Ring Crew Reviews: VHS Tape Digging Volume 5
Posted by Jack Bramma on 10.08.2013
Digging through boxes of old tapes again reveals DX reforming with the New Age Outlaws, Macho rejoining the nWo, Nash and the nWo killing Sting's 98 title run, and CM Punk getting one of his crowning moments against John Morrison.
• Steel Cage Match for the WWF World Tag Team Championship: New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie (c).RAW 03/30/98. Of note, this is the old school blue cage. The Fed is fresh off arguably the most important WM in their history, XIV, the one that helped launch Stone Cold even further and propelled WWF past WCW in the ratings in the coming months. While Stone Cold was arrested and sent to jail, he promised mayhem for McMahon the next week. Instead, we get Rock kicking Farooq out of the Nation and taking over and the blowoff to this feud in the main event. The Cactus/Funk pairing has an interesting origin as Foley pitched to Vince that he and Funk could have a WM match; instead, Vince balked and put them together as a tag team. Funk/Foley won the belts at WM in a dumpster match and the NAO are still in the JOB Squad.
• The brawl is on as Billy and Funk and Foley and Dogg pair off. Gunn tears off Funk's shirt and goes to work on an injury that Funk suffered last night in the Dumpster Match. Funk and Foley suplex Gunn into the cage and hang him in a Tree of Woe off the top. Foley charges in with a MRS. FOLEY'S BABY BOY HAMMER on Gunn. He gets free and backdrops Foley into the cage in brutal fashion. Dogg whips Funk into the cage, but he no sells and comes back with right hands. JR: “He's tougher than West Texas shoe leather. Dogg gets his shirt and chokes him while Gunn hits the not-yet Fameasser on Foley. Gunn gets some wire and ties Funk to the cage by the neck. The NAO follow up and flapjack Foley into the ropes while Funk is trapped and forced to watch on. Jack comes back with stereo DDTs on the NAO. He catapults Billy into the cage and he sells right into a haymaker from Funk. Foley vaults Dogg into the cage as well. Foley starts the climb out but Gunn is up to cut him off. Foley blasts him down and he gets crotched. BUT WAIT! CHYNA, KID, AND TRIPLE H ARE OUT! IT'S DX! They waffle Foley with a chair and toss it in the ring. The NAO chairshot Foley and hit the COMBO SPIKE PILEDRIVER ON THE CHAIR! Dogg worms his way in a cover and they regain the belts at 4:37 and officially join DX.
• Post-match, DX steals the ECW's crucifixion of Raven by Tommy Dreamer which of course was a less-vicious repeat of the same thing that turned Kurt Angle off forever from ECW.
• JR: “THIS MAY BE THE FINAL RESTING PLACE FOR TERRY FUNK AND CACTUS JACK!”
• All angle in a 5 minute cage match. The stiffness is night and day from a lot of the current product, but not much here outside of the angle. *3/4
• Here's what WCW countered with.
• Kevin Nash and Mystery Partner vs. Sting and Lex Luger.Nitro 03/30/98. Sting is still world champ but floundering after having a few unsatisfying matches with Hogan and playing second fiddle to the Macho-Hogan feud and yet again having Savage turn on him back at Uncensored to stay aligned with n.W.o. Also, Piper, last seen, killing the kayfabe dreams of adolescents everywhere at HH 97, returned last week to yet again battle with Hogan as new WCW commish. Meanwhile, Nash and Hogan are having ever-increasing friction over who is the real Big Sexay and who is the real leader of the n.W.o.
• Nash comes out sans partner and Buffer wants the scoop, so he can announce him but no go. Sting and Luger make their way out. BUT WAIT! IT'S SAVAGE!
• Kevin Nash and Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Sting and Lex Luger. Savage jumps Sting from behind and drops him on the rail and follows up with a PILEDRIVER ON THE FLOOR! Nash goes to the choke on Luger while Macho waffles Sting with the belt. Nash legally tags in Macho and he goes to work on Luger. Brain begins to speculate about how Macho will work together when he wants to take over the n.W.o as well. Nash tags back in and Macho powders out for brawling with Sting. Sting has gotten nothing by the way and hasn't even taken off his trench coat yet. Macho slams Sting on the floor while Nash poses. Macho tags back in and chokes Luger. Sting AGAIN tries to recover, so Macho takes a breather to continue pounding him down. Nash covers Luger for 1, 2, 2 ½. Sting finally gets enough breathing room to take off the coat, but then Macho posts him and chokes Luger over the top rope. Faces have gotten ZERO. Nash hits a corner clothesline and poses as Macho chokes Sting on the floor and gets a chair. Macho back in for an elbow as Tony marvels at the advanced strategy and teamwork of clean tags and cheating on the floor from Macho and Nash. Nash steps down for more damage on Sting. Luger whiffs on a charge and Macho gouges his eye. Luger has had it taken out of him and wants to renegotiate his contract, BUT WAIT! The faces fire up and overcome the even odds to fight back. Sting hits several atomic drops and a LARIATO on Savage. He wants a backdrop. Macho counters, so Sting counters back to a backdrop that sends Macho to the floor. Luger hits the Bionic Elbow on Nash. BUT WAIT! IT'S HOLLYWOOD HOGAN! He goes for Sting and promptly gets tossed into the ringpost. Luger calls for the Rack and gets up Nash. OH NO! IT'S THE DISCIPLE! He blasts Luger to the midsection breaking up the Rack and hits the Apocalypse all while Hogan distracts the ref. Disciple drapes Nash's arm as they are pelted with beer. Ref counts 1, 2, 3 for Nash and Macho to take it at 6:28.
• Even though Hogan was feuding with Nash AND Macho, he hates Piper AND Sting AND WCW more. It's for life, you see. A pretty entertaining mini-tag that had a bit of an interesting angle of continually working over Sting on the floor before he could even get on the apron. It's ridiculous and should have drawn a DQ or the ref's admonishment much sooner, but that's EVERY WCW main event as is the groaner finisher. **
• Post-match, RODDY PIPER HAS COME OUT! He starts choking Hogan with a weight belt, but Disciple breaks it up for some two-on-one. Hogan bullropes Piper all the way to the back. We take a break and we're back for our main event.
• Hollywood Hogan vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper. No entrances for either as they are already brawling. Piper coconuts Disciple and Hogan and then sends both into the rail. Tony: “ONE OF THE TOUGHEST, MOST NO-NONSENSE, COME-STRAIGHT-AT-YA FIGHTERS IN THE HISTORY OF OUR GREAT SPORT!” Back in, Hogan begs off, so Piper spits on him. Hogan tries a few rights but Piper no sells. HOGANSUX chant dies as soon as it gets going. Brain: “You watch, Piper, when he starts coming at Hogan, he's got some of the fastest hands in this sport.” Pure insanity. Little known fact: this is how Piper trained for this match.
• ANYWAY, Piper goes to the eyes again as some of the front row chant that they want Goldberg. Hogan takes a nap on the stairs while Piper brushes the back of his hair carefully downward. Disciple and Hogan practically have a press conference announcing another coconut on the floor. This sucks. Brain: “I'm getting outta here. This is going to spill over here, I know it.” Tony: “Well, let's hang in here.” Back in, Piper starts biting Hogan and working a combo to the breadbasket. Hogan Flair Flops to a pop. Hogan sells a torn trachea while Piper hits the shitty Mongolian chop again. HOGANSUXHOGANSUX! Nick Patrick's all HEY, WAIT A MINUTE, I GOTTA LOOK AWAY BEFORE THE LOW BLOW! And then shoots a glance at Disciple while Hogan waffles Piper to the stones. Piper tries to low blow Hogan back with the left arm, but Hogan botches it BUT SELLS ANYWAY! YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Hogan gets caught in quicksand so they can repeat it and Piper can do it with the right arm and Hogan can sell it correctly this time. They both no sell low blows, so they can slug it out from their knees in a spot they used several times in their matches. Hogan goes back to a neck message called a choke by Tony. Hogan stomps away while Tony talks about how WCW is “the most watched television program in professional wrestling history.” Check back on that in about 2 months. Hogan goes to a few back rakes while Piper Hulks up, but Disciple trips him up. Back in, Piper comes back with the vaunted SLEEPER! HE'S GOT 'IM, TONY! Disciple is in and waffles Piper for the DQ at 6:10.
• Post-match, they shitcan the ref and work over Piper. BUT WAIT! OH MY GOODNESS! IT'S KEVIN NASH! Hogan gets leveled with a beer from the cheap seats for the biggest pop of the match. Disciple too. Brain: “This is bad.” Nash plays peacemaker on the way in and holds Piper in place. Piper moves and Hogan hits a right hand on Nash. A shoving match ensues. BUT WAIT! THE GIANT HAS COME OUT! He scares away everyone in the ring as he's Piper's partner at Spring Stampede in a bat match against Hogan/Nash.
• While the semi-main tag match had some intrigue and crowd heat, the Hogan/Piper clash completely obliterated the crowd and any remaining goodwill. While Piper/Hogan had some juice from 96 well into 97, it was GONE after they had put on several stinkers on pay-per-view. I'd say countering Stone Cold's rise and Rock taking over the nation with Piper/Hogan part XXX and Sting getting dismantled for several minutes and not really getting his heat back in a free TV tag match aren't exactly a sound business strategy. -*
• WCW World Heavyweight Championship: Kevin Nash vs. Sting (c).Nitro 04/06/98. The following week, Macho was laid out outside the arena with Hogan cutting a cryptic promo about getting caught in traffic and hitting a few “speed bumps” but now, Macho's out, he's in the house, and he and Nash are on the same page, brother. Interestingly coming out for the main, Nash is wearing a Macho Man t-shirt. He' accompanied by Konnan. Nash gets the stick and says that Hogan came out and ran his mouth for 45 minutes giving his view of the n.W.o but Nash disagrees. He's got the scoop on Macho getting ran over by a red and yellow Dodge Viper and knows those colors used to belong to someone back in the day. AHA! Insider knowledge. Nash says he's gotta be careful about wearing Macho's shirt though because he might get fired like someone else we know. WE'RE SHOOTING, TONIGHT! Yes, he's referring to Scott Hall who was taken off TV due to drunkenness. Nash has one more message for Hollywood: after he wins the belt, he's not bowing down to Hogan; instead the belt will go around his SEXAY WAIST! Amazingly, that got a pop.
Tony has no update on Macho's condition, but tune in to Thunder to find out. Nash wants the trademark battle at the beginning and Sting wins, then tells him to suck it. Nash brings him into the corner for some hip checks and choking. Nash with more elbows and haymakers and Sting is done. Sting rebounds with a few clotheslines. He heads up top for a top rope clothesline that finally takes down Nash. Sting with a Bluechipper dropkick and Nash bails out. Tenay is stunned: “HOW ABOUT THAT?! AN AERIAL ATTACK FROM THE WORLD CHAMPION!” Brain: “YOU BETTER PACK A LUNCH!” Nash pulls Sting out to the floor and Konnan wails on him with several clubbing blows while Nash distracts the ref. More choking from the challenger. Konnan chokes, so Nash can lumber down with the Bossman Attack Choke! An unpredecented FIFTH STRAIGHT CHOKING MANEUVER! Nash hits a short arm clothesline for 1, 2, kickout. Nash hits the ribbreaker and bridges into the submission hold. Nash releases for another nearfall. Neck wrench for the third resthold in 5 minutes. Sting recovers to elbow out but runs into a hip check from Nash. Nash hits a corner clothesline and Sting is reeling. Nash dances with what brung him and chokes again. He whiffs on a charging knee and Sting clips the leg down. He drops a few elbows on the bad leg. Sting wants the Deathlock and rolls him over. Mickey Jay is in such good position that he blows the spot where Konnan helps pull Nash to the ropes. Konnan does it anyway and MJ is pissed but no DQ. In the confusion, Nash goes to the eyes. That's more like it, much better cheating. Nash hits the side slam for 1, 2, 2 ½. Nash hits another elbow for another nearfall. Nash with more rights and knees as the seams are starting to show. Nash goes to the neck wrench to buy time. Sting teases tapping out TO A NECK WRENCH but recovers. Sting fires up with rights and another dropkick. Didn't we see this already? Konnan is in to eat a Stinger Splash with Nash. Thanks. Sting follows up with another on Nash while Konnan bails out. Sting with a third but Nash no sells all of it to go for the Jackknife. See, the Jackknife is currently banned due to a little mishap nearly breaking Giant's neck. Nash wants the powerbomb, but his back gives out. BUT WAIT! HOLLYWOOD HOGAN HAS COME OUT! He starts pounding on Sting for the DQ at 10:46.
• Post-match, Nash pulls Hogan off and Hogan's all WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU, MAN?! Sting fights off both before all of the troops come out and jump Sting. Giant and Piper join them all to fight off the n.W.o with WCW left standing tall and the n.W.o imploding.
• This is around the time Nash was clearly positioning himself or being positioned to eventually be in charge of positioning himself (as booker) as the one of the top 3 guys in the company. Sting, even as champ, was on his way down. Goldberg wasn't there yet. Hall was out to pasture. Piper was 1000 years old. DDP was right there but still feuding with Raven in the upper midcard. Macho was super over, but was never going to get out of Hogan's shadow. That leaves, Hogan and Nash, the two leaders of the eventual two n.W.o's, one who had kept the company under his iron fist since getting there in 1994 and the other who would go on to win WW3 and dethrone Goldberg to end the streak later that in 1998. If Hogan, Triple H, and HBK are the consummate politicians, Nash has to be near the top of that list too as he was never far from the top of the crowd, never had to work too hard, somehow was ALWAYS over with the crowd, and made a ton of money in the process.
• Anyway it takes some kinda cajones to go toe-to-toe with Sting after one of the biggest feuds and buyrates in the HISTORY of the business and dominate the match and look the strongest at the end of the match and be aligned with Hogan yet not get any of his past-expiration date stink on you and still be face. That's quite the accomplishment. Booking aside, the match is fairly boring with Nash choking and restholding his way through the heat and Sting getting a big pile of nothing and two dropkicks. Starrcade 97, indeed. **1/4
• WCW World Heavyweight Championship: Kevin Nash vs. Sting (c).WCW Nitro. 04/13/98. The following week WCW would keep hyping up Piper/Giant against Hogan/Nash in a bat match. Nash was supposed to square off against Hogan but instead conned Sting into another title shot after telling him that he'd have won the gold if it wasn't for Hogan last week. Oh yeah, the powerbomb is reinstated for this one.
• Nash raises the belt before the bell as Charles Robinson is raising it and poses. Sting steals it back and they start brawling. Sting goes up early with rights and kicks. He mounts in the corner and hits all 10. Sting with a big clothesline but Nash won't go down. Sting tries up and over to avoid a blind charge but Nash catches him with Snake Eyes and a Bossman attack as Brain says he smells a title change coming tonight. Also of note, Nash has no help tonight from Konnan or any other n.W.o-ites. After two moves, Sting is DONE. He buckles after another haymaker and some choking in the corner. Nash with a running clothesline and Sting calls for the paramedics as Nash pantomimes the belt around his waist. Nash hits several hip checks in the corner. Nash paintbrushes him with the feet and then goes back to the elbows and a headbutt. Sting tries firing up for a bodyslam but his back buckles for 1, 2, only 2. Big reaction from the crew and crowd on that kickout as they thought it might have been it. Nash drops an elbow for 1, 2, 2 ½. Nash continues his dizzying psychology attack with the neck wrench. Sting tries elbowing out but runs into more elbows from the big man. Gutwrench powerbomb from Nash gets another nearfall. Nash calls for the Jackknife. He sends Sting off instead for the sideslam. Cover gets 1, 2, kickout. Tony: “THREE TIMES HE ALMOST WON THE WORLD TITLE!” Brain: “Sting is now in serious trouble, no doubt about it.... He's only human, how much can he take?” Nash locks in the bearhug. Sting gets the arm up on the third and hits the Mongolian chops to box the ears. Sting with haymakers of his own and a Stinger Splash. Nash won't go down and stumbles into the opposite corner. ANOTHER STINGER SPLASH! DROPKICK! NASH IS STILL UP! THIRD STINGER SPLASH! BUT WAIT! MACHO AND LIZ HAVE COME OUT! Sting goes for the Deathlock but Macho waffles Sting with the cast while Liz distracts the ref. The fans start throwing piles of garbage. Nash drapes the arm for 1, 2, KICKOUT! Jackknife time. Nash hits it. He hooks the leg for 1, 2, NO! BRET HART PULLS OUT THE REFEREE! The bell rings for a DQ at 8:25. Post-match, Bret tries the Sharpshooter on Nash but the numbers overcome. Another Jackknife for Sting. Bret fights back for a while single-handedly against roughly 8 n.W.o guys including Vincent, Bryan Adams, Norton, Scott Steiner, Curt Hennig, Konnan, Buff, etc. Seriously, one guy takes apart the world champ for 10 minutes but Bret fights off practically the entire n.W.o by himself.
• Again, other than a hot go-home, Sting comes out looking like crap who can't handle Nash on his own much less Hogan, much less Macho, etc. For months during the build up, the n.W.o was terrified of Sting and ran in fear from him even appearing in the rafters. Now, he's a punching bag who can't get clean wins unless it's Scott Hall. Also, Nash went from heel to face in a few weeks as two weeks before this he needed lots of cheating to get the advantage in a tag match, the next week he needed Konnan but still kept Sting on his ass the whole match, and this match, he's a face other than for 3 seconds of a Macho run-in and that's negated by a similar Bret run-in. Still entertaining even if the booking kills me. **3/4
• In case it wasn't obvious, Sting was dead as champ and dropped the belt to Macho in a few weeks.
• Four Corner Match for the WWF World Tag Team Championship: The Rock & Owen Hart vs. The New Age Outlaws vs. Kane & Mankind vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin & The Undertaker (c).RAW 08/10/1998. Let's cover rules – this is a fatal four-way tag match basically. Anyone can tag anyone regardless of team but only two men are legal at a time.
• We're building to the Austin-UT match for the fate of the universe at Summerslam. Austin and UT are tag champs in one of those Russo touches that worked the first few times and almost never after that because it was so predictable. Earlier in the night, Vince was sure that Kane and UT were the same person, so in the process of trying to take Kane's mask off, the lights went out and when they came back on UT was brawling with Mankind. Michael Cole is in the back with UT and wants an explanation: “I'll do my explaining in the ring, tonight.” Before the match can get started, Shamrock jumps Owen from behind to build to their Lion's Den match at SS as well. DX is out to hold off invading Nation members. Blackman is out as well to try and hold off Owen. When we come back from commercial, D'Lo replaces Owen.
• Four Corner Match for the WWF World Tag Team Championship: The Rock & Owen Hart D'Lo Brown vs. The New Age Outlaws vs. Kane & Mankind vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin & The Undertaker (c). Kane enters by himself because Mankind may be insane, but even he isn't insane enough to stay hanging around Kane after getting jumped by UT earlier. JR: “What a star-studded match! THE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMP! THE EUROPEAN CHAMPION! THE TAG CHAMPIONS! THE WWF CHAMPION! ALL IN ONE MATCH AND BY GOD, WE'RE LIVE!” Good stuff.
• Mankind and Austin to start with Austin pounding him down. Super hot crowd for basically the entire midcard and main event in the ring at one time. Foley goes for the Mandible Claw but Austin boots him away. Foley comes back with a neckbreaker for 1, 2, only 2. AUSTINAUSTINAUSTIN! Austin wants the Stunner but Mankind bails out much to JR's chagrin. JR: “MANKIND IS SICK! HE MAY BE SANITARIUM-BOUND!” Austin brings in Rock for some punishment but Mankind pokes Austin in the eye off the misdirection. Foley teases a suplex to the floor but Austin with the STUN GUN! Suplex back in. Cover gets 1, 2, only 2. Foley cuts Austin off and tags in D'Lo. D'Lo with a back elbow for another nearfall. Austin ducks a clothesline and clubs down Brown. Thesz press and some GnP and the crowd is fired up. Elbow drop and Austin tags in Kane. Kane quickly tags in Billy Gunn. D'Lo for a crossbody for a quick nearfall. Billy hits the Fameasser and press slams D'Lo for 1, 2, 2 ½. Of note, D'Lo is awesomely still wearing the chest protector trying to heel up from a torn pectoral muscle from months ago. Billy tags in Road Dogg. He shake, rattle, and rolls for another 2 count. D'Lo escapes to tag in Foley. Dogg backdrops out but Foley tags in Rock. Rock distracts the ref so Foley and D'Lo can choke away in the corner. Rock tags D'Lo back in for a suplex on Road Dogg. Dogg with a big boot and he brings Mr. Ass back in. Jackhammer gets 1, 2, nearfall as UT breaks it up. Billy tries to show his displeasure and UT stares him down to a pop from the crowd. D'Lo tags in Austin. Austin with a few boots and he tags in UT to a HUGE POP for the teamwork.
• UT punches Billy Bitchcakes out to the floor. Austin hangs him out to dry on the rail. JR: “THAT RATTLESNAKE CAN BE NASTY!” UT jumps Mankind and dumps him to the floor starting a brawl as Foley chases him back down. Back in, UT works over Billy. Billy tags in Austin and now it's the tag champs and the SS opponents going face-to-face. JR mentions they can fight but not pin each other. Billy brawls with Mankind on the floor and rather than the MegaSupernaturalPowers imploding they join the fray. Austin sends Billy into the ringpost and slides him in. Billy tags in Road Dogg and he eats Old School. AND THE ROAD DOGG IS DOWN! UT with the throat chops and tags in D'Lo as King keep flip flopping on whether he thinks Austin will screw Taker or Taker will screw Austin. D'Lo drops the leg for 1, 2, only 2. D'Lo tags in Rock to big heat. Russian leg sweep gets another nearfall. Rock and D'Lo trade some quick tags and D'Lo goes to a chinlock. Road Dogg punches his way free but runs into Low Down. Cover gets 1, 2, Badass breaks it up. Rock in for the PEOPLE'S ELBOW! Rock tells the crowd to suck it and then drops it on Road Dogg. Cover gets 1, 2, 2.99 as Austin breaks it up. Rock tags in Foley. Mankind works a neck crank. Foley spits on Austin for no particular reason. JR: “That's disgusting if not particularly surprising.” Foley tackles Billy so Road Dogg can't tag him in but instead, Road Dogg tags in UT. Now, the Nation are in and so is Austin to help UT fight them off. Austin and UT go up on everything in sight. UT with the FOOT TO THE FACE on Foley. ChokeSlam on D'Lo. Austin bails out to brawl with Rock. Foley tags in Kane. CHOKESLAM ON UT! Cover gets 1, 2, 3 for new champs at 14:30.
• Post-match, King plays up how he thinks UT ate the ChokeSlam on purpose and isn't really hurt.
• Pretty damn good just based on all the energy and starpower on display alone. Any 98 WWF crowd was off the charts but add in some UT mystique, the Kane-Mankind dynamic, Rock's heat with the crowd, and the NAO being over. What's not to like about the match. Virtually any combination of all of the above guys minus MAYBE some D'Lo/NAO matches would be good for *** and a solid midcard all the way up to main event match. ***1/4
• Johnny Nitro vs. John Cena.RAW 10/23/2006. After a promo, JR is a bit amped up. King: “Gotta love Skittles.” JR: “I'm a Skittle-eating fool. And the Hollywood Bad Boy, Kevin Federline. I tell ya, if Federline steps over the line with Cena tonight, he may live to regret it. And then, maybe again he won't.” King: “Wait a minute, this guy's pretty athletic.” Thanks for that. Cena looks downright trim here, meaning 250 lbs. of possibly chemically-induced mass rather than 280 lbs.
• Nitron with a knee to the gut but Cena takes over and sends him into the turnbuckle. Cena with a back elbow and covers for a quick 2 count. Cena with a right that Nitro sells across the ring. Cena follows up with a vertical suplex and covers but Melina distracts the ref, because of course we gotta protect Cena. Federline now distracts and Nitro takes over. Nitro goes to the GnP and the some choking to show off his range. Melina yells as Nitro hits a neckbreaker for 1, 2, only 2. Nitro locks in a cravat that goes on for a bit. Cena powers out to boos but whiffs on a crossbody per usual. Nitro's all I MAIN EVENTED TOUGH ENOUGH and dumps out Cena. Federline smacks Cena. Cena no sells, Hulks up, but turns around into a nice plancha from Nitro. Nitro sends him into the announce table. Back in, Nitro covers for 1, 2, nearfall. Cena fights back but runs into the turnbuckle. Ugly bulldog or a “modified bulldog headlock” according to JR gets 1, 2, only 2. Morrison goes to the Sleeper but adds in the bodylock for the vaunted ORTONLOCK! King: “Can you imagine what this'll mean if Kevin Federline comes here and helps coach Johnny Nitro to a victory over John Cena?” JR: “WELL, THEY'LL BE MORE NATIONAL HEADLINES! MORE TALK SOUP! MORE JIMMY KIMMEL!” Cena powers out into the backpack spinebuster to boos. Double KO spot. Both stagger but are up at 7. Cena goes to the shoulderblocks to yet more boos. Proto-Bomb and Cena shows off the 5KS to Federline. Federline is nonplussed and buries his head in his hat. Cena wants the FU and hits it. Cover gets 1, 2, 3 to win at 6:35. Rather than pay attention to his downed opponent, Cena bails out to go after Federline. JR: “Federline, YOU BETTER NOT ACT LIKE YOU'VE GOT AN APRICOT UP YOUR ASS!” King: “He's trying to open up a can of haul ass.” BUT WAIT! BIG SHOW AND KING BOOKA ARE OUT! The WWECW and World Heavyweight Champs. They put the boots to Cena to wear him down for the champion of champions battle at Cyber Sunday. After a big ChokeSlam, Book and Show embrace only for Book to hit the Book End on Show and add an Ax Kick to Cena. JR: “EVER THE ROYAL OPPORTUNIST!”
• Not the most exciting pairing in the world. Morrison got nothing but a cravat, chinlock, neckbreaker, and plancha, but then again, he was a relative nothing at the time, and Cena was/is the franchise. Still, King tripping all over himself to play up K-Fed and JR ironically hamming it up are fun. **
• WWECW Championship: CM Punk vs. John Morrison (c).ECW 01/09/2007. This is Punk's last chance to win the strap from Morrison. Punk is face, Morrison is heel, and Vince McMahon has an illegitimate son that will be revealed the following Monday. (Hint: it was Hornswoggle). Morrison's slow mo intro is still awesome.
• Morrison with a quick go-behind that Punk reverses to a front facelock. Morrison ducks behind and cradles Punk for a quick 1 count. CMPUNKCMPUNKCMPUNK! Punk switches to a hammerlock and rolls up Morrison for a 1 count as well. Earlier tonight, Joey Styles tells us that Morrison labeled Punk as a “Blink 182 groupie.” Punk grabs another headlock and gets sent off to shoulderblock Morrison. Morrison tries a hiptoss but Punk counters to one of his own for another nearfall. Punk tries a headlock but Morrison trips and goes to work with boots to boos. Punk tries a charge in the corner and blocks Morrison's boot. Punk counters with the springboard dropkick. Cover gets 1, 2, only 2. Punk slams Morrison and drops a leg for another 2 count. Punk with a “high, round kick” according to Taz and another. Punk with a hard whip and a snap suplex for 1, 2, 2 ½. Morrison cuts Punk off by hanging him out to dry in the ropes. MOARBOOTS from the champ. Morrison tries the Arabian powerbomb to the floor but Punk blocks and flies off with a crossbody. Nice. We take a break and we're back to Punk working a chinlock. Punk slides out of a suplex and rolls up Morrison for 1, 2, nearfall. Punk charges in to the corner but Morrison backdrops him. Punk lands on the apron and tries to head up top but Morrison knocks him off.
• Cover gets 1, 2, still 2. Morrison with a big kick to the chest and he slingshots in booting Punk to the floor. Morrison covers for another nearfall. Punk elbows out of a headlock but Morrison sends him back into the corner. Punk fires up for a LARIATO but Morrison cuts him off again with the double neckbreaker that Miz now uses. NO! Punk counters to a roll up! 1, 2, NO! RUNNING GAMENGIRI FOR MORRISON! 1, 2, only 2. Morrison goes to some GnP and then locks in a chinlock. Punk tries to elbow out and again Morrison pulls him down by the hair. Morrison heads up top but Punk takes over with a superplex to a big pop. Double KO spot. They both get to their feet at 9 and Punk takes over with kicks and clotheslines. Leg lariat and Punk covers for 1, 2, 2.7. Punk hits the step up knee in the corner for Bulldog for 1, 2, 2.999. Crowd is digging every nearfall. Punk wants the butterfly suplex but Morrison drives him into the corner and hits the PELE! Starship Pain gets 1, 2, 2.999999. Punk wants the G2S but Morrison rolls him up! HANDFUL OF TIGHTS AND ROPE! 1, 2, 222222222222222—THE REF SEES IT! Punk cradles for 1, 2, kickout. Step-up enzuigiri from Punk follows. Punk whiffs on a Stinger Splash but Morrison misses the gamengiri. GO TO SLEEP! 1, 2, 3 and Punk is new champ at 13:01. Competent but bland with Morrison's heat not lighting my fire but expertly paced and beautifully built to the dynamite series of nearfalls. ***3/4
• TLC Match for the WWE Championship: Ryback vs. CM Punk (c).RAW 01/07/2013. Punk was flying high as king of the world until he ran into a brick wall known as Ryback heading into WWE Hell in the Cell 2012. Punk got the help of crooked ref, now GM Brad Maddox to stave off the hungry Ryback. The following month, The Shield would help Punk again overcome Ryback (and Cena). Ryback was going to get one final shot at TLC, but Punk went down with an injury, so he instead he and Hell No battled The Shield but came up short. Ryback's TLC bout was changed to the first RAW of this year to start off 2013 with a bang.
• During his entrance, Punk welcomes bad luck by walking under a ladder. Ryback gets a solid but not overwhelming pop for his entrance. Of course, the winner here gets Rock in 3 weeks at RR. FEEDMEMORE chants at the bell, although again, not huge or very loud. Punk tries to swarm in the corner but Ryback fights him off for shoulder surges. A small Goldberg chant is going as Ryback stomps away in the opposite corner. Punk bails out and gets a chair and waffles Ryback to the breadbasket and back to cut him off. Ryback no sells and Spears him down. Ryback gets the chair and goes for the baseball swing but Punk moves and hits him with an enzuigiri. Another jabbing chairshot to his gut. Ryback finally sells a bit as Punk follows up by tossing him into the barricade. Ryback recovers to wallop Punk. Crowd tepidly chants for tables as they can't decide if they like Ryback, hate him, or are bored. Ryback brushes off the crowd and instead gives some narration: “[Points to chair] CHAIR! [Points to ladder] LADDER!” Yes, fans, you see, tables aren't an option right now, so bite me says Ryback. He follows up with a hanging vertical suplex teasing dropping Punk on both before settling on the ladder in a BRUTAL spot. Punk bails out to the floor, so Ryback tears apart the stairs and waffles him. YESYESYESYESYESYES! Ryback goes to drop the bottom half of the steps on Punk but he moves and instead springboards off them with a leg lariat. Cool counter. King: “THAT MOVE RIGHT THERE COULD HAVE REINJURED HIS KNEE!” Punk waffles Ryback several more times with the chair. Punk poses to a loud but mixed reaction as we take a break. We're back to Ryback hitting an Electric Chair. He dumps Punk out to slam him on the floor. Ryback adds a table to the mix. Punk counters with a chair to the gut. Heyman: “IMPROVISE AND ADAPT!” Punk now gets the table from Ryback. Heyman: “THERE YA GO! YOUR OWN TABLE, YOUR OWN SHOT!”
• Ryback comes to and hiptosses Punk into the announce table and then BLASTS him with the awning. Nice. Back in, Punk clips the knee showing very few effects from the battle and goes to work on the leg. Punk traps the leg in the ladder for some PILLMANIZATION! NO! Ryback moves and Punk appears to hurt his knee on the way down. Backdrop for Ryback. Ryback: “GET UP, STUPID!” He hits a spinebuster and calls for the Meathook. FEED HIM MORE! Heyman: “YOU'VE GOT A PROBLEM BEHIND YOU!” Punk is none the wiser and eats the LARIATO. Ryback wants the Shell Shock but Punk slides out to the floor. Ryback is furious and goes for a Spear but Punk moves and Ryback instead Spears a table. Back in, Punk sets up the table but Ryback is up with him. Ryback levels him and Punk eats it to the mat. Punk shoves the ladder over but Ryback lands on his feet and PRESS SLAMS PUNK ON THE OPEN LADDER! Another brutal spot. Punk again only sells for a few seconds before countering to an enzuigiri on Ryback. Punk steps up for the corner knee. Punk hits one more and wants the bulldog but Ryback counters to a PROTOBOMB TO THE FLOOR THROUGH A TABLE! NICE! Ryback gets a new ladder after he destroyed the last one on Punk's ribs. Ryback climbs up and gets his hands on it. BUT WAIT! THE LIGHTS HAVE GONE OUT! IT'S THE SHIELD! THAT PACK OF WILD DOGS! Ryback cleans their clocks and shitcans them out. The crowd is feeling it as Ryback climbs back up. The Shield are back in and chairshot Ryback and he finally goes down. The gangland attack continues as the crowd chants for ROCKYROCKYROCKY. They get no Rock, instead they get TRIPLE POWERBOMB! The Shield exits through the night as Punk gets his second wind and climbs up. Punk stops at the top to soak in the moment before grabbing the belt to retain at 15:49 of shown footage.
• Way better than their HITC battle and even had some surprising spots due to clever production and planning – Ryback's Spear through the table, Ryback dropping Punk through a table, press slam onto the ladder, etc. The Shield interference helped protect Ryback but the buzz was gone after losing something like 10 major matches in a row for Ryback before finally turning heel. There was some selective psychology and selling by Punk, but he did the same back at TLC 2011 against Miz and Del Rio. ***1/2
• Steel Cage Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena.WWE RAW 01/14/2013. This is the 20th Anniversary of RAW and JR is joining us on commentary. Dolph was forced to put his MITB briefcase on the line against Cena back at TLC 2012. He came out victorious after AJ turned on Cena to join him and Big E debuted the following week to fill out the team. In the meantime, Cena dropped some manure on them to end the year which would be the second time in Dolph's career he was given that ignominious honor, the first being DX dropping in on the McMahons and the Spirit Squad. Also, Cena beat Ziggler clean on January 7, but Vince booked one more just to drive the point home.
• JR brings the goods early saying this is Dolph's first ever cage match and he wants to bring the goods. Dolph tries for a quick escape but Cena pulls him back in with a headlock. Dolph tries to climb over the top this time but again Cena pulls him down for a snap suplex. Cena covers for 1 only. He goes back to the chinlock as Big E and AJ watch on from the outside. Dolph sends him off only to eat a shoulderblock. Dolph comes back with a leap frog into a Bluechipper dropkick for a 2 count. Dolph shitcans Cena into the cage and hits a Stinger Splash in the corner. Neckbreaker follows and one more. Dolph stops to strut his stuff and that gives Cena enough time to counter but Dolph counters back to a Downward Spiral jawbreaker. Cover gets 1, 2, only 2. Dolph with a boot and a right and he skips around only to jump into Cena catapulting Dolph into the cage. Dolph CATCHES the cage and tries to climb out but Cena jumps and pulls him back down. Cena tries to climb but Dolph grabs his leg and they slug it out on the top rope. Dolph WINS IT! That's short lived as Cena crotches him. JBL: “THAT'S A TEN-TIME WWE CHAMPION MOVE!” We take a break and are back to Cena trying to climb out but Dolph meeting him, so they can now slug it out on the top railing. Cena bails down to the top rope and Dolph dropkicks him the rest of the way to the floor.
• Meanwhile, during the commercial break, Cena tried climb out but Big E holds him off. Dolph tosses Cena into the cage and now we get to see what Dolph's got in the way of heat. He tries another shitcan but Cena blocks and goes to the shoulderblocks and Protobomb. 5KS is next and he hits it. He wants the FU but Dolph grabs the cage and TRIES TO CLIMB UP! Cena pulls down his trunks for the Flair moon spot. Cena tosses him into the cage WITH AUTHORITY! Again he wants the FU but Dolph slides out for a BRUTAL superkick. Cover gets 1, 2, 2 ½. Dolph crawls for the door but Cena pulls him back in. BUT WAIT! BIG E. IS PULLING HIM OUT OF THE CAGE! Cena wins the Tug of Ziggler and pulls him into the STF! DOLPH COUNTERS TO THE SLEEPER! SLICK! JR: “JOHN CENA LOOKS TO BE FADING!” Cena no sells to completely stand up and try to climb out while carrying Dolph on his back. Finally, Cena sells by collapsing in a heap and both bump to the mat. Cena tries the door but Dolph grabs his legs. Cena tosses him off but Big E is waiting. E SMASHES THE DOOR BACK INTO CENA'S HEAD! SHADES OF FLAIR AND HENNIG! Dolph school boys him for 1, 2, NO! Good stuff there. You can hear Cena calling the next spot for Dolph to head for the door. Cena pops up to climb over the top and kick the door back into Cena's head. He tries to drop down but AGAIN Big E is waiting with a chair. For those counting, that's four times Cena should have won and zero for Dolph. ANYWAY, Cena drops back inside the cage. ZIG ZAG! 1, 2, KICKOUT! Dolph pops up to try and climb over the top but Cena pulls him down and shoves him to the mat. Dolph runs in and pops up to the top rope for the SUPER DDT! 1, 2, 2.9999999. Dolph shouldn't be pulling that move for the first time ever if it doesn't get a win. AJ flips out and starts tearing apart the announce table. AJ climbs in and Big E brings the briefcase in. Dolph goes for the waffle but Cena ducks and E eats it. FU gets 1, 2, 3 to win it clean again at 13:22.
• Good and a hot crowd but completely one-sided with Dolph not even managing any cheap heat other than ONE shitcan and Cena kicking out of all of his signature and actual finishers. ***1/4
The 411: I personally find the demise of Sting as the top babyface in WCW fascinating even if the matches aren't spectacular. The TLC with Punk and Ryback is good stuff as is his singles with Morrison. Good stuff all around.