The semi-final chapter?

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May 11, 2006

Another chapter will be written in the ongoing Lashley-Finlay saga this Friday night when the two SmackDown Superstars face off for the right to face Booker T in the finals of the King of the Ring tournament at Judgment Day. The history between these two has been well documented and dates all the way back to February when Lashley's impressive undefeated streak was snapped, thanks in large part to Finlay's unwarranted interference. From that point on, the rivalry between these two continued to intensify with each passing week. Unfortunately for the young Lashley, he has been unable to defeat the crafty Irish veteran. If he is to wear the coveted crown, however, Lashley is going to have to finally find a way to overcome Finlay this Friday night.

Many look at the No Way Out pay-per-view as the initial spark that ignited the flame for the Lashley-Finlay rivalry. The massive SmackDown newcomer carried his undefeated streak into the event where he squared off against JBL in a high-impact encounter. As the match wore on, it appeared as though Lashley was poised to pick up the biggest win of his young career. But then out of nowhere came the shillelagh-wielding Finlay. The Irishman clocked Lashley with the weapon, which led to a JBL win and Lashley's first-ever loss.

After Finlay's actions at No Way Out, Lashley set out to gain a measure of revenge on the ring veteran. And what better way to get revenge than to ruin Finlay's chance to compete on the biggest stage of them all -- WrestleMania. Lashley had this opportunity when SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long placed the two rivals in a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match. The winner of the contest would earn a spot on the WrestleMania card. Unfortunately for both men, their emotions got the best of them and the match never officially got underway. In fact, Lashley never even stepped foot in the ring, as Finlay attacked him in the entrance way before the bell rang signifying the start of the match. Their brawl eventually spilled out to the arena parking lot where Finlay smashed his opponent with a steel pipe. An enraged Lashley was somehow able to shake off the attack, however, and managed to slam Finlay's head into a nearby car eight times. As if that was not enough, Lashley, showing near superhuman strength, flipped the car over hoping to have it land on his fallen foe. Luckily for Finlay, he was able to narrowly escape to fight another day (watch).

The following week on SmackDown, General Manager Theodore Long was able to guarantee the action would stay in the ring when he ordered Lashley and Finlay to compete in a Lumberjack Match. As was the case in the prior week's encounter, a spot in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 22 was the prize. With so much on the line, Finlay resorted to using every trick in the book to ensure victory. In the end, however, it was a rather familiar tactic that ultimately sent Lashley to the showers -- with the referee distracted, the Irishman floored the big man with the shillelagh again. The impact was enough to keep Lashley down and send Finlay to WrestleMania (watch).

Despite Finlay's underhanded win in the Lumberjack Qualifying Match, Lashley eventually earned a spot of his own in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania when he won a Last Chance Battle Royal on SmackDown. Alongside Ric Flair, Rob Van Dam, Shelton Benjamin and Matt Hardy, the two bitter rivals competed at WrestleMania for a future World Championship opportunity. However, even with such a huge reward on the line, Lashley and Finlay ultimately concentrated on destroying each other rather than winning the match. In the end, RVD walked away as Mr. Money in the Bank and the Lashley-Finlay rivalry intensified even more, as neither man left WrestleMania with the clear-cut advantage.

Friday night on SmackDown, both Superstars look to finally put the other in their rearview mirror and pull away from this intense rivalry with the upper hand. But only one man will be able walk away the victor and claim a spot in the finals of the King of the Ring tournament. Will Lashley shake his winless streak against the Irishman and advance to battle Booker T? Or will it be Finlay that continues his dominance over his enormous rival? Whichever Superstar comes away with the win, he will have taken a giant step towards immortality and forever having his name mentioned as a WWE King of the Ring, alongside other greats such as Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

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