The SmarK RAW Rant – 12.30.13 Finishing the catch-up for the week. I’ve been avoiding spoilers all week, so hopefully nothing big happened to flood my inbox and cause the blog to not shut up about something all week. Live from Richmond, VA Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler & JBL CM Punk is excited to be here tonight and recaps his year thus far, which leads to the Shield interrupting. Punk wants to fight the best one-on-one (but not Ambrose, who he’s already beaten a bunch of times) and he’s heard that it’s Roman Reigns. Seth Rollins takes exception to that and volunteers as tribute, but the crowd is already hip to the room and starts chanting for Reigns. Might as well get on that train now, WWE fans. Brad Maddox comes out and makes Punk v. Rollins RIGHT NOW. CM Punk v. Seth Rollins Punk quickly goes for the GTS and Rollins bails and we take a break. Back with Rollins in control and working on the back, but Punk gets the world’s ugliest small package for two. Rollins stomps him down again for two and goes to a chinlock, but Punk escapes with a slam and goes up. Rollins sends him flying into the railing and we take another break. Back with Rollins powerbombing Punk into the turnbuckles for two and follows with the enzuigiri for two. Seth tries a GTS, but Punk escapes and hits a running knee, then goes up again, but Rollins moves. Punk charges like an idiot and hits the corner, and they fight over a superplex. Rollins brings him down and hits a flying bodypress, but Punk rolls into the Anaconda Vice. The Shield distracts him to break it up, and they do a fantastic series of reversals into a Rollins inverted DDT that gets two. The Shield squabbles like children on the floor and Punk dumps Rollins onto them. When Rollins dives back in, Punk catches him with the GTS to finish at 17:00. Punk gave Rollins a shitload of offense there. ***1/2 Oddly enough, Hulu didn’t show any commercials during the ad breaks and just went right back to the show. A quick check of the timeline bar reveals that this show is AD-FREE for some reason. Meanwhile, Brad Maddox sucks up to the Authority. Daniel Bryan interrupts (“Well, look who it is, 2013 Superstar of the Year!”) Brad books him in a gauntlet match against the Wyatt Family, but Stephanie is all “Just wait until you see my blockbuster announcement next!” Stephanie McMahon, as promised, comes out for her big announcement, and she wouldn’t change anything about 2013. Really? Even the shitty buyrates to end the year and terrible PPV cards? She introduces a Randy Orton video package, and announces that Orton will defend against John Cena at Royal Rumble in a special NO STIPULATIONS match, except for the no-DQ and no countout stipulations. So they have the TLC match to set up the regular match? But hey, what’s more fresh and exciting to start the year than John Cena v. Randy Orton on top of the promotion while everyone else flounders around in the midcard? Curtis Axel v. Dolph Ziggler Axel now also has the dreaded storyline of the loser who is trying to get back on track, so we’ve now reached the point where they’re running multiple losing streak gimmicks and then matching them up against each other. But what about RYBAXEL? Maybe these two can team up as Wish They Were Curt Hennig. Sadly, the announcers have a new social media toy to never shut up about, as Instagram is now the thing that they think all the kids are into. Axel dumps Ziggler and drops elbows to take control. Dropkick gets two. Blind charge misses and Ziggler slugs away in the corner, and they trade rollups for two. Axel with a neckbreaker for two. Axel messes around too much and Ziggler hits the Zig Zag out of nowhere for the pin at 4:24. *1/2 Intercontinental title: Big E Langston v. Fandango Big E powers him down for two and they trade chops, but Fandango gets a leg lariat for two. Big E goes back to pounding him with shoulderblocks, and Fandango bails. What exactly is “a rare combination of strength and power” supposed to mean anyway, aside from something Vince gets his mistresses to call him? Back in, Fandango clips the knee and goes to work on it. Cole uses his cliffhanger voice but no break is forthcoming. Weird. And then Big E gets sent into the post, and THERE’S the break. Whew. Back with Big E making the comeback and CREATING SEPARATION, via a suplex, but the Warrior splash misses. Perhaps if he didn’t run the ropes 14 times before the move it would be less easy to see coming. Fandango goes up with the legdrop, but Big E bails. Back in, he catches Fandango with an overhead suplex and this time gets the splash, setting up the Big Ending to finish at 11:50. Not much heat for this, as I think they see Big E as being on a higher level than the fanbase does at this point. Plus it’s not like anyone gave Fandango a chance in hell here. ** COOHHH is out for his blockbuster announcement, which is that Brock Lesnar is back again. Brock and HHH bury the hatchet, and Heyman does the return promo. Brock is here to win the newly unified title, and he’s the #1 contender because HE FUCKING SAYS SO. Whatever you’d like, Mr. Lesnar, sir. He dares anyone to come out and say something, and that brings out Mark Henry. Mark gets in his face, so Brock runs him through the railing and gives us a primal scream so you know he’s really upset now. And then he gives Henry an F5 on the floor like it’s NOTHING, and Heyman calls him off because the message has been sent and Henry understands. Sadly there was no couches to be thrown, but this was still awesome. Daniel Bryan v. Luke Harper Bryan throws kicks in the corner and works on the knee, then wraps him up in a surfboard. Yet another obnoxious Cole-ism: Telling us which hashtags they want us to use to discuss things on Twitter. So apparently we’re supposed to be watching on the app while we’re tweeting and taking photos for Instagram. Good thing we’re not supposed to be Touting at the same time or this show would break the internet. They had toned it down for a while but it’s really getting ridiculous again. Harper takes over with a catapult and gator roll, and slugs away in the corner. Bryan fights back with a corner dropkick, but Harper catches him with a slam for two as we take a break. Back with Harper holding a chinlock, but Bryan sends him to the floor and follows with a pair of dives. Back in, Bryan with a missile dropkick and the kicks for two. To the top, where Harper counters a rana into a top rope powerbomb…for two. That probably should have been a match-ender. Bryan fights back again, but Harper hits him with a suplex for two. He goes in for the kill, but Bryan wraps him up in the Yes-Lock. Harper powers out and puts Bryan down with a big boot. Bryan finishes him with the running knee at 15:50, however. ***1/4 Daniel Bryan v. Erick Rowan Rowan immediately tosses him and won’t let him build any momentum, which is like the worst thing a person can do in Michael Cole’s world. And we take a break. Back as Cole declares: “The story on Monday Night RAW tonight is more of the same.” Truer words were never spoken. Rowan pounds away in the corner and hits a fallaway slam off the middle rope, but Bryan cradles him for the pin at 6:50. Most of this was during the break. ½* Daniel Bryan v. Bray Wyatt The Family immediately comes in for the beatdown, and Bray cuts a promo about how he has no mercy left to give and it’s the end. Bryan agrees and asks to join the family because “they” would never let him win no matter how loud people chanted for him. So Bray gives him a Sister Abigail and leads him off to his heel turn. The Pulse I’m still holding out hope that Undertaker gets his way and this pays off with Bryan trying to end the streak at Wrestlemania, but it’s probably not going to go there. As a show, it was clearly a bunch of long matches that were filling time, which is what usually happens when they have six weeks until a PPV and they don’t have anything to promote yet. I’m still reeling from Stephanie’s blockbuster announcement, though, and will likely not be able to put in proper perspective until tomorrow.