Coming off a Survivor Series (one of the four major pay per view shows) where NXT attacked Ryback so that CM Punk can continue his title reign, and with four weeks to promote Table Ladders and Chairs (definitely NOT one of the major four pay per view shows), the first Raw is the best opportunity to get people excited for a mostly meaningless $60 event. So how do they start the show? With Ryback talking! Ugh! He wants Punk and the NXT guys to come out and face him because he is still hungry after last night, and other innuendos between eating and beating people up. Until they show up, Ryback threatens to tear the building apart. The best thing about his promo was my noticing that Ryback indeed has clear braces. Looks like he fed on too much candy as a kid. Vickie Guerrero comes out instead, and tells Ryback that he is not allowed to cause havoc backstage or he will be fined or suspended. She then tries to punish Ryback by sending out Tensai. Really? Prince Albert? That Tensai? Way to teach him a lesson. Tensai does a little damage before Ryback takes over, saying “Punk” under his breath as he does it. This time he actually pulls off shell-shocked, as opposed to last time they met, and takes the match. Are they trying to add some character to Ryback? He’s talking, he’s taking a little damage, he’s listening to people. These are all things he’ll need to do if he is going to go anywhere beyond a short lived monster.
The first match of the night has Wade Barrett (and his overcoat) taking on the Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston, who Barrett eliminated last night. Wade now thinks he should have a shot at the IC belt. These are two guys that should both be higher on the ladder than they currently are. I’m really missing JBL right now. Cole and Lawler are alone together for the first time in a couple of months and I’m not feeling it. They are spending the whole time spewing random scripted lines that could be recited in any order. Wade Barrett was only mentioned when Lawler made fun of his nose. Barrett has kept Kofi down for most of the match. Kofi starts selling an eye injury and Wade works it with thumbs and elbows and steel steps. Kingston finally lands a spinning heel kick to take the momentum. The eye creeps up again though and he walks into a tilt a whirl sidewalk slam. Kofi fights back but Barrett drags Kingston’s eye against the rope and hits the bull hammer elbow to take the match. These two will probably see each other again at TLC.
Backstage Heyman and Punk (wearing a sweet “I’m a Paul Heyman guy” t-shirt) are talking up their upcoming celebration. They then find time to berate Striker when he asks them to comment on Survivor Series. At least he had a cool mustache. Heyman ended the segment by saying everyone was invited to the celebration, including Ryback. Punk wasn’t exactly thrilled about that last part. Kaitlyn then beat Aksana for jumping her last night at Survivor Series.
R-Truth joins the broadcast table (without Lil’ Jimmy since they are fighting) to scout Antonio Cesaro against Brodus Clay. I’m not sure why. Truth lost to the United States Champion at Survivor Series. Is he going to get a rematch? He won’t learn much here. A big head butt is the only offense Clay provides as Cesaro lands a flying uppercut off the second rope, followed by a neutralizer for the win. The funkadactyls have got to go. You can’t have a big introduction and dancers following you around if you never win. Brodus desperately needs a makeover.
Vickie Guerrero is back in the ring now because they just kept help but keep this damn AJ/Cena scandal going. Now Vickie has a pair of eye witnesses, consisting of a waitress who said they were all flirty during their business dinner, and a parking attendant who said they were in a parked vehicle for about an hour (because of the sex!). AJ comes out to call them out on their lies. Vickie responds by threatening to show a photo of AJ and Cena in the car doing their business. Instead, John Cena comes out and awkwardly makes out with AJ in the middle of the ring. It kind of looks like a bear giving CPR to a mouse. Dolph Ziggler breaks the whole thing up by attacking Cena, and when Cena runs up the ramp after Dolph it definitely looks like John got a cramp in his leg or something. So I guess AJ and Cena are a thing now, Vickie is pissed, and Ziggler will face Cena at TLC as long as Cena’s leg isn’t as injured as it just looked. This damn storyline might finally be nearing an actual end.
Hope you weren’t completely sick of seeing Randy Orton fight Alberto Del Rio, because they are squaring off in a two out of three falls match. Lawler found time to use the same Jose and Jos-B line from last night, and Cole found it equally as funny. Lawler couldn’t get some new material while he was away? Del Rio attacks the left arm of Orton, driving it into the ring post until the referee disqualifies Alberto. So Randy is ahead by one fall but he now has an arm injury in return. It’s just like the Daniel Bryan/Sheamus two out of three falls match from this past Extreme Rules. After Orton no sells for a bit, Del Rio applies the arm breaker and Randy quickly taps out to even things up. Orton can now barely use his left arm and the ref keeps asking him if he wants to continue. Ricardo grabs Orton’s leg causing the ref to throw Rodriguez out from ringside (although normally that would be a DQ). Del Rio then attacks the distracted Orton, and Alberto sets up for the RKO but Randy reverses into the second rope DDT. Orton’s RKO attempt is turned into an arm breaker by Del Rio, which is only released when Randy rolls over Alberto in a pin attempt. Del Rio then misses an enziguri and Orton finally lands the RKO to win what ended up being a pretty entertaining match.
Cole and Lawler are now talking about Cena’s left leg injury, and they cut back to the training room to show Cena getting taped up while AJ watches. Okay, so that is part of the night’s entertainment after all. There is now reason to promote a Ziggler/Cena match where Dolph has a chance (albeit imaginary) to win.
Hornswaggle is back! He’s in Khali’s corner for his match against Epico and Primo. Hornswaggle presents the flowers to Rosa, but when Rosa leans in for them water squirts out from the flowers and hits her in the face. Rosa yells, distracting Epico and Primo so that Khali can pick up the easy win.
Backstage, Heyman flipped out on a guy planning Punk’s celebration because he didn’t have balloons. BALLOONS!
Back in the ring, David Otunga jobbed out to the Miz. Lawler reused his line about Otunga’s clients as a lawyer being innocent until proven broke. It’s recycled joke night I guess. To be fair, Otunga did put together a lot of offense before Miz finally came back and won. Crowd is digging Miz as a face.
Up next is a chair wielding Sheamus against Damien Sandow. Before Sandow even comes out, Sheamus called out Big Show for making things personal by attacking his friend William Regal and reaching a new low by pulling a referee in front of the Brogue Kick. Big Show limps out and tells Sheamus he’s too barbaric to be World Heavyweight Champion, making Sheamus furious. This is when Damien Sandow decides to comes to the ring. Sheamus dominates the first half of the match until Sandow chokes out Sheamus a bit to slow him down and take control. When Sandow is on the attack he is really aggressive. No down time. He also yells “QUIT” at his opponents whenever he has them in a submission. Unfortunately Sheamus recovers again, hitting all of his signature moves, finishing off Sandow with a Brogue Kick for the pin.
Backstage AJ runs into the locker room to yell at Ziggler, but Dolph turns the table. He calls AJ a dime a dozen and weak and all that crap. He calls AJ trash which sets her off into attacking him. Cena then pulls her away and Dolph attacks John, driving him into a bathroom stall and further injuring his leg.
Time for some tag team action as Mysterio and Sin Cara face team Hell No while the Prime Time Players watch from the announce table. They feature another one of those spots where everyone leaps out of the ring at someone else in succession. Poor Kane isn’t a high flyer so he only takes a the bump from Mysterio and doesn’t dish anything out. He gets his work in with Sin Cara in the ring. Bryan then ironically applies a mexican surfboard to the Mexican superhero. Somehow Bryan got a cut on his elbow in the middle of all this and Sin Cara gets the hot tag. During the entire match Titus is dogging Lawler and Cole, while Darren gets made fun of for not saying anything. It was getting pretty funny. Titus O’Neil has all of the talent in that group. Mysterio hits Kane with a 619 but Kane catches Rey off the top rope and prepares for a chokeslam when PPT jumps in to interfere. Eventually everyone teams up on PPT and they turn tail.
The dark main event match for the night has CM Punk defending his WWE Championship against John Cena. On TV we have the show ending with the celebration of CM Punk holding the title for 365 days. Paul Heyman hosts, and when the crowd boos him he brings up the reaction to their mocking of Jerry Lawler’s heart attack last week. He says that all of the people who complained are the same people who scream for the Attitude Era and chant ECW at him. He’s got a point and it’s part of why I had no problem with it. It goes with the territory and most importantly Lawler knows it. Anyway Punk comes out and promotes himself as Heyman wipes tears away from his face. He says he aims toward 2018 when he passes Bruno Sammartino’s 2,803 day run for the longest championship streak in WWE history. Heyman and Punk basically say Punk will beat every great wrestler from Hogan to Austin and eventually call out meeting the Rock at Royal Rumble. Ryback’s music hits in the middle of it all and as he heads toward the ring he gets jumped by the NXT crew again. Again they take Ryback down and again, they drive him through the announce table. Punk and Heyman act like they have no idea what is going on, and while the NXT crew stand in the middle of the ring, Punk puts a foot on Ryback and holds his WWE Championship over him to end the show.
A very underwhelming Raw coming off Survivor Series. Pretty much everything from the spots to the jokes were reused, and the only thing I can say for sure is that John Cena will face Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus will challenge Big Show again. There could also be a triple threat tag team match with PPT, Team Hell No and Mysterio/Sin Cara, Barrett versus Kingston, and a Divas match putting AJ against Tamina. Punk could still face Ryback again, or he could challenge Mick Foley (as rumors have suggested) while Ryback takes on all three NXT guys. Hopefully next week we’ll see which of those potential matchups actually come to fruition.