January 25, 2005
Raw: Rumbling towards the finish
By NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling
We're just six days away from the 2005 edition of the Royal Rumble, and that's bad news for WWE fans in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Why, you ask? It's because nothing of much consequence is likely to happen in tonight's Raw which is live in their fair city. Wait, don't leave yet.
The final spots in the Rumble match itself still need to be decided, and there's always the drama queens in Evolution to add something to the show. And if that doesn't convince you to read, I can alwyas make up something exciting. We head to a place near and dear to Jim Ross' heart for yet another edition of Raw.
Tonight's main event pits Ric Flair, legend, against Randy Orton, self-proclaimed Legend Killer. Also on the menu is a live update on the career of a certain Stone Cold Steve Austin, though the smart money says it will have more to do with making movies (probably of the crappy variety) than competing in the squared circle. But before any of that, we've got an appearance from the Showstoppa and friends.
Match 1 - Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit vs. Christian, Tyson Tomko and Edge
You know it's pay-per-view week when you get a random six-man tag to kick things off. Benoit scores the first near fall with a Northern Lights suplex on Christian, then Jericho rolls Tomko up out of a gorilla press for another two count. Everyone hits the ring for some fun and merriment until the obligatory face ring-clearing ends with Christian getting tossed onto his teammates on the floor. A commercial break leaves me pondering this thought: do we really need an awards show for cars? Who delivers the acceptance speeches? Back to the action, we find HBK fending off numerous close calls as all the heels take a turn beating on him. He eventually turns the momentum around with an inside cradle on Christian, but his own teammate Jericho has the ref's attention. Christian and Michaels connect on a double clothesline, finally creating an opening for Benoit to get the hot tag. The Crippler dishes out suplexes for everyone but the hot dog vendor and hits the diving headbutt on Christian. Edge saves his former buddy from the Sharpshooter and Tomko tries for a big boot. Benoit ducks and Tomko runs into Michaels' Sweet Chin Music, meaning all The Wolverine has to do is cover to get the duke.
The ever popular Smackdown Rebound takes us back to last Thursday night to see Kurt Angle's apology to one of the losers from the Raw Diva Search. Alas, things turn violent when Kurt Angle and his cronies team up with JBL and his cabinet to put the boots to Big Show, who thought JBL was going to help him beat up Angle. Wait, Bradshaw double-crossed someone? I am shocked!
It turns out tonight is no ordinary night in OK City - the governor has proclaimed today Jim Ross Day. Former amateur wrestling champ Danny Hodge (who looks like he's about 100 but hops over the ropes to get into the ring, which I sure couldn't do) and Stacy Keibler summon J.R. to the ring for a standing ovation amidst the extended dance remix of the Oklahoma fight song. Footage is shown of Ross accepting the award at what appears to be a bar or restaurant. J.R. even gets a kiss on the cheek from Stacy, but things turn sour right after that when his speech is interrupted by Triple H and Flair. The Game mocks J.R. and his beloved Sooners and proclaims it Triple H Day instead, though SLAM! Wrestling's Dale Plummer wisely points out that every day in the WWE is Triple H Day. Trips tells Ross and Hodge to beat it but wants Stacy to stay, something that does not sit well with J.R. He stands up to Hunter but gets a sneaky low blow from Flair; Hodge gets in one mighty punch before Evolution puts the boots to him. HHH turns his attention back to Keibler, demanding a kiss before deciding to give her a Pedigree instead. Fortunately, Randy Orton comes to the rescue and all is well for the time being. [Editor's Note: Having met Mr. Hodge on numerous occasions, there is no question in my mind that he could take any one of the grapplers on today's WWE roster, short maybe of Kurt Angle.]
Back in the Evolution locker room, Trips and the Nature Boy brag to Batista about the last segment, though the big man seems pretty unimpressed at the thought of his teammates terrorizing septagenarians, announcers and women. He also ruffles some feathers by announcing that he has decided to take a Royal Rumble Qualifying Match against Helmsley's wishes. He even has a logical rationale for doing so, reasoning that if Triple H loses the world title to Orton, he can win the Rumble and bring the belt back to Evolution at WrestleMania. Hey Hunter, when Batista is constantly beating you with logic, it's time to stop calling yourself the Cerebral Assassin.
Everyone seems to want a spot in the Rumble, and that includes William Regal. Sadly for the Brit, Eric Bischoff hasn't forgotten his role in the Eugene saga, so he decides to give a spot to a man who's more of a team player: Jonathan Coachman. La Resistance wants spots too, but their plea is cut off when Batista barges his way to the front of the line. Words are exchanged, including a few threats to do unpleasant things to one another with the Quebec flag. In the end though, we get La Resistance versus Batista tonight, with the winner or winners gaining entry in the Rumble.
Match 2 - Tajiri vs. Viscera - Royal Rumble Qualifying Match - Over the Top Rope Challenge
Think Tajiri has a chance here? To quote Peter Griffin, come on! Despite getting a full blast from the green mist early on, Viscera easily disposes of Tajiri and moves on (for some reason) to the Rumble.
Maria attempts to get Tajiri's feelings on the sham that just occurred, and she does... but they're all in Japanese. Regal drops by to recruit Tajiri for a plan to get back at Bischoff and finds out that Maria doesn't really want to interview him. Hilarity ensues. Or not.
Match 3 - La Resistance vs. Batista - Royal Rumble Qualifying Match
If these matches stay this short, this could turn out to be my easiest report ever. La Resistance gets a little offense in, but the power of Batista is just too much for them to handle. The big man clotheslines Sylvain Grenier and spinebusters Robert Conway on top of him before pinning them both. I'm equal parts impressed with the win and saddened at the state of the tag team belts. Backstage, Flair is also impressed, but Triple H counters by saying he's got something impressive to do. We'll be the judges of that.
Match 4 - Muhammad Hassan vs. Val Venis - Royal Rumble Qualifying Match
There's been a Val Venis sighting! I'm just coming to terms with this development when Daivari runs off Lillian Garcia and proceeds to yell into the mic for the rest of the match in Arabic, possibly calling the match for Al Jazeera. Venis looks to be in trouble, but he shows some resiliency by fighting out of a series of submission holds and hitting a big clothesline. He follows up with a sit-down power bomb that only gets a deuce. Still on the attack, Venis slams Hassan and climbs up top but misses the Money Shot. Hassan connects with his finisher and gets the pinfall, then goes on to apply the Camel Clutch after the bell.
And a game of "Can you top this?" has begun. Evolution gathers again to celebrate Batista's victory, and Triple H reveals his plan. It seems he went to Bischoff and asked for Flair to be given a spot in the Rumble. That way, in case Batista loses in the Rumble, another member of Evolution has a chance to advance to the WrestleMania main event. Honestly though, if Flair wins the Rumble I will eat my notes from tonight's show. In any case, the team huddles up to discuss strategy for Ric's match with Orton.
Maven is in the ring with a challenge for anyone who has already qualified for the Rumble. Bischoff decided to give him one more chance, so if someone accepts his challenge and Maven wins, he takes that person's spot in the big match. Seems innocent enough, but it quickly turns nightmarish when first Kane, and then Snitsky (both sporting visible damage from their flight off the stage that ended last week's show) limp down to the ring and the ref turns it into a triple threat match. To quote J.R., I don't like Maven's chances.
Match 5 - Maven vs. Kane vs. Gene Snitsky
Things start off with a little bit of comedy as the behemoths slug each other in their injured regions while Maven unsuccessfully tries to sneak in and steal a pin. A double big boot gives him his best opportunity, but Snitsky kicks out and Kane sits up before he can even get a cover. Snitsky eventually is thrown from the ring, leaving Kane open to an attack from behind. But the Big Red Machine shrugs off enough of Maven's blows to catch him with a chokeslam, and that's all she wrote.
A video package shows us the highlights from Austin's press conference to announce his three-picture deal with WWE Films. Before everyone gets too excited, let's remember that this studio has yet to actually release a movie, and their first effort (the John Cena vehicle "The Marine") doesn't sound like blockbuster material. Ah, but how long can it be until The Rattlesnake is back on Monday nights to try to leverage some synergistic marketing efforts? Vegas, please set the over/under now.
Michael Cole and Tazz make a brief appearance to fill us in on the Smackdown matches on the Rumble card. There's only four matches total, two from each brand, so the Rumble better be good. Todd Grisham is backstage with Edge, who's actually psyched about the idea of pulling double duty in his singles match with HBK and the battle royale. And for Pete's sake, would someone please just let Chris Masters debut already so I don't have to watch the same promo over and over again? I'd really appreciate it.
Main Event - Ric Flair vs. Randy Orton
Orton leads off with a dropkick; Flair fires back with a thumb to the eye, chops and punches. Blood starts to flow from the Legend Killer as many, many punches are exchanged, punctuated by not one, not two, but three back body drops. Triple H trips Orton, but the ref thinks it's Batista and ejects him instead. The Game doesn't even look Batista in the eye as the big man stares angrily and walks up the ramp and we go to the last commercial break. More punches are exchanged, just the way you like them. HHH gets a shot in on the outside while the ref is otherwise engaged and Flair guillotines his foe on the top rope. Orton rallies by no-selling a barrage of punches, then he hits a backbreaker and a powerslam to earn a near fall. Flair manages a chop block and Orton kicks him into the ref, opening the door for all kinds of shenanigans. Helmsley uses his title belt to batter Orton's leg, and Flair applies the Figure Four just as a new ref arrives. Orton flips the hold but Hunter drags the second ref out of the ring. The world champ continues to assault Orton's leg until he finally tries one move too many and gets a boot to the face as he comes off the top rope. Orton nails Flair with an RKO and the first ref revives to slowly count the three that gives a victory to the Legend Killer. Randy has momentum going into the pay-per-view, but in the world of wrestling, that might as well be the kiss of death. We'll see what happens Sunday and be back here in seven for the fallout. Please come back.
Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998, and thinks he should get the "extra" spot in the Royal Rumble from Batista's win against La Resistance. Hey, they let Drew Carey in one year!