Rob Van Dam vs. Shelton Benjamin in a “Winner Takes All” match for the Intercontinental Championship and the Money in the Bank briefcase
As tempting as it was to talk about a match involving God, I wanted to switch things up and take a look at this match. Since making his return at the Rumble, RVD has been on a complete roll as he has been looking very strong and solidified that by winning the Money in the Bank ladder match at WM. On the flip side, Benjamin broke the slide he was on as 2005 ended in a unique angle where he had his momma by his side, which led to him turning heel and becoming a 2-time IC Champion. Since she was written out, he has taken on a more arrogant persona in the same vein of other controversial athletes of the time like Terrell Owens. I thought it was a good change for Benjamin, as he got to show off some personality by being an arrogant douche.
This feud began on the 4/10 RAW when Benjamin challenged RVD for the briefcase, as he came close to winning it at WM only for RVD to prevent him from doing so. RVD refused the offer and instead challenged Benjamin for the IC Title, which was a bit puzzling — why would he go for the IC Title when he essentially had the more valuable commodity in the briefcase? On the 4/17 RAW, both men would compete in matches against hand-picked opponents and if they lost, their item would be on the line in their match. Benjamin would be forced to face his former tag team partner Charlie Haas and would lose in a pretty big upset, meaning the IC Title would be on the line. Later in the night, RVD would be forced to face the Spirit Squad in a handicap match which he would lose, and now both the title and the briefcase would be on the line. These two would face off on the 4/24 RAW in a 6-man tag which saw RVD pin Benjamin to gain momentum going into their match.
Benjamin has a good swagger to him now as a heel, as he’s soundly booed by the fans while RVD gets a huge pop from the crowd. One thing to mention is RVD beginning the tradition of the MITB winner redesigning the briefcase with their logos, which I thought was a cool touch. King still brings up Benjamin’s momma being away due to surgery though thankfully it wouldn’t be mentioned much after that. Benjamin forces the ref to take his sunglasses off which was a pretty cool heel move while the crowd is clearly hot for RVD. The crowd chants “ECW” as the two men lock up to start and Benjamin goes behind RVD, he takes him to the mat and rides him before slapping him in the face. They lock up again and Benjamin works the arm as the crowd chants “RVD,” and RVD nips up and takes control of the arm. Benjamin uses the ropes to flip over in a cool spot before hitting an armdrag on RVD, just a reminder of how gifted Benjamin is. J.R. decrees this match could be the most athletic match of the night as the crowd chants “Momma’s Boy” at Benjamin, and Benjamin gets a knee in and hooks a headlock before knocking RVD down. RVD leaps over Benjamin and trips him up into a pin for a two-count. RVD hits a pair of armdrags only for Benjamin to avoid the spin kick. I’ve enjoyed these first few minutes as both men try to feel each other out while showing off their ability and the crowd is very appreciative of that.
RVD has a shiner on his left eye as they lock up again and Benjamin teases a clean break only to get a kick in, and he pounds on RVD as the crowd now chants “We Want Momma.” RVD reverses a whip and hits a spin kick on Benjamin who rolls outside to regroup, and J.R. makes a good point that Benjamin is brawling more instead of wrestling, playing into RVD’s game. Benjamin returns to the ring as the “RVD” chant fires up again and they lock up with Benjamin getting a knee in and pounding on RVD, but RVD flips over Benjamin and hits another spin kick. He hits a pair of clotheslines and a slam on Benjamin before setting up for Rolling Thunder, but Benjamin wisely rolls out of the ring to avoid it. You could tell the time off did do RVD some good as he is looking crisp again and seems right back to where he was when he came in 2001. RVD then hits a slingshot plancha onto Benjamin as the “ECW” chants fire up again. He throws Benjamin into the ring and gets a shoulder in only for Benjamin to catch him with a knee. Benjamin then leaps over RVD and hits a sunset flip into a powerbomb on the floor in a nasty spot, probably the spot of the night so far as Benjamin hit it perfectly. He rolls RVD into the ring and goes for the pin, but RVD kicks out and Benjamin stomps on him before pulling him up by his ponytail. He puts RVD on the ropes and drives the knee into the back before slamming down on the back for a two-count, then Benjamin hooks a modified chinlock on while posting the knee into RVD’s back. The crowd chants “RVD” as he gets to his feet and attempts to break the hold, but Benjamin yanks him back down to the mat by his hair.
Benjamin again chokes RVD on the ropes and pounds on him before hitting a stiff kneelift on RVD, and J.R. makes another good point that as long as Benjamin doesn’t make a mistake, he will win the match. Benjamin hits a stiff backbreaker on RVD and goes back to the chinlock with the knee posted in RVD’s back, though I think at this point Benjamin should’ve gone for a more effective submission to really work the back of RVD. He tears at RVD’s face and pounds on him before hooking on a camel clutch, and he torques back on RVD’s back only for RVD to grab the rope and force a break. He stomps on RVD and hits a pair of slams to continue working on the back, and he again goes back to the chinlock with the knee posted into RVD’s back. While I agree with him posting the knee into the back while having the hold on, this is the third time he’s hooked the chinlock on and he should really try to work another submission hold in. RVD fights to his feet and breaks the hold only for Benjamin to reverse a whip, but RVD blocks the T-Bone suplex and hits a back elbow on Benjamin. RVD looks for the Rolling Thunder again only for Benjamin to get up and hit a Samoan drop in a cool spot for a two-count, then Benjamin rides RVD on the mat before pounding on him. He puts RVD on the top rope and goes up himself, and he slaps RVD in the face only for RVD to block the superplex and send Benjamin to the mat. RVD sets himself up on the top rope only for Benjamin to leap to the top rope and hit the superplex in an awesome spot for a two-count. It’s just amazing how talented Benjamin is, seeing him do stuff like that.
Benjamin locks in a rear naked choke while hooking a bodyscissors on RVD, which is a bit of a weird hold as it takes the focus off the back, though it looks like Benjamin wants to choke RVD out. Benjamin continues to grind down on RVD, who fights to his feet and breaks the hold, then Benjamin reverses a whip only for RVD to avoid the dropkick by grabbing the ropes. RVD blocks a ram into the buckle and hits a stiff kick on Benjamin, and RVD avoids the Stinger Splash from Benjamin and hits a pair of clotheslines and a superkick on Benjamin. Benjamin reverses a whip into the corner only for RVD to hit a back elbow, and he hits a springboard kick on Benjamin before hitting a spin kick. The pace continues to quicken as RVD finally hits the Rolling Thunder on Benjamin for a two count, and RVD escapes a slam before hitting a front powerslam on Benjamin. RVD hits a crisp split-legged moonsault on Benjamin for a two count and he drives the shoulder into Benjamin, but Benjamin lands on his feet on a monkey flip attempt only for RVD to hit another spin kick on Benjamin. RVD leaps to the top rope only to miss the 5-Star Frog Splash, and Benjamin hits a stiff DDT that spikes RVD on the mat only for RVD to get his foot on the rope. Benjamin pulls RVD away from the ropes and gets another two count, and then he tries to use the ropes for leverage only for RVD to kick out again. RVD rolls outside and Benjamin goes after him only for RVD to hit a drop toehold into the barricade, and RVD rolls inside as Benjamin grabs the briefcase and puts it in the ring. Benjamin avoids a baseball slide from RVD and hits a stiff kick to the head before throwing RVD back into the ring, then he goes up top and hits a crossbody which RVD rolls through for a two-count. RVD ducks a shot and he avoids the dragon whip kick from Benjamin before hitting a hurricanrana, and Benjamin goes for the briefcase before hitting a back elbow on RVD, who hits the ref by mistake. Benjamin takes a swing only for RVD to get a kick in and Benjamin drops the briefcase, and then RVD tosses the briefcase at Benjamin and hits the Van Daminator in a cool spot to a big pop. RVD then goes up top and hits a perfect 5-Star Frog Splash on Benjamin, getting the three to retain his briefcase while becoming the new IC Champion.
I have a very interesting opinion of this match and the ending, but first let me start off by saying the match itself was pretty good. As I had mentioned, RVD has looked really good since returning back in January and was clearly being pushed strong after being stuck in the midcard for several years, and the crowd was still behind him very strongly. Benjamin looked pretty good here as well though as mentioned, he relied a bit too much on the chinlocks in the middle and he was still getting used to being a singles heel. So the match itself I don’t have a problem with, it’s more the decision of the match and the ending. I think most people going into this match knew that RVD was not losing the briefcase, and despite Benjamin getting some good moves in, at no point did RVD look in danger of losing the briefcase. To me, the guy that ends up getting hurt here is Benjamin as they were trying to rebuild him after saddling him with his momma, and he was slowly getting there with the new character and IC title shortly before WM. This was a case where RVD did not need to win the IC Title as it would do nothing for him since he already had the bigger prize in the briefcase, and this mainly was just to pad his IC Title reigns. Plus, you knew that RVD wasn’t going to hold the belt long considering where he was headed in about two months, and to give it right back to Benjamin just seemed like a waste for Benjamin. They backed themselves into a corner with this match and would’ve been better off not having it, or not making it for either thing. The better choice would’ve been for Benjamin to defend the title against someone else, possibly Ric Flair in a rematch for the title while either having someone else put RVD over or have RVD take the month off and focus on the main event. It was an interesting decision and one that I think hurt Benjamin in the long run while not doing anything for RVD, but that’s just my personal opinion. As mentioned, the match itself was pretty good in a vacuum and was a good win for RVD, but perhaps another path for both men could’ve been taken.
Final Grade: ***