John Cena and Ryback come to a stalemate.
By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Daniel Bryan Confronted Mr. McMahon
With the legitimate animosity between Bryan and McMahon in mind, this was a strong segment that played perfectly in portraying Bryan as an underdog in his WWE Championship match against John Cena. I don't mean that there's any heat between the two in reality, but it's been rumored for years that McMahon never thought Bryan could be a big star in the company, so their mic work here was believable. If the plan is to put the belt on Bryan at SummerSlam, then they're doing an excellent job of stacking the odds against him.
The Shield def. Mark Henry and The Usos
I fully expected this to take place at the SummerSlam pay-per-view, so I was disappointed they opted to give it away on free television instead. Regardless, it was a fun match where everyone was given their time to shine. All competitors were able to hit their signature spots towards the end of the contest and the finishing sequence was fast paced and chaotic. It's a good win for The Shield, but I wonder where this leaves Henry and The Usos going forward.
Rob Van Dam def. Fandango
It was a nice match while it lasted, but I don't see what purpose it was supposed to serve. Granted, none of RVD's Raw matches in recent weeks have been rather random, but this wasn't much of a showcase for either guy. The count-out finish was strange, as I don't see the point in protecting Fandango at this point. RVD still has a lot going for him, so giving him pin-fall victories is probably the best bet.
Kaitlyn def. Divas Champion AJ Lee (Non-title)
While it wasn't as good as their past pay-per-view encounters, it was still a good match with a logical finish. After losing to AJ at both WWE Payback and Money in the Bank, it only made sense for Kaitlyn to score a victory over her former friend here. That doesn't mean I want to see her contend for the title again, though. Additionally, Dolph Ziggler's post-match promo was a nice tie-in to his subsequent match with Big E Langston.
Dolph Ziggler def. Big E Langston by Disqualification
Similar to the six-man tag team match, this was another bout I expected to see go down at SummerSlam. It was a first-time ever match and it should have received more hype than it did, but I sense that the feud is far from over. The bout was fine for what it was and the disqualification finish saves the rematch for down the line. As noted last week, it appears that Ziggler and Kaitlyn will be joining forces to take on AJ and Langston in a mixed tag team match at SummerSlam.
Christian def. World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio (Non-title)
These two have have some great matches in the past and this was no exception. They were given a substantial amount of time and the entertaining action intensified down the stretch. Christian has been on an impressive winning streak as of late, so his big win here helped further that. I hope this means we'll be seeing Captain Charisma re-enter the world title picture sooner rather than later, as he is definitely deserving of receiving his so-called "one more match".
Cody Rhodes def. Wade Barrett
This was another first-time-ever match, but I don't feel like it was wasted since Barrett hasn't meant anything in ages. Does anyone remember the last time he actually received a televised entrance? Anyway, these two had a brief bout that gave Rhodes a nice win while furthering his feud with Damien Sandow. Sandow's post-match promo was excellent and I've been loving just how much attention his feud with Rhodes has gotten over the past few weeks.
Daniel Bryan def. Kane
Kane's return felt anticlimactic, merely because it was during a backstage segment with Brad Maddox and nothing new was established. Aside from that, this was a solid match that helped continue the strong streak Bryan has been on in recent months. I thought having him pick up a victory over his 2012 SummerSlam opponent and former tag team partner was certainly a nice touch. Kane's post-match chokeslam was interesting, but I'm not exactly sure what to make of it. That's not a bad thing, though, as I'm sure his feud with The Wyatt Family is headed somewhere. Whether Kane is on his way of turning heel again or on the verge of being brainwashed, I'm incredibly intrigued by this on-going angle.
Brie Bella def. Natalya
Not only was the execution of this match poor, but the bout itself felt meaningless and had a terrible finish. I understand The Bella Twins resort to Mean Girls-like antics in order to garner heat, but it results in sheer stupidity and horrendous matches. It's a shame, too, as I actually enjoyed the debut of "Total Divas" from Sunday night (more on that here) and this contest did nothing but tarnish it, not giving viewers an incentive to tune into the next episode.
Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel def. R-Truth by Disqualification
Obviously, the focus was primarily on CM Punk attempting to get his hands on Paul Heyman, so Axel's match with Truth was essentially an afterthought. Even still, I hate how it was never given a proper finish and never made clear by the official. Regardless, Punk once again showed good fire in his pursuit of Heyman. I could certainly see Punk and Axel feuding for the time being before Brock Lesnar returns again.
WWE Champion John Cena def. Ryback in a Tables Match (Non-title)
Cena and Ryback have wrestled each other in Tables matches in the dark main event of most shows for months now, so they had plenty of practice of making this entertaining. It showed, as it ended up being an enjoyable bout. Cena winning was never in doubt, but Ryback was still made to look like his equal throughout and had a handful of cool spots as well. I would say that Cena's win destroyed Ryback's momentum, but Ryback hasn't had momentum in months, so his latest loss did no damage. I also like how more tension was teased between Bryan and Cena at the end of the show, but I pray it doesn't lead to a heel turn for Bryan. Rather, I think it's a way of building the feud and adding more intrigue to it.
Another good show that featured a surprisingly amount of wrestling and plenty of solid matches. It wasn't as exciting as usual, though, probably because it didn't have that live feel to it. However, I commend WWE for doing a nice job of covering up the fact that it was taped, as they showed no signs of that throughout the show. Even the commentary from Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler was live from what I understand. The road to SummerSlam continues to be a great one and I anxiously anticipate next week's edition to see what happens next.