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VIP - New PWTorch Newsletter #1285: Thankful for end of holiday season episodes of Raw, Impact & Smackdown with Keller's analysis of highs/lows, plus Parks on Cornette (16 pgs.)

Jan 3, 2013 - 1:16:03 AM
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ALL-TEXT EDITION OF THE NEWSLETTER:

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK
(1) Punk or Heyman to face Ryback on first 2013 Raw
(2) Mae Young gives birth to Hornswoggle in Raw skit
(3) Wade Barrett ends Kofi Kingston’s IC Title reign
(4) WWE ratings suffer throughout holidays
(5) Taz reaches new depths of unprofessionalism on TNA

HEADLINE ANALYSIS
BY WADE KELLER, EDITOR

One of the greatest reasons to welcome a new year is the end of WWE and TNA screwing around and phoning it in during the Christmas/New Year’s weeks.

Raw this year fell on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. WWE, knowing they’d have fewer viewers than average (a 2.1 rating on New Year’s Eve), presented shows that were a mix of screwy slapstick skits and half-hearted booking themes. The shows were pre-taped, not live, and ended up doing very little in the way of forwarding major storylines, with a couple exceptions. What they’ll be remembered most for, though, is Santa Clause being hit by Alberto Del Rio driving his car and New Year’s Eve skits featuring Mae Young giving birth to (26 year old) Hornswoggle, among other indignities that play to Vince McMahon’s particular brand of humor.

In one of those booking shortcut theme episodes of Smackdown between Christmas and New Year’s, G.M. Booker T gave out title shots to random challengers, selected from a draw out of a tumbler. It was a low point, even for WWE, when it comes to demeaning the value of their titles and prestige of earning a title shot.

TNA Impact also presented considerable filler, especially the Dec. 20 show. The Dec. 27 show was marked by a level of unprofessionalism and, well, dickishness perhaps previously unseen on a wrestling show by a color commentator in the form of Taz, who came across like he resents his job and everything about the company he works, the colleagues he works with, and the wrestlers he’s supposed to be helping to get over.

We took Christmas week off from publishing a newsletter, so we have some shows to catch up on. The following are my newsletter-exclusive reports on those wonderful shows, with my commentary included throughout along with the standout quotes. Following that are two commentaries - one focused on key issues coming out of Smackdown and the other on the lost opportunity on this week’s Raw. We’ll begin with the most recent Raw and work backwards.


KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
DECEMBER 31, 2012
LIVE IN WASHINGTON D.C.
AIRED ON USA NETWORK

[Q1] -They opened with the standard Raw opening with the usual storyline recaps.

-Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler introduced the show as simulated fireworks shot off at the top of the screen.

-Miz stepped onto the stage and said Vickie Guerrero has decided it’s a “championships on the line type of night.” He added, “All championships are on the line, baby!”

(WK Reax: Miz wasn’t trying to be obnoxious all of that time he was a heel. He was just being himself. And as a babyface, he doesn’t seem to know how to switch into a likable, more cool, less “douche bag jar” mode.)

Miz introduced John Cena to his “show,” which took place on the stage not in the ring. Cena thanked Miz for having him on the show. He wished everyone a Happy New Year. Miz brought up the whole A.J. Lee story, saying people thought Cena and A.J. were going to be the feel good story of 2012, but now she accuses him of using her. Miz asked Cena what he really thinks of her. Cena said it’s over. Miz asked, “Really? Really? Really, John?”

(WK Reax: Not to be too critical, but there’s a smug satisfaction to Miz’s very average wit that is off-putting as a babyface to a degree I didn’t anticipate would be the case when he turned babyface… assuming in this WWE culture they even consider him a babyface.)

Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes walked out. Cena then tried to be funny as he quoted “a famous poet, Robert Griffin III” in saying, “You guys suck.” Sandow said of all the greats he has studied, “I assure you I have not heard of that man.” Sandow told the booing fans he didn’t ask for his opinion. He said Miz chose to spotlight “this disgusting tabloid scandal.”

Cena said he agreed they should focus on something else, such as maybe Rhodes’s mustache. Cena moved in for what looked like a romantic kiss, but he just wanted a close-up of Cody’s mustache. Sandow told Miz he went from main eventing WrestleMania to being drowned in the shadow of Team Rhodes Scholars. He proposed a New Year’s Resolution for them. Cena took Miz off to the side and asked him to team with him against the Rhodes Scholars. Everyone agreed and headed to the ring.

(1) John Cena & The Miz beat Damien Sandow & Cody Rhodes in 12:00. Cole said he couldn’t believe Sandow didn’t know who RG3 is, then explained that he’s the quarterback of the Washington Redskins. Early on a loud “Let’s Go Cena / Cena sucks” battle-chant broke out. They cut to a break at 2:00 with the heel duo regrouping at ringside. [c]

[Q2] Cole and Lawler marveled at Cena and Miz getting along and even agreeing to team in the first place. At 11:00 Cena hot-tagged in to a mixed response and rallied against Sandow. He went into his You Can’t See Me routine, but Cody surprised him with a Disaster Kick. Miz then gave Cody the Skull Crushing Finale. Cena then gave Sandow the FU for the win. Cole said let bygones be bygones and welcome in the new year as Miz and Cena celebrated together. Cole said, “They make a pretty darn good team.”

-They went backstage to the obligatory New Year’s Eve party with various WWE personalities celebrating. David Otunga congratulated Vickie Guerrero on a great 2012. He said it’ll be the Year of Otunga. Ziggler then thanked Vickie for the invite. She looked confused and said she didn’t invite him. He said it’s time to let bygones be bygones. Vickie said she hopes Ziggler and his girlfriend A.J. enjoy their toast. She told him he’ll wrestle Sheamus later. [c]

-An ad aired for the 20th Anniversary of Raw celebration in two weeks.

-Back to the party, C.M. Punk complained to Vickie about people saying his injury isn’t real. He said it is. He said, “That’s why I had surgery.” Punk said he brought a surgeon out to explain his condition. Vickie asked hypothetically whom he would have defended his title against tonight if he were healthy. Punk said, “That’s easy. Ryback.” She said therefore Ryback should wrestle. Punk suggested The Shield. She said three-on-one would not be fair. Punk said what’s not fair is how she is treated. Heyman said it bothers him. Vickie then booked Ryback vs. The Shield. Heyman and Punk congratulated the easily-manipulated Vickie for her decision.

[Q3] -Antonio Cesaro stood mid-ring, introducing himself as “your United States Champion.” He said he went sightseeing and saw D.C. landmarks, “all things I am the champion of.” He said at the Pentagon he ran into somebody who happened to be here tonight, full of patriotism, synonymous with the red, white, and blue. He picked his opponent - Sgt. Slaughter.

(2) Antonio Cesaro beat Sgt. Slaughter in 2:00. Cole said Cesaro has to get past Sarge in order to Great Khali on Main Event this week. He said beating Sarge “will be no easy task.” Lawler called Sarge a “wily veteran.”

(WK Reax: Portraying Sarge as a tough opponent is pretty ludicrous and a bit of a credibility killer for the announcers. Sarge belongs on “Off Their Rockers” on NBC, not in the ring on WWE Raw.)

Sarge applied the Cobra Clutch a minute in, but Cesaro reached the top rope. He then delivered an uppercut and his Neutralizer finisher for the win.

(Quotebook - Michael Cole: “Cesaro sends Sarge over the fiscal cliff.”)

Cesaro delivered the Neutralizer after the match, then wiped his feet on the mat near Slaughter before celebrating his win. [c]

-Kane and Daniel Bryan paced backstage trying to figure out whom they could pick as their opponents. 3MB then yelled at them for interrupting their practice session.

-Back at the New Year’s party, Big Show asked Ricardo how he’d like to get a World Title match later. Show picked him as his opponent. Ricardo dropped his drink. Show got mad that he spilled on his boots. Ricardo tried to clean it up. Show intimidated him, then laughed and walked away.

(WK Reax: Once again, WWE seems to be emulating TNA, in this case their Open Fight Night gimmick. Show picking non-wrestler Ricardo (who isn’t portrayed as an active wrestler in WWE) as his opponent is ludicrous. How did Ricardo make himself available to be beaten up by the giant simply by being Alberto Del Rio’s ring announcer. It doesn’t make any sense.)

Elsewhere at the party Mae Young partied with some Divas. Eve revealed that she decided to defend her title against Mae. Mae smiled wide and laughed.

(WK Reax: Again, just total nonsense. I know it’s a throwaway holiday edition of Raw, but it’s WWE at it’s slapstick worse in a lot of ways. Not that it’s not “entertaining” in some sense, but the tone of it is like someone who hates pro wrestling and thinks it’s a total joke took over scripting it and, on a dare, decided to make it as preposterous as they could.)

-Kane and Bryan made their ring entrance. [c…]

[Q4] […c] (3) Kane & Daniel Bryan beat 3MB (Heath Slater & Drew McIntyre w/Jinder Mahal) in 6:00.

(Quotebook - Jerry Lawler: “Mae Young was a waitress at the Boston Tea Party.”)

Cole said Bryan was upset to find out that goat meat is the no. 1 consumed meat in the world. Lawler joked that they could put Bryan’s face on a carton of goat milk. Cole found it hysterical.

(Quotebook - Jerry Lawler: “I was in a band called White Line, but we were middle of the road. Then we were in a band called Holding Pattern, but it never took off.” See, if you’re fast-forwarding through Raw, this is what you’re missing!) [c]

-They showed an aerial night view of D.C., then went to highlights of Cena wrestling in the opener, teaming with Miz.

-A clip aired of Ryback beating up Punk, and Cole saying he caused Punk to need knee surgery.

[Q5] -Punk and Heyman made their way to the ring.

(Quotebook - Jerry Lawler on Paul Heyman: “I heard he hung up his stockings at Christmas and all he got were Odor Eaters.”)

Heyman bragged up that Punk held the WWE Championship for every single day of the 2012 calendar year, totaling 407 consecutive days and counting as champion. Punk reflected on his great year. He said he bested Chris Jericho, Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, Del Rio, Kane, Bryan, Cena, and Ryback “on numerous occasions.” He said if any one in the crowd had been through what he has, they’d be in the fetal position.

Punk said some question the veracity of his knee injury, therefore he brought in his doctor, Samuel DiCero (the name of Windy City Wrestling promoter with whom Paul Heyman worked over 20 years ago). Punk was upset with fans booing his doctor. The doctor showed an image on the big screen of what a healthy knee looks like on the inside next to an image of Punk’s knee. He said there is obvious swelling. Punk said despite that, he has a title match against Ryback. He said even if he has to wrestle on one leg, he’ll extend his title reign.

The doctor supposedly blind-sided Punk with news that he cannot in conscience let him compete in that condition next week. Punk protested and reacted with utter shock. Punk felt betrayed and said that’s not what he said earlier. Vince McMahon’s music then interrupted. He strode to the ring. Heyman leaned against the ropes, covering his face in fear of what was going to happen next.

McMahon apologized for interrupting. He said he just couldn’t wait to wish everyone a Happy New Year. He said he anticipated Punk was going to try to weasel his way out of the championship match. Heyman took exception with and offense at such a suggestion. Heyman said his WWE Champion has never weaseled his way out of anything. McMahon said next week WWE officials will evaluate his condition, but if he can compete, it will be a TLC style match.

Punk said he knows McMahon thinks he’s guilty of various accusations, but coming from him it hurts because he was unjustly prosecuted by the U.S. Government. McMahon said there is a great deal of conjecture about how he’s managed to retain his title, such as potentially striking a deal with referee Brad Maddox or The Shield. Punk was defiant in denying he had any association with Maddox and the Shield.

Heyman told Punk he’d handle things now. He called Punk a hero and said, “How dare you in the same city that your father first promoted Sports Entertainment, how dare you force an injured wrestler into competition.” He called McMahon a flesh-peddling promoter. He dropped the mic and said, “I’m sick of you.”

(WK Reax: Heyman’s facial reactions are just priceless here.)

McMahon said Punk won’t compete next week if WWE officials determine he isn’t able. Heyman then apologized and said, “My mistake.” McMahon said Punk’s replacement would be Heyman. Heyman’s chin quivered and eyes bulged. McMahon wished him a Happy New Year. Punk threw as much of a fit as could on crutches.

(WK Reax: Now the show begins. Forget that first hour. Great performances by everyone there and good build up for next week’s Raw.)

-Cole said Ziggler and A.J. have invited everyone to a New Year’s Eve toast later. Lawler plugged Sheamus vs. Ziggler was scheduled up next.

[Q6] [c] (4) Dolph Ziggler (w/A.J. Lee, Big E. Langston) wrestled Sheamus to a no contest in 13:00. They cut to a break at 3:00. [c]

Cole said he thinks A.J. has given Ziggler a “pep in his step” lately. Methodically paced action suggested early that this was going to last a while.

[Q7] Ziggler took his usual great bumps here. Sheamus gave Ziggler his White Noise at 12:00. Langston grabbed Sheamus’s leg from ringside as he set up the Brogue Kick. Ziggler leaped onto Sheamus’s back. Sheamus dumped him over the top rope into the arms of Langston. Langston then huffed and puffed and snarled at Sheamus and made his way up onto the ring apron. Cole said he’d like to see this collision. The Shield then jumped Sheamus from behind.

Sheamus fought back, but “like feral dogs,” the Shield ganged up on him and gave him a triple power bomb. They stood over Sheamus’s fallen body afterward. [c]

-They replayed the Shield attacking Sheamus.

-Backstage Kofi Kingston asked someone how Sheamus was. Wade Barrett walked up to him and told him to it’s Kofi choice to pick his opponent. He asked if he’s struggling to choose between Hornswoggle and Little Jimmy. He told him to be a man for once and pick him. Kofi said maybe Hornswoggle and Little Jimmy deserve a title shot more than him. He said they might put up more of a fight. He said he beat him before, though, and he’ll be happy to beat him again. Barrett smiled.

(WK Reax: Good little segment to give a backstory to the IC Title match. Simple stuff like this adds to a match.)

-Elsewhere backstage Brad Maddox walked up to Paul Heyman and C.M. Punk. Maddox said he lost his last match on Smackdown so he’s looking for a job. Heyman told him to try the unemployment line for all they care. Maddox looked upset and even hurt. Heyman fumed in his face and told him to get out of this arena “and most of all, Brad Maddox, get out of my life.” Punk laughed. Heyman looked a bit nervous over how that all went.

-Back at the party, Moe Young appeared to be having stomach cramps. The other Divas were concerned. A doctor walked in and said she needed to be put on a table so he could examine her. She laid on a table and moaned. The doctor said, “It’s impossible” and “there’s no way Mae can compete tonight.” He said Mae was pregnant. Suddenly old style soap opera music played and she lifted her head and said, “Not again.”

(WK Reax: Again, good for eye-rolling chuckles for some people, but it’s so corny it just ends up crossing a line into being a bad high school improv comedy sketch.)

[Q8] [c] -As Eve walked out, Lawler said he is not the father of Mae Young’s “baby.” Eve said Young used a lame excuse to get out of her match. She asked for a win by forfeit. Then Kaitlyn walked out to her music. Eve looked upset and attacked Kaitlyn as she entered the ring. Kaitlyn fought back with a tackle and a barrage of punches. The ref yanked her away. Eve fled with her title belt.

-Backstage Ricardo was warming up in his tuxedo. Del Rio said it should be him, not Ricardo, wrestling “that monster.” Ricardo vowed, nervously, to win the championship in his honor. Del Rio said Ricardo has shown him nothing but honor, whereas he has already treated Ricardo like dirt. Del Rio said nobody should be treating him bad, including him. He said tonight he will be there with him, for him. Del Rio said he needs to look like a champion if he’s going to wrestle for the championship. He gave him his scarf. He told him to do it with style, then tossed him his car keys.

(WK Reax: This segment is all well and good, except it completely ignores - just like the Cesaro-Slaughter match - that there’s a possibility of a mismatch so great it can’t be treated with the least bit of seriousness. Ricardo is not even close to equipped to face Show, and it’s just preposterous that Del Rio is talking about Ricardo wearing a scarf and driving his car to the ring instead of reacting more naturally to the absurdity of Ricardo being put in the ring in a match against Show in the first place. Let’s see how the announcers handle this…) [c]

[Q9] (5) The Big Show beat Ricardo (w/Alberto Del Rio) via DQ in 3:00. Lawler said this is “a big joke to Big Show.” Ricardo came dressed in his tuxedo, although he did take off the bow tie and unbutton the top button.

(WK Reax: The announcers didn’t react to this entire concept of champions being able to choose anyone - even non-wrestlers - as opponents as being as ridiculous as it is. Who is behind this decision and why isn’t that person fired? Vince McMahon is in the building, and he thinks it’s okay that wrestlers can choose to face non-wrestlers? And the announcers, supposedly there to react to what’s happening, are acting like this is totally reasonable if not a little unfair.)

Show dominated early, but was just toying with Ricardo. He tore his shirt open and slapped his chest. Del Rio yelled at Show, distracting him briefly. Show charged at Ricardo, but Ricardo lifted his boot and caught him. Ricardo then gave Show a Del Rio-style running enzuigiri. Ricardo leaped off the second rope, but Show chopped him out of mid-air. As Show signaled for the KO punch, Del Rio entered and attacked Show’s leg from behind. He stomped away at him and then played to the crowd. He got some cheers, but the crowd wasn’t sure they were willing to embrace him yet (or they were just fatigued from the long taping).

-They went to Cole and Lawler at ringside. Lawler said, “We’re just getting started.” Several people in the upper deck heard that and leaped to their demise.

-Kingston’s ring intro took place. [c]

(6) Wade Barrett pinned Kofi Kingston to capture the Intercontinental Title in 12:00.

(Quotebook - Jerry Lawler: “I’m gonna tell you something, man, I’m really digging this Champions Choice night. What a great New Year’s Eve this is.” I know Lawler is doing his job, and maybe was fed the line, but that just made me so sad.)

They cut to a break at 3:00. [c]

[Q10] Back from the break, at 8:00 Kofi blocked a Wasteland attempt and then hit the S.O.S. for a near fall. Good back and forth action continued, with Barrett getting the majority of the offense. Barrett landed the Bull Hammer and scored the clean pin. Barrett celebrated like he accomplished something significant.

-Backstage they had Mae Young’s legs held up in the air and spread apart as Great Khali and Titus O’Neill had front row seats and told her to breath. [c]

-They aired a video recap of Santa on Raw last week. Cole said Santa “kicked out” on their Christmas Eve edition of Raw last week.

(WK Reax: WWE is quite proud of that, aren’t they.)

-As Santino and Zack Ryder got excited about their New Year’s party, Vickie ran up to them and said Mae was about to give birth to a New Year’s baby. Vickie then walked up to Mae and farted. Everyone went silent and Vickie said, “Excuse me.” Daniel Bryan got a “Yes / No” battle chant going. Then a squeezing noise and a pop and out came Hornswoggle in a diaper with a cigar in his mouth. Everyone applauded and Vickie said it’s a miracle. Khali handed Hornswoggle to Mae. He said, “Mama.” Then he sucked on a milk bottle.

(WK Reax: This segment was the Vince McMahon Special. Everything that McMahon needs therapy for wrapped up into one lovely segment.)

-Cole laughed because he’s paid to laugh uproariously at stuff like that to validate Vince McMahon’s juvenile sense of humor.

(Quotebook - Jerry Lawler: “After seeing that, I’m almost mad at the doctors for saving my life.”)

[Q11] -The Shield made their way through the crowd to the ring. Lawler said this isn’t a match, it’s an execution. Cole explained, as if it were totally reasonable, that Punk chose this match and forced it on Vickie. [c]

(WK Reax: When you think about how much time was spent on juvenile unfunny humor throughout the show, it’s even more offensive when you realize how little hype they gave to the main event of Ryback vs. The Shield.)

(7) Ryback vs. The Shield. The Shield jumped Ryback in the aisle as he approached the ring. Sheamus ran out and tried to even the odds and get revenge for their attacking him earlier. Randy Orton then also ran out and helped clear the ring of The Shield. Ryback pressed and dropped Rollins over the top rope onto the floor. Orton gave Rollins an RKO. Cole said they sent the Shield into retreat mode.

(WK Reax: This main event should have been portrayed as a much, much bigger deal since it was The Shield’s first official match on Raw. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t have a full-fledged match. The very fact that they didn’t hype it as a bigger deal defined it down as not worthy of hype, since the viewers aren’t thinking “They didn’t hype this because they knew they weren’t delivering an actual match.” Cole should have said the very concept of this match was ridiculous to begin with, so good for Sheamus and Orton to end it before it really got started. But then that would prompt the question of why it was allowed to be booked in the first place, as in, “Who is in charge around here and why are they so incompetent?”) [c]

-Cole and Lawler hyped next week’s main event of Ryback against either Punk or Heyman.

[Q12] -Dolph Ziggler was joined by A.J. and Langston in the ring. Ziggler told the live crowd, days before New Year’s Eve, that there was just an hour to go before the end of 2012.

(WK Reax: The very nature of wrestlers pretending that it was New Year’s Eve when it was actually days away had to make everything seem especially fake to the live crowd. I know fans at TV tapings have always been exposed to a time warp, but it had to feel especially strange to sit there for hours in that crowd watching a New Year’s Eve party days before New Year’s Eve.)

Ziggler toasted the fans because less a month ago they voted for the WWE Slammy for Superstar of the Year and they picked Cena. Ziggler pretended to not quite remember how Cena did against The Rock. They went to freeze-frame images of Rock beating Cena. Ziggler said the match Cena said he couldn’t afford to lose, he actually lost.

Ziggler said the next night he did something equally impressive - he got an F5 from Brock Lesnar. A clip aired of the move. Ziggler said Cena got his ass kicked by Lesnar. Ziggler said some might say there is no shame in getting beat up by Lesnar, but how does he account for losing to John Laurinaitis. A clip aired of Show giving Cena a KO punch and Laurinaitis pinning him. Ziggler asked the fans if they even remember Laurinaitis.

Ziggler threw to a clip of Cena losing the Money in the Bank briefcase match against Punk after giving Punk a week to prepare, ending when Big Show attacked Cena as he applied the STF on Punk, causing a DQ. Ziggler said Cena is the first person in history to cash in the MITB briefcase and lose.

Ziggler excitedely threw to a clip of A.J. turning on Cena and costing Cena his chance to win his MITB briefcase. Ziggler said, “Hot dog, we have a wiener.”

(WK Reax: Ziggler shouldn’t say that again.)

Ziggler said despite that year, the fans voted Cena as Superstar of the Year. A.J. chimed in, “And they say I have mental problems.” She said the WWE Universe needs psychiatric help. Ziggler said Cena hasn’t changed in ten years on a mental or physical level. He said he still wears a baseball cap and shorts. He told him to get with the times. He said Cena’s time is up and his time is now. “No offense,” he added.

(WK Reax: That line, “no offense,” is when I thought Ziggler could be a top star. He said it on color commentary early this year after insulting (I think) Michael Cole. The delivery was just so good, it looked like a window into the type of heel wit that would draw money.)

Ziggler told A.J. they should share a toast and make it the greatest New Year’s ever. He turned to “B.” (as he calls Big E. Langston). He asked him to stand guard and make sure Cena doesn’t come out and interrupt the greatest toast of this New Year’s celebration. A.J. gave Ziggler a toast, calling him “the man I love.” They made out.

Cena’s music interrupted. Langston stood his ground as Cena stepped onto the stage. Cena called Langston “Mr. T.” He said he didn’t come out to fight. Cena said Ziggler was right. Ziggler asked him to repeat it. Cena said a real man can own up to his flaws. He said after seeing that footage, he cannot say 2012 was a banner year for him. He said 2012 was the year of Dolph and A.J. Ziggler said 2013 will be even better.

Cena said A.J. grew so much as a woman. He said she had her first relationship. And her second. And third… and sixth. He said they spent their day in D.C. shopping for their wedding wardrobe. Cena threw to a picture of A.J. in a tux and Ziggler and Langston in dresses. Ziggler said, “Not real! Not real!”

(WK Reax: Ziggler reaction, like he needed to make it clear the photo wasn’t real for people to realize it was Photoshopped, was very funny.)

Cena then showed a picture of their baby, a Conan O’Brien-like “If they made it.” Next came a picture of a bunch of wrestler heads on baby bodies: Hillbilly Jim, Matilda, The Shield, Mr. Fuji, Kane, Daniel Bryan, Punk, Heyman, Ricardo, Eve, Howard Finkle, Runjin Singh, The Bushwackers, and someone else in the upper right corner. The crowd laughed at the picture.

Ziggler said enough. Ziggler told A.J. that Cena is a man-child. Ziggler said right now Cena is the biggest loser in WWE, whereas in 2013 he will become WWE Champion. Cena said they’re supposed to be having fun. He said the year won’t end well for Ziggler, though.

Cena said he had one bad year out of ten, yet Ziggler has been around for seven. He then told Ziggler to look deep into the mirror. He said in that seven years he has been blaming the administration for holding him back and “not giving him a push.”

(Quotebook - John Cena: “Only way a guy like you gets a set of nuts is by buying them at the concession stand.”)

Cena said: “First you were a caddy, then you were a cheerleader, then you had blond hair, then you had brown hair, now you have blond hair, then you had a large girlfriend, now you have a small girlfriend, now you have a large man, and you walk around with a suitcase that has a contract and a bunch of Valtrex.” He said Ziggler has irritable bowel syndrome, also. He announced that he is entering the Royal Rumble and he doesn’t care who he has to beat, he will become the WWE Champion in 2013.

[Q13] Ziggler said that talk, just like his outfit, is cheap. Cena said his suit is ill-fitting. He said A.J. is wearing a white dress, and he could tell a million jokes about that.

(Quotebook - John Cena: “This soldier has not changed his uniform in ten years, and they’ll probably bury me in jeans shorts and a ball cap.”)

He said the reason “the uniform” has not changed in ten years is because his resolve hasn’t changed. He said he is still filled with Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect. He said out of respect, he toasted to a prosperous 2013 “with the one thing that you are full of.” From the ceiling poured a poop-like substance. Cole and Lawler coughed and said it stinks. Cena declared loudly: “Happy New Year, everybody!” His music played and Cole signed off.


KELLER COMMENTARY
WWE missed telling the biggest story of Monday’s Raw while focused on embarrassing, counterproductive, bad skits

In an effort to play to Vince McMahon’s odd (creepy? sad?) juvenile sense of humor on the New Year’s Eve Raw this week, WWE entirely missed what should have been the biggest story of Raw.

The main event of Raw, which they barely had a chance to talk about, what with all of the New Year’s party skits, was Ryback vs. The Shield. There was a strong story here they could have told.

Vickie Guerrero was manipulated by Paul Heyman and C.M. Punk into booking Ryback against three opponents at once. (Don’t get me started on the logic that led to her thinking that was a good idea.) The story from then on throughout the three-hour show should have been:

“Can Ryback make it through that match healthy enough to compete against Punk next Monday?”

The announcers should have been all over this unjust, indefensible decision by the clearly incompetent Acting G.M. They should have hyped all show, in a serious tone, that Ryback has been screwed time after time and it’s happening again. As soon as he gets close to a title, Punk and Heyman manage to screw him out of getting that even playing field he deserves.

Then, by the time the match occurred, maybe there’d be more viewers instead of fewer than in the second hour. Maybe fans would have anticipated the main event for nearly three hours, nervous and curious how Ryback would survive. Would The Shield - in their first-ever official Raw match - once again derail Ryback from his title aspirations by taking him out of next week’s match or, at least, weakening him?

Then when Sheamus and Randy Orton ran out, there’d be a huge sense of relief and justice. Cole and Lawler could have stressed that normally they don’t approve of wrestlers interfering in matches, but this match was an injustice to begin with. They could have also said The Shield brought it on by their attack of The Shield earlier in the night and what they did to Orton backstage a couple weeks ago.

That would have gotten the Shield over as “getting what they had coming.” It would given viewers a sense of relief that Ryback wasn’t screwed over once again. It would have also given the announces a dose of credibility for pointing out what should have been stressed all along, not glossed over, which is what an injustice the three-on-one match was. Cole or Lawler should be consistently questioning the reason Vickie still has any power given the decisions she makes.

WWE, instead, presented a show that delivered segment after segment of quirky, creepy juvenile skits that did nothing to promote next week’s show and embarrassed many fans who really genuinely like pro wrestling when presented with more of a straight face as a dramatization of competitive combat.

The structure was there, the storyline was there, the match was there, and WWE’s delivery was just awful. Time after time lately, they seem so scared to give fans a story to believe in related to the battle between cheating heels and admirable heroes and instead veer off into this weird unfunny slapstick crap.


KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
DECEMBER 28, 2012
TAPED 12/19 IN ROCHESTER, N.Y.
AIRED ON SYFY

-The show opened with clips of Sheamus bashing The Big Show with repeated chairshots. Also, clips of the A.J. Lee-John Cena-Dolph Ziggler saga.

-They went live to the arena, skipping the SD opening, as Josh Mathews introduced the show alongside JBL. Sheamus made his ring entrance.

-Sheamus stood mid-ring and said he hoped everyone had a Merry Christmas. He said he drank egg nog flavored ale, was gifted a bunch of bad ties, and was given a year’s worth of sun screen from his mom.

(WK Reax: Sheamus’s character seems nice, but he’s not all that funny. Maybe that’s part of his charm, like that person you know who tells awful jokes that aren’t funny, but you look forward to them because he enjoys telling them and cracks himself up so much.)

Sheamus called out Big Show. Show walked out and told the fans not to boo him. He asked Sheamus if he looks like Santa Claus. Sheamus said, “Yes, but in fairness to Santa, you’re way fatter.” Show fake laughed and said that’s so cute. He told him to go into stand-up comedy where he’ll have as much of a chance of success as he will getting another title shot against him.

He said Sheamus always comes up short when it counts, which is why he will never tell him who or when he defends his title again. Sheamus said he came for a fight, and if he can’t get a title shot, he’ll take a straight up fight. As things heated up, Booker T walked onto the stage and told Sheamus that Show is right, that he beat him at TLC. Show said, “Back of the line, Ginger Snap.” Booker said Sheamus beat Show on Monday night, though.

Show interrupted and said he’s done with Sheamus and he isn’t worthy of another shot at his title. He said there isn’t one single athlete in the locker room who is worthy of a shot at his title. He called it a locker room full of losers and wanna-bes and rejects. Booker said he’s sorry he feels that way, but he will be in action tonight. Show asked, with proper grammar: “Against whom?” Booker said he’s going to bring every WWE Superstar onto the stage tonight and “all of those losers” will be entered in a tumbler, including Sheamus, and his opponent will be randomly drawn and get a title shot.

(WK Reax: This makes Booker T seems like a complete idiot as G.M. and totally cheapens the concept of having to earn a precious World Title shot. Imagine Dana White throwing the names of all of the Middleweights, no matter what their record, into a tumbler and giving a title shot against Anderson Silva to the person drawn. It might seem like harmless fun to fill a TV show segment, but this stuff adds up considering WWE’s second bigger PPV is built around winning a Royal Rumble to earn a title shot.)

The wrestlers walked not onto the stage and then a table was brought out with a tumbler. Teddy Long and Eve argued over who would spin it to the point that it fell over. Booker drew a name and Santino Marella was the “winner” of the title shot. Show laughed and had a brief staredown with Santino.

(WK Reax: If Santino’s character was still fresh, maybe people would be excited to see this, but he’s such a mid-card comedy act right now who has been around forever, this hardly seems like a ratings-generating angle.) [c]

-WWE Fact: The WWE Universe views over 190 million photos per month on WWE.com - that’s over 70 photos per second.

(1) Brodus Clay (w/Naomi, Cameron) beat Primo (w/Epico, Rosa Mendez) in 1:00.

(Quotebook - JBL on Brodus Clay: “This is what would happen if Lady Gaga and the Yeti had a kid.”)

After his win, Rosa yelled at Clay. The Clay dancers double-suplexed Rosa and then flip-legdropped her. Primo yanked her out of the ring to her safety. Clay invited little kids into the ring to dance.

-Mathews plugged the six-man main event tag coming up next. [c]

-They went to Santino and Sheamus backstage. Sheamus gave Santino a pep talk and taught him the Brogue Kick. Santino, though, pulled a muscle trying to practice it. Santino played the leg injury in a very over the top manner with loud noises and crazy facial expressions while acting like a dying cockroach on the floor.

(2) Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow) & Wade Barrett beat Kane & Daniel Bryan & Kofi Kingston when Barrett pinned Kingston at 8:00. Mathews said Cody & Sandow came together because Bryan and Kane weren’t getting along so they were vulnerable to losing the tag titles, but now Bryan and Kane say they are best friends. They cut to a break at 2:00. [c]

After the break, Sandow had Bryan down. The heels isolated Bryan and tagged in and out. Kofi got the hot-tag and took it to Barrett and scored a two count after a top rope body press. When Sandow and Cody interfered, Kane attacked them. Bryan helped. They fought at ringside. Barrett KO’d a distracted Kofi with a bull hammer for the win. Mathews and JBL said that pin by Barrett could earn him an IC Title match against Kingston.

-At ringside, JBL and Mathews announced that Santino was out of his scheduled match against Show.

-Backstage Show said it was a tough break for Santino, but he figured that meant he got the night off and he could start his new year early. Booker insisted there will still be a World Title match. Show smiled and said Santino can’t compete. Booker asked Long to roll the tumbler back into the his office. Show asked how that is even remotely fair. Booker drew a name and refused to tell Show who it was until later. [c]

-Booker revealed to Big Show that he drew Ricardo Rodrigues’s name from the tumbler. Show laughed and put the title belt over Ricardo shoulder. He taunted him and told him to imagine himself as the World Champion. “Feel it!” he said. Ricardo’s voice cracked and he announced himself as the champion, but Show then slapped him. Booker asked what’s wrong with him.

(WK Reax: Again, they are telling a charming little TV storyline that’s good for some laughs and to get Show over as a bully, but at the expense of any pretense that someone has to actually be qualified and earn a World Title shot. It’s just not worth it. The World Title, if nothing else, should be protected more than this.)

(3) Antonio Cesaro beat Zack Ryder in 3:00. Mathews congratulated Ryder on reaching one million Twitter followers. Cesaro got in early offense. Ryder made a comeback at 2:00. JBL called his Broski Boot the silliest thing he’s seen in his life. Cesaro avoided it and Cesaro finished him off with his Neutralizer.

-A clip aired of Big E. Langston’s debut on Smackdown last week. JBL plugged Miz vs. Ziggler was coming up later. [c]

-A commercial aired hyping the Best of 2012 edition of Saturday Morning Slam including the “monumental Saturday Morning Slam debut of John Cena.”

(4) Dolph Ziggler (w/A.J. Lee, Big E. Langston) pinned The Miz in 11:00. JBL disagreed that the Money in the Bank briefcase was used as a prize to be put up in a match. He said when you win it, it’s yours. JBL said if he slapped Mathews every time he annoyed him, it’d sound like applause. Mathews said Miz claims to be WWE’s best color commentator. JBL said he’s no. 2, so that’s close. What about Jerry Lawler? Miz tossed Ziggler over the top rope to ringside, and Langston caught him to save him from crashing. Ziggler took over back in the ring with a neck breaker and a quick two count at 3:00. They cut to a break at 5:00. [c]

Eventually Miz took control and rallied. He blew a kiss to A.J. at ringside. She told Langston to go after Miz. Miz turned to look at Langston as he climbed the ringside steps. Ziggler then hit the Zig Zag on the distracted Miz for the win. Afterward, as Ziggler celebrated with Lee and Langston, a groggy Miz told A.J. no matter which WWE Superstar she is with, everyone knows her New Year’s will end with a bang. He called her sweetheart. Ziggler charged back into the ring, apparently angry that Miz suggested Lee is going to have sex on New Year’s Eve. Langston attacked Miz with his Sudden Impact to stop his attack on Ziggler.

(WK Reax: How is that funny or even insulting for Miz to say? Miz just came across as a jerk, especially when he called her “sweetheart.” It was one thing when Miz acted this way when he was a heel. You figured he was trying to be a douche. But now that he does the same act as a babyface, does it mean he thinks he’s actually witty and this is an appealing personality?)

-They went back to Mathews and JBL at ringside who announced that Ricardo now can’t compete because of the slap.

-Backstage Booker asked the doc if Ricardo is going to be okay. The doctor said he’ll be fine, but he can’t wrestle tonight. Brad Maddox walked up and asked for one more chance, then imitated Booker’s catch phrase. Alberto Del Rio ran up to Ricardo to check on him. He called Big Show a “big, fat monster.” He said he said he’s going to turn Show into a giant piñata and he’ll open him up. Booker offered to give him the World Title shot against Show. Del Rio accepted and told Ricardo “this is for you.” [c]

-Maddox walked out and said, intentionally obnoxiously, that his New Year’s Resolution was to become a WWE Superstar. He told people to always remember the name Brad Maddox.

(WK Reax: I swear they’ve got to be setting up a feud between Maddox and Goldust, who always said, “Remember the name ‘Goldust.’”)

(5) Sheamus pinned Brad Maddox in 4:00. JBL, a heel commentator, was quite pleased that Booker picked Sheamus to beat up Maddox. JBL said Maddox’s chance to win is the same as Mathews’s chance of becoming a good play-by-play announcer. JBL called Booker T the greatest G.M. ever. Maddox got in a little offense, but Sheamus easily made a comeback and gave him a Brogue Kick for the win. JBL said Maddox could come back on the ring crew. [c]

-A music video recap aired of Santa on Raw with cheerful music at the beginning, followed by Santa being hit by a car. They showed concerned and shaken up kids in the crowd looking on as the music turned gloomy. They replayed Booker saying “Santa is down, and it don’t look good right now.” Then Santa later limped his way back to the ring to beat up Ricardo and put the Mandible Claw on Del Rio.

(WK Reax: It’s just insane that Del Rio and Ricardo were the heel foils for Cena and Santa earlier in the week, and this week Ricardo is the sympathetic figure who got slapped by Big Show, and Del Rio is cast as the hero avenging his buddy getting slapped.)

(6) The Usos beat The Prime Time Players (Derrick Young & Titus O’Neil) in 2:00. This ended when the Usos switched placed as the ref’s back was turned, then the fresh Uso small packaged Young for the win. [c]

-Mathews and JBL threw to a video package on The Shield. They vowed that 2013 will be the year they cleanse WWE of injustice. They said they have no friends and no allies and answer to no one. They ended by saying “Believe in the Shield!”

-Backstage Matt Striker meekly asked Big Show if they could get comments from him about facing Del Rio. Show said it’s ridiculous that after two of his opponents went down, he still had to wrestle against a third opponent. He said he stands by his comments that everyone in the back is a loser and a reject, including Del Rio. He said he’s going for the trifecta. [c]

(7) The Big Show wrestled Alberto Del Rio to a no decision in 5:00. Del Rio got cheered during formal ring intros by Lilian Garcia, likely a mix of live crowd reaction and post-production. Show dominated and overpowered Del Rio at the start. At 3:00 Del Rio made a comeback. He went for the Cross Armbreaker, but Show powered out of it and shoved Del Rio to the floor. Show decided to try to bail out and get counted out, but Kane, Miz, Cesaro, the Usos, Ziggler, William Regal, Clay, and others from the locker room beat Show all the way back into the ring. Del Rio hit his running enzuigiri into the corner. Sheamus then pounded his chest and delivered the Brogue kick. Show went down and the Smackdown roster laughed, united over Show’s comments earlier that they were all losers.


KELLER COMMENTARY
WWE should retire all on-air GMs starting with Monday’s Raw

The General Manager in WWE has become a booking crutch. On Friday’s Smackdown, Booker T actually gave away a World Title shot via a random draw of all names in a tumbler.

A World Title match was given out to a random person.

WWE didn’t even try to hide the absurdity of the concept, since the first name drawn was Santino. He got hurt when Sheamus tried to teach him the Brogue Kick. Sheamus didn’t kick him by mistake; Santino pulled a hamstring or something. Yes, Booker T’s genius G.M. decision led to someone getting a World Title shot who was a comedy lower card figure who almost never wins, and who ended up injured doing essentially a stretching exercise with his leg.

With Santino out, the next person drawn was Ricardo Rodriguez, who isn’t even officially a wrestler. He hasn’t been presented on TV as a wrestler, yet Booker T threw his name into the tumbler as being worthy of a World Title shot if his name came up.

Ricardo also got injured when Big Show slapped him. So with Ricardo out, that left Alberto Del Rio being handed the match by Booker for no apparent reason other than the little known, long forgotten “Best Friend Rule” (you know, where if a no. 1 contender - in this case Ricardo - gets hurt, his best friend automatically is first in line to replace him in a World Title match. It’s on page 32 of the Official Wrestling Rulebook.).

Then Del Rio went on to face Big Show, and the match didn’t even have a finish. Nothing was announced. The show just ended. Could more have been done in two hours to undermine the very notion that a World Title match is a big deal?

Throughout all of this, the dimwitted Josh Mathews and usually sharp-tongued JBL just sat back and called it as if it was all very reasonable. (JBL did manage to complain about Dolph Ziggler’s Money in the Bank briefcase being put at stake against John Cena at the last PPV, so it’s not like he’s timid about this stuff.)

Booker T’s decision-making was grounds for firing. (By the way, when I write this type of thing, some of the less seasoned readers write: “Hey, Keller, your boss should fire you. Wrestling is fake, so why would Booker be fired? It’s all just scripted.” Understand, my stating Booker’s actions are “grounds for firing” is in the context of believing WWE is presenting a product that should make sense, and just as wrestlers are suspended for heinous acts, a G.M. should be reprimanded or suspended or fired for being incompetent, in a storyline sense.)

I’m a fan of Booker T as G.M. I’m just not a fan of how he is scripted. For all I know, he read the script and shook his head at how stupid it all was. Or, more likely, he just did what he was told and didn’t think much about it at all. He doesn’t seem like the type to sweat this kind of thing.

In any case, this is one example of many where the G.M. character has become a crutch for bad and lazy booking. There are just too many arbitrary or nonsensical decisions being made. Why did The WWE Board, given Vickie Guerrero’s track record, decide she was a good interim candidate to run Raw?

The G.M. character also often is just making up matches as he goes along during the show. The very act of just making up matches during the show undermines the idea that matches are important and wrestlers need time to prepare. Yes, it would take some planning by Vince McMahon & Creative to announce matches ahead of time. But even if Vince McMahon & Creative didn’t write the show until ten minutes before showtime, the announcers could pretend all the of the matches were planned at least days earlier and wrestlers had time to prepare and scout.

G.M.s don’t sell PPVs. They don’t sell house show tickets. And their very presence as weekly fixtures leads to lazy booking and a show-structure that undermines matches seeming important. They take up TV time that could be used for more important things.

Booker T, Teddy Long, and Vickie Guerrero (and even at times John Laurinaitis) all played their parts well during 2012 when called upon, so this isn’t a case of the G.M.s doing a bad job. It’s just a bad concept that’s been overused and leads to lazy booking. Without the G.M. characters as a crutch to “book on the fly” and make stupid decisions just to fill a two-hour show, Vince McMahon & Creative would be forced to discipline themselves to book a more solid, logical product.

The G.M. could still exist in an entirely different role, similar to Jack Tunney back in the day, where they appear only for major announcements such as who the no. 1 contender at the next PPV will be or to discipline a wrestler who has gotten out of hand. If Booker were still Smackdown G.M., he could even occasionally be interviewed to get his thoughts on a controversial referee decision or react to criticism over a decision he made regarding who he named as no. 1 contender for a title. But the “make it up as they go along” weekly fixture version of the G.M. has played itself out and enabled poor booking and scripting of the weekly TV shows.

CALDWELL’S WWE RAW REPORT
DECEMBER 24, 2012
TAPED 12/18 IN PITTSBURGH, PA.
AIRED ON USA NETWORK

This week’s pre-taped three-hour Raw opened with the YouTube video of WWE stars singing a WWE version of Jingle Bells conducted by John Cena. This included animation of John Cena smashing C.M. Punk before lighting the WWE Christmas Tree.

Arena: Michael Cole introduced a special edition of Raw from Pittsburgh. In the ring, Justin Roberts introduced tonight’s guest host Santa Claus. Out came Santa as Michael Cole tried to sing on commentary, drawing a reprimand from Jerry Lawler. Santa then dropped off the stage and handed out presents to fans around the side stage area.

Suddenly, Alberto Del Rio’s music interrupted. As Ricardo Rodriguez walked out on-stage to introduce Del Rio, Del Rio’s car of the week ran over Santa. Cole and Lawler sold with hushed tones as Del Rio walked out of his car over-selling being distraught about running over Santa. Ricardo, crying like a child, tried to console Del Rio as the crowd chanted, “You Killed Santa.” One fan on the front row mocked the scene by mockingly crying, “Nooooo! Not Santa!” Cole then did more of the Owen Hart Has Died voice to sell Santa being “run over” by Del Rio. After a replay, they showed Del Rio still selling concern as Santa was placed on a stretcher and tended to by WWE medics. They stayed with Santa being stretchered away for a while before Santa threw up a thumbs up. Scared children in the crowd tried to muster applause for Santa as he was wheeled to the back. [c]

Back from break, yellow police tape was surrounding the area where Santa was “run over” by Del Rio. Cole again used hushed tones to sell the “accident” as a replay aired. How did this angle make it past the bathroom stall where the idea was thought up?

Backstage: Wrestlers, Divas, and Teddy Long were shown selling concern as they waited for word on Santa. Booker T then walked out of the trainer’s room and said things don’t look good. “Ah no, what about the kids?” Titus O’Neil said. Booker said Santa would want the show to go on, then Del Rio barged in and got whistled by Titus. John Cena then tongue-in-cheek mocked Del Rio, who tried to defend himself. Booker calmed everyone down and claimed that Santa’s final wish was to book Del Rio in a match tonight... a Miracle on 34th Street Fight against John Cena. Booker shouted at Cena to do it for Santa. Cena did the far-away look to draw inspiration before shouting, “Do it for Cena!” as Yoshi Tatsu cheered him on.

1 -- CODY RHODES vs. WWE tag champion KANE

The announcers sold trying to “move on” to call this match after Santa was “run over” at the top of the show. Cole noted Kane has a “special relationship” with Santa, making this tough for Kane. Two minutes in, Cody removed the top turnbuckle pad. Rhodes worked on Kane’s left shoulder, then tried to remove another turnbuckle pad. He ended up distracting himself, as Kane came back with a one-hand chokeslam for the pin and the win.

WINNER: Kane at 5:55. Sloppy and it looked like both men were moving in slow-motion. The effect of so many shows over a series of three days was apparent here.

Royal Rumble plug: The Rock is coming in January. [c]

2 -- KAITLYN & LAYLA & ALICIA FOX & NATALYA vs. Divas champion EVE & ROSA MENDES & TAMINA & AKSANA -- eight-Divas Santa’s Little Helper tag match

After basic back and forth trying to get everyone involved, Kaitlyn pinned Eve to keep their Divas Title feud going. The face team stood tall in the ring to celebrate after the match.

WINNERS: Team Kaitlyn at 5:05.

Still to come: Big Show vs. Sheamus in a Lumberjack match.

Up Next: Santa Claus update. Cole dramatically hyped an update on Santa Claus on the other side of the break. [c]

Backstage: WWE zoomed in on a Christmas Tree, fire, and presents, then showed Dolph Ziggler and A.J. Lee snuggled up next to the fire. A.J. got excited watching her “favorite Christmas movie,” which was a clip of A.J. shoving John Cena off a ladder at TLC to help Ziggler win. Zigger and A.J. giggled about their new partnership, then resumed cuddling. The chemistry was just not there.

Announcers: Cole and Lawler recapped Santa getting “run over” by Del Rio. Lawler sang a tune about Santa getting run over by Del Rio. Cole said that’s speculation. Huh? Cole then delivered an update in hushed tones that the North Pole has been informed of Santa’s condition and they believe Santa will “kick out of this.”

Trainer’s Room: Matt Striker was shown sanding outside the trainer’s room as a heart monitor beeped ominously in the background. Striker quietly said they hope to have an update later.

It’s like WWE wanted to run a three-hour SNL sketch parodying themselves or a real-life Scooby-Doo cartoon, but they don’t have the ability to pull either off.

In-ring: Mid-carders dressed in Santa hats made their way to ringside to serve as lumberjacks for Big Show vs. Sheamus. [c]

This Wednesday: 20-man battle royal on Main Event. The winner will be #1 contender to U.S. champion Antonio Cesaro.

3 -- World Hvt. champion BIG SHOW vs. SHEAMUS -- non-title Lumberjack match

Big Show ducked an early Brogue Kick and bailed to the floor. He was in good hands standing next to heels, so they didn’t touch him. Raw cut to break with Show regrouping on the floor. [c]

Back on Raw, Show was in control. Show then applied a keylock and sang a song as he worked the hold. Show couldn’t finish the song, though, as Sheamus fought back. Sheamus was then dumped to the outside, setting off a big mid-card brawl ringside. Back in the ring, Show headbutted Sheamus to restore order and resume control. Show tried to execute Ten Punches in the corner, but Sheamus ducked underneath and dropped Show with a giant Electric Chair that shook the ring.

Show resumed control moments later and screamed at lumberjack Santino, whose feelings were hurt. Clay consoled Santino, who did a sad-face before Show went back to attacking Sheamus. Show couldn’t put away a resilient Sheamus, though. Sheamus delivered White Noise, but Show kicked out of a pin in-time. Show then avoided a Brogue Kick and dumped Sheamus over the top rope, setting off another mid-card brawl. Tensai eventually rolled Sheamus back into the ring, where Show missed with a big KO Punch and turned into a Brogue Kick. Show fell over like a tree, then Sheamus pinned him for the win.

After the bell rang, all of the jacks hit the ring for another big brawl. The faces cleared out the heels, then celebrated with Sheamus.

WINNER: Sheamus at 16:02. Another solid match between Show and Sheamus. (**1/2)

Announcers: Cole provided an obvious voice-over inserted into the broadcast to plug a video recap of this year’s Tribute to the Troops show. This led to a long recap of the Miz TV segment with Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.

Tonight: Cena vs. Del Rio in a Miracle on 34th Street Fight. [c]

Friday on Smackdown: The Shield’s mission for justice continues after they took out Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio last week.

In-ring: David Otunga was standing by to introduce himself to the crowd. Otunga said he’s here to comment on the events involving Santa and Alberto Del Rio earlier tonight. Otunga accused the crowd of pre-judging the facts. He said there’s a case to be made that Del Rio is the victim because he was fulfilling his contractual obligations as a WWE star. Whereas, Santa is guilty of working without a permit, trespassing, and other offenses. Zack Ryder then interrupted and said Del Rio ran right over Santa.

4 -- DAVID OTUNGA vs. ZACK RYDER

Cole continued to sell Santa’s “injuries” by saying, “Man, I hope he pulls through,” trying to do his job selling this angle. As the match unfolded, the announcers traded lawyer jokes, reflecting Vince McMahon mocking the profession of anyone who holds him accountable. The announcers then mocked Ryder as Otunga dominated him. Ryder teased a comeback, then delivered a missile dropkick to take control. Ryder followed with a Broski Boot that missed Otunga’s head. Ryder then hit Rough Ryder moments later for the pin and the win.

WINNER: Ryder at 4:42. Faces continue to pick up wins on this Christmas Eve episode.

Backstage: Booker T and Teddy Long were shown watching the TV monitor. They excitedly talked about Otunga losing again, then Brad Maddox walked in with his personal cameraman. Maddox said he heard Booker wants to give him a contract, and he won’t let him down. Booker reminded Maddox that he sucked last week, but said he will give him another shot...against one of Santa’s elves. Booker said he’s sure it will make for great television, just like Maddox wants. Booker told Teddy to wait until he sees this, then laughed. [c]

5 -- IC champion KOFI KINGSTON & THE MIZ vs. U.S. champion ANTONIO CESARO & WADE BARRETT

The announcers noted they never thought they would see Kofi and Miz team up after their recent feud. As Miz started things off for the face team, the announcers talked up Miz’s big 2013 with a theatrical movie and TV movie on the horizon. Kofi then tagged in and drove Barrett to the outside for a breather. Barrett re-entered the ring and quickly tagged in Cesaro to lock up with Kofi. Cole enhanced Cesaro by saying he put up a good fight against Ryback last Tuesday on Smackdown.

Tags to Barrett and Miz, who unloaded on Wade with right hands. Kofi then kicked Barrett in the head from the outside, which set up Miz to deliver Skullcrushing Finale to Barrett. Miz pinned Barrett for the win to keep Barrett’s losing streak going. After the match, Cesaro yelled at Barrett for losing as they exited the ringside area.

WINNERS: Kofi & Miz at 7:01. Face-heavy victories continues. [c]

Backstage: A.J. Lee and Dolph Ziggler continued to celebrate Christmas. A.J. presented Ziggler with his Christmas present - the Money in the Bank briefcase. Ziggler seductively asked how he can ever repay A.J. for helping him retain the briefcase. Before they kissed, A.J. removed her robe to reveal another “present.” It was a cut-up version of Ziggler’s t-shirt. Their noses rubbed up next to each other, but no kiss.

Announcers: Cole again sold concern over Santa’s condition as Lawler acted dejected. Cole then fed to a replay of the opening segment when Del Rio “ran over” Santa in his car. “An absolutely shocking turn of events,” Cole said in hushed tones. Cole said there was a glimmer of hope when Santa gave a thumbs up.

Backstage: Striker provided an update that there’s not a lot to report about Santa’s condition as the heart monitor continued to beep in the background.

On-stage: Brad Maddox sang his way out to the ring. “Happy Holidays, ladies,” Brad casually said as he leaned against the ring leading to break. [c]

In-ring: Back from break, Hornswoggle’s music played to bring out Hornswoggle. Lawler said this will be too easy for Maddox. But, Swoggle stopped mid-way down the ramp and brought out Great Khali, who was dressed as a giant elf.

6 -- BRAD MADDOX vs. GREAT KHALI (w/Hornswoggle) -- Maddox wins a WWE contract if he wins

Maddox ducked Khali and slapped him, shouting, “You’re not an elf.” Khali responded with a chop to the head before slapping Maddox across the chest. And again. A third knocked Maddox out of the ring, where Swoggle could have gotten Khali DQ’ed and given Maddox a contract by splashing Maddox with his butt. But, the ref did not call for a DQ, so the match continued in the ring.

Maddox managed to land offense, then he stopped to do a Hogan pose while leaning next to Khali. Maddox tried to follow with a second-rope move, but Khali slapped him in mid-air. Khali made his comeback, then dropped Maddox with the Punjabi Plunge for the pin and the win. After the match, Khali took the mic and offered Merry Christmas and Happy New Year before selling confusion. Khali then danced to make everything right.

WINNER: Khali at 3:11. Maddox’s quest continues on Smackdown.

Backstage: WWE champion C.M. Punk and Paul Heyman were shown walking down the hallway, with Punk on crutches. Punk speaks next. [c]

On-stage: Just before the top of the hour, Punk’s music played to bring out the WWE champion and Paul Heyman. As Punk hobbled to the ring, Cole plugged Punk vs. Ryback for the WWE Title on the first Raw of 2013 on January 7. Punk struggled to make his entrance into the ring, shouting at Heyman to do something about it. Punk eventually entered the ring and hobbled to the middle of the ring to begin a promo.

Punk joked around a bit, then paused for a “Here We Go Steelers” chant. Punk mocked the Steelers, shook his head, and said Christmas has been ruined. For once, it’s not his fault. He said it’s the very serious situation that has developed involving his injury. Punk told the crowd to boo Ryback, not himself. He said Ryback tore his knee up and now he can’t even walk without the use of crutches. So, what do they do with someone who ruined Christmas and Hannukah? Fire him? Suspend him? Fine him? No, no punishment. He gets rewarded with a title match. Punk said he could maybe understand if it were proven that he worked with Brad Maddox or The Shield in previous title matches, but that has not been proven. Punk said Ryback is living a lie and believing his own crap. Punk then heeled on the crowd for being drunk and bar-hoppers around this time of the year.

Paul Heyman took the mic next and told the crowd not to boo Punk. He said Punk has been the reigning, defending WWE champion for 400 days. And throughout his title reign, Punk has been victimized by a documented conspiracy to take away the WWE Title. Heyman said if you don’t believe him, just look at Ryback, who has been given two excellent opportunities to take away the WWE Title, but he has failed each time.

Punk spoke next, telling Ryback to listen up. He said he’s better than Ryback on one leg, one arm, two legs, an amputated leg, or any other circumstance. Ryback’s music interrupted to bring out Ryback to confront Punk on his claims. Heyman reminded Ryback that Punk is not medically cleared to wrestle and they will sue Ryback for assault if he touches Punk. Ryback said he doesn’t need to lay a finger on Punk because if Punk is physically able in two weeks, they will wrestle for the WWE Title...in a TLC match - the match they were originally supposed to have. Punk shook his head no as Ryback repeated, “T-L-C,” which he turned into a crowd chant. Punk and Heyman then slipped out of the ring as Ryback eyed the WWE Champion. [c]

7 -- WWE tag champion DANIEL BRYAN vs. DAMIEN SANDOW

After the bell sounded, Sandow demanded silence, but Bryan shouted, “No!” in his face. This continued for several exchanges before Sandow bailed from the ring, where he accepted a baseball slide kick from Bryan. Back in the ring, Sandow dominated as Cole and Lawler bantered about Christmas presents. Sandow dropped the Elbow of Disdain, then wanted his neckbreaker finisher, but Bryan turned it into the No! Lock. Sandow fought the hold momentarily, but tapped out.

WINNER: Bryan at 5:38. Basic TV match to set up another face victory.

Up Next: The 12 men who brawled during the earlier lumberjack match will be in a 12-man tag match up next. [c]

8 -- BRODUS CLAY & JUSTIN GABRIEL & TYSON KIDD & SANTINO & THE USOS vs. PRIME TIME PLAYERS & 3MB & TENSAI -- 12-man tag match

Brodus Clay got his ring entrance on the way back from break to join the other 11 wrestlers already in the ring for the match. The heels controlled the match early on, working on Uso. Tensai mocked the Usos’s chant, then the heels continued their in and out tags. Uso eventually broke free and tagged in Uso, who dropped Slater with quick offense. Uso nailed a running butt bomb, which brought several people into the ring for another brawl.

More wrestlers entered the ring for the next wave of brawling. Tensai then ate the Cobra from Santino, but Santino ate a DDT from Slater. But, Uso superkicked Slater. Gabriel then nailed a springboard moonsault, Kidd dropped a springboard elbow, and Uso came off the top rope with a big splash on Slater for the pin and the win. Cue up another babyface celebration to close out the match segment.

WINNERS: Team Usos at 6:15. [c]

Announcers: Cole reset the show and plugged the Cena vs. Del Rio main event.

Backstage: Daniel Bryan was shown talking to Kane about how great it was that they won their matches tonight. Bryan said Christmas is his favorite day of the year tomorrow, but Kane said he hates Christmas. However, he got Bryan a present. Kane puled out a box and presented Bryan with his own Slammy. Bryan said this is awesome. He also got Kane a present. Bryan disappeared, then returned with a small dog. Kane wasn’t sure what to make of it, then said he’s starving. “No!” Bryan shouted, saying animals are their friends, not food. Bryan stomped off.

Backstage: A.J. Lee read a story to Dolph Ziggler as they sat next to a fire. A.J. ripped Cena, Vickie, Punk, Bryan, and Kane, but mostly Cena. A.J. then rhymed about Ziggler, saying he’s the man who stuffs her stocking. Ziggler approached A.J. for a kiss, but A.J. pushed her away under the mistletoe. They then made out, knocking over the Christmas Tree and giggling.

Off-stage: WWE showd the “crime scene” where Santa was “run over” by Del Rio. Cole talked in hushed tones about it being an extremely disturbing scene. Cole asked what this means for everyone around the world wondering if Santa will be able to deliver presents this year. “Will Santa Claus make it?” Cole quietly asked.

Backstage: More of the heart monitor beeping. Striker said Santa has taken a turn for the worst and is being prepared for a trip to a local medical facility. Suddenly, the heart monitor’s beeping turned into a Christmas carol ringtone. Santa’s feet were shown clicking together before WWE cut to the ring.

In-ring: John Cena was introduced for the main event as Cole excitedly said there’s hope. Cena entered the ring, then WWE cut to break as Lawler said Cena hopes to save Christmas next. [c]

On-stage: Ricardo Rodriguez came out on-stage to introduce Alberto Del Rio, who walked on-stage and looked at the “crime scene” where his vehicle was resting after he “ran over” Santa. As Del Rio came to the ring, Cole recapped the segment at the top of the show when Santa was “injured” and it was “very touch and go” for a few moments.

9 -- JOHN CENA vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO -- Miracle on 34th Street Fight

After the bell sounded, Cena yelled at Del Rio for running over Santa, but Del Rio continued to plead with Cena that it was an accident. Del Rio shoved Cena, so Cena knocked Del Rio to the outside. They brawled on the floor, then returned to the ring with Del Rio in control. Del Rio asked for a mic, and said he did not try to hurt Santa, then popped Cena in the head with the mic. Del Rio said he likes Christmas, then tried to smash Cena with the mic again, but Cena blocked and shouted, “Santa!” into the mic before kicking Del Rio to the mat.

On the outside, Cena opened a present and found a steel chair. In the ring, Cena popped Del Rio with the chair before Ricardo interfered. Ricardo led Cena on a chase that led Cena into a right hand from Del Rio. Ricardo then retrieved another present and handed it to Del Rio, who received a pie. Del Rio tried to use the pie on Cena, but Cena ducked and Ricardo ate the pie.

Cena followed with trademark offense to Del Rio before throwing him through the ropes to the floor. On the outside, Cena punched Del Rio up the ramp to the stage. Cena looked at the boxes under the Christmas Tree and unwrapped a TV monitor. Cena used it as a weapon, knocking down Del Rio leading to break. [c]

Back from break, Del Rio was in control as Cena sold on the stage. Del Rio then opened another present, which was a soft teddy bear. Del Rio, annoyed, angrily held it up in the air before mock throwing it at Cena’s chest to try to “inflict punishment.” Cena mockingly no-sold the teddy bear shot to the chest before dumping a giant box over Ricardo’s head. Del Rio then blasted Cena down the entrance ramp back toward the ring. But, Cena reversed a whip into the guardrail before heading back to the stage. Cena retrieved the Christmas Tree upon the audience’s request, then dragged it down the stage to drop on Del Rio’s head.

Lawler quoted Clark W. Griswold as Cena walked back up the stage, where he opened a present with a bowling ball. Suddenly, Cena spotted his target, warmed up his bowling hand, measured Del Rio, and rolled the bowling ball down the ramp into Del Rio’s crotch. Cena then opened another Christmas present at ringside, which contained a fire extinguisher.

Back in the ring, Del Rio begged off, but Cena sprayed Del Rio with the extinguisher. Suddenly, Ricardo re-entered the ring and hopped on Cena’s back with a sleeperhold. But, Santa’s music suddenly played. Out came Santa after recovering over the course of three hours. Ricardo excitedly met Santa ringside, but Santa popped him in the head with his sack. Santa then delivered Socko to Del Rio, who spun backward into Cena for an Attitude Adjustment. Cena covered Del Rio for the win.

WINNER: Cena at 14:50. A cartoon version of a Street Fight to conclude a cartoony episode of Raw.

Post-match: Santa sold shock that helped Cena win as he continued to flash the Mandible Claw hand gesture. In the ring, Cena celebrated for the crowd before Santa entered the ring and tossed presents into the crowd. Cole wished everyone a Merry Christmas as Cena and Santa hugged to conclude Raw three minutes past the top of the hour.

FINAL THOUGHT: If the target demographic was young children and the young-at-heart, how many of those people were still awake at 11:00 EST to see the payoff to Santa getting run over by seeing Santa “kick out?” And, how many poor kids in Pittsburgh left the TV taping before the start of the FIFTH HOUR thinking Santa was a goner? It’s one thing to be tongue in cheek, but it’s another thing to poorly execute it and turn away adults and frighten children without a resolution during their viewing window.

KELLER’S IMPACT WRESTLING REPORT
DECEMBER 20, 2012
TAPED IN ORLANDO, FLA.
AIRED ON SPIKE TV

[Q1] -Clips aired of ongoing storylines in TNA including the Jeff Hardy-Austin Aries situation.

(WK Reax: They said the Hardy-Aries match was going to happen, which makes it all the more dumbfounding that they made it sound at the end of last week’s show like it might not happen.)

-Todd Keneley introduced the show with a low-key, low-energy introduction as some pyro blasted. They went to Kenely, Mike Tenay, and Taz on camera. They hyped scheduled matches on the show.

(1) Devon pinned Kurt Angle in 8:00 to retain the TV Title. Angle limped to the ring, which the announcers said was the result of Aces & Eights attacking him last week. He called Devon to the ring and said he’s going to take his title.

(WK Reax: Angle come across as somewhat half-hearted while trying to sound like he was mad. I wasn’t convinced.)

Devon came to the ring with Aces & Eights. Angle said he has a pack of his own. Out came Wes Briscoe, Garett Bischoff, and Samoa Joe. A brawl broke out at ringside a minute into the match, although Angle stood alone and watched from center-ring. Devon clipped him from behind. They cut to a break. [c]

[Q2] Devon worked over Angle’s leg after the break. Tenay said it’s important for Aces & Eights that Devon has the TV Title because it gives them leverage, power, and control. At 7:00 Devon tapped out, but the ref was distracted by Aces & Eights at ringside. An Aces & Eights thug hit Angle from behind with a pipe. Devon draped his arm over Angle and the ref turned and counted to three. Keneley said Devon stole the title to capture it and he just stole a win to retain it.

(WK Reax: This was a typical Devon match. The whole thing felt half-hearted, like everyone was working hard to try to look like they cared. Brisco and Bischoff give off a minor league vibe as they just don’t carry the gravitas that Angle and Joe do.)

-Backstage Brooke Hogan asked a group of Divas to make their case for getting a title shot. Miss Tessmacher said Velvet Sky doesn’t deserve a shot because she’s been gone for a while and might be rusty. Sky said she has more ring time in TNA than any of them. ODB made her case, but Brooke said she should be back at home focusing on Eric Young. ODB left in a huff. [c]

-A soundbite aired with Kenny King bragging up getting a pin on RVD last week. He said he doesn’t have a beef with RVD, he just wanted to get even. A clip aired of King putting his feet on the ropes for leverage to get the win. He said he’s excited about teaming with RVD this week.

(2) Matt Morgan & Joey Ryan beat Rob Van Dam & Kenny King in 3:00 when Ryan pinned RVD. At 3:00 King bailed out on RVD, leaving him vulnerable to a Carbon Footprint by Morgan. Ryan made the immediate cover for the win. King smiled afterward and said, “That looked like it hurt. How’s your face?!”

[Q3] [c] -A clip aired from last week of Styles saying he’s tired of doing the right thing so from now on he’s going to do his thing.

-Kaz reacted by saying Styles’s “boots were made for walking” and he’s more concerned with himself. He said Christmas is his favorite time of the year and he’s got a surprise for his fans which will show how gracious he is. Then he took a call from “his pal Nick.”

-Back in front of the crowd, Hulk Hogan made his entrance onto the stage. Tenay put over how special it is to sit back and enjoy the one of a kind entrance by Hogan. Taz said he’s a household name. He entered the ring and said the fans make him feel like he’s 18 years old again. He rolled out the platitudes about TNA and how it was this tiny company and he’s watched it grow into “a full-fledged monster in 2012.” He said the talent is so deep, the PPVs so great, and the Impact Zone “so off the hook,” he said it’s hard to decide who is the greatest of the great in the locker room. He said that’s why they’re letting fans vote for the Impact Wrestler of the Year. He said the winner will be announced on Jan 3.

Aces & Eights interrupted. Devon said 2012 will be known as the year Aces & Eights was born. He said they represent the truth, not the lies he’s been telling the people. He said in 2013, Hogan won’t be around to see Aces & Eights take over. As Aces & Eights circled Hogan inside the ring, Bully Ray ran out and chased Devon & Co. out of the ring. Devon called him a piece of crap. DOC yelled, “Your ass is next.” Hogan and Ray leerily circled one another and then Hogan walked out of the ring as they cut to a break.

[Q4] [c] -Jeff Hardy spoke in the way he speaks when we could hear his inner most thoughts. He talked about Austin Aries and said he beat him twice, so he’ll beat him three times. He was looking off camera while talking.

-Back to Brooke interviewing the Knockout contenders. Tessmacher said she wants another shot without distractions from Jesse. Mickie James and Velvet Sky worked through the issue of both returning to TNA around the same time, stealing each other’s thunder. Brooke eliminated Tessmacher, and she took it well. [c]

-A video package aired on the A.J. Styles-Daniels feud.

-Kaz walked out with wrapped Christmas presents. Kaz called the fans “ass goblins” and said not even they could ruin the festive mood he’s in. He called out the Man of the Hour who caused Styles to sulk off and lose his smile, Daniels. Taz said he thinks Kaz is a little over the top in his effusive praise of Daniels. He said he knows their friends, but it seems like a little much.

[Q5] Daniels sat in a throne in the middle of the ring. Kaz called him a saint of a man, so he’s arranged for a special visitor. Kaz said, “He’s got the biggest sack he’s ever seen.” Out walked Santa.

(Quotebook - Taz: “I don’t like Santa Clause. I never liked Santa Clause. I got nothing as a kid. That’s well-documented.”)

They presented Santa with some Zubaz. Kaz took a picture of Daniels sitting on Santa’s lap. Taz said, “This is weird.” Daniels said he’s been such a good boy this year. He said he got rid of the biggest loser in Impact Wrestling history, A.J. Styles. Santa said he can now grant Daniels his holiday wish. Daniels said it’s not about the gifts you get, it’s about the gifts you give. He told Santa to give something, anything to the kids of Styles because he’s such a loser he can’t get his kids anything.

James Storm interrupted. Storm said he’s not going to let them run down Christmas on his watch. Daniels said he was going to end up on the naughty list. Storm entered the ring and said he’s going to give them a reason to put him on the naughty list. Storm knocked over a Christmas tree. Storm looked skeptical that Santa was really Santa. He told Santa to tell him what he asked for for Christmas. If he could answer it, that would prove he was real. Santa consulted with Kaz and Daniels. They guessed as a CD from a country singer. Storm said it was very close, but he asked for a case of beer. Storm gave Santa the Last Call Superkick, knocking him backward in his chair.

(WK Reax: That seemed to go on a very long time.)

-Backstage Austin Aries made fun of the fact that his inner-thoughts aren’t broadcast to the cameras. He said he’ll just speak his thoughts out loud. He said he will walk out of the show with the World Title belt and prove he is the greatest in the universe.

-They showed Brooke backstage on the verge of making her final cut. [c]

-They revealed that the 1.3.13 video was hyping Sting’s return.

(WK Reax: He left?)

[Q6] -Aces & Eights held a meeting about whether they should add someone to their club. Devon said he has someone in mind who is “smart muscle” and can help them.

-Brooke cut Sky and wished Mickie James luck. Brooke said she was doing Sky a favor because she can scout the match and she might be next. [c]

(3) Tara pinned Mickie James to retain the Knockouts Title in 7:00. At 6:00 Mickey escaped a Widow’s Peak and gave Tara the MickieDT. Taz asked where he gets the names. Keneley said, “I do my research, Taz. I get with the talent.” Taz said, “And you make up names with them, that’s good.”

(WK Reax: This coming from the master of the Tazmission? What a hypocrite. Nothing sounds lazier and more bitter than calling out someone else for having more pride in their job than you. Adding jaw-dropping hypocrisy to it just amplifies the attitude issues Taz has that drags down Impact sometimes.)

Tara ended up winning with a knee to Mickie’s face thanks. The opening for it was created by a distraction by Jesse at ringside. [c]

[Q7] -A clip aired of Joseph Park learning to wrestle at OVW in Louisville, Ky. earlier in the week. Danny Davis chewed him out for how awful he was. Park ended up with a bloody lip. It totally set him off and he went into a rage and beat up his training partner, including landing a Black Hole Slam. Davis looked at him a little frightened.

-Jeremy Borash did formal ring introductions for the main event World Title match. [c]

(4) Jeff Hardy pinned Austin Aries in 18:00 to retain the Impact Wrestling World Hvt. Title. The match began with 20 minutes left in the hour. After a tentative start, they brawled briefly at ringside, then cut to a break at 5:00.

[Q8] [c] Tenay noted that Ed Sharkey trained Austin Aries in Minnesota. He said Sharkey trained Rick Rude and the Road Warriors, also. At 16:00 Hardy set up the Twist of Fate, but Aries escaped. Aries then dove at Hardy, but Hardy knocked him down. Aries then kicked Hardy who flew right into the ref. The ref went down. As Hardy checked on the ref, Aries gave him a low blow from behind and then a brainbuster suplex.

As a replacement ref slid into the ring to count Aries’s pin on Hardy, Robert Roode yanked that ref out of the ring and then made a very slow count and stopped at two. He gave Aries a middle finger and a spine buster. Some fans cheered, others weren’t reacting. Hardy struggled to his feet and gave Aries a Twist of Fate and then a Swanton for the win.

-The roving reporter caught up to Hulk Hogan in the parking lot. He said the World Title situation is a mess and that’s his top priority. He said he’s glad this year is almost over. As for Aces & Eights and Bully-Brooke, Hogan said not to worry about it. Then in the parking lot Bully and Brooke began making out. Hogan got in his car and sped off without confronting them.

(WK Reax: Everyone seemed to have checked out for the holidays. Just a blah show. Even Aries vs. Hardy didn’t have much of a spark. It was solid, but not must-see.)


KELLER’S IMPACT WRESTLING REPORT
DECEMBER 27, 2012
TAPED IN ORLANDO, FLA.
AIRED ON SPIKE TV

-They opened with clips from last week’s show including Robert Roode costing Austin Aries his match against Jeff Hardy.

-Pyro blasted as Bully Ray walked to the ring as Todd Keneley, Mike Tenay, and Taz introduced the show. Bully said he doesn’t know what he has to do to prove to Hulk Hogan that he is trustworthy. He called him out, citing Open Fight Night. He said he doesn’t want to fight him, he wants to talk with him. Hogan’s music played, but he didn’t walk out. Eventually Brooke Hogan walked out. She seemed sheepish as she entered the ring. Taz said what happened last week was hard to talk about and kind of awkward.

Bully asked her where her father is. Brooke, off-mic, whispered to Bully, “He knows. I don’t know how he knows, but he knows.” Bully asked what she was talking about. She said he knows about them. Bully said there’s nothing to know. She said someone must’ve taken a picture of them or something. She said he’s not there and they need to find him and show him that he is the man she knows him to be. Bully asked her how he knows anything because there’s nothing to know. Bully didn’t like the cameras were there and slinked to the back.

(WK Reax: Okay, so Bully and Brooke didn’t watch last week’s show? Is that what we’re supposed to believe? That, in and of itself, makes TNA look bush league, but then we’re supposed to believe a whole week went by without anyone telling them they were caught making out on camera in front of Hogan last week? Or was that only for viewers at home to see, but somehow invisible or unknowable for people at the Impact Zone? As stupid as that is, it doesn’t make sense because Taz talked about the incident at the end of the show last week. Bully and Brooke walked right past him on their way to and from the ring. So what makes Taz have a special power to see TNA Impact on TV but Brooke and Bully can’t? And why didn’t Taz speak up and say Hogan knew because of what millions of people saw at the end of Impact last week? The lack of any basic fundamental understanding of how to structure the internal logic of a pro wrestling show just makes me so sad sometimes. No viewer who saw the end of last week’s show is invested in the Hulk-Brooke-Bully storyline now because all they’re wondering is why Brooke and Bully didn’t see what they at home and Taz at the broadcast table saw. It’s so stoopid.)

-Austin Aries walked to the ring and thanked the booing fans for their “kind words.” Aries said everyone knows who saw last week’s match that he should be the World Champion and he is the rightful champion and the main event. Aries said Roode screwed him but he screwed Roode first, so now they’re even. He called out Roode to have the final main event of the year. He said it’ll be electric. Taz said they’ve got themselves a “badass main event.”

(WK Reax: And who in this “badass main event” are we supposed to care about and root to win?) [c…]

[Q2] […c]

(Todd Keneley cliche watch: “Open Fight Night is right down Samoa Joe’s alley.”)

-Samoa Joe called out the masked member of Aces & Eights who attacks people from behind. He promised to take off his mask and show what a “cowardly little moped riding ass he really is.”

(WK Reax: Joe channelled both Vader and The Rock for that challenge in terms of his body language and verbal cadence. There’s always a little Tim Duncan and Jeff Hardy mixed into his promos, too.)

(1) Samoa Joe pinned The Masked Aces & Eights Thug in 3:00. Joe choked him out. Afterward he signaled he was going to damask him, but then other Aces & Eights members ran out to stop him. Joe fled when outnumbered.

-Backstage Jesse walked past Robbie E. and Robbie T. They got into a spat. Robbie E. asked Jesse where his girl is. Jesse pointed to Robbie T. and called him his girl. They went back and forth and it ended with Robbie E. challenging Jesse to a “Bro-off.”

(WK Reax: That was amusing, actually, but at the same time another match on this show between two people nobody has a reason to root for.) [c]

-Backstage Kenny King told Christian York he’s impressed him. King told York that he should take notes when RVD calls him out tonight and he beats him again. York smiled to King’s face, but when he left, he asked, “Where do they find these guys? Jeez.”

(WK Reax: York there looked like a stoned explosion of bad wrestling hair, a bad wrestling tan, way too much muscle for his frame, and no sleep for two days.)

-Robbie E. called out Jesse and called him a fake wannabe Robbie E. He said he can show him how to be a real bro.

[Q3] -Jesse (w/Tara) came out. Robbie E. explained that they are having a Bro-Off and everything they do has to end with a Bro. He then danced in an intentionally ridiculous way. Jesse then posed in response. Robbie E. told him that he lost because “it’s bros, not hos,” pointing at Tara. Robbie said he is automatically disqualified because he ended it with “dude” and not “bro.” Robbie T. celebrated by pressing Robbie E. over his head and then music just happened to be cued up to play so Robbie T. could do a dance of his own. It included a one-handed dry hump of the wrestling mat. Robbie E. and Jesse stood by slack-jawed. Robbie T. then grabbed the mic and ended with “Bro!” The announcers declared him the indisputable victor.

(WK Reax: What is happening?) [c]

-RVD came to the ring with the X Division Title over his shoulder. He said he has elevated the X Division to a new level. He said he’s going to take it to another new level. He said there’s a new X Division wrestler that has everyone talking about his moves and athleticism. King was shown excitedly anticipating his name being announced, but instead RVD called out York. York celebrated as King threw a little fit.

(2) Rob Van Dam pinned Christian York in 4:00. Taz again dickishly made fun of Todd Keneley for knowing the names of moves. When Keneley called York’s neckbreaker a “Mood Swing,” Taz said: “I have to write these down because you have all of these names for moves. Mooooood Swiinnnngggg. S-W-I… Good.”

(WK Reax: What’s absolutely awesome about Mr. Tazmission making fun of Keneley knowing the York neck breaker is called Mood Swing is that York shouted “Mood Swing” right before he did the move! All Keneley did was listen to York shout the name of his own move and repeat it. What can you say about Taz at this point?)

[Q8] RVD won after a Rolling Thunder and a Five-Star Frogsplash.

(WK Reax: So is Keneley allowed to know that RVD’s signature moves are called Rolling Thunder and a Five-Star Frogsplash? Or is that being too nerdy for Mr. Tazmission, too? What’s so frustrating is Taz could be so good if he just cared.) [c]

-Backstage Devon pitched a mystery person to be added to Aces & Eights. He called in DOC who brought in two women with him. Devon asked DOC, who had a glow to his face, if things will work out. Doc smiled and practically groaned, “Oh yeah, it’s going to work just fine.” What did those women do to him behind that closed door?

-A video package aired with Joseph Park talking about his great uncle taking on George Hackenschmidt. He said he’s set the bar for what a model athlete should be. Danny Davis said he’s dumb as a box of rocks. Park said he’s learning the ins and outs of the business. Davis said he’s not doing the basics properly. He said Park needs to live it 24/7 and watch as much video as he can and get as much ring time as he can. He doesn’t think Park is doing that.

-The roving reporter asked Daniels and Taz backstage if they have a plan for tonight. Daniels said they have one more gift that will shock the world. [c]

-A clip aired of Hulk Hogan announcing that Jan. 3’s Impact would feature the Wrestler of the Year announcer.

-Robert Roode said he knew Aries would call him out and said he’s so predictable.

(Grammar Police - Robert Roode: “I’m gonna take that World Heavyweight Championship away from Jeff Hardy just as I shoulda did at Final Resolution.”)

[Q5] -Daniels danced to the ring. He said he’s a national treasure, a ring general, and the man with the rear that makes the girls cheer. He said he had a great 2012 and he wants to give back to all of the little people. He said A.J. Styles has been sad, based on what he’s seen of his posts on Facebook (he called it “Book Face”) and Twitter, so he called him to the ring for a rematch.

(Quotebook - Daniels: “I know we said it was one last time, but we really meant one last time until the next time.”)

Instead of Styles, Kaz came out. Kaz imitated Styles.

(WK Reax: Kaz’s impersonation of Styles was really funny and spot-on.)

Kaz, pretending to be Styles, said he tries to beat him, but he can’t ever beat him, so Daniels is obviously a better wrestler than him and better looking than him and smarter than him. “I’m just a redneck from Gainsville, Georgia,” he said.

Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez walked out. Chavo said he wants to make their final memory of 2012 a bad one “with a foot right up your rear!”

(WK Reax: Oh, Chavo! Watch your mouth!)

(3) Chavo Guerrero & Hernandez beat Kaz & Christopher Daniels in 14:00. Early in the match Taz asked Keneley if Daniels & Kaz are called Bad Intentions or Bad Influence because he used both before. Keneley said Bad Influence.

(WK Reax: Taz’s hostility to Keneley isn’t amusing or entertaining. He’s coming across as a total complete prick and it reflects bad on the company for keeping him on the air with the attitude he has toward his job. Keneley, through all of it, is remaining professional and even affable toward Taz. Is he that much of a passivist or is he intimidated by Taz?)

They cut to a break at 4:00. [c]

[Q6] Daniels and Kaz were on offense after the break. At 12:00 Chavo and Hernandez dove onto Daniels and Kaz at ringside. Taz them mockingly made fun of Keneley calling the famous Hart Foundation finisher that Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart did the “Hart Attack” when Daniels and Kaz did it.

(WK Reax: Are there words left to describe what a hypocritical jackass Mr. Tazplex is being here?)

Tenay noted that Chavo was a tag champ in all major organizations, listing them as: TNA, WCW, WWE. Chavo came back and landed a frog splash on Kaz for the win.

-The roving reporter asked Jeff Hardy how he feels about Aries and Roode both inside the ring and outside the ring. Hardy said in the ring they’re both great at what they do, but outside the ring he doesn’t care for them at all. He said their selfishness and arrogance doesn’t work for him. He said he has a plan for revenge, but he’ll enjoying watch them beat the hell out of each other first.

(WK Reax: The framing of the heel vs. heel main event as worth watching because Hardy gets to see two of his enemies beat each other up is about as good as it gets in terms of selling that to viewers.) [c]

-They aired a “Taz’s Keys to Victory” where Taz said Roode’s key is keeping his “poise,” whereas Aries’s key is “pace.”

-A video package aired on the Kurt Angle vs. Aces & Eights angles.

-They went backstage to Aces & Eights interviewing Mr. Anderson for a spot in their “club.” Anderson said he’s all ears. Devon said it’s going to be tough because they have a certain agenda. Devon showed off the perks of the job by having two women flirt with him. Anderson said they drive a hard bargain, but he’s not sure if this is something he wants to do. A woman whispered something in his ear, then Anderson said it would be rude not to consider their offer. He asked for time to think about it.

[Q7] -Gail Kim came out and issued an Open Fight Night challenge. She said 2012 was her year. She said she was the longest-reigning TNA Knockouts Champion in the history of TNA until someone ended it with a fluke victory. She called out Miss Tessmacher to erase those bad memories.

(4) Gail Kim beat Miss Tessmacher in 6:00.

(Quotebook - Todd Keneley: “Talk strategy here, Taz.” Taz: “We’ll see. Maybe in a little bit I will.” Wow. Just wow. How is he still on the air acting like this? He’s the definition of insubordination. There’s no storyline point to acting like this toward Keneley.)

Kim avoided a top rope splash by Tessmacher and then finished Tessmacher with Eat Da’Feet.

-They showed Aries heading toward the entrance tunnel. Then Roode. Keneley hyped the main event. [c]

-Another Sting 1.3.13 vignette aired.

-Keneley hyped the results of the Impact Wrestler of the Year would be revealed next week. Hardy, Storm, Roode, Aries, and Bully were pictured. He also hyped Sting’s return and Joe & Angle vs. Devon & a masked thug partner.

[Q8] (5) Austin Aries wrestled Robert Roode to an apparent no contest. After some back and forth action, they ended up in a staredown mid-ring at 3:00 and then cut to a break. [c]

Back from the break, they picked up the pace with back and forth action. Neither got sustained offense since they weren’t building to the psychology of a babyface comeback. At 9:00 Aries applied the Last Chancery, which Taz called by name.

(WK Reax: Keneley did not make fun of Taz for using the proper name for the hold. Keneley must be the least vengeful person on the planet, as that softball was just waiting to be hit out of the park.)

Eventually Roode and Aries tried to out-cheat one another.

(Quotebook - Taz: “Forget about yanking the tights. That’s an insane psycho wedge.”)

The ref Earl Hebner finally had enough of both of them and began yelling at them red-faced. They both kicked Hebner in the gut and threw him out of the ring. They leaned over the top rope and yelled at him, then turned to face each other.

[Q9] They both ran to a chair and had a tug-o-war with it. Then Hardy’s music played, but he surprised them from behind with a double armed clothesline. Hardy gave Roode a Twist of Fate and then yanked off his shirt in celebration.

EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK

As always to reach me, the best way is via email: kellerwade@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @thewadekeller and follow PWTorch on Twitter @pwtorch. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/prowrestlingtorch. Listen to us every weekday live at www.blogtalkradio.com/pro-wrestling-torch. And online VIP members can access tons of subscriber-only new content each week and nearly 25 years of archives at www.pwtorch.com/members.

You can vote in our year-end awards on PWTorch.com. Just select the poll section and click your votes in several key categories such as MVP of the Year, Best Babyface, Best Heel, Rising Star, Career Tailspin, and more.

My PWTorch Livecast “Interview Friday” guest last week was Diamond Dallas Page. He talked in-depth about working with Jake Roberts, who moved in with DDP in Atlanta to try to get his life back on track. The full interview, including the VIP-exclusive Aftershow, is available in the VIP Audio section at PWTorch.com/members.

Up next is Greg Parks’s column on the departure of Jim Cornette for Ring of Honor and what is left for him in pro wrestling. Then the Newswire headlines. Next week we are planning to feature Sean Radican’s look at the year outside of WWE and TNA with top lists from ROH, DGUSA, Evolve, and other top indy events in 2013. Plus we’ll have results of the PWTorch.com Year-End Balloting in top award categories with newsletter-exclusive staff comments.

Thank you so much for your continued support of the Torch and I sincerely look forward to one of our best years yet in 2013! Happy New Year everyone.


COLUMNIST: GREG PARKS
What could be next for Jim Cornette after departing ROH

When Jim Cornette was recently demoted from his executive position at Ring of Honor wrestling, it was another blow to the legacy of someone once known as a fantastic wrestling mind. These days, the jury seems out on whether or not Cornette can truly adapt to the current landscape of professional wrestling.

Cornette has always been accused by his naysayers of being “behind the times” when it comes to booking. That was a criticism of the ROH product he oversaw as well. Those who defend him claim that if he could control his famous temper, he’d be an asset to any national wrestling company, either in front of the camera or behind it. But with Cornette’s latest misstep, he may have burned yet another bridge in the business.

Cornette’s days of booking may be over, but I think he’d be an asset as a talent, similar to the way WWE uses Paul Heyman. Heyman probably has a better mind for the current state of the business, yet WWE wants him nowhere near those meetings due to his past run-ins with Stephanie McMahon, among others.

Still, WWE has found a way to utilize Heyman, first as the mouthpiece for Brock Lesnar, then as the…uh…representative I guess for WWE Champion C.M. Punk. Other than being a Punk supporter, his role hasn’t really been made clear.

Cornette could be used the same way. Imagine the Prime Time Players managed by Jim Cornette. Not only does Cornette know how to get heat on his team as a manager, he can also cut promos for them. It’s what first made him a household name in the NWA and then later in the WWF.

Cornette could also be used as a color commentator wherever he lands. With the recent addition of JBL to the Smackdown broadcasts, and with Jerry Lawler returning to the announce desk on Monday Night Raw, WWE doesn’t have a need for a color commentator at this point.

TNA could be a landing spot for Cornette in the future. With the Vince Russo/Ed Ferrara regime out of TNA, Cornette could feel more comfortable revisiting that company. Dixie Carter did not close the door on Cornette returning when he left (has she ever closed the door on anyone returning?), but with Bruce Prichard, Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan running things, it’s not known whether they would be open to bringing Cornette into the fold.

Cornette has blasted Bischoff and Hogan in the past, but then again, Bischoff and Hogan were able to work with wrestlers in TNA when they first arrived, who either ran down Bischoff and/or Hogan in previous interviews, or who Hogan and Bischoff had spoken ill of at some point.

But can Cornette be trusted booking a national company ever again? During the end of his ROH run, he was accused by fans, analysts, and current and former ROH wrestlers of being too “old school.” Despite ROH’s acquisition by Sinclair Broadcasting, the company had failed to grow in many key areas. Smaller independent shows were even outdrawing ROH house shows.

For a company with television clearances the likes of which ROH has, it was not a positive sign. Cornette was brought on as “Executive Producer,” but like his time running Smoking Mountain Wrestling in the early 90s, he couldn’t grow the company beyond a niche promotion.

Almost two months after being replaced by Hunter “Delirious” Johnston as head booker (his second go-round in that role), Cornette reportedly lost his cool at an ROH TV taping and was sent home by the promotion.

It’s not the first time Cornette’s outbursts have cost him a job. WWE severed ties with him in 2005 after he got into a physical altercation with Santino Marella, at the time a developmental wrestler in Ohio Valley Wrestling where Cornette booked. Despite the positive reviews OVW was receiving, Cornette couldn’t be relied on to behave in the corporate environment that WWE had become.

Cornette’s inability to jibe with Vince Russo led to him leaving TNA several years later. Cornette was an on-air authority figure, and many were surprised that he was able to coexist with Russo for so long. Cornette’s vitriol for Russo was the stuff of legend, and fans had thought it was only a matter of time before Cornette blew his stack at Russo.

After leaving TNA, Cornette continued to blast Russo in various formats for his booking. Russo isn’t alone, though: Cornette has been negative on Vince McMahon and WWE power-broker Kevin Dunn in the past as well. With the latest ROH saga making the news, it goes to show that Cornette doesn’t burn bridges so much as blow them to smithereens.

With the reports of Cornette being sent home from ROH, burnout was cited as a possible reason for him reacting the way he did. Cornette is clearly an emotional guy and cares deeply about the wrestling business. When you put so much of yourself into a product for as long as Cornette has, burnout only seems natural.

It’s that inability for Cornette to recognize such burnout, if in fact it did exist, that could lead to him boiling over and causing himself to lose control. If Cornette could’ve stepped back and said, “you know guys, I’m just tired, I’m worn out, I need to take a break before I say or do something I might regret,” he wouldn’t have had this latest incident to add to his long dossier of bizarre behavior.

But perhaps it’s that wrestler/wrestling mentality of never asking for time off that did Cornette in. Corny was never a full-time wrestler, but he was around the boys enough to know that you don’t ask for time off and you don’t ask to be taken off the road. That mentality has led to a lot of wrestlers and bookers burning out in the past. For Cornette, as old-school as he is, the thought probably never occurred to him to take some time away in order to come back reenergized.

Just as troubling as his inability to control himself is his inability to adapt to the current trends in wrestling. If you’re looking to hire a new booker and Cornette is a prospective hire, you have to ask yourself: How has his booking philosophy changed with the times? The problem is, it hasn’t.

Vince McMahon has made more money than anyone else in the wrestling business. Eric Bischoff helped revolutionize wrestling on Monday nights. Paul Heyman’s ideas ushered in the Attitude Era. Jim Cornette doesn’t really have that accomplishment he can point to that helped change the business, or at least keep it on course to where a tremendous amount of money was made.

Cornette lasted a short time on NWA/WCW’s booking committee in the late 80s/early 90s. He then ran Smoky Mountain Wrestling, one of the last territories, one that couldn’t sustain itself financially and was forced to go belly-up. He was on-and-off the booking committee during his many years as a WWE employee, but never ran it when WWE was at its most successful.

He had very little creative power in TNA, but with Russo in charge for much of Cornette’s run, the company was not setting the world on fire creatively. And despite the backing of Sinclair Broadcasting, Cornette was not able to take Ring of Honor to the next level, either.

The biggest roadblock in getting Cornette to change his ways to make himself more attractive to potential employers is Cornette himself: It doesn’t appear as if he’s willing to change. Despite the numerous incidents that have gotten him in trouble over the years, as long as people keep hiring him, he doesn’t have a reason to change how he operates.

This latest incident could be a wake-up call for Cornette, because unless he’s willing to work for a smaller independent group (yes, smaller than ROH), he just may be out of opportunities. Then again, for someone like Cornette, he can retire, write an autobiography, do reunion shows, and be merry.

He’s still got enough name value and recognition that he can charge a pretty penny to get booked on the independent scene, or even help out a smaller group creatively for a while. Actually, that brings me to a great idea for Cornette to stay involved in the business and keep his fiery attitude:

You know those TV shows where a charismatic host comes into a bar, restaurant, or hotel and helps identify problems with the place, then works with the owners (usually berating them) to turn it around and help it become attractive to customers? Give Cornette a TV show, let him go to independent shows around the country, and just film him telling these promoters and wrestlers why they’re drawing 50 fans to a show and see if he can at least help pique the interest of locals. That would be worth watching. Maybe the WWE Network would be interested.

(Greg Parks writes a weekly column for the PWTorch Newsletter and has been covering WWE Smackdown for PWTorch.com since January of 2007. He also writes VIP blogs, cohosts the PWTorch Livecast on Thursdays, and is part of the Gonzo & The Greg VIP Audio Show every weekend. Follow him on Twitter @gregmparks for live Tweeting during Raw, Impact, and PPVs. Comments, questions and feedback are welcome: g_man9784@yahoo.com)

WWE NEWSWIRE

SURVIVOR SERIES PPV BUYRATE

WWE’s Survivor Series PPV drew an estimate of 212,000 buys, according to WWE’s updated monthly business figures released Friday.

The PPV featured a sudden line-up change to C.M. Punk vs. John Cena vs. Ryback for the WWE Title, replacing a traditional Survivor Series match in the main event. This was Ryback’s second WWE Title match on PPV, following the TLC PPV, which WWE said last month drew an estimate of 200,000 buys.

The final numbers for both PPVs - and the December TLC PPV - will be released in early 2013 when WWE announces fourth quarter earnings results.

Barring a sudden increase in the final 2012 Survivor Series total, this year’s event will fall well short of last year, which drew 281,000 buys for The Rock’s in-ring return teaming with John Cena. Also, the 2010 edition drew 244,000 buys.

Keller’s Analysis: This is a pretty indecisive number. Yes, it’s down, and had Ryback won the WWE Title the month before, the buyrate would have likely been higher. It’s tough, though, to pan the buyrate too much. Last year’s Survivor Series featured The Rock & John Cena teaming. Yes, the buyrate for that was below expectations, but under no circumstances would it have seemed possible this year to beat last year’s buyrate without The Rock, plus added competition on PPV that month with the return of George St. Pierre to UFC. So dropping from 281,000 (with Rock, without UFC competition) to 212,000 isn’t good news, it’s hardly a shock.

SMACKDOWN SUPERSHOW RATINGS

The not-quite-live Super Smackdown special on Tuesday, December 18 scored a solid 2.29 rating on USA Network.

Smackdown ranked #4 on cable TV (#1 in the 8:00 p.m. hour) and was #1 in all male demos aside from male teens, where it ranked #2. In total viewers, Smackdown only trailed “Storage Wars” on A&E, “Rizzoli & Isles” on TNT, and a “Big Bang Theory” repeat on TBS.

Smackdown averaged 3.33 million viewers, which was up 26 percent compared to last Friday’s episode on Syfy leading into the TLC PPV.

Putting the viewership into perspective:

- The last time Smackdown aired on USA Network was two years ago during WWE Week. That show on Dec. 21, 2010 drew 3.81 million viewers.

Last year’s holiday season Tuesday special averaged 3.05 million viewers on Syfy.

- Tuesday’s show was the largest Smackdown audience of the year. Previous highs: 3.32 million viewers on Jan. 20, 3.26 million viewers on Feb. 10, and 3.19 million viewers on Feb. 3.

The last time Smackdown touched three million viewers was on June 22 with an average of 2.97 million viewers.

- Smackdown drew one million more viewers than the previous Tuesday special. This was the Election Night Nov. 6 special on Syfy that drew 2.20 million viewers.

The Smackdown replay on Friday, December 21 averaged 1.85 million viewers on Syfy, down about 800,000 viewers from what first-run episodes averaged earlier in the month.

It was the least-watched Friday replay of a Tuesday special of the year, but Tuesday’s airing on USA Network was the most-watched Smackdown of the year.

Combined viewership was 5.18 million viewers, which was the most combined viewers of the five Tuesday specials in 2012. It helped that Tuesday’s Super Smackdown aired on USA Network, whereas the other four Tuesday specials in 2012 aired on Syfy.

- The following is a break down of the combined TV ratings & viewership for the five Super Smackdown specials this year.

Feb. 21 & 24 - 3.16 rating / 4.56 million viewers
Apr. 10 & 13 - 3.02 rating/ 4.55 million viewers
July 3 & 6 - 3.15 rating / 4.67 million viewers
Nov. 6 & 9 - 2.95 rating / 4.36 million viewers
Dec. 18 & 21 - ?? rating / 5.18 million viewers

TRIBUTE TO TROOPS RATING

WWE’s “Tribute to the Troops” special on NBC averaged 1.3 million viewers on Saturday, December 22. It continued a very sharp decline for the annual one-hour special, down nearly one million viewers from 2.1 million viewers last year on Saturday, Dec. 17.

In 2010, the special averaged 2.3 million viewers. In 2009, the special averaged 2.4 million viewers.

WWE also took a big hit in the adult 18-49 demographic. The show scored a 0.3 rating in 18-49, which was cut in-half from a 0.6 rating among a18-49 last year.

Adult 18-49 demographic

2009 - 0.8 rating

2010 - 0.7 rating

2011 - 0.6 rating

2012 - 0.3 rating

The Troops special ranked #4 on the major networks during the 9:00 p.m. EST timeslot, falling behind a re-run of “Kitchen Nightmares” on Fox.

On NBC, Troops was beat by a re-run of “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol,” which drew 2.0 million viewers at 8:00 p.m., and a Saturday Night Live re-run, which drew 2.7 million viewers at 10:00 p.m. Overall, Troops was the least-watched prime-time network show on Saturday night.

Caldwell’s Analysis: Not good. The show airing a few days before Christmas did not help, as opposed to being several days before Christmas last year, but this year’s special was not promoted well. Sheamus and John Cena’s talk-show TV appearances were last week, not the week of the event, and WWE presented so much television over the past seven days that the “Troops” special on NBC was a complete afterthought for both WWE and the audience. It remains to be seen how this affects WWE and NBC’s bi-yearly agreement going forward.

ARENA REPORT: MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
WWE Raw house show results
December 27, 2012
New York City at Madison Square Garden
Report by Mike Omansky, PWTorch correspondent

- The crowd was large, but not sold out; estimate 14,000-15,000 range. They were into the show.

- The next event is the Hall of Fame in April. Tickets were on-sale at the Garden box office for one hour after the show; otherwise, online presale using password “FAMOUS.”

Vickie Guerrero came out to start the show. She announced that the semi-main event, Paul Heyman vs. Ryback, would be a N.Y. Street Fight. Also, the main event would be Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena in a steel cage.

(1) New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn & Jesse James) beat Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow in a solid opener. Gunn pinned Rhodes with a Famouser. Entertaining match – mix of good wrestling moves with playing to the crowd. Outlaws were well-received by Garden crowd. (*1/2)

(2) Brodus Clay (w/Cameron and Naomi) beat David Otunga with a splash and pin in under five minutes. (Dud)

Jack Swagger then came out; he said how bad Clay is, then challenged him to an immediate match. Clay accepted.

(3) Brodus Clay beat Jack Swagger with a big splash and pin in about a minute. (Squash)

(4) Divas champion Eve Torres beat Kaitlyn with a neckbreaker and pin to retain the Divas Title. (1/2*)

(5) Santino Marella beat Tensai with the Cobra and pin in a “Loser Sings a Christmas Song” match. A lot of Santino comedy along the way; Tensai dominated for a while with power, but fell victim to the Cobra.

After the match, Vickie came out and ordered Tensai to sing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” which was the song that Garden fans voted for (by texting). At first, Tensai protested that he didn’t know the words and was Jewish, then sang the song. Very funny delivery.

(6) The Shield beat The Miz & WWE tag champions Daniel Bryan & Kane in an excellent six-man tag. Shield initially dominated, then it went back and forth. Finally, the three members triple powerbombed Miz, who was pinned by Reigns. Excellent action throughout; Shield was very impressive with their attacks, and of course Ambrose’s facial expressions. (***1/4)

(7) The Usos beat Prime Time Players with a simultaneous leap off the top ropes on both men and pin. (1/2*)

(8) U.S. champion Antonio Cesaro beat Zack Ryder with the Neutralizer and pin to retain the U.S. Title. Cesaro dominated. Ryder got his flurry, but he was subdued in the end. (1/2*)

Semi-main event time. Paul Heyman was out first. He talked about the history of Madison Square Garden’s boxing and other sports, then wrestling. He said the greats of the past (“Superstar” Billy Graham, Bruno Sammartino, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, etc.) could all kiss his ass.

(9) Ryback beat Paul Heyman via pin in a N.Y. Street Fight. When the bell rang to start the match, Heyman leaped from the ring, and The Shield ran down to attack Ryback three on one. Shield put a table in the corner of the ring. However, at that point, with Ryback down, Kane, Bryan, and Miz came out to battle Shield, and they all fought back to the dressing room. Heyman then tried to pick up the downed Ryback, who recovered, lifted him, walked around, slammed him, and pinned him. After the match, he picked up Heyman and rammed him through the table that was still there. (**) for mayhem and excitement – this was excellent!

(10) John Cena beat Dolph Ziggler (w/A.J. & Big E. Langston) in a terrific steel cage match that went about 25 minutes. This included the usual failed climb-out attempts by both/near misses. Three times Langston stopped Cena from exiting the cage. The Finish: ref bumped, then Langston comes in the ring and attacks Cena. A.J. comes in and acts crazy as the two in the match are trying to get up. Langston holds Cena while Ziggler delivers a kick, but Cena ducks and Langston gets the kick. The ref recovers as Cena does the Attitude Adjustment and pin. Overall, 60/40 crowd on Cena (60 against/40 for, the edge going to boos.) (***1/2)

AUSTIN SPECULATES ON CENA IN THE 1990S

WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin says he thinks John Cena would have thrived in the Attitude Era because of the talent that would have drawn a fire out of Cena, unlike in today’s WWE.

Austin told WWE’s website that he doesn’t think Cena would have been the top star in the Attitude Era, but he would have been much more challenged than he is today, where there isn’t as much talent to work with.

“The John Cena you see now - the face of the franchise, the leader of the pack? Not so much. But I guarantee if you’d have gotten him face to face with ‘Stone Cold’ in an interview, and you know John cuts a good interview himself, if I slapped the s--- out of that son of a b----, I think we’re off and running to make a lot of money,” Austin said, promoting the “WWE ‘13” video game.

“All he needs is to be poked and prodded in the right way. I think John Cena has a hell of a lot of fire and he needs to be in the ring with the right opponent, or the right cat, to bring that out. So in the current environment, you really don’t see that in him.”

Also in the interview, Austin said he thinks “Superstar” Billy Graham would have thrived in the Attitude Era, Austin talked up his feud with Bret Hart as featuring “some of the most fun matches I’ve ever had in my life,” Austin credited Paul Heyman for helping him develop his promo ability in ECW that carried over to WWE, and Austin said he cannot pick a single Best Promo Ever or Best Match Ever.

WK Analysis: John Cena would have had more competitioon, and the WWF would have focused more on his shortcomings and probably held him back as a result. Or, at the very least, his character would have gone in a different direction. There’s a chance, in an Attitude Era environment, he would have thrived, but he’d be a very different John Cena.

MIZ COMMENTS ON BABYFACE TURN

WWE star The Miz addressed his recent face turn in an interview with the Carroll County Times publication promoting next Saturday’s Raw TV taping in Washington, D.C.

“It’s kind of weird because I’ve done nothing different. I’m still the same exact cocky, arrogant, egotistical person I was before, it’s just now maybe the fans are starting to understand me and cheer me because, to me, I’ve never been a bad guy. I’ve always been a good guy,” Miz said.

“I’ve done what I’ve had to do to win like everybody else in the world, you know, when you want a job or a promotion, you go after it. And that’s what I’m doing, I’m going after what I want. So that’s what I’ve been doing and now I think the fans are actually getting behind it, saying, you know what, I like this guy. I know somebody like him. I’m a guy people can get behind if they understand me and I think they’re starting to understand me.”

Also revealed in the interview is that Miz will film the ABC Family movie, “A Christmas Bounty,” in Spring 2013. The movie is scheduled to premiere during the 2013 Christmas TV season.

Miz, who recently filmed “Marine: Homefront,” will likely require time off to film the ABC movie, but Miz says the busy WWE schedule is not a factor to him. “I’ve asked to be a WWE Superstar, so to just sit here and complain about, ‘Oh, I never get a day off, I’m so tired.’ No. I want it. Give it to me. I want to be the biggest star WWE has ever created. So in order to do that I need to do everything,” Miz said.

WWE NOTEBOOK

WWE launched Thursday a new “online community” called the “WWE Fan Council Team.” WWE is labeling the group as a chance to “have a voice” in WWE’s product. As part of the launch, WWE released a survey to gauge basic information on potential “Council” members. Questions include U.S. vs. international residence, when was the last time a respondent watched WWE TV, how often a respondent watches Raw and Smackdown, and photo recognition of top stars (e.g.: John Cena and Dolph Ziggler).

Retired WWE Hall of Famer Edge (Adam Copeland) explained Sunday on Twitter that his recent neck surgery was to create a “comfortable living” post-wrestling, not to set up a potential wrestling return. “Doctors told me I’ll never wrestle again,” Copeland wrote. “I have three plates in my neck. That’s a lot.” Asked if he would consider a non-wrestling role on WWE television, Copeland said it’s a possibility down the road. “Raw GM would still involve lotsa travel, which at this point still bothers my neck,” Copeland wrote. “As I recover more, who knows.”

The Dec. 24 Raw averaged 3.14 million viewers, which was easily the fewest viewers of the year and fewest in a very long time. The holiday show was down 26 percent from the post-TLC episode last week. Hourly Break Down: 2.94 million first hour viewers (down 1.3 million vs. last week), 3.27 million second hour viewers (down 1.1 million viewers), and 3.22 million third hour viewers (down 700,000 viewers). The Not-Good Streak continued. Raw’s viewership decreased from the second hour to third hour for the 19th consecutive week and 22nd week out of 23 weeks during the three-hour era. On cable TV Monday night, Raw was beaten by several Christmas-themed shows and movies, plus family and kids-oriented programming.

Injured WWE wrestler Evan Bourne said over the weekend that he will not be able to heal in-time for the Royal Rumble PPV on January 27. “If you didn’t know, the Royal Rumble is my personal favorite PPV/match! But no matter how hard I train, my foot will not be ring ready by RR,” Bourne tweeted. Bourne, who has been off TV since mid-January, would have been a surprise entrant in the Rumble after more than one full year off television.

WWE’s stock price closed at $7.89 on Monday, December 31, down 16.2 percent from the beginning of the year. On January 3, 2012, WWE shares opened at $9.42 per share. On Monday, as the stock market took a hit early in the day due to concerns over the “Fiscal Cliff,” WWE shares dipped as low as $7.67 per share. This neared the 52-week low of $7.44 per share on June 18. In 2012, WWE shares never topped $10 per share. The high-point was $9.95 per share, which was reached on February 3 and 6.

TNA NEWSWIRE

HULK HOGAN’S NEW RESTAURANT

TNA star Hulk Hogan, who just completed his third year with TNA, is expanding his personal business ventures by opening a new restaurant Monday night on New Year’s Eve.

“Hogan’s Beach” is scheduled to open in the Tampa, Florida area at the Best Western Bay Harbor Hotel. The restaurant is described as a “20,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor restaurant and bar” offering “waterside dining, live outdoor entertainment, a mechanical shark ride, authentic tiki bars, a giant video screen on the beach, and indoor and beachfront dance floors.”

Hogan told the Tampa Bay Times that it will be “Jimmy Buffet’s [Margaritaville] times 10; Hooters times 10.” Hogan added, “It’s a logical extension of the Hogan brand, with my image and likeness.”

HOGAN WANTS TO BE CHAMPION AGAIN?

TNA authority figure Hulk Hogan says he wants to wrestle again, and not just wrestle, but become a World champion again.

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. promoting TNA’s “British Bootcamp” show that debuts January 1, Hogan offered a Christmas wish list. Included was getting his youth back, a 747 jet plane, and becoming TNA champion.

“I’ve had eight back surgeries, I’ve had knee replacements, I’ve had both hip replacements. I only need one more surgery – to fix my right knee – then I’m going to go for the TNA World Title. I want to be 59 years old and be the champion,” Hogan said.

IMPACT RATINGS

We will have official TNA Impact TV ratings early next week.

TNA Impact on Thursday, December 27 averaged 1.33 million viewers, which was up slightly from 1.27 million viewers last week. It marked four out of the last five shows to round to 1.3 million viewers.

Last Five Weeks - End 2012

Nov. 29 - 1.30 mill. viewers

Dec. 6 - 1.32 mill. viewers

Dec. 13 - 1.24 mill. viewers

Dec. 20 - 1.27 mill. viewers

Dec. 27 - 1.33 mill. viewers

TNA NEWSWIRE

OBIT: RIP HAWK

Territory-era wrestling star Rip Hawk died over weekend at the age of 82.

“RIP to pro wrestling villain Rip Hawk,” tweeted Jim Ross on Saturday. “One if the all time greats before cable. Instrumental in launching Ric Flair’s career in Carolina’s.”

In March 2010, Rip fell and broke three ribs. He was hospitalized with pneumonia at the time.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, Rip was well-known for his pairing with Swede Hanson as the “Blonde Bombers.” The duo won Tag Titles in multiple territories.

FUTURE EVENTS SCHEDULE

1/4 - WWE Raw house show Pensacola, Fla.
1/5 - WWE Raw house show Columbus, Ga.
1/5 - TNA house show Philadelphia, Pa.
1/6 - WWE Raw house show Tallahassee, Fla.
1/7 - WWE Raw TV live Tampa, Fla
1/8 - WWE SD TV taping Miami, Fla
1/10 - TNA Impact TV live Orlando, Fla.
1/10 - WWE NXT TV taping Full Sail University
1/11 - WWE Raw house show Austin, Tex.
1/12 - WWE Raw house show Laredo, Tex.
1/12 - WWE SD house show Alxandria, La.
1/13 - TNA Genesis PPV Orlando, Fla.


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