Monday Night Raw – February 9, 2004

Monday Night Raw
Date: February 9, 2004
Location: Rose Garden Arena, Portland, Oregon
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

Wrestlemania is just over a month away and tonight we get one of the required moments on the road to the big night: the contract signing, this time with HHH and Chris Benoit making their title match official. Shawn Michaels is still lurking around though and there’s almost no way that’s going to end well. Let’s get to it.

Opening sequence.

Here’s Goldberg for a match but there’s no opponent as Vince McMahon interrupts instead. Vince talks about how weird it is to see these two together and he’s got a point. This is some weird pairing that you almost never see together. Vince cancels Goldberg’s match so here’s Steve Austin to interrupt. Austin wants to know why Vince is here (well so far it’s to cancel a match) because he’s already ticking Austin off. It turns out that Vince is here because of Austin giving Goldberg a ticket to No Way Out because Vince knows what Goldberg is capable of.

It’s time to listen to the voice of consequence so here’s Paul Heyman to join us. Heyman doesn’t want Goldberg showing up but there’s nothing he can do to stop it. However, he can order Goldberg not to/threaten him with Brock Lesnar taking care of things. Goldberg takes the mic and say Lesnar is next before spearing Heyman. Another spear is loaded up for Vince but hits Austin by mistake, giving the fans their OOOOOO moment.

Post break Goldberg tells Austin that it was a mistake but wants to know if he should expect a Stunner. Austin isn’t sure but if he does Stun Goldberg, it won’t be a mistake. Goldberg can live with that.

Vince yells at Eric Bischoff and suspends Goldberg as punishment.

Trish Stratus/Chris Jericho vs. Matt Hardy/Molly Holly

That’s quite an odd pairing for Matt, who loves getting things for free and has status on five airlines. The men start with a friendly exchange of hammerlocks so the announcers immediately start talking about Goldberg. Can you at least wait a few minutes? An early Walls attempt sends Matt bailing to the ropes so Molly comes in and gets spanked for her efforts.

Trish gets armbarred down but pops back up for a headscissors out of the corner. The hot tag brings in Jericho to clean house but his plancha to the floor misses, aggravating the knee injury Jericho suffered last week. Cue Christian to post Hardy though, leaving Trish to roll Molly up for a fast pin.

Rating: C-. Not bad while it lasted but what does it say that they might have been in trouble if they had just gone a few more minutes? Four people who seem pretty talented shouldn’t be worried that a match is going to fall apart after going five minutes. Unfortunately that’s the way Raw matches tend to go as they tend to go overboard after a certain amount of time.

Post break Trish leaves the trainer’s room and runs into Christian. He doesn’t think there’s any reason the three of them can’t be friends. Trish agrees and Christian goes to check on Jericho, not before saying she looks really good tonight.

Mark Jindrak and Garrison Cade are enjoying Torrie and Sable’s Playboy and wonder if they ever….and here are Stacy Keibler and Jackie Gayda to interrupt. They’re annoyed about not being in the magazine and are going to prove something. Or a PG-13 version of such.

Coach cuts off Mick Foley from coming in. Foley is here to embarrass Randy Orton or maybe cost him his Intercontinental Title. Coach steps aside, unfortunately.

Ric Flair vs. Chris Benoit

In a good move, JR announces that Mark Henry will be out for four months thanks to the Crossface last week. Now why can’t today’s wrestling attribute more injuries to wrestling? Nah, we’re better off telling the truth and getting nothing out of it. Benoit wastes no time with a German suplex so Flair bails outside, setting up a chop battle. That actually goes badly for Flair, who bails into the floor for a change to even less success. More chops rock Flair again but he gets an elbow up to stop a charge….and flops for a good visual.

It’s already time to go up and already time to get superplex back down from the top as Flair is bumping early and often. The Swan Dive misses though and Benoit is down as well. Back from a break with another chop off until Benoit sends him face first into the buckle. It’s time to roll some German suplexes until Flair gets in a low blow to save his neck. That means the Figure Four goes on but Benoit is in the ropes just a few seconds later. Flair stays on the knee but gets pulled straight into the Crossface for the tap.

Rating: C+. Not bad at all here and that’s not exactly shocking. Benoit getting another clean win is exactly the right call and should do him a lot of good going forward. Beating the man that HHH idolizes and emulates so often is a great visual and while there is still a lot of time before Wrestlemania, they’re setting things up well.

Post match HHH says the contract signing is right now.

Back from a break and Bischoff is in the ring with a table and Benoit as HHH comes out for the signing. HHH wastes no time in signing but has something to say before Benoit can do the same. He sees the nerves in Benoit’s eyes because Benoit is standing at the edge and thinking of jumping off. What happens if Benoit jumps? Does he survive or is it all over? We’re coming up on Wrestlemania XX with all the lights on bright.

Benoit will be wrestling in the main event for the chance to become the man in the industry. That means all the pressure will be on him to defend the title all over the world. From American to Europe to Japan and all points in between. If Benoit can do it, then everything becomes worth it. Then the fans will chant BENOIT and he has arrived. That’s a nice dream, but reality is going to sit in.

Benoit is going to be sitting in the back after Wrestlemania and look at the big empty space in his bag. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity but is it worth it to risk losing it all? This is reality and that reality is HHH. Benoit goes to sign but here’s Shawn Michaels to interrupt. HHH leaves as Shawn says he doesn’t want to rain on Benoit’s parade but he can’t let this go.

Shawn’s issues with HHH far eclipses anything that Benoit is doing and he has to finish it. Shawn has to end this on the grandest stage of them all and that’s what he’s going to do. Benoit finally gets to talk and says he respects Shawn, but Wrestlemania is his night. As he’s talking, Shawn superkicks him and signs the contract. I really don’t think that’s how contracts work but that’s always been a gray area in wrestling.

Shawn came off as a huge jerk here, saying that his issues were all that mattered, despite having already had two shots at the title, which he blew both times. Throw in that Shawn has already beaten HHH at Summerslam and beaten him for the title at Survivor Series, this is the whiniest Shawn has ever been, which is covering A LOT of ground over the years. I know how great the match is eventually going to be, but I’ve never liked this story as Shawn didn’t need to be there and felt like he was as wedged into an angle as anyone could have been. The promo was great, but Shawn’s stuff was really forced and annoying.

Kane vs. Hurricane

Hurricane strikes his pose and runs out to the floor. Back in and a side slam followed by a chokeslam gives Kane the pin in short order.

Post match Kane can’t get the pyro to go off twice in a row. The third time works but Undertaker’s video comes on, followed by a video saying “the dead will rise in 34 days” (Wrestlemania of course).

Bischoff catches up with a ticked off Benoit, who wants to know what’s up with that. Apparently Shawn signing the contract is legally binding but he’ll have his lawyers on it. Next week: Benoit vs. Michaels.

Randy Orton isn’t happy with Foley being here and accuses him of being behind a conspiracy. A conspiracy to do what isn’t clear, but a conspiracy nonetheless.

We recap the opening sequence.

Goldberg tries to leave and doesn’t care to talk to Coach. He still has his No Way Out ticket and Lesnar is still next.

Video on the recent Japanese tour. This is edited off of the Network, likely due to a music issue.

Here’s Foley for a chat. He’s not here to interrupt tonight’s Intercontinental Title match but rather for an explanation of why he walked out in December. This turns into a discussion of Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, who was a major pastor but was then caught with a bunch of porn. Or Rush Limbaugh, who ranted about drug abuse and was then caught abusing drugs. So what does this have to do with Orton?

Well at one point he was a member of the Marine Corps (complete with picture) but this isn’t a great story about a hero. It’s the story of a man who went AWOL for 82 days and was dismissed from the military (MAJOR heat for that one). Maybe Orton was projecting some of his guilt onto Foley when he was talking about Foley being a coward.

Foley throws down the challenge for Wrestlemania and maybe we can call it the battle of the cowards. Orton pops up on screen and says come to the back for a fight, Foley does just that, earning a beating from Evolution, capped off by a Batista Bomb through a table, due to sheer stupidity. Seriously Sting would have seen that coming. Orton slaps him around a bit for good measure.

Intercontinental Title: Randy Orton vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Booker T.

Orton is defending. All three head outside in a hurry with Rob throwing Orton back in for a kick to the face. Booker doesn’t seem interested in running in for the save, instead watching from the apron until two. Van Dam kicks Booker down instead and we’re already in the two in/one out formula. Booker kicks Van Dam down to switch things up a bit but gets pulled outside by Orton.

Back in and Van Dam flips Booker as I’m still waiting on all three to be in the same place at the same time again. The announcers bicker over whether what Foley said about Orton was true, with Lawler accusing JR of being prejudiced. JR: “Well it ain’t easy.” Another kick to the face sets up Van Dam’s cartwheel moonsault for two but Orton is back in with a DDT on Booker. That sends Booker outside so Van Dam kicks Orton down for a change. A forearm to Van Dam’s back gets two but he kicks Orton in the face again, because that’s almost all of Van Dam’s offense these days.

Booker comes back in to play Bret to Van Dam’s Neidhart (with a kick instead of a clothesline) on a Hart Attack. Van Dam hits a bottom rope Five Star for two on Booker and Rolling Thunder gets the same, this time with Orton making a save. We’ll switch off to Orton vs. Booker now with the RKO being broken up.

A belly to back suplex/high crossbody combo with Van Dam flying back in crushes Orton again and all three are down. Rob gets dumped to the floor and there’s the ax kick to Orton but the very delayed cover allows Van Dam to flip back in for the save. The Five Star hits Booker but Orton steals the pin to retain.

Rating: D-. I really, really didn’t like this one as it was a full match of Van Dam kicking them in the face and one of them heading to the floor so the others can have a short singles match. The ending was slightly better as Orton stealing a pin to retain the title fits him perfectly. It was a lifeless match though and a positive ending isn’t enough to fix the bigger problems.

Evolution comes out to celebrate so here’s Foley limping to the ring, earning another beating. Van Dam and Booker get taken out as well to end the show. HHH comes out to watch as the show ends.

Overall Rating: C. Awful main event aside, they did a good job of setting up the biggest pieces for Wrestlemania. The show is rather early this year (March 14) so it’s not like they have much time to really set everything up. Therefore it’s a great idea to have a lot of that out of the way early, and that’s what Raw has done here. There are still a lot of problems (contracts don’t work that way being a big one) but you can see a good card emerging in there. Just make the build work a little more smoothly and no more bad triple threats.

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