Thanks to Mike Johnson/PWI for this report:

WWE held their annual holiday week house show at Madison Square Garden, a tradition that goes back decades, on 12/27. The show drew a strong crowd of 14-16,000, but was not a sellout. That is not a real surprise given the local market has had Raws in two nearby New Jersey locations, Wrestlemania tickets on sale and a PPV in Brooklyn in the last few months, plus a house show at Nassau Coliseum tomorrow. Before the show, they pushed fans to Tweet and text photos and messages for the company to place on their video screens. The entrance way was decorated for the holiday with twinkling lights, blow up characters, etc.

*The New Age Outlaws defeated Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow. The Outlaws received a respectable reaction but not a huge homecoming response. It seemed like the younger fans weren’t aware of who they were. They got a much bigger reaction for the catch phrases. Billy Gunn noted it was a PG era, which got boos, but still had the fans yell “Suck it.” The match itself was solid, but nothing out of the ordinary. Gunn scored the win with the Famouser. Road Dogg made a remark about Rhodes’ “porno mustache” on the mic after the bout.

*Brodus Clay defeated David Otunga. Clay had the Funkadactyles with him and did the entire big production number, sans pyro. Otunga did the old Narcissist posing routine before the show, complete with what sounded like the old Lex Luger theme song. Short match and not very good. Clay got the win with a big splash.

*Jack Swagger emerged on the stage and cut a promo on Clay as he walked to the ring, saying he was going to show the world why he was the All American American and rip Clay apart. Two minutes later, he was pinned as well and Clay did the dance-off with a bunch of kids. The dancing got over big. The match did not.

*They announced Tensai vs. Santino Marella with the loser having to sing a song the audience would vote on. That may have been the oddest stipulation match in the history of wrestling, including the wacky Scorpion and Alligator matches in the 1990s in Japan.

*WWE Divas champ Eve Torres defeated Kaitlyn. Good match. Kaitlyn was really over with the younger female fans at the show as you could hear a LOT of girls chanting for her. Kaitlyn looked pretty good here and this was better than the norm for Divas bouts. They did one spot where Kaitlyn caught Eve attempting a kick and slammed her leg down to the mat, forcing her to land with her legs split. Kaitlyn then punched her down.

*Santino Marella defeated Tensai with the Cobra and pinned him to win the song bout. Vickie Guerrero came out to announce Tensai would have to sing “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.” At this point, Tensai was probably wondering if he could book a flight for the Tokyo Dome. He at first claimed he was Jewish and didn’t know the song, then “warmed up” singing a wrestling version of Adam Sander’s Hanukkah Song. He then sang the most awful version of Rudolph ever uttered. This didn’t appear to get over with anyone but some kids.

*The Shield, in their MSG debut, defeated WWE Tag Team champions Daniel Bryan & Kane and The Miz in the best thing on the show up until this point. Shield came through the crowd and they brawled all over. One of the best things in the company right now is the Shield and I think a good part of that has to do with the fact that since they are so new, they haven’t settled into a “routine” like most WWE talents where they have a few signature spots and trademark mannerisms, so everything feels more like an actual battle and less like a show. Early on, they went for a superbomb off the ropes on Bryan but he turned it into a rana on Reigns. The Shield ended up on the floor and Bryan nailed a tope into the aisle. In the end, Miz went for the Skull Crushing Finale on Roman Reigns but was attacked by Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. They nailed the powerbomb and scored the pin. Great stuff.

*WWE United States champion Antonio Cesaro, in his MSG debut, defeated Zack Ryder with the Neutralizer. Ryder was nowhere as over as his glory days a year ago but got a nice reaction. They had a good match with some nice near falls and the crowd was really buying into the idea that Ryder could win. Real good.

*Ryback pinned Paul Heyman in a NYC Street Fight. Heyman came out and cut a Paul E. Dangerously WCW era promo, basically saying he had been coming to MSG since he was 14 years old shooting photos (the truth) and ran down all the tough names that had been here from Ali vs. Frazier to Bruno, Superstar, Hogan, Rock and Steve Austin (HUGE pop for Austin, one of the biggest on the show) but he was tougher than all of them. He said he would hop the rail and show everyone if he could and all of NYC could “kiss my ass” which is pretty strong language for 2012 WWE. Ryback came out and Heyman went to the floor immediately. The Shield ran out and attacked Ryback. They worked him over and brought a table into the ring in the corner. Miz, Kane and Bryan hit the ring and saved Ryback from being put through it. They all brawled to the back. Heyman entered the ring like a tough guy at this point but Ryback recovered, grabbed him and nailed the Shellshock for the pin. He left, then returned and put Heyman through the table, charging at it while holding Heyman in his arms. Heyman was noticeably protecting his neck while taking the bump. Nice reaction for Ryback and the “Feed me more” chants were very loud.

*John Cena pinned Dolph Ziggler in an entertaining steel cage match. Ziggler was bleeding from around the eye from hitting the steel a little hard. They announced it as escape from over the top or through the door but Cena went for a pin. The referee didn’t count and Cena had words with him and those at ringside, then it was suddenly pinfalls being counted as well. At one point, Big E. Langston (MSG debut) tried to pull Ziggler out the cage door, which led to a tug of war with Ziggler in the middle. Langston finally let go, which led to Cena falling back and bumping the ref. AJ hit the ring and slapped Cena, so he kissed her. They went back and forth until Cena hit the AA for the win to send the crowd home happy. Good stuff.

Overall, a good show.

Notes: This was the first show they’ve had in MSG since the Garden renovated the upper levels of the facility….One of the new things added to the venue are displays celebrating the history of the venue. They had a display for the first Wrestlemania, which I will post photos of tomorrow….They announced during the show that the box office would be open for an hour after the show selling WWE Hall of Fame tickets and there were huge lines after the show….John Laurinaitis and Michael Hayes ran the show….The talk of the backstage was a female fan who tried to jump on the roof of Ryback’s car to get inside it and meet him before the show….JTG was backstage but not used….Paul Heyman’s family was in attendance….Singer Phil Collins was backstage….No announced return date for MSG….They aired the holiday music video several times on the screen….They were selling CM Punk merchandise although he wasn’t there….The “Heyman Guy” t-shirt was seen all over the Garden….Betty Skaaland and rap legend DMC were in attendance, as were The Big O and Zack Ryder’s dad….Joey Styles was there shooting photos and tweeting all night from the show….Several talents from NYWC were at the show visiting…WWE was pushing for fans to Tout from the event…Justin Roberts handled the ring announcing. No Howard Finkel – blasphemy!

Thanks to Anthony Gasparino/ for this report:

Before I even got there, I got a slice of pizza in Penn Station, and again I ran into Mr. Ryder and the Big O. Seems to be every time I go to a wrestling event I run into them by dumb luck. Anyway on to the show…

The Garden looks great from it’s renovations. They’ve been slowly changing it over the past few years. The 300’s barely even exist anymore though, so bad news for people looking for really cheap seats.

1. The New Age Outlaws defeated Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow. Big pops for the Outlaws. Good heat on Rhodes Scholars. Everyone was pretty invested in this match and vocal with the NAO’s spots. The match lasted about 10 minutes.

2. Brodus Clay defeated David Otunga. Does Otunga even lift? To be honest, I don’t think anyone cares any more about either of these guys. They are so buried, I don’t know. I feel Brodus has lost a lot of weight, and he could be primed for a good run though, just needs to lose the gimmick and get serious. The match lasted about two minutes.

Jack Swagger came out and cut a promo. Where’s he been? He made fun of Brodus, saying he’s the Mark Sanchez of WWE, and played up to the NYC crowd to big heat. He challenged Brodus to a match.

3. Brodus Clay pinned Jack Swagger. The match lasted a good two minutes. Each man hit his own spots. Swagger looked ok from his long hiatus. I guess he’s on his way back?

4. Eve pinned Kaitlyn to retain the WWE Divas Championship. The match lasted about 5 minutes. Eve hit her finisher and pinned Kaitlyn. On a side note, Katlyn is totally hot.

5. Santino pinned Tensai. Santino is good for comedy and kids, that’s about it. He’s not very appealing to everyone. Light Albert chants. Santino did get a good pop when he pinned Tensai. Afterward Tensai had to sing the song we voted for: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Funny stuff though. Not as bad as I thought it would be.

6. The Shield defeated The Miz, Kane, and Daniel Bryan. The face team got good pops. Miz got more cheers than I thought he’d get live. The crowd was in a frenzy for Kane and Daniel Bryan though. The Shields entrance is cool live. They came out a few sections below us. The match was all over the place early with Daniel reversing out of the triple power bomb. The match lasted about 20 minutes with many good spots throughout. All of them do a really good job in general. The Miz took the powerbomb for The Shield win.


7. The Uso Brothers defeated The Prime Time Players. The Prime Time Players’ old music was better. Both came out to somewhat quiet reactions, probably due to WWE selling so much merch. Four minutes later, the Usos hit double superfly splashes for the pinfall victory.

8. Antonio Cesaro defeated Zack Ryder to retain the U.S. Title. Wow, have they killed Zack Ryder’s momentum. This has to be the smallest pop he’s gotten in New York that I’ve heard in a while. Disappointing since he had such a good following at the beginning of 2012. Still, a well wrestled match. I continue to be impressed by Cesaro. He just needs a better gimmick than him hating on the United States. The match did get better as it went along with the crowd slowly waking up with many near falls. Cesaro hit The Neutralizer for the win.

9. Ryback pinned Paul Heyman in a Street Fight. Heyman cut a promo about how all the greats who performed at The Garden can “kiss my ass.” He labeled himself as the baddest dude in NYC. Ryback came out to a pretty large pop and a lot of the usual Feed Me More chants. The bell rang and Heyman ran out of the ring. The Shield quickly came out and went right after Ryback. They went to put him through a table but out came Kane, Daniel Bryan and Miz to save Ryback. Heyman then went in the ring to take advantage of a downed Ryback, but he quickly got up and hit Shellshocked for the victory at about four minutes. Afterward, Ryback rolled back in the ring per the crowd’s chants and put Heyman straight through a table that was propped up on the ropes. Someone earned his pay tonight.

10. John Cena beat Dolph Ziggler (w/A.J. Lee, Big E Langston) in a cage match. Pretty large pop, mostly cheers for Ziggler. My friend says he’s the next Shawn Michaels. He’s got a long way to go for that. Cena came out to by far the largest pop of the night, to be expected as usual. Halfway through, Cena almost botched a climb out of the cage, but Ziggler pulled him back in. He also tried to get out the door but Langston closed it on him. After a ref bump and a near fall, Cena pulled out the victory with an AA. A great, roughly 20-minute match.

Notes: All in all, a great night. A lot of great spots (cage match, New Age Outlaws) and some not so great ones (Zack Ryder, Divas match). The next time WWE returns to MSG it will be for the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. I can’t wait. Until then…

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