Match #1: WWE Tag Team Championship Match -- MNM (C) vs. Brian Kendrick & Paul London
The story going into this match was that London and Kendrick had beaten MNM five times already, just not for the belts. This was a great match to kick things off with Kendrick and London going at top speed whenever on offence, but Mercury and Nitro played the classic tag team heels perfectly. They worked the ref, cheated as much as possible, and even got Melina into the act a few times. There was some good back and forth in spots along with double-teaming by MNM that ultimately backfired. What annoyed me about this match was how much young, raw talent there was here and, now, only one of these guys is still with the WWE (well, I guess Mercury has signed with them again, but hasn't been seen officially, so...). This match kicked off a yearlong reign as tag champs by London and Kendrick, too. Really, just some really good tag team wrestling. I also liked the stuff after the match where Melina and Nitro turned on Mercury. It made sense given the story and gave the PPV a sense of importance beyond just the title change.
Winners and NEW WWE Tag Team Champions: Brian Kendrick & Paul London [***1/2]
Match #2: Chris Benoit vs. Finlay
Later in the PPV is the finals of the King of the Ring tournament and these two met in the first round where Finlay won by cheating. So, it's a bit of a grudge match between two of the stiffest workers in the business. This was just a class in fantastic mat-based wrestling mixed with hard-hitting, smashmouth action. The match began with the two locked up, trying to overpower the other, even rolling outside the ring (still locked up) until it broke. Then, it was a series of holds before it got into just brutal action. Both men just beat the other down, Finlay trying to cheat a few times to no avail -- until Finlay made the mistake of taunting Benoit a bit too much. Benoit won via the Crossface, but both men looked fantastic. I turned to Michelle and said that, in a better world, this would have been the main event. Instead, it was just the best match of the night. At this point in the show, I was really impressed with what I was seeing. That wouldn't last entirely.
Winner: Chris Benoit [****]
Match #3: Jillian Hall vs. Melina
After the break-up of MNM, Melina went into this match distracted. It was a fine enough Divas match. Leagues ahead of the shit we usually see now, but nothing too special either. Jillian won despite Melina grabbing the rope (the ref didn't see). After the match, there was a run-in between Melina and Kristal that was... well, lame. This was a nice breather match after the first two, both of which were great and were also decent lengths.
Winner: Jillian Hall [*1/2]
Match #4: WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match -- Gregory Helmes (C) vs. Super Crazy
I didn't know what to expect of this match since I haven't seen a lot of either man. Bits and pieces here and there, never at a PPV. Helms is the heel champ, while Super Crazy the face that jumps around a lot. The story of this match is somewhat similar to the current one involving Douglas Williams as X-Division Champion in TNA where Williams wrestles a mat-based style against the high-flyers. Now, Helms does high-flying stuff, too, but stuck to the ground mostly here, because he's the heel. Honestly, this didn't impress me really. Neither man ever really got things going. It just puttered along in 2nd gear, never rising above a certain level. Helms won via cheating and I didn't care. The first match that felt like a let down of the show.
Winner and STILL WWE Cruiserweight Champion: Gregory Helms [*3/4]
Between the matches here, there was a great backstage segment where Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long (hey, he's still got that job despite being demoted/fired in story at least once) had a run-in with Johnny Nitro and Melina that resulted in both being fired. Good stuff and built on the two matches involving them well. This PPV had a solid little MNM story running through it for the first half.
Match #5: Kurt Angle vs. Mark Henry
I wasn't expecting a lot from this. Kurt Angle is one of the best in the business and Mark Henry is a great big man, but that doesn't mean it would be a great match necessarily. The story here was simple: Mark Henry keeps jumping on Kurt Angle while Angle is laid out on tables, and Angle would like Kenry to stop. The storytelling here was really strong where Henry tried to wrestle his usual 'big man squash little man' match, while Angle outsmarted him, countering any power moves until making a mistake of his own. I love it when a wrestler of a certain skill level wrestles at that level with intelligence in the ring. Angle does so here. Eventually, the match resulted in Henry winning via countout, but, after the match, Angle got revenge by laying him out, sticking the ankle lock on, and, then, hitting him with the Angle Slam on the announce table. While Angle lost the match technically, he came away on top. Not an amazing match, but great storytelling. Better than I expected.
Winner: Mark Henry [***]
Match #6: King of the Ring Finals -- Booker T vs. Bobby Lashley
The pre-match segment here with Booker T was gold. The more I see of Booker T, the more I realise how underrated he is when considering the best wrestlers of the past 20 years. That he was the only guy to really see any lasting success from the WCW guys after the WWE bought that company speaks volumes. Sharmell running through the list of kings Booker will be better than was great, especially when she said Martin Luther King and Booker responded with "What?!?" before being won over. This match was also better than I expected. Lashley was limited in the ring to some pretty basic power moves, nothing flashy -- but Booker T brought the flash. Lots of agility and overacting to make things look better. I wasn't a big fan of the finish with Finlay coming down, but since Lashley beat him to earn a spot in the finals and Finlay later became a member of King Booker's royal court, it works. A bonus on the DVD is the coronation of Booker on the next Smackdown, which is worth it for William Regal doing the ceremony and ending things by repeating "Long live King Booker" over and over again.
Winner and the 2006 King of the Ring:
Match #7: The Undertaker vs. The Great Khali
This was just after Khali first entered the WWE (he's been there for over four years? shit...) and took out the Undertaker immediately. The sole goal was to make Khali seem like a big threat, which happens. 'Taker puts him over big time, while doing his best to carry the match despite Khali knowing all of three moves. It doesn't really work, but it sells Khali as a threat for the way he just destroys the Undertaker at the end.
Winner: The Great Khali [*]
Match #8: WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match -- Rey Mysterio (C) vs. JBL
Hmm, with Rey Rey becoming a two-time world champ this past Sunday, this match suddenly gains new meaning as we get to see what sort of champion he was the first time around. Well, in the weeks leading up to this match, he lost to Mark Henry, the Great Khali, and Kane. Just crushed by all of them. The entire match is JBL kicking the shit out of Mysterio, just beating him down again and again with brutal, punishing moves. Tossing him from one side of the ring to the other like a rag doll. Taunting him with allusions to Eddie Guerrero. Basically, JBL makes Rey Mysterio his bitch in this match and Rey wins anyway. Rey is the underdog even when champion, which doesn't work at all. I hope they do things better this time around, because this was a good match until the finish where we learn two things: 1) Rey Mysterio can take a superhuman amount of punishment; 2) JBL can be beaten with, like, three moves.
Winner and STILL WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Rey Mysterio [**1/2]
Overall, this was better than I thought it would be -- and better than the Judgment Day that would follow it. Only a few matches were letdowns, while the show began quite strong. Granted, the matches that bested my expectations weren't fantastic, I wasn't disappointed with this show at all.
Show Rating: 7.0 (out of 10)