It's Old School tonight on Raw, as we bring back the vintage Old School Raw episode. We're five weeks removed from WrestleMania and tonight we get a visit from legends past and look to stories to be told on the big stage. John Cena cemented his spot in the main event against The Rock for the WWE Championship. Jack Swagger continues to take his stand against Alberto Del Rio. Will Undertaker make an appearance? What will the legends have in store as well?
Show Open, Live from the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y.
After the old school WWF intro, we get the gong. The arena goes dark and we see the emergence of the Dead Man, the Undertaker. He comes out to the stage to a rousing ovation.
They cut in with the old school show-opening package. Gene Okerlund narrates the package. We go in the arena and pyro goes off above the ring with the siren. Cole and King introduce the show from the announce position. They put over the Old School gimmick and talk about Undertaker's appearance. They ask if Taker will be back for WrestleMania 29.
CM Punk's music hits and he and Heyman come out. Cole talks about Punk's title run and recaps his match with John Cena, calling it disappointing for Punk to lose that match.
Punk opens by saying he should be main-eventing WrestleMania and defending his championship, but he isn't. It's not because of anything he did or didn't do, but it's because of the fans. He says the fans stole from him what he holds precious. He says he sees no point or purpose to being at WrestleMania now.
What he just saw, and the world laid their eyes on, gives him that purpose. He says he's going to take from the fans and beat Undertaker at WrestleMania. He taunts and asks if the fans like the Streak, but they roll their eyes at his title run.
He says he backs up his talk, but the fans have never done anything great in their lives. He says he has a new number for the fans - "20-1". He says that number is drug- and alcohol-free and is Straight Edge. Punk says he'll end the Streak at Wrestlemania. "Deal with it!"
Randy Orton's music hits and he makes his way out. Orton tells Punk to not be so confident since Orton beat Punk at WrestleMania. Orton tells Punk he's never faced Taker at the show of all shows. Orton recalls his match against Taker when he was a rookie and says he came "this close." Orton says he's not a rookie any more.
Orton puts it to the fans and asks who they think should face Taker. Orton asks if it should be CM Punk or himself, and he gets the ovation. Big Show's music hits and he makes his way down to the ring with a mic in hand.
Show asks what makes either guy in the ring think they have what it takes to beat Taker. Show says he's faced Taker before but didn't have the WMD Punch. Show says if you're going to end The Streak, you need to be more than a viper or straight edge, you need to be a giant. "And this giant is going to knock that 20-0 Streak right into oblivion."
Sheamus comes out with a mic. He says it will take more than a big fist, a GTS, or an RKO to put Undertaker down. It might just take a big boot, all the heart in the world, and a little bit of luck. He says when you have the luck of the Irish, anything is possible.
Ask the Notre Dame football team about that....
Vickie comes out and excuses herself. She announces a fatal four-way match for the main event between Punk, Show, Orton, and Sheamus to determine who Undertaker will face at WrestleMania 29.
I like this. Taker's appearance stirred the crowd. Punk has always been the assumed opponent, but all four of these men are not tied into a match now and are logical opponents. Good opening.
The announcers hype up Rock vs. Cena "point/counterpoint" segment and Triple H's reaction to the brawl with Brock Lesnar last week.
They show Ryback backstage, heading to the ring. He will face Antonio Cesaro, next.
Match #1 - Antonio Cesaro vs. Ryback
Cesaro gets a pop-up box promo saying he can speak five languages while Ryback can barely speak Neanderthal. Ryback dominates the opening, but Cesaro comes back going into commercial.
The finish in this one comes when Ryback goes for the Meathook. Cesaro counters with the European Uppercut, and tries to go for the Neutralizer. Ryback counters into Shellshocked for the win.
Nice counter by Ryback from the Neutralizer to Shellshocked. Basic power offense match.
The crowd seems flat. But on the upside, WWE always goes all-out with the old school gimmick and it looks good when they do.
As Ryback is making his exit, Mark Henry's music hits. He comes out and exchanges looks with Ryback, then heads to the ring for his match.
Match #2 - Mark Henry vs. Zack Ryder
This doesn't last long. Henry roughs up Ryder and hits the World's Strongest Slam for the win.
The prospect of Ryback vs. Henry might be interesting....
They show Dolph Ziggler, AJ, and Big E Langston walking toward the ring. He will face Miz after commercial. We also get a Fandango vignette, hyping that we'll see him later tonight.
Match #3 - Dolph Ziggler (w/AJ and Big E Langston) vs. The Miz (w/Ric Flair)
Ziggler and his entourage are in the ring. Miz gets his entrance then says he wants to introduce his mentor and friend, Ric Flair. Flair makes his way down to the ring to a nice ovation.
Ziggler gets some opening offense in and struts to mock Flair. Miz decks him with a hand then kicks him to the floor. Flair does the strut for real and Ziggler recovers as they go to break.
They go back and forth after commercial. Ziggler sells a knee issue. He gets Miz in a sleeper that Miz escapes. He flings Ziggler up and crashing to the mat. Miz hits his running corner clothesline then goes up top to hit a double axe handle.
AJ distracts the official and Langston gets a cheap shot in. Flair runs over and chops Langston then backs off and says "sorry, brother." Funny. Miz hits Langston with a baseball slide kick.
Dolph rolls Miz up but Miz kicks out. He locks on the Figure Four for the win by submission. Afterward, Flair and Miz do phantom elbow drops and Flair does his flop.
That was a fun TV match. Better than normal match for The Miz for sure. Something about the Flair/Miz pairing annoys me, though.
The announcers talk at ringside and Lawler hypes the main event as "probably the biggest in the history of Raw." They hype the special WrestleMania WWE Magazine covers and the Rock/Cena segment coming up next.
So, if tonight's main event is biggest ever, what was last week?
The Rock's music hits and he comes out with the title in hand. Cole hypes up the attendance as Rock makes his way to the ring. Rock does his entrance bit and soaks up the cheers and chants from the fans.
Rock says he just flew in from Panama where it's 95 degrees every day. He talks about being excited to come to Raw tonight. A woman asked at the airport if he needed a jacket. Rock says he doesn't because of the electricity coming out of his body. Rock says he got off the plane and said "Sweet Harlem shakin' honey boo boo it's cold here!" Rock says he saw icicles on the People's Nipples.
Rock says it's okay that it's cold because after ten long years he could say "Finally, the Rock has come back to Buffalo." The crowd responded with a "Rocky" chant. Rock says there's 34 days left until WrestleMania.
Cena's music hits and he comes out. Lawler says you just don't interrupt The Rock. Cena apologizes for interrupting. He's waited a year for this moment and Rock has no idea why.
Cena says Rock can't know why because he's Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He says Rock conquered WWE, then conquered Hollywood, then came back and conquered WWE again. Cena says Rock doesn't know what it's like to tell people he cares about to do something and fail. Cena says he told everyone that would listen he would win their WrestleMania 28 match.
"And I failed." Cena tells Rock he doesn't know what that does to a man and says it makes a man feel worthless. Cena lets some "Cena sucks" chants play. Cena says his loss to Rock last year sent his life into a tailspin. Cena says both professionally and personally, his life sucked because he couldn't get past his obsession.
Cena blames Rock for his collapse and his turnaround. He says it's no coincidence that Rock won the title the same night Cena won the Rumble. Cena calls it his chance at redemption, and he's not going to throw that chance away.
Rock pauses, looks at Cena and listens to the chants. "That fire, that desire, you have no idea how happy I am to see that." He says that's the man that said he would beat Punk last week and he did. Rock says he knows what the match means to Cena. Rock says no one in the locker room has Cena's drive, desire, or will to be great.
"No one except The Rock." As much as it matters to Cena, Rock says "it means so much more to me." Rock says that when his music hits, he connects with everyone in the arena and all those watching at home; it matters to him. "You get something straight right now, you're not getting redemption, you're getting your ass kicked."
Cena calls it strong words and says he wants to quote one of the great philosophers of our era, Mike Tyson. He recalls Tyson saying he wants to eat children. He says that Tyson is remembered for that because there's something he said that reminds Cena of Rock.
Cena recalls Tyson saying that in order to be the greatest that ever lived, you have to beat everyone living. Cena says he's accomplished everything in his career and overcame every roadblock, except for Rock. "At WrestleMania, your time is up and my time is now."
Rock says his time is just getting started. He has a quote for Cena and says "winning is about heart, you've just gotta have it in the right place." The man who said that, Lance Armstrong. "He was full of crap and so are you."
Cena tells Rock "well played" and talks about the confidence in Rock's eyes. Cena says he had that confidence a year ago. He says he will make history in 34 days at WrestleMania when he becomes WWE Champion. "you just crystalized everything that is Rock and John Cena." Rock says.
Rock says the difference is that Cena thinks he can beat Rock, but Rock knows he can beat Cena. Rock gets up close and tells Cena he will beat him at WrestleMania 29. Rock slowly says "if you smell, what The Rock is cooking." and his music hits to end the segment. Rock and Cena face off, with Cena occasionally looking away, with the WrestleMania sign between them.
Better than last year already, but I do have some issues with Cena's end of the promo. Brought a bit of the snark and no-sell back toward the end. Ultimately much less nonsense than last year.
The announcers talk about the show open again.
Match #4 - Hacksaw Jim Duggan (w/Sgt. Slaughter and Dusty Rhodes) vs. Jack Swagger (w/Zeb Colter)
This doesn't last long. Swagger goes out to ringside and grabs Duggan's 2x4 and gets back in the ring. He hits Duggan, then Slaughter and Rhodes with it. He locks on the Patriot Lock on Duggan while yelling "We the People!"
Didn't get much heat on Swagger. Cole did good work on commentary acting disgusted, though.
The announcers feed it to a preview of Marine 3 featuring The Miz.
Kane and Bryan are shown backstage walking toward the ring. Bryan would flash looks at Kane but would turn away when Kane would look at him. Lawler says they have the Prime Time Players, next.
Colter talks up Swagger taking out three men. Josh Mathews tries to get a word in and Swagger says this is his America. Alberto Del Rio attacks and they scuffle a little bit until security separates them.
Match #5 - Kane and Daniel Bryan vs. The Prime Time Players (w/Ted DiBiase Sr.)
The PTP asked for DiBiase to manage them because he's all about Millions of Dollars. He says he'd think about it if they won tonight against the champions.
An audible "We Want Virgil" chant can be heard. The Players run offense and the crowd is fairly flat. Kane gets the tag and he runs through his offense. He hits a chokeslam on Darren Young to get the win.
Afterward, DiBiase pulls out a hundred dollar bill and stuffs it in Young's mouth. Daniel Bryan takes it and stuffs it in his trunks as he leaves the ring.
Flat crowd again, and it's a shame as the show is moving along all right and we're getting good returns of big names. I vote for DiBiase to induct Trump at the Hall of Fame, by the way.
Match #6 - Brodus Clay and Tensai (w/ Honky Tonk Man, Cameron and Naomi) vs. Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre (w/Jinder Mahal)
Slater tells Honky Tonk Man that he has no business being there and should go back to Vegas with the other Elvis impersonators.
McIntyre charges Tensai in the corner but misses. Tensai rolls him up for the win.
Afterward, Clay and Tensai do the dance routine. Honky interrupts them and plays his own dance routine. Slater protests, but eats a guitar shot and everyone dances again to Honky's music.
We get hype for Fandango's debut next against Kofi Kingston. They play his vignette again.
Match #7 - Kofi Kingston vs. Fandango
Kofi's in the ring already. A woman comes out and dances first, then Fandango comes out. Justin Roberts butchered his name though. Fandango lectures Justin about it and tries to coach him through it.
Eventually, Fandango says that tonight would be remembered as the night we almost saw his debut."
They did this on Smackdown too. Didn't get much heat.
What will it take - a cheap Buffalo Super Bowl reference?
The announcers hype up Triple H addressing the Brock Lesnar situation, next.
They roll a video recap segment of what happened at the beginning of last week's show between Vince McMahon, Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar and Triple H.
Trips makes his entrance and does the whole water-spit routine and posing on the ropes. They did a neat shot with fans taking pictures on their phones.
The fans cheer and Trips smiles. He looks around as a Triple H chant starts. H says the last time he stood in the ring with a mic it was days after SummerSlam when he got his arm broken by Brock Lesnar for the second time. He thought his career might be done.
H says he didn't know if he was trying to convince the fans or himself if it was over. He went right back to training after the cast was off, but had no goal in mind. He talks about his daily duties as the COO and talks about cutting his hair. He says he's in the best shape he's been in in years.
H says he just was waiting for a reason. He says he found himself looking at a man who had undergone surgery. He put aside that old man created all of this and talks about his wife and kids crying at bedside. Trips was smiling inside though because he found his reason.
"Brock Lesnar, if you think for one second we were done after Summerslam, reach up and feel those staples in your head and know we're just getting started." H says it's five weeks from the big dance. "Here we go, Brock, I'm calling you out."
Trips says he knows Brock is the guy who usually does the destruction but he split him wide open. "So here we go; WrestleMania, let's finish what we started, you and I, because I'm back." Trips runs through his various nicknames.
"The Game is back and he's calling you out for WrestleMania." He asks Lesnar if he's going to show up and fight at Wrestlemania, "or are you just going to sit there and bleed." H exits to his music.
A solid promo that chronicled their history, set up the reason for the match, and set the stage for the challenge. The fans perked up for his promo but faded by the end.
We get a recap of the main-event segment on Smackdown with The Shield interrupting the Randy Orton vs. Big Show match. Sheamus made the save and Big Show knocked out Roman Reigns.
They talk about the big hit that Social Media Smackdown was then set up the latest Shield video promo.
The Shield walk into their hand-held camera frame. Ambrose says everyone is throwing their name in to go against Undertaker. Rollins says everyone's forgotten that Taker is not the only one undefeated. Ambrose says the eye of justice is always watching. Reigns says Show got in one shot and it won't happen again. They wish the competitors luck and say they'll be watching.
Match #8 - Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez) vs. Wade Barrett
Swagger and Colter come out to watch. Colter holds Swagger back. Del Rio locks on an armbreaker across the ropes and holds it as long as he can. Barrett catches him with a boot and gains control of the match.
Barrett goes up top but misses the elbow. Ricardo and Del Rio both try to get the crowd going but it's not working. Del Rio is able to lock on the Cross Arm Breaker for the win.
The announcers hype up Del Rio vs. Ziggler for Smackdown as Del Rio celebrates after the match. Swagger sells frustration.
Another week, another loss by a secondary champ to a top guy. This could have been so much more.
They show a Colter/Swagger video package.
Match #9 - The New Age Outlaws vs. Epico and Primo (w/Rosa Mendes)
The fans perk up a bit when the New Age Outlaws music hits. They do the trademark intro line, with Billy Gunn closing with "if you're not down with that..."
The heels work on Dogg early on. In the finish, Gunn hits the Fameasser for the win.
Fun history with the NAO coming out and working.
The announcers hype up WrestleMania 29's main event with The Rock vs. Cena for the title. They air highlights of their earlier exchange.
They hype Stephanie McMahon's twitter and her recent tweet that says "time to play the game, Brock." The announcers hype up the four-way main event.
The announcers feed it to Tout videos reacting to who will face Undertaker at WrestleMania.
At the stage, they show a giant cake. Gene Okerlund is introduced to a nice reaction. He introduces Mae Young as the oldest living member of the WWE Hall of Fame. She's escorted out by a group of divas. Okerlund leads the happy birthday song, even Mark Henry.
CM Punk's music hits, and he walks through the group getting a lot of dirty looks. He gets verbally jostled by a fan but he yells at her "what are you gonna do about it, woman?" He heads to the ring for the main event.
Match #9 - CM Punk (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Randy Orton vs. Sheamus vs. Big Show; Winner gets the right to face Undertaker at WrestleMania 29.
The remaining three men make their entrances. Punk slides out as the bell rings. Orton and Sheamus follow and stare Punk down. Punk rolls back in, only to discover Big Show. Show roughs him up and then clears Sheamus out also. He and Orton go one on one. They battle to ringside, where Orton runs Show into the post. Show eventually recovers and takes charge, standing tall going into commercial.
Punk gets a shot at Big Show, hitting him with knees repeatedly. Show stands up and hits him with the WMD Punch though. Sheamus comes after Show next, and gets put down. Show tries a Vader Bomb in the corner but Sheamus rolls out of the way. Sheamus hits White Noise on Show for a two count.
Cole gives us a show reset as we cross 11 p.m. Sheamus teases a Brogue Kick, but he gets Randy Orton's powerslam instead. Show comes back and hits a chokeslam on Orton. Sheamus cues up the Brogue Kick again, but Show catches him and gives him a chokeslam for good measure. Show teases a WMD Punch for Sheamus, but he ducks and hits the Brogue Kick. Show tumbles to ringside.
Orton sneaks up on Sheamus and hits him with the RKO. Punk gets back in the match and hits a kick on Orton and follows it with the GTS to get the win. Lawler puts over Punk's win, saying if he can't be champion, he can be the guy to take Undertaker's streak away.
The gong sounds. Undertaker's music hits and he walks out onto the stage. Taker looks at Punk, and Punk returns a scowling stare back at him. Cole hypes up Taker vs. Punk as the show goes off the air.
That was a good four-way main event. The outcome was somewhat predictable, but Punk really needed a big match win after losing twice to Rock and once to Cena in big situations. He could stand another big win somewhere before Mania too. I was sitting here thinking we might get The Shield, but I'm glad they didn't get involved.
WWE always does such a good job with the details of these "Old School" shows. From the staging, the announcers' wardrobes, the ring look and graphics they use it just really makes the show stand out. I think they took a little shine off the legends' returns by announcing them ahead of time, but they got eyes on the Mania angles and that's ultimately what mattered tonight.
I thought Rock and Cena did okay in their segment, Triple H delievered a strong case for a match with Lesnar, and we got Punk vs. Undertaker now officially. Safe to say, Mania Season is in high gear.
I'll have more to say on this show tomorrow night in Raw Afterthoughts. Thanks for watching along tonight.