May 3, 2004


Tajiri . . . smacks around the top heel group in the company like they owe him money!

Stevie Richards . . . gets about thirty seconds of ring time for a match that literally did not even need to happen.

Shawn Michaels . . . has quite possibly the best match of his post-comeback career.



Much like the eight-man from 4/12, this feels like something out of early 1990’s All Japan. It gets ample time, without overstaying its welcome by being needlessly dragged out, and the work generally fits the situation. Aside from a brief spell of HHH working over Edge’s injured hand, there isn’t a whole lot as far as story goes. The match is more or less developed around the existing feuds (HHH/Edge and Orton/Benjamin). It seems odd for Edge to be the victim of the first heat segment, especially with the heels preferring to work him over with punches, kicks, stomps, etc. and mostly staying away from the injured hand, but when Edge manages to tag in Tajiri, all three of them are more than willing to stooge for his kicks and get outdone by his speed. Orton’s dazed expression and quasi-Flair flop when Tajiri bridges up and kicks him in the side of the head was just about perfect. HHH blocking the Tornado DDT wasn’t much of a surprise, but Tajiri blocking the overhead suplex and hitting the DDT was unexpected. Honestly, the only person who doesn’t really add much to the match is Shelton, he works a quick segment with Orton at the beginning, and he only makes a couple of appearances after that, most notably tying up HHH on the floor so the others could work the finish. The heel segment on Tajiri is much more in line with what you would expect, with Evolution using their size to wear him down and Tajiri selling like he’s all but finished. Hell, even Orton’s chinlock and headlock come off well because of the way Tajiri puts them over.


The best thing to see here is the finish. The match as a whole was solid at worst, but the finish is the only bit that has any story to it. Edge lines up Orton for the spear, only for Batista to intervene with a lariat. Edge’s dazed state sets up Orton for the RKO, but this time it’s Tajiri who intervenes with a wicked looking kick to the ribs. Batista tries to take out Tajiri with the powerbomb and gets the green mist. Orton tosses Tajiri outside and then he turns right into another spear from Edge and with HHH being busy with Shelton (and Orton’s ribs still being hurt from that last shot from Tajiri), there’s nobody to save Orton, and the babyfaces pull out the win. Considering the reputations of some of the wrestlers involved, it actually seems remarkable that they could go out there and put on a relatively simple and smart match like this. They don’t go crazy with the finishers, and when the few that we see do get attempted, they’re thwarted in credible ways. Everyone involved has done better at some point or other, but this is still worth checking out. ***



If nothing else, this is a nice cool down from the previous match. The work itself is fine, but this is just a quick squash to heat up Conway for his upcoming match with Eugene. Conway charging into the lariat was a good way to give Hurricane a quick spot of offense, and the spinning neckbreaker that Conway uses to finish off Helms looks nice on its own, and even more so after he’d worn down the neck a little bit. It’d be nice to see what they could do with more time to work with, but this is fine for what it is.



What’s even the point of a thirty second squash like this? A video recap of the whole Kane/Lita/Matt angle aired right before this match, and there would be more backstage stuff shown afterwards. It’s not like this needed to happen in order to further the angle, or that anyone needed reminding that Kane still existed. Maybe WWE was worried that people would forget that Stevie Night Heat was still around, I don’t know.



It would have been nice to see Gail work the arm at some point, to give the idea that she was building up to her armbar submission that ends this. Luckily Victoria sells as much as possible, and Molly interjects herself a couple of times to make sure the crowd is invested. Gail looks pretty rough for most of the match. She can’t go along with Victoria’s early press slam, and she badly mistimes the sequence after Victoria’s comeback when she’s supposed to be getting dropped with punches, taking bumps without Victoria making contact. Gail looks better when she’s on offense, but it’s mostly just kicks and a couple of holds. Her twisting head scissors into the armbar is easily the most complex thing that she does, even if it’s not nearly as tight as it could have been. But it’s Victoria and her selling that make this worth the time spent on it. She makes those last couple of kicks from Gail look like shots from Tajiri, and the way she lingers and then collapses and finally taps out to the armbar is spot on. The Hulk-Up to escape the Dragon Sleeper wasn’t really necessary, but that’s long been a staple of babyface comebacks in the U.S. With a few more minutes to work with, and if Gail could clean up her end of things, this could be a pretty neat match.


CHRIS BENOIT © vs. SHAWN MICHAELS (World Heavyweight Title)

The big question that comes from watching this match is “Why couldn’t Shawn perform like this more often?” For all intents and purposes, this is a Chris Benoit match, but Shawn is more than willing to go along with it. It’s hard to even really call this a ‘performance’ from either of them. The intensity is turned all the way up with damn near everything that they do. It doesn’t look like Shawn is selling the effects of Benoit’s suplex, or that Benoit is selling after Shawn whips him into the corner. Everyone watching can plainly see the force involved. They look superhuman to be able to even get up afterwards, let alone fight back. For all the talk during this time period of Inoki and New Japan trying to make pro wrestling seem more ‘legit’ by bringing in guys like Bob Sapp, what Shawn and Benoit do for the better part of twenty eight minutes looks worlds more ‘legitimate’ than anything that the Sapps and Kazuyuki Fujitas of the world ever did inside a wrestling ring. And, for as much as the Shawn/HHH matches were touted as being wild and hateful brawls, they don’t have a fraction of the purpose of what Shawn and Benoit dole out to each other here, and they do it without the need for chairs, tables, fire extinguishers, and other assorted props.


It'd be easy to label something like this as having no story as far as their work goes. There’s no real attempt by either of them to single out a body part or wear down the other man for a big move. Despite having had two matches against each other (along with HHH) on PPV and one other singles match from February, there’s nothing especially deep as far as spots they bring out to serve as reminders of those matches (aside from Benoit’s attempt at the sharpshooter, which Shawn had previously tapped out to). In effect, their story is the most basic and simple one there is: the fact that each of them wants to leave with the World Title. Benoit and Shawn just wail on each other and slam each other around as hard as possible in hopes that the other man doesn’t get up. Benoit already knows the lengths that Shawn will go to in order to win the title, those lengths are why the WrestleMania main event was a three-way match in the first place, and Benoit shows that he’s willing to go even further in order to keep the title. When one of them makes the mistake of thinking that they’ve done enough to win the match, the other guy makes him pay for it. The first one to do so is Shawn, after he hits the diving forearm and climbs for the elbow. He thinks the better of it and stops to slam Benoit a couple of times before going back up and hitting the elbow. He calls for the superkick, and Benoit dodges it and starts hurling Michaels with Germans. Then it’s Benoit’s turn to start to climb the ropes. And, just like Shawn, Benoit decides Shawn isn’t quite ready yet, and goes back for another German. Benoit climbs up top and dives for the headbutt, only for Shawn to roll out of the way. Shawn even resorts to digging a few classics out of the proverbial mothballs. He follows the vertical suplex off the apron with a moonsault to the floor, and he gets a near fall from his old back suplex finisher. Shawn even goes as far as to dig out Chris Jericho’s old Liontamer style of crab hold. Benoit doesn’t show the same depth as far as how many different things that he can pull out, but he doesn’t need to. His chops, lariats, suplexes, etc. are more than forceful enough to get his point across.


Between this and his PPV matches with Vader and Foley, Shawn probably has the record for having the most great matches that come with horribly booked finishes. The ref bump isn’t that bad by itself, if anything, it’s a good excuse for Shawn to finally connect with the superkick and still not win the title. But the HHH run-in to lay out Shawn could have easily been pitched in favor of Benoit going over clean. Shawn and HHH had been feuding on and off for damn near two years at that point, and with Smackdown holding the May PPV, they had more than a month to build up to the next Shawn/HHH showdown. But, despite the bad taste it leaves, the run-in finish doesn’t do anything to diminish what Shawn and Benoit did leading up to it. This kills just about every other match that Shawn has had since his comeback, and it’s the first time in quite a while that Benoit has looked like his old self from 1995-96. ****


Conclusion: This is quite a good TV show as far as actual wrestling is concerned. The Kane squash is the only thing that’s completely skippable, and it’s all of thirty seconds long.