First of all, for me, TLC was the best show that I’ve seen since Money In The Bank. Survivor Series was good, but I feel TLC was a better overall card with better worked matches and storylines. Kevin Nash got the beatdown from Triple H, Zack Ryder and Daniel Bryan were finally given what they deserve, and CM Punk showed the world why he is the best wrestler in WWE. As far as John Cena goes, the show was probably better without him. Now on to Raw!
We open Raw with CM Punk announcing himself as the winner of the WWE Title match at TLC! Punk then brings out the winners of the US and World Title matches, Zack Ryder and Daniel Bryan! After saying all year that WWE was developing stars for the future and working on producing some of the most popular wrestlers of a new generation, this is what we get heading into 2012. I love it! All three guys speak and put themselves over and it’s a lot of fun with a hot Philly crowd until they get interrupted by Miz, Del Rio, and Ziggler. A brawl ends up happening and Johnny Ace comes down and makes a six man tag for the main event tonight. This was probably the most fun opening to a Raw in ages. The focus was finally on the most popular guys in the company and you got a high level of excitement out of it. I’m guessing less people felt the urge to change the channel after than when we would see Michael Cole open the show with whatever ridiculous segment he was in.
Next we have Wade Barrett and Randy Orton in their third match in six days. Barrett and Orton give us their traditional back and forth action that ends when Barrett gouges Orton in the eye and gets himself disqualified. Barrett then hits wasteland on Orton through a table. Looks like this rivalry is just heating up. I suppose it’s a good thing for both of these guys if they are going to continue giving us matches like they delivered at TLC. That match was worked perfectly for a tables match and I’m sure they could do the same with other types of matches if given the proper setup. I don’t expect this rivalry to end until one of these guys pins the other cleanly, possibly at the Rumble.
Cole and Lawler tell us Nash will be out for roughly six weeks after his match last night. Hope his “pop” at the Rumble doesn’t go to his head again.
Alicia Fox takes on Beth Phoenix in a non title divas match. Fox wins the match after just a few minutes with what appears to be another botched flipping legdrop that connected with Phoenix’s skull. It almost seems like Alicia is generating heat from the crowd with a possible face turn for Beth? You just can’t predict what will happen with this divas division; it’s probably due to the fact that I really don’t care enough to speculate on it.
Next up Sheamus takes on Jinder Mahal. Sheamus wins this one after a few minutes of back and forth action. Nothing special here. I wonder what the point of jobbing Mahal to everyone is. I hope Jim Ross is right about Mahal and he gets the time go back to developmental and reach his full potential. As for Sheamus, this is just getting old to watch the guy fight in these random matches and not be put into any important storyline. WWE needs to realize how far he’s come and do something worthwhile with his character.
John Cena is out next to talk about Kane. He says he understands if it was an accident that Kane attacked him last week. He says if it isn’t then they have unfinished business. Mark Henry comes out and tells Cena he needs to worry about Henry and nobody else. Kane comes down and moves towards Henry but ends up attacking Cena. He grabs Cena’s face while he has him on the announce table and it looks like he’s squeezing his mouth. Cena is bleeding when Kane lets go and leaves. Interesting filler feud here for John Cena as we head towards WrestleMania. Kane looks good; the guy is definitely in the best shape we’ve seen in years. The only thing here that people need to remember is that this is still the same Kane that we’ve had for the last 14 years and eventually we are going to be just as bored with his character as we’ve been in the past. If Mark Henry recovers from the groin injury quickly enough, I expect Kane to go after him and cause the face turn for Henry that’s been rumored to happen sometime in 2012.
Epico and Primo take on the Usos in our next match. Finally! Classic tag team wrestling at it’s best. WWE just needs three or four more regular tag teams and they may just have a decent division like they had in the past. Epico and Primo pick up the victory when Primo hits a backstabber to score the pin. I see these guys taking the titles off Air Boom before anybody else right now. Anybody know what happened to Hunico? I’m surprised he isn’t at least hanging ringside as the leader of the trio. I was originally thinking the group would wrestle Freebird style and mix up which two competed each week.
Santino Marella and Cody Rhodes exchange words in a backstage promo. Santino is then squashed by Cody Rhodes in a fast match. It’s really too bad that they didn’t do more with this. Santino can make guys look good in the ring. It almost makes me miss the heel Santino; at least he was allowed to work a normal length match and hold titles. Cody is moving up fast in the ranks but it’s hard to assume that his feud with Booker T is over so quickly. What else are they going to do with the guy if he has so few title defenses? I want to pick Cody to win the rumble, but WWE doesn’t seem to care enough about his IC Title storyline to actually push him beyond it.
Next we are given a ridiculous backstage segment where the Bella Twins are sweet on John Laurinatis. Then they leave and Teddy Long gets yelled at by Vicky but Hornswoggle holds up mistletoe and kisses her. I don’t understand WWE sometimes. Big Show then does an interview with Josh Matthews where he looks as though he’s going to cry/snap any second. He talks about Bryan cashing in and how he had the title in his hands for the first time in so long but says he shouldn’t be mad at Bryan. I’m seeing an interesting match coming our way between Daniel Bryan and the Big Show.
Punk, Bryan, and Ryder enter through the crowd for their six man tag match. This is classic ECW stuff here in the city of Philadelphia. They work a solid match with Dolph, Del Rio and the Miz. The match ends with some chaos and Daniel Bryan causing Del Rio to tap out to the labell lock. I like the way they decided for Bryan to get the victory here. The guy only won the title last night by pinning someone who was already down, so it was good to see him beat Del Rio decisively. The three face champions of WWE celebrate with the fans as Raw goes off the air.
This show didn’t have a lot of stuff happening, but it was a lot of fun to watch. Without even utilizing Air Boom, R Truth on suspension, Hunico, Ted Dibiase and a couple other guys, WWE still showed what it has in store for the future in regards to the talent on the roster. I knew there would come a time when these guys were finally over as the stars of today, and it looks like it has finally happened. The change is here, whether you agree with me or not. The Jericho return will help Punk become an even bigger star, and Jericho isn’t too old to be doing this. Triple H and Undertaker can have their rematch at WrestleMania, but I firmly believe even without The Rock vs John Cena that we will see more than one match outshine H and the Dead Man at this year’s event. The time for change is upon us, and the Road to WrestleMania begins as we build towards the Royal Rumble. It’s a great time to be a fan! Smackdown column will be up on Friday, and I’m still working on Know Your Role pt 2. Until next time, you’ve been ThunderStruck!