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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
TEAM COVERAGE:
WWE Unforgiven PPV Preview
September 10, 2004

Compiled by Rick Scaia
Featuring All Your Favorite OnlineOnslaught.com Semi-Stars

 

Three or four months ago, when WWE was making its PPV plans and figuring out how to get things all aligned for the latter half of 2004, they made the decision to alter their rotation: RAW would be asked to supply two consecutive brand-specific shows (Vengeance before SummerSlam, and Unforgiven immediately following it).
 
And while, against all odds, SmackDown! has gotten itself off of life support and has consistently been the more entertaining WWE brand the last month or so (credit the return of Kurt Angle, the emergence of Teddy Long, and the fleshing out of mid-card personas like Spike Dudley's), the simple fact is that RAW is the home of "Sizzle." Even when RAW sucks ass, it  

sucks ass with reckless abandon, and in a way that commands your attention. The Kane/Lita wedding, for example, was one of the year's "Lower Your Head In Shame" moments, but also scored the highest ratings of all of August.  When RAW's good, people are there. When RAW's bad, even MORE people watch, seems to be the lesson.

So perhaps it's still for the best that RAW is being called on to do back-to-back brand-specific shows. SD! may be more solid a TV show lately, but when you're asking fans to invest $35 and three hours on a Sunday night (the first Sunday night of football season, no less), you don't want to be selling them "solid."  You want to be selling them something a bit sexier, a bit more dangerous.

And what could be sexier and more dangerous than Pretty Randy Orton being asked to be a show-carrying main event babyface? HA! Ten days away, and boy does it feel good to start questioning Orton's headliner credentials again!

Point is, we could all probably fantasy book ourselves a 3 hour SD! PPV that wouldn't suck. But it also probably wouldn't really sell.  RAW, on the other hand, is taking a chance on Orton's ability to carry the show, which is something fans will want to see and analyze.  RAW has got the return of Shawn Michaels, which is something fans want to see. They even pulled a sweet-ass Ladder Match out just 5 days ago, which is DEFINITELY something fans want to see.

Will all the risks pay off, and will Unforgiven be a success? Hey, who really knows? I just know that I'm interested in checking the show out, and that means WWE has won one battle already.  You can join me on Sunday night, and of course, the option remains for you to skip the show (you cheap bastards) and come on back here to OO around midnight on Sunday for my immediate post-show recap. Either way's fine with me.

But before we start marketing the PPV Recap, perhaps it's best if I turn this over to the trOOps for their entire, detailed breakdown of and predictions for the as-announced six match card!  As always, this document stands alone as the Only PPV Preview You Need to Read thanks to their insights, but it also stands in Direct Opposition to a Similar Document at WrestleLine. Twice in a row, OO has out-prognosticated those Swine, and we're itching to make it three...
 

RANDY ORTON vs. TRIPLE H
For the World Heavyweight Title

Talk about rushing full speed ahead...  a month ago, Randy Orton was the randomly generated #1 Contender to Chris Benoit's World Title. Four weeks later, and Orton has won the title and been turned upon by HHH and Evolution, and the result is this: Chris Benoit's been completely forgotten, and we're left with an Orton/HHH main event that maybe should have been kept till later this year. Or possibly even till next years WrestleMania 21.

And instead, it's here.  Huh.

This is a match that SHOULD have a deeply-involved back-story that I relish telling here in this preview.  It should have been slowly built up over months, it should have been laden with hints and innuendos and false starts. Instead, every idea I ever had about how the Randy Orton Push should have been handled has been tossed aside in favor of time-compressing this whole thing down into a four week tale that seems decidedly un-epic.

First, Orton beats Chris Benoit for the World Title. Not because of any particularly compelling storyline or carefully crafted build-up, but because of the flimsy contrivance of "destiny." Eh. Then the next night on RAW, Orton beats Benoit again, and this time, with help from Evolution. Following the win, HHH feigns celebrating with Orton, but then directs traffic as Evolution beats the shit out of Orton. So I guess that made Randy a babyface? Just not for any particularly compelling storyline or carefully-crafted build-up, but because of the flimsy contrivance of "he just got beat up by his alleged friends."  Again: eh.

Since the "shocking swerve" that resulted in Evolution turning on Orton, things have been slightly better. HHH has tried to retroactively explain why he did what he did (and though his logic was so spotty and dubious that it'd make a PMS'ing Jessica Simpson seem like Mister Fucking Spock, at least he's tried to make his attack on Orton focus on wanting the World Title back, a World Title that "belongs to him"), and Orton has shown sparks of the disrespectful Legend Killer vibe that earned him the 17 vocal fans who were apparently enough to convince WWE to try him as a babyface to begin with.  So that's good; it might not have been particularly well-told a tale, but at least now, you have the two main characters behaving True To Themselves (HHH: Title-Obsessed Asshole, Orton: Disrespectful Young Buck), which is a step in the right direction.

The only area of ambiguity that had existed -- the loyalties of Ric Flair and Batista after Orton accused them of being pawns with their lips surgically attached to HHH's ass -- was apparently erased this past Monday on RAW, when both (after keeping their hands off Randy for a week) joined in with HHH in an attack on Orton. It's kind of indicative of how the whole storyline has played out: instead of being done slowly and over time, and instead of hinging on various doubts and uncertainty, the Implosion of Evolution and Emergence of Randy Orton is this distressingly one-dimensional and uncompelling tale.

I don't necessarily have any doubts over the ability of these two men to put together a well-worked wrestling match on Sunday. Orton is certainly carriable, and HHH in 2004 (thanks in no small part to wrestling mostly against HBK and Benoit, I'm sure) has resembled his pre-quad-injury self and should be up for the task. What I'm less confident about is how the match they craft will play. Is Orton cool/likeable enough to be a strong babyface? Do HHH's years of goodwill with fans mean it's possible that even a non-Canadian crowd will mutiny and cheer the wrong guy?  I think by now you all know where I stand on those issues... but how the crowd as a whole responds will be really important to how the overall match plays out.  Oughta be interesting.
  

The OOutlOOk
Orton  wins: 5 votes   --|--   HHH  wins: 3 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Triple H d. Randy Orton.
So, what has Randy Orton does as champion so far? Turned face in a dubious manner, cut a few uninspiring promos, and run away from Evolution whenever he didn't have a sledgehammer in hand. Not to be a bitch or anything, but Benoit has handily kicked the asses of Evolution when they ganged up on him in the past. I'm just sayin'.

I've acknowledged in a previous column that Randy Orton is no doubt improving. But when I wrote that, he wasn't in the World Title hunt, and I didn't think that he was quite ready for that yet. I still don't, and I hate his face turn (I would have turned Trips.)

So I've established that I don't really care about this match, but I have to pick someone, and I'm going with Triple H --this is the one case in my predictions where I'm going with what I would do, not what I think WWE will do. Randy may have just become champion, but he shouldn't be holding the belt; he should be chasing it. Evolution can show up at ringside and screw Randy out of the title, or Randy can lose clean for all I care: just get the belt off this kid before he tanks. Let him win it back later when he's built up some goodwill with the fans, and when he ceases to nauseate Jeb Lund. This match will be long, and will range from decent to good. Nothing more.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Randy Orton d. Triple H.
PLEASE hear me out. This is another one of those situations where it's not the decision I want, but the one which I feel is most likely. Kind of like SummerSlam's main event. Geez, the sacrifices I make for you people...

But I look at it this way: Who could HHH face at the next PPV should he win the belt? A rematch with Orton, sure, but beyond that? Jericho... maybe? At least with Orton as champion, he can feud with Batista, Flair, HHH, Kane and perhaps even a heel Benoit down the road. So I'm thinking its Orton this month. Unfortunately.

The Cubs Fan Says... Randy Orton d. Triple H.
There's not a pleasant outcome either way. Either Orton retains the title, and we've burned thru his best possible title feud in his first month, or Triple H wins and and they've just wasted Orton's first title reign instead. I'm thinking it's going to be an unsatisfying ending to this match, though I'm not really sure to the result. Putting Orton is the better of the choices, but it's a tough situation they've forced themselves into.
The Immolator Says... Randy Orton d. Triple H.
Project Randy is nowhere near the point where they're going to pull the plug, as disappointing as the push has been so far. The only thing to do is to keep plugging away like they're doing with JBL. Except having Orton win by DQ like JBL does won't work. Trips has to lose - perhaps thanks to a surprise interruption by a wounded Eugene.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Triple H d. Randy Orton.
After my horrendous showing last month, I'm going with all safe picks this time in hopes to turn my fortunes around.  This one isn't necessarily a gimme, but it's hard to go against Haitch.  I have no doubt that they will plan on having HHH v. Orton for WM 21 but why have it be with Orton as the champ.  Have HHH win it here with Orton striving to regain it at the big show.  In the meantime Orton can fend off the rest of the Evolution (including a new member who may be instrumental in the win?) and HHH can stave off the plethora of face contenders (Benoit, HBK, Jericho).
Matt Hocking Says... Randy Orton d. Triple H.
Uhh...wasn't this supposed to be HHH's dream Wrestlemania match?  So I'm imagining that this feud isn't nearly over.  Jobbing either guy out clean doesn't really help either.  So, the easy assumption would be for Evolution to attack Randy to either draw a DQ (eh) or to have them cost Randy the match and the title.  I could also predict a double turn where Evolution turns on Hunter for his indiscretions and joins with Randy Orton.

But I'm not going to do any of that.  Evolution accidentally costs Hunter the match (with J.R. and King playing up the "did they or didn't they mean it?" angle).  Orton wins.
PyroFalkon Says...  Triple H d. Randy Orton.
How do you know you’re a part of the OO family? ‘Cause you can play Team Coverage! That’s really what I’m here for… scaring the hell out of everyone with my wacky picks! And the first one up, apparently, is the whole Triple H/Randy Orton debacle.

Now, Rick has probably just spent paragraphs talking about the history of this match, and why Orton doesn’t deserve it. Plus a few of my fellow OOers will probably share that too. So, I’ll just get to the prediction… Triple H wins.

Why? Easy. If you look at any pro wrestling storyline (at least ones involving titles), you’ll see one huge pattern. It’s normally a story about a face chasing a heel who has something, not a heel chasing a face. If Orton wins, where does the story go? I suppose you could say that Evolution flips sides and now we’ve got babyface Evolution against heel Triple H, but I don’t see why they’d play THAT card this early, if at all.

However, if Trips wins, now Orton has a goal, and Trips has something to brag about for the next few weeks. Besides, a face has held the title since Wrestlemania, so it’s about time it switches sides to give all the main event faces something to do. I can see Eugene and Chris Benoit getting involved possibly, and I can see Evolution getting involved definitely. Either way, Orton will get bloodied and lose to a Pedigree.

Rick Scaia Says... Randy Orton d. Triple H.
OK, first thing's first: this entire document is my Homage to The Broad, circa about 2 months ago. You remember, back when she wasn't watching SD! at all but would still toss back some drinks and make PPV picks for SD!-only PPVs...  it's not EXACTLY the same (it wasn't my choice to miss RAW, rather DVR betrayed me while I was out of town; and also, my rambling prognostication will be whiskey-fueled and not rum-powered), but I'm basically picking blind based on second-hand accounts of RAW, following down a trail blazed in the past by Erin.  Kinda fun, in a way....

I probably mention it only so that if I have another of my patented 1-for-6 nights, I can bring this up and use it as my excuse.

In this case, whiskey dictates that Orton will win, simply because there's no good reason for him to. And since there's been no good reason for ANYthing Orton's been involved with in the last two months, him beating HHH on Sunday will fit in perfectly with whatever it is that WWE thinks it's accomplishing with this master plan.

This feud should never have exploded as quickly and as randomly as it did, for starters. This is the sort of story that should have had an epic, drawn-out feel, and instead it's rushed in 4 weeks. If the feud *did* have to happen this fast, Randall Orton should NEVER have been the solo babyface in the equation; not only does the concept of "Evolution" explicitly denote CHANGE (like HHH being rendered obsolete by a new leader), but Orton's new music sucks donkey balls and he should have kept the Motorhead/Evolution theme.  And if Orton *had* to be the babyface in the equation, then what the fuck sense does it make to give the face the title straight away when part of the fun of cheering for the guy is supporting him during The Chase?

I repeat myself (and Orton Fellaters can continue to think I'm lying, I don't care): I actually DO want Orton to succeed at the main event level. But looking at how WWE has handled him the last 2 months, I gotta think I might be the only one in the wrestling universe who does.  The Fed's done him no favors.

I have no real interest in this story as it has played out so far, and as a wrestling match, I see this peaking at "slightly above average" at best.  I've resigned myself to the Orton win, just because it fits in with WWE Logic, and drunk or not, I'm trying to beat the swine at WrestleLine, so I'll do the logical. But if I may, part of what I like to do is Make Stuff Better, so I'll suggest this Lone Scenario that would make everything alright on Sunday:

Orton wins, but he does so as part of a Shocking Swerve in which Flair and Batista come down to the ring and attack HHH. We flip-flop the roles, and come Monday, Orton is the heel leader of Evolution (and he gets his theme music back, thank god), and HHH is left wondering what the hell happened. It'd be a simple matter for Orton to cut the promo I've been begging for ("Evolution has passed you by, Old Man") while Flair and Batista just have to say they've realized Orton's right about HHH just using them as pawns.  Instantly, you've got the right guy as the babyface (HHH is just infinitely more respectable/likeable than Orton, even if only based on however many years of kick-ass performances) and he's CHASING (as it should be).

Best of all: HHH is playing a numbers game against Evolution, and I'd love to see this be Benoit's ticket back into main event storylines, as he might be wooed by HHH to join a new faction ("The Establishment?"). I think HHH humbling himself just a bit to befriend old rivals (but it's not prostrating himself, it's more building alliances based on hard-won mutual respect) would EASILY seal the deal for him as a babyface, be it with Benoit or even with HBK.  Maybe even with Regal/Eugene (though I've soured on that a bit; I've still got this soft sport for seeing Jericho and Trish get together, but somehow it doesn't seem quite as right any more that HHH and Eugene really become friends, anymore).  I'd absolutely LOVE to see Shelton Benjamin's return to TV be as a surprise ally to HHH (the "mutual respect" thing again), and have him be the "new Randy Orton" (pet project/future main eventer) in a new HHH-led faction, too! 

The whole thing can simmer and stew, with various iterations of HHH's gang vs. Evolution (perhaps Evolution recruits, too, and we can go 5 vs. 5 at Survivor Series?) leading up to the eventual HHH vs. Orton match that'll be done the RIGHT way down the line.  Cuz this match on Sunday? Not even coming CLOSE to buttering my popcorn. And unless they do a finish not unlike this one, it's a match that doesn't even give me a whole lot of hope for RAW's main event prospects in the near term, either.

Anyway, sorry for rambling.  Orton wins, just because.

 

SHAWN MICHAELS vs. KANE

The last time Shawn Michaels was in a WWE ring, it was June 14, 2004, RIGHT HERE in DAYTON, OH! [waiting for the cheap pop, people..... no? OK, I'll move on...]

That's the night that Michaels was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Less than 24 hours after a grueling Hell in the Cell Match against HHH, Michaels and Hunter were about to let bygones be bygones when Eric Bischoff came out to make some kind of proclamation about a new #1 Contender.  Though the #1 Contender eventually turned out to be HHH, we didn't hear about it on that night because the OLD #1 Contender, Kane, didn't necessarily want to be forgotten.  He interrupted the HHH/HBK love-in.

And while HHH decided to get out of dodge, Shawn stood his ground. And paid for it.  Michaels was tossed from pillar to post, and eventually Kane "Pillmanized" Shawn's neck with a steel chair.  Michaels was stretchered out of the ring and taken via ambulance to one of Dayton's Fine Medical Facilities, where he was diagnosed as having a very pregnant wife and was prescribed 3 months off to spend time with her and his family.

HA! I jest.  For TV purposes, Michaels was said to have suffered a Crushed Larynx, and was not seen at all until just a week ago, when he seemed just fine during an appearance at the Republican National Convention.  No cheesy Steamboat-esque Speech Therapy skits for HBK! In the brief taped-via-satellite speech, Shawn apparently seemed well enough that Lita decided he'd make a nice Knight in Shining Armor for her.

For you see, the Michaels/Kane story isn't really the story at all. Michaels has been absent this whole time, neither man has cut a promo or explained his motivations for this match, and history-wise, their "feud" consists of One Night in Dayton. The story here is Kane and Lita, who are now Man And Wife.

Perhaps the less said about that, the better, for the ridiculousness of their storyline was such that even WWE just threw its hands up and said, "OK, we give up," and played their actual wedding as intentionally-unfunny camp, instead of trying to play it as an actual compelling next step in the storyline.  Ugh.  Point is: the deed is done, Lita and Kane are married, and in the doing, Matt Hardy was tossed through a table and has been written out for a few months for knee surgery.

So although Lita professes to love her soul mate Matt Hardy and despise the vile monster Kane, she's stuck: obligated to Kane, and no Matt to save her. What to do? Stick the knife in Kane's gut and twist any chance she gets, that's what.  In this case, that meant taking the "wedding gift" of an Open Contract that GM Eric Bischoff gave to Kane, and signing her husband up for a match of HER choosing.  You see, now that they are married, that open contract wasn't HIS, it was THEIRS, and so Kane better get used to sharing.

And the match that Lita decided upon: Kane vs. the Returning Shawn Michaels. Per Kane's request, Lita will be at ringside for the match, as he wants her to see, first-hand, what happens to HBK, and wants her to know that that blood is on her hands for signing this match.  Ooohhh, spooky!

All joking aside, though, this is a feud I've been waiting for for three months, and I have high hopes. As long as it can exists separate from and in parallel with whatever nonsense Kane has to keep doing with Lita, this has all the potential to be a Patented Shawn Michaels Versus Big Man feud. In 1995 and '96, who'd ever have thunk that Kevin "Diesel" Nash would be a part of so many era-defining **** matches? Well, lets' just say that for he who believes in the Heartbreak Kid, all things are possible.  I think that's OO 3:16, or something....

We'll see how the work fits in with the story, but this could be the start of something good, folks.  I certainly think it'll be more the opening chapter of the feud, and less the climax, so perhaps don't expect a particularly decisive finish, but the road getting there should give us an indication of what's to come...
  

The OOutlOOk
Michaels  wins: 8 votes   --|--   Kane  wins: 0 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kane.
Like the IC title match, this one seems pretty easy to call: HBK wins, because we haven't seen him in a while and needs the momentum. And when I say "Haven't seen him in a while," I'm ignoring the idiotic move that WWE made by showing his face on television urging us to vote. Gotcha, Shawn. I'm voting. And thanks for ruining your return.

I'm expecting to see a pretty damn good match out of these two if Shawn is in decent ring shape -- if Benoit can do it for Kane, then so can HBK. There's definite potential for a long, drawn-out feud between these two, so I'm expecting Lita to get involved and "taint" the victory somehow. That would serve two purposes:

1) It would necessitate a rematch later on down the line; and
2) has great storyline potential for the newlywed lovebirds. If Lita drives Kane crazy enough, maybe he'll ask for a divorce. And that would be hilarious.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kane.
I still don't get why Kane is so feared. The guy has lost ALL of his PPV matches this year (Royal Rumble; WrestleMania vs. The Undertaker; Backlash vs. Edge; Bad Blood vs. Benoit; Vengeance vs. Matt Hardy) except for SummerSlam. Last year's project to turn him into the killer heel of all killer heels hasn't quite panned out yet, even though they've tried to domesticate him. Go figure.

Bottom line: HBK has to win this one, if they ever plan on using him again as a main event threat.

The Cubs Fan Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kane.
There's not a definite place for Shawn after this match, so I don't know that they couldn't have Kane overcome Lita's interference. It just doesn't seem fruitful - this was only hot enough to be considered a feud the night Kane laid out Shawn, and they're barely going thru the motions of pretending Shawn's coming back from those injuries. If there was some overarching story plan behind doing the injury angle, it's forgotten by now, and this is just a emotionless knot for a loose end.
The Immolator Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kane.
This should be a win for Michaels. It's his first time back in a while, so losing here wouldn't make much sense. Lita will do something to help Kane lose.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kane.
Once again, Shawn rarely loses on PPV and Kane rarely wins.  Plus when you add in the comeback factor for Shawn, it seems all but obvious that he'll get the win.  The wild card in all of this is naturally Lita.  Whether she helps Shawn win, accidentally helps Kane win or simply is out there as an ugly wallflower is unclear.  My hope is that she tries getting involved in the match and Shawn accidentally superkicks her in the gut thus ending a portion of this lameass storyline.
Matt Hocking Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kane.
The WWE made a major mistake putting Shawn Michaels up on the Republican Convention footage, because now, with no way to hype up Michaels' condition, the WWE is stuck with a perfectly healthy Michaels v. Kane, which is really no contest.  Kane is the heel version of Chris Jericho, always in a top angle, but always jobbing to stars higher on the food chain than he.  Shawn is much higher.  Potential Litaference leads to a Shawn win.
PyroFalkon Says...  Shawn Michaels d. Kane.
Hmm… I have to give this one to Shawn Michaels. Lita may or may not help, but it doesn’t really matter. What will matter is that HBK will come back and show that he’s totally recovered from injury, including getting revenge on the one that put him out in the first place. Plus, HBK’s victory will be a moral victory for Lita, who will be able to brag about how smart she was and who wears the pants in the marriage, or something. Yawns will ensue by the crowd.

Oh, and I don’t see Matt getting involved here, because he’s been effectively written out for now. Doesn’t make sense to bring him in anyway, unless the WWE doesn’t care about continuity. And as we all know, the WWE is the bastion of continuity… right?

Rick Scaia Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kane.
Kind of a no brainer, really.  For one, if you accept my theory that this is the start of something, and not the end, you need to do a finish that keeps things rolling. Kane smiting HBK after already putting him on the DL for 3 months would be pretty decisive.

And plus, you've got various little heuristics you can use like "A returning superstar doesn't lose in his first match back" and "Kane's current storyline is such that winning and losing isn't so important since he can get his heat back in other ways" and so forth. 

The usual method for extending a feud is for the heel to go over and the babyface having to chase.  But in this case, the psychology is reversed for HBK feuds.  Because he's kind of a "legend in residence," he might be a babyface, but he's one who tends to put over the other guy in the end.  So you have to flip the process around.  Michaels will eventually "lose" this feud to Kane (although in a face-saving-enough manner), and before we get there, he'll score him some wins in ways that infuriate Kane and force the monster to keep coming at the poor little guy.

The finish here should be obvious: whether by active interference or just by passive distraction, Lita somehow gets involved and helps Shawn to win. There's a billion difference ways to do it, but if Lita's not in the ring in the final 3 minutes of the match doing SOMEthing, I'll be shocked.  The ONLY way Kane can win this match, I think, is if they pull the trigger on Lita finally warming to Kane's perversely likeable chuckling hornball persona, and she actually turns full heel or something. Not gonna happen. At least, not yet; that's more something you gotta save back till Matt's ready to return.

More than anything, I just hope THIS prediction rings true: Shawn Michaels reminds us all that Kane doesn't HAVE to suck.

 

CHRIS JERICHO vs. CHRISTIAN
Ladder Match for the Vacant InterContinental Title

In a way EXACTLY unlike the main event, THIS is the match where I can get my Wrestling Dork Swerve on, and bury myself in details and back-story and what not... for in many ways, this is a rivalry almost a year in the making. And yet, by a convenient quirk of fate (or at least, of lower-back injuries and pulled groins!), it's also remarkably fresh again!

Perhaps the short version will suffice: it was about 12 months ago that Jericho and Christian started palling around a bit, and about 11 months ago that the memorable Love Rhombus took shape... Significant Other Beater Steve Austin stunnered Stacy for not liking beer, so Austin-Hater Chris Jericho began saving Trish Stratus from harm just to show Austin how a gentleman behaves, and then Christian starting hitting on Lita just because he wanted some lovin', too. Jericho, unfortunately, really does fall for Trish in all this, and thus started his spiral towards a face turn. Except it turns out that Trish is an egotistical bitch whose delicate feelings were hurt when Jericho wasn't there to save her from some attack or another, so she covertly threw in with Christian to embarrass Jericho at WM20. In the subsequent feud between Jericho and Christian, things were pretty even, until a Rubber Match on RAW in May: inside a steel cage, Jericho was victorious, and Christian wasn't seen again for months.

It could have been the end of the story: Christian effectively smote by Jericho in the blow-off to their feud, left to return from his injuries with nothing more exciting to do than form a full time tag team with The Lovely Miss Tomko. Except that now, everything old is new again.  Christian's injury vacation means folks don't necessarily remember that he and Jericho seemed to settle their issue, or at least, don't remember it clearly.  Wrestling fans: we can't remember much past last Monday night.  And with an injury to Christian's TV brother and long-time tag partner, Edge, there's suddenly a great spot for XTian to slide into on the heel side of the roster.

For, you see, Jericho had moved on from Christian, had pretty much finished things off with Christian's henchman Tomko, too, and was in the IC Title hunt.  The belt was held by Edge, and the two seemed to just be getting started on a lengthy feud when Edge went down with a real groin injury.  Prognosis: a month or two on the shelf. And on the very night when Edge revealed his injury, who should appear on the scene? Christian.  After a show of mutual respect between Jericho and Edge (a "Hey, OK, so we'll hook this thing up as soon as you're healthy" thing), Jericho was keeping an eye on Edge when Christian attacked from behind.  Hmmmm....

Needless to say, the history between Edge and Christian is rich. As outlined, the history between Jericho and Christian is pretty deep, too.  The history between Jericho and Edge was in the process of being written when this latest injury happened.  At some point, we'll have ourselves the makings of a really fun three-way storyline.

But before we get there, we get this: a one-on-one match between Jericho and XTian. And by order of GM Bischoff, it's for the vacant IC Title (since Edge will be on the shelf for another 6-8 weeks), and best of all, it's a Ladder Match!  Christian's resume in ladder-assisted matches is practically unparalleled.  Jericho's had a few doozies himself (Rumble PPV versus Benoit, as I recall, being the best one).  So you've got all the pieces in place for an amazing wrestling display. And with Edge almost sure to be lurking on the fringes of this match, I think you've got the piece in place for there to be some great drama and storyline advancement, too.

The Rick's Statement of the Obvious for today: this really is the best reason to get fired up for Unforgiven.
  

The OOutlOOk
Christian  wins: 7 votes   --|--   Jericho  wins: 1 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Christian d. Jericho.
RAW hasn't been the easiest show to predict lately, but I'm fairly confident in this pick. Christian just came back and needs a boost, so he wins. If I were booking, I'd pick Jericho, but naturally I'm a little biased -- I'd like to see Y2J with some gold around his waist sometime in the near future, though. Christian as the IC champion also opens the door for two compelling stories down the line: Edge v. his brother, or Edge turning full-blown heel and joining his brother. Keep Jericho in the mix, and you're guaranteed to have some stellar upper mid-card matches on RAW for at least a couple of months. What's not to love?

And on top of this, it's a freakin' ladder match, people. It should be awesome, and it's a gimmick match that WWE has stayed away from recently, so it doesn't have the same been-there-done-that feel that other stipulations (Hell in a Cell, I'm looking at you) do. Now let's all say a prayer that the Chrises Tian and Jericho aren't injured in the process.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Chris Jericho d. Christian.
This is a toughie, but the possibilities for heel Edge and Christian going after face Jericho seem to outweigh those of faces Edge and Jericho going after heel Christian, albeit by the slimmest of margins. And if they choose to keep Edge ambiguous for awhile upon his return, it still doesn't bode badly for Jericho.
The Cubs Fan Says... Christian d. Chris Jericho.
Can I say that I kinda cringed when I realized they were headed to a ladder match on Monday? Maybe it's just reading all those Edge interviews where he vehemently argues with the notion of ever doing another ladder match again, given the toll of the ones he did to his body, but I kinda didn't want to see them do this (to themselves.) But it's there choice, and maybe even their choice of matches, and they know what they're getting themselves into, so it's wasted time worrying. It is what it is.

They need something special here; that's why they have the stip, duh. I'm thinking a little more special than that, and with nothing else for him to do for a month, maybe it's time to have Edge hint that he and Christian are on the same page. At any rate, we've got nothing here if Jericho finally wins the title anyway, so it can't happen just yet.
The Immolator Says... Christian d. Chris Jericho.
This match will go in the middle of the card and will easily be the match of the show. Same logic for HBK dictates Christian should win this match. A little help from Tomko - and a lot of help from Trish - should do the trick.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Christian d. Chris Jericho.
Given the way RAW ended it would seem that all signs would point to Jericho going over.  But then again when does Jericho ever go over on PPV?  Plus there are a ton more interesting options with Christian having the belt than Jericho.  I would really hope that they pull out some new, cool spots for this match considering most everything else seems like it will be really dull.  However, with Christian just coming off an injury, I'm curious as to how much bumping he'll be willing to do.  The ladder match stip certainly allows for extra-curricular activity.  If they go that route, I hope it's in the form of someone like Edge rather than someone like Tyson Botchko. 
Matt Hocking Says... Christian d. Chris Jericho.
Mr. Tian is just back from being hurt and needs something to do, and luckily for him, an angle with Chris Jericho was just waiting to happen.  The WWE seems to be content with Jericho feuding over the I.C. title, but never actually, you know, winning it.  I'm predicting a lot of interference on this PPV because the angles seem to lend to it, but Edge and/or Tyson Tomko makes their presence known and prevents Jericho from winning, while giving the newly healed Christian something to do.
PyroFalkon Says...  Christian d. Chris Jericho.
Let me say right now that looking at this card, I predict that no matter who wins this match, THIS is the true main event. Christian is of course a veteran of all the famous 3-way 6-man TLC matches, not to mention THE ladder match. (Yeah, we all still remember THAT one.) Jericho, if memory serves, hasn’t done any, but everyone knows he’s awesome in practically everything he does.

I reluctantly choose Christian to come out on top in this one. Though Edge is injured, I doubt they’ll just send him home, so he might be around to do something mean. Even if he’s not, Y2J’s got Tomko and Trish to deal with. Plus, Jericho is the one who made the match, so if Christian wins, he can throw that in Jericho’s face until the inevitable rematch.

Rick Scaia Says... Christian d. Chris Jericho
Another relatively easy call I think. Jericho's bullet proof, he's teflon, he can lose a match and make you forget about it 30 seconds into the following night's Highlight Reel.  Meantime, Christian's the returning star (see the "Michaels Logic" about not losing in your first match back), and if he wins the vacant IC Title, it keeps Jericho on The Chase.  

But mostly, I pick Christian because I'm already envisioning the finish of the match.  Kids, it's GOT to be this: Edge shows up at ringside (we've already done a bunch of schmozzy stuff and Tomko/Trish have been ejected, but Edge is allowed to come down because (a) he injured and surely not gonna get involved and (b) he's an impartial observer).  And then, in some sort of completely passive way (gotta keep it ambiguous) -- maybe just defending himself fromn Christian and accidentally striking Jericho? -- Edge opens the door for Christian to ascend the ladder and grab the title belt.  Even if Edge can't wrestle for a month, tell me a month of not knowing where he stands (face or heel? sorry he screwed Jericho or closeted member of Christian's Soldiers?) wouldn't be a delicious way to milk the drama here.

So Christian's gotta win. And to be honest, this match has gotta rawk. I can see no other possible outcome given the participants and given the extracurriculars and given my tastes.  Find me something not to love about this one, and I'll gladly eat a bug.

 

LA RESISTANCE vs. TAJIRI/RHYNO
For the World Tag Team Titles

Hell, even *this* match has more history and build-up than the Orton/HHH main event. And I'm not joking: this thing started up a few weeks before SummerSlam, and they could reasonably have done this title match a month ago, if they'd wanted to.  Orton/HHH didn't start taking shape till the Monday AFTER SummerSlam.

Or are you sick of me harping on this issue, already?  Alright...  [but you know, Trish vs. Victoria has been on a slow simmer since....  OK, just kidding, I'll zip it....]

The story is pretty simple: Rhyno decides he needs a tag team partner to get revenge on La Resistance. He goes through a few options, even resorting to Sgt. Slaughter, and nothing works. His partners keep losing in matches against La Resistance.  And then: he unearths Tajiri.  The two gel together instantly, and go on a tear to establish themselves as the new bad-asses on the tag team block. So of course, La Resistance wants nothing to do with them.

In singles and non-title matches, Tajiri and Rhyno keep getting the better of Rob Conway and Sylvain Grenier, but the champs manage to avoid having to give Tajiri and Rhyno a tag title shot.  The cowardly heel act stretched out for about a month until FINALLY Rhyno beat Grenier in an "all or nothing" match (if Rhyno'd lost, he and Tajiri would never get a tag title shot EVER; but Rhyno won, so the tag title match is on!).

The slow-simmering feud has also been stretched out courtesy of a not-as-exciting-as-it-probably-sounds appearance by The Rock (who along with Tajiri and Rhyno got the better of La Resistance and Jonathan Coachman), and as a result of playing it out over the course of 2 months, I honestly think that this showdown will have a significantly greater impact than if WWE had just Pulled An Orton, and rushed the hot new thing (Tajiri/Rhyno) to the top too fast.

Work-wise, my understanding is that Tajiri is not 100% healthy, which is too bad. On the other side, I think the divide between Conway and Grenier is also pretty apparent to the naked eye (Conway's usually so much smoother and crisper a performer).  Don't know if this'll necessarily live up to what it COULD be, but hopefully, that's where the storytelling and 2 months of drama will kick in and help us mask those deficiencies.
  

The OOutlOOk
Tajiri/Rhyno win: 8 votes
La Resistance  win: 0 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Tajiri/Rhyno d. La Resistance.
I see no other logical outcome than for Rhyno and Tajiri to win here. They've had a slow build going for a while now, and the potential to be a good long-term tag team for two otherwise directionless wrestlers. The only problem that I see here is that there aren't any obvious heel challengers for the title if the faces do win. Flair and Batista, perhaps? It would be a nice step up Rhyno and Tajiri, so I'm picking them to win in a fun little tag match around the ten-minute mark.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Tajiri/Rhyno vs. La Resistance.
Geez, they BETTER elevate these guys after, what, two months of shoving them down our throats... if not, I'd love to see where the tag team picture goes from here. Hell, even if they win, same question, really...

Anyways, the former Network stablemates in ECW should get the belts here fairly quickly, if for no other reason but to open the door for another fly-by-night tag team to get the belts next.

The Cubs Fan Says... Tajiri/Rhyno d. La Resistance.
This feud can't go any place without Tajiri and Rhyno winning the title match. There's a mitigating factor of Tajiri's injury status, but I don't think they'd stop them this time. They're seemingly out of ideas for La Resistance and it's time for something new.
The Immolator Says... Tajiri/Rhyno d. La Resistance.
This one opens the card. Now, remember how the Dudleys beat the good guys in the opener at SummerSlam? Bad move - it helped kill the crowd. Good guys win to get everyone involved and happy and ready for more.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Tajiri/Rhyno d. La Resistance.
I'm gonna go with the faces because there's been basically two months worth of buildup and wrestling logic says that the faces should go over.  The only nagging thing about this match is the fact that there isn't any other tag teams on RAW for either one to then feud with.  Because of that, it might be better to have the heels keep the titles.  Still, I'm gonna ignore that and say the WWE makes The Rick happy by giving Tajiri a title.
Matt Hocking Says... Tajiri/Rhyno d. La Resistance.
They've teased and teased and teased this feud just long enough that I don't really care anymore.  The Rhyno/Tajiri team was neat a few months ago when they'd just started to feud with Coach and La Resistance, but since they've been pretty bland.  But they have their own entrance video now, and that means that they plan on sticking with this for a while, and Rhyno and Tajiri have to win one of these times.  So why not now? 
PyroFalkon Says...  Tajiri/Rhyno d. La Resistance.
La Resistance has held the belts long enough. If the WWE is wanting to spice up the tag division, they’ll give the belts to Tajiri and Rhyno. Even if the French Freaks get the belts pretty soon again, the win here will at least temporarily open the door for heel tag teams to start forming and challenging Tajiri and Rhyno. Besides, Tajiri and Rhyno have earned it. If they lose, for storyline purposes, what can they do to get another shot at it?
Rick Scaia Says... Tajiri/Rhyno d. La Resistance.
Part of me would almost love to see them try to milk this another month...  but at some point Good Wrestling Sense has to dictate you pull the trigger on the actual title change and put an end to The Chase.  Two months is long enough.

Also, this has Opening Match written all over it, so why not go with the long-suffering babyfaces getting the win?  Perfect way to prime the crowd.  Depending on what Tajiri can do, I might even suggest this should be short and decisive. Maybe not 90 seconds short like a previous Tajiri/Rhyno win, but pretty quick.  Get the new champs off to a rip-roaring start with a near-squash win that makes them look like bad-asses. 

 

CHRIS BENOIT/WILLIAM REGAL vs. 
BATISTA/RIC FLAIR

My how the mighty have fallen. Chris Benoit jobs twice to Randy Orton, and BAM! just like that he's demoted to Eugene's Replacement on the mid-card.

Benoit's spot in this match really is an artificial- and forced-feeling situation. I have a palpable sense that this is a case of the RAW creative team practically forgetting Benoit even exists, and then trying to shoehorn him into something half-way compelling. Cuz really, this match would have made a LOT more sense if it was just Eugene/Regal vs. Batista/Flair. Except then, what's Benoit do?

Silly me, I probably wouldn't have written him out of the World Title picture so fast, but again: I've said my piece on how all that SHOULD have gone down already, right?

Anyway, the story here really is just a continuation of Evolution vs. Eugene/Regal, except that with Eugene getting his ass handed to him by HHH, they've plugged Benoit into the empty spot.  I won't retell the whole Evolution/Eugene story, but this latest chapter really hinged on Regal using some brass knuckles on Ric Flair to help Eugene out once or twice. Regal became a target of Evolution, and Chris Benoit decided "well, I'd like to be on some show other than Heat," so he came out to lend an assist when Evolution played the numbers game against Eugene and Regal.

An uneasy alliance was born, and a contrived tag team match was signed.  Eugene was destroyed by HHH on RAW, so he probably doesn't figure into the mix, and this'll be straight-up 2-on-2. I'm completely stumped as to what kind of match you could expect: it could be anywhere from surprisingly good to horribly awkward and disjointed. Such is life with two wild cards like Regal (who can be AWESOME with the right kind of opponent, but sadly, the only such guy in the ring with him on Sunday is his PARTNER) and Batista (who is certainly improved to the point where he's a compelling power wrestler, but maybe shouldn't be counted on to carry a match just yet).   

The OOutlOOk
Batista/Flair win: 7 votes
Benoit/Regal win: 1 vote

Erin Anderson Says... Batista/Flair d. Benoit/Regal.
Boy, did Regal and Benoit fall down the card quickly, or what? A month ago Benoit was the champion, and Regal cutting badass promos as an integral part of the ultra-hot Eugene storyline. Now Eugene is gone and Benoit is removed from the title picture, so our two internet darlings are stuck in the undercard with no real direction. Oh joy.

I have no idea if WWE plans to make anything out of this, or if it's just filler for the night. I'm hoping that maybe they can stretch this out to keep the faces at odds with Evolution (and thus giving them something to do), so them winning wouldn't accomplish much. Batista and Flair win through nefarious means, setting up a rematch for RAW the next night. This match should be pretty fun, and I expect brass knuckles to get involved. Flair will flop at least twice.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Flair/Batista d. Benoit/Regal.
Why are they doing this to Benoit, blah blah blah blah.... sorry, just thought I'd get that out of the way before anyone else says THE EXACT SAME THING. Geez, people, you didn't think he'd be main-eventing forever, did you? Now then....

I've gotta think Evolution gets this one to reassert their power in the WWE hierarchy, especially if my HHH prediction happens as planned. Personally, I would have rather seen two singles matches here (which, by the way, are adequately built up already) than a tag, but as far as tag team matches go, it isn't bad.

Really, Batista is the only one here with anything to gain, so why not elevate him?

The Cubs Fan Says... Benoit/Regal d. Batista/Flair.
Faces winning this match gives them more options; Benoit can be used for a multi-man title challenge match at Survivor Series (which, with no clear next challenger and lots of people hovering around the level, sounds about right), and Regal needs to get some sort of revenge for Eugene if they want Eugene being killed to mean something in the first place.
The Immolator Says... Batista/Flair d. Benoit/Regal.
This throw-in acts as a cleanser after the ladder match. Yes, the women's match should be the one playing this role, but I think having Trish involved in two matches in a row doesn't work. Bad guys win this one to keep Evolution from getting blanked - and to showcase Batista, who's being pushed with a proper slow burn and is managing to make it work.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Batista/Flair d. Benoit/Regal.
Given that there have only been 6 matches named for the show, I really question why they made this a tag match instead of having seperate singles matches.  Benoit/Batista could have had a solid but forgettable match and you could have let Flair and Regal go at it in a Brass Knuckles match.  But instead we get this super lame tag match.  It's really a pickem, but I sense one of those big nights for Evolution that happen about, oh every three to four weeks.  Plus, a loss for Regal and Benoit will allow everyone to moan and complain of how poorly Benoit is being treated and how he'll never see a spot like he had ever again.  Just to be a little bit more precise I'll say Batista gets the pin on Regal.
Matt Hocking Says... Batista/Flair d. Benoit/Regal.
Nothing screams, "Uh...here's some guys!" quite like this match.  Sure they've been feuding somewhat, but with a thrown together match like this, it's hard to get a bead on what the WWE wants to do.  Which guys are they pushing?  Well, since losing the World Title a little while back, Benoit has steadily slipped into his old role as mid-card workrate monster, meanwhile, Regal's entire push since he's come back has been based on Eugene's feud with Evolution.  The WWE loves to push Dave, and has no trouble pushing Flair, and they're in the higher profile in this match.  Flair and Batista win.
PyroFalkon Says...  Benoit/Regal d. Batista/Flair.
I predict that Flair will do at least one, possibly as many as twenty-three, Flair Flops. Each will delight the live audience, and each will make me throw up on the floor. Fuck, I hate those flops.

(Oh, shit, can I say “fuck” on OO? Damn.)

Where was I? Oh yeah, predictions. Uh… How about The Canadian from Atlanta and the Brit from wherever? Yeah, that sounds good. After all, Benoit needs a moral win over Evolution, and Regal needs ANY win over them. Plus it’ll put Regal one step closer to facing Trips. In fact, if, as I predicted already, that Trips wins the belt, then Regal’s win here will be a good excuse to see those two fight in a title match.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here… I’ve playing way too much Total Extreme Wrestling. Anyway, I also predict that the brass knucks will make an appearance. Overall a predictable match as far as in-ring storytelling goes. I just hope the finish isn’t too bland, since I’ll actually be watching this one.

Rick Scaia Says... Batista/Flair d. Benoit/Regal.
I can't tell you the many ways in which this match annoys me. In fact, so many of the problems I see with HHH/Orton in the main event have related problems here. Like: Benoit should still be in the main event mix, and probably shouldn't even have lost his title yet if you wanted to tell HHH/Orton the right way.  Or: this match would be a relatively sensible (if bland and forgettable) affair if it was Eugene/Regal instead of having Benoit shoe-horned in.  Or even: if you really HAD to do Orton/HHH so soon, then maybe they should have been more focused on each other than having HHH do back-to-back weeks of wrestling Eugene so they could write him out and force Benoit into this slot.

I got a million of 'em.

I'm picking Batista/Flair to go over because even if they don't flop sides and go with Orton, Evolution will need to score a win on Sunday.  I figure maybe they want to come out of this with a Batista vs. Benoit feud, so there you have it: Batista is the difference maker, maybe pins Benoit after Flair has eliminated Regal with some Brass Knucks or something.  I dunno.

If I might fantasy book again for a second: if we're resigned to Benoit being wasted on some pointless mid-card feud, I'd rather have the finish to the match be some kind of miscommunication between Benoit and Regal.  Because if Benoit must be involved in something pointless and mid-card, let's at least give him an opponent with whom he can kick some ass.  So sue me if I think Benoit/Regal would be a more entertaining use of time than Benoit/Batista.  I even think doing something like that would be cool in terms of maybe turning Regal heel (which also opens up all manner of interesting options for Eugene when he shows up again, too).

Again, sorry for rambling. Evolution goes over.  

 

TRISH STRATUS vs. VICTORIA
For the Women's Title

Lotta history here, too.  Eighteen months ago, Trish and Victoria were having probably just about the best women's matches the WWF/E has seen since they revived the title a few years ago. Intense and dramatic, even to the point where Jerry fricking Lawler would forget, for up to 8 consecutive seconds, to undercut the commendably stiff and physical performances by acting like this was a catfight and he'd like to get in the middle of it.

Of course, that was then (Trish as a face, Victoria as the heel), and this is now (basically a complete re-do of the feud). But the earlier matches are probably fair to bring up as an indicator of what is possible when these two hook it up again on Sunday.

This latest pairing of the two is more a marriage of convenience, I think, as what passes for story is that Victoria won a #1 Contender's match a while ago. Which is partially because Trish hurt her hand 2 months ago, forcing them to back-burner the feud for a while, but which (stop me if you've heard this one before) is a crock of shit because the dumb-ass diva contestants aren't getting in the ring to do anything constructive and THEY still get 10 and 15 minutes a week to decimate my faith in the fairer sex.  So if you're gonna put women on TV to not-wrestle, can't we at least have had it be Trish and Victoria doing something that would actually lead to a future wrestling match?  Seriously, how wrong is it that the best (or is that ONLY?) exchange between Trish and Victoria during the last 6 weeks was about Fucking Diva Dodgeball ("Hey, way to play dodgeball, Victoria. Who's your trainer, Stevie Wonder?") instead of about the Women's Title.  AAARRRGHHH, so very, very wrong!

The only substantive storyline development while Trish has been getting healthy: Victoria is getting frequent assists from a Mystery Woman (who is quite obviously a man in drag, and who most fans realize is Stevie Richards in drag to the point that when the Mystery Woman appears, crowds chant "Stevie, Stevie"), and we all know that Trish can always count on her loyal and demure valet, the Lovely Miss Tomko, to have her back.

Those two will more than likely be players in Sunday's match, as well.  It'll be interesting to see how fans respond, too: Victoria's Seizure Victim/Dancing Moron routine has kind of sapped her character of its once loony-likeability (just bring back Stevie, and bring back the Russian Lesbians, and all would be SO much better, dammit). And Trish, well, I think she's the first ever female heel in the "too good at what she does to boo her" mold: she tries to be a mean bitch, and asshole me tends to think it's really funny and clever. And it goes without saying that she's gotten quite capable inside the ring, too.  Probably doesn't hurt that Trish is not uneasy on the eyes, either.  So I guess what I'm getting at is that to get the fans into this match in the right way, a surprisingly amount of the load is probably gonna fall on The Lovely Miss Tomko getting involved to make Trish seem like she's not really pulling her share of the load and to make Victoria seem like a more sympathetic character than she's been in months.  We shall see....
  

The OOutlOOk
Trish wins: 8 votes   --|--   Victoria  wins: 0 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Trish Status d. Victoria.
Considering the history between these two, this should be a pretty damn good match. It would have been nice if they'd both, you know, interacted these past few weeks. It's so nice to see Lita and the Diva Search contestants getting all the airtime while the women's title is barely even mentioned. Yes, I'm bitter.

This one is difficult to predict. Will Stevie Richards show up? And if so, will Victoria finally figure out who's under the wig? It's silly to keep her in the dark when the fans and Jim Ross obviously know who it is, and continuing the charade only makes Vickie look like an idiot (par for the course when it comes to diva characterization, I guess.) Were this any other match, I'd easily say that Trish retains because the lack of buildup screams "undercard filler." But the Women's Title is thrown around so haphazardly that I really don't know, so I flipped a coin. Trish wins.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Trish Stratus d. Victoria.
I mentioned, I believe, in the OO chat rooms a couple of weeks ago that if they had just kept Victoria as a psycho, this feud (with Trish the heel and Vicki the face) would have been just incredible. Now, it's just... ehhh.... kind of there. Heel Trish continues to improve, having gone from doing lame heel promos to some of the best moments on the show recently. Keep Victoria chasing the belt and finally reveal Stevie as "the mysterious woman" so we can keep this feud going for a while.
The Cubs Fan Says... Trish Stratus d. Victoria.
I wouldn't be surprised if this match doesn't come off as planned, with Nidia or others getting inserted. They didn't even bother setting up something leading into this match this week, making it kinda pointless for Trish to drop her title here.

If they're going to play "Steven Richards suspects EVERYONE of being the Mystery Woman", then that bit has some more life into it before the reveal. Might as well give away Steven not being under the wig on pay per view, though - that seems like enough to cost Victoria the match.
The Immolator Says... Trish Stratus d. Victoria.
I have this match happening second, and I have Trish getting the duke here. It's important to have Christian's Soldiers holding as much gold as possible when the night is over. I hope the whole Mystery Lady thing gets taken care of, as well - I like the slow burn, but anything beyond today and it's too much. This would actually be the perfect time to have Christian be the ML.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Trish Stratus d. Victoria.
Trish has been one of the few bright spots lately on RAW in her vicious verbal attacks on Lita.  Meanwhile, I don't recall the last time I actually saw Victoria on RAW.  Certainly she was absent this week which doesn't bode well for her chances.  Trish has plenty more challengers lined up against her than Victoria does so there's no sense in giving the strap back to Victoria.  Then again, as soon as I say that, they'll have Victoria get the belt and make me look like a complete fool for yet another month.  Also, if the WWE still remembers they're doing the man-in-drag angle, he may show up.  But I wouldn't hold your breath.
Matt Hocking Says... Trish Stratus d. Victoria.
For some ungodly reason, Trish Stratus has really caught fire as a personality, Victoria is only kind-of-sort of feuding with Trish via Lita.  The real story of this match will be Stevie Richards in Drag probably fighting with Tyson Tomko.  Past that, Victoria is pretty much screwed via lack of push.
PyroFalkon Says...  Trish Stratus d. Victoria.
I can’t hide my fanboydom any longer… I want Victoria. She is my number two diva, right after Gail Kim. So I really, REALLY want her to win. I know Victoria may not have as much ring skill as Trish, but come on! Brunettes are sexier than blondes!

…But, I don’t think Victoria will pull it off. I see Trish walking out of the match with the belt, by hook or by crook. Trish, after being out so long, will need to reestablish her dominance before losing the belt. Plus, she’s got Tomko, not to mention Christian back. I wouldn’t be surprised if Christian doesn’t pop up here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Tomko DOES, especially considering he doesn’t have a match otherwise. Plus, let’s not forget all the other divas running around, from my fave Gail Kim to the no-longer-GI-Jane Molly Holly. I will cheer for Victoria, but fear I will be booing at the end of the match.

Rick Scaia Says... Trish Stratus d. Victoria.
It's kind of the "returning superstar" thing again.  This is Trish's first match in 2 months, and bottom line, if they'd wanted her to drop the title, she could have done that (broken hand or not) as soon as she'd gotten hurt. They only reason you let Trish keep the title during the injury is if you see the benefit in her keeping it once she's back (Victoria needs some character rehab -- more looniness, less dancing -- before she's a viable option, anyway).  Make sense?  Good...

Also: everybody in the universe knows that the Mystery Woman is Stevie Richards, which of course in WWE logic means that they'll have to swerve us there.  So the finish is probably the Mystery Woman showing up and somehow screwing Victoria. Or maybe two Mystery Women, depending on how over-booked you want to make the finish.  More than likely, Christian should be the guy under the wig who helps Trish win.

I think a Big Night for Christian's Soldiers could be a nice little subplot for Unforgiven, too.  Trish retains her title, Christian wins the IC belt, Tomko know his role, shuts his mouth, and doesn't blow any spots too badly...  and maybe they're recruiting Edge?  Play it right, and Christian could find himself nicely atop of formidable heel faction.  Trish definitely goes over to start the momentum for Christian's Soldiers.... 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS/EXTRAS

Every month, I give the trOOps a Final Say to wow and amaze you with their wit and wisdom. Can they discern the extra matches on the PPV (or on Heat)? Do they know exactly what to expect in a key backstage segment? Can they come up with even MORE mean and clever ways to mock the Diva Search Idiots than The Rick can?

That's what this section is for..... 

The OOutlOOk

Erin Anderson Says... What do you mean Shelton's been working house shows for weeks? I should study less and read more OO~! 
I don't expect anything really special in the way of backstage segments. The Diva Search contestants will show up and waste space, as well as valuable oxygen. Randy Orton will probably struggle through a backstage promo. Bischoff will act like an asshole to somebody, probably Randy.

And something just occurred to me as I was typing -- will Shelton Benjamin show up? I don't know if he's fully healed yet, but he could make a HUGE impact if he shows up and screws Triple H out of the title. Just a little something to think about.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Happy Birthday to Me~!
I predicted it last month, and it STILL sucks enough to get TV time just before Unforgiven: I'm guessing that Rosey vs. Tyson Tomko is YOUR sUnday nIGHT hEAT main event.

Even though Eugene won't be wrestling this time around (unless they change the main event to a Triple Threat; kidding, kidding), expect his name to be mentioned. A lot. I wouldn't be completely surprised if they dedicated the show in his memory at the outset.

With the Slut Search down to just three ladies, I could definitely see some sort of backstage shenanigans involving Eric Bischoff. What I would LOVE to see (which means it will never happen), is a skit in which one of the Diva hopefuls is wandering around backstage and accidentally bumps into Jazz. Now THAT would make for good television.

Finally, as the show goes off the air, watch for the entire WWE crew, Vince McMahon included, to come to ringside and present a birthday cake to.... me, the Canadian Bulldog. After all, I'm wasting valuable birthday time to watch this shit, it's really the least they can do!!!

The Cubs Fan Says... Diva Searches and Tough Enoughs do NOT a PPV Make~!
I'm sure the Diva Seachers will do something. There shouldn't be any time problems this time, seeing as we've got all of a six match card. I'd bet there's language in the Diva Search contracts which would allow them to be dropped from the contest if they got arrested during it, but I parlay that with a bet Carmella won't be dropped because of it, at least publicly. It's a lovely out, if they choose to take it - all they
have to say is Carmella's been eliminated, and choose to omit the reason wasn't because of votes. As always, WWE controls the outcomes.

I think they've (once again) wasted a chance to try and make Tough Enough relevant before it airs. Maven is no worse (and no better) than any other midcarders, and would've been at least a fresh face given a push if they chose to do it. Instead, leading into the upcoming TE4,
the past winners are female jobber, Heat jobber, soon to be released, irrelevant eye candy, lost career to Eugene and whodat.

The people who win are going to get a $1,000,000, but what do we really care about then? The people at home aren't going to get that mil, but they should've been given the impression they'd get a worthwhile wrestler out of this. The token Heat match Maven's going to get isn't going to change the current impression.

Steven Richards should be involved. Somehow.

Matches where the outcome is mostly irrelevant - no matter who wins, we'll see the Orton/HHH match again in the near future - raises the difficulty of picking the winners. When the writers don't care enough to tell an interesting enough story for someone to read where they're going next, it's all a coin toss.

Boring card. They say 4 hours of A TV a week burns out too many feuds in too short of a time, but with 2 hours of A TV, they've consistently been unable to fill out a single brand PPV cards with heated feuds. They're only at 3.5 of the 6 they've listed so far.
The Immolator Says... MXC > Diva Search~!
I think they said this past Monday there was going to be a Divas boxing match, but I didn't see it advertised on the website just now. If it goes, I'll take the redhead with the guns. Biceps, that is.

The best thing about MXC, by the way, is Beat Takeshi. Go see any of the movies he acted in (my favorite is his version of Zatoichi - I've seen about a dozen of them) and then come back and watch MXC. You'll be glad you did.

Hey, this is in Portland? Is it safe to get Roddy Piper involved yet? Was it ever safe? Anyway, they should play up their arrival in Portland by having some kind of local flavor involved. Maybe not on the same scale as what they did in St. Louis way back when, but something at least.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Caged Heat, Baby~!
Given that I just heard that Carmella turned herself into police, I'll predict that they fly the other girls out there and have a jailhouse match between the three of them.  While there, Christy calls one of the inmates the same name that she gave Carmella two weeks ago.  The inmate stabs Christy thus negating an elimination round tomorrow on RAW.
 
Somehow they have to put another match onto this card, but as I look over the RAW roster, I just don't see who they could have fight and deem it "PPV worthy" let alone "TV worthy".  Sadly, the most likely choice would be another woman's match, but lord knows nobody wants to see that.  Perhaps, they'll just find some patsy to go against Mr. PPV, himself, Jonathan Coachman and have that be you extra match.
Matt Hocking Says... Bring on the Schmozzes~!
-The Divas will do a "weigh-in" to set up the "street fight" on Monday.  Somebody, probably Lawler, will riff on her recent arrest.
-One or possible all of the run-ins I imagined will not happen.  Or maybe there will be run-ins for all the matches.  RUN-INS~!
-The Heat match will feature...uh...I dunno...Hurricane v. Tyson Tomko.  Or Molly Holly v. Nidia.

While several of the matches look good on paper (HHH/Orton, Christian/Jericho, Michaels/Kane), this has "Transitional PPV" written all over it.  We're in the stretch now of PPVs that mean nothing until Survivor Series in November, and thus the WWE can get away with doing all sorts of weird finishes and run-ins to keep up interest in stories they want to drag along for a longer period of time.  So I don't expect to see much in the way of conclusive endings except to possibly Michaels/Kane (unless Shawn takes an interest in Kane and Lita's relationship) and Benoit/Regal v. Batista/Flair (which wasn't a real feud anyway.  I'm not so sure about the tag title match, if for no other reason than because La Resistance is pretty much the only heel tag team on RAW.
PyroFalkon Says...  Do Ya Smell the End of this Diva Search Crap~?!?.
Down with WrestleLine! They suck! We rule!

…What? I’m not done here yet? Shit. Okay, what else…

Well, being the RAW PPV, they’re going to have SOME Diva Search crap. I couldn’t begin to guess what they’re going to be up to, so let’s step into Matt Hocking’s universe for a second. I see Coach out there, and he introduces the girls. He says how cool he is. Then…

IF YA SMELL…

And here comes the Rock to boos. He gets in the ring, spends the next half-hour talking about his first sexual experience, and invites Lillian Garcia to talk about hers. Then he Rock Bottoms Coach, who falls out of the ring; Rock Bottoms Carmella, who falls out of her top; Rock Bottoms Christy, who falls out of her bottom; Rock Bottoms Joy, who just falls over because she can’t sell wrestling moves; and finally Rock Bottoms himself, so he dies and won’t have to live with the shame of being a part of Diva Search at all. Meanwhile, the world sees DeCesare’s boobs and Hemme’s ass, and really, that’s all anyone cares about. After the ring crew mops up the blood and silicone, the real PPV can begin. Wouldn’t that be cool?

ORTON FEARS JEB! ORTON FEARS JEB!

Rick Scaia Says... Haven't I said enough already, goddammit~?!?
Yeah, I have. And plus, not having seen RAW this week, I don't have any real feel for any of the intangible elements, like the specific ways in which the Diva Search Idiots will be wasting my time, or what sorts of little backstage interactions might be most likely.

Whiskey and a good head on my shoulders may make for a reasonably effective picking of the six announced matches, but not having the latest RAW in the data banks makes picking the Extras near-to-impossible.  So I won't.

I think this card probably doesn't need a whole lot more, anyway. The Diva Search thing will probably kill about 10 or 15 minutes of time, and then the rest of the show? Well, the main event (even if it's plodding and bears more resemblance to a JBL main event than to the goodness RAW HAD been serving up on top lately) will get a good 25+ minutes.  Kane/Michaels should get a nice-sized slot of time, because in addition to a good match, I expect they want to do storyline stuff, too there.  And it'd be a travesty if Jericho/Christian didn't get 20+ minutes, too.

From a marketing perspective, this is really a 3 match card, since I don't think anything besides the main event, HBK/Kane, and the Ladder Match are PPV-caliber "destination" matches. For me, you can axe the main event as a "destination" match, as it's more infuriating and indicative of WWE's misguided tunnel vision than the appropriately epic showdown between former Evolution Mates... but for me, you can also add in the tag title match and the women's title match as things I'm kinda interested in.  Cuz you don't know any bigger Tajiri fan than me, and in lieu of Proper Molly Usage, I'll take as much Healthy Trish as I can in the women's division.

Overall impression: it oughta be an OK show, but unless they do something genuinely interesting or surprising (se my main event booking), it's also a show that's got "by-the-numbers" written all over it. Probably more a standard, predictable transitionary show than anything.  Looking back as I've now concluded this document, I think the MASSIVELY one-sided and similar picks by all eight of the trOOps speaks strongly to the general sense of inevitability that Unforgiven seems like to serve up.  We'll see....

 
So check out Unforgiven on Sunday night... or if you've just got the NFL fever, are a cheap-ass bastard, or haven't found some reason in this Epic Document to care about the PPV, you can always remember to stop on back here at OO on Sunday night.

I'll be posting my immediately post-show Unforgiven PPV Recap sometime proximate to midnight!  See you then....


  
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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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