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 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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