December 30, 2008
Justin Rozzero

Monday Night Raw 12/29/08
Verizon Wireless Arena
Manchester, NH
Announcers: Michael Cole & Jerry Lawler

- We fire up our opening animation right out of the gate and then Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler welcome us to sold out Manchester, NH for the final Raw of 2008! We will have the Race to the Rumble Fatal Four Way to determine the top contender for John Cena at the Royal Rumble. We then head right to the ring as Rey Mysterio is in the ring. He has a mic and wants to talk about last week. He was moments away from hitting the 619 on JBL and one match away from a World title shot, but someone took that away from him. And we see clips of Shawn Michaels helping his boss and costing Mysterio the bout and the slot in tonight’s four way. Rey respects Shawn very much and he understands that he fell on hard times, but the fact is, they now have a problem. So, he would like Michaels to come down to the ring to talk. Michaels obliges and quickly walks to the ring, eyes locked on Rey the whole way down. Rey knows by heart that despite his affiliation with JBL, he is a great person. He is not here to ask Shawn for his spot in the Race match. All he wants is for Shawn to be honorable and face him one on one tonight with Shawn’s four way slot on the line. He is only asking Shawn to do the right thing. Shawn finally speaks and he accepts the challenge. Rey thanks Shawn, but we are joined by JBL now. He tells Rey that Shawn’s answer is actually “no”. Shawn is his employee and any decision relating to Shawn goes through him. He appreciates the offer, but the only match Shawn will be competing in tonight will be the four way match. JBL tells Shawn he would appreciate it if he left the ring now. Rey doesn’t like this turn of events and the crowd is chanting “HBK”. Shawn sadly looks at Rey and then leaves the ring. Rey tries to plead with Shawn to get back in the ring, but Shawn ignores him and stalks back up the ramp. Rey keeps pleading and says that all the money in the world doesn’t make up for selling your soul. As Rey speaks, he is drilled from behind by Mike Knox. Knox beats down Rey as JBL directs Shawn to the back. Knox grabs a cobra clutch and spikes Rey down out of it. John Cena hits the ring to make the save and clotheslines Knox out to the floor. Cena gets his usual split reaction as he dares Knox to get back in the ring. Knox doesn’t oblige and heads back off through the crowd. Cena and Rey shake hands as we fade to break.

- Backstage, Randy Orton is Sim Snuka, Cody Rhodes and Manu. He is all for the Legacy and says it will be bigger than the Horsemen, DX and Evolution and that is why he won’t tolerate losing. They all have matches tonight and if they lose, they are out of the group. If they win, they pass the first phase. Cody is up first and we are off to the ring.

1) Cody Rhodes vs. CM Punk

Cody hits the ring and looks confident but that confidence may erode a bit as his opponent is revealed and CM Punk heads to the ring. Before the match starts, William Regal’s music starts up and he and Layla walk down to ringside. Cole lets us know that Regal and Punk will fight for the IC Title next week on Raw. The bell sounds and Cody gets a roll up for one. Punk grabs a side headlock. He puts Cody down with a shoulderblock, but Cody takes him down and gets another one count. Punk goes back to the side headlock and then mares Cody over and kicks him in the back. He gets a one count off that but Cody grabs a jackknife cover for one. Punk tosses Cody down again and gets a near fall. Cody lands a boot to the gut, but Punk hits one his own. He tries to take Cody down, but Cody hooks the top rope and Punk lands hard on the mat. Cody gets a one count and then slams Punk back down after pulling him up. Cody drops a knee and gets two. Cody hooks a seated full nelson as the crowd tries to rally Punk. Punk breaks the hold and elbows free. He kicks Cody down and then heads to the top. He comes off with a high cross body, but Cody rolls through and gets a two count. Cody charges Punk, but he gets backdropped to the apron and then kicked in the head. Punk lands a suicide dive onto Cody on the floor, but he hits the announce table as well. They trade punches and kicks as Chad Patton lays the count on. Punk hits the high knee but Punk gets distracted by Regal. Cody slides in and just beats the count to retain his spot in the Legacy. That was a basic and entertaining little TV match. Rhodes d. Punk by countout; Grade: 2

- Punk drops Cody with a bulldog after the bell, but Regal hits the ring and nails Punk with a high knee. Regal and Layla head off as we cut backstage. Cena is talking to Stephanie and Steph tells him he will be doing commentary for the Fatal Four Way. Cena mocks enthusiasm and then says the idea is lame. Cena does the commentary for us now, but actually does a lame Harry Carry impression as part of it. He says that impression and the commentary gig are as lame as Mike Adamle as GM. Steph blames Shane for that, but Cena says they are the same family. Cena says it is the final Raw of 2008 and they should do something crazy! He asks if the people would rather have an episode of boring guest commentary or see Steph make a spectacular match involving Cena, Rey, Knox or anyone else; a match that would changes life on the planet. Cena walks off and Steph ponders as we go to break.

- We are back and Goldust is backstage, singing a Christmas rhyme while showing little freeze frames of things he gave various superstars for Christmas. He gets a couple of funny lines off and then sends a message to Santino Marella directly, warning of an impending beating. We cut back outside and check out the exterior of the arena as Cole talks about Batista’s injury. We see clips from two weeks ago when Batista was taken out by Orton. Cole tells us that Batista suffered a concussion and lost two teeth from the kick. While he was getting that done, he also elected to have surgery done on a nagging hamstring injury. We are told the hamstring was initially injured at Summerslam in his match against John Cena. We now get a video package of the surgery and Batista talking about his injury and the decision to have the extra surgery.

2) Kelly vs. Melina vs. Mickie James vs. Jillian Hall vs. Katie Lea Burchill vs. Candice Michelle in a Diva Battle Royal to determine the number one contender for the WWE Women’s Championship

Back to the ring, Kelly is joining us for some battle royal action. The winner will take on Beth Phoenix for the Women’s Championship at the Rumble. Melina is out next, then she is followed by Mickie James and we are off to break. When we return, Santino is introducing Beth Phoenix, who will be watching the match. Santino calls her the “Glamazon and the Slamazon” which is awesome. Santino and Beth join the booth as we see Beth’s mega fan, Rosa Mendez, in the crowd. The remaining ladies entered during the break and the bell sounds. They pair off and beat each other down as Cole congratulates Beth on 2008. Candice is tossed first as Santino says the winner here is a glutton for punishment because Santino will beat her up. Melina tries to eliminate Katie Lea while Jillian tosses Kelly out. Santino says these ladies are snacks that Beth can eat for lunch. Mickie tosses Katie Lea and Jillian out as they to toss Melina. Melina and Mickie square off as Beth runs down both ladies. Mickie runs Melina into the corner as Santino calls Melina a gypsy. Mickie charges and Melina tosses her out to the apron. She hangs on and tries to slingshot back in, but Melina kicks her to the floor to win the match and move on to the Rumble. Melina wins the Diva Battle Royal; Grade: N/A

- Beth gets in the ring and smacks Melina. She tosses her to the floor but Melina kicks her as she follows. Melina slams Beth’s head into the table and then hammers away at her. Rosa hops out of the crowd and assaults Melina as Santino exclaims “Holy Macaroni!” Security hauls off Rosa as Beth looks on confused. Santino ponders if she will be arrested and then joins the Glamazon as they head off. Backstage, the Grish is with Chris Jericho. Jericho has a question for Todd and says that not only did he win the Superstar of the Year, but WWE Magazine crowned him Jerk of the Year. He asks Todd why. He asks if a jerk is someone who speaks the truth. All the hypocrites will make resolutions and break them immediately. Jericho set out to win the Championship and expose Shawn Michaels this year and he did both of those things. He also proclaims he will win tonight. If the liars and hypocrites want to see the Jerk of the Year, they should look in the mirror. Jericho is done and we are off to commercial.

3) Sim Snuka vs. “Super Haas” Charlie Snuka

Sim is in the ring when we return and he is attempting to stay in the Legacy. His look changes to shock, as his father’s music fires up. Alas, it isn’t the original as it is Charlie Haas mimicking his dad. Sim assaults Haas off the bat and picks up a near fall. Sim spikes Haas to the mat face first and then drops a stiff knee. He rips at Haas’ face and then hits an interest reverse Pedigree type move for two. Sim chokes Haas in the ropes but Haas recovers and lands some chops. Snuka puts Haas back down with a knee and gets two. Snuka grabs a rear chinlock but Haas fights up to his feet and hammers free. Snuka regains control and drops another knee and goes to a surfboard submission. The crowd starts rallying Haas as he fights up again. Snuka clubs him and tries to run him to the corner, but Haas blocks and Snuka eats the buckle. Haas hits the patented double Superfly leapfrog and double chop to the chest. He lands a flying headbutt and gets two. Snuka charges, but Haas catches him and he puts him down with a backbreaker. Haas puts his wig back on and climbs to the top rope. He throws up the “I Love You” sign and flies, but Snuka gets his knees up and Haas is about done. Snuka hits a leaping kick to the head and picks up the win to remain in the Legacy. Snuka d. Haas with a leaping kick to the head; Grade: 1.5

- Backstage, Cena and Rey are walking and the King tells us Steph has made a big ten man tag to close out 2008, taking Cena’s advice. That match is next!

4) John Cena, Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston & Cryme Tyme vs. Kane, John Morrison, Miz, Dolph Ziggler & Mike Knox

We are back and John Cena is heading to the ring for our year ending ten man tag match. Rey is out next and he is followed by Kofi Kingston and Cryme Tyme. Cole uses “ridonkulous” and credits Cryme Tyme’s “Word Up!” segment on WWE.com for teaching him. Kane is out first for the opposing team and he is followed by Morrison, Miz, the undefeated Dolph Ziggler and Mike Knox. Ziggler and JTG start things off as the bell sounds. JTG leapfrogs Dolph and then lands a knee to the gut. He follows with a modified Rocker Dropper for one. He runs Dolph to the corner and tags in Shad. Shad hoists JTG up and over his head and into Dolph and then runs Ziggler into the buckle. Shad misses a charge as Dolph tags in Morrison. Shad sends Morrison flying off a charge and then grabs the arm and tags in Kofi. Kofi comes off the middle rope with an axehandle. Morrison lands a knee but Kofi takes him over with a monkey flip. He hits a flying clothesline and all ten men pour into the ring and square off as we go to break. When we return, Miz has Kofi in a rear chinlock as we see that Kofi missed a top rope cross body block during the break. Kofi elbows free but Miz spikes him back to the mat. Kofi dodges Miz and tags in Rey. He lands a couple of kicks and then takes Miz over with a flying headscissors. Miz eats a boot on a charge and Rey hits another headscissors takeover. Rey kicks Miz in the back of the head and gets a near fall. Miz catches Rey on his shoulders on a huracarrana attempt and Kane slugs him down from the apron. Kane tags in, works over Rey and then quickly tags in Knox. Knox chokes Rey with his knee and shoots him into the corner. He follows with a running splash as the crowd calls for Cena. Knox tags in Dolph as Cole tells us that Knox’ beard is over a year old. Dolph grabs a rear chinlock and smack talks Rey as he works it. Rey fights to his feet and works out of the hold. He lands on his feet off a back suplex attempt but Dolph nails him with a dropkick. He tags in Morrison, who stomps on Rey on the way in. Morrison hammers away at Rey and then drills him with an uppercut. He seats Rey on the top rope and then he follows him up. Rey blocks a back suplex and ends up taking Morrison over with a reverse Huracarrana. Morrison tags in Knox but Rey tags Cena. Cena lands his shoulderblock and then things break down as everyone hits the ring. Kane grabs Cena by the throat, but Kofi kicks him as he comes off the top rope. Cena puts down Knox and Ziggler with his spinning powerbomb. Cena hits Knox with the Five Knuckle Shuffle and Kofi hits the Boom legdrop on Dolph at the same time. Kofi nails Dolph with the Trouble in Paradise as Cena drops Knox with the FU. Rey begs for a tag. He gets it, heads up top and drops on Knox with his splash for the win. Man that was an energetic finish to a fun match. Cena, Mysterio, Kingston & Cryme Tyme d. Kane, Morrison, Miz, Ziggler & Knox when Mysterio pins Knox with a top rope splash; Grade: 3

- Shawn Michaels is watching on the screen backstage and he is interrupted by the Grish. Grish says there is a lot of intrigue in the four way and wants to know about it. Shawn says he is Mr. Wrestlemania and when it comes to the big show, he is concerned with just one thing: stealing the show. He walks off and we go to break.

- Backstage, Kelly wants to know why she is being avoided and ignored…and she is talking to Randy Orton! She protected Orton from Kane and she thought Randy really liked her and that their night together was special. Orton says he used her and she is an idiot for thinking it was anything more. The last thing he needs tonight is a distraction like Kelly.

5) Matt Hardy vs. Manu

Well, looks like we have a special guest here tonight as Matt will try and block Manu from completing Phase One of the Legacy. We get a lockup off the bell and Matt works the arm. Manu reverses it and grabs a side headlock. Matt slugs free but Manu puts him down with a charging shoulderblock for one. Manu goes back to the side headlock and then slugs Matt down for another one count. Manu slams Matt down for two. Manu mares Matt over and locks in a hall nelson choke. Matt fights loose and nails Manu with a kick to the face. Manu charges and Matt dumps him to the floor. Matt hits a baseball slide dropkick and then he heads to the floor. He grabs Manu and tosses him back inside. Matt drops a pair of elbows for two. Matt drops Manu with a reverse neckbreaker for two. Manu lands a thrust to the throat and then hot shots Matt across the top rope for two. Manu stomps away and then plants Matt with a headbutt. He drops another leaping headbutt and gets two. Manu grabs the half nelson choke again and eventually picks up two more near falls. Manu slams Matt and then tries a nice springboard moonsault off the second rope. Matt avoids it and Manu is slow getting up. Matt meets him with some right hands and a flying clothesline. He follows with a forearm and gets two. Matt nails the Side Effect and Manu just kicks out. Matt tries for another one, but Manu elbows free and rolls him up for two. Mat goes for the Twist of Fate, but Manu shoves him off. He eats an elbow on a charge, but lands another thrust. Manu hits a swinging neckbreaker for two. Matt pulls himself up in the corner and Manu charges, but Matt sends him into the buckles with a drop toehold. Manu comes back with a dropkick after blocking a bulldog. Manu covers and gets another close near fall. Manu shoots Matt into the corner and charges, landing a big splash. He shoots Matt across again and lands a second splash. He hoists Matt up into a fireman’s carry, but Matt slips free and drops Manu with the Twist of Fate for the win. Well, that was another rock solid TV match for Matt but the crowd didn’t seem to be digging it. Manu worked hard and let Matt carry him out there but he is just still a bit green. Hardy d. Manu with the Twist of Fate; Grade: 2.5

- Manu realizes what the loss means and Cole wonders if his impressive showing against the ECW Champion will be enough to earn Orton’s approval. Hardy walks off victoriously as we go to break.

- We are back and checking out our weekly behind the scenes look at Behind Enemy Lines Columbia.

6) Chris Jericho vs. John Bradshaw Layfield vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton to determine the number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship

Back in the arena, Randy Orton is out first for the Race to Rumble Fatal Four Way. Michaels is out next, and then we are joined by Jericho and finally JBL. The bell sounds and all four men face off center ring. Orton and JBL head to the apron as Michaels and Jericho start off and Cole tells us this match is elimination rules. Michaels gets a pair of quick near falls and then lands a series of armdrags. Jericho bails to the floor to regroup as we go to break. When we return, Orton and Jericho are circling each other. They lock up and Orton grabs a side headlock. Jericho shoots Orton in but Randy puts him down with a shoulderblock. Jericho comes back with a dropkick and then slugs away at Orton. He lands a boot but Orton fires back. Orton eats a boot on a charge but takes Jericho over with a powerslam for two. Orton kicks Jericho down and the drops a knee. Jericho takes Orton down with a double leg hook. He goes for the Walls but Orton spins out of it and flips Jericho over. Jericho dodges Orton and he goes careening to the floor. Orton heads back in and nails a stiff clothesline. He tags in Shawn, who lands a pair of chops in the corner. He runs Jericho to the corner and lands another chop. Jericho reverses a whip and sends Michaels flipping into the corner. Jericho pounces with some kicks and then sits Shawn up on the top rope. He follows up and tries a superplex, but Shawn blocks it and headbutts him to the mat. Shawn follows with the elbow drop. He sets up Sweet Chin Music but JBL tags him from behind. JBL misses the CFH but Jericho drills him with the Codebreaker. Jericho covers but Michaels breaks up the pin. JBL catches Jericho off a cross body but Shawn tags himself in from behind this time. Jericho slips free and hooks the Walls on JBL. Michaels waits and then nails Jericho with SCM and covers to eliminate him. Jericho leaves as we go to break. When we return, JBL grabs a sleeper on Orton as Michaels looks on from the apron. Orton fights to his feet and breaks the hold. Orton charges but JBL lands a boot to the face for two. JBL slugs Orton down and then runs him into the corner. JBL hammers away in the corner and gets another near fall. JBL stomps on Orton’s hand and then pounds him with right hands. JBL is kicked in the face on a charge. Orton comes back with an uppercut and right hands. JBL comes charging out of the corner with a shoulderblock and gets two. JBL hammers away some more but Orton comes back with a clothesline. He drills JBL with the Orton Stomp and then lines up the Orton Punt of Death. JBL quickly leaps and tags in Shawn before Orton can strike. Orton hits a neckbreaker and then drops a knee for one. Orton buries a boot to the chest and follows with two more. Orton preps for the RKO as Shawn fights to his feet. He goes for it, but Shawn shoves him off and sends him crashing to the mat. Shawn slugs back at Orton, mixing in some chops. He lands the flying forearm, kips up and lands an inverted atomic drop. He slams Orton and heads up top. He nails the elbow and then tunes up the band, this time from the opposite corner of JBL. He drills Orton with the SCM and eliminates him. Shawn was about to land SCM on JBL, but stopped before firing. JBL and Shawn stare each other down and JBL points to the mat. The crowd is chanting “HBK” as Shawn is thinking over his next move. He is softly pleading with JBL but JBL keeps pointing to the mat. Michaels finally capitulates and but quickly pops back up, unable to comply. JBL yells at him some more and Michaels finally caves and slowly lies down on the mat. He pops up again to another big pop. Shawn says he can’t do it and gets in JBL’s face, but JBL points to the mat once again. Shawn is torn and just closes his eyes and tells JBL to “Do it”. He keeps repeating that, wanting JBL to take him out so he doesn’t have to lie down. JBL crushes him with the CFH and picks up the win. What a fantastic ending to that one. JBL d. Michaels with the Clothesline from Hell; Eliminations: Michaels d. Jericho with Sweet Chin Music; Michaels d. Orton with Sweet Chin Music; Grade: 2.5

- JBL quickly leaves the ringside area and looks down from the ramp as Shawn sits up and regains his bearings.

Final Analysis

The opening segment was good stuff and the JBL/Michaels angle continues to intrigue. Shawn is just great at these little morality plays and I think it is because he is a genuinely and honestly flawed person that we have known very well for a long time and have a lot of emotion invested in. Rey was good in role as well, trying to change Michaels’ mind. I really like how Orton is forcing the Legacy members to earn their spots and how they are trying to make Orton a true leader instead of making Legacy a group of equals. Cody and Punk put on a good little match that got the story of Cody’s desperation out there nicely. The Regal/Punk feud also burns on and they will finally clash on next week’s Raw. The Divas match was OK and was really just a formality to get Melina the Rumble shot. They also finally pulled the trigger on Beth’s fan by having her snap and get involved. We will see if she gets involved at the Rumble. I have nothing left to say about Jericho at this point as he just kills it in every promo he does. The Snuka match was kind of flat but I want to still give him a shot to see if he can step up his game with Orton leading the way. The ten man tag was a lot of fun as those matches tend to be. It looks like we got some closure to the Rey/Knox feud as the year ends and I wonder if a Rey/Michaels feud is on deck. The crowd really got into that match, especially the hectic finish. I loved the extra heel touch given to Orton by having him use Kelly. That was great stuff to make him even more of a jerk. The Hardy/Manu match was good as well. Manu worked hard and you could see Matt guiding him through the match. I liked all the near falls they worked in and it added to Manu’s desperation. The Main Event was pretty good, as you would expect, and the crowd stayed with it for the most part, outside of when JBL was working over Orton. They furthered the Michaels angle nicely once again, as he helped his boss take out Jericho. I think this match also still proved that Orton still works best as a heel as the heat segment on him just didn’t click and his comeback wasn’t very well timed. He needs to stay a strong heel as he is so dominant in that role. You could see the difference between the two roles just within this match alone. JBL picks up the win and moves on to the Rumble and he continues to keep Shawn under his control. The finish was pretty great and both men played their roles wonderfully. The crowd was pretty hot all the way through, only dipping a bit towards the end. The show overall was quite good once again. They have really gained a nice focus and are doing a good job of building show long angles that develop through the night and payoff later. They are also using the roster quite well. The formation of the Legacy and the relationship with ECW has helped as well. Thus far, Raw is doing a nice job filling the long layoff between Armageddon and the Rumble and they closed out 2008 with another good show. Final Grade: B

MVP: John Bradshaw Layfield & Shawn Michaels
Runner Up: The Legacy
Non MVP: Mike Knox
Runner Up: Mickie James

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