Hell in a Cell is two weeks away. Last week, we saw a punch heard around the world in the main event segment though. Big Show has finally had enough, and he knocked out Triple H after being fired at the beginning of the show by Stephanie. Daniel Bryan celebrated over the prone body of Triple H and led the fans in "Yes!" chants. Are we going to see Triple H respond to this? How will he torture Big Show, if indeed the firing sticks.
The WWE title remains in abeyance. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan have been booked to face off in the Cell. Will this settle things once and for all? And John Cena has been slated to return at Hell in a Cell to face Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship. Is this all just a set-up to get to Damien Sandow cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase?
Shawn Michaels is advertised for tonight, and The Rhodes' will get their shot at tag team gold when they take on Rollins and Reigns of the Shield.
Show Open, Live from St. Louis, MO at the ScottTrade Center
Justin Roberts introduces Shawn Michaels to the ring, and he gets a rousing reaction as he makes his full entrance. Cole recaps that he was chosen in a "record setting vote" on the App to be the special referee for Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan inside Hell in a Cell. The announcers hype Shawn's experience inside Hell in a Cell both as a competitor and a referee.
Michaels thanks everyone who voted for him on the app last week. He admits that not everyone forgot about "old HB-Shizzle." He understands the concerns about his personal feelings for the men in the match. He talks about training Daniel Bryan, which gets a loud "Yes!" chant. He admits he likes Bryan, doesn't like Orton, and is still friends with Triple H. He says the match isn't about him and is all about crowning a new WWE Champion.
He talks about being in the first Hell in a Cell and says he's glad he's retired. He says what happened at Battleground and Night of Champions was a crock. He says two men will walk in to the cell and one man will walk out the WWE Champion. Randy Orton's music interrupts and he gets a rousing ovation from his hometown fans.
Orton says he's going to make it quick as he has a match with The Miz next. He says Shawn has everyone convinced. He talks about being born in St. Louis and knowing them better than everyone else, especially Shawn. He says the people of St. Louis aren't all that bright. He says he can see through Shawn and says Shawn resents him. He says that he will always be that much better than Shawn and it eats Michaels up inside.
"Oh, snap, were you talking, because I wasn't listening." Michaels tells him that he better worry about Daniel Bryan. Orton says "your little protoge?" Orton tells Michaels he will destroy Bryan in the HIAC match and Michaels will have to watch, then raise his hand in victory. The fans chant "No!" at Orton, who yelled at them to shut up.
Orton says that Michaels is no stranger to screwjobs. He tells Michaels that if he screws over Orton, there will be no coming back. Michaels asks Orton if he's trying to intimidate him. He says many have tried and many have failed. He tells Orton if he tries, he will kick his pretty little head off his pretty little shoulders. Michaels says that if Orton isn't down with that, he has two words for him...suck it.
Michaels goes to leave, but Orton grabs him. Orton tries to load the RKO, but Michaels counters and throws him to the ropes. Michaels cues up Sweet Chin Music but Orton rolls out to avoid it. Michaels wags his finger at him. From the ramp, Miz attacks Orton from behind. He beats on Orton a bit until officials run out to break things up. Their match will be next, and Miz rips his shirt off to get ready.
Not a bad segment for these two. They did a nice job of getting the friction established between Orton and Michaels, but Orton's jabs don't ring true about being better so it made things fall flat. Miz's attack worked well for a hook.
Match #1 - The Miz vs. Randy Orton
Miz is unloading on Orton in the corner and using knee strikes until Orton gets a clothesline in the corner.
Orton gets control and sets up for his elevated DDT off the ring apron. Miz fights him off and the match moves back inside. Miz goes up top and hits a double axe handle and teases the Skull Crushing Finale. Orton counters that. Miz gets Orton in the corner and kicks him in the thigh. He teases the Figure Four.
Out of nowhere, we get a momentary bizarre blink. The lights go down, and the Wyatts appear on the stage. Miz stares up the ramp at them, and turns around into the RKO. Orton picks up the win.
Afterward, Wyatt tells Miz that he is everything that Wyatt hates in the world. He talks about the limelight, diamonds and fame and asks Miz what it will take to satisfy his obsession. Wyatt tells Miz to not be afraid to suffer, as he will just put him down. "Follow the Buzzards."
Odd to give Orton the win off the distraction, but it works here. Orton destroyed Miz in Cleveland, so this loss by an "excuse" doesn't completely crap on Miz and even gives Miz a way out. I would guess Miz moves to Wyatt now. And if you follow news, you know Wyatt is nursing a leg injury - so having him just appear seated worked well to hide that.
Back live, Fandango is finishing his entrance. Cole points out the pink ring rope and hypes the cooperation between WWE and Susan G. Komen foundation.
Match #2 - Santino Marella vs. Fandango (w/ Summer Rae)
Fandango teases some top rope offense early, but Santino cuts him off. After hitting his hip toss, Santino grabs the Cobra sleeve. He sets up for it, but Fandango ducks out of the way and Marella is face to face with Summer on the apron. Fandango uses the distraction to roll up Marella for the win.
Forgettable two minutes.
The announcers hype up the tag team championship match for later in the show.
Paul Heyman is establishing his case to Brad Maddox regarding Punk's mule kick at the Battleground pay per view. Maddox says that Ryback has his rematch at Hell in a Cell, so he's not sure what more Heyman wants.
Heyman says he wants more than a rematch. He says that Punk embarrassed Maddox so eh believes that he should get to pick the stipulation. Heyman suggests a handicap match between Punk and Ryback and Curtis Axel. He puts it over as "best for business."
Maddox says it doesn't seem fair for Punk. Heyman calls Punk a cheating weasel and Maddox says he never thought he would hear a walrus refer to a Punk as a weasel. Maddox makes a "beat the clock" challenge. He books Ryback vs. R-Truth and Punk vs. Curtis Axel. Maddox tells Heyman if Ryback beats the clock, he will get to choose the stipulation. Heyman smiles and thanks him, then Maddox tells him that Punk will get to choose if he wins the challenge.
A reasonable backstage segment that establishes the route to the pay per view match stipulation. Maddox has charisma and we got a little of that but he seems neutered.
The announcers tell us about the petition that started by Xavier Woods to reinstate Big Show. Cole says a number of superstars, including John Cena, have signed. JBL says that he should mind his business and asks who he is.
JBL, um, he's former X-Division star Consequences Creed.
We get a video package highlighting John Cena and his return from triceps surgery. He will be back at the Hell in a Cell pay per view and the announcers give us a bit of hype for his match with Alberto Del Rio.
Like we forgot who Cena is...
Los Matadores and their bull (El Torito) make their entrance prior to commercial. JBL says he needs to get one and to "Fear the Bull."
I tell people to do that all the time - fear the Bull....the nickname of my show truck...
Match #3 - Los Matadores (w/ El Torito) vs. 3MB - Heath Slater and Drew McIntryre (w/Jinder Mahal)
Torito does a hip swivel to start things off. He lures Slater into a dive from one of them (I'm confused on who is who, I'll be honest). After some basic back and forth, the Matatores hit Slater with their slam finisher. After the match, the three of them beat up on Jinder for good measure.
Hmm...will we see Matadores vs. Real Americans, and what happens once that has run its course?
Cole talks about what Big Show did last week, then feeds it into a recap video package of what went down on Raw with Big Show and the McMahons last week. Cole hypes that they will be there next to address the matter.
Motorhead's "King of Kings" hits and here comes Stephanie and Triple H. JBL rants about Big Show assaulting the head of an NYSE traded company. There are some folks cheering and applauding Triple H - but King says he isn't getting much sympathy.
Stephanie says she learned a valuable lesson to never let her kindness be mistaken for weakness. The fans start a "you got knocked out" chant. She says they bailed the Big Show out a number of times and bought his mortgage. She says they were repaid with disrespect and insubordination. Steph repeats that Show is fired and they are repossessing his house and anything of value. Show will also be charged with trespassing and assault.
Stephanie references rumors that Hunter broke his jaw but gushed about how much man Triple H is and how he "ruled the Attitude Era with an iron fist." Triple H gets the mic and says "rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated." He points out that he's been COO for two years and put aside his personal and professional needs. He says every man has his breaking point and his was when fans were chanting yes while he lay in the ring unconscious.
That's how much man Hunter is. He can reach his breaking point while being knocked out.
Hunter says that after everything he's done, he and Stephanie are now the villains. He says that if the fans want him to be the bad guy, he will be the bad guy and give them something they haven't seen before. He says Show will live in financial ruin and anyone who even thinks "yes" had better pray.
Daniel Bryan's music hits and Triple H looks disgusted. Bryan comes to the stage and stokes up the already hot "Yes!" chants. From behind, Alberto Del Rio assaults Bryan and roughs him up a little bit, then hits the low superkick. Stephanie mockingly asks if Bryan was saying something, then tells Bryan he will face Alberto Del Rio. Triple H mockingly does the "yes!" thing while the fans chant "no!" in return.
I hope this means that the "between" roles of Stephanie and Hunter are over. All the extreme injuries to Triple H from that punch are way too much to even believe. And how likely are we going to get a distraction from either Cena or Big Show at some point this evening?
We watch Ryback head to the ring with Heyman in tow. His beat the clock challenge match is coming next.
Match #4 - R-Truth vs. Ryback (w/Paul Heyman); Beat the Clock Challenge to pick the stipulation at Hell in a Cell
Truth ducks out of the ring to waste some time. He smiles and high fives fans as he does. Ryback ducks out to chase him around. They go back in the ring and then Truth does it again. This time, Heyman gets in his way so that Ryback can attack from behind. A loud Goldberg chant gets going, and the announcers use it to shill the new Goldberg DVD.
Ryback gets some near falls as the action moves back in the ring. Truth gets a comeback going, hitting a missile drop kick along the way for a near fall. He sets up for a scissor kick, but Ryback avoids it then hits Shellshocked right out of the miss to get the win.
Smart of Truth to waste time as he did. Makes him look like he's able to outsmart the heel. The near falls felt believable too as Truth kicked out of them.
The announcers hype up that CM Punk will have his work cut out for him to beat Curtis Axel in five and a half minutes. They also hype the tag match later.
They run a promo for the new Goldberg DVD that is out now.
Stephanie greets the Bella Twins. She congratulates Brie on her engagement then talks about how Bryan was chanting "yes" last week after Big Show knocked out Triple H. She says he won't be chanting and ponders what he will say after Brie's match with Tamina Snuka. She tells Nikki that she has to stay backstage, but AJ will be allowed to be at ringside with Tamina. She wishes Brie luck and congratulates her a second time.
At ringside, Lawler disputes the fairness of it while JBL says that Brie gets a match "against a hall of famer Jimmy Snuka's daughter on Raw and it's fair."
Tons of Funk gets their entrance, and they'll be in action after the break.
Match #5 - Tons of Funk (w/Cameron and Naomi) vs. The Real Americans (w/Zeb Colter)
Zeb cuts a pre-taped promo criticizing Los Matadores for sneaking across the border and might as well be called Lost Illegals.
Late in this one, Cesaro hits Clay with the Neutralizer to get the win. After the match, Cesaro teases his big swing on Clay. Tensai starts to interrupt but Swagger stops him. Cesaro hits the big swing on Tensai instead to a mild pop from the fans. They do their "we the people" thing a second time.
It was what it was.
We get a video package with Lilian Garcia, Titus O'Neil, and Layla talking about breast cancer affecting their lives in various ways.
Match #6 - Brie Bella vs. Tamina Snuka (w/AJ)
Brie gets a mildly better reaction than she has been as she comes out and slaps hands with some fans. Tamina is already in the ring waiting for her, and AJ seems disinterested.
Brie gets some early offense in but Tamina takes over. JBL tells us that AJ is having a conversation with the title belt while the fans chant "AJ's Crazy!" They also talk about how this is a revenge match booked by Stephanie, but JBL defends it by saying that the twins pull twin magic so this ensures a one on one match.
After being dominated by Tamina for a bit, Brie hits a missile drop kick then a running knee that's pretty ugly. She hits a second one that looks better. She tries the facebuster from the ropes but Tamina slips away and follows with a big boot for the win.
After the match, Tamina roughs up Brie by hitting her with a Samoan drop, a shoulderbreaker and a splash. AJ climbs in the ring and locks her in the Black Widow afterward then pats her on the head and leaves. Nikki comes out to check on her sister.
That was what it was also. More than we normally get from the ladies and really there to begin to include Brie in the Daniel Bryan story.
Stephanie is with Brad Maddox, watching the Goldberg DVD. Daniel Bryan storms in and asks if it's not enough for Stephanie to mess with him but to now include Brie in their games. Stephanie tells him to calm down and not blame her for what happened out there. She asks if Bryan has a fiancee to attend to and Bryan storms off.
Blah. I'm tired of Stephanie on my TV.
Match #7 - CM Punk vs. Curtis Axel (w/Paul Heyman); Beat the Clock Challenge to determine the stipulation at Hell in a Cell
The time that Punk has to beat is 5:44. Axel controls a lot of this match after an initial flurry from Punk. He scores several near falls. In the last minute of the match, Axel gets a near fall out of a fisherman's suplex. Punk catches Axel with a kick then hits the GTS with 11 seconds left to go to get the win. Punk gets to pick the stipulation.
After the match Punk gets the mic and asks Heyman where he's going. He says he just beat Axel, so he gets to choose the stipulation. He says he learned from Heyman and likes his idea, so there's going to be a handicap match. Heyman guy Ryback, and Heyman himself, vs. CM Punk...."HELL, IN THE CELL!" Heyman sells shock over the announcement as Punk works the crowd.
Putting this match in the Cell certainly amps the feel of it up. It also gets a compelling twist with Heyman being in the match also. And as if the Intercontinental Championship means anything, it's worth even less now.
Match #8 - Daniel Bryan vs. Alberto Del Rio
Bryan comes to the ring leading "Yes!" chants as we get a recap of the events that set this match up earlier. We go back to commercial again. Del Rio gets his entrance after the break as the announcers remind us that Shawn Michaels guaranteed a new champion after Hell in a Cell as they give some hype to the WWE Championship match at Hell in a Cell.
The announcers give some hype to the World Heavyweight Championship match and the return of John Cena as Del Rio comes to the ring. JBL asks if Cena is truly physically and mentally ready for this match.
Del Rio controls the early going of this one. He takes a series of kicks from Bryan, but ducks the big round-house finale and follows up with a backstabber. Bryan starts a small run, but misses a running drop kick in the corner as we go to commercial.
After the break, Bryan tries a top rope headbutt but Del Rio moves. After Del Rio taunts a little, Bryan tries to get the Yes! Lock. Del Rio gets into the ropes to break it. Bryan continues to tee off on Del Rio. Del Rio hits a backbreaker followed by a stomp to the back.
Del Rio comes up bleeding after a string of offense. Del Rio mocks the "yes" routine and charges but takes a clothesline. Del Rio hits a missile drop kick for two while the announcers wonder what the Authority wants out of this match.
I hear Cartman saying "Respect my authoratai!"
Bryan starts up a flurry of offense. He hits a running drop kick in the corner then a huracanrana, followed up with a suicide dive to the outside. He rolls Del Rio back in and hits a missile drop kick and covers.
Orton appears on the Tron. He says he feels bad about what happened to Brie earlier but he's going to check on her. He enters the trainer's room and Del Rio takes advantage with a roll-up for two. Del Rio tries the cross arm breaker but Bryan shoves him off and hits a big kick.
Bryan leaves the ring and heads backstage. He loses the match by count-out as he hits the trainer's room. He goes in and asks where Orton is, but Orton attacks him from behind. Orton throws him into a tub and glares at Brie then Bryan and leaves. Trainers check on Bryan as we go to break.
They forwarded the Orton/Bryan story but protected Del Rio from a loss in the ring as well here. It was decent storytelling to move the WWE title feud forward.
The Shield is talking among themselves in Triple H's office. Rollins says it's too bad about Bryan and at least he was already in the trainer's room. They propose that the Rhodes boys might join them. Stephanie reminds them that the Rhodes' beat the Shield, and got their jobs back. Triple H tells them the match is now no disqualification and to finish it. Steph and Hunter make out for a minute after the Shield leaves the room.
We get another John Cena video, documenting his recovery from surgery from day 1 to his announcement that he would be at Hell in a Cell. The announcers gush over his recovery and hype his match with Alberto Del Rio at Hell in a Cell.
Match #9 - Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns of The Shield (c, w/Dean Ambrose); WWE Tag Team Championship under No Disqualification rules
Cody and Goldust get their entrance prior to the break. After commercial, we get some hype for CM Punk making a Smackdown appearance before the Shield makes their entrance through the fans. The announcers question how the Rhodes' got a tag team title shot before the Usos did as they were the true number one contenders. Justin Roberts handles the in-ring introductions.
The Rhodes brothers get a fast start. The fans chant for Goldust but they're fairly quiet through the early going. The announcers banter back and forth amongst themselves. Cody takes the heat from the Shield for a bit.
Cody tries for an Alabama Slam but Rollins slides through and tries a roll-up. Cody gets the hot tag to Goldust and he goes on a run. He sets Rollins up in the corner for a kick but greets Reigns with a right hand then a running clothesline on Rollins. He hits a bulldog, but ends up outside the ring as the result of a missed dive as we go to break.
Out of break, Rollins and Reigns put the boots to Goldust in the corner, then Rollins controls Goldust with an armbar. Goldust tries to get a backslide but only nets two. He continues to take the heat from The Shield. Reigns tries to whip Goldust to the corner but Goldust hits him with a springboard elbow.
Goldust goes for the tag but Rollins takes a cheap shot on Cody then tries a move off the ropes after mocking Goldust. Goldust hits him with a powerslam then hits the hot tag to Cody. Cody goes on a run, throwing Reigns into the corner then hitting a moonsault for two.
Ambrose takes a Disaster Kick from Cody and Reigns takes a springboard missile drop kick for a near fall. Action breaks down with Goldust taking the fight to Rollins outside. Cody loads CrossRhodes on Reigns but Ambrose stops it. All three members of the Shield gang up on the Rhodes'.
Goldust gets a chair and unloads, taking out Ambrose and Rollins. Reigns stops that assault and laughs that Goldust brought in a chair. He tries to use it but Goldust ducks, hitting a crossbody that takes Reigns down. Action breaks down again, as Rollins pairs off with Rhodes and Goldust with Reigns. Rollins sends Rhodes into the barricade with a powerbomb. Ambrose helps where he can to give the Shield the advantage. Reigns hits a sick spear on Goldust through the timekeeper area.
Ambrose helps Reigns into the ring where Cody is. The crowd begins to rumble, and here comes Big Show rumbling through the fans. He hits the ringside area and knocks out Rollins and Ambrose. Reigns is left in the ring with Cody. He jaws at Big Show as Cody tries the Disaster Kick. Reigns ducks, but toward Big Show and Show knocks him out too. Cody covers to get the win and we have new tag team champions.
Show exits, and Triple H comes charging out. He shoves Cody and Goldust away and rips off his jacket, yelling up toward Big Show. Show starts a "yes!" chant in the fans as Triple H seethes. That's how the show ends.
I loved this win, but the Battleground win seemed better. It was a good back and forth affair, but to have Cody miss a finishing move he has used in the past, then have Big Show knockout Reigns to get the win was a bit of a weak finish by comparison. The match was entertaining and live crowd was into it, starting "This is awesome" chants at one point, so I'm not clowning on it too much.
WWE also missed an opportunity to really advance the tag titles by making a bigger deal out of Rhodes and Goldust winning. Instead they shifted immediately to the Big Show and Triple H. Another minor miss in this otherwise good television moment.
I have to admit that I was bored at times with this show. I remember looking at the clock and thinking "man, another hour and a half to go?" Right now, I'm not sold on Hell in a Cell. I thought they did some things right tonight - for example hyping John Cena's return (think of him what you will) was well done.
I thought Shawn Michaels started off the show well, but I didn't feel like his appearance ultimately carried any weight. I was looking for more interaction between him, Orton, Bryan, and even Triple H, especially given that the pay per view is only 13 days out. Maybe we'll get that interaction on the go-home show, but I feel like that's too late.
Look for Raw Afterthoughts tomorrow evening where I break down this show in more detail. We'll be back next Monday night for more live Raw coverage as we hit the go-home show for Hell in a Cell. Thanks for watching along tonight, and always feel free to join in the conversation on Twitter as well!