The Game takes on an unexpected challenger.
Triple H was on top of the WWF mountain in late 1999, leading into 2000. He had overcome the likes of The Rock, Mankind, Mr. McMahon, and The Big Show in his quest to be the WWF Champion. With The Undertaker on the shelf, Billy Gunn not panning out as a main event star, and The Rock turning babyface, Triple H was the main heel on the program, and he absolutely excelled in his role.
He defeated everyone put in front of him, and, to his credit, he was a defending champion. He would defend against anyone at any time, even if they weren’t exactly at his level (kayfabe). Once he and the rest of DX aligned with Mr. McMahon in 2000 to create the McMahon-Helmsley Regime/Faction, they ran roughshod over the WWF and its superstars. No one was exempt from becoming a victim of the fledgling faction, not The Rock, not Mick Foley, not even the man challenging Triple H for the World Wrestling Federation title in this week’s hidden gem match, TAKA Michinoku. You were either with them, or you were against them, and these guys found out the hard way what it meant to be against them. As for TAKA…
TAKA Michinoku was brought into the WWF in 1997 to be the main star and champion of its Light Heavyweight division. He would win the Light Heavyweight title in December of 1997, and hold it all the way until October of 1998, when he’d lose it to Christian. During that time he was a featured superstar, battling against the likes of Pantera, Aguila, and The Oddities in matches that saw him on the No Way Out, WrestleMania XIV, and SummerSlam 1998 cards respectively. Once he lost the title, however, he slowly started to disappear from television. He would compete on Super Astros and other low-ranking WWE programming, but hardly ever on RAW and SmackDown. Despite this, once the year 2000 rolled around, he and Funaki were back in the fold as Kaientai, the EVIL group in the WWF. They often competed in tag team competition, as well as in the hardcore division. All of this made for an interesting turn of events when Triple H granted TAKA Michinoku a WWF title shot in April 2000. It was all or nothing for TAKA here. Would he be able to pull it off? Well, no. However, he did end up having the match of a lifetime, in the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, in its most popular period. Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?
I always like to talk about the scenes in WCW, but look at the scenes in the WWF. Bradshaw looks like a freaking beast here. Also, as much as I love Triple H’s Motorhead theme songs, there’s just something really amazing about My Time. I absolutely love that theme. There’s plenty going on here before the match even begins. All four men from the APA and Kaientai come out at the same time, leading JR to ask which one will be competing tonight. Lilian Garcia announces TAKA as “former Light Heavyweight Champion” which is kind of new to me. I don’t recall many people ever being announced as a “former” anything. Finally, Shane McMahon (who along with Stephanie came out alongside Triple H) got into Earl Hebner’s face enough that Earl shoved Shane all the way to the outside of the ring. The APA then chase Shane all the way to the back, and now this one officially begins!
TAKA is on the attack as soon as the bell rings (hey, I can’t fault him for that. It’s miles better than in WCW where you get attacked as soon as you set foot in the ring). TAKA is clearly outmatched in size here, but he has the biggest heart of anybody in the room. He lays out HHH with a spinning headscissors, then a dropkick, and then a jumping heel kick. TAKA nails a running dropkick to a seated Triple H then goes for the cover, however, Triple H and his knee brace are able to kick out at two. TAKA now with some strong right hands. Then a lifted dropkick ordeal (same thing Sami Zayn does these days) to take down The Game. You never really think about it, but TAKA Michinoku has influenced the current day superstars quite a bit it seems. That dropkick he just did, the Michinoku Driver which a lot of people use these days (or at least, that’s what WWE 2K17 leads me to believe). Even when it’s specifically said on TV, it just kind of passes over me. Now that I’m watching TAKA and connecting the references and all that, it’s pretty damn cool.
Michinoku with some more right hands to The Game in the corner, who ends up shooting off TAKA to the opposite corner, then gets caught with a kick to the face. TAKA follows that up with a huge tornado DDT, while Jerry Lawler has a fit on commentary because of the APA being out there. Michinoku goes for the cover but gets a two count. It was extremely close, though. He even checked with Earl Hebner to make sure it wasn’t a three count. TAKA’s back in it after taking off his shirt, hitting Triple H with some chops. That doesn’t last long, however, as Triple H clotheslines TAKA out of the ring, and TAKA takes one of the worst looking ring-exit bumps I have ever seen in my entire life. Holy crap. It seemed like he over-rotated and ended up landing flat on his ass at ringside. God damn, pal. Words do not do it justice, you’ve gotta see it for yourself. Triple H follows up by going to the outside and nailing TAKA with a big right hand. He then effortlessly lifts TAKA up and slams him down throat first across the ringside barricade. Oh, my goodness. That was incredible.
Haitch is out here now throwing around chops like he’s Ric Flair. One of which even takes TAKA from a standing position to laying down on the ground. Back in the ring we get some fast-paced running back and forth. It ends when Triple H hits a running knee to the face of TAKA and then goes for a very nonchalant cover, which only yields him a two count. Come on Hunter, you should know better than that. This is TAKA Michinoku goddammit, one of the better wrestlers from an in-ring standpoint during the Attitude Era. He’s not gonna go down that easily. Triple H stomps a mudhole into TAKA who’s sitting in the corner. Haitch then chokes out TAKA with his boot, only to be pulled away by his hair by Earl Hebner. Man, Earl really didn’t a single damn did he? Triple H shoves Earl, which leads to Hebner doing the same back. They exchange shoves again before Triple H finally decides to go back to his true opponent, TAKA Michinoku. He gets caught by TAKA, who lands a ton of strikes, however, The Game soon regains control, and throws TAKA to the outside. From there he sends TAKA shoulder first into the steel steps. Ouch.
Earl Hebner gets into HHH’s face, telling him to get back into the ring, to which Triple H responds with “I don’t give a fuck what you say.” Ooooohhhh. He said a bad word, guys. AND IT WASN’T EVEN BEEPED OUT ON THE NETWORK. Maybe The Network really is uncensored. Funaki takes advantage of the distracted Triple H by hitting a baseball slide, which sends Hunter straight into the APA, who are guarding the rampway. Uh-oh, The Acolytes aren’t gonna like that. You done messed up now. After a brief standoff, The APA goes on the attack with strikes. Faarooq then sends Helmsley right into Bradshaw’s waiting arm, and that Clothesline From Hell seemed to essentially kill Triple H. Back in the ring, Funaki hits Triple H with a huge dropkick from the top rope, and TAKA follows that up immediately with a moonsault. Oh man, this is so great. TAKA’s cover off of that moonsault only yields a two count though. Rest in peace. Vince McMahon and Shane come down to the ring here while TAKA goes to work on The Game with a 10-Punch. The McMahons manage to slide past the APA, which leads to Big Boss Man and Bull Buchanan assaulting The Acolytes. God dammit. TAKA hits a dropkick from the top rope and then attempts the Michinoku Driver, however, Triple is able to counter. More counters lead to TAKA attempting a hurricanrana, which Haitch turns into a powerbomb. Triple H picks up TAKA and nails the Pedigree for the one, two, three. This one is over, ladies and gentlemen.
Match Rating: 3 and a half gems
Triple H nails Funaki with a pedigree after the match, then he and The McMahons assault the APA who were down at ringside. Despicable actions, I tell ya. Out of curiosity, I skipped to the end of the episode, and I saw The Rock laying in a huge pool of his own blood, while still leaking like a faucet. I can see now why The Rock went to Hollywood. No more of that nonsense. Not today.
Nonetheless, that concludes our viewing of this one. It’s a short match, which makes it perfect for a quick, exciting watch. Obviously, I have spoiled everything in this match with this article, but I still recommend viewing it and pretending you don’t know the outcome because everybody in this match does a great job at making you believe that TAKA had a chance to actually win the title. This was, in my opinion, peak WWF storytelling. Everybody had a spot, and the company did the best they could with everyone they had. It’s incredible.
Next week we’ll be taking a look at a classic match that happened on RAW during the Invasion era. Until next time, I am JeriKane, and this is the Hidden Gems series.