Promotional poster featuring The Undertaker
|"Price to Play" by Staind|
|Promotion||World Wrestling Entertainment|
|Sponsor(s)||Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness|
|Date||July 27, 2003|
Vengeance (2003) was a professional wrestling pay-per-view event produced by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and presented by Eidos Interactive's Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, which took place on July 27, 2003 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. It was the third annual Vengeance event and starred wrestlers from the SmackDown! brand.
Eight professional wrestling matches were scheduled on the event's card. The main event was a Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship, in which Kurt Angle defeated WWE Champion Brock Lesnar and The Big Show to win the championship. Two featured bouts were scheduled on the undercard. In a standard match, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon defeated Zach Gowen. The other was a standard match in which The Undertaker defeated John Cena.
Vengeance had an attendance of approximately 9,500 and received about 322,000 pay-per-view buys. This event helped WWE increase its pay-per-view revenue by $6.2 million from the previous year.
The event featured nine professional wrestling matches with outcomes predetermined by WWE script writers. The matches featured wrestlers portraying their characters in planned storylines that took place before, during and after the event. All wrestlers were from the SmackDown brand - a storyline division in which WWE assigned its employees.
The main event at Vengeance featured WWE Champion Brock Lesnar defending the title against The Big Show and Kurt Angle in a Triple Threat match. The buildup to the match began four months prior at Wrestlemania, where Lesnar defeated Angle and won the WWE title, as Angle went through a neck surgery. Two months later at Judgment Day, Lesnar defeated Big Show in a stretcher match. At May 29 on an episode of Smackdown, Big Show teamed up with Chuck Palumbo and Johnny Stamboli and defeated The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. On the June 5, 2003 episode of Smackdown, Angle returned and Big Show attacked him, but Lesnar came to save him and challenge Big Show to a title match the next week. However, during the match, the ring collapsed. The following week during Smackdown, the two had a rematch but Team Angle (Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas) attacked Lesnar, making Angle and Mr. America (Hulk Hogan) to run for the save, only for Big Show to chokeslam all of them. The next week, the six men fought in a tag match where Show won by pinning Mr. America. However, the week after that, Lesnar and Angle cost Show a match against Zach Gowan. On July 10, 2003 during an episode of Smackdown, Show chokeslammed Angle and teamed up with Team Angle to defeat Lesnar. The next week, Angle defeated Team Angle and Big Show by help from Zach Gowen. At the July 24, 2003 Smackdown, Gowan teamed with both Lesnar and Angle against Show and Team Angle, and Show won by chokeslamming both.
One of the featured preliminary matches was Zach Gowan versus Vince McMahon in a singles match. The hype to this match began on May 22, 2003 during an episode of Smackdown, where Gowan, who's left leg was amputated when he was eight years old, said that he wanted to wrestle for the WWE. Vince McMahon, however, ordered police to arrest him. Two weeks later, McMahon challenged Gowan to get a WWE contract by beating him in an Arm Wrestling contest. The week after that, McMahon kicked Gowan's leg in order to win the contest. Two weeks later, on the June 26, 2003 episode of Smackdown, McMahon agreed to give Gowan a contract in the WWE, but only if Gowan will join McMahon's "Kiss My Ass" club. Gowan low blowed McMahon. Later during the program, McMahon attacked Gowan and booked him and Stephanie McMahon against the Big Show the next week, with Gowan getting a WWE contract if he will win. Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle helped Gowan to win the match and earn his contract. During the next week's show, while Gowan signed his contract, McMahon made the match for the event. At the July 24, 2003 episode of Smackdown, McMahon attacked Gowan during his match with Lesnar and Angle against Show and Team Angle.
The other featured preliminary match was The Undertaker versus John Cena in a singles match. The buildup to the match began on June 26, 2003 during an episode of Smackdown, where Cena celebrated a year in the WWE. He fought Orlando Jordan and defeated him, but attacked him after the match, making the Undertaker run down for the save. The next week, Undertaker cost Cena his match against Billy Gunn in the US Title tournament. Two weeks later on Smackdown, Cena and Undertaker brawled in the ring. On the July 24, 2003 episode of Smackdown, Cena taunted the Undertaker, rapping about him in a cemetery.
|Commentator||Michael Cole (SmackDown)|
|Ring announcer||Tony Chimel|
Before the event began and aired live on pay-per-view, an episode of Sunday Night Heat, one of the secondary television programs for WWE, was taped live. The only scheduled match was a standard match between Último Dragón and Kanyon, which Dragon won after a standing shiranui on Kanyon.
After Sunday Night Heat, the pay-per-view event began with a standard match for the vacant WWE United States Championship between Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. The match was contested evenly between both men, with both of them performing a variety of offensive maneuvers. Guerrero eventually gained the upper hand when Rhyno interfered in the match while the referee was kayfabe unconscious, performing a spear, a variation of a take down to Benoit. Following this, Guerrero performed a body splash from the top turnbuckle onto Benoit, a move called a frog splash. Guerrero then covered Benoit for a pin, becoming the new WWE United States Champion.
The following bout was a standard match between Billy Gunn, escorted by Torrie Wilson, and Jamie Noble. The stipulation on this match was that if Noble won, he would be allowed to sleep with Torrie. During the match, Noble performed a DDT from the top turnbuckle on Gunn and attempted a cover, but Nidia interfered and placed Gunn's foot on the rope, causing the pin to be broken. This angered Noble, who confronted Nidia. Torrie attempted to slap him, but he instead kissed her. Following this, Nidia and Torrie both slapped Noble. Noble returned to the inside of the ring, only to be tripped by Torrie. While he was confronting her, Gunn attempted to lift Noble, spin him 180°, and slam him onto his back, a move known as a spinning side slam or Gunnslinger, but Noble pushed him into Torrie. Noble then performed a roll-up on Gunn, pinning him.
The third contest was a Bar Room Brawl hosted by the Acolytes Protection Agency (Bradshaw and Faarooq). In the match, the last man who was still capable of standing won. In addition to the APA, it featured Shannon Moore, Doink the Clown, Brother Love, Nunzio, Matt Hardy, Kanyon, Danny Basham, Doug Basham, the Easter Bunny, Sean O'Haire, John Hennigan, Orlando Jordan, Funaki, Los Conquistadores (Rob Conway and Johnny Jeter), the Brooklyn Brawler, Johnny Stamboli, Chuck Palumbo, Matt Cappotelli, and Spanky. During the match, Spanky was put through a table, Sean O'Haire used a pool cue as a weapon, and Brother Love threw Shannon Moore through a mirror. After knocking down Brother Love, Bradshaw remained the last man standing and won the match.
The next match was a tag team match for the WWE Tag Team Championship, where the champions, the World's Greatest Tag Team (Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas) defended their titles against the team of Rey Mysterio and Billy Kidman. Throughout the match, both teams performed many offensive maneuvers, though the World's Greatest Tag Team gained the advantage with a combination of a powerbomb by Haas and a diving lariat from the top turnbuckle by Benjamin. This was followed by a cover for a pin, and the World's Greatest Tag Team retained their championship.
Main event matches
The fifth contest was a no countout match between Sable and Stephanie McMahon. Stephanie attacked Sable while she was on the way to the ring, while Sable utilized kicks to take the advantage. Stephanie beat on Sable on the outside before attempting to hit her with a steel chair, but the referee stopped her. The match concluded when Stephanie tore away at Sable's top, and while Sable was attempting to get referee Brian Hebner to help her, Albert (Matt Bloom) attacked Stephanie. Hebner then gave Sable his shirt to cover her, and she made the cover on Stephanie for a pinfall.
The first featured contest was a standard match between The Undertaker and John Cena. The Undertaker controlled the match in the beginning, but Cena took advantage by drinking water and spraying it in the Undertaker's face. The Undertaker regained control and lifted Cena by the throat and slammed him to the mat (a move called a chokeslam), which was followed by an attempt to powerbomb Cena, called by the Undertaker a Last Ride. Cena reversed the move into a DDT, however. The Undertaker was thrown into an exposed turnbuckle and Cena attacked his midsection, which caused him to bleed from the mouth, selling internal injuries, or making them appear realistic. The Undertaker later attempted to lift Cena upside down and kneel to drop his head to the mat (dubbed by the Undertaker a Tombstone Piledriver), but was unable due to the (kayfabe) injuries he had received. Cena punched him with a chain wrapped around his fist and lifted the Undertaker onto his back and threw him off onto the mat, which Cena calls an FU. Cena then covered the Undertaker, but he kicked out of the attempt. Cena then scaled the turnbuckle to attack the Undertaker in the corner, and the Undertaker performed a Last Ride on him, followed by a cover for a pinfall.
The second featured bout was a standard match between WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and Zach Gowen. McMahon controlled much of the match, attacking Gowen's leg primarily, as Gowen only has one leg. However, Gowen retaliated with such offensive maneuvers as one-legged dropkicks and springboard backflips. Late in the match, McMahon held a steel chair with the intent of hitting Gowen with it. Gowen, however, jumped, spun 360°, and kicked the chair into McMahon's face, causing him to bleed. Gowen then attempted a backflip off the top turnbuckle with a 360° twist, but missed and hit the mat. McMahon then covered Gowen for a pinfall, but after the match, the crowd gave Gowen a standing ovation for his performance.
The main event was a Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship in which WWE Champion Brock Lesnar defended his title against Kurt Angle and the Big Show. The match began with Angle and Lesnar facing off against each other, before both of them attacked the Big Show. The Big Show threw Angle to the outside of the ring and performed a chokeslam on Lesnar. He covered Lesnar but did not score a pinfall. The Big Show controlled the early portions of the match before Lesnar struck the Big Show with his shoulder and attempted to lift the Big Show onto his shoulders and threw him in a spinning motion, which Lesnar calls an F-5. The Big Show countered the move, however. Angle returned to the ring with garbage can lids and both he and Lesnar attacked the Big Show with them. The Big Show attempted to perform a chokeslam on both men at the same time, but Angle and Lesnar worked together to perform a chokeslam on the Big Show. Later in the match, Angle began to bleed. Lesnar was placed on the top turnbuckle by the Big Show, who also climbed up to punch Lesnar, but Angle distracted the Big Show and Lesnar went down to the mat, with the Big Show still above him. This allowed Lesnar to perform a powerbomb on the Big Show, which was followed by a cover by Lesnar. Angle broke the cover by hitting Lesnar with a chair to the back, following with a chair shot to the head, causing Lesnar to bleed as well. Angle and the Big Show proceeded to fight on the outside of the ring, and Angle slammed the Big Show down by lifting and spinning him 90°, sending him through the Spanish announcers' table. Afterward, Lesnar and Angle fought each other back on the inside of the ring, and Lesnar threw Angle to the outside again. The Big Show returned to the ring and performed two chokeslams simultaneously on Angle and Lesnar, and he covered both men but failed to score a pinfall. Angle then placed Lesnar in an ankle lock, but the Big Show broke the hold. Angle performed his Olympic Slam on the Big Show again, and then hit Lesnar with the same maneuver, covering him for a pinfall and winning the WWE Championship.
The Pepsi Center has a maximum capacity of 19,000, but that was reduced for Vengeance 2003. The event had an attendance of 9,500. The event resulted in 322,000 pay-per-view buys. The promotion's pay-per-view revenue was $24.7 million. Canadian Online Explorers professional wrestling section rated the entire event an 8.5 out of 10 stars. The No Disqualification Triple Threat main event match was rated a 10 out of 10 stars. The event was released on DVD on August 26, 2003 by Sony Music Entertainment.
The tournament for the vacant WWE United States Championship was held between June 19 and July 27, 2003. The tournament brackets were:
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