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The Show Must Go On... but Without Commentary
September 11, 2012

by PyroFalkon
Master of the PyroFalkon Multimedia Empire, Incorporated
Read Pyro's Words
at Blogspot --/-- View Pyro's Videos at Youtube

It’s been another six months, so we know what I’m doing tonight: busting open the new Sims 3 expansion so I can write a guide about it! AREN’T YOU ALL EXCITED FOR ME???

I love the Sims franchise; it’s easily in my top-5 game franchises of all times, and it’s the one that’s made me famous. Well, “famous” insofar as the best damned videogame strategy guide writer (for at least one franchise) can make me famous. But hey, it got me my job at IGN Entertainment, and my work there is what indirectly led to my job around these parts, so we’re all winners.

Of course, I’m not exactly looking forward to the theme of this expansion pack. The Sims is a life simulator, and although there has to be some weird stuff to give it a personality beyond an alternate life, that doesn’t mean we need to bring Harry Potter magic into the world. But even a weird expansion is a good one for me, even though The Sims is basically a glorified dollhouse. And my love for the game has
nothing to do with the fact that I could theoretically make Sims versions of Sung Hi Lee and Cote de Pablo and make them kiss. I don’t know what in the world would have caused you to have that thought run through your head. Pervert.

But before I get to a virtual life, I have the reality that is RAW (an oxymoron if I’ve ever typed one) to recap! Let’s see how this new alliance between CM Punk and Paul Heyman shakes out, shall we?

Segment 1: We’re in Montreal, and that means we’re opening with special guest and my favorite wrestler of all time, Bret “Hit Man” Hart! It’s the first time since Survivor Series 1997 that Bret has been here in a WWE event. (Not for nothing, but I follow him on Twitter, and he mentioned that he kinda felt like he “needed” to go so he could come full circle.)

Bret—looking pretty ragged, even compared to normal—hits the ring and tries to calm the crowd by thanking them, but that shit isn’t happening. For a full five minutes, they start cheering loud, even louder every time Bret thanks them in French. They even start singing something (is that Quebec province anthem or something?), and Bret just shrugs and absorbs it, which somehow pulls a louder cheer. Eventually he just had to start talking even though his voice gets drowned out by the “Thank you Bret!” chants. Fucking A.

He emotionally thanks everyone for their support, and still feels that everything he did “that day” was right, and that the support and respect of the Canadian fans (especially in Montreal) are the reasons he feels he got through those dark days. The crowd lights up, he thanks them again… and “Cult of Personality” fires up. I can barely contain my giddiness!

Punk makes his full entrance (after arguing with some fan in the front row that was so naughty, they cut completely to black for a moment), and is unanimously booed out of the building. He says that all the details of the Screwjob are “painfully detailed” in Bret’s autobiography, which is something Punk so totally doesn’t have the ego to write. But if he did, he’d title it “What If?,” as in, “What if Bret was wrestling Punk that night instead of Shawn Michaels?”

Before we figure out Punk’s train of thought on that one, Bret says that the answer is “it doesn’t really matter,” because no matter what Vince would have tried, Bret would have slapped on the Sharpshooter in under a minute and made Punk tap out when he “bent Punk into a pretzel and made his feet touch the back of his head.” Ha!

Punk laughs that off and says that even Bret himself can’t believe that. No, what would have really happened is that WWE as we know it wouldn’t exist. See, Punk would have beaten Bret by himself without Vince’s help, so no one would have screwed Bret… which means that there would have been no catalyst to start the Attitude Era… which means WWE would still flounder… which means Punk would have jumped to WCW… which means WWE would just completely collapse.

That’s fucking brilliant. Punk just painted an alternate reality of the last fifteen years and made it plausible with a single sentence. I’m not sure it would have gone down like that exactly—Bret’s departure may have been a catalyst, but I don’t think it was the catalyst, since we’re ignoring Steve Austin’s existence in this reality retcon—but holy crap, was that solid. Bonus points to Punk for starting off the rant with “I’m the best in the world” to get a shit-ton of cheap heat from Montreal.

Bret replies that the “best in the world” would have been “excellently executed by the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.”

Punk lowers his voice to Serious Mode and says that he can’t believe Bret is still hanging on to that delusion. “You can call yourself the King of England… hell, you can call yourself the King of Memphis and that doesn’t make it true!” Then with a lean and a cold stare to stage right, “Isn’t that right, Jerry?” Goddamn, Punk is on tonight.

Bret diverts to say that he doesn’t know why Punk has such a problem with Lawler. Sure, they have their rivalry and their differences, but Lawler never missed a day. He reminds us last week that he beat the shit out of Lawler, then walked out of the arena for his match with Sheamus later. Bret kicks it to the Titantron, and we see… uh, the ending, rather than what Bret was talking about. Whoops.

Punk shrugs it off and says, hey, he was in Chicago, a city that actually cares about its champions. Punk had forgotten some things in the arena, came back, and there was John Cena right in front of him, so he just took his shot. Punk somehow twists that into asking if Cena is in the back right now, and is going to act as Bret’s white knight if “things get a little too hot out here.” Strange wording there, buddy.

Punk steps to Bret’s face, and Bret just takes the half-step forward to meet him halfway. Bret says that he did talk to Cena before we went on the air, but it was about the fans and about respecting—

“RESPECT?” Punk screams. If Bret knew anything about respect, he wouldn’t be talking to Punk like this, since he’s the WWE Champion. And he’s going to walk into and out of Night of Champions as the WWE Champion, not just the greatest now, but the greatest of all time. The ovation Bret got when he came in is exactly what everyone should be giving him all the time. “You’re just like John Cena: you’re overstated, you’re overhyped, you’re overrated. At Night of Champions, I’m going to put John Cena to sleep.”

Bret: “Just like you’re putting all these people to sleep now?” BURN!

Hell, it was such a good burn that it actually left Punk speechless for a few moments, and the brilliant Punk had to take a little time to collect himself. But Punk resumed Serious Voice: “No… at Night of Champions, I’m going to turn John Cena into a beaten, broken-down, empty shell of a man… just like you are.” Mic drop.

Punk backs away with the boos as the fans fire up a classic “Asshole! Asshole!” chant (which somehow sounds adorable with the French accents), and Punk screams “Best in the world!” as he heads up the ramp and preens with his title.

Holy shit, that whole thing was brilliant. Both guys were absolutely on with their promo skills, and Bret shows that his body may betray him now, but he’s still more entertaining than 90% of the roster. If this is a sign of things to come, I should be drinking for a wrestling night like this!

Cut Scene: Voting time! Who do we want Punk to face tonight? Brodus Clay, Jerry Lawler, or Randy Orton? (Correct answer: None of the above.)

Pre-Segment 2: Antonio Cesaro says “prestige” in five different languages, then cuts a stupid promo. Yay?

Segment 2 [Tag Match]: Kofi Kingston & R-Truth defeat Antonio Cesaro & The Miz (w/ Aksana) by pin. Meh. Technically executed well, but Antonio is pretty boring. A by-the-numbers match, but Miz didn’t quite have the same chemistry with Cesaro as he did with Cody Rhodes back on SmackDown.

Segment 3: SmackDown replay, and we don’t recap recaps.

Segment 4: We see a fairly stupid “legal meeting” between Sheamus, David Otunga, and lawyers at WWE HQ. Don’t misunderstand: I actually mean “stupid” as entertaining, but all the entertainment was on Sheamus. Apparently his last name is “Lipchitz,” because he was half-Irish and half-Jewish. “This reminds me of an old Lipchitz riddle… ‘If your Lipchitz, what does your arse do?’ ” That’s way funnier than it should be.

From there, it gets a little bit lame, as Otunga wants to play this straight, and the plot requires us to listen to him. At the end, Sheamus hits a camera with a Blarney Boot then starts singing “Hava Nagila” complete with his Irish accent. Maybe I should have started drinking.
[Ed. Note: this was beyond bad. Everything about it. Especially the distractingly bad camera work, which included one "real" camera that we could see and then two "fake" cameras that were somehow behind a fourth wall, yet we cut among them, as if all were equal. HOW FUCKING HARD IS IT TO PICK A REALITY AND STICK WITH IT? It stank of "Hey, those anger management skits sure took off, so let's try to recreate them!" Except for the part where the writer monkeys were unable to deduce that this skit was awful on paper, and then, somebody higher up than the writer monkeys was unable to deduce that it was just as awful in execution, so they aired it anyway. I can't believe WWE's quality control, sometimes. It almost like they can't tell the difference between good and bad ideas.]

Pre-Segment 5: Huh, Eve is officially a tweener (or pretending to be a tweener) I guess, as she comes out with Kaitlyn and Layla for the next match. Also: Layla has a new video, all exclusively of her stupid LA Lakers-inspired dancing in the middle of the ring. Ugh.

Also also: It seems Alicia Fox is now a heel or tweener, as she comes out with Natalya and Beth Phoenix. I’m confused.

Segment 5 [Six-Diva Tag Match]: Eve, Layla, & Kaitlyn defeat Alicia Fox, Natalya, & Beth Phoenix by pin. Basically a squash, Alicia got her ass completely handed to her while her teammates… uh… basically didn’t do anything on the apron. Layla did the house of fire spot, but when she was going for her end-game against Alicia, Eve tagged herself in. Eve hit Alicia with a neckbreaker then made the pin as the faces looked totally confused.

After the match, Eve over-celebrated, which was made even more adorable by Layla’s total confusion as to what was going on. Good stuff to establish Eve’s tweener status.

Segment 6: AJ Lee is looking at a monitor in the back with her head cocked to the side for no reason. Punk arrives and bitches that he has a match—without a specific opponent no less—while Cena has no match tonight. He wonders why she’s so mean and vindictive to him, if it’s due to his rejection of her, or if it’s punishment for last week.

AJ says that she should make him face Sheamus, but hey, that type of match should have more build-up. Instead, because Punk let down the fans last week, it will be the fans who decide his feet this week. So there.

Punk mocks her behind her back, then turns and smacks into Brodus’s girth. Brodus smilingly asks “What’s up?,” and Punk just kinda runs off.

Pre-Segment 7: No surprise that the fans chose Orton here. Who gives a shit?

Segment 7 [Singles Match]: Randy Orton defeats CM Punk by disqualification. Meh, not bad, but nothing major. Back-and-forth for the whole match, but nothing worth really talking about. Well, other than that apparently Canada has become its own Bizarro World, as it started up dueling “Let’s go Orton! CM Punk!” chants.

Orton had the advantage at the end and started humping the ring, which is when Dolph Ziggler came down and tried to interfere. Orton blocked the initial Zig Zag attempt, but the ref called for the bell.

Post-Segment 7: Orton couldn’t handle the numbers, and eventually succumbed to the two-on-one assault. Lawler, who apparently always has his wrestling tights on, tossed the headset and entered the ring to make the save. The crowd popped, the save worked, and… yay.

So with the heels ejected, Orton decides they should keep fighting, so he gave some orders to Lawler, and both jumped from the ring. They then started in on the heels… and we smash-cut to commercials. The hell?

Pre-Segment 8: As we come back from commercial, we find out that AJ popped out during the break and made the tag match. Okay…

Segment 8 [Tag Match]: Randy Orton & Jerry Lawler defeat Dolph Ziggler & CM Punk (w/ Vickie Guerrero) by pin. Another meh. Lawler did his best, but this isn’t a match that’s about workrate.

The end game saw Orton getting the hot tag, and he beat the crap out of Dolph. But then, during his Five Moves of Doom, Dolph countered out of the Hangman’s DDT by back body dropping Orton over the ropes. Orton oversold it… and then Paul Heyman hit the ring.

Punk and Heyman have a quick meeting as Vickie shrieks in their faces, and the ref nonsensically stops counting out to jump in and out of the ring. After consultation, Heyman hands Punk his title, Punk turns his back to the ring, and Orton finally gets in the ring.

Then we get a somewhat interesting camera angle which probably pissed off purists but appeals to artistic types. As Punk and Heyman chat, they’re in the foreground, while the action is in the background. Dolph gets the advantage, then Orton tries an RKO, but Dolph does a quick wiggle out to a roll up. Orton kicks out, then hits the RKO out of nowhere, and makes the pin. Other than the final three-count, the entire sequence was done in the background to Paul and Punk’s discussion.

Punk gives no shit about the bell ringing, and he just heads up the ramp, still talking to Heyman as they go. Weird.

Segment 9: Back from commercial, Punk and Paul are still walking. Matt Striker walks up and asks what is the nature of their relationship, and they both look like Striker bluntly called them gay. Finally, Punk just repeats what he said last year: “I’m a Paul Heyman guy.” Heyman shrugs, and he follows Punk off-camera.

Segment 10: RAW Recap of last week, and we don’t recap recaps (intentionally).

Wait, I take that back. They showed the “hug it out” thing between Kane and Daniel Bryan last week, but they played a hilarious song on top of it, then did the “Satanic Slowdown” thing as the hug turned into violence. It’s awesome hearing “It’s a happy sunshiny world!” getting played in a demonic voice. That was giggle-worthy.

Segment 11: From there, we see Kane in an office. DB wanders in, and apparently both were told the other had something to say to them. Someone arrives off-camera, and Kane accuses him as “of all the monsters in the world, you are easily the most twisted, sadistic, THE MOST EVIL.” And it’s the doctor from anger management (Dr. Shelby), who responds “Thank you for that! It’s good we’re free to express our emotions honestly!” Heh.

DB doesn’t like the doctor here, so why the hell is he? AJ materializes and says that she asked him to be here, especially because he has a great idea. With a perfect deadpan, he says: “What I have in mind will either resolve your anger issues forever, or send you into an abyss from which you’ll never recover.” Ha! Whatever it is, they have to trust each other completely.

DB and Kane take several deep breaths as they try to get themselves under control, but we fade to black before anything else happens.

Pre-Segment 12: Heath Slater wants a shot at Zack Ryder to avenge a loss. Zack appears on the Titantron to say “I heard who your opponent is, and it’s not ‘Ry-DER,’ but it’s close enough.” Ugh…

Segment 12 [Singles Match]: Ryback squashes Heath Slater by pin. Whatever.

Segment 13: The Prime Time Players are meeting AJ in her office. She says they’re actually not the #1 contenders to the WWE Tag Titles, despite their win last week in the triple threat tag match. Young, who is wearing a whistle for some reason, starts doing his “Millions of Dollars” dance and proceeds to hit himself in the head with it.

AJ deadpans “It’s really irritating when you do that,” then proceeds to tell them that they’re not the #1 contenders because they haven’t beaten “every team” yet. So get out there, because their chance to do so is next… against Kane and Daniel Bryan! They run off while complaining.

Meanwhile, AJ gives this… really goofy face expression and plays with her tie, and just as the commercial fades out, you can see that she broke character and started giggling. Apparently, she was acting so random and ridiculous that even she couldn’t stand it.

Segment 14 [Tag Match, winners are the #1 contenders to the WWE Tag Titles]: Daniel Bryan & Kane defeat the Prime Time Players by pin. You know when you’ve watched wrestling a long time, something weird happens, and you can just feel that something isn’t quite right with what’s going on?

Halfway through the match, Michael Cole was commentating, then stopped, stuttered, and sort of rewound himself. Then… nothing. No commentary at all for about 30 seconds. When I looked up, the fans were all looking off to the east (commentary) side of the ring, rather than the match. The silence was deafening enough that I backed up the DVR and paid closer attention…

The camera stayed mainly off the commentators, but it caught glimpses of the table. Jerry Lawler, at some point, had bent over enough that his head was below the top edge of the table. After another couple camera cuts, we see a stagehand beside him, patting him gently on the back and neck, and you can see his face was very red. It was at this point Cole got back on commentary, but he didn’t seem into the match.

After some more action, the crowd then started looking off to the west (ramp) side of the ring. There was a fairly strong “Jerry! Jerry!” chant. Then with the next cut toward the commentators’ table, Jerry is no longer there, and a stagehand is doing something on Jerry’s chair or the floor or something.

Speculation? Jerry puked or blacked out for a moment. He just got done working a match, then got back on commentary and started talking excitedly. Maybe it’s pretty hot there too, who knows. I hope it’s just a weird combination of stomach-flopping and exertion, rather than anything worse. Whatever it was, Cole was shaken enough that he didn’t really get back to his stride in commentary until the end-game.

The match itself was fun, but without commentary or the fans’ interest, it was… different. Admirably worked, standard tag match, with the faces (especially DB) getting in the early offense. Then Darren Young started in with the heel beatdown sequence. They cut the ring in half, and DY did most of the heel offense, including with some light submission holds.

DB had a rally, but then Titus O’Neil came in and started lighting him up. Lawler started saying that getting hit with a forearm from Titus is like being struck with a sledgehammer, but he said it very quietly. Then I heard some heavy breathing, and at first I thought it was just some artifact or fan, but now, I’m thinking it was Jerry trying (and failing) to catch his breath. That’s when Cole slipped off his game.

Anyway… from there, Titus was doing the offense. He tagged out, then DB started a false rally, then finally got the hot tag to Kane after a true rally. Kane cleaned house but couldn’t close the deal on DY, even after a top rope flying lariat. Kane followed that up with a chokeslam, and then ejected O’Neil from the ring.

That’s when DB decided to tag himself back in for no reason. DB was all smiles anyway… until Kane chokeslammed him. But Kane chokeslammed DB onto Darren Young. DB was unconscious, but so was Young, and DB was on top of him. The pin is made, and Kane lifts DB up and holds up his arm in victory! Then DB flops to his face in a way that would make Ric Flair proud.

Segment 15 [Singles Match]: Alberto Del Rio (w/ Ricardo Rodriguez) defeats Tyson Kidd by pin. Decent match but nothing special, basically a squash. Kidd was able to slap on the Sharpshooter to really pop the crowd, but ADR powered out. A little back-and-forth later, and ADR applied the Cross Arm Breaker, and Kidd tapped out immediately.

Cole again started the match strong but got really quiet halfway through, strangely. He didn’t really get it together during the end-game.

After the match, ADR cut a generic promo about so totally kicking Sheamus’s ass after so totally destroying Tyson Kidd, so totally. Wake me when I need to care.

Post-Segment 15: Holy shit… okay, they zoom in on Cole, who is clearly shaken. He says that Lawler collapsed and was stretchered out… and I guess the voices in Cole’s headsets said that in the back, they were performing CPR on him. You don’t do CPR unless a guy’s heart isn’t functioning. Cole bluntly says “This is not part of tonight’s entertainment,” and he’s struggling to get the sentence out.

Pre-Segment 16: As we come from commercial, they show a bump that the pre-show to Night of Champions is a #1 contender’s match for the US Title… and Cole isn’t talking. Sheamus hits the ring… and Cole isn’t talking. They show some Tweets about Sheamus… and Cole isn’t talking.

As the next match starts, there is a single camera shot that manages to show the commentators’ table. Cole is still sitting there with his headset on. He’s watching the monitor, I think, sort of like he’s in the thinker’s position, but he’s still not saying anything.

Segment 16 [Singles Match]: Sheamus squashes David Otunga by submission. Quick, under 45 seconds, ended on the Texas Cloverleaf after a few blows. Still nothing from Cole. Not a good sign… Maybe they want to get the show over with as quickly as possible.

Post-Segment 16: After the match, Sheamus heads back to the ring and, to the cheering fans, hits the Blarney Boot. The fans, to this point, have absolutely no idea about the details with Jerry Lawler (though they did see him stretchered out), so they’re just reacting to what’s going on in the ring.

AJ comes out, says Sheamus is clearly defying authority, so she has no choice but to—

Well, forget that noise, because here’s Booker T. He dismisses her since Sheamus is World Heavyweight Champion, and that’s his territory! So he says that if Sheamus ever uses the Blarney Boot again against anyone (before his “internal investigation” is completed), then Sheamus will be stripped of the belt, so there. Sheamus looks downtrodden, but nothing more happens.

Segment 17: Back from commercial, again Cole isn’t saying anything, but they’re still showing replays of incidents from earlier in the night.

We get a Tout from R-Truth and Kofi Kingston about DB and Kane’s win for the #1 contendership, and it’s dumb.

Segment 18: DB confronts Dr. Shelby in the back about how close DB came to being hurt. Kane screams at him, what’s he complaining about, they won? The doc corals the anger, so DB talks through his feelings, and says he could grow to like this team of “Daniel Bryan and Kane?” Kane’s all, “You mean the team of ‘Kane and Daniel Bryan?’ ”

The doctor suggests “Team Friendship,” which sets both guys off screaming “No!” and storming out of the room.
[Ed. Note: I watched RAW in "non-linear mode" last night. I stay away from social media -- both because it's mostly dumb, and because I use a DVR time shift and don't like spoilers -- but my phone still receives txt msgs, and I had several from my few real friends who still watch wrestling and from my mysterious and unnamed Wrestling Associates come flooding in as soon as the Lawler stuff started. I was still a half-hour behind on time shift, and jumped immediately ahead to live TV, just in time to catch Cole's first update, then jumped back to watch the end of the Kane/Bryan match to see what was going on, then hopped online to check in with some other Wrestling Associates, then went back to live TV, which was in the middle of COle's second update. From there, I watched pretty much in real time. I'd still missed at least 30 minutes of TV, and only went back and rewatched everything in "linear mode" much later -- much MUCH later, after a Reds game that went 14 minnings...
Which brings me to my point. Much (much) later, when I was not as freaked out by this whole thing as I would have been earlier in the night, and when I was pretty sure Jerry Lawler wouldn't be dying, I was able to REALLY get a laugh out of this little skit. On any other night, wrestling fans -- myself in cluded -- would have been wetting ourselves over "Team Friendship." So maybe go back and re-watch, like I did, and maybe we can all make sure that Team Friendship doesn't get lost in all of the night's other drama. The only thing funnier than watching Kane and Bryan grudgingly put up with each other would be watching them do it while everybody calls them "Team Friendship."]

And still no Cole.

Segment 19: After bumps about Night of Champions, we get a close-up of Cole again. Cole updates us that Lawler has been taken to a hospital and is receiving oxygen, but is breathing on his own. He repeats that this isn’t part of the show, that it’s completely serious, and that his thoughts and prayers are with him. He breaks character to call Jerry his friend, and says that out of respect for Lawler, the rest of the night there won’t be any more commentary… though I suspect a lot of that is because Cole won’t be in the mental state to do so.

Again, the fans don’t know any of this. They’re still hot as Rey Mysterio hits the ring, and there has been no announcement in the arena. Cole closes by saying that he hopes they’ll have some update for everyone before the show is over.

Segment 20 [Singles Match]: Cody Rhodes defeats Rey Mysterio by pin. Solid match, well-worked, but nothing really special. When Rey rallied, he wanted the 619, but that’s when The Miz came down and just made his presence known. It made Rey change his angle to do a baseball slide against Miz, taking him out. But it was enough of a distraction to let Cody recover, so Cody hit Cross Rhodes and make the pin.

Post-Segment 20: Cody takes the win, and Miz slides in to rub his title belt in Rey’s face. Miz starts to pick Rey up presumably for the Skull Crushing Finale, but Cody hits him with the Cross Rhodes too. He picks up the classic Intercontinental Title (which, remember, he introduced), poses with it, then tosses it (possibly accidentally) onto Miz’s crotch.

Segment 20: Michael Cole has basically no voice, but we get another update as he recaps the situation. Lawler is more responsive to doctors’ lights and such, which is a good sign. Lawler is in an isolated medical unit in the ER and is awaiting a CAT scan. Apparently, “in typical Lawler fashion, he’s fighting hard.” Cole actually pleads to God on-air for the King to pull through this.

I wonder if this whole thing means Punk is going to wind up backing off him a bit… Then again, if King OK’ed The Miz and Michael Cole to use his recently deceased mother in promos last year, you never know. [Ed. Note: Punk taking credit for forceably retiring the King? It's too soon for me to tell if that's an hell of an idea or not... my damned conscience and decency are preventing clarity of judgment.]

Cole once again tells us that they’ll try to get another update in before the end of the show.

Segment 21: It was announced earlier that Bret wasn’t quite done, and he’ll be interviewing John Cena later. Now it’s time for that segment… and Bret is clearly not quite as jovial as he comes out. I didn’t even think about it, but Jerry’s condition is probably really hitting him hard too. Still, Bret gets it together enough to announce Cena, who is greeted with nearly unanimous boos.

Bret starts off the interview by likening this Cena/Punk feud with his and Shawn Michael’s, which is a bit of a stretch. He (Bret) says that he sees a lot of himself in Cena, and a lot of “early Shawn” in Punk, so what does Cena think about that? Cena… barely inhales and gets booed out of the building. Heh.

Cena thanks Bret for that comparison, then uses the boos and says that he agrees with them that he hasn’t earned that comparison yet. Then Cena has to pause as the entire arena fires up “You can’t wrestle!,” so Cena just goes for the cheap pop as saying that he could never lace up Bret’s boos. That… surprisingly works, and the crowd settles down.

Cena goes on that the comparison of Punk to Shawn is a little closer, but still not accurate, because Punk is a whiny baby, whereas Shawn and Bret actually stood for something. Right now, Punk is just delusional who thinks that “leather and gold by any means necessary equals respect,” a.k.a. the Mr. T. Ideal.

Bret asks what Cena will do to “shut up that phony little punk,” and that’s when Punk himself pops out onto the stage. Cena invites him to the ring by also calling him a phony. Punk dismisses that nonsense, says that’s the pot calling the kettle black, and says that no one tells him what to do; he does what he wants! So he’s decided to come down now and defend his name.

Punk closes the distance and gets in the ring, then affirms the comparison between Cena and Hart, but that it’s not a compliment. He says that they’re both overhyped jerks who have been surpassed by someone way superior. But the comparison is still not perfectly apt, since Punk is better than Shawn Michaels… and better than Steve Austin and The Rock too, because why not at this point. Punk says that he calls himself the best not because it’s false bravado, but because it’s true.

Cena calls bullshit, and says that Montreal isn’t “Bizarro World,” but because they’re always honest. So Cena’s going to do that now to Punk: Punk has been champ for 300 days, and all 300 days have been irrelevant. Punk has been thinking there’s some sort of political conspiracy against him, but there is no “him.”

Punk is confused, so Cena clarifies: Punk was here for years, but he “made the most noise ironically when your microphone was turned silent.” Punk talked about change, and won in Chicago against Cena at Money in the Bank, and the fans thought that change was coming! But the fans didn’t get ice cream bars or even new talent; the only thing that changed was that Punk became a star.

Cena brings up that Punk said that Cena “turned into what he despised,” but Cena sees it differently: Cena says that he came from nothing to the megastar that he is, but he’s done it as him. Whereas Punk has changed his ideology multiple times, stole the Macho Man’s finisher, and rides the coattails of Hall of Famers rather than being himself. [Ed. Note: I would have given large sums of money for somebody, at this exact point, to tell Cena, "Pot. Kettle. Black." Cuz Punk's re-invented himself a few times, but he's NOTHING compared to Cena's history of random character traits. First he was a scrappy underdog rookie. Then he was a black man for a couple years. Then he decided he'd be a Marine. And only after he went through all those phases, did he finally settle on today's Superman-slash-Fruity-Pebble, beloved by kids everywhere (and still secretly respected by the rest of us, who nevertheless also love booing him). But nope, Punk missed his -- gaping -- opening to do so.]

Cena concludes that everything for Punk has revolved the title, that just because Punk has the title, that equates to respect. Cena counters that Punk has held the title only through “any means necessary,” and that doesn’t justify being a champion. So if Punk wants to keep the title and his legacy, he needs to search for a new identity at Night of Champions, because he’s in serious jeopardy of losing it.

Cena then says “I didn’t want to do this, because I’m rusty, but I owe Montreal one”… and he speaks some French, which makes the crowd absolutely rip the roof off the building. Cena wants to translate, but Punk says that Cena has simply “lowered himself” to their level.

Cena fucking loses it and says that he can’t be “lowered” to their level because they are the reason we do this, you ignorant son of a bitch! Punk smiles and raises the mic to respond, but Cena just ups and slaps it out of his hand. So now Cena has insulted Punk’s dear old mom and took Punk’s toys away, so now the champion absolutely goes red-faced and starts screaming something that we can’t hear. Cena screams that Punk needs to show the respect, and Cena finishes translating: “You say you’re going to win at Night of Champions, but I’m going to kick your ass!” Staredown of Intense Rivalry initiated!

The fans are completely on Cena’s side at this point. Punk backs off a step and readies a punch against Bret, but Cena is quick to react and stops that from happening. Punk continues the stare, though they separate to opposite sides of the ring. Cena pulls off his shirt, the crowd cheers louder, and everyone wants to see a fight.

And Punk goes for another punch to Bret, but Bret isn’t stupid, and blocks it, swinging one of his own. Punk sells it like a gunshot and hits the mat, then rolls out of the ring. Punk collects his title and clutches it to his chest, then scrambles up the ramp as a couple people in the crowd throw some trash at him. The fans are absolutely apeshit as Bret’s music plays, and Cena continues the smack talk despite no longer being mic’ed.

Post-Segment 21: Good spot to go out on, but we get one more update from Cole, who is looking and sounding normal. The trunk monkeys lower the in-line music so we can hear Cole clearly without Bret’s entrance song blaring over him.

Cole recaps what’s going on (nothing I haven’t already repeated), but updates that Lawler’s heart is going on its own, he’s breathing on his own, and he’s stabilized. He’s still waiting for the CAT scan, but he seems to be past the worst of it. Cole thanks us, tells us to watch the sites and social media for updates, and gives a personal note (with a cracked voice) to Jerry Lawler himself to beat whatever caused this.

We get a final shot of Bret and Cena, now outside the ring, before fading out to black.

Final Thoughts: As of 1:32am, WWE.com hasn’t given any more specific updates. I assume by now, Rick has updated us in an Editor’s Note during the recap, during this, or on the front page (or some combination). [Ed. Note: the short version is that Lawler's stable, but will be undergoing bypass surgery sometime later today.] Writing this live, I’m worried, but the fact that Cole is almost his old self gives me hope. I’m rather surprised that Cole is able to be that focused in a crisis—he’s pretty damn good on commentary when he’s not being an in-character walking urethra—but I guess if that “former war correspondent” thing isn’t kayfabe, it makes sense.

Anyway… Jerry Lawler’s condition notwithstanding, it was a damn solid night. Cena just cut the best damned promo he’s cut since last year’s Summer of Punk; it’s the world’s biggest understatement to say that Cena and Punk bring out the absolute best in each other. If I wasn’t poor at the moment, I’d get Night of Champions just for them this weekend.

The undercard didn’t fare much better, but it was pretty decent and mostly served its purpose. I would have enjoyed seeing the Ryback stupidity cut and given more time to the divas, but hey; we all know that’ll never happen, so I’m just happy the divas made some sort of appearance. Eve’s direction intrigues me, and I’m anxious for SmackDown to see what she’s up to.

I think that covers everything, between that and what I had in the body of the recap. Stay tuned to OO for any updates on Lawler (if you’re not already monitoring WWE.com, Twitter, et al), and I’ll see you this weekend for SmackDown.

Episode Grade: B+


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PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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