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Raw: Michaels faces tough year-end decision
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


The final Raw of 2008 features a Fatal Four Way between former champions that will determine who John Cena will face in a title match at the Royal Rumble. But since Shawn Michaels is working for JBL, it’s only natural to think that Randy Orton and Chris Jericho will be fighting an uphill battle. Read on to find out as the action unfolds from the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, NH.

Rey Mysterio wants a chance to speak, and he’s got the ring to himself. He’s not happy with Michaels, who cost him a chance to get into the Four Way by coming to the aid of JBL. Rey requests Shawn’s presence in the ring, and the Heartbreak Kid obliges. Mysterio explains that he’s not going to ask Michaels for his spot in the main event but would appreciate it if Shawn would “do the right thing” and face him in a singles match with said spot on the line. HBK accepts and they shake on it. There’s just one problem: JBL comes to the stage to inform Rey that he’s not going to allow his “employee” to take the match. Mysterio attempts to plead his case until he is jumped from behind by – wait for it – Mike Knox. The big man has his way for a minute or two, but Cena comes to Mysterio’s rescue, clotheslining his attacker out to the floor. Knox gathers himself and walks off through the crowd.

Orton gathers the members of his Legacy group and tells them that phase one of his plan is going to take place tonight (insert maniacal laughter here). To make sure they keep their spots on the team, Cody Rhodes, Sim Snuka and Manu must all win their matches tonight – and Rhodes is up first.

Match 1 – Cody Rhodes vs. CM Punk

William Regal and Layla join the announcers to keep an eye on Punk, who is the number one contender for Regal’s Intercontinental title. They get to see him up close when he executes a suicide dive and ends up bouncing off the table. The ref starts a ten count, and Regal distracts Punk just long enough for Rhodes to slip back into the ring at the last second. Punk is counted out, and when he tries to take out some frustration on Rhodes, Regal steps in and knocks him for a loop with a running knee.

Cena doesn’t like what Stephanie McMahon has planned for him tonight, which is to provide guest commentary for the main event. To punctuate his point, he does a Harry Caray impression which is actually pretty good. I think this Cena kid may have a future someday! As alternatives, he pitches some of his own ideas to Steph, including firing a man out of a cannon and remaking Smokey and the Bandit. Or, you know, a match would work too. But it’s Steph’s show.

Because the holidays aren’t quite over yet, Goldust recites his own poem about the gifts he gave to all of the WWE superstars. Highlights include a mention of his dad (Dusty Rhodes) and another joke at the expense of Santino Marella’s injury (in the “basket” region) suffered while trying to imitate Melina’s ring entrance a few weeks ago.

Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler do their duty by selling Batista’s injury at the hands of Orton. Since Dave is injured in real life, we also get the ever popular operation video package. Why the WWE Universe is so fascinated with medical procedures on their favorite performers, I’ll never know.

Match 2 – Diva Battle Royal – Kelly Kelly vs. Melina vs. Mickie James vs. Katie Lea vs. Candice Michelle vs. Jillian

Marella and Beth Phoenix are on hand to watch this over-the-top rope extravaganza, as the prize is a shot at Phoenix’s title. Self-proclaimed No. 1 Beth Phoenix fan Rosa Mendez is watching from the front row. She must have some good ticket brokers. Candice and Kelly are eliminated in short order, and Mickie takes out Katie and Jillian at roughly the same time. That leaves buddies Melina and Mickie facing each other. James gets tossed over the top rope, but she skins the cat and ends up on the apron. She tries to slingshot herself back in, but Melina greets her with a kick and sends her tumbling back to the floor. Phoenix goes to offer her own special brand of congratulations, and the ensuing fight spills to the outside. Mendez jumps in on Phoenix’s behalf and ends up getting dragged away by Security. And I’ll bet you my next SLAM! Wrestling paycheck that some of the people in the floor seats don’t realize she’s a plant. Anyway, I just had an idea for a completely different kind of Fatal Four Way that would involve me, three of these Divas and [remainder of joke deleted by SLAM! Editorial intern in the name of good taste]

Usually Todd Grisham asks the questions, but this time Chris Jericho wants the interviewer to answer one instead. Jericho wants to know why WWE Magazine named him the 2008 Jerk of the Year. After all, he only spoke the truth while other people were hypocritical. Jericho says if we want to see the real jerks, we should all look in our mirrors. That jerk in there kind of looks like me! Hey, wait a minute...

Match 3 – Sim Snuka vs. “Super Haas” Charlie Snuka

Yes, this gimmick is exactly what it sounds like, as Haas is dressed up like Snuka’s famous dad. He even tries to end the match with his own version of the Superfly Splash, but Sim gets his knees up. As J.R. would say, he had that move well scouted. Sim hits a big jumping kick to the head and it’s lights out for Haas.

Mysterio and Cena are on their way to the ring, meaning they either convinced Steph to book them in a match or they are going to read for parts in that Bandit remake.

Match 4 – John Cena, Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston and Cryme Tyme vs. Kane, John Morrison, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Mike Knox

Hey, Knox is actually in a match. All ten men end up in the ring before the commercial break, and the ref has his hands full trying to maintain order. My computer’s auto-wrestling cliché writer filled in that last phrase for me, by the way. Mysterio takes the majority of abuse for the face side, though he’s finally able to make the hot tag to Cena. A flurry of signature moves follows that clears almost everyone out to the floor. Cena plants Knox with an FU, and Mysterio begs to be tagged back in. Rey hits a top rope splash and makes the satisfying cover to pin his tormentor.

Grisham catches up with HBK to inquire about the possible conflict of interest he’ll be facing as he competes in the Four Way against his own boss. HBK says that he’s Mr. WrestleMania, so his only goal is to steal the show.

Match 5 – Manu vs. Matt Hardy

Wow, Manu really drew the short straw by getting matched up against the ECW Champion. He actually holds his own for a while in a bout with a bunch of near falls both ways. He has Hardy on his shoulders, but Matt grabs the top rope and counters with a successful Twist of Fate. The count is made and Manu will have to beg Orton to be allowed to keep sitting with the cool kids.

More behind the scenes looks at Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia? Yes, please!

Main Event – Randy Orton vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho vs. JBL – Fatal Four Way Elimination Match

HBK starts things off against Jericho, but we quickly go to a commercial. Remember kids, the winner of this one gets a world title shot at the Royal Rumble. Jericho tries to put the Walls of Jericho on Orton, but Randy powers out. He hits a clothesline and tags Michaels in. Both men end up on the top turnbuckle, but Michaels shoves Jericho down and drops the big elbow. Shawn tunes up the band only to have JBL tag himself in. A Clothesline From Hell is countered by the Code Breaker, and Michaels has to be quick to save his boss from elimination. Jericho locks JBL in the Walls, but Michaels tags himself in and strikes with Sweet Chin Music to send Jericho to the showers. We break away for the final batch of commercials. Orton is in a JBL sleeper hold when we return. He backdrops his way out but runs right into a big boot for a near fall. A back and forth struggle ends when Orton scores with a dropkick, then starts stomping away on various body parts. Randy lines up for his running punt, but JBL scrambles away and tags Michaels. Orton is all over him, though HBK manages to shove himself away from an RKO. They trade shots and Michaels takes control with a trademark sequence: flying forearm, inverted atomic drop, and top rope elbow. He warms up the band and connects with Sweet Chin Music to eliminate Orton. Shawn loads up again but stops when he realizes that only his boss remains. JBL points to the ground, motioning for Michaels to lie down. He refuses a couple of times as the crowd voices its displeasure. He finally gets all the way down, but he pops up at the last minute. After one last discussion, a tormented Michaels settles on a bit of a compromise, allowing himself to be hit and pinned by a Clothesline From Hell. The year ends on a high note with a distraught HBK kneeling in the ring as his boss advances to a title match at the Royal Rumble. Have a happy New Year everyone!

Nick Tylwalk would like to apologize to the producers of Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia for repeated jokes at their film’s expense. Please look for a PayPal payment for $25 to cover the cost of the shoot, heading your way from ntylwalk7@yahoo.com.