Raw is War

Madison Square Garden, Newy York City, New York
January 7, 2002

The first RAW of 2002 opened in fitting fashion as a video of Triple H highlights rolled on the TitanTron in Madison Square Garden.

A frenzied New York City crowd - both inside MSG and just blocks away at WWF New York - booed loudly as Mr. McMahon walked to the ring carrying a gift wrapped box. Mr. McMahon said he had an announcement that was even bigger than Triple H's return. The announcement concerned his match at the Royal Rumble against his business partner, Ric Flair. Mr. McMahon proceeded to show a reel of highlights from some of the most impressive moments in Ric Flair's storied career. The video showed Flair winning titles by defeating stars like Dusty Rhodes and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat.

After the video, Mr. McMahon showed the footage of Flair's announcement in December that he was the new co-owner of the World Wrestling Federation. He also showed footage of Flair assaulting Mr. McMahon last Thursday on SmackDown! Mr. McMahon brought up Flair's old expression that, "To be the man, you have to beat the man." Mr. McMahon said he was the man and he would prove it. He opened his box and produced a blonde wig and sequined blue robe, making himself look like Flair in the legend's heyday. He then mimicked the way Flair walked around the ring, until the Nature Boy's music hit and he walked down to the ring!

Flair yanked the microphone from Mr. McMahon's hand and said this was another example of how the video tribute touched a soft spot in the Nature Boy's heart. But then Vince did something stupid by putting on the wig and robe to mock him, screamed the red-faced Flair. Flair ordered Mr. McMahon to never make fun of him. Vince turned and rolled his eyes then whipped out a concealed lead pipe and knocked Flair to the mat, opening a bloody gash on his forehead! Vince stomped on the robe emphatically then tossed Flair outside the ring and brutally beat his partner. Having avenged an assault on SmackDown! that required several stitches, Mr. McMahon left Flair bleeding in the ring like a stuck pig and walked satisfied up the entrance ramp.

Moments later, the first match of the evening got underway with Rob Van Dam facing Test. The crowd chanted loudly for RVD, but Test came out and ravaged the fan favorite early on. Test twice whipped Van Dam into the corner, following each thrown with stiff clotheslines. RVD rebounded by dodging a pumphandle slam and catching Test with a spinning kick to the face. The Whole Dam Show vaulted to the top turnbuckle to launch his Five Star Frog Splash, but Test disrupted the finisher by shoving referee Tim White into the ropes. Test tried to gain an unfair advantage by bringing a steel chair into the ring, but RVD countered with the Van Daminator! RVD went for his finisher again, and this time Test couldn't weasel his way out of the inevitable.

Van Dam pounced on Test and took the pinfall!

Backstage, Coach was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Triple H when Kurt Angle broke up the announcer's monologue. A visibly angered Angle said that if anyone should be interviewed, it should be him because he had a huge announcement. Coach gave the Olympic Hero a forum to reveal his news, but Angle refused. He told Coach that when The Game did show up to start spreading the news: tonight was Angle's night.

At WWF New York, Federation Women's Champion Trish Stratus began speaking to the crowd when Terri interrupted to say how great it was to be the new co-host of Excess. Trish asked what Terri was doing there and Terri said that Trish didn't measure up to her. Terri said she was much better looking and had a challenge for the champ. Terri thought for a minute then brightened and asked for a wet T-shirt contest! The WWF New York crowd went berserk as Trish said, "You're on."

Chuck Palumbo and Billy Gunn came to the ring, red bandannas and all. Billy asked if he had just heard that last announcement right. He said if anyone should be in a wet T-shirt contest, it should be himself and Chuck as they both had incredible physiques. Billy told Chuck to prove it by whipping out his hose, but his tag partner never got a chance as Scotty 2 Hotty and Albert arrived at the ring and the tag match began.

Albert's size gave him a huge advantage in the begging. He slammed both men in the corner. A dazed Palumbo fell backwards to the mat, then Gunn lost his bearings and fell headfirst into his partner's groin! Scotty tagged in and fought to a stalemate with Palumbo, causing Albert and Billy Gunn to tag back in. Again, Albert's enormous power softened up his opponents. This allowed Scotty to tag back in and hit a bulldog on Billy. He followed with a Worm while Albert cheered him on. But soon after, Palumbo caught Albert with a superkick and Gunn finished the match with a Fame-Ass-er on Scotty that ended the match.

Backstage, Sharmell Sullivan interviewed Chris Jericho. Y2J said he enjoyed watching Mr. McMahon embarrass Ric Flair because it was Flair that had forced him into a non-title match that night against Rikishi. Y2J acknowledged that everyone wanted to see the champ get a Stinkface, but they would all be terribly disappointed.

Also backstage, Michael Cole attempted to ask Stone Cold Steve Austin a question but Austin cut him off each time by screaming, "What?!". Austin said he had seen Triple H backstage that evening. Austin wasn't there to wish Triple H good luck because Austin also came back from a nearly career-ending injury. The Texas Rattlesnake said he was officially entering himself in the Royal Rumble! He promised to be the last man standing in the ring and advance to WrestleMania.

Austin said that during RAW, he would team up with The Rock and the two would open up a big, fat can of Whoop Ass on Booker T and the Big Bossman. That's the bottom line (What!?) 'cuz Stone Cold said so!

Back at ringside, Jerry "The King" Lawler produced a Super Soaker that he planned to use for the wet T-shirt contest between Terri and Trish later that night!

The waterworks would have to wait, however, because Edge was set to wrestle Lance Storm for the Intercontinental Championship. It appeared the title would change hands early in the match as Storm locked on his half Boston crab. Edge, however, broke the hold by reaching the rope. Seconds later, he hit the Edgecution and maintained his championship.

As Edge walked up the entrance ramp, he was jumped by William Regal, who decimated the Intercontinental Champion!

Backstage, Kurt Angle asked Christian what the big deal was about Triple H. After all, it was Angle who saved the Federation from the Alliance. The two expressed their disdain for Triple H, and the song that has accompanied his recent video montages, U2's "Beautiful Day." Christian said that Angle needed to make tonight his personal beautiful day.

Booker T and the Big Bossman faced The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin in a blockbuster tag team match next. The bad blood between these men ran so thick that the brawl began before all the competitors reached the ring. The match began with Austin punishing first Bossman then Booker T in the ring while The Rock took care of the other opponent.

The match underwent several shifts in momentum as the two teams exchanged intense beatings. The tide was about to turn in a huge way when The Rock hit Booker T with a Spinebuster and went to follow with a People's Elbow. But Bossman grabbed the Great One's leg, which allowed Booker to get up and catch The Rock with a Bookend! Bossman then set out to dismantle The Rock. He tagged in Booker, who went for a scissors kick but instead took a DDT from the People's Champion! Both men lay dazed and exhausted on the mat, but managed to tag in their partners. Stone Cold launched an offensive fury that put both Booker T and the Bossman on the mat. Before long, though, Booker and Bossman ganged up on Austin, causing The Rock to get involved. The Rock took out Booker T, leaving Bossman open for a Stone Cold Stunner! Austin covered Bossman then celebrated the win by chugging down a few Steveweisers with The Rock and pouring some brew on the Bossman!

Backstage, Y2J primped and posed with his championships as he prepared for his match with Rikishi, coming up next.

Undisputed Federation. The champ was quickly tossed into the corner and Rikishi prepared to deliver a Stinkface, but referee Nick Patrick halted Rikishi's attempt. Jericho took control, leveling his larger opponent with a dropkick delivered off the top turnbuckle. Jericho later dropped Rikishi with a Bulldog and launched a Lionsault. Rikishi rolled out of harm's way and used the opportunity to mount his own offense. He attempted a Bonzai Drop from the second rope, but Jericho was able move and bring the championship belt into the ring. Rikishi thwarted Y2J's attempt to cheat, though, and soon the champion and Nick Patrick lay slumped in the ring corner. Rikishi went to deliver a double Stinkface, but Jericho moved, causing Nick Patrick to absorb Rikishi's ass! But Jericho used the diversion to take Rikishi down and defend his title successfully.

Backstage, Big Show, Tajiri and Torrie agreed that Triple H's return raised the bar for everyone in the locker room. A disgusted Kurt Angle broke in and said the three were acting like teenagers at a Ricky Martin concert. Angle angrily said he didn't understand what the big deal was all about and he stomped off.

The Dudleys found Spike getting ready for his match. They started picking on him but Tazz came around and broke things up. Bubba Ray said that Tazz' problem was that he forgot where he came from. Tazz said that he would take them back to where they came from by beating them for the tag titles that night in a hardcore tag match!

The ensuing Tag Team Championship match began with a fury of rage as all four men smashed each other. This one soon degraded into an all-out hardcore brawl as the Dudley's brought out a stop sign and smacked them solidly over their opponents' heads. Then, it was time for D-Von to get the tables. But after they set up the wood, Tazz and Spike recovered enough to make things very interesting. Tazz soon, found himself distracted by Stacy, who wiggled her rear end from the ring apron. Bubba Ray came in to smack Tazz, but he dodged and Bubba's eyes became fixated on Stacy's voluptuous curves. That was all the distraction the underdogs needed. Spike sent Bubba through a table with the Dudley Dawg and pinned his half brother to bring the Dudleys' Tag Team Championship reign to a shocking end

The Undertaker faced the camera backstage to give his own welcome back message to Triple H. But this was no cheery greeting. Taker said that all the fans wanted from men like them is their blood. Taker said he wanted Triple H to enjoy his big night back, but not to forget who runs the yard. Taker promised that at the Royal Rumble, the Dead Man would be the only dog left standing in the ring.

In the ring, Jerry "The King" Lawler began the wet T-shirt contest between Terri and Trish for the Women's Championship. Terri climbed into the ring clad in a skimpy red robe. Trish, in contrast, sported a sleek, full-length black coat with a pink cowgirl hat. The challenger was the first to get wet and wild. Terri stripped off her robe and received a lengthy squirt from The King onto her bright, tight pink shirt. The air conditioning was definitely on full-blast in the Garden.

It was now Trish's turn. The Women's Champion began removing her coat. The King called for the crowd to count down until he blaster her, but when the count reached one, Jazz came out of nowhere and pounced on Trish! Trish clubbed the champ into submission before the King could peel her away. Trish grimaced in painful anger as Jazz backed up the entrance ramp with a hateful scowl.

Following a commercial break, Triple H made his long-anticipated return to the World Wrestling Federation! Madison Square Garden exploded as The Game climbed the ring apron and spewed mist into the air over his massive physique. He climbed each corner of the ring and received a deafening ovation from each section of the world's most famous arena. "I've never felt or heard emotion like what we're seeing tonight," bellowed Jim Ross from the announce table. The camera panned a sea of New Yorkers standing and jutting out homemade signs lauding the return of arguably the Federation's most dominating Superstar.

Finally, The Game's music ceased blaring from the speakers and the Cerebral Assassin took the microphone. It took several more moments, though before the crowd settled down enough so that he could speak. "Just in case you've forgotten, let me tell you just who the hell I am," Triple H growled. "I AM THE GAME! And you can bet your ass I'm back!"

Triple H announced that he was officially entering the Royal Rumble … but he could go no further as Kurt Angle cut him off. "You suck!" screamed the crowd to Angle.

The anger and frustration that Angle had exhibited all evening came to a head as he mocked Triple H. He didn't understand what the big deal about coming back from an injury was because he had won an Olympic gold medal with a broken neck. As Angle climbed into the ring, he announced that he was entering the Royal Rumble. Angle came face to face with the came, then wound up on his back as Triple H smacked him down and beat on him! But Angle rallied with a German suplex that took the wind out of Triple H … momentarily, that is. Hunter recovered and pummeled Angle some more before finishing the night's festivities with a Pedigree to the Olympic Hero! The first RAW of 2002 ended with Triple H scowling at Angle from the entrance ramp and raising his arms in triumph. "The Game is back," exclaimed JR. "Let the Hell raising begin!"