By Ryan Clark on September 23, 2012
Credit: Mike Johnson & PWInsider
They didn’t use the new entrance stage due to the set-up of the venue, but had two screens set up on either side of the locker room curtain. It looked similar to the old WWF Superstars digital screens back in the day (and boy do I feel old saying that). They ran a few video clips before the show and pushed fans to text and tweet messages that would run on the screen. That’s a smart promotional idea. The show now opens with the same opening graphic as the TV shows and went into the Raw opening. The Titantron videos also play during the entrances. No pre-taped promos on this show, however.
The show opened with AJ Lee announcing John Cena wasn’t there but before she could make it clear, out came WWE champ CM Punk and Paul Heyman. This show was literally 10 minutes from Heyman’s house and his first house show appearance for the current run. Punk was immediately booed by the crowd as he explained that he hurt Cena and Cena was too chicken to show up and fight, so he was taking the night off. Lee explained that she brought in Big Show to face him and Heyman and Punk did a better job selling that than they had any right to. Lee then said that since he was out to disrespect the fans by walking out (surprised they didn’t reference the Raw a few weeks ago), they would let the fans decide what the stipulation was. It was Best of Three or a Lumberjack match. In other words, it was a Lumberjack match. She skipped out, leaving Heyman to do some promo work demanding that the crowd respect Punk. More heel reaction.
They gave out refunds for anyone who wanted them that asked for them by the second match. There were some fans who left but not a massive amount. Its smart to make the offer since it’s the “right” thing to do and the chances are that the audience, after paying to travel, park, get some food, merchandise, etc, isn’t going to get up and leave.
Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara defeated the Miz and Tensai after a Swanton bomb on Tensai. Huge reaction to both Rey and Cara, but especially Cara. With no pyro allowed in the venue, they used some smoke effects to add to the entrances for the babyfaces. This was a decent tag match. They are onto something with Rey and Cara as a team. The crowd was really into chanting for them when they were on the defensive. I knew this was an easy crowd when Rey went for a rana on Tensai and it went to hell and Rey just landed on his back. Had that happened in MSG, fans would have jumped all over them. The younger audience didn’t care and they picked right back up into things. There were a few miscues towards the end but nothing terrible. Cara’s flips and antics look great when they hit but when he’s off by a few seconds, it’s like time stands still.
After the match Miz grabbed the mic and says he never lost and is tired of partners losing and holding him down. He says he could beat Rey and points out that he injured Rey at Summerslam. Rey comes down the ramp and that leads to Miz then turning the promo into a warning that if Rey gets in the ring, Miz will have to end his career. This led to a short but good bout where Rey Mysterio defeated the Miz via a 619 in a non-title match. They never announced the title wasn’t on the line so the crowd popped big for the pinfall. Miz and Rey had nice chemistry here.
Michael McGuillicuty defeated Dean Ambrose. Solid. This was sort of the death spot as no one knew who Ambrose was and McGuillicuty didn’t get a huge reaction. Polite applause but nothing else. McGuillicuty showed more attempts at fire and personality here than I’ve noticed before and had adopted one of his father’s signature bumps, where he’s near the ropes and his legs get kicked out from under him and he takes his backward flip. It wasn’t as spot on as his dad would do it but hell, Curt Hennig was the perfect 10 in the ring. McGuillicuty looks a hell of a lot more like his dad with the beard grown in too. Ambrose played this sleazy heel perfectly and moves his body like a oily carny. He’s got the physical presence and is ready now.
WWE United States champion Antonio Cesaro defeated Zack Ryder. From an in the ring standpoint of a back and forth athletic match, easily the best thing on the show. Ryder didn’t get a massive reaction but the audience was really into him nearly winning the belts a few times. Cesaro’s timing is just great in the ring. He plays everything perfectly. Ryder hit a dive to the floor and it was the most safe thing you’d ever see as he slingshot himself over the top and landed on his feet as he nailed Cesaro. They did some nice back and forth sequences and Cesaro finally caught him with the Neutralizer for the win. There was a lot of rumbling from fans in the seats on the bleachers stamping their feet and clapping along and jumping up and down. Of all things, the sound reminded me of old World Class tapes.
Intermission. The Big O and Zack Ryder’s dad were there and signing and taking photos with fans. Betty Skaaland was also at ringside. They were selling signed photos of Rey and Punk for $20 each. I’d wouldn’t be shocked to see merchandise numbers were lower here than any other show this weekend. Since it’s such an old venue, they had the merch in a side room to the left of the venue. Well, imagine 500-1,000 people all trying to get in and out of the same room to buy little Tommy a John Cena t-shirt. Lots of people throwing their hands up at that idea and giving up as it was just chaos.
After intermission, Damien Sandow defeated Justin Gabriel. Sandow is going to be WWE champion one day. Watching him is like watching shadows of the early HHH character. It’s not the same persona but there are a lot of similar traits. He knows where to be in the ring and how to portray his personality at all times. His reactions and facials are really off the charts to the point, for the first time, he reminded me of William Regal. Gabriel showed some nice timing and fire here. You know it’s a young crowd when Gabriel goes for a Asai Moonsault into the ring and when he misses and hits the mat, you heat the entire place let out a “UGGGGH” for him. Sort of an introductory style match where you know who’s going over before they lock up, designed to make Sandow stronger as he climbs the ladder.
WWE Divas champion Eve defeated Layla. Eve is now doing this personality where she acts like she’s the gracious babyface but is obviously mocking the audience by the way she does it. Aksana was the referee here but didn’t come into play until the end. There was an interesting spot where they both ended up in splits and firing back and forth with punches. I don’t see we’ll ever see any of the men try and match that, except maybe RVD. The finish was awful. Eve caught Layla with a neckbreaker after she almost nailed Aksana, who purposely stepped in the way. Layla pushed Aksana away, allowing Eve to nail the finisher. The timing of it was really weak.
Brodus Clay defeated Heath Slater with a splash and danced with some kids. You know what you are getting with the Clay character and that’s what this was, right out of his introductory matches on TV. Slater was the one heel personality that didn’t get a big reaction from the audience. Crowd was really into Clay dancing as you could see sections of the building dancing everywhere you looked before and after.
Big Show defeated WWE champ CM Punk via DQ when Punk nailed him with the WWE title belt. This was all heel shenanigans 101, which was genius. There was no way to have a “tear down the house” sort of match so they went for comedy and scenarios to put Punk in danger of losing the belt by making Show look like a beast. The fans decided it’s a lumberjack match. The match started and Punk took forever to take off his t-shirt, to the point even George South would have been saying “enough already!” Then Punk tried to stall and escape. Then it came time for Show power spots where one chop would send Punk screaming and running away and one shoulderblock would send Punk bouncing to the mat and upside down, landing in the ropes. Heyman was at ringside and doing all his reactions and screaming that you’d expect. Punk gains control and nails a series of running knees to the face. He gets tossed off during the bulldog attempt and is chokeslammed. Sandow puts his foot on the apron at the last second. Show gets mad and Sandow gets on the apron to protest. He gets nailed. The other heels do the same. Ditto. The babyfaces and the heels end up in a shoving contest and its a brawl around ringside. Heyman tosses Punk, who’s obviously “going to lose the title”, his WWE championship belt and Punk drills Show with it. DQ city. Desperate heel trying to keep the belt, the win be damned. Punk continues to beat on Show. Rey hits the ring and hits some offense but gets killed with the belt. Sin Cara comes in. Rinse and repeat. The others brawl to the back. Punk takes forever grandstanding to the crowd, proud of himself and is on the ropes. Show recovers, the pissed off monster. Punk jumps off the buckles and back into the ring and eats the KO punch. The place pops huge. Show helps up the Lucha twins and they all leave. Trainers check on Punk, who sells the entire thing as if he’s legit gone to dreamland. An exasperated Heyman keeps proclaiming, “But he’s the best in the world!” They finally drag the champion out by his arms and he’s pulled all the way to the back. Good triumphs over evil but the bad guy still holds the title for another day.
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