Show Open, Live from Des Moines, IA

We get a cold open, with Justin Roberts introducing Triple H, who is already in the ring.  Trips throws it right to an introduction of “the face of a company, the WWE Champion, Randy Orton.”  The announcers check in while Orton makes his entrance.  Cole says that someone backstage referred to this current regime as a “reign of terror” that JBL calls a reign of order.

Orton says that his top responsibility as the face of the company is to protect the corporate image.  He says if he is disrespected, the entire WWE is disrespected and they need to be dealt with.  The fans chant “NO!” at Orton. He waits them out, then brings up Daniel Bryan which leads to “YES!” chants.

Orton recalls Daniel Bryan defacing the Escalade last week, saying he defaced his personal property.  Orton says he had no choice but to deface Daniel Bryan.  They feed it to a recap of Smackdown from Friday night where Orton, with the help of the Shield, spray painted “NO” on Bryan.

Orton decides to play Bryan’s “question and answer game” with the fans.  He asks if Bryan should get his title match at Night of Champions.  The fans cheer but Orton says no.  He asks if Bryan has a chance in hell to win and they cheer, but again Orton says no.  He asks if Bryan will amount to anything in WWE more than a B-plus player, and if Bryan should give up his challenge to the title.  Orton yells “Yes!” but the fans boo.

Triple H says that as the COO, he has responsibilities to ensure that WWE puts out the best product every week.  Hunter says the fans are the most passionate and intense in the world.  He says his other job is to ensure the health and well being of the talent.  He admits to starting to worry about Daniel Bryan because his ego is putting him in bad situations.

He blames the fans chanting “Yes!” and calls it an issue.  He says the fans are causing Bryan to confuse popularity with what’s good for business.  Hunter talks about Doink the Clown and says he was immensely popular.  He points out a fan in the front row dressed as a clown and asks the fan if he loves Doink and the fan nods.

Triple H says people loved Doink but he was never champion because “it would be bad for business.”  He says he could bring back the cruiserweight title or the European title and those would be “good little titles” for Bryan and says he would never be WWE Champion.

Daniel Bryan’s music hits and he comes to the stage with a mic.  “The next cruiserweight champion” quips JBL.  Bryan tells the pair that he appreciates being compared to Doink, but he doesn’t recall anyone chanting for Doink back in the day.  He says the only clowns he sees are the two men in the ring.  He tells Hunter that he lost his manhood when he cut his hair, put on the suit, and became a corporate sellout.

Bryan accuses Orton of giving up on the WWE Championship until someone handed it to him.  He asks the fans  whether he should give up his title shot at Night of Champions.  “I think the answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question of whether Randy Orton is more masculine than Stephanie McMahon.”  He and the fans resoundingly answer “NO!”

Orton tells Bryan there’s no chance in hell of him winning the fight.  Bryan says he’s been told what he can’t do his entire career.  He recounts his career of being told he would not make it out of the high school gyms and flea markets, never making it to WWE or being a top guy and never being a WWE Champion.

Bryan says all those things made him who he is today and he loves everything he had to do to make it to WWE.  Bryan says that Orton will never understand that because he was given everything.  Bryan says he knows he can beat Orton for the title.  “And Randy, deep down, you know it too, and so do you Hunter.”  Bryan explains that Hunter is booking gauntlet matches and lopsided affairs because he knows it.  Bryan says that Orton may have the genetics of a champion but doesn’t have the heart.

Triple H asks why Bryan is so angry, and mocks him as an “angry little troll.”  Hunter says Bryan should be mad at the Big Show because Big Show has been standing by with tears in his eyes, watching Bryan get beat down.  Triple H says he will let Bryan get some of his frustration out by booking a match between Bryan and Big Show tonight.  Bryan nods in confidence.

More of the same in that segment.  They’re really trying to cement the new personas, so this isn’t a criticism.  The live crowd seemed to come off a bit dead on Orton’s intro, but did perk up once he started his promo.  Bryan is definitely over and they reacted well to him.

Cole hypes up CM Punk addressing the attack from last week’s Raw live, later in the show.

Backstage:

Triple H and Orton are chuckling about the reaction of Bryan out there and mock that Show probably is crying.  Cody Rhodes is walking down the same hall and he tells them the main event should be great as long as it’s a one-on-one affair.  He questions why Orton wouldn’t want to defend the title against Bryan and says it’s good for business.

Hunter tells Cody his judgment might be cloudy since he’s working on wedding plans.  He and Orton ask amongst themselves if they got invitations, and the answer is no.  Triple H tells him he has a present anyhow and gives Cody a match against Randy for later.  Cody thanks him and Triple H then tells him that if he doesn’t win, he might not be with the company very long.

So, we’re going to the power-trip card.  We’ve been there before with the McMahon Helmsley Regime.  This one makes sense as it seems Cody has a personal issue to tend to.

Match #1 – Fandango (w/Summer Rae) vs. The Miz

Miz controls the early offense in this one.  Pretty standard fare.  During the break, Fandango had to be tended to medically as he took a foot to the face and apparently had an issue with his nose.  The announcers played it up after break but there was no evidence that he had a problem.

Miz goes after the leg after action continues.    He tries a splash in the corner but misses.  Fandango controls a bit of the action but keeps selling the knee.  Miz makes him tap after a trip  by slapping on the Figure Four.

Ringside doc gets a lot of credit for cleaning up Fandango during the break.  That kick to the face caught him flush.  I see more in Fandango than I do Miz ultimately.

Lawler talks about the footage from Punk taking a beatdown from Heyman and Axel.

Backstage:

Booker T walks in to Daniel Bryan’s locker room.  He tells him that fighting the McMahons is a fight he can’t win.  He tells Bryan he can make a ton of money in WWE and he should consider giving up the title match.  “Tell me, you did not just say that” Bryan responds.  He says this isn’t about money but instead about his life.  Booker tells him he’s dealing with people who can ruin his life and “their power extends beyond this arena.”  He tells Bryan to tread lightly.

We get recap footage of last week’s beatdown from Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel on CM Punk.  They say that Punk will be addressing that situation later.

That was a good package from WWE production.

Match #2 – Dolph Ziggler vs. Ryback

Dolph comes to the ring first, and the announcers say that Dolph hasn’t been told who his opponent is.  He stands ready to fight, but he gets ambushed and roughed up by Dean Ambrose from behind.  Ambrose beats him down and throws him into the corner.  Ambrose tells him “You’ll learn to respect the business, you’ll learn to respect.”  Ryback is introduced as Dolph’s opponent.

The official waits for Ziggler to get to his feet and the match gets started officially.  Ryback roughs him up, hitting a suplex and throwing punches.  He locks on a fish-hook and Ziggler screams while the fans chant that Ryback can’t wrestle.

Ryback stays on the roll and throws Ziggler to the corner.  He cues up the Meathook but Ziggler greets him with a drop kick to start a small run of offense.  Ziggler ends up eating the Meathook and Shellshocked in the end and Ryback picks up the win.

Two things are right with this:  Dolph looks sympathetic, and Ryback looks like a bully for picking on a fallen Ziggler.  The problem – Ambrose looks like a henchman.  Not sure how I feel about that one.

Backstage:

Maddox walks in to Triple H’s office and tells him that Big Show is refusing to work the main event.  Triple H goes to say something, but Stephanie says she’ll take care of it.  Maddox tells her where Show’s locker room is but Stephanie says it’s not necessary as it won’t be a private conversation and it’s “not how I roll.”
 

We get another vignette for the Los Matadores, coming soon.

In-Ring Segment:

Stephanie comes out to the ring.  She talks about Big Show as being “her friend and giant” and gives him a warm introduction.  Cole mentions Show’s iron clad contract and says that Triple H could pull it if he doesn’t face Bryan later.  Show enters the ring and hugs Stephanie.

Stephanie begins her talk, going ultimately to the fact that Show is broke from bad investments and Wall Street problems.  She calls it “a matter of public record.”  She says he could lose his contract and asks if he would be the world’s largest gas station attendant.  She talks about Show’s family and his biggest fear of giants not having a long lifespan.

Show sells the emotion on his face.  Stephanie says that the only person hurting more than Show is her.  She hugs him and he fights back tears as she leaves.  For whatever reason, we get a “Y2J” chant from the fans.

Show sells emotion well and Stephanie did “alright” on her end of things.  I didn’t feel it was as strong an effort as some might have felt.  It still doesn’t really explain why Show couldn’t help Bryan.

We get hype for Edge returning for one night only on Raw next week.

They show us video from the App, with Big Show trashing some stuff backstage.  The announcers use it as means to give us an App download tutorial.

Match #3 – The Prime Time Players vs. Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal (w/Drew McIntyre)

Titus gets the better of this one early on, backing Slater to the corner.  He blows the whistle and puts the boots to Slater at the same time.  Slater and Mahal get their chance though when Slater trips Darren Young on the ropes.

Young gets the hot tag and goes on a run, getting the better of Jinder.  He loads a fall-away slam but instead throws him over his head, never leaving his feet.

By the end, Titus hits his finisher to Jinder to grab the win.

The Players are getting some momentum going and the fans perk up for them now.  The fans just don’t care about 3MB.

The announcers give us some hype for Cody Rhodes vs. Randy Orton later.

Backstage:

Paul Heyman interrupts Brad Maddox’s phone call.  Heyman gives Maddox a lecture for putting his fate in the hands of the fans last week.  Heyman says that Maddox further put him in a bad position by booking the handicap elimination match at Night of Champions where Punk is guaranteed to get his hands on Heyman.

Triple H intervenes and excuses Maddox.  He says he approved the match for Night of Champions.  Heyman turns into a kiss-ass at this point.  Hunter says through the years he watched Heyman weasel out of bad situations, but doesn’t see a way out this time.  He wants to watch, and will do so with a smile on his face, if Heyman finds a way out of this one.  He says he wins either way, especially since the alternative is that Heyman gets the beating he deserves.

As long as that is the ONLY involvement Triple H has in the Heyman/Punk story, I’m good with it.  I don’t need him inserting himself in every top story.

We get a set up for the Wyatt Family’s latest video.  Wyatt is shown in his chair, with Rowan and Harper close by.  He talks about Icarus’ wax wings melting when he got too close to the fire.  He says that Kane made his bed and now he’s burning in it.

It takes a real suspension of disbelief to work with the Kane storyline.  The announcers are putting more effort into Kane’s whereabouts than most fans are.

Match #4 – Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes; Cody’s Career on the line

Rhodes comes out first, and he squats in the corner and thinks about it.  The announcers talk about the career threatening stipulation.  Cole puts over how all the fans and locker room are tweeting their support of Rhodes.  JBL heels it and praises Orton.

Orton takes control early on.  He dumps Rhodes out to the floor heading to commercial.  After break, Orton stays in charge.  The fans amuse themselves with a “Randy Savage” chant.

Cody gets his comeback.  He hits Orton with an uppercut followed with a springboard drop kick for a good near fall.  He hits the Disaster Kick for two and the crowd pops.  They get behind him with a “Cody Rhodes” chant.  Rhodes goes up top for a moonsault, but Orton sidesteps it.  Orton covers but Rhodes kicks out.

Orton hits his elevated DDT and mocks the fans, calling for cheers before hitting his “viper pose.”  He tries the RKO, but Rhodes counters to a DDT for a great near fall.  Orton kicks him and hits a clothesline on the top rope.  Cody tries to roll Orton up but only gets two.

In the end, Rhodes tries the Disaster Kick again, but Orton dodges.  Rhodes grabs his leg, and that gives Orton an opportunity to hit the RKO for the win.

Afterward, Orton gloats on the stage.  Triple H comes out and pats him on the chest and Orton heads to the back.  Hunter mockingly asks the fans for a round of applause for Rhodes.  He tells Rhodes he fought with heart and he has a lot of respect for Rhodes.  He says that he has to not let personal feelings cloud his judgment and do what’s right for business.

"Cody, it's with deep regret that I have to tell you, you're fired," Triple H says.  The live crowd boos, then chants “thank you” for Cody.  He limps away from the ring while the announcers debate what Rhodes’ fiancée is thinking right now.

The match got really good after the commercial break and the fans really bought into the near falls.  WWE is really missing it by not getting heat onto heels not a part of the McMahon family though (Triple H, Stephanie, or Vince).

The announcers talk about what just went down with Rhodes.  Cole asks JBL if Triple H is guilty of a gross misuse of power.  JBL defends Hunter.

I’m waiting for Cole to take a beating, a suspension, or some other penalty for so much questioning of Triple H.

In-Ring Segment:

CM Punk comes out to a rousing ovaton, toting a kendo stick.  The announcers talk about what went down last week with him and Paul Heyman.

Punk starts by saying “I promise.”  He says those words don’t mean much to people but they carry a lot of weight with him.  He promises there will be no more empty threats or posturing or even talking because he’s struggling to come up with what to say next.

“What’s left to say?”  He says the fans have heard everything he has to say and while he was dressed to compete, wrestling is the furthest thing from his mind.  “After what was done to me last week, I want to fight!”  Punk says he wants to fight Heyman, and if he has to go through Curtis Axel to get to him he will do it.  He says he would invite both men out but he knows they won’t come out.

Punk guarantees the fans that he will get past Axel and guarantees he will get his hands on Heyman. “You order Night of Champions on pay per view and you will see a side of CM Punk that you’ve never seen before, and I can’t promise you that it’s going to be a side you’re going to like.”  Punk says that Heyman won’t like that side of him.  He recalls that Heyman said Punk broke his heart. “At Night of Champions, I’m going to break his face.  I promise.”

They show footage of the beating Punk took last week at the hands of Heyman.  They go back to the ring, and Cole says Punk is on the verge of breaking bad.

Simple, effective, and creative promo that definitely sold pay per views.

We get hype for the main event of Daniel Bryan vs. The Big Show.

Backstage:

Daniel Bryan is in his locker room when Big Show walks in.  He says he doesn’t want this match but he can’t let their friendship dictate what happens with him and for his family’s sake.  Bryan tells Show he will end up beating him, just like he did for his first World Heavyweight Championship.

Good, but would have been more effective had they built up a friendship between Show and Bryan other than tonight.

Match #5 – Naomi (w/Cameron) vs. Natalya vs. Brie Bella (w/Nikki Bella and Eva Marie); Winner gets a shot at AJ’s Divas Championship

AJ comes out and sits in on commentary.  Natalya tries a sharpshooter about a minute in, but Naomi rolls her up in a small package for two.  Later, Naomi tries a cover after a move and AJ jumps in to cause a no-contest finish.  The rest of the “Total Divas” cast jump the ring (except for Nikki Bella) to put the boots to AJ.

Logical to go this route, but obviously I can’t care too awful much.

We get another run of the vignette for the Los Matadores.

Match #6 – Rob Van Dam (w/Ricardo Rodriguez) vs. Damien Sandow

Ricardo does his introduction that I still find unnecessary.  Del Rio makes an appearance about two minutes in.  Sandow is able to hit RVD from behind and knocks him out to ringside.

RVD eventually gets a comeback in and tries a split-legged moonsault.  Sandow rolls him up from behind for two.   RVD hits a clothesline on the top rope, then hits the Five Star to get the win.

The match served its purpose for hype for Night of Champions, but RVD and Ricardo have zero chemistry.

We get some more hype for the main event, and the Smackdown ad focuses on Daniel Bryan but nothing else in particular.

They show us footage from the app, where Stephanie booked Natalya, Naomi, and Brie Bella and AJ in a four-way for the Divas Championship at Night of Champions.

The only fair move by the McMahons all night.

Backstage:

Cody Rhodes is being led to an exit by security.  Josh Mathews appears and asks if he has parting words.  Rhodes says that Orton was the better man but it was “that damn stipulation.”  Rhodes says that for two decades the McMahons have hated the Rhodes’.

He talks about his dad, Dusty, having to don polka dot gear and Dustin having to transform to Golddust and never being the same.  He talks about having to provide for a wife now.  Mathews asks if he has anything to say to his fiancée, but Rhodes just walks away.

Good promo, just bad timing when it’s on your way “out the door.”

We get hype for Edge appearing on Raw for one night only next week.  The roster has taken their usual spot for the main event out on the stage.

Match #7 – Big Show vs. Daniel Bryan

Bryan gets a strong reaction for his entrance, Big Show does not.  Show looks pretty conflicted and sad as he comes out.  As entrances take place, they run the highlights from Smackdown of Show being forced to watch as The Shield and Orton put their boots to Bryan.

Show tries to talk his way out of this but Bryan yells at him to bring it.  Bryan charges but Show shoves him away.  Show yells that his back is against the wall.  Bryan charges again, and Show grabs him saying “don’t make me do this.”  Show throws Bryan to ringside and tells him to lie down.  “Don’t be prideful, I’m trying to help you!”

Bryan gets back in the ring and hits a series of kicks.  Bryan hits a couple running drop kicks in the corner but eats a kick on the third attempt.  Show asks Bryan again to not make him hurt him.  “I’m being forced to do this, I’m asking you, please…”

Bryan hits a kneeling Show with a drop kick to the knee, then hits him with a series of kicks to the chest.  He tries for the finale but Show catches him.  Bryan counters with the kneeling style DDT.  Bryan goes up top, but takes a spear from Show.  Show teases the WMD, but exits the ring.

Triple H’s music hits, and here he comes with the Shield in tow.  Hunter tells Show to get back in the ring and Show refuses.  Hunter asks again, Show refuses again, and starts to leave.

The Shield starts their three on one assault and finally the official calls for the bell, making it a disqualification.  Show gets back in the ring at this point and the Shield begs off.  Triple H stands in front of Show and says “I know you don’t want to do this.”  He tells Show to think of his family then motions to The Shield to hit the Triple Powerbomb.  Show sells anguish.

Triple H tells Show to turn around, then to ball up his fist and hit the WMD punch on Bryan.  Show cries about it, then complies.  Roman Reigns holds up Bryan.  Show looks anguished and starts to comply but then tells Triple H no and goes to walk away.  Triple H asks “do you want me to do it” and Show begs to be left alone.

Stephanie McMahon’s music hits and she greets Show on the ramp.  She pleads with him to think of his family and that they’re relying on him.  The pair head back to the ring, and Reigns again picks up Bryan.

Triple H again gives the order to knock out Bryan.  Show makes the fist and takes a step toward Triple H but Stephanie intervenes. Triple H smirks, and Show eventually gives in and hits the WMD punch on Bryan.  Fans chant “you sold out” at Show as he, Hunter and Stephanie leave.  They assure Show he did the right thing as Show looks back with tears in his eyes at Bryan.

Randy Orton’s music hits. He comes out and walks past the roster, then the trio that had just left the ring.  He smiles as he does.  He gets in the ring and puts his boot on Bryan and poses with the title to close the show.

Well, I wish the WWE well against the NFL starting next Monday.  They lacked the foresight in this story to put any thought into making the face side of the roster at least seem legitimate.  The story is money, and it’s going to work out fantastically in the end I presume with Bryan taking the championship.  I’m just not sure if they’re going to keep the fans’ interest – especially those who really dislike Triple H and feel he’s all that’s wrong with pro wrestling in general – if they don’t soon give us that “hope spot” to make the faces look like they can get some comeuppance here.

The one problem with this main event segment is the lack of an on-air establishment of Show and Bryan as friends.  Show did a good job with his emotional response to everything, but it’s hard to invest into something that really just kind of “popped up” tonight for the first time.

With the holiday, our live coverage wasn’t exactly live tonight.  There is much to digest though and I’ll have more to say in Raw Afterthoughts tomorrow, and I believe we’ll be having a staff round table as well.  Thanks for watching along tonight.