Daddy's home.And he's not happy with the mess that's been made in his absence. While Triple H has been away, Seth Rollins and Kane have certainly played with each other's minds, but The King of Kings’ return to Raw was all about restoring order between his warring charges before Rollins’ near-impossible title defense at WWE Payback. His scheduled powwow with The Architect and The Director of Operations didn't quite go as planned. Champion and guardian were seconds from fisticuffs before The Game laid down a final ultimatum for the Fatal 4-Way at Payback: Should Rollins fail to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Payback, Kane would be fired.
J&J Security's mouths, and hearts, are certainly bigger than their bodies. Seth Rollins’ twin protectors talked a big game to Triple H about allowing their charge to participate in a Fatal 4-Way at Payback, and for their insolence, they were all but fed on a platter to Cincinnati local boy Dean Ambrose in a Handicap Match. The Ohio faithful were treated to a textbook display from their hometown hero. Except for a brief 2-on-1 gang-up that put Ambrose on his heels, The Lunatic Fringe never really lacked an advantage against the guys he once dubbed the “Cruiserweight division,” sealing his win with a double ricochet clothesline and Dirty Deeds to Jamie Noble for the win.
Make no mistake, King Barrett is watching his throne. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Sheamus is also watching his back from commentary, but “The Bloody King” got his reign back on track after Neville & Dolph Ziggler one-upped him last week on SmackDown. The Showoff wasn't about to quietly assume the role of Barrett's “Royal Arse-Kisser,” superkicking the monarch before he'd even shed his cape for a near-fall, forcing Barrett to battle back from underneath.
Even that wasn't quite enough, as Ziggler thwarted the Bull Hammer by dropkicking Barrett in the elbow and rammed him shoulder-first into the ring post. Sensing disaster for the King, Sheamus rushed to the ring and distracted Ziggler, allowing Barrett to capitalize by thumping him with another Bull Hammer for the win. The Celtic Warrior cleaned up after his King, bestowing a beating upon The Showoff after the bell, ending with a Brogue Kick that all but knocked Ziggler back to the feudal ages.
Erick Rowan came home to Luke Harper on SmackDown last week, and Fandango paid the price as a result. The fan-favorite dancer was dismantled again on Raw when he got Rowan in the ring one-on-one and was soundly defeated in 37 seconds. Fandango's gutsy effort notwithstanding, the true takeaway from this contest was the full-on reunion of Rowan & Harper as a tandem. The former Wyatt Family foot solders cemented their renewed relationship by further punishing Fandango after the bell, putting the tag team division on notice in the process.
For the first time, John Cena's U.S. Title Open Challenge did not end in a clear-cut, pinfall or submission victory. This is more of a relief for The Champ than he'd probably let on, because he was about one count of the referee's hand from finally losing the U.S. Title before Rusev brought the match to a brutal end. The Champ's would-be usurper? Neville, who followed his fellow former NXT Champion Sami Zayn's example by taking The Champ on one-on-one.
The crazy part is, he almost pulled it off. He went so far as to successfully land the Red Arrow on The Champ after a long, competitive match. The maneuver effectively handed Neville his first title in WWE ... until Rusev rushed the ring and stomped on The New Sensation during the referee's count. The match was over but the Russian's demonstration was not, as he locked Cena in the Accolade moments later until The Champ lost consciousness.
Triple H intended Kane's match with Roman Reigns to be a pre-Payback dismantling of the 2014 Superstar of the Year. Instead, The Director of Operations seemed to take it as an opportunity to prove his monstrous side still lurks within. Kane made a pretty effective case for himself; all that was missing was the mask as he dismantled Reigns outside the ring for minutes on end. The Big Dog avoided a trip through a table by the narrowest of margins, muscling his way out of a Chokeslam before Spearing The Devil's Favorite Demon clean over the commentary table. It all made for an impressive brawl, but on SmackDown, in the rematch, one caveat will be added: There must be a winner by pinfall or submission. Believe that.
Tamina's officially back, and Brie Bella is all the worse off for it. The former Divas Champion, having felt the wrath of Naomi's cousin-by-marriage last week, took on the former Funkadactyl's enforcer and came out on the losing end. The effort Brie put forth was impressive, however. The Bella took advantage of Tamina's long layover on the injured list to keep her on the defensive. Eventually, Brie Mode gave way to knee mode as Brie delivered a Running Knee to a prone Tamina, but a second knee that would have put her opponent down was blocked and met with a skull-rattling superkick for the win.
Step into the danger zone, if you will, with Damien Sandow, who decided to battle #AxelMania by channeling posthumous WWE Hall of Famer “Macho Man” Randy Savage as “Macho Mandow,” only to end up waylaid by The Ascension. Konnor & Viktor interrupted the proceedings just as Mandow was about to drop the big elbow, running both Superstars down and rushing the ring. Of course, Mandow and Axel made like the original Savage & Hulk Hogan, uniting to take out their enemies and engaging in a full-on Mega Powers handshake. And the beat goes on.
Daniel Bryan's time as the Intercontinental Champion is over. Sidelined by his second injury in as many years, the leader of the “Yes!” Movement was forced once again to vacate a championship he scratched and clawed his way to in an emotional address to the WWE Universe. Once again facing an uncertain future, The Beard took matters into his own hands and officially relinquished the Intercontinental Championship to ensure the Universe could have the fighting titleholder it deserves. He left the championship in the center of the ring and departed to a sea of “Yes!” chants as he faces recovery.
Of all the grudge matches brewing at WWE Payback, Cesaro & Tyson Kidd's 2-out-of-3- Falls Tag Team Title rematch against The New Day has the potential to get the most heated. If Cesaro's one-on-one battle with Big E is any indication, the WWE Universe is in for a hell of a fight at Payback. The two strongmen were matched move-for-move in both power and agility, though Cesaro was able to gain the edge as the bout wore on. The Swiss Superman channeled fellow Paul Heyman disciple Brock Lesnar with a pair of German suplexes, plus a few running European uppercuts to boot. Even though The New Day thwarted the Cesaro Swing by rushing the ring — Kidd helped to neutralize the trio, so to speak — Cesaro claimed the win with a Byzantine roll-up that defies description, but whose effect was quite undeniable.
As Ryback's hero Arnold Schwarzenegger once said: “Enough talk.” As Bray Wyatt stalked to the ring to proclaim Ryback a false idol to the WWE Universe, The Human Wrecking Ball decided the time for words was over. The Big Guy thundered down to the ring after The New Face of Fear concluded his sermon and almost made The Eater of Worlds eat his words, to the tune of a big spinebuster and a Meat Hook Clothesline that sent the spider scurrying away.
Triple H's first two challenges to The Authority did not pan out as he'd hoped. The third, pitting Seth Rollins against Randy Orton in an Extreme Rules rematch (sans cage), got a lot closer to the mark. It didn't quite end the way The King of Kings had hoped, but Rollins fared better than J&J Security's outmatched contest with Dean Ambrose and Kane's scrapped brawl with Roman Reigns. Facing an opponent he knows almost as well as he knows himself, Rollins went move-for-move with The Viper, escaping both Orton's backbreaker and a back drop with the greatest of ease until a hanging DDT seemingly had him dead to rights.
Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble broke up the match to end the bout in a disqualification, at which point Kane arrived, chair in hand and intended victim uncertain before Ambrose and Reigns arrived to expel J&J from the ring. As it turned out, Ambrose, Reigns and Orton had half a mind to test Kane's loyalty, planting the champion with Dirty Deeds, a Spear and an RKO while Kane watched nonchalantly before tearing each other apart, with Ambrose getting the last laugh via Dirty Deeds on Reigns. Fair enough, given the task ahead, but payback (and Payback) Sunday might be, well, you know.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Dean Ambrose defeated J&J Security (Jamie Noble & Joey Mercury) in a 1 vs 2 Handicap Tag Team Match (5:18)
- Bad News Barrett defeated Dolph Ziggler (5:55)
- Erick Rowan (w/ Luke Harper) defeated Fandango (0:35)
- Neville defeated John Cena (c) by DQ in a WWE United States Championship match (14:43)
- Kane vs. Roman Reigns - No Contest
- Tamina Snuka (w/ Naomi) defeated Brie Bella (w/ Nikki Bella) (3:35)
- Damien Sandow vs. Curtis Axel ended in a No contest (2:02)
- Cesaro (w/ Tyson Kidd & Natalya) defeated Big E (w/ Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) (8:54)
- Randy Orton defeated Seth Rollins by DQ (15:15)
Other on-screen talent