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CALDWELL'S WWE TRIBUTE TO THE TROOPS REPORT 12/13: Complete "virtual-time" coverage of USA Network special

Dec 13, 2011 - 10:02:34 PM

WWE Tribute to the Troops Report
December 13, 2011
Taped 12/11 in Fayetteville, N.C.
Aired on USA Network
Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor

WWE's annual Troops special started with a video package containing stillshots of U.S. military personnel in action. C.M. Punk, Eve, John Cena, Mark Henry, Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, and Booker T spoke in soundbytes about the military keeping the country safe. Tonight, WWE pays tribute to the troops.

Arena: Full pyro shot off inside the Crown Coliseum to set the stage for the show. Cameras captured military and families assembled in the ring as Michael Cole introduced the show. Cole and Jerry Lawler plugged the main event of C.M. Punk & Big Show & John Cena vs. The Miz & Mark Henry & Alberto Del Rio still to come.

President's Message: WWE aired President Obama's holiday message to the military, noting the troops are coming home from Iraq. After the message played, the crowd in the arena cheered before Randy Orton's music hit to a big reaction. Orton slowly made his way to the ring a bit out of character while Cole plugged Twitter, of course. Cole then plugged Orton vs. Wade Barrett in a tables match at the TLC PPV on Sunday. His PPV opponent, Barrett, came out as the opposition. They replayed events from Smackdown when Orton made it clear he wanted a tables match against Barrett at the PPV.


Orton scored early offense before Barrett cheated to take control. The crowd cheered for Orton, who took a big boot that sent him falling to the ring apron. Orton came back with a back drop to slow down Barrett. The match moved to the top turnbuckle, where Orton set up for and delivered a superplex. Moments later, Orton delivered trademark offense before going to That Place, but Barrett cut him off with a boot to the chest. Orton brushed it off and returned to That Place before setting up for the RKO. Barrett tried to run away, but Orton chased him down on the outside. Orton and Barrett continued to brawl and they were counted out.

Post-match: The fight continued ringside with the two men trading blows. Barrett whipped Orton into the ring steps, then went looking for a table to send a message before TLC. Barrett set up the table in the ring, but Orton dropped Barrett with a dropkick. Orton teased a table spot, much to the crowd's delight, but David Otunga stormed the ring to attack Orton. Barrett ran away to save himself for Sunday as Otunga put the boots to Orton. Otunga wanted a table spot, but Orton elbowed out and dropped Otunga with an RKO. Orton turned his attention to Barrett, who was on the stage by now, to give him an icy look. The crowd wasn't satisfied and wanted someone to go through a table, so Orton put Otunga through the table with an emphatic powerbomb. The crowd popped. Barrett tried to act unimpressed as Orton turned his attention to Barrett to keep the stare down going. After a replay, Orton continued to stare down Barrett.

WINNER: Double Count-out at 5:57. Thus far, this feels like a standard WWE wrestling show with a standard arena setting, the announcers playing up storylines, the next PPV promoted, and matches designed to advance stories rather than just keeping things at a standstill a la a house show.

Still to come: Mary J. Blige, plus a six-man tag main event. Up Next: Nickelback performs the Raw theme music and Zack Ryder vs. Jack Swagger.

Troops Message: Nicole Kidman delivered a pre-taped message thanking the military for their service.

[Commercial Break]

Troops Message: Jake Gyllenhaal sent a message to the troops on behalf of WWE. He thanked the military for keeping them safe at home.

Backstage: Barrett was shown walking around before Josh Mathews approached him for an interview. Mathews asked Barrett if what happened to Otunga is a preview of what will happen to Barrett. Pause to ponder the question. Barrett said Otunga got what was coming to him and the only thing that Orton is going to feel on Sunday is a table breaking in half.

On-stage: Justin Roberts introduced Nickelback to perform the Raw theme song.

Video: After the performance, Cole fed to a video package showing various wrestlers getting ready to parachute out of an airplane at Fort Bragg. Kofi Kingston, Eve, Alberto Del Rio, Cody Rhodes, and C.M. Punk were the designated participants. Rhodes called it the craziest thing he's ever done.

In-ring: Jack Swagger's music played to bring out Swagger and U.S. champion Dolph Ziggler in street clothes. Meanwhile, Cole and Lawler plugged Ziggler vs. Ryder for the U.S. Title at TLC on Sunday. Ryder came out next and stopped on-stage to introduce the "#1 G.I. Broski," Sgt. Slaughter. Slaughter came out on-stage to a strong reaction to join Ryder on the way to the ring. In the ring, Slaughter removed his hat to reveal a Ryder handband.

2 -- JACK SWAGGER (w/Dolph Ziggler) vs. ZACK RYDER (w/Sgt. Slaughter)

Swagger quickly pounded on Ryder to take control before Ryder came back with a right hand strike. And another. Ryder then delivered a Broski Boot and called for the end while Ziggler freaked out ringside. Swagger countered the Rough Ryder, though, and delivered a shoulder block for a two count.

Swagger then fed Ryder to the outside for Ziggler to deliver a sucker punch. Ziggler comically hopped on the announce table to tweet about his greatness before Slaughter came over to clothesline Ziggler. Swagger got in Slaughter's face, then kicked him in the gut. Swagger ripped off Slaughter's headband, then booted Ryder on the outside.

Back in the ring, Swagger went for a running Swagger Bomb, but Ryder got his feet up to block. Ryder followed up with the Rough Ryder for a pin and the win. Post-match: Ryder brought Slaughter into the ring to stalk Swagger for the Cobra Clutch. Meanwhile, Ziggler retreated to the stage to set up Ryder-Ziggler at the PPV.

WINNER: Ryder at 3:46.

Troops Message: Hugh Jackman gave a shout-out to the troops.

Video: Bella Twins at the Army academy at West Point. The video showed the Bellas touring the academy before running through the obstacle course.

In-ring: The Bellas's music hit to bring out the Bellas for an eight-Divas tag match. Beth Phoenix and Natalya came out next for the heel team. Kelly Kelly's theme music then brought out Kelly, Eve, and Alicia Fox. They waited on-stage for Maria Menounos to join them. As the faces made their way to the ring, WWE replayed footage from two years ago when Maria and Nancy O'Dell guest-hosted Raw and got involved with Phoenix.

3 -- Divas champion BETH PHOENIX & NATALYA & BELLA TWINS vs. KELLY KELLY & ALICIA FOX & EVE & MARIA MENOUNOS -- eight-Divas tag match

The heels isolated Eve building to a hot tag to Kelly. The action broke down before Maria tagged into the match and Beth stopped her in her tracks. Beth shoved Maria into the corner, but Maria avoided a corner attack and scored with a sunset flip. It was good for a quick three count that shocked everyone. Maria sold shock as well before the faces celebrated in the ring and Phoenix retreated to the floor with Natalya.

WINNERS: Team Maria at 2:45.

Up next: Daniel Bryan vs. IC champion Cody Rhodes and a performance by Mary J. Blige.

Troops Message: The Muppets, specifically Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog, talked up the troops.

[Commercial Break]

Troops Message: Celine Dion sent a message of thanks to the troops.

On-stage: Comedian George Wallace came out to perform a routine about holidays, turkeys, stuffing, people saying stupid stuff, and cats making love. He even turned the joke book onto Lawler, who smiled along. Wallace plugged his Las Vegas show being free to military personnel in 2012.

Announcers: Cole no-sold Wallace's jokes before Lawler squeezed a laugh out of Cole. The announcers then hyped Triple H vs. Kevin Nash at TLC, leading to a video package promoting the match. In addition to the 2011 footage, they included Attitude Era footage of Hunter, Nash, and HBK during WWE's version of the NWO.

In-ring: Roberts introduced Booker T, who came to ringside dressed in a suit. Cole plugged Booker challenging Cody Rhodes for the IC Title at TLC before Booker joined Cole and Lawler for commentary. Daniel Bryan, with taped ribs, then came out for the next match of the show. Rhodes, sporting a black eye courtesy of Booker on Friday's Smackdown, then came out to face Bryan. Before the match started, Rhodes glared at Booker, who shouted back to focus on D-Bryan.

[Second Hour]

4 -- IC champion CODY RHODES vs. DANIEL BRYAN -- non-title match

Rhodes dominated early on and continued to glare at Booker. Rhodes applied a bow & arrow submission, but Bryan escaped and landed multiple uppercuts. Rhodes cut him off, though, and scored a two count. Bryan made a comeback and continued to sell the ribs before landing a corner kick strike. Bryan then clotheslined Rhodes over the top rope to the floor in front of the announcers. Naturally, Rhodes tried to send a message to Booker by attacking Bryan on the outside. Booker had enough and walked over to Bryan to check on him, drawing Rhodes's attention. "Booker T" chant as Rhodes rolled Bryan back into the ring. Rhodes then exposed the ribs, but ducked under the ring to jaw with Booker, who popped him in the mouth behind the ref's back. Bryan then rolled up Rhodes from behind for a quick three count.

Post-match: Rhodes threw a fit. "You should be fined!" Cole shouted over and over toward Booker, who returned to the headsets and said he lost his composure. "That's my bad. I'm sorry!" Booker said. In the ring, Rhodes shouted at Booker to come meet him in the ring. Booker dropped the headset, removed his tailored suit jacket, and the fight was on in the ring. Booker landed a big back body drop that cleared Rhodes to the outside, then Rhodes grabbed his title belt and started to leave. Rhodes ran back into the ring, though, and took a right hand to the face from Booker. This time, Rhodes bailed for good. Booker's music hit and he did a spin-a-rooni to the delight of the crowd.

WINNER: Bryan at 4:29. Booker was terrific in the post-match with the "I'm sorry" line. Overall, a fine set up for Booker-Rhodes at the PPV.

Troops Message: Carson Daly, on behalf of "The Voice," extended warm wishes to the troops.

On-stage: Roberts announced Mary J. Blige to perform music off her new album.

Backstage: WWE tag champs are back. Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne were shown walking down the hallway before meeting up with Miss USA Alyssa Campanella. Kofi said Alyssa has agreed to do something with them tonight. Pause for awkward Bourne response. All three then did Kofi's Boom Clap. The tag champs walked off, leaving Alyssa with the final camera shot.

Troops Message: Robin Williams, fired up, delivered a message before getting serious, then he screamed again, then got serious again, then screamed again.

[Commercial Break]

Dancing with the Stars video: In a video package, Eve interviewed war hero J.R. Martinez about winning this past season of DWTS. Eve referenced footage of wrestlers dancing, including Santino (7 score), Michael Cole (3 score), and Eve (9 score). Martinez said there was "a lot of potential there" for Eve. Eve gave J.R. a WWE Title belt to conclude the segment.

In-ring: Hornswoggle, guest ring announcer for the night, came out in a military outfit, complete with helmet. Hornswoggle introduced Air Boom, bringing out the tag champs. Lawler made a crack about Swoggle replacing Cole on commentary, prompting Cole to reply with an amazing comeback about Lawler hitting all of the softballs out of the park tonight. Swoggle then introduced Epico & Primo, along with Rosa Mendes, for the heel opposition.

5 -- WWE tag champions AIR BOOM (KOFI KINGSTON & EVAN BOURNE) vs. PRIMO & EPICO (w/Rosa Mendes) -- non-title match

Bourne and Kofi took turns working over Primo early on before Epico tagged in. Lucha Libre broke out before Bourne caught Epico with a kick to the face. The tag champs resumed an attack, this time on Epico. The heels then cut off Kingston, who made a tag to Bourne moments later. Lots of camera time going to Rosa here, even during Bourne's time to shine. The action broke down, which left Bourne alone in the ring to take a backstabber from Epico. Epico made the cover for the win, nearly drawing shock from Primo. The heels then celebrated in the ring as Swoggle reluctantly announced the winners.

WINNERS: Epico & Primo at 2:57. This felt heavily edited for time. If it's the start of a new tag division feud, then thumbs up.

Troops Message: Matthew McConaughey delivered a message and promoted a slogan on his t-shirt.

On-stage: Roberts re-introduced Nickelback to perform another song for the troops. A slideshow of wrestlers & Divas interacting with troops played on the Titantron above Nickelback.

Troops Message: Christina Aguilera delivered a message, representing "The Voice."

In-ring: Christian's music played, bringing out an injured Christian for the second straight show. Cole excitedly hyped Christian's appearance on the show. Once his music stopped, Christian stood on the stage to talk about his various injuries. Most of all, the lack of compassion from the audience hurts the most. He then hyped the Canadian Army to boos. Sheamus interrupted and Christian tried to hobble away before Sheamus made his way to the ring for the next match. Drew McIntyre came out next to continue the international theme to this segment. Lawler noted the international flavor as well.


The color contrast was very noticeable since it appeared McIntyre spent the entire day in a tanning bed. Sheamus quickly blasted away on McIntyre, then wanted the Celtic Cross, but Mac rolled away for a rope break. Mac used the misdirection to take control momentarily. After a thumb to the eye, Sheamus snapped and tackled Mac before pounding on him with big right hands. Sheamus landed big knees to the back of the neck before pounding on his chest. A Brogue Kick put Mac on his back and it was good for the pin and the win. Cole said the moral of the story is not to make Sheamus mad.

WINNER: Sheamus at 2:17. A firm squash to continue building up Sheamus while he's in-between programs.

Up next: Six-man tag main event.

Troops Message: Jimmy Fallon sent a message before Sheamus interrupted to knee Fallon in the gut. Sheamus finished Fallon's message leading to break.

[Commercial Break]

TLC plug: Oh no, now WWE is referencing Sun Tzu's Art of War. The Abyss-endorsed video documented the Mark Henry vs. Big Show World Title feud leading to their likely blow-off match at the PPV.

Troops Message: Regis Philbin talked about being a big wrestling fan throughout his career. He referenced having Freddie Blassie, Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter, Iron Sheik, and now John Cena on his show. The video included WWF footage of Hogan with his U.S.A. bandana and Slaughter.

On-stage: Mary J. Blige returned to the stage to perform "Family Affair." Lots of dancing in the crowd for Blige's second song. After performing, Blige thanked everyone for coming to the show.

Troops Message: Bradley Cooper thanked the troops for protecting the country.

In-ring: Alberto Del Rio's music hit, drawing groans from the crowd. Del Rio emerged ringside and played to the crowd while Ricardo Rodriguez introduced him. The Miz came out next and Cole predicted Miz will win the WWE Title on Sunday. World champ Mark Henry, with his ankle wrapped, came out last for the heel team. They rolled footage of Henry visiting the National Guard in Fayetteville paying respect to the troops. Henry, A.J., Hornswoggle, and Jinder Mahal delivered a pre-taped message during the clip.

Out first for the face trio was Big Show, which drew Henry's ire. Show played to the crowd before Cult of Personality brought out WWE champ C.M. Punk, which drew icy stares from Miz and Del Rio ringside. Punk entered the ring and posed for the crowd before John Cena's music played to near-100 percent cheers. Cena, fired up, ran out on-stage and saluted the crowd before storming the ring to join Show and Punk. One woman on the front row was near tears as Cena surveyed the crowd. Cole then narrated footage from the end of Raw last night when Kane returned during the Cena-Henry match and chokeslammed Cena. Back to the show, the bell sounded 12 minutes before the top of the hour.

7 -- WWE champion C.M. PUNK & JOHN CENA & BIG SHOW vs. World Hvt. champion MARK HENRY & ALBERTO DEL RIO & THE MIZ -- six-man tag match

Punk and Miz started things off, with Punk taking control after a brief exchange. Punk then teased a tag to Cena, who accepted. Cena and Miz did a double leap frog into a dropkick from Punk. Great house show spot. Punk accidentally went for a cover, so Cena pushed him off and made a cover for a nearfall. On the outside, Punk raised his arms to acknowledge he got over-zealous trying a pin not being the legal man. Show then tagged in and quieted the crowd to blast Miz with a chop. Miz ran away and tagged in Del Rio, who slowly entered the ring to square off with Show. Del Rio had enough of Show and ran over to Henry to tag him in.

Henry nodded his head to acknowledge Show before slowly entering the ring for a mid-ring face-off. The two big men traded blows before Henry delivered a big bodyslam for a two count. Henry, satisfied with his work, slapped Del Rio to bring Del Rio into the match. Del Rio wasted a bunch of time, then stomped and kicked Show. Miz was next in to try the same offense as "John Cena" was trending on Twitter. Henry then re-entered the ring to apply a bear hug on Show. Show broke free with headbutts and a back kick, then the two big men collided mid-ring with a double clothesline. Cena sold shock after the collision before warming up the crowd.

Punk took a hot tag as Miz took a tag from Henry. Punk flew at Miz with a springboard clothesline before delivering rapid-fire offense. Punk then hopped on Show's shoulders and they walked across the ring for Punk to deliver a Macho Man elbow drop from Show's shoulders. Miz kicked out of a pin, though, after Del Rio stomped Punk in the head. The heels then isolated Punk and Henry did some trash-talking during the beat down. Henry positioned Punk for the World's Strongest Slam and trash-talked Show, but Punk escaped and hot-tagged Cena to a big reaction.

Cena entered with offense on Henry before delivering a fallaway slam on Henry. The action broke down with Show delivering a chokeslam to Del Rio, Punk with the GTS for Miz, and Show with a KO Punch to Henry. Henry then stumbled into Cena, who lifted Henry in the air for the Attitude Adjustment. Cena made the cover for the win.

WINNERS: Team Cena at 9:24. Solid house show-quality main event with the stars "letting their hair down" before Cena capped it off with a classic Power Display to send the crowd home happy.

Post-match, Cena, Punk, and Show celebrated in the face corner before posing for the crowd. They replayed high points from the match and did a slow-motion replay of Cena delivering the AA to Henry. Cena's music stopped, then he took a mic in the ring. Cena thanked everyone for performing tonight as the wrestlers were shown assembled on the stage. Cena then thanked the military for defending the country. He said the troops sacrifice every second of every day. He said this event means the world to WWE because this is their way of giving back to them.

[over-run] Cena said the heart & soul of this event is the same heart & soul that defends and protects the greatest nation in the world. "U-S-A" chant as Cena paused. Cena told the crowd to let the world hear the spirit of Ft. Bragg. Cena asked for another round of applause before the locker room came down from the stage to ringside for a victory lap. A rare look at Orton in clothes here. After various shots of wrestlers and military personnel, they showed Cena saluting the crowd for the final shot of the show.

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PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.

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