In the seventh edition of the Hidden Gems series, we go to 2001 to see Triple H take on Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Championship on SmackDown.
Early 2001 was a golden era for WWE (Then WWF). With Superstars like The Rock, Austin, Triple H and Undertaker – WWF has a wave of momentum that pretty much crushed WCW in the end. When people say how good Wrestlemania X7 was, it’s usually because that was the last stand of the Monday Night Wars. Of course, his plan went up in smoke, as soon after, it was revealed that not Vince, but his son Shane, had signed the contract to own WCW. In kayfabe this continued the battle between WWF and WCW, however, in real life, it effectively ended the Monday Night Wars and that era of professional wrestling went out with a bang at WrestleMania X7.
Chris Benoit entered the year as the Intercontinental Champion and would end up defending his title against Chris Jericho in a Ladder Match at the Royal Rumble PPV event, where, after a classic, Jericho would capture the gold. Following a title defense against Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and X-Pac at No Way Out, Chris Jericho would enter a feud against the commissioner of the World Wrestling Federation, William Regal. This feud saw all sorts of hijinks take place, including Chris Jericho attacking Regal while dressed up as Doink The Clown, as well as Chris Jericho urinating into Regal’s tea. This rivalry would lead to a bout that ended up opening WrestleMania X7 on a high note, as Chris Jericho retained the title, and the two put on a fantastic match. Ultimately this feud would conclude with a Duchess of Queensbury Rules match at Backlash, where Regal would win (shocking, I know), albeit it wasn’t for the Intercontinental Championship like their previous encounter. We’ll get to that a bit later on.
In the main event scene, Triple H was on top of the world. Throughout much of late 1999 and early 2000, Triple H reigned supreme as the World Wrestling Federation Champion, constantly closing PPVs and coming out of them victorious. He feuded with the likes of The Rock, Big Show, Mick Foley, and WWE’s original rock star, Chris Jericho. On an episode of RAW in 2000, Triple H even “lost” the WWF Championship to Jericho in one of the greatest moments in wrestling television history, and although Jericho was forced to give the title back just moments after winning it, from then on he was a made-man in the WWF, who could be seen as a legitimate main event competitor. Of course, that wouldn’t be it for Trips and Jericho, as they would go on to have an awesome Last Man Standing Match at Fully Loaded later on in 2000. Afterwards, Triple H would have various feuds, mainly against Kurt Angle and a returning Stone Cold Steve Austin. That lead HHH into 2001, where at No Way Out, he would defeat Austin in the first ever Three Stages of Hell match. He would then face The Undertaker at WrestleMania X7 in a losing effort and look elsewhere on the card afterward. When he and Stone Cold formed the Two-Man Power Trip, they looked to claim any and all gold in the World Wrestling Federation, which leads to Haitch setting his sights on Chris Jericho. That brings us to this match on SmackDown in April 2001. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
You know how people sometimes bring up how the camera flashes would make wrestling (and more specifically, entrances) look so much cooler than it is now? Well, I just got a really good example of that with Triple H’s entrance. All the flashes going off made him look like such a huge freaking star. Not that he wasn’t already, but the flashes really helped add to the aura of everything. I love it, Maggie. Chris Jericho makes his way down to the ring, and before he can even finish his entrance, he’s attacked from behind by The Game. I see Triple H adopted WCW etiquette. Haitch sends Jericho shoulder first into the ring steps, then picks him up to throw him down throat first onto the guard rail. All the while Stephanie McMahon cheers him on, in the most annoying voice humanly possible. Triple H rolls Jericho into the ring, and now this one is officially underway. Jericho ends up in the corner and Triple H just stomps a mudhole into him for a good minute straight. The referee barely did anything to stop this assault. Mike Chioda I am watching you like a hawk from now on.
Triple H unloads a right hand before stopping to look around at the crowd, who are chanting “WHAT” at him. That ends up being a mistake as after an irish whip into the opposite corner of the ring, Jericho fires out with a clothesline to take down Triple H. Jericho hits another clothesline, then gets on top of HHH for some mounted punches. Jericho continues his attack once both men get to their feet, hitting The Game with some loud chops to the chest. Irish whip leads to a kick to the chest of Jericho by The Cerebral Assassin, however, Jericho counters a charging Triple H by back-body-dropping him out to the arena floor. Triple H tries to reenter the ring but gets stopped by Jericho and his springboard dropkick. Very nice. Jericho then heads to the top rope to hit a beautiful cross body onto HHH on the outside. Wild. Michael Cole on commentary just called Jericho both a “vigilante” and a “lone wolf.” Foreshadowing, my dudes. Foreshadowing. Jericho gets a measure of revenge as now he sends HHH shoulder first into the steel ring steps. How ya like them apples, Hunter? Y2J then sends Triple H onto the announcer’s table, where he hammers down on him with some right hands. Now with both men standing up on the table, Triple H pushes Jericho off, however, Jericho lands on his feet and forearms Triple H. Our good friend Mikey is being very lenient here tonight with these rules.
Back in the ring now, Jericho scales the ropes and looks to hit a missile dropkick, however, Triple H sidesteps, and Jericho comes crashing down hard. Chris is now clutching his knee, which he may have hurt there. Bad news. Triple H now super aggressively choking out Y2J on the second ring rope there. Finally, Mike Chioda is able to get Triple H off, but as soon as he turns his back, there goes Stephanie McMahon with a slap to Jericho’s face. Despicable. Jericho attempts a comeback, but HHH hits him in the gut, then lays him out with a DDT for good measure.The first cover of the match only yields Triple H a two count, as Jericho gets the shoulder up. Come on, Haitch. You know better than that. Chris Jericho is a fighter, he won’t go down that easily. Triple H sets up Jericho in the corner and hits him with the 10-punch. Though it was probably more like twenty because Mike Chioda absolutely refuses to take any control of this match. Hunter shoots Y2J off the ropes and into a sleeper hold now, while the crowd tries to rally behind Jericho with some “Y2J” chants. Michael Cole (still on commentary) says that Jericho has the “heart of a lion.” I see you there, Michael Cole. Sick reference bro. Jericho makes his comeback with the age old elbows-to-the-gut, as you do to get out of a sleeper hold.
We get some fast paced back and forth action here, culminating with Jericho hitting the lightest-looking running forearm smash I’ve ever seen in my life. Safe as always. You’ve really gotta love Chris Jericho. Both men down now as the crowd goes wild for Y2J. However, his momentum is stopped dead as Triple H lays him out with a knee facebuster. Triple H now goes for a pedigree, however, it’s reversed by Y2J into the Walls of Jericho! I know we’ve all seen that spot a million times before, but it never fails to get a pop out of me. Jericho couldn’t quite lock in the Walls, so he instead opts for a slingshot into the turnbuckle, and quickly follows that up with a bulldog and a Lionsault! Jericho is about to get a huge win here!…. Or so, we thought. Jericho covers Haitch, however, Stephanie McMahon grabs the ref’s attention. Eventually, Jericho goes over there and threatens to strike Steph, until Triple H grabs him away, which then leads to Y2J once again attempting the Walls of Jericho on HHH. This time he’s able to step over and get it completely in. Triple H taps! However, the referee is still distracted with Stephanie McMahon. Man oh man, that’s now twice in this match that Chris Jericho had The Game beat.
Commissioner Regal runs down to the ring with a chair, and swings at Jericho, but misses, which leads to Jericho getting a hold of it and hitting Regal right in the head. I really do not miss chair shots to the head. Those can stay in the past. Steph finally gets into the ring, and she attempts another slap, however, Jericho is able to lock her into the Walls instead. Steph taps out until Triple H lands a huge chair shot to Jericho’s skull. And when I say “huge,” I mean freaking huge. That was disgusting. Triple H covers Y2J but can only get a two count, despite him basically whacking Jericho’s head off his shoulders with that chair. Naturally, the crowd goes apeshit ’cause holy hell how did Chris kick out of that. Haitch now with a smirk on his face, almost in disbelief that Jericho is still in it. This match comes to a close however as soon after, HHH hits the pedigree for the pin, the win, and the Intercontinental Championship. What a god damn brawl this was. A++.
Match Rating: 3 and a half gems
Welp. That was quite an amazing match, considering it wasn’t even ten minutes long. I’ll be damned if Chris Jericho didn’t look absolutely amazing in defeat as well. It took three different people, plus an illegal weapon, to take him down. Not only that, but Jericho also technically won the match twice. The IC title came out of this match looking extremely important as well. This was pretty much perfect in every way. I loved it, and I highly recommend you view this one.
Tune in next week as we go back to 2000 for another Triple H match, this time on RAW is WAR. Until next time I am JeriKane, and this is the Hidden Gems series.