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OO RAW RECAP
Sweet, Sweet Vindication
June 25, 2013, 2013

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com

 

It's not all that common that I spend parts of my afternoon on Mondays actively looking forward to that night's RAW.
 
I mean, sure, the big time Stunt Booking shows are like that. But just a standard, Time Continues To Move Forward at One Second per Second and Therefore it's Time for Another Show shows? Not so much.

 

This week is definitely different. Last week, WWE came off a mostly forgettable PPV, and damn near MASHED on the "reset" button. Result: the most interested I've been to see what happens next in a while.

Nothing fancy, nothing gimmicky. Just "what happens next?" I believe that's what you could call Sustainable Episodic Television.
 
It's probably not entirely fair to expect WWE to deliver another show quite as awesome as last week. But can they at least finish tonight making me excited for NEXT week's show? Only time will tell. Let's find out together...

 
Opening Montage for the ADD Crowd, and we're live somewhere down in North Carolina, where Daniel Bryan is already on his way down to the ring...
 
DANIEL BRYAN'S PREFACE III: THE PREFACENING
 
Bryan's dressed to wrestle (including, for the first time in about a year, a "YES!" t-shirt, instead of the "NO!" t-shirt), but he's also grabbing a mic... so it looks like the Rubber Match between him and Randy Orton will wait a moment.
 
Bryan says he's heard all the chatter, about how he has a Napoleon Complex, and says there's no complex; there's just facts. When he wanted to be a wrestler, people laughed. Once he wrestled all over the world, he made it to NXT and WWE and people still laughed. Once he won a world title, he'd do interviews and people wouldn't believe he was even a wrestler, and accused him of being a stunt man for Hobbits. So no, he doesn't have a problem, he's just dealt with a TON of people treating him like a weak link.
 
It should be noted that there IS a sort of accustory tone to his voice, and the fans are responding to it with grumbles and boos, which is a response that we ALSO haven't seen in about a year.
 
Bryan then segues into talking about his 2 matches last week against Randy Orton, and how a "weak link" would have taken the count-out win over Orton and run. But he didn't. Because he's not a weak link. He'll only feel vindicated when he makes Randy Orton tap out.
 
More grumbling. And then: here's Orton himself, slinking to the ring.
 
Orton gets up in Bryan's face, and Bryan doesn't back down. Orton then reaches out and snatches the mic out of Bryan's hands, and says, simply enough, "Shut up and fight."
 
So Bryan does, punching Randall in his dumb face. The brawl is on, and Bryan wins it, sending Orton reeling to the outside to regroup. Then, once Orton re-enters the ring, a ref has arrived, and rings the bell to officially start the match...
 
DANIEL BRYAN vs. RANDY ORTON
 
Nice smooth segue from promo/skit to match; no ad break, no cheesy GM interruption to "book" the match. It's how almost every ECW PPV used to start...
 
Also not unlike ECW: these two spent about 27 seconds in the ring before going outside and ramming each other into the furniture. The ref first applied a count, but realizing nobody was paying attention, he went out and tried to break them up when they were bouncing each other off the commentary desk.
 
That didn't work, either, so he just rang the bell.
 
Your Winner: Nobody, via Double Disqualification, in about 90 seconds. The crowd boos, and rightfully so. But I suspect this was but a red herring, and the real match is yet to come. As an entire swarm of refs show up to pull Bryan and Orton apart, we break for...
 
[ads]
 
Backstage: Daniel Bryan storms into Vickie Guerrero's office, and demands another match against Orton. Vickie says she's booked a pretty full show, so there's probably not enough time (oh, if only that were true). Bryan is angry, though, and says "Either give me a match against Orton, or give me one against HIM," (gesturing to Vickie's valet, the Lovely Miss Bradmaddox). Vickie gives a vague "OK, you got your match." Bryan leaves, happy. Vickie takes about 7 second to laugh at Maddox for the look on his face before revealing she means Orton, not him...
 
Then Vince interrupts, and says some bad things about Bryan, and points out that "some people" would view it as a mistake to let such a poor representation of the WWE Roster wrestle twice on the same show. Vickie asks, "Well, OK. But more important than 'some people,' what do YOU think, Mr. McMahon?" Vince gives a suggestive, "I think  you can figure it out," as his response.
 
SHEAMUS/CHRISTIAN vs. THE RHODES SCHOLARS
 
Sandow and Rhodes are already in the ring; Sheamus and Christian enter separately. Strong start for the good guys, until Christian goes for his jump-out-of-the-ring-and-deliver-the-uppercut spot on Cody. Sandow also drops down to the floor, and Christian turns to confront him, but Damien begs off with a "No, no, good sir, I am not the legal man, I shall retreat." But the distraction was enough for Cody to regain  his senses and clubber Christian from behind.
 
Begin time compressed heel beatdown. Nothing much special to see here. Then at about the 4 minute mark, Christian and Rhodes were criss-crossing, and wound up hitting double clotheslines. Both men down, both men up, both men make tags...
 
Sheamus goes to town on Sandow, ending with the Ten of Clubs. Sensing his partner was in trouble, Rhodes blind-tagged himself into the match. As Sandow slumped in a corner, Rhodes basically walked right into a Brogue Kick. Good thinking, Einstein.
 
Your Winners: Sheamus and Christian, via pinfall, in about 5 minutes. Real short, but crisply executed while it lasted. The finish, with the ill-advised blind tag, also plays into the narrative of a possible Rhodes Scholars break-up.
 
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KAITLYN vs. AKSANA
 
Kaitlyn is wearing an extra layer (a vest-y thingie) after last week's display of fetchingly bouncy boobery, which (unfortunately) I'm sure the FCC considers a threat to national decency.
 
We get about 30 seconds of brawling to underscore the fact that Kaitlyn is still very angry, and then her own (Kaitlyn's) theme music starts up again. Huh? And then..... ahhhh, I see: "Kaitlyn" comes out on the stage, but it's actually AJ in a foam muscle suit, two-tone hair-helmet wig, and the same outfit Kaitlyn's wearing.
 
Kaitlyn is, of course, distracted by this, and so Aksana tries a schoolgirl roll-up for the cheap pin. Kaitlyn is having none of that happy crappy, though, and flips through, bounces off the ropes, and cuts Aksana in half with a spear.
 
Your Winner: Kaitlyn, via pinfall, in 1 minute flat. Moving along...
 
After the Match: once Kaitlyn scores her actual victory, AJ gets a mic and attempts to score a moral one. She makes fun of Kaitlyn's grotesque manliness, and how sad it was that she (Kaitlyn) actually believed that any man would actually be in love with her. To remind Kaitlyn how AJ hoaxed the whole thing, Big E. Langston came out with flowers, and repeated a version of his "Secret Admirer" speech to AJ, with AJ swooning in a highly exagerrated version of Kaitlyn's own reaction to said speech. Big E. then swoops AJ off her feet and carries her off s they both laugh and point at Kaitlyn.
 
Needless to say, Kaitlyn is upset by all this, and the ref and Layla (who was out there "supporting her friend") had to hold her back. Maybe I had it wrong: maybe Kaitlyn is now crossing over into obnoxiously-hyperreactive-drama mode. Being upset when first "gotcha'd" is one thing. Still freaking out aboutit at this point? Meh. If AJ's worst is "You're manly and no guy will ever love you," Kaitlyn's can't possible be THAT torn up. Because there's no way Kaitlyn is that ill-informed about her powers over heterosexual males. Her reaction to AJ, at this point, should be a lot more smirking, no-selling, and wanting to get her title back.
 
"Stealing" Dolph Ziggler from AJ -- just to prove the point about the quantity and quality of man who's totally into her -- is optional.
 
Vignette: Wyatts. Still coming.
 
[ads]
 
CHRIS JERICHO vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO (w/ Ricardo, Non-Title Match)
 
A few minutes of standard back and forth, then Jericho gains control by tossing Alberto out of the ring. Then he loses it when he tries his springboard dropkick, once Alberto's back on the apron; Alberto dodges. Del Rio gets the better of the outside the ring brawl, finally tossing Jericho hard into the barricade.
 
Alberto gets back in the ring to break the count/gloat, while Jericho's a crumpled mess on the floor. So let's watch some...
 
[ads]
 
Back, and del Rio's still in command. Outside of a few hope spots for Jericho, it's a solid assault by Alberto, targeting Jericho's neck. This definitely plays into the he's-being-slightly-dirtier-than-necessary vibe, since you definitely view head and neck injuries as different from arm and leg injuries, these days.
 
For their part, JBL, Cole, and Lawler are doing a nice job underscoring this vibe, as they have a back-and-forth discussion about what del Rio did to Ziggler at the PPV. Is it a total unprofessional dick move to put a man's life at risk, or is an injury and injury, and all parts of Ziggler (even his concussed head) are fair play as long as he's medically cleared? They actually embraced the shades of gray, rather than doing the standard black-and-white thing.
 
Anyway, del Rio's advantage ends when he sets Jericho on the top rope, and tries to hit that bad-ass Inverted Superplex. It doesn't work, and Jericho shoves Alberto off, and hits a Steamboat Crossbody of his own. [Note: of course the Inverted Superplex didn't work. Ziggler's the only guy on the roster physically capable of taking that bump. Well, physically capable, or just plain crazy enough.]
 
From there, both men are slow getting to their feet, and once they do, they start trading chops. North Carolina "whooooo's" their heads off. And from there, we're off to the races for an AWESOME End Game sequence. Near falls for both guys, using tons of non-standard moves. Del Rio, still focusing on the neck, used neck stomps and snapmares, on top of his usual array of kicks and enzuigirs. Jericho busted out a German Suplex with Bridge on top of running bulldogs and so forth.
 
After a good 2-3 minutes of this, we got to the big bombs. Jericho went for a Codebreaker, but Alberto blocked, and Jericho flipped over and tried to turn it into a Walls.  No dice. Instead, del Rio is able to cinch in the cross armbreaker. Center of the ring, but Jericho is able to inch towards the ropes... but not for a break! Instead, Jericho gets his feet on the second rope, and uses the leverage to flip backwards and seamlessly transition into the Walls of Jericho.
 
Cinched in, middle of the ring, and so Ricardo has no choice: he hops int he ring, and wallops Jericho with the handy dandy spit bucket.
 
Your Winner: Chris Jericho, via disqualification, in 15 minutes. First 10 were good. Last 5 were great. Plenty of believable false finishes that had the crowd in a frenzy, and had me on the edge of my seat. DQ finish may not be the most satisfying, but it's par for the course in a match of this magnitude happening on a free show.
 
After the Match: Alberto and Ricardo were about to doubleteam Jericho when Dolph Ziggler ran in for the save. Together, he and Jericho fought the two off. Then, Ziggler and Jericho shared Uncomfortable Eye Contact of Mutual Distrust. Then, they started muttering to each other, and seemed to reach some sort of non-aggression pact, because they turned away from each other, to exit the ring on opposite sides.
 
BUT NO! As soon as Jericho turns his back, Ziggler steps towards him, grabs him, and hits a Zig Zag. Revenge for the Codebreaker Jericho hit on Friday (although, to be fair, THAT was revenge for Ziggler costing Jericho a match). Crowd is definitely unsure what to make of that.
 
Wait ,to be more clear: the crowd as a whole is mixed, but the individuals in the crowd each had strong opinions. There are loud boos and loud cheers in response to Ziggler. Remember what I said about the announcers in this match? So yeah: shades of gray. I can dig it.
 
Backstage: Vickie is talking to The Lovely Miss Maddox about how she thinks Vince is right: Daniel Bryan is icky, and he doesn't deserve to have two matches on RAW. And in walks Triple H, who goes on to say just about the opposite of what Vince did: HHH likes Daniel Bryan, and more to the point, the WWE Universe likes Daniel Bryan. So he (HHH) sure hopes Vickie is still planning on giving us Bryan vs. Orton. In fact, maybe, for extra credit, she'll even upscale it with a special stipulation? Oh, and just a reminder: if Vickie's smart, she'll just listen to HHH, and everything will be A-OK. Once again: Vickie is confused by the mixed messages from her bosses.
 
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Vignette: another 1-800-FELLA skit. This time, Sheamus saves a cat from a tree, and fends off the sexual advances of its geriatric owner. Once again, not remotely funny in the laugh-out-loud sense, but you still get Sheamus' goofy charm shining through.
 
WHO GIVES A SHIT? THEATRE
 
So this next segment -- featuring Vickie, Maddox, and Lawler in the center of the ring -- lasts 15 minutes:
 
10 of them are related to the cover of the new WWE videogame.
5 of them are related to Vickie saying "Excuse Me."
1 of them is related to a new WWE App Poll.
 
The poll is to pick a stip for the Bryan/Orton match. You can choose among Lumberjack, Streetfight, or Falls Count Anywhere.
 
The other 14 minutes shan't be spoken of here in civilized company. You're welcome.
 
[ads]
 
THE [REDACTED] KHALI (w/ Nattie and Hornswoggle) vs. RYBACK
 
The announcers spend intros talking about how this is Ryback's big return to WWE (despite the fact that he missed one whole episode). I spend the intros appreciating how nice Nattie looks in a "Happy First RAW of Summer" sundress. Winner: me.

Match was nothing worth speaking of until Ryback hoisted Khali up for the Shellshock. Impressive. Then, he marched Khali around for a second time. More impressive. But the match still sucked.
 
Your Winner: Ryback, via pinfall, in 2 minutes flat. Yep yep yep, that happened.
 
[ads]
 
JOHN CENA RESPONDS TO BEING PUNK'D
 
Cena hits the ring, and wastes no time launching into one of his lamest, most generic, and tone deaf speeches in a while.
 
He talks about how important the WWE Title is (in as hypocrtical a fashion as possible, since it flies in the face of promos he cut on CM Punk). He talks about how atrocious Mark Henry's speech was last week (despite the fact that it's received pretty much universal praise).
 
But he finally admits that the two fit together, and he understands why Henry did such a horrible thing: because becoming WWE Champ is just THAT important to him.
 
Then, back to pandering weenis mode: Henry stands no chance of ever winning the WWE Title, because John Cena is fighting for all the little Censters out there, and plus, "You must not have checked the calendar, Mark, because it's June 24 and Whoop-Ass Season has just opened." Whee.
 
So Cena's response to one of the greatest onscreen performances in WWE history is a promo that would have seemed vaguely lazy and phony even by 1980s standards? I guess it wasn't objectively bad, but it sure felt like a waste of time for anyone over the age of 8; it added nothing to the story that wasn't already there.
 
Vignette: Rob Van Dam at the next PPV.
 
[ads]
 
DANCING FAT MEN vs. USO TWINS vs. 3MB (McIntrye/Mahal)
 
This was announced as a #1 Contenders' Match.
 
Brodus/Tensai and the Funkadactyls are accompanied by some guy who won a Super Storm Sandy charity auction. A chance to be proximate to Ass Voltron, and nobody asked me what *I* bid? For shame, WWE...
 
About 90 seconds of action, then they hit the "trainwreck" button. But not in a bad way. I just mean, literally, it started to look like an accident scene when Mahal got tossed onto Slater at ringside. Then McIntyre got tossed onto both of them. Then Brodus did a crazy Fly Fatass Fly onto all three.
 
That left Tensai alone with both Usos. Tensai gained a brief advantage, but then Jimmy/Jey hit him with a Samoan Drop out of nowhere, and Jey/Jimmy followed up with an immediate Superfly Splash.

Your Winners, and NEW #1 Contenders to the Tag Titles: the Uso Twins, via pinfall, in 2 minutes flat. Too short to be anything, but hey, watching Brodus fly is kinda fun, I guess. And honestly, I'm a fan of the Usos, so I dig the ending, too.
 
After the Match: the Shield's music hits, and they come halfway down to the floor. There, they pause, and share a staredown with the Usos for a bit before Ambrose herds them back up the steps. And that's all you get from the Shield this week!
 
Shameless Hype: "The Cell" is being released on DVD this week. But instead of airing a generic commercial for it, they dust off the skit from earlier this year when Halle Berry talks to Otunga and Kane on the phone. It was funny then. It was funny now. Six months between viewings probably helps. It also raises two questions: (1) Where the hell is Otunga these days? And
(3) How is it that I still get instantly and ridiculously aroused by Halle Berry, even though she's, like, 50?
 
[ads]
 
PAUL HEYMAN AND CM PUNK: BFFs?
 
Paul Heyman comes out to the ring, and says he's been avoiding CM Punk all week, because he feels like this is something that can't be done over the phone or by txt msg... it's something that has to be done face-to-face.
 
So, CM Punk, won't you please come out and hear me out?
 
Yes, CM Punk will come out. But his first notion is that Paul's an ass for wanting to air dirty laundry in public, instead of doing it in private. But Paul emphasizes that the more important thing is that they do this face-to-face, because Paul has a reputation as a bit of a liar. And the only way Paul can be sure that Punk hears the truth and believes it is if Punk can look Paul directly in the eyes and SEE the truth, as well as hear it.
 
Punk says yeah, he wants the truth. But he's not sold on the fact that Heyman will tell it.
 
From there, Punk goes all History Teacher on us, talking about how he knew from Day One that Paul was a liar, but he became a Paul Heyman Guy anyway. Because Paul's just about the only one in the entire WWE heirarchy who believed in Punk, going back to OVW, up through ECW, and most recently when he was WWE Champ. There were multiple times when WWE wanted to fire Punk (the ever-incompetent Johnny Ace gets namedropped!), but Paul never let it happen.
 
So, OK, Punk's remained loyal to Heyman. But now, he's not so sure if the opposite is true. What the hell was up with Lesnar attacking him last week?!? Paul says he wants to tell the truth, well then, goddamit, tell the truth for once in your life.
 
Paul is sweating. He is avoiding eye contact. He is giving every "tell" in the book. Then he musters up his courage (or his bluffing) to say, "On my childrens' lives, I had nothing to do with Brock Lesnar last week." The crowd boos, and Punk looks pretty unconvinced himself.
 
But Paul channels his Inner Costanza, and remembers: it's not lying if you believe it. So he launches into a more animated (and believable) speech about how Lesnar's contract with WWE expired in May, and Paul hadn't talked business with him at all since. Plus, Paul really means it: he loves CM Punk, and considers him a best friend. To Paul, that's more important than business.
 
Paul even says that, as Punk's best friend, he has a vision of someday, down the road, forming a new business partnership with Punk and accompanying him to the ring, for the main event of WrestleMania. And even if Punk doesn't have the same vision now, Paul believes it will happen... and therefore: he'd have to be STOOPID to do anything to upset Punk and ruin their friendship. And, Paul says, "I've been accused of being many things, but nobody's ever called me stupid."
 
That.... that... that makes sense. If you believe the part about Paul loving Punk like a brother, anyway. Punk's definitely softening. He softens more when Heyman says he realizes there may be professional jealousy and animosity between Punk and Lesnar; he's recognized it for a while, which is why he never tried to put them togethre as a tag team, no matter how lucrative that could have been. And maybe when Punk made the off hand comment about how he didn't "need" Heyman, like Lesnar did, it enraged Brock. But that's all between Punk and Lesnar, and Paul will be a friend to each man, but he just wants to swear to Punk that he (Paul) will NEVER lead Lesnar to the ring against Punk. Against others? Sure. But never against Punk.
 
So, Paul asks, can we still be friends?
 
THe crowd is booing, and doesn't believe a word of it. But Punk finally gives in and hugs Paul. A close-up of Punk catches his mouth saying "I'm sorry I doubted you." But his eyes seemed to be alert for any upcoming swerves.
 
Damned interesting. Punk's history lesson was just way long-winded, and took some steam out of this segment (it was up over 20 minutes, all told)... the smart fans already knew all that, anyway, and the rest didn't need the details told in such an "honest"/shoot-y way (because you kids and average fans don't wet themselves for shoot-y-ness). But Paul's side of the promo, where he laid out reasons why he WASN'T involved with Lesnar, was all new material, and benefited from being highly detailed. Like I said: only after Paul can convince himself can he convinced us... and I thought he had some pretty solid arguments.
 
But again, they all hinge on the assumption that Paul really does consider Punk's friendship valuable. If you take that away, the whole argument falls apart. And therein lies the drama that will fuel us on the road to Punk/Lesnar at SummerSlam...
 
Anyway, as Punk and Heyman break the embrace, we're told that CM Punk is in action agaisnt Darren Young, immediately following these...
 
[ads]
 
CM PUNK vs. DARREN YOUNG (w/ Titus O'Neil)
 
We're all adults here, so let's not pretend this was something it wasn't. Even if it lasted 8 goddamned minutes.
 
Your Winner: CM Punk, via submission, in 8 minutes. So the 3-way tag match, where you actually have no idea who might win, gets 2 minutes... but this bland-ass squash match featuring a main eventer versus a curtain jerker gets 8? The live crowd didn't give a shit, and neither did I.
 
After the match: Titus gets in the ring and starts a 2-on-1 beatdown on Punk... then, all of a sudden, Curtis Axel (with Heyman) appears, and helps Punk fight off the PTPs. Punk is NOT pleased with either Axel or Heyman, but decides to leave the ring rather than start trouble.
 
OK, so that post-match angle explains why it had to be Young facing Punk (they needed the tag team aspect to make the story work)... but it doesn't explain why it had to be 8 minutes. [Also: there's talk that the PTPs botched the ending of the match, and that it was supposed to be a DQ, but that Titus was slow in attacking or Young was fast in tapping, resulting in a Plan B. To me, it makes no difference, as the only interesting part of the story here is Punk and Axel as a marriage of convenience. Or, depending on Paul's motive, of conniving.]
 
[ads]
 
Announcement: Stephanie McMahon hits the stage to announce the participants in the WWE Title MitB Ladder Match. They are: CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Kane, Sheamus, Christian, and of course, Rob Van Dam.
 
Huh. A few thoughts: (1) that's star-studded, to say the least; maybe too star-studded (is it even worth having a SD MitB Match, now?), (2) those are all babyfaces (that can't be right, can it?), and (3) that's 7 names (doesn't history dictate that 6 or 8 are traditional, except in cases of last second injuries?). Makes me think there could/should be some shuffling yet to come. Otherwise, I think WWE's made a miscalculation.
 
Backstage: Ryback barges into Vickie's office, demanding to be added to the Cena/Henry title match at the PPV, because he's awesome. Vickie declines. Ryback says he at least wants in the MitB match, and he'll just earn another shot. Vickie is considering when Jericho barges in and says "Not so fast." Because he's beaten the World Champ, and gotten attacked by 3 men tonight, and THAT's what's not fair. He wants in MitB. Also: because he invented it. Ryback and Jericho start bickering when Vickie declares that they can just face each other at the MitB PPV. [But not with the final spot in the MitB Match on the line, which is Just assumed she was going to add at this point. Huh, again.]
 
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Backstage: Punk is railing Heyman about bringing Axel out for the save. But Paul says that had NOTHING to do with business, that was just an act of friendship. If Punk saw Paul getting mugged on the street, wouldn't he have helped? Punk almost sees the wisdom of this, but then Paul drops a bomb: he's set up a match next Monday where Punk and Axel will team up against the PTPs. See, now THAT's business, exclaims an exasperated Punk. But Punk agrees to the match, promising to wrestle it by himself. Punk wants Paul to pass along the message to Axel that he'd better get ready to stand on the apron and watch the best in the world.
 
MARK HENRY RESPONDS TO THE RESPONSE
 
Well, Mark topped Cena's promo, here. But that's damning faint praise considering how low the bar was set.
 
Mark bragged about his acting ability. He mocked everybody for being such fools, and for not even considering the possibility that Henry might be that good at playing mind games.
 
From there, he talked about all his life hsa been about people having certain expectations of him, and how he wanted to crush those expectations and be himself. And that means being more than just some big dumb musclehead or just a puppet for The Man. In short, it means becoming the WWE Champion at Money in the Bank.
 
His closing line, "Last week, I said 'Baby I'm coming home.' Well, it's still true, cuz baby, I'm coming home as the new WWE Champion." Solid enough. He got "what'd" by the live crowd, so obviously, he wasn't the verbal genius he was last week... but I also think this week's crowd was reaction the point of Verbal Overload. You basically had Cena's shitty promo, then Punk/Heyman's overlong one, and this one, all in a row (with only the equally boring and overlong Punk/Young match breaking them up). I'd have gotten antsy, too, if I wasn't working with the benefit of a DVR timeshit, so at least I could zap commercials and other fluff.
 
Vignette: Wyatts. Still coming. Just get here, already, dammit.
 
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This week on SmackDown: a big championship celebration with Alberto, and a Dublin Street Fight between Sheamus and Damien Sandow. I'm looking forward to one of those two things.
 
Poll Results: Street Fight wins, in a landslide.
 
DANIEL BRYAN vs. RANDY ORTON (Street Fight)
 
Intense brawling to start. Back and forth punchy-kicky for a few minutes, then it spills outside. Bryan finally gets the better of it. Orton is groggy outside the ring, and Bryan heads back in to set up for his big suicide dive...
 
But just as he reaches the ropes, Orton grabs a chair and absolutely plasters Bryan in the head with it. So much for chairshots to the head being forbidden, eh? Or does this not count because Bryan dove into the chair? ["Hey, why are you hitting yourself in the head with a chair?"]
 
Either way, I really don't care, because it was pretty awesome. Bryan's turned that dive into a big part of every match, and the Chair Defense was a totally new and unexpected twist on an old favorite. I think the bad-ass-ness of the move went a long way towards making this a flat-out 50/50 draw for the main body of the match (in terms of cheers/boos).
 
But for now, Bryan's been waylaid, and Orton's still feeling the effects of getting his ass kicked outside, so here are tonight's final....
 
[ads]
 
Back, and the fight has apparently continued around the ring, rather than in it. There's even one table set up outside the ring. As the fight continues, Orton is nominally in control, and sets up another table inside the ring (propped up in a corner).
 
Bryan makes a comeback with "YES!" kicks, but Orton grabs his trusty chair again, and puts an end to that. Orton tries to follow up by suplexing Bryan out onto the ringside table, but Bryan keeps countering. Then Bryan keeps trying to dropkick Orton off the apron and through the table, but Orton keeps hanging onto the ropes. So Bryan tries a different tack and charges Orton, but slides out of the ring between his legs, and then reaches up and powerbombs Orton through the table. NICE!
 
Toss Orton's carcass back into the ring, but it only gets a 2-count. So Bryan goes looking for a foreign object of his own. He finds a kendo stick, and goes to work, alternating a "YES!" kick in between every kendo shot. This is roughly where the crowd begins to slide more towards Bryan, for whatever it's worth. Not surprisingly, it happens when he shows his own badassery.
 
Orton struggles to his feet, and Bryan tries for a grand slam swing of the stick, and misses; Orton hooks Bryan and sends him through the corner table with a T-bone suplex. Nice. But also: only a 2 count. Orton hoists Bryan up onto the top rope for an attempted suplex, but Bryan shoves him off, and tries for a missile dropkick... Orton catches him in mid-air, and turns it into a powerbomb. Nice. But again: only a 2 count.
 
Orton is frustrated, and resorts to simplicity itself: he kneels on Bryan's shoulders for a mount-and-punch. Bryan does a UFC-y type thing, where that turns into a "guard," and Bryan catches one of Orton's flailing punches, and hooks it into the NO! Lock. Clever.
 
There is no rope break in a street fight, so Orton instead tries to inch his way towards the nearby kendo stick. Once he gets it, he's able to swing backwards and land a solid enough shot to Bryan's head that the hold is released. Then a few more kendo shots for good measure. Crowd inches further into Bryan's corner, as a result.
 
The assault leads up to the Hangman DDT. Still only a 2 count, though. So Orton coils and pounds the mat, in anticipation of an RKO. Also, it helps Bryan know what's coming, because he immediately counters the RKO by slipping behind Orton for a backslide. Only a 2. Both men up for a quick grapple, Orton charges, Bryan dodges, Orton eats a stiff kick to the head.
 
And so Bryan cinches in the NO! Lock one more time. Orton again reaches for the kendo stick. Gets it. Tries to swing it at Bryan. But Bryan knew it was coming, and just grabs the stick. In one smooth motion, he switches from a standard crossface to using the kendo stick to yank back on Orton's head (grating it across his eyes and temple). That's pretty sick. And it's enough to get Orton to tap out.
 
Your Winner: Daniel Bryan, via submission, in 16 minutes. Really, really good match. Great intensity, some creativity, and a fantastic finish that saw the fans 100% behind Bryan on the night of his big win. A couple readers pointed out that Chris Benoit used to do the kendo-assisted crossface, and last night was the anniversary of the Unpleasantness... I prefer to think that no one's in any mood to pay homage to Benoit, and will point to the fact that Bryan has used that same finish at least once that I can remember, so it's not like it was completely out of the blue. In any case: superlative match, up there with the other best free TV matches of the year so far. Definitely go youtube it if you like things that are great.
 
After the Match: Orton got back in the ring, cutting off Bryan's initial celebration. After some tense eye contact, Orton put out his hand, and Bryan shook it. Tersely. There was no hug or other sign of friendship. Just a handshake of respect. Then Bryan's music started up gain, Orton took it as a cue to get lost, and we faded to black after another few moments of Bryan "YES!'ing" like he just won 10 Super Bowls...
 
And so the show ends. And what a note to end on. Great match, with an even better ending. It probably won't last, but after a moment like that, Daniel Bryan finally isn't a forgotten, underappreciated cog in WWE's machine. He's somebody you believe could actually win the upcoming MitB Ladder Match, and beat Cena for the title.
 
[On a related note: I'd like to be the first to put money on Lesnar's next appearance being the MitB PPV, where he interferes in the ladder match and destroys Punk, taking him out of the match. Anyone wanna bet?]
 
Jericho/del Rio was also damned good, especially its closing third, and I'd put that on any youtube-worthy list.
 
But the rest of the show was a bumpy ride, where even the "good" stuff wasn't especailly well executed (refer to my comments about all the Punk/Heyman stuff above, where the end stories were cool, but the journey to them was arduous and overlong). In contrast to RAWs that seem jam-packed with more segments than usual, this one left me wondering about time management on a show where Darren Young gets an 8 minute match (and where Cena even bothers getting in costume for a promo that useless), but the Shield gets a 30 second cameo. And what about the Cesaro re-boot? Or the IC Champ?
 
So that isn't necessarily the best way to put 3 hours to use. But it ended strong, and if nothing else, I'm ready to see where Punk/Heyman/Axel goes next week, so that's solid episodic TV, I guess. I put a call in to my Inner Pyro, and he says it's a C+... more specifically: A (main event), C- (rest of show).
 
Till next time, kids...


  
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E-MAIL RICK SCAIA

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Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.


 

 


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