While in-ring action wasn’t the top priority for Raw this week, the number of great surprises and unexpected returns worked together to create a noteworthy show. Payback’s momentum carried over here in a good way. [Read more...]
Brian and Steve look back at what has been two very good shows for the WWE between the Payback PPV on Sunday and Raw the following night. First, they talk about Payback including the great match between CM Punk against Chris Jericho, Alberto Del Rio winning the World Heavyweight Title against Dolph Ziggler and the double turn in the match along with the rest of the card and the Chicago crowd. Then they talk about Raw from Monday with the fantastic Mark Henry retirement tease, Brock Lesnar’s return and the rest of the show along with what could be coming in the next few months including at Money in the Bank and Summerslam.
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* Sheamus defeated Damien Sandow on the kickoff match. A very good math that went more than ten minutes. Sandow got in a lot of offense but Sheamus connected with the Brogue Kick for the victory.
* Curtis Axel defeated The Miz and Wade Barrett to become the new Intercontinental Champion. Hot crowd and a really hot match to start off the pay-per-view. The Miz had Wade Barrett in the figure four and it looks like he was close to tapping out but Axel dove in and covered Barrett for a very clever finish.
* AJ Lee defeated Kaitlyn to become the new Divas Champion. AJ ended up locking on the black widow and Kaitlyn eventually had to tap out. Neither Dolph Ziggler or Big E Langston were at ringside during the match so a clean victory. Afterwards, Kaitlyn was crying and having a breakdown, even on her way to the back with Layla coming out to console her.
* Dean Ambrose retained the U.S. Title with a count out victory against Kane. Ambrose connected on a DDT outside the ring and got back in the ring before the referee counted to ten but Kane could not. A short match and there could easily be a rematch on Raw.
* A video aired that Rob Van Dam is returning to WWE at the Money in the Bank PPV next month.
* Alberto Del Rio defeated Dolph Ziggler to become the new World Heavyweight Champion. This was a hell of a match and told a great story. Ziggler was heavily cheered by the Chicago audience as they told the story that he was returning form a concussion. Del Rio kept going after his head and at one point, the doctor was looking at Ziggler outside the ring but Ziggler insisted that he continue. He was immediately hit with a kick in the head by Del Rio and put back in the ring. Ziggler fought hard and continued to kick out but Del Rio landed a few more big shots to the head and finally got the pin.
This was a double turn with Ziggler nearly in tears after losing the championship he so cherished while Del Rio was proud of his accomplishment. Even AJ was stunned trying to support Ziggler and showed concern for his well being. Later after the match, Del Rio came back out and asked the fans to cheer for him but he was heavily booed.
* CM Punk defeated Chris Jericho is another great match. This built slowly but to one hell of a climax with the crowd going nuts during this match, especially for the hometown Punk. There was one big spot where Punk came off the top rope and got nailed with a Codebreaker. In the end, he connected with the GTS twice and finally got the pin.
* The Shield defeated Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan to retain the WWE Tag Team Titles. This was was a little shorter because of the time restraints on the show but still very good. At one point, Bryan went for a tope but Roman Reigns was able to push Seth Rollins out of the way and Bryan hit Orton. The end saw Orton go for an RKO but got pushed off and almost into Bryan. Then, Orton sidestepped a spear from Reigns who connected with Bryan. Orton hit Reigns with the RKO but then got shoved out of the ring by Rollins who finished off Bryan with a curb stomp.
* John Cena defeated Ryback in a Three Stages of Hell match to remain WWE Champion. There was a wild spot during the lumberjacks match where all of the lumberjacks where brawling outside the ring and Cena did a dive onto them off the top rope with everyone falling down. Ryback ended up winning that fall after a Shellshock. Cena was able to win the tables match even though Ryback controlled most of that. After that fall, Ryback powerbombed Cena through the announcer’s table. Then ended up fighting back to the ambulance and using it as a weapon including Ryback getting throw into the door and the door coming off and Ryback pulling off a fender and using it as a weapon. They fought to the top of the ambulance where Cena landed the AA and put Ryback through the top of the ambulance for the win.
Payback Match Kickoff – Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow
Brian Fritz: Sheamus is really caught in limbo right now when it comes to his place in the pecking order. While Sandow should win here and get a bigger push, I think Sheamus comes away with the win.
Steve Muehlhausen: This match will be on the kickoff portion of the show starting at 7:30 ET on basically every platform known to man. The feud has been scuttled as it is hard to believe what Shaemus is saying while Sandow has been carrying this feud. Sheamus doesn’t need the win here as Sandow wins in an upset.
Michael A. Wiseman: I think Sandow wins this match, though I think he cheats to win (or otherwise resorts to heel-like tactics). But I don’t expect much out of this one. WWE never gives their pre-shows matches much time to breathe, and this feud, despite the long(ish) build, is booked to be forgettable. Sheamus gets his revenge the next night on ‘Raw.’
Marshall Bowen: Sheamus wins this one to get the night started and get the crowd rowdy and energetic for the night to come.
United States Championship – Dean Ambrose vs. Kane
Brian: Dean Ambrose should retain the title. The Shield is the hottest act in the WWE right now and all of them have belts and rightfully so. Hopefully, Ambrose and Kane will be able to crank it up more than their recent match on Raw.
Steve: They had a lackluster match on Raw with Kane winning by DQ, which was the reason Vickie Guerrero gave Kane a rematch. Ambrose will retain here as they should have more time here.
Michael: Dean Ambrose is the obvious pick here. I expect an entertaining product from these two – Ambrose can go in the ring, and Kane is a very capable veteran. The fact that this match was added less than a week out says that creative isn’t taking the possibility of a title change seriously. Also, WWE would be foolish to start breaking down The Shield just one month after they regained a lot of momentum. Then again, the company isn’t know for putting a lot of thought into these decisions.
Marshall: Kane is Ambrose’s monster to prove himself with in his young U.S. title reign and will prove the dominance that The Shield will continue to have over the summer.
Divas Championship – Kaitlyn vs. AJ Lee
Brian: For a few months now it seems that AJ would eventually win the Divas Championship only for it not to happen. That should end here with AJ finally get a title to match her Ziggy’s. She’ll probably get some help from Big E at ringside but AJ finally get the Divas championship.
Steve: We have seen this story play out over the last month as the secret admirer storyline has started. A great promo on Monday’s Raw by Lee as Big E Langston came to reveal he was the secret admirer. It ended up being a ruse with Lee behind the ruse. Lee should win the title here but I feel Kaitlyn will win here to advance the feud for another month.
Michael: AJ wins cleanly and finally takes home the Divas Championship. Her promo this past Monday on Raw was money, and she is primed to be the spark the Divas Division so desperately needs. The storyline coming out of this Sunday will be that the numerous distractions cost Kaitlyn her championship.
Marshall: AJ takes this one with some help from Dolph and Big E. AJ has been building to this moment for well over a year now and this is finally the time to pull the trigger.
Intercontinental Championship – Wade Barrett vs. The Miz vs. Curtis Axel
Brian: With Curtis Axel being inserted into the match for Fandango who is sidelined with a concussion, it makes sense that the latest Paul Heyman guy win the title here. I think Axel will win the title but I wonder what this means to how he is perceived in the company. Rather than being a main-event level guy, I think he is a notch down. By the way, I think his feud with Triple H is over already with Hunter having bigger things to deal with.
Steve: This match was supposed to be a three way with Fandango in the match but he suffered a concussion about two weeks during a Smackdown taping. Surprised WWE inserted Axel in the match considering where he has been positioned so far. Have Axel winning the match here as it will build him up more and be like his father in winning the IC Title.
Michael: Most people seem to be in agreement that Curtis Axel was added to this match so WWE could immediately quickly build on his hot debut with an Intercontinental Championship reign. And while I agree, I think it’s the wrong decision. Axel has been hanging around the upper mid-card since his debut, so this feud just feels like a step back. Hopefully they give him a real storyline coming out of Sunday.
Marshall: I’m going out on a limb and saying Curtis Axel gets the win and the 2-0 for the night for Paul Heyman. Part of this prediction comes from the rapid fire re-debut Axel has had in these past few weeks.
WWE Tag Team Titles – The Shield vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan
Brian: The obvious thing to happen here would be The Shield retaining the title and Orton and Bryan having issues during the match leading to a feud between the two. I’ll go with that scenario because I believe sometimes the obvious thing to do is also the right thing. Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s wrong and too bad if the audience sees it coming as long as you still make it entertaining. The real question will be is Orton or Bryan turning heel or could neither and they feud as babyfaces.
Steve: This was the last match I was expecting going into Raw last week. Seemed like WWE was heading towards an Orton/Bryan showdown. WWE flipped things and decided to go this route. This should one of the two best matches on the show considering the workers in the ring. The intriguing part will the Orton/Bryan dynamic. Have Reigns and Rollins retaining with Orton turning on Bryan.
Michael: Orton and Bryan have no business winning the titles. That’s exactly why I’m going to predict that they win here. WWE seems to like Daniel Bryan in this position, and the company has always found success with the oddball pairings. While I don’t think they’ll hold the championship for very long (maybe not even past the next night on Raw), I think Orton finally cements his heel turn whenever they lose the titles back in the eventual rematch. On the down side, creative seems to be cooling on The Shield.
Marshall: The Shield retain against the former champ and his new partner, the combination of Bryan and Orton is not as fluid as a team as Rollins and Reigns.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
Brian: I think CM Punk wins the match but there are a lot of different directions they can go here when it comes to Punk, Jericho and Heyman during and following the match. Punk should get a hero’s welcome by the hometown crowd for what should be the best match on the card.
Steve: This should be the match on the card. Everytime these two step into the ring, the matches are top notch. Like how the match has been built with Paul Heyman representing Punk. WWE did a good job here in not bringing Punk back until Payback. Jericho wins the match as Heyman will accidentally cost Punk the match as the build will start of the breakup between Punk and Heyman.
Michael: Punk has to win here. It’s unfortunate for Jericho, who rarely ever seems to string together more than two victories in a row, but Punk’s hometown crowd would likely riot if he failed to win. I’m more curious to see how the company positions Punk coming out of this match. Is he coming back to stay? I’m not sure. I do think, though, that his turn against Paul Heyman starts this Sunday.
Marshall: In his return to Chi-Town Punk defeats Jericho to kick off his summer as one of the top heels.
World Heavyweight Championship – Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio
Brian: This should be a very good, under the radar match with Ziggler retaining the title. I hope he gets a pinfall victory rather than there being a cheap DQ finish to the match and the feud continuing. It’s time for both parties to move on even though Ziggler was sidelined with a concussion. They both need fresh feuds at this point.
Steve: A late add to this event since Ziggler was only cleared about 10 days ago to return to the ring. Ziggler had been out since May 7 when he suffered a concussion. Del Rio became the number one contender when he defeated Jack Swagger at Extreme Rules last month. Hard to build a match with this short notice but a story is there for the match. Ziggler should go over here to help build him through the summer.
Michael: Alberto Del Rio has been the unfortunate victim of circumstance here. While waiting on Ziggler to return, he’s been given very little to sink his teeth into. These two will put together an entertaining 12-15 minutes (if WWE gives them that long), but Big E will distract and the champion will retain. I think Ziggler moves on to a bigger challenge from here (Sheamus or Punk) while Del Rio finds himself back in the mid-card.
Marshall: Dolph wins this match, Del Rio will be the step in his title reign that really helps to establish his reign and guarantees a great match for the crowd and the audience.
WWE Championship – John Cena vs. Ryback (Three Stages of Hell match)
Brian: As much as the WWE has tried to make Ryback into a monster, it really hasn’t caught on. And this match just doesn’t have the feel of a scary, crazy match. Instead, it feels like the next step in a feud that has been pretty pedestrian. Cena walks away the title here and I hope he walks away from this feud although I could see it going one more month. But this should be the end.
Steve: This match is a three stages of hell match with the first match being a lumberjack match, the second being a tables match and if it goes to a third fall an ambulance match. This is coming off an actual pretty good match they had at Extreme Rules. It will be hard to take this match as three stages of hell considering none of the matches are that brutal. It will be interesting to see how Ryback does here as this match should go between 40-45 minutes. This match will go all three falls as Cena will win the first fall, Ryback the second and Cena will win the third fall to retain the WWE championship.
Michael: Let’s get this out of the way: Cena wins. He pins Ryback in the Lumberjack Match, Ryback evens the score with the Table Match, and Cena finishes things off in the Ambulance Match. I don’t see a scenario where Ryback walks out with the championship (or why WWE would even want Ryback, a man who has to be prompted to finish his sentences, as their top guy). Unfortunately, there’s not much to get excited about with this one. The stipulations suck, the feud has been tame, and the outcome doesn’t seem in doubt at all. Think about this: CM Punk hasn’t been on WWE Television since the night after Wrestlemania, but his match this Sunday feels like a much bigger deal. Oh well.
Marshall: This match will go to John Cena after going through all three stages of the match. Ryback still isn’t established enough for the championship and seems like he’s there to be the giant Cena decimates in this current title run.
The event will be headlined by a Three Stages of Hell match for the WWE Championship in which John Cena will put his title on the line against Ryback. These two met at last month’s Extreme Rules event for the bel , only for their Last Man Standing match to end in a no contest after Ryback drove Cena and himself through the stage for the event and neither could answer a 10 count. This match will ultimately see all three stipulations – Lumberjack, Table, & Ambulance match – come into play with the end result of Cena walking out of the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL with the title firmly around his waist. In the end WWE still doesn’t know what exactly they are doing with the Ryback character and putting the WWE title isn’t going to help that.
Key matches on the undercard include Chris Jericho facing off against the returning CM Punk. As Jericho mentioned on Raw this past week this will be the third match these two have had the last being at the Extreme Rules 2012 event, which also took place in Rosemont. The title isn’t on the line this time, and Punk hasn’t made any appearances on TV since losing to the Undertaker at Wrestlemania in April. In the end, this match will be a great back and forth contest of technical wresting skill as both of the these executed in their previous two efforts, and Punk will win it. Even though Jericho has been the one on TV building up the match Punk will walk out of his hometown crowd with the win to set up what needs to be an interesting storyline with him for the summer that I can see leading to a match with Curtis Axel at SummerSlam in a battle of Paul Heyman guys, but that’s getting a little ahead of myself.
Alberto Del Rio will finally get his return match for the World Heavyweight Championship against the champ, Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler was supposed to defend the title in a triple threat ladder match against Del Rio and Jack Swagger but his concussion change that course a bit. In keeping with the name of the pay-per-view this will finally be Del Rio’s chance to get some measure of payback on the man who took the title from him in April. For Ziggler, he needs to help make that title matter and prove that there is a reason for him to be holding it. Add in the assistance of Big E Langston and AJ Lee and all signs point to Ziggler retaining. I would also expect this to be the feud that carries that title for the summer, with the occasional cameo from Swagger.
All of the members of The Shield will be in action defending their newly won gold as US Champion Dean Ambrose defends against Kane and the odd pairing of Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton will face Tag Team champs Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. In the end The Shield will remain victorious in both regards. Let’s face it they didn’t put the titles on them for The Shield to hot potato the belts in a month’s time.
The Intercontinental Championship is on the line in a Triple Threat Match pitting champion Wade Barrett against former champion The Miz and newcomer Curtis Axel. in keeping with the payback motif Barrett and The Miz will be goign back and forth in this match just enough to allow Axel (replacing the injured Fandango) to swoop in and take the title off of Barrett. Factoring into that decision will be the presence of Paul Heyman, who I’m fairly confident will make presence noticed.
The Divas division will be highlighted on this pay-per-view as Champion Kaitlin takes on her former partner and friend AJ Lee. This confrontation has been building for a while and is leading to what feels like the 9th reboot the Divas DIvision has had in the past three years. AJ will walk out of the arena with the belt, thanks in part to some from Doplh and Big E, and the audience will continue to wonder what the summer holds for the Divas division.
Sheamus takes on Damien Sandow in the pre-show match and will easily win in it to start the night off. The tradition since the beginning of these pre-shows has almost been to let the champion or the babyface get the win, and this will be no different.
Non-match wise I would expect to see something to follow up the Triple H/Vince confrontations of the past few weeks on the show to build up to something heading into SummerSlam, I just don’t quite know what yet.
Check back later in the week to see how my predictions hold up to the results, and catch WWE Payback live tomorrow night on pay-per-view.