Happy hangovers – er, I mean New Year – to all you wrestling fans out there!
You know, once in a while writers can come up with a storyline that really sucks you in. At times you can even get emotionally involved in the tale they’re telling. Well, I must admit, such was the case on this week’s episode of Raw for this writer.
I suppose it was inevitable – knowing that the story being told right now will eventually lead to the retirement of one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) performer to ever step into a ring. This week the story became a bit more special. Hell, I think I might have felt a tear working up in my eye by the end of this episode. (Well, maybe not that far, but it definitely tugged at me.)
How pathetic. Maybe I need therapy.
Triple H vs. Ric Flair
So tonight was the night that The Nature Boy Ric Flair had to take on his friend, Triple H, with Flair’s career once again on the line. Trips said in an interview that he goes into ever match the same – losing is not an option. But just to make sure that the 11-time champion gave it his all against the 16-time champion, VKM and William Regal informed Triple H that if he lost this night’s match in any way he would not be able to compete in the Royal Rumble.
The competitors seemed to raise the bar as we watched them in the locker room, vowing that they’d still be friends after this night’s match. But there was a hint of something else there. Flair promised that he’d reach down and give it his all while Triple H seemed to suggest that at this point in Flair’s career he didn’t stand a chance against The Game. The last words Hunter spoke said it all: “You bring the man, and I’ll beat the man.”
Now, I’m not delusional enough to believe that Flair could beat HHH clean in a real fight. Flair is great, but Trips has the advantage of strength and youth in comparison. But tonight, they made me believe. Flair put on what I think was one of the best matches I’ve seen from him in a while. There were even times when I didn’t see the aging, near-retirement Ric Flair in the ring. I saw Nature Boy of old.
The match had some of the back-and-forth momentum you’d expect to see, and one thing is for certain – Triple H felt enough chops that I bet his chest was sore the next day. What I didn’t expect was how the crowd polarized quickly against The Game – with many boos being heard when he’d get the upper hand in the bout.
The excitement peaked when Flair hit a couple of his chop blocks and finally locked in the Figure Four on his friend. Triple H played up the agony big time, but eventually made it to the ropes to escape the hold. He soon recovered enough to hit the Pedigree on Flair, but the impact on his “damaged” knee kept him from following up quickly enough.
Then, for some unknown reason, William Regal ran down to the ring, pulled Flair out as HHH struggled to get in a pinning position, and nailed The Nature Boy square in the head with brass knuckles leading the referee to disqualify Trips and hand the match to Flair.
Obviously infuriated by the ending, HHH still set the defeat aside to pick his friend up off the mat and exchange hugs in the aftermath. An emotional moment as Flair’s career lives on, but Triple H’s shot at the Royal Rumble went up in smoke at the hands of the GM.
Whether the understanding of the ending eludes me or not, this whole build-up and match between these friends deserves big kudos. This is the kind of story that makes a good show great, that gets viewers at home involved to the point that they are screaming at the television. (Not that I did that, mind you.) Hats off to the creative folks on this one.
JBL officially back in action
The self-made millionaire made his Raw debut tonight, with about 20 percent of his fortune spent on the many rounds of pyrotechnics that were set off during his celebration.
While I have never felt that JBL was the “Wrestling God” that he proclaims himself to be, one thing is certain – he’s a damn good heel. I’m glad to see him back in action for two reasons. First, it’s always good to see an athlete overcome injury to get back into the mix. Second, he should make for some interesting storylines.
The ending of the segment was a bit disappointing, however. Chris Jericho ran down to brawl with the man who cost him the WWE Championship. Problem was – I’ve seen better “angry brawls” from midget wrestlers. These two are both much better performers than this. Hopefully a rare bad moment.
Does anyone else still enjoy seeing Hacksaw Jim Duggan in action? ‘Cause I’ve got to say, I’m really over this guy. Granted, I know he should be respected as a veteran and definitely has a place in wrestling history. But it’s time for ol’ Hacksaw to walk away. Luckily, Umaga squashed him in no time at all to qualify for the Royal Rumble. Yeah, like we didn’t see that one coming?
Hey, WWE! You really want to throw out a curveball now and then that puts the Internet Wrestling world back on its heels? Imagine if Duggan had won this match! Well – nevermind. That wouldn’t really be believable, now would it?
While I definitely was more drawn in by the match between Triple H and Ric Flair, I’ve got to give props to Mr. Kennedy and HBK. The two put on a pretty damn good match this night, with the only down side I saw being that there were times Kennedy seemed to forget to sell his knee – which HBK had targeted throughout the match.
But overall, Kennedy has seemed to up his game lately. Working with a veteran Superstar like Shawn Michaels seems to have only helped. I’ve always seen the potential that Kennedy has and do believe that as long as he stays out of trouble, his in-ring skills and mic abilities are definitely going to bring him to main-event status. The man just seems to get better all the time.
And tonight, perhaps The Heartbreak Kid recognized that more than anyone as he put Kennedy over clean.
– Randy Orton started off the show telling everyone how great he was. He was interrupted by Jeff Hardy who, after exchanging a few words with the champ, reversed an RKO into a Twist of Fate. Later, however, Orton got his revenge as he showed up on the Titantron during Hardy’s match against Santino Marella – beating the hell out of Matt Hardy. While I certainly don’t believe that Orton’s going to lose the title at the Royal Rumble, at least they’re keeping the story interesting.
– The Glamazon Beth Phoenix won a Triple Threat Match against Melina and Mickie James to retain her Women’s Championship. Not a bad match, but seemingly just another way to show this woman’s dominance.
– Big Dick Johnson, Jillian Hall, and Ron Simmons were shown backstage. Rather stupid as Johnson danced to Hall’s singing. Simmons finally interrupted with a “Damn!” Anyone remember those Saturday Night Live bits with Tonto, Frankenstein and Tarzan?
– William Regal was dubbed to dish out some more “tough love” to Hornswoggle. But when it came down to it, the usually viscious Regal couldn’t bring himself to hit Horny, even after VKM handed him brass knuckles and demanded that he do it. Regal left in shame as Vince told him the match was more a test for him than for Hornswoggle.
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