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   September 16, 2014



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Raw: Triple H and Brock Lesnar make it official in Pittsburgh
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


Can you believe that WrestleMania is less than three weeks away? Time flies, as they say, and we’re flying along with it to Pittsburgh and the Consol Energy Center. Raw is live as always on USA.

John Cena acknowledges his trademark mixed reaction, commenting that some of the fans are definitely riding with him and others with The Rock. There are less than 20 days to pick sides, and he's got a message for all of the Dwayne Johnson supporters: Your time is up, our time is now. Cena says he won't “Broadway Joe” himself again by predicting victory, but he promises he is focused. A familiar whistle interrupts him, bringing the Primetime Players down the ramp. At least it's Darren Young, along with... Rufus “Pancake” Patterson? Or is that just Titus O'Neil in a wig? John goes for the Foley-style cheap pop by mentioning the Steelers and Penguins before offering to get Patterson some help for his multiple personalities. Patterson says he would tear Cena from limb to limb if it wasn't for his gout, so Young will be happy to do it for him. Oh, and they say Cena will be crying after the match just like he was after WrestleMania last year. Them's fightin' words!

Match 1 – John Cena vs. Darren Young

Cena starts out hot, nailing a bulldog and going for the STF early. O'Neil... er, Patterson grabs Young and drags him to safety as we head out to commercials. It seems Cena is still whipping Young after the break, hitting the Five Knuckle Shuffle, pointing to the WrestleMania sign and finishing Young with an Attitude Adjustment. If only O'Neil was there to help out...

Match 2 – David Otunga vs. Ryback

Feel the power... the power of attorney (#HarveyBirdmanReference)! Actually it's Otunga who ends up on the receiving end of the power, and the lawyer falls to the hungry monster pretty quickly via the Shell Shock. Oh, and he talks! Ryback says that he, Randy Orton and Sheamus are going to tear The Shield apart at WrestleMania, and it will be feeding time when he crosses paths with Mark Henry again. Speaking of the World's Strongest Man, Henry comes out on stage, but his progress toward the ring is halted by Vickie Guerrero and Teddy Long. Vickie says she is removing him from the match with The Shield and booking him to face Henry instead. Ryback shows what he thinks of that idea by hurting poor Otunga again.

Fandango makes his debut next. I feel like we may have heard that before. After the break, we may see him finally wrestle. Ah, but only if Natalya can pronounce his name correctly. She won't play along, and the fans boo as Fandango goes to walk out yet again. A “You can't wrestle!” chant starts up as he heads for the back.

Match 3 – R-Truth vs. Damien Sandow

According to Sandow, the 'R' stands for repugnant. Since Sandow quoted Thoreau, Truth has his own poem. Hint: it involves his catchphrase. Sandow ends up walking out on the match.

Meanwhile, Sandow's partner Cody Rhodes is spending some quality time with the Bella Twins. That means he isn't going to be able to hang out with Kaitlyn. Neither Rhodes nor Kaitlyn really seem to mind.

The Undertaker makes his way to the ring to deliver a message to CM Punk. He promises to hurt Punk at WrestleMania and that the only way CM can save himself is to hand back the urn. Punk appears on screen, mocking the late Paul Bearer. He does some ballhandling drills with the urn while vowing that he'll end The Streak because he's willing to do anything to pull it off. Oops, the top almost comes off when the urn hits the floor. No disrespect intended.

Match 4 – Team Hell No vs. Primo and Epico

Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler are still talking about Undertaker-Punk and the urn. Kane looks none too happy about that whole situation as well, and Primo and Epico are actually doing fairly well against Daniel Bryan. He takes a beating in the enemy corner as his opponents stay fresh with a series of quick tags. Kane gets the tag eventually, of course, but his path of destruction is brought to a halt when AJ Lee decides to go for a skip around the ring. Primo and Epico attempt to capitalize on the distraction, but Kane regains his focus in time to choke slam Epico and get the three count.

Chris Jericho gets his opportunity to cut a promo about WrestleMania until he's cut short by Fandango. Y2J butchers it about a dozen different ways in 15 seconds, which just irritates Fandango even more.

Match 5 – Cody Rhodes vs. Alberto Del Rio

Del Rio's entrance theme appears to have been souped up with some extra percussion. Not necessarily a bad thing. Rhodes doesn't seem too impressed, stomping on the champ's chest and hammering him with a back elbow. Del Rio gets the first near fall, but Rhodes reverses a suplex attempt into his own two count. Cody applies a bit of a leg triangle on the mat, wearing Del Rio down. Alberto back body drops his way to freedom but gets sent shoulder first into the post. Rhodes uses a snap mare and keeps chopping away. Del Rio rallies by using a baseball slide to drop Rhodes' face onto the apron. Not the face! Wait, that was his old gimmick. I'll get it straight after these commercials. Del Rio has things going his way, but a kick to the head isn't enough to keep Rhodes down. Cody goes up top and connects on a moonsault that almost steals the match. But Del Rio gets Rhodes tangled in the ropes for some kidney shots and a backbreaker, forcing Cody to get to the ropes to escape the count. Del Rio ducks the next move and applies the cross armbreaker, and Rhodes fights in momentarily before tapping out. And here comes Jack Swagger. Ricardo Rodriguez tries to come to his boss' aid and gets thrown out to the floor. Del Rio and Swagger end up out there too, where Jack takes the worst of it. Zeb Colter earns some of Alberto's attention, but Swagger recovers in time to send the champ into the steel steps. Del Rio is also sent over the announce table. Swagger puts the hurt on Rodriguez's ankle before he and Colter retreat to the back.

Thought the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2013 was finished? Think again, my friend. Booker T is the latest name to be added to the star-studded group of inductees, and at least in this writer's opinion, it's a well deserved honor. Now can you dig that, sucka?

Match 6 – Randy Orton and Sheamus vs. 3MB (Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre)

Sorry, got called away during this one, but suffice it to say that Orton and Sheamus only get a brief workout before winning the match. The Shield decides to make an appearance after the bell, but the odds are quickly equalized when The Big Show joins the victors. Is The Shield going to throw down with the numbers evened out this way? Doesn't look like it.

Match 7 – Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler

I also missed this match. Hey, I’ve been doing this a long time and it rarely happens. Mea culpa. Ziggler wins, and Team Hell No comes out to give them some mock congratulations. One thing leads to another, and all of a sudden we end up with Team Hell no defending their tag team titles against Ziggler and Big E Langston at WrestleMania. Sure, why not?

I mean, the main event at WrestleMania hasn't received much build-up, so it's only right that they give us this video package again to remind us all about it. Just kidding, sort of. These are always well done, it's just that we saw it last week as well.

Match 8 – The Miz (challenger) vs. Chris Jericho (challenger) vs. Wade Barrett (champion) – Intercontinental Championship Match

You know the basic structure this kind of match is going to follow. All three men get into it when the bell rings, but Jericho finds himself on the outside first. He returns just in time to help all three men go tumbling with a modified superplex. Now, a word from our sponsors. It's Barrett and Jericho doing battle when the show returns, and Y2J seems to be in a bit of trouble. He rallies and sets up a Lionsault, but Miz dumps him back to the outside. Barrett reverses a Miz move into the Winds of Change and gets a two count. A Figure Four is the response, but Jericho flies in with a Lionsault that forces Miz to kick out at two. Next it's Barrett's turn to struggle as he's locked in the Walls of Jericho. Miz breaks that up, and Barrett is sent over the top rope as they grapple. Jericho hits a Codebreaker, Barrett tries to steal his pin, and while Y2J sends disposes of him, it gives Miz enough time to recover. A big DDT from Miz gives him a near fall on Jericho. What will it take to win it? Jericho dodges Miz and knocks Barrett off the apron with a dropkick, but Miz's boot to the face still isn't sufficient for a three count. Miz and Jericho continue going hold for hold until the Skull Crushing Finale hits. Yet Miz isn't fast enough, because Barrett sneaks back in and rolls him up to get the pinfall.

I guess I owe The Call an apology since it beat projections last week. Good job WWE Films. It's more fun to make fun of you when your movies are direct-to-video dreck, but I suppose it's better for pop culture if you make movies people actually want to see.

The contracts are on the table and all set for Triple H and Brock Lesnar to sign them for their WrestleMania showdown. But while The Game eagerly hits the ring, it's only Paul Heyman on his own who comes down to represent the other side. Heyman has some fun reminding Trips that the only way Lesnar will participate is if he gets to name a stipulation after HHH signs. Hunter teases Paul about the security contingent he brought with him, but Heyman still holds the cards. Despite that, The Game is willing to sign. Heyman wants to watch some footage from three weeks ago first. You might remember that as the show that features Triple H busting Lesnar open and driving him off. Not sure what that has to do with anything, but Heyman reveals that Lesnar is letting him pick the stipulation, and it seems that he thinks it should be Winner Gets Stephanie. Paul can't resist twisting the knife one more time and suggesting it should really be Loser Gets Stephanie. That's too much for Triple H, and he wrecks all of the security guards and Heyman. Paul screams for Brock as Hunter slaps him. The Game signs the contract and kicks Heyman out of the ring saying, “Go call your monster!” A little late to the party, Lesnar appears with a steel chair. Trips gets his sledgehammer, and we've got ourselves a showdown. The fans boo when it's apparent they aren't going to actually throw down. Or are they? Lesnar moves in while Heyman tells him that “We won this round.” Paul reveals that it was worth the beating to get Triple H to agree to a No Holds Barred Match. And oh yeah, one more thing: HHH's career is on the line. Um, he's partially retired already. Oh well, see you in seven!