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.

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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