The Rose Garden – Portland, OR – Sunday, October 5, 2008
MATCH #1: ECW Championship Match – Matt Hardy vs. Mark Henry (w/ Tony Atlas)
Hardy has been the champion since 9.7.08, and this is his first defense. Henry backs the champion into the corner and tosses off a headlock. He hits a shoulderblock and pounds Hardy down. The champion uses his speed to avoid a knee in the corner, and he tries attacking it. Henry comes back with a clothesline. Hardy escapes Henry’s grasp and once again goes for the leg. They trade control a few more times. The battle spills to the floor and Henry throws Hardy down to the floor. Hardy gets back up and slams Henry’s leg into the apron. Back in the ring Henry regains control and does that stupid neck crank wear down hold. Hardy kicks his way out of it and then runs his way into a bearhug. He powers out and tries a sunset flip. Henry blocks it but then misses the butt splash. Hardy goes on the offensive and hits a Side Effect for two. He tries the Twist of Fate but Henry blocks it. He hits a big splash but hurts his own knee. That delays the cover and Hardy kicks out at two. Henry tries the World’s Strongest Slam but Hardy reverses it to the Twist of Fate to decisively beat Henry at 8:08. That was both a solid opener and big man versus little man match, and if they’re not careful Hardy might just make people care about the ECW Title.
MATCH #2: WWE Women’s Championship Match – Beth Phoenix vs. Candice Michelle
Beth has been the champion since 8.17.08, and this is her second defense. She is of course accompanied by Santino Marella. Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler are here for the Raw brand matches. Santino is the Intercontinental Champion but couldn’t even get a match on the show. Beth tries to bully Candice, who is hitting quickly and going for covers right away. She gets three near falls inside the first minute. Beth uses her strength advantage to come back, ramming Candice into the turnbuckle and then attacking her formerly injured shoulder. Candice comes back and hits a spinning heel kick for two. She tries a Russian Legsweep but Beth cleverly counters to an arm breaker. Beth goes up top and Candice knocks her down. Candice hits a running dropkick to the back of her head and Santino roughly pulls Beth out of the ring. Candice hits a dropkick through the ropes on Santino, giving Beth the chance to clothesline her. Santino distracts Beth and Candice gets a rollup for two. Candice goes for the Candy Wrapper which Beth reverses to the Glam Slam to get the pin and retain the title at 4:40. That was a pretty decent Women’s Title match, and I think it would have been better if it was about twice as long actually, because Beth is over and Candice was getting good sympathy.
MATCH #3: If Rey Mysterio Loses, He Must Unmask – Rey Mysterio vs. Kane
Rey is aggressive in the early going, but Kane uses his pronounced size and strength advantage to toss Rey around. They fight out on the floor and Rey tries a sleeper, but Kane dumps Rey over the guardrail into the crowd. Rey looked to take a pretty solid bump on his back there. Back in the ring Kane goes on his usual offense, with everything looking more high impact than normal due to the extreme size differential. Mysterio continues to fight back with a move that Michael Cole can only describe as “swashbuckling.” Kane tries to rip the mask off before winning the match, but Rey fights him off and hits a moonsault. He hits a couple more big moves but can’t keep Kane down. Kane fights back and hits a side suplex for two. He motions for the Chokeslam but Rey avoids it and hits a sort of springboard bulldog. He follows that with a springboard splash for two. Rey tries a leap off the top rope but Kane lands an uppercut and gets a two-count. He comes back and knocks Kane to the floor and tries to leap off the top rope at him, but Kane swats him out of the air with a chair for the automatic disqualification at 10:10. Kane is just not that interesting anymore, and their styles absolutely did not mesh. Sadly the DQ means we’re not done with this one yet.
MATCH #4: Match for the #1 Contender to the World Heavyweight Championship – Batista vs. John “Bradshaw” Layfield
These two have never had good matches together, but Michael Cole calls them “classic battles.” Batista dominates in the early going, not giving JBL a chance to catch his breath. The winner of this match will get to face either Shawn Michaels or Chris Jericho for the World Title. JBL tries to come back but Batista hits him with a Spear, and JBL rolls to the floor. Batista throws him back in, and JBL takes a cheap shot with Batista on the apron, and now it’s JBL throwing Batista back into the ring. He gets a two-count. He hits a neckbreaker and an elbow drop for two. Now is the time for a chinlock. Batista fights out and they trade blows in the center of the ring. The Animal hits a couple of clotheslines and rams his shoulder into JBL’s midsection. He hits a powerslam and goes for the Spear but JBL kicks him in the face. JBL tries a sleeper but Batista pushes him into the ropes and hits a spinebuster. He follows that up with the Batista Bomb and he’s the new # 1 Contender at 5:18. That’s a smart move to keep that one short, because JBL is pretty brutal these days. On the plus side that kept the match decently entertaining, and having Batista dominate is smart booking.
MATCH #5: Undertaker vs. Big Show
Jim Ross makes a Sasquatch reference that I don’t really understand, and then calls Big Show “cyclopean,” which sounds hilarious at first, but I looked it up and one of the definitions of the word is “gigantic.” Both men start punching right away, trying to knock the other guy out. Show knocks Undertaker to the floor and goes to work on his lower back. Undertaker avoids getting thrown into the ring post and does it to Show instead. He then hits the big legdrop on the apron. Back in the ring Show recovers and goes to work on the rib area. He drops an elbow for two. Undertaker is able to avoid a Vader Bomb and he starts throwing punches again. He hits a flying clothesline and a legdrop for two. Show counters the rope walk into a Chokeslam but Undertaker kicks out at two. Undertaker gets up and tries one, but Show blocks so Undertaker hits a DDT instead. Show kicks out at two. The referee gets frightened off by Undertaker, so Show takes off the turnbuckle pad and rams Undertaker’s head into it. He hits two straight punches to the face, and then one to the back of the head and the referee awards the match to Big Show at 10:04. That was WAY better than I expected it to be, with all kinds of cool spots, a surprising but good finish, and a hot crowd.
MATCH #6: WWE Championship Match – Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy
Triple H has been the champion since 4.27.08, and this is his eighth defense. The results of the mobile poll are in, and 72% of the people are rooting for Jeff Hardy. They shake hands and the champion attacks the challenger when he turns his back and gets a rollup for a near fall. Hardy soon counters with by quickening the pace and then trapping him in a side headlock. HHH escapes and lands an elbow. Hardy quickly comes back with a head scissors out of the corner and clotheslines HHH to the floor. He hits a running clothesline off the apron. He rolls the champ back in the ring and hits a slingshot legdrop for a two-count. Then he goes back to the side headlock. Hardy has counters for each of the champion’s counters, including avoiding the Pedigree. But then it all backfires as Hardy tries a plancha but the Game moves and Hardy lands with a splat on the floor. Back in the ring HHH goes to work on Hardy’s back. They don’t call him the cerebral assassin for nothing, folks. He hits the facebuster for two and the crowd is giving Hardy good sympathy. HHH drops a knee for another two. He stays on offense, locking on an abdominal stretch. He switches it up to the sleeper but Hardy escapes it and quickens the pace once again. He whips the champ into the corner and he goes sailing over the ropes to the floor. Hardy tries another dive and this time he hits it. Back in the ring he hits a clothesline from the top rope for two. He tries the Twist of Fate but HHH avoids it and hits a clothesline for two. He tries a leap off the second rope but Hardy boots him in the gut and hits a gourdbuster for two. Hardy tries to springboard off an Irish whip into a cross body but HHH catches him and slams him down for a near-fall. He hits a spinebuster and sets up for the Pedigree. Hardy avoids it and catapults the champion into the ring post. He hits Whisper in the Wind for a near fall and the crowd bought it. He goes up for the Swanton and misses it. Triple H tries the Pedigree but Hardy reverses it to the Twist of Fate and then hits the Swanton. His cover is too sloppy though, and HHH is able to roll him into a pinning combination to get the pin and retain the title at 17:01. It’s amazing how over Hardy has gotten and how good he is right now. I never would have thought a match like this was possible back when he first returned. The finish keeps him strong because he just let his guard down for a second, and he was this close. They shake hands after the match, even though Hardy is visibly disappointed.
MATCH #7: Ladder Match for the World Heavyweight Championship – Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels
Jericho has been the champion since 9.7.08, and this is his second defense. This is the feud of the year, easy. Michaels tries an early Superkick but Jericho avoids it. Jericho avoids a charge in the corner and Michaels hits his shoulder. They trade blows and Jericho clotheslines Shawn over the ropes and he lands on the apron. Jericho follows with a springboard shoulderblock to the floor. The ladders get involved early, as Jericho is in control. Shawn is able to see-saw one of the ladders right into Jericho’s face. Back in the ring Shawn is in control now. He tries to climb the ladder but Jericho shoves him off. Both men get back to their feet and Jericho uses the ladder against the challenger. Jericho’s mouth is already bloody. Shawn fights back and goes after Jericho’s knee, slamming it against the ladder. He puts the figure-four leglock on, which would hinder Jericho’s ability to climb a ladder. Jericho is able to turn it over and break the hold, and then he awesomely kicks the ladder into Shawn’s face. He goes up for the belt but Shawn knocks him down. Jericho stays on offense though, setting up the ladder in the corner. He tries to whip Shawn into but it gets reversed, and Jericho rolls to the floor. Shawn drops a ladder on the champion, and then grabs another one and slams it into Jericho three times. He sets Jericho up on the Smackdown announce table and climbs the ladder. Jericho gets up and goes for a back suplex off the ladder, which Shawn kind of reverses in midair but they both take nasty falls. They fight with a ladder on the top turnbuckle, and Shawn throws Jericho down to the mat, and then hits an elbow on the ladder on Jericho. Sweet Chin Music could be forthcoming. He tries the move and Jericho cracks him in the face with a ladder. He sets a ladder on top of Shawn and hits a Lionsault. He then traps Shawn under the ladder and starts to climb. Michaels muscles the ladder up and dumps Jericho all the way to the floor and Jericho might have hurt his knee. Shawn climbs up for the belt and gets his hands on it but Jericho shoves him down and Shawn gets crotched on the top rope. Jericho gets near the top and Shawn meets him there. Both men knock each other down and Jericho gets his leg caught in the ladder. Lance Cade comes out to interfere and eats Sweet Chin Music for his trouble. Jericho almost grabs the belt but Shawn once again meets him up there. They both have a hold on the belt and are playing tug-of-war. Jericho pulls Shawn in for a headbutt and that’s enough to knock him off the ladder and Jericho drops with the belt at 22:20. That was another amazing match from these two, definitely their best yet. They found ways to make the formerly tired ladder match seem new and interesting again, and the only blemish I can see is the needless interference by Lance Cade.
BONUS MATCH: Champion of Champions Triple Threat Match – Triple H vs. Matt Hardy vs. Chris Jericho, Smackdown All-Star Kick Off, 10.3.08
We have a few interesting subplots here, as Jericho will defend his World Title against Triple H’s good friend Shawn Michaels on the pay-per-view. Meanwhile, Triple H will defend his WWE Title against Jeff Hardy, who happens to be Matt’s brother. Matt Hardy defends his ECW Title against Mark Henry, but he has no friends or brothers in the business.
Hardy and HHH team up on Jericho in the early going, but HHH soon turns on him. He suplexes Jericho from the apron into the ring for a two-count. Jericho fights back with a clothesline. HHH fights back with the high knee and then Hardy takes him out with a spear and drags him to the floor. They fight around the ring and get up on the apron, giving Jericho the opportunity to hit the springboard dropkick to knock them both to the floor. We go to a commercial, and when we come back HHH is on the floor and Hardy hits an elbow off the second rope to the back of Jericho’s head. Jericho then shoves him into the ropes being pulled down by HHH and Hardy goes to the floor. Now Jericho hammers at HHH. The Game comes back with a spinebuster. He looks for the Pedigree but Jericho counters with a catapult, which just happens to knock Hardy off the top rope. Jericho schoolboys HHH for two, and then tosses him to the floor. He goes over to Hardy now and sets up for a superplex. HHH comes in to powerbomb Jericho as he delivers the superplex to Hardy and all three men are down. The Game gets an arm over Jericho for a two-count. He then locks on a sleeper, which Jericho counters with a back suplex. Jericho tries a Lionsault but tweaks his knee on the landing. Hardy gets knocked off the apron and Jericho locks HHH in the Walls of Jericho. HHH almost gets the ropes but Jericho pulls him back to the center of the ring. Hardy comes in and Jericho tries to put him in the Walls but Hardy gets an inside cradle for a near-fall. Jericho tries the bulldog but Hardy shoves him into the corner and hits his own bulldog for two. He gets a jackknife pin for two. He tries the Twist of Fate but Jericho blocks, so Hardy hits the Side Effect instead. HHH sneaks in and hits Hardy with the Pedigree to score the pin at 8:49. They packed a lot of action into a short amount of time, and wound up having a really fun match.