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On This Day in Pro Wrestling History... 10 Years Ago, Triple H and Bill Goldberg Finally Collide at SummerSlam 2003
By Mr. Tito
Aug 24, 2013 - 10:45:07 PM
ON THIS DAY IN PRO WRESTLING HISTORY... 10 years ago, the WWE held the SummerSlam 2003 event in Phoenix, Arizona. This was a show that was in the thick of the first year of the WWE brand extension. For the RAW brand, the world revolved around Triple H though the WWE was about to give WWE newcomer and former WCW superstar, Bill Goldberg, his first and only WWE Title push. Additionally, Shawn Michaels was beginning his comeback. Meanwhile on the Smackdown roster, which was outdrawing RAW regularly during 2003 in viewership, the show during 2003 was mostly dominated by the Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle feud. But the undercard of the Smackdown roster had guys who red hot and about to receive pushes themselves during 2004. Eddie Guerrero, in particular, was getting over while management was high on Chris Benoit's work ethic and in-ring ability to begin thinking about his future with a World Title reign as well.
The Smackdown shows were booked none other than by Paul Heyman. As you can see by this show's card, there was an Undertaker vs. A-Train match. Who was A-Train you ask? No, he wasn't a former running back for the Chicago Bears, but he was a wrestler formerly named Prince Albert and later shortened to Albert. He used to tag up with Test to form a team called T&A (you get it??? Test AND Albert) and that tag team was actually managed by a newcomer named Trish Stratus. After a while, the team didn't do so well and Albert embarked on a singles career. WWE management was high on Albert, which was contrary to Heyman's booking plans, and Heyman soon found himself at odds with the McMahons regarding the newly renamed A-Train's push. The McMahons were so delirious on the push that they were furious one night when Edge was unable to get a good match out of A-Train.
Who is A-Train you might ask? Next time you watch the new WWE tag team called Tons of Funk and you see a guy wrestling as Sweet T (formerly named Lord Tensai), that's A-Train. Yes, the WWE tried to push him hard as a potential Main Eventer before. Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it, and the McMahons are quite good at repeating it. A-Train would remain with the WWE until 2004 when a torn rotator cuff sidelined him. He would be off to Japan by 2005 where he'd remain there until his 2012 return and attempted Main Event push. Meanwhile, backstage, Paul Heyman and the McMahons argued regularly over the creative direction of the Smackdown roster insomuch that by early 2004, Heyman was demoted as the lead writer of that brand. What a shame too because the Smackdown roster had quite a 2002-2003 run.
This show actually had an Eric Bischoff vs. Shane McMahon FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE match. I'm not kidding when I say that... Shane McMahon, of course, won that as he remains the toughest WCW executive around and possibly made up for Eric Bischoff's WCW Slamboree 1998 challenge to Vince McMahon for an actual fight. In your face Ken doll!
Kane defeated Rob Van Dam in a NO HOLDS BARRED match on the show. In other news, both wrestlers are still employed by the WWE, 10 years later.
Then there was a Fatal 4 Way for the United States Title between champion Eddie Guerrero and challengers Chris Benoit, Rhyno, and Tajiri. Imagine that? Both Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit are battling over the midcard United States Title and less than a year later, both are celebrating in the ring to end Wrestlemania 20 as World Champions together. Yet, the WWE frowns upon giving credibility to the midcard titles. Eddie Guerrero was getting crazy over during 2003 and actually being a draw as the US Champion. At this point in his career, he could probably headline WWE houseshows as US Champion and it would draw. That's how the business should work... John Cena would follow in Eddie's footsteps by also drawing with the United States Title and then less than a year later, he'd become the WWE Champion. 10 years later, the business model is upside down and nobody is getting over like Eddie Guerrero or John Cena did. Eddie retained the US Title in a good match for its time.
The WWE Title (or Smackdown Title at the time) match featured Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle. They had a nice feud going in 2003 even despite Kurt Angle needing some time off for his neck injury. They had the epic battle at Wrestlemania 19 which saw Brock Lesnar completely botch his shooting star press and hand on his head, causing a major concussion. Angle came back from his neck injury by June 2003 and won a Triple Threat for the WWE Title at Smackdown's Pay Per View, Vengeance 2003. Before the SummerSlam 2003 event, Lesnar turned to the dark side and joined Vince McMahon to go against Kurt Angle. Heading into SummerSlam 2003, Brock Lesnar was the heel and Angle was the babyface. If you've seen Brock Lesnar since his 2012 return, you'll notice a big difference in how he wrestled 10 years ago compared to how he wrestles now. At SummerSlam 2013, he was brutalizing CM Punk. At SummerSlam 2003, he was a typical heel, looking for shortcuts to win matches, and to show fear of his opponent. Nothing like that today... Being a UFC Heavyweight Champion tends to change your character...
The ending saw Kurt Angle make Brock Lesnar tap out... If you watch the match, you'll be baffled at how Brock Lesnar reaches the ropes and yet Kurt Angle is to continue the Anklelock hold by pulling Lesnar off the ropes. This trend would continue in Kurt's remaining WWE career and it's another example of how traditions were being removed from the WWE product. The ropes break any move, that's the rule. Angle won this match but weeks later would lose an incredible Iron Man match to Lesnar on an edition of Smackdown, with Lesnar scoring 5 falls to Angle's 4 in one of the year's "Match of the Year" candidates. It's a fine match and was arguably Lesnar's best match that he had before his 2004 departure after Wrestlemania 20.
The MAIN EVENT of SummerSlam 2003 was an Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship (back when it was on RAW) with champion Triple H defending against Randy Orton, Bill Goldberg, Chris Jericho, Kevin Nash, and Shawn Michaels. This was the SECOND official Elimination Chamber match, with the first one occurring at Survivor Series 2002. Since the World Heavyweight Title was just given to him by RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff during September 2002 after Brock Lesnar bolted to the Smackdown brand with the WWE title, Triple H dominated as champion. He briefly lost it for less than a month to Shawn Michaels at the first Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002 but regained it back at the next Pay Per View, Armageddon 2002. Triple H was WWE Champion for all of 2003 through SummerSlam and seemed to enjoy defeating multiple former WCW Champions in Scott Steiner, Booker T, and Kevin Nash (Nash also former WWE Champion). For the first time on Pay Per View, Triple H was finally going to lock up with former WCW Champion and superstar, Bill Goldberg.
After Wrestlemania 19, a new contract began in the WWE... The WWE had signed former WCW superstar, Bill Goldberg to a 1 year deal that included only working 1 televised wrestling show a week (RAW) and all Pay Per Views. It was quite a contract that reportedly had wrestlers talking backstage during 2003 but Vince McMahon felt Goldberg was worth it for several "dream match" possibilities. Vince probably wanted Steve Austin vs. Bill Goldberg but during the months leading up to Wrestlemania 19, Vince probably didn't predict that Austin's 3rd Wrestlemania match with the Rock would be his last WWE match. However, the WWE could still do the Rock vs. Bill Goldberg, and that they did at Backlash 2003. After beating the Rock, Goldberg laid low on the roster and had a brief feud with Chris Jericho while he awaited Triple H to end some of his storyline arcs. It was supposed to be SummerSlam 2003 where Goldberg would get his crack at Triple H.
But something in the booking changed. SummerSlam 2003 went from Bill Goldberg vs. Triple H as a singles match to an Elimination Chamber match with multiple WWE wrestlers involved. Certainly, the draw of Triple H vs. Goldberg could have been big, but one could argue that other than defeating the Rock, whom everybody knew was leaving the WWE for Hollywood, Bill Goldberg didn't have that big WWE moment yet. Many of the younger Attitude Era fans didn't watch World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and had no idea who the guy was and why he mattered so much upon his debut after Wrestlemania 19. Who is this guy and why did the WWE let him defeat the Rock? Furthermore, if WCW went out of business and this guy was under contract with them at the time of closure, what is his worth now? The WWE was unloading their Ohio Valley Wrestling developmental system by 2002 and many of those wrestlers were wondering the same thing.
Instead of Goldberg vs. Triple H, we had an Elimination Chamber match. It was only the 2nd time ever for that type of match, so it wasn't that insulting of a slight to Goldberg. After all, Goldberg could have a big moment in the Elimination Chamber match to introduce himself to newer WWE fans. And that he did...
The match saw Chris Jericho (1) and Shawn Michaels (2) start the match with Randy Orton (3) and Kevin Nash (4) joining the party next. Kevin Nash would lose via roll-up pin to Chris Jericho, which for Jericho, that probably felt good considering Kevin Nash was a booker during late 1998 and early 1999. Triple H (5) entered next, with Bill Goldberg (6) was waiting in the pod as the last entrant. The hype of Goldberg's entrance into this match was actually strong and fans were growing louder and louder with their chants for Goldberg. Quite possibly, Goldberg was actually over upon his WWE career and fans wanted to see him finally get a piece of Triple H. Goldberg was ready to explode and when he was unleashed, he quickly eliminated Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, and Chris Jericho. Fans were going bonkers... Triple H was hiding in a pod and then Goldberg got him out by breaking the glass. He had arrived... Finally, he would get his hands on Triple H. But then Triple H found his trusty Sledgehammer and pinned Goldberg.
Many could argue that THIS was Goldberg's moment of arriving in the WWE and he should have been crowned World Heavyweight Champion on this might. The crowd, on this one night, were hyped for Goldberg and appeared to actually want to see Goldberg win. Still, Triple H pinned him and continued his dominance over former WCW Champions for 2003. Bill Goldberg would go on to defeat Triple H for the WWE Title at Unforgiven 2003 and then go onto retain the title at Survivor Series 2003 against Triple H. While many would argue that Goldberg was "buried" at SummerSlam 2003, Goldberg won the World Title and was granted a major WWE Pay Per View match to retain that title against Triple H. If he didn't "get over" from that, then he more than deserved to lose the World Heavyweight Title back to Triple H by Armageddon 2003. Reportedly, Triple H was quite vocal to the McMahons about his struggles working with Goldberg's in-ring ability and also for Goldberg's dedication to pro wrestling. Who knows? But the fan connection appeared to not be there... The only thing interesting that Goldberg did as World Heavyweight Champion was a backstage segment at Survivor Series where he met Brock Lesnar and would serve as the beginning of their hype for the Wrestlemania 20 debacle of a match.
Not all was lost from SummerSlam 2003... At least it had this HOT poster on this day in professional wrestling history...
^^^ YES! YES! YES! YES!
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