Carroll County Times

Chair Shots: WWE Raw a bump in the road to Royal Rumble

It's a good thing the Royal Rumble is routinely the second-most purchased PPV behind WrestleMania, and WWE has the added addition of The Rock in a featured match on this year's card. Because after two weeks of solid programming, the go-home show for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view on Sunday fell woefully short.

Here were the major happenings on last night's show:

Dolph Ziggler won a Beat the Clock challenge, defeating the Miz in under 11 minutes. That bested the time of Randy Orton, who beat Antonio Cesaro earlier in the show and then Ziggler, Big E Langston and AJ Lee got involved in the final Beat the Clock match between Sheamus and Wade Barrett, which went to a time-limit draw. Ziggler's prize was to pick his number of entry for the Rumble match. But after gloating backstage to his former love interest and managing supervisor Vickie Guerrero, then making out with AJ in front of her, she told him he does get to pick his number -- 1 or 2. Wacka wacka. So bottom line, Ziggler will start the match.

Three major complaints about these matches. While I typically don't have a problem with WWE breaking up matches to go to commercial (with the idea being that you want to see the end of the match, so you'll stick around or at least tune back in after a few minutes) it really bothered me because I got to see that 4 minutes or so elapsed thanks to the big clock in the corner of my screen. It makes that whole suspension of disbelief thing a little harder to do when none of the Beat the Clock matches actually end during that 4-minute period.

My second complaint has to do with the number of rest holds and psychology of the Orton-Cesaro match. Again, not something I'd usually mind, but when the idea is to win your match quicker than your opponents, wouldn't your strategy be to wrestle a fast-paced match instead of a slow and methodical one? Even Jerry Lawler noted this, and he's not usually too focused on ring psychology while doing commentary. Maybe they knew Vickie Guerrero's booby prize was the 1-2 choice, so they didn't care.

Actually, to address that point. I saw a lot of folks on Twitter angry about the choose number 1 or number 2 swerve. I assumed they'd do something screwy when the Beat the Clock wasn't automatically for the No. 30 spot, because logically, that would be the best number to have (as the commentators astutely pointed out). So I appreciate the swerve in that regard. The Beat the Clock matches themselves weren't great, but they weren't bad either, so at least we had a reason for some intriguing match-ups.

However, I do wonder why those six competitors were chosen to participate. John Cena was the first announced participant in the Rumble, and he didn't get a chance at a Beat the Clock match. Neither did Ryback or 3MB, who faced each other in a match with nothing on the line in the quickest match of the night. What gives? Logic flaw. ...

Speaking of logic flaws, the whole idea that The Rock couldn't get into the arena because Vickie Guerrero posted cops outside, but by getting a ticket to the event from one of the cops, he gained access backstage is ridiculous. I was ready to rip this to shreds when he showed up at ringside and jumped the rail without getting taken down by WWE security (speaking of which, shouldn't they do that whenever the Shield interfers?) but this was even more ridiculous. Whatever.

Neither the Rock or CM Punk seemed particularly on their game last night, and the fact that they decided to have Paul Heyman trot out there to "dumb down" Punk's interview was telling. My guess is both the Rock being "banned" from the building and CM Punk being in a skybox for the Rock's promo were done to keep the two apart, especially after the brawl last week, but that could've been accomplished with a simple no-contact order, least the match be off.

The obvious talking point coming out of all this was the Shield's attack on the Rock, which put him in a weakened state for the match Sunday (Rock was spitting blood after the attack, which was likely from a capsule or biting his lip, but sold as internal injuries). It also led to Vince McMahon announcing that if the Shield got involved in Sunday's match, he'd strip Punk of the WWE Championship. Interpret that as you will. The marks will likely view it as: Good, CM Punk is going to lose because the Shield won't bail him out. The smarts will say: Wait, this is setting up a swerve where Punk retains. So really, we don't know anything more than we did two weeks ago. ...

Perhaps the worst segment of the show was the cliched show-closing brawl in the ring with 20-plus wrestlers to try to sell the concept of the Rumble to anyone who has never watched WWE programming before.

John Cena wasted a lot of people's time with some odd diatribe about how people spend their Sundays, then said he was going to win the Royal Rumble. Wait, no, Sheamus is going to win it. No, the Prime Time Players are. No wait, it's Orton. Or Cesaro. Or Kane or Daniel Bryan. You get it. Everyone came out and there we go. I definitely saw a few guys come out that I'm pretty sure won't actually be in the Rumble match (Yoshi Tatsu, Alex Riley, Michael McGillicutty, Curt Hawkins, JTG ...).

Officially, only 11 guys have declared (Cena, Orton, Sheamus, Ryback, The Miz, Ziggler, Cesaro, Barrett and the three members of 3MB). I figure WWE wouldn't have given the Prime Time Players a speaking part in last night's segment if they weren't going to be part of the match. Same with Kane and Daniel Bryan, so that gives us half the field, 15. In recent years, WWE has had a tendency to keep the list of official participants somewhat fluid, in order to allow for surprise entrants and last-minute storyline changes.

Leaving five spaces open for returning Legends and surprises, here are 10 other guys on the current roster I fully expect to participate in the Rumble match: Kofi Kingston, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Brodus Clay, the Great Khali, Zack Ryder, R-Truth, Tensai, the loser of the World Championship match between Big Show and Alberto Del Rio, and Hornswoggle. Yup, Hornswoggle. Because Vince McMahon hates us. He'll take the spot that Santino Marella would've had before his neck injury. By the way, I don't think the Shield will be involved in the Rumble in an official capacity. More on that later in the week. ...

Kane and Daniel Bryan graduated from Dr. Shelby's anger managment class, which was a goofy but fun segment that got a lot of people in the crowd hugging. I couldn't have been the only ones waiting for the Rhodes Scholars to interrupt and talk about what a sham the graduation was and how neither one of them should be valedictorian of anything, right? I mean, they're the Rhodes Scholars for crying out loud. Was there ever a more obvious set-up? Instead, we got nothing, and I guess promoting the Tag Team Championship match in the undercard of the Royal Rumble isn't all that important. ...

Alberto Del Rio and Big Show's rematch will be a Last Man Standing match, just as it was on Smackdown. They made short work of their respective opponents, Tensai and Zack Ryder. To Del Rio's credit, he's working more like a babyface and won with a moonsault onto Tensai. He also spent a lot of time high-fiving fans at ringside. I'm still shocked this has gone as well as it has. Maybe I'm wrong about Del Rio. ...

Following last week's terrific Divas match that saw Kaitlyn win the title from Eve, the announcers seemed to focus a lot more on Eve quitting than Kaitlyn winning the title during his squash win over Alicia Fox. That's unusual. Typically, when someone is written off TV, the announcers don't even acknowledge their existence a week later. After a tease that Layla might be Kaitlyn's next challenger on Smackdown, it was Tamina shown backstage watching Kaitlyn's match on Raw. Let Kaitlyn work the Rumble against Natayla, she can make the new champ look like a million bucks. ...

Check back later in the week for Royal Rumble previews and don't forget to follow me on Twitter @CCTChairShots