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Tonight, live on USA Network, WWE Raw is bringing a lot of hype with two major matches. First, CM Punk sent out a tweet over the weekend accepting Curtis Axel’s challenge from Friday Night Smackdown. Also, WWE.com is advertising Alberto Del Rio vs. Rob Van Dam in what might be a prelude to an eventual Championship match-up at Night of Champions.
Show kicks off LIVE from Phoenix, Arizona, with The Shield standing guard in front of the ring.
Triple H’s music hit, and he made his way down to the ring. Michael Cole put over other superstars who have felt the “wrath” of Triple H.
Triple H said he wanted to take us back to SummerSlam, the “beginning of the future.” The clip shows Bryan celebrating before being screwed by Triple H and Randy Orton. Triple H came back on and said it was business. He then showed a clip from the end of Raw last Monday, with the McMahon family standing over a downed Bryan. Triple H said that was personal. He said he beat Bryan down because of Bryan’s actions. Triple H said that Bryan made it personal when he insulted Stephanie, and the rest of Triple H’s family. He said he was willing to be a business man, but the choice is Bryan’s.
Triple H then brought up ratings. “Through the roof!” He discussed TV, social media, everything, and said business is good because of one man: Randy Orton. Orton came out to a decidedly mixed reaction.
Triple H got on the stick and congratulated Randy Orton on breathing new life in the WWE, and new life into the WWE Championship. Triple H said he likes to reward people who grab the “brass ring” and run with it, so he got Orton a little gift. “No!” chants echoed throughout the arena. Out of his own pocket, Triple H said he bought Randy Orton a NEW Cadillac Escalade (Did Orton/Triple H just steal Del Rio’s gimmick?!). Orton thanked him. He said the only person worth of being the face of the WWE is, “me.” Just as Orton was about go to check out the Escalade, Ride of the Valkyries hit.
Bryan walked out on stage. He said, “sweet ride – that’s way nicer than my Honda Fit.” Funny. (But I bet your Fit drives better, Bryan). Bryan thanked the audience for supporting him despite the fact that he’s not the biggest, or prettiest. He also thanked John Cena for the opportunity to wrestle in the main event at SummerSlam. Lastly, he thanked Triple H… for showing his true colors about what he thinks is best for business. Bryan described Triple H as a sell-out in a suit, who thumbs his nose at everybody in the WWE Universe. Orton got a bit hostile, and demanded respect for himself and Triple H, since he’s the “face of the WWE.” Bryan promised to re-arrange that face. He also promised to re-arrange Triple H’s vision of the future when he wins the WWE Championship at Night of Champions.
Triple H made fun of Bryan as “Jiminy Cricket.” He said Bryan is not an A player, he’s only a B player. He then set up a gauntlet for later on tonight against The Shield, because, he said, he believes in Bryan. More importantly, he believes this is what’s “best for business.”
Rating: Good – Fan-freakin’-tastic opening segment. I love it. Not only am I dying to see Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan square-off again, I’m excited about an eventual Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan fight. Randy Orton is the perfect foil in this story line. More importantly, all three men are selling this with all they have. I also think product placement works TONS better when handled like this instead of last week’s awful Foot Locker segment (sorry, Fritz).
Fandango vs. Cody Rhodes with Damien Sandow on commentary
(Quick question: Rhodes has dominated Sandow TWICE – where is this rivalry headed?)
Just as the match was getting started, Fandango’s music hit AGAIN. Fandango looked confused from within the ring. Up on stage, The Miz came out in the awful zebra-puke tights and did a goofy looking dance with Rosa Mendes. Cody Rhodes took the opportunity to roll up Fandango from behind, and score the pin.
Winner: Cody Rhodes
After the match, Fandango fought back against Rhodes. However, Rhodes set him up for the Cross-Rhodes, but Sandow ran in to break it up. Miz ran down to save Cody Rhodes, and Brad Maddox came out to make it a tag-team match.
Damien Sandow and Fandango vs. Cody Rhodes and The Miz
Back from the break, the match had already started. Sandow held Rhodes down on the mat with an arm lock. Rhodes fed off the crowd of the energy and fought his way back up, but Sandow put him down with the side-Russian leg sweep. He scored with the elbow of disdain. Sandow followed it up with a pin, but only scored a two-count. Rhodes finally fought back in his corner and tagged The Miz. Miz took control over Sandow. He attacked Sandow’s leg in the corner as Fandango decided to leave. Miz hit his finisher, and got the three count.
Winners: The Miz and Cody Rhodes
Fandango, at the top of the ramp, took a mic and said, “It’s FAN-DAN-GO!”
Rating: Good – Simple, but effective. I liked that it pushed the story of these four men a little bit further. I’m also happy to see Rhodes and The Miz team up to fight their common enemies – it just makes sense. I’m not really sure where Rhodes vs. Sandow still has to go (Sandow has been completely buried by this point), but this was fun while it lasted.
Backstage, Josh Matthews interviewed Christian about the new Triple H regime. Christian said he’s not sure he should say anything, because anybody who does seems to suffer the consequences. Christian said he survived the McMahon/Helmsley era, and has the scars to prove it. Randy Orton came on-screen. He challenged Christian to a match. Christian said he knows Triple H likes to play with sledgehammers, but said it looks like he has a new ‘tool’ to play with. Randy Orton walked away.
A short promo aired for ‘Los Matadores.’ Awesome.
After a commercial break, Curtis Axel was standing in the middle of the ring. The stipulation for his match against CM Punk was left up to the WWE Universe. Jerry “The King” Lawler got on the mic to announce the results…. the stipulation says that if CM Punk beats Curtis Axel, then Paul Heyman has to get in the ring with CM Punk!
CM Punk vs. Curtis Axel
CM Punk started off in an aggressive fashion, as Paul Heyman watched from the top of the ramp. Both men fought to the outside of the ring. Punk went after Paul Heyman, but Axel stopped him, and took him back down to the ring. Back inside, Axel locked Punk in a headlock. His pin attempt only scored a two-count. Punk finally regained control. He put Axel down and went to the top rope, but Axel rolled outside the ring. Punk lept through the middle rope as Raw went to commercial…
After the break, Michael Cole reminded us of the stipulation Axel hit Punk with a clothesline, but only scored a two-count. He hit a drop-kick, and went for another pin-attempt. Punk kicked out at two. Axel held Punk’s face up and taunted him as Heyman walked closer to the ring. Punk scored with a few kicks. He missed with the roundhouse kick, and Axel beat Punk in the corner. Axel naield a side-slam. Heyman said, “one more and you’re done,” so Axel hit another one. He taunted Punk to get up, but Punk escaped the finisher. He hit a spinning neck-breaker of his own. Punk went to the top rope and nailed Axel with a flying elbow drop, but only got a two-count as a result. CM Punk then called for the GTS. When he had Axel up for the finisher, Axel fought down and hit his own spinning neck-breaker. Punk still kicked out after a two-count. Then, Punk got up, carried Axel on his shoulders, and nailed the go to sleep. He scored the pinfall 1… 2… 3…
Winner: CM Punk – as a result, Paul Heyman must get in the ring with CM Punk
Paul Heyman tried to run away, but the refs blocked his escape. When he tried to escape again, security dragged him back out. Punk grabbed Heyman around the throat and was ready for revenge. Suddenly, Axel got in the ring and hit Punk with a low blow. Both Axel and Heyman stood over CM Punk. Heyman pulled out a pair of handcuffs, and Axel cuffed both of Punk’s hands behind his back. Heyman asked to see Punk’s face. He slapped CM Punk a few times. Heyman said, “you’re going to feel my wrath! Do you understand me?” Heyman begged for a fight, and Axel told Punk he’s nothing.
Quickly, Punk got to his feet and kicked Axel in the head. Just when Punk was starting to kick Heyman around, Axel attacked from behind with a steel chair. Axel went outside the ring and grabbed a kendo stick. “You’re nothing!” He handed the stick to Paul Heyman, who laid a stiff shot across the back of CM Punk. Punk said, “make it count, you son of a *beep*.” Axel draped Punk across the ropes, and Heyman smacked CM Punk in the chest and stomach with the stick. Axel tossed Punk onto the announce table and demanded that Punk learn his lesson.
Outside the ring, Heyman broke the stick in half over Punk’s limp body. Paul Heyman screamed at Punk, “I loved you! I offered you Brock!” CM Punk’s back was welted and bloody. Heyman walked away looking confused and stressed, as doctors tended to CM Punk.
Rating: Good – Make that really good. The match between Axel and Punk was only okay – an awkward commercial break took away some of the momentum, and the pace just felt a little off. That being said, the story told afterwards was incredible. Punk was within inches of his almighty revenge. Unfortunately, it got ripped away again. Paul Heyman sold this with so much emotion, and even some pain, that the feeling of hurt was palpable. Also, kudos to the announce team for not over-talking the segment.
JoJo (?) from ‘Total Divas’ was the special guest ring announcer for the next match.
Natalya vs. Brie Bella
Natalya started off in control, before Brie (and her hideous red gloves) put Natalya in the only move she knows – that stupid, dumb, arm–lock. Natalya shrugged it off and locked in the sharpshooter. Eva Marie distracted the ref, and Brie made it to the ropes. This gave Nicki the chance for a brief run-in. Brie hit her finisher, and went for the pin.
Winner: Brie Bella
After the match, AJ’s music hit. She came out and poked fun at ‘Total Divas.’ She feigned excitement, and said “OMG, it was the end of the world!” She described the women in the ring as cheap and expendable. “They just weren’t gifted enough to be actresses, and weren’t talented enough to be champion.” AJ Said she’s done more in one year than any of them have done in their entire careers. She said she gave her life for this. AJ told the other women that no matter what kind of heels they walk in, they’ll never be able to lace up her Chuck Taylors. AJ said that those women would never be able to touch her, and “that is reality.”
Rating: Good – So, the match was pretty much terrible. But I can live with it. You know why? Because AJ’s promo addressed everything that we’ve been complaining about for weeks. I love the way AJ stole the show and dovetailed her championship into the ‘Total Divas’ stuff without giving up her heel-characteristics. The lingering question is, how well will the other players involved be able to adapt now?
After a brief commercial break, Michael Cole and the announce team caught us up to speed on the RVD – Del Rio rivalry.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Rob Van Dam
Ricardo Rodriguez pulled off his jacket to reveal a bright red ‘RVD’ ying-yang shirt. When the match started, RVD and Del Rio struggled to work together (Del Rio was supposed to get hung up on the ropes, but didn’t quite make it). Luckily, WWE had a commercial break in its pocket…
Back from the break, Del Rio had RVD stuck in a chin-lock. Michael Cole announced that if RVD wins, Maddox has agreed to give him a World Heavyweight title shot. Del Rio mocked RVD – “A-D-R!” He went to the top rope and called for RVD to stand. Van Dam hopped up, and nailed Del Rio with a roundhouse kick on the way down. Both men stood and exchanged a series of blows. RVD knocked Del Rio down, hit the rolling thunder, and went for a pin-attempt. Del Rio kicked out after two. RVD put Del Rio down again, and scored with the split-leg moonsault. Still, he only got a two-count. When RVD went up for the five-star frog splash, Del Rio scored with the enzeguri, and went for a pin of his own. RVD kicked out after two. As Ricardo Rodriguez called for his own R-V-D chant, Del Rio was distracted. This gave Van Dam the opportunity to roll up Del Rio for a surprise pin, and the three-count.
Winner: Rob Van Dam (he earns a title-shot at Night of Champions)
Rating: Good – Really liked that Rob Van Dam had to earn his title shot here. This makes a lot more sense than the booking style of 2010-2012 where WWE held a battle royal after every PPV event to establish a new contender… Also, I’m starting to get a little more behind the feud. I’m guessing Ricardo Rodriguez is going to have a little more influence down the line (and not necessarily in RVD’s favor).
Backstage, Josh Matthews interviewed Ryback. He accused him of bullying “everyone.” Ryback grabbed Matthews by the chin, and then dropped him on the ground. He demanded that Matthews look at him. “I finally found a way to shut you up!” Thanks, Ryback – at least your bullying is productive.
Renee caught Curtis Axel and Paul Heyman on their way out. Axel said CM Punk would never forget what happened. Paul Heyman said “more?” with the microphone stuck in his face. Heyman claimed that he feels like a man right now, a man who put his prodigal son in place. He said that CM Punk will learn that Paul Heyman is the last person he should ever come up against. Both men got in a Mazda3 and drove away.
Christian’s music hit, as he prepared to face his second World Champion in less than two weeks…
Randy Orton vs. Christian
Christian immediately went for a roll-up, but Orton kicked out. Both men scrapped around. Christian called for a collar/elbow tie-up, and Orton countered with a headbutt. They fought outside the ring as the ref started his ten count. At about three, Christian tossed Orton back in. He hit a reverse ddt, but it only earned him a two-count. Christian went to the top rope. Orton rushed him in the corner, so Christian leapfrogged him, which let Orton nail a dropkick. He hit a running knee-lift, which tossed Christian to the outside. Christian got back in the ring and tried to get up, but Orton stomped his hands and feet. A quick pin attempt, but Christian kicked out after two. Just as Christian was about to score with a tornado DDT, Orton pushed him over the top rope. Michael Cole said that Christian could be seriously hurt, seguing into a commercial.
After the hiatus, Orton had Christian in a headlock. Christian fought out. He went to the top rope, looking exhausted, but Orton got up and held Christian in place with punches. He climbed the turnbuckles, and dragged Christian down with a superplex. Orton sold the injury. Just as Orton was getting ready to go for the pin, Christian rolled Orton up into a small package. Randy Orton kicked out after just two. Randy Orton rebounded with a clothesline. However, Christian guillotined Orton on the ropes, and hit Orton with a flying cross-body. This only earned him a two-count. Orton countered the kill-switch, but Christian still capitalized with the tornado ddt.
Orton got back up and regained control. Orton knocked Christian down inside the ring. He called for the RKO, but Christian blocked it. Christian called fora spear, Orton leapfrogged Christian, but Christian hit him on the other side. The announce team put over Christian for having the victory in hand. He went for the pin – 1… 2… kick-out. Christian blocked another RKO attempt. While the ref was distracted, Orton thumbed Christian in the eye. This let Orton score with the RKO, and capture the three-count
Winner: Randy Orton
After the match, Daniel Bryan showed up on the TitanTron. He said, “take it from a B+ competitor, that was an A+ match.” In the background was Orton’s Cadillac. He asked Orton that, if he wins at Night of Champions, would that make him the new face of the WWE? He stepped aside, and the Cadillac had “Yes!” spray-painted in orange all over. Orton literally seethed inside the ring.
Rating: Good – I thought the match started off a little slow. However, after the commercial break, Christian and Orton really kicked things in to high gear, and brought back a little of the magic from their epic 2011 feud. I’m slightly disappointed Orton had to cheat to win. I did, however, really like the post-match Daniel Bryan segment. Expected, but entertaining.
After a commercial break, Orton, Triple H, and Brad Maddox inspected the car backstage. Triple H said that car is his personal property. He said the WWE Championship is also his property, he just lets Randy Orton carry it. He demanded that Maddox march every superstar out to the ring later in the evening to watch Daniel Bryan get decimated by The Shield.
Titus O’Neil vs. Jack Swagger
Zeb Coulter cut a promo before the match on welfare, and supporting the poor. “If you can’t feed ’em, don’t breed ’em.” Funny.
Swagger controlled the early part of this match. He attempted the patriot lock, but O’Neil busted out. Swagger then held O’Neil’s arm behind his head. O’Neil finally scored with a few short elbows. He hit a shoulder take-down, and put his knee in Swagger’s side. Swagger bounced off the ropes at high velocity, and knocked O’Neil off of his feet. Swagger went for a pin with his feet on the ropes. However, Darren Young knocked his feet off, and provided the distraction. O’Neil scored with his finisher. He captured the pinfall, and the win.
Winner: Titus O’Neil
Rating: Good/Bad – Nothing particularly bad about this segment – for what it was, good enough. On the other hand, this was very obviously filler material. Hope everybody (other than me) enjoyed their bathroom break!
RAW showed a video from WWE.com with Bray Wyatt talking about some lady who helped shape him. He said that her touch could save the world, but her kiss burns down into the ground. “Sister Abagail.” Very, very creepy.
CM Punk confronted Brad Maddox in his office. He said he wants to get his hands on Paul Heyman, and he doensn’t care about the consequences. He doesn’t even care about his career. He demanded a match where Paul Heyman can’t escape, or can’t weasel his way out of it. Maddox offered him a handicap-elimination match at Night of Champions against Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel, and if Heyman tries to escape, then Punk will never see Heyman again. Punk said that if Heyman does try to escape, then he’ll never see Maddox again, either.
WWE Superstars started filling up the Raw stage.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Shield in a gauntlet match
Before the match, Renee tried desperately to interview a Superstar about Triple H’s unfair treatment. They all refused to comment for fear of their jobs.
vs. Seth Rollins (first opponent)
Once the match began, Bryan got off to a dominant start. He tried to make Seth Rollins tap to no avail. Rollins briefly regained control. However, the educated feet of Daniel Bryan proved too challenging to overcome. Rollins tried to hit Bryan with a flying attack, but Bryan rolled it through into a half-crap. Fortunately, Rollins made it to the ropes. Both men stumbled outside as RAW cut to commercial.
After the break, Rollins held Bryan in a vicious-looking chin-lock. The crowd tried to rally behind Bryan. The announce team questioned whether or not Bryan could even make it past Rollins. Bryan struggled up, and then nailed Rollins with a vicious-looking dropkick. Just as he was rallying, Rollins scored with a reverse ddt. He went for a pin attempt, but only earned a two-count. Both men fought to the top rope, where Bryan jumped up and hit Rollins with a massive top-rope German suplex. He followed it up with a quick kick, which was enough to give him the three-count.
vs. Dean Ambrose
Ambrose got a little offense from the sneak attack, but Bryan quickly reversed it into a “Yes! Lock” Just as Ambrose was about to tap, Roman Reigns interfered. The ref immediately called for the bell.
Winner by DQ: Daniel Bryan
As The Shield ganged up on Daniel Bryan, the entire roster just looked on, hopelessly. Michael Cole reminded eveyone that they can’t help for fear of being fired. Suddenly, Triple H’s music hit. He came out and stared down the roster on stage. Randy Orton followed him out, and Triple H gave him the go-ahead to walk down and attack Bryan. In the ring, The Shield held up Bryan, and Orton nailed him with an RKO. Triple H “parted” the roster, and he and Orton walked back to the locker room.
Rating: Good – You know this match was going to have a non-finish at around the 11:00pm mark, where Rollins was still in the ring. That being said, the match was fun while it lasted. I would have liked to see Bryan progress further through the gauntlet. I’m also not a fan of Reigns ending every match The Shield is in by interference. I was a big fan of the ending segment, though, and think the focus on Triple H as the “corporate heel” is doing wonders for the company, by giving the roster a “big-bad.”
Final Thoughts: Really solid, entertaining show. I think the pacing was about perfect. Also, the lack of any real filler (I complained about O’Neil vs. Swagger, but that’s just me nitpicking) made these three hours fly bye. A good focus on the main-event storylines, and enough attention to the undercard, made a well-balanced edition of ‘Monday Night Raw.’
Thanks for reading along! What did you think of tonight’s RAW? Let me know in the comments below! Also, be sure to check out Between the Ropes on Twitter at @BetweentheRopes!