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Smackdown: Undertaker comes to collect a soul
By ANDY MCNAMARA -- SLAM! Wrestling


Qualifying for the WWE Championship Scramble at Unforgiven begins this evening with several big time matches on the program. The Finlay vs. Benjamin battle is a technical wrestling masterpiece and is a must see. The much anticipated return of The Undertaker to Smackdown is also on tap tonight. From Moline, Illinois let's get to the report!

Tonight’s program begins with a video of General Manager Vickie Guerrero trying to win over the hearts of the Smackdown fans by apologizing for her previous behaviour. She says that Edge was the negative influence on her, and announces that Smackdown will have its own title scramble match at Unforgiven, just like Raw, and the participants will be determined in qualifying contests here this evening.

Match 1: Natalya Neidhart vs. Maria

The two divas begin with some chain wrestling of sorts that results in several counters of arm bars, head locks and head scissors. Natalya delivers a powerslam that causes Maria to favour her left leg. Ms. Neidhart is like a shark smelling blood and goes right after the injured appendage. Later on Maria is able to hit a bronco buster in the corner, but soon after Maryse’s music hits and she runs in to interfere. The referee calls for the bell and Maria picks up the DQ victory. Michelle McCool sprints down to the ring to even up the odds.

WINNER: Maria by DQ

Chavo and Bam Neeley are wheeling GM Vickie around backstage when they bump into the Big Show who asks who his championship scramble opponent will be tonight. Vickie says that due to an oversight she did not put him in a match.

Match 2: WWE Championship Scramble Qualifier Battle Royal- Funaki vs. Armando Estrada vs. Scotty Goldman vs. Brian Kendrick vs. Super Crazy vs.Jimmy Wang Yang vs. Zack Ryder vs. Kurt Hawkins vs. Vladimir Kozlov

Is this for a shot at the Cruiserweight title or WWE Championship? By the way, whatever happened to the Cruiserweight belt? Kozlov is the first man out as everyone in the ring teams up on him. Scotty Goldman is the second one chucked over the top. All of a sudden Big Show (who has been watching from ringside) lumbers into the squared circle and tosses everyone out onto the floor! The exception is Kendrick who is caught in the arms of Ezekiel and therefore not eliminated. So The Brian Kendrick wins, and will be in the scramble -- but why would Big Show’s eliminations count since he was not in the match? Best not to think about the logic I suppose.

WINNER: Brian Kendrick

Match 3: WWE Championship Scramble Qualifier - Festus w/ Jesse vs. MVP

MVP stands toe to toe with the crazed Festus, however, it is the big man who eventually gains the upper hand. Festus’ athleticism continues to impress as he connects with a suplex and fall away slam before hurting his shoulder in a failed charge into the corner. MVP goes to work on the now injured left arm. MVP connects with a nasty head kick to Jesse on the outside, which sends Festus to his friend’s aid. MVP climbs back in the ring and lets the referee count Festus out. MVP is the second scramble qualifier. Festus rushes back into the ring to attack his foe, but when the bell sounds he goes back into the trance. MVP takes advantage and sends Festus out of the ring with his Drive By Kick.

WINNER: MVP by Countout

Match 4: WWE Championship Scramble Qualifier- Finlay w/ Hornswaggle vs. Shelton Benjamin

Benjamin cuts a decent little promo before the bell by ripping on gold medal Olympian Michael Phelps. He says that there is only gold standard -- and that is Shelton Benjamin! Some fantastic mat work early on as these two are putting on a wrestling clinic. This has been Finlay’s most intense match in months and shows that the wily vet still has some gas left in the tank. The momentum shifts quickly as both competitors exchange a variety of holds. Finlay goes to work on the left leg of Benjamin to try to take away some of that speed and does a terrific job of isolating. Wow what a quality match up. The U.S. champ catches a break and begins to focus on the Irishman’s left shoulder and neck. Out of nowhere Mike Knox grabs Hornswaggle and distracts Finlay. This momentary lapse allows Benjamin to hit Pay Dirt, pick up the victory, and qualify for the WWE Championship Scramble. After the bell, Knox takes advantage of the downed Finlay by delivering a vicious running head kick and knee drop.

WINNER: Shelton Benjamin

In GM Vickie’s office Chavo, Vicki,and Bam Neeley are discussing why The Undertaker has not shown up yet. Chavo worries that Taker may hold a grudge from being retired and Vickie suggests that she apologizes to him.

Match 5: WWE Championship Scramble Qualifier - The Great Khali w/ Ranjin Singh vs. Jeff Hardy

Triple H is down at the announce table for this match up. Hardy attempts to utilize his quickness by running around the ring and connecting with shots when he can. Khali is able to catch the speed demon and sinks in the vice grip on his shoulder. Somehow Jeff hits the Twist of Fate, and goes up high for the Swanton Bomb. Ranjin grabs Hardy’s foot, allowing Khali to palm his head. Triple H punches out Ranjin, and then clocks the giant with a steel chair, all while the ref’s back is turned. Hardy pounces on the chance as he nails a Whisper in the Wind, and then scores with the Swanton Bomb for a 1-2-3. Hardy qualifies for the scramble.

WINNER: Jeff Hardy

The official WWE Championship Scramble match will have MVP, Brian Kendrick, Shelton Benjamin, Jeff Hardy, and of course, Triple H. The Game is in the ring running down his opponents for Unforgiven, and puts himself over despite the odds stacked against him. Kenny Dykstra of all people interrupts the champ, and states that he is tired of not being taken seriously around the WWE. The King of Kings shuts him up in mid sentence with a Pedigree.

Back again in the general manager’s office Chavo, Vickie, Bam, are informed by Hawkins and Ryder that The Undertaker has arrived. Vickie says it is time to make the apology. Following the commercials, La Familia is in the ring, and delivers an official apology to The Undertaker. She requests a standing ovation to Taker by the audience. The gong tolls, and out comes The Dead Man to a huge pop. GM Guerrero gets on her knees and begs Taker to accept her apology. Undertaker says he did not come for an apology -- but for her soul! La Familia surrounds him, but Taker systematically takes them all out temporarily. Finally the numbers game is too much and the gang put the boots to him. Undertaker is able to fight his way back, and after delivering a chokeslam to Hawkins makes the cut throat sign to Vickie, whom has scrambled up the ramp.

Andy McNamara is a SLAM! Wrestling writer, and play-by-play broadcaster for Toronto Maple Leafs inter-county league baseball, along with university basketball and volleyball on Rogers Television in Toronto. Contact Andy at andymcnamara@hotmail.com