December 12, 2009
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

King of the Ring 2001
June 24, 2001
Continental Airlines Arena
East Rutherford, New Jersey
Attendance: 17,777
Buy Rate: .84
Announcers: Jim Ross and Paul Heyman

Sunday Night Heat

Matt Hardy defeats Justin Credible to retain WWF European Title

*** The mysterious man who’s been stalking Undertaker’s wife the past month was revealed the Raw before this show, and it’s none other than “Diamond” Dallas Page. DDP was a club owner from Florida who’s first taste of wrestling was in the AWA in 1988, managing the Tag Team Champions, Badd Company. Then he’s seen driving Rhythm & Blues’ pink Cadillac to the ring at Wrestlemania VI. Then he moves to WCW, where he was a big time heel, and a very over babyface, winning the WCW Championship on multiple occasions. Over the weeks leading into this show, we had begun seeing mysterious hidden camera videos of Undertaker’s wife Sara. Rumors swirled over who would be the man behind the camera with many thinking it would be Vince McMahon after someone on the internet cleaned up the audio from the segments and showed that Vince was behind the disguised voice. After weeks of uncertainty, the masked voyeur rode to the ring on a motorcycle and then revealed that he was DDP. Tonight he gets in the ring, says the fans only saw Undertaker’s wife in the “PG” pictures. Page’s personal collection is a little more adult. Page says he has a front row seat, so he won’t be hard to find. He asks “Take” to make him famous. He continues the influx of many ex-WCW wrestlers making their way to the WWF. ***

Semifinals:

1) Kurt Angle defeats Christian (Jay Reso) with the Angle Slam at 8:17

Qualifying Round
Kurt Angle defeated Hardcore Holly; Christian defeated Kane

Quarterfinals
Kurt Angle defeated Jeff Hardy (d. Matt Hardy); Christian defeated Big Show (d. Raven)

Scott: A decent opener as Christian has another chance to show himself on the singles stage. Angle has been the Bret Hart of 2001 in the sense that he’s been in one grueling PPV night after another. Think of all his matches in 2001: a 30 minute match with Triple H at the Royal Rumble, a 20 minute match with the Rock at No Way Out, three consecutive PPV wars with Chris Benoit, and then the start of a 3-match night here. Shane McMahon comes out to distract Kurt, but eventually helps Kurt by pulling Christian off him and helping Kurt advance to the finals. This was a solid enough opener, even with the interference. Grade: 2

Justin: Our first tournament match of the night features two good friends going at it. Kurt started off hot and sent Christian flying with a running toss among a few other high impact moves. Heyman was good on the mike as always and focused on Kurt needing a quick win as he had a long night ahead. Christian would put up a good fight but Kurt dominated most of the way through and then gets an assist from Shane McMahon to pick up the win. The hook here was that Shane wanted Kurt to wrestle another tourney match before their showdown later in the night. Grade: 2

*** Paul Heyman interviews DDP from his front row seat, when on the Titantron we see DDP being stalked at a local eatery. Page talked about how he wanted Taker to make him famous so he could us that to propel him to the top of the WWF. DDP is not pleased. ***

2) Edge (Adam Copeland) defeats Rhyno (Terry Gerin) with the Impaler at 8:52

Qualifying Round
Edge defeated Test; Rhyno defeated Tazz

Quarterfinals
Edge defeated Perry Saturn (d. Steve Blackman); Rhyno defeated Tajiri (Crash Holly)

Fun Fact: Rhyno lost the Hardcore Title to Test on 6/12 in Baltimore.

Scott: Our second semifinal is between friends who aren’t so friendly anymore. Edge & Christian brought Rhyno into the WWF earlier in the year, but now they’re fighting for the same thing. Rhyno has mostly been competing in hardcore matches, but he really impressed me here in a straight up wrestling match with the growing Edge. This is the peak for me of Paul Heyman as a commentator. He really gets into the psychology and strategy of the match and not unlike the Jesse Ventura era Paul knew how to make things seem very important. The match isn’t bad, and Edge moves on to face his buddy Kurt in the finals. Grade: 2

Justin: The second and last semifinal match started as a basic brawl before Rhyno took over and focused in on the ribs of Edge, wearing him down as the match wore on. The best spot of the match was when both men speared each other in the middle of the ring. The gore would eventually do Rhyno in as he gored the exposed turnbuckle and allowed Edge to move to the finals. The crowd was a bit flat here but the two men put out a good effort. Grade: 2

3) The Dudley Boys defeat Spike Dudley & WWF Intercontinental Champion Kane (Glen Jacobs) to retain WWF Tag Team Titles when Bubba Ray (Mark Lomonica) pins Spike after the 3D at 8:32

Fun Fact: The Dudleys utilized some help from Steve Austin to defeat Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit and win the tag titles on the 6/21 Smackdown in Orlando.

Fun Fact II: Spike split off from his brothers as they slowly began turning heel over the past month. Spike had begun having an innocent relationship with Molly Holly and his brothers did not approve as they were in the midst of a heated war with Crash and Hardcore. The final nail came on the 5/21 Raw when Bubba and D-Von powerbombed Molly onto Spike who put himself on a table to protect her from the fall. The fans were digging the angle big time and popped like crazy when Molly and Spike finally had their first kiss mid-ring on the 6/14 Smackdown. On Heat, Spike said he was bringing a mystery partner to take on his brothers for the belts later in the night.

Scott: The Dudleys, who were over faces at the beginning of the year, kind of turn heel when they powerbomb little brother Spike through a table. I guess they’re preparing for their big heel turn in a few weeks, along with a good portion of the roster. The match as a whole is a little sloppy, particularly in one spot where Bubba Ray was supposed to get a pin attempt broken up by D-Von. However D-Von was late getting to the ref, so instead of kicking out to save the match, Bubba Ray lets himself get pinned, and JR was supposed to explain out of that mess. Kane was a nice surprise partner, as he was ridiculously over right now, still being Intercontinental Champion. Alas it was not little Spike’s night, as a brotherly 3D retains the titles for the Dudleys. This was a very sloppy match that did not do anything for anybody. Grade: 1.5

Justin: After weeks of torment by his brothers, Spike throws down a challenge here and comes to fight with the red hot Kane by his side. Spike and Kane would start off in control but the tide turned when D-Von did a nice job of playing possum. I dug the heat segment on Spike as D-Von and Bubba worked him over with some power offense. The crowd was up and down throughout here but they perked up when Spike almost picked up the upset win with the Dudley Dog. His brothers would rebound, however, and put him down for to win and retain their newly won titles. The match was choppy but the finish made up for it and Kane gets his heat back with a quick beatdown afterwards. Grade: 2

Finals:

4) Edge defeats Kurt Angle with the Impaler to become 2001 King of the Ring at 10:21

Scott: Our final pits former friends again, and this time Shane McMahon doesn’t help Kurt Angle win back-to-back KOTRs, but spears him right into an Impaler and Edge is the new King. Unfortunately this show clearly shows the tournament has run its course, as there was so much else going on in the Federation that the tournament has lost importance. After two years of full tournaments we go back to what they did in 1996-98, which were only the last two rounds. We now realize that Shane helped Kurt win the first match so that he’d have to wrestle a second match before their street fight later on in the night. Christian, slowly showing his jealousy, attempts to “help” Edge but almost costs him the match. Shane is more successful costing Angle, and Edge is your King. Decent match, but the question is now: will Edge go the way of Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Steve Austin, and Triple H? Or will his career go the way of Mabel and Billy Gunn? Time will tell. Angle’s pissed and Edge is the King. Grade: 2

Justin: As we hit our finals it seems as if Edge is slowly being positioned to break away from Christian and also seems to be subtly turning face along the way. Before the match, Kurt asked Edge to just lie down for him so he can pick up a quick win and save energy for later. While done in a funny way, Kurt was clearly being condescending and helped set the tone for Edge to be positioned as a valiant face. Kurt grounded Edge early, but he stayed alive and kept battling the way through. The crowd was still pretty flat here and you wonder if the booking of four heels in the final round of the tournament was a wise one. While the Edge face turn was underway, he still wasn’t over enough to elicit a great reaction from the crowd. Each man would pull out some nifty counters to each other’s finishers heading down the stretch. After some interference by Christian and Shane, Edge pulls out the victory to kick of the Age of Awesomeness. Christian would congratulate Edge after his win but the seeds of jealousy were planted and crystal clear. Edge is the new king, and despite the tourney bracketing was pretty weak this year, you could tell that they were using the win to set up a push for Edge. Grade: 2.5

5) Jeff Hardy defeats X-Pac to retain WWF Light Heavyweight Title with the Swanton Bomb at 7:11

Fun Fact: Jeff Hardy defeated Jerry Lynn on the 6/7 Smackdown in Grand Forks, North Dakota to win the Light-Heavyweight Title.

Scott: One great thing about this show is the chance to see both of the Hardy kids being showcased separately. Earlier in the night on Heat, his brother Matt successfully defended his European Title, and now Jeff takes out the captain of X-Factor to retain his title. X-Pac may be on the way out as the crowd really can’t take him anymore, but he still puts on good matches and this one is no different. There was a close false finish after X-Pac hits the X-Factor and Jeff barely gets his foot on the rope. I think it was around this time that management saw that Jeff Hardy could be a real player in the WWF landscape. This was a fun match with a real harbinger of things to come from the rainbow-haired warrior. Grade: 2.5

Justin: In his first PPV singles title defense, Jeff Hardy battles a man who has worked his way back into title contention over the past few months. X-Pac seemed to be dead in the water at the end of 2000, but after being given his own stable, he has slowly gained some direction and a renewed vigor in the ring. The crowd was seemingly sick of him at this point, but in my book any heat is good heat and he was delivering in the ring. I also like how Heyman took some time to put over X-Pac’s contributions to light heavyweight wrestling early in his career. He would dominate early here and keep Jeff on the mat for the most part. The match was sloppy at times but still entertaining. X-Pac seemingly wins the title but things get reversed with a Dusty finish. Jeff ends up picking up the win and retaining but X-Pac actually looked stronger in defeat. The crowd was totally flat here and they seem to be losing interest as the show wears on. Grade: 2.5

*** Backstage, Steve Austin barrels into Commissioner Regal’s office and frantically tries calling Vince McMahon. In the days leading up to the show Vince had made it clear that he would not be at the show tonight and that Austin was on his own to defend the belt and earn Vince’s love. ***

*** After more snooping pictures of him around the Continental Airlines Arena parking lot air on the Titantron, DDP gets in the ring and begs Undertaker to come out and make him famous. Undertaker finally comes out, and beats the tar out of DDP, or he tries to anyway. It’s actually a pitiful display of missed punches and rolling around. After getting booted in the face, with Taker’s wife Sara filming it, DDP runs off into the crowd. The segment was just an extended beatdown that dragged on a bit too long. ***

6) Kurt Angle defeats Shane McMahon in a street fight with a top rope Angle Slam at 26:00

Fun Fact: On the 5/21 Raw, Kurt Angle orchestrated a medal ceremony to celebrate his regaining of his gold from Chris Benoit the night before. He hit the ring, where a platform awaited him, and discussed his big win from the night before. His celebration was short lived, though, as Shane McMahon would make his way out in the midst of it. Shane came out to inform the world that WCW was coming back and it was going down soon. Kurt wasn’t impressed as Shane climbed to the top of the platform and he proceeded to mock Kurt’s teary Olympic celebration of years past. The frustrated Angle struck as he dropped Shane off the platform with an Angle Slam and then wrenched in the Anklelock. A couple of weeks later, Shane officially accepted Angle’s challenge to have a match at the PPV and Kurt was anxious to defend his crown as well as put Shane down. On the 6/11 Raw, Shane got a shot in as he snuck through the crowd and dropped Kurt with an Angle Slam after he had a confrontation with the Undertaker.

Scott: A very fun and highly entertaining match as both men give and take some big moves all over the arena. I like this match for a couple of reasons. First, Shane didn’t have to do a ludicrous 90 foot elbow drop to make a mark. Shane did a great job just going with the flow and getting Angle so infuriated that he couldn’t just beat the crap out of him that it made for great drama as the match progressed. Angle, who rarely gets busted open (the last time was Armageddon 2000) was cut early, and the frustrated look on his face with the blood trickling down was a great shot. Shane did do a cool spot where he was standing on the barricade behind the announce table, and then planchas over JR and Paul right onto Kurt. He also does a shooting star press right onto a garbage can. So he does do some crazy spots, but nothing like he did against Big Show two months earlier. The other reason I really like this match is that Kurt had already wrestled two matches against both Edge and Christian, and didn’t take this match off. He went all out to make this a bloody, legit street fight. Obviously the most memorable spots are the ones near the back set where Shane went through the two glass walls. The first one Kurt can’t suplex him through and Shane smacks his head on the cement. The second time it works, then he tries twice to suplex him through the other glass pane, and eventually Kurt just throws him through it. Then there’s the finale, where Kurt lays a board over the corner and he Angle Slams Shane off it for the 3 count. A great night for both men, and an A+ effort for Kurt, who matched the Hitman from 8 years earlier by wrestling 3 times in one night and coming out even better than before. Grade: 4

Justin: Despite having wrestled two matches already tonight, Kurt came out of the gate aggressively here as he was looking to quickly destroy Shane to end the night on a good note. He would dominate Shane early with wrestling, especially wearing him out with suplexes, but Shane would get back into the match by brawling. Kurt was resilient, but Shane stared wearing him out with weapons and basic submission holds. The missed SSP by Shane was a sick spot as he just crushes the trash can with full force from the top. Of course, that wasn’t nearly as sick as the glass ridden battle in the aisle. The image of an exhausted Angle just tossing Shane time after time into the glass wall, trying to break it, is a scary one and bumps this match up from being pretty good to being legendary. The shots of Shane being covered in blood and glass shards were nasty and I think the match should have just ended right there in the aisle as the finish ended up being anticlimactic and feeling a bit tacked on. Angle would wheel Shane to the ring on a utility cart, where he would end up making a brief comeback before Kurt would finally put him down with the tope rope Angle Slam. The match was really stiff and nasty but just a bit too long and I think it could have been a lot better if it was tighter in the beginning and if they lopped off the end. Still, it was a great outing and Angle comes out looking like Superman after wrestling three times in a night and capping it off with a sick brawl. Grade: 4

7) Steve Austin (Steve Williams) defeats Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) and Chris Benoit in a triple threat match to retain WWF World Title when he pins Benoit after Benoit superplexed Jericho at 27:52

Fun Fact: The night after Judgment Day on Raw from San Jose, Austin and Triple H defended their tag titles against Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit. At one point in the match Jericho had Austin in the Walls. Triple H ran into the ring to break the hold, but when he stepped into the clothesline his right quadriceps muscle popped right off the bone. In absolute agony he worked another 5 minutes, including being put into the Walls himself, before the Canadian Chrises won the titles. Triple H went to Birmingham the next day to see Dr. James Andrews, and he would have reconstructive surgery to repair it. He will be out of action until January, the longest stretch of Triple H’s career out of action. Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley would be off camera for a couple on months to prepare her for her role the rest of the year.

Fun Fact II: This is Chris Jericho’s first WWF World Title match on PPV since arriving in August 1999.

Fun Fact III: Throughout the night, Paul Heyman and Jim Ross had discussed rumors that were circling intimating that if Benoit or Jericho won the title here tonight, they were going to defect to WCW with the gold. Both men would dance around the rumor without denying it in their pre-match promos.

Fun Fact IV: In the month leading up to this show, we were treated to some of the greatest free wrestling matches ever seen as Austin warred with Benoit and Jericho in singles title matches. His bout with Benoit on the 5/31 Smackdown is still considered one of the greatest matches in the show’s history and Austin barley escaped with his belt. He was forced into this match by Linda McMahon and was not happy about it. He told Vince that he had to choose between Linda and himself and Vince didn’t seem to care for the ultimatum. Austin was a man possessed leading into the show and even assaulted Michael Cole for no apparent reason on the 6/21 Smackdown. Wanting to see Austin show why he should be his choice, Vince had said he wouldn’t be at this show and the paranoid Austin was not crazy about that decision.

Fun Fact V: The outcome of this match ended up being quite ugly. In the final spot of the match, Chris Benoit would destroy a pair of vertebrae and finally do enough damage to his neck that he was forced to the sidelines for major surgery. He would miss one year of in ring time. Also on the injured list would be Steve Austin, who broke his hand and injured his back when he was thrown through the table late in the match.

Scott: Austin’s character was taking an interesting turn here, as he became more paranoid and more reliant on Vince’s nurturing and positive reinforcement. This is such a complete 180 degree turn from the Steve Austin of 1996-1999, who trusted no one and kicked ass everywhere he went. Now he’s become unstable, and in some cases, soft. Meanwhile the Chrises are on a roll, taking out the Two-Man Power Trip to win the Tag Team titles, and now have a chance to become WWF Champion. Of course with Triple H now out of the equation for the rest of the year, Austin is now completely alone, and it adds to his paranoia. He does cost Jericho & Benoit the tag team titles the previous Thursday, so now those titles can go back to the actual tag team division. The match is pretty good if not very formulaic for a triple threat. Two faces go after the heel champion, but keep pulling each other off the pin. The last few minutes are pretty good as Jericho and Benoit keep trying to out-do each other in pinning Austin, and can’t do it. There is a cool plot point where Austin taps out to the Walls and the Crossface at the same time. In past and future cases the match ends and the World Title is held up. In this case Earl Hebner waves it off and says neither gets credit for the tap. Then we have the run-in from the other big WCW debut. Their last champion, Booker T, makes an appearance to take Austin out. That continues to fuel the rumor all night that if either Benoit or Jericho wins the title tonight they will take the belt to Shane’s camp. Now here is where the decision was made as to how the year will go. Do the fans side with WCW because babyface Shane is running it and WWF Champion Austin is a heel? Or do they side with the old standby WWF, and Shane becomes heel while owning a roster full of posers and wannabes? We’ll know soon enough. There’s another point coming from this match. 2001 will be remembered for many things, and one of them is the rash of injuries and personal problems that took a lot of people off camera. We’ve already lost Eddie Guerrero to personal problems and Triple H to the torn quad muscle. Now Benoit’s neck, which apparently was bothering him already, is injured on the climax superplex to Jericho. Multiple discs rupture, and flow into his spinal column. He’s done for the year, and that’s why there’s the quick finish, as Austin just goes over, pins Benoit, and the match is done. Over the previous few weeks we’ve had our WCW run-ins but with DDP and Booker T now on camera, things really start to heat up between father and son. The next night on Raw from Madison Square Garden, everything changes and the lines are finally drawn in the sand. As for this match, all three men push it to the limit and Austin is a beast for taking a beating from two of the best and still walking out with the title. Grade: 3

Justin: After weeks of battling between these three men, the stage was set for Benoit and Jericho to attempt to finally win the big one. They got off to a fast start but Austin does a good job of fending them off fro a bit. Eventually, the two men would start to fight each other as they began preventing the other from winning. Jericho would be taken out first as Benoit gave him a nasty back suplex from inside the ring to the floor. Austin and Benoit would pick up where they left off on the 5/31 Smackdown as they smack each other around with stiff strikes and moves. Benoit would actually hit a stunner on Austin and get a near fall at one point, but not even that could pop what had become a dead crowd. JR also started to slip a bit here as he kept mixing up the two Chrises. Jericho would eventually get back into things and have a solo segment with Austin after he ran Benoit into the post on the floor. Benoit recovered, however, and absolutely crushed Jericho with a nasty chairshot back in the ring. Austin would then put Jericho down with two super stiff superplexes but the crowd remained docile. After the doable submission attempt, Austin ended up out on the floor as Benoit and Jericho battled over the title in the ring. The crowd finally woke up with the surprise appearance of Booker T., who tossed Austin through a table on the floor and made quite the statement in his debut. Benoit and Jericho would continue to battle in the closing moments and the crowd was into it now, perhaps thinking that Austin may actually be out of it thanks to Booker. Jericho would hit a nice moonsault, but Benoit stayed alive and eventually put Jericho down with the back superplex that would put him on the shelf. Austin crawled in the ring and picked up the pin on the injured Benoit to save his belt. As the match wore on, it clearly became a war of attrition, and as we mentioned above, the casualties piled up. The match was hit or miss throughout but the Booker attack saved things and got the crowd into it as it would down. I think the match would have been better as a singles battle as the crowd clearly seemed split on who to root for. Plus, in these types of matches, the odds are generally with the heels to make it seem like the face was overcoming huge odds. Here, though, they almost positioned Austin as the third face by giving him some sympathy heat as the underdog. The whole thing just led to some confusion and it probably hurt the crowd’s involvement. Grade: 3.5

Final Analysis:

Scott: This show is very strange because it has such disparate high points and low points. The high points are a couple of real gems in the ring, as Kurt Angle works triple duty tonight and puts he and Shane McMahon over in a brutal street fight. The main event is a fun battle as Austin definitely has an upgrade in workrate from some of his 1998-1999 World Title matches, and the Booker T run-in fuels the fire about WCW and the next night it fortifies its position in the fan’s eyes. We also see Jeff Hardy start to shine on his own, as does Matt, although he only makes it to Heat this time. Now on the down side the KOTR tournament has really become nothing but an afterthought and a plot point for other storylines. Nothing against Edge, he deserved the moment in the spotlight however the finals were so early in the show you forgot why the show was called King of the Ring. The KOTR concept really needed to die off, but alas they try it one more time the following year. The real downer was the awful “unsanctioned brawl” between Undertaker and DDP. We waited all night for a big dramatic brawl, and it was a bunch of bad phantom punches and kicks. On top of that, DDP runs off like a big wimp. DDP is a guy who Vince really could have used as a main eventer during this stretch, and he’s an afterthought. This show overall seems a little disorganized while they get ready for the big storyline of the year. The trigger is pulled on that the following night on Raw from MSG. Final Grade: C

Justin: Well, this is a tough show to grade because there was nothing technically bad, but the whole thing just came off as flat despite some genuinely good build. I think the main thing that hurt this show was the mixing of heels and faces in unconventional manners and it took the crowd out of things early. The tournament was built around four heels that had never given the fans a reason to cheer for them and the main event was built to give sympathy heat to the top heel in the company. I think the writers were starting to feel a bit infallible here and they had certainly earned that privilege, but the risk they took clearly backfired and killed off what should have been a hot crowd. Edge wins the KOTR and we will see if it springboards his career, but it is blatancy obvious that the crown no longer means what it once did. I liked the ongoing arc of the mind games between Shane and Angle throughout the show and they definitely delivered when it came match time. The DDP/Taker brawl was a total letdown and Page looked like a punk from the get-go. I think Page should have gotten a cheap shot in or maybe knocked Sara down to keep his heat and walk off unscathed. However, it was around now that Taker’s rep backstage was turning quite sour and you see his pull in action here as he basically squashes Page out of the gate and kills what had been a pretty hit angle. I also want to give another shout out to Paul Heyman who was fantastic on commentary once again. Like I said, you can’t really hate on this show but it is hard to really gush over it and it definitely underperformed its expectations. The whole promotion would go through a radical shift before our next outing and this show was sort of a bridge from the end of the Attitude era to the beginning of the next era in WWF history, one that would still be enjoyable, but would ultimately become quite tumultuous. Final Grade: C

MVP: Kurt Angle & Shane McMahon
Runner Up: Edge
Non MVP: Undertaker & Diamond Dallas Page
Runner Up: KOTR Tournament

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