'WWE Raw:' Slammys, Steamboat and Steel Stairs

The WWE's annual award show nearly steals the spotlight from a pretty solid 'TLC' lineup

Dolph Ziggler accepts the Slammy for Match of the Year on Monday night. Credit: Photo courtesy of WWE

To paraphrase the immortal Brodus Clay, call your momma. And while you're at it, also call your Grammy, because it's time to look back at the folks who won a Slammy.

Actually, I won't be spending much time on Monday night's annual sports-entertainment awards ceremony, which one imagines may have been better served as a bit of exclusive WWE Network programming. I will, however, touch on the final foundations laid for the company's TLC…and Stairs PPV. As always, I've broken the action down into five essential takeaways and, as a bonus, a bunch of stuff that may have taught us nothing, but gave everyone something to tweet about.

Here's what I learned from the December 8 edition of Monday Night Raw.

5. Stardust Memories
Yes, he lost unceremoniously to new New Day principal Kofi Kingston (most of the evening's matches concluded in similar fashion, but more on that in a minute). And, sure, no duo in the tag-team division's gotten much of a chance to show their personality outside of the odd pretaped promo or canned backstage vignette. Yet somehow, the weirdo once known as Cody Rhodes has come to life as the compelling comic-book villain Stardust.

Rhodes' transformation has been remarkable, so much so that it's easy to take for granted. Since ditching his babyface duds, Stardust has committed himself to his character's heel nuances – hissing at fans, prancing over fallen prey, raking eyes and generally demonstrating a kind of charismatic mania – while continuing to diversify his physical presentation in the ring (one second, he's the agile Baryshnikov, the next he's in second gear and you're face down on the mat). What Rhodes has created, regardless of who bestowed or inspired the idea, is something indelible he can carry on when his brother Goldust calls it a day, something to prolong and further substantiate his family's second-generation legacy in the sport. Or maybe it's just me.

4. Steamboat Style
Has any retired WWE superstar ever aged more gracefully than Ricky Steamboat? Well past middle age, the guy shows little sign of the standard bloat and/or deterioration that so often accompanies life after sports entertainment, and his gray coif is far more distinguished than degrading. So with all the awkward sexual innuendo bandied about during last night's Slammy goings-on, it may as well be pointed out that the Dragon – who was on hand to present Match of the Year honors, which went to Team Cena for Survivor Series – is a fiery 61.

3. Blank Stairs
Erick Rowan could still emerge as an atypical top protagonist. Now if only he'd get to the ring quicker en route to showing us what he can do. When Big Red's music hit amid last night's main-event breakdown, it was as if his subsequent rush to the ring was in slow motion. Or stop motion.

His lumbering gait is at odds with how hard the commentating team works at stressing his athleticism, and it takes the wind right out of his run-ins. Perhaps he should stick to a slow-walk like ex-partner Luke Harper, albeit that's generally more of a heel privilege (unless you're the Undertaker). There's time to refine these minor details, but not before Sunday's PPV, when Rowan squares off against the similarly speed-impaired (although possibly more fleet) Big Show and four sets of seemingly featherweight stairs (guess Tables, Ladders…and Steps would have been less catchy?). There's plenty of the TLC card to anticipate, but this presumably one-and-done rivalry's conclusion could be reason to find the nearest exit ramp.

2. What's the Rush?
The answer to that one was pretty plain to the folks in Greenville, South Carolina and watching at home. Thanks to the Slammys (whose nominee announcements and winner reveals were further stagnated by commercial interruption), a series of contests ended in conspicuousness abruptness, denying several superstars a chance to get any shine in a losing effort. The aforementioned Stardust comes to mind, as does Dolph Ziggler, following his speedy defeat to Seth Rollins (albeit thanks to a certain security duo), and NXT Women's Champion Charlotte. Granted, the latter was lucky to get her spot and is still paying dues, but as we all know, she can bring it against anyone (and especially Natalya), and all anyone will come away from that confrontation with is, "What the fuck was Tyson Kidd wearing?"

1. Ready, Willing and Table
All criticisms, skepticisms and other -isms (I prefer asceticism myself) aside, TLC…and Stairs is a pretty exciting card. I still have no idea what Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt are so upset about, but the contrast and collision of their styles punctuated by steel objects bodes well.

Elsewhere, you know Dolph Ziggler will put an exclamation point on his year with spot-after-spot against Luke Harper, to the point where it doesn't really matter who walks away with the IC strap. Who knows what to expect from Seth Rollins and John Cena when they square off, but the stakes are high and tantalizing, and portend a possible appearance by the Beast himself. And we'll even get comedy and consequence when Miz and Mizdow defend their tag titles against adversaries the Usos (limp as the Jimmy/Miz kerfuffle over Naomi has been). Plus, the moment it's over, we're officially on the Road to Wrestlemania!

Below the Belt

  • Fandango still makes me laugh.
  • So does Santino.
  • If I haven't said this before, John Laurinaitis = Bob Einstein.
  • OK, what gives with the ambulance smoke machine?
  • Paige was robbed!
  • What's with the pharaoh in Adam Rose's entourage? Exodus tie-in?
  • That was a pretty harsh rib on Lawler's heart attack, JBL.
  • The Bunny wins Animal of the Year. LOL.
  • Seth Green enjoyed himself.
  • Man, Occupy Raw. Those were the days.
  • OK, Roman, I believe you!
  • Move of the Night: Ziggler, taking the master face-first bump through the table.
  • Fan Shirt of the Night: Do they actually make those "Steph! Steph! Steph!" tees?
  • In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Kate Upton can apparently inspire small armies, TNA had the chutzpah to advertise NYC-area shows during Raw, and thanks to ads for The Interview, we'll remember to buy Nicki Minaj's album and never forget that Rob Lowe is attractive.