-So the Curb Stomp is banned. If that's true, I'll lay 3 to 1 odds WWE doesn't even ban it as part of an angle. All the talk about head injuries might render the move as persona-non-grata as Tout.
-Live from Albany
-On the call, Cole, Booker, and JBL
-Orton kicks things off with a promo inside the SYMBOLIC CAGE, which the announcers assure us that NOBODY WILL BE ABLE TO INTERFERE IN. Uh huh. Wait until Mercury and Noble climb the cage and BLOW EVERYONE'S FUCKING MIND. Orton vows to break Rollins' jaw. Oh man, nobody else in the Authority can cut a compelling promo. Oh, and Orton talks shit about the blonde streak in Rollins' hair. Well now, that's just over the line. Such follicle threats are enough to bring Rollins out, and the champ questions Orton's anger mismanagement. Then he gives the Cliff's Notes version of Orton's promo. Or any face promo these days, really. Rollins assures us he plays Human Chess better than anyone. Larry Zbyszko's gonna embed his HOF ring into Rollins' eye, methinks. Slowly-delivered lines continue until Orton breaks up the monotony by threatening to RKO, "every son-of-a-bitch I see", vowing to get Rollins tonight. I guess that counts as intrigue, so yay?
Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper
Harper gets some rare promo time before the match. Maybe he has family from Rochester in for the show. Ambrose goes all frenzied early, but walks into a savate kick that sounded brutal. Ambrose sends Harper to the outside and follows with a suicide dive. The table is cleared, but Harper launches Ambrose into the crowd where the fight goes long past a reasonable ten count. But hey, they'll DQ Cesaro for Kidd grabbing Orton's foot. Cole actually informs us that there IS a double countout, but the bell never rang, around the 2:13 mark. Harper tries to powerbomb Ambrose off the stage, but it's blocked. In the end, Ambrose merely gets thrown off, safely barrel rolling through. I smell a rematch at Extreme Rules. As they're exchanging kendo stick shots, we can be thankful that the Curb Stomp as banned.
-The Prime Time Players mess with Seth Rollins, who in turn threatens a stagehand. Then he bumps into Triple H, and brings up the subject of Kane. Triple H says he's gotten voicemails from Kane. Kane leaves voicemails? That seems....wrong. Imagine The Devil's Favorite Demon facetiming.
Lucha Dragons vs. The New Day
This is to determine who faces Kidd and Cesaro at Extreme Rules. JBL: "Is it me or is Big E a bit off rhythm?" Cole: "I think it's just you....but I agree." This fucking guy. Big E overpowers Kalisto, but is kicked in the face on a side slam hold and takes a headscissors. Sin Cara drops Big E with a cross body for 2. Sin Cara (called Kalisto) catches Kofi with a beautiful springboard armdrag. Kofi has a tornado DDT countered into a Northern Lights suplex for 2. Sin Cara flies outside and Kofi baseball slides him while Woods provides a distraction. Sin Cara plays luchador-en-peril as Kofi gets a corner dropkick for 2. Big E prevents a hot tag and runs through Sin Cara with a hard clothesline. We actually get a commercial for a tag team match. #GiveTagTeamsAChance works! Back to action and Kofi drops Sin Cara with a dropkick, then follows with some mounted strikes. Big E starts a sarcastic clap not unlike the old 1990s SNL bit, and Sin Cara manages to roll over him, tagging Kalisto and delighting the crowd. Kalisto drops Kofi with the springboard twirl, and gets Big E with a handspring pele kick. Dueling moonsaults to the floor take out New Day and the crowd's hanging on all of it. Kofi crawls in on eight, but Woods (now under the ring) hooks Sin Cara's legs to prevent re-entry and it's a count-out at 9:30. Good match before the clever but cheap ending. **1/2 Orton hits the ring and RKOs Woods and Kofi, because he thinks count-out wins are STUPID. STUPID. Still, two count-outs to start the show?
-Cena has yet another US Title open challenge tonight. Boy, I hope he wins, otherwise the match on Sunday with Rusev means nothing. Fingers crossed.
Fandango vs. Curtis Axel
Hey, half the Albany crowd is Fandango'ing. Axel dances, and adds the Rick Rude hip swivel for good measure. It's a Minnesota thing. Axel attacks and gets a next dropkick before tearing the t-shirt. Fandango rolls him up for 2. We almost had a distraction finish involving CLOTHING. Falcon Arrow from Fandango leads to the flying legdrop for the win at 1:17. The winning song starts out as the flamenco version before switching to the cha-cha rendition. Weird.
-Triple H is here to shill Tough Enough. I don't think he'll mention that the last time the show was on, the only person to receive more than two years employment was the one eliminated first. He explains that they intend to find the next Seth Rollins on Tough Enough. Or the next Andy Leavine, either or. Triple H puts over the show like it doesn't have a bad track record "Who hasn't dreamed of playing Jamie Noble's redneck girlfriend that he eventually chokes out?!?" "Who hasn't dreamed of walking out at the end of your contract and wrestling on the El Rey Network?!?" "Who hasn't dreamed of marrying Charlie Haas?!?" Well, let's be fair, who hasn't? Alright, enough fun, here comes Kane. That holds two meanings. Crowd turns on the segment almost immediately and begins chanting for someone named Boring. My friend Carl Boring? He'd be a great Tough Enough entrant. Kane gets the pop of the night for giving his two weeks notice. This brings Rollins out to argue against HHH trying to keep Kane on board. Kane gets high strung and an inspired argument follows. HHH assigns Kane to be the 'guardian' of the cage match, thus explaining how Rollins retains. It's official: Kane vs. Orton at Payback. Kind of funny when Kane got hysterical and declared they could've made El Torito champion, but it really paints Sunday by the numbers.
-HHH fills his wife's role of emasculating the wrestlers and books an ungrateful Rollins against Dolph Ziggler. Sounds good to me.
Naomi vs. Brie Bella
You know Naomi's no longer a face because she's not smiling. WWE's taking AJ's sudden retirement out on the fans by booking the Bellas as faces. Well that's just cruel. Cole sucks up to Nikki on commentary, which I guess counts as a face turn in 2015. Naomi punks out Brie, but misses a corner charge, then comes back with a head kick. Nikki: "I never back down from a challenge and that makes me a fearless champion." That statement can cause splinters. Naomi ends Brie's short comeback and short elbows are exchanged. Brie is kicked to the floor after a very awkward sequence. And we're headed to commercial! Naomi works a headlock when we return and the crowd is just comatose. Naomi's offense slows down with a chinlock. She really has no idea how to work heel. She gets some sad mounted punches on Brie. ANOTHER chinlock and you can hear fans getting restless. Double clothesline drops both, which is what we needed. Brie makes the comeback, though the Brie Mode knee is booed. Guess the crowd didn't get the memo on the face turn. Missile dropkick gets 2. Bulldog into the turnbuckle by Naomi hits, but a crossbody misses and Brie gets 2. Rear View mercifully finishes at 9:09. Man, that was a disaster. -** Probably the worst Raw match in some time.
-Heath Slater informs Erick Rowan that he's taking John Cena's United States challenge. Until Orton RKO's him through the dining table. That's what the last match needed: RKO's for everyone.
-Roman Reigns is here, and he gets a ton of silence. To be fair, the crowd may have been rendered catatonic by that last match. Cole: "Big Show wants to make Reigns the most epic failure in WWE history!" There has to be a black football involved. Reigns wants to fight, but gets Bo Dallas instead. Know what's amazing? Bo's technically had more 'World Titles' than Reigns. Bo: "You are Outback Jack in Kevlar!" Ouch. Reigns, like a bully, waits until Bo turns around before Superman punching him. Crowd doesn't like that, and they like the spear even less. Co-opting "Bo-LIEVE" for his own use draws some mild cheers, though. And it's Last Man Standing on Sunday between Reigns and Show. That's what we need, a match with Big Show and multiple nine-counts. As a rib, that should open.
Sheamus vs. Zack Ryder
Hey, they found Zack! Sheamus Brogue Kicks Ryder immediately and taunts him over the mic. Ahh, the match must continue. "I think Ryder deserves more than a five second match!" You and everyone in 2011 but Vince. And Sheamus beats on Ryder some more, just for fun. Nasty over-the-top bump by Ryder. Brogue Kick hits outside the ring, and Sheamus attempts one more inside, only to be cut off by Ziggler, who hits the Zig Zag for the DQ at 3:33. Barely a match, and the decaying crowd only half-cared when Sheamus insulted New York. Cole: "I forgot a match was even going on." And it wasn't even a Divas match this time. Honest question: if Ziggler loses Sunday, will he do a double-somersault bump off of Sheamus' butt?
-Jericho is Softball will interview Stephanie next Thursday. I wonder how many pages his script is going to be?
WWE United States Championship: John Cena vs. Kane
Cena hard-sells the Rusev match before hand, and it's better than the usual fare. Let's see if Cena can get a good match out of Kane. Body shots rock Cena early, along with some throat thrusts. To the floor where Kane drops Cena across the rail. Well, Kane killing Cena is only right if it follows Zack Ryder getting mauled, right? Side slam on Cena gets 2. Rollins should run in and Curb Stomp Cena so Kane can win. Then Kane, belt in hand, fires Rollins for using an illegal move. Kane continues dominating, different from the prior Cena challenges. Snap suplex from Kane gets 2. Match begins to slow to a crawl as I anticipate a lengthy one here. Hoo boy. Short-arm shoulder blocks get 2. Cena's comeback is cut off with a throat thrust. Kane hits one cross-corner charge but misses a second and runs into the spin-out powerbomb. You can't see--oops, Cena gets goozled and chokeslammed for 2. Man, crowd really wanted Kane to have that one. Kane tries the Tombstone, but instead succumbs to one AA at 6:21. Okay, not that lengthy. Fine for what it was, but slow early, and the ending wasn't in doubt. The nadir for the match series. *1/4
-Wow, Rock n Wrestling on WWE Network! That holds a special place in my heart. Kane's too; the show debuted on his 35th birthday.
-Renee interviews Miz, as I remain astounded that they're blowing the feud off in the third hour of a go-home PPV show. Renee throws it to the Saxtomatic 2000, who interviews Cena. That's kinda weird. I guess Cena had the two quarters needed to operate Saxton. Rusev attacks and chains his face. Nifty.
The Miz vs. Damien Sandow
Winner gets the rights to the "Miz brand". That should include the fedora collection. Sandow gets a roll-up for 2 before Miz takes over with a headlock. Sandow with a backslide for 2. Miz with an inside cradle for 2. Crowd's way too dead for a 'blowoff' match. JBL asks Booker if he knows what it's like to fight for the letter T. Actually, he does! Sandow with a neckbreaker and the Miz-style stump DDT for 2. Miz blocks the Finale and rolls through with a front cradle for 2. Miz tries the Finale but Sandow darts to the ropes, only to be eye-raked by Summer Rae. Finale finishes at 2:46. And thus Miz gets to still be Miz. He tries to hit the old catchphrase, only to be RKOed by Orton promptly. If JBL's gonna reference the Booker T/Big T feud, maybe this is an "Random Kanyon Kutters" homage?
-More Bray Wyatt randomness. I'm gonna leave this wonderful Botched Spot comic by James Hornsby here
Ryback vs. Adam Rose
Don't see this one going long. Rose does manage a second-rope dropkick. Sleeper is countered into the backpack stunner. Meat Hook and Shell Shock finish at 1:29. Couple of Rose Buds attack, dressed as a banana and a hot dog. JBL: "That fruit has a family!" Uh, yeah. I will say that Ryback vigorously beating a wiener in front of the cameras is as good an Attitude Era revival as anything.
-Rollins gives Kane the clearly-insincere apology. Orton isn't far off.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins
Fans are barely awake for Dolph, not a good sign. Rollins goes on the offensive early, and the crowd comes around to chant for Ziggler. Dolph turns the tide and hammers away before hitting a neckbreaker and an elbow drop for 2. To the floor where Ziggler takes over, but Rollins regains the advantage with a kick after they re-enter. Ziggler does twist the arm and gets a suplex for 2. Rollins catches the feet on the dropkick and slingshots Ziggler into the post as we take a break. Rollins works a chinlock on return. Rollins attacks slowly, as apparently the lack of energy is contagious. Back suplex gets 2 as JBL lists off ex WWE champions in a Ben Stein monotone. Ziggler breaks a second chinlock with a jawbreaker, and Rollins misses a corner charge. Ziggler avoids another back suplex and comes back with some clotheslines, and a convoluted sequence ends with Ziggler getting the leaping DDT for 2. Rollins hooks a roll-up for 2, and immediately hits a non-concussion-causing enzuigiri for 2. Ziggler gets a nice counter to the powerbomb with a sunset flip for 2, and even lands a nice superkick for 2. Woke the crowd up at least. Sheamus runs out for the distraction, and Rollins hits the corner powerbomb, followed by an underhook layout DDT (didn't look half bad) for the win at 11:32. Very slow start, but quality action down the stretch. **3/4 Rollins taunts Orton afterward, and Triple H enters to no reaction. Seems to be a theme. Triple H merely declares that Rollins will win Sunday, and Rollins disrupts to reiterate the same points. I sense an eventual Triple H face turn, which we've all been clamoring for. Rollins slags Kane, and that brings Kane out as the show drags and drags on. Triple H and the security geeks heads Kane off as the cage lowers for some reason around Rollins. Can ya see where this is going? Orton slides in before the cage finishes its descent and lands the RKO. Well, he's clearly winning Sunday now, right?
OVERALL: Horrid show that really went off the rails after the Naomi-Brie debacle and hardly recovered. As far as go home shows, it's more of a 'go home and get some sleep' show, amirite?
Jesus, I'm so tired, I can't even make a GOOD joke. And I have a podcast to record! Have mercy.