Less than 24 hours after the first ever Payback concluded in Chicago - Monday Night Raw takes place in Grand Rapids, Michigan where rumours are flying that Mark Henry is set to retire.
Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez kick off the show, where he asks why everyone is talking about the Man of Steel; when he is the Man of Gold; the new Superman.
He talks about how they should not boo him just because he beat a concussed Dolph Ziggler - as Ziggler did the same when Del Rio was injured and cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase on him. He says he has had enough of competing for the fans because he achieved nothing, and when he starts competing for himself he wins Championships, referring to Ziggler and Swagger as cowards and pigs before proclaiming he is the best.
Talking of the best; CM Punk interrupts the World Champion alongside Paul Heyman, and as expected he refers to Del Rio saying he is the best, whereas Punk proves it like he did against Jericho, whilst Del Rio can only say it; thus challenging him to a match tonight so he can prove it again.
Paul Heyman interrupts and this sparks a disagreement between Punk and Heyman; and Vickie Guerrero interrupts and much to the annoyance of Alberto; she makes the main event official. After the commercial we go backstage and CM Punk tells Paul Heyman that he is not his client, but his friend and he never wants him in his corner again.
Wade Barrett is standing in the ring ready for his match against Curtis Axel but Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox are on fire; now they reveal a big surprise as Christian returns to action!
After a back and forth encounter with a slow end, Christian hit the Killswitch on Barrett to take the victory; a great way to bring Christian back in, but sacrificing Barrett was probably not the best direction to go in. After another Wyatt Family promo the fans get the chance to vote for the stipulation tonight, between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan.
Team Rhodes Scholars up against Sheamus in a two-on-one handicap match and it was a decent match, it definitely surpassed my expectations and the result was a little more surprising as Sandow managed to pin Sheamus and exit the ring, but Sheamus still hit a Brogue Kick on Cody Rhodes to keep the fans happy. We now turn our attentions to Mark Henry’s cryptic tweets, hinting at retirement, before a promo focusing on the return of RVD which will take place at Money in the Bank. Triple H then talks to Vickie about keeping The SHIELD under control after and she needs to make an example out of them.
The fans voted for a no disqualification match between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan which was a great match, good back and forth action in the ring but the momentum turned when Bryan dived out of the ring and hurt his head; resulting in Orton using a kendo stick to beat down on Bryan, the referee then made the decision to stop the match, and Orton helped Daniel Bryan to his feet; I was waiting for a turn but it did not happen for either man.
AJ Lee and Big E Langston appear next and AJ talks about being the greatest Diva ever and nobody is better than her; cue Stephanie McMahon who tells AJ to act like a Champion before AJ takes it a step further by laying into her personal life. After a threat from Stephanie AJ seems to be put into her place but Kaitlyn interrupts Stephanie; bad move, a brawl then ensues between AJ and Kaitlyn as Big E has to drag AJ Lee away from her. A very weird segment but at 2:30AM I am never in my senses anyway.
Kane takes on Dean Ambrose in a Payback rematch and this match was always going in one direction, Kane once again was on the offense and this resulted in Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins interfering and attacking Kane; a pure set-up to see what Vickie can actually do. Backstage, first we see Mark Henry talking to The Prime Time Players and Tamina as he dons his pink suit, then in a different area The SHIELD run into Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox. They taunt her before she can say anything Vince McMahon walks in and praises The SHIELD for their ruthless aggression and they smirk at Vickie.
We The People! Zeb Colter and his moustache then enter, he talks about how foreigners are sneaking across the US border everyday like rats in the street, he admits that they are at war and being at war it has brought together unseal alliances, he and Jack Swagger have chosen to work alongside a man of integrity, honour and respect; Antonio Cesaro. Hypocritical? Cesaro shouts ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ before his match against William Regal, and I was genuinely pleased to see Regal in the ring, extremely underrated but we knew which way this was going; Cesaro showed off his strength and picked up the victory, a solid match though.
John Cena out next, talking about the two sets of fans he has, the ones who have stuck with him for ten years and the one group which hate him. He says he gives his all every single night and deserves his WWE Championship; he sends out a message to whoever will win the Money in the Bank ladder match, there will be no opportunity to cash in because he will always be ready. He says he knows he will not be WWE Champion forever, but the next Champion will have to earn it. Mark Henry out next to cheers, he lays his wrestling boots on the stage before getting into the ring, he tells Cena to put his guard down and reflects on his career; and is now in tears. No I did not tear up.
Henry continues saying how he is happy with his career and in 2002 when he was a seasoned veteran, John Cena made his debut, and the rate he is going at he will be the greatest champion of all time. He finally admits that he will be formally retiring from the active roster before we get ‘One More Match’ chants and he begins to talk about his family and how will spend more time with his kids.
After more tears; John Cena gets into the ring and raises Henry’s arm before they embrace; WORLD’S STRONGEST SLAM! Now THAT I did not see coming, he smirks and tells Cena he has enough left in the tank; but seriously; an Oscar-worthy performance from Henry; signalling their match at Money in the Bank.
Chris Jericho takes on Heath Slater next, again; not the most unpredictable of matches and Jericho looked great on the attack; hitting a Codebreaker for the win. 3MB did try attacking Jericho but he dispatched of them like henchmen in a Batman episode. Curtis Axel up against Sin Cara with The Miz on commentary, a solid match thanks to Axel looking great and dictating the pace of the match, some great manoeuvres followed by a DDT with a scissors lock and it is over; looks like a new finisher for Curtis Axel. Pretty solid match, nothing exceptional but not too bad either; looks like there will be a feud with Axel and Miz as Axel shows the title off in his face.
Backstage again, inside Vickie’s office with Maddox and once again we see this disagreement with the McMahon family, Vince and Triple H trying to be the alpha-male but I lost interest again; they seriously need to be going somewhere with this storyline. CM Punk is on his way to his main event but Paul Heyman interrupts him, saying he understand where Punk is coming from and does not want people stirring it up; he hugs him and calls him the Best in the World; I can just smell a set-up coming.
Not very excited for this main event as it is aimed more towards story-lines and we know that these two won’t be crossing paths again anytime soon, but still a good match which is exactly what you expect from CM Punk. Alberto exited the ring a number of times as a typical heel and got back into the match with some more kicks similar to what we saw against Dolph Ziggler. Del Rio began to look more dominant towards the end but Punk managed to hit the GTS and once again Del Rio escaped and chose not to continue, losing via count-out. As he made his way out, Dolph Ziggler jumped off the stage to attack him; and FINALLY he is a face! He began to punch Del Rio and chased him backstage.
With Punk still in the ring, we know something is coming; and here comes Brock Lesnar! He circles the ring as Punk just stares at him, Lesnar grabs a microphone and does not speak; hitting an F5 to set-up this feud which has been rumoured for a long time; a great ending to an above average Raw.
I was just disappointed that The Wyatt Family did not arrive.
Superstar of the night: Mark Henry
Match of the night: CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio
Monday Night Raw rating: 3.5/5
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