Whether Seth Rollins’ trust of Randy Orton was truly as “shameful” as The Apex Predator insisted is a matter of opinion. After all, family trusts family. But after allowing The Viper into their henhouse and infighting themselves out of the building before he made his move, The Authority opened Raw with egg on their face and revenge on their minds. In a particularly payback-centric mindset was Mr. Money in the Bank, who accepted The Apex Predator’s call for a WrestleMania match to settle their score, provided he also went toe-to-toe against Rollins in the main event of Raw.
Being far more difficult to dupe than his heir apparent, Orton wasn’t exactly fooled by Rollins’ transparency. Knowing full-well he’d have to endure a five-on-one beatdown to punch his ticket to Santa Clara, Calif., Orton accepted Mr. Money in the Bank’s caveat with a warning of his own. When the beating did come, he said, The Authority better finish the job, lest Orton complete his own retribution and destroy Rollins entirely at The Show of Shows.
Perhaps it’s the mark of a gracious Divas Champion that Nikki Bella made like the hashtag says and gave a Diva a chance on Raw by going one-on-one against AJ Lee. Perhaps it’s the mark of an uphill battle that the three-time titleholder didn’t get the job done against the butterfly-emblazoned title’s current occupier. Nikki took advantage of AJ’s lengthy stay on the injured list to weaken the former champion’s arm about halfway through the contest. The Black Widow was able to rally into the advantage, though, with a triangle choke and a Thesz Press that put Nikki on her heels.
As AJ picked up momentum, however, a spill outside the ring led to a spat between Brie Bella and Paige, accompanying their sister and frenemy at ringside, respectively. AJ took her eyes off a reeling Nikki to tend to Brie, and that gave Nikki the opening she needed to hit AJ with a forearm to the face and a Rack Attack for the win.
A lot of Superstars have their sights set on victory in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and Ryback has made it his personal business to dash their hopes in brutal fashion, one after the other. The latest course on The Big Guy’s plate was The Miz, who has pegged himself the pre-emptive victor of the melee despite a series of embarrassing miscues with his personal assistant, Damien Mizdow.
In fact, Miz’s latest attempt to shame his beloved gofer nearly got him knocked out by his fellow former WWE Tag Team Champion when Ryback manhandled Miz to the outside and gave Mizdow a free shot at The Moneymaker. Miz managed to beat Ryback away and convince Mizdow to reconsider, but his diverted focus got him Meathook Clotheslined and then Shell Shocked into the mat all the same. It was Mizdow who ended up with the brunt of The Awesome One’s frustration, taking a Skull-Crushing Finale from the beleaguered A-lister as he attempted to help him off the mat. That's some questionable management right there.
Turns out John Cena’s strong-arming of Rusev into a U.S. Title rematch at WrestleMania wasn’t as ironclad as the Cenation leader originally thought. Seeing as it was Lana who agreed to the bout and not — as Stephanie McMahon decreed — Rusev himself, the bout was more or less null and void before it even happened. All of which would have made for a very short contract signing indeed, had Cena not decided long ago that he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. With Lana mysteriously absent and a Russian lawyer the only protection for the champion, Cena was handed an ultimatum by The Hero of the Russian Federation. He’d get the match, provided Rusev was allowed to read his latest anti-American manifesto uninterrupted. It was touch-and-go for a bit there, but John Cena is nothing if not resilient: He took Rusev’s abuse stoically, put pen to paper, and the match was made.
With The New Day and the newly vicioso Los Matadores having come out of nowhere as potential contenders to the WWE Tag Team Titles, reigning champs Cesaro & Tyson Kidd needed a near-perfect outing to preserve their momentum. They got it on Raw, beating The New Day’s Big E & Kofi Kingston to ensure a strong footing as the teeter-totter battle over the twin titles continues toward WrestleMania.
Considering they did it despite some serious diligence from the referee was doubly impressive. The official was all over Cesaro & Kidd’s trademark tandem maneuvers, enforcing the no-tag rule so severely Kidd had to storm the ring and take a Trouble in Paradise meant for Cesaro so The Swiss Superman could roll Kingston up for the win. Los Matadores, who spent the match prowling the outside, provided the exclamation point, feeding Xavier Woods to Cesaro before deploying El Torito to toss the Tag Team Champion between the ropes. Que peña. If nothing else, the first ever Six-Being Interspecies Tag Team Match on this Thursday's SmackDown will certainly be much more personal.
Erick Rowan just cannot catch a break against Big Show. For all the mental manpower the sheep-faced monster is said to possess, it isn’t doing much to protect his skull from Big Show’s fist, which has found its way home again and again since the two big boys first battled at WWE TLC in December. In fact, the latest bout between the two was a note-for-note reprisal of their SmackDown bout a few weeks ago, with Show swarming Rowan right out of the gate, KO Punching him and adding a new wrinkle with a sternum-steamrolling elbow from the second rope.
Where Curtis Axel goes, chaos follows. The greatest competitor in Royal Rumble history has ignited a revolution with his #Axelmania movement, but the movement hasn’t so much cleared The Road to WrestleMania of The Ax Man’s enemies as drawn them out of the woodwork, one by one, to attack him. This week, nearly every announced competitor — Kane, Jack Swagger, Goldust, The Prime Time Players, Zack Ryder, Adam Rose, Heath Slater and the recently returned Mark Henry — in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal came down to the ring to stand face to face. But all of the competitors engaged in a bench-clearing brawl that came down to Kane, Henry and Axel, who attempted to toss The World’s Strongest Man over the top rope in a display of his battle royal prowess … only to be flatly denied and sent soaring over the cables. Hey, it’s just a trial run. Thirteen days until #AxelMania runs wild for real ... brother.
The furious orations of Paul Heyman have been must-see TV over the last two weeks. He’s all but set fire to the curtain separating the WWE Universe from the behind-the-scenes action of sports-entertainment, while simultaneously hyping the WrestleMania main event between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns to near-biblical proportions. But the advocate for The One in 21-1 may have finally bitten off more than he can chew. His newest missive brought Reigns himself to the ring with his latest mantra emblazoned across his chest and fire in his belly as he sent a message to Lesnar that, despite whatever Heyman says, he can and will dethrone The Beast Incarnate at WrestleMania. The best part is, next week, Reigns will have the chance to say that to The Conqueror's face.
With Daniel Bryan officially throwing his beard into the ring in the mad dash for the Intercontinental Championship, the seven-man Ladder Match for the storied title has officially become one of the most must-see contests of WrestleMania 31. In advance of the surefire showstopper, six of the competitors involved teamed up for a Six-Man rumble on Raw, while the seventh, R-Truth, took up his now-customary post at the commentary table with the ill-gotten Intercontinental Title clamped onto his back.
A common goal made enemies out of supposed teammates early on. Despite a strong opening, tensions rose quickly between Bryan, Dolph Ziggler & Dean Ambrose, though the three still managed to put their squabbles aside to stop a furious rally by the ne’er-do-well trio of Bad News Barrett, Luke Harper & Stardust. Even though Ziggler accidentally superkicked Bryan on the apron, Ambrose picked up the slack by reversing Barrett’s Bull Hammer into Dirty Deeds for the three. Of course, it wasn’t long before Truth’s deception was uncovered and yet another brawl erupted over the title, the upshot of which was Barrett Bull Hammering everyone in sight and finally getting his Intercontinental Championship back. Good news all around.
True to Randy Orton’s prediction, the squabbles between the infighting Authority (Jamie Noble quit! Triple H threatened his protégé!) turned out to be little more than a ruse to lull Orton into a false sense of security before his match against Seth Rollins. No sooner had Rollins made his entrance than the corporate crew reformed and closed ranks around Mr. Money in the Bank, leaving The Viper thoroughly outfoxed. What happened next, however, really was surprising.
Before Orton could be sent packing to the emergency room, the lights cut out and Sting came to the aid of The Apex Predator, clubbing Kane with the baseball bat and Stinger Splashing J&J Security before dispatching Noble with the Scorpion Death Drop. Orton followed suit with an RKO to Joey Mercury, and The Authority, duly rebuked, backed off from the scorpion-snake tandem. Unfortunately for Rollins, his WrestleMania fate may already be sealed anyway. Thirteen days till, well, showtime.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Nikki Bella (w/ Brie Bella) defeated AJ Lee (w/ Paige) (11:05)
- Ryback defeated The Miz (w/ Damien Mizdow) (1:40)
- Cesaro & Tyson Kidd (w/ Natalya) defeated Big E & Kofi Kingston (w/ Xavier Woods) (1:45)
- Big Show vs. Erick Rowan ended in a No contest
- Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler & Daniel Bryan defeated Stardust, Luke Harper & Wade Barrett(17:00)
- Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins ended in a No contest
- Dark match: John Cena & Roman Reigns defeated Rusev & Seth Rollins
Other on-screen talent