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Raw: All the pieces for WrestleMania fall into place in Atlanta
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


The Phillips Arena erupts as The Rock enters for the go-home segment for the last Monday Night Raw before WrestleMania. Photo by Matthew Asher


There’s always plenty of talk about the “Road to WrestleMania,” but once we’ve arrived at the point where the show is only six days away, it’s really getting close. Tonight that road leads us back to the site of last year’s extravaganza, Atlanta. The final Raw before WrestleMania XXVIII is live on USA.

Match 1 – Randy Orton and Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan (w/ A.J.) and Kane

Booker T joins Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler on commentary. This is, of course, a preview of two different WrestleMania XXVIII matches. The faces are in trouble before the commercial break, but a very over Orton is able to turn that around, nailing Bryan with his rope-aided DDT. Kane makes the save, but Orton pursues him on the outside. Bryan hits him with a baseball slide, and suddenly no one is in the ring. The bad guys rectify that by taking turns beating on Orton, though he's able to use a dropkick to fend off a choke slam from Kane. Sheamus is tagged in, but A.J. steps in to save her man. A Brogue Kick misses, Kane lends a hand from the apron, and Bryan is able to pin Sheamus to head to Miami with some momentum.

Clips are shown of the confrontation between Cena and The Rock during last year's WrestleMania, one which proved costly for Cena. They will face off again tonight, though it's unclear if they will actually get into it or just sling catchphrases at each other. Sticks and stones, you know?

Cole gets in the ring to let the world know he's been named the official commentator for Team Johnny on Sunday night. Wow, what an honor! John Laurinaitis also brings out the official flag-bearer, Vickie Guerrero. Not to be outdone, Booker T names himself “The Man” for Team Teddy and introduces the man who's going to send Laurinaitis back to his little cubicle, Teddy Long. Oh, and Hornswoggle is bearing the standard for that team, a little lower, obviously. #shortjoke

Match 2 – David Otunga vs. Santino Marella

The flags actually play a part in this one. Otunga tries to chase down Hornswoggle but misses with a flag shot, allowing Marella to use the Cobra to get the win. After the match, Santino and Teddy clown Johnny Ace for a bit, but The Miz arrives to forcefully put an end to that. He's also officially named a part of Team Johnny, otherwise known as the least surprising pre-WrestleMania development ever.

A video package hypes up the “End of an Era” match between The Undertaker and Triple H. For once, the WWE isn't overselling this, because given how little both men have wrestled over the past year, it truly looks like we may not see them much after Sunday. I don't know about official retirement, though – this is wrestling we're talking about.

Match 3 – Eve (w/ Beth Phoenix) vs. Kelly Kelly

Is Kelly a good enough wrestler to carry Maria Menounos through their WrestleMania tag team match? Ah, that was kind of a rhetorical question. She does win this match, at least.

Now we take a look back at the one and supposedly only teaming of Rock and Cena last November at Survivor Series. It, uh, didn't go completely without a hitch.

Match 4 – Christian vs. CM Punk

We can't get to the action without some words from Chris Jericho live via satellite. He promises to expose the champ as a professional and personal fraud, though he admits that the champ's mom is at least a good person. Jericho did discover that Punk was born before his parents' wedding day, making him the legal definition of the term “bastard.” Christian chooses that moment to jump Punk from behind, a decision that turns out to be a tactical error when the champ bashes his head mercilessly off the announce table. Punk drops Christian face first off the steel steps, then locks him in the Anaconda Vice on the floor. The refs want him to break the hold, and it eventually takes three of them to pull him away. Punk feigns settling down before running back over and reapplying the hold. He's angry, see.

Have mercy! The Funkasaurus has escaped from WWE Superstars!

Match 5 – Brodus Clay vs. Curt Hawkins

Clay squashes Hawkins, then menacingly points to the WrestleMania XXVIII sign. Except as Bill Simmons would say, I made that last part up.

So the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony is airing on TV, but not until the night after WrestleMania. Curious. By the way, it seems so strange seeing Edge as one of the inductees. He deserves it, of course, it's just that his career was cut too short.

Match 6 – Big Show vs. Primo (w/ Epico and Rosa Mendes)

Oh yes, it's another squash. Show gets the win, and Cody Rhodes gets one final chance to ridicule his opponent in Miami. Rhodes says we will all use the term “Big Show” as a verb, as in “I hope I don't pull a Big Show on my final,” which is actually kind of funny.

Another promo airs for Lord Tensai. Something to look forward to for after next Sunday, I suppose. In the back, the Bella twins are at odds, and Zack Ryder is putting his foot in his mouth again. Eve still has him wrapped around her finger too. Elsewhere, Punk is still angry, telling Josh Mathews that he can ask Christian how he thinks CM feels. Punk disputes some of Jericho's claims and repeats his assertion that he is the best wrestler in the world.

Match 7 – Mark Henry vs. The Great Khali

Henry makes this one short and sweet with a World's Strongest Slam. Long gets thrown to the wolves as Laurinaitis pushes him into the ring to face Henry while the rest of Team Johnny tries to fend off the arriving troops from Team Teddy. Kofi Kingston jumps off someone's back to fly into the ring, but Henry plants him with a World's Strongest Slam too. Booker T has seen enough, leaving the table to smash Henry with an axe kick, suit and all.

The Rock comes down the ramp for his final words before the scene officially shifts to Miami. Dwayne says he's been asked since 2004 when he was going to perform at WrestleMania again. He knew he would come back, but wasn't sure when until last year in this very building. Rock gives credit to Cena for transcending the industry in his absence but says he has never faced anyone like the Great One. Cena interrupts any further comments by making his own way down to the ring. He calls The Rock the best trash talker in WWE history, but plenty of people have talked trash about Cena over the past 10 years. He also acknowledges the dueling “Let's go Cena” and “Cena sucks” chants, saying that makes him unique. Cena knows it will bother the haters when he wins at WrestleMania. On top of that, Cena says he has to win, because life outside wrestling will go on for Cena even as The Rock returns to Hollywood. Rocky retorts that the people know that he helped build Cena's office, and that he needs to win just as badly so he can say he's beaten all of the WWE greats. He also just doesn't like Cena on a personal level. The two superstars have one last difference of opinion about who is going to win their match at WrestleMania as Raw fades out. Six days until the big one! See you then...

RELATED LINK

  • Live Raw hits all the right notes for Mania
  • More on WrestleMania 28

    Nick Tylwalk is a grown man who will be rooting for Cena on Sunday. And despite what The Rock has insinuated in the past, he’s had dates, even got himself married. So there. Make fun of him using Twitter, Google+ or email.