1. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Mizfan and wish him much snusnu on his honeymoon. Now, going into RAW tonight, the biggest news is of course the car accident in which John Cena was involved in Philadelphia earlier today. It's hard to say whether or not he's toughing it out due to the tremendous main event that is only two weeks away, but his opponent, Mark Henry, can vouch for what happens to people when they don't work hurt sometimes. It may seem wrong, but them's be the business facts.
2. As CM Punk is announced, some guy with a camera is EXTREMELY impressed with CM Punk, jumping up and down several times like a 14-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert. We're in a smarkalicious city in Philadelphia, so no surprise that CM Punk is pretty over. With Jericho's introduction of alcoholism to the angle, I'm really anticipating seeing where Punk goes with this. This could be the addition to the feud that really pushes it over the edge. Jericho is tremendous at finding new ways to be a heel, and he's done it yet again here.
3. Punk is really laying on the seriousness tonight, and it's working in his favor. He can't always be the witty smart-ass, and this is good character depth for him. He's really summoning some good emotion for this opening promo. This verbal battle has been everything I anticipated it would be, and I have no doubt that the wrestling will be at WrestleMania as well. This is something CM Punk really needed; something to truly get behind Punk, something relatable. Most of us have been affected by alcoholism somehow, and Punk did a brilliant job of turning it into something positive, especially saying that he was proud of his father. Extremely well done segment.
4. Jericho comes on as himself to apologize for the remarks that he made, almost sounding sincere for a minute... until he mentions "your sister," which draws a huge reaction from the crowd. He almost worked me there for a minute, but he turns on the smarmy bastard look and adds yet another layer to this. This is an interesting turn of events in the PG Era, is it not? We've gone from Stone Cold Steve Austin, who drank to celebrate winning, to CM Punk who Jericho thinks will drink if he loses. Interesting. I do wish I know what CM Punk said in response to Jericho, but it was almost all bleeped out for some reason, so I assume it wasn't pleasant. I guess only Cena and the Rock can cross the censorship lines.
5. Kane gets the jobber entrance for his 82334th career match against the Big Show. It reminds me of their infamous "fake Kane" debut match where they actually chain-wrestled for a good few minutes. Before the match can get underway though, Cody Rhodes is out to be awesome again. The only thing missing from Cody's video package was the Benny Hill theme.
6. The match doesn't even really get a chance to get underway, as Rhodes is too busy screwing with Show. Kane hits the best version of a chokeslam from the top rope possible between the two behemoths, and the onslaught continues from Rhodes with a sick Disaster Kick. I've been really impressed with this feud so far, and it's actually made me enjoy Cody Rhodes on a consistent basis. He's come a long way since being the guy tagging with Hardcore Holly at the end of his career. Big Show is absolutely seething, which will lead to a similar confrontation as with Daniel Bryan at Elimination Chamber, where he will finally get his hands on him to the delight of the crowd.
7. What the hell was David Otunga doing during his entrance? It was some weird combination of Chris Masters and Stacy Keibler. It was disturbing on a level that I don't even want to imagine. Santino is his opponent, and he remains insanely over despite the inconsistent booking. The match starts with a flex-off, and Santino... pulls a muscle? Kay... Laurinaitis helps Otunga win in a quick match via... cell phone distraction? Okay, that's the second straight quick match that's ended with a quick distraction. It doesn't exactly help the credibility of the match if the team captain loses that quickly. Teddy Long regains the heat by showing Laurinaitis his pimp hand, and dare I say in a hammy way!
8. A vignette shows for a "Lord Tensai". I wonder if this is someone being called up, or a new signing that hasn't been heralded by the LordsofPain news reel yet. Either way, it seemed intriguing with some... Samurai responses, I suppose. Any way you look at it, it can't be worse than Kenzo Suzuki. Maybe it's Albert? I've read rumors of him re-signing with the company in the last few days. My response to that? Meh. I'll be interested to see what he brings to the product, at the least. Hopefully the days of the "Shave Your Back" chant are over. Then again, the "WHAT?" chant still exists, and that's the worst thing to ever happen to wrestling this side of the matches on Skitz' list on the forum!
9. The Rock is cutting a promo in front of the Rocky statue, but all I could think of when I saw the picture of him as a kid was, "Who wears short shorts? ROCKY WEARS SHORT SHORTS!"
10. Ultimate Warrior sighting, Hoak Hogan! The Great One may be speaking about the level of destrucity that is approaching this Wrestlemania, Hoak Hogan! Look at all of the fans, they're... questioning! Look at the wall of the arena, the colors of Rockamania are running wild through whatever the Rock is cooking, Hoak Hogan! BUTTONS! A CARDBOARD BOX! YOU CAN FEEL IT DUDE! YOU CAN FEEL IT, HOAK HOGAN!
11. The implication from The Rock's promo is that a physical confrontation may finally take place, which is definitely what this feud needs at this point. As soon as he talked about getting a cheesesteak, you knew damn well where it was going, but dear JBL... That level of grease... DO NOT WANT THERE! More references to past WWE superstars are mentioned with Flair and Savage, coming full circle with the infamous line from Rocky. Not his best, but certainly not bad by any means, and it manages to get a consistently high level of response.
12. Need I say more?
13. Zack Ryder is moving awfully well for someone who broke his back, what, three months ago? If that? Oh well, it's wrestling, who cares? He's petitioning a live audience to be on Team Teddy, which I wouldn't mind at all. He has something in common with the Team Captain, Santino Marella; got over despite sometimes ridiculous booking. I've never been a member of the "Zack Pack", but I do wish the guy well.
14. Bryan continues to get more aggressive, which can only benefit him in the long run, especially headed into a likely-stiff match with Sheamus at WrestleMania. Those two really need a showstealing performance on a show with at least three main events. Unfortunately, this third match on RAW tonight is another really quick match, but a really awesome counter into the LaBell Lock to finish it off. Whoever that guy is that counts the in-ring wrestling time is having a very easy night so far.
15. John Cena seems to be doing all right, but his reaction is rather mixed as per usual. I already miss the Thuganomics entrance again from last week. It does remind me of the Royal Rumble 2004, when Cena was insanely over in this very same city. Cena's elimination was the only one that drew serious heat, and he damn near tore his knee apart during said elimination. It's funny how things can change over a relatively small amount of time.
16. All right, this is the fourth match of the show, and I'm really hoping the wrestling time-o-meter can at least reach the two minute mark for this one. It's not that I mind the amount of matches, but enough time to actually have a, you know, wrestling match, wouldn't be too much to ask for, would it? I realize we're not getting any long matches this close to WrestleMania to minimize injury, but we can at least get a five-minute contest, can't we?
17. Mark Henry absolutely dominates the first part of the match, which is some credibility he's sorely needed. Going into commercial break, he's been one hundred percent on the offensive. Let's only hope it's not Miz/Cena "I Quit" levels of improbable comebacks, because while Cena doesn't have a Grand Wizard at the Apollo's chance of losing this match, a lot can be done for the rebuilding process of Henry before the match is done.
18. It looks like I'm at least getting my wish of a longer wrestling match. Unfortunately, we missed a good chunk of it with my biggest pet peeve, the in-match commercial break. It's like watching a TV show and having a commercial break cut out half the story. Any decent length wrestling match tells a complete story, even during the cheap heat, and it doesn't help the face come back as much when most of it is cut off. That's where the face gains sympathy heat before the hope spots. Atmosphere is what helps matches get reactions toward the end.
19. John Cena gets a good win while Mark Henry doesn't look ridiculous in the process. The ending of the match is quickly interrupted by The Rock's music to a huge ovation, and he Foleys Mark Henry while wisely keeping the physical confrontation for anticipation. I suppose they're saving that for the week before WrestleMania, but it needs to happen at least once before the actual show. Words and promos will only go so far.
20. If I took a shot for every time the phrase "The End of an Era" was said during the Triple H/Undertaker build-up, I wouldn't be able to type these columns within any semblance of cohesion. I get that they're two of the last big names from the Attitude Era, but it's not like they're the last two employed by the company from that time. Big Show, Kane, Mark Henry, not to mention The Rock being there on a semi-regular basis at the time at least have some say in that era, don't they? I realize I'm debating semantics here, but at least it's gotta be better than tearing everything apart, right? I save that for my webshow!
21. Another WrestleMania history lesson coming from The Miz here, and at least this one is pretty legit. It is a huge dropoff from the main event to not being booked with two weeks away. I keep reading that there's something going on with this and that he does have a role at WrestleMania 28, and I really hope that's true. Miz issues an open challenge, but before he can complete his catch phrase, he's interrupted by a surprisingly HAMMY Sheamus entrance!
22. I miss Hustle's rants on how the obscene amounts of limes are destroying the economy worldwide. I wonder what a Warrior Lobsterhead rant would bring... Oh, the possibilities! Oh yeah, there's another Miz loss about to happen, I forgot. No way the Royal Rumble winner is losing to a guy on a huge losing streak two weeks before WrestleMania. It'd be really nice if Cole could stop talking about David Otunga and call this match. The less I have to hear of the Coffee Slurper extraordinaire, the better.
23. Sheamus hits a devastating Brogue Kick for the second straight week. The Miz makes a much better appearance than he has in a while. I still don't see where that's going, but if it's at least something, then it won't be a waste. Poor Mizfan, what a way to go off into a honeymoon! Both Sheamus and Daniel Bryan have looked strong tonight, although the silly K-Mart commercial in which Sheamus growls at a blonde girl might bring that down a bit. If only I knew someone who made fun of silly commercials...
24. I tried to be unbiased listening to Randy Orton's promo, but I just couldn't. My readers know that I'm no fan of him, but I've never denied his above-average wrestling ability. Dear JBL though, please keep him away from microphones. I wonder if he'll try to put Kane into "unconscious sleep" like he did CM Punk last year. Instead, he just tells us that he is not Kane, but in fact, Randy Orton. Kay...
25. Biff and Dolph Ziggler have been added to "Team Johnny", which is good because it gets Dolph Ziggler on WrestleMania. Facing Truth and Kofi, these two have put on some really good matches as of late. Dolph gets better in the ring every time I see him. But Biff just can't hand in his matches in Kofi Kingston's handwriting, can he? He'd get fired from the company, and Kofi wouldn't want that, would he?
26. Team Johnny gets yet another victory, which puts them pretty well ahead in the buildup to this point, though like Teddy like girlfriend, Aksana starts a brawl. Where's Joey Styles to say "CATFIGHT!!!!!!" Team Teddy looks pretty weak in this feud so far, at least since Santino won the US title, if I recall correctly.
27. Seeing Shawn Michaels come out in Philadelphia definitely has some fond memories of the summer of 2006. My friend Becky (commenter: greenwoodrosie) and I went to two shows within about a month of each other. In State College, along with her sister and my buddy Matt, we saw DX reunite, and a month or so later, we saw DX screw with the show from the outside for pretty much the entire night. We've made a pact to go to the next Royal Rumble as long as it's on the east coast, so I'm very much looking forward to that. The memories you share with friends are often even more special than the wrestling moments themselves. Even if I did have to sleep on a dorm room floor the night before the show in Philly. Definitely one of the least comfortable places I've ever slept.
28. Shawn Michaels says he's not going to give his prediction, but an opinion on what he thinks is going to happen. Oh, you mean... A prediction?
29. As The Undertaker makes his entrance, I can't help but notice the logo of his iTunes picture has a shadow with only eyes peering out. I can't help but think that it looks like the ViviTaker. Before Taker can get out a few words, Triple H completes the trifecta of interruption, and with it already being 11, they may not have their usual 20 minutes to talk back and forth.
30. Triple H brings up an interesting point about Triple H and Undertaker being in 19 of the 24 Hell in a Cell matches. It's a shame the numbers are that high due to the concept Pay-Per-View. At least this one means something for the first time in a few years. Triple H will put it all on the line to give Taker the ending he "richly deserves", concluded with a "This! Is! Sparta!" "AND! I! WILL" Before Taker pseudo-leaves, he says that Shawn Michaels is better than Triple H in such a smarmy way that HBK can't help letting several smiles shine through as the show goes off the air. Another good piece of build-up in the Road to WrestleMania that really picked up in the second half.
I think Teddy just nudges out Sheamus's hammy entrance for the Large Ham of the week for showing Johnny his pimp hand.
1-9-12 – R-Truth
1-16-12 - John Laurinaitis
1-23-12 - William Regal
1-29-12 - Ricardo Rodriguez
1-30-12 - R-Truth
2-6-12 - Triple H
2-13-12 - Shawn Michaels
2-19-12 – Santino Marella
2-20-12 - John Cena
2-27-12 – Al Laiman, for thinking no one read this
3-5-12 – John Laurinaitis
3-12-12 - James Roday
3-19-12 - Theodore Long
AL'S WEEKLY RIDDLES
These will come not just from wrestling, but pop culture in general. Have a piece of ham if you win until I think of a better prize.
#1 - Seize the day isn't quite what he meant to say
A colder Casablanca, yet ironically involving an Island in the Sun
#2 - He was a man who found a Just cause without getting much Heat for it. Maybe he just needed a sofa, or a point.