WWE Raw Results and Report Card 1/21/13: Grading the Final Raw Before the Rumble
It was the final Raw before Sunday's Royal Rumble, the last chance for the WWE to sell many fans on dropping some serious dough on the first major pay-per-view of the year. The Rumble, of course, is a draw in and of itself.
Some people love nothing more than a ring teeming with wrestlers, each monstrosity trying to dump 29 other men over the top rope to earn his place in the WrestleMania main event.
This year, however, the success and failure of the Royal Rumble is on the shoulders of two men—The Rock, former wrestling star turned movie attraction, and CM Punk, the promotion's most promising young wrestler.
Punk has drawn a clear line between the two. The Rock, in his mind, is an entertainer, dancing and singing to please the people. He, on the other hand, sees himself as a wrestler, a throw back to the days of smokey arenas and men like Harley Race and Lou Thesz.
Will fans care about this kind of division in 2013? That's the question we'll soon know the answer to.
Success and failure for The Rock and Punk will be determined at a future quarterly earnings report. Judging what happened in the ring Monday night is a little easier—and more immediate. Presented here are letter grades for every segment.
Who passed with flying colors?
Who failed miserably?
Click on to find out.
Vickie Guerrero/Paul Heyman/The Rock Opener
Vickie Guerrero and Paul Heyman hit the ring to relive The Rock's sing along from last week. Guerrero, for reasons the boggle the mind, is wearing clothes better suited for a woman half her age. Flattering it is not.
The Rock seemed awfully proud of himself last week, despite not really delivering the goods until things got physical with Punk, but Vicki has the last laugh. The Rock, she tells us, is banned from the arena.
The camera cuts backstage and The Rock is pacing outside the building. Police tell him he will be arrested if he tries to enter. Instead, he unleashes a string of insults, predictably calling Vickie ugly and Heyman fat. This feels familiar and not in a good way.
Key Quotes: "He's a lot like Manti Te'o. Instead of having an imaginary girlfriend, he's got an imaginary nutsack." —The Rock on C.M. Punk.
"If you smell what the Vick is cooking." —Vickie Guerrero.
Grade: C+. This is The Rock at this worst. Same old stuff. I wonder at what point they just reenact every similar skit from the Vince McMahon-Steve Austin feud?
Randy Orton vs. Antonio Cesaro (Beat the Clock Challenge)
The object here is to win the match as quickly as possible. He who wins his match the fastest will choose his own spot in the Royal Rumble, from 1-30. So, of course, Cesaro is working chin lock spots and the like. Perhaps he didn't understand the rules?
The King and Michael Cole discuss which spot would be ideal for a Rumble entrant. Is there any question about this? Is this a hotly debated issue?
Cesaro works this match like a chump. I don't know if it's part of his character to be incredibly stupid, but he's using chinlocks and generally walking around like he's in no particular hurry. Eventually Orton hits his move out of nowhere and wins the match in 11:36. That doesn't feel especially fast to me. Don't think it's going to cut it.
Key Quote: "I'm sure Cesaro knows what he's doing, but you aren't going to pin anybody here with a front facelock." —Jerry Lawler.
Grade: C+. This wasn't particularly notable in any way. Cesaro looked like he was not wrestling with any special urgency despite the stipulation, and Orton feels like he's just treading water right now. If there aren't big plans for Orton, why are they having Cesaro job for him now in the midst of his feud with The Miz?
Mick Foley Hall of Fame Video/Shield Video/Big Show vs. Zach Ryder
Mick Foley's video was filled with stuff shot from his days as a backyard wrestler. So much for "kids, don't try this at home." It was nothing remarkable, but better than The Shield video that followed, which I can't remember at all literally seconds later.
Big Show comes out and squashes Zach Ryder in a matter of seconds with a knockout punch. Brad Maddox came out for what felt like no purpose whatsoever. Show got angry after the match when the crowd kept interrupting his interview, eventually leaving the ring in a huff.
Key Quote: "You think I'm playing around here?" —The Big Show as the crowd chants "What" at him.
Grade: F. This was minutes of my life I'll never get back. There may be 525,949 minutes in a year, but that doesn't mean I want to waste five of mine like that.
Paul Heyman Interview/Ryback vs. Heath Slater/The Rock Interview
Paul Heyman is interrupted by Brad Maddox backstage and offers to be his mentor. While I'm not a body language expert, I don't think the offer was in good faith. Poor Maddox—he's just a kid with a dream.
The night of squashes continues next. Ironically, Big Show and Ryback both finished things early but weren't part of the Beat the Clock Challenge.
Finally, The Rock is still outside trying to talk the cops into letting him in the building. Vickie Guerrero comes out and says she'll let him in if he simply apologizes to her. Seems reasonable—but not to The Rock. He's going to get in the arena on his own terms.
Key Quotes: "You stick with me kid, I'll make your dreams come true. I'll make you famous." —Paul Heyman to Brad Maddox
"Damn, my job is fun." —Ryback
"You're not wearing your badges to protect and serve Vickie Guerrero. You're wearing your badges to protect and serve the people." —The Rock trying to get the cops to let him in the building.
"Byotch, you still look horrible tonight." —The Rock to Vickie Guerrero.
Grade: Match C- and Rock Skit: C. A worthless squash match, but that kind of makes sense for Goldber...I mean Ryback's gimmick. The Rock continues to do his best Stone Cold. It just isn't a very good one.
CM Punk Interview
CM Punk hits the ring to tell the people how it really is. I'm not sure the people are ready for what you have to say, Punk. To Punk, the World title is the most important thing in the world. He's held it for 428 days and, in his mind, has brought credibility to the title that was sorely lacking in the age of John Cena and his cartoon cohorts.
Key Quote: "What I have here I hold more dear to my heart than most men hold their families. This is my life's work and for 428 days I have proven I'm the man. But 428 days is just a fraction of the time it's taken me to get to this point. I've worked half my life to get here, holding one of the WWE's most prestigious titles. And I won't let the Rock, or any man, take this." —CM Punk on his championship belt.
"The Rock is here to electrify...I am here to hurt people and be the champion." —CM Punk
"The Rock is proud to be the people's champion. Almost as proud as I am to be a real champion." —CM Punk.
Grade: A. This matchup is a weird one. Punk is so intense, cutting heartfelt promos that make your skin tingle. Meanwhile, The Rock is doing his pro wrestling schtick. It's almost like there are two different feuds going on here, The Rock's light-hearted one and Punk's character study. I prefer Punk's take. Can he get The Rock on board?
Dolph Ziggler vs. the Miz (Beat the Clock Challenge)
There's something not quite right about The Miz being the heir to Ric Flair's famed figure four leglock. Nothing against Miz, but that's a passing of the torch that should have been done with a potential main eventer—someone like Dolph Ziggler.
As if to prove my point, Ziggler's pants get pulled down at one point, a Flair move if there ever was one, then Miz applies the figure four, but does so backward. I'm not making this up.
Ziggler, like Orton before him, hits his move, the Zig Zag, out of nowhere to get the win and take the lead at 10:56.
Key Quote: "I ran into her backstage. She told me 'I used to kiss guys on the lips. Now it's all over.' What did she mean?" —Jerry Lawler on AJ Lee.
Grade: B. That grade includes the comedy value of Miz completely botching the figure four. What a disgrace. There was a time every kid from Florida to Virginia could execute a perfect figure four like it was the most natural thing in the world. We even knew how to reverse it. Do better, Miz. Do better.
Kane and Daniel Bryan Anger Management Graduation
Yes folks, the WWE's two angriest superstars donned gowns to graduate from anger management. The two argue about who should be the valedictorian. Neither wants it because then he'll have to talk about his feelings.
Eventually Kane and Bryan have to hug and, soon enough, people are hugging all over the arena, including King and Michael Cole.
Key Quote: "Daniel, when we first started you were a tightly wound little man child. You would snap whenever anyone said something about your goat face or told you your beard looked like a nest of rats." —Dr. Shelby on Daniel Bryan. Daniel was not amused.
"What if everyone, everywhere, hugged at the same time?" —Dr. Shelby.
Grade: B. This seems like harmless "comedy," until you remember that Daniel Bryan is the best professional wrestler in the world. How about a wrestling match? Still, you've got to admit, he's a pretty darn good comedy figure.
Kaitlyn vs. Alicia Fox (Divas Match)/CM Punk and Paul Heyman Skit
The night of squashes continues. Kaitlyn wins an easy one with the spear.
Meanwhile, Paul Heyman is taking CM Punk to a special skybox to witness a surprise of some sort he has cooked up. He's calling it a "Paul Bomb." We'll see.
Key Quote: "I've always had the opinion that all females secretly despise each other." —The King. Oh, lord.
Grade: D. I guess there is some benefit in just keeping people on TV and in front of the fans. But man, this just didn't seem to have much value.
Paul Heyman Interview/The Rock Interview
Heyman comes out to the ring, a little afraid that Punk's speech may have gone over the crowd's head. Guess what? His translation is just another five minutes of insults directed at the audience—and The Rock.
Eventually The Rock's music plays and he hits the ring. He used a ticket to get in the building and outsmart Vickie Guerrero. Rookie mistake, Guerrero. On Martin Luther King Day, Rock invokes some of the great man's words. For a wrestling angle? Hmm.
The Shield hits the ring and nails Rock with the triple power bomb. Of course they do. Punk then takes the microphone from his skybox and tells Rock he has to "pay a price for his freedom." The Rock is bleeding from the mouth and totally out of it as Punk raises his title belt in the air.
Key Quotes: "It's hard to keep up with the most articulate, intelligent, WWE champion of all time. Therefore tonight, as a service to CM Punk...I will act also as his interpreter. I will keep it simple for you. You see ladies and gentlemen, so many of you think it's fait accompli...I'm sorry, a foregone conclusion, that the Rock is leaving the Royal Rumble as WWE champion. I assure you he's not." —Paul Heyman.
"It just so happens that January's flavor of the month is the Rock."—Paul Heyman.
"Just like the people, the Rock is stupid."—Paul Heyman.
"Shut your mouth Twinkie tits. You get your fat ass out of this ring or the Rock will slap the taste out of your mouth."—The Rock to Paul Heyman.
"You have earned the right to call yourself the best in the world. It does not change the fact that tonight here on Raw is your very last night on Raw as WWE Champion."—The Rock.
"Just like Martin Luther King had a dream, the Rock has a dream. To go to the mountain top one more time and become the WWE champion....they'll be saying 'free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last.'" —The Rock.
"Bad news Rock. On top of that mountain there is only room for one man....It's cute you have a dream. Unfortunately you have to wake up from them...Free at last? You have to pay a price for your freedom."—CM Punk.
Grade: A. Three of the best in the world on the stick. The racial element makes it a bit edgy. Not sure if they will keep with it, but it makes things interesting for the Rumble.
Wade Barrett vs. Sheamus (Beat the Clock Challenge)
Who knows which man would have won a pure athletic contest. Instead, AJ Lee and her crew hit the ring to distract both participants. Nothing personal. She just wanted her man Dolph Ziggler to get the opportunity to choose his spot in the Royal Rumble.
After much tomfoolery, Sheamus hits the Brogue Kick, a really hard one to the face. But it's too little, too late. The clock winds down and Sheamus wound up being a few seconds too slow. Ziggler ends up the night's big winner.
Key Quote: "You know what's coming. You can feel what's coming." —Michael Cole on Sheamus. But instead of the Brogue Kick, AJ Lee was what was coming, hitting the ring to distract Sheamus.
"Hey Sheamus, you just weren't quick enough," —Dolph Ziggler rubbing it in.
Grade: C+. Nothing wrong with this match, but it was really just a setup for Ziggler's gang to show off their smarts. They weren't willing to take their chances with the chance to choose their Rumble spot on the line. They were proactive and took what they wanted. That's how champions do things. I'm feeling good about Ziggler's chances.
Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler Skit/Vince McMahon and CM Punk Skit
Ziggler and AJ celebrate by making out, which kind of grosses out Vickie Guerrero. She tells Ziggler that he hadn't earned the right to choose any spot in the Royal Rumble. He has to choose between two spots—one and two. I guess his manager needs to look a little closer at these tricky WWE contracts.
Meanwhile, Paul Heyman and CM Punk run into Vinny Mac, who tells them he's tired of this Shield nonsense and if they screw up his match with The Rock, he's stripping Punk of the title.
Key Quote: "The severe consequences I'm talking about is stripping you of the WWE title." —Vince McMahon, warning Punk and Heyman that The Shield better not interfere with his match at the Royal Rumble.
Grade: B. Vince actually botched a couple of his lines, but this segment was designed to simply move the storyline along. And it did just that.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Tensai/Bob Backlund Hall of Fame Video
Tensai is a fantastic worker, but here he's nothing more than the backdrop for Del Rio's war of words with Big Show. Del Rio, a former world level Greco-Roman wrestler, hits the enormous Tenzai with a German suplex that would have impressed even the late, great Karl Gotch.
Bob Backlund is then introduced as the second member of the WWE's 2013 Hall of Fame class. A legend from the 1970s, few are more deserving of the honor than Mr. Backlund.
Key Quote: "When talking about him you need to keep your words soft and sweet. Because you may have to eat them." —Jerry Lawler, on people talking greasy to the Big Show.
"Yes there will be a ten count at our last man standing match Big Show. But it won't be you doing the counting. It will be me. And it will be in Spanish." —Alberto Del Rio to the Big Show.
Grades: C+. Perfectly fine squash match, but man, doesn't Tensai deserve better? Thrilled to see Backlund finally going in the Hall. And thank goodness, it is in New York where folks may still remember him as a major star.
John Cena Interview
John Cena comes out and cuts a rambling interview about how various WWE fans spend their weekends. No mention of "alone in their parent's basement." He basically insults one guy, calling him a drunk loser who sleeps with blowup dolls. This was forever long and not at all good. Eventually he gets to the point—he's winning the Royal Rumble.
Before he can leave the ring, the entire locker room comes out disputing his prediction, suggesting that, in fact, they are winning the Rumble, not Cena. The show goes off the air with a giant cluster in the ring as guys fly everywhere.
Key Quote: "This Sunday, unlike any other Sunday, superstars can be born. History can be made." —John Cena on the Royal Rumble.
"This Sunday the world will find out what I already know. This Sunday I will win the Royal Rumble."—John Cena.
Grade: Cena Promo: C- Rumble Preview: B. Cena's promo was long, rambling, and entertaining as crash TV. You wondered just how bad it could be. The answer? Pretty bad. Fun to see everyone in the ring together, a mini-Rumble preview. Can't help but think, however, that going out with The Rock and CM Punk mic battle would have been a stronger closer. I'm pumped for the show, though. See you all back here Sunday night.