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Raw: Bryan's road through Hell continues
By MATTHEW ASHER - SLAM! Wrestling


When last week's Raw went off the air, my first thought was simply "Where is Stone Cold Steve Austin when you need him?" after Randy Orton RKO'd Daniel Bryan following a beatdown by The Shield. Hopefully tonight in Phoenix, Arizona, we'll see if Bryan is on his own as he takes on what appears to be a reformed McMahon-Helmsley Regime.

It appears as though The Shield is now Triple H's lackeys as they open tonight's Raw as makeshift bodyguards (Jerry Lawler called them "henchmen") for The Game as he makes his way to the ring. Hunter says last week's actions were not business, but personal after Bryan insulted his wife and Triple H.

Hunter calls out Orton and thanks him for "breathing new life into the WWE" because of the ratings last week's episode produced. I think the COO has taken one too many chairshots if he thinks the WWE Universe wants Orton as the current face of the company.

Triple H says he wants to reward Orton for his hard work and according to him, got Randy this gift out of his own pocket. What's the gift? A new Cadillac Escalade (#stupidproductplacement). Orton thanks Hunter for the gift and just as Randy goes to check out the car Daniel Bryan comes out. He agrees that Orton's car is much nicer than his Honda Fit (#moreproductplacement?)

Daniel says he wants to get a few thank yous out of his system. He first wants to thank the WWE Universe for supporting him even if he isn't the prettiest face in the WWE, that honor goes to "Twinkletoes Orton". Bryan's second thank you is to John Cena for giving him the opportunity to wrestle in the main events at SummerSlam because someone like Triple H would never have done that. His final thank you is to The Game himself. Why? Because with his actions at SummerSlam, Hunter showed his true colors because his vision of what's best for business and what the WWE Champ should look like is "every bit as narrow minded and misguided as Vince McMahon's."

Bryan promises that at Night of Champions he will rearrange the face of the WWE. After Hunter starts singing the Pinocchio song "When you wish upon a star" (seriously), he says he will give Bryan the opportunity to prove himself via a Gauntlet Match with The Shield.

Before we get to our first commercial break we get a replay of the unsanctioned match between CM Punk and Curtis Axel from last week. Apparently the two will have an official match tonight but the caveat is the WWE Universe gets to pick the stipulation. My money's on Choice C which would put Heyman in the ring with Punk if Axel loses the match.

Match 1 Cody Rhodes vs. Fandango w/ Summer Rae

Our first match of the night is Cody Rhodes against Fandango with Damien Sandow at ringside as a guest commentator. After a few minutes, Fandango's music hits again. But this time we are treated to The Miz (wearing Fandango's wrestling attire) with Rosa Mendez as his dance partner mocking Fandango's moves. Because of the distraction, Rhodes gets the win via schoolboy roll up. Damien enters the ring as does the Miz and chaos ensues. Raw's GM shows up and says all four men will now have a tag team match starting right now.

Match 2 Cody Rhodes and Miz vs. Damien Sandow and Fandango

After the commercial break Miz gets the hot tag and goes to work on Sandow. Just like he's done countless times before, Fandango and Summer Rae walk out of the match allowing Miz and Rhodes to pick up the win.

Winners...Miz and Cody Rhodes

Before our next segment we're treated to another clip of Los Matadores. I'm just wondering if they are in anyway related to Tito Santana. We get an interview with Captain Charisma himself talking about Triple H's direction for the WWE. Christian begins to answer the question by using my favorite George Santanaya quote about failing to learn from history. Before he finishes his thought, Orton interrupts him and says he's going to beat him tonight. After Christian cleverly calls Randy a tool, Orton leaves.

We have Michael Cole pimp out the Tout app before we cutaway to an interview with CM Punk taken during the commercial break about the stipulation choices. Punk says although he doesn't want to influence the WWE Universe, he wants Option C so he can get his hands on Paul. Cut to Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel watching the interview. Heyman is worried but Axel says not to worry because Punk will have to out wrestle him in order to get to Paul. Axel is confident but Heyman doesn't share his enthusiasm.

Match 3 CM Punk vs. Curtis Axel w/ Paul Heyman

After another commercial break, match number three of the night will be the aforementioned Punk/Axel match. After both wrestlers get to the ring, King makes the announcement of the winning stipulation. No surprise with Option C as the winner (told ya) but I am amazed that it won with 81% of the votes.

The two men lock up and throughout the match we get cutaways of Paul near the entrance ramp looking very nervous. Axel steps out of the ring to catch his breath and rather than attack Axel, CM makes a beeline for Heyman. Axel prevents Punk from getting his hands on Paul and the match continues.

We get commercials and finally return to the match. We finally get a JBL reference I think the kids can understand when he says since it's possible for Chris Brown and Rihanna to get back together, it's possible for Punk and Heyman to reconcile as well. #badanalogyJBL

Punk is finally able to nail the GTS and pick up the victory. Punk is licking his chops and Heyman is mortified. Paul tries to leave but before he can leave the entrance ramp, two referees stop him and send him back. Heyman tries to run out again but this time four security guards physically drag Heyman into the hands of Punk.

Winner via pinfall...CM Punk

Heyman declares "It was all Brock Lesnar!" but Punk is having none of it. Heyman is taken into the ring but before Punk can lay a beating on the Walrus, Axel hits Punk with a low blow. Heyman and Axel high five each other while the crowd chants "You suck." Heyman reaches into his pocket and produces a pair of handcuffs.

Axel cuffs Punk's hands and puts him in a modified Camel Clutch. Heyman starts slapping Punk and now claims it was all his idea. Heyman taunts Punk to fight him now. Punk nails Axel with a nice crescent kick, knocking him out of the ring and then goes starts kicking Paul for a few seconds until Axel nails Punk with a chair. Now we get a taste of ECW when Curtis grabs a kendo stick and gives it to Paul. Axel hangs Punk up on the ropes allowing Paul to go to work on Punk. With each shot to Punk, Paul yells about how deeply he cared for Punk before the betrayal.

Axel takes Punk out of the ring and hits him with a few more punches before Heyman breaks the kendo stick on Punk. Paul goes back to declaring that he used to love Punk and the crowd is now chanting "Paul's gay." Somehow I get the feeling Darren Young might object to that.

When we return from commercial we get a recap of the beatdown on Punk and are shown the lacerations on Punk's back as he exits the ring. I'm curious why the trainers showed up to take care of Punk before they went to commercial but nobody thought to uncuff Punk because he's walking backstage.

Match 4 Natalya w/ Funkadactyls vs. Brie Bella w/ Nikki and Eva Marie

We get another pimping of Total Divas as Jojo is in the ring as the special guest announcer for this next match, a Divas match between Natalya (accompanied by the Funkadactyls) as she takes on Brie Bella (accompanied by Nikki and Eva Marie). Rather than focus on the match I'd like to say while Jojo definitely has a great singing voice, she needs a little work on her announcer's voice.

Winner via pinfall...Brie Bella

Brie wins after Nikki intervenes. AJ Lee comes out to recap the last episode of Total Divas in a somewhat mocking fashion. AJ calls the seven divas "a bunch of cheap, interchangeable, expendable, useless women." As the divas taunt AJ to say that to their face, AJ says they're on reality TV because they're not talented enough to become real actresses and don't have the talent to become champions. AJ is starting to sound like her old boyfriend Daniel when she says she wasn't handed this title because she was pretty or because of her heritage, but because she's just good and the other divas are poor excuses of women. Before going to break we get a quick cutaway of RVD getting hyped up with ADR's former ring announcer and that match is next.

Match 5 RVD w/ Ricardo Rodriguez vs. World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio

We're shown a recap of Alberto Del Rio beating down on Ricardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez shows up and in Spanglish announces RVD. I wished he would have said Mr. Monday Night in Español (it's Señor Noche Lunes if you're curious). As ADR makes his way to the ring, Ricardo removes his tuxedo coat revealing a bright red RVD shirt. JBL calls Ricardo a traitorous stooge.

RVD has the upper hand before the break so of course when we return ADR is in control. Cole announces that per GM Brad Maddox, if RVD picks up the win tonight, he gets a title shot at Night of Champions. This seems like something the fans (and RVD as well) should know instead of just the television audience. The match goes back and forth. ADR prevents RVD from hitting the Five Star Frog Splash. Ricardo can't believe it and jumps on the announcer's table and attempts to pump up the crowd. RVD catches ADR with that unique scissor leg pin and is now the Number 1 Contender for the World Heavyweight Championship.

Winner via pinfall...RVD

We go back to last Monday with John Cena addressing the crowd about his tricep injury. We then get pictures from Cena's Twitter account showing the arm post surgery. It's a little gross but it could have been much worse. Before going to commercial we're reminded of the main event Gauntlet Match tonight.

Josh Matthews brings us back from the commercial break to interview Ryback to talk about his recent bullying of random people the last few weeks. Ryback doesn't take kindly to the bully word and grabs Matthews by the chin/mouth and simply says he's finally found a way to shut Matthews up. We're shown the beatdown on CM Punk once again. We cut away to Axel and Heyman talking about the beatdown. Heyman looks like he's been crying before this interview. Heyman says he feels like a man because tonight he put his prodigal son in his place, and that Heyman is the last person CM Punk should now ever want to come up against.

Match 6 Christian vs. WWE Champion Randy Orton

Christian is introduced for his match before we go to commercial. Christian starts out strong but when Orton shoves Christian from the top rope out of the ring causing Christian's neck to whiplash on the mat. Orton gains momentum on an extended beat down before going to another break. When we return from the break, Orton is still in control. Christian goes for a high impact move but Orton counters with a superplex. Momentum goes back and forth with a lot of near falls. However Orton hits Christian with an eye poke before delivering an RKO for the tainted win.

Winner via pinfall...Randy Orton

As Orton celebrates Daniel Bryan appears on the JumboTron to congratulate Orton. Bryan says he likes the pretty gift for the pretty Orton. He asks Randy if at Night of Champions if Bryan wins the title if that makes him the new face of the WWE. Bryan moves away from the camera to reveal that he's spray painted bright orange "YES"s all over Orton's new Caddy (I counted 15 of them). Cole actually makes a cute pun referring to the SUV now as a Cadillac Yes-calade. Orton of course is livid. I think this will come back to bite Daniel by the night's end.

We return from the commercials and Maddox is talking to Triple H and Orton about the Yes-calade. Hunter is not happy and tells Maddox to bring every Superstar and Diva out on the entrance ramp to watch what is about to happen to Daniel Bryan. Hunter says if any of the wrestlers even so much as look at the ring the wrong way he's going to personally fire each and every one of them and laugh while he does it. After Maddox leaves to inform the locker room, Orton tells Hunter that Bryan will pay for this (called it).

Match 7 Titus O'Neil w/ Darren Young vs. Jack Swagger w/ Zeb Colter

We now have Titus O'Neil facing Jack Swagger. After Zeb's obligatory rant Cole explains the dance (called the Million Dollar Dance) that PTP does during their ring entrance. Young's part is called the Dirty Bird (living in Atlanta where the original Dirty Bird was popularized in 1998, I beg to differ) and O'Neil's part is called the Frat Call (done by Titus' University of Florida fraternity, Omega Psi Phi). You learn something new everyday.

It's actually a decent match with both men using some good power moves. Jack ties to pin Titus using the ropes as leverage but Darren pushes Swagger's legs off the ropes, allowing O'Neil to pick up the win after a sitdown powerbomb (minus the sitdown part). On a personal note, I'm glad that PTP is finally getting a push after spending so much time in the lower and midcard part of the program. Before going to commercial we're promised the Wyatt Family will be up next.

Winner via pinfall...Titus O'Neil

When we return we're treated to another vignette of the Wyatt Family. I honestly have no idea what Bray was saying at the beginning but he begins to explain why he's the leader of his family and it having something to do with the death of his mother (who he refers to as "Sister Abigail") so now we know why his finishing move is called that.

We go backstage to Maddox talking to the medical staff about Punk's condition. Punk shows up and says he doesn't need medical attention but he needs Maddox. Punk wants a match with Heyman, one where Heyman can't get away from him. Maddox agrees and says that at Night of Champions Punk will face Heyman and Axel in a Handicap Elimination Match. Should Heyman try to get out of the match, Maddox says he'll never be seen in the WWE. Punk agrees but warns Maddox that if Heyman does back out of the match, we may never see Maddox again as well.

Before the main event, all the WWE Superstars and Divas come to the entrance per Hunter's request. We go to commercials and when we return the Ride of the Valkyries starts blaring. The order of The Shield members Bryan faces will be Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and finally Roman Reigns.

We cutaway to Renee Young who interviews both Big Show and Dolph Ziggler about last week's matches they had against The Shield. Neither man says a word. She moves over to Miz who starts to answer the question but thinks better of it.

Main Event Gauntlet Match Daniel Bryan vs. The Shield

If you remember when Bryan took on the Real Americans and Ryback a few weeks ago, this is not more of the same. A great spot happens when Bryan does his suicide dive knocking Rollins over the announce table and actually into Michael Cole's chair. We cut to commercials and return Rollins is now in control. Big Show starts cheering on Bryan. It takes Daniel about 12 minutes to put away Rollins.

Immediately after the pin Ambrose jumps on Bryan but Bryan is able to get the Yes Lock on Dean. Before Dean taps out, Reigns attacks Bryan, causing a disqualification. Right after, Bryan does the same to Roman and Dean returns the favor. So Bryan gets all three wins with two by DQ but the Shield goes to work on Bryan for a minute before Hunter's music hits.

Winner by DQ...Daniel Bryan

The Shield hits Daniel with the triple powerbomb and all the Superstars on the ramp look away from Hunter in disgust. Orton's music hits and Hunter lets Randy enter the ring. After taking his sweet time, Orton hits Bryan with an RKO and walks out of the ring holding up the title. Hunter asks all the spectators if they now want to laugh and exits the stage as The Shield hovers over the carcass of Daniel Bryan. Fade to black and that's the show folks.

Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist currently living in Atlanta. As he mentioned at the beginning of this article, he simply wonders "Where is Stone Cold Steve Austin when you need him?" Rest up Daniel, you've got a hell of a climb ahead of you.