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Columnist Pat McNeill returns with another addition of his semi-monthly series, "McNeill At The Bar."
It's Sunday night at Richmond, and we are LIVE at barside, preparing for WWE Unforgiven. I am joined by several diehard WWE fans and a plate of "boneless buffalo wings," which is kayfabe for "chicken nuggets" in the parlance of 2008 pub grub. Ms. Anne has opted not to join me for this event. Something about needing to clean her house because her mother's coming to visit.
The other big news tonight is that the waitresses are decked out in pro football jerseys, in honor of this being the first weekend of the American football season. My waitress this evening is decked out in a Peyton Manning road jersey, even though she doesn't seem to know who Peyton Manning is. We wait for the start of the pay-per-view and watch the pregame show, while music plays from the overhead speakers. According to the music, God is watching us, from a distance.
Eventually, though, the show starts and we are greeting with the dulcet tones of Todd Grisham and Matt Striker. Well, they must be starting off with the ECW match. Please note that WWE isn't showing us the top deck at the Quicken Arena in Cleveland, an interesting note after all the trouble WWE supposedly had filling the seats for Unforgiven.
It's Matt Hardy versus The Miz vs. Chavo Guerrero vs. Finlay vs. Mark Henry. We now have eleven people in our little corner of the sports bar, as the last few guys have trickled in. Matt Hardy grabs a headlock on Miz, and for the next few minutes it is Tuesday night on Sci-Fi all over again.
As the match goes on, and more wrestlers are added to the match. I change my mind on the Championship Scramble concept. The whole thing is brilliant. In fact, I'd like to see it used outside of WWE. For example, the next UFC Championship match should be defended under Scramble rules. Imagine how much more exciting last night's show would have been if Liddell and Evans had started the fights, then the other contenders entered the Octagon at five minute intervals.
Chavo pins Matt. Matt pins Chavo. Todd Grisham tells us that there are 212 people in Cameron, North Carolina, and all of them worked in the OMEGA indy promotion at one time. Matt Striker credits Pat Patterson for coming up with the Scramble concept, which is news to me because I thought the whole idea was an Adamle Original.
Matt Hardy survives the onslaught of Mark Henry, Fit Finlay and Fit Finlay's midget son to capture the ECW Heavyweight Title. Guy #11, sitting at the next table, declares that Hardy's win is "awesome." Striker declares that Matt is "arguably everyone's favorite wrestler." That's fantastic. I'm stealing that. Pat McNeill is "arguably the sexiest man alive."
There's an ad for WrestleMania, which is only seven months away. And here's one of my pet peeves on display. This April will not be the "25th Anniversary of WrestleMania", no matter what WWE says. The first WrestlMania took place in 1985, so the 25th anniversary of the show will actually take place at WrestleMania 26 in 2010. Got it? Jeez, I'm starting to sound like editor Wade Keller gets when people confuse Saint Paul with Minneapolis.
Backstage, Jeff Hardy congratulates Matt on his title win. Matt congratulates Jeff on coloring within the lines with those Magic Marker streaks on his arms.
Here's tonight's WWE mobile poll question, presented by AT&T. If we raise the price of these shows to forty-five bucks each, will you still order them? Really? How about fifty?
It's time for the World Tag Team Titles, with the Texas In-Laws of Rhodes and DiBiase defending against Shad Gaspard and That Guy Who Can Work. It is at this point that Ms. Anne texts me with the news of Tom Brady's knee injury. Is it any wonder why I love this woman? Jerry Lawler, on commentary, claims he's been hanging out with Cryme Tyme. Where are the WWE.com cameras when we really, really need them?
Since we're on pay-per-view, this match is given time to develop. JTG takes the heat. I know, you're shocked. Shad Gaspard is surprisingly good here, hitting his marks and looking like he belongs with the others. Cody reverses a rollup with an assist from Young Ted and the champs retain. Then a Samoan with big hair runs in and helps Simply Priceless deliver a postmatch beatdown. Yes, there's a second generation Samoan in developmental, but I can't remember who it is for the life of me.
We get our prematch hype for Michaels vs. Jericho. Guy #11 thinks this video package is "stupid". Turns out he's not a Michaels fan. Huh. Shawn gets all biblical on Michael Cole in his prematch promo. We are informed that for this particular unsanctioned match, WWE made both wrestlers sign waivers protecting the promotion from legal liability should anything go wrong. Which means that, technically, every WWE match is an "unsanctioned match."
We all get the great, vicious brawl we'd been hoping for. I liked in the early portion of the match when Michaels went to look under the ring for a weapon, couldn't find whatever he was looking for, then cursed and grabbed a ringside chair instead. That was a nice little piece of realism. Shawn does the strangulation spot, briefly. Guy #11 complains about the lack of "color" in the match. The man has a point.
Then comes the creepy part of the match. Michaels has Jericho down in the crossface, leans in and whispers something to him, which turns out to be "an eye for an eye". Fortunately, Michaels doesn't kill Jericho with the crossface, but modifies the hold to keep Y2J still so he can keep punching the ex-champ in the eye. That stops the match. Michaels takes out Marty Elias for stopping to match, but manages to look like he's agonizing over that fact.
So, the best match of the night is over. What do we do next? Oh, right. Back to the scramble matches. Next up is Triple H vs. Brian Kendrick vs. Jeff Hardy vs. M.V.P. vs. Shelton Benjamin. Hardy and Benjamin are out first. By the way, I think that, instead of starting a new season, the NFL ought to have a scramble match for the Lombardi Trophy between the Giants, the Patriots, the Cowboys, the Packers and the Colts. Two teams start the game, and a new team is added each quarter. Last touchdown wins.
It's Aryan Supremacy night here at the ol' Quicken Arena, as M.V.P. and Shelton Benjamin are shut out for the full twenty minutes of the scramble match. The top heel role goes to Brian Kendrick. The only good news out of this is that Kendrick rules. Whether he was be-bopping along mockingly to M.V.P. or motioning for Hunter to "bring it" during The Game's elaborate entrance, Kendrick was working on all cylinders. Guy #11 even came up with a nickname, calling Kendrick "the Spider Monkey." The match ended with Hunter pinning M.V.P. while Jeff Hardy failed to protect his title by making the save. The Game ruled, and Jeff got to look stupid.
C.M. Punk talked with Eve, and then got a beatdown from the Next Evolution. Kofi Kingston tried to make the save, but he took a similar beating. It was obvious Punk was being written out of the Raw championship match, but who would earn the spot? My guess is Randy Orton.
Michelle takes on Maryse next. I think Tazz was the one who speculated about whether Maryse was being tutored by Hall of Famer Pat Patterson, which almost made me spit out my Diet Coke. We're up to fourteen people in our little section as we're into the third hour. There hasn't been much reaction from this crowd at all, much like what's happening in the arena at the moment.
We have a pantsuit alert as Smackdown general manager Vickie Guerrero and Big Show trick Undertaker into an ambush and leave him laying. This segment took approximately forever. William Regal asked for a shot at the Raw title in Punk's place. At the very least, you have to give WWE credit for realizing they needed to break up the three scrambles on the show.
It's Dave Batista vs. JBL vs. Kane vs. Rey Mysterio versus a player to be named later. Now Batista has a shaved head. John Layfield's elaborate entrance made me realize how much JBL needs a valet with Kawasaki glasses and a beehive hairdo. The opening five minutes feature Batista applying the figure-four leglock, something we'll all have to come to grips with in the post-Flair era. Meanwhile, I'm pondering how great it would be if March Madness this year was a giant series of championship scramble matches. Kane is out third and things aren't improving. Rey Mysterio stole Erick Stevens' Mohawk. Chris Jericho is out last, battered and bruised. He sneaks around until the end and steals a pin on Kane for the victory. Most of the bar crowd loves it, except for this one tattooed girl, who sat there with her mouth open for a few minutes.
That's it for this month. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go home and e-mail Bud Selig. I just came up with this great idea for the World Series.
Pat McNeill of Richmond, VA has been a Torch columnist since 2001. Send feedback on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll regularly publish reader feedback in the "Torch Feedback" category on the Main Listing.