Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the Hidden Gems series. Today we go back to 2004, and the first ever WWE draft lottery. Eric Bischoff represented RAW, while Paul Heyman represented SmackDown. Throughout the night, the battling GMs would take turns picking new superstars for their brand from a tumbler. Some were good, some were bad, and some were quite shocking. Some got reversed (See Triple H) while others benefitted from not moving (See Guerrero).
Perhaps none was more shocking, however, than when Paul Heyman acquired Triple H (thanks to John Cena, he made the pick after all). Triple H at the time had just lost his World Heavyweight Championship to Chris Benoit in the main event at WrestleMania XX. He also had unfinished business with his former best friend Shawn Michaels. The Game was known among fans to be the biggest star on Monday Night RAW, much in the same way The Undertaker was, over on SmackDown. Nobody would have expected either man to get drafted, yet, that’s exactly what ended up happening here. It made for a fun shock, and it got, even more, fun when Paul Heyman announced that Triple H would be taking on SmackDown’s WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero that same night, on the draft lottery edition of Monday Night RAW. This would be a unique match, without a doubt, but it was also a dream match for many (including me as a kid).
Eddie Guerrero was riding high (and low riding) over on SmackDown after the brand split. He was a part of the original SmackDown Six, who were known for their awesome, quality matches together. After some tag title runs alongside Chavo Guerrero as well as Tajiri, Eddie would find himself as the new United States Champion, winning the title at Vengeance in 2003, in the finals of a tournament to reintroduce the title to the WWE as SmackDown’s mid-card championship. From there, he’d feud with the likes of Chris Benoit, The Big Show, and John Cena. After losing the title, Eddie was moved up into the main event scene. He would win a SmackDown Royal Rumble in January 2004 to determine who would face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at No Way Out. With a small assist from Goldberg, Eddie was able to slay the beast and become the WWE Champion, in one of the greatest moments in WWE history. Eddie would then successfully defend the title against Kurt Angle in a great match at WrestleMania XX. Which leads to the draft, which took place only eight days after ‘Mania.
It’s Eddie Guerrero vs. Triple H. Latino Heat vs. The Game. SmackDown takes over RAW in this huge main event. Let’s get into it.
Triple H makes his entrance first, looking all mean-like. He comes out wearing a RAW shirt, however, he quickly tears it off to reveal the blue of SmackDown. That was a cool moment, and that’s what stuck with me as basically my sole memory from this event. I and my dad still talk about “the time when Triple H got drafted to SmackDown, except he got traded back right after.” Good times, good times. Out next is Eddie Guerrero to a pretty nice response. His car does awesome stuff, then he gets out. Now the crowd is doing a loud “EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE!” chant. Oh man, my heart. I really, really miss Eddie. He was so cool. Eddie gets in the ring and hands over the title to the referee, who raises it as if he was about to drop it. He probably was. The bell rings, and now this one is underway. Eddie offers a handshake, which surprisingly Triple H goes to accept. He’s too slow, however, as Eddie pulls his hand away, then gestures for HHH to kiss his ass. You have poked the bear, Eddie. Bad idea.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley is now in complete shock after that. I am also laughing just because Triple H got wrecked by Benoit and now Eddie, and these things happened only eight days apart. We get a collar-and-elbow tie up to start things off, which HHH transitions into a side headlock. They end up in the corner and then break. They’re feeling each other out, my friends. These two guys didn’t have many matches together, so it’s only natural they do this. While I paused this match, I noticed a sign that said: “Pudge = The Real Game” are they trying to call HHH fat? That’s messed up. Anyways, Eddie and Triple H trade shove in the corner as this one slowly begins to pick up in pace. We get another side headlock, this time into a shoot-off, which leads to Triple H taking down Eddie Guerrero with a shoulder block. Haitch tried to get fancy, but it doesn’t work, as he runs right into a hip toss by Eddie Guerrero. Eddie then hits an arm drag and tries to lock in an armbar, however, The Game is able to get to the ropes to break. The commentary is mentioning HHH’s arm not being at 100%, which I can only assume is thanks to Benoit at WrestleMania (I honestly can’t remember, it’s been a looooong time since I’ve last seen that match). Triple H again gets caught by Eddie in an armbar, and now Eddie is striking away at the arm. Welp, so much for that.
Eddie gets Irish whipped by Triple H, but goes through the legs upon rebound, then proceeds to hit yet another arm drag. Get annihilated, H. The Game gets locked up in an armbar, however, he’s able to once again break the hold, and he rolls to the outside. He’s now holding his arm in pain at ringside. Eddie goes over to grab him, however, The Game is able to pull him out. He tries to send Eddie into the steps, but Latino Heat counters, and instead slams HHH’s arm into the steel. I don’t know about you guys, but to me, it seems like Eddie knows how to “play the game.” Eddie grabs hold of Triple H again, and this time slams his arm into the ring post. Back in the ring, Eddie works over the arm more with an arm wrench. HHH is able to break free soon after though and lands a running high knee to take down Latino Heat. Sell that arm, Hunter. We get a “VINTAGE TRIPLE H!” from Michael Cole before we head off to commercial. I imagine six years old me was disappointed because he hated commercials. Even in the current day, I still hate commercials. It’s the main reason why I rarely watch TV anymore. Aside from the fact that I can barely pay attention. ANYWAY.
When we get back from the break, we see Triple H in control, with Eddie hurting on the outside of the ring. The Game quickly goes after Latino Heat and sends him crashing into the steel ring steps. Holy crap, that was vicious. Eddie went flying straight into them. Triple H goes into the ring to regroup, where, to his credit, he is still selling that arm. Eddie is laid out at ringside as this one continues. Eventually, Triple H goes back to where Eddie is and sends him back first into the ring apron. He then sends Guerrero’s back into the announcer’s table twice, before sending Latino Heat back into the ring. The Game with a huge Irish whip, sending Guerrero forcefully into the buckles. Here we go, lads. It’s game time. This is the Cerebral Assassin right here. Triple H Irish whips Guerrero once again, with the same results. He goes for a cover, but Eddie is able to kick out at two. Following this, we get a strike exchange, where Triple H ultimately comes out victorious, after hitting a back body drop to a running Eddie Guerrero. We get another pin attempt from The Game, and he gets another two count.
More offense from Triple H here, as he nails a huge backbreaker to Eddie Guerrero. This match is a limb targeting masterclass. Eddie’s going after HHH’s arm, while The Game is taking out Latino Heat’s back. Actually, now that I think about it, Triple H seems to have a thing for backs. At least ever since Shawn Michaels came back around in 2002. It’s like a giant bullseye to Triple H now. Regardless, the attack on that back continues, as The Game locks in an abdominal stretch. He’s even grabbing onto the ropes when the ref’s not looking. Such a Flair move. He gets caught though, and as a result, he is forced to break the hold. The crowd is now chanting for Eddie as Triple H mocks Eddie’s shimmy dance deal. How DARE you, Hunter. Eddie is able to rebound soon after, by hitting Triple H with a spinning headscissors take-down. He follows that up by hitting a beautiful standing dropkick. Both men get to their feet and then get into another strike exchange, which ends with Eddie coming out on top, hitting The Game with a back elbow. Soon after, Triple H attempts a sleeper hold, but he gets suplexed by the champ. Eddie goes for a cover, however, he only gets a two count. We get some Irish whip action between the corners, where eventually Eddie strikes a charging Triple H with another back elbow, which he follows up with a big tornado DDT. Another pin attempt by Eddie leads to another two count.
After some stirring, both men get back to their feet, where Triple H hits a knee facebuster, which Eddie sold the same way Scott Hall sold the Stunner at WrestleMania X8. HHH goes for a cover, but only gets a two count. He then goes for the second rope, where he jumps off, and ends up getting hit with what I will now call “The Dickens” (reverse atomic drop?) by Eddie Guerrero. Eddie tries to take advantage by running off the ropes, however, he gets caught by Triple H in a Pedigree position! Uh-oh. Latino Heat manages to escape and sends The Game flying into the turnbuckles with a slingshot. Eddie then capitalizes by hitting the Three Amigos on HHH! Eddie’s feeling it now. Perhaps it’s Frog Splash time. Unfortunately, before he can even think about it, Ric Flair and Batista run down to distract him, which leads to Triple H taking advantage and hitting a big DDT. HHH orders Flair to distract the referee, and then gets Batista to hand him the WWE Championship. Before he can use it though, John Cena runs down to ringside to take Batista off the apron. Rey Mysterio also shows up, and they attack Batista together. Meanwhile back in the ring, Triple H gets ready to hit Eddie Guerrero with the championship, however, Shawn Michaels appears! And he hits Sweet Chin Music on The Game! Holy crap, this is wild. HBK then jumps over the top rope with a crossbody onto everybody who interfered in the match up to this point. Eddie goes up top for a Frog Splash, but Christian shows up and crotches him, causing a DQ. God dammit Christian.
Match Rating: 3 and a half gems
This one breaks down into total chaos, as the RAW and SmackDown locker rooms all start pouring out and brawling with each other. Among those was Bradshaw, who is still sporting his APA look. If only we’d known what would happen only a few months later. Triple H and Eddie Guerrero meanwhile are still laying into each other inside the ring. Stone Cold Steve Austin soon arrives, with even more RAW superstars to aid in this battle. Steve himself even joins in, hammering away on SmackDown’s Billy Gunn. Some things never change. RAW goes off the air with everyone brawling as if the Royal Rumble was on Sunday.
Man, that was really, really fun. A great wrestling match between Eddie Guerrero and Triple H, topped off with a giant brawl, on an extremely chaotic night. It really doesn’t get much better than this. I will say, this match made me wish that we had been able to get a true Eddie/HHH program while Eddie was still around. I imagine it would have been quite amazing, especially at this specific point in time. Eddie was on top of his game as the lovable babyface, and Triple H was the perfect despicable heel to go against him. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, but I am damn sure glad we at least got this match because it was truly something special.
That’s all for this week, but be sure to tune in next week as we go to 1993 for one of RAW’s first truly great matches. Until then I am JeriKane, and this is the Hidden Gems series.