Raw: Ohhh what a (gold) rushhhh!
NICK TYWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling
With Backlash in the books, Raw is officially in a holding pattern. After all, anything that happens in the next few weeks stands the chance of being made irrelevant once the draft rolls around later this month. Still, we soldier on as Raw goes live from the former Home of The Curse, Boston, Massachusetts.
Showing his taste for redheads, Batista makes some time with Christy Hemme until he is interrupted by Eric Bischoff. The GM congratulates Big Dave on his successful title defense at Backlash and fills him in on his idea: an eight-man tournament to decide the number one contender that starts tonight. To add to the drama, the participants won't know who they are facing in the first round until the ring announcers call their names. Eric also offers the world champ the night off, but Batista says he thinks he wants a match tonight, against someone like, say, Bischoff himself. Turns out the big guy is just kidding. What a ham.
Match 1 - Christian vs. Kane - Gold Rush Tournament - 1st Round
I forgot to mention that Bischoff has named it the Gold Rush Tournament, which would have been a lot more fitting if it was being held somewhere out west. In any case, Christian gets right in Kane's face before the match. And actually backs his bravado up with some offense, especially outside the ring where Tyson Tomko can lend a hand. Captain Charisma pulls off a couple of near falls before Kane makes his inevitable rally, countering a sleeper with a sidewalk slam. Tomko pushes Kane off the top rope, leading to a spot where both men reverse the other's finisher. Christian finds himself hurled into his buddy Tomko, then hit with a choke slam coming back off the ropes. Needless to say, that ends the match, but Tomko tries to press the issue after the bell. A big boot and a choke slam put a stop to that nonsense.
Still reeling from his loss, Christian bumps into Ric Flair backstage. The Nature Boy can't pass up the chance to needle the Captain about his loss, even composing his own 'rap' about Triple H winning the Gold Rush Tournament. Somehow I don't think Eminem will lose any sleep.
A video package shows some of Hulk Hogan's memorable victories over the years, culminating with his tag team win with Shawn Michaels against Muhammad Hassan and Daivari on Sunday. Speaking of which, Hassan and Daivari are next to come out to the ring. As usual, the Arab-Americans are upset, this time about Hassan's exclusion from the Gold Rush. But here's a new twist: Hassan blames his partner for the Backlash loss, expressing his displeasure with some slaps and a few kicks to the head. Could there be trouble in paradise?
Match 2 - Viscera vs. Simon Dean
I know, I also thought Viscera's push would be temporary, but perhaps not. The big guy says he proved how physical he could be at Backlash (though he lost to Kane) and proved his hunger for love. Now he has his sights set on ring announcer Lillian Garcia with thoughts of going, ahem, south of the border. Dean arrives to ridicule Vis about his weight, offering a year's supply of his Simon System instead of a match. Viscera chooses the match. Simon soon finds himself in the Tree of Woe and gets finished off a minute or two later by a Big Splash. Vis says he's back on the market ... the black market. Who writes this guy's stuff?
Bischoff joins Stacy and Candace in checking out Stacy's layout in the new issue of Stuff magazine. He then returns to his office to find Triple H waiting for him, and The Game is not a happy camper. It seems Trips feels like he's owed a rematch with Batista (never mind that Sunday's match was already a rematch) and doesn't feel the need to win a tournament to get it. Bischoff fires back that he's lucky to even be in the Gold Rush, and for the time being, the GM gets his way. Elsewhere, Maria gets a word with Shelton Benjamin, who is also in the tournament. The Intercontinental champ gets just enough time to tell us he's not nervous before Chris Jericho crashes the interview. Y2J admits that Benjamin beat him fair and square at Backlash and did things in the ring that no one else could have done. Benjamin says that means something to him. But Jericho also says that he needs to win the tournament, as he hasn't had a one-on-one world title shot in almost three years (SLAM!
Wrestling fact checker, please investigate) and this could be his last chance. Shelton says he can respect that and the two former rivals shake hands and wish each other luck. Finally, a short memorial airs for the passing of Chris Candido.
Match 3 - Shelton Benjamin vs. Shawn Michaels - Gold Rush Tournament - 1st Round
Now this is good stuff. Some old fashioned mat wrestling starts things off, with Benjamin getting the upper hand several times but Michaels is able to reach the ropes to break the holds. Two arm drags have HBK looking frustrated, but he scores the first two count and continues on offense until Benjamin clotheslines him over the top rope to the floor. Time for a commercial break. We return just in time to see a Michaels superplex countered in mid-air by a cross body. Michaels hit some chops; Benjamin responds with a Samoan drop and a backbreaker. Shawn hits his patented flying forearm and nips up, then looks startled when Shelton does the same. A series of rolling counters on the mat leads to two counts both ways but the match continues. Benjamin hurls Michaels into the corner and hits his Stinger Splash, but a t-bone suplex is reversed into a back body drop. Michaels goes for Sweet Chin Music but Benjamin ducks and hits a spinning heel kick. He tries to follow up by going up top,
but HBK pushes him off and nails a big elbow. Shawn pulls himself up despite bleeding from the mouth and warms up the band. Shelton blocks Sweet Chin music and hits his own super kick only to see Shawn kick out at two again. A springboard forearm shot still isn't enough to keep Michaels down. HBK tries to throw his foe over the top rope to the floor, but the I-C champ catches himself on the top rope and lands on the apron. He springboards off the tope rope all the way across the ring, but Michaels catches him with Sweet Chin Music on the way down in one of the cooler looking spots I've seen in a while. The ref counts the pinfall and Michaels earns a hard-fought trip to the second round. Point blank, Raw needs more matches like this.
Todd Grisham asks Edge why he needs to be in the Gold Rush tourney when he already has one title shot in the bank. He also wonders what happens to his title shot if he gets drafted to Smackdown. Those are good questions and Edge has no answers.
Match 4 - Hurricane and Rosey (champions) vs. La Resistance (challengers) - World Tag Team Title Match
Yes, the super heroes won the tag straps in an unannounced tag team turmoil bout at the pay-per-view. It's a shame too, because my money was on the Heart Throbs. La Resistance pulls off some nice double teams on Rosey, but Hurricane eventually gets the hot tag and turns the tide. A combo move (sidewalk slam and power slam?) seals the deal for the new champs.
The Smackdown Rebound explores the continuing deterioration of the Rey Mysterio-Eddie Guerrero partnership. Hey Rey, just come to Raw and forget about Latino Heat. Please?
Match 5 - Edge vs. Chris Jericho - Gold Rush Tournament - 1st Round
It's been a while since I got to type the words 'Match 5' into any of these reports. Jericho comes out on fire with a series of chops, then slams Edge's head into the top turnbuckle repeatedly. Edge fights back with a thumb to the eye and a submission hold, but Jericho goes on a tear that includes a hotshot, a clothesline, a forearm shot, a running enzuigiri and a hurracanrana with a couple of two counts tossed in for good measure. Edge finally retaliates by dodging a bulldog and hitting a big boot before grabbing his trusty briefcase. Jericho hits a springboard dropkick to knock Edge off the apron and follows with a slingshot cross body to the floor. Back inside, Chris leapfrogs a Spear and applies the Walls of Jericho only to see Edge crawl his way to the ropes. With the ref looking the other way, Edge hits a briefcase shot from the floor and climbs up top to launch a missile dropkick, but Jericho manages to kick out at two. On the verge of frustration, Edge hits a Spear and
gets the duke.
Happy birthday to The Rock! J.R. says The Great One can't wait to get back to the WWE to electrify, but to paraphrase Mark Twain (or Benjamin Disraeli or Alfred Marshall or whoever said it first), there are lies, damn lies and what Ross just said. Out in the ring, Chris Masters sweetens his Master Lock Challenge by offering $4,000, a Curt Schilling jersey and a Tom Brady autographed football. Guess what? Today's bozo still can't break the full nelson. Yawn.
Main Event - Triple H vs. Chris Benoit
You had to see this coming since Benoit is the only 'big name' left that hasn't already been in the tourney. The announcers are selling The Wolverine's status after the brick shot that Edge gave him on Sunday. Poor guy might have a concussion. Helmsley tries to take advantage early with a hard clothesline to the back of the head, ushering in the last commercial break. Benoit fights out of a sleeper when we return, then escapes a Pedigree attempt to pull off four rolling German suplexes. The diving head butt follows but only for two. Flair tries to interfere from the apron, but Benoit yanks him into the ring and starts going to work on the old man. Triple H attacks from behind, knocking the ref out in the process. A low blow follows, but Batista sprints down to the ring to even the odds. The champ takes out Flair and counters a Pedigree with a spine buster. He encourages Benoit to get up, and The Crippler obliges by placing HHH in a Sharpshooter. Trips crawls to the ropes but
Batista laughs and pulls the bottom rope just out of his reach. Benoit pulls the hold back into the center of the ring and with the ref revived, Trips has no choice but to tap out. Batista enjoys a further laugh at his foe's expense as Raw fades out with The Game eliminated from title contention.
Next week: The Gold Rush Tournament semifinals take place about an hour from my house, and SLAM! Wrestling is sending me to cover it live. I'm such a ham!
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Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998. He's currently looking forward to playing the Mel Kiper role for wrestling and breaking down the upcoming WWE draft. Get his current mock draft by e-mailing email@example.com.