Part of being a wrestling fan is complaining about wrestling. It’s just part of the territory. The plots are stupid, the top guys suck, the undercards need a push, everything is the worst. But I hope we can all agree that the last few weeks of Raw have been pretty amazing, right? Punk is back and has a whole new bromance/break up thing going with Paul Heyman, Mark Henry is the greatest actor ever, AJ is making people slap her ass in submission, RVD is coming back and Daniel Bryan is taking over the show. His stinger ended up making him look even better in route to beating Randy Orton last week, during which they were fined for Orton’s chair shot to the head during the match (which are rightly banned since concussions go around like spray tan in the WWE). It’s been a lot of fun watching Bryan, Orton and Kane face the Shield for over a month, and I feel like we still have a couple weeks left before they move on. I haven’t even mentioned Dolph Ziggler’s face turn!
Of course the WWE tries to keep this momentum going by making Vickie Guerrero the first face we see. The resident cougar teased a match putting World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio against WWE Champ John Cena. By the way, did you realize that 13 of the “superstars” shown in the into are not fixtures on Raw right now? Just sayin.
The real show begins as you’d hope, with Daniel Bryan (and his new respect the beard t-shirt) coming to the ring to cut a promo on MITB. He’s happy to report that he is clearly not the weak link after beating Orton, and is now focused on winning the MITB match. of course the whole thing is built toward him yelling “YES!” or “NO!” over and over with the crowd and the audience loves every minute of it. Bryan mentions that he won the MITB to claim the World Heavyweight Championship, which brings out Sheamus (with a small smattering of boos) to remind Bryan that he took Daniel’s belt in 18 seconds at WrestleMania. He says it’s been too long since he’s had a belt, which brings out Randy Orton who says he hasn’t had a strap in 2 years (so I guess he wants it more?). Bryan takes the opportunity to brag about making him tap out, which Randy shakes off. He says that no one will be safe, which naturally beings out Kane who says that nobody will be safe because of what he is capable of. He and Bryan get into a whole thing about how there will be no friends in the match while the crowd chants for CM Punk. Christian comes out instead however and he talks about his success in ladder matches (neglecting that it was tag team matches). He brings up how he isn’t the biggest or strongest or anything else, but does say he’s the best. Well guess who takes offense to someone else claiming to be “the best?” Yup, CM Punk comes out to say that he’s the best and that he’s the only one to win multiple MITB matches and that he’s better than everyone. He starts to talk about everybody when Bryan cuts off Punk and tells him he’ll make him tap out like he did to Orton if he says one more word. That pisses Randy off, who starts to go after Bryan. Kane gets in the middle of them, which pisses off Daniel who starts yelling about Kane. Orton then uses the distraction to RKO Kane and slide out of the ring as the rest of the men stare each other down. Decent segment that just took WAY too long to develop. Christian seems entirely out of place here.
The first match of the night features the Shield in a six man tag rematch against Christian and the Usos. The Shield have now been beaten twice at a group in a few weeks. First to Daniel Bryan, Kane and Orton, and last week to Christian and the Usos (both on Smackdown!). Rollins and Reigns will defend their tag titles against the Usos on the MITB pre-show, which means I’ll actually have to watch it this time. The faces start off with all the momentum, controlling the tempo and hitting all three members of the Shield with dives to the outside. Back in the ring the Shield took the momentum when Reigns hit a big boot on an Uso. Ambrose then did his creepy thing, controlling the pace and mocking Christian by getting a clap going with the crowd. Jey (I think) hit a superkick on Ambrose and went for a tag, but Rollins came in and went straight for Jimmy (I think) to take him out and prevent the tag. Jey(?) then took down Rollins and got the hot tag anyway on Christian, who battered Rollins and Reigns but not Ambrose, who backed off the apron to distract Christian, who got an enziguri from Rollins. Now Ambrose gets tagged in to attack Christian and these two are being put together for a future feud. It Christian was starting to gain the edge (get it?) but Rollins was on the apron to catch Christian looking to go off the second rope, dropping his throat onto the top rope to allow Ambrose to roll him up for the victory. Pretty good match. You can see the step down the Usos/Christian are from Kane/Bryan/Orton but the magic couldn’t go on forever.
Backstage, Bryan is apologizing to Kane for causing him to be RKO’s in the open and costing him his match against Randy on Smackdown (essentially doing the same thing). Kane doesn’t want to hear it and wants Bryan to stay out of his way. Daniel then informs him that to make it up to him he got Vickie to book a rematch for Kane against Orton, which pleases the Big Red Monster until he finds out that Bryan is the special guess referee. I imagine this won’t go well.
DOLPH ZIGGLER out to the ring without AJ or Big E for his first match since Payback. Very interesting how they’ll play it with Dolph being a face while is girlfriend is a heel. Ziggler will get broken in easy with a match against Jinder Mahal. They trade dodges before Mahal actually takes control of the match with a knee lift and of course Dolph is selling in what should be a squash match. Ziggler slows Jinder down with a dropkick but Mahal takes it right back with a power slam. Out of nowhere, Ziggler escapes what could have been a Camel Clutch to land a Zig Zag and steal the win. The announcers talk about how Dolph never looked better (huh?) as Slater and McIntyre get on the apron to try attacking Dolph. From here it turns into a Benny Hill sketch, as Dolph runs around the ring dodging 3MB at every turn, resulting in Slater diving into the steps, Drew knocking out Jinder and McIntryre getting hit with a Zig Zag as the all end with Ziggler shaking his ass on the announce table to a pretty good pop.
Backstage, Vickie is bitching about the McMahons when Triple H sneak up behind her to pay her some compliments for a change about the show so far. They are still playing up the power struggle between Trips, Vince and Steph, as he tells Vickie to keep doing what he tells her to do. Like Triple H, it’s getting a little old.
Randy Orton takes on Kane next with Daniel Bryan as the special guest referee. Kane looks specifically annoyed coming to the ring, as Daniel is chewing out Orton before the match even starts. They trade blows early, with Bryan pushing each man away from the other in the corner, each time allowing the other man to take the momentum. Kane hits a falling drop kick, but Orton evades a power slam to hit a Lou Thesz press to take control of the match. Kane fights back and hits a suplex. Orton then toe drags an oncoming Kane into the turnbuckle and starts attacking him in the corner. Bryan tries to separate them (the only thing he has really done in the match) and when Randy shoves Bryan for pulling him away, Bryan DQ’s Orton and names Kane the winner. Kane wants nothing to do with the result, and makes Bryan restart the match. Orton then dropkicks Kane out of the ring, this time listening to Bryan when he keeps him from going out after him. Back from break, Kane has control again with a chin lock. Kane then hits a sidewalk slam and goes to the top rope for the one handed attack. Orton counters it however by hitting a dropkick as Kane came down. Kane initially avoids the second rope DDT but Randy escapes a chokeslam to hit it anyway. He calls for the RKO when Bryan gets in his way. Kane then takes advantage of the distraction by hitting a big boot, and Bryan quick counts to give Kane the victory via pinfall. Kane is pissed as Bryan tells him he only won the match because of him. Kane grabs his throat but decides no to chokeslam him, leaving the ring instead. Orton however has other ideas, hitting Bryan with an RKO. Not the best match, but it sure was fun.
Backstage, Punk is telling Heyman and Axel that he doesn’t need help beating the Prime Time Players, as they are scheduled to team up together. Punk says he trusts Heyman but not Axel, and Paul responds by saying people said the same about CM in 2005 but Heyman trusted him anyway. Heyman asks Punk to trust Axel and we’ll see how long Axel takes to cost Punk the match.
Fandango is back for the first time in a month coming off a concussion to face Sheamus. I think we needed the time away from ‘Dangoas his whole deal was getting tired. The crowd seemed relatively indifferent to him. They spend the early parts of the match dodging each other and dancing around (literally) until they actually got into it. Sheamus hit a suplex and worked Fandango in the corner, hitting a shoulder in the corner and throwing him into the barricade outside the ring. Sheamus tried to pull Fandango back up with he got hit with a swinging kick and take command an arm lock and simultaneous kicks to the head. Sheamus fights back to power him into the corner and batter him. He beats him in the corner, he hits a double axe handle in the middle of the ring and he hits him on the apron until Fandango has enough and exits up the ramp for a count out. I didn’t need to watch any of that.
Chris Jericho ringside to do commentary for Ryback’s match against the Miz. Jericho and Ryback will square off at MITB in a match that was considered for WrestleMania and one I’d have to think Ryback would win. Jericho seems to be specifically there to get people over now, which is why he should be around in the first place. Ryback starts the match by mauling Miz and tossing him around while yelling at Jericho. Miz tries to fight back but Ryback continues overpowering him with overhand fists. Eventually Miz hits a kick to the leg which staggers Ryback, and Miz gets some momentum. He applies kicks to the gut and head to bring him down and works the leg in the corner. Miz wraps Ryback’s leg in the rope and dropkicks the leg. Ryback then screams in pain and tells the ref to stop the match. Miz gets the win and ends up in a stare down with Ryback who continues to claim he is legitimately injured. Jericho then sneaks up behind “Cryback” and hits him with a codebreaker. Ryback is looking pretty weak lately, only furthering the notion that he will beat Jericho at the PPV.
Mark Henry in the house to talk more smack about Cena. He talks about how he is legitimately the “World’s Strongest Man,” earning the respect of everyone in the WWE. He then explains how there is a lot of backstabbing and accidental injuries that kept him from being the WWE Champion while he pretended he was one of the boys and did the right thing for business. That got him nowhere however and so after years of sacrifice he feels he has earned the right to be the champ and will beat Cena now that he finally has a chance, doing the right thing for himself. He wraps it up by saying he’s gonna beat John Cena’s ass and heads out. Short and sweet promo. Did everything he had to do.
Backstage, Vickie is getting yelled at by Vince for putting Daniel Bryan on the show despite being small and mentally unstable. This goes right along with rumors of Vince really thinking Bryan isn’t a big money guy. He’s also pissed that Vickie put Cena/Del Rio on free TV instead of PPV, which is something Trips doesn’t understand (Cena/Del Rio is a big money match?). He then threatens her by mentioning how he has fired and had people thrown out for not listening to him, and leaves Vickie shaking her head. Again, nothing we haven’t seen lately.
The third hour starts with CM Punk teaming with Curtis Axel to take on the Prime Time Players. Thankfully Axel has not gotten to the point where he is coming down the ramp tossing a towel over his back. After some arguing, Axel agrees to let Punk go first, but then after the bell rings Axel tags himself in and it is Curtis that starts off against Darren Young while Punk urges him to tag out. Axel takes down Young and then dropkicks O’Neil, all while Punk is pleading to get tagged in. Titus then starts to take control, taunting the crowd with “CM Punk” chants. Axel fights out of an abdominal stretch but can’t make it to his corner and O’Neil keeps taunting. Finally Axel gets a boot up on Titus in the corner and reaches Punk for the hot tag. He springboards Young and knees Titus out of the ring, clocking Darren with the high running knee and going up for the flying elbow. Punk connects with the GTS but has to hurl an oncoming Titus out of the ring. This brought him close enough to his corner for Axel to tag himself in and get record the pinfall to get credit for the win. This pisses off Punk, who yells at Heyman that he doesn’t need anyone’s help. That certainly seemed the case here.
Divas time as Alicia Fox makes a rare appearance to face Kaitlyn with Layla in her corner (all the people in the open seem to be showing up tonight). Trying to figure out what Layla is there for as Alicia hits a dropkick and works Kaitlyn in the corner. Fox lands a bridge suplex for a two count, but turns into a spear to give Kaitlyn a quick victory. AJ comes out immediately after the finish to talk some smack about Kaitlyn being trash, revealing a photoshopped modeling pic with Kaitlyn being turned into a fat cow. The whole thing fell pretty flat.
Backstage, Stephanie is now yelling at Vickie for not doing her job while Vickie is complaining about how everyone is pulling her in different directions. I’ll give you one guess how this ends. Steph comes off as a friend and then goes into corporate mode, informing her that next week she will have a job evaluation in the ring, where she can either be promoted to full time GM or be fired completely (or neither). Can’t wait to hate that next week.
Cody Rodes out to the ring with Damien Sandow, who declares that they will remain best friends after their MITB match that they are both in. Looking at the WHC MITB match, I’m now trying to figure out who the faces are. Cesaro, Sandow, Rhodes, Fandango, Ambrose, Barrett and Swagger. Not a face among them right? Although I’m plenty behind Sandow, Ambrose and Cesaro. Dean get enough fan support that he might as well be a face anyway. Rhodes will be facing Cesaro, who had his entrance preempted by Colter and his anti immigrant chatter, and it all leads into the return of Swags. So Colter now has a stable going as Swagger and Cesaro are united. So we now have 4 heels ringside as Cody and Cesaro shove each other in the face and then exchange moves. Cody tries to roll up Cesaro who instead jumps on Rhodes’ chest and sends him out of the ring. On the way back in, Cody drops Antonio’s throat on the top rope and tried to pin Cesaro, who rolled out of it and transitioned into the Neutralizer to win the match clean. How was there no interference with all these heels ringside? Very strange match to watch as no character had any positive qualities (unless you count Damien and Cody’s undying friendship).
After a cheap plug segment for the Total Divas reality show we are on to the main event, putting Alberto Del Rio against John Cena. ADR is back to wearing black, although he still doesn’t have his car gimmick back. Cena leads off with a hip toss and a chin lock which Alberto responds with a hip toss of his own and escapes the ring to regroup. I’m just happy that Cena hasn’t cut a promo tonight, instead just coming out to be in a match. What a concept. Del Rio gets back in and takes control with kicks in the corner, countered with a suplex and bulldog by Cena. Alberto then regains the momentum when he dodges Cena in the corner, leaving John’s shoulder to crash into the ringpost. Del Rio then hits a chop off the top rope onto the shoulder, yet back from break he has Cena in a chin lock. He takes him down and goes to the top rope again, where they repeat the spot Orton and Kane did better as Cena dropkicks Del Rio on the way down. Alberto dodges a shoulder block however and keeps the momentum as Cena is sent outside the ring. Cena then lifts up Del Rio but Alberto flips over him to connect on a back stabber. Cena escapes the arm breaker to hit to the five knuckle shuffle yet can’t hit the AA as Del Rio lands a German Suplex for a two count. Alberto then has his side kick blocked and gets dropped with a belly to belly suplex. There has been a back and forth pace as neither man has sustained offense for very long. Cena went to the top rope where Del Rio hit him with an enziguri for a two count. Del Rio went for it again but Cena ducked under it and went for the STF. Alberto escaped and hit a tilt a wirl back breaker for another two count. It’s looking like one of those matches where Cena wins for no reason other than being Cena. Del Rio sets Cena up in the tree of woe, but John pulls himself up as Alberto misses running into him, instead running into the ring post. Cena follows with a cross body splash and a two count. Del Rio then avoids the AA and goes for an arm breaker, but Cena slips out and applies the STF. At this point Mark Henry comes out and watches from ringside. Del Rio uses the distraction to try rolling up Cena but can’t get the win. Meanwhile Dolph Ziggler runs out and stands on the top rope. He catches Del Rio’s attention, giving Cena the opening to hit an AA to give John the win. Dolph walks off with a “who me?” look on his face and Henry grabs the WWE Championship and punks Cena by making it look like he is going to attack him with it. Instead, Henry tosses it on the floor on leaves, making Cena look scared. Decent match that does its job in pushing the stories along.
The show ends however with one final promo for the Wyatt family. I haven’t mentioned them as they are pre-edited segments, but they have really gotten a lot of chatter lately. They will make their debut next week, and I don’t have much of an idea what to expect. Today’s Raw didn’t have the awesome factor of the last few, but we’ll see how the go home show plays out next week heading into Money in the Bank.