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2/17 WWE Friday Night Smackdown Express: Pirate swords, Mark Henry gets murderized, and more!

Feb 18, 2006 - 4:41:00 AM
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO BOOKMARK US & VISIT US DAILY


By Mike Roe, Torch Team Contributor

WWE Smackdown review
February 17, 2006
Taped 2/14/2006 in Norfolk, Virginia
Aired on UPN
Report by Mike Roe, Torch OVW/Smackdown Specialist


Quick Links

* Raw Is Trivial
* Christi's Corner
* Show rating
* Newsworthy Countdown

Hey there and hello, everyone! It's time for another Smackdown Express, but first off, I want to welcome the latest addition to the Express crew, Christi! She's been a great contributor to the Torch's VIP Forum, and we're proud to have her on board with the first edition of Christi's Corner, later in this report. For now though, let's send it over to Seth for some trivia!

***

Raw Is Trivial with the "Supreme" Seth Berger!

Raw Is Trivial has been digging through his box of crap. Everybody has one. And, if it's not a box, it's a junk drawer, or Fibber McGee's closet. (For you non-fans of radio classics, McGee has a habit of just shoving everything into his closet. Then, once every couple of weeks, he's looking for something and opens the door. A loud crashing sound is heard and everything in said closet ends up all over the floor.)

You know the routine: once a year, you go through the box to see what kind of stuff you had stored away. Odds are pretty great they've been stored away for a good reason. It's garbage. Yet, it's stuff you just can't part without.

Rule #1: You must say at least once, "I was looking for that!" (A stack of baseball scorecards that date back to 1991. And two from when my parents went to Cubs games. Not to tell you how old these were, but a game against the Pirates was suspended after 4 innings due to darkness. Another game against the Cardinals had Bob Gibson starting.)
Rule #2: You must ask your wife, "Do we really need this?" Every Christmas & birthday card since we moved into our homestead in 2000 falls under this list. Now, there are certain cards that are too cool to just dump. (The birthday card with Bill Clinton telling me, "For your birthday, I've decided not to tax you any more. [Inside] But I'm not going to tax you any less, either." Now, that can't go anywhere.)
Rule #3: When pictures are involved, you must stop everything and look through them. Even if they're pictures you're not in from 1994; you must look. (Or, at least, fake the funk and act interested.)
Rule #4: When all the other rules have been met, repeat until the box is empty.

I found a lot of interesting stuff. A yellowed Sporting News Baseball Preview from 1989. Had the Bash Brothers & Dennis Eckersley on the front. (They said the White Sox would finish 4th in the AL West...yeah right. Last place [7th], here we come!)

And a WWF Magazine from March 1996. I can only see one reason I even bothered to pick this gem up. I worked at a retail store on the night shift for a couple of years. Why buy the magazines when I can pick them up and take them to the break room or warehouse to leaf through it? (Not that I condone that. The store in question went out of business, and not because I saved $7 a month on magazine purchases.) [Mike Roe note: This is the exact reason I need to get myself a job at a comic book store.]

The cover story alluded to one of Vic Venom's predictions that someone was looking to acquire talent like the Ringmaster Steve Austin to gain their way to the top of the WWF ladder, eventually taking Vince's position as owner of the WWF. Can you name this managerial superstar? That's the question of the week. Pan down after reading this week's Express to find out the answer. I'll be busy going through my baseball cards while you read.

***

As a total pack rat, I totally understand, Seth. Now, on to the show!

After being reminded that the power is back, we went right to the Smackdown intro. No wacky recap of last week's show this week. The pyro went off and the crowd was scanned, including some guy in the front row of a section who could be Jeff Foxworthy's long lost twin.

Tonight: A 3 on 2 handicap match, with MNM and Mark Henry taking on Kurt Angle and the Undertaker! (And, of course, the lovely Melina at ringside!)

(1) Rey Mysterio defeated Sylvan.

Pre-match analysis: What you gonna do when Rey Mysterio's awful music comes for you? I have nightmares about it getting me in my sleep. He had on a shirt this week that looked suspiciously like the Eddie Guerrero tribute t-shirts he's been wearing forever, except this one had Rey's face on it. The transformation of Rey Mysterio into the new Eddie Guerrero continues. Michael Cole hyped Mysterio versus Orton for Mysterio's WrestleMania title shot at this Sunday's No Way Out and introduced a video recap of last week with Randy Orton "setting the record straight."

They started the clip right after the part where Orton said that Eddie was no saint and didn't include any of the "Eddie's in Hell" stuff. Guess the heat from that was too much for even WWE. Could they be showing some class? Naaaah. Anyway, he was about to read from Eddie Guerrero's autobiography when Mysterio jumped him and beat the holy Hell out of him, including a front dropkick of Randy's head into the steel post. Randy does a great glassy eyed stare. Too bad they never did anything with that old concussion storyline of his.

His opponent was... Sylvan? Oh man. Sylvan got on the mic as he came out with his European techno music thumping in the background. (Clubs? I know what clubs are like! Uhn ta, uhn ta, uhn ta, uhn ta, uhn! Uh uhn! Or, uh, something like that.) Sylvan said that he could see the jealousy in Rey's eyes towards Sylvan. Sylvan asked if it's because he's not attractive and has to hide behind his mask. Sylvan said that, being honest, he is the next greatest superstar in WWE! (Next greatest? Wha?) He took off his ring jacket and said to look at the way he walks, to "hear" at the way he talks.

He lowered his shades on his face and winked at the camera before starting to get into the ring, but as he climbed onto the apron, Mysterio gave him a front dropkick! Mysterio then slingshotted himself over the top rope onto Sylvan on the outside! Sylvan was climbing up by the post and almost got the same treatment that Orton did last week, but he ducked out of the way when he saw what Rey was planning. Mysterio bounced his head off the steel steps as Nick Patrick tried to get Mysterio into the ring. Mysterio rolled in briefly to break the count, I guess, even though they hadn't been in the ring yet.

Match analysis: Nick Patrick rung the bell as Mysterio springboarded in off the top rope with a seated senton. Mysterio continued to beat on Sylvan and locked on a side headlock. Sylvan lifted him up to try to escape with no luck, but he eventually shoved him off. However, after a leapfrog, Mysterio locked on another side headlock. Tazz said that Randy Orton had suffered a concussion at the hands, or rather, feet of Rey Mysterio last week. Sylvan fought out again, and after another wacky leapfrog, Mysterio started delivering kicks to the hamstring. The fans started chanting "Eddie! Eddie!" Mysterio responded with the Eddie shimmy, followed by a counter into a tilt-a-whirl headscissors. Mysterio drop toeholded Sylvan into the turnbuckle. He went for the bronco buster, but Sylvan dodged and Mysterio got hung up on the second rope.

Sylvan pulled Mysterio down, his back over Sylvan's knee. The fans started to loudly chant for Eddie again. Sylvan beat Mysterio on the mat and taunted the fans. Sylvan whipped Mysterio hard into the turnbuckle, then hit a knee drop. Sylvan hooked both legs, but Mysterio kicked out. They showed a replay of Mysterio getting whipped into the turnbuckle. Sylvan hit a delayed back suplex and hooked the leg, but Mysterio kicked out. Sylvan complained about the count to the ref. Sylvan whipped Mysterio into the corner and Mysterio bounced off into a Sylvan bearhug. Mysterio is always a good guy to lock a bearhug onto, because he's someone his opponent can actually hold up. Mysterio headbutted out and even hit a thumb to the eye! I think that was supposed to be an Eddie tribute, but the fans didn't respond. Mysterio ducked a clothesline but ran right into a great Sylvan spinebuster! Sylvan covered, but Mysterio kicked out.

Sylvan kicked Mysterio in the back a couple times before locking on a reverse bearhug/gutwrench on the mat. Mysterio made it to his feet and did the Eddie shimmy. He hit a back elbow and did the shimmy again, then delivered a series of back elbows. Sylvan pushed Mysterio toward the ropes, but Mysterio caught himself and got a boot up in the face of Sylvan. Mysterio went for a springboard moonsault off the second rope, but Sylvan dodged and Mysterio landed on his feet. Sylvan hit a clothesline to Mysterio. Sylvan went to scoop slam Mysterio, but he escaped and hit the drop toehold, setting up Sylvan for the 619 which he connected with, then dropped the dime and hooked the leg for the pinfall victory!

Post-match analysis: Mysterio's awful music played when Randy Orton's much superior music hit. He came out onto the stage, mic in hand, in his tights. Orton said that Mysterio is lucky he gave Orton a concussion last week, or else he'd run down to the ring and beat the Hell out of Mysterio! (Wait, then why are you in your wrestling gear with your wrists taped up and everything?) Orton said that, after all the things that he said about Eddie Guerrero, nothing can take away the fact that Eddie Guerrero did main event WrestleMania. Orton said that Rey is no Eddie Guerrero, drawing boos from the fans. Mysterio yelled "I am myself!" Orton said that Mysterio will never main event WrestleMania and will never become World Heavyweight Champion. Orton said the reason why is because Rey will never beat him. Orton did his wacky pose on the stage as Mysterio talked trash in the ring. Mysterio put one leg over the top rope, teasing going after Orton. (Or maybe he just needed a boost.)

Match grade: C-. Just there. Nothing particularly exciting abou this match. When the highlight of a match is Sylvan freaking Grenier hitting a spinebuster, you know it's nothing special. Sylvan had far too much offense against a man who's supposed to be a main eventer now.

(Commercial break.)

WrestleMania is "Big Time" this year, courtesy of Peter Gabriel! This song is a decent Mania song, but it was made totally worth it by Mick Foley singing this song on last night's (yes, last night's!) Raw. WrestleMania 22 is 44 days away!

*** Mysterio was walking backstage and taking off his wrist tape when he ran into Kurt Angle, with wacky mouthguard! They stood face to face. Well, as close as Mysterio can get to being face to face with someone, as Kurt looked down at him. Rey unstrapped the bottom of his mask and Angle took out his mouthguard. Angle asked Rey if he's going to let Randy Orton tell him that he can never do something. "How many people told you that you would never make it here in the WWE? That you would never make it to the main event at Smackdown? That you would never win the Royal Rumble? You know how many people told me that I would never win an Olympic gold medal with a broken neck? Rey, look at me. Never say never! I never did! And it would be my honor to face you in the main event at WrestleMania for the World Heavyweight tit--"

Angle was interrupted by a "Hey Angle!" from Mark Henry. (With Daivari!) Henry said that, rather than WrestleMania, Kurt should worry about surviving through the night. Henry said that, tonight, he's taking Kurt out and taking the Undertaker out! They got face to face. Angle said that we'll see about that, and Henry said yeah, we'll see about that. Daivari cautiously tried to hold Henry back and said that we'll take care of business later. Angle had a big grin on his face and said that, yeah, we'll see about that later.

*** Orlando Jordan's music was playing, and Jordan was in the ring. Ooh, are the rumors true? Is it bi love time? (Mike crosses his fingers.) Jordan said that everyone knows he should be facing Booker T for the United States Championship at No Way Out, not Chris Benoit. Jordan said, after all, he is "the greatest athlete in Smackdown history." This drew a lot of boos as Tazz said that it was a matter of opinion. Jordan said that you can boo all you want to, but there isn't anyone in the back of the locker room that he can't beat. The Boogeyman's music hit, and something tells me that this won't be good for Jordan. Jordan looked around in a panic.

(2) Boogeyman defeated Orlando Jordan.

Pre-match analysis: Boogeyman crawled out onto the stage as his fog filled the arena, clock in mouth. He banged the clock off his skull yet again as his pyro went off and he ate some worms. I heard that Boogeyman has even been seen eating these worms backstage. Yikes. Cole talked about Boogeyman eating moles off people's faces. Tazz claimed that he also ate maggots and cockroaches. Ewwwww. Boogeyman's mouth was dripping with worm juice. Ewwwwww two. Boogeyman got in the ring and danced around as Jordan watched from the outside. He ran in and tried sneak attacking Boogeyman from behind to start the match.

Match analysis: Jordan used punches and kicks early on, then bounced Boogeyman's head off the turnbuckle. Cole said that he eats worms because he can suck them in using the gap between his teeth. Tazz said that he has those "summer" teeth: "some are" missing, some are black, etc. Boogeyman caught Jordan's leg when he was trying to kick Boogeyman and hit a clothesline! Boogeyman grabbed Jordan's throat and hit a knee to the midsection. He then hit his pumphandle slam finisher and covered with just his hands, and picked up the win!

Post-match analysis: Get Jordan that new character, stat. Boogeyman pulled the handful of worms out of his pocket and dropped them in his mouth. He dribbled worms out onto Jordan's neck. I feel bad for everyone who has to wrestle the Boogeyman and get the worm treatment. Ick. They showed a replay of Boogeyman hitting the clothesline followed by the pumphandle slam, with the worms dripping out of his mouth onto Jordan to round things out.

Match grade: Not applicable. Like most of Boogeyman's "matches," more of an angle than anything else. I hope that those rumors about Orlando Jordan's new character come to fruition, because they have been absolutely killing this poor man. Hopefully he gets his character rehabbed and becomes a serious contender in the United States Championship division. Interesting that they haven't really found anything for Boogeyman this month other than random wackiness. There's no reason for Orlando Jordan to get absolutely squashed while Sylvan gets to have a competitive match against Rey Mysterio.

Tonight: Chris Benoit teams with Lashley against JBL and Finlay! JBL and Finlay? How can so much greatness be in one team?

Up next: Gregory Helms defends the Cruiserweight Championship against... Scotty Too Hotty?! How the heck did he get a title shot?!

(Commercial break. This may have been the shortest commercial break ever, with a commercial for the sweet Ultimate Avengers DVD, Kenny Rogers' greatest hits, and then a couple UPN promos.)

Promo time: Randy Orton is on the cover of the February issue of Smackdown magazine, available now, with the headline "My Time" on the cover. For the ladies out there (and some of the guys, I'm sure), there's even a poster of Mr. Orton included!

*** The cruiserweights were standing around backstage. You know, chillin' like villains. The group included Funaki, Brian Kendrick, Paul London, Nunzio, Psicosis, and Super Crazy. They all got quiet as they saw Gregory Helms walking down the hall into their midst. Nunzio asked what he wanted. Helms said to watch and learn, "boys." Funaki didn't seem to care for the "boys." Helms said it was no sweat. Psicosis tried to calm Super Crazy down.

(3) Gregory Helms defeated Scotty Too Hotty in a Cruiserweight Championship match.

Pre-match analysis: As Helms music played, Cole said that Helms wasn't making many friends in the Smackdown locker room, as Tazz clarified that they hate him. I think Helms is doing well with his new character, even if I'd like to see a little more definition. His black ring jacket and new tights are pretty sweet, though. Scotty's music hit and out came Mr. Hotty. Cole noted that Helms was supposed to defend against Kid Kash tonight, but Kash was dealing with a family emergency, so Scotty was getting the title shot. Scotty took off his shirt and was tossing it to the outside, but Helms caught it and whipped it to the outside himself.

Match analysis: Helms hit an armdrag to start things off, then beat on Scotty in the corner. Helms caught Scotty's boot in the corner, but Scotty started to come back and hit a high hip toss, followed by another hip toss. Scotty blocked a hip toss and hit a back suplex. He rolled into the cover, but Helms kicked out at two. Helms hit a knee to the gut and went after Scotty in the corner, but Scotty moved out of the way. Scotty went to follow up, but Helms movedo ut of the way and sent Scotty shoulder first into the steel post. The announcers used this to bring up Orton's steel post concussion form last week. Helms delivered a fireman's carry into bouncing Scotty's head off his knee. Helms covered, but Scotty kicked out.

The announcers talked about Helms' "Watch and learn" comment, with Cole explaining that Helms was saying he was going to put on a clinic. Helms hit a big suplex followed by a couple of running legdrops. He did a cocky pin with the single boot, but Scotty kicked out. Helms locked in a modified camel clutch. Tazz talked about Helms working on Scotty's surgically repaired neck. Helms delivered a forearm drop to the back of the neck. Scotty and Helms started exchanging blows. Scotty ran into a clothesline to the side of the head. Helms covered, but Scotty again kicked out at two. Helms put a vice around Scotty's head with the arm trapped, and Tazz said it was almost like an outside half nelson.

Scotty made his way to a vertical base and began to fight out. He whipped Helms into the corner, slid under a boot to the outside, and pulled Helms' leg out from under him. Scotty hit a shoulder to hte gut from the apron, followed by a running flying forearm in the ring, a big forearm, a running back elbow, and a big back body drop. Scotty paused and got the look in his eye for the Worm as Helms climbed up in the ropes. Scotty signaled for the Worm, but turned around right into a right hand from Helms. Helms signaled for the finish and hit the shining wizard to the back of the head. He hooked the leg and defeated Scotty to retain the Cruiserweight Championship.

Post-match analysis: Helms got on the mic after the match and said to cut the music. He said that he hopes all the cruiserweights are watching in the back, because the greatest cruiserweight alive today can do that to any of them, any time he wants! Helms beat on Scotty with boots after the match, but the cruiserweights ran out from the back for the save! They surrounded Helms in the ring and they all proceeded to give him a beating! Funaki hit the bulldog, London hit the dropsault, Kendrick hit Sliced Bread #2, Nunzio hit his front dropkick off the second rope, Super Crazy hit the top rope springboard moonsault, Psicosis hit the legdrop, and they then set up Helms for the Worm! W! O! R! M! Scotty hits the Worm for the first time in forever! Now, if only he could do that during a match. That was a really fun post-match segment. The referee had to help Helms to the back.

Match grade: C. The match as a whole was just there, and it's unfortunate that they weren't able to make good on Kid Kash getting a title shot after getting some buildup. Helms using the shining wizard as his finisher now reminds me of the way Shawn Michaels changed his finisher to the superkick after everyone told him it was his best move. It's a good idea that helps it feel like Helms is moving in a new direction. On the down side, I think that an angle like this with everyone turning against him should have been saved for after he'd already beaten a few contenders and built some steam as an a-hole heel champion who the fans were developing a hatred for and would be happy to see get his comeuppance.

The Undertaker career highlight package that they showed last week aired again. It's kind of sad that this video package includes so many audio clips of good ol' JR's commentary, and it makes me miss his contributions even more. It closes with Taker making the belt around the waist sign from the Royal Rumble.

Tonight: 3 on 2 handicap match, MNM and Mizzark Henry taking on Kurt Angle and the Dead Man himself in a rare Smackdown appearance, and an even rarer Smackdown wrestling appearance!

Promo time: Let's see, time to fire up WWE.com and... Yup. No live events for yours truly here in the northwest. Hey WWE, there are millions and millions of people up here. Maybe a few of them might want to see a wrestling show? Maybe? Please?

(Commercial break.)

Before commercial: I have mixed feelings about the group cruiserweight beating, but I think it gives a sense that these guys have a chance in taking Helms out and getting that belt, even if most of them probably don't.

*** Helms was lying on his side backstage on a table as the trainer tended to him. He had his head on a large bag of ice. The trainer put an ice bag on his side and asked if that felt like the spot. Teddy Long walked in and said that he saw what happened out there and asked the trainer if he'd be OK. The trainer said he got beat up pretty good. Long said that he doesn't think it was fair that all those cruiserweights ran out to the ring after his match, but he knows a way that he can make it fair: By using his own theory, his own words. Teddy asks if he remembers when he said he could beat any of those cruiserweights at any time. Helms said yeah. Long said that, this Sunday, he'll step into the ring with all of those cruiserweights at the same time and it's going to be for the Cruiserweight Championship of the world! Helms yelled for Long to come back as he walked off, but Long left, leaving Helms in pain.

*** Kristal was interviewing Paul Burchill on the Smackdown interview set. Burchill looks like such a Johnny Depp wannabe. He said "Hello" to Kristal. That is not a catchphrase. Even Perry Saturn had two words. Kristal said hi and got pulled away off camera by... Kennedy! Kennedy came up to Burchill and said that he got Kennedy last week. He had Kennedy convinced that he thought he was a pirate. Kennedy said that William Regal clued him in, telling him that Burchill was related to people that were related to thieves and Blackbeard the pirate. Kennedy said that he has to be kidding, and asked if he honestly thinks this is going to work. (The correct answer: No.) Kennedy said that Burchill will go out there in front of those people and they will laugh at him, thinking he's a joke. Burchill pulled out his sword. Kennedy got worried. Burchill put it to Kennedy's throat. He got more worried. Kennedy said, on second thought, he thinks it might work. In fact, he thinks Burchill's going to be huge and it's going to be hot, and they need a pirate in this business, and that it's going to be "over." (Insider terminology!) Kennedy walked away and Burchill smiled. This wasn't nearly as good as last week's wacky skit that had Kennedy and Burchill in it.

(4) JBL (with Jillian Hall) & Fit Finlay defeated Lashley & Chris Benoit when JBL pinned Chris Benoit.

Pre-match analysis: More Booker commentary! Cole said that it was becoming a habit, and Tazz said that his agent wanted Booker's number! When Booker retires, will he be a regular color man on the shows? Anyway, he'll be doing commentary for the JBL and Finlay versus Benoit and Lashley match, up next!

(Commercial break.)

Promo time: The Undertaker versus Kurt Angle at this Sunday's No Way Out for the World Heavyweight Championship! Be sure to check out Christi's Corner later in this report for more on the Taker/Angle feud.

Booker and Sharmell were on commentary. Sharmell had a cool green dress on. Booker said that he was a little upset about having to defend his title this Sunday. He said that everyone knows about the conspiracy going on, Teddy Long doing his best to get the United States Championship off of Booker's waist. Booker said that his lawyers are doing everything they've got to do to get him out of that match on Sunday.

Finlay came down first with that shillelagh club he used last week. Cole talked about Finlay being friends with Booker. Finlay gave Booker a thumbs up and Booker pointed at him and pounded his chest. They showed a recap of the junior match last week when Finlay ran out and beat the crap out of the juniors, both with standard attacks and using the shillelagh. Booker said on commentary that they deserved all of it. Booker said that Finlay dropped them like a bad habit. Tazz noted that was from the Rocky movies.

JBL was up next! Booker said that he was one of the Booker's homies. Homies! Booker said that they came up together back in the Global Federation back in Texas, when he was the Global Heavyweight Champion, the Global Tag Team Champion. Sharmell said that he was still a champion. JBL stepped out of his limo, followed by Jillian! I think that Jillian magically looks better every week. And I don't even think she's getting any more surgery! She had on a great white pantsuit this week, and her hair was done up all purty. And her jacket, as always, showed her God given and man enhanced assets. She had on a great necklace this week as well. Cole talked about JBL's victory at the Great American Bash a couple years ago, the longest reign in a decade. Booker said that it was part of the conspiracy that Long has against him.

Cole said they had to take care of some business first, to which Booker responded "Yeah, yeah, a'ight!" Tazz read the sponsorships, with Booker talking in the background. Before Tazz was even done, Booker interrupted with "See, that's what it's all about. Pay some bills, baby! Pay the bills!" Afterwards, Booker said "It's all about paying the bills, right? Get them bills paid, dawg! Yeah!" I love Booker so, so, so much.

Lashley was out next, and his pyro drew an over the top "Oh my God!" from Booker. Booker talked about their being a lot of experience in the ring. Tazz noted at the announce table, too. Booker said that there were a couple million dollars worth with him on one side of the table, but he doesn't know what Tazz is worth. Ha! Sharmell cracked up. Michael Cole asked what about him, to which Booker responded "What about you?"

Chris Benoit was out next. Booker talked about how Chris Benoit wants to get in the ring with a guy who's injured, a guy with a hurt neck, a guy who's handicapped right now. Booker said that he could just as well be in a wheelchair and Chris Benoit would still want to wrestle him to get the United States Championship around his waist, but Booker said it ain't going to happen! Sharmell said it was wrong to force her husband to wrestle when he's injured. Cole asked if he was going to walk around with the title and not wrestle for the next twelve months.

Match analysis: Sharmell said that she showed Teddy Long the doctor's notes. Cole asked if this was high school. Booker said his lawyers were working on this as we speak. Chris Benoit and Fit Finlay started things off in the ring. Finlay hit a shoulder to the gut in the corner. Finlay had a rear waistlock on, but Benoit fought out. Finlay locked Benoit's leg on the mat, but Benoit got his arms around Finlay's head and elbowed him in the head to get out. Finlay picked Benoit's ankle and moved to his feet, but Beniot hit a modified enzuigiri kick!

Finlay had Benoit in a wristlock, then rolled Benoit back onto the mat. Sharmell said that Cole would scream like a girl if he had an ingrown toenail, but Cole's apparently in shoot mode as Cole said "No, that's the guy on Raw." Oh! Benoit hit a couple chops to Finlay's chest and followed up with fists. Finlay rolled to the outside and did that trick where he caught Benoit in the apron again! He slammed Benoit's arm on the steel steps. JBL stomped on Benoit's hand on the steps as Finlay distracted the ref! JBL stomped on Benoit's hand repeatedly on the steps! The announcers were teasing that Benoit's hand might be broken. Booker said that he was being set up for Sunday night in case Booker has a miraculous recovery.

JBL tagged in and stomped on that hand again repeatedly. Booker complained about his groin injury still aching when he coughs. Booker coughed on commentary. JBL pulled Benoit's injured left hand against the turnbuckle in the corner. Benoit fired back with chops! Well, guess his chopping hand still works. Finlay tagged back in.

Finlay hit an uppercut shot to Benoit's right arm, then slammed it over the apron. Booker: "Take care of your business, Finlay! Take care of your business, homey! Don't ya know me! Take care of your business!" Finlay hit a scoop slam and slammed Benoit's right arm against the mat. JBL tagged back in.

Booker said that JBL should go back to that "dreaded stomp" to the hand. He said "dreaded stomp" in what may be the funniest way possible. JBL delivered a clubbing blow to the back and a boot to the head. JBL went for a suplex, but Benoit countered and hit a snap suplex! Benoit made the desperation tag to Lashley!

Beniot shoved JBL down and ran wild on him. Lashley collided with JBL and followed up with a belly to belly throw! JBL managed to toss Lashley to the outside. Lashley quickly got back in and hit a big right hand, then bounced his head off the turnbuckle. Booker: "Finlay, for God's sake! Help your partner!" Lashley hit a couple of shoulder thrusts in the corner, but JBL turned it around with a thumb to the eye! Booker said that's one thing you can't do, you can't work on the "eye muscles." Booker said that Lashley has a lot of muscles, but you can't go in the gym and work on the eye muscles. Ha! JBL tagged Finlay in.

Finlay hit a kick to the gut and ran the ropes to follow up, but Lashley got a boot up! Lashley whipped Finlay into the corner and followed up with a big clothesline in the corner. Finlay rolled to the outside. Lashley went for a big right hand on the outside, but Finlay ducked and he turned around into a big boot from JBL! Finlay then hit a double stomp to Lashley's gut! JBL booted Lashley. Benoit walked over for the assist, but JBL backed off as Benoit complained to the referee.

(Commercial break.)

JBL booted Lashley in the face in the corner. Cole said that JBL and Finlay were in control throughout the break. JBL locked on a sleeper. They showed that, during the break, while the ref was distracted, Finlay hit Lashley in the gut with that shillelagh! Booker called it a "golden scepter." Booker said shillelagh, scepter, same thing. Booker said that Lashley was in deep waters, now they were just going to draw him in and drown him. Booker called for more pressure to the carotid artery, but Lashley made it to his feet and began fighting out! Booker complained about the fans cheering Lashley and helping him fight out, and yelled at them to shut up. Lashley was coming off the ropes, but Finlay hit a kick to the kidney, allowing JBL to hit a clothesline!

Booker said it was a clothesline, but it wasn't from Hell! Booker said that, if he put a little more "mustard" on it, we could be going home right now. Benoit was complaining to the ref and tried getting in the ring, but the ref stopped him. Booker said that Lashley was crawling like a little baby to his corner. JBL hit a neckbreaker. Booker said that those muscles Lashley has don't pay the bills, and that in a minute, he'll be crying like a little baby when JBL and Fit Finlay get the one, two, three, "Now can ya dig iiiit?!" Tazz asked Sharmell if he could ever get a word in edgewise at home. Sharmell said, no, she doesn't. Finlay tagged in.

Finlay hit an uppercut, and followed up with another European uppercut, then a third! Lashley came back with a kick to the gut and some big right hands.Finlay was holding onto the top rope, so Lashley pulled him back, slamming him down to the mat! Lashley tagged in Benoit!

Benoit delivered knife edge chops to Finlay. Benoit hit a big back bodydrop. JBL came in for the save, but just got chops and a back bodydrop from Benoit! Benoit hit a snap suplex to Finlay, then another snap suplex to JBL! Benoit covered JBL. Uh, what? And the ref counted it like JBL was the legal man. What's going on? Finlay broke up the pin cover. Finlay poked Benoit in the eye. Finlay dropped a knee over the back of Benoit's neck and tagged in JBL. Booker was dabbing the sweat on his forehead on the outside, and didn't look like a happy man.

Benoit hit the triple Germans to JBL! Benoit was signaling for the top rope dive when Finlay ran in for the save, but got a release suplex from Benoit! Benoit went after JBL in the corner, but JBL ran over and knocked Lashley off the apron! JBL ran back over to go after Benoit, but Benoit locked in the crippler crossface! Finlay broke it up and rolled Benoit to the outside. Finlay tried whipping him into the steel steps, but Benoit reversed it and send Finlay into the stairs! Benoit guillotined JBL over the top rope. JBL bumped into the ref off of that, so Booker got up and delivered a steel chair to Benoit's back! JBL hit the clothesline from Hell, covered, and picked up the victory!

Post-match analysis: Booker doesn't look so injured anymore. He was walking around just fine. Tazz said he forgot his crutch. Booker shook his leg and acted like it was a miracle. Ha! Booker tossed the crutch down and pointed to his groin, saying he was healed. Ha! That was gold. Booker said "It's a miracle!" Booker was ecstatic and jumped around on his miraculously heeled, uh, groin. Well, on his feet, but you get the point. They showed a replay of Finlay going into the steel steps, the guillotine knocking the ref down, followed by the steel chair and the clothesline from Hell! Booker continued to yell it was a miracle. I love this man.

Match grade: B+. Booker T's commentary was five stars and definitely helped bring this match up. This match was pretty good, with Chris Benoit and Fit Finlay carrying the load as far as ringwork goes. Lashley was used sparingly, which is a good idea at this point in his career. I'd like to see him work exclusively in squash matches and tag matches for the foreseeable future if they're going to insist on putting him out there even though he hasn't developed much in the ring. JBL also did a great job here and, as always, was a lot of fun to watch with some good ring psychology. The bit with JBL stomping on Benoit's hand was particularly good and made this match stand out, as it's not something you see match after match, week after week. The only big way they could have built up this match more was if it had gotten some hype the week before, but it was a fine match.

(Commercial break.)

Promo time: We want Bret! We want Bret! The Torch's own retro guy/Bret Hart devotee Octavio Fierros, surprisingly, did not have a heart attack at the announcement of this news. The text in this package says "On April 1st/one of the WWE's greatest superstars/will take his place in history." They showed a clip from the old New Generation video of the little kid yelling for Bret. As someone who didn't grow up on wrestling, this was before my time for the most part, and it looks a bit cheesy in retrospect, but I definitely respect Bret Hart and it's nice to see one of the only men who fans pretty much universally agree belongs in the Hall of Fame getting in.

(5) Matt Hardy defeated Simon Dean (with the Gymini).

Pre-match analysis: The announcers at ringside hyped up Bret Hart's Hall of Fame induction as Simon Dean's music played. They cut to Simon Dean and the Gymini already in the ring. Dean said that, looking at all the disgusting consumers in the crowd eating popcorn, hamburgers, hot dogs, and nachos, it looks like there's going to be no way out of those seats they're sitting in. Ha! Dean laughed at his own joke and said, that's right, he said it, "you fat Virginia hams!" Dean pointed at a girl in the front row and said that he's talking to her, "toots." Dean said that the people should plop down some money and buy his Simon System. He was interrupted by Matt Hardy's music. Yes, Matt Hardy has been reduced to feuding with Simon freakin' Dean.

Hardy was wearing a goofy MH logo wool cap, as well as goofy camo pants. They showed an MH symbol inside of a heart in the crowd, since this was taped on Valentine's Day after all. Cole said that he was intrigued by this Matt Hardy "situation." Cole talked about him tapping out to Chris Benoit last week and being upset in the back, at which point Melina came up to him and said that, if he scratches her back, she'll scratch his.

Match analysis: Hardy got a headlock on early on. Hardy was distracted by one of the Gymini, but Hardy still hit Dean with an elbow. Hardy went after him in the corner, but the other one of the Gymini pulled Dean out of the corner, so Hardy ran into the turnbuckle. One of the Gymini tried to punch Hardy, but the ref saw and ejected both members of the Gymini! The ref threatened to DQ Dean, so Dean yelled at the Gymini to get out. Cole said that Dean had a 1976 haircut, but Tazz said he should grow it like that because it's retro. He also said that Cole would look good in lavender like Dean, due to his girlish figure, and he doesn't mean that in a bad way, just that he'd be good in something purply or seafoam green.

Dean had the advantage in the ring, despite the Gymini being gone. Dean whipped Hardy into the corner. Tazz said that what Cole wears on the outside should match what's on the inside. Oh! He also said he saw Cole at the gym doing, and I quote, "the butt blast." Cole said he had nothing to say, then said he had a lot to say but couldn't say it on national television. Dean had a double underhook locked in, but Hardy fought out. Hardy hit a roaring punch, followed by a side effect! Tazz noted that Hardy had a busted lip. Hardy hit a couple of clotheslines, followed by a swinging neckbreaker! Hardy hit the scoop slam to set Dean up. Hardy went to the second rope and did the Hardy yell, but instead of the legdrop, he hit a flying elbow. Hardy got up and did his wacky flapping thing he does. Hardy signaled that he was begging for Dean to get up. Dean's shirt was up over the back of his head as he got up. Hardy kicked Dean in the gut and hit the Twist of Fate to pick up the win.

Post-match analysis: Hardy celebrated his victory. The fans still obviously dig him, though the fans aren't as all about him as they used to be.

Match grade: D+. Just not good. Dean didn't even get to do any of his cool indy style moves. A waist of time, because defeating Simon Dean doesn't really help you get over unless you defeat him incredibly decisively. It's not like he got in a lot of offense here, but he got in enough that it didn't really do anything for Matt Hardy.

They introduced a new video package on Kurt Angle. They included commentary from him winning the Olympic gold medal over a black and white clip of him sitting in the ring in a hooded sweatshirt. They showed a photo of him wearing his medal, video of him running with another man over his back, a photo of him bleeding from the eye, and pictures of various medals he'd won. Angle said in the voiceover "My life since I was a child has been to prove a point, to prove that I'm the best athlete in the world." With the clip in the ring, Angle removed his hood as more audio of his Olympic win played. "I want somebody to say it's impossible to be that good, because I'm gonna prove to them that they're wrong." They showed photos of Angle after he won the Olympic gold medal, with Cole on commentary talking about how he was the most decorated athlete in WWE history. We even got an old school "Oh, it's true!" Coach talked about how he was a former European, Tag Team, Intercontinental, and WCW Champion, a former King of the Ring, and a five time WWE Champion. They showed a lot of clips of Kurt's history in WWE, including several of the belts he's held. They showed pretty much every major main eventer tapping out to him. It included a lot of great Angle quotes, including "I'm a wrestling machine, and I'll fight anyone, anywhere, anytime!" "I can beat people in ways that haven't even been invented yet!" In the new voiceover, Angle said that "Whenever you want to be the best at something, and you have that passion for it, that's the easy part, is loving to do it. It's whether you succeed or not, that's the hard part." This video included so many great clips and you must see this. It was incredible.

Up next: That 3 on 2 handicap match main event! Stay tuned while I catch my breath from that Angle video!

(Commercial break.)

Raw Rebound: Wait, RVD is on the cover of the new Raw magazine?! Crazy! They showed the Road to WrestleMania 22 tournament brackets, and we saw highlights of Triple H versus the Big Show. I found this match incredibly boring, though Torch editor Wade Keller liked it more than I did. It just felt plodding and like it wasn't going anywhere early on. We've been watching these two fight for what feels like forever. I mean, they were in a match together at the freakin' 2000 WrestleMania for gosh sakes, and that was six years ago! The match ended in a double countout. On the plus side there was a cool spot after the match where Big Show tackled Triple H through the ringside barrier. Todd Grisham interviewed Vince McMahon backstage, since you would assume that both men would be eliminated from the tournament. However, Vince said that Todd may have seen two men who didn't win, but Vince saw two men who didn't lose. Vince said he would reward their passion and aggression, and they would be in a triple threat match against the winner of RVD versus Chris Masters. RVD hit the five star frog splash and defeated Masters to move on to the finals on next week's Raw! So, does this mean that, since we all know Triple H is going to win this tournament, we're going to get RVD versus Big Show at WrestleMania? Uh... great.

They showed that they were sold out at the Scope in Norfolk, Virginia. Tazz then did the No Way Out sponsorship from subway.

*** Matt Hardy walked up to Melina backstage. Melina had on a really cool looking headband. Matt Hardy said that he was considering her offer. Melina said, great, so I scratch your back, and you scratch mine? Matt Hardy said, no, not that offer, the other offer: The open challenge to MNM, that they'll face any two men at any time. Hardy said, that offer, he accepts it, and he's going to find a tag team partner. He's going to see MNM this Sunday at No Way Out! Melina was pissed. Matt Hardy getting this last minute tag team title shot makes Hardy look somewhat minor league, and if his surprise partner is who reports indicate it will be, this isn't going to go anywhere or help anyone, and will bring MNM and Matt Hardy down more than anything else.

The announcers ran down the matches for No Way Out. We've got Chris Benoit versus Booker T for booker's United States Championship, JBL (with Jillian!) versus Lashley, Gregory Helm's Cruiserweight Championship being defended against Psicosis, Super Crazy, Brian Kendrick, Paul London, Funaki, Nunzio, Scotty Too Hotty and, ooh, Kid Kash, Randy Orton versus Rey Mysterio for Rey's WrestleMania title opportunity, and Kurt Angle versus the Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship! Tazz said that this may be the greatest main event in Smackdown's history. I, uh, don't know about that. Tazz noted that they were both future hall of famers, which is most likely true.

(6) Kurt Angle & the Undertaker defeated MNM (Joey Mercury & Johnny Nitro with Melina) & Mark Henry in a 3 on 2 handicap match when Johnny Nitro tapped out to Kurt Angle.

Pre-match analysis: MNM in long white tights this week with grey fur coats, while Melina is in some kind of fun colors, perhaps a little spring preview, wearing an orange halter top, a maroon and orange headband, a tan skirt, some burnt orange boots, and a nice metallic necklace chain. Mark Henry came out separately with his new manager, Daivari! The match is up next!

Promo time: A picture is worth a thousand words according to this ad. The new WWE Divas magazine is available now! Melina, Stacy, and Trish may tempt me into buying this, but hopefully I have the strength to resist blowing my hard earned dollars. Plus, no Jillian, which automatically brings the worth of this magazine down.

(Commercial break.)

Henry's music was still playing as he stood in the ring looking mean as always. Kurt Angle was out next. I love that Angle mouthguard. His pyro is pretty good. He's still doing that goofy thing where he points at his opponent and yells "You suck!" The announcers noted it as well. Oh, brother. Undertaker's music hit next and the crowd went wild. Definitely a hot crowd for the Undertaker. We then got his long, long entrance that takes precious minutes off all of our lives. The announcers were totally silent for most of this until the lights came up. Cole talked about pictures telling a story, with Kurt Angle knowing that Taker is his partner, but that Taker could also stab him in the back. Tazz also said, noting that it was a cliche, that you could cut the tension with a knife! The announcers actually were doing a relatively good job building this up. Henry continued to stand in the ring during Taker's entrance. Angle looked a little freaked out.

Match analysis: Angle looked like he was going to start things off, but Undertaker stepped right in front of him without even saying anything. Angle left the ring, though not too happily. Tazz noted that Angle knows that was a big time diss. Joey Mercury started things off for MNM Taker started in his boxing pose and threw some punches toward Mercury, but Mercury dodged them and hit a series of right hands of his own. The ref was trying to get Mercury out of the corner where he was beating on Taker, so Mercury complained to the ref but turned right into a choke from Taker! Taker lifted him up and dropped him in his corner, pointing to Henry. Oh!

Henry tagged in, and Cole talked about Henry saying he would take Taker out tonight. Henry locked in a headlock. Tazz noted that Taker was trying to show up Angle. Angle blind tagged in. Henry hit a shoulder block to Taker. Angle got in and delivered right hands. Taker hadn't noticed the blind tag and was a little upset. Henry hit a headbutt to Angle. Henry took Angle over to the corner and tagged in Nitro.

Angle got control back in the corner. Nitro reversed a whip to send Angle into the corner, but when he went for a flying punch to follow up, Angle moved out of the way. Angle hit a German suplex and shot a look over to Taker. Angle was talking trash to Taker as he locked in an ankle lock! Mercury quickly broke it up though. Taker hit a big boot to knock Henry off of the apron. MNM was double teaming Angle, but Taker made the save, going after Johnny Nitro. Angle went after Mercury. They each were trying to one up each other with punching combinations. Taker hit a left, right, left, then Angle hit a couple punches and an uppercut. Taker threw his opponent over the top rope, then Angle threw his over the top rope! Angle and Taker faced off and the crowd went wild, but Henry snuck up from behind and clotheslined them both over the top rope!

(Commercial break.)

Promo time: "Victory dedicated to a fallen friend." Lawler: "Whoa whoa whoa!" Cole: "Mysterio! He did it! He did it!" Lawler: "No way!" Cole: "He did it! With Eddie looking down, Mysterio is heading to WrestleMania!" "A ploy, rooted in resentment." Orton: "Rey, I challenge you for your main event spot at WrestleMania. Eddie ain't in Heaven. Eddie's down there, in Hell!" Rey: "On behalf of Eddie Guerrero, you're on, Randy!" "Randy Orton. Rey Mysterio! A championship shot at WrestleMania. WWE No Way Out, live, this Sunday, only on pay-per-view!"

MNM and Mark Henry were still in control back from break. Johnny Nitro and Kurt Angle were the legal men. Nitro hit a shoulder thrust in MNM's corner. The ref pulled Nitro off, but while the ref was distracted, Mercury choked Angle with the tag rope as Henry delivered right hands to the side of Angle. They showed a recap from before the commercial of Mark Henry taking out Angle and Taker. Nitro went for a hammerlock and applied a headlock on the mat with the left arm trapped. They showed that, during the commercial, MNM hit a double suplex on Undertaker on the outside. Angle managed to hit a jawbreaker to escape the hold. Nitro tagged in Mercury.

Mercury hit a snapmare and hit a knee drop. He hooked the leg, but Angle kicked out twice. Mercury worked on Angle in the corner, then tagged in Henry. Henry hit a big shoulder thrust to Angle. Henry headbutted Angle and covered, but Angle kicked out at two. Henry choked Angle in the middle of the ring. Henry broke it, but Angle grabbed his ankle out from under him! Ankle lock! Henry kicked out of the ankle lock as he's done many times before. Henry dropped a fist on Angle. Cole noted that Taker has never submitted in his career. Whoa, really?! Seems like that should have been a much, much, much bigger selling point of this match. Henry tagged in Mercury.

Mercury hit a snapmare and locked on a headlock. Taker paced on the apron, which helped get the crowd behind Angle as he fought out. Angle back suplexed out of the submission. Taker was reaching out for the tag. Mercury had Angle's leg. Angle managed to leap over and tag in Taker! Taker ran wild on all three of the opponents, including knocking Henry off the apron, a big boot to Mercury, snake eyes to Nitro, and a big boot to Nitro. Taker splashed both members of MNM in opposite corners, two times each. Taker grabbed both members of MNM's throats to set up a double chokeslam, but Henry ran in for the save! Mercury then tagged Henry in.

Henry kicked Taker in the head. Henry choked Taker with his boot in the ropes. Henry distracted the ref as Daivari choked Taker on the apron! Nitro hit a cheap shot kick to Taker on the apron. Henry scoop slammed Taker and covered, but Taker kicked out. Taker delivered straight right hands to Taker in the corner. As the ref dealt with Henry, MNM choked Taker, using the tag rope. Mercury tagged in.

Mercury choked Taker in the ropes. Nitro tagged in and they hit a double suplex. Nitro hooked the leg, but Taker kicked out. Taker tagged Henry back in. Henry hit a couple right hands, but Taker started firing back with a series of rights. Henry cut him off with a knee to the gut. Henry was going for a back bodydrop, but he telegraphed it and Taker hit a running DDT! Taker sat up in the middle of the ring and pulled back his arm for the chokeslam, but Angle blind tagged it!

Angle ran wild with clotheslines to both members of MNM, then belly-to-belly suplexes to both men! He hit the Angle slam to Nitro and pulled down the straps! Henry ran in, but Angle ducked Henry and Taker hit a big boot! Angle then grapevined the ankle lock on Nitro, who tapped furiously!

Post-match analysis: Angle bragged about getting the victory over Undertaker and held up his title belt. Taker's eyes got really big and he chokeslammed Mark Henry! Nice. Taker signaled for the tombstone piledriver on Mark Henry. Angle said "No way." Taker hit the tombstone piledriver to Mark Henry! That was pretty cool, and probably pretty dangerous. Angle was shocked. Angle and Taker faced off to close the show, and Angle had his mouthguard back in. Angle held up his belt and said it was his, telling Taker there was no way he'd be getting that title.

Match grade: B+. This was an interesting, more creative than usual pre-PPV main event. They probably didn't go with the usual top two face/top two heel tag match since Angle versus Undertaker is essentially a face versus face match. The fact that this is face versus face does give it some of that "dream match" aura. It looked like they might be setting up Undertaker versus Mark Henry for a rematch at WrestleMania, but with Taker absolutely murdering Henry after the match, that seems unlikely. While Taker giving Henry the tombstone was cool, it seems like a bad idea if they want to continue using Henry as a monster. Right now, I'm sending it over to new Express contributor Christi for more thoughts on this feud!

***

Christi's Corner

Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle: A Missed Opportunity?

Hi, everyone! This is the first ever Christi’s Corner. I’m Christi, better known as ChristiDR55 on the VIP Forum. Before I start, I want to say thank you to Ellen for thinking my rambles made enough sense be worth recommending to Mike and a big thank you to Mike for giving the quiet girl on the forums a spot in his column.

We’re heading into No Way Out this Sunday with the big time main event of Kurt Angle vs Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Title. It’s a match that’s been in the making for a long time. The last time these two guys met on pay-per-view was back in July 2002 when Undertaker, Kurt Angle, and Rock wrestled for the Undisputed Title at Vengeance. Over the last 3 ½ years, we’ve seen Taker and Angle’s characters evolve. Taker returned to being the Deadman, and Angle made the transformation last year into, as JR called him, the blue eyed wrestling demon. There’s been speculation over when these two would finally get it on in a big match. Angle especially had been vocal in interviews over the last few years about wanting the opportunity to wrestle Undertaker, going as far as to say he wanted him at a Wrestlemania in several print sources. At the No Way Out press conference this past Monday, Kurt Angle said that he expects this match on Sunday to be an early Match of the Year contender, so the bar has been set high. I personally had the chance to see Angle vs Undertaker at a house show last March, and while you’d have a tough time weighing these guys against 2005’s Kurt Angle vs Shawn Michaels matches, it was something to see.

It has years of hype and is one of, if not the biggest match Smackdown has to offer.

And all the tension behind Sunday’s world title confrontation has me wondering if the on-air build-up has lived up to the off-air anticipation.

WWE certainly expected it to, because why else would they give up two huge, show-ending opportunities at January’s Royal Rumble? They had ready-made, big time final moments in the underdog Rey Mysterio’s Rumble victory and John Cena regaining the WWE Title from Edge. But instead, they opted for what turned out to be an anticlimactic end for one of the company’s biggest events of the year: Kurt Angle vs Mark Henry. The argument for the decision would seem to be that they were keeping No Way Out in mind. With only three TV tapings before Smackdown’s February pay-per-view, they needed to try to draw fans who normally don’t pay attention to Smackdown in with the big-time match they’d kept in their back pocket for so many years.

There were several limitations placed on the match besides the short amount of time for build. Angle and Undertaker’s joint position as faces made for difficult booking, and there was also the problem of keeping Mark Henry strong for post-No Way Out plans.

February 3rd’s Smackdown offered some intrigue in the fact that Kurt Angle stood right in Undertaker’s face without fear. After so many months of watching Randy Orton and others scramble away from Undertaker’s supernatural powers, Kurt looking right up at Taker and telling him he was going to break his ankle in pieces was a refreshing change. The crowd was split, slightly more for Taker, but the battling fans have made the tension between the two that much more electric.

On tonight’s Smackdown, WWE continued their tradition of excellent video packages putting over both Undertaker and Kurt Angle as equal level, huge stars. No Way Out’s commercial featuring the World Title match was also put together well and highlights the tension in that February 3rd face-to-face confrontation.

The main event with Undertaker and Angle as reluctant tag team partners worked in large part because of the crowd reaction. In reading the spoilers for this week’s show, I’d anticipated writing a more negative Corner. The hesitant tag partner spot has been overused and seemed like a fall back plan for a face vs face encounter instead of something unique to this feud. It’s a give-and-take. They’ve done a nice job keeping Mark Henry strong and trying to build fan perception of him to a place where he can stand on near-equal footing with Undertaker and Angle. But in doing so, they’ve given up opportunities for straight, one-on-one confrontations between the two that could have reached beyond what we saw in tonight’s tag match: the “I’m better than you” mini-competitions that made Benoit and Angle so entertaining in 2002. What worked then seemed to take away from the infallible, unfazed Undertaker we’ve seen ever since the Deadman gimmick was resurrected.

That said, what the main event tonight had on its side was a hot, sold out crowd in Norfolk. The audience exploded for Angle and Taker’s respective entrances, and they bought into the psychology of the match; everything from the arguments between both guys to Angle stealing tags from Undertaker to Undertaker’s tombstone on Mark Henry at the end. They bought it all, and the heat for that match carried over as well as could be hoped on television. The emotion in tonight’s match, with those excellent video packages backing it up, brought out what they haven’t been able to in the storyline itself because of time constraints, character restrictions, or whatever else. It hit on that underlying intrigue for a big-time main event that hasn’t been seen in 3 ½ years.

No Way Out can traditionally be considered one of the hardest sells of the WWE PPV year because of its lame duck position between Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania. February 3rd and 10th put a great deal of emphasis on the controversial Randy Orton vs Rey Mysterio feud. But this week, on the go home edition before the pay-per-view, Orton vs Mysterio was held to the opening segment with relatively little drama compared to the past two weeks, while the final half-hour was dedicated to the main event involving Undertaker vs Angle. The buyrate for Armageddon was surprisingly high, even with a Hell in a Cell main event. Will No Way Out also exceed expectations?

The answer to that lies on whether tonight’s sell of Smackdown’s biggest main event in some time was enough.

***

Show rating: 6.5. I thought this was a strong go home show before No Way Out. It did what any good go home show should do, making me more excited about a pay-per-view than I was before watching it. The main event was much better than any match involving the Undertaker and Mark Henry should be. MNM bumped around for Kurt Angle and the Undertaker, who did a cool bit where they tried besting one another. It was old school in some ways, but WWE hasn't done a big face versus face feud in so long that what's old felt new again.

Randy Orton's comments this week, unlike the offensive Eddie Guerrero stuff the last couple weeks about him going to Hell and not being a saint, seemed like they might actually sell some pay-per-views. Rey trying to live up to Eddie's legacy is a storyline that doesn't feel to me like it crosses the line into being overly exploitative like some of the other things done to build this feud. Mysterio needed a better pre-PPV match to get people psyched up, though, and the announcers also didn't do a good enough job getting over Randy Orton's concussion. They also needed more of a reminder of this controversial match late in the show. It was fascinating to see Rey Mysterio subtly wearing a new t-shirt this week that looks extremely similar to the Eddie Guerrero tribute shirts, except with Rey's face instead of Eddie's, as the transformation of Rey into Eddie 2 continues.

There were some incredibly mediocre matches on this show, including Rey Mysterio versus Sylvan, Boogeyman versus Orlando Jordan, Gregory Helms versus Scotty Too Hotty, and Matt Hardy versus Simon Dean. However, we also had two strong tag matches that took up the majority of the match time on the show, as well as some good storyline development. JBL and Finlay versus Lashley and Chris Benoit was a fun tag match. Booker T's commentary was even more off the chart great than usual. The bit where the cruisers all hit their finishers was fun, but a match where Helms has to defend his belt against so many guys needs more buildup than this. Burchill is an incredibly boring pirate.

***

Newsworthy Countdown

1) Matt Hardy and a mystery partner will challenge MNM for the tag team titles at No Way Out.
2) Gregory Helms will defend his Cruiserweight Championship against the rest of the cruiserweight division at No Way Out.
3) Undertaker delivered a tombstone piledriver to Mark Henry after their handicap tag match, potentially damaging Henry's character.
4) Booker T is no longer injured.
5) After being squashed by Finlay last week, the juniors didn't appear on this week's Smackdown.

***

Raw Is Trivial: Answer Time with the "Supreme" Seth Berger!

We're back. Anybody want some Sammy Sosa rookie cards? (I stopped collecting in 1995. Some guys named Derek Jeter & Paul Konerko are touted as "future stars". I never heard anything about them.)

Anyway, the reason you're here is that you're just dying to know who Vic Venom/Vince Russo said was going to take over the WWF in the March 1996 issue of WWF Magazine. Obviously, as I had said manager, you could only come up with a couple of decent answers, and the second one would be correct. It was the "Golden-Haired Fox" herself, Sunny. Anybody who had a hint of hormones in the mid-90s had a certain thing for the original WWF Diva. (As a long-time wrestling fan, I must admit to it. I saw her in Smoky Mountain in 1994 and knew she had the goods to make it in the big time.) But, VinnyRu went overboard into thinking she would take over the WWF. Now, the tag division was hers and hers alone. Anything else would be laughable.

That's it this week for Raw Is Trivial. Now, go through that box and toss out that trash. Back to Mike and his closing arguments.

***

Closing arguments? I like that. Anyway, thanks for tuning in everyone! I hope that you enjoyed the all new Christi's Corner, the usual great stuff from Seth, and oh yeah, me! Be sure to drop us a line with your thoughts at mikeroe@gmail.com. I've been sick all week, but I should be back with more OVW column goodness next week. I'm also doing a VIP Smackdown audio update this weekend for the Torch VIP members. Until next time, be strong and remember to smile!

Mike Roe reviews Friday Night Smackdown every week for PWTorch.com. Mike always wants to hear from you at mikeroe@gmail.com with your thoughts, comments, questions, critiques, or whatever else you want to share. He also writes an OVW Specialist column for PWTorch.com every Monday.


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ABOUT US

THE TORCH REACHES MORE COMBAT ENTERTAINMENT FANS THAN ANY OTHER SOURCE

PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. PWTorch.com launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.

He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.

He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).

He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)


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James Caldwell, assistant editor
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PWTorch offers a VIP membership for $10 a month (or less with an annual sub). It includes nearly 25 years worth of archives from our coverage of pro wrestling dating back to PWTorch Newsletters from the late-'80s filled with insider secrets from every era that are available to VIPers in digital PDF format and Keller's radio show from the early 1990s.

Also, new exclusive top-shelf content every day including a new VIP-exclusive weekly 16 page digital magazine-style (PC and iPad compatible) PDF newsletter packed with exclusive articles and news.

The following features come with a VIP membership which tens of thousands of fans worldwide have enjoyed for many years...

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