A storm was brewing in the Windy City before Raw even began, when WWE Champion CM Punk attacked Jerry "The King" Lawler in the bowels of the Allstate Arena, incapacitating the WWE Hall of Famer and rendering him unable to attend to his duties at the commentary table.
Nonetheless, World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus took to the ring to address the WWE Universe, but his fighting words for Alberto Del Rio were quickly cut off by none other than Chi-town's favorite son, The Second City Saint himself. One week after Punk's controversial pummeling of Lawler inside a steel cage, Punk (showered by adulation from his hometown fans) was still singing the same tune, bemoaning the lack of respect shown to him by the WWE Superstars and Universe alike. In this case, the champion took exception to Sheamus' attempts to "try and talk to my hometown." Punk played the native son card against The Celtic Warrior and claimed Lawler had attacked him from behind, provoking the "Chicago-style" beating at the hands of Punk.
"There is only one ‘King’ in Chicago," Punk said, "and when you come at the king, you best not miss."
The Voice of the Voiceless quickly shifted his ire toward John Cena, the "little white knight" who interrupted Punk's "lesson in respect" to Lawler in the steel cage the previous week. Punk argued that if Cena helped Lawler, he agreed with Lawler's statement that he had turned his back on the WWE Universe (an implication, by the way, the Chicago crowd thoroughly disagreed with). Sheamus, however, had had enough. The Great White, quite fed up with Punk's sermon, wasted no time in challenging the WWE Champion to put his money where his mouth was and prove himself as The Best in the World against the World Heavyweight Champion.
Punk could barely get his response out before Raw General Manager AJ made her presence known, announcing the two main events for Raw: one-on-one matches between the respective No. 1 contenders for the World Titles, John Cena and Alberto Del Rio, and a Champion vs. Champion Match between Punk and Sheamus. Light it up, indeed.
Dolph Ziggler's match against Randy Orton (a rematch of a closely contested bout on last Friday's SmackDown) began not with physicality, but with an ominous proclamation from Vickie Guerrero, who interrupted her typical introduction of The Showoff to tease an important announcement she'd be making later in the evening.
Orton and Ziggler wasted no time in picking up where they left off on SmackDown, trading shoulder blocks with each other to start the contest, while Orton attempted to incapacitate The Showoff with vicious kicks to the body. Orton continued the punishment by executing a flashy suplex that saw him bounce Ziggler off the ropes, a move The Showoff himself might have appreciated were he not the recipient. The Viper's assault on Ziggler was relentless, as the former World Heavyweight Champion hauled Ziggler outside the ropes and administered a stiff beating to Mr. Money in the Bank outside the apron.
Ziggler rallied, though, making it back into the ring in an attempt to mount an offensive sequence against The Apex Predator. After suffering Orton's wrath for much of the contest, Ziggler finally found success in this regard, felling The Viper with a swinging neckbreaker and exploiting Orton's past shoulder issues by ramming him into the barrier outside the ring. After landing a pair of elbow drops, The Showoff attempted to seal his victory by ensnaring Orton in a headlock (true to form, Ziggler displayed his peerless athleticism by executing a textbook neck bridge while he did it). The rally was enough to tilt the contest back into Ziggler's favor, as he put in enough work to set up for a rare top rope maneuver while Orton lied prone on the mat.
And then, as has happened so many times before, The Viper struck, tripping up Ziggler on the turnbuckles and sending The Showoff airborne with a superplex. His momentum rising and the voices in his head reaching a fever pitch, Orton attempted to set up his signature sequence before Ziggler countered, using The Apex Predator's own fury against him and surprising Orton with a roll-up pin, grabbing a fistful of The Viper's tights to keep him down for a dubious, if hard-fought, victory.
However, no sooner had the bell tolled than Ziggler's thunder was stolen by Intercontinental Champion The Miz, who strolled past The Showoff and took a seat at the commentary booth next to Michael Cole.
Kane and Daniel Bryan continued on their quest to work out their anger issues this week (VIDEO), airing their grievances before the sharing circle by first unveiling their "anger collages." Bryan was first, presenting a frantically scribbled series of "YES!"es and "NO!"s, going at length to explain his issues with the WWE Universe's appropriation of his famous catchphrase. The Big Red Monster was next, simply displaying a blank piece of paper before the circle.
When the psychiatrist asked Kane if the blank page truly illustrated how he felt inside, The Devil's Favorite Demon simply dropped the paper into the wastebasket and set it aflame, much to Bryan's chagrin ("Teacher's pet," snarled the "No!" man).
Next up was the dreaded "trust fall" exercise, and to the collective surprise of the WWE Universe, a breakthrough was actually achieved. First, Kane (reluctantly, but still) managed to catch Bryan while the "No!" man took his fall, and then the two rivals were moved to Phase Two of the exercise: working together. Enlisted to catch their classmate, Harold, together, both The Devil's Favorite Demon and Bryan decided to just let the poor guy tumble, as they moved their hands away in sync and let Harold crash to the ground.
"I think I finally understand you, Kane," Bryan said as the two shared a rare moment on the same page.
Harold, on the other hand, was left awaiting medical attention.
Ultimately, however, the breakthrough was a fleeting one at best. In the next installment of their anger management adventures, Kane and Bryan were making their final statements to each other when civility broke down. The sessions ended with the two rivals threatening each other with various degrees of bodily harm while the class fled in terror. Even the doctor was unable to handle this turn of events, shrieking in frustration at the two before storming out of the wreckage of the sharing circle and leaving Kane and Bryan to their own devices.
On the bright side, Bryan did agree to give Kane a rematch from SummerSlam. It's the little victories, we suppose.
Cody Rhodes wasted no time in his tag team bout against Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara, taking it to The International Sensation with a flurry of offense after the opening bell. Sin Cara responded in kind, felling Rhodes with a dizzying attack that sent him back to his own corner and a conference with Tensai on how best to handle the situation.
The solution, apparently, was to send in the muscle, as Tensai tagged in and proceeded to tenderize Sin Cara like a side of beef, opening the door for Rhodes to tag back in and continue his pummeling of the masked icon. Rhodes quickly used his technical prowess against Sin Cara, trapping him in a torturous submission hold before making his first move against the mask.
Tensai then re-entered the fray, slamming Sin Cara to the mat with a pair of body slams and trapping his shoulder in a nerve hold before The International Icon sent Tensai staggering back to the corner with an eye-popping enzuigiri. Rhodes tagged back in, but wasn't fast enough to stop Sin Cara from summoning Mysterio from the sidelines. The Master of the 619 nearly had victory in hand, though, before Tensai interfered and saved his partner from defeat. The mighty expatriate was met with a 619 for his troubles, and Rhodes suffered the same fate when he attempted to capitalize off Mysterio's distraction.
Sin Cara tagged in for a soaring senton bomb on the prone Rhodes to seal the contest with the greatest of ease.
WWE Champion CM Punk made his point quite succinctly when he approached the ring for his Champion vs. Champion Match against Sheamus: It was Labor Day, and he was taking the night off. While Sheamus stood flabbergasted in the ring, Raw General Manager AJ Lee attempted to stop The Second City Saint's surprise exodus, to which he simply responded that he was taking a "personal day" and drove off in the passenger side of a car, which then drove out of the Allstate Arena.
While Matt Striker attempted to get answers out of AJ, she promised a quick fix: She would find Sheamus a replacement opponent.
AJ Lee's call for a new opponent for the World Heavyweight Champion was answered by none other than Jack Swagger, who (with Alberto Del Rio watching from ringside) attacked The Celtic Warrior with gusto and, perhaps, with more than a little desperation given his recent in-ring woes. The All-American American looked as sharp as ever against The Great White, driving him into the corner before Sheamus rallied with a pair of axe handle shots to Swagger's head. Swagger attempted to put The Great White away with a Swagger Bomb, but it wasn't enough to keep the champion down.
It was ultimately a surprise maneuver that sealed the match, as Sheamus trapped Swagger in a Texas Cloverleaf and forced The All-American American to tap out.
Del Rio was quick to capitalize, jumping The Celtic Warrior in the ring and unleashing a furious assault on the champion. Before Sheamus could execute the Brogue Kick, though, Ricardo Rodriguez streaked into the ring. Del Rio ducked out of the way, leaving his manservant to absorb the full force of Sheamus' foot.
It was revealed later that David Otunga would be representing Rodriguez in a lawsuit against Sheamus, the details of which he would divulge on SmackDown.
The odd dynamic within the Divas division continued with a vicious contest between Kaitlyn, the No. 1 contender for the Divas Title, and Eve, the woman she defeated to claim the right to challenge Layla at Night of Champions. The match was alternately sportsmanlike and feral, as Eve would give Kaitlyn a handshake only to turn around and pounce on Kaitlyn with a barrage of unhinged offense. Eve ultimately achieved victory, albeit in a slightly underhanded way. After Kaitlyn sustained an injury to her wrist, Eve executed a neckbreaker on a compromised Kaitlyn to achieve the victory.
And as the ultimate cherry on top, she offered Layla, who was sitting at commentary, a handshake as well.
Things took a far more ominous turn backstage, however, when Jack Swagger revealed to AJ Lee that he'd be taking "some extended time off." "I'm better than this," The All-American American said and, despite AJ's impassioned pleas to keep another Superstar from leaving her, Swagger made his way to the exit.
Feeding time resumed in the Windy City as Ryback faced off with Jinder Mahal in yet another installment of their ongoing rivalry. The opulent Mahal made some strides toward slowing Ryback's rampage on SmackDown, but had no such luck in Chicago. Despite Mahal's best efforts, Ryback overpowered his longtime enemy, eventually flattening Mahal with Shell Shocked to achieve the win.
Ask the WWE Universe and you shall receive. When asked to tweet how they wanted the Kane/Daniel Bryan situation to be handled on Raw, they responded, overwhelmingly (55 percent of them to be exact) that they wanted the two furious rivals to suck it up and, in the words of Ari Gold, "hug it out."
With the Chicago crowd bellowing for the two opponents to "HUG IT OUT!" Kane and Bryan made several awkward passes at a brotherly embrace before Bryan fired the first friendly salvo: an awkward attempt at a bro chest bump. No dice. The WWE Universe (as well as the official referee for the hug) was not appeased. Kane's effort at a hug proved similarly fruitless, but it was Bryan who finally locked Kane in the Twitter-mandated embrace.
The hug was not returned.
After the official ruled it was not a true hug unless Kane reciprocated, The Devil's Favorite Demon reached within himself and gave Bryan some love of his own.
The hug was not returned.
With the WWE Universe riled up, the two competitors circled each other like true ring warriors, sizing each other up, waiting, waiting, until ... success!
The two brought it in for the real deal and locked in the bro-est of bro hugs, soaking in the moment while the WWE Universe cheered them on. That is, until they started with friendly slaps on the shoulder that were a bit too hard for each other's liking. Soon, what began as chummy slaps turned into an all-out brawl, and even that took a turn for the worst when Kane attempted to trap Bryan's head in the folds of a steel chair. The swarm of referees that circled The Big Red Monster proved enough of a distraction for Bryan to clobber Kane with the chair and hightail it out of the ring while Kane stewed in fury.
Well, therapy is a process. Perhaps next week will be better
In a rematch of the SummerSlam Pre-Show, Antonio Cesaro proved his mettle as United States Champion, mangling Santino Marella to reclaim his championship in a contest that saw Santino relieved of his main weapon, The Cobra, only moments into the match. Santino hoped to seal the bout after a matter of seconds by producing The Cobra, but after Aksana clambered up the apron to distract The Italian Stallion, Santino returned The Cobra to his singlet and attempted to beat Cesaro mano-a-mano.
The former rugby hooligan's power was too much for The Milan Miracle, however. Even after he reclaimed the fallen Cobra, Santino wasn't fast enough to avoid the punishing Neutralizer, and the defeat that came with it.
Zack Ryder took to the ring for his second Raw match in as many weeks (YouTube viewers rejoice!) and found success for the second time as well, defeating The One-Man Band, Heath Slater, in a hard-hitting contest that saw The Ultimate Broski come out on top.
Slater would not be felled so easily, however. The Twitter war of words between the two seemed to have awoken a fire in the red-haired rockabilly. Slater put up quite the vicious fight against Ryder, countering the Rough Ryder and coming within a move or two of sealing The Long Island Iced-Z's fate on more than one occasion. The day was ultimately Ryder's, though, as he took advantage of a battle-worn Slater and executed the Rough Ryder to perfection, picking up a win on Raw in a city that seemed overjoyed to see it. Woo woo woo.
Vickie Guerrero's announcement, alluded to earlier in the evening, turned out to be that she called out Raw GM AJ Lee before the assembled WWE Universe. And, in one of those instances where "I'm sorry" simply didn't cut it, Raw General Manager AJ Lee made her way to the ring and gave a heartfelt apology to both Vickie Guerrero and the WWE Universe for her recent actions as GM. The WWE Board of Directors apparently deemed those actions inappropriate and unworthy of the office she held.
Moreover, the Board decreed that AJ was prohibited from putting her hands on any WWE Superstar or Diva ever again. However, Vickie, who was clearly out for more than an apology, took advantage of AJ's vulnerability and forced her to personally apologize to Vickie for AJ's attack two weeks earlier, and to "make it mean something."
AJ, after what seemed like much deliberation, ponied up and said she was sorry. So, Vickie slapped her. While AJ literally shook with rage in the ring, Vickie taunted her ("you can't touch meeee") before slapping AJ again and skipping away.
At a loss for words and actions, AJ promptly had a meltdown in the middle of the ring, slamming a steel chair against the mat before tossing it over the ropes and onto the ramp. All in all, not a great day for the Raw General Manager.
Alberto Del Rio came into his match against John Cena with revenge on his mind. Not necessarily against Cena, but The Essence of Excellence, incensed by the attack against Ricardo Rodriguez earlier in the night, was uncommonly aggressive in his opening salvo against the 10-time WWE Champion. Del Rio had victory within his grasp early in the contest when he stunned Cena with a backbreaker. An attempt at a top rope strike, however, was cut short when Cena caught Del Rio mid-leap with a dropkick, leading seamlessly into a Five Knuckle Shuffle. Cena was unable to finish the job, though, as Del Rio maneuvered his way to the ropes after he was hoisted up for the Attitude Adjustment.
The two longtime enemies took their fight to the outside next, exploiting the Falls Count Anywhere stipulation to maximum effect. Cena and Del Rio traded Irish Whips into the steel steps before Cena set to dismantling the announce table, presumably looking to set it up for an attack on Del Rio. His plans never came to fruition, though, as The Mexican Aristocrat streaked out of nowhere to take Cena down with a kick to the head. Cena rallied, though, sending Del Rio over the barrier and setting the steel steps up next to the ruined announce table.
The Cenation leader made his play for victory then, carrying Del Rio up the steps and looking for the AA ... but Del Rio countered, squirming off Cena's shoulders and sending him down to earth with a bone-shattering backdrop that left the announce table in ruins.
Del Rio took advantage of the reprieve to grab the microphone. Seething and sensing victory, Del Rio snarled that Cena, WWE and Chicago were all "beneath" him before vowing, "Now I'm going to break your arm, Cena." Next came the Cross Armbreaker, but Cena acted quickly, reversing it into an STF that Del Rio broke up by smashing the mic against Cena's skull.
The fight spilled up the ramp and near the TitanTron. Cena attempted his own play for victory, hoisting a speaker high above his head before Del Rio kicked Cena's leg out from under him. The two competitors brawled deep into the backstage area, using anything they could find as a weapon, but it looked like Cena would come out the victor when he AA'd Del Rio onto a stack of crates.
What he didn't count on, however, was CM Punk calling off his personal day. The Second City Saint struck fast, kicking Cena in the head and incapacitating him before hauling Del Rio on top of the prone Cenation leader, allowing the referee to record the three-count.
Punk wasn't done by a long shot yet, though, hauling Cena toward his car and executing a Go to Sleep on the hood, leaving his No. 1 contender a battered mess on the Allstate Arena floor.
"Respect," Punk said simply as he knelt before Cena. His point sufficiently made, The Second City Saint climbed back into the passenger seat of his car and drove away, but not before the camera got a good look at the vehicle's driver ... Paul Heyman.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Dolph Ziggler (w/ Vickie Guerrero) defeated Randy Orton (13:40)
- Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara defeated Cody Rhodes & Tensai (w/ Sakamoto) (7:50)
- Sheamus defeated Jack Swagger (2:45)
- Eve Torres defeated Kaitlyn (3:15)
- Ryback defeated Jinder Mahal (2:10)
- Antonio Cesaro (w/ Aksana) (c) defeated Santino Marella to retain the WWE United States Championship (2:05)
- Zack Ryder defeated Heath Slater (3:00)
- Alberto Del Rio defeated John Cena in a Falls Count Anywhere Match (12:30)
Other on-screen talent