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WWE RAW FLASHBACK - 5 yrs. ago (12-31-07): Flair vs. Triple H highlights New Year's Eve Raw, plus Mr. Kennedy beats HBK

Dec 31, 2012 - 1:17:07 PM
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WWE Raw Flashback Series - New Year's Eve 2007 with Ric Flair vs. Triple H

Flair's Career On The Line in Flair Country as WWE began building to Flair's retirement match at WrestleMania 24 in 2008.

KELLER'S WWE RAW REPORT
DECEMBER 31, 2007
TAPED SATURDAY IN GREENSBORO, N.C.
REPORT BY WADE KELLER, PWTORCH EDITOR


-A video aired hyping Randy Orton. Then Orton entered the ring and declared that 2007 can be summed up in three letters: R-K-O. That all took three minutes, as he talked slowly and deliberately. Jeff Hardy interrupted. He told Orton that he can talk about his year all he wants, but that means nothing today. "Dude, it's about what you've done lately. It's about the one thing you don't have, and that's momentum," he said. He introduced a clip of Hardy pinning Orton in a tag match on Raw two weeks ago. Orton called it "a lucky win a tag match." Hardy said it proves he can beat him and he has momentum headed into the Royal Rumble. Orton told Hardy to ask Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, and John Cena about momentum. The crowd chanted "You suck!" at Orton. Orton said if he wants to talk about momentum, pay close attention to how quickly it can turn. He went for a quick RKO during a staredown, but Hardy ecsaped and gave Orton a Twist of Fate. His music played and the fans cheered. Hardy's not a top-level talker, but he's totally suitable for this situation and the crowd likes his unpolished, everyman mic work.

-Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler reacted to the segment, then introduced a video segment on Vince McMahon declaring Ric Flair's loss would be his last WWE match. Ross and Lawler then plugged the Flair vs. Triple H main event scheduled, plus Michaels vs. Mr. Kennedy. They showed Michaels headed toward the entrance tunnel.

[Commercial Break]

-Matt Hardy approached brother Jeff backstage and said he's there to support him. He told him he's on the best roll of his career and Royal Rumble is going to be his night. Jeff asked how Matt's doing since his appendix burst. Uh, they only chat with each other when cameras are present? Does Jeff care so little about his brother that he waited weeks until Matt visited him on Raw to ask about his health? That interaction was written so poorly, that's how it came across. A better line for Jeff would have been to just say, "It's great to know you're doing so much better since the appendicitis." Viewers will assume logically that they've chatted about it. Matt said his goal is to be back in action at the Royal Rumble. He asked Jeff if he wins the WWE Title, he'd like a title shot. Jeff said it'd be an honor. Nice segment overall, as it covered a lot of bases, with the flaw of some of it seeming contrived.

1 -- MR. KENNEDY vs. SHAWN MICHAELS

At 2:00 Michaels applied a single leg crab. Kennedy reached the bottom rope to force a break. Kennedy fought back by tackling Michaels through the ropes to the floor. Michaels got back into the ring at the count of nine. They cut to a break as Kennedy stomped away at Michaels.

[Commercial Break]

Kennedy remained in control after the break. Michaels made a sudden comeback with a cross armbreaker into a crossface attempt, but Kennedy escaped quickly and regained control. At 12:00 Michaels made a full-fledged comeback. Ross questioned whether Michaels's back was too injured to pull off his comeback. Michaels went for a top rope elbow, but Kennedy moved. Kennedy leveraged Michaels's shoulders to the mat for a near fall. They exchanged a series of a half dozen or so rapid-fire reversals, Flair-Steamboat style. Kennedy ducked a quick sidekick attempt and then slammed Michaels to the mat with a reverse leg sweep for the clean win.

WINNER: Kennedy in 14:00.

STAR RATING: *** -- Good TV match. A telling finish in a number of ways when it comes to Kennedy being out of any dog house and WWE trying to utilize Michaels to get younger wrestlers over at this stage of his WWE career.

-Todd Grisham interviewed Triple H backstage about facing Flair. Hunter said if Flair loses, as he said, at least he'll have lost to the best. Vince McMahon and William Regal interrupted. Regal told Hunter if he loses, he will lose his spot in the Royal Rumble.

[Commercial Break]

-Jillian Hall sang "Auld Lang Syne" as Big Dick Johnson danced. Ron Simmons stood behind them and after 20 long seconds, said, "Damn!" Funny little segment.

-Backstage Regal wished McMahon a happy new year. Vince said he's worried about his new year, but then his phone rang - it played Vince's intro song. Vince said it was somoene from USA Network interrupting him to wish him a new year. He blew him off. Vince asked Regal to prove himself to him once and for all in a match against "my son Hornswoggle." Regal asked where Finlay was. Vince said he in Northern Ireland. Vince said he wants to see some tough love. Regal said he wouldn't let him down.

-They showed Ross and Lawler on camera. Ross threw to a highlight video of the Tribute to the Troops, which Ross called the most important broadcast of the year. Very nice video.

-Lawler plugged that JBL would be on Raw later.

[Commercial Break]

-After the Royal Rumble aired, Lawler touted that the Rumble sold out in two hours when tickets went on sale last week. The went to a clip of the first Royal Rumble from Jan. 24, 1988 in Hamilton, Ont., won by Hacksaw Duggan.

2 -- "HACKSAW" JIM DUGGAN vs. UMAGA - Royal Rumble Qualifying match

Ross assured he is a "double-tough American." Ross said Duggan was an underdog. Out on a limb, there. Umaga won quickly and decisively with a corner butt splash and a Samoan Spike.

WINNER: Umaga in 1:00.

-Hardcore Holly and Cod Rhodes wished Flair luck backstage. Vince interrupted and asked Flair if he was ready to walk the aisle on last time. "One last whooo!" he asked. "No more limousine riding, jet flying. It's over. Over. It's over with." Ross and Lawler then talked about how breaking it would be if tonight was Flair's last match. They went to a clip of Chris Jericho and JBL bumping into each other at Armageddon and JBL interfering moments later to cost Jericho the match.

[Commercial Break]

-JBL walked out to his intro song wearing a suit and cowboy hat. He milked his ring intro several minutes as his song looped and fireworks shot off behind him.

WHAT HAPPENED: 2ND HOUR

He said people in the city he owns, New York City, are gathered to celebrate the new year, but this is the day that will be known as when he returned. He said everyone knows he is a millionaire many times over and he doesn't need to be there. He said he is there because, "I love power, I love domination, I love owning people, I love taking people like you, squashing them under my thumb, bceause I can." He said money comes to money and he is their worst nightmare because if he can't buy it, he will take it. Jericho's music interrupted and Jericho charged to the ring. The had an intense pullapart brawl that was broken up by officials after about 20 seconds. They cut to a break as they were being pried apart.

[Commercial Break]

-They aired highlights of the brawl. JBL then yelled at Tony Garea backstage, saying nobody treats him that way. He said Jericho ripped a $500 shirt. He said he came to Raw to save the show. He demanded to be treated with respect. He said he will buy and sell each of them. Mike Rotunda, Sgt. Slaughter, and two referees were also on scene, the target of JBL's rant. Ross said Raw will never be the same again with JBL on the scene.

3 -- "GLAMAZON" BETH PHOENIX vs. MELINA vs. MICKEY JAMES - Women's Title match

After Glamazon slammed Mickey to the mat, Melina slapped Glamazon. That set off Glamazon against her. Mickey and Melina were about to take down Glamazon with a double-enzuigiri. Glamazon finished Melina with a fisherman suplex.

WINNER: Glamazon in 3:00 to retain the Women's Title.

STAR RATING: * -- Decent action. They continue to set up Glamazon as an unbeatable, dominant champion. It's an effective approach if they stay with it at least until a big match at WrestleMania, but ideally even extend it much longer.

-A commercial aired for the three-DVDs "Best of Raw" 15th Anniversary set. Also, a CD of Raw entrance themes. Did you know Austin's intro song is titled, "I Won't Do What You Tell Me." I didn't.

[Commercial Break]

4 -- HORNSWOGGLE vs. WILLIAM REGAL

Vince McMahon walked to the ring to his intro song, accompanied by William Regal. Hornswoggle came out next. Vince kneeled down and hugged Hornswoggle. He instructed Hornswoggle and Regal to shake hands. They did. The match began with Ross running down Regal's background in wrestling. Regal wore his street clothes for the match. Regal outwrestled Hornswoggle, but seemed resistant to actually do anything to inflict pain on him. He wound up for a punch, but held off. Vince didn't like what he saw and stepped up onto the ring apron to question Regal. Vince was back to normal this week after having the nervous breakdown two weeks ago. Vince appeared to then threaten Regal as the two had a conference. Hornswoggle hit Regal from behind. Regal got upset and wound up to punch Hornswoggle, but again held off. McMahon told him to hit him. He then held up brass knuckles that said he pulled out of Regal's jacket pocket. "You better use them," he said. Regal put them on, but against couldn't punch Hornswoggle despite Vince yelling encouragement over the house mic from the ring apron. Regal let go of Hornswoggle, who fled the ring.

WINNER: No contest.

-After the match, Vince entered and slapped Regal. He said that was a test for him. "You failed me," he said. "I never really want you to hit him. I wanted to see if you would. And you didn't do it. What happened to you inside? Who are you?" He ordered Regal to get out of the ring. Regal walked away looking dejected and humiliated.

[Commercial Break]

-A recap aired of the Orton-Hardy angle from earlier.

5 -- JEFF HARDY vs. SANTINO MARELLA

Two minutes in, in control of the match, Hardy climbed to the top rope and set up a Swanton. Orton interrupted on the big screen. He said he must feel good with his "momentum and everything," He said it's too bad hell have to rein in the new year by taking his brother to the hospital. He said he already kicked him where his appendix used to be, and now he's going to kick him somewhere else. The camera panned down and Orton gave Hardy the Legend Killer Kick. Hardy ran to the back to check on his brother.

WINNER: No contest in 2:00.

[Commercial Break]

-A replay aired of the Orton-Hardy angle from before the break. Ross called it "disturbing to say the least." Hardy did a good job with believable frustration, anger, and dismay over what Orton did.

-They went backstage to Triple H shaking Flair's hands and thanking him for good times. Flair said, "You make it sound like it's over." Hunter said if he ends his career, he'll still be his friend. Flair took offense at Hunter making it sound like a foregone conclusion. Hunter asked if Flair seriously thinks he stands a chance against him at this stage of his career. Flair said he was as good as him 20 years ago, and he feeds on every moment of his life being that good just like he did, but he will be his friend the rest of his life. "Right now you are my best friend," he said. "I want you to be The Game. You've got to be the man every night. Greensboro, Flair Country. I've got to be that guy tonight. I'm not going down with head between my legs. You may be the best in the business today, but you ain't the man yet until you put me away." He went on gushing about their friendship, then told him to bring The Game. Hunter said he has strived every day of his career to be the man he was and still is. Flair said for one night he will rise to the occasion. Hunter closed, "You bring The Man and I'll beat The Man." Then he walked away. The crowd whoo'd.

[Commercial Break]

-A commercial aired for Raw Roulette next, billed as the most unpredictable night of the year.

6 -- TRIPLE H vs. RIC FLAIR

Triple H's ring introduction took place first. Ross said if Hunter loses, he is out of the Royal Rumble, and everybody knows what that means to every athlete. Is he allowed to call WWE Superstars "athletes?" Isn't that a little too close to calling them wrestlers instead of sports entertainers. During Flair's ring intro, Ross noted that in 1983 at the first Starrcade in this arena in Greensboro, when he defeated Harley Race for the NWA Title, "there were no such thing as camera phones. There are hundreds, dare I say thousands, in this arena tonight. Are they taking their last pictures of (Flair) tonight?" The match began at 6 minutes before the top of the hour. The match began methodically with tests of leverage, some struts and whoos from Flair, and a forearm from Hunter which drew boos from the Flair Country Crowd. He dropped a knee on Flair's forehead, Harley Race style. The booed Hunter's continued offense. Flair fired back at 3:00 with a flurry of chops, but Hunter countered with a facebuster to his knee for a two count. Ross asked, after just four minutes, how much fuel was left in the tank for Flair as Flair kicked out of another pin attempt.

Hunter hit a spinebuster and played to the crowd. Ross noted Arn Anderson was know for the spinebuster. Hunter waited for Flair to stand, then set up the Pedigree. Flair blocked it and slipped on a backslide for a dramatic, believable near fall. Hunter followed up with a sleeper. Flair back suplexed out of it. Both men were slow to get up. Flair hit a double underhook suplex and more chops. Hunter reversed Flair into the corner, but Flair caught a charging Hunter with an elbow. Flair climbed to the top rope, raked Hunter's eyes when Hunter moved toward him, and then jumped off with a forearm to Hunter for a two count at 8:00. Flair did the strut mid-ring, then hit a running kneedrop.

Flair clipped Hunter from behind, softening up his left knee for the figure-four. The crowd popped as Flair bega to apply the leglock. Hunter kicked out of it, then went for a sleeper. Flair escaped and locked on the figure-four. The crowd went nuts, most it appeared were standing. Lawler predicted Hunter was too far from the ropes and would have to tap out. Flair held Hunter mid-ring and Hunter fell back in pain, with the ref counting to two before Hunter sat up. Hunter then moved toward the bottom rope and grabbed it to force a break. Hunter immediately surprised Flair with a Pedigree, but Hunter couldn't make a quick cover as he clutched his damaged knees. He crawled over to Flair, but Regal yanked Flair toward him and punched him in the forehead with the brass knuckles. Ross asked, "What the hell is going on?" The bell rang and Flair was declared the winner by DQ. Hunter argued with the ref. Flair music played as Hunter sneered toward the back. Ross said, "The ramifications of William Regal's actions are earth-shattering." Hunter eventually calmed down and helped Flair to his feet and hugged him as the show ended. Ross said they're remain the best of friends.

WINNER: Flair via DQ in 10:00.

STAR RATING: **1/2 -- Good match given the storyline headed in and the dynamic between the wrestlers. They played into each other's signature moves really effectively and the crowd heat, in this case, really elevated the match. The finish is intriguing in that Regal showed sympathetic tendencies earlier with Hornswoggle, so his hitting Flair could have been motivated by a number of things, including not wanting Hunter to have the glory of ending Flair's career, or simply wanting to extend Flair's career when it looked like Hunter was about to win.

[Torch art credit Grant Gould (c) PWTorch.com]


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