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COMMENT





RAW: Iron Man match swings on big return
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


My job is to recap Raw every week, so the writer in me looks forward to every show. But as a fan, I'm awaiting this week's program more than any in quite some time. Triple H and Chris Benoit will go 60 minutes in an Iron Man Match for the World Heavyweight Title, and I couldn't be happier. I'm even willing to put up with the near-endless Raw Diva Search segments to get to the good stuff tonight. Pittsburgh, PA, here we come, as Raw invades the Mellon Arena.

It looks like we'll have to wait at least a little longer, because The Coach has the Raw Diva Search finalists assembled in a line. One is about to be eliminated, and that one is... Julia. So long. Coach tells the survivors that each of them will have 20 seconds to verbally seduce a former WWE superstar later in the program. That sounds like bathroom break time to me. Next we get one of those pay-per-view style montages that summarizes the feud between Benoit and Triple H. Have I mentioned that I'm excited for this match?

J.R. and The King make it sound like they expected the Iron Man Match to be first, but a good chunk of the Raw roster is assembled in the ring. The men already there are soon joined by Edge, Chris Jericho and everyone from Evolution except Triple H. Eric Bischoff explains the gathering: tonight's Iron Man winner will defend his title at SummerSlam against the winner of a 20-man over-the-top battle royal. And it's about to begin right now. Sweet.

Match 1 - 20-Man Battle Royal - Number One Contender Match

Several superstars make quick exits, including WIlliam Regal (eliminated by Evolution), Tyson Tomko (by Edge and Jericho) and Chuck Palumbo (Edge/Jericho). Edge is in trouble, getting hit by an RKO and a low blow right before the commercial break. During the break, we lose Val Venis (Kane) and Matt Hardy (Kane). The Hurricane is dumped out by Steven Richards and Rodney Mack, but his faithful sidekick Rosey gets revenge by eliminating both men. He, in turn, is dropkicked out by Edge. Tajiri takes out both members of La Resistance but bites off more than he can chew trying a Tarantula on Kane and he's soon gone. That leaves eight men still in the running, and they take turns with some moves in the middle of the ring while we break for commercial once again. Kane is in command when we return, chokeslamming Flair and going toe-to-toe with Batista. In quick succession, we lose Flair (Maven), Rhyno (Batista), Kane (everyone ganging up) and Maven (Randy Orton) to leave us with a Final Four of Jericho, Edge, Batista and Orton. The two Canadians team up once again to eliminate Batista, but their alliance ends there as Jericho knocks out Edge. Jericho and Orton circle each other with a world title shot at stake. Orton hits a spinebuster and catapults his foe onto the top rope, but Jericho turns the tables and has Orton scrambling to keep from going over. Jericho is tossed over twice but skins the cat both times, including one save with just one arm. Both men find themselves on the apron exchanging blows until Orton manages to slide back under the bottom rope. He hits an RKO from the inside, then spins and kicks Jericho off the apron to finally claim victory. Now the only question is will he be facing Benoit or his boss Triple H at SummerSlam?

There's still time to kill, so the Diva hopefuls get their chance for verbal seduction. Cocah takes them individually into a room where they get to seduce... Kamala! Hilarity ensues, I suppose. The SmackDown Rebound shows us a confrontation between JBL and the Undertaker, as well as Vince McMahon restoring Kurt Angle to the active roster against his will to face Eddie Guerrero at SummerSlam. Next up is a visit with the WWE contingent at the Democratic National Convention, and finally, the Diva finalists are paraded out in bikinis for another round of voting. Are we done now?

Main Event - Triple H (challenger) vs. Chris Benoit (champion) - 60-Minute Iron Man World Heavyweight Title Match

I like the little scoreboard and clock in the bottom left corner of the screen, but it quickly disappears. Too bad. The first fall looks like a feeling-out process, with some basic holds and lock-ups. Benoit's early attempt at a Crippler Crossface sends Helmsley scurrying from the ring, and just past the 55:00 remaining mark he does so again. HHH hits a knee to the chest and throws Benoit through the ropes, but the champ gets the best of the scrap on the outside. Hunter takes it back in for a DDT and a facebuster, but his Pedigree attempt is reversed into the CCF. The challenger wiggles away but gets rolled up for the first pinfall.

Benoit leads 1-0

The show breaks for commercial and there is 46:19 left when the action resumes. Benoit applies a reverse chinlock, then hits a couple of suplexes for near falls. An abdominal stretch ends when Trips hip tosses Benoit over the top rope, and the champ returns to be greeted by a hard Irish whip. A missed spot (J.R. explains that the two men are sweaty) leads to HHH getting whipped so hard into the corner that he flies up and over the turnbuckles. Benoit launches a tope that sees him connect with Helmsley but keep going and hit his own head on the outside wall. Another commercial leaves us with 36:59 to go and the action still outside the ring. Benoit takes it back in and uses a modified Indian deathlock and a series of headbutts to keep Triple H grounded. He transitions to a Figure Four, but HHH flips it over and forces the Wolverine to grab the ropes. Benoit climbs the corner for mounted punches only to get dropped face-first on the turnbuckle. He responds with three rolling German suplexes but can't connect with a diving headbutt. Helmsley uses a chest-first Irish whip to set up a Pedigree that evens the score.

Falls tied 1-1

There's now 30:28 to go as Benoit rolls outside the ring to try to recover. His attempt to return to the ring is met by Triple H, who uses a front suplex to drop the Crippler face-first on the steel steps. The ref counts Benoit out and awards another fall to the challenger.

Triple H leads 2-1 with 28:44 remaining

It's suddenly all Triple H, as he pours on the offense and scores a trio of near falls. A series of forearm shots soften up Benoit's lower back, and though he mounts a brief rally with a barrage of chops, a spinebuster puts him down for the count once again.

Triple H leads 3-1 with 21:54 remaining

At the 18:28 mark, Hunter looks for another Pedigree, but Benoit blocks it and manages to lock in the Sharpshooter. Trips crawls until he's within a foot of the ropes, but Benoit drags him back into the center of the ring. The pain eventually forces him to tap out with 15:39 left.

Triple H leads 3-2

This time it's Triple h who wants to recuperate on the outside, and he's obviously looking to stall as Benoit chases him around the floor. When the action does return to the ring, The Game quickly succumbs to the CCF. He gets his foot on the ropes but isn't so lucky a second time, and he taps out again.

Falls tied 3-3 with 11:58 left

Shenanigans finally are called as Flair and Batista come down the ramp. They make their move with 8:38 left, battering Benoit while Triple H distracts ref Mike Chiota. Batista bloodies Benoit by sending him hard into the ringpost and rolling him back in for his teammate. Benoit kicks out of the cover at two, then proceeds to launch into two rolling Germans that are halted by a mule kick. With 5:20 left, the ref takes a bump when Benoit dodges Triple H's leap into the corner. Naturally, Batista and Flair jump in, leaving Benoit wide open for a nasty chair shot from behind by the challenger. Bischoff sends a new ref down to make the count, but Benoit manages to kick out of three attempts to cover. A frustrated Triple H KO's the new ref with a right hand as we reach the 4:00 mark. Evolution gangs up on Benoit in the corner, but someone is coming through the crowd: it's Eugene! The crowd erupts as Eugene comes to Benoit's defense, dropping Flair with a Stone Cold Stunner and HHH with a Rock Bottom. He knocks his Uncle Eric off the apron and waffles Triple H with a chair shot, clearly loving every second. Benoit makes slow crawl toward his downed opponent but there is still no ref for the cover at :45. Eugene retrieves the original ref and he makes a slow count that does hit three with just six seconds left. The last few seconds tick off and Benoit holds on to his world title.

Benoit wins 4-3

Eugene makes his way up to the announce table, mocking an enraged Triple H as Raw comes to its exhausting conclusion. Good night everyone.

Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998. He's going to ice down his note-taking hand, but he'll be back soon to answer e-mail at ntylwalk7@yahoo.com