Raw opens up strong in Montreal with Bret Hart making his way to the ring with the crowd going ballistic. The Hitman can barely get a word in over the proud Canadian crowd and recounts the "Montreal Screwjob" as being a dark but ultimately proud day, thanks to the Canadian fans. CM Punk, decked out in pink and black gear, interrupts and slowly meanders to the ring. The WWE Champion walks around Hart a few times and says that the last 15 years have been detailed more than enough. Punk goes into "what if CM Punk wrestled Bret Hart back in 1997 instead of Shawn Michaels?". Hart says he would have tapped Punk out in a minute with a Sharpshooter. Punk disagrees and says that the WWE we know wouldn't exist - The Attitude Era would never have been born and Punk would have jumped to WCW, leaving the WWE to die. Punk takes exception to Hart's "Best there is, was and ever will be" catchphrase.
After some jawwing back and forth and mocking of Jerry Lawler, Bret Hart has the boys in the back play a recap of Punk kicking Cena in the skull and driving off with Paul Heyman from last week. Punk asks if Cena has Hart's back tonight like he had Lawler's. Bret tries to retort and Punk reminds him that he has now been WWE Champion longer than Hart ever was. Punk continues on about respect and cementing his legacy. He says that at Night of Champions, he'll put Cena to sleep and The Hitman quips that that's what he's doing to the Montreal crowd right now. Punk says he'll turn Cena into a beaten, broken shell of a man...just like Hart. The WWE Champion leaves the arena to a resounding "Asshole" chant.
Strong open - The "respect" train of thought continues to barrel down the tracks and Punk verbally unloaded on Hart without holding anything back or ignoring any of the "truths" about that day in Montreal.
Tonight's Raw-Action: Does CM Punk face Brodus Clay, Jerry Lawler or Randy Orton tonight?
Match 1: Kofi Kingston and R-Truth (Tag Team Champions) vs The Miz (Intercontinental Champion) and Antonio Cesaro (United States Champion)
Winners: Kofi Kingston and R-Truth via pinfall
Cesaro says "prestige" in five languages. Talk about blowing a good portion of your talent load on the first match. Three champions in the opener of the show. Miz and Kofi open and Miz takes a big time monkey flip. Truth tags in for a double team russian leg sweep and knee drop/elbow drop combo. Cesaro comes in and gets tossed to the floor, allowing Kofi to spring off of Truth's back for a dive, taking both opponents out and leading into a commercial.
Cesaro is in charge with Truth in a chinlock, which he quickly fights out of. Cesaro tags in Miz who drops Truth across the middle rope for two. Miz takes Truth to the corner and pounds away at him, then gets some space and hits his corner lariat. Miz heads to the top rope and drops an axe handle across Truth's back for a one count. Miz into a chinlock of his own and Truth fights out again, but takes a big knee to the gut. Miz hits the ropes but gets caught with a leg lariat, forcing a tag on both sides and Kofi running wild on Cesaro. Kofi hits his chops, dropkick and jumping clothesline, then the Boomdrop. Kofi wants Trouble in Paradise and Miz interferes on the apron, allowing Cesaro to hits a body shot. Kofi counters out of the corner and hits a top rope crossbody, with the pin broken up by Miz. Truth takes Miz out and gets dumped over the top by Cesaro. Cesaro tries a schoolboy but Kofi kicks out and hits Trouble in Paradise for the win.
Can't argue with the Tag Team Champs beating a random pairing, but a win for Cesaro here wouldn't have been a bad call. Yet another standard tag team match with nothing new; Cesaro and Miz barely got to hit any signature offense and Cesaro especially should be showing his repertoire at every chance. The kiddies love them, but it might not hurt to bounce the tag titles to the next team quite soon.
Sheamus is chatting with Bret Hart as they head to commercial, after a recap of the banning of the Brough Kick. Not exactly Earth shattering, as he still has White Noise, the Celtic Cross and the Cloverleaf...
David Otunga deposes Sheamus with Ricardo Rodriguez present about the banning of the Brogue Kick.. They're desperately trying to capture the comedy of Bryan/Kane in anger management, but it just doesn't flow quite as well. Sheamus eventually Brogue Kicks the camera, causing "static". It all leads up to Otunga vs Sheamus in the ring.
Match 2: Kaitlyn, Eve Torres and Layla (Divas Champion) vs Beth Phoenix, Natalya and Alicia Fox
Winners: Kaitlyn, Eve Torres and Layla via pinfall
I guess Alicia Fox is a heel tonight since she wore a black fur...and because they ran out of Divas. Kaitlyn and Beth open and Beth overpowers her. Kaitlyn quickly turns it around with pressure in the corner and a pair of shoulder blocks. Natalya tags in and the Divas of Doom double team Kaitlyn for two. Fox kicks Kaitlyn as she hits the ropes, leaving Nattie to hit a discus lariat for two. Fox tags in and hits her customary northern lights suplex for two. Kaitlyn dodges a kick in the corner and tags in Layla to take out all three opponents. Layla with a gut kick and double springboard cross body. Eve tags herself in hits her neckbreaker on Fox for the win.
Eve over-celebrates as she sells her new "happy" Diva gimmick; this at least helps to move this forward even though it's patently obvious she's full of crap.
AJ is in the back looking borderline comatose and Punk approaches her - He's upset that he has a match tonight but Cena doesn't, only six days out from his title shot. AJ says that since Punk walked out on the people last week, they'll choose his fate this week. To be honest, it really isn't fair that Punk has a match and Cena doesn't! Brodus Clay shows up and smiles at Punk.
Match 3: CM Punk (WWE Champion) vs Randy Orton
Winner: Randy Orton via disqualification
The WWE Champion is match 3 on the Raw before Night of Champions...If it wasn't for the "respect" gimmick going on right now, I'd call shenanigans on that. For now, it makes sense to not make sense. Orton wins a whopping 75% of the Raw-Active Twitter vote, with Lawler getting 13% and the Funkasaurus netting only 12%.
Punk with an early headlock and a shoulder block. Another headlock and another shoulder block and Orton answers with a hip toss. Orton's turn for a headlock and Punk backs him into a corner and delivers knees. Now a backbreaker for one. Punk with a chinlock that Orton immediately starts to stand up from, but Punk puts him right back on the mat. Orton fights out now and delivers various strikes in the corner. Punk leapfrogs in the corner and narrowly avoids an RKO by rolling to the floor. Punk starts to leave, but Orton chases him down and punches him back to toward the ring. Orton gets on the apron and Punk kicks his leg out from under him to gain a bit of momentum back, into a commercial.
Punk has Orton in an abdominal stretch, but Orton hip tosses his way out. Orton follows with a jumping knee drop but comes up empty. Punk returns to working the midsection of Orton with a knee and a stomp, then delivers a Bret Hart-style driving elbow to the gut. Cole, being as "astute" as he is, says that it's key that Punk drops the elbow HBK-style since that's who Hart faced in Montreal 15 years ago. Cole is just outright bad at his job at this point. Punk ascends the next corner wanting an axe handle, but Orton crotches him and sets up for the top rope superplex, landing it. Punk kicks out at two and both men are slow to get to their feet. They fight from their knees up to their feet with Orton keeping the advantage. Punk lands a kick, but Orton lashes out with two clotheslines, wanting his powerslam. Punk avoids it, but walks into a back body drop, then rolls to the apron. Orton with a kick and setting up for the spike DDT. Punk kicks his way out and springboards for a clothesline, getting a two count. Punk wants the GTS, but Orton counters; Punk counters an RKO attempt, but Orton hits his backbreaker for two. Orton throws Punk to the apron, this time hitting the spike DDT. Orton coils for the RKO but Dolph Ziggler attacks from behind. Punk gets knocked to the floor and Orton hits a powerslam on Ziggler. Punk runs in from behind and takes a powerslam for himself. Orton coiils once again, but Ziggler attacks again. Punk grabs the feet of Orton, which lets Ziggler lay into Orton. Lawler drops his headphones and comes to Orton's side. Orton disposes of Ziggler and Lawler and the Viper stand tall. They head to the floor and fight into a commercial.
Back to the show, we have restarted as a tag match
Match 4: Dolph Ziggler and CM Punk vs Randy Orton and Jerry Lawler
Winners: Randy Orton and Jerry Lawler via pinfall
AJ Lee has restarted this as a tag match during the commercial. Ziggler is in control on Orton, but Orton explodes out of the corner with a clothesline and the limb stomps. Now the rope rebounding vertical suplex for two on Ziggler. Lawler tags in and dropkicks Mr. Money in the Bank in the face, then lands the second rope fist drop. Lawler drops a second one but Ziggler kicks out at two. Ziggler hits a dropkick of his own to take control of the match back. Ziggler with the jumping elbow for two. Ziggler cinches in a headlock and Lawler fights out, but Ziggler clotheslines him right back down. Ziggler showboats and hits a snap elbow drop on The King, then goes into a chinlock. Lawler fights out with a belly to back suplex and Orton gets the tag. Ziggler catches the double two clotheslines and powerslam from Orton but counters the spike DDT and tosses Orton over the top to the floor. Paul Heyman makes his way to ringside to chat with Punk on the floor. Vickie goes ballistic on the pair since they're chatting about what to eat tonight. Ziggler continues to fight Orton in the background, dropkicking his knee, but missing the Namedropper. Ziggler counters the RKO with a schoolboy for a two count, but gets up into the RKO immediately after for the loss.
I do quite literally mean "in the background" - The camera stayed focused on the dinner planning between Punk and Heyman with just enough angle to catch the ending of the tag match. Ziggler suffers yet another loss and Punk continues to show that he only cares about himself. The match was just ok. More standard tag action with signature offense sprinkled on top.
Heyman and Punk are leaving the arena and Matt Striker asks what the nature of their relationship is. Punk says he's a Paul Heyman guy and leaves.
A replay of last week's "hug it out" segment with Bryan and Kane with some sappy music playing. Kane is in the back and Daniel Bryan approaches - Both were told that the other had something to say to him. The doctor from anger management has set this up and asks how they feel. AJ asked him to come, since they were so close to a break through. Dr. Shelby says his plan will either solve the problem or send them into an abyss.
Match 5: Heath Slater vs Ryback
Winner: Ryback via pinfall
Slater makes a "Zack Ryder can't get laid" joke and demands his rematch. Zack appears on the Titantron and says that tonight it's not RyDER...it's RyBACK. Slater is less than enthused. Immediate "Goldberg" chants from the crowd as Slater locks in a headlock then gets ejected from the ring. Slater gets back in the ring and gets shouldered to the mat. Slater punches Ryback and the feeding machine answers in kind. Slater with a neckbreaker and Ryback is out before the one count. Slater kicks at Ryback's back which has no effect, then hits a DDT for a no count again. Slater kicks Ryback into the ropes, who rebounds with the big lariat. Next up is a high spinebuster and a deadlift powerbomb. Ryback calls for the end and hits Shellshocked.
Despite the "Goldberg" chants, the WWE Universe is enjoying the hell out of Ryback, happy to chant for and with him during and after the match.
The Primetime Players show up to AJ's office. They act goofy, which they are amazing at. AJ says that PTP are not the number one contenders to the tag titles and Titus O'Neal calls a personal foul on her. They haven't beaten one team quite yet...Kane and Daniel Bryan. Fire and Yes is a go. The end game of Bryan/Kane as tag champs could still come to fruition!
Match 6: Daniel Bryan and Kane vs Primetime Players, Number One Contenders Match
Winners: Daniel Bryan and Kane via pinfall
The dynamic of Kane and Bryan is proving to be comic gold and their hugely different styles could make for some fun tag team offense. Plus, with the way the two main title pictures are right now, this is a top notch use of Bryan's ability to flow between goofiness and technical mastery.
Kane and O'Neal start off with Kane taking the early control in the corner. Kane tags Bryan in forcibly and he lays in with kicks on O'Neal. Bryan ducks a clothesline and O'Neal blocks an okana roll attempt, letting Young tag in and take down Bryan. Titus tags right back in and they hit Bryan with a double shoulder for two. Titus with a huge scoop slam and elbows in the corner. Young tags back in with a northern lights suplex for two. Young with a cravat and a back elbow after Bryan fights out. O'Neal tags back in and gives Young a gourdbuster onto Bryan. O'Neal chokes Bryan in the ropes then attacks in the corner. Bryan fights his way out with kicks and a European uppercut. Titus overpowers him with a ribbreaker and stomps away. O'Neal with another tag to Young who stops a Bryan comeback attempt with a snapmare and chinlock. The announce table is oddly quiet during the match - They're going for one to two minutes at a time with absolutely no sound. Bryan begins his comeback and hits a head and arm suplex. Kane wants a tag and Bryan says NO. Bryan heads to the top rope and whiffs a diving headbutt. Young capitalizes with another chinlock. Bryan fights out and hits his forearm off the ropes. Bryan is still very tentative about tagging in Kane and opts to kick the chest of Young instead. Bryan finishes with a running kick and gets close enough for Kane to tag himself in.
Kane with a pair of clotheslines in the corners and a side slam for two. Kane's turn to head to the top rope this time and he hits a diving clothesline. Kane wants a Chokeslam and gets it. Titus gets tossed over the top and Bryan tags himself back in. Kane takes exception and Chokeslams Bryan onto the already down Young, which results in Bryan laying on top of Young for the win.
Kane raises the arm of Bryan, who falls back to the mat selling the effects of his partner's brilliant tag team maneuver. I mean hey - When Titus gives young a gourdbuster onto the opponent, Young is fine. That Chokeslam was basically the same thing. This dysfunctional tag team is a comedy gold mind of the very best possible caliber. My vote is for Fire and Yes to win at Night of Champions.
Match 7: Alberto del Rio vs Tyson Kidd
Winner: Alberto del Rio via submission
ADR goes right to work aggressively striking at Kidd, but he's able to respond with kicks of his own. Kidd goes for a Sharpshooter or Dungeon Lock early but gets kicked off and Alberto keeps the aggression up. Kidd dodges an approaching del Rio, leaving him on the floor, then kicks his chest from the apron. Kiss rolls ADR back in but comes up empty on a springboard elbow drop, letting Alberto kick him on the mat. ADR wants to show off and lock in a Sharpshooter, but Kidd turns it around and puts one on himself. Kidd has him in the middle of the ring, but ADR fights to the ropes. Kidd misses a legdrop on the apron, hurting his back. This leaves him open for an armbreaker across the bottom ropes and the Cross Armbreaker in the middle of the ring.
Can't have a show in Montreal and not have a Hart family member (close enough, in Kidd's case) slap a Sharpshooter on a heel. ADR says that tonight was nothing compared to what he'll do to Sheamus at Night of Champions. He already lost the Brough Kick; next is the World Heavyweight Title.
Cut to Cole alone at the announce desk - He says that Lawler collapsed at ringside and has been taken to the back for CPR and medical assistance. Cole is visibly shaken, on the verge of tears and drops the all-too-rare but normally quite serious "This is not part of the entertainment" line. This explains the odd silence during the tag match; they likely cut the mics where necessary and Lawler's was obviously removed. If this is not at all a part of an angle, then we of course send our best well-wishes to Jerry Lawler.
Match 8: Sheamus (World Heavyweight Champion) vs David Otunga
Winner: Sheamus via submission
Otunga with a cheap shot as Sheamus is removing his t-shirt to take the early control and more silence from a solemn Michael Cole, who in quick shots, you can see is distraught. Sheamus fights back and lays in repeated knees and stomps to a grounded Otunga. Otunga rolls to the apron and falls victim to the forearms to the chest. Sheamus drags him back in and hits the Irish Curse. Sheamus locks in the Cloverleaf and Otunga taps, showing that Sheamus "doesn't need" the Brough Kick.
I'm ok with Sheamus using the Cloverleaf - It's a move we haven't seen enough on TV for far too long. Like the Boston Crab, it can be seen as a back-focused move because of the body position, but since the leg pressure is present it wouldn't hurt Sheamus to add a few leg-focused moves into his repertoire, just to round things out. As it stands, the Irish Curse is a feasible lead up to it. Sheamus heads back to the ring after leaving and warms up to Brough Kick Otunga. Sheamus hits it and AJ comes out to reprimand him. Booker T comes out to interrupt her and handle his business. If Sheamus throws another Brough Kick while the internal investigation goes on, he will be stripped of the World Heavyweight Title. Once agian, Sheamus just showed he has other moves in his arsenal to wrap up any given match, so this isn't as devastating as it would be to someone like Orton who always finishes with the RKO.
Dr. Shelby is in the back as Bryan and Kane return. Doc says it was a triumph. Bryan says he didn't appreciate the Chokeslam, but he could learn to like the team of Daniel Bryan. Kane puts his name first. They argue and Dr.. Shelby declares them Team Friendship, prompting a dual "NO". Like I said, the best kind of goofiness in wrestling.
The full rundown of announced matches at Night of Champions plays with no commentary from Cole, as he was pulled off the table during the previous commercial. Cole is now back at the table, reiterating that the Lawler situation is NOT part of the entertainment tonight. Lawler is receiving oxygen but is able to breathe on his own. Cole says that out of respect, commentary is done for tonight, save any update on Lawler's health to be given to the fans.
Match 9: Rey Mysterio vs Cody Rhodes
Winner: Cody Rhodes via pinfall
Mysterio stomps on Rhodes early, but he responds with a drop down right to the face ala big brother Goldust. Rhodes with knees to the gut off the ropes as he continues to keep the offense going on Mystero. Now a gourdbuster and a kick, then raking Mysterio's face with his forearm. Mysterio thrwos kicks back but Rhodes catches him in position for Crossrhodes. Rey fights out and dumps Rhodes to the floor then delivers a hurricanrana off the apron. Back into the ring, Mysterio avoids a slam but takes the Beautiful Disaster for two. Rhodes argues with the ref and stomps away at Mysterio. Rhodes charges Rey in the corner, but he dodges, sending Cody into the ringpost. Rey follows up with a headscissors and a lucha style bulldog for a two count. Rey with a big kick to Rhodes after he ducks for another nearfall. Mysterio heads to the top and lands the senton. Rhodes answers with a powerbomb attempt that Rey sneaks out of. Mysterio dropkicks The Miz as he runs out of the back to the apron, which leaves him open to Crossrhodes. Miz tries to get in the face of Mysterio after the match, but Rhodes delivers Crossrhodes to the Intercontinental Champion as well, lifting the belt to remind us where he feels it belongs.
Miz keeps up aggresssion toward his opponent for Night of Champions and Rhodes makes sure to make a statement that he wants the title. Good stuff all around. Odd to watch a match on TV without commentary.
Cole with another update on Jerry Lawler: Lawler is "more responsive" at the hospital and getting a CAT scan. That sounds better.
Bret Hart interviews John Cena
Lots of HBK comparisons thrown about and Cena with humbleness, thanking Hart for including him in a comparison to Hart/HBK, prompting a "you can't wrestle" chant. Cena tells Hart he couldn't lace his boots for him. This is a man who in the last two weeks said that he MUST go out night after night, week after week, thinking he is the best in the world, so that he can stand up and fight...and he's brown nosing. Cena says that Punk assumes that a title by any means necessary equals respect. Hart calls Punk phony, which draws him out from the back. Cena begs for Punk to come fight. Punk gets in the ring and talks trash and declares himself better than Shawn Michaels. Punk harkens back to Hart making Austin pass out at Wrestlemania XIII with the Sharpshooter, saying he's better than Austin. Then he says he's better than The Rock, due to him beating The Rock up.
Cena says that as long as Punk has been WWE Champion, the title has been irrelevant. Punk made the most noise the night his mic was cut. Punk talked of change and won the title, but never delivered the change. Cena says the difference is he went from underdog to odds on favorite as himself; Punk doesn't know himself at all. Cena says that Punk's "by any means necessary" method of keeping the title isn't how a champion should act. Cena switches to French to appease the Montreal crowd and then begins to translate, but Punk interrupts. Cena gets mad and says that he'll kick Punk's ass at NOC. Punk goes for a cheap shot on Hart and Cena stops him. Punk tries again and this time Hart blocks him and gives him a right of his own.
When Cena shows intensity, he's at his promo best. The main problem is he goes from simple explanations and exposition to fired up intensity as quickly as he goes from completely beaten up to no-selling an entire match, which makes everything seem cheap.
Cole closes the show letting us know that Lawler is breathing on his own and his heart is beating on its own. A relatively solid show, moving multiple storylines forward and reminding us about Paul Heyman. Instead of running any more criticism, we'll instead hope for Jerry Lawler to make a speedy and safe recovery.