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A Night of Highs and Lows
April 28, 2014

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OOWrestling.com


I got nothing in particular to rant about here in this week's preRamble, so I'm just gonna open things up with a question to you, OO Nation, on the off chance that you can help.
In short, is Season 2 of "Hannibal" holding up for you? I watched all of Season 1, with mixed feelings, but it was still set up on my DVR. So even while I was away, dealing with The Medical Unpleasantness, the new episodes started piling up.


At first, I was still reasonably interested to watch. I had my issues with the first season (mostly related to the liberties taken with Will Graham, turning him from a uniquely gifted -- if slightly twisted -- profiler of serial killers into a guy who was -- at times -- just a giant load who you wanted to slap because he couldn't keep his shit together; it's the same on-and-off issue I had with "Homeland" and no longer being able to sympathize with its hot mess of a protagonist), but I also bought into the whole idea of doing a backstory to "Red Dragon." The promise is that it's three seasons of prologue, and then, Season 4 is "Red Dragon" itself, and if they can get the rights, continuing on to tell the story of Hannibal Lecter (including "Silence of the Lambs"), but entirely from Hannibal's perspective of escaping, being on the run and in seclusion, as opposed to the "Best SUPPORTING Oscar" role that he ACTUALLY played in "Silence." [Seriously, he was only on screen for something like 16 minutes, out of 120, in that movie. BEST. ESSENTIALLY-A-CAMEO. EVAR~!]
That all sounds pretty awesome.
Also: Eddie Izzard as the main recurring villain doesn't hurt. He's also pretty awesome.
But the truth is, when I got home, I had priorities other than clearing out EVERYthing on my DVR. And now, I've got 9 damned episodes of the thing saved up. And I just don't do binge viewing, because I'm not wired like the rest of the universe. More than 2 hours of so of consecutively doing the same thing, and it's always diminishing returns for me. Ergo, 9 hours seems a daunting task that I'd actually have to -- you know? -- schedule ahead for. Especially because we're now well into baseball season, and that means I spend pretty much every evening watching the Reds (at least until the game becomes a foregone conclusion).
Finding 4 or 5 nights or afternoons or whatever isn't gonna be easy. But it's gotta happen, cuz we're at the point where those 9 hours are taking up space that I need... they either need to get watched or deleted in the next week or two.
Is it worth it? Having explained my basic feelings on the show, how's the calculus gonna work out, do you think? I value your opinions, OO Nation. And also, I'll be amused to see if you advise me wisely, or if I get annoyed at your for steering me wrong, because no one truly knows the mind of The Rick!
Hit me up with an email. I'm all ears. Or eyes. Whichever.
In the meantime, I'll do what I was put here to do: telling you what just happened on RAW...

Video Recap Package for the Benefit of Those with ADD: OO does not recap recaps.


After the video package, we eschew the usual theme/pyro/etc, and slam cut to the inside of the Not the Kiel Center in St. Louis, MO. The "Theme From Cage Dropping" is playing, and spotlights are swirling as the cage (duh) drops from the ceiling to surround the ring.

Then John Cena hits the ring, presumably to provide the counterpoint to Bray Wyatt's outstanding in-cage promo from Friday's SmackDown. Sure enough, he grabs a mic, and lets the crowd boo itself out before beginning. He opens with a question, "Why?". A grumpy, solemn question. He repeats it, "Why?"

"Why did you, given the chance last Monday, vote for me to face three men. You could have given me a fair chance, against one man. But you put me in there against insurmountable odds, against three men. Why?"

Whoa, they're really going there...

Cena continues, "A wise man once said that if you survive, you'll live long enough to become a villain to someone." And know he sees the truth behind that statement, because times have changed, and so have the fans. He reminisces about 10 years ago, the night he was drafted to RAW -- right here, in this very building -- and he remembers the unanimous cheers he got that night. And now? Not so much.

Cena says he knows how things work, that he can't do this job forever. He's EXCITED for the future, a future where he may not be the most important man in WWE. He namedrops Cesaro, Reigns, and even some NXT guys like Neville. But then he repeats, "Why? Why him? Why Bray Wyatt?"

Cena says the fans just don't get it. Bray Wyatt is a poison, not a savior. Cena can't let the fans buy into Wyatt's garbage. This isn't about Cena thinking he's hot stuff, and getting insecure about the boos he hears. This is about making sure that the fans are protected from Bray's twisted worldview. That's why he's fighting Wyatt in a cage on Sunday... he'll beat Wyatt, and Wyatt won't leave that cage. And his message will stay in there with him.

Finally, the fans will see Bray for what he really is.....


Oh, wait. No they aren't. A choir of children are here are up on the stage, and they launch into song. After three verses of "He's Got the Whole World," Bray and Harper/Rowan join the kiddies on the stage, and he leads them in a few more customized verses. He's got the Whole World in his hands.... then he's got the Big Bad Monster in his hands... and finally, he's got the Whole Cenation in his hands.

When they get to the ring, the choir surround it, and the lights go out after another freeze frame... when the lights come back on, all the kiddies are wearing sheep masks. Allow me to opine: cuh-reepy.

The live audience responds differently: with a "THIS IS AWE SOME clap clap clapclapclap." Cena just shakes his head and facepalms, unable to watch as Bray lures one of the kiddies to him. The kid sits on his lap, as Bray breaks into a maniacal laugh.

Another freeze frame, and we fade out. That, my friends, is one of the best, most pitch perfect segments I've seen on RAW in a while. Completely out there and over-the-top, and yet, somehow completely on point. Not just the choir of kids as a prop, but also having Cena address the elephant in the room (the fans turning on him, now even including the little kiddies, who used to be the only ones always on Cena's side), but without doing anything that actually compromises his commendable character. Superb.


Moments Ago: they replay a large portion of the kiddie choir, presumably because WWE took a peek at the tweety, and realized they dun good, so why not milk it?

THE USOS vs. RYBAXEL (WWE Tag Team Title Match)

Full boxing style intros for this one... between that and a fast start for the Usos, it seems like they've re-engaged the crowd after the emotionally charged opening segment. Not so much energy for entrances, but by the time things leads up to a wild Stereo Plancha by the Usos, the audience is hot.

Unfortunately, one of the Usos immediately grabs at his ankle after the dives.Uso II goes over to tend to him, while Rybaxel are still down and out. So you know what that means....


Back, and I guess I can't call them "Ricky" and "Robert," because we're not sticking to the formula. Jimmy's the one in the ring, getting his ass kicked, but it's only because Jey is still flat on his back, on the floor, getting tended to by trainers.

About three minutes into this, however, Jey finally drags himself back onto the apron, which JBL says is a terrible idea, because Jimmy doesn't know how bad Jey's hurt, and he could actually be hurting his team by trying to tag in.

But that won't stop Jimmy from fighting back... Rybaxel set him up for a double superplex, but he fights out by punching Ryback off. Ryback drops to the mat. Then he flapjacks Axel onto Ryback. Nice escape.

And then, he dives to his corner, and tags in Jey. Even with one bad wheel, Jey rattles off a series of moves... but when Ryback blind tags into the ring, Jey is in trouble. He's still dealing with Axel when Ryback strikes with a spinebuster. When Ryback goes for Shellshock, Jey counters by sliding out the backdoor with a sunset flip for a near fall.

Axel tags in, but Ryback sticks around, causing a Pier Four Brawl to break out. Eventually, Jey KO'd Ryback with a superkick, and then tagged to Jimmy. Axel missed the tag, and hit a PerfectPlex... at which point Jimmy leapt off the top rope with a superfly splash onto Axel. Done and done.

Your Winners: the Usos, via pinfall, in about 15 minutes. I don't know if it was just the innate desire to throw a change-up, or something specially formulated to re-engage the crowd after that opening segment, but I was a huge fan of the added twist of Jey's injury. Definitely an extra layer of intrigue when the Face In Peril makes the hot tag to a guy who's already in a lot of peril himself... and they still overcame to score the win. Good times.


Coming Soon: Adam Rose. And by "soon," we finally mean "soon," as they reveal next week as his RAW debut.

Backstage: Cesaro and Paul Heyman are talking about Rob Van Dam's comments from last week (where he suggested that Cesaro ditch Heyman, ASAP). Heyman calls RVD an ingrate, considering what Heyman did for his career, when no one else would give Van Dam a job. But that tack isn't working on Cesaro... so Heyman just flat out admits: "OK, he was right. I'm a conniving liar, and I'm completely unethical. But there's just one more thing. I also take my clients To. The. Top." NOW Cesaro is sold that he's with the right guy, and claps Heyman on the shoulder, "That's all I need to hear."

Last Week: a lengthy recap of Bryan/Kane. Which I will -- as is my wont -- not recap. Instead, I will report that I spent those three minutes checking on the Pacers game. In that brief window, the Pacers went from a 2 point deficit to a 10 point deficit. This is what I get for caring... but between the playoff run last year and the #1 seed this year, it actually seemed like this was a good time to pretend like I'm interested in the NBA... also, there's no Reds game tonight, because it's pouring down rain here in SW Ohio. So it's basketball or bust when RAW fails to entertain, now that I'm trying to do RAW in real time in case I actually want to do something with The App...

[ads... and now, it's a 13 point deficit...]

Backstage: we return to a darkened room, and slowly pan over to reveal that Kane's mask has been put back in its glass case. So, apparently, Stephanie really was serious about how she was sorry and Kane went too far... and later, wild monkeys will fly out of my butt.


Titus tried to jumpstart the match by attacking Sheamus from behind during his entrance. For about 30 seconds, he beat the crap out of Sheamus, then stepped back just long enough for the ref to check on Sheamus and ask "Do you want to start the match?"

Sheamus confirmed that he still wanted to fight, so the ref went ahead and rang the bell.

Titus charged. Sheamus ducked. Titus turned around and walked right into a Brogue Kick.

Your Winner: Sheamus, via pinfall, in 15 seconds. The effective pre-match attack was sold as a "new" Titus. The fact that he turned around and lost in 15 seconds means it's pretty much the same as the old Titus. Ahem.


Coming Soon: Bo Dallas. Unlike Rose, there is no due date here.


Dolph Ziggler is in the ring to finalize his peace treaty with Hugh Jackman. He says this is his favorite time of the year, and not just because the weather's getting warmer and the babes clothes start getting skimpier. It's also because it's when the Summer Blockbusters hit theaters.

Specifically, he's talking about the new X-Men movie, which he endorses enthusiastically. Then he shoots it to a trailer, which gets a tepid response from fans. Then, Ziggler introduces Wolverine, himself, Hugh Jackman.

Hugh gets to the ring and grabs a mic, saying what a great time he had last time he was on RAW. Ziggler briefly acts pissed, showing footage of that previous visit: when Jackman punched Ziggler in the face. Jackman says he wasn't planning on bringing it up.... and Ziggler says, "Just joshing, it's OK. Jack Swagger's kicked me 10 times harder." It turns out, it's an honor to get KO'd by the most bad-ass superhero of all times...

But just as the two are poised to kiss and make up, some unfamiliar music hits... it's evil organ music, and a man in a ludicrous red and purple costume hits the stage. It's Damien Sandow, and he says that tonight, he is Magneto.

After some hilarious ranting that you will have to see to appreciate, he manages to trip on his own cape as he gets into the ring. Jackman mocks the terribleness of the outfit... then Sandow says "SILENCE! You will not say another word. Behold, the power of magnetism!"

Sandow strikes a pose, and a buzzy sound effect starts.... it appears that Sandow is using his powers to rip the microphone out of Jackman's hands. But just as Jackman has been "pulled" to within inches of Sandow's grasp, cowering in fear at Sandow's obvious powers, he just throws the mic in Sandow's face and says, "Just kidding. You got nothing."

Jackman starts laughing at Sandow, so Damien charges... Jackman hits a textbook hip toss. Sandow gets to his feet, and Dolph piles on with the Zig Zag. Sandow powders out, and Dolph and Hugh celebrate while they play Ziggler's music.

Good, clean family fun. I'm a huge fan of Sandow, and despise the general way WWE has (under-)utilized him. But this is the kind of humiliation even I can enjoy. Then again, I'm the assclown who declared that the best thing to happen to Ziggler (to that point of his career) was the night he got punched in the face by Wolverine. Because, unlike everything else he'd ever done, the entire audience perked up and paid attention, and realized they were capable of caring about a segment with Ziggler in it. Not just the wankers. Everybody. Admit it: Sandow entertained you tonight, even if you're one of the dimwitted unwashed masses.

[Ed. Note: You know, when I said you had to see it to appreciate it, I meant it. To prove it, I'll do that which I abhor, and just stop using my Word Powers, and embed a youtube, as if I were little more than your average, everyday internet black hole of wit. Here's Sandow As Magneto:

You're Welcome.]


CESARO (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/ Zeb Colter)

Swagger and Colter enter first. Then, Paul Heyman comes out onto the stage, by himself. He says the fans have gotten the wrong idea about him, lately. He's actually a very jovial, beloved guy, just ask his kids. So, in an effort to win the fans over, he's going to "break character" and tell a joke.

"Knock knock."

Who's There?


Mike Who?

"Mike-lient Brock Lesnar beat the Undertaker at....."


"What? No, get it? Mike-lient, my client? Is this thing even on?"

At that point, Heyman gives up on the fans, and says he'll never mention Lesnar breaking the Streak again. Instead, he'd like to remind us that his client, Cesaro, won the Andre the Giant Battle Royale, and is the next top tier talent in WWE.

Enter Cesaro, to the same generic music (with random air raid siren) as last week. If anything, they made the siren even louder, to make me think even more of Scott Steiner. Which, as we discussed, is always a bad thing.

Anyway, after all that, the match finally starts. Power offense from Cesaro controls the opening minute or two. Then a bit of double-reversey (also a bit botchy, as Swagger slipped and fell during the exchange), and all of a sudden Swagger chopblocks Cesaro, and seems to be ready to try the Patriot Act.

But instead, Heyman attacks Colter, outside the ring, by pulling on his magnificent moustache, distracting Swagger.

Cesaro comes up behind him, delivers one clubbering forearm, and hits a German Suplex with a bridge. All over.

Your Winner: Cesaro, via pinfall, in under 3 minutes. So much for me thinking Cesaro/Swagger was gonna be a PPV match... they did it Friday on SD, and just put the final nail in Swagger's coffin with a second loss. Presumably, if Cesaro is done with Swagger, he'll be full-on heel now? I mean, between the finish last Monday, and the promo earlier tonight, it looks like Cesaro vs. RVD is the next logical development....

Backstage: Renee Young tries to ask John Cena about what happened earlier tonight with Bray and the kiddies. Cena just lowers his head, shakes it, and moves on without saying a word.


Backstage: a repeat of the pan-over to Kane's mask. It's still in its case. Where else could it possibly go?


As the match begins, we revisit the past week, as Cody and Goldust have had a few issues, with Cody seemingly blaming Goldust for a pair of losses. JBL tries to stir the pot, while Cole and Lawler point out that Goldust is still here to support his brother, so clearly everything is OK. Uh huh.

Crowd is so enthralled by Cody's early offense that they start chanting "WE WANT STING." Then Alberto settles in for a time compressed heel beatdown, allowing Goldust to cheerlead for his brother. Cody makes his comeback, and encouraged by Goldust, hits the Holly Sackkick. But when he goes for a springboard move, del Rio catches him in mid-air with a punch to the bread basket.

A kick to the head and a cross armbreaker later, and Cody's lost again.

Your Winner: Alberto del Rio, via submission, in 3 minutes. After the match, nobody seems to realize Alberto just got a big win, because we follow Cody, who shoves Goldust aside when the latter tries to check on him.


Backstage: we spy Heyman and Cesaro, from a distance. From their body language, we can safely infer that they are plotting. Or, perhaps, scheming. Maybe even conspiring.

EGGSAVIER WOODS (w/ R-Truth) vs. ALEXANDER RUSEV (w/ Russian Debra)

Yeah, so it's hard to envision why they'd book this match, when Rusev has already crushed both guys, individually, and that's why they're resorting to a 2-on-1 handipcap match on Sunday.

Oh, wait, I get it... it's so Rusev can crush Woods again, but Truth comes in before he can hit the Camel Clutch.

Your Winner: Alexander Rusev, via disqualification, in 45 seconds. But after the match, Truth and Woods manage to get the better of Rusev after a few double-team spots. SO IT'S TOTALLY POSSIBLE THAT THEY'LL WIN ON SUNDAY!!!

No. No, it's not. Come Sunday, we'll all be adults here, and we won't pretend it's something it isn't.

Earlier Today: John Cena granted two more wishes to Make-a-Wish kids. Because kiddies still love John Cena, no matter what. Except the ones in sheep mask.... duh duh DUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNN. [Actually, they didn't mention the Creepy Choir, I'm just making that thematic connection myself, because I can't stand even one 60 second segment of genuine human emotion, without inventing my own subversive context.]

Backstage: Renee Young asks Rob Van Dam about his chance to earn an IC Title match later tonight... RVD says he's already a 6-time IC Champ, and 7 is his lucky number, so he so totally gonna win another one someday. Why not this Sunday?

But then Zeb Colter interrupts, and tries to get RVD to buy into the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" theory. He proposes a partnership against Cesaro and Heyman. RVD turns him down cold, and in the rudest terms possible.


Backstage: we spy Swagger and Colter, from a distance. From their body language, we can safely infer that they are plotting. Or possibly scheming. Maybe even conspiring.

On a related note, I think they just telegraphed the finish of RVD/Barrett. Also, I bet I was only two-thirds right when I predicted RVD vs. Cesaro for the PPV. Ahem.

LOS MATADORES (w/ El Torito) vs. 3MB (w/ Mahal and Hornswoggle)

So yeah, they pretended to play it straight for about 30 seconds, and then the midgets got involved. Everybody tried to pull the midgets apart, and in the "chaos," Slater attacked Matadore #1 from behind and got a cheap pinfall.

Your Winners: 3MB, via pinfall, in 1 minute. Cole jokingly points out that this might be Slater's first win since Obama's first term. But mostly: this served as a flimsy excuse to have a quick post-match pull-apart between Torito and Swoggle. Why? Because they are fighting on the free pre-show on Sunday night. It's billed as a "WeeLC Match." Midgets and ladders and chairs, oh my!

Am I a horrible person for almost kinda sorta looking forward to that?



Steph hits the ring, and is still trying to act all sorry and apologetic. As I talked about last week, the audience is about two steps ahead of her. So she gets a mix of genuine boos and grumbles of annoyance.

But she asks for Bryan to come out and accept her apology in person. So Bryan (w/ Brie, and also with a Heenan-esque neck brace) hits the stage. He's also with us, two steps ahead of Steph. He says he thought about believing Stephanie. For about 2 seconds. Theyn he remembered that she's full of crap.

Steph tries to  talk her way out of it, admitting that she (and HHH) never wanted Bryan to win the WWE Title. And they did a lot of things to try to prevent that. But that's different from what happened last week.

Last week, Stephanie was just trying to make Kane grow a back bone, not just for his own good, but to give Bryan a credible challenger for Extreme Rules. She did that. But she did not want Kane to go as far as he did. She meant it when she asked him to stop.

Crowd: "Boo." Bryan: "Yeah, same here. You're still full of crap."

So Steph is all, "I don't know what else to do to convince you, so maybe you just need to come into the ring and look me in the eye to know how serious I am."

Bryan: "Just come down to the ring, eh? What do you think I am, stupid?" Bryan doesn't know exactly what Steph has planned, if she's got a trap in the ring, or if something's going to happen to Brie the moment he leaves her side... but he knows something's hinky. He says he'll see Kane on Sunday, and make no mistake, he's planning on taking Kane on a trip straight to hell... but he's not walking into a trap tonight.

Steph pauses, and then says, "OK, you're right, you're not cleared till Sunday. But your wife can compete." So Steph dangles a title shot in front of Brie... Bryan is still suspicious, but Steph says Bryan can join Brie at ringside, if he wants to keep an eye on her.

It seems like too good an opportunity to pass up, and Brie wants to do it. So Bryan says OK, let's do it. They head towards the ring....

Backstage: another shot of the darkened room. The same pan over. But this time, the mask is gone. DRAMA~!


PAIGE vs. BRIE BELLA (w/ Daniel Bryan) (Women's Title Match)

About 45 seconds of a match, and then THROUGH HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE, IT'S KANE!!!

Wait. Nope. It's just Kane's pyro. Bryan stands guard at the foot of the entrance aisle, but there's no Kane.

Until a gloved hand reaches up through the canvas. Kane emerges from that hole, and grabs Brie's ankle, planning to yank her down into his lair. But Bryan attacks with stomps and kicks. Kane has to step out of his hole to level the pre-injured champ with a series of right hands, then turns his attention back to Brie.

Just as he's about to drag her down to hell, Bryan strikes with a monkey wrench he found under the ring. Kane goes down like a ton of bricks. Bryan tends to Brie, but behind them, Kane does the Zombie Sit-Up.

Bryan urges Brie to leave, and turns to face Kane. But he's far from healthy, and quickly falls to a chokeslam. Refs and trainers swarm, and Kane turns back to Brie... he starts pulling her back towards his hole, but this time, she's able to kick Kane off and scurry away on her own.

As a final exclamation point, Kane blows some more pyro, blocking everyone's escape up the ramp. For about 10 seconds, and then it goes out. But you get the idea. The segment ends with Kane chuckling in the ring as Bryan, Brie, and the refs slink away.
Meh, it's probably not the way I'd have done it, but I get it: this is (in WWE's mind) the best way to paint Bryan as a massive underdog, which I can live with, since underdogs always overcome the odds. In pro wrestling, it's only when you get the last laugh before a PPV that you need to start worrying. [/adagethatwaslasttrueabout15yearsago]


Backstage: trainers are tending to Daniel Bryan, with Brie still at his side. And that's when Stephanie walks in, and is all "Ohmigod Imsosorry. Even if you don't believe me, ohmigod imsosorry." She wants to know if Bryan will even be able to compete on Sunday. Bryan just looks off the trainer with a deathstare, and answers the question himself. He will be at Extreme Rules. And Steph will rue the day she involved his wife in all this. Steph turned and gave Brie a skunkeye. So Brie retorted with "You know what? Just get out of here, YOU BITCH!" Because swear words make it more serious!!!

Elsewhere Backstage: Renee is here for Take 2 with Cena. Cena apologizes for walking out on her before, and says it's just because of how confused he was by the whole ordeal. Now that he's had time to collect himself, he's ready to say a few words...

And that's when Cena spends two minutes spinning a yarn about how he's going to buy Bray Wyatt a donkey. Why, you ask? So he could hit a punchline about how Sunday will end with "My fist in your face, and my boot up your ass." Get it? Donkey, ass?

Heyman's was better. And also, less cognitively dissonant. Cena was just the victime of the most legitimately creepy display of psychology in ages, and his play is to pretend that he's The Rock doing a promo on Jonathan Coachman. Oy. 

A Little Decorum, Please: Wade Barrett comes out on the stage, and he's got some bad news for us. You see, WWE's slogan is "Then. Now. Forever." But RVD's slogan should just be "Then." Because he's old, and when this next match is done, he'll be eating his meals through a straw. All courtesy of [points-to-self]B-N-B[/pts]. Nice.


ROB VAN DAM vs. WADE BARRETT (IC Title Tourney Final)

Barrett's already in the ring. RVD makes a grand entrance. And we're off.

Standard old school feeling out to open. Armbars, chain wrestling, helocks, standoffs, etc. Very audible "LET'S GO BARE YET" chants, countered with your basic "ARE VEE DEE" ones.

Barrett shoulder blocks RVD out of the ring to take the first significant advantage. While tossing Van Dam into all the ringside furniture, Wade pauses to do the B-N-B taunt again. Love it.

Back in the ring, RVD tries to counter a corner whip by  reverse leap-frogging Barrett's charge (you've seen the spot; I may not be describing it perfectly, but you know the one). Barrett stops short, and just kicks Van Dam in the scrotum. Effective.

RVD tumbles out of the ring. Barrett turns to taunt. We break for...


Back, and Barrett's working a chinlock. As is increasingly common, that lasts all of 15 seconds before the good guy tries to fire up. But Van Dam's flurry is snuffed out when Wade avoids a kick and hits the Winds of Change. His first near fall of the match.

After a couple more high impact moves, Barrett goes back to the chinlock. RVD fires up again, and this time, it takes. He's setting up for Rolling Thunder when Cesaro (and Heyman) materialize. Cesaro is gonna get in the ring, but just as quickly, Jack Swagger shows up and yanks Cesaro off the apron.

Barrett tries to take advantage of the distraction, by attacking RVD from behind. But RVD counters, and drops Wade with the step-through enzuigiri. Rolling Thunder hits. RVD goes up top, but is momentarily distracted when Cesaro gets up on the apron. RVD kicks him in the head, and returns to his original plan: the Five Star Frog Splash.

But the distraction is enough to allow Barrett to get his knees up. RVD takes the shot to the gut, and when he stands up, he's greeted by the Bullhammer. One, two, and three.

Your Winner: Wade Barrett, via pinfall, in about 12 minutes. Decent little match, but as mentioned earlier, I really did think this was the only likely ending after the dueling "scheming" footage with Cesaro and Swagger. So that took a bit of oomph out of it.

After the Match: Cesaro tried to resume his attack on RVD. He got about two shots in, then Swagger attacked him. Cesaro powdered out, and Swagger tried to turn his attention to RVD. Bad idea. RVD got the better of it, ending with a Five Star. Book the threeway for Sunday!


On Friday: the Authority is forcing Dean Ambrose to defend the US Title against Alberto del Rio, Ryback, and Curtis Axel. Hey, somebody remembered the US Title exists! So: end of Ambrose's reign? Or a repeat of last Friday's show, with guerrila justice evening the odds before the match even happens?

ROMAN REIGNS (w/ Ambrose and Rollins) vs. RANDY ORTON (w/ HHH and Batista)

Evolution enters first, and HHH cuts a quick promo, saying he applauds the Shield. What they did on Friday was impressive. They're almost starting to remind him of Evolution. Only problem is, we don't need a new Evolution, because Evolution is still here.

So thanks for homage, immitation IS the sincerest form of flattery... but the real deal isn't going away any time soon.

Sierra. Hotel.India. Echo. Lima. Delta. The Shield hit the ring, and we've got a three-on-three staredown.

And then, WHOOOOOOO! It's the Nature Boy, Ric Flair. And apparently, he's here to complete the Evolution Reunion. Or at least, that's what Cole says, and he'd never lie to us. Right?

Flair grabs a mic, and certainly starts off in that direction, reminiscing about all the great times he's had (right here! in St. Louis, MO!) back in the Four Horsemen days. And then, WHOOOOO!, there was Evolution, and he misses it. But you see, he's not here tonight to live in the past, he's here tonight to enjoy the moment, standing in the ring with superstars who personify power, style, and greatness. "But I'm not talking about Evolution. [awkward pause] I'm talking about the Shield."

Dead silence. The words, on paper, convey the right sentiment: Flair is endorsing the Shield as the present and future of wrestling. But his cadence and deliver (and that lengthy pregnant pause) completely fouled the deal. Presumably, because Flair was just saying them as words on paper, and he didn't stop to really process it, or understand how to make the words work. You know deep down, he didn't want to put those snot nosed kids in the Shield over, not at the expense of his good buddy, HHH. And it showed. The "reveal" was devoid of any impact, and when it didn't click, Flair didn't do anything to save it, or to underscore what he meant; he just walked out, leaving the live audience confused, and leaving the announcers to try to oversell what Flair undersold. JBL, in particular, started "WHOOOOOO'ing" his ass off and shouting about how "Bah god, Flair just turned on Evolution. WHOOOOO!"

Anyway, it seems WWE decided they HAD to address the issue of Flair being absent from the Evolution Reunion, and with said reunion likely to not have much of a shelf life past this Sunday (Orton's still owed a rematch against Bryan, HHH is angling for a singles feud with Reigns, and Batista is taking some time off at some point this summer for Hollywood Reasons), this was pretty much the best play: a quick, token "I didn't want to rejoin" appearance by Flair. And somehow, it still got lost in translation. Oh well.

Flair's gone, and it's 11:06pm (eastern), and supposedly, we've got a match, here. So the extras bail out, and the ref rings the bell.

REIGNS vs. ORTON (For Real, Now)

Orton and Reigns don't have time to tell any kind of story, so they just sort of trading punchy-kicky moves, until Reigns uses his power advantage to chuck Orton out of the ring. More punchy-kicky, then Reigns makes the mistake of getting distracted when HHH and Batista loiter in his general direction. Orton takes advantage.

Approximately 90 seconds of heel beatdown, and all of a sudden, Reigns comes alive, avoids a Hangman DDT, drapes Orton across the ropes, does his Leaping Apron Dropkick Thingie (yes, that's the technical term!), and sets up for the Superman Punch... but HHH reachs up and grabs Reigns' ankle, preventing him from getting his running start.

Immediately, Ambrose and Rollins pounce, and the four extra players are brawling at ringside. Meantime, the distraction was enough for Orton to save his own hide. He hits his wraparound backbreaker, but when he tries to follow up, Reigns hits him with the Superman Punch out of nowhere. Instead of going for the cover, however, Reigns glances outside, where he sees Batista and HHH dominating Ambrose and Rollins. So he does the nice thing, and goes to help his buddies.

He walks into a 1-on-2 situation, and gets the worse of it. That leaves the ref with no choice but to throw out the match.

Your Winner: Roman Reigns, via DQ, after 4 minutes. I'm assuming they had plans on a slightly more cohesive match, but starting at 11:06pm handcuffed them a bit. Probably doesn't matter, since either way, I'm sure this was still the planned ending. More to the point, it's not the match that mattered, it's what they had planned for...

After the Match: with Ambrose and Rollins already out of it, Evolution is able to dominate Reigns. Even when Rollins and Ambrose get back in the ring, the 3-on-3 is still mighty one-sided. But just when I was getting scared that the show was going to thud to an anticlimax every bit as disappointing as Flair's, Rollins came out of nowhere with a springboard knee to HHH, just as HHH was about to Pedigree Reigns. All of a sudden, Ambrose and Reigns come alive, too...

The Shield take over, and Ambrose and Reigns powder out with Batista and Orton, leaving Reigns alone with HHH. Spear. Ambrose and Rollins re-appear, after dealing with Batista and Orton, and start gesturing (Broadly) that it'd be really fun to hit the Triple Powerbomb on Hunter... but just as they get set up for it, Orton and Batista come in, swinging chairs, and the Shield release HHH to fight them off. Batista and Orton scurry away from the 2-on-3 fight, and join up with HHH on the ramp, as we fade to black on the Shield celebrating.
And so ends the show. It was a show that was a bit all over the place. The final segment was the perfect microcosm, with the Flair Surprise falling dreadfully flat, but with the Shield's comeback re-energizing the crowd.
We got everything from a really entertaining tag title match, with an extra layer of drama that's not a part of the standard formula, to multiple throwaway matches that didn't top 3 mintues, and which seemed more like a throwback to the days of Saturday morning wrestling.
Even when the show got on a roll, the momentum petered out, because this week featured about twice as much replay filler as usual. It wasn't just replaying the Creepy Choir three times. It even extended to showing the same zero-value-add Shield recap TWICE on the same show. Infuriating.
And of course, Cena and Bray doing one of the most viscerally memorable segments in a long time to open the show, only to have Cena talking about donkey purchases later on. It doesn't get more paradoxical than that.
Taking a step back, and considering the big picture -- the uneveness of the show, the fact that all the best stuff happened in the first 35 minutes -- I just can't go any higher than a C-minus for tonight's show.
I'll see you kids again on Sunday night, shortly after 11pm, with a recap of Extreme Rules. For as little added anticipation we got tonight on RAW, it's still a show with the pieces in place to be rather interesting and entertaining. Or, I guess, Cena and Evolution could win, and the whole thing would be boring and stale...
But I'm gonna go in optimistic that WWE continues the Freshness Movement on Sunday. What can I say, the way the last 4 months have gone for me, I'm a bit more of a glass-half-full guy than I've ever been before...

See you Sunday night!

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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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