Because Tribute To The Troops is so different from any regularly airing WWE show, I'm going to (almost) jump right into it. I would like to mention how great it is that the WWE has continued with this, even though they're not traveling out of the USA for it.
The one thing I didn't think about until I actually watched this show, if we'd thought about it, we'd have known who would have won what matches at TLC. This was taped prior to the PPV, so we only had to see who came out with what belt or case. Just a thought.
President Barack Obama > A
I don't want to get into politics here as this is a wrestling website and not a political website, but I do have to say how great it is that Obama, as well as Bush, does this little speech each year. It shows that they're thinking about all Americans, not just those who support and vote for them.
Video > A
Of course this video has to be started by Cena, but beyond that Eve, Orton, Kofi, Miz, and Punk specifically speaking about how much it means to them to meet with and perform for the troops. I also like how wrestlers who are not with the WWE right now, specifically Jericho, were openly used in this video.
Announce Segment >
It was nice that Cole mentioned that JBL was the one who pushed for the first Tribute To The Troops. I was planning on mentioning it myself, but he does deserve the props for his works with the USO and pushing for this event to be born. JBL used to take time out of his own schedule, something he worked out with VKM in his contracts, way back, so that he could travel to meet with and entertain the troops. So while Cena has kind of taken over as the big Superstar who works so hard for the troops, it really was JBL who put the ball into motion. I also have to say how nice it was that JBL pushed off the compliment, saying it was all of the WWE who made it into what it is today. When not in character he really comes off as a very sweet and humble man.
Sheamus & Orton vs Ziggler & Big Show > B+
I will admit I was shocked to see Virginia's Governor Bob McDonnell in the audience. Sitting behind announce is the safest spot for him. I like how Cole said Orton suffered a separated shoulder due to The Shield, even though it was this match – happened before The Shield's attack – that he injured his shoulder. Also they talk about how Ziggler retained his MITB.
I knew when Ziggler and Big Show started walking away from the match that something would happen. There's no way they would let a match at TTTT end that way.
Winner – Sheamus & Orton via countout (2:20)
Sheamus and Orton really played the fans in how they hit certain forearms and blows. They worked hard to get the fans riled up and into the match in a more obvious way than they would in a regular match, but it works for something like this. Even Big Show and Ziggler worked a bit wider, exaggerating moves and reactions more than they normally would.
After Ziggler's RKO, JBL made note of Orton's shoulder, but it was after Big Show's RKO that Orton was obviously in pain. He quickly left the ring to regroup. He did return to celebrate, but it was apparent that something was wrong. Hopefully things aren't as bad as they look for Orton's career, but I'm not holding out hope.
Beyond all that, I thought they gave a solid little match. It was nothing spectacular (Sheamus is showing that hitting white noise on Big Show is nothing too difficult – for him), but it was entertaining and the good guys won – always good on a show like this.
Winners – Sheamus & Orton (6:38)
Video > C+
Fergie looked and sounded decent, but quite plastic. It just didn't feel realistic.
Video > C+
The Fierce Five are great at what they do, but they're not great on mic. Also, there was only four of them there. They are cute girls and it was nice to see them and they did well for being so out of their element.
Backstage Segment > B
Pepe, Rizzo and Gonzo are a riot! I've always been a Gonzo fan. I've really liked how they've used the Muppets with the Superstars. They've melded well without making it feel forced.
Music > B
I am not a Flo Rida fan. The WWE fans were really hard on Flo at WrestleMania, and I think they had a right to be as he wasn't very good and was taking away from the wrestling they were there to see. All that being said, the crowd there really seemed to enjoy him, and I don't think he was as bad as other times I've seen him.
Backstage Segment > B+
When Cena is doing something he loves, something that really means a lot to him – working with kids or the troops – he glows. His heart is on his sleeve and he seems to move past his character. He's still corny, but in a way that feels more real to him. This really worked, and Josh added that little extra to it. It was obvious that he was about to have a giggle fit, his smile was so honest.
ADR w/ Ricardo vs B
That Camaro was sexy. It might be that when I was in high school Camaros were cool, but I've never been able to get past them. Something about that 2012 just left me drooling. I can't say the same about ADR's singing for Ricardo.
The picture of Ryback meeting with the troops they showed was really sweet. Ryback looked so happy to be there. Like the previous match, Ryback looked like he was working in a grander way. Even though the match ended in DQ, the fans got to see Ryback hit his big moves. I have to keep reminding myself that Ricardo is a wrestler and can handle these moves as well as any other. Even better was the fans got to see Ryback's finisher twice, though it's funny that ADR is now a face, though wasn't when this was taped.
Winner – Ryback via DQ (1:33)
Music > B
I'm more of a Kid Rock fan than I am Flo Rida, but I'll try not to let that sway me. I will say they put more into Kid Rock's performance with the pyro, but it seemed as though the fans were more into Flo' performance. Not to say that they hated him, just not as into the performance as they were previously. I really like the song and thought it was very fitting for this event.
Backstage Segment > C
Fozzy was adorable and set up will for Miz TV. Statler and Waldorf are always fun. But after saying all that, this wasn't the best segment.
Touts > A+
I loved all the Touts the troops sent out. It was nice that they were able to do this.
Miz TV > B
Miz and Kermit have great chemistry. Actually, I love the way Miz set up for Kermit, talking about secrets and controversy. Kermit, of all people, controversy? Then again, I'd have thought the same about Elmo. Sorry, I couldn't pass that one up.
Will the kids keep kosher? Miz had some wonderful lines in this segment, and handled himself wonderfully. Again, some might think it's a bit too corny, but for the event, I think it worked really well.
Sandow was a great person to come out and shake up the segment. 78%? Porcine provocateur? That was quite the segment, though I'd have loved to see Sandow sell a blow from Miss Piggy. Now that would be some serious selling!
Okay, it was silly, it was corny, it really shouldn't be on a regular wrestling show, but it worked here. Maybe I'm in too good of a mood for some of this stuff to be bothering me the way it possibly should, but I look at the Tribute To The Troops as a totally other entity unto itself.
Sandow & Miz > B+
Miz really worked the crowd in an almost too obvious way. Yes, he made it work, but it was more glaringly obvious than some of the other guys. Not that this mattered as the fans love Miz and told him so very loudly. Then again Miz is a face, in the next The Marine movie, went through some solid training on the base, and he's hanging with Kermit and Miss Piggy! Of course they loved him!
On the other hand, he and Sandow really worked that ring well, as they have been lately. I know Miz has been at the top, and I feel he should be there again, and I feel Sandow should be there at some time in the future. That match is the future of the WWE, and they really impress me. Then there's the way Miz sold the Miss Piggy love. It was adorable, and worked for this show, but I'd be letting him have it if he was this corny on RAW.
Winner – Miz (3:30)
Video > C
Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade came off as a bit nervous and uncomfortable, but LeBron James sold the segment well. It's nice to see the variety of people who made videos for this Tribute To The Troops.
Video > C+
Katie Couric was obviously on the set of her new show when she made this video, but it came across well. She's always so poised on screen, so I can't fault her performance. She came across quite well.
Music > B
Flo said he performed this song at WrestleMania and it was his proudest moment ever. I can understand him saying that because of where he was. I guess he forgot all the heat he got whenever his name was even mentioned, never mind the heat he got while performing. I also have to say that I'd have more respect if he was playing new music and not old tunes rehashed. I know doing it sometimes works, but both of the songs he performed at Tribute To The Troops were previously famous songs. All that being said, the fans were really into his music and his performances. He really worked the fans well, and Sia sounded great. They really work well together.
Video > A
Seeing JBL, Austin, HBK, Jericho, Rey, Trish Taker, and Rock out there with the troops and making so many people smile, it brought back all of those shows to me as well. "Simply me saying hello touches people. I'll never get used to that," was said by HBK, with tears rolling down his face. This is my second time watching this show, and that's the one line that stuck with me. Honestly, I'd missed who had said it because I was painting the first time I watched this, but I specifically watched for that moment again, and it was as touching as it was the first time. HBK is the man.
Backstage Segment > A-
So, neither of them want another partner? Since when? They tagged with Ryback at TLC! R-Truth is hysterical! That little story he told was wonderful! Suntanned Superman? That about had me on the floor! Bryan and Kane work so well in these little segments.
Honestly, it didn't even click to me that it could be anyone by Kane yelling "YES!" "YES!" "YES!" to Bryan's "NO!" "NO!" "NO!" I should have recognized Animal's voice! Bryan got played by Animal, and then he got played by a member of his own barnyard family. He handled that really well. That man oozes charisma, and continues to shock me with his personality every week!
R-Truth & Team Hell No vs 3MB > B+
R-Truth might be over with the fans, but they were wild for THN, specifically Bryan, as they came to the ring! Cole needs to get past the air citar joke about Mahal, it's beyond old. I thought everyone was looking good in the ring until Slater got in there. Slater seemed to be running for a corner before Kane pulled him along, and running into moves that should have been instigated by Kane. I'm normally right behind Slater, but in this match he was anticipating so much that he was doing Kane's work for him.
Other than that, this match looked solid for the length. Bryan's high knee off the apron onto Drew was just lovely. Then the way R-Truth ended the match was fabulous, but he really sold it after the match with the begging of Kane to call fire from all four, then the way he continued on being overly animated on the ramp. The reaction from Kane and Bryan left me giggling into commercial.
Winners – Team Hell No & R-Truth (3:25)
Music > B+
Kid Rock really brought it to another level with this performance. He had the crowd right there with him, and came across as both honest and endearing – something I never thought I'd be saying about Kid Rock! I honestly planned on speeding through the music this second time through, but I listened and watched through all four performances because they really were that solid. I'm more impressed with the music on this Tribute To The Troops than I was last year, by a long shot. They brought it this time and made it work.
Backstage Segment > B
I think it's hysterical that Switzerland as a country is the bad on this show. Cesaro actually handled this quite well, but it still left me scratching my head.
Backstage Segment > B
Sam The Eagle! Actually, it was really cute the way Cena saluted him, but funnier was JBL's reaction. He was almost giddy over it!
Video > C-
Kellan Lutz? He barely blinked in that video, and looked like he was reading cue cards. He was the worst of the bunch so far.
Video > B
Sharon Stone, where are they digging these people up? This is the most unexpected group of people who made videos for the troops. Actually, it seems that Stone does a lot of work with the troops, I didn't know that.
Cena vs Cesaro > B
It's one thing to get introduced by the Muppets, but to have them all wave their hands in front of their faces back at Cena about had me on the floor laughing. I'm old enough that I grew up watching the The Muppet Show each week, and seeing them do some of these things seem very surreal to me. I'm really glad they they're making such a huge comeback as my youngest loving them as much as I do is very cool, but it's so strange to see the Muppets playing off Cena of all people. Sam's going to love watching this show.
There was a little girl in the audience totally tweaking out when Cesaro gained the upper hand, it was adorable to see. It also had to feel good to Cena that the fans were actually chanting for him, not the normal dueling chants he gets at every other show. Okay, there was a bit of a dueling chant, but nothing to the extent the fans normally let Cena have it.
Cena and Cesaro worked well here. Cesaro knew what he was walking into and he handled it wonderfully. Even in the ring with Mr. 5 Moves, he sold the loss, and that shows so much more than every win he's had. The more I see of Castagnoli as Cesaro, the more I like what I see.
Winner – Cena (5:09)
In Ring Segment > A
After it was over, Cena really soaked it all up. It's obvious how much this really means to him. I know I said it earlier, but Cena was glowing, and really showing how much that all means to him and didn't have to shout it from the rooftops in any corny way.
Santino playing Rudolph was hysterical, but not unexpected. What was unexpected was the Prime Time Players behind him. They really seemed to be having fun with it, but they were not who I thought I'd be seeing. The Usos looked a little over the whole thing, but if you're not the lead dog, the view never changes.
It took me quite a long to to realize it was Foley under that costume. They did an amazing job of making Foley up. Stacy and I had a discussion over how they handled the beard. It figure they had to have powdered what there was of Foley's beard, then added white whiskers to that. I'm just blown away at how great he looked, and the great job they did making him up to look like Santa.
Of course all the faces had to win, and certain parts of the show were a bit over the top, but it worked for what it was. Please remember that I graded this show for what it was, not compared to RAW, Smackdown or anything else the WWE does. The Tribute To The Troops is an entity unto itself and should be looked at accordingly. I think it wonderful that the WWE does this every year, and hope they continue to do it as long as there is a WWE.
I hope everyone has a lovely holiday, no matter what you celebrate. Make sure you make the time to spend with those you love the most, it's really what matters, and what's remembered for years to come.