After a quick recap package of Elimination Chamber's lukewarm results, we start things off with the man who LOST his match last night (I savor writing that whenever it happens to be true), John Cena!
John Cena opening speech
John Boy lets us know that we’re on the road to WrestleMania. How insightful.
Cena shows Alberto some love by mentioning that the World Championship will be defended at WM. Cena failed to mention that it will likely happen in the curtain-jerker spot.
My man CM Punk interrupts, and he looks mean in his hoodie and starry underwear as has become the norm.
Cena says Cena is making the obvious and easy choice by electing to face The Rock at WM.
Punk admits that The Rock pinned him fair and square last night (if we ignore the long referee-less pin he had on Rocky).
Punk points out that when it comes to wins and losses, Cena doesn’t compare to him. Punk is conveniently ignoring all those times Cena destroyed him prior to Punk’s infamous worked shoot during the summer of 2011.
Essentially, Punk is asking Cena to walk away from his spot in the main event at WM, and indeed, out of Punk’s life completely.
Cena teases that he might do so, but clearly (and sadly) isn’t going anywhere.
This seems to be leading to a Punk vs. Cena match. Hopefully, it allows Punk to squeeze into his first real WM main event. It’s more likely that Cena will simply flatten him, making Cena look strong (as if that’s necessary) prior to Cena vs. The Rock II.
Cena pitches that he and Punk settle it “right here, right now.” I hate it when Cena raises his voice. The kids get excited; I get Advil.
Punk won't do it here. Punk’s calm, collected, “on my terms” tone is so soothing compared to that of the angry, muscle-bound teenager with whom he’s once again feuding.
Cena vs. Punk is booked for next week’s Raw. The live audience is obviously thrilled.
Mark Henry wrecks some poor bloke with the World’s Strongest Slam. Hopefully, we get some clue as to who is going to step up to challenge Henry’s dominance heading into WM, but I doubt it. I suspect Henry will crush a bunch of Superstars-turned-cans for the next couple weeks instead.
We get an inspirational quote from Thomas Jefferson because it’s Presidents’ Day. Oddly, this puts me in the mood for a risqué pro-America, anti-immigration promo from Swagger and Colter later.
Backstage, Sheamus and Ryback get up in each other’s grills for losing to the Shield. Chris Jericho cools them off and says he’s up for helping them out in a match vs. the Shield.
Jericho slaps both men’s breasts fairly hard before exiting. Part of me hoped it would be Jericho vs. Ziggler for the World Championship at WM, but I’m happy to watch Jericho to do most anything.
Sin Cara is going to be squished like a pea in the World’s Strongest Hands. Lucky guy.
Looks like WWE might spare us Rey vs. Cara at WM. It could be an OK match, but also a largely inconsequential one, considering the team’s lack of activity over the last few months.
In the words of Cole, Mark Henry “makes short work of Sin Cara.” I get that building Henry up as a monster is a priority right now, but I don’t suppose this is the kind of opening match that creates a buzz.
Khali comes down to make the save. That’s definitely not the individual I wanted to step up.
One positive comes out of this, though: Henry starts mocking the Khali’s signature awkward, bouncy movement. This better be a mini-feud that sees Henry obliterate the Punjabi Placeholder in the next week or so.
Antonio Cesaro faces the Miz again, but this time it’s no DQ. The belt won’t be on the line, so expect a Miz victory.
Wouldn’t it have made more sense if Miz lost to Cesaro via DQ on last week’s Raw, thus setting up their pay-per-view match as an anything-goes affair?
Is it just me, or is anyone else anxious for Cesaro to move onto a new challenger? Cesaro vs. Kofi Kingston is preferable based on the quality of in-ring work alone. How about Shelton Benjamin returning to challenge the champ?
Oh, and it’s official: We get a rematch from last night’s six-man tag, only this time, Jericho (a guy who’s been losing pretty much since his return) will replace Cena (the guy who almost never loses). That can’t help the faces’ odds.
Cesaro wastes no time reinjuring Miz’s shoulder outside the ring. Cesaro grabs a chair and a kendo stick, and I instantly realize that, despite the old Hardcore division being very silly, I kind of miss it.
Cesaro nails Miz with the kendo stick a few times. That stick produces some of the best and most violent “noise” of any pro-wrestling weapon.
Miz drop toe-holds Cesaro face-first onto a steel chair, which sets up the figure-four.
Cesaro taps out in rapid fashion. I figure heel champions might as well tap out super fast in non-title matches.
Taped Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger promo
Zeb Colter basically says foreigners are taking advantage of America’s generosity. He uses the term “freeloaders,” which strikes me as a beautifully heelish way to put it.
Swagger speaks up here and there, echoing Zeb’s exact words each time.
In the past, I think fans (and certainly WWE higher-ups) had a difficult time taking Swagger seriously because his speech impediment was painfully obvious when he cut extended promos.
Zeb Colter is a logical answer to that problem. He is a simple but fluid speaker. Clearly an old pro.
Kane and Daniel Bryan backstage segment
Bryan is upset that Kane gave him an uppercut last night. Apparently, Bryan’s facing Swagger, which means he’s tapping out to the Patriot Act. I wonder if Kurt Angle’s drunk on Twitter right now tearing down Swagger’s renaming of the hold. Kurt can wrestle, but he can't type.
Kane says he doesn't trust snakes, only to turn around and find that Randy Orton's been hanging out next to him the whole time. Get it? Because Orton's "The Viper". Classic WWE humor.
Orton accuses Kane of no longer being a monster. Kane should have accused Orton of no longer being a main-eventer.
We quickly cut to a conversation between Vickie Guerrero and Paul Heyman. Vickie is going to reveal a surprise for Heyman later. I assume it’s either Triple H, a toupee or something to do with a walrus. I still haven’t forgiven Miz for making that last one a recurring joke on WWE programming.
Dolph Ziggler and friends are on their way to the ring. Fingers crossed, he’s not jobbing to Del Rio.
Yeah, there’s no way Ziggler is winning this one after Alberto made The Big Show tap last night.
At least the wrasslin' should be good.
Ziggler starts the match with a huge, awesome dropkick. Who else in WWE does that? Nobody. Give this man something worthy of his talents at WM, please. He’ll probably get lost in the shuffle of a big tag-team mess designed such that midcard workers get in on the sweetest payday of the year.
Ziggler finds himself out on the apron, and Del Rio knocks the snot out of him with a kick. Ziggler plummets to the floor as we go to commercial.
We’re back, and Mr. Heartbreak Perfect Ass (or Mr. Perfect Ass Kid) is in control with a choke against the ropes, and then, a rear chinlock.
We see Swagger and Colter watching backstage. Everytime I see Colter on TV, I instinctively look around for the Harris Bros.
Ziggler hits a fameasser that must make Billy Gunn proud. I like Ziggler’s version better—he’s more unpredictable with it.
Del Rio destroys Ziggler with a reverse suplex out of the corner for the second straight week. Ziggler not only sells…he sacrifices his body.
Del Rio has got some sickeningly sweet and stiff kicks. Ziggler takes them like a champ, of course.
Del Rio continues to lay it on thick until Big E Langston distracts him. Ziggler attempts his hang-time DDT, but Alberto counters nicely into the Crossarm breaker. Ziggler taps out.
Big E Langston levels Alberto with his finisher after the match, and Ziggler realizes it’s an ideal time to cash in his MITB briefcase.
Ricardo wisely steals the briefcase. Big E chases Ricardo to the back, and Ricardo drops the briefcase on the ramp. AJ retrieves the briefcase and gives it back to Ziggler, but a recovered Del Rio greets Ziggy with an enziguri (that he doesn’t botch like last night’s).
Wow, that was a fun match followed by an expertly executed title-change tease. Kudos to all involved. I wish more WWE storytelling had that kind of electricity.
Wade Barrett in-ring interview
Barrett says he’s a top WWE superstar. I like you Barrett, but you weren’t on the previous pay-per-view, and lately, you’ve been losing to a rookie who dresses like a mid-90s jobber.
We see a trailer from Wade Barrett’s new movie, which it turns out is actually a Colin Farrell vehicle that Barrett maybe appears in for a cup of coffee.
Sheamus shows up on the TitanTron, and he also pokes fun at how small Barrett’s role in the film is. Sheamus says we’re “out of time,” and apparently so—Michael Cole and King immediately start plugging the new WWE action figures, and then, we get a mixed tag match.
Tensai, Brodus Clay and Naomi vs. Primo, Epico and Rosa Mendes
Naomi pulls off a nice headscissors on Epico. Moments later, the two funky fatties double-splash Primo for the win. Carlito is pulling out his hair at home. Thankfully, he has frizzies to spare.
It’s official: WrestleMania XXX will happen in New Orleans. I’m glad they opted for the stadium feel over the intimacy (and curiously stubby entrance way) of Madison Square Garden. Been there, done that.
After the break, we get some more jingoistic ranting from Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter. You can’t blame Colter for being bitter—he survived the Vietnam War, and more impressively, the TNA writing team.
Jack Swagger’s State of the Union Address
The funny thing about this is that I consider myself pretty left of center, but Colter and Swagger will probably be more honest and concrete than Obama was last week.
Colter sums up the premise of this World title feud: This is more than a battle for the championship, it’s about reclaiming America.
Colter will be proud to live in that America. I wouldn’t be, but then again, I’m Canadian.
Swagger yells “We the People” a lot before Daniel Bryan’s music hits. WWE can have Bryan lose all they want; he’s always going to get one of the better pops of the night.
I can’t say I find Swagger’s new gimmick terribly enthralling, thus far, but I’ll give it time. At least he’s not jobbing to Santino.
I predict Swagger wins clearly with the Patriot Act.
Back from the break, we see some wicked kicks from Daniel Bryan, followed by a sunset flip out of the ropes.
Swagger attempts a back body drop, but Bryan kicks him in the mush. Bryan tries to build momentum, but Swagger clotheslines him over the top.
Bryan quickly turns the tide and tries to connect with a flying knee from the apron. Swagger catches him and rams Bryan’s back into the ring post.
Swagger always looks huge, but he looks gigantic against little Daniel Bryan Baggins.
Swagger takes the air out of Bryan with a vicious knee shot in the corner.
Bryan comes off the ropes, but Swagger again cuts him off with a running knee (or kitchen sink). A Swagger Bomb is next, and he hits it!
Bryan eventually stuns Swagger with a number of strikes, and then, a suicide dive out onto the floor. Bryan slides Swagger back into the ring, and comes at him with a top-rope front dropkick. Gorgeously done.
Swagger takes a load of Bryan’s usual kicks to the chest, but ends up reversing the big kick to the skull.
Bryan sneakily puts Swagger in the No-Lock. Swagger gets to the ropes.
Swagger zeros in on Bryan's knee. He clips him with a chock block and then forces the tapout with the Patriot Act.
Great match—not so great ending. Felt laboured and obvious.
Apparently Swagger needs to let his hair go shaggy more often. Dude’s getting a massive push right now. I wonder if he could be WWE champion by the end of the year if he continues growing it out. Ha.
Vickie Guerrero/Paul Heyman segment
Vickie and Heyman are in the ring, and Vickie claims she’s about to change Heyman’s life. I’m telling you: She’s about to present him with a walrus tusk.
Nah, but Brad Maddox is Guerrero’s new assistant. Not sure why this is supposed to matter. I’ve never understood Maddox’s place in WWE.
Vince McMahon pops up on the big screen. He says he has a black heart. Bret “the Hitman” would argue heart is spelled “Hart” in this particular case.
A firing is too good for Heyman, says Vinny. Instead, next week, he’s going walk to the ring on crutches and fight Heyman.
Screw Cena vs. Punk, we’ve got the blubbery manager vs. the crippled CEO.
The point of the matter is that all of this reeks of Triple H vs. Lesnar at WM. A shame, really, considering how many fresh matchups there are for Lesnar right now. Hunter vs. Lesnar was a slow-moving, low-stakes piece of business that doesn’t merit revisiting.
Cole and Lawler must be growing tired of using the word “bombshell” to describe pretty much every segment involving main event wrestlers.
Sheamus, Jericho and Ryback vs. The Shield
Nice to hear Sheamus sum up Ryback using the same word so many of us have employed for almost a year now: Neanderthal.
Maybe next week Sheamus will make a Goldberg reference.
The Shield arrive on the scene, and there’s no way they’re losing this puppy.
Sheamus and Reigns mix it up early. Sheamus blasts Reigns with a knee to the head, and then, milks the delivery of White Noise.
Rollins wisely rolls Reigns out of the ring. Sheamus sends Ambrose flying off the apron. Camera zooms in on Ambrose’s over-the-top wide-eyed sell job as we go to commercial.
Back from the break, Rollins is letting his offense rip on Dennis the Menace’s Irish cousin.
Sheamus turns things around with a clothesline that wipes out Rollins.
Ryback gets the tag, and he wastes no time killing Rollins with a spinebuster and a Meat-hook Clothesline.
Meathead goes for the Shell-Shocked on Rollins, but Reigns cuts him off with a spear, shades of the previous match.
The Shield proceed to work Ryback over with kicks, forearm shots and chokes for the next couple minutes.
I’m still blown away that Rollins was given the honor of previously pinning Ryback. It doesn’t make it any less satisfying to see him kick the custard out of the guy.
The Shield loses steam when Reigns misses a splash in the corner and hits the turnbuckle hard.
The hot tag goes to Jericho, who unleashes a Canadian fury, including a springboard dropkick.
Jericho cuts through Ambrose with a chop, knocking him down.
Jericho locks the Walls on Ambrose as Sheamus tackles Reigns out of the ring.
The Walls is broken up when Rollins DRILLS Jericho in the back of the head with a springboard knee.
Ambrose picks up the pin-fall victory for The Shield.
The Shield has had an absolutely bad-ass 24 hours. They need to keep wrestling and keep winning in clever fashion. They can be an integral part of their very first WM.
Sandow cuts a characteristically articulate promo before beating up Kofi. The bell never rings, and R-Truth ends up returning to TV to save his former tag partner.
I welcome R-Truth and Kingston tagging again as WWE never has a clue to do with them as singles wrestlers. Not exactly sure why Sandow was chosen for this segment. It might make more sense if Rhodes helped Sandow whoop Kingston.
Of course, WWE doesn’t really know if Sandow and Rhodes are a team right now.
Josh Mathews conducts a (thankfully) very brief interview with The Rock’s co-stars from the new G.I. Joe movie. One of them is named DJ. It’d be a neat coincidence if his initials stood for Dwayne Johnson. It would also be neat if this G.I. Joe movie looked remotely interesting, but I just saw the trailer, and it surely does not.
We get our second Fandango teaser of the evening. I forgot to mention the first one because… well, you’ve seen these teasers. I feel like the guy’s the Rico Constantino of 2013.
Cole puts over Orton’s impressive run in the Elimination Chamber last night. The most impressive part was how he took that bump through the plexiglass wall. It’s a standard spot, but he made it look like grizzly death.
We cut to commercial early.
I bet Randy Orton is none too pleased that he’ll be competing in a non-title match at WrestleMania for the fourth consecutive time.
Kane kicks, chokes and uppercuts Orton for a spell. That’s a lot of what Kane does in the ring, really. I don’t mean that disparagingly. The big guy’s had a strong career that really hasn’t had to involve a plethora of moves.
Orton fights back but soon fights himself in a sloppy rear chinlock at the hands of the tag team champion.
Orton sidesteps a Kane clothesline in the corner and follows up with old-school mounted punches and a pretty little dropkick.
Orton hits one of the crispest powerslams in the business. Kane answers with his signature side slam.
Kane is in firm control of the match when Daniel Bryan predictably comes to ringside. Kane, who apparently very easily distracted, is soon treated to an RKO.
Orton wins, and Bryan gives Kane an excuse to be cross with him.
I want to get pumped for Kane vs. Bryan at WM, but I fear it won’t get the time it needs to be something meaningful. Also, I doubt Kane can give Bryan the same kind of match someone as young, hungry and technical as Dolph Ziggler, Orton, Wade Barrett or Rhodes could.
Suddenly, a marching band invades the wrestling show I was watching. Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole must be impressed because they keep saying “Wow.”
The marching band play The Rock’s theme music, and it sounds awful. Partly because it’s not really the kind of song a marching band ever needs to play and partly because it’s an obnoxious theme to begin with.
The Rock calls CM Punk garbage for previously spitting in his face. He also reminds us that he’s now beaten the hardest working performer in WWE at back-to-back PPV events. Sad face.
I dislike that this is the first of so many closing Raw segments that will feature The Rock and/or Cena.
Looks like The Rock is giving us a new WWE Championship belt. That’s something. Hopefully, the new one doesn’t have a bull on it.
I respect The Rock’s anti-spinning policy. I also dig Big Foot references.
I wonder if the new belt will look anything like that all-gold weirdo design that showed up on the internet last year.
And yes. Yes, it looks more or less the same. It’s a hella simple design when you consider how long we’ve been waiting for a strap that doesn’t reflect John Cena’s interest in hip-hop.
Oh, and there’s a bull on one of the side plates.
The Rock asks who his opponent will be: CM Punk or John Cena. He more or less says he would rather fight Cena. Understandable. It’s probably in the contract that you signed last year that you’ve got to let the poster boy get his heat back.
Cena comes out to stare The Rock down from the ramp, but Punk is out in no time to mow him down with the old WWE Championship. How did Punk get his hands on that? Didn’t Rocky leave with it last night?
Punk looks cocky. The Rock looks mildly disappointed in Punk’s actions. Cena is down and out, just how I like him.
Punk vs. Cena next week. Let’s make it a triple threat at ‘Mania, baby.