It's the night after Elimination Chamber. Only one stop left and that's New York/New Jersey and WrestleMania. Last night, The Rock was able to successfully defend the WWE Championship against CM Punk, despite officiating issues. Jack Swagger claimed the #1 Contender's position to Alberto Del Rio's World Heavyweight Championship. The Shield successfully put away the team of Cena, Sheamus and Ryback.
Now, all eyes focus on the grandest stage of them all. Who has been eliminated from the picture, and who will go on to glory on that stage?
After the standard WWE intro, we get a voiceover package highlighting the key elements of last night's pay-per-view event.
John Cena's music hits. He comes to the ring to cut a promo. He talks about how the WrestleMania sign was simply letters and buildings but now it means more. He says that the title matches are set now: Jack Swagger will face Alberto Del Rio and John Cena will go on to face The Rock for the WWE Championship.
CM Punk's music hits and he heads to the ring with Paul Heyman in tow. Cole and Lawler talk about the controversy in the ending of Punk vs. Rock. Lawler admits that Punk had Rock pinned. Cole says the bottom line is that Rock will go to WrestleMania.
Punk asks Cena if he's sure he will face Rock. He accuses Cena of taking the easy way out and then says he wants to clear the air. He says he had Rock pinned for 18 seconds but Rock did win fair and square (with a smirk). Punk tells Cena that he's never beaten him and can't win the big one. Cena says he's not talking wins and losses, but WrestleMania.
Cena reminds Punk he won the Royal Rumble and earned the right. Punk didn't get the job done last night and it's not about him. Punk asks "what about him?" and talks about his title run. Punk says Cena strolled into the Rumble and tossed out some ham-and-eggers over the top rope. He calls Cena lucky and it's a big luck-of-the-draw win he's ever seen.
Punk tells Cena he can't win the big one and Cena asks what Punk wants. Punk tells him to just walk away. "Get out of my ring, leave the WWE, just walk away." Cena teases to leave but turns and says no. Cena tells Punk he has stones and probably a decent human under all of it. But Cena says he won't hand away his golden ticket to WrestleMania.
Cena says both men have their critics and they both want the match. He says the problem is he won't give Punk his spot, but he will let him earn it. Cena proposes a match and says if he wins, Punk has to crawl in the hole he came from. If Punk wins, he deserves the shot at The Rock at Mania.
He tells Punk that the problem with calling Cena out is that Punk talks business, while Cena handles business. Cena says they should have it out on the spot to see who is going to WrestleMania.
Punk tells Cena he just made the dumbest decision of his life. Punk accepts but says he's "not going to do it here." Punk says he'll do it on his terms. He says he was screwed at Elimination Chamber and shouldn't be in this position. He says they'll do it next week. He and Heyman leave the ring and smile.
Cena says it's official and says he will beat Punk next week, then beat Rock at WrestleMania. Everyone will know the champ is here. Punk and Heyman are happy about getting the match, and Cole and Lawler question if Cena lost his mind.
They hype the Rock's celebration and highlight Mark Henry's effort in the Chamber last night.
Good segment. I usually rail on someone putting up a contender's slot, especially a face character, but this one works. It fits with Cena's character and with Punk and Lawler both calling it stupid it helped sell it.
They show a graphic of Jefferson and the quote "one man with courage is a majority." The announcers talk about President's Day and The Shield's win at Elimination Chamber.
Matt Striker is with Sheamus. Ryback is pacing like a caged animal. Sheamus gets upset and tells Ryback he has to adapt and overcome. He tells Ryback he is supposed to be a machine and asks if he's a mindless neanderthal.
Those two are about to go at it when Chris Jericho enters. He says he's seen this before with NWO and Nexus but The Shield is at a new level. He says they have to stop it. He loves WWE and hasn't worked anywhere else since 1999 and won't work anywhere else.
Jericho says Vickie Guerrero brought him back because she knows what he brings to the table. She can't deny the box office appeal of The Shield vs. Ryback, Sheamus, and Y2J. He says if he talks to Vickie tonight, the match will happen on Raw.
Sheamus tells Jericho to make it happen and Ryback agrees also. Jericho walks off and Sheamus and Ryback face off. Ryback says "Feed Me Shield." and Sheamus laughs deviously.
One wonders if Jericho was so far over the top to foreshadow a turn?
Match #1 - Mark Henry vs. Sin Cara
Not much here. Sin Cara gets a moment of offense but takes the World's Strongest Slam. Henry puts him away.
Henry tries to smother Sin Cara and goes for another slam, but Khali's music hits. Khali walks to the ring and Henry exits the ring. "I had all of you already." Henry says and mocks Khali's dance moves.
Making Khali walk that far, then exiting the ring and mocking his dance is just evil.
The announcers walk through the finish of the US Championship match. They ask if it was an accidental low blow by The Miz or not. Lawler hypes up Cesaro and Miz facing off in a no-DQ match next. Cole pushes a tweet by Vickie that the six-man tag is now official.
So far, so good. They need to make a big deal over The Shield working a match on TV. Jericho did a good job of putting them over in that backstage segment.
We get a Fandango vignette.
Match #2 - Antonio Cesaro vs. The Miz; No Disqualification
Miz's shoulder is still all taped up. As they start, the announcers talk about how Cesaro swung Miz into the security railing last week.
Cesaro works the shoulder. He sets a chair up in the ropes and throws Miz into it shoulder-first. Miz trips Cesaro then locks on the Figure Four to get the submission win.
Still trying to wrap my head around Miz using the Figure Four after he botched it so bad. This is your WrestleMania US title match maybe.
The announcers set up a video package that they call "propaganda" that Zeb Colter and Swagger put on YouTube. Zeb complains about people driving across the border with 22 kids and ask for a handout. "If you're looking for a handout, Jack Swagger, Zeb Coulter, we're charitable people. We'll give you a handout, a one-way ticket back to where you came from. If our government won't do anything, I know someone who will." Swagger closes with "we the people."
Clearly, this will generate heat. Whether it's the right type or not is yet to be determined. Will this bring something out of Del Rio though?
The announcers hype up Cena vs. Punk next week and Rock's celebration later.
They show a Lincoln graphic and quote.
Bryan complains to Kane about punching him rather than hugging him. He doesn't know if he feels comfortable tagging with Kane right now. Bryan asked for a singles match with Swagger, and doesn't want Kane at ringside.
Kane says he'll do the same. "You better be a man of your word because I don't deal with snakes well." Randy Orton is off to the side and he says "are you talking to me?" Kane says snakes can't be trusted and he stomps on them with his boot when he sees them.
Orton says there's a time where he'd be intimidated but not now because Kane has traded piledrivers and chokeslams for anger therapy and hugs. "You're not the big red monster anymore, you're more like Barney the Dinosaur." Bryan laughs and Kane looks at him, then turns back, but Orton was gone.
Vickie is on the phone talking about surprises planned for "my show." She thanks whoever is on the phone and ends the call when Paul Heyman walks in. He asks why she called for him. Vickie mocks him for getting the stipulations successfully but Punk still lost to Rock.
She tells Heyman she has something that's going to affect his career and Heyman asks what it is. Vickie tells him she will tell him out in the ring. Heyman mocks her for being an overdramatic woman and tells her he doesn't like surprises. Vickie says she knows and laughs.
Dolph, AJ, and Big E Langston make their way to the ring. Cole tells us Dolph will face Alberto Del Rio after the break.
Match #3 - Dolph Ziggler (w/AJ and Big E Langston) vs. Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodiguez)
Del Rio hits a springboard kick off the second rope as the match goes to commercial. After commerical Ziggler is in control. Swagger and Colter are in the back watching on a monitor. Ziggler ends up on the ropes and Del RIo hits a reverse suplex. Neat spot.
Cole resets the show as Del Rio blasts Ziggler with a superkick. Del Rio catches Ziggler in the Cross Armbreaker to finish the match off with a win.
Afterward, Big E hits the ring and attacks Del Rio. He yells at Del Rio that his time is over and hits the Big Ending. Ziggler grabs his briefcase and teases a cash-in, but RicRod steals the briefcase and runs up the ramp. That allows Del Rio to recover and hit an enzuigiri on Ziggler. He celebrates with the belt.
A good tease but Ziggler fans had to be hoping that wouldn't happen. Del Rio certainly wasn't vulnerable enough anyhow.
They hype Kane vs. Randy Orton for later.
Wade Barrett is in the ring. He says he's about to become a movie star and talks about Dead Man Down. He sets up a trailer for the film. Sheamus appears on the Tron after the trailer to say he's friends with Colin Farrell. He says it's a brilliant movie because Barrett doesn't speak in it. Sheamus acts like he's being told to wrap up and Barrett fumes off mic.
That was a bad promo from Sheamus.
The announcers play with WWE action figures and hype up the product line.
Match #4 - Brodus Clay, Tensai and Naomi (w/Cameron) vs. Rosa Mendes, Epico and Primo
Cole says Cameron and Naomi had a dance-off to figure out who will work this match. After a bit of action, Clay and Tensai hit a double splash on Primo to get the win. They dance afterward.
If only they'd make Clay and Tensai a true bad-ass team.
This show is flat and the crowd is flat. There's still six weeks to Mania, so I guess there's no reason to panic just yet.
They show highlights of the WrestleMania 30 press conference then hype up Jack Swagger's State of the Union address after the break.
Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter are in the ring at a podium. They show Del Rio and Ricardo watching backstage. Swagger briefly says a few things then turns it over to Zeb. He says people might not like their opinion but they have a right to express it.
Colter complains about illegals and says they take jobs, medical care, education and freedom. "We have a problem in this country and we have to fix it." Colter says real Americans have to stand up and say no more to this. The crowd gives them the "what" treatment.
Colter says that on one side of the ring is a real patriot and the other is a man who came to the country to reap its rewards. Colter says Swagger has two goals at WrestleMania - regaining the World Heavyweight Championship and reclaiming America. Colter says "we the people" and Swagger repeats it.
Daniel Bryan makes his way to the ring for his match with Swagger.
Match #5 - Daniel Bryan vs. Jack Swagger (w/Zeb Colter)
We join in progress. Bryan's ribs are taped to sell the Elimination Chamber match. Bryan gets a flurry, but he misses a running knee. Swagger picks him up with one arm and drives him into the barricade in a neat spot.
Later, Bryan hits a suicide dive and follows with a missile dropkick. Bryan kicks Swagger repeatedly but gets caught the last time. Swagger stands up and slams Bryan. Bryan locks on the No! lock. Swagger breaks it in the ropes, and Bryan misses a corner drop kick. Swagger locks on the Patriot Act moments later to get the win.
A good match, but the announcers should be outraged rather than making jokes.
Cole hype up the six-man match. They show a shot of Heyman walking backstage, and Lawler says we'll find out what Vickie has for him next.
We get a video package for WrestleMania 29. 48 days out.
Vickie and Paul Heyman are in the ring. She announces that she has an assistant and it's Brad Maddox. He is now the assistant to the managing supervisor. He comes out and says "hi, Paul" and Heyman mockingly replies.
Maddox makes his way to the ring and says Vince is so happy with him that he gave him the opportunity of a lifetime by naming him the assistant managing supervisor. Vickie corrects him and says he's the assistant to the managing supervisor. Heyman mocks it and asks if it's time for him to vomit. He goes to leave but Vince appears on the big screen.
He tells Heyman to stop talking because when he opens his mouth he's lying. Vince recalls giving Heyman the stipulation for the Rock vs. Punk match. Heyman tells Vince he did it out of the goodness of his heart.
Vince says everyone knows he doesn't have a heart and if he did, it'd be black. Vince sets up footage of Heyman saying he'd do anything to get the stipulation. Vince says he got the stipulation in writing. Vince says anything means he could fire him right there. Vince teases the firing but says it'd be too good.
Vince says he's two weeks removed from surgery but he would walk to the ring next week on his crutches. He says Heyman will be there too and they would have a fight. Vickie and Maddox laugh and Heyman looks shocked.
The live crowd just did not care. They're doing good building to next week, though.
They hype up the six-man match coming up next.
We get a recap of the opening segment with Cena and CM Punk setting their match for next week for the right to challenge The Rock at WrestleMania.
Match #6 - The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose) vs. Sheamus, Ryback and Chris Jericho
Ryback starts off hot with Rollins in the corner, shoulder blocking him repeatedly. Jericho stops him so he doesn't draw a DQ. Jericho works with Ambrose then Sheamus tags in and works with Reigns.
Sheamus hits White Noise on Reigns, and sets up the Brogue Kick. Rollins pulls out Reigns, and Ambrose eats the Brogue. All three Shield members are selling as they go to break.
After commercial, Sheamus sells and eventually gets the hot tag to Ryback. Ryback goes off and sets Rollins up for Shellshocked. Jericho talks to the official with a distraction going on in the corner. That opens up Reigns to hit the spear spot like he did last night at Chamber.
Ryback gets a hot tag and Jericho runs through some of his signature spots, concluding with a Lionsault. Jericho locks on the Walls. Sheamus takes out Reigns and occupies him, but Rollins hits Jericho with a flying knee from the ropes. Ambrose covers for the win.
An entertaining affair between these six. The crowd started to come to life for the various signature spots. The pay-per-view matches that the Shield have had were better than this but this was a solid TV debut. Jericho was teasing a heel turn a bit, but it seems it won't happen here. His return is off to a good start.
Match #7 - Damien Sandow vs. Kofi Kingston
Kingston didn't get a TV entrance. Sandow comes out and demands silence. He tells us that his family has history in working with the Presidents. He says one of his grandfathers advised Roosevelt on the New Deal. "You're Welcome." he ends and attacks Kingston before the bell.
Sandow gets the better of this brawl and throws knees. R-Truth's music hits and he charges to the ring. Truth attacks Sandow, then hits his scissor kick and tosses Sandow to ringside.
A bit of a surprise return. Some reaction from the fans but not much.
Josh Mathews interviews DJ Cotrona and Adrienne Palicki, co-stars of GI Joe 2 with Rock. They show a brief trailer for the movie.
Match #8 - Kane vs. Randy Orton
Cole hypes up tickets being available for Extreme Rules. Kane gets the early advantage and takes charge with an uppercut that knocks Orton to the floor before the commercial. After the break, the two go back and forth a bit. Orton hits a powerslam on Kane, and he gets right back up.
Kane hits a sidewalk slam then goes up for a clothesline off the ropes but Orton moves. Orton teases the elevated DDT but Kane counters and dumps Orton toward the ropes. They missed going over the top.
Daniel Bryan makes his way to ringside. The distraction is enough for Orton to hit the RKO on Kane to get the win.
This was sluggish until the end. It was fine, though. Lawler was all over Bryan for the interference and his facial expressions.
Cole hypes up Rock's championship celebration after commercial.
The Rock's Celebration:
Justin Roberts introduces the University of Louisiana-Lafayette marching band. They play on the stage, then form a tunnel on each side of the ramp. They play along with The Rock's theme when it hits, and here comes the Brahma Bull. The band sticks around for a few moments as Rock poses in the ring with the title. There's a stand with something covered up in the ring.
Rock says Punk did everything he could to beat him. He says Punk showed the world what a piece of garbage he was when he spit in Rock's face. Rock says the Best in the World wasn't best enough because Rock beat his punk ass two pay-per-view events in a row. Rock delivers his "finally" line and the fans chant.
The Rock talks about going to WrestleMania in 48 days, but he's not going "with this" (the current WWE Championship belt). Rock talks about his respect for the championship. "When this belt, unveiled by a certain WWE Superstar, one of the greatest of all time, when this was unveiled eight years ago, it worked. And some people believed it was cool. Well, there's also some people who believe in Bigfoot."
Rock says the WWE Championship should not look like a toy and "it should never spin." Rock hands the belt to a worker at ringside and says "make sure this goes in the Hall of Fame."
Rock references the podium and says that when you see the title, it should inspire you. He talks about past champions like Bruno, Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin. He goes over and reveals the new championship belt. It has the logo on the front and bull's heads on the side.
Rock asks whether he'll face CM Punk or John Cena at WrestleMania. He says there's one man he wants to face. That man brings out the best in him, and for "personal and professional reasons that man is..." John Cena's music hits.
Cena stands on the stage and absorbs the boo-birds. Punk runs out from behind and hits Cena with the old spinner title. Punk points toward Rock in the ring and says "I want that one." Rock puts the belt down and bounces around, ready to go. Punk just turns and walks away while the crowd boos him. They give a closeup of Cena selling on the ramp to close out the night.
I wish WWE would have done something other than create a belt specific to someone. I guess there could be a reason long-term, or the side plates are interchangeable. The belt is an upgrade from the spinner in my mind, but not by much. I'm sure fans are ranting about this right now.
Not the huge kickoff to WrestleMania that many might have thought it would be. With the time available, it didn't have to be either. It was a solid program but they just didn't go all-out like many predicted.
The one thing they did do is sell and load next week's program. CM Punk and John Cena go at it, Vince McMahon makes an appearance, and you almost sense that Trips will be there as well as Lesnar. Should be a stacked lineup next week.
I'll have more to say on this show in Raw Afterthoughts, sometime tomorrow evening. Thanks for watching along.