-Gratuitious Plug: pieced together this essay on why Zack Ryder is the most inspirational wrestler in 2011, and why he’s deserved all of his current accolades. Check it out. http://bit.ly/vRX2Y2
-Christmas update: got Money in the Bank 2011 on DVD (show of the year), Modern Family season 2 (the best sitcom on TV today), and an MP3 player for my car. Finally, I can listen to Repo Man’s theme at a stop light at full blast and annoy the people next to me. Because what’s mine is mine…..
-Live from Chicago, where Derrick Rose’s mere presence makes up for every unfortunate Bears injury this season.
“Cult of Personality” hits and the Chicago crowd goes frenzied….until Johnny Ace comes out in Punk’s shirt (over his suit). Ace uses this swerve to illustrate that Raw has been “unpredictable” since he’s taken over. As Ace preaches change, the real Punk makes his way out to a sadly-lukewarm pop. Things pick up a bit once Punk hits the ring, but not quite the hero worship I was hoping for. As soon as the song stops, NOW we get the deafening chant. Punk ponders aloud what’s stopping him from kicking Ace in his grill, and Ace threatens termination if the champ follows through. Instead, Ace says his Christmas gift to Punk is: he has the night off. Oooh, crowd doesn’t like that. Ace says he listens to the fans, and that Punk will be in a three man gauntlet, and if one pins Punk, they get a World Title shot next week on Raw. Punk sweetens the pot by offering a fourth match after he polishes off the first three: Punk vs. Ace. Ace seems incredulous that Punk would want a piece of him, and the crowd chants “YOU CAN’T WRESTLE”. I beg to differ, Ace was once a workrate maven. Punk polls his home crowd, and they’re more than happy to see Punk take on Ace. Ace, having been called out, accepts.
Segment Rating: 7/10. Did what it was supposed to do: built drama for the remainder of the show. The hot crowd made it.
Match 1: Cody Rhodes vs. Booker T
Cody’s glam-heavy All-American Rejects knockoff music is totally going on my MP3 player. That’s some red-light music for sure. Cody takes control early, but Booker manages to elbow Cody’s perpetually-injured nose. Cody comes back by dropping the kneepad and planting a sharp knee into the abdomen. Booker get dumped outside as we hit the commercial. We return with Cody trapping Booker in a keylock, but Booker chops his way out. Cody regains control as the match slows down a shade. Rhodes then applies a bizarre chinlock/tazmission combo, but Booker fights out. Cody counters with his brother’s “drop down punch” and clothesline, but can’t keep Booker down. Rhodes can’t seem to put Booker away, so he resorts to a third rest hold. I’m all for long matches, but there’s really no story here. Booker mounts a comeback with an elbow to the face, followed by a menagerie of strikes, followed by the 110th Street Slam for 2. Booker also gets the rope-spring reverse sunset flip for 2. Roll-up exchanges also get 2 each, and Cody gets the Beautiful Disaster for 2. Booker is looking way winded. After an exchange, Booker lands the Axe Kick and wins the non-title match. Post-match spinaroonie ensues.
WINNER: Booker T via Axe Kick
Rating: 6/10. Long match, but not a good one. I’m a Booker fan, but that was rough to watch. If the feud continues, I hope they gameplan around his weaknesses better.
Match 2: Zack Ryder/Eve Torres vs. Tyson Kidd/Natalya
HART DYNASTY~! Ryder disposes of Kidd pretty quickly, and then the ladies get tagged in. Faint “YOU CAN’T WRESTLE” chant at Eve. Booty pop moonsault gets 2. Natalya takes over and bullies Eve, but can’t get the Sharpshooter. Men are tagged back in and Ryder spikes Kid with a leaping facebuster. Natalya saves Kidd from being pinned in a sky high as Lawler makes a Julia Roberts/Lyle Lovett reference. Dueling Broski boots, followed by the Rough Ryder on Kidd ends it. Ryder lets Eve hold his belt, which might mean we actually get a romance angle for a change.
WINNERS: Zack Ryder and Eve Torres via Rough Ryder
RATING: 4/10. It was harmless and fun. They seem committed to the Ryder push at long last.
In Ring Segment: John Cena Calls out Kane
Given Cena’s penchant for making cutesy insider comments lately, I’m hoping he calls Kane “Isaac” and then plays it off with a knowing nod. Cena then verbally blows Chicago while admitting he’s not their favorite wrestler. Cena even plays the “Eddie” card, mentioning his Hall of Fame induction. Great, now Rey’s going to dust off the armband. After the sucking up ends, Cena calls Kane out, but gets The Miz instead. Miz wants to face Cena right now, just to end their 2011 feud with a bang. Miz says he doesn’t need The Rock to beat Cena. Cena quickly accepts the challenge, and a referee appears PDQ.
Match 3: John Cena vs. The Miz
This won’t be as fun with Miz’s “Hate Me Now” video beforehand. Matwork to open as the crowd hits the dueling chants. Miz bails early, and then chastises the crowd for not chanting his name. He also reneges on the match, saying he already beat Cena “when it mattered”. During the tirade, Miz ends up counted out. He also hits the Bears insult for good measure. Just before he can hit the catchphrase, R-Truth returns and it’s fighting time at ringside. Miz gets thrown around in ragdoll fashion, and Truth’s sporting some angry, jaundice-tinted eyes. Truth doesn’t want to end this now, instead threatening to beat Miz up every single week this coming year. Well, that involve planning long-term, and WWE’s surprised me before, so who knows?
Winner: John Cena by countout
Rating: 5/10. More an angle than a match, but at least we get a promising singles feud. No Kane to be seen, however
Match 4: Big Show vs. David Otunga (Big Show must compete with one arm behind his back)
When did Big Show kill Luke Gallows and steal all his clothes? Otunga’s white and red boots are made to look like high socks in sandals, and I laugh. Show uses headbutts to get the early edge, followed by clubbing lefts. Otunga hurts himself trying to shoulderblock Show, and ends up getting tossed over the top rope. Mark Henry then makes his way out, as the whole thing appears to have been a set up. Ref stops the match as soon as Henry enters the ring. Crowd is so behind Show that they chant for Daniel Bryan. Sure enough, after Henry takes Show down, Bryan hits the ring. The distraction allows Henry to escape the rope and attack Henry. Otunga attacks, but gets a chokeslam as Henry escapes.
WINNER: Big Show by disqualification
Rating: 5/10. Another case where it was more angle than match. I thought Show/Henry was over with, but it’s my favorite monster feud in years, so huzzah.
Talk Segment: Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez
ADR is in a wheelchair due to his groin injury, and Ricardo is sporting the neckbrace from the TLC fall. Ricardo makes me laugh after Alberto mentions “cajones” by doing the Major League II ball-gesture. Del Rio whines over sour grapes, and the Bellas come out to suck up. Del Rio gets mad and ejects both of them, before ending his tirade by promising a more vicious, more violent Alberto in 2011.
Segment Rating: 8/10. Just for the Major League II homage.
Main Event: Gauntlet Match
Part 1: CM Punk vs. Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger is to this gauntlet what goombas and cheap-cheaps are to Bowser. Wrestling exchange begins and Punk works over the arm. Swagger and Punk fight for control in a knucklelock, but Swagger goes to a headlock to gain control. Punk turns the tide with a heel kick for 2. Swagger regains control with a gutbuster and ensuing rib attacks before settling on a waistlock. Punk eats another gutbuster for 2. Swagger tries the pump splash, but Punk catches him for a GTS attempt. Swagger fights out, but eats a roundhouse kick to give Punk the win.
WINNER: CM Punk via roundhouse kick
Part 2: CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler
Before the match can begin, Swagger clips Punk’s knee. Punk refuses to forfeit as we go to commercial. We return to Ziggler working Punk’s leg, and the champ refuses to give up. Punk escapes and tries a slam, but the knee gives way. Ziggler continues to work the leg and lands a Knee-DDT, followed by a dropkick for 2. Ziggler follows with a bow and arrow/angelito stretch hybrid, but Punk headbutts his way out. Ziggler eats post on a slingshot. Ziggler, however, escapes a neckbreaker attempt and hooks a half crab. Punk manages to get to the ropes to escape. Punk adds a kick fury to take Ziggler out, and a furious one it is. A particularly sick shot to the temple and Ziggler is barely out at 2. Fame asser attempt by Ziggler fails, and Punk gets the running corner knee. Vickie hooks Punk’s leg on a GTS attempt, and Dolph gets the fame asser for 2. Johnny Ace makes his way out and…..ejects Vickie and Swagger? Ahh, but Punk has had Ziggler pinned the entire time, and the referee didn’t count. Punk gets distracted and Dolph gets the Zig Zag to win! Dolph celebrates with the belt like the wonderful douche that he is.
WINNER: Dolph Ziggler via Zig Zag
Overall Rating: 8/10. Well structured and exciting, and hey, we get Punk vs. Ziggler just six weeks after their “instant classic” on November 21. TOTALLY looking forward to next week now.
Part of me kinda wants Kane to set Jim Ross on fire again. You can’t beat the classics. Kane says the masked version of himself is his true self. As he pontificates further, Cena’s music interrupts, but Cena keeps his distance on the stage. Kane sets off a fire wall to block Cena from coming to confront. Kane reveals his reasoning for attacking Cena: he says Cena’s “rise above hate” rhetoric is a lie, that everyone “hates”. Kane says hate is natural, and that Cena is perpetuating a fraudulent myth in “rising” above it. Hate drives us; it motivates us. Kane says that when Cena embraces hate, he becomes honest and…..free. Kane further states that Cena’s denial makes him weaker, but Kane is going to “help” him. Kane’s delivery is unusual. This is Chicago, are we sure that isn’t John Malkovich under the mask? Kane says the words “CENA SUCKS” tear his soul apart, and that goads the fans into chanting it. The show ends with a pondering Cena on stage.
Segment Rating: 7/10. It was a nice change from Cena adding his dippy-chipper poop jokes and snarky comments to the promos he does, and Kane came off well with his evil intonations. It does make you wonder what the next chapter will be, even if we know the ending (Kane eats the AA, adios).
OVERALL: Some nice wrenches were thrown into the mix tonight. Henry didn’t even factor into the gauntlet, and we’re getting Punk/Ziggler out of it. Cena looked vulnerable for a change, thanks to Kane’s blunt words. The continuation of the Miz/Truth beef was also fresh, even if it’s only been four weeks (wink wink) since it was last visited. It was also nice to give some of the midcarders a look, as opposed to cramming Orton, Barrett, and the other usual suspects in there again. 2012 will be important for WWE in terms of finally phasing out the old guard and solidifying the younger class.
Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.