The last Raw before SummerSlam is upon us this evening. John Cena and Brock Lesnar are both slated to be in the building tonight in Portland, OR. These are combustible elements - what will happen between these two men? Also, the rest of the SummerSlam stories reach their crescendo on this Monday as we get ready to head to Los Angeles for the biggest party of the summer. Hulk Hogan is also slated to make an appearance to celebrate his birthday too!
Show Open, Live from the Moda Center in Portland, OR
Cold open, and they show the stage outlined with red and yellow gifts. They hype up Hulk Hogan's birthday, and King teases there's a huge list of celebrities that want to appear tonight.
That doesn't last long as Brock Lesnar's music hits. He's got a new shirt that says "eat, sleep, conquer John Cena" kind of taped over "repeat." Cole and JBL hype up the Cena/Lesnar matchup for SummerSlam as he makes his way to the ring.
Heyman smiles as Portland boos, then he introduces himself. "In six days, I will be the advocate for the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Brock Lesnar!" He says his client has asked him to sell SummerSlam to the Cenation. He wants to address Cena's fans. "Bad things happen to good people when you step into the ring with Brock Lesnar." Heyman says those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, then feeds it to still shots of Lesnar defeating Undertaker, taking the Streak away. Narrating over the still shots of shock from the fans, saying that if they knew what would happen to Undertaker, they wouldn't miss Wrestlemania.
Heyman goes on, talking about Lesnar's victories over The Rock and Hulk Hogan. "If Hulk Hogan were going to come back against Lesnar, there wouldn't be a birthday celebration tonight." Heyman then turns to address Cena, telling his fans to not miss SummerSlam. When Cena says "you can't see me," he isn't lying. They won't be seeing Cena after SummerSlam after Lesnar gets his hands on him.
Heyman says Lesnar has gotten hands on Cena before. He points to still shots of Extreme Rules 2012 and narrates. He says that even though Cena won the match, Cena lost the fight. Heyman says Lesnar was still fighting divirticulitis, and Lesnar was at best 50 percent and Cena still took a horrible beating. Heyman says that Lesnar is now 100 percent and the beating Cena will take is that of a Shakespearean tragedy.
Heyman points out that Cena is a 15-time champion. Heyman offers his own version of battle rap to Cena. "In six days away in the West Coast's biggest arena, my client Brock Lesnar will conquer John Cena." Heyman lays the mic down, then they exchange words. Heyman gets back on the mic and says that this is Brock's house now. He says that the man of the house is going out to dinner. He understands that there's a birthday party for Hulk Hogan and Cena has something to say, but don't let it get out of hand. He says that after Lesnar eats, he will be coming back home.
Great mic work from Heyman. No one else in the WWE is on his level right now. Lesnar did a lot to look intimidating and that's all he had to do. I am figuring that the LA crowd will be pro-Lesnar, so you almost wish that he would be able to talk to fans during the match. He had even the most hardcore of Cena haters booing him.
Lesnar poses and does his war dance as the announcers hype up Cena's response to Lesnar and Hulk Hogan's birthday party. They also do a pretty heavy shill for WWE Network and $9.99
They show Flo Rida and Weird Al wishing Hogan birthday wishes. Backstage, Roman Reigns is wrapping up, and he has a match up next against a hand-picked opponent chosen by the Authority.
Match #1 - Roman Reigns vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel
Roman Reigns makes his way through the crowd. Kane's music hits, and out comes Corporate Kane again. Yay. He says he is back as Director of Operations. He says that his win last week over Kane was almost like beating two men. He says that the Authority would like to see how he does actually facing two men. Out comes Rybaxel with their awful red matching hats.
Some gesturing and jawjacking early on. Rybaxel will tag in and out for this. Axel and Reigns taunt each other at first. Ryback tags in, and Reigns gets some offense in before the heel duo takes over going in to break.
Back live, Ryback is in control but Reigns begins to fight back with a series of strikes. He drives Ryback out of the ring and goes out after him, but the numbers get the better of Reigns. Ryback runs him into the post, then Axel takes a turn. Then they team up, and the referee throws it out.
Afterward, Axel hits Reigns with a drop kick then Ryback splashes him. Rybaxel taunts, which allows Reigns to recover. He hits Axel with a Samoan drop, clotheslines Ryback over the top, then hits Axel with his apron kick. He runs Ryback into the post and feeds him back in. He calls for the Superman punch and hits it on Ryback, then Axel. Fans call for the spear and Reigns delivers a pair to Rybaxel.
As Reigns poses, the announcers run through the highlights and recap the end of the match for us. Renee Young interviews him afterward, asking how he feels about going one on one with Orton on Sunday. The fans chant for him before he responds. He says "I don't know Portland, does it look like I'm ready." He admits that Orton got him two weeks ago. He says Orton has accused him of stealing from him, but on Sunday he will take everything from him. He asks what a viper is when you knock its teeth down its throat. "A worthless little worm. Believe that!"
I didn't get the point of the DQ finish seeing that Rybaxel loses so often. The fans reacted to the post-match beating Reigns dished out. Axel bumped all over the place for Reigns, making him look really good. I could have dealt without the "Believe that!" line, but Reigns' promo post-match was pretty sound and we got to see some personality from him.
Backstage, Kane is confronted by Randy Orton. "So, Roman Reigns is not afraid of the Viper?" Orton points out that Rybaxel and Kane didn't get the job done. He says he will get the job done at SummerSlam. Kane says that the Authority wants to be sure he's ready for his match, so Orton will face Sheamus later tonight. Orton laughs, and Kane says it's what's best for business.
The announcers hype up Stephanie McMahon making some sort of confession and an interview segment with Chris Jericho and Bray Wyatt that he calls "eerie."
Match #2 - Rob Van Dam vs. Seth Rollins
RVD gets his entrance before the break. Cole reminds us that Rollins and RVD were to face off last week, but didn't. Back from the break, we get a recap of last week's match between Rollins and Heath Slater. Rollins has made his way to the ring during the break, and the announcers remind us that Ambrose picked a lumberjack stipulation.
Rollins starts off quick against RVD, but RVD comes back with a leg lariat in the corner and a standing moonsault. RVD takes a kick to the leg and that allows Rollins takes over for a two count. He controls RVD on the mat with a headlock. RVD comes back with a crucifix leg scissor pin then comes off with a thrust kick. RVD teases the split-leg moonsault but Rollins rolls away.
Outside, RVD hangs Rollins up on the barrier then tries his spinning leg drop, but Rollins gets away and RVD crashes. Back live Rollins controls the action until he takes a boot to the head. RVD mounts a charge, hitting a slam and going into Rolling Thunder for two. In the end, Rollins comes back with the Curb Stomp to get the win.
Afterward, Rollins cradles his briefcase and exits. He gets to the stage and eyes up the presents. He smiles and walks away, but here comes Ambrose out of the biggest present. Ambrose attacks Rollins and the fight goes down to the ring, with Rollins escaping through the crowd. Ambrose gets a mic and tells Rollins to run, because in six days he won't be able to. He says we can see it all for $9.99 and he will get his money's worth.
Ambrose should not be delivering that $9.99 pitch. He's a crazed lone wolf type and there's so many other guys who can do that. I was fine with the rest of this though. The match was good, and Ambrose busting from the package was fun.
They show Stephanie making her way through the backstage area. She's up next to make a confession to Brie Bella. The announcers shill "Slam City" and send it to a video package going out to break.
Hey, look, Stephanie isn't in the closing segment. Stephanie makes her way to the ring as Cole feeds it to a recap of last week's contract signing segment.
She says that as an owner of WWE it is her charge to do what's best for business for everyone. She says they regularly get information that might affect the well-being of WWE superstars, and sometimes they need to intervene. She recalls Daniel Bryan's surgery, and says that he is aggressively rehabbing to get back into action. She introduces Megan Miller, who is Daniel Bryan's therapist, with a photo on the Tron. She then asks Megan to join her in the ring.
She says that Megan has a confession, and prods her to talk. Megan talks about how her and her boyfriend have had dinner with Daniel and Brie, and how hard he's working to get back into the ring for the fans. Stephanie continues to prod her to talk, and she says that her boyfriend left her and she can't be his therapist anymore. After some prodding, Megan admits to having an affair with Daniel Bryan. Stephanie consoles her.
Here comes Brie, and she's not happy. She confronts Megan first as Stephanie continues to insult. She tells Megan to tell her about the affair and says that Bryan called Brie "a dead fish" in bed. Stephanie says that Megan ended every therapy session with "Yes!" chants. That gets Megan slapped and Stephanie taken down double leg style. Brie unloads on her, then locks Stephanie in a sloppy rendition of the Yes Lock. Agents run out for the breakup.
Stephanie grabs a mic and says "we're not going to wait til Sunday, we're gonna finish this tonight."
This was just bad. The crowd didn't react much to it until they actually started brawling. I had visions of Claire Lynch, AJ and Dixie when this started. A really bad segment.
The announcers recap that god-awful segment coming out of break.
Match #3 - Jack Swagger (w/Zeb Colter) vs. Cesaro
No televised entrance for Cesaro. Is he on the bubble or something? They recap the goings on between Colter, Swagger and Lana and Rusev last week on Raw. Colter puts the flag on the base as the match gets going. Cesaro tries a double stomp but Swagger avoids it. The announcers point out the taped ribs on Swagger. Swagger catches Cesaro on a leapfrog and slams him.
Cesaro starts a comeback with a big suplex. He hits an uppercut then locks on an abdominal stretch. Swagger attempts a comeback but that gets stopped. Cesaro tries offense off the ropes but Swagger catches him and hits a belly to belly suplex. Cesaro comes back by draping Swagger over the ropes then sending him to the barrier at ringside. Colter tries to motivate Swagger as we go to break.
Cesaro is still in control coming out of break. Swagger begins to create separation, hitting a couple clotheslines and the Swagger Bomb for two. Cesaro tries a small package for two, but Swagger comes back with strikes. Cesaro uses a thrust strike for two, then a back splash off the ropes for two. Cesaro tries for his outside-in superplex but Swagger counters. Back in the ring, Cesaro uses his lift to hit a knee shot then comes back with an uppercut with Swagger seated for two.
Cesaro taunts then hits a double stomp, but Swagger picks the ankle for the Patriot Lock. Cesaro gets the ropes the first time, but he can't the second. Swagger gets the submission via the Patriot Lock.
Colter gets a mic afterward. He puts over Swagger, and says that "Lana, Olga, Helga, or whatever she's calling herself this week" and Rusev will remember Swagger waving the American flag after Sunday. He goes to deliver the "We the people" line but Rusev's music hits, and he and Lana come out to the stage. No words exchanged, but the four stare each other down and wave flags.
This was good. Swagger sold the ribs, and Cesaro worked his offense to the injured ribs. The post match angle wasn't anything special and pretty basic. I am really hoping that there's some plan for Cesaro after SummerSlam. There's been some talk that he is "on the bubble" if there are more talent cuts - and that'd be a shame.
The announcers hype up Brie Bella facing Stephanie McMahon tonight, Randy Orton facing Sheamus later, and up next it will be the one-on-one interview segment with Chris Jericho and Bray Wyatt.
We get a recap of the end of Jericho vs. Harper last week, with Wyatt interfering. They set up the interview between Jericho and Wyatt.
Michael Cole is in a room with Jericho and Wyatt and introduces the men, but Wyatt excuses him.
Wyatt asks Jericho if he remembers being a child. He asks if he can still see his father's disappointment and says Jericho sought out being a savior. He says he can't even save himself. "See, I know lots about you, Chris, and you don't know anything about me."
Wyatt says when he tried to dream he hears their screams in a recurring nightmare. He says he never claimed to be a savior because he isn't. Wyatt says he lives to help people who can't help themselves. Wyatt says the key to the universe is you have to hurt someone to help them. "I have hurt a lot of people, And for this I am not sorry." Wyatt says he hates everything the world ever created. "I am a monster, Chris." Wyatt tells Jericho that his smile will be the last thing Chris sees.
Jericho says he's not a savior, but a survivor. One of the reasons, is you never know what you'll get. He says he can't promise what Jericho Wyatt will see at SummerSlam. He promises that he will follow the buzzards, grab them, and shove them down his throat. He will be the first man to shut Wyatt up and leave him speechless.
This was good. A really good verbal exchange between two guys with great mic skills.
Match #4 - AJ vs. Eva Marie
AJ skips to the ring as the announcers hype that the WWE Network goes live in over 170 countries tomorrow. Sorry, UK, you'll have to wait til October. AJ perches on the ropes as we go to break. This gets started after the break. Not far into it, Paige's music hits and she comes skipping to the ring. Off the distraction, Eva Marie picks up the roll-up victory.
At the stage, Paige has a mic. She says she knew that when she pushed AJ off the stage she would be mad. She offers an apology in rhyme. "I'll see you this Sunday, but this part is vital...I'll be skipping my way out of SummerSlam with my Divas Title." AJ rolls her eyes in the ring, then attacks Eva Marie at ringside. She throws her into the barrier then smiles and skips away with her title in hand.
WWE is missing a chance to do something big with the ladies. The match was meaningless, and Paige's promo was flat. AJ beating Eva down at least makes it look like she's pissed off.
They recap Heyman's "rap" to open the show. They show Cena walking backstage, and he's going to respond next.
John Cena's music hits and he gets his mixed reaction. He's donned red and yellow to take his place as this generation's Hulk Hogan. The announcers hype up Cena vs. Lesnar on Sunday, saying Heyman is confident his guy can take Cena down.
He introduces himself, Heyman style. Six days from now he will be maimed and conquered by Brock Lesnar, that is if you believe the prognosticator of prognosticators, Paul Heyman. He says there will be pain and punishment and Lesnar will give him the beating of a lifetime. He says there is one thing Lesnar won't do and that's win. He reiterates that he won't win.
He says Lesnar will have to make him lose and he won't lay down for Lesnar. He says Lesnar does not deserve the title. He is not saying he is unbeatable and he will lose the title. He says it won't be this Sunday and it won't be to Lesnar. He calls Lesnar an arrogant bully that doesn't give a damn about anyone but himself. Behind the screen is not a social club and he gets that. He says Lesnar's idiotic view of the business doesn't deserve the title.
He says he has heard the cheers and boos, told he can't wrestle (which starts a "you can't wrestle" chant), heard "Let's Go Cena" and "Cena sucks" He says every week he comes out with a smile and a group keeps asking when Cena will turn, when is enough is enough, and when will he unleash hell. He says this Sunday those who ask will get their wish. He says in order to defeat a beast he must become one, and he will do that on Sunday to keep the title.
Cena turns to the people and says that earlier Heyman says that Lesnar owns them and this is his house. Cena plays to the fans and says that it's their house, not his. Cena turns up the ramp and calls out Lesnar, saying that someone is in his living room and he needs to come kick him out. Cena waits, and Lesnar doesn't respond. Cena says maybe he interrupted dinner, maybe Brock came down with divirticulitis, hepatitis, or a case of punkbitchitis.
He challenges Brock to come out. "I have way too many fingers, and I'm giving you the middle one." Cena closes saying that he won't repeat history, but he will make it. "This Sunday, I'm the one who beats the one. This Sunday, the Champ is here."
Cena's intensity was hot and on target. The attempt at a shoot was weak though. A really young fan would buy in on this, but the shoot element of the promo wasn't needed here.
As Cena exits, the announcers sell a feature on WWE Network, featuring profiles of both Cena and Lesnar. They then hype up Orton vs. Sheamus, then ask when Hogan is going to open his birthday presents. They then recap that God-awful segment with "Megan" admitting to an affair with Daniel Bryan, but Brie attacking Stephanie in return. Brie and Stephanie go at it next.
Match #5 - Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon
So, this is a continuation of the bullshit angle from earlier. Brie comes out to a polite reaction first, then Stephanie's music hits. She's still in street clothes. She says that Megan Miller has decided to press charges from the earlier slap, so Brie gets arrested. Stephanie adds her condescending words "oh, is this embarrassing? Are those cuffs too tight? Officers, please go easy on her, as her husband was cheating on her and she's fragile."
Stephanie says what goes around comes around, and if Brie makes bail, she'll see her at SummerSlam. JBL calls it brilliant.
MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is so far off track now. I guess I get not giving away the match itself on free television, but my God is this angle falling incredibly short now.
Cole sends it to a recap of that horrible segment yet again. JBL makes defense for Megan Miller as Cole and Lawler roll their eyes at him.
The Miz shows up and stands on the announce table. He will be at ringside for the next match.
Match #6 - Heath Slater vs. Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler is wearing Miz's old shirt and whips it at Miz as he cuts a promo about how he makes the Intercontinental Title more important. Slater and Ziggler lock up in the ring, with Slater getting the upper hand. Miz puts over how Ziggler and he were never friends. Thank God that JBL unplugged Miz's headset. Ziggler hits a nice drop kick then drops an elbow. Unfortunately, they plugged Miz back in.
Slater gets a quick roll up for two. Ziggler comes back again with an attempt at an elbow drop, but he misses. Slater lands a knee drop then controls Ziggler then hits a big kick for a two count. They're more interested in talking to The Miz, who is absolutely awful in this particular night. In the ring, Slater tries for a neckbreaker, but Ziggler counters. He hits the Zig Zag on Slater.
Miz jumps up on the apron and Ziggler meets him there with a forearm shot. They scrum outside the ring, and that results in Dolph getting counted out. Slater picks up the win. Ziggler heads back to the ring and offers Slater a handshake. Slater tries a kick, but Ziggler counters and hits him with the Zig Zag again.
This was all about advancing Miz vs. Ziggler and nothing more. Miz's Hollywood gimmick could get overbearing eventually. I think this will be a solid mid-card bout, not a show stealer though.
The announcers shill the Network going global tomorrow, with the UK getting their shot in October. They show Orton and Sheamus walking backstage, and they're up next.
Match #6 - Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
As Orton comes to the ring they hype Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton. Cole reminds us that this match was set up by "Corporate Kane" and asks if the problem still exists between Orton and Kane. JBL accuses of them of being conspiracy theorists and watching for black helicopters.
They lock up to a stalemate initially but Orton eventually gets the better of Sheamus for a few moments. Sheamus comes back with a clothesline but Orton regains control again. Sheamus comes back with a slam then drops the knee on Orton's shoulder. Orton rolls around the ring to get away from Sheamus, but takes a clothesline and Sheamus gets two.
Orton's in the ropes, so Sheamus tries to get the Ten Beats of the Battern. Orton elbows himself away as we go to break.
Back live, they show us how Orton got control of the match during the break with some brawling outside the ring. Sheamus sends Orton over the ropes, then Orton slams Sheamus on the announce position. He throws Sheamus back in and gets two, then locks on a headlock. Sheamus stands himself up and hits a side suplex then comes back with some double axe handles and a knee lift. A big suplex gets a two count.
Orton rolls out, and Sheamus gives chase. The two men brawl outside the ring, and when Sheamus re-enters he gets caught in position for the elevated DDT. Sheamus counters and lands the Ten Beats of the Battern, following with a Finlay Roll for two. Sheamus tries the Irish Curse but Orton counters and hits his sidewinder backbreaker. Sheamus rolls to the apron but ends up getting caught in the elevated DDT.
Orton plays to the fans and they give him a fairly mixed reaction before going into the viper pose. Sheamus rolls out then hits Orton with the Battering Ram and a slam for a two count. Sheamus mocks Orton's viper pose then calls for the Brogue Kick. Orton ducks it, tries the RKO but Sheamus counters out. Orton runs Sheamus to the post, but Sheamus makes him eat feet on the charge. Sheamus pulls himself up to the top then tries a move off the ropes but Orton turns it into an RKO for the win.
Orton poses on the ropes as JBL says Reigns needs to get ready.
I get it that Orton needs to look good, so I'll let the secondary champion losing slide. I am confused though about the message that was sent regarding the US title though. So why does the Authority not care enough to book this match with Orton being in a position to win the title?
Up next, it's the Hulk Hogan birthday party.
I think I have an issue with this. Not because it's happening - Hogan is a legend and deserves a moment on primetime TV like this. That said, SummerSlam is Sunday and I would rather see WWE put focus on their biggest angles as we wind this show down rather than focus on Hogan's birthday.
Back live, the roster has made its way to the stage for the Hogan birthday celebration. Cole hypes up the WWE Network special highlighting John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, and they air a clip of the interviews.
Hulk Hogan's Birthday Celebration:
Mean Gene is in the ring with Jimmy Hart. Mean Gene does the honors of introducing Hogan to the ring, and he gets a big reaction. Hogan plays to the fans on the ramp and makes his way to the ring. A big "Hogan" chant starts. Mean Gene immediately feeds it into a "walk down memory lane" video package of some of Hogan's biggest matches, feuds, and moments, including the NWO, facing Rock, his most recent return to WWE, Savage, Flair, Macho Man, and others. The video gets a big ovation from Portland.
Hogan calls the video, the ring layout, and the fans' reaction, and everything else as something that has left him speechless. Gene says that won't last long, and it doesn't. Hogan musters up a promo, saying that he's been getting showered all day with birthday greetings - even from Vince McMahon. He says the card Vince gave him had $9.99 in it, saying he wanted to be sure Hogan got the Network to see SummerSlam on Sunday.
Hogan calls it the greatest day of his life, and he thanks the guys in the back and all the Superstars "including you, Pat Patterson." and the fans. He says Hulkamania is a two way street and he hopes he has touched their lives just a little in comparison to how much they've touched his. He thanks the fans, then that familiar "WOOOOOO!" rains out.
Here comes Ric Flair to a nice ovation to the ring, then Mr. Wonderful, Paul Orndorff. He plays to the fans a bit and to the stars. Then it's the familiar bagpipes. Here comes Rowdy Roddy Piper and Portland pops for him. Then it's an NWO reunion of sorts. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall emerge to the NWO music in the familiar black and white. Nash didn't tear a quad walking to the ring.
Hall does the "hey yo." He says the Outsiders are honored to be there for his birthday and he looks sweet in the red and yellow. He wants to take a survey though, and asks who came to Raw to see Hulk in the red and yellow. Decent reaction. "Or did you like him better rockin' the black and white in the NWO?" Big reaction as Hulk rips off the yellow and red and shows black and white. Kevin Nash says he's done a lot of things in his career but not this. He leads the crowd in singing "happy birthday" but things go south here.
Brock Lesnar's music hits and here he comes with Heyman in tow. JBL and Cole both say "this isn't good." and say he hasn't come down to sing happy birthday. Lesnar eyes up each of the legends in the ring as Heyman taunts a bit as well. Heyman asks Hogan what he's gonna do as Hogan steps up. Lesnar says "party's over, grandpa." and they stare each other down.
Cena charges the ring and rips his shirt off. He stands down Lesnar, yelling at him to "come on." Lesnar smirks and exits the ring with Heyman, continuing to jawjack at Cena saying "I am a mercenary" as the show goes off the air.
I got a little worried that this would be all about Hogan and his birthday, but they did a decent job of tying in the SummerSlam main event. Lesnar coming out and threatening men who really can't take a bump (save maybe Nash and Flair, who shouldn't be bumping) with Cena making the save made sense, and not having Cena and Lesnar actually fight was a decent touch.
All in all I felt a bit let down by this go-home show. It was decent, but it wasn't hot. I guess I felt like I wanted to see more or better focus on some of the matches like AJ vs. Paige in particular. Hogan's celebration had its place, and it worked out fine in the end, but it almost upstaged everything about SummerSlam not involving Brock Lesnar and John Cena. They did breathe some life into Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt too.
I'll have a lot more to say about this show and SummerSlam in Raw Afterthoughts tomorrow night, and in RingRap Audio on Wednesday night. Be sure to comment, or tweet us your questions and comments to @RingRap and @RingRapAudio with the #AskRingRap hash tag so we can discuss those thoughts Wednesday night.