Triple H, October 2011:

“When I grew up, I hated Hogan. I thought he was terrible and didn’t like to watch him. I was like Punk in a way. I liked the Steamboats and Flairs and the ones that could go. Would I be right in saying that Hogan was the wrong guy to go with, and they should’ve changed directions and gone with Steamboat because he was the better wrestler? Ludicrous.” - Triple H. October, 2011.

Road to Wrestlemania Part 3 2006

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Part 2 was here.

A month from tomorrow, April 1, 2007, is real world WM XXIII – so, on that day, it just makes sense to post Counterfactual WM XXII – and once again, here is your card:

Undisputed Championship of the World: Rey Mysterio v. Chris Benoit
-Friends pitted against each other by the 51% Solution, the last two Triple Crown winners meet for the first ever time on PPV. Rey has been World Champ since taking from Eddy at Summer Slam ’05; he held off the LWO at both Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble, despite the efforts of Ric Flair to get the belts off him. Benoit is a two time WWF Champ, he took from Cactus Jack 6 years ago at XVI in Anaheim, holding the belt for a year before dropping to Kurt Angle at XVII. 3 years later, at XX in MSG, it was Benoit/Angle again, this time with Benoit winning the strap. One year ago, at XXI in LA, Benoit lost the titles to Eddy; Benoit regrouped, beating Chris Jericho in the Lizard King’s last WWF match at Summer Slam ’05, then at Survivor Series, winning the vacant Worldwide Titles over Angle. Benoit then dropped those titles at the Rumble, losing to the Sunshine Boys, Fit Finlay, managed by Benoit’s longtime stablemate, Dean Malenko. Benoit and Rey had begun to tag together in the run up to the Rumble; Benoit looking to protect Rey from the Solution; Rey looking to keep Malenko off Chris. So, when Rey was attacked by the Solution at the Rumble’s close – Benoit came in for the save – leading to both men getting squashed by Executioner Lashley, as he joined the Solution. Benoit and Rey returned for the big Saturday Night’s Main Event War Games match, but their tag partnership was ended when the Solution made Benoit the number one contender for XXII.

Two of the greatest wrestlers who ever lived in the main event at Wrestlemania. That’s always the goal – it’s the biggest match ever year – this year, no exception – Rey Mysterio takes on Chris Benoit for the Undisputed Championship of the World!

Worldwide Titles: Fit Finlay (w/Dean) v. Steve Regal
-Such a personal feud here, again, between two of the best wrestlers in the world. From their days in Europe, to the NWA, and now in the WWF, Fit and Regal continue their war. After several years working behind the scenes as a member of the Titan Trust (w/Arn and Dean) Fit was convinced, by Malenko, to return to the ring at the end of 2005; although he struggled at first, with the help of Regal, who signed on as Finlay’s training partner, following the bustup of Team Angle, Fit was able to capture the Worldwide belts at the Rumble, defeating Benoit. Regal has held WWF gold before, although not in several years; he defeated Chris Jericho for the IC title at Survivor Series 2000, keeping over Steve Austin at Rumble ’01 – but then dropping to Austin the Falls Count Anywhere match at XVII, five years ago. A year ago, at XXI, during the Clique/Team Angle feud, Regal got a shot at these Worldwide belts, but lost to then champion Edge. In the big swerve on Saturday Night’s Main Event, it was Regal who submitted in the figure four to Flair – costing Ricky Steamboat his 49% of control over the WWF, and giving full power to the 51% Solution. But as it turned out, Regal had been working with the Solution and had thrown the bout to Flair. In payment for services rendered – Regal gets the shot against the men he sold out in that War Games match, Finlay and Malenko. Fit Finlay takes on Steve Regal for the Worldwide Belts!

Unified Tag Titles: Bradshaw/Booker (w/Conway) v. LWO (w/Carlito) v. ?
-Bradshaw and Booker have been tag champs since their Survivor Series win over Orton/Cena. Bradshaw is George Herbert Bradshaw, taken from the former President Bush’s name – or GHB, a drug reference, for short. His gimmick is he is the NeoCon, espousing whatever the current line of propaganda is being offered by conservatives for the policy of the Bush Administration. Along with his lackey, Rob Conway (nicknamed Anal Cysts for the medical deferment Rush Limbaugh received during Vietnam) Bradshaw ran through a series of veteran partners (Holly, Morley, and at Summer Slam ’05, Nick Dinsmore) in a fruitless attempt to win the tag belts from Orton and Cena, who he viewed as talentless punk slacker hippy kids. Finally, Bradshaw reached out to Book. As with Bradshaw, Booker had yet to win gold in his WWF career – he had one high profile shot, that being a Survivor Series ’01 loss to Angle for the WWF Championship; Booker has taken a laid back approach to his career, as the main who only wrestles when he needs a paycheck. But the two veterans came together, sensing the time was right to make a run at gold. Their title reign has been one of constant comedic bickering, given their political and cultural differences; Book/Bradshaw is probably the highest profile comedy act in Counterfactual history. They kept at the Rumble, going over the reunited SpreeKillers, Shane Helms and Chavo Guerrero and now step into the 3 way dance. One of their opposing teams is Super Crazy and Psychosis, managed by Carlito Colon, the Latino World Order. The LWO arrived in the summer of ’05, taking aim at Eddy. They browbeat him into putting his Undisputed Title up against Mysterio at Summer Slam – and when Rey won – they turned on him, with the support of Ric Flair. Juventud got the first shot at Rey, losing a 2 out of 3 falls Lucha Libre world title match at Survivor Series; Flair, now with the 51% Solution, stacked the deck at the Rumble, as both Psycho and Crazy, in a 3 way dance, got the title shot at the Rumble – Carlito was now the group’s mouthpiece, having punted Juvie, but again, the LWO failed to take the straps from Rey. However, their joining the Solution in the postmatch beatdown that took Rey out of action temporarily curried favor with the Solution and got them in this title match.

The third team will come from the winner of the opening match of WM XXII, which, by tradition for each of our shows, is a tag team match.

At XXII, it’s a 4 way, the former tag champs: Orton/Cena, MNM, DMW, and the new 51% Solution team of HHH and Executioner Lashley.

Orton and Cena were a comedy act, a team that got a babyface reaction because their heel shtick – Cena as wannabe rapper and Orton bragging about being Cowboy Bob’s kid, was so silly they couldn’t be taken seriously – they got a shocking win a year ago, at XXI over the then version of the SpreeKillers, Helms/Rhyno. The fans then began to turn on them, as they recognized that, particularly Cena, wasn’t worthy of holding the tag straps but yet acted as if he were, making heels Bradshaw and Dinsmore de facto faces at Summer Slam – and leading to a big babyface reaction for Bradshaw/Booker (which continued for Booker, less so for Bradshaw) when they beat Orton/Cena at Survivor Series. Since then, Orton/Cena have continued to lose, a rift developing between them as Orton clearly blames the lesser Cena for the defeats. Orton’s taken to showing off the RKO (which we’ve just called a diamond cutter – but will now give him his finisher name) demonstrating that he can take guys out whenever he wants. MNM and DMW have been feuding since Survivor Series, trading wins through the Rumble. MNM is the same act as in real world WWF, it’s Nitro and Mercury with Melina as the valet. They’re cocky heels. DMW is Dead Men Walking – Kane, still in the mask, and PAUL (The Big Show) with the Undertaker as the third man, sometimes working in the tag team, or in a trio, generally on the outside as an enforcer. Neither MNM nor any of the monsters have ever won a title, MNM has yet to get a shot – Undertaker had a shot at the WWF Title way back in Rumble ’94, when he was still unbeaten, he submitted to Bret Hart. He then had an IC shot at Vader 10 years ago at WM XII, losing that bout. The first version of DMW, Undertaker and Kane, had a tag title shot at SummerSlam ’03, but lost to the Clique, Michaels and HHH. They’ve been heels, faces, and feuded – but PAUL began to worship the Japanese wrestler Akira Taue, master of the chokeslam – even wearing Taue gear to the ring, the big men became lovable veterans, with Kane and eventually the ‘Taker following suit. The Dead Man has been a WM staple, holding the record as the 5 time winner of another WM tradition – the legend’s match – which at XXII is contested between Cactus and RVD. HHH and Lashley are a new team, representing the dominant stable in the WWF, the 51% Solution. Hunter, a former tag champ with Michaels, as mentioned, but long seen as the Clique water carrier, re-emerged at Summer Slam as the new husband of Stephanie McMahon, heir to the family business. Hunter said he had two percent creative control now over the WWF (Flair and Steamboat, both babyfaces, seemingly, had 49% apiece) making him the swing vote. He promised that come XXII, he’d be leaving Chicago with gold.

While HHH-M was beating Michaels at Survivor Series, ending the Clique forever – Lashley was debuting as the Executioner – he doesn’t speak, outside of a primal scream – he shakes the ropes – he punishes people – he has a black X, like Bernard Hopkins, over both his chest and back and wears a hood to the ring – although not when he wrestles. Flair joined Hunter (along with Arn) at Survivor Series, forming the 51% Solution and promised a 4th man would emerge at the Rumble. At that Rumble, HHH beat S Money (Benjamin) while Lashley, who had earlier mowed down the opposing teams in the tag title match – joined the Solution following the World Title match, taking Rey and Benoit both out. At the in ring announcement of the opening tag and subsequent tag title match – Lashley decimated the ring, taking apart all of the opposing teams, save the Undertaker, the only man he has yet to put down.

So, those are the title matches on the line at WM XXII – plus the 4 way opening tag.

It’s only a month away, The road concludes.

Road to Wrestlemania Part 2 2006

Saturday, February 10, 2007

In Part I of the Road to Wrestlemania XXII, we saw the set up for the following:

Dark Match: Punk v. London v. Kendrick v. Noble
Winners get Shot: HHH-M/Lashley v. DMW v. MNM v. Orton/Cena
Hardcore Legends Match: Cactus Jack v. RVD
Undisputed Tag Title: Bradshaw/Booker (w/Conway) v. LWO (w/Carlito) v. ?

There will be 6 more matches on the show, but one will be unannounced, so five matches left to set up here.

Coming out of the Rumble, the organizing feud is between the 51% Solution and the Sunshine Boys.

With Rey, Benoit, and Steamboat all off TV after the Rumble beating they took from the Solution, particularly Lashley, and the Solution doing a lot of bragging – it’s Dean Malenko who calls them out, specifically Arn.

Dean’s protecting Benoit here, of course, Dean/Benoit came into the company together, and were Horsemen back in their NWA days. Dean is now managing Fit, and we just did Dean/Benoit stuff during the Fit/Benoit IC program.

But they made up with handshakes all around after Fit took the strap at the Rumble, and now Dean is looking to call Anderson on the carpet, which makes sense as Arn and Dean were 2/3 of the Titan Trust for years (w/Fit) so obviously would have a strong relationship.

And that’s what Dean plays on now, he calls Arn out to the ring and cuts a promo on him – how it’s time to check the scoreboard. Fit’s the Worldwide Champ – trained by Dean – and where’s Arn?

Where he’s always been, walking behind Ric Flair.

And that’s gonna lead to this TV program, where it’ll largely be Fit/Regal against Flair/Hunter – with Dean and Arn on the outside as the focal points. Lashley is used only occasionally – always protected – if we see him, he’s squashing dudes.

The build is to a War Games match, which we’ve rarely had in the Counterfactual – that’s a 5 on 5 cage match, where each man enters one at a time, and it’s submission only.

The stakes: control.

If the babyfaces win – then Ricky Steamboat will have 100% managerial control of the WWF.

If the heels win – Steamboat gives his power to the Solution.

In the most famous War Games match in Counterfactual history – the Alliance (Benoit, Eddy, Dean, Perry) put up their careers against the belts held by all the WWF title holders (Angle, Austin, Dudleys). It was Malenko who tapped out – ending his career.

So, as this heats up – Arn challenges Dean to a War Games match – and Dean accepts.

They decide it will be 5 on 5.

So, Arn and Dean stand in the ring and announce their members:

For the Solution…

Arn, Flair, Hunter, Lashley are the obvious four – they come to the ring one by one – Lashley drawing the big pop as he is the unstoppable monster.

Arn says they needed a fifth guy – and since they are in control of the WWF – they handpicked a guy – a guy who needed a favor from the Solution – they picked…

Kurt Angle.

For those of you who missed the Rumble, Angle lost to Michaels, his first ever loss to Michaels, when Benjamin turned on him. Angle had been keeping Benjamin down, refusing to let him wrestle on PPV, for months.

Angle’s frothing at the mouth, the fully roided up maniacal Kurt Angle.

Angle comes to the ring, just screaming about Benjamin – yelling that he wants Benjamin at XXII – and it becomes apparent that’s the deal that was cut, Angle joins the Solution for the War Games, and they give him S Money at Mania.

So, there’s the next match.

That’s a long time coming, Benjamin debuted on Camp Angle, Angle’s “tough enough” reality show. Benjamin became 3 time tag champ, twice with Haas and once with Kurt. Haas and Benjamin turned heel with Brock – and remained heels to rejoin Kurt upon his turn. Those 3 added Regal to form Team Angle, which feuded for over 2 years with the Clique (Michaels, Edge, Christian, London).

At XXI, Angle ordered a code red on Haas, one in which Benjamin joined, even though he and Charlie were longtime partners. Charlie got fired. The Clique busted up, Edge fucking Lita – leading to Christian’s leaving the company – Regal went off on his own, joining Fit and Dean in Fit’s effort to return to active wrestling and win the IC. London became embroiled in the return of Kendrick and Noble – the Clique was forever disbanded when Hunter beat Michaels, and Benjamin became Angle’s valet, effectively, stewing as Kurt kept him from the big matches.

Benjamin turned at the Rumble – Michaels beat Angle (and then got speared again by Edge) and now Kurt will take on Benjamin at XXII.

Dean then introduces his team.

Dean, Fit, Regal, obviously…and then to the ring comes Steamboat.

Steamboat still has the other 49% of managerial power in the company, the announce screaming that the Dragon will be returning to the ring – but he won’t – instead, he announces the final two members of the team –

Rey and Benoit.

Neither one is there, but they’ll be returning for the first time since the Rumble – at the War Games match.

And that’s your Saturday Night’s Main Event – the big War Games matchup.

First two men to the ring, Hunter and Regal.

Next – Arn.

Next – Fit

Next – Dean, the babyfaces have the 3-2 advantage.

Angle’s music plays next – but no Angle.

Camera goes to the parking lot – where Angle and Benjamin are smashing each other into cars.

Then cuts to the back – where a panicked Flair looks into the locker room and says “You – get your ass out there. You’re replacing Angle”

We can’t hear the other half of the conversation, or see who it is Flair’s talking to.

We see Flair though, “Anything you want – Anything you want – just get out there now.”

Then cut back to the ring for the music of the replacement:


Edge, still wearing the eyepatch, lost the Empty Arena match to Matt at the Rumble, when Matt stuck an icepick in his eye. This followed Matt crucifying Edge to the canvas with a nailgun after Edge’s Unsanctioned win over Matt at Summer Slam.

Since Edge’s affair with Lita and betrayal of Christian, he has no allies in the locker room, as his sleeping with Matt’s girl is thought “too far.” That led to the breakup of the Clique, the slow burning hatred between Edge and Michaels – and the feud with Matt, who still doesn’t have a contract.

Edge beats Matt at Summer Slam – gets crucified on RAW – appears at Survivor Series to spear Michaels, allowing for Hunter’s win and the death of the Clique – Matt and Edge’s fights on RAW pre-Rumble went into the stands, injuring a fan – so their Rumble match was Empty Arena – Matt evened it up with the pick to the eye – Edge ran in after Shawn beat Angle – spearing him.

And here he is, securing some promise from Flair, and now making it 3-3.

Flair’s next. And it’s 4-3 heels.

Next comes Benoit, the current holder of the Triple Crown (means he’s won all 3 WWF belts, only 9 guys have done it in the Counterfactual, there’s a trophy – it’s called the Hart-Guerrero Memorial Triple Crown). Benoit dropped the IC to Fit at the Rumble, but ran in to save Rey (Rey’s was Eddy’s “little brother” and Eddy was Benoit’s “little brother” so, by the transitive property – Benoit stepped into protect Rey pre-Rumble, and ran in for the save when the Solution attacked Rey at the Rumble’s close) then got wiped out by Lashley.

Next comes Rey. The Undisputed Champion of the World.

Rey took from Eddy in Eddy’s last match at Summer Slam, then kept over Juvie at Survivor Series, kept over both Crazy and Psycho at the Rumble – all with Flair trying to get the belt off him.

Rey makes it 5-4 faces. Meaning we’re just building for Lashley.

Lashley last – and he destroys all of the faces – tears at everyone – cleaning house with nothing but power moves and primal screams.

How can the faces stop Lashley?

Coming to the ring….Dead Men Walking.

Recall, from part one of the set up – Lashley wiped out all the other 3 teams set to meet in the opening Mania tag – including Kane and PAUL – and now, with the Undertaker – they come to the ring – Lashley – uncontrollable – leaves the cage to battle them.

The announce notes that Lashley’s making a terrible mistake – screwing the Solution – they had the Sunshine Boys wiped out – and now Lashley’s in the aisle batting the 3 giants.

Security swarms from every corner to control that – and with the numerical advantage, the babyfaces take control –

Benoit has Hunter in the crossface….Malenko has Arn in the cloverleaf…one of them will tap…one of them will tap – Steamboat, standing on the outside – is about to get control over the company –

When suddenly, almost from nowhere, Flair quickly gets Regal in the figure four –

And Regal submits.

Steve Regal submits to Ric Flair – the 51% Solution, even though undermanned – has won the War Games match and taken complete, 100% control of the WWF.

Everyone’s bleeding, of course, ‘cause of the cage.

Edge, Hunter, Flair, Arn celebrating – the babyfaces stunned – Regal is inconsolable – his head buried in his hands – Regal apparently crying – Regal has submitted – Fit, Regal’s training partner, longtime friend and rival goes to try to console him – try to give him some words…

Fit lowers Regal’s hands from his face…

And Regal is laughing.

Regal gets some quick shots in at Fit – then runs from the ring – the heels exiting the ring and laughing – Regal swerved them! Regal set the Sunshine Boys up! Regal has been working with the the 100% Solution!

And that sets up the rest of the card.

The IC will be Fit defending against Regal. Regal was jealous, Regal sold out, Regal made a deal to get the title shot at Mania – you see the set up. Fit and Dean bring the full on hate for Regal – and they hook it up at XXII.

What did Edge demand for his participation?

We find out in an in ring promo – when Edge comes to collect from Flair.

Flair: Anything you want, big man. Anything you want. Wooooo!

Edge says he wants a Wrestlemania match.

Flair says of course – anyone you want – who do you want.

Edge says, “Matt Hardy.”

Flair says no. Flair has a desperate hatred for all things Matt Hardy – Matt’s doing the Pillman thing, Flair’s the bookerman – Flair’s sworn on his mother’s grave that Matt will never get a WWF contract.

Flair says no – he can’t do it, Edge can’t wrestle Matt Hardy at XXII.

Edge laughs – says there’s been a misunderstanding. Edge says he doesn’t want to wrestle Matt at XXII.

He wants to wrestle Matt at XXIII. One year from now, in Detroit. He wants to make crazy, off the chain, high strung Matt Hardy wait a full year.

Edge says what he wants from Flair is Matt’s contract. He wants to hold Matt Hardy’s WWF contract for a full year – he wants Matt Hardy to work for him – he wants to own Matt Hardy until WM XXIII, one year away – until then Matt Hardy can’t touch him – not even once – if Matt Hardy touches him, in or out of the ring – over the next year – then Matt is gone from the WWF forever.

I know, it’s a little forced. Just go with it. There’s more.

And, Edge says, at WM XXIII – when Edge takes on Matt Hardy one more time – one year from now – it won’t just be an ordinary match…

It’ll be a Hell in a Cell Match.

We’ve only had 2 in the Counterfactual – both very famous. Ken Shamrock threw Cactus Jack off the top of the cage through the table. Foley’s famous bump. And then, years later at XX, Jericho and Trish tossed Christian from the top – coincidentally, that was the night that Edge returned after a year and a half away with the neck surgery recovery following the last ever TLC match – the night the new Clique was formed.

So, there’s a full year to build to Edge/Matt. Hell in a Cell. WM XXIII.

Flair says it can’t be that easy for Matt Hardy.

Matt quit the company, he swore – he whined on the internet – he has attacked HHH-M. He comes out of the crowd and he has no respect. In all Flair’s years in this business, he’s never seen anyone as disrespectful as Matt Hardy.

He hates Matt Hardy. Hates him. Hates him.. Punk. Awful little punk.

Flair drops an elbow on the canvas.

Edge says okay, Ric. Okay.

Let’s make him work for it.

If Matt Hardy wants to wrestle me in a Cell at XXIII….then he’s got to win a match at XXII….

Against Ric Flair.

And Flair goes for that.

So, we’ve got Matt and Flair at XXII – if Matt wins, he’ll meet Edge next year in the Cell.

And that’s a long build.

If Matt loses – he’ll never step foot in the WWF again.

So, add that match.

Flair says to Edge – who do you want – who do you want to meet at WMXXII – anyone you want ---

When from the crowd comes Michaels – who superkicks Edge cold, “He’ll be wrestling me.”

So, there’s that.

And except for the title match – that’s your show.

What’s the title match?

Well, the Solution is concerned about the Rey/Benoit alliance. Say Flair and Hunter lose a tag to Rey and Benoit.

So, they need a way to break them up – to force some dissension.

They bring them to the ring in a promo – and come up with a genius plan.

At WM XXII- - Rey Mysterio will defend the Undisputed Championship – against the 2 time Champion, his buddy, Chris Benoit.

So, they start off, of course, as friends, recognizing they’re being played – but it’s wrestling, so while it’s still face/face – with the current Triple Crown holder and the previous Triple Crown holder wrestling for the big strap – they have enough tension to carry the program.

Arguably the two best wrestlers in the WWF – 2 of the best wrestlers who ever lived – Rey Mysterio and Chris Benoit – meeting each other for the first time in a PPV – at the main event at WM XXII.

So, here’s your card:

Undisputed Championship: Rey Mysterio v. Chris Benoit
Worldwide Titles: Fit Finlay (w/Dean) v. Steve Regal
Unified Tags: Bradshaw/Booker (w/Conway) v. LWO (w/Carlito) v. ?
HBK v. Edge
Kurt Angle v. S Money Shelton Benjamin
Ric Flair v. Matt Hardy
Hardcore Legends: Cactus Jack (w/Heyman) v. RVD (w/Stevie)
Winners get Shot: HHH/Lashley v. MNM v. DMW (w/Taker) v. Orton/Cena
Dark Match: Punk v. London v. Kendrick v. Noble.

It’s coming in March from Chicago! The Road Continues.

The Road to Wrestlemania, Part 1 2006

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Rumble is here.

Wrestlemania XXII is coming right at you from Chicago.

A total of ten matches on the card.


Well, we have the traditional 8 to set up. Plus (here’s a tease) there will be an unannounced match during the show.

And – we have, of course, the dark match – and the build up for it, actually, is how we begin traveling the Road to Wrestlemania XXII.

Recall, at the Rumble, we saw the debut of CM Punk, seated in the crowd with Maria, also making her debut, Punk hopped over the barrier to hit the Pepsi Plunge on London in the 3 way that saw Kendrick get the fall over Noble.

This launches a program that’s going to run for the majority of 2006, centered around Punk as the guy who refuses to wrestle on WWF television.

Punk’s the manipulative heel, Joey puts him over as a puppet master; and when he reveals that he was the one telling Kendrick that London had screwed him out of his WWF spot – and telling Noble that Kendrick had screwed him out of his WWF spot – he maintains the animosity among the 3 men by convincing them that they are all simultaneously selling out and getting screwed over.

What do they all want? What, in their innermost hearts, before they fall asleep every night – what do London, Kendrick, and Noble all want?

They all offer the obvious answer – to be the Undisputed Champion of the World.

Punk says he couldn’t care less about that. He doesn’t wrestle for belts – he wrestles for himself.

He says that’s the problem with these guys, London, Kendrick, Noble – they have no code, they don’t have any honor – they’ll turn their back on the small company that made them for 30 pieces of silver and a shot at 3 gold belts.

And what does it get them?

Jamie Noble pinned Chris Benoit on PPV – and then he got fired.

Brian Kendrick got his arm busted up by the boss’s son in law – and then he got fired.

And worst of all is Paul London – one year ago, at Royal Rumble 2005, he beat, clean, in the middle of the ring, Rey Mysterio – the Undisputed Champion of the World – and where’s his world title shot?

He never got one.

See, Punk says, you all came here, to the WWF, to win titles – but the more you try for glory, for gold – the further away you get. Because, as Punk says, he’s never had one match in the WWF – and he’s won exactly as many WWF titles as all 3 of them put together – zero.

They challenge Punk – so what are you doing here then? Why are you in the WWF if you don’t care about being champion?

“Because I’m a professional wrestler. I came here to wrestle.”

The gimmick is that Punk refuses to wrestle on TV – not wanting it to be about ratings or camera angles or makeup – he doesn’t wrestle for the guy sitting on his couch, with his beer and his clicker and his hands down his pants – he wrestles for himself.

He’s so committed to it – as we get closer to XXII – that even though Wrestlemania is in his hometown of Chicago – and even though they have a match scheduled – a 4 way match to open up the show – Punk v. London v. Kendrick v. Noble – the only way he’ll do it – the only way CM Punk will go to Wrestlemania –

--is if it’s a dark match.

This allows for a discussion of the history of the dark match, it’s where we first saw Shawn take on Owen almost 20 years ago; it’s where, in the very first Wrestlemania, Dynamite beat Bret.

If it was good enough for Dynamite Kid and Bret Hart – Punk says – it’s good enough for me.

And that sets up the dark match – it’s Punk, the guy who refuses to wrestle on TV, against Noble, Kendrick, London – Noble/Kendrick doing an ex tag partner thing, playing up their ROH teaming – and Kendrick/London doing the same thing with their WWF teaming. Punk, all the while, continually stirring things up; also, continually refusing to wrestle – he gets booked in matches, but, wearing street clothes, always with a nearly naked Maria (so, so hot) in tow, refuses to work and takes forfeit losses.

The only other match that doesn’t have any relationship to the overarching 51% Solution angle is the ECW match.

Cactus Jack, recall, a Triple Crown Champion in the WWF, turned heel in his return at the Rumble. Foley appeared in the big tag champions matchup in the build to the Rumble, aiding RVD as he fought off Heyman’s ECW forces (if you don’t know why Heyman and RVD are feuding, check out the Rumble for the historical recap).

With Van Dam’s manager, Stevie Richards, out of commission, Foley seconded RVD in his Rumble match against Kid Kash – Van Dam went over – but then Foley turned on him, joining Heyman.

The thrust is that Foley has seethed seeing RVD called a hardcore icon – that Van Dam’s a pretty boy with the spinning and the flopping – and isn’t worthy of carrying on the ECW legacy (Van Dam beat Taz in the match that ended the ECW angle in the WWF, loser retired, winner got the carry the ECW flag forward) Van Dam’s a laid back stoner – not a hyperintense stoner like the ones who made ECW great.

Foley says he hasn’t been in a singles match at Wrestlemania in 6 years (more on Foley’s WM history in a minute) but when Paul Heyman, the finest man he ever met, called him to say, “Cactus, the boys need ya, come back for the boys” then he knew he had to return.

Cactus says he isn’t just here as the guy who was 2 time WWF Champion – not just here as one of only 9 men in the history of the WWF to hold the Triple Crown – he’s here as the greatest hardcore wrestler who ever lived – as the man who spilled blood on every continent and who lost his ear to Vader.

He won’t let Van Dam pollute his legacy.

We’ll also, since there isn’t one on the card, call this the Legend’s Match – and put over Foley’s WM history, for the benefit of the new fans.

Cactus’s first WM was XIII, in Chicago, as this Mania will be, he kept the IC over Vader in the blow off to their feud.

In XIV, he and Terry Funk lost their tag titles to the New Age Outlaws.

In XV, he regained the WWF Title, beating Owen Hart in a pure science matchup, Owen’s last ever match.

And in Foley’s last match as a fulltime wrestler, he lost that title the following year, at XVI, to Benoit, the man who currently holds that Triple Crown.

Foley then returned for the legend’s match at XX, teaming with The Rock to go over Goldberg and Lesnar.

Foley says if, at WM 22 – in Chicago – there’s going to be a match to determine who the greatest Hardcore Legend is – then it won’t be RVD with his hand raised – it’s gonna be Cactus Jack.

Stevie, as RVD’s mouthpiece, says he knows Cactus Jack’s pedigree – he’s seen him on the Today Show – he’s seen his books on the NY Times bestseller list – he’s seen Beyond the Mat – everyone knows that Cactus Jack is the greatest wrestler in ECW history…

…but answer me this, Cactus….how many ECW title belts did you win?

Stevie shows a clip – from November 2 Remember ’95, with Cactus getting pinned by 2 Cold Scorpio, failing in his bid to win the TV Title.

I guess that would be zero, Cactus. Zero.

But what about R….V…..D….Stevie rolls the clip package…

Van Dam, the following year at N2R ‘96, taking the TV strap from 2 Cold – then Van Dam, at Barely Legal, ECW’s first PPV, keeping that belt over the Great Sasuke – then at Hardcore Heaven, keeping over Al Snow –then at N2R ‘97, one year after winning the TV belt – keeping over Jerry Lynn –then keeping over 2 Cold at Living Dangerously ’98 – then, 2 years, a full 2 years after winning the ECW TV belt – keeping again, over Lynn at N2R…then over Sabu at Living Dangerously ’99…then over Taka Michinoku at Hardcore Heaven…then over Taz at Heatwave..finally losing the ECW TV title to Lance Storm at N2R ’99…

…3 years after winning the title.

Van Dam points to his head in the way that he does.

Stevie says he doesn’t need to show the clips of RVD winning his two ECW World Titles – being the last ECW Champ until the belt was taken over by WWF – doesn’t need to show clips of RVD being the 2 time IC champ – being the WWF tag champ –

--because when a man has held a title belt for 3 consecutive years, the longest modern day title reign – that man deserves to be called the Hardcore Legend – and at WM XXII, in Chicago – in the greatest hardcore match of all time – he’s gonna prove it – against Cactus Jack.

So, there’s that.

Dark Match: Punk v. London v. Kendrick v. Noble
Hardcore Legend’s Match: Cactus Jack (w/Heyman) v. RVD (w/Stevie)

8 matches left on the show, 7 to set up for the card. Everything else comes out of the 51% Solution angle.

Okay – to review. Flair, upon transitioning from full time active wrestler to co-figurehead GM, made his first WWF face turn at XXI, he and Steamboat doing the co-general manager gimmick.

Hunter, a full year out of the limelight, returned at Summer Slam ’05, now with the name McMahon added to his, having married the Princess. Hunter said he’d been overlooked too long, held down by the politics in the company, disrespected. And he promised that, next year, at XXII, he’d leave with gold.

They came together at Survivor Series; Hunter, with Edge’s aid, beat Shawn, forever ending the Clique – in a wild scene that revealed Hunter and Flair had been aligned in a grab for power – Flair’s 49% of management, coupled with Hunter’s 2% McMahon Family Proxy, giving them the upperhand, hence the term, 51% Solution.

With Arn, former member of the Titan Trust (w/Dean and Fit) as the 3rd member – they promised at 4th to be revealed at the Rumble – and that turned out to be the dominant newcomer, Executioner Lashley.

After decimating Rey, Benoit, and Steamboat at the Rumble’s close, the 51% Solution sets off on the Road to WM XXII as the pivotal force in the company.

The first thing they do is set up the two tag matches.

The LWO: Carlito, Crazy, Psychosys – which is morphing, because I like the angle so much, into an LAX group – hard, tough, less funny, less soft than the current Carlito/Crazy gimmicks. We’ll put them in whatever the relevant gang colors are – get Carlito to snarl a little bit – a scar would be a nice touch – by summer, they’ll have fully morphed into WWF version of LAX.

The LWO comes calling on the 51% Solution, asking for a shot at the tag belts held by Bradshaw (heel, the NeoCon) and Booker (face, just wants to get paid). Flair has a violent dislike of Rey as Champion, and has used the LWO in both Survivor Series and the Rumble to try to take the belt.

Both times they failed – but at the Rumble’s conclusion, the LWO stood with the 51% Solution to beat down the babyfaces, and now want a tag title shot in return.

Arn isn’t happy about it – giving Carlito the business for failing to beat Rey – and there’s a moment in the ring where it looks like it’s gonna go down between the two heel groups.

But Flair calms Arn down – and Hunter says they have a deal – that at XXII, Bradshaw and Booker will defend their titles against Crazy and Psycho.

And then MNM hit the ring.

Melina says at the Rumble – her men beat Dead Men Walking – and they deserve the title shot at XXII.

This pisses LWO off – Carlito making some type of sexual come on to Melina – which pisses N and M off – and it looks like those two heel groups are gonna go – when Dead Men Walking: Kane, PAUL, and the Undertaker, come to the ring…

PAUL says they may have lost at the Rumble – but they beat MNM at Survivor Series – and the Undertaker is the ultimate Wrestlemania legend, with 5 legends wins – and if anyone’s wrestling Booker and Bradshaw for the tag titles – it’s them.

Much staring – much jawing – the 51% Solution considers…

Then Orton and Cena hit the ring.

They say one year ago, at XXI, they became WWF tag team champions – they lost their belts to Booker and Bradshaw at Survivor Series – and as the only two guys here who have ever actually won WWF gold (a dig at the big men, none of whom have ever had any WWF title belts) they should get the shots at XXII.

Much jawing.

Flair settles things down.

Well, at WM XXII – there’s gonna be a tag title match.

Booker and Bradshaw will defend the Undisputed Tag Titles against…..Psycho and Crazy, the LWO…

…but it will be a 3 team match – because they’ll also be facing the winner of the opening tag team match – a match between Kane/PAUL – MNM – and Orton/Cena!

Hunter takes the mic…oh yeah, one other thing…he says…

There won’t be 3 teams in that opening tag.

There are going to be four.

Arn and Flair start to smirk.

The fourth team…”me…..and The Executioner!”

Lashley then hits the ring and cleans house – just destroying guys – all 3 members of the LWO – both Nitro and Mercury – both Orton and Cena – Lashley clotheslines Kane and PAUL clean out of the ring – and goes nose to nose with the Undertaker, until he is pulled away by the Solution.

Lashley’s a monster – an unstoppable beast – hopefully, the crowd pops – you get the idea of the booking.

So, to the dark match and the Hardcore Legend’s Match, we add the two tags:

Opening Tag: HHH-M/Lashley v. DMW v. MNM v. Orton/Cena
Undisputed Tag Title: Bradshaw/Booker (w/Conway) v. LWO (w/Carlito) v. ?

4 down, 5 matches left to set up.

And we’ll set those matches up, when the Road to Wrestlemania XXII returns

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