Kai Roberts takes a look at Episode 213 of SmackDown which aired on September 18, 2003. This is a highly regarded episode thanks to a classic Ironman Match for the WWE Title between Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar.
The last few years of Smackdown have been a tough one. It’s had somewhat of a renaissance since the brand extension draft, but for a new fan who didn’t watch the product in the period of 2002-2005, or there abouts, it is hard to believe that Smackdown was not only a fresh, hot wrestling show. But it was actually better than Raw. Well, that is just my opinion but the ratings of both Raw and Smackdown agree with me as during Paul Heymans tenure as head writer of the blue brand, July 2002 – February 2003, Smackdown beat Raw in ratings, live event attendances and merchandise sales. One of the best episodes of this time period was number 213. It aired on September 18th 2003. The main event? One of the best wrestling matches of all time… But we’ll get to that.
The show started with a tag team match that for me really encapsulates this whole era of Smackdown. Rhyno and Tajiri taking on the team of Chris Benoit and the Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio. Four incredibly talented wrestlers in a fast paced, action packed match to kick off the show. The story was that there are two feuds intertwining, as Rhyno and Benoit and Rey and Tajiri were both locked in rivalries, the latter being advertised for next week’s episode of Smackdown in a match for Rey’s Cruiserweight Title. The babyface team of Rey and Benoit picked up the win after a really fun match.
The next match was a two-on-one handicap match as Torrie Wilson and Nidia teamed to take on Shaniqua. Normally in a handicap match the person on their own is at the disadvantage. Not in this case, as Shaniqua dominated the two in what was pretty much a squash match. It did the job as Shaniqua came away from it looking like a monster after destroying both Torrie and Nidia, and then Dawn Marie after the match by launching her face first into the ring post.
Following this we cut to Stephanie McMahon, the Smackdown General Manager, on the phone. She quickly is interrupted by Vince McMahon, Big Show and Sable. This followed on from last week when Vince put Stephanie in a match against Brock Lesnar. Yes, seriously. Stephanie asked why Vince doesn’t just fire her, Vince says he wants her to quit on her own accord. What a weird feud, I will move on quickly.
We then get a video package showcasing the history between Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. It starts with their WrestleMania 19 match where Brock infamously misses the shooting star press and gives himself a concussion. He ends up beating Kurt that night with the F5 and wins the WWE Championship. Next is their match from Summerslam later that year, which Angle won when he made Brock tap out to the Ankle Lock to regain the WWE Title. Tonight would be the rubber match, with it tied 1-1, Kurt Angle v Brock Lesnar 3. This time, a 60 minute Iron Man match for Angle’s WWE Title. But before all that we get another incredibly fun tag team match, this time for the WWE Tag Team Titles in which The World’s Greatest Tag Team Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas defend their titles against Los Guerreros (Chavo and Eddie Guerrero). Eddie also happens to be the WWE United States Champion. Eddie and Chavo are backstage in the dressing room and Eddie talks about how he looks good with gold and wants another belt to add to his U.S one. Before the match starts we get a John Cena rap promo (a very different John Cena to ‘The Face That Runs The Place’ we see nowadays) in which he raps about Ben Affleck cheating on J LO, the United States Championship, Ted Turner, how patriotic he is, a Cheech and Chong movie, and Saddam Hussein’s children. All of that in the space of two minutes, and he is on the roof of a building for absolutely no reason. Word Life.
Viva La Raza! Los Guerreros enter in a low rider as we get set for the WWE Tag Team Title match. What follows is another fast paced tag match with some excellent tag team wrestling by all four guys in the ring. A real scare happens when Eddie and Chavo go for a big bad body drop to Haas who botches the landing and lands right on his neck. Thankfully, Haas was not hurt and the match continued. Haas and Benjamin prove exactly why they were called The World’s Greatest Tag Team, they really were at the time, but it is Los Guerreros who pick up the victory with Eddie hitting the frog splash for the 3 count. Eddie and Chavo win the WWE Tag Team Titles after another really fun, top quality tag match.
We are still not at the half way point and yet it is already main event time. Two guys with incredible amateur wrestling pedigrees (Kurt of course winning a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics, with a BROKEN FREAKING NECK, and Brock being a former NCAA Division 1 Heavyweight Champion) you just know this is going to be 1 hour of pure wrestling. What follows is exactly that (well, about 45 minutes including commercials). But what makes this match so special, and the reason it is one of my favourites of all time, is because of the emotional storytelling told by one of the absolute greatest wrestlers of all time, Kurt Angle. If you don’t know how an Iron Man match works, there is a time limit (in this case, 1 hour) and the way to win is to get the most falls (pins, submissions, count-outs, disqualifications or even K.O). Whoever has the most falls at the end of the match wins. In this Iron Man match there was an added rule that after a fall both men have a 15 second rest period before the match continues. The first fall goes to Angle due to a disqualification. Brock, who is struggling with a leg ‘injury’, hits Angle with a steel chair to get himself disqualified, as Kurt regroups after his skull has been smashed with a steel chair, Lesnar picks up him up and plants him with an F5.
The commentators (Michael Cole and Taz) put over the story of Brock sacrificing a fall to take Kurt out with the steel chair, Taz in particular hammers this home. Minutes later Brock takes the lead 2-1 making Kurt tap out to his own finishing move, the Ankle Lock. Brock then makes it 3-1 with a count out after a devastating F5 to the outside. The story here is that Brock is dominating this match, can the courageous champion come back into the match. Angle hits an Angle Slam out of nowhere to bring it back to 3-2 with just over half an hour left. A nice little titbit added in from Michael Cole on commentary when he says that they have permission from their network to run over their time slot if the match is a draw and has to go into overtime. Brock hits the referee ‘accidently’ and then Kurt hits another Angle Slam and covers him for what would be a 3 count but there is no referee to count it. Brock then hits Angle with a low blow and Michael Cole sells the fact that Kurt should not only be drawing 3-3 because of the Angle Slam but should be up 4-3 because Brock should have been DQ’d for the low blow, but Brock remains 3-2 in the lead. Brock then hits Angle with the WWE Title Belt and gets the referee up and he counts the fall. Brock goes up 4-2 with under 30 minutes left. Angle then misses with an absolutely beautiful moonsault, vintage Kurt Angle to steal a line from Michael Cole. Another underlying story being told in this match is that of Kurt being unable to really lock in the Ankle Lock, every time he gets it Brock rolls out of it and gets away. We come back from a commercial break and the score is now 5-2 in favour of Brock as he hit a huge superplex off the top rope and gets the 7th fall of the match. With less than 15 minutes to go, it is looking like the match is out of reach for Kurt Angle. As they fight outside the ring, Kurt counters Brock and hits Brock with an F5 to the ring post with Brock hitting his ‘injured’ leg on the steel ring post. Kurt continues to work on the leg of Lesnar with submissions, including his Ankle Lock, but Brock always manages to get out of it.
Brock then hits Angle with an F5 on one leg and it looks like the score is going 6-2 to Brock but Kurt kicks out in the nearest of near falls. Brock then scales to the top rope, teasing the shooting star press that nearly killed him at WrestleMania but before he can Kurt leaps up to his feet, runs up to the top rope and gives Brock a huge belly-to-belly suplex from the top rope. Kurt covers for the 3 count and gets the score back to 5-3 with less than 10 minutes to go. The next 5 minutes is filled with suplex’s from both guys and then with just 4 minutes on the clock, Brock finally succumbs to Angles Ankle Lock and makes the score 5-4. Michael Cole again reminds the viewers that they have permission to go into overtime if it’s a draw, a result that seems very likely at this point. With just 2 minutes left, Kurt hits German suplex after German suplex and as he lines up Brock for another, Brock pulls the referees shirt into him so he the ref can’t see him low blow Kurt from behind. A cocky Lesnar then goes over to Angle to finish him off with 30 seconds left on the clock. Kurt counts Brock into the Ankle Lock and locks it in on Brocks bad leg, and so he can go nowhere; he either has to tap out to the pain or endure the last 20 seconds in complete agony. Brock is screaming in pain as the seconds count down, less than 10 seconds remain. Angle is shouting ‘tap out’ at Brock but he just won’t do it. Just as he lowers his hand to tap out the bell tolls, Brock didn’t tap out. ‘Here is your winner and new WWE Champion… Brock Lesnar’. Brock beat Kurt Angle with the score ending on 5-4. An exceptional piece of storytelling throughout the entire match, perfectly booked as both men come out of it looking incredible after an absolute battle. That match is just phenomenal. Damn near perfect in fact. I remember being in awe as I watched it for the first time as a child and after it finished I said it was my favourite match ever. Despite watching what feels like millions of matches since the first time I saw this, my feelings haven’t changed. This is one of my favourite matches ever. I watched it before I started writing this, and do you know what? I am going to watch it again now I’m done.
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