Three-dogged night

Three-dogged night

ROANOKE, Va. -- Love, hate, resentment and pent-up frustration were the rage Friday night on SmackDown, particularly for Edge, World Heavyweight Champion Batista, and The Undertaker. In fact, The Phenom's surprise interruption during The Animal's title defense against Edge that evening, coupled with the unexpected return of Theodore Long, resulted in an announced three-for-all at Armageddon -- and left our fans wondering who will walk away with the championship two weeks from Sunday.

Rather than defend why he, rather than Undertaker, deserved a World Title opportunity that night, the Rated-R Superstar kicked off SmackDown in the Roanoke Civic Center by championing his love for Vickie Guerrero. After recalling how an injury had forced him to relinquish the World Heavyweight Title last July, he confessed that a lack of appreciation from fans and colleagues had him contemplating retirement. That is, until he received a phone call two months ago from SmackDown's General Manager, who'd become the motivating force for his return to the ring -- and the eventual love of his life.

Edge explained that his newly amorous relationship with Vickie ultimately empowered him to interfere in Batista and Undertaker's Hell in a Cell classic at Survivor Series, where he used a chair on The Deadman's skull to cheat him of a sixth World Title. "Four months of frustration came pouring out, and it felt so good," he said, "though not as good as it felt last week to finally, publicly, proclaim my love for Vickie."

Outrage replaced passion from the Ultimate Opportunist's voice, however, as he recounted how the "sick, twisted" Phenom Tombstoned Vickie on "The Cutting Edge" a week ago. Sadly, that anger must have also affected his memory; Edge made no mention that Undertaker's attack was based not only on what the Rated-R Superstar did to him at Survivor Series, but on the fact that he stole The Deadman's World Heavyweight Title on SmackDown last May. He also neglected to remind our fans that by narrowly escaping the ring last week, an understandably frustrated Undertaker directed his wrath toward "defenseless" Vickie while he watched from a safe distance.

Regardless, Edge made sure he got one point across to The Phenom: "Undertaker, I make a vow to you right now…I will destroy you!" As for Batista and SmackDown's World Title Match, his comments weren't for an Animal whom he "knew" he could beat, but to the fallen object of his affections, who was convalescing from her hospital bed: "Tonight, I dedicate my match to you, baby," Edge asserted. "Tonight, I will be your hero. I will be your knight in shining armor. I will be your World Heavyweight Champion."

Edge's words may have touched Vickie, though they didn't seem to phase Batista. Neither did The Animal's conversation with Anastacia, who reminded him that he has never beaten the Rated-R Superstar any time the gold has been on the line. "I'm not thinking about four or five months ago," a very positive Batista replied. "I'm focused on tonight. And if Edge loves Vickie Guerrero so much, he can join her in the hospital and they can recuperate together. Me? I'm walking out of here World Heavyweight Champion."

For a good portion of his title defense Friday night, the champion had no problem backing up his statement. Literally kicking the hell out of Edge, it was more apparent than ever that Batista's extraordinary accomplishments in recent months -- defeating The Great Khali for the title at Unforgiven, then exorcising his personal demon and beating Undertaker at Cyber Sunday -- have made him a more aggressive, more confident breed of Animal. Edge would eventually mount an offense and nearly claim victory several times during the match, until Batista countered his spear and primed the Ultimate Opportunist for one of his own.

That's when the lights went out, the gong sounded and all hell broke loose.

No sooner had the lights come back on than our fans erupted at the sight of Undertaker now in the ring, his right hand clenched firmly around Edge's throat. That didn't stop Batista from spearing the Ultimate Opportunist, who'd somehow have the wherewithal to roll out of the ring before The Phenom could grab hold of him again. One can only speculate as to what transpired next, but from the look on Undertaker's face, it was evident to our fans that The Animal's instincts, however natural, had deprived The Deadman of his retribution.

Unable to vent the months of pure frustration caused by his Rated-R source, Undertaker lashed out at whatever -- actually, whoever -- was within his ungodly grasp, like he had last week with Vickie Guerrero. In this instance, the wrong person, in the wrong place and at the wrong time, was the World Heavyweight Champion, who momentarily shared our fans' look of disbelief before being planted to the canvas by a devastating chokeslam.

Seconds later, our fans in Roanoke learned that in addition to being frustrated, The Phenom can also be surprised. That's the best way to describe the change in Undertaker's usually cold, detached features as he witnessed Theodore Long walking halfway toward ringside. Not seen since last September, Long wasted no time shaking things up in the SmackDown kingdom, starting with the writhing Rated-R Superstar who was practically crawling toward the back on his belly.

"I know what you're thinking," he told Edge. "You're thinking that you deserve a rematch for the World Title. Well, you're right; you do deserve a rematch." Turning his attention toward The Phenom standing in the ring, Long then removed a piece of paper from his jacket…and paraphrased the very words Vickie Guerrero had spoken to Edge only a week before.

"‘Undertaker, I'm going to punish you,'" he read aloud. "‘That's right -- I'm going to give you a World Title Match.'" Amid deafening cheers from our fans, Long spoke up as he declared, "At Armageddon, it's going to be a Triple Threat Match for the World Heavyweight Title! It's going to be Edge…versus Batista…versus The Undertaker!"

Our fans certainly sounded pleased with Long's proclamation, though reactions from the three Superstars were mixed. Batista likely would have been fine with the announcement, had he not been busy recovering from Undertaker's chokeslam at ringside. Edge, not surprisingly, was distraught, almost beside himself -- especially once the death knell sounded again, and Undertaker's terrifying stare was directed right at him. Without question, The Deadman is hell-bent on having his revenge; whether or not it outweighs winning a World Heavyweight Title, however, is a question that can only be answered at Armageddon.

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