Mike Flaherty applauds as the Chrises -- Benoit and Jericho -- bring honor back to the Great White North

By Mike Flaherty
Updated May 30, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Chris Jericho: Jim Hagans/TNN

The WWF strikes gold in Canada

For the second year in a row the WWF has celebrated that most patriotic of American observances, Memorial Day, in Canada. This year it beamed ”RAW Is WAR” (Mondays, 9 p.m., TNN) live from the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, and the timing couldn’t have been better.

Coming off last week’s extraordinary one-two ”RAW / Smackdown!” punch that saw Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H drop the tag team belt to Canadians Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho — and Triple H sustain a leg injury that’s likely to put him out of action for about six months — Monday night’s ”RAW” was essentially a showcase for the two native sons and premier faces, who once again dazzled both on the mic and in the ring.

First off, major props to the writer who devised Jericho and Benoit’s opening face off against Mr. McMahon, in which they mocked the ”genetic jackhammer” with a très embarrassing clip from his music video, ”Stand Back,” recorded in 1987 during the WWF’s Slammy Awards. (How embarrassing, you ask? Well, it featured Vince in a dance routine with a big haired chorus line and a band including Hulk Hogan on guitar and George ”the Animal” Steele on tambourine.)

Knowing that both men had a claim to a match against reigning champ Austin, McMahon then tried in vain to weaken Jericho and Benoit by pitting them in singles action against the WWF’s resident behemoths, The Big Show and Rhyno, respectively. In the end it would be Benoit who’d get the title shot — and, if there were any justice in the squared circle, the belt.

Alas, McMahon would have the last laugh. Virtually recreating the well-documented travesty he wrought on onetime WWF champ (and Calgary native) Bret ”the Hitman” Hart, Vinnie Mac, after having distracted the ref in a number of instances when Benoit was on the verge of victory, waited until Austin got the briefest of holds on ”the rabid wolverine” and prematurely called for the bell.

For hardcore WWF marks, the evening also offered Canadian homages in ring announcer Howard Finkel’s toasting of legendary grappling promoter Stu Hart (the father of the late Owen Hart, he appeared seated ringside with his clan) and a run-in from another Calgary fan fave, homeboy — and current WCW superstar — Lance Storm, who showed up to wreak havoc with his new boss, Shane McMahon.

What a show, eh?