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   Tue, March 11, 2008



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Raw: Super-sized with lots of action ... and commericals
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the site of tonight's three-hour Raw extravaganza. Why three hours so close to WrestleMania? Don't ask me, I just write about what they put on. It's also WrestleMania Rewind Night, featuring matches we've seen during past editions of the granddaddy of all pay-per-views. It's a super-sized, nostalgic Raw, live on USA.

The crowd reacts as Ric Flair comes to the ring to address Shawn Michaels' refusal to face him in Orlando. The Nature Boy says he needs to talk to the Heartbreak Kid face to face, and Michaels quickly obliges by coming to the ring. Flair explains that when he first got into the wrestling business, there was no such thing as sympathy, so he doesn't want or expect any from Shawn. He also admits that he very well could face the end of his career if he wrestles Michaels, but he also thinks that if he has a very good day, he could come away with a win. For his part, HBK says he never intended any pity, but he wants to reiterate that he is Mr. WrestleMania. That means the two of them will steal the show, so he agrees to take the match. He also offers to help Flair this Friday on Smackdown, when he's scheduled to face Edge and his "Edge guys" in a handicap match. A happy moment quickly turns sour as WWE Champion Randy Orton comes out to the stage. He hates to break up the touching moment, but he wanted to remind everyone that he's in charge of Raw tonight. With that in mind, he announces that Triple H will face off against Kane. And he tells Flair to pay attention, because Michaels can be beaten. Just ask someone who did it at WrestleMania and will be facing Shawn tonight: John Cena.

Match 1 - The Undertaker vs. Mark Henry - Casket Match

It's not going to go down on any all-time best lists, but this was a WrestleMania match-up. The Dead Man gets the full entrance treatment with the long entrance music, the torches and the whole nine. That might be as long as this match will last. Undertaker dominates early, but runs into trouble when he's caught trying the Old School rope walk. He recovers and takes the fight outside to the floor. Henry survives and hits a powerslam back inside the ring, but 'Taker responds with his triangle choke from the mat. That's enough to leave the World's Strongest Man helpless, so The Phenom simply kicks him into the casket and slams the lid shut. Simple enough.

Floyd "Money" Mayweather and his crew are lounging backstage, perhaps preparing for his weigh-in later tonight. Speaking of weighing in, Michael Buffer, Bert Sugar and Antonio Tarver all offer up their opinions on the Mayweather-Big Show match - and with straight faces, no less. Back in the arena, J.R. and The King hype up the Randy Orton-Triple H-John Cena title match, leading into a taped promo from HHH. He talks about how his rematches with Cena and Orton never happened, so he's going to fight for the belt like his life depends on it... because to him, it does. Game on.

Match 2 - Mr. Kennedy vs. Finlay

Before these two go at it, JBL appears on the screen, apparently very pleased that Finlay wants their match at WrestleMania to be a Belfast Brawl. He's especially thrilled with the prospect of putting Finlay in a hospital bed right next to his son, Hornswoggle. That makes the Irishman snap, and he quickly gets disqualified for assaulting Kennedy with his shillelagh. A trio of referees comes to Kennedy's aid, but Finlay continues the beating on the ramp.

Match 3 - Jeff Hardy vs. Chris Jericho - Intercontinental Championship Match

This is not a WrestleMania Rewind match, but rather a product of what happened last week between the two men. J.R. mentions that Jericho has been I-C champ more times than any other superstar in WWE history. I did not know that. After a commercial break, Hardy runs along the retaining wall and leaps, but Jericho throws him hard into the announce table. That could not have felt good. There's plenty of near falls in this one, almost too many to recap. Both men reverse each other's signature moves but can't manage to get the three count. Hardy looks like he'll be the one to break the deadlock when he scores with a Twist of Fate and goes up top. But he misses a Swanton Bomb, and Jericho bides his time until he can connect with the Codebreaker. Jericho makes the cover and adds to his record with his eighth Intercontinental title.

Match 4 - Nikolai Volkoff and Iron Sheik vs. U.S. Express

Man, I loved the U.S. Express... when I was eight! It looks like the clock is going to be rewound all the way back to WrestleMania I for this one, which is unfortunate because all four men are looking pretty rough. Jillian Hall has other ideas, taunting the U.S. Express because they can't afford the rights to come out to Born in the U.S.A. as they once did. She does her usual crappy job singing it instead, until Mike Rotunda decides he's had enough and gives her an airplane spin. We'd all be better off if we just moved on, which is exactly what happens as a video package introduces the latest inductees to the WWE Hall of Fame, Jack and Jerry Brisco.

Orton tries to fire up Kane for his match with Triple H by reminding him about his past failures at The Game's hands. Um, that might not be the best way to handle that Randy. And it's probably not even necessary, because that match is up next.

Match 5 - Triple H vs. Kane

Showing highlights of the old Kane just makes me wish he still sported the mask. The Milwaukee fans must feel the same way because they are strangely quiet in the early going. Things pick up after a few minutes, with Kane reversing a Pedigree attempt into a back body drop. Orton comes out to watch from the stage, distracting Triple H and allowing Kane to strike. He puts The Game down but gets caught coming off the top rope, and HHH scores with a Pedigree to get the duke.

Taped promos are all the rage tonight, with Cena getting his time to speak about the Triple Threat Match. He says he should be mad that he was injured and on the shelf, but he's actually thankful, because the experience made him hungry. He also remembers what it feels like to have his hand raised at the biggest event in sports entertainment, and he vows to experience that feeling again in Orlando.

Match 6 - Melina vs, Maria

Melina can't have a WrestleMania Rewind match against Ashley since she's injured. So she decides to substitute one Playmate for another and take on Maria. The newest centerfold hangs in there, but she can't concentrate when her ex, Santino Marella comes to the ring. Melina hits her finisher to win the match, Beth Phoenix takes out Maria's BFF, Candice Michelle, and Marella takes his anger out on his copy of Playboy, ripping it to shreds. Who says bad guys (and girls) don't have happy endings?

Another video package hypes the Mayweather-Show match, and Shane McMahon is in the ring to oversee the official weigh-in. Show comes down alone, while Floyd brings his ever-growing entourage and a ridiculous amount of iced-out jewelry with him. Mayweather weighs in at a fit 159; Show tips the scales at just over 441 pounds. Shane wants the two of them to get together for a photo, but Show has other ideas. He thinks he should get to call out his posse, so a bunch of wrestlers from all three WWE brands surround the ring. Show tells Money that no one in the locker room likes him, and that everyone wanted to see the $20-million man. He also suggests that Floyd use some of the money to give to the fans who hate him. And they don't seem fond of him, as a big "You suck!" chant starts up. Mayweather admits that Show could hurt him, but only if he's caught. He also vows to break Show's jaw at WrestleMania. That seems like it will be the end of it, but Show waits until almost everyone is out of the ring and picks Floyd up overhead. He's hurled to the floor, where his fall is broken by a group of wrestlers, who all go down. A big scuffle ensues, during which Mayweather heads for the back and Shane gets knocked down on the ramp.

In case we needed it, we get another rundown of the main events for WrestleMania. Then Orton gets his promo time, where he claims to be the combination of the best traits of his two opponents. He also has one thing they don't: the WWE Championship.

Match 7 - Edge vs. CM Punk

Punk's knees and kicks give Edge all kinds of problems, but the world heavyweight champ manages to even things up with a DDT. CM manages to leapfrog a Spear and lifts his foe for the Go to Sleep. Naturally, the Edgeheads aren't going to stand idly by, and they jump up on the apron for a classic distraction. Punk falls for it, then falls for a Spear that ends the match.

William Regal gets his usual cool reception from the Milwaukee fans. He talks about the brand versus brand match coming up at WM 24, but says it won't be much of a contest because of his appointed champion. A video plays that highlights some of Umaga's greatest hits, and Regal summons the Samoan Bulldozer to the ring. Regal says he pities Batista, but The Animal is actually here, and he heads for the ring. It doesn't take long for the two men to begin exchanging pleasantries, and though Umaga strikes first, Batista gets the upper hand with a big spinebuster. Both men seem willing to continue, but Regal pulls his man back.

Main Event - Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena

The opening pits Michaels' mat wrestling skills against Cena's strength and athleticism. HBK escapes the first STF-U attempt and we head for what seems like the one hundredth commercial of this extended show. This match isn't on the level of their WrestleMania 23 meeting, but it's not too shabby, with plenty of reversals and escapes. Eventually the battle goes out to the floor, where Michaels gains the upper hand by sending Cena hard into the ringpost. Unfortunately for Shawn, Orton appears and sends him to the same fate. The ref calls for the bell, but that doesn't stop Orton from rolling Cena into the ring and fetching a steel chair. Randy looks for the RKO on the chair only to have Cena slip away. The champ is hoisted in the air and planted with an F-U.

We're not quite finished yet. Triple H is watching backstage, and he wants to remind us that next week, it's his turn to be in charge of Raw. He's come with quite the idea too: Orton and Cena will team up as a tag team to face... the entire Raw roster. Call it the logical extreme edition of Raw, coming in just seven days.

Nick Tylwalk will celebrate his 10th anniversary on the SLAM! Wrestling staff later in 2008. He finds it highly suspicious that Dale Plummer decided to go on a cruise the same week that Raw decided to hold a three-hour show and set a new record for commercials in a wrestling program. Comment on this coincidence at ntylwalk7@yahoo.com.