Raw Review – Cena’s US Open Challenge Produces Instant Classic


For the second straight PPV, Kane — who is not on the card — has been a major focus in the World Heavyweight Championship picture. It’s just kind of odd to have such a laser focus on the ancillary, third-party member of the title scene, especially when the title match itself already has four entrants. The time spent on Kane will hopefully pay off in a big way, because they’re sure sacrificing a lot of the build for Payback’s Fatal Four-Way title match to make sure Kane is front and center.

Triple H made his return to Raw, entering in a limousine. He entered the arena and said, “Daddy’s home!” Triple H said that’s the same thing he says when he gets home to his children, because it makes them instantly shape up. He said that perhaps he needed to say the same thing to Kane and Rollins, and that all he wants them to do is what he tells them to do.

Rollins came out and told Triple H he is afraid that Kane is trying to sabotage him from within The Authority. (The Cincinnati crowd repeatedly interrupted Rollins with chants for hometown hero Dean Ambrose.) Rollins told Triple H that perhaps it’s time to “take that old dog out back and put him out of his misery.”

Kane entered and told Rollins that his instincts were telling him to chokeslam Rollins to hell. Triple H stepped between the two and told Kane that he needs him on the same page as himself and Rollins. Triple H said that if Rollins doesn’t walk out of Payback as WWE Champion, that Kane would no longer be the Director of Operations.

Triple H gave Kane the opportunity to “amicably part ways,” but Kane remained silent. Triple H announced that all four men in the Payback fatal four-way would be in action tonight. He booked Kane vs. Reigns and Rollins vs. Orton, before Jamie Noble took the mic and told Triple H that he was making a poor choice, and that Rollins is above being placed into such a match just six days before a PPV. Triple H rewarded him by booking J&J Security into a match against Ambrose.


Randy Orton def. Seth Rollins by disqualification

When the time came for their main-event match, Orton gained the advantage with a backbreaker, but Rollins hit a side Russian legsweep into the turnbuckle. Rollins followed up with a Sling Blade, earning a two-count. Rollins climbed up top, but Orton recovered to deliver a superplex from the top rope.

The two exchanged stiff strikes in the middle of the ring, and Orton hit two big clotheslines. Rollins fought back with a big boot, but leaped off the second rope into an Orton scoopslam, earning Randy a near-fall. Rollins answered with a jawbreaker and an enziguiri, followed by a springboard knee strike for a two-count of his own.

After both men countered each other’s signature maneuvers, Orton reached deep into the toolbox for a T-bone suplex. Rollins hit a dropkick that knocked Orton out of the ring, then hit him with a dive between the ropes. Back in the ring, Orton came up empty on an RKO, allowing Rollins to roll him up for two.

Rollins hit a superkick, earning another near-fall. Rollins taunted Orton’s viper routine, but Orton took advantage of the moment of recovery time to hit a hangman’s DDT. Orton set up for an RKO, but Mercury and Noble assaulted Orton to cause the disqualification.

Kane entered and grabbed a chair, but the assault continued. Ambrose and Reigns hit the ring and cleared J&J. Ambrose, Reigns and Orton surrounded Rollins, with Ambrose hitting Dirty Deeds. Ambrose, Reigns and Orton looked over to Kane, wondering what he was going to do.

Ambrose picked Rollins back up, holding him up for Reigns to spear him. All three again looked over at Kane, who still did not interfere. Ambrose and Reigns picked Rollins up again, and Orton RKO’d him. Still, Kane didn’t budge. Suddenly, Reigns speared Orton, only to turn around into a Dirty Deeds from Ambrose to close out the show.


Match of the Night – Neville def. John Cena by disqualification; Cena retains United States Championship

Neville answered Cena’s US Open Challenge, hitting Cena with an early snap suplex. Neville followed up with a single-leg dropkick and a bridging German suplex for a near-fall. Neville hit a baseball slide, then hit a springboard corkscrew moonsault.

Back in the ring, Cena caught Neville with a Five-Knuckle Shuffle, but Neville reached the ropes on Cena’s AA attempt. Neville hit Cena with a big boot, following up with a second-rope Phoenix Splash, but Cena kicked out at the last moment.

Cena hit a Michinoku Driver out of nowhere for a close near-fall of his own. Cena tried for an AA, but Neville reversed into a crucifix for two. Neville hit a second-rope crossbody, but Cena caught him and lifted him up for an AA.

Neville landed on his feet and hit a dropkick for another near-fall. Neville positioned Cena for a Red Arrow, but Cena caught Neville in an STF. Neville rolled Cena over onto his shoulders, forcing Cena to release the hold at the two-count.

Cena nearly decapitated Neville with a huge clothesline, following up with a successful AA. Neville managed to kick out of the AA, and Cena took him up to the second rope for another AA. Neville reversed the AA into a massive powerbomb for yet another near-fall.

Neville climbed up top and hit the Red Arrow, but Rusev appeared from out of nowhere to cause a disqualification, ruining Neville’s nearly inevitable title win. Rusev delivered superkicks to both Neville and Cena, then locked Cena in The Accolade.

Talk about making Neville look strong. He had Cena beat, if not for Rusev’s interference. Also, can we all just appreciate that John Cena busted out a Michinoku Driver in his weekly high-workrate 15-minute midcard Raw match? Awesome.

I loved this match. Also, the unclean finish could set up a Neville/Cena feud for after Payback, if WWE chooses to go that route.


Developing Story – Daniel Bryan relinquishes Intercontinental Championship

Bryan said that the fans have always given him a better reaction than anyone in the back has. He said one of the worst moments of his life was being stripped of the WWE WHC by Stephanie McMahon, because he felt like he had let the fans down.

Bryan said that in the end, Steph was right to strip him of the title, because no one had known how long he would be out. Bryan said that the fans deserve a fighting champion, and that he had recently had an MRI. Fighting off tears, Bryan said that the MRI revealed that he may never be able to wrestle again.

Bryan thanked the fans and walked away, hopefully not for the last time. As the crowd chanted “Thank you, Daniel,” he dropped the Intercontinental Championship in the middle of the ring. Daniel reached the top of the ramp and led one final “Yes!” chant for the crowd.

Later in the show, Michael Cole announced that the Elimination Chamber is returning on May 31. It seems pretty obvious that the gimmick match will be used to determine the new Intercontinental Championship, which is an all-too-rare kayfabe-reasonable purpose for an EC match.


The Five-Count

1. Cesaro (w/ Tyson Kidd and Natalya) def. Big E (w/ Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) by pinfall

As they entered, The New Day announced an “Authority-approved” tag title match for Payback: A 2-out-of-3 falls match. Cesaro hit Big E with uppercuts, a double footstomp, and a flying crossbody for a near-fall. Cesaro followed up with a gutwrench suplex, but Big E finally answered with a belly-to-belly suplex.

Big E came up empty on a running splash, following up with a lifting side slam for two. Big E used a clothesline to earn another two-count, but Cesaro hit a springboard corkscrew uppercut. Cesaro bridged two German suplexes, followed by an absolutely amazing deadlift release overhead belly-to-belly suplex.

Cesaro used two uppercuts to set up the Big Swing, as Kidd tried to fight off both Kofi and Woods outside the ring. Cesaro got distracted, but regained his awareness enough to pin Big E with a crazy modified crucifix. This was an excellent match, and the 2-out-of-3 falls match at Payback should be fantastic.


2. King Barrett def. Dolph Ziggler by pinfall

Before the match began, both Ziggler vs. Sheamus and Barrett vs. Neville were booked in rematches for Payback. As soon as the bell rang, Ziggler hit a superkick for a very close near-fall. Ziggler followed up with a Famouser, but Barrett again kicked out.

Ziggler landed a dropkick, then rolled Barrett up in a schoolboy for a near-fall. Sheamus — who had been on guest commentary — jumped up on the apron to make a distraction, giving Barrett just enough time to land a surprise Bullhammer Elbow on Ziggler for the three-count. After the match, Sheamus beat down on Ziggler, hitting him with a Brogue Kick.

After Neville and Ziggler defeated Barrett and Sheamus in their respective singles matches at Payback, WWE chose to weave the storylines together, and it’s been largely successful. Barrett and Sheamus have been fun heels together, and the newcomer Neville gets some of the rub from Ziggler’s fan-favorite popularity.


3. Bray Wyatt talks circles around Ryback

I just realized that this feud basically represents WWE’s take on the “Healthy at Every Size” movement. Here we have the neckbearded Wyatt — who we all know could stand to lose a few pounds — targeting the uber-fit Ryback. In the WWE’s world of perfectly chiseled muscles, it would only make sense for the heel to adopt the HAES mindset.

Wyatt is jealous of Ryback’s hard-earned fitness, and has thus made him his next target. As ridiculous as that sounds — and it is admittedly completely absurd — that still marks my best effort to date at explaining why in the hell Bray Wyatt and Ryback are feuding.

At any rate, Wyatt rambled for a long time, until Ryback entered, hitting a spinebuster and a Meathook Clothesline to force Wyatt to retreat.


4. Dean Ambrose def. Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble by pinfall; Roman Reigns beats up Kane

Noble and Mercury actually put up a good fight for a while, using frequent tags to wear Ambrose down. Ambrose turned the tide with a dive between the ropes onto both Mercury and Noble, followed by an elbow drop to Noble.

Ambrose hit a double rebound clothesline, then planted Noble with Dirty Deeds for the pinfall. Mercury and Noble were more competitive than expected, but this was still little more than a fluff match to pump up the hometown crowd for Ambrose.

When it came time for Reigns vs. Kane, Kane jumped Reigns before the bell, viciously attacking Reigns in an apparent attempt to prove himself to The Authority. Kane repeatedly drove Reigns into the barricade and ring apron, then tossed him over the ring steps.

Kane tore apart the announce table, giving Reigns enough time to hit him with a Superman Punch. Reigns speared Kane over the announce table. That was uninspired, and also not a match. Later in the night, a rematch was announced for Smackdown. Yippee.


5. Macho Mandow and Curtis Axel form The New Mega Powers

The Ascension interrupted the match quickly, but Mandow and Axel fought them off, forming a ridiculous new version of the Mega Powers. Axel hit Viktor with a leg drop, but Konnor saved him from taking a Macho Elbow from Mandow. I feel so sorry for Damien Sandow. He just went through an entire year of crap booking, while somehow getting himself over, and now his new gimmick is just a rehashed version of the same stupid gimmick.


Divas Division Update: The now-face Bellas entered to Brie’s “Brie Mode” music. Tamina disposed of Brie after a superkick. I don’t have anything more to say about this.

– With Luke Harper by his side, Erick Rowan hit a spinning heel kick and a full-Nelson side slam for the squash victory over Fandango. If you’re looking to get heat on your newly reunited heel tag team, there’s no better way to do it than with a 2-on-1 feud against Fandango.

– The Prime Time Players cut a backstage promo, paying tribute to The New Age Outlaws. While Titus and Darren did well with the material, it’s a bit much to have Titus, Darren, Sandow and Axel all paying homage to legends — and The Ascension burying them — all at the same time on the same show. Let’s put our thinking caps on and come up with some actual gimmicks/storylines. Come on.