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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Bad Blood PPV Preview
June 15, 2004

OnlineOnslaught.com Exclusive Team Coverage
Compiled by Rick Scaia

 

So hey, I watched SmackDown! tonight...  I also watched the new "Celebrity Poker" (which has somehow pulled a Lazarus act and is WAY better than it was last season).  As well as checking out the basketball game (much as it pains me to cheer for the team that vanquished mine, I just don't like them Lakers, so GO PITONS, says I!).

I consider all three items to be about equally fair game for discussion here in today's OO: namely, not very fair.  Because this is a WRESTLING site, not a poker or basketball one!  And because SD! is still not a very good WRESTLING show, best efforts of the Chavos and Kurt Angle aside.

So let's just gloss over SD!, and get to today's REAL item of business: It's a RAW PPV weekend.  Hell, it's a RAW PPV *I Should Be At* Weekend, except I've got this wedding to go to... so I'll have to settle for just seeing RAW in person on Monday, but...

Well, this ain't why you called.  We got a PPV on Sunday.  We got the entire OO Staff to make some picks and analyses of what might happen.  We even got ourselves the start of a little running feud going with those swine over at WrestleLine over who can pick better!

And as always: wedding or no, I'll be back in time to catch Bad Blood on TV, and will have a full report of the show posted here at OO sometime around midnight on Sunday, for those of you cheap bastards who won't shell out to see it.  So come on back for that, then come on back for the Predictions Battle Results, and keep coming on back for the Finest in Pro Wrestling Coverage anywhere on the freaking internet.

Here's your breakdown of Sunday night's show...

[LATE NOTE: I had to resist the urge making a last-second change to my picks after receiving Erin's predictions just before deadline.  They are identical to mine.  Worse: there are a few too-similarly-turned phrases for my own personal comfort.  Fricking spOOky, man.  Does Erin really exist?  Or is she a OO Marketing Concept created by me to appeal to the Target Demographic?  Or maybe a figment of my imagination?  Except I know that I'VE never been groped by Ric Flair, so...  well, nevermind.  Point is, I have NOT made any changes, and so I fully anticipate remaining locked in the OO Columnist Rankings Basement with Erin after a 2 out of 7 showing on Bad Blood predictions... and what we do down there is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!]
 

TRIPLE H vs. SHAWN MICHAELS
Hell in the Cell Match

How to handle this one?

Is it the "Match So Good It Sells Itself" so I can just shut up now?  Or is it a feud that goes back to 1997 and the internal politics of DX?  Or a feud that goes back exactly 2 years to the start of Shawn Michaels un-retirement?  Or a feud that's six months old?

Let's say screw the 1997 DX crap, and do this quick fly-by of what brought us to this point:  two years ago, Shawn Michaels was goaded out of a four-year injury retirement by Triple H.  The two eventually faced off at SummerSlam in a "non-sanctioned street fight."  Michaels won.  Later in the year, they fought again in a fully-sanctioned World Title Match (actually a six-way match, that time).  Michaels won again.  A month later, HHH got his title back in a one-on-one match, and the Michaels/HHH feud was kind of set on the back burner for a while.

Although the two were never far apart, we'll fast forward about a year, to December of 2003.  HHH had again regained his World Title, putting an end to a 6-month feud with Goldberg.  The search for a fresh challenger yielded a "free-per-view" HHH vs. Shawn Michaels match on the final RAW of 2003.  Michaels seemed to have won, but a replay showed a double pin scenario, and HHH retained the title without beating Shawn.  But a rematch was ordered, under Last Man Standing rules.  At the Royal Rumble, Michaels and HHH battled for 25 minutes before both were counted out simultaneously: again, HHH retained his title without actually beating Michaels.

Enter Chris Benoit.  Before HHH and Michaels could settle their World Title feud, Benoit won the Rumble match and decided to jump to RAW to chase the title himself.  The only solution: a three-way feud that produced two outstanding PPV main events.  In the first, Benoit made HHH tap out to relieve him of the world title.  In the second, Benoit made Michaels tap out to retain the belt.  In subsequent TV matches, both Michaels and HHH tried to stay in the title picture, but their shared hatred meant neither could stand to see the other succeed.  HHH cost Michaels his World Title match on RAW, and later, Michaels cost HHH a Battle Royal that would have earned him a World Title match...

So now, as Benoit and the World Title are off doing other things, Triple H and Shawn Michaels are left with only each other.  And a 20-foot-high steel Cell.  Their interference in each other's matches and business forced Eric Bischoff's hand: to contain the violence, he ordered their PPV confrontation to be a Hell in the Cell match.

Michaels is as responsible as anyone for "inventing" HitC, or at least inventing the mystique that surrounds it, as he and Taker had a kick-ass first-ever Hell in the Cell match seven years ago.  Later HitCs were forced to play a game of "can you top this?", resulting in Mick Foley's memorable stunts, and pretty much an unimpeachable record of awesomeness anytime the Cell is used.  For the sake of our argument, let's just ignore anytime Big Bossman was involved in such a match.  Cuz all the rest kicked much ass.

This may or may not be the last time Michaels and HHH ever face off, and to be honest, I'm not as concerned with who wins and loses as I am that this lives up to the past 2 singles matches HBK/HHH have had and to our inflated expectations.  It's rare when I let myself think in terms of "This is gonna be a Match of the Year," but if Sunday's main event isn't the right time for such an expectation, then when is?  Whoever wins or loses, I'm just strapping in an enjoying the ride. 
 

The OOutlOOk
Shawn wins: 5 votes   --|--   HHH wins: 4 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Triple H d. Shawn Michaels.
This is probably the most difficult match to predict of the entire show, mainly because of the two wrestlers involved. Both have a history of winning when general logic suggests that they shouldn't (Triple H over Booker, HBK over Jericho.) Both hold victories over the other. Neither has anything to lose by… well, losing. Either can have a kickass title match with Benoit when this whole feud is finally over, thank the fucking lord. But when they face each other? Christ, I don't have a clue.

But if I've learned one thing in my experience of being a wrestling fan, it's that Triple H always wins when it really matters. These past few months of jobbiness notwithstanding, Hunter always comes out on top. HBK will always be a legend, but Triple H is more than a little questionable in that regard. He needs the victory more than his buddy at this point, having tapped to Benoit and jobbed to Shelton Benjamin a few times. He's made himself look (gasp) weak! But honestly, does any of this shit matter? The only certainties in life are death, taxes, and Triple H victories against opponents of legendary status in major gimmick matches. Just ask Mick Foley.

The match itself will probably be a pleasure to watch, and Michaels will try his damnedest to outdo the Undertaker's sickening blade job from No Mercy 2002. I’m betting he'll succeed, and nearly kill himself in the process. Remember that piddly-ass bleeding he pulled off in his first match back in Summerslam 2002? Neither do I. The Passion of the Shawn is alive and well now, and I can only hope that the Red Cross will be standing by once this match is over with.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Triple H d. Shawn Michaels.
This one is a toughie to call. You've got to figure that, no matters what happens here, this will be the very last time these two meet in the ring (or in wrestling terms, until at least winter). I can't remember offhand (even if I thought about it for a while), the last time two wrestlers had an off-again, on-again feud going for so long, at least while wrestling on opposite sides of the face while in the same company. Maybe Andre and Hogan? Wow.

Generally speaking, logic would dictate that the face goes over in this kind of a situation. But I think this is a bit different. Let's assume for a second that HBK was to win. Then what? Everyone knows he's taking some time off anyways; any momentum he gets with this match would be diluted by the time he was set to return. And yes, I know HHH is also planning some time off, but work with me here.

Unlike Michaels, Trips can play up a HITC win by the time he's done with Hollywood, and probably parlay into another title win. Because, let's be honest here, The Game has been a very good boy lately, jobbing to all the right people, giving the rub when the situation called for it, and even wrestling some great matches. So, like it or not, he's overdue for a big win.

Any way you slice it, though, this should be an incredible match.

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Shawn Michaels d. Triple H.
I'm as uncomfortable as I've ever been in making this pick. Call me naive, but I believe in the final blow off of this seemingly endless feud, WWE will abide by wrestling booking 101 and put over their number 1 babyface and best worker. On the other hand, I realize this is the almighty Triple H we're talking about, or as my best friend calls him, Senator Helmsley, and I also realize he's been more generous about doing jobs in the last few months than he has in the last five years, so you'd have to think this would be the ideal time for him to play the son-in-law card and demand a win. But I'm holding out hope that Helmsley realizes that a Michaels win may be what's best for the company, and that as a heel, he is sort of expected to lose in such a high profile match. So after a mind blowing 30 minute war, complete with terrific bumps by both competitors, I predict Michaels wins it with a
Superkick.
The Cubs Fan Says... Triple H d. Shawn Michaels.
Until the end of RAW, I was thinking they were going to
other way. Going thru all the Evolution members makes me think otherwise.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Shawn Michaels d. Triple H.
The allure of this match is not who wins but rather how great of a match they can put on.  Given past history and the Hell in a Cell gimmick, I'm sure we're in for another treat on Sunday.  It's a shame many people will choose a winner based on whether they think HHH or HBK is taking vacation time after this.  I'll avoid that pitfall and try picking it based on the storyline.  HHH has seemingly gotten the better of Shawn in the more recent part of this feud so I'll say HBK finally gets some revenge and sends the fans home happy.
Matt Hocking Says... Shawn Michaels d. Triple H.
It's just about that time for this feud to end.  Nobody here is going to take a big bump, but it should be a pretty entertaining match.  My guess?  Everybody in the crowd blades, Shawn kips up and Superkicks Hunter, and he gets the win.  Then they go on to feud with...uh...each other...damn.
Jeb Lund Says... Shawn Michaels d. Triple H.
I have expressed my misgivings about this match in a previous column, and little has happened on WWE TV or in wrestling news to assuage my fears. Simply put, I think that this one can go either way, because the booking crew is stupid. But here’s what I think should happen, what I hope happens and what (for the sake of trying to send out good vibes that may change the future for the better) I’m going to predict happens: Michaels wins with a 1-2-3, with minimal funny stuff.

Sure, it should be bloody. And it should feature lots of unusual pummeling. But it needs to be brutal enough to get Triple H off TV for a couple of months, and it needs to be interference-free to make Michaels look like a badass. Because the problem isn’t so much what happens in this match: the problem is what kind of man walks out of this match to face Benoit.

Michaels needs to kick Triple H’s butt hard enough and convincingly enough that he winds up looking like the real top dog when facing Benoit. If Michaels loses, and Triple leaves TV, then Benoit has a one- or two-month program with “the loser.” But if Michaels wins solidly and honestly enough, he and Benoit can have an interesting and plausible program that isn’t merely killing time until Triple H gets back.

Besides, Triple H losing doesn’t hurt him at all. He’s 3-0 in one-on-one contests in the Cell. Losing once won’t make him look bad. In fact, losing to the man who was in the first-ever Cell match, who practically invented the Cell “style” – a man who is a legitimate legend – is no bum deal. And anyway, we know that Triple H has yet to have a clean one-on-one title match with Benoit. When he comes back, he can punch that return ticket, and everyone will be interested.

"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Shawn Michaels d. Triple H.
This was once a forgone conclusion with Trips supposedly filming a movie. I don't know what the status of that is, but quite frankly, it doesn't matter. These guys have put on a tremendously entertaining program, and this feud has legs if HHH loses here. It also opens up a possible avenue for friction between himself and Orton, and although I believe it is way too early for that, the Fed has already proven itself willing to rush things with Orton. Shawn can also conceivably move on to challenge Kane. What? I said, challenge Kane. Uh-oh . . .
Rick Scaia Says... Triple H d. Shawn Michaels.
Upon announcement of this match, I thought it reeked of "Farewell to HHH."  Except now, nobody knows if that stupid movie of his is being made, and expectations are that he'll be around for a while longer.  So as we inched closer to the actual match, my opinion did a 180 degree turn: HHH got all selfless and jobby when he thought he was on his way out. Now, he stands to be the guy who gets the SummerSlam one-on-one title shot against Benoit: remember that HHH has NOT gotten his one-on-one rematch yet, and that's gonna be money down the line.  So this is the new thought process that brings me to suspect that HHH gets back on a winning track on Sunday, and positions himself back as a top contender for the World Title.  Michaels, god bless 'im, doesn't have to win the match to win over the fans: I doubt he'll take the Foley-esque Big Bump, but I'm very sure he'll bleed buckets and bust his ass, and further cement his claim on Wrestler of the Year.  Fans notice that kind of stuff, and Michaels' standing should be just fine, even with a loss here.

 

CHRIS BENOIT vs. KANE
World Heavyweight Title Match

It's a World Title match literally SIX DAYS IN THE MAKING!

The victim of neglect, of confusing plot twists, of bad acting, of poor planning, and just about every other unfortunate circumstance imaginable, this Benoit/Kane title match was on pace to be just about the least compelling title feud in years, until Monday's RAW.

And mind you, it's still not setting the world on fire, but at least they finally introduced some spark of competition between Benoit and Kane, instead of muddying the waters with Eugene and Lita, and letting that nonsense overshadow what should have been the primary issue all along.

It's kind of hard to know what story to tell here.  The actual issue between Benoit and Kane is simple: Kane won a #1 contender's battle royal a month ago to earn the title shot.  He declared his desire to have some of the normalcy and respect that Benoit enjoys as champion, but that got lost in the midst of the Eugene/Lita stuff. Then this past Monday, he was on the opposite side of the ring from Benoit, and in a tag match wound up no-selling just about all of Benoit's aresenal and pinned the champ with a chokeslam.  And there, finally, was a reason to take Kane seriously as a threat to Benoit and the World Title.

But then there's a bunch of ancillary issues that I probably can't completely dismiss (much as I'd like to).  The stuff with Eugene was just fluffery, I think, but Kane's issue with Lita appears to be going strong.  Kane took a shine to the fiery Xtreme Diva, who immediately went into wimpy mode.  Kane's been kissing, sniffing, and generally stalking Lita for over a month, and Lita has somehow tacitly agreed to all of it by answering "Yes" to a mysterious question.  Kane assured us on Monday that it's not over between them.  But what, exactly, IS it between them?

Perhaps the better question would be: Does anyone care what's between them, other than just hoping for it all to be done before they do something really stupid?  

Even though Sunday's match is Benoit vs. Kane, it wouldn't shock me if Lita was somehow integral.  Let's just hope that doesn't overshadow what COULD be a surprisingly good wrestling match, as Kane has been known to bring it, and bring it well, against guys with Benoit's skill set.
 

The OOutlOOk
Benoit wins: 8 votes   --|--   Kane wins: 1 vote 

Erin Anderson Says... Chris Benoit d. Kane.
After a good stretch of being booked like a total badass, Benoit has developed a sudden case of Jerichoitis (being champion, but booked as an afterthought to more pressing issues, such as Triple H's feud with Shawn Michaels or the injury of his pet bulldog.) What the hell happened here? Here's hoping that once this PPV is over, the hundred-year feud between HBK and Triple H will finally be over and the focus of the show will be back where it belongs: on the champion. Unless, of course, a new match is devised to trump HIAC as the ultimate end to any tussle between wrestlers -- I'm picturing something involving a pool of sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads or something similarly ridiculous.

But I digress. In the ring, Kane sucks. There are no two ways about it. His best matches, particularly one on Smackdown! in 2001, have always been against Kurt Angle. And if Kurt can get a good showing out of Kane, then Benoit sure as hell can. This match will probably be far better than anyone is expecting, thanks to the Rabid Wolverine. And if what I think is going to happen in the tag title match happens, it will only add to the drama of it all.

The total lack of quality buildup tells me that Benoit is going to retain his title and go on to face the winner of the Hell in a Cell match in a singles feud… or perhaps his estranged tag team partner, Edge? Look for interference from both Edge (on behalf of Kane) and possibly Lita or Matt Hardy (to screw over Kane.)

But if Kane wins this, I'll eat a bug. Or, more likely, stick my head in the oven.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Chris Benoit d. Kane.
I don't think this is going to be a colossal bomb the way others have described it. Let's face it, both of these can deliver when necessary (granted, Benoit waaaayyyy more than his opponent), and this week on Raw, they had what I thought was a great little exchange during the last few minutes of their handicap match. Should they have pushed Kane a bit more going into this, and delayed the silly Lita angle? Oh, absolutely. But it doesn't detract from the fact that they could do a lot worse in terms of title challengers (e.g. Bradshaw).

Even though I think there may be some interference by Edge (assuming there's trouble between him and Benoit following the tag team match), I don't believe it will lead to Benoit dropping the belt. I'd be shocked.

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Chris Benoit d. Kane.
This match kind of reminds me of the old "In Your House" main events, where the WWF champion would take on one of the company's top heels, despite the two not having much of a rivalry, basically as a tool to move the champ into his next big opponent (Michaels-Mankind at "Mindgames".) It seems clear that the Kane - Matt Hardy feud is yet to be settled, and the Benoit-Edge feud is just the beginning, so I fully expect some kind of wacky finish in this one, with Hardy and/or Edge playing a role. That said, I still think Benoit will get the win - probably by pin rather than tap out. He needs to keep his momentum and anything short of a win may slow him down. Kane on the other hand has been booked well enough in recent months that he can stand a loss here.
The Cubs Fan Says... Chris Benoit d. Kane.
If the segment ended with La Resistance being announced as the winners instead of Bischoff making a 3 on 2 match, they'd have more to build up Edge/Benoit than Kane/Benoit. So I'm thinking they're doing Edge/Benoit for the belt.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Chris Benoit d. Kane.
I have no doubt in my mind that Benoit is retaining the title.  But I have no clue as to what kind of match we are going to see.  It could be a straight up wrestling match or we could see all sorts of outside interference from Lita or Edge or someone else.  I'm hoping the house reports are true and that these two can have a good match.  I'll also predict that not only will this match not go on last, it will not go on second to last either.
Matt Hocking Says... Chris Benoit d. Kane.
One has been involved in go nowhere angles with people way lower on the card than him.  The other is Kane.  Since they've started "feuding," Kane has paid more attention to Lita and Matt Hardy while Benoit has been hanging around Edge and Eugene feuding with La Resistance and, I guess, The Coach.  Kane is as good as any opponent, I suppose, but nothing signals to me that he will be getting a title run any time soon, much less here.
Jeb Lund Says... Chris Benoit d. Kane.
Um. I’ve been wrong before, but even I don’t think WWE is stupid enough to have Kane win here. The time to pull the trigger on a Kane title win was back when he was hanging around Booker, Goldust, Hurricane and RVD, laughing and being nice to people. Hell, the feel-good story alone could have overcome the idiocy of the Katie Vick thing. Creative could have rewritten it and claimed that Triple H was making it up all along or something.

But now… now… uh. There’s no reason for Kane to win. None. I feel terribly sorry for Glen Jacobs, and I’ve long borne a great sympathy and sadness for the Kane character. But Kane has to lose. Benoit needs to march onward with the belt, successfully defend it (at least once) against Michaels and Triple H, then drop it to whomever afterward. Right now, it will do no favors for Kane to win it from Benoit, and it will put a stamp of comic accident on Benoit’s reign to see it end so abruptly and anticlimactically.

"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Kane d. Chris Benoit.
The deck is clearly being stacked against Benoit - and perhaps this is a good time for him to drop the belt, given a lack of quality opposition to work with. Let's face it, he was gold over on SD!, but there aren't many guys on RAW that make for compatible opponents. Edge is one of them, and I expect his interference (intentional or otherwise) to be the deciding factor here, building some more heat between them (or watching it boil over) after they lose the tag match due to miscommunication. Funny how the card works out when you plan it backwards, eh?
Rick Scaia Says... Chris Benoit d. Kane.
There are a lot of guys on the RAW roster who I think are "World Title Ready."  Kane is not one of them.  For one, he's on a constant roller coaster ride of Utter Crap then Bad Ass then Utter Crap then Bad Ass.  And right now, he's sort of straddling that line: he gave us a dose of "Bad Ass" in winning the Battle Royal and pinning Benoit last week... but overshadowing that is the fact that he's involved in this Utter Crap with Lita.  I cannot see the World Title falling into his hands, not right now.  Maybe it'll involve Lita somehow deciding she's had enough of Kane, or maybe they'll do the smart thing (the "Rick Thing," anyway) and have Kane once again no-sell/power-out-of Benoit's usual arsenal, forcing Benoit to utilize some crazy-ass, rarely-before-seen modification of a submission hold to get Kane to tap out.  I'd dig that.  Mostly, I was serious above: I want them to keep the Lita nonsense to a minimum and let this be a break-out showcase for Kane, who CAN have really good matches in this style, even if he hasn't shown it since he was getting to fight Kurt Angle.

 

YOUNG RANDALL ORTON vs. SHELTON BENJAMIN
InterContinental Title Match

Shelton Benjamin is about three months into his RAW career, and in that time, just about his only substantive accomplishments have come at the expense of Evolution.  First the guy beat Triple H.  Twice.  Then Ric Flair.  On PPV.  And then, after Evolution couldn't leave the kid alone, Shelton decided he might like himself a shot at Randy Orton's IC Title.

Orton begged off, at first, claiming Shelton wasn't worthy.  But Benjamin was more than ready to prove himself, pinning Orton first in a tag match, and then again in a one-on-one non-title affair.  In doing so, he earned his PPV title shot, and put a couple more Evolution notches in his belt.

Evolution got the last laugh, though, as Batista (with an assist from Orton) became the first member of the faction to best Shelton, and then the group gang-attacked Benjamin after the match.  With neither Ric Flair nor Batista on the PPV card Sunday, it's a numbers game with which Shelton may have to deal again....

In a lot of ways, this could be a Glimpse Of The Future... kind of like when we saw the not-yet-polished Rock and HHH feuding in 1998, helping each other get better, proving themselves to the fans, and eventually emerging as headliners and icons.  Then again, I thought the same thing about last summer's Cena/Lesnar feud, and look how that turned out...  so I dunno: maybe this is the first pass of a rivalry that'll someday headline countless PPVs.  But maybe a year from now Randy Orton will have decided to leave wrestling to chase his dream (or is that Jerry Lawler's dream?) of being a gay porn star or something...  You just never know.

Sunday's IC Title match will be a chance for Orton and Benjamin to open some eyes and show what the Next Generation is capable of when left to its own devices.  There is no exceptionally-skilled Legend to "kill" (or to guide the young 'uns through the match).  There are just two guys who, if they bring it like they did in the closing five minutes or so of their RAW match 2 weeks ago (instead of like they did in the opening 5), should comport themselves quite well. 
  

The OOutlOOk
Orton wins: 7 votes   --|--   Shelton wins: 2 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Randy Orton d. Shelton Benjamin.
Randy is well on his way to inhabiting the realm of Wrestlers Who Do Not Suck, and Shelton has been way beyond that since his days as a jobber on Heat. So the match should be pretty good, especially if you let Benjamin call most of the shots.

The winner is more difficult to predict than the match quality itself. What would I do? I'd keep the title on Randy and let Shelton chase it for a while longer. Would "Intercontinental Champion" be a nice addition to Shelton's resume? It could be, but Val Venis is also a former IC champion and he‘s not faring so well these days. You've heard of the guy, right? No? Exactly.

The IC title is only as important as the man who holds it; it has little ability to elevate a wrestler. Rather, the importance of the wrestler holding it and the length of his title reign determines the importance of the belt itself. Orton is always given a prominent position on RAW and he’s held the belt for an admirable amount of time in the WWE universe, and thus his title is important. Stick it on a wrestler without a real character (no, Cocky Kid Who Wrestles Well is not a good gimmick, dammit) and just watch him tank! I like Shelton and definitely think he is IC material, but he needs to chase the belt for a while and get a decent character before winning it. In other words: get this kid some mic time, stat.

Shelton got his ass kicked on Monday, and so general wrestling logic dictates that he’ll be victorious on the PPV. But the fun is in the chase, and he has a legitimate excuse for losing after the beatdown he took from Evolution. Shelton wins the belt by Summerslam, but this isn't his night.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Shelton Benjamin d. Randy Orton.
I'm saying he'll necessarily win the title, but it behooves WWE to let these guys continue their feud, and a decisive win by Orton just won't cut it. Not that Orton doesn't have a whole host of challengers he could face in the summer months, but I really think some sort of victory (or quasi-victory) by Benjamin here can keep things going until SummerSlam or so.
Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Shelton Benjamin d. Randy Orton.
With Orton pretty firmly in position as the brand's number 2 heel and Benjamin still looking to climb the ranks, I expect a passing of the torch here. Orton should be moving into primarily top-tier matches, while Benjamin will continue to make a name for himself as a hot, young star. This one should be very good, but expect to see both hold a little something back as to not upstage the two main events.
The Cubs Fan Says... Randy Orton d. Shelton Benjamin.
They'll probably keep this going for a while, so Shelton doesn't get the win yet.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Randy Orton d. Shelton Benjamin.
Convention says that with the way Benjamin has been steamrolling through Evolution members that he'll achieve his final conquest and take home the IC title.  But there is one thing that bothers me...Orton has made such a big deal about being the longest reigning IC champ in 7 years that it would seem anticlimatic for Benjamin to win the title here.  As much as I don't care for Orton, I want him to lose the title to a guy who's fought long and hard to dethrone him.  A simple one month quickie feud isn't the ideal scenario for Orton to lose the title.  I'll say Orton retains but this feud will continue.
Matt Hocking Says... Randy Orton d. Shelton Benjamin.
I almost selected Shelton to win here, but I wanted to pick one heel going over in the top matches and this seems the most obvious choice.  Shelton's mega-push has stalled a bit, and this feud feels like it needs another month or so of meat before they put one guy over all the way.  With that in mind,
however, I will admit that Shelton winning would be a nice surprise, because while Orton has been a good champion, it'd be nice to mix things up a bit.
Jeb Lund Says... Randy Orton d. Shelton Benjamin.
I’m trying really hard to come up with a good booking angle that says, “Benjamin loses, then comes back to win; however, Orton still retains his credibility and moves on to something else.” But I can’t. I don’t know how Benjamin getting the job back won’t hurt Orton down the road. Randy just doesn’t have enough plausible stuff on his plate right now.

Thus, in the meantime, I think WWE gives Orton the win, as a check to Benjamin’s streak of trouncing Evolution. And I get the niggling feeling that Orton will keep getting wins after that, because it’s hard to keep him vital and keep the patina of excellence around him without constant victories. (WWE hasn’t made Orton much of anything other than a streak of victories. Take winning away from him, and what does he have? They’ve booked themselves into a corner.) Sad to say, I see Benjamin jobbing here and then setting off on an undynamic downhill course. Pity Benjamin, but, for now, Orton getting the pin makes for a more interesting match, pay-per-view and story arc. Whether the arc comes back to bless Benjamin is a different worry for a different day.

The only way I could see this match putting a little mustard on a future Orton/Benjamin or Evolution/Benjamin feud is if Orton has help for his win (probably Batista). Batista could sidetrack Benjamin for at least one more pay-per-view match before a payoff match with Orton. Of course, I’m just speculating, and not terribly confidently.

"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Randy Orton d. Shelton Benjamin.
So continues The Push of The Son of The Ace Cowboy Mechanic Henchman Bodyguard. No doubt with some assistance from Ric Flair and Batistia, who are otherwise unoccupied. The finish will contain suitable cheating that Benjamin still comes off looking good and can continue fueding with Orton if The Powers That Be see fit.
Rick Scaia Says... Randy Orton d. Shelton Benjamin.
My original thinking here was that Orton had to win to maintain "Evolution Supremacy" and start his take-over bid in the absence of HHH.  But now that HHH may be sticking around, it doesn't change my opinion.  The Fed is clearly going for the "HonkeyTonk Man Vibe" with Orton, having him reference the length of his title reign...  that means his eventual title loss will have to be special.  And for as much as I like Shelton, he's no Ultimate Warrior.  [And save it people: Shelton's obviously 87 times the wrestler Warrior ever was, but if you were a fan in '88 and didn't mark out for Warrior beating Honkey, then you are either a liar or a jerk-face.  You know what I'm getting at here.]  So Randy still wins: the equation is pretty simple, too...  Ric Flair and Batista are nowhere else to be seen on this card, and I have to imagine they'd be integral to Randy's win.  I think if it's handled right, you set up a situation where Shelton is clearly out-classing Orton, who escapes by the skin of his teeth and can then force Shelton to run the Evolution gauntlet (including against Batista, who is now the Benjamin Killer) before gaining another title shot.  Orton wins, Shelton gets a long-arcing storyline chasing the belt...

 

LA RESISTANCE vs. CHRIS BENOIT/EDGE
World Tag Team Title Match

Yep, Chris Benoit works twice.  It's something that might be downright necessary if he was still on the depleted SD! roster... but here, it's a storyline quirk.  And also kind of a function of how big a mess the tag division is on RAW.

Benoit and Edge were tossed together as a tag team, and won the belts from Evolution a little over a month ago.  The two Canadians fended off challengers as necessary, and Benoit was able to mesh his World Title requirements with his tag title schedule quite easily.  Until 2 weeks ago...

Miscommunication between the champs resulted in Edge spearing Benoit in a match against La Resistance.  In the aftermath, La Resistance took the titles by pinning Edge.  Benoit and Edge would have liked a rematch last week on RAW, but instead, they were put into a handicap match situation... and devious GM Eric Bischoff decided if they wanted a shot at La Resistance, they could have it at the PPV.  Where Benoit was already obligated to defend the World Title.

On the heels of miscommunication between Edge and Benoit, we now have the first real conflict of interests for Benoit, as well.  Will he bring his A-game in a tag title match?  Will Edge and Benoit be on the same page and able to work together?  The story here isn't so much La Resistance vs. Benoit/Edge as it is "What's the deal between Benoit and Edge?"...  at least, that's how it seems to me.

Oughta make for a pretty interesting little match: it'll be well enough worked, and it does have implications for later on in the show. 
 

The OOutlOOk
La Resistance wins: 9 votes 
Benoit/Edge win: 0 votes

Erin Anderson Says... La Resistance d. Benoit/Edge.
Poor Benoit. Asked to carry two title matches on the same card?

This match will not be long, especially when you consider the load he has to carry later on the same night. It isn't on the show to display some quality wrestling; it's there to tell a story instead. And I'm damn sure that the story will be an Edge heel turn. Another loss may make Edge snap and attack his former partner later on in the night, but the more compelling story is to have him turn in the middle of the match and kick the crap out of Benoit before he has to face Kane. Smell the drama!

Edge will shoulder the bulk of the work and look good doing it. Unless he's in the ring with the Suckiness Known as Sylvan Grenier, that is. Three of the four guys here can really go in the ring, so I’m expecting something short but mighty sweet, with a killer plot twist at the end. WWE really needs to take this opportunity to turn Edge into a vengeful, psychotic, sadistic fucker. La Resistance wins, and Edge gets a vicious beatdown on his former partner.

Canadian Bulldog Says... La Resistance d. Benoit/Edge.
I'm still trying to figure out who will be the heel in this scenario should Edge and Benoit break up. Although Edge would be the natural choice in a scenario like this, I still think Benoit might make a better heel. Plus, you have SummerSlam coming up in Edge's (former) hometown of Toronto, so you'd figure that could be a factor.

Anyways, that should tell you how I think this match will probably go down. A botched move by the faces leads to a La Resistance win.

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... La Resistance d. Benoit/Edge.
This one will probably open the show and be pretty decent. Expect the French champs to keep the straps after some more miscommunication between Edge and Benoit. This one will be about ten minutes.
The Cubs Fan Says... La Resistance d. Benoit/Edge.
No sense in having Benoit/Edge win to drop them again.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... La Resistance d. Benoit/Edge.
I don't think there is much mystery behind this one.  La Resistance needs to win here to stay strong and it is pointless now to throw the belts back onto the faces.  The only thing in question here is whether La Res will win by nefarious means of their own or whether Edge be the source of his team's downfall to plant further seeds of his turning.  I predict Edge will have another "accident" that will eventually be the downfall of their team to set up Edge v. Benoit at either Vengeance or Summerslam.
Matt Hocking Says... La Resistance d. Benoit/Edge.
Firstly, I think La Resistance needs the titles more.  Secondly, I think they could get away with a nice little mini-feud between Edge and Benoit as jealous semi-tag team partners.  Thirdly, I think they have to inject some doubt into the main event.  Having Benoit laid out either by a La Resistance beatdown, an Edge attack, or a Kane run-in adds a little bit of drama and keeps the belts on the right two guys.
Jeb Lund Says... La Resistance d. Benoit/Edge.
This is the match that confuses me to no end – partially because I’ve watched every Raw for the past seven or eight weeks, and somehow completely missed that this match was booked. Also, I’m not sure why it was booked.

I’m going to go with Occam’s Razor here and say that La Resistance wins. Edge and Benoit are better commodities as singles wrestlers (Benoit more so). They both are “Division Killers” in that Raw really has an under-developed tag-team picture, with no teams that can compete on a name-recognition or basic knee-jerk credibility level. Finally, their winning again doesn’t do much for them.

Now, personally I’m in no rush to see WWE pull the trigger on yet another La Resistance title run (even if La Resistance has different members). At last year’s Bad Blood, I was already sick of La Resistance. I suspect that there are many WWE fans who are still in the same boat with me.

Still, La Resistance could use the belt and the justification for their continued existence. Also, the Raw tag division could use actual tag-team wrestlers as champs, because then the champions don’t so drastically overshadow their competitors. Also, La Resistance seem more likely to drop the strap at any moment, which makes the division a little bit livelier. At this point, it needs all the liveliness it can get.

My only thought on how the match plays out is this: Kane interference. If WWE wants to put a little more heat on Kane v. Benoit for the title, Kane should cost Benoit the tag title. And he should do it intelligently. None of this “run in right at the beginning” nonsense. Kane should let Benoit wrestle and get tired. Let him go for ten minutes. Then, when it appears Benoit is about to get the win, Kane can bump the ref and clobber Benoit with a chairshot. I’m not one who likes blood for blood’s sake, but Benoit laid out and busted open at the beginning of the show would make for a good visual. It would then add drama to his title match (something the match sorely needs) and allow him to get busted open again during that.

Simply put: the guy who couldn’t stop Kane on Raw, and who then got knocked out and bloodied by him, is a more compelling underdog character than “newly crowned tag champ who now has another match.” The inexplicable underdog vibe is what has sustained Benoit from the Royal Rumble until now. Dramatically, he may be a one-trick pony. But it’s still a pretty entertaining and engrossing trick. There’s no reason not to use it again here. Have him get bloodied and lose, then have him win when it really counts. If anything, that could be parleyed into a squabble between Benoit and Edge. Both of them could use a little more bile and darkness in their characters.

"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... La Resistance d. Benoit/Edge.
Did I mention that Edge and Benoit are developing some friction?
Rick Scaia Says... La Resistance d. Benoit/Edge.
Upfront: I'll eat a bug if Benoit and Edge win the tag titles.  There's just no reason to go that route, and a hundred good reasons to have them fail.  Benoit doesn't need the distraction of the tag belts confusing his World Title issues.  Benoit and Edge are "division killers" in a division that barely has anybody TO KILL.  And mostly: it just seems like Benoit taking a beating here sets things up for Enhanced Drama in his later match.  So:  I don't know if it'll be "miscommunication" between Benoit and Edge causing the loss, I don't know if maybe they'll just blow their wad and have Edge go full heel somehow and cost them the match, I don't even know if maybe Kane wouldn't come out and get involved...  I just know that Benoit/Edge don't win the belts, and La Resistance will continue to reign over a weak-ass tag division.

 

EUGENE vs. JONATHAN COACHMAN

The unlikeliest of success stories, Eugene has been one of the brightest stars on RAW over the last 2 months.  Brought in as the mentally-challenged nephew of Eric Bischoff, Eugene has won over fans, and more importantly, won every single wrestling match he's been in.

This, of course, infuriates his Uncle Eric, who considers Eugene a family embarrassment and wanted him to fail.  When physical measures did not pan out, Eric decided to play mind games in an attempt to scare Eugene off his dream of being a wrestler: he sent The Coach out to mock and humiliate Eugene in the center of the ring.  Eugene, in tears, was about ready to go home for good... until The Rock showed up. 

In a spectacular segment, Rock boosted Eugene's spirits, and the two wound up leaving Coach (and Garrison Cade) lying.  In a later tag match, Eugene and Chris Benoit also beat Coach and Cade.  And now, it's come to this: Bischoff wants to be rid of Eugene, and he's turned to his Undefeated PPV Superstar, The Coach.  One-on-one, the thinking goes, Coach should have no problem beating Eugene.

But will it really be one-on-one?  Garrison Cade lurks on the edges of All Things Coach (and was the real reason why Coach remained undefeated with a PPV win over Tajiri two months ago).  And what of William Regal?  He's been strangely silent these past several weeks... one has to wonder what's going through his mind as he languishes in Eugene's shadow.

Nobody's expecting a **** wrestling match... but it wouldn't surprise me if this was about as entertaining a segment as we get all night at Bad Blood.  Eugene's been a lot of fun and Coach is a tremendous patsy.
 

The OOutlOOk
Eugene wins: 5 votes   --|--   Coach wins: 4 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Coach d. Eugene.
Remember Coach v. Tajiri? We were all expecting a comedy match and got a nice little wrestling match instead. But I sincerely hope WWE doesn't go that route here.

Coach is a great smarmy heel, and Eugene is an excellent comedic character. Despite his chops in the ring, I'll be extremely disappointed if there is more wrestling than comedy. This has the potential to be one of the funniest things wrestling fans have seen in years.

Eugene has been on such a roll as of late that he must be brought to a screeching halt (WWE logic, remember?) And who better to do that than a non-wrestler? Actually, I hope that Coach wins to keep this whole thing going, because I'd like to see more of it. Regal should be at ringside; look for him to grow continually pissed off at Bischoff for his treatment of Eugene. The day when Regal finally beats the crap out of Bischoff will be glorious, indeed.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Eugene d. Coach.
During the last Raw-only PPV, Eugene ran in during a meaningless tag match, and he was still viewed as a gimmick headed for disaster. Now look at him! Who would have thought the character would have taken off as well as it has?

I like both Eugene and Coach and have enough faith in them to put on a fun, entertaining little match. Do these guys deserve to be in the main spot? Of course not. But nothing wrong with the milking the Eugene character for all its worth…

Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Eugene d. Coach.
Eugene breaks Coachman's undefeated streak in a short, fun match. Expect to see Regal and Bischoff have at it after the match.
The Cubs Fan Says... Coach d. Eugene.
Anything could happen in a Coach match, though. Then again, Coach lives to figure out a statistical category he's good in, and the writers live to end his happiness, so I'm betting against him.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Coach d. Eugene.
Both have undefeated streaks of sorts going into this match.  Just like when Coach fought Tajiri, there is this initial thought of "Surely, Coach can't win".  But after thinking more about this match, it would seem everyone gains more by having Coach win.  Obviously Coach won't win by his wrestling merit, but there are plenty of other options for them to use to have him come out on top.  Whether it's the Coach "outsmarting" Eugene or has help (Cade or even Nitro trying to win back favor with Bischoff) or even Regal turning on the poor lad.  Eugene is so over right now that a loss won't hurt him, in fact it might make him even more sympathetic.
Matt Hocking Says... Eugene d. Coach.
Eugemania is running wild, and you'd better believe the WWE is ready to ride this wave ad naseum.  I'm thinking they won't throw away his first loss to Coach.  To be honest a losing streak might help Eugene, but I don't think the time and place is here and now.
Jeb Lund Says... Eugene d. Coach.
WWE is fully behind Project Eugene, and Coach’s undefeated pay-per-view streak is just the sort of non-belt non-major achievement that can be handed to Eugene perfectly. After all, a “normal” wrestler who ends Coach’s streak really only gets a consolation victory. It’s nothing to put on a resume. But Eugene can benefit from that item on his resume, and he’s exactly the sort of wrestler who would love that kind of distinction.

Basically, I see WWE pushing full-speed ahead with Project Eugene and giving him the pinfall. This match can have all sorts of shenanigans and interference; there can be promos and backstage segments. Regal may even involve himself unequivocally as heel or face. But when it comes right down to it: people like Eugene, but another month of Eugene v. Coach is not something people will like.

My biggest worry about this match is that WWE will jump the gun on a Eugene v. Regal feud. That would be a shame, because I’d like to see Eugene grab more independent victories before going toe-to-toe with his sometime “protector.” I think WWE and the fans can coast for another month or two with Eugene beating small-potatoes opponents. Only after he’s established as really and truly talented will a mat-wrestling clinic between Regal and him seem plausible and must-see.

"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Eugene d. Coach.
This could be where Regal finally snaps and helps out Eric Bischoff's boy and screws over his nephew. But I think they blew that possibility already by having Regal no longer appear conflicted over Eugene's welfare. Heck, even Bischoff himself is conflicted. Which shows a certain depth of storytelling that I actually dig at the moment - that being, Eugene is so popular (and innocent), Evil Eric doesn't know what to do. I say Eugene wins because the crowd needs some happy time, and I've got only him and Michaels winning for the faces.
Rick Scaia Says... Coach d. Eugene.
Undefeated Eugene is a nice little gimmick... but one whose time has passed.  Almost.  As I've said before, I get the impression that Eugene's popularity is, at a basic level, predicated on us fans being "in on the joke," which means that a backlash might start if the Fed goes overboard with making Eugene NOT a joke.  Of course, a win over Coach is plenty joke-y, but I think a touch of realism, Eugene being out-smarted (or out-cheated) to take a loss, would engender sympathy (instead of inching towards fan backlash) and keep the Eugene Train rolling along.  Also: in my mind, trying to come up with the Next Thing on Eugene's Plate, every scenario that occurs to me is best accomplished by Eugene taking the loss.  I am VERY suspicious about the way they've pushed William Regal into the background, and think they could have him make a SHOCKING TURN~! as he reveals his own interests are more important to him than Eugene's.  A re-instated Regal could feud with Eugene to VERY good effect.  Then again, Eugene is also a character who kind of needs a "keeper," and Regal has been equally brilliant in that role, and could also make for a damn fine tag partner (against La Resistance, anyone?), so maybe you just play it simple and have Garrison Cade reprise his spoiler role again?  Lots of ways to go: I just think the time has come for Eugene to have a little hiccup, giving him something to battle back against, instead of just continuing down this road of relatively pointless happy-shiny-fun shtick...

 

VICTORIA v. TRISH STRATUS v. GAIL KIM v. LITA
Women's Title Match

You could (rightly) accuse WWE of just flipping the switch on the Random Match Generator to come up with this one...  but even though they seemingly flushed a perfectly-acceptable set of women's division storylines down the toilet, they also did about as good a one-week rush-job to set-up this four-way match as I could imagine.

The ORIGINAL story: Molly Holly was still pissed at Victoria over the WM20 head-shaving, and brought back her henchwoman Gail Kim to help her gain sweet, sweet vengeance.  Gail wound up having remarkable success against Victoria, getting the champ to tap out twice in non-title situations.  We seemed to be gearing up for a story in which Gail would be getting the title shot at Victoria, and Molly might start getting jealous of her protégé's success... all very sensible.

And then the shit hit the fan.  Three weeks ago, the Victoria we thought we knew and loved was replaced by "Vickishi" and the existing storyline with Gail was back-burnered so we could push ahead with embarrassing dance routines and exceptionally crappy entrance music for the champ.  I have no idea why.

So this past Monday, Vickishi was absent.  #1 Contender Gail Kim was pinned by Lita.  Trish Stratus reminded Eric Bischoff that it was just a few weeks ago that SHE beat Lita.  And thus, by the Transitive Theory of Professional Wrestling, Eric Bischoff had no choice: he un-made the Gail/Victoria PPV match, and replaced it with this four-way.

Heat-wise, this is the better combination, as Trish is a more over heel than Gail, and Lita's a more over babyface than Victoria.  Work-wise, it's just about a wash, I think: it would have been OK as a one-on-one, and I still think this should be a very-solid match. But I still wish they'd quit screwing Molly...  the girl shaves her head for the company, doesn't get the (what I thought should have been) obligatory follow-up title feud, sees a possible storyline in which she could have turned on Gail be pissed away, and even when they decide to go for a big four-way schmozz of a match, there's no room for her.  Poor, poor Molly... 
 

The OOutlOOk
Lita wins: 5 votes   --|--   Gail wins: 2 votes 
Victoria wins: 1 votes   --|--   Trish wins: 1 vote

Erin Anderson Says... Lita wins.
I wish I could offer some sort of in-depth analysis for this match, but the booking of the women's division has been so bizarre recently that I wouldn’t know where to begin. Molly, who shaved her fucking head for her art and is the best female wrestler WWE has, is nowhere to be seen. Gail established herself as a strong submission wrestler and the #1 contender, but was just beaten by Lita. Trish beat Lita recently. Victoria dances like an idiot. My head hurts.

So here's how I looked at this:

Ÿ         Trish can’t win, because her time and energy should be spent as Tyson Tomko's sole source of heat.

Ÿ         Victoria is extremely weak as a babyface now that she’s lost any semblance of her former character.

Ÿ         Lita has been getting lots of airtime lately in a crappy storyline.

Ÿ         Gail can have a pretty good match with Lita, as shown on Monday.

The conclusion? Lita wins, and goes on to feud with Gail. Yeah, I don’t get it either. Lita's title win will somehow figure into her aforementioned crappy storyline with Kane, and Lawler will continue his bid for Douchebag of the Year with his commentary.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Gail Kim wins.
It's the only logical conclusion to me. They've botched the Victoria character so badly over the past three months that there's little reason to care about her any more, other than to gawk at her ass. She deserves better (better than her gimmick, that is; not a better ass). All WWE had to do was keep Victoria in her psycho gimmick, same old, same old, and – voila – interesting compelling feuds with practically anyone they put her in there with. And of course, throwing Lita and Trish into a feud that already a bit of momentum is kind of silly. It just indicates to me that they were planning on Gail walking out with the belt.
Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Victoria wins.
With Trish and Lita both having their wagons hitched to their protégé's issues, I don't expect either to be that active in the women's ranks in the near future, which pretty much leaves Kim and Victoria as the two legitimate competitors here. With Victoria getting good crowd responses and showing good momentum, I don't see a reason to take the title off her, especially to put it on Kim, who is yet to show any real connection to fans as of yet.
The Cubs Fan Says... Lita wins.
If this was a top title, thinking would be to keep it on Victoria to continue building her, plus you've got lots of heel challengers (Gail, Trish, Molly, even Lita allied with Kane) and no face matchups if a heel wins. Thing is, they typically like the undercard to build drama to the main, and since Kane's plan is for both he and Lita to have gold on the night, Lita's got to win first. Everyone complains.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Lita wins.
Ugh, I can't believe I am making this pick.  This goes against my better judgment to choose Lita, but I'm going with what I think they'll do rather than what I think they should do.  The switch to this Four Way makes me think that they now what either Trish or Lita involved in the finish.  Vickishi is not cutting it as a face.  Trish is hardly wrestling now that she's with Christian and Tyson Botchko so that leaves Gail Kim and Lita.  Given that Lita got a clean pin on Gail last Monday, it seems like they are not confident is going with her either.  Plus, with Lita being so heavily involved with other storylines, I think they just might put the title on her.  Giving the title to someone who can't even throw a punch properly is wrong, but as we learned from the Judgment Day predictions, common sense hasn't won a lot recently.
Matt Hocking Says... Lita wins.
This is probably the match I care the least about?  Surprised?  I say Lita wins because she's got an angle going with Kane where he wants her to be women's champion.
Jeb Lund Says... Gail Kim wins.
GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO!

Sorry. Had to get that out.

Anyway, I’m going to go with Triple-Threat wisdom here and see this match as an excuse to effect change. Simply put, Victoria is a better wrestler than Lita and Gail, and she (new entrance notwithstanding) has gobs more credibility than either of them. That means that getting the belt off her is a tough nut in any singles match. To be blunt, only Trish, Molly or Jazz could defeat her in a believable fashion. But we’ve had too much of Molly recently; the fans don’t care for Jazz much; and Trish is busy playing the manipulative vixen with Jericho, Christian and Tomko.

So, again, Triple-Threat wisdom tells me that this is the best opportunity for Victoria to job. But to whom? Well, let’s face it, women’s wrestling has passed Lita by. Three years ago, she was the best, but that owed more to the fact that there were no other alternatives: Molly and Jacqueline were booked awfully or not at all, and the other challengers were abysmal. Now, Lita’s array of tubercular punches, hunching, gasping and nearly death-inducing suplexes and hurricanranas make her a liability as champion.

Gail is hardly better, but she’s still better. In a sense, she’s the lesser evil: she might be catastrophically bad at some point in a match, but, unlike Lita, you can’t predict which move will verge on murderous. Lita’s like a hit man: she has one killer move. Gail’s more like a full-bore schizophrenic with a gun: how, why or by what means she hurts someone is at least unpredictable.

I see WWE giving the belt to Gail and her Russian Roulette style of miserable performance. Victoria needs to lose the belt (and, of course, “GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO!”), and the women’s division could use a change. Plus, there’s a dirty rumor going around that Lita may be carrying Kane’s baby, or some such rot. Even if that doesn’t come to pass, her plate is pretty full with Matt Hardy and Kane.

Since I have to pick a match result, I’ll say that Gail pins Lita, thus keeping Victoria vital and strong for rematches.

"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Trish Stratus wins.
I expect this match to go second (after the tag match). The purpose of Trish winning would be twofold: One, get the belt on someone with some heat. Two, get some more heat in Tomko's corner against Jericho. The fact they've added Trish and Lita already tells me one of those two is going to win. In theory, it could be Lita after Kane cheats on her behalf, then Lita returns the favor against Benoit. Instead, I think Trish wins after Molly runs a little interference. Revenge!
Rick Scaia Says... Lita wins.
Of all the matches on the card, this one is the most mysterious to me.  Probably to WWE, too, considering how many left-field twists and turns the women's division has seen in the last month.  I can disqualify only Gail Kim from consideration here.  For two reasons: (1) if they wanted to put the title on Gail, there was no reason to add Trish and Lita to the match, and (2) Gail winning might *gasp* mean Molly Holly might get back on TV in her "jealous of her henchwoman" role, and lord knows the Fed's not doing anything to do right by Molly.  So sorry, Gail, yer out!  Victoria could use a boost-up after the way she's been mishandled since Mania, but honestly: I think a return of The Russian Lesbians and Stevie Richards will get her there faster than a win here... so I'm leaning against her retaining.  Trish? Nobody's a bigger fan than I, but what would she do with the title that would be more interesting than what she's got going on with Christian and Jericho?  Nada... so I think I'm going with Lita.  It ties into my dread that her nonsense with Kane will overshadow what should be the real issues: Kane wants Lita to win the title, so therefore, she will, and somehow that'll contribute to a Whole Lotta Suck later on down the road.

 

CHRIS JERICHO vs. TYSON TOMKO

If there's an afterthought on this card, this is it.  Even the shoddily-prepared women's match has got more stank on it... this is just a deal that's been simmering under for a while, forced to prominence since Christian's injured, and now, we gots us a PPV match.  Or something that'll have to pass for one.

The story: Christian gets mad at Jericho for falling for Trish Stratus. Trish Stratus gets mad at Jericho for wussing out on her, and ends up in cahoots with Christian.  Trish and Christian one-up Jericho a few times, but Jericho finally gets the (not-so-)last laugh, so Trish and Christian bring in Tyson Tomko to un-even the odds and help them get more yuks at Jericho's expense.  Then Christian gets injured, and disappears, leaving Tomko to carry the feud into its next phase by randomly attacking Jericho at Trish's behest until there was nothing left to do about it except Fight on PPV.

I hope it's not just Our (that's the Royal "Our," which essentially translates to "Rick's") personal affinity for Trish, but there stands a really good (perhaps 100%) chance she'll be the most over heel in this match.  Complicating matters is the fact that Tomko has cleanly hit all of about 2 moves since coming up from OVW.  Tomko is Christian's Problem Solver, but he seemingly creates a whole new slew of problems for fans of Good Wrestling.

We want to like Jericho.  He is, afterall, just about as close to the Fully Actualized Me as there is in WWE: I got the wit and charm and Rock Star Dreams; I just don't have the hair, dammit.  But I still dig the guy, and it seems, so do most of you: even when he loses important match after important match, he needs all of 90 seconds of mic time to win us back.  We want to pretend-hate Trish. She is the pretty girl gone evil, and after a tough first go had a good outing a few weeks ago quarterbacking the Hijacked Reel.  But Tomko is a big ol' lug about whom we know nothing.  Is Jericho good enough to make Christian's leader-less henchman is competent in the ring, and just as importantly, make us think he might actually lose to the guy?  Or, alternatively, is Trish good and convincing enough to make us think said leader-less henchman is capable?

I honestly don't know what to expect out of this match.  Not only could either guy win... but this could also turn out as a pleasant undercard surprise or as a complete waste of time and space.  Jericho and Trish are golden: it's all up to Tyson to help us solve this equation.... errr, problem.

The OOutlOOk
Jericho wins: 5 votes   --|--   Tomko wins: 4 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Tyson Tomko d. Chris Jericho.
Tyson Tomko has thus far demonstrated two moves since appearing on WWE television: a powerbomb, and a big boot that never connects. He's Nash 2.0, but with a smaller moveset!

I don't mean that, really; my comparison is too insulting to Kevin Nash. Tomko is more like Nathan Jones 2.0, and he'd be absolutely nothing without Trish at his side. So we've established that Tomko sucks. We also know that WWE will make Jericho job to just about anyone. He'd probably lay down for the entire front row of the PPV if asked, even the snot-nosed little brat in the Goldberg t-shirt. Tomko apparently needs some momentum until Christian returns, but I'd rather he take a swift trip to OVW for more training.

Unfortunately, it always takes WWE at least three times as long as it should for them to realize that a debuting big man sucks and needs to be taken off the air. It happened to Nathan Jones and Matt Morgan, and it will happen to Tomko. He'll win, but be yanked from TV within a month or two. Jericho will try his hardest to make this match look good, but let's face it: it'll probably suck. My only hope is that he chops Tomko so hard he knocks those ridiculous tattoos right off.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Chris Jericho d. Tyson Tomko.
At this stage in his career, Jericho should be beyond battling big lugs for very little reason. Yes, I realize that this was probably supposed to be Christian's spot, but it doesn't make it any less crummy of a match. Now, I've never seen Tomko in action, so far all I know, he may be able to put together a decent match with Y2J. But I have no reason to care about it. If there's any justice in the world, Jericho wins here.
Alfonso "Fonzo" Castillo Says... Chris Jericho d. Tyson Tomko.
Despite Tomko in need of a big win to kickstart his WWE career, I don't see Jericho doing a job here, especially since he has to be seen as a go to guy for a main event, world heavyweight title program down in the near future. What's more, Tomko is yet to show that he is anything more than an
extremely-green musclehead lucky enough to have "the look" to land him his cush spot on the roster. He could certainly grow beyond that (see Batista), or he could crash and burn (Nathan Jones), but I can't imagine WWE is going to sacrifice Jericho in that gamble.
The Cubs Fan Says... Chris Jericho d. Tyson Tomko.
This needs to die and everyone else needs to move on. It's Scott Steiner/Test of '04! With better people, but still, time to let go.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Chris Jericho d. Tyson Tomko.
Given that this is Tomko's first match, it would seem perfectly logical to give him the win.  But I don't see it that way.  I think Tomko will dominate most of the match and work on Jericho's injured ribs, but Y2J will somehow pull it out in the end.  Jericho really hasn't gotten any comeuppance in the weeks leading up to this match so I think it's time he gets his revenge.  Plus it helps even out my heel/face ...oops sorry Ric, I mean good guy/bad guy ratio on my picks.
Matt Hocking Says... Chris Jericho d. Tyson Tomko.
Why?  I dunno.  Probably because Jericho is more established and better.  Just to spite me, however the WWE will have Chris Tian do a run in and beat up Jericho, because that's what they do.
Jeb Lund Says... Tyson Tomko d. Chris Jericho.
I don’t know about you, but the further I go down any WWE card, the less confident I get in my predictions. Maybe it’s because I spend an hour trying to out-fox the WWE “WeirdThink.” Maybe it’s all the various political games and nonsense that swaddle even the most straightforward match. Either way, this match seems one of the toughest to call.

But here’s the thing: we don’t know this Tomko guy. We’ve never seen him wrestle a match. Or maybe we have, and I forgot. The point is, he has yet to make an impression. And he needs to. WWE doesn’t want to destroy a possible future commodity by embarrassing him right out of the gate. Also, WWE knows that the payoff to this match is Jericho v. Christian. So why have Tomko job, just to get a rematch and maybe his heat (and job) back, just so Jericho can go on to Christian later?

And here’s the other thing: Jericho is practically Teflon at this point. It’s unbelievable. In the last two years, the man has won maybe one important match since losing the Undisputed title. In spite of that, audience reaction to him can be thunderous. He spent two years as a weak and almost guaranteed-defeated heel, and people were still interested. It boggles the mind that he has maintained interest in spite of almost relentless failed outings.

So that’s why I see Tomko taking the win here. He needs to come out of the gate winning, looking good and giving his character some oomph that the audience can care about. Jericho can job yet again, and the audience will tolerate it – especially if Tomko gets the win with Trish’s help.

Later, Jericho can get a free-per-view win over Tomko and go about getting revenge on a returning and healthy Christian. 
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Tyson Tomko d. Chris Jericho.
With Christian on the shelf, it's imperative that Tomko get the duke here. It's early for such a big victory, but we all know this is really about Jericho versus Trish. Maybe Christian, injured and all, can make an appearance and help his problem solver cheat to win.
Rick Scaia Says... Tyson Tomko d. Chris Jericho.
Obviously, Tomko beating Jericho is SO VERY WRONG, right Internet Fans?  But I got a couple reasons here: (1) Jericho's bullet-proof, just give him a mic on Monday, and nobody will remember he lost.  (2) It's Tomko's debut, and unless they intend to Matt Morgan the guy and put him back in the oven till he's done cooking, he could use the win, even if he has to give it back a month later.  And (3) I just really don't think that Jericho's thing with Christian's Soldiers is over.  Yes, I still have my retarded little housewife fantasy about Trish and Jericho getting together in the end, but besides that, there's just no way that the end of this rivalry will be Christian fizzling away with an injury while Jericho beats Tomko: there will be more chapters, and those chapters are most easily told if Tomko (with a big assist from Trish, and maybe even a surprise appearance by Christian) gets the cheap win, here.

 

EXTRAS

Sure, we've got an OOfficial seven-match card...  but there's almost sure to be a few other things added on by WWE.  Matches, backstage drama, you name it...  here's a few thoughts on that front:
 

The OOutlOOk

Canadian Bulldog Says... 
A long bulletproof Mercedes will roll up to the arena and out will emerge Bradshaw, decked out in Nazi fatigues, launching his new charac… oops, sorry. That's the NEXT pay-per-view; my bad… I'd count on at least one Eugene skit, tying in Bischoff and Regal somehow. Perhaps even planting the seed that his lordship will turn on Master Eugene… I'm also figuring on a Lita/Matt Hardy segment, though the bombshell of her carrying the Big Red Bun In The Oven won't be revealed until the next night's Raw. There will be some sort of promo for the Raw Diva Search, like it or not. My pick for an opening match (pick one or more members from each side of the PPV Pre-Show Match All-Star Team™): Maven, Hurricane, Rosey or Val Venis Vs. Rhyno, A-Train, Test or Steven Richards. Examples: Val Vs. Richards, Hurricane and Maven Vs. Test and Rhyno, or if they REALLY want to spice things up, Rosey Vs. A-Train. Finally!!!
Adam Gutschmidt Says... 
I'll be there live in Columbus, OH, while the Rick is hungover after a wedding.  Neener, neener, neener!
Matt Hocking Says... 
1.  Chris Benoit will not win with the Crossface, but J.R. or King will make at least one reference to the fact that they cannot remember Kane ever tapping out, despite the fact that he has and on numerous occasions.
2.  I'll go way out on a limb with this one:  Kane will interfere in the Women's title match to give Lita the victory.  This will lead to Kane having two matches in one night (in the interest of fairness) with him defeating Matt Hardy.
3.  William Regal and Eric Bischoff will argue about Eugene while Eugene does something silly two feet away.
Jeb Lund Says... 
One year ago, Rick “The Rick” Scaia “Scaia” had to go out of town to smelt ore, or help the left-handed, or do something. Being a sometime-generous guy, I offered to help him out by writing a pay-per-view preview for him. That preview was for Bad Blood 2003, and I scored a remarkable 100% on my predictions. Like an idiot, I continued offering pay-per-view predictions, and then wound up being very wrong in the future. I was foolhardy. I should have quit while I was ahead. Way ahead. Like, genius-level ahead.

But I didn’t, and I’m still doing this. And as much as I gripe about the effort of predicting, I’m still very interested to see how wrong I can be. I never make a prediction out of laziness, even if I am disinterested. I try to thoughtfully examine all the possibilities, and my every guess is one at which I’ve arrived in what I can only call a rational fashion. (It’s hard to truly be rational with wrestling.) At heart, I really get a pleasant jolt out of seeing needlessly overwrought ratiocination get kicked to the curb by a match outcome… by some new WWE angle, by something that came out of the blue.

I hope I’m right about everything I’ve written here. That’s lots of fun. But I’m going to have fun nonetheless. And to all those who will order this show or go to a bar and pay to see it, you have my best wishes that you have fun, too, no matter who wins. It’s just a game, even if it is fixed.

"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... 
The only thing that comes to mind is Stacy. Let her do something Diva-ish between Orton and Kane as a palate cleanser and a dose of good cheer for all. Might as well promote that Diva search.
Rick Scaia Says... 
No way in hell do they miss a chance to waste my time and yours with a Diva Search segment... but hell, a chance to ogle Stacy's rear is a chance to ogle Stacy's rear, and I guess as long as it's short and not too stupid, I won't raise a stink.

I'm STILL holding out hope that the Fed hasn't forgotten Tajiri...  and that they bring him back in a role revenging against Batista.  Maybe when Shelton's playing the numbers game against Orton, Tajiri can make a Shocking Save?  But it's still 3-on-2, and Orton still wins...  Tajiri/Shelton up against Evolution could be another way to extend Shelton's chasing the IC Title, too.

But beyond that, I'm not really sure what they've got to flesh things out.  There are no other nascent storylines, and there's barely any reason to justify a Heat match, much less something that'd be PPV ready.  Matt Hardy vs. Garrison Cade, just because?  Molly vs. Nidia?  I dunno...  I think the as-announced card is probably pretty close to the total package this month.

 
So there you have it: another monstrously-all-inclusive look at Sunday's Bad Blood PPV.  Which of us is right, which of us is wrong?  Tune in on Sunday to find out, or come on back here to OO on Sunday night around midnight to get the Full Report!
  

E-MAIL RICK SCAIA
BROWSE THE OO ARCHIVES

Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.


  
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