What if…Chris Jericho’s WWF Title victory over Triple H wasn’t overturned?

0 Submitted by on Thu, 27 December 2012, 15:13
 
Text By Jed Shaefer

What if…Chris Jericho’s WWF Title victory over Triple H wasn’t overturned?

Part I

Our story begins moments after Chris Jericho has shocked Triple H, and the world, by pinning him for the WWF Championship on Raw, thanks to a dubious three-count from the replacement referee, Earl Hebner. The decision doesn’t sit well with Triple H, who drags Hebner and original referee Mike Chioda to the ring to discuss it …

 

April 17th, 2000: Raw

 

Shane McMahon has Earl Hebner in a full nelson, while Triple H is in Earl’s face, barking into a mike. “Earl, you know you just screwed me; you just jobbed me out, pal, you know it. Now, this is the official, the assigned official, Mike Chioda.” Triple H looks at Chioda, who is quaking with fear. “You were the legal referee in that match, right? Not this piece of crap. I want you to look at the footage from that match, and I want you to tell me if that wasn’t a screwjob. Kevin Dunn, put that footage up.” The TitanTron fills with the images of Hebner executing the three count that ushered in Chris Jericho’s World Title reign. “Tell me that wasn’t a fast count! Tell me that wasn’t the fastest count you’ve ever seen! I was screwed! Earl Hebner jobbed me out; you saw it, the whole world saw it. Now, I want your unbiased, professional opinion of what you just saw, Chioda: did I get screwed or not?”

 

Chioda looks from Triple H to his colleague and back again, wiping away the sweat on his forehead. “Triple H … I mean … yeah, it was fast, but …”

 

Triple H’s eyes almost glow with rage. His glare, formerly locked on the pain-stricken face of Hebner, turns to Chioda; his rapid, furious breathing is audible thanks to the microphone. He doesn’t speak so much as spits the words through a clinched jaw. “But what, Chioda?”

 

Chioda gulps, backing up a couple steps. Triple H stalks him, an ominous, unstable predator, easily outweighing his new prey by well more then a hundred pounds. “I-I-I was knocked out, Triple H. There has to be a ref …”

 

“But you were the referee, Chioda! Not that fat sack of crap! You say the decision was wrong! Say it!

 

Chioda shakes his head, slowly at first, then more affirmatively. He stops backing up, and actually advances a step (even if his voice does break a little). “No, Triple H. You pushed around Earl; but I’m not gonna overturn Earl’s decision.”

 

The rage coming from Triple H is almost palpable, like tendrils of smoke off a fire. For a what seems like an eternity, Triple H looms over Chioda like a king over a peasant, then suddenly pulls an about face, kicks Hebner in the gut, and starts to tie up his arms for a Pedigree.

 

Before he can pull it off, Jericho and the APA–Jericho’s hired guns during his title match–race to the ring. Triple H manages to drop Hebner and head to the outside, but Shane isn’t as quick, and is seeing stars from a Clothesline From Hell courtesy of Bradshaw. Triple H backs up the ramp, fuming as Jericho taunts him with his newly-won World Title and inviting him to come back down for more; Triple H disappears through the curtain.

 

But for Triple H, the night can only get worse; only minutes after his embarrassing defeat, he receives word that none other then Linda McMahon has arrived at the arena. Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley tries to get information from her, but to no avail; Linda is steadfast in keeping her purpose for being here under wraps until she can address both her daughter, Triple H, The Rock and the audience.

 

At the top of the second hour, Linda goes to the ring to deliver her announcement. “Good evening. I’d originally come here tonight to address what I believe is a growing problem in the World Wrestling Federation; that being how Triple H has, since WrestleMania, managed to stack the deck against the entire federation by having both my children and my husband on his side, a situation which I believe to be very unfair. Tonight’s abuse of senior referee Earl Hebner only underscores what kind of human being Triple H is, and to what levels he will sink to further his own goals. You see, with his win over Bull Buchanan and the Big Bossman last week on Raw, The Rock was scheduled to meet Triple H for the WWF Championship. But from what I can see, there are two issues with this: one, Triple H is no longer the WWF Champion. And two, with three McMahons on his side, I believe that Triple H would find a way to insinuate himself in the match and distort the outcome to what he believes would be advantageous to him. This puts both The Rock and Chris Jericho in jeopardy, and I cannot allow two of my star performers to be jeopardized by a madman like Triple H. Now, neither The Rock nor Chris Jericho has asked for my help, nor anyone else’s, but I have to tell you that after watching tonight, and after seeing what happened at WrestleMania, I have decided to put someone in his corner to even the odds a little bit.” The crowd starts to chant for Mick Foley; Linda smiles, but shakes her head. “Now, some of you are saying Mick Foley; it’s not Mick Foley. Mick was a one-time, one night only special, and he’s very happily retired at home. But thereis going to be that very special individual at Backlash, and he will be acting as the special troubleshooting referee, and it’s with great pleasure tonight that I announce to you that it will be none other than Stone Cold Steve Austin!”

 

No sooner has the audience exploded at the name of the missing-in-action Rattlesnake then Triple H and Stephanie come roaring through the curtain (minus their music). Stephanie tears the microphone from Linda’s hand, her face twisted into a mask of fine outrage. “Unfair, Mom? You wanna know what’s unfair, is you hopping on a plane and thinking you can come down to this ring and start making decisions about things you know nothing about! In case you haven’t forgotten, the last time we were in the ring together, Mother, the McMahon-Helmsley regime has no problems slapping people around. And hopefully you’ve noticed that the McMahon-Helmsley regime is all about opportunity. So I’m going to give you the opportunity to change your mind. Think about it, Mother; what’s your decision?”

 

Linda can’t help but smile, a spiteful, almost gleeful smile. “No!” She yells.

 

Stephanie has to stop and consider the answer for a moment. “No. You won’t change your mind. You’re gonna have Stone Cold Steve Austin as the special guest referee. Well then, I’m not going to change my mind about what I have to do … but Mom, just remember, like you told me when I was a little girl: this is gonna hurt me a lot worse than it hurts you.” Stephanie cocks back for a wicked slap, but Linda brings up an arm to block and, fast enough to almost be invisible, slaps Stephanie right back, putting the Billion Dollar Princess on her ass. Linda recoils in shock; motherly instincts take over, and she tries to check on her daughter, who looks just as shocked. Stephanie looks to her husband and gestures to him; Triple H grabs Linda and pushes her down in position for a Pedigree … until Shane comes out of nowhere and clobbers Triple H in the head with a clothesline. Linda bails to the arena floor as Triple H goes after Shane; Stephanie gets in the middle of them, trying to keep her brother and husband from tearing each other apart. Shane mouths off an obscenity at Triple H, earning him a face-full of open hand; when Triple H taunts him, Stephanie gives him a slap too, leaving both men slack-jawed.

 

Before the tension escalates any further, The Rock comes out on the stage. “Now, before you two jabronis start playing Ali and Frazier, with the referee being played by that prostitute-in-training, The Rock’s got something to say. When The Rock woke up this morning, he was feeling great. The Rock was feeling great knowing at Backlash it was gonna be Triple H with Vince is his corner, facing the Great One. The Rock felt great about that, the Rock was fine about that, the Rock liked that. But things have changed; now, instead of The Rock shining up his boot and sticking it up Triple H’s candy ass so far he can’t walk straight for a week …” The crowd goes nuts for this; the cheering turns into a “Rocky” chant, which Rock soaks up until it peters out. “Now, instead of that, The Rock has to face Y2J Chris Jericho. Y2J, Y2J … what kind of stupid name is that, anyway? Sounds a little too much like K-Y Jelly to The Rock … say, that’s something you know a lot about, dontcha, Stephanie?” Stephanie, Shane and Triple H all fume and fuss, barking back at The Rock, who dismisses them with a wave. “Piss and moan all you want, honey, cause The Rock doesn’t give a monkey’s ass what you have to say. But then again, keeping anything closed, mouth or otherwise, isn’t your strong suit, is it?” More cheering and another Rocky chant. When it dies down, Rock speaks again. “The Rock is getting off track. The point is, now, The Rock will go one-on-one with Chris Jericho, but The Rock could care less if it was Chris Jericho, or Triple H, or that disgusting pervert Kevin Kelly, or … well, maybe not Kevin Kelly, but besides him, it doesn’t matter, because The Rock will do to Chris Jericho what he would’ve done to you, Triple H, and that’s beat his monkey ass all over Washington DC, up and down the Washington Monument, into the Potomac and all the way to the oral … er, Oval Office! But now, after hearing Linda McMahon’s announcement, the Rock says what was once a great situation … just got better. Because now it’s gonna be The Rock and Chris Jericho, with Austin 3:16 in the middle. Now the entire world knows of The Rock and Stone Cold’s history; they know that the Brahma Bull and the Rattlesnake haven’t always seen eye to eye. But the one thing we agree on, the one thing we’ve always agreed on is the fact that we know, Triple H, you’re the biggest asshole walking God’s green earth! It goes like this, Triple H; you’ve been spared the ultimate humiliation of The Rock whipping your candy ass at Backlash. That means in two weeks, at Backlash, you get to sit on your hands and watch like the jabroni you are, as The Rock does what The Rock does best, what only The Rock can do, and that is, quite simply put, walk into that ring, check some jabroni into a four-star suite in the Smackdown Hotel, walk out the WWF champion … and there’s nothing, and The Rock means nothingthat you can do about it! If ya smell … what the Rock … is cookin’!”

 

To add insult to injury, Triple H’s demand of a match pitting himself and D-X against Chris Jericho and The APA only get him more embarrassment, as Faarooq and Bradshaw are able to isolate and decimate X-Pac and Road Dogg; and Jericho, along with a little help from The Rock, give Triple H enough of a beating for him to high-tail it out of harm’s way while he has enough left in him to do so, leaving his D-X compatriots to suffer a beatdown and the loss of the match.

 

The final build-up to Backlash

 

After the massive cut that was losing the WWF Title to Chris Jericho, the final week and a half leading up to what, for Triple H, looks to be an uneventful Backlash, is the salt in the wound.

 

The first grain comes on the Smackdown immediately following Raw; the sounds of “My Time” open up the show, and Triple H storms down to the ring; Stephanie has to race down the ramp to catch up to him. He grabs a mike and is talking before his music turns off.

 

“Because of a biased referee, that little halfwit Chris Jericho has my title; the title I bled, sweat and fought foe. MY TITLE!” Triple H pauses to brush the hair out of his face; so angry is he, his hands shake as he does so. “And because of that meddling bitch Linda McMahon, I won’t be getting my contractually guaranteed rematch at Backlash either!” Triple H looks at Stephanie, who is standing demurely in the corner, hands clutched to her bosom. “Stephanie, I love you, but I am telling you right now; if Linda shows her face around here again, I’m taking her out; I’ll put her in the hospital, and if your idiot brother tries to stop me, I’ll do the same thing to him too.” Stephanie offers no rebuttal; she just nods her head in agreement. “Because everybody knows, including Linda, that I should be facing the champion. I’m not a fluke like Chris Jericho. But who’s getting stuck, who’s getting screwed again, watching while those two idiots fight over my belt? Me, Triple H! I should be—”

 

The lights in the arena dim and the sounds of a heartbeat melting into a flatline fills the arena. Through a cloud of orange-tinted smoke steps Tazz, wearing the ECW World Championship, looking as intense as ever. He tosses his head towel aside and immediately begins spitting out a rebuttal. “So you think you should be facing a champion, is that right? Well, since you look like you’re in a lousy mood, I’m here to tell you the mood is about to change! You know, Ôchamp’, you been running round here like you got it all under control, but it looks to me like when you lose control of one little thing, your whole world comes crashing down! I hear you belly-aching out here like some 5-year old, saying you deserve to face the champion and you’re being screwed … well, buddy-boy, I’m right here.” Tazz unfastens the ECW Title and holds it up. “And this here, it says I’m a champion. All’s you gotta do is lace up your little booties, get in that ring, and find out why they call me the Human Wrecking Machine!”

 

Triple H snickers. “You want a piece of me? Tonight?” The grin melts away; Triple H’s eyes turn as cold as ice, his jaw tightens like a steel cable. “You got it. You bring that little belt you got around your waist; what does that stand for? ECW or something? Well, Jack, understand this: you step in the ring with me tonight, this is the World Wrestling Federation, and I am gonna prove to the world, I am gonna prove to you, and I am gonna prove to every one of these idiots that was just chanting those three letters that ECW sucks!”

 

“Well, I’ll tell you what, Big Time! Last chump thought he could get the best of The Human Wrecking Machine, I choked him out in three minutes, and I took this from him too. You like to call yourself The Game? Pal, I don’t play games; I put people in hospitals.”

 

But before Triple H and Tazz can tangle, Stephanie is approached by Kurt Angle for a special favor: a chance to redeem himself against Chris Jericho for losing the European Title to him at WrestleMania without being pinned. Stephanie not only agrees, but makes it a World Title match. When word of this reaches Triple H, he is infuriated; not only does this put his World Title in jeopardy of switching hands again, but to none other then the dorky Angle, a guy who he has noticed on more then one occasion flirting with his wife. Stephanie tries to smooth it over with her own logic: she has (in her mind) Kurt Angle wrapped around her finger, and he’d gladly give Triple H a gimme-match for the World Title should he beat Jericho. But Triple H sees no upside to it, and leaves for his match even more irate then before.

 

The crowd is afire for the once-in-a-lifetime moment of seeing another federation’s champion (even if he is a WWF wrestler) stepping foot in enemy territory and throwing down the gauntlet. When Tazz’s music hits, the crowd blows up, but the all-business Human Wrecking Machine pays no mind; his eyes remain fixed on his target in the ring, Triple H. Triple H waits, gnashing his hands, giving Tazz the space to finish his pre-match schtick before rushing him; H tries a clothesline, but Tazz ducks and hits a stiff right punch, putting Triple H on his ass. Triple H backs off and stands back up, studying his opponent with caution. They tie up in the ring; Triple H hits a knee in Tazz’s gut, and follows it up with a volley of rights. A whip into the ropes is reversed, leading to a lariat by Tazz. Triple H is up right away, but gets put down with another clothesline, and then a third. Triple H backs into the corner, but Tazz chases him down and peppers him with body shots and tow kicks. Tazz backs away and lets Triple H walk into a overhead Tazzplex, sending Triple H halfway across the ring. Triple H manages to get to his feet long enough for Tazz to lock on the head-and-arm Tazzplex, putting Triple H back down on the mat. But an attempt at a German Tazzplex is countered with elbows to the head; Triple H follows it up with a clothesline to take Tazz down. Tazz gets back up and gets a couple punches in before slinging Triple H into the ropes; but Triple H sees Tazz bent down and kicks him. Triple H goes for a clothesline, but Tazz ducks and hits one of his own, sending Triple H outside. Tazz plays to the crowd a moment, then heads out, right into a waiting Triple H, who clobbers Tazz with punches, and whips him into the steel steps. Triple H rolls in to break the count and comes back out. Triple H drops Tazz throat-first on the barricade, and follows it up with punches to the head and thrusts to the throat. After another whip into the steps, Triple H rolls him back in the ring, hitting a vertical suplex that leads to the first pinfall attempt, which only gets two. A belly-to-back suplex and a running kneedrop leads to another cover and a count of two. Triple H whips Tazz into the turnbuckle with authority; the impact sends Tazz crashing down face first. Triple H hits the whip again, this time following behind to hit a clothesline, but Tazz makes Triple H eat boot. The impact sends Triple H spinning, and Tazz throws on the Tazzmission; Triple H tries to keep Tazz from locking it in completely, but Tazz refuses to let the chance slip away and cinches it in. But before Tazz can wrap his legs around and drag Triple H down to the mat, Triple H pushes backwards, squishing Tazz in between him and the turnbuckle. Another crushing, and Tazz lets go, but both men are down. The ref utilizes his 10-count; Triple H is up first and goes for a punch, but Tazz counters and hits one of his own. After three, Triple H goes for a wild punch, but Tazz ducks; Triple H spins around, and Tazz picks him up and drives him down with a vicious backdrop suplex. Tazz whips but it’s reversed; Triple H put his head down, only for Tazz to hit a Northern Lights Tazzplex for a two-count. Another whip sends Tazz into the ropes, and he eats a facebuster, but ducks yet another clothesline and counters with the Tazzmission. Stephanie jumps up on the apron; Mike Chioda goes over to keep her out of the ring, but a guy in black workout pants and a black ECW t-shirt suddenly pulls down Stephanie and starts to argue with her. Tazz sees the incursion of the man, no stranger to him, out of the corner of his eye: it is ECW stalwart hero Tommy Dreamer. Tazz lets go of Triple H to check out the ruckus, but Shane arrives on the scene, and the two of them brawl into the crowd. With the invaders gone, Chioda’s attention turns back to the ring, where Tazz still has Triple H in the Tazzmission. Chioda checks on his arm once, twice, three times. On the third time, it falls, and Chioda calls for the bell.

 

The only upshot of the night—the entire week, really—for Triple H is the chance to spoil the main event, being Kurt Angle’s (undeserved, in his opinion) World Title shot against Jericho. With a well-placed chair shot right between Jericho’s eyes, Triple H gets Angle disqualified (and gets the bonus of scrambling what little brains Jericho has). Angle is infuriated, naturally, at being cost not only the shot but even the luxury of a DQ victory. The timely arrival of Rock and Tazz prevent Triple H from getting any more licks in on Jericho, and serve to only frustrate him more; his stranglehold on the WWF is crumbling in his very hands, and with every passing day, he makes a new enemy he can’t scare or beat into submission.

 

The only matter of vindication Triple H can get is, courtesy of his brother-in-law, a rematch against Tazz at Backlash, with Shane even volunteering to be the special referee. But the idea of revenge is secondary to bigger issue, the one he is left looking at from the outside in: the WWF World Title. For all of The Rock’s harsh words (nothing new, since he has harsh words for everyone), when he and Jericho are paired off together with Tazz against Triple H, Angle and Intercontinental Champion Chris Benoit on the last Monday Night Raw before Backlash, their teamwork is that of long-time partners, not recent adversaries. Only the diversionary tactics of Stephanie, some interference from DX and a sledgehammer keep Triple H and his team from suffering another humiliation on the road to Backlash.

 

April 30th, 2000: Backlash

 

As a consolation prize for his World Title loss, Stephanie (over Triple H’s vehement protests) gives Angle a shot at Chris Benoit’s Intercontinental Title, which pleases Angle to no end; in his mind, it still is his title, and the opportunity is the first step in reclaiming his “Euro-Continental” championships. The match is an instant classic, the least anyone would expect from two masters of technical wizards as Angle and Benoit. But Benoit is not the only opponent Angle has to deal with: X-Pac and Road Dogg insinuate themselves in the match. Benoit shows his distaste for the unnecessary, and unwanted, help by attacking his would-be assistants alongside Angle, and the match is thrown out. The brawl carries the four competitors into the back, where it takes security and numerous officials to pry them apart, and keep them away from one another for the duration of the evening.

 

The moment news of the brawl, started by Triple H’s DX goons, gets to Stephanie, she busts into his dressing room. “What the hell was that?” she demands. “Why did security just have to pry your buddies off Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit?”

 

Triple H saunters up to Stephanie, putting a hand on her arm and kissing her cheek. “Baby, it’s not your concern,” he says with more then a smidge of condescension.

 

Stephanie shrugs off the arm and steps back. “Not my concern? It was mydecision to give Kurt Angle that shot at Chris Benoit, and for some reason, you just had to stick your nose in it!”

 

“Stephanie,” he says, now strictly on the defensive, “I don’t like the guy. The way he looks at you, the way he talks to you, the way he’s always kissing your ass … you don’t see it, but he’s got you buffaloed. He asks you for something, maybe tosses in a compliment or something, and he gets what he wants!”

 

Stephanie stands with her arms on her hips; on her face is “the look”. Triple H cringes the moment he recognizes it and knows he is no longer treading on thin ice: he is now treading in very cold water. “Kurt Angle and I are just friends. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that. But for some reason, you just can’t see that. You’re too possessive, too … wrapped up in your problems to pay attention to the people around you!”

 

“Well, maybe if I knew you were definitely in corner, helping me achieve my goals and solve my problems, I wouldn’t be so worried about you and that dork!”

 

Stephanie’s face flashes bright red. “You should be worried about your problems,honey, cause every time you open your mouth, you just make another one!” Stephanie spins around and bolts for the door, slamming it on the way out; Triple H’s calls to come back are drowned out by the crashing door. He collapses onto a bench, letting his head loll back into the locker door. When Road Dogg and X-Pac come in, he pays them no mind, until Road Dogg says; “Hey, what’s wrong? Trouble in paradise?” The glare of rage is enough to send DX scattering to the winds, and before leaving for his match, he throws a bench across the room and lets loose with a primal, guttural yell.

 

Right from the beginning, it is obvious plainly obvious that Tazz has an uphill mountain to climb. The reigning ECW Champion (scheduled to defend it the following week) frequently finds himself the victim of senseless 5-counts, counted by Shane as though he were trying to count to 100 in less than 10 seconds. And, conversely, Triple H’s lack of adherence to the rules is ignored almost entirely: after the two brawl (Triple H with closes fists), Tazz manages to duck a punch and lock his arms around Triple H for a German suplex, only for Triple H to fell Tazz with a back kick to the balls. Shane offers no penalty, or even a reaction, and thus sets the pattern for the rest of the match.

 

Triple H keeps the pace slow and grounded after the illegal crotch kick, going to work on Tazz’s legs. Kicks to the hamstring and thrusts to the thigh and knee area take their toll on the small but fierce ECW Champ. When Triple H backs off Tazz for a moment, it is merely to let him stand so Triple H can chop block him back down to the mat. Triple H slides out and drapes Tazz’s leg over the apron and drops several elbows on it, further knotting up the muscle. When Tazz tries to pull himself away and to the safety of the inside of the ring (as safe as it can be with Shane as referee, and Triple H in close pursuit), Triple H grabs Tazz by the leg and hauls him out; he turns Tazz on his stomach and drives his knee into the mat over and over. Triple H throws Tazz back into the ring and goes for a pin he knows will only get two, and even with Shane’s fast count, it indeed only gets two. Triple H picks up Tazz, now immobilized and without a solid base to use his suplexes, starts to work on beating the man senseless; first, an overhead suplex, delayed for maximum effect. Triple H tries throwing Tazz into the turnbuckle, but his legs give out, and Tazz crumbles on the mat. So, instead, Triple H goes back to the impact game; a DDT drives Tazz into the mat like a railroad spike, but only gets two on the count. A spinebuster gets another two count, and Triple H pounds on the mat in frustration, arguing with Shane over the count. Shane assures Triple H the count was as speedy as he can make it and actually raise his arm. Triple H stands up, bringing Tazz with him, but gets doubled over from a punch to the gut. Another couple punches push get Tazz some space, but Triple H comes back with a kneelift, only for Tazz to catch the leg and turn it into a dragon whip.

 

Shane’s eyes go wide with panic as Tazz starts to turn the tide; with Triple H down, Tazz drops a couple elbows. When Triple H starts to roll away, Tazz drops another elbow across the small of the back, and before Triple H can escape, Tazz straddles Triple H’s back and grabs a handful of hair. Shane tries to interject, but Tazz looks at him and uses his free hand to give Shane a one-fingered salute (and a very audible “fuck off, mama’s boy!”), then pulls Triple H’s head back and lights into some forearm shots from behind. Shane finally steps in and orders Tazz off Triple H; he gets to his feet, but only long enough for Tazz to sneak up from behind and hit a wickedly stiff German suplex on Triple H, but the weakened leg stops him from maintaining the bridge. Triple H manages to roll out of the ring and, thanks to Shane admonishing Tazz for no particular reason other then to delay him, gets a measure of rest. But Tazz only tolerates it for so long, and hobbles out, where Triple H intercepts him and they start to brawl again. This time, when Tazz ducks a wild punch, instead of going for another suplex, he clobbers Triple H in the small of the back, dropping him to his knees. Tazz makes a slashing gesture across his throat and stands above Triple H, ignoring the ten-count, and locks in the Tazzmission. But instead of dropping to the ground and choking the life out of Triple H, he hauls him up to a standing position; the crowd goes nuts, knowing what Tazz is trying to do: the Tazzmission-plex, a nuclear bomb in the The Human Wrecking Machine’s arsenal. But Tazz’s leg buckles under the strain, and he can’t pull off the move. Triple H turns around and kicks Tazz in the gut, then hauls him in for the Pedigree.

 

In front of him, the crowd parts, and once again, Tommy Dreamer has invaded the WWF, brandishing a Singapore cane. Dreamer swings, but Triple H ducks, and Dreamer’s shot, and Dreamer himself, go sailing past their intended target. Triple H turns to follow Dreamer, tracking him like a hunting dog, and puts a boot in Dreamer’s midsection. But before he can lace up the arms, Tazz wraps his arms around Triple H again for another Tazzmission; Dreamer picks up the cane again and swings. But the Tazzmission isn’t fully cinched in, and that allows Triple H to duck; the cane cracks Tazz in the side of the head, sending him crashing to the floor like a felled tree. Triple H kicks Dreamer again and throws him head first into the steel steps, then tosses Tazz in the ring. Although it’s academic, he puts the exclamation point on it with a Pedigree and gets a (still fast) three count, then leaves with Shane before either man can come to enough to seek retribution.

 

The finale of the evening sends the crowd into overdrive, with three of the company’s most favorite wrestlers in the same ring. The ovation for the crowd-pleasing Rock is tremendous, as is the once-thought-unlikely World Champion Chris Jericho … but the reaction for Stone Cold Steve Austin, who hadn’t set foot in a wrestling ring since November, is absolutely unfathomable. Austin takes time to check both fighters before starting the match. The tension between him and The Rock as he checks out Rocky is palpable; the People’s Eyebrow flies at full mast as Austin makes a brusque check of Rocky’s boots and tights. There is a long, lingering moment when Austin starts to turn away and The Rock grabs Austin by the arm and hauls him back; Austin looks down at Rock’s hand, then into Rock’s eyes, which are as hard and determined as they have ever been. The history of tension and rivalry between the two is contained in that hostile stare-down, and Rocky mutters a word of warning (“You better call it straight, you son of a bitch.”) before finally letting Austin check Jericho. But for the two being strangers, there is no less tension, mostly because Jericho has something Austin lives for and covets, something that drives his very existence and his current recuperation: the WWF Title. For another long, tense moment, when Jericho forfeits the title over to Austin—for what Jericho knows could be the last time—there is a moment of hesitation, with Jericho’s hand on one side of the belt and Austin’s on the other. The two lock gazes over the richest prize in the business, one a champion in not-so-distant days past but quite possibly never will be again, and the other the current champion and hot new property. Jericho finally relinquishes the belt and, for a moment, Austin continues to glare at Jericho. The crowd is on the edge of their seat, waiting for a knock-down, drag-out barroom brawl to bust out and destroy the meeting of these two popular wrestlers. But Austin finally breaks away, pausing only for a second, to look down at the trophy in his hands, the centerpiece of the federation, and the goal of every man in the locker room … a trophy that was once his. And now, he is stuck deciding a match between two other guys for the very same trophy. Jericho is starting to move towards Austin to urge him into moving, when Austin does it on his own and forfeits the title to the timekeeper and orders the match to begin.

 

Jericho and Rock circle one another, sizing each other up before locking up in a collar-and-elbow tie-up, which Rock wins and works the arm. Jericho reverses and slips behind Rock with a hammerlock, which he releases with a shove. Rock turns around and glares at him. Jericho invites him to bring it, and Rock charges, leading to a series of armdrags before Rock backs into the corner; he exchanges words with Austin about getting involved, but Austin’s response is to back off and wave both men on to continue. Another tie-up in the middle of the ring is won by Jericho kneeing Rock in the stomach; Jericho slugs Rock down to the mat and goes for the Walls Of Jericho, but Rock fights it by kicking Jericho away; Jericho rebounds off the ropes and into the waiting arms of Rock and a Rock Bottom, but Jericho elbows out of it and scoops Rock’s legs out from underneath him for another Walls attempt. Again, Rock counters and bails to the apron, but Jericho moves quickly and hits a springboard dropkick, sending Rocky to the floor. Austin immediately steps in, not issuing the ten-count, but checking on Rock; Rocky barks back at him (“You’re god-damn right I’m continuing!”), and Jericho gives him the space to re-enter in the ring. Back in, Rock wins a punch-fest and slings Jericho into the ropes, but Jericho hits a flying back-elbow and makes a quick cover, but barely gets two (more on the part of Austin’s deliberate, almost slow-motion count). No sooner is Rock on his feet then he gets a spinning heel kick, but again, Jericho can only get two. A backbreaker is followed up with Jericho’s trademark double-underhook backbreaker, but another two-count is all Jericho can get. Jericho picks Rock back up, hits him with a couple stiff chops, then sends him into the ropes, but Jericho nearly gets his head torn off with a Rock clothesline. A whip leads to a spinebuster, but by the time Rock has torn off the elbow pad and thrown it to the audience, Jericho has bailed to the safety of the arena floor. Like Jericho did for him, Rock lets him have his space (along with Austin insisting he keep a few steps back). When Jericho comes back, the two begin to brawl again, Rock with punches and Jericho with chops. Rocky overwhelms Jericho with punches, putting him on the mat with his familiar spit-punch. Jericho is no sooner on his feet then Rocky whips him and drapes him across the ropes with a stun-gun, but Rock’s cover only gets two. Rocky unloads with an overhead suplex and a Russian legsweep, but another two count is the best he can do. Rock picks up Jericho and sits him on the turnbuckle, but Jericho blocks the superplex and hits some punches in the gut. Jericho tries to dump Rock with a front suplex, but the release is without much force, and Rock lands on his feet, sprints back up and hits a surprise superplex, but again only draws two. A sling into the ropes leads to a double-clothesline, and Austin utilizes his (very slow) 10-count. Both men are up at 8, and Rock gets the upper hand in their fisticuffs, turning it into a samoan samoan drop for two. Rocky kips up and crouches down, the hunter waiting for the prey; when Jericho gets up, Rock explodes like a track runner off the blocks, blasting Jericho with a lariat. Rock whips Jericho and launches him over the top rope, following him out to lay the smack down outside by dropping him on the crowd barricade (which draws a smattering of boos). Rock rolls in and out to break Austin’s 10-count (which hadn’t gotten past 3 anyway) and leads Jericho over to the announce tables. But Jericho elbows him in the stomach once, twice, and a third time sends Rock staggering back on his heels. From out of nowhere, Jericho hits a dropkick, which sends Rock stumbling backwards into the ring post, and Jericho takes the opportunity to roll into the ring. When Rock tries to come in, Jericho hits a baseball slide, then tosses Rocky back in. A slugfest is won by Jericho, setting up a hurricanrana and a neckbreaker, but they only get two. Jericho steps back and crouches, springing into a Rock Bottom set-up when Rock gets up; but Rock elbows out and tries his own. Jericho elbows out as well, sweeps out the legs again, and kicks Rock in the abdomen. With Rock holding his gut, Jericho bounces off the ropes and hits the Lionsault, but only gets two. A bulldog plants Rocky in the middle of the ring, and Jericho steps to the head of his downed opponent; he mimics the arm movements and starts to bounce off the ropes, but Rock jumps up in time and hits the spinebuster, which transitions into a Sharpshooter. Jericho tries to counter, but Rock overpowers him and gets the hold, but Jericho struggles and makes the ropes. Jericho bails to the floor, but Rock follows and tears apart the Spanish announcing table, then leads Jericho over to it. But before he can put Jericho on it, Triple H comes from the sea of humanity of the crowd, clobbering Rocky in the head with a sledgehammer. Jericho gets one in the gut and is thrown into the steel steps. Triple H puts the bloodied Rocky on the table and hits the Pedigree, then swipes the WWF Title from the timekeeper and shoves it in Rocky’s face, screaming about how he will die before he lets Rocky get his hands on the belt. Triple H turns slowly, the most evil of intentions for Chris Jericho written all over his face, when he is greeted by his own sledgehammer in the stomach, swung by Stone Cold. Austin tosses him in the ring and lets him get to his feet, crouched (much like Rocky) in waiting until Triple H gets to his feet, staggering about like a drunk. He has just enough time to realize who is waving two middle fingers in his face before he gets a kick in the gut and a Stunner to put his lights out. Paramedics are sent out to attend to the champion and his challenger as Austin’s theme song blares throughout the arena, but a myriad of unanswered questions remain, and answers won’t be had at least until Monday Night Raw.

Part II

 

Our story continues the night after Backlash. For Triple H, Backlash was the first step in getting back on track towards regaining the WWF Title, first by beating Tazz, and then ruining Chris Jericho’s World Title defense against The Rock. A new number one contender is going to be named, and with his campaign against Jericho escalating, there is little doubt in Triple H’s mind he will be facing Jericho at Judgment Day …

 

May 1st, 2000: Raw

 

“Welcome to Raw is Jericho!” says the World Champ as Raw begins. Jericho soaks up the cheers, occasionally gesturing to the belt for some cheap heat. When the crowd noise tapers off, he continues. “Ya know, last night at Backlash, the Jericholics all around the world sat down around their TVs, or on the edge of their seats in the arena, and they all waited with baited breath to see me beat The Rock. But that never happened, and I’ll tell ya why: this big, greasy, whiny, Cro-Magnon gasbag came in and ruined my World Title defense.” Jericho clears his throat, dropping his mouth down in a comical snarl, and his voice into a caveman-esque growl, but with just a hint of whine. “Me Game-ah! Me big loser-ah! Want-ah belt-ah! Should-ah be fighting-ah Chris Jericho-ah!” The crowd’s hearty laughter gets cut off and melts into jeers as “No Chance In Hell” cues up. “That’s enough, Jericho,” says Vince as he comes down the ramp. “You’re just lucky I have jetlag, because otherwise I’d walk right over there and slap the taste out of your mouth!”

 

“Mister McMahon,” Jericho says, “I’ve been meaning to ask you: how disappointing is it to have such a greasy, whiny, Cro-Magnon man for a son-in-law? I mean, when you were holding your little girl, your precious little filthy, disgusting, dirty, skanky, brutal, bottom-feeding, trashbag ho in your arms when she was a baby, did you imagine she’d end up marrying a guy with the IQ of a sack of doorknobs?”

 

The fury in Vince rises so much, the cords in his neck look like steel cables that could hold up the Golden Gate Bridge. “Shut up!” he bellows, the words sounding like they came through a throat filled with gravel. “Shut up before I fire your ass!”

 

“No, no, I’m sorry, boss, I really am. I mean … I really do wonder, though: I noticed your daughter does that same load-in-the-pants duck waddle when she walks just like you do. Is that hereditary, cause you may wanna warn Triple H before—”

 

Vince’s face couldn’t be any redder if an artery was to explode and he was covered in blood. “SHUT THE HELL UP! JUST SHUT UP!” The crowd starts chanting “asshole”, and Vince barks at them to shut up as well; when they don’t, he tosses the mike aside with a guttural scream and starts to stomp away until he is interrupted by the music and arrival of Triple H and Stephanie. Unlike Vince, Triple H is smiling and walks as if he is floating. “Vince, don’t get yourself all worked up over that little chump,” he says. “Everything is under control.” He claps Vince on the shoulder and starts to ascend the stairs. “Cause, ya see, Chris Jericho, last night at Backlash, I proved a point. I proved to the world that I am a … no, the dominant force in the World Wrestling Federation. I proved to theworld that I can eliminate anyone, at any time, any way I want. And I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, Chris Jericho, that you are not championship material. I tore through you like a hot knife through butter, and I smacked around the so-called ‘People’s Champ’, The Rock.” The crowd lights up at the mere mention of his name, and starts chanting his name. Triple H lets them have their moment before moving on; “Chant all you want, folks, but Rocky isn’t here tonight. Rocky’s in the hospital, nursing a concussion from me almost decapitating him last night, and if it hadn’t been for Stone Cold Steve Austin—who isn’t here tonight either, so you can just shut the hell up right now—I woulda ended Rock’s career.” Triple H returns his glare to Chris Jericho. “And then, I woulda ended yours.”

 

“That’s pretty funny, Triple H,” says Jericho, “cause last time you and I were actually in a ring together, the only thing that ended was your WWF Championship reign!”

 

Triple H’s jaw clinches, but he chokes on the rage and the obvious desire to tear Jericho limb from limb. “Go ahead, sport, make your jokes,” he says, “cause I know, and you know, and all these people know that on your best day, you couldn’t get another pinfall on me, while on my worst day, I could beat you over and over and over.” Triple H strolls over to Vince and claps him on the shoulder. “So that got me thinking, guys; I had a nice little idea. How about, come Judgment Day, we put that to the test, huh? You and me, sport”—he points to the WWF Title, fastened around Jericho’s waist—”for that. I don’t think you’d have any objections, would you … dad?”

 

But before Jericho or Vince can answer, the raspy guitars of Chris Benoit’s theme music tune up, and the Intercontinental Champion steps out onto the ramp, microphone in hand. “I’m sitting in the back, and all I hear is about how Triple H knocking a couple people out with a sledgehammer makes him the number-one contender.” Benoit pats the belt a couple times and gazes at Triple H, a sadistic gleam in his eye. “This here says I’m the number-two man in the World Wrestling Federation, and at WrestleMania”—Benoit forks a finger in Jericho’s direction—”I pinned </I>that man </I> to win it. I’d say that makes methe number-one contender, and if you don’t like it, prove me wrong!

 

Triple H looks up at the ramp wearing mock confusion. “Um, I’m confused … how is this any of your business? This little prick stole my belt, you sawed-off twit, not yours. You want a title shot, get in li—”

 

But his words are cut off by another piece of music, this time, the Olympiad-like tune of Kurt Angle. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second!” he exclaims. “You mean to tell me that somehow, even though this guy”—he hikes a thumb in Benoit’s direction—”pinned someone else to take my Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania but couldn’t beat me, that somehow makes him the number-one contender? Sheeyeah! Like that makes any sense! I’m the former Euro-Continental Champion!” He holds up the medals around his neck. “Heck, I’m a freaking Olympic Gold Medalist! If anyone should be getting a shot at some revenge against Chris Jericho it should be m—”

 

Yet another music, this one belonging to European Champ Eddie Guerrero, drowns out Angle’s tirade. “Hey, holmes! You know what? I beat that guy in the ring, 1, 2, 3 for this”—he gestures to his title belt—”the WWF European Title. Why don’t that make Latino Heat the number-one contender?”

 

“Wait a second, hold on,” says Vince, “this is getting out of h—”

 

But the heartbeat intro of Tazz silences Vince, and the ECW Champion comes out to a rousing ovation. “You all wanna talk trash and act like big men,” says Tazz, “meanwhile, who walked into the ECW Arena, into the most extreme wrestling company there is, and won the ECW Championship? Who played Triple H, the self-proclaimed Game, and beat him at his own game, on Smackdown just a couple weeks ago? And who was it that beat Mister Euro-Continental Champion himself Kurt Angle in his debut match? The Human Wrecking Machine, Tazz! If there’s a number-one contender here, it’s gotta be me!”

 

“Whoa, hold on, hold on!” Vince bellows. “Next person to come out that curtain and start demanding a title shot is gonna find themselves standing in line for an unemployment check instead! My mind is made up, and Triple H—”

 

“Is a roody-poo candy ass!” says a familiar voice that sends the crowd into hysterics. Vince starts barking about how he warned everyone, but The Rock doesn’t come out; instead, he is on the TitanTron, sunglasses on, People’s Eyebrow arched. “The Rock doesn’t give a damn what that … what did you call Triple H, Chris?”

 

Jericho opens him mouth, then hesitates, knowing this is how The Rock sets people up for his “It doesn’t matter …” line. “Um, I think it was a big, greasy, whiny, Cro-Magnon gasbag,” says Jericho.

 

“Thank you. Anyway, The Rock doesn’t give a damn about that guy Chris Jericho is talking about … The Rock doesn’t give a second thought for the jabronis on stage, and as far as The Rock is concerned, you, Vince, can’t even make up your mind whether you’re gonna like a monkey’s anus or llama’s anus when you get up in the morning!” The crowd explodes and starts chanting for Rocky. He bathes in the attention, and continues when the chanting dies down. “Last night, the whole world saw Triple H stick his nose where it doesn’t belong, and screw over The Rock when The Rock was getting set to lay the smack down like only The Rock can! But The Rock ain’t gonna cry and moan, going; ‘It’s my time-ah! My belt-ah!‘ No, The Rock doesn’t make excuses, The Rock doesn’t sit there crying in his milk like a 4-year old. No, The Rock takes matters into his own hands … you know about taking matters into your hands, don’t you, Triple H? God knows, a gorilla like yourself and a wildebeest like Stephanie just don’t mate well.” The crowd laughs, but Rocky keeps right on going. “But you see, The Rock doesn’t care about you two disease-ridden monkies, or the jabronis on stage, or anything else except becoming WWF Champion. And that’s why The Rock paid a visit to someone today.” The camera pans back to reveal the office of Linda McMahon sitting behind a desk, looking as calm and dignified as ever … but, with the corners of her mouth just slightly turned up, also with a hint of smug satisfaction.

 

“Hello, Vince. Triple H. Chris Jericho. And to everyone else, I’m glad you’re all here.” Linda’s smug grin only increases. “You see, I’ve been reviewing the tapes of last night, and listening to what has been transpiring tonight, and I’ve come to a series of decisions. And while The Rock makes a very persuasive argument for his case, each person out there also has a very reasonable claim, and I can’t ignore that. Therefore, starting Thursday on Smackdown, we will have a sort-of mini-tournament that will decide the number one contender, the specifics of which will be described in detail on Smackdown. Tonight, however, we will get a little preview of the tournament, when Triple H teams with Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit to face Eddie Guerrero, Tazz and The Rock.”

 

Triple H fusses and fumes at his plans yet again being ruined, and by none other then, yet again, Linda. But there is nothing he can do, save go along with it, and when the time comes, he does as ordered, and participates in the six-man tag. From the get-go, the illusion of teams is barely even attempted, and the animosity and sense of competition amongst the future opponents is evident: tags are little more then cheaply disguised slaps, there is no teamwork whatsoever, and in the case of the Triple H/Angle/Benoit team, the egos involved drive them to break up their own pinfall attempts. It is only by sheer determination that the heels manage a victory, with Triple H getting the pin over Tazz thanks to assistance from Angle holding Tazz’s feet from the outside. But no sooner is the three-count made then Angle and Triple H in each other’s faces; Benoit insinuates himself in the argument, and within moments, the afterglow of victory is wiped out in the volcanic eruption of tempers, and Raw closes with the image of all six men locked in an uncontrollable brawl.

 

May 4th, 2000: Smackdown

 

A taped message from Linda opens Smackdown, laying down the format of the tournament. Three one-on-one matches will whittle down the number to 3; those 3 will meet on the following Raw in a triple threat match to determine the #1 contender. The pairings will be announced at match time, to keep any eager parties from eliminating their competition prior to the match and earning a bye.

 

The tournament starts right away, with Benoit taking on The Rock. Early on, Benoit tries to use his scientific knowledge to gain the edge, trying to weaken the arms of The Rock. But the size advantage of Rocky proves a bigger obstacle then Benoit is prepared for, and he wears down Benoit with his strength. Benoit’s counter to Rock’s strength lies in his experience edge over Rock, which he uses to exploit little mistakes and body part by body part wear down The Rock. When Benoit gets the Crossface locked on, the crowd comes out of their seats to rally for their hero, and Rock reaches the ropes to break the hold. But when Benoit tries for the swandive headbutt, Rock uses his second wind to catch him and plant Benoit with a Rock Bottom. He is too busy setting up The People’s Elbow to notice Shane McMahon come down to the ring and distract the referee. Rock finally notices the interference once he hits the elbow and starts to go for Shane, but he doesn’t see Triple H come from behind with a steel chair. Triple H levels The Rock and drapes Benoit over him, leaving with Shane so the ref can make the three-count.

 

The second match of the evening pits Guerrero against Angle (leaving the obvious, Tazz/Triple H, for later). Much to the chagrin of her husband, Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley accompanies Angle to, as she explains to Triple H, keep things fair, since Eddie has Chyna with her. But when Stephanie reaches in and holds on to Guerrero’s foot as he tries to climb the turnbuckle for a frog splash, her motives become clear, and Chyna springs into action, chasing the Women’s Champion around the ring and down the aisle. When Stephanie starts making tracks for the curtains, Chyna turns her attention back to the match, only for Stephanie to come up from behind and clobber Chyna in the back of the head with the Women’s Title belt. Seeing his “mamacita” get Pearl Harbored distracts Guerrero long enough for Angle to school-boy Guerrero with a handful of tights, getting Angle the three-count and advancing to the triple threat. Triple H comes stomping out after the decision, furious as all get-out; when Stephanie gives Angle a congratulatory hug, it only serves to deepen his rage. Triple H slides into the ring and shoves the two apart (not noticing Stephanie landing on her ass), then gets in Angle’s face and berates him. Angle’s only response is a cold stare; unsatisfied his tirade didn’t get him anywhere, Triple H drags Stephanie away by the wrist.

 

Before the Tazz/Triple H match can get underway, two men arrive on the scene and take seats at opposite corners: Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle; the eventual opponent for the winner, Chris Jericho, watches from the safety of the back. The presence of the two opponents for the winner of the match doesn’t even seem to register in the minds of the present combatants: the two pick up where Backlash left off, brawling and suplexing and hitting one another with as much hard-impact offense as they can muster. At separate points in the match, both Triple H and Tazz, after having gained an advantage, take a moment to harangue Angle from inside the ring; Angle barks back, making sure both times to show off his Olympic medals to back up his arguments (as if they were related). But after repeated tongue-lashings, Angle snaps and grabs Triple H’s ankle when he ventures near the ropes. Stephanie races out from the back to try and put a halt to anything, but Triple H leaves the ring and starts bumping chests with Angle, screaming at each other while Stephanie shrieks nearby for them to stop. The referee has no choice but to leave the ring and step in between the two, ejecting Angle and Stephanie. While the four of them argue, no one (save Chris Benoit and Tazz) notice The Rock race down to the ring and slide in, crouching like a waiting tiger, his eyes locked on the back of Triple H’s head. When Stephanie and Angle finally leave, the ref and Triple H start to enter the ring; Triple H freezes at the sight of The Rock, but only for a moment. He steps through the ropes with a fiery determination, hands clinched into tight balls, waiting for Rock to spring … only to be left slack-jawed when Rocky turns around and clocks Tazz. The ref signals to the timekeeper; Triple H’s paralysis only breaks not when he hears the bell or the ring announcer, but when Rocky, having left the ring, gives him the bird and mouths a very distinct “fuck you too”. Triple H’s rage cannot be contained, and he takes it out on the first person he sees: the referee, who eats a wicked Pedigree. But before he can inflict further punishment, Tazz sneaks up from behind and slaps on the Tazzmission until Triple H is coughing and limp. The tableau is watched by The Rock … and, to his right, the eventual opponent for the winner of the triple threat, Chris Jericho.

 

May 8th, 2000: Raw

 

Adding insult to the already injured ego of Triple H is the news that, on Raw, not only will he have to sit witness as three other men (two of whom he despises with a passion) fight for the chance to face Chris Jericho at Judgment Day, but he is stuck in a mixed-tag match for the evening, pitting himself and Stephanie against Eddie Guerrero and Chyna. The fact that they are former friends and D-X compatriots is not lost on the audience or the commentators, but it is a memory conveniently discarded by Triple H, who treats Chyna exactly as she wants to: like one of the guys. The beating she receives is nothing less then what he would dish out to Guerrero or Angle or Rock, and when he helps dispatch Guerrero while his wife pins Chyna, it is a small (almost microscopic, really) ego boost after seemingly weeks of soul-crushing disappointment.

 

But the fact remains that, despite all his protests, demands and scheming—not to mention his inside connections with the McMahon family—he is still outside the fishbowl when the time comes to decide Jericho’s opponent for Judgment Day. Jericho sits ringside with the announcers to get a bird’s eye view of his future opponent, whoever it will be.

 

With so much riding on the line, all three men do not fail in putting everything they have and then some into attaining their goal. The technical prowess of Benoit, the deceptive strength of Tazz and the amateur skills of Angle collide like a head-on car accident, and while their respective strengths give each man a unique advantage, their tempers and desire all cancel each other out. Just when Angle thinks he has it won with an Angle Slam on Tazz, too much celebrating gets him caught in a Crossface from Benoit. Angle holds on as long as he can, for what seems an eternity, and is saved only by Tazz, who slips the Tazzmission on Benoit. But Angle shows his gratitude at living to continue the fight by breaking up the Tazzmission and hitting another Angle Slam. All the while, Jericho remains as calm as can be, never rooting for or against anyone: it doesn’t matter who it is, he tells Jim Ross, because when it the match goes past 10 minutes, and the fatigue starts to show, it looks as though the three men are too equally matched for anyone to come out on top. No one man can subdue both challengers long enough to get anything even resembling a pinfall or a submission attempt without the odd-man-out stepping in and breaking up the potential winning decision.

 

So when Triple H comes down at an almost leisurely pace with a grin about a mile wide, swinging a sledgehammer by his side like a pendulum, the crowd that the end may be potentially near, and quite possibly something unexpected. He stops at the end of the ramp, watching as Tazz is superplexed by both Angle and Benoit from the top rope, putting all three men on the mat, winded and wasted.

 

Triple H acts as if on cue, sliding in with the sledgehammer. The ref tries to step in the way, but Triple H pushes him away without any effort. Angle is the first to his feet, and Triple H puts him on his back again with a shot from the sledgehammer right between the eyes. Benoit is up next, and gets put back down with the same treatment. Instead of waiting for Tazz to get up, Triple H drags him up, dropping the sledgehammer and planting Tazz with a Pedigree. The ref has no choice but to call for the bell, sending the crowd into hysterics; but Triple H isn’t done. He picks up the sledgehammer again, driving it into the stomachs of the three prone men on the mat, over and over again while the timekeeper rings the bell repeatedly. Jericho throws his headphones aside, scooping up his chair and sliding into the ring behind Triple H. When he poses, as if victorious, in the middle of the ring, Jericho waffles him in the back, then hits a crisp Lionsault across the small of his back. Jericho leaves the carnage of the ring, holding up the belt with one hand and pointing to it with the other, reminding Triple H (as if he could hear Jericho from the ramp) who is the champion, and who is the chump.

 

May 11th, 2000: Smackdown

 

“No Chance In Hell” opens Smackdown, and Vince enters the ring, strutting and looking very pleased with himself. Every gesture he makes is in grand fashion, every word dripping with self-centered glee. “Tonight,” he starts off, “I, Vince McMahon, stand before you, not just as the Chairman of the World Wrestling Federation, but a certified genius.” The crowd boos, but Vince is unperturbed. “I know, I know, it’s hard for you to accept that not only am I more successful then any of you, or richer then any of you, but that I am smarter then each and every one of you. You see, after my son-in-law was screwed out of his rightful opportunity to face that smarmy little punk Chris Jericho for the WWF Title by The Rock, I had an epiphany. A revelation! A simple way to take back what is rightfully Triple H’s, and that is the WWF Title shot at Judgement Day, and that was to completely destroy the three participants in the triple threat match!” The crowd unleashes with another wave of jeers, but Vince is still unbothered. “Boo all you want; you’re just jealous you weren’t smart enough to see it coming. But you should’ve known that when Vince McMahon is backed into a corner, that’s when I’m at my most dangerous. When I’m put in a position where it seems all is lost, you should know by now to expect me to have a master plan! So, it is with great privilege that I present to you, the next World Wrestling Federation Champion … Triple H!”

 

But instead of “My Time”, the music of Chris Jericho comes on. Jericho saunters out, taking time every now and then to hold up the World Title, a visual poke in the eye to Vince. When he gets to the ring, Vince sees not only does Jericho have the belt, but tucked in the waistband of his tights is a piece of paper.

 

“You know something, Vince, you’re absolutely right. Without a doubt, you’re one of the smartest people on Earth. I mean, who else would be brilliant enough to send a psychopath after his own daughter? Who else would have the foresight to embrace the guy who ruined his daughter’s wedding by kidnapping her, drugging her and marrying her at a drive-through chapel? You’re some kind of genius there, Vinnie!”

 

Vince’s beaming pride is all but extinguished. “Listen, Jericho. I don’t know what in the hell you think you’re doing here—”

 

“Baby, I’m the WWF Champion! I’m your champion! I go whereeeeeeeee-ver I want!” The crowd lights up at that, but Jericho silences them with an upraised hand. “And right now, you and I, we got something to talk about. Namely, Judgment Day.”

 

“What’s there to talk about? You and Triple H, why you’re gonna have a little trade: he’s gonna hand you your ass, and you’re gonna hand him the WWF Title!”

 

Jericho shakes his head, a dopey, if confident, grin on his lips. “See, that’s where we have a problem, Vinnie-Mac.” Jericho whips out the paper and hands it to Vince. Vince hesitates, looking at it as though it may bite. “Go ahead, boss. Take it.” Vince reaches for it, timidly, only for Jericho to pull it away, then put it back again. Vince reaches again, and Jericho pulls it away again, chuckling.

 

Just gimme the damn paper, you buffoon!” Vince bellows.

 

“Alright, sheesh! No need to shout, dude, I’m right here!” While Vince opens it and starts scanning, Jericho addresses the crowd. “See, I’m like you guys out there … I’m not as smart as Mr. McMahon, so allow me, your ever-so-humble World Champion, to cut to the chase. Mr. McMahon is holding a piece of paper from his lovely wife, Linda. It states that … and I’ll say this real slow, so all us stupid people get it …” Jericho gets right in Vince’s face, surprising the Chairman. “No … title … shot … for … Triple … H.” Vince’s eyes go as wide as truck tires; he scans the document, searching for both the statement that proclaims that, and the signature that makes it official. Jericho, however, doesn’t wait for Vince to find it; he snatches it out of Vince’s hand, turns to the second page and starts reading in a mock authoritative voice. “Ahem. ‘Because of Triple H’s interference that ruined the triple threat match to decide the #1 contender, there will be a rematch on Smackdown.’” The crowd explodes; Vince rants, screaming negatives over and over again. Jericho, however, ignores this and continues. “‘In addition; because the official was unable to maintain both control and the safety of the competitors, two additional measures will be taken to ensure that there will be a winner. Firstly, WWF Champion Chris Jericho’—that’s me—’will act as the special guest referee. Secondly, should Triple H again attack the participants of this match and prevent a decision from being rendered, he will be suspended for six months.’”

 

Vince stands, jaw agape, staring from the paper to Jericho, as if he has been sucker-punched. “This can’t be …” he mutters, shaking his head, shuffling about the ring. “This …”

 

Jericho gives Vince a good-natured clap on the shoulder. “Sorry Linda isn’t here to tell you herself. She was a little busy. But she did have a message she wanted me to give you. I think it was: ‘Don’t cross the boss, Vince’.”

 

Vince, Triple H, Stephanie and Shane spend the night trying to contact Linda to get her to reconsider or reverse the ruling, but to no avail; she is unavailable, and her assistant tells them to call tomorrow. Triple H vents his frustration by using a sledgehammer to destroy the announce tables at ringside, and interrupts a match with the Hardy Boyz and Too Cool, beating up all four men.

 

When The Rock finally arrives and is told the information (via Kevin Kelly), he reacts with typical Rock candor. “You ask The Rock what his opinion is of the triple threat match happening again? You ask The Rock what his thoughts are about Triple H getting suspended if he interferes? Lemme ask you something, Kevin Kelly … what’s your opinion of Boris Yeltsin?” Kevin Kelly shakes his head in confusion; The Rock holds up a hand. “Hold on a minute, The Rock’s not done. How do you feel about relations between England and France? You’re probably too busy chasing your pet sheep all over the backyard, ya sick freak!” Rock tears the microphone out of Kevin Kelly’s hand and addresses the camera directly. “The Rock says this: The Rock doesn’t care about Triple H and whatever he blathers on about, and The Rock sure as hell doesn’t care what those three jabronis do tonight. They can all go suck a monkey’s nipple for all The Rock cares. There’s Chris Benoit …” Rock reaches in his pockets, pulls out a quarter and holds it up. “Here’s a quarter, Chris; go buy yourself a Chicklet to stick in that hole you got in your mouth. Or better yet, just shut your mouth. Then you got Kurt Angle; he likes to talk about how he’s been shafted and screwed … Kurt, if you were screwed half as much as you say you are, your name would be Stephanie McMahon! Kurt goes on and on about his shiny gold medals; well, The Rock has something shiny, too. A pair of shiny leather boots that’d make a nice fit right up your candy-ass! And as for Tazz … Tazz is always talking about how to mood is about to change. The Rock only has one mood, Tazz: and that’s the day-and-night desire to layeth the smacketh down! Because, you see, it doesn’t matter what Kurt Angle, or Chris Benoit, or this pervert Kevin Kelly has to say … the fact of the matter is that The Rock is on a mission, on a quest, on an unstoppable journey, and the destination, the goal is the WWF Championship. And it doesn’t matter if The Rock has to go through KYJ or Triple H-ah or anybody else, because The Rock will not stop, will not stop until he is WWF Champion once again, if ya smell-la-la-la-la-low … what The Rock … is cookin’!”

 

Chris Jericho’s presence in the triple threat match sets everyone on edge, changing the dynamic of the wrestlers. Still there is the reckless, bottomless abandon with which they had tapped into on Raw, but not without keeping an eye on their referee … the eventual opponent for one of the men. But Jericho stays out of the way, rarely even interjecting in potential disqualification situations; his only real interaction are making pinfall counts, which, as each is kicked out of by 2, come under protest for being too slow. Jericho takes every opportunity to remind the three of who’s wearing the striped shirt (although he isn’t wearing one). Benoit, Angle and Tazz quickly pick up on Jericho’s lackadaisical involvement, and start to take advantage; fighting outside the ring goes on, and the stairs, barricades and announce tables all get involved, while Jericho patiently watches.

 

Having broken the announce table, and beaten one another on every surface they can utilize, the fighters go back into the ring, now looking for pinfalls. Finishers are tossed off in a rapid pace, but before the third count can end the match, the other guy is right there to break up the count. Benoit and Angle team up and hit Tazz with a spike piledriver, putting him out, but the two fight over the pinfall until Benoit catches a Angle punch and turns it into the Crippler Crossface. Jericho checks on Angle, waiting to call the tap-out that will end the match … and so all his attention is focused on the fighters, not the crowd, where Triple H springs out of. He grabs a chair and slides in, swings and blasts Jericho in the back. Jericho falls forward onto Benoit and Angle, but Triple H lays into him with a few more chair shots before stepping away, a big, beaming smile on his face. Benoit gets to his feet and barks at Triple H, who drops down to the arena floor and starts backing up the ramp, shrugging in response and smiling the whole way. He never sees The Rock race down the ramp and clock him in the back of the head. Rock drags Triple H back in the ring and lets the three competitors all hit their finishers on him before tossing him out. But before there is even time to speculate about the match, Rock drops Benoit with a Rock Bottom. Angle charges, but Rock sidesteps and throws him into the turnbuckle chest-first; while Angle is dazed, Rock hits the Rock Bottom on Tazz, and is up on his feet in time to hit one on Angle too. Smackdown ends with Rock posing for the crowd, and behind him, five unconscious men.

 

May 15th, 2000: Raw

 

Raw opens with Vince, Triple H, Stephanie and Shane in the ring, all beaming with pride. “Last week on Raw, you all saw the true number one contender take out all those half-assed hacks,” says Triple H. “And then, last week on Smackdown, you saw me find another way to counter the conspiracy directed at me by Linda McMahon to prevent me from regaining my World Wrestling Federation Championship. How did I do it? By killing the special referee, Fluke Jericho!” Everyone enjoys a good laugh at that before Triple H continues, as serious as a heart-attack. “I have proven time and again that I am the dominant force in this business, that I am the measuring stick by which all these other wannabes should be compared to. But do I get the title shot, the title shot that I deserve, that I am owed? No, Linda McMahon sets up some ridiculous tournament and I get screwed again. Well, Linda, I figured out how to beat your little conspiracy, didn’t I? I just keep spoiling your matches, and I keep doing it over and over again … and I’m gonna keep doing that until I get my shot!”

 

Vince now takes a mike. “You see, Linda, there’s nothing you can do that we can’t outsmart you on. Face it, the wrestling business is in my family line, Linda … you’re just a McMahon by name, and you’re a woman, too. The McMahon men will always find a way to stay one step ahead of you. So, since there’s less then a week left to Judgment Day, you might as well just come out now and make the match official.”

 

Linda does come out, with Jericho alongside. Jericho and Triple H bark at each other across the arena, with Jericho reminding Triple H who the champion is by holding up the belt. “You’re right, Vince,” Linda says, stunning the crowd into silence. “Wrestling has been a part of the McMahon family dating back to your grandfather, Jess, and to your father, Vincent J. McMahon. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from you in the years of being married to you, it’s how to be ruthless and cunning. That’s why, going into the triple threat match last week on Smackdown, I had a back-up plan. I anticipated Triple H going after Chris Jericho when he acted as special referee; I didn’t anticipate The Rock coming out and doing what he did, but your plan was as predictable as they come, Vince. That’s why I took steps ahead of time to ensure the time I invested in the number-one contender’s tournament wasn’t wasted.”

 

Triple H pushes his way to the edge of the ring, leaning over the ropes. “And no doubt, that was to give the fans what they want and what I deserve, and that’s the chance to tear that chump limb from limb at Judgment Day!”

 

Linda shakes her head. “No, Triple H. I am not going to reward your behavior to thwart official WWF rulings and tournaments. Chris Jericho will defend his title, and because of your actions in spoiling not one but two honest attempts at determining a number-one contender, I have no choice but to order a Fatal Four-Way no-disqualification match between Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Tazz and Chris Benoit!” Jericho doesn’t look particularly thrilled, but his disappointment at having to go through three people instead of one pales in comparison to the rage coming from Triple H.

 

“You can’t do that!” Triple H screams. “I worked my ass off to get to the top of this company, and I’ll be damned if I let some stupid bitch like you take it all away! I want that match at Judgment Day, I deserve that match at Judgment Day!”

 

Very familiar music, coupled with the shrieking of girls, fills the arena, and the crowd comes alive at the sight of Shawn Michaels, the WWF Commissioner. Shawn struts and dances his way out onto the gangplank, shaking hands with Linda and Jericho before producing a microphone. “Oh, Triple H, old buddy, old pal,” says Shawn. “How could we forget about you? Oh, you’ll have a match at Judgment Day, old friend. But since you got such an itchy trigger-finger when it comes to matches, I, as the WWF Commissioner, have determined that any match that involves you needs a special referee to keep you contained. And who better to keep you contained then … hmm, oh, I don’t know … me?” Thunderous applause greets this (although none from the McMahon-Helsmley Faction), but Shawn waves it off. “And if you win your match, I promise you’ll get that shot at whoever the World Champion is”—he turns to Jericho and shrugs—”no offense, kid, at King Of The Ring on June 25th. But if you want that shot, if you”—Shawn makes quotation marks in the air—”‘deserve’ that shot, you’ll have to get through The Rock in a Last Man Standing match!”

 

May 21st: Judgment Day

 

Shawn comes out first, bouncing and skipping happily. But all humor drains from him, and the proceedings, when Triple H and The Rock are introduced. Shawn keeps the two men from charging one another until both men finish their pre-match intros. Shawn brings the two combatants to the center of the ring to explain the rules, but neither man so much as acknowledge Shawn’s presence; their eyes are fixed on each other, two old rivals merely waiting for the go-ahead to tear each other apart. When Shawn gives the signal for the timekeeper to ring the bell, the two men stay standing, staring at each other for a few silent, tension-filled moments; Triple H stands, seething, his hands clinching and loosening, like a tiger waiting to pounce on his prey. The Rock maintains a stoic, almost lifeless stance, with only the rage in his eyes betraying any semblance of life.

 

It is Triple H who breaks the calm with a right hand, but Rock blocks it and peppers Triple H’s jaw with rights, leading up to the trademark Rock Spit Punch. Triple H goes down and bails for the floor, but Rock follows with a baseball slide, sending Triple H into the barricade. Rocky drops Triple H chest-first on the barricade and follows it up with a whip, but Triple H reverses it and sends Rocky into the steps. Triple H rolls in and takes a breather as Rocky struggles to come back into the ring. When he gets in, Triple H greets him with a running knee lift, sending him tumbling through the ropes and back out onto the floor. Triple H returns the favor of the barricade hotshot on The Rock, and furthers the damage by throwing Rocky’s head backwards into the same barricade. Triple H slams Rock back-first into the apron repeatedly; he then backs off to allow Rock to stumble away, only to clobber Rock in the lower back with a forearm. This sets up a delayed overhead suplex, but Rock makes it to his feet at 5. Triple H slides into the ring and waits for Rocky to follow; he pounces before Rocky can even stand, dropping repeated elbows on the small of Rock’s back. With Rock down, Triple H removes turnbuckle covering of both the top and middle turnbuckles, and whips Rock into them with force. Rock collides with the corner like a freight train hitting a wall, and he falls on his face instantly. Triple H whips him into the corner again, and Rock crashes into the exposed steel and falls dead on the mat; Triple H lays in wait in the corner as the ref counts, but Rock pulls himself up with the ropes at 7. Triple H clamps on an abdominal stretch, and uses the benefit of no-DQ’s to use the ropes for additional leverage. The Rock suffers for almost a full minute before hip-tossing out of it. Triple H is back up on his feet almost instantly; Rock tries to whip him, but Triple H gets the reversal and ducks down. Rock sees it coming, floats over for the wrap-around DDT, but Triple H pushes him off, kicks him in the gut and gets a DDT of his own that draws another 7 count. Triple H pounces again, hitting a Russian legsweep and a backbreaker. Triple H picks up Rock in a bearhug and runs at the exposed corner, driving the small of the back into the high turnbuckle; The Rock is almost totally limp in Triple H’s arms when Triple H does it again, letting him go after a third. The Rock stumbles forward and collapses on the mat, but Triple H doesn’t wait for Shawn to start counting; he gets up on the second turnbuckle and flies, driving his elbow into The Rock’s back. When The Rock pulls himself up, Triple H goes into action again, whipping The Rock into the ropes; he hits a facebuster, then quickly slaps on a sleeper. With no ropes to grab to break the hold (and little strength to fight for it, were it an option), The Rock is stuck, and slumps to the mat, but beats Shawn’s count at 9. Triple H nails Rock on the jaw with a stiff clothesline, but Rock pulls himself up and dares Triple H to bring it; Triple H obliges with stiff punches that keep putting Rocky down, but every time, Rocky gets back up. Finally, a kick in the gut leads to a Pedigree; Triple H falls back in the corner and waits as Shawn counts … only for Rock to beat the count at 9 again. Triple H fumes and screams at Shawn to do his job, but Shawn ignores him. Triple H slides out and grabs a chair, then crouches, waiting for Rocky to get to his feet. When he does, he swings like a ballplayer, but Rocky drops to a knee; Triple H’s swing cuts through the air harmlessly, but Rock’s forearm shot to his groin is not harmless. The chair falls to the mat; Rock picks it up and succeeds where Triple H failed, nearly taking his head off in the process. Blood flows from Triple H’s forehead as he staggers up to his feet, but The Rock is ready; he drops the chair, kicks Triple H in the gut and hits a DDT on the chair. Shawn gets to 4 before Triple H manages to get to his knee, but Rocky is on him, throwing him into the exposed turnbuckle. When Triple H stumbles out of the corner, Rock scoops him up with a Samoan drop. Triple H bails, but Rocky follows him out and whips him into the stairs. Rock rips the protective barrier off the announcer’s table and grabs a monitor; when Triple H gets back to his feet, Rocky runs and crushes Triple H’s head. Shawn’s count gets to 7 before Triple H answers it. Rock throws Triple H back into the ring and whips him into the ropes; a spinebuster on the chair stills Triple H, but Rocky doesn’t wait for a count. He kicks Triple H’s arm and throws his elbow pad out into the crowd. He bounces off the first side, bounces off the second and holds up ten fingers as he stops to twist for The People’s Elbow … only for Shawn to blindside him with Sweet Chin Music. Shawn pulls Triple H aside, propping him up in the corner, and begins counting a lot faster then he did before. Rock still beats the count at 8, but Shawn has armed himself with the chair, and blasts Rock in the back; he goes down to his knees, screaming in pain. Triple H stumbles out of the corner, puts Rocky in position and hits a sloppy but effective Pedigree and falls back towards the corner. Shawn has no trouble getting to 10 this time, fast or slow. Shawn celebrates with Triple H, helping his friend back to the locker room.

 

With the shock of the WWF Commissioner once again being in the McMahon pocket, the outlook for Jericho looks all the more grim. With three tough opponents standing in his way, all of whom could pin one another and end Jericho’s title reign without him being involved in the match, and the prospect of an almost impenetrable authority bloc should he succeed, the stress of it all weighs obviously on Jericho’s shoulders as he comes out for his defense.

 

The four men immediately start brawling when the bell rings, with Jericho against Benoit and Tazz versus Angle. Jericho hits a dropkick, sending Benoit over and out, and Jericho gives chase, leaving Tazz and Angle, who start trying to outdo one another with chain wrestling. Jericho and Benoit continue their brawl while Angle and Tazz trade armbars, headlocks, hammerlocks and pinning combinations. After 10 consecutive near-falls, the two finally get back to a standing base and to a standing ovation. Benoit comes in and hits a German suplex on Tazz and bridges, but Angle breaks it up at two, only to get suplexed himself by Jericho for a two count. The two new pairs start slugging it out until Angle falls out of the ropes from a Jericho flying forearm shot, leaving Tazz and Jericho to double-team Benoit. Jericho and Tazz trade hitting him with suplexes and backbreaks, and even a double-team maneuver of a missle dropkick by Jericho into a German suplex by Tazz, but when Tazz bridges it for a pin, the alliance breaks and Jericho stomps on Tazz. The two start trading stiff chops; Jericho backs him into a corner, runs and hits a clothesline, but the follow-up bulldog is pushed off. Angle sneaks in behind Tazz and goes for the Angle Slam, but Tazz drops out behind and goes for the Tazzmission. Angle blocks it and turns it into a fireman’s carry takedown. Jericho tries to roll up Angle, but Benoit breaks the count at two with a chairshot. Angle gets up and eats chair, but Tazz ducks the swing and slaps on the Tazzmission. Benoit tries to fight it, but Tazz gets the leg-scissors and takes Benoit down to the mat where he can’t escape. The ref starts checking Benoit, but in between the second and third arm-checks, Jericho comes off the top rope with a moonsault, sandwiching Benoit between Jericho and Tazz, and Tazz between Jericho and the mat. Jericho covers Benoit (who falls off Tazz), but Angle interrupts the count at two. Angle pounds away on Jericho; when Jericho tries to counter with a clothesline, Angle slips behind him and hits the Angle Slam for two. Angle picks up Jericho to hit the Angle Slam again, but Tazz gets up, knocks Angle out of the ring and hits the Tazzmission. But before he can get the leg-scissors locked in, Benoit breaks the hold with a groin shot, and hits Jericho with the Crossface. Jericho tries to fight it, but Benoit locks it in, pulling him to the center of the ring to eliminate a rope-break. Jericho tries to roll backwards, turning it into a pinning predicament, but Benoit won’t let it happen. Only Angle keeps the match from ending, just before Jericho is about to tap. Angle goes for the Angle Slam again, but Benoit drops out of it, scoops Angle’s legs out from underneath him, and slaps on the Crossface. Angle rolls out of it into a pinning combination, but Tazz breaks it up and hits a belly-to-belly on Benoit that sends him across the ring. Angle gets up in time for a head-and-arm Tazzplex and a reverse Tiger suplex, but Jericho tries a roll-up that only gets two. A double-underhook backbreak gets Jericho another two, but the piledriver attempt is reversed into a back body drop. Benoit comes over and hits a DDT on Tazz, then a Northern Lights Suplex, but the bridge attempt only gets two. So fast is the action in the ring that no one notices, save the announcers (and part of the crowd) the exhausted, sweaty figure walking down to ringside, sledgehammer in hand. Triple H stops at the end of the aisle, breathing heavily, waiting and watching. With all four men down, he slowly approaches the ring and hops up on the apron.

 

Suddenly, the lights die, and the music of Kid Rock fills the arena. A loud rumble, the rumble of a motorcycle—no, a hog—booms from the backstage, and The Undertaker comes bursting through, like a Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, riding down on the ring. Triple H freezes like a deer in headlights as the visage of the leather-clad, trenchcoat-wearing Undertaker bears down upon him, music and engine blaring. Undertaker stops the bike at the end of the aisle, dismounts and casts his gaze directly at Triple H. Triple H’s paralysis finally breaks and he tries to get in the ring, but Undertaker grabs his ankle and pulls him down. Undertaker clocks Triple H, putting him on his ass, and Undertaker grabs the dropped sledgehammer. Undertaker swings, but Triple H rolls out of the way, gets to his feet and runs away. Undertaker starts to go after him, but Angle rolls out and confronts Undertaker, only to earn himself a chokeslam on the arena floor.

 

Meanwhile, Tazz gets Benoit with a dragon suplex, but only gets two off it before Jericho breaks up the count. Jericho throws Tazz into the ropes and runs right behind him, connecting with a flying forearm as Tazz turns around, sending him over the top rope. Tazz quickly climbs back up on the apron, but Jericho hits the springboard dropkick right in the mush, putting Tazz down on the arena floor. Benoit comes up from behind and cinches in the waistlock and starts on the rolling Germans; but on the third, Jericho pulls off a standing switch and hits one of his own. After shaking out the cobwebs, Jericho gets to his feet and jumps off the ropes, hitting the Lionsault. The ref makes the count and gets three, much to the chagrin of Triple H, who watches from the entrance, fuming and screaming. An exhausted Jericho stands against the ropes facing the entrance, holding up the belt to yet again remind Triple H who is champion and who isn’t, and daring him to come back to the ring. Undertaker mounts his bike, rides around the ring to turn it around and stops at the end of the aisle, revving the engine. Shawn joins his buddy in the entrance, vowing revenge on Raw.

Part III

 

Our story continues on Raw, the night after Judgment Day. Chris Jericho is fresh off a grueling but successful WWF World Title defense against Tazz, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit, while Triple H is coming off his violent Last Man Standing encounter with The Rock, won courtesy of his old D-Generation X friend and WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels. The respective victories have put the two archenemies on a collision course for King Of The Ring, finally giving Triple H the chance he has demanded for almost two months: to prove Jericho’s title victory a fluke. But there are many willing to stand against the McMahon-Helmsley Faction’s campaign to rule the WWF …

May 22nd, 2000: Raw

Vince McMahon comes to the ring as the announcers discuss the controversial ending of the Last Man Standing match that got Triple H his #1 contender status. The crowd’s hatred of the WWF’s Chairman is almost homicidal, but their chants of “asshole” go unnoticed by Vince.

“Judgment Day is supposed to be a day in which the world as we know it comes to an end,” says Vince, “and certainly, that was the case for a number of WWF superstars last Sunday night. Judgment day is supposed to be a day in which we, as human beings, are judged by the way we live our lives, and either rewarded or punished. Well, based upon the results of Judgment Day, it’s clear to see that we in the McMahon-Helmsley Faction and DX, well, we must be living our lives correctly, because, indeed, we were very justly rewarded. My son-in-law Triple H—and I don’t believe I’ve ever been any more proud of anyone as I was last night in him—single-handedly, one on one, proved why he is The Game. Triple H defeated the Rock, and is thusly on his way to this year’s King Of The Ring on June 25th to finally deliver the punch line on the joke that has been Chris Jericho’s title reign. It’s just too bad that Jericho couldn’t play ball, because he is a good athlete … but it seems every time he has to step up to the plate, he has to rely on outside help. When he”—Vince makes quote marks in the air with his fingers—”Ôbeat’ Triple H, he needed a crooked referee to do it. When he was faced with defeating not one, not two but three contenders, he had to rely on The Undertaker to cut down the odds. This is the type of champion you people cheer for, when you have a man like Triple H, who has scratched and clawed and fought for your respect day in and day out … he is far and awaybetter championship material then Chris Jericho!” The crowd loudly disagrees, but Vince waves it away, as if the vociferousness of the audience is merely a fly buzzing about. “And as far as the Undertaker is concerned,” he adds, “it’s been really nice around without The Undertaker; he walked out on his contract some time ago, and in fact, if Undertaker shows his face here tonight … well, the Undertaker is not legally under contract, since he walked out. Therefore, I have marshals waiting in the wings to arrest The Undertaker should he show up here tonight.” Another chorus of booing goes ignored. “Now then, as far as The Rock is concerned … I’m not so sure that The Rock will show up here tonight, bruised ego and all. I don’t know if Rock is big enough of a man to be able to swallow his pride and show up a defeated man before you this evening. But should The Rock show up, tonight would be a good night to go one on one: Vince McMahon versus The Rock here in this ring … but that’s not what’s gonna happen. You see, what’s going to happen here tonight, should The Rock show up, is that The Rock will be facing Road Dogg, X-Pac, Shane McMahon and the next WWF Champion Triple H all in one match, four on one. All I can say is that, at Judgment Day, we exacted our will upon the World Wrestling Federation and charted the course for the McMahon-Helmsley’s return to glory. Tonight, we will take that first step.”

As the zero hour approaches for Rock’s doomsday match against four men, he jumps the gun and comes to ring, microphone in hand. “Now The Rock has always said ‘just bring it.’ And last night at Judgment Day, Triple H, you brought it all at the Rock: you brought chairs, tables, old friends—The Rock is surprised you didn’t bring some STD from that two-dollar slut you call a wife! But regardless of what you brought at The Rock, it just didn’t matter, because Triple H, The Rock says this: after all we’ve been through, gallons of blood, the longest 10 seconds in human history, you gave everything you had at The Rock, and The Rock gave it back, but the fact still remains, Triple H, is that although you and The Rock made history last night, and although you walked out of Judgment Day the #1 contender, you never ever beat The Rock.” Rocky pauses, casting sideways glances without moving his head, as the fans begin to chant “Rocky.” “So Triple H, enjoy the victory, enjoy your shot, enjoy it all, because the Rock says this: in due time, the Rock guaran-damn-tees, once again, he will be WWFChampion. Speaking of champions, that brings me to Shawn Michaels. Shawn Michaels, last night, that makes twice you’ve cost The Rock an important match. That’s twice, Heartbreak Kid, and The Rock ain’t gonna let it happen a third time, cause the next time The Rock sees you, The Rock is gonna have abig surprise for you. As for tonight, Vince McMahon, after the Rock went through hell and back last night, you think you’re just gonna finish the Rock off by throwing him into a Handicap match? Four on one? Well, you know what The Rock says. What The Rock always says to jabronis like you: just bring it!” The audience breaks out in yet another chant, which quickly morphs into booing when Triple H comes out, flanked by Stephanie, D-X and Shane McMahon. Triple H raises a single finger, mouthing the words number one.

“You know, Rocky, before I walk down this ramp and kick your ass … let me say a little something here. You know, Rock, yesterday, we went through hell. It was Judgment Day for sure. And you’re right, you gave it all you had, I gave it all I had. And Rock, we did make history! But Rock, yesterday was your Judgment Day, and on your judgment day, you were punished, while I was rewarded. You see, Rock, ’cause when you finally fell to the ground, and Shawn counted to 10, I felt it all slide outta ya. Because, Rock, you were the Great One. But as great as you were, when it came right down to it at the end, I could feel it all come outta ya, Rock. At the end, you couldn’t hang with me. There’s no shame in that, Rock; ’cause I’m the best there is! But Rock … you can say all you want that I never beat you. But the fact of the matter is that there are two men standing here tonight, looking each other dead in the eye. One is in that ring, and he’s a loser. The other is on this ramp, and he is a winner. The fact of the matter is, Rock, when it was, as you say, all said and done, and all the smoke had cleared, I was the number one contender! Because I am The Game! And like I have always said, because I am that damn good!”

Rocky glares back; he puts up a hand, inviting Triple H and his cronies to come on down, punctuating it with; “Just bring it!”

Triple H drops the mike walks down to the ring, his cronies right behind him. Rocky casually tosses his sunglasses aside and gets down in a crouch. Triple H leads his soldiers to the end of the ramp, then fan out around the ring, encircling The Rock. Rocky turns rapidly, trying to keep an eye on his attackers, but the numbers game quickly does him in. Triple H sits back, letting Road Dogg, X-Pac and Shane McMahon do all the work until Chris Jericho and Tazz come flying from the back and sliding into the ring. The two manage to send X-Pac and Road Dogg flying. But without The Rock to help fight, the numbers slowly assert themselves.

Suddenly, the lights die, and the picture on the TitanTron switches to a video package of two very creepy little girls, droning out a twisted prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray my soul is thine to keep, and never step outside this bed, now look into all the evil … now back from the dead. He’s here…” The screen flashes and five massive words burn bright on the screen: “His Judgment Day is now“, and The Undertaker, riding his motorcycle, rumbles into the arena and down the ramp. He drives it down to the end of the ramp, parking it sideways, blocking escape, and steps off. Shane commands X-Pac and Road Dogg to try a two-on-one attack, but Undertaker shrugs them off as easily as fruit flies. Undertaker remounts his bike and guns the motor, staring down Shane like an assassin over the barrel of a gun. Shane breaks out into a mad scramble, running around the ring as Undertaker gives chase, leaving Triple H alone. The Rock, Tazz and Jericho all get to their feet and circle around Triple H, blocking his escape. Triple H tries to dive for an open side, but Tazz dives on him, grabbing him by the feet. Jericho and Rock help drag Triple H back to the middle of the ring, where the three put the boots to him and take turns unleashing finishing maneuvers. Raw ends with Vince and Shawn Michaels watching helplessly from the ramp as Rock and Tazz taunt Triple H while Jericho holds him in the Walls Of Jericho, wrenching back as hard as he can, smiling like a Cheshire cat as Triple H’s screams fill the arena.

May 25th. 2000: Smackdown

Shawn Michaels struts to the ring to start Smackdown amid a sea of negativity, grinning the whole way. He lets the boos drift off into silence before addressing the crowd. “Back on Monday Night Raw, I had to sit back and watch my best friend get the crap kicked out of him by some orange-skinned midget, a punk with a fascination for sticking things up people’s … backsides …” The crowd re-voices their hatred of the corrupt commissioner. “Yeah, keep booing, and I may just put Patterson and Brisco in a bra and panties match to shut you up. Yeah, I thought so. Now, as I was saying, Triple H got ambushed by two losers and some guy who’s based his whole career on copying the Heartbreak Kid.” Shawn Michaels looks dead in the camera, eyes as cold as ice. “Chris Jericho; you willnever be a showstopper … you will never be an icon … and you sure as hell aren’t main event, kid. You’re a fluke, a one-shot, an also-ran. People will always look at you and say, Ôgood kid, but he ain’t no Shawn Michaels’.” Shawn backs away and starts pacing the ring. “Now, I’ll get to those two wanna-bes in a minute … but first, I got a beef with The Undertaker. Undertaker, you’ve been gone for months. You picked up your ball and went home when things weren’t going your way. And now you think you can come back here and everything will be just as it was? You think we’re all just gonna bow to your will? I got news for you, buddy boy … I was the big dog who kicked your ass all over the arena last time we went toe-to-toe, and don’t think I won’t do it again!”

The Rock’s music cues up right as the last syllable falls from Shawn’s lips. The Rock comes out, dressed in his usual snappy shirt, gold chains and sunglasses. The crowd chants his name just before he moves to speak, and he has to delay, basking in the glow of the adoration. “The Rock’s gonna cut to the chase,” he says. “The Rock ain’t gonna mince words, because this is The Rock’s show, always has been, always will be. Now, The Rock and The Undertaker, we’re not bosom buddies … we’re not drinkin’ buddies. We’re not even on speaking terms. But the one thing I do about The Undertaker is that he is no quitter. The Undertaker doesn’t drop the ball … not unlike you …” The Rock turns around and looks at the TitanTron, and a video roll starts playing: a flashback to the night after WrestleMania 14, with Triple H condemning Shawn Michaels for failing D-Generation X; Shawn accidentally costing Undertaker the World Title at SummerSlam ’97; Shawn not protecting Shane McMahon from Mick Foley; Shawn being stripped of the Intercontinental Title for his failure to defend it. “It looks to The Rock like Shawn Michaels has a history of dropping the ball. The Rock would guess you’re probably safe playing with Triple H’s balls, but we all know Stephanie has those locked up in a jar somewhere!” The crowd roars in response; Shawn, of course, doesn’t see the humor.

“Now you just wait—”

“The Rock says you need to know your role, shut your mouth, and most of all … get ready. Get ready, because The Rock said the next time he saw you, he had a surprise in store. A gift, in fact! You see, The Rock remembers, Shawn Michaels … The Rock remembers how you attacked The Rock on the very first Smackdown, and how you did it again at Judgment Day. And The Rock figures that you must hate The Rock so much because The Rock is everything you never were: handsome, intelligent, in possession of millions …” The crowd inserts their own “millions”, and The Rock picks right back up; “and millions of fans … it’s sad to see how better a legend like you has become, Shawn Michaels. That’s why The Rock spoke with Linda McMahon, and with Chris Jericho, and Tazz and just about every-damn-body back there, and we all agree on one thing: you’re fired!”

Shawn tries to voice protest, but a taped message from Linda cues up on the screen. “By now, Shawn, I’m sure The Rock has told you that the World Wrestling Federation will no longer be needing you to act as Commissioner. As of this moment, you are removed from the position, and will be replaced … by this man …”

All eyes turn to the entrance, and all voices rise in screams when the sounds of squealing tires and crunchy guitars come over the PA. Mick Foley walks out, arm raised in triumph. Foley pulls a mike out from his shirt, waves at the crowd, then at Shawn (whose face is frozen into a scowl). “Long time no see!” Mick says, and the crowd erupts again. Mick shakes Rock’s hand, then starts walking down the ramp. “First off, let me say to you, Shawn Michaels, that I don’t mean you no disrespect; there was a time when I hated The Rock. But I couldn’t stay mad at that eyebrow!” Mick grins, but the humor is lost on Shawn. Mick slides in the ring and offers a hand. Shawn looks down on it with disgust, and Mick retracts it without missing a beat. “But something’s happened to you, Shawn … you’ve been corrupted, and the WWF can’t afford to have a corruption in such an important role. That’s why I’ve been hired to replace you, and end the corruption that has ruined this company. Now, there’s two issues left over from your administration I gotta deal with: The Undertaker, and the World Title match at King Of The Ring. As far as The Undertaker goes, him and I, well … everybody knows him and I have had our differences. But that don’t mean I don’t respect the hell out of him. So, effective immediately, I am reinstating his contract!” Shawn’s defiance of the decision borders on a tantrum as he stomps and flails his arms. “Let’s move on, shall we?” he says. “Now, I can’t go and change what’s already happened, so Triple H will still be getting his World Title shot against Chris Jericho at King Of The Ring. But, as a token of respect to you, Shawn Michaels … to your legacy and how you became the icon you are … Triple H and Chris Jericho will fight in a 60-minute Iron Man match!”

May 29th-Jun 22nd

Mick Foley’s installment as Commissioner, and his subsequent reinstating of The Undertaker and booking of the Iron Man match, set him at odds with the entire McMahon-Helmsley Faction. But by the May 29th episode of Raw, the Faction regains their bearings, and begins to deal with their issues.

The first issue is neutralizing The Rock and The Undertaker, and to this, Vince uses both his power as Chairman, and his connections to put them both through the paces. During an Intercontinental Title match with Chris Benoit, D-X takes out the referee; Vince sends out the replacement, his son, Shane, who fast-counts Undertaker to a loss. The attack of a WWF “official” nets him a one-show suspension and, when he attacks Shane on the way out of the building, he is arrested.

But the same trick doesn’t work on The Rock, who recognizes the trap when they try and spring it on him (right down to Shane being the replacement), and heads for higher ground. Unfortunately, it only earns him a reprieve from a suspension; instead, he gets an outright beating. This leads to The Rock demanding Shane McMahon for a match on Smackdown; Vince uses his corporate connections to keep Mick Foley from getting to the arena in time to counter his ruling of making Triple H the referee, and The Rock not only suffers a beating, but the humiliation of being pinned by the boss’s son.

Chris Jericho, however, goes untouched by all members of the McMahon-Helmsley Faction. In fact, Triple H assigns D-X to follow him and sit ringside during his matches, with instructions to interfere should anything untoward happen to the World Champion. Jericho takes exception to this, and during a World Title defense on the June 1st Smackdown, attacks Road Dogg for his “helping out”. Road Dogg abstains from fighting back, which only serves to irritate Jericho further. What he misses while occupied would only make him madder, namely Triple H hitting his opponent with a Pedigree so Jericho can make an easy pin.

And, as the weeks roll on towards King Of The Ring, the McMahon-Helmsley Faction’s plan comes together with nary a misstep. Triple H’s protection of Chris Jericho continues with every match, the motive plainly obvious: keeping Jericho champion means Triple H gets revenge at the pay-per-view. And despite Mick Foley’s best efforts to keep the peace, the Faction manage to keep The Rock and The Undertaker at arm’s length and, more importantly, under their thumbs, with numerous beat-downs and ambushes.

But, as King Of The Ring looms, the house of cards starts to fall around the Faction as their targets get wise. Jericho, Rocky and The Undertaker all implore Mick Foley to take action, and, being the judicious and fair Commissioner he is, Foley takes action that levels the playing field: Triple H is booked in a “warm-up” for the Iron Man match on the final Raw before the PPV, a 30-minute “trial run” match against Kane, which draws a tremendous amount of protest that falls on deaf ears. And, with a grin a mile wide, Mick keeps things equal by booking Jericho (against the vehement protests of Vince) in a 30-minute match of his own on the final Smackdown, against Shane McMahon. Triple H has to endure both the strength of Kane and the presence of The Undertaker lurking outside the ring to keep Faction members at bay, but manages to get the victory at the end with a handful of tights. Jericho, however, isn’t so lucky to have protection; Vince turns the match into a prolonged gang assault on Jericho, with everyone up to and including himself taking turns making Jericho suffer in the waning moments of Smackdown.

But the beating is interrupted by the arrival of Foley on the stage. “That’s it, Vince!” he yells, his voice on the verge of breaking. “I’ve had it with your crap! You and Triple H and your family think you are the be-all end-all of this business? You think you can waltz in here and alter the course of the company to your will? I got news for you, Vince, I’m the Commissioner around here, and you know what that means? I got the power to make anyone I want do anything I want … and that includes you!” Vince shakes his head, but Mick shakes it back. “I guess you forgot what you told Shawn Michaels when you hired him as the Commissioner: you said the Commissioner’s jurisdiction extended over all active WWF superstars, with the exception of Steve Austin. And when you entered the Royal Rumble last year, you became an active superstar, Vince. So, since you’re so damned insistent on sticking your nose in the business of others, Vince, you better clear your calendar for Sunday, cause you and your idiot son Shane are gonna be in a tag team match against The Undertaker and The Rock!” Vince gulps, shaking his head again, but now with panic writ across his face. “Oh, yes, Vince. And, since I can’t trust you or your lackeys to mind their own business, I’m appointing a special referee for the Iron Man match on Sunday: me!”

June 25th: King Of The Ring

Vince and Shane take their time getting to the ring, walking like two men being led to their execution. Shane tries to fake some bravado, but it looks so obviously forced, and Vince doesn’t buy into Shane’s pep talk. When The Undertaker’s music starts, and the rumbling of his motorcycle come echoing through the arena, even Shane’s fake bravado bleeds out of him. The Undertaker parks his bike across the aisle and waits for The Rock to enter; all the while, Shane and Vince discuss strategy, trying to ignore the crazy cheering for The People’s Champion.

Undertaker and Rocky slide into the ring, and Vince and Shane pounce, trying to catch the early advantage. Undertaker shoves Shane away like a child, while Rock does much the same for Vince, and both make it to their feet in time to catch the McMahons’ next offensive charge; Shane ends up eating a boot, while Vince catches an elbow in the mush, and both roll out to the safety of the floor to strategize again. After some consulting, Shane slides into the ring cautiously, only to get stuck with The Undertaker. UT pounds on Shane to start, sending him sprawling into the turnbuckle. ÔTaker unloads with boxer-like shots to the torso and head. A Snake Eyes leads to an attempt at a chokeslam, but Shane counters with a low blow that drops the ÔTaker to one knee. Shane stumbles back into his own corner and gets the tag, just in time to see Rock tag himself in. Rock blocks Vince’s punches and hits a few of his own, followed by a DDT which almost gets a three-count before Shane makes the diving save. The ref starts barking at Shane to leave but Shane yells back at him, enough so that his face goes slack and white. Shane leaves voluntarily, dropping down to the apron as Rock whips Vince into the corner and almost rips his head off with a clothesline that gets two. Shane suddenly slides back in, armed with a chair and whales Rock across the back. UT yells at the ref (“Do your fucking job!”), but the ref, obviously with great reluctance, doesn’t signal for the DQ. Vince crawls over to his corner and gets the tag, and Shane starts hopping about like Muhammed Ali, hitting quick jabs with a lot of footwork before finally taking Rock down with a right cross. A stomp in the groin gets two, which Shane protests about. Vince removes the turnbuckle padding from their corner, and Shane whips him into it, then slams Rock’s head into it, but that only gets two. Shane positions the chair and hits a DDT on it, but the count is interrupted at 2 and a half by Undertaker. Shane moves Rock to the center of the ring and kicks his arm on his chest; the crowd immediately goes into hysterics at the sight of Shane McMahon doing the People’s Elbow. Shane pretends to remove an elbowpad, but instead flips off the crowd, then starts the run across the ring. But as he comes off the ropes for the second time, Rock springs up and hits a surprise Rock Bottom, then collapses. The ref starts his 10-count, getting to 7 before Shane makes a tag. Rock makes the dive and gets the tag at 8, and Vince freezes like a deer in headlights. Undertaker slowly advances, backing Vince into his own corner. Vince panics and tags Shane back in; Shane looks at his father, shocked (and exhausted), but Vince orders him back in. When Shane refuses, Undertaker approaches, grabs both McMahons by their heads and slams them together. Shane tumbles down to the mat, and Undertaker gives chase, beating up Shane with wicked punches and kicks on the outside. Vince backs away, unaware that The Rock has re-entered the ring until Vince backs into him. Vince turns around, eyes closed; Rock waits until Vince’s eyes open and registers who he’s run into before unloading with right hands. Rock grabs the chair while Vince is down, crouches and waits for Vince to get back up; Vince barely has enough time to realize what’s going on before Rock brings down the chair like an executioner swinging an axe, clocking Vince smack-dab in the forehead, splitting him open. Outside, Shane manages to get a low blow on The Undertaker to stop the onslaught and slams him into the ring post. Shane looks inside and sees Rocky dragging Vince into position for the People’s Elbow and waits until The Rock runs towards his side of the ring; Shane pulls down the ropes, and Rock crashes to the arena floor. Shane dashes back in and arms himself with the chair, waiting for either opponent. Undertaker gets in first, and Shane swings for the fences, connecting and sending the Undertaker to the mat. But no sooner is he on the ground then he’s moving again, and Shane panics. A shot across the back stills The Undertaker for a handful of seconds, but not enough for an advantage. Shane climbs the nearest turnbuckle, still armed with the chair and waits for The Undertaker to get to his feet. He never has a chance to notice Rock get to his feet, climb up on the apron, and pull one of his feet out from underneath. The chair falls harmlessly to the floor, and Shane falls (with harm) on the ringbolt crotch-first. The Undertaker comes over and tags, then grabs Shane by the throat. Shane’s eyes go wide with horror as Undertaker climbs over the ropes; Undertaker leaps, bringing Shane with him, driving him through the Spanish announce table with a chokeslam that electrifies the crowd. As Shane is driven through the table, Vince finally gets to his feet in time to eat another Rock Bottom, and the referee is all too happy to count to three and award the match to The Rock and The Undertaker.

Mick Foley is the first to the ring for the Iron Man match, and is received warmly by the crowd. Triple H’s reception, however, is hostile (almost riotous), and he views his old nemesis with a very skeptical eye. Foley stands in the center of the ring to allow Jericho the space to enter the ring safely, which he does to a great ovation. Foley brings the two to the center of the ring and goes over the rules before ringing the bell to start the match.

The two walk to the middle of the ring, boring holes into one another with their eyes. Jericho’s expression is stoic, one of quiet but resolved determination; Triple H’s, however, is of wild-eyed hatred and fury. Finally, the two go for a collar-and-elbow tie-up. Triple H shoves Jericho, and he goes tumbling back. Jericho pauses before getting up, looking at Triple H, then rushes in and locks up again. The tie-up turns into a rear waist-lock by Triple H, reversed and reversed again. Jericho uses his legs to turn the lock into a drop toe-hold and floats over into a headlock. Triple H tries to reverse it into a pin, but barely gets one. Triple H muscles out instead, wrapping his arms around Jericho and going for a high-angle back body drop; Jericho flips backward and lands on his feet, grabs a handful of hair and hits a bulldog. Jericho runs and jumps off the ropes, hitting a picture-perfect Lionsault, and makes the cover; Foley counts and gets a shocking three, putting Jericho up 1-0 after 8 minutes.

Jericho tries to get a second pinfall out of it, but Triple H shoves him off, and they end up brawling. Jericho eats a knee in the gut, and Triple H tries to whip him into the corner, but Jericho reverses, sending Triple H flying over the turnbuckle and onto the apron. Jericho runs to the turnbuckle, springboards off it and goes for a springboard dropkick, only for Triple H to duck; Jericho sails overhead and crashes on the arena floor. Foley starts the count as Triple H drops down and whips Jericho into the steel steps. Triple H rolls in at 7, leaving Jericho slumped against the steps when Foley gets to ten, tying the score at 1-1. Triple H tosses Jericho back in, hits an academic Pedigree and makes the cover, upping the score to 2-1 at 12 minutes.

Triple H whips Jericho into the corner; thinking he is following, Jericho jumps for a leapfrog, only to come down safely with no one in front of him. Triple H clips his knee, and Jericho crumples. Repeated shinbreakers set up further abuse on Jericho’s leg; stomping of the thigh, grapevines and using the ropes as leverage to which Triple H can bring his weight down upon the hamstring. Triple H puts on a vicious figure-four, cranking down for all it’s worth; he gets a few two-counts when Jericho lays back, but Jericho refuses to tap or stay down for three. After a struggle to reach the ropes proves fruitless, Jericho tries to reverse the hold, but Triple H pulls them back and grabs onto the ropes to balance himself. Foley kicks Triple H’s hands off the ropes, and, when Triple H grabs for them again, Foley kicks his hands away again. Triple H releases the hold and gets to his feet, barking at Foley. Foley screams back at him, pointing to his homemade referee shirt to remind Triple H who the official is; Triple H spits in Foley’s face, prompting Foley to shove Triple H. Triple H shoves back, putting Foley on his ass. Foley gives the signal to the timekeeper, who rings the bell and awards a DQ victory for Chris Jericho, bringing the score up to 2-2 with 20 minutes down. Triple H’s eyes go wide as he realizes what’s happened, and he starts to stalk Foley; Foley reminds him again who the authority figure is, and serves him a warning the cameras and front rows can hear (“How’s one DQ for every punch you throw sound, Hunter?”). Hunter steams and fumes, but realizes the hole he is digging himself into and is all prepared to turn away when Jericho reaches him and rolls him up. Foley makes the count, and just like that, the score is now 3-2 in Jericho’s favor.

Triple H is up like lightning, kicking and stomping away at Jericho on the ground. Somehow, Jericho gets to his feet, but is still absorbing blows; Triple H whips Jericho, but his knee buckles and Jericho falls to the mat. Triple H pulls Jericho out and uses the guard rail in place of his own knee to hit another shinbreaker. Triple H pulls the padding off the floor and rams Jericho’s knee into the concrete, rolls in to break the count, and rolls back out to continue the abuse. He tossed Jericho back in and puts on the figure-four. Jericho screams and writhes, holding on for an eternity, but in the end, cannot fight the pain and taps out, bringing the score back up to a tie at 3 with 25 minutes gone.

Jericho rolls out to recover, but Triple H follows and they brawl up the aisle and back again. Triple H drags Jericho over to the exposed concrete and sets up the Pedigree, but Jericho hits a low blow to put it to a stop; he sweeps Triple H’s legs out from underneath him and slingshots him away, right into the ring post. Both men writhe on the arena floor, exhausted and beaten, Triple H now bleeding from the impact with the post. Both men crawl in and brawl again, trading chops and punches, but Triple H kicks Jericho’s leg to gain the advantage, and whips him. Jericho runs right into a sleeper; he fights and tries to twist out of it, but Triple H moves with Jericho and keeps them positioned in the center of the ring. Eventually, both fall to the mat, and when the hand goes down for the third time, Foley calls for the bell, giving Triple H the lead again, 4-3 with 36 minutes down. Thinking quickly, Triple H makes the cover on the unconscious Jericho and scores an extra pinfall, increasing his lead to 5-3.

A second pinfall attempt, however, gets only two. Triple H goes up top and dives, meaning to drive the elbow into Jericho’s heart. Jericho rolls out of the way and Triple H crashes into the mat. Jericho scrambles, pushing Triple H onto his stomach and pulls back on the arm in a Fujiwara armbar. Triple H gets a foot on the ropes to break the hold, but Jericho goes right after it with elbows and more armbars. Jericho tears the covering off of one of the turnbuckles and slams Triple H’s arm into it. When he does it again, Foley pulls Jericho off (much to the disdain of the crowd) and warns him against further activities that skirt the borders of what is allowable and what isn’t. While they are conversing, Triple H slides out of the ring, grabs a chair and comes back in. he winds up and blasts Jericho across the back. Foley immediately signals for the DQ, bringing the score up to 5-4, but Triple H makes a cover and Foley, reluctantly, makes the three-count, bringing it up to 6-4 at 42 minutes.

Triple H tries the sleeper again, only this time, Jericho pushes backwards, and the two collide with the exposed turnbuckle. Once more is enough to loosen Triple H’s grip, and Jericho to the side to wrap his arms around Triple H’s waist for a back body drop that sends Triple H up and over the top rope. Triple H manages to get to his feet at 6, but Jericho hits a baseball slide that sends Triple H sprawling backwards, landing on the announce table. Jericho steps out onto the apron, springboards off the second rope, and hits a Lionsault across the gap, landing on Triple H and breaking the table. Jericho struggles and claws his way back into the ring at 9, leaving Triple H bleeding and unconscious at the feet of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler for Foley to count to 10, making the score 6-5 at the 46 minute mark.

With neither the clock nor the score on his side, Jericho drags Triple H into the ring, depositing him dead center. Jericho sprints and goes for another Lionsault, but Triple H instinctually brings up his knees. Triple H rolls over and drapes an arm across Jericho, but it only gets two. Two repeated attempts at pinfalls only net two-counts, and Triple H vents his frustration by pounding the mat. He struggles but gets to his feet, dragging Jericho up and hitting him with a string of high impact maneuvers: a backbreaker, a delayed vertical suplex and a piledriver are all delivered with crisp effectiveness, but Jericho kicks out of each one, as fresh as a daisy. Once again, he argues with Foley, but holds back when Foley reminds him of the penalty for striking him again. Triple H returns his attention to Jericho, kicking him in the gut and putting him in position for a Pedigree. Jericho fights it, kicks Triple H in the gut and hits a Pedigree of his own, sending the crowd into overdrive. Jericho gets an arm over Triple H’s chest and, to the amazement of everyone, Foley counts to three, and the score is tied at 6, with 6 minutes to go.

The reversal of fortune brings out Shawn Michaels, who jumps up on the apron. Foley approaches and the two argue. Jericho gets up first and, seeing that Foley is distracted, grabs the chair and waits for Triple H to get up. When he does, he swings, but Triple H ducks, and Foley takes all of it (the impact sending Shawn into the ground). Jericho swings again, hitting Triple H in the head, leaving him on the mat, unconscious and bleeding, then slides out of the ring to go after Shawn. Shawn starts scooting back, begging for Jericho to show mercy. Neither see Foley struggle to his feet and see Jericho holding the chair; he turns and signals the timekeeper. The ringing of the bell draws all their attention, and the announcer confirms Jericho’s fears: he’s now down 7-6, and the clock has 2 minutes left.

Jericho runs back into the ring and grabs Triple H’s legs, trying to turn him over into the Walls Of Jericho. Triple H tries to fight by contorting in the opposite direction, but eventually Jericho gets the step-over and rears back as far as he can. Triple H tries to scramble for the ropes, but Jericho pulls him back to the middle of the ring, putting his knee at the base of Triple H’s neck for added pressure. Triple H screams in pain, shaking his head that he doesn’t want to quit, but his hand hovers in the air. Foley looks back from the timekeeper to Triple H, who is perilously close to tapping. The seconds tick off on the TitanTron, and the crowd starts to count along with the clock as it ticks down from the 10-second mark. Foley keeps checking … the timekeeper … Triple H … the timekeeper … Triple H.

As the crowd screams out “ONE!“, Foley gets to his feet. By the time he turns to the timekeeper to signal for the bell to end the match once and for all, the timer has elapsed to zero … with Triple H tapping furiously and screaming that he quits. Jericho drops the hold and collapses against the ropes, until the announcer’s proclamation of a new WWF Champion perks him back up. Jericho argues with Foley that Triple H was tapping with one second left to go, but Foley shakes his head and awards (reluctantly) the title to Triple H. The crowd turns into a sea of negativity, booing and calling for Mick Foley’s head. Vince, Stephanie and company join Triple H in the ring and lift him on their shoulders (Vince grabs the hand of Foley and shakes it, pronouncing it a job well done, although Foley’s expression broadcasts a feeling totally different from pride).

Epilogue—June 26th, 2000: Raw

In a pre-taped segment on Raw the next night, Jim Ross interviews Mick Foley. Foley squirms in his chair and fidgets continuously.

“Last night,” Jim Ross says, “at King Of The Ring, you called for the bell while there was still time on the clock. The official readout, per the timekeeper, was just under a second. Why?”

“Ya know, Jim,” Foley says, “I didn’t want my administration to start out like this. I have nothing against Chris Jericho, or The Rock, or anybody else. I was brought in by Linda McMahon because she saw corruption in the office of the Commissioner, and she wanted someone fair and impartial.”

“Which makes it things all the more, if you’ll pardon the term, screwy, that you’d make a call that would seem favorable for Triple H, the man who retired you. Why did you do what you did?”

“In all honesty, Jim, I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. Triple H had had his hand in the air for some time, and it looked like he was going to be able to hold on until time lapsed. When the clock hit the one-second mark, I figured by the time I got up and turned around, time would elapse and Triple H would still have held on, thus making him the new champion.”

“I have a video package I’d like to show you,” JR says, motioning to a monitor in between the two men on a table. JR talks as the tape rolls; “You’ll notice we have the timer running in the bottom corner, counting down during the final seconds.” JR lets the tape speak for itself; the timer hits :01, Foley jumps up, and Triple H’s hand hits the mat. Another replay, in slow motion, shows a close-up along with the clock in the corner, confirming that Triple H tapped out before time expired. “What are your feelings, having seen the video tape?”

“Well, I feel like a fool, Jim Ross. What do you expect me to say? I mean, had I seen that, the match would’ve ended in a draw, and Chris Jericho would still be champion. Of course, if he hadn’t resorted to using a chair in the first place, he wouldn’t have fallen a point behind anyway. I do deeply regret getting up prematurely. But a referee’s final decision stands. Just like Earl Hebner’s decision in April made Chris Jericho a champion, my decision took it away. I can’t go setting precedents of allowing instant replay or further review just because a decision is unfair or unpopular.”

“So, if you’re not prepared to reverse the decision, what can the fans, and more importantly, what can Chris Jericho expect in terms of rectifying the situation?”

“Well, Chris Jericho does have the champion’s right of a rematch. Unfortunately, it was already decided that The Rock would challenge the World Champion on Raw tonight. Of course, Chris Jericho can challenge whoever is the winner of that match whenever he chooses. All he has to do is let me know, and I promise I’ll make get him a referee better then me.”

With Mick Foley not in the building, Vince takes over Raw and orders the World Title match be a steel cage match. Triple H enters the cage first and patiently awaits The Rock’s arrival, which sends the crowd into a frenzy. But the fury comes to a screeching halt when Shane, Road Dogg and X-Pac all assault Rock on the way down the ramp. Triple H watches from the safety of the enclosed ring as Road Dogg, X-Pac and Shane McMahon take turns abusing Rocky, pounding on him, kicking him and ramming him head-first into the cage. After he’s been left bloodied and barely able to stand, they toss him into the cage and walk away. Triple H starts to saunter over to the door, smiling and waving to his allies as they walk up the ramp. The referee opens the door as Triple H steps through the ropes …

… and freezes when he sees Chris Jericho, armed with a chair, come through the crowd and leap over the guard rail. He has just enough time to yell for his cohorts to come back before Jericho grabs the door and slams it shut on Triple H’s head. Shane, Road Dogg and X-Pac all come back, but Jericho blasts each one in succession with his chair, then steps into the cage. Jericho picks up Triple H and whips him into the ropes, then picks up his chair again and swings as Triple H runs towards him, denting the seat of the chair on Triple H’s already busted-open skull. Jericho drops the chair, leaving Triple H on the mat in a rapidly growing pool of his own blood, to attend to The Rock, who is dazed, but has pulled himself up in the corner. Rocky looks at him, confused; Jericho offers him a hand and points up with the other one. Rock’s eyes go wide with understanding. Before Rock can pull away, Jericho squeezes his hand tighter and pulls him close, mouthing three easy-to-read words: You owe me. Rock raises an eyebrow … and nods. He turns and starts climbing the cage, leaving Jericho alone with Triple H, who is slowly coming to. Jericho picks him up and drops him on the chair with a DDT as Rock’s feet hit the floor. The bell rings, sending the already wild crowd into a state of near-civil unrest. Jericho grabs Triple H by the blood-soaked hair and holds his head up, looking directly at the referee presenting Rock with the belt he had won only 24 hours earlier. The horror of it all—of his title reign ending so soon, of Jericho being more devious, cunning and dangerous then he anticipated—dawns on him; his mouth keeps forming the word “no”, but it doesn’t change what is in front of him. Jericho leans in and speaks in his ear in a flat, lethally cold monotone; “From now on, I swear that everything you work for, I will ruin. Every dream you have, I’ll turn into a nightmare. Everything you have, I’m going to take away.”

Written by

Creator, editor and semi-sorta-retired original author of Rewriting The Book, husband, father of three, gamer, lover of 90's MTV animation.

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