-So the updating won’t be live tonight, as Eric is off on personal business. This is good, because instead of me doing a rushed job to provide a real-time report of Raw, I’ll have time to focus on clarity and coherency. Errr, I mean to say, this Raw report will be top notch as usual! Yeah, that’s the ticket.
-Live from Tampa. Home of the Brisco Brothers Body Shop (it’s worth the drive!)
Opening Segment: John Cena, Accompanied by Boos
The topic: are the boos getting to Cena? That’s like asking OJ Simpson if he ever got over his football legacy being tarnished. Cena prattles on about how he respects the fans for speaking their mind, blah blah blah. Cena segues into praising CM Punk, and then roundabouts his way into asking for a title shot against Punk, but this brings out Del Rio, who says he deserves another shot. Cena awkwardly jokes about Del Rio having lost last week, and the crowd can’t even pick a side here. Del Rio says he DID win last week, because Punk used the exposed turnbuckle (which Del Rio facilitated) to win, and ADR continues to claim that Punk should have been disqualified. This brings out Vickie “One Trick Horse” Guerrero to speak on Dolph Ziggler’s behalf, and Ziggler points out his win over Orton and his long US Title reign, and Cena goes on to make an ejaculate joke (really) before saying that Zack Ryder should be facing Ziggler tonight. Then The Miz comes out to try and resurrect the dead crowd. They even acknowledge John Morrison being axed. Miz makes a defeating joke about Dolph needing Vickie to elicit a reaction (why would you do that?) and plugs next week’s Slammy Awards. Then just to pile on to the wreck, Johnny Ace makes his way out. Ace books Miz, Dolph, and Del Rio against Smackdown superstars for a chance to face CM Punk. Meanwhile, Cena will have a special “social experiment” that Ace has set up. Miz is up first, and he gets Randy Orton to start.
SEGMENT RATING: 2/10. If that segment was any more of a car wreck, there’d be a royal inquest into the papparazzi’s role in it.
Orton dominates the early going, and you know he’s in no mood to waste time, because he only does HALF of the Garvin Stomp. Match speed accelerates into Miz countering out of a slugfest with his back/neck breaker for 2, and then follows with Orton’s chinlock. Orton escapes, and the crowd is half-excited. Clothesline barrage and snap-powerslam brings the crowd to life, but Miz kills their hopes by reversing the rope-hang DDT. Orton manages a scoop powerslam on the floor in a nice spot, and Wade Barrett makes his way out to distract Orton. Orton rolls Miz into the ring, and then goes to chase Barrett, thus stupidly being counted out. Stupidly. Orton returns to get his heat back on Miz, but Barrett charges back out to attack at ringside. So Miz qualifies to face Punk at TLC.
WINNER: The Miz via count out
RATING: 4/10. Was going along fine until the stupid finish. I realize that Orton probably shouldn’t get pinned two weeks in a row, but why book everyone to wrestle every week? It just kills their specialness.
Match 2: Alberto Del Rio vs. Daniel Bryan
Now we’re talking. Michael Cole’s sour grapes speech about Bryan losing on Smackdown is glorious, and will have more meaning when Bryan DOES win the big one. Also, Cole calls himself a ‘broadcast journalist’, thus ensuring the wrath of many Bobby Heenan fans. Bryan and Del Rio turn the match into a stiff slugfest, and Bryan gets a nice reverse dragon sleeper, but Del Rio drops him on the ropes (injured ribs-first), and Del Rio lands the cross armbreaker to win.
WINNER: Alberto Del Rio via Cross Armbreaker
RATING: 4/10. Too short, but fun while it lasted.
Match 3: Kelly Kelly/Eve Torres vs. Pin-Up Strong
Part XXXIII. A Pin-Up Strong vignette is interrupted by a viral video of a small boy promising havoc on 1/2/12. Huh. Apparently, Cole and Lawler didn’t see the vignette, because we’ve reverted WCW 1999 logic. After 90 seconds of action, Kelly pinned Beth with a roll-up
WINNERS: Kelly Kelly/Eve Torres via roll-up
RATING: 1/10. EQUALITY~!
Match 4: John Cena vs. Zack Ryder
If Cena wants, he buys into the WWE Title match at TLC. If Ryder wins, he gets a title shot at Dolph Ziggler. The friendship between the two is being put to the test by Johnny Ace as a “social experiment”, and it’s one of the more simpler, yet quite intriguing, ideas in quite some time. Babyface wrestling sequence kicks the mat off, and Ryder is portayed as an equal early on with headlock takeovers and the like. Crowd stirs a bit, supporting Ryder in the slim majority. Ryder plants Cena with a flapjack for 2. In fact, Ryder dominates the bridge of this match, but gets a little headlock heavy. Must have some big sequences planned, methinks. Ryder loses control for a bit and Cena tries the AA, but Ryder gets a tornado DDT for 2. Rough Ryder fails, and Cena goes into the comeback sequence (shoulder blocks, spinout, YCSM and 5KS), but Ryder avoids another AA. Cena goes down in the corner, and Ryder gets the WWWYKI kick. Rough Ryder falls into the AA and Cena wins clean. Afterward, Ryder yells at Cena, and Cena tells him to hang on one moment before rushing from the ring, and then we go to commercial. Ok…..
WINNER: John Cena via Attitude Adjustment
RATING: 6/10. The crowd wasn’t buying Ryder winning at all, and there were some slow spots, but kudos for trying something different. Just hope that Ryder doesn’t turn heel.
-Turns out, Cena gives up his chance to compete at TLC just so Ryder can have his match with Ziggler. So much for Cena’s heel turn……for now.
Match 5: Zack Ryder vs. Mark Henry (No countout, no DQs)
I do admit, I miss the old “evil owner stacks the deck” storylines. Henry dominates Ryder early, decimating him. Ryder tries his luck taking out the injured ankle, but Henry shakes him off pretty quickly. Ryder remains determined, and Ryder plants Henry’s ankle around the post, and follows with the WWWYKI kick, but Henry manages to throw him off. Cena comes out to cheer Ryder on, Cena manages to AA Henry, and pulls Ryder on top to win. Hey, Cena turned face!
WINNER: Zack Ryder via Cena’s Attitude Adjustment
RATING: 7/10. More of an angle than a match, but it’s a good angle, though it sucks that Henry had to be sacrificed for it to work.
Match 6: Kevin Nash vs. Santino Marella
Nash brings a sledgehammer out since he will face Triple H in a ladder match(!!) where a sledgehammer hangs above the ring at TLC. I hope the rungs are foam-contoured, because if not, Nash’ll tear something just climbing the thing. Jackknife finishes fast.
WINNER: Kevin Nash via Jackknife
RATING: 2/10. That’s for each knee of Nash’s that remains intact, surprisingly.
Match 7: Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus
Ziggler slaps Sheamus in the early going, and Big Fella goes all Angry Irish on him, complete with the rope-trap strikes. Match seesaws as I’m distracted by rubbing in my fantasy team’s success to a friend (GO PHILIP RIVERS!) and I return to a Ziggler chinlock. Sheamus fights out and the crowd rallies as he gets running hammer strikes and headbutts. Ziggler avoids the Celtic Cross, and Sheamus barrels shoulder first into the post. Zack Ryder makes his way out (to zero pop, frightening), and the distraction leads to the Sheamus Brogue Kick to cost Ziggler a shot. Rough Ryder is hit on Ziggler afterward, and NOW the crowd woo-woo-woos.
WINNER: Sheamus via Brogue Kick
RATING: 5/10. Served its purpose. Ziggler/Ryder for the US Title at TLC should be the payoff to Ryder finally getting the belt.
Punk rails against the idea of the contract signing cliché, and just wants to sign the contract now just to get to the fighting part. Fine with me. Ace makes the match a TLC match (just like the name of the show!), and Punk isn’t complaining. Miz points out that he’s taken R-Truth and John Morrison out, and Punk makes some borderline-gay jokes about Miz’s word chance. (Not that there’s anything WRONG with that), and Ace future-endeavors Morrison right at the camera. Nice touch. Punk dresses Miz down for his Hollywood lifestyle, getting a nice pop for pointing out that all he cares about it being the best wrestler in the world. ADR rambles, and Punk threatens to start drinking if Del Rio says “destiny”. Miz guarantees that Punk is not walking out of TLC as champion. All three men sign, and the crowd chants “FIGHT! FIGHT!” and Ace wants a photo op with all of the competitors. Punk laughs at Ace’s grandstanding, and instigates the fight himself. Del Rio gets the upper hand as Punk goes for Ricardo, but Miz goes for Del Rio, and in the end, Punk bulldogs Del Rio through the table. Then Miz eats a GTS. Punk stands tall to end the show.
SEGMENT RATING: 7/10. Punk’s fourth-wall witticisms made this.
OVERALL: Slow start, strong middle, strong finish. Hopefully the ratings reflect it, because WWE can’t blame the one-sided football game this time. I have to say, the transition from Cena to Punk as top face is kinda surreal.
But I love it.
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.