A fortnight - two weeks - is all that is left to go until we reach WrestleMania 29 in New York. The Rock is slated to be on the program tonight to address his WrestleMania opponent, John Cena. Cena is waiting to address him as well, I am sure. Will these two get physical, or keep it to words?
We know Triple H's career is on the line now in his match with Brock Lesnar, as the match became official last week. Will these two men get together one more time as a prelude to this career-threatening occasion, or will they stay apart? And what of CM Punk and Undertaker, which has now gotten intensely personal with the use of the urn carried by the late Paul Bearer for so many years?
They recap the John Cena/Rock feud with a video package of their promo from three weeks ago. They hype their face-to-face encounter before swinging into a recap of the exchange between CM Punk and Undertaker from last Monday.
CM Punk's music hits as Cole and Lawler check in on commentary. Punk makes his way to the ring with Paul Heyman in tow as Cole hypes that there's 18,000-plus in the Wells Fargo Arena in Philly tonight. Heyman holds the urn up like he did the WWE Championship. They play catch with the urn a little before Punk gets a mic to cut his promo.
Punk mocks the idea that Undertaker can't be beaten at WrestleMania and the urn has some sort of special power. He talks about how "they say." He asks Heyman who "they" are and looks to the urn and asks "Paul" the same thing. Punk says it would have been an ideal career ending for Undertaker to walk off holding hands with Triple H and Shawn Michaels at last year's WrestleMania.
Punk says Taker ruined it by coming on his show and pointing to the WrestleMania sign. Punk says history is being rewritten by the name who happens to be the best in the world. Punk says he didn't grab the urn to disrespect Paul Bearer, but instead to disrespect Taker.
Punk drops the urn and says it doesn't mean a damn thing to him. Punk picks it back up and says he has something Taker wants. He says Taker is at a psychological disadvantage and is scared now. He says Taker would go 21-0 against anyone else - he could have gone 30-0 or 50-0 but he is facing the best in the world. Punk says there's nobody in the world who will beat him at WrestleMania.
Punk says he's the one in 20-1 and says he's waiting for the lights to go out and feel that chill. He goes to say that Taker's perfect WrestleMania record will rest in....and the gong hits.
The lights go out, and when they come back up Taker is in the ring. He attacks Punk and backs him into the corner. Taker unloads the soupbones on him in the corner and beats Punk down. Punk rolls out.
Punk and Heyman regroup at the stage. Heyman had scooped the urn up at one point and hands it to Punk. Punk taunts Taker with it. Cole says Punk needs to enjoy it now because there will be hell to pay in two weeks.
A good opening segment. Punk's mic work was solid and the physicality was surprising but welcome. Cole sold the match well to those who want to see Punk get his butt kicked too.
Cole hypes up the Rock and John Cena in a Q&A segment with some Hall of Famers. Cole says the panel is "arguably the greatest collection of talent assembled." Lawler hypes Fandango being in action next as well.
Cautiously optimistic about the Q&A. The right Hall of Famers on their game could make it a good segment.
Fandango dances out with his dancer. They do the full entrance with his silhouette behind him in the ring. Fandango starts to talk on the mic but Jericho interrupts. Jericho attacks him with a double-leg takedown and throws hands. Fandango flees the ring and exits. Cole says Jericho was to face Ziggler later. Ziggler's music hits and that match is moved up to now.
Clearly heading to Fandango vs. Jericho at Mania. Cage? Lumberjacks? What gimmick to keep Fandango in the ring?
Match #1 - Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler (w/AJ and Big E Langston)
Jericho gets a run of early offense and controls the match into commercial. Langston interferes after the break but Jericho catches him. Ziggler catches Jericho from behind with a DDT. Jericho battles back and locks Ziggler in the Walls for the win.
Afterward, Big E hits the ring and hits Jericho with the Big Ending. Langston talks trash at him as the three leave the ring.
Ziggler and Co. leave, but Fandango comes back out. They dance briefly and the lady leaves. Fandango attacks Jericho and yells "what's my name" at Jericho. A loud "you can't wrestle" chant gets going. Jericho momentarily fights back but Fandango puts him down and hits a top-rope leg drop. He gets a mic and says his name over a fallen Jericho.
Overall a good segment. Got Jericho a win, Langston looks like a beast, and Fandango got some heat for attacking Jericho. Jericho/Fandango should be a good match.
They hype up Triple H commenting on the match with Lesnar possibly being his last match at WrestleMania 29.
We get the WrestleMania video and we're 13 days out. They switch gears to highlights of Smackdown with Randy Orton/Sheamus/Big Show and The Shield issues.
Josh Mathews interviews Sheamus. He says he didn't trust Show as much as Orton did initially. He starts to endorse Show, but The Shield attacks. Orton enters with a chair and he's overpowered also. Big Show arrives on the scene and disposes of The Shield. Show helps Orton and Sheamus up and the three stare the Shield away.
Match #2 - Mark Henry vs. The Usos; Handicap Match
Before this one gets started, they show highlights of Mark Henry getting the better of Ryback on Smackdown with the assist from The Shield.
The Usos get a moment's offense but Henry ends up controlling this one. He throws one of the Usos off the apron then hits the World's Strongest Slam on the other to get the win.
Afterward, Henry grabs the Uso at ringside, hits him with the World's Strongest Slam and yells "that's what I do!" Henry hits another World's Strongest Slam and yells "all day!" then hits a splash and leaves.
The announcers hype up Ryback vs. Mark Henry at WrestleMania then Alberto Del Rio vs. Antonio Cesaro in a champion vs. champion match next.
Really? That's huge....err, not really.
During the break, Vickie made Ryback's match with 3MB for later a three-on-one handicap match.
Match #3 - Antonio Cesaro vs. Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez)
Early on in this one, Zeb Colter makes his way to ringside. He just observes as the two men work offense back and forth.
Later, Jack Swagger hits the ringside area. He attacks Ricardo and throws him into the steps, then drags him to the timekeeper area. He slams the bad foot off the barrier, then tries again but Del Rio intervenes. The two men scrum out into the crowd, and Swagger escapes. Del Rio is counted out.
Cesaro celebrates as Del Rio tends to Ricardo. He doesn't take well to the celebration and Del Rio hits the ring. He attacks Cesaro and locks him in the cross arm breaker. After releasing the hold, he goes back to tending to Ricardo.
No heat in this one, even though it was technically sound. Too much oversell from Ricardo tonight, though.
We get highlights from the top of the show with CM Punk, Undertaker and Heyman. The announcers hype up the Q&A panel between Cena and Rock later on. We see Daniel Bryan and Kane and they're in action next.
Match #4 - The Prime Time Players vs. Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan and Kane)
They touch on Rufus Patterson from last week. Cole mentions probably wanting to forget that situation. Good call, guys.
Dolph, Big E and AJ make their way out to watch this one from the stage. The PTP get some offense in on Bryan and he sells for a bit. Cole makes fun of Lawler and calls him Mr. Six Days Off.
In the end, Kane hits the chokeslam on Darren Young to get the win.
Basic stuff here to give a little bit of touch on the tag match.
Afterward, Cole hypes up The Shield wrestling in a six-man match later, and Lawler hypes up Triple H appearing next to talk about the match stipulations for his match with Brock Lesnar.
We get an extended video package highlighting the contract signing from last week between Brock Lesnar and Triple H. This set the stipulations for his match at WrestleMania.
Triple H makes his way to the ring with a full entrance. Cole poses that everyone has been asking if this is "the end of the Game."
Trips recaps the situation with his match. He says if you go to the ring to face Lesnar and think your career might not end, then you've already lost because Brock is a destroyer.
Trips says he fought every night in the ring like his career and his life depended on it. He says if Heyman thinks that he has painted Trips into a corner then he's mistaken. Trips says that Lesnar needs to show up at WrestleMania like his own career and life are on the line. "Because Brock, it very well might." H says he's not coming to WrestleMania looking for a match or a fight. He says he's looking to kick Brock's ass.
Trips drops the mic and leaves, but before he can fully exit Wade Barrett's music hits. Barrett walks down the ramp and the two meet face to face. Barrett makes a motion to Trips to make his exit and Trips greets that with a low blow and exits.
I thought we would get more from Trips here than what we got. It was effective - but after we got two predictable matches and what seemed like a lot of commercial filler, I was hoping for a longer segment. The star power was needed right now in that time where the show starts to drag.
Match #5 - Wade Barrett vs. The Miz
Barrett is still selling the low blow in the ring when Miz's music hits. The announcers talk about the various WWE Studio releases. Lawler says it's ironic that "Lincoln" did well in the box office. Cole totally missed the joke but oversells it by laughing really hard.
Miz and Barrett are trading offense going into commercial. Miz has a slight upper hand.
This show has done zero for my WrestleMania interest.
There's an audible "boring" chant. The match rolls on with Miz getting a nice run of offense. Barrett cuts off Miz's attempt at the Skull Crushing Finale, though. Barrett comes back with the Winds of Change side slam for two. He tries to follow with Wasteland but Miz slips out.
Later, Barrett tries to go for a big boot by the ropes but crotches himself. Miz is able to lock on the Figure Four to get the submission win afterward.
The fans haven't been given a reason to care about either of these guys, so they weren't into this match. They did pop for the finish.
Kane and Daniel Bryan argue over not getting over AJ. Kaitlyn interrupts and asks if they listen to themselves. She reminds them that AJ screwed all of them over. AJ lurks off to the side and listens. Kaitlyn goes on and vents, calling AJ crazy. She snaps and attacks Kaitlyn. They scrum a bit before they're separated.
I guess they could be going for a Divas Championship match there, or a "woman in the corner" for the tag match thing.
The announcers hype the Rock and Cena Q and A, and the Shield's six man match coming up next.
The announcers set up a Superstars for Sandy Relief campaign auction. Cole says there are bids from all over the globe.
Match #6 - The Shield vs. The Great Khali, Zack Ryder and Justin Gabriel
Not much to this one. In the end, Rollins pins Gabriel to get the win. Khali tries to fight off all three members of the Shield afterward, but they outnumber him and hit the triple powerbomb in an impressive spot.
Afterward. Orton and Sheamus come out from the ramp, and Big Show through the crowd. They gang up on the Shield and clear them out. The Shield flees while the faces stand tall.
The crowd didn't respond to the match but did pop a little for the angle. This crowd is clearly selective of what they're up for, and there hasn't been much tonight to be up for.
We get more Cena/Rock Q&A hype then footage of Fandango attacking Chris Jericho.
Josh Mathews catches Chris Jericho coming from Vickie Guerrero's office. He says Fandango has kicked his ass twice and it means nothing. Jericho says Vickie has given Fandango his chance because he will meet Jericho on the biggest stage of them all at WrestleMania. Jericho tells Fandango the bullseye is on his forehead and he will never, ever be the same again.
Match #7 - Brodus Clay and Tensai (w/ Cameron and Naomi) vs. Rhodes Scholars (w/the Bella Twins)
Sandow and Rhodes come out first and Sandow cuts a promo. He says Philly is known for greasy sandwiches and a stadium with a prison in it. They bring out the Bella Twins as a "treat" for Philly. After commercial, Brodus and Tensai finish their entrance.
Sandow's bathrobe is now able to be gotten on WWEShop.com. You're welcome. The Bellas tend to Cody when he's tossed out at some point in the early going. The Funkadactyls don't like that and they scrum with the Bellas.
Sandow hits a clothesline on Clay with the rope, then Cody hits the Disaster Kick to get the win.
Man. Nothing about this show is making me care about Mania at all. I guess this sets up an eight-person match or something?
Rock/Cena segment better be off the charts good.
We get a behind-the-scenes preview of "GI Joe: Retaliation". They show Ryback heading for the ring for his three-on-one match next.
Match #8 - Ryback vs. Three Man Band (Drew McIntryre, Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal); Handicap Match
Ryback sells a bit in the early going as 3MB works quick tags in and out of the ring. McIntyre hits a wicked boot about a minute or so in.
In the end, Ryback hits a double Shellshocked spot on Mahal and Slater for the win.
Neat double Shellshock spot at the end. McIntryre needs to split off from these guys and do his own thing. Really this whole gimmick has run its course.
We get highlights of what went down with Jack Swagger and Ricardo earlier on in the evening. Cole gives us a medical update on Ricardo saying he has some bruising and swelling.
They show AJ skipping backstage, and she gets Kaitlyn, next.
After commercial, we get a clip that says that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be providing the Hall of Fame induction for Bruno Sammartino.
Match #9 - AJ vs. Kaitlyn
Kaitlyn controls most of the offense in this one. She hits a move that sends AJ out of the ring. Kaitlyn cues up a spear but ends up eating the barrier instead. AJ gets a count-out win. She laughs and smiles as Kaitlyn sells frustration.
Next Diva's Championship match?
They hype up WWE 13 being released by 2K Sports, then hype up the Rock/Cena Q&A panel coming up next.
Out of commercial, Cole tells us that Orton, Sheamus and Big Show vs. The Shield is now official for Wrestlemania.
Question and Answer Session:
Jerry Lawler is in the ring with a table, chairs, and two podiums. He introduces the legends that will make up this panel: Booker T, Mick Foley, Dusty Rhodes, and Bret Hart. Each gets their entrance. Lawler will be the fifth legend.
Rock gets his entrance after the break to a decent ovation. He poses at the stage with the belt before making his way to the ring. Rock does his normal entrance routine then shakes hands with all the legends. Cena is out next to a pretty mixed reaction. He does the same with the legends and shakes all their hands.
Lawler explains the rules. Each legend will get a chance to ask a question to one man, then the other man will have a chance to respond to the same question.
Foley is first. He talks about teaming up with Rock at WrestleMania 20 to take on Evolution and has a sense of regret for costing them that match, a match he thought would be Rock's last WrestleMania. Foley says he gets flack for being a Cena fan, but admits he felt a weight lifted from him when Rock beat Cena last year.
Foley asks Cena if he's prepared to deal with the regret of losing to Rock again. Cena says April 7 will be historic. Whether he wins or loses, the face of WWE will change forever with that match. A win will give Cena redemption.
Cena says last year he would have said losing isn't an option. Now he knows it's a very real one. He references Donovan McNabb and gets booed pretty hard. He says McNabb was statistically the best to ever wear the Eagles uniform but never won the big one and that's why he gets booed. Cena says Rock doesn't know failure but soon will.
Rock's turn. He talks about his early days and tearing up his knee. He says he could have quit but he worked hard to come back. He asked to just be given the mic. Rock pauses to give his "finally" routine. He talks about coming to Philly as a champion but promptly getting beaten by Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Rock says he made a decision to come back and be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all time. He says his early failures made him who he is today and that man that he is today is gonna whoop John Cena's ass in 13 days at WrestleMania.
Hart is next. He says Rock and Cena were both friends of his and he noticed bad blood between them. He compares it to the issues he had with Shawn Michaels. He asks what changed since last year between them.
Rock says what happened is last year there were two men who wanted to be the best and they went at it for 30 minutes. Rock says he won, and Cena didn't whine, bitch, or moan and he respects that. Cena talks about calling out the Rock for saying how he loves the business. Cena challenged Rock to prove it and he has. Cena says he thought it would be a once in a lifetime thing because he assumed Rock would leave after last year's WrestleMania match in his own hometown.
Cena says Rock proved how much he loves WWE by raising the ante and saying he's going to win the WWE Championship again, and he has. Cena says they've not hung out since then but he respects Rock. Cena says he appreciates how Rock praised him for handling the loss and in 13 days, "we'll see how Rock handles his."
Booker T next. He says he's faced both Cena and Rock and wants to know why Cena thinks he will beat Rock at Mania. Cena pauses and looks lost for a second, then says "because I have to."
Rock calls that answer shallow and weak and tells Cena to "wipe a monkey's ass with "I have to."" He tell Cena to tell the truth about why he has to beat Rock. Cena blurts "because you didn't beat me." Cena says Rock didn't and cannot beat him, and Cena beat himself last year. "And that's the first time I've said that publicly but that is a fact. One bad decision."
Cena admits to getting caught in a personal moment. He says he comes out every week and some like him and some don't; he just goes along for the ride. He says Rock clouded his judgment and got him to make a stupid mistake. Cena claims he watched the match 100 times. Rock threw every ace he had at him and it wasn't enough.
"One time you personally got in the way of me making the easiest decision of my life, and it will never happen again. I will step in the ring and I will do it on my own terms." Cena says he knows he's better than Rock and more importantly, Rock knows I am better than Rock.
Rock responds that if Cena had him beat, he would have beaten him. Rock says he kicked out of the AA and Cena was speechless. Rock says there's one more legend he wanted to be like when he was young. He quotes Ric Flair, saying "to be the man, you gotta beat the man." Rock says Cena can't beat the man because he is not the man.
Dusty tries to interject. Rock apologizes but continues. He tells Cena for the rest of their lives, Cena will never be the man. Dusty says WrestleMania is all about winning and losing. He says there's no guarantees and sometimes you don't always get what you want, and what you want is not always what you get. He simply wants to know what Rock and Cena want on April 7.
Cena says he wants to win the big one, and not only win it but dominate The Rock. Cena wants Rock to look up at the sky at the end of WrestleMania and finally realize that the ballcap-wearing punk who never belonged in the Attitude Era belongs, and he is better than The Rock. Cena wants to do to Rock what he did to him, and handle him a loss so devastating it will haunt him for the rest of his life. Rock says that's not how he's wired. He says he will wake up still WWE Champion and the People's Champion. Cena will wake up,, eat Fruity Pebbles, and ask himself for the second year in a row he couldn't get the job done. Rock tells Cena to prove the world wrong at WrestleMania. "But better than that, how about you prove me wrong right now."
Rock puts the mic down and steps away from his podium. Cena pulls off the T-shirt and hat. Lawler tries to talk them down but that's not happening. Cena walks up to Rock and does the "you can't see me" gesture then tries to load the AA. Rock escapes and hits a Rock Bottom on Cena.
Rock grabs the belt and leaves the ring and jaws at Cena from a distance, who sells the move on the mat looking dejected. Raw goes off the air with Rock motioning for Cena to bring it.
Strong close to the show. Both men sold a believable level of intensity. They're selling a good story with Cena too - it seems he's obsessed with winning the title back. We need more of this Cena but it adds a special layer to his character for this feud because we DON'T see it more often.
So far, these guys are doing good business. Rock is confident, Cena is obsessed. They're not tramping on each other, cutting each other down, or scoring locker room points like last year. This is working. Maybe - JUST MAYBE - they could be foreshadowing a Cena heel turn with his "the face of WWE changes forever" line when he started off.
Too bad I can't say much good about the rest of the night. Triple H's promo was good, the opening segment was good, but the rest of this show just was bad. The fans in Philly didn't have much to cheer and it showed.
I'll have more to say on this show tomorrow night in Raw Afterthoughts. Be sure to look for that and more Road to WrestleMania coverage here on Ring-Rap.com. Thanks for watching along tonight.