John Cena comes out to hype the crowd and says he missed everyone last week. He gets mostly cheers. He talks about the show tonight and then talks about wanting to face Punk at Hell in a Cell.

^Cena should never talk about another man’s nipples; it’s awkward. Aside from that, he delivered a strong promo to kick off the show and the crowd seemed to respond favorably.

Ryback defeats Primo and Epico in a handicap match using the simultaneous shell shock.

^Good for Ryback. Once again, terrible for Primo and Epico. As I said last week, these two were the definition of the WWE tag team division, and with this new revamp they’ve just fallen off the map into obscurity. WWE needs to utilize talent better than that and not just push someone to the side because of changes in who gets the spotlight.

Brodus Clay comes to the ring. R-Truth is already there and tells Brodus that Little Jimmy is going through puberty and would rather dance than fight tonight. They dance. Vince McMahon sends them away so he can give the state of WWE address.

^This was funny and ridiculous at the same time. I want Brodus to do something new, but instead we get this. I saw on that Kofi and Truth split up amicably. What was that about revamping your tag team division, WWE? I’m more than happy for Kofi and Truth to see success as singles competitors, but what happened to the idea of carrying MORE tag teams?

McMahon talks about WWE but gets interrupted by CM Punk. They exchange words and Punk slaps McMahon to the ground after telling McMahon he had slapped Punk in the face for years. McMahon tells Punk he will face him in a match tonight or he will fire him. Punk is all smiles about it and Heyman looks concerned.

^As irritating as I sometimes find the Mr. McMahon character, his presence was a nice change in the format of the show this week. This was classic heel Punk at his finest, and Vince sold the slap really well. I love the continued mention of Steve Austin, and you know it’s probably going to lead to something down the road. Awesome segment here.

Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara defeat the Prime Time Players. Mysterio hits the splash on Young from the top rope for the three count. Mysterio and Sin Cara advance to the finals of the number one contenders tag team tournament.

^This was some fast paced, high energy tag team wrestling! I enjoyed this match quite a bit, and I’m expecting the tournament outcome to set up so that these two teams compete again at HIAC rather than for the tag team titles.

Heyman and Punk are shown discussing the match tonight backstage; Heyman calls it a must lose situation. Punk tells Heyman he will find a way to win all around tonight.

^This heel version of Punk reminds me of Triple H when he has a protégé by his side.

Sheamus goes one on one with Wade Barrett. Tensai interferes and attacks Sheamus to cause the DQ. Sheamus brogue kicks Tensai and knocks Barrett out of the ring. Big Show jumps in the ring and the two block one another’s finishers and Show pushes Sheamus out of the ring to the floor.

^What a great tease! Barrett and Sheamus have enormous potential for a good rivalry, and this match showed some of the possibilities. Despite being bored with Tensai, I actually like the fact that they’re keeping him relevant in this storyline because of what happened to him on Smackdown. Storyline continuity is something that’s been lackluster for far too long in WWE.

Jim Ross leaves the announce table to go talk to Vince McMahon backstage.

^JR looking for Vince? Isn’t it funny how in the past JR would have wanted to see the old McMahon get his rear end handed to him? Now you’ve got just the opposite going on here, and people try to say the end of the world isn’t coming.

Punk is shown talking to AJ about beating up Vince tonight. Punk tells AJ she will get blamed for how bad he hurts Vince. AJ says she knows Punk is too scared to face Cena, but she wants to know if he’s scared to face Vince McMahon too. Punk says anything that happens tonight is on AJ’s head.

^How much more irrelevant could AJ seem tonight? Wow. This is just bad writing to not even include your GM in a single decision about the show she runs. It’s a three hour show; don’t you think she could at least be shown ordering a janitor around or something? Just wow.

Antonio Cesaro shows a video of himself ordering chili cheese fries and not taking them once they’re served. Cesaro defeats Tyson Kidd in a short but competitive match using the neutralizer.

^Keeping the US Champion relevant has me convinced that WWE is moving in the right direction with these mid card belts. I loved the back and forth action for how short this match was. Maybe Tyson Kidd could score a surprise win next time in a non-title match and make this a legit rivalry that needs a grudge match? My guess, however, is that WWE will just keep feeding Cesaro random opponents each week.

Team Hell No defeats Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio. Kane tags himself in and chokeslams Ziggler for the three count. Kane and Dbry argue after the match as usual.

^This was another good tag team match with the typical Kane/Dbry tag themselves in and out chemistry. It’s starting to feel like Raw is just a show for tag matches though. I think it might be funny to watch Kane wrestle a singles match and have Bryan at ringside to play comic relief, or vice versa.

Jim Ross talks backstage with Vince McMahon. JR tells Vince he doesn’t have anything to gain from fighting Punk. Vince asks JR to call the match and say McMahon repeatedly; JR does a demonstration. JR wishes him luck but says he really doesn’t think he should do it, but McMahon mocks the Rock and tells JR it doesn’t matter what he thinks.

^This was a bit over the top, even for WWE. Vince mocking old stars just doesn’t work for me. I loved JR doing his signature lines, however.

Larry King is here with his wife and has the Miz as his guest. Kofi Kingston is brought out as King’s new guest. Miz says he’s had more championships than King’s had wives and Kofi’s had main events. King’s wife splashes water on Miz and Kofi attacks Miz.

^This was a great segment. A guy like Larry King can really bring out the best out of people without even trying. Miz was good on the mic, as was Kofi surprisingly. The attack scenario will most likely set up a match for HIAC, and how can you complain about that? Kofi’s singles career appears to be taking off again, which to me is fantastic news. The prestige of the IC Title continues to slowly grow.

The Rhodes Scholars defeat Santino and Zack Ryder. Rhodes hits the disaster kick on Santino for the win. Rhodes and Sandow advance to the finals to face Mysterio and Sin Cara in the number one contenders tag team tournament.

^Team Rhodes Scholars is well on its way to big things, and I expect them to be holding the tag team gold for quite the lengthy run once they capture the straps. Santino and Zack Ryder are insanely popular with the WWE Universe, but I understand why they’re just being used as a filler tag team to lose left and right. Both guys have the ability to do a lot of different things, but WWE seems to have their role confined to being comedic relief to keep the crowd alive.

Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal, and Drew McIntyre attack Santino and Ryder after the match and dance as though they’re a band.

^I wonder if this trio will reveal a leader at some point, or if in fact it’s just these three men that will represent their group. It seems a bit odd to have Mahal and McIntyre act as ridiculous as Slater, but I’m definitely interested in the development of these three as a regular stable.

Paul Heyman approaches Vince and tries to “broker the peace” between Vince and Punk. Vince doesn’t buy any of it and tells Heyman he’s been poisoning Punk’s mind for years.

^I wonder how Heyman really feels about Vince and all his success. The two have undeniable chemistry when they interact, but one has to wonder how much it pains Paul to see the ongoing success of “the machine” in WWE.

Eve defeats Kaitlyn to retain the Divas Championship. Eve uses a leg submission on a still injured Kaitlyn to make her tap out. Layla jumps in the ring after the match to confront Eve.

^The divas are relevant, the divas are relevant! Many may not care about the divas with the piss poor booking, but I still believe WWE is making a real effort with this storyline to keep us interested as fans.

Josh Mathews tells Alberto Del Rio that Randy Orton will be at Smackdown Friday. Del Rio walks away without saying anything.

^I like the Del Rio feud with Orton. Both guys have been a part of so much that it’s hard to sometimes come up with new things. Both men are talented enough in the ring and have the right chemistry to give us a potentially shining match at HIAC.

Daniel Bryan approaches Larry King about being called a goatface. Kane interrupts and argues with Dbry while King and his wife walk away.

^The line about Kane being slapped in the face by a fruit roll up was hilarious. The whole thing was pretty funny, but I’m willing to bet some people out there are already getting tired of these two. I’m certainly not ready for the fun to end, but some might argue that it’s a bit repetitive to have the same two guys do the same thing every week. I’m just excited to see where this all leads for Dbry in terms of getting back into the World Title scene.

Punk is shown warming up with Heyman talking about their inevitable doom.

^I love the scared version of Paul Heyman. The guy can really act and should be more chances to do so.

Punk attacks McMahon when he comes to the ring. They go back and forth with the upper hand on one another. They eventually attack each other with canes. Punk hits a low blow on Vince and goes for a GTS, but Ryback comes out. Punk runs but Cena comes out and throws Punk back into the ring. Ryback goes for shell shocked but Punk escapes and runs into the crowd. McMahon tells Punk he has until next week to pick Ryback or Cena as his opponent for HIAC.

^This definitely felt like the end of an attitude era episode of Raw. That said, the closing was awesome and look on Punk’s face was priceless. I like the decision to set things up like this, and you have to realize it’s because WWE isn’t sure of Cena’s arm status until next week and that’s why they’re waiting to confirm the match. Great ending with the face McMahon looking as powerful as ever(wasn’t he removed from his power role last year?).

Final Thoughts: Much like the last few episodes of Raw, I enjoyed this one just as much. I don’t care that there isn’t a lot of wrestling for three hours worth of time; to me it feels like we get a TON of wrestling during these three hours as compared to the old two hour Raw format. How can one complain about that? Hell in a Cell is getting a solid build because of the time between NOC and the show, and that’s impressive work by WWE booking. I’ll be back with the Rundown and the Smark’s Bound For Glory predictions on Saturday night. Until next time, you’ve been ThunderStruck! and

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