening up as since Rock left in April and Austin has been more of a backstage character, the actual roster was not getting the job done. This is truly one of those shows that doesn't deserve an F, but honestly is lost in the PPV landscape as it had nothing really redeeming in it. Final Grade: C-
Justin: After twelve long months, 2003 is finally coming to a close. It has been a weird year. One that started well with solid PPVs but it slowly tapered off as the year went on and the PPVs became cluttered messes. The split brand shows came about mid-year and really caused a rash of watered down shows. While Smackdown at least had one great show Raw delivered a triumvirate of mediocre offerings, capping it off with this one. There were two good matches on the night, but both topped out at three stars. Evolution dominated the night and they are now officially controlling Raw. Things are looking kind of shaky heading in 2004, but a great match on the final Raw of 2003 would turn the tide for the program heading into 2004. Goldberg and Rob Van Dam job here and are kind of dead in the water while Chris Jericho and his troupe are setting the standard for storytelling on WWE TV. 2003 is gone, another up and down year to help continue what will be a decade of quick peaks and extended valleys. Final Grade: C-
Runner Up: Chris Jericho, Christian, Lita & Trish Stratus
Non MVP: Goldberg
Runner Up: Rob Van Dam