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COMMENT





Raw: Jericho-HBK segment saves show
By BRIAN ELLIOTT - SLAM! Wrestling


After last week's United States channel-hop to the Sci-Fi network, the September 1 edition of Raw had a different feel to it too, this time because the show was taped on Sunday due to the Labor Day holiday.

The main difference, of course, is that tonight, for those of us who intelligently visited SLAM! Wrestling's News and Rumours page, there aren't any surprises to be caught out by. Still, that did not mean that the show was without intrigue, especially in consideration of Shawn Michaels' torn triceps, suffered during an altercation with Lance Cade. Though Michaels is believed to be adamant about wrestling Chris Jericho on Sunday, the injury is apparently serious enough that his may not be the final word.

The show opened up with a graphic in memory of Killer Kowalski (SLAM! Wrestling's sincere condolences, of course, to his family and friends), followed by an appearance by the injured Randy Orton, his arm still in a sling after apparently re-breaking his collar-bone in a motorcycle accident. I say apparently, because St. Louis police have no records of such an accident occurring.

In any case, Orton took the microphone to proclaim the Raw brand an "absolute joke", largely based on the inability of its champions, with World Heavyweight champion CM Punk the greatest offender. That brought Punk himself to the ring for a bizarre promo where he labeled Orton "pathetic", and jealous of his success -- hardly the words of a heroic champion.

It should have been obvious, based on virtually every beginning of Raw for the last ten years, but there yet further interruptions, with JBL speculating that Punk had but a small chance of emerging from the Unforgiven scramble match with his title, and Kane menacingly noting that he had "made sure" that Rey Mysterio would play no part in that same contest. That, in turn, brought Batista to the ring, but he preferred to let actions speak louder than words, spearing all three men -- Orton had since left -- as a battle royal between the scramble match participants was announced for later in the show.

Match #1: Charlie Haas vs Kofi Kingston

There was a huge pop in the arena after the break, as John Cena's music bellowed throughout the Scottrade Centre, but lo and behold, it was only Charlie Haas in Cena get-up. His opponent for the night was Kofi Kingston, whose leaping ability continues to be the highlight of his wrestling, who dispatched him quickly with the Trouble in Paradise enzuigiri.

Winner via pinfall: Kofi Kingston

Backstage, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase (Jnr) -- the latter of whom was attired in a grey suit jacket that his Million $ Dollar man father would surely never have worn -- confronted Randy Orton for his earlier description of them as "worthless". After slapping Rhodes, Orton challenged the two to "grow a set" following their handicap loss to John Cena.

Then, after Mike Adamle confused everyone with a quip about how a battle royal could be a Labor Day tradition "like a Jerry Lewis telethon, without the sick kids", the Raw General Manager was confronted by an angry Kane, who wanted to know why he would "lie" in suggesting that Mysterio would be on Raw this evening. Continuing the nonsense, Kane proceeded to inform us that Rey's "mind has been massacred, and his soul has been extinguished". Utter drivel.

Match #2: ECW Battle Royal: Matt Hardy vs Finlay vs Mark Henry vs Chavo Guerrero vs The Miz

Being the biggest and the baddest (you may wish to take the latter adjective both literally and figuratively), Mark Henry was on the receiving end of punishment by his opponents in the opening moments here, but it was he who ended up dominating the bout.

First off, he eliminated The Miz and Chavo Guerrero in one fell swoop, before crushing Finlay with a splash and using kicks on both he and Matt Hardy. After a double-team attempt to force him over the top rope, Henry ousted both Finlay and then Hardy in rapid order. There are currently 46 minutes gone on my DVR timer, and there's been much less than five minutes of actual wrestling.

Winner: Mark Henry

Match #3: Jamie Noble vs William Regal

Jamie Noble was once again on a mission to prove to Layla (at ringside) that he was a worthy boyfriend. Things didn't begin well for him though, as Regal was extremely aggressive, utilizing stiff forearms and a half-nelson suplex. But after having no offense whatsoever, he caught Regal in a small package for the three-count. Layla seemed surprised, and pleased, but to say that this two-minute match was a waste of undeniable in-ring talent who be a major understatement.

Winner via pinfall: Jamie Noble

Match #4: Jillian Hall, Beth Phoenix & Katie Birchall vs Mickie James, Candice Michelle & Kelly Kelly

Women's champion Phoenix seemed concerned by the fact that the returning Candice Michelle was going to oppose her in this contest, but she really should just be glad that she doesn't have to compete with remarkably dominant Michelle McCool on Smackdown.

Criminally, where Noble and Regal had two minutes in which to work, this bout was afforded five, none of which were particularly inspiring. In the end, Michelle captured the pin on Phoenix with a small package.

Winners via pinfall: Candice Michelle, Mickie James & Kelly Kelly.

After a video package detailing the last few weeks of the Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho feud, which was easily the best thing on the show thus far, the other highlight of previous Raw shows, Santino Marella, attempted to encourage us to believe that he, not The Honky Tonk Man, is the greatest Intercontinental champion of all-time. Holding the belt for a further 62 weeks, to equal Honky's record, would "be nothing to him", he said.

Match #5: Santino Marella vs D-Lo Brown

Another two-minute contest saw D-Lo miss a frog splash, which alone allowed Marella to cover him for the win.

Winner via pinfall: Santino Marella

Match #6: The Miz & John Morrison vs Cryme Tyme

Before this bout even got started, Cryme Tyme were attacked from behind by Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes, who left both members of the team lying, Shad after a belt shot outside the ring, and JTG following a DDT on a Tag Team Title belt.

Winner: No contest

Backstage once again, and the Tag Team Champions looked pleased with themselves as they gestured their superiority over Cryme Tyme to Randy Orton, after which Batista told Todd Grisham that his strategy for the upcoming battle royal was simply to "destroy everyone".

Raw Battle Royal: Batista vs JBL vs Kane vs CM Punk vs Rey Mysterio

This match got underway with Randy Orton at ringside, but Mysterio nowhere in sight, prompting Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler to suggest that Kane must have been telling the truth when he spoke of how he had tormented him.

In any case, Batista's night ended abruptly, as a foot to the face from Kane gave Punk the opportunity to clothesline him over the top rope, eliminating "The Animal" before he'd accomplished anything close to the destruction that he'd promised. The champion then caught JBL by surprise, too, propelling him over the top rope as he charged him.

Kane was less of an easy proposition, however, and "The Big Red Machine" took control with a side slam, and another big boot, before depositing Punk on the floor at the second time of asking, after Punk had attempted a springboard crossbody.

Punk didn't seem to be too perturbed about the loss, however, preferring to throw water in the face of Orton (another heroic babyface move, you'll notice), which for some reason led to the return of Rey Mysterio, to enter the battle royal. Mysterio, described by Cole as "The Latin Warrior", took Kane out by the knees with a series of dropkicks, and hit a 619 around the ringpost as Kane fled. He followed that up with a weak-looking ‘rana, which sent Kane sprawling over the guard rail, at which point, for no known reason, Mysterio's music began to play, signaling the end of the contest.

Winner: No contest

Just as their video package had been the best part of the show up until this point, so it was also the case in the final segment of Raw, a contract signing for their "unsanctioned" match at Unforgiven.

Unlike the cold stare of his opponent on Sunday, Jericho noticeably refused to make eye contact with Michaels throughout these proceedings, as Jerry Lawler noted that Mike Adamle's edict was that if there was any violence between the two here, the bout would be called off.

Jericho -- whose facial expressions were tremendous -- was first to sign, as then did Michaels, before the former asked that the security around the ring be removed, so that he could speak to Michaels alone. Only then making eye contact, Jericho said that he would "end your career for good, this time", and that he'd put Michaels out of his misery in the bout, just as "The Heartbreak Kid" himself had done to Ric Flair at Wrestlemania. Michaels retorted by saying that "one day, you have to look evil right in the face, and spit in its eye", and that he hoped that one day God could forgive him for what he'd do at Unforgiven.

As the two got up to leave, Michaels turned to thwart an attack by Lance Cade, and partly in doing so, tumbled down from the apron onto the floor, appearing to land badly on his arm. Though he didn't once wince, this is very likely the moment that he sustained the injury that may keep him from wrestling in that bout.

Overall, once again this week's Raw was saved by Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho, whose feud is overwhelmingly the very best of 2008. Without their contribution, there would have been nothing to negate the incredible lack of actual wrestling on the show, never mind the quality of it.

The jury is now out on whether the Jericho versus Michaels match at Unforgiven will take place. If it does not, the lack of a bout between the very best of 2008, will relegate this episode of Raw to being one of the very, very worst.

Brian Elliott is a freelance journalist in the UK, covering pro wrestling, mixed martial arts, and soccer. Make sure to visit him here: http://brianelliott.spaces.live.com.