WWE No Way Out 2006 2/19/2006

February 19, 2006
1st Mariner Arena
Baltimore, MD
Attendance: 11,000
Buy Rate: .56
Announcers: Michael Cole & Tazz

Sunday Night Heat

Boogeyman (Marty Wright) defeats Simon Dean (Mike Bucci) at 1:55

Fun Fact: This is Maryland’s 3rd PPV. After a nine-year gap between the first two, this is Baltimore’s 2nd in a little over 2 years.

Pay Per View

1) Gregory Helms defeats Brian Kendrick, Kid Kash (David Cash), Funaki, Nunzio (James Maritato), Paul London, Psychosis (Dionicio Castellanos), Scotty 2 Hotty (Scott Garland) & Super Crazy (Francisco Rueda) to retain WWE Cruiserweight Title when he pins Psychosis after a Kid Kash Dead Level at 9:42

Fun Fact: Brian Kendrick makes his WWE PPV return here. Kendrick had left WWE in January 2004 to pursue a more diverse career in various Independent and foreign promotions. While away, he would spend some time in Japan, TNA and ROH. In August 2005, he made his WWE return at a live event and eventually reestablished his team with Paul London on the 9/30 Velocity. In December, they freshened up their look, adding matching vests, tights and creepy theatrical masks that they wore to the ring.

Fun Fact II: On 2/17, Gregory Helms defeated Scotty 2 Hotty and ran his mouth after the match, claiming he could defeat any cruiserweight at any time. As he was ranting, Kendrick, London, Funaki, Nunzio, Psychosis and Super Crazy all assaulted Helms, including a number of finishers being performed on the champ. Later in the show, Teddy Long informed Helms that he would be defending his title against all of the cruiserweight stars at the PPV.

Fun Fact III:
This marks the final PPV appearance for Psychosis. He would stick around through July, when he turned heel on Super Crazy and had a brief feud with him, with Super Crazy winning in Psychosis’s final WWE match on the 7/20 Smackdown. In late October, Psychosis was arrested for assault and carjacking. He wanted to borrow his friend’s car, but when the friend said no, Psychosis punched him and took it anyway. He led police on a chase that involved hitting two cars (one of them driven by a pregnant woman) before being captured. As a result, the WWE released Psychosis on November 1st. Since his release, Psychosis has been a mainstay in AAA in Mexico along with stints in other organizations. Psychosis’ final record is 1-4

Scott:
Just like the Royal Rumble, an excellent choice for the opener. All the cruisers in one ring essentially to take out the loud mouth heel Helms. The character change was needed for Helms now, and with it a deserved push to the title. I sometimes forget at this time that Scotty 2 Hotty was actually still with the company. London & Kendrick were just getting started as a tag team and they would end up having a great year together. Helms mouthed off on Smackdown that he was the best cruiserweight in the company and everyone took exception to that. This becomes a very stiff match and big time kicks are levied on everyone by everyone. Kid Kash, who was a heel when he won the title, is somewhat like a face here as he lost his title at the Rumble without being pinned. That’s usually reserved for babyfaces in multi-challenger matches. The action is really non-stop as everyone gets considerable ring time with the others selling on the floor. Scotty gets his Worm in on Helms to a cheap pop from the Baltimore fans. I thought that Super Crazy may actually be the dark horse to win this, but really Helms deserved a chance to hold the title for a while. Alas Kash hits his finisher on Psychosis, but Super Crazy breaks the count and Helms swipes the cheap pin. That was a real fun match and a great opener to the show. Let’s hope, unlike at the Rumble, that all the energy from this one isn’t flushed down the drain the rest of the show. Grade: 3.5

Justin: Gregory Helms opens our February offering with his first PPV title defense. This was quite the scramble match and it features a nice mix of talent that really shows the turnover of the cruiserweight division over the last year. It was nice to see Brian Kendrick back in the fold and the addition of his team with London would help fortify the tag division too. They would use some nice teamwork early, as Helms hid on the floor, avoiding the action and picking his spots. All of the contenders would gang up on Helms as he was still being portrayed as an outcast on Smackdown, so that added a nice bit of storytelling into the match. The action was pretty non-stop here featuring a bunch of near falls, with one highlight being a stiff missile dropkick from Super Crazy to Paul London. I thought everyone came off looking strong here as they all good a minute or two to shine and it led to a crazy flurry at the end, leading to Helms stealing the win and retaining his title. This was fun and well executed by everyone involved and really got the show off to a good start. Grade: 2.5

*** Backstage, Booker and Sharmell try to get out of Booker’s title match by claiming that his injury was still lingering. Teddy hears them out, but refuses to comply and tells Booker he must compete or forfeit his title. ***

Fun Fact:
David “Fit” Finlay began his career in Ireland and England 1974. He would travel the world before showing up in WCW in late 1995 as the Belfast Bruiser. After a lengthy feud with Lord Steven Regal, Finlay would take a short hiatus from WCW. He would return in 1998 with a new look and using the name Fit Finlay. He would receive a good push mainly competing for the TV and Hardcore titles. In 1999, he injured his leg during a house show brawl when a shard of a broken table pierced his leg and lacerated a nerve, leading him to nearly lose his leg. Remarkably, he would return from the injury and competed in WCW through the end of 2000. Upon WWF purchasing WCW, he was signed as a trainer, mainly working with the Divas on assembling their matches and learning the business. As late 2005 came around, WWE brass was looking to add some veteran presence to their roster to help get their young group of stars over and help them gain some valuable experience. After training for a year, he would make his TV debut in January 20, losing to Matt Hardy by DQ. He quickly established himself as a crazed brawler that just wanted to fight and hurt people.

*** Backstage, Finlay shows up looking for a fight and carries interviewer Krystal Marshall out to the ring, hoping someone would come to save her so he could start a brawl. His plan worked as Bobby Lashley stormed to the ring and the two brawled around the ring. The fight would continue until JBL rode out in his limo, charged to the ring for his match with Lashley and Finlay took off. ***

2) John Bradshaw Layfield defeats Bobby Lashley with the Clothesline from Hell at 10:58

Fun Fact: On 2/3, JBL proclaimed that he was done wrestling monsters in gimmick matches just because the office wanted to get guys over. Lashley cut off his rant and came to the ring for his match. After defeating Chad Dick, JBL jumped him and dropped him with the CFH. Two weeks later, JBL and Finlay would defeat Lashley and Chris Benoit after interference from Booker T.

Scott:
We begin with Finlay looking for a fight, and he drags Krystal to the ring, which brings out the young lion Bobby Lashley. They scrum for a bit, and that brings out JBL, Lashley’s opponent tonight. Finally, after JBL had to go through that silly Boogeyman feud, he gets a game opponent. Lashley is gaining steam on Smackdown, and here he faces a similar power guy with some experience that could help him along in a match. Most of the match is power moves, and with Lashley I enjoyed early on in his career that he really put over his power moves. He makes them seem powerful and painful and on top of the fact that he’s crazy jacked and in great shape. JBL actually did some different things in this match, including a half top rope elbow. This match is definitely right up Justin’s and my alley: two big Mack trucks just crushing each other with one big power move after another. The match dips a bit as JBL cranks up a sleeper. We’ve all learned that if someone over 300 pounds uses a sleeper, it’s to catch his breath. We go back to Yokozuna’s nerve pinch for that philosophy. Tazz and Cole were really entertaining on commentary here, really sniping at each other and busting each other’s balls. JBL goes to the top rope and Lashley catches him with a sweet powerslam. Lashley actually got JBL up for a belly-to-belly suplex. JBL is even busted hardway in the right eye from the power barrage. Lashley looks for the upset until Finlay comes back and cracks the rookie with the shillelagh and JBL hits the CFH for the big win. That was much more entertaining than I thought it should be, and I’m grading it as such. Grade: 3

Justin: I liked the setup of this match, with the Finlay/Lashley brawl leading right into the match. It made things feel a bit unpredictable before the match settled in. It was around this time that JBL really started to get out of shape and it was later revealed that his back as quickly deteriorating and he wasn’t able to fully work out any longer. Lashley would use his power early, mixing in some nice agility as well, but things turned when JBL once again used Jillian as a shield before getting some strikes in. Lashley fought him off and nailed a stiff belly-to-belly suplex on the floor. Things would slow down a bit in the middle, but JBL was drawing some nice heat and the crowd stayed into it despite the methodical pace. Lashley came back with a flurry of suplexes, really wearing JBL down. Bobby looked strong coming back, but he was stopped short as Finlay reemerged and cracked him with a stiff shillelagh shot to the head. JBKL would take advantage and nail Lashley with the CFH to win the bout and hand Lashley his first WWE loss. This was a solid little brawl with a hot finish and it gets JBL back on track after his terrible Rumble loss. Lashley would shake this one off and continue to pick up steam as he sets his sights on Finlay. Grade: 2

*** Batista comes to the ring to address the fans and kill some time. He talks about his passion for wrestling, how much he misses the business and issues a warning that he is rehabbing and will be coming back from his title upon healing. ***

3) Matt Hardy & Tatanka (Chris Chavis) defeat MNM in a non-title match when Tatanka pins Joey Mercury (Adam Birch) with a Samoan Drop at 10:26

Fun Fact: This is Tatanka’s final WWE PPV match. After this show, vignettes would air of Tatanka being adopted into the Lakota tribe and reinventing himself. He would meander around on TV throughout the year, but in the fall he fell into a deep losing streak. After each match, he would complain about being held down by poor refereeing. On 9/27, he would turn heel on Bobby Lashley and the following week he debuted a new look, including face paint, and liking his plight to that of his ancestors. He would remain on TV through the end of October before requesting his release in January 2007. Tatanka would hit the Indy scene and show up in TNA for one night after leaving the promotion. Upon his departure, he claimed that he and WWE were not yet finished and that he would once again return. And after his last proclamation came through, who are we to doubt him. Tatanka’s final PPV record is 8-7-1. He went 1-5 at the Rumble, 2-0 at Wrestlemania, 0-2-1 at the King of the Ring, 2-0 at Summerslam, 2-0 at the Survivor Series, and 1-0 at other events.

Fun Fact II:
On 2/10, MNM issued an open challenge to any two members of the Smackdown roster. Hardy would accept the challenge and Tatanka was announced as his partner as the match began.

Scott:
MNM had an open challenge against any team on Smackdown. Mind you Melina wasn’t putting up her guys’ tag team straps, but Matt Hardy came forward and his partner was former WWE star and Justin favorite Tatanka. He showed up at the Royal Rumble and made a pretty impressive performance. With Finlay here and now Tatanka, it appears that WWE was loading up the roster with old school guys who can help the younger studs with match pacing and chemistry. Tatanka helps pull out old school armbars, just to give the match a foundation. Matt Hardy hit a sweet double neckbreaker on the champs as all four guys really came with their working boots on here. Tatanka really brought the offense here, with stiff chops and top notch selling. MNM would put over their heel heat by mocking Tatanka’s war cry while giving him the business in the corner. The action was pretty non-stop by all four guys and the hilarious commentary by Tazz/Cole is helping it along. MNM has really become one of the company’s two or three best teams. Tatanka hits his Samoan Drop, or Papoose…something or other, whatever it was called in 1993, and they get the non-title win. Similar to Road Warrior Animal’s role in 2005, Tatanka brings much needed experience to the young Smackdown roster. Grade: 2.5

Justin: Matt Hardy and Tatanka answer the open challenge of the champions but the bout is non-title, which was interesting in a way because a win could earn the challengers a title match, which to me is the way it should work. Hardy and Tatanka was a pretty random team but they worked well together and I was really digging this wily veteran Tatanka run, and the whole veteran presence concept in general. Things got off to a quick start before the champs started a heat segment on Hardy, which also included some Melina interference. Tatanka would tag in and was stiff and crisp with his offense, but MNM were able to contain him and start a second heat segment, showing off their great chemistry, which is always a formula I enjoy. Hardy would tag in and work in the offense that was slowly starting to make him one of the best formula workers on the roster as the year progresses. MNM looked like they were going to win the bout, but Tatanka and Hardy were able to take both men down and procure the victory. I am usually not a huge fan of jobbing the champs, but this was pretty well done and set up a Hardy & Tatanka run nicely and MNM could withstand a hard fought loss at this point. Tatanka and Hardy would get their title match on 2/24, but MNM would win that go around. This was a fun match and a good upset to keep the show moving along. Grade: 2.5

4) Chris Benoit defeated Booker T (Booker Huffman) to win WWE United States Title by submission with the Crossface at 18:11

Fun Fact:
On 2/3, Teddy Long again allowed Booker to choose a wrestler to defend his title for him, as he was still recovering from his injury. Booker chose Finlay and Benoit would win by DQ when Booker interfered and hit Benoit with his crutch. Despite claiming to be injured, Booker assisted Finlay in beating Benoit down after the bell. The next week, Benoit defeated Orlando Jordan, JBL and Matt Hardy to earn a title match at the PPV. After the bout, Teddy told Booker that there would be no more substitutions and that he would have to defend his title or forfeit it. Finally on 2/17, Booker cost Benoit a tag team match when he hit him with a chair.

Scott:
Booker T has wormed his way over and over again to avoid facing Benoit. Before the match, he brings out GM Teddy Long and attempts to forfeit the title, which starts a “Coward” chant from Benoit and the Baltimore crowd. Sharmell starts berating and slapping Benoit, and of course this was all a rouse as Booker comes in and blindsides the Wolverine. Since the feud started in late-2005 they’ve really been going at each other and the matches have been great. And Cole even references the 1998 matches in WCW as part of the feud. Booker T was legitimately injured earlier in the year but now fully healthy the writers use the injury as a hook for the rest of the feud. Benoit may end up being Booker T’s best opponent of his career, really because Booker never wrestled many great technical guys for prolonged stretches. In WCW as a singles guy he mostly wrestled Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner. In WWF he’s wrestled various styles of guys, but here and in WCW no one brought out the best in Booker than Benoit. John Cena and Booker had a pretty good feud in 2004 over the US Title, but since October Benoit has really brought out the best in him. This match gets a little slow in the middle but they also go through stretches of stiff move after stiff move. Benoit hits the Three Amigos, in honor of best friend Eddie Guerrero. The match picks back up after the Benoit’s flying head butt. It was tough to read who would win this with Wrestlemania around the corner. Would Benoit be the champ going in, or would Booker end up retaining and maybe starting a feud with a younger guy leading to the big show in Chicago? This match could be comparable to another legendary mid-card title match in this building? Old timers remember the Greg Valentine/Tito Santana cage match in 1985 when Tito regained his Intercontinental Title. Benoit cranks up the Sharpshooter, then switches quickly to the Crossface and regains his United States Championship. This was a great match and the last between two great rivals who always brought out the best of each other. Grade: 3.5

Justin: This well-crafted and nuanced feud finally culminates here as Booker is forced by Teddy Long to step in the ring and defend his own title, despite his begging and pleading. In addition to the great wrestling and interesting story, another positive to come out of this feud is the rejuvenation of Booker as a smarmy, sneaky heel. Booker tries to forfeit again prior to the match, but Teddy blocks it and Booker uses the distraction to assault Benoit from behind. Locked into a tremendous flow spurred by chemistry, the two would light each other up with stiff chops as the two warred back and forth. Booker would fake an injury to his groin and would use the deception to turn the tables and take control of the match. The two would work a really nice chain sequence and I liked the story within the match, as both men knew each other quite well and knew what was coming and how to counter it. Cole and Tazz would really emphasize that point and they did a nice job analyzing the bout, as usual. The crowd was into Benoit as he made a crisp comeback, and many of the pops may have been a product of the well-designed bout and well timed comebacks. Booker would smash Benoit with a tremendous spinebuster as this long battle wore on. Sharmell would get involved late and that would lead to a great near fall on a Booker scissors kick. Benoit would recover and hook the crossface for the well-earned victory. This was just a great battle between two pros and was a great blow off to a really fun feud. Benoit regains his beloved US title and gets a big pop for doing so. Booker is now forced to regroup after losing his gold. Grade: 3.5

*** Backstage, Chris Benoit is welcomed and congratulated by a handful of wrestlers as well as Vicki and Chavo Guerrero. ***

5) Randy Orton defeats Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez) to win Mysterio’s Wrestlemania Title Shot with a roll up at 17:28

Fun Fact: After winning the Royal Rumble, Rey Mysterio came out the next night and thanked Eddie Guerrero for helping him earn the Mania title shot. Moments later, Randy Orton came out and challenged Mysterio for the title shot. To push Rey into accepting, he then told him that Eddie was in hell and not up in heaven. Later in the night, Orton and Mark Henry defeated Kurt Angle and Mysterio when Orton pinned Mysterio. After the bout, Mysterio accepted Orton’s challenge. On 2/10, Orton drove out in Eddie’s low rider and claimed that he only said that stuff about Eddie to goad Rey into the match. Orton was then going to read a passage from Eddie’s autobiography so he could prove that Eddie was not a saint, but Rey attacked him and dropkicked him into the ring post. The next week, Orton revealed that the dropkick left him with a concussion and told Rey that he would never main event Wrestlemania as Eddie had.

Fun Fact II:
This is the fifth time that the Royal Rumble winner has put his Wrestlemania title shot up in a February PPV match. Only Shawn Michaels in 1996 won his match. The other three cases, Vince McMahon in 1999, Rock in 2000, and Triple H in 2002, all lost them. Rock and Triple H would get their slots back in some form.

Scott:
Tugging at the heartstrings of a fallen friend, the conniving Randy Orton baited Rey into putting his shot up after the emotional Royal Rumble victory. Orton certainly knows how to piss the crowd off by mimicking Eddie Guerrero’s mannerisms while manhandling the smaller Mysterio. I had a feeling going in that Orton would win this match, since the main event involves two babyfaces. Now Angle could have turned heel and had a match with Rey at Mania, but I don’t know if they thought that match would have any teeth. Undertaker/Rey would have been a heat and workrate disaster so I don’t think that was ever thought about. Plus Rey would never have been thought about to break “The Streak”. Orton was pretty vicious in this match, attacking Rey’s left arm by slamming it into the metal steps multiple times. One nice move has Rey about to be electric chaired off the second turnbuckle, but he reverses it into a pretty sick powerbomb. The match is booked well in terms of logic as the bigger Orton clearly has the advantage for a majority of the match. We have our third hardway bleeding of the night as Orton is busted open, joining JBL and Booker T. The match then starts going back and forth as Rey would get the advantage, then Orton would cheat to get back into it. Orton would hit a sweet drop kick as Rey was flying off the top rope. Orton for the first time that I have noticed does the “Viper” look, getting on his knees and leaning his fists. He wouldn’t do it much for a while, but I just noticed it. Eventually Rey would go for the 619, but Orton would duck it and then go for a roll-up. Using the ropes for help, he would essentially steal the title shot away from the deserving Rey. Orton would have that cocky, frat boy look on his face as Rey kneels in the ring, dumbfounded. I remember actually being legitimately upset, so I guess the writers and announcers did a great job of putting this loss over. Rey goes backstage and says he let everybody down. For now, Orton’s going to Wrestlemania and Rey Mysterio’s dream is gone. The match is solid, but the drama and emotion helps it out a bit. Grade: 3.5

Justin: While this match had great potential and a big time feel, the overdone Eddie Guerrero stuff just hovered over the whole match and was really getting to be too much. This feud could have easily been done without all of it, or even with just a hint of it but not used as much as it had. Orton was great here, acting arrogantly and even toying with Mysterio in spots. He would use his size to slug on Rey with condescending offense, mocking Eddie along the way. In one nasty spot, Orton swung Rey into the ring post like he was wielding a club. Orton would continue to punish Rey, focusing in on his arm with a relentless power-based assault. Rey would come back with a sunset flip powerbomb for a good near fall and as he continued to beat on Orton, Randy would exhibit his tremendous selling. The crowd was rocking as it looked like Rey was going to pull off a miracle, but Orton would trap him during a sunset flip attempt, hook the rope and steal the win and Rey’s title shot. It was a cheap win, but it felt the storyline and Orton’s persona perfectly. Randy is now set to move on to Mania and Rey would break down after the match, feeling that let Eddie down. This was an emotional battle and a tremendous match that had the crowd into it all the way through. Grade: 4

6) Kurt Angle defeats Undertaker (Mark Callaway) to retain World Heavyweight Title with a roll up at 29:37

Fun Fact: On 2/3, Teddy Long announced that Kurt Angle would defend his title against Undertaker at No Way Out. The next week, MNM and Mark Henry were assaulting Undertaker until Angle made the save. The next week, Angle and Taker defeated Henry and MNM and had a stare down to close the show.

Scott:
For some reason, Undertaker’s open seems even more dramatic than usual. Maybe its because Angle is an uncommon opponent for him. They’ve only wrestled two previous PPV singles matches, Fully Loaded 2000 and a WWF Title match at Survivor Series 2000. In both cases Angle was still feeling himself out as a main eventer and Taker was horribly out of shape and in the second case didn’t deserve a title shot. I gave the title match a 2.5, but I had a feeling that this one would be slightly higher. It didn’t seem like it early, as I remember thinking the first five or six minutes were slow and boring. At that point I thought the match would be a dud and ruin what has really been a fun night of wrestling. And then came the moment when the match changes. Taker goes for a boot to the face, and Angle grabs the leg and they fall off the apron but Angle still goes for the Anklelock on the floor. The crowd wakes up and the energy level is instantly elevated. Sure they get back in the ring and Angle works the left leg over for a while, but instead of it looking like boring restholds, the crowd is into it and Angle doesn’t look lazy while doing it. While working the leg over, Taker ratchets the Gogoplata choke but the ref makes him break it. With the match booked at almost half an hour, the pacing had to be consistent but not slowed to a crawl at the same time. I can’t remember the last time Taker wrestled a match over twenty-five minutes, but clearly they had to maintain pace without blowing up. Taker starts setting the table up for a big move, but its Angle who hits the Angle Slam into the Spanish table. The crowd dug that. Speaking of the crowd, kudos to the Baltimore faithful for not allowing two babyfaces ruin the energy level and picking sides per se. They were into every single move and never wavered. We get a classic move by Angle as he stops Nick Patrick from counting Taker out after the Angle Slam because he wants to beat him 1-2-3. Angle really worked Taker over during the middle portion of the match, including hitting a belly-to-belly suplex off the top rope. Now the tension really starts to build as Angle goes for the Anklelock again, but Taker gets out of it and hits a one-legged Chokeslam, but Angle kicks out of it. Taker goes for the Last Ride but Angle reverses it back into the Anklelock. Taker, who has never submitted or tapped out in a match, as far as I can remember, really fought it and kicked out of it again. Angle hits another Angle slam for a two count. After those first few slow minutes, this is turning into a classic, and kudos to Angle for really bringing the energy back after those sluggish John Cena matches at the end of 2005. We get the awesome rolling Tombstone setups and another Anklelock which Angle grapevines, usually leading to a victory. Taker tries to kick Angle off his leg, which he succeeds in doing. At this point the crowd is exasperated. Then an amazing moment full of creativity, as Undertaker has Angle in the Gogoplata choke again, but Angle does an awesome somersault and rolls Taker up in an almost impossible roll-up to get out of and gets the crazy three count. Taker is stunned, and tells Angle he’s got his number. If this match started out just a little quicker, we’d have the first ***** star match of the year. It will still end up being one of the year’s best, but not quite perfect. Grade: 4.5

Justin: For a secondary, Smackdown-only show, this was a big time main event and a matchup that we had not seen in a while. Kurt Angle was the kingpin of Smackdown and had really taken to the role as lead man on Friday nights and while the title was on the line, this was also a battle of pride. The crowd was split from the get-go as the two worked a mat based match early with Taker working Angle’s arm. The two would battle back-and-forth as the match was a nice style blend between the two diverse workers. Angle would focus on Taker’s leg, hooking a figure four around the ring post and then wrenching in an Anklelock on the floor. I really liked the methodical pacing here, as you could tell they were building towards a crazed finish with a slow and steady middle portion. There was also a seamless blend of mat wrestling and brawling between the two. Undertaker would tease a triangle choke but Angle escaped the hold. Angle would drop Taker through the announce table with a nice Angle Slam and it looked like he would win by count out but Kurt would break the count, intimating that he wished to defeat Taker in the ring. The champ was fired up and aggressive and in a great spot, he would reverse a chokeslam attempt into another Anklelock. As the pace picked up, it was done in a controlled way, as it was intense but not frantic or manic. Angle would attempt the Anklelock multiple times, but Undertaker would wrest free of each of them. One of the best attempts came on a great Tombstone reversal by Kurt. There were tons of great exchanges dripping with drama as the match was winding down. Angle would grab yet another Anklelock and this time he dropped down and added the dreaded heel hook. However, for the first time that I could think of, Taker broke the hold. After escaping the inescapable, Taker would lock Angle in the triangle choke, but the wily champion would roll through it and trap Taker’s shoulders down for the victory. This was a huge win for Angle, to pin Taker cleanly in the ring to retain his gold in an epic encounter. This was just a beautifully crafted war that was clean all the way through and capped off a great night of wrestling by the blue brand. Angle advances to Wrestlemania but before he can focus on Randy Orton, Taker shoves him into the corner and warns him that he is not yet done with the champion. Final Grade: 4.5

Final Analysis:

Scott: I’m stunned at how much I really love this show. All but one match is over ten minutes, and the Cruiser match was just shy of it. Six tight, well worked and entertaining matches with a myriad of talents. The Cruiser match was just as entertaining as the Royal Rumble opener. The rest of the show, unlike the Rumble, kept the energy level and workrate going. The JBL/Lashley came totally out of left field as a great power match between the experienced former champ and the young lion. As a side note, I forgot how much I love Finlay’s original heel theme. I never thought I’d say great things about Tatanka’s workrate, but he really brought the goods in that tag match. MNM really gained a lot from that match. There’s not much to say anymore about Booker/Benoit, they always know how to get the best from each other. As a standalone match, Rey/Orton was three, but the half point comes from the emotion during and after the match. I know that Justin and I talk about Eddie overkill during this time, but honestly it worked here and it helped the match. The main event was a classic battle between two legends that finally were at the same level at the same time. Maybe it took a few minutes to work out the kinks but eventually the two put together a classic main event match that sucked an entire arena into the palms of their hands. I was completely stunned at how well worked this entire show was. It may compare with Vengeance 2003 as the best Smackdown PPV ever. If you ever get a chance, watch it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well put together it is. It’s always good to roll into Wrestlemania with a top-notch show. Grade: A-

Justin: Well, I had no memory of this show being this great from start to finish. The crowd was really amped up the whole way through and the show had a simple flow to it, focused on solid in ring action and storyline development. Everyone worked hard and the matches just clicked. The first three bouts were solid but the last three were great, capped by a red-hot main event that really delivered the goods. The Road to Wrestlemania had a smooth stop here and it looks like we have the Smackdown main event lined up with Randy Orton challenging Kurt Angle. Rey Mysterio is now on the outside looking in, and after an emotional high at the Royal Rumble, he reaches an emotional low here. Chris Benoit has regained his US title and his lengthy feud with Booker comes to an end. There really isn’t much else to talk about here as the show just worked on all levels, including a classic main event. After some flux to close 2005, Smackdown now seems to be in a really good spot as Wrestlemania was drawing near. Final Grade: B+

MVP: Kurt Angle & Undertaker
Runner Up: Randy Orton & Rey Mysterio
Non MVP: MNM
Runner Up: Bobby Lashley

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