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Raw: Anniversary show thrills with a cage match and a Rock concert
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


A montage of the various openings Raw has had over the years greets us tonight for a very special 20th anniversary show. Ah, the memories. Houston is the lucky host for the milestone show, so let’s get there live on USA.

Who else but Mr. McMahon could open up this episode? Vince says we've seen all kinds of things over the years on Raw, but there's always been entertainment. He credits his status as a certifiable iconic genius and also thanks the fans for their loyalty. For tonight, he's got things planned like John Cena versus Dolph Ziggler in a steel cage and a Rock concert. But all of that has to wait, according to the Big Show. He wants the travesty that occurred last week on SmackDown to be addressed first. McMahon teases him about looking a little slimmer since he is no longer sporting the World Heavyweight Championship belt that now belongs to Alberto Del Rio. In case he forgot, Show has to watch footage of last week's loss. Jerry “The King” Lawler doesn't see any travesty. The giant complains that he was unprepared for that kind of match and it was unfair that Booker T made him take part in it. Show wants McMahon to strip Del Rio of the title, but Ricardo Rodriguez comes out to personally introduce the new champ instead. He proposes a rematch tonight, but Show refuses on the grounds that he is unprepared again. Del Rio questions his lack of cajones, especially since Show is the bigger and stronger man. The big man still won't bite, preferring to fight Del Rio at a time and place of his own choosing – like, say, the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Alberto calls Show a “fat jackass” in Spanish, which is just fine with the fans. He also wants Rodriguez to give Show a present in the form of a bucket full of confetti. They scrap for a moment, and a step up kick sends Show out of the ring fuming while McMahon gives Del Rio some time to bask in some applause.

The first of what I can assume will be a series of flashbacks takes us back to September 2009 for Bob Barker's appearance. Bob got the best of Chris Jericho and Chavo Guerrero on that one. #SpayAndNeuter

Match 1 – Wade Barrett vs. Randy Orton

Orton connects on a Thesz press and batters Barrett on the outside. Michael Cole reminds everyone that both men are entered in the Royal Rumble match, which is less than two weeks away. Barrett is sent to the floor again, the perfect place to spend a commercial or three. He uses the time wisely, wearing down Orton with mat holds after the break. Orton absorbs knees to the chest and a boot to the head but is able to kick out at two. The Viper is able to catch a breather by punching his way out of trouble and connecting with a power slam. His backbreaker is also on target, setting up the rope-aided DDT. Barrett isn't waiting around to get hit with the RKO, driving Orton shoulder first into the post and nailing the Bull Hammer to score the pinfall.

Booker T informs Eve Torres that she can lose her belt tonight if she is counted out or disqualified in her match with Kaitlyn. He just did that. Booker pretends to go along with Eve's attempt to seduce him before cracking up laughing, but he turns somewhat serious after Eve slaps Teddy Long.

Earlier today, Daniel Bryan and Kane had their follow up check-up with Dr. Shelby, who he calls his star pupils. They agree to a group hug even though Bryan is clearly pained to do it. Shelby asks some questions to ensure they are over their anger management issues. Bryan says he likes the fact that Kane is tall, can set things on fire by lowering his arms and is quite the good dancer. For his part, Kane calls Bryan agile in the ring, the owner of a great beard and someone who is unafraid to admit that he sometimes wears women's clothing. But Shelby has another surprise in the form of Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes. They are supposed to trigger Team Hell No's anger, but the two heels would rather argue over the treatment program instead. The mention of Dr. Phil triggers Shelby's anger, and he happily watches Team Hell No drive off his critics.

Match 2 – Kane vs. Damien Sandow

Even with Rhodes in his corner, Sandow is pretty much squashed by Kane. Thanks for that, I guess.

As heavily reported, Mick Foley is introduced as the first member of the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame class. He gets a nice response from the fans as he hits the ring and immediately goes for the cheap pop. But there's no time for any more, because The Shield is coming for him through the crowd. Mick is quickly surrounded, but Ryback is on the scene in a hurry. The numbers game turns against Ryback until Orton and Sheamus arrive to even the odds. Dean Ambrose gets Shell Shocked and has to be dragged to safety by his teammates. Josh Mathews wants to get Ryback's thoughts on The Shield, and it turns out he's not too fond of those guys. Feed him Shield!

The next segment is a fun one: a look back at some of the most outrageous gimmicks in WWE history. Goldust, The Goon, Bastion Booger, Gillberg, and the “Real Man's Man” version of William Regal are just a few of the treats.

Match 3 – Eve Torres (champion) vs. Kaitlyn (challenger) – Divas Championship Match

Both women get their chances for pinfalls in the opening minutes. Kaitlyn hits an inverted DDT and Eve nails one of her signature moves, but neither is enough to win. They battle to the floor, then back inside, where Eve is unaware that Kaitlyn is waiting. A spear gives us a new Divas Champion.

Mathews and Brodus Clay watch CM Punk's comments about him from last week's show. Clay declares that Punk's pipe bomb is about to blow up and his face. Oh, and Brodus doesn't shuck and jive because he has to, he shucks and jives because he was born to. #ThanksForClarifying

The next flashback is from 2007, when Donald Trump shoved Mr. McMahon over a table. Maybe not one of my personal most memorable moments, but your mileage may vary.

Match 4 – Brodus Clay vs. CM Punk

Does this seem like slumming a bit for the WWE Champion on an anniversary show? Punk mostly has his way chopping Clay down to size until a big t-bone throw catches the champ by surprise. That only lasts for a minute, as Punk hits the flying elbow and locks in the Anaconda Vice to get the victory. Punk uses his post-match microphone time to run down The Rock with his version of the facts, including his view that he will beat The Great One at the Royal Rumble.

A video montage shows us the best vehicular moments from 20 years of Raw. Stone Cold Steve Austin is prominently involved in a bunch of them, naturally. And the clips end with Vince “perishing” in the limo explosion.

Backstage, The Rock congratulates Foley on making the Hall of Fame. They engage in some walks down catchphrase memory lane together before Vickie Guerrero wanders by to tell them to shut up. It even gets The Rock to temporarily stop referring to himself in the third person. Foley expects a response, but Rocky simply tells his old friend to wait for the Rock concert.

Match 5 – Sheamus vs. 3MB – Over the Top Rope Challenge

Sheamus makes quick work of Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre. They stick around to try to lend Heath Slater a hand, and it actually works. The Great White goes over the top rope and is dragged off the apron by 3MB, giving the wanna-be band a surprising win. McIntyre hoists Slater onto his shoulders to celebrate, but they both end up receiving Brogue Kicks from Sheamus.

Cena cuts a promo on Ziggler that shows off his knowledge of WWF history, acronyms and his own personal journey. Next, The Miz has a special guest for MizTV. Here's a hint: Whooooooooo! Ric Flair styles and profiles his way down to the ring. The Nature Boy's favorite moment on Raw was the night after he lost to Shawn Michaels in his retirement match, second only to the birth of his kids. The two men go “Whoo!” for “Whoo!” and strut for strut before Miz rolls another clip that showcases famous ring intros, promos and catchphrases. A man with no snappy banter interrupts in the form of Antonio Cesaro. The United States Champion tells Flair he has nothing to show for his fame except a bar tab he might not be able to pay. Ouch! Miz offers to pay Ric's tab as long as he can give Antonio the receipt right now. Cesaro laughs and tries to walk away, but Flair pulls him back in for some chops, a Skull Crushing Finale and a Figure Four by Miz that Flair approves wholeheartedly. The suit coats get some too.

Now here's a true classic clip. We go back to the late 90s for Mike Tyson, Stone Cold and a tense standoff that led to a very cool swerve.

Match 6 – Daniel Bryan vs. Cody Rhodes

Bryan is able to score a very quick submission, giving Team Hell No a sweep over their top rivals. I mean, why let them wrestle, right?

Breaking news on the WWE app is shown to us technological savages. Eve has apparently quit the promotion. After a commercial break, AJ Lee talks about her favorite Raw moments: the weddings. She flashes us back to the 2005 nuptials between Edge and Lita which were unceremoniously interrupted by Kane. We also see the 2002 renewal of vows between Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. That night didn't go too well for Steph or her dad, as you may recall. Big E Langston has his own favorite, which was just this past July. That was when AJ got to become general manager instead of getting hitched to Bryan. But she lost that position because of Cena, or so she claims. Her new beau Ziggler promises to beat Cena tonight in the greatest show-stealing performance in Raw history.

Main Event – Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena – Steel Cage Match

Jim Ross joins the announce team for this big main event. Ziggler makes an early dash for the cage wall but Cena obviously isn't going to let him climb out. J.R. reminds us that this one is also a no disqualification match, which may be bad news for Cena since Langston is lurking on the outside. Several near falls are exchanged, with Ziggler slowly taking control. They climb up to the top rope to exchange blows, where Ziggler is painfully crotched. Commercial time. Even more danger waits as both men are straddling the very top of the cage when we come back. Ziggler launches a dropkick that knocks both men down to the canvas. Cena fires back with a Five Knuckle Shuffle, then bounces Ziggler off the steel. Dolph counters an Attitude Adjustment and gets a sneaky two count. He crawls for the open cage door only to end up in a tug of war between Cena and Langston. Eventually, both wrestlers end up down on the mat again. Cena goes for the door, forcing Ziggler to stop trying to climb out. Langston also lends another hand by slamming the door in Cena’s face. Dolph covers but can only get two. Ziggler hits the Zig Zag but it's still not enough. They climb again, and Ziggler is knocked to the mat before rising to hit a DDT off the turnbuckle. AJ is distraught because Cena kicks out again, and she takes some frustration out on the announce table. Now she looks like she's going to climb into the cage. Langston is in too, but he takes an accidental shot from Ziggler's Money in the Bank briefcase. AJ can only look on in horror as Cena uses the Attitude Adjustment to pin Ziggler and walk out of the cage triumphant.

Saving the best(?) for last, The Rock gets the crowd excited as he walks out for his Rock concert segment. He gets a look at his Rocky Maivia days and says it is proof that if you put your mind to it, you can overcome anything. Paul Heyman gets made fun of first to the tune of “Heartbreak Hotel.” He also wants to sing directly to Vickie Guerrero, and she reluctantly appears on stage. It doesn't turn out well for her as The Rock crushes her with his own version of “Wonderful Tonight.” Um, maybe it should be called “Horrible Tonight.” Use your imagination or look it up on YouTube. Everyone sing along! With the songs done, Rock asks for Punk to come out as well. He does, followed by Heyman as usual. As God is his witness, Rock states that he will win the title from Punk in 13 days. The champ sprints down the ramp, and it's on! Charles Robinson and a gaggle of referees do the pull apart, but they are going to need more men. Reinforcements arrive and the fans chant “Rocky!” as Raw comes to a close. See you in seven!

Nick Tylwalk hasn't been recapping Raw for all 20 years, though during the times the show is dragging, it can feel like it. Follow him on Twitter or Google+ or reach out and pick his brain via email.