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Raw: Rock returns, Punk defends title
By MATT BISHOP - SLAM! Wrestling


Tonight on Monday Night Raw: It's the first Raw of 2013 and it's the return of The Rock. And tonight, we find out who he'll challenge for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble when CM Punk defends against Ryback in a TLC match. An action-packed show! Should be a good one!

We are LIVE! from Tampa, Fla. Michael Cole and Jerry "The King" Lawler are our hosts and this show is presented in WWEHD (TV-PG, V)

John Cena is out to start the show. He talks about how they are welcoming back The Rock tonight. He talks ever so briefly about entering the Royal Rumble when he is interrupted by Dolph Ziggler (and his black eye), AJ Lee and Big E Langston.

They trade some really, really, bad comedy. Like, it's embarrassing. Finally, Cena says he's done talking. It's time to fight. Thank God. But wait, now Big E's talking! He apparently accepts the challenge for Ziggler. After moments of chatter, Ziggler's music plays and apparently this compels him to walk to the ring.

(Ads)

Match #1 - John Cena (West Newbury, Mass.) vs. Dolph Ziggler (Hollywood, Fla.)

And apparently this was made official during the break by Vickie Guerrero.

Back and forth action to start. Cena with a headlock and a standing vertical suplex, but Ziggler fires back with a kick and then a big corner splash. Cena catches Ziggler and hits a slingshot, but Ziggler takes the ref and Big E hops up on the apron and clocks Cena.

(Ads)

Ziggler in control, but Cena gets going and Big E and AJ end up getting themselves thrown up. Cena takes over and goes for the Five Knuckle Shuffle but Ziggler cuts him off and hits the Fameasser. Cena, though, comes back and is able to hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle. He lifts Ziggler for the Attitude Adjustment but Ziggler slips out and hits the Zig Zag for two.

Ziggler wants the Superkick but Cena counters but Ziggler counters him with a DDT for two. Ziggler goes to the top for a crossbody, but Cena rolls it through, hoists Ziggler for the AA and goes to dump him, but Ziggler lands on his feet and hits the Superkick for another near fall. Ziggler can't believe it.

The two start slugging it out. Cena gets the better of it but Ziggler ducks under and locks in the sleeper. Cena, though, flings Ziggler off but Ziggler hits the referee in the air. He goes out of the ring. Cena locks in the STF but there's no ref. Here comes Big E. He breaks it up, hits his finish, puts Ziggler on top and takes off.

Still no referee. Finally another comes running from the back and starts counting but Cena kicks out at two. Both men up. Ziggler charges but runs right into the AA and that does it.

Winner via pinfall: John Cena

(Ads)

Match #2 - WWE Divas Championship - (c) Eve Torres (Denver, Colo.) vs. Kaitlyn (Houston, Texas)

This is a travesty of officiating. The referee tells Kaitlyn she can't continue until she ties her boots. Eve is in the corner, the referee tells her to stay there, and Eve comes out and kicks Kaitlyn right in the head. Of course, this isn't a DQ. Horrible.

Eve goes to work, but Kaitlyn fires up. She hits a side slam and later follows with a big kick. Eve starts to run and bails out through the crowd. Thrilling.

Winner via countout: Kaitlyn

(Ads)

Santino Marella and Ricky Steamboat are trade Intercontinental Championship war stories (that's a good one) when Wade Barrett comes up and says the title now means something and Steamboat is just an old dragon blowing smoke. Barrett walks off and Steamboat asks if he can be in Santino's corner tonight. Santino accepts.

Match #3 - Kane (Hell, Fire & Brimstone) & Daniel Bryan (Aberdeen, Wash.) vs. Damien Sandow (Palo Alto, Calif.) & Cody Rhodes (Marietta, Ga.)

A good start for Team Hell No, but the Rhodes Scholars take over, using frequent tags and isolation of Bryan. Bryan, though, is able to get the tag to Kane, who continually slips on the top rope when trying to go up. He finally recovers and hits the flying clothesline and then a big boot to Sandow for a two count. He hits the sidewalk slam for two. He wants the choke slam but Sandow bails to the outside, only for Bryan to absolutely destroy him with a flying knee from the apron.

Bryan with some No Kicks in the corner. He hits the back flip off the rope but comes up lame on his right knee. Rhodes Scholars work over the knee. Kane comes over and takes out Sandow from the apron but Bryan can't fight off Rhodes while hobbled, and Rhodes hit the CrossRhodes and that does it.

Winners via pinfall: Team Rhodes Scholars

(Ads)

Match #4 - Heath Slater (Pineville, WV) vs. Randy Orton (St. Louis, Mo.)

The other 3MB members are way too involved in this one and get the best of Orton and get him back in the ring where Slater applies a deadly headlock. That doesn't last long, though. Orton hits a superplex and then hits two clothesline and a scoop slam. Orton dispatches of Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal, hits the draping DDT on Slater and finishes him with the RKO.

Winner via pinfall: Randy Orton

3MB attacks, only to be laid out with RKOs.

(Ads)

Match #5 - Wade Barrett (Preston, England) vs. Santino Marella (Calabria, Italy)

Barrett in control. Santino gets a brief spot with a super kick and then hits his hip toss and falling headbutt. He pulls out the Cobra but Barrett ducks and then snaps Santino's neck on the top rope. He re-enters the the ring and hits the Bullhammer Elbow and that does it.

Winner via pinfall: Wade Barrett

(Ads)

Match #6 - Antonio Cesaro (Lucerne, Switzerland) vs. The Great Khali (Punjab, India)

Cesaro gets chopped big time early on. Cesaro takes a brief powder and comes back and goes to work on Khali's leg, but Khali gets back up and levels Cesaro with a big boot. Cesaro, though, hits an uppercut and then a springboard uppercut. Khali is down. Cesaro grabs him, lifts him up and hits the Neutralizer and that does it.

Winner via pinfall: Antonio Cesaro

(Ads)

Match #7 - Sheamus (Dublin, Ireland) vs. Jinder Mahal (Nashville, India)

All comedy early on. Sheamus hits the clobbering blows on the ropes and Mahal wilts. McIntyre gets them for good measure, too. Mahal, though, gets a brief distraction from McIntyre and Mahal hits Sheamus with a jumping knee that sends him to the floor. Mahal goes to work now. That doesn't last long. 3MB gets involved some more. Sheamus clotheslines Mahal and Slater over the top and to the floor.

McIntyre and Slater get Brogue Kicks on the floor. In the ring, Sheamus hits Mahal with White Noise and finishes him with the Brogue Kick.

Winner via pinfall: Sheamus

(Ads)

Match #8 - Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match for the WWE Championship - (c) CM Punk (Chicago, Ill.) vs. Ryback (Sin City)

They battle on the outside. Ryback grabs a chair and stalks Punk. He swings but Punk ducks it, grabs the loose chair and slams Ryback in the back with it. But Ryback quickly comes back and, in the ring, hits a delayed vertical suplex, slamming Punk onto a ladder.

They go to the outside and Ryback drills Punk with the steep steps. Then he dead lifts the bottom steps and goes to throw them on Punk, but Punk moves and jumps over the steps and delivers a flying knee. Punk grabs a chair and goes to work on Ryback's leg.

(Ads)

We come back right into Punk hitting an electric chair on Punk. Action spills back to the outside and Ryback sets up a table, but Punk hits him with a chair. Ryback, though, responds by sending Punk flying over the announce table. He deconstructs the table a bit, but again Punk comes back. In the ring, he goes to Pillmanize Ryback's ankle but Ryback moves. Here comes Ryback.

He sends Punk flying with a back drop. Ryback calling for the big Meat Hook clothesline and he hits it. He calls to finish it. He lifts Punk up for the Shell Shock but Punk escapes to the floor and then side steps Ryback, sending Ryback flying through the table Ryback himself had set up earlier.

Punk goes back into the ring and starts climbing the ladder but Ryback is up with him. They slug it out and Punk falls. Ryback climbs, but Punk pushes the ladder down, only for Ryback to land on his feet. Ryback then drops Punk on the ladder. He hoists Punk up, but Punk slides out again and hits a head kick.

Punk hits the corner knee. And another. He goes for the bulldog but Ryback lifts him up and dumps him over the top and through a table. Ryback scrambles to find a working ladder. He gets one, brings it into the ring and starts climbing. He grabs the title but as he goes, the lights go out and it's Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins on the ladder. Ryback shoves them off and then dispatches of Roman Reigns. He starts climbing, but The Shield recovers and hits Ryback with a chair.

They hit him again and beat him down on the outside. The crowd is not pleased with this development. The Shield grabs Ryback and power bombs him through a table and onto the steel steps. The Shield takes off. Punk is slow to recover, still down on the floor. He slowly makes his way back into the ring and climbs the ladder with one arm. Ryback is still down. Punk feels it. He reaches the top of the ladder, poses a bit and grabs the title.

Winner and STILL WWE Champion: CM Punk

(Ads)

Match #9 - Kofi Kingston (Ghana, West Africa) vs. The Big Show (Tampa, Fla.)

Show knocks Kingston out in about 10 seconds.

Winner via pinfall: The Big Show

(Ads)

CM Punk is out after promising to deliver a pipe bomb tonight. He dispatches of the WWE mic flag and says it's time to talk about something very personal. He says nobody understands what a pipe bomb is anymore. He says it's about honesty. He says he didn't turn his back on the people. Everything he said back then he meant. He says he could've swallowed that bitter pill of disrespect, but instead of made a conscious decision to sell out to the fans, but he cashed in. He says he created a persona that the fans would love to cheer for. He says it doesn't matter if you're the best wrestler, best talker, whatever. There's a glass ceiling and no one's allowed to break it.

He talks about how Daniel Bryan and a monster in Brodus Clay put smiles on their faces and use catchphrases so they can move ahead. How Little Jimmy gets more time than Tyson Kidd. He says they're all here in the circus to entertain the fans and no one's been able to succeed without the fans, except for him.

He says all the old WWE Champions of the past had it easy, to the point where his one year equals 30 years from the old school. He says he's successful not because of the fans, rather in spite of the fans.

He talks about people who have said they've given it all for the fans and they are either dishonest or weak. He says he's never done this for any of the fans. Now Punk is being told they have to take a commercial break. He tells the truck they go to break when he wants to go to break. He starts ranting and they go to break.

(Ads)

Punk is still going. He says the fans are losers, they do not get to win. As he goes on, he is interrupted, finally, by The Great One. That's right, The Rock is here, raising the first People's Eyebrow of 2013.

The Rock said he wanted to wait for Punk to finish so he knew exactly what kind of man he was dealing with at the Royal Rumble. He says Punk is straight up delusional. He calls Punk's reign's incredible, but the real number that haunts his dreams is 20. Because in 20 days, Punk will be facing The Rock for the WWE Championship at the Rumble. And in 20 days, time's up.

Rock says Punk didn't reject the people, the people rejected Punk. He talks about how Punk said he'd provide change but he couldn't even deliver ice cream bars. Then he gets the fans to chant "cookie puss" at Punk.

The Rock says he's back to entertain the fans, to stop Punk and to win the WWE Championship. He says Punk has one of the most creative minds in WWE, but he shouldn't say the people don't matter. They always matter, and Punk doesn't matter.

He says Punk isn't going to stop him from becoming WWE Champion. Punk says he's glad Rock's back and doesn't care what schedule he's on. But every time Rock comes back, he's going to kick his ass. Punk says Rock has graduated from the kiddie table but has bitten off more than he can chew. Punk says he's in the big leagues and Rock's jabs and insults are little league and when Rock steps in the ring with him at Royal Rumble, he'll realize his arms are too short to box with God.

Rock responds and says Punk embarrassed him at Raw 1000, knocking him out with the GTS and he hasn't forgotten. In 20 days, time's up. Rock then encourages Punk to get more tattoos. Some candy bars on one butt cheek and then a tattoo of The Rock's size 15 shoe on the other so he can remember how badly The Rock kicked his ass at the Royal Rumble. Then he delivers a Rock Bottom that sends Punk packing.

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