WWE held their annual holiday week house show at Madison Square Garden, a tradition that goes back decades, on 12/27. The show drew a strong crowd of 14-16,000, but was not a sellout. That is not a real surprise given the local market has had Raws in two nearby New Jersey locations, Wrestlemania tickets on sale and a PPV in Brooklyn in the last few months, plus a house show at Nassau Coliseum tomorrow. Before the show, they pushed fans to Tweet and text photos and messages for the company to place on their video screens. The entrance way was decorated for the holiday with twinkling lights, blow up characters, etc.
*The New Age Outlaws defeated Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow. The Outlaws received a respectable reaction but not a huge homecoming response. It seemed like the younger fans weren't aware of who they were. They got a much bigger reaction for the catch phrases. Billy Gunn noted it was a PG era, which got boos, but still had the fans yell "Suck it." The match itself was solid, but nothing out of the ordinary. Gunn scored the win with the Famouser. Road Dogg made a remark about Rhodes' "porno mustache" on the mic after the bout.
*Brodus Clay defeated David Otunga. Clay had the Funkadactyles with him and did the entire big production number, sans pyro. Otunga did the old Narcissist posing routine before the show, complete with what sounded like the old Lex Luger theme song. Short match and not very good. Clay got the win with a big splash.
*Jack Swagger emerged on the stage and cut a promo on Clay as he walked to the ring, saying he was going to show the world why he was the All American American and rip Clay apart. Two minutes later, he was pinned as well and Clay did the dance-off with a bunch of kids. The dancing got over big. The match did not.
*They announced Tensai vs. Santino Marella with the loser having to sing a song the audience would vote on. That may have been the oddest stipulation match in the history of wrestling, including the wacky Scorpion and Alligator matches in the 1990s in Japan.
*WWE Divas champ Eve Torres defeated Kaitlyn. Good match. Kaitlyn was really over with the younger female fans at the show as you could hear a LOT of girls chanting for her. Kaitlyn looked pretty good here and this was better than the norm for Divas bouts. They did one spot where Kaitlyn caught Eve attempting a kick and slammed her leg down to the mat, forcing her to land with her legs split. Kaitlyn then punched her down.
*Santino Marella defeated Tensai with the Cobra and pinned him to win the song bout. Vickie Guerrero came out to announce Tensai would have to sing "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer." At this point, Tensai was probably wondering if he could book a flight for the Tokyo Dome. He at first claimed he was Jewish and didn't know the song, then "warmed up" singing a wrestling version of Adam Sander's Hanukkah Song. He then sang the most awful version of Rudolph ever uttered. This didn't appear to get over with anyone but some kids.
*The Shield, in their MSG debut, defeated WWE Tag Team champions Daniel Bryan & Kane and The Miz in the best thing on the show up until this point. Shield came through the crowd and they brawled all over. One of the best things in the company right now is the Shield and I think a good part of that has to do with the fact that since they are so new, they haven't settled into a "routine" like most WWE talents where they have a few signature spots and trademark mannerisms, so everything feels more like an actual battle and less like a show. Early on, they went for a superbomb off the ropes on Bryan but he turned it into a rana on Reigns. The Shield ended up on the floor and Bryan nailed a tope into the aisle. In the end, Miz went for the Skull Crushing Finale on Roman Reigns but was attacked by Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. They nailed the powerbomb and scored the pin. Great stuff.
*WWE United States champion Antonio Cesaro, in his MSG debut, defeated Zack Ryder with the Neutralizer. Ryder was nowhere as over as his glory days a year ago but got a nice reaction. They had a good match with some nice near falls and the crowd was really buying into the idea that Ryder could win. Real good.
*Ryback pinned Paul Heyman in a NYC Street Fight. Heyman came out and cut a Paul E. Dangerously WCW era promo, basically saying he had been coming to MSG since he was 14 years old shooting photos (the truth) and ran down all the tough names that had been here from Ali vs. Frazier to Bruno, Superstar, Hogan, Rock and Steve Austin (HUGE pop for Austin, one of the biggest on the show) but he was tougher than all of them. He said he would hop the rail and show everyone if he could and all of NYC could "kiss my ass" which is pretty strong language for 2012 WWE. Ryback came out and Heyman went to the floor immediately. The Shield ran out and attacked Ryback. They worked him over and brought a table into the ring in the corner. Miz, Kane and Bryan hit the ring and saved Ryback from being put through it. They all brawled to the back. Heyman entered the ring like a tough guy at this point but Ryback recovered, grabbed him and nailed the Shellshock for the pin. He left, then returned and put Heyman through the table, charging at it while holding Heyman in his arms. Heyman was noticeably protecting his neck while taking the bump. Nice reaction for Ryback and the "Feed me more" chants were very loud.
*John Cena pinned Dolph Ziggler in an entertaining steel cage match. Ziggler was bleeding from around the eye from hitting the steel a little hard. They announced it as escape from over the top or through the door but Cena went for a pin. The referee didn't count and Cena had words with him and those at ringside, then it was suddenly pinfalls being counted as well. At one point, Big E. Langston (MSG debut) tried to pull Ziggler out the cage door, which led to a tug of war with Ziggler in the middle. Langston finally let go, which led to Cena falling back and bumping the ref. AJ hit the ring and slapped Cena, so he kissed her. They went back and forth until Cena hit the AA for the win to send the crowd home happy. Good stuff.
Overall, a good show.
Notes: This was the first show they've had in MSG since the Garden renovated the upper levels of the facility....One of the new things added to the venue are displays celebrating the history of the venue. They had a display for the first Wrestlemania, which I will post photos of tomorrow....They announced during the show that the box office would be open for an hour after the show selling WWE Hall of Fame tickets and there were huge lines after the show....John Laurinaitis and Michael Hayes ran the show....The talk of the backstage was a female fan who tried to jump on the roof of Ryback's car to get inside it and meet him before the show....JTG was backstage but not used....Paul Heyman's family was in attendance....Singer Phil Collins was backstage....No announced return date for MSG....They aired the holiday music video several times on the screen....They were selling CM Punk merchandise although he wasn't there....The "Heyman Guy" t-shirt was seen all over the Garden....Betty Skaaland and rap legend DMC were in attendance, as were The Big O and Zack Ryder's dad....Joey Styles was there shooting photos and tweeting all night from the show....Several talents from NYWC were at the show visiting...WWE was pushing for fans to Tout from the event...Justin Roberts handled the ring announcing. No Howard Finkel - blasphemy!