Tonight on Raw, Vince McMahon has promised to make an appearance. He says he's coming to assess AJ's job as the General Manager. Will he give her a good evaluation, or will he utter those two famous words: "YOU'RE FIRED!"
The overarching story, though, is John Cena and CM Punk. Jim Ross told Punk, and Mick Foley told Punk: Punk needs to step in Hell in a Cell against Cena. Time is running short for Punk to accept that challenge that he keeps vehemently denying. What happens tonight when John Cena kicks off Raw at 8 p.m.?
We get our WWE programming intro and they go right inside the HP Pavillion Arena in Sacramento. Immediately, John Cena's music hits and he gets his mixed reaction. He says it beats sitting home on the couch and he's got some taped thing on his arm.
Cole sets up the three-man announce team of JR, Cole and JBL. JBL calls it a way to start off Raw and Cole reminds us about Cena's pink gear. He gets the mic and says he missed the fans. He was expecting a mixed response but thanks them for a good reaction. He says he missed the cheers and boos and a week off felt like a year.
He says he watched from the outside and talks about the tag team champions. He mocks their team name. He says that he noticed Antonio's big nipples. The girls are out of control and he runs down the various diva storylines. He says AJ hasn't lost her charm and he wants to date her. He proposes In and Out for a hamburger. He tells her to tweet him back. Vince is here tonight too. Schwarzenegger is tweeting the show also.
Cena says he doesn't have a voice. He provokes the crowd to make some noise. He turns his attention to CM Punk and says that the voice of the voiceless has turned into the voice of the selfish. He says his choice for Hell in a Cell is not up to the fans or Cena, but to him.
He says what does it matter how long he holds the title, what good is being best in the world if no one wants to watch. He talks about big moments like Money in the Bank and Night of Champions. Cena admits Punk might not be able to be swayed, but asks the fans to let Punk know how they feel.
Cena demands that Punk face him in Hell in a Cell to define his legacy. Cena thanks the fans and exits, but here comes Ryback. Ryback comes to the ring as Cole runs through a video recap of what happened to JR last week during his appreciation night ceremony.
Usual Cena mixed bag. Humor was campy and dumb, but when he got serious he was fine.
Match #1 - Ryback vs. Epico and Primo (w/Rosa Mendes)
After some standard offense, Ryback hits a big clothesline then puts the two men away with the finisher, ShellShock.
JBL tried to make the tag team sound important and like quality opponents. Nice touch.
Match #2 - Brodus Clay (w/Cameron and Naomi) vs. R-Truth
Truth gets in the ring and says that they can fight any time, but Little Jimmy wants to dance. They dance a bit, then Vince gets on the Tron. He tells them they can dance up the ramp, because the State of WWE address is next. Commercial.
That was a flat-out disaster. Funniest thing: JBL calling Brodus a cross between LaToya Jackson and Free Willy.
State of the WWE Address:
Justin Roberts introduces Vince McMahon to the ring. JR says he has no idea what remarks are coming from Vince. Cole and JBL tell us about some of the foreign armed services bases watching tonight.
Vince talks about the dancing segment we just saw and says that it's the state of WWE. He says there's room for it, along with leprechauns, goat-faced vegans, big red monsters, masked luchadors, and giants.
Vince says that the most important thing in WWE is action. Vince says the fans want to see the best face the best. CM Punk's music hits, and here comes Punk and Heyman. Punk's got a new shirt. Vince says that Punk disrespected him for interrupting him and the State of the WWE address. Punk gets indignant and says Vince is disrespecting Punk by not mentioning him.
Punk points out ironic fans who chant his name. He says if he needs crap out of them, he'll scrape it from their tongues. Punk asks Vince if he respects him. Vince says he respects Punk has been champion for 323 days, but he doesn't respect Punk saying he's a Heyman kind of guy.
Vince says he's not a CM Punk guy. Punk gets upset and says there should be a Punk Appreciation Night. Punk gets indignant and says he'll quit like last year, but this time not come back. "We'll see what that does to your state of WWE." Punk says. Vince asks if Punk is saying he's indispensable.
Punk asks Vince who he thinks makes WWE a success. Vince says it's not him, Punk, or anyone in the back but it's the fans. He says he listens to fans on the street and in Tweets and Touts. He says they all are saying someone needs to shut Punk up. Vince says Punk is nowhere near greats like Andre, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Bret Hart or Steve Austin.
Punk laughs and singles out Austin. Punk puts himself over for getting to the top through hard work, while Austin got there via shortcuts. He says that Austin got to the top by beating an inept and clueless millionaire. Punk says it's good he did it back then because that millionaire is even more clueless and inept and now a senior citizen.
Punk calls it a slap in the face for Vince to treat him the way he has. Punk says he's been slapped in the face for years, then slaps Vince across the face. Punk flips himself over the rope and he and Heyman leave. Vince says he should fire Punk, but that'd be too good.
Vince says he will fire Punk if Punk doesn't fight him in the ring. Punk revels and smiles, but Heyman tells him not to do it. Vince says that Punk might beat his ass, but by the time the night is over Punk will learn about respect. Heyman tells Punk this went the wrong way, but Punk says "Trust me, everything will be fine."
The fans ate this up, and got a lot of buzz going. Punk is still gold on the mic and Heyman played his silent partner role well, too.
Cole sets up a recap of what just went on in the ring. Vince and Punk will go one on one in the ring later tonight. Cole calls it startling, but JBL thinks it's a gift coming early. JR says Vince made an emotional decision. Cole tells us that Arnold Schwarzenegger surely will have something to say abotu this.
Match #3 - Prime Time Players vs. Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara; Tag Team #1 Contender Tournament
Cole points out that the other semi-final match will take place later tonight. Mysterio and Sin Cara grab the early advantage in this one as the show goes to commercial.
After commercial, Sin Cara sells for Titus. Mysterio gets the hot tag and gets the better of Darren Young. He cues up the 619 and hits a top-rope splash to get the win. Sin Cara and Mysterio advance to the finals next Monday on Raw.
As expected. Decent enough match. Disappointing the singles wrestlers teams are advancing over the legit teams, though.
Heyman tells Punk he proves himself every night that he's best in the world, but this is a losing situation. Punk says he will annihilate Vince. Heyman asks what's next and he says Vince will spend every day finding ways to make them miserable. Punk says he will find a way to win tonight and they have nothing to worry about.
Heyman does add a lot to Punk's act with how they interact - it's not just cheerleading.
First Hour Recap:
Prior to the next match, Cole feeds us to a video package that recaps the John Cena segment to open the show and the Punk and Vince segment.
Match #4 - Sheamus (c) vs. Wade Barrett
The announcers hype up Punk and McMahon later and give a shout out to Jerry Lawler. Sheamus and Barrett lock up, but here comes Big Show. Barrett lands some hands and controls the offense going into the commercial.
After commercial, Sheamus begins to battle back and clears Barrett. The two fight back and forth on offense while JBL raves about how physical Barrett is. Sheamus gets the better of Barrett though and clubs him on the chest.
Tensai hits the ring to throw the match out. Barrett and Tensai rough up Sheamus and Show smiles. Tensai tries a move but Sheamus counters and hits the Brogue Kick on Tensai. Show enters the ring after Sheamus clears Barrett. Show shoves Sheamus out after he tries a Brogue Kick. Sheamus gets back to his feet and watches as Show walks backstage.
JBL is doing great on the commentary tonight. He put over Barrett's physicality well.
The announcers hype up Punk vs. McMahon and Team Hell No vs. Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio. JBL says it's like watching Babe Ruth take another at bat. Ross doesn't like it though and says he's going to talk to Vince.
Cole hypes up Larry King Now featuring The Miz.
AJ is shown in her office. Punk walks in to talk with her. Punk asks if AJ has given thought to him beating up an old man on her show tonight. Punk says he will break his limbs and put him in a wheelchair. Punk tells her the Board of Directors will be looking for someone to blame and it will probably be her.
AJ says she knows Punk is afraid to fight Cena, but she asks if Punk is afraid if of facing Vince. Punk says he isn't and now whatever happens is on AJ's head.
Cole and JBL talk briefly and note JR has exited to talk to Vince. They feed it to a video package to recap the John Cena appearance on "Kelly and Michael" Show.
Match #5 - Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. Tyson Kidd
Kidd gets some offense in, but ends up missing an elbow drop. Late in the match, Cesaro hits his brutal European Uppercut. After, he hits the Neutralizer to get the win.
Seeing Kidd get some offense was significant, since Cesaro squashed Brodus last week.
Match #6 - Dolph Ziggler (w/Vickie Guerrero) and Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez) vs. Team Hell No (c)
Vickie gives her Excuse me bit to introduce Dolph as the announcers recap a battle of words on Twitter between Ziggler and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ricardo introduces his man to the ring as Cole tells JBL that Del Rio's entrance is cooler. The tag champs get their entrances next and bicker amongst each other as to who the tag champions are.
Kane and Bryan control the early going, with Dolph laying flat on his back on the floor as the match goes to commercial.
The heels control Daniel Bryan after the break. Ziggler does a dance before hitting a neck breaker then tags Del Rio in. Del Rio hits a drop kick, but Bryan unleashes some kicks. Bryan misses a running drop kick in the corner and the heels keep control.
Bryan nearly gets a hot tag but the heels cut off the ring. Del Rio hits a tilt-a-whirl back breaker and gets a near fall but Kane breaks up the count. Dolph gets the tag and Bryan begins to fight back. The fans do a "yes" "no" chant as the two exchange blows.
Del Rio charges and eats the ring post which lets Bryan get the hot tag to Kane. He fires up and unloads on Del Rio. Kane teases a chokeslam on Del Rio but Ziggler got the blind tag. Kane goozles him too but they counter. Ziggler gets the Fameasser for a near fall.
Bryan tags himself in as Kane goes for his top-rope clothesline. Bryan hits a drop kick on Ziggler. Vickie runs a distraction which nearly gets a roll up win for Ziggler. Bryan hits a big enzuigiri kick and Kane tags himself back in. He hits the chokeslam for the win.
After the match, Kane and Bryan argue over who are the tag champions as Cole and JBL talk about the end of the match.
Cole resets the events of this show so far, feeding it to a video recap of Vince and CM Punk setting their match up for later tonight.
Vince and JR cross paths. Vince says that he appreciates JR's concern, but he wants to know what JR's trying to tell him. Ross says that after Raw went off the air last week that Vince called him an American icon and a friend. JR says that Vince has nothing to gain by facing Punk.
JR says he can't help but remember what happened to Jerry Lawler after he fought Punk. Vince goes back to the Stone Cold days and says he remembers Ross's calls during Austin's matches. Vince asks if he would call his match and replace the Stone Cold call with McMahon calls.
Vince demands Ross to do it on the spot and JR complies. He then tells Vince that he still thinks it's a mistake. Vince retorts with "It doesn't matter what you think!"
Cole and JBL talk about JBL's recent climb to the top of Kilamanjaro. He is planning to climb in Argentina in January.
Larry King Now:
Justin Roberts introduces King, who is seated at a table on the stage. He introduces his wife Dawn as well. Miz's music interrupts King's introduction. Cole talks about the twitter war between King and Miz. Miz says it's his birthday today and thinks King should lead the fans in singing to him.
King says he has it on good authority that no one cares. King says he loves WWE and his wife chimes in that it's as big as it gets. King says he's going to replace his boring guest with an exciting one and Kofi's music hits. Kofi comes out and takes a seat.
Kingston says he's been doing media today and that Raw is live in Sacramento. Miz calls him on the cheap pop and says he doesn't know who is less relevant - a has-been talk show host or never-was superstar. Miz taunts King for his divorces and says he'll divorce his head from his body.
King's wife throws water in Miz's face and Kingston attacks him. Miz gets tossed off the stage and Kofi hits a dive then roughs Miz up as the fight heads backstage. King and his wife take a bow.
That sucked, plain and simple. I guess if it gets Kofi on track, it's good but beyond that, it was terrible.
JR comes back to commentary and the three run through video-game footage from WWE 13 with Vince McMahon facing Steve Austin.
Match #7 - Zack Ryder and Santino Marella vs. Team Rhodes Scholars; #1 Contender Semi-Final
Late in this one, Santino gets the better of Cody and tries the Cobra. Sandow runs a distraction that allows Cody to hit Cross Rhodes. Team Rhodes Scholars picks up the win. Sandow does his cartwheel and celebrates. Team Rhodes Scholars will face Sin Cara and Mysterio next week.
After the match, Drew McIntryre, Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal hit the ring to attack Santino.
Heyman approaches Vince. Heyman says he wants to apologize for Punk's actions and says he had no idea Punk would slap him or challenge him tonight. Heyman says he's the youngest guy who knows Vince's father.
Heyman says he has known Vince for 14 years and begs Vince to allow him to broker a peace deal between Vince and Punk. Vince asks Heyman whether he knew when he was lying or telling the truth. Vince says that Heyman has been poisoning Punk for years. Heyman says he's not there for Punk but for Vince. Heyman tells Vince to not make Punk do to him what Brock did to his son in law.
Timely Brock reference. Vince played it well too.
Eve is shown smiling backstage. She faces Kaitlyn next.
Match #8 - Eve Torres (c) vs. Kaitlyn; Divas Championship
Kaitlyn hits a shoulder block and a slam, followed with a suplex as JBL and Layla bicker on commentary.
In the end, Eve locks on a heel hook that makes Kaitlyn submit. Eve holds on to the hold after the win, so Layla hits the ring to break it up. Eve acts concerned, but then leaves after being shoved by Layla.
Yawn. Typical match, looking forward to Layla vs. Eve.
Stalker Josh Mathews pops up and says he wants to show Del Rio a tweet that involved him. Del Rio and Ricardo are chatting and don't want to be bothered but eventually he pays attention enough. Matthews says that the tweet was from Randy Orton and he says he'll be at Smackdown on Friday. Del Rio storms off.
Elsewhere, Larry King and his wife are walking. They come across Daniel Bryan, who recalls the Letterman segment where Letterman called King an owl. He wants to know how to deal with the people calling him a goat face. Bryan calls himself handsome and hits on King's wife briefly. She tells him she doesn't do trolls who sleep under bridges.
Kane shows up and he and Bryan end up bickering. King and his wife sneak off. Bryan gets on Kane for chasing off King, but Kane thinks it was Skeletor.
Still elsewhere, Punk is warming up. Heyman laments about the possibility that their lives could be made a living hell. Heyman pauses and says that it could be different if Punk beats him senseless and renders him helpless. Punk says he will victimize McMahon.
This would be a hot show if it were 2 hours. Dragging since it's three.
Match #9 - CM Punk (c) vs. Mr. McMahon
Punk attacks McMahon from behind before this one gets underway. McMahon gets a flurry in but Punk takes control back again, slamming Vince against the announce position. Vince throws Punk into the ring post to get himself some space. JBL says Vince has always found a way to win.
Vince throws Punk across the announce position as JR asks if they're in Muskogee. McMahon says he will teach Punk about respect as he dives across the table and beats the heck out of Punk. Vince throws Punk in the ring and grabs a Kendo stick. Punk dives out of the ring to avoid the shots. Punk isn't sure what to do but calls for the belt and goes to leave.
Vince clocks Heyman across the mouth and takes the belt. He gets in the ring and taunts Punk to come back to the ring to get it. Punk tries, but Vince holds hiim off with the Kendo stick. Punk finds one of his own.
A kendo stick battle ensues and Vince gets the better of it at first. Punk gets a low blow on Vince to get the upper hand. Punk gets both kendo sticks and beats Vince. The fans chant for Cena as CM Punk calls for the GTS.
Here comes Ryback though. Punk runs, but he meets Cena. Cena throws him back in the ring. Punk eats a clothesline and Ryback stacks him up for ShellShock, but Punk escapes through the crowd.
Vince gets a mic and says that he hopes Punk learned something about respect. He tells Punk that it's decision time. Punk has to make up his mind by next week as to what he will do at Hell in a Cell - he will either face Ryback or Cena. Punk sells shock as the announcers sign off for the night.
The hard camera started shaking at one point during that segment. The fans got pretty rowdy as Vince controlled things at times. They give themselves a loophole in order to cover Cena's injury by stipulating that Punk has to pick between Ryback or Cena. Entertaining closing segment though. Some will complain about Punk selling for Vince but it worked in what it was looking to accomplish.
They gave Punk options and one will assume that he will go Cena because of the bad arm. This way he can look like he's dodging Ryback without making Cena look bad in the process.
This show is still an hour too long, though. But they tried tonight and after taking a couple rough weeks in the ratings, they made an effort to be entertaining.
I will have more to say on this show tomorrow night in Raw Afterthoughts. Thanks for watching along tonight.