We’ve reached the Raw before Summerslam and there still seems to be some work to do on the card. First off, why isn’t Rob Van Dam on it? There is word that he’ll face Cesaro in the pre-show but is that why they brought him back? Considering the World Heavyweight Championship match has Alberto Del Rio (yawn) against Christian (double yawn), I feel like there is a missed opportunity here. It doesn’t help that Christian already beat ADR clean in a 20 minute match last week on Smackdown so what is the point of doing it at all now? Aside from that we can also expect the Big Show, who returned over the weekend in a house show, to join Mark Henry against the Shield. He will need to pick up the slack for Sheamus, who will be out 4-6 months after suffering a torn labrum in his left shoulder at Money in the Bank, an injury that has nothing to do with his disgusting thigh bruise. Finally, we need to take notice of the fact that Randy Orton is not scheduled to have a match, which means that he is extremely likely to at least attempt to cash in his MITB briefcase after the Cena/Bryan match.
Speaking of Bryan, he comes out first waving a YES towel that was handed out to the crowd (and will likely also be present at Summerslam) for his match against Wade Barrett, with Raw GM Brad Maddox as guest referee. Last week, Barrett was supposed to shave Bryan’s beard at the request of Vince McMahon, but Bryan shaved Wade’s beard instead (I’m still not sure why). Between these two and Cody and Sandow, there is a lot of facial hair discussion in the WWE right now. Daniel controls things early with drop kicks and low kicks and other foot related moves. Outside the ring, Barrett ducks under a running knee off the apron and hit a big boot to steal some momentum. Bryan does his backflip into a jumping clothesline to regain control, hitting the dive through the ropes on the outside and a missal dropkick. Daniel misses a roundhouse kick however, which Barrett turned into a rollup pin for a victory after Brad Maddox clearly quick counted (can’t say I didn’t see that coming). So Barrett celebrates his win while Bryan threatens to go after Maddox who eventually makes a quick exit. Solid match that is a better open than almost any monologue open ever.
This is followed by another match as the two MITB winners, Damien Sandow and Randy Orton, square off with Cody Rhodes at the announce table. Sandow handcuffs his new brown briefcase to the ring post so that Cody can’t steal it again. Orton is still a face at the moment, but that heel turn seems to be just days away from going full force. They exchange moves as Rhodes talks about the briefcase looking like it is made of chocolate while having no real defense for being a sore loser for attacking Sandow after Damien won fair and square at Money in the Bank. He even said he would probably have done the same thing if he was in the same position. WHY CAN’T THEY JUST BE BESTIES AGAIN! The match meanwhile is whatever. One move at a time with no pacing, and no energy from the crowd. At least there is a guy holding up a giant print of his high school photo to look at. Sandow hits the elbow of disdain and is furious when he doesn’t get a 3 count, which he has never gotten ever. Cole gives him the Del Rio treatment, talking about how much more aggressive Damien is. Orton powers out of a chin lock with a back body drop and goes for a power slam, only Sandow sees it coming and counters with a swinging neck breaker for a two count. Damien then runs at Randy from the corner and does get power slammed and eventually DDT’d from the second rope. Orton goes for the RKO but Sandow slips out of the ring. Orton pursues and gets tosses into the ringpost. Sandow brings him back in the ring, but not before he taunts Rhodes. So Cody then tries to take the handcuffed briefcase from the ringpost, distracting Sandow long enough for Orton to hit an RKO to win the match. Nothing special from Randy and Damien, while opposite momentum theory says Rhodes now has zero chance to beat Sandow.
Backstage the Shield are talking about all the older wrestlers being has-beens while the Shield is the new generation that is taking over. Reigns and Rollins make an open challenge to any two men who think they can take their tag team titles, while Ambrose says that CM Punk is just saying a catchphrase because he is the “best in the world” and Cena’s belt is just a trophy because his belt is the one people run from. He wraps it up by saying that unless Andre the Giant’s ghost is in tonight’s 20 man battle royal to determine his opponent, then Ambrose will not lose at Summerslam. Awesome promo despite looking like it was shot in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ sewer lair.
After a prerecorded (and pretty good) promo from Brock Lesnar about how he is bigger and better than Punk, CM Punk (sporting some rough stitches on his chin) is interviewed about his match tonight against Paul Heyman. He says Heyman is playing a big chess game by challenging Punk at Raw, and he expects Brock to show up at some point.
Ugh boy. Khali and Natalya are out with Hornswaggle for a mixed tag match against Big E Langston and AJ. I guess we’ll see if AJ and Langston, who will face Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn at Summerslam, are good enough to make a Khali match interesting. It sucks that Dolph isn’t even in the title picture right now. Especially after he was robbed of his title run by the concussion. Langston and Khali were supposed to start but thankfully, AJ asked to be tagged in, forcing Khali out. Khali looks completely dumbfounded as AJ walks up to him and slaps him in the face. Natalya then grabs her from behind and goes on the attack. AJ slides out of snake eyes to hit a round house kick and take control. After working Natalya for a while, she goes over to Hornswaggle and tries to kick him. Natalya uses the distraction to apply the sharpshooter for about 3 seconds, getting up for no reason right before AJ taps. Since nothing was actually happening the ref doesn’t end the match, leaving Natalya walking around the ring like a dope. She even grabs the refs hand so that he can raise it, only to have to go back to AJ, apply the hold again and get a legit tap out to end the match for real. What a train wreck. This is why people can’t stand the Divas division. At least we didn’t have to Khali wrestle. After the match, Langston attack Khali from behind and tosses Hornswaggle aside. Big E then goes after the Pujabi again, who meets him with a big chop to send Langston out of the ring. I wish I could have those five minutes back. I could have spent time with my son!
Vince McMahon out to the ring wearing a bad ass maroon blazer and hopping around like it was ten years ago. He addresses the finish of the Bryan/Barrett match and brings out Brad Maddox. Vince first asks why Maddox appointed himself as ref, which Brad replied was because Bryan’s match tend to get out of hand and he wanted to make sure there was someone out there with the guts to make the right decision. McMahon brings up the fast count, which Maddox credits being due to rust, as he had not refereed in a while and did the best he could. Vince said there is no need to apologize if he did his best. Brad responds by asking to referee the Bryan/Cena Summerslam match as a way to redeem himself (a lot of similar “r” words in that sentence). McMahon asks Maddox if he would officiate the match down the middle, he says he would (even crossing his heart), and that’s enough for Vince as he is set to name Maddox as the referee. Before he can get the words out however, Triple H comes out to stop him. Triple H agrees with Vince that you need somebody to take charge of the match and play it down the middle without being intimidated, however he disagrees that Maddox is that guy and names himself as the special guest referee. He punctuates the decision by dropping Maddox with a Pedigree as Vince storms off. Last time Trips was a ref he unknowingly cost Cena his match against CM Punk two Summerslams ago. I doubt the finish to Cena/Bryan will be clean.
Kane out to the ring next to take on Titus O’Neil. Kane will face Bray Wyatt in a ring of fire match, in which the ring will be surrounded by fire (duh) just to keep the rest of the family out of the ring. So I guess that means no rope work? Kane is scheduled to get some time off to film a movie and whatever republican stuff he wants to do so setting him on fire would be an appropriate way to write him off for a while and build up the Wyatts. Meanwhile this match is all Kane, as he stares down Darren Young while hitting a chokeslam to secure the victory. That doesn’t matter much as it’s all about the Wyatt’s, who comes out right after the decision. When the light come back on, the family is in the ring ready to attack, but Kane is behind them on the ramp instead. He sets the ring on fire as Bray laughs like a maniac. This ought to be an interesting match. Don’t know if it will be good, but it will be interesting.
Backstage, a Total Divas match was set up as Natalya challenged Brie Bella to a match at Summerslam. Nikki and Eva Marie will be in Brie’s corner while the Funkadactyls are in Natalya’s. Brie slapped Natalya to return the favor from last week and end the segment, as I am left to wonder how likely the match will get cut from the show.
In the ring, Kofi Kingston and his pants are facing World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio. Kofi has all the momentum early until Alberto pushes Kingston down on the corner, puts him in the tree of woe and attacks his midsection with some kicks. He follows up with a reverse suplerplex for a two count, and Cole is back in his habit of saying that this is a new, aggressive Alberto Del Rio. I think he is required to say that going into every pay per view. Kofi dodges Del Rio running at him and gets going with a Boom Drop. He misses Trouble in Paradise however and Del Rio connects with a tilt-a-wirl back breaker. ADR then goes for a sidekick but Kofi pulls out an SOS for a two count. Del Rio then plays possum, gets his knees up to block a cross body splash to lead into a cross arm breaker and win via submission. Quick but entertaining match.
Backstage, Christian talks about overcoming injuries to get to where he is now and that after beating Del Rio at Smackdown he proved that he only needs “one more match” to win the World Heavyweight Championship for the third time. Alberto then walks in and says, in spanish, that there will be no more matches for him after Summerslam. I’m happy to say that I figured that out on my own before Cole translated for us. Either way I still hate that this match is happening.
We return to the ring with the Usos taking on the Real Americans for the third time in four weeks, with this being the rubber match. Cesaro and Swagger work Jay(?) in the early portion of the match, with a Swaggerbomb followed up by Cesaro leapfrogging Swags to stomp on Jay. Outside the ring, Zeb Colter is seen getting flipped off by a fan as Swagger drops Jay into a Cesaro uppercut in the closest thing you’ll see to a 3D in wrestling these days. Jay hits a Cesaro with a knee to allow Jimmy to come in on a hot tag and drop Swagger with a couple of leaping chops and a Samoan drop, as Cesaro pulled out Swagger to avoid a pinfall. The Usos then leaped over the top rope to splash into them, setting up a really good finish. Jimmy set up Swagger in the ring for a top rope splash but Colter was distracted the ref. Cesaro then tried to push Jimmy off the top rope but Jay landed a superkick on Antonio from in between Jimmy’s legs. Swagger then got up and tried to attack Jimmy, who tagged Jay before jumping over Swags, and Jay rolled up the unsuspecting Jack for the win. Very good tag team match.
Miz TV starts the third hour with John Cena and Daniel Bryan as his guests. Bryan is happy that Triple H stood up to Vince so that he and Cena can have the match they deserve. Cena told Miz this segment is usually a train wreck before agreeing with Daniel. Cena says there is no underlying issue between himself and Bryan, saying the only issues between them is that he has the belt and Bryan wants it, saying Daniel will put up a hell of a fight. Miz takes that as code for telling Bryan he’s going to lose, and turns it into Cena saying he chose Bryan to get cheers from the crowd and pick up an easy win. Daniel wants to know why people like Cena think all he can do is put up a hell of a fight. Bryan says Cena is out to grab the spotlight and that is why he doesn’t watch TV. He says Cena is in it for the fame and not for the wrestling. Bryan explains that his “The Beard Is Here” shirt is a parody of Cena’s “The Champ Is Here” shirt because Bryan thinks Cena is a parody of wrestling, and he wants to be the champion so that everyone knows that there is nobody better than Danel Bryan. Bryan is on right now. For some reason, Cena responds by taking his shirt off before stopping himself, saying Bryan almost got him (got him how?). Cena says he is out there for the same reason as Bryan, for the fans. Cena said something about the fans believing in wrestlers and causing the wrestlers to give their all or something that gives him another excuse to talk about how loyal he is to his fans and how he shows up every day despite all the people who don’t like him. He adds that he has been “wrestling” for 12 years now and unlike Bryan he has done so with the WWE Championship while beating the best in the business including Triple H, The Rock, Batista, Orton, Michaels and Punk. Bryan cuts him off saying he mentions all of those names like they are so much better than him. Cena responds by saying Bryan isn’t in their class, which pisses off Bryan and gets the biggest reaction from the crowd. Cena says Bryan will only have his respect if he can beat him. Bryan then said that statement proves that Cena doesn’t respect him or treat this like his matches against those other men. Bryan says since Cena has won the title 11 times that he can’t understand Bryan’s hunger to win it just once, and that while to Cena this is just another Summerslam, this is the biggest match of Bryan’s life. Daniel then explains a custom he learned in Japan where one wrestler would slap another as hard as possible to fire up his opponent to get the most out of him. Bryan then says he wishes he could do that to Cena now, but he is not a wrestler and doesn’t deserve it (OH SNAP). Cena then begs Daniel to slap him, even slapping Bryan in the face. Daniel has a big smile on his face as he refuses to slap him back and that was really good. Triple H comes out to basically pose between them, and Randy Orton comes to the stage to show that he has the MITB briefcase. This easily could have ended the show, but it looks like it will be Punk versus Heyman. As much as I loved the slapping part, I’m left wondering how appropriate it is for a guy known for only having five moves also seems to only have one point when cutting a promo. John Cena is loyal to his fans, loves the WWE and will fight everyday because of them. Got it.
Fandango out next for a match against R-Truth, and after Truth danced in the ring, ‘Dango had his music come back on so that he can prove he’s the better dancer. Truth then danced to his music again only Fandango to attack him from behind. Truth fights back, beats ‘Dango out of the ring and the match never starts. At least it was quick.
Backstage, Paul Heyman is taping up his wrists (while still in a suit) for his match against Punk. He then tells Axel that he thinks he’s having second thoughts. The tape job looks pretty good at least.
Time for the 20 man over the top rope battle royal for the United States title shot. Among the competitors are RVD, Tensai, Brodus Clay, 3MB, Mark Henry and Ryback. There are 12 more guys of course but these are the only ones that had their entrances televised. Justin Gabriel was the first to be eliminated as he was gorilla pressed out by Ryback, who then clotheslined Darren Young and Tensai out. It’s really hard to watch as it’s just chaos starting with all 20 men in at once. 3MB tosses out Jimmy(?) Uso. It’s really boring and the crowd is dead. Truth tossed out Fandango, but Fandango got pissed and ran back in to toss out Truth (which shouldn’t count but it does). Van Dam then eliminated Fandango for the second time, but Fandango wasn’t as mad at RVD so he didn’t go back in. Khali eliminated all of 3MB during the break, but he was shoved out by Ryback. Brodus was also thrown over somehow. Cesaro and Swagger took out the other Uso and RVD took out Titus O’Neill with a superkick and a clothesline. Kofi pulled off maybe his best floor is lava move yet as Swagger tossed him over the top rope, but Kingston lept over Cesaro who was on the apron, in what looked like a sunset flip. Kofi held on to Cesaro’s legs while Cesaro held on the rope, with Kofi’s feet just barely avoiding the floor so that he can slide back in. Kingston took on both Swagger and Cesaro for a minute before finally getting eliminated but that was great.
RVD then started taking out the Real Americans with kicks, but when he went for Rolling Thunder, Ryback met him with a meathook clothesline. Ryback and Wade Barrett then worked on RVD while Cesaro and Swagger briefly had Henry up. Mark powered out of it however and eliminated them both, and followed up by eliminating Barrett too. Ryback then grabs Henry by the throat but Mark lifts him over the top rope, putting him on the apron. RVD stuns him with a spinning kick and Henry knocks him to the floor, leaving Mark Henry and Rob Van Dam as the last two men. RVD hits a roundhouse kick and goes to the top rope, but Henry shakes the rope to drop him to the apron. Van Dam then lowers the top rope as Henry is running at him to send Mark to the floor, giving RVD the title shot. Really rough match to watch until the last five minutes or so. After the match, Henry went back in and gave RVD a fist bump, then stayed in as the Shield came out and surrounded the ring. They were just about to attack when the Big Show (wearing the world’s largest jeans) comes out to join the faces in the ring, causing the Shield to retreat. The segment ended rather abruptly but all signs still point to Show and Henry challenging Rollins and Reigns for the tag titles.
Main event time as Paul Heyman takes on CM Punk. Heyman has no music and walks out in his suit minus a jacket and tie. Paul gets in the ring and blames the fans for chanting Punk’s name and causing Punk to feel like he doesn’t need Heyman’s admiration anymore. Since the fans took Punk from Heyman, Heyman is going to take Punk away from the fans. Paul admits what everybody already knew, saying that this match is a trap for Punk. He says put this plan together with Brock Lesnar, who he calls out to the ring. The trap works in its simplicity, as Heyman will fight Punk with Brock on his side, and Punk won’t be smart enough to not show up because he is the hero and needs the approval of the fans. Heyman calls out for Punk, asking if he is the smart coward or the stupid hero. Sure enough, Punk’s music hits. But while Heyman and Lesnar watch the stage, Punk sneaks up from crowd and attacks Brock with a TV camera. After laying him out he bashes him some more with a chair, finally going after Heyman. Punk chases Paul up the ramp, taking out Curtis Axel who tries to stop him. Heyman escapes as Punk hits Axel with a GTS, and poses from the stage as Lesnar is still down by the ring to end the show. On paper it made more sense to end things with this segment, but Bryan and Cena really should have ended the show. Especially with the way it ended.
Overall Summerslam was pretty well set up. Everything that had to happen happened, and Triple H’s addition threw some last minute (albeit unnecessary) juice to the main event. There is a lot to like about the PPV, I just hope they don’t sacrifice too much time from the undercard for the two main events.