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Off on the (mostly) Right Foot! 
January 4, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


RAW launched 2005 with some of the most heinous gaffes in recent memory (a major pyro mistake, and then also a sloppy-ass Shelton/Grenier match that had more wrong with it than right)... 
But in the grand scheme, those screw-ups were not integral to the show. And on the Important Stuff, I think RAW largely got the year off to a pretty amazing start.  You had a trio of very good wrestling matches centered on the six Elimination Chamber participants (including one that might count as Batista's first-ever good singles match).

And you also had some other very good stuff in terms of Batista's character development and dynamic with Triple H which I'm starting to think will carry the Chamber *way* more than HHH's alleged "red hot" feud with Randy Orton will.

And the "Great Debate" wasn't very good, but thank Allah it didn't suck as badly as I'd envisioned.  So let's call it a good start to 2005! And also: Let's cut the chatter and get to the recappening!

Video Package: Last week, the six Elimination Chamberers had to Beat the Clock...  usually, I'll gloss over video packages, but I'd just like to point out this was a good one that really told the story of last week very clearly and in about 2 minutes flat. I honestly don't know if credit goes to WWE production or to Batista, cuz sure the monkeys in the truck did a nice job, but the thing that slapped *me* in the face was how many hand-crafted, ready-made "moments" Batista handed them to work with. A soundbite here, a big-ass spinebuster there, a subtle look of confidence in a third place.  Christ, I even like HIGHLIGHT PACKAGES of Batista better than I like 'em from Orton....

Cold Open: yet another week, yet another saving money on pyro, I guess, cuz we go straight to a shot of Eric Bischoff backstage holding the World Heavyweight Title. He says last week, the six challengers to said title got to beat the clock... but tonight, they'll get to beat each other in a series of three singles matches. Batista vs. Benoit, Edge vs. Jericho, and then Triple H vs. Randy Orton!  Hey, it's like WrestleMania's come early! But no time to dawdle and fawn over Bischoff's match-making!  We snap cut directly to the arena for.....

Batista vs. Chris Benoit

Batista's out first to a nice, loud mixed reaction; sadly, he's back to pointing the toe and hitting those sissyboy bodybuilder poses. Trust me, Big Man, with the exception of the 0.5% segment of the audience that might actually be sissyboy bodybuilders, we ALL already think you look mighty impressive; the poses, they add nothing. Except an excuse for jerks like me to make fun of how silly you look. Benoit's out second to a nice loud 95% face pop.

Basic back-and-forth stuff to start: Batista with some clubbering, then Benoit with some chopping.  After a rope break, the ref herds Benoit back to the middle of the ring, but Batista decides to turn around and remove a turnbuckle pad. And *another* way Batista trumps Orton: in pitched battle against the crafty turnbuckle pads, Batista win in less than 10 seconds, instead of fumbling for a minute and a half!  But sadly, as quick as Batista removed the pad, Benoit was back on the prowl, and came up behind him and hit the Hat Trick Of German Suplexes.  Benoit thought he'd hit the Swandive Headbutt, but Batista rolled out of the ring.  Benoit followed him out, and they brawled outside for a bit, Batista regained the edge by tossing Benoit into the barrier, and hurled him back in the ring. After another exchange, Benoit thought he'd regained the advantage enough to try a top rope move, but Batista caught him and in a SUPER cool move, actually plucked Benoit off the top rope into a HUGE Fisherman's Suplex (almost a Fisherman's Buster).  Only good for a two count, so Batista decided to bust out a submission hold (note: an ACTUALLY SUBMISSION HOLD, and NOT a rest hold), which was a nasty looking Half Crab (modified for Extra Pain, including wrenching back so far on it that Batista could kneel on Benoit's head; beats the hell out of Chinlock #8386, eh?).  Benoit wouldn't tap out, so Batista grabbed his arm and MADE him tap out. Not legal, but funny.  [NYC crowd is warming up to Batista by this point, and actually DOES start an audible "You Tapped Out" chant at poor Benoit.]

Benoit manages to escape the hold, and begins his fire up, culminating with an enzuigiri. Benoit went on his tear, including hitting the Swandive Headbutt; but only for a 2 count.  Benoit hit a few more moves, but Batista staged a mini rally, and made the mistake of going for his second spinebuster of the match (he'd nailed one earlier, but on the second try, Benoit had it scouted); Benoit wiggled out and IMMEDIATELY into the Crippler Crossface.  I immediately had a vision for how I thought the match should end, but I wasn't sure Batista could pull it off... but just as I started doubting the Big Man, he does it: in a single fluid motion, Batista basically goes from the mat to standing up straight with Benoit still wrenching the Crossface while clinging to Batista's back.  Wow.  And then Batista went away from my envisioned gameplan; no simple Samoan Drop for Benoit, oh no... instead, Batista hauls Benoit over to the exposed turnbuckle, uses his body to block off the ref's view, and then just pounds Benoit's head into the buckle until Benoit lets go and drops to the mat.  Big pop for Batista at this point, who actually does pander to the crowd a bit with some yelling and posing (and, for the second week in a row, some mighty foul language when he sees Benoit regaining his feet).  But basically, all Benoit did was stumble his way directly into Batista's grasp.  A rude sit-out powerbomb later, and Batista is your pinfall winner.

Probably brushing up against 10 minutes. And you know that thing I kept harping on in my Awards about how we need to temper our praise for Batista since he'd never wrestled even one good singles match? Well, in my face.  Here's #1.  Definitely a good one; not PPV caliber, but a step in the right direction, and a sign of some of the things Batista can do (fisherman's suplex, that cool half-crab, the power-out at the end) to make his matches fun to watch.


Backstage: Ric Flair is MEGA-STOKED~! about Batista's performance and win over Benoit (NOT mentioned is that Batista just did something HHH never has; DAMMIT~! But well, I guess it's Batista who's turning, not Flair, so OK....). Ric is regaling Triple H with how awesome Batista is and how great it is to have a guy like Batista on their team. You can tell HHH isn't necessarily so sure about that anymore, but Flair runs the game plan, which involves HHH surviving the Elimination Chamber until Batista is released, and then the two of them together will take care of everything, and the title goes back around HHH's waist. Just as Flair says this, Batista walks in...  so HHH asks him, "So I can count on you?" And Batista assures HHH that he is, in fact, to be counted on...  just like Batista knows *he* can count on Trips. HHH gives kind of a "Huh?"...  And Batista explanations a bit: he knows he can count on HHH to pay up the $100 he owes Batista.  You know, from that bet last week.  HHH is not happy, but eventually tells Flair to pay the Big Man $100.  But Batista doesn't want it that way: Flair didn't make the bet, HHH did.  Batista wants *HHH's* money.  Now HHH is really pissed, but he knows he has no choice.  He reaches into his bag and pulls out a crisp bill, and proffers it up to Batista.  But instead of taking it, Batista just chuckles and says, "Lighten up, Trips. You really gotta get a sense of humor; I'm just joshing you, boss, I don't really want your hundred bucks." And then Batista leaves, while HHH looks completely flummoxed.  You know, I'm LOVING this dynamic; it's more of Batista's Reasonable Man Behavior, like he's confident that he kicks mucho ass, like maybe he doesn't have to play second fiddle to any man, but also like it's not worth the hassle to make an enemy out of HHH, at least, not yet. So he continues to be the loyal foot soldier, albeit one copping a mild attitude; and at the same time, HHH kinda realizes that he might not like Batista's insubordination, but as long as Batista just keeps brushing up against the line, instead of going over it, it's probably best to not make an enemy out of Batista.  Does all that make sense? Cuz even if I'm not explaining it perfectly, it really is a thing of beauty, and both Batista and HHH are executing their parts excellently.

Video Package: Snitsky Pillmanized Kane at Taboo Tuesday, Kane has not been seen since, but will return at Sunday's PPV to face Snitsky one-on-one.

A Very Special Interview: Maria the Mic-Stand has drawn Snitsky Duty tonight. And luckily, although she's doing this god-awful job of "acting scared," she manages to blurt out her basic question about how Snitsky feels about facing Kane.  Leaving Snitsky to talk about how he can't even believe Kane would come back, and yadda yadda yadda, lots of big talk, culminating in a boast about how Snitksy has a surprise for Kane later tonight, but that Kane brought it on himself, and so therefore whatever happens tonight isn't Snitsky's fault. Whee!  I'm assuming the fact that Snitsky never got "It's Not My Fault" on a t-shirt means that basically Sunday will be the night he is made into a Dead Man. And other than that, the other thing I want to point out about this interview is just how much Maria annoys me; we already know that she seemingly can't speak the English Language, but I never even really enjoyed looking at her, either, and I couldn't put my finger on why such a stacked babe would give me the gripes. Until tonight.  Because tonight I realized that the woman has no eyebrows; you can actually see where her real eyebrows go, but then a half-inch above that, she's penciled in her "pretty eyebrows," except the net effect is that it makes her eyeholes look really large, almost alien. And if you don't share my opinion that this is vaguely off-putting, then I invite you to contemplate what it might be like to wake up next to Maria; I've long championed the concept of "tomorrow morning hot" above all else, and I gotta think that a girl who needs 10 minutes with a Sharpie before she possesses eyebrows might be "tomorrow morning not." And kinda scary, actually.  I honestly didn't think the fake eyebrow thing was still in circulation outside of insecure women of my mom's generation, and the less-attractive, most-surgically-enhanced elements of the porn industry. I mean, sure, pluck, trim, shape, do whatever you gotta do, but... well, let's just say WWE let the camera get a little too close as they had Maria selling her "fear." And let it drop, since this is CLEARLY my Most Pointless Ramble of 2005 to date!

Elsewhere Backstage: Edge is complaining to Eric Bischoff about something or other.  "Why'd you do it, Eric?" is Edge's question. Bischoff thinks Edge means tonight's Edge/Jericho match, and explains that he thinks it'll be a mighty fine wrestling contest that fans will enjoy. But Edge has no problem with the match, he's looking forward to it, actually. Instead, Edge does an excellent job explaining how he means "How could you name Shawn Michaels as the special ref of the Chamber match?"  Because Edge knows he dicked Michaels out of the World Title, and he doesn't think Michaels will give him a fair shake. Settle down, Edge!  Michaels has found The Jesus, and I'm sure he'll gladly turn the other cheek!  Or maybe not....  in any case, Bischoff retorts to Edge's concerns by explaining that it's all about revenue. Edge's attack on HBK cost Michaels 6 weeks of action, and cost RAW 6 weeks worth of revenue from Michaels' appearances.  So "fair to Edge" be damned, Bischoff will try to recoup that revenue by adding yet another exciting element to the Elimination Chamber in the form of guest ref Shawn Michaels. So Edge better deal with it, and get ready for his opponent, cuz their match is coming up right after these....


Edge vs. Chris Jericho

Jericho's out VERY fast, including a new twist for him: an attempted bow-and-arrow submission (two matches, two guys going for holds significantly more fun than chinlocks!).  No go on that, though, and after some basic back-and-forth, the match spills outside for some brawling.  And apparently somebody got that memo about how The Rick gets kind of annoyed by being able to spot Ad Breaks coming down main street, cuz after some quick brawling outside, they just did this double clothesline spot out of NOWHERE, and with both men down, we immediately kicked it to some....


Back, and Edge is somehow in control.  [A replay shows that Edge beat Jericho back into the ring, and when Jericho tried to get in, Edge baseball slid him to take control.]  Edge spends a 2 or 3 minutes working the arm and shoulder with a few relatively-convincing submissions. But Jericho started his fire-up, got separation, and went on the offensive (after a shoulder block, Jericho remembered to sell his bad shoulder, but JR missed the call), and eventually hit the bulldog and tried for the Lionsault, but Edge rolled out. After another spot or two, Jericho hit his Ghetto Blaster (running enzuigiri). Jericho showboated too long, though, and when he tried to follow up with the Bossman Straddle, Edge was playing possum, and came back at Jericho with a Big Boot to the face.  Two count only, but from here, it was clearly End Game, and the match shot into another gear, with lots of trading near falls and stuff. Very nice.  Finish was Edge setting Jericho up for the Spear after Jericho whiffed on a Steamboat Crossbody Block... but Jericho leap-frogged the Spear, and tried to turn it into a Victory Roll. But before Jericho could roll it through, Edge dropped forward into a pinning combination of his own. And then Edge grabbed the ropes for illegal leverage and got the cheap pinfall win.  Probably another one right around 10 minutes, and although the pre-commercial part was really short (like 90 seconds), the pace REALLY picked up by the end and the final 2-3 minutes were outstanding. Lotsa fun.

Backstage: Coach has an interview... with Young Randall Orton. Coach lobs up some softball about getting to face HHH tonight, and Orton VERY methodically explains that he's going to do to HHH what HHH did to Orton (take everything that matters away from him), including winning HHH's World Title on Sunday. And starting tonight by (slowing down even more, and actually turning to look at the camera, instead of doing that weird stare-into-the-distance thing) "beating you 1.... 2.... 3.... with the.... R..... V...... D."  Ah, SHIT, I mean "RKO."  But you got the idea. Again, Orton comes off as kind of begging for the "chant along with me" thing, and I don't like that. Something else I didn't like: the stultifying boringness of this promo. It literally added nothing to the show, nor to Orton's character; I mean, I guess he was trying to convey "intensity" with his delivery, but what it conveyed to me was "speaking very slowly and carefully and sticking to easy material so as not to fuck up any lines this week."


Shelton Benjamin vs. Sylvain Grenier (Non-Title Match)

Maven comes out as the match starts to do guest commentary. And is pretty much the only useful part of this entire match. Shelton and Grenier NEVER got on the same page, match-wise, but that's OK, cuz we're all supposed to be paying attention to Maven, who is talking about how he pinned Shelton in a tag match 2 weeks ago, and wants to challenge him for the IC Title, but Shelton won't respond to the challenge.  Maven insists that if Shelton's a man, he'll accept the challenge and they'll face off on PPV... in the ring, Grenier's stumbling through some offense, and after hitting some move on Shelton and only getting a two count, for some reason that I can't figure out, he turns around and starts talking to Rob Conway, which gives Shelton his opening to make the mega-quick comeback. Shelton hits that leg-whip thingie that's a Sometimes Finisher and covers...  and the sloppiness of the match continues as Grenier didn't bother to kick out, but the ref still stopped at 2.  D'oh. So Shelton just said "fuck this," picked up Grenier's carcass, hit the T-Bone Powerslam, pinned him again, and this time, the ref made it all the way up to three.  Maybe 4 minutes, and as a match, the less said, the better, but I guess it'll set up another PPV match (given the way they needed to use Shelton last week, I guess this is about as effective a way to set up the match as exists).

Video Package: all about the Elimination Chamber's history. Thank god for those extra few minutes of Time Shifting....


The Not-So-Great-But-Also-Not-As-Awful-As-It-Could-Have-Been Debate

The ring is set up with nice podiums, and with Moderator Tough Questions Todd Grisham. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are already in the ring, and then Grisham introduces the opposition, going so far as to make sure he prefaces by saying "Hailing from Michigan, Mohammed Hassan and Khosrow Daivari."  Hailing from Michigan, eh? I kinda picked up on that, assuming that it'd come into play later. But no dice.

First question is to the Ay-rabs. "Have you been unfairly persecuted since 9/11?" Before Hassan can even speak, there's a "USA, USA" chant, and I'm BEGGING Hassan to just turn to the crowd IMMEDIATELY and ask those jerks, "Hey, dummies, when did Michigan secede from the Union?"... instead, he does the Lame And Expected Heel Shtick of acting annoyed by the chant. When he gets to his answer, he says that of course he's being unfairly persecuted, but goes further: he says the persecution existed before 9/11, but that the national tragedy just gave Americans an excuse to be overt about the persecution, instead of having to feel vaguely guilty about it and keep it on the down-low. He says the way Americans are behaving today is disgusting and America deserves to be the most hated nation on the planet.

Lawler's rebuttal: there are racists in America, just like there are racists in any nation, and if Hassan wants to speak out against idiots, Lawler has no problem with that. But just when Lawler was almost making sense, he goes off on some tangent that had NOTHING to do with anything about the troops and how you have to support them. I believe if I were ever on a debate team, I'd be able to tell you that was some cheap rhetorical tactic like "pandering," by introducing some non sequitur to the debate... but Jerry gets back on task by saying that just like most Americans aren't racist, most Arab-Americans are really good people. And in that way, most Arab-Americans are different from Hassan and Daivari... because Lawler thinks that the fans boo and disrespect them not because they are Arab-Americans, but because they are "a couple of loud-mouthed, obnoxious jerks." [Hey, I appreciate the sentiment, but DAMMIT LAWLER, I gave you the PERFECT one-liner a couple weeks ago, and you passed on it...  "They don't hate you cuz you're Ay-rab... they hate you cuz you're Ay-holes!"  And I bet the crowd would have INSTANTLY pounced on the "Asshole, Asshole" chant!]

Anyway, Hassan and Daivari don't like that, and Daivari actually launches into some extended Farsi ranting. But Hassan cools him down and retorts directly to Lawler's comment about other Arab-Americans; he says that he HATES other Arab-Americans, because most of them try to hide their herritage to fit in, rather than being proud of their heritage and trying to buck the unfair system. Then Hassan turns to Jim Ross, and says he's been uncharacteristically quiet, and wonders if it's because, deep down, JR knows that Hassan is just as American as him, just as American as baseball, mom, and apple pie.  Hassan lords it over JR until Ross decides to speak.  And for the first time I can remember, Ross actually comes off as the less intelligent of the RAW commentary team as he basically ignores anything resembling the Issue and just issues forth the rather jingoistic sentiment, "America: love it or leave it."  Whee!  So much for loving something enough that you'd like to call attention to flaws and help fix it!  Then again, that *is* the WWE philosophy these days, isn't it: "If you think there's anything wrong, kindly shut the fuck up, cuz everything's just dandy!"...  Weak.

Hassan and Daivari neither love it, nor want to leave it, so instead, they just shove their podium down and charge across the ring.  Ross is floored with one punch, allowing the heels to focus on Lawler for a bit, bloodying him with a belt-buckle shot to the head.  Then Lawler's tossed outside the ring and the belt is used to choke JR out for a minute or so... finally Lawler gets his wits back, takes off his belt, wraps it around his fist, and stumbles back into the ring. Although it seems like Hassan and Daivari could easily have punked Lawler out again, the chickenshit thing to do is leave the ring, smirking at one's handiwork, rather than risk letting a babyface beat you up.  So that's what they do.  Big heat on Hassan and Daivari as they retreat...  an abysmal failure in terms of a debate of the issues, but I gotta grant: a success in terms of pressing the buttons of the less intellectually-inquisitive fans, and in terms of letting Hassan and Daivari's charisma shine through a bit so that you can start trying to play that "Ay-hole instead of Ay-rab" card...


The 1-800-CALL-ATT Call To the Bullpen: Coach has come out to the announce desk to take over the commentary reigns for the night. He's flying solo, and really playing down his heelishness to call it straight down the middle, and I'll be honest... it was entirely tolerable. Like he knew he'd been given the task of calling the action all by himself, and forgot all about some of his more annoying traits (like putting himself over ahead of the action).  He stayed on task quite admirably.

Trish Stratus vs. Victoria

Match was... well, it wasn't bad.  But it was flat, for two reasons: (1) fans are on to WWE's retarded abuse of the women's roster, and Victoria is obviously the "face jobber" and thus had no heat, and (2) the Hassan/Daivari angle went over huge, and so this was sent out to cleanse the palate.  The vibe of the match was very much that Trish was "all business," no flash, no showboating, just kicking ass as much as humanly possible to get ready for her PPV title shot against Lita.  Victoria started a comeback at about the 2 minute mark, but that came to an end when she went for the Shimmy Shake Moonsault (Coach called it the "Shakin' Yer Tailfeather," which I gotta grant is a good 'un), but Trish got the knees up.  From there, it wasn't long before she hit the Buzzsaw Kick to Victoria's face and got the win.  About 3 minutes, and good for what it was, but also imminently forgettable.

After the Match: Trish grabbed a mic, and continued the "All Business" vibe by playing up some bad-assery instead of the bitchy cleverness, including pointing to Victoria's carcass and saying, "That's what's waiting for you on Sunday, Lita."  Trish is extremely confident that she'll win the title back, and in the doing set a new record as the first 6-time Women's Champion.  But that's Lita's cue: out on to the stage with her title belt, and since Trish is broadly gesturing that Lita might as well bring it, Lita obliges.  Face to face in mid-ring, but as soon as Lita unleashes a Bitchslap on Trish, Trish attacks with fists o' fury. The second Lita started to fire back a bit, Snitsky appeared out of nowhere.  Lita disengaged and got distracted for a moment, giving Trish the chance to hit ANOTHER Buzzsaw Kick, this time to Lita's face. [Seriously, the all-business thing, the kicks... WWE, if you think turning Trish into Girl Tajiri is gonna do anything but give me ANOTHER thing to like about her, you're wrong~!  And Trish, just learn how to slap your pleather pants when you do those, and that gay-ass "Chick Kick" moniker will be forgotten, instantly!] At this point, Trish kind of stands back, because she figures it's time to let Snitsky unleash his "surprise."  Except that somebody really fucks up and hits Kane's pyro.  Trish and Snitsky have to just ignore it, and Snitsky goes about his business: in this case, that means getting a steel chair and putting it around Lita's neck for Pillmanization!  But just as Snitsky starts ascending the ropes to finish Lita off....  THROUGH NO HELLFIRE AND NO BRIMSTONE BECAUSE SOMEBODY ALREADY FUCKED UP AND BLEW THE PYRO, IT'S KANE!  The moment's impact might have been lessened, but only by a bit, fans pop big for it.  Kane hits the ring, and after just a few blows, Snitsky powders out.  Kane stands over Lita, who at first looks frightened, but then Kane helps her to her feet, and the two share... well, let's call it Deeply Meaningful But Ambiguous Eye Contact.  Play Kane's music, and this time, when they blow the corner pyro, it is apparently ON cue.


PPV Hype: Coach runs the PPV line-up, which now includes Lawler vs. Hassan and Maven vs. Shelton along with the previously announced matches.

Backstage: Red Headed Spaz is posing for a photographer, when in wanders Eugene.  Spaz asks for five, cuz she's a nice girl and wants to say "hi" to Eugene.  Eugene, an idiot savant of useful segues as well as of wrestling, manages to start with Spaz's red hair and turn it into talking about Lindsay Lohan, which in turn leads to the CD that Eugene's listening to in his DiscMan. Spaz encourages Eugene to sing along with one of the songs.  And Eugene does, and Spaz tells him it was quite lovely.  But Eugene has a match coming up, and William Regal hits the screen to corral him and get him focused; but Spaz says she might be able to help motivate Eugene in her own very special way... so Spaz and Eugene leave... and Regal spies the DiscMan, and decides to spin a song, and oh my brothers, I'm sure that we'll have better, but 2005 ALREADY has a Funny Moment Contender, as Regal starts singing and dancing along to a Lindsay Lohan CD in the way that only a distinguished British Gentleman can...  so of course, Spaz and Eugene re-appear, and Regal's been caught!  But embarrassment is not Gentlemanly, so Regal just puts the DiscMan down, and pretends nothing untoward happened and says, "Alrighty, then, time to head to the ring for your match, Eugene."  Spaz watches them leave the room with what I'm assuming is "bemusement."


Eugene vs. Christian

Apparently, this is the counterpoint to a Heat match in which The Lovely Miss Tomko beat William Regal, as we head towards a Tomko/Christian vs. Eugene/Regal tag title match at the PPV. Eugene off to a quick start, and within the first minute of the match he channels both Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior.  But with a little help from Tomko, Christian eventually goes on the offensive for a few minutes...  Eugene, however, hit a Rock Bottom out of nowhere... both men down, double count, then both men up for some back-and-forth, and in that exchange, Eugene Got Angry, and started his fire up. Eugene hits some big moves, but out of nowhere, Christian rolled Eugene up near the ropes, and then reached outside to get some illegal leverage help from Tomko.  And just like that, both tag champs have been pinned in the last two nights!  A tolerable little 4 minute match that might put a bit more stank on the PPV tag title match....

Backstage: HHH is getting ready for the main event, and Flair and Batista are both there.  Flair says they'll take care of business tonight, and that both Flair and Batista will be there in HHH's corner tonight. But HHH decides now would be a good time to match Batista's quiet confidence by saying Flair can come on out, but Batista should just hang back, cuz afterall, it's only Randy Orton. And anyway, they need to start getting focused for Sunday, so Batista can just chill and think about the Elimination Chamber, and Trips will take care of tonight's match.  Batista isn't even remotely put out by this, instead just says, "Alright, sounds good. TCB, Trips. I'll hang back here."  HHH turns to leave, and both men are back to back as Batista hits a little tag, "Unless you really start getting your ass kicked or something."  And kids, the line is only 10% of it, the staging of it that let Batista hit this PERFECT look of smiling at his good humor and kind of checking out of the corner of his eye if HHH got angry, and then HHH slowly turning around, and then Batista kind of hitting one last smirk before turning to face HHH. And when he turned to HHH, he immediately defused everything by just saying, "But we both know that won't happen. C'mon, Champ, lighten up." And as HHH just stands there looking confused, Batista leaves the room, chuckling to himself and muttering, "RKO, gimme a break." Too perfect.


Just Like Willis Reed: injured, but knowing his team needs him out here for the main event, Jim Ross is at the commentary desk with Coach. And with a babyface foil, Coach kind of went back to being distracted by putting himself over instead of the action. Not as bad as usual, but noticeably.

Triple H vs. Randy Orton 

They've got Orton trying to play the same "all business" card as Trish, and kids, the opening minutes of this match played to EXACTLY the same level of heat as the women's match did. Still want to say this is the story and the two men who should headline WM21?  Basically, Orton's "focus" meant that all the usual methodical punchy-kicky exchanges ended in Orton's favor, and HHH backing off.  After one particularly effective exchange left HHH on the mat, Orton went into "Rocky Stalker Mode," but when he did try for the RKO, HHH just said, "The Fuck? It's only two minutes in, Sparky," and shoved Orton down... but HHH also didn't like Orton going for a finisher, and powdered out for a little pow-wow with Ric Flair.  Which is as good a time as any for our last....


Back, and Orton's in control for a few moments, until he gets distracted by Flair. Orton stalks Flair, and when he tries to get back into the ring, HHH has had enough recovery time, and cuts Orton off, sending him flying torso-first into the ringside barrier.  And thus begins a rather extended sequence of HHH (and sometimes, Flair) working over Orton's ribs.  When Orton finally began his Superman Comeback, it probably played to slightly less crowd reaction than you'd want out of a WM21 Main Event Preview, if you catch my drift (and again, I'd not be me if I didn't note there were a few boos peppered in when Orton started firing up).  After a few near falls for Orton, Triple H countered his way into a Sleeperhold, but then Orton re-countered into a Sleeper of his own, but then when HHH tried to RE-re-counter, the ref and Randy Orton somehow clanged heads, and the ref was down. And Orton wasn't doing so well, either.  Flair tries to take advantage by tossing the ring bell in to HHH... 

And then from here, the match finally really does pick up for a super-hot finish.  Orton recovered at the last second, and avoided the bell.  After some more brawling, Orton had HHH down, and went for the bell himself...  and as a man of his word, Batista *did* decide to help out the boss at this point, and ran out to attack Orton (and again: in this exchange, it's clear who the fans thought was the babyface).  Before too much more damage could be done, Benoit ran out to off-set Batista, and those two brawled outside the ring.  Special Referee Shawn Michaels also picked this general timeframe to come on out to the ring to check on Mike Chioda, and just in case, he wore his Referee Shirt.... as Michaels was turning around to take over referee duties for the match, Edge had materialized in the ring and was about to Spear HBK into next week (presumably so he couldn't ref the Chamber match?), but that's when Jericho came in from out of nowhere and intercepted Edge at the last possible second.  Edge and Jericho out on the other side of the ring to brawl.  

In the ring, Orton's down and HHH is the first to notice that Shawn Michaels is in the ring as ref.  Shawn, god bless him, does the Always Hilarious "point to the WWE logo on his ref shirt" thing to indicate that HHH had best not resort to fisticuffsmanship.   But while HHH was distracted by his Spirited Debate with Michaels, Orton had also recovered.  Snuck up from behind, seemed to be stalking for the RKO... but again, once HHH turns around, he's still able to brush off the attempt.  In fact, HHH regains control and goes for a Pedigree... but Orton re-counters directly into an RKO! Cover, Michaels is down, and counts the three.  Orton wins.

Play Orton's music! Because it's ever so awesome!  Probably around 15 minutes, total, but honestly, until the chicanery started in the last 3-4 minutes, just not all that thrilling.  But that said, the final quarter of the match was smoking hot, very busy and dense, but without feeling over-booked, if that makes sense.  Just a good build to the Elimination Chamber on Sunday...  so as the final shot of RAW is Orton posing in the ring, I'm left with one thought: "Well, at least this *should* mean he's not winning the title at the PPV."  Cuz that's not usually how things go, right?  If Orton was gonna win the title, then conventional wisdom and formula would dictate he should have lost heading into the PPV so he has something to avenge and to make the PPV win seem like more of a "feel good moment."  Instead, I'll gladly call this the Most Tolerable Randall Orton Win of 2005!  Go Randy, go!


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