Sunday, October 17, 2021

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From the Vault: Armageddon 2003

Each Monday in From the Vault, a member of the staff will choose something from the WWE Network lineup and recap it, bringing attention to forgotten matches, memorable segments, and unforgettable moments that helped pave the way for what we see on television today.

For my first entry to From the Vault, I’m taking on Armageddon 2003, which featured two Diva-related matches: the “Battle of the Sexes” that pitted Lita and Trish Stratus against Christian and Chris Jericho, as well as a Women’s Title match between champ Molly Holly and Ivory.

I saw this Pay-Per-View in person, so I think it’ll be interesting to look at it from a Reduxing perspective, having already seen it from this perspective:

Ah yes.. 2003 digital camera realness.

First up was the aforementioned Battle of the Sexes, summarized in a pink-filtered video package. We saw Trish falling for (and being heartbroken by) Chris Jericho. Lita also gave us a nice reaction GIF.

One betrayal later, and we’ve got the WWE’s first ever female-on-male tag match. Will pure fury overcome strength? Let’s watch..

The match starts with Trish and Jericho in the ring, Jericho trying to explain himself. He seems pretty genuine, but Trish isn’t buying it, and she slaps him.

She starts attacking him like a banshee, and he does his best to subdue her, catching her when she tries to knock him off his feet. He yells at her to calm down and proceeds to spank her.

So much for being the good guy, right? Trish kicks him in the chest and goes back to attacking him, hitting him with a headscissors and some dropkicks. Jericho’s had enough, and he tags in Christian, who has no problem rough handling a woman. He shoves Trish, and she flies over to her corner. Lita tags in, happy to get a piece of the CLB.

Christian is cocky, asking Lita to lay one on his chin. He grabs her by the wrists, but can’t fully subdue Lita: she headbutts him.

Realizing what she’s up against, Lita slips out of the ring, leading Christian on a chase. She hurries back into the ring and stomps him when he follows her, trying to beat him down. He stops her momentum with a knee to the stomach, leaving her in the corner and charging at her. Lita moves, grabbing him and tossing him across the ring. She ducks a clothesline and hits Christian with a headscissors, going for the pin. Christian kicks out at two.

Lita tries to keep up her momentum, but a shot to the back from Jericho drops her to the mat. Christian hits her with a scoop slam, and tags in Jericho, who hits a scoop slam of his own. He then stands on Lita’s hair, pulling her up and tugging it. He sets her up for a powerbomb, but Lita reverses it into a Frankensteiner, finishing it with a pin. She gets another near fall! Jericho stops her in her tracks with an elbow and tags in Christian.

Christian, looking to class up the match, pulls off Lita’s shirt and teases her with it. Lita rewards him with a kick to the nuts.

Lita starts to crawl towards her corner and tags in Trish, who lays into Christian with some forearms. She ducks an attack from him and hits him with the Chick Kick, attempting the Stratusfaction. Christian, blocks it, though, tossing her over his shoulder. Christian goes charging at her, but she dodges, causing him to going flying out of the ring.

Jericho, for some reason, quickly climbs to the top rope. Lita’s there, though, and drops him, setting him up for the Stratusphere. He blocks it, pushing her to the mat. Christian crawls back into the ring and goes for the pin, but decides he doesn’t want to end it yet, pulling Trish up by her hair. He runs the ropes, but a Ma-Trish has him hitting thin air and running right into Jericho. He knocks Jericho off the ring apron.

Trish takes the opportunity to roll him up, getting a very close two-count. Christian, his ego hurting, hops up and slams Trish down with a vicious clothesline. Meanwhile, Lita’s on the top rope and returns the favor with a hurricanrana!

Lita celebrates, but Jericho soon pulls her out of the ring and slams her into the barricade. Ow. Lita really sold that one.

Jericho puts on his good guy hat when he re-enters the ring, picking up an ailing Trish and gazing into her eyes. The two seem to be having a moment until Christian ruins it, rolling up Trish and using his weight advantage to keep her down for the three-count, earning his team the win.

Jericho doesn’t seem too happy about this, but Christian celebrates the win enough for the both of them.

It’s weird how different this match can seem, over ten years later. I was so into the Trish/Jericho pairing (and a tween), so there were a lot of nuances to this that flew right over my head. Jericho’s douchiness was lost on me, overshadowed by how reluctant he was to fight Trish. He was the good guy, guys~~~~! I’m not sure what I thought of the spanking back then, but today that made me roll my eyes and shows to me how far his character still had to go.

Knowing where this story eventually went, it’s easy to see that this was Jericho mid-face turn, and him having this conflicted behavior (taking it easy on Trish but practically breaking Lita’s back on the barricade) made him a lot more interesting than being a pure good guy at this stage. It makes him eventually turning over a new leaf seem more genuine. I’m pretty sure by February he wouldn’t be so eager to toss Lita like that. Pretty sure.

As for the match itself, I think it was set up well. With all the factors at play, they still put on an engaging match. The girls showed their strengths, but the guys weren’t weakened by it. I think they could have done even more, but I’m grateful that they were able to get in any meaningful offense at all. I think it says a lot about Jericho and Christian’s lack of ego.

Heck, I’m sure many Superstars today would have issues doing this match and taking offense from Divas. Needless to say, this was a very unique scenario. These specific circumstances – the very popular Divas that have proved their toughness, the talented Superstars without massive egos – helped make the match work. I’m not sure we could replicate it today.

Okay, so we still have one more Divas match. I know, two Divas matches on one Pay-Per-View, and neither of them T&A matches? Yes, we truly have time traveled.

In an impromptu match, Molly Holly defends her Women’s Title against Ivory, who has left her Right to Censor evilness behind to become a fiery babyface.

They start with a tie-up, Ivory quickly gaining control with a snapmare. She goes for a quick pin, but Molly kicks out. Molly tries to get to her feet, but Ivory sweeps her legs out from under her and goes for another pin. Molly kicks out again.

Ivory hits Molly with a low dropkick and rolls her up. Once again, Molly kicks out. Molly finally gets control of the match when she kicks Ivory in the midsection. She whips her into the corner, but Ivory catches her with a headscissors. Molly blocks the move and tosses Ivory out onto the ring apron. Ivory fights her off and climbs to the top rope, hitting Molly with a crossbody and earning another near fall. Ivory then catapults Molly over the top rope and out of the ring, sending her falling hard to the outside.

Ivory heads out onto the ring apron, performing a somersault move off the ring apron and onto Molly. She tosses Molly back into the ring, who sends her down to the floor with a baseball slide. Molly collects Ivory and returns her to ring, going for a pin. Ivory kicks out. She picks up Ivory and hits her with a Northern Lights suplex, bridging it into another pin attempt. Ivory kicks out again.

Molly catches Ivory in an arm submission, which Ivory slowly battles out of. Molly halts this momentum and goes for another pin, which Ivory kicks out of. A suplex by Molly and another unsuccessful pin attempt. She rakes at Ivory’s face, clearly getting frustrated. She whips Ivory into the corner and hits the handspring elbow, taunting the fans.

This leads to yet another pin attempt, Ivory kicking out. Molly becomes even more frustrated, exposing the top turnbuckle and attempting to hit Ivory’s face on the bare steel. Ivory blocks it, though, and send’s Molly face into it instead, following it up with a roll-up pin. Molly reverses the pin into one of her own, laying atop Ivory and keeping her down for the one, two, three.

Molly, still smarting from getting clocked by the exposed turnbuckle, celebrates her win, but can’t help holding her forehead. My head is pounding just thinking about it.

This match, for being a last-minute addition, was pretty good. It was compact and quick, aided by the pace they set up. I think it helped that two veterans were in the ring, able to work with the limited time they were given to put on a compelling match. That finish was weak, but I suppose a quick match needed an even quicker finish.

All in all, Armageddon 2003 was a nice slice of the Divas division at this time. We saw two Divas matches, which is a rarity in itself, but both stood on their own as well. This is exactly what I think we should have in today’s division: two separate storylines. One for the title, the other over more intense, personal issues.

The intergender aspect of the Battle of the Sexes feud certainly gave it PPV-worthy buzz that a secondary Divas feud might not have, but I think it serves to demonstrate how building two feuds benefits the division. Lita and Trish, who dominated the division, could easily do things outside of the title picture and allow underutilized Divas (like Ivory and Molly) to get PPV exposure they otherwise wouldn’t have. Everyone wins!

No, I don’t need (or expect) to see two Diva matches on every (or most) PPVs, but telling two concurrent stories gets more out of the Divas and doesn’t hinder the show at all. Just think about it, WWE!

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