News broke this past week that WWE Champion CM Punk had to have emergency knee surgery. Now, the Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay per view is all in chaos and needs fixed. How will WWE respond to its champion being medically unable to wrestle this event? Will Punk use this as a means to brag on about his lengthy title run? And how will Sheamus and Big Show bring their heated rivalry to a head as they head into a World Heavyweight Championship chairs match this Sunday?
After the WWE programming intro, they send it into a "previously on Raw" package. They highlight the Shield and hype the main event change for TLC to a six-man tag match featuring Team Hell No and Ryback vs. The Shield. They also hype the Cena vs. Ziggler ladder match with some video of the AJ/Vickie/Dolph/Cena story.
We open in the ring with Dolph Ziggler standing on a ladder. He says he's right where he belongs - on top. He wants to talk about the numbers six and 15. Ziggler says that the "golden boy" John Cena has been handed countless opportunities but has failed to win a championship. He then talks about how Santa (Vince McMahon) has granted Cena another shot by forcing Dolph to put his MITB briefcase on the line this Sunday.
Ziggler says he's going to be the coal in Cena's stocking this Sunday, and beat him. He says he plans to give himself the greatest Christmas present ever when he cashes in his MITB contract and become the greatest World Heavyweight Champion ever. Cue Sheamus' music. Cole and Lawler check in on commentary and feed it to Smackdown highlights of the "no contact" clause of the Big Show and Sheamus' contract.
Sheamus makes fun of Ziggler and says he's now taller than everyone. He says he'll be the one Ziggler will have to beat for the World Heavyweight Championship. He then tells Dolph he would have to win his ladder match against Cena, which Sheamus doesn't think it's going to happen. Sheamus puts over a future match between himself and John Cena for the World Heavyweight Championship.
Big Show has heard enough. His music hits and he comes out saying "blah blah blah" and mocking the idea that either man can beat him. Show says he hasn't decided whether he will knock Sheamus out or use a chair to knock the pasty, pale white skin off of Sheamus' bones.
Sheamus asks Show where his Christmas spirit is and Show says he has none. Sheamus tells this bad joke about Ricardo Rodriguez being thrown into Big Show's nuts. Sheamus says he's tired of talking but can't have contact with Show. That doesn't mean he can't have contact with someone, and he knocks the ladder over that Dolph is standing on. Ziggler bumps to the floor.
Ziggler has definitely grown on the mic and does better than he did with Vickie. He looked a bit dumb for staying on the ladder when Sheamus came out but it does fit his character's cocky persona.
They show Vince McMahon walking through the backstage area and hype his appearance coming up. They also hype Cena vs. Big Show for later on.
Wade Barrett is in the ring but Vince's music hits. Vince gets a rousing ovation as he dances his way out to the stage. He puts over the Show/Cena match for later but says they need more. He calls out Vickie Guerrero and he wants to give her props for making the main event. Vickie comes out and bows at Vince's request. The live crowd boos her.
Rinse and repeat with the goading from Vince to get Vickie to say what he wants her to. Vince is able to book Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler as a "second main event" through Vickie. Vince says that there should be a third main event too. Vickie suggested that AJ be booked in a handicap match. Vince says that AJ in a match would be good. He works the crowd to an announcement between AJ and Vickie. Vince brings out R-Truth for the opening match.
Match #1 - Wade Barrett vs. R-Truth
Kofi Kingston and Antonio Cesaro are sitting in on commentary. Barrett gets the better of Truth in the early going. Kofi and Cesaro cut up on each other, with Kofi making fun of Cesaro's satchel and wonders where he can get them for his mom and sister.
Truth rolls up Barrett to get the win, then goes and taunts Cesaro. Kofi gets in the ring and hits a high cross body on Barrett and celebrates as he and Truth exit.
Poor use of putting heat on the heels going into the pay per view event.
Cole hypes a four-way elimination tag team match to determine who goes to TLC to fight for the #1 Contender's position. The four teams are The Usos, Rhodes Scholars, Primo and Epico, and the Prime Time Players.
Cole's wording was confusing. But none the less, because Team Hell No is working the main event six-man tag there will be no title defense.
AJ is giddy, and she talks to Aksana and Kaitlyn about her opportunity to face Vickie tonight. After Kaitlyn tells her where John Cena is, AJ barges in to the men's locker room.
Cena is talking to Justin Gabriel, Tyson Kidd, and R-Truth. AJ hugs Cena, who isn't exactly comfortable. He holds his shirt up in front of her face and ushers her out. He mouths "I'm sorry" to the other guys.
Match #2 - Rhodes Scholars vs. The Prime Time Players vs. Primo and Epico (w/Rosa Mendes) vs. The Usos; Four Way Elimination match to get the right to fight for the #1 Contender to Team Hell No
As Rhodes Scholars makes their entrance, Cole points out that Cody has been out rehabbing injuries and has recovered in a month. Cody is sporting a mustache now. Cole says that the winner of this elimination match gets a match against Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara at the TLC pay per view.
About three minutes in, one of the Usos pins Primo to eliminate him as the match goes to commercial.
We get a rewind from the commercial segment. One of the Usos hits a top rope splash on Darren Young to eliminate the Prime Time Players. Cole and Lawler put over the performance the Usos are putting on. The live crowd gets a "Cody's Mustache" chant going...funny.
Late in this one, one of the Usos goes up top for another splash, but Cody gets his knees up. He follows with Cross Rhodes for the win.
Good to see the Usos get some shine here and glad to see Rhodes back from injury. I'm not excited about the pay per view match that will be taking place because it's something we've seen before.
The announcers are doing a good job of making the show feel big so far, given they're going up against a big game in Houston vs. New England and this is the go-home show for TLC.
They hype up the Divas match that will be next, showing Eve and Alicia Fox backstage.
Out of commercial we get some hype for the Slammy Awards show that will take place next Monday night. All voting will be done via the WWE App.
Match #3 - Eve Torres (c) vs. Alicia Fox
Alicia gets some offense in. She hits a very nice Fisherman's Suplex to get a two count. Eve battles back and hits her neckbreaker to get the win.
Afterward, Eve invites a cameraman to come to the ring and take pictures mugging with the belt. She poses with a fallen Fox.
Eve needs a good babyface foil, but her posing act is kind of fun to watch.
They show Punk walking with crutches backstage, with Heyman in tow holding the belt.
I would have thought them to make a bigger point of Punk's surgery than they have to this point. Let's see where this goes.
Justin Roberts introduces CM Punk to the ring. He hobbles out with Paul Heyman in tow, on crutches. They show a close-up of Punk's leg as he stays at the stage for his promo.
He says that it's come to their attention that there are some people who think this injury is phony and the surgery is a scam to duck Ryback. Punk assures us that this is 100% real life and it's what happens when you work more days than anyone and when you're the WWE Champion for 388 days. He says injuries happen and it's a tough sport.
"388 days, and no signs of slowing down." Punk says. He feeds it to a video package that shows how Punk got injured. This was the assault that Ryback put on Punk after the lie detector segment.
The fans chant "Feed Me More." Heyman says that the "Feed Me More" chant is making him mad and he gets booed. He says they shouldn't be chanting at the WWE Champion six days after emergency surgery. Heyman says that Punk needed emergency surgery and "didn't have a stunt double" like The Rock.
Heyman says Punk is standing there before the people unlike The Rock, who was too busy to show. Heyman insults New Jersey and says he doesn't blame Rock. Heyman says Punk will defend the WWE Championship against The Rock at Royal Rumble because Punk isn't going anywhere. Heyman gives the mic back to Punk.
Punk says he wants to address a vocal minority that want to see him stripped of the title. Punk says they're likely Ryback fans. He invites those fans to come take it from him, then runs down a list of wrestlers who couldn't take it from him. He says Ryback got two chances and couldn't get it done, and The Rock will fail in his one shot.
Punk says most would be at home icing their knee and pushing the pain pump button if they were in his position. Punk says he will be at the PPV to watch the Shield do to Ryback what Ryback did to him last week. Punk points out he is not affiliated with the Shield.
Cole hypes the six-man match at the pay per view and then the three main-event matches on tonight's show.
The crowd wasn't white hot as most are for Punk promos, but they did boo at the key points in the promos. I wonder why they didn't wait a week to hype Punk vs. Rock, but they might have a hard time to sell TLC without the WWE Title match. Some might just hold on to their PPV dollars for the Rumble to watch a major match like Punk vs. Rock.
Match #4 - Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph's left hammy is taped up. Sheamus uses that as a target and works the leg early. Cole puts it over that the injury happened when Sheamus shoved Dolph off the ladder earlier. Sheamus throws Dolph over the top rope and Ziggler doesn't favor the leg when he lands.
Ziggler controls after the break. He tries to jump off the ropes toward Sheamus, but he catches Ziggler and hits a slam. Ziggler catches Sheamus on the ropes and hits a facebuster off of the top in a neat spot. Good near fall here.
Sheamus comes back with the Irish Curse backbreaker, then cues up the Brogue Kick. Dolph ducks out and grabs a chair. He jabs Sheamus with it to get the DQ finish. Afterward, he hits Sheamus once across the back, but Sheamus cues up the Brogue Kick and takes the chair out of Dolph's hand. Ziggler flees up the ramp.
A solid TV match. The taped hammy didn't play in too much given they weren't really telling a story around the injury.
The announcers talk about the Muppets being the social media ambassadors for the night.
Vickie is shown loosening up for her match. Great Khali and Hornswaggle come in and they help her stretch out. Vince finds the three of them in a rather weird position. Vince quips "I thought this was a family show." That draws a laugh from the live crowd.
Cole laughs at ringside and sets up a Smackdown highlight segment showing The Shield attacking Team Hell No. They show a handheld camera promo from the three of them. They talk about how they have lived injustice and Seth Rollins points out they work for no one but each other.
Match #5 - Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez) vs. Zack Ryder
Ricardo does the ring entrance while Del Rio drives a fancy BMW out to the ramp. Cole points out that there's rumors circulating that The Shield is in Newark tonight. Ryder's dad and guys from the YouTube videos were shown in the crowd.
Ryder gets some good offense in for a while as the fans chant for him. Del Rio works the arm at various times to set up the Cross Arm Breaker.
Late in this one, Ryder gets his knees up on a charge from Del Rio. Ryder plays to the crowd and teases the Broski Boot but he waited too long. Del Rio hits a drop toe hold to drop Ryder then locks on the Cross Arm Breaker to get the submission win.
Ryder got more support than usual and a good amount of offense, but it's not what he was getting when he got some semblance of a push. He got himself over, but WWE has done nothing with it.
Show is starting to drag now...ugh.
The announcers hype up Del Rio vs. Ryback on Main Event this Wednesday, at a 6:30 p.m. start time.
Match #6 - AJ Lee vs. Vickie Guerrero
AJ comes out first, then Vickie. No official in the ring, and Vickie yells about it. Vickie yells at Cole and King about it too. AJ looks at the stage and here comes Brad Maddox in referee gear. He gets greeted with a "you can't wrestle" chant. Funny.
AJ's not happy about the official. He calls for the bell and Vickie jumps her from behind. AJ eventually gets going on offense and covers Vickie after a punch but Maddox doesn't count. AJ gets up and walks over to him, but Vickie rolls her up from behind. Maddox hits a fast count to give Vickie the win.
AJ throws a fit afterward, ripping apart the announce position and slapping Justin Roberts across the face. She screams and shoves over a ladder too before leaving.
Maddox likely got a contract in exchange for his favor here. Betting they ignore this with Vince in the house.
AJ's tantrum keeps going backstage as she rips things apart. Cena shows up and tries to calm her down.
Match #7 - Antonio Cesaro (US Champion) vs. Kofi Kingston (IC Champion)
Kofi comes out first, then Cesaro. Cesaro cuts a promo, saying the US is rotten, especially in New Jersey. Cole points out that this match happened on Main Event before it broke down into a tag match.
Cesaro dominates the early going. Kingston mounts a comeback but the fans don't respond to it. Cesaro cuts off Kofi's comeback with a big boot in the corner as they go to commercial.
After commercial, Cesaro shows off his strength by picking Kingston up. Kingston rolls up Cesaro for a good near fall. King relays a really bad Swiss Miss joke from Howard Finkel's chat. Cole even mocks it. There's some "boring" chants going.
Kingston hits the SOS and gets a pin for a really good near fall. Cesaro grabs the ropes to break it up. Kingston goes up top and tries a cross body but Cesaro catches him and hits a backbreaker. Cesaro hits the Neutralizer to get the win. Cole puts it over as an "evenly fought match 'til the end."
Good match. A bit slow at first as most times Cesaro matches are. The live crowd is burned out as they usually get about this time in the show.
Cole hypes up Miz TV coming next, with the Rhodes Scholars being the guest.
Miz TV Segment:
The Miz's set is at the stage. He comes out in a white suit and sporting a few days' growth of stubble. He introduces Rhodes Scholars to the show. He asks Cody if the mustache he is sporting is growth or a rub off of Sandow's beard.
Miz stirs the pot between them, saying Cody has been living in someone's shadow for a long time and that Sandow has said Rhodes is the Jannetty to his Michaels. Cody gets upset and defends himself and puts Miz down. He proclaims the interview over and Rhodes Scholars leaves. Miz calls them The Pink and The Stink.
Rhodes' new mustache makes him look like a pedophile. Seriously. It's bad.
Cena is walking to the ring, and AJ catches up to him. She wants to come to the ringside area and watch this match, but Cena tells her she needs to stay in the backstage area. She reluctantly agrees to do so.
Cole and King hype up the Santa's Little Helper battle royale to determine the #1 Contender for the Diva's Championship in the YouTube preview show. He also hypes Cena's appearance on Jimmy Fallon.
Match #8 - Big Show (WHC) vs. John Cena
Dolph Ziggler comes out to join the announce position. Cena controls the early going and uses a sleeper hold to wear Big Show down. Cena covers but Show throws him off. Cena tries to load the AA but can't hold him up under the weight and falls down.
Show stays in control after the break with traditional big-man offense. Cena mounts a comeback after Show misses a Vader Bomb in the corner. Cena hits his signature moves with the shoulder blocks. side slam, then Show can't see the Five Knuckle. Show gets up after that and hits a chokeslam.
Show plays to the crowd and sets up the WMD Punch. Cena ducks the punch and hits the AA, but Seth Rollins hits the ring to end the match.
The rest of the Shield hits the ring to join the attack on Cena. King asks if Dolph had a hand in this and Ziggler says "I don't even know who these guys are."
The Shield keeps up their attack until Kane and Daniel Bryan's music hits. Those two come out and join the fray. Ziggler jumps Cena from behind, then Show takes some shots at Cena also.
Sheamus' music hits and here comes Great White. Cole says he has to be careful to not attack Big Show with the "no contact" clause. Sheamus goes after Ziggler and the fight their way out of the ring and into the crowd. Cena spears Show into a table set up in the corner. Feed Me More chants get going as the Shield controls Team Hell No.
Ryback's music hits to a good reaction and here comes Big Hungry. The Shield stops to look at him and Ryback throws a ladder at them. Neat spot. Ryback hits the ring and the brawl is on. The show ends with everyone in the ring fighting.
The show finished strong that way, but the third hour really dragged on. The brawl was good, but there was almost no hype at all for the new TLC main event other than early in the show. A bit surprising. Also, we saw little of Ryback, only a little more of Team Hell No, and nothing really of note out of the Shield other than their previously taped segment from Smackdown.
The attack by The Shield at the end of the show is now becoming a bit predictable already. We really could have used some more new mic work out of them, as well as Kane and Bryan, to hype the new main event. Maybe this big brawl was enough to sell people on the new main event, though.
All in all, a good amount of in-ring action tonight, with Sheamus and Dolph taking the match of the night in my estimation. As a go-home show into a pay per view, however, this show lacked and it wasn't hot until the end. Maybe that was enough to get "on the fence" buyers to commit.
I will have more to say on tonight's show in tomorrow evening's edition of Raw Afterthoughts. Thanks for watching along tonight.