Since last week’s Raw left us with more questions than answers about the WrestleMania card, it became more about the new WWE Championship belt design than anything else. Since the Undertaker still hasn’t shown up we still have no idea what CM Punk will be doing on April 7th. Outside of Rock facing John Cena in some capacity, the only other match we knew for sure was happening was Alberto Del Rio defending the World Heavyweight Championship against Jack Swagger. That is of course until Jack Swagger was arrested for marijuana possession.
Under normal circumstances this probably would only be a footnote. He might miss a couple shows, perhaps a PPV and everything would be back to normal. But somehow he ended up getting arrested just days after clinching a title shot at WrestleMania. So it’s kind of a big deal. I expect him to be removed from the card, but this is the WWE we’re talking about so nothing can be counted on. They have spent a lot of effort on selling Swagger and Zeb Colter to us, so to drop it just like that would be tough.
This week’s show starts with Vince McMahon heading toward the ring in crutches, supposedly to fight Paul Heyman. He talks about how he loves to build things up with big events on Raw, which is what this “fight” is for. The quotes aren’t mine, they are McMahon’s. He calls Heyman out as the “great fighter” and Paul comes out talking trash and saying he’s been waiting years to kick Vince’s ass. Heyman aims to get payback for all the promoters Vince put out of business including himself. Paul makes it look like he is going to make a business proposal before very awkwardly diving at McMahon’s leg. Heyman takes Vince’s crutch and hits him with it a couple of times. This fight is actually happening, and it’s of the hardcore variety. With “ECW” chants from the crowd, Heyman takes another swing but Vince catches the crutch and starts attacking Heyman with it. After one good swing, Brock Lesnar comes out and makes his way toward the ring (uh oh). Heyman rolls out of the ring as Lesnar gets into it, and it’s just Brock and McMahon in the ring. Just as Lesnar was going to make his move, Triple H’s music hits. He comes out, in jeans and a leather jacket instead of a suit. Lesnar gets out of the ring and the two go at it by the apron. Triple H hits a kneelift and drives Brock’s head into the steel post, opening him up (YES THERE’S BLOOD). Lesnar mounts some offense of his own, hitting Triple H with an F-5 onto the announce table (it didn’t break, they just can’t get that right lately). Lesnar put Triple H back in the ring and went to swing a chair at him, but Triple H countered with a slow but powerful spine buster. Lesnar got hit with a chair to the back before exiting the ring and heading up the ramp. The two basically smile at each other the end the segment. Huge start to the show. We knew this was how they would get this match put together, but I didn’t expect the lengthy brawl that we got. Throw in the blood and I’m pumped.
The opening match of the night puts everyone’s favorite wrestler, Dolph Ziggler (okay maybe just mine), and his entorage against Ryback. Ziggler got Ryback to one knee and hit a dropkick but that is just about it for Dolph’s offense. Ryback just keeps throwing him down every chance he gets. He’s walking around the ring and looks pretty lethargic. Back from break Ryback is in the middle of holding Dolph up in a vertical suplex and held him up for around 30 seconds. Ryback left the ring to get Ziggler, and with the ref looking away Big E ran over Ryback with that running chest bump thingy. Dolph tried to go on the attack but really made no impact. It’s not until Dolph hit the jumping DDT that he did anything that slowed Ryback down. After a two count, Ziggler applied a sleeper but Ryback threw him down. Ryback then went back to throwing Dolph around like a rag doll. AJ distracted the ref so that Langston can help but Ryback just knocked him off the apron instead. Dolph gets laid out with Shellshocked and Ryback wins. Lackluster match from start to finish. Ryback never lost control despite all the interference. Ziggler is supposed to be a legit threat but he can’t win a match despite having the help of a monster in Big E and a hot distraction like AJ. Also, I didn’t notice the MITB briefcase at all. Isn’t he supposed to have it all the time? He has nothing going on right now! What is happening to my guy!
CM Punk out to the ring next without Paul Heyman. He’s out to talk about the match he’ll have later against John Cena with a WWE Championship title shot on the line. Punk this is not about John Cena or the Rock, or WrestleMania. It’s all about him, securing his spot in the main event of WrestleMania. He goes through all his accomplishments, adding that he pinned the Rock twice in the last two PPV’s, calling himself god before leaving the ring. He looks psycho. Dude is pumped up. They keep talking about how he called himself god. If my smart mark mindset meant anything, I’d say that the Undertaker, the dead man, does not take kindly to someone saying he is god.
Moving on from that, Donald Trump is being inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame. So the 2013 class has Mick Foley, Bob Backlund, Bruno Sammartino, Trish Stratus and Donald Trump. All the greats. I’ll try to think of him more as the guy who hosted two early WrestleMania’s instead of the guy who cut Vince McMahon’s hair.
Mark Henry and Khali square off next in a match that I really hope ends this feud. Khali gets a boot up on Henry’s grill in the corner and starts chopping Mark down. Outside the ring, Henry regains control and brings Khali back in the ring where he hits the splash in the corner, and finishes him off with a World’s Strongest Slam to end the match. Perfect booking for Mark Henry, and may Khali never sniff a televised match again.
We now have our answer regarding Jack Swagger. He and Zeb are on Miz TV with Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez. Zeb disses Glenn Beck for not letting him on his show before doing what he does best. Attacking illegal immigrants. He talks about how they are taking all our jobs and resources and everything else. Miz tries to ask Del Rio how difficult it is to gain Mexican citizenship but Colter cuts him off, detailing that it takes ten years to gain citizenship and that foreigners are not allowed to own property in Mexico. He asks Zeb what he and his people are afraid of. Colter says that Del Rio represents the American dream, encouraging foreigners to come into this country. Zeb says that there is only one Del Rio success story however, and the rest of the immigrants forget to leave, and that those people are criminals. This sets Alberto off on a rant where he says that America is the greatest country in the world (take that, Mexico!) because it belongs to everyone and that anything is possible if you work hard enough for it. It’s a cheesy as it gets but it gets over with the crowd. Del Rio says they are just bullies, and if they want to make them leave they can try right now. Swagger says they’ll see them at WrestleMania and walks out. This feud is all about Colter versus Del Rio, with Swagger acting as the muscle. So Jack Swagger’s punishment for getting arrested for a DUI and possession of marijuana is appearing on Miz TV. I’d say the punishment fits the crime. After the segment, Colter had Swagger attack Miz because he didn’t like how Miz conducted the interview. I guess they’ll square off next week.
United States Champion Antonio Cesaro up next against Randy Orton. Why in the world is Zeb Colter okay with Cesaro being US Champ? It goes against everything he stands for. The two trades moves for a bit until Cesaro hits an uppercut and a back body drop to gain momentum. Antonio then hits a flurry of uppercuts to stun Randy, but Orton bounces right back with his clothesline/power slam combo. Cesaro avoided the DDT and looks to attack Orton with a clothesline from the top rope, but Orton sees it coming and hits Cesaro with a big RKO to win the match. Not too long but some big moves, especially the finish. I feel like this match got caught in a time crunch and got cut short. There is the potential for some great matches with these two.
Backstage Kane and Daniel Bryan are talking about how impressive Randy Orton is before they agree to make amends going into their match against the Prime Time Players. They each want the other to sit this one out because they can beat them on their own. Bryan says he can beat them blind folded, and Kane says he can beat them with one hand tied behind his back. Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox jump in to add a stipulation to the match. Kane will have one hand tied behind his back, and Daniel Bryan will be blindfolded. Bryan can’t get over the idea that he won’t be able to see. Maddox meanwhile can’t stop trying to talk over Vickie. Brad is gonna be GM or something soon. I can feel it.
Sheamus out to the ring in a tuxedo to go over his Oscar snubs. The whole thing is a way to make fun of Wade Barrett and his appearance in Dead Man Down. Isn’t this heel activity? Barrett hasn’t mentioned Sheamus in ages yet Sheamus is calling him out by making fun of Wade (and promoting the movie of course). They show a scene where Barrett is in the background not saying anything. Finally Barrett comes out, saying Sheamus is green with envy over Wade being in a movie (he’s green because he’s Irish, get it?) and starting an acting career. Sheamus responds by making fun of Barrett’s nose, setting Barrett off. Wade comes after him and Sheamus almost hits him with a Brogue Kick. Wade escapes the ring, saying he has his movie premier to attend tomorrow and doesn’t want anything happening to his face. Wow. Sheamus is a dick.
Damien Sandow at the announce table in support of his best friend Cody Rhodes in his match against R-Truth. Truth attacked Sandow in defense of his friend Kofi Kingston, whom Damien attacked before their match last week (I almost got lost typing that out. hope it makes sense). Truth dances around while Sandow talks about how disgusted he is with him. Cody misses a Disaster Kick but takes out Truth’s legs, taking control. When asked why they broke up, Sandow says they just parted ways. After a lengthy discussion about facial hair, Sandow gets in the ring just as Truth pins Cody to end the match (I’m not even sure how, it was pretty unremarkable). Damien tries to attack Truth but gets beaten himself and leaves the ring. R-Truth beat Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes essentially by himself. Just weird.
Gimmick match time as Team Hell No take on the Prime Time Players (remember them?). Bryan feels around and finds Kane, ordering him to leave the ring. He starts off against Titus O’Neil and rolls around the ring. He then tries to put the NO Lock on the ref before feeling the patch and hair, confirming that it’s the ref. Titus then leads Bryan around with his whistle before taking him down. O’Neil goes to hit an elbow drop but Kane yells at Bryan to move, which he does, and Titus misses. Outside the ring, Kane tries to help Daniel but Bryan hits him instead thinking he’s one of the PTP. Back in the ring Bryan finally tags in Kane who cleans house with one arm tied behind his back. Kane choke slams Young to win the match while Bryan jumps around, still tripping over things with the blindfold on. Only word to describe it is “interesting.”
Shield out to cut a promo. They talk about how dangerous they are and how things are going to get worse until justice is served or something. They call out the locker room, saying they can keep putting together super teams and they will keep beating them. Rollins asks who else there is to fight them when Sheamus comes out to challenge them from the stage. Ambrose and Reigns head toward him as Orton sneaks up from behind on Rollins and hits him with an RKO. He then leaves through the crowd as Seth and Roman tend to their fallen friend. The picture for the Shield at WrestleMania is starting to take shape. Will they end up in another three on three match? So far Sheamus and Orton seem to be paired up. Will Ryback join them?
I was wrong about Miz and Swagger. They won’t meet next week because they are facing each other right now. Miz tosses Swagger out of the ring and dropkicks him back out when he tries to enter. Jack catches Miz attempting a double axe handle and slams him onto the outside floor. Back in the ring, Swagger is just about dominating. He his moving fast and showing lots of power on running knees in the corner. Miz tries to come back but Swagger answers with a big clothesline to drop him again. Swaggerbomb gets a two count and starts working on Miz’s arm. Miz hits a neck breaker to fight back but again gets caught moving in, getting slammed down by Swagger. It’s a lot like the Ryback/Ziggler match without the outside interference. Miz finally gains some momentum, hitting the running clothesline in the corner and the top rope double axe handle for a two count. After nearly rolling Swagger up, Miz gets his leg caught in the second rope (the most dangerous rope) and Jack takes advantage. He injures Miz’s ankle before securing the ankle lock and getting the win via submission. Very good performance from Swagger. He looked as formidable as he ever has. I wonder if he’s sober now.
Between segments Triple H showed up on TOUT, saying “the asskicker’s back.” Is that a new nickname?
Backstage Josh Matthews is interviewing John Cena who promotes his match against CM Punk. That’s all he’s doing. He’s recapping last week’s Raw. He says he challenged Punk to prove that he is back and his time is now and blah blah blah. In more important news the Undertaker made an appearance over the weekend at a house show. That has to mean something right? It was TOUTed so it must be important! By the way, did you know the WWE put five million dollars into TOUT?
Main event time as John Cena puts his WWE Championship title shot on the line against CM Punk. Punk comes out first looking like a psycho. Crowd is very much pro Cena early on. They start off slow with some back and forth mat wrestling, setting the tone. Like his matches against Rock, Punk starts gaining control with a slow and steady offense. Elbows to the neck and holds keeping him on the ground. Punk locks his legs around Cena but John power Punk up into an electric chair drop and lands a bulldog to take the momentum. He then slows the pace again, holding Punk down until Punk sends Cena into the ropes and hits him with a leaping kick. More clenching. Just as I’m about to get bored, Cena starts to go into the five moves of doom but Punk ducks down on the second shoulder tackle, sending him out of the ring. Nice counter. Punk dives through the ropes to hit Cena outside of the ring. Back inside, Cena went for the Attitude Adjustment but Punk turned it into a DDT. Cena then went for the five moves of doom again, but Punk turned the side slam into the anaconda vice in the middle of the ring. Cena pushed Punk onto his shoulders in a pin attempt to get Punk to break the hold, only for Punk to hit a swinging neck breaker for a two count. Punk calls for the GTS but Cena grabs his leg to go for an STF. Punk quickly scrambles to the rope however, avoiding the hold. This match has definitely picked up from the opening sequences. Punk hits a springboard clothesline for another two count. He tries it again but Cena moves away and locks in the STF in the middle of the ring. Punk escapes it however and applies the anaconda vice again. The crowd is getting more behind Punk as Cena counters into what looks like the cross face chicken wing. Punk leverages Cena over in a pin attempt to break the hold. Fantastic spot. They start trading blows in the middle of the ring and Cena starts to get the edge but Punk slows him down with a kick to the stomach. John ducks under a roundhouse kick through and hits the side slam, but Punk kicks him in the head when he tries to tell Punk that he can not see him. Punk goes for a GTS but Cena wiggled out. It looked like he was supposed to roll Punk up but he messed up in the middle of it and Punk had to cover instead, getting a two count. A little awkward but it worked in the end. Punk hits a running knee in the corner but Cena blocks the bulldog, hits the side slam and finally hits the five knuckle shuffle (it’s really bad that he has to keep trying to hit the same damn move). Cena goes for the AA but Punk wiggles put and goes for a GTS only for Cena to escape and hit a power bomb (don’t see that very often) for a very close two count. It’s was actually more like a Batista Bomb. Cena goes to the top rope but Punk gets up and knocks John onto the turnbuckle. Punk looked for a superplex but Cena fought him back down, hitting the top rope leg drop to the back of the head for another two count. This is a PPV level match here. Punk knocks Cena into the corner with a roundhouse kick and hits the high knee but Cena comes back with an AA but Punk kicks out on two. Cena is now shaking his head in disbelief. Outside the ring Cena goes to get Punk but Punk hurls him into the ring post, and John needs an eight count to get back in. Punk then hits a GTS but now it’s Cena kicking out at two. Punk tries to hit it again but Cena counters it and applies the STF. After a while Punk makes his move and crawls to the rope to break the hold. Now you know how piledrivers are outlawed now in WWE (except the Undertaker of course)? Well forget it. Punk just pulled a perfect one out of nowhere for a huge pop but only a two count. In disbelief, Punk keeps trying to cover Cena but he keeps kicking out on two. Punk goes to the top rope but Cena rolls away from the flying elbow. Cena then hits a weird hurricarana and an AA, pinning Punk and winning the match. Excellent match but I have to ask why Cena had to use a hurricarana? It also gave me a similar vibe to Cena’s matches against Ziggler, where Ziggler looked so much better and hit Cena with everything he had, with John Cena winning only because he is John Cena. This match was much better though but still.
So now Rock and John Cena for the WWE Championship is officially official again and will headline WrestleMania. More interesting is the fact that Jack Swagger is not facing any repercussions after his arrest and will still face Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship match nobody asked for. Even more interesting than that is the Undertaker popping up on a house show over the weekend, which now makes it almost a guarantee that he will face CM “I am god” Punk. Lesnar versus Triple H is also going to happen but we knew that already.
The only other question I have right now is who will join Sheamus and Orton against the Shield? Does Ryback get a fourth shot? Does a legend step up to take a stand? Whoever it is, I think it would be best if Orton ends up behind the Shield, screwing his teammates out of a victory. He can cry “injustice” after the way he has been mid-carded over the last year or so, it makes the Shield seem that much more unstoppable and it can start a program with Sheamus. I still think Ryback would do best against Big Show, but he’s still obsessed with the Shield so it’s not out of the question. The rumored match against Jericho could work too. More to go down next week as we go further down the road to WrestleMania.