WrestleWatch: WWE No Mercy 2005
On this most lovely of days, Friday, I'm diving into the vault! If you've been following my blog for a while, you may be aware that I've spent the past couple of years working through the Ruthless Aggression era on the Network- that is, the time period between the acclaimed Attitude Era and the maligned PG Era. While the "eras" of WWE aren't set in stone, for my purposes I've taken it from July 2002 (where Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon were made General Managers and the lines in the first brand split were originally drawn), and I'm working my way towards Summerslam 2006. Every single Raw, Smackdown and PPV. Why am I stopping at Summerslam 2006? Because the Raw after Summerslam was when I got Foxtel and started watching on a weekly basis. If you're curious, I feel that the Ruthless Aggression Era ended completely with the "JBL is poopy" angle in June 2008. Total cringe.
Obviously, not reviewing every single Ruthless Aggression PPV I watch. Already got too much happening with keeping up with current WWE stuff, the emergence of AEW, and my favourite Aussie wrestling promotion, PWA (review of Call To Arms coming in the next few days!). So why have I chosen No Mercy 2005 to review? To the context section!
Let's get this out of the way- the 2005 edition of No Mercy was not a classic PPV. But it is historically significant. Tragically, this was the last ever PPV that Eddie Guerrero would perform on, as he died from heart failure the next month on November 13. Eddie Guerrero was one of my favourite wrestlers ever, and he left us with a final great performance where he showed just how gifted he was in all facets of pro wrestling.
The main event of No Mercy was a World Heavyweight Championship match where the champion, Batista, put the gold up against the veteran challenger, "Latino Heat", Eddie Guerrero. Although we're some time removed from Eddie's run as WWE Champion, Guerrero remained a prominent part of Smackdown throughout all of 2005 until his untimely passing. His main focus was a feud with long time friend turned bitter foe Rey Mysterio. Eddie turned heel on the man he considered a brother, destroying the masked marvel with some vicious assaults. The story took a weird turn when Rey's son Dominick became involved, and Eddie (in the storyline) revealed that he was Dom's biological father. It's a testament to Eddie Guerrero's ability that a man previously so adored by fans could become so hated, and it also added a layer of intrigue to the feud with Batista that was the headline attraction for No Mercy.
Eddie was public enemy number one for all the horrible things that he did to Rey and his family, but he swore to Batista that he had turned over a new leaf, and wanted to face the Animal in the spirit of friendly competition. Big Dave accepted this idea, but was great in conveying subtle distrust, knowing Eddie's history of "lying, cheating and stealing". Eddie, for his part, seemed conflicted. Was he genuinely trying to become a better person, or was it all a ploy to play mind games and get the psychological edge over the champion?
There were other matches too, notably Randy Orton and his father "Cowboy" Bob Orton in a Handicap Casket Match, but the focus, and my reason for writing this review, is Eddie vs. Batista.
Match 1: The Legion Of Doom (Animal & Heidenreich) & Christy Hemme def. MNM (Mercury, Nitro & Melina) (at 6:28)
Thoughts: Decent opener that the crowd was into. Heidenreich as the replacement Hawk was an idea that never really got over, but he was serviceable here. MNM deserve credit for bumping around the ring big time, selling the new LOD as major powerhouses. And Christy, while she was no master technician, played her role well and looked damn fine doing it. She was sent to developmental after this and released shortly after. Shame. Feel like she had much more upside than her successor, Ashley. Anyways... (**)
Match 2: Bobby Lashley def. Simon Dean (at 1:55)
Thoughts: Notably, this was the WWE PPV debut of Lashley. Although he wasn't quite "All Mighty" yet, he was an absolute physical specimen, and it was clear WWE were solidly behind this young monster. Complete squash, and the veteran Dean makes him look a million bucks. Post-match, Dean has to eat a massive pile of cheeseburgers per the stipulation. For those unaware, Simon Dean was a comedic fitness guru gimmick. I got a kick out of it, although judging by the character's shelf life, I may have been the only one. Lashley wins with the Dominator. Damn, that was a great finisher. Way better than the Spear and Running Powerslam that he would later use as finishers. Also, remember when Lashley first returned to WWE last year and his finish was a stalling vertical suplex? Lashley's finishers have gotten shitter and shitter as the years have gone by. At least he's still a unit. 2005 Lashley and 2019 Lashley almost look the same. That's commendable. (*)
Match 3: WWE United States Championship- Chris Benoit def. Booker T, Christian & Orlando Jordan in a Fatal 4 Way (at 10:22)
Thoughts: Three of the better workers on the Smackdown brand at the time- and Orlando Jordan- elevated the quality of wrestling on this card to a more acceptable PPV standard. Due to the length and structure of the match, the action was fast and furious, with no lulls whatsoever. Benoit manages to lock in the Sharpshooter on fellow Canadian Christian, and Captain Charisma taps. Booker T's wife, Sharmell, berates her husband for not winning. The story and feud would continue for Booker and Benoit in the weeks and months that follows. Jordan remained as a bit player in that feud, but primarily, his career was stagnated on Velocity (Smackdown's equivalent to Sunday Night Heat). As for Christian... this was his last WWE PPV match too. He would leave the company for TNA a couple of weeks later. Hmm, this show has a few more newsworthy items than I originally thought. (***)
It's Mr. Kennedy! ...Kennedy. Now here's a guy with star potential that WWE didn't get right. Sure, injuries didn't help the guy, but I wish they persevered with him. Charismatic as fuck. At this point, Kennedy had been on Smackdown a little over a month, already with wins over Booker T and Rey Mysterio to his credit. He does his awesome pre-match mic routine, and this is also his WWE PPV debut.
Match 4: Mr. Kennedy def. Hardcore Holly (at 8:49)
Thoughts: Decent match. We know how Bob Holly loves facing rookies, and he served up a great plate of chops- among other things- to the Green Bay native, but Kennedy took it in his stride and looked good in the process. Nice story throughout with Holly having hurt ribs, and Kennedy having the killer instinct to target them. Kennedy's Green Bay Plunge finisher (a rolling Samoan Drop from the top rope) is the final blow to the midsection that ends the night of the Hardcore One. (**)
Post-match, Holly continues to sell rib injuries, and the model Sylvan comes out to add insult to injury. And also injury to injury, as he laid the boots into the tough vet. Crickets. Ooft. The Sylvan experiment didn't really go anywhere after this.
Match 5: JBL def. Rey Mysterio (at 13:24)
Thoughts: JBL was great here as his bully self, the perfect Goliath to Rey's David. Mysterio got his flashy, crowd-pleasing spots in at the right times, and Bradshaw would cut him off with strong strikes or power moves to take the air from the audience. Good to see JBL get a clean win here essentially with the Clothesline From Hell. I feel like he grew into his role well as Smackdown's top heel, and he was rewarded here with a credibility building win over one of the most popular guys on Smackdown. Good, basic chemistry between the two wrestlers here for a fine PPV match (***)
Match 6: Handicap Casket Match- Randy & Bob Orton def. The Undertaker (at 19:16)
Thoughts: "Cowboy" Bob, at 55 years old and not in fighting shape, did not enhance this match a great deal. But Randy and Taker had been feuding basically all year and complemented each other well. Big Daddy Bob allowed his son to get the advantage over the Deadman at key moments. There was a nice spot where Orton scored with the RKO following the use of a fire extinguisher, which was a cool visual. At one point, we see Undertaker put Bob to sleep with a triangle choke, as Mark Calaway's real life MMA fandom was being incorporated more and more into his wrestling character. It's not often Taker loses his signature Casket match, so this was a boost for young Randy, even with the handicap stipulation. And the post-match stunt was a great spectacle. (***)
Post-match, the Ortons pour gasoline on the over-sized casket and set it on fire. A criminal act anywhere else in the world, just a more literal way of getting heel heat in WWE. Presumably, the Ortons have just killed the Undertaker by setting him on fire.
Match 7: WWE Cruiserweight Championship- Juventud def. Nunzio (at 6:38)
Thoughts: The crowd is pretty quiet, considering they were all just witnesses to a murder. Anyway, time for the flippy guys to do their flippy guy shit! This was a decent, if unspectacular outing. It was designed to be the buffer between the two featured matches of the PPV, and while the crowd got into it somewhat down the stretch, they were burnt out for the most part. Pun intended. I'm sorry. Juvi wasn't as much of a risk taker here as he was in his WCW run, and Nunzio was more of a ground/submission based wrestler, so this wasn't a balls to the wall cruiser match. Decent sequence of counters before the leader of the Mexicools hits the Juvi Driver for the win. Post-match, they say "Your ass is grass, and we are the lawnmowers!" Okay then (*1/2)
Match 8: World Heavyweight Championship- Batista def. Eddie Guerrero (at 18:40)
Thoughts: As I alluded to earlier, I really enjoyed the story being told in this feud, and by extension, this match. Eddie makes his entrance to a remixed version of his theme, where there's a rap about a "gangsta lean" or something. It doesn't stick. No lowrider either. They have a standard wrestling match, and Cole and Tazz on commentary take the opportunity to compare Batista to Brock Lesnar- of course, Brock being the man Eddie beat at No Way Out 2004 to win the WWE Championship. As Eddie tries to keep things technical and by the book, Batista's power advantage begins to frustrate him. Eddie is excellent at selling the conflict- will he go back to his old ways? He loses his temper and grabs a steel chair- but doesn't use it. Eddie works on the lower back to mitigate some of Batista's power.
The finish occurs when Guerrero lands the Three Amigos, goes for the Frog Splash and Batista manages to avoid it. Eddie rolls through and tries to recover the advantage, but Batista catches him with a spinebuster for the 3 count. I guess the idea was that his back was too compromised to hit the Batista Bomb, so he had to go to different power offence? The problem was, I don't think Batista had ever gotten a 3 count off a spinebuster before. It was a near fall signature move, so it made Eddie look a little weak losing to it. That issue aside, it was a well worked match, and I really enjoyed the storytelling throughout, with Eddie's conflict and trying to prove he was a changed man, avoiding his "Lie, Cheat & Steal" tactics. Then, Eddie found a way to get the upper hand in a logical way over the bigger man with the lower back attacks. Not a classic match, but an exemplary example of storytelling in pro wrestling. Eddie could have been a pretty great actor if he wasn't a pro wrestler, his facial expressions and body language told the story beautifully. Truly one of the greatest talents of all time, gone far too soon. (***1/2)
Batista and Eddie hug in the ring after the match, as Cole affirms, "Maybe Eddie really is a changed man!" Guerrero sells the devastation of the loss, but shows sportsmanship to his friend. In the weeks that follow, the Batista/Eddie friendship strengthens. There was a great moment on an episode of Smackdown from the Cow Palace- the venue where Eddie won the WWE Championship. Batista gets Eddie a lowrider and they make their entrance in it for a tag team match with MNM to Eddie's classic theme. Watching it current day, knowing that Eddie would be gone just a few days later, made me choke up a little. It seemed that the friendship was genuine off-screen too, as on the episode of Raw tributing Eddie Guerrero, Batista was brought to tears.
Eddie's last ever match was on Smackdown, on November 11, defeating Mr. Kennedy to earn a spot on the Smackdown Survivor Series team. In the match, he used his "Lie, Cheat, Steal" tactics in a babyface manner to get Kennedy disqualified. We'll never know for sure where Eddie's story was meant to go from here. Batista was carrying an injury, and it was rumoured that he would drop the World Heavyweight Championship to Eddie on an episode of Smackdown. Death and injuries aside, was Eddie turning back babyface a legitimate thing, or a long-term ruse to lure Batista in and take his title? Was he genuinely a babyface that was going to take the reigns from an injured Batista, and perhaps take the role that ultimately went to Rey Mysterio in 2006?
One thing is for sure. Eddie Guerrero was an exceptional performer. He could do it all in and out of the ring. His personal demons are well-documented, but when he was on his game, there were few, if any, better. RIP Eddie Guerrero. We all miss Latino Heat.
No Mercy 2005 was an average PPV on its surface. However, being the final PPV of Eddie Guerrero's life means it holds a lot of historical significance. The story he was involved in with World Heavyweight Champion Batista was an intricate, layered one that we never quite saw to its conclusion, but the Eddie vs. Batista main event was a compelling chapter in that story. Also, we saw a step forward in the rebuilding process of a young Randy Orton as a main event star, and the first PPV appearances of future stars Lashley and Mr. Kennedy. Well worth a watch.