From Poison to Pandemonium

The World Heavyweight Champion and the No. 1 Contender picked each other's poison, but by the end of the night, they and their opponents were victimized by their own venom. The quest for SmackDown's Holy Grail seems to have finally reached its boiling point, and four of the Kingdom's most fearsome warriors were involved in a night of surprises, betrayals and shocking announcements, one of which offered an unprecedented shake-up of the Championship chase just days before King Booker puts his gold on the line at No Mercy.

SmackDown opened with King Booker and Bobby Lashley each announcing who they had chosen for each other in the night's "Pick Your Poison" format. As reported on last week, it would be King Booker against his Royal Knight Extraordinaire, Finlay and Lashley versus his friend, Batista. Looking to maintain a sense of order in his Royal Court, King Booker reached out to his Irish ally, asking him to "Be a good Knight and lie down." Finlay has proven time and time again that he never lies down for anyone, and he turned The King's request back on fellow Knight Sir William Regal.

"What would you do?" he snarled. "Would you lie down for The King?" As Regal attempted to answer, he became flustered and quickly left. Finlay would soon do the same, but not before reminding King Booker of whom he is, and what he loves to do. Judging by the disconcerted look on The King's face, he knew that hope was grim before he even asked the question. Finlay's curt response and abrupt exit merely reasserted that The King was in for a heap of trouble.

When it finally came time for the two to square off, Finlay's Little Bastard once again entered the fray and tilted the tide in the Irishman's favor. He crept out from under the apron and chased Queen Sharmell around the ring with a mouse. The sight of the terrified Queen distracted both King Booker and the referee, and with the two of them distracted, Finlay was able to grab his trusty shillelagh and crack The King in the back of the knee. Finlay picked up the victory, and The King was perfectly snake-bitten by Lashley's poison (Watch). Has Finlay's loyalty to King Booker officially run its course?

The No. 1 Contender must have enjoyed the result of King Booker's match, but he couldn't smile for long as he was slated to take on Batista. As two of the most powerful men on SmackDown went blow for blow, Finlay stormed into the ring and attacked Batista, looking to deliver a message to the man he will face in just two days at No Mercy. Not more than a second later, King Booker came flying in as well. However, instead of attacking Lashley -- a man The King would like to see weakened, given the dominance Lashley has shown over him in recent weeks -- The King of SmackDown came out swinging for Finlay, undoubtedly still steamed over being pinned. Before long it was a free-for-all that required the assistance of SmackDown's entire referee crew to break up. It was then when SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long finally appeared, ready to restore order to his show and offer a simply unimaginable announcement (Watch).

"It seems to me that all four of y'all want to go at it real bad. So this Sunday at No Mercy, we're gonna have ourselves a World Championship Match, but it will not be a one-on-one match. It will be a Fatal Four Way Match!"

As the crowd roared in appreciation, the four men in the ring absorbed the monumental announcement. Never before in SmackDown history has the main event of a pay-per-view been changed with only days to go before the event was set to take place. Now, just two days before No Mercy, two new contenders learned they will have a chance to walk out of Raleigh, NC as World Heavyweight Champion. Plus, with the Fatal Four Way format, now King Booker won't even have to be involved in the decision to lose the title. Imagine Finlay's excitement when he realized that if he can find a way to pin Batista or Lashley (as he has managed to do before very recently), he can steal The King's gold without laying a hand on him. In fact, it was such a scenario that cost Finlay his U.S. Championship in a Triple Threat Match. Batista's smile reflected his relief and excitement to finally be back in the position to reclaim the championship he held before a triceps injury forced him out of action for months. The King, meanwhile, looked as though he had just been punched in the gut. As if it were not bad enough for him to have to face a genetic powerhouse in Bobby Lashley, now he will have to face the one man on SmackDown who may be more destructive and physically imposing than Lashley, and the one member of his Court who has shown that he has no allegiances to anyone but himself. Is King Booker's reign all but over?

As if all of this chaos wasn't enough, the SmackDown fans in Wichita, KS got yet another treat from Long. As all four of the No Mercy main event competitors crowded the GM's office, Long declared that they would have to coexist for one more night, as SmackDown's main event would be a tag team match pitting King Booker and Finlay against Lashley and Batista. The King was left to shout that he could not possibly trust any of his three competitors, and with just two days between this match and their Fatal Four Way at No Mercy, who could expect any of them to trust each other? How would they possibly coexist in a tag team scenario less than an hour after the momentous announcement?

As it turned out, they wouldn't have to cooperate for long. There was clear dissention between King Booker and Finlay, as neither man appeared interested in tagging in for the other. After a spear by Lashley to King Booker, The King's last loyal Knight, Sir William Regal, interrupted the match, resulting in a no contest. However, Batista took the opportunity to assert himself before No Mercy, delivering a string of spine-busters to King Booker, Regal, Lashley and -- after a low blow from Finlay's Little Bastard -- Finlay (Watch). Prior to SmackDown, Batista didn't even have a championship opportunity in sight. However, following Friday night's incredible events, could The Animal be the favorite to walk out of No Mercy the World Heavyweight Champion? Why did Regal enter the fray -- has The King's Court crumbled? How must Bobby Lashley be feeling after that spine-buster from his friend, Batista? How will Little Bastard impact the match at No Mercy? What about Queen Sharmell? The decision may have come abruptly and unexpectedly, but WWE fans everywhere should be simply delighted by the boundless array of possibilities for No Mercy.

Of course, No Mercy already had WWE fans salivating for plenty of other reasons, and the audience in Wichita got a taste of things to come with only two days until the pay-per-view. In a battle of No Mercy foes, Rey Mysterio and Matt Hardy teamed up to take on Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms. In the weeks since being betrayed by Chavo and Vickie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio has turned heartbreak into anger, and he will be looking to put his rivalry with Chavo to rest after he faces his former friend in a Falls Count Anywhere Match at No Mercy. As for Hardy and Helms, this personal rivalry will head back to where things began for both of them. As kids, they competed in everything they could in order to declare, "Anything you can do, I can do better." Now, under the brightest lights in sports-entertainment, the childhood friends will put personal pride and bragging rights on the line. In the match, Hardy delivered the Twist of Fate to Helms, followed by Rey Dropping the Dime for the pin (Watch). If Hardy can connect again on Sunday, hometown bragging rights will surely be his. As for Rey, the pin can only help his momentum heading into No Mercy, even though Chavo was pulled out of harms way by Vickie, who has shown in the last two weeks that she has the ringside savvy to pay huge dividends as a business partner.

The other can't-miss match at No Mercy will be Mr. Kennedy's contest with the legendary Undertaker, who last week spooked Mr. Kennedy as the outspoken Superstar attempted to bow out of the contest. This week, Mr. Kennedy had a new message for The Deadman.

"On Sunday, you will find out that the decade and a half of destruction is over. The future has arrived, the future is here and the future is Mr. Kennedy," said a seemingly refocused and deadly serious Mr. Kennedy (Watch). The man from Green Bay vowed to pin The Phenom at No Mercy, but is the future more grim than he hopes?

MVP would like the world to think that he, too, is a phenom, and he delivered that message in his first public appearance since signing on as a member of the SmackDown roster. In his statement, he boasted, "MVP is the greatest athlete in history, and history will be made this Sunday at No Mercy. Nobody is ready for the debut of MVP." (Watch) A lofty statement from a man who has yet to step into a WWE ring, especially considering nobody has any idea who he will face in his match. Who will it be, and will MVP deliver on his bold prediction?

There are only two days remaining until what has evolved into one of the most eagerly anticipated and potentially thrilling pay-per-view events in recent memory. The SmackDown Superstars have made their final statements -- now there's nothing left to do but wait and prepare. Be sure you're ready to catch all the action and watch No Mercy, live at 8/7 CT on Sunday, only on pay-per-view.

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