When last we left our heroes, the #1 babyface – who had spent the weeks prior mocking his PPV opponent and performing juvenile pranks – overcame all the insurmountable odds thrown at him and, instead of giving us a long chase, won the WWE Title on his first try. In light of this shocking development totally out of character for WWE, there was much rejoicing. But how long will it last?
The ad talks about Ryback aligning with Heyman and promises we will hear from Daniel Bryan.
- The PG Era Rant for Monday Night Raw, September 16, 2013.
- Live from Cleveland, OH.
- Your hosts are Michael Cole, JBL, and Jerry Lawler.
- We look back and reveal how Ryback helped Heyman. We saw that HHH promised no interference, which allowed Daniel Bryan to win the WWE title.
- THE CHAMP IS HERE! The crowd loves it. I can’t make out his sideplates yet. There’s a Fandango silhouette over the ring. Sloppy. Ah, the sideplates are “YES!” Bryan gets the victory speech, and his first substantive comment is a YES chant. Crowd: fully played. But before we get anywhere, HHH is here to buzzkill. The announcers assume that HHH will admit he was wrong. HHH, though, brings up a fast count that ended the match, and claims it’s a tainted win. So here comes referee Scott Armstrong. So was it fast? Let’s view the tape. Tape indicates that yeah, he definitely short-armed the finish. The results are being played over and over like the Zapruder film. Scott has no explanation. He’s trying to insist he just screwed up, but HHH doesn’t believe him. This gets dragged on for a while. Armstrong implies he made a deal with Bryan, who clearly has no clue what’s going on. Oh god, they ARE going to reverse this. HHH is holding up the title. No, it’s not going to Orton, but it’s being vacated. HHH demands the belt from Bryan, who is furiously denying any involvement in this. They namedrop Shawn Michaels to hammer home what a shameful man Daniel is being (supposedly). Before we reach the standoff point, here’s Randy Orton. Orton is furious, but HHH insists that both men back off. HHH insists on the belt coming over… and after a long soul search (Crowd: “NO!”), Bryan refuses. So HHH takes it when Orton RKOs Bryan in the melee. Hey, remember those sixty bucks you paid for the Pay-Per-View last night, suckers?
- I may be mistaken, but this doesn’t strike me as the best place to put a WWE Shop ad.
- Orton is just as furious as Bryan, demanding his title back. Stephanie is furious at Orton and demands to know where the IED Orton is, but since he’s not there, maybe Orton doesn’t deserve their help. Stephanie just left Orton speechless. I… I promised I wouldn’t be cynical. I’m trying. I’ve already deleted tons of things.
- Dean Ambrose v. Dolph Ziggler. It’s a rematch from last night, but this time it’s apparently non-title. Struggle around the ring, with neither man winning until Ziggler responds to a slap with right hands. Ziggler with a crossbody, but he eschews the pinfall and does a Cactus Clothesline instead. Back in, Ziggler with a sleeper on Ambrose – who has the crowd behind him. I thought Cleveland and Cincinnati were foes. Cole tries to say they’re behind Ziggler, understandably. Ambrose reverses to a sleeper of his own. Ziggler with a jawbreaker to break. He attacks in the corner and has to be pulled back. Ambrose sends Ziggler out of the ring with a variation of the HBK Bump as we take a break. We return with Ambrose getting a clothesline for two. Ambrose with a clover leg lock on Ziggler, into a bow-and-arrow try, but Ziggler escapes only to get caught in a dragon sleeper. Ziggler slips out and fights back, but Ambrose dumps him to the apron. They go to the buckle, and Ambrose picks Ziggler up and rakes his back hard before getting a butterfly suplex for two. Power Drive elbow gets two. JBL rates Bryan a B+ actor as the announcers don’t talk about the match. Short-arm lock by Ambrose, but Ziggler headbutts out only to get a knee to the gut. Ziggler is hung on the ropes and beaten down, but is caught with Ziggler’s high jump DDT for a double KO. Dropkick cues the comeback. Stinger Splash by Ziggler into the ten-punch count and clothesline. Ten-elbowdrop countalong (!!) comes next, with the tenth being delivered emphatically, for two. That’s a hell of an athletic spot. Ambrose with a AA spinebuster for two. Ambrose goes ground and pound as the crowd tries to count THAT, too. Rude Awakening is reversed to a backslide for two. Ambrose YANKS Ziggler off the top rope, and Ambrose looks to finish as he taunts, but Ziggler escapes the Bulldog Driver and gets the Zig Zag for the pin at 11:55. WRESTLING! ***1/2 But as a reminder, it was non-title, so Ambrose is still champ. I know I noted the Ambrose chant earlier, but I think it was to make sure the match continued, because they got behind Ziggler quickly enough.
- Meanwhile, Brad Maddox is with Big Show, who is very angry. The McMahons will be visiting them NEXT.
- Meanwhile, Bryan/Reigns will happen tonight as Maddox tells HHH he approves. Stephanie reminds us that Show missed a paycheck and it hurt. Stephanie orders Show to stay in the McMahon office until further notice.
- We now look back at what happened with Punk, Axel, Heyman, and Ryback. Folks, I’m making a prediction: Ryback attacked Punk in response to what happened last year when Punk denied Ryback the WWE Title over and over. And if it’s true, that is Good For Business.
- Fandango v. R-Truth. JBL has the whitest What’s Up ever. This ties in to Friday when Fandango attacked Miz and his Awesome Truth teammate helped him. Remember that? No? Fandango and Truth dance to start – if you can call twerking dancing – before Truth catches a boot and lands an uppercut. Big hiptoss by Truth, then a split-legdrop (that clearly misses) before a regular legdrop for two. Truth hooks the ropes and dumps Fandango as Summer Rae gets a chant. Back in, though, Fandango catches Truth and pounds away, then Hammer Throws Truth into the corner for two. A second Hammer Throw follows as Fandango gyrates before we hit the CHINLOCK. Leg lariat by Truth after the break, and Truth lands clotheslines and a suplex Stunner for two. Axe kick misses, blind charge by Fandango misses, Truth is caught with the Sin Cara kick as Fandango goes up, and the legdrop (that airballs) ends at 3:30. Crowd doesn’t care, but that match was WAY too sloppy. -*
- Dusty Rhodes goes to the ring. He’s here as himself, not as Dusty, and he needs to talk to the McMahons about poverty. Are they REALLY doing a WHAT to this? Dusty does a variation of his Hard Times routine. And he does it for his kids, because this isn’t about him but about Cody. Now the crowd is INTO this promo. The scars on Dusty’s face are really a bonus for this promo. He’s proud of Cody and Dustin for their efforts. He says family pride is best. God’s greatest gift is family and children (AMEN!), and HHH broke his heart. He wants Cody to have a chance to earn his job back, and asks Stephanie what she has in mind. Stephanie enters, applauding Dusty. As we all are. She admits she is hesitant over the firing, and she offers a gift card. It’s a wedding gift. Dusty cuts to the chase: what’s the deal? Stephanie puts Vince over before delivering the news: we’ll offer EITHER Cody or Dustin his job back, but not both. And Dusty has to choose. But Dusty won’t make that decision. They’re playing this up as Cody being Dusty’s favorite child. But he could also make it up to Dustin if he wanted to. Oh, this is GOOD. Dusty doesn’t want to choose one child over the other, even though Stephanie says his indecision is about making it about himself. Dusty tells off Stephanie and goes to leave, and that means it’s Shield Time. The Shield “surround” the ring (except for the aisleway, which is the one side I’d protect), and Stephanie asks for Big Show to join Dusty (thus explaining the open aisle). Now the choice is: Shield or Big Show, who’s going to beat up Dusty? But Dusty won’t choose, so it’s Big Show. Show refuses, so Shield charges in, and Show tries to back them off. But Shield get chairs, and now things are reaching a boiling point. The intimidation is enough to make Big Show break down in tears and blast Dusty, then cradle him to the ground. Show’s crying took away quite a bit from this segment, but the stuff before his arrival was FANTASTIC. They really should’ve just had Shield beat Dusty down. Dusty’s getting the collar and board stretcher treatment. The announcers talk about Big Show’s tough choice, which I also think is a mistake, because Dusty’s choice was the more compelling. Still, that was great TV.
- Just a note about that previous segment: I found myself wondering what I’d do if I were Big Show, not if I were the booker. Any time I think in terms of being a wrestler, I consider the angle well done. The niggling about asking Shield to do the beating is just that, niggling. This was the segment of the night so far. We return with Dusty being accompanied by Show to the ambulance and the hospital. This has been great. Heck, the heat’s on the wrestlers (Show in person, Cody/Dustin in absentia), so what’s not to love?
- Brie Bella and the Funkadactyls v. Layla, Alicia, and Aksana. Natalya and AJ are on commentary. Layla and Naomi start, and Layla gets a hairpull, but runs into a Butt Butt for one. Funkadactyls tag off, and Cameron with a senton and big kick, but Alicia uses the double-team to put Cameron in peril. Aksana in, and the heels do boot chokes. AJ’s commentary is the focus of the match as the heels keep switching off. Alicia hits the chinlock as Natalya’s headset doesn’t work. Lawler offers Natalya his headset as the argument continues and Alicia slams Cameron, but the flip legdrop misses. Brie shoves Naomi aside to get the hot tag and cleans house. Brie slaps Aksana and everyone’s into the ring, and the facejam wins at 2:57. Argument continues. Whatever. 1/2* Cole surmises that AJ had something to do with Natalya’s headset issues. Seriously. Of note: this is the second straight week Brie seemed out for herself instead of the team. I hope this is a slow build to something, because small moments for characterization is just fine.
- Miz is asking Brad Maddox something. We don’t know what, but Maddox seems willing to oblige.
- More about Dusty being knocked out. Nothing is being made about the Sophie’s Choice part, and everything is being made about how Dusty was told how to be knocked out and Big Show made a difficult choice. I just feel like they’re missing the boat here.
- Damien Sandow v. Rob Van Dam. They keep playing up Sandow’s backstabbing of Rhodes in Money in the Bank as if that match weren’t every man for himself. Not sure why. Cole notes that Sandow could have cashed in last night. Sandow bulrushes RVD into the corner and stomps away. Headbutting follows, but RVD has the rolling monkey flip countered for one. He beats RVD down for two. Shoulder rams by Sandow, but RVD reverses only to get caught in the Russian Legsweep and Cubito Aequet for two. We HIT THE CHINLOCK. Take a drink every time someone says “held in abeyance”. Sandow’s charge is stopped short, but RVD with a rana and springboard crossbody for two. Big clotheslines follow, then a superkick. Rolling Thunder hits the knees, getting two for Sandow. RVD with the stepover enzuigiri, then the flying kick follows. RVD goes up, and the Five-Star ends it at 2:40. Wait, are they playing Sandow’s music? Yes, they did. Maffew, get a clip of that! 3/4* Damien Sandow, though, reminds us he’s Mr. Money in the Bank. Okay, play his music now.
- Meanwhile, HHH talks to Armstrong about how things have gotten out of control, and he chews out Armstrong for his part in what happened. Armstrong is released because of what he did, which is understandable (although it doesn’t stop the announcers from saying HHH went too far in the next segment). But HHH says he’ll take care of Armstrong. At least two of my friends told me to mention that this is likely what Vince said to Jim Ross on Friday.
- Randy Orton v. The Miz. Miz gets a great hometown pop. JBL, who has been saying that Orton should be given the title back, is now saying we don’t know if Orton would’ve kicked out. Eh? Miz’s family is in the front row, but Orton jumps him from behind and sends him into the steps. Miz is down and out as we take a break before the match begins. We return with Miz refusing treatment and demanding to wrestle. We begin with Miz going ballistic on Orton to a HUGE pop. Orton cuts it off and charges, but Miz’s attempts to cut it off don’t work. Draping DDT is reversed to dump Orton. Miz sends Orton into the apron and barricade. And back and back. But Orton suckers Miz into the post. Mrs. Mizanin is doing a great job of showing concern. Orton keeps fighting as we get a double countout at 1:35. Orton throws Miz over the table and keeps stomping away. The beating continues as Orton throws Miz into the crowd in front of his dad, but that causes Miz to get RAGE and fight back. He clotheslines Orton back to ringside, but Orton takes over and punches away in front of the mom and dad. I mean INCHES AWAY FROM THEM. He then does the Draping DDT from the barricade to ringside literally in front of the family. Orton tosses Miz into the ring and grabs a chair as the announcers argue whether Stephanie or Bryan is responsible. As opposed to Orton himself. Orton sets up to Pillmanize Miz’s neck as the crowd freaks out. But even Orton hesitates. Just kidding, it was a kneedrop Pillmanizing. The Orton we all know and loved in 2009 is back. Cole rants about how Crazy Psycho Orton should not be the face of the company to tie it all in.
- Paul Heyman, Paul Heyman’s wheelchair, Curtis Axel, and Ryback are out next. Axel leaves as Heyman gloats. By beating Punk, HE’S the Best In The World. The crowd is booing because they’re just jealous. He pinned CM Punk, and he’s very proud of it. And you’ll never take it away from him. He even gets top billing over Punk in their match. He’s milking this victory for all it’s worth. I don’t have much to recap because it’s the same thing, but Heyman’s charisma is carrying it. Crowd chants Goldberg at Ryback. Heyman admits he was beaten to within an inch of his life by Punk. Honestly, we’re lucky Heyman is still alive. He then says Ryback stood up for him when all other Paul Heyman Guys abandoned him. He now has a life debt to Ryback, who says he did it because CM Punk was bullying Paul Heyman. He has a point. “Do you think Paul Heyman deserved to be beaten up like that?” Crowd: “YEAH!” Ryback admits he doesn’t like Punk because he’s a bully, so Ryback will stop Punk. Hypocrisy in my heels is a good thing. Ryback offers his services as Heyman’s bodyguard as they get all buddy-buddy. Heyman kissed Ryback. I had to have Lawler confirm it because my brain refused to register it.
- Ladies and gentlemen, Los Matadores really want to be here in the WWE, and they should be on their way as soon as they clear customs.
- Three-Way Dance: Tons of Funk v. Real Americans v. Usos. Swagger pounds on Brodus to start, but gets caught in the Shee-Plex and delivers a Stinger Splash. Swagger and Cesaro regroup on the outside, and back in, Swagger brings Jimmy in. Brodus shoves Jimmy down as this match has a deliberate pace. Jimmy chops away on Brodus, then gets a thrust kick and flying forearm. Crossbody is caught into a slam by Brodus, then a second one, followed by a rib breaker and elbow drop. Cesaro tags himself in, but gets caught by a back elbow. Jey with his own flying forearm for one. Jey throws Cesaro into the corner as the Usos fire off on Cesaro, who reverses and gets a European Uppercut. Snap suplex by Cesaro, but Tensai tags in and gets a very delayed butterfly suplex. He holds it for like 15 seconds. It gets two. Cesaro is the king of long spots. Slugfest, but this allows Jimmy in, only to get punched down by Tensai. Blind charge misses, but a shoulder tackle does not. Swagger is sent flying, but a blind tag on an Uso charge means that a Baldo Bomb means nothing. Cesaro wraps up Tensai for the pin at 4:34. He gets a dropkick on Jimmy as we go to break. WE THE PEOPLE! Seriously, they’re going to turn themselves if they keep this up. We return with Swagger holding Jimmy as they did a GIANT SWING OF DOOM during the break. You JERKS! Swagger corners Jimmy as the crowd chants for JBL. Running Vader Bomb by Swagger into a Mushroom Stomp by Cesaro. Crowd is bored with the match. Slam by Cesaro into an elbowdrop. JBL says Cesaro got 28 rotations, which beats the 25¾ done to Santino. Yes, I counted. Now a Randy Savage chant. Why? Jimmy tries to fight out, but Cesaro cuts him off, but not all the way. Hot tag Jey, who goes to work on Swagger, with a flying kick to Cesaro for good taste. Uso Hip Check gets two, Cesaro saves. The Americans bail, so the Usos get stereo pescados to pop the crowd hard. Superkick misses, and Swagger has the Patriot Lock on. After a prolonged struggle, Jey breaks and gets the superkick for real. Cesaro is cut off, but that allows Swagger to superplex Jey… but Jimmy got the tag and Superfly Splashes Swagger for the title shot at 13:14. That REALLY picked up nicely at the end. **3/4 Usos/Shield was a good match a couple months ago, so why not.
- I’ll skip the Public Service Announcements. You’re welcome.
- Bray Wyatt video. He talks about patience being lost to greed. He says they’re isolated from a world of killers, and that’s Wyatt’s world. Lame animals are destroyed for the betterment of the pack. He’s speaking to Abigail and promises to “put them all down”. Creepy stuff. In a good way.
- Wow, did they just acknowledge Daniel’s relationship with whichever Bella it is?
- Main event: Roman Reigns v. Daniel Bryan. Randy Orton comes to ringside. Shouldn’t the ref make Reigns remove his chest protector? Bryan kicks away on Reigns and sends him from corner to corner. Bryan slips under Reigns and kicks away some more, following with a dragon screw as he works the leg. He kneedrops the lower leg a few times and pulls on it. Reigns kicks Bryan away, but Bryan maintains the advantage, but Reigns corners and headbutts him. Turnbuckle shot is blocked, and Bryan keeps kicking, and a second dragon screw follows. Figure-four-like hold follows, and Bryan fires away with forearms while maintaining the hold for two. Reigns whips Bryan into the opposite corner and gets a Northern Lariat before stomping away. Reigns throws Bryan facefirst to the mat for two as we look at Orton. Reigns hits the chinlock. I think Reigns’s nose is bleeding. Bryan shoves off, but gets knocked over by Reigns, who runs into a knee to the gut. YES kicks to the back follow, but Reigns gets a kneelift to the gut. Bryan cuts it off by going back to the leg. Cole says Bryan has had nothing but integrity since his arrival, so apparently he was officially never part of the Nexus Riot. Reigns breaks and clotheslines Bryan before slugging away in the corner. Suplex by Reigns follows for two as the announcers finally get back to talking about the match. A second suplex gets two as we keep watching replays of last night instead of the match. Reigns goes to the chinlock as we get it out of the way. Bryan fights out but gets hit with a headbutt and whipped hard. Bryan trips Reigns into the second buckle and kicks the ropes to damage Reigns. Bryan goes up top with a missile dropkick (as Orton stands up), causing Reigns to bail. Bryan dives onto Reigns, who catches him and throws him back and forth on the outside. We go to break as Ambrose taunts. We return with Reigns holding a full nelson, which Bryan slips out of into a cradle for two. Reigns puts Bryan on top and slugs away. He hooks up a superplex, but Bryan blocks and punches out, sending Reigns down and following with… you know what, it’s essentially the Ram Jam. But it misses. Reigns gets two. Reigns headbutts down Bryan some more, getting another two-count. Reigns taunts Bryan, but puts his head down and pays the price. Except he catches Bryan into the Catatonic for two. Reigns back to the chinlock, and he headbutts to prevent a comeback. Bryan does the buckle flip into a running clothesline to regain momentum. YES kicks to the chest cue the comeback, but the roundhouse misses and Reigns gets a Samoan drop for two. Reigns pounds away in frustration and taunts Bryan. Powerbomb is signaled, but Bryan with a sunset flip for two, then a roundhouse kick for two. Bryan disposes of Rollins on the outside and sets up for the cross-corner dropkick to Reigns. And Ambrose, but then gets caught by a huge lariat from Reigns. Bryan with the Yes Lock out of nowhere, and this brings Orton into the ring for the DQ at 18:17. Bryan puts the Yes Lock on Orton as Cole cheers him on in a surreal bit, but the Shield races in to break it up and it’s a 4 on 1. Orton directs traffic as everyone takes their shots in. Crowd wants Punk of all people to break it up. Orton with a stomp to the head and he loads up the Pillmanizing again, and this time every single babyface in the locker room finally snaps and attacks the Shield. WOW. Never saw that end coming. Reigns escapes and speaks Kofi, but Ziggler with the Rocker Dropper on Ambrose. Double superkick by the Usos on Reigns. And now everyone catches Rollins as Bryan gets the big YES Knee on him. So let’s see, it’s Ryder, Gabriel, Truth, Usos, PTPers, Kofi, Ziggler, and RVD. For those who are curious and/or want to know who’s getting fired on Friday. I was thinking Reigns wasn’t ready for a PPV-quality main event, but that quickly became a moot point. Throw in the post-match insanity and this whole thing gets ****¼ from me. ENORMOUS YES chant ends the show.
“So what does that make us?”
“Big Damn Heroes, sir.”
“Aren’t we just?”
“Big Damn Heroes, sir.”
“Aren’t we just?”
Now, I’m still not happy about the fact that they overturned the WWE Title match result. It devalues the Pay-Per-View, kills replay buys, and in general is probably not Good For Business™. But MAN, I’m glad I have to review this so that I didn’t turn it off, because they made up for it in SPADES with the rest of the show. The Dusty segment hooked me, Orton’s mean streak we loved about him is back, and the locker room finally being able to charge the ring to protect Bryan was cathartically delicious. This could be how they write RVD off the show after his 90-day spurt is up – HHH fires him to make an example of the locker room. This would allow Bryan/RVD/Cody/Dustin v. Orton/Ambrose/Rollins/Reigns at Survivor Series, leading to a Rhodes Brothers v. Shield tables match at TLC, which I would totally like.
That said, Scott Armstrong on Twitter needs to address his comments. If they have him go on a rant about how HHH put words in his mouth, then fired him over a mistake that was JUST a mistake, it would extend the feud to social media. It would be a way to use Twitter for good. I didn’t think about it until later, but the people who charged the ring were the ones who wished Bryan luck on his way to the ring, so it’s clear some people do care about this.
As pessimistic as I was when this story started – heck, as pessimistic as I was when the first half-hour ended – this show has given me new life and reminded me why I love wrestling at its best. You have Daniel Bryan, perfectly into the Dusty role as man of the people; you have Randy Orton, the loose cannon villain who could do this on his own; you have the Mr. McMahon role in HHH, trying to manipulate everyone and now facing a challenge to his tyranny; and you have the Shield, hired muscle for Orton who are his Horsemen. The best stories are timeless.
This has a chance to be one of them.
MATCH TIME: 55:08 over seven matches
BEST MATCH: Isolated, Ziggler/Ambrose; including post-match, Bryan/Reigns
WORST MATCH: Fandango/Truth
NIGHT MVP (kayfabe): Randy Orton, but this was a REALLY tough call
FINAL SCORE: 9. This would be a 10 (or possibly go to 11) had it not been for my disgust at the Dusty Finish of the PPV. Otherwise, this is the best Raw I’ve seen since I began reviewing – yes, that’s only been five, I know.
Stay tuned for Mike Mears’ Postgame report. In the meantime, do I love old-school wrestling? YES! YES! YES!