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   August 23, 2014



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Raw: Longer matches and a dramatic return in Green Bay
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


Can you believe we're less than six weeks away from WrestleMania? The card should really start coming together now, as the scene shifts to Green Bay. Oh, and the WWE launched something earlier today you might have heard about. Let's go live for Raw on USA.

Wait, I recognize that music: it’s Hulk Hogan, back in the WWE just in time for the stretch drive to WrestleMania. He mentions the launch of the WWE Network earlier today and how he feels like a proud papa because of it. And he’s going to be the host of WrestleMania XXX, whatever that entails. Well, thanks for coming Hulk! The announcers put over the value that the WWE Network represents, and it is pretty hard to argue with that. Jerry “The King” Lawler decides to watch WrestleMania I while JBL looks up his own matches.

Match 1 - Alberto Del Rio vs. Batista

The Animal acknowledges the “Boo-tista” sign someone is holding up by the aisle. Del Rio is able to get the early advantage on the outside, smirking as we cut out to commercials. Batista soon has things going his way thanks to clotheslines and a power slam. ADR attacks Batista’s arm and lands a glancing kick to the head, but Batista dodges his corner charge. The fans start booing, and Randy Orton appears on stage. Del Rio takes advantage with a roll up to get the win, something that amuses Orton. The WWE Heavyweight Champion mocks the reaction Batista has been getting from the fans. The Animal claims he loves the business and will cheer or boo the fans right back. He says everyone is looking at the next champ -- deal with it.

Match 2 - Big E vs. Cesaro

A couple months ago, I thought Big E was on the fast track to the top, but Cesaro may have passed him as of late. The IC champ shows off a nice belly-to-belly overhead suplex, though Cesaro bounces right back with a boot to the face. A big backbreaker gets a near fall for Big E, who stares down Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter as he does it. The fans have some pretty consistent “We the people!” chants going. This battle is going to continue after more ads.Wow, Cesaro hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker during the break, an impressive move on a guy Big E’s size. Cesaro hurls Big E into the post and hits a two-footed stomp for a near fall, with another coming after a running uppercut in the corner. The two men trade shots and holds until Big E hits a suplex and a splash for two. He looks for the Big Ending, but Cesaro counters with his elevated uppercut. The champ kicks out at two, so his opponent calls for the Cesaro Swing. Big E uses a one-armed takedown for a two count, though the fans continue chanting for Cesaro. The Swiss Superman does his thing, twirling Big E around 10 times. Swagger jumps in and administers the Patriot Lock, getting his partner disqualified and causing some dissension within the ranks of the Real Americans. Big E tries attacking Swagger, getting himself a Neutralizer from Cesaro.

John Cena hits the ring and gives props to the Hulkster for his return to the WWE. Like a good soldier, he also gets in a plug for the WWE Network before turning his attention to Bray Wyatt. That naturally gets a promo from the leader of the Wyatt Family in typically cryptic fashion. Cena warns all three Wyatts what will happen if any of them enter the ring, but they choose not to heed it. A three-on-one beatdown is on, but just a brief one. No one’s coming from the back to help, eh? Cena gets stretchered out during the commercial break.

Match 3 - Christian vs. Sheamus

This match was set up during the new Raw pre-show (patent pending). Michael Cole talks up Christian’s “new attitude.” Yes, he’s a heel now. He also more than holds his own until Sheamus drops him out to the floor and hits him with a leaping shoulder tackle. Time for commercials again. Surprisingly given their relative sizes, Christian uses a bearhug to slow Sheamus down. The Celtic Warrior powers to his feet but right into an abdominal stretch. That doesn’t hold him for long, and Sheamus runs through a series of moves before dropping his clubbing shots to Christian’s chest from the apron. Another shoulder tackle is good for a near fall, and Christian ends up having to crawl to the ropes to escape the cloverleaf. He counters White Noise and almost gets a three count, and they trade pinfall attempts with both men selling the damage that’s been done. A Brogue Kick eventually finds the mark, and that’s all she wrote for Christian.

Earlier tonight, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were having a nice discussion about the WWE Network when an angry Daniel Bryan barged in. Steph suggested he take out his aggression on someone who truly deserved it, meaning Kane.

Dean Ambrose seems to be clashing with his Shield teammates. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns are about to discuss it when the Wyatt Family stops by. Reigns challenges Wyatt to match without their respective stables, and he accepts. Next we head to the WWE Network set, where Josh Mathews has Booker T and Ric Flair with him. They do some general cheerleading for what we’ve seen and what is yet to come.

Match 4 - Daniel Bryan vs. Kane

Here we go. Even nursing his injured shoulder, Bryan tries going right after Kane. It goes stunningly well as he concentrates on the big man’s legs, chopping him down repeatedly from behind. A half crab keeps up the assault, though Kane reaches the ropes to break the hold. Yes, there’s a commercial break in this one too. Corporate Kane ruled while we were away, and he continues to work on that left shoulder. Bryan rallies with a burst of offense that is halted by a big right hand. Kane runs into a low bridge that sends him to the floor, where Bryan hurls himself into the Director of Operations not once, but twice. Kane regains the upper hand back in the ring, but he can’t believe when Bryan kicks out of a choke slam. Moments later, a running knee catches Kane on the chin, and Bryan covers to get the pinfall. After the bell, Bryan calls Triple H a coward, saying the COO hid behind his wife’s skirt when challenged to a match at WrestleMania. He implores the crowd to make its voice heard, daring HHH to give the people what they want to see in New Orleans.

Alexander Rusev -- the super athlete is coming!

Match 5 - Summer Rae vs. Emma

I want to try doing the Emma dance but I’m afraid I might hurt myself. Summer Rae is not amused. Emma shows off some crafty moves along the apron but has to kick out after a spinning kick to the head from Summer Rae. Fandango’s partner talks some trash to Santino Marella while she’s wrestling, and Emma has to dig deep to get off the mat. She does it, and she’s able to catch another kick and use the Emma Lock to get Summer Rae to tap out.

Match 6 - The New Age Outlaws vs. The Usos

Road Dogg asks for some respect during his team’s post-opening bell rendition of their usual entrance shtick. One problem: there’s a superkick coming before they can get to the “two words” part. One splash later and this quick match is over.

Match 7 - Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt

Reigns immediately shows off his muscle, battering Wyatt to the floor. Bray uses a face rake and a big boot to slow down the Shield’s muscle, followed by a short-arm clothesline for two. After the inevitable commercials, Wyatt is still in charge, grinding away on Reigns on the mat. He pounds his foe with a double forearm shot for a near fall and charges into the corner with a big impact. Reigns steps away from a second corner charge and unloads on Wyatt with clotheslines and right hands. A belly-to-back slam earns a two count for RR, but the lights go out as he’s about to line up a spear. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are suddenly at ringside, but Seth Rollins flips over the top rope to land on both of them. Ambrose runs down to even the odds while Wyatt gets nailed with the superman punch. Ambrose’s attack on Wyatt gets his teammate disqualified, I believe, even as the Shield pulls together to drive off the Wyatt Family.

Paul Heyman asks Brock Lesnar not to tear anyone or anybody apart. They head to the ring for the show’s final segment.

The upshot of Heyman’s speech is that Lesnar doesn’t want to choose an opponent for WrestleMania. He wants history to conquer … and it looks like he may get it. The Undertaker’s music hits, and the Deadman makes his eagerly anticipated return. There’s a staredown in the ring before Lesnar signs a waiting contract. When it’s Taker’s turn, he stabs Lesnar in the hand with the pen and choke slams him through the table set up there. It’s what you expected, right? Yet it’s still pretty cool, especially as the end of this particular show. Go watch the post-show on WWE Network, and we’ll see you in seven!

Nick Tylwalk has been writing for SLAM! Wrestling since 1998, and he hopes to still be here when the SLAM! Wrestling Network is announced. Fingers crossed! Follow him on Twitter (@Nick_Tylwalk) or on Google+ (+NickTylwalk) or shoot him an email (ntylwalk7@yahoo.com).