HSBC Arena – Buffalo, NY
MATCH #1: Matt Hardy vs. Vladimir Kozlov
Hardy is the ECW Champion but his title is not on the line. Kozlov comes right at the smaller, more agile Hardy, who is able to avoid him early on and get a few shots in. Hardy gets a sunset flip for a not-near-fall. A schoolboy rollup gets two. Kozlov comes back with a back suplex and then tosses Hardy’s shoulder into the ring post twice. He goes after Hardy’s shoulder know, wearing it down. Hardy breaks a hammerlock with a chinbreaker. He gets a couple of shots in but Kozlov cuts him off with a series of headbutts to the chest for a two-count. He continues working on the left arm. Hardy comes back by snapping Kozlov’s throat off the top rope and then heading up top. He hits a double axe handle and tosses Kozlov to the floor. He slams Kozlov’s head into the ring post twice and throws him back into the ring. Hardy hits the Side Effect but Kozlov grabs the bottom rope. He signals for the Twist of Fate but Kozlov blocks it, only to eat a boot to the face. Hardy goes up to the second rope and Kozlov swats him out of the air. This time Hardy grabs the bottom rope at two. Kozlov drags Hardy out to the center of the ring and Hardy grabs a quick small package for two. Hardy goes for mounted punches in the corner, but Kozlov drops him throat first on top of the ring post! Kozlov follows with a headbutt to the chest and the Iron Curtain finishes the ECW Champion at 8:59. I actually kind of like Kozlov as a worker, and this was a pretty solid match.
MATCH #2: Final Match in the WWE Intercontinental Championship #1 Contender Tournament – Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk
This was the start of WWE taking the Intercontinental Title seriously for the first time in a while. Sure it was done to promote their DVD, but they’re still doing a pretty good job with the belt, so kudos. Punk beat Snitsky and Morrison to get here, while Rey got by The Miz and Kofi Kingston. Intercontinental Champion William Regal and his valet Layla are at ringside to observe the match. They announce that Punk and Kofi Kingston lost the World Tag Team Championships to John Morrison & the Miz at a house show last night in Canada. Rey and Punk start with a nice respectful handshake. Punk gets a quick rollup for two, and Rey quickly returns the favor. They trade some holds and pin covers back and forth. Rey tries an early 619 but Punk avoids it and hits a couple of armdrags. Punk tries Go 2 Sleep but Rey counters with an armdrag of his own. Rey charges at Punk but gets backdropped over the top rope, falling hard on the floor. Back in the ring it’s all Punk for several minutes. Rey escapes the Tree of Woe and hits a moonsault for two. Punk comes back with a snap powerslam for two. Rey comes back with a cross armbreaker and Punk reaches the ropes. He sends Punk to the floor and follows him out with a leap off the top rope onto Punk. Back in the ring Rey hits a seated senton and an Asai cross body block for two. Rey gets a victory roll for another two, and Punk reverses it for a near-fall of his won. Punk comes back with the running knee in the corner/bulldog combo for two. They trade some more moves as Cole busts out “Swashbuckling” in reference to Rey’s style. Punk avoids the 619 and tries Go 2 Sleep, which Rey reverses and this time hits the 619! Rey goes for the springboard splash but Punk moves, and Rey still gets a rollup for two. He tries to go up and over Punk in the corner, but Punk catches him and hits Go 2 Sleep to become the #1 Contender at 12:16. That was really good stuff and I’m thinking they can do even better.
MATCH #3: Belfast Brawl – Finlay vs. Mark Henry
Finlay starts slugging away, and they quickly take it to the floor. He throws Henry’s face into the timekeeper’s table, but when he tries to ram Henry into the ring post the World’s Strongest Man reverses it and starts throwing Finlay around. Back in the ring Finlay avoids a splash and goes out under the ring for some weapons. Tony Atlas interferes to give Henry the advantage. Henry smashes Finlay in the face with a trash can lid. He controls the action for several minutes, but then gets too cocky and Finlay comes back by throwing a trash can into Henry’s face. Finlay then uncorks a couple of shots with the kendo stick and a modified DDT. Henry comes back with a shot to the throat. He takes Finlay down and tries a Banzai Drop and Finlay moves. Finlay tries to introduce the shillelagh but Henry kicks him down and grabs the weapon himself, but he breaks it! The kendo stick gets the same treatment. Hornswoggle goes against his father’s orders and tries to interfere, and accidentally gets knocked off the ring apron and disappears. Henry sets up Finlay in the corner and smashes a trash can up against him, and then hits him over the back with it a couple of times. He brings the steel steps into the ring and Finlay avoids getting hit with them by landing a dropkick to the knee. Hornswoggle reappears and gives Finlay a second shillelagh and he cracks Henry with it to get the pin at 9:39. That was decent, the kind of match I don’t mind seeing on free TV.
MATCH #4: Batista vs. Randy Orton
Orton tries to wear Batista down, but the Animal overpowers him. They’re starting slowly to put over how well they know each other form past history. Batista knocks Orton down, but then Orton suckers Batista over to the ropes and pulls him to the floor. Cody Rhodes and Manu attack Batista, and the referee gives them the boot! Now we’re down to a one-on-one match. Orton throws Batista back in the ring and starts working on his shoulder. Batista soon fights back and tries the Batista Bomb but Orton avoids it and hits a neckbreaker. That doesn’t last too long and Batista delivers a series of shoulders to the midsection and throws Orton to the floor. Orton is grabbing his shoulder in pain. Back in the ring Orton is able to hit the super DDT but Batista kicks out at two. It’s all Orton now, as he stomps away at Batista. Orton works over Batista’s neck, using a variety of rest-holds. Batista powers out and slams Orton down, and they get back to their feet at the count of four. They trade bombs and Batista wins that battle. Batista whips Orton into the corner and hits a clothesline. He goes for a powerslam but Orton avoids it, only to eat a clothesline. Batista then clotheslines Orton to the floor once again. He goes to the top rope, and Orton knocks him down and hits an impressive superplex. Batista comes back with a spinebuster for two. He goes for another Batista Bomb, but Orton avoids it. Orton tries the RKO but Batista counters to a Boss Man Slam for two. Batista goes for a Spear but Orton blocks it and hits his backbreaker for two. Orton goes for the RKO but Batista blocks it and hits a sidewalk slam for two. Back to their feet Orton hits a chinbreaker and another DDT for two. Orton sets up for the running punt but Batista counters and drives shoulders into Orton’s midsection. Batista then hits a series of mounted punches. When Orton tries to escape, Batista is able to hold on and hit the Batista Bomb for the pin at 16:41. The first half was a little dull but I really liked the second half.
2008 Slammy Award Winners
Match of the Year: Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair, WrestleMania 24
Extreme Moment of the Year: Jeff Hardy
Tag Team of the Year: Miz & John Morrison
Diva of the Year: Beth Phoenix
Oh My God! Moment of the Year: CM Punk
Couple of the Year: Edge and Vickie
Superstar of the Year: Chris Jericho
I can’t really argue with any of that. Congratulations to all the winners.
MATCH #5: Santa’s Little Helper Tag Team Match – Michelle McCool, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly & Maria vs. Maryse, Natalya, Jillian & Victoria
Mickie and Maryse start the match. They do some stuff and then Maryse tags in Natalya. Mickie follows by tagging Kelly, who gets a quick sunset flip for two. Natalya recovers and goes to work on Kelly’s arm. Jillian comes in and works on Kelly as well. Kelly makes the hot tag to Maria, who is wearing “John Nord-like boots” (thanks, Tazz). Maria makes the comeback and appears to be going for some kind of move, but Michelle roughly tags herself in and hits the Styles Clash to steal the pinfall at 4:34. Did Victoria even get tagged in?
MATCH #6: World Heavyweight Championship Match – John Cena vs. Chris Jericho
Cena has been the champion since 11.23.08, and this is his first defense. They fiercely lockup to start the match, and Jericho goes right to the headlock. Jericho gets the early advantage, but Cena quickly comes back with a takedown and a series of right hands. The challenger tries to regroup on the floor but Cena chases him out. Jericho attacks Cena on his way back into the ring and goes to work. Cena powers out of a chinlock with an F-U attempt, but Jericho counters to a DDT. They fight on the apron, where Cena catches Jericho off the top rope and tries another F-U. Jericho avoids this one too, and delivers a bulldog off the ring apron to the steps. Back in the ring Jericho gets a two-count. The challenger gets a few minutes of offense before Cena comes back with his flurry. He hits the You Can’t See Me and once again tries the F-U. Jericho almost counters to the Walls of Jericho, but Cena powers out and hits a belly-to-belly suplex for two. The challenger comes back with a missile dropkick for two. Cena tries the Throwback but Jericho avoids it and hits a Lionsault for two. Jericho tries a superplex but Cena blocks and hits the legdrop off the top for two. Back to their feet Cena tries another F-U and Jericho counters again, this time to a Code Breaker. Cena kicks out at two! Jericho charges at Cena, who finally connects with a big F-U. That only gets two for the champion. Jericho gets a small package out of nowhere for two. He tries an enziguiri but Cena ducks and tries the STFU, but Jericho reverses to the Walls of Jericho. Cena reverses it to the STFU and Jericho taps out at a brisk 12:43. These two have always worked well together, and while this wasn’t a classic it was energetic and fun enough. Plus I’m sure they didn’t’ want to overshadow the main event.
MATCH #7: Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship – Edge vs. Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy
Edge has been the champion since 11.23.08, and this is his first defense. Hardy goes after the champion right away, but Triple H isn’t just going to just let Hardy have all the fun. They do some three-way brawling, and the match soon spills to the floor. Hardy hits a slingshot dive onto Edge, and then gets clotheslined by Triple H. Edge and Triple H get back in the ring, and Triple H is firmly in control. Hardy rejoins them and Triple H takes control of him too. Triple H goes for the Pedigree on Edge, but Hardy breaks it up with a Whisper in the Wind. Moments later, Hardy nails Edge with the Whisper in the Wind, but from atop Triple H’s shoulders. That was neat. They’ve done a pretty good job of keeping all three guys involved without contrived spots to eliminate them. Edge nails Triple H with a Spear, and then Hardy clotheslines Edge over the ropes to the floor. The crowd is going nuts for the younger Hardy brother. Hardy hits Triple H with the Twist of Fate and the Swanton Bomb, but Edge breaks up the pin by pulling Hardy to the floor. They brawl out there for a bit while Triple H is recovering in the ring. Hardy takes his shirt off and looks to set Edge up to go through a table, but Triple H comes out and breaks it up. The brawl continues on the floor, where Triple H tries to Pedigree Hardy through a table. Edge ends up delivering a Spear to Hardy, breaking the other table. They eventually make it back to the ring, and Triple H hits Edge with the Pedigree, and Vladimir Kozlov comes out and pulls Triple H to the floor! Matt Hardy comes out to fight Kozlov off. Jeff goes to the top rope and Kozlov pushes him down to the floor, and Matt comes at the big Russian once again. Back in the ring Edge hits Triple H with a Spear for two. The champion threatens to use a chair on the Game, but Hardy makes his way up to the apron and takes the chair from Edge and waffles him across the face with it. Hardy goes up for the Swanton but Triple H knocks him down. Triple H hits Edge with the Pedigree, but Hardy has recovered and hits Edge with the Swanton to steal the pin and win his first WWE Championship at 17:19. That was a very creative three-way match, with some creative ways to get two guys into a one-on-one situation. I really like the finish, and Jeff Hardy definitely deserved to finally win the big one.