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 Royal Rumble 2008 - Final: History of Counterfactual MSG on PPV

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Royal Rumble 2008 is the tenth PPV at the home base of the WWF, the world's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Each time they go to MSG - it's important something noteworthy happens.

1. Wrestlemania. 1985
-You know this, obviously.

Ricky Steamboat won the WWF Title over Hogan a month before at War to Settle the Score in his WWF debut; also at that show, Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo dropped the tag belts to the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff - and at night's end, Windham turned heel, leveling the Dragon to kickstart that program. Steamboat kept the WWF Title at the main event of Mania, Muhammad Ali, the GOAT, putting the belt around Steamboat's waist after the defeat of Windham Nearly a quarter century later, Steamboat is the WWF general manager who has finally brokered a deal to regain control of the company. Roddy Piper had a big night - taking the IC in a dog collar match from Greg Valentine and aiding Paul Orndorff in his screwjob win over Hulk Hogan. And the young babyface tag team of Brutus Beefcake and Tito Santana took the straps over the evil foreigners. Add in an Andre the Giant squash of David Sammartino and that was Wrestlemania at MSG.

2. Summerslam '88
-The first ever Summerslam was also held at Madison Square Garden. This time it was a heel, the Dynamite Kid (#1) on his second WWF title run who kept the belt in the main event - barely - over the red hot Randy Savage. MSG saw its first ever shock heel turns here; the Hart Foundation busted up - Bret Hart (#2) came in and left as the IC Champ, beating his brother in law and longtime partner, Davey Boy Smith (#3). Postmatch, the Bulldog turned heel at press slammed the Hit Man to the floor. Heel tag champs, the Rougeau Brothers, with the Anvil (#4) as their manager surprisingly kept the straps over the monster heel Demolition. Rick Rude beat Jake Roberts, again, with Jake's wife Cheryl turning heel, making out with Rude in front of a handcuffed Roberts. Andre and Hogan tagged together to open the show. A quarter century later the Hart lineage continues with Chris Jericho (#7) and Edge (hoping to become #10) taking on Shawn Michaels and Hunter Hearst Helmsley-McMahon for the tag straps.

3. Summerslam '91
-Every three years we go to MSG - so it's 1991 and we're back with Summerslam. The feud started here 3 years before ended here at Summerslam - Davey Boy Smith won the WWF Title, defeating Curt Hennig, and Bret finally forgave his past indescretions postmatch - the Harts, with their title belts raised aloft, finally made up at event's close. Bret's title was still the IC, this his second run with the belt, and he defeated a returning Ricky Steamboat in the Dragon's last ever WWF match. The Road Warriors were the monster babyface tag champs - they kept here over Power and Glory. There was a Piper's Pit; where Roddy got former tag champs Michaels and Jannetty to go face to face in a set up for their blow off match at Survivor Series. 17 years later - Shawn Michaels is on his 4th run with the tag belts. The Undertaker bodybagged Kerry Von Erich after squashing him in the undercard - leading to a nose to nose with Hogan. 17 years ago, it was the Dead Man who was the monster heel - but at Rumble '08 it's the Juggernaut who oozes defiance and the veteran Undertaker tasked with stopping him.

4. Wrestlemania X. 1994
3 years later - Mania returns home. The main event was another Hart winning the WWF Title - Owen Hart (#6) defeating the now longtime champion Bret, who turned heel during his title run. Owen was held in the air postmatch by the babyface locker room - including a makeup handshake between two longtime antagonists, Curt Hennig and Randy Savage - while Bret seethed in the aisle. Shawn Michaels lost his IC Title 14 years ago at X, in a laddermatch to fellow Cliquester Razor Ramon. Ramon had turned babyface to protect young Sean Waltman, who responded by turning heel and joining Shawn and Diesel. All 4 men are here at X, Waltman taking a couple of crazy ladder bumps. The Rougeaus, with Scott Levy as their manager, lost their tag belts at X to Lex Luger and Bam Bam Bigelow. This was the last WWF PPV for Randy Savage - crazy, hardcore Randy Savage beat Demolition Crush, stabbing him multiple times with a fork - and then left the WWF for good the next night, losing a final blowoff match to Owen, culminating their long relationship.

5. Survivor Series 1996
-They couldn't stay away! Only 2+ years later and we're back at MSG for Survivor Series (I was at real world SSeries '96, incidentally). Shawn came in as the WWF Champ - but lost to Bret, the Hitman gaining the strap for the third and final time. A wild Hart/Clique brawl postmatch - the heel Harts: Pillman, Bret, Anvil attacked Michaels - he was saved by the heel Clique: Hunter/Road Dogg/Billy Gunn - Owen and Davey Boy, babyfaces, ran in on the Harts side - and that led to the Harts and Clique all fighting among themselves - and that led to Steve Austin, who was positoned against all sides - running in to fight everyone in the ring. The IC saw Cactus Jack (there's a Jack promo to open the show) win a bloody, violent, brutal cage match over the champion Vader. Marc Mero and Bart Gunn kept their tag straps, beating Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon. Earlier in the evening, Austin beat Owen in a match that ripped the building down - 2 Cold Scorpio beat Al Snow by somersault legdropping him through a table as the ECW chants rained down. Hunter, 11 1/2 years later not only wearing a tag belt, but also wearing the McMahon name, beat Goldust. And the Rock debuted - as a heel member of the Nation of Domination with DLo, Mark Henry, Ahmed Johnson and Ron Simmons - and with their help he beat the Undertaker, who was saved by a man we'd eventually come to know as Kane, his brother - and that brother got frogsplashed through a table by Brown. 'Cause it's 1996 and it was New York.

6. Summerslam 1998
-Less than two years go by and we're back. Owen walked into Summerslam the WWF Champ - but walked out having been set on fire by the now heel Triple Crown winning Cactus Jack. Foley's constant rival since entering the WWF was Austin - and he also won the Triple Crown at Summerslam '98, beating Ken Shamrock for the IC. Another feud that was heating up was Rock and Hunter -- the Nation, Rock and DLo, now babyfaces, beat Hunter/Waltman and Road Dogg/Billy in a 3 way dance to regain the straps. Taka Michinoku went over Dick Togo; Jeff Jarrett ended Mero's WWF run; Ulysses Morley, now with GDI a decade later, beat Dustin Rhodes. More importantly - Adam Copeland made his PPV debut, actually made the PPV debut for any of the Ring Boys, defeating Vader. A decade later Edge joins Chris Jericho in challenging for the tag straps.

7. Royal Rumble 2000
-Less than 2 years later, back at MSG. Babyface Cactus Jack is WWF Champion - he keeps over a local favorite, working as a heel - Taz. 8 years later, Taz and Joey Styles are the longtime voices of the WWF and Foley has just returned; he was on Team WWF in the War Games match and he's part of the ECW angle with Stevie Richards on GDI. Will he make an appearance at Rumble '08? 8 years ago the IC Champion was Chris Jericho and he kept over Hunter - they meet again in the tag title match in 2008 in a cage match. The Dudleys, with Stevie Richards, were heel tag champs - they went over the Hollys 8 years ago and then put them through flaming tables - postmatch, the Hardys and E&C all came to the ring for a wild brawl. 8 years later - Stevie just lost the TV title to the Yakuza and Jeff is once again challenging CM Punk for the ECW Title. Kurt Angle made his MSG debut 8 years ago - he beat both Davey Boy and Sean Waltman in separate matches. Al Snow won a 3 way dance when the Nation: Rock and DLo - his opponents, saw their budding rivalry explode. Edge beat Ulysses Morley, his futureformer brother in law, in a No DQ match.

8. Survivor Series 2002
-Almost 3 years later, back to NYC. Kurt was in the midst of his Bruno like title run, but was starting to hear some boos - he kept over Jericho as Angle's heel protegee Brock Lesnar interfered. Shawn superkicked Angle cold at show's end. Shawn came into the night the IC Champ, but lost a ladder match to RVD - and then was F5'd on the ladder by the aforementioned Lesnar. 5 1/2 years later, you know what Jericho and Shawn are doing. You probably know what those other guys are doing too. The tag champs were Eddy and Benoit, with the 4 Horsemen (Flair/Leviathan/Chavo) they kept the belts over Jamie Noble and Billy Kidman. 5 1/2 years later - Leviathan and Chavo - who feuded for awhile after the Horsemen breakup - are facing each other again, with the LWO meeting WMD. Noble is also working - he wrestles Randy Orton for the US Title at Rumble '08. Brock beat Hunter in MSG - F5'ing him on the ramp and busting his head wide open. Chavo beat Shane Helms in a battle of former (and future) tag partners. Rey Mysterio made his MSG debut, beating Steve Regal. 5 1/2 years later, Rey is WWF champ, defending his belt against Shelton Benjamin at Rumble '08 and Regal was just on Team NWA in the War Games match. Lance Storm (#8) beat Edge (#10?) with Stacy and Trish as the superhot, just loinachingly hot managers. And the Dudleys beat the Hardys by DQ - Jeff and Matt had been using increasingly heelish tactics - guided by a mysterious manager who made his shocking appearance here - Eric Bischoff.

9. Wrestlemania XX. 2004.
-And finally, XX.

The show ended the way the show ended. Babyface champions Benoit and Eddy in the ring. Benoit retook his title from Angle, and Eddy retook the IC in a ladder match from Chavo. The tag champs were Flair and Leviathan, taking from Haas and Benjamin. 3 1/2 years later, Leviathan and Cena are wrestling Chavo and Carlito at Rumble '08 - and Shelton is taking on Rey for the WWF Title. We've made reference to the big angle in this show multiple times during the run up to Rumble 2008 - it was here, at WM XX - where Jericho and Christian completed their long double turn, Trish joined Jericho and they threw Christian from the top of the Cell. Jericho got the win - and later in the evening, Michaels beat Hunter in a falls count anywhere - postmatch - Edge returned after an absence of over a year to save Michaels postmatch - Jericho ran in to attack Edge - and a bloody Christian made his way to the ring - the new, babyface Clique cleaned house. In 2008 - Jericho and Edge are together and facing Shawn and Hunter for the tag straps. Trish is still so hot. Mmmmmm. Rey beat Ultimo Dragon and Tajiri in a Three Way Dance where Jimmy Yang got involved - Yang is now Yakuza, the TV Champ - Rey is a Triple Crown winning 2 time WWF champ. RVD and Matt finished up their year+ long feud, RVD winning a tables match - Matt re-turning face by attacking Bischoff postmatch to wrap up Eric. And in a Legends Weapons Match Mick Foley and the Rock teamed up to beat Brock and Bill Goldberg with Steve Austin as the guest referee.

With a show like that - no wonder it's taken so long to come back.

But back they are coming. Rumble 2K8 is at MSG:

WWF Title: Rey Mysterio v. Strong Style Shelton Benjamin

NWA Title: Johnny Nitro (w/Melina) v. Fit Finlay (w/Malenko)

Unified Tag Titles: Shawn Michaels/Hunter Hearst Helmsley-McMahon v. Edge/Chris Jericho

ECW Title: CM Punk (w/Maria and Colt) v. The Blood Dragon Jeff Hardy

IC Title: Montel Vontavious Porter v. Elijah Burke

US Title: Randy Orton v. Jamie Noble

TV Title: The Yakuza v. Little Warrior

Undertaker v. The Juggernaut

LWO: Chavo Guerrero/Carlito Colon v. WMD: Leviathan/John Cena (w/Arn)

Call your cable company!

Road to Royal Rumble 2008 - 6

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Part 5 is here.

8 matches in the books.  Main event to go. 

When last we left, we were ready for the big War Games Match.  There was a Smackdown in Baltimore a couple weeks before real world Rumble '08, that makes sense for the big event set up in Part 5.

3 matches on that Fight Night card:
1. Punk/Yakuza/Kendrick/Morley v. Jeff/Little Warrior/Crazy/Guido

-Just a one fall match, not a war games match like the main event. Punk, distracted because he feels marginalized - he has been the focus of the whole sport for a year - and now Steamboat, by making the unification deal with Dusty, has flipped the script - Punk is starting to question if he should have thrown down the title belts in the first place.  He is in full rage - and not focusing on Jeff Hardy, who wrestled him to a draw at Survivor Series.

Jeff pins him in this match, further setting up the Rumble.

Now - as for Morley.

Prior to Survivor Series, as I've mentioned, there were trades.  Noble got dealt from GDI to WWF for Ulysses S. Morley.  That was supposed to demean Noble, given that Morley's talent enhancement.  Morley (Val Venis) got a little run a decade ago upon his debut as the Abolitionist.  He feuded with the Southern Men - Jeff Jarrett and Dustin Rhodes.  In subsequent years, he surfaced as part of Nick Dinsmore's Grumpy Old Men faction, and was one of the tag partners who Bradshaw took on in his quest to win a title.  Morley shows up at GDI in his WWF gear and is assigned to Colt Cabana for reprogramming.

Until now, it's largely been comedy - backstage vignettes where Colt can do shtick - maybe showing pictures of old WWF wrestlers to Morley while pouring cold water on him or zapping him with a small taser to develop a negative association.  Colt is attempting to indoctrinate Morley into the anti-WWF GDI way. 

Morley finds this silly.

That's where we are now going into this match.  After the Rumble, the indoctrination strategy will change.

Here - Morley wrestles competently - but doesn't cheat, much to Colt's consternation at ringside - say, Cabana tries to slip Morley a foreign object at one point - Morley hands it to the official - points to Colt - and Cabana is ejected from ringside.

There's Little Warrior/Yakuza stuff, setting up their Rumble match for the TV Title.  Kendrick is there for the workrate and to further his character as selfish and cowardly - he tries to steal pinfalls, cheats when he can, does chickenshit heel stuff -- Guido and Crazy are carrying the ECW banner, Crazy has officially broke with the LWO now - and in this match they further the Stevie/Dreamer ECW storyline.  All 6 announcers are here for this event - Josh and Dreamer are calling this match for GDI - Bradshaw interrupts at one point to verbally blast Dreamer and run down ECW - Joey and Taz then interrupt to defend ECW - and there's good, hot argument that eventually leads to Dreamer and Bradshaw getting up at their tables and start pointing at each other before being calmed/warned by their partners (if you get physical you're out - you know the rules - announcers can't get physical)  Kendrick serves as the chief ECW in ring antagonist - mocking Dreamer's old pose - pointing to himself with his thumbs like Van Dam - maybe hitting rolling thunder. 

And Jeff, as mentioned, gets the fall on Punk. 

2. Edge v. HHH-M

-Here's how we get there.

In the last installment, we set up the War Games match, winning side gets the company. 

I'll cover how the general managers choose their teams next - but Steamboat brings out both the Clique and Edge/Jericho, who meet for the tag straps at the Rumble - and says he has two slots available; one for each team - and they can pick themselves. 

There's incentive, otherwise the Clique wouldn't join the team, being bigger than the company - but I'll detail that later. 

The two who aren't chosen are Edge and Hunter.  So they get this singles match.

There's no finish - they brawl outside to a double countout, Jericho and Michaels come to aid - all four men wind up brawling to the back. 

3. WAR GAMES: Team WWF: Michaels/Foley/Jericho/MVP/Benjamin
                             Team NWA: Nitro/Fit/Regal/Noble/Cody Rhodes


We set this up in the last installment.  Bottom line is winner gets control of the company. 

We did a WWF v. NWA match before Survivor Series, building the animosity between the companies.  NWA won when Juggernaut interfered, taking out Rey, allowing Nitro the pinfall. 

Because of that - once this match is announced, Steamboat sends Little home, which I menioned in an earlier installment. 

It's the third War Games match we've done.  The Alliance (Benoit/Eddy/Perry/Dean) got run out of the WWF when Dean tapped to Angle.  And the 51% Solution (Flair/HHHM/Lashley) got control of the WWF when Regal, acting as a double agent, submitted.  So - part of the buildup to this match is that Regal and Dean (as Fit's manager) are both back in this match.  And Dusty, the inventer of the War Games match, is the NWA general manager, who effectively has bet the promotion. 

There's shaky confidence in both general managers - particularly Dusty, who has been under attack from Orton on multiple fronts for months - the choice of participants in this match didn't help that.

Dusty brings out Nitro, Fit, Dean and Melina.  The managers, who will be handcuffed together at the Rumble to prevent interference, are kept separate by their wrestlers.  Dusty says he's got to select a team of 5 - team of 5 to win the pot for the NWA. 

His first two picks are right here in the ring - the NWA Champion Johnny Nitro and the number one contender Fit Finlay.  Dusty says the key to a War Games match is teamwork - it's trusting the man next to you - he's seen teams of superduperstars lose because they couldn't trust the man next to him.  So team NWA is going to be based on trust.  He knows Nitro and Fit don't like each other - but they've been through the wars together, bled together - and he knows they will stand together for the NWA on Fight Night in the War Games Chamber.

Oh yeah - you know the Elimination Chamber?

I'm gonna take that apparatus and add four compartments.  That's gonna be the War Games Chamber.

So - two men start - all 8 other men are in their separate compartnments in the ring - doors will slide open, and one by one the other guys will join.  War Games Chamber.

Anyway, Dusty says how they're going to choose the rest of the team is that they will each pick anyone else they want.  Nitro will pick.  Fit will pick.  And Dusty will pick. 

Dusty picks first.  Says he wants a young man, a second generation wrestler - a man who he believes will one day be NWA champion - Cody Rhodes.

This is surprising.  Cody is extra, double green - we've only seen him as one of Edge's ring boys (w/Kenny Doane and eventually Ted DiBiase Jr.) in the run up to XXIII.  Cody is thin, pale - a little scared maybe, as he comes to the ring.  Dusty says there's no one who he trusts more than Cody - that he's too old to get into the Chamber himself - but he wants a Rhodes for this match.

Randy Orton then comes to the ring - this has blown his mind.

Orton has spent months criticizing Rhodes's decisions - and now here we are - he's picked him kid.

Orton says he's the US Champion - there's no one else who should be on this team before him.  Orton says Dusty is not fit to lead - not fit to run the NWA - Orton turns to Nitro and Fit - says he expects to be chosen - says one of them can choose him - and they'll really just have 4 against 5, since they'll have to punk Cody out rather than risk him submitting in the chamber. 

Nitro picks next.  He confers with Melina - then picks Regal.

Regal is Fit's frenemy - they've been on opposite sides basically during their entire WWF runs - Regal swerved Fit twice - joining Team Angle when Kurt attacked Fit to end the TitanTrust - and then in the aforementioned 51% Solution War Games match.  The vibe between them is "no one gets to hit him but me" and their wars have been marked by some level of respect.  Nitro's picking Regal here to tweak Fit - maybe distract him.  Regal and Fit have a fifteen year feud covering multiple continents - and here they once again are on the same War Games side. 

That just leaves Fit.  Finlay has the last choice - he looks at Orton - then he and Dean have words - Fit and Dean have been disagreeing more and more - and clearly are having another disagreement over the selection - Fit then says to Dean that he'll be making the pick.  Fit picks Jamie Noble.

This sends Orton over the edge - not only is he not picked - but the guy he's defending the US title against is picked - Orton attacks Dusty -- he's pulled off by everyone in the ring - they pull him off, and in a show of unity - they dump him out of the ring.  Orton looks with hatred, fire in the eyes at the NWA War Games Team - yelling this isn't over -- this isn't over.

Team WWF will entirely be chosen by Steamboat. 

He says NWA has home field advantage since the WAR Games will be on Fight Night.

But he has something they don't have - he has Triple Crown legends.  He brings out the champion, Rey Mysterio.  Noticeably limping.

Steamboat says he's relied on Rey to carry the WWF since day one and he's not going to stop now.  In fact - Rey will be starting the match, against the NWA Champion Nitro.  Steamboat points to the WM banner - reminding all of us that those two title belts, the WWF and NWA belts will be unified at XXIV.  If Rey and Nitro can both win at the Rumble - they'll be meeting in a TLC match at Wrestlemania for both belts.

Steamboat then brings out Shawn/Hunter and Edge/Jericho, as earlier mentioned.

Shawn says he's not interested.  The WWF had their chance - he's out of the salvation business - as far as the Clique is concerned - the WWF is on their own.  They don't work for Steamboat - the WWF works for them.

Steamboat asks Shawn how long it's been since he wrestled for the WWF title.  Shawn says Royal Rumble 2005.

And how long has it been since you've been WWF Champion?

Shawn scowls.  Swallows hard.  "1996."

Steamboat lets that sink in.

He then turns to the other men - Hunter/Edge/Jericho and asks when the last time they were WWF Champion - he doesn't pause for the answer - saying he knows it - everyone knows it - that each of you has been IC Champ - each of you has been tag champ - but none of you have ever been WWF Champion.

Then Ricky gives them the carrot. 

Whomever gets one of those NWA guys to submit - whomever wins this match - he will get a title shot - against Rey Mysterio - at the main event of the Royal Rumble in Madison Square Garden.

Fans react as they do.

Steamboat says he wants one man from each of the two teams.  They can choose - either Shawn or Hunter - and either Edge or Jericho.  Two men will join Rey on Team WWF for the War Games Match

Jericho asks - not to be a jackass - but what if Rey gets the submission? 

Steamboat says that before the War Games match - the two men who aren't chosen for that match will wrestle in a singles match - the winner of that match would then become the number one contender and go to the Rumble - if Rey were to be the one to get the submission.

The Clique goes off to one corner, Edge and Jericho to the other.

They come back.  Shawn says he's in.  He's on the team, Hunter will wrestle the singles match underneath. 

Edge says everyone knows all he wants in the world is to be WWF Champion.  To have what Michaels has - the Triple Crown.

But he knows he has some trust to earn.  He wants Jericho to be on the team. 

Jericho looks touched.  They shake hands. 

It's Rey/Shawn/Jericho plus two more in the WAR Games match.

And Edge will wrestle Hunter in the match before. 

Edge and Hunter warily exit the ring as Steamboat introduces the 4th member - the IC Champ - MVP.

Then the 5th - Steamboat says he spent some time in Ring of Honor a couple of years ago before coming back to the WWF - and when he was there, he had a chance to work with Mick Foley.

He's retired, at home with his children - but he's got a Triple Crown - and if the WWF is going to be on the line - I want all the Triple Crowns I can get.  Last night I called him - and we made a deal.  The fifth member of Team WWF - Cactus Jack - Mick Foley!

Foley comes to the ring - this is the RAW I alluded to in an earlier installment - and that's the favor that Foley is owed by Steamboat.  So, the following night, when Foley shows up at GDI for Stevie's ceremony and says he got Stevie the TV Title shot, that's how he got it.  So, as they stand here - Porter is still the TV champ - but loses it a week later to Stevie, who then loses it that night to Yakuza.  But we've covered all of that. 

But sitting here right now - we have the stips for the match - and we have the stips on the WWF side for how a number one contender will be chosen. 

No one raises it in the ring - but backstage, Joey will ask Steamboat what happens, who will be the number one contender, if WWF loses the War Games match.

Steamboat says losing isn't an option.

But JR will tell us on Fight Night that there was a part of the deal that Steamboat didn't mention - if NWA wins - then they will get to select Rey's opponent at the Rumble, as they will control the company.

JR and Bradshaw are giddy with the possibilities.

So - it's War Games night - but the show opens with an ambulance.  It's Mysterio - he's been attacked by the Juggernaut - Eddie Little has thrown him through a vending machine in the back - Rey is gone, he is out of the match tonight. 

So, as the evening goes on - no one knows (I mean, you know, 'cause I told you) who the fifth member of the WWF team will be  - who will start this match against Nitro?

So - come bell time, we have this giant chamber - 8 men in sealed compartments - Michaels/Fit/Cactus/Regal/Jericho/Noble/MVP/Cody  and in the ring is Nitro - waiting to see who will take Rey's place.

It's Shelton Benjamin.

Benjamin's been largely invisible for months.  He was traded from NWA for Noble/Cena/Kenndy before Survivor Series - breaking up Strong Style.  Benjamin's a 3 time tag champ and he ran Kurt Angle out of the WWF - but is largely seen as running in place, not living up to his full potential.  He's feuded with many of the men in this match - Strong Style busted up MNM when Matthews couldn't handle the brutal rough tactics of Strong Style.  Regal served as a mentor figure for Benjamin when both men were in Team Angle - Benjamin the chief protegee of Angle, Regal as the enforcer figure.  It was Angle's treatment of Benjamin which caused Regal to leave Team Angle after Haas got kicked out of the group.  And Team Angle feuded with the Clique for about a year. 

So - the match.   Michaels and Jericho, who just brawled moments before the match in the culmination of the HHHM/Edge singles, are able to put their stuff aside most of the match, as the announce notes - that's how important it is to them to get that title shot - that need eventually gets the better of Shawn - Jericho's got the walls on Cody - Cody's close to tapping - and Shawn superkicks Jericho to break the hold.

Finish is a Regal stretch.

But not one applied by Regal.  It's applied by Benjamin on Fit Finlay.

Dean enters the cage and throws in the towel to stop the match.

It's a win for Team WWF.  They regain control of the company.  The WWF/NWA titles and the IC/US titles will be unified at XXIV.

And Shelton Benjamin is the number one contender.

Here's your card for Rumble 2008 at MSG.

WWF Title: Rey Mysterio v. Strong Style Shelton Benjamin
NWA Title: Johnny Nitro (w/Melina) v. Fit Finlay (w/Malenko)
Unified Tag Titles:  Shawn Michaels/Hunter Hearst Helmsley-McMahon v. Edge/Chris Jericho
ECW Title: CM Punk (w/Maria and Colt) v. The Blood Dragon Jeff Hardy
IC Title: Montel Vontavious Porter v. Elijah Burke
US Title: Randy Orton v. Jamie Noble
TV Title: The Yakuza v. Little Warrior
Undertaker v. The Juggernaut
LWO: Chavo Guerrero/Carlito Colon v. WMD: Leviathan/John Cena (w/Arn)

My working plan is one more pre show post - with a history of Counterfactual WWF PPV at MSG - but that's a time permitting issue.  Regardless, in January - I'll be back with the big, big show - Rumble 2008!

Road to Royal Rumble 2008 - 5

Friday, December 26, 2008

Part 4 is here.

8 matches down, main event left.

Tags: Michaels/HHH-M v. Edge/Jericho
ECW: Punk v. Jeff
NWA: Nitro v. Fit
IC: Porter v. Burke
US: Orton b. Noble
TV: Yakuza v. Little Warrior
Undertaker v. Juggernaut

Throughout the road to the Rumble, it's appeared as if Steamboat was completely without control of the company.  He was brought back to run the WWF after Survivor Series '06 when Punk threw down two of the title belts and the company split into thirds.  His own goal - unite the WWF.

But now it's over a year later and things, if anything, seem further apart than when he took over.  The Survivor Series main event was for the NWA Title - the WWF title match was third from the top.  Michaels and Hunter completely defied a quarter century of tradition and, on their own, they flipped their match to run after the Worldwide Title match.  And the worldwide titles have joined the world heavyweight titles, also splitting into thirds.  There are 6 singles titles on the line at the Rumble - it's exactly what Steamboat least wanted to ever happen.  6 singles champions, tag champs who think they're bigger than the company, and then there's the Juggernaut, totally out of control.  The WWF champ, Mysterio, who Steamboat has always pinned the company's fortunes on, sort of looks to be breaking down.  He stood against the 51% Solution in 2006, until finally Executioner Lashley took him out of the sport for a year.  He seemed to be as good as ever at Summer Slam '07 when he beat Booker to regain the title - but it could be his slight stature, or having the weight of the company on his shoulders - it just clearly seems as if Rey is not who he used to be - whether it was Montel Porter or the Juggernaut, Mysterio has just been a walking target since returning.  And while he successfully defended against the Undertaker at Survivor Series, it was by the skin of his teeth - and the tremendous size disparity seems to have taken more of a toll that first expected. 

Amidst that backdrop - Steamboat starts to rage a little bit - against ECW...against his announce team.  With the questions mounting, Steamboat takes a trip to Fight Night.

Steamboat gets a mixed reaction in a surprise walk on.  He cuts conciliatory promo.  Says sometimes Fight Night is the best show of the week.  Says they've done the NWA proud.  Says as a former NWA Champ himself - he understands how important what they've done for the past year is.

And he says it's time it came to an end.

Steamboat plays a clip from the RAW after Survivor Series '06 when he returned to WWF and Dusty was hired to run the new NWA - it's a clip of Dusty explaining that the NWA Board had utilized the revocatory clause in the contract where NWA was bought by the McMahon Family which said that the NWA title had to be treated with esteem otherwise the sale would be revoked.  At such time when the Board felt the glory and pride of the NWA had been returned, then once again, NWA would be reincorporated into the WWF Universe.

Steamboat says that with the success of the NWA, most notably headlining a WWF PPV and having its own highly rated television show, it is clear that the NWA had returned to its former level of esteem.

And so - once again - it's time to come home to the WWF.

Dusty then comes to the ring.  Says he doesn't like the sound of what Steamboat is saying.  He says we'll fight you in the courts - we can tie this up for years and all go down - Steamboat needs to get up on out of the ring and back to Monday nights where its safe.

Steamboat says maybe you're right.  But then no one has a job.  None of the boys have work.  None of the fans get matches.  No Wrestlemania.  Nothing.  You can burn this company to the ground, Dusty - or we can do it a different way.

Steamboat says let's have another interpromotional match. 

A match you know something about.  A War Games match.

(there have been two war games matches in WWF history - one that ran the Alliance out of the WWF and one that gave the 51% Solution control)

You get 5 guys.  I'll get five guys. 

We'll get into a cage.  A new kind of cage.  A War Games Chamber.

One man will submit.  That side will lose.

The winning side takes total control.  I'm pushing our chips to the center, Dusty.   You're a gambling man - you want to do this in the courts - or do you want to do this in the ring?

One match.  Winner takes all. 

Dusty will shake his hand.

And Dusty will then come to RAW the following Monday to further amplify the repercussions of this.

A War Games match.  One what show?  Steamboat says they're willing to do it on the NWA home turf, on Fight Night. 

But in return - he wants unification matches guaranteed for Wrestlemania. 

That WM XXIV banner that was first unveiled at XXIII - promising a TLC Main Event is now in view again.

The main event of Wrestlemania XXIV will unify the WWF and NWA Titles.  In a TLC Match.

And the US and IC belts will also be reunified. 

And there you go.

All of the talk will then be about Wrestlemania - who will meet for the undisputed championship?  Steamboat is crowing about getting the titles reunited at XXIV. 

That will cause CM Punk to go nuts.  This was teased earlier in this Road to Royal Rumble.  Steamboat begins to put down the value of the ECW Title, calling it not really needed to reunite the belts.  Saying that he didn't need Punk.  Didn't need him for Wrestlemania.  Didn't need his belt.  Thanks for playing.

Punk is out of his mind now.  There are backstage vignettes with he and Colt and Maria - Punk is raging violent - he's the champ, after all - everyone's talking about Wrestlemania - everyone's talking about reunifying the belts - unifying the WWF - and no one is talking about the ECW Champion. 

Punk is uncertain what to do.  Distracted - angry. 

He'll take part in that big War Games Fight Night.  There will be 3 matches that night.  The War Games match and a singles match - both which we'll set up in part 6.  And a GDI Match - Punk/Yakuza/Kendrick/Morley (I'll set up Morley in the next post) v. Jeff/Little Warrior/Super Crazy/Guido.

5 parts down - we continue traveling down the Road to Royal Rumble 2008.

Road to Royal Rumble 2008 - 4

In Parts 1-3, we've got 7 matches set up.  Two to go.

ECW Title: Punk v. Jeff
NWA Title: Nitro v. Fit
IC: Porter v. Burke
US: Orton v. Noble
TV: Yakuza v. Little Warrior
Undertaker v. Juggernaut

RAW, the night after Survivor Series, ends with an Edge promo.  Edge unexpectedly returned at Survivor Series for the first time since getting stomped out in the Cell after losing the main at XXIII; as GDI took out he, Matt, and then Jeff - Edge threw his body over Matt's the keep him from the onslaught. 

Shawn and Hunter, heels, spent the walkup to Survivor Series punking out the young members of the extended Hart family, finishing up, as planned - winning the tag straps from S&S, then going after young Natty Neidhart. 

The Jericho clock had been ticking for weeks, throughout this entire process - and it hit zero just as Natty was about to get pedigreed.  But it wasn't Jericho who emerged, wearing the number 7 Hart Foundation hockey jersey (that's Jericho's number) it was Edge.  Edge cleaned house, saved the girl, and now cuts promo.

Edge apologizes.  Says it's good to hear the cheers.  He wondered sometimes if he would ever hear them again after all the things he's done.  Says he knows some of things he's done are unforgiveable.  He knows that.  He says somewhere along the line he just got off track.  He's not the person he wanted to be.  And the reason for that is that years ago, he joined the Clique. 

He says it was his decision.  He doesn't blame Trish.  He doesn't blame his brother.  It was his choice to join Hunter, to join Waltman - to a join the legacy of Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.  He joined the Clique and it warped him.  There's a selfishness - a smugness - a sense of entitlement that just smothers you when you are in that group - and even when you leave - even when you escape - that disease just stays in your body - pulsating - becoming a member of the Clique was the first worst thing I ever did.

And when I lost the main event at Wrestlemania, I went home to recover, to recuperate - I figured it out - how I could have gone so far off track. But I didn't figure it out alone.  I made a friend over the summer.  Which, considering I lost all of my friends in the WWF, was a good deal.  I made a friend over the summer - someone who you maybe remember - Number 7, Chris Jericho.

(Jericho, of course, has been gone a couple of years - his last incarnation was as The Lizard King Chris Jericho, bearded, fat, booze guzzling heel Jericho).

That's when Shawn and Hunter enter.  Hunter says there will be plenty of time to talk  later - all the time they want - they're the Clique after all - they are the show - he's just got to correct one small mistake that Edge made - he just said he "escaped" the Clique.  You don't escape the Clique.  You're Clique 4 life.

He throws down the mic and they make their way to attack Edge - they get the two on 1 advantage - and then the clock starts again - counting down (oh, not for nothing, the Titan Tron is like five times its real world size) from 7...6...5...4...3...2..1....

And here's Jericho.  No beard, no booze.  It's Chris Jericho.  He and Edge clean house.  And there you go.

They're gonna meet for the tag straps at the Rumble - Shawn/Hunter v. Jericho/Edge.

There's lots of history here.  As mentioned, Edge was in the Clique with Hunter - they split in half - actually, Shawn's return from the back injury after 4 years gone was at the Toronto Mania when he ran in on the side of Hunter/Hall when they faced Edge/Christian.  Edge went away with his back surgery; Christian feuded with Jericho for nearly a year - they double turned, Jericho becoming a heel, Christian a face - the turn ending in the Cell when Jericho threw Christian off (only 3 Cell matches in WWF history, Jericho won the second - Edge lost the third) and later that same night, after the Michaels/Hunter match (Hunter had turned heel on Shawn) Edge returned to save Michaels and the most recent version of the Clique was formed (w/Christian and London).  Edge then swept into that Christian/Jericho feud and did what his brother couldn't - took Jericho's IC.  Heel Jericho started the very, very beginning of this Michaels turn, by calling Shawn out - saying he wasn't the Heartbreak Kid anymore - he wasn't the showstopper - wasn't the main event - and everyone knew but Shawn.  That thread was then picked up by Edge - he and Michaels feuded after Edge turned heel and the Clique disintegrated, Edge beat Shawn at XXII, Shawn beat Edge in a ladder match at Summer Slam '06.  Edge constantly ripped  Michaels as irrelevant.  Shawn was beginning to feel irrelevant, as if the company had passed him by - the younger workers were less interested in his wisdom - he positioned himself as the moral conscience of the WWF - but his Boy Toy past wouldn't allow him to be taken seriously. 

Edge lost at XXIII in the blow off to an epic feud with Matt; Shawn lost the legends match to the Undertaker, apparently turning in the process.  They both then vanished - Michaels came back before Survivor Series as a heel, he and Hunter too big for the WWF - too big for wrestling - treating everyone as beneath their station.  Edge came back, as you know, at Survivor Series.

There's some comedy in this program - not between the two teams - but inside them - Hunter and Shawn are smugly self satisfied - Edge and Jericho do some "and here's the terrible thing you used to do" stuff.  Between the two teams, nothing but years of dislike - with these guys specifically and with reference to the Hart/Clique legacy.

That gets to the one additional plot point here - the hockey jerseys. 

As mentioned - each member of the Hart Foundation has gotten a hockey jersey -

0 - Stu
1- Dynamite
2. Bret
3. Davey Boy
4. Anvil
5. Owen
(that might be backward)
6. Pillman
7. Jericho
8. Storm
9. Benoit

And now Edge wants one.

There's a little dance, Edge doesn't actually ask - but it's clear that he wants to be part of the family.  As we go to the Rumble, what we understand is that if they can win the tag titles at the Rumble - then Edge is going to get his pink and black jersey. 

One match to go. It continues

Road to Royal Rumble 2008 - 3

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Part III.

In Parts 1 and 2 - the following was set up:

IC Title: Porter v. Burke
US Title: Orton v. Noble
TV Title: Yakuza v. Little Warrior
Undertaker v. Juggernaut

4 matches to go.

Once again, the NWA Title will be Nitro, now the champ after taking the strap at the main event of Survivor Series meeting Fit for the title.  Since the launch of Fight Night, Fit and his manager Dean Malenko have been the faces of the new NWA (Where We Fight!) Dean's a former NWA Champ; Fit and Dean were 2/3 (w/ Arn) of the Titan Trust, who served in the decision making role a few years ago - when Fit came out of retirement, it was with Dean, as the sunshine boys, taking one more lap around the track with the goal of winning the IC title.  They did - and upon the split into 3 promotions after Survivor Series '07, Fit won the tournament for the NWA title, retiring Flair at XXIII.  He then set his sights on the younger group of NWA wrestlers - specifically Nitro, who he targeted as too soft, too pretty, too worried about his hair and spray tan to carry the NWA banner into the next decade. 

Fit beat Nitro at Summer Slam, when Nitro quit rather than absorb more of a beating - but Nitro got a rematch by pinning Rey in the big interpromotional match at SNME - and then Nitro took the strap at Survivor Series when, after Dean had been knocked out by an inadvertant Fit elbow, Melina's interference aided Nitro in getting a pinfall.

They play a role in the main event angle, but essentially this is the rubber match - the twist is that there's increased Dean/Fit tension (recall that Dean didn't want Nitro to get the rematch) - Dean is angry, maybe a little embarrassed, that Melina successfully interfered while he was knocked out - and in a nontitle match between Nitro and Orton, when Nitro had the advantage - Dean entered when the referee was distracted to level Nitro and get Orton the pinfall victory.

That leads to the stip for the Rumble - Dean and Melina would be handcuffed together at ringside.

Fit and Nitro, the rubber match for the strap - Rumble '08.

The ECW Title is also a rematch from Survivor Series; CM Punk once again defending against The Blood Dragon Jeff Hardy.  Punk's now been ECW Champ for over a year - he cuts a promo the night after his 30 minute Survivor Series draw with Jeff saying it was a celebration - that he had been world champion for a full year (actually, Punk slips up, he says he's been WWF Champion for a full year) like Angle, like Bret, like Hennig, like Steamboat, like Hogan, like Bruno - he's now an all time great just like he always wanted to be.

Cabana and Maria, recognizing the slip - that Punk is ECW Champion, not WWF champion, give each other sideways glances. 

There will be, later, a backstage moment with the three where Punk will ask how he did.  Colt will say great champ - great - that's why you're the champ.  Maria will look away - Punk makes her tell him - it was great, except for the part where you said you were WWF Champion.

Punk immediately looks to cover - I threw that belt down - I threw that belt down - I could be, is what I was saying, i could be WWF champion if I wanted to, I beat Ric Flair - I'm WWF Champion.  Right?  Right? 

Colt and Maria both say of course - but again give each other sideways glances. 

It's the first mental crack in Punk's armor.

Before we get there though - we have Jeff come out during Punk's promo.  Jeff is now the Blood Dragon, he dresses like Jushin Liger, with mask and all - taking it off to wrestle, at least, for now.  When he enters it's the full Tokyo Dome laser show.  Jeff crashes the promo - says he remembers when those guys held their titles for a full year - Bret and Angle and Hennig - he doesn't recall though any of them keeping their belt with a draw.  Truth is - Punk may have beat everyone who came up against him for a year - but he didn't beat Jeff Hardy.

That will be Jeff's angle.  We'll talk about how Steamboat figures into this in a moment.

Punk has his own angle with Jeff - it's that Jeff isn't as good as Matt (Matt's gone since XXIII, you should really know why; he's a cultlike icon in this world - he's got a Pillman thing going) that really is what's driving Jeff - these fans see you and they chant for Matt -- Jeff's right - Punk didn't beat him at Survivor Series - but a year ago, at Rumble '07, Punk beat Matt - but still - these fans are just hoping, every day they see me come into this ring - that today will be the day that Matt Hardy gets his revenge for Wrestlemania.  I beat Matt Hardy half to death inside that Cell - and every day, these fans chant for him.  And every day, he lets them down. 

But you're the one who is here - Jeff - you're the one who is fighting for the title - and they cheer for Matt.  Isn't the truth that the reason for this new get up - the reason why you became the Blood Dragon - is because you can't stand being Matt hardy's baby brother.

Which is, actually, why he did it. 

So, they each try to get into the other's head.

Leading to Steamboat - Steamboat makes an appearance on GDI.

He's picked up on the Punk/WWF Title dissonance, and unsolicited, he comes to GDI to wish Punk well as ECW Champion.  Says he's beein fighting him for a year, since he threw down the WWF Title belt, and he's giving up.  Punk wins - congratulations.

See - Steamboat's realized that Punk's only the ECW Champion - and he just doesn't need him anymore.

(as to why he doesn't need him, we need to wait a little bit - but something happens in the WWF title match angle)

Steamboat shakes his hand - Punk looks shocked.  He shakes Colt's hand - Colt marks out 'cause it's Ricky Steamboat.  He kisses Maria's hand, checks her out a little bit.  And then he's gone.

That is part of Steamboat's denigrating of the ECW belt - which is in turn part of the larger angle that we'll get to later.  But in this stretch, which we foreshadowed in setting up the TV Title match - Steamboat puts down ECW as essentially a secondary league, a nice enough indie - not really for him or for real wrestlers - but nice enough.  And the ECW title represents a lot of hard work - but come on, they don't really need it anymore, do they?

That will be picked up by Bradshaw on Fridays and Dreamer on Tuesdays, as earlier mentioned.

It'll also be enough to draw Punk over to RAW, where he will make a fateful deal with the Dragon.

But that will have to wait.  For now - we've got Punk v. Jeff for the ECW belt at the Rumble in New York City.  It continues

Road to Royal Rumble 2008 - II

In Part 1, we set up the following:

WMD: Leviathan/Cena v. LWO: Chavo/Carlito
Undertaker v. Juggernaut
US Title:  Orton v. Noble

6 more.

Over on GDI, we start seeing taped pieces about Stevie Richards.  Like real world WWF, the backdrop will be that Stevie's been gone because of a series of painful throat surgeries.  Amplifying that, however, will be Stevie's role in this world - Stevie started the move from ECW to WWF (we're gonna jog ECW around the park one last time) with Stevie's Hardcore Family - first him, then the Dudleys, then Taz.  Stevie managed the Dudleys to the tag titles before losing control of the ECW invasion to Paul E.  Stevie then worked as a way underneath tag with Spike for a few years before emerging as RVD's manager after Van Dam split from Heyman.  Stevie was on the RVD/Sabu side in the last version of the hardcore war - managing them to a tag title - they lost the belts to Sandman/Dreamer (Tommy is now babyface color man for GDI, and after each of these vignettes, he puts over Stevie as a real embodiment of the spirit of ECW) who were backed by the GDI heel tag of Kendrick/Noble (they split in a feud over the Worldwide Title shot that Kendrick got, he lost to Orton - and then further split when Noble turned his back on the hanging of Paul London - that led to Noble's getting peddled for jobber Ulysses Morley (Val Venis).

Stevie disappeared then after Sabu's pre Mania turn, in the run up to the 3 way with RVD/Sabu/Punk for the ECW belt at XXIII - but now we learn why, it's the throat.

We learn two things from these pieces - Stevie's going to have to retire, he will leave wrestling, both managing and wrestling, after XXIV, his throat just is never going to recover, he can barely talk or swallow, and it's too dangerous.  And two - we learn that Stevie's never had a title of any type, either in ECW or WWF - and it's really his only regret.  He tries not to feel sorry for himself - but...but it's just been hard, harder than he wanted it to be.

The third vignette, just as Stevie starts to break down a little - is interrupted, the tape stopped - by Kendrick, who comes out to the ring with The Yakuza (Yang).  Yakuza, incidentally, is feuding with Little Warrior (Shannon Moore) and at this same time wins the right to have the next title shot - of any type - at any time - on GDI Wrestling. 

Kendrick says enough of this walk down memory lane - no one cares about some manager - no one cares about ECW. 

He's not the only person who has expressed this.  Bradshaw, the color man for the NWA, takes the opportunities the Friday after the first two Richards vignettes runs to rip ECW - saying he can't believe it's 2007 and he still has to listen to propaganda about a bingo hall.  They died, their style of wrestling died, most of their fans are dead - give it up.  And even Ricky Steamboat, as part of a bigger angle involving Punk we'll get to later, winds up denigrating ECW. 

Dreamer is the ECW defender - and he defends it now against Kendrick and Yakuza - the full on "the movement will never die" speech - Kendrick and Yakuza tear up an ECW flag - Dreamer gets full hot, is ready to go after them - but Josh Matthews, the play by play guy, makes clear the dictate that if any announcer gets physically involved - he loses his job.

That's another thread.

The following week, Dreamer cuts an in ring promo that goes after Bradshaw and Steamboat and the McMahon family and GDI and everyone else he can think of.  And he says the next week - Stevie Richards is coming to GDI.  And, Dreamer promises some surprises.

Next week - Stevie.  Stevie thanks the fans for the outpouring - Stevie should seem a little weak, a little tired - as if at the end of his road.  Dreamer says some friends wanted to say goodbye - Guido and Crazy come to the ring.  Dreamer says there's more special guests - and WWF announcers Styles and Taz make their first appearances at GDI.  Given Steamboat now digging in against ECW, and the longstanding enmity between GDI and WWF, this is a surprise.  Stevie is touched.  It's a moment.  Dreamer says he has one more surprise.

Bang, bang.

Cactus Jack.

Now, this is less of a surprise than might you think - as Foley needs to have appeared on RAW the night before, maybe the week before, but at least once.  We'll talk about that later - but the payoff from that angle as it impacts this is that Foley left RAW with Steamboat owing him a favor. 

And as the ECW crew stands together - Foley tells Stevie and the GDI fans what that favor is.

Next week - on GDI - there's gonna be a title match - MVP will put up the TV title...against Stevie Richards.

(Another ripple from Survivor Series - with the US Title being severed from the Worldwide belts, and Steamboat then taking some shots at ECW - Foley is positioned, when Steamboat needs a favor, to extract from him this title shot.  MVP is displeased).

The ECW guys are once again in attendance the following week (except for Joey and Taz, who are in the doghouse on RAW - Bradshaw has taken shots at all of this on Fight Night - and Steamboat upbraids them the next week, saying they have been WWF announcers for years - years - and they need to remember in this economy who signs their paychecks).

Stevie fights from underneath - but doesn't have enough - until Porter is attacked by Elijah Burke.

(Burke and Porter were Heat, protegee tag team of Booker, and there's more backstory than that if you are unaware - Porter wound up turning on them both at Summer Slam, punking them out, driving Booker from the company - Burke hasn't made an appearance since then either, gone 6 months - out of nowhere he emerges to take out MVP - allowing Stevie to get the StevieKick and the pinfall.  Stevie Richards is you new TV Champion.  The first title change of any type not on PPV in a quarter century.)

Ideally, bedlam.  This should be in Philadelphia or another traditional ECW city.  I'd do it in the bingo hall.

Stevie wins!  Stevie wins!  It's a full on impossible dream coming true thing.  Stevie Richards has won the TV Title.  Crying and whatnot.

Then emerge Kendrick and Yakuza.

Kendrick says hold it - Yakuza beat Little Warrior - he had the right to the next title match on GDI television.  Any title he wants.  And what he wants is a shot at the TV title.  And when he wants it is now.

And just like that - Yang is in the ring - there's a referee - the bell rings - and before anyone can regroup - Yakuza has pinned Richards and taken the TV title.


That sets up two matches.  It's going to be Yakuza against Little Warrior (Yang v. Moore) in a continuation of their feud at Rumble (Stevie, mammothly depressed, gets the long, slow walk from the building into nothingness) for the TV Title - and Porter will take on Burke for the belt he still has - the IC belt. 

5 matches down.  4 left.  It continues.

Road to Royal Rumble 2008 - I

Survivor Series is here.

The Rumble is comin' at you from MSG in January.

9 matches to set up.  Let's start at the bottom with the opening tag.

On Fight Night, sometime around the holidays, Arn cuts an in ring promo with Charlie at his side (Haas and Shelton were Strong Style, a tag team managed by Arn, since Charlie's return at..what XXII, I think) Arn explains that since Shelton was traded to the WWF (before Survivor Series there were trades, GDI sent Noble to WWF for Morley, then WWF sent Morley, Cena, Kennedy to NWA for Shelton, I mentioned it previously, but its import starts playing a role now).

Arn says since Dusty shipped Benjamin out (we learned that Arn didn't oppose the deal) he's wanted to get back into the tag team picture.  And while he doesn't have anything good to say about what happens on Monday, he kinda liked seeing the tag team title match a little higher on the card at Survivor Series (Michaels and Hunter bigtimed the traditional placement of the tag title match in their successful challenge for the straps, which created a series of butterfly effect consequences we'll see more of here) and he finally has found the right team to bring those belts back to Friday night. 

Arn says he's got two guys who have never teamed together before, two former tag champs - the first - making his Fight Night debut --- John Cena.

(Cena and Orton were underdog, almost comedy babyface champs, then turned almost comedy heel during the run).

Cena does his hyperintense thing and comes to the ring. 

Arn says his partner is not only a former world champion - but someone Arn's managed before - someone who won gold on his own, but never quite made it with Arn - and he wants to change that here.

(You're supposed to assume it's Charlie, as that fits his description - Charlie acts as if it's going to be he who Arn names).

But he doesn't - he names Leviathan.

(Leviathan is Batista, he and Flair were tag champs, then Arn began managing him when Flair seemingly retired to the front office - Flair and Arn swerved Batista and they've been on opposite sides since.  Leviathan beat Miz/Holly at Survivor Series and part of the run up was that he was searching for a tag partner.  And there you go.)

Charlie looks befuddled - Arn says that just like Benjamin, the truth was, he just couldn't cut it. 

Leviathan/Cena wipe him out - their finisher will be the Doomsday Device.  And that's how they'll be booked, no selling bad ass heels.  Gotta use what you have.  They're gonna be called Weapons of Mass Destruction.  They're gonna cut backstage blue screen promos.  They'll shoot bicep poses.  They'll backstroke all the way to MSG.

WMD will meet the LWO at the Rumble in the opening tag, winners get a title shot at XXIV.  That will be part of a larger deal Steamboat/Dusty put together that will be discussed later. 

WMD v. LWO in the opening tag at Rumble '08.

We've also got a match many months in the making - The Juggernaut Eddie Little (Umaga) meets the Undertaker. 

The Juggernaut debuted on the road to XXIII, he's a streetfighter, a combination Kimbo Slice/Necro Butcher, and Steamboat can't keep him in line at all - The Juggernaut has squashed multiple guys on the last two PPVs, really toying with them - he positioned himself against the Rey/Undertaker title match, believing he was the best fighter in the WWF - he ran in to take Rey out during the WWF v. NWA match at Saturday Nights Main Event to give the NWA the win and make its title match the main event at Survivor Series - and then he choked Undertaker out after his loss to Rey.   There's gonna be another big WWF/NWA match on the road to the Rumble that the Juggernaut will play a role in, but we'll get to that later.  Before that match happens, however - Steamboat will send the sneering, no respect Juggernaut home - this is a common role for the Undertaker historically, as clips will show - monsters have come into the company - beaten up lots of guys - and the Dead Man has been dispatched to take them out.  It's essentially his spot - he's the enforcer - he's the legend - he's the cleaner - he takes care of problems.

So - while there's one more piece of business Little has to do before we get there - it's Undertaker v. Juggernaut at Rumble '08.

7 matches left.  All title matches.

Okay - how'd that happen?

At Survivor Series, when Michaels/Hunter pulled their stunt moving themselves up the card, it was the Worldwide Title match that got bumped down.  Orton then didn't bring the US Title to the ring, we find out later that he refused to put it up as the match placement switch was a material distinction from his contract.  An odd catch for him to make.

Orton's called to the ring by Dusty - Dusty rips him, says he's bush league, says the US belt isn't really his.

Orton and Dusty have had problems before - Dusty didn't put him on the big interpromotional team before Survivor Series (he also turned down Leviathan) Orton said Dusty would regret it.

Orton says Dusty should be thanking him.  He still has a belt - his quick thinking - and the thinking of someone in this company who he actually trusts (just throwing down that thread now) got him to maneuver his way out of putting up the US Title - Orton saved the US Title for the NWA. 

Orton says the real problem is Dusty - Dusty's an accomodationist - Dusty's an appeaser - Dusty has taken a subordinate role to Steamboat - we oughta be making strikes against the WWF - not trades with them.

(this theme isn't going away).

Orton says Dusty Rhodes has let down the NWA.  Dusty isn't fit to be commissioner. 

Dusty chews him out, full on "you've got no respect for anything or anyone."

They're gonna do a couple of those dueling promos to establish this theme.  Orton defies Dusty's authority.  Dusty says Orton has no respect. 

Finally, Dusty says he can't just strip Orton - 'cause he hasn't done anything wrong technically - but he can make him put up the US Title at the Rumble.

Orton says there's no one worth defending it against.  That Dusty has ruined the prestige of the NWA, stripped the company of its honor - and now there's no one worthy of holding the US belt but Orton.

To challenge that assertion - Jamie Noble.

Orton dismisses him.  "What have you ever done in your whole career that makes you worthy of a US Title shot?"

Then we roll the clips from 2001 - Noble, in the old NWA (WCW) in a yearlong feud with Lance Storm (who everyone now calls 8, his Hart Foundation hockey jersey number) over the US Title - Noble never won, there's a clip of Dusty Rhodes, as storyline commissioner of the NWA in 2001, telling Noble that he put up a helluva fight at Superbrawl 2001 and deserved a rematch.  He never got one.  The NWA died, Lance took the US Title to WWF, and the US Title was unified with the ECW TV Title and the IC Title at Summerslam (won by Tajiri) to become the Worldwide Titles.

Almost 8 years later - Noble's still waiting for that rematch. 

And look what's happened here - he gets traded to the NWA and Orton's got the belt. 

We've got one more Noble/Orton thing to do before the Rumble - but that's the match, Orton v. Noble for the US Title.

Bringing us to the TV Title.  But we'll do that in part II.

TNA Bound for Glory - 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

Slammiversary is here.

Real World Final Resolution means Counterfactual BFG. From Chicago. I'll be back again after Wrestlemania, so that's the April PPV which is probably Lockdown.

TNA Title: AJ Styles d. Chris Daniels

X Division: Jay Lethal (w/Booker) d. Homicide

Tag Titles: Motor City Machine Guns d. Christian/Rhyno

Samoa Joe d. Abyss (DQ)

Bobby Roode d. Kurt Angle

Sting d. Jeff Jarrett

Jimmy Rave d. Petey Williams/Sanjay Dutt

James Storm/Hernandez d. Dudleys

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