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RAW: Benoit adds to collection
By NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling




Here we are, just a day after the excitement of Backlash, with a Raw that's sure to be just as thrilling airing from Calgary. Actually, I have a confession to make. Work has had me so busy that I didn't have time to watch Backlash or even read John Powell's pay-per-view report, though I could if I clicked here. So I'm not really sure what happened Sunday night, though I'm fairly certain that Chris Benoit is still the world heavyweight champion and if WWE storylines run true to recent form, most of the Backlash feuds will be continuing tonight. Find out with me as Raw lights up the Saddledome live.

Match 1 - Chris Jericho vs. Christian

Yes, they wrestled at WrestleMania and Backlash (in a handicap match that also featured Trish Stratus) and here we are again. The series is tied 1-1 after Sunday night so call this the rubber match. Jericho looks good early with a backbreaker and a dropkick out of the corner for near falls, then both men exchange a series of pinning predicaments. Christian is about to taste the Walls of Jericho when Trish intervenes, but Y2J catches her and dishes out a few spankings until Christian can pull her out to the floor. Jericho hurls himself over the top rops onto both of his Backlash opponents in a move so exciting it can only mean we have to go to a commercial. The broadcast returns with the action still out on the floor, where Christian gradually gains the upper hand. Stratus gets in her Chick Kick while the ref is distracted, but Jericho is able to kick out when he's rolled back into the ring. A back and forth series of near falls ensues, culminating in a double underhook superplex by Jericho that leaves both men dazed. He crawls over and covers only to have Christian kick out again, then he returns the favor when he's planted by an inverted tornado DDT. Jericho still can't get the win with an inside cradle, so Trish decides to interfere again. Her slap hits Christian when Jericho ducks, and a running enzuigiri seems to have Christian defeated. But Trish distracts the ref to prevent a count and the battle continues. Y2J again tries for the Walls, but a large bald guy dressed in black runs in and boots Jericho in the face. J.R. and The King don't know who he is, referring to him only as That Huge Man. In any case, Christian covers and gets the pinfall. And in case you were wondering, both men were introduced with their Canadian hometowns intact, though I expect that to cease once again when Raw heads back to the States.

Christian introduces the man in black as his new Problem solver, Tyson Tomko. I think I would have liked him more if he would have officially been called That Huge Man. Out in the ring, Benoit and his world heavyweight title soak in the adulation of the Calgary fans. Chris gets the fans going even more by talking about his training by Stu Hart and his wish that Stu could still be around to see his title reign. The champ goes on to talk about all the people who doubted him, even after he made Triple H tap out at WrestleMania. Surely, some of the doubts have been silenced after Shawn Michaels submitted to the Sharpshooter at Backlash. Or maybe not. HBK makes his way down as the fans break out the omnipresent "you screwed Bret" chant. For the record, I have officially given up hope that the WWE will ever stop doing things to beat that particular dead horse. Michaels says he always knew Benoit was for real, but he wonders if Chris knows deep down if he really is the best. The champ says he does, though Shawn quickly counters that he's never beaten The Showstopper one-on-one, even rolling footage of an encounter a few weeks back on Raw to prove it. To settle any doubts, Michaels suggest they try their hand at a singles match for the world title tonight. Benoit accepts and the two men are about to start grappling right away when Eric Bischoff and Johnny Nitro arrive on the stage. The GM agrees that it would be a dynamite main event, but it's so good that it shouldn't happen in Calgary. Reasoning that it would take about two weeks to promote the match properly, he books it for two weeks from tonight in Phoenix. I guess ticket sales in Arizona need a boost, but the air has officially been sucked out of the arena right now. Hey, I just had a great idea. Why not add Triple H to the match and make it a Triple Threat bout for the world title? That's something we haven't seen before. Wink, wink.

Match 2 - Victoria vs. Molly Holly - Women's Title Match

  Giving credit where credit is due, this is a change from the previous night when Victoria defended her strap against Lita. Molly goes right to work with a series of forearm shots but the champ rallies with a cross body, a monkey flip and a diving clothesline off the apron to the floor. Victoria takes it back inside to hit a standing moonsault for two, then she catapults Molly into the corner and takes her wig off in the process. Enraged, Holly proceeds to choke Victoria until the ref has no choice but to call for the DQ. It takes a second ref to finally pull the women apart. I guess hell hath no fury like a woman shorn. And I wish I had made that line up myself, but it was The King.

A limo pulls up to the arena and reveals all four members of Evolution. An interviewer tries to get a few words with Triple H, but The Game blows him off until he asks about the match that has been made for Phoenix. When he's told about Benoit-Michaels, Trips angrily replies "that's my match" and storms off. He has two weeks to persuade Bischoff to make it a triple threat match. They can call it Final Encounter 2 - This Time We Mean It. Meanwhile, Tyson Tomko's gimmick is revealed: he's Fozzy's only fan, and he's sworn revenge on Jericho for selling out and having the band do that YJStinger commercial.

Kane says he's got a problem, that he's become weak. How about that he's become boring? He rants about how he will once again feast on pain, etc. Also there's something about a sacrifice. Backstage, Bischoff and Nitro (attorneys at law) don't like what they see, each dreading the thought of Kane cutting another promo. William Regal drops in to complain about having to watch Eugene, but Bischoff makes it clear that watching his nephew is not optional. When Regal reveals that he's lost Eugene, Bischoff says that if he's not found, Regal will have to listen to two straight hours of uninspired Kane promos. Or it might have been that Regal would have to wrestle Kane. Either way, the point is made.

Taking some snappy dressing lessons from Ric Flair, Randy Orton comes to the ring sporting a suit. He gloats about his Backlash win over Mick Foley, a match that everyone assumed he would lose. Orton thanks Mick for allowing him to face Cactus Jack and says that while he entered the pay-per-view as the Legend Killer, he left as a Living Legend. Naturally someone's going to take exception to all of this, but it's not Foley: it's Edge. Making it clear that he doesn't like the brash intercontinental champion, Edge dares Orton to spit in his face as he did to Mick. Orton refuses, saying Edge isn't worth the effort. That earns him a full-on assault from the Canadian, though it isn't long before Flair and Batista come to his aid. Batista hits his sit-out power bomb just as Benoit and Triple H enter the fray. Numbers work in favor of Evolution and Benoit soon ends up on the wrong end of a Pedigree. While Evolution leaves, Bischoff and Nitro come to the stage to set up the main event for the evening. Flair and Batista will defend the tag team titles against Benoit and Edge. Go Canada!

Jonathan Coachman brings out his new buddy Garrison Cade, then joins the announcers to brag about his triumph over Tajiri. Actually I'm told that Coach was surprisingly good in the ring, and for once, I'm not being sarcastic.

Match 3 - Garrison Cade vs. Tajiri

  An early attempt at the handspring back elbow is greeted by a stiff kick to the back of the head, earning Cade an early near fall. He follows up with a backbreaker and works over Tajiri's back, much to the delight of the Coach. Cade hits a suplex for another two, but Tajiri finally gets things going with a spinning headscissors, a series of kicks and the handspring elbow. He goes for the Tarantula but is interrupted by Coachman, then he misses a springboard moonsault. Cade takes advantage with a big flying elbow (a la Randy Savage) and gets the duke.

The Smackdown Rebound takes us all the way back to last Tuesday... er, Thursday when the Big Show almost killed Kurt Angle. Meanwhile, Eugene is helping Lillian Garcia fire t-shirts into the crowd with an air gun. In a bit you can see coming from a mile away, Regal tries to get Eugene to leave with him and ends up taking a shirt right in the junk. Freaking hilarious. And backstage, Benoit and Edge use the underdog card to psyche themselves up for the main event.

Match 4 - Lita and Van Venis vs. Gail Kim and Matt Hardy (Ver. 1.0)

  Venis must be approaching the career mark for mixed tag team matches, a dubious distinction to be sure. Fortunately, Kane stops him from having to participate in this one, barging down to the ring and menacing Lita, who seems a bit out of her "Extreme" character by cowering in the corner the whole time. Hardy shows some signs of making a face turn by rushing to help his ex-girlfriend but he ends up getting chokeslammed all the way back to Sunday Night Heat. Oh man, Kane is on an unstoppable rampage through the midcarders again. Just brilliant, brilliant stuff from the writers here.

Main Event - Ric Flair and Batista vs. Edge and Chris Benoit - World Tag Team Title Match

  Benoit and Flair kick off the festivities with a classic battle of chops and a back body drop by the Crippler. Edge tags in to continue the assault, leaving Flair no choice but to take his famous face-first fall. Batista gets some momentum back for the champs and Edge gradually finds himself worn down. He finally makes the tag to Benoit, who goes for a Sharpshooter on Flair. Batista gets suplexed when he tries to help, and Triple H has to interfere to save the Nature Boy from a Crippler Crossface. Batista returns to hit a nasty spinebuster; Flair covers but can't get the three. The match is really heating up so it must be time for a commercial. Benoit fights for his life after the break, finally hitting rolling German suplexes and making the hot tag to his partner. Edge escapes a Batista power bomb with a shot from his cast, and Benoit hits his flying headbutt before he's dragged from the ring by Triple H. Michaels appears out of nowhere with Sweet Chin music for Trips while Edge spears Batista to get the pinfall and a second belt for Benoit. Join us next week for Bischoff's next big idea: a triple threat match for the world heavyweight title!


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    Ric Flair: To Be the Man

    Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998 and now resides in Intercourse, PA. He hopes that the fans back in his hometown of Lebanon, PA understand that they should still be proud of his Lebanon County heritage and that he only agreed to the change to make SLAM! more "reality-based."