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Smackdown: Mark Henry tames the Animal
By ANDY McNAMARA - SLAM! Wrestling


A huge Smackdown breaks in 2006 with tons of action from Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. Match six of the U.S. Championship series, Batista answers the sexual harassment allegations, and a steel cage main event are just some of the action in store for us tonight. Ready? Set? On to the report!

Before the opening of the program a video montage highlights are shown of last week's surprise run in of Mark Henry and his attack on World Champion Batista.

Match 1: Falls Count Anywhere - JBL w/Jillian Hall vs. Matt Hardy

The first Smackdown match of 2006 will be a Falls Count Anywhere grudge match between Hardy and JBL. Bradshaw begins by grabbing a mic and running down Hardy, suggesting that the two start this battle in the crowd. Hardy is all too willing to oblige as these men trade punches with JBL gaining the advantage by choking Matt with his own shirt. Hardy gets a near fall after he tosses Bradshaw on his back and through the announce table. After some back and forth action, Hardy grabs a ladder from underneath the ring and nails JBL in the stomach with it twice. Matt is really taking it to Bradshaw, laying the wrestling god on his limo while climbing up the ladder. Jillian Hall grabs Hardy's leg allowing JBL to toss Matt off the ladder and onto the hood of the limo. It looked like a rather tame fall, but was enough for JBL to put away Hardy. After the bell The Boogie Man comes out from underneath the ramp, and gets a hold of Jillian Hall. JBL tries to grab his image consultant, however, Boogie Man shoves worms down the panties of poor Jillian Hall.

WINNER: JBL

Match 2: 3 on 1 - Mark Henry w/Melina vs. ?, Gus Harlatcher, Rob Echos

Mark Henry begins by whipping the youngster across the ring, then bends him like a pretzel from the outside. The strong man follows that by making him tap out in a torture rack. Gus Harlatcher is now in, and is disposed of quickly after a big slam. Rob Echos is the final victim and is defeated after a bonsai drop on the back along with a front powerslam. Henry is 3 for 3 in under 7 minutes. In the ring after the bloodbath is Michael Cole with Melina and Henry. Melina tells the audience that she brought in Henry to protect herself and every other "vulnerable" woman from Batista. This Mark Henry/Batista feud is not going to be pretty.

WINNER: Mark Henry

Backstage Randy Orton, Sharmell, and Booker T are discussing last week's match versus Benoit. Tonight Orton will take on Benoit again in match 6 tonight of the best-of-seven series for the United States title. Orton says that when he beats The Crippler tonight Booker will "owe him one."

Ken Kennedy's music hits and the cocky newcomer struts out to the ring in a suit and grabs the mic. Kennedy says he will change how Smackdown is commentated and joins Cole and Taz. He says that the network sent him out to join the announce team because he brings in ratings.

Match 3: Cruiserweight Championship - Kid Kash (c) vs. Juventud

Juvi gains the early advantage with a dropkick and a huge summersault off of the top turnbuckle to the outside onto Kash. The Cruiserweight champion misses and impressive moonsault after he jumped and spun from the second turnbuckle to the top rop. The quality of this match makes me wonder why WWE refuses to get behind the cruiserweight division and make them a major part of Smackdown. Juventud cannot connect with the 450 Splash, allowing Kash to capitalize with the Brainbuster and the win.

WINNER: Kid Kash

Booker T and Sharmell are back being interviewed when Orlando Jordan interrupts, claiming he wants the chance to bring back the U.S. title to Booker. Orlando said he's sick of being made fun of for tapping out and demands respect from Booker T and Sharmell. Book says O.J. needs to earn respect, and Jordan says he will remember this.

Now we go to Batista meeting the press. Cameras are going off and many microphones are stuffed in the champion's face. He says he never sexually assaulted Melina and would never force himself on a woman. Mark Henry comes in and gets in Batista's face saying that the champ took advantage of an innocent woman. Batista tells Henry to get out of his face and the world's strongest man obliges. A very short segment.

Match 4: Match 6 of Best-of-Seven U.S. Championship Series - Randy Orton vs. Chris Benoit - Booker T up 3-2

Before things get under way Booker T hobbles down on crutches with Sharmell to join Taz and Michael Cole at ringside. Does Benoit ever have a bad match? He is bashing away on Orton until Sharmell distracts him with a crutch. Surprisingly Randy tells the referee to throw out Sharmell so that he does not get disqualified again. Booker is doing a great job once again on commentary, he could be a half decent announcer some day. Orton slows things down with a rear chin lock, but Benoit regroups and delivers Eddie's Three Amigos suplexes to gain control. The Crippler nails the Flying Headbutt, however, Orton is able to kick out at two. Benoit does a cool looking reversal from the Sharpshooter to the Crossface and Randy barely grabs the bottom rope to escape. After Orton regains control The Legend Killer measures Benoit for the RKO. Suddenly Orlando Jordan comes out of the crowd, knocking over Booker and taking his crutch. Jordan jumps in the ring and nails Benoit with the crutch giving Benoit the DQ win and ties the series up at three matches a piece.

WINNER: Chris Benoit

Simon Dean rolls down to the ring on his Dean Machine and calls out any two superstars to challenge him. Paul London and Kendrik run down in strange gold masks. Dean said the competition is not for him but his new tag team The Gymini. These two guys are huge; after Kendrik and London try leaping over the top rope to take the two behemoths out, The Gyminis pick them up and slam the two cruiserweights together three times. This is not a match but just a display of power. The Gymini finish off Kendrik and London by gorilla pressing one man each to the outside.

Bobby Lashley gives a short vignette on how he wants to win the Royal Rumble. A video montage on Lashley's Smackdown dominance is shown. Afterwards the steel cage is lowered.

Match 5: Tag Team Championship - Batista and Rey Mysterio vs. MNM (c)

This is apparently the first time in six years that the tag team titles have been defended inside a steel cage on Smackdown. In this cage match you can only win by pinfall or submission, you cannot escape to be victorious, and it is a no tag format. Some brawling to get things underway, and MNM try climbing out of the ring but are pulled back in by the former tag champions. Mysterio delivers an awesome bulldog headlock from the top turnbuckle and combines that with a leg drop on Nitro. MNM regain control by double choke slamming Rey Rey and following that by attacking Batista. Mysterio climbs to the top of the steel cage and leaps down on Mercury for a two count. Henry walks down to ringside and shakes the cage trying to get in. Henry rips the chain off of the cage doors and jumps the World Champion from behind. The World's Strongest Man then tears off the cage door and smacks Batista and Mysterio with it. A knocked out Nitro is thrown on top of Mysterio and the referee counts to three. Henry climbs to the top of the cage and poses as the show goes off the air.

WINNERS: MNM

Andy McNamara is a SLAM! Wrestling writer from Pickering, ON. He also does the play-by-play broadcasts for Durham College sports. Andy asks: With 2006 here, what was your favourite Smackdown memory of 2005? Andy can be reached at andymcnamara@hotmail.com.