What if…Muhammad Hassan Didn’t Leave WWE?
Our story begins on the night of July 24th, 2005, after a match between Muhammed Hassan and The Undertaker, won by the Undertaker. Cheered on by the crowd, the dead man rocks Hassan up the entrance ramp with punch after punch. To the crowd’s delight, he gets Hassan to the top of the ramp, and signals for the last ride. He doubles Hassan over with a boot to the stomach, and pulls Hassan to between his legs, only for Hassan’s arm to shoot up at the last second, catching Undertaker between the legs. It is Undertaker’s turn to double over in pain now, a situation that Hassan uses to hit a DDT, spiking him head-first into the steel ramp. Hassan may have lost the match, but he got the last laugh tonight. The crowd spit and hiss as Hassan stumbles away
July 28th, 2005: WWE Smackdown
The crowd don’t know what to make of the man in the suit, and don’t know why they should care enough to make anything of him. He’s middle-aged, fat, and short for someone on this show, which is to say he’s merely six foot one. He’s dressed in a powder blue shirt that doesn’t look like its come from a top-line tailor, but doesn’t exactly look peeled from a bargain bin, either. When he talks, its in the soft, calm voice of a man used to being listened to. The sight of him raising the microphone was the best business that the popcorn stand ever got.
“Hi. My name is Michael Wilson, and I am executive producer of sports entertainment televisual programming for the UPN network.” He waits for someone to be impressed. He gives up waiting “Two weeks ago, Muhammed Hassan’s lawyer came out here, and talked about how we had mis-treated him here at UPN. He tried to present us as some kind of villain for wanting to protect our viewers from his hate-speech and his terrorist actions. I have come out here, as a representative of the UPN network to let all of you know that you need never see him here again.”
August 1st, 2005: WWE RAW
J.R. and King are discussing the firing of Muhammed Hassan. It’s a diva’s match, what else are they going to do? J.R. does, it should be noted, seem puzzled as to why Lawler feels Hassan’s firing had so much to do with puppies. Once the divas are gone from doing whatever it is they call wrestling, a familiar tune hits the speakers. A loud dirge-like song that flutters powerfully in the high registers while a bland drum beat marches forwards. Sure enough, up come those images of typical, day-to-day American life, with Hassan and Daivari’s names flashing onto the screen. Out they come, grinning widely.
“Now wait a minute!” splutters J.R. “He’s fired!”
They slide back into the ring. Hassan waits for the boos and hisses of the crowd to at least get a little quieter, before beginning. All he manages to do in that is give them time to start chanting “U-S-A!” at him instead. He kneads his brow briefly, then decides to give into just how funny that is, rather than let it get to him.
“Right! I know! That’s the network RAW is moving to in October, right? Surprised you all had your fingers on the pulse that much. You certainly wouldn’t have seen it here, on Spike TV. They don’t want to talk about that. It seems like I talk about a lot of things no-one wants to hear, and I do a lot of things that no-one wants to see.” The ‘USA!’ chants begin to drown him out, and he waits it out before continuing “You guys know I’m born and raised in New York, right? See, though, what I have to say has to be heard. And what I do is watched! UPN wanted me gone? That’s fine, I’ve wanted gone from them for a long time! See, they tape their shows. Someone tuning into Smackdown, he knows what to expect if he just checks the internet first. Someone tuning into RAW? They’ve got no chance, no hope, no way to know what I’m going to do next. You’re all just going to have to find out.”
August 8th, 2005: WWE RAW
The typical fan response to Kurt Angle is to boo him. Well, it’s supposed to be, anyway. Kurt Angle’s one of those people it seems impossible for any wrestling fan to hate, which really confirms that none of them have had to share a road with him. He marches up and down the ring, raises a microphone, and starts to rant angrily
“Now usually, I come out here, I get up in all of your faces, I say something about your hometown. Blah blah, your sports team lost a match or two, blah blah, I’ve seen hotter women in the deep south, so on, so on. Not tonight, Uncasville. Even if you do have a kinda funny name. You see, Uncasville, you’re an American city, full of Americans. And even if I come out here and I make fun, I’m happy to defend the gold medal I won for this country against anyone here, because this is America, anyone can reach their dreams. Who am I to stop them?” The chances of any fan booing Angle at this point are about zero “Now, I got nothing against anyone from anywhere else, so long as they respect us. You all know where I’m going with this. Last week, after I’d already gone home because I’d already picked Eugene apart, Muhammed Hassan showed up with his little terrorist boy Daivari. I’ll take them both on, right here, right now, but they don’t get the gold medal on the line! They don’t deserve that!”
A huge pop for Angle, that almost drowns out the sound of Hassan’s music. Hassan and Daivari stand at the top of the ramp, microphone in Hassan’s hand.
“Kurt, Kurt, Kurt. I’d be happy to come down there and teach you a lesson, but I’m a believer in pragmatism. To every action, there must be a goal. There’s no goal in beating on a former Olympian whose broken his neck how many times now? That just makes Arab Americans like myself and Daivari look like bullies, like men who just prey on that which is formerly great and has fallen. But, tell you what, I can see you’re just rearing to go, so how’s this? Acknowledge that me and Daivari are Americans, and that we deserve the same challenge as any other American, and I’ll come out there and wrestle you for three minutes, then take your gold medal.”
“Americans? Don’t make me laugh, Muhammed! Come down here and take your beating like a man!”
Hassan laughs, drops the microphone, and heads backstage. We see Angle jump from the ring and chase after them.
August 15th, 2005: WWE RAW
“Hassan, you’re a coward!” So starts Kurt Angle’s speech in the opening segment of RAW “Nothing but a coward! You hide behind your creeds, your motives! Your motives? Most of us wrestlers came here to wrestle, to be the best in the world at what we do! But no, you want to make some grand political statement? Okay then, how’s this sound? At Summerslam, I come to the ring, waving the red, white and blue” pause for deafening “USA!” chant “you come down there, waving whatever Haji flag you want to bring down there, and you and me, we go at it for as long as it takes. Not some three minute warm-up act, as long as it takes, and the loser has to salute the winner’s flag!”
Angle paces the ring, waiting for an answer. Daivari comes up to the top of the stage, and holds the microphone to his mouth.
“Kurt, let me tell you something about Muhammed Hassan and myself” he starts, as Hassan rolls from underneath the ring “we’re not vain and arrogant like you” he continues as Hassan slips under the bottom rope “and we’re nowhere near as stupid either” he remarks, as Angle is caught from behind by a low blow from Hassan. Daivari rushes the ring, and the two of them put the boots to Angle. “Oh, and one last thing” Daivari remarks, grabbing the microphone again “We accept!”
August 21st, 2005: WWE Summerslam
Kurt Angle marches down to the ring for his match, flag waving proudly. He quietly and respectfully lays it down, and paces up and down, waiting for Hassan and Daivari. Out they come, but neither of them holding a flag. They are holding microphones however
“I see you’re confused, Kurt” Hassan says, calmingly
“Doesn’t take much” laughs Daivari
“Doesn’t, does it?” Hassan asks to his manager, before turning back around, and letting the anger come out as he marches towards the ring “See, we come out here without a flag tonight, because the country we’re from, America, it has rejected us! It has let us know that we are not wanted by it! We are men without a country, men whose country has been taken from us by the xenophobic actions of men like you! So if I lose, I’ll happily salute the country that welcomed me all my life, until four years ago. But if I win, Kurt. If I win, you’ve got to accept that the country you know and love is gone too! That America isn’t the land of the free, that no-one in this country is truly free, so long as the fear-mongers stay in control!”
Hassan drops the microphone, and slides into the ring. Angle starts dropping boots on him even as the bell is ringing for the start of the match. Angle then pulls him up, whips him across the ring to the other side, and slams him with a clothesline. He’s in control at the start, until Hassan floats over on a vertical suplex, and lands a german suplex. Hassan then uses submissions on the mat to wear Angle down, a firm contrast to Angle’s brash aggression in his offence. Angle slowly builds up to a comeback, but Daivari tripping him up on a clothesline cuts that off. Hassan starts to use cheap tactics to stay in control, but Angle manages to land a side suplex out of nowhere, and follow it up with the trio of german suplexes. Daivari enters the ring, and gets three of his own to wild cheers and chants of “U-S-A!” from the fans. Angle then locks on the Angle Lock, Hassan taps furiously, and this one is over. After the match, the referee holds the flag up, and Angle grabs a microphone.
“Salute it, Hassan! Salute it, Daivari! Go on, do it!”
They slowly work their way up, but have no problem saluting it. Hassan snatches the mic from Angle’s hands “I’ve loved that flag for twenty four years, Kurt. Did you really think saluting it was a problem for me? It’s men like you I could never respect, men like you who have no right to have anything to do with that flag” Angle smashes Hassan in the side of the face, and grabs Daivari’s wrist as he goes for a punch. He casually tosses Daivari over the ropes, and heads to the back, looking incredibly pleased with himself. The fans look pleased with him too. The flag still stands proud, and the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ begins to play over the speakers as Hassan and Daivari pick themselves up again.
August 22nd, 2005: WWE RAW
Shelton Benjamin is backstage with Todd Grisham tonight, with a challenge: “Hassan and Daivari. You two men interest me, I ain’t gonna lie, I kinda respect your idea. But here’s the deal, when you made your whole thing about your race, you defined yourself by it. You made what colour a wrestler is more important than their wrestling, and that just don’t fly. That’s a step alright, but its a step in the wrong direction, so I’ve got to take a step towards stopping it, and that step is to step to you. Come meet me in the ring tonight.”
Later in the night, Hassan does just that. The match starts off slow, with Hassan in control, until Benjamin gets enough momentum going to start launching off with his impressive kicks. Daivari gets in to get involved, but takes a superkick to the jaw. Hassan uses the diversion to take control back, managing to lock in his Camel Clutch submission. Shelton reaches the ropes, however, forcing the break. Hassan goes back to work on Shelton, until a superplex attempt gets blocked. Shelton pushes Hassan off the top rope, then hits a missile dropkick as Hassan stands. Shelton back in control now, and with Daivari out of it on the outside, there’s no stopping him. Not until Intercontinental Champion Carlito comes running down to the ring, at least. Carlito slides under the bottom rope. Shelton looks at his adversary for a second, and then goes for a superkick. Carlito ducks it, and hits the backstabber. The bell gets rung for a DQ finish. Carlito, Hassan and Daivari put the boots to Shelton, until Angle runs out from the back with a steel chair, and they clear out.
August 29th, 2005: WWE RAW
Carlito and Hassan are set to take on Kurt Angle and Shelton Benjamin in a tag match tonight. Earlier on in the show, however, Carlito is spending his time backstage with a microphone and Todd Grisham. Grisham asks him if he attacked Shelton because of their feud earlier in the year over the intercontinental title. Carlito laughs, and points to the belt “I won that one, Todd. I’ve got no reason to want any payback on Shelton.”
“Why then?” asks Todd
“It’s simple. I get where this Hassan guy is coming from. See, I’m Puerto Rican, but a lot of people, they can’t tell the difference. Ain’t every day I get it, but people are always mistaking me for some Mexican or something. Think I’m just here to steal their job. Like I’d want their job, doing late shifts at the seven eleven or whatever. That ain’t cool. I can’t complain though, my dad had it worse. See, he was Puerto Rican back during the old Cuban Missile Crisis days. So what he got was people thinking that all us hispanics look the same back when everyone thought some dumb spics was gonna bomb America. So I get where this Hassan guy is coming from, and if he wants to fight it, that’s very cool with me.”
Kurt Angle’s thoughts when questioned about it backstage are different: “Now, I beat Hassan and Daivari both down at Summerslam. But that ain’t enough. Just like with Carlito, he didn’t get involved in that match because of Shelton. He’s got his reasons, and I’ve got mine, and mine are this: Hassan and Daivari, they’re not welcome here. They’re not wanted here, and a guy like Shelton? He’s one hell of a wrestler, we worked together back in the day, when he was in Team Angle. Good times, man. He’s going about this the right way, he’s here to wrestle, just like me. I see some punks like Hassan, Daivari and Carlito beating on a real wrestler? What the hell kind of man would I be if I didn’t step in?”
The match itself rolls around, and is a great mix of styles. Hassan and Angle bring the more technical side of it, while Carlito and Benjamin impress with their acrobatics. There’s a very near fall when Benjamin hits his superkick finisher on Carltio, only for Daivari to place Carlito’s leg on the bottom rope. The finish comes when Daivari puts the intercontinental belt that he’s holding for Carlito down by Carlito’s feet. Kurt Angle is beating on Muhammed Hassan, and Daivari makes as if to step into the ring to help Hassan. The referee goes to send him out, and Carlito takes the chance to come in, grab the belt, and blast Angle in the head with it. Angle falls. Shelton rushes in to help Hassan, but gets blasted with the belt himself. Carlito moves back over to his side of the ring. The referee manages to get Daivari out at this point, and turns back around to see Hassan covering Angle. One, two, three, this one’s over.
September 5th, 2005: WWE RAW
Shelton Benjamin has been granted a title shot against Carlito on the basis of his near-fall last week. The match is the usual Carlito and Benjamin affair, fast paced, hard hitting, full of slick counters and aerial moves. Hassan and Daivari stand in Carlito’s corner, while Angle stands in Benjamin’s. About ten minutes in, Carlito ducks a leg lariat meant for him, which hits the ref instead. Hassan and Daivari take this chance to get into the ring and help Carlito out, which brings Angle in. Angle brings Hassan down with a clothesline, then german suplexes Daivari. Carlito makes a charge at Angle, but is caught quickly with an Angle Slam. Angle moves his focus to Hassan and Daivari. Meanwhile, back in the ring, everyone starts to get back up. Shelton is the first up, followed by the ref. Shelton covers the downed Carlito, for one, two, three. He doesn’t pause to celebrate, however, instead diving onto the outside brawl between Angle, Hassan and Daivari. He is the first to rise from the pile of bodies his dive creates. He groggily takes his title and stumbles up the ramp.
September 12th, 2005: WWE RAW
Announcements made on WWE.com are confirmed by J.R. as the show starts: Unforgiven will see Kurt Angle go up against Carlito, a match Carlito requested as revenge for Angle costing him the intercontinental title. Meanwhile, the Hassan/Benjamin match of 22nd August that never got a proper conclusion will be recontested, this time with the intercontinental gold on the line. During the show, Benjamin takes to the ring, gold in one hand, mic in the other.
“It feels good to have this back, I’ve got to tell you. Real good, people. This is where this belt belongs. But for every bit that that feels good, I hate the way I won it. Angle, I appreciate you having my back and all, but when I win gold, I want it to be me that wins gold, not you, then you just put it on my waist. The only way this is gonna feel right to me is this, Kurt. You come out here, and you wrestle me for this. Far as I’m concerned, you’re the champion, and I’m just wearing the belt until I beat you.”
Angle’s music hits the speakers, and out he comes. He does a more respectful entrance than usual, and takes the microphone from Shelton.
“Shelton, that’s exactly the sort of thing I want to hear. Wrestling for wrestling’s sake, and pride in yourself. That’s why I’m fighting these punks. I’d be honoured to fight you, kid. I’m just sorry to have to take your belt, just one week into you getting it back. Oh, and Shelton? One more thing – I fight dirty”
With that, he kicks Shelton low. The bell rings, and the match starts with Shelton already down. Angle pushes his advantage, using boots and clotheslines to keep Shelton from building any momentum, until he tries to vertical suplex Shelton, only for Shelton to change the momentum and catch Angle with a monkey flip. Shelton follows it up with a leg lariat, and a Stinger Splash as Angle tries to recover in the corner. Angle staggers out, and Shelton goes to the apron, then springboards off it for a bulldog. He keeps the bulldog locked in from there, and J.R. brings up that the first time Shelton won this title, it was from Triple H, on RAW, so there’s a precedent for him pulling out an upset like this. Shelton and Kurt then begin to chain wrestle with great fluidity, before working their way to their feet, where they go back and forth for almost twenty minutes in a blistering exchange of suplexes and strikes that has J.R. gushing. Shelton looks for a superkick to end it with, but Angle ducks it, and counters into an Angle Slam, only for Benjamin to counter that into a crucifix roll-up that gets the three. After the match, the two of them shake hands, and Angle raises Shelton’s arm up before strapping the title around his waist. The celebratory, brotherly mood doesn’t last long, however, before Hassan, Daivari and Carlito come out and attack the two of them. Numbers and exhaustion quickly allow Hassan, Daivari and Carlito to get the better of Angle and Benjamin.
September 18th, 2005: WWE Unforgiven
Benjamin and Hassan find themselves opening the show in a back and forth battle. Hassan comes very close to a win at several points, but ultimately falls to a superkick from Benjamin.
Carlito and Angle come at their match from very two different viewpoints, and it shows from the bell. Carlito is furious at his title being taken from him thanks to Angle’s interference. Angle, on the other hand, has been through so many wars that he seems to view Carlito as just another opponent. Carlito goes right out the gate with aggressive tactics, really taking it to Angle. The problem with out and out aggression is that it leaves a lot of openings, however, and Angle is an experts at exploiting openings. The manner in which he controls Carlito on the ground is rather lackadaisical, which allows Carlito to work his way out eventually, and hit Angle with a flurry of strikes. Angle reverses an irish whip, and crushes Carlito in the corner with a clothesline. Up top for a superplex, but Carlito pokes him in the eye. Angle doesn’t fall, which proves to be a mistake as Carlito lands a sunset flip powerbomb from the top. Cover, but Angle puts his foot on the bottom rope. Carlito drags Angle away from the ropes by the feet, but Angle leans forwards, grabs Carlito by the hair, and rolls him up. Carlito kicks, but Angle keeps hold of the ankle and locks in the Angle Lock. Carlito has, by his own volition, moved them right to the middle of the ring, and he gets to see clearly why that was a mistake as he screams, writhes, and ultimately taps.
October 10th, 2005: WWE RAW
RAW opens with Kurt Angle arriving at the building. Security, ramped up, stops him. One of the tall, bald men suggests quietly that the boss would like to talk to Angle. Angle smiles, and puts his bags down. “Shall we go see your boss then?” he asks
Later on in the show, we see an office door framed in the middle of the shot. There are sounds of violence from within. Security run up, and try to open the door, but it won’t budge. They lay the boots into it, and it breaks open. They dash in. More sounds of a struggle come from within, although we can now hear a high, keening whimper as well. Angle is dragged out violently by security, kicking and laughing, blood on his hands. The camera peeks into the office, and we see a suit with what’s left of a man in it, curled up on the ground, blood coming from his head, whimpering. The sign on the front of the door tells us this is the office of the head of programming for the USA Network.
October 14th, 2005: WWE Smackdown
William Regal approaches Chris Benoit backstage
“Sorry we didn’t get to have that match” Regal offers
“I’m free tonight. Let’s dance right now, if you care that much” Benoit shrugs “right now, I’m more focused on getting my belt back, but I guess a win over you is a good step in that direction.”
“Fight you, tonight? Chris, my ribs, back and head are still screaming in pain over what happened Sunday. Maybe when they’re quieter. I won’t fight you, but I will fight with you.”
“JBL and his boys, of course.”
“Not my problem.”
“Of course they’re your problem. They’ve got your title, don’t they? They made it clear that if you weren’t with them, you were against them, and given how I can see your face, I’m gonna say you’re not with them.”
“Honestly, I’ll take it to them, but maybe not with you at my back. No offence, but if you’re too worn out from a five days ago beating to wrestle a match, maybe you’re just getting old.”
Regal leaves, Benoit goes back to training.
Later on in the show, Regal returns, in his wrestling gear. He smacks Benoit on the shoulder in a friendly way, but hard. He points towards the entrance to the ring, growling “ring. Now.” Benoit grins at the sight, but Regal is obviously limping.
Regal and Benoit start off trading chops and punches, Benoit clearly in control. They go down to the mat and chain wrestle, and Benoit actually looks outmatched in this area, Regal’s British wrestling pedigree meaning that he focused heavily on mat wrestling. After a technically superb exchange that unfortunately left the live crowd uninspired, the two put some more fire into it, and again things turn Benoit’s way. Three german suplexes gets him a two. A diving headbutt gets him the same. A crossface, and Regal barely makes it to the ropes. Benoit drags Regal back to the middle of the ring and slaps on the crossface again. Regal struggles, and fights, and does everything he can, but its not enough, and finally, he taps. He is slow in getting up, but as soon as he does, Benoit offers him a handshake. He accepts it, and raises Benoit’s arm. The two make it up the ramp, out of breath, talking to each other in a friendly manner.
October 17th, 2005: WWE RAW
RAW opens with the same suit from last week, this time in the ring, surrounded by security. He makes the unpopular announcements that Kurt Angle has been suspended, that Hassan and Carlito are owed a title shot on account of winning their non-title match with Cade and Murdoch, and that that match will take place tonight. To placate the fans, he promises them Cena vs Edge in the main event, with Cena’s WWE title on the line, before heading back up the ramp, supported by security.
‘The Real Americans’, Hassan and Carlito, are in clear control of their title shot from the start, outclassing Cade and Murdoch on every level, until Cade heads outside the ring, and blasts Daivari by surprise. Hassan, the legal man, who has Murdoch down, leaps outside to defend his manager, battering Cade violently. Cade low blows Hassan, which brings Carlito out to defend his partner. Carlito takes it to Cade, but Murdoch rolls outside, grabs one of the tag belts from the timekeeper’s table, and blasts Carlito with it. On the outside, things quickly become an insane brawl that has to be stopped. Security rush down to pull them all away from each other, which is when a rush of people emerge from the crowd: JBL and his masked crusdaers. They leap the guardrail and try to get in on the brawl, only for more security to come and desperately drag them away.
Later in the show, we see a large contingent of RAW’s security stuck in a locked room with JBL and his vigilantes, keeping an eye on them.
The main event rolls around, and its a great brawl, with the fans really excited. Edge is full of cheap tricks and underhanded ways, Cena playing as ever the mighty hero. The crowd, this being 2005, are largely with Edge, or more accurately, not with Cena. The biggest pop of the night goes to neither man, however. It goes instead to Kurt Angle, who jumps the guardrail and hits both men with Angle Slams. He jumps the top rope and heads to the timekeeper’s table. He shoves the timekeeper over, punches out one of the few security guards still around to deal with him, picks up the title, jumps the guardrail, and flees.
October 21st, 2005: WWE Smackdown
“Now I understand” JBL smiles at the camera “that Hassan and Carlito the so called ‘Real Americans’, are one of the choices for the Taboo Tuesday tag title match. Now it might not make much sense to you, but you’ve got to choose them. Got to vote for them. See, security, as provided by the USA network, is too damn tight for me and my boys to get what needs to be done done. We only jumped in on RAW to let Kurt do what needed to be done. But the USA network don’t handle security for pay-per-views. So the only way for us to get at these two is on pay-per-view, and the only way they get to be there is through your votes. Do the right thing, people. Vote Hassan and Carlito for the tag title shot.”
October 24th, 2005: WWE RAW
Hassan and Carlito, backstage, have a message for the WWE:
Hassan: “Now, after JBL’s little speech, I’ve seen a spike in votes for us, the Real Americans, to face those two hicks at Taboo Tuesday. The thinking seems to be that we’re scared. Let me tell you now, we’re not scared.”
Carlito: “Damn straight we’re not. You might notice Daivari’s not here. Our concern for that man cost us the gold last week. He’s staying home until we get the gold, and our plan for that is real simple. We’re going to hit the ring and take out those two hicks too damn fast for JBL and his boys to do a damn thing about it.”
A video message from a hotel room, somewhere in the country, plays later on in the night. Kurt Angle, looking tired out, sits on a bed and stares at the camera. “The USA network sent people round to my house to reclaim this here” he reaches to the side of the bed and pulls up the WWE title “I knew they’d do that. I’ve spent every night in a different hotel in a different city, fighting a guerilla war for this country and this company. Being separated from my family like this, that’s not what I want. But I’m doing it because I believe that its right, that you all want me to do this. So I’m putting out a challenge to the USA network. Put up a vote for the main event, that Edge vs John Cena rematch you’re so hot for. If they want me there, I’ll bring the gold, and I’ll put it on the line, fair and square. If not, I’ll politely return it to you, and that’ll be the last you hear from me. It’s up to you, USA. Do you want to listen to the people? Have you got the guts to hear what they have to say?”
October 28th, 2005: WWE Smackdown
Theodore Long comes out first on Smackdown. He steps through the ropes with a microphone, and starts to talk:
“Ladies and gentlemen, four nights ago, Kurt Angle made it clear he was willing to risk his career for this country. I want to first of all address him: Kurt, if you lose that title at Taboo Tuesday, and USA wants you gone, then you’ve got a home here on Smackdown. Sweeten the deal up even more, I’ll let you get a shot at our champion. You’re numbers, Kurt, and if USA don’t recognise that, I sure do.” The live fans cheer for Kurt’s name, and Theodore lets them calm down before he continues “Tonight though, we’re going to have a different kind of title match: JBL is going to have to put his US gold on the line against William Regal. Regal should have got his shot back at No Mercy, and that was denied him. Tonight, he gets what he deserves.”
The match between JBL and Regal takes place in the main event. Regal comes down backed by Benoit, who looks rough and ready for a fight. JBL, on the other hand, is alone when he gets out of his limo and struts to the ring. The match starts with JBL and Regal tying up, and JBL pushing Regal back to the corner, where he lays into him with knees and punches. He’s pulled out by the ref, causing an argument between the two of them. Regal uses that time to recover, and drop JBL with a stiff lariat as JBL turns around. Regal puts the boots to JBL on the ground until he’s pulled off too. This one is obviously personal. The brawl goes back and forth, until Regal hits a superplex, at which point, one of the masked men rushes down the ramp. He’s cut off quickly by Benoit, who drags him down by the arm into a crippler crossface. The masked man taps quickly, but to no avail. Benoit won’t let go. Another one jumps the guardrail opposite. Benoit spots it, and hits the ring at about the same time. The masked man is cut down with a clothesline, and tossed over the top rope, as Regal and JBL trade shots in the ring. Benoit follows the second masked figure to the outside by way of a dive between the top and middle ropes, taking them both out. That move proves unfortunate, as the third masked man, a hulking beast of a man, storms down to the ring. Regal hits a DDT on JBL and turns to face the masked monster, only to be flipped over by a hellacious clothesline. The ref rings for the bell, awarding Regal the win by DQ. The other masked men rush down the ramp and quickly stomp away at Benoit and Regal, demolishing them in and outside the ring.
October 31st, 2005: WWE RAW
A three-way tag match between the three teams up for the Taboo Tuesday tag title shot takes place mid-way down the card. While the Jimmy Snuka/Roddy Piper team get some cheap pops, most of the heavy lifting is done by Hassan, Carlito, Rosey and The Hurricane, until the finish, in which Carlito scores his lungblower finisher on Piper for the three. Also during tonight’s RAW, Kurt Angle comes to the ring, dressed more patriotically than usual, a big American flag draped over his shoulders and an American flag bandanna over his head. In his hands, he holds a plastic toy of the WWE title, with a big sticker over it reading “Property of John Cena”. Kurt comes into the ring, and starts to talk in a low, dumb voice. “I’m Kurt Angle, yeah! Man of the people, man of this country! I’m so brave that I stole John Cena’s title, then went and hid under my bed with it, because that’s how a man handles his business!” Cena takes off the bandana, and tears away his bald wig. He puts the flag carefully in the corner, then stops a moment.
“Kurt, I get it. You’re all riled up, you’re all angry, and you want to take the war to the guys making you angry. ‘Cept they’re all a bunch of suits in offices, and if you beat on all of them enough, you’ll go to jail, and wind up trading your gold medal for contraband. Not cigarettes though. No, you’re a clean living American who won a gold medal for getting all sweaty and dragging other sweaty men to the ground. You’re trading that for a lifetime subscription to Playgirl. So you figure, hey, I can’t beat on the suits, I’ll beat on their show. And that’s all cool man, really. But let me tell you where you crossed the line, Kurt. You crossed the line when you snatched that gold up from that table, while I was busy being a man for this company! See, you whine and you moan, and you cry about how unfair, about how un-American all this is. Ain’t none of us real happy to see Hassan here. Me, that’s mostly because a douchebag’s a douchebag, no matter where his folks come from. Same reason I ain’t real happy to come to work and see your ugly ass crying mug staring at me. But I come here, because I’m the champ, because I’m a wrestler. Remember that’s how this whole thing started, Kurt? You wanting them to just be about good American wrestling? That’s what I was doing with that Nickelback cast-off Edge, when you interrupted, and you took that title, and you ran, and you hid, like the little punk you are. So I’m begging, I’m praying for you to get in that ring with me tomorrow night, I’m living on a dream that the fans vote the right way, and let me show you what it means to be a man, Kurt, because you’ve sure as hell forgot.”
November 1st, 2005: WWE Taboo Tuesday
Hassan and Carlito, the ‘Real Americans’ win the vote to face Cade and Murdoch for the tag titles. The two bring a brutal, hard-hitting style to the match that has Cade and Murdoch retreating from the bell. Their brutality is nothing compared to what interrupts their match, however. The group of men, their whole bodies covered in white clothes, except for their heads, which are covered in two American flag bandannas apiece. They come through the crowd, which parts willingly for them, cheering and chanting USA. They jump the guardrail. Hassan and Carlito throw scared looks at each other, but also share quick, small nods. They bend their knees and put their fists up, moving back to back. They choose to stay and fight. Their fight might not last long, but their beating does. They are smashed down not only by a superiority in numbers, but by the size of the mob’s largest member, a hulking beast of a man who tosses them easily around the ring. Once both men are battered into the ground, the leader of the group heads outside. He brutally tears apart the Spanish announce table, and begins throwing wires and cables into the ring. His men know what to do, and begin tying the legs and arms of Hassan and Carlito, kicking them and stomping them as they lay hogtied on the ground. It doesn’t stop there though. A wire is tossed over opposite turnbuckles, looped and knotted. The knots secure, Hassan and Carlito are each dragged to one of them. The bound men struggle as much as they can, trying to scream through wires tied through their mouths. A loop at the end of the wire around the turnbuckles is drawn around each man’s throat. They kneel, immobile. If they stay perfectly still, they can breathe. Boots to the ribs sway them to the side, choking them until they can right themselves and catch air. That never lasts long before they get booted again. The crowd, once loud with cheers are now silent and uncomfortable. Security finally declares enough to be enough, and rush the ring. The vigilantes fight back, and it is about even, until Benoit and Regal push their way down to the melee and throw down against the masked mob. The hulking beast of the group catches a second wind, and begins throwing bodies left and right, until John Cena rushes the ring, chair in hand. The mob flees at this point. The crowd again parts, although perhaps more out of fear this time around. Hassan and Carlito are untied, but still lay near motionless on the ground. A steady rise and fall of their chests is taken as a blessing by a disgusted J.R. Medics swamp the ring, and hastily pull Hassan and Carlito back on stretchers.
John Cena stays in the ring, looking furious. Edge comes down next for the night’s main event, looking worried to be the next man in Cena’s crosshairs. Cena looks calmly at him, but this does nothing to calm Edge. He knows that supposedly calm look, knows the steel behind it. It is a look like a knife in its sheath. The voting result is in. Edge vs Cena in a triple threat with Kurt Angle wins out over the street fight and the TLC match. When Angle’s music hits the speakers, and the man comes down to the ring with the WWE title, Cena marches over to Edge. He looks him in the eye, and the camera barely picks up his words. He points outside, on the other side to the ramp, and quietly tells Edge to stand outside and wait the start of this out. Him and Angle have business. Edge, either seeing an opportunity to let the two men wear themselves out or seeing a chance to get out of the path of Cena’s rage, complies. Cena drops to the outside and rushes Angle. Angle swings with the belt, and drops Cena. He laughs and struts his way to the ring, not seeing Cena rise behind him. Cena drops him with a clothesline from behind, then tosses him into the steel steps, where he lays boot after boot. He then pulls Angle up by the head and tosses him violently into the guardrail. The match hasn’t technically started yet, so Edge uses this chance. He grabs the chair Cena brought down to the ring, and catches both Cena and Angle with a series of shots, before tossing both into the ring. The bell rings, and he immediately tries for a pin, but to no avail. Edge fights the whole match this way, lurking around the outside of the action until an opportunity presents itself. Cena fights on pure rage, and it can barely be called wrestling. Wrestling focuses on moves, tactics, ways to pin another man down or make him submit. Cena works on the blind fury of a man with one goal in mind – revenge for the sick spectacle that just took place. Angle is able to make a lot of this, as this leaves a huge amount of gaping holes in Cena’s form to be exploited. The finish to the fast paced battle comes when Cena hits an FU on Edge, only to immediately catch an Angle Slam. A cover gets two, and Angle gets up and grips onto Cena’s ankle. Edge pulls himself up, and throws himself at Angle with a spear, only for Angle to react quickly enough to counter it into a DDT. Exahusted, he drags himself onto Edge, falling back first onto him, without even the energy to hook the leg. The ref starts to count, but Cena hurls himself on top of Angle, pinning his back to the mat as he does. The count reaches three, and neither Angle nor Edge has kicked. The match is over, but the question of whether there was really a winner still hangs in the air.
November 4th, 2005: WWE Smackdown
A brown door in a white corridor, half open. John Bradshaw Layfield, hat in hand, body between frame and door, blocking the camera from seeing who he is talking to. His voice is firm, polite and slow. His words: “There’s been a lot of anger about what we did on Tuesday, but you and me, we both know it was the right thing to do. The only thing we could do. Right now, what’s important is that we lose the masks. That shows people that we’re not ashamed of what we did. The rest of them are anxious. They won’t do it. But they respect you in a way they don’t respect me. They have to. If you take that mask off, they’ll follow suit.” There’s a pause. Something is whispered behind a closed door. JBL smiles sadly, and puts his hat back on his head, tilting his head downwards to do so. He keeps it there for a while, as if the ground were fascinating. He mutters “sorry you feel that way” at the floor, and backs off.
November 7th, 2005: WWE RAW
Another message from Kurt Angle, from another hotel room. He holds in his hand the WWE title. “There were no winners on Tuesday. Kurt Angle is a man of his word. He said that if he was beaten, he would hand this belt over. Well, he was not beaten. I hate what I’m having to do here. USA, here’s the beat. Survivor Series. I find four men to have my back, and I’m sure there’s at least five looking to put a knife there. We lay it all down. You have control, and do what you wish with me if I lose. I have control if I win. Either way, I’ll hand Cena back that belt after the match. He’s the champion, he won it. If I want it, I need to beat him.”
November 11th, 2005: WWE Smackdown
During a JBL/Benoit match over the US title, the commentary team mention that USA has accepted Kurt Angle’s challenge, and have allowed anyone from RAW or Smackdown to throw their hat in with or against Angle, on the condition that Angle bring the belt to Survivor Series, and makes no appearances on RAW before then. The match itself swings heavily in Benoit’s favour, until the huge man in the American flag mask storms the ring. He drops Benoit with a clothesline, and Benoit’s just lucky it didn’t leave his head in the third row. The bell rings. The big guy and JBL put the boots to Benoit. Regal rushes down with a steel chair. A shot collides with the big man’s skull, but he barely stumbles. Another clothesline drops Regal, and the big guy is just pulling Regal up when his bandannas are pulled down from behind. They hang about his neck like an albatross. The fans and the announce desk register their shock as Batista turns around to JBL. JBL backs off, his hands high. A boot catches him in the gut, and he is laid out with a Batista Bomb, before Batista jumps the ropes and moves to the back, his head in his hands.
November 14th, 2005: WWE RAW
“You’ll hand me the belt back, Kurt?” Cena roars “You’ll just hand me it back? Oh, I’m so grateful! No, forget that. Survivor Series – I’m coming to tear it from your cold dead hands. Count me as the first man on the other team!” Drums, fog and the words ‘You think you know me’ from the stage. Enter Edge.
“John, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m with you. Kurt screwed me out of taking you out in TLC, and he looks to keep on screwing me. Now I know lying, I’m damn good at lying, so believe me when I tell you that he’s lying! He’ll bring the belt, but if his team looks like its losing, he’ll head for the hills again! You and me, we’ve got to be there, we’ve got to take it from him our own selves. That’s order of business one. I’m the second man. After Kurt’s gone, and you’ve got your pudgy fingers around that belt again, order of business two is getting that damn rematch!”
Shelton Benjamin defends his intercontinental gold against Ric Flair later in the night, dropping him with a superkick after a fifteen minute back and forth. After the match, he calls for a microphone, and paces the ring.
“Kurt called me last week. He said that men like me, great wrestlers, world-class athletes, that was who he wanted to build RAW around when he was in charge, and he said that if I wanted the chance I deserve, all that had to happen was for him to win at Survivor Series. Best way for that to happen, he says, is if I’m on his side. It’s a lot to think about. See, as an athlete, as a wrestler, I respect Kurt. I know Edge reckons he’s a lying scumbag on every count, but I even respect Kurt’s word. Kurt tells me he’s going to give me the chance I deserve, I believe him. But what I don’t respect, what I can’t respect, is Kurt’s war here. I can’t respect him biting the hand that feeds him with USA. I can’t respect him standing with that gold in his hands when he didn’t win it. But that doesn’t mean I have any love for a man like Edge, who we’re supposed to trust after all the lies. And I sure as hell have no love for John Cena, a champion who can’t keep his own damn belt. See what I just did, John? Wrestled fifteen minutes with one of the best in the world? See this belt, firmly in my possesion? Yeah, that’s how a real champion, hell, a real man carries it. I’m sitting this one out, and I’m leaving an open challenge. Any wrestler can come to that ring at Survivor Series for a shot at this belt, and I will beat them, and I will walk away, still the champion.”
November 18th, 2005: WWE Smackdown
It is of no surprise to anyone when JBL comes down to the ring and names himself the second man on Angle’s team. The big reaction comes when Batista strolls onto the stage, World Heavyweight Title over his shoulder and microphone in his hand. JBL gets the first word out, in a fast, scared voice: “Dave, Dave! Look, I had to do it. I had to! They had to know that a man like you, a man these fans love, a champion, that he was on our side, that he knew our side was right!”
“John, shut up.” Batista growls. “You talk too damn much. Its my turn. Yeah, I know why you did what you did. Don’t think that means I like it. Or you. But that can wait. You’ll get yours, but not until after Survivor Series, because at Survivor Series, we’re both fighting for what matters most. We’re both fighting for Kurt Angle, and for America. I was born and raised in Washington. You’ve got to believe that made me a real patriot.”
Regal and Benoit team up later in the night, and make quick work of the returning Mexicools, represented by Juventud Guerrera and Psicosis. After the match, they throw in against JBL and Batista, and by extension, Kurt Angle. The team against Angle now has four.
November 21st, 2005: WWE RAW
“Bradshaw, Batista, you make me sick.” Benjamin hisses “The rest of your cowards behind masks too. What they did at Taboo Tuesday, I’ve been in an angry, sick mood since that. So Angle, before, I was willing to sit this one out. But if those are the kind of people rallying around you, calling you a champion, calling you the leader this show needs, then I have to re-evaluate just where I stand, because it can’t be with you, and it can’t be watching you rise and rise to the top. I am the last man for the team against you, and I will fight until my last breath to keep you from power.” He backs off from the camera, leaving Todd Grisham to look as bemused as ever on his own. Something like stupid shock crosses his face when Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch jump Shelton Benjamin further down the corridor. They put the boots to him, shouting traitor, shouting turncoat, calling him a boy. They march past the camera, and Cade growls “four and five.”
A video package set within a cold and dark room hits the screens. The camera moves in closer, and from the darkness appear the faces of Muhammed Hassan and Carlito, skin darkened by bruises. Hassan laughs hoarsely, then all laughter leaves his face, and he stares the camera in the eye “You really thought we were done with? I know that was the idea, that or, at the very least ‘teach us a lesson’ as a bully like Angle might phrase it” he pauses “and we were taught a lesson, weren’t we, Carlito?”
Carlito tosses an apple casually between his hands, and gives the camera a rictus grin “We were, we were taught that you didn’t want Carlito to be cool.” he tosses the apple over his shoulder “You didn’t want a guy who was just there to have fun, make money, win titles. You don’t want Muhammed Hassan the wrestler, you treated him like a whipping boy.”
“You see Hassan’s skin, and his clothes, and his voice, and you make all of that the enemy, because that’s the simplest way of seeing your world, that’s the only way that makes any damn sense to you. You see a Muslim, and you see a terrorist, they’re just two spellings of the same word to you. Okay then. I am an accommodating man. The terrorist is who you get from now on.”
Carlito reaches down, and from his boot comes a long knife. The red light from the camera plays along its cruel curves, staining the knife red. Carlito lets out a long whistling laugh, a laugh like a cold wind that blows through your bones on a winter night. He looks up, and beneath the madness in his eyes is calculation and sorrow. “And if we’re just our heritage to you, if we are just the worst of what you barely know and hardly understand, if we are just the secret fears crouching in the dark, waiting for your ignorance to stumble by so that it can strike, if we are all of that, and you have made us all of that, then let me promise you, I will be the bloodshed of Puerto Rican wrestling. I will be the spitting blood, I will be the fireball, I will be the knife at your head, carving memories into your brain. I will be your Puerto Rican nightmare, WWE, and you will wake up only when I can’t wash the blood out any more, because the stain of it is inescapable.”
November 25th, 2005: WWE Smackdown
The talk throughout the show is on the main event, and on the star studded Survivor Series match, which will see the WWE champion John Cena and the Intercontinental champion Shelton Benjamin on one side, and the World Heavyweight Champion Batista, the US champion JBL and the tag champions Cade and Murdoch on the other. The main event of the night will pit JBL and Batista against John Cena and Shelton Benjamin, in a battle where every man has a title. Cena and Batista are rarely in the ring together for any real length of time, although the crowd pops huge every time it happens. It’s a fairly even affair, until the inevitable run ins end it. Pretty soon, the ringside area has broken into a ten man brawl, and the referee is ringing the bell as if that has ever stopped anyone, ever.
November 27th, 2005: WWE Survivor Series
Angle’s team makes their way out first. JBL stands with Angle as buffer between him and Batista, who he keeps throwing nervous looks at. The three of them are flanked by Cade and Murdoch. The other team comes out. Cena looks determined, Edge lazy. Benjamin is obviously looking to prove himself, and is eyeing up the other wrestlers. Regal and Benoit flank the group, their fingers twitching with the desire to stretch their enemies. A pile of gold quickly amasses on the time-keeper’s table. When they enter the ring, Angle offers his hand to Benjamin, who hesitates before shaking it. Cena throws him a dirty look for this fraternising with the enemy, while Edge lounges, looking amused by all of this tension. Regal and Benoit look the opposite, as deadly serious as ever. Something unspoken passes between Benjamin and Angle, and they send their teams to their respective sides. Angle’s team is willing to follow his leadership, while Cena and Edge both seem reproachful at the young gun giving orders. What follows when both teams are back in their corners is a dazzling display of chainwrestling between Angle and Benjamin that comes to an abrupt end when Cade quick tags himself in.
Cade and Murdoch then separate Benjamin from his corner and use quick tags to beat Benjamin down. Neither are a match for him in a one on one fight, and they seem to know this, tagging out to the other whenever they find themselves in trouble. Angle looks disgusted at their cowardice, but seems to reconcile himself with the knowledge that this is just one night, the Intercontinental champion will be getting his dues when he’s in charge. He’s torn on how to react when a superkick from Benjamin puts Cade out of the match.
Murdoch comes in next, but is put away with a powerslam, before Benjamin hurtles to the other side to make the tag. In comes Cena, who obliterates Murdoch in short order. Angle buries his head in his hands, and his despair is only deepened when he looks behind him to see the WWE title missing from the timekeeper’s table on which he left it. Edge gets back on the apron, and drops it behind him, grinning. Angle comes in next, and seems to have Cena’s number, grounding him with mat wrestling. Cena begins to launch a comeback, but its cut off by a quick tag to Batista. The crowd roars its approval at seeing these two together in the ring. The two champions circle each other, before tying up. Batista pushes Cena back into the turnbuckle, and starts to bury knees into his gut, but is cut off, as Edge slides into the ring with a steel chair, and brings it crashing down onto the head of Batista. The bell is quickly rung to signal Edge’s removal from the match. Edge shrugs, and laughs, before leaving. Cena glares at Edge in confusion, but still hoists Batista onto his shoulders for the F-U, only for Angle to clip his knees out. This draws Benjamin into the ring, which draws JBL in, which draws Regal and Benoit in, as the ring quickly turns into a crazed melee. Order is restored by virtue of all men being downed, as Cena and Batista, the last two standing, hit each other with clotheslines and both fall. Men return to their corners, and the champions both move away to make the tag. In comes Regal, and in comes JBL. The two brawl, forgetting to wrestle in their mutual hatred. Regal starts to stretch JBL, remembering his strength in the contest, but JBL is able to shift the position into a pin, hands on the tights, three count, three left on each team.
Benoit storms in, and won’t let JBL get away from chops, dropkicks, elbows and suplexes. JBL begins to turn things around after a thumb to the eye, and staggers away to make the tag, only for Batista to let himself drop from the apron, pulling Angle with him. JBL’s back is to Benoit, leaving him helpless against a trio of german suplexes, capped off with a diving headbut for three. While the headbut put JBL away, it also leaves Benoit stunned, and it doesn’t take long for Angle to capitalise on this, hitting an Angle Slam to put Benoit away for three.
Benjamin jumps the ropes, and him and Angle pick up where they left off, only this time harder and faster, trading blows and suplexes as well as holds. The end looks to come when Angle hoists Benjamin up for the Angle Slam, only for Benjamin to again counter with a crucifix. This time, however, Angle is expecting it, and rolls through, grabbing Benjamin’s ankle into an Angle Lock. Cena charges the ring, but is cut off with a Batista clothesline. Benjamin taps furiously, and Cena is left on his own. Cena puts up a valiant struggle, but he would he hard pressed to beat either of these men on their own. As a team, they dominate him, and the only question is how and when he’ll be taken out, not if. The how is a Batista Bomb, the when is ten minutes in, at the end of a hot surge where, for almost two whole minutes, Cena was able to fend off both Angle and Batista. Turning around from F-Uing Angle over the ropes, he finds himself kicked in the gut, and powerbombed fiercely. It is over. Angle has taken control. ‘You Think You Know Me’ blares over the speakers, and out comes Edge, Money In The Bank briefcase in hand. He runs tot he time-keeper’s table, and announces he’s cashing in his shot. Cena bravely struggles to his feet, but is cut down with a spear. Cover, one, two, three.
“A new champion and a new GM, all in one match!” squeals King.
“Is that what they are?” sighs JR “I can just see a couple of thieves.”