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RAW: Heartbreak Kid gets his shot
By NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling


Oh hell yeah! It's a happy new year indeed for Stone Cold Steve Austin and his fans, as the WWE Board of Directors saw fit to allow the Texas Rattlesnake back into the mix on his terms. That's bad news for Eric Bischoff, who didn't exactly share a healthy working relationship with Austin back when they were co-general managers. Expect some hell raising and beer drinking tonight as Raw kicks off a new year live from the home of Jerry Lawler, Memphis, Tennessee.

It seems Bischoff is already worried about the new status quo, as he frets with number one lackey Jonathan Coachman over Austin's return. Apparently, Stone Cold has appointed himself the sheriff of Raw, but since my new flow chart isn't here yet, I have no idea how he fits into the power structure. Mark Henry and Theodore Long stop by to ask for the favor Bischoff promised them last week, and though the GM tries to blow them off again, Long's not having it. When Eric hears that the favor is to make Long the GM of Raw for one night, he initially balks . . . then decides that it would be great to have Austin torment someone else for a change. Long isn't sweating Austin either. After all, he's got the World's Strongest Man on his side and Johnnie Cochran on speed dial.

The new temporary GM comes to the ring looking mighty pleased with himself. He immediately launches into an attack on Memphis, which doesn't sit too well with The King. Lawler takes his beef to the ring and a shoving match ensues. Out of nowhere, Randy Orton sneaks in and levels Lawler with an RKO. A few minutes later backstage, Orton brags about adding another name to his list of killed legends, but Henry is more interested in the gold draped over his shoulder. Long wants to give his charge a shot tonight, but Sheriff Austin is lurking just around the corner and thinks Rob Van Dam is more deserving of a shot. To settle the matter, Stone Cold decrees that Henry will face Van Dam tonight and the winner will take on Orton next week. There's Exhibit A that sheriff is above GM in the Raw hierarchy.

Since The King is still out cold, The Coach joins Jim Ross on commentary, complete with an LSU chair. Nothing like rubbing salt in the wound, eh?

Match 1 - Rene Dupree vs. Spike Dudley

This is a revenge match for little Spike, who hasn't been seen on Raw for four months thanks to La Resistance botching a table spot and dropping him on his head. Dupree controls most of the action and stops plenty of times to pose for the crowd. But Spike catches him sleeping during a gorilla press, sliding down and rolling up the fake Frenchman for the pin. Spike's half-brothers join him on the ramp, but the celebration is short-lived as Ric Flair and Batista attack from behind, looking to soften up the Dudleys for their world tag team title shot later tonight. Bubba gets sent head first into the Titan Tron set before a group of refs summons enough courage to break up the melee.

Let it be noted that I am quite scared of the new WWE CD coming out this Tuesday featuring superstars doing songs of their own. Aside from Smackdown's John Cena, this seems like a horrifying mess waiting to happen. I foresee this disc taking a proud place next to Randy Savage's CD in my collection... of coasters! But I digress. Christian stops by Chris Jericho's locker room to apologize for the recent squabbles the two of them have been having. The Canadians decide their friendship goes back too far for the Trish and Lita business to ruin it, and they even decide to re-team tonight for a tag team match. Next up is a highlight package from last week's excellent title match between Shawn Michaels and Triple H. You'll never guess the incredible surprise ending. Here's a hint though: someone gets screwed, and it's not the guy who runs with Evolution.

The King has recovered enough to take his seat back, but Long has other ideas. It looks like we're going to have a three-man booth for the rest of the night, much to the chagrin of J.R. and Lawler.

Match 2 - Chris Jericho and Christian vs. Hurricane and Rosey

Hurricane is doing okay against the Canadians until Christian's low bridge sends him to the floor. He gets to the ropes to tag his partner, but the ref doesn't see the tag. Double teaming has 'Cane in trouble until he counters a double suplex with a double DDT and finally makes the hot tag to Rosey. A Samoan drop on Christian gets a near fall as his partner takes out Jericho with a top rope cross body to the floor. Christian gets his foot on the ropes to break up a second pinning attempt, and Jericho helps out by sending Rosey into the ringpost twice. That gives Christian an opening for an inverted Unprettier to score the pinfall.

Match 3 - Steven Richards vs. Test

Apparently Richards has a two-match win streak going against Test, but since the matches have been on Heat, no one knows. That's why I'm here for all of you. Victoria helps her man a couple of times, earning Test's wrath in the process. He calls for the big boot, but turns and aims for Victoria instead. She drops off the apron and crotches Test on the top rope, and Richards rolls him up to make it three in a row. Test's second big boot connects with Victoria, and Richards goes crazy in her defense, tossing Test out of the ring and jumping through the ropes to get at him on the floor. Hey man, take it easy. It's all scripted, remember?

Austin must have read my mind, because just as I was thinking how much he needs a badge, here he comes to the ring sporting said badge. Who knew he was speaking literally last week when he said there was a new sheriff in town? He's just about to announce a rematch between Michaels and Triple H when he's rudely interrupted by the world champion himself. Triple H has a few laughs at the Rattlesnake's expense, mocking his badge and comparing him to some of the more inept TV sheriffs of years past. The laughs stop when Austin orders the rematch for the Royal Rumble. The champ doesn't see why he should have to prove himself again, but someone does, and that someone happens to be HBK. Michaels comes to the ring to confront Helmsley, and Austin stops on the ramp and adds that the match will be a Last Man Standing bout. Enraged, Triple H hits a Pedigree on Michaels.

Match 4 - Molly Holly vs. Trish Stratus

This is supposed to be Molly defending her strap against Victoria, but her rough treatment by Test has left her unable to answer the bell. Lillian Garcia is about to announce Molly as the forfeit winner when Long appears on the Tron and sends Trish in as a replacement, though the belt is not at stake. Stratus fends off a plethora of two counts by the champ, finally gaining the advantage with a couple of roll-ups and a spinebuster of sorts. A Chick Kick from the apron gives her a chance to go up top, but Jazz makes her return and shoves her down. As the ref calls for the bell, Jazz does a number on Molly, then Trish. Jericho runs down to make the save but his help is emphatically rejected by Trish. I think he's sincere, but I can see how it would be hard to trust a man with a ponytail dyed red at the tip.

A short political-style ad plays calling Mick Foley a coward and anointing Orton as the new Hardcore Legend. It's paid for by, you guessed it, the friends and supporters of Randy Orton. Hey, Orton-Flair in '04. Hmm . . .

Match 5 - Rob Van Dam vs. Mark Henry - Intercontinental Title Number One Contenders Match

Agility takes on power as both men have their moments in the early going. Van Dam's moonsault from the apron ends in a bit of a blown spot, but it's soon forgotten when Rob comes charging off the apron only to be met with a steel chair to the face. The ref signals for the DQ, and Garcia is about to name Van Dam the winner when Long hurries to ringside. The acting GM says it will be no-DQ and orders the match restarted, but he's soon running as Austin shows up to chase him on a four-wheeler. A commercial break comes and goes and finds Van Dam struggling to escape a bear hug. He finally does by using his legs to choke Henry in the corner, then hits a somersault legdrop and Rolling Thunder. RVD gets a chair of his own to hit a low drop kick in the corner and a Van Daminator. He launches a Five Star Frog Splash and gets the three count to win it. Austin chases Long back down the ramp and corners him with Van Dam's help. Long manages to buy himself a few minutes by begging, but Austin eventually hits him with the familiar kick to the stomach and Stone Cold Stunner. All that's left to do is drink a few beers, and there's even enough to share with RVD. Drinking on the job - it's good to be sheriff.

Jericho heads into Trish's locker room and stops outside the shower to pour out his heart. He admits that the bet with Christian was how the whole thing between them started, but somewhere along the way, he really fell for her. Now he's just looking for a way to get her forgiveness. Problem is, it's not Trish in that shower - it's Mae Young. Jericho gets a terrifying look at Mae's "goods" before he escapes out into the hallway.

Kane's fiery arrival literally knocks Coach out of his LSU chair. In the ring, the Big Red Machine complains about never winning the Royal Rumble. He rolls footage of last year's Rumble, when his brother the Undertaker suckered him into elimination. Kane blames his past Rumble failures on his desire to please the fans, which is revisionist history in my book because he was a heel during some of them. He even says his recent attack on Booker T was to set an example by taking out last year's Rumble winner. Booker comes flying down to the ring to face off with Kane, escaping a chokeslam with a low kick. A bicycle kick and a clothesline send Kane tumbling from the ring. Booker says he can't ever be used as an example and states his two goals for this year's Rumble: eliminating Kane and winning the whole thing again. Meanwhile, the Dudleys are shaking off the cobwebs backstage and getting ready for the main event.

Main Event - Evolution (Batista and Flair) vs. Dudley Boyz - World Tag Team Title Match

Bubba has to deal with some early double teams, but he fires back with high cross body for two on Batista. Flair tags in for some work and soon uses his deep bag of tricks to gain control. His figure four is countered by an inside cradle, and he takes his one millionth flight off the top rope thanks to Bubba. Both men are down, and the hot tag is finally made to D-Von. He misses with a top rope elbow but redeems himself a moment later with the Whassup headbutt. The 3-D is administered but Triple H prevents the ref from making a count. Batista enters and nails D-Von with his sit-out power bomb, and Flair rolls over and covers D-Von long enough to retain the titles. Yet another celebration is short-lived thanks to Michaels' Sweet Chin Music on Hunter, and yet another Raw comes to an end with the Heartbreak Kid triumphant on the ramp.

Nick Tylwalk is beginning his seventh year doing TV reports for SLAM! Wrestling, and he's also finding time to serve as treasurer for Orton and Flair's run for the Oval Office. PayPal donations can be sent to ntylwalk7@yahoo.com, as long as you promise not to ask what happens to the money.