WWE Monday Night RAW Wrestlers of the Week 10.22.12
By Neil Borenstein
Each week here at 1wrestling.com, I will select three of the top wrestlers from the Monday Night RAW brand and present them to you in inverse order as the show’s Wrestlers of the Week. In choosing the brand’s top three superstars, performances from that week’s RAW and any relevant preceding programming will be taken into consideration. This is a RAW exclusive. However, SmackDown brand wrestlers will be eligible if they appear with any significance on that week’s RAW broadcast.
Monday Night RAW Wrestlers of the Week for October 22, 2012
3. Justin Gabriel – for scoring an upset in non-title competition over United States Champion Antonio Cesaro:
Once the finisher in Nexus, Justin Gabriel is now little more than enhancement talent on both the singles scene and in tag team competition alongside the slightly-more respected Tyson Kidd. Therefore, he is not expected to come out victorious in any matchup he competes in, regardless of how impressive his high-flying offense can be.
It was no shock that he came up short last week on RAW when he challenged Antonio Cesaro in a one-on-one bout. The United States Champion did a great job controlling the match and padded his credentials with a decently-dominant victory.
Cesaro should have doubled-up on Gabriel this Monday night, when the two faced off for a second straight encounter on the RAW brand. In a surprise twist, Gabriel proved to be more of a challenge to the U.S. Titleholder this go around and actually pulled off the upset.
Gabriel was aggressive right from the start when a suicide dive gave him initial control of the match. He relinquished top positioning in the match, but he held on well enough to eventually gather some breathing room from Cesaro’s attack in order to head up top for what likely would have been a 450 Splash.
Unfortunately, Cesaro got back to his feet before Gabriel could launch himself and ran into the ropes to crotch his opponent. A little fighting in the corner led to a kick to Cesaro’s head from Gabriel, who followed up by going for the 450 Splash again and actually nailing it. He covered up and collected the upset with a pinfall.
That result was certainly unexpected and it doesn’t do much in Cesaro’s favor in terms of pushing him into an elite level champion. But Gabriel is a good talent and doesn’t deserve to constantly be buried, either, and probably earned himself a third match against Cesaro with the United States Championship on the line.
2. Ryback – for beating The Miz in singles action before showing up after the main event to deliver a beatdown to CM Punk just six days before their WWE Championship encounter at Hell In A Cell:
Ryback’s moment is quickly approaching. After spending several months dominating a bunch of guys that the WWE probably plucked off the street minutes before their live events, Ryback will head into Hell In A Cell to challenge CM Punk for the WWE Championship inside the Hell in a Cell structure.
On the one hand, he was granted this opportunity because John Cena simply stepped aside and allowed him to sign the contract without putting up a fight. But on the other hand, Ryback has received a step up in the level of competition he’s faced recently and has stalked Punk well enough to be considered a serious contender for the WWE Title. Plus, he’s big with the people.
Ryback’s final statement before his big match took place in two parts this week on RAW. First, he stepped into the ring for a tune-up against former-Intercontinental Champion The Miz. Miz did not stand a chance in this one. When he charged at Ryback, he bounced right off him. When he leapt off the top rope for an aerial attack against Ryback, he was caught and slammed hard into the canvas with a devastating spinebuster. And when he couldn’t muster up any more offense, he was downed with a big closeline before being put down for good with the Shell-Shocked to secure Ryback the three-count.
If that was it for Ryback on the night, it would have been enough for him to go into Hell In A Cell with his head held high. But he wanted to send one final message to Punk before they square off on Sunday.
After interference on the part of The Big Show enabled Punk to steal a main event victory over Sheamus, in which it was champion vs. champion with lumberjacks surrounding the ring, Ryback hit the ring to be fed some more. Each time Punk tried to escape, he was tossed back into the ring for several devastating moves from Ryback. Punk only made it out alive after being thrown to the outside onto a bunch of other superstars before rolling to safety as RAW came to a close.
Punk should still be viewed as the favorite for this WWE Championship Match, but it’s hard to count Ryback out. He’s dominated since debuting with the WWE and has shown little sign of slowing down. The stage is bigger and the spotlight will be brighter, but Ryback seems ready to challenge for the gold and it’s hard to bet against him.
1. Rhodes Scholars – for taking the finals matchup in the tag team tournament to become No. 1 Contender’s for a shot at the WWE Tag Team Championships against Team Hell No:
The finals of the WWE Tag Team Championship Tournament intended to pick a No. 1 Contender for the titles at Hell In A Cell was delayed one week after Rey Mysterio came down with an illness and forced the postponement last Monday night. Instead, it was re-scheduled for this week’s RAW.
Rhodes Scholars – Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow – would challenge Sin Cara and Mysterio, with the lucky winner earning a shot at the WWE Tag Team Championships against Team Hell No at the pay-per-view in six days. After making it through the previous stages of this tournament, this finals matchup was destined to be a good one between two newly-constructed teams that have managed to gel very well, very quickly.
Mysterio and Cara did well off the opening bell, employing a fast offense that ended up spilling to the outside. When a springboard crossbody out of the corner missed for Cara, the tides turned in this bout and remained in Rhodes Scholars’ favor until Cara was able to regain some breathing room with a tornado DDT out of the corner on Rhodes.
At that point, he made a tag to Mysterio. Mysterio flew into the ring with a seated senton onto Rhodes before bouncing right back up to knock Sandow off the apron. Mysterio went back on the attack against Rhodes with a couple of forearms before hitting a tilt-a-whirl headscissors and drop toe hold near the corner. Mysterio followed up the latter with a moonsault out of the corner that netted him a two-count.
Mysterio dropkicked Rhodes into the ropes, where Sandow was also placed via a low dropkick when he charged in at Mysterio. Mysterio called for a 6-1-9 and nailed both of them in one shot. He then headed up top and delivered a splash onto Rhodes that should have finished off the match. However, Sandow rolled in under the referee’s arm before he could smack his hand down for the three-count.
Cara nailed Sandow with a kick to the head from the apron, which sent him rolling to the outside. But both Cara and Mysterio lost focus while turning their attention toward Sandow, leaving Rhodes an opportunity to come at Mysterio from behind with the Cross Rhodes. The cover followed and Rhodes was able to get a three-count to deliver the victory and tag title shot for his team.
As if the win and title opportunity wasn’t good enough, Rhodes and Sandow received further pleasure over the course of the night at the expense of their future opposition. Daniel Bryan fell to Dolph Ziggler in singles action, while Kane lost to The Big Show when they appeared in the arena to serve as a distraction to The Big Red Machine. Then once that latter match was completed, Rhdoes and Sandow attacked Bryan and left him lying next to Kane in what they hope is a foreshadowing of things to come at Hell In A Cell.
It seems somewhat quick to end the title reign of Kane and Bryan at this point. They’re still an oddly intriguing combination, after all. But Rhodes and Sandow have done incredibly well since teaming up and are a very formidable tag team within the limited division. My money is on Kane and Bryan retaining, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Rhodes Scholars were able to become new WWE Tag Team Champions.