-Going to be recording the maiden episode of the 'CageCast' after Raw with Jim Williams, so I've got a full night ahead. We'll see if Raw with a standard crowd lulls me any. Count my yawns during the podcast.
-Live from Austin, TX, which Vince would rather you call Jericho, TX
-On the call, Booker, JBL, and Byron "Put in Quarter and Press Start to Operate" Saxton is here.
-The Authority gets a jobber entrance for reasons that escape me. Show's really getting mileage out of posing next to the trophy, isn't he? Rollins informs us that Triple H and Stephanie are on vacation, which would ordinarily mean "wacky GM week". Oh, and the Authority always wins. Duh, that's the tagline of Raw. Rollins giving Kane the participation trophy of compliments is pretty funny. And I think Lilian was tearing up her script on the pan-in to the Andre trophy. WORKED SHOOT COMING. Kane barely gets 10 words of his pity speech out before Orton enters, and he's here to promote the greatest RKO ever, until he catches Shawn on the WrestleMania 12 zipline and hits it. Orton's here to issue the logical challenge to Rollins. Beats the hell out of Bryan defending against evil Kane at last year's Extreme Rules. Speaking of Kane, Orton appeals to him passive-aggressively for the match, which causes him to get his Hagar slacks in a bunch. Kane instead books a number one contender's match between Reigns, Ryback, and Orton. I'm getting flashbacks to Orton getting cheered over two other babyfaces, Cena and HHH, at WrestleMania 24. Oh, and all three men have to compete in singles action prior to the triple threat. Orton's opponent is Kane, which is a fresh match-up by this month's standards.
Randy Orton vs. Kane
Kane gets booted on a corner charge and Orton hammers away, but is uppercutted to the floor. Booker has to call the move while Saxton gets stuck on a point headed into commercial. Oh boy. We return to Kane holding a cravate, so we probably missed the Shooting Kane Press. Figures. Kane slugs Orton down for 2 as Booker informs us that this is a main event anywhere in the world. Booker may have to duck a lightning bolt from Heaven's Gorilla position. Suplex from Kane gets 2. Orton avoids the chokeslam and comes back with the snap powerslam. Dropkick sends Kane to the outside. Draping DDT hits as Booker and JBL absolutely carry this broadcast. Kane slides out to avoid the RKO but runs straight into a clothesline. Kane chairs him in the ribs to end this epic with a DQ at 6:45. The commercial was hardly necessary. DUD. Orton avoids a chokeslam on the chair, and Kane avoids the RKO. We're protecting Kane, really?
-Ryback takes on Luke Harper, while Roman Reigns gets Big Show. The Ryback match looks the best. That's where we're at.
-The announcers actually acknowledge AJ's retirement. Just a brief mention and show of her final tweet.
-BRAD MADDOX is actually here. Someone paid the ransom. He's merely scenery while Rollins and Kane bicker. So which secondary PPV is Kane getting a title shot at? Money in the Bank? Battleground? Can't wait. Rollins gets to play 12-year-old Richie Rich brat while Kane sticks him in a match. Remember last year when it was apparent by the post-Mania booking that Bryan wasn't designed to win the title? Getting that feeling again.
-Cole's injury changes to 'bulging disc'. Unless a cervical fracture can heal in a week. I'm hearing "it's a miracle!" in Heenan's voice.
Non Title: Seth Rollins vs. Neville
Okay, this could fucking rule. Big 'NXT' chant. Neville stonewalls Rollins' attempt at a psych-out chat, and gets a solebutt to Rollins' gut in response. Match finally begins and Neville gets an armdrag and an O'Connor Roll for 2. JBL calls Neville "Da Wunderkind", which means he could beat Triple H in a bad match. Rollins kicks Neville down in the corner and the crowd rallies hard for Neville. Flipping escapes leads to a hands-free twisting rana and a corkscrew senton as we hit commercial. Rollins gets a reverse STO into the buckle for 2 when we come back. Booker informs us that Rollins is not Curtis Axel. Yeah, Rollins didn't help Rock get back into ring shape. Rollins slow the match down with a chinlock and the fans are certainly invested in Neville. Maybe Brandon Stroud's cheerleading down there? Rollins avoids another O'Connor Roll and gets an enzuigiri for 2. Rollins busts out the Val Venis Irish Whip-knees, but Neville rolls up Rollins after reversing one for 2. Rollins works another chinlock and Neville fights out relatively quickly. Chin-crusher follows, and Neville follows up with forearm smashes, but Rollins turns him inside out with a lariat for 2. Rollins smacks Neville around, but counters the corner-throw powerbomb with a rana into the buckles. Kick to the face leads to Neville going up top, but Mercury distracts the ref and Neville kicks Noble off of his leg. Neville with a front cradle for 2. Rollins counters a rana into the corner bomb, and finishes with the Curb Stomp at 11:38. Slow middle but good beginning and ending. **1/2. Would love to see another outing between them. Rollins hits a second Curb Stomp afterward, because he's a dick. Keep establishing that.
United States Title Open Challenge: John Cena vs. Stardust
In theory, what would happen if Cena's opponent busted him up so bad that he couldn't do Jericho's podcast? KAYFABE, man! Feels weird that Booker implies that the US Title lost credibility. I mean, he's RIGHT, but still. Stardust skins the cat after a toss outside and and Cena drops elbows after taking him down. Shoulderblock drops Stardust. Delayed suplex gets 2 while Cena makes weird googly-eyed faces. Cena's taking most of the offense in the early stretch and works a chinlock for quite some time before dropping Stardust with an elbow when he escapes. Booker compares Cena to Rulon Gardner beating Alexander Karelin at the 2000 Olympics. Karelin didn't enter on a fucking tank, Book. Back from break and Cena's still in control. Stardust busts free from the AA and gets the Disaster Kick for 2. Stardust gets Diamond Dust for 2 as I wait for the Roaring Elbow. Stardust attempts a springboard rana, but gets powerbombed for 2. Stardust escapes another AA and gets the Alabama Slam for 2, with JBL acknowledging the story of Cody lifting the move from Bob Holly. Cross Rhodes blocked and Cena gets a nice-looking sitout powerslam for 2. Stardust gets a sunset pin for 2, and Cena spin-out bombs him to precede the Shuffle, but gets kicked. DDT gets 2. Replay shows the DDT looked particularly nasty, too. Moonsault press gets 2 on Cena. Cena manages to take Stardust down and applies the STF. Cross Rhodes gets a close 2. Rhodes misses a charge, takes the springboard stunner that Cena busted out at Mania, and AA finishes at 13:07. Really odd start, but the match became a fun sequence of near falls toward the end, not that the finish was in doubt. *** I do like that the opponents of Cena are getting a chance to show different sides of themselves.
Bella Twins vs. Paige/Naomi
Brie and Paige start out. as I note the pentagram-strap design on Paige's shirt. Maybe she's the third Acolyte? Paige gets a series of repeat short-arm clotheslines, but a Nikki distraction sends Paige outside. Booker admits its hard to tell the Bellas apart. That's taking playing dumb to a whole new level. Running knee gets 2 for Brie, and she works a reverse chinlock. Nikki gets the tag and the Twins hit a double slingshot suplex for 2 as JBL plugs the London show next week. I sense a lot of fun crowd editing. JBL shares an interesting anecdote about Paige beating her own mother for her first title, and Byron asks if it was in WWE. This is why JBL drinks. Naomi gets the tag and does the old Kelly Kelly spinning headscissors, albeit more, uh, anchored. Rear View hits Nikki, but Brie breaks the pin. Miscue sees Brie take Nikki down, and Naomi gets an awkward version of her headscissor DDT to win at 4:59. Decent fare. *1/2
-Prime Time Players rip on New Day while wearing SWANK Prime Time Players shirt s that parody the old Prime Time Wrestling logo. Then they mock the Ascenscion. "EVERYBODY KNOWS DA ASCENSION CAN'T READ". Funny stuff, actually.
Luke Harper vs. Ryback
Gotta say, they're cutting back on the bullshit tonight. The announcers act as though Harper killing Ambrose on Thursday was in part due to Ambrose taking the ladder bump at WrestleMania, but he worked a 15 minute match with Cena last Monday. People not watching their own shows and all that. Exchange of strikes ends with a Harper running dropkick, followed by strikes and uppercuts, until Ryback responds with a press slam. Meat Hook is countered with a devasting savate kick from Harper. Fight spills outside and Harper menaces the announcers randomly. Back inside, Harper gets a swinging sidewalk slam for 2, and applies a modified crossface before switching to the gator roll. Ryback powers out with a full body toss, Harper misses a corner charge, and Ryback finishes with the Shell Shock at 2:46. Huh, that's it? I was spoiled by the lengthy matches tonight. Fine for what it was. *
-Renee interviews the New Day, who promise to dance and clap more. Big E's impression of a kid asking for an autograph is chuckleworthy, and the clapping turns SARCASTIC. This has potential for an awesome heel turn, actually. Turn a negative into a positive.
The New Day vs. Lucha Dragons
Kofi is discouraged by the crowd's negativity. Sin Cara's Lu-cha chants fare better, and Big E flattens him with a charge. Quick tags between he and Woods annoy the crowd, probably by design. Woods finishes with a basement dropkick, as K-Swiss looks on. Sin Cara escapes the corner and dazzles with a springboard tornado attack and a low headscissors gets 2 on Woods. Kofi nails Kalisto and Woods gets 2. At first, he feigns disgust but then approves. Kalisto lays out Big E and Kofi, and Sin Cara finishes Woods with the swanton at 3:01. Fast paced and it gives time to the midcard. Certainly felt fresh in its abbreviation. *
Roman Reigns vs. Big Show
Decent enough reaction for Reigns, probably 65% cheers. Duke vs. Wisconsin's tight as I write this, so we'll see what sort of audience influence he has, especially after a handful of midcard bouts. Reigns takes the fight to Show early and we get a spirited slugfest. Show drops him with a shoulder block, and again with a scoop slam. Choke toss (er, lapel toss) sends Reigns across the ring and Show steps over his chest. This may actually be a good crowd to see if Reigns can build sympathy with. Sure enough, he gets some Roman chants and claps. Maybe they're sarcastic ones like New Day got? Show launches Reigns over the top rope with ease. Outside, Reigns sends Show into the post and gets the apron-jump dropkick, but Show spears him on the floor. Reigns is still selling after break and the crowd sympathy's dissipated. Show with a back suplex. Reigns counters a corner charge, but runs into a side suplex. Show gets the pump splash, but only gets 2. Show then alarms me with a baseball slide. I admit it, I do like when Show does things I'm not expecting. Reigns seems to like having his hair pulled, but that weird spot ends with a Reigns comeback and trio of Superman punches. Show blocks the fourth, but succumbs to the spear at 10:40. Match was pretty slow, but the crowd liked Roman, so huzzah, *1/4. Of course, now WWE's going to entrust Show to get heat on any babyface after this, so brace yourselves for more giant.
-A bunch of random Divas suck up to Kane, and they want a battle royal to determine the number one contender, and he acquiesces. Their shrillness unnerves him, as Kane usually isn't into women that lively. Or even lively.
-Renee catches up with Roman, who keeps it simple. They're learning.
Sheamus appears, looking like a Satanic Cheep-Cheep. I have to admit, I'm pulling for him to succeed as a heel, because if pulls through as a monster heel, then Kane and Show can be put out to pasture. Anyway, he cuts a decent promo about hurting 'little fellas' before Mark Henry interrupts.
Sheamus vs. Mark Henry
This was a decent SummerSlam match once. Sheamus declares Henry beneath him and tries to walk, but gets tossed back into the ring. Henry hammers him down, but Sheamus powers up and gets a top wristlock, but Henry muscles him over the top rope. Sheamus rips the table apart in a rage and strikes Henry when he follows out. Ten Beats of the Bodhran counters, but Sheamus takes Henry down anyway and screams "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!" in Homestar Runner's voice. Sheamus escapes the Slam and finishes with the Brogue Kick at 2:34. This was fine. *
-Let's relive Ronda Rousey making WrestleMania hers.
-Bray Wyatt kills a minute with a pretape about fear.
-Renee interviews Ryback, who makes a lot of big jokes in a simple promo.
Damien Mizdow vs. The Miz
I hope we're not relegating the blowoff match to 10:38 PM EST on a fading Raw. Sunglasses removal kills time, with Mizdow knocking Miz off the apron, then taking the fight to him while wearing his shades. That's how Mr. Hughes would do it. Then he removes them, sadly not getting the pop he'd ordinarily get. Well, it is late. Miz hammers Mizdow on the mat, and then chokes him on the ropes. Mizdow comes back with elbows to the head, a snap suplex, and then a leaping kneedrop. Miz suckers Mizdow into chasing him and takes over with stomps. There has to be something at Extreme Rules, because this feels underwhelming. Mizdow gets an electric chair drop, then drops Miz with a headbutt. Neckbreaker drops Miz, but the Finale is blocked. Mizdow catches Miz's foot, takes him down, and hammers with lefts (nod to Miz being a left, but gets rolled up and pinned by the tights at 4:57. Yeah, they're saving the blowoff, good. Match was kinda dry. *1/4
-Renee gets more airtime interviewing Orton. I think they're subtly giving her more face time because they've lost faith in Saxton. I approve.
Number One Contender's Match: Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton vs. Ryback
No wank pheasant sign this week. No lengthy entrances either, as timing issues continue to plague the shows. Reigns attacks Orton to start, and Ryback tries a Shell Shock, but Orton saves and gets back-guillotine neckbreaker. Ryback with some quick covers, but Reigns lays him out with a leaping clothesline for 2, saved by Orton. The Authority makes their way out to the stage, which I'm sure doesn't indicate any sort of screwjob finish. Ryback wants the Meat Hook, but Orton clotheslines both he and Reigns down. Snap powerslam on Ryback and Reigns alike. Reigns prevents Orton from getting the draping DDT on Ryback. Reigns with a corner clothesline sequence on Ryback, but is rolled up by Orton for 2. Superman punch on Orton, and Ryback drops Reigns with a spinebuster. Meat Hook lays out Reigns and Ryback blocks the RKO. Spear on Ryback prevents the Shell Shock, and all three men are out. The Authority makes their way down the aisle, and Reigns does the suicide dive onto them. Show WMDs Reigns in the aisleway, which probably means Reigns vs, Show at Extreme Rules. But Show lost clean tonight! Ryback kills J&J Security, and Orton stuns him with an RKO for the pin at 5:13. Short but spirited. ** Rollins Curb Stomps Orton afterward to drive home the angle. If they can find a way to have Orton RKO Rollins out of the Phoenix splash, and still have Rollins retain, it gets my endorsement.
OVERALL: Slow show with too many matches (that's a legit criticism) and overkill with the triple threat participants, but I'll give credit for the midcarders getting time to show their stuff. At least it felt like a different show, which is fine.