SLAM! Sports
SLAM! Wrestling

Monday, March 19, 2001

WWF returns to Montreal

By ERIC BENNER -- For SLAM! Wrestling

Sunday afternoon, March 18 marked the return of the WWF to Montreal as they presented the usual suspects of wrestling to an audience of thousands of local Montreal fans. About twelve thousand strong populated the event, and aside from a Rocky no-show, the WWF pulled out all the stops. Raymond Rougeau did an excellent job as ring announcer.

In the match that everyone was waiting for, the night's main event, Steve Austin teamed up with the Undertaker and Kane to take on Triple H, William Regal, and The Big Show. Despite what you might expect from the heels, they worked together cohesively to do their best and take down the good guys. There was extra incentive for them, too, as a victory for Triple H's team would have meant his taking Steve Austin's place in Wrestlemania's main event, so proclaimed Commissioner Regal. It was difficult to tell whether fans thought this was good news or not, though. Though they did cheer strongly for Austin and chant his name several times, Triple H was the recipient of one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon. Maybe this was simply the case of a city starved for wrestling recognizing one of its biggest stars.

The match progressed nicely, with every possible pairing playing out and the flow moving along nicely. Only Undertaker and Big Show performed less-than-stellarly, as their segment featured a two-minute rest hold. I don't think these men understand that rest holds are for tired wrestlers, and that there really shouldn't be a whole lot of tired wrestlers in a three-on-three match. Still, the rest of the match went well, with an extended sequence of Undertaker being triple-teamed while his friends stood idly by, unable to help because of naive referee Earl Hebner. Ultimately, the rules were taken over by the sheer force of will of the participants, who turned a civilized wrestling match into a broohaha brawl. After a series of near-falls and near-finishes, Stone Cold Steve Austin finally emerged victorious over oft-nemesis Triple H. He celebrated at length, perhaps happy that he will still be able to challenge The Rock at Wrestlemania.

Also of note in this match, Triple H and Undertaker were especially aggressive with each other throughout this long match-up, perhaps as a prelude to a confrontation at Wrestlemania.

To start the show, Crash Holly faced off against Dean Malenko for the Lightheavyweight title. Considering the talent these two individuals possess, this match was something of a disappointment. It felt more like a warm-up than anything else. Crash Holly scored the pin after a series of nice reverses, but most of the match leading up to that was fairly bland.

Having two of the WWF's smallest athletes wrestle prior to the Women's title match may have been a good idea, because the ladies didn't seem quite as small as usual. Ivory defended her title against Molly Holly, with Trish Stratus (after an anti-Montreal diatribe) at ringside. Stratus plagued Holly throughout the match, eventually costing her this particular title shot by enabling Ivory to perform her airplane-spin-like finishing maneuver. Holly found herself double-teamed after the match, but Lita - to an amazing ovation - made the save. Steven Richards tried to help out his RTC ally, but Lita and Molly made short work of him, too. A short, fun match by the ladies.

Perry Saturn and Chris Benoit brought the house down in the next match, which featured a seemingly endless supply of power moves. Small, muscular men like Saturn and Benoit can really throw each other around. Lots of back-and-forth in this match, with no one really getting ahead until the Crippler actually applied the Crossface and Saturn tapped out. Dean Malenko ran in after the match to make it two-on-one against Benoit, but in a somewhat fresh twist, Benoit fended Malenko off more easily than he did Saturn, without help.

Next up, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho put on a clinic. So many reversals and near-falls that if televised, this one would have been called a classic. Well, perhaps not, but it sure looked that way. The fans were on their feet for the end of this one, as Jericho reversed an attempted chairshot into the Walls of Jericho for the submission win. Without a doubt, Jericho earned one of the top cheers of the night from Montreal fans.

The string of great matches came to an end with the next bout, not because of a lack of effort but more because of confusion and unclear rules. Bull Buchanan and Goodfather, representing the RTC and accompanied by Steven Richards, took on the teams of X-Pac and Justin Credible - who were accompanied by Albert, and the Hardy Boys. It was a three-way, elimination match for the title, though interference was seemingly allowed and possibly encouraged. The RTC team was eliminated mid-way through the match, and all of a sudden it turned fast-paced and quite good. X-Pac and Justin Credible had excellent chemistry together and they nearly took down the champs. Albert's interference, though, backfired at one point, leading the Hardyz to an opportunity. They took it and scored the pin. Edge and Christian attacked them, and the Dudleyz made the save.

The next match, Val Venis versus Test for the European title, marked the third appearance of Steven Richards. Power moves - but neither competitor - dominated this match. Despite rabid interference, which included a simply superb superkick, by Richards, Test prevailed. Following the match, Val teased RTC dissent by arguing with Richards, and they looked to be ready to fight, but eventually made up (much to the dismay of fans).

Edge and Christian, though cheered at first, quickly changed that by mocking Montreal at length. They put on a somewhat standard match against the Dudleyz, as this combination is nothing new. It was entertaining, certainly, with great and new cowardly tactics by the heel team. For example, pretending to head back to the dressing room until on the verge of being counted out, then running back to the ring, though only to slide right through it and out the other side, where they continued to hide. A unique ending, though, in that the Dudleyz beat down the unpopular Canadians and then retrieved a table, only to have Christian escape their 3-D attempt and Edge to score the quick pin on Buh Buh Ray.

Kurt Angle wasted his time in a match against Billy Gunn. I have nothing against Gunn, but I've never seen someone in such good shape who had to rest so often. Kurt Angle won on short order with his newly patented ankle lock.

Finally, the main event played out as described, clocking at over a half hour and sending home the wrestling-starved Montreal fans happy. One interesting note is that in their pre-match promo, Steven Richards and Val Venis tried to play as faces, citing that Val is already Canadian and Steven would like to become one. His reasoning is that we already accept censorship in this country, which I presume to be a jab at TSN's near-constant editing of the WWF's Monday Night Raw program. It should be interesting to see if he makes similar comments at other Canadian locations, perhaps as an attempt to get a grass roots campaign going. Either way, fans all over the arena were more than pleased with the event, and were left clamoring for more, despite or perhaps because of The Rock's notable absence. If house shows, as they say, are the best indicator of a wrestling organization's health, then the WWF is alive and well in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


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