As the beard may or may not have hinted, Daniel Bryan does not conform to the typical corporate structure. The No. 1 contender defied all convention on Monday's Raw when, just as Mr. McMahon was running him down in an opening address, Bryan crashed the party and confronted WWE's Chairman.
Surprisingly, Mr. McMahon obliged the submission master his audience and – perhaps unsurprisingly –confirmed that he does, in fact, not like the idea of Daniel Bryan as WWE Champion. Nor does he care much for John Cena, for that matter. Far as Mr. McMahon is concerned, The Champ's lost the ruthless aggression that brought him the gold in the first place, and nothing less than the spontaneous combustion of both men will appease him at SummerSlam.
A morbid prediction, to be sure, yet Bryan wasn't interested in The Chairman's opinion, only that of the WWE Universe. Judging by the “YES!” chants that showered the duo in the ring, it appeared that this, at least was beyond question.
The Shield found themselves shamed last week when they picked a fight with Mark Henry and had to deal with The Usos as well. But the NXT veterans did what they do best this week, defeating the latest all-star trio to face them in a six-man setting.
The match was a one-sided mauling early on when Henry ran roughshod over the “Hounds of Justice,” though The Shield finally found their opening when Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose laid siege to Jey Uso and isolated him from his teammates. However, Jey took advantage of a distracted Seth Rollins to tag in Henry, but Reigns cut The World's Strongest Man down with a spear and Ambrose sealed the deal for his squad, blocking a Superfly Splash and executing his bulldog driver on Jimmy Uso for the win ... though a fuming Henry wasn't so beat down he couldn't punish the “Hounds” with a post-match hurting.
The balletic majesty of Fan-DAN-Go was no match for the one-of-a-kind power of Rob! Van! Dam! when the former WWE Champion prevailed in a battle of two of WWE's most physically gifted Superstars. Fandango started strong (not to mention cocky), but RVD made his feelings quite clear on the dancing king's showboating, unleashing a ballroom blitz of kicks and a moonsault on the rhythmic prodigy. Although Fandango hung tough, things turned dour when RVD started to roll and set up for the Five Star Frog Splash. Sensing defeat, the dancer denied the high-flyer his glory and elected to dance another day, rolling out of the ring and retreating up the ramp.
AJ Lee's prevailed twice over Kaitlyn despite eating some of the most vicious spears in WWE history, but the black widow found herself Chickbusted when the “Hybrid Diva” picked up a long-awaited (yet non-title) win in her home state. Even though the increasingly conflicted Big E Langston loomed large at ringside, AJ had things well in hand, forcing Kaitlyn into a corner and preventing the spear with a deceptively monstrous knee to the former champion's face.
It was a nearly flawless performance by the champion, who only left herself vulnerable for a moment when she ricocheted off the ropes. That, though, was all Kaitlyn needed to blast AJ with another spear that had three consequences of note: 1) she won the match, 2) she precipitated a five-star temper tantrum from AJ and 3) brought out Dolph Ziggler for some good old fashioned gloating and a challenge to Big E Langston. Which, of course, led to ...
He can steal the show, but can Dolph Ziggler slay a giant? For all his physical gifts, The Showoff seemed to have finally bitten off more than he could chew with a challenge of his former protégé, Big E Langston, on Raw. Showing little in the way of sentimentality, the student put a handy whomping on his teacher, crushing Ziggler with power maneuvers and taunting the former World Champion like a schoolyard goon.
Ziggler's quick thinking saved him from utter destruction when a split-second dodge of a Langston corner charge gave him life and momentum enough to toss Big E out of the ring, yet the bout ended with a whimper (figuratively speaking) when AJ mauled her former beau and brought the tilt to a DQ conclusion, much to Langston's chagrin. Ever one to get the last word, Dolph made his final move on the fuming titan by blasting him with a farewell Zig Zag. Now that's how you sever a partnership.
Given that Alberto Del Rio will get to pick his own SummerSlam opponent on SmackDown this week, he might want to cross Christian from the list for the sake of strategy. Standing strong against Del Rio's aggression, Captain Charisma notched his biggest win yet on Raw by knocking off the World Champion in a non-title match, though the feat was hardly a cakewalk for the two-time World Title holder.
The Essence of Excellence nearly left Christian hobbled in the brutal contest, using the steel steps and ring post to help weaken his opponent's arm in preparation for the Cross Armbreaker. Del Rio never got to lock in his feared finisher, however, after Christian dodged an enziguiri from the champion following a lengthy back and forth, following the evasion with a roll-up reversal of the Cross Armbreaker to score a stunning upset pin of the World Heavyeweight Champion.
Things just keep getting better for Cody Rhodes, don't they? Coming off a resounding humiliation of his former best friend Damien Sandow, the son of a son of a plumber continued his in-ring winning ways with a victory over Wade Barrett in the Lone Star State. A punishing opening salvo from the Brit left Cody in dire straits, though Rhodes was more than capable of giving the brawler a taste of his own medicine.
Rallying from Barrett's opening barrage, Rhodes let loose with some power moves of his own, kneeing the Englishman in the face before reversing Wade's pump-handle slam into Cross Rhodes. As if on cue, a still-mad (and still briefcase-less) Sandow reappeared atop the ramp to slander Cody and his family, though the scholar stopped short of an actual confrontation, snarling that “carny folk are beneath [his] constitution.”
With friends like these, who needs enemies? Any hesitance Daniel Bryan had at facing down Kane in a McMahon-mandated battle between the former anger management mates evaporated early on, as the No. 1 contender unleashed a furious barrage of kicks on his pal, eager to prove he had the ruthlessness necessary to dethrone John Cena at SummerSlam.
Looking to rediscover his long-dormant rage, Kane certainly returned the favor, blocking the submission master's kicks and locking in for a Chokeslam that seemed to seal the bout. That is, until “Mr. Small Package” struck The Devil's Favorite Demon with his eponymous maneuver, pinning his friend for the win and suffering a post-match Chokeslam as recompense.
Kane's night quickly deteriorated, however, when Bryan departed to lick his wounds and The Wyatt Family returned to target The Big Red Monster again. And even though Kane took the fight straight to Bray in his rocking chair, it wasn't enough to stop Erick Rowan and Luke Harper from pulverizing him once more while Bray delivered yet another sermon that promised further punishment.
When Twin Magic won't do the trick, a little good-old fashioned taunting certainly works fine. Tempers were running high in a bout between “Total Divas” stars Brie Bella and Natalya after a disparaging “ugly duckling” comment was tossed Natalya's way, and the “Queen of Harts” certainly had no qualms repaying Brie in the ring. Things were looking “total”-ly dire for the former Divas Champion until Nikki came to her sister's rescue, taunting Natalya atop the stage with “ugly” duck noises and a kazoo, ultimately distracting her so Brie could capitalize with a roll-up pin. Now that's drama.
Curtis Axel may consider himself to be more perfect than Perfect, but the Intercontinental Champion was left at the mercy of “The Best in the World” when CM Punk jumped Axel after a match on Raw. The Paul Heyman-cosigned Hennig prodigy matched up well in combat with R-Truth, and no sooner had Axel dispatched the former U.S. Champion than The Straight Edge Superstar ambushed him from behind, making a beeline for Heyman himself moments later. Axel's timely interference allowed the mad scientist to escape through the crowd with his latest acolyte, but one can only wonder if Heyman will be so lucky come SummerSlam.
It might be a stretch to call the WWE Champion “lucky” when he notches a Tables Match victory over a man he's already beaten twice, yet the last-ditch effort that carried John Cena to victory over a surging Ryback in the main event of Raw was certainly more the product of a sudden burst rather than a slow burn.
Far from the “Cryback” that his detractors have labeled him as, the “Human Wrecking Ball” was ruthless from the beginning, manhandling Cena for the majority of the contest. Ryback remained keenly aware of his surroundings, setting up tables and destroying them himself when it looked like The Champ was about to turn the tide. Despite the Cenation commander's resistance, Ryback looked to have him in hand after a Meathook Clothesline left Cena vulnerable against a table, yet The Champ avoided being plowed through the pine, striking with an Attitude Adjustment that put Ryback through the wood and brought the bout to its end.
The victorious Cena soon got another visitor in the form of Daniel Bryan, who mugged with the WWE Title for a few moments before returning it to its keeper. Friendly jockeying between rivals, or a subtle promise of things to come? Only a few weeks left before the WWE Universe gets its answer.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins) defeated Mark Henry & The Usos (Jey Uso & Jimmy Uso) (12:20)
- Rob Van Dam defeated Fandango (w/ Summer Rae) by Count Out (4:10)
- Kaitlyn defeated AJ Lee (w/ Big E. Langston) (4:30)
- Dolph Ziggler defeated Big E. Langston (w/ AJ Lee) by DQ (5:20)
- Christian defeated Alberto Del Rio (13:45)
- Cody Rhodes defeated Wade Barrett (4:20)
- Daniel Bryan defeated Kane (11:45)
- Brie Bella defeated Natalya (4:15)
- Curtis Axel (w/ Paul Heyman) defeated R-Truth ended in a no contest
- John Cena defeated Ryback in a Tables Match (15:10)
Other on-screen talent