I think everyone needs to realize that Ryback was not intended to be in the top tier of the WWE. Not yet anyway. He was getting set up to possibly take the Intercontinental Championship from the Miz and be brought through the ranks slowly, allowing WWE to see what they have. However since John Cena couldn’t perform and the roster is so paper thin (mainly because the young stars don’t get pushed enough), Ryback was pushed into the title scene. So now he’s here. But let’s be clear, he’s not getting the WWE Championship anytime soon.
This is wear the Shield comes in.
They are coming in at the perfect time. If they can distract Ryback from Punk, they can effectively put Ryback back into midcard status where he belongs (for now). Punk faces Rock at Royal Rumble, and everyone is happy (until the next day’s Raw anyway). The trick is getting these things to actually happen. I’m holding a small glimmer of hope that WWE creative makes another last minute main event change like last month, finding new opponents for both CM Punk and Ryback. With two weeks to a TLC PPV, there’s no time like the present.
This week’s Raw starts off with Team Hell No (I still can’t stand writing that) against the Prime Time Players. Right away Kane and Bryan notice Shield in a luxury box (how did they afford those prices?), and Kane tries to talk them into entering the ring. They don’t budge however and we’re on to the match. Minutes later they cut back to the group and only Ambrose is alone in the box. Michael Cole just informed us that WWE.com informed him that Kane has competed in the most matches in WWE history. I feel like that says more about the ridiculous schedule the current superstars have than anything else. The match itself is boring as hell. Eventually they cut to Reigns and Ambrose scattered around the lower level of the arena, slowly making their way toward the ring. They can say they aren’t the NWO, but they sure do act like them. Michael Cole continues sliding toward being a heel again, defending Shield but still playing it mostly even. Lawler on the other hand reacts like Cole is promoting burning down orphanages. With Kane and Bryan focused on Shield, Darren Young tries to roll up Bryan, but Bryan reverses and gets the pin. That’s when Shield comes out and attacks. Kane gets his hand smashed against the side of the steel steps, and Seth Rollins runs into the ring to attack Bryan, finishing with the three man power bomb they applied to Ryback. They leave the ring and get a ton of heat. Average match turns into another Shield promo.
Backstage Cena and Sheamus act like dopes before getting serious about their tag match against Big Show and Ziggler. I’d be a little concerned about Shield if I were them (and if wrestling was real). Keeping the stories together, this is followed by AJ skipping down the ramp to face Tamina. I thought this was going to be saved for a PPV. Oh well. Tamina applies an old school torture rack and AJ tries to cat fight but Tamina isn’t having it. Snuka goes toward the corner for a splash but AJ rolls up the slow moving Tamina for the win. Tamina’s pissed, this won’t be the last we see of these two. Let’s here it for a full AJ match that had nothing to do with Cena, Ziggler or Vickie.
AJ and Tamina barely get out of the ring before CM Punk and Paul Heyman make their entrance for a promo (they get plenty of time to exit as a commercial break starts as soon as he gets in the ring). Before they get to anything else, Heyman plugs the WWE Encyclopedia, saying that while it doesn’t have enough CM Punk in it, it does show Punk passing John Cena on the longest title reign list and therefore the is best in the world. Punk is complaining about being forced to face Ryback for a third straight month, and that he is the reason everyone watches “these dismal three-hour Monday Night Raw’s” (yeah, he said it), and again denies having anything to do with Brad Maddox or Shield. After telling everyone to go home if they don’t like him, Miz comes out and says Punk is lying on all fronts, and says he at least admits that he cheated to keep his title during his run. Miz challenges Punk to come onto Miz TV (ughhhhhhhhh) for a lie detector test. They are really going full face mode with Miz. Heyman and Punk constantly refer to Miz by his real name. Punk calls him Mike, Heyman calls him Mizanin. I always get a kick out of that stuff. Miz calls Heyman a walrus, causing the crowd to chant at him and I’m sure it’s trending right now. Punk eventually accepts, and it looks like that story is actually going to go somewhere. Perhaps Miz will fill in for Ryback at TLC? Even though that happened last year in the triple threat match with Punk and Del Rio, I’d still prefer that swap.
Cena/Sheamus versus Ziggler/Big Show next. Jerry Lawler just discovered what Dolph’s shirt said. Sadly, Ziggler has to play the role of jobber in this match and gets smacked around to make Cena and Sheamus look good, and Big Show look even better when he starts dominating. Also, no mention at all about that Cena ankle injury. Sheamus and Big Show both came in off hot tags and Sheamus really took it to Show, driving his shoulder into Show in the corner. Sheamus then tried for the flying shoulder off the top rope but got speared by Show instead. Everyone is getting their moment to sell moves. Cena flew off Show trying to hit his diving shoulder, Show sold to Sheamus, Sheamus sold to Show, Ziggler just sells for everyone. Fun match. Sheamus got busted open in the same spot between his eyes that he always bleeds. I know most wrestlers use spray tan, but I think Sheamus uses spray white, and it looks like it rubbed off on Ziggler’s arm. Anyway Cena gets a hot tag now and pulls up Ziggler for the Attitude Adjustment, but Show breaks it up with a kick. Sheamus then tries to hit Show with the Brogue Kick but Show catches it and tries for a chokeslam. Sheamus escapes that however and lifts Show up for White Noise, at the same time Cena hits the AA on Ziggler and pin Dolph for the win. Nice finish. The only problem is that there is absolutely no need to have Cena face Ziggler at TLC. Cena has beaten him clean in one on one and tag team action. Why would I want to see it again?
Damien Sandow out in the ring looking at the crowd for an apprentice. He picks a guy in a Lil’ Jimmy shirt and gets him in the ring to answer questions. The guy seems like a total plant. He correctly answers what H2O makes and who the first president was, but he couldn’t identify John Keats as the author of the line Sandow quotes, and Damien recites this to him, “Ignorance is curable, but stupid is forever. Now forever leave my presence.” Fantastic. I’ve been watching a lot of the Genius lately, and I know appreciate Poffo and Sandow more because of it. What they do in the ring and on the mic is so brilliant. The crowd eats it up. Santino (without the mohawk and mullet) comes out to defend the banished man, and asks Sandow a question based on the seashells tongue twister that he turns into a conch shell joke, which for some reason ends in Santino trying to “conch” Sandow in the head with the mic, so Damien pops him one. Seems reasonable. He was invading his personal space. This is all just build up for their match. Sandow wins by hitting his finisher after Santino missed a head butt off the top rope. He also threw the cobra sock into the crowd. You’re welcome.
Backstage, Vickie is starting to doubt Ziggler’s ability to beat Cena (can’t imagine why) but Ziggler talks her into booking a rematch at TLC, where he promises to steal the show. Guerrero agrees, calling Dolph “baby” in the process and almost kissing him (dun dun DUN!). Vickie goes back in her office, where Brad Maddox (yes, THAT Brad Maddox) is waiting with his camera crew. He sure did recover quickly from getting destroyed by Ryback. Maddox is trying to talk Vickie into signing him to a contract. She grants Brad a match, and if he wins he gets a contract. She won’t reveal who it is yet. Ryback again? Maybe Tensai will job to him.
Before we get to any of that though, here come the mexicans! Sin Cara versus Alberto Del Rio. Brad Maddox is now trending apparently. What does it take to get something trending? Is three people enough? I really don’t think Brad Maddox is grabbing many headlines right now. Although he is a Triple H guy. Sin Cara administers a flurry of moves on Del Rio before Alberto finally starts over powering Sin Cara. Del Rio misses on a dive through the ropes and loses the momentum. Sin Cara is constantly adjusting his mask. I don’t think he likes it. Sure enough, Del Rio applies a face hold in the ring and tries to remove the mask. We saw his jaw! Del Rio turns it into a pin but only gets a two count. Now I think Sin Cara split his pants. This guy is a mess. Despite all that he hits Del Rio with a jumping DDT off the top rope. Sin Cara was i full control but he missed on a dive off the top rope, giving Del Rio the opening to apply the cross arm breaker and secure the win via submission. About as good of a match from Sin Cara as you could ask for. Del Rio was his normal consistent self.
Backstage Vince McMahon is in the house! He asks some lackey to tell Vickie Guerrero that he wants to speak with her in the ring now. So not only does Vickie have to go out to the ring, but she has to announce Vince into the ring. After what happened with Survivor Series, I have hope for some more changes. Vickie sells him on Cena versus Ziggler, but Vince talks her into having them face off in a ladder match for the Money in the Bank briefcase. I like the idea, but the thought of Cena getting a second Money in the Bank shot makes me sick. Vickie says it isn’t fair to Ziggler, but Vince says she isn’t being fair to AJ and Cena for pushing their “scandal” so Vickie makes the match official (because she can do that I guess). Vince then talks Vickie into creating a stipulation to the lie detector test, where if Punk is found to be lying, Paul Heyman will face Ryback. Ugh. So Punk versus Ryback is definitely on, Ziggler can potentially lose his MITB briefcase to Cena of all people, and Paul Heyman could find himself in the ring against Ryback next week. Not a lot of good coming out of this.
Brad Maddox (without music) out to the ring to try to secure a WWE contract. Who is his opponent? Randy Orton! He just has nothing to do right now. Orton goes right into the second rope DDT and hits the RKO for the quick pin. So no contract for Maddox, but Shield comes in and bum rushes Orton. Powerbomb and out. So now that’s Kane and Bryan twice, Ryback twice, and Randy Orton. The CM Punk connection is slowly getting debunked. Of course the lie detector could nullify all of that. Damn you WWE, you sure know how to keep my attention just enough to prevent me from turning away. I just want to see these guys get into matches already. At least 3MB has matches.
Backstage, Vickie is getting chewed out by Ziggler. He says that she is becoming a lot like AJ, an ungrateful power hungry amateur. That cut her deep. Heyman then comes in and stares her down. Vickie then says for his sake, Punk better be telling the truth. Heyman looks like he’s doing an impression of Bluto in Animal House. Cena then comes in to gloat about getting the MITB shot, and how when he wins the case he will cash in successfully. The one thing this does do is create a new option for Rock, Punk and Cena. If Punk and Rock meet at the Royal Rumble, Cena can cash in the case on whoever wins. That could mean Rock could face Cena again with Cena as WWE Champion. That way Rock can beat Punk and not have to worry about making appearances between then and WrestleMania. I’d hate to see Dolph lose his MITB case, but it certainly does add some flavor to the situation.
Kofi and Truth back together in the ring for a tag match against Cesaro and Wade Barrett. Before they get started however, Teddy Long comes out. Wait a minute. It’s already a tag match, playa. What else can he do? He decides to turn it into a fatal four way match for either Kofi’s Intercontinental Championship, or Cesaro’s United States Championship. Which belt gets put on the line is left to the WWE Universe. Let’s see if they mess with the numbers like they did with Miz going to team Foley and Kane being picked over Bryan. With 83% of thew vote, the United States Championship is put on the line. It plays out just like the triple threat matches lately. All but two men get thrown out of the ring, creating one on one action for most of the match. The most interesting spot was when it was just Kofi and Truth in the ring. The allies shook hands and had a nice sequence of holds culminating in simultaneous dropkicks ending in a draw. They then turned their attention to Barrett and Cesaro. Outside the ring, Kofi tried a leaping attack from the steel steps but Cesaro met him in the air with an uppercut. It’s a pretty great crowd pleasing move. Everyone basically hits their second primary move for a two count broken up by one of the other competitors. Barrett went for a superplex on Truth, but Kofi grabbed Barrett for a powerbomb at the same time, taking them all out. Truth then hits Cesaro with a kick to the head, Truth gets knocked out with a Bull Hammer elbow from Barrett who then gets knocked out by Kofi’s Trouble in Paradise. Kingston goes for the cover, but Cesaro lifts him up in position for the Neutralizer, and hits it with all the other men knocked out to pin Kofi and retain the United States Championship. I had very low expectations giving the match type but they pulled it together at the end for a pretty entertaining match.
The CM Punk lie detector test closes things out tonight. That means Miz TV is your main event. Fascinating. Punk comes in the ring and hassels the crowd and the Miz while he gets strapped in. Punk asks if he’s lying when he says the Miz sucks. Miz replies that he doesn’t suck but Punk’s mom does. Buuuuuuuuuuuurn!!!!!!! The crowd loves it and that is a late entry for line of the year. The graph of the test is shown on the big screen. Miz starts by asking basic questions. First his name, and the length of his title reign. Then he starts asking Punk to confirm his failures. “In 2010 at the Over the Limit PPV did Rey Mysterio shave your head bald?” “(At WrestleMania) did you lose to Randy Orton?” Miz then asks Punk if he thinks he can beat Ryback on his own. Punk says yes and the line jumps. Miz finally gets to the big question about whether or not Punk was working with Maddox and the Shield. Before he could answer Shield ambushes Miz. They power bomb him and Kane and Daniel Bryan come out. Shield wares them down but Ryback comes out to assist. Singles out Ambrose and evens the odds. The fighting heads into the stands and Punk kicks Miz out of the ring. Ryback runs back in however and hits Punk with Shell Shock. Ryback then hits Punk with a ladder, then a chair, and finally a powerbomb through a table. After weeks of Punk standing over Ryback, Ryback just took all the momentum back.
By the laws of reverse momentum in wrestling, things are right where they should be heading into Tables Ladders and Chairs.