Tonight, we finally get to hear from the three men that have attacked Ryback, and others, since showing up at Survivor Series. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns will speak for the first time as Michael Cole brings us the interview.
Will we find out Punk's next opponent for TLC? And how will The Rock begin to fit into this equation? Follow along with tonight's coverage!
Note - we're following a bit behind, and will get up to speed by going Cliff's Notes version to this point.
We get our narrated recap. They focus on the John Cena/AJ/Vickie saga and the attack on Ryback by Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns.
Match #1 - Ryback vs. Titus O'Neil (w/Darren Young)
Ryback comes out while Lawler and Cole check in on commentary. Cole hypes his earlier interview with the three newcomers. No entrance for the Players though.
Cole reminds us that Ryback beat Young and shellshocked O'Neil on Smackdown. Ryback slams Titus face first, and he rolls out for a time-out.
Ryback gives chase and throws him back in. Young grabs Ryback's leg, and the distraction allows for O'Neil to hit a sit-out powerbomb. Ryback fires right back with a spinebuster, then hits the Meathook and Shellshock to get the win.
Afterward, Ryback calls out Punk and the "three outsiders dressed in black," or all four of them. He vows to wait until they come out.
Shoddy follow-up to Titus' display of personality. Maybe there's a storyline point to it, though. Ryback did a nice job with the hook going to break and his delivery didn't feel so much like the Ultimate Warrior.
Ryback is leading the "Feed me more" chant. Guards come out to escort him out, but Ryback disposes of one of them.
Vickie comes out and tells Ryback she understands that Ryback has felt robbed of the title. She won't let him hold up her show or manhandle the security team. Ryback says he wants Punk at TLC for the title and he won't go anywhere til he gets that chance.
Vickie says that in the interests of fairness she will grant Ryback his shot. She asks him to leave the ring. Ryback tells her to shut up and he's not done talking. He wants Punk at TLC with tables, ladders and chairs. Vickie tries to talk and Ryback shuts her up again.
Vickie agrees on the condition that he leave the ring so the show can go on. The guards step up but Ryback head-fakes them to make them run off. Ryback smiles and plays to the crowd.
Follow up was "eh." Noteable is that they put the guards in yellow rather than black.
The announcers recap Hornswoggle spraying Rosa with water. Backstage, Hornswaggle tells her it was a joke and questions who would even give her flowers or kiss her anyhow. Del Rio appears and says that Hornswoggle is running his mouth because no woman would want him. Del Rio says he will avenge her, but Great Khali shows up to tell Del Rio to leave his friend alone.
Match #2 - Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez) vs. Great Khali (w/Hornswoggle)
Joined in progress, Khali is dominating. Ricardo runs a distraction but Hornswoggle bites Ricardo on the rear and chases him backstage. Del Rio uses the distraction to get the Cross Arm Breaker on Khali for the win. Rosa cheers backstage.
CM Punk and Paul Heyman aren't happy with Vickie's decision to give Ryback another title shot. He says he's 2-0 against Ryback and now Punk is in danger because of her actions. Heyman says that Vickie's head isn't clear because of the Cena/AJ saga.
Heyman says Vickie is biased against Cena and that makes her biased against Punk to even things out. She gets mad and says she gave Ryback the match because of the incidents at Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series.
Punk says he had nothing to do with the incidents and Heyman chimes in "innocent until proven guilty." in the background. Vickie says Punk will face an opponent chosen in a RawActive poll later. It will either be Kane or Daniel Bryan. Punk throws a fit but Heyman escorts him out. The announcers talk about the poll and the TLC main event.
Yell at Vickie night. Punk's approach made more sense, though.
They show highlights of Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins powerbombing Ryback through the announce table. Cole sets up his interview with the newcomer trio.
They throw it to the taped interview. Cole says "many are saying.." and Ambrose interrupts and tells Cole to ask his question if he has one. Cole gets to the point and asks if they're working for Punk and Ambrose simply says "nope."
Cole asks why they're there if they're not working for Punk. Rollins says that's the right question and talks about being at NXT. He says they saw things clearly and talks about how it all boils down to a popularity contest. He says they're stepping in to right those wrongs.
Rollins says they are a shield from injustice in WWE. Cole says that everything they've done has been to Punk's benefit. Ambrose says it's about right and wrong and Punk was forced to defend his belt against two men he already beat. He says they would have done the same thing if it were Ryback or Cena in Punk's position.
Cole asks Reigns for a comment and he says when he wants to say something he will say it. Ambrose tells Cole they are not the Nexus or NWO. Ambrose says they're about principle and honor, and says "we are the Shield." Reigns stands up and says he has something to say. "We've said enough, this interview is over."
Good work out of all three men. Ambrose and Rollins are the strong mic workers, and Reigns didn't need to do much to sell himself as the quiet heavy. Smart to pre-tape it also to ensure it came off as well as it did. Casual viewers probably still aren't getting this "NXT" talk though.
They show a Fandango vignette.
Match #3 - Alicia Fox vs. Tamina
After the pre-taped interview from Tamina, who warns AJ to never mess with Vickie again, Tamina dominates from bell to bell. She hits the Superfly Splash to win.
Logical for Tamina to take the mantle of "dominant diva" now that Beth Phoenix is gone.
They talk about a recent USO trip by Vince McMahon and several wrestlers. They show John Cena walking backstage and he's up next.
Cena's music hits and here he comes. He says he's been in WWE for 10 years now and he has never been interrogated as much as he has about the AJ situation. Vickie Guerrero comes out and interrupts. She calls for a gift from ringside and it's matching bathrobes.
Vickie warns Cena that the world will crash down around them. She talks about AJ's history with men and how she's unstable. The Lafayette fans are giving her the What treatment. AJ's music hits and she comes to the ring. Vickie asks if AJ is going to deny her acting like a lovesick puppy whenever a guy pays attention to her. AJ agrees Vickie is right.
AJ admits her past issues with men but says she's trying to become better. AJ thanks Vickie for no longer having the GM job and she can date or do whatever she wants. She rubs Cena's cheek and smacks him on the ass. That draws a shocked reaction from Cena.
AJ goes for another kiss with Cena but Vickie says "we get it!" and that stops. AJ says Vickie can't do that anymore and it's a shame, because being the boss is the only way Vickie can get a man. AJ says she's not a lovesick puppy anymore and there's only one female dog in the ring.
Ziggler's music hits and he comes out to the stage. He says that he's there to interrupt this episode of the Jerry Springer show. Ziggler talks about tackling Cena through a bathroom stall last week and Cena just took it. Ziggler says Cena attacked him on Smackdown and wonders why he'd do that.
Ziggler says that something is eating Cena up inside. He says that when Cena kissed AJ, Cena knew AJ was thinking about Dolph. Cena calls it funny and gets fired up to get after Ziggler. Vickie cuts him off and says they'll find out who is better by having Cena face Ziggler later.
Less annoying than normal but this is a horrible storyline. The reminder of AJ being crazy could be signaling that AJ turns and aligns with Dolph.
Match #4 - Kofi Kingston vs. Tensai
Wade Barrett sits in on commentary and tells us he will face Kofi at TLC. Tensai gets some offense in and works Kofi's arm. Kofi comes back and goes for Trouble in Paradise but Tensai blocks it.
Tensai gets a near fall, but Kingston avoids another rope move. Kofi hits a cross body block to get the win. Afterward, Barrett takes the belt, hands it to Kofi, and walks away without incident.
Daniel Bryan and Kane argue over who will win the RawActive poll. Bryan shows a map of the US that is colored in blue. Bryan says the blue states voted for him, and the red states voted for Kane (there were no red states). Bryan expands the map to the globe and it's all blue too. Bryan says there was no polling in Hell, but maybe Kane is leading there.
Kane grabs Bryan by the throat. Josh Mathews shows up and reveals the real voting result. Kane won, 59 to 41. Kane tells Bryan his data is skewed and "red rules." Matthews tells Bryan he'll have a match with Rey Mysterio instead, right now.
The live crowd didn't eat up the results.
Match #5 - Daniel Bryan vs. Rey Mysterio
Bryan throws Rey to ringside. He goes out after him but Mysterio races past him and gets back in the ring. Bryan yells "no" as the show goes to break.
Afterward, Bryan is in control. Lawler points out that Rey dyed his beard red. Cole, who seems to be heeling a bit tonight, accuses Lawler of posing to be a king. Lawler also talks about how he found out what Rey's name actually meant.
Rey comes back with a 619 around the ring post then hitting the top rope dive for the win.
Some lame announcing work there. Rey's been in WWE for a long time and they just figured out his name?
Del Rio and Ricardo are chatting in Spanish and they come across Rosa. She thanks Del Rio for taking care of her Khali and Hornswoggle issue. Del Rio tells her "Whatever you need" and winks at her.
The announcers hype up Sheamus vs. Antonio Cesaro for later.
Elsewhere, Josh Mathews interviews Dolph. Ziggler tells Josh Cena is preoccupied with an obsessive, weak, narrow-minded nutcase in AJ. He says AJ should see what he will do to her boyfriend tonight.
Looks like we have another "love" storyline blooming...
They recap the Dolph segment again from last week where AJ got verbally ripped up by Dolph, which led to the physical altercation between Dolph and Cena.
Match #6 - John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler
Cena controls the early going but Ziggler gets his turn. After commercial, Ziggler gets a lot of offense in. Ziggler locks on a sleeper at one point, and Cole points out that hold used to be Ziggler's bread and butter hold to win. Cena backs Ziggler to a corner and locks on the STF.
Ziggler hits the Zig Zag later and gets a near fall. Cena kicks out and starts to run through his offense, hitting the side slam and motions "You can't see me." but sells his bum knee. A trainer checks on Cena, but Dolph goes for the turnbuckle pad.
AJ comes out and yells at him, and Dolph backs away. Vickie comes out and tugs at AJ's leg and those two stare at each other. The official tells them to go backstage. Meanwhile, Dolph tries to use the briefcase to get a cheap win. Cena ducks the shot and hits the AA to get the win.
Afterward, AJ gets in the ring as Cena celebrates. AJ gives Cena the doe-eyed look when he sees her. Cena offers a handshake but she pulls him in for a kiss. Cena looks unsure of all of that.
Just couldn't give Dolph the win over an injured Cena, eh? I guess this builds to a tables match where Cena kinda tumbles through a table accidentally too, right?
Match #7 - Sheamus vs. Antonio Cesaro
They show highlights of Sheamus and Big Show at Survivor Series. Sheamus gets a lot of offense in the early going. He takes the fight to ringside and whips Cesaro into the security railing. Cesaro trips up Sheamus on the ring steps.
We see an ad for Smackdown where they ask if either Show or Sheamus is the World Champion after Survivor Series.
Welcome to WWE Nitro, folks. Nitro was good for mistakes like that.
Sheamus comes back in the match and hits his signature offense. He clubs Cesaro across the chest in the ropes, then hits the Irish Curse back breaker. He tries White Noise but Cesaro counters. Cesaro puts Sheamus up in a torture-rack position then hits a slam out of it for a good near fall.
Sheamus tries a Battering Ram but Cesaro hits the European Uppercut. He tries the Neutralizer, but Sheamus counters with a back body drop then hits the Brogue Kick to send Cesaro to ringside. The official starts the count.
Big Show's music hits as the count goes. Show holds a chair and walks partway down the ramp, but turns and goes back to the stage. Cesaro gets counted out.
Sheamus gets a mic and tells Show that if he brings the chair out, he better use it. He has been telling people that he will be champion until he retires. Sheamus will be happy to give Show that opportunity to retire at TLC.
Sheamus tells Show he will hit him with 100 chair shots to get the title back. Show looks at the chair and destroys it. Sheamus watches on with an intent stare as Show leaves.
A good match, and Cesaro gets protected tonight by getting the count-out loss rather than by a pinfall loss. Very good action down the stretch.
They use a storyboard to tout the free tickets WWE gives to military people. They air still shots of the visit by Vince McMahon, R-Truth, The Miz and others on a goodwill tour.
Match #8 - Damien Sandow vs. Zack Ryder
Sandow cuts a promo on the way to the ring. Cole and Lawler trade barbs throughout the match.
Late in this one, Sandow trips Ryder in the ropes and hits him with the Terminus to get the win.
Cole isn't all out heel, but he's drifting from his old gimmick to his much better work after Lawler went out. They need to pull him back in...
Josh Mathews interviews Paul Heyman, or at least attempts to. Heyman points out that Punk is now up to day 372 as WWE Champion and has passed Randy "Macho Man" Savage on the all-time list. Heyman, after telling Mathews what his questions should be, goes back to holding the title in front of Punk's door.
They replay the interview with Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose.
Match #9 - CM Punk (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Kane
Kane makes his entrance first, then CM Punk. Cole points out Punk's recent appearances in The Talking Dead and at the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade. Lawler says Punk will do anything to get people to follow him.
Cole tells us this is the RawActive match as things get started. Kane controls the early going, getting the better of Punk and knocking him off the apron with a boot as the show goes to commercial.
After the break, Kane works the knee. He follows that with a top rope clothesline. He calls for the chokeslam, but Punk counters with a neckbreaker to get a two count. Punk tries a springboard move to follow that up, but Kane goozles him and hits the chokeslam.
Heyman pulls Punk by the leg toward the ropes. Kane picks him up instead and goes for the tombstone. Heyman screams no. The cameras pan back to show Seth Rollins Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns having made their way through the crowd to ringside. Punk slips out of the tombstone position and clips Kane, then follows up with the GTS to get the win.
Afterward, Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns get in the ring. Punk looks wide-eyed at them and backs to a corner, but the three go after Kane. Daniel Bryan hits the ring for the save, but they quickly outnumber him too. Punk watches from ringside.
A "feed me more" chant gets going, and here comes Big Hungry. Punk jumps over the safety railing and flees through the crowd. Ryback hits the ring and the three overpower him at first, but Ryback battles back. He hits Ambrose and Reigns each with the Meathook and hits a big powerbomb on Rollins.
Punk runs back in and tries to attack Ryback from behind. He no-sells and loads Punk for a powerbomb also. Reigns hits a spear, then the trio overpowers Ryback. They hit their triple man powerbomb on Ryback as Punk watches on from ringside with an intimidated look on his face. Heyman is shown with the same look from the opposite side.
The three leave the ring, and Punk gets back in. He holds the belt up and puts his foot on Ryback to end the show.
There is some good in this angle. Ryback looked strong by roughing up three men until the attempt on Punk opened the door for him to be taken advantage on. There's still the mystery of exactly how, and if, these three are tied to CM Punk somehow and they did it in a smart way. And the announcers didn't look like idiots in their call of it.
Otherwise, color me not excited. I just felt like there'd be a better way to bring these specific three talents up from NXT than this. Maybe there's more to it than what we've seen so far.
An all-right show tonight coming out of the holiday and heading to TLC. We're beginning to see stories develop for the main titles. Now if we can just shed the Cena/Dolph/AJ/Vickie drama...
I'll have more to say tomorrow night in Raw Afterthoughts. Thanks for watching along tonight.