WWE Raw is live in Grand Rapids, Michigan tonight starting at 8pm EST, and we're coming hot off the heels of a very newsworthy payperview.
Alberto Del Rio took the World Heavyweight Championship last night at Payback in what appeared to be a double-turn, and despite his efforts during the promo after the match, the fans booed him heavily. Will WWE pull the trigger and go all the way? They should, but it remains to be seen what is next. And will Dolph go full face?
Also, Curtis Axel became the ultimate opportunist in capturing the Intercontinental Title last night. Will Axel face Triple H as promised? Will the ridiculous McMahon power struggle continue?
All this, plus CM Punk, John Cena, and more! Join us for LIVE coverage starting at 8pm!
We get an excellent intro video that makes Payback seem like a bigger deal than Wrestlemania, then Ricardo Rodriguez comes out to introduce Alberto Del Rio. He still has his same theme music. Del Rio comes out wearing a suit. On commentary, they're really playing up Ziggler's concussion. Del Rio gets a mixed reaction in the ring. He asks the audience how their weekend was, and asks why they would need a Man of Steel when they have a man of gold - Del Rio. Ricardo announces him again. Definitely a heel.
Del Rio says some people thought he won in a controversial fashion, but what about when Ziggler cashed in? He was injured, and the fans cheered Ziggler. Del Rio says he worked hard for the fans. He's upset that the fans are cheering for Ziggler - the fans don't cheer for Del Rio but they cheer for a pig and a coward like Ziggler. This is working brilliantly.
Del Rio says he fought for the fans for months and didn't get anything, but he fought for himself last night and he got the title. He says he's going to give the fans a second chance to get the respect he deserves.
Cue CM Punk with the interrupt. He and Paul Heyman come to the ring. Punk says it's been a while, and the last time they faced Punk defeated him at Survivor Series 2011, and then Punk went on to hold the title for 434 days. Punk says he came out because he heard Del Rio say he was the best. There's only one "best in the world" - that's Punk. So, the reason he's out here is to challenge him.
Paul Heyman interrupts him and says that his clients don't fight for free. He rambles on and Punk interrupts him. Heyman says the match wouldn't be for the title, and Punk knows that. Punk says Ziggler deserves his title shot and even though he's banged up he wants the match. "While this guy was out there stealing the title from Dolph Ziggler I was out there stealing the show with Chris Jericho." Huge pop for that. Punk says last night he proved he's the best in the world and he wants to prove it again tonight against Del Rio.
Del Rio says Punk doesn't wanna do this. Punk says he does. A "Si!" chant breaks out. Del Rio reiterates that Punk does not want to fight him. Punk asks Ricardo if he's got his tights on and wants to fight instead. Vickie Guerrero interrupts.
Vickie makes it official - Del Rio vs. CM Punk in a non-title match. Plus later, a "big surprise" for the McMahon family, and Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton! Commercial time!
Good work from both men. Del Rio fell right back into heel form and it's much more natural for him. Good heat.
Backstage, Heyman is apologizing to Punk about his outburst in the ring. Punk clarifies his words from last night (on WWE.com) - Punk isn't his client, he's his friend. He says last night Heyman nearly cost Punk the match, and he doesn't want him coming to the ring anymore. He says he'll always be a Paul Heyman guy, and he walks away.
Back in the ring, Wade Barrett is in the ring for his rematch against Curtis Axel.
Well, before the match begins, Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox interrupts and says Wade Barrett will have to face her big surprise instead... a returning Christian!
Wade Barrett vs. Christian
Christian gets a pretty good pop for his return and a "Welcome Back" chant. Barrett on the offense immediately though. Christian tosses Barrett outside the ring, then climbs up to the turnbuckle and dives onto Barrett. Both men back in the ring, Barrett gets the advantage and gets a two-count.
Christian in the corner on the turnbuckle, he hits a dropkick off the second rope and gets the fans chanting for him. Slap to the face, and now Christian's got the momentum. Barrett eats an elbow in the corner. Christian with a tornado DDT. 2-count.
Barrett kicks Christian and goes for a cover. Barrett going for a gutwrench, but Christian reverses it. He hangs Barrett up on the ropes and sets him up for the Killswitch to get the victory.
Not a fantastic match but just fine. Good to see Christian back in the ring again after injury, and the fans certainly are happy to see him. Poor Wade Barrett.
You can vote on the stipulations for Orton vs. Bryan later tonight, if you have the WWE App.
A new Wyatt Family vignette airs, this one creepier than the last. Commercial time!
After break, highlights from the "Kickoff" to the pay-per-view last night. Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow are in the ring, waiting for their opponent, Sheamus.
Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow & Cody Rhodes in a handicap match
This is not a tag match. Sheamus fends for him self pretty well in the beginning, but quickly Rhodes Scholars get the advantage. They take their turns picking him off bit by bit. Cody Rhodes ends up outside the ring after some miscommunication, and Sheamus is able to take out Sandow. Cody tries to jump back in and gets his chest Clobbered.
Sheamus catches Rhodes off the top rope and hits White Noise. He does not go for the pin. He sets Rhodes up for the Brogue Kick, and out of nowhere Sandow gets the rollup pin for the win.
Winner: Team Rhodes Scholars
Brogue kick to Cody's face after the match.
Not a particularly good or interesting match. Just filler, in many, many ways.
Before the break, WWE hints that Mark Henry might be retiring tonight. They air the RVD video from last night as well.
Back from break, Brickie is backstage kissing up to Triple H. They want him to think they came up with the greatest main event. He asks what their original main event would have been had CM Punk not walked out? He also wants to know why they didn't bring back the medically cleared Christian a month and a half ago. He asks about RVD, and Vickie and Maddox fight over who's idea it was to get him.
Triple H wants them to take control of the show and make an example of The Shield if they interfere in the show. He also calls putting 3MB on the show a "stroke of genius" before slapping Maddox on the chest and walking away.
Backstage, Daniel Bryan and Kane have a "talk." Bryan says he's busy. He thinks that Kane is glad Team RK-No didn't win last night. Bryan is gonna redeem himself when he beats Randy Orton tonight. Kane says Bryan isn't the only one that lost last night and he wants to give Team Hell No another chance.
Bryan yells NO and says he's never going to be able to prove himself as long as he's part of a team. The only team that matters to him is Team DB (Kane says he's acting like a DB). Bryan wants to win the WWE Championship. So does Kane. Neither of them are willing to admit they're breaking up, but at the very least, they're taking a break.
These two sound like lovers.
Break time, but you can now vote for the stipulations on the match between Orton and Bryan as well!
We come back from break to see the end of the matchup from Smackdown when The Shield took their first defeat as a team.
Randy Orton comes out for his match against Daniel Bryan. It's a No DQ match. Thanks, Fans.
Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan in a No DQ match
Back and forth early on. Bryan goes for a series of kicks to "Yes!" Chants but Orton returns fire with stomps of his own. Orton hits a Lou Thesz Press, but Bryan works from underneath it and gets a half-Boston crab.
Kicks to Orton in the corner, and the fans chant along with each one. He rakes Bryan in the eyes and tosses him outside the ring. Clothesline to Bryan. He tosses Bryan back into the ring and goes for a cover. 2-count.
Time for a rest hold! Orton gets Bryan in the corner and pounches him in the face. DB gets his flurry of offense and starts Hulking up. Dropkick to Oron in the corner, then another one low to the face. Cover for two.
Orton runs at Bryan and ends up over the ropes. Bryan goes for a dive outside the ring and he misses Orton completely. It looks like he went head-first into the barricade. Orton goes under the ring and gets a kendo stick. Bryan is still selling the move. Well, hopefully he's selling it. Orton takes the kendo stick to him repeatedly. We go to break.
The match continues after break. My computer lost the last two paragraphs I typed, so I have to retype them. Except I'm not. Long story short, they're playing up the fact that Bryan took a nasty dive and could have a concussion. Orton tosses him outside the ring and hits a back body drop on the barricade. The doctor steps in and calls the match. Daniel Bryan will not be allowed to continue.
Winner: Randy Orton
After the match, Orton walks over to Daniel Bryan, who is still outside the ring. He offers him a hand and helps him to his feet and pats him on the back, shakes his hand. That's the first time I have ever seen Randy Orton do anything like that. Classy.
Excellent, excellent match between these two. Orton is like a new man, lately, and Daniel Bryan is bringing out the best in everyone these days. Hopefully nothing serious or legit going on here. They played it up damn well though. WWE is doing a great job allowing their talent to actually wrestle lately. It's making for a more compelling product.
Back from break, a quick recap of the promo from Del Rio earlier tonight. Then, AJ Lee skips out to the ring with Big E. Langston. She says soon enough Dolph Ziggler will be medically cleared and will share the spotlight with her. She says she's always been champion, now she's got proof. She knows exactly what she wants. There's not a woman in the audience, or backstage, that is as strong as she is. Cue Stephanie McMahon.
Stephanie comes out and AJ of course is flattering her. Steph congratulates her on her win, but inquires about why she wants to tear women down and build them up. She says what she did to Kaitlyn last night was degrading, and that it's time to start acting like a champion. AJ says instead of dating superstars she should marry one. They bicker, and it's kind of pathetic. AJ says the only reason she's concerned is because she's just like Stephanie. Steph threatens her with taking away the title and her job. Then Kaitlyn's music hits and she's flanked by of the remaining Divas.
Kaitlyn starts congratulating AJ for the win, and as Steph walks backstage, she advises Kaitlyn to never interrupt her again. Kaitlyn acknowledges it, then walks to the ring, saying AJ manipulated her and played her like a puppet. Now it's her turn. She hits the ring and attacks AJ. AJ tries to squirm away and Big E grabs her by the leg and pulls her out. Kaitlyn nearly has a wardrobe malfunction in the scuffle and the screen blanks out briefly. Big E slings AJ over his shoulder and carries her away as Kaitlyn looks on from the ring.
Decent segment, but I'm not sure what Steph's involvement does for either Diva, unless they're planning on doing something serious with Steph and the division. Otherwise, the feud continues, and it's fine because a Diva's division with an actual feud is a good division.
Back from break, Dean Ambrose comes through the crowd to defend his United States Championship against Kane.
Kane vs. Dean Ambrose (c) for the United States Championship
Kane gets the early offense. He launches Ambrose into the corners and goes for a cover after a sidewalk slam. Kane up top, clothesline. Out of nowhere, the rest of The Shield show up and cause the DQ.
Winner: Dean Ambrose via DQ
Now Vickie Guerrero is on the spot and has to make an example of The Shield. Will she? No evidence of Vickie as The Shield head backstage.
Backstage, Mark Henry is wearing a suit, talking to the Primetime Players, and Darren Young looks like he's in tears. Henry starts making his way to the ring as we go to break.
Back from break, Vickie Guerrero stops The Shield and threatens them. She's about to fire them when Vince McMahon walks up to them and tells them how great he thinks they are and how they remind him of him. They thank him and leave. Vince talks to Vickie and Maddox. He says he never liked that "Halloween mask wearing freak, Kane" and walks away.
Another Wyatt promo airs. Great stuff.
Back from break, Zeb Colter comes out to the stage. He cuts a promo about the government spying on us and lying to us. He switches to the foreigner talk quickly. He says he and Jack Swagger have chosen to work with a new man, born with honor and integrity, and despite not being from the United States, he speaks five language, the most important being English. Out comes Antonio Cesaro, who stands on the ramp, hand on heart, and says "We the people." He's facing William Regal in a match.
Antonio Cesaro (w/ Zeb Colter) vs. William Regal
Can't remember the last time Regal had a match on Raw. Probably the last time they were in England. Anyhow, Cesaro is on the offense immediately. He deadlifts Regal and tosses him.
Regal gets some offense, and it's the battle of the European Uppercut. Cesaro picks Regal up in a reverse double-underhook and slams him. Interesting. He locks in a headlock and spins Regal around in the air. Neutralizer and the win.
Winner: Antonio Cesaro
After the match, Zeb hands Cesaro a "Don't Tread on Me" flag, and Cesaro lays it over Regal.
Backstage, John Cena is walking out to the ring. We go to break.
After break, John Cena hits the ring. He loves this - the fans cheering or booing or whatever. He knows the fans have their favorite superstars - he has his: the fans. He admires their honesty. He plays up to the fans that don't like him.
He starts talking about how he goes in night after night and walks into battle and walks out the better man. The Champ is here. He thanks the audience. He says tonight he feels as good as he ever felt and he can take any challenge anyone puts in front of him. He says by Money in the Bank he knows where his next challenge is. He says there will be no opportune time to cash in against him. He will always be ready. The Champ is here.
Mark Henry's music hits and he comes out to the stage. He has his wrestling boots in his hand and he leaves them on the stage. He walks to the ring. Yes, Cena is still in the ring. The announce team is playing up the idea he might retire. Henry steps into the ring and hesitates before he does so. He tells Cena he can put his guard down and extends a hand for a shake. Cena accepts. Cena leaves the ring.
Henry asks Cena to stay. There's something he wants to tell him, the boys and girls backstage, and all the fans. A "Henry!" chant breaks out. He says he respects everybody that loves this business. He's in tears right now. He knows how difficult it is. He says he was a seasoned veteran in 2002 when John Cena came in, and he's done an awesome job. "Thank you Henry!"
Henry jokes about his coat. A "Sexual Chocolate" chant breaks out. Good stuff. Henry puts Cena over big time, says at the rate he's going he'll be the greatest WWE Champ ever. He says if he had any regrets, he's held many championships and he think's he's done pretty good for himself. He says he's formally retiring from the active roster of the WWE. A "One more match" chant breaks out.
Cena hands him his WWE Title and Henry holds it up in the air. It's the only championship Henry never won. Cena claps for him and Henry. Henry hands the title back to him and says it's something he's gotta earn. He's traveled the world many times over. He says don't cry, he's crying enough for everyone. He stands before us a proud, proud man.
Henry starts talking about his children and thanking them, and he makes a Mae Young reference. He says "Baby I'm coming home."
Cena steps in and raises his hand, and out of nowhere Henry picks up Cena and hits him with the World's Greatest Slam. He throws the belt down on Cena. "I've got a lot left in the tank!" Brilliant!
He walks up to the ramp and says "That's what I do!" Great stuff.
Mark Henry's current persona has legitimately been the most consistent, badass heel in decades, and I called in on Twitter this would be a swerve. But the more he got through the promo the more I started to doubt myself and think maybe it's legit. Awesome, awesome work from both men.
Backstage, a sheepish Renee Young approaches Mark Henry to ask him about what just happened. He said everyone is a bunch of puppets. He said the WWE Title is the only thing he's never had and he's challenging John Cena for it.
In the ring, it's 3MB. Here comes Chris Jericho to face Heath Slater!
Heath Slater vs. Chris Jericho
Y2J chant breaks out. No surprise there. Slater hits a nice kick on Jericho and goes for two.
Jericho goes for a lionsault, and Drew McIntyre hits him, giving Slater the chance for the cover. 2-count.
Codebreaker, and this match is over.
Winner: Chris Jericho
Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntryre run in and attack Jericho, but he easily fends them off by himself.
Backstage, Matt Striker approaches Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel. He tells Striker that he's Punk's best friend and he knows when to give his friend space. He starts talking about Axel and says he's better than Perfect.
After commercial, there's a dumb Sheamus video. The Miz is joining the announce table, and Sin Cara flips his way to the ring. Curtis Axel comes out shortly thereafter.
Curtis Axel vs. Sin Cara
Sin Cara gets his mood lighting. Not sure why anymore. Axel destroys him. Miz puts Axel over pretty hard. Axel gets the win with a pretty vicious looking DDT.
Winner: Curtis Axel
After commercial, Vince is chatting with Vickie and Brad Maddox. He says Mark Henry sucked him in and had him crying. He wants to know what they're gonna do about it - they say Cena vs. Henry at Money in the Bank. Vince thinks it's a great idea. Then Steph shows up and yells at Vickie. Then Triple H shows up and yells at Vickie. He tells her to start listening to him. Vince tells her to keep listening to him, and she'll be ok. Steph tells her not to listen to either of them and implies she should listen to Stephanie.
CM Punk is heading to the ring for his match. Paul Heyman chases after him and asks him to wait up. He says he understands, and he apologies, and thanks him for everything. He says as unpopular as this may sound, he loves him. Heyman gives Punk a hug. He says Punk is the Best in the World and tells him to go get him.
World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio heads to the ring, accompanied by Ricardo Rodriguez. Ricardo does his introduction in the ring. The fans still chant it with him. Ricardo is over, no matter what. We go to break.
We come back, and CM Punk hits the ramp and heads to the ring.
Alberto Del Rio vs. CM Punk in a non-title match
Del Rio ducks out of the ring early on. Punk with a flurry of kicks. Del Rio ducks out again. Total heel. Punk chases him and gets in some chops on the chest outside. Del Rio with a kick to the head and he's immediately stomping on him. Snap suplex and a cover. Two count. Del Rio gets in some nasty kicks. CM Punk chant. Del Rio starts working the arm. Punk gets Del Rio up on his shoulders and once again, Del Rio splits. CM Punk dives out of the ring and greets him face-first. He tosses Del Rio back into the ring.
Ricardo distracts Punk just long enough for Del Rio to hang up the arm and send Punk back to the floor as we cut to break.
We are back, and we have an update on Daniel Bryan - looks like he got a stinger, but he should be ok. Nothing major there. Back to the match - CM Punk is favoring his arm but has control of the match. Kicks to the gut, kick to the face. Del Rio hits a Codebreaker-like move on Punk's arm. He hangs Punk up in the ropes and punches his back, then hits a Backstabber.
CM Punk goes for a roll-up, close call but no dice. Punk barely connects with the GTS, and Del Rio rolls out of the ring as the ref counts. He doesn't seem to be concerned about the count and bails on the match.
Winner: CM Punk
As Del Rio backs up the ramp, and out of nowhere Dolph Ziggler attacks Del Rio from behind! Ziggler is all over Del Rio, and chases him in the back.
The ref announces CM Punk as the victor, and just as Punk's music is about to hit, Brock Lesnar comes out to the ring! Punk stands there in the middle, watching. Brock leaps up to the ring and steps in. He circles Punk and stares him down. He goes for a microphone.
Brock steps up closer to Punk. He doesn't even speak. He picks Punk up and F5's him out of nowhere! Punk is laid out in the ring as Lesnar walks away and the show closes.
Wow! From top to bottom, what a great Raw, and the ending was just awesome. CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar, now that's a fresh feud. Definitely looking forward to that.
WWE is in the midst of a renaissance right now. They've delivered consistent quality over the past few weeks with logical booking and patience. All the pieces for a hot summer are in place. Mark Henry and John Cena feels perfect, and the swerve was fantastic.
All in all an excellent episode. I will definitely have more to say in my weekly Top Five. Keep your eyes open for Bill's Afterthoughts tomorrow as well! Thanks for tuning in tonight. See you soon! Don't forget to follow us on Twitter @RingRap and on Facebook.com/RingRap!