3/25 Powell's WWE Raw Live Coverage: The Rock and John Cena go face-to-face two weeks before WrestleMania 29
By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Philadelphia, Pa. at Wells Fargo Center
[Q1] The opening recap video focussed on The Rock vs. John Cena, and Undertaker vs. C.M. Punk... Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler introduced the show and stated that there were 18,168 fans in attendance...
C.M. Punk and Paul Heyman headed to the ring together. Heyman held the urn over his head just as he previously held the WWE Championship over his head. Once at ringside, Heyman held the urn out just as Paul Bearer used to. Heyman climbed onto the ring apron and tossed the urn to Punk. Heyman appeared to be wearing makeup to sell a black eye from last week's angle with Triple H.
Punk mocked the idea that Undertaker can't be beaten at WrestleMania and that the urn has special power by talking about how "they say." He asked Paul Heyman who "they" are and then looked down at the urn and asked "Paul" the same question. Punk said Undertaker's career should have ended last year when he walked off holding hands with Triple H and Shawn Michaels.
Punk said Taker ruined it all by coming out on his show and pointing at the WrestleMania sign. Punk said Taker's history is being rewritten by the name who happens to be the best in the world. Punk said he didn't take the urn to disrespect Paul Bearer, he took it to disrespect Taker.
Punk dropped the urn on the ground and said it doesn't mean a damn thing to him. Punk picked it up and said he has something that Taker wants. He said Taker is at a psychological disadvantage and how he's scared. He said Taker would go 21-0 against any other man and believes he could have gone 30-0 or even 50-0, but he is facing the man who is the best in the world. He said there is nobody in the world who will beat him at WrestleMania.
"I am the one in 20-1," said Punk. He said he was waiting for the lights to go out and to feel the chill. He said Taker's perfect WrestleMania record will rest in... Taker's gong hit once he said "peace." The lights went out briefly. When they came back on, Taker was in the ring in his wrestling gear throwing punches at Punk. Taker, who has a crew cut, continued to throw punches until Punk rolled out of the ring.
Punk and Heyman stood on the stage. Punk still had the urn and mocked Taker with it. Cole said Punk should enjoy it now because there's going to be hell to pay in two weeks at WrestleMania...
Cole hyped The Rock and John Cena being interviewed in a Q&A that consists of five Hall of Famers and two future Hall of Famers. Cole said that with those five Hall of Famers and two future Hall of Famers, it's arguably the greatest collection of talent ever assembled... Lawler hyped Fandango as vignette footage aired. He said Fandango would be in action up next... [C]
Powell's POV: I'm surprised we saw Taker in his ring gear before WrestleMania. That said, the segment was good. Punk made chicken salad out of chicken shit via his mic work. He spoke confidently about beating Taker, while Cole did an effective job of selling the match to those who want to see Punk silenced by Taker. I'm cautiously optimistic about the Q&A. It could be a great segment filled with star power if the right legends are involved and are on their game.
[Q2] Fandango and his female dancer made their entrance and the big light bright contraption hung in the ring behind him. Fandango took the mic and started to say his name when he was interrupted by Chris Jericho's music. Jericho ran to the ring and attacked Fandango as Cole said this was not the scheduled match. Fandango quickly fled the ring. Cole said Jericho was scheduled to face Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler came out and Cole said that match was going to take place now...
Powell's POV: It appears that WWE is setting up Jericho vs. Fandango for WrestleMania. I wonder if it will become a lumberjack match as a way to keep Fandango in the ring and to get everyone on the show.
1. Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler (w/AJ Lee, Big E Langston). Jericho got the bulk of the early offense and was in control heading into the break at 1:50 into the match. [C] Later, Langston tried to interfere, but Jericho caught him. Ziggler caught Jericho with a move for a two count. Jericho caught back and applied the Walls of Jericho and got the clean win.
Chris Jericho defeated Dolph Ziggler by submission in 7:30.
After the match, Langston entered the ring and attacked Jericho from behind. Langston put Jericho down with The Big Ending finishing move and then talked smack while standing over Jericho.
[Q3] As the Ziggler and company left the ring, Fandango and his lady returned. They stood in the ring and danced over Jericho briefly. The female dancer left the ring and then Fandango attacked Jericho and yelled, "Say my name" and "What's my name?" A loud "you can't wrestle" chant broke out. Jericho fired back with a shot, but Fandango put him down again and performed a top rope leg drop. Fandango knelt over Jericho and said, "It's Fandango"...
Powell's POV: A good segment with Jericho getting a win, Langston looking like a badass, and Fandango getting good heat for attacking Jericho while he was down. I'm looking forward to the Jericho vs. Fandango match at WrestleMania a lot more than most people seem to be.
The announcers hyped that Triple H would comment on the possibility of having his final match at WrestleMania 29 due to the stipulations of his match with Brock Lesnar... [C] The WrestleMania video aired and we are 13 days away... Highlights aired from Smackdown of the Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show issues...
Backstage, Matt Striker interviewed Sheamus, who said he didn't trust Show as much as Randy Orton did initially. He was about to endorse Show when The Shield attacked Sheamus. Randy Orton entered the picture and hit one of the Shield members with a chair. They quickly got the better of him. Big Show arrived and tossed The Shield members aside. Show helped Orton up and the trio stood together...
Mark Henry was introduced for a handicap match... [C]
[Q4] After the break, highlights aired from Smackdown two weeks ago when Henry beat up Ryback after he had already been beaten down by The Shield...
2. Mark Henry vs. Jimmy and Jey Uso in a handicap match. The Uso's had a moment of offnese early, but Henry came back and dominated them. Henry threw one Uso off the ring apron and hit the World's Strongest Slam on the other for the win.
Mark Henry beat Jimmy and Jey Uso in a handicap match in 1:35.
After the match, Henry went to ringside, grabbed the other Uso, and performed the World's Strongest Slam on him. "That's what I do," Henry yelled. Henry picked up the first Uso and performed the World's Strongest Slam on him for the second time. "All day," Henry yelled. He performed a splash and then left the ring...
The announcers hyped Ryback vs. Mark Henry for WrestleMania 29, then hyped Alberto Del Rio vs. Antonio Cesaro in a champion vs. champion match for after the break...
Powell's POV: A champion vs. champion match?!? Holy shit!!! Okay, that's an extreme example of the reaction we should have for two champions facing off. The new reaction is simply - Again?
A graphic boasted that WWE Raw was the number one show on cable last Monday... The announcers hyped that Vickie Guerrero had booked Ryback vs. all three 3MB members in a handicap match...
3. Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez) vs. Antonio Cesaro in a non-title match. Ricardo came out on crutches (selling Jack Swagger's attack0 and apologized for his voice not being as strong. He acted like he was in pain as he delivered the introduction. Zeb Colter walked onto the stage during the match.
[Q5] Later, Jack Swagger appeared at ringside and shoed Ricardo to the mat. Swagger dragged Ricardo by his bad leg to the timekeepers area and slammed his leg into the barricade. Del Rio attacked Swagger and eventually ran him off, but he was counted out in the process.
Antonio Cesaro beat Alberto Del Rio by count out in a non-title match in 3:25.
After the match, Cesaro celebrated. Del Rio went after Cesaro (who appeared to be bleeding from the mouth) and put him in the Cross Arm Breaker momentarily...
Powell's POV: The match had no heat despite behind technically solid. I defended Ricardo overselling Swagger's initial attack because he's a non-wrestler. It was too much here both during the introductions and then after the Swagger attack.
Highlights aired of the opening segment with C.M. Punk, Undertaker, and Paul Heyman... The announcers hyped the Rock and Cena question and answer segment for later in the show... A shot aired of Kane and Daniel Bryan walking backstage. Lawler said they would be in action after the break... [C]
The announcers hyped Rock winning a Kid's Choice Award for best butt kicker...
4. Kane and Daniel Bryan vs. The Prime Time Players in a non-title match. Lawler acknowledged Pancake Patterson from last week. Cole said they probably want to forget that. Good idea.
[Q6] Dolph Ziggler, AJ Lee, and Big E Langston walked onto the stage to watch the match. Cole noted that Darren Young calls himself Mr. No Days Off. He said Lawler is Mr. Six Days Off. Cole was way too proud of his own joke. In the end, Kane performed a chokeslam on Young and scored the pin.
Kane and Daniel Bryan defeated The Prime Time Players in 4:25.
Cole hyped The Shield being in action in a six-man tag match later in the show, and Lawler hyped Triple H's appearance... [C] A video recapped the Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar contract signing...
Triple H made his entrance and recapped the stipulation of his retirement match. He said that if you go to the ring to face Brock Lesnar and think that your career might not end then you've already lost because he's a destroyer.
[Q7] Triple H said he's fought in the ring every night like his career and his life depended on it. Hunter said that if Heyman thinks he's painted him into a corner then he's mistaken. Triple H advised Lesnar to show up at WrestleMania like his own career and life are on the line. "Because, Brock, it very well might," he said. Hunter said he's not coming to WrestleMania to wrestle or fight.
"I am coming to kick your ass," he said. Triple H dropped the mic and left the ring. Before he could leave the ringside area, Wade Barrett's music played and he headed toward the ring. Triple H met him halfway up the ramp or a staredown. Triple H kicked Barrett in the nuts and then looked back at the WrestleMania sign. Triple H's music played and he headed to the back... [C]
Powell's POV: After sitting through two predictable matches and a lot of commercial breaks, I was actually looking forward to a good, lengthy, meaningful promo. Instead, the entrance felt longer than the promo itself. Don't get me wrong, the promo was effective, but we're at that point where everything is starting to drag during the three-hour show and we could have used a bigger dose of star power. Meanwhile, winning a secondary title in WWE has become a negative.
5. Wade Barrett vs. The Miz in a non-title match. Barrett was still selling the nut shot in the ring when Miz's music played (which is like a worldwide kick in the balls). The announcers spent their time talking about how much they like movies and hyping the WWE Studios releases. Lawler joked that it was ironic that "Lincoln" did well at the box office. The joke sailed over Cole's head, so he overcompensated by laughing like a jackass once he figured it out. Cole then told us Barrett and Miz were having a "doozy" heading into the break. [C]
Powell's POV: Well, we're an hour and 45 minutes into the show and I'm no more excited about WrestleMania 29 than I was coming in.
[Q8] An audible "boring" chant could be heard followed by one guy yelling, "You suck!" as the match continued. Miz had a nice flurry of offense, yet Barrett blocked his Skull Crushing Finale attempt. Barrett came back with a swinging slam for a two count. Barrett went for Wasteland, but Miz slipped out.
Later, Barrett crotched himself on the top rope to continue the destruction of his testicles. Miz applied the figure four for the win...
The Miz defeated Wade Barrett in a non-title match at 13:30.
Powell's POV: The crowd didn't seem to care about the match, though they did come to life for the finish. The problem wasn't the match. The problem is that the fans haven't been given enough reasons to care about either wrestler. Cole said Miz worked himself into the Intercontinental Title match consideration.
Backstage, Kane and Daniel Bryan accused the other of never getting over AJ Lee. Kaitlyn let out a primal scream and asked if they ever listen to themselves. She said AJ screwed them all over. AJ entered the room and stood behind the trio. Kaitlyn vented about AJ and called her crazy. AJ attacked her and rammed her head into the wall. Kane and Bryan dragged AJ away...
The announcers hyped The Rock and John Cena, plus The Shield's six-man tag match... [C]
Powell's POV: I assume Kaitlyn will be in the corner of Kane and Bryan at WrestleMania, though I suppose they could be setting up a Divas Championship match.
The announcers set up the Superstars for Sandy Relief campaign. Cole said they have bids from 135 countries so far...
Powell's POV: I wonder how much money WWE could raise for Hurricane Sandy relief if they offered to cut Raw back to two hours in exchange for the fans donating a certain amount of money. I would strongly consider giving up a kidney if I thought it would help make that happen.
[Q9] 6. The Shield vs. The Great Khali, Zack Ryder, and Justin Gabriel. Rollins pinned Gabriel to win the match. Khali tried to fight all three Shield members afterward, but they quickly outnumbered him. The Shield performed their Triple Powerbomb on Khali...
The Shield beat Great Khali, Zack Ryder, and Justin Gabriel in 2:35.
After the match, Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show came out and surrounded the ring. The trio entered the ring and eventually cleared The Shield members. The Shield fled through the crowd as Show, Orton, and Sheamus stood tall... [C]
Powell's POV: The crowd was unresponsive throughout the match. How many times are we going to hear complaints about a dead crowd when it's some combination of show quality and three hours simply being too long for a weekly wrestling show? The crowd did get up for the post-match angle so it's not like they're completely dead at this point. Let's just say they are rightfully selective when it comes to what they cheer for.
The announcers hyped The Rock and John Cena Q&A segment... Footage aired of Fandango attacking Chris Jericho...
Backstage, Josh "The Stalker" Mathews popped up out of nowhere and stuck a mic in Chris Jericho's face. Jericho, who was sporting a shiner on his left eye, said Fandango has kicked his ass twice in a row and it means nothing. Jericho said Vickie Guerrero has given Fandango his chance because they will meet on the biggest stage of them all at WrestleMania. Jericho said the bullseye is on Fandango's forehead so he will never, ever be the same again...
Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes made their entrance. Sandow cut a promo on the way to the ring and said the city is known for greasy sandwiches and a stadium that has a prison inside of it. They brought out the Bella Twins. They wore outfits that show they're not exactly identical twins these days. Cole said Rhodes Scholars would face Brodus Clay and Sweet T after the break... [C]
[Q10] 7. Brodus Clay and Sweet T (w/Cameron, Naomi) vs. Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow (w/The Bellas). Sandow's bathrobe is now being marketed by WWE. You're welcome. The Bellas made the mistake of checking on Cody when he was tossed to ringside at one point.
Cameron and Naomi are clearly not fans of caring, as that was all it took for them to attack the twins. Sandow clotheslined Clay with the top rope, and then Cody caught Clay with The Beautiful Disaster and pinned him...
Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow defeated Brodus Clay and Sweet T in 2:30.
The announcers set up a preview of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" starring The Rock... A shot aired of Ryback walking backstage... [C]
Powell's POV: We are over 140 minutes into the show and I still don't want to see WrestleMania more than I did before the show. The Rock and John Cena segment better be off the charts good and they better hope people haven't already given up on this forgettable show.
8. Ryback vs. Drew McIntyre, Heath Slater, and Jinder Mahal in a handicap match. McIntyre caught Ryback with a wicked boot to the face at 1:20. In the end, Ryback performed a double Shellshocked on Slater and Mahal for the win.
Ryback defeated Drew McIntyre, Heath Slater, and Jinder Mahal in a handicap match in 4:05.
Powell's POV: The double Shellshocked spot was cool and got a good reaction from the crowd. Here's hoping McIntyre gets away from 3MB, picks up a mouthpiece, and gets back on track after WrestleMania.
Cole announced that Ryback and Mark Henry will compete in a weightlifting contest on Friday's Smackdown...
[Q11] The announcers narrated highlights of Jack Swagger snapping Ricardo Rodriguez's ankle on a previous show and then attacking him again tonight. Cole said Ricardo had a setback and has bruising and swelling as a result of the attack... A shot aired of AJ Lee skipping for the camera backstage... [C]
The announcers recapped the news that Arnold Schwarzenegger will induct Bruno Sammartino into the WWE Hall of Fame...
9. WWE Divas Champion Kaitlyn vs. AJ Lee in a non-title match. Kaitlyn got off to a fast start. AJ came back with two hard slaps to the face, but Kaitlyn took her down again. They went to ringside and AJ dodged a spear, causing Kaitlyn to run into the barricade. Kaitlyn was counted out...
AJ Lee defeated Kaitlyn by count out in a non-title match in 2:00.
Footage aired of Rock facing John Cena in video game form. The announcers hyped the Q&A for after the break... [C]
Powell's POV: Maybe we will get that Divas Championship at WrestleMania after all. Nope, still not more excited about WrestleMania than I was before this show. If weightlifting had a weekly television show, would the participants challenge each other to wrestling matches just for the hell of it?
[Q12] Cole announced that Orton, Sheamus, and Show vs. The Shield is officially set for WrestleMania. Who knew it wasn't actually official?...
Jerry Lawler stood in the ring where two podiums were set up on opposite sides of the ring. There was also a table with four chairs set up behind it. Lawler introduced the legends and ran through their accomplishments. Booker T was out first. Mick Foley was up next (footage of his Hell in a Cell dive was included in his video). Dusty Rhodes came out next. The final legend was Bret Hart (Lawler is the fifth advertised legend). Cole said The Rock and John Cena would be grilled by the legend after the break... [C]
The Rock made his entrance and then shook hands and hugged the legends (no hug for Booker). John Cena made his entrance and shook hands with the legends. Once Cena's music stopped playing, there were loud boos. Lawler said each of the legends would ask Rock or Cena. Once they respond, the other man would respond.
Lawler said they would get things started with the newest Hall of Fame member Mick Foley (poor Booker!). Foley recalled teaming with The Rock at WrestleMania 20 and he said he had a deep sense of regret because they lost and because they lost what they thought would be Rock's last match ever. Foley said he gets a lot of flack for being a Cena fan, but he felt like a weight was lifted off his shoulders when Rock beat Cena last year.
[Overrun] Foley asked if Cena is prepared to cope with the regret that could come with another loss to Rock. Cena said April 7 will be a historic day for WWE. He said that whether he wins or loses that match, it's safe to say it will change the face of WWE forever. Cena said a win would give him much needed redemption.
Cena said last year he would have said losing is not an option. Cena said he knows that losing is a very real option. Cena said the name of former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. The crowd booed. He said it again and the crowd booed (I joined them). He said McNabb is statistically the greatest quarterback to ever put on an Eagles uniform. He said the people react to him with boos because he could not win the big one. Cena said Rock doesn't know about failure but he soon will.
Powell's POV: Vikings fans boo him because he was a washed up bum who accomplished nothing during his run in Minnesota. Screw that Campbell's Soup eating mofo and his fake TV commercial mother.
Rock recalled his early time and tearing up his knee. He said he could have quit, but he worked hard and when he came back he said he told them to just give him the mic. Rock delivered the "Finally" line. Rock said he came back to Philadelphia as champion and got his ass kicked by Steve Austin.
Rock said he made a decision to come back and become one of the greatest of all time. He said his early failures made him the man that he is today and that man that he is today is going to whip Cena's ass at WrestleMania in 13 days.
Bret Hart was up next. He said Rock and Cena were good friends of his and he noticed last year that it seemed like there was bad blood. He said it almost because a Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels thing. Hart wanted to know what happened and what changed since then.
The Rock said what happened last year was that there were two men who wanted to be the best and they went at it for 30 minutes. Rock said he beat Cena in the ring and then Cena didn't bitch or moan and he respects that. Cena recalled calling out The Rock in an interview for saying he loves WWE. Cena said he told Rock to prove it and he did. Cena said he thought the match was once in a lifetime because he assumed Rock would leave after that handpicked match in his hometown.
Cena said Rock showed him how much he loves WWE by raising the ante and saying that he's going to win the WWE Championship. Cena said they have not hung out even once since then, yet he respects the hell out of Rock. Cena said he appreciates Rock praising him for the way he handled the loss and in 13 days we're going to see how Rock handles his.
Booker T was up next and noted that he was the only legend on the panel who had wrestled Rock and Cena. Booker asked Cena why he's going to beat The Rock at WrestleMania. Cena paused, took off his hat, and said: "Because I have to. That's it, because I have to."
The Rock told Cena it was a shallow weak answer. "How about you wipe a monkey's ass with I have to," Rock said. He told Cena to tell them the truth about why he has to beat him. "Because you didn't beat me," Cena said. "You didn't beat me, you cannot beat me, I beat me. And that's the first time I have ever said that publicly, but that is fact. One bad decision."
Cena said he got caught up in one personal moment. He said he comes out every week and some people like him and some do not. Cena said he just goes along for the ride. He said Rock is the only person who clouded his judgement and made him make a stupid mistake. Cena said he watched the match 100 times and Rock threw every ace he had at him and it wasn't enough.
"One time you personally got in the way of me making the easiest decision of my life," Cena said. He said it will never happen again and he will step in the ring and do it on his terms because he knows. "I know I am better than The Rock," a fired up Cena said. "And much more importantly, The Rock knows that I am better than The Rock."
The Rock responded by saying that if Cena had him beat, he would have beaten him. Rock said he kicked out of the AA and left Cena speechless. Rock said there's one more legend he wanted to be like when he was young and he has a saying, "To be the man...wooo...you gotta beat the man." Rock said John Cena can't beat the man because he is not the man.
Dusty tried to interrupt, but Rock stopped him and told Cena that for the rest of their lives, he will never be the man. Dusty said WrestleMania is about winning and losing. He said there are no guarantees in this business. He said sometimes you don't always get what you want and what you want is not always what you get. His question was what Rock and Cena really want on April 7.
"I want to win the big one," Cena said. "Not only win the big one, I want to dominate The Rock." Cena said he wants Rock to look up at the sky at the end of WrestleMania and finally realize that the ball cap wearing punk who never belonged in the Attitude Era belongs, and that he's better than The Rock. Cena said he wants to do to Rock what he did to him by handing him a loss so devastating that it will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Rock said he's not wired that way. Rock said he will wake up still the WWE Champion and The People's Champion, while Cena will wake up, eat Fruity Pebbles and ask himself why for the second year in a row. Rock told Cena to prove the world wrong at WrestleMania. "But better than that, how about you prove me wrong right now," Rock said.
Rock put the mic down. Cena took his hat and shirt off. Lawler tried to talk them down. Cena took his tags off and kissed them, then walked toward Rock and did the "You Can't See Me" hand gesture. Rock shoved Cena, who scooped him up for an Attitude Adjustment. Rock slipped away and slammed Cena down with a Rock Bottom. Rock left the ring and jawed at Cena from a distance, while Cena sat on the ground with a dejected look on his face. Raw went off the air with Rock motioning for Cena to bring it...
Powell's POV: A really strong money segment to close the show. The intensity is believable and I love the story that is being told with Cena seemingly obsessed with winning the match. I wish we saw Cena like this more often, but it does feel special in part because we do not see this side of his character on a regular basis. Rock is ultra confident, Cena is obsessed. This is really working for me. Cena is so intense that a small part of me wonders if they intend to transition into a heel turn. I doubt it because it's Cena, but the groundwork is laid and he did say the face of WWE changes forever win or lose.
The rest of the show left so much to be desired. It had some ups (opening segment and Hunter's brief promo) but so many downs. The live crowd was lifeless at times and once again WWE gave them plenty of reasons to be that way. I will have more to say in the members' exclusive WWE Raw audio review later tonight and in Tuesday's WWE Raw Hitlist. Thanks for watching along with me.
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