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   September 15, 2014



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Raw: Cena and Punk go head to head for big stakes in Big D
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


Tonight on Raw: Paul Heyman gets his day of reckoning with Vince McMahon, and John Cena puts his WrestleMania title shot on the line against CM Punk. The road to Met Life Stadium could be making a detour in Dallas. Let’s get set for Raw, live on USA.

Still on crutches, Mr. McMahon tries to get the fans at the American Airlines Center fired up before his journey to the ring. He wants to do something big every week leading up to WrestleMania, and tonight it's going to be his fight with Heyman. Vince figures he should be able to handle it with one leg, no legs or whatever. Paul comes out, announcing that we'll all be able to tell our children we actually saw a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Heyman expertly works in some cheap heat with a Tony Romo barb before rushing in and taking a cheap shot at Vince. McMahon's own crutch is used against him as he struggles to pull himself up to his feet. He makes it, though, giving Heyman a crutch shot just as Brock Lesnar's music hits. Just as things look darkest for the Chairman, it's time to play the game: Triple H appears on stage. Lesnar meets HHH outside the ring, and a brawl ensues. Brock is bloodied from being sent into the post, and The Game clotheslines him out into the crowd. Lesnar comes back with a vengeance, slamming Triple H onto the announce table. He tries baiting HHH into a chair shot in the ring, but Helmsley hits a spinebuster and drives the former UFC champion away with the chair. Do I smell a WrestleMania match in the making?

Match 1 – Dolph Ziggler vs. Ryback

Michael Cole recaps what a bad week it's been for Ryback, losing twice in quick succession to The Shield in six-man matches. He takes some frustration out on Ziggler as AJ looks on in concern. Dolph is still in jeopardy after a commercial break, getting held in the air for ages before Ryback delivers a vertical suplex. Ryback finally makes a mistake when he pursues Ziggler on the outside, giving Big E Langston a free shot at him. Dolph takes advantage back in the ring, but Ryback eventually regains the upper hand. AJ and Big E try to lend a hand, but to no avail. Ziggler ends up getting Shell Shocked, and Ryback gets a win that might turn his luck around a bit.

Wait, WWE Studios got Halle Berry to star in one of its movies? #HowDidThatHappen

Punk declares that tonight will be a night that the people in the live audience will tell their grandchildren about. Not because of the match, or WrestleMania or the WWE Championship, but because tonight is about... Punk. After all, he held the title longer than anyone in recent memory and pinned Cena and The Rock multiple times. He's the best of all time, a self-proclaimed god in the world of sports entertainment. Well then.

Match 2 – Mark Henry vs. The Great Khali

You know, if matches like this keep happening, I just might start buying into that long-running rumor that McMahon likes the biggest guys the best. Cole and Jerry Lawler would rather talk about Punk and Cena, which is fine since Henry puts Khali away in fairly short order.

MizTV hosts a bit of a showdown, with The Miz welcoming Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter on one side and Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez on the other. Colter speaks first, jabbing Glenn Beck and saying he “chickened out” from appearing. He starts in on undocumented immigrants, saying they drain resources away from “Real Americans.” Colter calls Mexicans who “forget” to leave the country criminals, and that finally pushes Del Rio over the edge. Alberto says that what makes this country great is that it belongs to everyone, and that working hard in America still means that all things are possible. Del Rio challenges Colter and Swagger to make them leave right now if they are so upset, but Swagger vows that “We the People” will see them at WrestleMania. As it turns out, they don't wait that long to see The Miz, ambushing him on the ramp during the commerical break.

Match 3 – Antonio Cesaro vs. Randy Orton

Does it seem like Orton may be getting a bit of the shaft when it comes to WrestleMania plans? What begins as a pretty even match-up turns on a dime when Cesaro tries his leaping European uppercut and ends up flying right into an RKO. That's enough for Orton to get the pin, but you still wonder is he's getting anything to do in early April.

Daniel Bryan and Kane squabble a bit about the Prime Time Players, with Bryan boasting that he could beat them blindfolded and Kane claiming he could beat them with one arm tied behind his back. Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox stop by to tell them they will be attempting exactly that. Bryan seems confused as to how he's supposed to wrestle when he's not going to be able to see.

A nattily dressed Sheamus comes out to air some complaints he has about the Oscars. Somehow this turns into a plug for Dead Man Down. Hey, Wade Barrett is in that, lurking in the background behind Colin Farrell. Eventually Barrett comes out, the two men exchange verbal jabs, and the segment kind of peters out with nothing really exciting happening.

Match 4 – Cody Rhodes vs. R-Truth

Damien Sandow joins the announcers and has little nice to say about the recently returned Truth. Even though he and Rhodes are no longer a tag team, they're apparently still best buddies. Truth gets the pin on Rhodes, then manages to run off Sandow after the bell. It's just as well that Team Rhodes Scholars is no more, because those guys have been booked into the ground. Free Sandow!

For those of you who don't frequent YouTube, one of the “We the People” videos with Colter and Swagger is shown.

Match 5 – Team Hell No vs. The Primetime Players

Bryan has a bag over his head, and he's extra cautious as he feels around for Titus O'Neil. The Players use their whistles to confuse Bryan, and Daniel has to kick out of a bridging suplex from Darren Young. Kane tells his partner to move just in time to roll away from trouble. He accidentally smacks Kane outside the ring but also manages to make a legal tag to his one-armed partner. Not surprisingly, Kane is able to beat Young even with his handicap.

The Shield makes its promised appearance, and Dean Ambrose promises that things are going to keep getting worse before they get better. He says no matter what super team is assembled, it's not going to stop him, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins from doing what they are here to do. But what exactly is that? While Rollins is talking, Sheamus appears on the ramp, and when Reigns and Ambrose walk toward the Great White, Orton sneaks in and lays out Rollins with an RKO.

Match 6 – Jack Swagger vs. The Miz

The fans try to fire up The Miz as he struggles in the early going with Swagger's power. A big clothesline almost takes Miz's head off just as he appeared to have some momentum. Colter plays with his mustache as he looks on from ringside. Miz finally gets something going with his leaping clothesline in the corner, and he follows with a flying ax handle off the turnbuckle. That's not enough to put Swagger away, and Miz ends up hanging with one leg hanging over the ropes. Swagger goes to work on that leg, setting up a Patriot Lock that gets Miz to tap.

Josh Mathews goes backstage with Cena to get his thoughts on tonight's big match. He says there's a buzz in the arena because of the stakes involved, and he seems pretty fired up when he claims that he'll prove that he's really back.

Because we haven't quite plugged enough things tonight, we get a promo for the Robot Combat League. It's hosted by Chris Jericho, for what it's worth.

Match 7 – CM Punk vs. John Cena

The two rivals lock up for an extended sequence to kick things off. Naturally, we step out for a quick commercial break. Cena fights his way out of trouble when we return, but he's immediately put back in danger and has to kick out of some near falls. Punk flies out to the floor to send Cena into the barrier, leading to yet another ad break. Ridiculous. The Anaconda Vice is locked in when we return, and while Cena wriggles free, he's quickly put down by a swinging neckbreaker and another two count. A springboard clothesline by Punk earns him yet another near fall, and he ponders something before launching himself back in and missing. Cena tries for the STF but ends up back in the Anaconda Vice. That's reversed back into the STF, which Punk escapes by bridging into a pin and forcing Cena to kick out. Both men try for their finishers, but Punk ends the move chain by going for another pin. Cena takes a knee in the corner but comes out strong for the Five Knuckle Shuffle. More reversals end with a Cena power bomb for two. They end up meeting on the top turnbuckle, where Cena head butts Punk to the mat and flies for a huge leg drop bulldog. Cena strikes next with an Attitude Adjustment, and it's still not sufficient to end it. They battle out to the floor, where Punk sends Cena into the post. John just barely beats the referee's count to return to the ring. Punk greets him with the GTS, which naturally leads to a kick out. Cena applies another STF, and Punk pushes himself to the limit to reach the bottom rope. How about a piledriver? Punk hits one and signals that it's the end, but Cena kicks out at two – not once, not twice, but thrice. With his whole arsenal pretty much depleted, Punk goes up top. Cena is waiting with a hurricanrana (no, really), and that leads to a second Attitude Adjustment that finally wins him the match. Say what you want, but Cena earns his spot in the WrestleMania main event. Also this: #TwiceInALifetime

See you in seven!

Nick Tylwalk still thinks there is one more card to be played in the WrestleMania drama: The Dead Man card. Discuss whether we'll see The Undertaker in New Jersey by following Nick on Twitter, on Google+ or by hitting him up by email.