We kick off the show in Charlotte, North Carolina and are immediately ambushed by a Wyatt Family promo. I feel like Bray’s use of the phrase ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ is theft of my use of it during my ‘setting things on fire’ stage.
Bring Back The Straight-Edge Society So Punk Can Fight Them To
In the arena, Mr CM Punk rocks up to the ring and grabs a microphone, which is a very good way to start your show. He muses on just why the Wyatts want a piece of him but, being CM Punk, he’s mainly there to smack an unkempt bitch. Punk says if the Wyatts want a fight, then why not right here, right now, on free TV?
This brings out Curtis Axel, so did the people backstage just write ‘Punk/Nexus Member’ and see who thought that they were relevant? We can all thank our stars it wasn’t Skip Sheffield…wait a second… Axel says that he and Punk have unfinished business, so this really is a Nexus thing. They’re going to have a match to avenge Paul Heyman, who is in Europe. And hospital.
Axel takes the fight to Punk, driving him down into the corner and then chopping and punching at him. Axel runs at Punk off the Irish whip, but Punk clotheslines him and gets a double axe handle off the top rope, chopping Axel in turn. Snapmare by Punk and then a nice dropkick to the back of the head. Another few kicks have Axel practically backflip, which is damn entertaining, but he manages to pull Punk headfirst into the turnbuckle and throw him out of the ring…and Punk kicks his legs out again on the apron. It shouldn’t be funny, but by golly it is. We go to commercial following a suplex dropping Axel stomach-first onto the barricade as Punk screams that it’s ‘Clobbering Time’. Interesting fact: due to the clocks going back, ‘Clobbering Time’ now falls within the first segment of SmackDown.
Back from break, and they don’t actually show us what happened on the WWE App: we’re finally getting the hard sell. Punk baseball slides into Axel and they’re both outside, but Punk gets driven into the barricade and both guys are down. Axel gets to his feet and throws Punk in the ring for the two-count, keeping him on the ground. Backbreaker to Punk and Axel goes up to the second rope, dropping an elbow for another two. Punk now comes back with chops, kicks Axel and then misses a cross-body off the top rope and Axel hits a hard-looking clothesline. JBL says that that’s the aggressive streak you like to see from an IC Champion: exchange ‘aggressive’ for ‘losing’ and there it is.
Crossface applied, but Punk makes it to his feet and drops Axel with a back suplex. Calf kick and a neckbreaker to Axel get a two-count and damn, Charles Robinson has glorious hair. High running knee and a clothesline from Punk; he goes up for the Macho Elbow, but the Wyatt’s video shows up on the screen, meaning the entire arena will die in seven days. This distracts Punk long enough for Axel to hit a Perfectplex: near fall. A few seconds later, Punk hits the GTS and that’s all she wrote.
As JBL said: that’s how you want to start Friday nights. Axel’s selling was a lot of fun to watch and it was a good match to get people into the show, especially with the expectation of a Wyatt appearance. 3 Stars.
Speaking of the Wyatts, Bray appears on the titantron for second to blow out his lantern. Make of that what you will.
Because When You Need A Tag Partner, You Go To The ‘Little Jimmy’ Guy
It’s 3MB vs. the Usos and thank God they’re not wearing pink. Their entrance segues into R-Truth’s so nicely that I almost don’t get annoyed at the idea of a match involving 3MB and R-Truth. Almost.
Jey starts off in control against Slater before tagging in Jimmy. Slater makes a blind tag to Jinder, who jumps Jey. Jinder stays in control before tagging in Slater, who then immediately tags in McIntyre. Jinder and Slater hit a rebound suplex on Jimmy. Drew whales on Jimmy, tag to Jinder and 3MB hit a double back suplex into a neckbreaker: nice move. Jey breaks up the pin and Slater slaps a sleeper on Jimmy, but a bodyslam attempt turns into a dragon kick. Jinder gets a tag before Jimmy, knocking Jey off the apron. Jimmy hits a bodyslam, tagging in Truth. Truth knocks seven shades of hell out of Jinder, and a Suplex-Stunner gets a two-count before Slater breaks it up. Everyone’s in the ring before Slater and McIntyre get tossed and the Usos leap onto them. The What’s Up hits Jinder and hometown boy gets the win.
That was actually pretty funny. Say what you like about 3MB, but seeing them getting thrown around is humorous whenever. Call it 2 stars.
The Word ‘Funkadactyls’ Vs. My Computer’s Spellcheck
The Funkadactyls are ready for a tag match. AJ Lee and Tamina will be their opponents. AJ is shown giving an interview about the return of Total Divas. They got renewed? Tamina and Cameron start off, and Tamina shoves Cameron on her ass in the corner, and Cameron hits what was almost a Dudley Dog into a headlock takeover: Cameron’s screams are arguably stranger than Brie Bella’s pseudo-sex noises. Cameron gets the tag to Naomi and hit a double-dropkick before low-bridging Tamina. Naomi does some kind of gymnastics routine on the ropes, but Tamina pulls her out and clotheslines her: that looked really good. Tamina then throws her jacket at Naomi, so shit just got real, but the jacket-toss only gets a one-count. Tag now to AJ who gets a guillotine choke. Sunset flip doesn’t get the pin, Naomi hits an enziguiri which AJ sells beautifully. Cameron hits terrible clotheslines and terrible dropkicks, followed by a terrible crossbody. AJ dodges a charge, tagging in Tamina, but Cameron hits a bodyscissors bulldog that honestly took me back to a 2003 Mysterio match. Cameron comes off the top rope but gets powerbombed by Tamina. Naomi breaks up the pin and just straight-up punches AJ onto the mat. Tamina knocks her down and AJ’s ‘OW!‘ gets both Cole and JBL laughing. Tamina tags in AJ, the black widow gets locked in an Cameron taps.
Cameron’s an odd case: her complicated moves actually look really good; her simple moves (as in dropkicks, clotheslines, etc.) look godawful. Tamina and Naomi’s out-of-the-ring moment was golden, as was the punch to AJ and her reaction. 3 Stars.
We are joined by Mr Del Rio, with his giant flag of Mexico and his black scarf of pimp. Apparently he’s getting a rematch. Wow: a match where I don’t want either man to win. Del Rio says he’s a Mexican world-class athlete, making him better than us. Okay, so he’s a racist. Del Rio says the title was stolen by Cena and that’s profiling: just because Cena’s white doesn’t make him a thief, Alberto. He accuses us for cheering for Cena, and how goddamn dare he? Apparently Cena’s walking around with something he doesn’t deserve: cue the speculation on what STD that Nikki passed onto him and how soon he’ll heroically return from it. Del Rio had a fever at Hell in a Cell. Too bad it wasn’t a bullrope match: he could have gotten some more cowbell.
Cena shows up to and manages to cram childish language, Cena-esque comedy and advertising into a few sentences: brevity really is the soul of wit. Del Rio tells Cena to leave and Cena says make him, and then offers him a World Title rematch right here tonight. And just as we’re all getting into that idea, Vickie shows up and says no. Screw you, audience: we’re making you pay for this five-star extravaganza. Cena rips on Vickie, and Del Rio agrees with him because fuckin’ Vickie, man. Tonight, Del Rio will face Khali and Cena will face Ryback.
A Mexican And An Indian Walk Into A Ring, And Have A Lacklustre Match
Back from break, Del Rio and Khali are facing off. Khali shoves Del Rio back off the tie-up, then Alberto tries strikes before getting the head-chop. We get the glacial offence that is Khali in action, before a chop to the chest sends Del Rio from the ring. Khali throws Del Rio into the barricade, then back in the ring. As Khali climbs up, Del Rio hangs the arm up on the rope and levels Khali with kicks and stomps. He ties the arm up on the rope, then slams it against the mat. Khali escapes and attempted armbreaker by hitting the knees, but Del Rio heads up to the second rope, jumping…into a boot to the face. Khali gets Alberto with an elbow, then another head-chop: Del Rio rolls out of the ring. Del Rio is set up on the second rope, managing to cinch his armbreaker in over the top rope. Alberto’s enzuigiri gets two, he locks in the cross armbreaker and Khali taps.
Michael Cole says ‘that was impressive’. Michael Cole is a liar. 1 Star.
Battle Of The Beards. Wait…No…
Bryan makes his way to the ring, and THEY’RE HERE. We recap the Wyatts attacking Bryan and Bryan saving Punk. Bray’s chair dodge was a thing of beauty. Bryan gets placed in the corner with Harper choking him with his foot, followed by a European Uppercut. Luke is firmly in control, using the Gator Roll, which I haven’t seen before. Bryan punches his way out of the front facelock, but Harper doesn’t allow separation, guillotining Bryan on the second rope. Bryan ducks a charge from Harper, tossing him out of the ring and diving onto him. Bryan hits his YES kicks, only for Harper to hurl him into the barricade.
Back from break, we’ve still got Harper in control, striking Bryan in the corner. During the break, we see Bryan getting thrown into the steps. Harper hip-tosses Bryan across the ring before levelling him with a boot for two. Sleeper hold from Harper and Bryan tries to fight out, booting Harper in the race, dodging clotheslines and hitting kicks to the knees. Dragon whips put Harper down, followed by more working of the legs and some savage punches to the face from Bryan. Harper comes back with a right hand, Bryan backflips over him from the corner before hitting a clothesline. Bryan goes for a big kick but Harper hits a damn nice-looking clothesline of his own. Harper waits a second too long; Yes Lock locked in and Rowan runs in to break it up for the DQ. They double-team Bryan for a while before holding him as Bray comes into the ring, but here comes Punk, clearing the ring. He and Bryan then stare at Bray, who decides to take a walk.
I like the exposure the Wyatts are getting. I was never concerned about Bray: his antics were always going to work for him. But I love the fact that a lot of in-ring emphasis is on Harper and Rowan, both of whom impress me. Harper can hang with Bryan, who played the injured face perfectly without letting it get in the way of his vicious streak. The ‘We’re Going To Fuck You Up’ look that Punk and Bryan gave Bray completely sold me on this feud. 3 Stars.
We recap the legal ballyhoo from Monday, with phrases such as vis-à-vis and termination. We also see an interview with Cole and Hunter, where they discuss Kane’s suit and tie. Katie Vick wasn’t mentioned, but you could see them both thinking about it. As were we all.
Injured Man Vs. The Reason For Injured Men
Cena comes out, then goes back; I get hopeful but then he comes out again. Ryback starts off with a headlock, taking Cena to the ground as the duelling chants begin. Cena shoots Ryback off the ropes, gets shoulder-tackled and placed in a headlock again. Cena reverses into a headlock of his own. Riveting. Cena attempts a shoulder tackle of his own, but Ryback doesn’t go down. Cena then strikes away at his opponent, attempts a bulldog but Ryback shoves him away. Ryback stomps away at Cena before hitting a punch right to the face. Gorilla Press to Cena and Ryback holds him there for quite a time before dropping him. Shoulder thrusts in the corner to Cena now; he Irish whips Cena into the corner and then misses a charge, blasting the turnbuckle post instead as we go to break.
Back from break, Cena’s trying to lock in the STF, but Ryback kicks out of it and hits a shoulder tackle to regain control. A hard Irish whip into a corner and Cena drops to the ground right off the impact. Ryback’s stalking Cena, choking him with his foot and hammering away at him before another hard Irish whip gets two. JBL says that he’s not convinced that Cena is one hundred per cent, and did the cast and the constant publicity about him being injured give it away, Bradshaw? Ryback has a bearhug on Cena now as John tries to elbow his way out. Cena tries to build up some steam: his first shoulder tackle doesn’t do jack, but the second knocks Ryback down, followed by a spinning back suplex, but the U Can’t See Me has him running right into a spinebuster. Ryback attempts a Shell Shock but Cena turns it into a DDT. Both men down as JBL says that Cena ‘has a knack for winning big matches’, and did the entirety of WWE’s main event booking for the past few years that give it away, Bradshaw?
Cena tries an Attitude Adjustment, but Ryback slides out and…did Ryback. Just Hit. The Fucking. JACKHAMMER? They mention Goldberg a bunch of times and am I allowed to hope to dare to dream? This is the WWE, so I kind of doubt it. JBL mentions that there are similarities between Goldberg and Ryback and, you know, he might just have something there. Cena is trying to get back to his feet as Ryback sets up for what Cole says is the Meathook but that we all know is a spear. Cena gets the STF, Ryback gets to the ropes, then his feet and then SPEAR? I love every second of this as Cena barely kicks out. Ryback then calls for a powerbomb extremely loudly and JBL says that he doesn’t tell his opponent what he’s going to do before he does it. JBL’s never been allowed to call any of his matches? Cena slides out and then hits a full nelson into a neckbreaker which gets two. Cole says that Cena has evolved over the years, and he’s right: remember when he was a rapper? And when he wore black shorts? Crossbody from the top onto Ryback. Cena tries for an AA, but Ryback’s too near the ropes and manages to hit a running powerslam for another near fall. Cena and Ryback start throwing strikes before Cena runs into a meathook clothesline. Shell Shock attempt is turned into an AA and that’s all she wrote.
The beginning was slow and I was a little worried, but from the second Ryback hit that spinebuster it was fantastic. Yes, it was largely the Goldberg references: I’m only human. The end sequence was a joy to watch and I honestly felt myself getting excited. 3.5 Stars.
Del Rio jumps Cena post-match, slamming the arm against the turnbuckle and then kicking it. Cena strikes Del Rio out of the ring and Alberto retreats. That’s right, kids: CENA IS ETERNAL.
I seriously enjoyed that show. A few minor hiccoughs (here’s looking at you, Khali), but the Bryan match, main event and even the Divas match were very watchable and all had some great moments in. I, for one, would go so far as to say 8 out of 10 before listening to Goldberg’s WWE entrance music again.
Tags: 3MB, aj lee, alberto del rio, Bray Wyatt, Cameron, cm punk, Curtis Axel, Daniel Bryan, Drew McIntyre, Eric Rowan, Funkadactyls, goldberg, Heath Slater, jey uso, jimmy uso, Jinder Mahal, john cena, kane, Luke Harper, monday night raw, naomi, R-Truth, Smackdown, Tamina Snuka, The Great Khali, triple h, Vickie Guerrero, WWE, wyatt family