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As Raw began on Monday night, Big Show stormed to the ring with vindication on his mind. As the Music City crowd roared its disapproval, the giant recapped the past few weeks of his encounters with World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus — specifically, his foiling of the Brogue Kick last week on Raw and the scientific measurement of his KO Punch's power last Friday on SmackDown. But more than just disparaging The Celtic Warrior, Big Show came to Raw with a monkey on his back: his much-maligned 45-second World Heavyweight Championship reign, which has been the subject of much derision by current World Champion Sheamus as their title match at Hell in a Cell approaches.
Happily, The World’s Largest Athlete came armed with a solution: a one-on-one match with Tag Team Champion Daniel Bryan, the man who cut his title reign short that fateful night at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs via a Money in the Bank cash-in. "One match, one punch, one pin, I'll erase it," Show thundered. "BRING ME DANIEL BRYAN!!!"
Backstage, however, the irritable submission expert was loath to grant the giant his request, scoffing at Big Show’s apparent inability to get over his embarrassment at Bryan’s hands and refusing to compete against the giant. That is, until Raw General Manager AJ Lee skipped onto the scene to pull rank on the “No!” man, forcing her former paramour into competition against his old foil. Suffice it to say, Kane (and the assembled WWE Superstars watching the drama unfold) found the whole thing highly amusing, as collective cries of “Yes!” followed Bryan out of the locker room area and toward the ring where the giant lie in wait.
Sadly, there was nowhere to hide for Bryan when he faced Show again. While Bryan managed to upset the giant on numerous occasions thanks to a wily exploitation of technicalities, the submission technician found himself with his back to the wall against The World’s Largest Athlete. Despite his best efforts, Bryan just wasn’t able to topple the giant again.
Bryan went back to his old game plan of attempting to "chop the big redwood down," as J.R. said, unleashing a barrage of kicks on the giant's knees and attempting to evade Show's powerful strikes. But despite his gusty recovery from a spear and a bear hug by the giant, David fell to Goliath when Bryan found himself on the receiving end of a chokeslam that put the Tag Team Champion(s?) down for the count. Thankfully, Bryan was spared the further degradation of a KO Punch when Kane came to his partner’s rescue (though, to be fair, the demon in red wasn't above a few laughs at Bryan's expense before the situation turned dire). Kane stared down The World’s Largest Athlete as he was about to deck the submission technician, seemingly dissuading Show from unloading further on the fallen Bryan.
Safe to say Bryan’s had better nights, but at least The Big Red Monster had his buddy’s back.
His week was up, and the hour of decision fell upon WWE Champion CM Punk this Monday on Raw. When the proverbial clock struck midnight on Punk's deadline to select his opponent at Hell in a Cell, who did The Second City Saint designate as the next challenger for his WWE Title? The answer, as it turned out, was ...
Well, at least not yet.
The Voice of the Voiceless did not deign to name his next opponent at the appointed time, instead choosing to bask in his beatdown and humiliation of Mr. McMahon the previous week. "I slapped Vince McMahon in the face!" Punk grinned with Paul Heyman at his side. "I think it's safe to say that you will never see Vince McMahon compete in this very ring ever again," Punk said, "and for that, you can thank me" (needless to say, longtime McMahon rival Heyman did not hesitate to do so). Moving on to the business at hand, Punk continued to expound upon the perceived smear campaign against his reputation and began to contemplate the choice of the devil he knows vs. the devil he doesn't.
On the one hand, Punk explained, was the monstrous Ryback, who to him has proven little more than an interloper who inserted himself into a conflict he had no part in. On the other hand was Cena, who has fallen to Punk several times before. So, with his options laid out, Punk turned to the covered easel erected in the ring and prepared to unveil his opponent, when the "disrespectful" roars of the crowd prompted him to "go back to the drawing board" and take a little more time with his decision.
Would this decision sit well with the powers that be?
As it turned out, there was no chance in hell, because no sooner had Punk dismissed the notion of unveiling his opponent than Mr. McMahon strutted out to the stage and reiterated to the champion that his time had run out. "You blew it," McMahon sneered, proclaiming that he would be selecting the new No. 1 contender. "Your fate at Hell in a Cell is in my hands," The Chairman grinned. "Respect that."
Alberto Del Rio came to Raw to make a statement following his confrontation with Randy Orton on SmackDown, and make a statement he did, racking up a decisive win over Brodus Clay on Raw in Nashville.
Brodus, a power competitor, is uniquely skilled to withstand Del Rio's patented submission game plan, but The Funky One couldn't bulldoze his way out of The Mexican Aristocrat's path in the Music City. Del Rio, unable to use the majority of his technical strikes, instead used Brodus' own momentum against him in between shots to The Funkasaurus' arm, finally stunning the big man with a kick to the head before wrenching him into the Cross Armbreaker and forcing big Brodus to submit. As his match with Orton at Hell in a Cell approaches, Del Rio is looking stronger than ever. What will Friday bring to this simmering rivalry?
They may be out of the Tag Team Tournament, but that didn't stop "Team Co-Bro" (Santino Marella & Zack Ryder) and The Prime Time Players from engaging in a powerhouse tag team contest in the Music City. Even so, it was Heath Slater and his "3MB" who got the final word, again swarming Santino & Ryder after the final bell had tolled and The Prime Time Players were standing tall.
"Co-Bro" put on a strong show against The Prime Time Players, with Ryder in particular unleashing a furious barrage against Titus O'Neil. But a distraction by Darren Young diverted The Ultimate Broski's attention for just long enough for O'Neil to reverse the Rough Ryder into Clash of the Titus for the win. But as The Prime Time Players basked in their million dollar victory, another team couldn't resist getting in on the action.
Sporting new matching outfits, Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal stormed the ring and administered a synchronized stomping on Santino & Ryder once again before declaring it was time to introduce Nashville to the "3MB." WWE Universe, let there be rock.
"Disgruntled" would be putting it lightly if one were to describe how Dolph Ziggler was feeling when he strutted his stuff into Nashville on Monday night. Proclaiming Ryback as a "flash in the pan," Ziggler extolled his own virtues as a championship-caliber Superstar, not to mention a potential opponent for Punk at Hell in a Cell. This suggestion, however, raised the ire of David Otunga, who declared it was time to give a championship opportunity to a Superstar who was "as strong mentally as he is physically." Either way, the two were in agreement on one concept: that Ryback didn't deserve to challenge for the WWE Title.
Thankfully, Raw GM AJ Lee had the perfect solution to Ziggler and Otunga's dilemma. A 2-on-1 Handicap Match against the man himself.
It went about as well for Ziggler and Otunga as one might expect. The Showoff got some solid offense in on Ryback, but ultimately decided that he'd rather live to fight another day, departing the ring with Vickie Guerrero and leaving Otunga to the wolves. A few moments later and Otunga was left Shell Shocked as Ryback continued to roll.
U.S. Champion Antonio Cesaro's international victory tour rolled on as, following a victory over Brodus Clay (an American) and Tyson Kidd (a Canadian), the "Swiss Superman" racked up an impressive win over South Africa's own Justin Gabriel.
Gabriel, an experienced highflier, barely got off the ground against the mighty stars and stripes champion, feeling the wrath of Cesaro's brutal strikes and stomps as Cesaro tenderized Gabriel against the turnbuckle and slammed him to the mat, working hard to keep the "Cape Town Werewolf" grounded. Gabriel powered back for a brief comeback, though, managing to stun Cesaro enough to successfully plant him with the 450 Splash. Cesaro reached the ropes with his foot before the pin could be counted, though, which proved to be the difference-maker. Gabriel's attempt at a springboard attack off the ropes proved less fortuitous, as Cesaro recovered quickly from the 450 Splash and caught him with a wicked European uppercut before executing the Neutralizer on Gabriel, putting the South African dynamo down for the count.
It's safe to say that Matt Striker had a different scenario in mind when he asked Raw GM AJ Lee for an apology from Kane following The Big Red Monster's attack of Striker on SmackDown. But in an instance of a poor-at-best choice of words, Striker made the mistake of referring to Kane's apparent amnesty as "crazy," which led to AJ putting him in the ring against The Big Red Monster on Raw.
However, Striker had one ace up his sleeve when he found himself staring Kane in the face: He appealed to Kane's recent progress in anger management. "What would Dr. Shelby say?" Striker pleaded with The Big Red Monster. "These people don't want to see mindless carnage," Striker said (cue the "MIND-LESS-CAR-NAGE!!" chants). And, after a tense moment or two, Striker seemed to get his wish when Kane wrapped Striker up in a good old-fashioned Team Hell No hug ... which led into yet another Chokeslam to the embattled broadcaster. The carnage was far from mindless, though, as Kane took the opportunity to get the fallen Striker's thoughts on the contest following his loss.
With Striker flattened on the mat, The Big Red Monster grabbed a mic and asked the question on everyone's mind: "Tough loss. How are you feeling?" Striker's defeated muttering seemed to satisfy Kane, though. "Couldn't have said it better myself," The Devil's Favorite Demon said before cutting the impromptu interview short, grabbing hold of his title and roaring "I AM THE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS!!!!" for good measure.
Following his embarrassment at Kofi Kingston's hands last week on “WWE Main Event,” and on the cusp of his Intercontinental Title Match against Kingston on this week's “WWE Main Event,” The Miz wasted no time going straight for the jugular when the two rivals sat down for a chat on "Miz TV" in Nashville.
"Have you ever headlined WrestleMania? Have you ever headlined anything?" Miz sneered at The Boom Squad General, who seemed genuinely lost for words in the face of The Awesome One's verbal battering. "You should be thanking me for allowing you to be in a main event." While the weight of Miz's words sank in, Kofi gave a response that nobody really saw coming: "You're right. Maybe I do need to add a few more memorable moments." Of course, he had one such moment in mind: a one-on-one match with The Awesome One that same night, which Miz was all too happy to accept.
But Miz wasn't done with his mind games. "You will do what you always do," Miz said after accepting Kofi's challenge. "You will choke." Miz continued to berate Kingston, referring to him as a "novelty act" until The Boom Squad General could take no more, tackling The Awesome One to the ground and tearing the suit off his body, unleashing a wave of physicality on the Intercontinental Champion that caused him to retreat up the ramp.
Sheamus and Wade Barrett shook the WWE Universe to its core last week with their furious rumble on Raw, so it was only natural that the Barrett Barrage got a second crack at The Celtic Warrior in the Music City one week later. The two looked as evenly matched as ever, but thanks to interference by Big Show, the contest was left without a victor.
Once again, the sons of Erin and England took each other to the woodshed in a contest that wouldn't have been out of place in a dark alleyway instead of a wrestling ring, foregoing almost all technical proficiency in favor of basic, hand-to-hand power strikes. And once again, Barrett looked to be one of The Great White's most formidable opponents, matching the World Champion blow for blow as the two men brawled throughout Bridgestone Arena. Barrett's offensive flurry against a trapped-in-the-ropes Sheamus looked to be the sequence that could have swung the contest in the Englishman's favor.
Sheamus' trademark resilience kept him firmly in the running, however, and The Celtic Warrior was able to administer his forearm clubs to Barrett. But the brawler rallied, hoisting Sheamus up for Wasteland and, when that was foiled, felling The Great White with the Winds of Change to leave Sheamus strewn across the mat. The World Champion managed one last gasp to lock in the Cloverleaf on Barrett, but when Big Show, who had been watching from the ramp, decided to interfere, the referee rang the bell and awarded the win to the World Heavyweight Champion. An attempt by Big Show to storm the ring was turned away once again by Sheamus, but it's safe to say that The Great White hasn't seen the last of either of these two men yet.
Layla took her time before evoking her rematch against Eve for the Divas Title, but the waiting ended in Nashville when the two Divas met one-on-one with the butterfly-emblazoned championship on the line. Unfortunately for Layla, however, the final result was the same and Eve left Raw with the championship still in her clutches.
The two Divas gave each other a run for their money, however, with both Layla and Eve displaying tenacity and proficiency in all areas of competition. Eve in particular turned a few heads in the WWE Universe by employing several jiu-jitsu holds in her efforts to force the former champion to submit. Layla reached the ropes and forced Eve to break her hold, however, opening the door for Layla to administer some offense of her own. Eve ultimately won out, exploiting Layla's injured knee to knock her off the top rope and score the pin ... although the referee didn't see Layla reach the ropes with her foot when he counted her down. Eve's championship reign lives on, but it's hard to imagine Layla won't be looking for another opportunity somewhere down the line.
Team Rhodes Scholars was unable to challenge Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara in the final of the Tag Team Championship No. 1 Contenders' Tournament (Mysterio was ill with the flu and unable to compete; the final will take place next week on Raw), but the brainy brawlers had themselves a stiff challenge all the same in the form of former WWE Tag Team Champions Primo & Epico.
And make no mistake, Primo & Epico made it difficult for Team Rhodes Scholars right off the bat, attacking both Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow before the bell even rang. When the contest did get going, Primo & Epico employed their dynamic offensive style to keep the Scholars from getting into a groove. Once Rhodes and Sandow began to pick up steam, however, the tide of the match began to turn in the favor of the Tag Tournament finalists, with Sandow and Rhodes swarming Primo to keep him from tagging in his cousin and teammate. The dual beatdown continued for some time, with Team Rhodes Scholars alternating offense on Primo until the former champion was finally able to rally and summon the fresh Epico to take over the match.
Epico came into the match like he was shot out of a cannon, stunning Sandow with a burst of offense that nearly spelled the end for Team Rhodes Scholars. But Rhodes made the save, although the ensuing chaos was enough for Sandow to counter Epico and slam him to the mat with Terminus, giving Team Rhodes Scholars a grade-A victory as they head toward Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara and the Tag Tournament Final next week on Raw.
Guess we can call it even now: Following his attempts to demean and humiliate Kofi Kingston on "Miz TV" earlier in the evening, Intercontinental Champion The Miz found himself down for the count when he suffered an upset loss to a focused, fuming Boom Squad General in a match Miz ironically agreed to just hours before.
Kingston came out swinging, unleashing his high-octane attacks on The Awesome One with minimal fanfare or buildup. He left Miz dazed and confused in the middle of the ring before the champion attempted to turn Kingston's momentum against him, reversing a charge from The Dreadlocked Dynamo into the turnbuckle and taking advantage of a stunned Kingston to execute a rare top rope strike that nearly led to a three-count. For all Miz's talk about Kingston's durability (or memorability), however, the former Tag Team Champion rallied from every attack The Awesome One mounted against him. Kingston proved his toughness in the clutch by countering the Skull-Crushing Finale into a jaw-rattling Trouble in Paradise (you could practically see the cartoon birds circling Miz’s head). The thunderous strike put Miz down for the 1-2-3, leaving the champion to the mercy of the medical team while the Boom Squad General celebrated his win. Safe to say, it was a pretty memorable moment.
Decision time, take two: With the fate of WWE Champion CM Punk left to the discretion of Mr. McMahon, which route did The Chairman choose for his champion in the place where rivalries are settled once and for all?
Well, the answer, as turned out, was not what anyone could have expected. But we're getting to that.
The contract signing for Hell in a Cell started off somewhat typically, with champion and challenger(s) staring daggers at each other over while The Chairman began to address the assembled Superstars. Punk cut The Boss off, though, before he could even begin, putting pen to the paper and declaring that what would be would be. "I will do to [Cena or Ryback] what I did to you. I will break them," Punk vowed with vigor. This brought out the fire in Cena, who demeaned Punk yet again before making a decision that left all parties speechless: Cena demurred.
Because, as Cena himself said, while Ryback may or may not care about the WWE Title, what he does care about is "kicking ass." And more than anything, Cena's message to Punk was: "You need to get your ass kicked." It was then that Cena painted a picture of Punk's future, and it was a highly unpleasant one filled with unrest and terror as the WWE Champion spent his waking days and sleepless nights haunted by three simple words: "Feed Me More."
With the ramifications of the night becoming clear, Punk looked on in horror while Cena led the WWE Universe in Ryback's chant and the human wrecking ball put his name to the legalese, solidifying the match and his new status as the No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship. Punk's attempt to intimidate the big man proved fruitless at best, with Ryback unceremoniously pounded Punk's head against the table and Shell Shocked him for good measure. Cena's prediction showed early signs of coming true: As Raw faded to black and the main event of Hell in a Cell was set, the WWE Champion found himself prone on the mat and surrounded on all sides by those three magic words.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- The Big Show defeated Daniel Bryan (6:35)
- Alberto Del Rio (w/ Ricardo Rodriguez) defeated Brodus Clay (w/ Cameron & Naomi) (2:10)
- The Prime Time Players (Darren Young & Titus O'Neil) defeated Santino Marella & Zack Ryder
- Ryback defeated David Otunga & Dolph Ziggler (w/ Vickie Guerrero) in a Two On One Handicap Match (1:50)
- Antonio Cesaro defeated Justin Gabriel (3:55)
- Kane defeated Matt Striker (1:55)
- Sheamus defeated Wade Barrett (15:15)
- Eve Torres (c) defeated Layla to retain the WWE Divas Championship
- Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow) defeated Epico & Primo (w/ Rosa Mendes) (6:50)
- Kofi Kingston defeated The Miz (5:20)
Other on-screen talent