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Raw: The pieces of the Royal Rumble fall into place in San Jose
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


The Shield stands over a beaten Rock. Photos by Devin Chen, www.chdevinphotos.com


A tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. plays to open the show. Tonight the spotlight falls on San Jose, where everyone will be jockeying for final position before the Royal Rumble. It’s time for Raw, live as usual on USA.

Excuse me! Vickie Guerrero and Paul Heyman come to the ring arm in arm, a strange sight to be sure. Explaining that her job is to the right thing, it also means not always doing the popular thing, especially when it comes to The Rock. Heyman adds that he is there for a show of solidarity with Ms. Guerrero. Let's take a look at how The Rock defamed both Paul and Vickie last week, shall we? Yes, that means we get to see Rocky's rendition of “Horrible Tonight” again. Vickie assures us that he's not here, then bans him from entering the arena anyway. Oh wait, he is here. Vickie cackles as some of San Jose's finest keep The People's Champion from entering. An angry Rock compares CM Punk to Manti Te'o: instead of having an imaginary girlfriend, he has an imaginary nutsack. He also wants the police to arrest Heyman for not wearing a bra in public. Rock ends his promo by assuring the officers that it isn't a question of if he's going to get in, but when. Guerrero still says he won't, if you smell what The Vick is cooking.


Randy Orton readies an RKO on Antonio Cesaro.
Match 1 – Antonio Cesaro vs. Randy Orton – Beat the Clock Challenge Match

The deal with the Beat the Clock challenge is that there will be six men competing in three matches. The wrestler who wins his match in the fastest time will get to pick his entry spot in the Royal Rumble match. I enjoy the fact that Cesaro wears the American flag on his tights, by the way. He and Orton spend the first three minutes exchanging holds on the mat, and the commercial break means the match is going at least a few more minutes. Cesaro gets several near falls just before the nine-minute mark, and Orton has to dig down to fight back. He ends up getting sent shoulder first into the post, falling out to the floor. Cesaro retrieves him, but when he turns to look at the clock, Orton nails an RKO to get the win. The time to beat is 11:36.

A video package takes us through some highlights from the career of Mick Foley. He was named the first member of the 2013 Hall of Fame class last week. The Shield also has some footage to show us, allegedly to open our eyes to... something.

Match 2 – The Big Show vs. Zack Ryder

Everyone's favorite non-employee Brad Maddox joins Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler for this one. Ryder gets squashed like those random jobbers who showed up on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. Show calls it a preview of what he's going to do to Alberto Del Rio, then gets upset when the fans “What?” him.

Maddox's next trick is to bust in on Heyman in the locker room. Brad tells Heyman there is nothing he wouldn't do to make his WWE dream come true. Heyman sees an opportunity and offers to help him out. Hmm...

Match 3 – Heath Slater vs. Ryback

Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal are little help, getting thrown into each other, and Slater is quickly Shell Shocked for the pinfall. Ryback thinks he's going to win the Rumble match, saying it's the kind of match he was made for. That grammar is his, not mine.

Out in the back, The Rock is still using his powers of persuasion to try to get the cops to let him in the building. The catchphrases seem to be working. Will they waver? They seem like they might, but Vickie stops by to make sure they stand strong. She wants an apology if he wants to get inside. The Rock says he's going to get in on his own terms, and Vickie still looks horrible tonight. She storms out while The Great One goes back to work on the police.

Punk gets in the ring for his microphone time. Saying he's worked half his life to earn the most prestigious title the WWE has to offer, he refuses to let The Rock or any other man take it from him. Punk explains that while The Rock is here to entertain, he's here to hurt people and be the champion. Basically, Punk feels it's a pretty poor motivation to perform for the people. He says that a long time ago, he chose honest arrogance over hypocritical modesty, and it was the right choice. Okay Punk, I think you've set up the dichotomy just fine thanks.

Match 4 – Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz – Beat the Clock Challenge Match

Remember folks, the time to beat is 11:36. Both men go for some early pins to try to wrap things up early. Shockingly, none of them work. Some of the fans start a “Let's go Ziggler” chant. Miz works over Dolph's left leg for a Figure Four, but Ziggler sends him out to suffer at the hands of Big E Langston. We head out to commercial with about 7:40 left on the clock. The break knocks about four minutes off, and The Miz gets several near falls as AJ looks on in concern. Miz hammers Ziggler in the corner and follows with a jumping lariat. An ax handle off the top rope connects, but Dolph kicks out at two. Both men have chances to win with the clock ticking under two minutes. Miz locks on the Figure Four with 90 seconds left. AJ distracts the ref, allowing Langston to drag Ziggler to the ropes so the hold can be broken. Big E offers another distraction so that Ziggler can catch Miz from behind with a Zig Zag, and Dolph gets the pin with 40 seconds to spare. That makes 10:56 the time to beat in the final challenge.

Dr. Shelby is all done up in his cap and gown, expressing his pride for Daniel Bryan and Kane. They're having their graduation from anger management tonight. The ceremony goes well until Shelby allows the tag team partners to decide who will give the valedictorian speech. Neither man wants the honor, and a yelling match ensues. Shelby proposes that everyone hug – yes, even Cole and The King after Kane proposes it. What about Justin Roberts and the ring doctor? Yep, them too. And three random guys in the front row, and two other dudes on the other side of the ring. You see where this is going.

Match 5 – Alicia Fox vs. Kaitlyn

Tamina is watching with a stern look on her face backstage. At least I think that's what she's doing. Kaitlyn weathers some early difficulty and manages to pin Alicia with a spear.

Heyman wants Punk to watch what's going to happen next from a luxury box. It's not really going to be a pipe bomb, it's more of a Paul bomb. I think Maddox is about to get his moment in the spotlight.

After some more ads, Heyman has something to say, and he promises to dumb it down for the fans. He feels that Mr. McMahon is desperate for someone to beat Punk for the title, and The Rock is simply the flavor of the month. Also stupid, just like the people. Uh oh, The Rock is in the building. Looks like he bought a ticket. Dwayne sends Paul packing before turning to address the champ directly. Rock borrows a bit from Dr. King's famous speech as he promises to free the WWE from Punk's title reign. Then the lights go out, and The Shield assaults The Rock. Even the Brahma Bull is no match for these odds, and he gets the same group power bomb as others have before him. Punk taunts The Rock a bit as the camera zooms in to show us that he's been bloodied.

Match 6 – Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett – Beat the Clock Challenge Match

Lawler speculates that if one of these two tough guys wins the challenge, he might not pick the last spot. I'd pick the 29th spot just to be a jerk. Barrett sends Sheamus over the top rope to the floor, the better to squeeze in another commercial break. They're still going toe to toe with 3:30 to go. A series of reversals ends up with Sheamus eating a big reverse kick to the jaw, but he manages to kick out at two. Sheamus responds with White Noise, calling for the Brogue Kick with 60 seconds left. AJ jumps in the ring, a move that almost backfires as Barrett gets another near fall. Big E and Dolph are down there too, looking on as the clock ticks toward zero. Sheamus connects with a Brogue Kick, but he runs out of time before he can cover for the pin.

Ziggler and his cohorts celebrate in Vickie's office. But there's some bad news: she's only giving him the choice between No. 1 and No. 2. Elsewhere, Punk and Heyman run into Mr. McMahon in a backstage hallway. He warns the champ that if The Shield gets involved in his match at the Royal Rumble, there will be “severe consequences.” Heyman points out that The Shield has attacked other wrestlers, but Vince stands his ground with a clarification. If Punk gets outside help, he'll be stripped of his belt.

Match 7 – Alberto Del Rio vs. Tensai


World champion Alberto Del Rio.
Tensai comes out throwing his considerable weight around. Del Rio fights back with a belly-to-belly suplex, followed by his step up kick. A second rope moonsault makes this an easy victory for Del Rio, much to the delight of San Francisco closer Sergio Romo. Del Rio says there will be a ten count in his Last Man Standing Match with Big Show, but it will be for him. Also, it will be in Spanish.

And the second member of the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2013 is... Bob Backlund. Hard to argue with that selection.

A whole show without seeing or hearing from John Cena? That's about to be rectified right now. He starts into a lengthy discussion about what various fans in the front row have done during their Sundays. This Sunday is different, of course, because it's Royal Rumble Sunday. Cena puts it as plainly as he can: “This Sunday, I will win the Royal Rumble.” Ah, but here come some people who beg to differ. First Sheamus, then the Prime Time Players, then Orton. Oh, and The Miz, Team Hell No, Cesaro and 3MB. And here we go! Even more wrestlers join the fray, and it's a Pier Six brawl! Six days to the Rumble folks, and I'll see you in seven.

RELATED LINK

  • Monday Night Raw in San Jose Photo Gallery

    Nick Tylwalk had a problem many Canadians can probably identify with on Monday night, attempting to cover Raw and watch hockey at the same time. Tell him how you deal with this dilemma by giving him a shout on Twitter, on Google+ or by email.