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RAW: Triple H does the right thing
By NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling


Triple H is back, tonight on Raw! What's that you say? You didn't know he was gone? He wasn't away long; despite getting picked for Smackdown during last week's Draft Lottery, Hunter was traded back to Raw in a blockbuster deal that sent Booker T and the Dudley Boyz to Thursday nights. Now that he's back, will he insert himself into the World Heavyweight Championship picture? I think you already know the answer to that. Read on to learn more as Raw heads to Cincinnati and comes to you live.

J.R. says it is a near-capacity crowd tonight, which is a nicer way of saying they did not sell out. The fans, real and imaginary, will see Chris Benoit and friend/rival Shawn Michaels team to get a shot at Evolution's Ric Flair and Batista and their tag team titles. They'll also see Trish Stratus get the featured spot on Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel, which should be interesting indeed. And you'll read about it all right here.

Speaking of Evolution, Flair and Batista are joined by Randy Orton (fresh from having his tonsils taken out last week), and they all head to the ring. Flair is a little worked up - no surprise there - as he talks about their tag team match and the fact that Triple H is back. Ric is a little disappointed at the reaction of the Raw locker room when it found out Trips was leaving, a reaction that could best be described as jubilation. He's also tired of the lack of respect for Orton, and he hands the mic over so Randy can address that subject himself. Orton starts running down Mick Foley for the one millionth time, and despite Internet rumors to the contrary, Mick is on hand tonight. Foley pops out on stage and says that Orton proved something at WrestleMania - that 3-on-2 he could beat a Hollywood actor and a guy who writes children's books. Mick thinks the fans suspect the outcome would be different if it was a one-on-one encounter, and Foley offers just such a match for Backlash. To keep Orton's buddies out of it, Mick suggests that Evolution be banned from ringside. No objection there, so Foley takes it a step further by asking if Orton's Intercontinental Title can be put on the line. Again, Evolution agrees, but Foley wants one more thing: he wants the match to be no holds barred, falls count anywhere. He also wants to hear Orton himself give his answer, and Randy says yes. It's on now.

Back in the locker room, Garrison Cade and La Resistance offer to initiate newcomer Tajiri. The boys suggest that Tajiri spit his green mist in the face of the next man through the locker room door, and after several minutes of waiting, The Coach ends up as the unfortunate victim. Everyone's laughing, but Cade and Mark Conway tell the Japanese Buzzsaw that Coach is Eric Bischoff's boy. Thus, Tajiri is in big trouble.

Match 1 - Nidia vs. Molly Holly

My, but Molly's hair has grown back fast since she got her head shaved at WrestleMania. It's almost like... nah, it couldn't be. Holly throws the new girl on the block hard into the ringpost and scores with a dropkick. She follows up by working on Nidia's arm, but the former Tough Enough winner rolls Molly up for a near fall. Nidia hits a catapult and a Northern Lights suplex for another two count. Molly rallies in the corner, but her hair comes off in the process. Ah, it was a wig. Nidia uses a schoolboy to get the win. Or should it be a schoolgirl? These are the things one thinks about while watching a women's match sometimes.

Footage is shown of Edge's return last Monday, including his spearing of General Manager Bischoff. Eric isn't too happy watching the video and even less happy that his assistant Johnny Spade isn't showing him the proper respect. To ensure that Edge gets what's coming to him, Bischoff books him for his first match in over a year at Backlash against Kane.

Hurricane heads to the ring for a match... and is taken out from behind and unceremoniously smashed into one of the video screens by Triple H. The Game declares that his message to everyone in the locker room who laughed when they thought he was gone. Now that he's back, HHH wants everyone to know that Bischoff would have done anything to get The Franchise back on Raw. Hey, that was my nickname first buddy! He's also sure that Bischoff will change the main event at Backlash to give him a shot at Benoit's world title. Eric comes out next, but there's a small problem. While he's overjoyed that Trips is back, he gave a verbal commitment to Michaels and he can't break it without "breaking the law" and incurring the wrath of Sheriff Steve Austin. But he can add to it, so he decrees that at Backlash, Benoit will defend his strap against both HBK and HHH in a repeat of the WrestleMania main event that he's calling the "Final Encounter." J.R. raves that we'll never see it again. I say that after two months in a row, we'd darn well better not.

Reunited and it feels so good! Evolution gets all mushy as they greet their returning leader. It's almost like he never left, you know? They point out Shelton Benjamin as one of the guys who was laughing at him last week. I guess that's possible, since Benjamin was Raw's first pick in the draft lottery. But it still doesn't make much sense that a guy who had been in the locker room for all of, say, 15 minutes would have been one of the ringleaders. Evolution roughs up Benjamin anyway. Out in the ring, Lance Storm seems to have discarded his most recent, more fun-loving gimmick. Before we get a chance to debate whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, Storm's match begins.

Match 2 - Lance Storm vs. Rhyno

And just as quickly as it begins, it ends. A big spinebuster leads to a Gore and Storm is down for the count. Ouch.

Tajiri seeks out Bischoff to apologize, but the Coach is already in the GM's office. Not only does Coach play up the nature of Tajiri's attack, he also says Tajiri was disrespecting Eric and Raw in general. As people often do in these situations, poor Tajiri ends up in a match with Kane tonight.

Match 3 - Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels vs. Evolution (Ric Flair and Batista) - World Tag Team Title Match

In a last-second wrinkle, Lillian Garcia announces that Johnny Spade will be the special guest referee. And in an even dumber last-second wrinkle, Spade announces that he now wishes to be known as Johnny Nitro. Whatever kid. Due to time constraints, we move ahead to further action after the commercial break. Benoit hits an enzuigiri to escape Flair's clutches, then everyone jumps in on the fun. Flair receives a flying headbutt, then some Sweet Chin Music. Michaels makes the cover and... wow, the good guys win! They might be rivals, but HBK and the Wolverine celebrate together. But wait - Johnny Nitro informs Garcia that Flair was not the legal man and the match is ordered to continue. Flair tries to take advantage of the second chance with a schoolboy, but even with a quick count Nitro can't get to three. An angry Michaels decides to see if Nitro can take a punch, and the guest referee calls for the bell, disqualifying our heroes. The fans don't like it. No sir, they don't like it. Benoit decides to show young Johnny the error of his ways by locking him in the Crippler Crossface.

Back in the GM's office, Benjamin drops in to talk to Bischoff about his unpleasant first day on Raw, particularly his rough treatment by Triple H and Evolution. Eric is unsympathetic, saying that Trips was just trying to show the newbie the "lay of the land" and establish the pecking order. He thinks Shelton should just shake his hand and accept his place, but while he's pondering what to do, another visitor stops by: Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rattlesnake tells Benjamin not to shake Bischoff's hand, suggesting instead that he try to make a name for himself by challenging Triple H to face him in the ring. Bischoff grants his request, and Stone Cold wishes him luck, adding he hopes Benjamin knows what he's getting himself into.

The focus shifts back to the ring, where the stage is set for Jericho's Highlight Reel. Y2J admits that Christian and Trish Stratus got him good, humiliating him on the biggest stage of them all at WrestleMania XX. He vows revenge, but not tonight. Instead, he simply wants to talk to Trish. Stratus comes out to a chorus of boos and offers up her side of her heel turn. She claims Jericho was never there for her and didn't appreciate the three-time Babe of the Year. The fans start in with a "slut" chant, and Stratus goes on to say that she and Christian planned their deception all night long... and that's not all they did. An amused Jericho calls Trish the Slut of the Century among other unflattering things. Finally he leads the crowd in calling Trish a FDDBBFTBH: Filthy, Dirty, Disgusting, Brutal, Bottom-Feeding, Trash Bag Ho. At least I think that's what it was.

Christian consoles Trish backstage after she ran off in embarrassment. He says he got a match with Jericho booked for Backlash and he'll take care of Y2J there.

Match 4 - Tajiri vs. Kane

No-selling the handspring back elbow? That's just not right. Tajiri can't get the Tarantula to work either, and the match doesn't go any better for him on the outside. Finally he gets to use the Green Mist on the Big Red Machine and he escapes back into the ring while the giant is blinded. And gues what? He wins by count-out. Tajiri celebrates as Kane recovers, giving you the feeling you get when someone's about to walk into a room they shouldn't in a horror movie. Kane drops him with a chokeslam, then raises him for seconds. He's stopped by the arrival of Edge, who levels his Backlash opponent with a spear.

In the locker room, Benoit dispenses some advice to Benjamin on facing Triple H. He implores the youngster to use HHH's ego against him, and reminds Shelton that The Game did tap out at Mania. Then we get a recap of last week's Smackdown (a.k.a. What brand split?) and the usual Flair pep talk to Triple H.

Main Event - Shelton Benjamin vs. Triple H

As a public service to announcers everywhere (like, say, J.R.), it's Shelton, not Sheldon. The Game shows his foe a little disrespect in the early going, patting Benjamin on the cheek. Shelton responds with a display of mat wrestling and pats Trips right back, showing no fear. The crowd gets on HHH with a "you tapped out" chant. He looks for a Pedigree, but Benjamin escapes to the ropes. Triple H suddenly finds himself on the defensive a second later when a backslide and a spinning heel kick have him kicking out at two. As Benjamin works Helmsley's arm, Flair comes to ringside, but he's immeidately joined by Benoit. Flair looks none too happy as we go to our last commercial break. It's overhand wristlock time when we return, but Hunter hits his high knee to break the stalemate. Benjamin responds quickly with an inside cradle for two, but he gets thrown hard into the post and has to kick out of a neckbreaker. A series of right hands and a kneedrop get another two for The Game, though Benjamin quickly fights back with rights of his own. Sleepers are administered and countered by both men, and Triple H ends the sequence by doing his own version of Flair's face-first fall. Benjamin clotheslines him out of the ring and follows up with a diving clothesline off the apron. He returns to the ring for another type of clothesline off the top rope but can't get the three count. Benjamin rains down punches in the corner until Triple H drops him on the top turnbuckle; Shelton rallies quickly with a powerslam and yet another near fall. HHH tries another Pedigree that is countered with a bridging pin attempt. Flair interferes with a hard right from the outside, though he's immediately menaced by Benoit. That distracts Helmsley enough that Benjamin hits him with a jumping forearm from behind, smashing his face into the top turnbuckle. Benjamin rolls HHH up and... yes, it's three! Stop the presses - Triple H has done the right thing for business twice in less than a month. Tune in next week to see if the kinder, more giving version of The Game continues.


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    Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998. He hopes to take advantage of Triple H's recent bout of generosity by pinning him in a Hershey house show soon.