Raw: Gauntlets are thrown, and the Rock-Cena debate turns physical in Philly
NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling
Tonight on Raw: It's all about the big showdowns with less than two weeks until WrestleMania. We're talking about The Rock versus John Cena and The Undertaker versus CM Punk. Both feuds should only have more fuel added to their fires as we go live to Wells Fargo Center on USA.
Punk comes out to address The Deadman with Paul Bearer's urn still in his possession. He rhetorically asks Paul Heyman if they know what they're talking about when they say Undertaker is unstoppable and makes the bold claim that he has the psychological edge in this match-up. He is, after all, the best in the world. Punk says he is the 1 in 20-1, and he's ready for the perfect record to rest in peace. Ah, but like so many men have seen in the past, when the lights go out and the bell tolls, it may already be too late. Undertaker appears right in the ring, and Punk and Heyman barely escape with the urn and their lives.
Fandango is finally going to make his debut. I mean, he gets announced by Justin Roberts and everything. But just as his snazzy ring intro finishes up, Chris Jericho runs down and attacks. As the ballroom dancer heads for the back, it looks like we're moving ahead with Jericho's scheduled bout for the evening.
Match 1 Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler
It's all Jericho for the first few minutes, but will a commercial break kill his momentum? Doesn't it always? This time is does again, with Big E Langston lending a (rather large) hand while we were away. Michael Cole reminds us that Ziggler still has his Money in the Bank briefcase and it has to be cashed in before July. I thought it had to be redeemed by WrestleMania? Anyway, Ziggler has Jericho in an abdominal stretch, though a hip toss frees him up. Jericho ends up coming off the top rope with a double axe handle and follows with a running bulldog. Y2J has to deal with Langston, and that allows Ziggler to recover for a DDT and a near fall. A quick series of counters ends with Ziggler in the Walls of Jericho, and somewhat surprisingly, Dolph taps out. But it's a pyrrhic victory like many in wrestling when Langston enters the ring to rough up Jericho. Hey, Fandango is back. He does a little dance with his partner before hammering an already beaten down Jericho. Say my name! The fans get the You can't wrestle! chant going, but it's a little late for that to make a difference. There's a big top rope leg drop to help refute the point too.
Matt Striker wants to find out if Sheamus trusts The Big Show now. Maybe he would if the big man would show up to save him from this attack by The Shield. Show and Randy Orton do indeed appear, finally running off the rogue faction after only a little damage done.
Match 2 Mark Henry vs. The Usos
Time for my obligatory The Usos are still on the roster? comment. They take turns kicking Henry in the head, and a Superfly Splash gets a two count. That's the only shining moment they get though, as Henry rallies quickly to win with a World's Strongest Slam. And there's more where that came from. Henry keeps slamming and splashing the Usos for a little bit.
Match 3 Antonio Cesaro vs. Alberto Del Rio
Ricardo Rodriguez is somewhat the worse for wear after having his ankle broken by Jack Swagger last week. A physical opening by both men leads to a distraction in the form of Zeb Colter. Swagger also makes an appearance, dishing out more pain to poor Ricardo until Del Rio goes over the wall to get after him. Cesaro wins by count out, but he's the only one who really seems to care.
Match 4 The Prime Time Players vs. Team Hell No
It is Titus O'Neil who's here with Darren Young this week and not Pancake Patterson. Will that make a difference? Probably not. Ziggler and Langston come out to watch from the stage as Young hits a belly-to-belly suplex on Daniel Bryan. O'Neil slams Young onto Bryan for a two count, and Daniel has to elbow and knee his way out of further trouble. Kane gets tagged in and hammers Young with kicks and a side slam. The Big Red Monster finishes off the match while Ziggler and Langston talk some smack from a safe distance.
We take a walk back through time to March 18, 2013, to see some highlights from the Triple H-Brock Lesnar contract signing. In real time, The Game comes to the ring to discuss the second stipulation for the match, which is that his career is on the line. Triple H points out that your career could end in any fight with Lesnar, and he suggests that Brock approach their match the same way. Well, what's this now? Wade Barrett stomps on HHH's music by starting his walk down the ramp, and Hunter responds to the interruption by booting him in the junk. He's in no mood!
Match 5 Wade Barrett vs. The Miz
It takes a few minutes for Barrett to recover from that shot to the bread basket, but he manages to weather the early storm and ends up taking control during the commercial break you knew was coming. Barrett spends some time working on Miz's back both in and out of the ring until he finally is halted on a charge into the corner. Miz rips off a series of moves that includes his running corner clothesline and a double axe handle for a near fall. Barrett reverses the Skull Crushing Finale into the Winds of Change, but Miz kicks out at two. Miz tries twice for the Figure Four to no avail. Barrett unsuccessfully goes for a few more pinning attempts before loading up the elbow. He swings and misses, and Miz ends up crotching him on the top rope. Miz finally gets the Figure Four locked in, forcing the already, um, weakened Barrett to tap out.
Bryan and Kane argue about who's never gotten over AJ. Kaitlyn intervenes in the discussion, unaware that the vixen herself is listening behind them. AJ finally snaps when the word Crazy is uttered, and Team Hell No has no choice but to forcibly remove her from the locker room.
Match 6 Zack Ryder, Justin Gabriel and The Great Khali vs. The Shield
Seth Rollins doesn't match up all that well against Khali, but Dean Ambrose fares better against Ryder. Zack also takes some punishment from Roman Reigns before giving way to Gabriel, but he ends up in an inverted surfboard from Ambrose as Rollins comes off the top rope. That's enough to put Gabriel away, and The Shield wants to give Khali the triple power bomb after the bell. Impressive. Sheamus and Orton head down the ramp to get some payback, and Big Show is lurking on the reverse side of the ring. And here... we... go! The fight only lasts about a minute, and The Shield is forced to lick its wounds by escaping back into the crowd.
Jericho is pretty upset about Fandango, and after a conversation with Vickie Guerrero, the two of them are going to square off at WrestleMania. He's sporting a shiner too.
Match 7 Team Rhodes Scholars vs. Brodus Clay and Tensai
Or is Sweet T now Tensai's official ring name? This seems like a waste of Damien Sandow, but his team is able to get the win. Oh, and the Bella Twins are on hand. Could we see an eight-person mixed tag match before WrestleMania?
The Rock and some of the people behind G.I. Joe: Retaliation talk weapons and vehicles in the new flick. Looks action packed, for sure.
Match 8 3MB vs. Ryback
Ryback looks to one-up Henry by taking on three guys instead of two. No worries jobbers there's enough squash matches for all of you, apparently. The members of 3MB actually acquit themselves with some honor here, keeping Ryback off balance with quick tags and constant offense. But Ryback eventually manages to throw Jinder Mahal into Drew McIntyre, setting up some spinebusters. In a pretty impressive spot, Ryback manages to Shell Shock both Mahal and Heath Slater at the same time. Yikes.
Arnold Schwarzenegger will induct Bruno Sammartino into the WWE Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden. Pretty cool, no?
Match 9 AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn
I'll admit to not being the biggest fan of the current crop of Divas, but this match has some viciousness that makes it kind of interesting. AJ ends up sidestepping a spear on the outside and hurling Kaitlyn hard into the retaining wall, and the Divas Champion can't get back in the ring before the count of 10.
THQ may be a thing of the past (R.I.P., if for no other reason than your wrestling games), but 2K Sports now has the rights to the WWE video game license, and the company is making sure WWE '13 is available in stores again.
Lawler gets to introduce some WWE Hall of Famers and upcoming inductees, including Booker T, Mick Foley, Dusty Rhodes and Bret Hart, as they get ready to... ask the WrestleMania main eventers some questions, it appears. The Rock comes out first, followed in short order by John Cena. Foley asks Cena about losing last year's match (Once in a Lifetime, remember?), and he responds by comparing himself to Donovan McNabb. The Philly fans don't really like it, but his point is that he may be statistically good, but if he can't beat The Rock this time, Cena will be known as someone who couldn't win the big one. He also claims The Rock knows nothing about failure, but The Great One says he does know about overcoming adversity. Well, he says The Rock knows about overcoming adversity, because he refers to himself in the third person. Hart asks them why they seem to have been overcome with bad blood. That one ends with Rock saying he respected how Cena took his loss with class and John responding that we'll see how the Brahma Bull handles his in a few weeks. Booker wants to know why Cena thinks he'll win this time? John seems put off by the question, saying only that he will because he has to. The Rock is fired up by that non-answer, and when he presses for more, Cena says it's because he beat himself last year. He claims it was the only time anyone has ever clouded his judgment in a high profile match, getting him to try to beat The Rock with his own People's Elbow. Cena says he knows he's better than The Rock, to which the champ takes a page out of Ric Flair's book in reply: to be the man, you've got to beat the man. And he makes it clear that he feels Cena will never be The Man. Rhodes likes it, saying the two men need to put aside their mutual respect and take the gloves off. Asked what they really want on April 7, Cena says he wants to dominate and prove that he's better than The Rock. The People's Champ scoffs at that, saying he isn't wired that way and would love to see Cena do something about their difference of opinion right now. Cena makes the You can't see me motion in The Rock's face and goes for an Attitude Adjustment, but the champ reverses it into a Rock Bottom. The movie start goes one up in this feud as Raw goes off the air with only one more episode left until WrestleMania. See you in seven!
Nick Tylwalk is looking forward to covering his fourth WrestleMania in a setting that is within driving distance (kind of) of his home. Follow Nick on Twitter or Google+ or shoot him an email.