ThunderStruck: WWE Raw Analysis 12/31/12

We open the show with MizTV on the stage and the Miz announces that tonight is a champion’s choice show. His guest is John Cena. They are interrupted by Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes. They argue and Cena says he wants a clean slate with Miz. He challenges Rhodes and Sandow to a match right now.

^This was a lot of fun. I love the RGIII stuff here, and I love the chemistry with these four on the mic. Great opening for a taped show!

Cena and Miz defeat Sandow and Rhodes when Cena hits the AA on Sandow for the win.

^I enjoyed the match; it was nothing special but seeing Cena in the ring with Sandow and Rhodes is a nice treat, and the Miz has undoubtedly stepped up his game in 2012. I expected the face team to get the win here because Cena is the “vet” here and it’s also a feel good show for New Years.

The backstage New Year’s party is shown. Otunga tells Vickie it’s going to be his year. Dolph Ziggler tells Vickie he wants bygones to be bygones. Vickie tells them to enjoy their New Year’s toast tonight, and then proceeds to inform Ziggler of his match with Sheamus later.

^If by “year of Otunga” he was referring to the fact that he’ll become the poster boy for backstage segments on Raw and Smackdown, I think he already achieved that feat in 2012. I like Vickie playing more of a neutral heel role(Eric Bischoff, anyone?) because you can involve more backstage segments for Vickie with both heels and faces(equality, eh?).

The Prime Time Players do their millions of dollars dance for Vickie and Aksana. CM Punk walks up to Vickie and talks about fans speculating that his injury isn’t real. Punk asks Vickie if he can have his doctor come out and explain his injury. Vickie books Ryback in a match against the Shield tonight with convincing from Punk that Ryback should pay for the unfairness that Punk has endured. Heyman and Punk love the idea and praise Vickie.

^One minute they hate her; the next they love her. Good setup for Ryback if he actually wrestles. I’m fearful that the dance is the most we will see from the PTP tonight.

Antonio Cesaro cuts a promo and chooses his opponent for tonight, Sgt. Slaughter. Cesaro defeats Slaughter with the neutralizer and retains his US Title.

^I didn’t enjoy this all that much, but I suppose it’s a change of pace rather than having Cesaro crush either Kidd, Gabriel, or Ryder repeatedly. I just wish Vince didn’t overbook the “legends” on the shows as much as he does. It doesn’t feel special anymore to see Hacksaw, Sarge, Dusty, or any of them for that matter when you bring them out as “surprises” every other month. Can’t wait for the 20th Anniversary Show!

Team Hell No is shown and they are angry because they wanted to face the Shield. They see the 3MB once they move the pull out wall and they’ve found their opponents for tonight.

^I love the Kane/Dbry chemistry, and I’m honestly going to be sad when their teaming comes to an end(unfortunately I’ve been speculating that the Rumble match will cause some issues for the duo).

The Big Show walks up to Ricardo Rodriguez at the party and offers him a shot at the World Title tonight. Show tells Ricardo tonight is Champion’s Choice and the match is on!

^I’m wondering ADR is healing up from a small injury. Why else wouldn’t he be in action tonight himself? Or perhaps this is the start of a good feud between Show and Del Rio over the World Title?

Kaitlyn brings Mae Young up to the divas for the party. Eve selects Mae Young as her opponent tonight.

^Really? I’m not going to comment on Mae Young. Whoops.

Kane and Dbry defeat Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre. Dbry pins McIntyre after Kane tags him in to score the diving headbutt.

^This was fun, and the 3MB are very entertaining. I like the fact that the trio have made themselves top guys to appear on both Raw and Smackdown every week. What I liked even more about this match(and every time I see him for that matter) is Dbry wrestling much like Chris Benoit did and even utilizing a lot of his old moves. Good wrestling ability should never be forgotten, despite the avoidance of his name.

CM Punk comes to the ring with Paul Heyman and his doctor, Samuel Desero(spell check). After Punk and Heyman both say their piece, the doctor tells Punk he cannot allow him to compete next week. No Chance In Hell hits and out comes Vince McMahon. Vince tells Punk that WWE doctors will evaluate Punk and determine whether he is able to compete against Ryback next week in a TLC Match. Vince tells Punk that if he cannot compete, Ryback’s opponent will be Paul Heyman instead. Vince says Happy New Year and his music hits.

^Vince continues the role of showing up to “make things right” with the show. I wonder how Vince really feels about Punk as his WWE Champion for this long, and I wonder how Punk feels about “change” ever since he turned into the stooge WWE Champion and stopped cutting those edgy promos that made us think the product overall would be different. Punk is one of the two best on the mic, and this promo certainly showed that once again, but I want him to be even angrier and anti-authority like he was before when he was “planning to leave” in the summer of 2011.

Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler go one on one. They brawl for a bit and Sheamus calls for the brogue kick. Big E. Langston stops Sheamus by grabbing his foot, and Sheamus ends up tossing Ziggler out of the ring after he jumps on his back. Sheamus calls Langston into the ring and the Shield comes from the crowd to jump Sheamus. They stand tall after they’ve beat him down.

^Every time Sheamus and Ziggler lock up, I look forward to it. These guys went at it for a good twelve plus minutes and were putting on quite the show when it got interrupted. If anyone was overlooked in 2012 for his improvement in the ring, I would have to say Sheamus is that guy. Sure it can be easy for someone to have good matches with Sandow, Ziggler, Dbry, and Del Rio, but having good matches with the Big Show repeatedly on pay per view is almost unheard of(Kurt Angle is the only one I can think of of the top of my head who did it in the past). Great match from these guys, but the jump by the Shield makes me wonder if Big E. might have something to do with his former NXT members.

Wade Barrett approaches Kofi Kingston backstage. Barrett challenges Kofi to pick him as an opponent tonight. Kofi tells Wade that he already beat him, but he’s not afraid to give him a rematch.

^I’ve enjoyed the matches given to us by these two, but it’s time for something new after this one. There’s plenty of midcard guys ready to challenge for that IC Belt, and the loser here could easily chase after a World Title.

Brad Maddox approaches CM Punk and Paul Heyman because he’s looking for a job. They tell Maddox they can’t help him. Heyman tells Maddox to get out of the locker room, arena, and his life. Maddox leaves and Punk laughs.

^I was almost expecting Maddox to hint at Heyman that he was paid off by him at HIAC, but I’m not sure if WWE has decided what direction they are going with that angle. WIll they eventually reveal that Punk was working with Maddox and the Shield, or will it remain a long term mystery? Regardless, Brad Maddox is nothing special in the ring and I really haven’t seen any potential in him to be excited about his future in WWE.

The Usos clear a table for Mae Young to lay on so the doctor can examine her. The doctor says Mae Young can’t compete tonight because she’s pregnant. Mae says “not again.”

^Sadly, this is also probably the most we’ll see of the Usos tonight because WWE decided that Mae Young segments were more important than GOOD entertainment.

Eve comes to the ring. Kaitlyn comes out to be Eve’s opponent. No word on whether or not the match is for the title. Eve grabs her title and leaves after they brawl for less than a minute. Guess it wasn’t a match after all.

^In a positive way, I’m going to be happy about this short brawl. The divas matches usually get about that much time, and no one usually cares. At least the scrapping here was somewhat entertaining.

Alberto Del Rio approaches Ricardo backstage and tells him he should be facing the Big Show instead of Ricardo. Ricardo tells ADR he is going to win the World Title in his honor. ADR says he’s always treated Ricardo like dirt, but no one should be doing that, including him. ADR says he will be there for Ricardo tonight. He gives him the scarf and car keys before telling him to do it with style.

^And the ADR face turn is 95% complete just one week after he runs over Santa and main events Raw against John Cena. Okay, I can live with it. I like the possibilities of watching Del Rio and Ricardo piss off heels with sarcasm and wit. Yes, I’m optimistic about Alberto Del Rio’s character. No, Hell hasn’t totally frozen over…yet.

ADR attacks Big Show before he can hit the WMD(or KO punch) on Ricardo and causes the DQ finish.

^I’m hoping what happened here will setup a legit feud with ADR and Show, and not just be a match booked for Smackdown. How cool would it be to see ADR take the World Title from Big Show? As for Ricardo, I would’ve like to see him dress as El Local(the persona he’s used on Saturday Morning Slam where he dresses in a power ranger-like outfit and wrestles as a masked luchador).

Wade Barrett defeats Kofi Kingston with the bull hammer to become the new Intercontinental Champion. The match went just over eight minutes.

^This match wasn’t actually quite as good as some of their others, but I think WWE finally decided to pull the trigger and let Barrett have a run with the belt again. Perhaps this could be the start of something bigger for him? I’d hate to see either Barrett or Kofi stuck in midcard Hell for any length of time.

Mae Young is shown in labor backstage with Khali holding her legs up for the doctor.

^I really don’t want to say anything about this. I almost left these segments out of the review entirely.

Santino and Ryder come to the party and Vickie tells them Mae is about to give birth to the New Year’s Baby. Vickie farts while they all chant for Mae to push. Dbry comes in and yells no, and Kane yells Yes(everyone chants yes). Mae gives birth to Hornswoggle in a diaper, sash, and top hat. Everyone celebrates while Hornswoggle jumps into Mae’s arms to be bottle fed. Jerry Lawler says he’s almost mad at the doctors in Canada for saving his life.

^So instead of seeing Santino and Ryder wrestle, they become involved in this garbage. Well, WWE had their holiday fun. Good for them. I’m with Lawler.

The Shield beat down Ryback in the handicap match until Randy Orton and Sheamus make the save.

^Six man tag coming in the future to exact revenge on the Shield? I could see that being a match for the Rumble now that ADR is potentially feuding with Big Show and Sheamus needs something to do. Any match involving Ambrose or Rollins is going to be a treat for fans(especially ones who haven’t seen extensive amounts of their work on the independent circuit).

Dolph Ziggler, AJ, and Big E. have their New Year’s toast. Ziggler trashes Cena’s year in 2012(losing to the Rock, getting beat up by Lesnar and pinned by John Laurinaitis). AJ says let’s toast the man who will own 2013, Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler takes a drink and then makes out with AJ until Cena interrupts. Big E. stands at the bottom of the ramp to block Cena from coming to the ring. Cena says the sixth time’s the charm for AJ. Cena and Ziggler continue to exchange words. Cena announces that he is entering the Royal Rumble match and will be the WWE Champion in 2013. Cena toasts to a prosperous 2013 for Dolph and AJ with the one thing that Dolph is full of…fake waste dumps down on Ziggler and AJ and they apparently aren’t smart enough to move. Cena says Happy New Year and AJ screams as the show ends.

^Well, Raw ended with a promo. Cena was classic Cena, and Ziggler continues to be the center of attention(YES! YES! YES!). I can’t complain about any of this, but I speculate the importance of Cena declaring his entry into the Rumble. Now he’ll either win the Rumble, or get screwed by someone and have to deal with them before he goes on to face the Rock again at Mania(deal with it, because it’s probably going to happen in some form or another). Overall, it was a fairly good ending to the show.

So we had some really good wrestling with some storyline enhanced filler matches and some horrendous backstage segments mixed in. Take out the backstage segments and this Raw ranks as really good. Taking those segments into consideration as a form of entertainment and the show ranks as just slightly above the average mark. I found myself enjoying the show when we weren’t drawn back to the ridiculous parts of the party. On a side note, Antonio Cesaro is going to be something special to watch out for in 2013. That’s all for this one! This weekend will be the final edition of the Rundown(where I cover, Smackdown, NXT, Superstars, SMS, and Main Event), and I’m not sure what the new weekend column will become after that(it’s up in the air due to my schedule changes at work and in life). Until next time, you’ve been ThunderStruck! – add me!