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Raw: CM Punk rises, Vince falls in Chicago
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


On the night before one of its favorite sons is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, Chicago will witness a personal appearance by another powerful leader as Vince McMahon returns after a lengthy absence. Also, Chicago’s own CM Punk goes for the Intercontinental Championship and the Royal Rumble continues to come together as Raw blows into the Windy City.

A video tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. starts off the show in appropriate fashion. Long Live the Dream. A second video package takes us back in time (eat it, Lost!) to Million Dollar Mania, where Vince was crushed, kind of, by a falling sign and wheeled out on a stretcher. He hasn’t been on WWE television since, but that ends later tonight.

Match 1 – Randy Orton vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Kane vs. Santino Marella vs. Ted DiBiase vs. Cody Rhodes – Over the Top Rope Challenge

Since all three members of Legacy are in this match, you should be able to see where this is headed. The lights go out early on, but it appears to be unplanned. Santino tries to politic his way out of trouble but is quickly dumped out, followed by Kingston. Kane tosses out Rhodes and DiBiase, but Ted manages to land on the apron and stay alive. With Orton in trouble, DiBiase rushes over and sends everyone over the top. He and Kane hit the floor, allowing Orton to grab the top rope and win the match.

Match 2 – Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix

Not much to say here except that Phoenix makes quick work of Kelly Squared. Oh, and Kelly is wearing a sweet female Jonathan Toews jersey. No Santino appearance as he was in the previous match.

Orton gives DiBiase an “’Atta boy” for his help and tells him to keep that same mindset for Sunday’s Rumble match. Ever the downer, Rhodes arrives with news of a problem: Manu and Sim Snuka have been visiting Stephanie McMahon, and word is that she plans to fire Orton. We’ll see about that.

Evidently Vince sent George W. Bush his own championship belt as a going-away present. Back in Chi-Town, Santino has a present for his honey: here very own psychotic stalker-turned-intern, Rosa Mendez. Please, can we keep her? Phoenix says she’ll think about it, and Santino says he has an idea for how Mendez can improve her chances tonight.

Steph is on the phone, presumably with the babysitter. Orton visits and immediately begins kissing up, but McMahon cuts him off, saying she isn’t going to fire him but does want him out of her office. An indignant Orton fires back that he’s not worried about getting fired since Vince will be back and surely will consider canning her for her incompetence on the job. Randy says if Stephanie wasn’t a McMahon, she’d be a complete nobody. That gets him a slap in the face and leads to a tense staring contest.

Coming next Monday: the first look at 12 Rounds, John Cena’s new movie. And just in time too, because I am pretty much out of jokes about Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia at this point.

Match 3 – CM Punk vs. William Regal – Intercontinental Title Match w/ No Disqualifications

Punk carries most of the action before the dreaded commercial break. Regal shows signs of life with a nice counter out of a bulldog into a suplex that drops Punk on his head. A leap from the top turnbuckle doesn’t pay off for Punk, but he recovers a minute later and hoists Regal onto his shoulders. The champ tries to fight his way out, but Punk connects with a GTS and makes the cover. Three counts later we have a new champion, and Punk wins the WWE’s mythical Triple Crown in less time than any wrestler to date.

A recap airs of last week’s developments in the excellent Cena-JBL-Shawn Michaels saga. Of course, if you saw the show or read my report, you already know all about that.

Now it’s contract signing time, hosted by our good pal Jerry “The King” Lawler. JBL arrives first, flanked by Michaels, with Cena not far behind. The champ and challenger both sign, and for a second it almost seems like there won’t be any hijinks. But that feeling ends when Cena addresses HBK (over JBL’s objections), telling him that the people don’t understand what he’s doing. The champ makes an impassioned speech, trying to convince Michaels that he still has it and can be the icon he’s always been. JBL has a retort, but Michaels wants to speak for himself. He tells Cena no one can understand the pressures he’s under, and even though he hates accepting a check from JBL, he has to do what he has to do. Cena offers his opinion that when the chips are down, HBK will do the right thing. Sorry you feel that way John. Michaels fakes an attack on Cena, leaving him easy pickings for JBL. As Shawn walks up the ramp to a chorus of boos, Layfield crushes the champ with a clothesline and leaves him flat on his back in the ring.

Match 4 – Rey Mysterio vs. Mike Knox

Before the match begins, Todd Grisham asks Knox what he has against Rey and displays a combination of confusion and fear when the big man states that he doesn’t really have a reason for his continuous assaults. In the ring, Mysterio is looking good and in position to win with a 619. But Knox catches Rey’s legs and proceeds to lay a vicious beating on him that forces the ref to call for the bell. Knox hits his finisher to punctuate his point, whatever it may be.

Stephanie returns to her office and finds an unwelcome visitor, the previously fired Chris Jericho. It seems he had a talk with Vince, who invited him to the show to speak his piece. And in case she was wondering, Jericho promises he won’t hold anything back.

The Smackdown Rebound shows us Jeff Hardy’s car accident that probably wasn’t an accident. There’s also a pyro accident. I’m sensing a pattern here.

Tag team champs John Morrison and The Miz are in the ring. They want to celebrate the Rumble match by beating the winner of the very first one, so they invite Hacksaw Jim Duggan out to choose which one of them will administer said beating. Alas, Duggan is on special assignment. So says Cryme Tyme, who offers to take on the champs for the rights to a title shot. If they lose, they won’t bother Morrison and Miz again. The M&M boys can’t resist that challenge, because when it comes to beating Cryme Tyme, “Yes we can!”

Match 5 – Cryme Tyme vs. John Morrison and The Miz

We must have a lot of show still to go, because this match is short. A distraction allows Shad to plant Morrison to get the win, presumably setting up a title match soon.

A recap of Orton vs. Steph airs for those who joined us late. Next up is some hype for the actual Rumble match, which has been somewhat underplayed this year considering the big prize awarded to the winner. A nice stats package airs that highlights some notable records from Rumble history. And did you know that you can order the Royal Rumble now? Yes, right now! Between this and the new ads for WWE pay-per-views, we’re like a step away from the WWE simply ordering the shows for us and putting it directly on our cable bills. Hey, now Vince, please don’t get any ideas. That was just me talking crazy, okay?

Rhodes is doing his best to insult Mickie James when big brother Goldust stops by with a present: the Starrcade DVD set. He tells Cody that watching those discs can teach him more than Orton can teach him in a lifetime. Cody says he knows there’s a good match on there featuring a young Dustin Rhodes and rejects the gift. He vows not to waste his talent like his brother and says that when they make the Cody Rhodes DVD, he’ll be sure to send Dustin and The Dream a copy. Holy crap, was that an entertaining segment featuring Cody Rhodes? The pleasant surprises just keep on coming.

Match 6 – Jillian vs. Melina

Two Diva matches in one night. Great. This one is also short, with Melina winning even though Marella, Phoenix and Mendez are on the ramp. Rosa rushes in and attacks after the bell, giving Phoenix an opening to deliver one more message - a painful one.

Dolph Ziggler is talking to Candice Michelle when he is momentarily rendered speechless by Vince McMahon. And the WWE really wants you to know that Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia outsold Pirates of the Caribbean, Hellboy and The Incredible Hulk last week. Gee, you think? It couldn’t possibly be because those movies have been out forever and millions (and millions!) of people already have them, eh? I bet it also outsold Titanic, ET and Spider-Man combined last week. So logically, it’s on pace to become the biggest selling movie of all time! For the love of Pete, someone needs to stop this stuff before my brain explodes. Thankfully, we move on to one final look at Cena versus JBL and Michaels.

No chance, that’s what you got! Vince is back, and he acknowledges that the crowd seems happy to see him. But tonight is about business, and he invites Jericho out to air his grievance. Chris thinks he should be rehired, and he cautions Vince that his daughter has regressed while running the show and is more of a spoiled princess than ever. Stephanie comes to the ring (nice pants!) and her dad tells her that while he doesn’t want to go over her head, he’s thinking about reinstating Jericho. But he’s not, and he’s not going to fire his daughter, either, but will run the show along with her. Vince leaves Jericho’s fate in Stephanie’s hands, and she has a great time forcing him to apologize to her and the fans – on his knees – before hiring him back. Jericho leaves and the McMahons hug, and that’s it… except it’s not. Orton comes out and states that another apology is in order. Randy says Steph slapped him for no reason, and Vince should order her to say she’s sorry. Even my two-year old daughter isn’t involved in as many discussions about apologies as we’re seeing tonight. Vince has other ideas, telling Orton that if it wasn’t for his assistance transforming his “average wrassler” dad into a star, Randy would probably be a gym teacher in St. Louis right now. Vince tells Randy to apologize or risk getting fired. He’s about to carry out his threat when Orton slaps him and knocks him down to the mat with a kick. The trademark running kick to the head follows, though Orton immediately shows some signs that he can’t believe what he just did. Medical attention is summoned, and Vince leaves this show the way he left his last one – on a stretcher. On to the Rumble!

Nick Tylwalk wonders if anyone has ever been taken out on a stretcher on consecutive appearances on Raw. Send prior examples of this unfortunate fate to ntylwalk7@yahoo.com.