Raw bounced back in a big way in the last episode before Extreme Rules with a three-headed monster of a storyline at the top of the card. Randy Orton hunted for Seth Rollins throughout the show and hit one RKO after another on anyone who crossed his path. While Rollins ran from Orton, he did some excellent promo work and wrestled a fun main event with Dolph Ziggler. All the while, Kane stood between them in a shockingly engaging story about his career crossroads.
Orton did some great work in opposition to Rollins and got the most sincere backing from the fans he has had since the breakup of the Legacy in 2009. He said that his match at Extreme Rules goes beyond the WWE Title because he purely hates Rollins. Since he can’t use the RKO in the match, he promised to get them out of his system before Sunday. Throughout the night, he hit RKOs on Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Heath Slater, and the Miz while he continued to ominously stalk Rollins.
While Orton tried to track him down, Rollins showed that his ego has grown out of control. First, he demanded more security from HHH to protect him from Orton. Additionally, he repeatedly humiliated Kane to the point that HHH had to force him to apologize to prevent the complete disintegration of The Authority.
The last straw was when he cut HHH off at the end of Raw to gloat about his cheap win over Dolph Ziggler- he hit a buckle bomb and a single-underhook DDT when Sheamus distracted Ziggler-, and said that he proved that he is the man. He continued to berate Kane until Kane made his way down the ramp. Rollins had the cage lowered around him to keep Kane away, but Orton slipped in at the last second. When Rollins tried to climb out, Orton pulled him off the cage and caught him with an RKO to finish the show standing tall.
Meanwhile, Kane continued the career crisis that is is quickly becoming the best thing Kane has done in years. He delivered his two weeks’ notice to HHH to resign as Director of Operations because he did not agree with The Authority’s decision to invest so heavily in Rollins. While HHH tried to smooth things over, an offended Rollins stormed to the ring and made things much worse. When Rollins called Kane a loser and a coward, Kane responded that Rollins is a brat who did not earn his position. As a last ditch effort to mediate the dispute, HHH made Kane the “gatekeeper” for the cage match between Rollins and Orton at Extreme Rules.
Kane did not stop there, as he tried to prove that he still has the demonic fire inside him when he answered John Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge. It was a decent match, but still the Kane-Cena matchup that has happened hundreds of millions of times before. Kane countered the Five Knuckle Shuffle with a chokeslam. When he tried for a Tombstone, Cena freed himself and hit an AA to get the victory.
One of the highlights of the show followed when Kane and HHH exchanged looks backstage that told a deep story with no words. With his eyebrows raised, HHH tried to convey to Kane that his dominant, aggressive days are behind him and he is now most valuable in a buttoned-down corporate role. The exasperated Kane questioned himself, not wanting to believe that he is finished, but fully aware of the evidence to the contrary.
We are at a point in the wrestling calendar in which WWE starts to reset itself after Wrestlemania. With lower stakes and fewer eyeballs, it’s a good time for WWE to test new ideas, such as they have with Sheamus, New Day, Fandango, and the recent NXT promotions. While some of the gimmicks are just thrown at the wall to see what sticks, the storylines involving The Authority, Rollins, and Kane date back much further. Even Kane’s persistent losses contribute to the story because they give him reason to question himself. For the first time in ages, I am interested to see what Kane does headed into Extreme Rules.
Miz def. Mizdow
With the Miz gimmick on the line, it appeared that the deck was stacked against Miz. His prematch interview was cut short when Byron Saxton had a John Cena interview instead. Mizdow dominated the early part of the match with a backbreaker-neckbreaker combination. Miz got a near fall with a handful of tights. When Mizdow kicked out, Miz distracted the referee and Summer Rae gouged Mizdow’s eyes. The turn allowed Miz to hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the pin. It is clear, though, that there is more meat on this bone and Mizdow will have the seek retribution against both Miz and Summer Rae under another gimmick.
Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper Fought to a Double Countout
Ambrose and Harper hit each other hard from the very start of the match. Ambrose hit a suicide dive and they fought into the crowd. They both tried to hit their finishers on the entrance ramp, but neither succeeded, and Harper retreated when Ambrose built some momentum.
After several stop-and-start confrontations between Harper and Ambrose, I am very ready to see them in some sort of no-DQ match. Later in the show, they were officially booked for a Chicago Street Fight at the Extreme Rules. There are few wrestlers in WWE better suited for that sort of stipulation.
New Day def. Lucha Dragons to Become Tag Team #1 Contenders
With the added focus on the tag team division and the talented wrestlers in it, it’s a shame that this match was relegated to a mediocre segment early in the show. It could have been a semi-main event. At least there was some time for the match to develop. After some high flying early, Big E and Kofi Kingston grounded Sin Cara. He finally got a hot tag to Kalisto, who unleashed a barrage of offense. The Dragons hit tandem moonsaults to the floor. Kingston beat the count, but Xavier Woods held Sin Cara to keep him from making it into the ring.
It was a cleverly heelish way to get boos for New Day and to keep the hot new team looking good. The only curiosity is the direction of the heel vs. heel tag team title match with Tyson Kidd and Cesaro.
Naomi def. Brie Bella
This women’s match and the entire build for the Divas Title have felt a bit contradictory. Although Naomi’s attack on Paige certainly made her seem like a villain, her assertion that she deserves a shot at Nikki Bella’s title based on her accomplishments is very justifiable. Conversely, Nikki spent this match on commentary alternating between a brave, gracious champion who will take on all challengers and a dismissive narcissist.
In the ring, Naomi wrestled a dominant, physical style befitting her new persona. She wore down Brie steadily and cut off her one rally with a bulldog into the turnbuckle. She followed it with the Rear View to win and strengthen her status as Nikki’s top challenger.
Roman Reigns Doesn’t Bolieve
When Reigns cut to the chase and called out Big Show rather than giving a promo, Bo Dallas surprisingly joined him instead. Dallas called Episode 1 the best Star Wars movie and referred to Reigns as the Tim Tebow of the WWE to show that his humor game is still on point. Just as he was about to tell Reigns to “Bo-lieve,” Reigns hit him with a Superman Punch and a Spear. It was a great substitute for a predictable war of words with Big Show.
Sheamus def. Zack Ryder
As the match started, Sheamus started to speak on the microphone and used the promo as a distraction to hit Ryder with a Brogue Kick. Instead of pinning him, he berated him and the fans on the mic while he beat him around the outside of the ring. He hit another Brogue Kick on the floor and had Ryder prone for more punishment when Dolph Ziggler made the save at last. Sheamus continues to earn lots more heat than I expected with his heel character.
Bray Wyatt Provides Some Clarity
In his latest taped promo, Wyatt described the ephemeral nature of weight training. He said that no matter how strong his adversary makes himself, it all amounts to nothing in the end. Wyatt’s preoccupation with good and evil makes fitness a strange target. Given the list of possible opponents, the speech certainly made it seem like Wyatt is pointing in the direction of Ryback, particularly since Ryback entered for his match immediately after this promo concluded.
Ryback def. Adam Rose
The Rosebuds did not factor in this decision, as Ryback quickly hit a Meathook and Shell-Shocked on Rose to get the pin. A hotdog and a banana tried to attack Ryback after the match (or possibly men in hotdog and banana costumes- it was difficult to discern), and received Meathooks and one giant Shell-Shocked to bookend his dominance.
Fandango def. Curtis Axel
Axel danced with Fandango before the opening bell. Unfortunately for him, it was the high point of his night, as Fandango quickly hit a sit-out suplex and a leg drop for a quick victory. The only point of the match was to allow fans to dance with Fandango, so it was a complete waste when they accidentally his heel flamenco theme at the end.