WWE Monday Night Raw last night (Dec. 19, 2011) emanated from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and featured the Indie kings finally having their day. In fact, it felt like this show was dedicated entirely to letting them have their fun.
Before we get to the reactions to the show, it's time to give a shout out to the Cageside commenter who delivered the "Comment of the Night" in the Raw live blog thread. And that honor goes to mountaineers101, who dropped this gem after folks were taking Jinder Mahal to task for botching a punch -- "He took punching lessons from Leonard Garcia." Well done, my friend.
- There is no way in hell Vince McMahon had anything to do with this show. It's just impossible, right? From CM Punk announcing the winners of the three major TLC title matches in the show open, to the babyface champions all going over clean and looking great in the main event, everything about last night screamed Triple H taking over and then his making an impromptu decision to let the inmates run the asylum. The result was a show that celebrated three workers who came up without the aid of WWE and its marketing muscle. CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Zack Ryder each got to enjoy an entire show where they all felt untouchable, like it didn't matter what anyone else did, this show was for them and them alone. And you know what? It was fuggin' awesome.
- By the way, that show open with Punk announcing the winners was a cool twist to the first Raw after a pay-per-view. What makes Punk so damn great is that he's so much like the fans that you can just see in everything he does that he's simply extending what he would want if he were sitting at home. His announcing the winners of the matches last night himself was a cool way to play on the fact that a lot of WWE fans today don't bother to order PPVs, they just wait for Raw the next night. Doing it this way added some spice to the proceedings. It was great.
- That video they played of Zack Ryder's dad was awesome ... all the way up until the old man gave all the credit for Ryder's success to John Cena. After waiting too long to give Ryder the U.S. title, they booked him weak and when he finally wins the strap and his dad goes bonkers with genuine emotion for his son, they go and ruin the whole damn thing by giving Cena all the credit. Totally killed what was an awesome segment.
- It sucks this show was held in Philadelphia. The live crowd was dead. There were a million spots to get up for and they acted like they were watching a golfer trying to sink a putt. It made Raw feel less special than it really was. When Punk made the comment that if any city can appreciate Bryan and Ryder winning titles, it was slightly regrettable because Philly acted like they couldn't really care less. Bryan, especially, got little reaction.
- Not interested in the feud between Randy Orton and Wade Barrett continuing and they showed us exactly why last night. Having Orton win via disqualification after an eye poke was just stupid. There's no good reason to book these two this way and no one is coming out of this looking any better than they did going in. That means it's an utterly pointless program and should be sacked immediately. Get on it, Trips.
- I'm always teetering on the brink of not covering Diva's wrestling here on Cageside and one need look no further than what happened on Raw last night to see why. Alicia Fox, who has received no build whatsoever, squashed the champion of the division in about 30 seconds. And she freaking botched her finish and legitimately blasted Beth Phoenix in the face, giving her a mouse above her eye. Just a complete joke.
A few more thoughts -- and the show grade -- after the jump.
- I'm bored with Sheamus. Stealing Orton's gimmick and having him squash every mid-carder on the roster is a terrible way to book him. Namely because they've been doing it too long. Just pull the trigger on the main event program already.
- The idea of a feud between John Cena and Kane gives me a headache, mostly because I can't see how Kane could come out of it retaining the freshness he gained by leaving and coming back repackaged. I just don't know if I could handle him getting pinned on a pay-per-view by Cena just as a way to kill time until The Rock comes back. It wouldn't make any sense. All that said, I thought the sequence between these two and Mark Henry was phenomenal. I loved the tease from the announcers selling us on who Kane would attack and the facial reactions from Cena and Henry once Kane came out were money. Cena's t-shirt was pre-cut, so I'm wondering where they're going with the idea that Kane just ripped his shirt off and took it to the back with him. Something about hate, I'm sure, but there's a way to tie this into Cena ignoring all the hate he gets and Kane being the embodiment of his subconscious. Not getting my hopes up for that but it would be killer if they did it.
- The fact that there was a legitimate tag team match between two legitimate tag teams furthers the notion that Triple H was heavily involved in the layout of the show. The Uso's gimmick is kind of annoying but it's only a matter of time before Rikishi shows up for a nostalgia pop, so I'm on board with letting them have a legit run. If they can stay away from the long arm of the law, of course.
- Cody Rhodes winning a squash over Santino Marella felt like they just didn't know what to do with him. It was great because it resulted in Santino being his usually hilarious self but it would be nice if they didn't have to have situations like this with a guy who is so close to breaking the glass ceiling it's painful.
- Big Show might have actually been the best part of the entire show. Those acting lessons he took before that abominable turn as Walter Krunk in Knucklehead seriously paid off. He was near tears and showing genuine emotion while describing his world heavyweight championship win being negated by Daniel Bryan immediately taking the belt away from him. This after busting his ass for nine years just to get back here. And it was gone in three seconds. Really, the perfect way to have Show react and his performance was legendary. Josh Matthews goading him and trying to piss him off, which Show reacted to brilliantly, was the cherry on top. No clue what this is leading to but Show was as good as he's ever been here.
- The babyface champions making their way out for the main event through the crowd in a different section of the arena was another great idea that had to come from one of the wrestlers. It fit perfectly, too, considering the only real support Punk, Bryan and Ryder ever had was from the fans. They never had the benefit of great booking or backstage buddies in high places. They just worked hard, developed their game and got over however they could. Letting them walk through the crowd and shake hands with everyone on this night was just perfect.
- The actual main event match was good for what it was, which, again, was simply a celebration of Punk, Bryan and Ryder winning the titles and (presumably) ushering in a new era for the WWE. What I liked most about the match was that Bryan was the one to get the win, using the LeBell Lock to make Del Rio tap. He needed that more than the other two if he's going to become a champion who we can all take seriously going forward, Dave Batista be damned.
Overall, this was a pretty damn good show. In fact, it was probably the best show Raw has put on in months. It gets a solid A from me and if not for a few annoying habits WWE has that still didn't go away, it would have been an A+ grade.
But that's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off with all your thoughts and reactions on the show.