July 17, 2009
Tony Nagle

Gold Rush Tournament (#1 contender tournament for World Heavyweight Championship)
Non-Title, First Round: Shelton Benjamin (Intercontinental Champion) vs. Shawn Michaels
WWE Monday Night RAW- 5/2/05
Boston Mass.
Ring Announcer: Lillian Garcia
Commentators: Jim Ross & Jerry "the King" Lawler

Champions at this time (RAW Only):
World Heavyweight Champion: Batista (4/3/05)
Intercontinental Champion: Shelton Benjamin (10/19/04)
Women’s Champion: Trish Stratus (1/9/05)
World Tag Team Champions: Hurricane and Rosey (a.k.a. S.H.I.T) (5/1/05)

Introduction: The Gold Rush Tournament was born, along with many other things, from the mind of Eric Bischoff, then General Manager of RAW. It was hatched the night after Backlash, where Batista successfully defended the World Heavyweight Championship against “The Game” Triple H. In the first round of the eight-man tournament, there was a twist: there would be one named competitor in a match, but he would not know who his opponent was until their music hit. For example, Christian’s opponent in the first match was Kane, Edge would fight Y2J Chris Jericho in the third match, and Triple H would fight Chris Benoit in the fourth. In this instance, In the second match of this tournament, Shelton Benjamin’s opponent would be...

The Match: ... “THE HEARTBREAK KID” SHAWN MICHAELS! The crowd pops massive, as Michaels is one night removed from winning a tag match with Hulk Hogan as his partner against Muhammad Hassan and Daivari. JR and King are shocked, happy, and ecstatic that this match between two very talented wrestlers is about to take place. You know something is going to be awesome if Jim Ross openly admits it on the mic. The bell sounds, and HBK gets an early advantage by winning a test of strength with a waist-lock takedown. Benjamin however switches out of it and tries to apply many holds to Michaels before HBK gets to the ropes. Both men are smiling in the ring as the crowd chants HBK! Michaels changes up a headlock into a hammerlock, Benjamin switches to one of his own, then HBK does it again. Michaels then takes down Benjamin in a waist-lock takedown, and Benjamin tries to get Michaels into some maneuvers again before HBK uses his ring savvy to get to the ropes! This sequence sounds familiar? This was the beginning as well! HBK and Shelton once again try to feel each other out, complete with HBK chants. Michaels is then able to get Shelton down with a side headlock takedown. Benjamin is then able to get up, he fires Michaels into the ropes, but gets a shoulder-knockdown by Michaels for his efforts. Michaels goes across the ropes again, and gives Benjamin a hip-toss after Benjamin tried to do one to him first! Benjamin kicks HBK in the head, hits two consecutive armdrags, but on the third one, HBK goes straight back into the corner. JR notes that HBK is frustrated at the moment, but Lawler also notes that HBK is at his best when he gets frustrated, and pulls out all the stops! Back in the center of the ring, Benjamin wins this test of strength, hits the side-headlock takedown, and was able to get Michaels shoulders down to the mat for a 2-count before Michaels got them off the canvas. Michaels got a side-cradle for a two-count while still in the headlock, but Benjamin reverses pressure right back to the headlock. Michaels gets that inside-cradle pin attempt again, also a 2-count, and this allows both men to get to their feet. Michaels gets out of the headlock with some shots to the gut, goes to the ropes, and knocks down Benjamin with a shoulder-block. Michaels goes into the ropes again, Benjamin ducks to avoid contact, but Michaels is able to take advantage of a prone Benjamin for an interesting pin attempt at 2! Benjamin then gets up and gets knocked down with a slobberknocking right hand. Michaels chest-chops Benjamin, fires him off into the ropes, and Benjamin flips over a Michaels slam attempt, and while Benjamin tries to attempt a pinfall on Michaels, he rolls out and does a wicked double-clothesline over the top rope! While HBK tries to get back to his senses, this is where a commercial would happen on TV, but on DVD, a RAW logo transitions right back into the action. When we get back, HBK is pounding on Benjamin’s back on the top turnbuckle. Michaels attempts a side-superplex from the top, but Benjamin reverses into a crossbody for somehow just a 2-count! Both men are down as the replay shows that incredible superplex reversal. As both men get up from being counted, there is a shot of World Heavyweight Champion Batista watching the action in the locker-room. Benjamin attempts two right hands, but Michaels gives him two chops! For Benjamin’s sake, Curly Howard said it best: “It’s better to be a hot steak than a cold chop!” Michaels is then fired off into the ropes and gets a Samoan Drop from Benjamin while a leather pocket from perhaps Michaels’ attire lies in the ring. Michaels loses a slug-fest to Benjamin, gets knocked down, is hit with three consecutive clotheslines, and then goes into a hip-toss/backbreaker maneuver from Benjamin, and Benjamin managed a nearfall from it all! Benjamin commits wrestling rule #231 as he ducks when Michaels is fired off into the ropes, he gets kicked in the gut! Michaels is then whipped into the ropes off a reversal from Benjamin, and Michaels hits his flying forearm on Benjamin. After a count of 7, Michaels kips up, and after a count of 8, Benjamin kips up as well! To be frank, this is a really fast segment here, so I’ll keep this brief by saying there are multiple pinfall attempts by both men. As both men get up, Michaels hits a chop on Benjamin, but Michaels falls first because he lost his balance then Benjamin falls down from contact with the chop. Michaels hits a chop from Benjamin, but Shelton reverses a Irish-Whip and hits his variation of the Stinger Splash! Michaels is then suckered into a T-Bone Suplex attempt, but Michaels elbows Benjamin in the back of the head and executes a back-bodydrop in a reversal. Both men fall down once again, but when Michaels gets up, he attempts the superkick. Benjamin ducks and tries his superkick, but Benjamin instead hits the flying heel-kick to Michaels’ face which makes a nasty sound! Shelton gets a nearfall, and the crowd is just as surprised as Benjamin was at the kickout! As Michaels goes to the corner, Benjamin is not too far behind, and is able to put Michaels up on the top rope. Michaels right-hands it out, Benjamin falls backward to the canvas, and with a bloody lip, Michaels executes his signature elbow onto Benjamin! Michaels gets up with aid of the ropes, and though fatigued, HBK tunes up the band! Benjamin counters the superkick though and nails Michaels in the side of the head with a kick of his own for a 2-count! Benjamin then hits his flippy-clothesline from the middle rope for a nearfall! Michaels gets Benjamin over the top rope, but Benjamin lands on both feet on the apron, where in one of the greatest finishes to a match ever, BENJAMIN SPRINGBOARDS INTO SWEET CHIN MUSIC FROM SHAWN MICHAELS WHILE MICHAELS WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RING, AND MICHAELS GETS THE 1-2-3 AT 12:08 (shown)! **** This ending made the crowd release a collective "O", as this crowd was all sorts of hot, digging this awesome matchup. Michaels checks up on Benjamin as a sign of sportsmanship as replays show the ending again and again. Michaels has his hand raised as this chapter on the RAW XV DVD comes to a close.

Aftermath: A tale of two different tapes here for both men after this match. HBK would lose to Edge in the next round, and Edge would go on to win the tournament in the finals against Kane (and get a new girl in the process), but lose to Batista in the title match that ensued a couple of weeks later on RAW. Benjamin would lose the IC title a few weeks later, and his career would never hit this high of a peak again. This was a match that should have elevated Shelton Benjamin, but instead, marked the beginning of a fall for the man would later have a “momma” accompany him to ringside, and then become a Butch Reed tribute as “The Gold Standard”. For the moment though, it was a match that was no one had a bad word about, and that a new superstar should have been in the making. As for the WHC, the angle covering it will be in my next review when I review Vengeance 2005. To say the very least, it was a good angle to fill up about two months worth of TV between Backlash and Vengeance for the RAW brand.

Grade: I remember myself and my brother screaming at the TV in excitement of this match, and watching it again on DVD, I was screaming again. This match is a rare breed: a (live) television match that was exciting, told a story, had a nice balance of technical skill/high-flying, and made both men look like a million bucks. Even if you don’t have the RAW XV DVD (which is pretty good by the way), look this match up on Youtube or Dailymotion and be prepare to be entertained. This match comes Highly Recommended, for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

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