WWE Monday Night Raw comes waltzing back into our lives tonight (Jan. 23, 2012) in Phoenix with a very special episode -- it's the go-home show to the Royal Rumble this Sunday night!
Okay, so maybe tonight's episode isn't special unto itself but how can you not be excited for the Rumble at this point? It's the only event/match that WWE can't possibly screw up.
We'll get closing angles tonight with the focus being John Laurinaitis and his plans to screw CM Punk as well as John Cena and his internal struggle with embracing hate while Kane goads him on from titantrons the world over.
Oh and Brodus Clay. 'Nuff said.
The fun kicks off tonight at 9 p.m. ET, so make sure you come back and join us for the show. It's always a good time. Raw live blog after the jump.
WWE RAW RESULTS AND LIVE BLOG JAN. 23
Geno here. Broadcast is live.
They're getting the ear-rape out of the way early by just leading off with Nickle-crap's theme for Raw. Michael Cole keeps it going by speaking to tell us where they are.
Phoenix, Arizona, what it be.
CM Punk is out first lugging around the WWE title. He gets a half-hearted pop, like they know they're supposed to cheer for him, so they do, but they don't have any real reason to feel invested in him, because they don't.
Twitter graphics up already.
Punk cops a squat in the middle of the ring and says this Sunday is the 25th anniversary of the Royal Rumble.
Um, CM, no. It's not. It's the 25th edition of the Rumble, which means it's the 24th anniversary. But you're probably just spitting the company line, so we'll give you a pass ... for now.
He's setting everything up with an easy promo letting us know the who, what, when, and where for the pay-per-view this weekend. Cracks a joke about Wikipedia telling him for a fact that John Laurinaitis sucks at life. Good one, Phil.
He then compliments Johnny Ace for telling the truth for once and they roll footage of him from last week admitting to Mick Foley that he does indeed plan on screwing Punk at the Rumble.
Punk -- "It's safe to say John Laurinaitis isn't going to be much of an unbiased referee this Sunday."
Oh really? Hmmmm. What tipped you off?
He starts threatening to break Laurinaitis' arms because hey, it's really hard to referee a match with two broken arms, you guys. Punk invites him out to the ring to say everything he said last week but to Punk instead of Foley.
"Take your balls out of your purse and look me in the eye and be a man for once. Say these things to my face."
Not sure why you gotta get all like that, Punkster. Don't you know that's Big Johnny you're talking to?
Laurinaitis doesn't answer the call and Punk says he's just going to head to the back to find him.
Cue John Cena's music.
Here he comes to the ring to a much bigger pop than Punk received and he looks like he means business, folks. There's no smile. He salutes at the top of the ramp then does the same in the ring.
Punk -- "I can see how you'd be confused. I'm looking for a company man named John but not John the boy scout."
Cena says he's sick of hearing Punk ramble. He's out here for business, you see, and he's demanding Laurinaitis give Zack Ryder his rightful rematch against Jack Swagger for the U.S. title as well as hook Cena up with a one-on-one match against Kane.
He also says Laurinaitis is going to resign as the Interim General Manager of Raw.
Punk thinks that sounds great and the people agree. He keeps talking to Cena but wait.
Here comes Big Johnny!
"We all have bad days, he says, but last week wasn't one of mine. I stand by what I said. And I'm not going to be intimidated by either of you."
Punk says he can't hear him so he should come down to the ring and talk to them.
"Come on. Come on. Come on."
Dude, you sound like a child.
Ace says Zack Ryder will face Kane tonight in a Falls Count Anywhere match and if Cena gets involved, Ryder will never get his U.S. title rematch.
He then puts Punk and Cena into a tag match with each other and calls for a referee to come down. Looks like we're going to start this party right now.
Out comes the terrible threesome of Swagger, Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler.
Dolph tells Punk he shouldn't be worried about Laurinaitis. He should be worried about Ziggler because he's going to beat him tonight and at the Rumble just like he's done three of the past five weeks.
Swagger gets the mic and says Cena is "dead meat" for what he did to him last week.
I don't know about you but I'm convinced Swagger is actually going to kill Cena. I mean, he was so close to doing so last week, am I right?
They waltz down to the ring and Laurinaitis comes down to sit ringside.
John Cena and CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger: Cena and Ziggler start it off and Superman is working the Zig-man early, hitting a running bulldog. He tags in Punk, who is wearing some goofy black shorts with his knee pads and boots that make him look even more like a homeless person.
Ziggler bails out of the ring and that gives WWE the chance to head to break.
Not surprisingly, the heels are in control coming back from break, which means all their offense came in during the television break. At least Ziggler got to do his show off routine. Right on cue, Cena smashes Swagger and show boats in front of Ziggler before knocking him off the apron.
Swagger comes through hard, though, and knocks Cena on his ass. Time to do some work to lead to the hot tag. Standing guillotine from Thwagger and Cena acts like he's damn near asleep. Then suddenly, as if he just ate a bowl of fruity pebbles and got all his energy back, Cena executes a back body drop.
Job Swagger tags out to Ziggler and he comes in and shows off some more, this time doing sit-ups while Cena is laid out on the mat. It's fairly surprising that Cena is taking the offense to lead to a hot tag to Punk instead of the other way around.
Jack hits the Swagger bomb and yells at Cena "never do that again" before getting a two count.
You should probably be sure to get the pin if you're going to act all hard before you cover, Jack.
Now Thwagger works a bear hug and Cena counters with the Attitude Adjustment. That's how they lead to the hot tag, both guys getting out. Swinging neckbreaker and Punk hits the high knee and running bulldog. Calls for the GTS but Dolph counters and eats a high kick. Swagger makes the save on the ensuing pinfall attempt. This leads to Cena coming in and putting him on the outside, locking him up in the STF.
Meanwhile, Punk goes up top to hit the Flying Elbow and Laurinaitis distracts him. Punk grabs his coat and goes to punch him but Ace jumps off the apron and Ziggler takes advantage with a roll up to get the pin.
Cena got beat on the whole match, gave both his finishers and Punk got pinned.
Punk takes the mic and tells Laurinaitis it's okay if he screws him at the Rumble because at some point he plans on beating the hell out of him. Punk says for one night he wants Ace to be a WWE superstar. For just one night, tonight, even, and they can do a singles match ... unless, of course, Johnny's afraid.
Laurinaitis smiles back and says, "I accept."
They cut to Jerry Lawler and Cole at ringside and Lawler is wearing the most god-awful t-shirt I've ever seen.
Chris Jericho in the back and he's smiling and smacking everything acting pumped. The crowd popped, by the way, when he showed up on screen. He's hosting the Highlight Reel tonight with himself as guest.
This should be good.
Ah, yes. Jericho is next.
Lights go out and the jacket entrance is now a staple. When it lights up, the fans cheer.
As he walks to the ring, Lawler tells us he just found out Jericho will be a participant in the Rumble match. What a terrible way of announcing that.
He's in the ring and picks up a mic. Please don't say anything.
A small "Y2J" chant starts and he tells the crowd to quiet down with a finger to the lips. Starts to tease like he's going to speak and keeps telling everyone to quiet down. Suddenly gets excited and wants everyone to hold on.
He runs to the back and comes out with a t-shirt gun. HA HA HA.
Oh my god, this is awesome.
Lawler says he was told Jericho was going to give us some answers for his recent behavior. Acts all upset that instead he's going to shoot t-shirts.
He puts a Raw shirt into the gun and asks for cheers. Points the gun at each side of the crowd and gets a huge reaction. Takes the camera from the guy in the ring and looks out at everyone.
Gives it back and picks up the mic again.
Points to the TV screen in the ring and it plays a video package of him debuting in WWE and beating The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin in the same night. Then shows various other highlights, including his big 2007 return. Then shows the teasers leading to him coming back this year.
It ends after about 30 second and he's still telling the crowd to be quiet. FINALLY, they start to boo him.
"This Sunday at the Royal Rumble, it's going to be the end of the world as you know it."
Then his music plays, the lights go out and his jacket lights up as he poses in the ring. Get your pictures in, folks.
They come back and advertise matches for later pitting Kane vs. Zack Ryder and R-Truth vs. Miz before going into a promo for the Royal Rumble. They're doing the old "it's all about the numbers" shtick.
After the promo ends, which took like eight minutes, Zack Ryder is in the back talking to his lady, Eve, who looks ridiculously hot. Mick Foley shows up and wishes him luck before bailing. Eve tells him he doesn't have to compete tonight. He says he has to.
Cena shows up and offers to help out and Ryder tells him just to stay out of it, bro.
Ryder still wearing the heavy tape around the ribs. He does his best to look confident but scared shitless at the same time.
Kane still wearing two masks for each entrance.
Kane vs. Zack Ryder: Straight from the bell, Ryder bum rushes the big man and Kane quickly snuffs it out and starts stomping him. "Now the anger and the hate from Kane begins to come to fruition. I got a feeling this is going to get ugly," says Cole. Sure enough, Kane is just squashing him, tossing him around the outside like a rag doll.
Oh look, Eve made her way out to ringside. That's probably not a good idea, lady. You would have been better off staying in the car and waiting for Ryder to change that tire.
Kane is still having his way with poor Zack and Lawler is bringing up how dumb it is for Eve to be out there watching it happen. This is really just a glorified squash. Ryder kicks out of the first pinfall attempt and Kane just smiles at the referee.
That's a nice touch.
Uh-oh, Kane's using the choke glove now. He let it go before Ryder went out. Now they're about to go through the crowd. Let fans get an up close look at Kane's size and mask and all that good stuff. Ha. Some fat guy noticed he was on camera and tried to get his buddy's attention so he could face the camera before it panned away from them.
Too late! Sorry, clown, you don't get to look like an idiot on live TV.
Meanwhile, Ryder stages a short comeback via bashing Kane over the head with something and Kane just walks through it and keeps destroying him. They work their way to the ramp and Kane is working Ryder's ribs with kicks now. Lawler goes into the "talk really low so they know we're serious" mode of commentary. Cole follows suit.
The King reminds us that this is all John Laurinaitis' fault. Kane goes for a cover and Ryder kicks out, which Cole says is stupid. And really, it is. A chant breaks out but I can't tell what they're saying. "Let's go Ryder" is one half of it but I can't tell what the other half is. Could have been "woo, woo, woo."
Finally, Kane hits a chokeslam that sends Ryder crashing through the stage and Eve gets up close to the monster to check on her man. He looks over slowly and starts going after her.
Cena time, I assume.
Kane slowly walks her down as she retreats in her high heels. Cena shows up at the top of the ramp and Kane literally bails out of the crowd. What the hell was that? Did Kane just run at the pure sight of Cena?
Cena and Eve stand at the top of the ramp and look really concerned for Ryder, who is laid out from the chokeslam through the stage. Eve acts like she's crying and Cena makes the same expression over and over and hopes we get what he's trying to convey.
We do, John, don't worry.
They do a stretcher job for Ryder. This is taking way too long.
They're still doing the stretcher job as they come back from break. Ryder being led out by a million folks with Eve crying alongside him and Cena doing his best to look concerned. He really just looks like he's holding in a fart and waiting for the right opportunity to release it.
"Hang in there, bud. I'm going to take care of this, alright bud?"
Eve tells Cena this is all his fault. He's done enough and she's going with Zack. He tries to make a sad face as the ambulance drives off.
HA. Josh Matthews suddenly shows up with a microphone in hand asking how Cena feels.
"You gotta feel just awful about this."
He slaps the mic out of Matthews hand and looks at the camera with the most pissed off look he can muster. He's shaking while staring the camera down with a death look. Maybe it wasn't a fart and he had to take a huge dump and now that Eve and Ryder are gone, he's pushing that son of a bitch out, camera be damned.
Oh, that's him embracing the hate. Got it.
Cole and Lawler maintain their "someone is putting at the ninth hole" voices to tell us they'll try to give us an update on Ryder as soon as they can.
Jinder Mahal vs. Sheamus: Mahal was already in the ring, so we don't get his promo entrance. Instead we get Sheamus doing his deal, which is really just holding his arms out and screaming.
Wade Barrett walks out while the match is going and sits down for commentary. Let's see if he can win me over here.
Sheamus did his spot with the forearms through the ropes before getting distracted with Barrett just long enough for Mahal to take advantage. He's currently working a hold that wouldn't hurt an infant and Sheamus lets it happen for about a minute before making his comeback. Barrett is talking with Cole and Lawler about tossing Randy Orton down another set of steps to take him out again now that he's back.
Sheamus goes for the Celtic Cross but Mahal gets out only to run into a Brogue Kick. That's that.
Barrett says "thank you for your time" and starts walking to the back. Sheamus stops him and waves him into the ring. Barrett acts like he's going to climb in but when he gets on the apron, Sheamus goes to whack him and Wade takes off. Sheamus cuts a short promo saying he's going to win the Rumble.
Backstage for an interview with The Miz and he talks about what's happened to former tag partners of his that turned on him. In short, they all fell by the wayside. That's not actually true but it doesn't matter for the purposes of this discussion.
R-Truth shows up and acts like he's from WWE Research.
"According to our research, Miz, you are number one. Number one annoying, number one whining, number one nincompoop. Number one WEIO."
That stands for "what else is on" because that's what people say when he's on TV. Great, now that's spread to the rest of the locker room. Good job, Punk.
They almost get into it and Laurinaitis shows up to add a stipulation to their match. Whoever loses will be the number one entrant into the Royal Rumble.
YES! Up next is Brodus Clay!
William Regal joins Lawler and Cole on commentary and they replay him dancing on Smackdown before Clay hit him with the Aww Funk It.
They did a bit with a new intro for him and it was terrible. He finally comes out to "Somebody Call My Momma" but this time he's wearing a white jumpsuit.
He fails miserably to get his pants off for the final stomp spot in his dance and Heath Slater, the jobber charged with getting squashed tonight laughs at him.
Not a fan of the new white suit he's wearing.
Clay jiggles and gyrates for Slater, who acts disgusted. Heath is actually allowed to get offense in, hitting a dropkick. Clay does his few spots to end the match in short order, though, giving us the "Should I get hymn," suplex, then running splash.
Phoenix was not a fan of The Funkasaurus.
The Miz vs. R-Truth: They tell us again that the loser of this match will be the number one entrant in the Rumble match on Sunday night. Lawler feigns ignorance at whether or not someone has won from the number one position. This gives Cole the chance to tell him two guys have won from the number one spot.
King must not have been watching that 15-minute "it's all about the numbers" Royal Rumble promo when it aired roughly an hour ago.
As for the in-ring action, there isn't much of it. Miz sends Truth to the outside and that leads to break.
Miz stretching Truth out coming back from commercial but Truth gets his comeback and starts working Miz over. A roll up gets a two count before a big front suplex gets two. They do a nice spot with Truth reversing a neckbreaker into a near fall with Miz getting out and executing the move he wanted to do anyway.
Truth counters the Skull Crushing Finale but gets countered off the ropes and takes a DDT. That only gets two, though, and Miz snaps and starts stomping on Truth. Out of nowhere, Truth hits his finisher and gets the pinfall. There was no build to that finish and the announcers were both completely caught off guard by the three-count. Same with the crowd.
Miz will now be the first entrant in the 2012 Royal Rumble match.
Lawler tells us that he's been informed that Zack Ryder has a broken back. That's a serious enough injury that there's no way they can write him into a show within the next few weeks.
They cut to Laurinaitis in the back and he tells David Otunga it's time to teach Punk a lesson. Otunga says a fax came in and he needs to read it. And he's not going to like it. He reads it and reacts with what I assume is supposed to be a mixture of shock and anger.
They show Punk walking through the back and doing the Wanderlei Silva hand roll.
It's 11:00 ET and we have yet to get to the main event match being advertised. This will undoubtedly be similar to the first "match" between Austin and McMahon, which wasn't actually a match but helped build heat for when they finally did have a match.
Punk comes out first, barely gets any reaction. This crowd sucks.
It's clobberin' time. Or is it?
Justin Roberts announces Laurinaitis three different times without him coming out. Finally, here he is and he's wearing the Future Endeavored t-shirt. Otunga is out with him and he's carrying the fax they received that made Johnny Ace so upset a few minutes ago. He's got a mic and he says he's got some unfortunate news that he wants to share.
He got a fax from the Board of Directors and even though it pains him to read it, it must be heard.
Otunga reads the fax and it says the Board of Directors is concerned with how he's been running Raw, namely the fact that he outright admitted he was planning on screwing Punk. The Board has decided that Laurinaitis' status as Interim Raw General Manager will be officially under review. Next week on Raw, he'll be under evaluation to see if he's good to go or if he'll be terminated. And his job evaluation will be conducted by the still acting COO, Triple H.
Punk gets on the mic and says this means if Laurinaitis screws him at the Rumble, he'll be out of a job.
Laurinaitis says he's got it all wrong. The Board of Directors gave him a wake up call. He wants to apologize to everyone now for any wrongdoing during his tenure.
Foley is in the Royal Rumble match, Laurinaitis tells us after Punk brings it up. Johnny goes on to say he was just mad and that's why he said he was going to screw Punk. He wasn't really going to do it.
Punk fires back by telling Laurinaitis he's like a little girl who gets everything she wants but gets scared of Santa Claus coming at Christmas and giving her some coal. Huh.
Punk goes on to say he hopes Triple H fires him next week.
Laurinaitis gets out of the match by saying it can't happen but he's got a good replacement -- David Otunga. As soon as he announces Otunga, he attacks but Punk gets out and locks on the Anaconda Vice. They tease Punk hitting Laurinaitis.
Laurinaitis extends his hand and the crowd chants "CM PUNK."
Punk grabs his hand and picks him up to deliver the GTS. They actually go through with it and Punk celebrates in the ring with his music playing. Dolph Ziggler shows up out of nowhere and hits the Zig-Zag to stand tall to end the show.
Fade to black.