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Raw: Curtis Axel's push continues, Punk gets mentioned
By MATTHEW ASHER - SLAM! Wrestling


Happy Memorial Day! However the WWE is currently in Canada, where they won't celebrate this holiday/Canada Day until November 11th. The show starts off quoting Joseph Campbell about what defines a hero, a subject he knows very well.

Thanks to Keith David for letting us know that tonight's show is decided to "the men and women of the United States Armed Forces who paid the ultimate price in service of our country." And he's right. To all current and former military personnel, it's because of your sacrifices that we are allowed to live our own lives.

We start off tonight's show with The Champ talking about the controversial ending to his Last Man Standing Match. Rather than accepting Ryback's request for an Ambulance Match, John Cena decides to take it up two notches (stay with me folks and it'll all make sense soon). Rather than just having one match, Cena wants a Three Stages of Hell Match. Round one would be a Lumberjack Match, round two would be a Tables Match and if it's tied up then (Cena says no way) the final round would be an Ambulance Match.

Ryback comes out says he agrees with Cena's view on Payback. The infamous "What?!" chants have begun as Ryback more or less tells him that.

Before we get to our first commercial break, Paul Heyman decides to get his two cents in. Cue the remixed Mr. Perfect theme, it's time for Curtis Axel. Of course Paul needs to remind us that last week his newest client beats Triple H so badly that he's not going to be in the ring any time soon.

Heyman applauds Cena on having the testicular fortitude to not only accept Ryback's challenge, but to issue him one on top of that. Heyman issues a challenge of his own to Cena: to take on Curtis Axel tonight. Cena wouldn't be a fighting champ if he didn't accept, so we have this match to look forward tonight.

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Match 1: Alberto Del Rio vs. Big E Langston

Michael Cole describes this match as a sort of rubber match since the two have split the series over the last week. This is the first time I've seen Big E with his new entrance and music and I have to ask, if they're pushing this whole powerlifter thing including the chalk, why can't he wear the one piece they do that COVERS HIS UPPER LEGS!

Del Rio with a great suicide dive to knock Big E down. Big E with a modified Gorilla Press do ADR on the steel steps, and rather than focusing on the match, WWE decides to have us listen to a voicemail (or whatever it's called) from Dolph Ziggler. Thanks WWE. I completely lost focus in the match.

Del Rio has just clocked Big E with a superkick but Langston kicks out after two. The crowd continues to chant "Si! Si! Si!" which is definitely odd to hear in Canada. AJ tries to give Big E a hand by loosening one of the turnbuckles. After escaping ADR's armbreaker, Big E gets pushed head first into the exposed turnbuckle. ADR with the cover and that's all she wrote folks. After the match AJ tries to explain to Langston that this wasn't her fault and that she was trying to help him. Langston doesn't say anything, but clearly is angered.

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Backstage Kane is trying get Daniel Byran to stop thinking that he's a weak link. Yet again Goatboy reads too much into Kane's speech and still believes he's the weak link. Cue Canada's favorite son, Bret "The Hitman" Hart. For the record I hope that Bret does something about his graying hair, it really makes him look old. Bret tells Daniel almost word for word what Kane just told him and Daniel perfectly understands the message. Can't really argue with Daniel's reasoning: Bret Hart > Kane.

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Match 2: United States Championship Match Dean Ambrose (C) vs. Kofi Kingston

So I guess that Kofi's DQ victory over Ambrose on Smackdown! gives him a mulligan on his rematch clause. The match is actually pretty good with neither gaining the advantage. The best part was because Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns played no part in this outcome. Ambrose gets out of the ring and Kofi stops himself in mid-flight from a suicide dive when it's clear he can't reach Dean.

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We return and Ambrose is in control. Of course if you were using the WWE App you could have seen how Dean regained control. Yet again there's another mini-view of what you could have seen. Ambrose starts taking a lot of hits to the face when Kofi starts using his high-flying offense. Lots of quick near falls and once again we get a mini-view of the WWE App, this time with Randy Orton and Sheamus talking about The Shield. Ambrose hits his finisher and Kofi is out like a light.

Rollins and Reigns join Ambrose in the ring following his victory. Cue Kane's pyro and Team Hell No makes its way to the ring. Kane and Bryan unload on The Shield and we're told the WWE Tag Team Title Match will take place after the next break.

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Match 3: Tag Team Championship Match The Shield (Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins) (C) vs. Team Hell No

We return with the match already in progress. Rollins nails Kane with an modified enziguri kick and drops Kane like a rock. Reigns only gets a one count though. Reigns and Rollins make lots of quick tags and focus on Kane. While this is happening, we get another mini-view of the Primetime Players. Kane finally makes the hot tag and Bryan cleans house. Bryan suplexes Rollins off the top turnbuckle with both men taking lots of damage and both men are down. Who will get up first?

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We return and Bryan is now in control. However, the extended beatdown portion of the match for Bryan has begun. It's pretty brutal including Bryan getting DDT'd on the turnbuckle. Fortunately the World's Toughest Vegan finally gets the hot tag to Kane who beats down on Rollins. Kane appears to have put him away with a sidewalk slam when Reigns breaks up the three count. Enter Bryan who knocks Reigns out of the ring and hits him with a suicide dive. It looks like the previous champs might regain their titles!

Kane hits Rollins with a big boot and rather than pinning him, decides to climb the turnbuckles. While this is happening Bryan has Reigns pinned outside of the ring hitting Yes Kick after Yes Kick. It looks like Bryan might stop Kane from jumping, but rather, Bryan just gets ready to inflict more damage on Reigns outside the ring. This backfires when Reigns hits a midflight Daniel Bryan with a spear. This distracts Kane which allows Rollins to knee Kane in the head and pick up the victory. Ambrose returns to the ring to celebrate with his partners as The Shield taunt Team Hell No.

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If you didn't know what happened to Triple H last week, you can read all about it here. After the video package Michael Cole informs us that Triple H underwent some medical tests last week. The good news is the tests came back normal and he might be able to return next week. Triple H was advised not to show up on Raw tonight.

Enter The Miz. Yet again another pimping of the WWE App to decide what will role Miz will play in the upcoming match. It's time's like this that I truly realize that Taboo Tuesday and Cyber Sunday were way ahead of its time. If you don't know what those days are, I truly feel sorry for you.

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Drum roll please. According to 85 percent of the voters, they want Miz to be the guest referee. I kind of with he was the ring announcer because I'd love to hear him introduce our next opponents, who are...

Match 4: Wade Barrett vs. Fandango

Miz takes off his shirt and puts on a referee's shirt. With this match, we get to see if Wade can get payback on Fandango who left him high and dry last week when they were supposed to be partners.

Fandango makes his way to the ring and I'm sad (seriously) to see Summer Rae is the valet. I was instantly brought back to the famous SummerSlam Bret Hart vs. Undertaker match when HBK was the guest referee. This match is simple, Wade gets on Miz's nerves, Miz gives Wade a Stonecrushing Finale and Fandango picks up the victory.

As Fandango celebrates, Miz kicks Fandango in the head while Summer Rae falls on top of her man. Summer picks up the "win" after Miz three-counts her. I guess this means Fandango and Miz will be having words later.

Backstage John Cena and a very-bearded HBK. Cena tells Shawn he not going to listen to HBK because that's exactly what the Show Stopper would do: whatever he felt like. And now we have the "You screwed Bret" chants.

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Match 4: Tons of Funk (Sweet T/Lord Tensei & Brodus Clay) w/ the Funkadactyls & Great Khali w/ Natalya Neidhart and Hornswaggle vs. 3MB (Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal)

We get an explanation for this match via what happened backstage. Apparantly 3MB wanted a piece of cake that Hornswaggle is holding when Slater decides to shove it all in Hornswaggle's face. So six men are going to beat each other up. Over cake.

I would like to say that this was not the squash match I thought it was going to be. Of course 3MB loses, but still. After the match Brodus picks up the mike and informs the crowd that tonight is Natalya's birthday. And who's going to lead the crowd in a rendition of the birthday song? Why it's Khali, of course! The crowd likes it and Nattie starts dancing with all of her teammates and we're informed about Bret Hart Appreciation night after Raw goes off the air. We see Paul Heyman backstage and are told he will talk to Y2J after the break.

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It's time for the Highlight Reel. Paul comes out and he really needs to get an entrance theme because that walk he made in silence was awkward. Simply put, Y2J wants to know what's going on with CM Punk. Paul tries to dodge the question but Jericho is having none of that. He wants Punk to prove to Jericho that he is the "Best in the World" at the upcoming PPV in Chicago. Paul says yes to the challenge. It gets a little awkward, but both men part ways without a single punch or kick being thrown.

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Match 5: The Bella Twins (Brie and Nikki) vs. Natalya Neidhart and Kaityln

There was that odd moment when both King and Cole say "Birthday Girl" simultaneously. Still Nattie gets the Sharpshooter on one of the Bellas but can't get the tapout. Kaitlyn spears one of the Bellas and then accidentally spears Nattie. That's it as one of the Bellas pins Natalya for the victory. That's a horrible birthday present. The Bellas then proceed to mockingly sing "Happy Birthday" to her.

Backstage we have Bret Hart talking to Curtis Axel. Just like John Cena earlier in the night, Bret warns Curtis to get as far away from Paul Heyman as possible. Axel is having none of the Hitman's advice.

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Match 5: The Celtic Vipers (Sheamus and Randy Orton) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars (Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes)

Call it one of those ESP moments because just before Michael Cole named the team of Randy and Sheamus I was thinking to myself that they needed a team name since they always tag together. Weird.

I really hope that the Celtic Vipers actually become a team. I don't remember anything specific about this match, but I do know it was a good one. Sheamus gets the hot tag from Orton but nearly gets pinned by Sandow. Orton throws Rhodes into the timekeeper's area. In the meanwhile, Sheamus hits White Noise and the Brogue Kick on Damien for the victory.

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Match 6: Curtis Axel w/ Paul Heyman vs. John Cena

Not much happens at the beginning of the match. Axel goes out of the ring to compose himself when Paul Heyman actually has some good advice for him: don't let Cena dictate the pace.

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It seems as though Paul's advice was good. Axel is in firm command, sending John Cena into the steel ring steps. Cena has trouble getting up from the steps and gets back in the ring at the count of 9. Michael Cole believes that Heyman has brainwashed Axel. King and JBL disagree with Cole and I'm with them.

Axel spends a lot of time wearing down Cena's left arm and shoulder. Cena muscles out of the hold but Curtis knocks him down for a two count. John performs four of the five Moves of Doom but Axel avoids the AA and goes to work on the Champ. Cena counters with an AA but Curtis kicks out.

Several near falls including Curtis hitting a picture perfect PerfectPlex. Out of nowhere an ambulance siren screams. For a second I thought I was going to see Scott Steiner, but am reminded that it's Ryback. Cena leaves the ring to face who he believes is Ryback and is counted out. So that's "victories" over Triple H and John Cena for Curtis Axel. Not a bad two weeks.

Ryback ambushes Cena but neither man is able to put the other one away. Curtis is finally announced as the winner. Cena can do nothing but applaud as we go off the air. That's all folks, see you in seven!

Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist currently living in Atlanta. He would like to remind the WWE that he would love to be the next "Paul Heyman guy" ... and would also like to wish Natalyia Neidhart a very happy 31st birthday.