WWE Tribute to the Troops 2012: Recapping WWE's Annual Armed Service Event
For the 10th consecutive year, WWE staged its annual Tribute to the Troops. The event itself took place on Dec. 9, but a two-hour version of it aired on Wednesday night on USA Network. Not only did it feature several solid matches, but there were plenty of other guests as well.
Although Tribute to the Troops generally has no connection to the actual WWE product, it is always a very fun show as well as a meaningful one due to the entertainment it brings the United States servicemen and women. This year's event was held in Norfolk, Va. and definitely seemed to please the crowd as usual.
Most of the WWE's top stars competed, including John Cena, Sheamus, Randy Orton, Ryback and many more. Since Tribute to the Troops is essentially a house show on a much larger scale, storylines didn't come into play very much and the matches were fairly basic, but there was a lot of action nonetheless.
Here is a complete match-by-match breakdown of the event, and if you didn't catch the two-hour show on USA, a condensed, one-hour version will air Dec. 22 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
Randy Orton & Sheamus Def. Big Show & Dolph Ziggler
The televised version of the show kicked off with a tag-team match as Randy Orton and Sheamus took on the pairing of Big Show and Dolph Ziggler. Although it didn't exactly blow the roof off the place, it was a solid bout that resulted in Sheamus pinning Big Show following a Brogue Kick.
It had been leaked prior to the event that Orton injured his shoulder during the match, so that is something that I was looking for. It happened when he was punching Big Show, but the interesting thing to note is that announcers Michael Cole and JBL said prior to the match that Orton was dealing with a separated shoulder due to an attack from The Shield.
In actuality, Tribute to the Troops was taped prior to The Shield attack, so Cole and JBL obviously did some commentary in a studio. That was made even clearer by them talking about the World Heavyweight Championship match at TLC. Orton had limited use of his arm, but he finished the match and stood tall with Sheamus.
Ryback Def. Alberto Del Rio
After Randy Orton and Sheamus triumphed, the WWE whipped the troops into a frenzy as Ryback made his entrance. Ryback faced Alberto Del Rio in a rematch from Main Event and looked to be well on his way to a decisive victory, but he had to settle for a disqualification win as Ricardo Rodriguez interfered on Del Rio's behalf.
It was a basic Ryback match with the exception of the ending, but he came out looking strong as always due to Shell Shocks to both Del Rio and Ricardo. This match was also affected by the order of the taping because Del Rio now appears to be a face, but he played the heel role in this match, which could have been confusing to some viewers.
At TLC, Del Rio saved Ricardo from an attack at the hands of 3MB and he received a favorable crowd reaction on the ensuing Raw. Since Tribute to the Troops technically happened before those events, though, his demeanor was much different. Even so, it was nice to see Ryback standing tall despite the inconsistencies.
The Miz Def. Damien Sandow
The next match on the card was an interesting encounter between The Miz and Damien Sandow. Perhaps more notable than the contest itself, though, was how it came to be. Miz hosted a Miz TV segment and Kermit The Frog was his guest. The Miz had some tough questions for Kermit as he tried to get to the root of the relationship between Kermit and Miss Piggy.
Miss Piggy joined them and pressured Kermit into giving an answer, but Sandow interrupted much to Kermit's relief. Sandow began to insult The Muppets and Miz, so Miz decided to pop Sandow and that led to the match. During the bout, Kermit and Miss Piggy remained at the top of the stage and cheered for Miz. Much to their delight, Miz stole a victory with a roll-up.
Miz went to celebrate with The Muppets, but Miss Piggy planted a big kiss on him. This is the type of moment that fans would probably complain about on Raw or SmackDown, but it fit in well with the lighthearted event, garnered plenty of cheers from the crowd, and actually helped further Miz's face turn even though it wasn't a storyline show.
Team Hell No & R-Truth Def. 3MB
The WWE capitalized on the immense popularity of Team Hell No next by having the Tag Team Champions team up against 3MB. Daniel Bryan told Kane that he had found a great partner in Little Jimmy, but Truth informed them that Little Jimmy had to attend a wedding, so he would step in as their partner instead. Unsurprisingly, this angered the hot-headed Bryan.
As expected, the trio of Team Hell No and Truth controlled most of the match against Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre. Things reached a fever pitch in the latter stages of the match as Kane chokeslammed Mahal and Truth hit Slater with his Little Jimmy finisher to score the victory.
The face team celebrated in the ring afterwards and Kane summoned his fiery pyro at the behest of Truth. While it was probably the worst match on the televised card, it wasn't a terrible match overall as it did feature a decent amount of action. I have to believe that it won't be making it on the one-hour NBC special, however.
John Cena Def. Antonio Cesaro
The main event of the night saw John Cena do battle with United States Champion Antonio Cesaro. Cena has headlined Tribute to the Troops almost every year since its inception, so it was no surprise to see him in the main event once again. The fact that he faced Cesaro did catch me off guard a bit, though, since Cesaro is currently a mid-card guy and had never faced Cena prior to Tribute to the Troops.
The match certainly made sense, though, as Cesaro is the WWE's main foreign heel. Prior to the match, he cut a promo about Switzerland being superior to the United States and every other nation since it is neutral and doesn't stick its nose in the business of others. This helped Cesaro get some heat with the crowd beforehand.
Although the match itself was pretty quick, I enjoyed seeing Cesaro mix it up with the WWE's top guy. I'm very high on Cesaro and wouldn't be surprised if he is feuding with Cena in another year or two. Cesaro got a bit of offense in, but it was all about Cena as he hit an Attitude Adjustment for the win. After the match, Cena thanked the troops and all the other superstars and divas emerged to show their appreciation as well.
While my main focus was on the wrestling, there was a lot of other entertainment as well. The Muppets made periodic appearances throughout the night, while both Flo Rida and Kid Rock put on musical performances for the soldiers and their families.
I particularly enjoyed The Muppets as they are always crowd pleasers. The aforementioned Miz TV segment with Kermit and Miss Piggy was great, Rizzo hitting on Layla was highly entertaining and Animal getting into a "yes/no" battle was hilarious as well.
Also, although I'm not a huge fan of either Flo Rida or Kid Rock, they put on high-energy performances and the troops really seemed to get into it. Overall, it was a fun night of wrestling and it had something that everyone could enjoy.
Not only was it a worthwhile show for me as a fan of the WWE, but more importantly, it was a proper tip of the cap to the people who defend the United States of America on a daily basis.