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Raw: Bryan runs Maddox's gauntlet in Austin
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


At Money in the Bank, Paul Heyman double-crossed CM Punk, and now he's saying Punk can't beat Brock Lesnar. Also, new GM Brad Maddox allowed John Cena to pick his own opponent for SummerSlam – and he selected Daniel Bryan. Tonight the road to the WWE's second-biggest event begins in earnest. Let's go live to Austin, Texas on USA.

Sheriff Maddox tells the gathered fans that we're going to have the Cena-Bryan contract signing tonight. Maybe right now, actually. Cena looks ready, but Maddox first wants to know why he picked Bryan. The champ says he listened to the WWE Universe and the decision was clear, which Maddox tries to turn into overconfidence. Bryan comes to the ring and asks the GM if he was trying to say he didn't deserve the title shot, but Cena addresses that question himself. It's not all about size and strength after all, and Cena tells Bryan he deserves to be the top contender. Of course Cena has no plans to simply hand over his title, and he warns his hand-picked challenger that even Bryan's best won't be good enough. Maddox tries to get the last word, but Bryan wants his say. He doesn't get it, but what he will get is multiple chances to prove himself tonight. #Ominous

Match 1 – Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio

Sheamus is sporting a big bruise on his leg from his Money in the Bank Ladder Match experience. Del Rio tries giving him some matching ones in other places before showing off his pec pop. Sheamus' vertical suplex gets him a near fall, and he's able to get out of a submission hold in the corner as we head out for some commercials. Damien Sandow watches with some interest backstage, where there are always some big flatscreens in convenient locations. Sheamus powers through his pain to get another two count as JBL wonders if his leg hurts too much to execute a Brogue Kick. Who knows, but he does get ADR on the apron for repeated shots to the chest. An Irish Curse gets another two count, but Del Rio hits a running enzuigiri in the corner for his own near fall. Sheamus hits a rolling front slam before staggering around. He misses painfully with a Brogue Kick, and Del Rio kicks him in the leg. Sheamus' leg won't allow him to hit White Noise, buckling and allowing ADR to roll him up for the pin.

Deposed former SmackDown leaders Booker T and Teddy Long get interviewed about being shoved aside in favor of Vickie Guerrero. Long is especially upset because of the abuse he took filling in for Booker. He storms out angrily, finally showing some backbone.

Match 2 – Christian vs. Titus O'Neil

If you have the WWE app (and the promotion really, really hopes you do), you go to see an exclusive interview with O'Neil. Lucky dogs. His strength gives Christian some early trouble, and he whistles as he stomps away in the corner. Christian turns things around with a missile dropkick for two and the fans start getting into it. A flying elbow off the top has Christian thinking Killswitch, but a momentary distraction from Darren Young allows O'Neil to hit a big boot for two. Christian rights himself and hits a Killswitch to get the pinfall.

Ryback joins Josh Mathews to answer a fairly dumb question about whether he likes intimidating others. Guess what? He does. Ryback hates average, and people like Mathews deserve to be bullied.

Mark Henry comes to the ring to speak about how proud he is to be from Texas. He's not, however, as proud of the beating he took from The Shield last week. Henry calls the three-man unit out, and soon The Shield is heading down through the crowd. The announcers don't like The World's Strongest Man's chances, and he's quickly worn down by the odds. Things get better when Jimmy and Jey Uso hit the ring, and with a revived Henry, they clear the ring of everyone but Roman Reigns. He's dragged to safety by his partners, and this looks like a speedy but definitive face turn for Henry.

Bryan thanks Cena for giving him the SummerSlam opportunity, but he says he'll be just fine on his own. To reinforce this point, he asks Cena not to come out during any of his matches tonight.

Match 3 – Darren Young vs. Dolph Ziggler

Shockingly, it seems there is/was a love triangle between Ziggler, his now ex-girlfriend AJ Lee, and her “bodyguard” Big E Langston. I can't believe they did that! {Please note excessive sarcasm.} Young more than holds his own here, planting Ziggler face first for a near fall. But he gets a bit too cocky and leaves himself open to a Zig Zag, and he pays for it with a loss. Langston hits the ring after the bell, but Dolph is able to outsmart him and send him flying out to the floor.

Because you or somebody demanded it, The Miz gives everyone an advance look at the “Total Divas” TV show. And there's going to be a panel discussion or something. Jerry Lawler also gets involved, and by that I mean he gets slapped by one of the newcomers. Miz says the show will be awesome, but I don't know.

Maddox gets a visit from Triple H, who questions him on his opinions about Bryan. The Game cautions Brad for letting “The Old Man” for putting words in his mouth, and he thinks Bryan is so driven that he'll overcome anything right now. He finishes by telling Maddox that two trains are leaving the station, and while one is the future, the other is a dead end. Stephanie McMahon stops by a second later and tells him to get on the train. But which one? #Dilemma

A video package shows us what the Wyatt Family has been up to so far. Mainly, they've been beating up mid-carders. Okay, and Kane.

Match 4 – Fandango vs. Cody Rhodes

Sandow joins the announcers to discuss Rhodes' rejection of his offer to be protector of the briefcase. Fandango prances a bit before Rhodes dropkicks him in the jaw. The action goes back and forth but Rhodes emerges with the win, jawing a bit with his former best friend after the bell.

CM Punk reflects on what happened when Lesnar beat him up last week. He knew he was dealing with a freak athlete, but he's proud of the fact that he got up despite getting pretty messed up. He's still standing, and even though Lesnar beat him down, Brock can't keep him down. Punk runs down Lesnar's impressive credentials and the damage he did to Triple H and The Undertaker. Despite that, he calls fear Brock's biggest weapon – only Punk isn't afraid. He says monsters were put on this Earth to be slain by him, and he wants Punk-Lesnar, “The Best vs. The Beast” at SummerSlam. Heyman appears live via satellite, which gets Punk more than a little riled up. Paul asks his one-time charge if he's a coward or a fool, to which CM responds that he'll give his answer at SummerSlam. Though Heyman gets the final word, he also tells Punk his challenge is accepted.

Match 5 – Wade Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam

Barrett wisely focuses on grounding RVD early, though he also appears to be bleeding from the mouth. Van Dam calls for the crowd to pump him up as he battles to his feet, and Rolling Thunder follows for a two count. Barrett finally stops his opponent's momentum with a kick to the gut, but RVD uses more kicks to soften Wade up for the Five Star Frog Splash. That's a wrap as Van Dam continues his welcome back tour.

Match 6 – Daniel Bryan vs. Jack Swagger

The match doesn't start until Zeb Colter can run down the Texans in attendance for a bit. Swagger gets a chance to do his “We The People” thing once, but Bryan ends up making him tap out after a very brief contest. At least we can get the next one started quickly, because it's...

Match 7 – Daniel Bryan vs. Antonio Cesaro

Cesaro gets off to a better start than his partner, attempting to wear Bryan down. JBL mentions that Maddox never said how many matches Bryan would have to be in, so even if he wins, there could be more ahead. He has Cesaro in trouble for a few seconds, but the Swiss Superman powers off the mat into a suplex and drops an elbow for two. Oh yeah, there's another commercial in this one. Bryan doesn't care about that, battling out of trouble until a suplex has him down for two. A kick to the head forces Cesaro to be next to kick out, and both men look a little worse for wear. Bryan tries going up top but is knocked partway down by Cesaro, who gets the favor returned when he looks for a superplex. With Cesaro in the tree of woe, he's helpless against a succession of kicks. Bryan tries a belly-to-back superplex but sees Cesaro pivot and land on top of him for another near fall. A frustrated Cesaro unloads with about a dozen uppercuts and a big clothesline, but that's still not enough. Bryan back drops his way out of the Neutralizer and fights through more uppercuts. A leg whip and a toss to the floor sets up a suicide dive that takes out Cesaro and Swagger. Cesaro staggers back in and tries a throw and uppercut, but Bryan counters with a small package on the way down and gets the three count.

Maddox says Bryan has done well to survive... so far. Let's see how good he does against this next one. #EvenMoreOminous

Match 8 – Daniel Bryan vs. Ryback

Oh boy. Well, this doesn't look good for Bryan. Yet he leaps into action, going on the offensive as soon as he hears the opening bell. Ryback easily survives that onslaught and laughs off the “You can't wrestle” chant that rings through the crowd. The pace stays slow as Ryback works Bryan over on the mat, but the Flying Goat catches his foe coming off the ropes and uses a half crab to apply some punishment. Ryback huffs and puffs in the corner but runs right into a jumping knee. He finally fires out of the corner to clothesline Bryan and get a two count. Undeterred, Ryback pulls a table out from under the ring, but Bryan flies out through the ropes and bounces him off the announce table. Both men head back in, where Bryan unloads with more kicks. He almost flips his way into a pinfall, but Ryback rises and throws him across the ring by his hair. Bryan gets up for a missile dropkick, and when Ryback kicks out, he ends up immediately in the Yes Lock. Ryback wills his way to the ropes to force the break. Bryan tries a leaping move off the apron, but it turns into a power bomb on the floor. A second power bomb through the table follows, and Bryan earns a painful DQ victory. Ryback wants to do more damage, but Cena rushes down and sends Ryback flying out of the ring. Cena challenges Ryback to a Tables Match, presumably for next week, because this show is over. Or almost over anyway. Bryan gets medical attention while Maddox gets a visit from Mr. McMahon in the back. Vince wants to know if Brad has plans to make Bryan prove himself again next Monday, say... against Kane? Out in the ring, Bryan crawls to his feet and gets some love from the crowd. See you in seven!