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Raw: Batista makes his choice
By NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling


It's decision time for Batista - will he stay or will he go? I could tell you more, but the powers that be have suggested that I keep this short. It's Raw, live from Penn State University.

Match 1 - Trish Stratus (champion) vs. Molly Holly (challenger) vs. Victoria (challenger) - Women's Title Match

Honestly, when Lillian Garcia announces a triple threat match for the women's belt, my first reaction is, "There are three female wrestlers left on Raw?" Victoria hits her standing moonsault on Molly and tries one on Trish (show is sporting quite the black eye), but the champ counters with a roll-up for two. More offense comes from Victoria as she stops a Chick Kick with a headbutt, dodges Holly coming off the top turnbuckle and connects with the Widow's Peak. Sadly, Trish drags her out of the ring and covers Molly herself, stealing the pinfall in the process.

Triple H and Ric Flair are in their glory, feeling confident that Batista will sign to face JBL and John Cena on Smackdown. One problem: Ric hasn't seen or heard from big Dave. But he assures Helmsley that everything is on schedule. Further in the back, Trish barges in on Christy Hemme and Candice Michelle. Stratus brags that she made her top two challengers go down, but Hemme snaps that the only person "going down" most of the time is Trish. Michelle laughs at that one; she isn't laughing a second later when Stratus smacks the taste out of her mouth. The blonde bombshell asks Christy what she's going to do about it and gets her answer a second later when the redhead tackles her to start a catfight. This guilty pleasure only lasts a few seconds before officials arrive to break it up. Party poopers.

We're still in the back to see Randy Orton say goodbye to Stacy Keibler so he can chat a bit with Shawn Michaels. The Legend Killer says he has some ideas for WrestleMania, but HBK reminds him that more than any other time, Mania is when you need to grab any opportunity within reach for yourself. Michaels feels he's always left every bit of himself in the ring at past Manias, and it's hard to argue with him. He'll team with Orton to take on Edge and Christian later tonight, but first he has to listen to his own advice and take care of something. Out in the ring, Simon Dean is busy running down Joe Paterno when Chris Jericho's music hits to shut him up.

Match 2 - Simon Dean vs. Chris Jericho

Jericho opens strong by springboard dropkicking Dean off the apron, then dropping him face first on the security wall. Dean rallies back inside the squared circle but gets hit with a dropkick when he tries to come off the top rope. Y2J hits an enzuigiri and tries for a Lionsault, though he's foiled when Dean gets his knees up. Simon says eat this inverted Russian leg sweep; Jericho recovers quickly and applies the Walls of Jericho. Dean manages to crawl all the way to the corner to retrieve his bag, but the ref steps in and takes it away. That leaves Simon with little choice but to tap out.

Oh, those catty general managers. Eric Bischoff and Theodore Long give each other the business about Batista, with each man having his reasons to feel confident. Michaels stops in and asks Long to deliver a challenge for a WrestleMania match to Smackdown's Kurt Angle. Long is feeling that, playa.

Match 3 - Tyson Tomko vs. Kane

SLAM! Wrestling Smackdown reporter Dale Plummer almost falls out of his chair when Tomko comes to the ring announcing that Batista is overhyped and that the Problem Solver should be in the spotlight as we head to WrestleMania. Dale predicts a two-minute match, but Tomko proves to be a bit tougher than that. He gets hit with a jumping clothesline but ducks Kane's attempt at a chokeslam, then he throws the Big Red Machine's shoulder into the ringpost. Tomko gets in some more offense, but his end comes when Kane connects on his second chokeslam. Thanks for playing. By the way, J.R. calls this match a "toothchipper." No word on whether that's above or below slobberknocker on the physicality scale.

Flair intercepts a limo that he thinks is Batista's, but it's Chris Masters who steps out. The Masterpiece, who will be "unveiled" tonight, introduces himself to Ric and says he might learn something if he watches the rookie's debut match later tonight. I'm almost positive I will hate Masters, but that was kind of funny.

The Rodney Dangerfield of the WWE, Muhammad Hassan, is once again complaining about his lack of resepct. After all, the guy is undefeated, but he gets nothing but boos from the fans. Hassan declares that because of his unblemished record, he should get a shot at Triple H if Batista jumps ship to Smackdown. He's about to follow up on that remark when Chris Benoit makes his way to the ring. Hassan thinks The Crippler is there to make his own case for a Mania main event, but Benoit says he merely wants to challenge Hassan to a match... and shut him up. Muhammad accepts, but not for tonight, saying he's not ready for a match. Benoit tries to make him ready by taking down Hassan and Daivari, but the Arab-Americans quickly recover and give the Canadian a taste of the Jihad Drop and the Camel Clutch. I smell a WrestleMania feud right here.

Main Event - Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels vs. Christian and Edge

I know, I know, it's only the middle of the show, but trust me, this is the main event. Just pretend it's a house show. Quick tags get everyone involved, and the fun really starts when Michaels introduces Christian's head to the turnbuckles 10 times and hits a back body drop to earn a near fall. HBK scores a few more two counts, so Edge low bridges him and hits a clothesline off the apron to take us to commercial. It's still Michaels on the receiving end after the break, though he eventually catches Christian with a neckbreaker and tags out to Orton. The Legend Killer dishes out 29 (yes, I counted) forearm shots to Edge's chest and knocks Christian off the top turnbuckle. He keeps it rolling with a high cross body for two, but Christian sneaks in a cheap shot from the floor and all of a sudden it's Randy who is scrambling to kick out. He does manage to reverse a double flapjack into a double DDT, crawling over to make the hot tag to HBK. Michaels fires right hands and doles out inverted atomic drops; Orton lends a hand with a big dropkick for Christian. Edge takes out the ref while escaping an RKO and drops Randy with a Spear. In turn, Michaels takes him out with a flying forearm shot, then he slams Christian and leaps from the top with his patented elbowdrop. The band tunes up, but Michaels ends up in a bad way when Edge grabs his legs from behind and the heels crotch him on the post. Edge and Christian grab chairs and prepare for the return of the Con-chair-to, which we haven't seen in years. But Michaels ducks, and Orton revives to take Edge over the top rope to the floor. HBK ducks a solo chair shot from Christian and nails Sweet Chin Music to get the duke.

Ever dutiful, The Coach tells Bischoff and Long that Batista should be here any minute. How he knows this is anyone's guess. Elsewhere, Maria tries to congratulate Michaels, but Edge decides to continue the fight backstage. The bitter Canadian Spears HBK through some random backstage items to get his point across, whatever it might be.

Match 5 - Steven Richards vs. "The Masterpiece" Chris Masters

Oops, I almost typed in The Narcissist up there. Richards scores with an enzuigiri, but that might be all she wrote as Masters hits a suplex and drives in his shoulder in the corner. Stevie tries some knife-edge chops only to get a swinging two-handed shot to the face coming off the ropes. A second later, Masters makes Richards tap out to -- get ready -- a full nelson. Wow, that's a really complex technical hold that must take years to, ahem, master. My memories of putting my little brothers in it in my youth must have been implanted. Masters kisses his bicep to celebrate, meaning that somewhere Scott Steiner is getting ready to sue somebody.

A quick recap shows exactly how Batista got to tonight's critical juncture. It's useful if you haven't watched or read about any WWE shows for the last six months.

Match 6 - Gene Snitsky (challenger) vs. Shelton Benjamin (champion) - Intercontinental Title Match

It's hard to figure why Snitsky would get a rematch when he was disqualified last week for a blatant chair shot. We get the answer about two minutes in when Benjamin evens the score with a chair shot of his own to get his own DQ. Some kind of gimmick match for WrestleMania, perhaps?

Flair still can't find Batista, and Triple H is feeling more than a little uneasy. Trips does drop the bomb (it's a bomb to Flair, at least) that he was behind the footage of JBL and the limo attack last week. Ultimate yes-man Flair is even more impressed with the Cerebral Assassin than ever, and Hunter is convinced that even dumb Dave will have to sign with Smackdown. But what if Batista was standing outside the locker room door and heard every word you just said? That might make a difference.

Contract time is finally here as Bischoff and Long head down the ramp. Evolution comes down as a unit, at least for now. Bischoff makes his final pitch for the monster to remain on Raw, and Long makes a compelling case for Dave to jump ship. Naturally though, Triple H tries to get the last word, saying the decision should be easy. He thinks Batista should do what's best for him and what's best for Evolution. He tells Dave to imagine what it would have been like for Flair to be NWA champ while Arn Anderson was WWF champ back in the heyday of the Four Horsemen, or if Michaels was on top of the WWE while Trips was WCW champ during DX's prime. The Game thinks Batista should make history by bringing both belts to Evolution. Batista responds by saying he's known what he was going to do for a long time, tossing the Raw contract on the floor and holding the Smackdown contract while giving his teammates the thumbs up. But after a dramatic pause, the thumb turns down, and the crowd goes nuts as Batista clobbers Flair. He turns his attention to Hunter, power bombing the world champ through the contract signing table. Batista signs the Raw contract and tells his unconscious former team leader that he's going to WrestleMania to take his world title. See you in seven.

Next week: Hassan takes on Benoit, and Michaels faces Edge in a Street Fight.


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    Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998. With Evolution losing Batista, he and Dale would like to throw their hats in the ring as possible replacements. Triple H can contact him by e-mail at ntylwalk7@yahoo.com. References are available upon request.