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Raw: Daniel Bryan faces an even bigger uphill climb
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


Poor Daniel Bryan. Just when he had successfully defied the odds to claim the WWE Championship, he had it cruelly snatched away just minutes later. As the scene shifts to Anaheim, how will Bryan pull himself together? We’ll see in just a few minutes as Raw goes live on USA.

No longer the WWE Champion, John Cena sprints to the ring to kick off the show. The fans are on him right away too. He says that Daniel Bryan earned his victory at SummerSlam, and he talks publicly about his torn triceps. Cena isn't using it as an excuse, admitting that he was defeated by a better man in a clean fight. But even though he was disgusted by Randy Orton's subsequent “theft” of the title, he can't put off his surgery any longer, and he's leaving for four to six months. First he's going to introduce Bryan, who looks glum as he makes his way down. He doesn't get a chance to say anything before he's joined by Stephanie McMahon, who claims that she's sorry. She does hope he understands that Triple H was just doing what's best for business. Bryan points out that the fans disagree on that, and he's disappointed that the former leader of DeGeneration X would do that. But when you lay down with trash, he guesses you start to stink. Bryan also says he isn't afraid of being fired, but before he leaves, he's going to get his money's worth. Steph responds by saying the WWE values him, but she needs to manage his expectations – not everyone can be WWE Champion, and while he might not be an 'A,' he's a solid 'B+.' Fired up now, Bryan says he doesn't care what she thinks and knocks the microphone out of Steph's hand. She won't stand for that, calling for Security. Looks like he's getting kicked out. Bryan riles the fans up one more time, but it seems he's going to comply.

Match 1 – Damien Sandow vs. Cody Rhodes

A rematch from last night? Sure, why not? Oh, but Sunday there were no commercial breaks. Rhodes is in some trouble after the break as Sandow looks for revenge with the Elbow of Disdain. Cody rallies with a moonsault that JBL points out he definitely didn't learn from daddy. Sandow counters a Cross Rhodes attempt, but Rhodes finds money with a Disaster Kick. He avoids a move in the corner and manages to roll up Sandow to get a second win in as many nights.

Brad Maddox throws Dolph Ziggler under the bus for his comments about not trusting Triple H. Coincidentally (wink!), Ziggler is going to be in a handicap match tonight against The Shield.

Sporting a sling on his left arm, Paul Heyman is in the ring to brag about Brock Lesnar's victory over CM Punk and give everyone a life lesson. He admits that Punk gave Lesnar all he could handle, but it's time to end the family feud. Heyman forgives Punk for his rebellion and says that if CM apologizes, he'll accept his prodigal son back.

The Bellas taunt The Funkadactyls for being uninteresting. Of course they work a mention of Total Divas in there too.

Match 2 – The Funkadactyls vs. Layla and AJ Lee

The heels waste no time assaulting the Funkadactyls before the bell even rings. Naomi gets beaten up for a while, then rolls up Layla for the pin. Seriously, that was the whole match.

Match 3 – Dolph Ziggler vs. The Shield

JBL and Michael Cole have a discussion about being a good employee versus freedom of speech. Meanwhile, Ziggler is getting the crap kicked out of him. Dolph fights back against Dean Ambrose and carries the momentum over against Roman Reigns. He hits a DDT and Seth Rollins has to hustle to break up the pin. Sadly, it's all for naught, as Reigns connects with a big spear and gets the three count. Ziggler gets a triple power bomb too. Point made, I guess.

Match 4 – Alberto Del Rio vs. Sin Cara

I hate saying it, but Sin Cara is slipping into “I forgot he was still on the roster” territory. Did he hurt himself on his first move? Hmm, maybe. Since the match is over, ADR uses the time to talk about representing the Latino community. Ricardo Rodriguez disagrees, coming out on stage to say how happy he is to represent someone new: Rob Van Dam! He hits the ring and takes it right to Del Rio, though the World Heavyweight Champion gets out of dodge so he doesn't take a Five Star Frog Splash.

Zeb Colter gets some microphone time, running down Anaheim and Disneyland. Same old, same old.

Match 5 – The Real Americans vs. The Prime Time Players

All four men get in on the action right away, but it's the heels who are able to take control. Darren Young eventually gets the hot tag, and with Titus O'Neil taking care of Jack Swagger, he hits the Gut Check on Antonio Cesaro to pick up the victory.

The Big Show is all smiles during his backstage interview. He says he's going to team up with Mark Henry to go after the tag team titles, but Maddox drops in and reminds him of disparaging comments he made about the COO. Purely coincidentally (double wink!), Show is going to be in a handicap match with The Shield, and all three of his foes will be allowed in the ring at once. But Show has a question: is Maddox sure he wants to do that to The Shield?

Wait, what is this Foot Locker product placement? Fandango wants to know too. Apparently he's satisfied that you can dance in those sneakers. In the locker room, Ryback continues his bullying streak.

Match 5 – The Big Show vs. The Shield

Big Show holds his own for a while because, well, he's a large man. Yet the odds are against even him, and The Shield unites to execute a triple power bomb and all three members pin Show together.

Bruised but not beaten, CM Punk comes to the ring. He's pissed off, laying into someone booing him. Yeah, Punk is really upset. If an apology is what Heyman wants, Punk asks him to come out. He does, with Curtis Axel in tow. Punk is sorry – sorry he didn't take Heyman's arm off last night! No matter who Paul puts in his way, CM will get his revenge. Heyman is sorry too, sorry about what's about to happen once Axel tapes up for a fight. After a commercial, it's not a sanctioned match but a straight up brawl. A chair, the table and the ring bell all get drafted into the action. Punk signals for the Go To Sleep, but Axel wriggles free and targets Punk's already “injured” left leg. Here come more chair shots. Axel tries a top rope move with Punk's leg caught in the chair, but he misses and gets bounced off the steps on the outside. That's it for now, but this feud appears far from over.

Match 6 – R-Truth vs. Bray Wyatt

Poor Truth is in big trouble here. Wyatt wins in about two minutes.

Los Matadores are coming soon. Ole!

Match 7 – The Usos vs. 3MB (Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal)

Most of the announcer talk is about Randy Orton's “coronation” that I guess is going to close the show. For once, 3MB is actually looking okay, at least until Slater gets knocked silly by an enzuigiri. Jey Uso crushes Mahal in the corner and forces a save from Slater. One Uso tags out before leaping to the floor, and the other hits the Superfly Splash to get the pinfall.

Match 8 – The Miz vs. Wade Barrett

Hey, The Miz gets to wrestle tonight instead of just playing host. Some “let's go Barrett” actually get going, which is a little surprising. Barrett misses off the top though, falling into the Figure Four. But Fandango runs in and drops a leg, dancing with Summer Rae after getting revenge for Miz's one-punch KO Sunday night.

Maddox lets Steph know that Bryan is back in the building. She simply says “Good” and goes to visit her dad.

The whole locker room assembles on stage as the McMahons gloat in the ring. Triple H chides the fans for their shortsightedness and claims he did what he did to ensure the future of the WWE. He goes on to call Bryan “one hell of a little technician,” but can't see him as the face of the company. The fans deserve better than that, they deserve A+ instead of B. Trips also says that since he set aside his personal feelings to do what's best for business, Bryan should stop being selfish and do the same. Orton comes out and says he owes everything he has to The Game. Hunter offers safe passage to Bryan to head for the ring to have his say, and he emerges in his current shirt and jeans to take him up on it. But even though Hunter tells The Shield to step aside, the unit ambushes Bryan on the ramp. A Reigns spear ends his brief spell of holding his own, and after HHH allows him to reach the apron, Orton nails him with an RKO as soon as he stands up. The McMahons and their hand-picked champion clearly win this round. See you in seven!

Nick Tylwalk appreciates the way the WWE recognizes that Daniel Bryan is the best equipped member of the roster to carry out a classic "whole deck stacked against him" story. Let him know where you think this might go by following him on Twitter or Google+ or dropping him a line via email.