On the last night of a long, wild 2012, it's only fitting New Year's Eve on Monday Night Raw kicked off with something ... AWESOME. And the host with the most (and lest we forget, a WWE Universe-deemed 'nice guy'), The Miz, certainly started the evening in high style with a blockbuster announcement from Managing Supervisor Vickie Guerrero: It would be a 'Champion's Choice' night, in which all reigning champions would defend their titles against an opponent of their choosing.
Miz's guest wasn't lacking in the 'must-see' department, either, as The Awesome One summoned none other than John Cena to his couch for a powwow in our nation's capitol. The Cenation leader was free to address the recent goings-on between himself, AJ Lee, Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston, but no sooner had Cena given an RSVP to Dolph and AJ's planned 'New Year's Toast' (yes, he's going) than Team Rhodes Scholars crashed the party. Neither the host nor the guest had much appreciation for the interruption, though, and after a few moments of jaw-jacking, a match was made. The WrestleMania XXVII opponents would unite in a tag team contest against the immaculately groomed goons of Team Rhodes Scholars.
It wasn't exactly a happy New Year's Eve for Team Rhodes Scholars, who concluded their 2012 in disappointing fashion when John Cena and The Miz brought their braggadocio to a screeching halt in Washington. Despite the pedigree of their opponents, however, the Scholars didn't let Cena and Miz waltz away with a victory in 2012's waning hours. Sandow and Rhodes put up a stiff resistance against the WrestleMania XXVII headliners, as the brainy tandem attempted to isolate Miz and keep Cena out of the equation. But the strategy fell short after Miz withstood the brainiacs' barrage and tagged Cena into the contest after stopping Rhodes' momentum. The 10-time WWE Champion went to work in high style, shaking off a Disaster Kick from Rhodes and dropping Sandow like the New Year's ball with an Attitude Adjustment to earn the victory for himself and his mismatched mate.
Leave it to the mouthy United States Champion to kick off Champion's Choice night. And in his continued conquest against the United States, Antonio Cesaro decided to select an opponent he felt truly embodied the U.S.: Sgt. Slaughter. Packing Old Glory at his side, the WWE Hall of Famer certainly looked ready for the occasion, and he gave Cesaro a good licking or two in pursuit of The Swiss Superman's championship. But the powerful polyglot won out in the end, escaping the Cobra Clutch and unleashing a one-two punch of the Very European Uppercut and the Neutralizer to seal Slaughter's fate. Cesaro followed the contest up with an unsportsmanlike demonstration of his might, executing a second Neutralizer on his prone opponent to send an emphatic statement as his title bout with The Great Khali Wednesday on WWE Main Event approaches.
What better way for Team Hell No to ring in the New Year with a little bit of rock ‘n' roll? The bickering buddies wanted to defend their titles against The Shield for Champion's Choice night, but with the black-clad squad otherwise engaged, Kane and Daniel Bryan instead selected 3MB as their opponents. And the rockers certainly showed up for the occasion despite being unprepared for a title match. 3MB used the numbers game to their advantage by tossing Bryan outside the ring and letting Jinder Mahal (the only bandmate who was not competing) to get in a few cheap shots on the submission technician. Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre attempted to capitalize by separating Bryan from Kane, but the strategy fell short when the 'No!' man tagged in his hulking other half. Once summoned, Kane proceeded to clean house and closed the book on the band in short order. The Big Red Monster mercilessly pounded McIntyre with a Chokeslam before tagging Bryan in to provide the final shot with a flying headbutt, bringing the bout to a close. And, in a demonstration befitting the contest itself, Team Hell No celebrated the win with some apropos air guitar on the titles.
If CM Punk's 2013 resolution is to hang on to his WWE Title for a little while longer, the odds of The Voice of the Voiceless retaining his mantle just got a little bit slimmer. Sitting pretty—but injured—at 407 days as champion, The Straight Edge Superstar descended upon our nation's capital to refute his doubters. This time, though, Punk brought his personal physician along to illustrate the severity of his injury. Despite the champion's assertion he would be ready to compete against Ryback, the doctor would have none of it. Upon further review, he declared The Voice of the Voiceless would be unable to defend his title on the Jan. 7 Raw. And while the champion was visibly irked by this development, there was one individual who took even greater issue with the doctor's decision: Mr. McMahon.
With 2012's final hours ticking away, The Chairman gave his last decree of the calendar year: The champion would undergo a final evaluation by WWE officials to determine whether he was ready to compete. And if Punk was truly unable to go, Ryback's replacement opponent would be ... Paul Heyman. Happy (?) New Year, CM Punk.
Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee may have had a big New Year's toast planned for the WWE Universe, but before Mr. Money in the Bank could make it to his big year-end party, he had to make it through a good old-fashioned scrap with Sheamus. And The Celtic Warrior certainly had no intention of letting The Showoff waltz into the waning moments of 2012, unleashing the full bounds of his strength upon him in a reprise of one of the year's most hard-hitting contests at No Way Out. No championships were on the line this time around, but you wouldn't have known it from the way the two Superstars battled. Ziggler's wiles matched perfectly with Sheamus' power throughout the contest, though The Celtic Warrior eventually gained the upper hand after a series of brutish power maneuvers. Showing no quarter and gaining momentum fast, Sheamus took control of the bout by clobbering Dolph with the Battering Ram and reversing The Showoff's leaping DDT into White Noise.
Ironically enough, the bout turned south for Sheamus right as he was about to let the Brogue Kick loose on Ziggler, as Big E Langston interrupted The Irishman's signature strike. Ziggler attempted to capitalize, but was unceremoniously expelled from the ring by The Celtic Warrior. For a moment, it looked as though Langston would seek retribution, but before the two strongmen could clash, The Shield stormed the ring and laid waste to The Celtic Warrior. The assault earned Sheamus a disqualification win, but the victory turned out to be a Pyrrhic one when the men in black left the former World Champion in ruins, pummeling Sheamus with the triple powerbomb to bring his 2012 to a crashing close.
Well, this was ... unexpected. Divas Champion Eve selected Mae Young as her opponent for Champion's Choice night, but the challenger's evening was cut unceremoniously short before the match could even begin with the discovery that Young was with child (again). That, of course, meant Eve retained her prize via forfeit. But before Eve could get her customary victory photo taken, Kaitlyn struck and unleashed a beatdown on the unsuspecting champion, leaving Eve no recourse but to fend off the attack and make her escape while opportunity afforded. While Eve left Champion's Choice night with title still in hand, it certainly seems Kaitlyn's pursuit of the butterfly-emblazoned championship will continue well into 2013.
Que pena, Ricardo. Although Alberto Del Rio's personal ring announcer couldn't challenge Big Show for the World Title on SmackDown, Show offered him another opportunity at the 'Big Gold Title' on New Year's Eve. At least Ricardo got some sweet wheels out of the whole ordeal when he got to roll into the arena in one of Del Rio's luxury automobiles.
That was about where the good news began and ended for Ricardo, though. Show made quite the display of dismantling the overmatched hype man, tearing Rodriguez's tux to shreds and tossing him to and fro about the ring. Rodriguez briefly looked poised to pull off the upset after he hit the giant with an enzuigiri, but Show rallied quickly and continued his dismantling of poor Ricardo. That is, until Del Rio decided to get involved. The Essence of Excellence swarmed the giant and came to his aide's aid, giving Show the disqualification win but allowing Ricardo to leave in one piece. We'll call that a win, all things considered.
Old acquaintance was far from forgot on 2012's final Raw when Kofi Kingston granted longtime rival Wade Barrett a rematch for the Intercontinental Title in the final Champion's Choice bout of the evening. Although 'The Wildcat' fended off the Englishman's assault at WWE TLC, Barrett barreled his way to victory in Washington and brought his monthslong pursuit of Kofi's title to fruition.
Kofi seemed to have Barrett's number at first, dodging the Brit's bruising strikes with his trademark agility and reversing Wade's momentum into offense of his own. For the majority of the contest, Barrett seemed to have no answer for The Boom Squad General's game plan, but the Englishman dug deep and tapped into his old-school fighting roots by targeting Kofi's torso. Wade used his fists, feet, knees and even the ring posts as weapons in his dismantling of The Dreadlocked Dynamo, finally persevering through a late-game rally by the champion and felling him with the Bull Hammer elbow to claim his second Intercontinental Championship.
Amid the chaos of Raw, the WWE Universe did get one bright spot as the year wound down to a close: The Shield got a taste of their own medicine. With WWE Champion CM Punk unable to defend his title for Champion's Choice night, he instead convinced Managing Supervisor Vickie Guerrero into making a 3-on-1 Handicap Match between The Shield and Ryback. Unfortunately, the contest never even got started as the black-clad threesome swarmed their monstrous opponent before the opening bell could toll.
The trio jumped Ryback before he could make his way down the ramp, eventually trapping him in the ring and using the numbers to their advantage until Sheamus ran down to ringside. The Celtic Warrior's bid for retribution against The Shield bore no fruit, though, as Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns continued their onslaught and kept the two strongmen down. With the odds of survival dwindling, Ryback and Sheamus needed a miracle. What they got was Randy Orton, recovered from his separated shoulder and looking for some payback of his own. The Viper, fresh and fuming, struck Ambrose with the RKO as Sheamus and Ryback expelled Rollins and Reigns from the ring, forcing The Shield into retreat for the first time. Might the trio's weakness have been exposed?
We will say this much: New Year's shindigs are certainly more interesting when John Cena is invited. The guest of honor for Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee's New Year's toast didn't sit idly by after The Showoff and his skip-happy gal pal cued up a slideshow of Cena's less-than-best moments this year (losses to The Rock and John Laurinaitis among them). He didn't even stay put when Ziggler un-invited him from the proceedings. Instead, Cena crashed the party in high style, offering some quips of his own before turning to more serious matters. The Cenation leader gamely acknowledged his shortcomings in the previous 12 months, but resolved to reclaim his rightful place atop the WWE mountaintop, throwing his name into the 2013 Royal Rumble Match as the first step to that goal. Regardless of whomever he had to beat, Cena promised he would be a champion once again.
So with that said, Cena raised a glass of his own and offered a salutation of his own: To the happy couple, Cena proposed 'a prosperous 2013 to Dolph and AJ with the one thing that you are full of ...
And with one final gesture from Cena, a smelly mess rained down from the rafters, showering the couple and leaving them to stew (literally) in the final moments of 2012. Happy New Year, WWE Universe. May it be free of People Power, scandals of any nature, broken arms, men in riot gear, Harold, rogue refs, attackers in blond wigs, untimely knee injuries, gigantic chairs and, of course, slop raining from the skies.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Dark match: Alex Riley defeated ???
- John Cena & The Miz defeated Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow) (12:03)
- Antonio Cesaro (c) defeated Sgt. Slaughter to retain the WWE United States Championship (1:48)
- Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan & Kane) (c) defeated 3MB (Drew McIntyre & Heath Slater) (w/ Jinder Mahal) to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship (6:06)
- Sheamus defeated Dolph Ziggler by DQ (14:00)
- The Big Show (c) defeated Ricardo Rodriguez by DQ to retain the World Heavyweight Championship (2:26)
- Wade Barrett defeated Kofi Kingston (c) to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship (10:29)
- Dark match: John Cena & Sheamus defeated Dolph Ziggler & The Big Show
Other on-screen talent