WWE Intercontinental Championship
Chris Benoit (c) vs. Rob Van Dam
This is a RAW versus SmackDown! match, with RVD representing the former. Van Dam starts things with a bang, drilling Benoit with a series of kicks that sends him reeling. RVD continues the assault, until Benoit just gets fed up and sends him inside out with a German suplex. Benoit decides to counter RVD’s lightning quick kicks with hard hitting offence and grounded wrestling. Van Dam’s way to deal with that is by not letting Benoit near him, but Benoit is persistent. He goes for the headbutt from the top and misses, but RVD makes the same mistake immediately and misses the frog splash. Benoit sees an opening and locks on the crossface, which RVD survives thanks to his flexible legs. Van Dam tries to rally, but Benoit is having none of it and sends him into the barricades head first. With RVD finally grounded, Benoit begins to stretch him in preparation for the crossface, as the bout slows for the first time. Like with Eddie, Benoit has a wide range of offence and is able to keep the more methodical portions of the match highly watchable.
RVD tries to counter Benoit stretching him by wrestling out of it, but he is trying to match holds with the wrong guy and it doesn’t work. Van Dam goes back to what he knows and tries for a cartwheel moonsault, but Benoit sees it coming and moves, then goes straight into the crossface. RVD fights out, so without missing a beat Benoit goes back to shoulder and arm. He puts on a hammerlock and keeps hold of it for an age as he hits a series of Northern Lights suplexes, all onto the arm, then goes to the crossface again. RVD is getting systematically picked apart by a true master of his craft. The crowd try and show Van Dam some support, but he has no answers for Benoit. When Benoit sees RVD making the ropes, he pulls him back into a dragon sleeper. It’s superb to watch. With nothing working for him, RVD tries to take a page out of Benoit’s book by hooking the crossface, but all that does it irritate Benoit, who quickly escapes.
You can tell RVD has been in a physical contest because in a rarity, his hair escapes his ponytail, and he is actually sweating profusely from the effort. He finally gets a foothold in the match after having been ably dominated, and after countering a back suplex from the top into a crossbody, just, he hits the Five Star frog splash for the win. This was the wrestling equivalent of a football (soccer) team controlling a game for 89 minutes without being able to score, and the other team hitting them on the break and winning at the death. Incredible performance from Benoit, as is standard for him, though you could tell he was carrying RVD at times. Still though, another good match on a show that has been very strong so far.
Final Rating: ***½