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Raw: The show starts out on fire and stays hot in Cincy
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


There are hot shows, and then there's the beginning of tonight's episode, where we learn that the set caught fire this evening during a test of pyrotechnics. While the smoke literally clears, we watch a video retrospective of last week's eventful milestone show. It's time for Raw, a bit charred around the edges but still live from Cincinnati on USA.

A man with some 'splaining to do, CM Punk, comes to the ring to a bit of a mixed crowd reaction. Apparently the WWE Champion was uncomfortable with the way Raw 1000 went off the air, with Jerry “The King” Lawler saying he had turned his back on the WWE Universe. Sitting cross-legged on the announce table, Punk says he is used to hyperbole, but The Rock is just one man – a delusional movie star who interrupted him and showed him an incredible lack of respect. Yeah, the champ really seems to have a problem with the way The Rock made everything about him. But with nothing further coming from Dwayne Johnson, the spotlight should return to the self-proclaimed best wrestler in the world. The Big Show picks that moment to make his entrance, climbing in the ring to join Punk. He claims John Cena would now be champion if it wasn't for him, something Michael Cole pointed out as he was coming down the aisle. Show vows that he will be the next WWE Champion, something that Punk finds humorous considering the big man's recent lack of victories. Another man with something to say comes running out, but Cena doesn't have a discussion on his mind. Cena drives Show out to the floor right before new General Manager AJ Lee comes to the stage for the first time. Her first proclamation is to announce tonight's main event: Cena versus Show, with the winner earning a SummerSlam title shot against Punk.

Daniel Bryan appears to consider knocking on the door of the GM's office, but he thinks better of it.

Match 1 – Santino Marella vs. Alberto Del Rio

Contrary to the way you'd expect things to go, it's Santino who gets the early edge before a commercial break. Del Rio rallies, but Marella tries to end it by summoning the Cobra. ADR will have none of that, softening up Santino's right arm before applying the cross armbreaker. A quick tap out follows. Del Rio grabs a microphone to announce that Santino and Sheamus are beneath him, not to mention all of the people in the arena. Alberto says he will not compete unless it's in a World Championship match, so he won't be in action again until SummerSlam.

In the back, Bryan still can't quite get himself to knock on the GM's door. Come on, man! Next up in the ring is Brodus Clay and his dancers, but the Queen Diva, Vickie Guerrero, would rather thrill us all with her riff on the Elaine Benes dance. Damien Sandow doesn't like any of this, but he does want to make us watch his beatdown at the hands of DX last week. Upset because Brodus is laughing at it, Sandow decides to attack the Funkasaurus, who's left lying on the mat.

Bryan enters the GM office, where he's quickly told to shut up. AJ wants to know about the men in white coats walking around backstage last week, though Bryan tries to claim they were his groomsmen. Wanting to clean the slate, AJ books him in a match with Sheamus tonight. Is it for the world title? No! No! No! A video package replays last week's confrontation between Triple H, Paul Heyman, Stephanie McMahon and Brock Lesnar. And finally, fans can take to Twitter to decide what kind of stipulation they'd like to see in the Sheamus-Bryan match. #socialmediaisgood

Match 2 – Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus – Street Fight

Bryan asks the fans to stop chanting “Yes!” Hey man, you started it. The votes overwhelmingly favored a Street Fight in this one, by the way. Democracy in action is a beautiful thing. The wrestlers take advantage of the stipulation by battling up to the stage, where Bryan uses a low dropkick and a running knee to gain the upper hand. They manage to make their way back to the ring, where Sheamus catches Bryan coming off the apron and hurls him into the retaining wall. A kendo stick allows Bryan to get back into the fight as he rains down shots inside the ring. He sets up a steel chair in the corner, managing to dropkick Sheamus into it for a near fall. The champ gets sent into the post and the wall, and Bryan drags the steel steps into the ring. They play tug-of-war over the kendo stick, and though Bryan avoids the White Noise on top of the steps, he can't escape the Brogue Kick. Sheamus covers and gets the pinfall.

Referees try to usher Bryan out of the ring, but he refuses to leave until he gets a doctor, yelling that his neck is injured. Kofi Kingston and R-Truth (and Little Jimmy!) would like him to leave. Bryan attacks Little Jimmy, bringing out the men in the white coats. But AJ says the men aren't here for Truth – they're here to escort Bryan away for a psychiatric evaluation.

Match 3 – Kofi Kingston vs. Titus O'Neil

Despite AW's verbal boasts, O'Neil does indeed look like he may be stopped after Kingston nails him with the Boom Drop. Darren Young gets up on the apron, and AW throws his shoe at Kofi. Really? As Austin Powers once said, who throws a shoe? It works, as O'Neil nails Kingston to get the pin. AW makes an ill-advised comparison between Titus and Kobe Bryant that I won't repeat here and I can only guess is going to get him in trouble.

Back in the locker room, Punk tries to explain himself to Cena. He also says he doesn't care who wins the match tonight before giving John a condescending comparison of who fared better against The Rock. I guess that really was brutal honesty. Ah, I guess this is supposed to be one of those sneaky heel turns...

Heath Slater is happy all of the legends are gone from WWE programming. But he's still not out of the woods yet, because he is about to face off against someone we haven't seen in a bit: Randy Orton.

Match 4 – Heath Slater vs. Randy Orton

Did you guess that this one was going to be all Orton? You win the prize, as he disposes of Slater in a matter of moments with an RKO. The fans really seem jazzed to have The Viper back, for what it's worth.

Bryan is asked a few questions by a doctor. He still seems a little... uptight.

Match 5 – Chris Jericho and Christian vs. The Miz and Dolph Ziggler

Now Cole is using Tout as a verb. Fantastic. Meanwhile, all four men get their chance to work in the early going, and Christian flies off the top rope to take out both of his opponents on the floor. Things are more even after a commercial break, with Christian and Ziggler exchanging near falls. Miz tags in to continue the misery for Christian. He continues to take abuse until he manages to drop Ziggler and make the hot tag to Jericho. Chris' burst of offense ends with a Lionsault that forces Ziggler to make a save. Miz forces his way out of a Walls of Jericho attempt and kicks Jericho in the face. Christian thumbs Miz in the eye, giving Jericho the opportunity to seal the deal with a Codebreaker. Ziggler returns after the bell and drills Jericho with his Money in the Bank briefcase. Also Dolph's hair looks a little messed up.

Now Bryan is getting an ink blot test, but he get's upset when the blots fall on the table and look like a goat face. Did Charlie Sheen put you up to this, doc? Bryan calls out for Sheen, which probably doesn't help his case that he's just fine.

Match 6 – Tensai vs. Tyson Kidd

Kidd gets in his licks, including a sweet somersault move off the top rope. He can't keep Tensai down, though, and the running senton splash is too much for Kidd to kick out from. Tensai keeps beating on Kidd after the bell, so the ref decides to reverse the decision and give Kidd the win by disqualification. Sakamoto once again suffers Tensai's wrath as a result.

The final analysis is that Bryan is sane, despite being bitter, short-tempered and having an obsession with Sheen. Sadly, that doesn't mean he won't get a visit from his anger management therapist, who turns out to be Kane. A short treatment of getting bounced off the walls ensues.

Punk decides to join the announcers for the main event. He offers some (probably insincere) apologies to Lawler for what he said at the top of the show.

Main Event – The Big Show vs. John Cena – WWE Championship No. 1 Contenders Match

Show establishes some early dominance, but Cena jumps on the big man's back and tries to slow him with a sleeper. Cena tries coming off the top rope, and he goes back to a sleeper after getting caught in mid-air. Punk is calling the match like it's legit while continuing to take shots at The Rock. Show has to kick out at two after getting worn down by the sleeper, taking us out to what is hopefully the last group of ads. Show regains the upper hand, even taking some time out to jaw with Punk. Cena ends up in a bear hug, struggling to catch his breath. Show takes Cena to the mat for two, then signals for the choke slam. Cena counters with a DDT of sorts, and both men are down. Big Show tries a splash off the middle ropes and misses, giving Cena a chance to run through his offense. A Five Knuckle Shuffle finds the mark, but Show comes right back with a choke slam for two. The battle goes to the floor, where Show hurls Cena over the announce table and right into Punk. Cena manages to beat the ref's ten count, but he looks like he's in bad shape. Or maybe not – he ducks the WMD and hoists Show up for the Attitude Adjustment only to get clocked from behind by Punk. The ref calls for the bell as Punk kicks Show in the head. The champ announces that no one wins the match, because both men are losers. He passes AJ on the way out, and the new GM declares that both men are winners. She announces that Punk will defend his title at SummerSlam against both Show and Cena in a Triple Threat Match. Punk gets in her face, demanding he be shown some respect. We'll have to wait until next week to see if he gets it. See you in seven!