7/6/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
John Cena def. Cesaro to Remain U.S. Champion
Monday’s episode of Raw was the best type of double main event show. There was an outstanding storyline that ran through most of the episode and featured some memorable theatrics between Brock Lesnar and The Authority. In the actual main event timeslot, there was another phenomenal U.S. Title match between Cena and Cesaro. This one was even more exciting and dynamic than their encounter last week.
Before the match started, Kevin Owens came to the ring, seemingly ready to answer Cena’s challenge. Cesaro stood up to him, said he deserves the match more, and threatened Owens until he backed down from the challenge. Cesaro carried that positive momentum into the early part of the match. He hit a delayed vertical suplex with some deep squats in the middle, a DDT to counter an AA, and tilt-a-whirl backbreaker as a counter to a shoulder block.
Cena continued to fight back and repeatedly tried to hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle and Cesaro avoided it. On the third try, Cesaro dropped Cena down into a crossface, only for Cena to lift his way out into an STF. That move slowed Cesaro long enough for Cena to hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Cesaro quickly revered, though, and hit three rolling gutwrench suplexes. When Cesaro went for the Big Swing, Cena impressively sat up and turned it into a DDT.
Both wrestlers continued to counter everything the other tried to throw out. Cena countered a Pop-Up Powerbomb attempt into a hurricanrana, followed by a facebuster for a two count. Cena came off of the apron into Cesaro’s arms and suffered a fallaway slam into the barricade. After a top rope leg drop by Cena, Cesaro managed a Pop-Up Uppercut for a two count. Cena got a near fall of his own with a successful AA.
Cesaro regrouped with a Big Swing into a Sharpshooter. When Cena started to loosen that hold, he moved into another crossface. Cena switched into an STF, only for Cesaro to fight out with a vertical suplex. Cesaro blocked Cena’s springboard stunner and hit a Neutralizer for a two count. He blocked a tornado DDT into a side slam that he seamlessly turned into another crossface. Cesaro had to break the hold when Cena reached the ropes, but he brought him back in with a deadlift superplex. Cena regained the momentum with a sit-down powerbomb for a two count. Both wrestlers fought on the second turnbuckle until Cena hit an elevated AA to finally get the win.
Owens reemerged after the bell and tried to attack Cena, but Cena fought him off and kept the focus appropriately on the fantastic match. Cena looked spent for much of the long match, and it’s not clear whether it was a real physical malady or simply a rededicated focus on selling the damage from the match. It’s hard to come up with creative ways to praise Cena for these matches every week, but we can ask for nothing more. He has elevated the U.S. Title to the Raw main event, made both Cesaro and Owens look tremendous (among many others), and keeps our eyes glued to great matches each week.
Brock Lesnar Destroys Authority’s New Caddy
With so much in-ring time dedicated to Cena and Cesaro, a big part of the build to Lesnar’s match with Seth Rollins could have fallen by the wayside. Instead, Lesnar used some brutally impressive imagery to set the stage for what should turn into a very good rivalry with Rollins. As impressive as the main event match was, Lesnar’s stunt should also stick in fans’ memories.
At the top of the show, Paul Heyman cut a great promo in which he warned Rollins and the rest of The Authority never to break the 11th Commandment- “Thou shall not intentionally anger The Beast.” Rollins strategized with HHH and decided to do exactly the opposite, to call out Lesnar and try to prey upon his heightened emotions. With J&J Security at his side, armed with axe handles, Rollins provoked Lesnar and called him “Heyman’s bitch.”
Naturally, Lesnar responded aggressively. Instead of charging into a 3-on-1 fight, he took out his anger on Chekov’s car- the Cadillac that has been ominously ripe for a trashing since Rollins bought it for J&J last week. Lesnar took two fireman’s axes out of a road kit and went to down on the car. He destroyed it viciously, smashing out the quarter-panels and windows, and even ripping off a door with his bare hands. Eventually, J&J ran after him, but Lesnar destroyed them and even suplexed Mercury roughly on the hood of the car. He chased Rollins out of the building before he stood tall on top of the wreckage he wrought.
New Day def. Lucha Dragons
With the Prime Time Players on commentary, Kofi Kingston and Big E teamed together to get their squad back on track after some recent losses. Xavier Woods inserted himself into the match to block the Dragons’ double topez, but they hit tandem splashes once they moved him out of the way. Titus O’Neil took over on commentary and insulted JBL in a way that showed he can keep up with the witty announcer. Meanwhile, Sin Cara hit a nice senton to put his team back in control.
The Dragons once again went for the double suicide dives, but Sin Cara missed and Big E caught Kalisto. He turned it into a belly-to-belly on the floor and dragged Kalisto back into the ring. He and Kingston hit the double-team Big Ending to get the pin on Kalisto and come out looking strong once again. It’s good to see New Day looking strong because there is a lot of heat that they can still draw. There’s no reason to move on from the team due to their recent title loss.
Sheamus def. Roman Reigns by Count Out
Another match between these two big men quickly turned very rough with Sheamus on offense at the beginning. Reigns put together a nice rally with a series of aggressive clotheslines. Sheamus came off of the ropes straight into a Superman Punch from Reigns and it looked like Reigns was closing in on a win. The lights went out, but instead of Bray Wyatt, a dummy Wyatt appeared for Reigns to attack. Wyatt came on the big screen and pointed out that he was once again in Reigns’s head, preventing him from focusing on the match.
When the lights came back on, Reigns was counted out and Sheamus was declared the winner. Randy Orton appeared suddenly to short-circuit the celebration for Sheamus and laid him out with an RKO. Altogether, it was a solid match to further two mid-card rivalries. We got to see Wyatt actually getting in Reigns’s head and costing him a match again. We also got more aggression between Sheamus and Orton, which is exactly the virtue those two should sell.
Rusev Suckers Dolph Ziggler
Rusev and Summer Rae insulted Dolph Ziggler and Lana while the two women continued to trade places- Summer in a fancy dress and Lana with her hair down. As the polemics continued to fly, Lana stepped up to Summer and removed her heels to prepare herself to fight. Ziggler pulled her away and Rusev seized the opportunity by beating Ziggler with one of his crutches. He stomped Ziggler with his walking boot before removing it to prove that his broken foot is healed. Summer threw Lana to the floor and Rusev punctuated the attack by driving the crutch into Ziggler’s throat and sending him out on a stretcher.
This segment was probably the most effective one between Rusev and Ziggler yet and served as a reward for those of us who have stuck with an uneven program. Rusev got legitimate heat for an attack that came off as quite brutal. Rusev’s awkward lingering on TV also makes more sense now that he has returned so quickly.
Brie Bella def. Paige
Last week, I complained that Paige’s victory over Alicia Fox was counterintuitive because it did not square with the logic that she is overwhelmed by the Bellas’ numbers and heelish tactics. The turn back toward that narrative felt like a course correction this week. Paige briefly got the advantage when Brie accidentally knocked Nikki and Brie from the apron with a running knee and Paige rolled her up with a schoolgirl. Nikki and Alicia continued to draw Paige’s attention, so much that Brie was able to recover and hit a facebuster to get the pin. After the loss Nikki hit Paige with a Rack Attack to lay her out. A consistent story that creates a rivalry, a match that fits into that story, and a post-match angle that adds more heat? It’s almost as if the Divas segment this week was planned.
Dean Ambrose def. Bo Dallas
The noisy Chicago crowd actually cheered for both Dallas and Ambrose while Dallas had some success early. His momentum ended when a premature victory lap around the ring let Ambrose regain his composure. Ambrose hit a rebound clothesline and Dirty Deeds to get the easy win. I’m a big proponent of top wrestlers getting occasional wins over lesser opponents to remind fans that they’re the top guys. This match doesn’t need to be part of an angle or rivalry- it helps make Ambrose look good and gets the fans fired up on its own.
Ryback and Big Show Turned on Miz
The only real virtue in this clunker of a match was Miz with a live mic outside the ring. He egged on the wrestlers, argued with the crowd, and was generally funny throughout. Both big men went to the top rope, and after Big Show hit an elbow drop, Miz tried to run in to beat up both of them. They cornered Miz and hit him with Shell-Shocked and a chokeslam before Ryback took out Big Show to stand tall.
King Barrett def. R-Truth
Barrett avoided a couple of roll-ups from King What’s Up and hit him with a Bull Hammer to hopefully put this silly, pointless angle to bed.