Welcome to Week 2 of the Bradittude Era.
In his first show as Raw General Manager last week, Brad Maddox put together easily one of the best, most memorable episodes of the year.
Putting on an encore that would come close to living up to that debut seemed difficult, but Maddox was confident he could repeat that success:
The night started off pretty slow, but a heavy dose of CM Punk, Paul Heyman, Rob Van Dam, Daniel Bryan and Antonio Cesaro provided for an entertaining final hour.
Let's take a look at all the action from the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.
John Cena and Daniel Bryan sign contract for SummerSlam WWE Championship match
Alberto Del Rio defeats Sheamus
Christian defeats Titus O'Neil
Mark Henry is attacked by The Shield. The Usos make the save
Dolph Ziggler defeats Darren Young. Big E Langston attacks Ziggler, but he escapes
MizTV Segment with Total Divas cast. Eva Marie slaps Jerry Lawler
Cody Rhodes defeats Fandango despite attempted interference by Damien Sandow
CM Punk (inside the ring) and Paul Heyman (via satellite) give promos
Rob Van Dam defeats Wade Barrett
Daniel Bryan defeats Jack Swagger via submission, then Antonio Cesaro by pin, then Ryback via DQ. Ryback tries to attack Bryan, but Cena makes the save
Daniel Bryan Runs the Gauntlet
The beginning of Raw was certainly a little uneven, but having Daniel Bryan, far and away the hottest and most over superstar in the business right now, wrestle three matches in a row is a good way to reverse that.
Scott M. Fishman of the Miami Herald summed it up nicely:
Bryan started off his Gauntlet Match by getting Jack Swagger to submit, but what followed was far and away the best match of the night: Bryan vs. Antonio Cesaro.
Bryan and Cesaro are two of the most impressive in-ring talents in the business, and they proved that on Monday night.
In a long, back-and-forth match, each wrestler showcased a lot of offense and an array of spectacular, technically sounds moves. Cesaro's uppercuts and elbows, Bryan's flying goat, Cesaro's suplex, Bryan's counter and roll-up for the win.
It was all scintillating, impressive action, and the crowd was really hot. It was a little surprising that Twitter didn't actually break following this great match, but here are some of the top reactions, including a tweet from Curt Hawkins:
Up next for Daniel Bryan was Mr. Feed Me More.
How would you grade Raw overall?
Following Bryan vs. Cesaro was a tough task, but this match had a lot of action before Ryback put the No. 1 contender through a table. As Ryback was preparing for more damage, Cena came out and made the save.
I really enjoyed the finish. Both Bryan and Cena came away looking incredibly strong (with the emphasis on Bryan), and anticipation for next week's Raw is going to be through the roof.
In one match, we have Cena vs. Ryback in a Tables Match, while in the other we have Bryan vs. Kane, which will likely involve the Wyatt Family in some way. Also, what happened to The Big Show?
It's Official: CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam
Most have known for a while that this match was set for SummerSlam, but why not make it official with another brilliant segment between CM Punk and Paul Heyman?
Last week, Punk and Heyman showed how to captivate the world with just a microphone before Brock Lesnar appeared and delivered a beating.
Punk was back this week looking for vindication, and once again, he brought passion on the mic that few others in this company are capable of. As one fan pointed out, his appearance couldn't have come at a better time:
He got more than just praise from the fans, though (which he got a lot of). WWE legend Brian James, AKA Road Dogg, gave Punk what I assume is the ultimate compliment in his book, while ring announcer Justin Roberts showed his excitement with a slew of question marks and exclamation marks:
So @CMPunk 's promo skills remind me of someone from a while back, can't put my finger on it, ( Me ) its on the tip of my tongue( me ) nm!— Brian G. James (@WWERoadDogg) July 23, 2013
After Punk gave his promo, Heyman appeared on screen via satellite and did what he does best.
The buildup to this feud just couldn't be better.