Airdate: Monday, December 26th, 2011 (USA Network)
Location: The Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.
“Yes, sir, we promised you a great main event…”
Monday Night Raw is LIVE from Chicago, Illinois, which is not yet its own state.
CM Punk's music opens the show, but it's not Punk . . . it's Johnny Ace, who is wearing a "Best in the World" t-shirt over his suit. He gets a fair amount of heat, though there's some weird microphone feedback as he starts his promo. About thirty seconds in to Johnny talking, Punk's music hits again, and the real deal comes out to the ring. There are big "CM Punk" chants when the music stops. The size difference between Punk and Ace is pretty ridiculous. Punk says it's clear Ace is trying to antagonize him and wants to know what should stop him from kicking Johnny in the face. The former AJPW star tells us that he could easily fire Punk if he wanted to, but he won't do that because he's "taken several management classes" and aims to "empower [his] employees." Those were good lines.
Punk and Ace get into a fight over whether Ace is capable of being "unpredictable," so Johnny tries to resolve the debate by booking Punk in a 3-on-1 gauntlet match, with anybody who pins the champ getting a title match on next week's show. Punk requests his own stipulation be added, namely that he gets Johnny Ace in the ring tonight if he successfully beats the three gauntlet match opponents. The crowd starts chanting "you can't wrestle" at Ace. Punk's response is, "It looks like they've been watching All Japan tapes!" I think that gives me immunity from being bitched at for namedropping the company a paragraph ago.
Eventually, Punk and the crowd work together to goad Johnny into accepting the challenge, and that's a wrap on our first segment.
As Punk celebrates with his belt, the latest January 2, 2012 mystery man promo airs. "He shall arrive to reclaim what is his" is the first line. "The End Shall Begin" is the tag line at the end. Chris Jericho strongly denies that the promos are for him, but it would make a lot of sense for him to come back with a gimmick playing off of the 2012 apocalypse predictions given that his WWE debut was based on Y2K.
Match Numero Uno: Booker T. vs. Cody Rhodes
The announcers play up the fact that Cody ambushed Booker twice prior to the pair's pay per view match, perhaps giving Rhodes an unfair advantage. They also recap Booker costing Cody his match against Zack Ryder on Friday.
The wrestlers lock up at the bell, and Booker grabs a hammerlock. Cody slips out of it quickly and hits a shoulderblock off of the ropes before the Book-man hiptosses him. Booker rains down the chops in the corner and hits a scoop slam for a two count. Cody starts to come back with some fists and sends the 5-time WCW Champ into the corner. Book reverses an Irish whip, though, and he also hits a back elbow to set up a vertical suplex. It gets a one count. Booker kicks the IC Champ in the gut and looks for an axe kick, but Rhodes blocks it and lands the Shake, Rattle, and Roll. Next Cody pulls down his kneepad and buries the joint into Booker's gut, eventually tossing him out of the ring. That's the setup for our mid-match commercial break.
We're back from the ads, and Rhodes has Booker in something that looks sorta like a kimura, but Booker powers his way out of it and sends Rhodes to the buckles. He charges in for some follow-up offense, but Rhodes lifts his elbow and catches Booker in the jaw. Cody drops a knee for a two count and slaps on a neck crank. Booker rallies back up to his feet and starts a comeback, but he makes the mistake of dropping his head, giving Cody an opportunity to rip off his brother Goldust's drop-down uppercut. Rhodes puts the boots to Booker as he leans against the ropes in a heap, but he poses for the crowd and gives Booker an opportunity to recover somewhat. The two trade punches, but Rhodes wins the sequence by busting out his standing dropkick. It gets two. Cody slaps on another nondescript submission hold, and he cuts off Booker's attempt at a comeback with a knee to the gut.
Rhodes runs into a back elbow and then a boot, though, giving the former Harlem Heat member an opening to connect with a series of clotheslines and then a sidewalk slam for two. Booker gets the O' Connor Roll out of the corner for another two count, and Rhodes comes back with a cradle for two of his own. Booker attempts the axe kick but misses, and Rhodes cradles him again for yet another two count. From there, Rhodes hits the ropes and comes off with the Nakajima kick for yet another nearfall. Cody sets up for Cross-Rhodes, but Book reverses it into a side kick. Cody avoids a side kick, but, seconds later, he gets caught with the scissor kick and pinned. This was a bit dull in the early going, but it picked up with the nearfalls at the end and turned into a fun match.
Winner: Booker T.
Backstage, Zack Ryder thanks John Cena for giving him the opportunity to win the United States Title. Cena says that Ryder doesn't owe him anything and says that Zack created his own opportunity. Ryder wants to know what the deal with Kane is, and Cena doesn't really answer the question but instead promises to beat Kane up if he sees him this evening.
We go to the announce desk, and Lawler announces that CM Punk's three opponents this evening will be Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, and Mark Henry.
Kelly Kelly and Big Show are flirting until Scott Armstrong runs up and tells Show that he is needed in Johnny Ace's office. We go to a commercial, so apparently this will pay off later in the show.
After the break, Johnny Ace and David Otunga are in the back. Ace is on his phone with Brodus Clay and promises that Clay will debut on the first Raw of 2012. Big Show appears, and Ace wants an explanation as to why he punched out David Otunga on Smackdown. Show says that he can beat Otunga with... (Continues on next page)