SLAM! Sports SLAM! Wrestlemania 29
   December 20, 2014



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Raw: Punk makes it even more personal in the last Raw before WrestleMania
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


It's just about put up or shut up time for everyone on the WrestleMania 29 card. But not before one more chance to get the upper hand on their opponents tonight in Washington D.C. See who gets the upper hand on the last mile of the Road to WrestleMania as we go live on USA.

JBL joins Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler on commentary as John Cena enters the ring to his usual mix of cheers and boos. He makes a comment about the “Cenacrats” and the “Rockpublicans” before talking again about how he respects The Rock even though they don't like each other. What's different about their feud this year? There are no childish games this time around, and the stakes are higher. Even though many people – including the fans jeering him tonight, apparently – think that it's impossible for him to beat The Rock, Cena promises that he'll introduce the Great One to the concept of failure. Cole records Lawler's Tout announcing to the world that he thinks The Rock is going to win. Except, you know, that Lawler is already on TV, so that wasn't really necessary.

Match 1 – 3MB vs. Randy Orton, Sheamus and Big Show

As proof that Orton and company are working well together, we see a clip of last week's Smackdown where they battled The Shield up into the club lounge in Hershey. I was there, but not in the club lounge (#SadFace). Big Show ends this one fairly quickly, and The Shield is in the house again. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns come part of the way down the stairs before Ambrose mockingly congratulates them on their big victory. Rollins and Reigns try to play some mind games, doubting that their three foes are actually going to stick together as a team. At WrestleMania, the whole world will believe in The Shield.

Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger were out and about on the streets of D.C. earlier today. Even though they feel the United States is a broken country, Swagger thinks he knows how to fix things. He's not only going to break Alberto Del Rio's ankle in six days, he's going to break the spirit of all the people who want to abduct America's spirit. If you don't like that, you don't deserve to be a real American, or so says Jack. Backstage, Matt Striker gets a rebuttal from Del Rio, who says Swagger has the freedom of speech to say whatever he wants. The champ also calls Colter a big fat pinata with a mustache.

Match 2 – Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler

The current and former boyfriends of AJ Lee do battle in advance of their tag team title match at WrestleMania. Bryan wants to grind it out, but Ziggler gets the first near fall with a neckbreaker and a low dropkick. JBL and Lawler wonder when Dolph is going to cash in his Money in the Bank title shot, which he's held for nearly nine months now. Time for commercials, including one for Defiance. Make that two, actually. The momentum goes back and forth after the break, with the clock turned back as the two men exchange sleeper holds. A battle on the mat lasts until both men go for cross bodies on the outside. Big E Langston takes out Kane on the outside, and when Bryan goes for some payback, Ziggler is able to roll him up and steal the win. After the bell, Langston clobbers Bryan, but Kane returns and gets his hand around Big E's neck. But Langston simply powers his way out, dropping Kane with a Big Finish that silences the crowd.

The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels, gets a huge reaction as he makes his way to the ring. You didn't think we could have WrestleMania wthout Mr. WrestleMania, did you? Shawn loves this time of year and seems pretty psyched about some of the big matches on the card. But there's one match he is particularly interested in, and it's not the one that involves Tons of Funk. Michaels has some doubts and questions about Triple H facing Brock Lesnar, but it appears he'll get a chance to address them with his best friend face to face. The Game assures HBK he knows what he's doing, but Michaels says their situations aren't the same. He feels like the business means even more to Hunter than it does to him, and that Trips is essentially putting his life on the line. But Shawn isn't trying to talk him out of it, he's saying Triple H better kick Lesnar's ass – and he'll be in HHH's corner to watch him do it. That brings Lesnar and Paul Heyman out from the back, cautiously pausing halfway down the ramp. Heyman runs down the list of people he think Triple H is going to disappoint when he loses to Lesnar. Paul also taunts Shawn about the possibility that Brock will break his arm again for being that close to the action. there's no confrontation since Heyman says his client fights for money, not out of emotion, so I guess the stage is as set as it's going to be for Sunday.

Hmm... so The Miz and Wade Barrett are going to be having their Intercontinental Title Match on the pre-show? That seems like a bit of a waste.

Match 3 – Wade Barrett vs. Zack Ryder

Speaking of Miz, he's out at the announce table to scout Barrett. Ryder actually doesn't get squashed, earning a near fall after a Broski Boot in the corner. But Barrett bounces back quickly, crushing Zack with the Bull Hammer. That's all she wrote for Ryder, leaving Barrett and Miz to stare each other down.

Santino Marella warns Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox that Vince McMahon is here, and he's very angry with both of them. April fools! Neither of them finds that joke funny, so they book Santino in a match that's coming up next.

Match 4 – Santino Marella vs. Mark Henry

Well, this is what happens when you try playing jokes on authority figures. Henry makes this a short one, putting Santino away with a World's Strongest Slam. Ryback storms down the ramp after the bell, but Henry reminds him of the no contract clause they have until WrestleMania. No one said anything about using Marella as a weapon, though, and Ryback hoists him up and hurls him over the top rope to knock Henry to the floor. Outsmarted by Ryback? That's not a good look Mark.

Matt Striker asks CM Punk is he is disrespecting the memory of Paul Bearer, but Punk is only thinking about ending The Undertaker's streak. That focus gives him an edge, or at least he thinks so.

Match 5 – Zeb Colter vs. Alberto Del Rio

Colter is mouthing the words “I'm not afraid of you,” but I'm not so sure. Swagger is stalking Ricardo Rodriguez on the outside, allowing Colter to do some damage with Ricardo's crutch. The ref calls for the bell, but that doesn't stop Swagger from ambushing Del Rio when his back is turned. Colter and Swagger bash away at Alberto with both pieces of the crutch as Cole and JBL have a semi-political debate.

We couldn't get to WrestleMania without hearing from the other man in the main event. The Rock receives a long ovation from the fans as he climbs between the ropes, and he says that the match this Sunday won't be about redemption but will instead be about the will of the people. He also makes a (joking?) comment about seeing himself in a big white house in D.C. someday. Addressing Cena, The Rock reminds him that he was saying similar things about winning last year, but he won't be able to overcome the bond the People's Champ has with the fans. That was... kind of boring, actually.

Match 6 – Antonio Cesaro vs. Chris Jericho

The announcers talk up Jericho's match against the debuting (maybe) Fandango at WrestleMania. And silly me, I forgot that Jericho was on Dancing With the Stars. There's a pretty decent match going on too, but it's interrupted by Fandango's entrance. Oh, and a commercial break. Fandango lets the wrestlers keep wrestling, with Cesaro getting a two count after a big front slam. He yodels and gets another near fall, then blasts Jericho with punches in the corner. Y2J responds with a double axe handle and a running bulldog to set up a Lionsault. Fandango has his scorecards with him, and he gives Jericho a '3.' A high cross body off the top rope gets another two for Jericho, and Fandango gets knocked down on the outside. Cesaro ends up tapping out to the Walls of Jericho right after that, but Fandango attacks Jericho right after the bell. The fans light him up with the “You can't wrestle!” chant, though the damage has already been done.

The Rock has a free mobile game of his own. And it. Looks. Awful. #SorryRock

Match 7 – The Funkadactyls vs. The Bella Twins

One of Naomi's moves is called the Rear View. I'll let you figure out which one. This match is going on way too long for the last Raw before WrestleMania. Cameron finally gets a tag and hits a DDT right before just about everyone gets involved out on the floor. One of the Bellas reverses a cross body and gets the pinfall to mercifully end the match.

The Undertaker comes out to have his say about his match with Punk. He vows to make the pain that Punk suffers on Sunday last for eternity, because it was CM who made this feud personal. The Deadman says that even if the streak comes to an end on Sunday, his opponent will never live to talk about it. Undertaker looks surprised as torch-bearing hooded monks line the ramp just like they do when he makes his more elaborate ring walks. Out comes a fake Paul Bearer, enraging The Phenom until he hunts for Punk among the monks. He doesn't find Punk in time, ending up on the receiving end of some shots from the urn. Yelling “I did this to you,” Punk smashes 'Taker a few more times and dumps the ashes on him. And now it couldn't get any more personal as the show fades out. Enjoy WrestleMania, and see you in seven!

Nick Tylwalk can't wait until New York/New Jersey becomes the center of the wrestling universe later this week. Let him know what events you'll be attending by giving him a shout on Twitter, on Google+ or by email.