-After last week’s dud of an episode, WWE has one last chance to finish their build for the Royal Rumble. Then, the Road to WrestleMania begins and lots of people start pointing to a sign in the rafters.
-A nice Martin Luther King Jr. tribute video to start us off.
-We are LIVE from San Jose, CA (home of Joe “I’m supposed to score in the playoffs?” Thornton).
-Vickie Guerrero and Paul Heyman hit the ring to show unity against the Rock’s parody songs…”Weird” Al better watch out. Vickie has banned the Rock from the arena in retaliation and the police have blocked Rocky in the parking lot. So the Rock tries to enter anyways and lays some verbal abuse on Vickie, CM Punk, and Paul Heyman but is still unable to enter.
-Also, tonight we will be having a Beat the Clock Challenge where whoever wins their match the fastest gets to pick their entry number in the Royal Rumble. Wouldn’t it automatically be #30? I always like these clock challenges though because it actually makes the matches on Raw MEAN something, instead of it just being pointless match after pointless match.
Beat the Clock Challenge
Antonio Cesaro vs. Randy Orton
Cesaro goes for a quick rollup and Orton returns the favor but Cesaro works a headlock. Cesaro keeps going for quick pinfall attempts which of course makes sense in the scheme of the match. Orton comes back with a Thesz Press for two and tries a suplex but gets caught in a small package for two. Dropkick gets two for Orton and Cesaro powders out where Orton hits a clothesline and gets two.
We take a commercial break and return with Cesaro trying for a superplex at 7:00. Orton punches out but Cesaro dumps him to the floor. Cesaro impressively deadlifts Orton and carries him around the ring before hitting a gutwrench suplex for two. Orton fights out of a sleeper but falls victim to a powerslam and a double stomp for two. Orton counters with a clothesline though and mounts his comeback with a powerslam of his own. The draping DDT though is nicely countered by a jacknife cover from Cesaro for two and he follows with the Very European Uppercut for another near fall.
We hit 11:00 and Orton’s shoulder hits the post as he tumbles to the floor. Cesaro tosses Orton back inside but turns his head for a second to check the clock and Orton surprises him with the RKO for the win at 11:36.
Winner: Randy Orton
-Cesaro came out of this match looking strong even with taking the loss, so really no big deal at all. It was a pretty good TV match as well **1/2.
-Another really nice tribute video, this time for Mick Foley and his induction into the Hall of Fame.
-The Shield cut a cool promo promising they are just getting started.
Big Show vs. Zack Ryder
I really don’t like Ryder’s chances here. Brad Maddox jumps into the announce position from the crowd as Big Show destroys Ryder with the KO Punch in about 20 seconds.
Winner: Big Show
-I think it’s time for Zack to find another line of work, DUD.
-After a break, Brad Maddox meets Paul Heyman backstage and Heyman promises to make him famous. Is Heyman channeling 2003 Undertaker now?
Ryback vs. Heath Slater
Slater tries to use his quickness but gets flattened and hit with a spinebuster. The CLOTHESLINE OF DEATH floors Slater and Ryback takes out the rest of 3MB. Shell Shock hits and the pin is academic after that.
-A second DUD in a row considering this was a squash-o-rama.
-Meanwhile, the Rock tries to convince the police to let him in the arena. He finds out one of the police officers has a ticket but Vickie interrupts and demands an apology for her to lift the ban. The Rock obviously doesn’t respond well to that and plots with the police after chasing Vickie away.
-Well, the first hour wasn’t exactly must-see television but hopefully things will pick up.
-CM Punk hits the ring and I forget how long he has been champion but I have a feeling he’s going to remind me very soon. Ah, there we go. Anyways, Punk says the world title is his life’s work and the Rock isn’t allowed to take it from him. The Rock is here to tell jokes while CM Punk is here to hurt people and keep his title. A great promo follows from Punk as he gives an ultra-serious talk about earning the title and what being a champion means. Awesome promo.
Beat the Clock Challenge
Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz
If the Miz starts using the figure four as a finisher, I’m going to be really upset. Miz hits a quick dropkick for two and gets a few more quick two counts before Dolph slows things down with a headlock. Elbow off the ropes gets two for Miz and they go into a nice pinfall reversal sequence ended with a crisp dropkick but Ziggler for two.
Neckbreaker gets two for Dolph and he works a rear chinlock but Miz fights out and hits a chopblock on Dolph’s knee to start setting up for the figure four. Of course, he applies it to the wrong leg but Dolph dumps him anyways for Big E. Langston to add some punishment. Dolph gets two off of that and we take a break.
We return with 3:45 left and Dolph trying for another neckbreaker but getting taken over with a backslide for two. More quick action leads to a Miz boot for two and he goes nuts in the corner, hammering away and hitting his clothesline. Miz comes off the top with a double axe handle for two as the crowd starts to get into it. Skull Crushing Finale is countered and they hit another pinfall reversal spot and Dolph ends it with a jumping DDT for two.
Under two minutes left and Dolph tries for a dropkick but Miz catches him in the figure four. AJ distracts the referee so Langston can drag Dolph to the ropes for a break. Nice spot. Under a minute left and Miz tries a rollup but gets distracted by Langston and Dolph hits the Zig Zag with 30 seconds left to get the win and set a new time.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
-See why this Beat the Clock stuff is good for Raw? It gives the matches a sense of drama and the crowd starts feeling the urgency as the clock ticks down. Anyways, this was a really good match between these two as Miz seemed ultra-motivated and really hung with Ziggler during the fast-paced spots ***.
Anger Management Graduation
Yep, it’s time for more Dr. Shelby and the Team Hell No Comedy Hour, which is fine by me. Bryan and Kane head out wearing graduation gowns and Daniel has even slicked his hair back. Kane and Daniel argue over who the Valedictorian is so neither have to give a speech and that somehow leads to everyone at ringside hugging. Well that was certainly an odd segment.
-Recap of Eve quitting WWE last week…my God, what a loss to the roster.
Alicia Fox vs. Kaitlyn
I had no idea Alicia was even still on the roster. Alicia runs Kaitlyn into the corner and tumbles to the floor in a sloppy spot. Scary spot as Kaitlyn dives off the apron, slamming Fox’s head into the floor by landing with her full body weight on Fox’s chest. Back inside, Alicia tosses Kaitlyn around by her hair and hits a clothesline for two. Fox whiffs on a kick and Kaitlyn hits an ugly spear for the pin.
-Well, that stunk. 1/2* for the outfits and cleavage.
-So CM Punk takes a seat in a luxury box as Paul Heyman hits the ring to mock the crowd and promote Punk. I can summarize his promo very simply: The Rock is stupid and so are the people. The Rock has gotten hold of a ticket though, a ticket which apparently gives him access to the entrance ramp. I need to buy one of those next time WWE rolls through Pittsburgh.
Heyman immediately points this out of course but gets interrupted and tossed out of the ring. Rock busts out one of his trademark coked up promos where he promises to end the title reign of Punk once and for all. However, the lights shut off at the end of the promo and the Shield attacks in the darkness. Triple powerbomb lays out the People’s Champion and the Rock is left laying as Punk brags from the luxury box. Good booking there as you tease Shield’s involvement in the title match on Sunday.
Beat the Clock Challenge Match
Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett
Sheamus quickly floors Wade as King and Cole relay the rules of the Royal Rumble to a presumably stupid wrestling audience. Slow start as Wade hammers away in the corner with no sense of urgency but Sheamus fires back and hits the Celtic Cross for two. Barrett responds with a clothesline over the top and that takes us to our mid-match commercial break.
We return with Barrett getting a two count with 5:00 left and Wade works a Fujiwara armbar. In real life, that’s an automatic submission but, since this is wrestling, it’s a resthold. Sheamus comes back with the Irish Hammer and Sheamus throws his forearms in the ropes with three and a half minutes to go. A suplex gets two for Sheamus but Barrett dodges a Brogue kick and hits a big kick to the face for two. Flying elbow off the second rope also gets two as we go under 2:00. Barrett looks for Wasteland but Sheamus fights out and hits White Noise with a minute and a half left. Sheamus looks to finish but Dolph, AJ, and Langston run out for a distraction allowing Barrett to hit Winds of Change for two. Thirty seconds left and both guys are out but Sheamus recovers first and hits the Brogue kick. Unfortunately, the clock runs out before Sheamus can get the cover, allowing Dolph to pick his number at the Rumble.
-Pretty good booking there as Dolph didn’t care who won, just as long as it didn’t beat his time. This match started slow but turned into a decent, hard-hitting match **1/4.
-After a break, Dolph and AJ gloat in front of Vickie Guerrero but she reveals that Ziggler doesn’t get to pick ANY number, he just gets to choose between #1 or #2. Well, that’s a really disappointing payoff to the show’s angle.
-Meanwhile, CM Punk and Paul Heyman run into Vince McMahon backstage and deny any involvement with the Shield. Vinnie Mac promise to strip Punk of the world title if the Shield interferes in the Punk’s match on Sunday.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Tensai
If they were smart, they would run a translation of Ricardo’s introduction on the TitanTron or something like that. Tensai attacks quickly and hits a pair of pump splashes for a two count but Alberto comes back with flying headscissors off the second rope. Del Rio impressively hits a German suplex and hits a second-rope moonsault (which actually missed) for the win.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
-I’m actually surprised at how over Del Rio has gotten as a babyface, so hopefully they can maintain his momentum. Match was a total squash and had nothing much going for it 1/2*. Alberto has the crowd count to ten in Spanish which means they are still ripping off ECW 13 years later.
-The 2nd member of the 2013 Hall of Fame Class is Bob Backlund…no problem with that whatsoever.
Main Event Interview
So John Cena hits the ring and launches into another goofy interview by making Black Ops 2 jokes to an elementary school kid in the front row. Seriously, I don’t get the point of these promos at all. Then, after making stupid jokes for 5 minutes, he just simply says he’s going to win the Royal Rumble…whatever.
Sheamus interrupts Cena’s exit though and promises to win the Rumble until the Prime Time Players and Randy Orton make their presence known as well. The Miz throws his hat in the ring as well and so does Team Hell No. We get a little further down the card now as Antonio Cesaro and 3MB run their mouths for a bit followed by the rest of the locker room. Of course, a big pier six brawl breaks out to surprisingly very little crowd reaction. People start getting tossed over the top and we fade to black.
This was actually a pretty strong episode of Raw outside of a few minor annoyances. The Beat the Clock matches were well-booked and well-worked while CM Punk and the Rock brought the awesome with their promos for the title match. The John Cena promo was pointless and stupid but that’s becoming a weekly thing with that guy, so what do you expect? Anyways, if you can fast-forward through the commercials and the Cena stuff, these three hours actually went pretty quick and that’s all I ask for.
Until next time…