Date: February 7, 2005
Location: SuperArena, Saitama, Japan
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler
This is a first for the company as they are now heading over to Japan for a rare international Raw. It’s a stacked card too with the Tag Team Titles on the line, Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho in a submission match and Edge FINALLY getting his World Title shot against HHH. Given the way things are going, we might actually get some lengthy matches out of all three. Let’s get to it.
Opening sequence, still featuring the Rock. How long has it been since he’s been in anything more than a cameo?
Here’s Eric Bischoff to get things going. Bischoff says he is the GM of Raw and one of the most powerful and respected men in wrestling. The translator explains it to the Japanese crowd, who are NOT happy with Bischoff. In addition to the previously announced matches, we’re getting Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair. We’ll get things going right now.
Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho
Submission match. Jericho goes nose to nose with him to start and it’s an aggressive lockup to start. They go outside without breaking the lockup and it’s more nose to nose. Back in and Benoit starts in on a hammerlock but has to break up a Walls attempt. Neither of them can get anywhere on the mat and that means another standoff. Jericho drops him ribs first over the top rope but the springboard dropkick is knocked out of the air.
An exchange of headbutts puts them both on the floor though and we take a break. Back with Benoit snapping off a suplex as Jericho is busted open. Jericho breaks up the rolling German suplexes and grabs an octopus hold of all things. That’s reversed as well though and now the rolling German suplexes connect. The third is countered into a half crab though as Jericho is opening up the submission playbook here.
Benoit escapes that but can’t get the Sharps, instead settling for more rolling German suplexes. The Swan Dive hits Jericho’s back but Jericho is right back up with a clothesline. The Lionsault hits knees…which don’t work for some reason as Jericho lands on his feet and tries a Texas Cloverleaf. He has to stop to puts Benoit though and it’s the Crossface to make Jericho scream, though he makes the rope in time. Another Walls attempt is countered into something like a triangle choke into another Crossface on the other arm for the tap.
Rating: B. Oh like this wasn’t going to be awesome with the two of them in a hard hitting match in Japan. There’s something awesome about watching Benoit try for submissions (I could watch him snap people down into the Crossface for hours) as he has more intensity with them than anyone else. Jericho can hang with him in there for a bit but Benoit winning makes more sense here.
Post match they shake hands and Benoit gets to pose in the ring on his own for a bit.
Video on the trip to Japan and their time there so far.
Ric Flair had a great time in Roppongi last night and can’t wait for a great evening for Evolution. HHH has been thinking about Batista and maybe they should fight at Wrestlemania. Flair isn’t sure and likes the idea of HHH and Batista ruling the two shows (Flair: “And I’m part of the show too!”). HHH agrees and is going to talk to Batista.
Christian is talking to a Japanese reporter but stops to ask Stacy Keibler for a quote for the article. The interviewer is looking for Randy Orton, which gets a big reaction. Apparently Christian is very annoying. Christian mocks Orton’s posing and thinks he’s a chair shot away from ending his career. Stacy thinks Orton could beat Christian so Christian wants a match tonight. With Tomko that is.
Wrestlemania Braveheart trailer.
Maven wants to know why he wasn’t in the Royal Rumble. Since he wasn’t, he’ll win here instead.
Batista vs. Maven
Guess what happens. Thirty seconds.
Post match we get another video from Smackdown, with Big Show being ready to beat Batista at Wrestlemania after he wins the title at No Way Out. Batista isn’t pleased. I’m not sure why Batista looks so stunned when this interview aired on Smackdown last week. It’s not like it’s a hidden camera.
Post break Batista rants at Bischoff about the Smackdown footage so Bischoff promises to get to the bottom of it. First though, Bischoff needs to talk to him about Theodore Long’s Smackdown offer. Smackdown is second rate and Raw is in the palm of his hand. Batista seems interested by both ideas.
Tag Team Titles: La Resistance vs. William Regal/Tajiri
Regal and Tajiri are challenging and the fans are WAY behind Tajiri, in case that wasn’t clear. Regal takes Conway down by the arm to start and it’s off to Tajiri for a baseball slide to the face. It’s back to Regal, who gets taken down by a quick suplex. A backdrop gets Regal out of a front facelock and it’s back to Tajiri for the hard kicks. An enziguri drops Grenier for two and the fans aren’t pleased. That means a double handspring elbow to take the champs down so Grenier grabs the flag. Tajiri kicks it away though and fires off some mist, setting up the Buzzsaw kick for the pin and the titles.
Rating: D+. The match itself wasn’t the point here as this was ALL about the home country pop for Tajiri and there’s nothing wrong with that. Regal and Tajiri have a history together so it’s not like this was even that far out of left field. It’s not like La Resistance has any value at the moment anyway. Not a good match (though it was far from terrible) but they did exactly what they were trying to do.
Post match Tajiri says something in Japanese and the new champs celebrate in the crowd.
Sumo champion Akebono is in the crowd.
Here are some of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees.
Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels
You know Flair is getting the legend reaction here. Shawn’s is a bit louder but the fans are clapping instead of bowing. The fans respect them both but in different ways. Flair takes him into the corner and sneaks in an elbow as a villain should. The chops and right hands in the corner wake Shawn up enough to reverse for some chops of his own. A backdrop keeps Flair in trouble so he pokes the eye to take over. Shawn is right back with some right hands to set up the Flair Flop for two.
Flair gets smart and hits the chop block to take over, meaning it’s time for the standard leg work. The Figure Four goes on but is finally turned over, meaning Flair can kick at the leg some more. Shawn is fine enough to get two off a backslide as Lawler counts to two in Japanese. An enziguri drops Shawn and the fans are very appreciative of a tribute to Inoki. Flair kicks at the knee again and goes up, with the crowd instantly knowing what’s coming. The forearm into the nipup sets up the top rope elbow so Sweet Chin Music can finish clean.
Rating: C+. This took some time to get going but they finished as they should have. Both of them are legends in Japan so the fans were going to cheer anything they did out there. It was fine to play it safe with a basic match not try to do anything too big, as Shawn is gearing up for Kurt Angle and Flair is going to be there for HHH and Batista.
Here’s Jerry Lawler in the ring for an American fashion show. Maria is out first to represent the wild, wild west (she’s wearing a cowboy hat and shooting finger guns), Victoria represents the open road as a biker (jacket over her usual gear), and Christy represents the beaches in a swimsuit. Lawler tries to go over some rules for the thing but it’s Simon Dean interrupting instead.
Simon calls this a waste of time and insults the crowd, drawing Akebono out of his chair. That goes nowhere as Simon calls the women overweight. Lawler stands up for them so Simon calls him Burger King. Christy gets in a low blow and Simon is done. Pretty close to a waste of time.
Evolution has a meeting in the back with HHH trying to talk Batista into going to Smackdown (Didn’t he want him on Raw about forty minutes ago?). Flair paints the picture and Batista will think about it as they stop Edge from winning the title tonight.
Edge isn’t happy with everyone talking about Batista when he finally has his title shot tonight. HHH has his Braveheart trailer for Wrestlemania where he talks about defending the title because Edge gets overlooked again.
Video on the trip to Japan.
Randy Orton vs. Tyson Tomko
Orton seems more popular here than in America. No Christian with Tomko in a bit of a surprise. A headlock takeover has Tomko down early on as Lawler blames Stacy for getting Orton into this. Back up and Tomko hits a powerslam as Christian drags Stacy out here. The distraction lets Tomko hit a big clothesline and it’s time to wonder about another concussion.
Tomko starts going after the head in slow motion but the backbreaker gets Orton out of trouble. Orton slugs away and hits a dropkick but bangs his head again. Back up and Tomko whips him into the corner, which is reversed into a rollup for a pretty fast pin. Oh and Stacy cheers to validate her existence.
Rating: D. I could go for Christian vs. Orton and this was an acceptable step to get there. That being said, it didn’t do much for Tomko, who is only there for the sake of being big and imposing while attacking some people between matches. It’s better to not have him in a match of his own as things don’t tend to go all that well.
Post match Christian and Tomko jump Orton with Christian hitting an Unprettier. Orton had to be helped out during the break. It’s so strange seeing concussions being used as a storyline these days.
We look back at Regal and Tajiri winning the Tag Team Titles.
Raw World Title: Edge vs. HHH
HHH is defending and has Flair with him. They trade hammerlocks to start and now the fans are rather quiet, likely because they know how important a World Title match is. HHH bridges up into a backslide, albeit after a bit of a slip, for two but Edge grabs a headscissors on the mat. Back up and Edge hits a spear in the corner but a second attempt hits post, as tends to be the case.
We take a break and come back with Edge getting two off a backbreaker. A DDT on the arm gets HHH out of trouble and they’re both down. The facebuster gives HHH two and the spinebuster is good for the same. Edge backdrops his way out of the Pedigree but the spear is cut off by the running knee. A shot to the back takes HHH down though and a pretty weak Edgecator goes on. That stays on for a rather long time until HHH dives over for the rope.
Edge’s spear hits the referee as we get more into Evolution’s wheelhouse. There’s no count off a neckbreaker so Edge has to spear Flair down, knocking a chair out of his hands. HHH gets in a belly to back suplex to make Edge drop the chair and everyone is down again. They both crawl for the chair but here’s Batista to take it away. HHH knocks Edge off the apron, sending him into Batista by mistake. Back in and Edge hits the Impaler for yet another double knockdown. Batista comes in and spinebusters Edge, setting up the Pedigree to retain the title.
Rating: C. They would have been better off with about two minutes of laying around cut out of this but Edge can continue to rant about not getting a fair shot so he’ll be fine. What matters most here is HHH needs Batista again, furthering Batista’s big moment which has to be coming in the next few weeks. Not a bad match, but it was more about the stories than anything else.
HHH holds up the title but Batista looks at both him and the title to end the show.
Overall Rating: B-. This felt like a pay per view edition of Raw and it’s always nice to see something like that. They had some big matches with a cool moment in the title change, plus a pretty awesome opener. Once we get No Way Out finished up, it’s time to get things going to Wrestlemania. What matters here though is how much groundwork has been laid, because as soon as Batista gets his moment, everything is going to change for good.
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