How can CM Punk not close a PPV in Chicago?
It’s his first appearance since WrestleMania and no single person draws a better reaction in their home town than CM Punk in Chicago. However, all signs point to Cena and Ryback’s Three Stages of Hell match closing things out, which is one of Punk’s biggest gripes against the way things are currently run.
Overall I’m not expecting many surprises aside from maybe Paul Heyman turning on Punk. I’m very excited to see where Daniel Bryan goes next after his match with Randy Orton against the Shield. At the same time I’m disappointed that nobody has been allowed to say “Payback is a bitch!” It writes itself people!
The show opens with a triple threat match for the Intercontinental Championship as Wade Barrett defends the strap against the Miz and Curtis Axel. Axel is replacing Fandango, who suffered a concussion last week. Tamina Snuka also endured a concussion, forcing the WWE to alter their concussion protocol as that’s now three people with real concussions if you include Ziggler (four if you count Triple H’s fake one), and there is now an automatic extended time off after being cleared. Anyway the match sees Axel almost immediately get tossed out of the ring by Miz and try to roll up Wade. Heyman keeps Curtis from running back in so that the other two can duke it out. Axel got forced in by Miz and got pump handle slammed by Barrett and clotheslined by Miz after Barrett moves away. Axel is the only man to have no offense early on and I’m thinking that he steals the win in the end.The crowd starts Fandango’ing as Barrett takes down Miz but has his big boot avoided by Axel who sends Wade out of the ring and goes after Miz, throwing him into the ropes to deliver a dropkick. So Axel finally does something in this match, hitting a snapmare (another Mr. Perfect move) on Miz, following it up with a knee to the gut. Curtis’ beatdown seems to go on a little too long as he tries to win on a hard back body drop, with Barrett breaking up the pin and working Curtis. Miz then comes out of nowhere to beat on both Barrett and Axel, hitting Wade with the jumping clothesine and getting Axel with a kick to the head. Barrett procedes to escape the figure four and lift up Axel for Wasteland, swinging Curtis’ boot into Miz to take him out momentarily. Axel slipped out and hit the Perfect Plex on Barrett to a nice pop, but Miz broke up the pin on two (to a chorus of boos). Miz then does a backflip to counter another Axel back body drop and hits a Skull Crushing Finale on Curtis. Wade throws Miz out of the ring and goes for the cover himself, only to have Miz pull him down from the outside floor to stop the pin. Miz drives Wade into the apron and goes for the pin but Axel kicks out on two and the crowd is totally on his side. Miz now starts working Axel’s leg, and tries for the figure four but gets pushed into Barrett who tries to hit the Winds of Change, only Miz escapes, hurls and running Axel over the top rope and applies the figure four to Barrett in the center of the ring. Heyman tries to revive Axel as Barrett can’t get to the rope to break up the hold, and finally Axel runs in and instead of breaking up the hold, he just covers Barrett and gets the pin to win the Intercontinental Championship! Very good ending to a pretty entertaining match. Everybody (even Miz) looked good and since Miz had the hold that allowed Axel to win, I assume he’ll get the first title shot over Barrett, avoiding a heel versus heel match. Good way to start the show. Crowd loved the finish too.
Backstage, Triple H confronts Axel and Heyman as they are celebrating. He looks like he’s going to start trouble when Vince McMahon steps in to congratulate the duo (he even shakes Heyman’s hand). He sends them off and tries to sell Triple H on facing Curtis Axel. Triple H still isn’t feeling it and I’m still confused as to why. Is it just because he doesn’t want Vince to get what he wants? He obviously doesn’t care too much for Curtis.
Next up is Kaitlyn defending her Divas Championship against AJ. AJ turned full on evil on Raw, setting up Big E to be the secret admirer only to toss her aside at the last minute and get in Kaitlyn’s head. AJ comes to the ring with Big E at her side, skipping around to about as big of a reaction as you’ll get from a Diva these days. AJ blows a kiss and Kaityn loses her head, taking down AJ and punching her out of the ring, tossing her over the Spanish announce table, throwing her back in to continue to beat down. AJ leads Kaitlyn out of the ring to tag her with a missel dropkick off the apron for the best wrestling move AJ has shown in a year that is not the black widow. Kaitlyn breaks a chin lock but gets beat back down with a running elbow and AJ is in control. A pair of neckbreakers get a two count and AJ is pretty impressive here. This is the first time in ages she actually asked to wrestle and nut act like a freak. She applies a Ziggler-inspired sleeper that Kaitlyn breaks out of by driving AJ into the corner, only AJ uses the corner as leverage to kick Kaitlyn down again. Kaityln turns the tide with a dropkick to counter AJ running at her, hitting a shoulder block for a two count. AJ then tries a pretty sloppy crucifix pin, with Kaitlyn lifting her up to hit a gut buster. AJ tries to escape the ring to regroup but Kaityn holds her by her belt, eventually ripping it off (big pop). AJ then holds the apron to try escaping and eventually kicks Kaitlyn away. While the ref is occupied with fixing the apron (OCD?) AJ grabs the belt and tags Kaitlyn with a punch, but the champ kicks out on two. AJ loses her mind and screams, going to the top rope to try to finish Kaitlyn off with cross body, only Kaitlyn catches her in the air. She tries to swing her around but AJ applies the Black Widow out of nowhere (she’s really good at that) and we might get an ass grab! Sadly Kaitlyn wiggles out of it somehow and hits a back breaker, leading into a big spear. Kaitlyn was about to pin AJ but she stops to taunt her by blowing her a kiss. AJ then makes her pay by kicking out and hoping up on the top turnbuckle to make a now emotionally whacked out Kaitlyn hit her head on the ring post. AJ then rolls down on her to apply the Black Widow. Kaitlyn looks like she is going to escape again but AJ synchs it in and make Kaitlyn tap! Kaitlyn pisses off the world however by tapping AJ’s leg instead of her ass (although there was a good shot of it). This was easily the best Divas match in a long time, as it was very entertaining and could have gone either way, while adding emotional drama and a story to the whole thing. Kaitlyn then dropped to her knees and started crying on the stage, needing Layla to come out and talk her back up, leading to a big groan from the crowd. A sappy, Triple H like ending (he likes milking his exits) to a damn good match.
Backstage all of the face Divas are trying to console Kaitlyn but it’s no use, as she storms off again in tears. Good grief. Get over it girl.
Big Show, R-Truth and Cody Rhodes joining Josh Matthews for analysis. I have no comments on it aside from checking in on where some people rank right now. Show is recovering from injury at least.
Unites States Championship on the line next as Dean Ambrose defends against Kane. Kane got left out as Orton and Bryan got a tag team title shot, so somehow that means he gets a singles title shot. Sure. Why not. The bigger news is the Shield loses for the first time as a group on Smackdown, when Daniel Bryan got Rollins to tap out. I don’t think it will amount to much but it does take a little wind out of their sails. The crowd is pro Ambrose as Kane controls things early and essentially dominates, hitting a back breaker and whipping him into the corner. Ambrose then turns on his inner Rocky and yells at Kane to hit him. Kane obliges but Dean comes back with a kick to the legs to bring down Kane and steal the momentum. Sometimes Ambrose moves around the ring like he just learned how to walk. So awkward but so twisted and awesome at the same time. Kane counters Ambrose his a back breaker and boot to the face, favoring his leg as he climes to the top rope. Ambrose meets him up there but gets beaten back down. Dean ducks under Kane’s single axe handle and responds with a leaping elbow off the second rope. Ambrose the applies an inverted headlock and follows up with the most deliberately applied sleeper I’ve ever seen. Kane escapes and hits Ambrose with a jab to counter Dean attacking off the ropes. Ambrose avoids a chokeslam gets hit with a series of kicks. Dean attempts a sunset flip but avoids a chokeslam again to hit a dropkick into the ropes for a two count. Dean then climbs to the top rope to attempt Old School, only for Kane to pull him down and hit a sidewalk slam for a two count of his own. Kane hits the top rope single ace handle but Dean heads to the apron to avoid a chokeslam. Ambrose drops Kane’s throat onto top rope but Kane boots Ambrose off the apron to the outside floor. Outside the ring, Ambrose slaps Kane and laughs at him, waiting to get hit. Kane complies again and gets pissed, setting up the Spanish announce table to chokeslam Ambrose through it. Ambrose comes back to DDT Kane into the outside floor, getting back in the ring and winning via count out. Solid booking as Ambrose looked strong, smart and psychotic while Kane was solid in losing without getting pinned. That’s three straight good matches on this card.
A Rob Van Dam video! One of my all time favorite wrestlers is coming back to the WWE and will be making his return at Money in the Bank! I don’t even care what else in on the card now. Just take my money! Have you noticed how I am kind of into Dolph Ziggler? Well that was how I was about RVD from his early ECW days. He hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire lately, but this is still good news. He’ll be going into a hot crowd too as the PPV is in Philly, the home of ECW. Heyman has to be in his corner right?
In case you were wondering, Damien Sandow was solid but ultimately lost to Sheamus in what was had to be the most predictable match on the card.
Looks like we’ll have four straight good matches as YOUR World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler defends his title against Alberto Del Rio. Dolph missed over a month with a concussion and gets a huge pop from the crowd. Hot damn am I pumped. I have to think Ziggler is aching to come back with a flourish as he goes to the ring with Big E Langston and the new Divas champ, AJ. Lillian Garcia announced Ricardo Rodriguez in spanish, with Ricardo announcing Del Rio in english. What the hell is going on here? It’s like bizzarro world. Ziggler’s tights say “over,” and the crowd agrees big time. Ziggler’s first move has him bounce off the ropes and slide out, brushing Alberto off with his hand to play the crowd, saying he’ll go when he’s ready. Dolph gets back in and gets hit with a back breaker, sending him rolling out of the ring again. Ziggler gets back in again and continues getting worked over by Alberto as the crowd is still buzzing about the return of RVD. Del Rio continues the attack with a back body drop and he is dominating right now. Ziggler looks like he’s out of it when he hits a standing dropkick out of nowhere for his first offensive move of the night. Ziggler runs at Del Rio in the corner and gets tossed over the top rope for his effort, selling the head injury like a boss. Del Rio starts bashing Dolph’s head into the announce table when Big E gets in between the two. He and Del Rio exchange shoves, leading to Langston getting throw out ringside. Ziggler takes advantage of the delay and attacks Del Rio, beating him back into the ring. Del Rio hits Dolph in the head with a side kick on Ziggler’s way back in and starts smashing his head into the mat. The story of the match is getting laid on pretty thick huh? Ziggler starts fighting back again but Del Rio keeps control, acting like a heel to Dolph’s underdog as he exploits the head injury. Dolph reverses a suplex to apply a sleeper but it gets broken up when Alberto sends Ziggler’s head into the turnbuckle, following up with a kick to the temple while he’s down. A backstabber only get a two count on Ziggler and this match is playing out a lot like the Triple H/Brock Lesnar cage match at Extreme Rules, where face Trips took advantage of heel Lesnar’s broken leg, making the heel the underdog. After all the blows to the head, Del Rio calls for the arm breaker of all things. Dolph slips out of it however and hits a neck breaker to get a Dolph chant going. Selling a head injury, Ziggler goes for a cross body that Alberto tries to counter into a tilt-a-wirl back breaker only for Dolph to back flip onto his feet and hit a very sloppy fame-asser for two. Dolph is left holding onto the refs leg, refusing the let the ref call the match. Ziggler then goes to the top rope where Del Rio meets him with another kick to the head, planting Dolph with an inverted suplerplex but Dolph still kicks out on two! Dolph rolls outside and while the ref is checking on him Del Rio kicks him in the head from the apron and now the emergency staff is taking a look at him. The ref is yelling at Alberto who is shaking off boos. Ziggler pushes away the medic in time to get a baseball slide to the head while AJ yells for him to stop. Ricardo yells back that he’s fine and we have a full on face/heel flip flop going. Del Rio hits an enziguri to the back of the head but again only gets a two count. A pissed off Del Rio keeps attacking the head and Dolph is left crawling up Alberto’s leg just to stand up. Del Rio gets a false sense of security and gives Dolph the opening to hit a Zig Zag to knock him out. Del Rio can’t make it over to cover however and Alberto hits a final kick to the head to win the World Heavyweight Championship. I’m surprised by every aspect of this match, and it ended up being really good. The crowd was into it the whole way and got more behind Ziggler with each shot. Now I’m just curious if AJ and Langston will follow him to facehood. AJ looked legit sad and worried for her man, which is odd considering what a psycho she is supposed to be. Del Rio milks the crowd in celebration as Dolph can’t even make it up the ramp on his own. This was appropriately immediately followed with a “don’t try this at home” message.
After the match, Del Rio got on the mic and asked the fans to cheer for him like he was still a face. As the crowd boos him, Del Rio says he has done everything for the fans and asks for their support. Plenty of heat for Del Rio as he keeps the celebration going. Dolph was great by the way, selling like a boss as always.
How else do you follow Dolph Ziggler than with CM Punk making his grand return against Chris Jericho. Jericho comes out first and milks the crowd as they chant for Punk. The pop isn’t crazy when the music (still Cult of Personality) hits but not good enough. Sporting Chicago Blackhawk themed gear, Punk comes out with Paul Heyman and is fired up. The match starts with shoving contest before Punk and Jericho do some solid mat wrestling. Jericho hits a shoulder block to a chorus a boos, followed by Punk hitting a dropkick for a big pop to start taking control. Punk starts working the arm as the crowd chants “Let’s go Blackhawks.” Punk goes for a jumping DDT in the corner but Jericho pushes him away and clotheslines him over the top rope, following up with a kick through the ropes. Chris then goes for a springboard kick but Punk counters by dropping Jericho onto the top rope. Punk then hits a line drive of a double axe handle off the top rope and keeps working the arm. The pace is slow and the crowd is on their hands right now. They want to explode but just don’t have a reason to right now. Jericho tries to fight back but Punk gets a boot up in the corner and the announcers are saying he looks tired due to not being in the ring for so long. Punk then misses on a springboard clothesline and Jericho takes advantage with his signature moveset. He hits the running bulldog but misses the lionsault, leading to Punk hitting his patented neckbreaker for two. He follows with a high knee in the corner, taking the time to yell out “Vintage Punk!” at Cole before attempted a bulldog that Jericho escapes. Chris hits the lionsault this time but only gets two. He starts trash talking Punk and kicking him in the head, avoiding the GTS and applying the
Boston Crab Walls of Jericho. Punk manages to roll back over however and pulls himself up to apply the Anaconda Vice. He brings Jericho to the ground with a leg sweep and secures the hold as Jericho flaps around seemingly helpless until he finally reaches the ropes with his feet. Punk calls for the GTS and yells “Blackhawks in 7,” before Jericho counters and tries to apply the Walls again. Heyman gets up on the apron, distracting Jericho long enough for Punk to get Jericho up for the GTS again. Punk then sees Heyman and gets distracted, allowed Jericho to slip away and roll up Punk to nearly win the match. Punk then levels the field with a roundhouse kick. Punk tries to get Jericho up but Chris hits a Codbreaker instead, but only gets a two count. Jericho keeps talking trash and beating down Punk, and it looks like we have another face/heel switcheroo. Punk hits a heel kick leading into a hight knee and hits the flying elbow. He hits a semi sloppy GTS (what’s up with that today?) and Jericho kicks out on two. Punk starts looking confused as the crowd chants for one more GTS. He agrees and attempts it, but Jericho fights him off and tries a Codebreaker which Punk pushes away. Punk then clotheslines Jericho over the top rope and follows up with a dive through the ropes. Back in the ring, Punk goes for a springboard clothesline but Jericho connects on a Codebreaker but still can only get two! This match started slow but is turning out as good as we all hoped. The crowd chants “this is awesome” as a frustrated Jericho pummels Punk as he gets heat from the crowd. Chris again goes for the Walls but Punk slips him into a small package for a two count and the are trading blows again. Punk attempts a hurricarrana but Jericho catches him in perfect position for the Walls. He walks him to the middle of the ring and locks it in. Punk fights the hold off with a flurry and hits, connecting on one GTS that send Jericho into the corner, then hitting a second one as Jericho stumbled back out to win yet another great match. These guys were both great as the seeds were planted for a Jericho heel turn and trouble between Punk and Heyman. The crowd goes nuts as Heyman runs in to congratulate Punk. That’s now three clean wins that Punk has over Jericho.
The greatness of this card continues as Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton challenge Rollins and Reigns for the tag team titles. The Shield come out immediately after Punk exits the stage but forget that. Daniel Bryan may have gotten a bigger ovation than CM Punk tonight. Daniel starts against Roman by immediately going into his backflip routine only for Reigns to drop him with a clothesline. Bryan takes the beating through the early portion of the match until he hits a running clothesline on Reigns, leading to a hot tag to Orton who immediately hits his clothesline powerslam combo on Rollins, yet hits Reigns with the second rope DDT. He does eventually tag Seth with it as well however Rollins escapes the ring when Orton taunts the RKO. Randy leans over the ropes to get him when Roman tags him with a Superman Punch to take him down. The Shield regain control with Orton in, but the crowd is still buzzing over RVD. Meanwhile Randy is getting toe dragged into the second turnbuckle by Rollins. In the corner, Orton gets a boot up on Rollins who was irish whipped at him, then dodges Reigns to cause his shoulder to hit the lost. Randy then tries to fisherman’s suplex Seth into Roman, but falls a foot short which was probably a lot more dangerous. This allows Bryan to get the hot tag and oh man is it hot. He hits them both at the same time with a missal dropkick and jumps back up to hit each one twice in the corner with running dropkicks. He focuses on Reigns, the legal man, with a flurry of kicks. He misses on the first roundhouse but throws out a second for a two count. Bryan then pulls down the rope to send Roman out of the ring and hurls Seth over the top rope with him. Bryan then tries to leap through the ropes at them but hits Orton instead. The Shield take advantage of the distraction to take down Bryan and try to regain control. Instead, Bryan escapes Reigns to send him into the corner and out of the ring with another running dropkick, then a hammerlock superplex! Bryan tries to apply the NO Lock on Rollins but has to get up to beat Reigns back off the apron. Rollins then tries to roll up Bryan but ends up getting put into the NO Lock. Reigns breaks it up and avoids getting an RKO from Orton by pushing him into Daniel. Randy then moves to he side leaving Bryan to be blindsided with a spear by Reigns. Orton then RKO’s Roman but gets beat out of the ring by Rollins. Seth then hits a leaping stomp ontp Bryan’s head to win the match and retain the tag titles. Guess what? Another amazing match from this group of guys, especially Bryan. I have to think one either Orton or Bryan are going heel soon.
After all those great matches, it’s now time for the main event Three Stages of Hell match (AKA 2 out of 3 falls with stips) between John Cena and Ryback for the WWE Championship. The guys are going to be trusted with roughly a third of the show and this could go really wrong, really fast. The first fall is under Lumberjack rules, and despite doing it for the last month, Ryback did not come out in the ambulance. Rip off. The match starts off with Ryback beating back Cena in the corner, then countering a Cena bulldog attempt with a power slam. The match is playing out like a lightweight versus a bruiser match would go, as Cena delivers a flurry of moves to stagger Ryback only to be beaten back with one big power move by Ryback. Cena tries an AA but Ryback reverses it into a jaw breaker. So far the lumberjacks have come into play three time, as Cena has been thrown to the heel side each time for a little extra beating. Cena then throws Ryback to the same side but the Lumberjacks all back off. He gets back in and Cena goes for the five moves of doom to absolutely no crowd reaction. Ryback gets up on the five knuckle shuffle attempt and throws Cena on top of all the faces. Cena then gets in and throws Ryback over the top rope, and after the heels initialy back off, Ryback pushes one and all hell breaks loose. All the lumberjacks fight Ryback and eachother and Cena splashes on all of them from the top rope. Back in the ring, Cena applie the STF on Ryback but Ryback powers out of it to hit Shell Shock and win the first fall (no shock there). Aside from the splash onto the entire WWE roster there wasn’t much to fuss over in that one.
So now all the lumberjacks take off and we’re on to the tables match. As soon as the bell rings, Ryback spears Cena into the corner and brings out a table. He goes for a powerbomb but Cena reverses and attempts an AA, only for Ryback to escapes and drop John with a shoulder tackle. Ryback looks to gorilla press Cena into the table but Cena reverses and again goes for the AA but Ryback tosses the table over so that Cena can’t put him through it. Ryback rolls out of the ring and Cena goes after him, getting whipped into the steps for his troubles. Ryback throws the steps in the ring and Cena after it, proceeding to clock Cena with steps to the face. Cena dodges the second attempt as Ryback throws the steps through the table. Cena hits a belly to belly suplex uses the steps as a weapon himself, knocking out Ryback. John brings another table in the ring and props it up, but Ryback sneaks up behind him and knocks him onto the table with the steps. Cena then dodges the steps again as Ryback destroys another table with them. Ryback then misses John again as he throws the steps out of the ring, and Cena hits the five knuckle shuffle but falls to a spinebuster. Ryback hits the meathook clothesline and brings another table into the ring. He sets it up and attempts to Shell Shock Cena though it, but Cena escapes and hits an AA out of desperation through the table to win the fall. Better than the first fall, but it still doesn’t have the crowd going nuts or anything.
So we’re onto the third fall, the dreaded ambulance match. These matches drive me nuts because they end up out of the ring for the entire time just throwing people into things. Ryback gets up almost immediately after getting put through the table, pissed that he just lost fall. He attacks Cena and bring him to the outside, power bombing him through the announce table. Ryback then told Cena that “it only gets worse” and brings him back into the ring so that the final match can officially start. The bell rings and Ryback immediately carries him to the ambulance, but Cena wiggles off again and pushes Ryback into the back of the ambulance. Cena then pulls a Mr. Miyagi, moving to the side as Ryback punches through the window of the ambulance. Ryback fights Cena off and tries whipping him through the door, only Cena reverses it and puts Ryack through it instead. This is exactly what I hate about these gimmick matches. Each moves is essentially “throw the other guy into the car.” Cena then reverses the formula by hitting Ryback WITH the car door instead of the other way around. Ryback then rips a piece of the fender off the ambulance and beats Cena with it. Crowd sound dead as Ryback looks to power bomb Cena onto the hood, but Cena lifts Ryback onto it instead. Looks more like a roll though. John then decides to try climbing to the top of the ambulance and the crowd is Fandango’ing to try to entertain themselves. Ryback chases him with a crutch, but Cena gets the crutch and beats him with it, and then hits an Attitude Adjustment to send Ryback through the top of the Ambulance to get him into it and win the match. Okay that part was cool. The rest of the Ambulance match was completely boring though.
Finale aside, I thought this PPV was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed every match except for the last one, and that includes the Divas match. This main event was just very predictable to me and things can only get so good when you have to rely on gimmicks to sell a match. These guys needed three gimmicks so what does that tell you?
I prefer to look back on this show as a night when a bunch of guys seemed to change from heel to face or vice versa, with none of the changes revolving around Daniel Bryan or Randy Orton.
Oh yeah, and ROB-VAN-DAM !