Daniel Bryan and Big Show get the last laugh on Raw.
In the final week before Hell in a Cell this Sunday, WWE faced the tough task of building toward the pending pay-per-view and confirming the rest of the card for the show. On both Raw and SmackDown, WWE pushed the pay-per-view as best as it possibly could in an attempt to convince viewers that it will indeed be worthy of watching.
Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton clashed several times over the course of the week, but it was the bearded yes-man who was the last man standing when all was said and done. Could this indicate that Bryan will be the WWE champion come Sunday, or will Orton find a way to bounce back from his recent shortcomings?
John Cena will remain off WWE television until Hell in a Cell, but that didn't stop World Heavyweight champion Alberto Del Rio from running his mouth this past week. Will the Mexican aristocrat take advantage of Cena's injured arm in their upcoming match, or will the leader of the Cenation be the one to finally unseat Del Rio as world champion?
CM Punk received a major boost in momentum with a blockbuster victory in tag team action alongside Big E. Langston on Raw. Can he carry said momentum inside Hell in a Cell with him when he finally gets his chance to silence Paul Heyman once and for all?
Here, I will break down the week in wrestling by analyzing the Monday Night Raw, Friday Night SmackDown and WWE Main Event broadcasts, including each show's highlights, low points and other noteworthy, monumental moments. Also, an award will be given to the show and Superstar that shined the brightest over the course of the week.
With Hell in a Cell less than 48 hours away, the stars of SmackDown collided in a massive eight-man tag team match on Friday night. Daniel Bryan paired up with the WWE Tag Team champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust along with Big E Langston (replacing an incapacitated Miz) to take on familiar foes Randy Orton and The Shield.
The match was nothing short of excellent, as everyone involved put forth a strong effort in order to make their presence felt going into Sunday. Despite the close bond that Orton and The Shield have formed in recent months, it stood no chance against Bryan and his merry men, as they ran rampant over the villainous group with ease in the bout's final few minutes.
As Orton looked to annihilate Bryan with an RKO, Langston distracted The Viper long enough to allow Bryan to capitalize and connect with a devastating knee to the face to pick up the hard-earned victory for his team. When the smoke cleared, Bryan stood tall at the end of SmackDown.
Will Daniel Bryan finally recapture the WWE Championship at Hell in a Cell?
Mere days before he does battle with Randy Orton inside Hell in a Cell for the WWE Championship, Daniel Bryan went to war on both Raw and SmackDown this week. In the opening match on the flagship show, Bryan fought Dean Ambrose in a bout earned the title of match of the night.
Bryan proved to be too much for the United States champion to handle, though, as he forced him to tap out to score the victory. Later that night, he silenced Orton with a catastrophic knee to the skull after signing the contract for his upcoming title match.
He achieved similar success on SmackDown, leading his team to victory in an eight-man tag team match against Orton and The Shield. With momentum on his side, is Bryan closing in on his third WWE Championship?
None of WWE's programming has been on fire as of late, but I will give credit where credit is due in saying that WWE did a superb job of building up the Hell in a Cell event this past week. Granted, it could have done better with confirming most of the card weeks ago, but it was the best the company could do with only three weeks between pay-per-views.
SmackDown did its best in promoting the pay-per-view, and while it wasn't a terrible show, it didn't leave me highly anticipating the upcoming event. Raw, however, had several entertaining matches and moments throughout the show that gave me hope that Hell in a Cell might actually be worth the purchase this time around.
From five tag team matches (who said tag team wrestling was dead?) to an explosive contract signing to conclude the show, there was plenty to like about the latest edition of Raw. Regardless, here's hoping WWE can deliver a strong show this Sunday for the first time since SummerSlam.
WWE Championship contract signing: This was about Triple H and Shawn Michaels more than it was about Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton, but it was still a strong segment, nonetheless. Everyone involved cut excellent promos and provided plenty of cliffhangers to give viewers the impression that anything is bound to happen inside the Hell in a Cell on Sunday. Of course, it isn't a contract signing without a Pier 6 brawl, and that is exactly what we got here.
The Shield vs. The Usos: As expected, these two teams had a great match this past week on Raw. They proved they were among the best in the tag division back at Money in the Bank, and they proved it again on this show. I was glad to see it end in a no-contest, which allowed a Triple Threat Tag Team title match to be made for Hell in a Cell, a match that has the potential to be a blockbuster.
Big E. Langston: Langston's face turn couldn't have come at a better time, as he was featured heavily on both of WWE's main shows this past week. From pinning Intercontinental champion Curtis Axel during tag team action on Raw to winning an eight-man tag team bout in the main event of SmackDown, big (no pun intended) things are on the horizon for Langston if he is continued to be pushed aggressively.
Goldust vs. Seth Rollins: If it wasn't already obvious, this match showed that Goldust can still hang with the best of them, even the young guns such as Rollins. They had an enjoyable 10-minute match on Main Event this week, but it was a shame that the contest had to be cut short by an abrupt ending.
The Real Americans: The chemistry that Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro have as a team is absolutely amazing. Throw in the controversial Zeb Colter as their manager, and you have yourself the perfect pairing. Their wins on Raw and Main Event this week proved that they are a duo that shouldn't be taken lightly, but I surely hope they are on the winning end of their upcoming match with Los Matadores at Hell in a Cell.
Big Show: While I enjoy Big Show finally revolting against The Authority and the powers that be at WWE, the way he is going about it is completely illogical. I mean, how many wrestlers have we seen get "fired" over the years only to return the next week? Show's storyline has been done to death in the past, and he shouldn't be anywhere near the WWE Championship picture at the moment. I realize Mr. McMahon will be revealed as the one who has been pulling the strings the entire time, but that payoff can't come quick enough.
Santino Marella vs. Heath Slater: OK, I admit it: I chuckled at the little Elvis wig on the cobra puppet, but everything else about this match was absolutely asinine. The sole purpose of this match was to give Jerry Lawler some airtime in his hometown, but couldn't that have happened in a less ludicrous way?
Fandango vs. The Great Khali: Similar to the match above, this did nothing to promote the pay-per-view. Therefore, it should have never even happened to begin with. It was totally meaningless and the non-finish was mind-boggling alone. I understand that it was meant to be filler, but there are better ways to kill time than with this garbage.
Los Matadores vs. 3MB: I shouldn't even have to explain why this match is in this column this week. We have seen this bout far too many times over the last month, and I have already lost any interest in Los Matadores. Please, WWE, don't allow these two teams to cross paths for the next year at the earliest.
The Funkadactyls vs. Aksana and Alicia Fox: Naomi's impressive athleticism can be fun at times, but she botched more times than I can remember in her tag team match on Main Event this week. Fans have zero incentive right now to care about any of the Divas involved in this match, so the contest was doomed to fail from the moment it started.
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Graham Mirmina, a.k.a. Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.