There's just six days until the biggest party of the summer, SummerSlam.  Last week, we watched Daniel Bryan thwart the corporate makeover and state that he wasn't going to change who he was.  He and John Cena each soundly stated their case over the WWE Championship.  It was in the main event though where Randy Orton let them both know that indeed the Champ is contained in the MITB Briefcase he carries.  How will these three interact, and will the McMahons feel the need to get involved again tonight?

CM Punk and Brock Lesnar ended up brawling last week in TitleTown.  These two have told a great story heading into their clash at SummerSlam, with Punk being blinded by the rage he feels toward Paul Heyman.  Will the Best conquer the Beast?  And who will try to get in his way tonight as we wind down the road to SummerSlam?

Show Open, Live in Sacramento, CA at Sleep Train Arena

Immediately, Daniel Bryan is making his way to the ring.  Cole welcomes us on commentary with Jerry Lawler and reminds us Vince doesn't want to see Bryan become champion.  We get a recap of the opening "Corporate Makeover" segment when Wade Barrett tried to shave him.  They recap the match between Barrett and Bryan on Smackdown. This sets up our opening match as it's right into action.

Match #1 - Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett; Brad Maddox as special referee

Barrett got no entrance for this affair.  Bryan stares at Maddox then they tie up.  Barrett tosses Bryan to the floor, but when he gets back in the ring, Bryan goes to work on Barrett's right leg with a dragon screw whip takedown, then repeatedly jumping on it at the rope.  He hits a sliding kick then the action moves outside.  Bryan tries a dive off the apron but Barrett moves, then hits a big boot.

Barrett roughs Bryan up outside at the announce table and throws him into the stairs.  Barrett controls the action for a few minutes then Bryan fires up.  He hits a suicide dive to the outside then a missile drop kick once the action is back inside.  He lands a series of kicks on a kneeling Barrett.  He misses the last one, and Barrett rolls up Bryan.  Maddox counts three quickly for Barrett to get a fast count win.

Bryan confronts Maddox in the corner while the announcers implore him to not do it and throw away the main event at SummerSlam.  Maddox runs off to backstage while the fans chant "NO!" with Bryan.  The announcers talk about someone having a vendetta with Bryan.

They continue to tell the story of McMahon not wanting Bryan to be champion and finding ways to thwart him.  I'm not crazy about McMahon being in the story because it hasn't been good.  Hopefully something big happens on Sunday to validate their involvement.

The announcers sell us on Punk vs. Heyman, as well as the Miz TV segment with Cena and Bryan for later in the show.  They hype up Damien Sandow vs. Randy Orton next.

Match #2 - Damien Sandow vs. Randy Orton

Sandow is at ringside showing off his new "Sandowized" briefcase to the announcers, who have been joined by Cody Rhodes.  He handcuffs his case to the ring to prevent another Cody theft.

Some basic chain wrestling to kick it off while the announcers banter with Cody.  The conversation turns to the stylization of the new briefcase, calling it chocolate.  Orton hits a series of punches in the corner and a suplex to get a two count.  The discussion at ringside continues about Rhodes being a sore loser and he asks JBL and King how they'd have responded if their long time partners shoved them off ladders.

Orton springs out of the corner with a clothesline and locks on a headlock.  Orton throws Sandow over the rope but he lands on the apron.  Orton sends him to the floor with a drop kick.

As the match goes on, Sandow takes control and hits his Elbow of Disdain for a near fall.  The commentary with Rhodes continues about the briefcase and the match he will have with Sandow at SummerSlam.

Rhodes' commentary isn't making sense to me with his face turn at this point.  He's not helping to salvage the failed logic in my mind.

Orton begins his comeback offense.  He hits a powerslam and Sandow is outside the ring on the apron.  He hits the elevated DDT as the announcers discuss the fast count in the opener.  Orton's hearing voices as the fans fire up.  Orton teases the RKO, but Sandow shoves him off and rolls out.  He runs Orton into the post and yells at Cody to take notice.

After a near fall, Rhodes tries to get the briefcase again.  Orton hits the RKO off the distraction and pins Sandow.  Orton celebrates as Rhodes stares into the ring.  We get a recap of the ending sequence.  King says the scholar got outsmarted.

Backstage:

They show a shot of Rob Van Dam warming up and the announcers hype up the 20-man battle royale to determine the #1 Contender to Dean Ambrose's United States Championship.

They cut to a Shield promo in a tunnel backstage.  Ambrose asks what line of work you can be in and be lazy and unproductive and still be brought back to do a job  you're not good at anymore.  Seth Rollins says it's time for the old guard to go and a new generation to rise up. 'We are the emerging leaders of that generation, we're younger, hungrier, and we're just better."

Roman Reigns says no one can compete with them.  He won't beg, but if there are two men who want to step up and take the tag titles away they should step up.  Ambrose says there's no one in the battle royale that can beat him because he's unbeatable.  Ambrose says that if Andre the Giant's ghost isn't in the battle royale then he's not losing at SummerSlam.  He closes with "believe in The Shield."

Sound mic work from the trio here.  RVD seems like he will be the one to challenge Ambrose.  My guess is Big Show and Henry - rumored at one time to face The Shield in a handicap match - will be the pair to step up and challenge for the tag straps.

The announcers hype up SummerSlam, and segway to talking about the match between CM Punk and Brock Lesnar.  They set up a video interview with Brock Lesnar, in that UFC style pre-recorded that was seen previously on Smackdown.

The pre-tape is always the good way to go with Brock Lesnar.  It makes him so much more intimidating and it helps him since he's a weak promo.

Backstage:

Josh Mathews asks CM Punk why he's taking a match six days from SummerSlam.  Punk asks why not.  He says that Heyman does everything for a reason and this is a big chess game where he has his pawns in place.  He says he's got Lesnar on Sunday but he feels he might see some of him tonight.  When everything is on the line, the best is the best.

Match #3 - The Great Khali and Natalya (w/Hornswoggle) vs. Big E. Langston and AJ

Khali and Natalya come out before break.  They do a picture in picture promo with Langston as he and AJ come to the ring.  He says that he was begged by Dolph to stand by him and that this Sunday it's "show over."

Big E starts with Khali but AJ tags in quickly.  She skips around Khali then slaps him.  Natalya starts to rough up AJ until she runs Natalya to the corner.  Dolph and Kaitlyn look on from backstage on a monitor.

The announcers keep chattering about Dolph and Kaitlyn facing AJ and Big E on Sunday and the whole story that created the mixed tag.  AJ controls offense until she sees Hornswoggle cheering on his team. That gives Natalya the opening to lock the Sharpshooter on AJ and she taps.  The official is out of position or something and in an awkward sequence, Natalya puts AJ back in the Sharpshooter and she submits.

Afterward, Big E attacks Khali as he awkwardly dances.  He roughs up Hornswoggle by tossing him across the ring, but turns into a chop from Khali.  He rolls out.

A bit of a blown finish there, looks like the official was out of position or something.  Big E looks like a dope for not breaking the second attempt up.

They show a shot of Vince McMahon walking backstage.

The announcers hype up the hour long Kickoff Show for SummerSlam on Sunday.  On the panel will be Shawn Michaels, Booker T, and Natalya.

In-Ring Segment

Justin Roberts introduces Vince McMahon and he comes out with his grapefruit strut.

Vince immediately addresses the situation from the opening of the show.  They rewind the fast count of Maddox, costing Bryan the match.  Vince calls out Maddox and questions why he made himself the official in that match.

Maddox says he feels Bryan's matches get out of hand and he feels the WWE Universe would appreciate an official with the guts to make the right call.  Vince says that Maddox should surely admit it was a fast count.

Maddox admits he was excited because he hadn't officiated in a while and it wasn't intentional and he did the best he could.  Vince says everyone makes mistakes.  Maddox asks for a second chance and asks to be made the special referee in the WWE Championship match on Sunday.

Vince asks if the fans want Maddox to be the referee and they rail against it.  Vince asks Maddox if he will call it down the middle and get over the preconceived notions of Bryan being a troll.  Vince makes Maddox promise he'll be impartial and tells him to give his scout's honor and cross his heart.  He goes to announce Maddox as the official but he's interrupted by a familiar Motorhead chord.

Triple H comes to the ring to a big ovation, wearing a suit and tie.  Vince tells him he doesn't want to air dirty laundry and tells the crowd to not inflate Triple H's ego more than it already has been.  Triple H tells Vince he can't hear him "because 15,000 people are chanting my name."

H says that because so much is on the line Sunday, he agrees with Vince that someone needs to call the match down the middle.  Someone who has guts to not be intimidated by anyone or anything.  "I just don't think you're referring to Brad Maddox.  It seems an awful lot like you're referring to me."  Maddox takes a kick and gets hit with the Pedigree.  H rips his tie off and poses as Vince storms off.

A good segment.  I just don't understand the need for a special referee in the match though.  I guess it will all play out on Sunday though.

Cole hypes Miz TV for later with Cena and Bryan.  Lawler hypes up the match between Punk and Heyman.

Match #4 - Kane vs. Titus O'Neil (w/Darren Young)

As Kane comes to the ring, they recap the story between Kane and the Wyatt Family.  We finally get an explanation that the flames of the "Ring of Fire" match are to serve as a deterrent for interference.

The match isn't much.  After some back and forth, Kane hits a sidewalk slam and a chokeslam to get the win.  Afterward, a creepy video interrupts and the Wyatts declare they're here.  We get their full entrance with the lights out.  When the lights come up, Kane has escaped to the ramp.

Wyatt and Kane jaw back and forth a little bit, then Kane hits his pyro fist pump.  At first Wyatt ducks, but then he's shown laughing.  The announcers hype up the Ring of Fire match for Sunday.

This match was all about advancing the story for Kane and Bray Wyatt going into Sunday.  It served its purpose.

Backstage:

Josh Mathews interviews the Bella Twins. They talk about the show Total Divas then recap what happened last week when Natalya slapped Brie in a backstage segment.  The Bellas insist they are in full control of the Divas division.

Natalya shows up and challenges Brie to a singles match on Sunday.  Brie accepts.  Natalya tells her that she can bring Nikki and the "wanna be Jessica Rabbit" Eva Maria as well.  Natalya says she will bring friends of her own.  Cameron and Naomi show up.  Natalya mockingly compliments Brie's makeup, and Brie slaps her.  The Funkadactlys hold Natalya back.

Please, make this Total Divas garbage stop.  I am not a fan of the catty segments we're getting routinely right now.

Match #5 - Alberto Del Rio vs. Kofi Kingston

As Del Rio makes his entrance they recap the beatdown that Ricardo took from Del Rio after his loss to Rob Van Dam.  There's a sign in the crowd that says 'Ricardo carried Del Rio!' that is worth a laugh.

Kofi tries to hit Trouble In Paradise after the Boom Drop.  Del Rio ducks it and hits a nice tilt-a-whirl backbreaker.

Kingston hits the SOS for two then misses another Trouble in Paradise attempt.  After chasing Del Rio around the ring he rolls him up for a near fall.  Kingston kicks Del Rio in the corner then tries a springboard move.  Del Rio counters by putting his knees up, then locks on the Cross Arm Breaker for the win.

A sound TV match.  They worked hard and even though it was a bit hard to believe Kofi could win, I bought in to the near falls.

We see Mark Henry stretching out and Cole talks about his participation in the 20-man battle royale to face Dean Ambrose for the US Championship at SummerSlam.

After some shots of Sacramento, we get a hype video package for Christian.

Backstage:

Renee Young talks to Christian about the video package.  He says it reminds him of the hard work he put in through his career but he'll make things short and sweet.  He tells Del Rio he will beat him and become the World Heavyweight Champion and prove all he has ever needed is one more match.

Del Rio walks in and laughs, then tells him something in Spanish and holds the belt out at him.  Cole translates and says that it means "no more matches."

Match #6 - The Real Americans (Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro, w/Zeb Colter) vs. The Uso Brothers

Prior to the break, Colter cuts a promo about Sacramento, calling the Golden State a pile of rust in a junkyard.  He accuses the state of allowing illegals to come into the country and says his idea of a California dream is for the state to fracture off the continental shelf and float out to sea.

Coming out of the break they hype up the SummerSlam press conference tomorrow at 2PM EST.  It can be seen on WWE.com, and a variety of other media platforms.  The Usos make their entrance after that sell.

Cole hypes this up as the rubber match between these teams since they have traded wins on Raw recently.  Cesaro and Jey (I think) trade offense early on.  Cesaro prevents a tag and Jey rolls him up, but Swagger had been tagged.  Swagger controls him with an arm lock like a full nelson hold.  Colter admonishes fans at ringside.

Jimmy gets the tag and goes on a flurry. He hits a Samoan drop.  After a near fall, Cesaro pulls Swagger from the ring.  The Usos hit a double suicide dive on the heels.  Swagger gets rolled back in, and one of the brothers goes up top.  Cesaro tries to interfere but eats a superkick.  Swagger charges but the brother on the ropes jumps over him after a tag.  The other brother rolls Swagger up for the win.

A fair enough tag match between these two.  I still think Swagger and Cesaro needed more time to come together to be meaningful, but I'm good with the Usos getting a bit of a push.

We get hype for Miz TV yet to come tonight.

Miz TV Segment:

Miz is in the ring and he hypes up his "most must see" segment.  He introduces Daniel Bryan, who gets a rousing ovation.  Cole recaps the situation from the top of the show.  Cena gets his introduction, and he gets the normal mixed reaction.  Cole hypes up the title match with Triple H being the special referee.

Miz asks Bryan for his thoughts.  He says that he's happy someone stood up to Vince and he and Cena can have the match the fans deserve.  Cena says this is exciting and even insults Miz's segments as normally being trainwrecks.  Cena says he can't think of anyone better to keep order in the match on Sunday.

Miz says it seems like the friendly rivalry turned a bit personal last week and asks what Cena's issues are with Bryan.  Cena says it isn't like that and it's about the WWE Championship.  Cena says Bryan wants to be champion, and he is the champion.  Cena says he handpicked Bryan because he deserves the chance and will put up a hell of a fight.

Miz repeats the "hell of a fight" line and says it's code for "you're going to lose."  Miz says it's obvious that Cena has no respect for Bryan and wants to ride the wave of popularity.  Bryan says it's obvious that if Miz doesn't shut his mouth, he will punch him in the face.  The fans chant "Yes!"

Bryan turns his attention to Cena and says it bothers him that Cena says he will put up a hell of fight if that's the best he can do. Cena goes to say something but Bryan tells him to not interrupt.  Bryan recalls Cena's explosive remarks last week that got fans on their feet.  "Whether they were cheering or booing you is a totally different subject."

Bryan says Cena grabbed the spotlight when the red light was on last week.  He says that's why he doesn't watch television.  HE says Cena and people like him are more style than substance who are in it for fame and glory, not wrestling.  Bryan points to his "The Beard is Here" shirt and calls it a parody of Cena's because he thinks Cena is a parody of wrestling.

Bryan says he is not in it for fame and glory.  He wants to prove there is no one better than Daniel Bryan.  Cena pulls off his shirt and stares at it for a second.

Cena says Bryan almost got him.  "A parody, that's strong.  That's real strong.  Daniel, I'm not a parody, the reason I'm out here, regardless of what you think, is the same reason you are out here.  All of this.  And I thought you would be smart enough to understand that."

Cena points to the fans chanting yes and no and says they believe in him.  Cena says when you  hear that, it empowers you and gives you emotion.  He says it makes you want to get int the ring and put your body on the line to say I believe in you as much as you beleive in me.

Cena looks at his shirt and says it's just like saying a t-shirt is like saying the American Flag is just a cloth.  He says he fights for the fans that are loyal to him because he is loyal to them.  Cena mocks the gall of Bryan to call him a parody - mentioning the Five moves of doom and "We've Cena Nuff."  He tells Bryan he's not the first to say these things.

Cena says he's shown up every day for the last 12 years and busted his ass.  Cena says he doesn't do it for people like Bryan.  He says he does it for the kid in the front row and his dad, and for the Make-A-Wish child he met earlier in the day.

Cena tells Bryan he should be proud of what he's done but he should also know that Cena is proud of what he has done and become in WWE>  Cena says he's spent the last 12 years wrestling around the world. "Sometimes they cheer, sometimes they boo, but I have stod in for a dozen years in front of some of the most hostile environments."  Cena tells Bryan to go ahead and think of him as a parody and a joke.

Cena tells Bryan to think that about him because that's what Bryan's peers have thought about him and Cena has beaten them.  He lists beating Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Batitsta, Randy Orton, The Rock and CM Punk.  Bryan tells Cena that he's talking about those men like they're better than he is.

Cena tells Bryan that he hopes he is on his way but right now he doesn't belong.  Cena tells Bryan that if he's good enough to hold the gold, then and only then will he respect him.  Bryan says it's spelled out.  "You don't respect me, not only that you are not treating this like you treated the matches with Shawn Michaels or The Rock because you respected those men."

Bryan says Cena has held the WWE Championship eleven times.  He says there's no way Cena can understand how badly he wants to hold the belt one time.  Bryan says that it's just another SummerSlam for Cena, "but for me it's the biggest match of my life."

Bryan talks about a custom in Japan to fire someone up and light the spark from one wrestler to another so they would bring everything they have to a fight.  He says the custom is to slap the wrestler in the face as hard as you can.  "You know I wish so bad I could do that to you right now, but I can't because you're not a wrestler and you don't deserve it."

Cena shoves over a chair and demands Bryan slap him.  Cena slaps Bryan and yells "Come on." Bryan waves his finger and says he doesn't deserve it.

Triple H's music hits, and he walks to the ring straight away.  He gets between Cena and Bryan and talks to Cena a bit.  Randy Orton's music hits and he walks out to the top of the ramp.  He holds the Money in the Bank briefcase up and smiles.  Cole hypes the situation up by asking if it will be Cena' night, Bryan's night, or Randy Orton's night.

The best sell for this match we've gotten to date.  No McMahon silliness, no Brad Maddox, no dwarf/troll talk.  Good segment.

Going into commercial, the announcers sell the CM Punk/Paul Heyman match and ask if Punk is walking into a trap.

Match #7 - R-Truth vs. Fandango (w/Summer Rae)

Fandango dances his way to the ring with Summer.  Truth's entrance cuts that off, and a dance-off breaks out.  Truth does his thing, then Fandango and Summer Rae answer.  Truth dances a second time but Fandango attacks.  They scrum, and Truth gets the better of it.  Fandango rolls out of the ring, and the match is a no-contest.

Must have been some time to fill on the show.

Cole gives us some hype for the 20-man battle royale yet to come this evening.  We see Ryback walking backstage.

Backstage:

Paul Heyman is taping up and Curtis Axel asks him if he's okay.  Heyman says he's having second thoughts.

Match #8 - 20-man Battle Royale to Determine the #1 Contender to the US Championship

We get Rob Van Dam, Brodus Clay, Tensai, Heath Slater, Drew McIntryre, Jinder Mahal, and Ryback coming to the ring before the break.  Mark Henry gets his televised entrance after the break.  The Usos, The Real Americans, Great Khali, Wade Barrett, The Prime Time Players, Fandango and R-Truth are among the other entrants.

Ryback goes on a run early, eliminating Justin Gabriel, Darren Young, Tensai and one of the Usos.

A punch and kick fest ensues.  R-Truth eliminates Fandango, who in turn eliminates Truth when he goes back in to get him.  RVD throws Fandango back out.

This comes down to Henry, Ryback, Kofi, Rob Van Dam, Jack Swagger, Wade Barrett, and Antonio Cesaro.  Swagger and Cesaro team up on Kofi, who holds his own until eventually he's eliminated.  RVD and Henry get abused from the heels in different corners.  The Real Americans try to double team Henry but he overpowers them and eliminates them both.

Henry clotheslines Barrett then tosses him out.  Ryback and Henry go at it while RVD is on the apron. Henry gets Ryback to the apron where he gets a kick from RVD and Henry knocks Ryback to the floor.  It's down to Henry and RVD.

The fans fire up.  RVD hits a kick and goes up top. Henry bumps the ropes and RVD falls to the apron.  Henry charges, but RVD holds the ropes down and Henry tumbles out.  RVD wins the match.

Afterward, Henry gets back in the ring and fist bumps with RVD.  Henry goes to leave when the Shield's music hits.  Henry comes back and RVD gets a loud chant from the fans.  The Shield circles the ring and prepares to enter the ring but Big Show's music hits.  Show comes out in street clothes, and the Shield backs away and through the crowd.

Show looks fit!  And I like the RVD win here - I think he will have a good match with Ambrose and will draw interest to the pre-show and the pay per view in general.

In-Ring Segment:

Paul Heyman is introduced for his match with Punk. Heyman comes out in street clothes with his hands taped.  He gets a mic and says Punk's name a few times.  He says Punk's worshippers were calling for their hero.  He doesn't blame Punk for everything that's happened  but instead blames the fans.

Heyman says Punk used to live for his love, acceptance, adulation and affirmation.  He says now he lives for the acceptance of the fans.  He says he takes that personally that the fans took it away from him.  "So tonight, I take your worship of your hero away from you."  Heyman says he's heard all week that he is setting a trap for Punk.

Heyman mocks the fans by asking if they figured it out on their own. "Do you really think your imaginations compare to mine?"  He says it's a conspiracy he didn't come up with all by himself.  He introduces his co-conspirator and best friend, Brock Lesnar.  Lesnar comes out to the ring with his full entrance and pyro.

Heyman sets up a video package that highlights all the times Lesnar got the better of Punk in their brawls over the past several weeks.  The pair smile as the video ends.  "OK, so now that you know it's a trap, it's time we clue you in on what this trap is."  Heyman credits Lesnar for coming up with the idea and calls it "sinister, insidious, and purely evil." Heyman says he'll fight CM Punk tonight if Punk will do so in a handicap match.

Heyman says all Punk has to do is play the hero.  "But all heroes are stupid aren't they?"  Heyman asks.  He says they have no other option in life, whereas Punk has a choice in that he simply has to disappoint all the fans so he can live to fight another day at SummerSlam.  He demands Punk's answer; "are you going to be the smart coward or the stupid hero?"

The fans chant for Punk and his music hits.  Lesnar and Heyman watch up the ramp for him and wait.  Punk made his entrance through the fans though and emerges from the other side of the ring.  He grabs the camera from the cameraman and blasts Lesnar with it when he turns around.  He beats Lesnar down with it, and Lesnar rolls out of the ring.

Punk hits Lesnar with a suicide dive then goes and gets a chair.  He slams Lesnar with it repeatedly then goes into the ring to get Heyman.  Heyman escapes up the ramp with Punk in pursuit.  Curtis Axel comes out for the save but eats a chair to the gut.  They brawl while Heyman runs to the back.  Punk throws Axel into the lightwall, then hits him with the GTS.  Punk poses on the stage and yells "BEST IN THE WORLD!" to end the show.

That's a good angle and a good close to the show.  Punk stands tall, Lesnar looks loopy.  Smart booking says to give the fans something to hope for in Punk as the underdog that he can indeed slay the beast on Sunday.  You sort of had to figure that Punk would be one step ahead of Heyman, but I wasn't sure how they'd get to that point.  This was very well done, and I am excited about this match on Sunday.

They did well to give us good hype for the co-main events tonight.  I really enjoyed the segment with Bryan and Cena as they finally shed the McMahon silliness and really sold that match.  Punk and Brock was good, and I'm looking forward to RVD vs. Dean Ambrose.

They didn't do a lot to emphasize the rest of the card, but we have Smackdown yet to go.  Hopefully they'll give us some shine on the rest of the card this week.  At least three matches on SummerSlam's card are looking good at the moment though.

I will be by sometime tomorrow with Raw Afterthoughts, and look for a "roundtable" type piece from some of the other writers on staff as they give their thoughts on this go-home edition.  Thanks for reading along tonight.