Credit: Mike Johnson & PWInsider
WWE returned to Madison Square Garden for their traditional day after Christmas live event, something that has been taking place for over 30 years in the market. The show was close to, if not, sold out and was one of the bigger crowds in the Garden in some time. It was likely one of, if not, the biggest live gate and attendance for a WWE house show in 2014.
* WWE Intercontinental champion Dolph Ziggler pinned Luke Harper with the Zigzag in a good back and forth opener. Lots of neat falls and a lot of hard work. Harper at one point drilled Zigger so hard with a lariat, I had visions of Stan Hansen. There was a big pop for Ziggler when he came out and you get the idea the crowd really has taken to him and wants to see him do well, similar to Daniel Bryan last year. Harper was great here as well. After the match, J&J Security hit the ring and attacked Ziggler as Seth Rollins walked to the ring. Rollins cut a promo saying that the attack was his holiday gift and it will be nothing compared to what he does to John Cena later in their Street Fight. Effective way to build some heat for the main event later.
* Ryback pinned Curtis Axel with Shellshock. The battle of Rybaxel did not seem to come across as anything special to the crowd. Ryback got a nice pop when he came out and there were chants of “Feed Me more” but the crowd didn’t seem invested when Ryback in the defensive. Axel is in a position where he may need to remake himself if he wants to remain viable going forward.
* NXT champion Samo Zayn pinned Adrian Neville with the Helluva kick in a bout that brought the house down. From a pure athletic standpoint, this was the best thing on the house. They sort of treated it like a “greatest hits” deal where they each did all their big spots and it was worked like a NXT main event, not a meaningless undercard match. Really great match. The crowd popped for each as if they knew them and loved all the big spots. Neville whipped out an awesome rana where he just spiked Zayn. The crowd was really blown away by the fast pace of the match, sort of like a modern day version of when Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask were brought in and the audience at the time was totally buzzing. A cool piece of history as well since it was each of their MSG debut.
* They aired a backstage promo where Kane promised to take out Randy Orton for turning his back on The Authority. Standard fare.
* Jack Swagger and Fandango had a dance-off. This was voted by the fans with allegedly, 55% of the fans wanting to see it. Fandango’s new music and entrance are fine but Rosa Mendez is obviously still finding her way in the role. She and Fandango danced. Swagger then did the worst dance ever to MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.” Who picked this music? The only thing worse may have been if Zeb Colter was there and had to dance. Of course, Fandango attacked him but Swagger came back and used the Patriot Lock. No match and nothing to see here, but the kids in the audience seemed to like it.
* WWE Tag Team champs The Miz and Damien Mizdow beat The Usos. Not really much of a match here as it was the backdrop to the Mizdown show, but the audience was so into that entire deal, it was amazing. Miz got a ton of heat ripping on the NYC sports teams. The Usos then did some mic work, including Jey as the “stunt double” for Jimmy as they cut a promo. The crowd liked that. Mizdown was all over the place throwing himself into turnbuckles and taking phantom bumps and was really loved for it. His act is certainly over.
* Randy Orton pinned Kane with an RKO. This was Orton’s first match since he was destroyed by The Authority on TV. He was his normal Orton self. Kane looked to be banged up or having a bad night as he was slow at times. They brawled around the ring for a bit. Orton eventually caught him with the RKO “out of nowhere” and scored the win. The crowd enjoyed seeing Orton. It was OK.
* The Bellas defeated Alicia Fox and Emma with Paige as the special referee. Putting Paige in that position was a complete waste of her and the crowd around me sort of groaned at that announcement. The Bellas cheated to win and Nikki got into Paige’s face, which led to Paige laying her and Brie out to get the big pop.
* Santino Marella came out. He said a few months ago, he was scared he would never be back in front of NYC again but while he’s still having neck problems, it’s getting better and he hopes to be back in a “few months.” He then read a WWE-ized version of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” that kids liked. This led to Big Show coming out and threatening Marella. Erick Rowan came out to his anti-theme music (that stuff has got to go, there is nothing that excites the crowd about that entrance) for the save, leading to a bout….
* Big Show pinned Eric Rowan. It was pretty slow and plodding. I’m really straining to remember highlights, so that should tell you something.
* John Cena pinned Seth Rollins in a very entertaining Streetfight to close the show with an Attitude Adjustment through a table off the ropes for the pin. This was treated and worked like a big time main event with lots of run-ins and mic work. Before they even said a word or touched each other, the crowd was more invested and louder for Rollins (working his first MSG main event) and Cena vs. anything else on the card. There were a lot of teases with the table and at one point, Cena had to fight off J&J Security as well. Kane came out but was run off by Randy Orton. Orton chased him to the back with a chair. There was a referee bump and a second ref hit the ring. Big Show came out and interfered but the final run-in was by Dolph Ziggler, who hit the ring like a bat out of hell or a 1970s Southern babyface, and it was awesome. Show grabbed him for a chokeslam but Ziggler escaped and superkicked him to save the day for Cena. Ziggler making the save helped him get “revenge” on Rollins for the attack earlier in the night, which was good booking. Cena made the comeback and hit the AA through the table. Rollins was on FIRE here with some awesome mic work ripping on Cena and the fans and bumping his rear end off. Cena certainly worked hard and did his part as well. A worthy MSG main event.