by Jon Milne
Our story continues on the very first RAW after Survivor Series. Fresh off their respective victories the previous night, a “Title Unification” match pitting the Undisputed WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Daniel Bryan, and the returned WWE Champion, CM Punk, is booked as the main event for the Monday night show. But perhaps the biggest news coming out of Survivor Series is not that of either of the World Champions, but of the vicious assault on The Rock by John Cena, which inadvertently lead to Team Orton’s defeat to Charisma in their match…
The Road To TLC
RAW opens with John Cena in the ring, with the crowd treating him as they would a particularly despicable condemned criminal for his actions the previous night.
“You know, I’m used to being the guy who nearly always gets booed, while his opponents no matter what bad things they’ve done, will nearly always get cheered when they face me. Guys like Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Edge, Triple H, The Big Show, Randy Orton, JBL, Batista, Sheamus, the Nexus – especially Wade Barrett, the Miz, hell even the guys in Charisma have gotten cheered when they faced me. I think the only guys who didn’t get cheered against me were Kevin Federline and The Great Khali, but then even the most stupid blind hater of me knows they suck.”
“The point is, at least with all those guys, they were people who I at least could “get it” when I was trying to understand what things about them would draw fans into cheering them, even when they were acting like awful human beings. And at least those guys had the good graces to keep on turning up night after night.”
“But then there’s the Rock, and here’s a guy who returns to this place, promises he’ll never leave again, screws me out of the WWE Title at Wrestlemania, and then after agreeing that we’ll face off in Miami next year, he just disappears for a whole lotta months! And then after Charisma have spent months causing havoc in this company, who should swan right back into the WWE but ‘Dwayne’ himself, to act the hero who will save us from these hooligans? But I ask you, Rocky, where the hell were you back at Summerslam when Randy was getting punted in the head? Where were you at Night of Champions when Charisma’s politicking lead to them having TWO matches on the pay-per-view designed to give them in advantage and where they only kept the World Title in the grasp by having their lackeys take me out with chairs? Why were you not there at Hell in a Cell, or Vengeance? I’ll tell you why: it’s because you were too busy slumming in your Hollywood Trailer drinking decaf and caring more about playing with Vin Diesel in cars than you ever actually did about the WWE! You only returned when you could get the chance to hog the spotlight and be the returning Saviour! And you know, maybe I wouldn’t have minded, except that the match I actually earned at Survivor Series, my World Title shot, got considered less important on the night than your glorious return! And you didn’t even the courtesy to even say hi to me while you were there!”
“Well, last night, I put a stop to your crap. I hear you’re gonna be in hospital for a while after I put your head through the window of your car! Maybe you make it to Wrestlemania next year, maybe you don’t. Honestly, I don’t care at this point. All I care about is you’re no longer here to take all the attention for yourself. And no matter what all you ‘jabronis’ think,” this elicits even more boos from the increasingly hostile crowd, “I did the right thing by removing thiscancer from the company, and-“
At this point, however, he’s interrupted by the music of Zack Ryder, who receives a true hero’s welcome after his efforts against Charisma. “You sure you want to say that, bro? Because of what you did, we had to fight Charisma with an immediate handicap. One more person on our team would have helped a LOT with handling them and with restraining Orton when he flipped last night. But you didn’t even volunteer to take the Rock’s place on the team after what you did to him. You just left us high and dry. And you want to talk about Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect? Maybe I’m tripping, homie, but that really doesn’t hit me as the kind of thing a dude with all those values does.”
“I’m sorry, can I help you?” John sneers at the Internet Champion, “Didn’t you only start being considered worthy of appearing on PPV events like a few months ago? And wasn’t that only because of an act of charity for a shot you really didn’t deserve? Yeah, look Mr “Internet Champion”-
“-and United States Champion!” Ryder gleefully interrupts to the raucous cheer of the crowd, “And before you start with the self-righteous preaching, I’m out here for one simple reason, and that is because I want to get my own back on the guy who’s actions are responsible for my team’s loss last night, and that’s you. So at TLC, I’m defending my belt, and I’m defending it against you! And then I’m going to go right back to kicking some Charisma ass!”
Cena laughs: “Are you serious? Do you really think you can hang with me? Listen, this is real cute and everything, but I’ve already held that belt before, and I’d be going backwards in my career path to compete for it. Why don’t you scurry yourself into the back and get Triple H out here, I’ve got business with the World Title!”
But at this moment, Cody Rhodes’ music hits, surprisingly by himself: “Oh no, you don’t get to skip the line, John, you failed last night. But me? Everyone knows, no matter how much they deny it, that I beat Daniel Bryan at Vengeance, and as long as he calls himself champion, that means I have far more of a right to a shot than anyone, especially since Charisma emerged triumphant at Survivor Series!”
“That’s funny bro,” Ryder rolls his eyes, “Because while you’re right about Charisma winning, I seem to remember you were the first one on the team eliminated! And don’t you have a belt to defend?”
“Yeah, not that I want to defend one of those Charisma guys, Ryder, but at least he’s got a belt worth paying attention to!” Cena takes off his baseball cap and his shirt as he continues, “The one belt I’ve never won in this company in the Intercontinental belt, and after the crap I went through last night I’m in the mood to kick ass and make some history, so Cody you get your ass in the ring right n-“
“I have a far better idea.” The voice of a certain COO interrupts, as he appears on the TitanTron sat inside his office, “With all 3 of you here, we’ve got an excellent opportunity here. So at TLC, we’re going to see the Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes, The United States Champion Zack Ryder, and John Cena competing in a Ladder Match for both of the belts!”
The news of such a titanic offering for the event sets the tone for the rest of the epic feeling evening, culminating in the main event, which will see the title belts of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk unified. In keeping with Bryan’s previous title defences, it is announced that the match will be fought under Code of Honor rules with a 30 minute time limit, and just like previous World Title matches since Vengeance, Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash are situated at ringside as special outside enforcers primarily with the purpose of averting any potential attempts by Charisma to sabotage the match.
But as it turns out, it is not Charisma that either of the participants end up having to worry about. The match is barely 30 seconds old when suddenly Nash slides into the ring to hit Bryan with a sledgehammer to the mid-section. Because of the rules of the match, Bryan is officially declared the winner via disqualification, meaning that he now holds the Unified WWE Championship. Punk stares at Nash in disbelief, before attempting to attack. But Nash is able to dodge and then put Punk down with another sledgehammer shot, before lifting him up to give him the Jackknife Powerbomb. Shawn Michaels attempts to intervene, asking Nash what the hell he’s doing, but Nash’s only reply is to lay Michaels out with a punch and then give him a Jackknife Powerbomb onto the sledgehammer. Nash then proceeds to give Punk a couple more shots with the sledgehammer while he’s down, before lifting him up for another Jackknife Powerbomb onto the sledgehammer.
The following week, Nash explains his actions. “Now, let’s get one thing outta the way before I start. I’m not answering any questions about Daniel Bryan. You make up your own damn mind whether what I did was for his benefit. One person who I was definitely working for though, was my friend Hunter.” Nash pauses to let this seeming revelation soak in as the crowd continues to give him a very hostile reception, “Last week, just before the match started, I got a text on my phone, and it said this: “Take the Punk out, Paul”. Now when my best friend asks me to do something for him, I do it, and especially if it was this thing. You know what? The truth it doesn’t matter who stood on the other side, if it was Bryan or Orton or Cena or whoever, I woulda done exactly the same thing. At Survivor Series, he hurt my best friend, and insulted him by using his own finisher against him. He comes back to this company so that he and his indie loser friend can have a joke of a World Title match. Is this what wrestling has come to in 2011? Two massively over-hyped vanilla midgets being considered ‘worthy’ of the WWE Championship? Especially a guy who does a promo where he just insults a load of people and that’s considered the best thing ever on the Internet? Are you serious? Is that how little integrity this company’s top belt has now? Well all that matters is that Punk no longer has a World Title, and I’ve made my good friend happy!”
At this point, Triple H appears at the top of the ramp: “Well that’s a mighty fascinating story you tell there Kevin. Utter crap, but fascinating nonetheless-“
“Oh really ‘Trips’? You want to deny it?” Nash sneers, “So this isn’t your phone number that we can prove right now belongs to you?”
Triple H throws his hands up in the air, “Maybe it is my number, ‘Diesel’, or maybe it isn’t. Though now that you mention it, I haven’t seen my phone since Survivor Series, and I spent a whole lot of time last week searching for it. Since I’m willing to bet you never received a call – ah! I guessed right! – then you’ve got no actual way of verifying it was really me. Hell, I’d say you actually know it wasn’t me, and know who it really was pulling your strings, and just want to make me look bad. So in any case? I’m NOT happy, Nash. You ruined a match the fans really wanted to see, that they bought their tickets for. You betrayed my trust when I really thought you’d be a reliable guy to turn to when I wanted World Title matches to be free of interference. You hurt Shawn, who will always be a bigger friend to me than you will ever be. Three strikes in one match Kev, I’m almost impressed. In any case, Kevin Nash, you’re fi-“
The music of CM Punk interrupts, carrying a bag on his shoulder, laughing as he raises his microphone: “Oh what a nice way of passing the buck, Hunter, and blaming others for your mistakes. This is so childish: ‘Oh, he made me do it!’ ‘Oh no, it was totally this other guy who made you do it and I’m not gonna be friends with you anymore!’ Give me a break. At this point I don’t care who sent whatever message…”
Nash raises his phone again, “Do you want to see for yourself the text message I got sent?”
“Do you want to see the text message my little sister sent me after RAW?” Punk retorts, “Here goes ‘OMG, Kevin Nash is back, WTF, thought he was dead, LOL”. Course, she was also not best pleased about me losing my WWE Championship. Speaking of which Nash, you want to bang on about ‘worthiness’ and ‘integrity’ of guys like me who hold that belt? Aren’t you the guy who dismissed the legendary Eddie Guerrero? Aren’t you the guy who laid down for Hulk Hogan in WCW after he poked you in the chest? But anyway, the fact is that regardless, Hunter, the buck stops with you. You brought this utter vacuum of talent back into this company. You put him ringside in my match last week. Even if you didn’t send the text, you still hold a responsibility for me no longer being the WWE Champion. and speaking of which, I honestly thought I might have settled things with you after Survivor Series. Obviously not. At TLC, I want you both. I want some retribution for losing my title, and I’ll give you a little clue right now what kinda match it’s going to be.”
At this point Punk opens up his bag, eliciting a gasp from the crowd as he produces his very own sledgehammer. But as he sprints to the ring, Nash ducks out under the ropes and runs up the steel ramp. As Punk attempts to get back to Nash, a line of security blocks the ramp, as Punk mockingly laughs and can be quite audibly heard to be saying “because of course”. A Sledgehammer Ladder Match between the three is scheduled for TLC…
Then there is the case of the WWE Championship, and Daniel Bryan comes out to a decidedly mixed reception as he raises his mic:
“You know, it’s mighty cute that Nash wants to imply I had something to do with what he did. I don’t know, maybe it’s the painkillers affecting my brain, but if I was organising some grand plan to become this company’s only WWE World Champion, I wouldn’t exactly be welcoming of taking any sledgehammer shots! Seriously though, me and Punk go way back, and it annoyed the hell out of me that I did not get the match I have been waiting for ever since he came back. Punk knows what I’m like: if I want to defeat him, I’ll prove it via what I’m able to do to him in the ring. I’ve beaten him before in Ring of Honor without any help, and I don’t need any help, especially with an out-of-touch dinosaur like Nash. But in any case, I’m sure me and Punk are going to meet in the ring again, someday. I want to happen, he wants to happen, and I know for damn sure that you guys want it to happen!” The crowd roars its approval of this statement.
But at this point the music of Charisma hits as Christian, flanked by Barrett and Del Rio, walks into the ring. “Well that’s just thrilling, Daniel, except for one thing. After last week, Punk’s at the back of the line, and you know who’s at the front of the line? Me. Because after Survivor Series, when my team emerged victorious-“
“When you were the only one on your team left standing, you mean,” Bryan interjects, “And especially after you had help from Cena and after you performed a whole load of dirty tactics to get a 3 on 1 advantage, but carry on.”
“Believe whatever you wanna believe, Daniel, because it doesn’t matter. The point is, now there’s no justifiable reason to ignore my right to have the rematch that was denied to me after Vengeance.”
“Oh! You mean the event where I made you tap out!” Bryan gleefully interrupts again, to the cheers and laughter of the crowd, as Christian looks furious and repeatedly yells at the crowd to “SHUT UP!” “Hey, why are you getting mad Christian? All I did was what every holder of that briefcase has done ever, including your good buddy Alberto there!”
“Ugh, whatever,” Christian sighs and runs his hand over his hair, “The point is, in the past few weeks I’ve demonstrated that I’m every bit the worthy challenger for the WWE Championship, and no-one else comes close. Punk? Cena? They’ve lost their WWE Championship matches and are now at the back of the line, though I really don’t get why you won’t just admit you hired Nash, Daniel!” The crowd boos this claim, as Daniel rolls his eyes in the ring, “Orton? Mysterio? I beat them at Survivor Series. There’s no longer any actual reason to deny me my shot, and especially considering that the next PPV event is TLC, and I have a historic specialty for stealing the show in Tables, Ladders, and Chairs matches and you have your ‘Code of Honor’? Well, our corrupt COO always loves to parrot the line about stuff being ‘best for business’, and anyone who can’t come to that conclusion after-“
“Alright, I get the picture, Christian, though it’s nice that you reminded me of Ladder Matches,” Bryan interrupts, “see, I remember back when you were a swell guy. I remember the sheer emotion after your best friend Edge retired, and the tears after you finally managed to win one of the top prizes in the company at Extreme Rules. But afterwards, after you lost for the first time to Orton, you became completely twisted. You betrayed the honour and respect you showed back when you won the championship. And now you’ve become this guy unhealthily obsessed with entitlement about your guys being in the WWE Championship picture and your overblown grudge against Randy Orton. Well, you want a TLC match for Baltimore in a few weeks? I got no problem with beating you at your own game. Just remember that you’ll be playing my game as well, meaning it’ll just be you and me throwing all those chairs and ladders at each other and putting each other through tables. Your buddies there? You better remember they’re staying far away from this match! At TLC, I’ll climb the ladder, and I’ll demonstrate that I’m more than worthy of keeping this belt away from guys like you!”
Four potential No. 1 contenders for the WWE Championship beyond TLC are identified: Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, and Charisma’s Wade Barrett and Alberto Del Rio. It is announced by Triple H that a semi-finals and final format will be used at TLC to determine who will challenge for the belt at Royal Rumble. Rey Mysterio will face against Wade Barrett in a Tables Match, Randy Orton will fight Alberto Del Rio in a Chairs Match, and the winners of the two matches will face each other in a Tables and Chairs match to determine who will next in line to face the WWE Champion. Each of the men involved are conscious about how much time is ticking until Wrestlemania hits, and each of the men are also conscious about the impact that further successive failures could have on their future claims to being considered credible challengers.
TLC 2011 (Baltimore, Maryland)
The show kicks off with the tables match between Rey Mysterio and Wade Barrett. In great contrast to the last matches they had with one another at Night of Champions and Vengeance, the playing field is much more level, as Barrett, unable to rely on his comrades within his group, finds himself struggling to deal with Rey’s high-flying offence, and most often finds himself in danger of being the one to be put through the table. But at the same time, Barrett is no slouch and his moments of offence manage to hit Rey with some major power moves that turn the tide of the match. In the end, with Rey about to hit Barrett with a 619, Alberto Del Rio appears from the crowd and levels Rey with a chair shot before escaping. Barrett finishes things off with a Wasteland before then proceeding to throw Rey through a table standing on its edge at the turnbuckle, securing Barrett’s place in the final.
At the orders of Triple H, armed security is put in place for the next match on the card, which is Orton’s war with Del Rio, focused mainly on chair shots. The two go at each other like men possessed, with Del Rio being able to gain an advantage in the match when he delivers a conchairto on Orton’s left arm, before then proceeding to put that arm in the Cross Armbreaker. Despite the unbelievable pain, however, Orton is able to reach the ropes. When Del Rio attempts another shot on Orton’s arm, however, Orton hits an RKO out of nowhere, scoring a 2 count. The conclusion of the match comes with Orton throwing a chair to the back of Del Rio’s head, before giving the prone Del Rio five chair shots to his back, before picking him up and hitting an RKO onto the chair for the 3 count.
The next match-up sees the Intercontinental and United States Championships on the line in the Ladder Match, again with security at ringside. Any notion of pre-match pacts (such as against the hated Charisma member in the match) go right out of the window when Ryder instantly makes a beeline for Cena, who ducks the attack and then proceeds to go after Rhodes. From there, it is a brutal battle with the ladders in this match, with Ryder emulating Terry Funk during the match when he puts the Ladder over his head and spins around the ring in take out his opponents, though Rhodes puts a stop to that when he dropkicks the ladder, sending Ryder into the corner. Cena follows this up by removing the ladder from Ryder’s neck and hitting an suplex onto the ladder, before he in turn gets hit with Cross Rhodes. But Rhodes’s attempt to climb the ladder is thwarted by the amount of time his exhausted body takes to do it, when Ryder, relying purely on instinct, throws the ladder he was suplexed on onto Rhodes’ own ladder. As Ryder attempts to climb up, Cena climbs up with him, with the two engaging in a punching war, which finishes when Cena is able to knock Ryder off the ladder. But just as it seems like Cena is about to win the championship, Ryder and Rhodes temporarily team up and tip over the ladder so that Cena ends up falling to the outside through a ladder situated at ringside, knocking him out cold. Rhodes is about to then hit Ryder with the Cross Rhodes, but Ryder reverses it and finishes things off with a Rough Ryder to Rhodes, and then proceeds to climb the ladder and take the belts. Zack Ryder is now the Intercontinental and United States Champion!
The finals match of the No. 1 contender tournament is up next, as Wade Barrett takes on Randy Orton, still nursing the arm injury from his match with Del Rio earlier. After each member of the security team is checked to ensure that they are not an active WWE wrestler, the match begins, and the left arm is immediately an instant bullseye with Barrett savaging it with numerous arm holds and chair shots. But even despite his injury, Randy is seemingly fuelled by pure fire in his unbelievable hatred of all things Charisma, scoring numerous chair and table shots of his own and levelling the playing field somewhat when he scores numerous shots on Barrett’s right leg, and only just misses out on managing to punt Barrett in the head. Barrett proceeds to shockingly hit Orton with an RKO through a table however, and as he goes for the pin, it seems like Barrett will finally get the World Title shot he’s been dreaming of ever since he joined Charisma.
But suddenly, in a somewhat similar echo of the events at Night of Champions, the music of a WWE superstar, this time Rey Mysterio, suddenly starts blaring out over the arena. The security ready their weapons to tackle any appearance by the luchadore star, while Barrett screams at the entrance as he waits for him to appear. But he forgets to check on Orton, who hits Barrett with a low blow and then hits an RKO of his own through a table with a chair on it to score the winning pinfall, officially granting Orton his WWE Championship shot at Royal Rumble…
The grudge match featuring the guest appearance of a sledgehammer hanging above the ring is next, as Kevin Nash receives perhaps the most hostile crowd reception of the year on his entrance, Triple H is subject to a very mixed reaction, while of course CM Punk is greeted every bit as joyously as the very first time when he returned to the company. Right away it becomes obvious that even despite the pressure he is under with the accusations against him, Hunter is still very reluctant to hurt his friend, as he and Nash initially team up to take Punk down. But any illusion of an alliance quickly breaks down when Nash levels Triple H with a big boot and then proceeds to assault him with a ladder. Punk gets back into the match, however, when he throws a ladder into Nash’s face, before placing Nash on the ladder and hitting a Shawn Michaels style elbow drop onto Nash. From there, a new temporary alliance forms as Punk and Triple H have no hesitation in weakening Nash, recognising him as the biggest man in the match and potentially the biggest threat. But again, this alliance falls apart when Triple H proceeds to hit Punk with a jumping knee drop and then a spinebuster. Before hitting Punk with the Pedigree, however, Triple H notices that Nash is stirring on the outside and proceeds to engage in a slug fest with him. But throughout this, neither notice Punk having gotten up, and Punk proceeds to take both men down with a suicide dive from the ring.
Punk then proceeds to clear the top off the announce table and then proceeds to move Triple H in position for the GTS onto said table. But he’s taken out with a clothesline by Nash, and he deflects an attempted attack by Hunter, before proceeding to drive Triple H through the table with a Jackknife Powerbomb. As he brings the ladder into the ring and prepares to climb it, Punk nails a dropkick to the ladder, sending Nash flying off, albeit landing on his feet, but Punk then proceeds to nail an enziguri to Nash’s head. Punk then picks Nash up and hits a GTS on the ladder. As Punk is retrieving the ladder however, Triple H hits him from behind, and then prepares to hit Punk with a GTS of his own, but Punk counters this and rams Triple H face-first into the upright ladder in the centre of the ring. The straight edge star then proceeds to climb the ladder and retrieve the sledgehammer, before climbing down and regarding the COO, audibly asking: “Was it you?”
Triple H shakes his head, and then says “Do what you know you’ve got to do.” Punk nods, and then after holding the sledgehammer to the Game’s head, then proceeds to turn around and whack Nash in the head with the sledgehammer. Triple H walks out of the ring to the back as the winning pinfall is counted, and Punk successfully managed to gain revenge on the former Cliq member.
An attempt at a backstage interview is conducted, as a rage-induced Cody Rhodes can be seen wandering around throwing things in frustration after his title loss. When Bryon Saxton attempts to have a word with him, he is shoved by Rhodes, who only gives the vague promise that the next night on RAW, he will have considerably bigger fish to fry.
The Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match main event with (slightly more lenient) Code of Honor rules for the WWE Championship is up next, and what security there was is actively doubled. And just as the match begins Bryan is immediately able to manoeuvre Christian into a Label lock in the centre of the ring, and with nowhere to go Christian furiously taps, albeit to no avail considering the obvious rules of the match. Bryan releases his significantly weakened opponent and then proceeds to bring a ladder into the ring. But in the middle of climbing, a groggy Christian is able to drag Bryan down from the ladder, and then hits a DDT first on the ring apron, and then onto the chair he brings into the ring. From there, things become significantly more violent, with Bryan hitting a legdrop on Christian onto a ladder, and Christian hitting Bryan with a Killswitch through a table.
But none of these things appear to be enough to win the match. Bryan is able to hit Christian with a Kobayashi Knee through an upright table in the corner, but Christian is able to push Bryan off a ladder where he lands on the floor outside. The two exhausted competitors then hit each other with chairs at the same time, before slowly being able to get up and engage in a classic ‘just punching each other in the face’ competition which Bryan wins. But just as he throws Christian out of the ring and climbs up the ladder again, his opponent slides back into the ring and produces a Taser from his trunks, which he then proceeds to zap Bryan with for a good 30 seconds. Christian then concludes the match by hitting the current champion with one last Killswitch and then climbs up the ladder to retrieve the belt. Once again, Christian is the WWE Champion, and it’s seemingly the case that he and his greatest nemesis will cross paths again at the Royal Rumble…
The Road To Royal Rumble
Rematches from TLC booked for the following RAW card include Zack Ryder vs Cody Rhodes (with only the belt lost by Rhodes, the Intercontinental Championship, on the line), and the new WWE Champion Christian against Daniel Bryan. It is also announced that, in a further rematch from TLC, Wade Barrett will face Rey Mysterio, and Alberto Del Rio will face a returning Dolph Ziggler, with those latter two matches determining the challengers to the United States and Intercontinental Championships at the Royal Rumble.
But the planned match for the holder of those belts never actually starts, as Cody Rhodes stays at the top of the ramp while the confused Ryder stands in the ring waiting for him.
“You know, I should be a hell of a lot more angry than I am. I got screwed out of winning both championships last night, and I was willing to have this match. But then I get Hunter coming up to me and being all: ‘Oh by the way, you’re only fighting for the IC Title tonight’. Let me make one thing clear: a man as dashing as me does not compete for half a reward, I want the full package, so I’m refusing this match tonight, and until a match actually happens where anyone who holds both those belts is actually putting them both on the line? It’s undignified and not at all dashing for me to waste my time in this match. So keep your titles, Zack, and just know that when the opportunity presents itself, I’m coming for you, and you won’t be so lucky next time!”
As Rhodes leaves after dropping his mic, Cena then makes his entrance, giving Rhodes a scornful look before picking up the mic that was just dropped: “I do love it when minor league nobodies squabble, but that’s besides the point. Like the idiot who just left said, you got your titles last night by luck. If Cody isn’t going to fight you tonight, then I will, even with that ladder impact that you losers in the audience thought was so damn funny!” The crowd simultaneously boos him while cheering the moment from the night before, mocking him by chanting “Ladder” at him, “Yeah whatever. I may hurt at the moment, but that’s nothing compared to how I’m going to make you feel. You don’t need to put the titles on the line tonight. There’s slots available for your Royal Rumble defence right? Well, I’ll beat you here and now and prove my superiority and the need for me to be in that match.”
The match proceeds to kick off, and despite the injuries he sustained, Cena’s sheer aggression means that he dominates a good portion of the match. While Ryder is able to get in some offence, include a Zack Attack that nearly gets him the victory, Cena is able to soon lock in the STF, giving Ryder no choice but to tap and secure his place in the Intercontinental/United States Championships match at the Royal Rumble. But just as Cena leaves in celebration, Ryder, pulling himself up the ropes, raises the mic he’s just received from outside:
“You think you’re about to win, John? Well, bro, this Broski here doesn’t go down that easily. I’m the holder of three highly awesome championships, and I didn’t get here by resting on my Internet laurels. I worked my ass off, I proved a very valuable point to all the haters backstage who thought I was just a fad and I wouldn’t amount to anything. But you were in the same ring with me at TLC, John, and you saw how hard I fight. And at Royal Rumble, I’ll fight even harder and those belts are staying in my hands, boy. Woo, woo, woo, you know it!”
The other qualifiers from the matches are Barrett, who wins his match against Mysterio inside 10 minutes after he hits a Wasteland, and then 2 more for the victory; and Dolph Ziggler, who shows he hasn’t lost a step in his few months off by surprisingly dominating his match with Del Rio and finishing things off with a Zig Zag. The four men are primed for a hell of an encounter for the two belts in a few weeks time.
The planned main event of the evening also runs into trouble, as Bryan is taken out of his match as he walks backstage by Cody Rhodes, who proceeds to throw the Dragon into various items of technical equipment, with Rhodes screaming “You think you’re better? You think you’re it? This will never be over!” before hitting a Cross Rhodes on the stone floor.
As Christian, amused, watches this from the ring, he raises his mic: “Well, so much for that. I mean, you know, I’d have maybe preferred if my buddy Cody hadn’t done that, but whatever. I already proved my point last night. Daniel Bryan was never my equal, he was never fit to wear this belt like I am, and I am the true WWE Champion. So I guess since my title match for tonight is now off as I don’t have opponent-“
‘Cult of Personality’ cuts him off, as the victorious, though limping CM Punk steps out through the curtain: “Are you sure about that, ‘champ’?” Punk employs air-quotes as the crowd continue chanting his name, “Cause, see, while Daniel isn’t here, you forgot about one guy who’s been owed a WWE Championship shot ever since I came back but had to deal with the stupid politics backstage. Believe me, I don’t like Triple H either, but after last night I at least feel a little more secure in knowing he didn’t actually have anything to do with what Nash did. Sure, he’s still Vince’s moron son-in-law who can’t seem to keep track of where his phone is, but I can at least trust him, even if just a little bit. You, on the other hand? You blatantly make it so you skip out on a title defence tonight, and really when it comes down to it the only reason you’ve ever held that championship of yours since Night of Champions is because I wasn’t there to take it off you.”
“Well, guess what, Christian? I’m finally face to face with you, and now I’ve got no more bad reasons standing in the way of me kicking your ass and taking back the belt I was screwed out of.”
“Well, first off: Hi, nice to see you too,” Christian sarcastically quips, “And secondly, you really think that twice beating up a COO who is completely past it in terms of his wrestling skills is really meant to endear me towards letting you challenge for my title? And for what, so that you can then give a shot to your indie-riffic friend who I comprehensively beat last night? You know, normally I’d just flip you off and tell you go and get the hell out of my ring, but when I think about it, I want to kick your ass too, and I want to prove that that hype you got back in June is all there really is to you. You’re on!”
The crowd are overjoyed at Punk finally getting a real opportunity at the championship, but as ever things don’t turn out so easy. While Punk dominates the opening minutes, Christian continues to demonstrate his worth as champ, and twice comes close to hitting the Killswitch. Punk in turn however is able to lock in the Anaconda Vice, and while Christian struggles to get the ropes, Punk is able to get him back into the centre of the ring, and for a moment it seems like Punk is finally going to become the WWE Champion again.
But as always, a hitch comes along to ruin everything. This hitch comes in the form of Randy Orton, the current No. 1 contender due to compete for the title at Royal Rumble, who pulls Punk off of Christian and then picks Christian up and hits an RKO. Orton apologetically shrugs when Punk looks at him with dismay, but before the Straight-Edge star can properly react, he is blind-sided by Kevin Nash armed with a steel chair. Orton attempts to come to Punk’s aid, only to eat a chair shot of his own. Nash then hits Punk with a Jackknife Powerbomb and then picks up Christian and the two raise their hands in celebration, which in turn is cut short when Christian suddenly hits Nash with a low blow and then hits a Killswitch on him, as the announcers wonder just what the hell has happened.
Three men are the focus of the following Smackdown event, as the WWE Universe strives to understand just what was making them tick. First, is Randy Orton:
“Listen, I’ve got a whole bunch of respect for CM Punk. No, really I do. The guy gave me a hell of a match this year at Wrestlemania, and I don’t dispute the guy deserves a title shot. The thing is though? He doesn’t deserve it before I get my shot. After everything I’ve been through, with Charisma constantly shadowing me and me being unable to wrestle for two months because of what Christian did to me, not only did I have to make sure I maintained a title shot, but I also wanted to make sure I kept Christian in my match at the Royal Rumble. He has put me through hell, and I want to dish out my own special brand of hell, a hell so bad that Christian will scream in terror, and at Royal Rumble, I’m going to make it so that he quits!”
Christian, the second man from whom the crowd want an explanation, comes out to face Orton: “Oh how bold, Randy. You really think after all the effort I have made to maintain having this belt in my possession that you’ll ever get me to say ‘I Quit’? After I, heh, procured our corrupt COO’s phone to get Kevin Nash as outside help?” The crowd boos even harder as the implications of actions sink in, with chants especially of ‘You screwed Punk’, “Oh yeah, that’s right, that was my doing. You see, call me crazy, but I really didn’t think that a guy who took his ball and went home for a good three months while still claiming to be champion deserved the privilege of sharing the ring with me. I wanted to send him right back to Chicago on a hospital bed, and then make it look like Triple H was responsible so that he and his favouritism and his ‘best for business’ rhetoric would be out of here. That would just leave Daniel Bryan for me to dissect, as I did at TLC!”
“But while Nash helped me out beautifully last week, I can’t forgive his screw-ups. Triple H is still in power, and Punk is still here claiming to be the ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ and acting like he’s at all my equal! So that’s why I took Nash out. Punk was right, and no-one wants Nash around in this company, he’s acancer. And speaking of cancers and people no-one wants to see around? Randy, no-one wants to see you in another WWE Championship match. Especially against me, after I’ve beat you so many times. I’m sick and tired of always being utterly bored while holding the title because yet again you have a shot you don’t deserve, that you’ve never deserved, right back to when that buffoon Teddy Long gave you a charity title shot. This has to end, I’m sick of it, and you’re sick of it. So here’s what I propose, at Royal Rumble, in addition to it being an ‘I Quit’ match, whoever quits? No more WWE World Title shots for them for a whole year. How does that sound?”
“You’re absolutely right, Christian,” Randy says, a smile creeping onto his face “this has gone on too long. I’m tired, you’re tired, and if getting you to say I Quit means I finally not only get my belt back, but also that I’m free from you for the next year’s load of World Title bouts? You’re damn right that sounds great. At Royal Rumble, prepare to crash hard, Christian, because this is the end!”
The third man to explain his actions is Cody Rhodes:
“Shouldn’t it be obvious? I’ve been constantly overlooked for a championship shot I quite clearly deserved after Vengeance. There’s no ambiguity, I won that match, only an idiot looks at the replays and think that me and Daniel Bryan wrestled to a draw. But yet, on RAW last week, he was still considered the guy more worthy of getting a title shot than me. Well, I’m sick of this! At the Royal Rumble, I’m showing once and for all that not only was Bryan not good enough to hang with my champion friend, he’s definitely not even remotely in my class!”
“Ride of the Valkyries” hits as Bryan comes out, or rather comes dashing (no pun intended), as he and Rhodes start brawling in the ring. Bryan eventually gets the upper hand and Rhodes only just dodged the Kobayashi Knee by ducking out under the ropes. Bryan gets a mic from outside:
“You want to fight dirty, Cody? Well I got no problem with that. But last time we met, we went 20 minutes and no-one won. So let’s up the ante: in Ring of Honor when things got really heated between guys, the Code of Honor would turn into a Fight Without Honor, with everything in the rules no longer followed except for the part about the time limit, and where otherwise everything goes. So at Royal Rumble, we’ll have a Fight Without Honor, and this time we’ll go 25 minutes! And after I’m done with you, I’m entering the Rumble, and I’ll take the title that you and your Charisma cronies stole from me, and I’ll be the one headlining Wrestlemania while you’ll be every bit the failure you’ve always been!”
Bryan of course is not the only man with Rumble aspirations. All three eligible members of the villainous group currently in control of the WWE Championship vow that they will bring Charisma to the main event of Wrestlemania. John Cena, having received no word yet on the condition of the Rock, vows to win the Rumble and then cash in his shot at Elimination Chamber, so that either way he’ll get the World Title shot he deserves and then once he wins he can perhaps pour salt in the Rock’s wounds by beating him for the WWE Title. Zack Ryder enthusiastically to both retain his mid-card titles and then add the “centrepiece” to his impressive Internet Trophy Cabinet at Wrestlemania. Kevin Nash promises to invoke the spirit of 1996 and bring the WWE back to it’s “glory days” as well as getting retribution on all the people he feels betrayed him. Triple H, in turn, also pledges appear in the Rumble, and with him thoroughly sick of Nash disrupting main events on WWE shows, warns Nash that if he doesn’t win the Royal Rumble, he will be fired.
It is CM Punk’s words, however, that perhaps ring loudest: “It seems I can’t have a single championship match without Kevin Nash getting in my business. Ever since I came here, it always seems to ring on deaf ears what the fans actually want,” the fans enthusiastically agree with this, with “We Want Punk” chants, “and that is for me to get a WWE Championship shot. But Randy Orton has his business with Christian, and then Elimination Chamber is coming up, where whoever’s champ by then will have 5 other men to deal with. Now no matter what, I will fight until what I want, what certain supportive people in the back want, and what you guys want, and that’s for me to win the WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania! And in order to do it, I’m not gonna wait until I end up needing to get thrown around inside a steel structure to earn my title shot. When you guys see me at the Scottrade Centre in St. Louis in a few weeks, I’m going to kick Nash’s ass again, I’m going to kick Triple H’s ass, and I’m going to kick the ass of anyone else who tries to stop me from becoming the winner of Royal Rumble and showing even more why I am truly the Best In The World.”
Royal Rumble 2012 (St. Louis, Missouri)
The first match to kick off the show is the war between previous WWE Champion Daniel Bryan and Cody Rhodes, fought under Fight Without Honor rules. With only a mere recommendation to not hurt match officials as well as the existing time limit in place, there is far more lee-way for the two to truly hurt each other. Rhodes hits a German suplex on Bryan through a table. Bryan responds in kind with a belly-to-belly suplex through a table. Rhodes levels Bryan with a Kendo Stick. Bryan levels Rhodes with a baseball bat. Rhodes hits the Cross Rhodes on Bryan. Bryan hits the Kobayashi Knee on Rhodes. Rhodes debuts the Indian Deathlock on Bryan. Bryan traps Rhodes in the LaBell Lock. Despite all of this, with 23 minutes of the clock gone, neither of the two have managed to score a successful pinfall or submission.
Rhodes makes an attempt to hit a moonsault on Bryan, only for the latter to move out of the way and hits the Kobayashi Knee again, only to score a 2 count. Just as he picks Rhodes up, Rhodes is suddenly able to put Bryan into his own submission hold of the LaBell Lock, but for the remainder of the 20 seconds of the match, Bryan refuses to tap, and when the bell rings, the ring announcer makes the declaration that the match has ended in a draw. Rhodes is livid and proceeds to hit a Cross Rhodes on the referee, before attempting the same on Bryan only for Bryan to escape and clothesline Rhodes over the top rope. Bryan, though exhausted, smiles and audibly says: “I’m doing the same to you later tonight!”, clearly unnerving Rhodes.
The next match is the four-way bout for the Intercontinental and United States Championship. It is announced that the match will consist of 2 falls, with the first fall being for the US Title, and the second fall being for the IC Title. The match initially starts out as though there were instead two tag teams, as Ryder and Ziggler enter the match with something of an unspoken bond to rid the match of the two villainous elements of the match, and arguably the biggest threats. However, the sheer physicality of their opposite numbers is more than a match for the men who fought each at Hell in a Cell and Vengeance. Though that said, it’s not long before Barrett and Cena start beating the tar out of each other, leaving Ryder and Ziggler to battle each other as well.
The ending of the first fall comes when Ryder and Ziggler both nail suicide dives through the ropes onto Cena and Barrett, and then dragging both into the ring and hitting them with a Rough Ryder and Zig Zag respectively. Just as Ziggler is about to then hit Ryder with a Zig Zag, Ryder escapes and hits a DDT on Ziggler, before a successful pinfall on Barrett to remain United States Champion.
The second fall begins with Cena in an absolute rage, as he hits everyone in his path with Attitude Adjustments, only scoring two counts each time. He is given a low blow by Barrett however, who comes very close to a winning fall via roll-up and is only thwarted by Ziggler diving onto Barrett. Ziggler is soon hit with a Wasteland however, with Barrett then hit with a Rough Ryder. But Cena proceeds to put Ryder in the same STF he used to earn his spot in the match, and with both Ziggler and Barrett out of commission, things look bleak for Ryder. But through sheer strength of effort, Ryder is able to get his foot in the ropes, and Cena proceeds to look absolutely gutted. As he lifts Ryder up for another Attitude Adjustment, Ryder is able to counter and rolls his rival up for a sensational fall. Zack Ryder has pinned John Cena, and has retained both of his championships!
The WWE Championship match is next, and the tension is at breaking point with the knowledge that moment one of these competitors decides they don’t want to be in this match anymore, they will banned from competing for this World Title for a whole year. Speculation runs rampant among the commentators how long either of these men will even stay with the company if they have to wait that long (until next year’s Royal Rumble of 2013, to be exact) before they are allowed to challenge for the highest honour in the company.
Right from the get-go, the two display every bit of the hatred and bitterness in their match that you would expect them to have after everything that has happened in the past year. Christian utilises the Taser he won back the WWE Championship with early, getting in a good 30 seconds of offence with it only for Orton to refuse to quit. Barbed wire, both by itself and attached to baseball bats, is freely used by both men. Christian issues chair shots to the previously injured left arm of Orton, and also utilises a chair by trapping Orton’s arm in the chair and applying an armhold at the same time. But still, Orton does not quit. And nor does Christian when Orton threatens, and then hits, an RKO through a thumbtack covered table. And Christian still won’t get even after Orton gives him a taste of his own medicine with the Taser. There is no quitting in sight even when Christian nails a particularly vicious Killswitch putting Orton through a ladder on the outside balanced on the ring apron to the announce table.
The match itself concludes when Christian brings out handcuffs, only for Orton to boot him in the nuts, and then uses said handcuffs to trap Christian on the ropes, before hitting an RKO. Orton then positions the barbed wire baseball next to Christian’s prone body, before readying himself to hit a punt kick that would see Christian’s head smash right into the bat. A panicked Christian begs for mercy, but as Orton is about to run up with the kick, Christian finally yells “I Quit!”. Orton briefly pauses, but is still in the mind to give Christian further punishment. But as he begins his run-up again, Triple H sprints out the back and restrains Orton, telling him that he’s already proven his point and that the struggle is over. Orton relents, and celebrates with his newly won championship. Meanwhile, Christian breathes heavily in the corner, a dismayed look on his face as everything he’s worked to gain now seemingly is in tatters…
The show concludes with the match for which the PPV is named: The Royal Rumble. The first two entries into the match are Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio. The two continue to survive in the match, as they are able to notch up several eliminations apiece, with Rey eliminating Alex Riley, Santino Marella, and Jinder Mahal, while Del Rio eliminates R Truth, Jerry Lawler, and Mick Foley. Dolph Ziggler enters at number 4 in the match, and he eliminates Primo and Epico from the match. But the tide turns when the next to be drawn out, at number 17, is Wade Barrett. With Barrett on the scene, the two Charisma members in the match are able to dispatch of Justin Gabriel, Ezekiel Jackson, and Hunico. The further entry of Cody Rhodes at number 21, sees Booker T, Jim Duggan, Sheamus, Michael Cole (though that elimination elicits a huge cheer), The Miz, The Great Khali (with help from Rey and Ziggler) and Kofi Kingston get eliminated. Although Rey and Ziggler elect to team up, it’s not long before the numbers game proves too much and they too is eliminated, leaving just the members of Charisma in the ring.
Initially, Charisma dominate the match, eliminating Road Dogg and Jey Uso barely a minute after they’ve entered. But the next man to enter, at number 25, is Zack Ryder, and he is able to take all members of Charisma out with a springboard dropkick, before proceeding to hit Barrett and Del Rio with Rough Ryders, but he falls victim to a DDT from Rhodes. But just before Rhodes can do anything, the next man to enter at number 26 is Daniel Bryan, who makes an instant beeline for Rhodes as the two brawl with one another before Bryan knocks Rhodes down and hits successive Kobayashi Knees to Del Rio and Barrett. But before those guys can be eliminated, number 27 is John Cena, who indiscriminately attacks everyone in his path with clotheslines, before nailing successive Five Knuckle Shuffles on Bryan, Del Rio, and Barrett, and then hitting an Attitude Adjustment on Ryder. But as Cena picks Ryder up, number 28 is revealed to be the COO himself, Triple H, who proceeds to lay into Cena with punches, before hitting him with a jumping knee and a spinebuster. When Rhodes attempts to attack him, he counters with a pedigree, and he and Bryan team up to eliminate Rhodes, reducing Charisma down to two members in the match.
But Bryan soon finds himself in the position of nearly taking a Pedigree, before the Charisma members are up to take retribution on Triple H for their fallen comrade. But then number 29 comes out, and the crowd explodes with cheering as CM Punk comes out and proceeds to lay out both Charisma members and Hunter. He then comes face to face with the man he originally beat for the WWE Championship back at Money In The Bank the previous year, and the two slug it out. Cena is able to catch Punk with a knee to the gut and lifts him up for an Attitude Adjustment, but Punk escapes and then hits Cena with a GTS, before picking him up to throw him over the top rope. Punk proceeds to fight some more with Barrett, while Ryder tees off against Del Rio, and Bryan and Triple H trade punches as they lean on the ropes.
But then it is time for the 30th and final entry of the match, and it’s Kevin Nash. Everyone in the ring stops fighting as Nash saunters his way to the ring with a super-confident swagger. It’s not until he finds himself surrounded by a circle of very displeased looking wrestlers that he appears to smell trouble, by which time friend and foe, Charisma and anti-Charisma, are laying into Nash as he curls up on the floor. Each wrestler makes their mark upon him: Barrett hits him with a Wasteland. Ryder nails the Rough Ryder. Triple H uses his tried and trusted Pedigree. Punk hits a GTS. Del Rio whacks Nash with a particularly vicious football style kick to the head. And finally, all the other wrestlers hold Nash in place so that Bryan can hit him with the Kobayashi Knee. All of the wrestlers then drag Nash to his feet and together throw him over the top rope. Punk is seen laughing at the development, and is heard quipping at Nash “Enjoy the pink slip!”
Six more wrestlers remain in the match, and instantly the remaining Charisma members become a great big set of targets, as the other men in the match engage in 2-on-1 beatdowns of Del Rio and Barrett. Del Rio is thrown out by Ryder and Punk, while Barrett is eliminated via a spinebuster by Triple H leading to a Kobayashi Knee by Bryan hit with such momentum that Barrett is thrown over the ropes by the impact. Charisma are officially no longer in the match, and four men remain. But Triple H’s posturing for the crowd means that he never sees Ryder get behind him and clothesline him over the ropes for a successful elimination. Three more are left.
But Bryan is then a blindsided with a chair shot by a furious Cody Rhodes, who then proceeds to toss Bryan out of the ring and then hitting a Cross Rhodes on the steel ramp to the man he just eliminated. As Rhodes is escorted away by security, Rhodes screams: “You’ve never getting this! As long as results like tonight happens, you don’t deserve it!”
This leaves CM Punk and Zack Ryder, two sensations of the WWE with particularly big internet fanbases, to square off at the conclusion of the match. Ryder instantly nails Punk with a belly-to-belly suplex and is then able to hit Punk with an enziguri. An attempt at a Zack Attack from the top rope is thwarted when Punk gets up and hits a jumping elbow to Ryder’s face, followed by delivering a sharp kick to Ryder’s face while standing on the second rope. Punk then proceeds to hit Ryder with a GTS from the top rope, before making the Broski the final elimination of the match, and the roof feels like it will be ripped clean off of the arena ceiling with the deafening cheers that accompany the victorious “Cult of Personality” music for the self-proclaimed Best In The World. CM Punk has officially won the Royal Rumble, and he is now guaranteed a shot at Wrestlemania for the WWE Championship…
To be concluded …