Welcome to Sports Obsessive! Now we’re talking. Today, I invite you to jump into the DeLorean with me as I venture all the way back to August 16th, 2001, when I was just a chap. I was 11 years old and most likely playing with my Matt and Jeff Hardy action figures. All the way over in the United States, Utah to be precise, a new era of the World Wrestling Federation was being ushered in. WWF SmackDown was coming to us live from Utah, as I previously mentioned and this was the debut of the much loved, much cherished, WWF SmackDown ‘fist’ set and stage. This was possibly the greatest WWF/WWE stage setup, in my personal opinion.
We were welcomed to ringside by the ever-familiar voices of Michael Cole and Paul Heyman, when all of a sudden, the (new) owner of World Championship Wrestling, Shane McMahon, was showered with boo’s from the rowdy Utah audience. Shane O’ Mac was living it up as a massive heel and was quick to insult the paying fans.
Tension Was Building Between The Alliance & The Federation
Shane was promoting the upcoming WCW Championship match at SummerSlam 01’ between Booker T and The Rock. Shane was bigging up the 5-time WCW Champion and was soon joined by Booker T. Once ‘The Book Man’ met up with Shane O’ Mac, shade was very quickly thrown in The Rock’s direction. Booker T was mocking Rock’s move-set and catchphrases and insist that The Rock is only as successful as he is as he mad mirrored himself after the WCW Alumni. This was really, really entertaining to rewatch, as when this was originally aired, I was 11 years old. Today, I’m 31, this was literally 20 damn years ago and I enjoyed this promo just as much today as I did back then. Timeless. The WCW guy mocking the WWF guy on the lead up to a WCW Championship defense needed this. If Booker were to play The Rock off, this wouldn’t have worked. We needed Booker to take this route, to rile up The Rock, in order to deliver the goods. Once Booker and Shane were done, they left the ring and returned to the backstage area.
Then, after the commercial, The Rock had arrived at the arena (apparently even ‘The Great One is not as punctual as he should be). Rock beelined for the ring and called out Booker T. Booker and Shane returned to the stage and were promptly interrupted by former WCW talent, Shawn Stasiak. Stasiak wanted to prove to Booker that he was a team player and decided to take it upon himself and take out The Rock. How impressive was it when Stasiak pinned The Rock, clean, in the middle of the ring? Wait, that never happened. Of course, it didn’t! The Rock laid Stasiak out and returned to his promo without producing a drop of sweat. This didn’t really need to happen. The exchange of words been Booker and The Rock was entertaining enough without burying Stasiak. Rock proceeded to promise that he would proudly wave the World Wrestling Federation banner at SummerSlam and take the WCW Championship away from Booker T at the event. The challenge was then laid out for a ‘Lights Out’ match for later in the night and the WCW Champion was more than happy to accept.
Now, can you dig that!
William Regal and Tajiri vs X-Pac and Albert
To provide a dash of context, Regal was the WWF Commissioner, Tajiri was the WWF Light Heavyweight Champion, X-Pac was the WCW Cruiserweight Champion and Albert was Albert. Tony Chimel was the ring announcer at this time and man, oh man, have I missed his voice. Soon into this match, we learned that Tajiri and X-Pac would face off at SummerSlam to unify both the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship and the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. This was a really good tag team match. Tajiri really was the man of the match, pulling out moves that only he could pull off during this time period.
As impressive as Tajiri was, he was not prepared for the powerhouse that was Albert. Albert eventually won the match for his team via pinfall after driving Tajiri down to the mat with force with the help of a devastating-looking powerbomb. I really wouldn’t change anything about this match, even if I could. I thought that this played out very well, given that X-Pac was on the winning team.
I would give you a *Spoiler Alert* but this did go down 20 years ago. X-Pac would go on to win his bout against Tajiri at SummerSlam 01′ to unify the aforementioned Championships, so this tag team match really did serve its purpose. Kudos!
Winners: X-Pac and Albert
The Stone Cold Steve Austin Invitational
Next up, we were brought backstage, Where Stone Cold Steve Austin was seen to be very irritable around Debra as he summoned referee Earl Hebnar into his locker room. Austin was gearing up for the ‘Stone Cold Steve Austin Invitational’. To paint the picture, at this time, Austin was a WCW guy, believe it or not. Austin was proudly donning a WCW tee and was disgusted to see Earl Hebnar proudly wearing a WWF logo on his referee shirt. Austin handed Hebnar a clipboard and demanded that he get as many signatures as humanly possible from the WWF Superstars. Austin’s ego was on show next as he stated that he wanted to see who would graduate from the Stone Cold Steve Austin University. As the night rolled on, we saw Earl Hebnar do as instructed by ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’. Hebnar entered a room that was filled with the likes of Crash and Hardcore Holly, Kaientai, K-Kwik (R-Truth), Scotty 2 Hotty, Essay Rios, and Spike Dudley. All of these guys were quick to want to sign the clipboard. Then Kurt Angle entered the room and was the first to jot his name down. Needless to say, the rest followed. This segment may seem worlds apart from what airs on today’s programming but honestly, I prefer it! This is storytelling at its finest. This is giving a narrative and following up on it. Segments like this really added to the success of this particular era of the WWF. As the night rolled on, a vignette in which documented Steve Austin’s actions on Monday Night Raw the prior week was aired. Once again, Austin was the ultimate bad guy in this situation and was the leader of the alliance (WCW & ECW). Austin felt the need to beat respect into those who didn’t do exactly as he said. Former ECW wrestler, Taz, was the prime example in this particular segment. Simply put, in 2001, Stone Cold Steve Austin was a bully and seemed to be getting away with talking trash. Back at ringside, Taz joined Michael Cole and Paul Heyman (which was tense) on commentary ahead of Austin’s arrival for the Stone Cold Steve Austin Invitational. Paul Heyman promptly left commentary and jumped in the ring to kiss Austin’s ass and throw Taz under the bus. Austin’s promo began and as he was pacing around the ring, he spouted off about how the Stone Cold Steve Austin Invitational was in session as he was going to start off with the first name on the list. As we learned earlier, Kurt Angle was the first to sign the document.
However, Austin called out the name, Scotty 2 Hotty. Why? Perhaps Austin was a coward. Austin treated S2H with complete disrespect, verbally and emotionally bullying the WWE Superstar. This was great to rewatch. I was the biggest Too Cool fan when I was younger and I’m not ashamed to say that I tried to emulate S2H by attempting ‘the worm’. Needless to say, I’m not as cool as Scotty 2 Hotty. Austin was in the ring, talking crap but calling S2H ‘Kurt’. It was almost as if he were trying to send a message to the Olympic Gold Medalist through Scotty 2 Hotty. This promo came across to me as one that we would never see nowadays. Reason being that it represented bullying in its ugliest form. I’m fully aware that this is a TV show that aired 20 years ago but it still got me riled up. I wanted to step through the screen and stand up for Scotty 2 Hotty myself. Within seconds, the paranoid, Steve Austin flattened S2H and was soon met by Kurt Angle and a brawl ensued, then Taz jumped in the ring, and just as soon as we thought that Taz was going to give Austin a piece of his mind, Taz attacked Kurt Angle, siding with the leader of the alliance. What the hell is going on? Professional Wrestling was certainly presented in a different manner in 2001 in comparison to how it is presented today. At the end of the day, as a wrestling fan, all you have to ask yourself is ‘was I entertained?’ I can honestly say that I was entertained back then and just as much when watching this back in 2021.
Rob Van Dam & Rhyno w/ Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley vs Jeff Hardy and Chris Jericho
Good god almighty. How many Hall of Fame level Professional Wrestlers can you fit into one match? The fact that this match even took place is so difficult to comprehend in 2021. The backstory here was that Jeff Hardy was the WWF Hardcore Champion at the time. The WWF Hardcore Championship rules were waived during this match as Jeff Hardy was due to defend his gold against Rob Van Dam at SummerSlam 01′ which took place just days after this episode of SmackDown. Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley was at ringside for this match and was quick to interrupt the match and get in Chris Jericho’s way any time she could.
Rob Van Dam really was the star of this match for me, perhaps it was nostalgia kicking in but I really forgot how much of an RVD fan I was when I was growing up. Before you knew it, all hell broke loose during this match, Jericho and Rhyno were fighting on the outside. RVD laid out Hardy and got the pinfall after hitting his signature 5 Star Frog Splash. After the match, Stephanie entered the ring and soon enough, Jericho made his way back to ring and was stalking the Million Dollar Princess. Before anything could happen, Rhyno remerged to attempt a GORE which allowed Stephanie to escape without harm. This got me in the mood to go back and watch SummerSlam 2001. I urge you to do the same too, let us know if it holds up!
Winners: RVD & Rhyno w Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley
Edge & Christian vs Chis Kanyon and DDP for the WWF Tag Team Championships
Are Kanyon and DDP remembered as one of the greatest Tag Team Champions of all time? No, but they were really entertaining throughout this match. Watching this back allowed me to appreciate what Edge and Christian have accomplished in 2021 that much more. Obviously, Edge and Christian had one hell of a tag team run but they also went on to kill it in the singles division. Fast forward a decade a so, both Edge and Christian were forced to retire from professional wrestling due to injuries. Fast forward another 10 years, Edge has been back with the WWE for over 12 months, and Christian is the Impact Wrestling World Champion. Edge and Christian continue to thrive. This was a quick match that ended when Lance Storm invaded the match to cause a distraction. Edge was left alone to take DDP finisher move and that was it. It was an odd ending to what could have been a better match but let’s remember that this was literally 20 years ago.
Winners: Chris Kanyon and DDP
Taz vs Kurt Angle
This match was a result of direct continuity from what we saw earlier in the night and it was absolutely amazing, Taz was accompanied to the ring by the alliance and Kurt Angle was accompanied by the WWF Superstars. Kurt Angle was incredibly impressive in this match and made quick work of Taz. After defeating the ECW legend, Angle invited Steve Austin down to the ring for a fight! However, Austin didn’t seem man enough to take up the challenge. That was until Angle was jumped from behind. That was Autin’s opening. Soon enough Team Alliance and Team WWF were going all out in the middle of the ring. Absolute carnage leading into SummerSlam!
Winner: Kurt Angle
The Rock vs Booker T
This match was the main event as was dubbed ‘Lights Out’. Both The Rock and Booker T felt that they were the better performers but at the end of the day, Booker was successful in WCW, this was the WWF. Only time would tell how Booker T would fare. The WCW Champion, Booker T made his way to the ring to battle one of the most successful WWF Superstars of all time. As soon as The Rock’s music hit, the crowd lost their minds and the rock ran to the ring to lay the SmackDown on Booker T. This match was incredibly fast-paced from the jump and you couldn’t expect anything less from The Rock during this time period on a show that was named after one of his catchphrases. He has always been the originator of SmackDown and he wasn’t holding back on this episode. Rock was seconds away from driving Booker T through the announcer’s table until Shane O’ Mac got involved and hit Rock with a low blow. That was the beginning of the end. In fact, it was an immediate end. Booker T’s music hit as he celebrated with Shane in the middle of the ring with all of the momentum in the world going into his WCW Championship defense against The Rock at SummerSlam. What a match!
Winner: Booker T
Tell me you’re not going to watch SummerSlam 2001 after reading this. You’ve got to! Once again, this was the first-ever live edition of SmackDown and was the inception of the much loved ‘SmackDown Fist’ stage and set. Our plan is to look back at every SmackDown of this particular era, so if that’s something that interests you, please keep reading these articles as they come, and don’t shy away from visiting our social media accounts. You can find me @JayCorco on Twitter and you find everything @SportsObsessive of Facebook and Twitter.
We look forward to hearing from you, so until then, we’ll catch you down the road.