Randy Orton CAlled Out Jesse Ventura
We had a ton of throwaway guest hosts of Raw from 2009 to 2010 and a handful of decent ones, but Ventura was definitely among the best of them. Obviously, the gig came natural to him as a former wrestling personality, but he was so perfect in this segment as he set the stage for the Breakthrough Battle Royal main event, which would feature Superstars who had never before been world champion fighting for a world championship opportunity at TLC. He didn't seem to forget any of his lines and actually cared about what he had to talk about. Meanwhile, Orton attempted to convince Ventura that he deserved a title shot, but Ventura disagreed.
Kofi Kingston def. Dolph Ziggler in a Breakthrough Battle Royal Qualifying Match
These two went on to have many, many matches in 2010 and 2011, and most of them were enjoyable, but this was a forgettable first face-off from them. They weren't given much time and the crowd didn't care about Ziggler at all (he was largely exclusive to SmackDown at this point), but it did succeed in showcasing Kingston, who was on an absolute roll at the time by becoming the sole survivor at Survivor Series the night prior.
Sheamus def. Finlay in a Breakthrough Battle Royal Qualifying Match
This match had a bit of background with Sheamus blindsiding Finlay with a Brogue Kick during a tag team elimination match at Survivor Series. However, this didn't last long at all, and it didn't need to. Sheamus was killing people left and right and Finlay was on the verge of retirement, so this was effective in furthering his push as a monster heel and getting him in the Breakthrough Battle Royal.
WWE Champion John Cena def. CM Punk (Non-title)
Similar to Kingston and Ziggler, Cena and Punk went on to have countless classics in the years that followed, but this was the very first one. Punk cut a strong promo beforehand tying Thanksgiving into gluttony and bashing the audience, which somewhat made up for the fact he lost here. It was a very entertaining encounter, though it was obvious Cena wasn't losing as WWE Champion to a SmackDown Superstar. Then again, Punk wasn't in the middle of a program, so him losing hardly mattered.
R-Truth, MVP and Mark Henry def. Chris Masters, Jack Swagger and Chavo Guerrero in a Breakthrough Battle Royal Qualifying Match
The heel trio of Masters, Swagger and Guerrero didn't even receive an entrance, so it wasn't hard to guess who was going over here. By the way, the commentators mentioned that the participants in the Breakthrough Battle Royal couldn't have been a former WWE or World Heavyweight Champion, making the ECW Championship an afterthought in the process. At any rate, this was a harmless six-man tag team affair with nothing special about it.
Randy Orton def. Evan Bourne in a Breakthrough Battle Royal Qualifying Match
Orton bothered Ventura relentlessly throughout the night about getting himself a spot in the Breakthrough Battle Royal because he wanted another shot at Cena, and after ambushing Bourne's scheduled opponent Primo, Ventura finally gave in. The match was roughly 90 seconds in length and Bourne could have been made to look like a bigger threat to Orton, but keeping it short and sweet might have been for the better given no one thought Bourne would upset Orton.
Divas Champion Melina, Kelly Kelly and Mickie James def. Women's Champion Michelle McCool, Layla and Jillian Hall in a Mayflower Melee Match
Of course, this was the type of trash we were subjected to with the women for a long time. Instead of having an actual wrestling match, they were forced to dress up like pilgrims and Indians and not take anything seriously. It was a waste of time, other than how the Gobbledy Gooker (who was brought in as the special guest timekeeper) was revealed to be Maryse, making her big return to WWE TV for the first time since losing the Divas Championship over the summer. Her attacking Melina established that she had her sights set on getting the belt back.
D-Generation X def. The Hart Dynasty
Ventura promoted this as another first-time-ever encounter, so while it was cool to get a new match for a change pitting two iconic stars against an up-and-coming tandem, this was a glorified squash match. D-Generation X won in convincing fashion in a matter of minutes, but I will say that I loved the finish that saw Hart Dynasty set up the Hart Attack only for Shawn Michaels to hit Sweet Chin Music on David Hart Smith and then Triple H catching Tyson Kidd in mid-air with a Pedigree. Afterward, Chris Jericho emerged and confirmed that he and Big Show would defend the Unified Tag Team Championship against DX at the inaugural TLC pay-per-view.
Kane Interrupted Batista
Batista talked about beating Rey Mysterio at Survivor Series and announcing his intentions of wanting to become World Heavyweight Championship. It made sense for Kane to take exception to what Batista had to say because The Animal was badmouthing his brother and then-champion The Undertaker, so while they didn't come to blows, it planted the seeds for a match on SmackDown.
The Legacy def. Cryme Tyme in a Breakthrough Battle Royal Qualifying Match
Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase had cooled off considerably by this point despite feuding with D-Generation X in the fall. They had history with Cryme Tyme from 2008, but this was a basic match to get Legacy in the Battle Royal and nothing more than that. It was a total mismatch on paper. I mean, Cryme Tyme in a Breakthrough Battle Royal? Let's not kid ourselves. The commentators should have played up how this gave fellow Battle Royal participant and their Legacy leader Randy Orton an advantage, but they did not.
Sheamus Won the Breakthrough Battle Royal to Earn a WWE Championship Match at TLC
Why bother including SmackDown wrestlers in the qualifying matches if Truth (who was the farthest thing from a threat to a top title on either brand) was going to be the only one a part of the Battle Royal? Nevertheless, the first few minutes of this matchup were mediocre at best and I was surprised Rhodes and DiBiase were eliminated with zero fanfare, but this did allow Orton and Kingston to move their program along and give Kingston another boost by getting rid of Orton. Sheamus was getting the rocket strapped to his back, but I really didn't think he would come out on top. He was a fresh face in the main event scene, though. Plus, it was a treat to hear Ventura and Vince McMahon on commentary together again for this.
WWE Champion John Cena and Sheamus Signed the Contract for Their WWE Championship Tables Match at TLC
I'm not sure why they didn't wait until another week for this to take place, but it did cement Sheamus as an equal to Cena in the eyes of the viewers and the promo he cut was very good and straight to the point. The audience sat in silence throughout, but that was to be expected given Sheamus had only debuted on Raw a few months earlier. Ventura was a fantastic foil for Cena on the mic and Sheamus putting Cena through the table was a great visual to end Raw with.
This Thanksgiving edition of Raw definitely had its fair share of holiday silliness between the backstage stuff and the Divas garbage, but the Breakthrough Battle Royal was a solid idea to get new blood toward the top of the card. Every match was easy to predict, but a number of matchups were announced for TLC, Sheamus was launched into the spotlight, and Cena vs. Punk was fun for what it was. All in all, this was a better holiday edition of Raw than I thought it would be.
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