January 3, 2012
Raw: A puzzling return and a narrow escape highlight the first show of 2012
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling
Its the most wonderful Raw of the year! Actually we have no way of knowing that before we get started, but it is the first episode of 2012, and it promises both the long-awaited unveiling of the person behind the January 2 videos and a title bout between CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler. Raw is ready to go, live from Lawler Country in Memphis, Tennessee.
It might be a new year, but the first thing we see is a fairly lengthy recap of last week's confrontation between Kane and John Cena. Speaking of Cena, he comes out to discuss his resolutions for 2012. They are mostly played for laughs, but he seems serious when he claims that his core personality traits won't change, even if someone is throwing fire in his face. He adds that he enjoys any response from the fans, negative or positive. Cena doesn't have time to elaborate further, though, because Kane promises to make him witness the true power of hate tonight. He's getting inducted into the Red Lantern Corps? Awesome!
The End Begins Tonight. So says the most recent, and perhaps final, cryptic video.
Match 1 Daniel Bryan vs. Cody Rhodes
Michael Cole gleefully anticipates the end of Bryan's reign as World Heavyweight Champion this coming Friday on SmackDown, when he has to defend the belt against the Big Show. This bout isn't for the strap, which looks like it might be fortunate for Bryan after he gets hit with the Beautiful Disaster. But he's able to kick out, and he executes a small package a few minutes later to get the win.
Time for another flashback to last Monday, this time to watch R-Truth beat down The Miz. Backstage, John Laurinaitis tells Miz that what Truth did to him was totally unprofessional. Miz isn't happy with that, so the interim GM shows him a clip from two months ago that was the impetus for Truth's assault. Told that he has a match against Sheamus tonight, Miz stomps off, shouting about how he doesn't want to be a sitting duck. Truth pops in and gives the camera a few quacks.
Match 2 Wade Barrett vs. Santino Marella
Barrett isn't going to use his microphone time to wish anyone Happy New Year, because he quite frankly doesn't care if anyone's year is happy or not. His 2012 is already off to a good start since it is completely devoid of Randy Orton after the damage done to the Viper on SmackDown. Barrett says he never planned on throwing Orton down a flight of stairs, but he did what he had to do. Santino interrupts him from more boasting, stating that the Barrett Barrage was going to get run over by the Santino Marella choo-choo train. All aboard! Needless to say, the train never really gets out of the station, and Barrett wins this one with the Winds of Change in fairly short order.
The Bella twins are arguing backstage, providing no help for The Miz in his search for R-Truth. We see him lurking by one of the food tables, but he tells us to be quiet. Truth, stop breaking the fourth wall!
During the break, we get a promo for The Scorpion King 3, which counts as cast members Kimbo Slice and Batista. You know, that sounds just bad enough to be worth checking out. #directtodvd
Match 3 Sheamus vs. The Miz
Miz doesn't even wait for the match to start, attacking the Great White before the bell. Sheamus battles back, raining blows on The Miz while he's on the apron. A dazed Miz tries to escape into the crowd, but Truth is out there with a microphone, and apparently, Little Jimmy too. Little Jimmy tells Truth that Miz needs to get got. Sheamus nails Miz with a Brogue Kick when he makes it back to ringside, leaving him helpless for a water bottle to the face. Truth goes back into the stands and gets Little Jimmy to wish Miz a Happy New Year.
Dolph Ziggler shows off with a handstand backstage. Josh Mathews asks him about his chances of a clean win over CM Punk tonight. He says that in a debt-based society, he is a walking surplus... of talent. Dolph wants everyone to remember the night he became WWE Champion. Elsewhere, Jack Swagger intrudes on Zack Ryder's convo with Eve. Oh joy, here comes Laurinaitis as well. Johnny Ace books a six-man tag with Swagger, Mark Henry and Kane taking on Ryder, Big Show and Cena. Sounds like a match tailor made for interference by the mystery man!
Match 4 CM Punk (champion) vs. Dolph Ziggler (challenger) WWE Championship Match
Both men take turns getting in some early offense. Punk delivers a series of leg drops for a near fall, then slows the pace by forcing Ziggler to power out of a hold. Dolph hurls the champ face first into the ropes and drops boots on him. Now its Ziggler with a chin lock on the mat. Punk kicks his foe to the outside and looks for a suicide dive, but Ziggler is well prepared, nailing him on the way out and rolling him back into the ring for a cover. Time out for commercials. Ziggler greets Punk with a sleeper after the break, but the champ counters and scores another near fall. Punk puts Ziggler down with a high kick and gets another two count with a power slam. A Fame-ass-er by Ziggler puts him right back in it, and a belly-to-back suplex forces Punk to kick out again. The champ strikes with his high knee/bulldog combo and calls for the GTS, but Laurinaitis comes down the ramp, pointing out an exposed turnbuckle to the official. That means the ref is conveniently distracted as Ziggler taps out to the Anaconda Vice. Ziggler tries to ambush Punk and gets thrown into Laurinaitis. Then Punk is hurled in that direction only to have Laurinaitis low bridge him out to the floor. The ref completes his ten count, making Ziggler the winner by count out, or disqualification, or something. Ziggler celebrates with the gold, though he doesn't actually win the belt.
One more 1/2/12 video. The reveal is less than an hour away now, one would think.
Match 5 The Bella Twins vs. Kelly Kelly and Eve
Eve hits a pretty nice moonsault during this match, but the Bellas steal a win with the old switcheroo.
Punk angrily confronts Laurinaitis backstage, but Johnny Ace isn't trying to hear it, pointing out that Ziggler has beaten him twice. Laurinaitis is giving Ziggler a third shot at the title at the Royal Rumble, though with the interim GM himself as special referee. Punk points to David Otunga and says he will come in handy. Because if Laurinaitis screws the champ again at the pay-per-view, Punk vows he'll be in jail for assault.
A familiar force shall arise to claim what is his. She holds the mystery to my rebirth. When I beckon her, I will return to reclaim what it mine. She has spoken. It is time. The end of the world as you know it is here. Now. That's the script as I could hear it from the final teaser video. The lights go dark in the arena., and... Chris Jericho is back, complete with a light-up jacket. The fans are eating it up, and Jericho also looks extremely happy to be there. Jericho soaks in the cheers for a long while, smiling all the time, but never says anything. Eventually, some boos start to ring out. Curious.
Main Event The Big Show, Zack Ryder and John Cena vs. Mark Henry, Jack Swagger and Kane Elimination Match
Kane's music hits last, but instead of the Big Red Machine, it's Otunga who comes to the ring. After a brief discussion, the ref announces that Kane is not participating, thus making it a handicap match. We quickly step out for a final ad break right after the match officially begins. Cena takes an extended beating but gives way to Big Show, who stares down Henry. The two super heavyweights come face to face again and start trading blows. They battle to the floor, where both of them are eliminated either by count out or because they were using a steel chair. That leaves Swagger solo to face Ryder and Cena. Swagger eats a Broski Boot but manages to counter the Rough Ryder with an ankle lock. Zack stretches for all he's worth and makes the tag to Cena, who nails Swagger with the Five Knuckle Shuffle and an Attitude Adjustment to wrap things up. No time to celebrate though, as Kane's pyro and music hit. Cena goes partway up the ramp, but Kane emerges from below the ring, tearing his way through the mat. The Big Red Machine assaults Ryder and Cena, leaving John out cold. Ryder awakens and tries desperately to escape, but Kane drags him back into the hole in the ring. Cena manages to grab and rescue him just before a fountain of fire erupts from the hole, and the two buddies are left with looks of astonishment as Raw fades out. See you in seven.
Nick Tylwalk has thought about doing one of his Raw reports without saying anything, but he figures he may have a hard time convincing Greg Oliver to send him any money for it if he did. Follow his Twitter feed @Nick_Tylwalk or drop him a line at email@example.com.