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  1. The year 2002 is the only year since 1997 that I did not watch any wrestling at all during a calendar year. I was still smarting from the WCW buyout and the pathetic Invasion. Even bringing back the NWO did not get me to give a fuck about wrestling. I have gone back and watched a handful of matches from 2002, but I thought I look at the 8 or 10 best. This period of time will be crucial for how I rank Benoit, Mysterio and Guerrero for GWE. Chris Benoit vs Rey Mysterio - Smackdown! 10/3/02 This was a tremendous TV bout! It is amazing that this is pretty much their signature singles match. For all the time spent in WCW and WWE, they very rarely crossed paths in a singles setting. They had tag feuds in WCW 99 and as part of the Smackdown Six, but this match represents their most famous signature encounter. It is even more surprising because they were both signature Smackdown stars during the Brand Split era. Guess you can chock it up to them both being babyfaces for the majority of their runs. Hearing Tony Chimel's voice took me straight back to high school. That was crazy. This match needs to be shown to the entire modern day locker room. This is the blueprint for an action-packed match where storytelling and selling are still critical aspects to the match. It is clear that Benoit and Mysterio are huge influences on today's wrestling, but I think a lot of wrestlers/agents have the wrong takeaway from matches like this. Yes, there are a lot of moves and the moves are over, but the characters, context and motivation around the moves are really what gives these moves their impact. I love how all of Benoit's cool moves are counters to Rey Mysterio getting a little too cute. Rey due to his size disadvantage needs to use speed and finesse. I am not trying to demean this technical acumen, but when compared to the cold, rigidity of Benoit's straight-forward assault, these are very cute moves, but they are effective. My main point is Benoit is robbing you of seeing Mysterio hit his cool armdrag, wheel-barrow, and 619 and Benoit is countering with badass impactful moves like backbreaker, wheelbarrow suplex and shoulderbreaker. Since Benoit is robbing of these moments, he and his moves are not getting over like a babyface, but instead it is putting him over as a badass heel and Mysterio as an underdog face. Another credit to this match is the beginning. I have been all over the extinction of the babyface shine from pro wrestling. I think it is incredibly crucial in getting a crowd invested in a babyface before the heat segment. I think it is 100% essential when a wrestler is new or not that over. Nobody wants to cheer for a loser. An unestablished babyface that goes into a heat segment without a shine is an almost guaranteed death sentence. Not does Rey Rey necessarily need a shine no, but I think it is a great way to get a crowd going. I love how this shine plays out with Benoit firing all cylinders early really laying in his shit early only to have Rey use his finesse to counter and then setup 2-3 really slick high spots and I loved the somersault splash to the outside. That was a perfect punctuation on a great shine. Now when his fancy armdrag gets countered into a vicious backbreaker, I am spending the heat segment cheering to see more cool Rey offense and see his bully get his comeuppance. That is why the shine is important. The finish sequence was very nicely done. Rey was able to set up the 619, but Benoit countered into a nasty shoulderbreaker. From there, it was the typical Benoit full court press with the diving headbutt and Crippler Crossface (too close to the ropes). Rey is able to use movement to create opportunities for an awesome legdrop onto Benoit that was quickly set up and totally credible into the 619. Angle, who was Benoit's partner that did not like Benoit, interferes to set up the Latino Frankensteiner (TM Michael Buffer) for the Rey Rey win. One last point, Rey Rey's strikes were on point and he surprisingly had not problem going blow for blow with the heavy handed Benoit. One of the best TV matches I have seen in quite some time. Really well-executed. A perfect, action-based, movement-oriented match that stayed true to face, heel dynamics. ****
  2. Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle vs Edge & Rey Mysterio - No Mecy 2002 WWE Tag Team Titles Here is an early 00s classic that I have never seen before. The Survivor Series Triple Threat made a DVD, but did not seem to get as much love as this did at the time. I will say this had a double hot finish stretch that in a very weak year for the wrestling world (guess I have not seen any ROH, but this is a weak Japan year) makes this a match of the year contender. I love the Angle & Mysterio interaction early and definitely need to rewatch their Summerslam match. Angle is great as the cocky jock and the look on Rey's face when he realizes he needs to stomp on Angle's foot to break the waistlock is priceless. Mysterio was great at showing up Angle with speed and Angle was bumping and stooging for him so well. Benoit and Edge was fine. Credit where credit is due, Edge actually worked a nice, tight heel in peril based on Benoit's ribs and laid in his stuff well. They did a good job playing off some Angle interference with Benoit selling the ribs on the first one, which led to Angle getting speared off the apron, but on the third go around Angle caused enough damage to get Benoit out of there. Edge is not particularly good at any one facet of wrestling, but in his defense he is not particularly bad at anything (I guess emotion is his greatest weakness). It is annoying that with Rey right there we get an extended FIP with Edge. I forgot about Angle's lame chinlock/bodyscissors. Angle and Benoit throwing Edge was fun. I know a lot of people don't like the rolling Germans, but I always dug them. Edge could have done more in the way of hope spots. The superplex is the transition of the heat segment and Little Rock does not give a fuck. REY IS IN!!! The crowd is awake. Rey is rockin n rollin. Didn't love the set up for the leg drop while Benoit was dangling, but it was pretty sweet. Benoit counters the wheel barrow by splating Rey and then going for the Crossface. That is perfect counterwrestling. Edge saves and Rey looks 619, but Benoit counters looking for shoulderbreaker and Edge hits a nifty missile dropkick. That should have been his finisher! Zack Ryder is crying somewhere. Angle overuses that pop-up belly to belly, but when timed right in a match, it is the perfect interjection and this was one of those moments. That sets up the Rey FIP. Double Face in peril, shades of AWA! Rey is so much better at selling than Edge. Loved Angle and Benoit throwing him around. Up until this point, I would say I watched a great match and the finish stretch does a great job to kick up a notch. I can see why action-oriented fans dig this match. Edge is a decent hot tag. He has lame offense, but at least he showed some energy. Credit where it is due, he did hit one of his best spear ever on Benoit during this run. Rey was great double teaming with Edge and giving this run a bit more pep. Edge goes for the cover sees Benoit diving headbutt and lets Angle take it. I have always liked that spot in all its variations. Though nobody ever loses to the diving headbutt and nothing changes here. In the spot of the match, Benoit has Edge in the Crippler Crossface and Rey hits an awesome 619 to break it up. I popped huge for that. Edge throws Rey Rey onto Benoit, before the usual Angle Anglelock reversalfest ends with Angle on top. The Rey stuff was really awesome. He had really good chemistry with both Angle and Benoit. Edge was alright. I thought the finish stretch was hot. Needed more of a story hook to kick it into next gear for me. Still a very entertaining bout, even if a little overrated. ****1/4
  3. As expected, this delivered. Rey is undoubtedly the greatest underdog of all-time. First part segment of the match featured the much smaller Rey using his speed and ringside weapons to ground the dominant and much bigger Reigns. Rey quickly running out of the ring and grabbing a chair and nailing Reigns in the ribs while he tried to grab him through the ropes was a great way to kick this off. I also thought Rey using the fire extinguisher to stop Reigns was clever. Also the use of the chair later on was perfectly executed with Rey wrapping the chair around Reigns neck and just shoving him into the cage and the ring post trying to asphyxiate him. We also got a great ragdoll spot from Reigns when he caught Rey and just flung him into the cage multiple times as if nothing. My two biggest knocks on this are the superman punch that looked awful and the camera change didn't do it any favors and the predictable result which of course doesn't allow you to buy into the big frog splash spots as near falls. The big lawn dart powerbomb over the top rope in the cage was great though and Reigns' new guillotine (without the arm in) looked brutal as his arms looked like they were tightly wrapped around Rey's neck and his head looked like it was about to pop. Not an all-time classic but most definitely a good main event match.
  4. WWE Champion Brock Lesnar vs Rey Mysterio - Smackdown! 12/11/03 I don't think there is a wrestler that has debuted after 2000 with a higher wrestling IQ than Brock Lesnar (maybe AJ Styles, but it is close). Brock just completely and totally understands pro wrestling. It is a total shame that he hates travel. He works a classic Ric Flair vs Hometown Hero match (they were in San Diego), but stays true to himself and updates the style to 2003 flawlessly. Brock is so selfless in that ring that what you need to be as a heel. He is a monster, but he is never afraid to show ass and shine up anyone including tiny Rey Rey. They do a great job establishing that size differential. It is freaky how much bigger Brock is than Rey Rey. He slings him around. I don't want to undersell Rey in this match as this is an all-time great babyface performance in front of a raucous hometown crowd. They do an extended track meet sequence that is awesome so Brock gets so frustrated he picks up the steps, but argues with the ref only to have the steps dropkicked into his face. Brock catches him at one point, but Rey just keeps moving. Then Rey is just busting all this great aerial offense. You totally believe Rey can take it if he can stay in the air and just totally suffocate Brock. Brock is just so great at selling that discombobulation of Rey coming at him from all angles so he punts in the balls. That is too sweet. This 300 lbs monster needs to take that short cut on a diminutive opponent. That is a money heel. He understands desperation and viciousness in a way no heel nowadays seems to get. I love Brock taunting Rey Rey throughout this and finally it gets him caught with a wicked kick. Brock does staggered selling as well if not better than everybody in history. 619 around the post. The crowd is going nuts and just like Flair in the 80s you totally believe Rey has a shot to win the title. The cherry on top is Brock catching Rey with a sitout powerbomb and then just falling to his ass Kawada-style. You really felt like Rey Rey had pushed him to his limit and Brock had just one last gasp and used his power to hit a home run. The Brock Lock, which was an amazing visual with the size difference, put Mysterio away. Even though Brock let Mysterio shine, he never lost his monster status. There was an impending doom that loomed over this match. Brock's hubris and frustration was getting the best of him, but at the end of day he did not have enough fire power. Brock was able to crush him into submission. Rey gave a great underdog performance and Brock wrestled as the best heel champion since Flair. He was scary good. ****
  5. I dug this much more than opening tag match (which was still good in its own right). This was shorter and more compact with Otis and Gable just doing an incredible job of bullying and tossing Dominik around. Otis just coming in to ram into smaller folks and bulldoze them is great. Gable's float over belly-to-belly suplexes and the tiger suplex were a thing of beauty. These two teams have been feuding for a few weeks now and have yet to have the great match between them that they have in them but this is so far the best one. I'm really looking forward to this feud's development and to seeing more of Gable and Otis together.
  6. Perfect David vs. Goliath type match with both guys playing their role excellently. This maybe the best Mark Henry match ever. He is incredible here working as a monster heel using his strength to just steamroll and maul Rey. And as we all know, it's well documented Rey is an all-time great who excels in multiple roles so you know he's great here working from underneath. Rey using his speed to chop down Henry with a variety of 619's to different parts of the body was fantastic. However that finish with Henry just sitting up from the frog splash and then just brutally slamming down Rey was picture perfect. Very good sub 10 minute TV match.
  7. This is a decent introduction for the feud’s first match. This is still a battle between two friends, two WWE Tag Team champions in fact. After Chavo Guerrero planted some resentment in the mind of Eddie towards Rey Mysterio, as well as some miscommunication leading to Eddie lose against Doug Basham or Rey to take victories away from Eddie inadvertently in tag matches, they are full force into the feud. They started the match like you'd expect these two to start. Mysterio trying to move fast and hit an aerial move with Eddie keeping Rey close via a knuckle lock or taking him to the ground. Both Guerrero and Mysterio took big bumps early on, Rey landing big on the back body drop to the outside floor and Eddie went flying across the ring on a monkey flip. There was a nice sounding thud to the bump as well. Eddie Guerrero spent a ton of this match on top. He hit some lovely tiltawhirl backbreakers but mostly it was Guerrero wasting time aimlessly locking on holds - one of which was a really bad looking STF with Eddie not even attempting to squeeze on the head with it. Although, I liked Tazz’s call here with him saying that the move could just be a base for him to do anything he wanted, not just the STF. The match had its magic moments when Rey was on offence and they were going back and forth. The seated senton attempt into the powerbomb is always an awesome spot and it was in this match as well. Everything else was just kinda empty. The last time I watched this match, I wasn't really into it that much because of the reasons stated here but the big moments were still fun and it told the story well. However, it was more of a story suited to Smackdown not WrestleMania. I can take comfort in that they have more matches than this. **1/2
  8. This was looking like it was building to be the junior match of the decade with both guys working a really good bayface shine segment with some clever spots and then a great heat section built around Chavo lathering Rey with nasty low kicks. Chavo looked like the best possible Dean Malenko here, handling Rey by the mask and taking Destroyer bumps which was pretty creative fora cruiserweight match. Reys selling initially was just great but I thought he ended up getting a little too cute with comeback spots that all required him leaping around and landing on his bad leg. The 619 clutching the knee also ended up looking goofy. Rey ain't no Hijo del Santo after all.
  9. Kurt Angle vs Rey Mysterio - Summerslam 2002 Finally a raucous 2002 crowd! Long Island was rocking for this double hot opener. I can't believe I watched this match and did not remember anything from it. They ripped it up in there. I did think in the middle that was maybe because they going all Ultimo Dragon World War III '96, but this had a way hotter finish to it with Rey really looking like a champ. I like Rey jumpstarting the match early and his first flub being trying to Irish Whip Angle that is a great nod to the size differential. Angle going for the AngleLock early and Rey thinking 619 is one of my favorite ways to open a sprint. Loved Angle yanking Mysterio off the apron into a belly bump on the floor, nasty. Angle worked a focused heat segment on the lower back and had some really impressive throws and counter for Mysterio's hope spots. Mysterio was doing his job creating the movement and keeping the crowd alive with hope spots. The ref stopping Rey from following up sending Angle to the outside only to jump over the ref into a somersault plancha was pitch perfect. The boos into the massive cheers and chants of Holy Shit! That is pro fucking wrestling, right there! I was surprised Angle took the 619/West Coast Pop only to kick out. Does not hurt the match just surprised. They do the flub the intricate finish of Angle trying to counter a top rope Latino Frankensteiner (TM Michael Buffer) with the AngleLock, but he gets it for the win. Awesome sprint. Perfect opener. Loved the somersault plancha spot. Angle was on point as the cocky, jock bully and Mysterio rocked it as the underdog showing him up. Highly entertaining! ****
  10. A crazy sprint that got hella time on Smackdown. Rey looks as good as ever athletically, pulling out moves, dives, and bumps like it's 1997. But that's not all he has, as he proved in the opening minutes, his star power is so bright that he could a headlock sequence over as babyface. Fantastic. Andrade for his part also went the extra mile, taking some crazy bumps like the headscissors off the apron and bringing the aggression. An excellent TV match, one to be looked back on fondly in the SD! archives. ****1/4
  11. Rey doesn't have the mask here but god damn the crowd LOVES him. Like almost all Rey matches this had a really good lay out and good quality exchanges. Ace Steele has an amazingly early 2000s look but based on his talent displayed here he should have gotten a WWE run. Ace is the heel so he does a lot of really amusing acting like a bitch, really googly eyed looking upset at crowd reactions, leaves the ring only to do a silly run back when he gets counted out etc. Despite that there was a lot of wrestling here, with both guys meshing well doing matwork and standing exchanges and working a cool transition. This has a 15 minute time limit so they start packing up a little early and the last 4 minutes feel slightly rushed with the last 1 minute they spend fumbling around trying to get the last pin on the time limit. Aside from that slightly deflating finish this was very good.
  12. Blitzkrieg gets to look damn impressive in his debut against Rey. Some awesome, high precision moves here. The announce team was working hard to put Blitzkrieg over as equal to Rey. He was close when it came to athletic moves, but you could tell he didn't have a great understanding of selling. Still Rey carried him well and both guys came out looking great in this bout.
  13. This was a very good popcorn match with a ton of sick moves and bumps. It was even psychologically interesting, as the heels didn't want to exert themselves and targeted the faces, while Rey and Kidman initially worked together. However, soon it was chaos and nobody cared who the legal man was anymore. Also, the commentators didn't know that it was First Fall Wins, so tried to explain guys breaking up pinfalls by them not wanting their winning chances decrease. Man, Kidman pulling Juvi by the hair getting a bigger reaction than Psicosis' insane bump to the floor is telling that these guys didn't have the most efficient understanding of crowd pleasing. Maybe Psicosis just likes crashing on the floor, it wouldn't surprise me. I also liked how violent some of the pin breakups were.
  14. A highly athletic 7 minute sprint that saw these guys busting out one spectacular, unique move after another. Psicosis and Juvi acknowledged their heel roles, so it wasn't a nonsensical spotfest either. Typical of these guys to work their butts off like this on a random Nitro, Psicosis even busting out his crazy legdrop to the floor.
  15. This was only 8.5 minutes long, but it was an absolute hoot! I actually think that this was better than their much pimped 2009 SmackDown match. This was all action w/ no dull moments - they established quickly that Morrison was working it as a heel, going after Rey's knee, and Rey did his thing, awesome selling - he is so great. Definitely recommended, this was just awesome. ***1/2
  16. In this episode of the Place to Be Podcast, Justin and Scott welcome back Kevin Kelly to discuss the second half of 2002 in WWE. The boys talk about Brock Lesnar, Triple H, Katie Vick, Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan and much, much more. Kevin also talks about the rumors surrounding TNA as well as the impending WWE Network subscriber announcement. So fire up this action-packed episode and join Scott, Justin and Kevin because it is time for another edition of the PTB Podcast! http://placetobenation.com/place-to-be-podcast-episode-324-wwe-2002-w-kevin-kelly-part-two/