-RAW is live from Kansas City, the Starbucks to St. Louis’ Tim Horton’s.
Opening Segment: John Laurinaitis
Ace tagging hands with the fans with a forced smile is a laugh, as is Cole’s endorsement. So Ace is looking forward to his performance review tonight, and even sucks up to Triple H beforehand. Laurinaitis says he called it right down the middle at the Royal Rumble. He also talks about the “Elimination PPV”, in his words. CM Punk will defend the WWE Title against Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, R-Truth, and Chris Jericho. Looks like a hell of a line-up actually. Also, Beth Phoenix defends her Divas title against Eve Torres, Kofi Kingston faces The Miz, and Dolph Ziggler takes on Randy Orton. Oh, and Daniel Bryan faces CM Punk! This brings Punk out, who begins singing the Goodbye Song. KC should know the words after singing it to Todd Haley last month. Even Justin Roberts joins in, albeit at Punk’s urging. Punk said he’s here to see Ace one last time before the firing, and even invokes Edge’s “suck and blow” line for Ace. Ace wants to begin new with Punk, and Punk offers a GTS instead. Daniel Bryan makes his way out, who happily reminds us all that he’s still World Champion. I NEVER HAD ANY DOUBTS! Bryan says nobody cares about Punk and Ace’s spat, and instead wants to talk about beating two hosses to keep his title. “Punk vs. Bryan” is now trending. You’re damn right, it is. Bryan disses Punk, who “meekly” admits to being the Best Wrestler in the World. Bryan promotes his veganism (“I DON’T EVEN EAT MEAT!”). Punk asks what he DOES eat, and Bryan threatens to stick the pipe bomb up Punk’s ass. Punk offers a compromise: the best wrestling match in the world. I’m down. This brings Sheamus out, who proudly reminds us all that he won the Rumble, and thus gets to choose his opponent. Sheamus doesn’t choose his opponent yet, instead saying to Ace, “May Triple H kick yer arse so hard, you choke up yer lace covered undies”. Alrighty then.
Segment Rating: 7/10. No real heavyweight one-liners, but an enjoyable way to set the tone for the rest of the show. Until Cena/Kane/Ryder/Eve ruin it, of course.
-Just wanted to note that there’s hope for Chris Benoit yet, in regards to the Hall of Fame. If he comes back to life and reinvents himself as an over-the-top character that says silly things, and becomes an overall self-parody, to the point where his bizarre public persona outweighs the capital crimes that he committed, WWE will gladly induct him one day. Hey, it’s worked for Mike Tyson.
I do love the subtle touch of Orton staring down Barrett in the skybox on the way to the ring. Barrett promises a worse punishment for Orton on Friday. He’s going to make him watch Cena and Kane’s Rumble match on loop? Barrett says Orton jumped him in the Rumble when he was distracted by “seven other guys”. Pat Patterson had the same excuse when he lost the IC Title. Ziggler counters a corner charge with an elbow, and lands a dropkick to the back of the head as we hit the commercial. We return to Ziggler working a chinlock on Orton, who rams him in the corner to break. Ziggler manages 2 off of a boot to the face. Orton comes back with a wild flurry, but Dolph gets a dropkick to halt the onslaught. Ziggler gets 2 off of that. Ziggler lands a hangman’s neckbreaker, and then performs a few sit-ups to moisten Vickie’s loins. Speaking of loins, Dolph gets crotched up top, and Orton lands his dad’s superplex for 2. Snap powerslam by Orton, who begins to “vipe up”. Ziggler escapes the hanger DDT and gets a sleeperhold, which Orton counters with a throwoff. Orton gets a rollup for 2, and then Ziggler gets the fameasser for 2. What a match! Ziggler has the Zig Zag countered, and Orton clotheslines him over the top. Dolph takes a CRAZY bump into the ringside barrier. Orton finally gets the elevated DDT, then drops into the prowl. RKO gets the win in one HELL of a match as Wade Barrett observes.
WINNER: Randy Orton via RKO
Rating: 10/10. Just a tremendous match. If we could see what went on during commercial, it’d be easier to rate, but screw it. That’s as close to a **** match as you’ll see on TV these days. Great stuff from both men.
-For my thoughts on last night’s WWE Royal Rumble 2012 results, check out my “Good, Bad, Fugly” review (http://bit.ly/wnY6h7) where I raise the immortal question: how did Michael Cole not notice that Booker T had no pants on?
-Kane/Cena highlights, just to kill my buzz after that awesome match. The only upside is WWE’s using Kane’s ORIGINAL WWE Volume 3 music for the backdrop. Niiiice.
-Ace tries to make nice with everyone including Regal (“How’s your son?” “Daughters….conjoined twins….” “Ahh, right. Well, fifth grade’s a hard year.” “Keep em locked in the attic, actually…” “That’s good!”) in an amusing throwaway segment.
Match 2: Brodus Clay vs. Tyler Reks
Crowd’s a bit more receptive to Clay tonight, after having the unenviable task of trying to breathe life after the Cena/Kane debacle last night. The Naomi/Cameron booty smoosh makes it all worthwhile. Clay adds the Dusty Rhodes elbow to her repertoire. Cole’s better with his subtle commentary, as he and Lawler share some laughs. Reks makes Clay mad with his strikes, and gets a belly to belly for his troubles. What the Funk finishes.
WINNER: Brodus Clay via What the Funk
Rating: 3/10. Standard squash, as the search for a real angle for Clay continues.
-Bryan and Punk have a heart to heart, where Punk admits that the crowd prefers Bryan as an underdog. The two have an ideological discussion over veganism and straight-edge, and Punk punctuates by saying he’s the best wrestler in the world.
Match 3: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan (Champion vs. Champion, non title)
If they give this match 20 minutes, and ANYONE complains about ANYTHING, I will beat them with Grizzly Redwood’s ax handle. Code of Honor handshake to start. Early exchange leads to a Bryan dropkick, followed by a Romero special, modified with a double leg stomp. Punk has enough and fires back with a snap mare and spinal kick for 2. Punk works a couple of knees into the back, slams Bryan down, but misses the legdrop. Bryan responds with a stiff kick to the face, following by a knee dig into his face. Punk continues with the stomps and works an armlock. European uppercuts follow, but Punk avoids a high kick, and backdrops Bryan out. Punk lands an axe handle to the floor. Things get rough outside the ring and Punk goes over the railing on a whip. Back inside, Bryan works some more kicks and another headlock. Punk escapes with a backdrop suplex, followed by the slingshot clothesline for 2. Backbreaker to follow up on Bryan, also gets 2. Knife edge chops follow, but Bryan whips Punk across. Bryan ends up missing a vertical senton and Punk gets 2. Both men collide and are down as we hit the commercial. Back to action and Bryan works a high arm-wrench. Replay shows Bryan dropkicked the bicep hard during the break. Bryan gets a complicated standing armbar into a pinning combo for 2, drawing oohs from the crowd. Punk crotches Bryan up top and continues with the strikes. “BEST IN THE WORLD” yells Punk as he lands a hurrachanrana off the top. I am LOVING this! Punk hammers away, hits a back kick, followed by a leg lariat. Neckbreaker follows up as Punk sells the arm injury. Corner knee connects, followed by a bulldog (with the good arm). Punk tries the GTS, but Bryan ends up escaping. Punk gets a baseball slide, but Bryan lands a forearm smash on the dive attempt afterward. Super missle dropkick lands on Punk for 2. Bryan kicks away at Punk, but misses a roundhouse, and Punk rolls him up for 2. Bryan gets a rana, but Punk rolls him over for 2. Bryan lands a hard roundhouse for a VERY close 2. Orton/Ziggler had the best Raw match for all of 30 minutes. Bryan sets Punk up top and tries for a superplex, but Punk headbutts him off. Punk lands the Savage Elbow for 2, and the crowd is HANGING ON EVERY MOVE. Bryan gets a crucifix out of the GTS for 2, then tries for the Lebell Lock. Punk escapes and slingshots Bryan into the post. High kick knocks Bryan to the apron, but Jericho hits the ring and takes both men out for the DQ! Into the rail for Bryan! Codebreaker for Punk! Bryan gets the win because he was attacked first.
WINNER: Daniel Bryan via DQ
Rating: 10/10. Wow, something in the water tonight! If Orton/Ziggler was ****, call this ****1/2 before that criminal ending. Just nonstop wrestling, followed by an intriguing ending.
-Mike Tyson is the celebrity inductee. Yeah yeah, whatever. You’re not killing my buzz after Punk/Bryan. Nope.
Match 4: Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz
R-Truth is on commentary. Hopefully if WWE gives Kofi a push based on his insane handstand at the Rumble, he doesn’t blow it like John Morrison did a year ago. Play the game and be smart, Kofi. You’ve earned that push. Miz is angry about Kofi’s handstand getting so much attention. Miz says he deserves more attention for his duration last night. Miz begins with a waistlock, which Kofi switches into a headlock. Aggressive crossface punches from Miz, followed by a running boot to the head for 2. R-Truth brings back “he kicked my dog / I kicked his cat” for us 9 TNA fans that remember. Kofi manages to get a cradle for 2. Miz gets the corner clothesline, followed by an axe handle for 2, then applies a cravat. Kofi gets a crucifix sunset pin for 2. Miz takes a moment to grandstand, and Kofi gets the pendulum kick in the corner, followed by the super high cross body for 2. Kofi can’t get the SOS, and then avoids the Skull Crushing Finale. Trouble in Paradise hits and Kofi wins clean. Push is on; don’t blow it, Kofi!
WINNER: Kofi Kingston via Trouble in Paradise
Rating: 5/10. Short, albeit very solid match. It’s like WWE’s seeing who wants the bigger matches at WrestleMania.
-Ace is texting backstage, and runs into Otunga, whom he accuses of wanting his job. Seems that paranoia is getting to Laurinaitis.
-Time wasting Rock video from last night plays. I like The Rock, but I didn’t like this video when I had to pay to watch it. Eh, show was in such a good groove too.
-WWE promotes their new web series, in which Daniel Bryan admits he wants to marry Meg Ryan. Hopefully, before 2003.
Match 5: Beth Phoenix vs. Eve Torres (WWE Divas)
Eve emotes “fear”. Not her most embarrassing acting work, I’ll concede. Eve goes berserk on Beth in an attempt to channel her rage, but Beth levels her with a clothesline. Glam Slam finishes immediately after to earn her paycheck. A quick Divas match, I’m stunned!
WINNER: Beth Phoenix via Glam Slam
Rating: 2/10 At least there was a point to it being quick, with Eve’s mind not being into it.
-Afterward, Kane taunts Eve on the titantron, and says he will continue to destroy Zack Ryder until Cena “embraces the hate”, and is going to use Eve to “get his message across”. Eve stands in the ring like a moron, but Kane magically appears behind her. Cena makes his first appearance at 10:49 EST and hits the ring and the two engage in a slugfest. Cena gets the upper hand at ringside, but Kane takes over. On the ramp both men brawl, and back to ringside where Kane goes hard into the ringsteps. Kane takes the steps a few more times, and then Cena blasts Kane in the shoulder with them. And again. “EVERY TIME YOU GET UP, I’LL KNOCK YOU DOWN!” And boom, there’s another shot. Cena clears off the commentary desk. Cena blasts him with the mic, laughs manically, and tries for the AA through the table, but Kane escapes and exits through the crowd.
Segment Rating: 6/10. That did more for their feud than the crowd I spent $45 on last night. Well, okay, we split the bill four ways, but the point is there.
Crowd boos Laurinaitis, but they’d kill to have his nephew on the Chiefs. I would for my Eagles too. Fans sing Goodbye (off key), as Ace emotes “concern”. Ace tries to take up for his own cause. “Raw ratings have been up versus a year ago”. What the hell were the ratings a year ago, Impact levels?!?! Anyway, Ace fellates himself on the self-evaluation, and this brings Mr. McHelmsley out. Hunter shakes Ace’s hand, and milks the crowd a bit. Hunter kinda laughs at the fact that Ace gave himself some high marks on the self-evaluation. Hunter points out that Ace stabbed him in the back to take the job. Then Hunter gives him the business, pointing out what Punk has been saying for months (Ace is a lousy executive, failure as a wrestler, etc). Hunter then states that Ace interjects himself into a lot of things to soothe his ego (and Hunter doesn’t?). Then Hunter admits that he and Vince let personal business cloud their judgment, and had to be replaced, just as Ace is doing now. Ace says he’ll do anything to keep his job, and Hunter sees the opening. First, it’s an apology, which the crowd isn’t buying. Some serious heel heat for Johnny Boy here. Hunter appeals to the crowd, and it’s a resounding no. Then Hunter offers Ace a chance to be a wrestler, provided the locker room all gets to kick the crap out of him. But he balks, and has a better idea: the Kiss My Ass Club. Well, that’s not PG at all. Ace applies the Burt’s Bees, drops to his knees, closes his eyes, puckers up and….Hunter just laughs at him. At least there’s no man-ass to be seen. Then Ace gets Future Endeav—or NOT.
The classic “Graveyard Symphony” kicks up, and….IT’S THE UNDERTAKER! Hunter stares menacingly from the ring as The Dead Man slowly walks his way down. We get the in-ring staredown, with Ace nowhere to be seen. Undertaker circles HHH as the music steps before they settle into a frozen stare. Then Undertaker stares at the WrestleMania banner, implying silently what we all know is coming. Then Taker slashes the throat to drive the point home. Then Hunter pats Undertaker on the shoulder and walks away, as if to apparently say no. HHH leaves, as Undertaker is left staring at the banner. Undertaker’s music kicks back up as we go to black.
Segment Rating: 8/10. Funny first half of Ace begging for his job, dramatic close with the HHH/Taker saga.
OVERALL: Yeah, that was the greatest Raw since last Summer, if not since….I don’t even know. Two awesome matches, a killer closing segment, and a minimum of BS. A tremendous first step on the road to WrestleMania.
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.