WWE Monday Night Raw comes waltzing back into our lives tonight (Dec. 26, 2011) from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Because CM Punk is champion, they're billing this as his big return to Chicago, even though technically that's not where they'll be. Close enough, I suppose.
The most important aspect of tonight's show, though, is the fact that it's the final one before the big mystery return on Jan. 2, 2012. That means we'll get one more creepy video teasing who exactly might show up next week on Raw. Is it Chris Jericho? Or Undertaker? Maybe even Shane and Stephanie McMahon?
It won't be long before we can lay all the speculation to rest.
Also on the docket for tonight's show is John Cena and his evolving issues with Kane, who continues to attack the former champ for reasons that are still unclear. We're still four Raw shows away from the Royal Rumble, so this one could drag out a bit.
The show airs live on USA starting at 9 p.m. ET. Be sure to come back then and join in with the rest of your favorite Cagesiders right here for the live blog. It's always a fun time.
Raw live blog after the jump.
WWE RAW LIVE BLOG DEC. 26, 2011
Broadcast is live.
They skip Nickelback, thank god, and go straight to CM Punk's music. HA HA. John Laurinaitis comes out wearing a Best in the World t-shirt and does Punk's gag during his entrance. That was great.
He stops and introduces himself. Starts cutting a promo calling himself "Mr. Excitement." The crowd is either mic'd really well or they're hot to hate him.
He tries to get the cheap pop by saying Chicago. THEY'RE IN ROSEMONT. That's not Chicago. Ugh.
Punk's music hits again and he really comes out this time to a HUGE ovation.
"IT'S CLOBBERIN' TIME!!!"
Punk doing laps around Johnny Ace, getting the crowd riled up. Don't blow yourself up, CM, you're almost surely in a match tonight.
The music stops and Punk catches his breath while the crowd chants his name. Finally says Laurinaitis is poking him. Wants to know what's stopping him from kicking Johnny in the face. Laurinaitis says he's the boss, first, and he could fire him, second. But he took management classes and he wants to give Punk a holiday gift.
His gift? Punk has the night off.
Wait, got cha! "Who says I can't be unpredictable?"
"Just about everybody," says Punk.
We're right back to Laurinaitis saying he listens to the WWE Universe. Punk starts saying he doesn't and Laurinaitis says he's in a Gauntlet match. Three opponents tonight and if any of them win, they get a title shot on Raw next week.
Punk wants to know what happens when he beats those three guys.
Laurinaitis says he hasn't really given it much thought.
Punk dumps on him for not being a forward thinker. Says when he wins, Chicago should get a fourth match. Asks if they would be sick of him by then or do they want to see him a fourth time? They mark out. He suggests a match against Laurinaitis himself if he wins the Gauntlet match.
"You don't want to do that. You don't want any of this."
That was the greatest line EVER.
The crowd chants, "YOU CAN'T WRESTLE," and Punk tells him to finally listen to the WWE Universe. "Looks like they've been watching New Japan tapes."
Laurinaitis reiterates that a match between the two wouldn't be good for business. Punk asks the crowd if they want it and they go nuts for him before again chanting his name. Laurinaitis accepts the challenge.
Uh-oh. Creepy promo interrupts things.
"The force shall arrive to reclaim what is his," says the creepy kid with a thesaurus. "The powers that be will be shaken."
The End Begins.
"The force shall arrive."
"Do you understand?"
Boy, that shed no light at all.
Cody Rhodes and Booker T walking through the back. Looks like they're next.
Booker T vs. Cody Rhodes -- They run the footage of Booker singing during Rhodes match last week on Smackdown. Continuing the feud. Booker hits a hip toss early and stays in control. The heels usually set the pace of a match but Rhodes is getting some good experience here against a legend.
Book misses the Scissors Kick and Rhodes hits a neckbreaker to finally take control. Sends Booker to the outside and he's holding his back while Cole and Lawler are putting over that he's hurt.
Rhodes still in control back from break. Booker makes a comeback and works Rhodes in the corner. Cody reverses and does something slick that we never seem to see much anymore. He put Booker down and then rolled his kneepad down so he could hit a knee on Booker without the pad. I liked that.
Rhodes working a goofy hold that isn't even locked in and Booker comes back. Rhodes squashes that quick and hits a lariat. Oh look what it is, it's the "Boo!", "Yay!" spot that Holzerman was harping on earlier.
Yet another hold from Rhodes that wasn't done properly and Booker easily could have gotten out of if he wasn't a complete donk, which I guess is what they want him to be here.
He makes another comeback with some shots in the corner. It leads to a cool sequence with Booker nearly scoring a surprise roll up for the win. Another failed Scissors Kick leads to the Beautiful Disaster, which gets two.
After some back and forth, Booker hits the Scissors Kick and gets the pinfall.
Spin-a-roonie time and the crowd is having fun.
Backstage and Zack Ryder is kissing up to John Cena, who gets heavily booed as the camera pans to him. He says Ryder doesn't owe him anything. Starts putting him over big time. WWE has to know this is the kind of shit that will kill the Ryder character. Cena really laying it on thick.
Ryder asks about Kane. Cena says he's going to go to the ring and make sure the last Raw of 2011 goes off with a bang. They exchange pleasantries as they head off in different directions.
Lawler announcing the three opponents Punk will face tonight.
1. Jack Swagger (easy win)
2. Dolph Ziggler (awesome match)
3. Mark Henry (the f*ck?)
They had Henry drop the title because he was hurt, so I'm guessing that means he's not working tonight. But if he does, that will be horrific.
Big Show in the back flirting with Kelly Kelly and some ref comes up and says Laurinaitis needs to see him. He blows it off by saying he's busy but the ref insists.
Laurinaitis on the phone telling Brodus Clay he'll debut next Monday night. Says he sounded irritated and he would hate to be his first opponent. David Otunga, standing right with him, agrees.
Show comes into the picture and Laurinaitis wants to know what the deal was with him laying out Otunga on Smackdown. They show the footage and Big Show laughs while Otunga goes nuts about a lawsuit. They go back and forth and it results in a match being booked between Otunga and Show where Show will have one arm tied behind his back.
Swagger and Ziggler arguing in the back and Ziggler is clowning the hell out of him. Zig tells him to find a time machine to 2008 when he was relevant. Oh and he looked a lot better in the Planet of the Apes movie. Ha. Swagger says something but it's weak.
Henry comes barreling through with an "Excuse me" and they both freeze up. He walks through and they complain at each other that they should have said something.
Mixed tag match up next.
Zack Ryder and Eve vs. Tyson Kidd and Natalya -- This is a weird match-up. Why is Tyson Kidd getting Raw time? Let's see what he does with it. Comes out with a head of steam and works stiff as all hell, screaming as he does every single move. As soon as he takes offense from Ryder he rushes to tag out to Natalya, who calls for Eve to get in the ring.
She does and the crowd starts a small "You can't wrestle chant" that never picks up steam.
Eve does the booty pop to distract everyone. It's funny that she does the move when she doesn't actually have much of an ass for it. Natalya looks to lock in the Sharpshooter and the fellas tag back in. Ryder in control with a faceplant on Kidd. Spinebuster gets one as Natalya makes the save and gets dropkicked for it.
Broski boots on both Kidd and Natalya before the Rough Ryder hits and Ryder and Eve win. They hug passionately and suddenly realize what they're doing and back off each other.
Budding romance, perhaps?
It's almost the start of the second hour, so Cena calling out Kane is up next, folks.
Cena is out and he's got plenty of heat round these parts. He's still smiling like a goofy bastard, though. They replay Raw last week when Cena initially got the edge on Kane but eventually was overcome. All leading to a valiant comeback later on, I'm sure.
After his music stops, he takes forever to speak.
"I can't exactly say that I'm Chicago's favorite son."
Uh ... ya think? Derp, derp.
Says Chicago is sometimes salty towards him, sometimes even more than that. Some chick is screaming like Tyson Kidd and the mic is picking it up entirely too clear. Someone shut that lady up, for god's sake.
Count on Cena to start putting over Chicago by saying it has hosted three WrestleManias. Also inducted Eddie Guerrero into the Hall of Fame. And, of course, Punk winning the title at Money in the Bank.
It's getting disgusting how much he's pandering to this crowd suddenly. Just get on with Kane, dummy.
He says Chicago will see hell, fire and brimstone because they will see John Cena vs. Kane. Then he points to the entrance ramp and ...
Oh, no, it's Miz. Didn't this guy just get squashed by Sheamus on Smackdown?
He says 2011 was the year of The Miz. He wants to see himself vs. Cena tonight. Brings up the fact that he won at WrestleMania and finally admits it was a tainted win because The Rock made it possible.
Miz says Rock stole his shining moment and he wants to make sure everyone knows he can do it without Rock. He wants the last image of 2011 to be him standing tall over a beaten John Cena.
Cena cuts him off and says he wants him to shut up and "wash that god awful tan off your body."
That was awesome.
He calls for a referee and says let's get it on. They bring one out and are we really getting this match? I'm sure it's just a set up to Kane coming out to beat on Cena but whatever.
John Cena and Kane are trending worldwide, guys. That means those two are the only two people anyone in the world is talking about right now. Seriously, that's what that means.
Anyway, Cena is punking Miz out, doing him dirty with the push-off and smile. Pose and all that good stuff. At the very first headlock, the dueling Cena chants start. Women and children want him to go and men think he sucks.
Miz leaves the ring and grabs a mic and says the crowd is chanting the wrong superstars name. "Forget this match and forget all of you," he says. Now he's once again trumpeting his win over Cena at 'Mania and saying this match doesn't matter. Says he's a winner.
"Like the Packers beating the Bears, I'm a winner."
Oh, f*ck this guy. He just took it too far.
Aw, wait a minute. R-Truth's music hits to no reaction and he comes out to cut off Miz and they start brawling. They're really getting after each other, complete with Blair Witch camera and everything. Truth throwing Miz from the barricade to the table to the barricade and back to the table again.Then to the steel steps and he's got that crazed look in his eye.
He picks up the mic, needing to clearly express himself.
"See Miz, I could finish this right now. But what's the fun in that? Ain't no fun in that."
"That's the problem with Christmas. You open all your presents and it's over. I want every Monday night to be like Christmas. So I'm going to take my time getting to you. Little Jimmy said it's okay. So this New Year's all the crazy be forgot. No, they gon' get got ... Jimmy."
The crowd doesn't really understand that they're supposed to cheer this man. Really, they don't want to, even if he is beating up Miz, the worst heel of all time.
Truth grabs a water bottle and cracks Miz with it. Off he goes and there was never any resolution to the Cena vs. Kane deal.
Cole says Kane is here and he will "make his presence felt" before the night is over. Cool story, bro.
Big Show vs. David Otunga -- Remember, as per Laurinaitis, Show has to have one arm tied behind his back. This would have been better if they did the gag with the blindfold and the crowd, hot as Chicago is, told Show where to go to hit Otunga.
Otunga gets caught up with Show and the big man hits the weakest looking headbutt I've ever seen. Now he's working chops and forearms to the back. Otunga is getting squashed by a guy with one arm tied behind his back.
Mark Henry comes out and Show undoes the tie. The bell rings, which I guess means Show vs Otunga is done. Chicago crowd chanting "Sexual Chocolate." Henry finally blasts Show and Daniel Bryan's music hits and he suddenly appears on the apron. He distracts Henry long enough for Show to get fully loose. He goes for the chokeslam on Henry but Otunga comes in and takes it for him.
Show wins via disqualification. Henry walks to the back and his character is dead. This was horrible. He was so hot and they've killed him off already. That took what... four months?
Reminder: Kane is going to explain his actions tonight "but on his terms."
Alberto Del Rio is out and he's being wheeled out by Ricardo Rodriguez. Del Rio in the wheelchair while Rodriguez announces him wearing a neckbrace.
Del Rio says this year ended in tragedy. He won everything in 2011 and brought cajones to WWE. But last week he suffered the most horrible "injure" a man could suffer. He tore his groin. The crowd cheers and he asks what's wrong with them. "Are you happy for that, peasants? How dare you."
The Bella twins come out and chastise the crowd for not treating him with respect. They bicker over throwing Del Rio a party once he gets healthy. He tells them to leave because he doesn't want to see them while grimacing. This is great.
Del Rio's New Year's resolution is that he'll be back and "more vicious and aggressive" than ever before. That's a line from Vince McMahon. Straight from him, I bet.
He takes off on that note.
Punk walking through the back and it's almost time to run the Gauntlet.
Jack Swagger vs. CM Punk -- The only thing that keeps Swagger anywhere near the top of the card is his size. Jim Ross couldn't help but mark out over it and drool all over the fact that he came from Oklahoma.
Punk super over in
Chicago Rosemont. Cole still saying Kane "will make his presence felt," meaning he'll interfere in one of these matches, probably the last one. Punk will get to Henry and before the match can go off, Kane will come out to wreak havoc.
Test of strength and Swagger has Punk bent in half. Punk, of course, battles back and gets a knee to the belly for his trouble. Shoulder block off the ropes from Jack. Punk reciprocates with a dropkick. And Swagger gives it right back.
Swagger starts working a ... bear hug? They're on the mat and Swagger is working a bear hug. This is why he's a jobber and not a world champion.
Uh-oh, speaking of jobbing, Swagger botches a spot where he was supposed to catch Punk flying off the ropes. Dear Jack: If you'd like to keep your job working against top guys like Punk, don't nearly drop and kill the WWE champion. Dummy.
Punk shows him how it's done and catches him on his shoulders for the GTS. Doesn't hit it but does get another kick for the pin. Swagger is out.
Ziggler's music hits and he's out and fresh as can be. Swagger attacks Punk's knee before bailing. The ref asks Punk if he can wrestle and he enthusiastically says yes.
Ziggler working Punk's leg as they fade in from break. Punk battles out but his leg gives and Ziggler gets a two count. Dolph jsut steadily working the knee, just like he should be.
Quick rollup from Punk and it fails.
Great dropkick from Ziggler gets a two count. Punk starts his comeback and springboards Ziggler into the turnbuckle. Punk goes for the neckbreaker but Ziggler just shoves him off and goes back to work. Half crab from Ziggler and Punk crawling towards the rope. He gets there.
Unfortunately, Punk uses the leg Ziggler's been working to both post on to stand up and then boot Ziggler with. Now he's in control and he's got momentum now. Suddenly, Punk isn't selling the leg, which I half understand because he has to be able to do some things but this was blatant disregard for the supposed work Swagger and Ziggler were doing.
Wow, he even does the running knee in the corner with the bad leg. That's horrible.
Goes for the GTS and Vickie Guerrero stops it. Ziggler gets a big spot but only gets a two count. John Laurinaitis comes rushing out and grabs a microphone. He calls for the referee and says he knows he can't see everything that happens. He tells the ref Vickie and Swagger just got involved and boots them to the back.
He gets up on the ring apron and distracts Punk long enough for Ziggler to hit the Zig Zag to get the pin. Ha. Awesomely sneaky move. Ziggler goes over and grabs the WWE title and parades around the ring with it. He's doing laps around the ring, running while holding the belt up like he won it.
He'll have his match for it next week. Let's just hope Punk doesn't forget to sell injuries.
Ziggler kisses the belt at the top of the ramp and blows it at Punk. Sets it down and walks away.
Kane is up next and apparently, he's the main event. That's ... odd.
They push a match between Orton and Barrett for the final Smackdown of 2011. Literally no one cared.
Here's Kane and the crowd doesn't make a noise in the time between the pyro at the ramp and his music playing. He's still coming out wearing two masks.
On TV, the whole Kane schtick comes off so cheesy, but live it's actually something else.
He grabs the mic and says what we see before us is his true self. His essence. "I may wear a mask but it's all of you who spend every waking second living a lie. And that's because you.."
Cue Cena for the second time tonight.
He comes out to the entrance ramp and another explosion happens. Kane yells for him to stop and says he didn't come out to pick a fight with him. "You want to know why I chose to make you my victim? It's simple. You have led all of these people astray. You ask them to rise above hate but that's a fallacy. This world is a dark, dark place."
Cena looks slightly scared, slightly amused.
"It's okay to hate," Kane continues. "Humans are hateful by nature. Deep down, everybody hates. Why rise above it when the natural impulse is to embrace it. To let it consume you. People hate. They hate their bosses, they hate their neighbors, they hate their spouses, they hate their miserable existence. Rise above? That's a fraudulent myth perpetuated by you. Hate is the seed from which we are all born. It drives us. It motivates us. It fuels our impulses. And I know that you feel it, John. You feel it swimming underneath your skin like a thousand insects eating away at you. But once you embrace the hate, you become honest with yourself. You become free. Free. What you fail to realize, John, is that with you denial, you grow weaker by the moment. And until you embrace that which you deny, you can never be truly free."
The crowd gets the dueling Cena chant going. Perfect timing.
"But I am going to help you, John. And all of these people are going to help you on your path towards enlightenment. Because right now, the last image that you will see this year, the last thing that you will hear, is each and every one of these people chanting the words which tear your soul apart. 'Cena sucks. Cena sucks. Cena sucks. Cena sucks.'"
The crowd doesn't go along with Kane, unfortunately. Some do but most don't. The dueling chants start soon after, though.
And the show ends with that, the crowd chanting and Cena staring at the floor like he doesn't know what to do with everything Kane has said to him.
That was EXACTLY what I wanted.
Fade to black.