There's just six days left until the WWE's October pay-per-view event - Hell in a Cell. Last week, CM Punk was given his chance to select his opponent, but because he dragged his feet Vince McMahon made the choice for him. Ryback has been put in the place to battle Punk at Hell in a Cell for the WWE Championship.
Is Ryback ready? I guess we'll find out. And will Cena change his mind and make this a triple-threat affair? And what else is going to happen as we prepare for the coming pay per view? Join us at the top of the hour!
We're live in East Rutherford, N.J. tonight. Standard WWE programming intros welcome us to tonight's program, then we go right to action.
Match #1 - Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara vs. Team Rhodes Scholars; #1 Contender Tournament Finals
As each team makes their entrances, they recap the road to tonight's final match for each. Cole reminds us that this was to take place last week, but Rey was sick. JR talks about Rey and Sin Cara's tag team championship experience.
Sin Cara starts off with Rhodes. Cara hits some chops and a huracanrana then tags in Rey. Sandow gets a tag and controls Rey but Sandow ends up in position for the 619. Rhodes saves Sandow, but each of them eats a dive from Cara and Rey. Team Hell No watches on from a monitor in the back.
Rey holds Sandow in place for Cara to hit a springboard moonsault. Sandow takes back over and gets a near fall, then tags in Rhodes. Rhodes hits a stalled vertical suplex, then the two of them go to work on Cara with frequent tags. Cara sells for a bit, then hits a big enzuigiri kick as they go to commercial.
After the break, Sandow hits the Elbow of Disdain and Rey breaks up the count. Sin Cara hits a move and gets the hot tag. Rey unloads, hitting a tilt-of-whirl head scissors and a drop toe hold on Rhodes. Rey sets up Rhodes in the 619, hitting it on both guys. Rey drops the dime but Sandow breaks up the count.
A scrum breaks out where Rey chases Sandow from the ring. Rhodes hits the Cross Rhodes on Rey to get the win.
Afterward, Team Hell No appears on the Tron to congratulate them. They tell Rhodes and Sandow that they have no chance to win the belts. Kane pushes Bryan behind himself, then does his ring pyro move to scare Team Rhodes Scholars.
Good opening match. This could be good - or bad. Let's see what happens going forward.
They show a series of still shots of the first-time visit to Egypt.
Match #2 - Kofi Kingston (IC Champion) vs. Michael McGillicutty; non-title match
Miz is at ringside looking less than amused. They feed it to a recap of last week's events, including Raw on Monday and the title change on Wednesday on Main Event. McGuillicutty got no entrance. Miz says Kofi should thank him for putting him on the map.
McG starts off fast and gets a fall. The announcers talk about Miz facing Ryback later tonight as McG continues to control the offense. McG charges but eats Trouble in Paradise for the quick win.
Kofi celebrates and Miz simply says "keep it warm". The announcers sell Miz's match later.
Lip service hype to the mid-card. They have to get away from that if they intend for fans to take the mid-card seriously.
Cole feeds it to a video recap of the contract signing from last week. Cena endorsed Ryback for the WWE Championship match against Ryback. Ryback hits Shellshock on Punk to close the show. Up next, Cena will explain why he endorsed Ryback next.
After showing the members of the New York Giants who are in attendance, John Cena's music hits. Cena charges the ring and he's waving the surgically repaired arm. Cole hypes up the pink ring gear being available still to help raise money for Komen.
Cena puts over the Giants and being near Met Life Stadium, where next year's WrestleMania will happen. He says Hell in a Cell is upcoming and CM Punk will prove himself as a man who tells the truth. Cena says Punk has been champion for 337 days and he is a visionary. He says that we will see change at Hell in a Cell.
Cena says change is 6'3" and 291 lbs and all he hears is three words: "Feed Me More." The fans chant along. Ryback is not a talker, complaining about brass rings and talking about ice cream bars. Ryback stands for one thing and that's destruction. The face of WWE will change this Sunday. Cue CM Punk.
Punk mocks Cena for endearing himself to the fans by praising the Giants. Punk says he's a huge Giants fan but it's the San Francisco variety. Punk puts over his title reign and calls it change we can count on. He says he's the best in the world - not Cena, not the Giants, nor Ryback.
Punk says he can promise destruction and change but everyone knows that when Punk makes a promise he keeps it. He promises he will retain the title at Hell in a Cell. Punk says he likes Cena's role as Ryback's cheerleader. Cena has finally realized what Punk has known, that Cena can't beat Punk.
Cena says that it's not because he can't beat Punk, it's that he wasn't allowed. Cena declares that he is now medically cleared and invites Punk to come to the ring and get a "pre-ass whipping" before the real one on Sunday. Heyman yells at Punk that he "doesn't fight for free" as Punk teases getting in the ring. Punk backs off and holds his title up high as Heyman praises him for backing down.
This was a decent enough segment. Wonder what they're planning going forward - a Cena/Ryback program?
Cole sells that AJ was called to corporate headquarters for an emergency meeting. She is to arrive within the hour. Kane is going to face Big Show as well later tonight.
Match #3 - Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. Justin Gabriel; non-title match
Cesaro gets a bit of an entrance but none for Gabriel. Cesaro goes out of the ring to cut a promo but eats a knee from Gabriel. Cesaro comes back with a slingshot off the ropes as Cole tells us that Cesaro ripped tendons in his hand.
Cesaro begins to control the offense as he drops Gabriel across the top turnbuckle then knees him. Gabriel gets in some offense with a unique elbow drop. He teases the 450 but Cesaro counters by falling into the ropes. They scrum at the top rope and Gabriel hits a jumping enzuigiri. Gabriel follows with the 450 splash to get the win.
Cole and JR hype up that this should put Gabriel in the running for the US Championship as they show a recap of the end of the match. Cesaro fumes.
A limo arrives, and Vince McMahon pops out with AJ, who doesn't look happy. They appear to be next after the break.
Vince tells us that AJ's meeting was regarding her tenure as the GM of Raw. Vince turns it over to AJ to tell us what happened. She says that she's resigning because of allegations of fraternizing with someone on the roster. She says the allegations are false but she understands that she could have been fired a long time ago so that's why she agreed to resign when asked.
She knows some decisions may have been unorthodox and some may consider her unstable, but she thinks some people like a crazy chick. That gets a "yes!" chant started. She says she knows it's ending before she wanted to but she's come far. She grew up 15 minutes from the Meadowlands with nothing. She talks about living in cars and motels and how she's gone from being homeless to being the boss. She thought she'd be the little poor girl who never made anything of herself but the fans accepted her.
She thanks the fans and says she's loved the job and thanks Vince for giving her the chance no one else would have. Vince gives her a hug, but here comes Paul Heyman. He says he was unaware of AJ's story. He ponders the thought of a homeless girl coming up to the leadership of the longest show on TV.
He indirectly makes fun of her and says that business is business. Heyman says that there needs to be a new GM. The board has to name someone immediately and he says Vince needs someone with class, dignity and education, and when the time is right to have ruthless aggression. He humbly suggests that if needed, the next GM should be Paul Heyman.
Vince simply says "no." He introduces us to the "managing supervisor of Monday Night Raw," Vickie Guerrero.
Vickie tells Paul she's going to do things bigger and better than Booker T. She makes the main event as Sheamus vs. CM Punk in a champion vs. champion match. Paul protests, then she reveals it will be a lumberjack match. Paul flips out and leaves the ring.
Vickie turns to AJ and says "tisk tisk tisk" and says that AJ was never right for the job. Vickie puts herself over as a wise, mature woman with the experience to run the show. That's why the directors believe in her to be the managing supervisor - soon to be general manager. Vickie puts it out there that AJ had an affair and that disgusts her. Vickie tells her to pack up her little-girl stuff and get out.
AJ gives her the crazy eyes and starts to walk off. AJ attacks Vickie and throws hands at her. The two scrum until Vickie escapes. Referees escort Vickie up the ramp as AJ stands in the ring. Cole and JR talk about how explosive this situation turned out.
That was weak. And if I didn't have a recap to finish, I'd have changed the channel. Vickie does nothing for me, at all. Go away.
Cole sells Ryback vs. Miz, coming up after the break.
Match #4 - Ryback vs. Miz
Miz complains to the official and doesn't want this match. Ryback drags him in over the top rope. A "Goldberg" chant gets going. Ryback shoves Miz to the floor, then drags him back in. Miz gets next to nothing going and gets hit with Shellshock. Ryback plays to the fans.
Even if they tried to put heat on Miz earlier in the situation with Kofi, they wiped it out in one sweep.
Eve runs down AJ on the phone for being a whore basically. Kaitlyn walks up and tells Eve she shouldn't be talking about being unprofessional. Eve asks what she meant and Kaitlyn shows her a picture that she took on her phone. Kaitlyn says it's the email that Eve sent that set up the attack. Eve says she's going to tell Booker but Kaitlyn tells her to drop the act because they all know she's a witch.
Eve slaps Kaitlyn and they brawl. Layla runs in and gets involved too, jumping on Eve until officials break things up.
So I guess we're getting a tag match with the four women?
Elsewhere, Josh Mathews is with Sheamus and his Brawling Buddy doll. Sheamus talks about the match later with Punk and talks about cereal and Big Show. Show walks in and knocks the doll out of Sheamus' hands when he puts it up in Show's face. Show tells Sheamus to get serious because he's going to fly across the room like the doll.
Good intensity from Show, but geez, could Sheamus look any stupider?
Match #5 - Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan
They talk about Bryan making Ziggler tap out on Smackdown as they come out of break. Ziggler gets no intro and he's without Vickie. JR and Cole tell us that Vickie won't be with Dolph anymore since it would be a conflict of interest. Bryan gets a figure-four that Ziggler breaks at the ropes.
Ziggler kicks Bryan to the floor and Bryan sells a leg injury. Kane's pyro hits and the Big Red Monster comes to the ring as we go to break.
Out of the break, Bryan hits a nasty looking dropkick to Ziggler in the corner. He sells his knee and Ziggler goes after it. He throws Bryan to the corner and charges but Bryan ducks. Ziggler tries a splash but goes over the top rope.
Bryan follows with a suicide dive and throws Ziggler back in the ring. Bryan goes up top but Ziggler gets him for a sit-out facebuster for a good near fall.
Bryan hits a knockout kick and Kane gets the fans going for Bryan. Bryan flips out though because the fans were chanting yes rather than no. Bryan yells at Kane from the turnbuckle and eats the Zig Zag from the ropes for the win.
After the match, Kane and Bryan argue. Matt Striker comes out and tells them to stop. He says Vickie sent him out to be the host of a game show and their opponents would be Rhodes Scholars.
Good match, but they're wrecking this situation with this dumb game-show concept.
Game Show Segment:
We're back in the ring with four chairs set up. Stryker tells them to introduce themselves. Bryan says he is a former world champion and not a goat face. Kane says he's a scorpio that likes puppies and rainbows. Rhodes Scholars comes to the stage and says they're not going to participate in this foolishness and that everyone will know them after this Sunday when they win the tag titles. You're welcome.
Striker leaves the ring and says he'd like to wish Team Hell No luck this Sunday, but he just can't do that. Big Show comes out and tosses Striker to the side.
Ugh. At least it didn't go on very long, but that was disastrous.
Match #5 - Big Show vs. Kane
The match was joined in progress. Typical big-man offense throughout the match. Kane gets the better of the offense though and staggers Show.
Rhodes Scholars comes to the stage, drawing Kane's attention. That gives Show the opportunity to hit the WMD for the win.
Afterward, Rhodes Scholars comes to the ring and beats up Daniel Bryan, with Rhodes delivering Cross Rhodes to cap it off.
Santino Marella tells AJ he thought she did a good job. Cena walks into the frame and Marella leaves. He tells AJ if there's anything he can do, he will. AJ thanked him and recalled her promo where she admitted to things that got her fired, but not this.
Cena tells her she gave up and she needs to give a name and Cena will find out who it was. AJ told Cena it was him and that she didn't want to drag him into the middle of things.
Cena asks if it was about the dinner they had, but AJ says she didn't know. She thinks it's Vickie and cries on Cena's chest. Cena says he'll take care of it.
Obvious that there's a swerve coming. Hate how they got here, but it might be interesting.
Cena confronts Vince at his limo. He asks what's going on and Vince tries to put him off. Cena pushes the issue and Vince says there's some evidence. Cena presses more and Vince says it really didn't matter since AJ was on probation and was going to probably get fired anyhow.
Cena talks about Vickie getting the job and Vince says he has no idea what the "managing supervisor" role is. It is what it is, Vince says, and gets in the limo to leave.
Match #7 - Zack Ryder vs. Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez)
Del Rio's entrance is cut a little short. Ryder's offense is very limited. He does get Del Rio down in the corner and tries the Broski Boot, but Del Rio avoids. Del Rio goes after Ryder's arm on the rope then locks on the Cross Arm Breaker to get the win.
Afterward, Del Rio cuts a promo to taunt Randy Orton, saying he will cut the head off the snake on Sunday He puts Ryder back in the Cross Arm Breaker and yells for him to tap as if he were Randy.
Vickie's having AJ's stuff moved out but Cena interrupts. He calls her a backstabbing liar but Vickie retorts that perception is everything. Cena tells Vickie she cost AJ a job she loved. Vickie tells Cena he asked AJ out and they had a date, and tells Cena he's responsible for costing AJ her job.
No idea where this is going. And if Vickie is a major factor/showcase item on Raw going forward, I do not predict good things.
Josh Mathews brings in Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler says he hates what happened to AJ but she can't touch talent or fraternize with talent, especially Vickie Guerrero. He boils it down to one factor, John Cena. Cena was the one who cost her the job and he was surprised that AJ didn't have better taste.
Too much, too soon. And to be fair, Ziggler had no chance with that.
They air a hype video for Ryback.
Punk and Heyman are shown watching the video. Heyman tells him to not let that video get in his head. Punk says it doesn't matter and it's more disrespect that he was put in a lumberjack match a week prior to Hell in a Cell. Heyman tells him to not worry and when Raw goes live next Monday everyone will have to deal with the fact that Punk is still WWE Champion and there will be no doubt he is best in the world.
The lumberjacks make their way to ringside for the main event.
Are they teasing a Ryback win? We shall see what happens I guess but that is the one good thing they're getting right tonight.
Match #8 - CM Punk (WWE Champion) vs. Sheamus (World Heavyweight Champion); Lumberjack Match
30 lumberjacks at ringside - billing it the biggest ever. Sheamus gets tossed out first but the heels back off and let him get back in the ring. Punk is thrown out next, and gets chesty with the lumberjacks. They toss him back in.
Later on, Punk gets tossed out again. There's a group of faces there and they throw Punk in without incident. Sheamus gets tossed out in front of some heels and they attack Sheamus before throwing him in. Punk scores a near fall off of that.
After commercial, Punk controls the offense and throws Sheamus out again. The lumberjacks start to fight amongst themselves a bit as heels and babyfaces surround Sheamus. Cole points out Big Show's 45-second title reign and Show, who is standing near the announce position, tells Cole he'll kill him.
Sheamus fights back, hitting a couple of clotheslines and begins to run through some offense but Punk hits a high knee to stop it and get a near fall.
Punk goes up top as Cole resets the show for us at 11 p.m. Sheamus catches him up there and hits a superplex. Punk counters back with a drop toe hold into the ropes for two. Punk goes for the Macho Elbow but Sheamus moves then hits the Irish Curse backbreaker.
Punk shoves Sheamus off and Sheamus tumbles to the floor. Sheamus starts beating up all the lumberjacks and gets back in the ring. He hits White Noise and sets up for the Brogue Kick. Antonio Cesaro jumps in the ring and takes a Brogue, as does someone else who I missed seeing. Punk ducks it when it's his turn, and Sheamus' momentum takes him to a waiting Big Show on the apron. Show hits a chokeslam and Punk picks up the scraps to get the win.
Ryback's music hits, and here comes the monster. Punk tries to run, but the lumberjacks toss him in. Ryback hits a running power slam and Punk tries again to escape. No such luck as the lumberjacks toss him in again to eat a pop-up powerbomb. Punk tries a third time, but no luck. Ryback scoops him up and throws him press-slam style onto a bunch of the heel lumberjacks. Ryback chants in the ring as Punk crawls away to end the show.
This wasn't a bad match, but it was hampered by everyone expecting a run-in or the lumberjacks getting involved in the middle of it much more than they did.
A very, very mixed bag tonight. This show did zero for Hell in a Cell on Sunday. The possible Cena angle might be intriguing. Reintroducing Vickie Guererro to a power position does nothing for me as a viewer, in fact it cools my interest in the product. Case of "been there, done that, didn't like it." And yes, another Raw full of filler segments that mean nothing.
I will have much more to say on tonight's show when I bring you Raw Afterthoughts tomorrow evening. Thanks for watching along with me tonight.