Roughly three weeks from Payback and the signature word around the WWE is concussion. First for Triple H who, in his story, suffered from post concussion symptoms during his match against Curtis Axel (McGillicutty) to last weeks raw, and also regarding to Dolph Ziggler, who is actually going through post concussion syndrome and has been out of action for the last few weeks. I’d like to think that they had the idea for Trips before Dolph got hurt and just decided to stick with the plan but don’t you think it’s possible that after seeing the reaction to Doph getting hurt that they decided to take the angle for all its worth? If so, isn’t that really messed up? So no I am left wondering which concussed man will show up to Raw first. The fakey dizzy Triple H, or the actually dizzy but still stealing the show through twitting Dolph Ziggler.
Oh yeah, and what’s up with Raw being in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for Memorial Day? Bret Hart is being honored after the show but you can only watch it on the WWE App. Did you get it yet? Me either.
Tonight’s show kicks off with John Cena, who was absent last week due to injuries suffered at Extreme Rules in his Last Man Standing match against Ryback that ended in a no contest when they both ended up knocked out (even though Ryback definitely got up and walked away while Cena was carried off in a stretcher). The crowd chants for Bret as Cena makes fun of Ryback and gets into Ryback’s challenge of an ambulance match. After thinking about it, Cena says that that is not enough. He wants “Payback” to be “hell” and challenges Ryback to a three stages of hell match. What kind of match is that? Well Cena is going to explain it. It is a two out of three falls match where each match has a different stipulation. The first fall is a lumberjack match, the second fall is a tables match (which Cena uses to get the crowd to chant “we want tables”), and the final fall will be the ambulance match Ryback originally asked for. Ryback comes out shortly after the challenge, saying that he tried to tae Cena to hell when he put him through the LED board at Extreme Rules. He then tells Cena to say hello to Beelzebub, Lucifer and Satan (like this?) before finally asking him to say hello to Ryback. So I guess that is a yes? I like the idea of the other two matches to precede the dreaded ambulance match. My hopes are still not very high and I’m now worried that they are going to go way longer than their limited abilities and stamina will let them, but at least it is different.
Ryback walks off and it looks like the segment is about to end when all of a sudden Paul Heyman steps out! He asks Cena to say hello to Curtis Axel, who by Heyman’s account beat Triple H so badly that you won’t be seeing him for some time. He credits Cena with being a fighting champion after challenging Ryback, then suggests that Cena face off against Axel tonight. John tells Curtis to stay away from Heyman, to which Axel steps in to say that they didn’t ask for John’s opinion, just if he was looking for a fight. Cena accepts the match and Curtis Axel will take on John Cena one week after facing Triple H (while beating Sin Cara on Smackdown in between). He’s getting rubs from some pretty big personalities (and Sin Cara).
The first match of the night puts Alberto Del Rio against Big E Langston (who AJ stay as far away from as possible during his entrance to avoid getting punched in the boob again). Dolph is still nowhere in sight as Langston starts off overpowering Alberto, fighting off Del Rio’s offensive attempts until Del RIo finally chops him down with series of clotheslines and a back stabber, followed by a side kick to the face. We hear a message from Ziggler (at least we know he’s alive) saying that the only cure for his illness is more Big E beat downs. The announcers try to create reason for tension among the faction, saying that it’s only a matter of time before Langston thinks that he can take the World Heavyweight Championship from Ziggler. Big E hits a belly to belly suplex and after Del Rio hits an arm stabber(?), AJ removes the top turnbuckle pad. With the ref distracted with AJ, Alberto applies the cross arm breaker. Langston powers up and lifts Alberto, but Del Rio pushes Big E into the exposed turnbuckle, rolls him up and gets the win. AJ runs in defend her actions, and Big E wants no part of it, and the heels argue going up the ramp. Looks like there is tension after all. Decent match.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan is still pissy, believing that Kane thinks he is the weak link. Kane tries to get his spirits up, talking about size not factoring into toughness, but Daniel isn’t buying it and they start arguing. All of a sudden Bret Hart pops in (to a big pop) and tells Bryan the exact same thing, word for word, and Bryan eats it up. Kane asks why it doesn’t mean anything coming from him, to which Bryan says is because Bret is the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be, while Kane is just…Kane. Consider three minutes filled.
Dean Ambrose in the ring to defend his United States Championship against Kofi Kingston. They already had a rematch on Smackdown when the Shield interfered when it looking like Kingston might win. I’ll bet the same happens here. The start fast under “let’s go Ambrose” chants, trading moves until Dean ducks under two Trouble in Paradise attempts and rolls out of the ring. Ambrose gets back in the ring and takes control of the match by dropping Kofi onto the top rope. Kingston fights back with a sling shot into the top turnbuckle, and stopping Ambrose from bouncing back with a 180 cross body splash. They then alternate pins in an impressive sequence culminating in an SOS for a two count. Kingston then hits a slingshot axe handle for another two count. Kofi then chases Dean to the outside and Ambrose yanks Kofi off the apron onto the steel steps. Back in the ring, Ambrose hits his reverse DDT and takes the match via pinfall. Very good match showing off both men’s skillsets. Ambrose’s finisher still has not been named but it sure looks good.
The rest of the Shield comes out to celebrate but Kane’s music hits and Team Hell No comes out to take them out. Coincidentally, their tag team title match against Rollins and Reigns is next. Bryan starts off against Roman, with Roman taking control against the weak link and taking in Rollins. Bryan hits a running knee on Seth and hits a series of kicks before Kane tagged himself in to stop Bryan from getting DQ’d when he wouldn’t ease off. Kane tags Daniel back in as they give a nod to Bret by converting the Hart Attack on Seth. With Kane back in, Rollins escapes a choke slam and hits a big enziguri before tagging in Reigns to work over Kane. Kane hits a suspended vertical suplex on Rollins but can’t get to his corner as Roman gets tagged in, keeping the momentum with a power slam. Kane finally takes out Seth with a clothesline and Bryan comes in on the hot tag. Daniel is fired up as he hits a running dropkick to knock Reigns off the apron before hitting a german suplex and a bigger running dropkick on Rollins for a two count. Bryan hits his barrage of kicks capped off with the kick to the head for another two count. Seth knocks Bryan down from the top rope, but Bryan slips away from the superplex attempt, putting Seth in the tree of woe to land more kicks including a baseball slide into Seth’s face. Bryan then connects on a side superplex from the top rope, but appears to injure himself in the process. So Daniel can’t make the cover but he keeps control of the match until Reigns finally takes down Bryan and the Shield is controlling things again. “This is awesome” chants come from the crowd as Rollins puts Bryan in the mexican surfboard, giving Daniel a taste of his own medicine. Bryan sits up from the move in a great counter, attacking Seth until Rollins dragged him to the Shield’s corner to that Reigns can get tagged in. Rollins starts telling Bryan that he is the weak link as he hits him with a Russian leg sweep into the second turnbuckle. Bryan comes back with a running kick on Reigns to get to Kane for the hot tag. Kane hits Seth with the sidewalk slam but the pin is broken up by Roman. Bryan then hits Reigns with a missile dropkick from the top rope, following it up by leaping through the ropes to hit Reigns against the outside barrier. Back in the ring, Kane takes down Seth with a big boot and climbs the top rope and connects with the one hand smash. Kane then tries to get Bryan to go back to his corner but he is still attacking Reigns. After a short argument, Bryan gets caught attempting to hit a flying knee off the apron but Reigns slams him into the outside floor instead. Rollins meanwhile recovers, hitting a springboard flying knee to take out Kane and pin him for the win. Fantastic match. Entertaining the whole way. Once again Daniel Bryan was the star here in defeat. Ambrose comes out and the Shield celebrate in the middle of the ring.
After the match, Michael Cole gives an update on Triple H, saying that no further damage has occurred as a result of last week’s incident and he will be able to go on Raw next week. So right now it looks like Curtis Axel will face Triple H at Payback. I guess he will be looking for payback (right? RIGHT?).
Wade Barrett scheduled to face Fandango next, but the Miz is in the ring first. It is up to the WWE Universe to decide (via the WWE App of course) whether Miz will be the ring announcer, commentator or guest referee for the match. It would be great if he only acted as ring announcer but we know he’ll be the ref. 85% called for guest referee (10% wanted him to commentate) and he has his ref shirt on before Barrett even got to the ramp. The Canadien crowd is still into Fandango’ing as Lawler makes passes at top heavy women (if you know what I mean) while making fun of Canadiens. Anyway a match kind of happens, as Barrett gets on Miz for not making Fandango get off him while on the ropes. Fandango goes on the offensive as the crowd continues to Fandango. Barrett bounces back and keeps riding Miz. With ‘Dango tied up in the ropes, Miz gets in between him and Wade, so Barrett finally has enough and tosses Miz to the other side of the ring so he can deliver a big boot. Miz then hits a skull crushing finale on Barrett, allowing Fandango to cover and get the victory. Non match meant to push a feud between Barrett and Miz. Meanwhile Fanango continues to avoid wrestling in his wrestling matches (and dancing in his dance competitions). Fandango dips Summer in the ring and Miz kicks ‘Dango in the face, sending him down and Summer on top of him. Miz counts to three for a pin and walks off. Literally no logical reason for Miz to attack Fandango. He must be going to the Sheamus school of babyfacing.
Backstage a heavy bearded Shawn Michaels is talking to Cena about his match against Axel. Michaels says that Cena, like Triple H, is coming back too soon from injury and isn’t listening to him. Cena says that Michaels never listened to anyone either and walks off, as the crowd chants “you still got it.” Looks like Canada is over the screwjob.
Brodus and Tensai in the ring next, teaming up with Khali to take on 3MB. Okay let’s get this over with. Apparently they are facing each other because Slater wanted a piece of Natalya’s birthday cake and the faces said no, so Slater shoved the cake in Hornswaggle’s face. Again, wouldn’t sharing be the face thing to do? Anyway Khali starts off with chops on McIntyre, tagging in Tensai who tumbles into him in the corner. Tensai is then distracted by Slater, giving Drew the chance to attack him and put 3MB in control. Slater gets taken down after a few moves, giving Brodus a chance to come in, and hit a splash in the corner. The pin is broken up the Drew and all six men get in the ring. Mahal and Drew get removed from the ring, Khali hits a chop on Slater, giving Clay the opening to hit the running splash and win the match. After the match, Brodus has Khali sing “Happy Birthday” to Natalya. At least that’s what he was supposed to sing. Not sure what words he was saying. Tensai seemed annoyed that he wasn’t asked to sing. Shouldn’t Bret have been out there to celebrate? Maybe you can watch him watch Raw backstage on the WWE App.
Highlight Reel time as Chris Jericho talks to Paul Heyman. Jericho credits Heyman for aligning himself to great talent, while Heyman corrects him to say that he discovers and develops big talent. Paul even adds that he gave Jericho his big break, to which Jericho responds by saying he is still owed money by Heyman. Heyman says that that is why he has waived his appearance fee for Jericho, and starts talking up Axel. Jericho says he would rather talk about his other client. Heyman immediately goes into promoting Brock Lesnar, causing Jericho to snap at him and say that he wants to talk about CM Punk. The crowd chants just at the mention of Punk and Jericho plays the footage of CM walking out on Raw six weeks ago. Jericho suggests that Heyman had no idea that Punk was going to leave, and Heyman responds by stalling until Jericho bluntly asks where CM Punk is. Heyman states that he will have an announcement on Raw in the next few weeks regarding the return of CM Punk. Jericho doesn’t buy it, saying that Punk can’t sit at home and keep calling himself the best in the world. Chris brings up how Payback is in Chicago, and that there are plenty of people who would say Jericho is the best in world. At least he would have said that if Heyman let him. Paul is extremely defensive over anyone else saying they are the best in the world, and Jericho says that Punk can’t claim it either unless he comes back at Payback and faces him. Heyman says he won’t be pushed into negotiating with him over CM Punk, so Jericho calls himself the best in the world at what he does. Heyman then accepts Jericho’s challenge and the two shake hands. Jericho has the final word, telling Paul to let Punk know he will never be the same again. Who gives a damn because we are three weeks from seeing CM Punk again! Punk and Jericho were great together last year and I expect no different this time around.
Divas tag action next as the Bellas face the Kaitlyn and Natalya. Why does every big announcement on Raw have to be followed by a Divas match? Happy birthday chants come from the crowd as a Bella pulls Kaitlyn down off the ramp. Kaitlyn gets worked over and looks like she’s corpsing before tagging in the birthday girl who hits a tornado punch. She then applies the sharpshooter, which is broken up by the other Bella. Kaitlyn then tries to spear a Bella, who dodges her causing Natalya to get hit instead. Natalya gets pinned in her home town, and the Bellas sing “happy birthday, loser” on the way out.
Backstage, Bret is talking to Curtis Axel about how he should ditch Heyman. Curtis says that just because Hart knew his dad, doesn’t mean he knows him. Axel says that Heyman believed in him when nobody else did. Every single face seems to have nothing bad to say about him except for how he associates with Heyman. Heyman has nothing but good things to say either. There is a weird marketing strategy with him that nobody else has gotten. Instead of announcers and promos building him up, Curtis is being mentioned throughout the show, with everyone talking about how talented he is like he was an indie wrestler that just got called up. This is the kind of effort Cesaro needed, if he couldn’t do the talking himself. They really want Axel to be a big deal.
Team Rhodes Scholars back again to take on Sheamus and Orton. Orton came out first, then Sandow and Cody came out during the commercial so that Sheamus can come out on TV. What kind of team comes out in between the other team? Orton leads off in control of Cody, throwing him into a slingshot battering ram from Sheamus. Rhodes then gets Sheamus in the corner for Sandow to work on him until Sheamus hits a power slam and the faces are in charge again. Orton comes back in and hits a standing dropkick, then keeps the offense going against Rhodes. This is an extremely one sided match. You’d think they were facing 3MB. Lawler starts making fun of Cody’s orange tan, ignoring that Orton is the most orange man in the company. Team Rhodes Scholars finally steal some momentum when Damien pulls Sheamus off the top rope following a Cody distraction. Sadly all of their offense is during the commercial break, as Sheamus hits an Irish Curse back breaker on Cody, giving him the chance to bring Orton in on a hot tag. Sandow gets tagged with the second rope DDT but Cody pulls Damien out to avoid the RKO. Randy runs out and clotheslines Cody but Sandow pulls his face into the post. Orton gets worked over now as Rhodes hits a reverse clothesline and Damien hits the elbow of disdain for a two count. Orton fights back with a fishermans suplex to get Sheamus in on a hot tag. Cody gets knocked around and Sandow gets battered on the apron. Rhodes hits Sheamus with a Disaster Kick while Sheamus had Sandow up for White Noise. Orton goes after Cody and they brawl outside, as Sheamus escapes Terminus to hit White Noise, following it up with a Brogue Kick to win the match. What looked like a simple squash match turned into a solid midcard bout.
Main event time as John Cena squares off against Curtis Axel. Man, Axel really has a big head. Curtis starts off with a chin lock but Cena lands a hip toss and Axel exits the ring for a strategy session with Heyman. Back from break, Curtis throws Cena into the steps and gets back in to see if Cena can get counted out. John makes it on 8 and Axe keeps the pressure on. Meanwhile the crowd is completely distracted by what looks to be a fight breaking out in the stands toward the stage. Axel keeps Cena down with an arm bar that seems to go on forever until John tries to muscle free. Axel beats Cena back down and yells at the crowd to pay attention to him. Cena then goes into the five moves of doom but Curtis escapes the Attitude Adjustment and hits a standing dropkick on Cena coming off the ropes for a two count. That seems to be one of his main signature moves. Curtis hits a Bret Hart styled elbow from the second rope, but when he tries a second time Cena counters with a body slam for a two count. Axel comes back with a snapmare (like his dad) and a boot to the face for another two count. Curtis looked like he was going to go for the Perfectplex but Cena escaped and went for an STF. Curtis got out of that and also avoided the AA again to HIT THE PERFECTPLEX! The move gets a big pop and the crowd chants “Mr. Perfect,” yet Cena kicks out on two and the match goes on. Cena brings down Axel with a clothesline when an ambulance suddenly enters the arena. Cena leaves the ring to investigate, losing the match via count out. Cena opens the doors but doesn’t find anyone inside. Ryback then attacks Cena from behind, brining him onto the stage to hit a meathook clothesline. Cena dodges it and goes for an AA but Ryback slides out and pushes Cena off the stage. Ryback walks backstage as Cena hears the announcement that Curtis Axel wins the match via count out. Cena looks annoyed as Heyman and Axel celebrate a second win via count out, first over Triple H and now over John Cena. Finish aside, Axel did look very good. He has to be careful about using his dad’s moves but right now it is working for him. If he saves the Perfectplex for special occasions it can do really well. He just seems too bulky for Perfect’s full repertoire.
Overall a very strong episode of Raw. The matches were good and feuds had a pretty natural progression. Add the inclusion of CM Punk being billed to face Jericho at Payback and Curtis Axel looking good against Cena and things are pretty positive. Now if we can just get Dolph Ziggler back in the ring!