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Raw: Batista enforces No. 1 contender status
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


Reunited, and it feels so good! With regular Raw recapper Dale Plummer taking a much-deserved sabbatical, Iím back on regular Monday night duty for the first time in years. As tonightís broadcast from Seattleís Key Arena begins, itís like Iíve never left. Weíve got Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, The King and... hey, wait. Has anybody seen Jim Ross?

Fresh off his ladder match victory over Michaels at No Mercy, Jericho heads to the ring clutching his world heavyweight championship and sporting a sharp suit and an ugly lip. Word has it he lost a tooth during the encounter. Shrugging off the obligatory "You suck" chants, the champ explains that General Manager Mike Adamle was summoned for an urgent meeting with Shane and Stephanie McMahon (perhaps of the type Matt Millen was recently summoned to in Detroit), so he has full power over the show in Adamleís absence. He wants the fans to know that despite his "permanent disfigurement," he accomplished the defeat and embarrassment of HBK, so heís now done with the feud. To wit, he makes a match between Michaels and Lance Cade in an Anything Goes, No Disqualification Match, figuring his protťgť can take care of his foe from here on out. Jericho goes on to brag that heís unquestionably the most dominant performer in the industry, which naturally serves as the cue for newly minted No. 1 contender Batista to make his way to the ring. The Animal reminds Jericho that, like it or not, they will face off for the title whether itís in seven days, 14 days or... today. The champ claims he could take down Batista tonight if he felt like it, causing the big man to sort of laugh in response. He explains that Jericho has to defend the title against him eventually and if you mess with the bull, you get the horns, punctuating that thought with a spinebuster.

Moments ago... well, it was that same spinebuster I just wrote about. Also, Jericho uses the commercial break to gather his wits and book Batista to face JBL with his number one contender status on the line. Heís also decided on a special guest referee -- himself. Later in the show weíll also see Matt Hardy and Rey Mysterio team up to battle Mark Henry and Kane in one of those cross-brand tag team battles you all love so much. And William Regal brings his throne to ringside to get a closer look at whatís coming up next.

Match 1 -- Jamie Noble and Mickie James vs. Santino Marella and Beth Phoenix

Ah yes, the intergender tag team match. Sweet. As J.R. might say if he were still on this show, this probably wonít be a catch-as-catch-can classic. In fact, screw it; Iím going to act like Ross is still announcing this show, because in my mind, he is. Meanwhile, Santino shatters the record for "fastest use of the obvious way to draw heel heat" (note to SLAM! Wrestling research intern: please fact-check this!) by telling the fans that heís responding to criticism that he isnít American enough by adopting a favorite NBA team: the Oklahoma City Thunder. Heís able to win the short match by cheating while Phoenix has the ref distracted. The real fireworks come after the bell as Noble and Regal get into it, forcing the ref and James to play peacekeepers.

Todd Grisham is back in the locker room to ask Michaels his thoughts on facing Cade. He answers that question with some of his own: What should he do, beg Jericho not to make him compete? Whine that heís still in agonizing pain? He tells Grisham to ask Jericho if heíll be defending his title tonight or if heís content to let his boy Cade do his dirty work. HBK vows that heíll show everyone he still has plenty of gas left in the tank. As we head to commercial, we learn that The Condemned is following Raw on USA. You know what that means? Stone Cold, Stone Cold! The Rattlesnake is striking! Classic J.R.

Match 2 -- Kofi Kingston vs. Ted DiBiase

DiBiaseís running mates from Priceless accompany him to the ring. I sometimes get confused and think that their stable is called Precious, which would be, well, a lot less manly. CM Punk comes down to cheer on his buddy Kingston and even the odds somewhat. Alas, after some impressive dropkicks and aerial stuff from Kofi and decent work by DiBiase, Punk proves unable to get to Cody Rhodes fast enough to keep him from interfering. DiBiase uses his finisher, which is the Million Dollar Dream into a Russian leg sweep, to get the pinfall.

Backstage, Jericho runs into Randy Orton and tells him that instead of having him hang around telling everyone how great he used to be, the acting GM is putting him to work tonight. Following that is a video package on another injured wrestler, John Cena. Recapping their supposed dream match that led to the neck injury, Batista adopts the "letís act like itís legit" tactic of explaining that Cena was stronger than he thought but made one mistake that gave him an opening. Back live, Henry, Kane and Tony Atlas head for the ring, ignoring Nicky from Spirit Squad as he attempts to shake their hands. Whatís that? Nicky is called Dolph Ziggler now? And heís supposed to be a porn star? Thatís not very PG!

Match 3 -- Rey Mysterio and Matt Hardy vs. Mark Henry and Kane

Iím going to be disappointed unless the current angle calls for Kane to put his mask back on. A double dropkick from the faces sends him to the floor early and us to commercial. Action resumes with Hardy and Rey taking turns getting abused and double-teamed. Itís Matt who finally gets the hot tag, unleashing a big boot and a top rope bulldog on Kane. A drop toehold into the ropes sets Mysterio up to deliver a 619. Hardy goes up top again, but Henry throws Rey into the turnbuckle from the outside, knocking him from his perch. Kane finishes the match by chokeslamming Hardy, then laughs at Mysterio from the ramp as he leaves.

Speaking of the masked Kane, a clip from WrestleMania XIV shows his run-in with Pete Rose, which ended with the Hit King on the wrong end of a Tombstone. Fortunately Rose had placed a large wager on Kane to destroy him, so he wasnít too upset about it.

Match 4 -- Shawn Michaels vs. Lance Cade -- No DQ Match

It doesnít look good for our hero early on as he is driven through the announce table by Cade. A steel chair is brought into the ring, but it turns out the wily HBK was just playing possum, and he buries Cade with an avalanche of fists. About a dozen chair shots follow up and down Cadeís body -- which is also not very PG -- and Michaels easily covers for three. Unsatisfied with a mere win, Shawn follows up with seven more chair shots. Or as the J.R. in my head calls it, "By God, Shawn Michaels has snapped! Look at the carnage!"

Apparently last weekís Smackdown was the highest rated show in the history of MyNetwork TV. Which means, I suppose, that there are other shows on MyNetwork TV (note to SLAM! Wrestling research intern: please fact-check this too!). The King goes into the ring to pimp the upcoming Cyber Sunday, promising fans that they can pick Santino Marellaís opponent from a lineup that consists of Roddy Piper, Goldust and the Honky Tonk Man. Wait, really?

Lillian Garcia is about to announce the next match but is rudely interrupted by the arrival of The Great Khali and his translator. The large man is upset about a recent run-in with Johnny Knoxville, I suppose because an actual former wrestling champion like David Arquette was unavailable. Anyway, the interview from jackassworld.com is shown, and Khali takes exception to a question about the size of his paddy whacker. Hey, that actually is PG! Back in the ring, Khaliís translator says the giant knows how to have fun, and heíll prove it by hosting the Kiss Cam. Khali implores people around the arena to kiss in his own incomprehensible style. Eventually Garcia ends up in the heart, and Khali plants a big one on her. The translator: "Khali says heíll call you!" I hate to admit it, but I like to give credit where credit is due, so Iíll say it. That was the most entertaining Khali segment ever, and itís not even close.

Match 5 -- Jillian vs. Kelly Kelly

Jillian butchers Nirvanaís Smells Like Teen Spirit to the dismay of the Seattle fans, and The Miz and John Morrison join the announcers for guest commentary. Cryme Tyme soon joins the party, causing Michael Cole and The King to completely lose control of the broadcast. Among the highlights: Morrison calling Cryme Tyme "Jonas Brothers groupies" and the boys giving it back by calling out the glitter on Morrisonís abs by saying, "I got a Bedazzler!" Zing! While Miz and Morrison ponder the meaning of "we can get it poppiní" Kelly Kelly is victorious.

A video package shows various Superstars talking about how Cena came to see everyone backstage the same day as his neck surgery, which is impressive.

Main Event -- JBL vs. Batista -- No. 1 Contenders Match w/ Special Referee Chris Jericho

Before we get this poppiní, Jericho adds a few extra stipulations. He calls down Regal to be the special timekeeper and Orton to be the special commentator. Batista gets one last commercial break to ponder how the deck is stacked against him. He starts quickly with the first near fall, then turns to working over JBLís legs. A kneebreaker follows and Batista locks on the Figure Four. JBL just barely grazes the ropes and Jericho forces Batista to break the hold. I donít think heís calling this one right down the middle! JBL goes on the attack aided by quick counts from Jericho. He also wonít count Batistaís next pinning attempt, though he does pretend to admonish JBL so Regal can sneak in some cheap shots on the floor. After a few reversals, Regal decides to take a more active role, but Batista clobbers him and turns to spear both JBL and Jericho. Adamle makes a surprise appearance on the ramp and sends another ref to finish the match. Before long itís spinebuster and Batista Bomb time, which means lights out for JBL.

Thatís not all though, as Adamle wants the last word. He finds the main event ironic since a special guest referee was one of the topics of discussion when he met with Shane and Stephanie. Shocking no one, he announces that Jericho and Batista will have a title match at Cyber Sunday with a special referee voted on by the fans. The choices? Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Hmm, I wonder who the fans will pick? Did I mention The Condemned is on next? Thatís a wrap for this week.

Nick Tylwalk is wondering whether itís possible to launch a write-in campaign for Cyber Sunday voting. Register your support at ntylwalk7@yahoo.com.