Live from Tampa, Florida this is the Raw Deal for episode #1024. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. I wrote this column live on Monday night.
Guy Voiceover guided us through what we have to look forward to during Raw tonight. They hyped up the return of The Rock as well as the CM Punk vs. Ryback match for the WWE Title match under TLC rules.
Raw begins with John Cena entering the ring. They showed a replay at the end of last week's Raw when Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee got feces dumped on them. Cena said it was a craptastic end to 2012. Good choice of words. Cena mentioned it was a special night because of the CM Punk vs. Ryback TLC match for the WWE Title. He also talked about electricity by bringing up that The Rock is there to put boots to asses. When his wrestling career is over Cena has a career as a hype man at major events. Cena said the man that wins the Royal Rumble gets to main event WrestleMania. He didn't mention that in the last two years the winner got to wrestle first at WrestleMania, but that's why I'm here.
Dolph Ziggler, AJ Lee & Big E Langston showed up to talk to Cena. They stood at the top of the ramp. Ziggler looks more orange than normal. Maybe it's the tint on television. AJ referred to Dolph as "Ziggy" during her promo against Cena. AJ couldn't believe she chose her job over somebody like Cena - she means the GM job. AJ said John was a petty and small man. Cena said AJ just made her first sixth grade wiener joke. The crowd barely responded, but then Cena told them to do a wave. The crowd didn't do a great job of it. It did get better, though. Cena said the wiener joke rules means he has to do one too. Ziggler cut him off, said "cut the crap" and Cena mentioned the crap that was dumped on him last week. Ziggler said he would be in the Royal Rumble with his primary goal of not letting Cena. Cena said he didn't mind the competition, talked about dumping poop on them, said AJ was crazy and made more sexual jokes by saying maybe has rubbed off on Ziggler and Langston.
Finally, we heard from Langston. He grabbed the microphone from AJ saying he had the microphone. Yeah dude we can see that. Langston said "it's on." Ziggler wondered why Langston said that while AJ said it wasn't his place to talk. After they got done arguing, they walked down to the ring. A graphic said "next" so whatever this was would take place after a break.
Analysis: I think Cena liked the "wiener joke" thing more than the fans because they barely reacted to it while Cena overreacted to it. That's WWE humor though. They love that kind of stuff and assume everybody else does. Ziggler did a good job of telling Cena that even though he beat him he's not going away and he's going to make it tough for him to win the Royal Rumble. It was awkward hearing Langston talk. Weird spot for a commercial break.
Back from break, Cena and Ziggler were in the ring for a match.
John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler
Cena had control early with an armdrag takedown. When Ziggler took control he did some sit-ups because that's just what he does. Cena came back with a vertical suplex on Ziggler, but then Ziggler hit a Stinger Splash (I'll always call it that) in the corner. Ziggler got an elbow to the face of Cena and then Langston jumped on the apron to punch Cena. Ziggler had the ref distracted. Ziggler got a two count as they went to break.
Analysis: A commercial break without somebody going to the floor. Raw is unpredictable tonight. Now THAT is sarcasm.
I forgot to mention this, but Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler are on commentary as usual.
As we returned from break, Ziggler had a chinlock. Cena fought out and hit a belly to belly to suplex because his New Year's Resolution was to learn a new move. AJ Lee jumped on the apron, so Ziggler hit the best dropkick in the business to the face for two. Ziggler hit seven elbow drops to Cena for another two count. AJ jumped on the apron to slap Cena. Ref Scott Armstrong sent AJ and Big E to the back due to their interference. Cena made his comeback with the shoulder tackles and spinning suplex. Ziggler came back with a Rocker Dropper for two. Ziggler missed a corner splash, so Cena hit a back suplex again and then the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Ziggler countered the Attitude Adjustment and he hit the Zig Zag for two. First match of the year and they're kicking out of finishers. Ziggler went for the Superkick, but Cena ducked it and then Ziggler hit a jumping DDT for two. Ziggler went to the top rope, Cena caught him off the cross body, rolled through and went for an Attitude Adjustment. Ziggler landed on his feet and hit a Superkick for just two. Wow great nearfall there. They went into the dueling punches sequence and Ziggler applied a sleeper hold. Cena shoved Ziggler off of him and Ziggler bumped into the ref Scott Armstrong, who fell to the floor. Cena applied the STF on Ziggler. Big E Langston came running out. He dropped Cena with his finishing move. He put Ziggler on top. Another ref ran down, counted the pinfall and Cena got his shoulder up. Cena lost a shoe during all of this. Then he hit the Attitude Adjustment to cover Ziggler for the win after 16 minutes.
Winner: John Cena
Analysis: ***1/2 That was a very good match to kick off the first Raw of the year. I can get used to 15+ minute matches to start the show on a regular basis. There were a lot of nearfalls there. Ziggler came close to winning so many times. Cena took everything Ziggler could give him and he was able to kick out every time. I'm sure the Cena haters didn't like that aspect of the match, but I thought it added to the drama. Basically this was a way to give Cena his win back after losing to Ziggler at TLC.
The announcers hyped Punk vs. Ryback and The Rock later on Raw.
The Divas Champion Eve made her entrance. The show went to break.
Kaitlyn made her entrance for this Divas Title match.
Divas Championship: Eve vs. Kaitlyn
The announcers bragged about #RockonRaw was already trending. They posted some tweets at the bottom of the screen that showed some fans talking about Rock being on Raw later. The women exchanged holds early on as they looked to be working a slower pace than then their usual two minute match. Kaitlyn's boot was untied, so they made her tie it and that led to Eve kicking her in the head. Eve controlled the action with submission holds that focused on Kaitlyn's neck. The crowd didn't seem interested in this match as Kaitlyn hit a side slam for two. Kaitlyn hit a shoulderblock and then a reverse DDT for a two count. Kaitlyn couldn't hit her Gutbuster as Eve bailed to the floor a few times. Eve took her title and walked out through the crowd. The match ended like that after four minutes. Kaitlyn won via countout.
Winner via countout: Kaitlyn (Eve is still Divas Champion)
Post match, Kaitlyn was mad about not winning the championship. Kaitlyn's music played and then Eve's music started to play. So they reward being a coward by playing the music of the loser.
Analysis: * Match was just okay. The crowd woke up a bit for Kaitlyn's comeback, but they weren't into the early part of the action. The finish will obviously lead to a rematch at the Royal Rumble where it could be a No DQ match or some other stipulation to prevent Eve simply walking away from the match. This four month feud must continue, apparently.
Next up is Team Hell No vs. Team Rhodes Scholars.
Backstage, Santino was talking to Ricky Steamboat. He told him how much he loved the Steamboat/Savage match at WrestleMania 3. Wade Barrett walked up to them saying now that he's the IC Champion the title means something again. Barrett told Steamboat he wasn't a fire breathing dragon. He was just blowing smoke. Steamboat told Santino he had an idea.
In the interview area, Matt Striker interviewed Randy Orton. Orton said he's a former Rumble winner and was going to win this year. 3MB said they were in the Royal Rumble match. Orton wondered what one of them he would be facing on Raw. Slater said he was the front man while the other two were guitarists. Orton told the front man Slater that after tonight he wouldn't be playing the air guitar - he would be playing the harp. Then he left.
Analysis: Not a great line to end that promo. Fell flat.
Kane entered the ring for his match. Michael Cole mentioned that WWE Hall of Fame tickets were on sale Saturday at 10am. Daniel Bryan made his entrance yelling "no" at the fans even though he's pretty much a babyface these days. Great reaction like usual with the fans yelling "yes" at him. The tag match is after the break.
This is a non-title tag match as Team Rhodes Scholars were in the ring.
Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow)
Nice "Daniel Bryan" chants once DB got in there. I like this crowd. There were a lot of quick exchanges early on. Bryan hit a series of kicks to the chest of Rhodes and then hit a lovely bridging suplex for two. Bryan missed an attack, so Rhodes kicked him the ribs. That led to the heels working on Bryan as we reach the top of hour one. Rhodes told Bryan he had a goat face and then he punched him in the face. That was great. Sandow hit his side Russian Legsweep and then his Elbow of Disdain on Bryan. Bryan escaped a chin lock and tagged in Kane, who hit his top rope clothesline on Sandow followed by a boot to the face for two. Kane hit his sidewalk slam for two. Kane wanted to hit the Chokeslam, so Sandow went to the floor. Bryan got the tag and he hit a running knee off the apron that connected on Sandow on the floor. Bryan went to the top rope, did a back flip and grabbed his right knee. Sandow immediately went after the knee and he brought Rhodes in. Kane decked Sandow outside the ring. Rhodes gave Kane a dropkick to knock him down outside the ring. Bryan got an inside cradle on Rhodes. Rhodes came back by kicking Bryan in the knee and then he hit the Cross Rhodes for the victory after eight minutes.
Winners: Team Rhodes Scholars
Analysis: ** Champions losing a non-title match is common booking. Bryan's knee injury was obviously part of the match and it led to the finishing sequence with the heels taking advantage of the wounded goat face. I assume this will lead to a tag title match at the Royal Rumble. They've had several tag title matches already with the champs retaining, but I'm not sure if they will move the titles onto Team Rhodes Scholars at the Rumble. We'll see what happens when we get that match whether it's at the Rumble or somewhere else.
We were reminded about The Rock appearing later and got a rematch of the end of the Cena/Ziggler match. Also later is CM Punk vs. Ryback in a TLC match for the WWE Title.
Randy Orton was shown walking backstage for his match against Heath Slater.
Back from break, 3MB were in the ring playing air guitar. Randy Orton made his entrance.
Randy Orton vs. Heath Slater (w/Drew McIntyre & Jinder Mahal)
Orton was in control early on, then he got knocked to the floor and gave Mahal a clothesline while kicking at McIntyre. That led to Slater giving Orton a dropkick that sent him out of the ring. Orton got rolled back in where he kicked out of a two count. Orton hit a headbutt on Orton followed by a neckbreaker for two as Cole got excited saying this would be a huge upset. Slater got crotched on the top rope, so Orton brought him down with a top rope superplex. Orton started to "go to that place" as the announcers say and he hit his powerslam. Orton knocked the other 3MB guys off the apron and then hit his DDT off the ropes. Cole said "out of nowhere" as Orton hit the RKO while he was right in front of Slater. That ended the match after five minutes.
Winner: Randy Orton
After the match, 3MB guys went into the ring so Orton hit a RKO on Mahal and then one on McIntyre as well. Orton posed as they went to commercial.
Analysis: *1/4 It was a squash match to put over Orton as a favorite in the Royal Rumble match. There was nothing wrong with that. Orton hasn't had that many matches on Raw of late due to injury, so it's a good way of keeping him out there so the audience doesn't forget about him. I'd expect the heel turn to happen within a month or two, by the way.
Santino Marella made his entrance with Ricky Steamboat in his corner. Wade Barrett was already in the ring.
Wade Barrett vs. Santino w/Ricky Steamboat
This is non-title. Barrett gave Santino a kick to the face as Steamboat encouraged Santino from ringside. Suplex from Barrett got two. Santino countered a pumphandle slam and he hit a side kick to the face. Hip toss by Santino followed by his falling headbutt. Santino took out the Cobra, but Barrett ducked it. He dropped Santino throat first along the top rope. Barrett hit the Bull Hammer elbow to win the match after three minutes.
Winner: Wade Barrett
Post match, Steamboat checked on Barrett. Barrett looked like he was going to hit him with the elbow, but Steamboat got to his feet, took off his jacket and Barrett walked away laughing.
Analysis: * A decisive win for Barrett, which is what you would expect in a match like this. I don't think anybody thought Santino had a chance here. He continues to be used as a jobber for the heels on the roster. As for the Steamboat usage, it's possible they could call up Richie Steamboat (Ricky's son) from NXT as a challenger of Barrett. Or this is just a one time thing. We'll see.
Backstage, Matt Striker was talking to Sheamus about the Royal Rumble. 3MB walked up to Sheamus. Sheamus encouraged them to start singing and then Sheamus started to sing "Danny Boy." He left.
Analysis: Another weird comedy segment by Sheamus. Weird way to set up a match.
We saw some ladders and tables on the ramp to hype up the TLC match later.
We go from one stereotypical European heel midcard champion in Wade Barrett to the US Champion Antonio Cesaro. I like both guys. Just saying.
Antonio Cesaro vs. Great Khali (w/Natalya & Hornswoggle)
It pains me to mention the lovely Natalya's name with this awful Khali/Hornswoggle act. Khali hit a clothesline on Cesaro to send him out of the ring. Cesaro grabbed Khali's leg and draped it across the top rope. Khali came back with some boots to the face followed by the weakest clotheslines ever. Cesaro fought out of the Punjabi Plunge and hit a springboard into an uppercut to the chest of Khali. That was awesome. Cesaro picked up Khali and hit the Neutralizer for the win after three minutes. The crowd popped big for the finisher.
Winner: Antonio Cesaro
After the match, Cesaro held up the US Title in the face of The Miz.
Analysis: 1/2* I'd love it if Khali stopped wrestling because he can barely move at this point, but at least it was a short match. It's smart to have Khali in such a short match. Cesaro's Neutralizer finisher is my favorite finisher in WWE and seeing him do it on Khali is very impressive. It was the first time since it happened on Main Event, but since that Show's audience is about 1/3 of Raw it was smart to have the match here. Cesaro vs. Miz could be a good US Title feud. It's still in its infant stages.
Backstage, Paul Heyman was on the phone. Brad Maddox walked up to him. Heyman said he didn't want Maddox in his life. Maddox said Heyman can't talk to him that way. Maddox had his referee shirt and wanted to ref the TLC match, but Heyman didn't want him talking to anybody. He wanted Maddox to leave him alone. Heyman left.
Analysis: Something fishy there or legit anger? Up to you to decide that.
Sheamus entered the ring for a match. They went to break.
Sheamus gets to face a 3MB member just like Orton did.
Sheamus vs. Jinder Mahal (w/Heath Slater & Drew McIntyre)
They hyped up Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler on Main Event this Wednesday. That should be pretty great. They did a comedy spot where Mahal had a waist lock, Sheamus broke it and Mahal had his hand on Sheamus' ass. That's a house show comedy spot. They did more comedy spots as Sheamus slapped him a few times and then threw him over the top to the floor. Sheamus gave Mahal his clubbing forearm blows to the chest of Mahal ten times much to the delight of the crowd. Sheamus gave the clubbing forearms to McIntyre ten times too. Slater distracted Sheamus, so Mahal hit Sheamus with a kick and then McIntyre decked Sheamus with a clothesline. Back in the ring, Mahal hit a clothesline. Sheamus hit his usual offense, but then 3MB interfered so Sheamus brought Slater into the ring, threw him into the ring and gave a double clothesline to knock both guys out. Brogue Kick on McIntyre outside the ring just for fun. Brogue Kick to Slater on the apron. White Noise by Sheamus on Mahal in the ring. Brogue Kick on Mahal ended the match after six minutes.
Analysis: *1/2 That was basically a 1 on 3 handicap match victory for Sheamus. The crowd doesn't make noise when 3MB has matches because they are booked like such losers on a consistent basis. Nobody believes in them when they are on offense. I like their potential as a group, but not if they keep getting booked like losers. If you look at the Orton match it was basically the same thing as this. They're booking a competitive feud between Orton & Sheamus as babyfaces that will likely lead to Orton turning heel. That could always change, of course.
Cole & Lawler set up the video package for the CM Punk/Ryback TLC match for the WWE Title match. The video focused on everything leading up to where we are now.
After the video package was over the camera focused in on the WWE Title that was hanging above the ring. That match is after the break.
There was a shot of former NFL head coach and current ESPN NFL announcer Jon Gruden sitting at ringside with his kids. Normally he's calling Monday Night Football games, but that regular season is over.
The ringside area, aisle and ramp were filled with tables, ladders and chairs. The WWE Champion CM Punk entered first along with his adviser Paul Heyman. This is where I throw in my complaint about how the champion should enter last. He had no limp due to his knee injury, by the way. He looked healthy. Ryback entered last to a good reaction.
WWE Championship TLC Match: CM Punk (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Ryback
In case you don't know the rules for this match it goes like this: Tables, ladders & chairs are legal while the WWE Title hangs from the ceiling. First person to get the WWE Title is the WWE Champion. Ryback is rocking purple attire as the crowd chants "Goldberg" at him. Punk was the first one to get a chair from under the ring. He hit Ryback in the back with it, but then Ryback tackled him outside the ring. Punk hit him with a kick to the head and another chair shot. Punk grabbed a ladder, but Ryback stopped him and ended up giving Punk a suplex onto the folded up ladder. Punk took that bump right on his lower back. Heyman was freaking out at ringside. Ryback grabbed the steel steps. He went to hit Punk with them, but Punk moved and then hit Ryback with a kick after using the steel steps to get higher. Punk got his hands on a steel chair as he attacked Ryback in the back with it. Punk held up the chair above his head as they went to break with both guys outside the ring.
Analysis: They went five minutes before the break. It was a good spot for it because it will likely be a match that gets over 15 minutes.
Back from break, Ryback hit the Electric Chair Drop on CM Punk inside the ring. They went back outside the ring as Ryback slammed Punk on the floor. Cole mentioned that each guy tried to climb the ladder during the break. Ryback propped up a table against the security wall at ringside. Punk threw a chair into the ribs of Ryback and then Punk set up a table outside the ring. Ryback threw the hood from the announce table onto Punk. Back in the ring, Punk went after the knee of Ryback. Punk used a steel chair to attack the right foot of Ryback. Punk placed Ryback's foot in between a chair, then he went to the middle rope and jumped off, but Ryback got out of the way. Punk started favoring his knee. Ryback with a back body drop followed by a spinebuster. Ryback hit his Meat Hook Clothesline. He went for Shellshocked, but Punk avoided it. Outside the ring, Ryback charged at Punk, but Punk moved and Ryback went crashing into the table that was propped up against the security wall. Cole mentioned that Punk has been WWE Champion for 414 days. Punk climbed the ladder. Ryback recovered to climb up himself. Punk got knocked down and then he shoved Ryback off the ladder. Ryback slammed Punk onto the side of the ladder. Punk came back quickly. He hit his running knee into the corner two times. He went for the Bulldog, but Ryback picked him up and threw him onto the table that was outside the ring. Wow what a nice spot that was. Painful landing by Punk.
Ryback threw out the broken ladder and brought in a new one. When Ryback reached the top of the ladder, the lights in the building went out. All of a sudden Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose were on the ladder fighting Ryback. It was time for The Shield. Roman Reigns showed up too. Ryback threw all three guys out of the ring. The Shield attacked Ryback with a steel chair. They took him outside the ring where they gave Ryback a three man Powerbomb through a table that was on top of the steel steps. The Shield left the ringside area. Punk crawled back into the ring from when he was put through a table outside the ring. CM Punk slowly climbed the ladder while favoring his left arm. Ryback was still in pain outside the ring as he was on a broken table that was on top of the steel steps. CM Punk reached the top of the ladder. He unhooked the WWE Championship to win the match after 19 minutes.
Winner: CM Punk
After the match, Ryback was still in a lot of pain on the table outside the ring. CM Punk celebrated with the WWE Title.
Analysis: ***1/2 That was a fun match to watch. I think if there was one flaw it's that the lights went out right when Ryback was at the top. It should have been a bit earlier, but I get why they did it. Will there be a mystery of who turned the lights off or does that not matter? We'll see about that. As for the match, both guys worked their asses off and put on a good show. They had some really cool spots. You don't see a spot like the one where Ryback put Punk through the table by heaving him over the top rope. Also the spot in the aisle where The Shield put Ryback through the table that was on the steel steps made it look that much more painful. It was a good way to prevent Ryback from getting back to his feet. I thought Punk carried the match well, but Ryback played his role perfectly as well. Give credit to both guys for an amazing match.
Coming up later is The Rock. Let the Royal Rumble hype officially begin since we know it's CM Punk vs. The Rock for the WWE Title at that event. I think we knew on July 23rd when Punk turned heel, but it's official now.
In the locker room, Punk and Heyman were celebrating their win. Matt Striker showed up to interview. Punk said he knows Rock is going to the ring to entertain the people, so he's going to go out there later because he had something to say. That should be fun.
Team Hell No argued about their loss earlier. Vickie Guerrero showed up. She said that next week Kane & Bryan will have their four month medical evaluation with Dr. Shelby. They argued about what Dr. Shelby is - a nerd or a monster. That ended that segment.
Analysis: I guess that means more comedy therapy sessions. Those could be good. With next week's Raw being the 20th anniversary of Raw they'll probably involve some legends in those comedy skits.
This Friday on Smackdown it's Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show based on their new rivalry that has taken place over the last couple of weeks. It's non-title so it wouldn't shock me if Del Rio was able to get the win there.
Kofi Kingston entered for a match against Big Show.
Big Show vs. Kofi Kingston
This is non-title. Kingston attacked Show early. They were in the corner. The ref was holding Kofi to prevent a further attack. Show decked Kingston with the KO Punch to win the match in about twenty seconds.
Winner: Big Show
Analysis: That was quick. It puts over the idea that Show's finisher can end a match in under a minute. Point proven.
There was a replay of when CM Punk attacked The Rock on Raw back at the 1000th episode of Raw on July 23.
The camera focused in on The Rock's dressing room backstage. They said The Rock is up next. Time check is 10:38pmET, so they have over twenty minutes for a main event segment.
We saw the commercial for next week's January 14th edition of Raw as a 20 year celebration of the show. There were no names mentioned appearing next week, but I'd expect to see a lot of the big names from the history of the show.
The WWE Champion CM Punk entered the arena along with Paul Heyman. They replayed the finish of Punk's match against Ryback from earlier in the show.
CM Punk said the term "pipebomb" has been misunderstood by the fans and people in the company. He said the pipebomb is the truth. It's about honesty. Punk said he became the voice of the voiceless and then maybe his ego was a runaway train. Then he said people say he turned his back on the people. He claimed that was a lie. Punk said he meant everything he said except the part about ice cream because when he sees the people they don't need ice cream. Haha that was good! Punk said he made a conscious decision where he sold out to the fans, but to him he cashed in. Punk said the truth about WWE is it doesn't matter if you're the best wrestler or best talker because there's a glass ceiling and nobody is allowed to break. He said the more popular you are the more money you can make. Punk said why do you think John Cena is getting title shot after title shot? He wondered why Daniel Bryan puts a smile on his face to spout catchphrase. He wondered why a 400 pounder like Brodus Clay would rather play with kids. He then talked about how Little Jimmy is better positioned than a workhorse like Tyson Kidd. Yes! Great point. The crowd cheered, so he said the crowd was doing it now. He called it like a circus.
Punk said that's how it was until now. He said he's the most dominant champion of all time, not just of the modern era. He said he wrestled so many demanding matches on television for one year that it's more difficult than the schedule that guys like Bruno Sammartino & Hulk Hogan had. He said he's the only honest man. Punk made fun of others saying "let's hear it for Tampa, Florida" and like dummies they cheered. Punk said he saw Roddy Piper crack a coconut over Jimmy Snuka's head and that inspired him. CM Punk brought up how guys like Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels and Edge all said they competed for the fans. Punk said he's not weak or dishonest. He said he's the best in the world. Punk said there are winners and losers - guess which one the fans are? Punk said they're born to see champions like him. He's never done this for any of the fans. There are superstars and nobodies. He's a superstar while the fans are the nobodies. If the superstars care about them then why don't they give them the money that the nobodies line their pockets with. A WWE employee at ringside was telling Punk they needed to go to commercial. He didn't want to. He mentioned that the fans don't matter as they went to break.
Analysis: Wow that was an amazing promo. It's hard to type live while that's going on because he said so many things that made a lot of sense and it was the kind of thing I know a lot of online fans are thinking. Punk shares the opinions of a lot of fans. Obviously he's being told he can cut this kind of promo, but at the same time it didn't feel like the kind of regular promo you always see on Raw. It felt real. Those are the best promos in wrestling. That's what we want to see more often. If you're one of those people that doesn't watch everything on the show I'm here to tell you that you need to watch this CM Punk promo because it was fantastic!
As we returned from break, CM Punk was still talking. Paul Heyman wasn't in the ring anymore. He said he'll be the WWE Champion on the first Raw next year just like he is this year. Punk said when he won the WWE Title he beat the fans. He ran off the list of names of the people he has beaten in the last year. Punk called the fans losers. He said they do not get to win.
The music of The Rock started up. He had on a "Just Bring It" t-shirt. The crowd gave him a ridiculously loud reaction. Wow. You don't hear reactions like that very often. The Rock made his way to the ring as the clock hit 11pmET.
The Rock wanted to hear everything Punk had to say. He said it's become crystal clear to The Rock that CM Punk is delusional. He said he keeps mentioning 414 days and that it's incredible. Rock says the real number that haunts Punk's dreams is 20 because in 20 days he's defending the WWE Title against Rock at Royal Rumble. Rock told him that in 20 days "time's up." Loud "Rocky" chants from the crowd. He later got the fans to chant "cookie puss" at Punk. Rock said he watched the show. He said Punk claimed that he was straight edge, but that he looked like he was on crack.
Rock told Punk that he has a creative mind, but that he's a jerk. Rock said that while the Rock is there he shouldn't tell the people that they don't matter. Rock told Punk that he doesn't matter. Punk said he matters, so Rock said "it doesn't matter if you matter!" Rock said that at the Royal Rumble there's going to be no way for CM Punk to stop The Rock from becoming the WWE Champion.
CM Punk put the WWE Championship on the ground as he talked to Rock. Punk said he didn't care how many times Rock comes back. He didn't care what his schedule is like. Punk said he's going to kick Rock's ass. Punk called himself the best opponent that Rock has ever faced. Punk said he's in the big leagues and that the stuff the Rock says are all kiddie games. Punk said that come Royal Rumble, The Rock's arms are just too short to box with God. They had a staredown. Rock says Punk may think that Rock is boxing with God, but Rock knows that Punk is going one on one with the Great One. Rock said he knows how good Rock is. Rock didn't forget the GTS. Punk knocked out Rock cold. In 20 days "time's up." Rock wanted Punk to think about the next twenty days to think about what's going to happen. He said don't concentrate on your cookie puss - turn yourself around. Rock wanted Punk to get a tattoo of M&M's and other candies on his left butt cheek. On the right butt cheek he wanted Punk to get a tattoo of a boot because then he will always be reminded of how The Rock is going to kick Punk's ass at the Royal Rumble. Rock gave CM Punk the Rock Bottom. Punk retreated to the floor.
As the show ended, Rock signaled 20 days until he faces CM Punk while Punk held the WWE Title proudly.
There was a brief commercial showing The Rock's history on Smackdown and how The Rock is going to be on Smackdown this week in Miami.
Analysis: My power went out for about a minute during that, so I missed a bit in there when Rock was talking, but I think I got the gist of it. I thought both guys were fantastic in their promos. Punk was the better of the two although Rock did a good job for the most part. I don't know that either promo needs to be overanalyzed. I can totally understand where both guys are coming from with Punk saying he doesn't need the fans or want their support while The Rock put over the fans saying that they matter. It was a classic case of a good guy talking against a bad guy. That's what main event wrestling promos should be. I'm going to enjoy this feud a lot.
Three Stars of the Show
1. CM Punk - It was arguably the best night he's had as WWE Champion. From working a top match to delivering one of the most memorable promos of his career the champ was absolutely on fire.
2. Dolph Ziggler - Amazing energy and emotion in his match.
3. Ryback - Worked his ass off again. Did an awesome job. I believe in this guy as a big match performer.
I also want to credit John Cena for a terrific performance as well. I'm only going to pick three, though.
7 out of 10
Last week: 4.5
2012 Average: 5.80
Last 5 Weeks: 4.5, NA, 3, 5, 6
We'll bring the average, high and low scores of the year once we're a month or so into the year.
I liked the show, which is why gets the 7 out of 10 rating. There were some low points and the squash matches got pretty boring, but the key parts of the show delivered.
The Cena/Ziggler match was given 15 minutes and they had an entertaining match to start off the first live Raw of the year. That's what I want to see every week. Some will probably complain about Cena winning, but at this point it doesn't bother. That's just how it is.
As I said when I wrote about the TLC match, it was really well done in terms of the spots they did. The ending was predictable, but what else could they really do? They booked themselves into a hole there. I guess the only good thing you can say is Ryback wasn't pinned. He's still lost a lot of big matches, though.
I think Rock and Punk will both be winners by the end of this feud. Promos will be amazing and the match will deliver. Yes I know The Rock was winded in his match against Cena at WrestleMania, but I think he learned his lesson from that. He'll be in better shape and more prepared. The way I look at it is that The Rock and CM Punk are two of the best talkers in the history of the business and it's riveting television. They're both playing a role, they are both doing their job at a very high level and they are doing it to entertain us.
Let me put it in perspective for you. Eight months ago the main event was Laurinaitis vs. Cena in a stupid match that meant nothing. From September to December I was pretty bored with WWE programming. I'm pretty sure most of you were too. A lot of you told me. I'm not bored anymore!
This Punk vs. Rock feud means so much from a booking standpoint and I think once it's over both guys will come out of it as bigger stars if that's possible. Winning titles don't matter. Entertaining feuds do. This one is going to be awesome. Enjoy it while it lasts because it's going to be gone before you know it.
That's all from me. I'm exhausted. I have a lot of writing planned this month, so keep on visiting TJRWrestling.com to check out all the Royal Rumble match reviews I'm posting on a daily basis. I posted the 1996 Rumble match review earlier on Monday with 1997 coming on Wednesday (I take Tuesdays off). Also a lot of our staff at TJR is doing a great job of covering all the shows while writing terrific opinion pieces as well.
Until next time, thanks for reading.
John Canton - [email protected]