So, after a few weeks full of taped shows and holidays, WWE kicks off the new year with old-school Raw because nothing will capture potential NCAA championship viewers like Sgt. Slaughter.
Live from Baltimore, Md. (where the Inner Harbor is beautiful and the rest of the city smells like cabbage).
Ric Flair, fresh off upsetting the Carolina Panthers, kicks us off and runs through the usual stuff before Randy Orton interrupts. EVOLUTION EXPLODES! Orton recaps Stephanie’s special match announcement from last week: a no-stipulation, one-on-one match! Wow, now that’s something we haven’t seen anywhere! It’s almost like this show is written as a parody of wrestling shows sometimes.
Anyways, Orton says he’s already beaten John Cena so he shouldn’t have to face him again at the Rumble, but Randy makes the mistake of calling himself the man. Flair interrupts and says real men defend the title every night against all comers and make opening-match job guys gargle Jack Daniel's as a rib (OK, I threw that last one in myself).
Randy threatens some violence, so the almighty John Cena saves the 16-time world champion and kisses Flair’s ass to win over the crowd. Cena asks Orton for a fight and Randy just walks away because that’s what all heels do these days.
Michael Cole lets the TV audience know that Jerry Lawler has been suffering chest pains, thus explaining his absence tonight. Best wishes to the King.
We get a recap of Daniel Bryan’s heel turn last week that absolutely no one wanted to see and Internet fans seem to think was planned in advance.
Did you know that Roman Reigns was 7 years old when Raw debuted? Did you know I also was 7 years old? That’s about how interesting that fact was.
The Usos and Rey Mysterio vs. The Wyatt Family
Daniel Bryan looks like an unwashed high school janitor. Jimmy and Harper do a little sequence before Mysterio and Bryan check in and Daniel gets all aggressive to show his new heel side. Mysterio dumps him to the floor and we take a break because why not?
We return with Rowan slamming Jey Uso as replays recap the high spots we missed during the break. Bryan tags in and still gets babyface pops for his kicks so he adds a dropkick against the ropes. Jey catches Rowan with a superkick and gets the hot tag to Mysterio, who takes down Harper with flying headscissors and a hurricanrana. 619 hits but Jimmy whiffs on a top-rope splash, so Bryan tags himself in to help. Harper is less than pleased with him for this and shoves him out of the ring, allowing Uso to roll him up and get the surprise win.
Winners: The Usos and Rey Mysterio
Total nothing match as all the high spots were cut out during the break and Bryan was treated like just another guy. If WWE’s goal was to kill all of Bryan’s heat, it is well on its way to accomplishing that mission. One-and-a-half stars.
Next: Batista is returning because the solution is more part-time wrestlers.
Meanwhile, Brad Maddox books a rematch between Great Khali and Damien Sandow because no one would ever want to see that. However, the fans are going to get to select either Bob Backlund, Sgt. Slaughter or Arn Anderson as the special guest referee. Kane pops in and promises bad things for Maddox if he gets him fired.
Still backstage, Big E Langston runs into Nikolai Volkoff, Ted DiBiase and IRS all doing their gimmicks. Well, that was certainly random.
Big E Langston vs. Curtis Axel
Ryback is on commentary because Ryback’s big strength is obviously his promo ability. Langston quickly hits a pair of backbreakers but misses a blind charge and hits the ring post. Axel hits the Mr. Perfect necksnap and adds a dropkick while the crowd goes apathetic. We head out to the floor and Axel tastes the announcer's table, but Ryback distracts Langston long enough for Axel to roll him up for two. Langston quickly recovers, though, and hits the Big Ending for the win.
Winner: Big E Langston
Curtis Axel should start circulating his application. One star.
The Shield quickly interrupt Piper’s ramblings and Ambrose verbally spars with Roddy. Piper says only one guy today can match him on the mic and that’s CM Punk. Ambrose starts getting all worked up so Seth Rollins calms him down by saying Ambrose is a better U.S. champion than Piper ever was. Roddy counters by telling Roman Reigns that he would be the best member of the Shield if he manages to beat CM Punk tonight. Reigns responds by promising to snap Piper in half, forcing CM Punk and the NEW AGE OUTLAWS to make the save. OK, I admit it, I marked out a bit.
Recap video of Brock Lesnar beating Mark Henry like he was a 200-pound cruiserweight.
Huni Cara vs. Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio attacks but gets taken down by a crucifix for two. Del Rio stops Cara with a double stomp and hits the chinlock but Cara comes back with flying headscissors. Handspring elbow gets two and Cara heads up top but whiffs on a senton. Del Rio nails him with a superkick and picks up the surprisingly quick win.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
The crowd could not have cared less about this, and I don’t get the point of squashing the repackaged Sin Cara. One-and-a-half stars.
Del Rio promises to win the Royal Rumble again and send ratings into the toilet (OK, I added that last part). Did you know that WWE still gloats about putting WCW out of business and ruining professional wrestling?
Meanwhile, Daniel Bryan tells Harper and Rowan that he can teach them to be champions if he can team with one of them. However, Bray Wyatt says he will be Bryan’s partner next week.
The Real Americans vs. Goldust and Cody Rhodes
Goldust starts with Swagger and hits an inverted atomic drop before giving much of the same to Cesaro. The Rhodes brothers deliver a double suplex to Cesaro for a one count and Cody floors Antonio with a clothesline for another near fall. Back to Goldust but he quickly gets caught in the heel corner while Michael Cole mocks JBL’s Vince McMahon impression.
Speaking of impressions, Goldust imitates Ricky Morton by selling the heel beatdown until finally making a comeback with flying headscissors (!?!) and making the tag to Cody. Cody comes in and cleans house on the heels but he turns his attention to Swagger, allowing Cesaro to nail a European uppercut and take us to commercial.
We return with Swagger beating on Cody as apparently we have missed Cesaro’s Big Swing because it’s more important to get people to download the WWE app than it is to show high spots on television. Now it’s Cody’s turn to play Ricky Morton and he dumps Swagger to the floor, but Cesaro boots Goldust off the apron. Cody manages to backdrop Cesaro but there’s no one to tag as Goldust is on the floor. Swagger returns and applies the Patriot Lock, but Goldust makes the save at the last second.
Cody, selling the ankle, manages to make the hot tag to big brother and he dominates Swagger. Goldust busts out a reverse crossbody to take out both heels and a powerslam gets two on Swagger. Cody takes Cesaro out to the floor, allowing Goldust to hit a swinging vertical suplex for the win.
Winners: Cody Rhodes & Goldust
Meanwhile, Diamond Dallas Page promotes DDP Yoga (which is actually a killer workout) to Booker T and Ron Simmons hits his catchphrase.
Damien Sandow vs. The Great Khali
Sgt. Slaughter wins the special guest referee vote because it’s in his contract that he has to appear on every single one of these old-school shows. Khali hammers away in the corner with chops and JBL describes them like getting hit with a microwave…how does that even make sense? Khali continues his big-goof offense and hits a big chop for the win even though Sandow’s foot was on the ropes. Seriously?
Winner: The Great Khali
Sarge applies the Cobra Clutch to Damien Sandow because he apparently needs crowd heat. The match was total garbage of course, DUD.
Paul Heyman leads Brock Lesnar to the ring and explains that "old school" should mean one man like Sammartino, Hogan or Austin taking on the whole locker room because he’s the best. Heyman gloats about the Mark Henry beatdown and promises more of the same for anyone who stands in Brock’s way. Mark Henry stupidly makes his way to the ring and Brock destroys him again, breaking Henry’s arm with the kimura the same way he did Triple H. Just because Brock is a bad ass, he also rips off Henry’s T-shirt and mocks him…God, I love Brock Lesnar.
Halfway down the aisle, Big Show approaches Brock Lesnar. Lesnar appears to back up but actually just gets in the ring and challenges Show to enter. Lesnar takes a powder and tries to attack from behind but gets tossed across the ring and almost lands on his head. Gotta watch that bump, Brock. Heyman tells Brock that Big Show’s time will come but it’s not now.
Bella Twins vs. Aksana and Alicia Fox
Nikki works Fox’s arm and takes her over with a monkey flip but Alicia dumps her to ringside. Fox goes to work on the leg and Nikki gets trapped in the heel corner as the crowd goes for nachos. Nikki fights out and gets the hot tag to Brie. She hits some basic stuff before missing a missile dropkick and Aksana gets the pin.
Winners: Aksana and Alicia Fox
Seriously, who cares? DUD.
Backstage, we meet Too Cool and Rikishi and OH MY GOD is that Scotty Too Hotty? Wow.
3MB vs. Too Cool and Rikishi
Scotty is actually in pretty good shape for a 40-something guy. Brian Christopher hits Mahal with a missile dropkick and takes us very old school with a bulldog. Too Cool double-team Mahal and hit an elbow, but Scotty gets caught in the heel corner and McIntyre lays on a beating. Scotty counters with a facebuster and that sets up the first Worm in about 13 years.
McIntyre is not impressed, though, and lays him out with a boot to the face. Vertical dropkick gets two but Scotty fights out of an armbar and hits a neckbreaker for a double K.O. Scotty makes the hot tag to Rikishi, who looks relatively the same (fat), and he cleans house. The heels double-team Rikishi but that does not go well for them and Christopher takes out Slater with the Hip Hop Drop. Rikishi is left with Mahal and he gives him the fat splash of death to end things for 3MB.
Winners: Too Cool and Rikishi
Let’s be honest, Too Cool are probably still better than 80 percent of the tag teams WWE has trotted out in the last 10 years. The match wasn’t much but it was just supposed to get the crowd going a little. Two stars.
After a commercial break, we bring out all the old school guys for a curtain call (to the Godfather’s music?). Bad News Barrett interrupts the proceedings with his godawful gimmick and proclaims flea markets everywhere have gone bankrupt because all their talent is at Raw.
"Mean Gene" Okerlund appears and drops a hotline joke that only about 15 percent of the audience remembers. He brings out the New Age Outlaws for their usual act that still gets the crowd going. You know someone is old when they blow up during their pre-match catchphrases.
CM Punk vs. Roman Reigns
The Outlaws stay at ringside to counteract the Shield, so you know they’ll get involved at some point. Punk works a headlock for a decent bit until Reigns floors him with a shoulderblock. After a break, Reigns sends Punk into the ring post and to the floor, causing a face-off between the Shield and the Outlaws. Reigns works the midsection back inside with a bear hug and a belly-to-belly slam. An elbow drop hits but a second does not and Punk hits a high crossbody, further injuring his midsection. Reigns goes back to the bear hug and adds a Samoan drop to stay on the injured body part.
Reigns misses a big clothesline and Punk knocks him down with a kick to the head, but both guys are down. The Shield and Outlaws jaw on the outside while Punk makes his comeback with kicks and a leg lariat. Reigns feeds him a comeback and the knee lift in the corner gets two. Punk heads up top but the injured ribs slow him down and Reigns stops him. They battle up top but Punk clubs him down and hits the Macho Elbow, but he’s too injured to make the cover.
Punk looks to finish but Ambrose jumps on the apron, triggering a brawl on the outside between the Shield and the Outlaws. Punk takes out Rollins with a dive to the outside and springboards back in but gets caught with Reign’s Superman punch for two…nice near fall right there. Reigns sets up for the spear but Punk leapfrogs and rolls him up for two. Punk fires off a K.O. Kick out of nowhere for two and tries for the GTS again. Reigns elbows out of it and shoves Punk into Ambrose, allowing Roman to hit the spear and pick up the big win.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Great TV match here as Punk gave Reigns a ton of offense and kept the match slow and steady to build to the big finish. Reigns looked like a million bucks and Punk put him over nicely. Three stars.
Suddenly, JAKE ROBERTS (looking great) makes his return. Punk nails Ambrose with the GTS and Jake drapes a terrifying looking snake on Ambrose to send the fans home happy. I honestly hope Jake gets his spot in the Royal Rumble for one last pop, he’s worked hard enough to deserve it.
It was a pretty decent show Monday as they used the old-school guys effectively and spaced them out to give the crowd a break here and there. A three-hour show is always difficult to fill, but nothing on the show (outside of Khali and the divas) was terribly offensive. It was great to see Too Cool and Jake Roberts again and we got a great main event to boot. A good effort from WWE tonight, and hopefully it can keep the momentum going without the "old school" gimmick next week.
I should note that I am also attending the Royal Rumble (in a luxury box, of course) so expect some Twitter action that day. You can follow me @MikeShannon22 for all the bad jokes and wrestling nonsense you can handle.