The Big News: Randy Orton and Edge thought that they could drive a wedge between John Cena and Shawn Michaels, but they ended up having the tables turned on them.
Conclusive Finishes: 3 of 4.
Shawn Michaels and John Cena came out to start the show. It was announced that they would be defending their tag titles, but Edge and Randy Orton appeared on the screen and said that would happen later in the show. Orton said Michaels was robbed at the Oscars because he’s a tremendous actor in saying he has Cena’s back. Cena indicated he didn’t believe Edge and Orton, so they aired a video package of Michaels turning on Marty Jannetty, Diesel, X-Pac, Booker T and Hulk Hogan over the years. Cena turned to Michaels and gave him a dirty look. Michaels told Cena that Cena can trust him.
I loved this opening segment. It was great on many levels. To begin with, I love the angle where the heel is trying to get the faces to turn on each other, and you’re not sure if they will. They also tied in the past really well in making today’s storyline a part of a greater history. Finally, they are telling a long term story that has a number of steps along the way. I think long term booking is imperative for successful pro wrestling, because it makes you want to tune in to the TV show to see what will happen next and order the pay-per-view for the conclusion to the story. All in all, great stuff.
Jeff Hardy beat Shelton Benjamin to earn a spot in the Money in the Bank match. Benjamin went for a series of pinning attempts early, and then used a bunch of punches. Hardy hit a clothesline off the barricade and the whisper in the wind. Benjamin responded with an overhead belly to belly superplex. Benjamin followed with a back drop, but blew a springboard dropkick spot. Hardy immediately went for the pin and they did a close near fall, which was really smart because it almost made it seem like it was a planned spot. Benjamin missed the stinger splash and Hardy hit the swanton for the pin.
Melina was backstage complaining to Johnny Nitro about Ashley in Playboy, Mick Foley’s book, Mickie James’ falls count anywhere rematch for the women’s title next week and her match with Maria this week. Nitro told her to shut up to a crowd pop. He said he has his own problems after losing his Money in the Bank opportunity, and went out for his match. Nitro jumped Super Crazy before the match got under way. He gave him a beatdown on the outside, threw him into the steps, and walked to the back seething. Nitro was really good here and it was smart to get over the importance of the Money in the Bank by having the losers devastated at losing their chance.
Melina beat Maria in a short match. Maria missed a drop kick, and Melina took over by stepping on Maria’s head, choking her, flinging her by the hair and applying the camel clutch. Maria came back with kicks, a bulldog and a clothesline. She went for the bronco buster but Maria blocked it with a boot. Melina then rolled up Maria for the pin.
Vince McMahon came out and said everyone is talking about the battle of the billionaires. Vince said he would give Donald Trump a billionaire bitch slap and brought out Umaga. He said Trump has made a career of one-upping people, but it won’t happen this time. Trump appeared on the screen and said that he would. Trump said Umaga’s an animal, but animals can be tamed. He said you do so by finding something superior, and introduced Lashley as his representative. Lashley came to the ring and a brawl ensured with security trying to break up Lashley and Umaga. Jim Ross did a great job selling the somewhat underwhelming pick of Lashley.
Chris Masters was holding another Masterlock challenge, and Great Khali came out. Khali sat down in the chair for the Masterlock but Masters didn’t have it applied when Kane arrived. He gave Masters a choke slam and clotheslined Khali to the outside. He hit Masters with a chair. Great Khali vs. Kane has the potential to be unspeakably awful. Backstage, Vince McMahon got a call from the board of directors saying they wanted a guest referee for the battle of the billionaires.
They announced Jerry Lawler for the Hall of Fame, and plugged his Memphis career heavily. Carlito then defeated Kenny Dykstra. Carlito hit clotheslines, a body slam, and a springboard corkscrew senton. Kenny rammed Carlito into the apron twice and hit some shoulder blocks. Carlito came back with clotheslines, a knee lift and a springboard elbow. Kenny caught him with a sit down power bomb for a near fall. Finally, Carlito gave him the back cracker for the pin.
Ric Flair came out to applaud. Since they seem more open to slower builds right now, I would delay the Carlito/Flair feud. There just isn’t enough time to make it mean something for WrestleMania. The story needs more time to be told, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world to have a few things planned for after WrestleMania. Vince said backstage that he would appear on ECW to make Lashley’s life a living hell.
John Cena and Shawn Michaels beat Edge and Randy Orton. The heels worked over Cena first. He tagged Michaels who came in with a flying forearm, inverted atomic drop, body slam and elbow off the top on Orton. Michaels went for sweet chin music but almost hit Cena before a commercial break. After the break, the heels worked over Michaels. Eventually he tagged Cena, who gave Orton the Cena slam and five knuckle shuffle. Cena went for the FU but Edge stopped it and the referee was knocked out.
Edge went for the spear on Cena but ran into an FU attempt. Orton brought a title belt into the ring but Michaels hit Edge with it. He then gave the belt to Orton, and Edge thought Orton hit him with it. Orton and Edge argued, and Edge left. Michaels then gave Orton sweet chin music and Cena gave him the FU for the pin. This was a really clever twist and finish to the match. Cena and Michaels were celebrating after the match when the referee went to give Cena his title. The title was right between Cena and Michaels and they both stared at it as the show ended.
WWE is in the best shape they have been in since SummerSlam 2002. A few times over the past few years WWE has had short bursts of quality programming, but each time the signs were there that it could quickly fall apart. Right now Raw and Smackdown in particular are so well put together that I’m starting to gain faith that they can follow through after WrestleMania. If you’re one of the people that doesn’t watch the show regularly but reads about it, now’s a good time to give it a try again.