Raw 2001 (05/21 ) - Steve Austin & Triple H vs Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho
This is an amazing match that everybody needs to go back and see (without thinking of the people who rate it *****). It remains in the top 3 moments of either guy's career. Austin & Triple H had such star power and current momentum that it felt like they were defending two World Titles rather than the tag titles. It's hard to think when there was more star power or credibility attached to those titles. For one night, they were the most important things in the world. The Power Trip were also incredibly sinister, psychopathic, evil bastards so this match screams character. They're the devils who have sold their souls and images as icons who get the job done alone from their personal greed for glory. The background for how they aligned together and what they'd done since (interference during each others big singles matches etc) made this an even bigger stage. Benoit & Jericho's massive run of momentum leading to this added to it too. They were two stars ready to break the glass ceiling and serve it up to the evil corporation that was the Two Man Power Trip . It was the ultimate underdog and comeuppance story in the tag team environment, better in that way than any other match of its type in company history.
You also have the crowd which is hot as magma and JR/Heyman going ballistic on commentary. There's so much replay value and fun involved in this. Has there ever been more intensity and energy in a tag match? The pace in this is staggering, with absolutely no stalling, awkwardness or pauses to call sequences. It's extremely smooth, fluent and full of fire. This one is a sprint, but a sprint based on character and storytelling rather than heavy spots. That's a terrific combination. Austin starts off with the first of his many relentless assaults. He's got a great presence about him too and his facial expressions sell him as a guy on the edge of a psychotic episode. When the guys run the ropes during this, they're literally sprinting. Thus everything has this huge velocity or extra something when it's hit. Needless to say Benoit, Jericho and Hunter are all ravenous with their intensity too. You get the feeling these are the toughest, most physical guys on the planet. The Power Trip heel it up perfectly here: double teaming, raking the eyes, breaking up pins, using the ropes for leverage and applying heel teamwork for literally 95% of their offence. They're such a cohesive unit and none of it comes off as forced - personally I really bought it.
There's a great sequence where Benoit locks in the Crossface on Austin, Jericho sends an interfering HHH flying and HHH out of desperation has to get a steel chair and smash Benoit with it. He then drags Austin's lifeless body onto Benoit and smashes Jericho's face in so that the ref can count. The whole match is filled with well timed, well executed and well booked sequences like this. It's difficult to think of a match that's so compact and bang for your buck with four excellent workers clicking on all cylinders. They busted their asses in a major way. The beatdown on Benoit is, needless to say, terrific. They grind his face into the ring, choke him, kick him in the balls, smash him into the steel steps when the ref's not looking and cutoff potential comebacks. Benoit selling like a legend helped. No joke, Hunter's shoulder blocks made me cringe they looked like they hurt that much. The follow up abdominal stretch where HHH kept reaching for Austin's hand for leverage was awesome. All of this makes the eventual comeback and victory so meaningful. The hot tag is really well built to. The ref misses the tag and things turn to chaos from there.
All four guys go on a frenzy and there's payoff galore. The heels break up these payoffs with a heap of asshole tricks with some of the best illustration of the champs using every bit of desperation to hold onto their titles that I've ever seen. It's one of the hottest finishes of all time and Hunter deserves credit for being able to stick with it. The finish is the ultimate payoff to the ultimate assholes, with Hunter's sledgehammer mistakenly being driven into Austin. That one spot had been built for since they'd joined up IMO, so it came off incredibly well. Benoit and Jericho had ended the Power Trip era, restored order to the company and put their names on the map. Heyman screaming "No! NO! NOOOO~!" as the pin is counted is like my favourite moment in company history almost. Nothing screams war more than this and think about all that it achieved. It ticked all the boxes required for a tag match and it was flawlessly delivered.I actually watched this twice for this review. The first time I thought it was fantastic but the second time I legit fell in love with it. I finally "get" this match. It must get better with age or more rewatches, which is an enviable feature to have. This is perfection within its genre and one of the key matches I'd use to show an outsider what this promotion is all about.
****3/4 - ***** (I really, really wanna give this the 5 I was invested so much)