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Raw: Horny's dad, Money talks, and Maria's cover
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


Can you feel it? WrestleMania month is here, and with only a few shows left until the biggest pay-per-view of the year, every episode of Raw should help push things toward the finish line. We'll see if that's true as the WWE invades the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, live on USA.

The show kicks off with the three combatants from the WrestleMania main event - Triple H, Randy Orton and John Cena - looking uneasy as they stand in front of William Regal. The General Manager says he has an idea to spice things up, an idea he calls Triple Threat Takeover. Put simply, Regal's going to let each man run Raw for a week, beginning with Cena tonight. Needless to say, that doesn't sit too well with the champ, who proposes a pact to ensure none of them gets hurt before WrestleMania. But Triple H doesn't trust Orton, and Cena has no plans on agreeing to a truce anyway. Cena says he's sure he can come up with something extremely satisfying.

Match 1 - Big Show vs. Brandon "The Thrill" Hill - Mixed Martial Arts Exhibition Match

Hill is a small guy who wears boxing gloves to take part in the match, obviously intended to provide a victim similar in size to Floyd "Money" Mayweather. Speaking of Floyd, he's watching live via satellite from Las Vegas. Hill's punches have no effect on Show, who makes short work of the boxer before dropping him with a chokeslam and stepping on his chest for the pin. A bit of trash-talking between Show and Mayweather ensues, but it doesn't flow very well, leading one to believe that either the WWE is having technical problems or Mayweather isn't as live as we thought. Or maybe he's just not that great an actor.

Match 2 - Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair vs. Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch

Michaels and Flair are scheduled to face off at WrestleMania, but they are partners tonight. Flair leads off but quickly gives way to Michaels, who finds himself in trouble thanks to some nice teamwork by the heels. He takes the usual HBK beating until an enzuigiri gives him the opening for the hot tag to the Nature Boy. Flair eventually gets Cade into the Figure Four (while Michaels does the same to Murdoch) and gets him to tap out. The celebration is short lived though, as Michaels tells his idol he can't go through with the WrestleMania match, because he doesn't want to be known as the man who retired Ric Flair. After all, he is the Showstopper, and if they meet up, it will be Ric's show that will be stopped. Michaels leaves Flair to digest that thought as he heads back up the ramp.

In time-honored Raw tradition, Regal's cell phone call is interrupted by Cena. He figured out a great (but hardly surprising) main event for tonight, pitting Orton and Triple H against each other. Regal protests but there's nothing he can do. He also suggests Cena take the night off, but John has business to settle with Mr. Kennedy... Kennedy. Oh yeah, and since it's Triple Threat Takeover night, Cena decides he gets the GM office. Regal's got to go - cheerio lad!

Match 3 - Umaga vs. Super Crazy

This is nothing but a total squash and an excuse for Regal to join the announcers to hype the match between Batista and Umaga (or as he says it, Umanga) at WrestleMania. That interests me more than this match, but not by much.

Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel returns after a long, long absence. His guest tonight is Jeff Hardy, who he just beat last week to qualify for the Money in the Bank Match in Orlando. Jericho can't resist rubbing it in a little, so he shows a clip from last Monday. He also says that nothing Hardy does can stop him from winning at WrestleMania. But Hardy says that while in the past he may have taken that comment in stride, he's changed and become determined to do anything to win the WWE Championship. When Jericho tells Hardy they won't be friends for the time being, he agrees... and then surprises the host with a Twist of Fate.

Match 4 - Mr. Kennedy vs. John Cena

Still steaming over Kennedy's role in his beating last week, Cena booked this match for himself to get some payback. After an early commercial the battle is evenly waged, though things are looking up for Kennedy after he smashes Cena's face on the apron. He manages to shake that off and turn things around with a Throwback and a big legdrop off the top rope. The STFU is applied and Kennedy is forced to tap out.

Fittingly, Jerry Lawler is in the ring for the revealing of Maria's Playboy cover. There's just one problem: Santino Marella has strategically placed pictures of his face over Maria's face, breasts and, um, groin. Marella comes to the ring and brags that now when anyone thinks about his Maria, they'll suffer from "erectile malfunction." Nice. What he doesn't expect is that Maria finally stands up to him, refusing to back down or leave with him. When Santino puts his hands on her, Lawler intervenes with a right hand that sends the Italian spilling from the ring. Candice Michelle unveils a second, unblemished cover, which is just as hot as you would think.

Match 5 - Carlito vs. Cody Rhodes - Money in the Bank Qualifying Match

Hmm... I wonder who's going to win this one! Actually, Rhodes makes it pretty entertaining, pulling off numerous counters to frustrate Carlito. He strikes out when trying a victory roll though, and Carlito is able to connect with the Backstabber to lock up his spot in the Money in the Bank Match.

It's satellite interview time as Lawler and J.R. ask Mayweather a few questions. Floyd does some posturing and kind of gives some answers. None of the segments where Money has had to speak have really come off too well so far, so hopefully the weigh-in that is planned for next week will turn out better. Out on the floor, Mike Adamle introduces the latest inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame: Mae Young. She's undoubtedly deserving, but did we really need to see the segment where she gave birth to a hand again? It took me months to get over that the first time.

Finlay heads to the ring to confront JBL. Unfortunately, it's Vince McMahon who comes out to the stage instead. The Chairman wants answers, and Finlay admits that he plotted with the other McMahons to make it look like Vince was the father of Hornswoggle. It turns out Finlay is actually the little guy's dad, but he's in for an unpleasant surprise of his own when he sees that JBL is actually at the hospital with Hornswoggle. Telling Finlay that he enjoys preying on the innocent, JBL turns the lights off so Hornswoggle's dad can hear but not see what sounds like a severe beating.

Main Event - Randy Orton vs. Triple H

Cena sits in with the announcers to get a closer look at his two rivals going head to head, but this one doesn't go too long. As HHH gets the upper hand, Orton grabs his belt and goes to leave. Cena arises to stop the champ, and Orton is knocked into Cena by HHH. Finishers abound: Cena FU's HHH, and Orton RKO's Cena. Officially, it's a no contest.

Nick Tylwalk celebrates his tenth anniversary as a staff member for SLAM! Wrestling later this year. He conservatively estimates that the over/under for the number of Maria Playboy issues that regular Raw writer Dale Plummer will purchase is eight. Reach him at ntylwalk7@yahoo.com with your comments, questions or complaints.