Strawberries and creamed
LONDON -- Even a trip across the Atlantic Ocean couldn't help World Heavyweight Champion Undertaker shake the scourge that SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero has laid upon him.
As SmackDown emanated from London, The Phenom was set to battle his third straight powerhouse -- The Animal, Batista. Undertaker and Batista have a long rivalry dating back over a year, and have been through Hell (in a Cell) and back against each other. So even though it was a non-title bout, The Deadman wasn't in for an English holiday.
But to add insult to potential injury, Edge and his buddies Hawkins & Ryder showed up with front-row tickets, intent on watching the battle from the best seats in the house. What they, as well as over 17,000 other fans in the O2 Arena and millions more watching on television, saw was another classic battle between two of WWE's biggest Superstars.
Much like they have in their previous matches, Undertaker and Batista bashed each other from the get-go. With Edge and his crew cheering every blow, the champion and his adversary threw bomb after bomb at each other -- leaving each other a bit knackered, as the Brits would say. They couldn't even contain their battle to the squared circle, and in the end it cost them both -- one particular scuffle on the arena floor lasted past the referee's count of 10, and the match ended in a double count-out.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the evening for either Superstar.
As they brawled around ringside, they neared the Rated-R section of the arena. With Batista momentarily subdued, Undertaker grabbed Edge by the neck and hurled him over the barrier. Perhaps a pre-emptive strike by The Deadman, but it would turn out to be a costly one.
Hawkins & Ryder jumped the barrier to help their mentor, only to be cut off by an angry Animal. With his H&R Block taxed out, Edge was cornered in the ring by two angry adversaries. But just Undertaker wrapped his hands around his Backlash opponent's throat, out came the rest of the familia -- Chavo Guerrero and his "one-man fence," Bam Neely. Upping the odds back to 3-on-2 gave the Ultimate Opportunist his chance to flee, leaving Chavo and Bam to get pounded like pork pies.
Again, Undertaker and Batista seemed to stand tall, but there was still one last line of reinforcement -- General Manager Vickie Guerrero. Instead of physicality, however, Vickie gave The Phenom and The Animal a tongue-lashing -- reminding them that as fans, Edge, Hawkins & Ryder could file suit and cost SmackDown some serious quid for the besmirching they received.
But of course, since a court of law probably wouldn't award Edge the one asset he wants most, the World Heavyweight Championship, Vickie had alternate plans.
"Next week, Undertaker, you will once again face Batista," she shrieked, much to the delight of our fans. But then, to the delight of her fiancé, she added a pair of caveats.
"This time, however, it will be for the World Heavyweight Championship, and the winner will face Edge at Backlash!"
With an uneasy tension, The Animal and The Phenom stared each other down, knowing that one of them will head to Baltimore on April 27 as the World Heavyweight Champion -- but to do so, they must destroy the other two nights before.
To say Undertaker's road from WrestleMania XXIV to Backlash has been a bumpy one would be akin to calling Stonehenge a rock pile -- a severe understatement. The Deadman has somehow managed to survive so far, but if The Animal has his way, Undertaker won't see the end of that road with the gold still in his possession.
On the flip side, Batista has his own gigantic Backlash battle with Shawn Michaels looming. Their issue has become increasingly personal, and while walking into the pay-per-view with gold around his waist would be a bonus, The Animal knows that even a victory over Undertaker would take more out of him than he'd prefer.
With less than a fortnight before Backlash, there are only two things for certain: Someone is going to be saying cheerio to the World Heavyweight Championship next Friday night -- and regardless of who it is, the Ultimate Opportunist will be there to pick the bones just 48 hours later.