Mysterio becomes top "David" against World Champion "Goliath"
ALBANY, N.Y. -- It has been a big -- no, a huge week for Rey Mysterio. Following up a triumphant return over Chavo Guerrero at SummerSlam, the Sultan of the 619 made his long-awaited SmackDown homecoming last Friday unforgettable, winning both rounds of a Championship Competition to make him the No. 1 Contender for the World Championship at Unforgiven.
With those victories, however, Mysterio must contend with his most enormous task to date: Playing modern-day David to SmackDown's 7-foot-3, 420-pound champion Goliath, The Great Khali.
Welcome back, Rey.
But hey, let's not write off the former World Champion so soon. True, he gives away nearly two feet to The Great Khali, and yes, there is almost a 250-pound difference between the two Superstars. And it's hard to dispute the fact that Mysterio is back only one week after spending 10 months out of ring action to rehab a surgically repaired knee.
Still, we're talking about Rey Mysterio, gang. This masked ace of the aerial assault has toppled some of the largest figures in sports-entertainment. Hell, he's the reason why John "Bradshaw" Layfield was forced to retire from the ring (which he complains about whenever he finds the opportunity as a SmackDown commentator). The fact is, the bigger they are, the bigger the match, the more Rey shines. And Friday night in Albany's Times Union Center was yet another example of that.
It wouldn't be easy, though. Give SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long his props for putting together some incredible Championship Competition matches to declare a No. 1 Contender at Unforgiven. In the first contest, Kane initially assured that there'd be no shenanigans in his SummerSlam rematch with Finlay -- by hurling the Fighting Irishman's shillelagh all the way down the SmackDown ramp. Unfortunately, the Big Red Monster should have engaged in some leprechaun-launching as well. The Cruiserweight Champion of the World, Hornswoggle, crawled out from under the ring to position a spare shillelagh in one corner, then later distracted the referee at the opposite end. The distraction allowed Finlay to crack the blackthorn-wooded instrument against Kane's skull, thereby advancing himself to the finals.
As for Rey…well, he was hardly a Goliath in his first-round match against a true David -- David Batista. It was a pleasantly surreal experience for our fans to watch The Animal applaud his masked opponent entering a SmackDown ring for the first time in months, and to witness two longtime friends hugging each other before their match started. More surreal, however, was seeing Batista -- who in recent months has been hell-bent about taking away The Great Khali's World Heavyweight Championship -- actually hesitate about closing in for the kill on Mysterio and advancing to the final round of the competition.
Batista's sportsmanship and concern for re-injuring Mysterio obviously makes him more man than any "Animal." Rey, however, didn't want anyone, even his friend, "taking it easy" on him. Therefore, he riled The Animal up, targeting most of his high-flying offense on Batista's legs and chest. He might even have grabbed the victory after offsetting a Batista Bomb with a seated senton off the top rope; unfortunately, his attempted 619 would be just as quickly countered when The Animal caught Rey in midair and spinebustered him to the canvas.
Unfortunately, our fans will never know the true outcome of the Superstars' battle; Finlay suddenly arrived at ringside with a chair in his hand, though Batista made sure he'd never get to use it. But when the ring official tried removing the weapon from Batista's hand, the outraged Animal instinctively shoved him across the ring. The action earned Mysterio a win via disqualification and advancement to the finals…which is what the Fighting Irishman wanted all along.
Finlay's plan seemed more rock-solid than the strongest Blarney Stone; it's natural for a calculated antagonist like himself to assume that he'd have a sizeable advantage over a smaller, beat-up Mysterio. But such assumptions are precisely what makes the Sultan of the 619 so dangerous, and why he turns opponents' bigheaded pride into their downfall. Almost no one can equal the masked Superstar's speed, or his uncanny ability to take the smallest of openings and produce huge turning points in a match.
The brawler from Belfast was determined not to give Rey that opening, however. For most of the final-round contest, he worked relentlessly on Mysterio's spine and surgically repaired knee. Rey's attempts to rally back were also curtailed by Hornswoggle, who again appeared from under the ring apron to aid Finlay on the outside floor.
Whatever little help the Irishman had this time wouldn't be enough, however; as he has done throughout his career, the masked Superstar launched an aerial offense that sent Finlay falling into the ropes. He then connected with a 619 to the back of Finlay's skull, practically sending the Irishman upright, and balanced himself on the top rope. Seeing his opponent shift to counter his next move, Mysterio made a midair change of direction, flipping over the Irishman and rolling him up for the three-count. Though exhausted and bloodied around the mouth, Rey's miraculous perseverance had propelled him to the No. 1 Contender spot in just one week, much to the elated cheers from our fans.
Unfortunately, any opportunity to celebrate looked short-lived, as The Great Khali and his translator, Ranjin Singh, came down to the ring. As the World Heavyweight Champion loomed over the barely-standing Mysterio, our fans around the world saw just how disparaging a difference in size there was between the two Superstars -- perhaps the most in any upcoming World Championship Match. If you were watching the SmackDown action on your TV at home, you'd have seen just how difficult it was to capture both men in the same frame.
Khali obviously didn't think much of the newly announced challenger to his crown. Like a seriously overgrown bully, he shoved the still-hurting Rey to the mat, then prepared to pop the masked Superstar's head like a grape with his Vise Grip. Thankfully, Batista raced down and thwarted Khali's attack, at least long enough for Mysterio to recover. Rey practically flew between the ropes, catching the giant champion with a 619 that sent him reeling backward…and straight into the path of an enraged Animal spear. The two-pronged attack sent Khali out of the ring and back up the ramp, angrily looking at Batista and Mysterio all the while.
Indeed, it has been a huge week for Rey Mysterio. But if Friday's showing was any indication of what to expect at Unforgiven two weeks from Sunday, it may be the biggest month of his monumental career.