Event: WWE Monday Night RAW
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 one arm tied behind his back, which leads to Ace booking that match with that exact stipulation. Show says a giant with one arm is better than a smug lawyer with no testicles.
Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler are arguing about which one of them is going to beat CM Punk. Ziggler tells Swagger to ask Santa for a time machine so he can got back to 2009 when he was relevant. Actually, I remember that title reign, and he wasn’t relevant then, either, even when he had the World Heavyweight Title. Vickie tries to play peacemaker, until Mark Henry walks up and interrupts them with “Excuse me.” Funny bit that didn’t really hurt Henry’s image, as him doing comedy normally would.
Match Numero Dos: Zack Ryder & Eve Torres vs. Tyson Kidd & Nattie Neidhart
HART DYNASTY REUNION~! I miss that team.
Michael Cole tells us that, on WWE.com, we’ve seen Ryder trying to “get with” Eve Torres. I’m going to have to take your word on that one, Cole. Does anybody actually follow angles that are run on WWE.com?
Kidd and Ryder start, with Tyson putting the boots to the US Champ and hitting a back elbow. He follows with a buzzsaw-esque kick to the back of the head, but he runs into Ryder’s knees in the corner. Zack comes off the ropes with a missile dropkick, prompting Tyson to make the tag. Eve comes in to face Nattie and powers her back into the corner before armdragging her down. Eve gets a snap mare and a big kick en route to her pop-and-lock standing moonsault. It gets two. Eve looks to follow up on her offense, but Nattie trips her up and drops her throat-first over the middle rope. The Diva of Destruction looks for a sharpshooter but gets kicked in the face, and here’s a tag to Ryder. He runs wild on Tyson Kidd with clotheslines and a facebuster. Tyson briefly cuts him off with a kick, but Zack makes a comeback. Eve and Ryder set up for stereo kicks, with Eve kicking Nattie in the gut while Ryder gives Tyson the facewash in the corner. That leads into Zack’s leg lariat, and he pins Kidd to win the match. Uneventful but inoffensive little bout designed to give Ryder some TV time.
Winners: Zack Ryder & Eve Torres
A WWE.com commercial tells us that, if we go there, they can give us everything we need to be a superfan. Does that mean they’re finally selling the Vladimir costume that I’ve wanted them to put out for years?
John Cena is out after the break. He’s boo’ed pretty heavily.
Cena acknowledges that Chicago hasn’t always particularly cared for him. He puts over some of Chicago’s WWE history, including it hosting three Wrestlemanias and being the cite of Eddy Guerrero’s Hall of Fame induction. Trying to get Cena a positive reaction by trading off of Eddy’s goodwill with the fans is pretty cheap. Cena says he wants to make a memorable moment just like the other memorable WWE moments Chicago has seen, and he calls out Kane.
Kane doesn’t appear. Instead, the Miz does. Remember when they were trying to rebuild Miz into somebody that mattered and then flushed it all down the toilet with Sheamus squashing him in three minutes? Miz claims that 2011 was his year. He wants to face Cena tonight in order to “tie up loose ends” that were left as a result of people claiming Miz’s Wrestlemania victory over Cena only occurred during the Rock. I figured Cena beating Miz like an absolute bitch for the rest of the year already tied up that loose end. Cena immediately accepts his challenge, though, and here we go.
Match Numero Tres: John Cena vs. Mike the Miz
Cena takes down Miz early but doesn’t get any offense off of it. The two lock up, and Cena takes him down again, this time with a headlock. We’ve got dueling Cena chants, with the “Cena Sucks” side winning. Miz powers out of the headlock and bails when Cena shoves him into the ropes. Miz slides out of the ring, chides the people for chanting the wrong wrestler’s name, and starts talking about how it doesn’t matter how he beat Cena at Wrestlemania. It just matters that he did. In the middle of this, the referee counts him out of the ring and calls for the bell.
Winner: John Cena via count out
Just as Miz is about to hit his catchphrase, R-Truth’s music hits, and here comes the man himself, fresh off his synthetic weed suspension. Truth throws Miz into the barricades, the announce table, and the ring steps before grabbing the mic himself. Truth says he could finish Miz off right now, but it wouldn’t be any fun. He wants every Monday night to be like Christmas, so he’ll take his time killing Miz.
This whole segment was really weird and disjointed. Cena was there to call out Kane but didn’t get him. Miz cuts a confident promo about wanting to beat Cena but then his motivations do a complete 180 after thirty seconds in the ring. R-Truth comes out and acts like a complete heel but bludgeons Miz, who is also a heel. Truth’s promo made NO sense, which is okay if he’s a comedy guy but doesn’t really work if he’s serious, which appears to be the case. Plus this was all the latest in the long parade of segments that has made Miz look like an utter job guy, which is just weird because they keep sticking him in main event spots.
Match Numero Cuatro: Big Show vs. David Otunga – Show must have one arm tied behind his back.
I find the announcers’ talk about how everybody would love to knock out an attorney really disturbing. Otunga runs early, but Big show clubs him with forearms and throws him over the top rope. Before long, Mark Henry’s music hits, and he manages to get in a cheap shot on Show while the Giant’s arm is still restrained. Cue Daniel Bryan, who distracts the World’s Strongest Man long enough for show to finish untying his arm. Show goes after Henry but Mark backs away as David Otunga reenters the ring. Otunga eats a chokeslam, and that’s the end of the segment. Unlike the prior match, this felt like a pretty seamless transition from the Show/Otunga mini-issue into something that furthered the larger Bryan/Show/Henry story.
Winner: Big Show via DQ
After a commercial, Ricardo Rodriguez wheels Alberto Del Rio out in a LEOPARD PRINT WHEELCHAIR. Ricardo is wearing a neck brace with his bow tie over it, and he has a pained expression on his face and a bit of scratchiness in his voice as he does ADR’s intro. Lawler starts reeling off stats about the model number and value of Del Rio’s chair as though it were one of his cars. So far, this segment has been FULL OF WIN. Alberto informs us that, in last week’s main event, he tore his groin. The fans boo him, and here come the Bella twins. They fight over who gets to help ADR celebrate his recovery, so he gets annoyed and sends them away. Alberto makes a New Year’s resolution to return more aggressive than ever before and to regain the WWE Championship. They really need to find a way to write him into the show despite his injuries, because gimpy Del Rio and Ricardo was absolute gold. Great subtle comedy.
Match Numero Cinco: CM Punk vs. Jack Swagger w/ Vickie Guerrero in part one of a gauntlet match
Punk’s got his Chicago flag tights on this evening to really drive home the “hometown boy” factor. Punk gets Swagger in an armbar early, after which they switch to a test of strength. Swagger wins that in the early going, but Punk makes a comeback. That’s cut off by a knee to the gut from Swagger, who grabs a headlock. Punk shoves him off and catches him with a leg lariat for an early two count. Knee strikes and leg kicks are next for Punk, but Swagger catches him with a gutbuster off of the ropes. The All American drops a series of elbows and legs for two. Swagger applies a waistlock, but Punk powers out and looks for a high cross off of the second rope. Swagger was supposed to catch him and hit another gutbuster, but they blew the spot and just wound up cuddling in mid-ring for a few seconds. Swagger eventually did herc him up for the gutbuster, which was followed by a series of knees to the stomach. Jack attemptst his Vader Bomb, but Punk catches him in GTS position in midair. Swagger slips out of it, but Punk catches him with a high kick seconds later and gets the duke.
Winner: CM Punk
CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler
After wrestling for several minutes, Punk had Ziggler in trouble. John Laurinaitis came to ringside and sent Vickie Guerrero and Jack Swagger to the back. He then started to tell Punk that the match between the two of them was not going to happen when Dolph Ziggler hit Punk with the Zig Zag and got the pin. Ziggler celebrated with the WWE Championship after the match, and will get a title shot against Punk next week.
Kane’s pyro hits and he entered the ring. Kane says that what people are seeing is the real him. Before he gets to say much, John Cena’s music hit and he stood at the top of the stage. Cena starts to head down, but Kane’s pyro hit on top of the sage, causing Cena to retreat. Kane said that he made Cena his victim because he has led the people astray by asking them to rise above hate, and that the world is a dark, dark place and it’s OK to hate. Kane said humans are hateful by nature and that deep down everybody hates. He said that people hate their miserable lives, and that hate motivates us. He said that once you embrace the hate, you become honest with yourself. Dueling “Let’s Go Cena / Cena Sucks” chants. Kane then said that he’s going to help Cena because the last image that he’ll see and hear this year is all the people chanting those words that tear Cena’s soul apart: “Cena Sucks.” Kane starts chanting “Cena Sucks” and the crowd starts the dueling chants again with the “Cena Sucks” chants being louder. Cena is looking distraught as the chants continue to end the show.