Raw: Punk gets his big decision made for him in Nashville
NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling
It's decision time for CM Punk. No, not Obama or Romney, I'm talking about John Cena or Ryback. The WWE Champion is supposed to decide who he wants to face in two weeks at Hell in a Cell, and Nashville awaits his choice. We do too, as Raw goes live for three hours on USA.
It's not Punk but Big Show who leads things off tonight, discussing the debate from two weeks ago – or as he calls it, a clever joke put together by Booker T and Sheamus to make him look like a fool. And by the way, he's not scared of the Brogue Kick, as he showed last week when he caught it and dumped Sheamus unceremoniously out to the floor. We also see footage from SmackDown, where there was a “scientific” comparison of the Brogue Kick with Show's KO punch. He gets a little upset when the fans start chanting “45 seconds” and he demands that Daniel Bryan come out right now. Backstage, Bryan tells Kane and some other assembled wrestlers that he can't believe that Show is still hung up about it. AJ stops by and tells him to get out there, and Kane simply laughs when Bryan tries to get his tag team partner to help him out. Reluctantly (and with Bryan, there's really no other way), Daniel makes his way to the ring.
Match 1 – Big Show vs. Daniel Bryan
We get a quick commercial break and return to find Bryan trapped in a big bear hug. He finally escapes and hits a low drop kick to chop Show down to the mat. About a dozen kicks to the chest and one to the head allow Bryan to go for a pin, but Show kicks out at two. Bryan launches himself for several drop kicks in the corner, but he's caught by a choke slam coming off the top rope and quickly pinned. Kane comes out to prevent any post-match damage to his partner, but the two big men don't actually come to blows.
A fair number of boos ring out because Paul Heyman is in the ring. He gives Punk a lengthy introduction, and the man himself smirks as he comes down the ramp. The champ says he doubts Vince McMahon will ever be seen in the ring competing again after last week, but before he makes his choice, he wants us all to see what Vince thinks of him. Punk is on the Hell in a Cell poster looking like the devil. That makes a nice segue into the devil Punk doesn't know, Ryback, and the devil he knows only too well, Cena. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, he has one ready to unveil with his choice of opponent. But the fans are being disrespectful, so he figures he'll take more time to decide. Or maybe not: Vince's music hits, and the Chairman comes out on stage. Turns out he's making the decision for Punk. There will be a contract signing tonight, and that's where Punk's foe will be announced. The champ's fate is in McMahon's hands now. Respect that!
Match 2 – Alberto Del Rio vs. Brodus Clay
Clay's dancers cheer on his early success, but it doesn't take long for Del Rio to start striking back. His offense softens up Clay's left arm, and it isn't long before the super heavyweight is tapping out to the cross armbreaker. A message delivered to Randy Orton, perhaps.
Punk complains to Heyman backstage, and Paul reminds his client that this is what he was worried about last week. CM wants to fight Vince again and sends Paul to issue the challenge.
Match 3 – Santino Marella and Zack Ryder vs. The Prime Time Players
This is a quick one after a commercial break. Darren Young takes out Marella but Titus O'Neil is the legal man, and he dispatched Ryder with his Clash of the Titus finisher. After the bell, Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre run down to introduce Music City to the 3MB. Okay then. #jobbersunite
Apparently Dolph Ziggler has something very important to say. He seems a little peeved that Ryback might get a title shot when he's been stealing the show night in and night out and still had to defeat seven other wrestlers in a ladder match to earn his Money in the Bank contract. Ziggler calls Ryback a flash in the pan that no one will remember two months from now. If anyone deserves a WWE title shot, it's Dolph. He has dreams of beating Punk and cashing in his briefcase to win both belts in one night. David Otunga comes out saying that neither Ziggler or Ryback deserve shots... but he does. AJ comes out to try to settle this difference of opinion in a 2-on-1 handicap match against Ryback.
Match 4 – Dolph Ziggler and David Otunga vs. Ryback
Ziggler gets in an early dropkick thanks to a distraction from Vickie, but he's soon heading for the hills once he tastes Ryback's power. Otunga is left alone, and he gets Shell Shocked.
Vince is on the phone talking with someone about Punk's opponent when he's interrupted by Heyman. Paul makes the pitch for a rematch, with Punk getting to pick his foe if he wins. Vince agrees, but with a twist: The match will be McMahon versus Heyman. Elsewhere, Matt Striker complains about his treatment at the hands of Team Hell No, and AJ says he can have his apology right after his match against Kane.
Match 5 – Antonio Cesaro vs. Justin Gabriel
Cesaro almost takes Gabriel's head off with a clothesline, then he stomps on him and batters him in the corner. A running knee lift and a series of strikes has Gabriel grimacing. Justin finally rallies a bit with a flipping move out of the corner, and he partially connects on a 450 splash. He goes for the pin but sees Cesaro get his foot on the ropes. Gabriel gets caught with a big uppercut while going for a springboard move, and the Neutralizer ends his night a moment later.
Match 6 – Matt Striker vs. Kane
As you might expect, Striker would rather just get an apology than to go through with this match. He says the WWE Universe wants to see legitimate competition, not mindless carnage. They go to hug it out, but Kane gets a little aggressive with his side of it. A choke slam follows, and mindless carnage it is. After the pin, Kane jokingly asks Striker about his tough loss.
It's time for MizTV. He invites Kofi Kingston to join him, mostly to taunt him for how he hasn't been too memorable during his five-year WWE career. Miz states that Kofi will always be a B-player who puts smiles on people's faces, while he will continue to be the person that fans will never forget. Kingston feels like beating Miz for the Intercontinental Championship will be memorable, and he wonders if people would like to see him step his game up with a match against Miz tonight. Miz accepts the challenge, but not without trying to get in one last barb. Kofi's had enough, going after the host and chasing him from the ring.
Match 7 – Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett
These two square off by going right at each other in the opening minutes. Barrett gets the first near fall while J.R. and Michael Cole discuss how Sheamus can prepare for his upcoming match with Big Show. It's so cute when they treat it like a real sports contest! Sheamus leaps off the apron to deliver a shoulder just as Big Show's music hits. The giant makes his way out holding a steel chair, which is enough to scare the guys in the truck into sending us out to a commercial. Maybe he'll just use it to sit in. Wink, wink. Meanwhile, Sheamus and Barrett are battling out on the floor, with Wade eventually kicking Sheamus off the apron. The World Heavyweight Champion barely beats the referee's count to continue the match. He has to scramble to kick out from some pinning attempts before powering out of a hold on the mat. Sheamus hits the Irish Curse, leaving both men down. A running power slam gets two for Sheamus, and he uses his trademark hammer blows to the chest to soften Barrett up even more. He suplexes Wade and makes the cover but still only gets two. Barrett rallies and has Sheamus in trouble again. The champ manages to get the cloverleaf applied, which gets Big Show out of his seat. Sheamus looks for White Noise but Show low bridges him out of the ring. The ref calls for the bell, Barrett eats a Brogue Kick, and Show is sent into retreat by an enraged Irishman.
Vince asks Cena about the doctor's prognosis on his injury, but all he gets is “I've felt better, but I've felt worse.” He tells McMahon that if he gets chosen, he'll do what he does. Vince says he'll take it under consideration.
Match 8 – Eve (champion) vs. Layla (challenger) – Divas Championship Match
Eve chucks Layla out between the ropes as the talk centers around the champ's claim that she is the victim of a conspiracy theory. I guess the fact that they are trying to write a storyline for the Divas at all is worth some credit. Layla makes it to the rope to get out of a leg choke. She scores with a kick to get a near fall and hits a hair-aided facebuster. A cross body out of the corner earns Layla another near fall. Eve eats a boot to the face but knocks Layla off the middle rope. She makes the cover and the three count comes, though the referee missed Layla getting her foot on the ropes.
Kane and Bryan get into a bit of a disagreement about whether or not Daniel losing to Big Show was funny. How about next week, you face the Big Show, hmm? In another part of the backstage area, McMahon gets this from Ryback: “Feed me Punk!” And he'll take that under consideration too. Oh, and 3MB gets kicked out of a local establishment while trying to get its fledgling music career off the ground. Or something.
Match 9 – Team Rhodes Scholars vs. Primo and Epico
Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow pretty much dominate this match after a chaotic start. They were supposed to face Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio in the tag team tournament final, but Rey suffered a touch of the flu, pushing that match back until next Monday. Epico finally gets a tag and some momentum for his team, but Sandow manages to nail him with the Terminus.
Match 10 – The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston
Kofi looks pumped as he clotheslines Miz out on the floor. Miz turns things around back in the ring, and J.R. says he thinks Kingston needs to say to himself that he has to come out of the match on Wednesday night with the belt. Miz looks for the Skull Crushing Finale but can't find it, and the Trouble in Paradise comes out of nowhere to help Kofi get the win.
The WWE is presenting the Rolling Stones live on pay-per-view this December. I don't even have a joke here.
Vince heads out with contract in hand. He calls out Punk, and the champ has an annoyed look on his face as he heads down followed by Heyman. Heightening the drama, McMahon calls both Ryback and Cena to the ring. Punk angrily calls Vince an egomaniac and signs the contract, defiantly saying he'll cripple either man. He goes on to talk more trash, but Cena cuts him off. Vince is about to make his decision, but Cena isn't quite finished. John feels like Ryback only cares about kicking someone's ass, and Punk needs to get his ass kicked. Is Cena conceding, or is this some reverse psychology? John gets the fans fired up by leading a “Feed me more!” chant. Ryback steps over and signs on the dotted line. We're not done yet, though, as Ryback flips over the table and Punk get Shell Shocked. Can Punk escape the same fate in Atlanta? It doesn't look good. See you in seven!
Nick Tylwalk wonders if Ryback's seemingly insatiable appetite could be taken care of with a simple run to a Taco Bell drive-through as an alternative to mindless violence. Discuss this possibility with Nick on Twitter, on Google+ or by email.