5/27 Powell's WWE Raw Live Coverage: John Cena vs. Curtis Axel, Paul Heyman appears on The Highlight Reel with Chris Jericho, WWE Hall of Famers Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels
By Jason Powell
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live from Calgary, Alberta
[Q1] Raw opened with a Memorial Day tribute video. The show was dedicated to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces who paid the ultimate price in service of the country... Michael Cole introduced the show and noted that John Cena would appear... A video recapped last week's show and focussed on Curtis Axel and Triple H, and Ryback challenging John Cena...
John Cena's music played and was greeted by a mixed reaction. Cole was joined on commentary by Jerry Lawler and JBL. Once in the ring, Cena held out the mic to soak up some boos. Cena said it seemed like there was a lot of unrest, anxiety, and maybe a little anger.
Cena recalled the Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules and the controversial finish. He said both he and Ryback feel they deserve the WWE Championship.
Powell's POV: Did I miss the promo where Ryback said he should be champion? He went right into challenging Cena to the ambulance match last week.
Cena recalled Ryback challenging him to the ambulance match. An audible "We Want Bret" chant started, which Cena stopped and acknowledged. Cena mocked Ryback by suggesting that he gets distracted by pretty bright lights. Cena said the WWE Championship will instead be defended in a Three Stages of Hell match.
Cena said the match is so violent that there have only been three in WWE history. Cena noted that the match will be best of three falls with each match having a different stipulation. He said stage one will be a lumberjack match, stage two will be a tables match, and stage three will be an ambulance match.
Ryback walked onto the stage and said he tried to drive Cena to hell when he drove him through the lights on the stage. "Say hello to Beelzubub, say hello to Lucifer, say hello to Satan," he said. "John, say hello to Ryback"...
Powell's POV: Who knew Ryback's previous catchphrase was in reference to souls.
Paul Heyman walked out and cleared his throat to get attention as Ryback headed backstage. Heyman boasted about Curtis Axel beating Triple H so decisively that fans won't be seeing Hunter around anymore. Heyman introduced Axel, who walked onto the stage and shook hands with Heyman.
Heyman credited Cena with being a fighting champion. Thus, he said he knew Cena wouldn't back down from his challenge - Cena vs. Axel for the first time ever. Cena said he saw Axel last week and praised him for having guts. He offered Axel the advice of staying as far away from Heyman as possible. He said Heyman is more full of crap than the stables after the stampede.
[Q2] Axel took the mic and said they didn't ask for his opinion, they asked if he was looking for a fight. Cena once again praised Axel's guts and said he showed moments of greatness, but he also said Axel got lucky. Cena told Heyman he had his match for later in the show...
The announcers spoke at ringside and hyped The Highlight Reel with Paul Heyman as special guest... Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo walked backstage with the stupid bucket. Lawler said Del Rio would try to avenge his loss to Big E Langston from last week... [C]
Powell's POV: Axel got lucky because his opponent collapsed and they didn't bother to count him out? Anyway, we should learn a lot about Axel's push tonight. He came off better on the mic with his brief comments tonight than he did last week. Meanwhile, everything feels right back to normal with Cena despite the Extreme Rules spot and Cena selling the injury by not appearing on Raw last week. Didn't Del Rio avenge his loss to Langston on WWE Main Event?
An ad aired for 12 Rounds Reloaded...
1. Alberto Del Rio (w/Ricardo Rodriguez, stupid bucket) vs. Big E Langston (w/AJ Lee). During the match, footage aired of Dolph Ziggler speaking from home on his phone. At 3:45, AJ stood up on the ring apron and removed the top turnbuckle pad. Del Rio applied the Cross Arm Breaker, but Langston powered out.
Del Rio shoved Langston into the corner, where he struck the exposed turnbuckle, and then Del Rio rolled him up for the win. After the match, A.J. threw a fit and yelled that she was trying to help Langston. Big E left the ring with A.J. following him...
Alberto Del Rio beat Big E Langston in 4:20.
Cole hyped Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns vs. Kane and Daniel Bryan for the WWE Tag Titles, and Dean Ambrose vs. Kofi Kingston for the U.S. Title for later in the show...
Powell's POV: Things are looking up after the announcement of those two title matches. I'm pretty sure I heard A.J. channel Gob Bluth with a big "Come on!" after the match. I'm not sure whether she was pleading with Langston as the announcers seemed to suggest. Rather, it looked like her character was being bitchy and he just kept his cool. We can all relate to that one, guys!
[Q3] [C] Backstage, Daniel Bryan paced in front of Kane, who told him to stop obsessing over the weak link talk. Kane said it had nothing to do with Bryan's height. Kane told him they had to work as a team and Bryan has to pull himself together. They did a "yes" and "no" back and forth when they stopped.
Bret Hart was in the room and he told them that they were one of the best tag team partnerships he's ever seen. He said tension like they have will destroy a tag team. Bryan noted that Bret was the smaller guy in the Hart Foundation and asked whether anyone thought he was the weak link. Hart said size has nothing to do with toughness. Hart said Bryan is one of the toughest he's seen.
Bret left the room and Bryan was awestruck. Kane questioned why Bryan put so much stock in what Hart said after he had told him the same thing. Bryan said Bret is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be. "You're just Kane," Bryan said before walking off...
The announcers hyped the Bret Hart Appreciation Night ceremony for the WWE app after Raw... Dean Ambrose made his entrance for the U.S. Title match... [C] The Curtis Axel introduction was recapped... Kofi Kingston made his entrance...
2. Dean Ambrose vs. Kofi Kingston for the U.S. Title. They cut to break early in the match.
[Q4] [C] An ad for Smackdown focussed on The Shield. After the break, Ambrose was in control and caught Kingston with a clothesline. Footage aired of Randy Orton and Sheamus talking backstage while watching the match on a monitor as Kingston came back with a couple of near falls.
Ambrose tripped up Kingston on the ring apron and dumped him face first on the ring steps. Ambrose rolled Kingston back inside the ring and performed his finisher for the clean pin...
Dean Ambrose defeated Kofi Kingston in 8:45 to retain the U.S. Title.
Powell's POV: That match was quicker and more decisive than I expected it to be. I guess this means Kingston goes back to smiling on the undercard, which is a shame.
After the match, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins came to the ring to celebrate with Ambrose. Kane and Daniel Bryan came out and fought with The Shield. Cole said the tag title match would begin after the break... [C]
3. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan and Kane for the WWE Tag Team Championship. The match started during the break. Cole noted that it started on the app. Call me crazy, but hyping this going into the break may have been the wiser decision. Kane and Bryan teamed up for the Hart Attack Clothesline, which drew a nice ovation from the Calgary crowd.
[Q5] Rollins caught Kane with a kick to the back of his head. Reigns checked in briefly and then he and Rollins isolated Kane in their corner. Kane performed a suplex on Rollins, who quickly tagged Reigns back into to continue the attack on Kane. Footage aired of the Prime Time Players bitching backstage while the watched the match.
Kane eventually made the hot tag to Bryan after taking Rollins down with a clothesline. Bryan raced over and dropkicked Reigns off the ring apron. Bryan suplexed Rollins and then caught him with a running drop kick for a two count. Bryan fired kicks at Rollins covered him, but he kicked out again.
Bryan went to the top rope, but Rollins tripped him up. Rollins set up for a superplex, but Bryan avoided it and tied up Rollins in the tree of woe. Bryan delivered repeated kicks and then a running dropkick. The announcers said Bryan was close to being DQ'd. Bryan positioned Rollins on the top rope and caught him with a belly to back suplex heading into the break. [C]
After the break, Rollins caught Bryan in the surfboard. Bryan slipped out and kicked him a few times, but Rollins put him down and tagged Reigns back into the match. Reigns dominated with power before tagging Rollins in. The heels continued to isolate Bryan until he made the hot tag to Kane.
[Q6] Kane caught Rollins with his signature offense and had him pinned, but Reigns broke up the pin. Bryan caught Reigns with a missile dropkick that sent him to the floor and then Bryan followed up with a suicide dive. Kane worked over Rollins and went to the top rope and came off with a clothesline.
Kane stopped what he was doing to tell him that the referee was on the verge of disqualifying him. Bryan ignored Kane and dove onto Reigns, who caught him and drove him down with a spear. With Kane distracted, Rollins leapt off the top rope and caught Kane with a knee to the head. Ambrose joined his faction mates in the ring for a post match celebration...
Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns defeated Kane and Daniel Bryan to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship in 18:35.
Footage aired of John Cena's promo from earlier in the show, and Ryback interrupting with some words of his own... The announcers hyped Cena vs. Axel, and an update on Triple H's condition for later in the show... [C]
Powell's POV: A good tag title match. The announcers did what they could to help tell the story of Bryan putting his team at risk of a DQ by addressing it early on, but it felt like they were reaching creatively since the illegal man brawling with the other illegal man never seems to result in a DQ. It didn't here either, but it just seemed odd that the announcers and Kane were suddenly so concerned about it. I enjoyed these two matches with The Shield, but I can't help but think that WWE just burned through a couple of pay-per-view matches on Raw.
A video recapped the Triple H medical situation from last week's Raw... At ringside, Cole said Triple H's injury came from the sledgehammer shot to the jaw. He was instructed not to travel to Raw. However, they are hopeful that Hunter will be able to return to Raw next week...
The Miz made his entrance. Cole said WWE app users could vote whether Miz could be the guest ring announcers, commentator, or referee of the Wade Barrett vs. Fandango match... [C]
Powell's POV: Unfortunately, there is no option for sending Miz out as a guest actor in another bad WWE Studios production.
[Q7] After the break, Jerry Lawler read the poll results - 85 percent guest referee, 10 percent color commentator, five percent for guest ring announcer...
4. Wade Barrett vs. Fandango (w/Summer Rae) with The Miz as guest referee. Cole recalled Barrett referring to Fandango as a ballerina and a waste of skin. Later, Barrett shoved Miz out of his way. Miz got up and caught Barrett with his finisher and counted as Fandango pinned him. Afterward, Miz kicked Fandango in the face and counted because Summer Rae fell on top of him...
Fandango pinned The Miz in 1:45.
Powell's POV: The announcers hyped Miz and Alberto Del Rio vs. Wade Barrett and Big E Langston during the match, so I guess this was done to help set up that match. Lawler had the non-PG comment of the night. As Summer did the splits prior to the match, he said it was times like this when he wishes he was a wrestling ring.
The announces hyped Cena vs. Axel... Backstage, a bearded Shawn Michaels asked John Cena if he was sure he wanted to do this. Cena said he doesn't back down from a challenge. HBK said Triple H doesn't listen to him either. "Reminds me of someone else I know," Cena said. "You." Michaels struggled to find words.... [C]
Powell's POV: Bearded Shawn may have secretly fathered TNA's James Storm many years ago. Let's hope not, as HBK would have been 12 at the time his "son" was born.
Tons of Funk, Cameron, Naomi, The Great Khali, Hornswoggle, and Natalya danced in the ring while 3MB stood at ringside... Footage aired from earlier in the day of 3MB trying to get into a private party. They shoved a cake into Hornswoggle's face. Cole said that footage is from the WWE app. Well, this changes everything about my view of the app coverage!!!...
5. Brodus Clay, Sweet T, The Great Khali (w/Cameron, Naomi, Hornswoggle, Natalya) vs. 3MB. 3MB got the better of Tensai early. No one cared.
[Q8] Tensai punched Heath Slater and tagged Brodus Clay. No one cared. Clay performed a really nice suplex on Slater. No one cared. He splashed Slater in the corner. A few people cared. Later, Khali chopped Slater and Clay followed up with a splash for the win.
After the match, Clay said it was a special night because it's Natalya's birthday. Clay introduced Khali to sing happy birthday. Sweet T looked like he was expecting the mic. Khali sang the happy birthday song. Vince McMahon laughed his ass off wherever he is. No one else cared. They all danced like jackasses to end the horrible segment...
Brodus Clay, Sweet T, The Great Khali beat 3MB in 3:05.
Cole plugged the Bret Hart Appreciation Night ceremony for the app after Raw... A shot aired of Paul Heyman heading to the ring for his interview with Chris Jericho.... [C]
Powell's POV: I'd like to cast my vote for WWE putting anything involving 3MB, Tons of Funk, Great Khali, and Hornswoggle on the app in favor of airing segments like Bret Hart Appreciation Night on Raw rather than on the app.
A John Cena narrated video focussed on WWE's work with the troops via the Tribute to the Troops shows...
Chris Jericho made his entrance for The Highlight Reel and introduced Paul Heyman as his guest. Jericho said Heyman has been called many things from a genius to a walrus during his career. Jericho said Heyman has always had a knack for aligning himself with tremendous talent. Heyman said he doesn't just align, he discovers and develops great talent.
Heyman cited Jericho as an example of a talent he discovered and developed. He took credit for giving Jericho his first big break. "That's true, Paul, you gave me my first break and you still owe me money too," Jericho fired back. Heyman said he waved his fee to appear on the Highlight Reel to make up for it.
Heyman turned the focus to Curtis Axel and his match with John Cena. Jericho said he has been a fan of Axel for a long time and feels he has potential. However, Jericho said he wanted to talk about Heyman's other client. Heyman blurted out a loud Brock Lesnar and started to sing his praises.
[Q9] "Paul, would you please shut the hell up?" said Jericho. He said he doesn't want to talk about Axel or what Lesnar is doing on his spring break. Jericho said he wants to talk about the other client C.M. Punk. Jericho noted that Punk has been absent from Raw in six weeks. Footage aired of Punk walking off Raw last month.
Jericho noted that Heyman was wearing the same suit in the video that he was during this segment and he said he hoped he had it washed or dry cleaned. Jericho said Heyman had the same look on his face as when Punk made the announcement, meaning he shocked and surprised him along with the rest of the world.
Heyman said he was happy that Jericho brought it up "because this is my favorite suit." Funny. The fans chanted walrus. Jericho pushed for more by simply saying "And?" Heyman said he dominated WWE like no other champion before him and he didn't have to say stupid things like best there is, best there was, and best there ever will be.
Jericho went into Bob Loblaw mode and then demanded to know where Punk is. Heyman said he and his client will have an announcement on Raw regarding the return of the best in the world. Jericho said Punk can't sit home for six weeks and still be refereed to as the best in the world.
Heyman said he has a client in Chicago who would disagree. Jericho acted surprised that Punk was watching and mockingly said hello to him. Jericho noted that the next WWE pay-per-view is also in Chicago. He once again stated that Punk can't be referred to as best in the world for taking his ball and going home. Jericho said there were just as many Jericholics in Calgary who would say he is the best.
Heyman cut him off before he could finish the line. Heyman said it's not Jericho's to say and it's not his right to claim that title. Jericho said Punk can't claim it either unless he wants to go to WWE Payback to face him one-on-one. Heyman said Jericho doesn't get to dictate the terms to he and Punk.
Jericho encouraged the fans to join him in saying that he is the best in the world at what he does. A loud Y2J chant broke out. Heyman said he guesses that's called pulling his Punk card. Heyman said Jericho wants a match against Punk in Chicago at Payback. "On behalf of my client, C.M. Punk, I accept," Heyman said. Heyman offered his hand and Jericho shook it. Jericho pulled Heyman in close. "And tell Punk after Payback he will never, ever be the same again"...
The announcers hyped Cena vs. Axel... [C]
Powell's POV: Punk was advertised for this week's Raw and next week's Raw at one point. If WWE wants to sell the pay-per-view, they should hold off on having Punk appear on television beforehand. We've definitely been down this road with Punk vs. Jericho before, but they work well together and it's always fun to see Punk work in front of his rabid hometown fans.
The announcers congratulated The Rock on the success of Fast & Furious 871 and noted that it was the third straight movie of his to open No. 1....
[Q10] 6. Kaitlyn and Natalya vs. The Bella Twins. Kaitlyn, who wore an unflattering outfit, sold for the heels and then made the hot tag to Natalya, who applied the Sharpshooter for a big pop. The other Bella broke up the Sharpshooter. Kaitlyn tried to spear the Bella, but she moved and Kaitlyn speared Natalya instead, which led to the pin. The Bellas sang happy birthday to Natalya afterward and called her a loser. She cried...
The Bella Twins beat Kaitlyn and Natalya in 3:40.
Powell's POV: I developed a serious disconnect with Natalya a long time ago. It's hard to care when a character who is constantly abused cries over being picked on in such a childish manner. Natalya's crying because the Bellas mocked her may have set the women's movement back 25 years.
Backstage, Bret Hart told Curtis Axel that he looks like his father. They spoke briefly about the Bret vs. Mr. Perfect feud. Hart told Axel to get Paul Heyman out of his corner. Axel said Bret doesn't know anything about him. He said Heyman is the only one who believed in him. He told Bret to enjoy his appreciation night while he defeats the WWE Champion... [C]
A vignette aired for NXT wrestler Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt family...
Powell's POV: Creepy and twisted. Here's hoping we get more of that and zero Duck Dynasty inspired nonsense. Wyatt's real name is Windham Rotunda and he worked previously in WWE as Husky Harris.
7. Randy Orton and Sheamus vs. Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow.
[Q11] Lawler mocked Cody's tan and said it was the same color as Sheamus's hair. Ouch. A fan held up a "Where's Christian?" sign in the crowd. The heels worked over Shamus heading into the break. [C]
Powell's POV: This appears to be another step toward the Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton and Sheamus feud. I'm curious to see where that leaves Kane and Daniel Bryan, and whether Orton eventually turns on Sheamus.
After the break, Orton set up for the RKO on Sandow, but Cody pulled his partner from the ring. Orton ended up being run into the ring post. Footage aired from the app of Paul Heyman giving Curtis Axel a pep talk. The heels got a couple of two counts on Orton that no one took seriously.
Orton eventually made the hot tag to Sheamus, but he ate a Beautiful Disaster kick from Cody and Sandow scored a two count. Orton whipped Cody into the timekeepers area. Sheamus hit White Noise on Sandow. Sheamus followed up with a Brogue Kick for the win...
Powell's POV: A good tag match that would have seemed better if viewers had not been conditioned to view Rhodes Scholars as jokes. Heck, they've shown us there's parity between Rhodes Scholars and Tons of Funk. Rhodes Scholars really should have had a tag title run by now, but instead they feel like a main roster enhancement team, which is a real shame.
[Q12] The announcers hyped John Cena vs. Curtis Axel for after the break... [C] An ad for Smackdown hyped Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton...
Powell's POV: Oh, shit. No title mentioned. Here's hoping this match is being booked to show us that this title reign is different in that the U.S. Champion doesn't automatically lose to Orton, Sheamus, or a World Champion in a champion vs. champion match.
The announcers hyped the WWE Payback pay-per-view. Cole said Cena vs. Ryback will meet in the fourth Three Stages of Hell match. Oddly enough, they did not mention the C.M. Punk vs. Chris Jericho match...
8. WWE Champion John Cena vs. Curtis Axel (w/Paul Heyman) in a non-title match. Axel's entrance theme has changed already. There didn't seem to be any traces of the Mr. Perfect theme. Axel grabbed a headlock early on. Cena came back with an arm drag. Axel fled to ringside heading into the break. [C]
Axel ran Cena into the ring steps after the break. Axel suplexed Cena and covered him for a throwaway two count. Axel worked on Cena's left arm.
[Overrun] Cena slowly got to his feet. Axel missed with a clothesline, but Axel came right back with a shot to the back of the head that put Cena down again. There were dueling chants for Cena. Cena came back with his signature offense, including the Five Knuckle Shuffle.
Cena went for the Attitude Adjustment, but Axel slipped out and caught Cena with a dropkick. Later, Axel caught Cena with a snap mare and followed up with a kick for a two count. Cena came back with an STF and AA attempt, but Axel avoided it and caught Cena with the PerfectPlex for a two count.
Axel missed a move in the corner and then Cena caught him with a clothesline. An ambulance siren could be heard. An ambulance was driven inside the arena. Cena left the ring and approached the ambulance while the referee counted him out.
Curtis Axel defeated John Cena by count out.
Cena opened the doors of the ambulance and couldn't find Ryback. Suddenly, Ryback attacked him from behind. The fans chanted Goldberg. Bret Hart just flinched. Cena dodged Ryback's clothesline, then Ryback avoided the Attitude Adjustment and headed backstage. In the ring, Curtis Axel was named the winner. He held up two fingers to boast that he was 2-0 to close the show...
Powell's POV: I don't know how much a non-finish with Triple H and a count out win over John Cena really does for Curtis Axel, but obviously it beats losing to both men. If nothing else, it makes viewers want to see him get beat. I haven't seen anything over the last two weeks to make me think this guy is destined for greatness. I'm still not convinced he has the It factor to be truly special, but I am still enjoying the ride to wherever they are going with him.
Overall, a flat show. It's probably what it should have been on a holiday edition. It was one of those shows where nothing really happened that those who missed the show will be kicking themselves over. I will have more to say about the show in Dot Net Members' audio later tonight or on Tuesday morning. Join us on the members' version of the website and app via the Dot Net Members' Signup Page.
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