Deadman's Return

The details of No Way Out began to materialize as Friday Night SmackDown rolled into Columbus, Georgia, this week.

At No Way Out, Undertaker squares off with Kurt Angle for the World Heavyweight Championship. However, before getting to the champion, Undertaker faced a sizable bump in the road on SmackDown: the World's Strongest Man, Mark Henry. Early in the match, Henry overpowered Undertaker, surprising everyone including the Deadman himself. However, Undertaker managed to avoid a charging Henry in the ropes, leading to a frustrated Henry taking out his anger on the ringside barrier.

Undertaker followed Henry to the arena floor, where he sent the World's Strongest Man crashing into the ring steps. The Deadman then took it to Henry, going Old School and throwing everything at his opponent until he got caught in a punishing bearhug. Henry continued to use his size and power to his advantage, but the Deadman made a comeback, and after one failed attempt, he dropped Henry with a chokeslam. It looked like he had the match won, but Daivari called out reinforcements in the form of MNM. The WWE Tag Team Champions attacked the Deadman, drawing a disqualification.

Undertaker managed to chokeslam Daivari and fought off MNM and Henry, but eventually succumbed to the numbers game. As the trio beat down the Deadman, Kurt Angle ran out to make the save for his unlikely ally. Kurt unleashed a fury of German suplexes, but ended up having to be saved from a 3-on-1 attack by Undertaker. The Deadman then grabbed the World Heavyweight Championship from the referee, and as a perplexed Angle looked on, he stared down the gold and then gave it back to the champion. Theodore Long then came out, and announced that based on what happened, MNM & Henry would face Undertaker & Angle in a Handicap Match next week.

Earlier in the night, MNM were busy themselves, as they issued an open non-title challenge to any tag team in the locker room. Paul London & Brian Kendrick answered the call, and took it to the WWE Tag Team Champions. London & Kendrick kept the champions off guard with their high flying tactics, but eventually Nitro & Mercury were able to isolate Kendrick. As they set up for the Snapshot, referee Charles Robinson tried to keep the illegal man out of the ring; Kendrick was able to tag London at that time, but Robinson was occupied and missed the tag. MNM then hit the Snapshot as Robinson sent London out of the ring, and the champions were able to pick up the victory.

Last week, it was announced that Randy Orton & Rey Mysterio would square off at No Way Out, with Rey's WrestleMania opportunity on the line. On SmackDown, Randy decided to set the record straight about the comments he made about Eddie Guerrero last week. As he stood backstage, Randy said that he didn't really mean what he said, and didn't know nor care if Eddie was in Hell. He then showed the footage of his comments, but was gone when the camera returned to where he was.

Orton then came out to the entranceway in a lowrider, and revealed that he only made the comments to get inside Mysterio's head. What he really wanted was Rey's opportunity to main event WrestleMania 22, and this was the best way to go about getting it. He then explained the lowrider, saying that he had a point to make. Orton claimed that people said he was a nasty person for making the comments, but told the fans that Eddie wasn't a saint either. As the Legend Killer went to read an excerpt from Eddie's book for proof, Rey Mysterio ran out and attacked him. The two men brawled around ringside, and Mysterio viciously dropkicked Orton's head into the steel ringpost. The melee was broken up, but the damage had been done.

Also on SmackDown, two new matches were made for No Way Out, including a United States Championship rematch. In a No. 1 Contender Fatal Four Way Match, Chris Benoit outlasted JBL, Orlando Jordan and Matt Hardy to earn a future championship match. Booker T & Sharmell came out to do commentary on the match, which saw a good amount of teamwork from former allies JBL & Jordan early. Chris Benoit managed to get the Crippler Crossface on both JBL & Jordan at different points, but the hold was broken up by the other man before he could achieve a submission.

As the match neared conclusion, Booker could be heard openly rooting for Jordan. JBL hit the Clothesline from Hell on Hardy, but let Jordan make the cover. It was a setup, however, as JBL attacked Jordan and tossed him from the ring. Jordan would later do the same right back to JBL, but this time Matt Hardy broke up Jordan's pinfall. Hardy hit a Side Effect on Jordan, but as he tried to do the same to Benoit, the move was reversed into the Cripple Crossface. With both JBL & Jordan out of the picture, Hardy was forced to tap out, earning Benoit the victory.

After the match, a visibly upset Booker & Sharmell were caught by Theodore Long backstage, who reminded Booker of the outcome. He then set the date for Benoit's reward, telling Booker that he must defend the gold at No Way Out. Long also said that there would be no substitutions, and if he couldn't wrestle Benoit on Feb. 19, then he would forfeit the United States Championship. Booker's night would only get worse from there, as when he & Sharmell tried to leave the arena, they found the trunk of their rental car full of worms.

Also after the match, Kristal caught up with JBL & Jillian. JBL was irate, and said that he should have won the match, and more importantly, should be fighting for the World Heavyweight Championship. As JBL said that he could beat anyone at anytime, Bobby Lashley approached him. The hard-hitting, soft-spoken Lashley offered a simple challenge to JBL: "Me vs. you, No Way Out." Jillian immediately accepted the challenge for her client, reiterating his earlier bravado. JBL looked slightly stunned, but backed up Jillian's acceptance, and the match was made official later in the night.

It was also a strange night for the Juniors. Backstage, Palmer Canon and Mr. Kennedy showcased the Juniors to Kristal, but the swashbuckling Paul Burchill cut through the set, interrupting their interview time. He simply said hello to both Kennedy and Canon, leaving everyone confused. Later, as the Juniors squared off in tag team action, Finlay interrupted their match, brutalizing all four participants. After nailing Tsuki with the Emerald Fusion, Finlay said that it doesn't matter who you are or how big (or small) you are, he's on SmackDown looking for a fight.

Also, Gregory Helms defeated Nunzio with the Shining Wizard to retain the Cruiserweight Championship. Former champion Kid Kash watched the match from the entranceway, and it was announced that Kash will get a rematch with Helms for the championship next week.

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