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Raw: No Bryan, but plenty of that old Undertaker magic in Brooklyn
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


We're so close to WrestleMania XXX that you can almost taste it. As the scene shifts to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, there should only be a few more loose ends to tie up before we know exactly what's in store in New Orleans. Let's see what they are as Raw goes live on USA.

Stephanie McMahon looks awfully pleased as she heads to the ring. She thanks everyone for coming and gleefully announces that Daniel Bryan won’t be here tonight. Despite her admission that what she and Triple H did to Bryan last week was tough to watch, she felt it was necessary to send a message that insubordination won’t be tolerated. As leaders, the McMahons’ decisions won’t always be popular, but they’re the only ones who can lead the fans where they need to go. Steph goes on for a bit about her husband and how he’s going to defeat Bryan at WrestleMania and go on to win the WWE Heavyweight Championship. Someone is bound to object to that, and that someone is current titleholder Randy Orton. The fans won’t stop chanting for Bryan despite Stephanie’s insistence that he won’t be here. Orton thinks Triple H should beat Bryan and take the rest of WrestleMania off. Batista has something to say too, despite a faulty mic. Sadly, all it seems to be is another variation of “I’m going to win the title.” He mentions the fact that Triple H has never beaten him (quick, have the SLAM! Wrestling intern check that!) and gets smacked by Stephanie for his suggestion that she’s been drooled on a lot. Orton thinks that’s funny, earning him a spear. Batista poses with the belts, the fans boo, and that’s that, for now.

Match 1 - Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus vs. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio - Intercontinental Championship Number One Contenders Match

Big E is out with the announcers just taking in the action. The ring can’t contain it, and bodies are strewn around the timekeeper’s belt as we step out for commercials. Christian hits a cross body off the top rope inside the ring but can only get two. The fans continue to make plenty of noise as Ziggler is forced to kick out again. Sheamus has regained his senses by now, smashing Christian with a series of moves and nailing Del Rio with the Irish Curse. ADR suffers through the 10 Beats of the Bodhran before Ziggler plants him with a DDT for a near fall. All four men start breaking up each other’s pins, and Sheamus ends up in the cross arm breaker. Ziggler takes out both men before Christian sneaks in and hits him with the Killswitch, winning the match and a shot at Big E. They’ll meet tomorrow night on Main Event.

Bray Wyatt is in the mood to sing before he speaks. He says everyone can see John Cena, but the same can’t be said in return. What can Cena possibly do to harm someone who can’t feel? The Wyatts warn Cena that they’re coming to find him.

After a promo for the new Scooby-Doo/WWE crossover movie, the Mystery Machine shows up and out hops … Scooby-Doo and Sin Cara. Yep, I just typed that.

Match 2 - Damien Sandow vs. Sin Cara

Wow, Sandow just gets jobbed out here, barely getting in any offense before Sin Cara finishes him with a senton splash off the top rope. Sad …

Match 3 - Ryback and Curtis Axel vs. Los Matadores

Axel quickly gets rolled up and pinned, distracted by the arrival of the Shield. Ryback and Axel are surrounded, and here we go! Ryback eats a big spear from Roman Reigns with a side order of triple power bomb.

Michael Cole calls out Triple H for what appears to be an in-ring, sit down interview. Long story short, he feels completely justified for his assault on a handcuffed Bryan because of what Daniel did to “Occupy Raw.” He chastises Cole for his view that Bryan’s act was inspiring while his attack was “unbecoming of the COO.” The Game claims his hand was forced, saying Bryan forced him to become a competitor again. He also says the fans have become soft and apathetic since he was a full time wrestler, that they prefer whining on social media to taking action. Trips declares the beginning of the “Reality Era,” boldly declaring that he’ll not only beat Bryan, but he’ll walk out of WrestleMania as the champ.

Match 4 - Fandango vs. Cody Rhodes

Fandango hits a nifty springboard leg drop early on, and he tries in vain to keep Rhodes down with continuous pressure. Cody hits a missile dropkick, but Fandango charges out of the corner with an elbow that halts him in his tracks. On the outside, Goldust mocks Summer Rae, who suffers a bit of a dancing injury. Cody’s Disaster Kick ends this relatively quickly.

Hey, how about a sneak peek at the movie Sabotage? No, I insist.

Hulk Hogan is here, getting the crowd good and fired up, brother. And to promote some synergy, he brings out Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Manganiello. Arnold says it’s wonderful to be back again. He semi-creepily admires Hulk’s muscles before turning the floor over to Manganiello. Are they asking to be in the Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal? The Miz doesn’t seem too enthused about that idea. He doesn’t think the actors belong here, or Hogan, for that matter. Manganiello gets in Miz’s face, and poor Miz gets smacked around by Joe and Arnold before getting tossed over the top rope by Hogan.

Match 5 - Titus O’Neil vs. Big Show

Hey, these guys are in the battle royal too. Titus gets off to a fast start, keeping Show off balance and even getting a near fall. A spear ends his momentum promptly, and the KO punch ends it right after that.

The Shield drops in on Stephanie and Triple H, asking for an explanation on where they stand with the Authority. Hunter says whatever is going on between Kane and his buddies and them is … between them. Steph gives them a match against the Real Americans and says they can discuss everything after that. Elsewhere, Cena is jumping at shadows in the bathroom. The Wyatts appear to have gotten to him, perhaps.

Match 6 - John Cena vs. Luke Harper

Harper punishes Cena in the opening minutes, and the fans don’t like it much when John rallies for a moment. Yes, they’re cheering for the freak from the swamp. After a commercial break, Harper evades an Attitude Adjustment and lands a huge kick for a two count. The fans boo again as Cena smiles and tries for the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Harper prevents that and earns another near fall. Cena is tossed out to the floor, and Harper dives between the ropes to smash him into the barricade. A DDT has Cena scrambling to kick out again, and Harper begins to show some frustration. They head to the top turnbuckle, where Cena powers out of something dangerous looking and hits his leg drop for a two count. This time the Five Knuckle Shuffle is on target, but Harper fires right back by throwing Cena face-first into the canvas for yet another near fall. Cena connects with a huge clothesline and looks for the AA, but the Wyatts mess with the video feed. When we can see again, Cena is in the lamb mask, tangled in the ropes and surrounded by the whole Wyatt clan. A loud “This is awesome!” chant breaks out.

Match 7 - Naomi vs. AJ Lee - Divas Championship Match

Apparently AJ has no desire to mess with Naomi tonight, as she gets herself counted out about 90 seconds in. That’s not the end of this, though, as Vickie Guerrero appears to call AJ a bitch. Furthermore, she announces that AJ will compete in the Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational against both Funkadactyls, both Bellas, Eva Marie, Natalya, Alicia Fox, Aksana, Summer Rae, Emma, Rosa Mendes, Layla and Tamina. Yikes!

The next inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014 is … Scott Hall. Or Razor Ramon, as he was known for most of his time in the WWE.

Match 8 - Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs. The Real Americans

So the Shield seems to be turning face, and Cesaro too. Guess the fans will just boo Jack Swagger in this one then. Cesaro crushes Ambrose with a series of uppercuts as a “We, the people” chant gets going. Cole reminds me that Swagger is a former world champion, which is something I’d rather forget. Ambrose manages to fight back after some extended abuse, but Cesaro runs over and uses a big boot to knock Rollins down to the floor. Dean goes for the Cesaro Swing for about 20 revolutions. The Real Americans swing Ambrose hard into the barricade, and we step out for more ads. Ambrose is actually begging for more punishment, and he gets some. But he also manages to spring off the ropes for a clothesline and finally tag in Rollins. Seth mocks the Real Americans as he unleashes on Swagger, getting a two count before sending Cesaro for a big trip out to the floor. Rollins flies to take out Cesaro and Swagger, much to the delight of the fans. All four men end up in the ring, though Cesaro and Ambrose are quickly sent out. Swagger administers the Patriot Lock, but Rollins escapes and hits the Peace of Mind to wrap up a win for his team. Cesaro attacks right after the bell, but a superman punch and spear from Roman Reigns get some quick revenge. The Shield clears off the announce table, and Cesaro is sent through it with a triple power bomb. That little display brings out Kane, who announces that the Shield will face him and the New Age Outlaws at WrestleMania. The suits say they will annihilate the Shield when they meet -- believe that.

Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar make another in-ring appearance. Strangely, Heyman talks up the Undertaker’s 21-0 WrestleMania streak … but only so he can make what he guarantees will be his client’s upcoming victory look more impressive. And what’s this? Lesnar is going to speak for himself. He says he’s not here to promote, he’s here to fight. Since they’re both there, why not fight right now? All that Lesnar gets is a coffin brought out by some chanting monks. He kicks at it to see if the Dead Man is hiding inside, but it’s empty. An unamused Lesnar (which is his natural state, but still) declares that he’s not here to play games. Heyman is livid, and Undertaker is now in the casket. Paul wants his client to run, but he stands his ground. Undertaker rains down punches and clotheslines Lesnar over the ropes, where he bounces off the coffin on his way to the floor. Both men point at the WrestleMania sign, and ‘Taker makes his famous throat slash gesture. Goosebump time! See you in seven ...

Nick Tylwalk tips his hat (and he almost always wears one) to the Brooklyn crowd, who kept up a crazy high energy level all night. Raw is always better when the fans are into it. Sound off on this or other wrestling topics by following Nick on Twitter or Google+, or by sending him an email.