-We are LIVE from Memphis, Tenn., (thus guaranteeing that Jerry Lawler will be embarrassed at some point).
-Triple H and his significant other kick us off and Stephanie runs down the card for Hell in a Cell. Hunter states that he trusts Shawn Michaels because he respects Shawn, but Big Show appears on the big screen and calls Triple H a liar. They argue for awhile until the "Almighty" Stephanie McMahon counts down and cuts him off. Why, oh why, do they continue to build Stephanie as this strong heel? There’s no payoff with her.
Anyways, Hunter tries to introduce Dean Ambrose for the first match, but Daniel Bryan makes his entrance, which Cole calls this “defying authority.” Oh wow, coming out when you’re not supposed to…what a rebel!
Daniel Bryan vs. Dean Ambrose
They battle over a wristlock and Bryan hits a dropkick, but Dean recovers and delivers some chops in the corner. Bryan throws some of his own and adds a running knee for a two count. A dropkick gets another near fall for Daniel and he channels his inner Arn/Ole Anderson and goes to work on Ambrose’s arm. Bryan misses another dropkick, though, and Dean stomps away. The announcers try to put over Bryan’s surprise entrance as a huge victory for him in the war against Triple H but just come off as unfunny nerds in the process. They screw up a spot coming off the ropes so Bryan just kicks away and takes Dean over with a snap suplex. Flying headbutt attempt has to be aborted as Dean takes a powder, but Bryan comes after him with a baseball slide. He misses a knee off the apron, though, and Ambrose clotheslines him down to send us to commercial.
We return with Ambrose hitting a knee against the ropes and adding a dropkick for a two count. Bryan fights out of a chinlock, but Dean takes him over with a back suplex for another two. Ambrose goes to the headscissors, but Bryan powers out and locks him in a nasty looking (in a good way) inverted suplex. Dean goes to the eyes to break the move and they have a slugfest. Bryan gets caught heading to the top and Ambrose takes him down the hard way with a superplex for a two count. Ambrose tries for a neckbreaker, but Bryan counters into a backslide for a two count. They both hit the ropes and both try for a cross body in a nice spot that leaves both guys out.
Bryan fights from the mat and makes his babyface comeback, nailing a dropkick in the corner and taking Dean off the top with a hurricanrana for two. Dean tosses him on a tornado DDT attempt and brings Bryan to the mat with a spinebuster for two. Ambrose charges, but Bryan backdrops him to the outside and follows with a dive through the ropes. Back inside, a missile dropkick hits and Bryan looks for the running knee. Ambrose turns it into a rollup, but Bryan rolls through and applies the Yes Lock for the submission victory.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
-A good TV match to make Daniel Bryan look strong heading into the PPV. It still made Ambrose look like a threat and Bryan kept his title as a submission specialist ***1/4.
-CM Punk heads out onto the entrance ramp to cut a promo on Heyman and Ryback. He promises to bash Heyman’s face into every single inch of cell steel that he can and proclaims himself the best in the world. Pretty standard promo from Punk here, nothing special.
-Backstage, Triple H asks Vickie not to screw up the show and runs into Shawn Michaels in his dressing room. HBK and Triple H have a polite disagreement about Daniel Bryan, until Steph kills the buzz between the two buddies and Michaels excuses himself to go have some fun.
Santino Marella vs. Heath Slater
Santino, Khali and Hornswoggle are all dressed like Elvis because Vince McMahon hates me and wants me to have a heart attack before I turn 30. They have some sort of lame “martial arts” exhibition and Santino works his power walk spot in as I frantically search for any alcohol in the house. Slater gets a two count off of a shoulder in the corner and Heath works Santino’s midsection with his lame jobber offense. He misses a charge to the corner, though, allowing Santino to make the comeback and hit the Elvis Cobra for the win.
Winner: Santino Marella
-Seriously, let’s all pretend this never happened. Santino introduces Jerry Lawler to the crowd and dances in a visual I’d really like to forget. Let’s call this a DUD and that’s being very generous.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Randy Orton
Orton stalls until he dumps Ziggler to the floor and sends him into the barricade. Orton tries the draping DDT from the apron, but Ziggler powers out and slugs away. Randy turns the ride, though, and goes to work on the arm back inside the ring. Ziggler psychs himself up though and fires off a clothesline for two, but Orton quickly hits his backbreaker for a near fall. Ziggler uses a jawbreaker to break a chinlock and launches a comeback, hitting a jumping elbowdrop for two. He whiffs on the Rocker Dropper attempt, though, but manages to counter the draping DDT and hits it for two.
Orton catches Ziggler on a splash in the corner and recklessly tosses Ziggler backwards, causing him to land on his head. That was a nasty bump. Orton hits the draping DDT, finally, and looks to finish, but he poses just a little too long and Ziggler surprises him with a dropkick for two. Dolph looks for the sleeper, but Orton shoves him off and hits the RKO for the surprisingly easy win.
Winner: Randy Orton
-So WWE decided to make the main event on Sunday look like a toss up with boys guys going over strong. Orton had the easier victory and Dolph is just hanging in midcard hell at this point **3/4.
-We get a John Cena hype video because God knows the crowd may have forgotten about him.
AJ Lee and Tamina vs. The Bellas
Did the Bellas ever actually have a face turn aside from one getting a boob job and the other marrying Daniel Bryan? Brie gets beaten down by Tamina, but the Bellas double team her to take her down. Nikki comes in and gets dumped so Tamina brings her back in by her hair. A Nikki comeback attempt leads to more hair pulling and a pair of slams bores the crowd further. AJ comes in to grab a chinlock but misses whatever in the corner and Nikki gets the hot tag. Brie gets rid of Tamina off the apron and hits a facebuster on AJ for the win.
Winner: The Bellas
-Seriously, does anyone really care? *
-Recap of Big E Langston turning face and saving CM Punk from Curtis Axel and Ryback. WWE might as well stick Langston with Ziggler in a tag team again because Lord knows they don’t have anything better to do.
-Meanwhile, Paul Heyman cuts a coked up promo about CM Punk and paraphrases Watchmen to earn a pop from me. Langston interrupts the promo and Heyman talks Axel into taking him on tonight.
-Hype video putting over the fact that Daniel Bryan was trained by Shawn Michaels.
Miz and Kofi Kingston vs. Harper and Rowan
Miz sticks and moves on Rowan but ends up getting dumped on the floor and getting dragged back inside to get double teamed. Harper guillotines Miz on the middle rope and Rowan adds a slam for a two count. Harper works a front facelock and Miz fights out, but Harper hits a sitout slam for two. Miz gets a jawbreaker to hurt Harper but can’t get the tag, forcing Miz to kick Harper in the face and get the hot tag. Kofi comes in and takes Harper over with flying headscissors and a high cross body gets two. Rowan comes in but gets dumped and Kingston with a schoolboy rollup gets two, saved by Rowan. Kingston gets rid of Rowan with Trouble in Paradise but runs into a huge clothesline from Harper and takes the fall.
Winners: Harper and Rowan
-Post-match, Miz tries to attack and save face but gets laid out. Bray Wyatt cuts one of his usual promos as the crowd gives him the “what” treatment. Call the whole thing ** for decent spots and a nice finish.
Curtis Axel vs. Big E Langston
The heels attack before the match can start and beat down Langston in the corner. All three guys tumble to the outside, but Langston holds his own until Axel nails him from behind. Langston still gets the better of the heels, so Heyman attacks from behind with a kendo stick for a distraction. Finally, CM Punk makes the save and Vickie comes out to book this as a tag match.
Curtis Axel and Ryback vs. CM Punk and Big E Langston
We come back from a break with CM Punk in control of Curtis Axel and hitting a neckbreaker. A double team slam puts Punk down, but Axel chops away and gets the tag to Ryback. He overpowers Punk and drops a leg for two and Axel adds a forearm from the second rope. He hits a boot on a corner charge and Punk nails a high cross body for two, but Axel quickly stops that rally with a clothesline. Ryback checks in with a splash for two and tries for a vertical suplex, but Punk turns it into a small package for two. Ryback works a reverse bearhug, but Punk kicks him in the face and gets the tag to Langston. Big E works over Axel and squashes him with a splash off the ropes. Langston looks to finish but stops to get rid of Ryback and then hits the Big Ending on Axel for the win.
Winners: CM Punk and Big E Langston
-Obviously, a showcase for Big E, but the heat segment really did nothing for me and the match suffered as a result *1/2.
Tons of Funk vs. The Real Americans
Apparently, the midget “goring” Zeb Coulter on Smackdown was one of the most hilarious things Michael Cole has ever seen. I really don’t even know where to begin with that one. Coulter joins that masterful commentary team, while the crowd chants for the heels and Tensai dumps Swagger. Cesaro hits him with a dropkick, allowing Swagger to come back and work Tensai’s knee. A back suplex puts him down and the Swagger Bomb/double stomp combo gets a two count. Cesaro applies a sleeper, but Tensai backdrops out and gets the “hot” tag to Brodus to absolutely no reaction. A Swagger distraction allows Cesaro to slug him down and hit the spot everyone’s been waiting for: The Big Swing. Swagger applies the Patriot Lock and gets the easy win.
Winners: The Real Americans
-Total squash as the Real Americans continue to win but have no real creative direction aside from feuding with a couple of matadors that no one cares about. However, Coulter gets a pop out of me by busting out a bullwhip which he used rather extensively when he was known as Dutch Mantell. Call the match * as Tons of Funk remain useless and not over.
-Another hype video looks back at John Cena’s white rapper gimmick when, oddly enough, he was an Internet favorite for his edgy promos.
The Shield vs. the Usos
This is for a tag title shot, but didn’t the Usos already win that? Goldust and Cody are on commentary and come out to a sweet remix of their music in a nice touch. Jey slugs away with Rollins and clotheslines him to the floor before following with a plancha and staring down Ambrose. Rollins manages to counter back inside, though, and drags Jey to the heel corner for some punishment from Reigns. Jey drives Roman to the face corner and Jimmy hits him with a stiff forearm for two. Unfortunately, Jimmy gets overpowered and driven into the heel corner and whiffs on a cross body, hitting the ropes with his throat and getting two for Rollins. For some reason, JBL is ignoring the match and just mocking the Rhodes family, while Reigns works a front facelock. Reigns tries for a suplex from the apron but can’t get it so he just sends Jimmy flying into the announce table to take us to commercial.
We return with Reigns hitting a suplex on Jey for two, but Uso wiggles free of a press slam attempt and hits a DDT for the double KO. Rollins cuts off the tag, though, until he’s backdropped to the floor so Reigns tries to do the same but takes an enzuigiri. Jimmy gets the hot tag and comes flying in with a high cross body for two. Jey gets rid of Rollins and Jimmy looks to finish, but Reigns clobbers him with a clothesline, saved by Jey. Samoan drop takes care of Rollins, but Jimmy walks into a powerslam from Reigns as the fast pace continues. Reigns whiffs on a corner charge and eats a superkick, but a splash from the top rope by Jimmy only hits knees. Ambrose punks out Cody at ringside, so that triggers a huge brawl involving both teams and the referee calls for the bell and the screwjob ending.
-Post-match, the Shield beat on Goldust until the faces save him and the Rhodes brothers clear the ring. If the match had an ending, this would be a ***1/2 match easily, but it’s only *** with the DQ stuff at the end.
-If you’ve only been watching wrestling for about five months, you’ll probably be stunned to hear that the tag team title match at the PPV is now a triple threat match.
Main Event Contract Signing
Stephanie and Triple H bring out Orton and Bryan along with Shawn Michaels for the ever-popular contract signing angle. Randy Orton cuts his usual promo and signs the contract as Daniel Bryan waits politely for him to finish before making his response. Bryan thanks Orton for pushing him and revealing that he is indeed a corporate stooge and then signs the contract as well.
Triple H lumps Daniel Bryan in with Chris Jericho, Edge and Rob Van Dam as a guy who is popular, but who can’t carry the company. Funny, it’s a pretty well-known fact that Triple H was rather instrumental in tearing down the careers of two of those guys. Bryan challenges Hunter to get back into the ring, but Triple H says he only fights stars, not guys like Daniel Bryan…and WWE wonders why people don’t view Daniel Bryan as a superstar? They’ve let Triple H pretty much bash Bryan non-stop for months. Hunter says Shawn Michaels wasted his time training Bryan and that wakes HBK up.
Michaels says Hunter turned his back on his DX roots and promises to crown a new champion on Sunday. This causes Orton to flip out and accuse HBK of having an agenda, but Hunter is confident that Shawn will do the right thing. Shawn gets in Hunter’s face and puts over Bryan, triggering an argument between Orton and Bryan, as well. However, Big Show interrupts things by driving a big rig truck into the arena and distracting Orton long enough for Bryan to nail him with a running knee (which the camera totally misses). Bryan celebrates on top of the big rig with Big Show as the show ends.
A totally weak episode of Raw leading into the pay-per-view, as we get a whole lot going on without a whole lot happening. Yes, the Bryan-Ambrose match and the tag match were good TV matches, but really they didn’t solve anything as Bryan was merely getting put over heading into the PPV and Internet fans knew that the tag match was going to be a triple threat. It’s quite simply very difficult to get through three hours of a wrestling show that finds it necessary to dedicate time to Santino, Tons of Funk, the women’s division, 3MB and Curtis Axel’s endless jobbing as the intercontinental champion. The Hell in a Cell match might be intriguing for some people, but this pay-per-view isn’t going to be setting any buyrate records on Sunday. People have even cooled on Daniel Bryan after months of Triple H convincing people that he doesn’t belong in the main event. If you say things loud enough for long enough, people tend to start believing them. Unfortunately for WWE, the fans have started to believe Triple H.
-Be sure to follow me on Twitter @MikeShannon22 as I write about wrestling and how much I hate the Philadelphia Flyers.