January 1, 2010
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

No Mercy 2003
October 19, 2003
First Mariner Arena
Baltimore, Maryland
Attendance: 8,500
Buy Rate: .50
Announcers: Michael Cole and Tazz (Peter Senerchia)

Sunday Night Heat
1) Billy Kidman (Peter Gruner) defeats Shannon Moore at 5:12

Pay Per View
1) Tajiri defeats Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez) to retain Cruiserweight Championship with a thrust kick at 11:41

Fun Fact: Tajiri defeated Rey Mysterio to win the Cruiserweight championship on the 9/25 Smackdown when he sprayed Rey with red mist. His heel turn was officially complete on the 10/16 Smackdown when he defeated Jamie Noble and blinded Nidia with mysterious black mist.

Fun Fact II: To help with his heel push, Tajiri would be given a stable of fellow Japanese wrestlers that would serve as bodyguards for the champ. One man interfered here and the two would be officially introduced on Smackdown. The duo was made up of Akio and Sakoda. James Yun portrayed Akio and he was one of the wrestlers picked up from WCW back in March 2001. While in WCW, Yun was part of the Japanese trio Yung Dragons. Upon joining WWE, he was immediately sent to the Heartland Wrestling Association developmental territory. He was officially released and would spend 2002 and part of 2003 in All Japan and TNA. He was eventually resigned after a Sunday Night Heat match with Tommy Dreamer and made his debut as Akio here. Ryan Sakoda bounced around the Indies early in the decade, wrestling with NWA Zero-One and training in UPW. He as signed to a developmental deal in September 2003 and brought up immediately to join Akio.

Scott: This match alone explains why Smackdown was the better show than Raw for almost all of 2003. While they had the Women’s Title on Raw as their third title (and not taking advantage of it), Smackdown had the Cruiserweight Title, and this match was a perfect opener for the rest of the night. Rey was still relatively new and hot in the ring, while Tajiri was always a serviceable guy in either champion or challenger role. Here he’s turned heel again, and now has a mysterious entourage with him that helps him win this match and retain his title. The match had a great pace and already this show is already better than Unforgiven, which had that plodding tables match to open the show. Cole & Tazz are also cooking right now, as they were head and shoulders the better team than JR & King at this point. A great opener to this show, and they needed some sparkling performances, because although this show wasn’t nearly as bad as Unforgiven, it has its own black holes. Grade: 3

Justin: After a nice little title reign, Rey dropped the title to Tajiri, who was primed for a heel push. Rey got his rematch here and these two brought the goods for a solid opener. They brought some nice mat work early and Tazz and Cole were great on the mic delivering great analysis as usual. Tajiri would work the arm and punish Rey with quick stiff strikes, especially his infamous kicks. These two really had some nice chemistry and the action was fluid and fast paced. One of the best spots of the match was a stiff powerbomb by Tajiri on Rey as tried the West Coast Pop. I didn’t mind the interference here as it furthered Tajiri’s push and it added some nice heat to him. It also added something extra to Rey’s chase for his belt. This was a good opener that ignited what would be a hot and energized crowd. Grade: 3

2) Chris Benoit defeats A-Train (Matt Bloom) with the Sharpshooter at 12:23

Fun Fact: These two men warred over on Smackdown over the past couple of months. They had a few matches with Benoit always coming out on top. On 9/25, A-Train came out and voiced his frustration and then put the timekeeper in the crossface. That brought Benoit out to break things up but the brawl ended with Train drilling Benoit with a chair. The next week, Train assault Benoit during his match with Charlie Haas. Train finally picked up a win on Benoit a week later when he defeated him during a six-man tag. The assaults would continue over the next two weeks heading into the PPV.

Scott: At first I thought this was going to be a complete clusterfuck of a match, and while there were some pretty bad spots, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Benoit begins his ascent to the promised land with a win here against a guy who’s in the midst of his best year as a professional. They’ve put A-Train in a year long feud with Undertaker and its brought the best out of him. The match was pretty basic but quite entertaining as A-Train pretty much beats Benoit down but like a two dollar steak, Benoit doesn’t stay down, even when A-Train does the biggest botch I’ve seen since well…the Royal Rumble in January: A-Train has Benoit up for a press slam, I assume, but A-Train just loses his grip out of nowhere and drops Benoit on the steel chair in the ring, head first. Stupid dope. Benoit recovers and instead of the Crossface, ratchets up the Sharpshooter and gets the win. Again, Benoit’s ascent begins here, but A-Train, even with the press slam botch, holds his end as well. Grade: 2.5

Justin: Chris Benoit was given the assignment of helping along the A-Train push here in the fall, and he did his best to help put him over despite winning the majority of the matches. I liked this match a bit more than I expected because it was interesting little psychological battle and was smartly worked. Benoit would keep trying to break Train down but Train would overpower him each step of the way. The crowd was buying the action as it was a believable big man/little man war. Train worked hard here and you could tell he knew this was his chance. Benoit’s selling was tremendous, as always, and that aided in making Train’s offense look even stronger. Train did a good job heading off Benoit’s comebacks but things almost got ugly when Train pressed Benoit over his head and then dropped him awkwardly on a chair. Benoit shook it off but it was a sloppy move and a scary fall that could have been a lot worse. After some nice false finishes involving the crossface and Derailer, Benoit would force Train to tap out. Outside of the botched chair spot this was a hard fought match and Benoit looked strong and resilient for fighting off Train’s offense and making him tap out. It was a nice story as Benoit finally found a way to knock Train off. Grade: 2.5

3) Zach Gowen defeats Matt Hardy with a Moonsault at 5:28

Fun Fact: On the 10/9 Smackdown, Zach returned from injury to face Shannon Moore. Moore would pick up the win thanks to Matt Hardy interfering.

Fun Fact II: This was Zach Gowen’s final WWE match. He would develop an attitude problem and many felt that he thought he was a bigger star than he was. After sitting on the sidelines for four months, he was finally cut loose altogether in February 2004.

Scott: Ok, so this match makes no sense. Or does it? Zach Gowen was one of wrestling’s biggest success stories in 2003, and Matt was one of Smackdown’s most effective heels. So if they had a future out of Zach and was going to push him to a possible Cruiserweight Title run then this makes sense. The match itself isn’t that bad and the result got the crowd stoked. Then out of nowhere Gowen isn’t on TV anymore and eventually is out of the company. So what sense does this make? Have Matt Hardy, a solid soldier who does what he’s told, lose to a one-legged wrestler who ended up getting cut anyway? There were rumors that Gowen was a pain in the ass backstage so they just cut him loose. But if he was a pain in the ass before this match, why have him win? That still makes no sense. Again the match itself wasn’t terrible, but why they decided to book it this way still baffles me. Oh well, Matt Hardy shook it off and moved on, and clearly Gowen moved on too. Grade: 2

Justin: Zach had been on TV quite a bit leading to this show, but had very few matches as he was mainly used as a prop in Brock Lesnar’s weekly affairs. He comes out firing here and was still impressive with his limited arsenal. Moore was at ringside with Hardy, as usual, and made sure to get his shots in throughout as he and Hardy really were a nice heel tandem. Gowen was pretty over here, but this crowd has been hot all night long. Tazz and Cole continued to bring it as they were locked in on commentary at this point. They added a lot to match, especially during Zach’s comeback. Zach would hit a nice moonsault to pick up a big win over the slumping Hardy. This was another hard fought match but a disappointing loss for Hardy, especially considering how hot he was earlier in the year and the fact that Zach was done after this as well. This was another solid match in a run of them for what is turning out to be a consistent show. Grade: 2

4) The Basham Brothers defeat the APA when Doug Basham pins Bradshaw (John Layfield) after a Shaniqua (Linda Myles) club shot at 8:54

Fun Fact: The Bashams debuted their new valet Shaniqua on the 6/5 Smackdown. Their gimmick was that the Bashams were S&M fans and Shaniqua, portrayed by Linda Miles, was their dominatrix. Miles was one of the co-winners of Tough Enough II. She had a brief appearance in 2002, but botched her match so badly that she was immediately sent back to developmental to train. On the 10/2 Smackdown, the Bashams defeated the APA with some help from Shaniqua.

Scott: So a fresh tag team makes a big splash with what I call an upset win over the established APA. Now I’ve been saying for a while that the APA was very stale and needed to be broken up. I know they tried to break them up but I think Bradshaw wasn’t given enough of a run on Smackdown to do anything. Faarooq was clearly ready for retirement and should have. Bradshaw had already cut his hair for his then-CNBC appearances, so maybe the switch to what his character would become in 2004 should have started a little earlier. As for the Bashams they were a pretty decent little team, booked as S & M nut jobs with Shaniqua as their “madam”. I like how they attempted to make Shaniqua’s “cleavage” bigger by really pushing them up, since she was probably the most flat-chested diva WWE ever had. Well, maybe Stacy Keibler, but she had other “assets”. Linda Myles won Tough Enough and they needed to give her something to do. The Bashams win the match and by the beginning of the next year would indeed get an identity. The APA was definitely on their last legs and this proved it, actually taking one for the team and putting some newcomers over. Grade: 2

Justin: The Bashams walk into their match with a new valet and a chance to really move up the tag ladder. APA would outslug them early, working in a stiff double spinebuster on Danny. Even though their gimmick was getting a bit stale, the APA were still pretty fun to watch in the ring as they just beat on their opponents mercilessly. The crowd was actually into the APA here, but again they have been up all night long. The Bashams used basic heel teamwork and would show some good resilience on defense as well. For the APA, it was clear that Bradshaw was being showcased a bit as he looked really strong and even unleashed a nice fallaway slam from the second rope. The Bashams pick up the victory but the finish was a bit anticlimactic as Shaniqua helped her boys win. The Bashams would continue to rise up the ladder, taking a huge step later that week on SD. Grade: 1.5

5) Vince McMahon defeats Stephanie McMahon in an I Quit match when Vince chokes Stephanie out with a lead pipe and Linda threw in the towel at 9:24; Due to pre-match stipulations, Stephanie is removed as General Manager of Smackdown

Fun Fact: In early September, Vince and Brock Lesnar started to make Stephanie’s life as miserable as possible to try to force her into quitting. On the 9/25 Smackdown, Stephanie announced that Undertaker was to be the number one contender. In response, Vince forced her to face him in an I Quit match to determine who was truly in charge of Smackdown. On the 10/9 Smackdown, Stephanie announced that Linda would be in her corner for the match. Stephanie really pushed the family tension angle and acted very upset over the whole thing. Linda, Steph, Vince and Sable all had a big throw down that ended with Vince clotheslining Stephanie.

Fun Fact II: After losing this match, Stephanie left TV as a regular character. The main reason for her absence was that she was set to marry Triple H shortly after this show. She would remain off camera for two years and starting in late 2005, she began making sporadic appearances but would never maintain a full time on screen role again. In the McMahon DVD, Stephanie, Shane and Triple H all admit that they thought this idea was crazy and were worried that Steph would end up with a black eye or worse for her wedding.

Scott: This was probably the only thing about Smackdown in 2003 that I didn’t like. After the Hogan situation worked itself out in May, Vince should have left camera and moved on. I’m not sure if the whole storyline with Stephanie as GM was a way to get her off camera so that she can marry Triple H, in real life of course, and go on her honeymoon, etc. Either way with all the great workrate and feuds going on Vince being on camera all the time really dragged things down at times on the Blue brand. This match isn’t like when Vince fought Stephanie’s brother Shane at Wrestlemania XVII. Obviously Vince couldn’t smack Steph around with a garbage can like he did Shane. Plus with Stephanie’s wedding the following week the family wasn’t happy Vince booked this match for the PPV right here. So the match was a kid gloves effort where both sort of hit each other, but sort of didn’t. In the end Steph was being choked out by a lead pipe, and Linda, who was at ringside for her daughter, threw in the towel ala Helen Hart at the 1994 Survivor Series. Steph is out and the question was who would be the new General Manager of Smackdown? Well Vince would take the Raw route and get a good heel to run the show, one that’s a little more extreme than his daughter. Grade: 1

Justin: This whole angle and premise was kind of a bizarre one. Based on interviews, Vince thought this match was necessary to satiate the fans with the completion of this feud. The rest of his family thought he was nuts, but as always, Vince won out and the match was on. He got some pretty good heat from the fans as he punished his daughter throughout the match. It was kind of weird to watch but you just have to roll with it I guess. Linda got a nice pop as she chased Sable around the ring and that led to the crowd heat building as the match wound down. Steph got some shots in, but Vince would choke her with a pipe until Linda was forced to toss in the towel. Stephanie was forced from her post as Smackdown GM and Vince seemed to be careening out of control as he continued to use Brock to seize control of Thursday nights. This was a bit disturbing, albeit well worked and short enough to not get boring or bad, but I am not sure it was really needed. Grade: 1.5

6) Kurt Angle defeats John Cena with the Anklelock at 18:25

Fun Fact: John Cena was looking to make a statement and earn some respect, so he set his sights on Kurt Angle. On the 10/2 Smackdown, Cena defeated Angle in a tag team match after he hit him with his chain. The next week the two men had an entertaining battle rap that ended with a brawl. Finally, on the 10/16 Smackdown Angle came out dressed like Cena and brought a midget dressed like himself with him. They would go back and forth until the midget put Angle in an Anklelock. The real Cena finally showed up, but the midget hit him with a low blow and Angel dropped him with an Angle slam.

Scott: Now this was clearly the match of the night. These two have been going back and forth since Cena’s debut in 2002. However this time Angle is the babyface and Cena is the thug heel. This led to some special moments where Angle dressed up ghetto and did some hysterical raps to get under Cena’s skin. Cena definitely earned his stripes in 2003 and was definitely one that management was keeping its eye on for the future. At first look you think that eighteen minutes is a bit much for these two, but really Cena’s been wrestling matches this length all year long. From his title match at Backlash with Brock Lesnar to his battle with Undertaker at Vengeance, Cena’s really learned on the job how to handle big time matches. Really if you look back on Cena’s career, the company really took care of him and grew him slowly but at the same time put him in the ring with veterans who will help him along and how to work a match. Right now he’s a heel and that’s what I really liked about this match. Cena was doing some really creative things to take down our Olympic hero. From elbow drops onto the ring apron to inventive strikes inside the ring, Cena had a much more inventive repertoire than he does in present day, as of 2010. As usual, Vince took a guy with great cache of maneuvers as a heel, and neutered him once he turned face. Where have we seen that before? Cough…Diesel…Cough. Angle works great regardless of whether he’s face or heel. Maybe he’s a bit more vicious with his submission moves as a heel, but either way he’s is a quintessential grappler and in-ring technician. I really enjoyed this match and it kept this show from being a bit of a dud. Cena’s build continues, and Angle gets another PPV win. Grade: 3.5

Justin: John Cena’s star continues to rise on Smackdown. He had just come off a hot feud with Eddie Guerrero and decided to challenge Angle to gain some more respect. There was a strong difference in styles here and the crowd was pretty split, showing that Cena’s popularity was growing with each week. It was an active match with a lot of back and forth action and it was styled as to show Cena could hang with Angle, going move for move with him. The finish got really good with a nice FU/Angle Slam reversal sequence leading into the Anklelock. Angle would pick up the clean win but Cena looked strong even in losing. He was starting to become quite popular and it was clear that a face turn was impending. Angle rolls on and still has his sights set on Lesnar’s gold. Grade: 4

7) Big Show (Paul Wight) defeats Eddie Guerrero to win United States Championship with a chokeslam at 11:25

Fun Fact: On the 10/2 Smackdown, Los Guerreros ran into Big Show backstage. Show insulted their heritage but said he enjoyed Mexican feud. Later that night, Eddie stole Show’s toilet paper when he using the bathroom. The next week, Show faced off with Chavo. During the match, Eddie drove out in a septic truck. After some bickering, Chavo tripped Show up and Eddie sprayed him down with the sewage. Finally, on the 10/16 Smackdown, Show got revenge by destroying Eddie’s low rider and then abusing Eddie as well. He would end up chokeslamming Eddie onto the car, causing some nasty cuts on Eddie’s back from the broken glass.

Scott: Just like Cena in the above match, they also had big plans for Latino Heat. Eddie Guerrero deserves a hell of a lot of credit for completely turning his career and life around. In late 2000 his matches were dreadful and he was a mess outside the ring. He was in a car accident and was in legal trouble for his personal issues. So he missed the entire Invasion storyline in 2001 and came back clean, healthy, in shape and ready to rock and roll in 2002. What does he start with? An awesome group of matches with Rob Van Dam that included a four-star ladder match on Raw. He then has a great feud with Edge and was part of the awesome tag team wars with Edge, Rey, Angle and Benoit. Now throughout all of 2003 he’s been in battles with guys who can equally put on five-star matches whenever they want. This was simply to get the belt off of him so he can prepare for his next program. Big Show has had a back-and-forth year. He’s been in the main event picture with Brock Lesnar over the WWE Title, and he’s been in a slow, boring feud with Undertaker. Here he’s simply the heel sliding into the transition spot as US Champ for the next babyface to take it. That’s fine, that’s his job. The match isn’t bad, as Eddie throws the kitchen sink at Show but can never get the three count. Eventually Show gets not one, but two chokeslams on Eddie to become the US Champion. I guess this reign as champ is better than when he simply stole the US Title in 1996 as a member of the NWO and pranced around with it. Not a bad match, and Eddie moves on to bigger things and the biggest year of his career. Grade: 2.5

Justin: And just like John Cena was beginning to gain a following, so was Eddie Guerrero. And a slow burn face turn was also in affect for Latino Heat. He started a weird little feud with Big Show based on some insults and many thought it was a way to help continue Eddie’s elevation into a top face. They would be wrong and disappointed. Eddie was looking pretty jacked here and his back was all torn up from the nasty chokeslam he took on the hood of his destroyed low rider. Show would take advantage of those injuries by pounding Eddie’s back relentlessly. The slow beatdown would end up killing off what had been a rabid crowd. Show’s heat had been dissipating since earlier in the year and as over as Eddie was getting, a long, sluggish beating by Show was not enough to keep the crowd involved. Eddie would try to cheat his way to win and I thought he was going to after using the belt and hitting a Frog Splash, but Show stayed alive. The finish was anticlimactic and just a bad decision as the red hot Eddie was jobbed clean to a bland, boring Big Show. The worst part was that it came off as somewhat of a squash, with Eddie only gaining control due to cheating. Show takes the US gold but Eddie remains the hotter commodity. Grade: 2

8) Brock Lesnar defeats Undertaker (Mark Callaway) in a biker chain match to retain WWE Championship when Brock usess the chain at 24:17

Fun Fact: On the 9/4 Smackdown, an angered Brock Lesnar cost Undertaker a World title match against Kurt Angle. Later that night, Vince announced that Brock would take on Kurt Angle in an Iron Man match two weeks later. After that announcement, Brock appeared backstage pushing Zach Gowen in a wheelchair. Brock rolled to the top of a stairwell and shoved him down it to end the show. On 9/11, Lesnar regained the WWE Championship by defeating Angle in the Iron Man match. A week later, Vince presented Brock with the belt in a special segment. Undertaker interrupted the segment and revealed that Stephanie granted him a title match. On 10/9, Undertaker came out after Lesnar’s match with Paul London to announce the PPV bout would be a chain match. The two would brawl a week later to give a final push for the match.

Scott: Alright! The rematch we’ve all been waiting for. After their no contest at Unforgiven 2002 and the brutal Hell in the Cell war the following month, Undertaker gets his long awaited rematch with the Next Big Thing. Unfortunately, this match does not deliver. First off there’s no Paul Heyman here. That feud in 2002 involving Taker, his wife, and Brock with his agent was full of drama, tension and great storytelling. Remember when Taker’s hand was broken and they were injecting painkillers into it? Then slamming the hand into the cell and Heyman getting his face plastered into the cell wall? That was such awesome violence. Fast forward one year and this match was a complete and utter mess. It was sloppy, boring and had no psychology whatsoever. Oh yeah, and Vince comes out to cost Taker the match. Why? This was definite Vince overkill on Smackdown and that was the only thing that really brought the show down. Unfortunately it seemed all the feuds on Raw were going that way, but Smackdown was full of workrate-filled wars with some storytelling. Unfortunately the bad storytelling involved Vince sticking his nose in way too much stuff. Did he really have to be in Brock’s corner at all? Sure it helped put him back over as a heel but really he didn’t need anybody at that point to get him over. He was Brock Lesnar for Pete’s sakes. Vince comes out and costs Taker the match, setting up their match the following month. Brock retains his title, but now Smackdown goes through a strange point where a bunch of debuts come in and then the new GM comes in as well and the show kind of gets thrown upside down. As for Taker, its clear the American Bad Ass gimmick had run its course. The crowd was still cheering, but he actually was starting to look, well…old. His hair was lighter, not quite gray but it may have been. He was getting into shape but still looked like some guy hanging out at a bar picking fights with younger guys. Maybe the time had come to change things up and bring back The Deadman. In any event, Lesnar retains his title, and Taker goes after the Boss. Otherwise this match is a snorefest. Grade: 2

Justin: Before and after regaining his gold from Kurt Angle, Lesnar went on a streak of destruction, regaining his nasty mean streak from the year before. Undertaker gets another crack at Brock’s gold one year after they destroyed each other inside Hell in a Cell. Here, the gimmick in play is a steel biker chain that is hanging on a pole above the ring. The match was the usual Taker brawl with his standard offense worked in. They did a nice job of working hard and keeping a good pace, never slowing down for more than a minute or so. The two slugged it out and just when Taker was about to grab the chain, the lights went off and he couldn’t grab it. Taker would hook the triangle choke but in a neat spot, Brock hoisted him up and dropped him with a stiff powerbomb. The crowd was a bit sedated early but they picked up when the FBI interfered as Taker fought them all off. The two men would trade some nice power moves but they would barely used the chain until Brock pasted Taker with it at the end. Taker again almost had the chain, but Vince came out and tripped him up, allowing Brock to win. It was a good defense for Brock and the Vince/Taker feud was set in motion but the finish was anti-climactic and the booking was a bit weird. They worked hard but couldn’t deliver more than just a solid main event. Grade: 2.5

Final Analysis:

Scott: Now I remember hearing from Justin for quite a while after this show that he was insanely disappointed and almost didn’t want to watch it again. I’ll let you read his comments to get more perspective on that. Watching this show very closely, I can understand his frustration. This show is a letdown from Smackdown’s stellar performance at Vengeance. Now I think this show is much better than Unforgiven, which was Raw’s second PPV. No Mercy was not a complete snorefest but this wasn’t as exciting and well wrestled like Vengeance was. Maybe it was the influx of debuts and that the overall quality had to take a hit, which is fine, but some of the booking decisions were a little shaky. Zach Gowen shouldn’t have gone over Matt Hardy if it turned out he was an egomaniacal head case who would be cut loose. The overload of Vince also hurt this show, as we have a very poor match with his daughter, then he runs in and ruins an already boring Taker/Lesnar match. Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle put on their usual good performances to carry the workrate, which was the reason that Smackdown was the better show at the moment than Raw was. Raw’s undercard, other than Shawn Michaels, was pretty poor. Smackdown had all the best workers, even if the storylines weren’t that sexy. However Smackdown would start going through some changes that would start knocking the quality down a notch. Brock Lesnar is a solid heel champion, but Undertaker is somewhat stale and again way too much Vince. Yes, overall this show is quite a few notches from Vengeance, but it was definitely better than Unforgiven, Raw’s 2nd PPV effort. Final Grade: C+

Justin: For the second month in a row, we get a subpar brand specific show. This one wasn’t nearly as bad as Unforgiven, but it wasn’t anything special. Smackdown had been solid since the summer and now that Brock was back on top as a dominant heel, things had been looking promising. Taker was a bland challenger and there wasn’t much heat or build to their feud, but both men worked hard and delivered a solid match. The opener was really good as was Angle/Cena and those two matches clearly carried the show. Cena looked good even in losing and delivered his second really good PPV match of the year. Eddie Guerrero takes a step back but it would only be temporary as he was penciled in for big things. Vince has driven Stephanie from her GM post and her TV run is officially over. Things would continue to be shaken up at the top of the card as we head towards the end of the year. As for this show, it was better than I remembered it being but was as middle of the road as they come. Final Grade: C

MVP: Kurt Angle & John Cena
Runner Up: Tajiri & Rey Mysterio
Non MVP: Eddie Guerrero
Runner Up: Stephanie McMahon

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