—We are LIVE from Atlanta, Ga. (former home of some sort of wrestling promotion a few years back).
—CM Punk kicks us off and forces Justin Roberts to announce him as the People's Champion before heading out to abuse the crowd a little bit. Punk claims he wasn't in the incriminating video last week but everyone is still blaming him for Shield attacks.
He insults the crowd a little more until Booker T interrupts (while stumbling over his words) and allows the (sigh) WWE Universe to choose Punk's opponent tonight. The choices are: Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio or Chris Jericho. I think the winner is quite clear out of those three.
—Then, they actually give a tutorial on live television how to download an app on an iPhone...that whirring sound is Lou Thesz spinning in his grave.
—Oh yeah, there is also an EPIC ANNOUNCEMENT tonight...seriously, how could you not know by now? I'm going to mark out so hard, it's not even funny.
Ryback vs. Antonio Cesaro
Something tells me this is going to be a clash of styles. Ryback hiptosses Cesaro and drops a leg for two before hanging Antonio in the Tree of Woe.
I love that move.
Some stomps draw a weak "feed me more" chant so Cesaro takes a powder that doesn't last long. Cesaro hits a cheap shot but runs into a Thesz Press. Cesaro dodges a clothesline in the corner and hits one of his own to take us to the first commercial break.
We return with Ryback making his babyface comeback with a spinebuster, so Cesaro tries to take a walk to the locker room.
Ryback puts a stop to that but Cesaro snaps his neck on the top rope and runs Ryback into the ring steps. They tease a countout finish but Ryback barely beats the count and mounts another comeback with a high-back body drop.
The Clothesline of Death hits but Cesaro again rolls to the outside and tries to escape. Ryback brings him back in and hits a powerbomb then adds another Clothesline of Death (I refuse to call it the Meathook Clothesline).
Shellshock hits and the pin is academic after that.
—So I guess Cesaro has settled into midcard territory where he's going to job every single time and then creative will wonder why people don't care about him anymore. The match was decent but Cesaro didn't have much to work with *3/4.
—Random short Rey Mysterio promo but, then again, all of Rey's promos are...never mind.
—We get another Shield promo where they gloat once again about everyone they've beaten up. OK seriously, do they have a long-term plan for these guys or are they just going to keep powerbombing people until they lose at Elimination Chamber and get sent back down to Florida?
—They replay Trish Stratus's Hall of Fame video as a tease (and I'm not even talking about Trish's low-cut tops) before getting to the EPIC ANNOUNCEMENT. Oh come on, WWE, you're killing me and I'm being 100 percent serious. I need to see this before I believe it.
Santino vs. Jack Swagger
Oh come on, Swagger again? Santino does his goofy power-walk spot but Swagger destroys him while the announcers put over the "new" Jack Swagger.
Does this one still suck in the ring and bore the hell out of me? Oh OK...same guy then. Santino makes a brief comeback but Swagger hits a pump splash and applies the ankle lock for the submission.
Winner: Jack Swagger
—Total squash 1/2*. Swagger tells Booker T he wants in the Elimination Chamber match which I'm sure will raise the buyrate to at least 2.0.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Cody Rhodes
Well, the Rhodes Scholars are history, but at least Cody's mustache is still alive and well. Del Rio hits a reverse hurricanrana fairly quickly and hammers away in the corner.
Running kick in the corner gets two but Cody goes low with a dropkick and atomic drops the knee.
Rhodes misses a charge to the corner though and Del Rio makes his comeback with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Superkick hits square but Cody kicks out at two...someone call Shawn.
Del Rio looks to finish with the armbar, but Cody counters to the Disaster Kick for two. Cody tries whatever but Alberto dodges around and applies the cross armbreaker for the quick submission.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
—Basically another squash with very little offense from Cody *1/4.
—After the match, Del Rio sucks up to the crowd and apologizes for being a jerk for so long. Big Show interrupts via satellite from a hotel and demands that Del Rio grant him a rematch for the title. How many matches between these two are they planning? Isn't a Last Man Standing match usually the end of a feud?
—As predicted, Chris Jericho overwhelmingly wins the poll and will face CM Punk later on.
—So Team Hell No has some problems backstage because, God forbid, we have a tag team who is over and people want to see.
Rey Mysterio vs. Daniel Bryan
Bryan kicks away to start and drives his knees into Mysterio's chest when Rey tries for a hurricanrana. Awesome spot right away. Mysterio gets hung in the Tree of Woe (second time tonight) but does a sit-up to dodge a charging Bryan and Daniel hits the post to take us to commercial.
We return with Bryan working the arm by stomping on Mysterio's elbow and going to an arm wringer. Bryan sends Mysterio to the floor and hits a baseball slide but gets nailed on a dive attempt and Mysterio hits a seated senton. Flying headscissors leads to a reverse hurricanrana and a kick to the face for two.
Mysterio looks to finish but Bryan catches Rey's legs and tries for the No Lock but Rey cradles for two. Bryan tries a powerbomb but Mysterio takes him over with an hurricanrana and hits the 619. Surprisingly, Mysterio misses his splash from the top rope and Bryan quickly applies the No Lock for a submission victory.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
—A really good TV match and a solid win for Daniel Bryan ***.
—As Bryan is celebrating, Mark Henry makes his return and destroys both guys, impressively hitting a running powerslam on Mysterio. Sin Cara tries to make the save but gets planted with the World's Fattest Slam. Henry celebrates by squashing Mysterio with a pump splash after another World's Fattest Slam. All kidding aside, I was really digging Henry as a heel before he was injured, so hopefully he can pick up where he left off.
—Meanwhile, Daniel Bryan is upset that Kane didn't save him from Mark Henry, but Kane just makes fun of him.
—Recap of Brock Lesnar attacking Vince McMahon and putting him on the shelf for hip surgery.
—Meanwhile, Big Show waits in his hotel room for the Del Rio contract to arrive and stiffs a waiter when he orders room service.
Sheamus vs. Kane
They trade shots in the corner, but Kane catches Sheamus with a clothesline and stomps away. Side slam gets two for Kane and they outside for whatever reason and Kane tastes the barricade. Back inside, Sheamus hits a sloppy Irish Curse backbreaker, which Kane basically no-sells.
Sheamus clotheslines Kane to the floor and tries his repeated forearm blows, but Kane stops him with a necksnap on the top rope. Kane whiffs on his clothesline from the top and the chokeslam as they exchange finisher attempts but ends up hitting a running DDT.
Kane looks to finish but Daniel Bryan runs down to complain some more, allowing Sheamus to recover and hit the Brogue Kick for the win.
—That's a lame finish and I'm still confused why WWE feels the need to break up Team Hell No. The match was total punch-kick crap *.
—So John Cena plans on calling out the Shield, which has Cole questioning his sanity. That's right, Cole, Cena has NEVER beaten the odds before.
So Paul Heyman immediately makes the segment 10 times better by calling the Miz "Mr. Mizanin" and denying everything surrounding Brock Lesnar's attack last week. Heyman dodges Miz's questions and verbally upstages him entirely until Vickie Guerrero makes her presence known. Vickie takes full responsibility for what happened to Vince McMahon since she was the one, not Heyman, who brought Lesnar back.
Vickie wants to respectfully lead everyone in a prayer for McMahon but the Miz is not buying it for some reason. He starts talking about how McMahon is going to fire Heyman and Guerrero when he gets back but he runs his mouth a little too much because Brock Lesnar is here tonight.
Instead of running away like a smart person would, Miz instead attacks Lesnar. Guess how that one turns out? So Lesnar destroys Miz and Heyman begs Brock not to hurt him anymore as Paul continues to be awesome in his role. I could watch Brock Lesnar beat people up for three hours and never get bored.
Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett
Oh, God, these two guys bore me to death separately...maybe they'll both get sucked into a vortex of boredom and save me 10 minutes.
Orton starts with a Thesz Press and some European uppercuts then adds a clothesline, sending Barrett to ringside. Barrett tastes the apron and takes a back suplex on top of the crowd barricade, allowing Orton to get two back inside.
They completely blow a clothesline spot against the ropes so Barrett has to reset and get Orton over the top...not good. This time Orton's head hits the apron and that gets two for Wade so he goes to a chinlock to really amp up the crowd.
Orton ducks a clothesline to hit his powerslam and he follows with the Draping DDT. Randy looks to finish but he runs into a Black Hole Slam for two. Zero crowd reaction to that one which is not a good sign for Barrett's future.
They trade finisher attempts and Wade misses a boot the corner, allowing Orton to hit an RKO for the win.
Winner: Randy Orton
—Seriously, what's the point of the Intercontinental title? Anyone who gets it immediately starts jobbing to all the uppercard guys and then WWE actually expects us to care when someone new wins it. The match was the usual between these two, technically fine but boring as hell **.
—Really? They're still going to give it a shot with this Fandango clown? Whatever, it's his funeral.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
They trade chops to the crowd's delight and Jericho hits a suplex for two while the crowd starts with dueling chants. Punk hits a kneelift for two and applies an armbar while mocking Jericho's "ASK HIM!" in a nice touch. Jericho shoves out of a tornado DDT and sends Punk to ringside where Jericho hits a baseball slide. Jericho's springboard dropkick is nicely countered by Punk in mid-air by snapping Jericho's neck off the top rope. That gives us a double KO spot and takes the show to break.
We return with Punk working over Jericho's neck with a back suplex and a pair of legdrops for two. Jericho dodges Punk and manages to evade Punk's springboard clothesline for another double KO. Y2J mounts a comeback and hits an axe handle from the top and a bulldog. Lionsault hits knees but Jericho wisely grabs Punk's legs and tries for the Walls.
Punk kicks out and they collide in the corner so they both head up top. Impressively, Jericho brings Punk off the top with a hurricanrana. Man, I got to get on that DDP Yoga...Jericho looks like he's 28 years old again.
Jericho tries for another Lionsault but Punk catches him in an Electric Chair. Punk tries to turn it into the GTS but Jericho rolls through and they exchange pinfall attempts. Punk catches Jericho with a swinging neckbreaker for two as the crowd starts to swing Jericho's way.
Punk connects with a running knee in the corner but the Savage Flying Elbow only hits canvas. Lionsault connects but Jericho is slow to cover and it only gets two. Jericho looks to finish Punk but gets smacked with a kick on the side of the head for two.
Punk gets upset and locks on the Anaconda Vise but Jericho fights to the ropes. (Punk: "Sit down, marks!") Jericho heads up top but gets caught and Punk hooks a GTS but Jericho catches Punk's leg to counter and locks in the Walls of Jericho in the middle of the ring. Punk teases tapping out but makes a last-ditch effort and gets to the ropes.
Punk tries to surprise Jericho with a GTS but Punk's leg gives out and he has to drive Jericho to the ring post. Punk guts it out though and manages to lift Jericho and hit the Go To Sleep for the hard-fought win.
Winner: CM Punk
—Honestly, this was a match of pay-per-view quality given away on free TV. A hard-hitting, well-worked match that I hope we get to see more of in the very near future ***3/4.
—FINALLY, the newest member of the WWE Hall of Fame...BRUNO SAMMARTINO!!!! Editors, please forgive the extra exclamation points, but I swear I never, ever thought I would see this day. Give Triple H all the credit in the world for getting Bruno to agree to be inducted.
As a side note, I actually met Bruno about three months ago at an independent show and asked him about the Hall of Fame. He didn't seem very happy about it then, but I am unbelievably happy that he changed his mind. Being from Pittsburgh, there is no bigger name in professional wrestling than Bruno Sammartino.
Thanks for the memories, Bruno. I look forward to seeing you at MSG in April and hope to chat again soon.
—After a break, CM Punk says while Rocky might have the title, he is still the champion.
—After yet another break (sensing a trend here?), Big Show is still waiting for his contract to arrive. Finally, a messenger comes but so does Alberto Del Rio and they brawl in the hotel hallway. Big Show beats the hell out of him until Del Rio grabs a fire extinguisher and knocks Show out.
Main Event Interview
So Brad Maddox is randomly here and he proclaims that he will call out the Shield, not John Cena. Why does Brad Maddox deliver promos like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises? It doesn't suit him at all.
So the Shield obviously shows up beats the hell out of Maddox. The crowd doesn't react at all either because Maddox has been booked as a slimy, whiny heel until this segment when he's suddenly standing up for himself. A powerbomb quickly gets rid of Maddox and John Cena's music hits.
Ah, but it's a swerve, as John Cena, Sheamus and Ryback attack from the crowd and the Shield wisely attempt to retreat. However, the entire WWE locker room clears out and blocks their exit, forcing the heels back into the ring.
Did Jerry Lawler seriously just say "come at me, bro"? Anyways, a big brawl breaks out and the babyfaces send the Shield scurrying through the crowd to safety. The crowd was totally dead for this for whatever reason.
Well, this show had two fantastic things going for it:
1. BRUNO SAMMARTINO
2. The awesome CM Punk-Chris Jericho match
The show is an easy thumbs up because of those two things but the rest (aside from the Brock Lesnar appearance and a good Bryan-Mysterio match) was just kind of there. They did manage to keep the squash matches short this week and didn't any have "comedy" segments eating up 15 minutes, so I really can't complain too much.
This was definitely a recommended show this week, so check it out if you get the chance.