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Raw: Laurinaitis gets a new lease on life thanks to the Deadman
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


Last night's Royal Rumble may not have been the greatest ever, but it had its share of entertainment and a somewhat surprising winner. We'll see if the WWE can take any momentum out of it tonight in Kansas City, where John Laurinaitis awaits his fate as interim GM. Let's go there live on USA.

John Laurinaitis is smiling, pressing the flesh in advance of his job review by Triple H. Taking the microphone, the interim GM says he's actually looking forward to his appraisal, because he's been doing a good job. He wastes no time going on to introducing the men who will compete in the Raw main event at Elimination Chamber: CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, R-Truth and Chris Jericho. Laurinaitis stumbles his way through the matches he has planned for tonight until he is bailed out by the arrival of Punk. The WWE Champion comes out jovially singing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” (#lookeditup) and calling Johnny Ace “clown shoes” for the second time in a week. Since this is the last time they will be seeing each other, Punk tells Laurinaitis that he's provided everyone with tons of laughs over the past few weeks by stumbling over words and generally being incompetent. Johnny won't take the bait, sticking to his claim that he's taken Raw to another level and asking Punk if they can start anew. Punk refuses his offer of a handshake, and the awkward moment is interrupted by World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan, who Punk will face tonight. The super confident champion says no one cares about their soap opera, as he was too busy beating Big Show and Mark Henry last night. He also doesn't think Punk is much of a challenge compared to what he went through at the Royal Rumble. Punk shoots back that he's the best wrestler in the world, but Bryan says he's more than that, because he's a role model – as a vegan, he doesn't even eat meat. Referring to their time in the indies together, Punk says that since they've been friends for a long time, they should just give everyone the best wrestling match in the world. Since they're both present, Rumble winner Sheamus decides to join the two titleholders in the ring. After reminding Laurinaitis that he could be fired tonight, he also puts the champs on notice that he could challenge either one of them at WrestleMania. Sheamus shares an old Irish saying (heavily modified, methinks) with Laurinaitis to sarcastically wish him good luck. Up next: Randy Orton has his first Raw match in six weeks against Ziggler.

Wade Barrett has a luxury suite in Kansas City? Maybe he's a corporate guest or something. In any case, he's watching with interest alongside Josh Mathews. Barrett boasts that he'll do something far, far worse than throwing Orton down a flight of stairs this week on SmackDown.

Match 1 – Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler

We quickly go to commercial during this one. Barrett continues to look on while Mathews picks his brain, and we see that he'd be better off ringside since the suite is pretty far from the ring. Even Jerry Lawler wonders why Wade is all the way up there. Ziggler does some sit-ups after hitting some offense on Orton. That doesn't do him much good after The Viper crotches him and takes control of the match. Orton looks for his rope-aided DDT, but Ziggler hops on his back to apply the sleeper. Both men get quick two counts before Orton sends Ziggler out to the floor with a big clothesline. Dolph goes into the retaining wall hard, and Randy adds to his misery with a DDT and an RKO. No getting up from that – Orton wins.

Lawler and Michael Cole review the carnage from the John Cena-Kane match while Laurinaitis shakes hands and kisses babies (okay, not really) backstage. Hey, a William Regal sighting! Apparently that's enough to give us before another batch of commercials.

Match 2 – Brodus Clay vs. Tyler Reks

Reks actually gets some shots in, but only for a moment. Clay puts him away with a What The Funk in quick order, and his winning streak continues. He's like a funky Goldberg!

Back in the locker room, Punk tells Bryan that the fans probably don't consider Bryan a role model or even know what a vegan is. The World Heavyweight Champion explains it in no uncertain terms and fires back that many people don't know the meaning of straight edge either. Punk says that while he doesn't drink, smoke or do drugs, he doesn't claim to be a role model – just the best wrestler in the world.

Match 3 – CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan

Punk controls the early action, but Bryan shows a nasty streak by sending Punk into and over the retaining wall on the outside. The WWE Champion slingshots his way back into the ring, getting a near fall, then another after making Bryan miss a charge into the corner. Both men end up down so we can duck out once again for commercials. Bryan is working over Punk on the mat upon our return, but the “best in the world” lets his opponent know it by giving him a Frankensteiner off the top rope. Bryan takes the high running knee and bulldog, and Punk calls for the GTS. Bryan earns some boos by escaping to the floor, but Punk executes a baseball slide. Bryan fires back with a shot from the floor and a big missile dropkick in the ring to get a two count. Punk quickly has to kick out again after a kick to the head. He's taken up top by Bryan but manages to headbutt his way out of danger. Punk drops the big elbow but only gets two. Both men end up down again, but Chris Jericho causes the bout to be called by running down and attacking Bryan. The World Heavyweight Champion is named the winner by disqualification even though Jericho goes on to nail Punk with a Codebreaker.

As rumored, Mike Tyson will be joining the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2012 in the celebrity wing. Of course, since the Hall of Fame doesn't have a physical building, there's really no “wing” per se, and... This is making my head hurt. Let's just say congrats to Iron Mike and move on.

Match 4 – Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz

R-Truth joins the announcers for this one, though we don't get started right away because Miz wants to use his microphone time to put himself over for lasting more than 45 minutes in the Rumble. Once the match begins, Cole earns Truth's wrath by questioning the existence of Little Jimmy. Kingston wins the bout with the Trouble in Paradise, which should make both Truth and Little Jimmy happy.

David Otunga stops by to check on Laurinaitis, who seems to be concerned that his legal counsel might be eying up his job. Or maybe he's just worried about what Triple H is going to say.

Hey, anyone who paid for the Royal Rumble last night already saw this video package about The Rock. #rerun

Match 5 – Eve Torres (challenger) vs Beth Phoenix (champion) – Divas Championship Match

Eve may have some pent-up rage after watching her “friend” Zack Ryder get thrashed again last night. It does her no good, though, as Phoenix finishes her with a Glam Slam after less than a minute of action. Kane's music hits, and the Big Red Machine taunts here from the big screen. He blames Cena for not embracing the hate and looking past Kane. Saying Cena can't beat him or The Rock until he taps into the hate, Kane also threatens to use Eve to send that message. The fire erupts, but Kane is already behind her in the ring. Here comes Cena, and off we go. They brawl for a bit, and Cena gets the upper hand with the help of several foreign objects. He looks for the Attitude Adjustment on the announce table, but Kane escapes over the barrier and hightails it through the crowd.

Laurinaitis is introduced, and he slowly comes out to a chorus of boos. He says he's not dreading his performance review because he's confident he did a good job. Johnny Ace goes on to say that on a scale of 0-5, he gave himself a lot of 5s on his self-assessment. The time for introspection is over, though, as The Game's music brings the WWE's COO to the stage. Triple H immediately gives Laurinaitis a hard time, accusing him of using the GM role to make himself a star. Johnny Ace tells the COO that he'll do anything to keep his job. When Trips reminds Laurinaitis that Vince McMahon used to make people join a certain club, Johnny puts Chapstick on, gets on his knees and puckers up. But Triple H isn't interested in that, just doing what needs to be done. The Board has apparently told HHH that he can come back and run the show any time he wants. Laurinaitis is about to be “future endeavored,” but the lights go dark, and The Undertaker makes a typically dramatic return. He says nothing, simply staring down The Game and the WrestleMania XXVIII banner. Hint, hint. Triple H responds by patting The Phenom on the shoulder and walking away. See you in seven!

Nick Tylwalk is hoping he never gets as close to being fired before getting a reprieve as John Laurinaitis did tonight. Share your stories about close calls with the pink slip with Nick on Twitter, on Google+ or by email.