CM Punk's quest for respect has taken a wicked tight left turn at the corner of face and heel. How is he going to react, how is AJ going to respond, and how is Daniel Bryan's anger collage going to turn out?
Michael Cole is at the commentary booth next to an empty chair - Jerry Lawler's music hit as per normal, but he didn't come out before the show. We then cut to Lawler and CM Punk brawling in the back and Punk being pulled away by four refs, only to boot The King of Memphis in the face, laying him out. To open the show proper, the World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus heads to the ring. Cole reiterates that Lawler was "sneak attacked" by Punk, even though the clip we were shown doesn't prove that, which is a terrible way to put things together. Sheamus reminds us that we're in Chicago, and about two sentences in, the hometown hero WWE Champion interrupts. Punk tells Sheamus not to talk to his people. Punk says the people of Chicago relate to him, then asks how the crowd is doing tonight, receiving a warm welcome. He then lets us know that Lawler attacked him from behind; Punk is the King of Chicago. Punk gave Lawler what he "deserved" Chicago style. Punk continues that the white knight John Cena came to the ring last week to save The King, getting a wave of boos from the Chi-town crowd. Punk asks if he turned his back on the WWE Universe like Lawler said and gets a rowdy "NO" chant.
Punk says that helping Lawler means Cena agrees with him, which is disrespecting him. Punk says that by disrespecting the WWE Champion, Cena is the one who has turned his back on the WWE Universe. Sheamus has had enough and interrupts, saying that Punk has some nerve talking about disrespect. WWE Champion or not, Punk interrupted Sheamus, so he's being disrespectful too. Sheamus tries to goad Punk into getting in the ring, but Punk says he has nothing to do with the Great White. Punk says that as World Heavyweight Champion, he's (at best) second best in the world. Sheamus says Punk is talking out of his arse, so he may as well turn around so he can look at it. This draws out General Manager AJ Lee to settle things down. Tonight will have two main events - The number one contenders to the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles will face off, and we'll also have a Champion vs Champion match. John Cena vs Alberto del Rio and Punk vs Sheamus, tonight!
Match 1: Dolph Ziggler (Smackdown Money in the Bank Holder) vs Randy Orton
Winner: Dolph Ziggler via pinfall
Vickie introduces Dolph as per the norm and lets us know that she will discuss her issues with AJ later tonight. A stalemate on a shoulder block and a dropkick from Ziggler opens the match. Orton grabs a headlock and then runs Ziggler over with a shoulder. A leapfrog from Ziggler leads to another shoulder and a dropkick from Orton this time. Orton hits the stomps around the limbs then kicks the chest of the Showoff. Ziggler leapfrogs in the corner, but Orton grabs him for the top rope bounce suplex for two. Ziggler pops up and punches away at Orton in the corner to regain a bit of steam. Out of the opposite corner, Orton gets his hands up in the face of Ziggler, then tosses him to the floor. The Viper pursues and throws Ziggler into the barricades, leaving him on the floor into a commercial.
Orton is still in charge as we return and elevates Ziggler for a big pancake, then mounts for punches in the corner. Ziggler fights out of the follow up with a swinging neckbreaker; both men roll to the floor and Ziggler throws Orton into the barricade shoulder first. Ziggler rolls Orton back in and covers him for two. Ziggler gets to his feet and hits his jumping elbow for two again. Now into a chinlock and Ziggler keeps Orton grounded, then does his headstand showoff. Ziggler lands in a bridge, applying more pressure to the neck, then walks his way back into normal position. Orton fights up to his feet, but runs into a knee. Ziggler tries the jumping elbow again but comes up empty this time, leading to a slugfest. Ziggler fights out of the corner and hits a running clothesline for another near fall. Ziggler now climbs to the top rope, but Orton crotches him then strikes away. Orton follows up top for a top rope superplex and covers Ziggler for two. Both men are slow to their feet, but Orton is first - He hits two clotheslines and a powerslam, then tosses Ziggler to the apron, but the Showoff drops him neck first across the top rope. Ziggler slides back in, but runs into an Orton backbreaker for two. Ziggler pops up and hits his new jumping DDT, but Orton is out at two. Ziggler tries the Namedropper, but ends up on the apron for Orton's spike DDT. Orton coils for the RKO, but Ziggler shoves him off. Orton hits his signature corner schoolboy, but Ziggler rolls through and grabs a handful of tights, which is good for the win.
Aside from the ending, a bit similar to Smackdown's match, but that's just more of a good thing - Ziggler's athleticism and Orton's intensity make for a great match. Ziggler's bridging chinlock was a nice change up from the norm on a WWE mat. Good stuff.
The Miz immediately comes out and walks past Ziggler, making his way to the commentary booth. Apparently it's now Monday Night Miz. Cole says that "the most talked about thing in WWE" right now is Daniel Bryan's Anger Management course. Tonight, the group presents their anger collages. Bryan gets volunteered to go first, and it's a paper with "NO" and "YES" scribbled all over it. Kane is next and holds up a blank piece of paper. Kane is asked how he feels inside and says he'll show us - He puts his paper in the trash can and does his fire summon routine, lighting it up. Bryan calls him the teacher's pet. Now it's time to talk about their families.
Match 2: Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara vs Cody Rhodes and Tensai
Winners: Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara
Rhodes and Cara start out and Cara's speed gets the best of Rhodes, with a handspring elbow off the ropes - The standoff leads to a quick commercial. Tensai is in control as we return, bludgeoning Sin Cara in the corner, then tagging in Cody Rhodes. Tensai hits a headbutt from the apron for good measure and this allows Rhodes to get a two count. Rhodes ties up Sin Cara in a bow and arrow stretch mid ring, then Cara rolls out for a quick one count to counter. Rhodes goes after the mask, then drops a forearm across Cara. Tensai comes back in and hits Sin Cara with a short arm clothesline, then clubs him. Tensai continues with a scoop slam and locks on a nerve hold. Tensai is taking a lot of "Albert" chants from the Chicago crowd. Cara fights out of a corner with boots and an enzuigiri, but Rhodes tags in, stopping the hot tag to Mysterio. Cara makes the tag shortly after and Rey lays into Rhodes.
Mysterio takes to the apron and then the top rope for a diving senton for two. Rhodes tries a school boy, but Mysterio rolls through with a low dropkick. Tensai comes in to run interference, but Mysterio counters him and hits a 619, followed by a Sin Cara missile dropkick. Rhodes hits a gourduster for two in the confusion. Rhodes wants a powerbomb, but Mysterio counters into a hurricanrana and a 619, then tags Cara in to hit a Swanton Bomb for the win.
Sin Cara gets the pinfall, but Rey's music plays. I never enjoy when they pull that bit. Watching with someone who's still a bit of a new fan (my fiancee), I realize one of the key flaws with Michael Cole being a lead announcer and not having the straight man, the play by play man (such as Matt Striker) on the mic - Nobody learns what anything is called. A bow and arrow stretch is pretty rare on WWE TV; why not teach the kids and the newer fans who might be older what it's called? We all know it's a show, we all know it's planned, but we make a deal with WWE for hours every week - We'll suspend our disbelief and you make us feel like we're watching wrestling matches that matter. If someone locks in a Kimura in UFC, they'll call it. Why not grant us that same courtesy and try to bring us back into the illusion?
Back to Anger Management, it's time for work on trust issues. Bryan and Kane are not participating in the hand holding exercise going on. Space is made in the middle of the room and Kane and Bryan will be demonstrating a trust exercise. It's the old "fall back and your partner catches you" trust exercise. Bryan is the first to fall backwards, and he says he trusts Kane. Kane catches Bryan as he falls back and stands him back up. Now it's Harold's turn - Kane and Bryan will both catch him. Harold hits the ground. Bryan and Kane ask each other if they knew the other wouldn't catch him. Bryan says he thinks he finally understands Kane. This is great already and it's only going to get better. Kane and Bryan for tag champs!
Match 3: Sheamus (World Heavyweight Champion) vs CM Punk (WWE Champion) - Champion vs Champion
Winner: No contest
So once again the WWE Champion opens the second hour of Raw. This still leaves John Cena to main event. Storyline or not, this is really out of hand. Both champions practically jerking the curtain is unacceptable; it devalues the titles in ludicrous fashion. CM Punk comes out in jeans and a t-shirt. Punk grabs a mic and plays to the hometown crowd. The WWE Champion says that Chicago respects him and his decisions. Punk says that champ vs champ is a main event, not a mid-show trifle. Punk says that in observence of Labor Day, he's taking the day off from work. He tosses the mic to the mat and bails from the ring, bringing a chorus of boos from the Chicago crowd - Making a Chicago crowd boo CM Punk is quite a feat. Sheamus grabs the mic and says that Punk is showing disrespect to his people by walking out.
Cut to Punk leaving the arena, stopped by AJ who says he can't leave. Punk says to check his contract; he's taking a personal day. Matt Striker asks AJ what she's going to do about her main event; she asks him who he is then says she'll find Sheamus an opponent.
Alberto del Rio makes his way to the ring while Sheamus is still in it. Jack Swagger's music hits next.
Actual Match 3: Sheamus (World Heavyweight Champion) vs Jack Swagger, non-title
Winner: Sheamus via submission
Now, this match would be interesting if the 262 lb Swagger was made to look at all credible in the last 12 months. At the moment, he's entirely a joke and probably one of the most misused members of the roster, so there's no hint of Swagger having a chance against Sheamus. Quick exchange to open and Sheamus takes control. Sheamus quickly goes to the apron, then lands a top rope shoulder block for two. Swagger hits the ropes and tags Sheamus with a chopblock for one. Sheamus boots out of a corner and hits hammers and a corner shoulder, but misses the knee lift. Swagger takes him up for a gutwrench, but Sheamus lands on his feet, wanting White Noise; Swagger counters then hits a Swagger Bomb for two. Sheamus knocks Swagger down and locks in the Cloverleaf, which Cole says Sheamus has never used before. This, of course, is patently false and Cole throws a verbal party for him using new moves. It really makes you wonder if Cole does this garbage on purpose, or if he's just that bad at his job. I feel it's the latter; again, this is where the play by play guy who knows his stats and such would be a huge asset to the show as a whole.
Del Rio attacks from behind and Ricardo runs interference. White Noise on del Rio and Sheamus wants a Brough Kick. Ricardo Rodriguez takes it instead as del Rio escapes. Rodriguez sells the Brough Kick heavily and the doctor hits the ring; perhaps an angle leaving ADR without his usual backup to see how he does on his own without that crutch?
Aside from Cole's worthlessness as a mic-man, how come AJ didn't pick Ryback, who's been on a huge win streak instead of Swagger who is on a more consistent first-name basis with losing? I mean, we know why, but that's still one of those glaring logic gaps we let slide on a regular basis without getting the favor returned to us in some fashion.
Match 4: Eve Torres vs Kaitlyn
Winner: Eve Torrest via pinfall
How does Eve have time to train and wrestle PLUS be Booker T's assistant? Something doesn't add up! Eve is all smiles in the ring, which matches her newly found attitude of being supportive of Kaitlyn and Layla. Speaking of Layla, the Divas Champ is at ringside for commentary. Kaitlyn trips Eve and hits a crossbody early, then locks in a headlock. Kaitlyn blocks a hiptoss and hits one of her own, but Eve takes her down and punches her on the mat. The ref breaks the catfight up and Eve offers a handshake, which Kaitlyn wants no part of. Eve with an arm wrench and Kaitlyn gets away, but Eve hits a drop toe hold and a front facelock, then takes Kaitlyn over into a headlock. Kaitlyn fights to her feet and Eve knocks her out of the air in an awkward fashion and Eve steps back while the ref checks on her. Eve with a kick to the gut and her new neckbreaker for the win.
Layla and Miz on commentary is WAY too much - The bickering is entirely distracting and draws attention away from the match. Eve shakes Kaitlyn's hand after the match and rolls out to talk to Layla. Eve wants to shake the hand of the Divas Champion as well, and Layla complies. Eve heads out of the ringside area. Obviously another facet of the "Eve is a manipulator" angle, but we'll see where it takes us from here.
Swagger is in the back and AJ catches up to him. Swagger says he's taking "extended time off" because he's better than this. AJ goes into a fit about people leaving her lately, dropping Lesnar, Jericho and Punk earlier tonight. Swagger tells her he's sorry and leaves the arena. Well, that's one way to break a pathetic losing streak.
Back to Anger Management and congratulations to everyone. Daniel Bryan's closing words are full of thanks and willingness to give Kane a rematch from Summerslam. Kane thanks Bryan and says one day he'll accept that challenge, doing his best not to eviscerate him. Bryan takes exception to this and says it's hard to eviscerate when you're tapping out. The rest of the group scuttles out and Bryan says he won't be intimidated. The doc tries to break it up and Kane grabs Bryan by the neck - The doc goes ballistic, screaming that they don't listen and have learned nothing. Hope something comes of all this.
Michael Cole says that during the commercial, he was informed that for Raw-Action tonight, the WWE Universe will Twitter-Vote on whether Kane and Bryan wrestle one another, tag together or "hug it out".
Matt Striker catches up with ADR for an update on Ricardo. David Otunga steps out and says "no comment" at this time. Oh good lord.
Match 5: Jinder Mahal vs Ryback
Winner: Ryback via pinfall
Ryback comes out in his new t-shirt, which doesn't exactly mesh with his character, but it says "Feed Me More" on it, so that's close enough. Immediately, Chicago opens up with a "Goldberg" chant as Mahal tries an arm wrench on the big man. Ryback casts him off and strikes away at him. Ryback blocks an Irish whip, but runs into knees in the corner. Mahal with a huge shoulder to knock Ryback down, but he answers with a huge scoop slam and a back body drop. Ryback follows with a deadlift powerbomb. Ryback hits the huge lariat and calls for the end. Ryback hits Shellshocked and pins Jinder.
Despite the "Goldberg" chants, the crowd is vocally behind Ryback, enjoying his catchphrase and dominating power style. Ryback continues to take slightly more offense from people than in earlier matches, but we're still about where we have been with him. Time for real forward movement.
Matt Striker catches up with AJ again and asks what she plans to do about the current goings on. AJ says that Cena vs del Rio is falls count anywhere tonight. No real logic behind why, aside from AJ losing her cool on the whole.
Daniel Bryan and Kane each make their entrance to the ring area to find out the fate decided for them by the WWE Universe via Twitter. The results of the poll: Hug it out. Twitter, you have failed me in the gravest fashion. Team Fire and Yes is over before it begins. There's a referee in the ring to apparently officiate this hug; he's actually gesturing for them to meet mid ring. This can't be in his jurisdiction. Bryan gets into a Yes/No argument with the crowd as Kane remains stoic. Kane and Bryan approach for a hug, but Kane backs off. Next it's Bryan's turn to back off with another Yes/No argument. A slight chest bump draws a boo from the crowd. A repeat. Bryan gets his arms around Kane, but Kane doesn't reciprocate; Bryan is extremely upset that Kane did not hug him. Of note, a flash of a Briscoe Brothers "Man Up" t-shirt in the crowd during this was good for a laugh. Kane finally hugs Bryan, but he didn't reciprocate this time. Two separate halves of a hug does not a hug make, gentlemen. Miz is reporting the rules of a "hug it out" as this goes on, which is fair enough, since we have a ref to enforce it.
A hug, finally! Has Anger Management given these men a breakthrough? Bryan offers a handshake and Kane accepts. Slaps on the shoulders and Bryan is taking exception to the force which Kane does them. Kane now gets shoved by Bryan and returns the favor. Bryan says they need to cool it and shoves Kane again. Kane shoves him back again and Bryan slaps him. Now a fight breaks out. Bryan wants the Nolock but Kane boots him in the face. A low bridge from Bryan deposits Kane on the outside and Kane thrusts the throat of Bryan as he flies off the apron. Kane now bounces Bryan off every surface he can find and throws a chair and Bryan into the ring. Kane with a chokeslam, but not on the chair. Kane wraps Bryan's head in the chair and heads to the top rope, which draws another pair of refs out to stop him. Bryan recovers and whacks Kane with the chair, then gets the hell out of Dodge.
That was weird and awkward and entirely more entertaining than half the matches we see on Raw on a regular basis. I would normally poo-poo that much time devoted to a non-match, but if it's going to entertain me, it's fine.
Match 6: Santino Marella vs Antonio Cesaro (c), United States Championship
Winner: Antonio Cesaro via pinfall
In an inset promo, Cesaro says "Success" in five languages. Santino immediately slaps Cesaro, which leads to aggression, but Marella hits a drop toe hold and the diving headbutt. Santino wants the Cobra, but Aksana hops to the apron, so he puts it away. Santino hits the Cobra strike sans the puppet, which has no effect. Cesaro hits armtrap headbutts and a deadlift gutwrench. Cesaro stomps the Cobra puppet on the mat, then lays into Santino with elbows and short arm clotheslines. Santino ducks the third one and dives for the Cobra. Santino kicks Cesaro out and puts the puppet on, but Cesaro hits the ring, hitting the Neutralizer for the win.
So Santino's current storyline is him and his sock puppet having relationship issues...and he's dragging the US Title into it. Cesaro, make that the European title, be an effective heel and kick the bejeezus out of people smaller than you, just like you should be. Please.
Match 7: Zack Ryder vs Heath Slater
Winner: Zack Ryder via pinfall
Slater with a quick shoulder block, but Ryder answers with a flapjack for one. Slater with a big right hand and boots, then he air guitars Ryder in the head. Slater continues with a big neckbreaker out of the corner for two. Slater with elbows to the collarbone and more air guitaring, then a knee drop for another nearfall. A chinlock from Slater and Ryder quickly gets to his feet; Slater grounds him again. Ryder tries to fight out again, but Slater keeps the pressure on. Slater rushes Ryder, but runs into double knees and a second rope missile dropkick. Ryder hits a forearm in the opposite corner and then the Broski Boot. Slater counters the Rough Ryder, but Ryder hits a facebuster and then the Rough Ryder after a quick turnaround.
Good, straight forward match and most crowds love to see Ryder win and Slater lose. More importantly, we get to see both men on Raw in a normal match. Both should be moving up on the roster and it's silly that they don't.
Vickie Guerrero immediately makes her way to the ring to interrupt and ruin Ryder's moment. Vickie says she wants to address AJ and wants her in the ring now. Tonight is not the night to mess with the Raw General Manager, madam cougar. Vickie stages a sit-in midring. She waits long enough that we head into a commercial. Vickie starts her conversation before AJ even comes to the ring and says she's failed and it's time for her to leave. AJ finally heads toward the ring and she is not skipping or smiling. The Raw GM says she just got off the phone with the Board of Directors, who has lambasted her actions as of late. She is not to put her hands on any superstar, manager or announcer moving forward. She has also been asked to apologize. AJ says she is sorry. Vickie goads AJ, asking why she's apologizing. Is it because she's inept? Or to Vickie for her attacking her? Vickie demands a direct apology. AJ does so begrudingly. Vickie calls the apology pathetic, wanting it to mean something. AJ says she's sorry again and Vickie slaps her. AJ can't strike back and has a maddened look in her face. Vickie goes to leave, but returns to the ring to rub AJ's face in it a bit more, then slaps her again. Vickie cackles and leaves the ring, then skips her way up the ramp, further mocking the GM. AJ throws a fit in the ring, throwing the mic and the chair Vickie was sitting on, then strikes the mat with the chair, screaming. AJ jettisons the chair up the ramp, then pounds the mat, screaming the entire time. Maybe AJ should have joined Bryan and Kane in that anger management class.
So the Board of Directors is fine with a manager paint brushing the Raw GM twice, but no retaliation is to be accepted? The Board of Directors is a bunch of a-holes if you ask me. Also, after an outburst like that, how could they not rescind AJ's position immediately? The Board is a terrible crutch that's been used for way too long in WWE when nothing else will make sense because the storylines have screwed up the chain of command so severely.
Match 8: John Cena vs Alberto del Rio, Falls Count Anywhere
Winner: Alberto del Rio via pinfall
Opening the match on TV, ADR hits a backbreaker, since the match started mid commercial. Brilliant. Alberto with a scoop slam for two and a chinlock. Cena gets up to his feet and powers out of the hold, delivering a kick to the gut of del Rio. They hit a double clothesline on one another and somehow make no impact. Cena misses a haymaker and ADR with a Backstabber for two. The poor Colons. Alberto heads to the top rope, but Cena dropkicks him out of midair. Cena right into the pair of shoulders and spin out bomb, calling for the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Cena connects and wants an Attitude Adjustment, but ADR grabs the top rope and drops Cena throat first across it. Out to the floor now and Cena gets tossed into the steel steps. ADR with a double stomp to the chest of Cena, then throws him into the barricade. ADR wants to whip Cena into the other set of stairs, but Cena reverses the whip. Del Rio hops over the steps, but Cena follows with a shoulder block over them for two. Cena clears the announce table, but del Rio hits an enzuigiri from behind for his own two count. Alberto cinches up for a vertical suplex onto the table, but Cena counters, wanting the Attitude Adjustment again; ADR lands on his feet and shoves Cena into the ringpost. Del Rio has a chair in hand and swings for the fences, but Cena ducks, causing him to hit the ringpost with the chair. Cena takes advantage and tosses ADR over the barricade. Cena drags the stairs over toward the announce table.
Alberto gets to his feet, but Cena stays in charge, throwing him into the barricade again. Cena lifts del Rio into a fireman's carry and walks up the stairs, wanting an Attitude Adjustment through the table. Del Rio fights out and hits a belly to back suplex through the table instead. Del Rio turns Cena over and pins him, but Cena is out in two. Cena is rolled back into the ring and ADR grabs a mic, then gets in the ring. He mocks Cena, saying he's beneath him, just like Chicago, punctuating with boots. ADR says he's going to break Cena's arm and rolls into the Cross Armbreaker. Cena rolls through the normal lock on and grabs the STF. Alberto reaches for the mic he was just using and bops Cena in the head with it to break the hold. Del Rio rushes Cena at the ropes, but he dodges, sending ADR careening to the floor, holding his knee. ADR still has fight in him and lands a suplex on the steel ramp for two. Cena fights back and throws ADR head first into the stage twice. Cena grabs a speaker and lifts it up, but gets kicked in the leg, causing Cena to hobble around a bit. They fght to the backstage area and Cena grabs a trashcan and throws it at ADR, missing. Del Rio wants another Cross Armbreaker, but Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment onto a bunch of tool boxes. CM Punk attacks from behind with a kick to the head and throws ADR on top of Cena for the win.
Punk lifts Cena onto his shoulders and gives him a GTS across a car hood. Punk gets in the face of the number one contender and says "respect". Gotta say, the GTS across an *insert object here* spot is a terrible one, since guys do that to each other on turnbuckles and tables on a far too regular basis. Punk gets in the car he just tossed Cena onto and Paul Heyman is the man driving it. I think we've all been waiting for this turn in the story for too long.
Now, that was an interesting episode of Raw. Things move forward, things develop and Paul Heyman is back! He may not have Brock Lesnar in tow after he "quit", but the WWE Champ isn't a bad addition to your stable. Miz did a great job on commentary; if we had to make a criticism, his "mocking" voice got a bit grating at times and sounded childish, but aside from his spat with Layla, he was entertaining.