-With the Royal Rumble in St. Louis next Sunday, if WWE doesn’t bring in James Laurinaitis to do an angle with Uncle John, I’ll be VERY disappointed.
-Live from Phoenix, home of the world’s greatest online university.
Opening Segment: CM Punk
Hey, Punk’s sitting Indian-style like the old Kindergarten days. Punk discusses Dolph Ziggler and Dolph’s recent victories over Punk, all of which were tainted by John Laurinaitis. This segues into Punk running down Laurinaitis’ string of lifelong failures. Replay is shown of Laurinaitis admitting he plans to screw Punk over at the Rumble. Sounds like a spoiler. Punk then goes the Stone Cold route and threatens violence on Laurinaitis, specifically breaking his arms. You can’t count pins with broken arms, you see. Punk asks Laurinaitis to come out, and when the call goes unanswered, the champ announces intention to hunt Ace down. Before he can, John Cena arrives. Hey, Cena’s not smiling for once. Punk is confused as to why Cena’s here, and Cena makes it clear: he’s tired of hearing Punk ramble. Cena begins to take action, demanding that Ace give Zack Ryder a US Title rematch tonight, and he also demands that Ace will give him Kane tonight as well. The third demand: Ace must resign as Raw GM. Sure enough, Ace does indeed appear. Ace stands by his statements last week, and will not be intimidated by either man. Punk tries to goad Ace to the ring, but Ace has none of it. Ace skew Cena’s wishes, and makes Ryder vs. Kane, falls count anywhere tonight. Oh, and if Cena interferes, Ryder never gets another US Title match. Cena and Punk are in tag action tonight, and….it’s the return of Jack Dolph! The tag team that beats the competition off with four hands! Ziggler guarantees victory at the Rumble, and Swagger proclaims Cena “DEAD MEAT”. It’s better heard than said. Laurinaitis comes down to the announce table.
Segment Rating: 7/10. Served its purpose.
If this had twenty minutes, I’d be down. Cena dominates Ziggler early with a bulldog for 2. Punk takes over on Ziggler, all the while wearing his gym shorts. Ziggler avoids the GTS as we go to break. We return with Ace still texting, which is normally protocol for when the Divas are in action. Swagger and Cena go at it as Ziggler and Cena go taunt-for-taunt. This opens up an opportunity for Swagger to stomp Cena down. Swagger can only get 2 off of a double team. Swagger gags Cena with a chancery, and the crowd is torn: we want Punk to tag in, but we have to cheer for Cena to make the tag. Cena escapes with a backdrop, but Ziggler tags in and dropkicks Cena for 2. Ziggler lands nine straight elbow drops, does some sit-ups, makes Vickie moist (judging by her pantomimes), and gets Cena for 2. Swagger Bomb gets 2 on Cena. Swagger works the bear hug, and Cena counters with the AA. Both men are down, and then double tags are made. Punk goes wild on Ziggler, getting the knee-dog combo. Sleepy-time gesture is made, but Dolph escapes the GTS, and the champ responds with a high kick for 2, broken up by Swagger. Cena and Swagger brawl outside, exchanging submission holds. Punk heads up top, but Laurinaitis comes to the apron, Punk grabs him, Ace jumps down, and Ziggler rolls up Punk with the tights to win.
WINNERS: Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger via reverse cradle and tights
RATING: 7/10. Fun SNME-formula tag, and it builds heat for Sunday.
-Punk takes the mic, and says he doesn’t mind Ace gift-wrapping matches for Ziggler, but he’s going to give him an opportunity to be a WWE Superstar. Tonight, Punk wants a match one on one with Laurinaitis. Laurinaitis accepts! What’s the swerve? I guess we’ll see.
In-Ring Segment: The Highlight Reel
How will Jericho remain silent this time? Lawler confirms that Jericho is a participant in the Royal Rumble match. Jericho tries to silence the crowd, but the fans only boo and hiss. The annoyance he draws with this silence virtuoso act is a riot. Jericho says “hold on” while running up the ramp and he comes back with a t-shirt gun. Cole: “The audience loves it”. The wooden way he said it makes it funnier. The fans are now cheering for free merchandise. Well, they thought drafting Matt Leinart was a good idea, so their tastes are skewed. Jericho then takes the camera and films the audience, Rock style. Jericho then plays a highlight package of Jericho highlights, serving as a timeline of his WWE run. We return to live action and Jericho is still shushing the crowd. Jericho then speaks: “This Sunday at the Royal Rumble…..it’s going to be the end of the world….as you know it.” And we hit the song as we fade to black.
Segment Rating: 8/10. I got a very ominous feeling from the final statement, and it did what it was supposed to do: make you want to see what happens next.
-Rumble stat package plays. They left out my favorite stat: “One. One man’s Rumble victory is never to mentioned again.”
-Zack Ryder has a meet and greet with Mick Foley, who gives him a vote of confidence against Kane. I wish Foley could give Eve Torres a charisma transfusion by bleeding on her. Cena arrives, and Ryder asks him to stay back.
Match 2: Zack Ryder vs. Kane (falls count anywhere)
When is WWEShop going to sell Kane’s welder mask? I want one to wear to work. Because nothing makes co-workers smile like making them think you’re into bondage AND welding. Ryder goes on the early attack, but Kane goes for the ribs. Ryder throats Kane on the top rope, but Kane sends him flying into the announce table. Kane continues to attack the ribcage. Ryder takes some slams into the ringpost, followed by a toss into the ringsteps. The assault continues, and Eve makes her way to ringside. Maybe she has something wooden Zack can use as a weapon. Like her acting. Anyway, we go to commercial. We return with….more of the same, Kane destroying Zack. Ryder kicks out after an extended onslaught, which goes some way into building him up as a tough underdog. Kane applies the asphyxiator, but lets go just to add more torture. Into the crowd, and Ryder goes headfirst into a production case. Eve tries to work up some tears as Ryder rallies with an equipment case to Kane. Kane strikes back and removes the rib tape. Onto the entrance stage, and Kane makes Ryder eat the pyramid logo (not literally….). Kane tries another pin, and Ryder refuses to die. “Let’s go Ryder / WOO WOO WOO” chant erupts as Ryder continues to try and fight back, but a throat thrust drops him. Kane chokeslams Ryder through the stage, which is usually enough to do it. Eve is now at “semi hysterical”. Kane then goes after Eve, who backs toward the ring. Then SuperCena appears at the entrance way, and Kane simply exits through the crowd. Meanwhile, Ryder is still down in the hole (ALICE IN CHAINS~!), and Cena emotes concern. Ryder gets gurneyed as we fade to black.
WINNER: No decision rendered
RATING: 8/10. Despite Eve’s lousy acting, it was an effective way (without supernatural powers) to remind everyone that Kane is a demented sadist. Ryder makes a good valiant victim, too.
-Back from break and Ryder is placed on the stretcher. That three minute break gave Eve enough time to do the onion-juice-to-the-eye trick. Dean Malenko’s out there. Because that’s what Dean wants to see: somebody motionless taken out on a stretcher. Eve blames Cena for all that’s gone wrong, thus proving that she hangs out on the DVDVR message board. Josh Mathews harasses Cena, who’s in no mood to talk. Cena emotes rage in front of the camera. Sort of.
Match 3: Jinder Mahal vs. Sheamus
Sheamus is awful upbeat for an atmosphere in which a fake guido may have plummeted to his death. Sheamus takes the early advantage as Wade Barrett makes his way out in a swank overcoat. Overcoats mean that you’re EVIL. Mahal uses the distraction to gain the edge, and lands the leaping knee for 2. Barrett joins the announce table and promises to throw Randy Orton down five flights of stairs. That’s ratings right there. Sheamus lands the steamroller, followed by the Brogue Kick for the win. Afterward, the UK lads have a verbal go at it, and Barrett backs down to play mind games. Sheamus tells Barrett that he will win the TWO TAU ZIND TWELL ROYEL RUMBELL MATCH. I concur.
WINNER: Sheamus via Brogue Kick
RATING: 4/10. Short and effective.
-Miz guarantees victory in the Royal Rumble match, and hits a bunch of antiquated catchphrases. This leads to crazy R-Truth masquerading as a market researcher, revealing that Miz is number one a bunch of negative categories. Laurinaitis and Otunga break up the ensuing screamfest, and Ace informs both men that the man who loses is #1 in the Rumble.
-REGAL IS HERE! Regal makes everything better, like extra cheese and vibrating beds.
Match 4: Brodus Clay vs. Heath Slater
Regal referring to Brodus as “Septic Trife” has given my new fantasy football team name for 2012. The usual Clay match ensues, ending with the Aw Funk It. Slater was made to be eaten alive by interesting talents.
WINNER: Brodus Clay via Aw Funk It
RATING: 3/10. My pleas to have Naomi work in booty shorts have gone unanswered yet again. We need to petition.
Having the Zack Ryder Memorial Hole on the stage roped off is hilarious. And by ‘Zack Ryder Memorial Hole’, I don’t mean Eve. This is like watching Michaels and Jannetty collide, except not. Fight spills outside and Truth lays Miz out with a clothesline. Back in, ground and pound develops, but Miz fights back with a slingshot suplex. That’s followed up by Miz chest-butting Truth, who takes a SICK bump to the floor, leading to commercial. Back from break, and Miz works an abdominal stretch. Gorilla Monsoon would be appalled at Miz’s application of the hold. Truth regains the upper hand, getting a sweet looking front cradle for 2. Hat Rack Crack also gets 2. Exchange of pins ensues, and Miz signals for the Skull Crushing Finale but fails. Moment of Truth is also blocked, and Miz gets the snap DDT for 2. Moment of Truth connects and gets the win out of nowhere.
WINNER: R-Truth via Moment of Truth (Miz is #1 in the Royal Rumble)
RATING: 6/10. Decent match, tempered only by a quiet crowd and abrupt ending.
-RYDER UPDATE: Zack has a broken back. Where’s Darrell Hammond to say “ZACKO ON HIS BACKO” in his Ted Koppel voice?
-Johnny Ace is WARMING UP in a modified judge’s robe. Otunga hands Ace a fax, and Johnny Boy is unhappy at the contents.
Main Event: CM Punk vs. John Laurinaitis (non title match)
Laurinaitis no-shows his introduction, but finally shows with his “FUTURE ENDEAVORED” shirt. Cole namedrops AJPW which gets my nod. Ace takes the mic and announces that the fax from the board of directors, as read by Otunga, questions his judgment in running the show. His status as Raw GM is now officially ‘under review’, and he will receive a job review next week on Raw, pending how he officiates the match on Sunday. Oh, and Triple H will be doing the evaluation. Punk, however is tired of talking, and says nothing is stopping him from knocking Ace’s teeth out. Ace offers an insincere apology to everyone, Punk especially, and Punk isn’t buying it. Ace tries to make up for his mistakes by putting Foley in the Rumble. Punk ignores Ace’s attempts at goodwill and hopes that HHH fires him. Ace officially backs out of tonight’s match, but Otunga takes over, sweater vest and all. Punk takes him down and gets the Vice, drawing the submission. No bell, since the match never began. Punk then eyes Ace, then stops to kick Otunga’s ass, and then goes back to staring down Laurinaitis. Ace wants a handshake, Punk pulls him in, and gives the boss the GTS to a thunderous pop. But Dolph Ziggler jumps in and gives Punk the Zig Zag.
WINNER: No Match
Rating: 8/10. Nice to see Ace get some comeuppance, as well as a nice monkey wrench thrown into the title match.
OVERALL: This show had a great Attitude Era feel to it. Rebel champ vs. evil boss? Check. Kane murdering someone? Check. Fun midcard action? Check. Anticipation for a PPV? Check. The show ranged from “hot and exciting” to “bizarrely compelling”. I’ll take that over some of the recent stagnancy.
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.