Now that’s a clever title. This week’s RAW had a lot to live up to coming off a memorable Survivor Series PPV, and especially given that the RAW’s after great big events are often Deer-in-the-headlights affairs. Luckily, this RAW wasn’t like that, and gave us a lot to be happy about, even if it went out on an odd note.
I should also note that you wont find any mention of the pair of very interesting vignettes that played on the show because I wrote a whole other post (and poll) regarding them. Go here to find it: https://rtvwrestling.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/who-will-return-to-raw-on-january-2nd-2012/
CM Punk Gave a State of the WWE Championship Promo
Punk promised us a lot going in to Survivor Series about making the WWE Championship interesting again, and, thankfully, this wasn’t just electioneering. This promo was all about how and why Punk wanted to be an ‘Agent of Change’, and while it wasn’t quite as bold and electrifying as ‘the shoot heard around the world’ (partly because the Hershey crowd kinda sucked), but there was some very reassuring marks hit by The Voice of the Voiceless. He announced himself as a new face for the company, and one that will change priorities for the better. This traversed the line between reality and kayfabe while clearly being Punk’s actual voice – which is Punk at his best. He explained his desire for ‘pro-wrestling’ because pro-wrestling has an emotional connection that ‘sports-entertainment’ perhaps lacks. Now i’ve always said that the term ‘sports entertainment’ is actually a great label for pro-wrestling, but in this case, with the childhood story, it made metaphorical sense in regards to the approach to wrestling. He then went on to promise stability in this new era by also addressing a very real concern in recent wrestling and promising to end the times of playing ‘hot potato’ with the championship because he’s the Best in the World and will keep it for a very long time himself, which is exactly what should happen. Even when Johnny Ace came out to belittle Punk’s attempts at reclaiming his Cult of Personality, he kept up his ‘Agent of Change’/’Voice of the Voiceless’ persona, interrupting a bugbear of my own from Ace, telling him that the people he claims to represent as GM aren’t a Universe, but fans, and that ‘WWE Universe’ is just a corporate buzzword – clearly not a line fed to him, before the best bit of the whole thing probably – Punk literally being the voice of the voiceless! Responding to being booked against Ziggler, Punk lifted up the mic to the chants of ‘We Want Ryder!’ and suggested Funkhauser ‘do something creative’ and give Ryder his deserved title shot against Ziggler. Yes, it was a manipulation of the crowd, but it was based on their sincere wishes, and came across so naturally as Punk being what he is – in tune with the audience – that it didn’t seem at all manipulative. The segment ended with a bit of a flat return to straight-up wrestling storylines when he threatened that, sooner or later, someone would get to Johnny Ace. This set him up as a fighter of the bland, middle-management status-quo, but not in a particularly striking way. Still, did the job. One extra note – CM Punk is amazing on the mic. Saying this is not an edgy piece of comment, but I say it as part of a crap anecdote: I was so compelled by Punk in this segment that I completely forgot to tweet during the segment. This is only slightly important context for the next part …
Alberto Del Rio def. Zack Ryder
I preface all this with the I couldn’t tweet anecdote. Because of that, my duty as a live-tweeter meant I had to catch up, and consequently, I missed a lot of this opening match. This was also because it was quite a short match, but, despite what a lot of people say, I don’t think this was a burial. For one thing, I saw ZACK RYDER get some of his signature offense and nearly his finisher on ALBERTO DEL RIO, but more importantly, him just being in the ring with the Mexican Aristocrat shows how far he’s come. I mean seriously, he shouldn’t be beating Del Rio, at least not yet! Coming off his loss at Survivor Series, he needed a bit of instant statement, and this was it with a dominant win over Ryder, showing off the pain inflicted by his Cross-armbreaker. Indeed, the angry Del Rio is perhaps a little more compelling than the smug champion, just because it gives him more opportunities to utilise his epic facial expressions.
Sheamus def. Jack Swagger
This was the first in quite a long line of very high quality matches on the show. It was a pretty simple story for the most part, with Sheamus’s deliberate but explosive brawler style against the more scientific approach of Swagger, but what made this match really work was the fact that, despite the fact that Sheamus was obviously going to win, it seemed like Swagger might actually have a chance – a sentiment which only makes sense in retrospect, I know. The end of the match quickened in pace. Sheamus going up for his top rope shoulder block, was avoided by Swagger, but instead of crashing and burning, Sheamus displayed grace beyond his size by rolling through and attempting a Brogue Kick without missing a beat. The sequence wasn’t eneded there as Swagger ducked this and locked in an Ankle Lock that Sheamus sold quite well too. After some struggling, he managed to kick Swagger away before hitting a Brogue Kick, finally, for the win. One small but obvious criticism is that a Brogue Kick would be harder with a freshly Ankle-locked ankle, but i’ll give him the adrenaline benefit-of-the-doubt. Otherwise, a nice match, which made both guys look good. The match was a response to Sheamus assaulting Swagger the night before, and I must say this didn’t do too much to build on that tension, but it was a good match to start them off with. I’d like next to see Swagger give Sheamus a good old-fashioned retaliatory beat down to progress things.
Kevin Nash Cuts That Promo He Does About HHH Every Week
This week, Nash remembered the curtain call, and how he and HHH weren’t friends like they were then now. And then made some very vague threats. Seriously, this achieved nothing! End this now. Get HHH back to beat him in a street fight and end it.
Cody Rhodes def. Santino Marella; Cody Rhodes Threw Water On Booker T
Rhodes was awesome with the mask, and now he’s awesome without it. He cut a great promo before the match, still incorporating aspects of his grotesque, twitching, masked character, but not being overwhelmed by it, about how the mask had made him ashamed and how that made him vulnerable, but now, without it, he’s unbeatable. It’s a simple but logical (at least in the framing of the narrative) and made Rhodes seem like a star, and genuinely unbeatable. He then looked even more unbeatable after pretty much squashing Santino. Santino, going for his Cobra, was caught ‘with the greatest of ease’ by Rhodes and sent for a CrossRhodes. After winning, Rhodes just shrugged it off, like beating Santino was no big deal, which, lets face it, it isn’t. Nonetheless, the squash backed up the promo perfectly. The build of this star is becoming meteoric. This will only be helped, you would hope, by his interactions with Booker T. Rhodes, who told Booker he watches the show (something more wrestlers should do!) told Booker he has heard what he’s said about him. Booker, selling Rhodes as a threat, seemed unwilling to get physically involved with the Intercontinental Champion, and so Rhodes embarrassed him by throwing water over Booker before strutting off. It’s kind of pathetic, but that’s better than a physical altercation – like Rhodes can’t deign to strike Booker, and would rather just humiliate him, because he knows he wont fight back. This makes Rhodes look great, and hopefully so will the match(es) that take place between the two going forward. I actually am looking forward to it/them as Booker (as we saw at the Royal Rumble) has ‘still go it’ and in my mind will gel really well with Rhodes.
CM Punk def. Dolph Ziggler
For the second night in a row, CM Punk was part of a bonafide Match of the Year candidate. Pretty impressive! Before the match, Ziggler got to cut a nice promo about being the real future of the company as he did what neither Cena or Rock, or even Punk could do – win two matches (technically). Saying this stuff with so much confidence, as Ziggler does, makes us believe in what he is saying, and makes him come across as a star. The match itself started off slowly, with some slower, chain wrestling. But these two are both more creative than that. In the middle of one of their sequences, there was a face-off where each tried to gain the advantage, before Ziggler blinked and went for a take-down, only for Punk to leap-frog it, which caused an embarrassed Ziggler to bail the ring for a cocky timeout. For the rest of the first half of the match, Ziggler was in control, some cool Punk flurries aside, often putting down any revolts of offense with Punk with some trademark explosive offense, such as the clothesline he used. Once Punk did get control back, with an explosive clotheline of his own, Vickie Guerrero, who had been covering her ears to all the ‘CM Punk’ and ‘Best in the World’ chants, came to try and distract Punk as a femme fetale. This, obviously, didn’t work and Punk went back on the offense. However, in a sick bump, after whipping Ziggler to the corner, he went for his running knee and missed, spilling awkwardly to the floor. This was met with, of all things, a HEADSTAND from Ziggler, showing off his arrogance, and his love of heat that is central to his actual character. At this point we hit commercial, and after that, the match’s pace really picked up and the match went from being good to spectacular. Out of headlocks from Ziggler, Punk retaliates with a leg lariat, a lariat, and sweet spinning neckbreaker in quick succession for a nice near-fall. After this, Punk went for the GTS for the first (of many) times in the match, only for Ziggler to shift his weight for an awesome reversal in to a Sleeper. After this, Ziggler went for the rope-assisted pin, and because he did, it made for a convincing, dramatic near-fall, and was met by a similar pin attempt from Punk (following the turnabout being fair play rule). There soon after followed a fantastic, fantastic sequence as Ziggler ducked Punk’s roundhouse, before going for the Zig Zag, which Punk avoided by holding the ropes (and made to look even better by Ziggler selling the hell out of the backward momentum of the move by flying to the corner, before Punk finally hit his running knee followed by the running bulldog for a good near-fall. Trying to capitalise, Punk looked to go for the Randy Savage elbow,but instead of Ziggler playing possum, he did something much better; he rolled away, killing Punk’s momentum and drawing him in to a vicious and beautiful dropkick for another great near-fall. The crowd in Hershey, as I say, kinda sucked on Monday, but they were alive now for this match! After hitting the Randy Savage elbow eventually, Punk signaled again for the GTS, but again Ziggler countered, this time in to a sweet reverse T-Bone suplex for another nice near-fall. A frustrated Ziggler looked for the Fame-Asser, but this is where the champ finally managed to nail Ziggler, reversing it in to a slightly awkward powerbomb before getting him straight in to GTS position. I loved this because Punk had been having trouble hitting that move all match, and so instead of going for the pin off the powerbomb, saw his chance to finally hit his finisher, which shows a lot of respect to Ziggler. Punk indeed managed to hit the GTS for the win in a great match, with a nice ending. Punk’s matches aren’t always flawless, but that is often his strength. Of course, most of what he does is pitch-perfect, but if something is a little awkward, it makes it seem a lot more realistic than some of the more soul-crushing, shiny Cena victories. In a match like this, both men look great. Punk doesn’t look weak for having taken a lot of offense because it shows how resilient he is and shows he can wrestle his way out of any predicament, while Ziggler got to take it to the WWE Champion. After the match, Booker T said this could be a main event in any city, and I have to agree. Ziggler has it all, and we know that Punk is the ‘Best in the World’ – these two are part of the future of the company.
Big Show Cut a Promo On Mark Henry
My reaction when I saw Big Show hit the stage with a mic in his hand was, frankly, a disappointed sigh. Show just can’t cut it anymore – a promo that is. To be fair, this one wasn’t that bad. He had provocative source material to work with given the way he didn’t win the title the night before. The good bit was when he reiterated that Henry hadn’t walked out of Survivor Series, as per his promise. Other than that though, it was another flat performance from Show, and the real purpose of it seemed to be to pull back from having Mark Henry with a broken leg, as Show said Henry ‘may’ have a broken leg. At least it reminded us of the two big guys when they couldn’t really appear on the show.
Wade Barrett def. Kofi Kingston
Before the match, Barrett cut a nice, but not mind-blowing promo about the momentum behind the Barrett Barrage and how he wanted the World Heavyweight Championship next. It is right that he says that, even if logistics mean he may not be able to hold that title for some time. It just makes a point that this ‘barrage’ actually has a point to it. This was another really good match, but it had a little bit of strange booking that I wasn’t sure about. In the early going, Barrett seemed to have everything in hand. Despite having to fend off a nice reversal of a side slam in to a roll-up, he regained control and looked to be about to send Kofi to WasteLand. At that moment though, Randy Orton’s music hit and created a distraction. This is what I didn’t quite understand. Barrett hasn’t really done anything to him. WrestleLogic would say this is acceptable behaviour for a heel or a babyface who had been the victim of the same move (Golden Rule people!). However, this move wasn’t in tune with an otherwise timid Orton, which ultimately did a great job of showing that Barrett had gotten to The Viper, and by extension, that he was on the same level as Orton. After this, Kofi seemed a lot more like a legitimate threat, troubling Barrett in a more back-and-forth affair, even if Barrett was still, for the most part in control, and directing all his moves, at Orton (funnily enough, something a babyface will often do to a crestfallen heel). Perhaps the story was that this effort distracted Barrett, who fell victim to a Suicide Dive from Kofi, followed by a frog splash back in the ring. Barrett avoided the Boom Drop though, and after a series of move and counter move, got Kofi on his shoulders. Before he hit Wasteland though, he turned to Orton, again staring at him before hitting the Wasteland for the win. What was great about this was not only did Barrett ooze confidence, but Orton seemed genuinely quite stirred for a while, standing up and leaving, before Orton would announce ‘In case you missed that; the winner of this match, Wade Barrett’. Orton didn’t seem to have any response to this, until he gestured to attack Barrett before smirking at the Englishman as he braced himself. At the very least, Orton seemed to have a wry respect for Barrett, and perhaps suggested a fear for his abilities which is rare in him. A great way to get Barrett over, even if it broke the match up strangely. Good showing too for Kofi, but of course, he was the side-show.
Cena Cut a Promo About The Rock and Survivor Series, Before Sowing the Seeds for the Breakup of The Awesome Truth
Cena’s in a very unfamiliar place now. He’s always a humble guy (often intentionally too humble to garner a reaction), but in the ring, and when it comes to physicality, he’s not that humble. He just beats everyone, for the most part. But at Survivor Series, Cena was humbled by The Rock, and that has changed something about Cena. His current persona is fascinating: he’s being intentionally showy in his humility to make it seem like he doesn’t care that The Rock is knocking him out of the parkl, like he simply isn’t trying or something – apart from it’s so transparent that he’s shaken he could be wearing a bright yellow T-Shirt saying ‘I’VE GIVEN UP’ on it. At Survivor Series, he almost played along to Rock’s bullying, and on RAW, he decided to say how good The Rock is and how well they worked together etc. It’s like he’s saying, hey, whatever happens at WrestleMania, it’s because the Rock’s so awesome and I can’t help that.’ But, of course, this air of no confidence is intentional, and its a nuance to Cena’s character which has made him eminently more watchable. At this point, Miz and R-Truth came down to berate Cena by reiterating how Cena was humiliated by Rock the night before. But, as in nature where the trodden upon dog picks on the cat, who picks on the mouse, Cena didn’t offer a defense, he just mocked Miz and Truth, as if to reinstate himself as important. The good thing about this is that it’s building to something. This obviously isn’t about taking stick from Cena, it’s about the storyline, and where it’s headed seems to be Cena snapping and beating down The Rock at some point to prove how much of his equal he is (and all that), possibly accompanied by a heel turn – they may have to, Cena will get booed out of Miami anyway, but as a face, he can’t really lose. When this twist happens though, it’s sure to be memorable, especially given how strong Rock has been booked thus far. Then something strange and unexpected. Out of nowhere, Cena produced the completely unsubstantiated claims that Miz and Truth didn’t respect each other, that Truth thought Miz was pompous etc and Miz thought Truth was riding his coat-tails etc. And then, Truth instantly believed it (well, I guess he is kinda crazy) Miz, in fact, told Truth that he was crazy and stupid for believeing Cena, who was just trying to split them, but these accusations made Truth feel Cena’s claims were substantiated, and this led to a brawl before Miz begged Truth to understand Cena had set them up and to go after Cena. This, Truth seemed to take in, but walking ahead of Miz up the ramp, he was left susceptible to the Skull Crushing Finalé to complete the split. The next day it was revealed that Truth has been suspended for a Wellness violation – explaining his being written off TV, and so, despite the fact that it necessitated some shady reasoning with Cena just piping up that the two didn’t really like each other, it made sense and rid us of a good pairing that unfortunately had no kick to it any more. Miz will go on to the title picture, but what of Truth – will he turn face now? If he does, he can’t be ‘Wassup’ R-Truth, that’s for sure. I’m not sure of the logistics of it, but I think Truth should stay heel in some tweak of the entertaining character he’s developed.
The ending, perhaps because of it’s sudden-ness and the fact that The Awesome Truth’s credibility has suffered of late, seemed a little flat as something hapenning to them doesn’t seem as important as something happening to Cena or Punk, for example. It also seemed kinda flat because of Cena’s (more necessary) being so no-angry and non-violent. After all, the closing segment was billed as ‘CENA RESPONDS TO THE ROCK BOTTOM HE GOT’ and ultimately, it wasn’t really about him. I think Punk’s win should have closed the show. It wouldn’t have been as significant storyline-wise, but it was a stonger ‘moment’ arguably than what we got, especially with him as champion.