January 31, 2011
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

The Place to Be

No Way Out 2005
February 20, 2005
Mellon Arena
Pittsburgh, PA
Attendance: 9,500
Buy Rate: .28
Announcers: Michael Cole & Tazz

Sunday Night Heat
1) Hardcore Holly (Robert Howard) & Charlie Haas defeat Kenzo Suzuki & Rene Dupree (Rene Goguen)

Pay Per View

1) Eddie Guerrero & Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez) defeat the Basham Brothers to win WWE Tag Team Titles when Guerrero pinned Doug with a belt shot at 14:47

Fun Fact: This is the final PPV appearance for the Basham Brothers. They would remain a part of JBL’s cabinet until June, when they quit and claimed they were tired of the lack of respect they were receiving. They would both bounce around TV and OVW until January 2007, when they were both released outright. They would have a brief run in TNA before moving on to Puerto Rico where they continue to compete on the Indy scene.

Fun Fact II: In early January, RVD injured his knee. On January 13, RVD and Rey dropped the tag belts to the Bashams and had his knee “injured” in the process. RVD would undergo surgery on January 27 and will not return to action until early 2006.

Fun Fact III: In late 2004, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio began a friendly rivalry. The rivalry began with two straight Mysterio wins as 2005 dawned. On 1/13, Rey and RVD were defending their tag titles in a four-way match and Rey once again pinned Eddie to eliminate him and Booker T. On 2/17, Rey announced that he found a new tag partner to replace RVD: Eddie Guerrero. He then went on to defeat Doug in a singles match.

Scott: One year ago, Eddie Guerrero won the biggest match of his life. Fast forward and he’s in the opener. What a difference 365 days makes. It was a pretty cool team of Eddie and Rey going up against JBL’s Ministers of Defense. I always liked the Bashams, first with Shaniqua as their manager and then here as part of JBL’s crew. The match wasn’t really anything special, but the Steel Town crowd was pretty hot from the start, particularly for Eddie, and that gives the match a half point. There was a pretty long segment of Rey getting worn out by Doug & Danny, giving the crowd the swell of anticipation to when he would tag in to Eddie. Excellent example of classic Eddie when he tried to tie two tag ropes together to get more slack in attempting to tag into the match. Classic “bait & switch” action late, Eddie whacks Doug with the gold and the place went bonkers. The crowd carries this match, and watching this shows how much of a psychology master Eddie Guerrero is. Grade: 2.5

Justin: Our first Smackdown PPV of 2005 kicks off with a solid tag title opener. I really liked the friendly rivalry angle that Rey and Eddie had going on heading into this show. Rey was leading things but they put it behind them, team up and challenge the Bashams for the belts. Eddie is still very over with the fans and is still as crisp as ever in the ring. The open with some basic mat stuff and both team exhibited some good teamwork throughout. The Bashams have really grown as a team since their debut in 2003 and they had good heat surrounding them due to their relationship with JBL. It is too bad this is their swan song as they could have had a sustained run as a dominant team. I enjoyed the heat segment on Eddie as Eddie kept making little comeback attempts that the Bashams cut off nicely. Eddie was able to tag out, but we then got a second heat segment, this time on Rey and this time it was much lengthier. The crowd was into the hot tag and things broke down a bit, leading to Eddie trying to use the belt on the Bashams. Rey stopped him, not wanting to get DQ’d. Eddie relented and would get a good near fall after playing possum. As the ref got distracted, Rey would grab the belt and toss is to Eddie, who would use it for the win. The match was fun and just a classic WWE style tag match with a lengthy double heat segment worked in. The win for Eddie and Rey also helped to further their angle, which will continue to build and get much more heated. The Bashams are done on PPV and they have done a good job of stabilizing the tag division in late 2003 and again in late 2004. Grade: 2.5

*** Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie come out to host the 2005 Rookie Diva of the Year competition. The competitors were Michelle McCool, Rochelle Loewen, Lauren Jones and Joy Giovanni. For the first part of the competition, the ladies came out in evening gowns to show off their goods. This was nothing more than a time killer on a show loaded with them. ***

2) Booker T. (Booker Huffman) defeats Heidenreich by disqualification when Heidenreich used a chair at 6:49

Fun Fact: On the 2/17 Smackdown, an angry Booker was storming backstage after losing to John Cena in the WWE Title contender semifinal match. He passed by Heidenreich, who was sitting and writing poetry. Heidenreich laughed at Booker for losing to Cena and an angry Booker ripped on Heidenreich’s fear of caskets as well as his whole shtick. Booker then said he didn’t have time for Heidenreich and walked off. This match was then added to the PPV card.

Scott: After losing to the Undertaker twice in three months, Heidenreich takes on the other “lost in the shuffle” character on Smackdown. Booker T really has been all over the place since the Invasion angle ended in 2001. He was a heel, a tweener, a face, back to a heel, back to a face. Here he takes on the crazed Heidenreich in what was a pretty boring TV match. The crowd noticed this too, as they’ve clearly dropped on the energy meter from the hot opener. The Spinarooni does get a rise from the Igloo faithful. Otherwise this match was pretty bland. Heidenreich gets DQ’d and we move on. Grade: 1

Justin: After finally moving on from his feud with the Deadman, Heidenreich gets into a brief spat with Booker T on Smackdown, leading to a bout here. He reads a poem before the match and I was happy to see that gimmick brought back, bringing back fond memories of Lanny Poffo. The match would have a quick back and forth segment early before Heidenreich began working Booker over with some basic strikes and power offense. Booker was crisp here, moving well and looking motivated. Similar to the opener, I liked the timing of Booker’s mini-comebacks as well as Booker’s selling for Heidenreich’s power strikes. A brief resthold would slow things down and then it careens off track with a weak DQ finish. I was getting into this match and the pace was nice but the finish just really brought that to a halt, ending this prematurely. The thing that bothers me is that this show was loaded with filler and timekillers so they could have easily given them some more time here. As it was, the match was better than I expected and they had surprisingly solid chemistry. They worked hard and Booker’s selling helped offset Heidenreich’s limited offense. As the year dawned, both men looked to be in good spots, but as Wrestlemania draws near they both seem to be running out of gas. Grade: 1.5

*** Backstage, Eddie Guerrero gives John Cena a motivational speech regarding the importance of his match with Kurt Angle and the main event slot at Wrestlemania. ***

3) Chavo Guerrero wins WWE Cruiserweight Title in a Gauntlet Match

Eliminations:
Paul London defeats Funaki with a roll up at 1:39
Paul London defeats Spike Dudley (Matt Hyson after interference from Funaki at 1:59
Paul London defeats Shannon Moore with a 450 splash at 3:37
Paul London defeats Akio (James Yun) when Akio cannot answer the ref’s ten count at 7:05
Chavo Guerrero defeats Paul London with roll up at 9:47

Fun Fact: This is Spike Dudley’s final PPV match. After this show, Spike would hang around until June, making his final PPV appearance at One Night Stand. He would be released on July 5 and then headed to TNA along with his brothers. He would leave TNA in 2007 and return to the Indy scene where he continues to compete. His final PPV record is 7-8, losing his first FIVE PPV appearances!

Fun Fact II: This match was announced on the 2/17 Smackdown. That night, Funaki, London and Moore took on Guerrero, Akio and Spike in a six-man tag match. Funaki would pin Spike to win the bout.

Scott: I don’t think throughout the past few years that any title has had more multiple-wrestler matches than the Cruiserweight Title. You can tell immediately that Funaki’s win over Spike Dudley at Survivor Series was nothing more than a quickie reign for a guy that’s been with the company for almost seven years. He’s in the match early and is eliminated less than two minutes in. As the rest of the match progresses you can tell that Paul London is the guy possibly being groomed for the future. He starts in the beginning and goes all the way to the end, only to go down to the bigger, more experienced Chavo. I have to say; to this point Chavo has been one of the most consistent, reliable guys on the Smackdown roster. He’s been in the most engaging mid-card storylines and always in the Cruiserweight title chase, which means he always in the best matches with the most technically sound opponents. Chavo lied, cheated and stole, like his uncle earlier in the night, his way to the Cruiserweight Title but points to Paul London for an exceptional effort in his first major singles title match. Grade: 2

Justin: The improbable title reign of Funaki finally meets its end here in an interesting concept match. The champ is quickly eliminated by Paul London and is relegated back to announce duties after a nice little run. That elimination would guarantee that we would see a new champion. And speaking of London, he was made to look like a legit force in this match. Spike would enter next, but Funaki would get some revenge and assist London in taking out The Boss. I was disappointed to see Spike go out like this as he had such a great run in the second half of 2004. He should have kept his gold at Armageddon and gotten a spot at Wrestlemania to reward his great work, but it just wasn’t meant to be. London would continue to impress as he dropped a picture perfect 450 splash on Shannon Moore, knocking him from the bout. After that quick flurry of eliminations, things slowed down as Akio and London renewed their red hot Velocity series that had taken the Internet fanbase by storm. London would bust out a crazy top rope swinging neckbreaker and Akio was unable to answer the ten count, leading to elimination. London was staying alive, but Chavo was finally able to slow him down and started to pick him apart. London refused to stay down but Chavo would live up to his family legacy and cheat to win, winning back his coveted gold. The match as a whole was disappointing as it was really rushed and never got into a flow. The last two segments carried it and London really looked tremendous. If they had any respect for the belt around this time, they should have had a Guerrero/London Mania showdown with London capturing the gold. But we all know that had no chance of going down. Regardless, Chavo is back on top of the division and Funaki’s dream run is over. Grade: 2

*** Next up is more Diva time wasting as our rookies come out for the talent portion of the contest. This was just more Smackdown filler that would be considered a waste on TV, let alone PPV. The lone highlight was how crazy hot Joy was as she massaged Torrie for her performance. Rochelle would tell some lame jokes and Lauren would dance, leading to Dawn grabbing the mic and ripping into them all for their lack of talent. Michelle then slammed Dawn for her performance, mercifully bringing this nonsense to an end…for now. ***

4) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Luther Reigns (Matt Wiese) with a Tombstone at 11:42

Fun Fact: This is Luther Reigns’ final PPV appearance. He would hang on TV for a while after this, eventually splitting off from Mark Jindrak and having a brief singles feud with Big Show. He would spend some time on Velocity but clashed with booker Paul Heyman and eventually requested his release. It was granted in May and Reigns would spend some time as a real estate agent in addition to some TV and Indy wrestling appearances. In 2009, he would suffer a stroke that he attributed to steroid use that had started when he was a bouncer and a painkiller addiction stemming from his wrestling career.

Fun Fact II: On the 2/3 Smackdown, Undertaker was taking on Rene Dupree in the championship contender tournament. Working on the orders of his boss, Luther Reigns hit ringside and hooked Taker’s leg as he was climbing into the ring, leading to a double countout and giving Angle a bye to the finals. The next week, Luther bragged about his actions and his prison background, claiming he wasn’t afraid of Undertaker. Taker would come after him the next week, but Luther sacrificed Jindrak and took off for higher ground. On 2/17, Taker defeated Jindrak in a singles match. After the bout, Reigns grabbed a TV camera and nailed Taker in the head with it. Luther left the ring and Taker sat up and stared him down.

Scott: As per his career, Taker has a warm-up match one month before whatever his big Wrestlemania battle may be. Since his return a year ago at Wrestlemania XX in the Garden, the Deadman has had a mediocre string of matches, including a pair of WWE Title matches against JBL. Reigns has that similar size and strength that usually matches with Undertaker. There was some psychology as three nights earlier Reigns hit Taker in the back of the head with a TV camera, then here he throws Taker’s head into an exposed turnbuckle ring. From that point it’s a typical Taker power match, which a couple of restholds, slams, etc. Taker hits the Tombstone and that’s that. There’s really not much more to say here, it’s a typical Taker match were a big power guy gets in the yard, and gets kicked out by the big dog. Grade: 2

Justin: After spending the late half of 2004 assaulting Big Show week after week, Luther Reigns has moved on to another high profile target. His buddy Mark Jindrak is tossed by the ref before the match started, but Reigns stayed stoic, continuing to show his lack of fear for Taker. Taker would work the arm a bit early and keep Reigns off balance, especially when he shoved Luther into an exposed turnbuckle. The match had a slow pace with basic strikes by both men. Reigns was able to turn the tide by landing a low blow and shoving Taker into the buckle. Luther’s assault was focused, as the announcers told the story of Taker’s concussion, suffered the previous Thursday. The finish was well built and Taker fights the game Luther off and drops him with a Tombstone for the win. This was a standard power match and a nice physical win for Taker. I really liked Reigns and thought he had potential as an upper card star or muscle for a smaller guy but things just didn’t pan out. Grade: 1.5

Fun Fact: Joy Giovanni was released from WWE during the summer of 2005. She reportedly got into a backstage skirmish with fellow divas Melina and Dawn Marie. She'd make one more appearance at the Divas Battle Royal at Wrestlemania XXV in 2009.

*** The final portion of the Rookie Diva showdown was now upon us as the ladies took part in the bikini segment of the contest. Other than Joy looking hot and the crowd only making noise for her and Michelle, there was nothing else of note here. Joy wins based on the fan vote and this time wasting nonsense finally comes to an end. ***

5) John Cena defeats Kurt Angle to earn WWE Championship match with an F–U at 19:20

Fun Fact: This is the final of a tournament to determine who would face the WWE Champion at Wrestlemania. Angle defeated Rey Mysterio and then received a bye. Cena defeated Orlando Jordan and Booker T to advance here.

Scott: The final step for John Cena to reach the ultimate stage. Last year Angle got the title shot against Eddie Guerrero and came up a bootlace short. This year he wants to get back in and try for JBL’s gold. Now we’ve learned that anytime there’s both a #1 contenders match and a WWE/World title match at No Way Out, which usually dictates what the main event for Wrestlemania is going to be like. In 2000, after Big Show defeated Rock in the Rumble controversy, there was intrigue as to who would win the Triple H/Foley HIAC title match. Turned out Triple H won which forced a lot of things into chaos. Both Rock and Show would get into the XVI title match. Here we wonder if the winner of this match dictates how the JBL/Big Show match would go. If Angle wins, does that mean Big Show would win in the Barbed Wire cage? Angle is always ready for the big match, but let’s give John Cena some credit. Nothing more than a comedic character when 2003 started. During that time he’s had some big high profile matches, bided his time and learned the craft. Now the penultimate match before Wrestlemania and he and Angle have captivated this Pittsburgh crowd after some pretty boring stuff over the past hour or so. The tension continued to build as Angle went after Cena’s left ankle with viciousness. After being wrenched in the Anklelock for almost 2 minutes, Cena fights and fights and doesn’t quit. Angle goes after Cena’s chain, but Cena hits the FU and punches his ticket for Staples Center on April 3. This was definitely the match of the night and John Cena is ready for his big moment. Grade: 3.5

Justin: John Cena continues on his hot streak as 2005 rolls along. He gets a big pop here upon entering and he was locked in on heading onto Wrestlemania in a main event slot. Angle was also focused on regaining his gold and knew that he was one win away from getting a chance to get it back. Angle would ground Cena early, really grinding him into the mat. I thought Michael Cole did a nice job here explaining the advantages Angle had over Cena, including his tourney bye and the fact that he was in his hometown and was able to sleep in his own bed instead of a hotel. It was a nice touch to really help stack the odds for the favored Angle and also helped to hype the importance of the bout. Cena got back into the match with aggressive brawling but a nasty spot where Angle sent Cena careening into the turnbuckles with a powerbomb abruptly cut it off. Angle would focus on the neck and back and worked in some great spots while cutting off Cena’s comeback attempts. After popping big for Cena early, the crowd was pretty split down the middle by the midpoint of the match. They even give Angle a big pop when he ratchets in the Anklelock. Cena would escape and drop an FU for a great near fall but Angle would recover and go back to the ankle. He was able to hook the Anklelock again, and after a tough battle he dropped down and locked in the leg lace as well. Cena got to the ropes to break the hold, battled to his feet and hit another FU for the big win. The match was really well designed, flowed easily and built the drama heading into the finish. This was a big time win for Cena and it was played up as such. He now awaits the next match to see who he would face at Wrestlemania. Grade: 3.5

6) John Bradshaw Layfield defeats Big Show (Paul Wight) to retain WWE Championship in a Barbed Wire Steel Cage match by escaping the cage at 14:50

Fun Fact: JBL was not a fan of this match and let GM Long know about it immediately on 2/3. Later that night, Big Show ran through the Bashams in a handicap match to gain some momentum. A week later, JBL hatched a plan where he would shoot Show with a tranquilizer gun so he could beat him down without retaliation. Before the plan could unfold, Amy Weber accidently shot JBL with the gun. Later in the night, JBL came out drunkenly arguing with an inflatable dinosaur, comparing it to Big Show, stripping down and whipping it with his belt. Big Show came out to confront him, but JBL quickly gained his senses and cracked JBL with a clothesline, revealing the dart incident was a ruse. Show was able to recover and wiped out the Bashams and OJ as JBL escaped. The next week on Raw, JBL’s limo almost ran down Batista in the garage and Batista vowed to show up at Smackdown for revenge. On 2/17, JBL franticly told Teddy that he was not behind the vehicular attack on JBL because he wasn’t that dumb. Teddy didn’t believe him and said Batista would be at No Way Out to sign a Smackdown contract to face JBL at Wrestlemania. Later in the night Batista arrived and took a baseball bat to the limo, totally destroying it and looking like a badass in his dapper suit. As the Bashams and OJ went to stop him, Show jumped JBL in the ring. The Cabinet returned and JBL hit a low blow. Before they could do too much damage, Batista came down to even the odds. The show ended with Batista and Show standing in the ring staring at JBL.

Fun Fact II: There were rumors around the Internet that the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission would not permit a barbed wire cage match, but in the end the match went on as scheduled. One explanation floated was that the PA commission only barred legit barbed wire, which WWE did not use.

Scott: It’s amazing that the WWE has been around since 1963, and even in the Attitude Era there was never barbed wire on a cage. ECW did it a few times I believe, and WCW did once. Do you think Hulk Hogan or Kevin Nash would ever go anywhere near barbed wire? That’s funny. After his win in the four-way match at Armageddon, I finally jumped on the JBL bandwagon. His character finally settled into that 80’s role of the heel escaping every single title match by the skin of his teeth. Now he’s locked in a cell surrounded at the top with razor wire. The match is typical Big Show. One methodical power move after another, and JBL’s usual match as he’s so far getting destroyed in the opening minutes. The Cabinet comes out and slyly slips JBL bolt cutters to smack Big Show with and to try and cut the razor wire off the top of the cage. Both men are busted open, and me being a sucker for a good cage match is highly entertained by it. Both men beat each other senseless, then the climax. Both men are battling on the top rope and JBL gets chokeslammed through the canvas. Show then takes time to snap the chain connected to the cage door, then gets down the steps, but before his feet hit the floor the bell rings and JBL wins the match. In another stroke of genius by the bookers, JBL crawled through the hole in the ring and under the apron, so technically he’s on the floor already and the match is over. It was complete genius by JBL and the writing team to use Big Show’s strength against him. Then after the match Big Show wants more of JBL, so he beats him in the ring, which brings out the Cabinet to help their boss. In any event a pretty entertaining cage match with a lot of activity after the bell, and another JBL win by the skin of his teeth. Grade: 3

Justin: After a very lackluster undercard, it was time to see if this intriguing main event could save this show. Show dominated early with some methodical offense and right out of the gate we got JBL slicing his arm open on the barbed wire to put over the danger of the gimmick. Shortly after, Show was also busted open as he was sent head first into one of the cage support beams. Show came back with a nice powerbomb that jarred the champion. The crowd was steady and you could tell they were waiting for big spots to pop for. The Cabinet would come out but Teddy was right behind them and made them leave. Before heading out, OJ slid a pair of bolt cutters into the cage and JBL would grab them and drill Show in the head. Show would fight back into it again and once he had control, he delivered the big blow of the match when he dropped JBL off the top rope with a huge chokeslam that sent the champ crashing through the mat. It was a great spot and the crowd was flipping out. Show slowly made his way to the door and busted the chain with his bare hands. Just as he was about to climb down the steps, the bell rang and it was announced that JBL was the winner. We then found out that JBL climbed out to the floor from under the ring, shocking everybody. It was a creative finish and added to JBL’s legacy of always barely escaping with his title. The match was lackluster and slow but the end definitely bumped the grade up a bit because it was very creative and fit JBL’s character perfectly. The finish was hot and I loved that we didn’t see JBL at all until the bell rang. Show’s slow dramatic walk was a bit much, but what can you do. Show’s main event run now ends, as JBL moves onto become a very unlikely Wrestlemania main eventer. Grade: 2

*** As JBL recovered, Batista’s music hits and he comes charging down to the ring. He wiped out the Cabinet in the ring as JBL scampered away. Just when he thought he was safe, John Cena came out and slammed JBL through an equipment stage. The show would end with alternating shots of Cena and Batista in a very effective Wrestlemania tease. ***

Final Analysis:

Scott: Our last stop before Hollywood was another PPV with a hot start, very boring middle and a decent ending. The opening tag match was crazy as the crowd was hot for Eddie & Rey to win the tag straps, but as it’s been the past six months the middle part of this show was boring and the matches were plain and uninteresting. The divas stuff, while the girls were hot, did nothing to move the show along. Finally the last two matches picked it up and it bumps the final grade. We’re finally on the stretch run to Wrestlemania and the question remains: Will it be a triple threat match between JBL/Cena/Batista for the WWE Title? Who will face Triple H? What will be of Kurt Angle and Big Show? Who will Undertaker face on the biggest stage? The product since, say Summerslam, has been kind of boring as guys who were hot earlier in the year like Benoit and Guerrero have been kind of shoved aside and new characters being pushed hard. However with all the flux and changes comes what could be a very surprising Wrestlemania. The show preceding it is average, continuing the streak of average shows. This one gets a slight bump because the last two matches and the post-main event brawl is very entertaining and leaves the fans scratching their head as to what will go down April 3 in Hollywood. Final Grade: C+

Justin: Well, another month passes and we get another lackluster brand specific PPV outing. This PPV was completely overloaded with time wasters and it just totally killed things. The vignettes, backstage segments and Diva nonsense were overflowing here and you could tell they were running light and just trying to fill out the show. Outside of the opener and the great Angle/Cena showdown, no other match really delivered enough to help carry the show. I really don’t have much else to say here as the show was just blah and disappointing, as has become the norm for Smackdown outings. Outside of Cena/Angle, the only positive was the really good Wrestlemania build with the brawl and Mania main event tease at the end of the show. Other than those two things, this show is a complete waste of time. Final Grade: D

MVP: John Cena & Kurt Angle
Runner Up: Eddie Guerrero & Rey Mysterio
Non MVP: Funaki & Spike Dudley
Runner Up: Big Show

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