The road to Hell in a Cell continues tonight. We saw CM Punk and Ryback face off last week, but that was after John Cena put a challenge to Punk to meet him in the Cell. Cena is off of elbow surgery. Will he be ready, as promised, or will they be forced to use a backup plan? And does Punk have a response to last week's pipe to the gut?
Raw goes live in minutes!
After the WWE programming intro, we get a video recap of Mick Foley's promo from last week, interspersed with various video clips. They switch gears to the closing segment between Punk and Cena, then the interaction backstage with Mick, Punk and Ryback.
The Raw intro rolls and we get full pyro inside the arena at Oklahoma City. Cole introduces the show from the announce position, saying it's time for a three-hour Raw as he introduces Jim Ross. CM Punk's music hits to a fairly healthy reaction of boos. Punk comes out with Heyman carrying the belt behind him. Cole tells us it's his 316th day as champion.
Cole cuts to point out that it's Jim Ross Appreciation Night, and JR says he's both humbled and honored to be there tonight. Cole says that Punk refused Cena's challenge for Hell in a Cell.
Punk talks about being attacked by Cena last week and calls them the actions of a scared man. He talks about running into Foley backstage, and says that the look Foley gave him was disrespectful. He says that Foley muttered something and that's because he is afraid to say it to his face. Punk says that he put him down like a dog and showed him he is the WWE Champion.
Punk asks if Foley would have the gall to say something derrogatory to Cena, or to "his friend Dwayne." He asks if Foley would have said something derrogatory to Steve Austin? The answers are no for all. He wishes the fans would have learned some respect because they're now disrespecting him like Foley did.
Punk says he did listen to something that Foley said. He says Foley is among other things eloquent and some words did get to him. He says he thought about Foley's challenge and says that he's out there to announce that CM Punk and John Cena at Hell in a Cell is still not going to happen.
Punk exchanges words off mic with Heyman. He says he's happy to handle it and says he wants to move on to some more relevant business. It swings to a recap of Heyman's proposal to AJ.
Heyman points out that AJ didn't say no, but she did violate an edict from the board of directors. Heyman says he's not one to quote scripture but quotes a memo from the board of direction. He recalls the edict that AJ is not to put her hands on anyone ever again. Heyman says that he and Punk concur and say that AJ must be removed as the General Manager of Raw immediately.
Heyman poses the question as to who would lead the flagship show and Heyman says that he would be the one to do it. He puts himself over as the man with experience. He gets interrupted by Vickie Guerrero.
Vickie complains that she and Dolph have been the victim of AJ more than anyone. She cites the contract match with Jericho and AJ attacking her. Vickie feeds it to a video package.
Heyman asks when it became about Vickie. She puts over Dolph as the future World Heavyweight Champion. Heyman tells her that when the future catches up with the here and now - referencing CM Punk as the current WWE Champion - to let him know. Heyman tells Vickie to file a complaint with the proper channels. Dolph interrupts and proposes they team up and become co-general managers. Cue AJ's music.
She says she's been put on probation. She figured they'd excuse her for slapping a slimy, greasy, worm of a man like Heyman. She says she's been given an executive coach and Daniel Bryan's music hits. Cole and JR ponder if he's the coach.
Bryan gets on the mic and says he came out to apologize. He says AJ's issues have been compounded by the fact that he dumped her after Wrestlemania. Bryan says he can't blame her because he is one hell of a catch. The fans get on him a bit and he says he's handsome and a former world champion with a great beard. He's also the tag team champions. Here comes Kane.
Kane comes to the ring and puts AJ over as a great kisser. He backs up Daniel Bryan but asserts himself as the tag team champions. Now we get everyone yelling and asserting themselves in their various roles. AJ screams at them to stop.
She says it's her show and she is still in charge even though she's on probation. She books Team Hell No against Punk and Ziggler. Heyman and Vickie confer and the two teams argue as AJ skips away. Cole hypes up a World Heavyweight Championship debate coming up later on.
We get a shot of Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio walking backstage. Their first round match in the tag team #1 Contender's Tournament is up next.
The match should be good, but I'd have preferred to keep Dolph and Punk out of the Kane and Bryan comedic nonsense.
Match #1 - Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara vs. Epico and Primo (w/Rosa Mendes)
Both teams are in the ring as we come out of break. Primo and Epico control the action in the early going. Cole runs down the matchups coming up. Huracanrana city now, as Sin Cara and Rey hit several, throwing Epico and Primo out of the ring. The Prime Time Players music hits and they come to the stage. Cole tells us they get the winner of this match if they get by Kofi and Truth on Smackdown.
In the end, Rey Mysterio hits a stereo 619 on Epcio and Primo. Rey helps Sin Cara dive on one, and Rey splashes the other to get the win. The faces celebrate as the Prime Time Players clap from the stage.
Cole and JR hype up the debate later, and Cole tells us that they'll take questions from Twitter and Tout.
Fun tag match. I like the tournament packaging to get some shine on the division, but I think the wrong team went over here.
Match #2 - Brodus Clay (w/Cameron and Naomi) vs. Antonio Cesaro
Clay is in the ring already finishing his dance moves. Cesaro comes out alone this time but says his word "appreciation" in five languages in the split screen.
Clay hits some offense, but Antonio is able to hit the Neutralizer to get the win. Cesaro brags in the ring afterward.
Good sell of the move on such a big man by the announcers. Clay was pretty much an afterthought here as this was all about Cesaro.
AJ introduces Kaitlyn to her executive coach and lays out the situation with him observing her performance. AJ asks if Kaitlyn is soon ready to go and she says she'll have a match next week. AJ swings into talking about their friendship, and how she hopes Kaitlyn will forgive her for past misgivings. AJ breaks out into a laugh and says she's not really sorry and skips away.
Match #3 - Zack Ryder vs. The Miz
Ryder gets his share of offense in this match, hitting the Broski Boot for a near fall. In the end, Miz throws Ryder to the corner then hits the Skull Crushing Finale for the win.
Good basic TV match. Shocking that Miz won on TV.
The World Heavyweight Championship Debate:
Booker T comes to the ring first as JR says this will be the only non-partisan debate this fall. Booker tells us that Sheamus will face Big Show for the first time in four weeks at Hell in a Cell. He introduces the participants in the debate.
They run through highlights from Show vs. Orton on Smackdown where Show won the right to face Sheamus. Booker introduces Sheamus and Cole says that beating Big Show is on his bucket list.
Show starts to thank Booker for the time, but turns and says never mind and calls it unnecessary. Show puts himself over and says he'll beat Sheamus at Hell in a Cell and win the belt. Sheamus starts with the cheap pop and talks about Oklahoma City.
Sheamus says he's only concerned that the match will last longer than 45 seconds. Show gets upset and says Sheamus isn't taking this seriously. Show gets upset and leans against his podium, which crumbles. Show asks for a new podium and says that he's "slightly overweight" and leaned on it.
Sheamus points to the screen and asks for a Tout message from his cousin, Rey MysteriO'Sullivan. Sheamus is holding up a mask in front of him. Show calls for things to be serious again as does Booker, which Sheamus does.
Sheamus gets serious and asks how Show felt when Bryan beat him in 45 seconds. Show takes his jacket off and glares at Sheamus as Sheamus says he beat Bryan in 18 seconds. They glare at each other but Show backs away and walks off.
That was terrible. Just terrible. This could have been sold as a bigger challenge for Sheamus but they took the comedy route.
They show Ryback backstage walking toward the ring.
Match #4 - Tensai vs. Ryback
Cole points out that Jerry Lawler continues to improve as Ryback comes out. No Sakamoto again.
Ryback hits a powerslam and hits a clothesline. Ryback tries to go for his finisher but can't get Tensai up, so he hits another big clothesline to get the win.
JR tried to cover for Ryback, saying Tensai blocked the finisher attempt, but it looked horrible. Cole also did well to say Ryback uses the big clothesline as another weapon in the arsenal.
Sandow and Rhodes talk about winning the tag team championship tournament and the belts. They mock Sheamus for being a neanderthal and say they will be better championship representatives. They move to a sell for JR Appreciation Night and air an ad for Foley's new kids book.
Match #5 - Eve vs. Beth Phoenix
They show a split screen shot of Eve being overly nice to the rest of the Divas division. They go back to Smackdown and show the highlight of Eve trying to get Beth suspended, only to be overturned by Booker.
Eve works Beth on the floor after she ends up eating the ring post. Beth gets back in the ring at 9 only to take the Neckbreaker from Eve for the win.
Predictable but fine enough. Nothing is working, though.
AJ introduces Christopher Stevenson (her coach) to Wade Barrett. Barrett says she's doing a horrible job. He says he's not booked on the program and one minute she's hot and one minute cold. He tells her to stop letting relationships get in the way of her job. Barrett walks away.
After, AJ looks at Stevenson and says she thinks he's intimdated.
The announcers report that JBL has reached the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro and planted the WWE flag there. I believe I heard them say he will be back in the announce booth next week.
Match #6 - Santino Marella vs. Heath Slater (w/Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal)
The announcers wonder what has these three guys brought together. Slater has a run of offense before Santino comes back with his normal offensive set. He hits Slater with the Cobra, but the other two men hit the ring.
McIntyre hits the Future Shock DDT after Mahal and Slater count him off. Slater says they have something everyone needs to hear. McIntryre calls himself the chosen one, Mahal says he's the maharaja and Slater is still the one-man band.
Cole hypes up Appreciation Night and we get hype for Sheamus vs. Sandow after the commercial.
Match #7 - Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow (w/Cody Rhodes); non-title match
The two men exchange offense as Cole, JR and Cody Rhodes talk at ringside. Sheamus grabs Sandow by the beard and tries a clothesline, but Sandow ducks out of the ring. He takes a powder up the ramp as they go to break.
After commercial, Cody runs interference to give Sandow a chance to take control of the match. Sandow controls the action for the next several minutes. Sandow keeps up the offense and Ross puts him over. Sheamus battles back with a battering ram and gets a near fall. He slams Sandow as he's tied up in the ropes.
Rhodes gets up and tries to attack Sheamus from behind, but Sheamus sees him and attacks him first. He throws Rhodes in the ring, then hits both men at the same time with the Brogue Kick to get the win.
Good match and the announcers put over Sandow well.
The announcers hype up the tag match and JR Appreciation Night next.
Jim Ross Appreciation Segment:
Michael Cole gives Jim Ross a nice introduction and he makes his entrance. The fans give him a good welcome. Cole asks JR how it feels to have this night in front of his own fans in Oklahoma City. JR goes to speak but here comes CM Punk.
Punk and Heyman come to the ring and Punk dismisses Cole. The fans boo Punk, but he leads a JR chant. Punk says JR is the best announcer they have and he respects the hell out of him. He says the fans want to shower JR with respect, but they're clueless as to what that means.
Punk says the fans turned their back on him. Punk says he respects JR and that's why he's going to help Punk teach the fans about respect by telling them Punk is the best in the world. Ross tells Punk that he's happy Punk didn't come out to embarrass him (yet). "Just being honest, man to man, you've done a hell of a job out of making a jackass and embarrassing yourself the last several weeks on television."
Heyman holds the belt up and proclaims Punk the best in the world. The fans chant for JR but Punk says he's disappointed in Ross. Punk says he came out to tell Ross they're both the best when everyone else (motioning toward the back) is treating him like crap.
Punk asks what would happen to Ross if he treats him with the same disrespect and the same way he treated Foley last week. Punk mocks the "Stone Cold" call and says that neither Stone Cold or Jerry Lawler would help Ross. Punk says that 316 used to mean Austin would whip your ass, but now it's a sign of Punk's reign as WWE Champion.
Punk says 316 belongs to him now. "316 and counting, just like you, right now, body and soul, belong to me." Punk asks Ross what made him such a tough guy with his hat and goatee. Punk says Ross could say it however he wants, but Ross is going to say Punk is best in the world.
Ross fires back and says "I'm not going to say it. You talk about being best in the world and you want everyone to call you the best in the world. Well let me tell you something sir, I have been blessed to call some of the greatest matches in the WWE history with the best in the world." Ross says he's called matches with Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Undertaker.
Ross says those guys never asked to be called best in the world but JR would have had they asked because they earned it. Ross says that if Punk accepst Cena's challenge and kicks Cena's ass in Hell in a Cell, JR will be first in line to tell him he's best in the world. "until then, we have nothing to talk about." The fans chant for JR again.
Punk takes off the sweatshirt, then takes JR's hat and stomps on it. Punk says he doesn't run from fights. He says he's beaten Cena time and again. He pulls out an Oklahoma City Thunder reference and says they went to the back of the line to earn their next shot.
Punk says he's never run from anything but if Ross is smart, he will. He says Ross is in the ring with a dangerous man and Punk will hurt him and see to it that Ross never calls another match. Punk challenges JR to put his hands up and fight, or leave. JR goes to leave but Punk stops him.
He asks JR where he thinks he's going. Punk asks if JR thinks he's going back to the announce positin to spew rhetoric. Punk says that JR will take the walk of shame instead and says he wants everyone to see him do it. Punk points up the ramp and tells JR to do it or he would "put him in the dirt." Ross heads up the ramp, while Punk berates him "you're not a Hall of Famer, you're a joke, you're an embarrassment."
JR gets to the ramp, but here comes Ryback. He comes to the ring, motioning for JR to follow him. Ryback and Punk glare at each other in the ring while JR stands by the ropes. The fans get a vocal 'feed me more' chant going. Punk backs away and exits with Heyman, who tells Punk "you don't fight for free."
Good segment. JR had some good exchange there, and Punk is doing great on the mic. They also used Ryback well here to build a face guy into a match against the hatable Punk.
JR is back on commentary now and he asserts he wasn't trying to be disrespectful. He says that writing "best in the world" on a shirt doesn't make you it, it's something you earn. He says he feels Punk could earn that by beating Cena in Hell in a Cell. They run through highlights of Orton's injury angle on Smackdown and after the show.
Match #8 - Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodruigez) vs. Kofi Kingston (w/R-Truth)
Ricardo is on commentary. He says he's been a huge fan of Cole but briefly acknowledges JR. Kingston gets a fast start going and the match goes to commercial.
After commercial, Ricardo says it's a three-on-one match with Truth, Little Jimmy and Kofi. Kofi hits the Boom Drop and teases Trouble in Paradise, but Del Rio avoids it. Del Rio locks on the Cross Arm Breaker to get the win.
Kofi Kingston. Forever in neutral.
AJ is with Christopher Stevenson. He tells AJ that being a leader is admitting when you're wrong and putting aside personal differences. She turns the conversation and says they should do something special.
She threatens to make Stevenson the official tonight for the main event. She tells him to get out and leave the arena. She says a coach isn't worth a damn if they aren't a player and he's never been a player. She says she doesn't need a coach, much less an executive one.
Match #9 - CM Punk (c) and Dolph Ziggler (w/Vickie Guerrero) vs. Daniel Bryan and Kane
Bryan and Kane make their entrances for the main event, and they show an ad for WWE Main Event on Ion that includes a Sheamus vs. CM Punk match. After commercial, Ziggler and Punk are in the ring. Justin Roberts introduces the special referee as AJ.
As the match gets going, Cole gives us a rundown of AJ's history with everyone. Ross calls it "days of our WWE Lives." Kane hits a clothesline that sends Ziggler to ringside, and Bryan tags in going into commercial.
Cole notes AJ being on probation and that she told the executive coach to get lost. He also gives us some history in that Kane made his first appearance in WWE 15 years ago this week. JR tells us it was in a Hell in a Cell match between Taker and Shawn Michaels.
As we cross 11PM, JR points out that Heyman and Vickie have not communicated. Punk hits a high knee but gets tossed off of the bulldog attempt. Kane hits a side slam and goes up top to hit the flying clothesline. Bryan tags in and leaps toward Punk in a slingshot move, but Punk gets him on the way down.
Bryan hits a clothesline and unleashes several kicks. He takes Ziggler off the apron, but eats a boot from Punk. Later, the two men battle and Punk teases the Macho elbow. Bryan counters and hits an angel-wing suplex then locks on the No lock. Punk reaches the ropes with an assist from Heyman.
AJ questions Paul, calling him up to the apron. He insists he did nothing wrong so she ejects him. Vickie gets indignant and she gets the boot, too. Ziggler gives chase as Vickie seethes over the ejection. Punk is left all alone. He eats a running dropkick from Bryan, then Kane tags himself in. Kane hits the chokeslam to get the win.
After the match, Kane and Bryan grab their belts and argue over who is the Tag Team Champions. Cole sends us off with "good night from Oklahoma City."
A decent enough main event to send us home tonight. Fans got to be happy because Punk got a little comeuppance from interrupting JR Appreciation Night earlier. This wasn't as much about the wrestling though as it was personas, even though we got good ring work, especially from Punk and Bryan.
Overall though, this show was a very mixed bag. If they were looking to rebound from their abysmal rating last week, this didn't do it. No Cena, and just overall lethargic booking. The first two hours were bad, but the third hour was a little stronger. I am wondering how many stayed tuned in for all three hours.
I'll have much more to say on tonight's show in the Raw Afterthoughts piece tomorrow evening. Thanks for watching along tonight.