-So my satellite feed acts up at the beginning because of the storms in Pittsburgh but comes back just in time to see John Cena in the ring for a contract signing with Daniel Bryan. Cena puts over Bryan for his ability, not his size, and actually tells Brad Maddox to go give the world title to the Great Khali if size is the only thing that matters. Vince McMahon would be put on trial for cruel and unusual punishment if that were the case. Daniel Bryan attempts to respond but gets interrupted by Maddox, who engages in a chant war with the crowd. The big reveal is that Maddox has booked Bryan in multiple matches tonight. This was kind of a weird segment.
Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio
This match does absolutely nothing for me, just like last year. Sheamus starts strong, but Del Rio boots him in his bruised leg, earned at Money in the Bank. Sheamus manages to floor Del Rio and hammers away in the corner before hitting a neckbreaker for two.
Del Rio catches him with a kick, though, and they screw something up against the ropes, resulting in both guys looking stupid. Sheamus comes back with a suplex for two, but Del Rio goes to the bruise again and stomps away. They both head up top, and Del Rio tries to apply the cross armbreaker from the top, but Sheamus hits the Christian-concussing punch and sends him to the floor to take us to break.
We return with Del Rio hitting a German suplex for two, but Sheamus fires back and hits a standard body slam for a double KO spot. They have a slugfest, won by Sheamus, obviously, but Del Rio goes to the eyes. Sheamus mounts a comeback anyway and hits a knee lift for two. He takes too long, though, and Del Rio slips behind him to a hit the Back Stabber for two.
Del Rio whiffs on a charge against the ropes (since he always misses it), but this time he gets hung up on the apron, and Sheamus hits his clubbering forearms. Del Rio neck snaps him but stupidly charges and gets hit with the Irish Curse for two.
Sheamus heads up top for whatever, and Del Rio pops up with an enzuigiri for two. Sheamus basically gets right up though, hitting a Celtic Cross and looking to finish. Sheamus misses the Brogue Kick though and injures his own leg, allowing Del Rio to try for the cross armbreaker. Sheamus counters and looks for White Noise, but his leg gives out and Del Rio cradles him for the win.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
-Started off slow, but they really stuck with the psychology of the match, and it factored into the finish, which was built to nicely. You will never, ever hear me complain about that **3/4.
-Backstage, Teddy Long and Booker T argue about the Smackdown GM position.
Christian vs. Titus O’Neil
I honestly get a kick out of the Prime Time Players, so I don’t know why they aren’t featured more. They probably didn’t shake Vince McMahon’s hand properly backstage one time or something. O'Neal overpowers Christian to start and hits a backbreaker into an impressive overhead slam. Christian takes a powder, so O’Neal heads outside and tosses Christian over the top and back inside the ring for two. A legdrop gets two, and O'Neal goes to an abdominal stretch to crank us back to 1975. He stomps away in the corner (with matching whistle blows from Darren Young) but gets too cocky, and Christian hits a missile dropkick for two. An elbow from the second rope puts O'Neal down, but Christian goes after Young for some reason and runs into a big boot for two. O’Neal tries for an overhead slam again, but Christian lands on his feet and hits the Killswitch for the win.
-I fail to see what putting Christian over O’Neal accomplishes, but whatever. *3/4 for O’Neal’s impressive power offense.
-We review Ryback “injuring” Chris Jericho and sending him back to Fozzy.
-Backstage, Ryback is now apparently a bully character after playing a crying wuss for a couple weeks. You know, they could have just waited until TNA went out of business in about 5 days and signed Bully Ray back to play this character.
-Mark Henry (now a babyface?) hits the ring and calls out the Shield…big mistake. Mark holds his own for a few seconds, but the Shield beat him down until the Usos make the save and the babyfaces clear the ring.
-Meanwhile, Bryan makes Cena promise that he will not help him in any of his matches tonight.
Darren Young vs. Dolph Ziggler
Darren Young gets the All-American Wrestling entrance, so I don’t particularly like his chances here. Dolph Ziggler gets a quick roll up and works a headlock before strutting around. Stiff dropkick hits for Ziggler, and he gets two, but a forearm quickly turns the tide, and Young hits a clothesline for two.
Young goes on the offense but doesn’t really do a whole lot until Ziggler dodges a corner charger and Young hits the post. Stinger Splash gets two, and Ziggler tries for a 10-punch in the corner, but Young hits him with an electric chair drop for two. Young whines to the referee a little too long, though, and Ziggler hits the Zig Zag for the win.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
-I never should have told anyone I liked the Prime Time Players because now they are going to get jobbed out on every show…that always happens. Big E. Langston tries to attack after the match, but Ziggler tosses him over the top and escapes. Call the whole thing **.
Oh joy, The Miz and a bunch of divas. Why am I watching this live and not on DVR so I can fast forward? This Total Divas show looks like the biggest waste of 30 minutes on television right now, and that’s really saying something. The crowd boos the crap out of the preview, and Eva Marie shows off her terrible acting and turns heel by slapping Jerry Lawler. Seriously, who cares about any of this garbage? No wrestling fans watch the E! network, and a bunch of girls with no makeup arguing in hotel rooms doesn’t sound like entertainment.
-Backstage, Triple H mocks Maddox for not respecting Bryan and accuses him of conspiring with McMahon. After he leaves, Steph sticks her chest in the frame and says she has an idea…thrilling.
-Video recap of the Wyatt family and their various shenanigans.
Fandango vs. Cody Rhodes
It’s seriously been 20 minutes since we’ve had anything even resembling wrestling. Damien Sandow is on commentary as Cody Rhodes hits a dropkick, and they exchange chops in the corner until Rhodes hits a snapmare and a running knee for two.
Fandango whiffs on a charge and hits the apron, but a camera shot of Sandow causes us to miss whatever he does from there. Elbow gets two for Fandango, and he slowly works over Rhodes while the crowd entertains itself by chanting for Summer Rae…at least Sandow is really funny on commentary.
Rhodes makes his comeback to zero reaction from the crowd, and he almost kills himself with a moonsault. Sandow distracts Rhodes, but he still manages to hit the Disaster Kick on Fandango to get the win.
Winner: Cody Rhodes
-The crowd could have cared less, and the Fandango experiment is OVER *1/4.
-CM Punk hits the ring to talk about how Brock Lesnar gave him the F5 on an announce table, but he’s still standing. Punk explains that Lesnar’s biggest strength isn’t his size; it’s the fact that everyone is afraid of him. Of course, Punk is not afraid. RISE ABOVE LES…whoops, wrong guy. He labels Lesnar as a monster and says that monsters only exist to be slaughtered and challenges him for SummerSlam. Paul Heyman appears “via satellite” and calls Punk someone who doesn’t know when to stay down. A little back and forth leads to Heyman accepting the challenge for Lesnar, and Punk simply exits with no further action. The Punk part of the promo was really good but, surprisingly, dragged once Heyman showed up on the screen.
Wade Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam
Wade Barrett attacks from behind while Rob Van Dam is showboating, but RVD catches him with a kick and finishes his pose. Barrett yanks him to the outside, though, and drives him into the ring, getting two back inside.
Someone call Triple H. RVD has already bloodied Barrett with one kick. Barrett stomps away and chokes out Van Dam on the ropes, while the crowd tries to wake up RVD.
Barrett only hits boot on a corner charge, and Van Dam comes off the top with a kick to the face. Rolling Thunder gets two, and RVD comes off the top with a flipping senton for another near fall. Van Dam goes nuts with the kicks, hitting a wild spinning heel kick in the corner, and the Five Star Frog Splash gets the win.
Daniel Bryan vs. Jack Swagger
Zeb Coulter cuts a promo making fun of Texans because WWE knows the Tea Party stuff would actually get cheered down there…it’s a weird place. Bryan fires away early and gets a quick roll up, but Swagger goes low with a chop block.
A couple shoulder blocks put Bryan down while the crowd chants “OU sucks” at alum Jack Swagger. Bryan catches him with a dropkick, but a dive to the floor is stopped by a forearm to the face. Swagger Bomb hits, but he poses a little too much, and Bryan quickly grabs the Yes Lock for a submission win.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan vs. Antonio Cesaro
This should be a good match if it’s given a decent bit of time. So, of course, we immediately take a commercial break and return with Cesaro hammering away in the corner after hitting a Very European Uppercut during the break.
Bryan tries to fire back but gets sent hard into the corner, and Cesaro goes to work. Bryan catches his foot, though, and busts out a dragon screw leg whip to injure the knee. Surfboard is applied as well, but Cesaro fights out and hits a suplex.
Bryan fights out of a chinlock and flips over Cesaro to mount his comeback and throw the Yes Kicks. Cesaro takes them like a man, and Bryan hits a stiff running dropkick in the corner for two. Bryan heads up top, but Swagger runs interference and distracts him long enough for Cesaro to nail Bryan with a European uppercut when he comes off the top for a near fall. A really good match is unfortunately broken up AGAIN by yet another commercial break.
We return with Bryan rolling Cesaro up for two, but Cesaro pops up and double stomps Bryan to stop him and hits an impressive gutwrench suplex for two. Bryan gets psyched up and fires back with punches, but Cesaro grounds him with a fireman’s carry slam.
Cesaro hits boot on a charge to the corner, and Bryan hits a suplex followed by a kick to the face for two. What a match…a total showcase for Bryan and Cesaro.
Bryan heads up top but gets crotched, and Cesaro tries for a superplex, but Bryan slips between his legs and hangs Cesaro in the Tree of Woe. Lots of kicks follow, and a running dropkick to the face finishes the sequence off. Both guys head up to the top again, and Bryan tries for a super back suplex, but Cesaro shifts his weight in mid-air and lands on top of Bryan for two.
Slugfest gets the crowd worked up again as Cesaro just beats the hell out of Bryan with uppercuts until Cole is actually begging him to stop. A clothesline turns Bryan inside out, but again, it only gets two.
Cesaro tries for the Neutralizer, but Bryan counters with a backdrop, and now it’s his turn to beat the hell out of Cesaro with strikes. Another dragon screw puts Cesaro down, and Bryan rains stiff forearms down on his face in a brutal looking spot.
Cesaro takes a powder, but Bryan takes out both guys with a dive between the ropes and sends Cesaro back inside. Bryan misses something off the top rope, and Cesaro throws him in the air for another Very European Uppercut attempt, but Bryan catches him in a roll up and gets the win.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
-I have to stop right there for a second and say that was an AWESOME television match with tons of hard-hitting strikes and great counters for both guys. Bryan is a MAN for working two matches and not looking blown up at all, and Cesaro really made his shot at the main event slot count big time ****1/4.
-HOWEVER, Maddox says that Bryan still has one more opponent left…
Daniel Bryan vs. Ryback
Bryan attacks immediately and goes for the legs, but Ryback slugs him down. A kick to the throat puts Bryan down, and Ryback tosses him around the ring. There's an Irish whip to the corner as the crowd busts out the classic “you can’t wrestle” chant for Ryback, and he hits a suplex for two.
Ryback tries the Thesz Press, but Bryan rolls though and applies a half crab on Ryback’s injured knee. Ryback gets to the ropes, though, and hits a rough powerbomb before preparing the CLOTHESLINE OF CERTAIN DEATH.
Ryback runs into a knee, and Bryan hits a pair of corner dropkicks. A clothesline stops the rally, and Ryback retrieves a table from under the ring. Bryan interrupts the housecleaning with a dive through the ropes, and Ryback’s head hits the announce table. He recovers and shoves Bryan into the ring steps to get a breather.
Both guys head back inside, and Bryan throws his usual kicks but gets caught on his last one. Ryback tries another powerbomb, but Bryan rolls through for two. Daniel tries the Yes Lock, but Ryback uses the hair to fling Bryan across the ring. He whiffs on a corner charge, though, and Bryan hits a missile dropkick for two.
Yes Lock is applied in the middle of the ring, but Ryback sucks it up and makes it to the ropes, much to the chagrin of the crowd. Ryback powders out, and Bryan tries flying headscissors off the apron, but Ryback just dumps him to the floor in an ugly bump. For no apparent reason, Ryback picks up Bryan and powerbombs him through the table at ringside, earning Bryan the win by DQ.
Winner by DQ: Daniel Bryan
-Cena saves Bryan from further harm by running off Ryback and challenging him to a tables match next week. The Ryback match was probably **3/4 (much higher than I expected), and Bryan should have EVERYONE’S respect after that performance tonight.
-Backstage, McMahon convinces Maddox to book Bryan against Kane next week. Let’s hope this all pays off for Bryan at SummerSlam. Back in the ring, Bryan gets a well-deserved standing ovation from the fans.
As usual with Raw, the middle portion dragged on forever, but Bryan’s performance in the final half hour of the show needs to be seen to be appreciated. It's a great showcase for a great talent, so please check it out on DVR or replay if you get the chance.
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