By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Mr. McMahon Addressed the Troops
It's only fitting that the Chairman of WWE kicked off the annual event and express his gratitude to the troops, regardless of whether his on-air character was a heel or a babyface at the time (I honestly can't remember). Say what you will about the man being "out of touch" or what have you, but he really does go above and beyond in giving back to the troops with these shows and going overseas when they aren't obligated to. Granted, they no longer go overseas for the event and instead travel to bases here in the United States, but it might be because there's no longer as large of a presence over there as there once was. Either way, it's always an enjoyable event and this was a heartwarming promo from McMahon to start the show.
World Tag Team Champion Big Show def. Carlito
In addition to being hilarious, Carlito was was such a slimy character that he was the perfect choice to go one-on-one with Big Show because he could escape all of his offense. He did that for a portion of this match, but Show mostly squashed Carlito, which was fine because the crowd got a kick out of it. These two would later enter a feud over the World Tag Team Championship going into WrestleMania 22.
Good Santa (Mick Foley) def. Bad Santa (JBL) in a No Holds Barred Match
JBL had the tough task of acting like a heel yet not disrespecting the troops, but I thought he did so effectively. He's been one of the biggest supporters of the troops since the inception of Tribute to the Troops in 2003, so it must have been a blast for him to be out there. Foley has long been a Christmas fan, so he was a great fit for Good Santa. Despite retiring from active competition five years earlier, he worked around his limitations and had a fun little match with JBL.
Snitsky def. Shelton Benjamin
This match took place at a time when Benjamin was on a massive losing streak, and since the commentators acknowledged that several times, it was fairly predictable he was losing here. But why to Snitsky of all people? I never thought he had much potential to be anything big in WWE, and Benjamin was too talented to be wasted. It was a fine match for what it was and at least it furthered the ongoing angle with Benjamin.
WWE Champion John Cena def. Chris Masters (Non-title)
Less than a year into his WWE stint, Masters was already at the main event level by the end of 2005, or at least facing off against Cena on a few occasions. With this being Tribute to the Troops, I fully expected Cena to go over in decisive fashion, but Masters had a strong showing. He didn't need to win, but it was good to see Masters look credible in defeat and contest a competent match with Cena.
Intercontinental Champion Ric Flair def. Jonathon Coachman
It didn't matter who Flair was going up against; the fact Flair appeared alone must have been a thrill for the troops. They obviously played for comedy, but it was done in a harmless way and Coachman was always perfect for stuff like this. He was awesome at getting under the skin of fans and Flair received a nice reaction for putting him away with the Figure Four.
Candice Michelle and Maria def. Women's Champion Trish Stratus and Ashley
Everyone involved with the exception of Stratus were still relatively green at the time, but I was surprised by the quality of the match. They kept it short and sweet, which certainly helped, and Stratus did most of the in-ring work and carried the ladies to a decent bout. But at the end of the day, who cares about the in-ring action when the they were all were dressed as Santa's little helpers?
Shawn Michaels def. Triple H in a Boot Camp Match
I've gone on record in the past in saying HHH vs. Michaels is one of my favorite feuds from the 2000s, so it was cool to see them rekindle their rivalry in a special stipulation match on this show. As always, they worked very well together and undoubtedly had the best match of the night. They had great chemistry per usual and HBK picking up a rare win over his adversary was a nice treat.
I was surprised by how many matches were held given this was a Tribute to the Troops show, and with most of the two hours consisting of video packages of what the Superstars were up to while in Afghanistan, the matches didn't run too long. That said, it was still an enjoyable event and worth watching if you wish to get in the mood for the upcoming Tribute to the Troops. If you watch for the wrestling, only the main event stood out above the rest.