William Regal & Eugene (c) vs. Christian & Tyson Tomko
World Tag Team Championship
I honestly have no idea how this match came to be. Was it that backstage segment where Mick Foley showed up from out of nowhere and befriended Eugene? Are Tomko and Christian merely continuing Maven's crusade for him, now that he's occupied elsewhere with Shelton Benjamin? It doesn't really make sense, either way, but you take what you can get and you live with it. I'm a little worried about how well this one will pan out, since Tomko's still working on cutting his baby teeth in the ring, Regal's been hot and cold lately, and Eugene & Christian didn't seem to work very well together in singles action on RAW this week. This promises to be your usual lackluster, meaningless tag title match between two makeshift tag tandems, with the faces going over.
Winners: Eugene and William Regal
Jerry Lawler w/Jim Ross vs. Muhammad Hassan w/Daivari
Probably the most important match Lawler's had in years, since a poor showing here would swiftly take the wind out of Hassan's sails, while a good match and a convincing victory will legitimize him as more than just a good promo man. Aside from the main event, this is the only match that's received a fair amount of promotion thanks to the continuous pre-taped vignettes, the in-ring promos and this past Monday's verbal showdown, and the reaction the angle's generated is very interesting. Basically, you love it or you hate it, with little or no in-between, and that's about as close to the perfect audience reaction as I think they'll ever get. Hassan really is playing an old school heel, from both his mannerisms and patterns of speech to his willingness to maintain a straight face and fight the urge to give in and start playing a "cool heel." You're about to be disappointed if you think this will be a great match, so long as Lawler's still involved in the physicalities, but I think the character's strong enough to maintain a full head of steam if they don't do something stupid and have the King completely dominate the match's offense. Even a competitive, back and forth battle would somewhat legitimize Hassan as a force to be reckoned with, but I'm thinking they'll go the whole nine yards here and put him over strong with a near-squash.
Winner: Muhammad Hassan
Shelton Benjamin (c) vs. Maven
Maven's really surprised me with his heel turn thus far, not just embracing the role but growing a fully functional personality, a large dose of overconfidence and the ability to say more than a few words on the stick to boot. He was solid out there as a guest commentator during the horrific Benjamin / Grenier match this week on RAW, and if he can expand his moveset beyond just dropkicks, armdrags and punches, perhaps developing (*gasp*) a style of his very own, then he could be going somewhere. Even though I'm glad to see two younger, lesser-publicized guys getting a chance to fight over the second most prestigious title on the program, as I'd mentioned in my introduction, it feels like it's too soon for Maven to be getting the opportunity. The storyline that kicked off when he stole a surprise pinfall from Shelton during a six-man tag match a few weeks ago was never expanded upon, and the feud feels kind of hollow as a result. I'm glad the big names are concentrating on RAW's top prize, but the midcard competition HAS to be a little bit tougher than this. The match should deliver, at least, since Shelton's been very good opposite almost everyone since switching to the show after WrestleMania. So long as Sylvain Grenier doesn't dart out to the ring to screw it up, the action between the ropes should be good stuff, and I'm not all that concerned about Benjamin losing the title.
Winner: Shelton Benjamin
Kane vs. Gene Snitsky
What was it I said about the Benjamin / Maven match? It feels "hollow"? Yeah, let's just go ahead and apply that same adjective to this one, as well. Despite its white-hot start, (which is something that, to this day, I still can't understand) the Kane / Snitsky feud has gone belly-up in the months since Taboo Tuesday. I don't care about Kane. Snitsky's done nothing to change my opinion of him since he first popped up on the show. Lita's reaction to big Gene seems to change by the hour. One minute she's bold and in his face, nearly intimidating him, the next she's cowering in a corner and trying to convince us she's seriously worried about his threats. You should know better than to expect good things from this match, so the one thing everyone should be looking forward to here is the potential for a mercy-killing and an early return to OVW for Mr. Snitsky. Kane makes the squash, the audience responds with a collective "meh," and the dysfunctional love affair between the Big Red Machine and his Big Red-Headed Bride takes some other kind of bizarre, unnecessary twist.
Lita (c) vs. Trish Stratus
I must've previewed or reviewed this match a couple dozen times by now, but since the Women's division is so strapped for talent, (until, as I've mentioned before, that fateful day when a lightbulb goes off above Vince's head and he decides to start teaching the Diva Search contestants to roll around the ring) here we go again. These two actually put on a really nice show on RAW about a month ago, when that sickening botched suicide dive seemed to shake loose some ring awareness, but even so I can't say I'm all that thrilled about the rematch. After almost a full year of build, these two have said and done just about everything imaginable to one another, and I'm thinking it's time to turn the corner with the whole feud. This needs to blow off right here or, at the very most, next month at the Rumble. And, given RAW's reluctance to rush to any sort of conclusion recently, I'm thinking Trish wins the title back here and the battles continue.
Winner: Trish Stratus
Triple H vs. Randy Orton vs. Chris Jericho vs. Edge vs. Chris Benoit vs. Batista
Elimination Chamber World Heavyweight Championship Match with Special Referee Shawn Michaels
Finally, the real driving force behind this show. It's really nice to see the various names and faces working the main events of RAW these days, as they've each been really producing over the last year or two, and deserve the spot almost without question. These guys have been exchanging dance partners and swapping allegiances all year, and the main events have never been better. It's only natural to throw them all in the ring together, with the World Title up for grabs, now that we're nearing the impending bookend of WrestleMania XXI. This match is like a summary of the last year for RAW, with Hunter heading up the show's dominant heel faction, Batista providing the muscle and the potential for big things in 2005, Orton bringing the face reactions and a past one-month Title reign, Jericho providing the consistency, as he's once again been the Monday Night MVP for RAW, and Benoit carrying with him his incredible ringwork and the longest face Title reign since Steve Austin's first run. For all of the black weddings, mentally handicapped wrestlers near the main event, and weight loss gimmicks, 2004 really wasn't that bad a year for RAW, and you've got the six guys listed above (plus Shawn Michaels, who's also involved) to thank. I'm really eager to see how this one turns out, not just because I'm anxious to see who will be grabbing the gold, but because the match itself should be outstanding. There are so many different storyline and personality conflicts here, they could battle it out all night and still have a handful of interesting new directions to test out before the bell rings. Batista, Orton and Hunter all have history together, with Batista's hints of insubordination making that mix twice as volatile as it might have been otherwise. Benoit and Edge have an ongoing hatred for one another, and neither one seems to think too favorably of Triple H. Edge seems to despise Orton, and I'd be interested in seeing if Benoit has completely forgiven the carrier of the RKO for ending his run as champion at Summerslam. Jericho's worked opposite every single one of these guys at one point or another in 2004 aside from Benoit, and if their history together should teach us anything, it's that their friendship is never more than a few harsh words away from bursting at the seams.
So yeah, basically, I'm extremely interested in this one match. I was leaning towards a surprise reign for Benoit or Jericho for quite some time, but all the signs pointing toward another Triple H run are almost too glaring to ignore. I've read handfuls of potential outcomes for this match, and with things as wide open as they are right now, every single one of them could work out spectacularly. Probably the closest thing to certainty in my mind is another run for the Game, and as much as it pains me to do so, I'm gonna have to go with him here.
Winner: Triple H
I can't do more than repeat my opening sentiments here. This is a one-match show, but at the very least that one match is one helluva doozy. I remain vehemently opposed to the slow increase in the number of yearly WWE PPVs, mainly because of cards like this one and Armageddon, and as such I'm only left to imagine what a great show they could've put on if this main event were paired up with a really nice undercard.
until then, i remain