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   Sat, July 26, 2003



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Lowdown on Smackdown


The Smackdown brand is back with a Vengeance tomorrow (pun absolutely intended) as the Thursday-night franchise gears up for its first brand-exclusive pay-per-view.

The main event is a triple- threat match for the WWE title, pitting four-month champ Brock Lesnar against Kurt Angle and the Big Show. As far as I know, the plan is for Lesnar to hang on to the title tomorrow night, leaving him to defend against the Olympic hero on the ongoing Up Close and Uncensored tour.

These house-show tilts, including the one set for Calgary next Saturday, will be practice runs for the long-awaited Lesnar-Angle rematch at Summerslam.

Next on the Vengeance card is the show\'s most heavily promoted selling point, WWE owner Vince McMahon taking on newcomer Zach Gowen. The buildup has been borderline offensive and the long-running \'evil Mr. McMahon\' gimmick is wearing really thin. But this should still be a fun match, especially watching the crowd go nuts when the 20-year-old upstart makes his inevitable one-legged comeback. Gowen is a public- relations goldmine and while the booking team hasn\'t gone out of their way to make him look like a superstar yet, expect them to pull out all the stops to paint his struggle with the boss as an epic encounter.

Oddly enough, the only other match the company is putting its promotional muscle behind happens to feature another member of the first family of wrestling (funny how that happens, eh?), with Stephanie McMahon going up against Sable. Hopefully, this one will be kept short, considering Sable is a lousy worker and Steph has pulled off maybe one decent match in her entire career. I\'m actually not sure who\'s going over in this one but let\'s be honest here -- as long as they pull each other\'s hair and shriek a bit, I think they\'ve served their purpose and the outcome won\'t cause wrestling hacks to lose a whole lot of sleep.

The John Cena vs. Undertaker match is the absolute opposite, as this is the bout that could make or break Cena\'s career.

As locker-room leader and one of the most established names on the roster, \'Taker\'s treatment of the rap star wannabe can either push him into the main event talent pool or leave him floating in mid-card limbo for the rest of the year.

Make no mistake about it: Cena is a future Wrestlemania headliner but it\'s up to the veteran Undertaker to help him get there by making him look like a star on tomorrow\'s show. Considering the Undertaker\'s dedication to the business, I\'m expecting he\'ll do the right thing and give Cena the rub he deserves.

The best in-ring action will probably come in the form of the U.S. title tournament final, with Eddie Guerrero taking on Chris Benoit for the vacant strap. Personally, I don\'t think the writing team have made the title seem all that important, so a win probably won\'t cause either guy\'s career to skyrocket.

Benoit is long overdue a run with a singles championship, so if I had to put money on it, I\'d say the Crippler will come out on top. That would set up a Summerslam match with Rhyno, who will hopefully turn heel to breathe some life into his totally underutilized character.

The final title belts up for grabs will be Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin\'s tag straps. The World\'s Greatest Tag Team will be defending against Rey Mysterio and Billy Kidman in another surefire four-star offering. The card will be rounded out with some kind of indecent proposal gimmick match -- Billy Gunn taking on Jamie Noble with the winner getting to sleep with Torrie Wilson (insert your own joke here) live on Smackdown next week.

Oh and let\'s not forget about the first (and probably last) APA invitational Barroom Brawl, featuring Spanky, Sean O\'Haire, Kanyon, Rhyno, the Tough Enough III guys, A-Train, Brooklyn Brawler, Brother Love, Doink the Clown (I\'m not making this up!) and the APA themselves. In truth, this whole thing is just a desperate attempt to give the remainder of the roster something to do, without resorting to a corny battle royal.

Vengeance goes down tomorrow at the Pepsi Centre in Denver. Catch all the action at 6 p.m. on pay-per-view at Famous Players theatres or at Bottoms Up sports pub.