WWE News: Reviews, Analysis and Rumors for Week of Dec. 23
On the surface, it may seem like the WWE has been in a holding pattern for the past week due to the holiday season and pre-taped shows, but fans should know by now that nothing can slow down the WWE machine when it comes to making headlines.
The in-ring action was largely unimportant and predictable; however, there is plenty going on behind the scenes that promises to have a major impact on the product moving forward. Fans are already well-aware that The Rock is set to return in a little over a week, but it turns out that he'll be making even more appearances than originally thought.
That includes a few episodes of Raw and a pair of SmackDowns to boot. The Rock will almost assuredly be facing CM Punk for the WWE Championship at Royal Rumble, but Punk is scheduled to defend his title against Ryback first. Whether or not the latter bout actually happens is anyone's guess, though.
In addition to that, one of the most popular tag teams in WWE history is working the house show circuit and could return to WWE programming. Also, ratings are in for a couple key WWE shows, and the early returns aren't good.
Here are all the latest news stories and rumors regarding the WWE for the week beginning on Dec. 23.
The Rock Advertised for Jan. 22 SmackDown
With the Royal Rumble pay-per-view drawing closer, The Rock's return to WWE programming is now imminent. It was already known that The Rock would appear on the Jan. 7 edition of Raw, as well as a couple additional episodes, but it recently came to light that he would be making an appearance on SmackDown as well in his hometown of Miami, Fla.
It turns out that the Miami SmackDown won't be the only blue-brand show that he takes part in. According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, The Rock is now advertised to appear at the Jan. 22 SmackDown taping in Sacramento, Calif. That will be the go-home show for the Royal Rumble, so there's a good chance that we'll see one final encounter between The Rock and Punk on the show that The Rock helped create.
When it comes to The Rock, the more he appears, the better it is for the WWE. Being on Raw to further his feud with WWE Champion CM Punk prior to Royal Rumble is a must, but carrying it over to SmackDown should make it even better. The Rock and John Cena didn't appear on SmackDown together during their feud, and that lasted for over a year, so it's clear that the WWE is trying to get everything it possibly can out of this rivalry in a short period of time.
From an entertainment standpoint, I expect The Rock vs. Punk to be better than The Rock vs. Cena. The fact that Punk is playing the heel role allows for more clarity, and the lack of a drawn-out buildup is a positive as well. Even the match should be better, as Punk is more capable than Cena of carrying The Rock if he tires. Having The Rock on SmackDown will make the Rumble match seem even more important, and it should boost SmackDown ratings significantly in the process as well.
Will CM Punk vs. Ryback Happen on Jan. 7 Raw?
WWE Champion CM Punk has been out of action for a few weeks due to knee surgery that prevented him from competing at TLC. He was initially slated to defend his title against Ryback in a tables, ladders and chairs match; however, that was blown up and made into a six-man TLC match with The Shield defeating Ryback and Team Hell No.
Punk is still on crutches, but Ryback announced last week that he would exercise his title shot against Punk on the Jan. 7 episode of Raw. Then, on the most recent edition of Raw, he informed Punk that it would be a TLC match. According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, the match may not even happen and could be interrupted by The Shield in order to protect Punk and ensure that he is healthy for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
When this match was originally announced, I had my doubts about whether or not it would actually happen. It's now a little over a week away, and Punk still appears to be nowhere close to competing. The WWE does have a few options, though. If Punk is healed in time, then it can go through with the match and have Punk retain. If he isn't ready, then the notion of Ryback being taken out beforehand would certainly work, or the match could be postponed.
My hope is that Punk is able to wrestle because I would love to see Brock Lesnar return and attack Ryback. If the match does happen, then it's crystal clear that Punk will need help to win, and while most are expecting The Shield to interfere, Lesnar would be even better. Not only would it start a potential WrestleMania feud between Lesnar and Ryback, but Lesnar could announce his intention to be in the Royal Rumble match, which would bolster buy rates even more.
Survivor Series 2012 Buy Rates Take a Hit
Survivor Series is considered one of the WWE's "Big Four" pay-per-views, but it wasn't necessarily treated as such this year. It was actually a solid show with CM Punk retaining the WWE Championship against John Cena and Ryback due to interference from The Shield and Dolph Ziggler winning a traditional elimination match, but the ultimate quality of the show has nothing to do with its monetary success through pay-per-view buy rates.
According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, the Survivor Series 2012 pay-per-view buys were way down from the previous two years. The 2012 show did 212,000 buys as opposed to 281,000 in 2011 and 244,000 in 2010. It may seem like a brutal and inexcusable drop-off at first glance, but the fact that The Rock was on the 2011 card has everything to do with it.
While fans tend to get all worked up about Raw and SmackDown ratings, pay-per-view buys are a much better indicator of the WWE's success. Weekly ratings are essentially useless since the WWE has no competition, but pay-per-view buys tell us how many people are willing to spend their hard-earned money on the WWE product. With that said, there isn't much reason to panic when it comes to Survivor Series 2012.
It was definitely a big dip, but there was no big star like The Rock to draw people in. Also, almost every other pay-per-view has been up when compared to 2011, so it has largely been a year of improvement. On top of that, the Royal Rumble promises to see a considerable spike in buys in 2013 compared to 2012 thanks to The Rock's involvement. As a whole, 2012 was much better than 2011 in terms of buys and quality, so there is no need to worry about the state of the WWE.
Survivor Series 2012 Buys Drop from Previous Two Years (via WrestlingInc.com)
New Age Outlaws Working WWE Live Events
When it was announced a few weeks ago that the WWE had signed Billy Gunn to be a trainer, I immediately considered the possibility of a New Age Outlaws reunion. The Road Dogg is already employed by the company, and he competed in the Royal Rumble match earlier this year while Gunn appears as though he is still capable of going at it with the younger guys on the roster.
Perhaps my dream will be realized as the Outlaws are currently working some matches on the house show circuit. According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, the New Age Outlaws were on the Dec. 27 card at Madison Square Garden and they defeated Team Rhodes Scholars in a match. Now the real question is whether or not this reunion translates to the weekly television product.
House shows don't necessarily have any bearing on what happens on WWE programming, but I certainly hope that the New Age Outlaws translate. The tag-team division is better and deeper than it has been in a few years, and adding one of the greatest tag teams of all time into the mix would only make things better. Even though Road Dogg and Gunn are getting up there in years, neither is grossly out of shape, and I have no doubt that they are capable of at least working a limited schedule.
The Outlaws appeared on the Slammy Awards edition of Raw, and they received a massive pop. That is something that would undoubtedly continue if they were to make a full-time return. They don't necessarily have to win the Tag Team Championships, although a short run wouldn't hurt. Their mere presence would be great for up-and-coming teams like Rhodes Scholars and The Prime Time Players. Most of the time, it doesn't make sense for guys who are past their prime to return to action, but the opposite is true of the New Age Outlaws.
Tribute to the Troops Pulls in Poor Ratings for NBC
Tribute to the Troops is a great yearly show that is meant to support the United States servicemen and servicewomen, but WWE is often about the bottom line as well. The full two-hour version of the show originally aired on USA last week, but a condensed one-hour version was shown on NBC over the weekend. Unfortunately for NBC and the WWE, it flopped.
According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, Tribute to the Troops drew just over 1.3 million viewers for NBC, which made it the lowest amongst the major networks for that time slot. Such a low rating certainly makes you wonder if NBC will denounce Tribute to the Troops and perhaps even WWE as a whole moving forward. Although the rating looks bad, there are several factors that contributed to it.
The important thing to remember is that Tribute to the Troops had already aired in its entirety on USA before it aired on NBC, so the chances at success were slim. Pretty much anyone who had already seen it on USA would refrain from watching it once again. I barely miss any WWE programming, but I didn't even watch it a second time, so the poor rating didn't come as a surprise to me. The better barometer is the rating that USA pulled in.
According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, USA did 2.34 million viewers, which was down a bit from 2011, but it was still an acceptable number. Even if Tribute to Troops had 100 viewers, I doubt that Vince McMahon and the WWE would care. For all the criticism that McMahon receives, he does seem to legitimately care about the people who serve the people of the United States, so Tribute to the Troops is here to stay regardless of how poorly it does on television.