Monday Night Raw Warm Up for December 12th, 2011

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Another live contract signing descended into a "Pier Six Brawl" on last week's Raw, but first a photo op.

Tonight’s three-hour Raw SuperShow from Norfolk, Virginia, is a somewhat important show on the WWE television schedule. Not only will the show feature the 2011 Slammy Awards (which can be a truly hit or miss night), but it is also the last Raw before this year’s TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view. We’re sure to get more drama surrounding the main event triple-threat title match at TLC involving The Miz, Alberto Del Rio and WWE Champion C.M. Punk after last week’s contract signing in Tampa, Florida. Also scheduled on the card tonight is the beleaguered John Cena versus World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry.

Brian: We open again with John Cena talking about the fans’ right to boo or cheer him.  Last week, I wasn’t sure if the recent focus on the crowd reaction he gets was setting up a heel turn or if this was an attempt to endear him to those who despise him.  Cena continues to contend that he will not change his attitude and that he is refocused on gaining the WWE championship.

PTB: I love that he’s getting jeered like mad and hasn’t changed his persona at all. I really think avoiding a true heel turn is the best way to run this angle with Cena. It adds a sense of the unknown and as I’ve said before, I think it’s a great use of the crowd’s energy from week to week.

Brian: Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler and The Miz came out to stake their claim to a title shot along with Cena.  Interim Raw General Manager, John Laurinaitis, set up individual matches for each that would enable each of them to qualify for a title shot against Punk at Sunday’s TLC pay-per-view.  This has been done before, but I like it in this case.  I can see all of these guys in the match, so it was interesting to see who got whittled out.

PTB: Qualifying matches are a staple of WWE television, but this is a good application of that premise. It was clear that some of the people in the ring wouldn’t be involved in the main event at TLC since including all of them would have essentially been a “Money in the Bank” match with five participants!

Brian: The Miz vs Randy Orton was up first. Orton’s entrance is so slow that they have to go to a commercial break before he hits the end of the ramp.

PTB: I can’t imagine how aggravating that would be at a live show.

Brian: Wade Barrett with another distraction of Orton that caused the Miz to win by disqualification giving him a spot in the WWE title match at TLC.

PTB: I like that the Barrett / Orton feud is developing over the course of several weeks without constantly having them booked in matches together. This is also the next step in a nice push for the Miz after being out of the direct world title picture for a few weeks.

Brian: Coming back from the break in Orton’s pre-match odyssey to the ring, the Twitter graphic was again interrupted by a link for a new YouTube user, lookwithin2012.  From the comments posted for the video, it seems that many believe it is hyping the return of Kharma (formerly Awesome Kong). I’m not completely sold on that. Considering the limited amount of time the divas get on TV, why would they build up the return of someone who will get minimal TV time?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJoZV7lgxL4&feature=youtu.be]

PTB: The flickering Twitter graphic had interrupted Divas matches in the past, and last week we actually see the video cut into Natalia and Beth Phoenix’s (collectively known as “Pin UP Strong”) pre-taped promo before their tag team match. Kharma is a fair guess, but your point about hyping a returning Diva to this degree is a good one. Feuds with celebrities at shows like this Tuesday’s Tribute to the Troops (another Tuesday night special to go along with the recent Smackdown SuperShows) seem more in line with the direction WWE is headed with their Divas division.

Brian: After watching the video and hearing the words, “a prophet will emerge and destroy the weak,” my money is on Chris Jericho.

PTB: My hope is that it’s Jericho, but signs still point to the Undertaker for me.

Brian: There was a lot of backstage material to set up the show last week. I’m left wondering, what’s with Laurinaitis and all of his texting?

PTB: That’s the type of thing that begs the question of who is he texting. I’m afraid the answer will be lost to antiquity like the anonymous Raw General Manager / Wrestling Laptop.

Brian: Cena’s Doc Brown impression was great!  He even had the “Driest Man on the Planet” smiling. The Zack Ryder headband/wig combo is an awesome piece of merch. I liked the setup of the match between Cena and Ryder with ramifications for both.

PTB: That bit led to some good booking, and it really teased the question of where they’re going with Cena. I love it.

Brian: David Otunga had a moment to tell Kevin Nash he’s in a ladder match with HHH at TLC. The person that gets the sledgehammer hanging above the ring first gets to use it on his opponent. First off, why would you make this the first match of this feud? That’s the problem with these themed ppvs.  A match that should be used as the exclamation point of a feud ends up being the first.  Second, why wouldn’t you have HHH return to TV and challenge Nash to this match?

PTB: Those are all fine points, but Nash in a ladder match just doesn’t seem like something that’s even going to happen. His squash victory over Santino didn’t do much to change that feeling.

Brian: I never get sick of Ricardo Rodriguez coming out to say something about Taco Bell! In another TLC qualifying match of the night Del Rio must face Daniel Bryan who is fresh off a 2nd rope World’s Strongest Slam from Mark Henry on the Smackdown Holiday Special.  I didn’t see how Del Rio could lose there and he didn’t.

PTB: That was to be expected. I really like Bryan and back-to-back losses honestly does nothing to hurt his momentum for me. His cage match with Henry was a lot of fun even if the match with Del Rio didn’t quite stack up.

Brian: Cena’s qualifying match with Zack Ryder propelled the rest of the show. Cena won and qualified for the WWE championship match at TLC, but in doing so Ryder lost his shot at the U.S. Championship.  He’s despondent and tells Cena, “that was my one shot!,” prompting Cena to go to the back and get Ryder another one. Cena gave up his spot in the WWE title match to give Ryder a title match against Dolph Ziggler, but in order to get it Ryder was forced to face Mark Henry in a no disqualification, no count out contest.  Things looked dismal.

PTB: This was another twist in the road for Cena. Giving up his opportunity for Ryder should be something that endears him to the fans, but we both know it won’t.

Brian: Even with one ankle heavily taped, Henry dominates. Ryder comes back with an assist from Cena and he’s able to pin Henry and earn his shot at Dolph. Even worse for Ziggler, we found out he’ll face Sheamus in his qualifying match. Ziggler’s partner Jack Swagger said he’ll be in his corner, but after Ziggs walked away, Vickie Guerrero motioned Swagger off.

PTB: There are twists and turns for Vickie’s stable as well and as much as I want there to be managers representing more than one wrestler, it might be time to see Ziggler separate from this group. He’s really good and I think there are more appropriate people to pair her with now that he’s gotten this far.

Brian: Sheamus vs the “Show Off”… I’m so glad C.M. Punk openly criticized that name earlier in the show because it’s horrible.  Ryder made a run in to distract Ziggler costing him a spot in the TLC match as Sheamus hit the Brogue kick. Ryder also gave him the Ruff Ryder for good measure.

PTB: That was a lot of air time for Ryder making essentially three appearances in the ring on the same show. It’s been a nice build for his feud with Ziggler for the U.S. Champtionship, I just hope they put together a good match.

Brian: With the qualifying matches out of the way, we get a same-night contract signing for the title match at TLC. Punk pointed out that these were cheesy when he had to do this with HHH a few months ago, and just as I thought it, he said it again.

PTB: He’s right too, they’re predictable and often horribly executed. I’m not so sure pointing that out made it any better, but it was good for what it was.

Brian: Laurinaitis finally used his “best of luck in your future endeavors” line on TV referring to the recently released John Morrison.

PTB: I thought that was great despite knowing that a lot of good people have been sent packing in recent years. There was a lot of talk about Morrison, and I think that supports what we were thinking about the nature of his departure last week.

Brian: Punk was great saying Miz took R-Truth and Morrison out… to see Twilight, and interrupting Del Rio saying he’ll start drinking if he says it is his destiny. I died laughing.

PTB: Punk was pretty great throughout the show last week. The awkward “photo op” was another fun moment before it all broke down.

Brian: We finally saw the “signing” erupt into a “Pier 6 Brawl” (#TrendingWorldwide) and Jerry Lawler was the one to call the bulldog through the table “face first” this week. With Laurinaitis standing on the ramp at the end of the show, are we supposed to feel like this is shades of Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon?

PTB: I think that was definitely something they were trying to channel in the final moments. There has been a lot of chatter about Austin lately with his new DVD set and talk of a “final” match with Punk. Setting Punk up as his successor is a good move regardless.

WWE Monday Night Raw has a special start time tonight at 8PM EST on the USA Network. Be sure to cast your vote for this year’s “Superstar of the Year” Slammy Award. All photos courtesy of WWE.com.

Read more about World Wrestling Entertainment on MyLatestDistraction.

Keep up with all of our weekly Monday Night Raw Warm Ups:
December 5th, 2011 edition / December 19th, 2011 edition

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