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COMMENT





Raw: Bye Bye Jericho
By NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling


With SummerSlam officially in the books, all that's left is the aftermath. We're headed to Hampton, VA to find out if Kurt Angle is still angry, if there's anything left of Matt Hardy, and Eric Bischoff's next step in removing the WWE title from John Cena's waist. Hulk Hogan is probably gone for now, but the man he beat Sunday night is still very much around, and Shawn Michaels is on his way to the ring to start the show.

The fans seem to have forgiven Shawn's heel turn against the Hulkster, greeting him with an "HBK" chant. Even though he doesn't like admitting it, Michaels says Hogan was the better man at SummerSlam. Somewhat sarcastically, HBK tells the crowd that Hogan's amazing ring prowess and devastating legdrop were too much for him. The difference is that Hogan is on a jet headed back to Florida, while the Showstoppa is still here to give the fans what they want. Further reflections are interrupted by the music and entrance pyro of Chris "The Masterpiece" Masters. He grabs a mic and tells Michaels that he's been watching HBK since he was a little kid, and the problem with the veterans is that they don't know when to pass the torch. Michaels sees what's going on and says that it's cool for a young guy to try to steal the spotlight, but Masters needs to understand the pecking order and how hard it is to breathe the thin air at the top of the ladder. Masters fires back that it's getting thin on top of Shawn's head, a joke that HBK seems to appreciate. He figures they might as well do this thing, so he slaps Masters and the two men exchange right hands. A flying forearm shot sends Masters into full retreat, so he might not be ready to knock Michaels off his perch just yet.

Chris Jericho whines to Bischoff that Cena got lucky in his defense of the WWE title, and the GM agrees a rematch is well deserved. But this isn't going to be just any rematch: Bischoff will be at ringside to observe the first ever You're Fired Match. The winner will get the title and the loser, if you haven't figured it out, will get his walking papers. The two bosom buddies hug in celebration of their scheme.

Match 1 - Kurt Angle vs. Shelton Benjamin

If you're not excited for this you can't be much of a wrestling fan. Each man gets a proverbial leg up during the opening bit of mat wrestling, but it's Benjamin who shows off his athleticism by springboarding off the top rope to escape one hold and flipping out of a release suplex to land on his feet. Angle runs right into a low bridge and lies on the outside while the show breaks for commercials. Kurt's fully recovered a few minutes later, grounding Benjamin with a grapevine and a chinlock. Angle fires off suplexes to earn several near falls and uses a body scissors to slow the pace once again. Shelton manages to stand up and hit a spinebuster, following with a flying forearm shot, a series of clotheslines and a Samoan drop. Angle tries to respond with an Ankle Lock, but Benjamin hops up into a spinning heel kick that forces Kurt to kick out at two. Benjamin goes up top only to have Angle run up and deliver a double underhook superplex. Benjamin kicks out and reverses an Angle Slam into a DDT, and Kurt manages to kick out one more time. Angle finally gets the Ankle Lock applied, and try as he might, Benjamin can't escape and is forced to tap out. Kurt grabs a chair from the ringside officials and forces the referee to reenact his gold medal ceremony once again in celebration of his victory.

The official spokesperson for middle class America, Kerwin White, says the fans were correct to give Benjamin polite applause for his effort against Angle. Sadly, White knows Benjamin will never be "one of us" because he's not white. And if it's not white, according to Kerwin, it's not right. I know this gimmick is supposed to be ironic and funny, but with the WWE's history of handling subjects like this, the smart money says it will be neither. Elsewhere, Snitsky checks out Maria's pedicure and is about to take action on his foot fetish when the Big Show steps in to save the day. Show chases off the "toe-sucking pervert" and chastises Maria for not being careful about who she talks to. Maria innocently asks what a pervert is, but I think she knows.

Match 2 - Matt Hardy vs. Rob Conway

Right after the opening bell, Edge and Lita visit the announcers and observe from a unique perspective on top of the announce table. Conway uses the distraction to his advantage, punching and slapping Hardy while we're reminded how much abuse Matt took Sunday night. Hardy escapes a couple of sleeperholds and manages to mount his own offense until Conway gets his boots up on a charge into the corner. After a battle on the top turnbuckle, Conway punches his foe to the canvas and drops a big elbow off the top to get the win. To add injury to insult, Edge attacks Hardy after the bell, kicking the steel steps into Matt's head while it's against the side of the apron. The announcers ponder Hardy's fate, but I'm thinking more about the discussion that led to Matt's return to the WWE. Based on what we've seen so far, it must have gone something like this:

WWE: "We're willing to hire you back, but we're going to have the guy who cheated with your girlfriend in real life beat the hell out of you at every opportunity while you job to midcarders who just got new gimmicks. How does that sound?"

Hardy: "Great! Where do I sign up?"

Back by popular demand, Carlito's Cabana has its greatest guest ever: 16-time world champion Ric Flair. The Nature Boy welcomes the host to Flair Country, but Carlito is confused by all the "whoo-ing" and declares that "whoo-ing" is not cool. Carlito remembers watching as a boy when his father battled Flair all over the Caribbean and agrees with his dad's assessment that Ric is not that great. After all, Ric's lost the world title 16 times, while Carlito still holds the intercontinental belt that Flair has never won. And that's cool. Flair does his usual jet flying, limo riding bit until Carlito spits apple right in his face. A fight breaks out that ends with Flair triumphant in the ring. Score another one for the old guys.

Match 3 - Big Show vs. Snitsky

Yawn. Snitsky gets the first near fall after a couple of kicks, but Show's size and strength are too much. A clothesline out to the floor send Snitsky walking back up the ramp, and the ref spares us any more "action" by counting Snitsky out.

Bischoff taunts a hooded Cena about the imminent end of his title reign, but the champ has headphones on under his sweatshirt and pretends not to hear the GM. Next up, a video package shows Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch announcing their impending arrival and the bad news it's going to spell for Raw's other tag teams. Wait, there are still other tag teams on Raw? Murdoch promises to make someone squeal like a pig, suggesting that their team name should be Team Deliverance.

Smackdown Divas Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle come to the ring to announce that they've been traded to Raw. They have a few surprises in mind for the fans, beginning with the introduction of recent Diva Search winner Ashley. The newbie is excited to share the ring with the other girls, but that might change when Torrie and Candice attack her and leave her on her stomach in the ring. Yep, it's the old jealousy angle. Never seen that one before. Backstage, Todd Grisham runs through a fairly nondescript interview with Jericho as Bischoff heads for the ring with a squad of security guards. All that's left is the main event.

Main Event - Chris Jericho (challenger) vs. John Cena (champion) - You're Fired, WWE Title Match

We find out early that Bischoff isn't planning on just standing around and watching, as his interference gives Y2J the upper hand. Jericho overplays his hand by missing a jump into the corner and flying out to the floor, but Bischoff nails Cena with a low blow to send us to one last commercial break. Cena has to suplex his way out of a submission hold when we return, but it doesn't save him from an onslaught by Jericho that leads to several near falls. Chris goes up top to try a superplex, but Cena stand his ground and shoves the challenger down to the mat. Jericho ducks a high cross body and hits an elbowdrop, but the ref won't allow the cover because Y2J has his feet on the ropes for leverage. The combatants trade right hands until Cena finally get things rolling with a jumping shoulderblock and a series of clotheslines. Reversal follows reversal leading to Jericho locking on the Walls of Jericho. Cena reaches for the bottom rope only to have Bischoff pull it away, but the champ fights off the pain and finally crawls to the ropes on another side of the ring. Jericho charges in for another attack and runs right into an F-U. The Doctor of Thuganomics makes the cover, but Bischoff puts Jericho's foot on the ropes and the match continues. Eric slips Chris a pair of brass knux, which he uses on Cena but finds it's still not enough to put the champ away. With Bischoff on the apron, Cena rises to catapult Jericho into him. The champ finds the strength for a second F-U and makes the cover to get the pinfall. Furious, Bischoff storms the ring and tells Jericho he's fired. That leads to the unlikely sight of Jericho begging for his job, but Bischoff will have none of it and security literally carries Y2J up the ramp. Lest you think this is a happy ending for our hero, Cena gets attacked out of nowhere by Angle, who lays into him with both punches and wrestling moves. A gleeful Bischoff reveals his Plan B, announcing Angle as the number one contender for the WWE title. Good fight, good night.

Next week: Michaels accepts the Master Lock Challenge. Plus Matt Hardy gets beat up... again!


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    Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998. He's accepted Michaels' loss to Hogan, but still needs people to console him at ntylwalk7@yahoo.com