Time on Rey's side

Time on Rey's side

RICHMOND, Va. -- The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and on SmackDown Friday night, Edge and General Manager Vickie Guerrero found out what it's like to be said rodents. As a result, the Rated-R Superstar now has a date with a former partner at the Royal Rumble.

In what's sure to be the first of many memorable SmackDown moments in 2008, Rey Mysterio beat the odds, beat the clock and, perhaps most importantly, beat the champion himself to earn a World Heavyweight Championship Match at the Royal Rumble.

For the first SmackDown of 2008, the GM set up a Beat the Clock Challenge, in which a half-dozen of SmackDown's top Superstars would compete. The Superstar winning his match in the shortest time would earn the opportunity to face the Ultimate Opportunist at the Royal Rumble. There were, however, two caveats: No one knew their match opponent in advance, and while both Batista and Undertaker would be involved, if either of them put their hands on the Rated-R Superstar at all during the night, their chances of once again becoming champion would, as Vickie put it, "go up in smoke."

Finlay and United States Champion MVP kicked off the challenge, with the ornery Irishman setting the first benchmark. Thanks to a little help from Hornswoggle and a pair of well-placed shillelaghs, Finlay finished his victorious night in 9:46.

That benchmark was quickly topped by late entrant Chavo Guerrero. After failing to take down CM Punk to earn a chance at his ECW Championship this past Tuesday, the fiery Guerrero lobbied Vickie for a spot in the challenge. She agreed, and when her nephew defeated Funaki in 6:02, Chavo became the clubhouse leader.

That's when things seemingly got even fishier.

When it was Batista's turn to beat the clock, Curt Hawkins marched to the ring as his opponent. However, Vickie had an ace up her sleeve in Zack Ryder, as she turned the bout into a Handicap Match. Our fans in the Richmond Coliseum cheered on The Animal as he fought valiantly, but the 2-on-1 odds were too much to beat in such a short time. Batista tried to Batista Bomb Hawkins, but Ryder clutched The Animal's leg to prevent his partner's impending doom. Time expired, and with Hawkins & Ryder's dirty work done, Batista was eliminated from contention.

Next up was Undertaker, and as he stood in the ring waiting, Matt Striker's entrance theme filled the air. Instead of coming to compete, however, Striker appeared in a referee shirt. After announcing that he was in fact the special referee for Undertaker's bout, Striker introduced his real opponent -- the World's Strongest Man, Mark Henry.

To everyone's amazement, Striker called the match fairly -- until The Phenom dropped Henry with a chokeslam with less than 15 seconds left in the match. Striker's count stopped at two, and as Undertaker stared him down, the buzzer sounded once again. The Deadman had failed to beat the clock, and when it became imminent that he would take his aggression out on Striker, the deceitful arbiter ran for the hills, leaving Henry behind to get body slammed by the angry Phenom.

Chavo's time still stood with only one more Superstar left with a chance to beat the clock: Rey Mysterio. As the Master of the 619 stood in the ring waiting for his opponent, however, our fans -- and even Michael Cole and new SmackDown color commentator Jonathan Coachman at ringside -- were thrown for a loop as the World Heavyweight Champion himself, Edge, sauntered down to the ring, accompanied by Hawkins & Ryder.

For Vickie Guerrero, at least, an Edge vs. Chavo Guerrero match-up at the Royal Rumble might seem like a win-win situation. But it was not to be, as a very angry pair of failed qualifiers made sure that Mysterio wasn't as unlucky as they were.

With just under four minutes left for Mysterio, Batista stormed to ringside, taking out Hawkins & Ryder -- who had already interfered liberally in the bout. Then, with just over two minutes left, it was Undertaker's turn to get back at the already-distracted Edge. After The Phenom made his way to ringside, the lights went out for nearly 30 seconds at The Deadman's behest. When they flickered back on, Edge was slumped face-first into the second rope. No one knows whether Undertaker had violated Vickie Guerrero's no-touch rule or not, and Mysterio didn't care; he nailed the champion with a 619 and  springboard splash, securing the victory with 90 seconds to spare to beat the clock and earn his World Heavyweight Title opportunity with the Rated-R Superstar at Madison Square Garden.

Mysterio is a former World Champion himself, and stated during SmackDown that he would do whatever it took to wear the gold once again. Beating the clock was only Step One, however; for Rey to reign supreme on SmackDown a second time, he must once again defeat the man with whom he once co-held the WWE Tag Team Championship in 2002.

Mysterio has that chance at the Mecca of sports-entertainment, Madison Square Garden, on Jan. 27. Two years after his improbable run as a No. 2 entrant won him the Royal Rumble Match -- and ultimately led to him earning the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 22 -- will his extensive history with both Edge and Vickie be enough to help him conquer the Rated-R Kingdom?

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