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 - 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!

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