The Road to SummerSlam marches on tonight on Raw. John Cena isn't scheduled to appear, but will his SummerSlam opponent, Brock Lesnar? Also, Chris Jericho successfully got one of the Wyatt Family members banned from ringside on Friday's Smackdown show, but will he get a chance to do so to the other? Roman Reigns is also to address Randy Orton's challenge for SummerSlam as well.
All this and more in tonight's live Raw coverage. Be advised, live coverage will start a bit late - call it the "day after vacation blues."
Show Open, Live from the Frank Erwin Center, Austin, TX
They open with a video package highlighting the issues between Randy Orton and Roman Reigns, including last week's two-on-one handicap match where Reigns beat Orton, then Orton complaining to Triple H about how Reigns cost him his shot.
The familiar "King of Kings" refrain hits. Triple H, Stephanie, Seth Rollins, Kane, and Randy Orton (who is wearing pants!) all come to the ring. Triple H gets the mic and hypes up SummerSlam in two weeks in Los Angeles. He believes this is the biggest SummerSlam card in history and hypes that you can see it on WWE Network for $9.99. He runs down some of the matches on the card, hyping Cena vs. Lesnar, and Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose among others.
Hunter points out that Seth gave him a good idea earlier. He announces a Beat the Clock challenge match tonight that involves Ambrose and Rollins. The man who wins their match quicker gets to pick the stipulation for their SummerSlam match. Ambrose will face Alberto Del Rio, and Hunter says in order to keep things fair, Rollins will face Rob Van Dam.
Stephanie gets the mic next and gets booed pretty hard. "I know, I'm happy to see you too. I even wore cowboy boots, do you like them?" She talks about signing the contract for her match with Brie Bella and says if Brie goes after her she will slap Brie and put her in the hospital with Daniel Bryan. Hunter delivers another "$9.99 pitch" for the WWE Network, which Texas chants along with. Kinda funny. Hunter gives a brief sell for Orton vs. Reigns, and Texas delivers his $9.99 pitch for him.
Orton gets the mic and says he will continue to methodically decimate Roman Reigns. He boasts about what he did to Reigns last week and says that Reigns took something valuable to him away. Reigns' music hits and he makes his way out through the crowd, stopping halfway to the ring before cutting his promo.
Reigns tells Orton that he took what he had and is still standing. He says that Hunter has been talking about great deals, but he has a better one. He offers to beat Orton's ass for free tonight. Hunter tells Reigns to calm down and reminds him he has Orton at SummerSlam, but tonight he will face a demon. He looks toward Kane and says he expects to see a demon tonight. Hunter sets up a Last Man Standing match between Reigns and Kane, and it's up next.
This was good, and they put a ton of hype on the WWE Network. Are the heel authority figures the best one to do it? Well, that's debatable as it would mean fans would not want to spend the money, but they need to push the Network hard. Nothing else on WWE's calendar, except maybe Survivor Series, is as big a deal as SummerSlam.
Match #1 - Roman Reigns vs. Kane, Last Man Standing Rules
We're right into it. The announcers keep selling the Network as Reigns takes the early aggressor role. He whips Kane to the barrier at ringside, then Kane returns the favor. Kane grabs a kendo stick and beats Reigns with it. Reigns is bleeding from the head and starts a rally. He throws Kane over the security railing going to commercial.
Back live, the announcers tell us Kane controlled the action in the break. Kane sets up a table in the ring, but Reigns hits him with a Samoan drop. Reigns gets to his feet and cues the Superman punch, but Kane chokeslams him through the table. Reigns answers the count barely.
Reigns comes back with a Superman punch, and a kick to the head at the apron. Reigns cues a spear a bit later, but Kane goozles him. Reigns breaks out and hits him with a spear coming off the ropes. Kane can't get up in time even though he's pulling himself up by the ropes and Reigns picks up the win. Reigns celebrates on the ropes as the announcers talk about Orton and Reigns meeting at SummerSlam.
The live crowd was into this. A live event report on ProWrestling.net noted that these two had basically this same match at a live event in San Antonio on Sunday. A good brawl that gives Reigns momentum into his match with Orton.
Cole hypes the upcoming Beat the Clock challenge matches, and a look at the SummerSlam main event with a sit-down interview with Brock Lesnar.
After the break, they air the sit-down segment with Brock Lesnar and John Cena. The two men interview separately, with Lesnar saying he respects no one and if you want to wrap your head around his world, you have to understand he enjoys hurting people. He says he has conquered everything put in front of him and is coming off the biggest win of his career by ending The Streak.
Lesnar says he knew he would beat Taker and everyone else did too, but no one wants to believe it. "It's not rocket science people, why wouldn't Brock Lesnar be able to beat The Undertaker? Why wouldn't Brock Lesnar be able to beat John Cena at SummerSlam?"
Cena says he's fortunate to be where is and it's because he looks forward, and that's it. He calls Lesnar the most difficult person he has been in the ring with and the most gifted athlete he's been in the ring with.
Lesnar threatens to tear Cena limb for limb and says it's going to be ugly. Cena says he knows what it takes to beat Lesnar. "Come get some." Cena says, interspersed with comments from Lesnar. He adds he will be the one who beats the one. Lesnar talks about how he went out to make a name for himself and returned to be WWE Champion. He insists if he stayed there would be no John Cena.
Cena says Lesnar left at the right time, and now he's a mercenary. Cena talks about his 12 years in the business and working every show. Lesnar again threatens to rip Cena limb for limb, and stand before him wearing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship with pride. "I'm going to leave him in a pile of blood, urine and vomit."
Lesnar sucks as a live promo, but these pre-taped UFC style promos are pretty good. This isn't something we always see, so it makes this main event stand out. I think more feuds could benefit from this in pro wrestling because it could help some guys who can't talk step up their game.
The $9.99 Joke is getting a bit on my nerves at the moment.
The announcers hype the Network again, and we get a tease for the Network going global announcement later in the broadcast. They hype up Jericho vs. Harper also.
The Oklahoma fight song plays, and here comes Damien Sandow clad in Sooners crimson and cream. This is Texas, so naturally they're dumb enough to not recognize greatness and boo him. He says that Oklahoma has dominated the Red River Rivalry and there will again be no "hook 'em horns" in Dallas and the Sooners will stand tall. Sandow repeats "Boomer Sooner" to boos. Justin Roberts introduces Mark Henry, emphasizing he's a Texas graduate. He gets a nice pop for his return and his 8XL Texas shirt.
Tweet all OU vs. Texas related comments to @Bill_SoonerFan. I'll ignore all pro-Texas remarks, I guarantee you.
Match #2 - Mark Henry vs. Damien Sandow:
JBL calls Sandow a Dr. Death Wannabe. Henry plows straight through Sandow and hits him with the World's Strongest Slam to get the win. Henry shakes hands with fans ringside as the announcers talk about the match and take a pro-Texas stance.
I thought they'd do more mocking of JR while they were at it, but they didn't. Henry's return got a nice pop, but not the hot return that one wonders what will happen next with him.
Backstage, Adam Rose is with the Rosebuds, and they come across a mirror that he calls the Oculus Mirror. He says if he looks into it bad things will happen. He says he will look and the Rosebuds say no. The screen goes blurry and he's in the mirror in a suit. He calls that man a lemon and they walk off.
This was garbage, plain and simple. Puts me in mind of when Hornswoggle walked through a cartoon black hole. Channel changing bad.
The announcers hype the Stephanie McMahon/Brie Bella contract signing. Dean Ambrose makes his way to the ring for his match against Alberto Del Rio in the first Beat the Clock challenge.
They hype Hulk Hogan appearing next week for a birthday celebration.
Match #3 - Alberto Del Rio vs. Dean Ambrose; Beat the Clock challenge #1
Del Rio attacks, taking the fight to ringside early. He controls the offense, focusing on the injured shoulder of Ambrose. Ambrose begins to mount a comeback, throwing Del Rio into the barrier. He follows with a suplex on the floor then gets him back in the ring. Del Rio cuts off Ambrose's comeback with a superkick as we go to break.
Del Rio continues to assault Ambrose, working the bad shoulder in particular. He locks on the Cross Arm Breaker over the ropes at one point. Ambrose teases his finisher, but he can't hold Del Rio with the bad left arm.
Late, Ambrose manages to catch Del Rio with Dirty Deeds using his right arm to capture the win at 15:42. The announcers run some highlights as Ambrose sells the wear and tear. They talk about Rollins now needing to beat that time against Rob Van Dam. JBL says Rollins can beat the time and hasn't been pinned or submitted since turning on the Shield and joining the Authority.
The match was fine, but the logic was a bit flawed. With Ambrose working at a way to make the match go long, it almost appears as if they're intentionally setting up Rollins getting the win over RVD quicker, then picking the stipulation.
Cole talks about the Brie/Stephanie contract signing coming up later. He feeds it into a recap of their story and what happened last Monday at Raw that set up their match. They close with more contract signing hype.
Here comes Rusev for the next match.
Match #4 - Rusev (w/Lana) vs. Sin Cara
This happened in the break. We get a recap of the action that happened during the break on the App. Rusev hit his superkick and locked on the Accolade for the submission win.
Lana cuts a promo. She says that the Deputy Vice Minister of Russia tweeted a photo of Putin and Obama. Obama is holding a poodle, Putin a cougar. She says she is not there to disparage Obama because he does it enough (agreed). She sings happy birthday to Obama in Russian, and Cole calls that disrespectful. Colter and Swagger interrupt, Swagger holding Old Glory high. Biggest pop he has ever gotten.
Lana says some more in Russian but Colter tells her to shut up. He says her voice is the reason Russian men drink so much vodka. He says he's sick of Putin and hearing about Mother Russia, and hearing "Rusev crush." He says those two have no idea what will happen to him at SummerSlam. He puts Swagger over for standing up for "the 50 stars and 13 bars" and all the real Americans around the world.
He says Swagger represents hard working Americans and the men and women of the military "willing to put their lives on the line against all enemies foreign and domestic." A full throat "USA" chant starts. He tells "you two peg legs" that the last thing they'll see is Old Glory waving in the breeze. He asks all real Americans in the sound of his voice to say "We the People."
Rusev and Lana go to leave, but instead Rusev turns and attacks Swagger with the Russian flag. He hands down a beating with that, then clotheslines Swagger over the ropes. He taunts, then turns to Colter. He corners Colter, while the announcers beg for Zeb to leave. Lana holds Rusev back then mocks the "We the People" line and they leave without further incident.
The match was clearly nothing since they put it on the App, which I do not have. I have my hands full with just a laptop and the TV. That said, for a mid-card feud this has some heat, albeit the old-school Cold War heat. At least it's a story, and it's a logical "US vs. Russia" story that seems to be getting a reaction with the live crowds. Can't say I think Swagger wins at SummerSlam, and if he's even the one that should take Rusev down, but a Flag Match is set up in such a way that Rusev doesn't get pinned. Won't give away too much, I don't think.
The announcers hype up Chris Jericho vs. Luke Harper, with the stipulation that if Jericho wins Harper will also be banned from ringside at SummerSlam. Back live after commercial, the announcers hype the Network going global on August 12, and Miz has joined the commentary position.
Match #5 - Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro
Cesaro controls the early action as Miz plays his Hollywood gimmick. He says he has been drinking lemon tea all day to soothe his voice because he has been giving so many interviews and interacting on social media. Cesaro counters a splash attempt by Ziggler into a backbreaker. He uses his strength to hoist Ziggler into a suplex, but Ziggler counters and hits the Zig Zag to get the quick win.
Miz says it's very prestigious to be the IC champion, and "let me show you." He enters the ring with the belt in hand and confronts Ziggler. A "you can't wrestle" chant gets going as Miz holds the belt up to boos. Ziggler attempts a superkick but only goes part way. Miz ducks down and looks scared but Ziggler just laughs.
Cole talks about Orton vs. Reigns and Ziggler vs. Miz and AJ vs. Paige for the Divas Championship all being on the SummerSlam card. They set up a recap of Paige attacking AJ on Smackdown and say she has whiplash.
Backstage, Tom Phillips asks Paige for her comments and Paige wishes AJ a speedy recovery. She calls AJ her best friend in the world and calls it an honor to face AJ at SummerSlam for the Divas championship. She again wishes AJ well and says she hopes to see her real soon.
They hype up Stardust and Goldust appearing next.
Match #6 - Goldust and Stardust vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel
No entrances for Rybaxel, and here comes the Dust Brothers to a decent reaction. It's Goldust starting with Ryback. Goldust hits his atomic drop then puffs in Ryback's face. Axel trips Goldust and the heels take advantage. Ryback beats him down then Axel tags in blind. Axel hits a drop kick, then he and Ryback work on Goldust with quick tags. The announcers talk about cosmic dust and where to buy it.
Stardust gets the hot tag. He goes to work with his own set of offense. In the end, he hits his finish that they call "Dark Matter" on Axel to get the win.
Ugh. Can these two face someone other than Rybaxel?
Backstage, Triple H and Stephanie are discussing the contract. Kane enters, breathes heavy, and hands over his mask and hair to Stephanie.
A sign that he's done with the Authority - and done for a while?
They hype Jericho vs. Luke Harper, with the stipulation of being banned from ringside if Harper loses. JBL rants about what Kane just did.
Coming out of break, they replay Kane handing his mask over. They then go to a recap of Jericho beating Rowan on Smackdown to cause Rowan to be banned from ringside at Summerslam.
Somewhere, Matt Hester is silently weeping, or openly wailing.
Match #7 - Chris Jericho vs. Luke Harper (w/Erick Rowan); if Harper loses, he is banned from ringside at SummerSlam
Live, pyro shoots off and here comes Chris Jericho. Harper comes out with Rowan into a sea of cellphone lights. Cole hypes a WWE.com segment on the Wyatts, then points out that Wyatt himself did not come out with Harper and Rowan.
Harper starts off aggressively strikes as Cole points out that "Corporate Kane" is trending. He lands some more strikes then uses a Gator Roll as the fans start to chant for Y2J. Jericho starts to fire back with some strikes and an enzugiri for two. He kicks Harper in the gut but runs into a Michinoku Driver for two. Cole actually called that!
Harper perches Jericho on the ropes and Jericho fires back. They end up battling on the corner, then he leaps over Harper. Harper connects with a big boot and a sit-out powerbomb for a near fall. Harper throws him to the corner but Jericho comes back with a running bulldog. He drop kicks Rowan off the apron then tries a roll-up on Harper that gets two. Jericho is able to lock Harper in the Walls, but the Wyatt sounder goes off.
Wyatt comes to ringside, laughing and taunting. Rowan tries to attack from behind, but he eats a Codebreaker. Harper eats one too and rolls to ringside. Wyatt hits Jericho with a thumb to the throat, throwing the match out. Wyatt laughs and hits him with Sister Abigail. He kneels and yells "follow the buzzards." The announcers point out that Jericho won by disqualification, banning Harper from ringside as well.
The match itself wasn't bad. Logical for Wyatt to eventually arrive and get involved to put some heat on their SummerSlam match. I am really interested on truly making it a one-on-one affair, and what they might do with the Wyatt Family (Harper and Rowan) at SummerSlam now that they won't be at ringside.
Cole hypes up the contract signing between Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella for later.
Is this, again, going to be the main event segment?
The announcers again recap Paige attacking AJ, and hype that AJ will be on Main Event tomorrow night.
Match #8 - Diego (w/El Torito, Layla and Summer Rae) vs. Fandango (w/Hornswoggle)
Layla and Summer Rae are in cowboy outfits. Dear lord this is bad. Fandango comes out dancing with a bald Hornswoggle. Kill me now. Seriously. Hornswoggle does some of the dance moves the ladies would normally do. Bad...just bad.
Fandango starts off aggressively with Diego. He floats over and hits a move that knocks Fandango down. Hornswoggle gets up on the apron and Diego looks at him, but Fandango ends up crashing into Hornswoggle. Diego hits a backstabber to get the win. Afterward, Layla and Summer ask Hornswoggle to join them and Diego in the ring. They dance around Fandango.
Fandango dumps Hornswoggle to the corner. Diego hits a couple shots and El Torito jumps on him off the ropes. Diego and company leave while Fandango sells.
That was bad - just dreadful. Thankfully over quickly.
Backstage, Renee Young asks Randy Orton about what happened with Kane, but he says he doesn't care and has footage of his own. They roll the beatdown Orton put on Reigns. Back live, he says "I know you were going to ask me about what Reigns did to Kane earlier" and tells her not to. He puts Kane over as one of the most vicious superstars of all time but no one is as vicious as Orton is. He tells Roman Reigns to keep his head on a swivel as he might kick it off.
Bo Dallas makes his entrance. JBL puts him over as inspirational and Cole says he's going to try and avenge his first loss to R-Truth after the break. Back after the break, they recap how Truth beat Bo Dallas and Dallas went ape on Truth as a result.
Match #9 - Bo Dallas vs. R-Truth
Truth got his entrance during the break. They put Truth over as the "2 in 17-2" as Truth beat Dallas by DQ on Smackdown as well. Lots of striking early on between these two, with Truth getting the advantage. Dallas tries a clothesline but Truth comes back with a leg lariat. Dallas rolls up Truth and grabs Truth's pants as a shortcut to get the win. Dallas does his victory lap as Cole and King deride Dallas for cheating to win.
Truth goes out and roughs up Dallas, throwing him into the apron. Dallas eventually gets the better of Truth and takes him out with the Bo-Dog into the stairs. JBL says he loves it but the announcers criticize Dallas again.
They hype up Brie and Stephanie signing their contract, yet again.
The announcers hype up the Network and the $9.99 value as we come back live. We get the Wyatt sounder, and he's staring at the floor in a dark room.
He cuts a promo, saying that he will enter SummerSlam without his brothers. He talks about why the sheep run from the wolves. He says he is different. He admits he is on his own at SummerSlam, but her hand (assuming Sister Abigail) guides him. "Chris, what am I? I'm Bray Wyatt, and I'm the nightmare at the end of your dreams. Beyond time I stand." He sings a bar of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" to close the promo.
The announcers talk about the match between Jericho and Wyatt, as well as Cena vs. Lesnar. They advertise that on the Network after Raw they will show the Extreme Rules match between Cena and Lesnar from 2012. They go back and air parts of the Lesnar and Cena sit-down segment from earlier on again. Back live Cole adds some hype for Cena vs. Lesnar as the "biggest fight of the summer."
Match #10 - Seth Rollins vs. Rob Van Dam
RVD gets his entrance before the break. Cole recaps that Ambrose won in 15:42 and if Rollins can beat that he will get to pick the stipulation for the match at SummerSlam between he and Ambrose. Back live, Justin Roberts recaps that fact for the live crowd. As Rollins makes his entrance, Cole hypes that WWE Network goes global on August 12, with the UK getting it in October.
Justin Roberts interrupts, saying that "per the Authority, Rob Van Dam will not be Seth Rollins' opponent." Heath Slater's music hits, and he walks to the ring. Rollins smiles and Cole says the Authority is stacking the deck in the favor of Rollins. In the ring, Rollins invites Slater to walk away and get counted out. Slater attacks Rollins instead, but Rollins gets the quick upper hand. JBL calls it a big opportunity for Slater but King and Cole scoff.
Dean Ambrose appears at ringside and distracts Rollins, who taunts about the amount of time he has. Slater pops a quick neckbreaker to get two, but Rollins gets the advantage again. Ambrose takes the Money in the Bank briefcase, and that draws Rollins' attention. Ambrose rips the contract in half and Slater hits a big leg lariat for a near fall. Rollins quickly gets the advantage back. Ambrose spills a drink into the briefcase, then goes and gets popcorn from a fan. Rollins is distracted, yelling at Ambrose.
Ambrose takes JBL's hat and stuffs it in the briefcase. Back in the ring, Slater rolls Rollins up for the surprise win. This means Ambrose gets to pick the stipulation for their match at SummerSlam. Afterward, Ambrose saunters away and Rollins flips out. Rollins stomps off with his corrupted briefcase.
The bait and switch may have lost some die-hard RVD fans, but Ambrose was fun in his distraction stuff at ringside. Slater got a miracle upset, and obviously it seems Rollins will have an uphill battle at SummerSlam now that Ambrose gets the stipulation choice.
The announcers hype the Stephanie/Brie contract signing for next.
Back live, we get told that Dean Ambrose will reveal his stipulation on Smackdown this Friday. King and Lawler are at ringside, and they hype that we'll get to see Lesnar vs. Cena at Extreme Rules after Raw is over on the WWE Network. They run a hype package for this match replay.
In-Ring Segment - Contract Signing:
Once again, Stephanie McMahon in a main event segment. Go figure. She comes to the ring with Triple H for the signing as King says this might get out of control. Brie comes to the ring with her sister Nikki.
Triple H excuses Cole at first. He gets the mic and says in two weeks' time at SummerSlam, there will be a historic match between Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon. He says that when an icon steps out of retirement, it's his duty to oversee these signings. He cites his role as COO and calls it a conflict of interest and says he will have to hand the proceedings off to Michael Cole. He says he isn't present tonight as the COO, or even Triple H, but instead as a loving, devoted husband.
Brie asks "can we get on with it before we all start throwing up?" Stephanie mocks her and asks where her puny little hippy dippy troll of a husband is. Brie says he is still recovering. She asks if Stephanie has gotten over "this" and feeds it to a replay of Stephanie getting arrested.
Back live, Brie asks Stephanie which was easier - trading her power suit for a jumpsuit or trading Triple H for Big Bertha (her cellmate). Brie promises to embarrass Stephanie at SummerSlam in front of not just 20,000 but the entire universe and send the message that Stephanie is a fraud, a failure, and an embarrassment to the McMahon family name. She says it's not just for her, or Nikki, or Daniel Bryan, but also for Big Show, Vickie Guerrero, the Rhodes Family, and any other person on the roster that Stephanie has tortured. The fans chant for CM Punk.
Brie says karma always comes around, and Stephanie's is about to come crashing down on her in ways she can't imagine. Brie calls Stephanie a stuck up, petty, conniving piece of trash. Stephanie starts her rebuttal, saying that all of the great family pro wrestling names she mentioned will be thrilled to be honored "by the likes of you." Stephanie calls Brie a failed reality star who abandoned her husband and stole the spotlight from her sister.
Stephanie calls Brie a selfish and conceited woman. She says she is embarrassed to be in the same ring with her and will put an end to her pathetic attempt to make history at SummerSlam. Stephanie signs then says she will tear Brie's heart out at SummerSlam
Stephanie slaps Nikki with the contract binder and Triple H slides the table back against Brie in the corner. Triple H holds the table so Brie can't get loose and Stephanie hits the Pedigree on Nikki. Brie eventually slaps Triple H and breaks free, but Stephanie slams Brie's head off of the table. She hits Brie with the Pedigree too, then kisses Triple H and blows a faux kiss at Brie. JBL says that Stephanie is a McMahon and she'll be standing tall at SummerSlam as the show ends.
This was not at all a main event segment...not at all. In fact, it would have put a damper on the show anywhere it was placed. I hear a lot of good things about Brie on the reality show "Total Divas" (have not personally watched it - no time for that) but she can't deliver the same goods in the wrestling ring. She has zero crowd support except when she mentions Daniel Bryan right now. Nothing good happened in this segment at all. And you just know, somehow, some way, Brie ends up winning at SummerSlam and I'm still betting on a Nikki turn at some point around the event - despite getting slapped with the contract binder.
I don't see this program gaining steam - it's losing it.
This show got hard to cover at about the two hour mark. Nothing was "change the channel" terrible (although Fandango and Diego came close) but nothing was hot either. They did a nice job of building Cena vs. Lesnar with a UFC style promo that covered for the fact that neither man was present. They advanced Jericho and Wyatt, and Roman Reigns got a chance to get some shine and momentum heading toward his match with Randy Orton. Beyond that, this show just wasn't memorable and became a chore to cover as we went to hour three.
I'll be by with more in Raw Afterthoughts tomorrow, and we'll discuss this and the news of the week in RingRap Audio on Wednesday. Thanks for following along.