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The following report was originally published 15 years ago this week on PWTorch.com…
FEBRUARY 16, 2004
LIVE FROM BAKERSFIELD, CALIF.
-Clips aired of last week’s contract signing with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Chris Benoit, and Steve Austin.
-Jim Ross introduced Raw and said tonight would feature the first singles match ever between “two of the greatest wrestlers to ever live” (I guess it wouldn’t be fair to compare Benoit and Michaels to all of the great wrestlers who never lived.)
-Triple H walked to the ring to a full blown ring introduction. Ross said having followed wrestling for 30 years, he’s seen many great champions. He said there’s a little bit of Jack Brisco, Harley Race, and Ric Flair in Triple H. Hunter said he came straight to the ring from Eric Bischoff’s office where he asked him straight up who he’ll be facing at WrestleMania. He said Bischoff couldn’t answer that. He said that’s not good enough for him. Hunter picked up the pace of his talking compared to his usual in-no-hurry-to-get-anywhere style. He talked about the legal entanglements presenting themselves. He said lawyers are confused about the situation. Hunter brought up how at WrestleMania X, Yokozuna defended the title twice against two different opponents (he didn’t mention Bret Hart and Lex Luger by name) and ended up losing the title at that event. Hunter demanded as the “standard bearer of this business, as the World Heavyweight Champion, I am demanding that Eric Bischoff come to this ring, show me the respect I deserve, and tell me who I will be facing at WrestleMania.”
Bischoff walked out and told Hunter he has every right to be upset and impatient. He said he could cancel the scheduled Michaels vs. Benoit match. The fans booed. Bischoff and Hunter demanded the fans shut up and listen. Bischoff said instead he could give Hunter his choice of facing either Benoit or Michaels. An “HBK” chant broke out. Bischoff said the winner of that match would go on to defend the title at WrestleMania. The crowd popped for the option. Hunter asked them if that’s what they would really want. Hunter then said he doesn’t care what the fans think. He does what he wants and when he wants to do it. The fans chanted “You suck! You suck!” at Hunter. Hunter turned back to Bischoff because he doesn’t care what the fans think. Then Chris Benoit’s music played.
Benoit walked to the ring and stepped right up to Hunter. Hunter told Benoit he’s mad at the wrong guy because he didn’t superkick him in the face. Benoit yanked the mic out of his hand and told him he’s tired of him running his mouth. He said he had only one thing to say. Then he dropped the mic and began punching Hunter and throwing him around the mat. Hunter threw a barrage of punches in return, but Benoit turned the tables with a series of chops. They went back and forth for a minute, then Benoit put Hunter in a Crippler Crossface. Ric Flair, Batista, and a well-dressed Randy Orton made the save.
The segment didn’t clear much of anything up, but it was really entertaining. It was one of Hunter’s better promos in a while. Benoit did what he does best, which is talk a little, but mostly stress his physical intensity. The segment did introduce the idea that Benoit, Michaels, and Hunter might not have a three-way match, but instead Hunter may defend against one, and then the winner of that match would face the other.
-Backstage Hunter tried to calm his fellow Evolution members. He told Flair & Batista to concentrate on their tag title defense. Orton told Hunter he had everything under control. Hunter threw some things around backstage.
1 — RIC FLAIR & BATISTA vs. BOOKER T & ROB VAN DAM – WWE Tag Team Title match
At least night’s NBA All-Star game, during his acceptance speech for the MVP of the All-Star Game, Shaq said, “Can you dig it! Caaaann yoooouuu diiiiig it!” (an imitation of Cyrus from “The Warrior” movie, by the way.) He did not add on “sucka” and he did not follow up with the RVD shoulder-pointing routine, although those would have been a nice touch. Flair began against Booker. They had high energy, but it led to one botched spot that Booker covered for nicely. Then RVD and Batista entered. Randy Orton taunted RVD at ringside, then jumped on the ring apron to interfere, so RVD gave him a spin wheel kick. RVD then dove toward Orton and Batista, but they moved out of his path so he plopped to the floor with a thud. Then they cut to a commercial quite early in the match. I’ve gotten so used to the match interruptions in recent months that during the PPV last night, whenever there was a spot like that, I anticipated a commercial break.
Flair had RVD down on the mat. RVD gave him a dropdown wheelkick. Booker T got the hot tag and went to work on Batista, then Flair. Booker T signalled for the Spinaroonie, then did it to a big crowd pop. Orton then tripped Booker and yanked his leg over the edge of the ring apron while the ref was distracted. Batista then hit a spinebuster. Mick Foley had seen enough and ran out and put Orton in the Mandible Claw. Batista hit Foley from behind. Foley followed Orton into the crowd. Batista chased after both. Meanwhile, RVD hit the Five-Star Frog Splash on Flair while Booker T had him in the figure-four. The ref didn’t see that, either. Booker then made the cover for the win. Ross said he didn’t even know Foley was at the event. Booker T and RVD had a nice celebration on the stage as Lawler called it a complete miscarriage of justice, a tribute to the late Gorilla Monsoon.
WINNERS: RVD & Booker T in 10:00 to capture the WWE Tag Team Titles.
STAR RATING: *3/4
-Ross congratulated Eddie Guerrero on his Smackdown WWE Title win. He then threw to footage of the Brock Lesnar angle with “Raw’s own Bill Goldberg” from the PPV.
-Steve Austin confronted Bischoff backstage. He said the World Title situation on Smackdown is clear, but the Raw situation is a mess. Bischoff asked for some time to figure it out. Austin told him to figure it out before the end of the night. He said if he doesn’t figure it out, he’ll be in clear violation of Stone Cold’s law. He threatened to stomp a mud hole in him in the ring. Bischoff left the room. Orton then ran up to him in the hallway and told him he wants that crap with Mick Foley to come to an end. He said he was going to go to the ring and call him out. He told Bischoff they’re going to have a fight whether he likes it or not. Bischoff said, “Fine, but it’s not sanctioned.” They need to establish what it means to say a match is non-sanctions. That’s an empty phrase right now. Orton vowed to not let Foley walk out of Bakersfield.
-Christian told Chris Jericho that he shouldn’t be wrestling Kane with his bad knee. Jericho told Christian he wants to be more than just friends with Trish. He said he was going to tell her tonight. Christian said, “Where is this coming from?” Jericho said he is going to give him a rose. He asked for Christian’s advice. Christian said Trish is probably interested in a lot of other guys. Jericho asked if he heard something. Christian said he hadn’t heard anything, but if he had he’d tell him. Christian told him to focus on Kane. Jericho said he would, but then afterward he’d tell Trish. Jericho gave Christian the rose to hold for him.
-Ross plugged Jericho vs. Kane. Don’t expect much of a match since they didn’t mention it before this (thus not building up expectations for a non-match).
2 — KANE vs. CHRIS JERICHO
Kane went to work on Jericho’s injured knee, including wrapping it around the ringpost at 1:15. Jericho’s knee was giving out every time he attempted to stand. Ross said it was sad to watch an athlete like Jericho in such a situation. From his back, he kicked at Kane’s knee. Kane continued to batter him, though. The ref called for the bell, declaring that Jericho couldn’t defend himself. Kane tossed Jericho over the top rope, then rammed his knee into the ringpost.
WINNER: Kane at 2:53.
STAR RATING: 1/2*
-Kane grabbed the house mic and said the fans are gullible if they think Undertaker is behind those mindgame messages because “I buried Undertaker alive. My brother no longer exists to me. Do you hear me!? The Undertaker is dead, dead, dead, dead!” Kane’s fireworks blasted and he headed to the back. Then the purple light took over and the video played again with a 27 day countdown. Liquid poured down onto Kane. Then smoke began surrounding Kane on the rampway. The Undertaker “gong” then sounded.
-Randy Orton stood in the ring and called Foley a broken down has-been glory hound. He said he, on the other hand, is only 23 years old and not even in his prime yet. He said it wouldn’t be fair to fight him, but if it’s a fight he wants, he’s there. He said in the year 2000 he might have been the hardcore legend, but tonight “you’re just Randy Orton’s bitch.” Ross called that “totally disrespectful.” Foley’s music played and he walked out. He went right after Orton. Orton took control early with punches, but then Foley shoved Orton into the corner and punched back. Foley kicked away at Orton. Ross said Foley is a deranged man with a dark place in his heart. Foley DDT’d Orton, then did the “bang bang” routine. Flair and Batista charged into the ring. Foley discarded them quickly, but then Orton surprised Foley with a low kick. Batista and Flair re-entered the ring and stomped away at Foley. Ross said Foley was “literally getting the hell beat out of him.” I don’t know about you, but if I literally had hell in me, I’d accept a beating if it meant ridding myself of that hell. So maybe Foley should thank Evolution, but that’s just me. Orton then gave Foley an RKO for good measure. The beating just went on and on. Every time Foley attempted to stand, Flair, Batista, and Orton resumed their attack. Does Foley have no friends backstage at all? The beating went on so long, it really started to paint Foley as being quite unpopular with the rest of the wrestlers backstage. The crowd eventually died and just stood there waiting for an expected run-in save. The three lifted a dead-weight Foley for a big Batista powerbomb. Orton yelled at Foley, “Stay down! Stay down! Stay down!” Orton then held his IC Title belt in the air. No blood by Foley. That’s a sign of a new era in WWE because in the past this would have been a sure-fire bloody angle.
-Ross and Lawler recapped the Foley beating.
-Chris Benoit confronted Shawn Michaels backstage as he was lacing up his boots. He told him that he would show him the same respect in the ring that he showed him last week during the contract signing.
-Stacy and Jackie Gayda complained about Torrie Wilson and Sable getting the Playboy spread. They said they would sell more issues if they were given the chance. Bischoff told them to call Hugh Heffner. Austin then walked in and Bischoff about his challenge on the Monday Night War DVD about wanting to fight Vince McMahon. Bischoff said he could beat McMahon because McMahon is the king of getting his ass kicked. He added, “He’s old enough to be a grandfather” (surely a reference to Shane McMahon giving Vince his first grandchild last week). McMahon said he had a major announcement to make next week on Raw, and he’d make it in his wrestling gear, and after that, he’d find out if he could kick his ass. Bischoff tried to back down on his words and asked him not to take what he said out of context. McMahon told him he is upset because Goldberg did show up at No Way Out, and he vowed last week that if Goldberg showed up, “it’d be Bischoff’s ass.” McMahon said next week after his big announcement they’d find out whether he could kick his ass as he claimed.
3 — TRISH STRATUS & VICTORIA (w/Stevie Richards) vs. MOLLY HOLLY & JAZZ
WINNERS: Trish & Victoria when Victoria pinned Molly after a Window’s Peak.
-After the match Test attacked Stevie Richards, then bodyslammed Trish. Christian ran out to make the save and threw Test over the top rope. Trish looked surprised that Christian came out to help her. Too bad Christian doesn’t have a crush on Mick Foley, huh?
-Christian gave Trish the rose and offered her a ride. The crowd saw that on the big screen and booed Christian for using Jericho’s rose to score brownie points with Trish.
-A recap aired of last week’s Michaels-Benoit contract signing angle.
-Shawn Michaels’s ring introduction took place.
4 — CHRIS BENOIT vs. SHAWN MICHAELS
The match began at 20 minutes before the top of the hour. They had a staredown. Michaels stomped the mat lightly, hinting at his finishing superkick. Benoit threw a series of match-opening punches. Michaels took over at 2:00. Benoit clutched the back of his neck in what seemed for a minute to be a serious, legit problem. Michaels handled Benoit carefully for a minute as Benoit continued to clutch the back of his head and neck. Ross and Lawler didn’t acknowledge the situation, which was apparently just very convincing selling on Benoit’s part. Michaels threw hard chops at Benoit in the corner. Benoit fought back, but Michaels caught a charging Benoit with a big boot. Michaels went for a top rope elbowdrop at 4:30, but Benoit moved out of his path. Benoit went for a German suplex, but Michaels blocked it in what looked like a “real struggle.” Benoit then backdropped Michaels over the top rope. They cut to a break at 5:30.
After the break, they continued to battle back and forth at a steady, but not rapid-fire pace. Benoit broke a Michaels sleeper with a back suplex. Both were slow to get to their feet, but Benoit applied a sleeper of his own at 14:30. Michael used a jawbreaker to escape. Benoit hit a quick inside cradle on Michaels for a near fall. Michaels countered a Benoit suplex into a near fall. Benoit came back with a quick two count of his own. There were “oohs and ahhs” from the crowd. They definitely shifted gears at 15:00 to a faster pace. Benoit set up a top rope superplex. Michaels punched his way out of it, knocking Benoit to the mat. Then he hit a top rope elbow. Michaels stomped the mat as Benoit struggled to get to his feet. Benoit ducked the telegraphed kick and then attempted to apply the Crossface. Michaels fought out of it like his life depended on it. Benoit then went to plan B, a Sharpshooter. Michaels frantically crawled toward the bottom rope to force a break. He came up short and Benoit dragged him back to the middle. Ross had alluded just a minute earlier to Michaels’s back being hurt from his top rope elbow drop, so the Sharpshooter seemed all the more deadly. Michaels made a second attempt to get to the bottom rope and succeeded. Ross said as much as that struggle took out of Michaels, it took a lot out of Benoit as well. Benoit blocked a quick Michaels superkick attempt and then hit three unreleased German suplexes. Those can’t be good for Benoit’s neck. As Benoit did the throat-cut gesture at 20:30, Hunter walked toward the ring. Benoit turned to stare him down and shake his head. Michaels then blindsided Benoit with his superkick and scored the pin.
WINNER: Michaels at 21:10.
STAR RATING: ****1/4 — Really good, four-star level match.
After the pinfall, Hunter smiled and entered the ring. Lawler and Ross speculated that Hunter and Michaels must be in cahoots. Hunter helped Michaels to his feet, but then gave him a Pedigree. Steve Austin then drove out to the ring on his ATV. He said a decision had been made regarding his title match. Austin said for the first time in history the World Title would be decided in a Triple Threat match. Hunter freaked out as a heel should whenever a babyface delivers that type of news. Austin then drove off. Ross reiterated the announcement, stressing that this would be the first time in history WrestleMania would headline with that kind of match.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S FLASHBACK: 15 YRS AGO – KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT (2-9-04): Goldberg walks out for match, McMahon interrupts, Austin drives his ATV to the ring, plus Benoit vs. Flair, Orton vs. Booker vs. RVD, Foley, Bischoff, Trish, Jericho