Later this evening, WWE will unify the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship. However, this will not be the first time WWE has done this. After Vince McMahon acquired WCW in 2001 their title was defended on WWF programming for almost nine months. After The Invasion ran its course WWF decided it was time to unify the WCW and WWF Championships and have one Undisputed Champion. A four man mini tournament was held at Vengeance in December of 2001 to crown the first ever Undisputed Champion. This event indeed did happen despite the fact that WWE has ignored it completely in the build to tonight’s TLC Match to unify the titles. Many of you probably already know who walked out of Vengeance as the first Undisputed Champion but for those that don’t keep on reading and you’ll find out.
WWF Vengeance 2001
The show opens with a video highlighting past WCW and WWF Champions while Freddie Blassie dances with a ballerina. One of the odder opens to a PPV.
Vince McMahon heads to the ring to kick off the PPV. Vince is upset because on SmackDown, the other co-owner of WWF, Ric Flair said no WWF Superstar could interfere in the process to crown the Undisputed Champion tonight or they’d be suspended. He’s even more upset because the fans laughed at him after The Rock shoved his face in Rikishi’s ass. Flair interrupts Vince and tells him that we better have seen the last of him for the evening because the people are here to watch a PPV that is going to start right now. Scotty 2 Hotty and Albert hit the ring to get the action started.
Albert and Scotty 2 Hotty beat Christian and Test (*3/4)
Short but solid opening bout to get the crowd warmed up. The first part of the match was a basic tag match with the Canadian duo working over Scotty. When Scotty got the hot tag to Albert things picked up and we had a nice finish to the match. Albert busted out the giant swing that Antonio Cesaro has perfected today. Scotty hit the Worm on Test when Christian snuck in and tried to hit the Unprettier. Scotty was saved by Albert who hit the Baldo Bomb on Christian to pick up the win for his team after six minutes.
The Coach is in the back with William Regal. Regal is getting ready to challenge Edge for the Intercontinental Champion but Coach questions Regal’s tactics in recent weeks. Regal says his methods are questionable they are successful and says Edge has incurred his wrath and he’s going to become the new Intercontinental Champion.
Intercontinental Championship Match- Edge pinned William Regal to retain the Championship (**3/4)
Good bout that could have really used another five minutes to have a hot finish. Regal used that rough, ground and pound style to keep the Champion at bay but Edge was able to gain a few near falls with his speed. Edge was in a bit of trouble when he tried to attack Regal on the floor and he missed and ended up spearing the steps. Regal grabbed a pair of brass knuckles that he hid under one on the ring posts and hid them in his tights while Edge was down. Regal thought he had the title won after he hit two double underhook powerbombs on Edge but Edge kicked out of the pinning attempt. Frustrated, Regal put on the brass knuckles but when he turned around he was greeted by a Spear and Edge covered him and got the three count to retain his title after nine minutes.
We head to the back where Ric Flair is on his cell phone. Kurt Angle barges into his office. Angle says as great as Flair is he’s never been an Olympic Gold Medalist and the Undisputed Champion and tonight he will become the first ever Undisputed Champion.
Now we’re in the locker room where Lita is stretching getting ready to referee the match between Matt and Jeff Hardy. Matt comes into the locker room and Matt expects his girlfriend to favor him in the match tonight but she said her job tonight is to call the match down the middle. Matt says that’s ok because Jeff will never get the chance to pin him tonight.
Jeff Hardy defeated Matt Hardy with Lita as the Special Referee (**1/4)
The problems with the Hardy Boys started at Survivor Series when Jeff’s risk taking ways cost them the Tag Team Championships. Matt felt Jeff’s risks were selfish and that led us to this match. There was something missing in this match. It should have been a big deal to have the most popular tag team of the era break up and face each other at a PPV but it felt flat. Matt played the heel in this match which was probably a good idea since the crowd was a lot more into Jeff. The ending of the match is what really hurt the match. It was so deliberate and sloppy when they were trading near falls. Matt tried a Twist of Fate from the second rope but Jeff tossed him off and hit the Swanton for the win. Matt was upset after the match because Lita missed his foot being on the rope.
We now head to the back where the Women’s Champion Trish Stratus is about to enter The Rock’s locker room. Trish just wants to wish The Rock good luck tonight and gives him a kiss. The Rock says just so he and Trish are on the same page the only thing on his mind is becoming the Undisputed Champion tonight. Then when the show is over Trish will have plenty of time to smell what The Rock is cooking.
WWF Tag Team Championship Match- The Dudley Boys beat Big Show and Kane to retain the Tag Team Championships (*3/4)
The match could have been a lot worse considering the participants but they kept up a good pace to keep the crowd in the match. The highlight of the match was when Kane launched himself off the top rope onto the Dudleys on the outside. Stacy Keibler ran in the ring upset at what was going on so Big Show pulled down her pants and spanked her. Kane and Show were in control of most of the match but there was some miscommunication that led to their downfall. Show ran into Kane knocking him to the outside and then the Dudleys hit a modified 3D on Show into the exposed turnbuckle to score the win and retain their titles at the seven minute mark.
Hardcore Championship Match- The Undertaker defeated Rob Van Dam to become the NEW Champion (**1/2)
That was fun. It was very reminiscent of an original ECW match. The match only started in the ring just because that’s where the match is supposed to start. About 90 seconds into the match the action spilled to the floor and it never returned to the ring in the 11 minutes these men did battle. The fought a lot in the crowd where the highlight was RVD hitting crossbody off a balcony onto Taker for a long two count. The match made its way to the entrance ramp. RVD had a couple of chances to put away The American Bad Ass after he hit Rolling Thunder and then skateboarded a chair into Taker’s face. When neither of those moves put Taker away, RVD tried a Van Daminator but missed and kicked the video board on the side of the stage. Taker went for the Last Ride but RVD fought out and tried another Van Daminator and missed again. This time he got Chokeslammed off the stage, through two tables. Nasty, nasty bump. Taker jumped off the stage and covered RVD for the 1,2,3 and became the new Hardcore Champion.
Chris Jericho busts into Ric Flair’s office and tells him that after tonight, he will be the man wants Flair to crown him the first ever Undisputed Champion tomorrow on RAW.
Women’s Championship Match- Trish Stratus pinned Jacqueline to retain the Championship (1/4*)
Sloppy, sloppy match. Trish wasn’t exactly a good wrestler at this point in her career and it really showed in this match. She retained her title after a backslide at the three minute mark to put this match to bed.
It is now time to crown the first ever Undisputed Champion. Stone Cold Steve Austin will defend the WWF Championship against Kurt Angle and then The Rock will put the WCW Title (which they were calling the World Championship now since WCW had been banished in storyline) on the line against Chris Jericho. The two winners will meet in a match to determine the first Undisputed Champion. We get a video package detailing our road to this moment and then Kurt Angle heads to the ring for the first match of our mini tournament.
WWF Championship Match- Stone Cold Steve Austin beat Kurt Angle to retain the Championship (***)
These two had a hell of a rivalry through the summer and fall months of 2001. They had a few classic bouts. This was not one of them but still an entertaining match between two of the best from this era. Angle tried to incapacitate Austin by working over his shaky knees. He even busted out the ring post Figure Four. Angle then hit Austin with three rolling German suplexes. Not to be outdone, The Rattlesnake hit five on Angle. Angle was able to recover from that and hit the Angle Slam on Austin. That only got a two. Angle figure if he couldn’t beat Austin with his finisher then he would try Austin’s own finisher. Austin easily fought out of Angle’s Stunner attempt and hit a Stone Cold Stunner of his own. That was enough for the three count at the 15 minute mark. Austin retained his title and moved on to the finale to crown the first Undisputed Champion.
World Championship Match- Chris Jericho defeated The Rock to become the NEW Champion (***3/4)
This was easily the best match of the night and it’s no surprise. Jericho cemented himself as a big game player with his series of matches with The Rock in 2001-2002. These two always delivered and this was no exception.
The action spilled to the floor and Jericho was looking to humiliate The Rock by driving him through the announce table with a Rock Bottom. Rock reversed it and hit a beautiful DDT through the table. With the action back in the ring, Jericho demonstrated that he didn’t learn his lesson the first time when trying to steal one of Rock’s moves. This time he tried The People’s Elbow and once again it was reversed into the Sharpshooter. Jericho reversed that into a Sharpshooter of his own. Rock fought out and was able to hit The Rock Bottom. As Rock went for the cover, Vince McMahon marched to the ring. He didn’t want Austin or Rock winning the Undisputed Championship. With Austin already advancing, he had to take matters in his own hands to make sure Rock didn’t advance also. The referee was distracted by Vince and didn’t see Rock covering Y2J. Rock got off Jericho to punch Vince in his snot box. Rock then hit a Spinebuster on Jericho and then went for The People’s Elbow. As Rock hit the ropes, Vince grabbed at his leg. It slowed The Great One down but undeterred he hit the elbow on Jericho. Rock then laid a beating a Vince. The referee tried to get Vince out of the ring. That allowed Jericho to low blow Rock and then hit The Rock Bottom on Rock. Jericho covered, and got the three count after 19 minutes of exciting action.
Jericho barely had time to celebrate his World Championship win when the glass shatters and Austin hits the ring. We are immediately going to the match to crown the Undisputed Champion. Before the referee has a chance to ring the bell, Angle hits the ring and smashes Austin in the face with a steel chair. The Rock gets to his feet and evens out the playing field by hitting Jericho with a Rock Bottom. He chases Angle to the back. Both Austin and Jericho are out cold as the referee rings the bell to start the match.
Chris Jericho pinned Stone Cold Steve Austin to become the first Undisputed Champion (**3/4)
This was a physical slug fest. They only got 13 minutes and the overbooking at the end never allowed the match to be great but still a real good effort from Austin and Jericho. Jericho went for a flying forearm and Austin ducked causing the referee to take the force a Jericho’s blow. With the referee out, Jericho hit Austin with a low blow and a Stunner. Vince McMahon knew Austin was vulnerable so he brought crooked referee, Nick Patrick to the ring. Ric Flair didn’t like this so he ran to the ring and decked Patrick. McMahon and Flair get into a fight on the outside with McMahon getting the better of it. While this is all going on, Austin has Jericho in the Walls of Jericho. Jericho is tapping out but there is no referee there to see it. Booker T runs in the ring through the crowd and smashes Austin with the WWF Title and then runs back through the crowd. Flair had said that any WWF Superstar that interfered in any of the unification matches would be suspended. Booker however wasn’t a WWF Superstar. All of the Alliance members that weren’t champions were “fired” after Survivor Series. Vince saw Austin was out and threw the original referee in the ring and he counted Austin’s shoulders down and Chris Jericho was crowned the first ever Undisputed Champion.
Vince McMahon and Jericho celebrate with the two Championship belts at the top of the stage as the PPV fades to black.
As I said in the official TJR TLC Preview that since WWE decided to do a unification match for the two World Titles then John Cena and Randy Orton were the right choices for the match since they are the two top guys of this generation. That’s why it surprised me thinking back on it that Austin and The Rock weren’t chosen to have the match that would crown the first Undisputed Champion since they were the two top stars of the Attitude Era. If they wanted the belt to be on Jericho then he could have won it at the Royal Rumble. It probably would have meant more there than it did here. He needed help to beat both Rock and Austin so it’s not like he was put over cleanly in either match. Any way you choose to look at it though, it’s a great accomplishment that can’t be taken away from him and something he still uses as part of his character to this day.
This PPV was built around the three matches to crown the Undisputed Championship and for the most part they delivered. Rock/Jericho was great and it would have been nice to see Austin/Angle get five more minutes to be special. The PPV ended with over 20 minutes left so it’s not like they were running short on time. I don’t mind the overbooking in the main event because it made sense for the story they were telling. Vince had lost control of half his company and wanted to do what he could to get a guy he wanted as the Champion.
The undercard didn’t stand out in anyway but it wasn’t a bad undercard. Every match had its moments and was entertaining for the most part. The only stinker was the Women’s Title Match. If you’re looking for a quality wrestling PPV from the end of the Attitude Era this is one to check out. It’s sad that this PPV isn’t remembered more for the historical significance of it. It takes a real hardcore fan to actually name the PPV Jericho won the Undisputed Title at. Most only know he beat Rock and Austin in the same night to do so. That’s one of my worried for the Cena/Orton unification match, that it won’t be remembered the way it probably should historically since it’s taking place at a throwaway gimmick PPV instead of at a big event.
With all that said, Vengeance 2001 was an entertaining PPV. The only time you feel like banging your head against the wall was during the Women’s match and that was over quick. This PPV gets a 6.5/10.
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