Last week's show brought us the return of Evolution. Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista joined forces once again to attack The Shield after an 11-on-3 tag handicap match. They got the better of The Shield on that night. It's set now that these two teams will face off at Extreme Rules. How will The Shield try to get some momentum back? Will they get one over on Evolution?
We also know that John Cena will be facing Bray Wyatt in a cage match, and Paige will be defending her Divas Championship against Tamina. But who will Daniel Bryan face? All signs point to Kane. We'll see how that story develops tonight, along with all these others.
Dolph Ziggler is on the pre-show panel with Booker, Josh Mathews, and Alex Riley.
Booker T says Daniel Bryan will be on the show and he needs to focus. Riley puts some shine on the Intercontinental Championship Contender's Tournament, with the semi-finals happening tonight. Dolph talks about The Shield vs. Evolution and how it will be the vets vs. the rookies. Mathews feeds it into a recap of what happened last week on Raw. In two weeks The Shield will face Evolution at Extreme Rules in New Jersey.
Mathews asks if The Shield can win the war against Evolution. Riley puts over the number of championships that Evolution has won in their careers and questions if The Shield has what it takes. Dolph says the Shield has been white hot for the past year and he hopes they can pull off the win against Evolution. Mathews sends it to the ring for a peek in at Big E. vs. Damien Sandow being taped for Superstars.
Back from the peek in the match, the panel talks about Hugh Jackman guest hosting next week. Dolph says he wants to bury the hatchet with Jackman, who knocked him out last time he was on. Damien Sandow took exception to Ziggler's social media talk and they decide they want to introduce Jackman to Sandow and take him out like he took Ziggler out.
They recap the John Cena promo segment with Bray Wyatt. Riley says he's waiting for Cena to take someone seriously. Thank you, Riley. Dolph says that Cena has been doing the same thing for ten years and knows how to get serious when needed.
They cut out to the ring where Big E picked up the victory over Sandow. He cuts a promo with King, saying he wants to face the best because iron sharpens iron. He says that he will walk in to Extreme Rules the Intercontinental Champion and walk out still the champion.
They recap Stephanie admonishing Kane in their backstage segment last week. Kane reclaimed his mask from under the glass after some harsh words, and he promises to eviscerate Daniel Bryan. Dolph didn't like the corporate stooge and we'll see the dominant monster. Bryan has a chip on his shoulder though and Ziggler is on his side. Riley says Bryan will be fine, but Booker says Kane makes his big red return and he'll be ready to hurt someone tonight. They highlight Bryan's history with Kane and saying he will be ready after his honeymoon.
Mathews sends it to a hype package for Kane. Back live, Mathews hypes the Intercontinental Championship Contender's Tournament and feeds it into a replay of highlights from last week's action. Sheamus vs. Barrett and RVD vs. Cesaro is on tap for tonight. Sheamus joins Renee Young, and she asks what he thinks of being involved in the tournament and winning the title.
Sheamus says he is feeling a bit of jet lag from being in Saudi Arabia. He says to win would put him in company with Pat Patterson, Stone Cold, and the late Ultimate Warrior. He says that "Broken Nose Bad News Barrett" should prepare to receive a big bad Brogue Kick. The panelists talk about the four men left, with Riley picking Cesaro to win. Dolph says all four men are capable of winning it, and Booker thinks Barrett will move on. Mathews admits he picked Ziggler to win the tournament.
Back with the panel, they hype the return of Daniel Bryan and Kane as a monster, as well as the return of Evolution. Riley says none of this is good news for Bryan. King, Cole, and JBL are getting their introductions. Booker T says Bryan has something that no one else does, and that's the Yes Movement.
Get ready for our "stream of consciousness" coverage tonight, starting in minutes.
WWE Raw, Live from Baltimore, MD at the Baltimore Arena
The open is a recap of last week's 11-on-3 main event tag match, and the reformation of Evolution. They mix in historical highlights of Evolution along with footage from last week. The beatdown is voiced-over by Triple H's promo from Smackdown. Adapt or perish - believe in evolution.
Cole welcomes us in, and immediately we get Daniel Bryan to a rousing ovation. Bryan is a bit subdued in his entrance and he does the Yes Chant with his wife Brie. A hug is cut short by Stephanie McMahon.
For those who might not have heard it, Daniel Bryan lost his father unexpectedly today, hence the subdued emotion from Bryan.
Stephanie congratulates Bryan for winning the title and marrying the love of his life in a rustic, crunchy, wedding. She snipes a little. She says she got him an untraditional wedding present, a title defense at Extreme Rules against "the devil's favorite demon, Kane."
Stephanie tells him that now that the devil has been unleashed again, he needs to keep his pretty little wife out of harm's way. Kane's music plays and Stephanie tries to tell him to stay where he is. Bryan and Brie back out of the ring, but Kane came through the crowd. Blows exchanged between Bryan and Kane. Kane spots Brie and gives chase, but Bryan cuts him off. They brawl, with Kane driving Bryan to the barrier then hitting a tombstone on the floor then on the stairs. EMT's come out and tend to Bryan, but Kane flips him off the gurney and tears apart the announce position. Stephanie keeps yelling for him to stop but Kane isn't having it. Kane hits a third tombstone on the announce table.
Stephanie calls Kane a bastard as Cole motions for the doc to get in there. The medics tend to him as Kane leaves.
Most likely, this was a way to get Bryan off the show for the night and get him on the way home to his family in Washington state. He was in no place to cut a promo tonight and you could see the redness in his eyes.
Back live, we get a recap of what we just saw, with the announcers calling it with subdued tones. Bryan is being stretchered out. Cole blames Stephanie for the "malignant spirit" in Kane. Stephanie asks for a warm round of applause for Bryan as they go to more highlights. The announcers say they will keep us up to date on Bryan's conditions, calling it "a bad situation."
Cole switches gears to the Intercontinental Championship tournament semi-finals. First of the semi-final matches is now!
Match #1 - Wade "Bad News" Barrett vs. Sheamus; Intercontinental Championship #1 Contender's Tournament Semi-Final
Barrett cuts a promo, saying lucky charms won't work tonight, as the luck of the Irish will run out and he will defeat Sheamus. "Fella" comes to the ring and they remind us of the interview that Sheamus cut with Renee Young on the pre-show.
Sheamus goes off with strikes to start this off and JBL says this will get physical. Sheamus knocks Barrett to the floor then hits him with a splash. He tries to go a clubbering in the ropes but Barrett counters with a whip to the corner then a big boot.
Through the app, Cole says Barrett dominated. Sheamus starts a comeback with a series of strikes, a running knee, then goes a clubbering in the ropes. He follows it up with a battering ram off the ropes for a near fall. Irish Curse backbreaker for another near fall. Big E is watching backstage - no one cares about him.
Sheamus tries White Noise but Barreett counters and sets up Wasteland, but Sheamus counters. Missed Brogue Kick leads to Winds of Change for a near fall. Barrett's frustrated but calls for the Bull Hammer. Missed Bull Hammer leads to a corner charge. Barrett gets up on the ropes but Sheamus loads him and hits White Noise for a near fall.
Fists from the knees, then standing. Baltimore likes Barrett better than Sheamus. The two go tumbling out over the ropes when Sheamus tries a cross body. Baltimore now think's it's awesome. Sheamus charges but Barrett hits him with the Bull Hammer through the ropes. That's enough to send him to the finals. Highlights from the announcers as Barrett poses.
This was a pretty good match. I just wonder - given Cesaro's heel status by being paired with Paul Heyman - if it's going to be RVD picking up the win in the other semi-final. Certainly it's not a slam dunk either way. Hopefully the other match is as good as this was. The fans bought into the near falls along the way and really liked Barrett's work.
Cole hypes up the reunion of Evolution and says they'll be on the show tonight. Of course they will be, and Triple H will cut a boring 20 minute promo in a suit. Will this mean Randy Orton will actually wear pants on Raw?
Bo Dallas vignette. You can't be a bird without being an egg, or something. Bo-Lieve.
The announcers recap Hugh Jackman's appearance on Raw in 2011. Jackman jacked Ziggler to give Ryder the win. Jackman will be on Raw in St. Louis next week, and they announcers hype the Twitter battle between Sandow, Ziggler, and Jackman.
Cole and King hype up a poll where we get to pick John Cena's opponent. It's either Luke Harper, Harper and Erick Rowan, or the entire Wyatt Family. Cole says the only way Cena can get his hands on Bray is in a three on one situation.
Wyatt cuts in. He says he remembers the first time he was struck with truth and it was bitter and intense. He liked it though because it was real. Free will is man's biggest illusion - they promise it to you just to take it away again. We've become a nation of mindless sheep led by wolves and owned by pigs. Tonight would be a wonderful night for change. Tonight they have left the power in the fans' hands. Tonight free will exists, and the fans will make a choice. What fate will they choose for their knight in shining armor. Will they pick the path of less pain, or will Cena finally learn the truth.
Whether it's one brother or the other, or inside a cage, the Wyatts stand against Cena. At Extreme Rules two monsters will enter. It will not matter which monster has the longest teeth or sharpest claws. "They do not love you anymore John." Wyatt claims to take more with him every time and they are all coming with him. "Listen as it happens, John. He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." He encourages the fans to sing along and they do. Wyatt kneels down and poses in front of Harper and Rowan then the graphic cut-out hits to break.
This was a good segment. I thought maybe they'd try to push the vote one way or another, but that wasn't the case. They're doing a better job of building up the story going to Extreme Rules than they did at Wrestlemania. Talking about stealing Cena's fans was a nice touch as the cult leader.
Match #2 - Los Matadores (w/El Torito) vs. 3MB (w/Hornswoggle)
Thankfully, Los Matadores made their entrance during break. We get a recap of the match between these teams on Main Event. They treat the collision of El Torito and Hornswoggle as a clash of the titans but, well, never mind. McIntryre vs. Matador to start, but the little people are begging for the tags. Baltimore is excited about this, and I have no idea why.
Slapfest turns to a huracanrana by El Torito. He does a springboard move then a bronco buster. Moonsault nets a near fall. McIntyre gets in the ring and cuts off Torito from the tag. He gores Slater, then kicks McIntryre down low. The Matadores load up McIntryre for a senton for the victory.
Meh. I just didn't care. I'm sure the audience of one at Gorilla did like it though.
They show a couple highlights of Evolution reforming. Backstage, a limo pulls up. Batista, Triple H, and Randy Orton emerge. I'm shocked that Orton has pants on. They're up next.
We get hype for The Shield vs. Evolution for Extreme Rules.
Motorhead's "Line in the Sand" hits and here comes Triple H, Orton and Batista. As they come to the ring, the announcers pour way too much hype into how great Evolution was in their time and how we can go back and watch it ourselves on WWE Network.
Triple H is sick - no literally, he's sick. He cuts a hoarse promo about how someone talks about being the baddest dog in the yard then "your father comes out and spanks you in front of the world." He calls it embarrassing. Orton says a little spark sets off a fire and The Shield set in motion the gears of their destruction. He feeds it to a video package highlighting Evolution's history. Back live, Batista hypes the 31 titles between the three and tells The Shield they have no idea what they've gotten into. "Deal with that."
The Shield's music hits and here they come through the crowd. Evolution exits up the ramp. The Shield stomps around the ring. Ambrose cuts a promo, saying their plan last week was well done. They've been beaten up before and will be again. "Do we look humbled to you?" Ambrose says that there's a reason Hunter hired them to protect him and "that little creampuff to your left, Randy Orton." Ambrose says they're always hungry, and now they're angry.
Rollins on the mic next. He says that it took Evolution, and about twelve other men, to put them down. Rollins says they don't want to fight, and Evolution says how they want to fight, but "well, you're not." In two weeks, Evolution will face The Shield and it will be all out war. Rollins says each member of Evolution will look out for themselves, with Batista looking out for his Hollywood interests and Triple H doing what the boss wants. "What you're looking at is the most dominant force in the history of this company." Rollins promises to rip Evolution apart in two weeks.
Reigns references the ultimatum from Evolution last week, and says he's going to give them one. In two seconds Reigns is going to drop the mic, and they can fight or leave like creampuffs and hide. Reigns drops the mic and they head up the ramp.
The eleven that were in the tag match flock to the stage to stand alongside Evolution. The Shield stops. Hunter says "or there's option three, there's always an option three. In life, you either adapt or you perish. That, is Evolution." Hunter pats Batista and Orton on the shoulder as The Shield yells at them from the ringside area.
That was really lukewarm. I've had cold water that was warmer, in fact. Rollins started to ramble just a bit which took some edge off of things. Less is more for Rollins, who is the weakest of the three talkers. This just never got anything going.
They recap the opening segment of the show again, just in case you missed it. Cole says that Bryan has been taken to a local medical facility for examination.
More like, on a plane for Washington state...
Cole hypes the poll that is still ongoing for John Cena's opponent of the Wyatt family for later on.
Match #3 - The Usos vs. Cody Rhodes and Goldust
Rybaxel is on commentary for this one. Guaranteed there's going to be some commenhatin' going on. Ryback tells some story about his dad is "the best bartender in the west" and served Mr. Perfect. They do put over The Usos and the Rhodes' as good teams though. In the end, Cody tries for Cross Rhodes but gets countered by Uso into a finish for the Usos to get the win.
Cody pushes Goldust away after the match. Goldust looks shocked and gives chase to Cody who is headed up the ramp. Rybaxel jumps The Usos from behind and beats them down. Big boot from Axel, then Ryback loads Shellshocked to finish off Uso. Rybaxel Rules.
This was all about advancing Rybaxel vs. The Usos. I guess we might get to see the Rhodes' feud though given the reaction of Cody.
Cole hypes up Slam City, with various superstars having to hold real jobs. They give a short trailer of the show, with Mark Henry beating up a penguin. That's what he does.
Recap of the Intercontinental Tournament bracket going into commercial. Whoever wins between RVD and Cesaro gets Bad News Barrett.
Match #4 - Emma (w/Santino Marella) vs. Layla (w/Fandango)
Layla's shaking her stuff in the ring out of break. Emma does her goofy dance coming to the ring, complete with bubbles. They show some fans doing the dance along with her, but it's not an overwhelming reaction. Handshake between Emma and Santino as the bell rings, then Fandango pulls Marella off the apron. Distraction lets Layla take advantage.
JBL talks about the issues between Summer and Fandango. Emma tries a drop kick but no one home. Emma comes back with a clothesline, and Santino hits Fandango with the Cobra outside the ring. Dear lord, Emma has a pink cobra. She strikes Layla with it and gets the win. Just stop. Please. Now. Baltimore doesn't like this as you can hear some boos in the live crowd.
Win-trading of the week for this mixed tag team story. I can't be compelled to care, really. Emma is much better than this.
Hype for voting for Cena's opponent on the app. Hurry, do now.
Back live, they hype Legends House on WWE Network then show shots outside in the Inner Harbor.
Renee Young is with John Cena (who gets booed hard). She says the odds are against him in a match against one or more of the Wyatts. Cena says the fans have always had a voice, and if they vote him to fight the entire family then he will. He soaks up a dueling chant. He says everywhere he's traveled, he has heard the same song and it's getting louder and louder: "He's got the whole world in his hands." He says maybe Wyatt does. If he has to fight all three, he will. He says in two weeks at Extreme Rules, it will be in a cage and make the odds just a little more even. Tonight's objective is simple - survive. He tells Wyatt to never count him out.
Match #5 - Cesaro (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Rob Van Dam; Intercontinental Championship #1 Contender's Tournament Semi-Final
My God does Cesaro have some horrible entrance music now. Heyman introduces himself as the advocate for "the Swiss Superman, the King of Swing, Cesaro" and also as Brock Lesnar's advocate. Way to never let us forget that, Paul, despite the fact we won't see him until SummerSlam I guess. The promo cuts out in mid sentence. It comes back live assumingly with Heyman bragging on Lesnar for breaking Undertaker's streak. This is doing nothing for Cesaro, but it's keeping Lesnar's win in front of us and getting heat.
Rob Van Dam's music cuts off Heyman, and Cole immediately hypes up that this is a battle of Heyman guys. A lot of rope running to start, then Cesaro tries a suplex but RVD counters and lands on his feet. Cesaro loads and hits a backbreaker for two. RVD gets in some offense by hitting a monkey flip then poses and thumb points - that costs him as it used to in TNA.
RVD hits a pair of shoulder blocks, but Cesaro drop kicks him into the ring post. Back from break, RVD tries a sunset flip but Cesaro counters with a double stomp then hits a gutwrench slam. He mashes RVD's face into the mat. RVD starts a flurry with a shoulder block, a kick, and Rolling Thunder for a near fall. Up top for the thrust kick. RVD goes up again and cues up the Five Star but gets a big uppercut from Cesaro.
Battle in the corner goes in favor of RVD. He hits a split leg moonsault for a near fall. RVD gets hung up in the ropes and Cesaro hits another big uppercut for a near fall. Strike exchange mid-ring, and RVD uses a leg scissor pin for two. Cesaro hits a powerbomb for a good near fall. Cesaro calls for the Swing and just as he locks it in, here comes Jack Swagger.
Distraction allows RVD to get a kick to the face. Swagger comes down the ring and faces off with Cesaro. RVD tries a jump off the ropes but takes a big uppercut. Heyman bickers with Zeb Colter when Cesaro throws RVD back in the ring. Referee is distracted, so Swagger throws Cesaro to the post. Cesaro gets counted out and loses. RVD goes on to the final against Barrett.
After the match, Swagger attacks. Cesaro fends him off, and Colter is left in the ring with him. He grabs Colter and goes to swing him, but Swagger interjects. Swagger gets the swing instead. Cesaro poses in the ring afterward. Cole hypes the final of Van Dam vs. Barrett, with the winner getting Big E at Extreme Rules.
Basic storytelling to close the loop with Swagger and Cesaro and their break-up as the Real Americans. I figure these two will have a match at Extreme Rules to close it off for good. RVD goes into the finals with no momentum so it leaves things feeling flat. Also, I wonder how long this Cesaro alliance with Heyman will ultimately last. Some signs seem to point to it not lasting too long.
Yet another recap of the opening segment of the show. Three piledrivers from Kane to Daniel Bryan. Stephanie yelled "no" but Kane wasn't listening. Cole says there is encouraging news that Bryan has only suffered a stinger and has a good prognosis. He's being held for observation.
More hype for voting for Cena's opponent as one of the members of the Wyatts, or all of them...
RVD is about to cut an interview with Renee Young, but Heyman and Cesaro interject. Cesaro questions how RVD can take that win and tells him he can thank Colter and Swagger for it. Heyman says that the RVD he knew wouldn't take such a tainted victory. He asks how RVD can sleep at night. RVD says he will sleep well, and tells Cesaro to keep his wallet, house, and car away from Heyman. RVD thumb points and walks away.
20 guys chant along with RVD's thumb point. RVD slept well on Sunday because it was 4/20. Insert your own jokes.
Match #6 - Paige vs. Aksana
Aksana has porno music. Paige gets a nice reaction but not overwhelming. Paige starts off aggressively against Aksana, throwing her around the ring. Sunset flip for two, then a series of knees. Aksana begs off but takes advantage of it. She puts Paige up on the ropes then throws her off the ropes, then hits a suplex. She controls the offense with strikes and a reverse chinlock. The announcers tell the "flash in a pan" story while Aksana hits a side slam.
Paige mounts a comeback with a series of clotheslines, but takes a botched spinebuster from Aksana. Paige counters with a submission attempt out of the spinebuster position. She hits a couple knees to the face then locks on the Scorpion CrossLock for the submission win. She poses afterward with the belt.
Paige got a nice reaction for the win, and for some of her moves, but Aksana has never been positioned in a way for fans to care about her in any way, so she was never a serious threat in this match.
Hype for Cesaro vs. Swagger on Smackdown.
We get a recap of Rusev squashing R-Truth on Smackdown, then disposing of Xavier Woods
Match #7 - Alexander Rusev (w/Lana) vs. Sin Cara
Lana comes out and cuts a promo in Russian. Good lord is she hot in navy pinstripes. Anyhow, she says that we in America get the privilege to share the air with the super athlete Alexander Rusev. Rusev makes his entrance and poses in the ring. Rusev will face both Truth and Xavier Woods at Extreme Rules.
Sin Cara tries to use his quickness early on. He springs off the ropes but gets caught. The fans go into business for themselves and chant for JBL as Rusev keeps up the offense, working the arm. Sin Cara tries to work a hurancanrana off the ropes but gets caught. He goes over the top for a sunset flip. A bit later, Sin Cara hits a missile drop kick but runs into a bus on the charge.
Rusev hits a double underhook suplex. Lana calls for him to crush, so it's time for his version of the Black Hole Slam, then locks on the Accolade for the win. Lana poses with him in the ring.
More Lana. Okay, I'll get away from that. But this was a simple squash for Rusev, and that's fine. Marathon, not a sprint. I'm okay with this.
More hype for picking John Cena's opponent and this is our last chance to vote. Results are next. Vote 3-on-1 match, please!
Another Bo-Lieve promo. We need to be prepared so that when our inspiration arrives, we just need to Bo-Lieve.
Match #8 - John Cena vs. The Wyatt Family
John Cena makes his entrance to a mixed reaction, as usual and he's all business. "MeepMoop" sign and "Jamyi Cena" signs shown in the crowd as Cena poses. King gives us the result of the app vote. He is going 3 on 1 with the great one...err, wrong feud....he will face all three Wyatts.
After the commercial, The Wyatts make their entrance to a nice reaction from the live crowd. The announcers say that Cena even looked confused by the vote. Wyatt yells at Cena asking if he can feel it. The announcers try to defend it by saying fans voted for Cena to get his hands on Wyatt, but put him right in harm's way. The Wyatts gang up on Cena initially before the official backs them off. They will tag in and out.
Harper and Cena start off and Harper keeps up the slugging offensive. Rowan gets a tag and slams Cena as the dueling chants fire up. Rowan runs Cena head first to the turnbuckle. Cena tries to start some offense but takes a fallaway slam right into the Wyatts corner. Bray tags in and dances with Cena before he throws a hand. Harper off the tag keeps up, but takes a splash from Cena. Harper comes back with a double axe handle.
"Cena sucks" is winning out in the live crowd as Cena hits a suplex. Harper tags to Rowan and it's more stomps and boots. Backbreaker out of the pumphandle position gets a two count. Wyatt tags in, doesn't do much, then tags out. Cena puts Harper in the STF but Rowan breaks it up. The clubbing offense just keeps marching on. Cena ends up out on the floor. Cena drives Rowan to the barrier but Harper throws Cena into the stairs.
Out of break, Cena tries to mount a comeback but flops to the floor. He and Harper fight on the ropes, and Cena gets the better of it and hits a tornado DDT off the ropes. Wyatt gets the tag and hits Cena with a slam. He mounts and throws hands. Cena's in a bad way against the ring post, taking several shots against the corner. Wyatt sings by the ramp before tagging Rowan in.
Rowan uses a vice with Wyatt yelling "give in John!" from the apron. Cena rallies and breaks the hold. He side steps a charge making Rowan eat the ring post. Rowan tags Wyatt, who splashes Cena in the corner. Upside down pose in the corner, then the reverse crab walk. Cena hits a clothesline as Wyatt gets up.
Cena takes out the Family and starts his usual offense. Side slam, then he pulls the rope down to send Harper to ringside. Cena hits the Five Knuckle, then hits the AA. Out of the cover, Harper breaks it up. The official throws it out at that point.
Wyatt slumps against the ropes as Harper and Rowan beat Cena down. King says the outcome of the match wasn't important, but this was. Wyatt hits Cena with Sister Abigail and Harper hands him a mic.
Wyatt cuts a short promo, saying that in due time, all things come to light. Wyatt sings He's Got the Whole World in His Hands again sitting by a fallen Cena. Harper has a dazed look in his eyes. Wyatt continues to sing, then he laughs and starts singing again as the show goes to close.
This was actually compelling. Cena has overcome the odds a million times, but the Wyatts continued to dominate this one pretty much bell to bell so this match's finish was in doubt. I can take issue out of Wyatt nearly getting beat because it reduces his threat in a one-on-one situation especially since Cena beat him at Wrestlemania. One thing this does give is a set-up to a measure of revenge when they face off in the cage. No matter what, the other two members of the family can get involved by keeping Cena from escaping the cage.
This was a marathon show. The book-end segments of the show were very good and served their purposes. The rest of the show wasn't bad, but it just really felt like a long show. The pace was slow and plodding, and with next week's show being the go-home, they'll need to pick the pace up.
I'll have a lot more to say on this show in tomorrow's Raw Afterthoughts, and we'll discuss it on RingRap Audio this week too. Be sure to join us for those pieces, and send us your questions to @RingRap or @RingRapAudio using the #AskRingRap hashtag. Thanks for watching along!