Of all the sights a Superstar wants to see going into Raw, a wild-eyed Ryback driving an ambulance is certainly not among them. And yet that was exactly the display that greeted the WWE Universe in Kansas City when a frothy “Human Wrecking Ball,” fresh off a brutal stalemate with John Cena at Extreme Rules, rolled up like the world’s most jacked EMT, ascended to the top the ambulance and issued an ominous message to The Champ: an Ambulance Match challenge for the WWE Title at WWE Payback. And while The Champ pondered his options, Ryback issued Cena yet another warning: Cena's journey would not end in the ICU, but in the morgue.
The Miz and Chris Jericho were riding high coming out of Extreme Rules, and with the sky looking like the limit, the two veterans notched another big win in their ledgers Monday night with a tag-team victory over their respective rivals: Fandango and Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett.
Ironically enough, though it was Fandango who dominated most of the match, revving up to his strongest in-ring showing yet against Jericho and only tagging in Barrett after he’d gotten his licks in. Things went south quickly for the brawling Brit, though, when Fandango hopped off the apron to boogie with Sumemr Rae and left Wade to the mercy of his foes. With no help for Barrett in sight, Jericho executed the Codebreaker and Miz completed the alley-oop with a crippling application of the Figure-Four Leglock that left the Englishman no choice but to tap out.
Titus O’Neil might literally have a “Prime Time” future in his cards based on his animated contributions to the Extreme Rules Pre-and Post-Show panels, but his questionable comments about Sheamus’ toughness came back to haunt him on Monday Night Raw. “The Big Deal’s” confidence was understandably high as he went into the bout against The Celtic Warrior, but the Strap Match hero of WWE’s extreme showcase stood tall yet again.
Titus backed up his tough talk and kept the bout physical, using his uncanny strength to keep Sheamus on the defensive and nearly finishing the Irishman off with some help from Darren Young. Despite O'Neil's tough-as-nails showing, Sheamus pulled ahead at the moment of truth, letting loose with White Noise and a Brogue Kick to the titanic talking head for the win.
The rumor bees have been a-buzzing all day about a prospective third client joining Paul Heyman’s unsavory stable, and for once the whispers yielded pay dirt and not simply fool’s gold. With the WWE Universe riled up, the mad scientist himself strutted into Kansas City high off Brock Lesnar’s brutal win over Triple H at Extreme Rules and ready to introduce his latest dangerous ally: Curtis Axel.
Formerly known as Michael McGillicutty, Heyman swore to re-brand the onetime WWE Tag Team Champion in the "perfect" mold of his father Curt Hennig and grandfather, Larry “The Axe” Hennig, and give him an opportunity to carve out his own legend in their honor. The mad scientist was moments into his grand unveiling when Triple H crashed the party, a dire sign for the ECW founder if there ever was one. Before The King of Kings could put hands on his longtime rival, though, Axel got in Triple H’s face and caught a twofold response: A stiff right hand, and a challenge from The Game to a match later in the night.
Alberto Del Rio survived an “I Quit” Match and punched his ticket to a World Heavyweight Title Match against Dolph Ziggler, but before The Pride of Mexico gets his hands on The Showoff, he had to go through the champ’s heavy, Big E Langston, in Kansas City. If the contest’s outcome was any indication, The Essence of Excellence is in for a rough road back to the World Title.
Del Rio had plied his ruthless Cross Armbreaker early and often to the big man, but Langston used his strength to simply power out of the maneuver each time. The Pride of Mexico compensated with a stick-and-move offense to soften up Big E before setting up for the hold again, and that’s when AJ Lee made her move, rolling Del Rio’s spittoon across the canvas to distract the referee. With the official otherwise occupied, Langston struck with a thumb to Del Rio’s eye, following the dirty play up with a Big Ending for the 1-2-3.
Make it two-for-two for Team Ziggler after AJ Lee followed up Big E Langston’s monstrous win with another wily defeat of her own, this time over Layla in Divas action. Layla put up a stiff challenge against Dolph Ziggler’s devious better half, doubling AJ over with kicks and leaving her writhing in the corner. But before Layla could seal the deal, AJ roared back and locked in the Black Widow submission for an agonizing tapout win, sealed moments later with a mocking kiss to the defeated Diva.
The road’s looking a lot less bumpy for Cody Rhodes following a rough night on the Extreme Rules Pre-Show. The “Essence of Mustachioed Magnificence” bounced back from his tough loss to The Miz by defeating Zack Ryder on Raw, but it was the ominous, third-party display after the match that truly left the WWE Universe in stunned silence.
The “Woo Woo Kid” had Cody on the ropes with a Broski Boot, but Rhodes roared back and sent Ryder back to the L.I. with a Disaster Kick to the dome. With Ryder down, Ryback once again decided to send John Cena a message at the expense of The Champ’s fist-pumping buddy. The “Human Wrecking Ball” marched to the ring and put Ryder down with a trifecta of the Meathook Clothesline, a powebomb and Shell Shocked, then hauled Ryder’s prone form into the ambulance as his final message to Cena.
Looks like the “fires of justice” aren’t getting snuffed out anytime soon. Despite a mighty effort from Kofi Kingston, Kane and a fighting-mad Daniel Bryan, the troika of dethroned champions fell yet again to the men who took their titles at Extreme Rules, marking the victorious beginning of The Shield’s three-pronged title reign.
The Shield employed their time-honored numbers game strategy throughout the entire match, separating Kofi from his herd and attempting to do the same to Bryan before the submission expert roared into action, leaving Rollins and Ambrose seeing stars with a furious spurt of offense. Bryan’s effort rallied his squad back into contention, but The Shield eventually isolated the “No!” man, taunting him as a “weak link.” Bryan replied as only he can – by kicking Dean Ambrose in the head so hard he saw stars and giving his team new life.
Hell, appropriately, broke loose when Bryan next summoned The Big Red Monster to the ring, but the numbers game won out yet again when Ambrose and Rollins dispatched Kane’s teammates, setting up the demon in red for a match-ending spear from Reigns.
Whether there really is a conspiracy against Jack Swagger remains to be seen, but the WWE Universe certainly did the “Real American” no favors by picking Randy Orton as his opponent in a WWE App Match on Raw. Riding the hometown momentum before the Missouri crowd, WWE’s Apex Predator made a meal of Swagger, overcoming an injury from the night before to unleash the RKO yet again.
The “Real American” found The Viper’s weakness instantly, targeting Orton’s compromised leg. But Swagger’s over-eagerness to redeem himself nearly cost him the match. Despite the “Real American’s” rally to snap in the Patriot Lock, Orton writhed his way free of the hold and let loose with the RKO to hand Swagger a narrow, yet emphatic, loss.
There are wins, and there are wins, and Curtis Axel certainly got the latter in his first contest under Paul Heyman’s wing, and against Triple H no less. Not only did the revamped Superstar put up a strong fight against the 13-time World Champion, he did so in such a manner that The King of Kings had to stop competing altogether in his first Raw match in almost 3 years.
The young competitor got off to a rocky start against The Game, but Axel got his wheels rolling fast and ended up going tit-for-tat with The King of Kings, targeting The Game's injured jaw (a lingering effect from Brock Lesnar's sledgehammer strike the night before) and driving Triple H out of the ring. The King of Kings attempted to rally again, but couldn’t bring himself to re-enter the fray, taking a seat at ringside before keeling over altogether as medical staff swarmed around him, giving Axel the win as a result.
So, to recap: Curtis Axel hails from a wrestling lineage unlike almost any other, and he exploited an injury to leave Triple H physically unable to compete in a bout in his very first foray into the ring with the mad scientist at his side. That sounds about right for a Paul Heyman guy.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Chris Jericho & The Miz defeated Fandango (w/ Summer Rae) & Wade Barrett (8:00)
- Sheamus defeated Titus O'Neil (6:30)
- Big E. Langston (w/ AJ Lee) defeated Alberto Del Rio (w/ Ricardo Rodriguez) (4:35)
- AJ Lee defeated Layla (2:00)
- Cody Rhodes defeated Zack Ryder (2:30)
- The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins) defeated Kofi Kingston & Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan & Kane) (23:00)
- Randy Orton defeated Jack Swagger (w/ Zeb Colter) (16:00)
- Curtis Axel (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. Triple H ended in a No Contest (7:30)
- Dark match: John Cena & Alberto Del Rio defeated Ryback & Jack Swagger
Other on-screen talent