Raw: Who wants an Evolution?
JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling
With mere days left until Summerslam strikes, WWE hits Raw live from Sacramento and kicks things off with a match off the hop.
Match 1 - Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett (special guest ref: Brad Maddox)
As much as I like both guys individually, I've never been able to watch the two together, and Barrett unfortunately is incredibly directionless right now. Perhaps this bout though is the start to him becoming Maddox's heavy after the Raw GM fast-counts Bryan's shoulders on the mat.
Winner: Wade Barrett
Post-match, Bryan confronts Maddox who narrowly escapes harm. Meh.
Cody Rhodes is on commentary for our next match, which is...
Match 2 - Damien Sandow vs. Randy Orton
Basic setup here for the Sandow/Rhodes match at Summerslam, which involves, ultimately, Cody distracting Damien, leading to the RKO. We still have no real gauge as to Orton's activity at Summerslam, only fuelling the cash-in speculation.
Winner: Randy Orton
Backstage we go for a Shield promo on a battle royal for tonight to determine Dean Ambrose's opponent for Summerslam. The shots at RVD seem like a giveaway... We also get Seth Rollins and Roman Reins mouthing off about the tag belts.
CM Punk is then interviewed and suspects there's trickery afoot tonight.
Match 3 - Natalya/Great Khali vs. Big E Langston/AJ Lee
Oh for God's sake... let's hope the payoff for Nattie in Total Divas is that she finally gets to be back with Tyson Kidd on camera too. Look, I get that Khali and Hornswoggle have a place on Raw, but can they not get Nattie away from these two?
The match unfolds... oddly. It seems like someone missed their cue as Nattie forces AJ to tap twice to the Sharpshooter before the bell is rung. Bad.
Winners: Nattie/Great Khali (twice)
Back to the ring we go after a break and Vince McMahon comes out. Maddox follows soon thereafter and discusses the earlier fast count. This all leads to Maddox being named the special guest ref for the WWE Championship match at Summerslam, or at least it seems that way until Triple H comes down. After a short dialogue, Trips declares himself the special guest ref and Pedigrees Maddox for good measure. Okay, this really puts an interesting wrinkle in. Could Trips turn heel, Pedigree the winner and bring former Evolution member Randy Orton out for the cash-in? I like how this opens all sorts of possibilities (plus, let's face facts - Hunter is much better as a heel than babyface).
Match 4 - Kane vs. Titus O'Neill
Yeah... this was predictable.
Post-match, the Wyatts come out in their standard fashion. The lights go out and Rowan and Harper are in the ring, but Kane's already escaped. Interestingly, he doesn't assault Bray Wyatt as one might expect - he instead ignites the ringposts. Wyatt goes the crazy again and is awesome doing it. Seriously, Bray is my favourite personality in WWE right now.
Backstage we get the Total Divas reference for the night, or at least the first of the night as we seem to set up a six-woman match with the Bellas and Eva Marie vs. Nattie and the Funkadactyls. When that happens? TBD.
Match 5 - Alberto Del Rio vs. Kofi Kingston
Kofi's in such a need of a refresh. Seriously, why did WWE bring him back exactly the same when they had time to rehab his character? This is a waste. Del Rio wins.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
Christian and Renee Young share a Canadian moment next before Del Rio interrupts the proceedings.
The Real Americans (sans Hogan) come out next and Coulter cuts another promo. This leads up to...
Match 6 - Real Americans vs. The Usos
I'm still having trouble buying the Usos as a tag team threat. Facepaint alone won't cut it. This win will though...
Winners: The Usos
Next up is MizTV with John Cena and Daniel Bryan and really, I can't do this justice. Go wherever you can to watch this awesome exchange. Bryan cuts into Cena hard, so hard that Cena loses his cool and admits to not respecting Bryan and Bryan reiterating that Cena's not a wrestler.
Triple H eventually comes out and breaks up the two before they come to blows. Before he can do much more though, Randy Orton comes out at the top of the ramp with the briefcase. Okay, if the fix with Trips and Orton isn't being planned, they've sure as all heck planted the seed tonight perfectly.
Fandango and R-Truth then cool the crowd off with a dead dance non-competition. Sigh...
Match 7 - Battle Royal for the United States #1 Contender
I have to admit it - I'm a sucker for battle royals, and with names like Antonio Cesaro, Mark Henry and Ryback in here, there are certainly enough contenders.
First out is Justin Gabriel followed soon by Darren Young, both of whom are eliminated by Ryback. Sweet T is next out, again by Ryback's hand. I'll inevitably miss a few of the eliminations in trying to cover the bout, but I like the early action of Ryback getting the 'Kane' spot. 3MB get their first elimination soon after Ryback's streak ends, dumping one of the Usos.
Fandango is next out courtesy of R-Truth, but he sneaks back in and tosses Truth. Rob Van Dam then chucks Fandago for the heck of it as we head to break. While we were in commercial time, Brodus Clay, Great Khali and 3MB were chucked. The numbers look like about 9 wrestlers now... okay make that 8 as the Real Americans (sans Hogan) toss the other Uso. RVD then eliminates Titus O'Neil. Cesaro looks to go out ends up on the apron, which leads to an insane spot where Kofi Kingston avoids elimination by hanging onto Cesaro's thighs. Amazing. One second later though, he's chucked by Jack Swagger as the RA's stay in the bout as a tandem. By now, with six wrestlers left, we're down to the RA's, RVD, Henry, Barrett and Ryback. Henry eliminates both RAs in one shot and this final four is pretty damn good. Barrett is soon dismissed quickly, leaving us with three. Ryback and Henry get into it quickly, with Ryback the next to go, leaving us, interestingly, with two faces in the battle royal which I'm pretty sure is a first.
The battle between the two has some decent heat as short as it is, as RVD uses the rope pulldown to eliminate the charging Mark Henry. Well, this is a surprise, given RVD's limited schedule, but this could be an interesting match.
Winner: Rob Van Dam
Post match, Henry comes back in and congratulates RVD, right up until the time The Shield comes out. Henry re-enters the ring to even up the odds until Big Show's music hits. Show comes out and man, he looks like he's dropped some weight. The Shield start to retract and it looks like we will indeed get that anticipated tag team title match at Summerslam will indeed happen.
Match 8 - Paul Heyman vs. CM Punk
Heyman comes out in a vest, dress shirt and taped hands... this is different... Unfortunately there's no ECW theme bringing him out. Heyman goes for the mic after he's introduced and starts cutting a promo before Punk comes out, chastising the WWE Universe for, and I quote, "taking CM Punk away from me." Riiight...
Heyman's cooking up something and admits that there's a trap being laid for Punk and admits there is a co-conspirator, his apparent new best friend, Brock Lesnar. Lesnar's music plays and he indeed comes out, which surprises me - I figured he was locked in his locker room like we've seen time after time. We then get a video of Lesnar decimating Punk on a couple episodes of Raw.
After the package, Heyman lays out the trap - that Lesnar and Heyman will fight Punk together, unless Punk wants to choose to disappoint the WWE Universe. The taunt continues until Punk's music plays. Punk sneaks in, however, from the backside and destroys Lesnar with a TV camera, including an initial shot (protected) to the face. As Lesnar heads outside, Punk hits the Tope Canadienese then continues the beatdown with a chair.
With Lesnar down, Punk stalks Heyman who's still in the ring. Heyman escapes the ring and runs back up the ramp where Curtis Axel awaits and momentarily distracts Punk from the chase until he too is obliterated. Amidst all this, Heyman has effectively escaped like all classic villains whose henchman suffer.
Well, the inclination now would be that Punk loses to Brock at Summerslam, but he didn't get his hands on Heyman so this one actually still has a good amount of intrigue. Add to this the build for Orton/Triple H conspirators and this was one of the best go-home shows I've seen in years for WWE.
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