PPV REVIEW: WWE Summerslam 2003

WWE Summerslam 2003 Review - poster for the event

August 24, 2003
America West Arena, Phoenix, Arizona

As Summerslam 2003 approached, the WWE was in something of a decline.

With the Monday Night War well and truly over and the competition eliminated, the company had tried to reengage those wrestling fans who had simply tuned out when WCW went out of business by hiring one of World Championship Wrestling's biggest stars, Goldberg, as well as bringing Attitude Era favorite Sable back into the fold.

Yet Goldberg's run had so far been a flop. He had been routinely booed by the WWE faithful in his debut PPV match against The Rock at Backlash and though he was being better received by the time Summerslam rolled around, he still wasn't the answer to all of WWE's creative and financial woes.

Neither was Sable. Yes, she was still hot, but she wasn't exactly popping buyrates or selling out arenas.

Still, there was a glimmer of hope. 

The 16th annual Summerslam had a larger attendance than the previous year's event and drew 415,000 buys, meaning -if nothing else- that the show was a financial success.

Would it be a creative one too?

Let's head down to Phoenix to find out.

Please Rise for the National Anthem

Our show tonight began with the introduction of some local military officers who held the US flag aloft while WWE's own Lillian Garcia belted out an impressive rendition of the US national anthem. 

WWE Summerslam 2003 Review - Lillian Garcia sings the national anthem

I don't know whether I've said this before, but I always enjoy it when wrestling companies do this kind of thing before a big event. I feel it adds a sense of legitimacy and importance to the occasion.

For Whom The Bell Tolls, It Tolls For Thee

From there, we went into a stunning opening video package in which footage of tonight's biggest stars in the heat of battle was interspersed with old clips of folks digging gravestones and generally doing spooky Irish Catholic stuff while a grizzled Irish voiceover warned us about sins, punishment, and death. 

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler called the raw action

It was one of the coolest opening videos I've seen for a while and led us into the obligatory crowd shots and pyro as Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler welcomed us to Summerslam 2003.

The duo passed us to their Smackdown counterparts Michael Cole and Tazz who, in turn, introduced us to the Spanish announce team.

With all that done, it was time for our opening contest.

WWE World Tag Team Championship
WWE World Tag Team Champions La Resistance (Renee Dupree & Sylvan Grenier) vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley)

We kicked things off with a solid tag team match between evil foreigner champions La Resistance and sixteen-time champion veterans The Dudleyz, who came to the ring waving Old Glory.

WWE Summerslam 2003 - La Resistance celebrate winning the tag titles thanks to Rob Conway's help

There was nothing out of the ordinary about this match, but the lively crowd were super into it and that made it seem more entertaining than it might have been otherwise.

In the end, The Dudleyz hit a 3D and looked to have the match won, only for a random photographer to burst into the ring and interfere on the champion's behalf, allowing Renee and Sylvan to pick up the three count.
Your Winners and Still World Tag Team Champions: La Resistance

Post-match, Spike Dudley ran in to help his brothers but he got his ass kicked too. As this was happening, the random photographer removed his wig and revealed himself to be the same guy who had faked being a US serviceman on Smackdown to help La Resistance get one over on The Dudleyz. 

That man would eventually be known as Rob Conway.

People Who Don't Like America Suck

As The Dudley Boyz made their way to the back, Jonathan Coachman stopped them for an interview and claimed that La Resistance's tactic for winning the previous match had been "clever."

"Clever?" asked Bubba Ray. "What are you? One of those anti-American sympathizers? You know what I think about people who don't like America? I think they suck!" 

Although that didn't quite address Coach's comment, Bubba did say that he and his brother would stop at nothing to get back their tag team titles. 

Christian Interupts Eric Bischoff

Backstage, Intercontinental Champion Christian interrupted Eric Bischoff as the Raw co-GM psyched himself up for his match with Shane McMahon later on the show. 

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Eric Bischoff tries to explain himself to Christian

Christian was upset at not being featured on tonight's card, a move that Bischoff claimed was entirely Stone Cold Steve Austin's decision.

The IC champion then wanted to know if Bischoff needed his help tonight, but Sleazy E already had it covered.

As Christian continued to become an ever-increasing pain in Eric's butt, he interrupted him a third time to ask whether he'd "sealed the deal" with Linda McMahon recently. 

Bischoff promised to reveal all later in the show. 

This was a decent segment that got funnier and funnier thanks to Christian being super annoying.

WWE Summerslam 2003 - The Undertaker vs. A-Train match graphic

Prior to the next match, we got a look back at how A-Train had become Mr. McMahon's hired gun,  first being commissioned to belly-bump Stephanie McMahon back at Vengeance and then attacking The Undertaker at McMahon's behest. 

The big hairy giant would face 'Taker next.

The Undertaker vs. A-Train (w/ Sable)

As A-Train made his way to the ring, he was joined by Sable, who the announcers told us was a "perk" gifted to Mr. Train for his work as McMahon's heavy.

Sable spent the match standing at ringside doing little of note, which is pretty much what A-Train and The Undertaker did too.

I wouldn't go so far as to call it a bad match, but it was pretty boring and uninspired. 

After almost 10 minutes of so-so action, Big Evil put his opponent away with a big time clothesline.
Your Winner: The Undertaker

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Sable tries to seduce The Undertaker

Post-match, The Undertaker set up A-Train for the Last Ride, only for Sable to start hitting on him. Unimpressed, 'Taker grabbed her by the throat and held her until Stephanie McMahon came to the ring to attack her rival. 

Goldberg is Gonna Win (whether he wants to or not)

Out in the back, Chris Jericho psyched himself up for the Elimination Chamber match while, out in the crowd, Coach asked two random fans who they thought was going to win that match. 

Both picked Goldberg.

Shane Wants Revenge

Right then, so here's how this next match came about:

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Shane McMahon vs. Eric Bischoff

According to the pre-match video, Kane had recently unmasked and went nuts, even going so far as to attack Linda McMahon. Shane McMahon had then returned to the company to defend his mama's honor and attacked The Big Red Machine with a chair. 

Vince McMahon had then instructed Eric Bischoff to have Shane escorted from the building on the following week's Raw, leading to Stone Cold Steve Austin booking Shane vs. Eric. 

Bischoff had then somehow set Jim Ross up to be set on fire by Kane, with JR only agreeing to not sue the former WCW boss if Eric signed up for a match. 

Bischoff agreed and ended up in a match against Kane which the Raw GM won when -for reasons unexplained- Kane simply walked off and awarded Bischoff the victory via count out.

Later, Austin had revealed that in the fine print of the contract, it said that the winner would face Shane at Summerslam, and here we are.

Shane McMahon vs. Eric Bischoff

I don't care what you say, this was damn fun.

OK, so it didn't start that way. 

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Eric Bischoff covers Shane McMahon

The match began with Bischoff boasting about sleeping with Linda McMahon multiple times because, as we all know, there's no bigger way to insult your enemy than "I banged your mom."

Shane O' Mac then came down and beat Bischoff senselessly. It was fine, and the crowd loved it, but it wasn't anything particularly special. 

Then, out of nowhere, Jonathan Coachman (of all people) suddenly and surprisingly turned heel by blasting Shane with a chair. 

Utilizing his GM powers, Bischoff then declared the match "Falls Count Anywhere," and got a two count after ordering Coach to throw Shane into the ring steps. 

Back between the ropes, Bisch' ordered JR & King's mics to be turned off so that Coach could do live commentary as the two beat up on McMahon.

Predictably - but nonetheless enjoyably- Stone Cold Steve Austin made his way to the ring to even the score. 

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Jonathan Coachman pushes Stone Cold Steve Austin's buttons

Of course, there was a rule in place that, as GM, Austin wasn't allowed to hit anyone unless physically provoked, so Shane first shoved Coach into the Texas Rattlesnake, then used Eric's arm to slap him so that Austin could beat up both men.

Finally, McMahon placed Eric on the Spanish announce table and hit him with a flying elbow drop off the top for the three count.

It wasn't a technical masterpiece or anything, but I personally found myself very entertained by everything that happened after Coach's random heel turn.
Your Winner: Shane McMahon

Post-match, Shane and Austin shared a beer.

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Ric Flair and Triple H warn Randy Orton to know his role in the elimination chamber match

Out in the back, Triple H and Ric Flair warned Randy Orton that his only job in tonight's Elimination Chamber match was to ensure that The Game remained the world champion. 

Neither of Orton's veteran stablemates wanted to even entertain Orton's question of "what if.." 

Fatal Four-Way Match for the WWE United States Championship
WWE United States Champion Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit vs. Tajiri vs. Rhyno 

This one started off as a fairly average four-way match but eventually picked up in terms of both pace and intensity to become a hugely entertaining match.

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Eddie Guerrero puts a submission move on Tajiri

The fun thing about this -for me at least- was that champion Eddie Guerrero was clearly booked as a heel, but was so good that the crowd couldn't help but love him.

Speaking of Guerrero, it was the champion who emerged victorious after a very strong match in which all four men worked hard to deliver. 

After Tajiri and Chris Benoit toppled to the outside, Eddie crushed Rhyno with a frog splash and that was all she wrote.
Your Winner and Still WWE United States Champion: Eddie Guerrero 

Out in the back, we saw Shawn Michaels taping up ready for tonight's elimination chamber.

Zach Gowan Loses a Match via Getting Murdered

Before our next contest, we were shown a clip from Smackdown in which Brock Lesnar -who was now a heel again- had destroyed Zach Gowan, "breaking his leg" in two places and beating him until he was so bloody you'd be forgiven for thinking he'd been stabbed repeatedly in the face.

This was followed by a clip from earlier on Sunday Night Heat where Matt Hardy -Gowan's scheduled opponent for tonight- had declared himself victorious over Gowan via forfeit.

Finally, we saw a video package highlighting the upcoming Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar match, and then we got into it.

WWE Championship
WWE Champion Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar 

Though I personally preferred their Wrestlemania 19 classic, Angle/Brock II was still a tremendous match that was every bit as good as you'd expect it to be.

The two started off slowly and then worked their way up, the match building and building into an all-out war for the ages that was utterly compelling to watch.

Towards the end, Brock tapped to the Ankle Lock, but the referee was taking a nap in the corner so it didn't count. At that point, Vince McMahon -who was now allied with Lesnar- came down and blasted the champion across the back with a chair, but that didn't help the challenger gain the title.

Once the referee rose from his slumber, Angle twisted Brock's ankle once again and finally made him tap a second time to win the match.

That was awesome.
Your Winner and Still WWE Champion: Kuirt Angle

Out in the locker room, Bill Goldberg warmed up for the Elimination Chamber match. 

Back in the arena, we panned the crowd to see some football players and recent Diva Search winner Jaime Koeppe who was incredibly gorgeous. Jaime never did much in WWE which was a shame because I would've happily seen more of her.

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Diva Search Winner Jaime Koeppe

This was followed by a look back at the feud between former tag team partners Kane and Rob Van Dam which, as we discussed earlier, all revolved around Kane taking his mask off and going bat-sh*t crazy.

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Kane vs. RVD

The video was pretty good and made the whole thing feel like a trailer to a horror movie. It was exciting and cool, perhaps more cool than the match would be. 

No Holds Barred
Kane vs. Rob Van Dam

The no holds barred stipulation for this was only just added, with Howard Finkle telling us that he'd just been informed of it as he introduced the combatants. 

This turned out not to be the best match on the card, but it was still a solid effort with a lot of fun and creative spots that made full use of the no holds barred gimmick.

After a good back-and-forth battle, Kane destroyed his former partner with a tombstone on the ring steps for the win.
Your Winner: Kane

Backstage, Terri tried to interview a bloody Eric Bischoff, but he was too busy icing his battered face to give her the time of day. 

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Terri tries to get an interview with Eric Bischoff

As Terri left, Linda McMahon arrived on the scene and smacked Eric across the mush.

Across the way, Triple H stared lovingly at his world title belt. 

WWE Summerslam 2003 - Ric Flair gives HHH a pep-talk

His manager, Ric Flair, told him not to worry, he wasn't saying goodbye to the title tonight, he was simply taking out to show people for a bit.

Elimination Chamber Match for the World Heavyweight Championship
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H (w/ Ric Flair) vs. Randy Orton vs. Kevin Nash  vs. Goldberg vs. Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels

This was another excellent match. It wasn't as good as the Elimination Chamber match from Survivor Series 2002, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't a good show-closer in its own right. 

WWE Summerslam 2003 - match graphic for the Elimintion Chamber match

Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho kicked things off, giving us an exciting wrestling match before Randy Orton and Kevin Nash eventually entered the fray.

Nash was soon eliminated after HBK superkicked his former bodyguard and Y2J pinned him, but that only made Nash mad. Holding nothing back, he went on a rampage and destroyed everybody in sight with big, brutal power bombs galore. 

Orton was next to go, then Goldberg murdered Jericho and Michaels with a  couple of deadly spears, leaving just him and the world heavyweight champion left.

WWE Summerslam 2003 - World Heavyweight Champion Triple H

Wearing bicycle shorts under his ring attire, The Game was recovering from a groin injury and had done nothing all match, despite being officially entered into it before Goldberg. 

Even when Big Bad Bill eventually smashed his way through Hunter's pod, the champion took not a single bump, instead brawling with Goldberg until the former WCW star went to spear him. 

At that point, the Evolution leader hit his rival in the head with a sledgehammer, and that was that.
Your Winner and Still World Heavyweight Champion: Triple H

Afterward, Randy Orton returned to the ring and he, Hunter, and Flair handcuffed Golberg to the cage and beat him to a bloody pulp as Summerslam 2003 went off the air.

All in all, I'd say Summerslam 2003 was a  good show with only one match (Taker/Train) that didn't really do much for me.

As you might expect, Angle/Lesnar was the match of the night, though everything else was certainly enjoyable enough to make this an entertaining show.

Though I wouldn't call it a must-see or anything, you could certainly do far worse than spend a few hours with this one.

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