Where in the bleach blonde hell was Dolph Ziggler?
I didn’t even realize until after I had posted last week’s recap that the resident show off and my current man crush was a no show on Raw. That also meant no AJ and, gasp, no Big E Langston. The word was that they didn’t have any key story to push forward involving him so rather than shoehorn him into a loaded show (I use that term loosely) they just kept him off. I can respect the idea to not have people on for the sake of having them on but with Ziggler? Really? We couldn’t have cut five minutes out of the recapping and guys talking about why they should face Punk so that Ziggler can have a quick match against Ryder or Brodus or someone else to make him look like a contender again? He has nothing going on one week before a PPV. Will he end up getting booked against Jericho? Will he stay idle and finally cash in his MITB briefcase? Will he do nothing? And what will AJ be wearing during all this!?
We’ll have to wait a little longer for an answer because tonight’s show starts with Paul Heyman already in the ring. He mentioned earlier (I know how he mentioned it but I won’t say it) that he was planning on making the announcement of a lifetime at the start of the show. He reveals that “tonight is the last night you are ever going to see Paul Heyman.” He says that he is done playing the victim to this business. From spending 7 years sacrificing his life for ECW (BluRay available now) to discovering Brock Lesnar and CM Punk, he now believes that something bad will happen to Punk to pay for Heyman’s sins. Since he doesn’t want to cost Punk from winning the WWE Championship, Paul Heyman is resigning. In what should be part of his Oscar reel, Heyman emotionally describes his affection for Punk and says goodbye. This is almost immediately answered by Punk’s entrance, who tries to talk him out of leaving. Heyman says that since Vince thinks he is behind the Shield, Maddox and Lesnar, and that he won’t let Punk win. Punk says Heyman is too important to him and the fans to leave (Heyman actually got a fairly positive reaction for him). Punk, acting legitimately emotional, says that this Sunday at Elimination Chamber everything will go back to normal as he regains his WWE Championship. After pumping him up, Heyman changes his mind, saying he’ll be in Punk’s corner as he beats the Rock, and the two of them hug it out like no two bros have ever hugged it out before. So essentially nothing happened, but I sure am glad Heyman is sticking around. He’ll be the center point of a Lesnar/Punk feud if/when that eventually happens and it will/should be awesome.
The opening match of the show puts Mark Henry against the Lame Khali. Henry is officially the latest official entrant in the #1 contender Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship. Khali got hit with the World’s Strongest Slam on Smackdown, and I expect the same to happen here. On the way out of the Elimination Chamber match is Rey Mysterio, who (big surprise) was injured last week. Khali got a couple of chops in on Henry before Mark took him down with a clothesline and that’s about it. WSS took ended a match where Mark Henry needed two offensive moves to win. After the match, Hornswaggle came jumped in to tend to Khali, so Mark Henry hit him with a WSS too. Much less impressive. We get it. Henry is a heel. With Mysterio out it leaves 3 more spots for the Chamber match. Unless Kofi steps in, it looks like Bryan has to play the roll of gimmick aerial guy. I’m still holding out hope that he ends up winning it to take on Ziggler (who cashes in the same night) for a World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania. It won’t happen, but I can keep talking about it like it will right?
Backstage Booker and Terry Long are talking about the Elimination Chamber when Chris Jericho puts his name in to be considered for the match. Teddy is immediately sold but that’s not how TV works. After dismissing Teddy’s idea, Booker wants him to prove himself by beating Daniel Bryan. Jericho does a Booker T impression, says he’ll “beat the beard” and runs off. This is gonna be a kick ass match. Meanwhile, Heyman wants Vickie to add a stipulation to the WWE Championship match. Guerrero doesn’t want to change anything without Vince’s approval. Johnny on the spot, McMahon calls Vickie on her cell phone, and gets put on speaker to hear the request. Heyman says that he doesn’t want Rock to try to keep the belt by getting DQ’d or counted out, so he wants the Rock to lose the belt if either of those happen. Curious how that will play out.
Forget that for now though because the Jericho/Bryan match is next. Jericho starts off strong with a couple of roll up attempts and some arm drags. Bryan regained control by very slowly lifting Jericho over the top rope. Back in the ring, Chris went for a springboard dropkick but Daniel ducked away and Jericho went flying back out of the ring. Bryan followed up by diving through the ropes into Jericho by the barricade. By the way, Fandango is being promoted again. From there we got some strong back and forth wrestling. Jericho caught Bryan while attempting a dropkick but couldn’t hit the Walls. Bryan then gets his knees up to block the lionsault and hit a flying headbutt. Jericho then applied the Walls of Jericho, only for Bryan to push him up and reverse it into a NO Lock. Great reversal. Chris wiggled out however and Daniel connected on a kick to the head and a 2 count. Bryan went for it again but Jericho ducked underneath, leading into Bryan getting tagged with a codebreaker to give Jericho the win via pinfall. So Jericho is in after a very good match but that shouldn’t be surprising.
The next match should be squash of the year, as 3MB goes against John Cena, Sheamus and Ryback. Good grief. This is to show how they’ll work as a team leading into their 6 man tag match against the Shield at Elimination Chamber. I’m looking forward to that match just so I can see the individual members of the Shield operate in the ring. On the other hand I’m dreading watching them lose and I fear they will go the way of the Nexus. Slater leads off against Ryback. Lawler said Slater said he sang better than Elvis. Lawler told him he wished he went to the bathroom like Elvis. Assuming Elvis died on the toilet, I’m assuming Lawler told Heath Slater he wished he was dead. The most notable part of the match was Jinder Mahal slapping John Cena in the face. Cena was about to finish things off before the other members of 3MB tried to gang up on Cena. Sheamus and Ryback then jumped in to assist, as all three hit their respective power slams (White Noise, Shell Shocked and the AA) and the match ends with Cena pinning Mahal. After the match each face grabbed the mic to lay a quick one liner about how they’ll beat the Shield, and mixed it with screaming. Shield will address the crowd later in the show, and the babyface trio promises to attack them.
On a taped clip from earlier, backstage Alex Riley and Yoshi Tatsu (remember them?) were making fun of Big Show getting paint dumped on him at the end of Smackdown. Riley called him a big fat traffic cone. Big Show then showed up to hit them both with Knock Out Punches. At least they appeared on TV. Maybe next time they’ll get in the ring, on LIVE TV!
In the ring, Matt Striker is interviewing Big Show. Striker gets two words in before Show knocks him out and takes the mic. So that was cool. Big Show keeps stopping himself from saying anything as the crowd gets louder. After a few minutes he just drops the mic and walks out pissed. It’s billed as him being so angry that nothing he had to say would be allowed on TV, but I’m a little curious if he forgot what he wanted to say.
The resurgence of Jack Swagger continues as he takes on Zack Ryder. Swagger comes to the ring with Zeb Colter in his corner. Who is Zeb Colter? He’s better known as Uncle Zebekiah and he’s basically a country freak show (here‘s a sample). Ryder hit a missile dropkick and the Broski Boot early but Swagger rolled out of the ring. Ryder leaped over the top rope to attack him but Swagger caught him (kinda) and hit a powerslam on the outside mat. From there it’s all Swagger. Ryder did get a knee up in the corner, but Swagger caught Swagger in the air on a Rough Ryder attempt, throwing him into the corner. I have to admit, that was impressive. Swagger gets Ryder to tap out to the Patriot Act. After the match Swagger presents Zeb Colter to the audience as another great American. Colter says that there are no real American’s anymore, getting into Vietnam and too many foreigners in the USA. He then asks how to get rid of them (Uh oh. Better wrap it up Zeb). He’s like a Bizarro Cesaro (hey it rhymes!). Things can get very weird for Jack Swagger very soon. Apparently squashing Zack Ryder is enough to get Swagger into the Elimination Chamber match. One spot to go.
Speaking of that spot, upon hearing that Jericho is in the chamber match, Ziggler comes to Booker T demanding that he get into the match as well. This is after Dolph backed out of the match claiming that he didn’t need to title shot due to having the MITB case. He says that Jericho doesn’t deserve a spot while Ziggler is stealing the show ever night (except last Monday night). Booker says that he will put Ziggler in a match against Kane, with the winner getting a spot in the chamber match. At least he has a match this week. I don’t see Dolph winning though, as having Kane and Bryan together is damn near mandatory.
Back in the ring Cody Rhodes squares off against the Miz with Antonio Cesaro doing commentary. It’s all about Miz putting his business where it doesn’t belong. Cesaro talks about how he conquered America which is why he carries the American flag. Meanwhile Cody Rhodes is controlling the pace early until Miz gets the momentum back with some clotheslines. After tossing Rhodes over the top rope, Miz slips out and stares down Cody. Cesaro moves in to attack but Miz gets a boot up and takes Antonio out. Miz then gets Cody back in the ring and Cesaro throws Miz into the ring post. Antonio then grabs Miz by the legs and swings him into the outside barricades. So this is going to continue for a while I guess.
Epico and Primo out next in tag team action against America’s new favorite face team, Brodus Clay and Tensai. Yup, after being embarrassed by Clay a couple of weeks ago, Tensai is now Brodus’ best bud. He just paces back and forth while Brodus does his whole dance routine. Tensai almost gets hits by Clay but Brodus stops himself, Primo (I think) then tries to rams their heads together but they don’t give, and they go on the attack. No offense from Epico and Primo as Tensai gets the win after hitting the back splash thing. Tensai gets in on the dance party this time as Rosa gets in Tensai’s face. Cameron and Naomi attack Rosa, throwing her out of the ring and hitting her in the face with a baseball slide. If Ziggler didn’t get on during a show where this match happened I’d lose it.
Shield in the house to address the crowd. They have nothing to really say other than they want to fight Cena, Sheamus and Ryback. So that’s cool. Keep it simple. They call them out to the ring but they don’t show. They say that they couldn’t be taken down when the whole locker room was there to help, so they can’t be taken down in a 3 on 3 match either. They make the whole thing about John Cena being a failure sitting in his little bubble. He has been what’s wrong with the WWE for the last decade and the Shield is the solution. He is the reason Sheamus and Ryback exist, and why the current system exists within the WWE. The Shield says that this is their chance to make up for the last ten years. They then start screaming the same way the faces did. Each side just wants to fight and stand in the ring. Some how they haven’t fought more. Just when it doesn’t look like they are going to show, the lights go off! When they come back on the face team is beating down the Shiwld. Ambrose gets the worst of it, being speared out of the ring. The fight continues outside the ring and up the steps, as the Shield are again forced to retreat. Of course they are. They are facing the three biggest faces in the company. The problem is that what is a placeholder for the faces can prove to ruin the momentum the Shield spent months building. Ambrose and Rollins specifically have so much to offer, but right now they don’t have anywhere to go if they lose.
Damien Sandow out next to bash country music in Nashville Tennessee. He of course does a fantastic job doing it. He’ll go against Alberto Del Rio who has Ricardo Rodriguez back in his corner! Sandow goes on the attack early with a series of knees. Del Rio then turns the tide with a swinging back breaker and a side kick to the face for a two count. Del Rio then ducks under a clothesline and applies to cross arm breaker to get the quick pin via submission. After the match, Alberto says Big Show’s promo tonight was the best of his career because he didn’t say anything. He added that the time for talk is over, and now is the time for action (works for me). Del Rio then says he is going to WrestleMania by pointing at the sign (take a shot) and yelling “WrestleMania.” He is alluding to the opinion that he will win the match, leading to him defending the World Heavyweight Championship. Odds are that they will both be at WresteMania regardless of the result, so that argument does not necessarily hold water.
Holy smokes! Backstage Bo Dallas is beating the crap out of Wade Barrett! Is he a face or a heel? This is revenge for Wade attacking Bo on Smackdown. The locker room pulls him back and Barrett has a match next against Kofi Kingston. Wade walks out rubbing his jaw but otherwise looking more annoyed than hurt (bah Lawler just said the same thing). He shows no ill effects early, knocking Kofi around the ring. Kingston gets out of a headlock and hits a few two handed chops and a dropkick, followed up by a splash on Wade’s back while he was standing up. Kofi then hits the splash the traditional front facing way for a two count. Wade counters the next running attack with a swinging side slam. Kofi avoids the bull hammer elbow however and attempts Trouble in Paradise but Barrett rolls away out of the ring. Kofi goes after him but Barrett pulls the ring apron over him and connects with the elbow. Wade pulls him back into the ring and gets the victory. Good match, especially for Barrett. He looked specifically strong, calling out Dallas after the match.
Main event match time as Kane takes on Dolph Ziggler with the Elimination Chamber spot on the line. Kane tries some mat wrestling early but can’t get the pin. Dolph then lands a standing dropkick and takes control. After laying Ziggler out, Kane prepares for a chokeslam but Dolph sees it coming and gets out of the ring. That’s a trend I have seen a lot of lately but never really addressed. It seems now that any finisher with a big build up or wind up gets attempted very early in matches only for the opponent to quickly escape the ring once they realize what is happening. It’s particularly done on regular TV in order to give an opening for a commercial. Sure it makes sense logically, but I see it a little too often lately. The whole point of the finisher is that you wait until the right moment to use it. This is typically when the opponent is broken down, so seeing them even attempted this early is a little weird. I’m getting off topic though. Kane starts using his power game on Ziggler, throwing him into the corner and then hitting him out of the ring. Kane goes to pursue but Big E walks over to stare him down. Dolph takes advantage of the distraction to hurl him into the barricade. On the way back in the ring Ziggler hits a neck breaker and starts connecting his flurry of elbows. It’s so simple but the energy really gets the crowd into it. Kane gets out of a headlock and catches Ziggler in the air attempted a cross body splash. Kane goes for a tombstone but Dolph escapes and hits a jumping DDT (because you aren’t allowed to use pile drivers anymore). After another exchange, Ziggler applies a sleeper hold. Kane eventually gets out of it but Dolph lands a fame-asser for a two count. Kane then counters a Zig Zag attempt with a sidewalk slam. Kane then goes to the top rope where AJ distracts him long enough for Ziggler to dodge the attack. Ziggler then hits the ropes, knocking AJ off the apron into Langston’s arms. Dolph then looks back to make sure she is okay (what a guy), giving Kane the opening to hit a chokeslam, win the match and get the final spot in the Elimination Chamber. Good match, nice finish. Intersntingly, Bryan did not interfere and there was no Team Hell No banter tonight.
So now the Elimination Chamber match will include Randy Orton, Jack Swagger, Mark Henry, Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan and Kane. Much better than last year, which had Khali and Santino. Four guys can legitimately win it (sorry Swagger and Kane) and cases can be made for all of them. The result also leaves Ziggler with no booked match on Sunday, making it so friggin’ likely that he’ll cash in to take the World Heavyweight Championship that I can taste it. If the rumored match of Sheamus versus Orton at WrestleMania is going to happen then it can’t be for the title. Jericho is rumored to be going against Ziggler or Ryback. If it’s Ziggler it can be for the title and be pretty outstanding. Still crossing my fingers for Bryan though.
Naturally the Rock closes out the show. This is the first time the WWE Championship belt has appeared on TV in two weeks, ending the most annoying streak in WWE history. Cole is proclaiming him champion like he just won the damn thing. It’s been three minutes and it’s 11:00 when he actually starts talking. Rock talks about how he moved to Nashville with his family in 1987, kicked puberty’s ass, and met a crackhead at a bar who he bought a car from for 75 bucks that had another crackhead sleeping in the back seat, which he left in a Burger King parking lot after realizing it was probably stolen. Snitch hits theaters February 22nd. He turns it all into how he matured and became champion, which cued CM Punk and Paul Heyman to come out. Rock tells them they were doing a remake a Twighlight earlier, and that he’ll beat Punk’s ass if he steps into the ring. Punk and Heyman walk down the ramp, stopping just short of the ring before having a conversation. Heyman (after saying “I got your back”) starts to go back when Punk makes a run for the ring and he goes at it with the Rock. Rock hits the spinebuster and goes for the People’s Elbow but Heyman grabs his foot. Punk takes advantage of the distraction and hits Rock with the GTS. Punk takes the belt up the ramp and tells Rock, “If you’re going to keep bringing it, since it’s mine I’m just going to take it.” The show ends with Punk holding the belt yelling “BEST IN THE WORLD.”
Good ending to a pretty good Raw but the theory of opposite momentum assures us (if everything we already knew didn’t do that for us) that the Rock will once again defeat CM Punk, leading to his match against John Cena for the WWE Championship. Sadly, there is no way to swerve things into Punk winning, then taking on the Undertaker in a Streak vs. Streak match. With that, I predict that Rock will beat Punk clean, Team Cena will of course beat the Shield, Ziggler will finally cash in after Del Rio beats Big Show, and Chris Jericho will win the Elimination Chamber match.
We’ll see how right I am (probably not very) on Sunday night.