Assorted April PPV Countdown: Backlash 2004

The SmarK Rant for WWE Backlash 2004 / RAW April 19 2004 – So finally I’m back home and organized enough to do a rant of the show, after a whirlwind weekend of WWE-stuff that I’ll get into in the RAW rant, because that’s where most of it is pertinent. FYI, my seats ended up being section 119, row 4 (which is literally one row off the floor and I was sitting right beside the hard camera and right behind the soundboard, dead center to the ring) and just to give you an idea of how great these seats were, Shane McMahon and Chuck Palumbo were sitting beside us. Shane was great, marking out like nuts all night and generally going with the flow. We could watch the PPV feed on the monitors at the same time as the live action in the ring, which was kind of trippy. Plus we got to see the official script for the show, complete with neatly formatted title page and everything. They really do exist. And the best thing was that the tickets were actually there ON TIME this time around! We even got to bypass the insane lineups outside by going to the Will Call window.  (The thing that always drives me nuts about comp tickets is waiting for the promoter to actually send them to the Will Call window, which usually means you’re getting into the show literally 5 minutes before it starts.   My life is TOUGH.)  Rexall Place was legitimately sold out with about 15,000 or so — I couldn’t see any blocked off sections (outside of the area around the hard camera, directly behind me) and there were only a few empty seats here and there. T-shirts were very reasonable, and I picked up a Backlash shirt with the three-way on the front and Foley-Orton on the back for $30. You could also get all the Stone Cold and Goldberg shirts for $10 each.  (Kind of wish I had gotten the Austin shirt, because at least I’d still be able to wear it today.  A shirt with Benoit on the front is a little harder to pull off…)  It really amazes me, too, what a great job of making the arena look so much bigger than it is that they do. – Live from EDMONTON, ALBERTA!  (My first ever live PPV experience, believe it or not.)  – Your hosts are JR & King. – The crowd was going crazy for Benoit from the moment the show started, even during Heat. – Opening match: Shelton Benjamin v. Ric Flair. Fun fact: This is the first time I’ve seen Flair wrestle, live, despite going to dozens of house shows from 86-present. (Dunno how I missed him on the 92 run, but I did.  There was a period around that time when the WWF was forced to run smaller venues up here because they couldn’t sell enough in the big arenas anymore and I know I skipped those shows, so maybe that was one.)  Flair was just crazy over as a face, which made me think they should have used Batista in this spot. (Back when Batista was NOT one of the biggest stars in the world, of course.)  Benjamin takes him down with a fireman’s carry and gives Ric some attitude, which draws heat from the fans. Slugfest leads to a Flair Flop, but Flair comes back with a chop in the corner, and he dodges a charge. Flair overpowers him and they criss-cross into a Shelton dropkick, and he dumps Flair with a clothesline. Slugfest on the floor, but Flair gets backdropped. Back in, Flair goes to the eyes and chops him down, but goes up and gets slammed. Benjamin gives him a couple of clotheslines, but whiffs on a dropkick and Flair tries a figure-four. Benjamin reverses for two. He clotheslines Flair, going back on offense, but Flair kicks him in the knee to take over again. He pounds away on it and mixes in some chops in the corner, and it’s figure-four time. Shelton tries to fight it off, but succumbs. Flair gets two off it, but Shelton reverses until they get to the ropes. I was disappointed at not seeing Flair using the ropes live. Flair chops him down again for two. He grabs a chair, but the ref confiscates it, so they slug it out, with Shelton eventually winning, and an enzuigiri triggers another Flair Flop. It’s like he’s epileptic tonight or something. Dragon Whip kick puts Flair down again, but he keeps coming, and they slug it out again. Benjamin wins that battle and whips him out for a Flair Flip, then suplexes him back in, only to walk into a monster chop. Flair goes up again, for reasons that escape me, then comes down again, only to get hit with a Blinger Splash and the flying clothesline for the pin at 9:32. This was better live, as Flair just looked old and slow on tape. ** My original rating upon seeing it live was about ½* higher.  (Don’t even remember it now.)  – The Coach v. Tajiri. Coach had really good heat with the crowd before the show. They exchange waistlocks, but Coach escapes, so Tajiri kicks him in the leg. He bails and Tajiri follows, but misses a high kick and hits the post. Back in, Coach gets two. He starts working on the leg and gets a kneecrusher, then takes him down into a kneebar. Coach isn’t bad, actually. Tajiri reverses, so Coach has to make the ropes. Coach stays on the leg, but Tajiri gets a sunset flip for two. Coach clips him again and goes back to the kneebar, even using the ropes. Tajiri kicks out of that in pretty vicious fashion, and Coach backs off to the corner. He tries going up, but it’s like Tito Santana in 1979 or something, as he takes so long that Tajiri crotches him and hangs him in the Tree of Woe. Then he dropkicks the back of his head in a nasty spot, for two. Coach, dying for our pleasure? What world is this? Tajiri follows with a handspring elbow and dropkick to come back, and the high kick triggers a series of them. Coach blocks a monkey flip in the corner for two, but Tajiri gets the Tarantula. But alas, Garrison Cade runs in and hits Tajiri, giving Coach the pin at 6:26. You’d expect a comedy match for this, but it wasn’t, as Coach actually tried to work a normal wrestling match, and succeeded for the most part. Not bad. *1/4  (I don’t know what the deal with Coachman trying to be a wrestler for a while was about.  His best ever usage came later in the year when he was bullying Eugene and Rock came out and destroyed him.)  – Christian & Trish v. Chris Jericho. For those wondering, Christian cut a promo on the crowd before the show, where he basically mocked Canadian fans for caring about where people were announced from, and then made sure to note that the Leafs rule and the Oilers suck. By that point, we were sure to boo them. He had me at “Leafs rule”, actually. Jericho is temporarily from Winnipeg again tonight.  (So yeah, this was during HOMETOWN-GATE 2004, as WWE once again decided that the source of their problems was Canada treating the wrong people as babyfaces and heels.  They started billing Jericho as being from New York instead of Winnipeg and Edge from Miami instead of Toronto, thus causing nerds on the internet to lose their shit.  You’ll of course note that WWE quickly backed down and/or lost interest in fucking around with Canada any further, and the proper Canadian hometowns were restored again.)  Jericho slugs Christian down and goes after Trish, but Christian runs interference, so Jericho elbows him down and gets a backdrop. At this point, a CRAZY loud “slut” chant starts (with Shane participating), and Jericho suplexes Christian for two. (Shane was as much fun as the show itself in some ways.)  Jericho has words for Trish, and Christian clobbers him from behind as the “slut” chant starts again. Christian charges and gets tossed by Jericho, setting up the springboard dropkick. Back in, Jericho goes up with a flying elbow for two. He chops away, and “accidentally” collides with Trish while running the ropes, but Christian suplexes him onto the top rope to take over, and then purposely collides with Jericho to send him into the railing. Back in, it’s Trish time, as she uses the SLAPS OF DOOM and a high kick to put Jericho down. Back to Christian, as he hits the chinlock. Jericho fights out and goes for the Walls, but Christian kicks him off, only to suffer a headbutt to his favorite muscle for his troubles. Jericho rolls him up for two. He chops away again and gets a clothesline, into the Flashback for two. Northern Lights suplex gets two. Christian whips him into the corner, where Trish gets a slap to allow Christian an inverted DDT out of the corner for two. Jericho comes back with another attempt at the Walls, so Jericho picks her up for the SPANKING OF DEATH, which the crowd loves. That allows Christian to hit the Unprettier, however, and Trish comes in for two. Christian gets another two off it. Trish charges in and Jericho kills her with a clothesline, but Christian clobbers him from behind again and it’s a triple-count. They slug it out and Jericho forearms him down, into the running choke. Bulldog, but the Lionsault misses, as usual. Christian takes him down with a Texas Cloverleaf, but Jericho powers into the Walls, then releases and puts it on Trish instead. Christian cradles for two. Smart man. Unprettier, but Jericho reverses to a catapult this time, sending Christian into Trish, and the enzuigiri finishes at 11:13. Lots of fun, although not as technically sound as the WM match. ***  (Oddly, Trish is the one who ended up in the best situation out of this whole deal.)  – Women’s title: Victoria v. Lita. Lita takes Victoria down with a pair of armdrags to start. Victoria goes to a headlock and works that, and they do a bridge sequence out of that. Victoria armdrags her again. Non-crazy Victoria is starting to bore me. (She bored WWE higher-ups as well and she was gone pretty soon afterwards.)  They fight over a lockup and land on the floor, but nothing happens. Back in, Victoria gets a backslide for two, as Lawler points out the green hanky in Lita’s pocket. So it’s time for the HANKY CODE! And it’s apparently “Dines off tricks” if worn in the left pocket, so Lita is apparently a whore.  (Yeah, “apparently”, Edge’s ex-wife says.)  They do a laughable pinfall reversal sequence until Victoria slams her into the standing moonsault for two. She hits the chinlock and then surfboards her, but Lita reverses into a headscissors. Corner clothesline, as everything looks really sloppy, including the elbow that gets two. Snap suplex and another headscissors as Lita comes back, and she gets a MAIN EVENT SLEEPER, but Victoria makes the ropes. She comes back with the sideslam for two. Moonsault misses and Lita rolls her up for two. Twist of Fate gets two. Another try is countered by Victoria into a small package for the pin at 7:22. I’m hoping to never see Lita wrestle again, as this was very sloppy and dull. Molly & Kim do the heel chick beatdown afterwards. ½* – Intercontinental title: Randy Orton v. Mick Foley. Randy’s pathetic little barbed-wire 2×4 is kinda sad, really. Foley attacks with the real one to start, pounding him into the corner until he bails, and they do a chase outside the ring until Orton is able to take him into the stairs. He gets the bat and they fight over it, but Foley wins that battle, so Orton clobbers him with a garbage can. He charges with it one time too many, however, and gets it kicked back in his face for his troubles. Back in, Mick stomps him down and chokes away, setting up the kneelift and a legdrop that gets two. To show you the miracle of WWE camera work, from our position that legdrop missed by a foot, literally, but looked fine with the quick cut. (Whatever directors they had performing those miracles are long gone now.)  Baseball slide puts Orton on the floor, and he follows with a neckbreaker. Foley goes up, but Orton evades any potential big elbows being dropped. They fight up the ramp, but Orton suplexes him there for two. Backslide gets two. I guess that was more for the surprise factor. With scientific wrestling not working, he slams Foley’s head back into the ramp and gets two. Back to ringside, where Foley meets the stairs, and Orton brings him back in and tries to introduce him to the barbed-wire, but Foley fights him off and goes low to escape. He brings forth the sock, but then polls the crowd on whether they’d rather see that or the bat, and the bat wins. There’s a certain charming element of total insanity there that you’d don’t see in normal sports. Orton eats the barbed-wire and starts bleeding, and Foley drops an elbow with the bat. He works on the cut and slugs away in the corner, then follows with the running knee to the face. Then he rubs the bat into Orton’s face for good measure, sending him scurrying. Mick keeps on him with the barbs and the wire and the hurting, and then takes it to the NEXT LEVEL by legdropping the baseball bat onto his crotch. Shane McMahon was going APESHIT at this point, by the way. So was I. Foley heads out for a gas can and a lighter (throw in some booze and you’ve got a PARTY!), but Eric Bischoff threatens to stop the show if he lights the bat. So Mick tosses it aside and uses a baking sheet instead. And then he finds a barbed-wire covered plywood sheet. Shane is nearly jumping up and down on his seat at this point. Foley slugs him into position, but gets powdered and slammed onto the table. Well, he’s the one who brought it in. Orton gets two off that. Orton puts the sheet in the corner and they reverse each other until Foley inevitably ends up getting whipped into the barbed wire. Orton drops the barbed wire on him for extra incentive. And speaking of incentive, Orton dumps a bag of tacks on the mat. Orton tries an RKO, but Foley dumps him onto the tacks. Jesus, even HHH wasn’t crazy enough to try that spot. The tacks are EVERYWHERE, stuck into Orton’s HAND and back, and Foley cradles for two. In moderation, those kinds of sick spots are VERY cool. (And totally safe.  It looks sick and doesn’t feel good, but there’s nothing inherently dangerous about a bunch of thumbtacks unless you get one in your eye or something.)  Orton retreats up the ramp, but Mick’s in no mood for moderation, so he brawls with him and then tosses him off the stage, through a table below. That’s even sicker considering he landed on the thumbtack-covered back. Foley, crazy man, follows with an elbow off the stage. The arena thought it was over at that point, but Orton kicks out at two. Back to the ring, where Foley DDTs him for two. He sets up the barbed-wire sheet in the corner again, but Orton nails him with the bat to draw blood, and then pounds him down caveman-fashion. However, age and guile defeat youth and power in this case, as Orton then walks into a Mandible Sock. He goes low to break. Foley goes back to the claw, but Orton escapes with an RKO. That gets two. Another one, onto the bat, gets the pin at 23:04. Orton was over bigtime with the crowd here after that. **** I liked it better live, because of the more visceral feelings of being there to see the beatings, but it was still a great coming-out party for Orton.  (And from there he went up to the main event for good.)  – La Resistance v. Hurricane & Rosey. This was the bathroom / concession / merchandise break for me and everyone else. Hurricane grabs a headlock on Conway to start, but gets hiptossed. Back to it, but Conway escapes again, only to see his clever hiptoss plan foiled. Rosey hiptosses Hurricane onto Conway for two. Conway charges and hits elbow, but takes Hurricane off the top with a neckbreaker. Sweet. Powerslam and Grenier comes in for two. Backbreaker gets two. Suplex and he whips Hurricane into the corner, setting up a bearhug. Eugene wanders out, however, as Rosey gets the “hot” tag and slams Conway and Grenier. Samoan drop gets two. La Rez try a double-team, but Eugene plays with the Quebec flag. La Rez gets dumped and Hurricane hits them with a crossbody to the floor. Eugene comes into the ring and runs the ropes in a totally pointless segment, and Hurricane hits Conway with the Eye of the Hurricane at 5:01. This all looked totally screwed up. DUD  (Man, Hurricane and Rosey were about on par with Epico and Primo on the food chain of WWE tag champions who the company pretty much forgot about even as champions.)  – Kane v. Edge. Kane’s pyro fails to go off, which explains his surly nature. Earl Hebner is the ref here, which immediately distracts the entire crowd. Edge’s pop is pretty weak, too. Edge slugs on Kane to start, but gets nowhere. He pounds away in the corner, but gets choked down. Kane works on the bad arm, but Edge hits him with a clothesline out of the corner, and Kane bails. Edge baseball slides him and sends him into the post, but preps the announce table to no avail. Kane rams the bad arm into the stairs and stomps on it back in the ring, as they totally lose the crowd. He gets two. Kane goes to a wristlock as JR & King meander with their commentary, having nothing to talk about. Edge fights up, but gets sideslammed. Kane misses an elbow, however, and Edge comes back with a leg lariat, only to run into a big boot. Kane goes up and Edge follows, but gets knocked down again. Kane whiffs on the clothesline and Edge gets the DDT, but Kane does the zombie situp. He goes for the chokeslam, but Edge uses the cast with the ref on the floor, and spears him for the pin at 6:25. Maybe it’s time to repackage Glen Jacobs again. ¾*  (They kind of did with the Snitsky thing, in fact.  This was of course before the actual Edge v. Kane feud we got in 2005, which at least had the benefit of a WRESTLING WEDDING.)  – RAW World title: Chris Benoit v. HHH v. Shawn Michaels. Benoit brings the awesome by holding the belt in the faces of both challengers, just because he CAN. Some fans in the front row get on Shawn a bit during intros, but that’s nothing compared to the ambush we had in store for him later. Benoit attacks HHH to start and it’s a three-way slugfest in the corner until Benoit & Michaels work together for a backdrop and dump HHH. Shawn turns on Benoit and they exchange chops, which Benoit wins in intense fashion, and he kills Shawn with a lariat out of the corner.  (Poor choice of words there.)  Shawn comes back with a neckbreaker, but HHH joins us again and slugs it out with Shawn. High knee puts Shawn down and HHH goes after Benoit next and tosses him, thus killing the crowd’s interest in the match as a whole. Shawn gets an atomic drop on HHH and slugs him down, but puts his head down and HHH goes for the Pedigree. Shawn escapes and they both knock Benoit off the apron again, but he makes it back in and throws a suplex on Shawn, and another for HHH. Back to Shawn, but he blocks, so Benoit chops them both down instead and backdrops HHH. Shawn throws his wussy chops again, so Benoit whips him out of the ring. HHH dives off the middle rope, but lands in a crossface. Benoit breaks to go after Shawn again, possibly because he’s still pissed about Shawn hitting like a girl.  (Obviously he had anger issues even then.)  Back in, Benoit goes up, but gets knocked down by HHH and they slug it out on top. HHH tries a superplex, but Shawn breaks it up and Benoit hits the floor. Shawn takes HHH down with an electric chair and gets two. He slugs away on HHH, but walks into a facecrusher and both guys are out. Benoit sneaks in with a flying headbutt on Shawn, however, and gets two. HHH and Benoit slug it out and HHH loses that battle by getting tossed, but Benoit can’t suplex Michaels. The ref gets bumped on a forearm attempt by Shawn, and that allows HHH to go for the Pedigree, which Benoit reverses to a Sharpshooter attempt, but HHH fights him off. Benoit takes him down again and gets it this time, but there’s no ref. Shawn breaks it up, but gets taken down into a crossface as a result, so that was more of a pyrrhic victory. Benoit tries to revive the ref with no luck, but Shawn takes him down into a Sharpshooter as Earl Hebner runs out as the new ref. This was supposed to be heel heat, but it was more like “I can’t believe they’re doing this” heat, and it just made us more pissed off at everyone involved in Montreal. Shawn breaks the move and slugs away on HHH in the corner, and now begins the mother of all “You Screwed Bret” chants at Shawn as he gets two on Benoit. TV doesn’t even do the chant justice, as it was THUNDEROUS live. Even Shane was chanting it! Benoit takes him down into the crossface, which makes us all happy, but HHH breaks it up. I love JR & King doing their “get over it” speech to us, even though it was precipitated by a spot STOLEN FROM MONTREAL just five seconds earlier! HHH DDTs Benoit for two. HHH starts throwing chops, and now we get on HHH with “You tapped out”, which he seems to have inherited from Brock. Benoit comes back with chops and whips him out of the ring, but Shawn clotheslines him for two. Benoit fights back with chops, but gets tossed, so an annoyed Shawn goes up and overshoots, putting himself through the table with a crossbody attempt. HHH takes over on Benoit, whipping him into the stairs and bringing him in for a beating. Into the post goes Benoit, on both sides of the ring, and he hits the floor off the second one. Back in, HHH milks an “asshole” chant and slugs Benoit down again, into a camel clutch now. HHH pounds away in the corner, until Benoit hotshots him to break free, thus ending the only really weak part of the match. HHH gets a facecrusher, but walks into the rolling germans, and Benoit goes up, but misses the headbutt. Lawler notes that “showboats come crashing down to earth” before switching to a more apt metaphor about boats sinking. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE gets two, as Shawn revives and saves. Everyone is out, as HHH & Michaels revive first and slug it out, which no one cares about because they ain’t Benoit. Shawn gets the flying forearm and he’s filled with the PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Without the stigmata, or Mel directing.  (Yeah, that one never really got over.)  Shawn goes up with the flying elbow and tunes up the band, but the crowd won’t play along. Shawn takes it out on Benoit, superkicking him off the apron, which draws huge heel heat, but HHH goes low on him and gets two. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE, but Shawn reverses him out of the ring. HHH gets his trusty sledgehammer and hits Shawn in the back, right in the same spot as he did at Summerslam 2002 (nice touch, indeed). He overreacts the same way Bill does. Benoit tries to come back, but eats the stairs again at the hands of HHH. HHH sets up the stairs and tries a Pedigree on them, but Benoit catapults him into the post to remove him from the equation. Benoit heads back into the ring, nearly walking into a superkick from Shawn, but he catches the leg and takes him down into the Sharpshooter, as the crowd goes INSANE. Shawn makes the ropes, but Benoit pulls him back, and it’s Tap City, Population 1, at 30:09. Technical note: Nancy and the kids are seen at ringside, but they were only there for the previous insert and this match, as they left and were replaced by seat-fillers for the rest of the show. Couple of slow spots as compared to the non-stop action of Wrestlemania, but this stands as the second-best three-way ever. ****3/4 I’d say Benoit’s push is for real now.  (As it turned out, no.)  After the PPV ended, Benoit wrapped himself in the Canadian flag and then verbally punked out Shawn, telling him to “pack his bags and go home because he’s not wanted here”, and then got into a confrontation with HHH, who promised never to tap again. He then tapped to a crossface to end the show for us. The Bottom Line: One **** match is generally enough for a thumbs-up from me, and this one had two, which made for one of the best shows I’ve ever attended live. Most of the rest was filler, but it was filling around some great matches, so that’s fine. Thumbs way up. To be continued in the RAW Rant, coming later! The SmarK RAW Rant – April 19 2004 Just when you thought a road trip couldn’t get any weirder, it does. I headed down to Calgary on Monday afternoon, to be honest more pumped about the hockey game later that night than the wrestling I was attending, and ended up in quite the adventure. We picked up the tickets from the Will Call about half an hour before RAW went on the air, and immediately braced for disappointment when they were in the 201 section this time. However, a guy who was (supposedly) comped by Val Venis the night before was sitting in the grass outside the Saddledome and offered to trade ours for his in section 109, because he had to get rid of them to fill seats. So right off the bat, good stuff. So it turns out that the seats were in basically the same place as the PPV — right beside the hard camera, in the “comp section”, this time to the left and behind the lighting control guy. Sidenote: You get all sorts of interesting views when sitting behind the tech guys, like the SCRIPT, for instance. Over the course of the two evenings I was able to check out actual WWE scripts, complete with fancy cover page and everything, and yes, it’s all written down there. You can also see the lighting guy using a layout of the Saddledome to check which buttons to push to blacken which parts of the arena. Very neat stuff for tech-heads like myself. Okay, so back to the main story, and I should set this up a little bit. Rather than the usual crew, I went to this one with Zen and his friend Dave Burton. If you’ve ever seen Fubar, you’ve seen Dave. He wore a trucker hat and an Iron Maiden shirt to the show, and he was primarily concerned with seeing the “rasslin” aspect of the show, which was something of a warning sign right off the bat for us because it’s a TV taping. So as noted, we’re in the comp section, and once again we’re sitting right by who else but Shane McMahon again. This time his date is Nidia instead of Palumbo, which is a step up in the looks department if nothing else. Zen thinks it’s a good time to get a picture with him after the show as a keepsake, so we decide to ask him after the show is over. Now, the Saddledome was mostly blocked off because of the hockey game last night — there was maybe 6,000 people there and all of the upper deck was taped off — and the crowd was pretty distracted by the impending game, although I don’t know how that came off on TV. So there was kind of an anxious mood all night. Dave, in particular, was anxious because he was promised fireworks, and they immediately raise his ire by skipping them and going right to the show. He complains loudly. The night progresses with a lot of talk and commercial breaks, because it’s TV and that’s what you’re getting into, and Dave gets drunker and more restless. The show might have come off really good on TV, but I was pretty distracted by the tech guys and Dave, so I could never get into it live. So by the millionth commercial break, Dave gets really loud, proclaiming that the show sucks and he’s tired of sitting through commercial breaks and there’s only been a few minutes of wrestling — so Shane McMahon turns around and GIVES HIM $100 (US) TO SHUT UP AND GO HOME. We took a picture of the bill and Shane just to make sure it was documented. So ladies and gentlemen, you now have your new rating scale for bad shows, as I will begin implementing the Shane McMahon Refund System to determine how much money Shane will bribe people with to shut up about it. Needless to say, we didn’t ask for the picture after all. So with that said, onto the show… – Live from Calgary, Alberta, Canada – Your hosts are JR & King – Opening match: Chris Jericho v. Christian. They fight over a lockup to start and Jericho gives him a shot in the corner and then goes to a headlock, so Christian gets into a slugging match with him and loses. Jericho backdrops him and starts chopping in the corner. Christian comes back, but Jericho dropkicks him for two. Back to the headlock, but Christian fights out of it again and slugs him down on the ropes. They do the pinfall reversal sequence for a few near-falls, and Jericho spanks Trish, as we take a break. The four minutes during the break were actually very entertaining, with a few highspots from Jericho and not the usual stalling by the heel. We return with Christian in control, choking Jericho out on the ropes and Trish adding a cheapshot. Jericho bails to regroup, but gets kicked in the head as a result. Man, if that ain’t a metaphor for love sometimes. (I was actually one month into the relationship that would result in my marriage, so I know from whence I speak.)  Back in, Christian hits the chinlock, but Jericho uses the power of a hot crowd to fight out, into a rollup for two. Christian clotheslines him down again for two. More choking on the ropes, but Jericho fights back with a clothesline. He tries another one, but Christian ducks, so Jericho goads him into a drop toehold and gets the running choke. Bulldog sets up the Lionsault, which misses, but a leg lariat gets two. Another bulldog try is countered with an inverted DDT that gets two for Christian. He goes up and gets caught with a butterfly superplex by Jericho (a move that Jericho messed up at Wrestlemania), and Jericho gets two. Christian comes back with another inverted DDT, off the middle rope, for two. Jericho cradles for two. Trish tries to trip Jericho up, but hits Christian by mistake, and Jericho gets the enzuigiri. The ref is distracted, however, and Jericho goes after Trish again before trying the Walls on Christian, but Tyson Tomko runs in to deliver a big boot that gets Christian the pin at 16:07. Hate the finish, but it was a really good chunk of TV match. ***1/4 – Chris Benoit joins us to celebrate retaining the title at Backlash. He talks about Stu Hart and cuts a surprisingly confident promo about how everyone doubted him and he proved them all wrong.  (We should have doubted him, I guess.)  You tell ‘em, Chris. Shawn Michaels interrupts, and the “You Screwed Bret” chants start up again. History has shown that if Shawn ever needs to turn heel, he just needs a match in MSG or a run of shows in Canada. (Shawn is now as beloved up here as anywhere else, so obviously we’ve gotten over it.)  Anyway, he continues to question Benoit’s dedication to being the VERY, very, best (as opposed to being just the very best) and Benoit thinks he’s all that. But apparently you can’t be the best until you beat Shawn. God, how many title matches does this prima donna get before he takes the hint and realizes he’s lost all of them? (Well, another Wrestlemania main event, at least.) He’s becoming the Buffalo Bills of the RAW title scene. (Or the Vancouver Canucks.  THERE, I SAID IT.)  So he lays out the challenge, Benoit accepts, and then they do what they usually do in Canada and delay the match to a later date because we “don’t deserve it”. Bischoff getting Johnny Nitro to check his PDA is just really funny for some reason.  (This was of course shortly before smartphones took over the world.) So anyway, the World title match is in Phoenix two weeks from now, so Benoit offers a handshake and they do the staredown. Now when Shawn loses THAT one, I hope he moves on with life or takes up needle-point or something.  (That ended up being a hell of a match too and I think it was leading to a PPV match between them but Shawn got injured or something along those lines.)  – Women’s title: Victoria v. Molly Holly. Molly attacks to start and snapmares her into a dropkick for two. Handspring elbow is blocked by Victoria, who gets a crossbody for two. They criss-cross into a monkey-flip from Victoria, who follows with a clothesline off the apron. Back in, Molly tries to run, but gets yanked off the ropes, into the standing moonsault for two. Victoria rips the wig off, but this time Molly actually channels her rage in a positive direction, beating the shit out of Victoria and choking her out for the DQ at 2:19. It’s like Bald Backlund or something, but I’m glad to see Molly dealing with her baldness in better manner than losing every match. * – Meanwhile, HHH and Evolution arrive, and HHH isn’t happy to hear about Shawn getting the next title shot. – Kane vignette, as he promises to be bigger, meaner, and more pro-active. Yup, it’s a renewed push for Kane, just what we needed. He hungers for a sacrifice. Mmmm….sacrifice.  (How many times has Kane given that exact same interview?)  – Meanwhile, Uncle Eric and Johnny worry about Kane’s assertive new direction, but the knock on the door is just William Regal. Once again, Eugene has been conveniently lost. Whoops. But Eric lays down the law, and threatens him with Kane-ness unless Eugene is found again. – Randy Orton, fresh off retiring Mick Foley again, joins us to brag about it. He points out that Mick beat him to within an inch of his life with all the odds stacked against him, but he still beat him clean with the RKO. Man’s got a point. That’s called “making a new star”, for those keeping track at home. (This was really the last guy that Foley got over in that manner before he turned into self-parody in that role.)  Edge interrupts the self-glorification, and thank GOD they’re putting him in the Evolution program instead of keeping him side-drained against Kane for any longer.  (Yeah, but then Benoit got Kane instead.  Lucky him.)  Edge wants the honor of having the new Living Legend spitting in his face, but hey, he’s tired and sore. Edge apparently really likes spit, because he attacks Orton and fights off Evolution, but falls prey to a Batista demon bomb. Benoit makes the save, but HHH clobbers HIM and it’s beatdown city. You know, the Four Horsemen didn’t end EVERY segment having clobbered the babyfaces. Bischoff books the tag champs against Edge & Benoit – TONIGHT. I guess we’re worthy of that match. – Garrison Cade v. Tajiri. Cade got the generic rock music in the breakup with Jindrak. Tajiri ducks Cade in the corner and fires off some kicks, but Cade slugs him down. Tajiri takes him down and gets a dropkick for two. Cade blocks the handspring elbow with a big boot for two. Backbreaker, but Tajiri kicks out of it, so Cade stomps a mudhole in the corner. Suplex is blocked by Tajiri, but Cade pounds the back again. Tajiri fights back with more kicks, and this time the handspring elbow hits. Cade pounds the back again and tries a powerbomb, but Tajiri kicks him down for two. Tarantula attempt is no-sold by Cade, so Tajiri goes up and misses a moonsault. Cade finishes with a flying elbow at 4:17. I have no idea what they see in Cade – he’s just a big muscular lug with blond hair. Oh, I guess that’s it. ½*  (RIP) – Back from the break, Eugene is shooting t-shirts into the crowd (that actually went on all through the break, too) but Regal comes out to stop him…and gets shot in the crotch. T-SHIRT TO THE GROIN! T-SHIRT TO THE GROIN! If they can get Eugene over as a legitimate fan favorite, great, because he can actually back it up in the ring, unlike everyone else they’ve tried this basic gimmick with.  (I still think they should have done the David Cross plot from “Just Shoot Me” where he’s just pretending to be retarded but is actually an evil genius.)  – Val Venis & Lita v. Matt Hardy & Gail Kim. No match, as Kane storms out and kills everyone…except for Matt, who runs away. However, seeing Lita in danger, he does the right thing and sacrifices himself for her. Awwww. While I’m on the subject, how lazy is it for them to announce Gail Kim from “Korea”? That’s like introducing someone from “Carolina”. Why not make it North Korea and have her threaten to nuke another Diva or something? Really go for the cheap heat brass ring. – For those keeping track, it’s at this point where Dave makes his fateful stupid remark and gets bribed by Shane McMahon. For those wondering, I agreed fully with Shane’s stance. – RAW tag titles: Ric Flair & Batista v. Chris Benoit & Edge. I’d like to think “Youngbloods” would be a good name for the challengers, although “Spinal Fusion” might also fit. Benoit powers Flair into the corner and exchanges chops with him, and Flair gets pinballed by the challengers. Benoit backdrops Flair and Edge comes in with his own backdrop and some chops, and it’s some good Canadian ones, too. Flair Flops and tags in Batista as JR calls this Edge’s first match back on RAW in 14 months. Actually, longer than that, since he’s been on Smackdown since the initial split. Batista uses the CLUBBING FOREARMS, but Edge dropkicks him and brings in Benoit again. He brings the VIOLENCE in the corner, into a snap suplex, and Edge goes next, but walks into a clothesline. Back to Flair, who goes after the broken hand, and Batista joins in the fun. I’m not sure I understand JR’s objection to them doing that – Edge is wearing a CAST on his hand, what does he want them to do, ignore it? It’s like when DDT would wear rib tape every week and the announcers would get all shocked when someone hit him there. Edge fights back, however, and gets a leg lariat Back to Benoit, who chops away and backdrops Flair again, and then knocks Batista off the apron too. Snap suplex into a Sharpshooter, but he releases long enough to suplex Batista, and then takes Flair down into a crossface. Benoit is so in the zone right now. HHH runs in and breaks it up, however, drawing Benoit’s attention long enough for Flair to poke him in the eyes. Batista adds the MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER and we take a break. At this point, the tech guys at the soundboards switch the monitors over to the hockey game on CBC, and leave it there for the rest of the show. I shit you not. Back with the champs in control (you didn’t miss much – Batista getting the bearhug and the heels switching off, basically) and Batista pounding Benoit down on the mat. Back to the bearhug, but Benoit fights out, only to walk into an elbow that gets two. HHH adds an elbow from the outside and Batista goes to a choke on the mat while the crowd chants for Bret. Benoit fights out with an evil backdrop suplex, but Flair gets the tag first. Benoit backslides him for two. Flair throws chops, but Benoit goes to the rolling germans and chops him down, hot tag Edge. He backdrops people and clotheslines Flair, but Batista tries a powerbomb, which results in Benoit breaking it up and going up. HHH pulls him down and pounds him on the floor, but Shawn runs out and gets rid of him with a superkick, allowing Edge to spear Batista to win the tag titles at 18:04. See, now that’s how to revive Edge – let him do the hot tag thing while Benoit carries the workload. And let the “Benoit is overpushed” backlash begin! Hell, I’ve been waiting like 10 years to be forced into dealing with it! I’m so ready! ***3/4 Later that night… We headed over to the Whiskey to catch Fozzy, and it was an interesting setup because they had the game playing on screens over the stage. The opener sucked but the place was empty anyway. So Fozzy is playing and the game goes on, and it’s a pretty cool set, and then the really surreal stuff started happening. Jericho had worn a Flames jersey onto the stage, and as the set was 90 minutes old, he admitted that the band had run out of material to play and now they were just fucking around waiting for the Flames to win. It was 2-1 Flames late in the third by that point. Earlier, Edge and Matt Hardy had wandered into the mosh pit with us, and Brian Christopher danced a bit on stage, but pussed out on singing. So they start doing a cover of “TNT”, and Jericho starts introducing wrestlers as they delay while the game wraps up. So you’ve got Jericho, Edge, Hardy, Christopher, Shelton Benjamin, Lita, Stacy, Nidia and Lillian Garcia all up there fucking around…and the Canucks score with 2 seconds left in the game. Jericho is just totally buzz-killed (I tried consoling him by flipping him off after he started a “fuck the Canucks” chant earlier, but it didn’t work). So they go into OT, with the Flames still on the PP and the Canucks missing Bertuzzi AND their #1 goaltender (just saying), and Gelinas scores to win the series. The place went crazy and Jericho finished the song (which by this point was nearing 30 minutes long) with all the WWE guys helping to sing. He had to feed Lillian the words for her turn, because she didn’t know them. Fozzy were actually a very capable rock band, and Jericho has an undeniably cool stage presence and rapport with the crowd, although I really don’t dig their actual SONGS. They were at their best covering other material (like “Eat the Rich” and “Livewire”), and it made for a really good show overall. So having been previously promised a picture with Edge at some nebulous time after the show, we start going after the wrestlers for pictures, and keep losing them to the crowd, before it gets down to our only chance being either Shelton or Nidia. Shelton gets taken to the back as well for the private party, and since Nidia is just scraping the bottom of the barrel, we give up and go home. However, that proved to be more difficult than originally planned, because we’re in downtown Calgary and the place is RIOTING. Fans are going nuts in the streets and the streets are clogged with parked cars and partying fans…and Dave decides to join in. So Zen (an Oilers fan) and I (a Canucks fan) are trapped in this car as he stops at EVERY INTERSECTION and jumps out of the car to celebrate, and finally after nearly another half an hour, we make it off of 17th and back to Zen’s place to recover, and here we are with me back in Edmonton two days later and detailing the whole adventure for y’all. So for those who think that nothing interesting ever happens in Calgary, there you go. The Bottom Line: While I wasn’t into the show live, it made for some really good TV, setting a further escalation of the Benoit/friends v. Evolution feud and really cementing him as a top guy who’s comfortable in his spot. And with HHH off to make movies for the next six months, why not let him run with the ball? Ratings aren’t going down and buyrates are going up, so he’s as good a choice as anyone. Big thumbs up from me this week, although sitting in attendance for it was a much different experience.