In six days, WWE presents Battleground on pay per view. On that night, a WWE Champion will be decided, as the title is presently in abeyance. Will it be Randy Orton, or will it be Daniel Bryan? Or, will it be no one and it's settled at Hell in a Cell later in October?
Also, The Rhodes family will be making an appearance tonight. Last week, Cody and Goldust attacked The Shield from behind as they prepared for the eleven on three handicap match. Triple H reached out and made a request for them to appear to present a "business proposal" to them. What does this entail?
Show Open, Live from the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, MS
Cole welcomes us and right out the gate it's CM Punk's music. He comes out to a huge reaction. Cole shills the Komen Foundation charity that WWE will be supporting throughout October as Punk makes his entrance. Punk pumps the crowd as Cole tells us Punk will be facing Ryback at Battleground on Sunday. We get a video recap of the attack by Ryback and Curtis Axel on Punk last Monday.
Punk talks about people thinking Raw is the best when its being unpredictable. He says that sometimes predictablilty is okay though. He says it was predictable that he would get beat up in his hometown, that Heyman would brag about beating him, and that Ryback and Axel would attack him when he went after Heyman.
Punk says the story ends when he makes Curtis Axel go to sleep. It ends when he shows Ryback what happens to bullies. It ends when he gets his hands on Heyman and looks him in his beady little eyes. He pauses and says "If you think Ryback sucks, let the world know it." and a "Ryback sucks" chant gets going. He says the story ends when Heyman realizes there's no one there to save him.
Punk says that might happen on Sunday at Battleground. It might happen next week on Raw. It might even happen tonight at Raw. He says he will put Heyman out of his misery.
Brad Maddox appears and asks Punk to take it easy. Punk mocks him for not having an entrance song. Maddox says he knows what it feels like to want to fight like a man. He says he can understand Punk was embarrassed last week and wants to have the people forget that. He says that Punk getting his hands on Heyman and Ryback right now is not best for business.
He reminds Punk he is the GM of Raw and would give him a match tonight if he wants it. Punk says he's looking for an outlet to his aggression and starts to address the matter further, but Big E. Langston's music hits. He walks to the ring.
Big E says simply "You say you're looking for aggression? I'm your man." and he attacks Punk. He beats him a bit, then hits several shoulder blocks in the corner. Punk counters and Big E hits the corner hard. Maddox calls for an official, and this will be our first match after the break.
The live crowd is popping for this, but it feels like a bit of a lukewarm start. Langston's sudden insertion feels random.
Match #1 - CM Punk vs. Big E. Langston
Out of break, we watch Big E eat the ring post outside the ring then take a couple kicks from Punk. Punk throws him in then hits a cross body block. Punk tries a clothesline on the charge but takes a one-arm slam from Langston.
Langston gets a run of offense in. He hits a splash for two, then follows with a belly to belly suplex for two. The fans rally behind Punk a bit as he gets his hope spots in. He hits a leg lariat that sets up his next flurry.
Late, Punk gets Langston down with a spinning neckbreaker. He goes up top and hits his big Macho Elbow then calls for the GTS. He gets the big man up and hits it for the win. Afterward, the announcers recap it, with JBL saying that Heyman has Ryback watching this and going over it all week.
They tried to hype Punk getting Ryback up for the GTS, but he's done it before. The match was fine, but Langston felt random and likely was just out there to lose to Punk randomly like this.
Punk pumps the crowd as Cole questions whether Punk can get Ryback up the same way. He sells the face to face encounter between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan later.
They move into a sell for the Rhodes "Family Summit", recapping the initial story that started this off. The summit will be later.
Match #2 - Fandango (w/Summer Rae) vs. Kofi Kingston
Fandango dances to the ring as Cole tells us that WWE will donate 20% of their profits to Komen for the Cure in support of breast cancer research. JBL says Fandango is Usher crossed with Randy Coture. What? Kingston gets a nice reaction from the live crowd. They highlight the Trouble in Paradise kick on YouTube.
After some standard back and forth, Kofi hits some of his signature offense. Fandango goes up top for the leg drop, but Kofi rolls out of the way. He nails Fandango with the Trouble in Paradise kick to grab the win.
After the match, the Wyatts' entrance cuts in. Kofi grabs a chair and waits for him in the ring, but he doesn't go past the entrance. Bray holds the lantern and cuts a promo. He wonders about the games evil men play, and asks when the nightmare will end. He says it will only end when one, by one, by one they all fall. "Follow the buzzards." he closes.
The match was pretty meaningless, and the promo didn't have much to do with what went on in the ring. That said it seems that the Wyatts have some sense of direction with the "all will fall" but it isn't clear at the moment.
Brie and Nikki Bella are talking about Brie's title shot on Sunday. Randy Orton walks up, and he says that congratulations are in order for her engagement to Daniel Bryan. He asks Brie when the big date is but she doesn't respond. He tells her that she should schedule the wedding sooner than later, because if it happens after Sunday, Daniel Bryan won't be able to walk.
Renee Young interviews Paul Heyman. She asks him about what Punk said earlier. Heyman says it must be hard to watch a man descend into insanity. He calls Punk a nobody who became a Paul Heyman guy who eventually became WWE Champion who forgot what made THEM best in the world.
Renee asks about Ryback and Curtis Axel hiding around corners and asks if Heyman is planning another trap. Heyman laughs and says that he has a huge night planned "front and center" and says if Punk wants to break it up he should be a man and try.
This was a good promo that didn't include a random wrestler showing up for a match.
We get hype for Los Matadores, and they're next.
Match #3 - Los Matadores vs. 3MB (Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal, w/Drew McIntyre at ringside)
The Matadors do a bullfighting style entrance at the ramp, complete with someone posing as a bull. What the hell is this?
Pretty standard tag match. JBL is having a love affair with the midget-sized bull. In the end, the pair hit a combination slam on Slater to get the win. The bull dances back and forth on the ropes as the Matadores celebrate their first win.
I've got nothing. Truly.
They recap Big Show knocking out Dusty Rhodes on Raw a couple weeks ago. The "Family Summit' segment is up next.
We get an ad featuring various superstars hyping the Susan Komen foundation charity raising for the month of October. The announcers also hype up the cause and Cole gives a website address for the cause.
Family Summit Segment:
Justin Roberts introduces Triple H and Stephanie, who come out holding hands to Triple H's "King of Kings" theme. Cole recaps that this is to offer a lucrative business opportunity to the Rhodes family. Triple H calls out the Rhodes family, saying that he guarantees their safety afforded to all WWE superstars. After a momentary pause, Dusty's "American Dream" theme hits and the three men come out.
Stephanie welcomes them, and points out that this is the first time that she has seen Cody since the wedding. She congratulates him and asks if he got the gift card from Bed Bath and Beyond. Triple H questions why the sour looks.
He says that this has to be opportunity number four now. He recalls that Cody had a chance to face Randy Orton and keep his job, but failed. He say that Goldust had a chance to win Cody's job back, but he failed like he always does. Triple H says that opportunity #3 was when Dusty came back a couple weeks ago. He just had to make a choice, but Dusty made it about Dusty as he always does and got knocked out by the Big Show.
Stephanie makes the proposal. She says that Cody and Goldust can both get jobs if they beat the tag team champions - Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns - on Sunday at Battleground. Triple H says there's always a "but" and says that if the Rhodes boys lose, Dusty will lose his job at the Development Center and the Rhodes boys will never get a shot in WWE again.
Dusty grabs the mic and says that Hunter likes to get in people's faces. He gets right up to Hunter and stares at him. Stephanie puts her hand up and Dusty shoves it away. Hunter tells him to not cross a line. Dusty says he will cross it, because if he gets to be in his boys' corner he will be Hunter's huckleberry all night long. Stephanie says they have a deal. She says that Dusty looks like he's looking for a fight, and he might get one.
The Rhodes' go to leave the ring, but Goldust turns back. He sees Roman Reigns and takes a spear. The Shield attack the three of them, putting the boots (albeit lightly) to Dusty and Goldust. They focus on beating Cody down and hitting him with the Triple Powerbomb. They pose over Dusty as the segment ends.
This was a good segment. Booking 101 says the Rhodes boys win on Sunday, but there's always that little bit of doubt. The fans might just melt down if Dusty hits that Bionic Elbow.
Match #4 - R-Truth vs. Curtis Axel (w/Paul Heyman)
Truth is rapping his way to the ring as we come out of break. JBL sings along and gets told to shut up. Axel is a bit talkative with the fans as he comes to the ring. Cole shills Modern Family on USA.
Late in this one, CM Punk's music hits. Axel looks up the ramp and Heyman sells shock. The music plays, but Punk doesn't appear. Truth hits his finisher to grab the win. Truth celebrates while Heyman sort of smirks with this feeling that he knew what was going to happen.
We see the Bellas walking toward the ring and Brie is up next.
It's not that this show is bad, but it's not making me think Battleground is a must-see PPV event.
They pass along that Trish Stratus and her husband had their child earlier in the day. It's a baby boy named Maximus.
The announcers then congratulate Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella on their engagement. They feed it to a video package documenting their relationship.
Match #5 - Alicia Fox vs. Brie Bella (w/Nikki Bella)
Alicia is in the ring and Brie makes her entrance. They talk about her match against AJ on Sunday for the Divas Championship. They rewind the segment earlier when Randy Orton delivered a "chilling message" to her about Sunday. Cole spins it that it could be very memorable for both of them if they both win titles.
Alicia gets a lot of offense in this one. Eventually, Brie slaps her and hits a facebuster to get the win. The Bellas celebrate in the ring afterward and motion "L" at Alicia.
There couldn't be a less reaction for this match if the arena was empty. That's not a good thing for Brie as a face going forward.
They hype up Ziggler and The Uso Brothers to face the Shield later in the show.
Axel paces with his belt and Heyman tries to calm him down. Heyman says Axel is looking at this wrong. He says that Punk thinks he has them where he wants them, but it was theatrics and Punk is out of his league. Ryback walks into the frame and says no one should worry. Heyman tells Ryback to go eat, and tells Axel he will do what he should have done the night Ryback spared him from Punk. He says he's going to propose and Axel looks confused.
I wonder if Mississippi is fond of this?
We get a recap of Big Show knocking out Miz last week.
Renee Young interviews Big Show. They show Triple H making fun of him on Smackdown. She asks Big Show if he's about to snap. Show says his financial situation is being held over his head like the Sword of Damacles. Show says everyone wants him to do the right thing, but their neck isn't on the line. He says he's being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils and no one can do that.
Show laments having to knock out Dusty Rhodes. He says he couldn't help Dusty when he was attacked by the Shield, and now he can't look the man he idolized in the eye because of all that has happened. He says he can't take it anymore, and he won't. Young asks him what that means and Show says he's going to knock out Triple H.
That was a good promo. I doubt they hit Triple H with the punch tonight, but they can't do this too many times or fans just won't care if he flakes out every single time.
R-Truth is begging for an Intercontinental Title shot with Brad Maddox. Big Show enters and demands to know where Triple H is. He slams Maddox up against the wall and tells Maddox to go find Triple H and he will wait for him
Match #6 - Zack Ryder vs. Alberto Del Rio
Ryder is in the ring as Del Rio makes his entrance. The announcer hypes up his match with Rob Van Dam and says that the match will be fought under hardcore rules.
Ryder gets in a lot of offense in this one. Del Rio throws Ryder into the barrier at one point, but Ryder comes back with the Broski Boot. He tries the Rough Ryder, but Del Rio counters to a German suplex. In the end, he locks on the Cross Arm Breaker to get the win. He kicks Ryder but no full-on attack.
I was pretty shocked by how much Ryder got in here.
Justin Roberts welcomes all cancer survivors and Komen staff in attendance tonight.
Paul Heyman's Proposal:
Ryback and Heyman come to the ring. Heyman says that in addition to being Best in the World, he is also an expert on political science. He says you can't put down insurgents in their own territory, but he did exactly that last week to CM Punk in Chicago, going against his own theory. He feeds it to the recap video from last week.
Heyman credits Punk for his dedication to break his face, but the reason his face was still there smiling for everyone is the big, beautiful man called Ryback. Ryback gets the mic and says he hates bullies more than anything. He says to see Punk take all the wisdom, friendship and sacrifice Heyman made for him, he couldn't let that stand. He rubs Heyman's face and says there's nothing he wouldn't do for Paul.
Heyman tells Ryback he's glad he feels that way. Heyman says 2013 is a progressive era and it's time that people came out with their real feelings. He says he wants more between them than just superstar and advocate. Heyman says that since Ryback saved him he felt more like a man and needs to say something. The fans chant "get a room" and Heyman derides them for not being progressive.
Heyman says he is looking for a commitment to Ryback "from opening match to main event, in sickness and in health, til death do they part." He says he wants to make an honest man out of Ryback and Heyman gets down on one knee. The crowd eats that up. They chant "no" at him but Heyman makes his proposal to the big man to become a Paul Heyman guy. The fans continue to chant no.
CM Punk's music hits. Ryback and Heyman stare up the ramp, and Heyman surveys the crowd. Punk makes his run through the timekeeper area. He jumps over the barrier, and it looks like he lands awkwardly. He grabs his leg, selling a knee injury. The trainer tends to him and the crowd falls hush.
He tries to get in the ring, but falls back down. The trainer talks to him again, and Punk slyly grabs a kendo stick from under the ring. He takes Heyman out low with it, then hits Ryback. Punk is fine!
He beats Ryback with the stick, then Axel when he charges the ring. Heyman exits, as does Ryback. Axel takes some more abuse before getting laid out with the GTS. Punk bounces on the "bad knee" and taunts Ryback as he stares from the stage. Punk motions the GTS and says "it's naptime big man!"
That sell was spot on perfect! Great work by Punk there. Had the trainer gone over quicker it would have helped a little more, but none the less, very good stuff. This is the first thing tonight that really makes me feel like ordering the PPV.
Match #7 - Dolph Ziggler and The Usos vs. The Shield
The Shield gets no televised entrance. As the Usos get their entrance, they hype the YouTube channel and answer the question as to who is the better dancer of the pair.
Things break down quickly in the early going. The Shield gets dumped out to the floor and the Usos hit suicide dives going into the break. Out of commercial, the Shield is controlling Jimmy Uso.
Dolph gets the hot tag, and the Usos go to work. They take out the tag champions. Dolph sets up and starts his elbow drops on Ambrose. Reigns gets a blind tag as things break down. Rollins hits a kick on one of the Usos then takes the Zig Zag from Ziggler. Reigns is legal though and hits a big spear on Ziggler for the win.
The match was fine, but we've seen it a lot. That strong win points to the Rhodes' winning on Sunday.
Show is still pacing. He takes his jacket off and tie and rolls up his sleeves. Cole asks if he will knock out Triple H tonight.
I bet Triple H left the building...
Out of break, Show is still pacing. Officers walk in and one speaks up, asking if Show has been making threats. Stephanie walks in and vouches for him, saying that Show has been under a lot of pressure lately at work and at home. She says there's a big mortgage payment due and that is causing him stress as well. She insults him one more time by saying that his wife says he's not measuring up either. She says the understands the need for the officers but she will vouch for him and they can leave.
Show sits down in frustration, then spots the "Thy Kingdom Come" poster on the wall. He punches it in frustration and leaves the office. King says this got way too personal.
Renee Young interviews RVD. He says he should show how awesome he is. They roll a YouTube top ten hardcore moments. RVD credits Del Rio as a great champion, but he has no idea what a hardcore match is like. He says Del Rio will udnerstand what it means after Sunday, but it's the same in every language. Rob. Van. Dam.
The video inside that promo did more for the match than RVD's promo. It wasn't bad, but it was formula.
Hornswoggle, Khali, and Santino Marella are heading to the ring for their match.
Match #8 - Santino Marella (w/Hornswoggle and Great Khali) vs. Antonio Cesaro (w/Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger)
Colter cuts a short promo, saying that Mississippi is like a third world country. He says that only people who truly mean it can say "We the People." and they say it before the other three make their entrance.
They recap Cesaro hitting the big spin on Titus O'Neil on Smackdown. After some back and forth, Cesaro hits the big spin on Santino. The crowd politely applauds it. Santino uses a hip-lock takedown into a pin for the win. The face team celebrates at ringside while the Real Americans sell frustration in the ring.
Basic comedy stuff here. Please use Cesaro better, WWE.
Cole hypes up the face to face segment with Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton, next.
Jerry Lawler is in the ring. He first offers congratulations to Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella for their engagement and shows a still shot from E! Online. The full story will come out on Total Divas in November. Lawler introduces Daniel Bryan as Cole says the title is in abeyance then recaps his history of winning at SummerSlam then having the title taken after Night of Champions after controversy. Lawler introduces Randy Orton to some definite female squeals.
Lawler emphasizes this is a verbal confrontation only, and the physicality will be reserved for Sunday. He says that Triple H made a controversial choice to strip Bryan of the title and hold it up. Orton interrupts and says that at first he was upset at the decision but it actually inspired him.
Orton says that Triple H holding the title up inspired him to stop thinking about what the idiot fans think and truly revert to being the Viper again. Orton puts himself over as genetically superior to Bryan. He says he will win the WWE Championship over the "small, weak, pathetic, B-plus goat-faced troll." King calls it strong words and asks for Bryan's response.
Bryan laughs and calls out Orton's promo. He says he's a pretty good talker, then calls it 'monotone and rehearsed' and as if Orton practiced in front of a mirror before he came out but otherwise it was an A-plus performance. He asks why Orton needed Triple H to inspire him.
He says it might be because Orton was marketable, or it might be because Orton wouldn't reach his full potential without it. Bryan says he has never needed anyone to motivate him and he would prove it this Sunday when he beats Orton to become the WWE Champion. He leads a "YES!" chant.
Orton screams "NO" and yells at the fans to shut up. He says that just because the fans chant "that one syllable word" doesn't mean Bryan will win. He admits Bryan is on a roll right now, and circles back to the engagement. He asks if something's wrong with Brie that she would settle for a troll like Bryan. He says one day that Brie will realize she's not sleeping with a strong, virile champion like him, but instead she's sleeping with a barnyard animal.
Bryan has had enough and attacks. He gets the better of Orton in the early moments, clotheslining him out of the ring and bouncing him off the security railing. Orton takes control, throwing him into the steps, the ring post, and hitting a front suplex onto the security railing. He sets up for the elevated DDT but Brie Bella runs out for the distraction. He hits it anyhow and walks away momentarily.
Orton comes back and scares Brie off then tears apart the announce position. Brie screams at him to stop and he doesn't. He sets Bryan up for the RKO on the announce table and hits it. Brie screams at him to leave Bryan alone as officials ward him off. Orton hobbles off and stretches his leg on the apron as the show ends.
The show finishes off hot, but I doubt it was enough to sell this pay per view event. This feels pretty flat heading into Sunday. I think they perhaps made a mistake - or telegraphed a finish - by focusing around the personal aspect of this situation (Brie Bella getting engaged to Bryan) rather than the title. This could point to the title situation NOT being resolved on Sunday and heading to Hell in a Cell for the blow-off.
I'm pretty sure somehow Brie gets involved on Sunday. The reaction she got tonight was so quiet, that I'm not sure this is the right thing. She likely won't turn on Bryan, but I suppose anything else is on the table at this point.
If this were a show a couple weeks out from a pay per view, I would say it was a good build-up show. But Battleground is Sunday. The show was overall a decent, watchable show. But it just wasn't what WWE needs going into a pay per view. I hope we get some good sell on Smackdown. Right now, the only thing I care about is CM Punk and Ryback, and it was built very well. Everything else seems to be...well...in abeyance.
I'll have more to say about this show tomorrow in Raw Afterthoughts. Thanks for watching along tonight. Be sure to comment here, and join in the conversation on Twitter too!