The Raw crew has made their way back to US soil for tonight's show. Big news this week has been the injury to John Cena's Achilles' tendon. But he's slated to work tonight's match against The Shield, teaming with Ryback? Will this hamper the Champ's ability to defend his WWE Championship against Ryback in a couple weeks at Extreme Rules?
Also, it's official that Triple H will take on Brock Lesnar in a steel cage that night. How will these two hype up their story beyond the "no holds barred" affair at WrestleMania?
Show Open, Live in Columbus, Ohio at the Nationwide Arena:
We go right to the ring as the show opens.
Match #1 - Ricardo Rodriguez (w/Alberto Del Rio) vs. Zeb Colter (w/Jack Swagger) vs. Big E. Langston (w/Dolph Ziggler and AJ) - winner of the match wins the right for their cornermate to pick the stipulation for Extreme Rules
Ricardo is last out with Del Rio. Langston smiles, and JBL says Langston should because he's in the ring against an announcer and a war veteran. After some jawing, Colter ducks out and Big E goes to work on Ricardo. He hits a series of back breakers, some clubbing blows, then a big spear in the corner. Cole puts over the sold out 14,000-plus attendance.
He throws him to Colter's corner and smiles. Langston charges but Ricardo jumps out of the way. Ricardo goes to work and Colter joins the fray. Ricardo and Colter pair off on their own as Cole reminds us that Swagger broke Ricardo's ankle. The two exchange shots but Big E clotheslines them both down.
Late, things break down. Del Rio saves Ricardo from a pinfall, but takes a drop kick from Ziggler, Swagger jumps in and throws Ziggler out. Big E clotheslines Swagger out but tumbles out with him.
In the ring, Colter crawls over to cover Ricardo, but AJ breaks the count up. Colter argues with the official, and that allows Ricardo to roll him up for the win. Cole puts over how Del Rio now gets to pick the stipulation for the match at Extreme Rules in the triple threat World Heavyweight Championship match.
That was really silly. Colter did a good job of selling how he was scared but still took advantage of opportunities. The fans ate up Ricardo getting the win. It worked, if not a bit eye rolling.
The announcers talk about John Cena's injury at ringside and say he seems he will be ready to go. Lawler says Cena will be ready for the main event.
Cole puts over Cena making a special presentation for Make-A-Wish and World Wish Day. They made an odd transition back to highlights for the opening match.
World Wish Day Segment:
The announcers talk about Cena's involvement with Make-A-Wish and the number of wishes he has granted. They feed it into a highlight video from the Today Show where Cena surprised a young man who wanted to meet him as his wish. In that segment, Cena invites them to Raw tonight.
Cena's music hits in the arena. Thankfully, no one boos. Cena comes out with three young men and their mothers. Cena introduces Jacob, Nicholas and Logan and says they are three young kids who wished to experience Raw in person.
Cena encourages viewers to visit wish.org/wwe to help make similar moments possible. Cena says tonight is special and these three get to be WWE Superstars. Jacob says he is "The Eliminator," Nicholas is "Nick the Stitch" and Logan is "Lightning Logan."
Cena tells the fans that these kids were granted just one wish and they chose to come to Raw and "hang out with all of us." Cena fires up the crowd and tells them to let these young guys know what it's like to be a part of Raw. The kids did the "you can't see me" gesture.
Cena closes by saying "For everyone here tonight, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for making a special moment that much more wonderful."
Far and away the best segment on Raw all year. For all the disgust I have with Cena's character, the man does a lot of good.
The announcers talk about what we just saw with Cena and the kids. We get a shot backstage and Randy Orton is heading to the ring.
Match #2 - Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes
Orton is posing on the ropes as we come back from commercial. Rhodes is already in the ring.
Orton gets some early offense in. The fans rally behind him but Cody ends up taking control. Orton cues up the elevated DDT off the ropes but Cody counters and hangs him up on the ropes. He then tries the RKO but Rhodes counters that. Cody gets dumped to the outside and Orton gives chase going into commercial.
Out of the break, Orton gets clocked with the Disaster Kick on the apron. Rhodes gets a couple of near falls out of it. Rhodes takes control, hitting some stomps and a running knee drop. Orton fights back but eats a foot from Rhodes on the charge then an elbow off the ropes for a near fall.
Rhodes declares things over but when he goes up top Orton counters. He hits a big superplex for a near fall then starts to hit his trademark offense. He hits the scoop slam then a fallaway slam and smiles, then hits the elevated DDT.
Late, Orton teases the RKO but Rhodes counters to the Cross Rhodes for a good near fall. Rhodes argues with the official, then decides to hit the Disaster Kick again. Orton catches him and hits the RKO for the win.
The announcers recap the closing segment. Striker interviews Orton in the ring. He says it's been three weeks since Show knocked him out. Is Orton still haunted? Orton says it fuels him and he's never been more focused and extreme. Rhodes goes for an attack and Orton hits the RKO a second time.
A solid television match. The issue I have here is that they really could have done more with Rhodes (and Ted DiBiase, really) to make this match mean more.
The Bella Twins are shown backstage stretching out. They complain about last week's battle royale and say they were busy walking the red carpet for the new show "Total Divas" and the rest of the Divas wouldn't know about that. They head to the ring and Nikki faces Naomi next.
Match #3 - Nikki Bella (w/Brie Bella) vs. Naomi (w/Cameron)
Before the match the announcers feed it into a trailer for "Total Divas" that is coming up on E! television. Naomi gets her entrance with Cameron after the trailer.
Naomi gets some offense in early. She hangs Nikki up on the ropes, then the twins do their Twin Magic bit. Brie rolls up Cameron for the win.
The official gets an earful about the switch from Cameron. He reverses his decision and Naomi wins by DQ. The Bellas hit the ring and the four scrum. The Bellas get the better of the scrum and gloat as they back up the ramp.
Typical Divas match featuring the Bellas. They're trying to hype the Total Divas show here more than anything.
The announcers put over an interview with The Shield next, after they put away the Undertaker on Smackdown.
The Shield is mid-entrance as we come out of break. JBL says it's a rhetorical question as to who can stop them and they will run roughshod on WWE unless their own egos stop them. Cole runs says Undertaker caps an impressive list of opponents.
Ambrose says they've brought justice to an unjust world. Rollins says that brick by brick, they have torn the wall of injustice that has been building for years. From Survivor Series to now, no one has stopped them. He says they've changed the course of WWE history by stopping Ryback from becoming champion. They show still shots of the triple powerbomb on Ryback, Rock, Big Show, Sheamus, and Cena with Rollins and Reigns naming them.
Ambrose says Undertaker has been a symbol of justice for 20 years and everyone bows to him. The Shield bows to no one, though. Reigns mocks Undertaker's "rest in peace" catchphrase and they feed it to a video recap of The Shield hitting Undertaker with the triple powerbomb on Smackdown.
Ambrose says justice doesn't care who you are, when the number is called, it strikes without warning or mercy. Rollins addresses Cena and Ryback. He says justice hasn't forgotten about them. Before he can say much more, 3MB's music hits.
Heath Slater says they have unfinished business with the Shield. They walk to the ring as Drew McIntyre asks who the bloody hell they think they are. He says they were moments away from showing Triple H how they roll. Jinder Mahal says they're going to crash the Shield's party and rock their faces.
3MB hits the ring and the brawl is on. The Shield eventually takes control and begins the beatdown but Kane's pyro hits. Kane and Daniel Bryan head to the ring. Cole says that they may be looking for retribution for The Undertaker. Kane and Bryan hit the ring, but The Shield slips away. Kane and Bryan beat up 3MB instead. JBL poses that 3MB sucks.
I thought they might go with the "plucky underdog" role for 3MB, but rather they buried them instead. If this isn't working, they should just end it and move on to something else.
As for The Shield, they seemed a bit overproduced with all the still-shot work and stuff. They had more heat when they came out than when they left.
John Cena is getting taped up by a trainer when Ryback walks in. Ryback says that Cena "can tape that up all (he) wants, but it doesn't change the fact that (he's) hurt." Cena says it doesn't mean he's injured and is likely better than Ryback on one leg than Ryback is on two. Ryback retorts that he can't take that chance and walks off.
At ringside, Cole and Lawler talk about the Domino's Pizza tracker. Lawler says he ordered pizza and they're tracking it. Looks like 20 to 30 minutes according to Cole, putting over the "slow bake" process.
Match #4 - Dolph Ziggler (w/AJ and Big E Langston) vs. Kofi Kingston
The announcers hype up that Kofi will defend the US Championship in a rematch with Antonio Cesaro on Main Event this Wednesday. They also talk about Kofi becoming a new dad.
Kingston catches Ziggler with a kick early on. Dolph returns a dropkick to send Kofi off the apron and to the floor as they go to commercial.
After commercial, Ziggler ducks away from Trouble in Paradise. He hits a DDT of his own for a two. Kingston hits Trouble in Paradise a bit later and has the cover, but AJ puts Ziggler's leg on the ropes. Langston pulls Ziggler out of the ring and tries to pep him up, but Kofi dives from the apron and hits both Langston and Ziggler. Kingston throws Ziggler back in the ring.
Kingston hits a high cross body for two. Kofi knocks Big E from the ring apron and AJ gets involved with the official. Dolph rolls up Kofi for a good near fall. Late in this one, Kofi misses a second cross body from the ropes and Dolph hits Zig Zag to win.
Afterward, Big E hits Kofi with the Big Ending twice and the three gloat and celebrate afterward.
Another solid television match that was very enjoyable. Two formula problems I had - Dolph can't win without help, and the secondary champion always loses this match.
Cole hypes up the "full" Triple H and Brock Lesnar story for after commercial.
Ziggler, Langston and AJ celebrate their win. They bump into Kaitlyn and Natalya. Kaitlyn tells Ziggler to get his "crazy little tramp back in her straitjacket." After some taunting, Kaitlyn admits that she was holding back when she thought she could get her best friend back, but she won't hold back any more.
A delivery man shows up with a gift that AJ claims, thinking it's for her. It's for Kaitlyn instead. It's a studded hat - something I would find hideous myself. Kaitlyn loves it because it matches her bracelet. She digs for a note and finds it from a secret admirer.
They recap the video segment between Triple H and Paul Heyman. Cole hypes up that Triple H and Lesnar will be in a steel cage at Extreme Rules. He poses the question as to who will win the rubber match. JBL says the cage is a weapon, so it favors Triple H.
Brock has no experience against heavyweights in a cage...oh, wait...
Vickie and Brad are conferring when Ryback walks in. He says Cena left him alone to face the Shield for the last time. Vickie says she's thinking the same thing. She offers a six man tag of Ryback and Team Hell No vs. The Shield as a replacement. "Ryback Rules. Been there, done that, I don't trust either of those guys. No!" Ryback storms out.
At the announce position, Cole talks about being hungry. Lawler asks where his pizza is and they check the tracker. It's been delivered, and they show fans eating pizza in the crowd.
Match #5 - Jack Swagger (w/ Zeb Colter) vs. Zack Ryder
Ryder cues the footage of Colter losing at the beginning of the show.
Swagger goes on offense. He controls the offense early on in this one. He goes for a splash off the ropes, but Ryder gets a foot up.
Ryder starts a hope spot but gets hit with the Gut Wrench Powerbomb. Swagger locks on the Patriot Lock to get the win. He holds Ryder in the ropes so Colter can mock him and deliver a punch afterward.
Colter's starting to develop his character a little bit, which is promising to see.
During the break, they show Matt Striker trying to get an interview with Ryback, who is fully dressed and leaving the building.
Match #6 - Mark Henry against two competitors in a tug of war contest.
Mark Henry comes to the ring and says he's going to prove he's the World's Strongest Man. Henry says Vickie Guerrero promised to give him two competitors for a match. Tensai comes out first and they engage in a tug of war contest. Tensai loses pretty quickly. Next up is Brodus Clay, and he also loses in pretty quick fashion.
Sheamus' music hits and he comes to the stage. He says it's impressive "but how about one more." Henry refuses at first, but Sheamus heads to the ring. Sheamus gives a fight, and when Henry goes for a fresh grip on the rope he lets go. Sheamus follows with the Brogue Kick and poses for the fans as Henry rolls out of the ring.
Kind of lame segment there. What's next week - Kickball?
We get highlights of the John Cena segment with the Make-A-Wish kids.
Maddox and Vickie are talking to Kane and Daniel Bryan and Maddox tells them that Ryback has left the building. Kane yells at him to shut up and it looks like they're back to a handicap match. Kane begins to rant about what happened to Undertaker, but Bryan calms him. Bryan says they want the match no matter what. Vickie agrees to give it to them.
Vickie turns to Maddox and says "one more thing..." and whispers something in his ear. Maddox isn't happy to hear whatever it is.
At the announce table, they update The Rock's post-surgery condition with a Twitter graphc and hype up that "Pain and Gain" is #1 in the box office.
Maddox walks in to John Cena's locker room. Cena refers to him as Braden Walker then as Bad Mattress. Cena tells him to tell Vickie that he won't let Team Hell No go to the ring without a partner. Maddox says Cena is hurt, but Cena tells him he will be hurt bad if he doesn't tell Vickie he will be fighting in the main event.
Match #7 - Antonio Cesaro vs. Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez)
Cesaro was already in the ring, and Del Rio makes his entrance. Cole hypes up that Cesaro played rugby previously and that's why he wears the leg wraps.
Cesaro locks on a chinlock after break. Cole says "incredible things" have aired on the WWE app to put the app over. Cesaro yodeling was one of those things - you decide. Cesaro controls the offense until Del Rio starts his comeback. Ricardo tries to get the fans going but that fell short. Del Rio gets a suplex into a bridge for a two count.
The fans start an Ole chant. Del Rio jumps off the ropes to eat an uppercut from Cesaro. He gets a good two out of it. Ricardo encourages the singing but it doesn't pick up. Del Rio hits a superkick for two then teases the cross armbreaker. Cesaro counters out but Del Rio manages to get it on in the second attempt and wins by submission.
Afterward, the Ole starts again. Ricardo motions for the fans to keep it going. Del Rio says he can pick the stipulation for Extreme Rules, thanks to Ricardo. Del Rio says it will be a ladder match, which gets a good reaction.
Solid work again in the ring, but the results are predictable like they were in WrestleMania season. It makes it hard for the live crowds to care all that much, though they have popped for the big moments at times.
We get split-screen shots of Natalya and Great Khali and Fandango and his dancer, Summer Rae, coming toward the ring. They will have a dance off, next.
Dance Off Segment:
Fandango and Summer make their entrance. They show some shots of people Fandangoing in the crowd - a bigger reaction than in South Carolina but not like in England. Lawler is in the ring and he emcees this one.
Lawler asks if Khali has ballroom dancing experience, which he says he does. Lawler asks him about Dancing with the Stars and Khali says something that is kind of hard to understand. Lawler asks how Jericho did on the show and Khali says he's better. Khali and Natalya dance, and it's kinda bad....okay, really bad.
Lawler asks Fandango how Jericho did on Dancing with the Stars. Fandango calls Jericho's effort "clumsy." Lawler introduces them and they do their normal dance.
Lawler calls for a vote by applause. Khali ended up winning and does a little dance after they hit his music. After that announcement, Fandango clips Khali's leg, hits his finisher, then hits him with the top rope leg drop. Fandango says his name, with Summer posed in front of him, and they exit.
Dance, tug of war, and tracking pizza. I smell ratings!
At ringside, JBL holds up a 10 sign, then a thumbs down for Khali. Cole feeds it into a package featuring the Shield's attack on Undertaker.
Match #8 - John Cena and Team Hell No vs. The Shield
Cena makes his entrance first, and tells the camera that he's going to take a run at it. He's clearly hobbled going to the ring. The announcers point out the wrap on Cena's ankle and talk about his toughness to continue on with this match. Kane and Daniel Bryan come to the ring next. Just after commercial, The Shield makes their way through the crowd. Cole recaps parts of their promo from earlier in the show.
They brawl a bit among the six men at first, but then it settles in to a basic match. Kane and Ambrose start it off. Cena does check in briefly, but tags out after wincing from a kick he throws off the bad leg. He wants a tag to Bryan, but Bryan tags Kane.
Later on, Kane checks in and misses his top rope clothesline. Ambrose tags Rollins in. Rollins puts the boots to Kane heading to commercial. As we come back, The Shield is working over Daniel Bryan.
Bryan eventually breaks loose by knocking Roman Reigns to the floor and gets the hot tag to Kane. You could tell the fans wanted Cena, though. Cena plays it up like he wanted the tag. Kane hits a top rope clothesline then throws him out of the ring. He starts to dismantle the announce position. The announcers sell it as Kane wanting retribution for what the Shield did to Undertaker.
Ambrose recovers to hit a DDT on the floor. Rollins and Reigns have made their way back to the apron. Kane barely beats the 10-count to get back in the ring. He hits a move on Ambrose in order to get to Cena for the hot tag.
Cena runs through the trademark offense with the shoulder blocks, the side slam, and the Five Knuckle Shuffle on Reigns. He catches Rollins, who tries a cross body, and rolls it through. He tries to load the AA but his foot gives out. That gives Reigns a chance to hit a spear to get the win.
Afterward, Ryback strolls out on the stage in street clothes. Lawler is shocked. Cole explains that Ryback was supposed to team with Cena for a handicap match instead but walked out. Ryback stares at the ring and Cena doesn't give too much attention to him as he's grabbing at his foot and talking to a trainer. JBL says "I don't care what he says, he's hurt bad," as the show closes.
This was a solid main event that ended with the right finish. I like how Kane lost it and tried to go for something on the announce table as a continuing follow-up to what happened to Undertaker. It also leads to the match between Ambrose and Kane on Smackdown this week.
Obviously now, the focus is on Cena being injured and that's what they're hyping the match at Extreme Rules with. They didn't do anything to really put heat on Ryback tonight though and they could have accomplished that without interaction with Cena given the injury.
Cena comes off looking noble for working the match, but neither Kane or Bryan was openly willing to tag him in, so he looks a little foolish too. That ends up making Ryback's earlier "I can't take that chance" statement valid. In any event, while you hate to see legitimate injuries, at least this makes the Extreme Rules match a bit more intriguing for some, as it takes away the assumption that Cena would win clean.
This show felt like it wasn't going to end tonight. As fast as last week's program went, this dragged. And we got some of the worst fillers ever - a tug of war? A dance off? Tracking pizza? Geez. Not the images you want sticking in your mind as you walk away from Raw.
I'll have more to say on this show tomorrow in Raw Afterthoughts. Thanks for watching along.