Survivor Series is less than a week away, and John Cena's still one man short of a squad. This could be a problem for the 15-time World Champion, considering the future of WWE is on the line and Team Authority just wrangled “team player” Luke Harper to complete their own Survivor Series troop. Despite having the advantage, The Authority left nothing to chance in Raw's opening moments, attempting to further drive a wedge between Ryback and his potential team captain by replaying some of Cena's choice words for The Human Wrecking Ball from their 2013 rivalry. Turns out the incentive wasn't needed: Ryback replied by maintaining his allegiance to “Team Ryback” and leaving the chips to fall where they may.
Week in, week out, Dolph Ziggler's thrilling thwarting of The Authority's plans have given The Showoff some truly unforgettable showcases, with Dolph keeping his Intercontinental Title throughout each increasingly unlikely defense. The only thing disconcerting about The Showoff's run was the sinking feeling he was flying too close to the sun, and thanks to an impromptu title matchup between Dolph and Luke Harper, Ziggler was finally brought down to earth when the depraved swamp-dweller feasted upon WWE's resident Hollywood blond and took Dolph's precious Intercontinental Title for his own grimy waist.
Harper wasn't the only “team player” pulling his weight, however; a pre-match bum-rush by Seth Rollins and J&J Secutiry sufficiently weakened The Showoff before his tussle with Harper and the big man capitalized. Save for a brief rebound from Dolph, the bout was all Harper, all the time. An 11th-hour escape of a Harper powerbomb landed Dolph right in the path of a discus clothesline for the 1-2-3, and Rollins happily piled on, sealing his teammate's title win with a post-match Curb Stomp.
As The Exotic Express continues its apparent skid into derailment, Tyson Kidd once again reaped the benefits of the rapidly fracturing bond between Adam Rose and The Bunny. For the second week, a miscommunication between the critter and his benefactor (Rose asked for The Bunny's help; The Bunny, enamored with Natalya at ringside, failed to respond) resulted in Kidd tapping Rose out in the Sharpshooter, and for the second week, that led to a confrontation between Rose and The Bunny. This is where things went different, however: Instead of being left in a hare-y heap by his pal, The Bunny flipped the script on Rose and left his mentor embarrassed while he made his escape.
For weeks, Dean Ambrose has been battling from behind thanks to Bray Wyatt's macabre illusions and mind games. Turns out The Lunatic Fringe was simply waiting for the right time to play his own cards. Making good on his weeks-ago promise to match Wyatt trick-for-trick, Ambrose turned The Eater of Worlds’ own tricks against him, materializing on the TitanTron during one of Wyatt's sermons and delivering some fire and brimstone of his own. But moments later, he revealed that same message was pre-recorded and attacked his tormentor from behind while realization set in. Your move, Wyatt.
Having declared his allegiance to “Team Ryback,” the hottest free agent in the Survivor Series picture went about amassing bona fides for his one-man squadron, battling Cesaro in what wasn't so much a wrestling match as a test of pure power. The Big Guy wasted The Swiss Superman a few weeks ago on SmackDown, but coming off a close bid for the Intercontinental Title, The King of Swing wasn't about to be made a fool of for a second time.
For all the talk of Ryback's unmatched might, Cesaro hung right there with him at every turn. Power maneuvers like bodyslams and powerbombs left Ryback (and the WWE Universe) stunned and nearly earned The King of Swing a count-out victory, and a sequence of German suplexes left Ryback out on his feet. That The Big Guy won the match was almost a matter of luck. a Very European Uppercut and a last-minute reversal of Shell Shocked left him scrambling for an opening, which he eventually found, dropping The Swiss Superman with a second Shell Shocked to exhaustedly claim the win.
Perhaps the way to punish Rusev and Lana for teasing a Karashian-esque picture of The Ravishing Russian isn't to trot Heath Slater out in full Apollo Creed garb and mount a defense of America's honor. This isn't to say The One Man Band's heart isn't in the right place, but having been obliterated by The Super Athlete on more than one occasion, it was a tall order that the former Tag Team Champion would knock off the newly crowned United States titleholder. Alas for poor Heath, his campaign ended in calamity when Rusev kicked the top hat off his head and put him in the Accolade. If he taps, he taps.
Give The Authority this much: They are certainly creative with their mind games. In their search for a method to turn Team Cena's two heaviest hitters, Big Show and Sheamus, against each other, Stephanie McMahon dangled the carrot of a future WWE World Heavyweight Title Match to the winner. That gave the two former enemies incentive for a larger brawl than John Cena likely would have preferred.
Granted, nobody got KO’d or Brogue’d (small victories), but it all ended on the up and up for The Authority anyway. After both men had sufficiently damaged each other, Rusev and Mark Henry stormed the ring to dispatch them in a more emphatic fashion — Rusev with an Accolade to an already-unconscious Big Show and Henry with a horrific World's Strongest Slam to the Irishman through the commentary desk that sent him to a local medical facility and put him out of action for Survivor Series.
Every dog has his day, and even the underlings get one over on their bosses now and again. Case in point: Subservient “Cinder-Bella” Brie Bella, on the last leg of her month in servitude to sister Nikki, was forced to compete in the guise of Nikki's Survivor Series opponent, Divas Champion AJ Lee for an “exhibition” designed to display Nikki's dominance. Not only did this latest exercise in humiliation backfire, it did so in epic fashion thanks to the real AJ, who distracted her No. 1 contender and allowed “AJ Brie” to get the win with a roll-up ... before DDT’ing her as payback for the impersonation in the first place.
With eight men set to clash in a Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Title Match at Survivor Series, Monday's Raw was a strange exercise in tense tag-team cooperation, as WWE Tag Team Champions Gold & Stardust united with The Miz & Damien Mizdow against The Usos & Los Matadores. Or at least, it was tense for the WWE Universe, who clamored for Mizdow while his partners flitted in and out of the ring with varying degrees of success (he would get one brief stint in the ring, but that's all). Los Matadores took the brunt of their opponents’ punishment, though the tables turned when The Usos entered the fray. After a brief scrum, Stardust found himself facing defeat until Miz and Goldust came to his aid, enabling the titleholder to unleash Dark Matter and save the matchup.
John Cena may be in this yet. Not only did the 15-time World Champion finally recruit Ryback (much to the chagrin of a suddenly sweating Triple H) to his cause with a heart-to-heart at the moment of truth, but he also managed to retain both Dolph Ziggler and Big Show to his side despite The Authority's machinations. As for the fifth member? With a gap in his ranks thanks to an injury to Sheamus, that slot was filled by Erick Rowan, and the completed squad wasted no time in taking the fight straight to the boastful Team Authority.
The early forecast for Survivor Series is looking good, too: Team Cena handily overpowered their corporate foes, with Ryback distracting Triple H long enough for Cena to Attitude Adjust him straight through a table. The song might just be right. As far as The Authority is concerned, their time may well be up.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Luke Harper (w/ Seth Rollins, Jamie Noble & Joey Mercury) defeated Dolph Ziggler (c) to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship (8:28)
- Tyson Kidd (w/ Natalya) defeated Adam Rose (w/ The Bunny) by submission (1:53)
- Ryback defeated Cesaro (14:12)
- Rusev (w/ Lana) defeated Heath Slater by submission (0:31)
- Sheamus vs The Big Show ended in a No Contest (11:14)
- Brie Bella defeated Nikki Bella (2:05)
- Goldust & Stardust & The Miz & Damien Sandow defeated The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) & Los Matadores (Diego & Fernando) (w/ El Torito) (11:35)
Other on-screen talent