An Animal Unleashed

On this week’s edition of Friday Night SmackDown, the Animal was unleashed. Batista made his long awaited return and not only called out Mark Henry, but also delivered a beating of epic proportion when he decimated The World’s Strongest Man with a steel chair. Also on SmackDown, the stage was set for the Great American Bash as King Booker won a Battle Royal to become the No. 1 contender for Rey Mysterio’s World Championship.

For the duration of the last month or so and especially the last few days, the main topic of discussion in WWE locker rooms and arenas has been the impending return of the former World Heavyweight Champion, Batista. A report on earlier this week provided information from sources close to the Animal that suggested the former Champ would return this week to call out Mark Henry. Batista did all that and more when he came through the curtain to a standing ovation from the Wachovia Center crowd.

Several months ago, Mark Henry severely injured Batista during a match, forcing the then Champion to relinquish his gold, and take an extended break to heal the damage. On SmackDown, Batista had revenge on his mind when he called out The World’s Strongest Man. “Mark Henry, you come out here now, or I’m coming to get you.”

At first it looked like Henry was going to give the Animal what he wanted. He made his way towards the ring, but as he closed in, he changed his mind, and turned back towards the locker room. Unfortunately for Mark Henry, the World Champion Rey Mysterio was waiting in the wings, and attacked the oversized Superstar to prevent his return to the backstage area. The distraction gave Batista all the time he needed to arrive on the scene. Showing an intensity that hasn’t been matched in years or maybe ever in or around a WWE ring, Batista laid in to his Great American Bash opponent. The former Champ busted Henry open with the use of the steel ring steps and a steel chair, leaving Henry a bloody mess just three weeks away from their monumental encounter. If Batista’s actions this week are any indication to how he will perform from here on in, the entire SmackDown locker room should be on watch. ( Watch Batista Unleash)

Also this week, opportunity knocked for a number of SmackDown Superstars during a special Battle Royal that was held to determine a No. 1 contender for Rey Mysterio’s World Championship at July 23rd’s Great American Bash. The competition, which included the likes of Matt Hardy, Tag Team Champions Paul London & Brian Kendrick, Mr. Kennedy, Super Crazy, Psicosis and The Pitbulls to name a few, was dominated by King Booker and his royal court.

The King, along with Finlay, William Regal and Matt Hardy comprised the final four. While Hardy was able to fight off the court temporarily, even eliminating Finlay, the old saying that there is strength in numbers played true on this night. King Booker eliminated both Matt Hardy and William Regal with a single push, leaving himself as the sole survivor, and the new No. 1 contender to Rey Mysterio’s Championship. ( watch King Booker survive)

King Booker, who will face Rey Mysterio on July 23rd at The Great American Bash, addressed the Royal Kingdom after his victory. “I will beat this peasant (Mysterio), and take the World Championship at the Great American Bash. I want it all. I want my entire kingdom to rejoice in my royal splendor. King Booker will soon be the King of the world.”

World Champion Rey Mysterio had his own thoughts on his Great American Bash which he detailed to SmackDown Diva Kristal. “Every day that I bring this World title home with me, I realize it’s a gift. It’s a blessing, and this is the biggest ride of my life. So King Booker, royalty or not, at the Bash, you’re just one move away from the 619.”

Besides the World Championship affair, two other contests were made official for the Great American Bash. The first of which was the Punjabi Prison Match between Undertaker and The Great Khali. On SmackDown, Khali and Daivari continued their mocking of Undertaker, bringing a casket to the ring and threatening to dispose of Khali’s opponent, Tatanka accordingly. As Khali motioned to the casket, Undertaker took control of the Wachovia Center’s airwaves. “Great Khali, you dare challenge me. There’s an old saying that says you should quit while you’re ahead. At The Great American Bash, I will face you in your Punjabi Prison match, and you will, Rest in Peace.” ( watch Taker accept)

The other match confirmed for the Bash was a Triple Threat Match for the United States Championship between current champion Lashley, and two members of the Royal Court in Finlay and William Regal. Lashley was in action on SmackDown in a Champion vs. Champion match with Cruiserweight Champ Gregory Helms. While Helms proved to be a game opponent for the U.S. Champ, Lashley was not to be stopped on this night. The hard hitting and soft spoken powerhouse put Helms away with the Dominator and kept the momentum going heading into the Bash. ( Watch Lashley dominate)

Speaking of momentum, two other SmackDown Superstars kept theirs going strong. Mr. Kennedy triumphed over Super Crazy in a hard fought battle, and the toughest man in a dress, Vito, danced and dominated his way to victory over Psicosis. The big story of those two matches however was the continuing war between former best friends and partners, Psicosis and Super Crazy. The former Mexicools turned bitter enemies interfered in each other’s matches, causing the distractions that contributed to each of their losses.

Also on SmackDown, the ‘Ambassador-at-Large’ to Quebec, Sylvan, delivered another ringing endorsement for “North America’s greatest treasure”, Montreal. The proud Frenchman addressed the Philadelphia fans, and touted Quebec as an “isle of tranquility in a truculent world”.

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