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Raw: With Rock gone, Punk takes centre stage
By MATT BISHOP - SLAM! Wrestling


Tonight on Monday Night Raw: One night removed from Survivor Series and The Rock is no longer with us. How sad. So the focus now goes back on the WWE Championship. Next week, CM Punk will rematch Alberto Del Rio, but for this week, each man has a match: Punk against Dolph Ziggler and Del Rio against Zack Ryder. Should be a good one!

For the first time ever, we are LIVE! from Hershey, Pa. Michael Cole, Jerry "The King" Lawler and Booker T are our hosts and this show is presented in WWEHD (TV-PG, V)

The new WWE Champion is here. CM Punk is out to start the show. He talks about how when his first grade teacher asked him what he wanted to when he grew up, he said he wanted to be a professional wrestler. Because of that, he talks about how special it was for him to win the title at Madison Square Garden. He says the game of WWE hot potato is over now that he has the title. The title is where it belongs and it's going to stay there. He says he is the new face of WWE.

He wants to be an agent of change and asks where the WWE ice cream bars are. He says he wants to make John Laurinaitis the former Raw general manager, as well. This brings Laurinaitis to the ramp. He doesn't know why Punk has an issue with him. Punk says Laurinaitis is like Milton from Office Space without any of the comedy. He says unless Laurinaitis wants to be an agent of change, he's going to take him for what he is: A stooge.

Laurinaitis says he can be just as creative and dynamic as Punk. He says Alberto Del Rio has a rematch clause in his contract and they are going to have that match next week on Raw. Punk says why don't they do it right now? Laurinaitis says he has other plans for Punk tonight, and that is a match with Dolph Ziggler tonight.

Punk says the fans don't want to see that. As he says this, the fans start chanting "We want Ryder." He says the fans want to see Ziggler face Zack Ryder. Laurinaitis says Ryder is busy tonight, as he'll be facing Del Rio. Punk heads out of the ring and up the ramp and says some day, someone is going to beat some sense into Laurinaitis.

(Ads)

Match #1 - Zack Ryder (Long Island, NY) vs. Alberto Del Rio (San Luis Potosi, Mexico)

Ryder interrupts Ricardo Rodriguez's ring introduction and Del Rio does not take kindly to that. He goes to work on the arm right away. The crowd chants "Let's go Ryder!" Ryder gets going. He hits a flapjack and then gets his knees up as Del Rio charges him in the corner. He follows this with the Broski Boot. He lines him up for the Rough Ryder but Del Rio pushes Ryder up and shoves him shoulder-first into the middle turnbuckle. He follows with a kick to the head and then the cross-armbreaker and Ryder taps.

Winner via submission: Alberto Del Rio

(Ads)

Match #2 - Sheamus (Dublin, Ireland) vs. Jack Swagger (Perry, Okla.)

Sheamus off to a quick start but Swagger gets going. He hits a Vader Bomb for two. He goes to work with a hammerlock. Now he puts the boots to him and goes back to work. Sheamus rises and hits some sledges but can't put Swagger away. He goes to the top but misses. He tries for the Brogue Kick but Swagger ducks it and locks in the ankle lock. Sheamus escapes and hits the Brogue Kick and that is it.

Winner via pinfall: Sheamus

(Ads)

Kevin Nash is here. He talks about some memories of Madison Square Garden and then about the infamous "Curtain Call" incident of 1996 and how they were going to be friends for life. He says he should've been teaming with Triple H last night to take out The Rock and John Cena, but instead, Triple H went in another direction. He says the real survivor of the Clique stands before everyone now.

(Ads)

Cody Rhodes is out. He says with his new look, he's unbeatable and completely unrepentant. He doesn't get too far into his spiel when he is interrupted by his opponent.

Match #3 - Cody Rhodes (Marietta, Ga.) vs. Santino Marella (Calabria, Italy)

Santino is rolling early. He calls for the Cobra but Rhodes counters quickly into the Cross Rhodes and that is all she wrote.

Winner via pinfall: Cody Rhodes

(Ads)

Match #4 - Dolph Ziggler (Hollywood, Fla.) vs. CM Punk (Chicago, Ill.)

Punk has the edge in the early going but Ziggler kicks him in the knee and takes over. Ziggler works a crossfire in the centre of the ring. Punk escapes and goes for the high knee in the corner but Ziggler moves and Punk goes flying over the top rope and crashes to the floor.

(Ads)

We're back and Ziggler is working a headlock. Punk gets back to a vertical base and elbows and punches his way out. The two trade punches and kicks and Punk hits a leg lariat and a swinging neckbreaker for two. But Ziggler gets up and counters the GTS into the sleeper. Punk fights it and is able to get Ziggler back on his shoulders but Ziggler slips out and rolls him up. He puts his feet on the ropes but the referee sees it. Now Punk rolls Ziggler up and uses the ropes and the referee sees it again.

Ziggler goes for the ZigZag but Punk holds onto the ropes and hits the high knee and the bulldog for two. He goes to the top rope and calls for the flying elbow but Ziggler rolls away before Punk can come down. As Punk gets down, Ziggler comes at him and cracks him with a nice dropkick for two. Ziggler loads Punk up on the top rope. He doesn't get much going before Punk knocks him down. Now Punk hits the elbow but Ziggler kicks out at two.

Punk calls for the GTS but Ziggler counters into a throw for a two count. Now Ziggler puts the boots to Punk and has to be pulled away. He lines Punk up for the Fameasser but Punk flips him and then hits the GTS and that is it.

Winner via pinfall: CM Punk

(Ads)

The Big Show is here. He says he proved he was stronger, tougher and better than the World's Strongest Man last night at Survivor Series. He says when Mark Henry comes back, he's got something waiting for him, his fist.

(Ads)

Match #5 - Wade Barrett (Manchester, England) vs. Kofi Kingston (Ghana, West Africa)

Barrett hoists Kingston for Wasteland when Randy Orton's music hits. Barrett puts Kingston down and he goes for Trouble in Paradise but Barrett bails out of the ring.

(Ads)

We're back and the match is back underway with Barrett in control. He hits a side slam and chokes Kingston with the top rope. Then, with Kingston's caught in the ropes, he boots him to the outside. Barrett starts pounding on Kingston and then puts his knee in Kingston's back and pulls his arms back. Kingston works to a vertical base but Barrett brings him right back down into the same move.

Kingston escapes and goes to the top but Barrett cuts him off. He tries to load him up for Wasteland but Kingston escapes and headbutts Barrett down and hits the big flying crossbody for two. Now Kingston starts rolling. He hits the Boom Drop and goes to the corner for Trouble in Paradise. Instead, he goes for a splash but Barrett moves. Kingston goes to springboard in but Barrett kicks the ropes and Kingston crashes. With Kingston down, Barrett picks him up and delivers Wasteland and that is all she wrote.

Winner via pinfall: Wade Barrett

(Ads)

John Cena is out. He takes us through the tale of last night's match at Survivor Series. He notes he and The Rock had already won last night when Rock called him back to the ring and he found himself on the business end of a Rock Bottom. He talks about WrestleMania when he is interrupted by Awesome Truth.

The Miz talks about how badly The Rock showed Cena up last night. He notes how the crowd kept telling Rock to not tag Cena. He says, last night, no one wanted to see Cena. R-Truth says the CeNation is going to turn into the "See Ya Later Nation." Now Cena starts threatening both of them. Cena says nobody cares about either of them and then tries to turn them against each other. He says they shouldn't be booing him, they should be booing themselves. Cena leaves and Truth is angry. Miz tries to tell him Cena is playing them. Truth is going crazy and then Miz starts getting angry. Miz shoves Truth and Truth punches him.

Miz again tries to get Truth Cena is playing them. He says they need to get Cena and now Truth is onboard. They make their way backstage when Miz grabs Truth at the top of the ramp and delivers the Skull-Crushing Finale on the steel.

Matt Bishop can be reached at bishop20@msu.edu. Please include your name and hometown. Click here to follow Matt on Twitter. Should be a good one!.