Daniel Bryan nearly forces Ryback to submit.
By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Daniel Bryan and WWE Champion John Cena Signed Their SummerSlam Contract
After acting as a babyface last week, Raw General Manager Brad Maddox was back to portraying a heel this week, which was strange. Nonetheless, everyone played their roles well here. Cena put over Bryan in a huge way by saying that he earned and deserved an opportunity to contend for the WWE Championship. Bryan was good on the mic as well while Maddox's announcement of the main event gave the viewers something to look forward to for the rest of the night.
World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio def. Sheamus (Non-title)
After their lackluster feud last summer, I was not excited for this match whatsoever going into it. However, it ended up being very well wrestled and better than originally expected. Del Rio took advantage of Sheamus' injury and picked up the clean victory, which was a pleasant surprise. The fact he hooked The Celtic Warrior's injured leg was a nice touch. Del Rio has been flourishing since turning heel last month and this was another big win under his belt (figuratively and literally).
Christian def. Titus O'Neil
This was a nice, little match that foreshadowed Titus O'Neil's bright future in singles competition. He more than held his own against Christian and had an impressive outing against the former World Heavyweight Champion. Granted, the match didn't serve much of a purpose, but it was nice to see both Superstars receive an entrance and I'm glad Creative is actually doing something with Christian this time around rather than utilizing him as an enhancement talent.
Mark Henry Addressed The Shield
I'm not sure if this was planned from the start or not, but having Henry come out and cut a promo in his home state of Texas while embracing the cheers was brilliant booking. There wasn't a better place for him to turn face. The Shield's attack on him and the save by The Usos was essentially a repeat of what we saw on SmackDown last week. That has the potential to be a great six-man tag team match at SummerSlam if that is the direction they are headed in.
Dolph Ziggler def. Darren Young
This was another nice showing by one of the members of The Prime Time Players. Young has been facing a lot of top stars as of late (CM Punk, Rob Van Dam, and now Ziggler), so I hope this means he's impressing officials backstage. Nonetheless, he and O'Neil still have a lot left as a tag team, so they don't need to split up any time soon. This was a good win for Ziggler and the fact the crowd was heavily behind him despite his lack of evolution as a face in the last month was a pleasant surprise.
The "Total Divas" Cast Appeared on "Miz TV"
Let me start off by saying that Eva Mariea is absolutely gorgeous. Now that I have that off my chest, her promo was simple and effective. Actually, that basically sums up this entire segment. The hype for this show has felt like overkill, but I can understand why WWE is doing it. This segment was just another plug for the show, so it thankfully wasn't long enough that it became painful to watch. The Miz was mostly meaningless here, but "Miz TV" this week accomplished what it set out to do.
Cody Rhodes def. Fandango
The match wasn't much to write home about, but I love the fact that Rhodes is quickly getting over as a face with live crowds. He and Fandango had a decent match, but the focus was fully on his feud with Damien Sandow, who was on commentary for this bout. Sandow was hysterical behind the booth and I'm highly anticipating their pending pay-per-view match.
CM Punk Called Out Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar
Similar to last week, this was another super strong segment. Punk's promo was incredibly intense and was a great follow-up to his brawl with Lesnar from last week. I was surprised to see Heyman accept Punk's challenge for a match with Lesnar at SummerSlam on this show rather than dragging it out until next week. However, I think it was for the better, as we now have a clear idea of what the two top main event matches will be at SummerSlam a month out. I've been thoroughly enjoying the feud between these three men so far and "The Best vs. The Beast" match at SummerSlam should be an instant classic.
Rob Van Dam def. Wade Barrett
While their match should have gone on a bit longer, RVD and Barrett made the most out of the time they were allotted. They had a fun match that showcased RVD's amazing abilities while giving Barrett some offense as well. It's a shame that a win over Barrett doesn't mean as much as it used to, but it furthers RVD's strong momentum, nevertheless.
Daniel Bryan def. Jack Swagger
It was over rather quickly, but as JBL noted on commentary, it was a physical bout. They work well together and I would like to see more from them down the line. Swagger was contending for the World Heavyweight Championship only a few months ago, so it's strange to see him lose so decisively in this match by tapping out.
Daniel Bryan def. Antonio Cesaro
I've been wanting to see these two clash in singles competition for some time now, and, man, did it deliver. It started out slow, but they quickly picked up the pace and had an excellent match together. Their chemistry is simply amazing and I hope we see them engage in more matches against one another at some point in the foreseeable future. Not only that, but I hope Cesaro is taken as more of a threat after this awesome match. This featured exciting action from start to finish and having Bryan win via a roll-up was a smart move, as it allowed the clean finish to be saved for a later date.
Daniel Bryan def. Ryback by Disqualification
I was half-expecting Big Show to be Bryan's final opponent, so I was surprised to see Ryback come out instead. Regardless, they had a solid match while it lasted, but the crowd wasn't into it given the fact it immediately followed Bryan vs. Cesaro. I was hoping we would see Bryan force Ryback tap out, but I guess they still have faith left in Ryback and wanted to protect him. Nonetheless, it was still a huge victory for Bryan and having him pick up three big wins at the end of Raw gave him quite a bit of credibility going into his upcoming WWE Championship match with John Cena.
The final hour, which featured the CM Punk and Paul Heyman exchange as well as Daniel Bryan's Gauntlet match, was once again the most noteworthy part of the show. However, that's not to say that the rest of the episode didn't hold up its end of the bargain. The night featured some solid wrestling and storyline progression for SummerSlam, which was great to see. There some notable names such as Randy Orton, The Wyatt Family and Big Show that were left off this Raw, and it still managed to succeed. The crowd was lively, the edition as a whole was enjoyable and and the matches confirmed for next week's show will give viewers to tune into Raw going forward.