And on the seventh day, he rested ... in peace

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April 25, 2008

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Unfortunately for Batista, seven wasn't quite heaven on Friday Night SmackDown. In the seventh chapter of the epic war between Undertaker and Batista, The Phenom evened the score of their rivalry, taming The Animal and retaining the World Heavyweight Championship -- with an unexpected assist from Shawn Michaels.

For the first time in nearly five months, the World Heavyweight Championship was on the line on SmackDown. But the battle wasn't just a rematch of last week's double count-out between Undertaker and Batista; it was also the latest chapter in a rivalry that has now spanned more than a year. Since meeting for the gold -- then held by Batista -- at WrestleMania 23 last April 1, the two Superstars have clashed six times total, with The Animal holding a 2-1 advantage over The Phenom with three draws.

As if that wasn't drama enough, there was more hinging on this match. Earlier in the night, General Manager Vickie Guerrero made the match No Disqualification, meaning these two Superstars could use anything under the sun to stop the other. And of course, there was Vickie's edict last Friday night: The winner would go on to defend the gold against Edge at Backlash. That also meant that if Batista toppled The Deadman, his very personal issue with Shawn Michaels would have to take a spot on the back burner while The Animal battled Edge in Baltimore.

Fortunately for The Deadman, one could argue, HBK made sure that wouldn't be a problem.

Once again, Phenom and Animal battled tooth and nail. With both men knowing each other so well, it was hard for either to gain a clear-cut advantage for any length of time. Batista managed to block Undertaker's attempt to go Old School and escaped chokeslams, a Last Ride attempt and even a Tombstone try; likewise, the champion survived Batista's biggest offense, refusing to succumb to spears, spinebusters and even avoiding the Batista Bomb.

In the end, the No-Disqualification stipulation turned out to be Batista's undoing -- but not before it nearly cost Undertaker the gold. When The Animal kicked out of Undertaker's Last Ride, The Phenom decided to introduce the steel ring steps into the fracas. Batista, knowing Undertaker's modus operandi, wiggled out of the champion's Tombstone attempt on the steps -- instead dropping him with a thundering spinebuster that bounced The Phenom's back off the steel like a motorcycle hitting a guardrail.

But when the challenger went to finish the job, it was he who ended up finished. As Batista set Undertaker up for a Batista Bomb, Shawn Michaels emerged out of the crowd and slid into the ring. The issue between HBK and The Animal has become very personal, and with his Backlash battle with Batista about to go by the boards, Michaels had a choice to make -- leave well enough alone or ensure his opportunity at Batista.

In what could be classified as an "un-Michaels-like" moment, HBK chose to take advantage of the No Disqualification edict by rocking The Animal with Sweet Chin Music, nearly taking his head off in the process. With Batista on Dream Street, Undertaker scooped him up and dropped him off at Tombstone Drive. Three seconds later, The Phenom's long, hard road to Backlash ended in a victory over one of his fiercest rivals.

While religious faiths declare that God may have rested on the seventh day, it's more than apparent that the WWE Superstars won't. Backlash beckons this coming Sunday, with Undertaker set to face Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship and HBK vs. Batista once again fully confirmed. But after witnessing the battle that The Phenom had to survive just 48 hours prior -- not to mention Undertaker's previous four weeks of hell on Earth -- will the Ultimate Opportunist once again be the one resting in the Winners' Circle with the title in hand come Sunday night?

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