Hell in a Cell is six days away. Last week, we got a title change - but it involved the tag champions. Cody Rhodes and Goldust were able to make a dent in the Authority's hold in a manner of speaking when they took the tag titles away from Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns of the Shield. They had help though - as the Big Show made an appearance to knock out the members of the Shield. Triple H flipped out at the end of the show, but the match was no disqualification...
How will Triple H and Stephanie respond to this? Will Big Show be punished? And what about the title feud? Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton had one exchange last week when Orton attacked Bryan backstage after intimidating Brie Bella. They sign their contract - how will they culminate their feud?
Show Open, Live from the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN
The show opens up with a recap of last week's main event, with Cody Rhodes and Goldust defeating the Shield for the tag team championship with the help of the Big Show. Triple H flipped out, and Cole says there will be hell to pay.
Motorhead's "King of Kings" hits and Cole welcomes us to Memphis. Here comes Triple H and Stephanie, who share a hug at the stage before they head to the ring. Cole feeds it to a recap of Big Show knocking out Brad Maddox on Smackdown. Cole says Maddox has a concussion and he won't be on Raw tonight. They also hype the contract signing between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan, with Shawn Michaels in attendance. Bryan will face Dean Ambrose as well.
We get a kiss from the power couple and Stephanie says the fans are jealous. She says Sunday is the most grueling pay per view, Hell in a Cell. She runs down some of the matches, featuring John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio, AJ defending the Divas Championship against Brie Bella, and CM Punk vs. Ryback and Paul Heyman in the Cell. She draws particular attention to Bryan vs. Orton with Shawn Michaels as official. She points out that he guaranteed a new WWE Champion.
Triple H says the fans chose him because they trust him, and Triple H respects him as well. Triple H says he respects Shawn Michaels more than anyone in the WWE. Big Show appears on the Tron and asks how Hunter can use the word respect. He says that neither him or Stephanie can use that word respect when they treat people with disdain. Triple H retorts that there are no more free rides and Show is finished.
Show asks why Triple H is mad. He proposes that it might be because Show is suing for slander or suing him for the millions left to pay on Show's contract. He says it might be because he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and given who he sleeps with any side is the wrong side. Stephanie looks disgusted then yells at him to shut up. Show starts another rant and tells Stephanie to shut up but she counts down to his exit from the Tron.
Triple H says the show goes on and introduces Dean Ambrose, but gets Daniel Bryan instead. He leads "yes!" chants as JBL sells disdain for Bryan interrupting like he did. Triple H and Stephanie stare at him as he circles the ring leading "Yes!" chants. Cole says he's in action, next.
More of the same. They did a good job of teasing a possibility of Michaels turning by pointing out how the fans voted for him because they trust him. Or they could just simply have a clean finish.
Match #1 - Daniel Bryan vs. Dean Ambrose
Ambrose makes his entrance after the break. The two men tie up and the match is underway. Cole reminds us that Ambrose was pinned by Bryan on Smackdown and is looking for revenge here. Ambrose takes the early advantage, but Bryan gets a comeback flurry.
Bryan goes up top for the headbutt, but Ambrose rolls out. Bryan greets him with a sliding kick, then tries to go with a knee off the apron but Ambrose ducks and greets him with a clothesline. We go to break.
Ambrose is controlling Bryan with a sleeper hold then hits him with a running drop kick in the ropes for two. Ambrose hits Bryan with a belly to back suplex. A little later, Bryan locks on a surfboard and the announcers tease that he might have to tap. Ambrose rakes the eyes to break it.
The two men exchange hands at the ropes and Bryan goes up top. Ambrose meets him there and hits a t-wing suplex off the rope for two then goes to a chinlock. Bryan tries a backslide and gets two, then the two men hit simultaneous cross body moves.
The flurry is on and Bryan hits a running drop kick and a huracanrana for two. Ambrose reverses a whip but eats an elbow in the corner. He counters Bryan's tornado DDT and hits a spinebuster for two. Ambrose ends up outside and takes a suicide dive and a missile drop kick for Bryan. He kips up and that draws a Michaels comparison as Bryan begins unloading kicks.
Ambrose rolls Bryan up, but Bryan counters to the Yes! Lock for the submission win. Cole puts over that Bryan can indeed use the hold to beat Orton in the Cell. We get highlights as Bryan celebrates with the fans.
A quality opening match. There was a botch at one point that looked like a miscommunication between the two, but it happens. Nice to see a long entertaining affair open the show. One nit pick is that it's against a secondary champion though.
Cole hypes up that CM Punk will join us next to talk about stepping in the Cell.
Justin Roberts introduces CM Punk. He comes out to a rousing ovation as Cole tells us he is getting the match he wants on Sunday. CM Punk stays at the stage and soaks in the reaction for a moment.
He says that on Sunday, Paul Heyman and Ryback will be locked in the Hell in a Cell structure with him. He says it defines legacies and ends careers. He says his legacy will be defined by what he does to Heyman once he gets to him.
Heyman thinks Ryback will save him from the beating he deserves. Punk says he won't because they'll be locked in the Cell with the devil who will do whatever he has to to give Heyman what he deserves. He says the plan is to put Ryback to sleep, then he will watch Heyman wiggle lie a worm on a hook. Punk says he will smash Heyman's face into every inch of the Cell.
He says that Heyman doesn't know anything about extreme but he will find out Sunday. Punk says that three men will walk in to the Cell on Sunday, and only one man will walk out. He says that man will be the best in the world, CM Punk. His music plays and he stares to the fans with a smile.
Simple and to the point. A little repetitive seeing as Heyman got some at Night of Champions. It was a loss, but the beating was satisfying.
Triple H and Stephanie are with Vickie Guerrero. Steph is on the phone talking to someone, while Triple H thanks Vickie for filling in and asks her to handle the little stuff and "don't screw anything up." They go to Triple H's office where Shawn Michaels is waiting.
He welcomes them and hugs Triple H. He asks Hunter about whether Bryan can be WWE Champion. Trips concedes he can, but objects to him being the face of the company. "We're not a wheatgrass company." Shawn reminds Hunter that they said the same thing about him and about Hunter.
Stephanie vents about Big Show getting on air earlier. Shawn says they used to do the same thing to Vince and Steph thought it was funny. Stephanie says it was funny then, but Show has been fired. She scolds Shawn and asks if he has noticed things have changed.
Shawn says that he does get it, but he didn't want to believe it. Shawn calls it a shame and says that "thankfully, one of us hasn't had to grow up, so I'm going to go have some fun." Shawn exits and Trips and Steph exchange off-mic words.
Three weeks of Shawn Michaels and this is the first these parties have talked? Hard to believe. They should have played up that Triple H has been "too good" to talk to Shawn over these weeks.
Match #2 - Santino Marella (w/Great Khali and Hornswoggle) vs. Heath Slater of 3MB (w/Drew McIntryre and Jinder Mahal)
Santino, Khali and Hornswoggle are all wearing Elvis wigs. Yes, I'm serious. Marella is even dressed like Elvis in the jumpsuit and all. Yes, I'm serious. There's some judo chops and a Cobra tease to start it off. Slater gets a couple shots in and Marella power walks the ropes. Yes, I'm serious.
In the end, Marella pulls out the Cobra, and it has an Elvis wig too. Yup. Slater avoids at first, but he jumps off the ropes and takes the Cobra anyhow. Elvis Marella wins.
Afterward, Santino gets a mic and stands on the announce table. He says there is only one king in Memphis and it's Jerry Lawler. Santino leads Jerry chants, then has Lawler get up on the desk with him. The pair dance Elvis style.
This is only slightly above the Kiss My Ass Club. And the Memphis fans get this every time WWE comes to town - just like the Vegas fans get the Roulette gimmick. This match was terrible and the placement after the good Punk promo was questionable.
We're just an hour in, and I really don't care about Hell in a Cell tonight. Tell me what you're thinking in the comments and hit us on Twitter!
We get a poll for a match that fans want to see in the new WWE 2K14 video game. Punk vs. Undertaker won that poll.
They show Randy Orton walking backstage, and he's up next.
We get a recap of the opening segment where Big Show interrupted Triple H during his promo.
Match #3 - Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler
Orton is the early aggressor. He throws Ziggler into the safety railing and hits a clothesline before throwing him back in the ring for two. Orton tries for the elevated DDT off the apron, but Ziggler counters and goes on a run of offense.
For whatever reason, we're told that Lawler and Elvis Cobra are trending on Twitter. God help me. Orton locks on a chinlock, but Ziggler breaks it with a jawjacker. Dolph goes on a run and hits a nice bulldog for a near fall. Orton hits a rough looking t-bone style suplex that landed Ziggler squarely on his head. Bad spot.
Late, Orton hits the elevated DDT and plays to the fans. He strikes the Viper pose and sets up for the RKO. Ziggler hits a nice drop kick for a near fall, then tries to go for the Zig Zag. Orton hangs on to the ropes then follows with the RKO to get the win. JBL sells it that Orton will be the face of the company after Sunday.
Just a thought here, but Creative could have put some oomph into the Bryan/Orton title match if they had let Orton and Bryan select each other's opponent. The matches were good, but just random and didn't add to the overall title story. Ziggler has gone from title contender to mid-card jobber again, which is sad.
Cole shifts focus to John Cena and his match with Del Rio. JBL says that Cena is indeed tougher beyond his body's capability but this is a rushed return. They feed it into a video diary of Cena's recovery. They hype the title match between Cena and Del Rio and JBL says that Del Rio will go right for the injured arm.
Going in to commercial, they hype the contract signing segment for later in the show between Bryan and Orton.
Match #4 - Tamina Snuka and AJ vs. The Bella Twins
Tamina controls the early offense in this one, throwing Nikki around. Nikki was wearing John Cena's "Rise Above Cancer" hat so she should have superpowers. Tamina works her over then turns her over to AJ. Brie tries to get a "Nikki" chant going but the Memphis faithful don't have much of it.
Brie gets the hot tag finally and goes on a run, hitting a missile drop kick for two. AJ gets a kick to the mid section and throws her down by her hair. Brie goes on a run after that and AJ ends up seated by the ropes. Brie calls to the crowd then tries a running kick but Tamina sacrifices herself for it.
AJ tries a roll-up, but Brie ends up rolling it through and hitting her X-Factor to get the win. Tamina carries AJ away from the ring as the Bellas celebrate.
If they stay the course, Brie will eventually get over. But they never gave her a definitive character turn and as a result the fans just don't connect with her.
They show a short video hyping up Alberto Del Rio and his cross-arm breaker hold. The announcers say that Cena has a target on his elbow and Del Rio will have a game plan.
They hype up that The Usos will face Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns of the Shield yet tonight for the right to get a tag title match at Hell in a Cell.
So, I guess the Usos have to fight for something they already have?
Renee Young sets up some footage of Big E. Langston joining CM Punk in fighting Ryback and Axel on Smackdown. They switch back to Heyman, Axel and Ryback. She holds the mic while Heyman goes off about Punk destroying him and lava exploding and destroying villagers and villages. Heyman flips a switch and talks calmly, saying that he is calm, cold hearted, and in control. Heyman says that Punk won't get past his monster Ryback in order to get to him in the Cell.
Big E. Langston interrupts and asks if he's a marginal talent now. Axel asks him if he knows how to say excuse me. Langston asks if he wants to fight and Axel gets riled up. Heyman grabs him and tells him to control himself and he doesn't fight for free. Langston walks off to a locker room.
Heyman was like a monster truck hype man on blue meth. It was insane but it worked.
We get a hype package focusing on Shawn Michaels and the history he has with Daniel Bryan.
It's about time we got to that one. It was good to see that footage of an early Bryan.
The Wyatt's entrance breaks in and they're here. They begin their entrance as a hook going to commercial.
Match #5 - Erik Rowan and Luke Harper (w/Bray Wyatt) vs. Kofi Kingston and The Miz
Wyatt takes his seat in the rocking chair at ringside and watches his men go to work. They control the early going. They isolate Miz and dominate him early on. Things are pretty lopsided and the announcers made an excuse for Miz kicking out by being distracted by Kofi and released the hold.
Miz finally gets the hot tag and he goes on a run. Kingston hits the illegal man Rowan with the Trouble in Paradise kick, but ends up getting caught with Harper's big clothesline for the win.
Afterward, the Wyatts rough up Kofi first, then Miz. They tie Miz up in the ropes and Wyatt gets in the ring. He says he has won wars without lifting a finger. He asks if Miz believes in the creator of life after death and says that he isn't there to convince Miz of the fact that hell is real. He is there to lead Miz to the gates.
Harper and Rowan are a dominant heel team. Rowan still is a little clumsy at times but it's forgivable. It's a good throwback to the dominant heel teams of the past. I wonder where the Miz/Wyatt thing is going?
Match #6 - Curtis Axel (w/Ryback and Paul Heyman) vs. Big E. Langston
This really never gets started. Langston spears Axel and takes him down, but Ryback attacks to help Axel. They battle to ringside, with Langston getting in some shots but the numbers game catching up with him. The announcers marvel that he's not going down without a fight.
Langston battles back, and Heyman grabs a kendo stick and hits him. Langston no-sells and goes after Heyman. Ryback takes him down with a clothesline, but here comes CM Punk with a kendo stick to take it to the heels. Vickie Guerrero comes out and interrupts, starting this match as a tag match.
Match #6A - CM Punk and Big E. Langston vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel (w/Paul Heyman)
The match is joined in progress. We get a highlight from the app of a belly to belly suplex. In the early going, Punk ends up selling for the heels. He hits a kick on Ryback that looks a bit awkward.
Big E gets the hot tag and fires up on Curtis Axel, hitting a series of clotheslines and power moves, ending with a splash. He pulls his straps down and picks up Axel, with Punk diving over him to take out a charging Ryback. Things break down a little and Punk clotheslines Ryback out of the ring. Langston hits the Big Ending on Axel to get the win.
Punk and Langston celebrate, then Punk turns his attention to Heyman. He slides out of the ring and chases him through the crowd. Heyman escapes, but Punk stands by one of the entries and pumps up the crowd. He goes up into the lower bowl and poses with some fans as his music plays.
JBL doubted that Punk could trust Langston. I am guessing that this win gets Langston a shot at the Intercontinental Championship.
They go to the "belly of the WWE Shop" for some sales hype from R-Truth. He runs through the various offerings and says that if you use the promo code "Truth" you get 20% off.
A "what the hell" moment that actually did make me laugh.
This show is entertaining, but the problem is this is the go-home show going into Hell in a Cell, and it's not selling me on the pay per view.
Match #7 - The Real Americans (w/Zeb Colter) vs. Tons of Funk (w/Cameron and Naomi)
We get a recap of what happened with El Torito goring Zeb Colter on Smackdown as the Real Americans make their entrance. El Torito appears in a pop-up promo and cuts a promo in Spanish. Zeb rants about "that little bull" at the announce position as the action continues in the ring.
Cesaro hits a big swing on Clay, and Swagger takes out Tensai before locking on the Patriot Lock. Clay taps out.
Afterward, Colter gets in the ring and says "fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on America." He introduces us to his little friend, which is a bull whip. He says that's no bull and tells us to say "we the people."
At one point, Colter refered to Cesaro as the strongest man in the world. That could shadow a matchup with Mark Henry at some point, possibly. Looks like Los Matadores are going to be "married" to the Real Americans for a while.
We get some hype for Cena vs. Del Rio, with a history of Cena's career to come next.
The announcers hype up the pre-show, with Big E Langston getting a title shot. Lawler is playing with a Brawling Buddy and beats Cole with it a little bit. Cole feeds it into a hype video recapping Cena's career.
They feed it to a recap of Del Rio's promo on Smackdown, where Del Rio called him soft and put Josh Mathews in the Cross Arm Breaker to demonstrate what will happen to Cena. JBL says "it's just Josh Mathews." They hype the match again, calling it an emotional night in Miami.
This was a good video package for Cena, from his debut in 2002 to today. And they're being consistent with the hype for Cena vs. Del Rio, which is the best I can say for pay per view hype throughout the night.
Goldust and Cody Rhodes get their entrance to a decent reaction, and they're going to watch the match to determine their #1 Contenders for Hell in a Cell, next.
Match #8 - Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns (The Shield) vs. The Uso Brothers; #1 Contender to the tag team championship at Hell in a Cell
The Shield makes their entrance through the crowd. They stare down the Rhodes' as they get to ringside. Ambrose makes the entrance with them and spends the match at ringside. After the visual, The Usos make their entrance to a decent reaction.
Cole points out that The Usos already won a #1 Contender match and shouldn't have to work this match to get their shot. The Shield gets a rematch though after losing the titles. JBL picks on Rhodes who talked in face tones about the match. Cody gets bold and says that their brotherly team is "better than the Briscoes." Going into commercial, the Shield takes control by bumping the one Uso off the apron and to the announce table.
Out of commercial, The Shield continues in control with the Uso taking the heat. Ambrose starts a war of words with the Rhodes'. The Usos hot tag and he cleans house before he measures up Reigns for a corner butt bomb. Reigns explodes out of the corner and turns Uso inside out with a clothesline.
The action breaks down and all four are in the ring. Uso hits Rollins with a Samoan drop, but Reigns dumps him out. Reigns hits a powerslam, but can't follow up with his corner attack. Uso goes up top for a splash after a kick, but Reigns gets the feet up.
The Rhodes' have had enough of Ambrose and a brawl ensues outside the ring. One of the Usos comes flying to the ringside action and helps out the Rhodes'. It breaks all the way down and the official throws the match out.
Afterward, The Shield gangs up on Goldust until Cody makes the save. The Usos also get involved in an all out brawl. The Usos clothesline Rollins out over the rope and stand tall with the Rhodes'. The announcers wonder who the #1 Contender is. The Rhodes and The Usos eye each other up but without incident. The Shield retreats through the crowd.
Basic main event that was well worked. The no-contest finish is an obvious play to go to a triple threat tag team championship match, if they want it.
After break, they announce it as official that there will be a triple threat tag team championship match at Hell in a Cell on Sunday.
Triple H and Stephanie are in the ring where the table and chairs are all set up for the contract signing. Randy Orton gets his entrance first, being called "the face of WWE." Daniel Bryan gets his next. Triple H makes the introduction for Shawn Michaels, running through the nicknames for HBK. He makes his entrance with pyro, and runs around the ring a little bit. Smiles from Hunter before things settle down.
Orton gives Bryan credit for continuing to get up from the beatings he has given out. He tells Bryan that he wont be getting up on Sunday at Hell in a Cell. He brags about beating guys like Undertaker, Sheamus, and John Cena in the Cell. He says he is entering the match with confidence and signs the contract.
Bryan says that Orton wouldn't have been champion had it not been for The Shield and Triple H. He thanks Orton for pushing him and proving he is way more than a B-plus player. He thanks Orton for exposing himself as a corporate patsy, and Triple H and Stephanie as narcissistic selfish spoiled brats. Bryan signs.
Triple H speaks up and says he has seen guys like Bryan come and go a million times. He compares Bryan to guys like Jericho, Edge, and Rob Van Dam. He says they are talented and popular, but they were never the one. He says no one wants to admit it, but if any of those names were the face of WWE back in the day, they would all be working for Ted Turner. That draws an "oooh" from the crowd.
Hunter says that when Bryan steps in Hell in a Cell, he will prove that he is nothing more than a B-plus player. Bryan tells Hunter that he talks a big game behind the suit, and challenges him to trade the suit in for wrestling gear and see how good Bryan really is. Hunter says that proves how out of it Bryan is.
Hunter puts himself over and says that if he gets back in the ring, which he is very capable of doing, it would be to face a star, guys like Undertaker, Rock, Brock, but not Daniel Bryan. He says he fights A-plus players because they want to fight stars, and neither he nor they would waste their time with Bryan.
"Shawn Michaels should never have wasted his time training you." Hunter says. Michaels speaks up and says he didn't waste his time. He puts Bryan over and says he is 'good, very good." He asks what happened to the Triple H he used to know - the guy that drove a tank into WCW and played strip poker on Raw. Shawn says he doesn't care that Trips is COO or that he trained Bryan.
"What I care about is these people voted me to guarantee them a new WWE Champion at Hell in a Cell on Sunday." Orton gets worked up and says he warned Triple H that HBK has an agenda. Triple H looks at Shawn and says "at the end of the day, Shawn will do what's right."
HBK says that Hunter is right in that he will do what's right for the fans and for the business he loves. Shawn asks what Hunter has against Bryan. He asks if it's the fact that he's small, has a grotesque beard. He says he had one and he kinda liked it. He asks if it's just simply the fact that Bryan proved him wrong. Hunter doesn't get a chance to answer that question.
Randy Orton interrupts. He says that Bryan can't beat him and he knows it and can see it in his eyes. He goes on and tells Bryan that he will take his "A plus" star and take him straight to hell. Bryan has had enough and starts rearranging furniture, then stares Orton down. The camera goes backstage to a tractor trailer moving through the backstage area. Big Show is driving.
The truck makes its way to the arena floor to the side of the stage. Show emerges, then does "yes!" chants. He motions for Orton to turn around, and when Orton does he takes a running knee from Bryan. Bryan does "yes!" chants in Hunter's face then leaves the ring. He joins Show at the truck, climbing up on top of the cab to do more "yes!" chants with the fans. Hunter and Stephanie seethe in the ring, Orton collects his jaw, and the show ends.
I liked this segment when Michaels and Triple H were talking. It really felt like just more of the same out of Bryan and Orton though. I think this is the direct impact of having so much baggage attached to this story - Big Show, Triple H, Stephanie, etc. Orton and Bryan could never really truly develop a feud.
I guarantee that a lot of people are up in arms already about the line involving Jericho, Edge, and RVD. I liked it though and it fit in with the condescending view Triple H has about Daniel Bryan. Triple H was never truly a guy who carried WWE in his heyday - I viewed that as more Rock (to an extent) and Austin (primarily). I'm still lost on why Big Show is hanging around this picture, but I guess we'll find out on Sunday.
This segment likely sold some pay per views, but the rest of the show definitely did NOT. It was very ho-hum in terms of pay per view hype aside from the return of John Cena. We got the undercard set up, and I hope viewers didn't tune out to the NFL to miss this final segment to get the best sell for the event.
I will have Raw Afterthoughts for you sometime tomorrow evening. Thanks for watching along tonight. Join in the conversation on Twitter as well!