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.

Wrestlemania XXII- 2006

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The build is here.


(hey, new format - note if you click the arrows by the archived posts you'll see the events written about in that post, further, the oldest shows are archived first; it will make walking your way through the full Counterfactual more navigable. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the show.)

Joey and Taz is your announce team.

The show opens with the four competitors for the dark match in the ring, CM Punk, getting the hometown babyface reaction, with the idea being that he is always positioned to look like a star, with the microphone.

Punk re-establishes the gimmick, this is Wrestlemania XXII – the biggest show of the year, some say the biggest show of all time – and for the people in this building, for the people in Chicago, his hometown, they are about to see 4 of the best wrestlers in the world demonstrate their pride and passion for the sport they love.

People cheer.

“But for all of you at home, I don’t give a damn how much you paid, I don’t give a damn if you are sitting there at your Wrestlemania party, with your beer and your potato chips, I don’t give a damn if you have seen all 21 Wrestlemanias and you’d never miss one and this is your favorite day of the year, and I don’t give a damn if you are 8 years old, watching me for the first time, watching Wrestlemania for the first time, and this is bigger than Christmas for you….because I am CM Punk – and I don’t wrestle for any of you…

I wrestle for me.

Now turn off the cameras – or I am leaving this ring….”

And so they do. Cutting to a taped package to hype the show.

(Dark Match: CM Punk d. London/Kendrick/Noble – you don’t get to know how, ‘cause it’s dark, see. You missed it too. It was great. When we come back, it’s to see Punk walking back up the aisle, again, I want a superstar Chicago reaction for him as he exits.)

1. DMW d. 51% Solution (w/Arn) d. MNM (w/Melina) d. Orton/Cena
-It’s an elimination match; the announce sells hard Hunter’s prediction, that he’s been repeating since Summer Slam, that he would walk out of WM with gold. Given the monster Lashley push, we should strongly assume they’re going over here to win the spot in the tag title match later in the evening.

Orton/Cena go first – Orton turns on him right after they are introduced, doesn’t wait for the match to start – just out of nowhere hits him with the RKO, curses him out, and leaves.

Orton’s gonna get pushed. It’s a face turn for Cena who now becomes his real world babyface gimmick, albeit without the profile.

MNM goes next, with Mercury taking the fall from DMW, serving as the blowoff to that feud.

Lashley never gets in the match – HHH-M is heel in peril, getting beaten down by the monsters, the crowd waits to see the Executioner enter – but just as was the case in the War Games match – Lashley is distracted by the ‘Taker – who didn’t enter with Kane and PAUL, instead, waiting right until Lashley was about to receive the hot tag – but then came the Bong and the light cue and the Taker appearing at the top of the aisle.

Lashley, as with the War Games match, left ringside, sprinting at the Undertaker, the two brawling, disappearing in the back. Hunter was left alone with the monsters, he played chickenshit heel – but fell to the double chokeslam.

Dead Men Walking – Kane and PAUL~ go over in the opening tag and will join the LWO and the champs, Bradshaw and Booker, in the tag title match later tonight.

2. Hardcore Legend’s Match: Cactus Jack (w/Paul E) d. RVD (w/Stevie)
-Foley’s second legend’s win. Realistic top end for this match is Foley/Edge from real world XXII. It’s gonna be a hardcore summer in the WWF, given what we’re gonna do with these guys; so you need to start thinking about RVD (and given his degradation, it’s time) as a garbage wrestler.

RVD’s established, at this point in their careers, as superior, and we give Stevie, who I really like and would use if I could, a spot where he superkicks an invading Guido and Nova – before he’s overcome by the second ECW wave, which is Sandman/Dreamer, who, going forward, are part of the tag ranks.

They cane Stevie, they cane Van Dam, and that helps lead to the finish, Foley DDT’ing RVD threw a flaming table to get the fall.

The ECW contingent puts it to RVD and Stevie postmatch.

Lights out.

Lights on.


It’s Sabu’s WWF debut; we haven’t used him previously. Joey screams, well, you know what he screams – Sabu is Sabu – save that he’s swinging two glass light tubes.

If you’ve watched any Big Japan in the last couple of years, you know that glass light tubes are the new barbed wire, and we’ll be using them as the main garbage stip at Summer Slam.

Sabu does his stuff; and he, Van Dam, and Stevie clean house.

Sabu won’t be talking in the Counterfactual, that’s what Stevie’s for. He’s the new Fonzie. Maybe he gets a whistle.
Jack and Heyman jaw at Sabu – Sabu points to the sky – Joey makes clear that Sabu has arrived in the World Wrestling Federation.

3. Shelton Benjamin d. Kurt Angle-And yes, this wraps up Kurt.

Benjamin drops the SMoney gimmick going forward, he’s now the Shooter Shelton Benjamin. He comes to the ring in an amateur singlet, Taz sells his technical ability.

Match is all technical, the idea being to put Benjamin over as Angle’s equal on the mat – look how far Benjamin has come, that kind of thing.

Angle is a mixture of pride and frustration and craziness. There’s a ref bump at one point – and that leads Angle to go outside to grab a chair. Angle can’t keep up with Shelton on the mat, Taz notes, so he has to grab a chair – but the chair is taken from his hands by Charlie Haas, who leaps the retaining barrier to grab it away.

The ref is quickly revived – and Benjamin eventually taps Angle.

Our first clue that Kurt is leaving is, as has been the case with some others, the highlight package of his career plays on the Titan Tron immediately after the fall.

We see that babyface Kurt Angle change before our eyes, see his long 2 year run as Champion, a run that only ended when he was forced to relinquish the belt – we see him consolidate all 3 companies’ belts – the most dominant heavyweight champion post Sammartino.

Benjamin extends a hand to Angle…

Kurt spits at him and kicks him low. Angle begins to crossface Benjamin – that brings in Haas. Haas and Benjamin working together again, doubleteam Kurt and put him away.

With Angle down – the locker room, everyone, faces and heels, not involved in the show tonight (even in the Counterfactual everyone gets the big payoff) runs in to beat Kurt down.

Haas and Benjamin exit as the locker room (hey, it’s Mabel!) cycle through their rarely seen finishers on the man perhaps least liked by the locker room – it’s a brutal beating that doesn’t appear as if it’s about to stop.

Enter…..Shawn Michaels.

Michaels, long a rival of Kurt’s – a rival as fellow babyfaces during the Brock angle that transitioned to the year long Clique/Team Angle feud – enters – and begins superkicking the locker room away from Kurt.

Michaels – cleaning house….but the numbers get him too (a Morley spinebuster…an Alabama Bob legdrop…a Masterlock…)

Enter…Chris Benoit.

The leader of the locker room, the leader of the WWF…the greatest wrestler in North American history, the legendary Chris Benoit is how he’s referred to by Joey Styles..Benoit germans Morley, Holly, Masters…the rest of the locker room backs away…

Leaving 3 men who have never liked each other in any configuration. Angle, Benoit, Michaels….in the ring. Benoit and Angle have been feuding since the day Benoit arrived; Benoit and Michaels are the leaders of the Harts and the Clique, the opposite poles in WWF history. Angle, Benoit, and Michaels in the ring.

Benoit and Michaels, wordlessly, help Angle to his feet – Angle, for a moment, relies on them to stand – as if he will allow them to help him to the back. All 3 men, for a moment, bound as brothers.

Angle then shrugs both of them off – stumbling away – swearing at them – Angle, on his own power, stumbling, falling, lurching his way from the ring – to the aisle – Angle giving one last…..look…at the crowd…the standing crowd…Angle, perhaps with a tear in his eye….shooting the WWF fans a double middle finger as he disappears behind the curtain…perhaps forever.

There are still no words between Benoit and Michaels – but now an uneasy look between the two men – that’s quickly interrupted by a spear from Edge – who appeared from under the ring as we transition to the next match. Benoit exits, as his relationship with Michaels stops at the water’s edge – and we’re ready for…

4. Edge (w/Lita) d. Shawn MichaelsAs Benjamin knocked off Angle – Edge knocks off Michaels – Joey notes the symmetry, notes the passing of a torch here tonight at XXII – the leader of Team Angle has just been tapped out by Shelton Benjamin, and now these former Clique stablemates go at it – with the Triple Crown winner Michaels losing to Edge.

Other than Michaels being roughed up immediately prior in saving Kurt, the finish is otherwise clean – Edge rips off the eyepatch postmatch and hurls it in celebration in the crowd – Edge celebrating as is he just won the WWF title. Michaels dejected, watching, as Edge slaps his chest and laughs. Edge and Lita make out in mid ring.

Edge doesn’t leave – he and Lita grab headsets to join the announce for the next match.

5. Matt Hardy d. Ric Flair (w/Arn)The theme of torch passing continues.

Edge taunts Matt at every opportunity – Matt enraged, but takes it out on Flair. Flair and Arn cheat to gain advantages – but Matt’s too much, he lays out both Arn and Flair with Twists of Fate – and stares dead at Edge as he gets the pinfall on the Nature Boy.

Matt and Edge stare at each other, Edge ripping off the headset and jawing at Hardy.

Hey, it’s Ricky Steamboat!

Steamboat, gone since the Rumble, walks down the aisle – he’s carrying Hardy’s contract.

Edge climbs in the ring, Flair and Arn have recovered and they are huddled together, warily watching Steamboat, who, of course, they are responsible for knocking out of action.

Steamboat tells Edge and Matt to back away from each other – as the two men seemed headed for blows.

Steamboat thanks the people for coming – said when he wrestled Barry Windham in the very first WM 22 years ago for the WWF Title, he couldn’t have imagined how big it all would have gotten.

If anyone, Steamboat says, knows what it’s like to wrestle in the main event at WM, it’s him, he’s done it 4 times.

“And next year, at WM XXIII in front of 70,000 people at Ford’s Field in Detroit, you two…Edge…and Matt Hardy…will know what it’s like to wrestle in the main event at WM.”

Fans react as they will.

“Next year – the main event at WM XXIII will be Edge vs. Matt Hardy….Hell in a Cell!”

Flair then grabs the contract from Steamboat’s hands to reset the stip – that Matt’s back in the WWF – that he has a contract for more money than he’s ever seen in his life – that he can buy a hundred pieces of ass like Lita…

But, for a year, that contract belongs to Edge.

Flair hands it to Edge, Edge signs.

Flair now smirks that this might be the worst thing that ever happened to Matt Hardy – for a full year, he belongs to Edge – if he touches Edge, even one time, Edge has the right to rip that contract up – and there won’t be Matt Hardy and Edge in a Cell at XXIII – there won’t be Matt Hardy at all again in the WWF.

Matt takes the mic.

Matt: So, I want to understand, Flair. Once I sign this contract…I have to wait a full year before I can beat this little bitch up again?

Flair: You can’t touch him. Not for a year.

Flair offers Matt the pen – Matt takes it – and jabs it in Edge’s head.

Matt jabs the pen into Edge – drawing blood – the people scream – then Matt takes the bloody pen – signs his name – drops the contract onto the fallen Edge and exits.

And the hype begins for WM XXIII – Matt v. Edge, the final battle, Hell in a Cell.

6. Unified Tag titles: DMW (w/Taker) d. Bradshaw/Booker (w/Conway) d. LWO (w/Carlito)
-PAUL and Kane win their first ever belts; an emotional night reaches a crescendo for many fans when the veteran Undertaker, who also has never won a belt in WWF, is handed all 6 tag straps by Kane and PAUL – Kane and PAUL accepting whatever veteran goodwill they’ve earned, and then yielding it all to the Dead Man, clapping for him as he holds the 6 title belts in center ring.

A bad night for the other teams, one that will lead to their breakups over the summer. Bradshaw/Book was always an oil and water tag team; over the summer, their will be an increased focus on Bradshaw’s mistreatment of Anal Cysts (Conway) that will lead to his turning face on Bradshaw (say, breaking the Karl Rove flag over his head),Booker taking Bradshaw out in a Loser Leaves Town on RAW, and then Booker, who has a tag title rematch in his contract, asking Conway to be his partner.

It also will lead to the end of Psychosys’s run in the LWO – he gets pinned here – and just as Carlito forced Juvie from the group – he’ll also force Psycho out.

That will, temporarily, leave Carlito and Crazy as the only members of the LWO – but Carlito will look to remedy that over the summer as the group grows more militant.

7. Worldwide Titles: Fit Finlay (w/Dean) d. Steve Regal
-Just a hard hitting, crazy stiff, hardway color, nothing but good, brutal fun match. This is an all time great Wrestlemania, let me suggest, the combination of the angles and the work – no one’s leaving this show disappointed. Love this match; I’d bet it’s the high point of the evening.

Fit hits the emerald frosion for the pinfall. Fans, presumably, appreciate the crazy hard hitting nature of the matchup, and appreciate the incredible work of the IC Champion Finlay, so pleased – so pleased are the WWF fans with this pairing of Malenko and Finlay that has grabbed ahold of the strap…

And then down the aisle comes Hunter.

Hunter’s got a microphone. Hunter’s not stopping; Hunter’s telling the referee to get back in the ring; Hunter’s telling the timekeeper to ring the bell; Hunter’s saying he’s leaving WM XXII with gold, goddammit – and he’s leaving with Finlay’s.

Hunter yells that he’s in charge, by order of the 51% Solution, ring the bell – the timekeeper doesn’t want to do it – the referee doesn’t want to do it – but the exhausted Finlay finally grabs the mic and yells out that if Mr. McMahon wants to get his ass kicked by a real wrestler, he’ll oblige.

8.Worldwide: HHH-M d. Fit Finlay (special guest referee - Dr. Death Steve Williams)
Hunter picks up his first ever singles belt. Story of the match is Fit is spent, so he fights from underneath, still establishing his dominance – Fit Finlay is going to beat HHH-M.


Lashley hits the ring. Hits the Dominator on Doc. Hits the Dominator on Malenko. Hits the Dominator on Finlay. A second referee (who’s booking this, Russo?) hits the ring – Hunter yells for the count…and he gets the pinfall.

If people wanted to throw things at the ring, that would be okay.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley-McMahon, as he promised at Summer Slam, has come to WM XXII – and he’s leaving with gold. The 51% Solution triumphs.

9.Undisputed Title: Rey Mysterio d. Chris Benoit
- Works on every level.

It’s the first singles match between these two in the Counterfactual (and unless there’s something I’m overlooking, I can’t recall a high profile singles match between then in real life – which seems bizarre, since they’ve spent a lot of their careers in the same place at the same time. They had the tag program on Smackdown, but a high profile singles match….I don’t think so, never on PPV, right? Any singles matches that went longer than 10 minutes?

Considering they’re two of the greatest workers who ever lived, and that’s the idea of Wrestlemania, that at the end of the day, the two best wrestlers meet for the WWF Title, that’s really a surprise to me that they haven’t had one big time matchup.

So, they meet here. We started this at the beginning of the year; Eddy is the largely unspoken connection between the two men – Benoit/Eddy got the full on treatment throughout their WWF run, Eddy/Rey got heated up in the last few months of Eddy’s life. The other connection goes back a year when Steamboat began to say that Rey, who had really never been in the world title picture, was the best wrestler alive and the “ace” of the company. Benoit didn’t complain, he’s Chris Benoit, but one ponders if it rubbed him the wrong way. One wonders how much both men wanted this match to find out. Just to find out.

With Rey on the front lines in this fight against the Solution, Benoit’s moved to join forces with him; but they were outflanked by Hunter and Flair, who decided the way to keep them separate was to pit them against each other.

And it’s worked, their friendship was frayed – and here we are.

Mysterio goes over clean, in what hopefully is all the match you’d want it to be.

Handshake postmatch. Benoit putting Rey over as the Champ.

It’s all good at Wrestlemania XXII…

Oh, but it can’t end there.

‘Cause here comes the Solution.

Flair, the IC Champ Hunter, Arn.

They hit the ring and encircle Benoit and Rey.

Benoit and Rey get an advantage…but then comes Lashley and it’s destruction.

Benoit bears the brunt – he takes a Dominator through a table – which will take him off the canvas for the summer as we work a fractured sternum ----

Michaels runs in – Michaels stands between the Solution and Benoit’s broken body. Flair/Arn/Hunter pulling the frothing Lashley back – the Solution triumphant – Hunter with gold – Benoit lying broken in the ring – Michaels helping Rey to his feet as the show ends.

That’s Wrestlemania XXII.

There’s a long way to go before Summer Slam, which we’ll run in August.

There will be a run up to the show, one, maybe two build up posts; and then however many historical posts, a Counterfactual title history makes a lot of sense, we are able to do.

Hope you enjoyed the show – and we’ll see you again on the road to Summer Slam ’06!

The Road to Wrestlemania Ends 2006

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Part 3 is here.

On April 1, the same day as real world Wrestlemania – we’ll have Counterfactual WM XXII from Chicago. We’ve set up the entire card and are now taking one more look, a final look, at the matchups.

In the previous post, we looked at the three title matches and the opening tag. Here, we’ll look at the rest of the card, four big singles matches, and an abnormally prominent darm match.

Ric Flair (w/Arn) v. Matt Hardy
Shawn Michaels v. Edge
Kurt Angle v. S Money Shelton Benjamin
Hardcore Legend’s Match: Cactus Jack (w/Heyman) v. RVD (w/Stevie)
Dark Match: CM Punk v. Paul London v. Brian Kendrick v. Jamie Noble
Wrestlemania is coming on April 1 – we’ve set the card, and in the last post, went into even more depth, if such a thing is possible, on the 3 title matches and the opening tag – let’s reset the rest of the singles card now.

Ric Flair (w/Arn) v. Matt HardyEvery singles match, up and down the card, is very personal here in Chicago for WM XXII.

At stake in this match is a contract for Matt Hardy, who hasn’t been an official employee of the WWF since quitting after Summer Slam ’04. Even as a babyface general manager, Flair was the force in the company preventing Hardy’s official return in the summer of ’05 in the Edge/Lita angle.

Flair, of course, is a multi-time NWA Champion and was WWF Champion during his initial run in the early 90s. He returned to the WWF in the run up to Rumble ’02, putting Team NWA on the line against Angle’s Double Title. Kurt won, and the NWA invasion angle ended. Subsequently, Flair restarted the Horsemen, with his protégée Leviathan (Batista) and Eddy and Benoit. Flair and Leviathan won the tag titles over Haas and Benjamin at MSG in WM XX, dropping at Summer Slam to Mysterio and Van Dam. A year later, at XXI, Flair turned face as part of the 3 judge panel for the Benoit/Guerrero main event, becoming the deciding vote in requiring that the match continue. Flair then joined Steamboat, sharing power – until the creation of the 51% Solution when he, Arn, and Hunter became the dominant heel faction in the company.

Throughout it all, Flair, in his position of power, stood against Hardy. Matt, along with his brother Jeff, first joined the WWF as teenagers, working as ring boys for the Clique, and eventually were joined in the WWF ring boy program by Edge and Christian, who worked for Owen Hart. After months of cajoling, they finally were allowed in ring action – the daredevil Hardys becoming tag champs at WM XV, seven years ago, against Rock and DLo, the Nation of Domination.

Edge and Christian turned heel during the celebration, joining Trish, Hunter, and Waltman as the new Clique – and that feud, joined by the Dudleys later in the year, ran until the end of 2002.

Matt turned heel during a year+ long feud with Van Dam, Matt being managed by Bischoff – and after blowing Bischoff off, frustrated with his position in the company, quit the WWF after losing to Booker T at Summer Slam ’04.

Matt returned in the “real life” angle with Edge in the summer of ’05, losing to Edge in the unsanctioned match at Summer Slam ’05, gaining revenge by crucifying Edge on RAW – appearing periodically to Twist of Fate anyone, including Hunter and Flair, who might stand in his way – drawing the hatred of the Solution.

Matt beat Edge in the empty arena match at the Rumble, driving an ice pick into his eye – and when Edge agreed to help the Solution in the War Games Match on SNME, he secured the deal from Flair that leads to this match.

If Matt wins – he comes back to the WWF – but his contract will be held for a year by Edge – if Matt can live up to the terms of the deal, not touching Edge throughout the course of the year, then he and Edge will meet – once last time – in the main event at WM XXIII in Detroit, in the 3rd ever Hell In A Cell Match.

But Matt’s gotta go through the Nature Boy first – who vows that WM will be the last time anyone ever sees Matt Hardy in a WWF ring.

It’s Flair/Hardy at WM XXII!

Shawn Michaels v. Edge (w/Lita)
It’s the battle of former Clique stablemates, with the legendary Triple Crown winning Michaels taking on the whitehot heel Edge.

Shawn’s first WWF title was back in 1989, amazingly, over 17 ½ years ago. Shawn and Marty, the Rockers, took the tag straps from the Brainbusters at Rumble ’89. They gave the titles back at WM V to Arn and Tully, then retook at Summer Slam. Shawn turned on Marty at Rumble ’90, allowing Jake Roberts and Roddy Piper to win the tag titles, then launched into a singles career, losing an IC shot to Bret Hart at VI, and then again at Survivor Series ’90. Michaels didn’t return to the title picture until ’92, when, in an unprecedented happening, he beat Randy Savage for the IC at Survivor Series – and then immediately turned around and lost the title in an impromptu match to Owen Hart.

At Rumble ’93, Shawn regained the IC, beating Owen, to become a two time tag and IC Champ, it was in that same year that he, Razor Ramon, and then eventually Diesel and Sean Waltman, formed the Clique – bonding over a common interest in having a good time and a mutual dislike for the Hart Foundation, that feud, Clique v. Harts, becoming the cornerstone of the WWF (and, as mentioned, the entrance for Matt and Edge).

At IX and Summer Slam, Shawn kept in two defenses over Mr. Perfect, then beat Waltman at Survivor Series ’93. Shawn kept over Razor at Rumble ’94 – then dropped in the ladder match at X. As a babyface, Shawn returned at Survivor Series ’94, winning the WWF Title and the Triple Crown in his hometown of San Antonio over his longtime rival, Owen Hart.

That title run was shortlived, Shawn dropped to Bret at XI – and turned around and won a record 3rd IC Title, beating Razor at Summer Slam ’95. Shawn kept over the Franchise, Shane Douglas, at Survivor Series – but then dropped to the debuting monster from the Rocky Mountains, Vader, at Rumble ’96.

But, in the Iron Man Match at XII – Michaels became a 2 time WWF Champ – beating Bret Hart ten years ago.

Shawn kept over Owen at Summer Slam, then dropped to Bret at Survivor Series, losing again to the 3 time WWF Champion Hit Man at Rumble ’97. Shawn got another title shot at Survivor Series ’97 – the famous 4 way match where Bret Hart had to leave the WWF forever, as Owen regained the vacant title belt. Shawn’s last match of the first run came at XIV, 8 years ago, when he lost a title shot to Owen Hart. The following night, Michaels was punked out by Hunter and Waltman, kicked out of the Clique – which would lead to Shawn’s long sabbatical from the WWF – and also to Edge and Christian, who by then were seconding Owen, joining the Clique one year later at XV.

It would be another year before Edge and Christian would win the tag straps, beating the Hardys and Dudleys at TLC2 at Summer Slam ’00. They kept those straps in the splitting in half of the Clique, beating Waltman and HHH at Survivor Series, but then dropped them at Rumble ’01 to the ECW team of Taz and Raven. For the first time, Edge and Michaels encountered each other at XVIII, in Edge’s hometown of Toronto – when E and C lost the opening tag to HHH and Razor Ramon, with Michaels making a surprise return to the WWF, superkicking E and C postmatch.

Michaels, now older, wiser, and admittedly a step slower, won his 4th IC title at Summer Slam that year, beating RVD; he then dropped the strap in a ladder match at Survivor Series in MSG.

Rumble ’03 marked both Edge’s last WWF appearance for a year and a half, in the infamous final TLC match where all the participants except for Matt Hardy were stretchered out – and it was Michaels’s return to the main event, losing to Kurt Angle.

Michaels and Hunter took the tag titles at XIX, Shawn’s third tag run, straps that he’d lose at Rumble ’04 – and that led to Edge and Michaels, two generations of Clique – coming together for the reunification at XX, Edge returning to save Shawn after his win over HHH.

Clique/Harts became the dominant focus of the WWF once again, Michaels losing what, to date, has been his last WWF title shot, to Benoit at Rumble ’05 – while Edge took the IC from Jericho.

Then, as mentioned, the summer of ’05 saw the Edge/Lita/Matt issue – with Edge telling his Clique stablemates that they could trust him, that the rumors were untrue – and when it, of course, turned out that Edge was lying – it busted up the Clique – a fissure developing, really among all four men, Christian left the company and the war between Michaels and Edge began.

Multiple times, Edge has attacked Shawn (and so, incidentally, has Matt as Shawn has taken a position against both men; Shawn increasingly pressing the religious button as part of his character) it was Edge’s interference at Survivor Series ’05 that allowed HHH to beat Shawn, ending the Clique – and after Edge again aided the Solution in the War Games match, he got from Flair this Mania match against the Heart Break Kid.

It’s Michaels. It’s Edge It’s Wrestlemania.

Kurt Angle v. S Money Shelton Benjamin
Your Olympic hero, Kurt Angle, debuted at XV, seven years ago, as a new signee, sitting in the crowd, who hopped into the ring to save the American flag from being burned by The Southern Man Jeff Jarrett.

Angle then spent two years building up an undefeated record before winning the WWF Title from Benoit at XVII in Houston.

What followed was a Sammartino/Hogan like babyface title run the likes of which hadn’t been seen in the Counterfactual – Angle successfully defended the title against Van Dam, Booker, Flair, Hennig at XVIII, consolidated the 3 championship belts by beating Rey, Jericho, Michaels at Rumble ’03…

At Rumble ’03, Angle’s protégées from the reality television show Camp Angle, Haas and Benjamin, shocked the world by winning the tag titles from Benoit and Guerrero – but at the close of the evening turned heel, joining Brock Lesnar in declaring war on their former mentor.

Haas and Benjamin lost the straps at XIX to Michaels and HHH – but Angle, main eventing Mania for the 3rd year in a row, held onto his straps, beating Lesnar.

But that match led to Angle’s brief retirement, the neck surgery that forced him to relinquish the world title, and led to what had been long in coming, the heel turn as he leapt from his wheelchair to bash both Vince and Eddy – rejoining Lesnar, Haas and Benjamin – Brock was not long for the company, but his role in the revamped Team Angle would be filled by Steve Regal.

Team Angle returned to the top of the WWF at Rumble ’04 – Kurt regaining the strap over Eddy, and Haas and Benjamin regaining theirs over Michaels and HHH.

In the Match of the Year for ’04 – Angle lost the strap at XX in MSG to Benoit, his 4th straight Mania main event, tying Ricky Steamboat, who mained at I-IV, just behind Bret Hart, who mained at an amazing 6 consecutive (and a total of 7) Wrestlemanias (VIII-XIII) (Benoit will be maining his 3rd consecutive Mania and 5th overall at XXII when he takes on Mysterio for the strap) while Haas and Benjamin also lost to Flair and Leviathan. Angle had one more title shot, losing the Iron Man rematch to Benoit at Summer Slam ’04 – but Haas and Benjamin staked their claim as the greatest WWF tag team of all time, winning their 3rd straps over Rey and RVD at Survivor Series.

They dropped to Helms and Rhyno at the Rumble – the first of a series of pinfalls suffered by Haas – the final one being at the opening tag in last year’s Mania that led to Angle requiring Benjamin to turn on his partner, ending Haas’s run in the WWF.

Over the past year, Benjamin has been forced to “learn” from Kurt – carrying Kurt’s bags, kept out of PPVs as Kurt tells S Money that he isn’t ready for the big shows.

Benjamin’s frustration grew – and at Rumble ’06, when Angle interfered on Hunter’s behalf to allow him a win over the increasingly popular Benjamin – Shelton snapped on Kurt later in the evening, aiding Michaels in his win over Kurt.

The battle has raged on since Mania – and now Kurt Angle, bald, crazy, roid raging Kurt Angle meets his protégée S Money at WM XXII.

Hardcore Legend’s Match: Cactus Jack (w/Paul E) v. Rob Van Dam (w/Stevie Richards)
Begun with Andre beating David Sammartino at I, the legend’s match is a Wrestlemania staple, Cactus Jack has a legend’s win, he and the Rock tagging over Brock/Goldberg at XX (Undertaker has 5 wins, the record).

The legend’s match this year is a play off the unofficial title of hardcore legend that has been bestowed on RVD and is being violently contested by the Triple Crown winning Cactus Jack, coming out of retirement to take him on at XXII.

Cactus Jack is a Counterfactual superstar, he and Sting, coming off a feud, formed a tag team and won the NWA straps over a Horsemen combination of Arn and Rick Rude at Fall Brawl ’93, keeping those straps over the Nasty Boys at Starrcade that same year, but then dropping to Nobbs and Saggs at Superbrawl ’94, 12 years ago. Cactus next appeared in the title hunt a year and a half later, in ECW at November to Remember, losing a TV title shot to 2 Cold Scorpio – a title that Van Dam would take from Scorp one year later.

Cactus had moved on by that point, having debuted at Summer Slam ’96, losing an IC shot to Vader but then taking the strap at Survivor Series. Holding their companies respective secondary belts – Cactus kept over Terry Funk at Rumble ’97, Van Dam kept over Great Sasuke at the first ECW PPV Barely Legal.

Cactus kept again at his first Mania, 9 years ago at XIII, beating Vader once more, and Van Dam matched him beating Al Snow at Hardcore Heaven. Jack turned heel at Summer Slam ’97, keeping his strap in a DQ win, snapping on Ken Shamrock in the Octagon; a title he’d then lose to Shamrock at Survivor Series; while RVD continued his TV run, beating Jerry Lynn at N2R.

Van Dam kept over the returning 2 Cold at Living Dangerously ’98, while Cactus added a WWF tag strap to his resume, he and Terry Funk going over Rock and DLo at the Rumble; they’d lose those straps to the New Age Outlaws at XIV – but then, at Summer Slam in MSG, Cactus became a Triple Crown winner, beating Owen Hart for the WWF Title.

2 years after winning the TV title – RVD continued his remarkable run over Jerry Lynn at N2R ’98; while Cactus kept over Shamrock at Survivor Series in the infamous Hell in a Cell match that began his slow face turn.

When RVD was keeping over Sabu at Living Dangerously – Cactus was dropping to Owen, Owen’s 3rd WWF title, at Rumble ’99; Owen’s last match took place at Cactus’s first ever WM main event, in Philly at XV – Cactus regaining the WWF Title and completing his babyface transformation. RVD’s run didn’t abate – he beat Taka Michinoku at Hardcore Heaven ’99 and then Taz at Heatwave.

Cactus kept the rest of the year, beating Austin in a long awaited battle of Triple Crown legends at Summer Slam, then won the 3 way dance against two men who never won the WWF Title – Rock and Hunter at Survivor Series; RVD wasn’t so lucky, he finally dropped the ECW TV title to Lance Storm at N2R.

Jack had one more successful title defense, beating the debuting Taz at Rumble ’00 in MSG before dropping to Benoit at XVI – and RVD finally won the ECW World title, going over Masato Tanaka at Hardcore Heaven, before turning around and dropping to Jerry Lynn at Heatwave, and then regaining over Lynn at Guilty as Charged ’01.

Van Dam brought that ECW Title to the WWF at Summer Slam ’01, dropping the strap to Angle – but, with Paul Heyman as his manager, gained from the WWF the contractual concession that, for the length of his WWF career, all of his matches would be “hardcore” No DQ matches. Team ECW blew up as 2002 approached, RVD winning the right to carry the banner of Extreme forward at Rumble ’02 when he took the IC from Taz. From that point, Van Dam, with Paul E – became what Cactus Jack had once been, the face of North American hardcore wrestling. RVD kept the IC over Austin at XVIII, dropped to Michaels at Summer Slam – but then, in a Ladder Match at Madison Square Garden, retook the straps over Michaels at Survivor Series.

Van Dam lost those straps, to Rey Mysterio at Rumble ’03; and then began a year long feud with Matt Hardy, a feud that would see him, upon its conclusion at XX, turn babyface and break away from Heyman – that turn led to his winning the tag straps with Mysterio at Summer Slam ’04 – but, with Heyman paying them to do so, Team Angle took RVD apart and took the straps at Survivor Series, knocking RVD out of action for over a year.

At the close of ’05, Van Dam returned, this time with Stevie Richards (who had once been taken apart by ECW wrestlers at the behest of Heyman) as his manager – in the same tag team gauntlet match that saw Cactus Jack, who had been back periodically since his retirement, return as well.

Jack aided Van Dam in that match – enough that when RVD returned to PPV at Rumble ’06 against Kid Kash, who represented the ECW forces, he had Cactus in his corner.

RVD won – but Cactus turned – joining Paul E in their efforts to reclaim the mantle of Extreme from Van Dam.

One man will emerge from XXII as the Hardcore Legend – will it be Cactus Jack or will it be Rob Van Dam?

And finally…

Dark Match: CM Punk v. Paul London v. Brian Kendrick v. Jamie Noble

Another Counterfactual tradition; the conceit of our world is that only wrestlers who work the actual PPV (or who work dark) can wrestle on the Counterfactual show – meaning that there are lots of wrestlers, many times superior workers who one would like to see in the Counterfactual – but cannot be used.

So, they work dark without storyline.

Here though, really for the first time, a storyline is being furthered at a match you’ll never see – the four way Ring of Honor dark match at XXII.

Jamie Noble, the Redneck Messiah, first appeared on PPV in ’00, he lost a US title shot to Lance Storm at Starrcade, then again at Superbrawl ’01. He and Kidman had a low level WWF tag team once the NWA joined WWF, Noble establishing his wrestling credentials by beating Chris Benoit at Survivor Series ’03 – also in the WWF by then, London and Kendrick, as protégées of their former trainer, Shawn Michaels – both men distinguished themselves in the big 64 man tournament to fill the vacant WWF title.

Noble would leave the WWF after having his ankle broken (a tradition in Counterfactual WWF) by Benoit, and Kendrick would do the same after a heel turning Helmsley broke his arm with the sledgehammer.

London got a singles win over Jericho in early ’04, became a full fledged Clique member in the big angle at XX, and then lost a chance at the IC in a 3 way at Summer Slam with Eddy and Jericho. London beat Mysterio at Rumble ’05 – then lost to Rey one year ago at XXI, as Rey’s ascension to the very top of the company began.

The big angle that saw the end of the Clique and the forming of the 51% Solution at Survivor Series ’05, also saw the beginning of this angle – Kendrick returning from a sabbatical at ROH to attack London, preventing him from saving Michaels. Kendrick began an assault on his former partner – saying an unnamed wrestler at ROH made clear that London was blackballing him…and then that was topped by the return of Noble, who attacked Kendrick, the man who was his partner at ROH, saying that he was told by an unnamed wrestler in that Brian had the chance to take Noble with him back to WWF, and turned it down.

That set up the 3 way with them at Rumble ’06, won by Kendrick, where the unnamed wrestler was revealed as CM Punk, who attended the show with his girlfriend Maria.

Punk’s mindgames continued, as he told the other 3 men that they were being held down by the WWF and by their need to win WWF titles – that he was coming to WWF not for glory but to become a better wrestler – and as such, would not wrestle on WWF TV.

When booked on RAW – Punk’s taken the losses, refusing to wrestle – attacking his opponent postmatch – but never getting in the ring – and now, with XXII being held in Punk’s hometown of Chicago – he has turned down his Mania debut – taking a dark match 4 way as opposed to working on camera. It’s the indie, ROH 4 way dark match, and it will begin XXII.

It’s all coming up in 2 weeks – on April 1 it’s WM XXII.

Undisputed Title: Mysterio v. Benoit
Worldwide Titles: Fit v. Regal
Unified Tag Titles: Bradshaw/Booker v. LWO v. ?
Flair v. Matt
HBK v. Edge
Angle v. Benjamin
Cactus v. RVD
51% Solution v. MNM v. DMW v. Orton/Cena

It’s Wrestlemania 22 – call your cable company!

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