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[2000-01-23-WWF-Royal Rumble] HHH vs Cactus Jack (Street Fight)

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WWF World Heavyweight Champion Triple H vs Cactus Jack - Royal Rumble 2000 Street Fight

 

Is there anyone better at selling Mick Foley's transformation into Cactus Jack than HHH? He knocked it outta the park in 1997 and again in 2000. I had never seen the video package before the match and it really shows how well the WWF was clicking at the time. It can be stated enough how important Mick Foley was to that roster. He was just so damn loveable in a way that Austin and Rock could never be. He was the underdog that everyone could rally around. He was also sadistic enough to be used to cement championship reigns (Taker 1997, Austin 1998, Rock 1999 and HHH 2000). Undoubtedly, HHH needed more help than the rest of those wrestlers who grew organically from a groundswell of support. HHH was the first of many artificially pushed wrestlers, which is now the commonplace in the WWE. He was also an interesting experiment in pushing a heel hard as a mainstay in the main event besides one off stints with Superstar Graham and Yokozuna, the WWF had never attempted before. It was an innovative paradigm shift that I think was worth the experimentation even if not everyone agrees with the results. There was no better wrestler to cement the position of the new ultimate bad guy than the ultimate underdog, Mankind. After HHH fired Mankind and then was forced to reinstate when presented with a locker room walkout, he beat the living shit out of Mankind. Only for Mankind to announce, Triple H would instead be facing Cactus Jack and that angle looked red hot with HHH selling fear perfectly and Cactus opening a can of whoop ass.

 

This match was one of my favorites growing up, but I have not watched it probably 4 or so years. It holds up in a big way and it remains one of the best 2000s WWF/E matches of I have ever seen. Upon this viewing, I realized that was HHH's performance not Cactus' that makes this match so incredible. Don't get me wrong when you have a match as excellent as this one, both wrestlers are wrestling at a very high level. The way Cactus was wrestling, so aggressive, so sadistic, so forward, he could have easily heeled himself. HHH sold, bumped and stooged his way to one of the best heel performances ever. It was as if the Creature of the Black Lagoon was unleashed upon the most vile, reprehensible human. Normally, you would feel sympathy for HHH, but not in this case because he was so cowardly after he had been such a prick to Cactus. In a lot of ways this match reminded me of the Foley/Orton match, but what makes this one better is HHH's performance in ensuring Cactus is always 100% the babyface. In fairness, I think the Orton match did exist to set up Orton's face turn in August of 2004. I love the beginning shine of the match where Cactus just kicks HHH's ass for a good 10-15 minutes. There is a great moment where HHH swings the ring bell wildly and then runs for the high ground of the ring with a chair. You can sense his fear. Foley just shakes off the bell shot and then takes a wicked chair shot to the face and shakes off that. It is that horror movie moment when HHH realizes he will not be able to keep the incensed monster down. He is selling and bumping the whole way for Cactus. The Barbed Wire 2x4 was an excellent climax to the babyface shine. It got a great pop, it was a great escalation in violence, it allowed for a mini battle over an item within the larger scheme of the match. There was drama over who would score the big blow and then HHH bled buckets. Cactus getting the nearfall off the bat shot to the face was excellent. I thought it was a little weak that they did the back drop off the piledriver and instead of going to heat segment they regressed back to the barbed wire bat, which seemed like a step backwards instead of forward. Cactus took his two usual, nasty, nasty, nasty knee related bumps into the steps and HHH went to town driving the barbed wire bat into the knee. HHH's staggered selling never relented and he looked someone trying to survive by any means necessary rather than a proud champion exactly as a heel should be. I liked the handcuffs in this match because it actually set up for a really nice run of hope spots: headbutt to the balls and biting HHH in the cut. If you did not believe it before, you did now Catcus Jack hates this muthafucka and will do everything in his power to hurt and maim him. The Rock was definitely necessary and a perfectly acceptable way to get the handcuffs off Jack. The thumbtacks was another great way to escalate the violence. Stephanie was effective in distracting Cactus long enough for HHH to back drop Cactus into tacks so not a clean victory. The first Pedigree kickout was HUGE! Really put Cactus and the match over. Pedigree onto the tacks still after the six times I have seen it makes me cringe, grimace and a little queasy. Helmsley retained the championship, but it was a Pyrrhic victory as he is stretctered out only to have Cactus catch up to him and slam him back out.

 

I think the one misfire was that they should have had Stephanie or someone physically interfere to set up the rematch, but still Cactus did get his heat back and HHH looked like he was barley alive by the end of it so it is a small critique.

 

Overall, holy shit, this was fucking awesome. Even better than I remember it, which was just a violent street fight. It is so much more. It builds so well to the mid-match climax of the barbed wire bat then to the handcuffs and finally to the finish with thumbtacks. The characters are perfect. Cactus is a crazed monster that is always moving forward whether it is being slammed with a chair or handcuffed. He was out to destroy HHH. That's the difference between the bump machine of the early 90s and this Cactus, who has matured as a performer. He did not have this match by himself like he did with Sting. His bumps made sense, but more importantly he was out to hurt HHH and win the match. HHH knocked it out of the park in this one as he gave one of his best heel performance. He looked completely overwhelmed by the all out assault of Cactus. He was sold it like he shit a brick and he tried to hide behind weapons, but nothing was doing for him until he got a lucky break using Cactus' own momentum into the steel steps and then following that right up. Cactus took the vast majority of the match, but HHH earned his stripes by taking this beating. The heat segment was great and still featured a bunch of hope spots. The finish was a perfect climax to the his violent masterpiece. Holds up 100% and this match is HHH's best match (though I have the Daniel Bryan match as a close number two). *****

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The video package here is one of the best in history. Shows HHH as cocky and menacing and portrays the transformation that Cactus had to make to prepare himself for this match. I really like the temperament of the match from the get go with the brawling and street fight feel. There is a visceral hate here that doesn’t usually get conveyed around WWF at this time. Even the Dude Love vs. Austin storyline spectacle was more booking and stunt show than punches and blood. The big chair shot by HHH to Jack means something and there is a buzz in the crowd once he hits it. The crowd brawling segment that happens next loses some stuff for me just because we have seen it so much this year that it feels complacent. Jack utilizes the set better in the entranceway. After Jack completes the beatdown, he retrieves the barbed wire 2X4. Good announcing by JR and King talking about this being too far. Hebner retrieving the barbed wire is kind of a dumb moment in a street fight. This is especially true when he misses the cover by about 10 seconds. HHH then retrieves the “same” barbed wire and goes to work on HHH. Tough to question toughness but I think HHH should have just sucked it up and used the first barbed wire or it should have been gimmicked from the start. This is clearly a different board which raises credibility issues and the referee is made to get a portion of the heat. That may be nitpicky but that is the type of spots that separate the great matches from the all timers in my mind. Kudos to HHH for bleeding a gusher though as he is a mess. The back body drop on the table with HHH emerging all bloody is another great visual. The steps spot is a good way for HHH to regain his momentum. With the blood work, HHH is building up his credibility which essentially is what the purpose of this match was about. The work on the leg shows a classical, technician strategy within the street fight confines. The barbed wire shots to the leg reiterate this point. The next big sequence is based around the handcuffs and HHH using a drop toe hold onto the stairs. The crowd had honestly been a little lackluster so far as they are popping for the big spots but being quiet within. That changes with them clapping for Jack before HHH legit breaks a chair over Jack’s back. The talking between the entranceway is one of the WWF staples that would occur multiple times over the years but still seems fresh here. Rock comes out and whacks HHH with a chair which is kind of annoying and a Jack bailout. The cop unlocks his cuffs which makes you wonder why it took the Rock for him to make it out but I digress. PIledriver on the table from Jack looks good and HHH’s head bounces right off with the table not breaking. Jack brings in the tacks and now we have some sustained heat. Jack gets back body dropped and has a ton of tacks put in him. Pedigree seems to be it but Jack kicks out to a huge pop. I am also glad Stephanie came back out as I do think she is already allowing heat for HHH. A big Foley chant fires up but HHH gets the second pedigree to win. A few annoying spots, a couple of tropes and honestly not the best heat prevent this from me calling it the WWF classic that some do. It was a really strong performance by both and a great match, just not an all timer. ****1/4

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As much as I love this match, it's really hard for me to call a match ***** that spends so much time brawling out of sight of the full live crowd, even earning a "Boring!" chant at one point (which Lawler covers by saying the crowd is chanting "Foley!"). In some ways, it feels like the match doesn't even really start until Foley pulls the barbed wire 2x4 out from under the ring, which finally wakes the crowd up and turns the match more violent. Like most HHH matches, the violence can't fully be conveyed until the props get involved, although I will admit it gets AWESOME from here. Love the transition of Foley taking the insane leg-first bump into the steps and HHH working over his knee with the 2x4. The call back to the previous year's Royal Rumble, and Rock intervening, was in my mind brilliant, not only for adding something to the match but also for showing how Rock has grown in the past year (... and how HHH has grown, for that matter. The circle of life in action.) Foley having to fight back while handcuffed was great, coming up with the drop toehold and headbutt to the balls as offense before biting HHH's ear! Feel my pain, HHH? All kinds of subtext here. So many highlights -- that piledriver on the table rivals any legendary piledriver on a table ever. It looked more brutal because the table didn't break. I loved the booking of Stephanie desperately running back out when she thought her husband was about to fall on the thumbtacks. Cactus gets the miracle kickout from the pedigree to make him look like superman (and give the upcoming rematch real credibility) before succumbing to a second one. I thought this was overall a brilliant combination of wrestling, booking and brawling, and both guys were at their best. I would go all the way with it if it would have had a better start. I realize all matches have to build, and that even includes brawls like this, but the opening minutes just didn't do much to help this. ****3/4

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I still remember the build to this match like it was yesterday. I loved the transformation angle from Mankind to Cactus Jack and it felt like something really violent would happen during the match and it lived up to expectations. It still holds up as one of the very best WWE matches. The booking was great with Triple H sending Stephanie to the back which really raised the feeling that it was going to be a big match. I believe this was one of the first big matches that Triple H bled in? I might be wrong but it might have been one of the first few times. Even though a lot of brawls happened at this time but the use of barbed wire and thumbtacks were something else and was great hearing the crowd gasp. I really really love this match. Damn near perfect!

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Man... Watching Foley take completely unprotected chair shots to the head ranks right up there with watching Misawa get dropped on his head and watching Benoit pay tribute to Dynamite Kid in the "Stuff I once loved about pro wrestling that has since become stuff I hate about pro wrestling" department. I just could not enjoy this match at all, this time around.

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I've seen this approximately five billion times, and last watched/wrote about it in 2013. I'm lower on it now more than ever before, but I do think the match is really great. Thoughts from 2013:

 

HHH v Cactus Jack (WWF 1/23/00)
This is a great match to me and I'd be surprised if this was never a great match to me, but my opinion of it SOOOOORT of lowers on each watch. Reiterating: this is a great match, but I doubt it's going to hit the top 25 mark I had it pegged for on last watch. I'm almost more convinced this is the Mick Foley Show this time around. Trip put in a good showing and I'll give him credit for practically everything he did here (excluding the way he kind of wobbled around, acting all tired and dizzy.....he isn't very good at it), but Foley just totally Foley'd this match. Truth be told, in some ways I don't think he could have really had this match with anyone in the company but Trip; I mean no matter how silly Jim Ross saying "HHH is perhaps the most technical Champion the WWF have ever had" sounds, it's a story I have to get into to really get behind this as a whole. Do I think HHH is a technical marvel? Well fuck no, but if it's presented in a kayfabe way and this 'technical champion' is put in a situation where he has to compete in a street fight with the King of Hardcore, then, shit, I'll get behind it. But MAN does Foley kill it here. This is pretty much the best possible WWF weapon prop-fest brawl and Foley just knows how to use each weapon in a way that doesn't look overzealous. I never get the sense that he's trying to be this hardcore loony. I get the sense he IS a hardcore loony and wants to tear the crap out of his opponent with all the weapons he can find. Barbed wire bat, wooden stacks, chair, stack of bricks, thumbtacks, announce table, he'll use anything. I also love how this has a sort of a unique layout. In a match like this you might get an elongated period where the babyface sells, so seeing the 'technical' champion's outbursts be thwarted by the King of Hardcore's resilience is really a great way to make a match like this. Jack would beat the shit out of Trip, sending him into shit and pounding his face to let him know he's in Jack's house, MOTHERFUCKER! HHH would then usually have to create space and have a breather before finding something like a chair or the ring-bell to whack Foley's noggin' with, but Foley kept firing back. Thought Mick did a pretty tremendous job of not making that shit look no-selly either, he was walking around the whole match huffing and with this almost glassy look to his psycho eyes. Even more of a feat considering some of the whack-job bumps he took on the steel steps. His running-into-steps-and-flipping-over-them bump is a thing of beauty that will stand the test of fucking time. The hand-cuffs spot may not (in wrestling in general), but I thought it was done in this match as well as anywhere else. Even when Trip had Foley locked in those things and was delivering some PHAT ASS chair shots, Foley was reversing his attempts with drop-toe holds and that fucking marvelous low-blow headbutt. I still don't get nor like the Rock's run-in, but it is what it is. The finish is nuts. Kicking out of a pedigree may have not been as rare then as it had been later on (correct me if I'm wrong?), but it really felt like a huge, huge moment and really the only semblance of a finishing stretch the match actually had. Trip driving Foley into the thumbtacks is really the perfect finish. In some matches you'll get 'well it didn't work the first time, why would it work the second?' This match had 'well it didn't work the first time, but it worked when he added five hundred spiked objects'. Another really cool thing is that HHH's head was bloody as hell through most of the match and Jack's wasn't at all until this finish, so Trip winning cleanly really felt well-earned, almost like a Star Making Moment (which I guess it was). This may have gone down in my mind over time, but it'll always just be "something" to me, and should still finish pretty high.

 

 

Whenever I reference a "where it should finish" or a "top whatever" in there, I'm referencing a top 100 matches of the 2000s list. I didn't finish the list. This probably would have finished in the 50s. Top ten WWF/E match of the decade, I think, though probably like #9 or 10. It's true I've "gone down on it" over time, but that doesn't say too much considering I used to think it was basically the best thing ever. I can watch it any time.

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Both guys were willing to go too far, in story terms and literally. And it worked to create one of the great spectacles in the history of the company. First off, the intro video was one of the very best ever created by a promotion known for its great videos. Even if you didn't know the whole Foley mythology, they boiled it down perfectly and let you know what Hunter was in for. I guess they lost the crowd a little when they were brawling out of sight, but even that part wasn't exactly lacking in intensity. I'm a mark for the rapid-fire punches Foley threw when he was trying to set the tone for a real fight, and that wound to Hunter's leg looked gnarly. The last 15 minutes were note perfect, from Foley hurting his leg with that nutty bump to Rock's pop-in to Foley staging a rally while handcuffed to the pedigree kickout. I didn't expect to get swept up in it, but I did.

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I wasn't going to watch this since I was like "eh, it's Cactus Jack and Triple H, I've seen that one." But I was glad that I did. This is your match of the month right here and the first real MOYTC. Foley has always been good at laying his matches out, so it didn't surprise me that this was put together well. The only doubt I had in the early stages was whether Foley was going to do anything sadistic enough to live up to Ross' claims about him being the sickest, most sadistic individual he had ever witnessed (or something to that effect.) The barbwire baseball bat, thumbtacks and chair shots managed to dispel any doubts that this would be the real Cactus Jack and not some watered down version. I'm not a vampire and I'm not much into garbage wrestling but when that's all the commentators keep talking about then you better hope the workers deliver. It wasn't a great call from JR, but the King was more tolerable than I expected and in the end their commentary synced with the match when Ross said both men gave everything they had. I think the surprising thing was Helmsley's performance. He sold his ass off for Foley and his crimson mask was straight off the cover of an Apter mag. Whether you think of the guy, he has a career match like this you can stick in your pipe and smoke. And I'm with Childs, I popped for Mick kicking out of the pedigree like it was in real time. Hell of a flashback. Great match.

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I thought this was the greatest thing ever when I watched it live at 10 years old. This match still holds up for me and I've probably watched it countless times. My only real complaint is that the commentary could have done a better job of tying The Rock's interference as vindication for what he did to a handcuffed Foley a year ago at the Rumble. Brutal match and this is what established HHH as a top guy and a legitimate champion.

 

*****

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I've seen this match so many times but it gets better each time. I gotta say this is one of HHH's all-time best performances. He takes a beating from Foley. Especially from the barbed wire bat where he bleeds. Foley leads this like a pro and most everything looks great and makes sense. I cringe at Foley taking that shot into the steps knees first. I think this is the match that made HHH a star. Great, great match.

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Outstanding Street Fight. Aside from the phony barbed wire during the second phase where HHH was taking the punishment this was damn near perfect. The callback to last years Rumble with the handcuffs was a nice touch, especially with the little bit of offense Jack got while in them. Legit MOTYC and definite MOTM for WWF 1/2000. Needless to say this also made my WWF 2000 Top 10.

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More slower periods than I remember from watching it as a child. Wouldn’t necessarily call them dead spots, but it wasn’t balls to the wall from bell to bell. I remembered this as being Jack destroying Triple H, with Jack being the focus of my attention, however on rewatch I feel that Triple H by far steals the show and makes this match what it is. We have Cactus Jack doing his regular stuff, but his work on top - bar his very nice forearm punches - wasn’t exactly engrossing, while Triple H was bumping like a maniac. The match for me definitely gets a boost from the accidental puncturing of Triple H’s calf from a suplex on a wooden pallet. You can tell he feels it immediately but it’s only when he sees it gushing later on that you can tell he really processes what has happened. This injury factors into his wobbly leg selling later on which I think is my favourite thing Triple H ever does in any of his matches. My biggest memory from this match, and I’m not surprised after rewatch as it’s the biggest spot, is the Pedigree on the tacs. The fact that one could have gone in his eye still makes me question the sanity of Foley and I cringe a little every time I see it. But it works for a great visual with tacs in his forehead. Triple H sells afterwards like he’s been in a war, clearly the worse for wear despite the victory. ****3/4


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So I wanted to watch this back to back with HHH vs Jericho from Fully Loaded and I finally got just about everything else everyone has seen in this match. My earlier complaints with the Rock, barbed wire, and crowd brawling still have it just short of the greatest WWF match of all time discussion but it is a classic and HHH's best match of 2000 so far. ****3/4 (9.4)

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This is hard match to judge right after watching Tajiri vs Super Crazy. Ive only seen this one other time, a few years ago, and remeber liking it, but something was really missing for me this time. Like I said though, that could be a mindset thing after the previous match. I thought the first portion including the crowd brawling really dragged and even the opening strike exchange didnt feel very heated, or heated enough. The match picked up when HHH started bleeding but overall it felt very meandering and I kept waiting for big spots and moments that never really came, until the finish that is. I thought the pedigree lockout was incredible and I jumped off the couch, and the following pedigree on the thumbtacks was great too.

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All-time classic. Convinced me HHH was a legitimate champion, brought Mick Foley to another level in the WWE, plus one of the more brutal matches WWE has ever had.

 

*****

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Fantastic street fight with creative spots and violence that transformed HHH from slimy opportunist to the top heel. The knee work and handcuffs stuff provided neat moments. Amazing finishing stretch. Easy Top 5 for the year. ****1/2

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For years, I considered this one of my favorite WWE/F matches ever. Foley was my favorite as a kid, and this storyline was one of my favorites when I was a kid. However, I watched it somewhat recently and it didn't hold up QUITE as much as I expected. Excited to watch it again and see how I feel this time. I've seen this probably more than almost any other match.

 

I did find the crowd parts in the beginning to drag a bit. Like, I don't think it was pointless, it got some of the hatred of the match across, but it just dragged the crowd down a bit. After that, though, I thought the hatred came through well and the violence escalated nicely. I just all feels long and a little bloated. I still love it, just not quite as much as I used to. Still, both guys play their rolls pretty perfectly, Triple H's bladejob is epic, and there are some truly brutal spots. Best match so far this year.

 

****1/2

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While there's a bit too much dead air for my liking and this could of benefited of trimming off 5 or minutes, this was a total spectacle where Cactus Jack does unthinkable things to himself to get Trips over as a credible main eventer. Triple H puts in a hell of a performance, taking a beating and bleeding like a pro and the limb work to Foley felt logical and organic. I dug the callback spot to Mankind/Rock at the '99 Royal Rumble. I still prefer Foley's match with Orton, but this is still essential Attitude Era viewing. 

★★★★½

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