September 11, 2012
Raw: Lawler's health scare casts a shadow over Bret Hart's return to Montreal
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling
Bret Hart returns to Montreal on a WWE show tonight for the first time in 15 years. That's reason enough to watch tonight's show, and if you don't understand, the announcers are sure to mention it at least a couple of times. It's Raw, live as always on USA.
Appropriately, The Hitman comes to the ring first, and he has a hard time getting to speak because the fans give him a huge, ongoing reaction. Hart calls the last time he was there one of the darkest days of his life, but also one of the proudest. He thanks the fans for supporting him and says they have been in his heart the whole time. You just know someone is going to rain on his parade, and in this case, it's WWE Champion CM Punk. The champ poses a hypothetical question about what would have happened if he had wrestled Hart in 1997 instead of Shawn Michaels. Bret thinks it would have taken him less than a minute to win, but Punk scoffs at that idea. He feels the WWE wouldn't exist as we know it, because he wouldn't have needed Vince's help to win, and he would have jumped to WCW, leaving the WWE dead. Punk pulls Jerry Lawler into the discussion, too, and Hart mentions that The King never walked out of the ring like a coward. He's referring to what Punk did last week, and he illustrates his point by rolling footage on the big screen. John Cena is prominently mentioned as well, and Punk wonders if he is going to be Hart's white knight tonight. The two men bicker about respect, with Punk saying he deserves the type of ovation that Bret received tonight every time he walks into an arena. Before leaving, Punk promises to leave Cena a beaten, broken down shell of a man just like Hart.
Match 1 – R-Truth and Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz and Antonio Cesaro
Admit it: You always knew there was going to be a WWE wrestler whose gimmick was his tremendous linguistic prowess. Cesaro and Miz enjoy early success, beating up Truth through a commercial break and beyond. Kingston manages to turn things around a bit until Cesaro almost pins him with a grab of the tights. The key word is almost, because Kofi escapes and hits Cesaro with the Trouble in Paradise to get the pin.
In a flashback to earlier today, we get a glimpse of legal fun involving Sheamus, David Otunga and Ricardo Rodriguez. Sheamus tries to lighten things up by revealing some phony Jewish heritage, but Otunga wants to keep the deposition serious. It ends with some violence and a little bit of “Hava Nagila.” #noreally
Match 2 – Layla, Eve and Kaitlyn vs. Beth Phoenix, Natalya and Alicia Fox
Did I know that Eve won Stars Earn Stripes? No sir, I did not. That's pretty much the only interesting thing I take out of this until Eve tags herself in to win the match with a neckbreaker.
Backstage, AJ is watching the show with a disturbed (read: normal) look on her face. Punk demands some answers to the uncertainty surrounding his schedule for the night, but all that gets him is his fate decided by the people. He turns and almost runs into a grinning Brodus Clay. That's a good segue to Punk's three possible opponents for tonight: Clay, Lawler and Randy Orton. Vote now! After a commercial break, Punk learns his opponent's identity from Michael Cole: It's The Viper.
Match 3 – CM Punk vs. Randy Orton
Punk doesn't like the way the early action plays out, so he tries to walk out on this match too. Orton will have none of it, sprinting up the ramp to make sure he doesn't leave. The WWE Champion buys himself a breather by stunning Orton out on the floor and recouping in the ring. Commercial time again! Orton rallies to hit a superplex only to see Punk kick out at two. The two men exchange strikes, leading to a back body drop by Orton. He sets up for his rope-aided DDT, but Punk counters with a head kick and a flying clothesline for two. The champ signals for the Go To Sleep yet soon has to kick out again following a backbreaker. Orton succeeds with his second DDT attempt and stalks for the RKO. He never gets a chance to hit it, though, because Dolph Ziggler runs in and gets the match thrown out. Orton manages to power slam Ziggler and Punk before falling to the 2-on-1 odds. Lawler decides he's seen enough, leaving the announce table to even things up. They pursue the heels outside the ring as the show heads out to yet another break.
Love it when things happen off-camera. Well, not really, but it's a bonus for the fans who actually paid to be there, so it's all good. In this case, it was AJ turning the chaos into a tag team match. The action progesses until Paul Heyman decides to stroll down and have a discussion with Punk. Vickie Guerrero screams at them, but they simply ignore her (not easy to do) while Ziggler eats an RKO that ends the match.
Matt Striker tries to get Punk and Heyman to expand upon the nature of their relationship. Punk simply says, “I'm a Paul Heyman guy” before walking away. Can't see a stable being built because Punk doesn't need one, so something else is going on here.
AJ calls in Daniel Bryan and Kane for a talk, and neither man is happy to see Dr. Shelby there to recommend a radical next step. The good doctor says what he is proposing will either end their anger management issues forever or send them spiraling into an abyss from which they will never recover. And the success of the treatment relies strictly on their ability to trust each other.
Heath Slater wants some payback against Zack Ryder. Unfortunately, his opponent isn't named Ryder, but something pretty close. Any guesses? #feedmemore
It sounds like the fans are trying to get a “Goldberg” chant going. Slater actually gets some offense in, but a big clothesline ends it quickly. A power bomb and his marching finisher end this one for Ryback.
The Prime Time Players stop in to see AJ, where they receive some bad news. They aren't the number one contenders for the tag team titles yet, because they haven't beaten every other team. Namely, they haven't beaten Kane and Daniel Bryan, but they'll get that opportunity in a few minutes.
I think you know where this is headed. Bryan and Kane prove unable to get along, with the Big Red Monster dishing out a choke slam after his partner tags himself in. Alas, Bryan lands right on Darren Young, inadvertently getting the pinfall and sending the odd couple on to challenge for the tag team titles on Sunday.
Match 7 – Alberto Del Rio vs. Tyson Kidd
Nice to see Ricardo Rodriguez is well enough to do the ring announcing tonight. It's also great to see Kidd get the call in front of the Canadian fans. Appropriately, Kidd manages to maneuver Del Rio into the Sharpshooter, though the heel manages to crawl to the ropes to force a break. Seconds later, Kidd ends up in the cross armbreaker and has no choice but to submit. Del Rio grabs a microphone that his destruction of a “Canadian peasant” was nothing compared to what he plans on doing to Sheamus on Sunday.
Cole informs us that Lawler collapsed at ringside and is receiving CPR backstage. He assures us that it is not part of the show, and he seems pretty shaken up about it.
The show goes on but without announcers due to Lawler's situation. Sheamus earns a quick win at any rate with his version of the Texas Cloverleaf. The fans chant for the Brogue Kick, so the Great White returns to the ring to oblige them. AJ doesn't like it, and Booker T is quickly out as well. He takes control and informs the champ that if he continues to use the move, he'll be stripped of his World Heavyweight Championship.
Dr. Shelby is actually happy with Bryan and Kane for the way they worked together as a team. Bryan says he didn't appreciate the choke slam but thinks he can get used to the team of Daniel Bryan and Kane. As they argue about who should get top billing, the doctor's suggestion that they call themselves Team Friendship is quickly and loudly shot down.
Cole returns with an update on The King. The latest is that he was taken to a hospital on oxygen and is breathing on his own, though his situation is still serious. There will be no further commentary on the show out of respect to The King.
Hard to focus on the show after what happened to Lawler, and I'm sure it's even more true for the wrestlers who have to keep performing. Rhodes wins this one, but when The Miz tries to get in some cheap shots, Rhodes returns to leave him on the canvas. Cody holds up the IC belt before smirking his way back up the ramp.
Another update on Lawler: He is reportedly more responsive at the hospital, though still in an isolated ER awaiting a CAT scan.
Hart returns to the ring to interview Cena, who gets his typically chilly welcome from the Canadian fans. The Hitman says that Cena's feud with Punk reminds him of his own problems with Shawn Michaels. The fans hit Cena with the “You can't wrestle!” chant, which leads to him telling Hart that the fans always recognize the true talent. Bret wants to know what Cena is going to do to shut “this phony little punk” up, but the champ arrives to take issue with that characterization. Punk also says he's better than Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. In fact, he calls himself the best talker, the best technician and the best brawler, so he's not a phony for calling himself the best in the world. John responds by taking a page from the honest Montreal fans and decides to hit CM with the truth: Though he's held the title belt for a long time, he's been an irrelevant champion. Cena also believes Punk has not figured out who he really is, and centering his identity around the championship isn't going to help. Whoa – Cena also knows some French! Punk doesn't like it, and apparently with good reason because it was something about Cena kicking his ass. Blows are exchanged, including one from Hart to Punk, and the champ has his tail somewhat between his legs as the show comes to a close.
Before we leave, Cole tells us Lawler's condition has stabilized. He is breathing on his own and his heart is beating on his own. He runs down the whole timeline one last time before asking us for our thoughts and prayers.
Nick Tylwalk has been doing TV reports for SLAM! Wrestling for a long time but can't remember a moment as scary as this one. Get well King!