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RAW: Benjamin keeps rolling
By NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling


Talk about a way to make a debut. Shelton Benjamin, acquired just two weeks ago from Smackdown in the draft lottery, ended up facing and beating Triple H in his very first match on Raw last Monday. As the recap that opens tonight's program shows, the look on HHH's face alone was worth the price of admission - and even better if you read about it free here on SLAM! Wrestling.

Of course after making a splash like that, the obvious question is what can Benjamin do for an encore tonight in Houston? This report has the answers in a Texas-sized edition of Raw, live on the first (and probably only) network for men.

Triple H makes his way to the ring dressed all in black, perhaps still mourning his loss a week ago. He admits it makes a great story, the way the young punk kid got lucky and beat him last week. Yes, it was a great story, that fluke pinfall, but it couldn't happen again in a million years. Moving on to other equally unlikely things, Helmsley talks about the chances of Chris Benoit escaping the upcoming repeat of Wrestlemania's main event with the world heavyweight title. Frankly, he doesn't like Benoit's chances, using such words as astronomical and impossible to describe the odds. Before he can try to top his choice of adjectives, he's interrupted by the "young punk kid" himself, Benjamin. Shelton wants to introduce himself, saying that if Trips doesn't remember him as the All-American from Minnesota, maybe H would recall the guy who beat him last week. Benjamin says that maybe the win was a fluke, and he doesn't want to live with that possibility on his conscience. So he does the only thing he can do to prove it otherwise - he challenges Triple H to a rematch tonight. Helmsley refuses, but after Benjamin keeps after him, his ego gets the best of him and he agrees. Shelton finishes by saying that even though Hunter can't remember his name, after he wins again tonight Helsmley can call him Mr. Benjamin.

A video package shows the Raw superstars performing in Monterrey, Mexico. You have to hand it to the WWE for continuing to explore places they can actually sell out non-televised events. Next stop: Greenland!

Match 1 - Chris Benoit vs. Rob Conway

It's non-title, of course. You don't honestly think either member of La Resistance deserves a title shot, do you? Unfortunately for Benoit, Johnny Nitro (with his arm in a sling as a result of a Crippler Crossface last Monday) is the referee again. Early on Nitro doesn't even count a possible fall by the world champ, but as the action progresses he seems to be calling things fairly evenly. Benoit escapes a neck vice and hits a release German suplex and a backbreaker for a two count. His next suplex catches Nitro, knocking him out and allowing Conway's partner Sylvian Grenier to attack. After a cool neckbreaker/powerslam combo by La Resistance, another ref runs down, but enough time has passed that Benoit is able to kick out. One quick Cripppler Crossface and Conway has to tap out.

Hey, WIlliam Regal is back! It's nice to see he's recovered from his parasitic infection. For some reason I can only think of the scene from Poltergeist 2. Yuck. Anyway, Eric Bischoff has a special assignment for Regal, and it seems like a simple one. He wants Regal to manage his nephew, Eugene Dinsmore. Bischoff calls Eugene a special talent, and Regal seems to think it will be a piece of cake. My tingling Spider-Sense says otherwise.

Match 2 - Chirs Jericho vs. Matt Hardy (Ver. 1.0)

Maybe Hardy should be called Jobber (Ver. 1.0), because that's about all he's done for the past few months. Naturally, Christian and Trish Stratus can't pass up a chance to watch the action, lounging in a recliner at the top of the ramp. Matt takes advantage of their presence with a bulldog, a front powerslam and an elbowdrop, racking up three near falls in the process. Jericho rallies with a bulldog of his own but lands painfully on Hardy's knees attempting a Lionsault. Hardy counters the Walls of Jericho with an inside cradle for two, but he's soon hung up on the middle rope with a drop toehold and crushed by Jericho's running enzuigiri. Jericho gets the Walls of Jericho on firmly this time and Hardy submits... again. Christian and Trish are unfazed, playing a little tonsil hockey to get in Y2J's head.

Mick Foley is in love. Not with his wife or kids, though I'm sure he loves them a lot too, but with his first flannel shirt. He got in way back in 1977, three sizes too large, and he forgot about until he was rummaging through a box recently and thought it would be perfect to wear during his upcoming No Holds Barred affair with Randy Orton at Backlash. Foley explains that hardcore isn't about the objects used in a match, but rather an attitude that a wrestler has to be willing to do anything and go through any amount of pain to entertain the fans. He talks about watching tape of the brutal matches he had in Japan and the look he saw in his own eyes. Foley wonders that if he was willing to do barbaric things to nice men overseas, what would he do to someone he legitimately loathed when he faced Orton? I shudder to think. Foley reveals that he found another love in that same box, namely Barbie, a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat. Orton is watching on a monitor backstage as Foley and Barbie wreck the interview set, and even though his Evolution teammates try to comfort him, you can see that Orton is wondering what he's got himself into. Triple H, on the other hand, is ready to go.

As per Bischoff, anyone who is not officially involved in the upcoming match is not permitted to interfere. With that in mind, Ric Flair introduces himself as the official ring announcer, Batista as the official timekeeper and in a particularly creative way to stack the deck, Orton as the official trainer - complete with towel, water bottle and spit bucket. Uh-oh...

Match 3 - Triple H vs. Shelton Benjamin

Triple H points out all the help he has around the ring and looks pretty smug. But it's Benjamin who takes control early with a spinebuster, a cross body and a crucifix that all earn two counts. Helmsley returns fire with a big spinebuster and hurls Benjamin to the floor, where Batista does a number on him. Benjamin returns at the count of eight and is greeted by a facebuster, then thrown back out to Orton. Randy tosses him hard into the retaining wall and throws him back in to face HHH's taunts. Benjamin manages a spinning heel kick and does his leaping move into the corner, then he makes a questionable move by taking the fight outside himself. Evolution closes in, but with the ref watching they have to hold back. Triple H goes for a Pedigree on the floor, but Benjamin counters with a catapult into the ringpost. Shelton slides back in the ring just before the ref counts to ten, meaning Triple H is counted out. Unbelievably, Benjamin has beaten The Game two weeks in a row. Now would be the time to run like hell, but Benjamin can't get out of the ring before an angry Evolution cuts him off. A vicious four-on-one beating ensues, capped off by a Pedigree. Benjamin is busted open and looks ripe for even more abuse until Benoit, Foley and Shawn Michaels arrive en masse to stop the onslaught.

Match 4 - Women's Number One Contender Battle Royal (with Lita, Jazz, Nidia, Molly Holly, Stacy Keibler, Gail Kim and Trish Stratus)

A furious Bischoff joins the announcers just long enough to say that Benoit, Foley and Michaels will be punished in the ring later tonight for their interference in the last match, conveniently forgetting that the match was well over when they arrived. Meanwhile, though I'm sure I'll get some angry e-mail for saying this, I'm quite happy to find that when we return from a commercial following the introduction of the ladies, we find that everyone but Jazz, Lita and Trish has already been eliminated. Jazz goes out soon too, leaving Trish offering a handshake to Lita. She gets a slap to the face in response, and the match turns unusually physical for a women's match, with numerous stiff-looking kicks and punches. As Jericho comes to ringside, Trish escapes elimination several times. She hits her Chick Kick but can't capitalize because Jericho trips her. When Stratus turns to face Y2J, Lita dropkicks her through the ropes and wins the battle royal, going on to face Victoria for the title at Backlash. A math equation comes to mind for this one: women's match + face vs. face = no heat. But I hope I'm wrong - I haven't been good at math for years.

Scoffing at the idea behind a brand split once again, we get the Smackdown Rebound to show us what we missed on Tuesday... I mean, Thursday night. Meanwhile, Regal finally finds Eugene backstage and discovers to his horror that Eugene is "special" indeed. And by that I mean intellectually challenged, for a lack of a more delicate way to put it. Christian tells Trish that he wants her in the match with Jericho at Backlash, an idea that doesn't thrill the blonde bombshell. And Coach joins the announcers for the next match, which features the man who embarrassed him last week, Tajiri.

Match 5 - Tajiri vs. Christian

Tajiri starts strong with a variety of kicks but runs out of steam when Christian guillotines him on the bottom rope. Coach heads down to congratulate the winner of the match, perplexing J.R. and The King since the match is still going on. Tajiri hits his handspring back elbow for two and uses the Tarantula to set up another near fall, but a distraction by the Coach leaves him easy prey for the Unprettier and he isn't getting up from that.

A package airs showcasing the card for Backlash, which actually looks fairly decent. The thing is, if only half of the WWE performers are on the card, I should only have to pay half price! Backstage, Regal leaves Eugene outside Bischoff's office so he can yell at Eric, but the GM says Eugene can't be left alone. They open the door to find him gone, though Nitro says he's found him on the TV monitor with J.R. and The King. Eugene ends up licking The King's head until Regal arrives to get him under control. I can see some people getting mad about this gimmick already.

Main Event - Kane vs. Rhyno

Again, this is the main event only in the sense that it's the last match on the card. Rhyno makes this match cool by breaking the middle rope with a move, then hitting the Gore. Kane manages to kick out at two though, and quickly finishes Rhyno with a chokeslam. That's not quite it though, as Edge runs down, sporting a cast as a result of a broken hand suffered while training. As SLAM! Smackdown reporter Dale Plummer says, it must be from dropping a weight on his hand - Edge looks huge. Kane grabs a chair to deal with his foe but soon gets dropped by a spear. He sits up and fends off a second spear with a big boot to the face. Kane recovers the chair and puts Edge's good hand in it, intending to give him a matching set of broken hands, no doubt. But Edge escapes and drops the Big Red Machine again with a shot from his cast, only to see Kane sit up yet again as he backs up the ramp.

The show's not finished folks - don't head for the parking lot yet. Benoit and Michaels talk about getting summoned to the ring by Bischoff, with HBK comparing it to getting called to the principal's office back in school. Shawn says he has Chris' back tonight and any night, but he'll be gunning for Benoit's title full force at Backlash. The champ says he'd expect nothing less, but he takes exception to Michaels agreeing with Helmsley that the odds of him winning again are too high. Foley arrives and breaks up the conversation by suggesting that they all get on the same page tonight. They head for the ring, stopped briefly by Nitro who takes away Foley's precious Barbie.

Footage is shown of the red carpet premiere of Walking Tall, and The Rock is in top form with some in-character quips. Sadly, even The Rock is no match for Hellboy, which beat Walking Tall pretty handily at the box office. Will someone please write Rocky a role that makes him the breakout star many think he can be? Fine, I'll just have to do it myself.

The finale of tonight's show finally arrives, as Bischoff delays the beginning of more of Spike Tv's inane programming by introducing the three faces one at a time. When they are all assembled, Bischoff announces that the three of them will team with Benjamin to face all of Evolution next week, which is hardly a bombshell but still cool nonetheless. Evolution's music hits and Triple H emerges with his sledgehammer, motioning for his teammates to follow. But the others come from behind through the crowd, giving them the advantage over our heroes. An all-out Evolution beating leaves the three faces out cold as Raw says goodbye to Houston.


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    Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998. He'll be going for his first title in any sport at any level when his roller hockey team takes on Johns Financial Planning for the D South championship at the Susquehanna Sports Center on Wednesday. Wish him luck at ntylwalk7@yahoo.com.