Things I Liked In the Year 2003
by Scott Christ
It's 9:13 AM eastern right now, and I should really be going to sleep, but I'm high on Jerry Lee Lewis at the Star Club beating my ass, as well as those of the Germans in attendance, into submission right now, and I'm sitting around, thinking about rasslin', and I thought mayhaps I would speak a bit about the year of 2003.
See, this was a shitty year, by all accounts. Now I'll tell you what, I'm sure there's some great shit in Japan I'd love, and maybe some okay shit in Mexico I'd think is okay, but I don't see that, man, and I ain't made outta clams. So I had to go by what I had available to me, plus a few assorted indy tapes along the way. WWE gave it to me in the ass all year long, and I hated it, but it was like being a little guy in prison. What the shit am I gonna do about it? Start working double-shifts at the Speedway so I can buy some IWA Mid-South tapes? I'm a rebel, baby, and that ain't my style.
I finally broke down in February and purchased the digimon cable so's that I could order pay-per-view pro wrestling (also: fuckin'), and I went on a tear. I ordered all of WWE's shows, even the ones I knew goddamn well were gonna be god-awful, just because I could, and man, when shit doesn't cost you the money right away, it seems like nothing. So the $35 never bothered me. I watched a lot of TNA too, but there's only so many times I can pay ten bucks to see Jeff damn Jarrett, who I didn't never do nothing but hate unless he was tagging it up with Owen Hart or whipping a broad's ass just because.
So I felt compelled to sum up some things I *liked* from this year, because it's the holiday season, and it's time for good tidings and cheer. I'm not being one of those dorks that says no one ever talks about what they liked, but I just thought I'd at least give it a TRY, to see if maybe those stupid assholes have a point.
MATCHES FROM 2003 THAT I LOVED
I reckon this is pretty easy to figure out. I was all up ons these matches. There are plenty of matches I saw that I liked better than a number of the ones here, but I didn't love them. I didn't love AMW and XXX in the cage, I just thought it was good. I didn't love any of the Angle-Lesnar matches, I just thought they were good. Are you with me, cats?
WWE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH - KURT ANGLE (champion) v. CHRIS BENOIT (challenger) at WWE ROYAL RUMBLE on JANUARY 19: I didn't get a chance to see this match until recently, and a big ol' "what's up, bro" to my main man Brian Allison from Baylor University for giving me the goods. Coincidentally, I am using Baylor on a new dynasty on NCAA Football 2004 since using Michigan can get bland and the Big Ten just ain't as much fun as it used to be with half of the teams falling apart pretty quick on that game. First-year Baylor's schedule is tough enough season four as is, but what's that? A home game with Texas Southern? What am I, a pussy? No, so I replaced them with Virginia Tech, and I put it on Virginia Tech all night long with a 49-31 win. I'm 4-0 after that and heading into the treacherous Big XII schedule. Anyway, this match, this match was great. I thought it lived up to the eleven months of hype it had on me, but then, y'know, I love these guys, and I love the way they wrestle each other, and I love the way even the turdy WWE crowds eat it up because they know it's gonna have some badass shit in there even if they think they don't care about it. I gotta be honest, I didn't think this was the best match these two have had, I'd totally go for the Wrestlemania X-7 match on there, but I think I'm way, way in the minority on that one. The X-7 match had that weird, "this is pointless but these guys are goddamned cowboys" thing going for it, and this was a match for championship gold and the big paycheck and flying first-class and all that jazz. Anyway, I dunno, I also don't have UPN around here, although that is possibly going to be fixed soon enough as UPN Michiana has been born and is supposedly going to be working its way onto my television sometime, so I don't really know why these boys were wrestling other than they could, and really, that works as well for me as most anything else could. I like watching Benoit be mean and I like watching Angle be a wrestler, and they were doing plenty of that. Benoit has started slipping because of age and the neck and all, but man, if this is the last great Benoit match I ever get, maybe it's gonna be cool enough when he's gone. Kurt ain't lookin' so hot either with the neck and all. But what made this match for me was the fact that it rescued a show that had gone straight up into the turlet after HHH and Steiner got done having posedowns and push-up contests long enough to put on the worst big-time American title match in recent memory.
IWA MID-SOUTH HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP 2/3 FALLS MATCH - CM PUNK (champion) v. CHRIS HERO (challenger) on FEBRUARY 7: I also just saw this recently. Punk was kinda sorta local here before going down to IWA and over to ROH and all that jazz, because I'm a couple stones throws out of Chicago and get the same cold as tits wind THEY get and whine about and make themself pitifully famous over, but do you hear about us poor fucks in southwest Michigan that have to deal with it, too? No, just the stupid Chicagoans with their Cubs nuttiness on the off-years that the Cubs are worth going nutty over, cruising in their mom's SUV listening to Coheed and Cambria and heading to the Fireside Bowl for the big tardcore show where they all get to show off their wicked awesome bracelets and nifty-shit hair. F you, Chicago, and take your $20 parking and shove it up your ass. (No offense meant, Cubs.) And furthermore, I have to put up with Chicagoans all summer long, because I live in a small town (2000 people small) that also happens to have a nice little lake that they all need to buy cottages on and drive the price of golf at the Paw Paw Lake Golf Club (it's not really a club at all) way up because they have to make new, fancy holes for the douchebag richies instead of having that badass little downhill, 137-yard par 3, where if you hit the sumbitch over the green your ball was in some god awful hell of a mess that you had to have some sack to even approach, because anything could've come out of that, like a groundhog or some damned copperheaded water rattler that shimmied out of the lilypads just off the shore. This match was way cool. Punk and Hero had a badass feud that I went back in time and became familiar with after seeing this match, which made it even cooler since I visually understood it then. I love Chris Hero, because the dude is tall, and sorta fat, and doesn't look like he works out so much as I think he lifts weights, and he's kinda ugly. I don't mean any offense by that, I just don't think he's ever gonna really get anywhere, and that's cool by me, and so far as I could venture a guess, I think it's cool by him, too. Punk is all with the straightedge but he's not one of those Chicago fuckers I was talking about earlier. (Neither are you, Cubs, I know you love them like a sister every year.) This match had me going, man. I didn't even notice it was 90 minutes long, and I went in knowing it was gonna be 90 minutes long, of course. That's something it had way up on the Angle-Lesnar iron man, because with that one not only did it have the clock, and not only was it advertised to be going 60 and all that, but I kinda realized, "yeah, this is an hour long." And there's certainly nothing wrong with going an hour (or more) if you can make me think shit's gonna go down at any minute. But when it's sorta clear that shit is only gonna go down at a few very placed minutes, that's when it loses something. These guys were just really great here. I've seen some shitty Punk matches (particularly M-Dogg 20 at the 2002 Ted Petty - what the fuck was THAT?), but this was where he was just sorta nailing everything he seemed to be working for the rest of the time. Hero, on the other hand, has been pretty much the same Chris Hero every time I've seen him, wrestling his ass off and not trying to do any retard indy crap, instead wanting to be a big ass Dean Malenko with a touch of Fit Finlay and a splash - just a splash - of Chris Benoit. This was also the only time when Ian Rotten and The Boys would come out of the locker room on one of the IWA shows and do the total appreciation bit and it didn't make me want to fart or see someone take a cheapshot and start a rumble.
CHRIS JERICHO v. SHAWN MICHAELS at WWE WRESTLEMANIA XIX on MARCH 30: I dig Wrestlemania way hard to begin with, plus these humongoid stadium shows they've been doing with it the past three years have been supergreat, and the only thing that could compare to them is the by god Garden. Also, I really liked this angle, because it was a wrestling angle, where the young(er), brash heel idolized the great, old babyface, but now he wants to dethrone him and not only prove he can lace his boots, but also unlace them and take them off his feet and beat his face in with them. I miss shit like that, and I'm not even very old. Shawn totally showed that he's the best worker on the Raw side in this match, 'cause it'd been a while since Jericho had a truly great match, although he carried the piss out of Jeff Hardy at No Way Out in February and made that one good. I also felt this was sort of the rebirth of Jericho, particularly in my Favorite Wrestlers area, because it was just so cool. And it's like, hey, what do you know, WWE, you give guys 20-25 minutes and people care about the match. This match was RASSLIN'. I think my absolute favorite part of this match was Jericho working a chinlock and driving his knee into Shawn's crippled old spine for spice. Or maybe it was Shawn starring on MTV's Becoming as Ric Flair earlier in the match, getting the figure four, having it turned out, busting the knee, and going right back to it. Or maybe it was Jericho kicking out of the sweet chin music, and then JR calling it a "wrestling match." Or maybe it was early on when JR got on the King's ass for whining about the wrestling. Or maybe it was Jericho getting the walls three freaking times. Or maybe it was that it ended without an approved finishing maneuver, yet it wasn't a fluky four-minute deal. Or maybe it was the whole damn shebang. Whatever, this match was great, and the post-match put it all in perspective, when Shawn wanted to make nice with his junior competitor only to get kicked right in the nads.
THE ROCK v. STEVE AUSTIN at WWE WRESTLEMANIA XIX on MARCH 30: I wanted Austin back so bad, because I missed him dearly. I just thought it was cool that Rock was back and he was a prick to Hulk Hogan. This match, I had mixed feelings in some ways. For one, in a perfect world, Rock's a babyface and Austin is an asshole, and Rock wants to FINALLY get revenge for X-7, but instead I get Austin, looking kinda hobbly and old, underdogging it a bit against Hollywood Rock in a match they didn't even hype over Hogan-Vince. JR said "hellacious physicality" after saying "serious-ass impact" in this match because JR was off his ass at Wrestlemania. I liked the way this match went, even though overall it felt WEIRD, but that was probably just because I knew I was seeing this for the last time, and I could get that feeling from both of them during the whole match, and the crowd seemed to be in the boat with us three, too. The only thing that really bothered me was Rock wrestling for a while while wearing Austin's vest because I hate shit like that. Jeff Hardy was routinely my least favorite wrestler on earth when he wouldn't take his pretend-tattered baseball cap off until someone smacked it off his bitch head. I was into Austin getting a near-fall with the rock bottom, I am never into Rock doing the stunner because no one does it right, either because it'll break Austin's head off or they're all retarded, either of which are points of concern, in my opinion. I was also into Rock finishing with the rock bottoms because when that three-count hit, it was really deflating, and like, shit, this is over? Great drama.
CHRIS JERICHO v. GOLDBERG at WWE BAD BLOOD on JUNE 15: I didn't think this was the best match in the world or anything, but I thought it was pretty good. I also thought it was bad for business in the business sense of using Goldberg, making him sell a lot and all, but since I didn't really care, and since they pretty much shit on using Goldberg to maximum effectiveness right out of the gate, I just enjoyed watching Jericho be a damn ring general for the ages in this one. Eliminating Goldberg's spear shoulder was way cool and we don't get enough of that shit anymore. Is it really coincidental that in a lot of Jericho's matches this year, I'd say things like, "we don't get enough of that shit anymore?" Jericho pretty much single-handedly made Goldberg look like a boner fide pro wrestler in this match, and I loved it. I also loved Goldberg hitting the spear with his good shoulder but not quite getting it perfectly right, because that just made it seem all the more badass. I didn't love JR not noticing and the King having to save his ass on that call since THE ENTIRE MATCH BUILT TO IT. Also loved Goldberg jaw-jacking with Tigger after the match.
EDDY GUERRERO v. CHRIS BENOIT in the finals of the United States Championship Tournament at WWE VENGEANCE on JULY 27: You know what I loved about this match? Not that it blew me right away or anything, because it wasn't like these two guys were particularly fantastic on this night or anything, because if they were to be, then everything else the company did all year would just look stupid in comparison. I loved it because it reminded me of those 96-97 WCW PPV undercard matches where the good workers would get paired off together to kick some ass and keep the crowd interested before you got to the dick matches with Hogan and Nash and Sting and Luger and Savage and Piper. The finish with all the interference was sort of a downer, but this was fun.
WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH - CHARLIE HAAS & SHELTON BENJAMIN (champions) v. REY MISTERIO JR. & BILLY KIDMAN (challengers) at WWE VENGEANCE on JULY 27: I wasn't quite as hugging the nuts of this match as some folk were, but I loved on it all the same, mostly for the same reasons as the Guerrero-Benoit match, and on the same show, no less. It was super cool watching Rey wrestle circles around everybody, and it was just sort of weird going, "Man, Kidman used to be really cool. Now look at his stupid shorts." Haas and Benjamin were a wild and crazy tag team in an age when tag teams just don't exist unless they're the again-shitty Dudley Boyz this year, and I appreciated it. (Also America's Most Wanted, yeah yeah.)
NWA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH - AJ STYLES (champion) v. LOW KI (challenger) on AUGUST 13: Mostly it's just that whenever I get some Low Ki stiff kick and submission holds action, I'm perfectly happy. But this was in that timeframe where TNA was pretty watchable, and I loved watching this match just to see a couple guys I'm not terribly familiar with (forgive me, world) hook it up, pro graps-style. Don West completely shits his pants over Low Ki in this match, making his drawers approach the impossible level of Ron Killings Soil. This match was really cool indy stud wrestling before the patented TNA finish of grabbing a weapon on the floor and swinging it over your head while not facing the guy in the ring, who is leaning through the ropes, and then you pin him inside the ring.
DOUBLE BULLROPE MATCH - AMERICA'S MOST WANTED v. SIMON DIAMOND & JOHNNY SWINGER on AUGUST 20: I was way into this feud overall, and I liked this match a-plenty. Harris and Storm are such a cool tag team a lot of the time, it's just unfortunate that they usually have shit to work with across the ring from them. I ended up really liking Simon Diamond for some reason, and I softened on Swinger over time, even though the motherfucker's coat is too goddamn big. He eventually sold himself to me with that pancreas ordeal. The only thing I didn't like about this match - well, two things. One being Glenn Gilberti being anywhere near it, because I fucking hate him, and two being that it was too short to get really interesting.
FATAL FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR THE WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP - EDDY GUERRERO (champion) v. CHRIS BENOIT (challenger) v. RHYNO (challenger) v. TAJIRI (challenger) at WWE SUMMERSLAM on AUGUST 25: Another match that was a bit short to really shit my pants over, but the whole dynamic was a blast with these four. Eddy and Benoit and Tajiri? Clearly all awesome. Rhyno? What the fuck? Odd men out in these matches are the seller or killer, and Rhyno did his share to make himself look like he belonged at various brief intervals.
HAIR V. HAIR MATCH - SHANE DOUGLAS v. RAVEN on SEPTEMBER 17: OK, yeah, this match was the shits. But it was memorably the shits. Argument #1: Hair v. hair matches? Awesome. I defy you to disagree. Argument #2: Raven doing all his sloppy ass brawling and babyface selling that Shane Douglas couldn't keep up with. Argument #3: Shane Douglas was so winded trying to keep up with the lightning-fast suicide bomber offense of Raven that he fucking barfed all over the ring. Argument #4: Dudes that can't use shears correctly so they end up scalping the guy that loses? Really, really awesome. This match had it all, and it also had Vampiro.
WWE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH - KURT ANGLE (champion) v. THE UNDERTAKER from SMACKDOWN on SEPTEMBER 4 (taped SEPTEMBER 2): This SOB had a non-finish and I liked it more than any of the Angle-Lesnar matches, because while I thought those matches were good and the feud itself was better than the matches, they all lacked a bit of chutzpah that this match had in spades. Undertaker working the mega fake MMA offense is always good for a belly laugh or three, especially when he goes for the triangle, but Angle made it all seem legit, and you gotta love that. 20 minutes of balls out wrestling until the pussy Lesnar run-in finish, and this was totally worth going out of my way to see. I didn't pay for it or nothin', I just went over to some broad's house and hung out with a badass cowboy of a three-year old and watched me some rasslin'. My life is pretty fucking great sometimes.
A-TRAIN v. CHRIS BENOIT from WWE NO MERCY on OCTOBER 19: This was a marvelous performance by Benoit, working his ass off to make A-Train look good and himself look better. A-Train dropping Benoit on top of his damned head was a scary moment, but one of them things where you're morbidly curious as to whether or not the dude broke his neck, and let's be honest here, you kinda hope he did so you got somethin' to talk about on the interweb. But then, when it's shown that he has not, you're all "relieved." You're full of bunk, you lying cocksucker, you wanted him to break his neck so you could talk shit about A-Train. These guys worked a style that isn't seen much in WWE, and that's what made this memorable. That and Benoit carrying this block of wood and turd to about the only good singles he's ever had.
JOHN CENA v. KURT ANGLE from WWE NO MERCY on OCTOBER 19: By this point in time, I had given up. John Cena wasn't annoying, as he had been when he got the title shot against Lesnar at Backlash, he was awesome and a genius for making a wigger gimmick be secondary to the fact that he was also a wrestler that would beat you up. I think the parking lot brawl with Eddy was what really sold me on him, because then I took him somewhat more seriously as a hardass instead of just some wegro doing his "rapping," and then here we have Kurt Angle making him look like a contender to be reckoned with. Cool elevation, Kurt. Cool singlet.
ELIMINATION MATCH - CHRIS JERICHO, MARK HENRY, CHRISTIAN, SCOTT STEINER & RANDY ORTON v. BOOKER T, THE DUDLEY BOYZ, ROB VAN DAM & SHAWN MICHAELS from WWE SURVIVOR SERIES on NOVEMBER 16: After Smackdown put on that weak-ass Survivor Series match for Vince Russo retards to open the show, and after nothing else really did anything for me the rest of the way leading to this, I was on my knees, and I wasn't giving a blowjob, I was praying that Shawn Michaels would pull out some old-school babyface bullshit and make the night worth living through. And after getting through about twenty minutes of watchable-but-bland wrestling, I was left with Shawn Michaels down 3-on-1, and I knew, right then, that life was going to be alright for the time being. Michaels went on to give the single most heroic performance of the year, valiantly fighting off Christian and Jericho, and then getting hit with a steel freaking chair, to go 1-on-1 with Randy Orton, with whom he had past issues. And to make matters awesomer, Austin was on the outside selling his ass off, while Bischoff was I dunno, wondering if he could pork that hot little number that checked him in at the Ramada. JR goes WM off his ass toward the end again, and it feels like goddamned WRESTLING, as it occasionally does these days. Everyone bit on the near-falls, and then once Shawn had fought so hard, with every ounce of 40-year old crippled blood left in his shitty back and dumbass tattoo, with all of Dallas taking off their pants and waving them over their head in a frenzy of hope, after Stone Cold Steve Austin himself had climbed in the ring to kick Randy Orton in the breadbasket and deliver his famous wrestling move, this stupid asshole named BAW-TEESTA finds it necessary to come into the match and power bomb Shawn Michaels, and Orton pins, and you think, oh god, maybe he'll kick out again, he's gotta, he's our hero, look at this motherfucker whoop a ass on three people, he's gotta do it, no, it's a three count, and Austin is done, and Michaels is left laying in his own blood, and young Randy Orton has vanquished the Texas Rattlesnake, and Eric Bischoff is victorious, and you need a goddamn nap because everything was exhausting, and they had captured the emotions of everyone in the building, and caught magic again, if only for a moment. Perfectly deflating.
There were also a few non-match things from the year that I really loved up on, but not many. Most of the year's angles smelled like WCW and some of them just smelled like a fat woman at a picnic in August. But, like, Shawn Michaels giving Ric Flair a pep talk before Flair wrestled HHH for the world title, followed by Flair strutting his kickass stuff in HHH's face, followed by Flair making you think he could win, when you knew he couldn't - that was awesome. That was off the charts awesome. Rock returning to save Mick Foley from La Resistance? Kinda fruity, in a way, as it included La Resistance, but let me tell you about that. We was sittin' there watchin' the TV, kinda talking about some other crap, because, y'know, it was La Resistance. And once Foley got backed into the corner, who cares? Who's gonna save him, the Dudley Boyz? IF YA SMELL. The earth stopped because I wasn't expecting it whatsoever. Once I thought about it for three seconds, it made sense, Anaheim and all, but that didn't mean it wasn't brilliant. Everyone went nuts like they just don't do anymore these days, because they were legitimately surprised by something, and also thrilled to see it walking down the aisle. The promo after, not so cool. The ass whippin', pretty good. The fact that Rock got winded from rolling around for two minutes, pretty hilarious.
I liked that they brought back the IC and US titles, and I liked that occasionally, TNA would do something actually worth the $10 you paid, like Ultimate X, which was overrated but new and different and had its boner moments and a fantastic finish, which was also the only good thing Michael Shane did all fucking year, and the Super X tournament, which could be a cool annual thing unless they get a HILARIOUS idea to put a - GET THIS - BIG GUY in the tournament and he WINS IT! Wow! Fucking cruiserweights, when will they ever learn!
I also was thrilled once I cracked the code on Don West's clothing colors, and also happy as punch that once a week Mike Tenay would make a ridiculously unnerving facial expression.
And, really, does it get better than Jamie Noble? Or Trish crying with that wack hockey jersey she made for Jericho? Or Mick Foley refereeing hell in a cell and being the predictable star of the match? Or Kevin Nash getting his hair cut and looking like an even bigger dickweed?
Yeah, this year sucked it, and didn't even do a good job at it. This year was one of those times when it would be best if everyone involved just stopped and ignored it ever happened, and went back to watching baseball or fixing the sink.
This year died, but in the end, it didn't suffer, and for that, we can be grateful.