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March 6, 2009
– Adam Russell

Cries and Whispers

This week's SmackDown, taped at the Mohegan Sun Casino, was charged with the task of building on the progression made by
Monday's Raw in the lead-up to WrestleMania 25. Raw gave us some answers pertaining to the grand daddy of them all - notably, by
making the Triple H Vs Randy Orton WWE Title match official - but also asked some questions - like, Edge Vs The Big Show for the World
Heavyweight Title? Really? With that in mind, SmackDown promised us a contract signing between the Rated-R Superstar, and The
World's Largest Athlete. The first contract signing I ever saw was 16 years ago, also for a WrestleMania main event, between Bret Hart
and the late Yokozuna. Back then it gave the match-up a sense of great importance, and actually served a purpose in establishing Yoko
as a monster, and also getting over Bret's courage and heart. Almost every single contract signing I've seen since has been a
disappointment- nothing more than a flimsy excuse to get both competitors in the ring at the same time. Even more so, in a time when
matches are made up on the spot by vindictive GMs, and even the wrestlers themselves, one wonders if a contract signing is even
necessary. But, if it's answers that I'm looking for, maybe this contract signing would provide them. Erm.....

A video recap airs of the Edge/John Cena/Big Show situation, and how we came to a seeming Edge Vs Big Show match at WrestleMania.

The lights dimmed in the arena, and The Undertaker made his way to the ring to start the show. I was expecting one of his hokey promos
about things rotting in hell, and demons being awakened, but what we got was a much more traditional, and much better, promo from
the Deadman, in which he acted like a real human being. He started by saying that all of his life people have steered clear of him, that it
was he who was always the hunter, but times have now changed and this made him angry. Angry is good. A small HBK chant broke out
as 'Taker told us that WrestleMania is the night that he has chosen to show his peers, and his fans, what he represents, but that every
year people try to make a name for themselves at his expense, and he takes this as a personal insult. Okay, now we're getting down to it.
I was interested to see how they were going to book the build-up to the Undertaker/Shawn Michaels match. Babyface Vs Babyface
matches are always tricky to book, especially when there is no personal issue involved. Four weeks of promos about who is the true 'Mr.
WrestleMania' would be a bit much, but at the same time HBK cheap-shotting 'Taker with Sweet Chin Music would seem a bit forced and
illogical. Undertaker, in essence dropping the Dead Man persona to talk about how he takes it as a personal affront that HBK would go
out of his way to try to end the streak, was a good move on the part of WWE's creative team. The Phenom then said that he is accepting
Shawn's challenge. So, are we led to believe that if he didn't accept the challenge the two qualifying matches that Shawn went through
would have been all for naught? Good job he accepted then.

A video then aired highlighting Shawn's WrestleMania achievements. Apparently, Michaels set this video up to play without the
Undertaker's knowledge. That pesky HBK. 'Taker says that Shawn has picked the wrong guy to play mind games with. He then talked
about Shawn claiming to have found inner peace, and warned him that the time for prayer has just begun. He ended a good promo by
repeating his prior warning to Michaels; sometimes it is Hell trying to get to Heaven.

In her office, Vickie is shown talking on her cell phone about how she hasn't seen or heard from her husband, Edge, since Raw on
Monday. I wonder if she filed a missing persons report. Sometimes it seems like wrestlers disappear into a vacuum between one show
and the next. She was interrupted by Jeff Hardy, who it seems popped in to tell her that he intends to win the Money in the Bank ladder
match at WrestleMania. Vickie asked him if he has changed his mind about fighting his brother, Matt. Jeff said he hadn't (in case you
missed it, Jeff announced that he would never fight his own brother).

--- Matt Hardy Vs MVP (Money in the Bank qualifying match)

Matt Hardy was introduced for the first match of the evening. He grabbed the mice, and said that as always Jeff is running from his
problems. He said it's fine if Jeff refuses to fight him, because at WrestleMania he'll get his hands on him in the Money in the Bank
match, and that he'll destroy him and win the match. MVP's music hit and the two were ready to renew their rivalry from last year, only this
time in reversed babyface/heel roles. The match began with a cagey exchange of holds, before Matt took the upper hand with an elbow.
Both men managed to avoid the other's signature spot (MVP blocking Hardy's bulldog attempt, Matt escaping from the Playmaker), before
we cut to commercial at the 1'18 mark. When we came back, Matt was in control of MVP with a facelock, and we saw how he had targeted
the neck of his opponent during the break. Hardy continued to dominate until MVP hit a desperation belly to belly throw, and followed it up
with an awkward looking flying forearm. The two then traded punches, with MVP coming out on top, driving Hardy's face into his knee, and
nailing him with the Ballin' Elbow. Hardy came back with a side effect, and then signaled for the Twist of Fate. Before he could deliver the
move though, MVP took out his legs and jackknifed him for the three, and a spot in his second successive Money in the Bank match, after
8 minutes of mediocre action. When thinking back to the matches these two were having just one year ago, this match was a bit of a
disappointment. MVP in general, it seems to me, isn't the same wrestler he was back then. He looks a step slower, and just less
motivated than he was back then. I remember seeing MVP have a great 10 minute + match with Finlay last year, in which the two traded
realistic looking mat offence, and thinking that MVP might just be the most well-rounded wrestler in the company. Now he looks a
shadow of that man. Could it be that he lost a little bit of his desire as a result of that stupid losing streak storyline? Before that he was on
the cusp of the main event, and now it seems that he's back to square one. Whatever it is, I hope we start to see some of the old MVP
soon.

We were next treated to a short promo by The Miz and John Morrison, in the guise of the Colon brothers (which meant they were wearing
'hilarious' prosthetic anuses, or should that be ani, on their faces). Basically, this was to set up a match on next week's show between
the two teams for the Dirt Sheet hosts' World Tag Team Titles. I'm hoping that this feud will culminate in a title unification bout at
WrestleMania. Both teams deserve it for their recent efforts. The general consensus right now is that The Miz and Morrison are the best
tag team in either of the 'big two'. They're good, but I want to say a word about the Colons. These two, Primo in particular, have really
impressed me with their portrayal of a classic babyface team, working their hot tag spots well, and producing some nice double team
moves. The match these four men had last week was one of the best tag team matches I've seen in a while, and I fully expect them to
produce the goods again next week.

Next up we had diva action, as Michelle McCool graced us with her presence for a spot of guest commentary.

--- Maryse Vs Eve Torres

This non-title match started with Divas Champ Maryse showing us some great heel stalling. Maryse, while sloppy in her execution
almost beyond compare, certainly knows how to carry herself as a heel. Once the action began Eve nearly knocked the bad extensions
out of Maryse's hair with an enziguri kick, before the champ established dominance with a hot shot on the ropes, and then a camel clutch,
all the while with McCool, in monotone, running down both competitors. Eve came back with some horrible-looking dropkicks- of the
same one-legged variety that McCool likes to throw. Someone needs to show these women a tape of Manami Toyota. Torres, who was
fine in her announcing role by the way, then perched herself on the second rope and missed her cross body block attempt by a country
mile. This was Maryse's fault though, as she moved way too soon. One flick of the hair and a DDT later and Maryse had picked up the win
at 3'25. She didn't have time to celebrate though, as Melina, following up from the altercation the two had on Raw, ran in to attack her.
This brought McCool into the ring, and she drove Melina's shoulder into the ring post. It seems that we're getting a 25 diva battle royal at
WrestleMania, which means we can at least enjoy a few guest appearances from divas past. I'd pay good money to see former WWF
Women's Champion Bull Nakano show up and show some of these girls how to wrestle.

We came back from commercial to see Vickie Guerrero in the ring to preside over the contract signing. She was interrupted by Edge
(thank God, I was worried about him!), who tells her that he won't sign the contract to fight the Big Show, at least not until he knows what
going on between her and Show. Vickie says that their relationship is strictly personal, and the only reason she didn't tell Edge
beforehand about her plans for 'Mania is because she only had the idea for the match as he was wrestling John Cena. She denies
wanting to embarrass her husband, and tells him that he's special to her (well, one would hope so). The Big Show then made his
appearance and told Edge that it's time he knew the truth. He says that Edge isn't a good champion because he takes short cuts in his
matches (oh no, you didn't!), whereas he dominates his opponents. Vickie, according to Show, knows that he'll be a better champ than
Edge. He then signed the contract. Edge tells Show that his dominating giant shtick doesn't work on him, because he's an 8-time
champion (wow, remember when the belt used to mean something), and is smarter, faster and better than Show. He now realizes, he
says, that Vickie picked the Big Show as his opponent because she knows that he'll beat him, and that he was crazy to think Show could
steal his wife from him. Before Edge could sign the contract though, John Cena's music hit, and the former champ made his way out.
Wasting no time, Cena kicked the Big Show in his particulars and hit him with the title belt, and then laid into Edge, destroying the table in
the process. With just Cena and Vickie left in the ring, Cena made a bee-line for the GM and.... whispered something in her ear! Yes, you
read that correctly- Cena whispered something into Vickie's ear. And then left. Whatever it was he said though, Vickie was clearly
traumatized by it. Yoko Vs Bret this wasn't, and it seems that a triple threat match between Edge, Show and Cena is the way that they're
heading with this.

After the break, we saw Edge and Vickie backstage. Vickie was still crying over Cena's whisper of doom (hey, it's more believable than
the 5-Knuckle Shuffle), and Edge told her to give him the contract and he would sign it right now. Vickie told him that the contract signing
would now be on Raw on Monday. I might cry if I have to sit through another one of these things!

--- Jeff Hardy Vs Shelton Benjamin - Money in the Bank qualifying match

It was time now for the second Money in the Bank qualifying match of the night, and after what happened in the first, the result of this one
was rather obvious. Shelton Benjamin, the US champ, came flying out of the blocks, hitting Jeff with an overhead exploder-style throw, a
Northern Lights suplex, and a regular vertical suplex, all within a minute of the opening bell. He then ducked out of the way of a Jeff Hardy
cross body block attempt, which sent Hardy to the outside. Benjamin followed up but was Irish-whipped into the barricade for his trouble.
Hardy then hit a flying body press off the steel steps as we went to the break at the 2 minute mark. Coming back, surprise, surprise,
Benjamin was in control (if I was a babyface, I would demand that there are no commercial breaks during my matches). Benjamin
targeted Hardy's back, with a modified backbreaker, and an over the knee backbreaker submission, before Hardy came back by hitting a
legdrop to the Gold Standard's groin, and a low dropkick, which Jim Ross called 'bargain basement'. With Hardy in control, his brother
Matt made his way out, and nonchalantly walked right into the ring, as Jeff delivered a whisper in the wind and twist of fate to Shelton. The
two brothers stared each other down, as the referee pleaded with the older Hardy to leave. When did referees become absolutely
powerless, by the way? Matt obliged the referee, but not before he punched Shelton Benjamin in the mouth, getting Jeff disqualified at the
9'30 mark and allowing Shelton to advance to his fourth Money in the Bank match. This was a really stupid ending to the match which
made the referee look like a complete imbecile. Apparently, other wrestlers are allowed to just walk into the ring during matches without
any repercussions, and you'd think that the ref would know what's going on between the Hardy brothers, and would therefore be wise to
the fact that Matt was trying to get Jeff disqualified. Be that as it may, we're heading for a brother versus brother showdown at
WrestleMania (if it's half as good as Bret Vs Owen from WrestleMania 10, I'll be happy), and we now know 5 of the 8 competitors in the
Money in the Bank match (Mark Henry qualified on ECW this week, to join Kane and CM Punk). Benjamin's qualification highlighted a
problem I have with the Money in the Bank match. Exciting though it may be, it comes across as just a way to shoehorn guys into a 'mania
match without any real storyline. This will be Benjamin's fourth crack at the briefcase, and he hasn't realistically stood a chance of
winning any of them. Why not let him defend his US Title on the show instead? Maybe he'll win it this year and surprise me. Stranger
things have happened.

A recap of the Orton/Triple H segment from Raw was showed next, followed by a promo for 12 Rounds, in which Jim Ross, sounding like
a school counselor, invited us to get to know John Cena's character, Danny Fisher, a little better. Hell, I'm still wondering what Cena
whispered to Vickie.

Main event time was now upon us, and Triple H and Umaga made their way out for their 400th singles match against one another. Which
is still about 100 shy of the number of matches between HHH and Orton.

--- Triple H Vs Umaga

Umaga's return to action the past few weeks has been pretty low key, as WWE have tried to re-establish him as a monster after he was
all but jobbed out on Raw. Surely, a match against World Heavyweight Champion Triple H then, would be counterproductive. The King of
Kings (or KOK, as I have often called him), laid into Umaga with some fierce punches, but was met in kind by a series of deadly Samoan
headbutts. Triple H shook them off and knocked Umaga down with a clothesline, but Umaga came back again with a nice thrust kick, a
diving headbutt, and a legdrop, for a near-fall. A short HHH comeback was abated by a thrust to the throat, but then the Cerebral
Assassin (or, Ass, as I have...oh, never mind) managed to low bridge Umaga over the top rope. Umaga, it seems, injured his knee on the
landing. Hopefully, it isn't anything serious, as this would be a bad time for him to be injured. With Umaga writhing on the outside, Legacy
made their way through the crowd and surrounded the ring. Triple H looked up for a fight, but don't forget, he can't touch Randy Orton
unless physically provoked. Which is exactly what Orton did. Triple H brawled with the three-man crew, holding his own for a while (well, if
Shane McMahon can do it, why not Hunter?- and let's face it, Cody and Ted in these situations are nothing more than dispensable Storm
Troopers), until the numbers game took over, as the old cliché goes. Orton mounted The Game and leveled him with punches, and
then put the boots to his head (not punts, mind you) as Priceless held the stricken Game up (reminiscent of Hunter and Evolution's attack
on Orton three years ago). Orton told Triple H that he messed with the wrong guy, and left the champion beaten down, and foamy-
mouthed. This was smart on the part of the booking team- Orton needed to get the advantage over Triple H after the last couple of weeks.
I almost feel that that should be the last physical act between the two until WrestleMania; just let Triple H stew on the beatdown for the
next few weeks until he is ready to explode.

In some ways, I think that Orton is the best heel that this company has had in a long time. Jericho and Edge, and even JBL, are all great
in their roles, but there is something about Orton; something about the way he delivers his beatdowns that goes beyond just a heel being
a heel. It comes across as perverse, almost psycho-sexual, and that is something that is truly unique about Orton's character.

So, did we get answers on this week's show? We certainly know more about the Money in the Bank match, and are one step closer to
Matt Vs Jeff, and Edge Vs Show Vs Cena. The show was successful, to my mind, in continuing the work done on Raw. There wasn't
much in the way of good wrestling, and I'm still baffled by that whisper, but apart from that we got some good angles that made
WrestleMania seem a stronger show, which I suppose is the point.

MVP of the night: I want to throw out an honorable mention to the Undertaker, who delivered a strong and logical promo to open the show,
but ultimately my pick for this week is Randy Orton. He delivered his beatdown of Triple H with such cold-hearted relish, that you can
almost forget the fact that you've seen these two in the ring together dozens of times before.