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OO SMACKDOWN! RECAP
Remembering Eddie (Part Two) 
November 19, 2005

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com

 

It's been a long and difficult week... it started with unexpected news and having to write an unexpected column last Sunday afternoon. Seven days later, I sit in front of my computer, again at a rather unusual time, to complete this recap on Saturday afternoon.
 
Normally, I'd pull some bitchy prima donna act over being forced into duty recapping a show that's not "my job," but frankly, that just doesn't hold water here. For one, there are those who have lost and suffered a lot more this week than I have. So I'd have to be a really prick to paint myself as a victim in this. And second: in a lot of ways, I look at this as a bit of closure.

 
Seven days after Eddie died, I can put a "book end" on this trying week. We started by stumbling through a Career Retrospective mere hours after Eddie's death. But today, we've gotten to remember Eddie with so much more than that, including a pair of WWE TV Tributes to Eddie. Today, we take a closer look at the second of those two special shows.  In a way, the chance to step in and do a SD! Recap this week gives me a chance to make sure that a quality "companion piece" is written to go along with the RAW Recap, no matter how difficult the task of recapping shows like this may be.
 
It'd be false to say that wrestling goes back to normal on Monday, as if Eddie's death never happened.... but WWE is gonna get back to the business of telling stories, and  we're gonna try to get back to the business of watching wrestling without lumps in our throats. In a lot of ways, last night's SmackDown! does represent the end of this week of remembrance.

Although, that's not *entirely* true. A quick heads-up to anyone who catches this recap on Saturday: FOX News Channel is running a segment on Eddie during tonight's "The Big Story" (10pm eastern, with a 1am replay). The Rick was very close to appearing on the show, but details -- on such short notice -- couldn't be worked out in time... thanks to Kevin and Jennifer at FOX News, though, for their consideration, and from the sounds of things, even without the Star Power of Yours Truly, they should still outdo CNBC's segment from Tuesday. At the very least, they sounded on-the-ball enough to not call WWE's Friday Night show "ShakeDown" or make other simple factual errors. So if you want to make sure your Eddie Memories Video Collection is complete, you might want to try to check that out. If you do, just remember that I'd have been JUST LIKE Dave Meltzer, except more intelligent, entertaining, and without the annoying habit of taking myself too seriously because I think I'm a real "Journalist." In fairness, Meltz has got me on hair, though. Maybe it's just as well: I don't know if I could stand the humiliation of having to powder my scalp or otherwise wear make-up for the cameras....

But I digress. For the time being, my own bit of closure on this week comes by once again remembering Eddie on the pages of OO, seven days after his shocking death. And this time, I'll be doing it with plenty of company from the WWE stars who knew him best and did their best to put on a show for fans last night on SmackDown!...

Cold Open: Batista Remembers Eddie

No theme, no pyro, no nothing... but if you want an unexpected opening, you got it, as Eddie's theme music starts up, and his low rider cruises out, and parks at the head of the entrance aisle. But on this night, the driver is Batista.

Wearing an Eddie t-shirt and sunglasses, Batista is already welling up, and opens by saying, "I know Eddie Guerrero would hate it if he knew I was standing in the middle of this ring, crying like a little baby, but I can't help it. I just miss you so much." And that actually has the effect of choking the big man up, leading to an awkward silence, and then the crowd trying to rally Batista with supportive cheers and (of course) "Eddie" chants.

Batista admits that he doesn't have any idea what to say right now, and even if he did, he knows he's probably not the right guy to be standing in the ring talking about Eddie. But since he's here, there's two things Batista wants to mention, and he says he knows we've heard it already, but he wants to drive it home. First is how much Eddie loved his family, and how everything he did, he did for them. And secondly is how much Eddie loved wrestling and performing for all the fans. He again mentions how much pain Eddie was in every day, but how that all went away when Eddie stepped through the curtain and into the ring, because that's how important it was to Eddie to entertain the fans.

Batista again gets choked up, and another awkward silence leads to "Eddie" chants, giving Batista the encouragement he needs to finish up. He says that the one comfort he has in all this is knowing that Eddie was a good man, and that he's with God, now. But you can see on Batista's face that that's not much comfort, and he says as much, "Call me a selfish son of a bitch, call me whatever you want. Because I'd give anything to have Eddie back, standing right here, right now.."

A few more comments, and Batista closes with, "I miss you, Eddie, and I love you. I'll never forget you. And everything I do in this ring, I'm gonna make sure that these people and everybody around the world remembers you."

A clearly emotional Batista tosses down the mic, and decides to call it a night on that note. As Eddie's music plays again, Batista leaves the ring, and pauses at the hood of Eddie's low rider. Batista takes his World Heavyweight Title, and places it across the hood of the car, echoing John Cena's symbolic placement of the WWE Title belt across an Eddie t-shirt on RAW. Maybe Eddie was gonna win the strap on the night he died, maybe he wasn't; it might be a while before we know for sure... but you can't argue with the respectful shows by both brands' champions, essentially crowning Eddie a double-champion.

That could not have been easy for Batista; he's the only person on the entire roster who was asked to take a live mic, and go in front of the audience to talk about Eddie. Everybody else got the safety net of doing pre-tapes (most of which were edited for maximum impact)... but Batista, unable to wrestle due to injury but knowing full well that he had to make some gesture, went to the ring and laid his emotions bare. And it's like I said on Monday: you kind of expect and brace yourself for the anguish displayed by Chavo or Benoit... but it's every bit as jarring and difficult to watch as one of Eddie's newer friends expresses just how important Eddie had become to him in so short a time.

Video Package: sure enough, it appears WWE has already ditched the Johnny Cash cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," as the official Eddie Musical Tribute. The WWE.com montage set to some forgettable AlternaCheese by 3 Doors Down gets played here, instead. It's essentially the same video clips, just set to a new song, one that is incongruously a love song to an ex-girlfriend (and not a very good one, at that). I know only I could be a big enough dick to find fault in something that is still a heartfelt tribute to Eddie, but would it have been so difficult -- if you had to replace "Hurt," whether because of licensing issues or because of backlash against the lyrical subject matter hitting a bit too close to home to be a tribute to Eddie's memory -- to find something halfway decent that would be more-fitting to be Eddie's tribute video? Off the top of my head, I can think of at least a half-dozen tracks (album tracks, most of them not well-known singles)...

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Eddie Memory #1: in a clip from the "Cheating Death, Stealing Life," Eddie talks all about his family. He's got a story for each of his brothers and sisters, and most of them reciprocate by having a little something to say about Eddie as he grew up.

Matt Hardy vs. Carlito Cool

A little back-and-forthy to start, giving the announcers to again set the ground rules for the cross-brand matches... like RAW, this isn't about brand vs. brand, this is about competing to remember Eddie. Also, since I'm talking about Tazz and Cole, I want to mention that I really appreciated their efforts on this show; unlike Joey, King, and Coach, they got a couple extra days before heading into the studio to do overdubs, and they made the most of them. They were a bit more focused (which is *not* a rip on the RAW team, who had a very tough task of having to essentially call a 2 hour show live-to-tape less than 8 hours after finding out Eddie was dead)... and Cole had his background info down pat, while Tazz was especially illuminating in talking about some Eddie/ECW stories. One that I remember particularly fondly was how Tazz brought up that his tag partner the night he broke his neck was Eddie... and how as soon as Eddie knew Tazz was going to be OK (even if Tazz could not continue competing), his very next instinct was to make sure the fans still got their money's worth in what had essentially become a 2-on-1 match. Good stuff.

The match? After the back and forth, Carlito took control for an extended segment by drop-toe-holding Matt out of the ring. Some brawling out there cemented Carlito's advantage, and then he took it back into the ring. Pretty basic stuff: punches, stomps, slams, and suplexes. That came to an end after about 3-4 minutes, though, when Carlito got cocky: instead of joining the Eddie Guerrero Shimmy-Shake Shuffle Club, Carlito decided to imitate his own opponent, going to the second rope, and posing Mattitude Style (complete with Double Shocker Gesturing). Cockiness like that can only be repaid with a boot in the face, so when Carlito leapt down, that's what Matt gave him.

Matt's rally built up to a Side Effect, but when that only got a two count, Matt's frustration gave Carlito just enough time to recover: Carlito managed to snag Matt with a cool new backbreaker variation, and from there, it was back-and-forth big moves and near falls. Each guy got a couple convincing ones, and the final spot was a nice bit of triple-reverse-y action...  Matt went for the Twist of Fate, but Carlito shoved him off, so Matt bounced back and set up for a suplex instead, but Carlito countered that into a DDT attempt, but Matt wormed his way out of *that*, and finally landed the Twist of Fate out of nowhere. The announcers put it over as being "Eddie-esque" in how effectively Matt countered and re-countered to finally get his big move. 

Your Winner: Matt Hardy, via pinfall, in about 5-6 minutes. Pretty good stuff here, including a very good final 2 minutes or so.

Taped Tribute, Vince McMahon Edition: Vince, like two others in his family did on Monday, sticks more to talking about Eddie's professional expertise and his well-documented love of his family. But he is not without emotion as he talks about these very noble character traits, and closes by saying simply, "If there's one thing I can say about Eddie Guerrero, it's that he was a good man." Fair 'nuff, cuz lord knows the world could use a few more of those...

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Eddie Memory #2: Another clip from the "Cheating Death, Stealing Life" DVD... this time covering Eddie's relationship with his wife. From meeting and marrying, to separation, to reconciliation. Included are clips of 2 of Eddie's daughters, who were so happy to see their parents back together. Also: the story of Eddie's third daughter is, in fact, laid out here, as his wife Vickie talks about how she welcomed Eddie's daughter with another woman (from the time they were split up) into their family with no reservations.

Road Warrior Animal/Heidenreich vs. Lance Cade/Trevor Murdoch

Animal and Heidenreich are very emotional upon entering... or at least, Animal seems to be, and Heidenreich is playing along.  Cade and Murdoch, however, are all business. Which is how they manage to snag the advantage pretty early on: Heidenreich started for his team and seemed to have his way with Cade for a minute, but that's when Murdoch stuck his nose in, and after some very clunky double-teaming (they didn't time it well, leaving the ref and Animal in the unenviable position of having to try to fake distracting each other, even after the ref had already seen the start of the shenanigans), the heels had secured the advantage.

Though they did a reasonable job of keeping the ring cut in half after isolating on Heidenreich, this still wasn't exactly the most thrilling of contests. Cole and Tazz were again there with some good stuff, talking about how Eddie always thanked them after every match of his they called, and how they were always stunned because *they* always felt like thanking *Eddie* for having the kinds of matches that were fun and easy to call.

After a sufficient amount of time had elapsed, it was time to head for home. In this case, that meant a sequence in which Murdoch tagged in Cade. Then, as Murdoch held Heidenreich down in a corner, Cade spent too much time showboating. Murdoch lost control of Heidenreich, and just as Cade finally turned around to get down to business, he ate a shoulderblock from Heidenreich. Heidenreich then made the tag to Animal, and you can pretty much guess the rest.

House o' fire by Animal, eventually Heidenreich gets back into it for some four-way brawling. Then Murdoch powders out, and it's 2-on-1 on Cade. He takes the Doomsday Device, and it's all over.

Your Winners: Animal and Heidenreich, via pinfall, in about 3-4 minutes. Pure formula, and other than the sloppiness when the heels took over the advantage, well-enough executed. I still liked it better when it was Show/Kane vs. MNM, though...

Taped Tribute, Booker T and Sharmell Edition: Booker does all the talking, as he mentions his long past with Eddie going back to WCW... he said they've had upa (like being a tag team last year) and they've had downs (he briefly skimmed over a story when he and Eddie apparently had a real life fight in the locker room over some undisclosed issue)., but they came out of it friends. Booker knows he'll miss Eddie, and to those who'll miss him even more -- his wife and daughters -- he wants them to know that the Huffman Family (Booker and Sharmell) are there, and will do anything they can to be of assistance to the Guerreros. A classy touch.

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Eddie Memory #3: The same "Lie, Cheat, and Steal" vignette that aired as one of the Eddie Memories on RAW.

Taped Tribute, Big Show Edition: Show is already teary-eyed and broken up as he join his tribute, apparently in progress... his comments, brief as they are, seem to echo Batista's in a lot of ways. He says that he takes some comfort in knowing Eddie's with God, now, but that even if it's wrong to say so, he can't believe Eddie's really gone and wishes he was still here Show says he just hopes that Eddie's pain is gone now, that all the suffering he went through is over, and that he's finally "safe."

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Eddie Memory #4: More footage from last year's TV special/DVD.... this time, a "Growing Up Guerrero" clip, talking about the family's history in wrestling, and how it was essentially fait accompli that Eddie would end up a wrestler. Included are stories of Eddie terrorizing locker rooms at a very young age, and another telling of the story of how Eddie and Chavo would wrestle at intermissions of local shows... an ideal segue into...

Chavo Guerrero vs. John Bradshaw Layfield

Chavo was apparently able to get his hands on a pair of his old tights (or, per a little veiled reference the announcers made later on, *might* have been wrestling in a pair of Eddie's tights), but he was still stuck with the Kerwin White boots. Upon entering, Chavo seems remarkably focused and at-peace: all the cheers he gets, he goes to great lengths to make sure that he redirects them to the heavens.

Match starts with JBL clubbering away on Chavo, using his size advantage... but wouldn't you know it? Chavo learned well from Uncle Eddie, and busts out some Cheating. First, he uses some hair-pulling to great effect, and manages to control JBL with one of JBL's own favorite holds, as a result: the side headlock. After the ref catches onto Chavo's hair-pulling, and asks for a break, Chavo says "fine" and busts out another trick from Eddie's playbook, but thumbing JBL in the eyes.

Chavo continued a high energy offensive for a couple more minutes, hitting moves like a slingshot plancha and a missile dropkick on JBL. But his luck ran out at about the five minute mark, when he went up to the top rope again, but this time, JBL caught him and hit Chavo with a fall-away slam.

This put JBL in command for several minutes. Though his offense was pretty much what you'd expect, Bradshaw was not afraid to heel it up for the crowd. He even joined the Eddie Shimmy-Shake Shuffle Dance Club, to huge boos. Eventually, JBL settled into a sleeperhold on Chavo... the crowd was slow to buy into it (poor Jillian Hall at ringside was trying her level best to induce rhythmic clapping, but nobody cared to join in), but once they did, Chavo used that energy to fire up. JBL tried to stifle Chavo's rally with a Clothesline From Hell, but Chavo had that scouted out, and intercepted JBL with a dropkick, instead, in a nice crisp spot.

Both men down, and that means it was time for a double count and a little End Game. When they get up, it's back and forth for a bit, but then Chavo gains control. Nothing too fancy, but he gets a few near falls. You know Chavo's en fuego when he becomes member #3 of the Eddie Shimmy-Shake Shuffle Club. JBL tries to snuff Chavo out by grabbing him for another fall-away slam, but this time, Chavo counters it into a DDT. Still only good for a two-count, though, and all of a sudden, the wheels start to turn.

Chavo goes out to ringside and grabs two chairs. One, he tosses into the ring, which immediately distracts the ref's attention. While the ref is cleaning that up, Chavo intended to whap JBL in the skull with the other chair. But the ref turned around too quickly: so Chavo pulled another Eddie Trick out of his bag... he tossed the chair to JBL, and fell to the mat, feigning injury. The ref turned around to see Chavo down and JBL holding a chair. After an argument, the ref opted NOT to disqualify JBL, but did take the chair away. And as soon as the ref turned around to dispose of the chair, Chavo popped up and uppercut JBL right in the ball-sac. Down goes JBL.

And as the ref turns his attention back to the match, he sees Chavo go for Eddie's "Three Amigos" trio of suplexes... and then, in one of the week's few Feel Good Moments, the crowd encourages Chavo to head up to the top rope to finish JBL off the only way would be appropriate on this night. So Chavo obliges, and hits the Frog Splash. Three seconds later, and he's got a win over JBL.

Your Winner:  Chavo Guerrero, via pinfall, in about 8-10 minutes. Got off to a great start with Chavo's cheating and high energy offense.... and concluded on a high note that hopefully put a smile on just about the saddest of faces out there. Very entertaining, and in a way, very cathartic.

After the Match: Chavo stayed in the ring and celebrated for a good long time, again looking more proud than sad, and making sure to redirect all cheers skyward.

Eddie Memory #5: Eddie, it turns out, was a bit of a spoiled mama's boy. In another clip from the DVD/TV Special, his mother tells how Eddie, even till he was 5 or 6 years old, loved being carried around by his mom, instead of walking on his own. She'd carry him almost all the way to school, and then, so Eddie could still look macho to his friends, Eddie would only walk the last block or so on his own. Cute.

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Eddie Memory #6: Eddie successfully defended the WWE Title against Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 20. Per an introduction by Tazz/Cole, we learn that this was Eddie's career goal: the headline a WrestleMania. In the clip, Eddie talks about it not only being an honor to be main eventing WM, but also to be doing it with Kurt. They show the closing of the match (where Eddie faked Kurt out and lost his boot in order to steal a pinfall win), and got reaction from his mom, who thought it was the funniest thing ever.

Taped Tribute, JBL Edition: JBL was another relatively new friend of Eddie's, though he notes he'd been acquainted with the Guerrero family for his entire career, since he started wrestling in Dallas in the mid-80s and worked with some of Eddie's brothers. For JBL, the turning point with Eddie came when Eddie took it upon himself to help out JBL with his divorce last year, and their bond grew stronger when Eddie did his best to make JBL's ascension to main events a successful one. JBL equates "near riots" (rather than "tickets sold" or "buyrates") with "box office success," I guess, since he calls his feud with Eddie one of the most legendary of all times, on the grounds that he had to be escorted out of arenas all over the southwest anytime he wrestled Eddie, cuz he was that despised. He says he knows full well that was all Eddie's doing, and cannot thank him enough. On the screen, JBL says they were arch enemies, but in real life, he was proud to call Eddie Guerrero one of his best friends. And Bradshaw's gonna miss him...

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Eddie Memory #7: The same clip of Eddie winning the WWE Title from Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004 that aired on RAW.

Cross-Brand Cruiserweight Battle Royale

RAW had the divas all dumped into one match... SD! gets all the Cruisers. If I may make a distinction: the Cruisers will end up being more fun to WATCH. But that's not the same as to LOOK AT.

In a nice touch, Tazz and Cole get a bit of SD! Pride going as they note that RAW only has 2 cruisers -- Tajiri and Gregory Helms -- and that if they'd just come on over to SD!, this is the kind of action they could participate in every week. [Unspoken truth behind Cole's riff: that they could participate in every week.... on VELOCITY.]

Early cool spot: all the SD! cruisers decide to team up against the two lonely RAW cruisers. Tajiri and Helms are concerned, and finally, Tajiri says, "OK, I'll be the man" and he steps, ever so slightly, towards the dozen SD! cruisers.... and then BAM! As soon as Tajiri's a step in front of Helms, he shoots a stiff kick back in Helms' face. Tajiri gestures, in the finest possible manner of gesturing (Broadly), to indicate "Screw Helms, I'm with you guys!". But SD!'s not buying it, and they swarm on BOTH Tajiri and Helms.

Things eventually settle down, and guys find dance partners to do spots with in one corner or another. The announcers settle on "One of the Mexicools" winning, because they'll have the advantage of working in tandem against all the other solo wrestlers. But as soon as Tazz and Cole pin each other down on picking Super Crazy, he gets eliminated first. D'oh. [Of note: the Mexicools score points with me for doing something that I first wondered about while watching RAW on Monday.... they had cut out the sleeves and necks of the Eddie t-shirts, and were wearing them backwards, so that the front read "Eddie Guerrero: Latino Heat," and if you weren't paying attention, you wouldn't know what was on the back. Something I noticed cuz I had thought to myself "That's what I'd do" back on Monday when I was struck by the notion that "I'm Your Papi" wasn't exactly the perfect way to pay homage to Eddie.]

The action, as you might expect, is a bit too fast and furious to call, what with upwards of 12 or so guys flying all over the place. Some of the highlights before we got down to a more manageable match included: Tajiri and Funaki seeming to form a Japanese Alliance, only to have Funaki turn on Tajiri and toss him out of the ring from behind... Kid Kash looking great on his Network TV Debut, hitting s sweet walk-up-the-ropes, turn-around flying headscissors move to eliminate somebody (I forget who)... and Scotty 2 Hotty hitting a Double Worm, and in so doing, altering his routine to become member #4 of the Eddie Shimmy Shake Shuffle Club.

When the match got down to 3 guys, we finally paused to reset and get some story going. Nunzio, Paul London, and Juventud Guerrera all eyed each other suspiciously, possibly because none of them really knows which ones are heels and which faces. Then Nunzio remembers that he's most recently "feuded" with Bobby Lashley, which probably makes him the best bet at a heel in this match, so he starts trying to make partners with both guys. London is the first to buy into it, and at the first available opportunity, Nunzio stabs him in the back. When Nunzio makes the same overture to Juvi, it falls on deaf ears, and Nunzio finds himself in a 1-on-2 beatdown.

For a moment, it seems like Nunzio's gonna survive, though, as he manages to dodge attacks by both men, and flips them out over the top rope. But both men land on the apron. As Nunzio tries to shove first one, then the other, off the apron, he winds up getting snared and back-dropped out of the ring and to the floor himself. That left London and Juvi, already on the ring apron, where they start kicking and flailing at each other, while also trying to hold onto the ropes to avoid falling to the floor. After a few pretty high-drama moments, they both managed to get back into the ring, where they exchanged a few more moves and a few more elimination teases. London seemed in command, and about to hoist Juvi out of the ring, but at the last second, Juvi shited his weight and kind of turned it into a hurricarana, launching London over the top and to the floor (and Juvi managed to grab onto the ropes and drag himself back into the ring without touching the floor).

Your Winner: Juventud Guerrera in about 5-6 minutes. A frenetic opening few minutes, with cool action everywhere, with a bit more focused and dramatic final few minutes. Maybe a bit short, but pretty good stuff by Battle Royale Standards. Oh, and after the match, Juvi went ahead and also joined the Eddie Shimmy Shake Shuffle Club. I'm pretty sure he was the last one for tonight...

Eddie Memory #8: The Eddie/Chyna "mamacita" angle gets a little recaplet here. I already said it early this week, but that was a fine example of something starting off silly, but becoming compelling just because of how much Eddie got into it and sold it to us. It's the storyline that put him on the map...

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Eddie Memory #9: Eddie's Last Match... a DQ win over Ken Kennedy, after Eddie hoaxed the ref by tossing Kennedy a chair and playing hurt. We all saw it last week, and probably got a huge kick out of it, but didn't attach any iota of significance to it. Looking back, the one thing that stands out to me is the look Eddie gives the camera right after the ref bump, and right as he decides that this might be a good time to make some mischief. The grin? It's just.... I dunno... it's just *So Eddie* maybe is what I want to say. After I saw this highlight package, I also realized: that's the exact same freezeframe of Eddie that WWE used in all their "Remembering Eddie" graphics. I guess they thought it was "So Eddie," too...

Taped Tribute, Shane McMahon Edition: In keeping with the family tradition, Shane first puts over just how incredible and dedicated performer Eddie was, explains how much Eddie loved going out and entertaining the fans. And then Shane says there's just one thing he loved even more: and that's his family. So if there's just one thing that Shane can drive home, he wants it to be how much Eddie loved his wife and daughters. He sends a message out to Vickie and her three girls, hoping that they know just how much Eddie loved them and talked about them and did everything he did for them. Shane starts to get a bit emotional, and after a hitching sigh, gets up and leaves.

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Eddie Memory #10: Benoit wins the World Title at WM20, and Eddie joins him  to celebrate at the end of the show... same clip we saw on Monday. But in this case, the footage of Benoit making HHH tap out has an added significance, since it's time for our main event...

Chris Benoit vs. Triple H

Trips enters first, and alters his usual choreography to make sure that everybody knows that this one's for Eddie. Don't know quite what to make of that... JBL went out and wanted to be the heel, but Hunter is setting a different tone. The announcers help out, too, saying that HHH volunteered for this match, and that he did so out of respect for the rivalry that he and Benoit had last year and out of the certainty that they could put on the kind of show here that would be a fitting tribute to Eddie Guerrero.

Benoit enters second, and was already on the brink of tears before the first "Eddie, Eddie" chant broke out.

Match opens with a handshake, and then straight to basic early match back and forth. Locking up, trading headlocks, running the ropes, backdrops, that kind of thing... difference is, each exchange builds up to Benoit sneaking into position for the Crippler Crossface. Which requires HHH to scurry to the ropes and get out of the ring, tail betwixt his legs.

This basic process repeats three times, setting the tone that HHH fears and respects the Crossface. As well he should if the preceding videoclip was any indication. But on the fourth time he bails out of the ring to escape the Crossface, Benoit follows him and stalks him halfway around the ring. When HHH finally senses something is amiss, eh turns around and walks right into a stiff-ass chop. Ouch. And then there's about a half-dozen more where those came from, and HHH is reeling. Benoit introduces him to some other ringside sights (like the ringsteps, face-first), and then tosses Trips back into the ring.

The beatdown continues unabated. Lots more chops, a mount-in-the-corner-and-punch spot, pretty basic stuff, but the crowd's into it. After one Benoit Attack, HHH pays homage to Ric Flair, by slowly flopping to the mat. But then, moments later, it's a different sort of homage to Flair, as HHH begs off and pleads for mercy, only to sucker Benoit in... moments later, Benoit's flying out over the top rope, giving HHH and his tender, chop-ravaged chest a chance to recover. And giving us a chance to look at our final....

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Back, and my UPN affiliate is fricking bush league. It appears as though they inserted two 30-second local ads at the end of the network ads. Probably is, this wasn't a spot for local ads, which means I lost about a full minute of show... when we cut sloppily back to SD!, the guys are in mid-move and the announcers in mid-sentence. Whatever's been happening, it appears that the focus has been on Benoit's back, and HHH is in command.

Trips is really going to town on the back, and his main attack once I rejoin the action seems to be shoving Benoit into the ropes, and then as Benoit tumbles back, he forearms Benoit right in the kidneys. After about the 3rd or 4th one of these, though, Benoit counters, and comes off the ropes with a clothesline... but Hunter's not done on offense, and quashes Benoit's rally with a Grade AA Spinebuster. 

More punishment for Benoit's back, and this time, the beating culminates in one of The Rick's favorite holds: the Abominable Stretch. HHH is near enough to the ropes to use them for illegal leverage (which he does). But Benoit, on this night, has the gift of Rhythm. He starts bouncing, trying to get enough leverage to hip toss HHH over, but instead, his tempo is perfect for inciting a thunderous "Eddie, Eddie" chant. HHH breaks that by going to the ropes and cinching in tighter.... but this time it's Benoit who takes his cue from the crowd, and he matches *their* tempo, and again tries to work the leverage. When HHH goes back to the ropes for a fourth time, the ref catches him,and calls for a break. HHH complies quickly. But not because he's a law abiding citizen: he did it because that way, he can go immediately to another move, instead of tarrying while arguing with the official.

In this case, HHH goes straight for the sleeper hold. And again, Benoit is reliant upon the crowd to feed him their energy. And they do... Benoit is eventually able to escape the sleeper, shoot HHH into the ropes, and snare him in a sleeper of his own. HHH is quick to counter, though, trying to suplex his way out of it. No dice: Benoit counters the counter, and turns it into a slingshot. HHH eats turnbuckles, and stumbles backward.... directly into a Hat Trick of German Suplexes.

Benoit's on a roll, and follows up with the Swandive Headbutt. But that only gets a two count. HHH briefly regains control when he reverses and Irish Whip, causing Benoit's tortured back to slam into the turnbuckles and Warp 5... but when HHH goes for the Pedigree, Benoit smoothly grabs and arm, floats around, and locks in the Cripple Crossface. This time, in the center of the ring. HHH struggles for the ropes, but as HHH gets close, Benoit rolls through, and lands the duo square in the center of the ring again. HHH tries another tack, trying to leverage out of the hold, but that's when Benoit springs his trap... he lets HHH roll back, but then continues rolling through, straight into a Crucifix Pinning Combo. HHH was *not* expecting that, and his shoulders stay down for three.

Your Winner: Chris Benoit, via pinfall, in about 15-16 minutes. What are you gonna say about this match other than it's exactly what it needed to be? There's no way Benoit's head was in it, and yet these two crafted a very solid match, with a very cool closing sequence. This, Chavo/JBL, Rey/Michaels, Kurt/Shelton... take your pick. They're all matches that would have been enjoyable under any other circumstances. But under these circumstances, with there being no chance of any of the 8 being at 100%, they're even more remarkable.

After the Match: Benoit's music played, and he celebrated his win, as he also started crying. HHH was to his feet relatively quickly, and embraced Benoit, raising his arm, and propping him up. Dean Malenko hit the ring, and Hunter powdered out, leaving Eddie's two closest friends, the guys he met in Japan and never left... for over a decade, to ECW, to WCW, and finally to the WWF/E, Eddie/Benoit/Malenko were inseparable. Until last Sunday morning. You could not have a more fitting ending to the week than Chris and Dean are the last two men in the ring paying tribute to Eddie.

E-MAIL RICK
BROWSE THE RAW RECAP ARCHIVES


  
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