Perhaps it's only fitting that, as Raw rolled into the Music City, the evening began with the metaphorical funeral dirge of one Paul Heyman, who came into Nashville, Tenn., with no less an intention than to announce his resignation. His reputation in shambles and his career in jeopardy following the events of the past two weeks, the former ECW mastermind took to the ring to say his final goodbyes. But more importantly, Heyman gave a heartfelt explanation as to why he would be leaving WWE: He would be leaving for the sake of his friend, CM Punk.
“That sword of Damocles is not just hanging over me, it is hanging over everyone around me, and that means it is hanging over CM Punk,” said Heyman, who insisted he had become a “distraction” for Punk and his presence was no more than a hindrance to The Straight Edge Superstar's pursuit of the WWE Championship. With Mr. McMahon gunning for Heyman, the mad scientist explained, it was better for everyone involved if he stepped aside and let Punk handle his business on his own.
It was only when CM Punk himself came to the ring to comfort his longtime ally that Heyman's self-eulogy came to a halt. The Straight Edge Superstar insisted that cooler heads prevail, that Heyman tough it out despite Mr. McMahon's vendetta against him. Heyman first seemed dead set on making his exit, but Punk eventually broke through to his mentor and finally talked Heyman down from the ledge by promising to “make everything right” and take the WWE Title back from The Rock at Elimination Chamber.
“This Sunday at Elimination Chamber, this bad dream we’re living all goes back to normal,” Punk said. “I will beat The Rock, and when I do beat The Rock, you, Paul Heyman, you will be in the corner of the champ.”
Punk's words appeared to have a galvanizing effect on his mentor, too: Only minutes after retracting his resignation, Heyman was up to his old tricks and got a potentially game-changing stipulation added to CM Punk's WWE Title Match against The Rock: If The People's Champion gets counted out or disqualified at Elimination Chamber, he will lose the WWE Championship to CM Punk.
As the old saying goes, one time is happenstance, but twice is a pattern. And Mark Henry certainly had no interest in having his manhandling of The Great Khali last Friday go down in the books as an anomaly. The World's Strongest Man got a one-on-one opportunity at The Punjabi Playboy after attacking Khali in the ring on SmackDown, and Henry certainly made the most of his opportunity. He clobbered away at Khali before executing an earthshaking World's Strongest Slam on the former World Champion for the one-two-three.
Not satisfied with beating up a big man, though, Henry next turned his attentions to poor, beleaguered Hornswoggle, and despite Khali's buddy's best efforts at escaping, Henry planted him with a World's Strongest Slam as well. That's going to leave a mark. But while Henry's post-match beatdown of 'Swoggle might have bordered on gratuitous, the initial victory still gave The World's Strongest Man enough of a push to qualify him for the World Heavyweight Championship No. 1 Contender Elimination Chamber Match. Looks like things just got a bit more interesting down in New Orleans.
What's a tough loss to a battle-hardened veteran like Chris Jericho? The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla, emboldened by his strong (albeit ultimately unsuccessful) showing against CM Punk last week, demanded an opportunity to qualify for the World Heavyweight Championship No. 1 Contender's Elimination Chamber Match and came up strong in a heated contest against previous qualifier Daniel Bryan. The last time these two met, they were trading catchphrases in the locker room, but their contest in Nashville was anything but a laughing matter, with the two former champions trading intricate holds and quick-strike aerial maneuvers in a grueling bout that stretched the better part of 15 minutes.
Oddly enough, despite the technical mastery of its participants, the style of the match skewed more toward brutal, old-school strikes than intricate, mat-based holds. Jericho and Bryan threw fists and elbows left and right in an effort to pummel each other into defeat, occasionally taking to the air (such as a breathtaking suicide dive by Bryan) when things got particularly do-or-die.
The two grapplers finally took the fight to the mat toward the end of the contest, trading submission holds as Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho to Bryan, only to be reversed into the “No!” Lock before reversing that hold once more into the Walls. It wasn't a torturous hold that decided the bout, however, but a quick-strike Codebreaker from The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla that stunned a rolling Bryan and secured the three-count for the Elimination Chamber veteran. Lock up your fine china, ladies and gentlemen: Chris Jericho is going to Nawlins, babaaaayyy!!!
It is considered a travesty by some (not many, mind you, but some) that 3MB were snubbed entirely from last night's Grammy awards ceremony, but the would-be rockers got their chance to shine in a Six-Man Tag Team Match against John Cena, Sheamus & Ryback. And when all was said and done ... well, let's just say their Monday night went about as well as their Sunday night did.
To be fair, it wasn't like the fellas just rolled over and played dead for the strongmen. Drew McIntyre in particular got a few licks in against Sheamus, but Cena & Co. played a tune on the band nonetheless. Despite a final effort by 3MB to swarm their opponents en masse, Cena, Ryback & Sheamus punctuated the contest with a synchronized execution of White Noise, Shell Shocked and the Attitude Adjustment on each member of the beleaguered band, with Cena covering Jinder Mahal for the official pin.
As the lights dimmed on 3MB, though, Cena grabbed hold of a microphone and had a few post-performance words for The Shield. It appeared that, despite the fact he, Sheamus & Ryback are slated to face The Shield in an unprecedented Six-Man Tag Match, they weren't interested in waiting till then to get a piece of the black-clad brawlers and all but dared The Shield to show their faces and get a taste of Cena, Ryback & Sheamus’ own particular version of justice.
Sometimes, words just won't do the moment justice. And World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio truly didn't just wound Big Show's pride when he showered the giant in orange paint last Friday on SmackDown — he took away his voice as well. Show was plenty angry on Monday following Del Rio's shenanigans, knocking out Yoshi Tatsu and Alex Riley for daring to mock him. But when the time came for the big man to air his grievances on the microphone, he found himself totally at a loss for words (this was, for what it's worth, only after he opted to KO Matt Striker as well). Perhaps then, the time for talk is over, and Sunday will see flapping gums replaced by flailing fists.
One has to imagine Zack Ryder was feeling good going into Monday's bout against Jack Swagger. Although The Ultimate Broski never got an official rematch for his beloved U.S. Title after Swagger relieved him of the prize, a one-on-one bout between these two was certainly a long time coming. Unfortunately, it was déjà vu for the “Internet Champion” when the self-dubbed “Real American” ran rampant on the be-spiked Broski in the Music City. Swagger shook off an early Broski Boot and proceeded to go to town on Long Island Iced-Z, plastering him with a gut-wrench powerbomb before finally putting Ryder down with the Patriot Act ankle lock to continue his formidable winning streak. But it was Swagger's “friend,” Zeb Colter, who delivered the “Real American’s” manifesto to the WWE Universe: “We are real patriots, real Americans,” and together, they would defeat anyone they felt threatened the integrity of Old Glory. WWE locker room, you have been warned.
Taking your eye off the ball is never a good thing. Ask The Miz, who earned a disqualification victory over Cody Rhodes but suffered a resounding beatdown as a result when he abandoned his game plan to take a crack at U.S. Champion Antonio Cesaro, who was sitting on commentary observing the contest.
Miz was initially all business against “The Essence of Mustachioed Magnificence,” though, employing an aggressive game plan to get his momentum back following an attack at the hands of Brock Lesnar the previous week. The Awesome One came out swinging against Rhodes and the former Intercontinental Champion answered in kind. The two traded shots across the ring until the fight spilled to the outside and Cesaro jumped The Awesome One from behind. Chaos ensued from that point and The Swiss Superman wasted no time in dismantling The Miz, slamming him into the ring post and finally swinging Miz into the barricade like a sack of potatoes, knocking him silly with each thunderous collision into the barrier. After five swings, Cesaro stopped his attack, dropping Miz in a heap and mugging for the crowd with his precious United States Championship (and satchel) proudly on display for all to see.
It's a match made in big man heaven, WWE Universe: Brodus Clay and Tensai, together as partners. It seemed pre-ordained that the two would combine forces ever since The Funky One helped Tensai get in touch with his fun side, and no sooner had the two shaken hands on a partnership than they cemented their union with a resounding victory over Primo & Epico. The two titans were in perfect sync, trading shots against the former WWE Tag Team Champions before Tensai landed the deciding pinfall, and then the two got down with their bad selves. Cameron even gave Tensai an attaboy on the rear end as a bonus for the big man. Call us crazy, but we think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.
With The Shield having been called out by John Cena, Ryback & Sheamus just days before their collision at Elimination Chamber, the so-called keepers of justice came to the ring to air their grievances and explain their persistent targeting of the three Superstars they'll be staring down come Sunday.
Their insistence on attacking those particular three Superstars, The Shield said, was that Cena had created an environment where a Superstar can say or do whatever he pleases without fear of reprisal. That mentality had spread to the likes of Sheamus and Ryback while they ran rampant throughout the WWE roster, decimating who they felt like and facing no consequences as a result. The Shield claimed this mentality enabled Superstars to live similarly consequence-free lives and that they would rectify the situation come Sunday in the Elimination Chamber.
“This Sunday, we have the opportunity to rectify a decade of injustice in one fell swoop,” Seth Rollins said before he, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose took up positions around the ring, beckoning their opponents to come out and face them.
It was then that Cena, Ryback & Sheamus delivered The Shield a taste of their own medicine, cutting the arena lights and ambushing in the dark. When visibility was restored, Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns were under heavy attack from their challengers and found themselves in a rare defensive position. Despite their best efforts, The Shield was overwhelmed for the second time in as many weeks, fleeing through the crowd and living to fight another day.
So what does Damien Sandow think of Nashville? Well, needless to say, he kind of hates it. The Enlightened One preluded his contest with World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio with an extensive sermon on the Music City's many supposed deficiencies, specifically its infatuation with songs about “dead dogs, broken-down pickup trucks and overly sensitive ignoramuses such as yourselves getting their hearts broken ... shameful at best.”
Sufficiently riled up by the mere fact that he was in Nashville, Sandow came out appropriately aggressive in his bout with The Essence of Excellence, busting out an early Elbow of Disdain in a breathtaking opening flurry against the World Heavyweight Champion. Del Rio countered quickly, though, turning the tide almost immediately against The Intellectual Savior of the Masses with a jaw-rattling superkick before applying the Cross Armbreaker to force Sandow into submission. De nada.
It's safe to say Wade Barrett has been a wee bit frustrated of late, having been one-upped on more than a few occasions by WWE NXT standout Bo Dallas. Barrett's mood didn't improve when Dallas attacked him in the locker room, but the brawling Brit found a bright spot nonetheless when he harnessed his frustration into a gritty defeat of former Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston. The Dreadlocked Dynamo looked like he was ready to roll when he faced the man who took the Intercontinental Title from him in the last Raw of 2012, but Barrett was patient in his game plan and wisely waited out The Boom Squad General's high-octane offense before turning the tide with the Winds of Change. The Englishman took to a bit of trickery to secure the win, ducking outside the ring when Kofi attempted Trouble in Paradise and ensnaring Kingston in the ring apron. Barrett then executed the Bull Hammer elbow on his blinded opponent, knocking Kofi out cold and earning Barrett the win. Given that Barrett immediately bellowed for Bo Dallas to come out and face him, though, it's safe to say the one victory the Intercontinental Champion truly wants has yet to come to him.
It appears that one opportunity at the World Heavyweight Championship will have to do for Dolph Ziggler. After persuading Booker T to give him an opportunity to earn the final Elimination Chamber spot, Mr. Money in the Bank fell short to another prospective World Champion looking for a foothold in the Devil's Playground: Kane.
It appears that one opportunity at the World Heavyweight Championship will have to do for Dolph Ziggler. After persuading Booker T to give him an opportunity to earn the final Elimination Chamber spot, Mr. Money in the Bank fell short against another prospective World Champion looking for a foothold in Satan's Playground: Kane.
With the more demonic half of Team Hell No still fighting for a spot in the Chamber, the bout was high-stakes and high-octane, and Ziggler wrestled it as such. The Showoff dug deep into his extensive arsenal, employing the full scope of both his technical and physical maneuvers in his effort to knock off The Big Red Machine and make his way into the Elimination Chamber. But Kane proved the more resilient of the two competitors, withstanding Ziggler's sleeper hold and leaping DDT to set himself up for the final strike. When Kane ascended the turnbuckle to deliver his flying clothesline, though, AJ Lee climbed up to the apron to distract him. Ziggler, attempting to capitalize, nearly knocked AJ off the apron.
Luckily for AJ, Big E Langston was there to catch her.
Unluckily for Dolph, though, Kane was lying in wait for The Showoff.
By the time Ziggler registered his gal's safety and got his head back in the game, The Devil's Favorite Demon was waiting with open glove to catch Dolph with a Chokeslam, completing the lineup for the Elimination Chamber and leaving The Showoff to ponder what might have been.
The WWE Champion's history with Nashville is long and storied, and we don't just mean the surreal yarn The Rock spun for the WWE Universe about a car he acquired through suspect means in his youth. The Music City is where The People's Champion had his first match, it's where he went to high school for a time, and in 2013, it was the site of a crass act of robbery against The Brahma Bull: the theft of the WWE Championship itself.
The Great One finished entertaining the WWE Universe with the stories of his youth when CM Punk and Paul Heyman made their presences known, emerging from the locker room and mean-mugging The People's Champion from afar. Rock beckoned Punk and Heyman to “bring it,” and bring it they did. The Straight Edge Superstar swarmed the WWE Champion and seemed doomed to a Music City mauling when The People's Champion planted Punk with a spinebuster and prepared for The People's Elbow. But right as The Rock was running the ropes, Heyman struck and tripped up The Great One, allowing Punk to capitalize by nailing The Great One with the Go to Sleep.
With the champion unconscious, Punk committed an act of in-ring larceny, seizing the WWE Title beside the fallen champion and absconding with the prize, pausing only once to acknowledge his foe from the top of the ramp.
“Storytime’s over, Rock,” Punk sneered in the ultimate act of defiance from a lifelong rebel. “I want you to understand one thing: Every time you wanna bring it, because it belongs to me, I’m just gonna take it.”
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Mark Henry defeated The Great Khali (w/ Hornswoggle & Natalya) (1:35)
- Chris Jericho defeated Daniel Bryan (10:45)
- The Sword (John Cena, Sheamus & Ryback) defeated 3MB (Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre & Jinder Mahal) (2:45)
- Jack Swagger (w/ Zeb Colter) defeated Zack Ryder (2:35)
- The Miz defeated Cody Rhodes by DQ (3:05)
- Tons of Funk (Brodus Clay & Tensai) (w/ Funkadactyls) defeated Primo and Epico (w/ Rosa Mendes) (1:10)
- Alberto Del Rio (w/ Ricardo Rodriguez) defeated Damien Sandow (1:15)
- Wade Barrett defeated Kofi Kingston (3:05)
- Kane defeated Dolph Ziggler (w/ AJ Lee & Big E. Langston) (10:20)
- Dark match: John Cena defeated Dolph Ziggler (w/ Big E. Langston)
Other on-screen talent