RAW: World Title Turmoil!
NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling
No time to waste as we have most of the Raw roster in the ring to begin tonight's episode. Why, you ask? It's Randy Orton's turn to run the show this evening, and he's making Triple H defend his world heavyweight title against darn near everyone in an over-the-top battle royal. We're just about to get started when Vince McMahon appears and says the champ won't be in the battle royal. Read on to find out what wrinkle the Chairman of the Board has in mind as Raw does it Baltimore style.
Before the fans riot, Vince explains himself by saying that in a battle royal, anyone can win. Do you really want Steven Richards as your world champ? Vince thought not. Fear not though, because there's still incentive for our combatants. The boss declares that the last man in the ring will face Triple H later in the show for the gold, thus keeping Orton's promise that there will be a world title match tonight. And that, as they say, is that.
Match 1 - Battle Royal for World Title Shot
The largest man in this contest is the first one out, as a gaggle of superstars team up to eliminate Viscera. We also quickly say goodbye to Rhyno (eliminated by Tajiri), Tyson Tomko (by Shelton Benjamin), Sylvan Grenier (by Maven) and Maven (amusingly duped by Eugene). We have to break for a commercial, returning to learn that everyone's favorite to win, Jonathan Coachman, was eliminated by Chris Benoit. The next segment sees Gene Snitsky run wild, eliminating William Regal, Robert Conway and Rosey in quick succession. That inspires Batista, who goes toe-to-toe with Snitsky before tossing out Eugene, Tajiri, Val Venis, Christian, and even his own teammate Ric Flair. Snitsky gets tossed by Chris Jericho right after the next commercial, leaving just six men: Jericho, Benoit, Batista, Benjamin, Edge and, of course, Richards. Sadly, Stevie's run comes to an end at the hands of Jericho and Benjamin. Those two are the next to go, leaving just three contenders. Edge spears Batista but gets suplexed by Benoit, who falls into the clutches of Batista only to get rescued when Edge dropkicks the big man over the top. Rivals Edge and Benoit both end up on the apron trading shots, and they eventually fall to the floor at the same time. And I mean simultaneously, as not even the two refs can agree who won. The commercial break comes without a resolution. Interesting...
Acting GM Orton has a decision to make, and Vince drops by to assure him that it's his alone. Edge tries to get Randy to "do the right thing," but Orton ignores his repeated pleas and will only promise to think about it. Or as David Stern would say, there will be a vote, but it will be a 1-0 vote. Back in the locker room, Maven whines to Benjamin about his missed opportunities, and he's not smiling when Eugene shows up. Regal steps in to keep anything serious from happening, but it's clear young Eugene has touched one of Maven's nerves. Finally, Orton investigates the neckline of new make-up artist Candace, then fields a complaint from an angry Wolverine. Randy assures Benoit that he has an announcement to make in the next segment that will end all of tonight's controversy.
Why don't we get to that announcement right now? Actually, Orton teases us first by booking Eugene and Regal to defend their tag titles against La Resistance and birthday boy Jerry Lawler to face Flair in a special legends match. Then he hits us with the shocking (tongue firmly in cheek here) news that the main event will pit Triple H against both Edge and Benoit in a triple threat match. Despite the transparent nature of this news, at least Orton has a good reason, since he figures a three-way dance drops Helmsley's chances of retaining his strap from 50 percent to 33.3. See kids - math is fun! Stay in school.
Match 2 - Victoria and Lita vs. Molly Holly and Trish Stratus
With only four real female wrestlers left on the Raw roster, these ladies have got to be sick of wrestling each other. I know I'm tired of writing about them. Coach joins J.R. on announcing duties to watch Lita kick Trish in the face and pin her with a DDT.
Haven't seen any of the Mohammed Hassan vignettes that have been running for the past few weeks? You're in luck, because tonight's offering is a kind of "best of" piece (or "worst of" if you think this gimmick is going to be bad) that sums up all of them. Enjoy.
Match 3 - Ric Flair vs. Jerry "The King" Lawler - Legends Match
The Coach tells me something I did not know by informing us that this is only the fourth meeting ever between Lawler and Flair, and the first in a WWE ring. It's fun watching The King mock the Nature Boy, but Lawler isn't laughing when he hurts his knee hitting a second fistdrop off the middle rope. Ric takes advantage with a Figure Four, using the ropes to avoid a reversal and forcing Jerry to tap out.
Orton meets with Maria and Melina to set up something for the fans later tonight. We learn more about the rough youth of Benjamin, then we head to the ring to discover exactly what Orton has planned. After he brings out Candace, Christy Hemme and hometown girl Stacy Keibler, Randy figures the fans would like to see a Diva Search Lingerie Fashion Show. Hey, why not? I don't have to go into detail about five attractive women undressing and walking around in skimpy lingerie. Use your imagination.
Match 4 - La Resistance (challengers) vs. William Regal and Eugene (champions) - World Tag Team Titles Match
Regal works most of the match for the champs, giving way to an angry Eugene after the wrestling savant gets knocked off the apron. He hits an airplane spin and a double axhandle off the top rope, but needs Regal to save him from the Au Revoir. Eugene pins Robert Conway with a Stone Cold Stunner, then gets jumped and thrown into the steps by a vengeful Maven. Sure, turn heel now.
Trish and Jericho do a little reminiscing while trading verbal jabs backstage. Chris reminds his ex that he'll be the GM next Monday, and he plans on making Stratus defend her women's title against one-third of the female roster. Um, in this case, it's just Lita. Elsewhere, Flair chastises Batista for his lack of cooperation during the battle royal. A visit from Triple H calls the big man's loyalty to Evolution into question yet again.
Main Event - Edge (challenger) vs. Chris Benoit (challenger) vs. Triple H (champion) - World Heavyweight Title Match
Edge and Benoit get right after each other while the champ hangs back to watch. Trips finally gets involved and scores a near fall, but he soon finds himself on the business end of a German suplex and (along with Edge) a suicide dive to the floor. Of course, that means a commercial. The champ is still out on the floor, but now it's Edge in control in the ring. Benoit suplexes Edge out of the ring before getting a Sharpshooter and a Crippler Crossface locked in on HHH. His Evolution teammates make the save but are quickly ejected by Orton. And guess what? Batista doesn't look too upset about it. A series of signature falls swaps the momentum back and forth, and the ref takes a bump when Benoit knocks Edge off the top turnbuckle. Triple H shoves Benoit down and grabs a steel chair, but Orton grabs the chair and clubs the champ right into the crowd. Benoit counters a spear with a Crossface just as a second ref arrives on the scene. Edge rolls Benoit over on his back while still in the hold, and the new ref counts to three while the Wolverine's shoulders are on the mat. Edge has done it... or has he? Original ref Earl Hebner apparently revived just in time to see Edge tap out. Now both refs are raising the hand of a different man for the second time tonight, much to the dismay of the recovering Triple H and the frantic Orton. Who's the world champ? Tune in next week, because this show's over.
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Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998. Write him at email@example.com and tell him how much you loved tonight's double no decision endings.