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Tonight’s Raw should be interesting. With WWE Night of Champions only two weeks away, and Daniel Bryan set to take on Randy Orton in a rematch for the WWE Championship, the conflict between these two men should be at a boiling point. Big Show probably has a bone to pick with COO Triple H, too, after being told to abandon Bryan on Friday Night Smackdown. Plus, expect fallout from Paul Heyman and CM Punk.
RAW kicked off LIVE from Des Mones, Iowa, with Chief Operating Officer Triple H standing in the ring… No fireworks tonight!
The Shield stood guard in front of the ring as Triple H played to the crowd. He introduced “the face of the company,” the WWE Champion, RANDY ORTON. As Orton made his way down to the ring, Cole discussed Triple H’s “Reign of Terror.” JBL said that it’s not terror, it’s order. Funny.
Orton took the mic. He said that, as the face of the WWE, protecting the company is his number one priority. As such, anyone who disrespects the WWE needs to be dealt with. He said that Daniel Bryan defaced his personal property last week on Raw. This left Orton no choice but to deface Daniel Bryan – a clip aired from Smackdown of Orton pummeling and then spray-painting Bryan. He then polled the audience: should Daniel Bryan face Orton at Night of Champions? NO! Does he even have the slightest chance in hell of defeating him at Night of Champions? NO! Will Bryan ever amount to anything in the WWE? Should Daniel Bryan give up his opportunity to face Orton at Night of Champions? YES!
Triple H came on and said he has a few responsibilities, but probably the most important is making sure that WWE puts out the BEST product it can for the WWE Universe. He said that includes the health of WWE Superstars and Divas. Lately, Triple H said he’s started to worry about the health of one Daniel Bryan. He even compared Bryan to Doink the Clown, who he called insanely popular. But, Triple H said there’s a reason Doink was never WWE Champion – because it would be bad for business. He offered to bring back the Cruiserweight title, or European title, and let Bryan compete for those at any time. As he was speaking, Bryan’s music hit…
JBL said, “here comes the next Cruiserweight champion!” Funny. Daniel Bryan walked out on stage and said that he’s THRILLED to be compared to Doink the clown. But, he’s not sure there was ever a loud “Doink the Clown” chant in 1992 – and, to be honest, the only clowns he sees are the two standing in the ring right now (Triple H and Randy Orton). He then asked if Randy Orton was more masculine than Stephanie McMahon… to which a “NO!” chant erupted from the crowd. Orton asked Bryan how many times he had to get power-bombed before he learned his lesson. Bryan said all the things people told him he couldn’t do made him the man he is today. He said he loved scraping and crawling to get where he is.
So, Bryan asked himself if he thought he could beat Orton for the WWE Championship… No… he KNOWS he can beat Orton for the WWE Championships. He said that Orton might have the genetics of a WWE Champion, but he doesn’t have the heart of a WWE champion.
Triple H told Bryan to calm down before he gets carried away. Hunter said that Bryan should be mad at Triple H and Orton, but he should be mad at Big Show, who stands by and lets Bryan get demolished every week. And so tonight, Bryan will be facing Big Show in the main event.
Rating: Good – Solid mic work by all men involved here. Even though we see these three men squaring off every week, on every show, they keep finding new ways to make it fresh. I love that Triple H act so blinded by his “best for business” motto. Also, Bryan vs. Big Show sets up a lot of intrigue in the main event. Great opening.
Backstage, Randy Orton and Triple H walked through as they made fun of Big Show and Daniel Bryan. Suddenly, they crossed paths with Cody Rhodes. Rhodes acted weird, and said that tonight’s main event would be great, as long as nobody gets involved. Triple H asked him what he meant. Rhodes said that, with all due respect, Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton IS what’s best for business. Triple H said that he’s the one who decides what’s best for business. He mentioned Cody Rhodes’ upcoming wedding. Triple H said that he went ahead and gave Cody Rhodes an early wedding present – a match against Randy Orton. And Triple H said that if Rhodes doesn’t win, there’s a good chance he might not keep his job…
Fandango vs. The Miz
Miz took control early with an Irish Whip, followed by a hip toss. Both men sprawled over the top rope and outside the ring. Summer Rae came up and tried to slap Miz, but he blocked it and sent her on her way. Back inside the ring, Miz went for a pinfall, but only earned a two-count. He transitioned into a side headlock. Fandango fought up and pushed Miz into the corner. He followed with a series of punches, but Miz escaped and regained control of the match as RAW went to commercial…
Back from the break, Fandango apparently suffered a broken nose during the break. Cole said they stopped the bleeding, and the ref let the match continue. Miz focused on Fandango’s left knee. When Fandango jumped off the top rope and twerked his knee, Miz capitalized by tossing Fandango into a figure-four leg lock. Fandango quickly tapped out…
Winner by submission: The Miz
Rating: Good – These two put together a fun match. I think it would’ve come across even better on TV had the commercial break not killed any rhythm for the viewer. Still, the last few minutes were especially fun. Looks like Miz is moving on to bigger and better things. As for Fandango? Who knows?
Back from break, Daniel Bryan was shown shadow boxing backstage. Booker T came up and asked if he had a minute to talk. Bryan said no, and started to walk away. Booker T said, “I need to talk to you, Daniel.” He told Bryan that his rage against the McMahon family is a fight he cannot win. The bottom line, though, is that Bryan might should consider giving up his title match. Bryan responded with, “tell me you did not just say that!” Funny. Booker T told Bryan that he’s behind him, but Bryan still needs to tread lightly.
A video recapped CM Punk and Paul Heyman’s confrontation from last week…
Dolph Ziggler came out for a match against a mystery opponent. As he was waiting in the ring, Dean Ambrose attacked him from behind. He laid Ziggler up in the corner, and told him he needed to learn respect. Suddenly, Ryback’s music hit, and he came down as Ziggler’s “mystery opponent.” Meanwhile, Ziggler struggled to get back to his feet.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Ryback
Ryback started the match in a dominant fashion. He tossed Ziggler around with a belly-to-belly suplex, stepped on his chest, and tossed him around by the hair. JBL said that Ryback really enjoys his work. Ziggler wobbled back to his feet, but Ryback pushed him right back down. Ryback called for the meat-hook clothesline. Suddenly, Ziggler popped back up and nailed Ryback with a dropkick. It wasn’t enough, however, as Ryback still scored with the meat-hook clothesline. He set Ziggler up for the shell-shock. Ryback then covered Ziggler for the pin, and the win.
Backstage, Triple H and Stephanie were seen chatting together. Brad Maddox came in and said that Big Show was refusing to fight. Stephanie offered to take care of it, and said that it would not be a private conversation.
Rating: Good – Yeah, it was another beat-down segment for Ziggler, but it was still fairly engaging. The Ambrose attack was a nice surprise. Also, Ryback’s appearance left everybody scratching their head for a few seconds, before it clicked that he was the mystery opponent. This wasn’t a wrestling classic. It was, however, another great way to further establish Ziggler as a victimized good-guy.
Stephanie McMahon/Big Show Segment
Stephanie walked out and said that she had somebody help teach her the business when she was younger. She described Big Show as her friend, her giant. Big Show’s music hit and he walked down to the ring. Stephanie and Show hugged it out.
Stephanie said that Big Show once taught her that it’s okay to do something you don’t want to do, as long as you don’t mind paying the price. She said that he’s broke. She reminded him of his bell-up strip mall, his bad investments in Wall Street. Stephanie said that his iron-clad contract doesn’t pay if Big Show doesn’t compete. Stephanie asked if he was willing to give everything up over one match. She then took the low road, and said, “Giants don’t live as long as other people.”
Stephanie said that she knows Big Show is hurting, but the only person hurting more than him right now, is her, and then she left the ring. Big Show stood behind on the verge of tears.
Rating: Good Enough – I really love the role Stephanie McMahon was playing here. She was more like a lady devil, goading Big Show over his unfilled desires and financial problems, all while playing the “friend” card. Establishing real world problems made the stakes for Big Show even bigger. Also, it gave us a reason for believing why he wouldn’t simply refuse to wrestle. Much credit to Big Show for telling a great story with his emotions.
A promo announced that EDGE IS COMING BACK TO RAW NEXT WEEK!!!!!!!
During the commercial app on the “exclusive WWE app,” Big Show acted distraught backstage, and broke a laptop. I didn’t really pay much attention because I was too busy freaking out over the RETURN OF EDGE!!!!
Prime Time Players vs. 3MB (Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal)
Slater and O’Neil started things off. Slater made fun of O’Neil’s barking dog, but Titus O’Neil simply beat the crap out of him (while blowing his whistle, no less). He tagged in Darren Young. Young took advantage, but Slater was still able to tag in Jinder Mahal. Jinder Mahal dropped Darren Young off the top rope, beat Young down for a short bit, then tagged Slater back in. Slater scored with a neck-breaker. He went for a pin, but Young kicked out after two. Slater and Mahal exchanged tags, with Slater back as the legal man.
Young finally fought back with a massive throw. Slater tagged in Mahal, and Young tagged O’Neil back in. Titus O’Neil dominated the next phase of the match with a throw, and a big boot. He scored with his finisher, and picked up the win.
Winners: Prime Time Players
Rating: None – Always happy to see the Prime Time Players win. Also happy to witness a legitimate tag-team division match. But everything about this was just… meh.
Backstage, Paul Heyman confronted Brad Maddox about his decision to let Punk possibly get his hands on Heyman at Night of Champions. Triple H came in and said that he approved the match. He said that it has nothing to do with their past, but that he’s a huge fan of Paul Heyman and his ability to weasel his way out of everything. Triple H said he doesn’t see an out in this. He said that maybe this match guarantees Paul Heyman finally gets the beating he deserves. Good booking logic here! Glad creative felt the need to address why a heel, like Triple H, would approve of a stipulation against another heel.
A video aired, with Bray Wyatt putting over his “slaughter” of Kane. He asked, “Where’s Kane?”
Randy Orton vs Cody Rhodes, with Rhodes’ career on the line
Both men squared off with a collar-elbow tie-up. Michael Cole reminded viewers that Rhodes is fighting for his career. Orton tossed Rhodes outside the ring and tried to plant his face in the steel stairs, but Rhodes blocked it. Rhodes tossed Orton back in the ring and went for a quick pin. He only earned a two-count. Rhodes maintained control with a clothesline, then eventually choked Orton on the middle rope. Orton battled back in. He slapped Rhodes across the chest, then stomped on Cody Rhodes’ face. When Rhodes attempted to get back up, Orton kicked him in the chest. He pushed Rhodes in the corner and hit him with the 10 punches. Rhodes reversed it and tried to do the same thing, but Orton hit him with his trademark back-breaker. As Rhodes laid outside the ring, RAW went to commercial…
Back from the break, and both men were brawling outside the ring. Cole reminded us of the must-win stipulation for Rhodes. Orton dropped Cody Rhodes back-first onto the guard rail. The ref got to a five-count before Orton rolled Rhodes back in the ring. As Orton kept Rhodes in a chin-lock, a camera showed the roster watching from back stage.
Cody Rhodes finally fought out. He hit Orton with a clothesline, and followed it up with a drop-punch. When Orton got back to his feet, Rhodes hit a drop-kick from the top rope. He went for a pin, but only got a two count. Orton got back up. Rhodes hit him with the disaster kick, and attempted another pin. Orton still kicked out after two. When Rhodes went fora moonsault, Orton simply stepped out of the way. This let him hit his “vintage-Orton” ddt. He called for an RKO, but Rhodes blocked it, and countered with his own finisher. The crowd worked itself into a frenzy. He pinned Orton – 1…2… kick-out.
Both men exchanged a quick back-and-forth that saw Rhodes miss another disaster kick and tweak his knee. Orton focused his attention on Rhodes’ knee. With Rhodes barely able to stand, Randy Orton hit his finisher, and went for the pin. Rhodes had nothing left to kick-out with.
Winner: Randy Orton
As Randy Orton celebrated atop the ramp, Triple H came out to meet him. He looked back at Rhodes inside the ring. “Let’s hear it for Cody Rhodes!” He said that Rhodes fought like his life was on the line. Triple H claimed to respect Rhodes… but this is a business, and in his business, he needs winners. He needs to do what’s right. “Cody, it’s with deep regret that I have to tell you, you’re fired.” Rhodes looked astonished. He looked around the arena as a “thank-you Cody” chant broke out. He limped back to the locker room.
Rating: Great – These two had a fantastic match. I was almost convinced – almost! – that Rhodes might actually pick up the victory here. He deserves kudos for standing on his own with the veteran Orton. Additionally, I’m a fan of the storytelling here. It gives as viewers a reason to care about Rhodes’ loss, and more of a reason to hate Triple H. I’m excited to see where things go next. Great segment all the way around.
CM Punk Segment
Punk made his way down to the ring, Kendo stick in hand. He promised “no more empty threats, no mrore posturing, no more talking.” He said that he’s dressed to compete, but wrestling is the furthest thing from his mind. He demanded a fight. He said that if he has to fight Curtis Axel just to get his hands on Heyman, then by God, he’s going to do it. Punk said that he’s in such a dark place, he wouldn’t want to fight himself right now. 13 days until Night of Champions, and Punk guaranteed to get past Curtis Axel. Furthermore, he guaranteed to get his hands on Heyman. Punk said that those who order Night of Champions might see a side of Punk they haven’t seen before, and people might not like it. “Last week, Paul Heyman said I broke his heart. At Night of Champions, I’m going to break his face. I promise.”
Rating: Good – This was exactly what it needed to be. Punk put over his match with Axel and Heyman at Night of Champions, and gave viewers a reason to buy the Pay Per View. He delivered a short, but highly effective, promo. No violence necessary!
Backstage, Big Show tried to reason with Bryan about their match later in the evening. Bryan wouldn’t have any of it. Bryan told Big Show that he planned to beat him, just like he did for his first World Championship.
Naomi vs. Brie vs. Natalya in a number-one contender triple-threat match
AJ Lee joined at commentary.
Natalya tried to capture the win quickly with a roll-up, but Naomi kicked out after a two. Brie had the advantage, but Natalya tossed her outside the ring. Naomia rolled Natalya up with a small package, but only earned a two-count. Just as Naomi was going for the pin, AJ interfered, causing the DQ. Eventually, all three women ganged up on AJ Lee.
Match ends in a no-contest
Rating: Bad – Seriously, this was just a giant cluster. Naomi looks green inside the ring (why was she even involved here?). Natalya and Brie were off in their timing. And the post-match beat-down just looked awkward. I get what creative was going for here, but it could be handled so much better.
Damien Sandow vs. Rob Van Dam
Damien Sandow started things off strong, punishing RVD in the corner. He went for a quick pin, but only earned a two-count. When RVD bounced off the ropes, Sandow hit him with a big boot. He then locked Van DAm in an awkward chin/shoulder lock. Just as Van Dam fights back in with a few of his trademark kicks, Alberto Del Rios music hits. This gave Sandow the chance to send RVD spiraling over the top rope, as RAW went to commercial…
After the commercial, Sandow had RVD locked around his chin. Van Dam broke out and hit Sandow with a massive spinning heel-kick. However, Sandow capitalized on a brief break in the action, and scored with a side-Russian leg-sweep. He earned a two-count. RVD followed up with a series of punches to the face, but Sandow would have nothing of it. He countered with a neck-breaker and a pin. RVD kicked out after two. When Sandow attempted a suplex, Van Dam countered into a small package. Sandow kicked out. Van Dam maintained control with a rolling thunder. He eventually hit the top-rope guillotine on Sandow, and followed it up with a five-star frog splash for the pin, and victory.
Winner: Rob Van Dam
Rating: Okay – A rather by-the-numbers segment. While what these men delivered was good, it just felt stuck in first gear. I’m also not a fan of Sandow never picking up the victory. On the other hand, a Van Dam – Sandow rivalry holds my attention much better than Del Rio vs RVD. We’ll see…
During the break, the divas confronted Stephanie about AJ Lee interfering in their match. Stephanie said that AJ would be defending her championship against all of them in a fatal-four way match at Night of Champions.
A camera showed Cody Rhodes leaving the arena. Josh Matthews caught up and asked Rhodes how he was feeling. Rhodes went on a tirade about Triple H and the stipulation. He said he shouldn’t be surprised, though, because the McMahons have always hated the Rhodes family. When Matthews asked Rhodes if he had any words for his fiancee, Rhodes simply walked out.
The entire roster crowded on stage in advance of the main event…
Daniel Bryan vs Big Show
Big Show tried to reason with Daniel Bryan. He said that his back is against the wall. Bryan attacked Show anyway. Show tossed him outside the ring, and begged him to not make him do this. Bryan rushed back in the ring and focused his attack on Big Show’s legs. He hit a drop-kick on his knee, then nailed two drop-kicks in the corner. When Bryan attempted a third, Big Show stopped him with a big boot.
Show begged Bryan not to make him fight. He reluctantly tossed Bryan in the corner, but Bryan still focused his attention on Big Show’s knees. He followed with a series of kicks to Show’s chest, and planted Big Show with a ddt. Big Show kicked out of the pin attempt. Daniel Bryan immediately went to the top rope, but Big Show nailed him with a spear on the way down. As Bryan prepared to stand, Show called for the KO Punch. The audience chanted “No!” Big Show decided to turn and just leave. Just as he was walking out, Triple H’s music hit.
Triple H came down to ringside with The Shield and demanded Big Show finish his match. Show shook his head no. The Shield jumped in the ring and started an attack on Daniel Bryan, and Big Show ran in to save him. Triple H stood in the way and said, “Paul, don’t make me do this. You know I don’t want to do this.” He then called for The Shield to powerbomb Daniel Bryan. Triple H then instructed Big Show to ball up his fist and knock Daniel Bryan out. Show looked like he was in deep pain. He slowly approached Bryan, but then yelled “no!” and walked out. He begged Triple H to leave him alone.
As Big Show tried to leave, Stephanie McMahon’s music hit, and she walked out to meet him on the ramp. She walked him back down to the ring. Big Show got in and approached Daniel Bryan. He then turned to confront Triple H, but Stephanie McMahon stood in the way. Big Show turned away, but then reluctantly turned back and hit Daniel Bryan. Both Stephanie and Triple H told him that he did the right thing. A “you sold out” chant started across the arena. As Big Show, Stephanie, and Triple H walked out, Randy Orton’s music hit. He walked by both of them and made his way down to the ring
In the ring, Randy Orton kneeled over Bryan’s lifeless body. He shook his head in disgust. He put one foot on Bryan, and held up his championship to close the show.
Rating: Great – Killer stuff in this segment. The emotion in the storytelling continues to make everything that happens feel real and believable. I’m a big fan of Big Show in this role. I’m also happy to see Stephanie, Triple H, and Randy Orton give it their for the sake of their characters. And even though Bryan gets demolished, he shines every chance he has.
Final Thoughts: What could’ve been a GREAT episode of RAW was brought down to just being good by a bunch of filler and recaps. There really was a lot to love about this show. Storytelling has finally re-entered the WWE’s vocabulary. Unfortunately, the second hour slugged through with very little in-ring action, and a few too many flashbacks to previous events. And I’m pretty sure they aired that CM Punk recap twice… Listen, WWE, I watch your product on a weekly basis. Give me a chance to breathe already.
Did you have any final thoughts on tonight’s excellent WWE Monday Night Raw? Let me know in the comments below, or say something on Twitter @BetweenTheRopes!