CM Punk's hunt for respect continues tonight on another three hour edition of Raw. We'll find out the backlash for CM Punk kicking Jerry Lawler in the back of the head, as well as hear from Triple H on the match with Brock Lesnar from Summerslam.
Lawler gets in the ring as the show opens and says he needs to say something. Lawler admits that he may have misspoken when he said Punk turned his back on WWE at Raw 1000. Last week, Lawler apologized then got kicked in the back of the head. This week, Lawler wants an apology. The WWE Champion slowly makes his way to the ring, with a newly shaved head. Punk says it's ludicrous for Lawler to want an apology after he painted Punk as a "bad guy". Punk says that Lawler is the one who turned on the WWE Universe by slandering its champion. Punk admits that he's sorry - Sorry that Lawler managed to make it into the Hall of Fame, despite never being the WWE Champion, despite not even being able to beat Michael Cole. Punk continues that he's sorry about the man that Jerry Lawler has become. Punk asks Lawler if he wants to fight. The Champ continues that Lawler is just a commentator, while Punk is the best in the world; he would just embarrass Lawler. Lawler says he came out for an apology, not a fight. Punk keeps pushing for a fight, asking Lawler who the best in the world is if it's not Punk. Punk says that either way, Lawler ends the night in embarrassment. Punk leaves and Lawler says "I'll think about it". Ooh...tough. Lawler walks back to the announce table to his music.
That was about 8 minutes longer than it needed to be and Punk was uncharacteristically all over himself on the mic. For some reason, WWE thinks it's necessary for any cocky semi-heel champion to end up fighting with Lawler in one way or another.
Match 1: Jack Swagger vs Ryback
Winner: Ryback via pinfall
Cole reminds us that Swagger hasn't won a singles match on TV since winning the US Title months ago. Swagger opens with knees to the midsection and Ryback answers in kind, then boots Swagger to the mat. Ryback pounds Swagger on the mat then picks him up, just to drive him face first. Swagger lands a drop toe hold and a scoop slam, then steps on Ryback to head in for a Swagger Bomb. Ryback gets the feet up and gets away from the Ankle Lock, then delivers a brutal looking back body drop with Swagger landing on the top of his head. Ryback lands his big lariat and calls for the end, leading to Shellshocked.
For all his power, if Ryback doesn't actually get under the body of his opponent, he can only elevate them so far. Hopefully it looked worse than it was and Swagger didn't get hurt. Swagger is on the floor after the match and says "that's it"; maybe a move toward a "getting fed up" angle for him, as he has done nothing but lose for months.
Lawler sells hesitation in agreeing to face CM Punk; he's still "thinking about it".
Match 2: Natalya vs Layla (Divas Champion), non-title
Winner: Layla via pinfall
Vickie Guerrero comes out and says the match needs to be over quickly, since she has an announcement. Natalya takes Layla down and locks in a front facelock, which Layla counters into a hammerlock. Natalya powers out and boots Layla in the face, then pins her with her ass for a near fall. Layla rolls Natalya up for two. Layla hits her double bounce crossbody for another near fall, then wrenches the arm of Natalya. Layla grabs both legs of Nattie and tries to elevate her, but just doesn't have the power to do so. Layla dances and hits Natalya in the face with her ass. Natalya bails to the floor and says it wasn't funny, then traps Layla in the ring apron. Natalya wants a Sharpshooter, but Layla kicks her away; Natalya recovers first and kicks the Divas Champion. Layla rolls through on a suplex attempt and lands the Bombshell kick to the head of Natalya for the win.
Vickie shoos Layla away and she actually obeys, so that Vickie can make her announcement. Last week, AJ booked Chris Jericho vs Dolph Ziggler, contract against contract and Vickie is none too happy about it. Vickie says she's the only one who has the guts to stand up to the apparently tyrannical AJ Lee. Vickie says power shouldn't sit with a "mentally deranged child". AJ's music hits and she skips her way down to the ring. AJ takes the mic and slaps Vickie, then tackles her. Vickie scrambles away from the ring and runs to the back. AJ straightens herself up and bounces her face back and forth between crazed and sultry.
Sloppy match, tons of screaming from Vickie and an aggressive GM. One of those things is good. I used to enjoy a Layla match; she was booked as an athlete. Now she bumps a woman twice her size with her ass to do some damage, so she's been relegated to Kelly Kelly-levels of being a joke Divas Champion. What a shame.
Daniel Bryan attends anger management classes. Bryan is in a group class and says that he doesn't have anger management issues; couldn't be calmer. A child shows up with a goat mask and Bryan loses his mind; the doctor says it's his son and he's a goat in the school play. Could have been worse, but I'm sure we'll be seeing many more of these.
Punk tweets that if Lawler fights him, he can have the first punch. Lawler gets to his feet and hops on the announce table, mic in hand. Lawler takes exception to being told he beat up "nobodies" in Memphis. Nobodies like Jesse Ventura, Billy Graham, Dutch Mantell, etc. Lawler also takes exception to being called a fun loving fourteen year old. Lawler drops Andy Kaufman's name and says that when the time is right, someone worthy of the Hall of Fame will stand up to an opponent. Lawler says he knows he's not the best in the world, but he doesn't think Punk is either. Lawler isn't backing down tonight. Tonight, they fight. Lawler heads to the back to change into ring gear.
Match 3: John Cena vs The Miz (Intercontinental Champion), non-title
Winner: John Cena via pinfall
Cena in the first hour? My word! Miz opens with a headlock takeover and Cena stands up out of it and sends Miz off the ropes, then lands his own headlock takeover. Miz does the same and wants a hip toss this time, but Cena powers away from it and puts Miz on the mat, heading into a commercial.
Miz has Cena in the corner, but gets tossed to the floor, avoiding an Attitude Adjustment attempt. Cena dodges an incoming Miz and bounces him off the turnbuckle to hit a bulldog for two. Into the ropes again and Miz kicks Cena to his back, then boots him in the head for two. Cena pulls himself up in the corner slowly and Miz wants his corner clothesline, which connects. Miz heads to the top rope and lands a double axe handle for two. Miz keeps the pressure on with a chinlock, which Cena powers out of. Miz wants a suplex, but Cena reverses it; then he runs into the backbreaker/neckbreaker combo from Miz for another nearfall. Miz with another boot to the head and another two count. Miz lands yet another boot to the face and two count. Cena dodges the next attempt and locks in the STF, but Miz gets the bottom rope. Off the break, Miz kicks the knee of Cena and hits the spike DDT, then calls for the Skull Crushing Finale. Cena avoids it and Miz slides out of another Attitude Adjustment attempt and calls what appears to be an audible, hitting the Side Effect for two. Miz wants another corner clothesline but misses and Cena hits shoulders and the spinout bomb. Cena wants the Five Knuckle Shuffle and connects. Third time is the charm for the Attitude Adjustment and Cena picks up the win.
Cena and Miz have a great chemistry in the ring and Cena takes the kneeling spike DDT bump better than anyone else. Solid match, but I can only assume we see Cena at least once more tonight.
AJ says it's time for Raw-Active: The WWE Universe decides what kind of match Lawler/Punk have tonight. Tables, Cage or a No DQ match. At least the choices are actual variants, as opposed to last time when it was No DQ, Street Fight or Falls Count Anywhere.
Back to Bryan in anger management. Bryan vents about AJ and the last patient shows up: Kane.
Match 4: Heath Slater vs Santino Marella
Winner: Santino Marella via pinfall
Santino powerwalks right into the ring. Santino tries a double leg takedown and slowly trips Slater. Santino spins on Slater's back and gloats. Slater and Marella have an air guitar-off and Slater tags him in the head to take control. Slater grabs a headlock and punches Santino, then chokes him in the ropes. The crowd starts up an audible "boring" chant as Slater maintains control. Slater mounts the middle rope and Santino rolls away twice and eventually gets a small package for a two count. Santino lands jabs, the split/hip toss/headbutt combo and pulls out the traitorous Cobra. Aksana's music hits and she walks out on the stage. Slater approaches Santino from behind and gets Cobra'd, netting Santino the win.
A bit of goofiness never hurt anyone; wrestling would be dull without it. Fun match and at least we know that the Aksana angle doesn't mean a string of losses for Santino.
Match 5: Brodus Clay and Sin Cara vs Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes
Winners: Brodus Clay and Sin Cara via pinfall
The straight laced Cody Rhodes in a tag match with the masked luchador, the dancing fat guy and the humorously intelligent gentleman. It seems like WWE can't quite handle Ziggler and Rhodes in an elevated position simultaneously. Rhodes keeps on the "Sin Cara is ugly" shtick before the tag match begins.
Rhodes has Cara grounded and delivers a knee to the face, then tags Sandow in to deliver a russian leg sweep and elbow drop. Sandow stomps away and tags Rhodes back in, keeping the pressure on Sin Cara. Cara hits a hurricanrana, allowing Brodus to tag in and lay into Rhodes with a corner attack and a big running powerslam. Sandow breaks up the pinfall and stomps at Clay, but gets low bridged by Sin Cara, then a cross body to the floor. Rhodes wants the Beautiful Disaster but Clay headbutts him out of midair and hits the big splash for the win. Sin Cara dances along with Clay and the Funkadactyls to celebrate.
Back to anger management with Kane and Daniel Bryan. Kane takes the top mask off and says he's the devil's favorite demon. The doc wants Kane to share his childhood and Bryan thinks it's a bad idea. Kane gives his life story, including saying that Katie Vick was a less than stellar event. The group has homework: Make an "anger collage". Bryan trash talks the doctor on the way out of the room and Harold thanks Kane for sharing, wanting to hug it out. Kane grabs him by the neck and says no problem, then leaves. Of the three segments, this was the highlight: getting Kane's entire background in a calm, matter of fact manner.
A compilation of HHH's "greatest hits" plays.
Match 6: R-Truth (Half of the Tag Team Champions) vs Daniel Bryan
Winner: R-Truth via countout
Bryan fights the urge to shout No at the crowd with some deep breaths. Bryan bumps fists with Truth as a show of sportsmanship. Bryan takes Truth over early and they separate. Truth wants another fistbump, but fistbumps Little Jimmy instead, leaving Bryan hanging. Bryan bumps Jimmy's fist too, then lets loose on Truth with kicks. Truth counters an incoming Bryan and hits a clothesline, leg lariat and a big right hand, then the Lie Detector forearm for two. Truth elevates Bryan over the top rope to the floor and follows with a right hand. Truth grabs a mic and tells Little Jimmy that this time around, he knows where they are (last time there was a "Green Bay" gaff). Truth starts YESing into the mic and Bryan grabs the mic to start NOing in turn. Bryan gets himself counted out in the interim.
Bryan slowly comes to his senses, realizing he got himself counted out, which of course leads to him losing his mind and NOing at the crowd. It moves things forward and still has that "protecting" Bryan sense.
Triple H makes his appearance for the night. Note, he isn't closing the show. He isn't after the WWE Champion. He's right where he should be; the top of the last hour, a good way to transition to the end of the show. Good, simple choices. HHH says he's going to cut to the chase Is he going to retire? Trips says that everyone comes to a crossroad in their career and has to ask "is it time"? You can't fight time. HHH continues that he doesn't want to hang on, doesn't want to be around "too long". HHH wants to come out and be the Game, say that he'll rise up and kick Lesnar's ass...but he can't. Triple H is looking inside himself, asking if he's done. If he can't say he'll come back better than before, maybe he is done. HHH continues with a long winded "thank you" to the WWE Universe and tears up before he leaves. Strong teasing of his considering retiring, which we know isn't coming quite yet.
Slam of the Week: Jericho vs Ziggler one week ago and Ziggler sending Y2J packing. I miss the days of the Slam of the Week just being the biggest spot or slam of the week.
Dolph Ziggler enters with the beginning of Jericho's entrance, quickly cutting to his own entrance theme. Ziggler says that he got rid of Jericho, then uses his catchphrases, telling the WWE Universe that they'll never....ever see Chris Jericho again.
Match 7: Dolph Ziggler and Alberto del Rio vs Sheamus (World Heavyweight Champion) and Randy Orton
Winners: Sheamus and Randy Orton via pinfall
Orton with the early control and Sheamus shoulders del Rio from the apron. Ziggler bails to the outside after a powerslam and we'll reset after a commercial break. Ziggler is in charge with a chinlock as Orton rises to his feet and elbows out. Ziggler hits a knee to the gut and tags in ADR who works the arm but takes shots from Orton. Both men are grounded and Orton wants a tag, so we get them on both sides. Sheamus takes over and lands the Irish Curse, but ADR stops the pinfall. Ziggler ends up with the MITB briefcase in hand, but takes a backbreaker from Orton and Brogue Kick from Sheamus.
Standard tag, but at least everyone is interrelated - The Champ, the #1 contender, the man who lost the number one contendership and the guy with the free pass.
Lawler is in the back with Cena and says he needs to beat Punk on his own. Tonight, Lawler fights for himself.
Kane makes his way to the ring and Josh Matthews, while at the announce table, sells fear, as he got tossed aside by Kane at Summerslam. Matthews drops his headset and moves away from the table. Kane takes a seat at the announce table and puts on a headset.
Match 8: Zack Ryder vs David Otunga
Winner: Zack Ryder via pinfall
Cole tries to talk to Kane, who doesn't answer at all. Otunga kicks and clubs away at Ryder right away, then delivers a back elbow. Otunga puts Ryder in the corner and stomps away, then clotheslines him in the opposite corner for two. Ountga with a chinlock and then a suplex for two. Ryder hits the ropes and a facebuster for Otunga. Ryder hops to the middle rope but gets tossed off by Otunga. Ryder ducks a short arm clothesline and hits the Rough Ryder for the win.
Kane immediately hits the ring and grabs Ryder by the neck, but casts him aside and grabs Otunga for a Chokeslam instead.
They never seem quite sure what to do with Kane; he let Ryder go, but Chokeslammed Otunga, who didn't do anything to him. Kane's program with Bryan isn't quite finished either, so he's kind of at a crossroads as far as where he goes from here.
Match 9: CM Punk vs Jerry "The King" Lawler, Cage Match
Winner: CM Punk via submission
After the announcement of the cage match, AJ steps out on stage to let us know that at Night of Champions, Punk defends against Cena. Inside the cage, Punk lays into Lawler with forearms and keeps him down with a chinlock. Punk plays with Lawler, nudging his head with his boot and claiming to be thew new king of Memphis. Punk wants a top rope axe handle, but Lawler goes across the cage, prompting Punk to rush him across the cage and strike. Punk heads up again and Lawler crotches him. Lawler heads for the cage door, but Punk grabs his foot and drags him back in, then delivers elbow drops. Lawler counters a neckbreaker by shoving Punk into the cage, but he's unable to capitalize. Lawler finally gets some offense going with punches and using the cage as a weapon. Lawler continues with a clothesline and heads to the second rope, delivering the diving fist drop, but Punk kicks out at two.
Lawler wants the door again, but Punk stops him, then sends him to a corner and delivers the high knee, leaving both men on the mat. Punk is busted open and calls for the GTS, but delivers a Rockbottom and locks in the Anaconda Vise for the win. Punk has transitioned to the Vise like this in the past, but he made it a point to stand in "Rockbottom" position before hand. It's these little things that show which guys really care in the ring and which guys are just collecting a paycheck. Punk grabs a mic and heads back into the cage with a chain and padlock, sealing the cage back up. Punk wants to hear Lawler say he's the best in the world. Lawler refuses and gets elbows to his collarbone for it. Punk continues to demand Lawler say he's best in the world. John Cena rushes to ringside and wants the cage up. Cena says it's enough. Punk drops knees on Lawler's face and says he's best in the world. As the cage lifts, Punk slides out and heads for the back.
Punk just took a hard left at the corner of heel and face. It's been a good build so far, but WWE just threw the switch to full speed ahead on the turn. Punk brutalizes Lawler then runs away from Cena the first chance he gets. It's a shame that WWE seems to be going with a black and white heel/face dynamic here, as Punk was tentative in the weeks leading to this. He had a chance to whack Cena with the belt recently, but offered a handshake. Now, he's going after the respect he wants by any means necessary. To wager a guess, Punk finagles a win over Cena at Night of Champions, but there are shenanigans; Punk makes to Royal Rumble with the WWE Title in tow, but The Rock wins it there; Cena faces Rock at Wrestlemania next year for the belt and wins. If WWE goes this way, then Punk should be chasing Cena for the belt immediately after.
That's Raw for this week - For the first time since the transition to three hours, the show felt like it dragged on. A three hour show really doesn't need a 10 minute overrun, but that's just kind of the standard at this point.