This is the 12th edition of Fantasy Friday Night SmackDown.
For those who are not up to date yet, check out the 11th episode here.
For those further behind, I will post a full list of episodes at the end of the article to help those who missed a week.
Also, check out the newest episode of Raw here. Also, check out their latest brand exclusive PPV this Sunday, New Year's Revolution.
Remember to rate the show at the end out of 10, i.e. "8/10," as this is a competition of SmackDown (Kevin Berge) vs. Raw (Will Owen and Michael Broughton). Also, there will be voting details at the end of the show that pertain to the next Fantasy PPV for those who have not yet voted.
Special shoutout this week. Paul McIntyre helped me with the show this week with a phenomenal write-up. The opening contest was his write up alone.
Now, on to the show.
The intro rolls, then we are treated to a recap for last week.
Dolph Ziggler comes out and talks about being No. 1 contender and wanting to face John Cena in a one-on-one match
He is cut off by both The Miz and Cena, who both want that No. 1 contendership.
In the end, Michael Cole grants them all a chance at their wish. He allows them the opportunity to have a match of their choosing when they wish if they win a triple-threat match between the three participants.
Flash to the match where Cena, Miz and Ziggler are all going at it. Several close finishes are shown for Ziggler. Then, a big breakdown of the match leads to Ziggler hitting Cena with the Zig Zag.
However, he gets swiped from behind by Miz, who hits the Skull Crushing Finale and picks up the spoils pinning Cena for three.
Miz has his hand raised with the ultimate opportunity in his grasp. Green Day then plays.
(Opening two slides written by Paul McIntyre)
Fireworks go off as the show begins, and the announcers greet the audience.
Josh Matthews: “Welcome everyone to the first Friday Night SmackDown of 2012. I am here with Matt Striker, as you are all in for an exciting night.”
Matt Striker: “That’s right, Josh. We are starting year off right with some exciting cruiserweight action. Already in the ring is Justin Gabriel, who looks ready to make a big impact coming a few weeks off rehabilitating from a minor injury.”
Matthews: “Here comes Richie Steamboat, who many have identified as a big part of WWE’s future. Matt, what do you think of this young man?”
Striker: “Well, I was a huge fan of Ricky Steamboat growing up, so to me, it’s no surprise his son has ability. In his match at Cyber Sunday, Richie proved he’s got the potential to go far.”
Both men circle the ring before locking up in the centre. Steamboat applies a headlock takeover, which Gabriel counters into a head scissors. Quicker to get up, Gabriel hits an arm drag; next, Steamboat hits one of his own, and the pair stand off, receiving a smattering of applause and cheers.
Defensively positioned, Steamboat withdraws into a corner, ducking under a punch from Gabriel, positioning him into the turnbuckle and delivering hard chops to the chest before backing off.
As Gabriel gathers his wits, he runs towards his opponent but is caught in another headlock takedown; fans see him smack the mat in frustration. He manages a roll up, but Steamboat releases it to escape.
First to stand, Steamboat picks up Gabriel only to be hit with a kick to the leg. Reversing a whip, he sends Gabriel into the ropes but is hit with a spinning heel kick on the rebound. Hooking the leg, Gabriel gets a two-count.
Waiting for Steamboat to rise, Gabriel goes for a kick but finds his leg caught; Steamboat ducks as Gabriel tries to hit him with an enzuigiri, then leaps towards the African’s head to lock in another headlock.
Expecting this, Gabriel punches him in the face, causing Steamboat to roll away, surprised.
Matt: “And therein lies the problem for young Richie Steamboat. That inexperience will cost him early in his career, as it did against Christian; he’s been in that ring wrestling, and suddenly finds himself in a fight. Question is, will Justin Gabriel now capitalise?”
As though hearing the commentary, Gabriel runs towards Steamboat and leaps up for a hurricanrana, hooking Steamboat’s leg for a near fall in the process.
He follows up by hitting Steamboat with a few rights and whips him into the ropes. Ducking too early for a back drop, though, Gabriel is caught with a DDT, which earns Steamboat a two as we cut to a commercial break.
Josh: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Smackdown, were we are witnessing a match between two opponents who seem to be completely even, Justin Gabriel and Richie Steamboat.”
Steamboat whips Gabriel into the corner, and abandoning caution, runs after him; he is punished with a boot to the face. Gabriel pushes himself up to the top rope and hits a flying clothesline. Tired, he is unable to follow up with a pin.
As both get up, Steamboat goes for an arm drag. Gabriel somersaults through onto his feet and hits a kick to Steamboat’s head.
The referee begins a 10-count as both men stagger to their feet, trading punches and chops until Gabriel manages a kick to the leg, which he follows up by whipping Steamboat into the corner. Anticipating it well, Steamboat jumps onto the turnbuckle and slingshots into a sunset flip, getting a two-count.
Josh: “Great athleticism from Steamboat there. Matt, who do you see coming out on top in this contest?”
Matt: “Well if we were awarding points, Josh, these two would be even, but this isn’t boxing, this is wrestling, and we will see a winner here. Who that is, I can’t determine, although this right here could decide it!”
At a slight advantage, Steamboat manages to get Gabriel up for a powerbomb and prepares to slam him back-first into the turnbuckle. Gabriel flips out of it and lands on his feet; as Steamboat rushes at him, he hits a drop toe hold that slams Steamboat’s skull into the bottom turnbuckle.
Josh: “Beautiful drop toe hold by the resourceful Gabriel; both these men are desperate to better the other. With nothing on the line here, this is a case of two athletes vying for respect.”
Steamboat gets up on one leg as Gabriel drags him to the ring’s centre and hits an enziguri. Crawling over to the corner, he pulls himself up to the top rope and stands. When Gabriel reaches his feet, Steamboat goes for the crossbody, but the African dodges.
Approaching the corner, Gabriel thinks better of it and hits a dropkick on Steamboat; then, he slowly climbs to the top rope. The time he takes allows Steamboat to reach his feet, and with a burst of energy, he runs over to Gabriel and delivers an arm drag from the top rope.
Josh: “What a move from Steamboat! Phenomenal impact there, and Gabriel must be finished: 1, 2, NO! Gabriel kicks out!”
Steamboat looks at the referee in disbelief.
Matt: “Now is not the time to lose composure for Steamboat; he needs to press his advantage if he wants the victory here!”
Picking Gabriel up, Steamboat delivers a chop but is stunned to receive a flurry of punches in return. The rookie kicks Gabriel in the gut and goes for an Irish whip. Reversing the whip, Gabriel ducks down for a back drop.
Bouncing back off of the ropes, Steamboat manages to stop in front of Gabriel and executes a small package.
Josh: “Steamboat hooks the leg: 1, 2, 3! What a match!”
Justin Roberts: "The winner of this match, Richie Steamboat!" (Time of contest: 14:23)
In shock, Gabriel rises to his feet quickly as Steamboat is having his hand raised by the referee. Frustrated, the African puts his head in his hands, but nods eventually as though in acceptance. Looking at Steamboat, he offers his hand in respect, and the crowd cheer the two athletes as they shake in the middle of the ring.
As we return, the lights are out in the arena. The crowd is not sure what to make of the situation. Suddenly, a single spotlight turns on, pointing directly into the ring. Center stage sitting on a chair is the Miz. The crowd boos loudly as Miz waves the microphone in his hand around, then begins with a grin.
Miz: "This is exactly how things should be around here. Me with the spotlight. When I'm in the ring, no one else matters.You can boo me and you can 'what' me all you want, but you all knows it's true. I am the star of this show. In fact, I am the star of this company.
"You know, word is getting around that Smackdown is the best show on air. Do you know why? Of course you do. Because this is my show. I am an instant ratings magnet. I could see here on a chair and talk for the full two hours of this show, and I would draw more people into the show than any star in that back locker room.
"More than John Morrison, Cody Rhodes, Zack Ryder, Daniel Bryan or Christian. More than Dolph Ziggler, John Cena and certainly more than that embarrassment of a WWE Champion, CM Punk. In fact, right now, I'm drawing in more viewers by the second than that debacle of a main event WWE Championship match will in its entirety.
"Now, you all saw the recap, and I'm sure you all saw last week. I have a blank check. That check can be written out for any match, anywhere, any time. That means I could technically insert myself into the main event tonight, but what would the point of that be? It would be a waste of my talent.
"So what do I want? Who do I want to face? Well, I hear that the main event for WrestleMania is already set, and I am not allowed to touch that match, though honestly, I would feel bad about ruining the Rock's big return. While smashing his face into the ground and winning another main event WrestleMania match would be... fun, I have more important people to think about, aka myself.
"WrestleMania needs big stars, and it also needs champions. Men of class and talent unparalleled. Men who will lead the event to its highest buy rates of all time. Men like me. That WWE Championship right now is on the waist of a horrible waste of space. A man who should not even be allowed to share the distinction of being a WWE Champion with me.
"CM Punk, you will not go to WrestleMania as champion. You can't. Sure, Dolph Ziggler could take that chance away from you, but that might even be a worse option. OK, not really, but he certainly wouldn't be a whole lot better. So...for the betterment of SmackDown and for the betterment of this company, I will be using this match opportunity at the Royal Rumble.
"The Miz vs. the WWE Champion, whether CM Punk or Dolph Ziggler, in a match that I choose. A match that allows me to inflict the most damage and pain to my opponents. A match that will guarantee that no one cheats me out of my title. A steel cage match.
"Four weeks and counting until I hold that championship once again. Four weeks until the most must see WWE Champion make his grand return and begins his road to WrestleMania. Because I'm the Miz, and I'm... awesome!"
The lights go up as Miz stands up, and the crowd boos heavily. He taunts the crowd as we head to commercial break.
Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks come out confident and focused. They are ready for Zack Ryder's challenge to them from last week.
Zack Ryder makes his way out to the ring to a good pop from the crowd, but stops at the bottom of the entrance ramp. He motions to the ramp where his mystery partner is about to appear.
John Morrison comes out to a decent pop from the crowd as both men get in the ring with Reks and Hawkins looking slightly less confident. Morrison decides to start against Reks as the match begins.
Morrison locks up with Reks and gets pushed back. Reks smiles as the two lock up with Morrison again being pushed back. Morrison looks a bit frustrated as he refocuses and locks up a third time. This time, Morrison hooks his right leg around Reks' right leg, blocking Reks' push.
Morrison then uses the surprise of the move to push Reks back and then hit a spinning heel kick. Reks, on the ground, backs up and tags in Hawkins. Hawkins and Morrison circle until Ryder asks for the tag. Morrison grants it, and Ryder jumps in immediately pounding on Hawkins.
Ryder won't let up as Hawkins backs into the corner, and, after a count of four, the referee pulls Ryder off. As he scolds Ryder about paying attention, Hawkins slips over and tags in Reks again. Reks looks confident only for Ryder to go right at Reks as well.
Reks tries to push Ryder off, but Ryder hits a dropkick. As Reks rises in the corner, Ryder hits him with an elbow smash. Reks fights Ryder off and whips him him into the corner. When Reks runs at Ryder, though, he is met by a double high knee to the face.
Ryder comes at Reks as he turns around and hits a facebuster for a two count. Reks backs up into his corner again as Ryder moves to his. They both converse with their partners and tag them in. All four are in the ring at once.
Reks and Hawkins come at Ryder and Morrison only to get hit. Ryder hits Hawkins with a flapjack while Morrison hits the Flying Chuck to Reks. Both of the heels escape the ring. Morrison and Ryder look at each other, and then they both hit the men with suicide dives.
Morrison and Ryder get back in the ring and taunt the two men as they get up. Reks and Hawkins look at each other and then turn away. They walk off, saying that they don't need this. The referee counts them out as Morrison and Ryder look a bit annoyed in the ring.
Tony Chimel: "The winners of this match by countout, John Morrison and Zack Ryder." (Time of contest: 4:10)
The two motion to the team to get back in the ring, but they just stand up at the entrance ramp as the show goes to commercial.
CM Punk is stretching out backstage preparing for his huge main event title match against Ziggler when Daniel Bryan walks in.
His appearance causes Punk to stand up.
Bryan: "You know, that's a nice title you got there. Be a shame if you lost it."
Bryan looks down at his Money in the Bank briefcase and looks back up at Punk. Bryan smiles as Punk looks a bit annoyed.
Bryan: "Hey, man, lighten up, I'm just kidding. I would never cheat you out of that belt. I know how much it means to you. I just came in here to wish you good luck tonight."
Punk: "Thanks Daniel. I appreciate that. Look, I understand what it means to hold that briefcase. I have held it twice and successfully cashed it in twice. I won't begrudge you at all for cashing in on me, but just know, I'm no Punk. You won't steal this championship away from me that easily."
Bryan: "Look, I said it once, I'll say it again. I am cashing in at WrestleMania to win my first ever WWE Championship. If you're still champion at that time, I would be honored to face you one on one for that belt."
The two shake hands as Bryan walks back out with Punk watching him go, contented though still a bit wary. The camera cuts to ringside.
Sin Cara Negro comes out to the ring to a small negative reaction. He gets in the ring and he waits. We are shown a recap of last week, where Sin Cara Negro brutally took out Sin Cara Azul as Azul entered the ring. Then, Negro told Azul quite simply that Negro was the new Sin Cara from now on.
Trent Barreta comes out to a small positive reaction and gets into the ring.
Matt Striker: "The last time these two faced off, outside factor determined the contest. This week, I'm not sure if Sin Cara Azul will be getting involved."
Josh Matthews: "Yeah, after last week, I don't know if anyone would have the ability to come out here this week."
The bell rings as the two stare each other down. They dance back and forth looking for an opening, then they lock up. Negro pushed down the pressure on Barreta's shoulders only for Barreta to fire back with an uppercut to the chin. This causes Negro to back up, dazed.
Barreta runs backwards and flies back at Negro after bouncing off the ropes for a big flying forearm smash. As Negro tries to get up using the ropes, Barreta flies at him hitting a dropkick, sending Negro through the middle of the ropes to the ground below.
Barreta works the crowd and then flies at a rising Negro for a suicide springboard moonsault.
Matthews: "Wow, Sin Cara Negro just cannot get a break here in this match. He has been completely out-wrestled up to this point."
Striker: "We don't really know who is under that mask, but it would seem that Barreta has an experience factor over the masked star. Remember, Barreta is a three-year veteran in this company."
Both men are up with Barreta grabbing Negro by the head. He pushes Negro toward the steel ring post, but Negro blocks it and, with all his force, reverses the push so that Barreta goes plummeting into the steel. He lands badly with his arm curling around the post.
Barreta is holding his left arm in pain as Negro grabs Barreta and picks him up. He sets Barreta on his shoulders and hits an Argentine lift Samoan drop onto the ground. Barreta lands on the injured arm and is writhing in pain.
Negro rolls into the ring to stop the count and goes to the top rope. With Barreta still on the ground, Negro hits a perfect senton bomb, which further tweaks the arm. On the outside, Negro rolls Barreta back into the ring and then gets in going for the three count. He only gets two.
A frustrated Negro grabs the injured arm of Barreta and pulls him to his feet. Negro then rolls the arm around in front of Barreta and launches Barreta into the turn buckle with the arm hitting full force. The referee checks in Barreta to see if he can continue. Barreta pushes the ref away with his right arm and tries to get up.
He pulls himself to his feet with the ropes. He motions to Negro to come at him. As Negro runs at him, Barreta gets both legs up, knocking Negro away. Barreta then runs at him, hitting a running single leg high knee.
He covers with his good arm for two. He then waits for Negro to rise. Negro pushes himself to the corner, but he is met by a springboard back elbow from Barreta as he rises. Barreta then goes to the top rope of the corner that Negro was in.
He gets ready to fly, but Negro comes in and hits Barreta's injured left arm with an axe handle. As Barreta holds the hurt arm, Negro comes in and hits Barreta with a moonsault side slam. Instead of going for a cover, though, Negro goes back to the top rope and hits a senton bomb on the laid out Barreta. Negro gets the three count.
Tony Chimel: "The winner of this match, Sin Cara Negro." (Time of contest: 7:35)
Negro goes to the outside and grabs the microphone directly away from Chimel.
Negro: "No, estupido. My nombre es simplemente Sin Cara. ¡Recuerde que! That impostor Sin Cara es pasado. He is gone. You are all looking at the true Sin Cara. Es la verdad."
He drops the microphone and marches off for the back as the referee helps up an injured Barreta. We head to commercial break.
We return to Maryse making her way out the ring. There is fear and apprehension in her eyes as she enters. She doesn't seem as confident as she usually does. We are shown a quick recap of some of the previous weeks where Death Rey and Kharma struck fear into the women of WWE.
Death Rey then comes out with Kharma at her back. She walks down the ramp and enters the ring with an intense grimace. She enters the ring with Kharma staying outside, and she waits for the bell to ring. When it does, a slow grin stretches across Rey's face.
Rey walks toward Maryse, who looks reluctant to lock up. Maryse tries to escape the ring, but she sees Kharma standing outside the ring near where she was about to leave. She turns around for Death Rey to grab Maryse by the hair and toss her across the ring.
She slowly makes her way over to Maryse, who doesn't even try to stand up. Rey grabs Maryse and lifts her up for a perfect backdrop suplex, with Maryse almost landing on her skull from the hit.
Maryse realizes she has to fight Rey, so she pulls herself to her feet. She pushes herself off the ropes only to take a front kick from Death Rey, sending her to the ground again.
Rey looks out at the crowd, who boos her. She takes her right hand and crosses her fingertips quickly across her throat as if saying that Maryse is dead. She grabs Maryse and hooks her arms. She lifts Maryse up into a standing butterfly, then, after a few seconds, hits her with a buttefly suplex.
The pinfall is academic.
Tony Chimel: "The winner of this match, Death Rey." (Time of contest: 2:05)
Rey gets out of the ring and takes a microphone. She talks as she walks over to Kharma.
Rey: "You see that, ladies? That's the beginning of the end. Next week, I will be out here again, and I dare any of you to face me in this ring."
She drops the microphone, and she walks out with Kharma as the camera transitions to backstage.
Santino Marella is backstage pacing back and forth in his locker room. No one is in sight.
Santino: "Why do I keeps losing-a? I don'ts understand. It makes no sense. My Cobra has lost his bite. My trombone lacks flair. What could be the problem? Do I need a new instrument perhaps? A flute? A trumpet? A violin? A guitar? (As he says each, he mimics each) Oh, I don't know who to ask for help."
He picks up a cell phone from his pocket and dials up a number. We hear it ring, and then someone answers.
"Mamma! Mi può aiutare? ..."
Big Show comes into the locker room of Santino, causing Santino to drop the phone in surprise.
Santino: "Oh, it is you, the Big Shows (laughing). You, as they say, caught me not on my defense."
Show: "Look, Santino, I've been out for weeks after trying to help you once, but I've been watching the show. You need someone to back you up after what you have been through lately. I mean, even Zack Ryder thinks you're too silly."
Santino: "So you will help me again?"
Show: "Yes, one more time."
Santino makes a sound halfway between a squeal and a cheer and hugs Show. Show looks awkwardly and pushes Santino off. He pats him on the back as we cut commercial.
As we return, Cody Rhodes is in the ring with a microphone in his hand. He is being booed loudly as he gets ready to talk.
Rhodes: "You all need to shut up and listen. I will not stand for being disrespected by you... people. I am the Intercontinental Champion, and I have thoroughly defended this title since. I destroyed John Morrison. I have beaten the Big Show and Alberto Del Rio. No one is left to compete for this title.
"Tonight, I don't face a new challenger. In fact, I don't even need a challenge. The higher ups in this company have thrown a man at me who has only found success as a tag team competitor. A man who thinks it's 'cool' to fly around the ring. Here's the truth...Evan.
"You can go airborne all you want. I proved to Morrison at Night of Champions that flying doesn't win titles, and I can give you the same lesson. My face may be broken, but my mind is poised. I can't lose, and you are going to see why tonight. After this, I demand someone get me some real competition."
He drops the mic and gets set as Evan Bourne makes his way out to the ring, accompanied by his tag team championship partner, Kofi Kingston. Bourne gets in the ring and faces down Rhodes as the bell rings.
Rhodes tries to go after Bourne, only to be pushed back by hazardous kicks. Bourne doesn't let Rhodes get close as the two circle around the ring. Bourne slides underneath Rhodes after Rhodes goes for a quick grab, then, when Rhodes turns around, Bourne turns momentum off the ropes into a crucfix driver for a two count.
He goes to the top rope and hits a diving double knee drop to the shoulders of a standing Rhodes for another two count. As Rhodes gets back up, Bourne goes for a spinning heel kick, which Rhodes catches. He holds onto Bourne's leg and throws him to the ground. He hits Bourne with a front suplex for two, then locks in a headlock.
He works over Bourne for about four minutes, not allowing any room or separation with a variety stomps, knee drops and submission holds centered around Bourne's legs. At about the six-minute mark for the match, Bourne is in the figure four leg lock and looks to be in serious trouble as we head to commercial break.
We return with Rhodes and Bourne rising. A recap is shown of Bourne getting away long enough to hit a hurricanrana driver. Now, both men are fighting to get to their feet.
When they do, they exchange blows. Bourne pushes Rhodes into the ropes, but Rhodes drops down as he approaches Bourne and hits a straight punch to the face. Bourne is dazed as Rhodes springboards off the ropes for the Beatiful Disaster. Bourne ducks it.
As Rhodes turns around, Bourne hits him with a headscissors takedown into a hooked roll up for a close two-count. As Rhodes sits up, Bourne hits a shoot kick to the chest. He then hits a standing moonsault for a long two count, and he then waits for Rhodes to rise.
Bourne jumps at Rhodes, only to get caught. Rhodes goes for an Alabama slam only to for Bourne to fight out and hit a standing shiranui. Bourne then goes to the top rope. He signals for the Air Bourne as Kofi works up the crowd. Suddenly, the Fortunate Americans hit the ring with music.
Bourne is distracted as the two head down to the ring with Jimmy Uso walking behind the two stars in Ted DiBiase and Jack Swagger. Bourne takes too long, allowing Rhodes to come in with a stiff kick. Rhodes throws Bourne off the top rope and hits a moonsault for a long two count.
Rhodes thought the match was over and argues with the referee. He turns around into a roundhouse kick, which yields a close two-count. Both men get up, but Bourne mistimes a kick, which Rhodes dodges. Rhodes then grabs Bourne and hits Cross Rhodes for the three-count.
Tony Chimel: "The winner of this match, the Intercontinental Champion, Cody Rhodes." (Time of contest: 13:46)
On the outside, Kofi is staring down both DiBiase and Swagger. Neither group makes a move until a celebratory Rhodes comes from behind and blasts Kofi with his championship in the back of the head. The Fortunate Americans pick up the scraps and hit Kofi with their tag team finisher, a gutwrench powerbomb with a neckbreaker, onto the ground.
The two tag team members are congratulated by Uso as Rhodes walks up the ramp with his title, and both members of Air Boom are laid out. We cut to commercial.
As we return to commercial, Punk is making his way to the ring when he sees a commotion. He makes his way over to see a congregation of stars.
Punk: "Hey, what is this about?"
Kurt Angle turns around from in the middle of the crowd. As the crowd of people break up in the wake of Angle, we can see someone being on a stretcher with medics wheeling the man away most likely toward an ambulance.
Angle: "Why don't you tell me? Last week, Jeff Hardy is being wheeled out of here. This week, I find Daniel Bryan in the same position."
Punk: "What? But...I just saw him earlier tonight. What happened?"
Angle: "The way I see it, last week, you attacked a guest I brought back because you didn't agree with his lifestyle or didn't like that he was back after you got him fired. This week, you were worried after a long contest against Ziggler that Daniel would come out and take your title. Well, bravo, you're safe for the night."
Angle: "No! You don't get to speak. You speak with me in the ring. Next week, you and me, one on one. You won't take me out so easily when I know you're coming."
Angle is already walking off frustrated as Punk stands there, flustered. He has a match next.
Dolph Ziggler comes out as we return to a decidedly mixed reaction, loud, but mixed. He enters the ring with confidence, There is not even a hint of doubt on his face. He stands in the ring waiting when John Cena enters to a much louder and extremely mixed reaction.
Ziggler doesn't allow the entrance of Cena to faze him, and he walks down the ramp and heads over to the commentary booth. Instead of putting on a headset, he merely grabs the chair and wheels it in front of the announce table.
A huge wave of cheers comes over the crowd as CM Punk comes out to the ring, though he still seems frazzled from earlier events. He makes his way down without his usual motions and enters the ring, staring down Ziggler. The bell rings as the two lock up.
The two trade headlocks. The moment one has pressure, the other reverses it into his own headlock. They trade back until Ziggler is able to get the arms locked as well with a unique two arm hold around underneath the chin and arms, which he then transitions into a takedown.
He snaps on a bodyscissors while still putting pressure on both arms. He keeps this hold up for a good minute, with Punk rolling it into one-count roll ups only for Ziggler to roll right back into the move. Finally, Punk rolls through and to the ropes, forcing a break.
As both men rise, Ziggler goes for an inverted body slam, only for Punk to block it and reverse the move into swinging neckbreaker. The two are too close to the ropes, so Punk can't cover. Punk pulls Ziggler into the middle of the ring and lays on a series of leg drops.
He then covers for only two. Punk suddenly locks in a Koji clutch, which is a dangerous move that has Ziggler looking for some relief. He takes about 30 seconds in the move before Ziggler pulls himself up with Punk on his shoulder and turns the move into a running slam.
He then hits a big jumping elbow drop for two. Cena looks on, coldly analyzing. The commentators are not sure what to make of Cena sitting at ringside. They pass it off as a competitor looking for one more opportunity at either of these men before WrestleMania.
Ziggler has taken control of Punk again with some stiff shots followed by a leg drop bulldog. He covers for two as the two fight on. Over this whole time, Punk has still shown signs of being a bit distant, but it has not majorly affected him. Punk reverses a suplex attempt into a falcon arrow for two, then goes to the top rope.
He seems to sit there for several seconds completely blanking out. The moments are enough for Ziggler, who snaps himself up to the top rope and hits a superplex off the top rope for two. We go to commercial break as Punk seems a bit out of it.
We return with Ziggler stomping on Punk's head. The crowd is chanting for Punk, who is still a bit dazed. Something is on his mind that the commentators think might be the attack on Daniel Bryan earlier still affecting Punk. What his hesitation means, neither man can tell.
Ziggler goes to the top and lands a big dropkick. He only gets two. He picks up Punk and puts him on his shoulders. He goes for a gutbuster, but Punk shoves him off then hits a roundhouse kick, sending Ziggler to the outside near the entrance ramp.
Punk follows Ziggler outside and picks him up, hoping to kick a pinfall in the ring. Instead, Ziggler knocks Punk off and hits a clothesline. Punk is down and inches over to the steel ring post. He uses to help him up, but Ziggler is right there and hits a superkick onto the steel post to Punk.
Punk is completely out after the move, but Ziggler has to get the dead weight into the ring. He pulls Punk up and gets himself and Punk in at a count of eight. He covers: 1...2..kick out.
Ziggler was sure he was going to get the three, so he has to back up and refocus. He stands in the corner and prepares for something. Punk has his back turned as he rises, and Ziggler goes for the Zig Zag. Punk is able to keep himself upright and get Ziggler off.
As Ziggler comes back at him from the front, Punk goes for the GTS. Ziggler fights out as well, with both men then backing up into respective corners across from one another. They stare each other down. Both men look focused, determined. They come at each other and exchange blows.
Punch for punch, kick for kick, neither backs down as the crowd gets behind Punk. Ziggler throws a straight right hand that Punk ducks. From his positioning, he hits a huge roundhouse kick that sends the WWE audience into a frenzy. He basically falls on top of Ziggler: ..1...2...kick out.
Punk and the fans can't believe it. Punk grabs Ziggler's head as he rises and tries to throw Ziggler toward the far turnbuckle. Instead, Ziggler reverses for his own whip. As Ziggler runs at Punk, Punk catches him and locks on a rope hung arm trap can opener as the referee counts.
At four, Punk releases the move, letting Ziggler breathe. Punk is still on the apron as Ziggler walks off. When he turns back around, he is met by a springboard clothesline. Punk then gets up and signals to the crowd, going to the top rope. He hits a diving elbow drop and covers: ...1...2...kick out.
Both men are visibly sweating at this point. As Punk gets up slowly and calls for the GTS, Ziggler is slow to rise. When he does, Punk grabs him, going for the GTS. Before he can lean back up for the move, Ziggler reverses the move into a bridging German suplex. He covers: ...1....2...kick out.
The crowd goes wild as Punk kicks out, but Ziggler is in control. He motions for Punk to rise, and as Punk does, Ziggler snaps on the sleeper hold. The crowd is chanting for Punk, but Punk's head is not in the action. He is fading fast, and it looks like Ziggler will be taking the title.
Ziggler smiles over at Cena, who suddenly rises. Cena then gets on the apron, which causes Ziggler to forget about Punk. He lets go of the hold, and he motions to Cena to get in the ring. He seems to be yelling at Cena to "come on." The crowd is going crazy for the two to fight as Cena gets down.
The crowd boos as Cena smiles and shakes his head. From behind, Punk grabs Ziggler and hits the GTS. He covers: ...1...2...kick out. Punk can't believe it. He motions to the referee, who tells him the count was two. The two are fighting as Ziggler tries to rise.
Punk is still distracted as Ziggler gets to his feet. He positions himself for the Zig Zag when Cena runs over and warns Punk about Ziggler. Punk turns around and backs up. Ziggler shows a visible sign of frustration as both men stare down again at a stand off. Ziggler suddenly gets out of the ring.
Instead of leaving, he goes straight after Cena. He faces down Cena and, with his quickness, trips up Cena and starts pounding on him. Punk isn't sure what to make of the situation. The referee is telling Ziggler to stop. Cena fires back a shot, which causes a disqualification.
Tony Chimel: "The winner of this match by disqualification, Dolph Ziggler, but still WWE Champion, CM Punk." (Time of contest: 20:20)
Punk is given the title with his hand raised, but he looks confused. Ziggler and Cena are fighting on the outside as security comes down and breaks them out. Ziggler is smiling. There is no malice in his eyes; just enjoyment, as if enjoying attacking Cena without reason.
Cena is not being held back by guards and looks on disgusted. Ziggler is getting a mixed and loud reaction from the crowd that chants "let them fight." The show ends with Punk holding the championship and Ziggler being carried off.
And that's the end.
Tune in next week for continued conflicts between Punk, Angle and Miz. Also, to see how the conflicts between Cena and Ziggler will escalate heading into the Royal Rumble.
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