Last week, Vickie Guerrero was hired by Vince McMahon to be the permanent GM of Smackdown, just two weeks after being fired from her position on Raw. The whole thing is just a way to further evolve the power struggle between Triple H and Vince, but I’m just done with the whole GM thing. It loses even more steam when anyone in the back can make a match. Before Vickie took over on Friday (Tuesday, I know), Booker T, Teddy Long and Raw GM Brad Maddox all booked matches. It’s all just one big plot device that doesn’t require actual wrestling to push stories. It also appears that we’ve seen the last of Chris Jericho for a while as he’s on tour with Fozzy. We could see him back in time for the Royal Rumble, but either way I’d pencil him in for WrestleMania. More importantly, Big E almost did the impossible by breaking out of the friend zone and kissing AJ. Langston put on the brakes however and the awkwardness can continue would him and Kaitlyn.
As for the present, with the WWE going on tour to China, Australia and South Africa, tonight’s show will be the last live program until August 5th. So if anything big is on the horizon, I’d expect it to happen now so that it isn’t spoiled by those in attendance at the pre-recorded shows.
We kickoff tonight with Brad Maddox congratulating himself for letting Cena pick his opponent for Summerslam, and now we get Cena and Daniel Bryan signing their contracts. General Managers, paperwork being signed, the excitement just doesn’t stop. Cena comes out first and Maddox suggests that John only picked Bryan because he is so much smaller and therefore easier to defeat. Before Cena can retort, Bryan himself comes out to the ring. Maddox asks Bryan why he thinks John chose him, but Cena butts in to say Brad and the rest of the front office don’t look over Bryan because of his size, and if that is all that matters than Khali should be champion (already happened once). Cena mentions all the smaller guys like Michaels and Guerrero, before saying that he thinks Daniel earned his shot and deserves it, but warns that he won’t just hand it over. Cena signs the contract and says that Bryan is the best the WWE has to offer, but at Summerslam he’ll prove that the best isn’t good enough. Bryan signs the contract too and starts to talk when Maddox cuts him off and tries to end the segment. Bryan has none of it and starts talking about how he deserves this title shot. Maddox interjects, saying that there are still people in the WWE that don’t think he has earned it, but will put him in multiple matches to prove his worth. So the story so far seems to be all about Bryan being the underdog no matter how hard he tries (just a continuation of the weak link thing). Meanwhile I’m just waiting to see how the Bella’s get thrown in to this. With the Divas reality show and Bryan and Cena each dating a Bella they can’t miss this opportunity right?
The lead match tonight puts World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio against Sheamus, in a battle that just refused to end last year. I’m curious who Del Rio ends up facing at Summerslam, and had thought of Sheamus just because there doesn’t seem to be anyone else available. Del Rio focuses on a big bruise on Sheamus’ leg that he suffered at Money in the Bank. It looks like a giant ink blot. After Sheamus fights back however, ADR ignores it and focuses on the head for a while as Sheamus stops selling the leg injury. So that angle got wasted fast. Del Rio tries to apply the armlock hanging over the top rope, but Sheamus pulls him back up and punches him off the apron to the floor. Back from break, Sheamus is in control until Alberto hits a german suplex for a two count. Sheamus then dodges a kick to the head to hit a powerslam, with JBL noting that it would have been a back breaker if it wasn’t for the bad leg. The two start trading blows as Damien Sandow is shown watching from the back. Sheamus hits a kneelift and a jumping elbow, but Del Rio dodges a second power slam to hit a back stabber for two. Alberto then misses a dive into the ropes and gets his chest battered, followed by an Irish Curse backbreaker. Sheamus goes to the top rope but Del Rio runs up to hit him off with an enziguri for another two count. Sheamus then lands a rolling fireman’s carry but misses on the Brogue Kick and tweaks his leg injury. Sheamus further injuries himself attempting White Noise, buckling under the weight as Del Rio rolls him up by the bad leg for a victory via pinfall.
Backstage, Booker T and Teddy Long are being interviewed about Vickie taking over as GM of Smackdown. Booker said he was shocked, while Teddy takes offense to Booker abandoning him while Long held down Smackdown by himself, and took all of the abuse. Booker threatens to beat him up if he doesn’t shut his mouth, with Teddy criticizing Booker for resorting to violence first, saying that if he wasn’t going to remain Smackdown GM, then Vince made the right choice by not picking Booker either. Sounds like a Divas storyline,
Christian versus Titus O’Neil is next on the card in a match that is better suited for Superstars. I will give the Prime Time Players credit for having a cool shirt combining the whistle and the afro pick into one logo. Titus mocks Christian by clapping at the crowd as he overpowers Captain Charisma. After kicking him out of the ring, Titus carries Christian up the steps on his shoulder, then heaving him back into the ring over the top rope. O’Neil is dominating the match, even blowing the whistle while stomping him in the corner. Christian then comes back with a dropkick off the top rope. He goes for the Kill Switch but lets go to take out Darren Young. Young then goes for his finisher, only for Christian to escape, hit the Kill Switch, and win the match.
Backstage, Josh Matthews is interviewing Ryback about how he likes intimidating others. Ryback says he does, because he hates average and believes in the biggest animals getting to eat over the smaller ones. He then threatens Matthews until he pees his pants and runs off.
Mark Henry, fresh off his new three year contract and in his ring gear instead of a suit like last week, is out to the ring to talk about getting beat up by the Shield last week. He plays to the crowd by saying how he’s proud to be a Texan and proud of his effort against Cena, but not proud about how the Shield got the better of him. He says he’s not going to stand there and lull the crowd to sleep (someone finally said it) and challenges the Shield to come out and try it again. Sure enough, they show up and surround the ring. Henry barks at them to bring it and they attack him. Henry starts to get taken down when the Usos come out to assist. There is a very small pop and the Shield is cleared from the ring. Part of it could be Seth Rollins needing a second clothesline to get over the top rope, but I think it’s more about the Usos just not being over enough to generate a reaction from a run-in. It looks like Henry and the Usos will team up against the Shield at Summerslam. Meh.
Backstage, Cena is talking to Bryan about his multiple matches tonight, with Daniel telling John not to come out and help him, as he sees this as a chance to prove himself. Bryan says that if Cena comes out at any point to help him, it will prove that all the things Cena said about how tough and good Bryan is are full of crap. I’m not sure I like a face Bryan that is all calm and logical. Give me crazy Bryan back please.
Not to be out jobbed by his partner, Darren Young is now in singles action against DOLPH ZIGGLER! Dolph uses his speed to evade Young and couple times before hitting a standing dropkick. Young bounces back with a back body drop onto the top turnbuckle and takes control for a while. A lot of chin locks later and Ziggler starts his comeback by dodging Young running at him in the corner. Dolph starts hitting Darren from the top of the turnbuckle but Young counters with a reverse electric chair drop for a two count. After arguing with the ref, Young starts playing to the crowd when Dolph sneaks up from behind to hit the Zig Zag and win the match. Shortly after the pinfall, Big E and AJ run out to attack Ziggler, who ducks under the big clothesline and lowers the rope to send Langston out of the ring. Big E runs back in and Dolph runs out on the other side, heading up the ramp as Big E and AJ watch him leave while being all pissy in the ring. I’m curious how Big E does in a one on one feature match. So far he’s mostly just been good for run ins and a couple of tag matches. He’s have to carry his weight in a PPV singles match against Ziggler. I’m sure Dolph will manage most of the match though.
If you’ve been watching any WWE programming at all then you know about the Divas reality show debuting this week. They’ve been shoving the damn thing down our throats. To even further promote it, Miz TV has the whole cast, and the crowd can’t stop booing it. This blows. The one bit of information I took from it was Miz announcing that he’ll be the host of Summerslam this year. At least that means he doesn’t have a match, right? Miz decides to call Jerry Lawler to the ring to conduct the interviews. Lawler introduces himself to Eva Marie, who immediately takes the mic, says she wants to make a name for herself and slaps Lawler. So she’s a heel I guess. That’s how it ended. What a waste of time.
Backstage, Triple H is calling out Maddox, for letting Vince McMahon puts words in his mouth by saying he is too small to be champion. HHH says the only reason he didn’t come out and reverse his decision for Bryan’s matches is because he thinks Bryan is the future and will overcome this. He adds that there are two trains leaving the station (Triple H and Vince) and only one of them is going anywhere so he better make sure he’s on the right one. Steph then talks to him about how she has an idea to help him out, and will tell him about it once it is all worked out. My time is further wasted.
Damien Sandow at the announce table as Fandango faces Cody Rhodes, who still has beef with Damien for screwing him out of his MITB victory. Cody and ‘Dango exchange moves until Rhodes is dropped with a clothesline from the apron. The in ring action is average, but Sandow talking about how he was the better man and was thinking of allowing Cody to be his butler (but is taking that back because of how he is losing to Fandango) is great. Cody bounces back with a big moonsault that Fandango needs to run under so that Cody doesn’t break his neck. ‘Dango rolls out of the ring and Sandow goes to the apron to try distracting Cody. Fandango tries to attack to distracted Cody, but Rhodes steps aside, sending ‘Dango into Damien, taking them both out with a Disaster Kick and finishing off Fandango with Cross Rhodes to win the match while eyeing down Sandow, who is going up the ramp. Pretty blah match.
CM Punk out to the ring now to address the crowd following the attack he suffered last week from Brock Lesnar. He says that Lesnar hit him with his best shot until Punk was a broken heap ringside. Punk says that no matter how hard Lesnar hit him, he kept getting back up, and is still standing now. He says Brock can beat him down but he can not keep him down. CM talks up Lesnar by mentioning all of his accolades and accomplishments over WWE and UFC, saying that his biggest weapon was always putting fear into his opponents. Punk then says that he is not afraid of Brock Lesnar. Punk then says that Paul Heyman made the wrong decision by turning his back on him, and CM will make him pay for it and prove that the ring is his yard. He says he would have proved is against Lesnar last week if Heyman had not attacked him from behind for a second time. Punk promises that there will not be a third time and demands that he faces Lesnar at Summerslam, naming the match “The Best versus the Beast.” Paul Heyman then pops up via satellite, saying that heroes are either cowards that run out of options or fools that don’t know when to stay down. Heyman adds that Lesnar is in peak condition while Punk has several injuries. Paul then accepts Punk’s challenge for Summerslam, adding that the best is the beast, and that is Heyman’s best friend, Brock Lesnar. I hope he didn’t hurt Punk’s feelings. I’ve heard some people say that a stipulation is needed to make things a little more fair. I’d love to see this take a more MMA feel to it, although Punk’s words tonight suggest a last man standing match could be in order.
Rob Van Dam out next against Wade Barrett, who uses a sneak attack to try taking control early. After RVD kicked him out of the ring, Wade again takes advantage of Rob’s pandering to the crowd by pulling him down and taking back the momentum. After a series of big kicks, RVD hits a high kick in the corner, nails rolling thunder and a front flip off the top rope for two. Rob then reverses an irish whip to hit a spinning kick in the corner, leading to a five star frog splash that wins the match for Rob Van Dam. Quick match, as the others seem to be. The whole show so far seems to just be getting the marquee guys out there just to say they were there, leading to Daniel Bryan getting to close things out.
On to the aforementioned main event. Jack Swagger is the first one out, with Zeb Colter working a Maury “You are not the father” joke about Texas and Steve Austin (the historical figure, not the wrestler or the Six Million Dollar Man) before saying that Cena giving Bryan a title shot was a handout to someone less fortunate. Anyway Swagger starts off strong, overpowering Bryan with boots and shoulders as the crowd shouts “O-U Sucks” (Swags went to Oklahoma). Swagger then blocks a diving attack from Bryan with an elbow, mocks the crowd with an upside down Longhorn sign and hits a Swaggerbomb. Jack then tries to pull Bryan up, but Daniel applies the YES Lock (it’s YES Lock now right?) and gets Swagger to tap out to win the first match.
The second match is against Antonio Cesaro, who fortunately is already ringside. Once again, Bryan is getting worked over, taking an upper cut out of mid air and getting shoved hard into the turnbuckle. Bryan then taking Antonio down and teases the mexican surfboard, instead jumping up and stomping on both legs. Cesaro then came back with a suplex and locked in a chin lock. Bryan gets out, back flips over Cesaro and hits the jumping clothesline, following up with a flurry of kicks. Daniel misses the roundhouse and gets put into another chin lock. Bryan gets out of that and hits a pair of running dropkicks in the corner for a two count. Bryan goes to the top rope, but Swagger knocks him down into a Cesaro uppercut for another two count. Antonio continues the pressure with a jumping stomp and starts taunting Bryan with slaps to the head, and Daniel starts his comeback with a boot up on Cesaro running at him in the corner. Bryan hits a roundhouse kick to the head for two, and goes to the top rope where Antonio knocks him down. Cesaro stuns him with a jumping uppercut and goes for a suplerplex. Bryan fights him off twice, putting Cesaro in the tree of woe to lands a running dropkick. Bryan then lifts him back up to attempt a back body drop from the top rope. Cesaro countered however by shifting his weight onto Bryan, and got a two count. It’s a nice surprise essentially giving Cesaro the main event match on Raw. The two trade uppercuts until Cesaro hits a huge flury of them in a row, culminating in one final blow that garners yet another two count. What looked like a sidestep of a match is turning out to be really good. Bryan escapes the Neutralizer and starts pummeling him with elbows, throwing Antonio out of the ring and taking both Swagger and Antonio out with a dive through the ropes. Bryan brings Cesaro into the ring but misses on a top rope move. Cesaro then throws Daniel into the air to attempt another big uppercut, but Bryan turns it into a small package out of nowhere to win the match. That was really good. Bryan was great of course, but Cesaro really showed how good he can be.
Next for Daniel Bryan? Ryback. Bryan attacks quickly with kicks and knees, but gets taken down with one big punch. Daniel tries to fight back but is taken down each time with one big hit. Ryback puts a foot on Bryan and chants YES! to the crowd. He then taunts the crowd more as they chant “you can’t wrestle at him.” Bryan escapes a reverses a Lou Thesz press into a half crab that is broken when Ryback reaches the ropes. Ryback continues to dominate with a splash and a spine buster, setting up for the Meathook Clothesline. Bryan counters with a running knee however, following by a couple of running dropkicks in the corner. Ryback avoids a third with a falling clothesline for a two count. Ryback then pulls out a table, setting it up on the outside when Bryan knocks him into the announce table with a dive through the ropes. They both make it into the ring and Bryan hits a flurry of kicks to the chest. Ryback ducks under the roundhouse and goes for a powerbomb that Bryan turns into a victory roll for a two count. Ryback then avoids the YES Lock, only to get toe dragged into the corner and hit with a flying missal dropkick for a two count. Daniel quickly follows up by applying the YES Lock in the middle of the ring. Ryback drags himself to the rope to break the hold and rolls out of the ring. Daniel tries to pursue with a running knee off the apron but Ryback catches him and power bombs him into the floor. Ryback then powerbombs him through the table, giving Bryan the victory via DQ. It looked like Ryback was going to do more damage when Cena comes out to beat Ryback away. As Ryback is escaping, Cena challenges him to a Tables match that Ryback accepts. So that will happen next week (even though it has been happening as a dark match for over a month now after Raw). Quick cut to backstage where Vince McMahon has Maddox book Bryan in a match against his best buddy Kane, and the show closes with Bryan celebrating with the crowd.
This weeks Raw was just kind of going through the motions until the Cesaro/Bryan match. Everything else was breezed over up to that point. Quick matches, quick interviews. This week, Raw really felt like it wanted to only be two hours long. Maybe I was spoiled by last week’s incredible Raw, but this on was pretty disappointing. I expect more of the same on next week’s pre-recorded show.