We saw a fantastic beginning to the build to CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar, if that is for sure, at SummerSlam. Paul Heyman and Punk exchanged hard words last week, and Brock Lesnar tried to beat him down but Punk fought valiantly til he could fight no more. Where do they go from here?
John Cena granted Daniel Bryan (and many fans) their wish by giving him a WWE Championship shot at SummerSlam. Daniel, and the fans live, reacted strongly and positively to this news. How will these two build up to their match - and will the lurking Randy Orton throw a wrench in those plans?
Show Open, Live from Austin, TX at the Frank Erwin Center
The opening video recaps the Heyman/Punk saga, by saying Heyman "foreclosed' on Punk. They show a recap of last week's segment between Heyman and Punk and the battle between he and Lesnar. They segway to John Cena selecting Daniel Bryan to face him at SummerSlam.
A simple drum roll welcomes Brad Maddox to the ring. He says nothing is more Texas than him and gets a smattering of boos. He recalls allowing John Cena to pick his opponent for SummerSlam, then says we're going to have a contract signing between he and Bryan now.
Cena's music hits and he comes to the stage and says "it's time to kick off the road to SummerSlam." He charges the ring as King puts Maddox over for doing a pretty good job so far.
Cena sits down and gets ready to sign. Maddox asks Cena why he picked Bryan. Cena says he listened to the fans and the choice was clear. Maddox says people would say Cena picked Bryan because he's sure he'll beat him. He says some people feel he's unstable and has relationship issues. Cena questions Maddox and asks if he's uncertain.
Daniel Bryan's music hits and he gets a big ovation. He walks to the stage and smiles, then pumps up the "Yes" chants as he heads out to the ring. The fans chant for Bryan once he's in the ring. Bryan questions if Maddox thinks he doesn't deserve to be in the WWE Championship match, but the fans disagree.
Cena stands up and tells Bryan that he chose him because Maddox and the dumbasses he works for ignore talent "even when the beard is staring them in the face." Cena brings up the size difference between them and says if that's what matters, then Maddox should take the belt and give it to Great Khali.
Cena mentions a list of smaller champions like Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero who "proved that passion and ability make a WWE Champion, not just size and strength." A brief Eddie chant pauses Cena, then he says the fans love Bryan right now and he's proud of him for that. Cena says Bryan earned and deserves this shot.
Cena says being WWE Champion is about facing the best and sometimes that comes from an unlikely source. Cena says he picked Bryan to compete against him. "Just because you've been given this opportunity does not mean I am going to hand you this championship." Cena signs the contract and says he's going to SummerSlam to defend the WWE Championship.
"You are the best competition in WWE right now and I will prove at SummerSlam that even the best isn't good enough." Fans chant for Bryan again as he signs the contract. Bryan goes to respond to Cena but Maddox cuts him off and puts over the match. Bryan tells Maddox he doesn't get to interrupt him.
Bryan says he has waited an entire career for this opportunity and has proven he deserves it. Maddox says Cena does, and "a vocal minority" of fans do. He tells Bryan that he will get a chance to prove it tonight. Maddox tells Bryan he will compete in a series of matches. He closes by saying "no" to the question of whether or not Bryan will prove himself worthy, while Bryan chants "yes."
Maddox has been hit with the "bipolar" bug as he was heelish tonight but face last week. I liked Cena putting over Bryan and praising him but not relenting on keeping the title..
Cole hypes up a Mark Henry segment when he fires back at The Shield. We get a split screen shot of Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio. The announcers point out Sheamus' injuries from Money in the Bank, but he'll get a test against Del Rio in the first match, next.
Match #1 - Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio (c)
They spotlight the huge bruise on Sheamus' leg from MITB. Ugly, but better than the Twitter pictures.
Del Rio throws some kicks at that leg early going. Del Rio tries to lock on an armbar over the ropes, but Sheamus lands a hard right hand that sends Del Rio tumbling to ringside.
After commercial, Sheamus hits a slam. Lawler says he would have gone for the Irish Curse but his leg was an issue. They show Damien Sandow watching on from backstage holding the briefcase. Del Rio tries a splash at the ropes but slides through. Sheamus goes clubbering and delivers the forearms to the chest.
Sheamus hits the Irish Curse and sells his own leg injury. Sheamus goes up for the battering ram but Del Rio hits a step up enzugiri for a near fall. Sheamus goes on offense again and cues the Brogue Kick. The announcers question if Sheamus can "hit a home run with warning track power." Sheamus can't hit it, and Del Rio ducks. Del Rio kicks the bad leg and tries to cue the Cross Arm Breaker. Sheamus shoves him off and tries White Noise, but his leg gives out. Del Rio rolls him up for the win.
A basic match between the two that did more to hype and sell Sheamus' injury. Not sure if this is just a one-off or if they'll go somewhere with it, as Del Rio does not have a dance partner for SummerSlam. Del Rio looks good and Sheamus has an out with the leg.
The announcers hype up Miz TV, featuring the cast of Total Divas. Lawler also spotlights a segment with CM Punk, and asks how he will respond to last week's attack by Brock Lesnar and if he still feels like he's the best in the world.
The Smackdown rewind is a recap of Vickie Guerrero being named the new Smackdown GM.
Renee Young is with Booker T and Teddy Long. She says Booker came back from lengthy injury to find he didn't have his job anymore. Booker says he was shocked by the decision. Teddy tells Booker that he filled in and took a lot of abuse while Booker was rehabbing. He talks about being kicked out of the building by security and Booker says that he will throw Teddy out tonight too. Teddy say Booker is about physical violence, and Vince made the right choice if Teddy wouldn't be the GM. He leaves.
The announcers hype up the three matches that Daniel Bryan will be in tonight and wonder who those three men will be.
Match #2 - Christian vs. Titus O'Neil (w/Darren Young)
Christian makes his entrance prior to commercial and the announcers hype up that he's been on a winning streak. O'Neil comes out with Young after the break.
O'Niel controls much of the early offense in this one. Christian gets a hope spot. He slaps Titus, then hits some more strikes and a missile drop kick. He hits the "slide through the ropes to an uppercut" spot then hits an elbow off the ropes.
Darren Young gets involved in the match, but Christian disposes of him. Titus hits a big boot and gets two out of it. Christian is able to hit the Killswitch to get the win. The announcers hype up the fact that Christian is still on his roll while he celebrates.
The announcers recap Ryback's attack on Chris Jericho on Smackdown. JBL and King say it's not called for.
Josh Mathews interviews Ryback and asks if he enjoys intimidating others. Ryback says he does and makes fun of Josh. He says he represents the fans and he hates average. He says people like Josh deserve to be intimidated and if they're not he'll prove why they should be. Josh runs off and Ryback smiles.
They're still trying to find their way with Ryback. He's now been a whiny bitch, now a bully. Be a star, WWE.
Mark Henry makes his entrance. They do the shot from behind his back in the entry, which is always impressive. As he comes to the ring they recap the attack on Henry by the Shield last week. JBL says numbers always get you.
Henry says he's proud to be a born and raised Texan, down the street in Silsbee. He says he's proud of the effort he put into the match against Cena. He says he's not proud of the assault he took from the Shield. He says any many who took a whoopin' like he took is willing to give one out. He says he's not going to lull the fans to sleep and he's wide awake. He says if the Shield wants some, he's right here.
The Shield's music hits and they come through the fans. JBL says he doesn't get it but he admires Henry's bravery. They surround the ring and JBL says he doesn't have a chance. The fans chant for Henry as the three slowly enter the ring. The scrum is on and he momentarily gets the better of it before the numbers catch up. The Usos' music hits and they charge the ring to equal the numbers out.
The scrum is on again, and this time Henry and the Usos get the better of The Shield, clearing Ambrose and Rollins. They set Reigns up and Henry splashes them, then they set up another move. Ambrose and Rollins pull Reigns out and the three retreat. The announcers put over that Henry and the Usos are standing tall.
Daniel Bryan is warming up when Cena walks in. Bryan asks if Cena is going to wish him luck. Cena says it's not about luck, and says Maddox looked nervous and doesn't think he's making his own choices. Bryan tells Cena that he will be fine on his own. Cena tells Bryan that he want Bryan to make it to SummerSlam in one piece.
Bryan says Cena would say the same thing if he were in his place. Bryan says he has a chance to prove he belongs. "I'm going to fight, and I'm going to win." Bryan tells Cena that if he comes out during any of his matches, it will prove that all the complimentary things he said were nothing but a load of crap. Bryan walks away, and Cena kind of smirks and walks away.
Match #3 - Dolph Ziggler vs Darren Young (w/Titus O'Neil)
As Ziggler comes out they recap his story with AJ, and the break-up angle from Smackdown on Friday.
Dolph hits a really nice drop kick. Young battles back and throws Dolph across the ring by the hair. Young tries a charge a little later but Dolph moves and hits a corner splash. Young gets another move in.
Late, Young gets Dolph up on his shoulders and drops him, then taunts, saying he's nothing. Out of nowhere, Ziggler pops up and hits Young with the Zig Zag to get the win. After the match, Big E Langston comes out and attacks, and the two scrum. Langston throws him into the ropes but Dolph holds on. Langston goes out over the rope but comes back in. Ziggler slides out and taunts as he backs up the ramp.
Michael Cole gives us a tutorial on downloading the WWE app to your iPhone and puts the content on the app.
Cole hypes up Punk appearing later on the show to update his condition and respond to the Brock Lesnar attack. They also hype up the Miz TV segment with the Total Divas cast, which is next.
Miz TV Segment:
Miz puts himself over as the host of SummerSlam, then feeds it into a video package from the premiere of Total Divas.
Back live, Miz introduces the Divas in the ring. He then asks Jerry Lawler to come to the ring to emcee this event. He introduces himself to JoJo and Eva Marie. She tells Jerry she doesn't like how he's looking at her and she introduces herself. She says she's here to make a name for herself and smacks Jerry.
Jerry turns it back over to Miz and he announces the premiere at 10PM EST and that's the end of the segment. They show the slap again and the ladies all wave to the crowd while Cole hypes up the show premiere.
That was pretty much a waste of several minutes.
Cole hypes up the matches Daniel Bryan will be in and reminds us of what Bryan told Cena backstage.
Brad Maddox is on the phone when Triple H comes in. H asks Brad if he doesn't think Brad is big enough, strong enough, or championship material. H says he doesn't care what the old man thinks and Hunter thinks that Bryan could be the future of the business. Hunter says he didn't override Maddox's decisions because he thinks Bryan is capable of overcoming everything thrown at him. Hunter says there's two trains leaving the station, and one leads to the future and the other to a dead end.
Stephanie appears after Triple H exits. She tells Maddox she feels for him with the "rock and hard place" situation. She tells him she has ideas and will talk with him later about them. She hopes he's on board.
More McMahon in-fighting with the authority figure involved. Yay.
The announcers set up a recap of what has happened since the Wyatts have debuted two weeks ago. They use a well-done video package that recaps their attacks on Kane and R-Truth, interspersed with clips from the hype packages before their debut as well.
Match #4 - Fandango (w/Summer Rae) vs. Cody Rhodes
Prior to commercial, Fandango dances his way to the ring with Summer Rae. Rhodes comes out after the break. In the meantime, Damien Sandow has joined commentary. They recap Rhodes smacking Sandow in the face with the briefcase on Smackdown.
Rhodes hits a nice drop kick and some chops in the corner. Fandango reverses and hits chops of his own. As action continues, Rhodes hits a standing moonsault that Fandango had to move into position for.
Late, Sandow gets involved with the briefcase. Rhodes throws Fandango into Sandow, and hits the Disaster Kick on the both of them. Rhodes hits CrossRhodes to get the win. He jaws at Sandow as he escapes up the ramp.
Not sure how Sandow gets to be the heel here, but it is what it is.
The announcers recap the CM Punk/Lesnar brawl one more time and hype up that CM Punk will appear next.
The announcers reset the show for us and hype that the Bellas will be on the Today show tomorrow.
CM Punk's music hits and he coems out to a nice reaction. He's still limping just a little. Cole sets up a recap from last week's segment when Heyman attacked Punk and set up Lesnar to brawl with Punk.
He says "let's just go ahead and talk about what we just saw." He says Lesnar rag dolled him around ringside and hit him with his best shot until he was a broken heap at ringside. He says he knew he is dealing with a genetically gifted athlete. He says no matter how quick Lensar grabbed him and hit him with the F5, Punk got up. Punk talks about his various injuries and says he feels like he was in a car accident but he's still standing.
"That's the thing about a Brock Lesnar ambush - he can beat me down but he can't keep me down." Punk lists Brock's various accomplishments and says he's broken Undertaker, Triple H, and John Cena. Over all the fights and matches, Lesnar's strength has never been his skill, technique, and speed, but will always be about one thing - fear.
Punk tells WWE.com and the WWE Magazine that this is their cover story. He says that he is not afraid of Brock Lesnar - "Paul Heyman's monster." He turns his attention to Heyman. He says Heyman had a decision to make and he made the wrong one. Punk promises to make sure he regrets it every day of his miserable life. Punk says he will not stop until Lesnar retreats to "the hype he came from" and says that "this is my ring." He says he's proven it to Undertaker, The Rock, and John Cena. He says he would have proven it last week to Lesnar had Heyman not stabbed him in the back a second time. Punk tells Heyman there will not be a third time.
Punk says he won't pretend Lesnar isn't a tough SOB or a monster. He says that monsters were put on the earth and in his path for one reason - to be slaughtered. Punk says he will kick Lesnar's ass and pitches the match: "At SummerSlam, I want CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar. I want the Best vs. The Beast."
Heyman appears on the Tron and repeats that line and says he likes it. Punk asks Heyman if he's in the building or truly via satellite. He says he will find whatever hole he is in the building and drag him to the ring. Heyman takes a jab at Texas fans and says he's fortunate to deliver this message without stepping into Texas.
Heyman says Lesnar has a theory about heroes. "Show me a hero, and I'll show you a coward that ran out of options, or a fool too stupid to stay down." Heyman asks Punk which he is - a coward or a fool. Punk says that he will answer that question at SummerSlam.
Heyman laughs. Punk continues and tells Heyman to tell him where he is so he can find him. Heyman says it bothers him that Punk doesn't realise "we" were the WWE Champion. He says Lesnar is in the peak of his fighting career and Punk is still beat up from Money in the Bank and last week's beatdown.
"So if it's a fight you want, CM Punk, your challenge for SummerSlam is accepted. But please stop calling it The Best vs. The Beast because you know as well as I do, the best IS the Beast and he's my client and he's my best friend in the world Brock Lesnar." The fans chant for Punk as his music hits to close the segment.
Punk's intensity was great, and his dissatisfaction with Heyman not being live conveyed how bad he wants to get to him. Heyman being overconfident fits after last week's assault. And Punk was great with some of his lines about not being kept down and monsters being put in his way for slaughter. This is off to a hot start.
Match #5 - Wade Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam
Wade gets no entrance. RVD catches Barrett with a kick, the Barrett trips him. Barrett goes on some offense. He ends up with a bloody lip at one point.
Late in this one, RVD hits Rolling Thunder. He hits a couple of kicks then follows with the Five Star Frog Splash to get the win.
RVD is insanely over. They blew a spot, but recovered nicely though. Barrett continues to slide for whatever reason.
After some shots around the University of Texas campus, the announcers talk about the "main events" that is about to happen. Daniel Bryan comes out to the ring to another rousing ovation for the gauntlet match.
Match #6a - Daniel Bryan vs. Jack Swagger (w/Zeb Colter and Antonio Cesaro)
Colter cuts a promo as the trio comes to the ring. He makes fun of the Texas people for chanting along with Bryan and his "Yes!" chants. He says that Stephen F. Austin would be ashamed if he saw what his beloved Texas has become.
Swagger controls the offense early. The fans deride Swagger with "OU SUCKS!" chants. Bryan hits a drop kick to start his comeback. Bryan knocks Swagger from the ring and tries a suicide dive but Swagger throws a right hand to block it. Swagger hits the Swagger Bomb on Bryan, but Bryan is able to lock Swagger in the Yes! Lock to get the submission win.
Swagger got more heat for being from the University of Oklahoma in front of the University of Texas crowd than for a heel gimmick.
Match #6b - Daniel Bryan vs. Antonio Cesaro (w/Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger)
The announcers walk us through highlights of what happened during break. Cesaro hits a couple of running drop kicks to start a bit of a comeback after selling for the majority of this one.
Bryan goes up top. Colter gets on the apron to distract the official. Swagger shoves Bryan from the rope and into Cesaro's uppercut. Cesaro gets a near fall out of it, then argues with the official.
Back out of commercial, Bryan comes off with a nice counter to get a two count on Cesaro in a roll-up. Cesaro comes back with a gutwrench. Bryan comes back with a headbutt and some strikes after Cesaro taunts him.
"This is awesome" chants get going. Bryan catches Cesaro in a Tree of Woe spot and hits a series of kicks then hits a sliding drop kick. Bryan sets Cesaro up top and tries a belly to back suplex but Cesaro rolls over in mid air and makes it a splash and gets a near fall.
They trade shots, with Cesaro getting the better of it. He hits a stiff series of uppercuts with a big clothesline. Cesaro's frustrated. He sets up his finisher, but Bryan hits a backdrop.
They trade blows again, and this time Bryan comes out on top. He locks a leg lock on and hits some punches. Bryan throws Cesaro to ringside then hits a suicide dive on Swagger and Cesaro. Bryan goes top rope but Cesaro cuts him off. Bryan shoves hiim away though.
In the end, Bryan gets tossed up for the uppercut, but he counters Cesaro's uppercut into a roll-up to get the pinfall win. He celebrates. Backstage, Maddox is watching a monitor with Alex Riley. Riley says that was impressive and Maddox agrees. He adds that we'll see how he does against this next one.
Strong match from these two guys here. Big Show was slated to return tonight. Is he the next guy?
Match #6c - Daniel Bryan vs. Ryback
Bryan calls for his next opponent and here comes Ryback. Bryan goes right after the legs and the announcers talk about his history of leg issues. Ryback clubs him and taunts. Ryback kicks Bryan in return and yells at him to get up. Bryan gets up and Ryback puts him right back down. He mocks the "Yes!" chant.
Ryback gets a "You can't wrestle" chant in return. He plays to it by cupping his ear, then locks on a chin lock. He says "too easy!" Ryback hits a Thesz Press, but Bryan counters it into a half crab. Ryback teases tapping but gets to the ropes to break it. JBL asks if someone else will follow Ryback as Ryback hits a hard shot on Bryan to knock him down.
Cole resets the show as we're into the overrun. Ryback teases the Meathook, but Bryan hits a knee then two missile drop kicks in the corner. He tries a third but eats a clothesline for two. Ryback goes to ringside and sets up a table on the floor.
Bryan dives on Ryback at ringside. Ryback hits the announce table hard, but comes back and shoves Bryan to teh steps. Ryback positions the table again then gets back in the ring. He gets a series of kicks from Bryan, then tries to load a powerbomb. Bryan falls on him for two.
Bryan tries the Yes! Lock but Ryback throws him away by the hair. Bryan hits a couple kicks then hits a missile drop kick from the top for two. He locks on the Yes! Lock successfully this time, and Ryback almost taps but inches his way to the ropes for the break.
Ryback rolls out. Bryan tries a huracanrana dive, but Ryback counters and dumps him to the floor. Ryback then hits a powerbomb through the table, giving Bryan the match by disqualification.
Afterward, Ryback goes for another attack but John Cena runs out for the save. "After a half hour fight, you want to put this man through a table? How about you try to do the same thing to me. You and me in a tables match." Ryback smiles and says if that's what Cena wants, that's what he gets. The announcers hype that match for next week's main event.
Vince McMahon enters Brad Maddox's office. Maddox tells him about the Cena/Ryback main event. Vince likes it, but asks about Daniel Bryan. He says he should face someone who is bigger and stronger, and proposes that Bryan face a friend, maybe even a best friend. Maddox proposes Kane vs. Daniel Bryan and Vince says "you're damn right."
In the arena, Bryan rolls back into the ring and soaks up the "Yes!" chants from the live crowd. The announcers run through a replay of the end of the match action, then hype Cena vs. Ryback and Kane vs. Daniel Bryan for next week. Bryan plays to the fans to close the show.
So, we didn't get Big Show. That's alright, because we got a lot of Daniel Bryan. Admittedly, Show might have been a good final hurdle to face in the gauntlet. The work was great in the ring, and I'm sure WWE will have an eye on the show ratings to see if Bryan delivered in that regard.
I was really entertained by the major matches. Heyman and Punk is white hot heading into Brock vs. Punk. I think the build there was fantastic. Bryan really got booked like a star tonight and he delivered in his in-ring work. That story seems to be building well also.
SummerSlam is a few weeks away, and the two matches we are certain of look like they're shaping up well. Let's see how WWE fills out the undercard.
I'll have more to say on this show in Raw Afterthoughts tomorrow sometime. Thanks for watching along tonight.