This week's WWE classic occurred 13 years ago on October 22, 2000. The now-defunct No Mercy pay-per-view featured a main event for the then-WWF Championship between the People's Champion, The Rock, and the Olympic Hero, Kurt Angle.
The roots of this rivalry began with Stephanie McMahon, who was directly attached to her husband Triple H in the company's main storylines. Hunter was still a full-time performer and still in the main event spotlight. Stephanie was often a presence by his side, which would play a key role in laying the groundwork for this match.
Hunter faced Kurt Angle in a No. 1 Contender's Match for the WWF title, a match that many fans thought The Game would win. But when Hunter was distracted by having to save his wife at ringside, Angle got the drop on him and scored the win.
After this happened, Triple H was forced to prevent Stephanie from accompanying him to the ring, a decision that did not sit well with the boss's daughter.
Furious over Hunter's edict that she stay away, Stephanie inserted herself into two of Kurt's matches, inadvertently giving Angle the win in both situations. One of those wins was against The Rock himself, which gave Angle huge momentum heading into No Mercy.
Combined with the fact that Rocky was dealing with his own drama, it appeared as though the champ was at a disadvantage going into the fight.
The Rock's own cousin Rikishi had been revealed as the man behind the wheel of the car that struck Stone Cold Steve Austin. The once-smiling, happy Samoan Superstar had supposedly done it for The Rock, a fact that was hanging over him like a black cloud heading into No Mercy.
So all of that led us to No. 1 Contender Kurt Angle, joined by his new "business partner" Stephanie McMahon, taking on The Rock for the WWF Championship. And this was a No Disqualification Match.
The match itself began with Angle on the offensive. This is not historically the case in most matches; the babyface is usually the one getting the majority of spots in the opening moments. But Angle's momentum did not last long, as the match spilled to the outside of the ring.
No Disqualification means no count-out as well. This played a huge part in the bout, as both men used the outside to their advantage. The match was very even for this part, a fact that helped Angle but actually may have hurt The Rock.
The champ must always look strong. Despite who he's working with or what type of match he's involved in, the fact is that he is the standard bearer for the company and must be the one in the driver's seat. There are always exceptions to this, of course, and there are always circumstances, but when the man holding the gold comes up short for much of the match, it does not bode well for him in the end.
In fact, by the time the action came back to the ring, Angle was in firm control of the contest. Was this was a bit of foreshadowing, perhaps?
It was at this point in the match that I personally noted two things. One was the fact that the crowd was definitely into this one. There was rarely a quiet point and no indication whatsoever that they were losing interest. That was a good thing.
But the second thing I noticed is that there seemed to be an awful lot of talking going on between Angle and The Rock. Truth be told, it could have been that the cameras were just in the right places at the wrong times, but for me it was very obvious the match was verbally being called.
If the viewers at home picked up on this, it certainly had nothing to do with how the match was being received live. Again, the crowd was very much into it.
Angle had even tapped out at one point, but thanks to Stephanie's presence, the referee didn't see a thing. So the match continued with the advantage once again being traded back and forth between them.
As the match wound up to the finish there was some real drama, as Stephanie slid in the ring and stopped Rocky from hitting the Rock Bottom on Angle. Instead, The Rock hit his signature move on Stephanie herself with the crowd's approval.
For any fan watching this match as it unfolded, it was surely not a question of if but when Triple H would get involved—and that is exactly what happened. Hunter came down the ramp and attacked Angle, then gave the Pedigree to the People's Champ. He scooped Stephanie up and took her to the back. Thus the distraction was gone, which meant Rocky finally had a fighting chance of defeating his challenger.
But just when you thought the interference was over, Rikishi appeared at ringside. It did seem that Rikishi was there to help his cousin, which helped support his reasons for attacking Austin in the first place.
His intentions were misplaced however, as he accidentally mauled The Rock instead of Angle. One Olympic Slam later, and we had a new WWF champion.
This was Kurt's first WWE Championship, the culmination of a rise that came very quickly in Vince McMahon's company. Angle played a great heel, looked very good in this match and was on his way to greatness in the industry.
This title win helped lay the foundation for Kurt as a main event Superstar and continued The Rock's momentum as one of WWE's top guys. It was entertaining, kept the crowd's interest and delivered on every level. It was a job well done for both Superstars.
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