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[2001-02-25-WWF-No Way Out] Steve Austin vs HHH (Three Stages of Hell)

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This is a Two out of Three Falls: First fall straight wrestling match, second fall is a Street Fight and the third fall is a Cage Match.

 

During the first fall J.R. makes me laugh saying "We used to say the same thing about HHH that he was just a scientific guy, that he wasn't a brawler" After Lawler says Austin is just a brawler and doesn't know much about scientific wrestling. Austin does a Lou Thesz press too close to the ropes that looked like shit.

 

I liked Austin using some kind of arm breaker to get out of the Pedigree and then working on HHH's arm. By beating it against the ringpost. I can't fault him, that's certainly faster and more efficient than an armbar. They use one of the worst transition spots of "jump off the top rope into my foot" leading to HHH focusing his attack on Austin's neck then the knee. Triple H keeps selling his arm and I appreciate that. Austin really doesn't sell the knee when he goes on offense.

 

This started as a brawl and then settled down into a pretty good wrestling match but the finish to this sucks. Triple H jumping off the second rope into that kick for the Stunner looked like shit.

Second fall is a Street Fight and immediately goes outside where Austin suplexes HHH twice on the steel ramp. Then they do some brawling in the crowd which ends with HHH doing a very funny, at least to me, jump over the barrier to bump on the mats at ringside. Austin beats the hell out of HHH with a chair essentially Garvin Stomping him with it while he's down. I'm kind of glad they don't use chairs like this any more with the exception of Brock lately.

 

Then Austin brings out a 2x4 with barbed wire, which doesn't feel right and of course he doesn't even use it as HHH counters and then hits him with it in a really lame looking shot. Then the barbed wire that didn't come close to his face cuts him open. I guess it's not the WORST "foreign object that didn't come close to the head" blade job I've ever seen.

 

HHH still sells the arm and it causes him to not be able to Pedigree Austin through the announce table who backdrops him through the other announce table. I liked Austin using a beer can as a weapon. A lot more appropriate than the barbed wire 2x4. I love Lawler accusing J.R. of putting the sledgehammer under their table. It is kind of an obvious question of how would he not have noticed that. Austin goes down to the HHH patented "hit you with my hand that is covering the sledgehammer" shot leading to a Pedigree.

3rd Fall is a Cage Match. I'm not sure this order works, a Street Fight feels more intense than a Cage Match. Austin takes a great bumps off being tossed into the cage. HHH digging the barbed wire 2x4 into Austin's face is pretty brutal even if you know it's rubber tipped. Austin does the same to HHH and they're doing a good job of ramping up the intensity for the 3rd fall. Austin kicks out of a Pedigree and HHH kicks out of a Stunner. I don't really like the ending of Austin hitting HHH with the 2x4 at the same time as HHH hits him with the Sledgehammer and HHH falling on top for the pin. Mostly because HHH did a really shitty job of looking like he was knocked out.

 

Maybe my review sounds negative but I thought this was a pretty good match. I'm pretty sure I would not call this the best WWE match of 2001 and not even Austin or HHH's best because they have that tag match together with Benoit/Jericho when HHH gets injured. I do think it is a fair match to point to as evidence of HHH as a good worker at the time. I thought his performance in this match was better than Austin's. They probably could have made the 2 Man Power Trip work a little more if they'd played up the ending to this match and had J.R. and Lawler speculate about how they both didn't want to wrestle each other again.

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What's the storyline coming out of this match, with Austin working Rock just a month later at Mania 17?

 

This was my first time to watch this match. I thought it did a pretty good job of feeling epic (as well as really heated especially with Austin coming right out swinging almost before the bell even rings). I didn't notice a lot of the sloppiness. But I did feel like Austin's rapid fire punches -- especially as ground and pound -- look really ridiculous and cartoony. Hunter's slower punches look a lot more devastating.

 

I have to agree that the Street Fight segment should have gone last. But maybe logistically you don't want to have to raise a cage mid-match?

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These days, I find myself less interest in long epics and instead preferring a well worked 20 min match. I've only just recently realized that fact. Maybe it's a case of not wanting to spend 40 to 60 minutes on one match when there's so much that I have yet to see - and only so many viewing hours in a day. Plus, in so many cases, the match did not really need to be 45 minutes long.

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I'm going to bullet point this.

-I'm amazed this wasn't the main event of the show. I remembered it that way. I'm not watching the Rock/Angle thing this ends with, so no one even suggest that.
-Austin was exceptionally good at wrestling into his character. I know that's a weird thing to even mention for a guy who is the biggest star of the last twenty years or whatever, but it's really true. You wouldn't say it about Dusty Rhodes no matter how true it was, but now that I've heard him on the podcasts so much and knowing that just a few years before he was Stunning Steve, it is something to point out.
-He's super intense here and the first fall is worked a lot like a vulnerable heel champion match. Hunter tries to mount offense desperately, not chickenshit, but still desperate, and he can't get anything going. I do like how he continuously targets the previously broken neck.
-They have some stuff that really doesn't look great. The first thesz press attempt which is shrugged off is rough. I didn't love the mini transition with Austin going for the prone double axehandle and eating the foot. I like that spot more when the heel does it. I guess he was going for his second rope forearm, but he obviously wasn't. Then the actual finish of the first fall is a bit of a mess with the kick being all over the place. Not a huge thing but weird with such seasoned wrestlers.
-On the other hand I really liked the single arm ddt counter to the early pedigree attempt. Hunter's selling is pretty great throughout. Surprisingly good. Worth noting good. It's probably the highlight of the match, that and Austin's intensity. We see less of Austin's leg selling but it does peak with the figure four, which is a spot that really does feel like it means something here. They kept it on for just the right amount of time and the legbrace made for a great visual with it.
-VERY weird to me that Austin goes back to the Thesz press/stumbling forward elbow drop twice. In one fall. I couldn't imagine Cena doing the floppidy belly to back drop/five knuckle shuffle twice in a two out of three falls match at all let alone twice in the first fall. It was fine that he hit it all so early since he was going for the kill and it led right into the stunner reversal/pedigree reversal, but then he went back to it and that actually took me out a bit. It should be noted that he doesn't go back to the Thesz press again in the second or third fall.
-It's a shame that the arm/leg selling didn't lead to at least the first fall. It's something that you can transition into other stuff, sure, but I would have liked given the structure of the match that it did lead to something, especially since Hunter was doing such a great job selling. In general it was a pretty good fall and i like that the weapons/wwe main event bs/etc was all set to happen in the following to. It feels fresh to see a fall that lacked all that.
Second fall.
-The character work continues. Austin causes chaos. Triple H shows his true colors and tries to rabbit. I love how upset the Spanish Announce Team seem when Austin is tearing apart their table.
-Attitude Era fans are the worst.
-Austin really decimates Hunter with the chair. Then, it's kind of funny to me that the bell seems like such an escalation when he tosses it into the ring, which ends up ironically as Austin gets him in the bell area and slams him into it, but the bell isn't there anymore. At least it pays off later with the late fall transition.
-On the other hand, the barbed wire baseball 2x4 is SO over the top I can't really take it seriously, which is bad since it's the huge transition spot. I'm just going to look at it as symbolic. Falling between the two announce tables is a GREAT way to hide your blading though. Another great visual is the blood on the white part of the announce table.
-I would have been perfectly okay with Hunter hitting the Pedgiree on the table for the second fall. A lot of that is to do with Austin's big selling of what was going on. The bump Hunter takes where he basically misses the spanish announce table is pretty nuts.
-Austin's rapid fire punches really do look great, as did the can shot.
-A third great visual is the barbed wire 2x4 in the foreground with the two guys reeling and bloody past it as they get to their feet.
-I would have been okay with the neckbreaker on the chair ending the fall. Doing something like that wouldn't hurt Austin or the match and would make it so people could buy something with just a mild escalation like that as a finish. Instead, Austin comes back way too soon and definitively even if it is cut off. I would have preferred if there wasn't a hope spot there and they just let Hunter beat on him til the pedigree reversal to the outside.
-Austin selling clumsily around the outside is grade A stuff. Hunter joins in too. By the third attempt at a reversal on the stairs this is getting a bit long in the teeth for the second fall though.
-The sledgehammer gets introduced and they take their time getting to the spot. It's weird for Austin to do the kick and then go for a few punches instead of the stunner, especially when he repeats the kick a moment later. The finish is fine but I could have used it five minutes earlier.
-Also Austin's boot being untied is really weird. You never see that.
Third fall
-The lack of physicality as the cage is coming down is interesting. You think Hunter would capitalize. It looks like he tried to kick the 2x4 out but wasn't quick enough. They sure got that thing down quickly.
-Because Hunter didn't capitalize, Austin's right back in his face only to be cut off by the cage immediately. Very smart to bring the cage in almost at the first chance to differentiate from the violence of the street fight.
-The violence escalation continues with the bat. They REALLY milk that, but I think when you're going to do something like that, the payoff has to be more visually striking. After fifteen-twenty seconds of getting his head cut open with it, he's not bleeding much worse. I'd rather them have not used it at all. There were other things they could have done.
-That said, the desperation chair shot was well done and there was definite anticipation for Austin getting revenge with the 2x4 which pays off well.
-It's interesting. The cage is there and used in key moments, but it feels much more like a way to keep the violence focused, both in one place, and through a lens, as it's intensified since they have literally no way out.
-The violence is actually striking for a WWF cage match. There's a good, solid weight to what they're doing through the selling and the visceral hate.
-The abrupt slam into the cage before the pedigree (after the stunner block) by austin was very well done and led into a great near fall, though maybe not a believable one.
-Why didn't Austin come back up with the 2x4 when it was in his hand as he was getting up? Anyway, HHH stumbling about after the catapult wasn't the best idea ever. Frankly all the self-conscious epic or whatever bs wwe main event style stuff that was so refreshingly absent from fall #1 is in full effect here.
-This time Austin DOES come up with the 2x4 but Trips comes up with the Sledgehammer. Let me put it this way, if they had done that the last time, before the catapult, the finish would have been better. The only difference is that Hunter wouldn't have been able to kick out of the Stunner, basically.
In total, I think this match actually gave them an opportunity to spread the bs out and while they did in the first fall, they didn't in the other two, which made it feel even more bloated. It was a lost opportunity, but at the same time full of good character work, great intensity, and tremendous violence. I would have liked to see the limbwork pay off a bit more and for them to tighten it by about 20% in general, but the latter is true of almost every big Triple H match.

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Are you referring to those idiots mugging for the camera instead of watching one of the industry's biggest stars in history brawl in the stairway next to them?

 

Because those people were pissing me off, too.

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Watched video package beforehand. That Survivor Series match was not good with the ridiculous non finish of Austin crushing HHH's car. Austin turns his own Thesz Press into taking a Stungun himself onto the ropes. Single arm DDT by Austin! Did not lead to enough arm work by Steve but HHH continues to sell the shoulder. Two more Thesz presses. Also two stunner attempts where HHH blocked and pushed Austin into the same corner. HHH tries to come off the turnbuckle and eats a Stunner to finish first fall. Bit messy and they were doing finisher counters in the first fall. You would think HHH would get the first fall so Austin has to chase him and win the next two straight falls.

Two suplexes on the ring ramp. I am seeing a trend. Austin clobbering Triple with a chair shots to the legs. Stone Cold bleeding all over Lawler’s announce spot. Hebner wants both guys to get back in the ring. In a street fight. Go away. Austin tells him to get f out of here and pushes him down. That was the appropriate response. Triple using neckbreakers on a chair. King and Ross bickering about who put the sledgehammer under their announcing desk was funny. That is about as clean as you see Austin being beat.

Both guys trying to maul each other with the barbed wire two by four. Austin kicks out of the Pedigree and HHH out of the Stunner. Crowd didn’t seem to think Austin was going to get the pin though. Double shot as Triple H falls on top of Austin to win the third fall. Stone gets a consolation Stunner in after the match. Good match though a bit sloppy at times. The booking though. The blow off for this feud with Triple H putting Austin on the shelf for almost a year is him winning the deciding match? The bad guy should be losing in the end. Plus he wins the last two falls of the match relatively clean with Austin going into WrestleMania as the challenger for the WWF Title.

I did not follow up with Angle/Rock from the same show but I actually liked that one a bit more than this when I watched the show first time.

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I re-watched the whole show this week.

 

In context, this match really suffers. The opening contest is a hardcore match. Then, you get an ultra-sexualized Trish/Steph match. After this match, you get a Triple Threat Tables brawl. Then, even more shenanigans with the Rock/Angle main event.

 

While this match is definitely more engaging and exciting than any of the other matches I've mentioned, it hurts the "specialness" of a match like this when you surround it with other heavily gimmicked matches (to me, at least).

 

Out of context, I think this match would seem incredible because of how unique the stipulation is and, to be sure, Austin and HHH work really hard and pull off three distinct contests. I actually think the finish is well-executed (though, when you look at the post-WM17 storyline, you wonder why it was the finish unless they thought Austin vs. HHH would headline SummerSlam?), but I understand the argument that the wrong guy won.

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"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs Triple H - WWF No Way Out '01

 

Last time, I watched this I remember thinking it was really fucking long and besides that I got nothing. The first fall was tremendous, really well-done traditional wrestling match with lots of hate and urgency. Austin was on fire early, a total man possessed that could not be stopped. He whopping ass and HHH was doing all he could to cover up because he was being overwhelmed. Austin came in hard on a Thesz Press near the ropes and gets hotshotted. HHH immediately pounces and tries to go for his big home run, Pedigree, but Austin reverses into a single arm DDT. Austin wrenches HHH's arm around the post. HHH makes this entire segment and fall by selling his left arm the rest of the way even doing little things like raising his right shoulder on kickouts instead of the left. Austin was tenacious. The spinebuster was such an early 00s move everybody was doing it. HHH gets his foot up and jacks Austin's jaw. Swinging neckbreaker, now that's a real relic of the past, definitely a big 90s move. HHH starts on the neck, but eventually decides he wants to take out the leg with a chop block as Austin was mounting a comeback. HHH's selling of the arm was great and Austin always looking for that opening to fight back was also great. HHH goes for wrapping the knee around the post and then Austin pulls HHH shoulder first into the post. Great! Austin limping to create space and another chop block now figure 4. This is sensational. Austin reverses the pressure and here he comes full steam ahead. The finish stretch was a little shaky with them fitting in too much. I really hate when people wait for their opponent to get up to hit a move. HHH goes low coming out of the corner, but Austin catches HHH coming off the middle rope with kick and then STUNNER! I don't like disrespecting the ballshot like that, but the body of the match was flawless. I would say ****1/2, wait there is two more falls. Hmmmmmm, ok, I will keep an open mind.

 

The best part of the first fall being over is that Lawler wont say "spirit-breaker" for the umpteenth time anymore. Austin is all revved up and kicks HHH's ass from pillar to post. Austin was great in this fall as a force of nature and HHH was on his bicycle trying to back pedal, but kept getting mugged. Austin's version of the Garvin Stomp but with a chair was awesome! HHH finally finds an opening when he cuts Austin open with the Barbed Wired 2x4. He goes for the Pedigree (Sells the arm!) on the announce table to end it, but ends up taking a huge back body drop onto the Spanish Announce Table, which explodes. Austin tries to regain the advantage, but HHH blasts him with ring bell. HHH wants that Pedigree, but takes a HUGE back body drop over the top rope onto floor! HOLY SHIT! Austin blasts HHH with a chair and busts him wide open. Somehow HHH gets control and finds his Sledgehammer, everybody's least favorite weapon. They tussle over it and eventually HHH hits Austin with it and finally gets his Pedigree. Again, I thought the body of this fall was really, really damn good. Austin was a violent maniac and HHH was trying his best to escape his wrath. Strong transitions with some crazy holy shit bumps and awesome violence. Again, I thought the finish was a little shaky. I am sticking with ****1/2. Lets see what happens in the cage.

 

Here it is the excess. It was inevitable. After the war of the street fight, this more methodical, drawn out violence is logical and to be expected, but at 11 minutes, it is a bit too much. The beginning is fine with Austin still trying to fight back and coming up short. Austin is able to find a nearby chair and smash the Game in the head to stop the barbed wire 2x4 from going into his head. They trade finishers and each can only get two. Even though earlier in the match those were finishers, which is a little shaky. They both go for weapons and nail each other simultaneously with Trips falling on top of Austin.

 

I actually liked the eveness of the booking of the finish and I forgot who won the match and was actually pretty surprised HHH won. It makes sense. This feeds Austin's self-doubt leading to the heel turn at Mania, which is really logical awesome booking that WWF almost never does! The third fall is one minute shorter than the first fall yet the first fall's paragraph is much longer, which shows you much did not happen in those 11 minutes. I really, really liked the first two falls. The third fall's finish was great booking. I am sticking with ****1/2. The first two falls go by very quickly, but the third falls does drag.

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The first fall was awesome, in my opinion. Loved them brawling at the start, even before we get to the street fight; it puts the heated feud over so much. HHH attacking the previously injured neck of Austin and his infamously braced knees. Austin surprisingly adopting some wrestling moves with a arm breaker which looked damaging enough, HHH selling it very well including him subtly tensing up his arm when he was pushing the referee way. A bit repetitive by the end but they were obviously saving stuff for the later falls. 

The second fall was good but it really should've been shorter. The call backs to the Foley matches as really good as well as Austin's wicked chair shot but the brawling inside of the ring was pretty basic and was just there. Again, HHH's selling of the arm was pretty good considering this stipulation doesn't really allow any long term or consistent selling. 

The Final fall was really good as well. Glad they didn't do the terrible escape rules which wouldn't have suited the feud. Both are now bleeding and are just laying into each other with weapon shots and throwing each other into the cage walls. Austin was the better of the two in this fall though. Thought his facial expressions were excellent and his punches are just top notch. HHH's bumping was great, every thing he took looked body crushing. The ending was god awful though and the booking too. Austin has a title match at WM, have him win FFS.

Nevertheless, this was an awesome match, with a few dull moments but mostly a thrilling, action packed brawl. ****1/2

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Y'know, I'm not sure if I've ever seen this before. This was right around the time that I gave up on the WWF and I don't think I rented this PPV from the video store. This was better than I expected given that the Austin/Triple H angle is the worst thing this side of the Tarzan Boy rudo turn and Triple H vs. Austin strikes me as a bit of a "meh" match up. The first fall was really good. Austin was on top of his game in terms of the intensity that he brought to the match. The one thing that Austin did better than anyone else was wrestle like a pissed off sumbitch. A lot of guys cut promos about how pissed off they are and how they're gonna do this and that once they get a guy in the ring but few guys ever backed it up like Austin. The second fall was okay. It's been a while since I've watched Attitude Era main events so even though they rehashed a slew of spots from that style, it wasn't as boring to me as it would have been at the time. The cage match section was also decent. They probably went a bit longer than they needed to overall but I wouldn't call it bloated. The problem I had with the bout was Austin losing. After making me suffer through that shitty angle, surely Austin could have won the blowoff match and put this Helmsley shit to rest? That was annoying but the bout itself could have been so much worse. I actually thought they showed a ton of restraint in not overbooking the crap out of this. So, despite the result, I think I'd call this a success. 

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