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   September 02, 2014



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Raw: Sending them home happy before WrestleMania
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


I'm sure glad this episode aired on March 31 instead of April 1 so I don't have to think up any April Fool's Day jokes. Instead, there's the semi-serious business of finalizing things for WrestleMania, which is just six days away. Let's head to Washington D.C. and go live to USA.

The final episode of Raw before WrestleMania begins the only way that makes sense: with an appearance from the Undertaker. His casket trick seemed to work on Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman last week, but perhaps another showdown awaits? Come on, you almost know that’s going to be the case! Speaking of “The Streak,” the Dead Man says he’s not always better than his opponents, but he’s always been willing to go farther down the road to victory. How will Lesnar respond when ‘Taker drags him into the deep water? He adds the Streak to death and taxes as one of life’s certainties. Heyman appears with Lesnar saying he means no disrespect but framing the match as one that Undertaker has to not lose instead of one his client has to win. Brock once again teases trading blows with his foe before pointing to the WrestleMania sign. Despite the boos from the fans, it looks like he’s content to just mess with the mind of the Undertaker by circling the ring. Or not, because here they go, thanks to a distraction from Heyman. Lesnar gets the upper hand and quickly delivers the F-5. Consider the gauntlet thrown down.

Match 1 - Big E vs. Alberto Del Rio

Both of these men are entered in the Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal. JBL says Mexico will declare a national holiday if Del Rio wins. He stomps on E’s hand before we step out for ads. It’s more even after the break, at least until E catches Dep Rio coming off the top rope and unleashes a flurry of offense. ADR gets his knees up to ward off a splash, but Big E sidesteps a running knee and elevates Alberto for a face-first drop and a near fall. Del Rio uses the Backstabber to get his own two count and calls for the cross armbreaker. E back body drops his way out and connects on the splash, but ADR kicks out at two. The cross armbreaker is applied, and somehow Big E is able to power to his feet and slam Del Rio down. He covers and nearly gets the win until ADR grabs the bottom rope. As they fight on the top turnbuckle, Big E gets tangled in the middle rope and suffers a big stomp to the chest. Alberto delivers a back kick to the face and covers to get the win.

Bray Wyatt wants to get in one final word before he faces John Cena on Sunday. Does he have the attention of the kids after what he did to Cena last week? Do parents let their kids watch Wyatt’s promos (#NightmareFuel)? Wyatt wants everyone to see Cena as he does: as a monster.

You want to see a clip from Total Divas? Here’s one anyway, and I’m sure Summer Rae’s slap of Natalya was completely unscripted. Wink, wink!

Match 2 - Summer Rae vs. Natalya

Vickie Guerrero is on hand to promote the Divas Invitational on Sunday. Nattie seems to be taking that slap personally. She’s about to lock on the Sharpshooter before Summer squirms away. She then uses her dangerous legs to earn a surprising pinfall.

The Authority comes out and says they’re feeling benevolent, so they’re going to allow the fans to say goodbye to the Yes Movement. Triple H chides the fans for their fair-weather tendencies, comparing their current passion for Daniel Bryan to how they felt about Fandango last year. Ouch! Stephanie says Bryan isn’t here again tonight, having been sent to New Orleans ahead of time to rest up. The Game repeats his assertion that Bryan isn’t an ‘A’ player and claims that his power isn’t because he married well, but because of his dominance in the ring over all the flavor of the month types they sent against him. Oh, he’s got video evidence to back that up. All of the popular wrestlers he’s beaten are great, but there’s only one Game. HHH vows once again that he’ll not only beat Bryan, he’s going to walk out of WrestleMania as the champion. Here’s someone who disagrees: it’s Batista, sporting a Georgetown basketball jersey (he’s from D.C.). The Animal mentions that he wasn’t in the video because Hunter has never beaten him. They trade verbal barbs for a bit before Randy Orton joins them. The current titleholder does his passive aggressive kiss-up thing where he asks Hunter if it wouldn’t be better if the COO would not participate in the title match. Trips says Orton’s only chance is to truly become the Viper again. He also makes the match between Orton and Batista tonight into a No Disqualification match. Batista likes it.

Match 3 - The Usos and Los Matadores vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel and the Real Americans

The "Road to WrestleMania" is paved with eight-man tag matches. This one is significant because all four teams will compete for the WWE Tag Team Championships during the pay-per-view pre-show. This is too chaotic for me to recap as it happens, so I’ll just settle in and enjoy the work of all eight men. Yes, even the Matadores get in on the action. Hey, there’s a sudden commercial break. The fans have the “We the people!” chant going full bore when we return, supporting Cesaro to the fullest. A series of attempted pinfalls and signature moves breaks out, though every cover is broken up by someone else. One of the Matadores leaps right into the Patriot Lock, but his partner is able to pull the old switcheroo and pin Jack Swagger with the ref none the wiser. Funny stuff.

Match 4 - Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Damien Sandow and Fandango

The heels work together well even as Fandango finds some time to dance on the apron. Goldust gets tagged in and immediately goes to work, and Cody flies around to take out Fandango on the outside. Goldust nails Sandow with the Final Cut, and that’s the end of this one.

The Shield is more than ready for Kane and the New Age Outlaws, especially since they didn’t disrespect their elders -- Kane picked this fight with them.

Match 5 - Bray Wyatt vs. R-Truth

Xavier Woods is in Truth’s corner, but is that enough when Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are supporting Wyatt? Of course not! Truth gets off to a fast start, but that comes to a quick end when Wyatt nails him with a stiff forearm shot. Will Truth regain the momentum? Nope, and the Sister Abigail ends it a couple of minutes later. Woods tries coming to Truth’s aid after the bell, and that turns out to be a poor decision. What the … Cena sneaks in wearing a disguise to get in a few licks before the Wyatts bug out. The family regroups on the ramp after that taste of its own medicine.

Match 6 - AJ Lee vs. Naomi - Lumberjill Match

The lumberjills, who are all participants in the Divas Invitational, get busy on AJ right away, but they leave Naomi alone when she’s thrown to the floor. They trade kicks before AJ gets a near fall as Vickie looks on from the stage. She springboards off the ropes to administer the Black Widow. Naomi escapes, getting a two count before trying to flee to the floor. Um, the lumberjills are out there, remember? They throw her back in, where the Rear View ends up dealing her a loss.

Cena gets a backstage interview segment where he promises fire and rage on Sunday because Wyatt has forced him to become a monster for a day to protect his legacy for a lifetime. He knows his career will have an ending, but he’ll be damned if it’s going to happen this week in New Orleans. After that, Michael Cole throws it to the pre-show panel, where Josh Mathews is with Alex Riley, Booker T and Bad News Barrett. Wade’s bad news has to do with the other members of the Wyatt Family.

Match 7 - Roman Reigns vs. Kane

Fans got to vote on which member of the Shield got to face Kane, and it’s no surprise that Reigns won that honor. Kane dominates early, but Reigns powers his way out of a choke slam attempt and hits a jumping clothesline and some corner shots. A jumping kick along the apron knocks Kane for a loop, and he loads up a superman punch before turning to see the Outlaws coming down the ramp. His Shield teammates deal with that so he can hit the superman punch, and all of a sudden, Kane is eating boots from all three men. The ref calls for the bell, and Road Dogg and Billy Gunn are able to save Kane before he goes for a triple power bomb ride.

Oh goodness. It’s a special anniversary edition of Piper’s Pit. He wants it put on the record that he wasn’t the one who got pinned at the first WrestleMania. Piper puts over the Andre the Memorial battle royal and is about to reveal who he thinks is the favorite when he’s interrupted by the Miz. Sheamus, Titus O’Neil and Dolph Ziggler all join in short order, and when a brawl breaks out, the other battle royal participants decide to run down and turn things into complete chaos. Rey Mysterio and Big Show are big enough deals that they get their own entrance music. Zack Ryder and Ziggler get simultaneous choke slams, and only Show and Rey are left in the ring. They go toe-to-toe, and Mysterio ends up getting tossed out and landing on everyone else. The Rowdy One seems to be throwing in his lot with Big Show to win the battle royal.

Main Event - Batista vs. Randy Orton - No Disqualification Match

The Authority joins the announcers to watch this one, with Cole quickly speculating that Triple H made this match so that his two potential competitors for the title would beat the crap out of each other before Sunday. Foreign objects quickly come into play, with Batista wielding a chair and Orton slamming his foe off the announce table. Batista takes a hard ride into the barricade too, and now Orton has the steel chair. Hunter urges Batista to “show me the Animal” as he turns the tables on Orton, but only until the champ finds a kendo stick nearby. the steel steps come into play as well, and we’re into the overrun as the battle rages on. Batista hits a spinebuster in the ring and signals for the Batista Bomb. Orton counters with a backbreaker and stalks his prey for the elevated DDT. The crowd explodes because Bryan has made an appearance, attacking HHH over at the table. Orton intervenes, hurling Bryan off the steps. Bryan gets thrown into the ring, where Batista nails Randy with a spear. The running knee takes down Batista right before Bryan leaps through the ropes to take out the Game on the floor. HHH is on the receiving end of multiple kendo stick shots before he can scurry up the ramp with Stephanie beside him. Enjoy WrestleMania, and see you in seven!