WWE PPV Flashbacks: King of the Ring 2001 - June 24, 2001

King of the Ring
June 24, 2001
Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, NJ

Heading into the summer of 2001, the WWF was in a very strange place, as the company seemed in limbo, with this show feeling different to past few months, but not quite like those over the next few either. That was likely due to the recent injury of Triple H, who had been pencilled in to turn face and feud with Austin as the payoff to the Power Trip storyline. Instead, the Game tore his quad the night after Judgment Day and would be out of action for the rest of the year, throwing a huge spanner in the works. Meanwhile, since WrestleMania, there has been mention of the purchased WCW, but nothing major to this point. It was in the weeks heading into this show that WCW would become mentioned more frequently, and over the rest of the year it would become a major part of storylines in the company. Tonight we have a triple threat for the WWF Championship, as Stone Cold defends against both Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. Also we have the King of the Ring tournament, which is a bit of an afterthought this year. The defending King, Kurt Angle has entered the tournament, and he also has a match with Shane McMahon later on, making it potentially three times he will be in action. Anyway, lets dive in shall we? Please share all your thoughts and comments with me on Twitter at @Mpmcc91.

Our opening video package focuses on Stone Cold's title defence, Kurt Angle's night ahead, and the recent altercations between the Undertaker and WCW alumni Diamond Dallas Page. More on that in a second. Our announce team as usual consists of Jim Ross & Paul Heyman.

Speaking of DDP, he's the first superstar we see tonight. He makes his way through the crowd rather than down the ramp in a nice touch, as he's not a WWF competitor. Essentially in the weeks leading into this show, a mystery man had been revealed to be stalking the Undertaker's wife, Sara, showing a variety of videos of her in her day to day life. Taker obviously did not take kindly to this, and promised to make whoever was responsible pay for their actions. On the Raw is War before this show, the mystery man rode out on a motorbike and revealed himself to the world as Diamond Dallas Page - one of the top stars in WCW. He said he had more pics of Sara, and that Taker should confront him at the King of the Ring. Anyway, DDP essentially says he's not going anywhere and Taker can come out whenever he wants. He has a sign asking Taker to make him famous. He takes a seat in the front row as the show goes on.

King of the Ring Semifinal Match:
Christian vs Kurt Angle

Now, as you look at this match and the next one, you'll see a bit of a problem with this tournament - all the competitors are heels! Not only that, they actually all have an established allegiance. Who is the crowd supposed to cheer for? Anyway, Kurt Angle beat Hardcore Holly and then Jeff Hardy to get here, whilst Christian beat Kane then Big Show. Christian picks up the early advantage in this one after avoiding an Ankle Lock from his opponent. Meanwhile the announcers mention that Kurt will face Shane McMahon later on regardless of his King of the Ring status - more on that feud later. The action goes to the outside and Christian sends Kurt's face into the ring steps. Christian goes up to the top after, but Kurt shoves him down into the crowd barricade. Kurt goes on offence now and after a bunch of suplexes, Shane McMahon makes his way to ringside. Kurt goes for a moonsault, but Christian gets out of the way. Kurt comes back from a near fall by locking in the Ankle Lock, but Christian manages to get to the ropes to force the break. Angle goes for the Angle Slam moments later, but Christian counters into the Unprettier. With Christian about to score the huge upset however, Shane breaks up the pin - he wants Kurt to have to wrestle another match before his! Angle doesn't understand Shane's actions, but he delivers an Angle Slam to Christian for the win at 8:17. Kurt Angle advances to the finals. A decent enough opener, but nothing spectacular. They obviously couldn't go all out with Kurt's night only getting started, and the time reflected that. I did like the logic behind Shane's interference here though.
Grade: **1/4

We now go backstage where Jonathan Coachman is with Stone Cold and Debra. Austin had become very paranoid and dependent on Vince's praise since Triple H's injury. He wants to see Vince, but he's not here tonight. Coach tells Austin there are rumours that if Jericho or Benoit win the title tonight, they will defect to WCW. Austin looks very disturbed and doesn't say a word.

After a video package looking at the DDP/Taker situation, Paul Heyman leaves the booth to interview DDP at ringside. DDP talks about wanting Taker, but he is interrupted by some footage of him having breakfast. The idea was now DDP was being stalked.

King of the Ring Semifinal Match:
Edge vs Rhyno

And here's our other half of the bracket. Yep, both heels again. Edge beat Test then Perry Saturn to get to the semifinals, whilst Rhyno defeated Tazz and Tajiri. By the way, Rhyno is no longer the Hardcore Champion that he was at Judgment Day. Its actually been a busy month for that title, as he lost it to the Big Show the night after the PPV, only for him to lose it to Chris Jericho. Rhyno would win the title back on that same night, but would drop the championship to Test, who is the current champion, a few weeks later. He'd end up beating Test to win the title back the night after this show. Anyway, Rhyno starts out by spitting his gum in Edge's face, and that angers his opponent. Edge goes on offence right away, kicking Rhyno to the outside. His momentum continues out there, as he crotches Rhyno in the crowd barricade. They go back to the ring, which is where the tide turns when Rhyno exposes the turnbuckle and sends Edge crashing into it. Now its the Man Beast in control, and he actually delivers a Superfly splash after building some momentum. Edge comes back and we trade offence for a bit from there. Rhyno lays his opponent out with a spinebuster and sets up for the Gore. As he connects, Edge hits the Spear as well, and both men go down in a cool spot. Edge manages to avoid a second Gore after both men recover, and the Man Beast drives himself right into the earlier exposed turnbuckle. Edge follows up with the Edgecution to advance at 8:52. Much like the opener, this was fine, but really nothing spectacular.
Grade: **

We now go to footage from earlier in the night on Sunday Night Heat, where Spike Dudley and his new love interest, Molly Holly, were interviewed by Lillian Garcia. Spike says he will team with somebody to take on his brothers, the Dudley Boyz, for their newly won Tag Titles. The Dudley Boyz interrupted and talked trash to Spike. Back to live footage, Spike says he's found a partner, but we're going to have to wait and see who it is.

Meanwhile, Tazz gets a word with Chris Jericho, wanting to know about the WCW defection rumours. Jericho plays around with giving an answer but ultimately reveals nothing.

WWF Tag Team Championship:
Dudley Boyz (c) vs Spike Dudley & Kane

Its been a busy month in the tag title scene. At our last PPV, Stone Cold Steve Austin & Triple H were the champs, but they were defeated the following night by Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho in the match that saw Triple H blow his quad. Incidentally, despite the injury its a great match. Meanwhile, the Dudley Boyz had begun to develop an issue with Spike for hanging around with Molly, due to their feud with the Holly Cousins. This would culminate in the Dudley Boyz turning heel on an episode of Raw and powerbombing Molly through a table, with Spike breaking her fall. On the Smackdown before this show, the Dudley Boyz would defeat Jericho & Benoit to win the titles thanks to some interference by Austin. That brings us to this match. Spike chooses Kane as his mystery partner to a good pop. Kane is still the Intercontinental Champion, but he hadn't been doing much of late and would lose it later in the week. Anyway, Kane cleans house here as expected. It comes down to Spike and D-Von going at it though, and the heels take control after D-Von fakes an injury only to blindside his little brother. From here the Dudley Boyz administer a beating on Spike, with the crowd chanting for tables. Kane gets the hot tag and cleans house again. The Dudley Boyz team up on him though, and the numbers game adds up against the Big Red Machine. They hit the Wazzup on Kane and after an broken up Dudley Dog from Spike, follow up with a 3D on the little guy. Bubba pins Spike to win the match for the champs at 8:52. This was really just a basic tag match to give the newly turned Dudleyz a win and get Kane on the show. The crowd was still into the Dudleyz here, but they'd get some added heat next month. After the match, the champs want to put Spike through a table, but Kane makes the save, powerbombing D-Von and then chokeslamming Bubba through instead.
Grade: *1/2

Backstage, Christian wishes Edge luck in the finals which are up next. We then cut to more footage of DDP getting into his car.

Before the next match, we cross to WWF New York, where the guest is Billy Gunn. JR mentions that Gunn was the King of the Ring two years ago, but for the second month in a row, the guest is not happy about being at New York. Gunn rants about not being in the tournament and Heyman rips into JR's interview skills.

King of the Ring Finals:
Edge vs Kurt Angle

Less than an hour into the show and we have the tournament finals. That should tell you how much of an afterthought the King of the Ring was this year. Kurt gets on the mic before the match once Edge comes out to the ring. Kurt says that since Edge is his friend, he should lay down for him so that he can go into his match with Shane with minimal fatigue - after all, its not as if Edge has any chance of beating him. Edge responds by punching Kurt in the face, starting the match, and essentially turning Edge (and Christian by default) face. Kurt is pissed at his buddy's attitude, and he responds with a belly to belly and following up by aggressively stomping at his opponent. The action goes outside, where Kurt drops Edge onto the barricade, aggravating the ribs he injured in his previous match with Rhyno. Back in the ring we have some back and forth that sees Edge countering out of the Ankle Lock into a roll up for a near fall. He follows up with the Edge-o-Matic on Angle, but Christian comes out and distracts the referee. This would be the start of a slow heel turn for Christian and subsequent break up of E&C. More on that in a few months though. Angle capitalises on the distraction and rolls Edge up, but Edge kicks out and the ref gets taken out. Kurt gets Edge in the Ankle Lock, and whilst Edge taps, there's no ref to call for the bell. This brings out Shane McMahon, but as this is the last match of the tournament, this time he spears Kurt, not wanting him to win. Great psychology yet again headed into their showdown later on. Edge follows with the Edgecution to Kurt as the ref recovers. He covers and gets the three at 10:21. Edge is the 2001 King of the Ring. Singles push ahead! The match was decent enough, but again not great, something that was a trend for tonight's tournament. The crowd didn't really get behind Edge that much here, as he was really a heel until he refused to stay down for Kurt. He'll have better days ahead, but this was a good way to show the company had plans for Edge on his own rather than just a tag guy.
Grade: **1/2

Backstage, Tazz now gets a word with Chris Benoit about the WCW rumours. Benoit plays at going crazy on Tazz, but then just shrugs it off and says its a good question.

Meanwhile Jonathan Coachman catches up with Edge to talk about his victory in the tournament. They are interrupted by Christian who says he only came out there to support Edge. There's a bit of tension, but it quickly subsides...for now. Elsewhere, Kurt Angle is ranting to security backstage about Shane screwing him. He finally understands why Shane helped him advance earlier as well.

WWF Light Heavyweight Championship:
Jeff Hardy (c) vs X-Pac

Nope - your eyes do not deceive you! For the first time in over a year, the Light Heavyweight Championship is being defended on PPV! Now last month we saw a very disgruntled Jerry Lynn holding the title from WWF New York. He would lose the title to Jeff Hardy on an episode of Smackdown a few weeks later. This was a time where they were kind of testing the Hardy Boyz in singles pushes, as Matt was still reigning as the European Champion at this time. This feud stems from X-Pac assaulting Jeff with a chair after a tag team match between the Hardy Boyz and X-Factor on Raw is War. Both competitors are alone at ringside here. X-Pac starts out in control and he taunts the champion, slapping at him as he mounts some offence. Jeff fights back and delivers a headscissors before taking the fight to the floor. He does his usual running of the rail clothesline and attempts to follow up with the Whisper in the Wind only to miss. X-Pac takes control inside and locks in an abdominal stretch on the champ. He ends up using the ropes for leverage, but he's busted by the ref. X-Pac responds by tossing Jeff to the outside and remaining in control. He eventually goes for the Bronco Buster, but Jeff gets out of the way. Hardy comes back and hits a successful Whisper in the Wind this time, but X-Pac responds with the X-Factor (the move, not the faction!). It gets three, but the ref realises that Jeff got his foot on the ropes, so the match continues! Jeff takes X-Pac down and delivers the Swanton Bomb to retain his title at 7:11. This was really just filler to pad out the card. Surprisingly it was included on the Best of the King of the Ring DVD for some reason. Decent, but nothing more. Sounds like a broken record tonight huh? Jeff's celebration would be short lived as X-Pac would defeat him for the title the following night on Raw anyway.
Grade: **

We now go back to Commissioner Regal's office, where he is joined by his new assistant, Tajiri. Steve Austin bursts in and demands to talk to Mr McMahon. Austin grabs the phone and calls Vince, telling him about the WCW rumours. He wants Vince to come to the arena.

Back in the arena, DDP gets frustrated after we see some more "stalker" footage showing him entering the parking lot. He's had enough and gets in the ring to call Taker out. Undertaker's music hits and he comes out with Sara, who is carrying a video camera. She was filming DDP to get back at him. She tells DDP that its time he gets made famous. And thus comes the segment that killed all of DDP's momentum in the WWF right away. Taker easily fights off DDP's strikes and chair shots whilst proceeding to beat the hell out of the WCW star. Sara films the beating until DDP escapes through the crowd. Now the stalker idea was dumb enough as far as DDP's character goes, but you could have at least saved DDP a little by having him come out the one looking strong in this segment. At least have another WCW guy come out and help DDP in the beating if keeping Taker strong was really so important. Taker can get his revenge later in the storyline - here you've just made one of your biggest incoming WCW stars into Taker's bitch in one segment. Sadly thats only the beginning of the upcoming Invasion that we shall see over the next few months. DDP's credibility is gone.

After that horrible segment, we go backstage again where Austin tells a backstage worker that we wants to know when Vince arrives. We then get a video package looking at the Kurt/Shane feud

Street Fight:
Shane McMahon vs Kurt Angle

After defeating Chris Benoit to win back his medals last month at Judgment Day, Kurt Angle held an Olympic celebration the next night on Raw. The ceremony was interrupted by WCW owner Shane McMahon however. Shane announced that after a few months of no real action, WCW was coming back, and then proceeded to ridicule Angle. Kurt would respond by delivering an Angle slam to the WCW boss and it was on. A few weeks later, Shane would get some retribution after accepting Kurt's challenge to face him at the King of the Ring. As Kurt was confronting the Undertaker on Raw, Shane would come through the crowd and deliver an Angle Slam to his future opponent which brings us to this street fight between the two. The match starts out surprisingly amateur based, with Kurt on offence. After a few exchanges of being out wrestled, Shane nails Kurt in the gut and all niceties go out the window from there. The action goes to the outside and Shane uses his surroundings to his advantage, coming off the barricade onto his opponent. We get some more back and forth with weapons brought inside the ring, and Shane actually gets Kurt in the Ankle Lock. It doesn't last long as Kurt kicks his way out, but Shane follows up by locking in a Sharpshooter instead. Angle ends up grabbing a kendo stick and whacking Shane with it. Shane fights back some more and attempts a shooting star press, only to land on a trash can. This is where the brutality really picks up, as Kurt tosses his opponent to the outside and the action leads them up to the entrance video. Angle tosses Shane into the set and then follows up with a belly to belly into the glass set - only it doesn't break and Shane's skull whacks onto the concrete ("I thought Shane might have been knocked out" - Don't Try this at Home video of the mid-00s). Angle doesn't relent however, and he goes for another belly to belly, this time sending Shane through the glass. With the two now behind the set, Kurt goes to belly to belly Shane through the other glass panel - and would you believe it? - it doesn't give way either! Kurt has enough and just tosses Shane through the second panel of glass instead, and the WCW owner is a bloody mess amongst all the shards. Kurt attempts to cover him, but pins only count in the ring. This is where Angle shows that intelligence once again - he gets some kind of trolley case and loads the bloody Shane on top of it, and uses it to push Shane back down to ringside, with Heyman admiring Angle's brilliance. Kurt tosses Shane into the ring, and just as it looks like he has this one won, Shane somehow manages to kick out to a huge pop! Whats more, he nails Kurt with a low blow and follows up with an Angle Slam in a last ditch attempt to stay in this. He covers, but Kurt kicks out. He comes back by sending Shane into the corner, and then gets a large wood panel and whacks him with it. Kurt then sets the panel up on the turnbuckle and mounts it with Shane. From there, we get an insane Angle Slam from the top and that gives Kurt the win at 26:00. Wow, this show needed a match to really pick things up at this point, and this did just that. What a brutal and bloody affair. Shane absolutely destroyed his body once again, and the glass not giving way only added to that. The right guy won here of course, and Kurt looks like a sadistic maniac, which is a bit strange considering his character would go in a different direction soon enough. An excellent match here, and arguably Shane's best.
Grade: ****

From there we get a brief ad promoting Fully Loaded next month. Its of note because the PPV would take a different name as we shall see next time. Backstage, Austin is still worried about Vince not being here. Someone tells him his match is up next, so Austin says to tell Vince to come to ringside when he arrives. Spoiler alert: Vince isn't coming.

WWF Championship:
Steve Austin (c) vs Chris Benoit vs Chris Jericho

This all stems from Benoit & Jericho defeating Austin & Triple H the night after Judgment Day to win the WWF Tag Team Championship. As I've already mentioned, Triple H injured his quad during that match and was out for the rest of the year, leaving Stone Cold on his own. This led to Austin becoming increasingly paranoid and reliant on Mr McMahon's praise. In the weeks that followed, Austin would defend his title against both Benoit and Jericho on TV in singles matches, and managed to barely escape with his title on both instances. It was actually a great month for TV matches, as the often forgotten TLC III took place on Smackdown, with Benoit & Jericho defending their titles against the three teams involved in the previous TLC matches. Austin said that he could beat both Benoit and Jericho, so this led to WWE CEO Linda McMahon making a triple threat match for the title at the King of the Ring. Austin was pissed and wanted Vince to do something about it, telling him to choose between his champion or his wife. Vince told Austin that he wasn't going to be at the PPV and that he had to retain the title on his own, or their association would be over. Austin was enraged heading into this show, and would even beat the hell out of Michael Cole during an interview. To add some fire to this match, Austin would cost Benoit & Jericho the tag titles to the Dudley Boyz on the Smackdown before this PPV as well. Anyway, Austin is not happy that there is no sign of Vince as we get started, so he stalls on the outside. Benoit and Jericho go after him and bring him into the ring. The former tag champs both unload on Austin in the early going, but the team work comes to an end when Jericho nails Benoit rather than Austin with a spin kick. Jericho follows up with the Walls on Austin, but Benoit breaks it up and throws his former tag partner out of the ring. Austin takes over as the match comes down to he and Benoit. The Wolverine comes back after countering a Stunner, but the ref gets taken out in the process. With the ref down, Benoit gets his hands on the title belt and whacks Austin with it, but Jericho comes in and breaks up the subsequent count when the ref recovers. He gets rid of Benoit and now its his turn to go at it with the champion. After some back and forth between the two, Benoit comes back with a chair in hand, but he gets caught with a Stunner from Austin. The champion goes to work on Y2J, but before he can close in on a victory, Benoit gets back into the game with five German Suplexes in a row to the WWF Champion! He's going for more, but Austin hits a low blow. In a cool spot from there, Y2J puts Austin into the Walls of Jericho, and Benoit subsequently adds the Crossface as well. Austin taps whilst in both holds, but there's no way to decide the winner, so the ref orders the match to continue. Jericho and Benoit go at it and all of a sudden, WCW star Booker T makes his first WWF appearance when he comes through the crowd and takes out Austin. He puts the champion through the Spanish announce table before leaving, bringing the match down to the Canadian Chris's and furthering the WCW rumours from earlier. Booker leaves ringside and the two challengers trade offence as they battle back and forth. Austin is eventually brought back into the ring and Jericho nails him with a moonsault. Benoit breaks the pin and delivers a Diving Headbutt, only for Jericho to return the favour by pulling the ref out of the ring. And then we get the big moment of the match. Jericho takes Benoit to the top rope and delivers a backdrop superplex. As Benoit lands however, he injures his neck which he aggravated back in the aforementioned TLC III match a few weeks back. Austin quickly crawls on top of Benoit and gets the pin to retain his title at 27:52. The match was very good, but the ending obviously had to be improvised out of nowhere. Benoit would be out of action for about a year, having "ruptured a disc which fragmented into his spinal collar". It was another major loss of star power, so it was a good thing the WCW storyline was getting started or the company might have been in a bit of trouble in terms of main event players. This didn't live up to the expectations going in, and the TV matches in the weeks heading into this show surpassed what we saw tonight. With these guys, a match that doesn't meet expectations still won't be bad though. Anyway, Austin continues his reign as the heel champion of the WWF, and tonight he survived without Vince's help.
Grade: ***1/2

Overall, this PPV was a middle of the line show. The best match was the Shane/Angle street fight and I enjoyed the psychology building to that match through Kurt's tournament matches. That said, it did really make the King of the Ring tournament a total afterthought, perhaps a sign that its days as a stand alone event were numbered. The WWF Championship match was good, but I would have liked to have seen what it could have been if Benoit wasn't going in injured. His loss would be yet another to the roster that was so deep a few months prior. Since Mania, we have lost Rock, Triple H and Benoit in the space of three months at the top of the card. Thank god for that influx of WCW talent coming in, although the way DDP was treated tonight is not a promising sign there. Edge winning the tournament was a bit of a shock, but was essentially the beginning of a face push for the tag team specialist into the midcard. For now though, Austin is the WWF Champion, and all eyes are on the WCW situation brewing. The King of the Ring was a slightly better show than last month, but the company has still lost a lot of momentum from earlier in the year.

Three Stars of the Night:
1. Kurt Angle - the choice was obvious. On a night where not many stood out, Angle wrestled three times including an awesome street fight. He's a wrestling machine.
2. Shane McMahon - for a non-wrestler, he took an insane amount of punishment at the hands of Kurt Angle, including the messed up suplexes through the glass. Took a beating like a champ and put out one of the best performances of his career in doing so.
3. Chris Benoit - credit to the Wolverine for going in there with a neck injury and putting on a match that was good, despite the elevated expectations. He'd be out for a year and his matches will be missed in that time.

FINAL GRADE: 5.5 out of 10

What I do here is add the three stars of the night with each review so as to keep track of who we can say overall is the greatest PPV performer to any given time. First place scores 3 points, second 2 and third 1.

Steve Austin = 99
Bret Hart = 83
Shawn Michaels = 67
The Rock = 52
Triple H = 51
Mick Foley = 38
Randy Savage = 28
Undertaker = 26
Owen Hart = 21
Kurt Angle = 21
Hulk Hogan = 18
X-Pac = 18
Chris Benoit = 16
Diesel = 15
Chris Jericho = 14
Matt Hardy = 14
Jeff Hardy = 14
Ultimate Warrior = 13
Vader = 13
British Bulldog = 12
Christian = 12
Edge = 11
Ted DiBiase = 10
Razor Ramon = 10
Vince McMahon = 10
Ric Flair = 8
Jim Neidhart = 7
Bubba Ray Dudley = 7
D-Von Dudley = 7
Jerry Lawler = 6
Dynamite Kid = 5
Arn Anderson = 5
Roddy Piper = 5
Mr Perfect = 5
Marty Jannetty = 5
Bob Backlund = 5
Shane McMahon = 5
Ricky Steamboat = 4
Ax = 4
Smash = 4
Bobby Heenan = 4
D’Lo Brown = 4
Rikishi = 4
Kane = 4
Greg Valentine = 3
Tully Blanchard = 3
Tanaka = 3
Bam Bam Bigelow = 3
Sato = 3
Jake Roberts = 3
Hakushi = 3
Yokozuna = 3
Savio Vega = 3
Ken Shamrock = 3
Chyna = 3
Brutus Beefcake = 2
Paul Orndorff = 2
Andre the Giant = 2
Rick Rude = 2
Sgt Slaughter = 2
Jeff Jarrett = 2
Jesse Ventura = 1
Texas Tornado = 1
Tito Santana = 1
Virgil = 1
Scott Steiner = 1
Rick Steiner = 1
Lex Luger = 1
The Roadie = 1
Billy Gunn = 1
Bart Gunn = 1
Marc Mero = 1
Flash Funk = 1
Animal = 1
Hawk = 1
Taka Michinoku = 1
Test = 1
Big Show = 1
Dean Malenko = 1
Scotty 2 Hotty = 1
Rhyno = 1

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @Mpmcc91. Thanks for reading!