John Cena comes out to open Raw and he talks about tonight’s show. Dolph Ziggler and AJ interrupt along with Big E Langston. They bicker and Cena challenges Ziggler to a match right now. Ziggler says no but Big E accepts the challenge for him and tells Ziggler to go down to the ring.

^Cena was typical Cena, and his excitement was clearly fake and cheesy, but his words with Ziggler led us to this opening match, and who the hell can complain about starting Raw(a wrestling show) with these two in a WRESTLING match?

John Cena goes one on one with Dolph Ziggler. Big E jumps on the apron and punches Cena when the ref is distracted, and he only gets a two count out of it. AJ tries to distract Cena as well and Ziggler is only able to manage another two count. AJ then slaps Cena when Dolph distracts the ref and he ejects AJ and Big E from ringside. Big E comes back when the ref is down and delivers his finisher to Cena, but he still kicks out when Dolph goes for the pin attempt. Cena hits the AA on Ziggler for the three count.

^The formula to this match was simple but well mapped out. Both guys hit their trademark moves, kicked out a bunch of times, and Cena pulled out his superman act to overcome the controversy and kick out every time despite the outside interference. This was an excellent way to open the show. On a personal note, I think it could help elevate Dolph Ziggler a bit more if he can come up with a pinfall victory over John Cena BEFORE he captures the World Heavyweight Championship.

Eve goes one on one with Kaitlyn for the Divas Championship. Kaitlyn wins the match by countout after Eve runs off into the crowd with her title.

^The match was short and aggressive, much like their non-match brawl recently, but the rivalry really fueled up even further when Eve took off running in fear for losing her title. Despite WWE being high on Eve, I can see them swapping the title at least once or twice to put Kaitlyn over for all the hard work she’s done(she’s a very talented wrestler in comparison to some of the past divas).

Santino is shown talking to Ricky Steamboat backstage. Wade Barrett interrupts when Santino talks about being a great IC Champion. Steamboat offers to be in Santino’s corner tonight when he faces Barrett.

^Just like Smackdown, Barrett was holding that house show/prop IC Title belt that Cody Rhodes unveiled last year(the design of it is a bit different than the one you see him bring to the ring). I was told Ricky Steamboat wasn’t going to wrestle again, but it would certainly be alright with me to see him in a managerial role(and perhaps see his son Richie come up from NXT to the main show).

Randy Orton is interviewed by Matt Striker, and the 3MB interrupt to announce their entry into the Royal Rumble. Orton asks which one of them he will face tonight. Slater tells Orton to pick his poison, and he selects Slater.

^Well, I highly doubt any of the 3MB will be booked to win the Royal Rumble, but it’s definitely good filler material for the match. As for Orton, I don’t expect him to win the Rumble either, but I’ll be cliche enough here to admit that anything can happen in WWE.

Kane and Dbry take on Team Rhodes Scholars in a non title match. Rhodes gets the pin on Dbry using crossrhodes after Dbry “tweaks” his knee on a backflip landing.

^Well we know the knee injury was the excuse for Dbry losing so easily, but I’m genuinely glad to see Rhodes and Sandow earn another shot at the gold. Whether or not Kane and Dbry drop the title at the Rumble really doesn’t matter to me, because I see them ending their partnership during the Rumble match itself(assuming they enter; I would almost guarantee it) when one causes the other to be eliminated.

Randy Orton defeats Heath Slater. The 3MB attack Orton after the match but he delivers and RKO to Mahal and McIntyre.

^I still like the 3MB becoming relevant, and featuring them against Orton helped them once again. Heath Slater is really the underrated star of the group, and that’s interesting to note considering WWE wanted both McIntyre and Mahal to be top heels at one time. Orton looked good, and I suppose his lack of overall storyline(besides the brewing feud with Sheamus) could make him a better candidate than I give credit to win the Rumble.

Wade Barrett defeats Santino Marella using the Bull Hammer. Barrett goes for the hammer on Steamboat but he walks away when Steamboat stands upright and confronts him.

^Is this storyline going somewhere now? I’d be happy to see Santino get a return match or two for the title, but something tells me Wade will have another match with Kofi Kingston before that can happen. I wouldn’t complain about Steamboat becoming embroiled in something that would involve Richie coming up and feuding instantly for the gold(I’m too hopeful for something like that).

Sheamus is interviewed by Matt Striker about winning the Royal Rumble again. Sheamus says he doubts he can win the Rumble in eighteen seconds in response to Striker’s misworded question. 3MB comes into the scene and Sheamus makes fun of them. Sheamus offers for them to come to the ring with him and sing oh Danny Boy.

^With Sheamus now having issue with 3MB, I can definitely see a three on two situation forming for Orton and Sheamus(maybe on Smackdown). Sheamus was funny in this interview, and I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t really bother to take note of with his character.

Antonio Cesaro defeats the Great Khali with the neutralizer. The Miz is on commentary during the match and Cesaro stares him down after the match.

^This was basically a replay of a match from Main Event last week. Cesaro is clearly on the dominant streak, and Miz is clearly the guy that is supposed to challenge him next for the title. It definitely takes a lot of work to have a decent match with a guy of Khali’s size, but Cesaro made this one watchable with his tremendous work ethic.

Brad Maddox approaches Paul Heyman backstage. Heyman tells Maddox to get out of his life, again. Maddox asks Heyman who he thinks he is and says he knows he can be of service to Heyman and Punk. He says he has his ref’s shirt tonight and could suggest to Vickie that he ref Ryback/Punk tonight. Heyman tells Maddox he wants him to just leave him alone.

^Maddox should rat out Heyman and Punk eventually, and the storyline would be complete. The only problem with WWE is that they don’t always follow through on storylines and giving them a proper finish.

Sheamus defeats Jinder Mahal using the brogue kick. McIntyre and Slater attempt to interfere during the match but both also end up on the receiving end of Sheamus’ big boot.

^Sheamus looks like a beast in this match, and taking down three guys without any help was just his way of matching Orton from earlier in the night. Enjoyable segment here.

CM Punk defeats Ryback to retain the WWE Championship. Punk climbs the ladder slowly after Ryback is unable to fend off the Shield and they powerbomb him through a table on the outside.

^The pacing of this match wasn’t fast, but the story told was pretty damn impressive. Ryback looked like he was really hurting at points during the match, and this was easily his most impressive outing to date on WWE TV. Maybe this was his wake up call to what it takes to be a star in the business, but he definitely showed signs of being worn down when this was over. I would almost bet that Ryback has either the World Title or WWE Championship in his possession before the end of the year. Punk, on the other hand, succeeded in carrying Ryback to a great wrestling match; it speaks volumes for his talent. My only concern is how tired and beat down(not the kayfabe selling part) Punk has appeared as of late whenever you see him in a match. Overall, this was a fantastic WWE Championship match to kick off Raw in 2013.

Matt Striker tries to interview CM Punk after the match and Punk tells Striker he will speak before the Rock gets a chance because it’s time to drop another pipebomb.

^A Punk pipebomb? Count me in!

Backstage, Vickie Guerrero tells Kane and Dbry that Dr. Shelby will be back next week for their evaluation. They argue about whether Shelby is a monster or a nerd.

^The Dr. Shelby segments were hilarious before, and I hope bringing him back can reignite some of the comedy that we saw before from these two.

Big Show squashes Kofi Kingston with a quick knockout punch. It was announced before the match that Big Show will take on Alberto Del Rio in a non-title match on Smackdown.

^Big Show is still the dominant champion, and you have to wonder how much longer he will have the gold. It’s too bad Del Rio couldn’t have distracted Show and given Kofi an upset non-title victory over the World Champion(wishful thinking once again on my part).

Punk comes to the ring with Paul Heyman. Punk says people are confused about what a pipebomb is and that a pipebomb is nothing more than the truth. He went on to say that the more popular you are, the more money you make. For example, he used Cena getting title shots, Brodus Clay dancing on TV, and Little Jimmy getting more time on Raw than Tyson Kidd. Punk talks about being the greatest WWE Champion of all time, and mentions that we never saw Hulk Hogan wrestling TLC Matches. A crew member tells Punk it’s time for a commercial break and he tries to stop it, but we go to a commercial anyway. After the commercial(Heyman is now absent), Punk starts calling the fans losers and out comes the Rock. They swap words back and forth, and Rock delivers the Rock Bottom on Punk. Punk rolls out of the ring and Rock tosses the WWE Championship to him to end the show.

^I’ve already read a lot of responses to this. Some people are happy and others are not. Regardless, we all have the right to our own opinion and to share it. Punk’s pipebomb wasn’t as brutal as the one he delivered in the summer of 2011, but it was pretty damn honest and I’m certain Vince won’t be in love with some of what he said(pissing off the boss is what matters most to me, and that’s because he’s managed to piss me off as a fan a few times over the years). Personally, the Rock of 2011, 2012, and now 2013 doesn’t feel like the Rock that we saw owning the mic during the Attitude Era. That said, he’s still head and shoulders above the majority of the current locker room in terms of entertainment quality; I’m just saying a lot of his stuff has become very repetitive and feels lacking in creativity. With that out of the way, I believe Rock and CM Punk can have an incredible match at the Rumble, and I suspect that they will deliver us such an epic encounter that it will rate as one of the best matches of 2013.

Three squash matches, a Divas match, a great opening match, and an excellent WWE TItle match; how do you rank that? Factoring in a great promo to close the show and hype the Royal Rumble, I’d call this an excellent show. I’ll be back with a Smackdown Analysis at the end of the week. Until next time, you’ve been ThunderStruck! – add me!

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