It's been a week since the WWE Universe has seen John Cena in action, but let it never be said that the man doesn't know how to respond to a challenge. The Champ was all business in his first trip out of the Titantron since being plowed through it by Ryback at Extreme Rules, and more to the point, he decided to see Ryback's Ambulance Match proposition and raise the “Human Wrecking Ball” the rarely-seen Three Stages of Hell Match (think a 2-out-of-3-Falls Match, with special rules for each round ... in this case, Lumberjack Match, Tables Match and then an Ambulance Match).
Ryback was, of course, more than happy to accept and (in keeping with the theme of their bout) name himself Cena's own personal Beelzebub. But the sudden arrival of Curtis Axel and Paul Heyman turned the pow wow into a Canadian Standoff, the endgame of which was that the reborn progeny of Mr. Perfect secured himself a one-on-one match with the WWE Champion for later that evening. Sometimes it pays to be a Paul Heyman Guy.
With Dolph Ziggler still convalescing thanks to his concussion, Big E Langston once again stepped in as the “cure” for his boss against Alberto Del Rio in one-on-one action. And if The Pride of Mexico's performance against the big man is any indication, The Showoff is in for a tough test when he defends his title against the No. 1 contender to his World Title.
With Del Rio and Big E tied at 1-1 in their series, tension was high to see who would come out on top, and for a while it looked as though The Essence of Excellence would be little more than cannon fodder for the former powerlifting champion. But thanks to a little quick thinking, Del Rio was able to thwart AJ Lee's attempted assist of exposing the turnbuckle, slamming Big E's face into the naked steel and rolling him up for the win in a development that neither of them seemed too thrilled about.
Kofi Kingston's rematch with Dean Ambrose for the U.S. Championship fell victim to the Law of Long on SmackDown last week and turned into a Tag Team Match, but as it turns out, a little patience goes a long way. Given that the rematch never reached its proper conclusion, The Dreadlocked Dynamo got a mulligan on Raw, laying down a Memorial Day challenge for the star-spangled title that sadly went the same way as his last dance with the Cincinnati madman.
Kingston came out swinging all the same, sending Ambrose scampering from the ring and following it up with a flurry of offense that kept the erratic grappler on the defensive for the entire bout. A well-timed trip-up by Ambrose sent Kofi face-first into the steel steps and turned the tables instantly; a standing bulldog later and it was all she wrote ... although Team Hell No's sudden entrance for their Tag Title Match ensured The Shield would get no respite from their former foes just yet.
Make it a clean sweep for The Shield after Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns followed Dean Ambrose's example, successfully defending their WWE Tag Team Championships against Team Hell No. And it appears that would-be “weak link” Bryan used the duo's two-week respite well: He was anything but inept during his and Kane's attempts to reclaim their twin titles (although his recklessness nearly cost them the bout via DQ), taking control of the bout and nearly tearing both Shield members apart singlehandedly.
But it was still Bryan who inadvertently caused his team's loss when he refused to remain in Kane's corner for the sake of attacking Reigns on the outside. The chaos lowered The Big Red Monster's defenses long enough for Rollins to clock him with a flying knee and cover Kane for three, sending Team Hell No to the back of the line for the first time in a long time.
In a certain sense, it's hard to fault Fandango for opting to dance with Summer Rae rather than teaming with Wade Barrett. But still, a walkout is a walkout, and the dancing devil stood trial by fire on Monday night with a one-on-one contest against the brawling Englishman himself. Despite overwhelming odds, Fandango danced away with another win, avoiding defeat with an upset of the rampaging Intercontinental Champion.
Granted, he had some help after Barrett got in the face of perennial Intercontinental contender, occasional Calgary Kid and WWE Universe-selected guest referee The Miz and suffered a Skull-Crushing Finale that led to his defeat. But Miz wasn't about to let the night pass without getting his licks in on Fandango as well. While Fandango celebrated his win, The Awesome One went a-clobberin’ and kicked him in the face, causing Summer Rae to fall on top of her dance partner, whereupon Miz counted a second pinfall for fun.
Some bands are bigger internationally than they are in the States. 3MB, it would seem, is not one of those bands. The rockers had a few laughs at Hornswoggle's expense earlier in the evening, and ‘Swoggle’s surrogate family of Natalya & The Great Khali paid them back in kind by teaming The Punjabi Giant with Tons of Funk in a Six-Man Tag Team Match.
Retribution came swift and mercilessly against the band, as the big men dismantled Heath Slater & Co. in an apparent homage to the evening’s resident birthday girl, Natalya. Following the pinfall, Khali put the proverbial cherry on the win by serenading Natalya for her birthday. There are certainly worse presents to receive.
Gotcha, Paul. WWE’s resident mad scientist and master manipulator got a taste of his own medicine on “The Highlight Reel” when Chris Jericho backed Paul Heyman into a difficult corner and got a big, big concession out of him in return. It went down like this: Heyman appeared on “The Highlight Reel” ostensibly to discuss his recruitment of Curtis Axel, but Jericho quickly flipped the script and brought up Heyman's other client. Nope, not Brock Lesnar. The other client.
Heyman clammed up quickly at the mere mention of CM Punk's name, but Jericho had little problem with riling up the mad scientist, playing the “Best in the World” card to expert effect to the point where a flustered Heyman would have done just about anything Y2J wanted to defend his client's honor. What Jericho wanted, as it turned out, was a match with The Straight Edge Superstar at WWE Payback in Chicago. And what happened was, Heyman accepted. Well played, Jericho. Well played.
The efficiency of Kaitlyn and Natalya as love-doctor sleuths has yet to be determined, but the snooping twosome had about as much luck in the ring with The Bella Twins as they have uncovering the identity of Kaitlyn's secret admirer. Despite outmatching Brie & Nikki in the power department, the brawling blondes were unable to overcome the twins’ wiles in a Divas Tag Team Match on Natalya's birthday.
The Bellas’ strategy, as it turned out, was less Twin Magic than Twin Mayhem, causing a melee in the ring that led to Kaitlyn inadvertently spearing Natalya. The Bellas capitalized and waltzed off with the win, offering Natalya a sarcastic birthday beso and a tear-inducing “Happy Birthday” serenade on their way out the door.
Sheamus may not have been able to cut the Gordian Knot, but he sure can kick a man in the face. Despite being somewhat flummoxed in his recent war of wits with Damien Sandow, The Celtic Warrior stood tall in the ring when he teamed up with Randy Orton to take on the reunited Team Rhodes Scholars on Monday Night Raw.
Sandow & Cody Rhodes kept it close against the former World Champions, using cheap shots and chaos on the outside to their advantage and bringing Orton to the precipice of defeat. But a tag to Sheamus sent things south for the Scholars in quick order, as The Celtic Warrior countered Sandow's Terminus and followed that up with White Noise and a Brogue Kick that left the scholar seeing stars.
Down goes Cena! Down goes Cena! Granted, Curtis Axel's second Raw win in as many weeks happened under equally dubious circumstances as the previous one, but the record books will still reflect that Curtis Axel, Paul Heyman Guy, defeated the WWE Champion in Week Two under the mad scientist's wing.
Everyone from Bret Hart to Cena himself questioned Axel's alignment with Heyman, but the young gun certainly made an argument for their arrangement in a masterful performance against The Champ, keeping Cena on his heels and executing a textbook Perfect Plex for a near-fall. But before Cena could mount his comeback, the sight of an approaching ambulance lured him out of the ring. Of course, the arrival of the vehicle was a ruse for Ryback to mount a sneak attack. While Cena was able to thwart the big man's attack, the damage was done. The Champ had lost the match, and Ryback's implied message was clear: If Cena doesn't watch his back, he'll lose at Payback as well.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Alberto Del Rio (w/ Ricardo Rodriguez) defeated Big E. Langston (w/ AJ Lee) (4:20)
- Dean Ambrose (c) defeated Kofi Kingston to retain the WWE United States Championship (8:45)
- The Shield (Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins) (c) defeated Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan & Kane) to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship (18:35)
- Fandango (w/ Summer Rae) defeated Wade Barrett (Special Referee: The Miz) (1:45)
- Tons of Funk (Brodus Clay & Tensai) & The Great Khali (w/ Cameron, Hornswoggle, Naomi & Natalya) defeated 3MB (Drew McIntyre, Heath Slater & Jinder Mahal) (3:05)
- The Bella Twins (Brie Bella & Nikki Bella) defeated Kaitlyn & Natalya (3:40)
- Randy Orton & Sheamus defeated Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow) (15:40)
- Curtis Axel (w/ Paul Heyman) defeated John Cena by Count Out (14:00)
Other on-screen talent