Triple H’s long-running vendetta against The Shield seems to have been nothing but a curse for the embattled COO of the McMahon empire. Despite a (decisive) second straight loss to The Hounds of Justice at WWE Payback, The King of Kings kicked off Raw hoping the third time would be the charm. Insisting, yet again, that the fight was not over until he deemed it so, The Game was on the verge of making a rubber match between the two factions when Batista decided to air his grievances.
Batista – feeling, no doubt, a little blue that his destiny took an unexpected left turn following his comeback – demanded he be given what was rightfully his by virtue of the Royal Rumble Match victory: A WWE World Heavyweight Championship opportunity against Daniel Bryan. The Game instead stressed that The Animal stick to the “plan” and the “bigger picture,” but Batista chose instead to change the rules. He quit, and as the WWE Universe finally gave him his ovation, The Game was – for the first time in a long time – left to deal with it
It was a good news/bad news situation for WWE’s two foreign brawlers at WWE Payback; even though Bad News Barrett retained his Intercontinental Championship against Rob Van Dam, Cesaro lost his bid for a second U.S. Title win thanks to an out-of-nowhere small package from Sheamus that left The King of Swing twitching in fury at ringside. And he wasn’t done with the Irishman by a long shot; Cesaro jumped the gun and mauled Sheamus the moment the bell rang, instigating a brawl that picked up where the previous night’s contest left off.
Barrett had to tag in to staunch Sheamus’ onslaught and evened the odds with a couple of ferocious clotheslines and boots to a fresh RVD. The fearsome foursome traded shots for the better part of twenty minutes until Sheamus tagged in and began to roll. Cesaro, having had enough of the Celt for the time being, bid Barrett a heartfelt au revoir and left him to the mercy of a Brogue Kick and – payback for RVD – Five-Star Frog Splash combo.
Damien Sandow, affecting one of his many multiple personalities, adopted the garb of Indiana Pacers star Lance Stephenson in his latest attempt to endear (maybe?) himself to the WWE Universe. Of course, the Pacers faithful (Chris Copeland included) didn’t take too kindly to the facsimile, and Big Show wasn’t in any mood to tolerate The Enlightened One’s posturing either. In fact, the ensuing face-off between the two ended much as the last one did: With a big KO Punch right to Sandow’s bearded cheek. At least he didn’t blow into his ear.
Looks like Kofi listened to Bo Dallas’ advice after all: The inspirational one implored the former U.S. Champion to Bo-lieve after his beating at Kane’s hands and he would return to action, and indeed, Kofi found himself across the ring from the NXT veteran once again for a one-on-one match. The Boom Squad General seemed to have done some scouting to boot; he was thoroughly prepared for Dallas’ unique blend of encouragement and misdirection and had an answer for almost everything the former NXT Champion threw at him. Bo was willing to take a few licks of his own as well, and he ate a couple of top-rope strikes from Kofi before finally knocking Kingston off the ropes as he was setting up for the third, immediately pouncing with the running Bo-dog for an un-Bo-lieveable win.
Payback truly was a you-know-what for Stephanie McMahon at Payback; Brie Bella turned the tables on one of WWE’s Principal Owners by taking control of Stephanie’s impossible ultimatum to Daniel Bryan – rather than allow Bryan to choose between the title and Brie losing her job, the Bella Twin quit and slapped Stephanie square across the face. The boss lady was, of course, not amused by any of this, and issued a final ultimatum to Bryan as a result: He must defend the title against Kane in a Stretcher Match at Money in the Bank, or the title would be stripped and put up for grabs in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.
The victorious John Cena chose this time to make his presence known, and floated the idea that perhaps Stephanie's vendetta has clouded her judgment and compromised her ability to run WWE (what he actually said was, "you suck"). Unfortunately for Cena, regardless of any impromptu evaluations, Stephanie does have one card up her sleeve at all times: Kane himself, who emerged from the fire at her command to face the Cenation leader one-on-one.
And he didn’t even have to embrace the hate to do it. Granted, John Cena was already in touch with his darker side after a months-long psychological war with Bray Wyatt, so facing off against his masked tormentor of yesteryear was right in the Cenation’s current wheelhouse. Alas, Cena’s Last Man Standing clash with Wyatt also left him too weak to finish Kane off when the opportunity was ripe, and The Devil’s Favorite Demon had no qualms with sacrificing a DQ loss for the sake of beating Cena within an inch of unconsciousness. Cena got away in one piece by hauling the steel steps into the demon’s face, but the escape was a narrow one at best. Next time he might not be so lucky.
Oh, the humanity: Hornswoggle suffered the greatest indignity yet in the yearlong dance between Los Matadores and 3MB when he lost a Mask vs. Hair Match to El Torito and was forced to have his flowing locks shorn – sloppily – by the bovine brawler as a result. ‘Swoggle – sporting a giant Afro wig – seemed to have recovered from the shaving, but Los Matadores exposed his dirty secret by ripping the rug off and exposing his still half-shaved head. Hornswoggle’s ensuing freak-out left Heath Slater distracted and prone to – ¡olé! – a roll-up for a Matadores win.
The sins of the sister came back to haunt Nikki Bella in a big way, who paid for Brie’s insubordination by facing two of the most unpredictable Divas in the division: Alicia Fox (she of the meltdowns) and Aksana (she of the knees to the face). What ensued was something of a railroading against the former Divas Champion; Nikki only got a few moves in before "Foxsana" kicked into second gear; the former scoring the pinfall with a scissor kick and the latter administering some well-timed knees during a post-match beating.
Enough about lemons, time to make lemonade. As Adam Rose’s rivalry with Jack Swagger entered its latest chapter, the NXT veteran showed he’s more than just a guy with a bunny: He’s a man with a plan. First, Rose set about poking the bearlike Swagger into a rage, pestering him with slaps on the bottom that didn’t get in Swagger’s head so much as make him see red. The former World Heavyweight Champion teed off on the party animal for minutes on end, but chants of Rose’s theme song from the WWE Universe spurred him quickly into action. Rose unleashed an array of unique offense on Swagger, who had no answer readily available, and finally pounced with his signature Party Foul to bring the night to an end.
Bray Wyatt may have fallen in a Last Man Standing Match against John Cena, but happily his disciples were more than ready to take up his sword. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan – with Wyatt’s rocking chair symbolically wobbling at ringside – formed ranks against The Usos in a kind of trial-by-combat for the duo, whose clash with the Samoan brothers during the Last Man Standing bout was almost a match in itself.
And The Eater of Worlds, wherever he is, had to be pleased with what he saw. The brothers did have the Wyatts reeling after some big dives that sent the big men tumbling, true. But Harper & Rowan didn’t stay on their sizable heels for too long; Harper blocked a Superfly Splash and a (surprisingly) quick tag from Rowan opened the door for a high-collar slam to Jimmy Uso that sealed the deal. The sheep has fangs.
Two years ago, Dolph Ziggler set the WWE Universe ablaze with a rousing Money in the Bank victory. It appears he will have to wait a little while longer to replicate the feat, courtesy of the very same man he cashed that contract in on: Alberto Del Rio. Ziggler started the match with all the energy of a jet in liftoff, though Del Rio rebounded quickly and – spurred into fury by a cascade of “LET’S GO ZIGG-LER” chants – took the fight straight to his old rival.
The Showoff didn’t go quite so quickly, though, splattering Del Rio with a top-rope facebuster and (finally) dodging a superkick that would have beat the bleach out of his hair. Dolph was just a hair too quick to follow-up that escape, though, and Del Rio locked in the Cross Armbreaker to punch his ticket to Boston. In other words, Alberto Del Rio finds himself, once again, with money within his reach. Just the way he likes it.
Is Cody Rhodes the weak link of The Brotherhood? Perhaps not. “The Prince” gave his brother Goldust leave to find a new tag-team partner in the midst of his current slump, and even though The Bizarre One snagged a great replacement in Sin Cara, the odd couple wasn’t enough to make the Rhodes’ snarky rivals, RybAxel, eat their words. The former Intercontinental Champion did gel surprisingly well with the International Icon; their unorthodox styles made a formidable challenge for the surging duo of former Paul Heyman Guys.
But as cold as Cody’s been, RybAxel are just as hot: Goldust & Sin Cara’s inexperience as a team showed and RybAxel was able to capitalize; “The Big Guy” shoved Goldust through the ropes and Axel dodged Sin Cara’s senton before planting him into the mat for the 1-2-3.
Rusev, it appears, has done Mother Russia proud. Not only has The Super Athlete demolished all who have come before him, but he has now officially been named a Hero of the Russian Federation. Flanked by three representatives of the motherland and, as ever, Lana, The Bulgarian Brute withstood the WWE Universe’s howling chants of “U-S-A” to receive his Golden Star Medal, as a shower of confetti rained around him and the Russian national anthem blared over the loudspeakers. Somewhere, Nikolai Volkoff is smiling.
The Hounds of Justice never looked stronger than they did at Payback, but the foundation of the three “brothers” was shattered with the swing of a chair and a deal with the devil. Triple H, accompanying Randy Orton with sledgehammer in hand for his match against Roman Reigns, vowed to reveal “Plan B” for his war on The Shield, but rather than a well-timed swing of the hammer, it turned out to be Seth Rollins, who swung a steel chair into his fellow Hounds and left Reigns prone for yet another symbolic stripping and beating by The Apex Predator. Call it the evolution of Evolution, call it the crack in The Shield. Either way, the war has just begun.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Rob Van Dam & Sheamus defeated Bad News Barrett & Cesaro (w/ Paul Heyman) (13:11)
- Bo Dallas defeated Kofi Kingston (4:04)
- John Cena defeated Kane by DQ (3:10)
- Los Matadores (Diego & Fernando) (w/ El Torito) defeated 3MB (Drew McIntyre & Heath Slater) (1:40)
- Aksana & Alicia Fox defeated Nikki Bella in a Two On One Handicap Match (1:29)
- Adam Rose defeated Jack Swagger (w/ Zeb Colter) (2:58)
- The Wyatt Family (Erick Rowan & Luke Harper) defeated The Usos (Jey & Jimmy Uso) (17:00)
- Alberto Del Rio defeated Dolph Ziggler in a Money In The Bank Qualifying Match (5:49)
- RybAxel (Curtis Axel & Ryback) defeated Goldust & Sin Cara (4:49)
- Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns ended in a no contest (Match never got underway due to Seth Rollins turning on his brethren)
Other on-screen talent