So aside from some light botching and the Cena/Ryback three stages of crap, Payback was really good. Going forward though I’m now wondering what of CM Punk. It is very possible that he could just be back for that one match to please the Chicago crowd (which was awesome as always), then reverting back into the abyss until a later date when he is ready for a full schedule. He did not do any mic work last night, so we’ll have to find out on Raw. We’ll also need to find out if Mark Henry is retiring or not and what will go along with the Ziggler/ADR face/heel swap. Also, is Triple H ever going to face Curtis Axel? You mean he doesn’t want the IC belt? I can’t believe that. It’s only the third most prestigious piece of hardware out there.
Tonight’s show starts with a suited up Alberto Del Rio heading to the ring under a chorus of boos. It’s pretty cool that he still thinks he’s a good guy. Could be very interesting if done right. He says that people shouldn’t be talking about Man of Steel, instead they should talk about the man of gold and declares himself the real Superman. Del Rio says that the way he exploited Ziggler’s head injury is no different from Dolph attacking Alberto’s leg injury when he cashed in his briefcase to win the title. Del Rio is pissed that Dolph got cheered but he got booed, saying that he gave the fans everything he had and never got respect from the fans in return. Same goes for fans chanting U-S-A during his feud against Swagger. Del Rio goes full heel now as he says Americans must all be pigs and cowards for backing Ziggler and Swagger over him (makes as much sense for a heel turn as anything else). He says he’s going to be the better man and show them that he is the best, and will provide the crowd with a second chance to appreciate him. Well, you can’t call yourself the best without hearing from CM Punk, and sure enough he comes out with Paul Heyman. So it looks like Punk is a face as he brings up how the last time they met, Punk was beating Del Rio to start his WWE Championship streak. Punk naturally says that he is the best in the world and challenges him to a match, but Heyman cuts in to say that his clients don’t fight for free, and Punk cuts him off and tells him to butt out. Punk says he doesn’t care if the title is on the line because he knows Ziggler gets and deserves the next title shot (Dolph with the rub!). He just wants to prove he is the best in the world, just like he did when he stole the show in beating Jericho. Alberto declines so Punk challenges Ricardo, saying somebody is going to fight him tonight. Vickie Guerrero comes out and tells Del Rio that it isn’t his call to refuse a match, and books Del Rio/Punk as the main event. So if anything else it answers my question about Punk’s status and furthers the tension between Punk and Heyman.
Backstage, Heyman is apologizing for jumping in on the conversation, and Punk tells him that he doesn’t need Heyman to win like Axel and Lesnar need him. Punk then tells Heyman that he doesn’t want him ringside during his matches anymore, but will always be a Paul Heyman guy. So that escalated quickly.
The first match of the show puts new Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel against old Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett with the Intercontinental Championship on the line. At least it was supposed to happen. Instead, Vickie Guerrero calls out Christian, who returns with a big pop. He has apparently be ready for ages now and they have just been waiting for the right time. So this is it? In my head, Christian always came off as the most average wrestler ever, not doing anything specifically great. He starts the match by throwing Wade out of the ring and hitting a cross body splash to the outside off the top rope. Back in the ring, Barrett goes on the offensive and slows things down with a chin lock. Christian calls for the crowd to get loud and breaks out of it and hits an elbow to reclaim the momentum. Christian proceeds to drop the back of Barrett’s neck onto the top rope and finishes him off with the Kill Switch to end a solidly average match. They want me to be so excited for Captain Charisma’s return, and I really didn’t miss him one bit.
Sheamus wasn’t done beating up Damien Sandow after doing it for the last month, so now he’ll face him in a handicap match, with Sandow being joined by Cody Rhodes. Tag rules are not in effect so Sheamus has to beat them both at the same time, and does a pretty good job of it until Cody hits a disaster kick to put the heels in control. They gang up on Sheamus, hitting a double suplex among the array of kicks and punches. Heels in full control as they start taunting Sheamus by slapping him in the face. Sheamus, the brute, tosses Cody over the top rope and has Sandow alone in the ring. He continues to beat him with a shoulder and a high knee, hitting the forward falling Samoan drop on Sandow, beating Cody’s chest on the apron, throwing Sandow out and hitting White Noise on Cody. Sheamus calls for the Brogue Kick on Rhodes, but Damien sneaks up behind him and rolls him up for the surprise win. So Sandow finally gets over on Sheamus, so Sheamus kicks Cody in the head anyway. Again, what kind of face is this? He’s such a sore loser than he knocks out a guy who was a part of a clean victory. Good, quick match though.
Backstage, Vickie and Maddox are trying to get Triple H’s approval, and Trips asks the question I always have. What if CM Punk didn’t show up? What would have been the main event? He then asks why it took Christian so long to come back and takes credit for bringing back RVD. Triple H then tells Vickie to make and example out of the Shield if they try to interfere. He finishes it up by congratulating her with booking 3MB. This is sarcastic of course and can 3MB be any more buried? Nice little meta segment.
Meanwhile, Kane is trying to talk to Daniel Bryan, but Bryan doesn’t want to hear as his losing without Kane means that he is the weak link. Kane replies that since he lost too, they should join forces again. Bryan refuses, saying that he needs to prove himself by being a singles competitor, and has his eyes on the WWE Championship. Kane says he actually wants the same, and it looks like Team Hell No is officially done. Points to Kane for saying Bryan is acting like a “DB” when Bryan says he only wants to be on “team DB.” The stipulation for Bryan’s match against Randy Orton will be decided via the WWE App. BUT THEY NEVER TAUGHT ME HOW TO GET IT! HOW CAN I VOTE!!!
That match kicks off hour two and the stipulation is a No DQ match, beating out No count outs (LAME) and 2 out of 3 falls with 54% of the vote. Apparently Orton now believes that Bryan is, in fact, the weak link. He says Daniel cost them the match at Payback and will prove it by beating him. They start with some mat wrestling and then exchanging kicks in the corners before Orton takes control on a sling shot suplex off the top rope. Orton tries to hit the Lou Thesz press but Bryan turns it into a one legged crab. Orton breaks out of it and sends Daniel to the outside, dropping him with a clothesline. A lot of clean wrestling for a no DQ match. The opening was there to do some DQ’ish stuff but instead Orton rolls Bryan back in the ring and applies a chin lock. Randy then whips Bryan to the corner where Daniel starts his comeback. Bryan does the backflip into a jumping clothesline, leading to the running dropkicks in the corner for a two count. Bryan then lowers the rope to send the rushing Orton out of the ring, but Randy moves aside when Bryan tries to dive into him through the ropes, and Daniel crashes into the barrier instead. Finally Orton remembers this is a no DQ match and pulls out a kendo stick (which is under the ring because?) and starts tagging him in the stomach with it. Randy brings Daniel back in the ring to pin him but only gets two. Back from break, Orton attempts a superplex but Bryan fights him off and hits a missal dropkick instead. Bryan gets up first and delivers kicks to the mid section, but Orton ducks under the round house and hits a fisherman’s suplex. Orton goes for a second rope DDT but Bryan slips away and tries to apply the NO Lock, only for Orton to counter by hurling Bryan over the top rope. Bryan holds on to the rope however and tries to skin the cat, but Orton sees it and kick him in the gut to send him to the floor. At this point the ref has a medic look at Bryan who appears to have an injury. The doctor tries to call the match but Bryan refuses and runs back in the ring to attack Orton. Randy is ready for it however and sends the match back outside, where he hits Daniel with a back body drop into the barrier. At this point the ref stops the match and awards it to Orton. This won’t do much for Bryan’s psyche as the weak link. After the match, Randy helps Bryan up and gives him a pat on the back as they all make their way up the ramp. Good match despite the non-ending.
New Divas Champion AJ with Big E in her corner, and Dolph Ziggler is a no show and for all we know he could be dead after all the head shots coming off his concussion. She says that soon enough Ziggler will be back to share the spotlight with the greatest Divas Champion. Talks about how she manipulated Kaitlyn and knows how to get what she wants. She says there isn’t another woman who is as strong and courageous as her, and sends an open challenge for any Diva to come out and face her. Instead of a wrestler, Stephanie McMahon comes to the ring. She congratulates AJ on being such a great story but calls her out as a bad example to women, being conniving backstabbers. She tells AJ to act like a champion, and AJ responds by saying that instead of just dating WWE superstars she should marry one instead (oooooh). AJ gives her the crazy eyes and Steph tells her that nobody does crazy like a McMahon. AJ then starts to say that Stephanie is jealous because she is a younger version of her, which sets Steph off to threaten to fire her if she keeps acting up. That quickly quiets the champ as Kaitlyn and a bunch of the Divas come out to confront her. After Stephanie tells them never to interrupt her again, Kaitlyn takes the lead to talk about how AJ humiliated and broke her, but now she wants revenge and jumps in the ring to start a cat fight. Langston pulls AJ out and grabs the belt, carrying AJ up the ramp as she screams that Kaitlyn will never take her belt. This whole segment would have been a good time to go to the bathroom.
Coming off their match at Payback, Kane gets another shot at Dean Ambrose’s United States Championship after the last match ended with Kane getting counted out. Kane goes on the offensive from the start, attacking Ambrose in the corner. During the match it is announced that Daniel Bryan might be suffering from nerve damage. At least it isn’t a concussion. Kane maintains control with a boot to the face and scoop slam, followed by a sidewalk slam for a two count. This match doesn’t look like it’ll last long as Kane hits the single axe handle from the top rope. Kane sets up for the chokeslam when Rollins and Reigns come out and attack Kane, triple power bombing him and ending the match via DQ. So now we’ll see what kind of penalty they face from Vickie Guerrero.
Backstage, Guerrero chews out the Shield for their actions, and they taunt her, waiting for her big punishment. It looks like she might fire them when Vince McMahon steps in to congratulate them on a job well done, adding that he reminds him of himself. Vince says he never liked Kane anyway and is glad the Shield ran in. Love heel Vince. It’s like this is his true self.
Time for some racism as Zeb Colter comes out to explain how our government is lying to us as foreigners come her and something about war and whatnot. Colter says that to prove that they are not prejudice, Colter and Swagger have aligned with Antonio Cesaro, who is a foreigner who has done things the right way. Forget all that for a minute though as Cesaro is facing WILLIAM F’N REGAL. All he does is get destroyed by people who need a push, and this match is no different. Regal does get a nice bridge in though and a couple of chops before Cesaro applies a swinging sleeper hold and the Neutralizer to win a squash match. At least Cesaro teaming up with Colter takes away the racist fanbase.
John Cena out to the ring now to recap everything he has done, and little else. He sounds like he’s running a telethon for the WWE, talking about how we all love the WWE and have favorite wrestlers half the world hates him while the other half loves him. He decides to talk only to the Cena fans, thanking them for sticking by him last year when he wasn’t winning and that he’s rewarding them now by winning the title, and is looking toward Money in the Bank (cheap plug) to see who his next challenge will be. This is the time that Mark Henry decides is good for him to come to the ring in a salmon blazer. What a boss. Cena is about to leave when Henry asks him to stay, as he has an announcement for him and all the fans. The crowd chants his name as he says he respects everyone in this business, giving credit to Cena for being so successful and getting emotional as he says he is the best champ ever. He then announces that he is retiring from the active roster of the WWE. The crowd chants “one more match” and Cena hands Henry the WWE Championship belt, the only belt he hasn’t held and his one regret, to pay tribute. He says he is a proud man and thanks his wife and family for staying with him while he toured all this time, wrapping it up by telling his family that he is coming home. Cena holds Henry’s arm up in celebration, and Henry responds by HITTING CENA WITH A WORLD’S STRONGEST SLAM! He yells at John that he has plenty left in the tank, and gets a big pop as he drops the belt on Cena’s chest and storms off. That was a great segment. I, along with everyone else, totally bought that he was retiring. Henry sounded honest, sincere and emotional before ripping our throats out. That was awesome. Henry should be nominated for an Emmy or something.
Backstage, Henry says he fooled everyone and called us puppets. All he wants is the WWE Championship so he challenges Cena to a match for the strap, and takes one boot off because he’s going to put it up Cena’s ass. He’s so money right now.
Chris Jericho out next to take on Heath Slater with the rest of 3MB in his corner. Jericho starts off strong but falls to a roundhouse kick and takes control. Jericho bounces back with shoulders and a double axe handle, leading into the running bulldog. 3MB interferes to prevent the lionsault and Slater almost steals a win with a roll up. Jericho bounces back however to hit the bulldog again and the lionsault. He follows up with the Codebreaker and wins in a squash match. The rest of 3MB tries to attack Chris from behind, but instead get beaten down as Mahal gets tossed aside and McIntyre gets hit with a Codebreaker. Good thing they were on the card.
Backstage, Josh Matthews is trying to get Heyman to talk about what happened with Punk, but Heyman side steps the questions and talks up Axel before heading down with Curtis for the next match.
Miz at the announce table as Sin Cara ends up being the man to face Axel instead of Wade Barrett. It’s really annoying that Cara needs his own lighting for his matches. Especially when he gets knocked around like a dope like he does at the start of the match. Sin bounces back with a couple dropkicks but Axel stops the momentum with a clothesline and a snap back body drop. Miz meanwhile is talking about how great Axel is and how much Heyman is helping him. Cara tries coming back again with a boot in the corner but misses on a 180 flip from the top rope as Axel rolls away and hits a big DDT to win what was essentially another squash match. Axel holds up the IC belt to taunt Miz, and they will in all likelyhood clash at MITB. Meanwhile I’m just trying to figure out how many finishers Axel has. The Perfectplex, the swinging face plant thing, now a DDT? I can’t keep up with him.
Backstage, Vince is telling Bricky that he thought they were doing a good job and that he bought Henry’s speech. They suggest that Cena faces Henry at MITB and Vince accepts. Just then, Stephanie and Triple H step in to chew them out about being idiots. Triple H, Vince and Stephanie all tell Vicky to listen to each of them individually, and there is a nice power struggle going on right now. Before the segment ends we hear the director cue the cut to Punk, leading to an awkward stare from Vickie.
Meanwhile, Heyman is trying to make sure that he and Punk are okay, telling him that he still loves him and gives him with a big hug. So something foul is definitely going to happen as its main event time with CM Punk (WITHOUT Paul Heyman) taking on World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio. Punk immediately goes after Del Rio and forces him out of the ring to regroup. Back inside, Punk continues with a barrage of kicks to the shins force Alberto out again. This time Punk goes out after him, beating him into the barrier to lay a chop and send him back in. Alberto goes on the offensive as Punk gets back in the ring now, hitting a kick to the temple for a two count. Del Rio follows with a snap suplex but Punk fights back and they exchange punches and kicks until Alberto again takes charge, working the arm. Punk bounces back and attempts a GTS but Alberto again escapes the ring. This time Punk responds by diving through the ropes into ADR on the outside. With Punk on the apron, Ricardo distracts him long enough for Del Rio to pull his arm down on the top rope and follow it with a running kick to the side to again take the momentum. CM tries to come back but Del Rio hit a tilt a wirl back breaker and continues kicking Punk down. Punk then dodges Del Rio attempting a double axe handle, hitting a leaping heel kick. Alberto slows Punk down again however, ducking under the roundhouse kick for going back to the arm. Del Rio follows that up with a back stabber for a two count. Punk then dodges a kick to the head and rolls up Del Rio for a two count, but then gets tagged with a second kick attempt. Del Rio tries to apply the cross armbreaker but Punk counters with a high knee into a GTS, only it sends Del Rio out of the ring. Alberto decides he’s had enough, taking the count out and heading to the stage. Before he exits however, Dolph Ziggler runs out and attacks him from behind, fighting off refs and Ricardo to get a piece of him.
So Punk wins the match via count out, and right after the decision is announced Brock Lesnar comes out! The original Paul Heyman guy gets into the ring and circles Punk. He then grabs a mic and is about to say something, but instead smirks and nails Punk with an F-5 to close out the show. This is great. The two Paul Heyman guys going at it. There is a lot of good that can come out of this, as it has been on people’s minds for a while now.
This was a very good episode of Raw. Henry and Lesnar’s appearances made the show, which also marked the return of Christian (if you’re into that type of thing). The matches weren’t mind blowing, but for once the storylines saved the matches. Looking forward to next week.