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RAW: Benoit booted from Mania?
By NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling


Raw blazes a new trail tonight, swinging through the Pacific Northwest -- to us Americans anyway -- to make a stop in Portland. The Oregon fans will get a taste of Goldberg and Austin and Foley (oh my!) while trying to figure out whether the smoke hanging over the ring is left over from the opening pyro or from Rasheed Wallace and his friends celebrating his trade to the Hawks. It's the usual fun and games, Portland style, as Raw goes live once again.

When is next actually first? When Goldberg appears at the top of the card, that's when, and it looks like he'll be in action right away this evening. Ah, but there's a catch. Before an opponent can be announced, some familiar music hits and Vince McMahon himself comes down the ramp, his arrogant walk now almost a caricature of itself. Vince announces there is no 'next' tonight, as he is canceling Goldberg's match. He's about to explain why when the sound of breaking glass brings Sheriff Stone Cold Steve Austin into the mix, riding his trusty four-wheeler. The Rattlesnake tells the Chairman of the Board that he has already broken two of Austin's laws, namely getting in his ring uninvited and pissing him off. Mr. McMahon explains that he's here because Austin gave Goldberg a front row ticket for No Way Out, an action that has to have consequences. As Austin points out the thousands of fans calling Vince an unflattering name, the next surprise appears in the form of Paul Heyman. Smackdown's general manager shows some testicular fortitude by getting in Goldberg's face and telling the behemoth that if he acts up at the pay-per-view, Brock Lesnar will deal with him. Goldberg reiterates that Lesnar is next, and when Heyman makes the mistake of turning his back, he almost gets speared out of his shoes. An amused Austin calls for a few beers while Goldberg sets his sights on Vince. But even at his advanced age, McMahon proves spry enough to sidestep the spear, which takes Austin down hard. Oops, Goldberg did it again.

Austin is nursing his wounds with a cold one, so Goldberg approaches and gives his side of the story. He says he's not one to apologize, but does say it was a mistake. He just wants to know if there's a Stunner coming when his back is turned or if the two men are cool. The reply is classic Austin: if there is going to be a Stunner, it won't be a mistake. Goldberg decides he can live with that. Things are even less cordial between Vince and Eric Bischoff, who ends up getting a tongue-lashing for the actions of 'his man' Goldberg. McMahon wants the Raw GM to tell Goldberg that he's suspended -- again -- and decrees that if he shows up Sunday at No Way Out, it's Bischoff's hinder. I actually typed another word in to end that sentence, but SLAM! Wrestling has a new seven-second delay to prohibit anything offensive from getting into this report.

Match 1 -- Trish Stratus and Chris Jericho vs. Molly Holly and Matt Hardy (Ver. 1.0)

Jerry Lawler mentions the fact that Hardy is winless since he's joined the Raw roster, which clearly means it is time for his long-awaited upgrade. SLAM! Smackdown reporter Dale Plummer says a small upgrade would make him Ver. 1.1, while an all-new release would be Ver. 2.0 -- or possibly Matt Hardy NT. Meanwhile, there is wrestling going on here, first between the men, then the women. Molly sends Trish hard into the bottom rope, and then hits a Northern Lights suplex for a near fall. Trish rallies with a neckbreaker before making the hot tag to Jericho. Chris slips attempting an enzuigiri but gets it right the second time, and his springboard dropkick takes Hardy to the floor. He pays a price though, as the impact exacerbates the knee injury Kane gave him last week. Hardy doesn't help matters by sending him into the steps. Back in the ring, Molly looks to have the upper hand, but Christian surprisingly lends a hand and Trish uses a victory roll to secure the win.

Answering the question on the minds of fans everywhere, Christian drops by the training room (where Jericho is getting medical attention for his knee) to explain to Trish why he decided to help. His reasoning is that since Jericho and Stratus are just friends, there's no reason all three of them shouldn't have a healthy relationship. But it's clear that Christian would like an even healthier one with Trish, especially since he tells her how good she looks tonight. Backstage, Mark Jindrak and Garrison Cade have seemingly given up trying to get on tonight's card and have absorbed themselves in the new issue of Playboy. Stacy Keibler and Miss Jackie drop in unexpectedly, and the boys tell them that they should have been in the pictorial instead of Torrie Wilson and Sable. Keibler agrees and says they don't plan to take this lying down. Insert your crude joke here.

As expected, Foley is in the house once again. He barely even gets in the door of the arena before he's stopped by The Coach, who wants to know if Mick wasn't embarrassed enough last week when Randy Orton punked him and called him a female dog. Foley vows to embarrass Orton this week, or make him lose his intercontinental title, or both. Next, the announcers get us psyched up for Chris Benoit versus Ric Flair, calling it one for the ages. Or did they say one for the aged? Zing! Don't forget to tip your server on your way out.

Match 2 -- Ric Flair vs. Chris Benoit

Benoit hits a quick suplex and goes right for the Crippler Crossface, but naturally Flair is too crafty for that. Chops are exchanged along the restraining wall, much to the delight of the Blazers in attendance. Flair gains the upper hand back in the ring and decides to go up top, but Benoit meets him there and launches into a superplex. A flying headbutt is next but Flair rolls out of the way and both men are down as we head for a commercial. We return to more chops, then a sleeper by Flair. Benoit powers Ric into the turnbuckles to escape and a display of mat wrestling breaks out. The Wolverine grabs Flair for three rolling German suplexes and is about to go for four when the Nature Boy distracts the ref and hits a mule kick to stop the assault. Flair gets the Figure Four on but Benoit quickly grabs the ropes, so Flair goes back to work on his right leg. Ric tries for his finishing hold again, but this time Benoit reverses it into the Crippler Crossface and the eldest member of Evolution has to submit.

The victorious Benoit gets to stay in the ring, because it's time for his contract signing for the main event (one of them anyway) at WrestleMania. Bischoff is presiding, and he calls out the world heavyweight champion, Triple H. Eric gives Trips the option to sign first, and he does. It's Benoit's turn, but he can't even get to the pen because Triple H wants to say a few words first. Make that a few thousand words. To make a really long story short, the champ wants to make sure Benoit knows what he's getting into. He does, of course, but he's interrupted once again, this time by the arrival of Shawn Michaels. HBK says he has nothing but respect for Benoit and his accomplishment at the Royal Rumble, but he also thinks Chris should have stayed on Smackdown to get his title shot since Shawn's issue with Triple H is not over. After it built up for ten years, Michaels feels he is this close to finishing it, and he plans to do so at WrestleMania for the world title. Benoit returns respect for HBK and claims he would never stand in the way of his revenge against Helmsley, but says it can't happen at Mania since he is going to get his shot there. Straight out of the 'You Had to See This Coming File' comes some Sweet Chin Music for Benoit, an action that seems to amuse Triple H. He's not so amused a second later, when Michaels inks his own name on the contract Benoit was about to sign. The announcers are stunned. What does it mean? Thanks to my handy mutant powers, I can tell you J.R.: I'm having a vision of a three-way dance so Helmsley can drop the belt without doing the job. As it has been foretold, so let it be come to pass.

Match 3 -- Kane vs. Hurricane

Hey, what happened to Kane versus Trish Stratus? Bischoff seemed to want that match to happen for the last two weeks, and for some reason, so did I. The Canadian beauty surely couldn't have done much worse than Hurricane, as he is quickly disposed of via a chokeslam. Kane calls for his pyro, but no fire erupts. Again the monster gestures, again, no fire. The third time proves to be the charm, but the lights quickly go out and the Undertaker's spooky new video plays again. This time though, there's a message: in 34 days, the dead will rise ... again. Wait, 34 days? That's a long tease my friends.

Benoit is fuming backstage, and Bischoff tries to calm him down. The GM promises to have his lawyers look into the Michaels business, and he promises to make a match for next Monday pitting The Crippler against HBK. Elsewhere, Orton tells Terri he thinks there's a conspiracy since he has to defend his I-C strap in a three-way dance against Booker T and Rob Van Dam. And Goldberg is on his way out of the arena, but the ever-enterprising Coach wants a final word. Guess what? Lesnar is still next. High marks for intensity Bill, but low marks for creativity.

The night wouldn't be complete without some mic time for Foley. Mick takes us back one more time to the whole Orton-coward affair, and he says he realized that people who obsess over someone else's faults usually have something of their own to hide. Foley calls for something to be cued up on the Titan Tron, and it's a picture of a younger Orton in a Marin uniform. Apparently Randy joined the Corps, went AWOL for 82 days and had to be dismissed early for bad conduct. With Orton's skeleton now out of the closet, Foley offers the I-C champ a chance to face him at WrestleMania, and Mick doesn't care if it's billed as 'Legend vs. Legend' or 'Coward vs. Coward.' Randy responds on the Tron, challenging Foley to come back to catering to face him tonight. Mick charges up the ramp and heads backstage, asking various stagehands for directions to catering. Come on Mick, you know where catering is. You've probably been there the whole show! He finds Orton right by the food, but as you might have guessed, it's a trap. Flair and Batista close in from behind, but in classic Foley fashion, he lunges forward to get a piece of Orton. The combined might of Evolution is quickly brought to bear, and Mick ends up flying off a wall courtesy of Batista. The big man power bombs Foley through the training table (no food tonight for the main eventers) and Orton adds insult to injury by slapping Mick around while he's down.

Main Event -- Rob Van Dam vs. Booker T vs. Randy Orton -- Intercontinental Title Match

Orton and Booker get into it on the floor, and Van Dam takes advantage with a quick tow count on Booker. He fires back with a near fall of his own, forcing Orton to trip him up to get back in the flow. The champ pays for it as Booker drops him face first on the restraining wall, leaving the two faces to fight it out between themselves for a few minutes. Van Dam hits a vertical suplex and floats through for two, then connects with a jumping kick and a somersault splash just as Orton revives to break up the pin. Orton DDT's Booker but RVD uses a baseball slide to prevent a pinfall. Numerous near falls occur before the spot of the night happens when Booker has Orton elevated and Van Dam comes off the top with a high cross body. All three men end up on the canvas, and Van Dam makes futile efforts to pin both of his foes. Rob gets dumped to the floor, leaving Booker to hit his scissor kick on Orton. The ref almost gets to three when Van Dam hurtles himself over the top rope to interrupt the count. He gets up and hits the Five Star Frog Splash on Booker, but is quickly shoved out of the ring by Orton, who covers Booker for three to successfully defend his title. Flair and Batista join the celebration, and the announcers are incredulous when Foley shows more guts than brains by limping down the ramp. Orton meets Mick just outside the ring and hits an RKO on the floor, which isn't going to make Mrs. Foley's baby boy feel any better. The tag champs decide to stomp on Van Dam and Booker just for the heck of it as Raw draws to a conclusion.

Unintentional Comedy Line of the Night

This week's entry comes courtesy of Mick Foley:

"What I want is a piece of your ass at WrestleMania."

Uh, what you do in New York is your business Mick.


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    Nick Tylwalk turned down a highly lucrative opportunity to be the opening act at the Grammys just so he could do his Raw report. Email him at ntylwalk7@yahoo.com.