Sunday, July 15, 2007

A fatefull Summer Night

The contest for the United States Championship at The Great American Bash promises not only to be a competitive encounter between two of WWE’s finest, young and talented Superstars, but also an intersection of fates for Matt Hardy and the champion, Montel Vontavious Porter.
If you ask MVP about his fate, he would explain that he is preordained to bear the gold around his self-affirmed deserving waist. By contrast, Hardy believes he was predestined to fight for everything he’s ever wanted, and at The Great American Bash, he intends on doing just that.
“I’ve never stopped working hard, and I’ve never been afraid to scratch and claw to be the best I can be,” said a sincere Matt Hardy. “MVP is an amazing athlete, performer and wrestler. He was that good that he could walk into WWE and become U.S. Champion within a single year,” he continued.
“I’m not the most talented guy to ever walk through the doors of WWE. I don’t stand out in any single category except for one: having heart and desire.”
Regarded by fans as one of sports-entertainment’s most passionate competitors, Hardy’s collar is unquestionably blue, whereas Porter’s is diamond-studded. Hardy has fought and worked for every single opportunity he has been afforded, whereas Montel Vontavious Porter walked into a top-dollar contract on SmackDown.
“MVP, when he came in, he was the guy who was gifted,” explained a guileless Hardy. “I was the guy who had to work for it, much like the people watching around the world who cheer for me. They work hard to achieve their goals and so do I,” he said.
“I know it’s going to be a hell of a challenge to get the title off of him, but I know it’s within me to do it, because right now, I am better than I’ve ever been.”
It took the highest-paid free agent in SmackDown history, United States Champion MVP, less than one year to claim WWE gold, compared to Hardy who has endured a decade of sweat and blood spill, ladders and personal fate twists.
Matt Hardy’s trophy case is far from barren. In addition to a wealth of World Tag Team Championships with his brother Jeff, Hardy also secured several singles titles early in his WWE career, including the Cruiserweight Championship as well as the now defunct Hardcore and European Championships. Still, despite his remarkable success over the last few years (and especially more recently on SmackDown), Hardy’s hunt for singles gold has not yet quite reached the same heights that he’s scaled in the tag team division.
That could all change for the native North Carolinian next Sunday in San Jose, Calif., when Hardy meets MVP for one of the most prestigious championships in sports-entertainment.
“When you look at major singles titles,” said the challenger, “the first things that stick out are the United States and the Intercontinental Championships. They are basically building blocks to being the World Heavyweight Champion or the WWE Champion. And those have eluded me over the course of my career. But my ultimate goal is to one day be the World Champion here, and the first natural step to that is the U.S. Title.”
The fan-favorite finally has a chance to secure the United States Championship when he faces a man who believes he is “God’s gift to the squared circle.” According to Hardy, it could be a night of ill fortune for the “half-man, half-amazing” Superstar who currently wears the gold.
“MVP is an extremely talented guy and if you don’t believe it, just ask him,” Hardy added. “We’re going to have a great match. And my ultimate goal is for MVP to suffer a very unfortunate Twist of Fate and Matt Hardy to become the new United States Champion.”

Animal Instinct?

Since being drafted to SmackDown, The Great Khali has made Friday nights his personal domain. This past week, after throwing out an open challenge, Khali attacked everyone in sight, making Jimmy Wang Yang and Eugene among others feel his massive wrath. Finally, when it looked like no one would step up to answer Khali’s challenge, one man bravely stepped through the open door and stood face-to-face with the mammoth.
That man? None other than The Animal, Batista. Our fans in Dallas cheered wildly as The Animal hit the ring to confront Khali. Batista was ready to fight then and there, but Khali’s translator pulled him away from The Animal’s path.
Batista is a man that will back down from no one, as no challenge is too big for him to accept. But why in the hell would ANYONE want to step up to face The Great Khali?
Just look at Khali’s path of destruction over the last 15 months. When he first came to WWE in April 2006, Khali’s first target was Undertaker, one of the biggest Legends in WWE. Khali dominated Undertaker like no other man ever has during that rivalry, even defeating The Deadman decisively at Judgment Day.
The mammoth soon moved on to ECW, picking up right where he left off on SmackDown. ECW Original Tommy Dreamer, who knows a thing or two about going to the extreme, was so badly beaten during one Extreme Rules Match with Khali that he wasn’t the same for weeks afterward. During another encounter, Khali viciously chokeslammed Dreamer on the steel ring steps, destroying Dreamer’s back as the sickening thud made everyone that was watching cringe.
Then it was on to Raw, where Khali tormented the likes of Kane and WWE Champion John Cena for months. Leading up to their clash at Judgment Day 2007, Khali assaulted The Champ every week on Raw for a month, leaving him beaten every time; on the Saturday Night’s Main Event prior to One Night Stand, the same thing occurred again. Cena finally mustered up and pinned Khali at One Night Stand, something no one had done until that point.
Notice a pattern? Everywhere Khali goes, destruction follows. So why WOULD anyone step up to challenge him? For The Animal, that answer may be based on any number of reasons.
First of all, Batista CAN’T compete for the World Heavyweight Championship. Thanks to his loss to Edge in the Last Chance Match at Vengeance: Night of Champions, The Animal lost the ability to challenge for the gold as long as the Rated-R Superstar holds it. So, could his acceptance of Khali’s challenge be a result of residual frustration? Khali is definitely one of the baddest men on SmackDown, so agreeing to face him could be Batista’s way of reinforcing his dominance over the brand.
Or is it perhaps the opposite, as no one wants to step up and face Batista? The Animal WAS one of the most dominant World Heavyweight Champions of all-time, and was never defeated for the title during his first reign. In fact, in the two-year span from WrestleMania 21 to WrestleMania 23, where Batista held the gold twice, only Undertaker was able to cleanly defeat him. Now that he doesn’t have the championship everyone on SmackDown covets, are those in the locker room afraid to be matched up against The Animal?
As mentioned before, Batista has never and will never back down from any challenge. This time, however, regardless of the reasons, some may wonder if he’s in over his head.
After all, The Animal has been in plenty of grueling matches before; one need only to look at his recent series of battles with Edge to see what lengths Batista is willing to go to in competition. But does he really know what he’s in for? He’s never faced a monster like Khali, who is capable of causing severe and permanent damage to anyone he faces in the ring.
So does Batista think he can defeat the mammoth? Or perhaps, more fittingly, CAN he think he has a chance to slay the giant? One thing is for sure: The Animal will have to rely on his strengths and his animal instincts to survive this battle. Hopefully, that will be enough for him to keep Khali from becoming the baddest Animal in the SmackDown jungle.

Jim Ross's Superstar of the week is JEFF HARDY!!!

Greetings from under the 200X, black Resistol hat from your barbecue lovin’ Okie, who is busier than a fruit merchant (and loving every minute of it) with the opening this week of “J.R.’s Family Bar-B-Q” Restaurant in Norman, Okla. The piece written by WWE.com earlier this week was awesome, and my thanks to all who made it happen. But Monday we are back at it on Raw, and we return to Corpus Christi, Texas, this week under much better circumstances than our last visit to one of Texas’ most beautiful areas.

This week our guest panel could have included Bill O’Reilly (who never managed the Masked Medics), Geraldo (another one name star akin to Charo), Nancy Grace (who was heard humming the song “Redneck Woman” recently), Hannity but not Colmes, Greta Van Susteren (if that is her real name but once considered training with the Fabulous Moolah) and Paul Goodloe of the Weather Channel (Jonathan Coachman’s alleged brother of another mother). They were all invited to provide input on this week’s Raw Superstar of the Week, but because they were all predisposed I am sailing the ship solo.

Drum roll please….this week’s Raw Superstar of the Week, who will receive dinner for two at J.R.’s Family Bar-B-Q and lovely parting gifts is…The Rainbow Haired Warrior, Jeffrey Hardy from Cameron, N.C.! Jeff is arguably one of the most popular Superstars on Raw, and it just feels like he could be a future champion at any time. Jeff is so much better in the ring (not that he was ever bad) since returning from his hiatus quite some time ago, and his in-ring style is unique just like the individual. Let’s hear it for Jeff!

John Cena was not in Lafayette, La., this past Monday for Raw (much to the chagrin of many Cena fans in the arena) as The Champ was appearing on Larry King Live (WESTVILLE…HELLO!) in Los Angeles. Rumor has it Cena got a pair of autographed Larry King suspenders while on CNN. Cena will be back live on Raw from Corpus Christi this Monday as the countdown to The Great American Bash begins in earnest, as does the countdown to Cena vs. Lashley for the WWE Title at the Bash. This match will no doubt provide some unique live audience reactions in San Jose, Calif.

Umaga welcomed Santino Marella to the ring with about as much love as Britney Spears seemingly has for her immediate family. As a mater of fact, this Intercontinental Championship blowout might have resembled a Spears family reunion down in Louisiana back in the day. Santino got a lovely consolation prize with Maria showing concern over the Italian athlete, so the night couldn’t have been a total disaster for the benefactor of the Milan Miracle.

Ok, Cade & Murdoch are a great tag team and have the same in- ring qualities of several of the great teams I have seen over the years. I like the fact that they are a basic, mat wrestling duo and not a trapeze act, BUT this business about these two being “role models” for sportsmanship is about as likely as the redneck duo going on a cruise with Rosie O’Donnell. This ain’t gonna happen, friends and neighbors. Not that there is anything wrong with Rosie “cruising.”

If the old toothpaste commercial “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent” ever resurfaces, Snitsky is in! Snitsky went through Super Crazy like a hungry trucker at a Mexican buffet. And then, Mr. Kennedy assaulted Super Crazy like the Democrats are attacking the President’s immigration bill.

I loved the genuine passion I saw from Dusty Rhodes, who the late Ernie Ladd used to call “Dirty Rhodes,” Monday night when the WWE Hall of Famer confronted handsome young mirror worshipper Randy Orton. I hope “The Dream” knows what he is getting into at The Great American Bash, but I can assure you that Orton will take a trip (albeit perhaps a short one) to the woodshed at the Bash thanks to Dusty’s bull rope. Orton has evil intentions in store for the veteran Rhodes just as sure as Kenny Rogers’ facelift made “The Gambler” look like My Favorite Martian.

Nice match Monday between London and Benjamin, two talented young guys who should get more TV time for my money. Benjamin seems comfortable in singles matches, maybe too comfortable, sort of like John Travolta’s spooky comfort level while dressing in drag in Hairspray.

Beth Phoenix made an impressive return to WWE Monday night, and is a physical and motivated young woman. Of course, this news was overshadowed by the national media covering Brooke Hogan’s new breast implants, which seem to be all over the media this week for some reason.

Sandman has a two-game hitting streak going. Sandman compulsively needs to swing his cane about the same as Nicole Richie needs a plate full of pork ribs and a nap.

For the record: Booker T is a “King,” Triple H is the “King of Kings,” Jerry Lawler is “The King of Memphis” and WWE once produced a pay-per-view called King of the Ring. That’s just a little “Kingly” clarification for those of you keeping score at home. This also includes the New York Yankees’ A-Rod, who will forego a king-sized divorce settlement if the Bronx Bombers’ third baseman isn’t careful.

Bobby Lashley seems to be building momentum for his Bash bout for Cena’s WWE Championship. That will give some Cena haters cause for celebration…but not so fast my friends. This will be a helluva match that I am not sure Lashley will win as I write this column. Lashley CAN win, but will the former amateur great get his hand raised? Cena has and does overcome heavy odds on a regular basis, and the WWE Champion’s will to win is pretty impressive whether you like him or not. Cena has performed under great duress and pressure in his WWE career more times than Lashley has, so for some to consider Cena a significant underdog as some have speculated is a little premature.

Continue to count your many blessings and thanks for checking out my weekly column here on WWE.com. I also appreciate all your support with our restaurant opening which we have documented at www.jrsbarbq.com. Thanks!!

BOOMER SOONER!
J.R.

Edge's New Orleans Martigra

NEW ORLEANS – Naturally, it will be a sizzling summer night in late July for The Great American Bash, but with the Big Red Monster pursuing Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship, the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., may roast in hell’s flames.

After uttering four very strong words to the Rated-R Superstar last week on SmackDown – “I don’t like you” – Kane has the opportunity to torture the disliked champion and claim the World Heavyweight Title.

“I don’t like him. I really, really, really don’t like [Edge],” Kane reiterated, his brow lowering to forge a hostile glare. “It’s not unique amongst anybody here at WWE because nobody really likes him, but I have a special loathing for Edge because over the years, our relationship has become very personal.”

The Big Red Monster certainly demonstrated his disdain for the Rated-R Superstar on Friday Night SmackDown as he crashed the champion’s Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. Brazenly parading to the ring to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching in,” Edge tried to overcome the mind games of his Bash opponent with a mid-ring masquerade. The party, however, soon turned to bedlam as Kane – well disguised in an oversized king suit – laid to waste a gaggle of Edge’s costumed Cajuns. The Ultimate Opportunist escaped, but will be unable to run as he draws closer to his showdown next Sunday.

Amid the many scars tattooed on the wounded body of the Big Red Monster, within the mind of the challenger lay ill memories of past encounters with the Rated-R Superstar. In 2004, the scalded fiend finally found love in the many-times-conquered Diva, Lita, and even wed the former Women’s Champion. However, Kane’s ephemeral bond with the former Diva ended, as she turned her back on her husband and ran to the opportunistically open arms of Edge.

The sordid, tangled pasts of both competitors meet their immediate futures in just more than one week at The Great American Bash. According to the Big Red Monster, his deep abhorrence for the World Heavyweight Champion will not supersede his intent to maim Edge and achieve the SmackDown brand’s golden prize.

“The match is still going to be about the World Heavyweight Championship,” explained the charred leviathan. “But, I will take pleasure in dishing out as much pain as I can along the way to winning the match and the title.”

When pain is on the mind of Kane – a man who has battled multiple times in the Elimination Chamber, competed in the morbid, foreboding contest known as the Casket Match and walked through flames in Inferno Matches – the level of the intended torture is near immeasurable. At The Bash, Edge will need to protect his title as always, but he must also be certain to prepare to enter the depths of physical torment and hope he can survive at best.

“I have so many different ideas floating around in my mind,” said the sinister seven-footer as he contemplated his methods for dissecting the Rated-R Superstar. “Whatever twisted thing pops into my mind at that particular moment, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Could the scent of sulfur and brimstone signify doom for the Ultimate Opportunist at The Great American Bash? Has Edge merely secured an opportunity to be brutalized? Can mental chess contend with physical butchery? Find out at The Great American Bash, live and only on pay-per-view.
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