Show opened with the long intro, and traditional fireworks. Finally!
Opening Segment w/Stephanie McMahon: Stephanie was in the ring, and she reminded everybody of her ambitious idea to transform Daniel Bryan to somebody Vince McMahon might like. The camera cut to a spa scene and showed D-Bry getting papmered. Next, there was a montage of Bryan working out and getting pumped. He then went to a Texas Roadhouse and ATE MEAT (because apparently corporate champions are required to break their vegan vows). Finally, the last clip showed him at a tailor getting fitted for a designer suit.
RAW went back to the arena as Stephanie introduced us to the new Daniel Bryan. The audience chanted “No!”. Bryan came out with his hair slicked back, wearing a suit and tie, and Stephanie turned the show over to him. Bryan said he wanted to thank Stephanie for all the time and effort. However, he said he doesn’t think this is what the company actually wants. What the company ACTUALLY wants is somebody who’s jacked, who wears a bright yellow t-shirt, and who can sell a lot of merchandise.
Bryan put over John Cena as being a “superstar,” and asked how anybody like himself could beat Cena, who has been king of the mountain for 10 years. He said, “I’ll tell you how” – Cena is an ENTERTAINER, but Bryan is a WRESTLER. Nice. Cue the “Yes!” chants. Bryan used the term “wrestling” a few dozen times, and said that he’s going to wear the suit…for now… but at SummerSlam, he’s going to do what everybody else wants him to do, and make Cena tap.
“No Chance in Hell” hit as Vince swaggered down to the ring. He picked on Bryan’s blue suit with brown shoes, before saying that he wants Bryan to be champion even less than Cena.”We’ve never had a troll for a WWE Champion!” Vince said that Bryan’s makeover needed one more thing, then gestured to Bryan’s beard. He said Bryan needs to shave his beard if he really wants McMahon’s support. Backstage crew brought out a barber chair as the crowd chanted “No!”
Bryan walked outside the ring and sat in the chair. Vince called out somebody who is “well-groomed” to trim Bryan’s beard – Wade Barrett (I think Wade Barret is just happy to be on tv). Just as Barrett was about to shave Bryan’s beard, Bryan headbutted him and tossed him in the chair. He grabbed the clippers and shaved part of Barrett’s beard before running up the ramp. “You want me to change? No!” He said he was going to stay true to himself, and still beat Cena for the championship. He then stripped off his suit to reveal a “The Beard is Here!” shirt, like Cena’s “The Champ is Here” shirt.
Rating: Good - Loved the energy here by Bryan. He gave the reasons a fan to question his allegiance, but at the same time sold himself like a true contender. I especially liked his over-usage of the term “wrestling.” Fun opening.
Rob Van Dam def. Alberto Del Rio - Ricardo Rodriguez is back! That’ll teach him for taking fat burners. The Miz also joined on commentary to sell his hosting duties for SummerSlam. Van Dam took control early, and the camera backstage showed Christian standing around watching the match. RVD hit a springboard moonsault to the outside as the show went to commercial.
After the break, Del Rio finally had things going his way. However, Rodriguez put the spit bucket in the corner, and Van Dam tossed Del Rio into it head first. This game him the chance for the quick pin.
After the match, Alberto Del Rio super-kicked RR, and beat him repeatedly with the spit bucket. He wedged Rodriguez’s head between the ring-post and steel stairs, and drop-kicked the stairs. The fans booed him louder than in his entire WWE run so far.
Rating: Good - I like what they did here. While the match was a little too short, and I hate to see Del Rio continually lose since he’s the World Heavyweight Champion, the post-match beatdown was a fun surprise turn. Question: What does this mean for RR future in WWE?
Segment with Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow - Cody Rhodes quoted Oscar Wilde before gesturing to a “gift” he had for Damien Sandow. He pulled a rough looking Money in the Bank briefcase, still leaking water, from a cardboard box. Cody told Sandow that if he wants it, he should come get it. Sandow came down and told Cody to put the briefcase down and leave. Just as Sandow was going for it, Cody beat him down. He opened up the briefcase and pulled out a very wet, disintegrating piece of paper – the contract. The show focused on the soggy blue briefcase before cutting to commercial.
Rating: Good - While I felt like something was missing here – a challenge for SummerSlam, a stipulation for their feud, something – I’m still glad this feud got a spot on the card. These guys have done wonders with this storyline.
Mark Henry def. Ryback via count-out - The match started out to a chorus of “booring” chants. Both men went into a collar-elbow tie-up before exchanging in a struggle for power. When Henry threw Ryback to the mat, Ryback simply left the ring, and endured the count-out loss.
Rating: Bad - The match was useless. Also, haven’t we seen Ryback leave in a dozen other matches up to this point? Shouldn’t he be fired for not doing his job?
Backstage, The Bellas, that new red-head chick from Total Divas, and Natalya all argued about something. Who knows? Guess WWE has to promote its product.
Segment w/ John Cena - Cena said he heard what Bryan had to say earlier in the night. He brought back his “gangsta Cena” persona as he criticized Bryan for judging his lifestyle. He said that The Rock, CM Punk, etc. have all done it before. He called out Bryan for glorifying wrestling anywhere outside of WWE. WWE is the NFL. Cena begged Daniel Bryan to keep underestimating him, like everybody else there in attendance, like everybody before. He argued that if Bryan loses, he’ll have to concede that he’s not actually the best. “My time is now.”
Orton’s music hit as the announcers stupid asked if Orton was Cashing in. He said it doesn’t matter who wins the title at SummerSlam, because all that matters is Money in the Bank. Orton said, “the Champ is here,” and held up his briefcase. The Shield’s music hit.
Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns surrounded the ring (welcome back, guys!). Bryan ran out to the ring to even things up… and, of course, Brad Maddox came out to pull a ‘Teddy Long’ and turn things into a six-man tag match for the main event.
Rating: Good - I liked a lot about this segment. Cena sounded serious again, Orton was a fun surprise, and this all built to a logical conclusion with the main event. However, it still bothers me to no end that Cena falls in and out of his Massachusetts accent so easily.
The Wyatt Family def. Tons of Funk - They’re finally starting to call the Wyatt Family members by their name. This “battle of the big men” was about what you’d expect – a giant brawl, quick victory, and awkward ‘wrestling’ in-between. After the match, Bray Wyatt marched to the ring and finished off Brodus Clay. Bray took the microphone and claimed that Kane is no demon, but just a fairy tale. “Follow the buzzards.”
Just as the show was cutting to commercial, Kane’s ugly mug popped up on the TitanTron. He told Wyatt that while Wyatt does the things he does – dismantle, disfigure, etc. – to send a message, that Kane does them for fun. He promised to settle things with Wyatt at SummerSlam in a “ring of fire.”
Rating: Good - Yet again, another pointless match tonight. However, Kane’s fantastic promo after the match really sold things with Bray Wyatt, and I’m pumped to see these two lock “horns” at SummerSlam.
Layla def. Kaitlyn - Layla looked weak in the early going, but Kaitlyn was suckered into a distraction by AJ. This let Layla capitalize for the win.
Rating: Bad - Seriously, this match was weak. Layla just looked stupid in the early going, and then Kaitlyn looked even dumber by getting distracted from a skipping AJ AGAIN. She should create a “We make the same stupid mistakes every week on RAW” club with Ryback.
Christian def. Heath Slater - Thanks to an early distraction, Heath Slater looked strong on offense. However, it was short lived. Just as Slater was dancing and celebrating his dominance, Christian hit the Sphere and gained the victory.
Rating: Bad - Meh, short match. They should’ve given Christian a microphone and let him put over the importance of the World Heavyweight Championship. Instead, consider this a wasted segment.
Punk vs. Curtis Axel ends in DQ - As Axel was entering, Punk met him at the top of the ramp to start the attack. They eventually fought back down to the ring. Axel started things off with a couple of chops, but Punk reversed an irish whip attempt to get back into it. The fans shouted his name as RAW cut to a commercial.
After the break, Axel was in firm control, and held Punk in a headlock on the mat as Paul Heyman came out to ringside.Things slowed down quite a bit. Eventually, Punk put Axel in the corner, and nailed his patented running-knee. Axel slipped in a running kneck-breaker, but Punk kicked out of a pin attempt. He walked over to ringside and grabbed Paul Heyman, and for some reason the ref called for the bell.
Just as Punk was about to get an ounce of revenge, Lesnar’s music hit and he marched out to ringside. Both men engaged in a brutal back-and-forth brawl. Punk got the upper-hand by ramming Brock Lesnar into the ringpost, and hitting him with a flying clothesline. Both men fought back inside the ring, where Punk smacked Lesnar with a steel-chair, then set his sights on Heyman. Lesnar grabbed the chair and laid Punk out with an F5, with Heyman screaming “hurt him!” from the corner.
Rating: Good - The fans in attendance loved the match – at least, they loved it a lot more than me. I was, however, digging the post-match brawl between Punk and Lesnar. Punk getting the upper-hand at first made him seem like a threat to Lesnar, whereas Lesnar finishing the segment on top cemented the crowd’s desire to see Punk win. Good stuff.
After the match, Heyman, Lesnar, and Axel stood backstage and cut a promo. Heyman said that Punk might not make it to SummerSlam. He then challenged Punk to a one-on-one match next week on RAW.
Kofi Kingston def. Fandango - Welcome back, Kofi Kingston! He debuted with a sweet looking pair of long tights, and seemed energized for a fight. He matched Fandango’s dancing moves with a few “Boom-Boom” claps of his own. After a brief back-and-forth, Kofi hit the Trouble in Paradise to score the victory.
Rating: Good - It’s good to see Kofi again. I also thought this match was fun for the short while it lasted. However, why did WWE feel the need to bring him back on such a crowded night?
Backstage Segment w/ Stephanie and Triple H - Stephanie came in with one of the worst “fake cries” in the history of fake crying. She said that her dad chewed her out over the failed makeover segment. Triple H cut an intense promo, saying that Vince has totally lost it. Triple H said he wasn’t going to let Vince sink this ship. Whatever Vince has planned for SummerSlam, he promised to stop it.
The Usos vs. The Real Americans - Zeb Coulter cut another promo on being a “Real American” or something, blah blah blah. As The Usos made their entrance, the announcers made sure to not let another opportunity to talk about Rikishi pass them by (seriously, are these guys gonna ever escape the shadow?).
The action in this one moved along at a snail’s pace, and Swagger made sure to over-telegraph his every move. Finally, Swagger hit Jimmy Uso with a punch from the outside, which let Cesaro score with the neutrailizer, and the pin.
Rating: Bad - The timing on this just feels off. I thought The Usos were deep in a feud with The Shield? I’m glad the company wants to push “The Real Americans,” but I think pulling the rug out just as The Usos were starting to get a little momentum is leaving money on the table.
Big E Langston def. Dolph Ziggler- Ziggler and Big E put together a five-minute back-and-forth contest that saw both men get the advantage, and lose it again. Then, Kaitlyn came out to confront AJ from her actions earlier in the night. However, AJ ran to the ring, distracting Dolph Ziggler and giving Big E the chance to hit his finisher. He won via pinfall.
Rating: Bad - I just can’t help but think of a dozen different ways this could have been handled better. As it stands, it feels overbooked.
Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, and John Cena def. The Shield via DQ - WIth only about 10 minutes left on the show, these guys barely have enough time to get things started. Bryan looked dominant in the early going, before Ambrose took control, and then tagged in Reigns to continue the beatdown. A “Lets Go Cena/Cena Sucks!” chant broke out in the arena. The Shield kept Bryan in the corner as they tagged in-and-out amongst themselves. As Rollins went for the rollup pin, Bryan switched it into a “Yes! Lock.” However, Ambrose and Reigns interfered, forcing the ref to call for the bell.
After the match, Orton hit Bryan with an RKO. He and Cena fought off The Shield before Orton hit Cena with an RKO as well. Just when it looked like Randy Orton was ready to cash in his Money in the Bank contract, The Shield came down to finish things off. The show closed with Bryan and Cena laid out in the ring, and Orton looking on from the ramp.
Rating: Good - While the match was too short to get good, the segment really worked as a whole. Bryan looked strong here. Likewise, this gave The Shield back a little of their momentum. Seeing Orton RKO both Bryan and Cena put his motivations in doubt, and gave the fans the first signs of a potential heel-turn for Orton’s character. Great ending to an entertaining show.
Did tonight’s Raw meet your expectations? What do you think of the new WWE Raw Rundown format? Sound off in the comments below, or let me know on twitter @therealwiseman.