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WWE Vengeance PPV Preview
June 24, 2005

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


I'm still trying to figure out how it happened... because RAW has kinda stunk the past two weeks, whereas last night's SD! surprised the hell out of me be being an almost completely un-fast-forwardable two hours of goodness (seriously; I thought I'd fly through it, as can be done most weeks, but it didn't happen), which seems like an ass-backwards way of doing things when we've got a RAW-only PPV staring us in the face this weekend.
But it turns out not to matter that SD! hit a mini-peak this week while RAW limped towards PPV.... because somehow, someway, I'm still really intrigued by Sunday's Vengeance PPV.

There four matches I genuinely want to see. And it's not internet jackoff "workrate" reason why I want to see them... I want to    

see them to find out WHO WINS. The storytelling and build-up to the key matches may not have been the most thrilling, but at the end of the day, what's cool about Sunday is that WWE has stocked the top of the card with performers I care about in matches where I honestly have *NO* idea who will win.

I'd be very careful about handing out heaping praise to WWE for creating this situation... because sadly, it is their ham-handery of the last several weeks that defines their current direction. The appeal of Vengeance, I believe, comes from the fact that the Draft Lottery has, at least temporarily, really over-loaded the RAW brand with star power. Although Vengeance is, technically, a RAW-only PPV, in execution it is almost a bonus "Joint Production" that features not only SD!'s top title, but also 2 of SD!'s 3 most bankable performers at this point (only Taker is really at the same level as Angle or Cena), and also a breakthrough midcard performer from Thursdays.

OK, so it's not quite WrestleMania, but the card is laden with top stars, features 3 fresh match-ups that until 3 weeks ago would have been "interpromotional" in nature, and in general strikes me as lots more interesting than it should given the last two weeks of RAW. Again: I think we thank the gimmickry and the temporary talent overload due to the Draft Lottery moreso than we thank Steph and Her Writer Monkeys... because this is the only time the whole year they get a free pass like this. 

The only way they might get away with this again is if the talent overload is *not* temporary, and will not be sorted out with the final round of drafting/trading to be conducted over the next two weeks. But I can't imagine WWE wants to intentionally gut SD!, so I figure there will be a bit more balance before all is said and done. Because as it stands right now, Chris Benoit's the only guy I miss from RAW, while all three of SD!'s guys on RAW are "value-adds" in one way or another (hey, I may loathe John Cena's character, but as long as people respond to it, he has value, and I won't deny that).

And in fact, it is in trying to figure out what WWE intends to do to "balance" the rosters that makes Vengeance such an intriguing PPV... I know Teddy Long introduced the "SmackDown! Title" last night, and that's probably supposed to make us believe that both the WWE and World Titles are staying on RAW. Which I guess is an outside possibility. But here was my thinking as soon as Teddy made that announcement: 3 "equal" titles on 2 shows is one too many, which means the third belt is being called into existence so that two of them may be unified into one. But which two? And on which show?

Until you figure that out, you'll have no shot at figuring out who'll win the two title matches on the PPV. And even as I write this, I don't have either of those two things figured out satisfactorily. My gut though? Says that something as unimaginatively named as "The SmackDown! Title" cannot be permitted to exist much past the summer, so therefore one of the World or WWE Titles must come back to SD! to be unified with/absorb the "SD! Title."

But which title (and held by which of 5 men?) is heading back to Thursdays? Trying to figure that out involves not just making predictions for a RAW PPV, but also making predictions for where things are headed on SD!... it's a brain teaser, and it's what makes Vengeance so damned enticing. It's not just a matter of their being four (maybe even five, if Kane and Edge can avoid any crap and get the fans along for the ride) promising matches on Sunday: it's a matter of not having a clue who'll win most of 'em.

Whether by WWE design, whether by draft lottery gimmickry, or whether by complete fluke, I go into Sunday's PPV feeling like I'm 11 years-old again... watching so I can find out WHO WINS.

Luckily for you, though, I will limit my pre-pubescent naivete to Sunday, and will quarterback the assembled trOOps through a much more mature, comprehensive, and insightful look at the announced card for WWE's Vengeance PPV. Enjoy:

Hell in the Cell Match for the World Heavyweight Title

Well.... this is the same rivalry that I've had to preview twice before in these monthly documents. And nothing's changed from either of the past two times: this is still a singularly mishandled and underwhelming feud, and it didn't have to be.

All the pieces were there as recently as January to make Batista's push to the top of the mountain a massively successful one. But almost immediately upon formalization of his face turn, everything went to hell. Gone was the calm, cool, collected, reasonable, normal Batista that fans had latched on to. Gone was Triple H's intriguing little half-respectful, half-scared, half-dismissive treatment of his "dumb muscle." Gone was just about everything about the dynamic that made the feud seem like one we wanted to see.

In their places were Batista alternating among being (1) mute, (2) a bad stand-up comic, or (3) a generic blustering monster and Triple H going on TV for 10-15 minutes a week to rant and rave about things we've heard him rant and rave about for nigh on three years. Batista vs. HHH should have been a license to print money. Instead, all it's been is a license to be upstaged by other RAW storylines. It's really not even the wrestlers' faults... well, it's not BATISTA's fault, anyway. He's just performing the material that's handed to him, to his own detriment. It's the writers who have bungled this one (and by extension, we all know that HHH has a bit more say in his own material than Batista ever will, so maybe he's not entirely inculpable if he actually thinks things like the Unbeatable Pedigree of Extreme Awesomeness That Has Never And Will Never Be Beaten is useful main event heel banter here in the year 2005).

For those who are coming tardy to the party, the Cliff's Notes Version of Batista, Triple H, and Everything reads like this: (1) Batista was Triple H's "enforcer" in Evolution; (2) starting last Fall, Batista started appearing to think for himself and had periodic friction with his boss (including HHH "sacrificing" Batista in an Elimination Chamber match, rather than save him); (3) Batista won the Royal Rumble, and earned the right to fight for whichever title he wanted at WM; (4) HHH tried to trick Batista into jumping to SD! to fight for the WWE Title; (5) Batista didn't fall for it and stayed on RAW to go after HHH's World Title; (6) Batista won said World Title cleanly at WM21; (7) HHH demanded his obligatory rematch; (8) Batista won said rematch at Backlash.

And that gets you up to speed on everything that happened leading into the last time I previewed this match. In the two months since that telling of the tale, the key things you have to know are these:

(1) HHH demanded another rematch
(2) Batista declined, saying it was time to prove himself against more worthy challengers who hadn't already struck out twice
(3) HHH pitched a hissy fit and "quit" RAW when Eric Bischoff wouldn't force Batista to grant him a re-rematch, since "RAW needs me more than I need RAW"
(4) RAW was just fine without HHH for one week, and in fact, tied its year-to-date best rating in HHH's absence
(5) In HHH's absence, Ric Flair appeared to befriend Batista in return for Batista showing him respect a couple weeks before; this seemed to be the start of an interesting little mini-arc that could play out for several weeks
(6) Not liking the trend of interesting things (and high ratings) playing out for weeks without him onscreen to take credit for it, HHH decided he had to return from his retirement after one whole week in the shadows; he attacked Batista (with help from Ric Flair, who ended that potential little mini-arc about one month too soon, in my opinion) and then got on the house mic to declare that not only would Batista fight him, he would do so in a Hell in the Cell match
(7) Despite having already declined HHH's challenge, and despite a total lack of basic logical causality, Batista apparently approved HHH's idea for a match
(8) Batista and HHH held a "Contract Signing" at which the two traded really shitty, B-action-movie-caliber dialogue about seeing each other in hell
(9) In a penultimate tag team match mere days ago on RAW, HHH finally scored a pinfall over Batista, beating him with a Pedigree (Of Extreme Awesomeness That Has Never Been And Will Never Be Beaten) out of nowhere.

As you might guess from my framing above (or if you followed my gripes in Real Time as I was covering them in the RAW Recap and in my columns), I had real issues with how things played there in the (5) through (8) corridor. For a storyline that had already been so heroically bungled by WWE to the point where the World Title feud was secondary, tertiary, or worse at my points in the last month (behind ECW and behind the draft lottery, at least), it took a lot of extra effort to come up with brand new ways to screw things up.

In my mind, HHH's too-short "retirement" (without even a teasing appearance on SD! to convey the idea that he was looking for work elsewhere) hamstrung this entire latest chapter in the Batista/HHH feud. Rather than letting RAW revolve around Batista for the better part of a month -- and rather than letting his dynamic with Ric Flair evolve over that time to become the impetus for Batista granting HHH one last title shot, which would have been a LOT more compelling and sensible that HHH showing up after a one-week hiatus to basically insist up the rematch -- we just kept getting fed slight variations on what has become a pretty boring theme: Batista doesn't get to say or do anything cool, and Triple H gets to proclaim his greatness to all who lack the technology to fast-forward on Mondays.

Oh well. I doubt very seriously that it's done willfully, but the end result is that this is the third time Batista/HHH will "main event" a PPV, but most fans will be more interested in the undercard. At WM21, it seemed like folks got more into Angle/Michaels and Taker/Orton because of the "cross-promotionality" of those matches. At Backlash, there's no doubt that Hogan's "One More Match" was the real selling point of the show. And this weekend: well, for my money, Angle/Michaels is gonna steal the show again, and I'm *also* more fired up for the WWE Title three-way and the IC Match than I am for this one. 

That's not to say I'm not looking forward to this match: cuz I am. Hell in the Cell (sorry kids, it's not "Hell in A Cell," at least, not unless you also honestly believe that Tito Santana once competed in a "WWE" ring; for me, it was BORN "Hell in THE Cell" and it shall DIE "Hell in THE Cell") tends to bring out the best, and is a perfect showcase for the "WWE Main Event Style Brawl." Even if WWE refuses to pay us off with big, memorable spots in these matches now, they do tend to bring a baseline of gOOdness in the HitC matches... even Kevin Nash managed to go 25-plus minutes in the Cell and look good doing it.

But again: to me, it's telling that I'm more interested in the match gimmick and how that SHOULD result in this being the best of HHH/Batista's three matches than I am in the actual human/dramatic element of the storyline. This is definitely one of Four Very Good Reasons to watch Vengeance on Sunday, though; it's just that I might make it #4 on that list. Which is kinda frustrating since, with just a little bit of more careful planning and storytelling, it could easily be the Mind-Blowing Climax of a Five Month Long Feud, and #1 on that list... but this is just how WWE rolls, I guess.

The OOutlOOk
Batista wins: 5 votes   --|--  Triple H wins: 4 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Batista d. Triple H.
I originally thought that Batista would win according to Wrestling Rule #127b: "The wrestler who gets the last laugh before the pay-per-view does not win on Sunday." Now this mess of a title situation (what with a new belt being introduced on SmackDown! and all) is throwing a wrench into everything, and we can't forget Wrestling Rule #5691: "Triple H does not lose 3 PPV matches in a row," and its corollary, "Triple H does not lose Hell in A Cell matches."

But I think I'll be sticking with my gut and say that Batista wins. It's Hell in a Cell, so winning "cleanly" isn't an issue here like it was last time. I have no idea what to expect from this match, quality-wise. It seems like WWE is trying to get away from the crazy highspots that have marked Cell matches past; Brock/Taker and Triple H/Michaels both moved away from that. Batista and Trips are both injury-prone anyway, so don't expect any Foley-style stunts here. I DO, however, expect a ton of blood to cover up any shortcomings these guys might have in a 25-minute-plus match. I figure this will either be surprisingly good, or at least entertaining in a train wreck kinda way.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Triple H d. Batista.
I've had a really hard time calling this one, and in fact have changed my pick numerous times while typing this. So I'm going to play it safe, although... maybe I should go back to Batista? What do you think? No, no, I'm sticking it with this time.

My reasoning is this: one of the main two titles is going to SmackDown, I'm certain of that much. It might make a little more sense for the bring the WWE one back to its rightful show, but realistically, could they -- or would they -- build a show around Christian or Chris Jericho? Not bloody likely. That leaves either Batista or HHH making the jump (or possibly both).

I personally think HHH would make a great addition to SmackDown. Let's face it, they need a big name to bolster their show right about now, and love him or hate him, he is the biggest in the business at present. HHH can have fresh (or semi-fresh) feuds with Big Show, JBL, Chris Benoit, Booker T, hell even Rey Mysterio if he's so inclined.... on Raw all he really has left is Cena, and maybe Angle. Maybe they'll move Batista too, but it would be tough to build a show around him and only him.

And losing the belt for Batista wouldn't be horrible at this stage. It's not like Randy Orton's situation last year, where they had to get the strap off him ASAP. Let him lose the belt now, after he's already had a successful run with The Game and is still relatively fresh, and then he's got the rest of the year to improve while not losing a whole of respect from the fans.

The Cubs Fan Says... Batista d. Triple H.
Not to be all "Triple H is the evilest man in the
wrestling business and is ruining everything!", but
I'm thinking about the best way out of this for him. I
don't think that way is to win the title; another
rematch with Batista can't be done now, and it
diminishes interest in a rematch months from now if
Batista can't win when it counts. What I think is best
for Triple H, and what a more intelligent man than I
already pointed out (thanks Justin), is for Batista to
win and get flipped to SmackDown! as their last pick.
It cleans up the SD! title picture, it achieves the
pointless and confusing "champions switch brands"
concept they've had as an obsessive goal for the last
year, and it allows Triple H (and JBL) to remain top
heel on his show, which couldn't be done if the top
faces were guys who'd beat them decisively in feuds.
Triple H doesn't have to take a step down to a
secondary feud, instead setting himself up for a title
shot versus John Cena over the course of the 8 week
layoff between RAW PPV shows, and Batista gets new
challengers. Works out for almost everyone.
Matt Hocking Says... Triple H d. Batista.
I don't think Hunter will lose three ppv main events in a row.  Never mind him holding anybody down or being a championship hog or anything, I don't really think you can job out your biggest main-event name three times in a
row in title matches, unless it's The Rock.  This has nothing to do with the stipulations or Flair or anything.  They'll likely make the match more entertaining and all that, but quite honestly, they're just window dressing for HHH/Batista 3, which itself has hardly recieved any attention.

Additionally, this allows Dave to "go back to the drawing board" in terms of, the fact that he doesn't need the Title to stay over, but he needs to get into a new feud.  I contend that Hunter will probably be the draft pick over to Smackdown to try to prove that he can carry the show over there, and that this belt business is just a swerve.  But, hell, I don't know.  I'm just guessing at this point.  There's no REAL logic until we know what the WWE is going to do about draft picks next week.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Triple H d. Batista.
No Comment.
Jeb Lund Says... Batista d. Triple H.
Please forgive me if all of my predictions are short and seem rushed. I am rushed, and I'm making these predictions late.

I think Batista is going to win for three reasons:
1. If Triple H were to win, then Batista would technically get a rematch, and basically this feud doesn't have enough gas for one more trip round the block.
2. No one, no one, is ready to see Triple H win the big gold belt again. If he's got to win another championship belt to get attention, fine.
3. Someone's getting shipped to Smackdown.

If Triple H is traded, then he loses in a Hell in a Cell and never gets the job back from Batista. Or Batista goes to SD, and Triple H doesn't get the job back. But the important thing is, in his narcissistic worldview, he doesn't lose face, because it's impossible to get the job back. At least until a big PPV or maybe the next lottery.

Or — better and more sensibly yet — maybe there is no trade and Triple H just loses and doesn't get a rematch because that would make fucking sense, and WWE tacitly admits that he can't destroy and dominate every motherfucking thing on Planet Hunter.
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Batista d. HHH.
Honestly? With Smackdown! announcing their own championship, I have no frickin' clue anymore. I was kind of thinking that Batista would get drafted to SD! and HHH would float over to the WWE title hunt. I don't even know if there's going to be a WWE title much longer.

I'm going to assume Batista retains and is either drafted or wrestles the winner of the WWE title match in a unification bout. Which makes for some interesting possibilities that I'll get to later. But let me go on record here to say I really, really don't like having two top belts, let alone three.
PyroFalkon Says...  Triple H d. Batista.
“You’ve had fun with mommy’s checkbook, but now it’s time to give it back to her.” ~Everybody Loves Raymond

I think just like the World Heavyweight Championship is “Triple H’s Belt,” the Hell in a Cell is now Triple H’s match. It’s been a few months since Trips had his title, so I figure he’s bound to get it back Sunday. Damn it.

Rick Scaia Says... Batista d. Triple H.
This is probably more blind hope than anything. Because by most metrics, Batista has not set the world on fire as World Champ, and we all saw what happened to Eddie last year. But just like Eddie, Batista's failures aren't his fault: he's doing the best that he can with what's given to him. Granted, he's got an over opponent in HHH (and all Eddie got handed was the steaming pile of dung that was JBL, who was a joke of a main eventer until MONTHS into his title reign), but the company's done just about everything else wrong for him. They haven't booked him to his strengths on RAW, they haven't showcased him nearly as much as they've showcased HHH the last 3 months, and hell, it took them until THREE FRICKING WEEKS AGO to finally get the World Champ some new entrance music/pyro befitting of a true main eventer. It's like WWE gave Batista the title belt, but absolutely NOTHING ELSE in terms of a promotional effort.

And yet, WWE's not big into isolating real root causes of problems: so they might just look at this and decide, "Well, Batista had his shot, but this isn't working out." I fear this. Because things that are wrong with Batista can be fixed. But the things that would be wrong with HHH regaining the belt at this point are not as easy to repair. You can fix mild character problems; you can't fix your entire fanbase's utter boredom and disinterest in HHH, though.

Let me say this loud and clear: the ONLY way HHH should win the title here is if he's taking it to SmackDown! In this scenario, HHH is fresh and has some interesting options as opponents. Booker and Big Show are easy calls for HHH's first lambs as he re-establishes himself on Thursdays. But then, it gets good. Benoit is there, and can lay claim to having HHH's number (although they did piss away Benoit's "undefeated against HHH streak" this past spring in that ill-executed Pick Your Poison thing), and he could be the man to take the title from HHH. Rey Mysterio is there, and whether WWE likes it or not, Rey is the New Mick Foley: he's the guy EVERYbody loves and EVERYbody believes in enough that he could reasonable win the heavyweight title despite not looking anything like Vince McMahon's idea of a champion (instead of tubby, Rey is short; and instead of his strength being jawdroping promos, Rey's is jawdropping ring work). And don't discount JBL, either: I fricking HATE the idea, but with the Cabinet dissolved JBL's either jumping to RAW or turning babyface; and with Hassan on SD!, there's your road map to JBL's face turn (and then, face JBL and heel HHH could hook it up in what I'm sure Vince McMahon thinks is a great idea but which would probably score the lowest buyrates in recorded history). You could even have HHH reform Evolution on SD!, with a now-cowed Randy Orton back in the fold with a chance to develop his character more organically, instead of as the result of stupid-crazy pushes.

Also: HHH made that mysterious "No matter what happens at Hell in the Cell, this feud is OVER after the PPV" comment... but if HHH wins, then Batista would be insured at least one rematch. Unless HHH immediately jumped over to SD!. So that's ANOTHER reason why HHH winning ONLY works if he goes to SmackDown.

But the thing is: if HHH didn't have balls enough to "save" SD! last year by going and being the heel that the brand so desperately needed (Paul Heyman's PPV rip on JBL STILL puts a smile on my face!), I'm sure he's in no rush to do so this year. HHH is in a position to dictate where he ends up, and if he wants to stay on the flagship show, he'll get to stay. So my guess is: HHH *still* doesn't want to work Tuesday nights. Which means there is absolutely no defensible reason (from a creative standpoint) for him to win the World Title.

So with my thinking that, barring a change of scenery, nothing would be more boring than HHH again holding the gold, let's just all get together and offer up sacrifices to whatever gods we believe in and hope that Batista gets the win on Sunday. I'm hoping that Standard Conventional Wisdom holds up, and the fact that HHH finally (for the first time ever) got a pinfall win over Batista on Monday means that he's giving it back on Sunday. Either that, or taking his title and going to hide on Thursdays, away from Big Dave.

Hell, I'm almost talking myself into picking HHH here, just because I'm sort of liking the idea of him doing the unexpected (and RIGHT) thing of going to SD!.... but I already said that picking Batista was naive "Rick Think"; so that would make talking myself into picking HHH for these reasons some kind of perverted double-smarky, triple-dumb MEGA-Rick-Think. Which is probably something I should stay away from if I'm gonna keep my annual PPV percentage over .500, right? Yeah. So Batista wins, because it seems... I dunno, it seems easiest.


Match #2 In An (Hopefully) Ongoing Series

This is a WrestleMania Rematch, and from a Previewer's Perspective, this is kind of an easy deal to summarize.

Because I could refer you back to the WM21 Preview and tell you to read all about this feud there. And then you can come back here to get an update to what's happened between these two in the 3 months since Mania, and there's really not a whole lot at all to add.

But again, in the interest of keeping this document as comprehensive and self-contained as possible, I *will* give you a few of the highlights that led into their first showdown before supplying the update. 

In short: Michaels and Angle had never been in the same ring together until they crossed paths at the Royal Rumble; in that match, Michaels (legally) eliminated Angle, and then Angle later returned to help (illegally) eliminate Michaels. Thus began two months of brand-hopping and sneak-attacking, as Shawn and Kurt jockeyed for bragging rights. Kurt, upping the Hostility Ante, declared that his hatred of Shawn goes back before the Royal Rumble, all the way back to 1996, when Kurt won an Olympic Gold Medal, but Shawn was parading around as the WWF Champ and getting all the money and the headlines. Shawn decided to call the Big Blind of Hatred, when he told Kurt to quit bitching and just meet Shawn in a match on the Grandest Stage of All at WM21, and the two of them would find out once and for all who really was the best. And so they fought at Mania, and had what is probably my current Match Of The Year (to date)... in the end, Angle came out on top, making Michaels tap out to an ankle lock.

So: supremacy proven? Maybe not... because we then pick up the story the night after WM, when Shawn limped to the ring on The Night Of Overselling All Injuries Because Everything Apparently Hurts More At WrestleMania Than It Does Every Other Night Of The Year. Shawn said he might have lost, but he was proud to have put on the best show of the night... and he also said that he wanted nothing more than to get another shot at Kurt Angle so he could do it again. He promised the fans that he didn't know when, and he didn't know how (since Angle returned to the confines of SD!), but he'd face Kurt Angle again some day.

That some day? Is Sunday. Because two weeks ago, Kurt Angle was brought over to RAW via the Draft Lottery. 

After Angle briefly sparred with HHH and Batista, Shawn Michaels made a surprise appearance to challenge Angle to a rematch at Vengeance. Angle was happy to accept. And then, days ago on RAW, they two were on opposite sides of a tag match: they couldn't contain their hostilities and wound up abandoning their partners in favor of brawling out into the crowd with each other.

Maybe that's not much of a story. But guess what? These two don't really need one. When you have two guys who are pretty much the undisputed best of their respective eras (hell, Shawn's "era" was the 90s, but the fact that he's been going out there for the past 3 years and pretty much topping 95% of the roster makes it hard to say his ear is over), you can do the storyline where they just want to face each other and prove who is better. It's a "storyline," yes, but it's also something that rings true enough to most fans sharp enough to tell that there's something that Michaels and Angles bring to ALL aspects of performance (from promos to ringwork) that makes talking about being "the best" seem not so far-fetched.

There's a very short list of guys who can reasonably participate in such feuds, and who combine the tenure and the talent to make it seem compelling. And it's rare when two guys from that short list end up on opposite sides of the ring from each other. My advice: sit back and enjoy. These two will steal the show on Sunday. They may be (subjectively) just about my two favorite wrestlers, but I think they are (objectively) too good to deliver anything but Vengeance's best match. They'll be aiming to top WM21: but even if they just come CLOSE to MATCHING it, Shawn and Kurt will probably have cemented two of 2005's best handful of matches when voting is done six months from now.

Interesting note: Kurt Angle has revealed that Vince McMahon wanted this rematch to be a street fight or no-DQ match, as part of a rising level of violence to the Angle/HBK feud. But Kurt and Shawn vetoed that, on the grounds that they don't have to resort to that -- at least not yet -- to keep their matches fresh and exciting. Reading between the lines: are we only on Match #2 of what Kurt and Shawn hope is a lengthy and drawn out feud that doesn't reach the UltraViolence until much later down the line? Oh, let us pray that there is a Commandment that reads "Thou Shalt Rock The Fans' Fucking Socks Off With A Worthy Opponent For The Vast Majority Of The Next Calendar year."

The OOutlOOk
Michaels wins: 8 votes   --|--  No Contest: 1 vote

Erin Anderson Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
Sure, there was no meaningful build-up to this. I don't care. These guys put on the Match of the Year (so far) at Wrestlemania, and I want to see it again. That's good enough for me. This match will kick 900 kinds of ass.

I figure HBK wins this time around to even the score. They can feud more meaningfully in the next few months and then have one final blowoff match. Angle/Michaels III at Summerslam, anyone?

Canadian Bulldog Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
My reasons for Michaels going over are pretty simple:

(A) He's owed a win after doing a number of high-profile jobs this year.

(B) Specificially, Angle owes him win for winning clean at WrestleMania.

(C) While both guys could bounce back from a loss here, its much more fun to see Angle getting pissed after a big loss.

(D) The babyface winning will help to restore balance to the force, if my Triple H prediction comes through.

(E) Yes. (That's an Inside The Ropes joke. You people DO read Inside The Ropes, right? RIGHT? If not, drop what you're doing immediately and head over here.

The Cubs Fan Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
Obvious finish to keep it even. The problem with WWE
and feuds based soley on "who's better?" is they'll
keep them as even as possible, and you won't really
get an answer to the question. Everyone gets protected
and not much happens.
Matt Hocking Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
Shawn gets his win back here.  There's not really a reason he shouldn't, and if they have any desire to make a longer feud out of this, the guys should prove to be equally skilled.  Shwan's just coming off an injury anyway, and it's not like Angle has any more pressing matters to attend to.  The only
thing, I guess, to gain is Angle proving that he's got "one up" on Michaels, but Shawn's too big a name and too much a vetran to be chasing a win like that.

The match itself should be very good, IF Shawn Michaels is healthy.  If he's not, it should still be good, but it all depends on whether or not they've got time to build the match.  Give them 20-25 minutes before Hell in a Cell, and I think you'll have one of the best pure wrestling matches in the U.S.
this year, any shorter or if Michaels is still a bit lame, they'll try too hard to cover for the problems, and the match will suffer.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
No Comment.
Jeb Lund Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
Originally, I thought about Angle winning to keep him as a sudden strong force appearing on RAW and mixing things up. Having him lose so suddenly would take away some of his steam. Then I realized that this is WWE, and they really like to give everyone jobs and wins in equal "protecting" amounts. And I realized that Michaels has been overly gracious lately. And that even if Michaels does win, he'll wind up gushing more blood than the Overlook Hotel. I was going to write more and more about this, but I sneaked a look at everyone else's predictions and noticed that everyone had cited the same reasons that I was going to write down. So why waste my breath? Or fingertips?
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
Bless these wounded warriors, for they are the cream of the crop. Even if they were to dial it down a bit from WrestleMania, and I'm not so sure they will, it'll be the shizzat. Which is way better than the shizznit.

I choo-choo-choose Michaels here, just to even the score and perpetuate the feud.
PyroFalkon Says...  Some Form of a Double-Something-or-Other or a No Contest or Something Weird.
This one is too close to call, and will probably be my match of the night. However, I just can’t see any decisive winner in this one. I mean, HBK won’t tap in the ankle lock since that’s how they finished it last time, but it would also be too easy and predictable to give him a win too.

Maybe it’s just the fantasy booker in me coming out, but I’d say they end this one in a draw of some kind. Maybe a double DQ or a double pinfall (as much as I hate those)? Then maybe when we get Angle/Michaels III, we’ll have a payoff.

As it is, this match has no special stipulations, no gimmicks, and I predict no winner.

Rick Scaia Says... Shawn Michaels d. Kurt Angle.
Just like I felt as though there wasn't much need to say anything in terms of inventing a backstory for this match, I don't feel the need to explain myself much here in the prediction. I'm not the only one who's said it, but the best reason for Michaels to win is so that these two have an excuse to wrestle again. Which I want to see. So I'm picking Michaels to win.

And if they do hook it up even just one more time in 2005, I think that'll end up making this a stone cold cinch for Feud of the Year, too. Three kick-ass matches, and a storyline that saw Marty Jannetty and Sensational Sherri, however briefly, return to relevance? That, my friends, is quality TV! [Oddly, Kurt's also a mid-year favorite for one of the Worst Feuds of the Year: against Booker T.]


WWE Title Match

Here's where it gets really interesting, kids. SmackDown!'s top title is being defended on a RAW PPV, ostensibly for the first time of what will be many, if SD!'s going and creating a new title of its own. What we're being led to believe is that there will be three "equal" titles for two shows. And that dog won't hunt, monsignor.

So as referenced above, two of those three titles are likely to be unified at some point in the near future. But which two? And on which brand? These are all questions that I think get answered more here in this match than in the World Title Match. Maybe that's just because Batista/HHH feels like "business as usual," since it's chapter 3 in a (not-very-interesting) feud. But this match for the WWE Title? It's fresh, unexpected, and (since HHH already proved last year that he's too big a pussy to go over to SD! and strap that franchise on his back even though they could've have used him to "make" Eddie after the last Draft Lottery) seems to feature the group of guys who are most likely to jump (or in Cena's case "re-jump") to SD!...

It makes for an interesting match-up with what FEELS like implications for both brands. I might be imagining that, but after watching last night's SD!, I can't help myself... what happens here, I believe, will tip WWE's hand in terms of what they intend to do over the next 2 weeks to sort out the Draft Lottery and Roster Balancing situations. Which is cool from a "fantasy booking" angle; and with the Canadian Connection in the same ring together, the match will also be sweet from an action/excitement perspective; and also thanks to the Canucks, you've got two of my more favorite wrestlers, which means I'll just be able to cut loose and just cheer them on without being concerned about smarky fantasy booking stuff. Should be good times.

How'd it all come to pass? Well, by the "luck of the draw," SD!'s WWE Champ John Cena came to RAW with the very first lottery pick 3 weeks ago.... he appeared on Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel to the joy of surprised fans, and was instantly greeted by Christian, who had taken to cutting promos talking about how the Draft Lottery was his ticket to SD! where he would quickly and easily beat "Marky Mark" for the WWE Title. And now, instead: Marky Mark and the WWE Title had come to Christian. The two sparred verbally, in one of Cena's only tolerable promos in recent memory, while Jericho watched on.

When Cena decided to move from verbal abuse to physical abuse, Christian's valet, The Lovely Miss Tomko, got involved. Jericho, despite staying mostly on the fringes, got briefly involved when Tomko uncouthly nudged him. From that altercation, a tag match was signed for the following week, and Jericho teamed with Cena to beat Christian and Tomko. But after the match: with ZERO provocation, Jericho beat the crap out of Cena. On the strength of that beatdown, Jericho went to GM Eric Bischoff and demanded to be named the #1 Contender to Cena's WWE Title. But Bischoff had already granted Christian a title shot at the upcoming PPV... after mulling it over, Bischoff decided that BOTH men deserved title shots, and so made a Triple Threat match for Vengeance.

Christian's motivation here is clear: for months he's been talking about being held down and underutilized and disrespected on RAW, and has openly talked about going to SD!... those promos logically led to talking about toppling SD!'s poseur champion, Cena. And once Cena came to RAW, Christian stepped right up and made himself Cena's #1 order of business.

Jericho's a bit harder to piece together. For weeks leading up to Cena's arrival, Jericho was playing a disenchanted loner role... not quite a heel, but a self-involved jerk who could rationalize away all his losses and wrestling failures by claiming that wrestling was not important to him anymore. But suddenly, seeing Cena and his title on RAW re-energized Jericho, apparently. Because it's been 3 years since Jericho had a shot at the Big Gold in anything other than a big schmozzy gimmick match, and he suddenly saw his opening to once again hold a title. [The unstated part of this storyline, unfortunately, is the part that COULD have made it a pretty cool little insight to Jericho's psyche: that it took Cena bringing the WWE Title over from SD! to make Jericho believe he could earn a title shot is telling... that Jericho apparently does NOT believe he could ever, in a million years, get a fair shot at RAW's World Title is even MORE telling. But part of being held down is apparently not being able to go on TV telling people about who's holding you down, so that little morsel was left unstated.] In any case, Jericho's deal has played like pretty much a straight-up heel turn... to the point where Christian was almost the tweener of the two in a promo a few days ago on RAW.

Jericho's heel status is not insignificant to puzzling out what will happen here. If this truly is to be his alignment for the foreseeable future, it'll make his interactions with Christian during the match all the more curious... because if Jericho's a full heel, this amounts to kind of chopping Christian off at the knees: Christian did the legwork over the past several months to set himself up as a "money opponent" for Cena, and now Jericho is inserted into the mix. Does management not trust Christian to carry his end of a main event level feud? Was management worried that Christian seemed to be getting a frightening amount of cheers by mocking Cena and felt like they needed a more purely-dickish heel in there to "protect" their precious wigger champion from getting booed? Or are there entirely other reasons for taking this tack with Jericho's character?

I'm not sure I have any answers to those questions, but I know they're questions that have bearing on the match... the disposition of Jericho's character, how you can keep Jericho heel without robbing Christian of his chance to move up the card, how the whole enterprise can be accomplished while playing to Cena's strengths and masking his weaknesses: important issues the all of them. But as I've explained already, issues that I honestly can't make heads or tails of at this point. Two titles among five men on RAW and a third title among six men on SD!... and with four more lottery picks and unlimited trading options over the next two weeks. That's some wide-open, crazy-ass shit: the mind races with a billion different possibilities ranging from the Very Lame to the Extremely Awesome. Which way will WWE go? I dunno, but I think we'll start figuring it out once this three-way WWE Title match is over.

Of note: WWE Triple Threat Rules mean that the title changes hands after the first pinfall/submission. Cena does not need to be involved in that decision to lose his title. 

The OOutlOOk
Cena wins: 6 votes   --|--  Jericho wins: 3 votes
Christian wins: 0 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Chris Jericho wins.
No, this is not smarky-ness (or fangirly-ness) talking. Jericho takes the title and gets drafted to Smackdown! No, stay with me on this. Cena and Christian have a verbal feud going back at least a month, and they can continue that on RAW and pretty much carry the show with it, and they don't need a belt in the mix for that to happen.

Second, you can't have Carlito's Cabana and the Highlight Reel on the same show. Besides, Smackdown! needs some top-level heels at the moment, and I'm beginning to suspect that JBL might turn himself face against Muhammad Hassan. How cool would Jericho/Benoit for the title be? Besides, it's only natural that Jericho be involved in a title unification match, and he'll have the opportunity to do that with the creation of the "Smackdown Title."

Third, if Batista does win his match like I've predicted, it makes it more likely that a heel is walking away with the WWE Title. And I'm sorry, people, but Christian isn't winning this one. I love the guy and would love to see him with a major title, but I don't see WWE letting that happen.

The match itself should be great, especially if Cena's having a good night. I'm looking forward to this one, especially since I'm fairly certain my main man Jericho is picking up the gold. And that spinning title belt is a perfect opportunity for him to resurrect the "King of Bling Bling" moniker.

Canadian Bulldog Says... John Cena wins.
This is another tough one to call. Virtually any three of these guys could come on top and its a win-win-win situation. But if I'm WWE, I'm going to continue pushing Cena to the moon. Here's the guy you build a franchise around - he's over, a great talker (when motivated) and tons of charisma to boot. Yes, he's not a tremendous worker, but either was Hogan. Deal with it.

I think (I hope) there will still be a time and a place for Christian to get his day with Cena; otherwise, WWE has wasted half a year for no apparent reason. This match is NOT the big payoff for that. Jericho as the third man is fine, and the fact that Jericho and Christian have a backstory works for me, too. But if you're keeping the WWE title on Raw, Cena should be your man for now.

The Cubs Fan Says... John Cena wins.
For all the promos he got to cut, and the reaction to
him in Canada, adding Jericho to this match showed a
remarkable lack of faith in Christian to be a suitable
challenger, and I think we've learned not to expect
him to be a top guy for foreseeable future. Cena wins,
to keep him strong for his next challenger.
Matt Hocking Says... John Cena wins.
Part of me wants to say Jericho.  He deserves it.  He could bring it to Smackdown if HHH doesn't want to move.  John Cena could stand to lose to Jericho and not anything.  Buuuuut, I don't think Jericho will get it.  He's just at the starting point of a heel turn, and if they're going to go all
out for it, they're going to have to give him time to develop his character.   He won't have that time with a title.  Besides, I don't think they'd give him a title run anyway, unless it was a condition of him resigning his contract.

Part of me wants to say Christian.  He's been better than just about anybody on the roster lately.  A move to Smackdown with the belt and a win over his semi-nemisis Cena would catapault him into the upper card and give him a
chance to sustain a great title run.  However, while I'm sure that we're ready for it, I'm not sure that a majority of fans are ready for Tian the world champion.  JBL showed us that the jump was certainly possible.  I don't think he's quite ready for it, and I'm sure the WWE doesn't either.

So we're left with Cena.  Still very VERY over, over enough to carry RAW, which is where he belongs, for now, I think.  Him retaining sets up a number of attractive feuds (including one on one feuds with both the other men in this match).  So, while I realize that you all aren't SCREAMING for another
two months of Cena as the WWE Champion, I think that's just what you'll get.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... John Cena wins.
No Comment.
Jeb Lund Says... Jericho wins.
Here was my original crackpot idea: Jericho wins this match, then immediately gets drafted to Smackdown. Then he unifies the WWE Title and the Smackdown Title and establishes his legacy as a title unifier and the first ever multiple-unified champion champion. Or something like that. Plus, think of all the great matches he could have with Benoit and Eddie. Or think if Triple H lost at this PPV and got traded to SD as well, then had to loiter in the upper midcard and lose to Jericho again and again and again.

Of course, I dismissed these speculations as crazy and stupid and immediately began rationalizing a John Cena title retention. But then I saw a post from Erin Anderson on the message board, and it turned out that she was having the same crazy ideas I was. And, by God, I'm one of those people who will proudly do a stupid thing if I'm not the only one doing it. Thus, despite that Erin and I have probably dropped about .120 points in our predictions average over the last two years because of our Jericho bias, I'm going with my — our — crazy idea. Jericho wins.
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Cena wins.
This is the one that baffles me the most now. If Batista is getting drafted, it's Cena and his monster push all the way. BUT... If there's a unification bout to be had, presumably you want a heel in there, and who better than the man who was the first "undisputed" champion?

I'm going to stick with the first scenario. I think we're going to be seing plenty of Cena v. HHH in the near future - and not to unify, fingers crossed.
PyroFalkon Says...  Jericho wins.
This pick is me being a little hopeful for the future, and not necessarily for what I think the WWE will do. John Cena has been on a roll lately (match-wise), able to win after getting his ass handed to him by everybody. So it stands to reason he’ll lose on Sunday.

That leaves Jericho and Christian for the belt… which one should get it? I want to say that Christian should and will get it, but I’m still not convinced that the WWE thinks he’s ready for it. Even if they are, I’d rather see Christian every day on the show I actually get to watch.

Basically, I think Jericho will win, then be shipped over to SmackDown! through drafts or trades or whatever. That way the WWE champ is back on SD, the Highlight Reel and the Cabana won’t have to exist on the same show, and I get to see Christian weekly. Besides, Jericho has Benoit over on SD, so the Canadian Chrisses can do some dancing while they establish other stars to go after the WWE belt.

And Cena? Well, so far he hasn’t annoyed me, and I like his new entrance theme… Perhaps he will shine on RAW as he chases Triple H for the World Title. 

Rick Scaia Says... John Cena wins.
OK, dammit. Cena's not my original pick here. But a combination of two things has convinced me to change my mind.

First: so yesterday, I get a friendly little e-mail from Erin saying, "Hey, I know you don't spoil SD! for yourself, so I thought I'd tell you to no do any working ahead on the PPV Preview until after you see the show, cuz something happens that will affect your picks in at least 2 of the matches." Which was helpful, except that for once, with the Forums Troubles, working ahead on the PPV Preview was something that did NOT happen this week... but it still made me watch SD! with a LOT more interest than I'd been intending to watch it, and after the show, Erin and I wound up chatting for a bit about the various implications of the show for the PPV. Which is great; except for the part where I end up seeing my own hand-crafted thoughts and phrases showing up in her predictions. It's especially pronounced in Erin's comments about this match... although maybe it's my own fault for helpfully trying to offer up good and real reasons for picking Jericho that weren't related to having a mind-clouding crush on Y2J. I just didn't think Erin would use ALL of them, and leave me with nothing to make MYSELF look good. But I shan't bitch about it; if anything, I'll doff my cap on the grounds that it's good to know Smart Broads recognize good wrestling analysis when they see it, and also devilishly know how to use their last name's Alphabetical Primacy to good effect in these PPV Preview (clever girl; but she's just damned lucky her dad is Arn Anderson and not Larry Zbyszko!).

But the other reason I'm willing to change my mind from a perfectly-well-reasoned prediction? I kinda got myself twisted around when explaining my HHH/Batista pick.... one of the two titles is gonna go back to SD!, I'm convinced of that. One HAS to, since "The SD! Title" has absolutely no cache to it; it's only being invented to be absorbed by one of the established titles. And although "title unification" is Jericho's sole domain, "self-booking oneself into self-aggrandizing accomplishments" is Triple H's. Maybe the chance to "unify" two titles is the carrot that has been magically created out of thin air to convince HHH that it's worth it to go to SD!? Or that HHH has himself created so that he'll go to SD!? I fear that I won't be able to clearly explain all these little subtle things bouncing around in my head, but I guess if I had to pluck one fairly-lame and indiscriminate reason out of my head, it might be simply this: the WWE Title going back to SD! would be expected and anticlimactic, but the World Title going over would catch fans by surprise. And so far, the Draft Lottery has definitely been more about surprises than the expected.

So I figure I'll hedge with this bet. What if HHH wins and goes to SD!? Then who's the guy out of these three who can "carry" RAW? Well, probably Cena. I figure by picking both HHH and Cena, I now canNOT get both title matches right... but I also think that I've guaranteed getting at least ONE right, which given how brain-bendingly complex this show seems to be is a moral victory. I mean: the one thing in Erin's explanation that was definitely one of her contributions to the "talking ourselves into picking Jericho" thing was the "the two belts will be held by one heel and one face at the end of the night," and I think that makes sense, ESPECIALLY if you assume one champ or the other is going to SD! and you don't want to telegraph the "SD! Title" winner. So I figure if HHH wins and makes me a loser in that match, at least that guarantees Cena wins this match; conversely, if Jericho/Christian win this one, that means I'll get points for Batista winning the main event.

There are some VERY good reasons for picking Cena, too: for one, his stupid-ass belt. They didn't customize that for him so he could hold it for 3 months and then lose it; Erin's observation about Jericho's "King of Bling Bling" nickname aside (although: hey, you don't see me suggesting that Jericho become the spiritual leader of Muhammad Hassan just because he's also the Ayatollah of Rock 'n' Rollah, do you?!?), the point of Cena's belt is that it is CENA'S BELT, and I don't think anybody else would really look right wearing it. Second: guys with merchandise on the market don't lose matches; usually it's well-selling books or DVDs, but in this case, Cena's got an album out and is also the ONLY WWE star I've seen on TV doing publicity for the PPV, so it seems like they've got a lot invested in Cena; maybe too much to have him lose. Third: Jericho's the guy out of these three who is most likely to jump to SD!, so Cena winning DOES still preserve a one-on-one feud with Christian as a RAW attraction, and with the WWE Title on the line.

And fourth (and most painfully-crippling): Jericho's contract is up in 4 months. Which it's a shame I didn't have the heart to bring up last night as Erin and I were tittering like schoolgirls over the prospects of OMG~! JERICHO vs. BENOIT TITLE UNIFICATION~! and whatnot. And I hate basing purely creative decisions on something as dorkishly smarky and backstagish as that, but there's a reason that Batista signed a long-term contract extension BEFORE WrestleMania 21, and not after. The whole charm of picking Jericho to win involved moving to SD! to unify titles... but do guys with contracts expiring who haven't already agreed to renewals get even ONE title, much less get to unify TWO? I fear not... 

And you know what I do fear?  Win or lose this match, I think Jericho *is* a mortal lock to get lotteried over to SD!. The "interview segment balancing" alone convinced me of that; Carlito and Jericho, ESPECIALLY now that both are heels, cannot be on the same show together (at least if they could feud with each other, that'd be one thing). And then, let's say Cena wins here and the WWE Title becomes RAW's top belt, but HHH wins and takes the World Title to SD!... even though this really WOULD be a great chance to finally break Jericho out of his funk and be involved in something meaningful (not just something ENTERTAINING, like the Love Rhombus, but IMPORTANT and conducted on the main event stage) by getting Jericho some new environs and new dance partners, he could end  up this deal WITHOUT a title belt, and once again stuck on the same show as Triple H. And worse: as a FELLOW HEEL of HHH's on the same show. Ouch. Way to make sure Jericho has nothing resembling negotiating leverage, I guess....

Anyway, I guess what all this flip-flopping and rationalizing does is proves that I was being honest when I said this match was the lynchpin to all the convoluted cross-brand, title-related theories that have been bouncing around in my head as we near the PPV. As much as it seemed totally reasonable to be talking myself into picking Jericho to win last night, I've had an inexplicable change of mood and now think that the safe play is to pick Cena. I'll get at least one of the two title matches right this way.

What really sucks is that I did this whole rambling exposition, and I never once mentioned the name of Christian. Till now. And really: this match wouldn't exist if not for his months of inspired promo work tangentially referencing SD!'s Wigger Champion. I'd love to be able to make a case for Christian winning here; but I honestly believe that the mere inclusion of Jericho in the match illustrates that WWE has no designs on going that way. Otherwise, Jericho wouldn't be here at all.

It's Jericho or Cena in this one, I think. Fifteen hours ago, nobody was more sure it'd be Jericho than I was. But now, I'm gonna go Cena. Considering how carefully I couched my Batista/HHH pick, I hope you can see how carefully intertwined I think the two matches and their outcomes are... and understand why it is that I'm hedging things the way I am. Hopefully, by over-explaining myself, I can still say enough to prove that I'm One Smart Son of a Gun, even if I end up getting my match predictions here wrong. This really is a singularly complicated situation: two titles on one show among five men (four of whom I honestly think COULD win), one title on another show among six men (three of whom I consider legitimate possible winners).... if ever there was a time to be a wavering, spineless pussy, this PPV (and these two matches, specifically) are it. 

But you wanna pin me down in my spinelessness? Let's say Cena pins Jericho, Jericho goes to SD! (since the Standard Operating Procedure seems to be jobbing somebody out before they jump brands; i.e. Angle to Booker, Carlito to Booker, Hassan to Cena), and Christian still has a one-on-one feud with Cena on RAW. Sure, why not?


InterContinental Title Match

The story here is short and sweet.

This past Monday on RAW, Carlito showed up as the latest lottery pick from SmackDown!. By order of Eric Bischoff (and with the approval of Fighting Champion Shelton Benjamin), Carlito received an InterContinental Title shot in his very first RAW match. With a little illegal leverage, Carlito managed to pin Shelton to take the IC Belt.

And thus, although these two have only been in the same ring that one time and don't have any long-drawn-out history with each other, the stipulated rematch was set for 6 days later on PPV. And is yet another of the reasons why I'm liking the prospects for Vengeance.

For one: I just like these two guys. That might kinda be one of the lucky things Vengeance has going for it: rather than having my handful of favorite wrestlers slogging through utter crap (like rendering Kurt Angle unwatchable with his dry-humping of Booker T's wife), the stars have aligned for my favorite wrestlers to get to work together under happier circumstances (like Kurt Angle getting to reprise hostilities with Shawn Michaels). In the case of this match: Shelton has spent the last 8 months becoming RAW's most bankable in-ring performer (even if he's still the WWE Version of AJ Styles in terms of reaching a comfort level when it comes to personality/promos), while Carlito has hit home run after home run from a character standpoint as one of SD!'s best natural talkers (even if a lengthy injury hiatus and a slew of mediocre opponents has meant that he's not really gotten to show off his in-ring chops). So again, it's two of my favorites pit against each other, and that seems to ensure that A Winner Is Me!

And if you got good taste in rasslin', a Winner Is You, too.

Using their match from Monday as a baseline, I think we can project this out to be a good 'un. I know it's fashionable to point at Shelton's nosedive as a reason why that match wasn't so good, but that was one missed spot in a 7-8 minute match. What ACTUALLY hurt that match is the fact that it was 7-8 minutes, and it wasn't the kind of 7-8 minute match that makes the most of its time. Instead, because of placement of an ad break and whatnot, Shelton and Carlito basically had a really good Final Three Minutes to their match, but hadn't gotten to set the stage properly.

I suspect that'll be rectified on the PPV, and they'll get something more along the lines of 12-15 minutes to tell their story right (and with no pesky commercial breaks to leech the momentum), and if it builds up to a Five Minute End Game as good as what they did on Monday? We'll all be loving it.

Should be interesting: Carlito's "gimmick" of winning secondary titles in his debut matches makes it entirely possible that (just like he did with the US Title on SD!) he'll just be dropping the belt back to Shelton... but that title loss was as much due to Carlito's injury as anything else, so who knows? What's important is that these two do hook it up for a quality match... for Shelton, it's just a matter of reminding us of how awesome he is in the ring (since at present, that's his defining characteristic), and for Carlito, this will be the VERY FIRST TIME EVER that he's in the ring with a talented opponent in an important TV match with a chance to show the world that he's got more than just the verbal ability.

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

Erin Anderson Says... Carlito Cool d. Shelton Benjamin.
This one, I'm not so sure about.

It was stupid of WWE to not spend time making a big deal over Shelton's title reign before sacrificing him at the altar of Carlito. That said, I don't see Carlito losing this belt anytime soon, so I'm not much of a fan of the "Shelton regains the belt" movement. I think Carlito retains through nefarious means and moves on to other things, while Shelton finally steps up and becomes at least a part-time main-event player. I hope. I pray. Maybe a heel turn is in the cards for him? I don't know if that would work with his crowd-pleasing style, but it would give him a good opportunity to flex his promo chops and improve on the mic. If Eddie Guerrero can do it, so can Shelton.

I don't know what to expect out of this match, either (considering I rarely watch Smackdown! and don't have a good idea of the quality of Carlito's ring work), but I hope Shelton gets his bearings about him. I suspect his misfire on that plancha this Monday was just a one-time fluke, and he'll be back to his usual "Holy shit, did you just see that?" self on Sunday. Even the best can have their off-nights, but Shelton should make this one pretty good.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Shelton Benjamin d. Carlito.
Why is this match happening? Yes, I watched Raw this week, but what I mean is: why did they already do the title switch, and then have a rematch six days later? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

The only rationale I can think of is that they're going to give Shelton his belt back (or at the very least, a DQ win), which might give Carlito a reason to think Shelton isn't cool, leading to a much-needed feud for Mr. Benjamin. That's the best I've got, anyways.

The Cubs Fan Says... Carlito Cool d. Shelton Benjamin.
Either Shelton's somehow going to SD! (though I doubt
he's the next draft pick) or he's getting a
long/strong feud with Carlito (which he needs; he's
really been lacking for one), but either way, he
doesn't get the title back just yet.
Matt Hocking Says... Carlito Cool d. Shelton Benajamin.
Why blow your load on Carlito if you're not going to do anything with him?  Of course that's been the WWE's MO with Carlito since he debuted on Smackdown, I think he'll get a decent reign with the I.C. Title first.  Shelton has great in-ring presence, but he lacks a strong personality, which was preventing him from setting the world on fire in the I.C. division.  I think that an extended feud with a guy like Carlito, with whom he can have good matches while getting plenty of time to duel on the mic with a genuine personality is exactly what Shelton needs at this point in his career.  The best way, I think to continue this feud is to have Shelton chase Carlito, have Carlito evenually drop it back to Shelton, and hopefully, by that point, he'll have improved his character enough that he'll be able to move on to challenge other guys without using their mic skills as a crutch.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Carlito Cool d. Shelton Benjamin.
No Comment.
Jeb Lund Says... Carlito Cool d. Shelton Benjamin.
I can see no reason to have Carlito lose the belt back to Shelton immediately.
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Carlito d. Shelton Benjamin.
Why hotshot the IC belt? It's been great the way it's been used to build Shelton (and Orton, but that's another ball of wax) up, so give Carlito the same treatment.
PyroFalkon Says...  Shelton d. Carlito.
I like Carlito. I never knew how much I liked him (since, again, I don’t get SD), but his Byte This! interviews were great, and he has this… natural charisma that shot a certain Rock to the top.

I think Carlito will walk out of Vengeance still holding the IC belt, but I think he’s going to lose the match. I see a DQ in Shelton’s favor, which will give him some reason to chase after Carlito for the next few weeks. Even if I’m wrong and Carlito wins, I doubt he’ll win cleanly.

Rick Scaia Says... Carlito Cool d. Shelton Benjamin.
This one? I dunno... after Monday, I kind of got it locked in my head that Shelton would just regain his title. But then at some point in the last two days I realized, "Hey, Scaia: Shelton regaining his title doesn't really make THAT much sense, you're just thinking that because you have Shelton on your Fantasy WWE Team this week." D'oh. That's true, you know.

So stopping to break this down a bit more logically, I realize that this is a total Pick 'Em. Either guy could win, good things could come of either outcome, and there's no real hints which way WWE intends to go. So it comes down to a simple question:

Was Carlito's win just a one-off thing to help solidify Shelton at the IC Title level (by having Shelton immediately regain the belt)? Or was Carlito's win the end of Shelton's life at the IC Title level and the start of something bigger?

There really isn't much more Shelton can do with the IC Title, so I start to lean away from the former. But then I assess the situation honestly, and I realize that Shelton might not be ready for the latter (I hate to keep harping on it, but the AJ Styles comparison really does hold water; in all the good ways AND in all the bad ones; and unlike TNA, WWE does have other performers who can expose Shelton's promo shortcomings). It gets sticky.

There's a lot of reasons why I'd like to see Shelton stick with the IC Title. One might be hoping against hope that Charlie Haas comes over from SD!.... because with Kurt on RAW, how fricking SWEET would it be to have Haas and Shelton on the same show under their old mentor? You could even do an angle where Haas is selected as Kurt's True Chosen One, establishing Haas' heel turn, giving Haas a mouthpiece (in Kurt) so that he doesn't have to cut his own promos until he gets more comfortable, and ultimately resulting in Shelton getting to have one set of matches against Haas (likely dropping the IC Title) and then "graduating" up to a feud against Kurt as a logical result. You want a road map to elevate Shelton, there's one right there... it just needs a bit more time with Shelton at the IC Level before you can play it out that way.

A second reason would be because the OTHER road map to Shelton's break-out feud would involve him not getting elevated until Triple H is again the champ. Because Shelton is HHH's kryptonite, and I loved their little mini-program last year and think that they could do that again, just with the World Title on the line to GREAT results. But as outlined above, this is not the time for HHH to once again be the champ on RAW, so that's not really something that I consider as an immediate possibility. And thus, part of me thinks Shelton should just keep being the best IC Champ he can be.

But then: Carlito stands to lose a TON if he just drops the title back immediately. Whereas the right cheap finish could both keep the belt on Carlito AND protect Shelton's reputation. So from a utilitarian point of view, Carlito should probalby retain here. And whether Shelton has to bide his time as an upper-mid-carder before one of the two previously mentioned possibilities opens (hell, even without the IC Title on the line, having Haas show up on RAW and align with Angle could be sweet; think about it: Haas and Angle form an alliance, and given the incredible Mutual Respect match that Shelton had with Michaels a month or so ago, how fricking easy would it be to set up an Angle/Haas vs. Michaels/Shelton feud which would then allow for them to do Angle/Shelton as a singles feud -- and also allow Haas the chance to show whether he's got it or not in singles matches against HBK -- somewhere down the line; godDAMMIT I love when this stuff writes itself like this! do NOT tell me you aren't sporting the metaphoric boner at the thought of Angle/Haas/Michaels/Shelton all together in one storyline!), he'd still be in good shape even after a loss to Carlito.

And I am, if nothing else, a noted Utilitarian. Pleasure Utils and felicific calculus for all! So let's just say Carlito wins, since it accomplishes the most good and does the least harm. As an added bonus: I think Carlito's win should come cheap and as a result of Matt Morgan showing up. Why? Two reasons: (1) I want pay-off on the vision I have of Morgan turning face on Carlito (and dammit, Morgan was really pretty funny and charismatic -- despite stuttering -- during his guest commentary gig last night on SD!), and (2) this would be a cool way to introduce the concept of TRADES in addition to draft picks. Bischoff sure seemed enthused about Carlito on Monday, so making a trade to placate his newest superstar is something that would fit storylines, and would also serve to remind fans that there is another mechanism here for changing brands. So Morgan shows up, helps Carlito keep the title, and then Shelton moves on to an Angle/Haas/Michaels/Himself feud without losing any of his momentum, and while getting to shine in the ring while hiding his lack of mic skills since HBK can do some of his talking for him (just like Angle could for Haas).

Yeah, I like that idea a lot. Which means it won't happen. Alas, my worst habit in the whole world is getting so wrapped up in "Rick Thinking" my way to all these great ideas, and then never having reality live up to my own schemes....  tis a heavy cross to bear.


Very Special "We Want Matt" Match

Blech. This is an odd one: because I do like Kane, and up until the Lita thing, I can't remember a time when Edge was more entertaining. And yet: blech. Maybe I like these guys too much to be able to stomach the crap that they're being asked to do by WWE? I know that, especially with Kane, I've long since moved past trying to appreciate his work in shitty storylines, and just gone straight to the pity for a guy who is one of WWE's most loyal and trouble free foot soldiers but never seems to be rewarded for his efforts.

Specifically in this case: they've fashioned an entire TV storyline out of Matt Hardy and Lita's real life break-up caused by Edge. OK, so that's an over-simplification and "it takes two to tango" and whatever, but I ain't here to get into that whole stupid 5-month-old drama at this point. If you know the whole story, good for you, but for the sake of this preview: Matt Hardy and Lita broke up and it's Edge's fault for sexing Lita up on the road while Matt was stuck at home rehabbing an injury.

Enter the WWE version of the tale, in which the TV Marriage of Kane and Lita was broken up because of Edge. In this version, it definitely took two to tango, as Lita has embraced the role of Wrestling's Biggest Whore Ever with enthusiasm, claiming that her husband's sexual incompetence is what drove her into the arms of a Real Man. Accompanying this are claims that she never loved Kane, that Kane never understood her, and a bunch of other things that fans are apparently supposed to interpret in such a way that makes Kane the surrogate for Matt Hardy. Jim Ross, on at least 2 occasions, has underscored this by performing all his announcing in a given Edge/Lita segment without once uttering the name "Kane," no doubt amusing himself by sending internet jackoffs the world over into fits of righteous indignation over what Edge and Lita have done to their "nameless" victim.

Some argue it's tasteless to do a TV storyline apparently designed to recall a real life break-up, and to rub salt in Matt Hardy's wounds. I call "bullshit" on that, since it's been 5 months since the initial drama went down, and if Matt Hardy's wounds haven't scabbed over by now to the point where he can endure a fake TV storyline, I have a hard time being sympathetic. Half the movies and TV shows out there have themes about having loved and then lost, and I can't imagine each one of them still bringing poor Matt Hardy to the brink of tears.

I argue that this storyline is a mistake for other reasons. First of all, I think it was done without much planning or forethought just because WWE got pissed at dealing with "You Screwed Matt" and "We Want Matt" chants directed at Lita (who was trying to be a babyface). The whole thing was actually in the process of blowing over for good when WWE suddenly sprang the Lita heel turn on us, and as a result, they've only added fuel to the "We Want Matt" fire.

Which leads to a second MAJOR problem: this storyline is booked so that Kane cannot possibly win. His character has been eviscerated once again, this time reduced to being a weepy little bitch delivering humiliating soliloquies about love and pain. Kane (quite predictably, if you ask me, which WWE's ass-hatted creative team didn't) got booed for a couple weeks before they toned down his wussiness. But then when they tried to build him back up? The extent of Kane's bad-assery was destroying floral arrangements and beating up an elderly priest. Thrilling. And it's because of crap like this that Matt Hardy is the most over babyface in this feud. Don't believe me: check the match on Sunday and if there's even ONE (1) chant for Kane, I'll digest an insect. Meantime, if you set the over/under on Matt Chants at 5, I'd probably have to take the Over.

And then there's Edge. Two months ago, he was red-hot and RAW's #2 heel, and people had been taking him seriously as a World Title Player since the New Year. Now, one crap-ass storyline later, and Edge is embroiled in soap opera bullshit and hasn't had an important wrestling match in over a month (a match, by the way, that he lost decisively to Batista). All that momentum is gone, all the goodwill and legitimacy that Edge spent the months since Taboo Tuesday building up has evaporated, all the matches and wins and compelling stories against Michaels and Benoit forgotten. He's not quite back to Square One, but coming out of this feud, there will have to be rehab work done before Edge can withdraw his "Money in the Bank" title shot and have fans take him seriously again.

Feuds that make it impossible for either man to win are just indefensible. Nobody comes out of this looking good. If Kane "wins" the match, he's supposed to because he's a monster; he gains nothing because really, his beef is with a girl and not so much with Edge the way the story's been told. Is the pay-off to this really just a chokeslam to Lita? I guess that'd be exactly in line with decimating flowers and priests, though. If Kane loses? Oh good lord, you don't even want to get me started on that. If Edge "wins," he'll do it via cheating or assistance from his lovely fiance, and it won't exactly be as convincing as his wins over Benoit or Michaels were when it comes to having title aspirations. And if Edge loses, well, that's probably kinda what fans expect, but it does absolutely nothing for maintaining Edge's legitimacy in the eyes of the fans.

And Lita? I could write a book on how her past 15 months of crap has really just torpedoed whatever passed for my interest in her character. Going back to when she was a babyface, but Trish was the one who seemed more likeable, the silly, Springer-ness of Lita's drama has been totally uncompelling. The illogic of it all never helped, either. Those are problems that have only been amplified since her heel turn. Already, we had Lita trying to win the love of Matt Hardy by sleeping with Kane (without the benefit of any birth control, either, which seems an odd choice for a woman who has since been revealed to be so promiscuous), which made no sense. And then, after being forcibly impregnated by Kane, she was forcibly married to him. And then, proving that borderline-rape can lead to true love, she began warming to Kane. Those feelings for Kane were amplified when Kane made it his goal to avenge the loss of their child by making Snitksy A Dead Man. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, Lita started acting creepy, and 2 weeks later turned on Kane to be with Edge. Attempts to create a rational timeline have mostly failed, and attempts to reconcile Lita's turn with her past have only opened up more logic holes. For instance: Lita now claims to have never wanted Kane's baby to begin with (false, since that is actually the one event that the couple bonded over) and is now GRATEFUL to Dr. Snitsky, Amateur Abortionist... so not only is Lita the kind of girl who'll spread wide for any guy with an unattended erection, she'll also develop a deep bond with the resulting Accident Baby, but then not give a shit when she has a miscarriage months later. How does this make any sense, dammit?

But I guess Lita's not SUPPOSED to make any sense here. As I've quipped a few times recently: she's being asked to play the biggest slut in history, and at least she's doing it with relish. I should probably just stop thinking and start chanting "Slut," right? Which is, by the way, a chant that you'll hear on Sunday. And you know what chant you WON'T hear: anything directed specifically at Edge. Again: WWE has masterfully woven a story in which, in so far as fans will care, they will NOT be caring about the two actual men having the match.

Genius. He said sarcastically.

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

Erin Anderson Says... Edge d. Kane.
This is another one I'm totally sure about, but if I stick with my "The guy who gets the last laugh on Monday loses on Sunday" logic, Edge should pick up the win here. Come on, this is Kane. He's not allowed to win PPV matches. That doesn't mean that Kane can't get some measure of revenge, though: he'll either get really violent and get himself disqualified, or go apeshit after the match and beat the hell out of both Edge and Lita.

Lita will probably get involved, and probably get chokeslammed for her troubles. It'll be some sweet, sweet vindication for Kane, and it will also give Edge and opportunity to sneak in a win with the Big Red Machine being distracted by the Biggest Slut Ever. This match will suck and be short. Kane will hopefully move on to a feud that involves as little of The Suck as possible.

Canadian Bulldog Says... Edge d. Kane.
The folks at Raw (with an indirect assist from Matt Hardy) have done a decent job with Project Edge this year. They need to keep on it, and a win over the perennial loser Kane seems like a natural to me.

Does Hardy show up at the end? I doubt it. For starters, the wedding was obviously the proper time for that. If they do have V1 one under contract (and if Vince McMahon has half a brain, they do), I would wait a few more weeks just to milk the anticipated return.

The Cubs Fan Says... Edge d. Kane.
Going against my better instincts by not picking Kane,
since that seems to be the even-ing up decision. Of
the two, I think Edge is the one they have interest in
doing something with, and this has been a long
pointless trip to pick up Lita as a valet if he
doesn't win the feud. (It's still kinda long and kinda
pointless.) BONUS PREDICTION: three to five weeks from
now, Edge uses the Money in the Bank Title Shot - to
face Cena.
Matt Hocking Says... Kane d. Edge.
I don't think it's quite time for the Great Edge Experiment to end, even though we're about a month into this diversion, Edge still has his "Insta-Main Event" money in the bank match to whip out and return himself to prominance whenever the WWE feels like it.  With that, Kane can't go around saying, "All right, now seriously, I'm going to go kick somebody's ass.  Any time now.  No.  Really.  Here I go.  Maybe after lunch."  Kane needs one good match to reestablish himself against semi-main eventers, and he can get it at any time.  So why not now?

I'll predict that Edge and Lita will constantly gain the upperhand on the lumbering monster, until they cockily make a mistake and Kane gets his
comeuppance.  Were you want to continue the feud, Edge and/or Lita could attack Kane after the match or Kane could not be able to get any sort of final vindication.  This MIGHT be a good chance to return Trish Stratus to help Kane get the victory.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Edge d. Kane.
No Comment.
Jeb Lund Says... Edge d. Kane.
1. Kane never wins these matches until the third or fourth time.
2. WWE probably thinks this is a real gem of a storyline that should be stretched out for months.
3. I think WWE will also protect Edge for a few months, so there can be no real reason to have Kane win.
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Edge d. Kane.
I suspect we'll have Edge win via nefarious means, then later on in the show Kane will once again ruin the attempt at an Edge-Lita ceremony. Oy.

Can I say something here? Look, even though I wrestle, I try not to take the TV shows too seriously. It's sports entertainment, and it's for the masses. But to take all these talented performers and shove them into this horror show of a storyline? I don't find that entertaining, and I have no reason to believe the masses do, either. And no amount of plunging necklines is going to change that.
PyroFalkon Says...  Edge d. Kane.
Hey look! The match I don’t give a fuck about!

…Um, Edge wins, because he’ll get help from The Whore, even as “You screwed Matt” and “Slut” and “Boring” chants echo in the halls of the Thomas and Mack Center or whatever it’s called.

Rick Scaia Says... Edge d. Kane.
I dunno. I also duncare.

Like I said above, this is one where it seems like every outcome is a "loss" for both men. So the winning and the losing here gets a bit sketchy.... and plus, I figure that this is a match where there's likely to be a "real winner" and a "moral victor.'

Short of Matt Hardy showing up from out of nowhere to attack Edge and get Kane DQ'ed, I figure it'll be something more along the lines of Lita getting involved. She'll distract Kane, but maybe get her Obligatory Chokeslam for her troubles, and then while the ref is rolling her carcass out of the ring, it's an easy "Money in the Bank" Briefcase shot to Kane's ugly noggin, and Edge steals the pinfall win. But hey, HE BEAT UP HIS EX-WIFE! Cheer for that man! Toss in a Zombie Sit-Up after the match, causing Edge to gather up Lita and get out of dodge, and the final image can still be Kane on his feet in the ring, while Lita is unconscious in her slimy husband's arms. Or something.

Sadly, this match doesn't deserve an iota of "Rick Think," and thus, it becomes very easy to just move into "WWE Think."

If you care, "Rick Think" would involve Kane beating Edge cleanly and decisively to (per Standard Operating Procedure) send Edge packing for SD!... leaving his (remember, the wedding was NOT completed!) NOT-wife alone on RAW with Kane. And then with Adam "Feces" Copeland safely transplanted to Thursday, Matt Hardy could return to RAW to play a part in that little storyline. What part? Tons of options, many of them interesting: he could come to the defense of Lita and re-turn her face. He could join Kane in wanting to eliminate Lita, thus forcing Lita (that magnificent slut) into the arms of another man (or three). He could do lots of things... and he wouldn't have to do them for a massive Internet Audience of 8,000 viewers a week on TNA Impact (Now exclusively available in Webcast Format!).

Just a thought. But I'm sticking with "WWE Think" here, which is giving Edge the Real Win and Kane the Moral Win. And ensuring fans are the losers on every imaginable front. Even if Lita has another one of those tops stored away for the occasion.


Very Special "In Memory of the Women's Division" Match

Trish: resting a sore back. Lita: injured and likely to be so again within 4 months of returnng to action. Molly, Gail, Jazz: not on the roster because WWE are a bunch of retards with a collective hard-on for useless, generic eye candy.

And so it has come to this: Victoria is the lone (healthy) woman on the roster possessing in-ring ability. And Spaz is... well, WWE's trying to get everything they can out of Spaz since they're paying her a quarter of a million dollars for this year, so they might as well make her earn it, right?

[Tangent: the scouting report on Spaz is that even if WWE is totally fucking her over by putting her in spots where she can't possibly look good, she really IS trying to work hard and improve so that someday, she'll be deserving of the in-ring push she's received... but my mind can't help but wonder: what happens in September when the Diva Search contract is up, and Spaz is asked to take a pay cut and be compensated at a level more commensurate with her ability and spot on the card? When she's asked to take "Molly Money" instead of "Upper-Mid-Card Male Wrestler Money"? Does her motivation to prove herself remain? Or does she go find another, less-taxing job? Like hosting late-night "Girls Gone Wild" knock-off infomercials?]

Anyway, if WWE is gonna perpetuate the women's division, these are the only two girls they got who can do it. So in its infinite wisdom, WWE figured they'd turn Victoria heel to set up the feud. Except that they forgot one little thing: that given a choice between Some Chick Who Looks Hot and Some Chick Who Looks Hot And Possesses Actual Talent And Ability, the vast majority of fans -- both male and female -- will side with the latter. So when Victoria turned "heel" by attacking the assembled roster of Useless Divas, fans cheered for her. Because we've seen Victoria have good matches and do fun promos and stuff. But all we've ever seen Spaz do is look pretty.

WWE tried to fix that a week later by having Spaz spaz out on Victoria in a mixed tag match. Spaz was so spazzy that she caused her team to get disqualified. In "WWE Think" this was supposed to give Spaz a "bad-ass edge," but really all it did was showcase Spaz's ability to throw lots of crappy punches while flipping her hair around with approximately one-third the expertise of Gail Kim (who, though I'm sure I'm the only one who noticed such things, was well on her way to using that pretty mane of hers to match Undertaker in terms of Best In-Ring Use Of Hair). Again: Spaz just isn't being put into spots where she can look good and win us over. The best place for Christy right now: would be training her ass off in OVW and limiting her TV appearances to promos/valet work and the periodic lingerie pillow fight. 

But if WWE insists on using her on in the ring to "get their money's worth," then Christy's PROPER gimmick should be a more believable one: that of a girl in over her head who is overmatched-but-plucky. They didn't go this route with her against Trish, opting to give her TV wins over Molly to "legitimize" her, and they're not going this route again. Spaz as a lovable loser who is trying really hard and might periodically get lucky would probably get cheers; Spaz as a real wrestler meant to be taken seriously? Not so much.

Sunday will probably be no different. It'll be on Victoria to find the right shtick so that she will be a heel who gets booed, because it wouldn't shock me if the instinct was for fans to just cheer the Actual Wrestler over the Useless Diva. This can be done, and Victoria's good enough to be able to do it. I just wish I could be so optimistic about a Good Match being feasible here. Because Victoria's good, but she's not Girl Benoit, and her powers of carrying others are limited.

We'll see, though. Because the one thing Spaz has going for her that she DIDN'T have at WM21 against Trish: she's been on the road working house shows 3 nights a week against Victoria for most of the past 3 months. Those repetitions are what she needs, and if nothing else, hopefully they've worked out enough bread-and-butter spots that they can nail on the PPV, and have them look good.

The OOutlOOk
Spaz wins: 6 votes   --|--  Victoria wins: 3 votes

Erin Anderson Says... Christy d. Victoria.
I know, I know. This is a case of me picking what I think WWE would do, and not what I would do. Victoria is awesome and all that, but Hemme is getting pushed, and WWE needs to do something to make the Diva Search look relevant and useful, and this is one way for them to do it. Maybe Victoria can go batshit crazy afterwards and beat the crap out of Christy again. Christy will try hard, and with Victoria as her opponent, this at least has the potential not to suck. It depends a lot on how much training Christy has gotten since WrestleMania (I hope she surprises us; I really do like the girl, and am more angry at WWE than anything else for putting her in a spot that she's not ready for), and how much practice these two have gotten working with each other. Impress me, Christy.
Canadian Bulldog Says... Victoria d. Christy.
What's the point? Victoria returns as the critically-acclaimed psycho heel, beats the snot out of Diva Chick. And then what? A feud with the newly-turned Trish? I guess so.... Hell, at least they'll have some decent matches together.
The Cubs Fan Says... Christy d. Victoria.
Christy's winning to pretend the 2005 Diva Search is
meaingful. No one buys it. Nice that, in a years time,
all they've come up for Christy is "she gets violent
when she's angry". $250,000 well spent.
Matt Hocking Says... Christy d. Victoria.
Why?  DIVA SEARCH 2005~!, baby!  Let's face it, neither girl is doing anything else, and while it might make lesser columnists indignant that a Playboy Playmate would get the win over beloved wrestling girl Victoria, it really doesn't make any never mind anyway.  Victoria dominates the match, but Christy gets her claws and sneaks in a win.  Then, on Monday she can give a heartfealt speech to the Diva hopefuls about how they, too, can have their great WWE moments like the one she had on Sunday.  Then they will all put their asses in a pie.  Victoria can get her win back later, if necessary, but the WWE needs to build up whatever good will they can for Last Year's Winner before the Diva Search starts.
Adam Gutschmidt Says... Christy d. Victoria.
No Comment.
Jeb Lund Says... Christy d. Victoria.
I don't care. So here's a haiku.

AMC Pacer's
Seats, Vicky and Christy: all
Covered with Vinyl
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Victoria d. Christy.
You know, Christy Hemme does have a certain something. But until "wrestling ability" is firmly established as being that something, you can't take your only active heel and bury her by losing to Hemme. You just can't. The best you can do is have Ms. Hemme "spaz" out and get DQed for failing to release the chokehold.
PyroFalkon Says...  Victoria d. Christy.
Yes, I have a reason to care about this one. For a very long time, Victoria’s been my favorite diva. Well, Gail Kim really is, but considering the character assassination the WWE did to her…

Well anyway, I’m picking more from my heart than my head here. Christy is undefeated in singles matches, I think, and the smart thing to do here would be give Victoria the win so the book is not closed on their feud. I’ve seldom known the WWE to do the smart thing though…

Even though my pick officially says Victoria, I have a suspicion that Christy will win, thereby letting another opportunity go past that the WWE could have made some use out of. Especially because Christy has gotten her ass kicked the last two weeks by Victoria, you just know she’ll get her revenge. All I hope for is that Victoria will make Christy look good, so the match isn’t a total train wreck.

I miss Gail Kim so very, very much. 

Rick Scaia Says... Christy d. Victoria.
Forty-something times in the last 3 months, Christy's beaten Victoria on house shows. I figure this is indicative of WWE's plans here with this PPV match.

The only thing I think that might happen differently: in order to allow Victoria to save face, I think Spaz will maybe not score the plucky pinfall victory... but instead, I'd have Victoria get herself DQ'ed for just going nuts on Spaz with a steel chair or something. They already tried the "Christy Hemme: Legit Wrestler" thing by giving her wins over Molly, and that didn't work... so I figure the other way they can give her wins without making it seem so fake is to have Victoria, whose character already has psycho leanings, do something ultraviolent here. Anything else? Would be retarded and yet another bullet in the already-lifeless carcass of the women's division. Once Trish is back, a still-relevant Victoria will be a nice thing to have, so let's not do anything stupid, here, OK? Spaz can win, but it's gotta come by DQ after getting her ass handed to her.

Only problem with my little theory: if Victoria decimates Spaz with a chair, fans will cheer for her. Which isn't what WWE wants. But I'll stick to my guns here. Christy d. Victoria, preferably via DQ and not hokey pinfall. The ONLY way Spaz should get a pinfall win is if ALL EIGHT of the new useless Diva Search Girls comes to the ring to help her. Victoria's proven she can kick the ass of 5-6 of them at once, but all 8? Even Victoria would have trouble with that... but again: the fans would boo the hell out of the diva search chicks if they did that, and it's not like they aren't already up against insurmountible odds when it comes to winning fans over... so... I dunno... I just thinking out loud here and only coming up with ideas that *I* would like, instead of ones that are actually feasible....



WWE has only announced six matches for Sunday night... but you know us here at OO: we're not content to rest on our laurels and stick to what's been announced. We're here to take a stab at what other Bonus Items we might get at the PPV, and also to take a Theoretical Overview of the show as a whole before we let you fine folks go.

Here's our crew's final overview on Vengeance....

The OOutlOOk

Erin Anderson Says... Just when you think you know the answers, WWE changes the questions.
You know, I had pretty much decided on my main picks for this show. Then I read the Smackdown! spoilers, and discovered that the Thursday night show is getting its own title belt. What the hell?

This changes everything, and does so by making it all more complicated. Before, it was a given that one of the two champions on RAW would end up on Smackdown! by the end of the Draft Lottery. Now, I'm not so sure. I mean, it would make sense for one of the old titles to go back to SD and preserve the tradition and history of the belts, but since when has WWE done anything in the best interest of the "lesser" of the two brands? A title unification is a big deal, so it makes sense that WWE would want that to happen on its flagship show.

Will there be two belts on RAW or SD! by the end of the Draft Lottery? Is Cena going back to SD! like everyone assumed when he first jumped, and if so, will he still be the champion? Is Jericho going to continue his momentum and end up with the belt? And hell, in WWE Think, the "right man" to unify two title belts is probably Triple H. Because of this whole mess, I'm not 100% sure on either of my title match picks. Damn you, WWE! On the plus side, this is the first PPV in a while that I've gone into without having a clear idea of how anything will turn out. It's nice to have that element of surprise back, but there's also an undercurrent of worry: it will be very easy for WWE to fuck everything up. A few other things:

  • Batista and Trips will both need blood transfusions and many, many stitches by the time their match is over.

  • Chris Masters will show up and bore the shit out of me. It'll probably happen after Angle/Michaels to cool down the crowd and let everyone get in a piss break before the main event.

  • The Diva Search idiots will show up and bore the shit out of me.

  • Viscera and Lillian will show up and bore the shit out of me.

So yeah, I'm looking forward to most of the matches. The fluffery? Not so much.

Canadian Bulldog Says... The Forecast is Partly Sunny with a 20% Chance of Matt Hardy.
Well, I won't be watching Vengeance, the first time I've missed a Raw PPV in... well, the first Raw PPV I've ever missed, I guess. It's not for lack of interest (hell, I paid to see Armageddon last year, so obviously I'm not too picky); I'm going to be on a plane after a week of fun and adventure in New York City. The trade off is that I miss a decent PPV. Oh well...

Instead of guessing the backstage vignettes (although I'll wager that Tajiri vs. Chris Masters is YOUR Sunday Night Heat main event), I thought I'd instead try to predict how the events of this PPV and the rest of the draft may play out for the next big show, SummerSlam. Based on what I've predicted here, I'm thinking:

WWE Title - John Cena Vs. Christian

World Title - Triple H Vs. Big Show

Edge Vs. Matt Hardy

Batista Vs. Kurt Angle

Chris Benoit Vs. JBL

The Undertaker Vs. Randy Orton

Trish Stratus Vs. Victoria

Plus you still have Jericho, Hassan, Booker, Eddie, Rey and a handful of other big names to figure in there. Maybe I'm a little bit off (and with four more draft picks, who knows for sure?), but I think that would make for a decent show.

The Cubs Fan Says... There's a difference between "good on paper" and being worth $35.
As probably good some of the matches are going to be,
I don't feel as interested into it as some of the
previous, less well regarded shows. Like those before,
I had no plans on purchasing the show at any point, so
maybe the match quality aspect is muted for me, but
this show doesn't speak to me as one where things are
going to happen. There's a lot of feuds climaxing, but
I've already stopped caring. Two feuds (HiTC,
Shawn/Kurt) who are less interesting than their
previous encounters, two feuds I never cared much
about (Christy/Victoria, Edge/Kane), one announced
quickie PPV match (Carlito/Shelton - with one or two
to come) and one which seems like WWE screwed it up by
trying to make it 'bigger' (Cena/Christian/Jericho.) I
know it's going to be good, I just can't be bothered
to care.

Maybe it's an ECW One Night Stand hangover; this show
has the ability to be have two great matches and two
good ones, which is more than ONS did, but ONS gave me
characters I care about. Outside maybe the IC match,
and maybe Christian, I'm not sure there's any of that
here for me; and even if Christian wins, it's just
Christian winning yet another secondary title. (The
way they've done things, the only one who seems to
think the WWE Champion and World Champion should want
to fight to be the best is Jericho, and only Jericho
half cares. I guess they're waiting till just before
Batista jumps to promise and fail to deliver.)

RAW's not doing much for me right now, so neither is
this show. Maybe things will get better after the last
jump and the trades, but I'm not holding my breath.
Matt Hocking Says... Quit Yer Bitching!
As much as people complain, the WWE's been on a heck of a PPV streak of late.  Forget about Backlash (which was kind of neat for the Hogan return) and No Way Out, and every one of Royal Rumble, WrestlMania, Judgment Day and One Night Stand were good to great events.  Now we have this one, which has suffered from lackluster promotion and build (likely because everybody's been distracted by the draft), the card itself is absolutely STACKED.  A Hell in a Cell, a World Title match with Chris Jericho and Christian, Angle/Michaels 2 and a Carltio/Benjamin match that has a chance to be very, very good and you have an extremely impressive top five matches, which alone is probably worth the price of admission.  That's basically the only reason
the WWE's stacked the roster like it is.  And it's working on me.  I'm intregued.  The card was impossible for me to pick because I kept second guessing myself about what happens if one guy or the other isn't on RAW next week, how does that change my pick?  A bit of mystery might be just the
thing the WWE needs right now,  This card will go a long way in determining what kind of shape they'll be like by the time RAW moves back over to USA.  They've built a supercard in two weeks, now can they deliver?

Extra Stuff!

-  Chris Masters will spend 15 minutes offering up a "gamble" a couple thousand dollars to anybody in the building who can break out of his full nelson.  Somebody stupid will answer.  Like...I don't know...Tajiri. 

-  On Heat, they'll  have Huricane and Rosey v. La Resistance, in what will probably be La Res' last match as a tag team.

-  Lillian and Viscera will visit a buffet.  Lillian will feed him a ham.  Thus Viscera "gets lucky".

-  The Diva Search finalists will be trotted out in bikinis.  They will look nervous and out of place.  Coach will make innuendo.

-  I will be the one guy to predict that Matt Hardy will fly cross country and appear at the show. 

-  While I'm at it, I'll also say that Sandman and Sabu will debut.

- And pigs will fly.

Adam Gutschmidt Says...
No Comment.
Jeb Lund Says... 
Picks forthcoming. Maybe.
"The Immolator" Calum Macbeth Says... Hot Lesbian Action~!
What happens in Vegas, gets broadcast nationwide

I am begging Ms. Garcia to do the right thing and turn heel on Viscera. Wear whatever you need to wear to lure him into your den of evil - it's OK, I won't peek - and BOOM!, drop an engine block on his testes or something. Then reveal your true love: Trish Stratus. Hell, if you're not going to have a women's division, may as well go all the way into ECW land instead. You could recreate those great Trish Straus-Stacey Lynn "Dream Team" calendars and make Biggus Buckus.

Oh, and Diva Search stuff will happen. Big ups to the non-promo-getting duo.
PyroFalkon Says...  Hot ANTI-Lesbian Action~?
I won’t be getting this one, but I’ll be paying attention to the results and recaps. And not just because I’m trying to get back to over .700 for my predictions for the year. Although, looking at my six picks, two seem like they’re throwaways and one seems totally uncertain.

Anywho… I think Trish Stratus will make her return, but it’s not going to be in any semblance of an intelligent way. The true women’s division has no babyfaces at the moment (Victoria, Lita, and Trish are all technically heels), and considering how fans are reacting to her, it wouldn’t be proper for Trish to come back as a heel.

What I think is going to happen is that, while Viscera and Lillian are getting a shotgun wedding or whatever, Trish is going to come along and beat the shit out of one or both of them. This will get her cheers, because it will be interrupting the suck. Then we can have a stupid and pointless match between Trish and Lillian, so the WWE can continue to artificially expand the women’s division to distract the idiots of their audience from the fact that there’s still only three women in it.

That was a long run-on sentence… and I think that’s all I’ve got. All I hope is that Chris Masters doesn’t appear to bore the shit out of the audience, and that the WWE gets its pacing issues fixed for the PPV.
Big Danny T Says... Edge wins.
Rick Scaia Says... I can't believe I made it this far without a lot more gambling metaphors.
Ugh... as tends to be the case, I get to this final box, and I'm out of gas. All the match previews, and then having to do the more opinionated predictions after that? It's enough to take the starch out of any man.

Hell, I set out to fill this document up with all kinds of poker and gambling references, but I think I got exactly one ante/Big Blind joke in, and one Over/Under mention... I've run out of Funny, people. So I won't overstay my welcome.

One easy call: there will be Viscera/Lillian skits, and they will suck. They practically guaranteed that on Monday's RAW. Why WWE can't just take a message and cut bait on Sexy Vis is beyond me... but if they wanted to, how sweet would it be if... GODDAMMIT, "Macbeth" come before "Scaia" alphabetically, too! Well, I left the lesbian overtones out of it, but I did have a vision of Lillian kind of baiting Vis along so that he would get his comeuppance from Trish. Lillian's little speech on Monday *was* deliciously vague with regards to exactly what Big Vis might have coming to him. I honestly don't think Trish needs a girlfriend to be over than she needs a boyfriend (which AGAIN is why she needs to stay way the hell away from Edge/Kane since there is no reason she should have anything to do with Kane after their past), but if she briefly enlisted the help of Lillian to help get revenge on Viscera? That'd be pretty awesome... and it would also spell the complete and utter end of Sexy Vis, since he'd no longer be able to be posturing as a babyface after Trish one-upped him and after he'd be led down the primrose path by Lillian (whose own character would benefit massively by being strong enough to plot AGAINST Vis for kidnapping and abducting her, instead of being just another Dumb WWE Bimbo who is seduced and made horny by such things).

Of course: because this would be fun and satisfying television, it will not happen.

Also: with only six matches, WWE probably needs some late show filler to rest the crowd between big contests. I expect Chris Masters to supply one of these. The guy was absent from RAW this week, but he won't stay that way. Whether he's here for a full Full Nelson Challenge or just to interrupt some Useless Divas with his disturbingly not-handsome mug again (as he did at Backlash), I can't say. I just know enough to tremble in terror that Masters will be showing up to suck out loud on the PPV stage.

But also also: despite there only being six matches, three of them are pretty well guaranteed to last 25 minutes or more. And two others should be in the 15 minute range. So I don't think you need a WHOLE lot of filler. I guess you could sneak in a tag title match, but if that happens, I'd wager it lands on Heat.

Other than that, I'll just close by again saying that this might be a frustrating show to predict, with a lot of uncertainty and waffling... but I think that makes for about as interesting a brand-only PPV as WWE has put on in a while. Even if it's not truly a brand-only PPV. But you know what I mean. Even if the draft lottery means that this is a stacked "joint production" in execution, the marquee still reads "RAW presents...". But I'm thinking this should be a good one, no matter what the underlying reason. 


There you have it.... the only Vengeance PPV Preview you need to read! If we've done our jobs, maybe you'll be inspired to check out the show on Sunday night.

And if not, well, OO will have you covered with full results posted at some point around midnight (eastern time) on Sunday, with additional analysis and fall-out to be posted on Monday. So enjoy your weekend, enjoy the show, and I'll see you then, folks! Later on....

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PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28



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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