Monday, December 26, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 12/26/11 from Chicago, IL.

The Big News: The shroud of the WWE Universe’s dark side has fallen. Begun, the merchandise slogan war has.

Show Analysis:

Cult of Personality hit to start the show and John Laurinaitis came out in a CM Punk t-shirt. Laurinaitis said his entrance was exciting and unpredictable. Laurinaitis claimed to be a believer in Punk. Punk then came out and suggested Laurinaitis was trying to antagonize him. Laurinaitis said he has been taking management classes and wants to empower the talent. He said he had a holiday gift for Punk and that Punk would be off Raw. Punk didn’t like this and so Laurinaitis just said he would listen to the fans and let Punk wrestle.

Laurinaitis announced Punk in a gauntlet match against three opponents of Laurinaitis’ choosing. If one of the opponents won, they would receive a title shot against Punk next week. Punk asked what would happen if he won all three matches. Laurinaitis wasn’t sure so Punk suggested a fourth match: Punk v. Laurinaitis. Laurinaitis said this would be unfair to Punk and it wouldn’t be good if he beat Punk. Punk antagonized Laurinaitis until Laurinaitis agreed.

They aired a final mysterious Raw vignette. This one said that a force will arrive to reclaim what is his. It added that the powers that be will shaken. It concluded that “the end begins” next Monday. I’ve liked these vignettes. They’re ambiguous and allow the audience to speculate and think for itself.

Booker T beat Cody Rhodes. Booker had the advantage for a little while. Then Rhodes took over for a bit. They exchanged rollups. Booker hit some knees but missed an ax kick and Rhodes rolled him up with the tights for two. Rhodes hit a springboard kick for two but Booker then nailed the ax kick for the pin. This program should be about getting over Rhodes, but it is fine if Booker has his successes before the end. The match itself was given time but was rather dull.

Zack Ryder thanked John Cena backstage. Cena said that Ryder doesn’t owe him anything. Cena said Ryder wasn’t given anything but instead earned the US title. Ryder said he had a chance to make another Christmas dream happen on Raw. Apparently that’s a reference to some internet angle. Ryder then asked what the deal is with Kane. Cena said that if he ran into Kane, the last Raw of the year would go out with a bang. I find Cena much more likeable when he’s interacting with Ryder. They announced Punk’s gauntlet opponents would be Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler and Mark Henry.

Big Show was hanging out with Kelly Kelly backstage when he was told to see John Laurinaitis. Before he arrived, Laurinaitis told Brodus Clay that he will debut on the first live Raw of 2012. I’ve got the odds on that happening at 7.5:1. Show came in. Laurinaitis and David Otunga were angry that he attacked Otunga. Otunga claimed it was a sneak attack and Otunga would have got the best of it otherwise. Show responded he could beat Otunga with one arm tied behind his back. So, Laurinaitis made that match with Show’s hand tied behind his back.

Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger bickered backstage. Ziggler mocked Swagger’s title reign while Swagger made fun of Ziggler’s weight and his loss to Zack Ryder. Vickie Guerrero tried to play peacemaker, saying it doesn’t matter who wins because she’ll end up with the champion either way. Mark Henry popped in to say “excuse me” and left.

Zack Ryder and Eve Torres beat Tyson Kidd and Natalya. It was interesting to see Kidd and Natalya paired up together for the first time in a while. Ryder and Torres hit dueling kicks to the head and Ryder followed with the Rough Ryder on Kidd for the pin. After the match, Ryder acted awkward and geeky around Torres.

John Cena came out and noted that he isn’t Chicago’s favorite son. He said that there is magic in Chicago, which has hosted three WrestleManias and inducted Eddie Guerrero into the Hall of Fame. He added that he likes the people saying how they feel. This was a really annoying, pandering promo. Cena called out Kane but Miz came out instead.

Miz said that 2011 was his year as he beat John Cena at WrestleMania. Miz noted Rock was involved and said he wanted to prove he can beat Cena on his own. Cena told him to shut up and agreed. As the match was about to start, Miz left the ring and got counted out. Miz changed his tune and said he already beat Cena at Mania.

Miz was doing his catchphrase when Truth came out, attacked him, and laid him out. Truth said he could finish it right then but that wouldn’t be fun. Truth said the problem with Christmas is you open your presents and then it is over. He wants every Monday to be Christmas so he will take his time with Miz. Truth hit Miz with a bottle of water and left. This is like a redo of that highly effective Survivor Series build. The heel has absolutely no heat but you have to tune in next week to see him get beat up again.

Big Show beat David Otunga via DQ with one hand tied behind his back. Show beat up Otunga with one hand and Otunga basically just ran away. Show threw Otunga out of the ring, at which point Mark Henry came out for the DQ. Henry is still noticeably having trouble getting around. Henry attacked Show but Daniel Bryan came out for the save. He didn’t actually try to fight Henry but instead just distracted him until Show could get up. That made Bryan look so bad as a babyface champion. Show grabbed Henry by the neck, at which point Otunga attacked Show. Henry escaped and Show choke slammed Otunga instead.

Ricardo Rodriguez in a neck brace wheeled out Alberto Del Rio in a wheelchair. Del Rio said he tore his groin at TLC but that he will be back. The Bellas came out to tell the people to treat Del Rio with more respect but got into an argument about who would throw a party for Del Rio when he is healthy. Del Rio told them to shut up and leave. Del Rio then said he will be more aggressive than ever before when he returns and will be champion again. This segment did Del Rio no favors.

CM Punk beat Jack Swagger. Swagger was in control for most of the match. Punk went for GTS but Swagger escaped. Punk then hit a kick to the head for the win. Swagger attacked Punk’s knee from behind after the match.

Dolph Ziggler beat CM Punk. Ziggler worked over the knee. Punk came back with a body slam and kicks with his good leg. He hit a high knee and set up for GTS but Swagger distracted the referee and Vickie grabbed Punk’s leg. Ziggler hit a famouser for two.

At that point, Laurinaitis came out and ejected Swagger and Vickie from ringside. Punk had Ziggler pinned while Laurinaitis was doing this. Laurinaitis got on the apron and continued talking to distract Punk. That allowed Ziggler to hit the zig zag from behind for the pin. Ziggler paraded around with the title after the match. Ziggler winning here was the right finish but the way it was done won’t do a heck of a lot for the guy.

Kane came out for the final segment of the show. Kane said what you see now is his true self and essence. Kane accused the people of living a lie, at which point Cena came out. He was cut off by fire going off on the stage. Kane told Cena he wasn’t there to pick a fight. Kane said he doesn’t want people to rise above hate. He said that the world is a dark place and it is okay to hate. Humans are hateful by nature. Kane said that you shouldn’t rise above it but instead let it consume you.

Kane said that until Cena embraces hate, he can never be free. Kane said that people chanting Cena sucks tears Cena’s heart apart. He encouraged people to chant Cena sucks. It didn’t really take as the crowd seemed confused. Eventually dueling chants popped up and the show closed.

Final Thoughts:

This was a mediocre show. There wasn’t a lot wrong with it but there wasn’t much of interest either. Turning the rejection of an insufferable character that has been shoved down our throats year after year into a melodramatic referendum on human nature is really goofy.

With the big Alistair Overeem/Brock Lesnar fight Friday night as well as the Dream New Year’s Eve show, I wanted to make mention of a few things coming up this week. Wednesday I’ll be on Press Row with Jordan Breen at discussing everything going on. Thursday I’ll be on Bloody Elbow Radio with Matt Bishop, Forrest Lynn, Brian Hemminger and Bellator bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky at previewing all the weekend’s action. And Friday I’ll be live blogging UFC 141 at It should be a fun week so check it out!

Hope everyone is having a great holiday season.

Monday, December 19, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 12/19/11 from Philadelphia, PA.

The Big News: CM Punk, Zack Ryder and Daniel Bryan celebrated their title victories on a fun edition of Raw.

Show Analysis:

CM Punk came out to start the show. He said a lot of people thought he wouldn’t win the title but he did and he’s still champ. He brought out Zack Ryder and Daniel Bryan along similar lines. Punk said if any city would appreciate these three, it’s Philadelphia. Hopefully that isn’t entirely true, because the crowd didn’t seem that into Bryan or Ryder. Punk brought up meeting Bryan at the Murphy Rec Center and now they are WWE champion and world champion. That really is something. Cream has a way of rising to the top.

Zack Ryder said that he still can’t believe he won the US title. Daniel Bryan said that people didn’t expect him to even get to the WWE but he did and now he is the world champion. Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio appeared on the ramp and attacked. The champions fought them off with Ryder hitting a somersault plancha on Ziggler that appeared to kill them both. John Laurinaitis made a six man tag match.

I wish that when they did these opening segments, they would just announce the main event at the onset of the show rather than “making it” at the close of the first segment. It always feels so contrived that, for instance, there were three heels (two of whom didn’t get along last night and said specifically they didn’t want to team together) just waiting backstage to fight with these three faces, conveniently setting up the main event. But if you just said the match had been signed by Laurinaitis when the show started, it makes perfect sense that they would want to team up and get the jump on their main event opponents.

Randy Orton beat Wade Barrett via DQ. Barrett worked Orton over. Orton came back with clotheslines and a powerslam. He went for the draping DDT, which was reversed into a wasteland attempt. That was countered into an Orton back breaker. Orton then hit the draping DDT and set up for the RKO but Barrett thumbed him in the eye for the DQ. That was a terrible finish. After the match, Barrett attacked Orton and put him through a table with wasteland.

Alicia Fox beat Beth Phoenix. Beth hit a side slam. They botched a spot where Alicia was supposed to counter a slingshot suplex into an inverted DDT. Alicia then hit a somersault leg drop for the pin. Alicia got a negative reaction from some of the crowd. They’re now blatantly lying about what trending means, by the way.

Sheamus beat Jinder Mahal in a brief match. Mahal used a running knee to the head but Sheamus quickly took over. Sheamus used a back breaker and razor’s edge for the pin.

John Cena came out and did some annoying comedy. He then pointed out some people hate him. Cena said he understands why Rock doesn’t like him but doesn’t understand why Kane doesn’t like him. “Why don’t you like me?!?” Cena said that if last week was an accident they can be friends but if it wasn’t an accident there would be trouble. That Cena really gives people the benefit of the doubt. I understand once on the recommendation of his friend Andre he forgave his girlfriend when she tripped, fell and landed on another guy’s dick.

Mark Henry came out and immediately received “Sexual Chocolate” chants. Henry said he wasn’t in the mood for jokes and was out there to address his injuries. He told Cena to leave. Cena didn’t budge. Kane then came out. Kane went around to Mark Henry but then turned and went after Cena. Kane and Cena fought. Kane suffocated Cena, tore off Cena’s shirt and left. Next week, Cena’s sneakers better watch out.

Primo and Epico beat the Usos. The Colons worked over one of the Usos. Uso got the tag and Uso came in with a Bubba slam and running butt to the face. Epico then caught Uso with a zig zag type move for the pin.

Cody Rhodes beat Santino Marella. Prior to the match, Rhodes ridiculed the notion that Booker T could have beaten him. Rhodes was about to predict a Royal Rumble win when Santino came in and threatened him with a cobra (his hand) in a basket. This was pretty damn funny. In the match, Marella went for the cobra but Rhodes caught him with the Alabama slam for the pin.

The Bellas were bickering backstage and complaining about Teddy Long. John Laurinaitis said the board is watching Long and wished them a merry Christmas. The Bellas each gave him a kiss. Vickie Guerrero then came in to complain about Dolph Ziggler’s loss. Hornswoggle came in with mistletoe and kissed Guerrero. Guerrero freaked out. They cut to Michael Cole having a fit of laughter in front of a bunch of fans with blank expressions.

They had a video on Zack Ryder winning the US title and showed his dad after the show talking about how happy he is that Ryder did it. They have the same smile and this was a great little spot. It felt genuine and you really felt good for Ryder.

Backstage, Big Show said he waited nine years to get the title and then in seconds it went away. Show said it is kind of his own fault for encouraging Daniel Bryan not to wait until WrestleMania. He was asked about having the shortest title reign in history. He flashed anger and then left. Show was just tremendous here, showing anger and sadness but trying to cover it up with a smile.

Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Zack Ryder beat Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio and Miz. They cut away from Del Rio’s entrance for a vignette for a “prophetless” early 2012. The faces came out through the crowd, which was a cool touch. The faces ran wild early and did a series of dives to the outside. The heels took over on Bryan and worked him over. Ryder tagged in but they proceeded to work over Ryder for a while too. Finally, Punk got the tag.

Punk hit a slingshot clothesline, swinging neck breaker, high knee, bulldog, body slam and elbow off the top on Miz. This was one of the best looking elbows since he started doing them. Punk applied the anaconda vise but Ziggler made the save. Punk tagged Bryan and then gave Miz the GTS. Del Rio posted Bryan and set up for the armbar but Bryan countered into the LeBell lock for the submission. This was a fun match and conclusion to the show.

Final Thoughts:

This was a much better edition of Raw than most recent weeks. In particular, the second hour was very entertaining with good wrestling, promos and comedy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 12/12/11 from Norfolk, VA.

The Big News: Kane returned in a mask.

Show Analysis:

The show started with Hornswoggle and Booker T presenting the “Tell me I did not just see that” award. Booker T said a leprechaun winning a battle royal and being granted the ability to speak by Sana Claus says a lot about WWE in 2011. Yes, it does. As did this show. Jim Ross dancing won the award over Santino finishing second in the Royal Rumble, a plant throwing a drink at R. Truth and Miz dressing up as Rock.

When Ross won, Michael Cole went into the ring to complain. Booker T called Cole a loser and said Ross would win a rap off against Cole. Cole did an obnoxious rap. Ross didn’t really rap at all, hesitating and insulting Cole. The fans said Ross won. Booker then encouraged Ross to do a spin-a-roonie. It was about what you’d expect. This segment was death. And unfortunately there were still 2 hours and 40 minutes to desecrate the corpse.

Ted DiBiase and Mick Foley presented the holy shit move of the year. Foley speculated they were together because DiBiase spends extravagantly and Foley is cheap. DiBiase responded basically that it’s because as a minister he’s holy and Foley is shit. That got a good chuckle out of me. Big Show and Mark Henry breaking the ring with a superplex won over Sheamus putting Sin Cara through a ladder, Orton giving Christian an RKO on steps and Evan Bourne hitting a shooting star press off a ladder. Big Show came out to accept the award. He intimated Mark Henry wasn’t there because Henry is scared. Show said the Slammy would go well with the title.

Big Show beat Wade Barrett via DQ. Prior to the match, Barrett said that Big Show’s award was premature given what Barrett will do to Orton at TLC. However, he noted that won’t be unexpected like the award. Finally, Barrett warned Show that if Show leaves TLC with the title, Barrett will be coming for Show next. The match didn’t go long. Barrett set up a table to put Show through but Show woke up and broke the table with his fists. Barrett then just attacked him with a chair for the DQ. Show punched it away and Barrett left.

This was a terrible finish. Why not book one of these guys against someone you don’t have plans for and let him win? It’s more satisfying for the fans, it actually gets someone over, and it helps build the pay-per-view.

Road Dogg came out to present the next award. It was nice to see him back but I was surprised just how little reaction he receives. It speaks to how much of their last boom period is left. CM Punk won the pipe bomb of the year award over a bunch of lame comedy like Truth acting like a goof, Booker T babbling and Santino being tackled by “secret security.” They cut back to the arena with nobody in the crowd reacting as the announcers were practically convulsing with fake laughter.

CM Punk came out with a mannequin in a Dynamic Dudes t-shirt. He had a video tribute for John Laurinaitis with old footage of the Dynamic Dudes, Johnny Ace working out and sporting a mullet and even serving as a flag bearer. Punk laughed at Laurinaitis and left.

The awards continued with Lita returning to present the Divalicious award. Kelly Kelly won over Natalya, Kharma and Beth Phoenix. Beth and Natalya came out to try to take the award but Kelly was able to recover it.

Santino and the Bellas presented the OMG award. HHH won for giving Undertaker a tombstone over Rock giving Cena the Rock Bottom, the Raw walkout and CM Punk taking the WWE title. HHH came out and said the OMG moment was Undertaker being carried from the ring. HHH said nine months later Undertaker is no more. HHH said the streak came to an end at WrestleMania. Surprisingly, that didn’t get any boos. The crowd didn’t really know how to react. HHH said Kevin Nash should have finished the job and Sunday might will make right. HHH vowed to end Nash.

David Otunga and Tony Atlas came out for the “trending star of the year.” Basically, they begged people to mention these people on Twitter and said the first to trend would be the winner. Atlas kept laughing as Otunga spoke.

Dolph Ziggler beat Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan and Zack Ryder. The match was chaotic early but developed into an exciting, fast paced bout. The announcers, unfortunately, spent the whole match talking about trending. They did back to back superplex spots. Ryder hit the Rough Ryder on Ziggler. Rhodes gave Ryder the roll of the dice. Bryan put Rhodes in the LeBell lock but Ziggler looked to put Bryan in the sleeper. Bryan escaped but Ziggler then gave him the zig zag for the win. They then announced that Ryder won the trending star award. Ziggler gave him the zig zag and took the Slammy. They treated trending on Twitter as much more important than matches.

Christian showed up on crutches and in a neck brace to present the game changer of the year award. Christian said he should win a courageous moment award for showing up and should also be wrestler of the year. He blamed the fans. Rock feuding with Cena won over Vince being relieved of his duties, Edge retiring and Punk taking the title.

Cena came out to accept. He teased Rock was going to come out or show up on the screen but of course Rock didn’t. Cena said he hoped this jab would fuel Rock’s commitment. He said the real game changing moment will come at WrestleMania. He said WWE Universe repeatedly. Cena said they will change the game forever at Mania.

Miz and Alberto Del Rio beat CM Punk and Randy Orton. During this match, Michael Cole talked about how Jim Ross tweeted the rap he was supposed to deliver earlier in the show and ridiculed Ross for failing to deliver it. Given that segment was presented like it was an impromptu challenge, it was beating your audience over the head with the fact that you’re a scripted show. Again, the announcers spent basically the whole match talking about Twitter and burying Ross rather than selling their title program. The crowd was dead.

The heels worked over Punk. As Punk was going for the tag, Wade Barrett pulled Orton off the apron. Miz gave Punk the skull crushing finale for the win. Orton went after Barrett through the crowd, allowing Miz and Del Rio to double team Punk with a ladder. Miz said a pipe bomb would explode in Punk’s face at the PPV.

Goldust and Vickie Guerrero came out to present the A-lister of the year award. Snooki won over Muppets, Cee-Lo Green and Hugh Jackman. They showed Snooki on the screen accepting the award. Backstage, Mark Henry said he will retain the title against Big Show. He added that John Cena embarrassed him and Cena should be more concerned about Henry than Mania.

Sheamus and Jinder Mahal didn’t have a match. They acted like there would be a match but Sheamus just gave him a Brogue kick and left. Why not just pin the guy? Is having a wrestling match with a clean finish so objectionable?

Rey Mysterio came back to present the Wrestler of the Year award. They said WWE Universe over and over and over again. CM Punk won over Randy Orton, Alberto Del Rio, Mark Henry and John Cena. For some reason, they filmed behind the podium so you could clearly see CM Punk in the award before they played the drumroll and Mysterio paused to build drama. John Laurinaitis accepted the award, saying Punk wasn’t in condition to do so.

John Cena and Mark Henry battled to a no contest. Henry worked over Cena for a while with a bear hug. He hit the world’s strongest slam. Then pyro went off, Kane’s music hit and he came to the ring. Henry bailed and Kane gave Cena the choke slam. Kane was wearing a mask and he took off that mask to reveal another mask like his old one. This was yet another bad finish.

It doesn’t make much sense that Kane would return from Mark Henry injuring him to attack John Cena. But okay, let’s accept Cena’s the guy he wants to hurt. Why wait until Cena’s about to lose a match to do that?

Final Thoughts:

I never like the Slammies because they emphasize the things I don’t like about WWE and de-emphasize the things I do like about wrestling. There was award after award, focusing mostly on goofy comedy, with little wrestling and awful finishes that made matches seem completely insignificant. Add in obnoxious Michael Cole, incessant references to Twitter and WWE beating you over the head with their alternate vocabulary and the whole thing was just insufferable.

But at this point, I honestly feel like it’s almost unfair to complain. They’re so diametrically opposed to what I like and what they used to be by now that maybe people like me would be better off just dumping them permanently rather than sticking around as they continue to massacre what remains of a once great form of entertainment.

And on that dire note, want to make mention that I’m now on Twitter! You can follow me at @toddmartinmma. I will talk about wrestling plenty as well so I’d love to hear from people on there. Hope everyone has a good week.

Monday, December 05, 2011

WWE Raw Report

Date: 12/05/11 from Tampa, FL.

The Big News: A bunch of random guys received title shots against other random guys through happenstance and whatnot, with random stipulations thrown in for good measure.

Show Analysis:

John Cena came out to start the show. Cena said he was happy Roddy Piper told him how Piper felt. Cena noted the fans have the right to say what they want about him and he respects that. He basically sucked up to the audience. Cena argued he has always dealt with negative reactions but now people are making a big of it. He said it isn’t a big deal but CM Punk beating Alberto Del Rio was a big deal. Cena said Punk needs a number one contender and lobbied for the match. This set up the segment where everybody comes out to say they want a title shot and then the GM makes an impromptu decision to build the entire show around that.

Alberto Del Rio was first out to complain about Punk dropping him on an exposed turnbuckle when an intentional DQ was supposed to cost Punk the title. Dolph Ziggler was next. He pointed out that he beat Randy Orton and is the longest reigning champion in WWE. Cena called Ziggler a jerkoff and said he should give Zack Ryder a title shot. Miz was then out to say that he beat Cena, had the title longer than Del Rio, and doesn’t need Vickie Guerrero.

Miraculously, John Laurinaitis had a solution devised for just this scenario of four guys coming out to demand title shots at the start of the show and he announced each heel would face a Smackdown wrestler. Each man who won would be entered into a title shot at TLC, with a contract signing coming later in the show. He then told John Cena that Cena would be in a social experiment match.

Miz beat Randy Orton via count out in a short match. Orton hit a powerslam in the ring and a powerslam on the floor. Wade Barrett appeared on the stage. Orton proceeded to throw Miz back into the ring and then at the count of eight, chase after Barrett. He was of course counted out.

This was like a parody of WWE’s asinine distraction finishes. The challenger for the title looked like an undeserving joke. And that was done for the sake of “protecting” the face by making him look like the biggest idiot walking the face of the planet. You see, last week, he lost his match because rather than concentrating on his opponent, he decided to go after Wade Barrett.

This week, Wade Barrett comes out during his match again. Did he learn his lesson and decide to focus on wrestling the match at hand? Why of course not. He went after the guy not in the match and lost for the second straight week. But it wasn’t enough that he chased after someone not in his match and got counted out. No, he elected first to roll his opponent into the ring. Then, with his opponent safely lying in the ring at the count of eight, he elected to give chase after the guy not in the match. This is the scenario WWE writers devised to protect one of the company’s top babyfaces. Bravo, WWE. Bravo.

And then, for the coup de grace, Orton gave up chase of Barrett. Because Barrett ducked behind the curtain. Match lost, nemesis gone forever, Orton turned around to go back to the ring. Only, you see, Barrett hadn’t in fact disappeared forever! When Orton turned his back, Barrett attacked Orton from behind, left Orton lying, and departed chuckling to himself. And I’d be chuckling too if I picked a fight with a mentally handicapped ogre.

WWE aired a commercial for WWE Network in 2012. They plugged live wrestling, old wrestling and reality TV shows. They specifically mentioned legends in a house. This was all announced with one of the tackiest video packages you’re ever going to see.

Backstage, Zack Ryder wanted a title shot. John Laurinaitis said a petition isn’t enough. John Cena came in and told jokes. Laurinaitis made Cena vs. Ryder. Cena didn’t want this. Laurinaitis acted like Cena was saying Ryder was no competition for him. Ryder instantaneously was fooled by the heel’s manipulation and got angry at Cena. Laurinaitis announced that if Ryder won he would get a US title shot and if Cena won he would get into the WWE title match at TLC.

Backstage, David Otunga told Kevin Nash that Nash would be wrestling HHH in a ladder match at TLC. Nash said he doesn’t do ladder matches. Otunga said that a sledgehammer would be hanging above the ring and Nash was fine with this. Nash really should have trusted his first instinct on this one. Otunga said that Nash would be wrestling on Raw. Nash didn’t care about his opponent beyond it not being HHH.

Alberto Del Rio beat Daniel Bryan very quickly and clean with an armbar. This is how you build up a title challenger. They then announced Tribute to the Troops next Tuesday.

Kelly Kelly and Eve Torres beat Beth Phoenix and Natalya. They worked over Kelly a few seconds and then Kelly just rolled up Beth for the pin without even getting the tag. This was one of those women’s matches that accomplishes nothing other than making matches feel fake and insignificant. In other words, every WWE women’s match.

John Cena beat Zack Ryder. Ryder worked over Cena with a long headlock, a dropkick off the second rope, and a tornado DDT. Cena came back with the Cena slam and five knuckle. Ryder countered the FU and hit a running kick to the head. He went for the Rough Ryder but Cena countered into the FU for the pin. Ryder was annoyed after and Cena left.

Backstage, John Cena confronted John Laurinaitis. He wanted Ryder to get his title shot. Laurinaitis offered Ryder another opportunity, but only if Ryder won a match and only if Cena gave up his WWE title match at TLC. Cena agreed.

Zack Ryder beat Mark Henry. Henry dominated the match. Then John Cena ran in, gave Henry an FU, and put Ryder on top for the win. Ryder was perfectly happy with this and celebrated. This was more stupid booking. Ryder keeps losing and backs into a title match he is presumably going to win only through blatant interference. Meanwhile, the world champion gets pinned and it’s not even setting up a match. Henry himself isn’t hurt but wins and losses just feel like the random stuff that happens depending on who interferes or distracts this week.

We went backstage again. This time, Vickie Guerrero told Dolph Ziggler that Sheamus would be his opponent. Jack Swagger said he’d be there to help. Ziggler told Swagger that Ziggler didn’t need that. They teased tension but then laughed it off. Swagger said he’d be there but Ziggler again said no and left.

Kevin Nash beat Santino with a power bomb. After the match, he teased hitting Santino with the sledgehammer but didn’t do it. They showed CM Punk chatting backstage with Evan Bourne, who is obviously back now.

Sheamus beat Dolph Ziggler. Sheamus beat up Ziggler with punches and clotheslines. He set up for the razor’s edge but Ziggler escaped. Sheamus accidentally ran into the post but Zack Ryder then came out. Ziggler was of course distracted and Sheamus hit the Brogue kick for the pin. After the match, Ryder gave Ziggler the Rough Ryder.

I loved the booking of this match. Just kidding! It was shit. Again. So, not only is the challenger backing into the US title match but the champion is too. And through what means? The ever popular distraction finish, which would never happen in any legitimate athletic competition but manages to occur approximately 150 times a year in WWE, helping the winners not one iota, making the losers look like nimrods and imbeciles, and making matches themselves feel like utterly phony contrivances. And shockingly, WWE seems to be struggling getting people to pay $55 to see matches on pay-per-view. Go figure.

The show ended with a contract signing for the TLC title match. John Laurinaitis said exciting things are coming like the introduction of Brodus Clay and a Mark Henry vs. John Cena match next week. The Clay thing is just a joke at this point for WWE. The crowd just went “what” to the Henry-Cena match announcement and didn’t show any interest whatsoever. And why would they care, given the way matches are treated?

CM Punk said contract signings are clichéd and plugged twitter. Laurinaitis said he is about excitement and that Punk vs. Del Rio vs. Miz wouldn’t be a traditional match but a triple threat TLC match. Why? Why not? Punk said he’s okay facing a guy who lost at Survivor Series and a guy who lost on Raw. He told jokes about Miz. Miz said he took out Truth and Morrison. Laurinaitis wished Morrison the best in his future endeavors. Miz said those were his friends so imagine what he will do to Punk. He said he will take back the title.

Del Rio said he is the best and will take back the title. Punk made fun of him for always talking about destiny. Miz and Del Rio agreed that Cena won’t leave TLC with the title. Laurinaitis called for a goofy photo op and they all lined up except Punk. Punk said these things are supposed to end in violence so he started a fight for the hell of it. He ended up giving Del Rio a bulldog through the table and giving Miz the GTS. This segment had more comedy than anything and made little attempt to create any tension for the TLC match. Punk played the role of Cena, telling jokes and acting like he doesn’t give a shit about the matches.

Final Thoughts:

WWE’s streak of two better shows ended abruptly with just an incompetently booked show. The people putting together the show seemed to have no concept of the idea that in order to sell pay-per-views, you have to get fans invested in match results and make the matches feel important.