After finishing work Wednesday night, I found @poolhalljames watching the live stream of WWE Network, which was playing a classic SmackDown from April 27, 2000 (direct link to the episode here).
First off, I want to point out I’m a huge fan of what WWE has going on right now. Daniel Bryan, the Shield, Paige, the Wyatts, Cesaro (and Paul “MY CLIENT BROCK LESNAR ENDED THE STREAK” Heyman), Evolution (IS A MYSTERY). Hell, even John Cena on occasion … this is probably the most entertaining group of stars WWE has had in quite a while (despite the absence of CM Punk).
However, while of course my viewing experience was heightened by nostalgia, it was fun having a couple of post-work beers and watching this 2000 episode for several reasons
1. The roster: The Rock, Austin, HHH, the McMahons, Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Chyna, Christian, Lita, Trish Stratus, the Hardy Boyz … plus even lesser players like Hardcore Holly, Crash Holly, Tazz, Val Venis, Test and Albert, Dean Malenko, Saturn, Too Cool … there was plenty of memorable talent on the show. Adding Test and Albert to that list was a stretch, I know.
2. The episode-long storyline of “Is Austin here?”: This week’s RAW had some entertaining stuff: the opening segment with Bray Wyatt/Cena/a bunch of creepy children, Magneto making an appearance, Bad News Barrett advancing in the Intercontinental Title tournament. However, basically all those segments were their own, individual thing … segments didn’t build on previous segments, for the most part. This SmackDown, on the other hand, has a major theme for the entire episode: Is Stone Cold here? And, if he is, when will he show up/what will he do?
The Rock “guaran-damn-tees” that Austin is at the show, and for the rest of the episode, they cut to clips of the McMahons/HHH becoming more and more paranoid. This includes HHH getting “3:16” sent to him on his pager (!); Shane McMahon attacking a cardboard cutout of Austin; Shane/HHH finding a can of beer, following a trail of beer cans hoping to find Austin, opening door of a closet to find no Austin but about 100 empty beer cans (swig of 100 beers for the working man!).
3. The Rock’s $5,000 shirt: I realize Rock wore out his welcome for many during his return from Wrestlemania 27-29, but 2000 Rock was and is amazing.
4. Vince McMahon: “Austin doesn’t have the temerity, in other words, Austin doesn’t have the GRAPEFRUITS to show up tonight!” Also, his face in the photo at the top of the post.
5. Non self-aware crowd: BACK IN MY DAY a hot crowd booed and cheered loudly, it chanted vulgarities. What it didn’t do was start chanting random wrestlers’ names to amuse itself the second it got bored, or chant “This is awesome!” for every slightly above-average match.
6. Midcard feuds: HHH makes a big deal during his promo with the Rock about Road Dogg having a match later in the show with Christian. Crash Holly, shown earlier in the episode to be depressed about losing the Hardcore Title, eventually sneaks in to regain the Hardcore Title during the match between Jeff & Matt Hardy later in the show. They show a non-PG promo video of Stratus playing mind games with Buh Buh Ray Dudley, he comes out during a match and tries to put her through a table (again, non-PG era), she successfully escapes by “mesmerizing him” with a smooch on the head.
Despite — or possibly because of — RAW being three-friggin’-hours long now, it feels like far too often they’ll throw out some match that has zero storyline. Sometimes, that’s fine — they are wrestlers, after all. But it generally helps to have some kind of reason, big or small, for the conflict to be memorable.
7. Austin in a vehicle: While it was not as memorable as Austin on the zamboni or monster truck, Stone Cold finally arrives and uses a giant crane to drop a cinder block onto HHH’s bus, the DX Express. Paranoia justified. DTA.
The horrible part of watching this show: This was only back in 2000, and multiple wrestlers: Guerrero, Bossman, Test, Benoit and Crash Holly are dead. The Hardy Boyz, Chyna and Angle have all dealt with personal issues or major injuries in the years since this aired. The Attitude Era was enjoyable, but many paid a steep price as a result of providing that entertainment.