After two weeks of previously recorded Raw the WWE wants to start 2013 with a bang, featuring Ryback finally getting his TLC match against CM Punk for the WWE Championship and the Rock scheduled to appear. This is all going into next week’s 20th anniversary show which is set to have a number of high profile guest appearances (Michaels, Austin and Undertaker all rumored), and the Royal Rumble two weeks later. It’s a key time frame as we close in on the road to WrestleMania. The fact that they are going against the college football National Championship game is not in their favor.
The opening montage is all over the Rock versus Punk hype, doing a rundown of the last few weeks of drama surrounding Punk’s knee and who Rock will face at the Royal Rumble. Yet the show opens with John Cena running down the ramp to promote the Punk/Ryback match and the Rock. Basically everything I said in the opening paragraph. Thankfully Dolph Ziggler comes out with AJ and Big E to interject. Lost in all of AJ’s bitching and calling Cena a “small man” is referring to Dolph as “Ziggy.” Cena responds by starting a wave before bringing up how he dumped crap on them and challenges Ziggler to a match right now. Dolph says no but all of a sudden Big E grabs the mic! Langston proves why he hadn’t spoken until now by sounding like a stuttering preacher and accepts the challenge for Dolph (actually he just said “it’s on!”). So now Dolph is pissed and doesn’t want to go to the ring, but his music come on and apparently that means he automatically has to go down the ramp. Good to know that’s all you need to get someone to come down the ramp.
So now Dolph versus Cena is actually happening! The one thing about the rumble event is that it takes up almost the entire roster, so big matches like this can happen without spoiling anything at the pay per view. Highlight of the match early on is Cena holding Dolph up in a standing suplex position for roughly ten seconds before dropping him. Yup, Cena is strong. Dolph does a little more showing off than he normally does (which is saying a lot) and gets burned for it both times. First the sit ups which turns into a pin attempt, then he danced around a downed Cena only to be thrown into the corner. Throughout the match Langston and AJ interfere until they finally get caught by the ref and are ejected from ringside. Ziggler then countered a 5 knuckle shuffle into a fame-asser for a 2 count, then after succumbing to the shuffle, Ziggler escaped an AA and hit a Zig Zag for another two count. Dolph then misses a superkick but escapes the STF, hitting a jumping DDT for another two count. Ziggler is essentially hitting him with every move he’s got. Ziggler goes for a cross body splash off the top rope but Cena catches him and tries for the AA, but Ziggler escapes and again and hits the super kick but still can’t get a three count. This is just ridiculous. Next Dolph applies a sleeper hold and starts to bring Cena down (just like Ricardo did on Christmas Eve) but John throws Ziggler off him and into the referee, knocking him out. Cena applies the STF on Dolph but there is no referee (Dolph doesn’t tap anyway). Langston comes out and hits Cena with the Big End and a second referee comes down the ramp but again Cena kicks out on 2. Out of nowhere Cena then hits Ziggler with an AA and gets the win. Fantastic match but the ending is just ridiculous. Ziggler had almost all of the offense but one big move finishes him. Meanwhile Cena took finishers from Ziggler and Langston but it’s not enough. There is no justice.
The next match puts the Divas Title on the line, as Eve defends against Kaitlyn. Eve chose Mae Young to face last week, but she gave birth to Hornswaggle instead (yup) and Kaitlyn started a cat fight instead. So now she gets a title shot. Whatever. It’s more of the same cat fight style wrestling. Back in the attitude era these matches only happened when the ring was replaced by a pool of jello or something. In the ring they actually wrestled. Kaitlyn has enough, hitting a side slam and a shoulder block to get Eve on the ropes. Eve then escapes Kaitlyn’s finisher and escapes the ring entirely, getting herself counted out to keep her championship. They’ll meet again at the Royal Rumble.
Backstage Santino is kissing up to Ricky Steamboat until Wade Barrett steps it, saying that he will make the Intercontinental Championship mean something which neither of them could do. Steamboat decides to stand in Santino’s corner. Cut to Matt Striker interviewing Randy Orton, who says he will win the rumble before being interrupted by 3MB who says that one of them will win the rumble. Orton then decides that he will face Heath Slater tonight. They have nothing for Orton to do right now besides feud with 3MB? That heel turn better happen real soon.
Kane and Daniel Bryan in the ring squaring off against the Rhodes Scholars in a non title match. We’re getting to a point with all of these fueds where everything is established and we’ve seen everyone face everyone already, so there isn’t much new to talk about. All parties are doing fine. It’s exactly as you expect. At least until Cody Rhodes and his mustache yelled “you are a goat face” and Bryan before hitting him with an elbow. After the rumble we can expect a whole new set of programs to get into gear, so this stale rivalry period is expected. Kane gets a hot tag and cleans house, but Sandow (the legal man) left the ring when Kane had him set up for the choke slam. Daniel Bryan comes back in and attempts his back flip off the top turnbuckle but tweaks his knee (in the match) and the Rhodes Scholars take advantage. Kane took Sandow down outside the ring, but Cody Rhodes hit Bryan with the Cross Rhodes to get the victory by pinfall. The stage is set for their championship match, most likely taking place at the Royal Rumble.
Finally the Randy Orton/3MB feud comes to a head as Randy takes on Heath Slater. Orton dominates early but Slater slows things down, taking control briefly and even hitting his jumping neck breaker (reverse RKO) for a two count. Heath then goes to the top rope only to be superplexed by Orton. Randy beats away the other members of 3MB before hitting the 2nd rope DDT and an RKO (that was definitely not “out of nowhere” as Cole said) to win the match. McIntyre and Mahal come in to try ambushing Orton but Randy fights them off again with a couple more RKO’s. Just Orton being Orton.
Wade Barrett set to take on Santino and I’ll be damned if Steamboat didn’t do the Santino walk down the ramp with him. It’s all Barrett until Santino escapes a pump handle slam and hits a super kick before going into his routine. He pulls out the cobra sock but Wade leaves the ring, drawing Santino near the rope where Wade pulls his throat down on the top rope, hitting the Bull Hammer to win the match. Steamboat tends to his fallen friend as Barrett set up to hit Ricky from behind. Ricky turns before he could strike and Steamboat takes off his blazer, ready to fight. Barrett exits and we have not seen the last of this story. Wade Barrett versus Ricky Steamboat next week?
(Pointless segment where Sheamus talks trash to 3MB happens that I can’t think of a single thing to write about it.)
Miz on commentary as United States Champion Antonio Cesaro comes out waving the American flag for his match against Khali. Khali, with both Hornswaggle and Natalya in his corner, slaps Cesaro a couple of time before Antonio takes his leg out. The Punjobber has a whole crew with him now. Anything to make him interesting. Miz calls Cesaro a weenie and calls him an old man. Face Miz just comes off as so lame. After another outburst of offense from Khali, Cesaro springboards into Khali with an uppercut and then hits the Neutralizer on Khali to get the win! Cesaro is really good. He barks at Miz and they will certainly face each other at some point in the future.
Backstage Brad Maddox is still trying to get Paul Heyman to help him get a WWE contract, suggesting that he can referee the match. Heyman chews him out, telling him not to talk to Vickie Guerrero or CM Punk and to get out of his face. That’s getting interesting.
I guess I found the point of the Sheamus 3MB segment because he is now facing Jinder Mahal. Sheamus smacks him around for a while and the only offense Mahal provides is a weird hold where he is essentially grabbing Sheamus’ arse (that’s what Sheamus said anyway). McIntyre distracts Sheamus long enough for Jinder to hit him with a high knee and get some more legitimate offense. Sheamus fights back of course, dragging Slater into the ring and then clotheslining both Slater and Mahal out of the ring. Sheamus then Brougue Kicks McIntyre and Slate, then hits Mahal with White Noise and another Brogue Kick to win the match decisively. I wonder who Drew McIntyre will lose to tonight. 3MB is getting a lot of air time to start 2013.
CM Punk defends his WWE Championship against Ryback to start the third hour of the show. Before the match, there is a montage similar to what you’d get on a PPV show. They might as well. This match has been in the making for a couple of months now. Punk kinda goes nuts on his way down the ramp, pulling a ladder out to go under and throwing a chair toward the ring. They start with Ryback overpowering Punk and kicking him out of the ring, with Punk incorporating a chair to even things out a little. Eventually Ryback then gets Punk back in the ring and asks the crowd to choose whether he slams Punk onto a chair or a ladder. He does this while holding Punk up for a suplex. Very cool. He ten tries the slam the steel steps on Punk but he rolls away and runs up them for a jumping kick. Punk then starts working on Ryback with a chair. It sucks that this match has to be interrupted by a commercial break. They come back with Ryback hitting Punk with an electric chair to take him down from the ladder. The whole match is spots. Punk puts Ryback’s foot in a chair a jumps off the top tope to try to injure it, but Ryback moves away and Punk tweaks his knee landing (uh oh). Ryback immediately takes advantage and takes him down with a meathook clothesline. Punk wiggles out of Shell Shock though and gets out of the ring. Toward a table Ryback put up earlier. Ryback goes to spear Punk but Punk moves and Ryback goes right through the table, taking him out. Punk gets back in the ring and tries to climb the ladder. Ryback meets him up there and knocks him off, Punk then pushes the ladder over but Ryback jumps off before it hits that mat, then slams Punk into the ladder. He tries to do it again but Punk wiggles out and kicks him in the head. Punk gets Ryback in the corner and tries the running bulldog, but Ryback lifts Punk over the top rope through a table outside the ring. This match has been pretty bad ass.
Now here’s is the big finish. Punk is outside the ring and not moving. Ryback gets a ladder propped up and climbs to the top. He is just about the grab the title when the lights go out. When they come back on Ambrose and Rollins are on the ladder trying to knock him down. He fights them both off but Reigns pulls him down by the legs. Ryback then throws all three members of Shield out of the ring and against goes to the top of the ladder but the Shield attacks Punk again with a ladder. The building is buzzing big time. Shield powerbombs Ryback through a table on top of the steel steps and leaves the arena. With Ryback out of commission, Punk now gets up and crawls up the ladder, grabs his WWE Championship and wins the match. Great match but yet another predictable ending.
Backstage Striker goes to interview Punk but Punk cuts him off, again saying that he doesn’t have any affiliation with Brad Maddox or the Shield. He then says that before the Rock gets in the ring, he is going to talk to the crowd first and drop a pipe bomb (uh oh). Cut to Daniel Bryan icing his knee, blaming Kane for not having his back or something. They blame each other for losing the team Rhodes Scholars, getting into a good old fashioned “YES” “NO” argument until Vickie Guerrero comes in to inform them that they are due for their four month mental evaluation with none other than Dr. Shelby (WOOO!). They then argue over whether or not Shelby is a monster or a nerd and I can’t wait for next week’s sessions.
The last match of the night puts Kofi Kingston against Big Show in a non title match. Kofi jumps at Show and gets him in the corner trying to get an edge on him, the ref tries to separate them and in the process, Show decks Kofi with a Knock Out Punch, putting down Kingston and winning the match in about 20 seconds. Anyway…
Punk gets in the ring to address the crowd. He wipes blood off his hand and removes the WWE flag from the microphone. He says everyone has misunderstood the meaning of the pipe bomb which is honesty. He says the perception of him over the last year is wrong and that everything he said was true except for the part about ice cream because they are fat enough already (burn!). He says he created his rebel anti-hero persona to cash in because it doesn’t matter if you’re the best performer or best talker or anything else because no one it only matter how popular you are in the WWE. That is why John Cena keeps getting title shots and why Daniel Bryan, a fantastic wrestler, has to become a catch phrase saying goofball (now we’re getting somewhere). It’s why Brodus Clay, a leather monster, dances around with children and why Lil’ Jimmy is more well known than Tyson Kidd (really getting somewhere now). The crowd reacts and Punk says they’re playing right into his hands. The WWE is just a circus to entertain the fans and no one has maintained any success without them until CM Punk. He calls himself the greatest champion of all time, not just he modern era (he adds that that’s something they probably want to put on a t-shirt because it’s all about selling t-shirts). He says he would have been champion over Bruno Sammartino in that era because he only had to wrestle once a month at MSG. Hulk Hogan never had to wrestle in TLC matches. Punk says his year has had enough grueling matches on both free TV and PPV to equal 30 of theirs, and that he is successful in spite of the fans. That unlike every other wrestler he doesn’t lie about doing everything for the fans. He calls out Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels and Edge for doing just that, making them either weak or dishonest. Punk on the other hand is neither because he doesn’t care about the fans. He is just the best in the world. A member of the stage crew tells Punk they do to go to commercial, but Punk says they’ll go to break when he wants to go to break. He then says the Rock is going to come out in a minute but before he does he tells them that they do not matter, and continues talking as they go to break.
Absolutely brilliant promo. He made points that I had been thinking for a while regarding the other eras and the current schedule. He pointed out the nature of what the current talent has to do to get over and what comes with that. More importantly he attacked the fans in a way that hasn’t been done before. He made an entire case against the people, which is the very entity that the Rock says he fights for. What this also does is set the bar very high for the Rock. This isn’t John Cena just talking about how he will fight and how much he loves the WWE. CM Punk cuts a lot deeper. He can’t just say he’s going to kick his monkey ass. When they come back from break Punk is still talking about how he is the best and that regardless of who is put in front of him he will remain the champion a year from now. He says he beat the system when he won the championship because it was against what the crowd wanted.
Punk starts calling the crowd losers when the Rock finally (no pun intended) makes his entrance. He is absolutely jacked. If he was a regular member of the roster he’d definitely be a part of the wellness program. Rock says that after listening to Punk he sees that he is delusional, and that in 20 days his reign as champion is over. He says Punk didn’t reject the fans, the fans rejected him. After saying Punk failed to get ice cream for the fans Rock gets the fans to chant cookie puss at Punk, telling him that they will follow him for the rest of his career (probably not but I’m sure they’ll try). Punk tells the fans that they are following Rock the same way they followed Punk a year ago. Rock says he is back to entertain the fans, stop Punk and win the WWE Championship. Rock says Punk looks like Popeye on crack (Cole loves that) and that he has become the biggest jerk in the world. Punk essentially says what I said earlier, in that Rock can joke about Punk’s shirts and shout his old catch phrases all he wants because Punk is just going to beat him in the ring. He says all of Rock’s words are meaningless before saying perhaps the best line of trash talk I’ve ever heard. “Your arms are just too short to box with God.” Oh man is that a great line.
Rock of course retorts by telling Punk to get tattoos of candy and a size 15 boot on his butt to remind him of when the Rock kicks his candy ass, and then Rock Bottom’s Punk out of the ring. Hell of a last twenty minutes or so and I’m pumped up for the match. It’s being set up almost perfectly. Rock will always be the People’s Champion, so Punk is attacking the people. Classic stuff. What is interesting is how Punk is completely calling Rock out on being nothing more than catch phrases and schtick, with Rock immediately responding with more catch phrases and schtick. Sure Rock ended the segment with a Rock Bottom, but verbally I think Punk crushed him. It’s kind of like the interrogation scene in The Dark Knight. Rock can’t phase Punk with his words like he did everyone else. Of course it doesn’t matter too much because we all know (or at least we think we know) that Rock is winning the title and Cena is winning the Rumble so they can face off at WrestleMania, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the build up anyway.
Things pick up next week with the 20th anniversary of Raw and I can’t wait.