WWE Monday Night Raw comes waltzing back into our lives TONIGHT (Jan. 2, 2012) from the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee. And it's finally time for us all to learn who the mystery return man is.
There's plenty of speculation and conspiracy theories as to who it is that will trot out to the ring tonight, possibly during the CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler match for the WWE championship, but the truth of the matter is no one knows. Not yet, anyway.
Speaking of Punk and Ziggler, their match was set last week after Ziggler pinned the champ to earn a shot at his title. No, that doesn't make sense but it is what it is.
Local advertisements have Jerry Lawler taking on Michael Cole in a Memphis Street Fight and John Cena vs. Kane in a Raw Challenge Match. It's entirely possible both are dark matches that won't make the air. And, looking at them, that might not be such a bad thing.
All the focus is on the big mystery return, anyway, so who cares, right?
The fun kicks off tonight at 9 p.m. ET on USA. Make sure to come back and enjoy the show with all your favorite Cagesider commenters. It's always a good time. Raw live blog after the jump.
WWE RAW RESULTS AND LIVE BLOG JAN. 2, 2012
Broadcast is live.
They kick off the promo just before airtime with the creepy kid saying "it will be the end of the world as you know it."
We know, little dude. And we can't wait.
I have to admit, pretty pumped for this one, folks.
Michael Cole plugs the Punk vs. Ziggler match before they go into the promo from last week with Kane and John Cena. Wasn't long before they cut this together. Lots of signs being shown with Cena looking slightly upset and confused and even beaten down.
They didn't cut as much of the promo as I expected. Although they did use a much louder dueling chant for the video and a goofy dark laugh from Kane to close it. Cena was money during that entire promo just by looking troubled.
They cut to the intro with Nickelback assaulting our ears.
Cena will kick off the show. Huge reaction, sounds more like cheers than boos. He tells the camera this is "Jerry Lawler country." Cena acknowledges the mixed reaction and they show plenty of the "CENA SUCKS" t-shirts they've been slanging. Lawler says none of this is bothering John because he feeds on it and loves it.
Yeah, okay, Jer.
Cena opens his promo by saying 2011 may not have ended how he wanted but it's a new year. Immediately starts pandering by wishing everyone a happy new year. A "You Suck" chant breaks out.
"As you can see, not much has changed," Cena responds.
Cena says his first resolution is to wear less underwear. His father is now banned from WWE TV.
Are you crazy, John? Your dad was awesome.
The third resolution comes at WrestleMania. He'll slap the face off Dwayne Johnson's neck and resolve to show the Rock he's lost his lady parts. Did he really just say that?
Uh-oh. He says he'll remain loyal to who he is and true to his character. "It won't stop just because someone throws fire in your face." Damn it, John. Let the hate consume you.
He talks about being emotional last week but immediately lets the crowd know it wasn't because of them. The fans have paid to get in and he can't judge what they say or how they say it. This is getting downright ridiculous. Let's knock it off with the making the fans a part of the show in this manner schtick. It doesn't fit right.
Cena says he's got an issue with Kane, who just doesn't seem to understand how feuds are handled in pro wrestling. Which is to say, get in the ring and duke it out. Maintains that he won't turn his back on the fans and he'll continue to rise above hate and all that other crap.
"There's no better feeling than being in this ring in front of all of you. I will continue to enjoy any emotional response that I get. And I'm going to start this year off the way that it should be started off: by thanking you."
Finally, Kane's music hits to end this abomination.
His voice comes over the loudspeaker and he says Cena WILL embrace the hate and he'll personally witness the power of hate ...
Maniacal laugh and then the usual explosion while Cena looks scared.
That wasn't nearly the follow up I was hoping for.
Another plug for Punk vs. Ziggler and the mystery return promo shows a message again:
"The End Begins Tonight."
Daniel Bryan gets the dreaded slot right after the opener. I wonder how many viewers he'll lose. He'll go up against Cody Rhodes in a non-title affair.
Daniel Bryan vs. Cody Rhodes -- The plug a couple matches for Smackdown, both Show vs. Bryan and Rhodes vs. Booker T before the match gets underway. Rhodes takes the early edge and works Bryan's arm. Meanwhile in Memphis, a D-Bryan chant breaks out.
Holy sh*t. Michael Cole literally just said these words:
"I mean, come on, Jerry, how can you take Daniel Bryan seriously as a champion?"
Lawler got his chance to sell us but he failed miserably and even though Bryan is taking the edge in the match with Rhodes, I can't get over the fact that Cole was allowed to say that on TV. In fact, he was probably told by Vince McMahon to say it and that just makes it all the worse.
NEVER BURY YOUR TALENT, DUMMY!
Whatever. Rhodes makes a comeback and hits the Beautiful Disaster before Bryan suddenly gets a small package for the pin.
So the world heavyweight champion had to use a sneak pin to beat the Intercontinental champion. Bryan jumps on the announcers table and all around on the barricade ringside to celebrate like he just picked up the biggest win of his career.
They replay last week's segment showing R-Truth returning to beat down Miz.
We go to the back and John Laurinaitis is watching TV. Miz shows up and wants to know what he thinks of what Truth did to him last week. Johnny Ace says he didn't agree with it and thought it was unprofessional. Miz doesn't like that answer, so Laurinaitis shows him the video Miz taking Truth out a couple months back.
"Does that ring a bell?"
Laurinaitis says it's obvious that Miz is scared. Sets him up for a match against Sheamus and Miz says he'll be a sitting duck. Laurinaitis says that's better than being a lame duck. He walks off and Truth comes into the picture flapping his arms and quacking with a sh*t-eating grin on his face.
Rumble promo. Hey, we should probably start ramping up with looks back on past Rumble matches, huh? Anyone like the sound of that?
They show Hacksaw Jim Duggan winning the first ever Rumble back in 1988. Old school.
Barrett comes out to very little heat, or at least that's how it sounds on my TV, which is to say I'm not hearing much of anything over his music. That's not good when you consider the guy took out one of the company's top babyfaces.
They show a recap of last week's brawl between the two and Orton getting chucked down the stairs before Barrett runs off. Hopefully that means he's out until Rumble so he can be a surprise entrant in his hometown of St. Louis.
Barrett has a mic and says he didn't want to come out and wish anyone a happy new year because he doesn't give a care about this year, no different than last year. It's already been a good year for him, though, seeing as Orton is out of the picture. Claims he didn't plan on tossing Randall down the stairs but it was kill or be killed and subsistence wins out, folks.
"He fell victim to the Barrett Barrage."
Gotta be the worst gimmick in some time.
He starts yapping about winning the Rumble before the greatest mid-card comedy jobber's music interrupts.
Santino Marella vs. Wade Barrett -- HA. Santino punks him by giving him a pop quiz and manual buzzer before he can answer as to who lasted longer in the Rumble last year. It was Santino, not Barrett, stupid-o.
Typical Santino match. He gets beat on, does one move that gives him just enough time to tease the Cobra, gets countered when he goes for it and his opponent hits their finisher for the pin.
Barrett is now using a side slam he's calling the Winds of Change as a finisher, huh? The same slam everyone else uses. Good job, Wade. That's like trying to make a pick up body slam a finisher.
The Bellas are in the back bickering and Miz is there asking them if they've seen R-Truth. They say they haven't but they have seen a "Little Jimmy." He scoffs and says he's glad Alberto Del Rio got hurt.
He walks off and Truth is shown stalking him before walking up to the camera and shushing us.
This is TNA-esque, right there.
Sheamus vs. The Miz -- Miz comes out looking over his shoulder like he's scared sh*tless of Truth coming out to beat on him some more. It's okay, Miz, Sheamus is going to do it for him.
Miz gets the early edge with some cheap heel tactics before Sheamus quickly does the forearms to the chest through the ropes spot. This leads Miz to run out through the crowd and suddenly Truth's voice comes on over the speakers. And he's in the crowd with a mic and talking about running into Little Jimmy. Says Little Jimmy says Miz needs to get got.
Naturally, this leads Miz to run away and back to the ring area where Sheamus is waiting to deliver a Brogue Kick and a taunting scream before leaving to the back.
Truth finds a water bottle and cracks Miz over the dome with it.
Miz is laid out and Truth's music hits before he walks out through the crowd. He stops and says "This weekly Miz beatdown was brought to you by Little Jimmy." Then gives a kid a chance to cut a promo by asking him what he thinks about it and the kid gets on the mic and says...
"Happy new year, Miz."
That's the best you had, kid? That was your shot, man. You blew it.
Another promo for Punk vs. Ziggler later tonight.
They come back talking about Twitter and Cole says he's the most hated man on the Internet. And he's probably right. He says Punk vs. Ziggler will be on in just a few minutes, which means it's getting the coveted second hour start time slot.
Backstage interview time with Ziggler. They pan over to him and he's doing a headstand, being a showoff. When he finishes it, Vickie Guerrero comes in and fixes his hair. Oh, that's money.
He says he pinned Punk last week just as easy as he did that headstand. I can't keep up with how fast he's talking but he's cutting an awesome freaking promo right now. That was perfect in every way imaginable. Seriously, amazing.
Cut to a far less talented pair of performers, Zack Ryder and Eve, yapping. Jack Swagger shows up and calls Ryder a dork. Says he'll take Ryder's girlfriend and his title. They bicker and Laurinaitis shows up to put together a six-man tag match. Swagger, Mark Henry and Kane vs. Ryder, Big Show and Cena.
Sigh. The old "nothing better to do so let's throw together a six-man tag."
CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler -- Out first to a big ovation is the WWE champion. A guy on the scene in the FedEx Forum is feeding us info and tells us the crowd is full of white Punk shirts.
It's clobberin' time!
Ziggler's entrance music is terrible. I'd like to go back over the list of big time stars and see how good/bad their entrance music is/was. I'm convinced how over a superstar is directly coincides with how sh*tty their music is.
Collar and elbow tie up and Punk goes for a quick couple of pinfalls but fails both times. Works a full nelson before Ziggler reverses and they do some rolling on the mat.
They reset with Cole and Lawler talking about the grappling credentials of each guy. Nice opening to the match.
After the restart, Punk hits a backbreaker but Ziggler regains control fairly quickly. He does little things that make him so genius. As in, while he had Punk laying prone, he was slicking his hair back with his hands and flicking them out towards Punk.
Punk comes roaring back with three straight running leg drops. They do a spot with Ziggler sending Punk into the ropes face first and they misjudged where they were in the ring and Punk takes it badly. Looked rough and WWE rightfully replays it about four times.
Ziggler works a sleeper to give them time to.
They work back and forth a bit more with Ziggler hitting a big spot to the outside. Back in the ring and he only gets two before they fade away for a break.
As the show comes back in Punk and Ziggler are trading punches with the boo-yay chant going right behind it. Ziggler goes for a sleeper and Punk counters with an ugly backdrop.
They trade near fall rollups before Ziggler hits a leg lariat that gets two. They set up the spot with Punk hitting the high knee and into the bulldog. It only gets a two count and Punk calls for the GTS.
Here comes Laurinaitis. He brings the referee over to help fix a turnbuckle that had it's covering come off. Punk locks in the Anaconda Vice and gets the tap but the ref doesn't see it. Punk checks to see what's going on and a crazy exchange ensues that sees Punk sent to the outside, where he gets counted out.
Ziggler wins via countout but Punk keeps the title. Dolph goes out and grabs the belt anyway and celebrates like it's his. They immediately show a replay of what just happened while Ziggler celebrates. Punk gets sick of it and goes to chase him.
And still no mystery return man
Well, maybe. Nope.
They cut out and showed text on the screen that simply read -- "He is here."
Lawler feels the need to make sure to tell us Ziggler isn't the champion coming back from break since they failed so spectacularly to inform us of the official result of the title match before the break.
Diva's match time.
Bellas vs. Eve and Kelly Kelly -- One team won and no one cared. The match sucked. They botched the finish, although Eve did hit a nice moonsault off the top rope.
Backstage and Laurinaitis is with David Otunga. Punk comes running in and says he can't let this one slide. Ace almost cost him the championship. Laurinaitis says Punk's problem is with Ziggler, not him. Sets up a match between the two at the Royal Rumble.
And Laurinaitis will be the special guest referee.
Punk says he'll need Otunga if he screws Punk out of the title at Rumble because he'll want to sue him after he goes to jail. And why would he be going to jail?
"Animal cruelty. Because I'm going to beat you like a bitch."
Laurinaitis looks stoic like he always does while Otunga looks downright shocked at such language. How dare he!
Finally. They come back with another promo for the mystery return man. It's new. The little lady says, "you have brought this on yourself."
Here we go, folks.
The little dude says, "She has spoken. It is time. The end of the world as you know it is here. Now"
My TV screen is shaking from the camera work. The crowd looks confused. They're getting more and more excited, though.
Everything goes black.
A Y2J chant starts.
And it's him. They show his jacket lit up and he's doing his signature pose. The fireworks hit.
BREAK THE WALLS DOWN!!!!
Jericho is back.
He looks like he's in great shape. His belly doesn't look as pushed out as usual, at least from the few glances at it I could get. He's really playing this up. Slapping hands with everyone ringside while his music plays.
Finally, his music stops and he grabs the mic. The crowd goes quiet but he yells, "COME ON, YEAH!"
The crowd starts chanting one more match, then Y2J, then it gets all messed up.
He keeps going and I'm starting to think he's stalling. Is Undertaker supposed to be coming out now and they've messed up the timing? He's going way to long here without saying anything and acting goofy.
He refuses to speak and just keeps celebrating around the ring. I think I'm starting to hear boos. I know I would be booing at this point.
He's doing the schtick where he points to one side of the crowd and they go nuts, then points to the other so they can go nuts. Periodic chants break out but Memphis isn't exactly jumping here.
He goes to talk and then drops the mic and starts celebrating again.
What the hell is this?
Either this was planned, which is what I'm thinking, or he's being a gigantic mark for himself and can't help but revel in the few cheers he's still getting.
He's now at the top of the ramp and still running around asking for cheers. Dude, I'm starting to hate your guts.
He stands at the top smiling and I'm really freaking confused here. The videos were creepy and talked about the end of the world as we know it. He just came out and cheesed everywhere.
Main event next.
I can just picture Jericho in the back going, "They totally don't know what to think! We got 'em! Yeah, baby, buncha marks!"
Now I'm kind of hoping that was just a big swerve and Taker comes out during the main event and wrecks shop before Triple H comes out to go after Taker. Something crazy, I don't know. I'm disappointed right now.
John Cena, Big Show and Zack Ryder vs. Mark Henry, Kane and Jack Swagger -- Everyone comes out except Kane and suddenly Otunga is making his way to the ring. He has an impromptu meeting with the ref and ring announcer and we're told Kane isn't participating. So instead it's a handicap match.
So now an injured Henry is teaming with a choad jobber like Swagger against Show, Ryder and Cena. This is terrible.
Cena kills Swagger to start, just long enough to get the dueling Cena chants going. Cole actually acknowledges them now and even brings attention to them. Swagger gets a counter and takes control just in time to go to break. "Hurry to commercial, don't show Cena getting hit by that jobber!", Vince must have screamed in the back.
Hot tag to Big Show and he kills Swagger with an ass in the corner. That's a legit move in WWE now, folks. Swagger tags out to Henry in a hurry after Show calls for the WMD and in comes gimpy.
Show knocks Henry out without making him bump much at all. Show gets pissed and grabs a chair and starts working Henry on the outside. The ref eliminates them and and I didn't even realize this was an elimination handicap match.
Ryder hits the Broski Boot on Swagger and sizes him up for the Flying Teabag. Swagger counters with the Ankle Lock and Ryder tries to get the tag to Cena, which he does. Five Moves of Doom time, right away.
AA hits as Cena gleefully smiles at the fact that he's lost six times in his six years on Raw. Gets the pin and that's that, the hero rides again. Ryder sells an ankle injury. Kane's music hits and Cena goes up the ramp to get to him as he comes out.
But Kane climbs up from under the ring. Blasts Ryder while Cena stands like an idiot awaiting him to come out the entrance way. When he goes to save Ryder, Kane takes him out with the modified mandible claw. Cena goes out and Kane gets in the ring to go after Ryder.
He tries to get away but Kane drags him down under the ring. "He's getting sucked into the abyss here," says Cole.
But hey, there's Cena to make the save and tell little Zack Ryder it's all okay. Suddenly, some pyro goes off right where the gigantic hole in the ring is and smoke fills the arena from said hole. Cena looks on as though he's terrified, even though he ran up on Kane with no fear just a minute earlier.
And that's that.
Fade to black.