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No Bryan? No Problem.
March 24, 2014

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com


You may think you know what's #1 on The Rick's mind today... and chances are, you're right. The Rick is not a complicated man, and most of you have been with me for years, so you know me well.
But if you think you know what The Rick is going to write about for 6 paragraphs here at the top of the Recap, guess again.


In addition to my more well-known proclivities, I am also a superstitious man, and I don't want to be the one who jinxes everything. So I'm gonna keep my mouth shut, and just enjoy the ride.

I will say this, though... I'm pretty sure there is no better cure for cancer than your team making it to the Sweet Sixteen. Well, great doctors and successful surgery, too. But also, your team making it to the Sweet Sixteen. I mean, there's no other explanation for why I feel so good, despite the still-fresh 14" gash across my stomach and feeding tube sticking out of my belly. Is there?

Nah. Didn't think so.
Here's what happened on RAW:


As Cole quickly welcomes us to the Barclay Center, Stephanie McMahon's music hits, and she heads to the ring, wearing -- naturally -- the Skin Tight Leather Pants of Corporate Credibility and Stilletto Heels of Total Workplace Respectability. You gotta love those 21st Century Lady Executives...

Anyway, she immediately launches into a spiel about how last week's beatdown of Daniel Bryan was every bit as awful and uncomfortable to watch as fans have been saying... but it was also necessary, to teach us a lesson. There is no "YES!" Movement, and also: there will be no Daniel Bryan here tonight, as he's at home licking his wounds. BOO!

As she continues with some babbling about her family and the company and the business and respect and blah blah blah, the crowd gets sick and tired of booing her, and just starts chanting "SEE EM PUNK!"

The sound guy bails Steph out by hitting Randy Orton's music, and he saunters his way down to the ring. He kisses up to Steph, and you can tell Steph is just waiting for the other shoe to drop... and sure enough, after a brief digression to address the fans (who are now chanting for "DAN YIL BRY YAN"), Orton asks Steph if she wouldn't, please please pretty please, use her corporate powers to change the plans for WrestleMania so that if Triple H wins (Steph: "You mean WHEN he wins"), that he just step aside and enjoy his win. Orton wants the "winner enters the WWE Title Match" stip removed.

Before Steph can respond, Batista's music hits, and he gets in the ring, with a faulty mic. But he conveys the basic idea that everybody's missing the point: they're all talking about Orton and HHH and Daniel Bryan, but the fact is, he (Batista) is walking out of WrestleMania with the WWE Title, and they better get used to it.

After a mic switch, Batista gets more personal, calling Orton out for his clear-cut suck-up antics, and saying he doesn't think it'll work, because HHH is too smart to fall for it, and further, all Orton's slobbering over Steph won't work because she's used to be drooled upon. Which is somewhere between fairly non-sensical (is drooling on someone a gross new sex act, up there with golden showers and Cleveland steamers?) and vaguely flattering ("Hey, yer so purty that men drool at the mere sight of you"), but Steph has to act like it's the worst insult ever.

Steph slaps the hell out of Batista. Orton doubles over in laughter. Batista spears Orton. Play Batista's music, as he celebrates the moral victory by posing with Orton's belts, while Orton looks up at him while seated in a corner. Nothing especially clever or creative here, but it hit enough of the right notes to serve its purpose, which was to remind us that -- no matter how much we wish otherwise -- Batista and Orton are both part of the WWE Title picture at WM along with Bryan and HHH, too.
Seriously, are any of us fired up for Mania because of those two? And yet, they're central to the whole enterprise...


SHEAMUS vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO vs CHRISTIAN (#1 Contender Match for the IC Title)

IC Champ Big E is sitting at ringside to scout the competition. And since it's Brooklyn, with is lousy with hipster wankers, Ziggler is over like the Baby Jesus.

Opening moments see the four pair off as you'd expect: Sheamus vs. Christian, Ziggler vs. del Rio... when all four powder out to ringside, the intensity picks up. Eventually, Alberto tackles Dolph into the barricade, while Sheamus clotheslines Christian over it (and both tumble into the crowd). All four are down, so we break for....


Back, and it's Ziggler vs. del Rio going at it in the ring. Sheamus and Christian are both down and out at ringside. But when del Rio gets the better of it over Ziggler, Sheamus picks that spot to get involved. Rolling senton for Alberto. But then Christian takes out Sheamus, and hops in the ring for a quick sequence against Ziggler, winning the exchange.

But Sheamus recovers and tosses Christian out of the ring. Then a Ten of Clubs for Alberto. Sheamus is about to follow up with a top rope move, but he gets caught when Ziggler jumps up to join him up top, and hits a top rope X Factor Facebuster. Holy Shit.

Extended heat sequence for Dolph, as he fends off both Christian and del Rio. Great action, and Sheamus has to break things up with Ziggler's about to pin Christian. Next almost-finish was Sheamus going for the Cloverleaf on Christian. but del Rio breaks it up. Time for the Cross Armbreaker.

Ziggler's turn to make the save, as Sheamus is just about to power out when he's nailed with the Zig Zag. Crowd pops big for that, but before Ziggler can make the cover, Christian swoops in and hits a Killswitch. Fin.

Your Winner, and New #1 Contender for the IC Title: Christian, via pinfall, in about 15 minutes. Very good match, especially the red hot closing 3-4 minutes. It sets up a Christian vs. Big E title match tomorrow night on "Main Event" as WWE tries to raise the profile of their C-show. Putting title matches on "Main Event" is all well and good, but I think I'll keep spending my Tuesdays on other things until they actually do a title change... I know, I'm picky, right?

Sudden Interruption: after the Freeze Frame Sheep Head, we cut to the Wyatts. Bray cuts another one of his promos that is better experienced than transcribed. The guy has a gift for taking words that would be silly and ham-handed coming out of someone else's mouth, and making them altogether convincing and creepy. The basic gist tonight: you can't hurt something that doesn't feel, so what does John Cena think he's gonna accomplish at Mania?


SIN CARA (w/ Scooby Doo) vs. DAMIEN SANDOW

Yes, Scooby Doo. Sin Cara did a special entrance in the Mystery Machine. If I was still 9 years old, I might be amused. Also, if I was a dirty stinking hippie high on The Pot. But I'm neither.

The live crowd isn't, either. They start chanting "SEE EM PUNK." And while it'd be funny if Punk was inside the Scooby costume, I don't think that's in the cards.

Then Sin Cara hits the swanton, and it's over. Poor Sandow... isn't a match like this pretty much the reason Heath Slater has a job?

Your Winner: Sin Cara, via pinfall, in 2 minutes. Yeah, that happened, and it was awful. But at least it was short.



As soon as the match starts, the crowd stands and starts looking off to Camera Right... the Shield are entering through the crowd. Apparently, they're still pissed about Friday, when they were about to win a #1 Contender match (of which Rybaxel was a part), before Kane and the New Age Outlaws got involved.

The distraction allows a Matador to schoolboy Axel for the win.

Your Winners: Los Matadores, via pinfall, in 45 seconds flat.

After the Match: the Shield surrounded the ring, and pounced. Curb stomp for Axel. Spear for Ryback. And the announcers tell us that Shield have now avenged themselves after Rybaxel was in cahoots with Kane on Friday. That seems like a bit of a stretch, logically speaking, but hey, whatever: it's fun watching the Shield kick some ass.



Another top of the hour, another McMahon promo? Ahhh, I see... Triple H no-showed last week's sit-down interview with Michael Cole (EXCLUSIVELY on the WWE App~!), so he's agreed to do the interview with Cole here on RAW. Because there's nothing more exciting LIVE and IN PERSON than two men sitting in chairs!

Cole starts by calling for a replay of last Monday's beatdown of Bryan. That's the second time they've shown it tonight. And c'mon, I know it was really good TV, but I am so not a fan of no-value-add FF replay filler.

Then Cole asks the obvious: How can you justify your horrible actions?

HHH says it's a complicated question, because he can give an answer as an executive, or as a wrestler with his eyes set on the WWE Title. He says the fans "handcuffed" him with their stupid YES! Movement, and so, as an executive, he had to listen to them because it was right for the company. But then, as a competitor, he had to snuff out a man who was a threat to him in the ring, a man who was now set to be his opponent at WrestleMania.

In short, HHH tried and tried to NOT face Bryan at Mania. But then he had to give the fans what they wanted, as an executive. And then he did what he had to, as a competitor, because when he puts on the tights, he's still the Cerebral Assassin.

HHH says it's all the fault of whiny, soft, entitled fans, who think they can get what they want just by tweeting their displeasure. Well, HHH is sick of that happy crappy, and he knows that's how the world is today, but he's gonna set out to change things. He declares a start to "The Reality Era."

And if you think this is gonna be some sort of mission statement along the lines of Vince's speech the night he started the "Attitude Era," you thought wrong... instead, it's just standard -- but very well delivered -- heel bluster about how the fans are going to be treated to the harsh reality that HHH will end Daniel Bryan's career and walk out of WrestleMania as the WWE Champ, because of one simple reason: he's got the power to do so.

Like I said: standard, yes, but also effective. At the start and then again with his closing line, HHH underscored how he's still a dangerous and hungry in-ring competitor, while still retaining all the power and responsibility that goes with his front office job.


CODY RHODES (w/ Goldust) vs. FANDANGO (w/ Summer Rae)

This is a follow-up on last week's Goldust/Fandango match, which Goldust won when Fandango was distracted by Cody and Summer flirting with each other. SCANDALOUS~!

So Fandango gets off to a hot start, powered by righteous indignation. Included is a nice chickenwing suplex that I haven't seen before. POINTS~! [/hardwick]

Then, out of nowhere, the two butted heads on a criss-cross. With both men down, Summer entered Cheerleader Mode, and Goldust immediately began mocking her. This turned into a Impromptu Dance-off, with Goldust Travoltaing his way to victory.

In the meantime, in the ring, Cody Disaster Kicked HIS way to victory when Fandango was distracted by the nonsense taking place outside.

Your Winner: Cody Rhodes, via pinfall, in 3-4 minutes. Silly, inoffensive fluff, which normally I'd endorse. But in this case, I think it's an awful waste of the Rhodeses, who've been among WWE's most valuable performers of the past 6 months. But I guess if they're going to be buried in the Andre Battle Royale, instead of in a tag title match, at Mania, this is to be expected... everybody can't be scoring epic victories every week in Sustainable Episodic TV. Sometimes, you gotta go with the change of pace...



Hulk Hogan hits the ring, and even the hipster doofuses in Brookly aren't too full of themselves to give Hogan a standing ovation.

Hogan kicks off by name-dropping Mr. T and reminding us that WrestleMania I kicked things off just a few burroughs away. And then, he introduced Arnold Schwarzenegger (and Arnold's costar toadie, Joe Cantspelhislastname, who hasn't ever been in anything I've watched but actually does seem fairly personable when doing late night talk shows), and I stopped giving a shit....

After a couple minutes of self-congratulatory BS, Miz comes out and breaks things up. So I guess I have to start giving a shit, again....

Miz reminds us of his work in The Marine 3, but unlike Ah-nold, he's not an actor playing a tough guy. He's a real life fighter who just so happens to do some acting on the side. And that's why he's the favorite to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale at WrestleMania.

That's when Joe Cantspellhislastname speaks up, and gets in Miz's face. Miz tries to suckerpunch him, Joe counters with some pseudo-karate. Arnold piles on with a punch to the gut. Then Hogan toss Miz out of the ring, to illustrate just how easy it will be to eliminate him at Mania.




We're all adults here, so let's not pretend this was something it wasn't.

Your Winner: Big Show, via pinfall, in 2 minutes. Yes, the subtext here is that both are in the WM Battle Royale. But no, nobody cares, since only one of them has a chance of winning said Battle Royale. The crowd spent the entire match chanting "SEE EM PUNK" and "WHY TWO JAY," presumably because they were playing a game of "Name Guys With a Better Chance of Winning the Battle Royale Than Titus O'Neil."

Announcers dubbed Show the "odds on favorite" to win the Battle Royale, which now means Show will NOT win. My money? It's on Alexander Rusev making a huge splash in his debut.

Backstage: the Shield show up in HHH/Steph's dressing room, wanting to know what was up with Kane and the Outlaws attacking them last week. HHH professes ignorance, and says that's between them and Kane. But Steph says if they're feeling antsy, she'll make a match between them and the Real Americans. This doesn't exactly address the Shield's original concern, but they're more than up for a match...


JOHN CENA vs. LUKE HARPER (w/ Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan)

A rematch from Friday, when Cena won clean. Didn't set the world on fire then, but I guess WWE wants to make sure you see it. Or something.

Out of the gate, Cena tries to wrestle, but Luke's here to fight. Advantage: fighting. Also, out of the gate, the kiddies try to cheer Cena, but the adults cheer Harper. Advantage: adults. Seriously: they were cheering Luke's offense, and even got a loud "Let's Go Harper" chant going.

When Harper chucks Cena out of the ring, we use the natural break in the action to do some...


Back, and we join Cena's fire-up in progress. But Harper quickly short-circuits it by blocking an inverted atomic and hitting a big boot. The announcers note how ineffective Cena's been, and suggest it's because Wyatt's gotten into his head, and Cena's rattled.

Which is a great story to tell, but, uhhhhhhh, then why did Cena crush Harper in decisive fashion just three days ago? If the story is that Cena's rattled, and can't beat Harper, then somebody omitted a chapter of the story.

And while I'm sitting here, pointint out giant holes in the story, Harper chucks Cena out of the ring and follows up with a 325 lbs tope suicida. Holy Shit! Nice move, big man.

Harper tosses Cena back into the ring and goes for the pin, but Cena's still got a bit left in the tank. Luke decides he needs to go big or go home, so he sets up for a superplex... but Cena fights out, and tosses Harper to the mat. Flying legdrop follows. But only a two.

Both men down, ref hits the double count. Cena up first. Spinebuster and Five Knuckle Shuffle. Two. F-U countered into a front-falling suplex thingie. Two. Clothesline ducked by Cena, Cena hits a shoulder tackle. Cena sets up for the F-U again...

And the lights go out.

When they come back on, Cena is tied up in the ropes, wearing the sheep mask. Bray poses in a celebratory fashion, while the crowd chants "This is Awe-some clap clap clapclapclap."

Your Winner: None announced, but presumably Cena wins by DQ, after 15 minutes. A notch better than their already-good match from Friday, especially the cute little sheep mask finish that scratched all the grown-up fans where they itched (while likely upsetting the kiddies, like it's supposed to). Only gripe: that finish is the psychological head-game that should "rattle" Cena, so they got the story out of order by having Cena wrestle the whole match, pre-rattled. D'oh. Still: a hell of a showcase for Harper, all things considered.


AJ LEE (w/ Tamina) vs. NAOMI (w/ Cameron) (Non-Title)

Another "SEE EM Punk" chant, for obvious reasons.

As soon as the bell rings, AJ jumps out of the ring and gets counted out on purpose. Huh.

Your Winner: Naomi, via count-out, in 30 seconds.

After the Match: Vickie Guerrero comes out on the stage, and puts an end to AJ's little "I'm smarter than you" celebration by declaring that she hasn't forgotten all the times AJ has crossed her in the past. And therefore, Vickie is announcing a very special match for WrestleMania... the Vickie Guerrero Women's Title Invitation Gauntlet.

Vickie introduces AJ's opponents... in essence, every single woman on the roster. And at the end of the list: Tamina is included, too. Tamina smiles a little smile and joins the rest of the women up on the stage, while AJ is crushed.


Hall of Fame: Scott Hall joins the Class of 2014... but in an odd twist, WWE is inducting him as Razor Ramon. The video package focused solely on his WWF career, with no mention of WCW or the nWo... I think that's a first: WWE inducting a gimmick, rather than a performer. Maybe this is just an insurance policy, in case Hall relapses between now and Mania, and WWE has to let Rick Bogner give the acceptance speech?
You're welcome, five people!



Swagger and Cesaro jumpstart things by attacking while the Shield's music is still playing... then, once things settle down, it's Ambrose and Rollins representing the Shield, with Reigns patroling outside.

Fans fire up a "We the People" chant, but as has been the case on a few shows lately, it's obvious that Cesaro is a fan favorite. Swagger? Not so much.

Hot start for the Shield gives way to the standard heel beatdown, with Ambrose as the face in peril. Of note: Cesaro hit a Giant Swing, and got 17 revolutions (but the idiot fans managed to get to 20, because they don't understand the concept of one full rotation). After that, Cesaro just dumped the dizzy Ambrose out of the ring, so we take a look at...


Back, and Cesaro is working a front facelock. Ambrose fires up out of it, pulling the old Roddy Piper "punch me harder, I dare you" schtick, before unleashing a huge lariat and making the tag to Rollins. Rollins high speed offense lights up the crowd as he takes out both Swagger AND Cesaro in two fell swoops.

Top rope curb stomp on Swagger, but Cesaro breaks it up. Quick Pier Four Brawl, but Cesaro and Ambrose powder out. Rollins escapes the Patriot Act in especially flippy fashion, and h its the curbstomp for the win.

Your Winners: the Shield, via pinfall, in 15 minutes. Excellent match, almost youtube worthy. But it kind of muddied the waters storywise, since the Real Americans just became co-#1 Contenders for a tag title shot at WM on Friday. But the announcers here changed it up so that Rybaxel were getting the title shot alone. Why the sudden back-burnering? Or are they just waiting to make the 3-way official, as if we haven't all already figured out that that's what happens when there are co-#1 contenders?

After the Match: Cesaro tried to attack Rollins, but then Reigns happened. Spear to Cesaro. Spear to Swagger. Triple powerbomb through the announce table to Cesaro. Then, as the Shield celebrate, Kane and the Corporate Outlaws hit the stage to announce they'll be facing the Shiled in a six-man at Mania. As if we hadn't already figured THAT one out, too...



Brock Lesnar, with Paul Heyman, hits the ring for a Main Event Promo. He's even got a special customized t-shirt for the occassion: "Eat, Sleep, Beat the Streak." Hokay. Somehow, I don't think it'll be QUITE that easy.

Heyman takes the mic, and puts over how amazing the Undertaker's 21-0 streak is; Cena will never do it, Andre never could do it, even Lesnar can't do it. Which therefore means it'll be even more amazing when Barack Lesnar breaks it. But that's precisely what will happen.

And then Lesnar grabs the mic and says, "I know you're just doing your job, Paul, but I didn't come here to promote. I came here to fight. So Undertaker, I know you're here. I'm here. Let's do this."

And with that, the Gregorian chanting starts, and a dozen druids show up, rolling a casket down to the ring. They position it at ringside, and depart. Druids gone, chanting over. But the spooky lighting remains.

Lesnar's trying to figure out what to do. He starts poking at the casket. No reaction. Starts stomping it. The casket does start smoking, but otherwise: nothing.

Finally, Brock just opens the casket. It's empty. Brock and Paul are not amused. Then Brock does something stupid: he re-closes the casket. Paul grabs a mic and says he should have known better than to expect the Undertaker to show up in a sewer like Brooklyn. Instead, he plays mind games and sends an empty casket.

Empty, you say? Wrong.

The casket opens, and sure enough, the Undertaker's inside. Seriously, did anyone over the age of 13 NOT know that was coming? Zombie Sit-up. Taker gets in the ring. Lesnar charges. Taker tosses Lesnar out of the ring and onto the casket. Lesnar rolls off, and decides to retreat.

He does so while facing the ring, so RAW fades to black with Lesnar and Taker in a Staredown of Death.

And so ends the show. A deceptively good one, too. I had my gripes along the way. But I also thought there was quite a bit of good wrestling, and as obvious as some of the story-stuff was, it worked and served its purpose. That becomes all the more impressive when you consider that WWE did it without their current MVP, Daniel Bryan.

Steph said he wasn't gonna be there, and he wasn't. And in the end, I didn't mind too much. That, to me, is the best indication that WWE dun good tonight.

If you weren't already up for WrestleMania, this probably wasn't the show to change your mind. Strike that, it DEFINITELY wasn't. But if you were already buying what WWE was selling, then you were digging tonight's RAW. That's Sustainable Episodic TV for you.

Putting it all into the Pyrolizer, I come up with a grade of B+ for this week's effort. Till next week, kids...

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
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RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
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RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28



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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