Opening Segment w/ Money in the Bank All-Stars: Daniel Bryan came out and said that last week, the question was finally answered, and he is NOT the weak link. Does this mean he can ride this momentum and win the Money in the Bank match? Yes! He had the audience eating out of his hand here, and throwing his name out there with the greats, like Bruno Sanmartino, Hulk Hogan, and Steve Austin, made him seem like a big deal.
Sheamus then came out and argued that it’s been too long since he’s been champion. Orton was up next, reminding everybody he hasn’t been champion in two years, and that he’s “starving.” He said he wouldn’t hesitate to cash it in on the first champion he sees. Kane’s fire then hit, and said he has no problems committing unspeakable acts on his so-called “friends.” Christian said that he’s been gone for a while, but that he’s looking for “one more match”… for the WWE Championship. Punk walked out and said that he’s not only the best in the world, he’s the best at the MITB ladder match, and reminded everybody he’s won it twice already.
Fantastic segment to open the show. Seeing all these guys in the ring makes this match feel major league, and the constant camera focus on the briefcase itself reminded the audience what’s at stake. Furthermore, this cemented every competitor as a legitimate threat.
The Shield def. Christian and The Usos: I wasn’t really a big fan of these guys squaring off in a return match from Smackdown. That being said, everybody involved put together an enjoyable, if run-of-the-mill, segment. Both teams engaged in a series of early tags before The Shield needed to regroup outside the ring, and the show went to commercial. Afterwards, Jay Uso got a fair amount of offense, then tagged Christian in as everything broke down into chaos. After an assist from Rollins, Ambrose pinned Christian.
As a side-note, I’m not really a huge fan of WWE’s need to sometimes “balance the win/loss” scale. The Usos looked strong from their win on Friday Night, and losing here hurt their build.
Dolph Ziggler def. Jinder Mahal: Surprisingly entertaining match. Jinder Mahal got the early advantage, including a painful-looking kneelift, before Ziggler fought his way back in. From out of nowhere Ziggler hit the Zig-Zag and scored the pin. Afterwards, 3MB tried to triple-team Ziggler, before he snuck out of the ring and escaped relatively unharmed.
The match was short, but this was a solid next step in Ziggler’s ongoing face turn.
Mark Henry Retrospective: The Mark Henry retrospective was a great decision here. If you missed it, make sure to go back and watch it. An effective way to show how far he’s come while highlighting his dominant persona, and it further cemented his need to win the WWE Championship.
CM Punk and Paul Heyman w/ Curtis Axel Backstage Segment: CM Punk made it clear that he didn’t trust Axel, to which Heyman argued Punk should at least trust him. Entertaining way to build tension for their match against PTP.
Sheamus def. (returning) Fandango by count-out: Fandango danced around a little before being mocked by The Great White. Sheamus controlled most of the match, taking control early and using his traditional trope of power-slams and brutal punches. Fandango slowed it down in the middle with a modified sleeper/neck submission hold. When Sheamus finally regained control, Fandango just left rather than endure more abuse. The match was only okay, but this segment gets a pass because of Fandango’s return.
CM Punk and Curtis Axel def. Prime-Time Players: Punk and Axel argued over who would start the match, and Curtis Axel ended up tagging himself in. After Axel suffered a beat down at the hands of both Darren Young and Titus O’ Neil, CM Punk finally entered the match and took control. The fans finally (finally!) got a little more excitement going for ‘the best in the world.’ Punk hit Young with a GTS, but Axel tagged himself in and stole the pin.
The match was a little dead, but Punk finally got the fans off their rear-ends. Also, Axel gained a lot of heat for his sneaky tactics here, and Punk’s beef with Heyman was escalated in an effective way. Dull match, but good segment.
Antonio Cesaro def. Cody Rhodes: Damien Sandow hyped up his partner before the match, and Zeb Coulter did the same for Cesaro before announcing the return of Jack Swagger. Rhodes and Cesaro put together a short match that ultimately saw Cesaro win via the neutralizer. Even though the in-ring action was nothing to write home about, I appreciate the focus on Smackdown MITB. Narrowly made the “good” column tonight.
John Cena def. Alberto Del Rio, Champion vs. Champion: This match had a big-fight feel to it, thanks mostly to the hype and presentation by the WWE production team. Cena and Del Rio had a pretty even back-and-forth early on, and the crowd seemed hooked. After returning from a commercial, Alberto Del Rio was in firm control. John Cena hit a desperation drop-kick to get back into things, Del Rio eventually hit a running enziguri, but went for a second one, and finally found himself on the receiving end of a cross-body from the top rope. Del Rio attempted a cross-armbreaker, which Cena rolled through and turned into an STFU.
Then, Henry came out to the ring and interrupted Cena, almost giving Del Rio the win. However, Ziggler distracted Alberto Del Rio just long enough for Cena to hit the AA and get the pin.
After the match, Mark Henry took the WWE Championship and engaged in a stare-down with Cena, who did a great job of selling the moment. Overall, great match, and entertaining segment.
Kane def. Randy Orton w/Daniel Bryan as special guest referee: Slooooowwwww match. Orton got the upper-hand early, while Kane seemed to just lay around and get beat. Then they flipped spaces. Randy Orton eventually shoved Daniel Bryan, resulting in a disqualification until Kane demanded they re-start the match. After a commercial break, both guys tried to pick up the pace a little. Unfortunately, the match never recovered. Kane won after kicking Orton in the face and a quick-count by Bryan. After the match, Orton strikes Bryan with an RKO.
Overall, the match fell flat, and the segment as a whole felt too predictable.
The Miz def. Ryback when Ryback quit: Jericho joined at ringside on commentary. Miz and Ryback put together another slow, tedious match. These guys had zero chemistry. And unfortunately, The Miz teasing a figure-four leglock got a bigger reaction than anything else. Ryback asked the referee to stop the match because his knee hurt, and Jericho surprised him with a codebreaker afterwards. Nothing to see here… move along…
Mark Henry Promo: Sorry, I couldn’t hear Henry for the “What?” chants… Anyway, Henry complained a lot up front, and claimed he “earned the right” to be the WWE Champion. This felt too much like “been there, done that,” and unfortunately, these long-winded segments are killing this feud.
Vickie Guerrero/McMahons Backstage Segments: Vickie Guerrero was confronted by Triple H early in the night, who told her to only listen to him. Later, Vince cornered her and said she was “throwing money away” by putting the champion vs. champion match on free tv, and gave her a not-so-subtle threat. Stephanie played the sympathizing female, in a “business capacity.” The exact same thing we saw last week. Snooze.
Kaitlyn def. Alicia Fox: Fox attempted a lot of pinfalls. Then Kaitlyn got the sphere, and the win. AJ came out after the match and showed off some “modeling” pictures (i.e. Kaitlyn photoshopped on top of an obese body). Match wasn’t great, and the picture wasn’t funny.
“Classic Move” by Orton: Michael Cole apparently forgot his signature “vintage” catch
Nap Time: For the last two weeks, It’s started right in the middle of Raw’s second hour.