Ring Crew Reviews: WWE Payback 2013
Posted by Jack Bramma on 09.05.2013
CM Punk returns to action against Chris Jericho in Chicago, Dolph Ziggler is back after a concussion but Alberto Del Rio is ready for his World Heavyweight Championship shot, and Ryback gets one more chance at John Cena in a Three Stages of Hell Match.
• Scheduled Card:
1. Triple Threat Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Curtis Axel vs. Wade Barrett (c).
2. WWE Divas Championship: AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn (c).
3. WWE United States Championship: Kane vs. Dean Ambrose (c).
4. World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler (c).
5. Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk.
6. WWE World Tag Team Championship: Randy Orton & Daniel Bryan vs. The Shield (c).
7. Three Stages of Hell Match for the WWE Championship: Ryback vs. John Cena (c).
• We start with some B-roll of the WMXXII Cena promo that traced his roots back to Chicago Gangsters like Al Capone and John Dillinger. Then, a Mafia don waxes melodramatic about Sicilian law and order interlaced with clips of Ryback/Cena and Punk/Jericho. Not bad at all.
• Triple Threat Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Curtis Axel vs. Wade Barrett (c). Originally, Fandango was scheduled but he suffered a legitimate concussion, so Axel's concussion storyline with Trips was abandoned and he was slotted in here. Miz, on the other hand, was between stalled pushes and nothing feuds and meaningless pinfall wins on free TV. Wade Barrett is a different story altogether. I'll go with the short version. Just a year ago, Wade returned after some awesome vignettes and he seemed primed for a solid upper midcard to possibly main event push.
• The promos played up his bareknuckle boxer gimmick which played into his Bullhammer elbow finisher. I know, I know, elbows =/= boxing but who cares? After the pomp and circumstance, Wade wasn't booked on the subsequent NOC PPV in September or the HITC PPV in October. He was booked for SS but as a nothing member of Team Ziggler – a castoff match after Ryback and Punk were removed as captains. At TLC, Wade would challenge for the IC belt against Kofi and LOSE, though he would win it a week or so later on a tape delayed RAW. He was just another guy in the RR and didn't defend the IC belt on the show, though he did have that two week feud with Bo Dallas which he LOST. Wade lost an EC qualifer to Randy Orton and then... WASN'T BOOKED! At WM, Barrett would defend the IC belt against Miz on the pre-show and LOSE! Luckily (unluckily?), Wade would win the belt back the next night. Let's just FF to the end, Wade was not booked for Extreme Rules because of course. Somewhere in all this, I blinked and Wade got new music as well. I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention the numerous non-title clean losses during the many months and recently losing a Barber Shop Brawl with Daniel Bryan and getting forcibly shaved when he wasn't even booked. Seriously, what in the FUCK is going on? Though in recent weeks, things seem to have taken a bit of an upturn for the Barrett Barrage as he had a mini-feud continue with DB over the beard and then got his revenge by shaving Cody's mustache off.
• Miz fends off both to start to mild boos. Axel gets dumped out as Miz rolls up Wade for a nearfall. A flapjack gets another 2 count as Miz eggs on Axel to come back in. Heyman: “PICK YOUR MOMENT! PICK YOUR MOMENT!” Wade headbutts Miz from behind and goes to work. Miz flies out with a Bossman attack attempt on Axel as the crowd chants for ECW. Miz smashes Axel into the apron and then sends him in. Wade with a pumphandle slam but Miz breaks up the cover. Miz wants the SCF but Wade fights him off and ducks and Miz takes out Axel with a clothesline. Wade hits the FOOT TO THE FACE and covers Miz for a nearfall. Heyman comforts and advises Axel which JBL picks up on. JBL: “Remember Steve Austin's first major title came when he was under the tutelage of Paul Heyman. Same goes for Brock Lesnar. This man breeds champions.” Barrett with some whatever in the corner and poses to mild jeers. He hits a knee to the breadbasket and covers for another 2 count. Miz comes back with rights but eats a kick to the gut. Axel comes in but Wade cuts him off and hits some MT knees. Wade poses again but Miz rolls him up for 1, 2, only 2. Wade goes for another big boot, but Axel crotches him and dumps him out. Miz goes for the double neckbreaker but hits only one and runs into a Bluechipper dropkick. That was nice. Axel with several right hands which JBL credits to Axel's good genetics. Axel hits the Perfect neck whip for 1, 2, only 2. Axel with a knee to Miz's gut as he and Wade are playing from the same playbook now. Cole: “CM PUNK WILL BE IN ACTION LATER TONIGHT!” King: “Speaking of faces, look at Paul Heyman. I think they rub branches over his face to make ugly sticks.” How colorful.
• Axel with more rights and dozens of CLUBBINGBLOWS while Wade sells a crotch shot for just this side of half an hour. Miz fights back to boos, so he eats a double-pump Backdrop Driver. Axel covers for 1, 2, Wade breaks it up. Wade pounds down Axel and then poses for his third taunt of the match. Seriously, in like 5 minutes of action per guy, Axel has hit a metric ton of forearms, Barrett has hit three knees and then posed three times, and Miz has gotten booed out of the building. Miz fires up for clotheslines on both guys. Awesomely, Axel busts out the Hennig flip selling one. Miz stacks them up in the corner to a mixed reaction. He hits the corner clothesline on Wade but Axel moves. Miz flies in with a double sledge. Axel tries a sunset flip but Miz rolls through into a Batista kick. He covers for 1, 2, only 2. Miz wants the F4 on Wade but Wade kicks him off for a Bossman slam. Cover gets 1, 2, Axel breaks it up. Wade wants Wasteland and swings Axel into Miz. Axel slides out for the Perfectplex. 1, 2, NO! Miz breaks it up and the crowd boos because Curt Hennig is still that over. Miz flips out of suplex and hits the SCF but Wade dumps him out. Wade covers for 1, 2, Miz pulls him off. Miz hooks the leg. 1, 2, NO! Cool nearfalls there. Miz dropkicks Axel's leg and goes for the F4 but gets shunted off into Wade. He flips down Barrett's back and backdrops Axel to the floor. F4! Barrett reaches for the ropes but Miz pulls him back to the middle. Axel covers Barrett while he's in the F4 for 1, 2, 3 to crown a new IC champ at 10:37.
• Big reaction for Axel's win after the fact. All right, after a decent but boring opening stretch, they won me over with the go-home. Everything after Miz's fire up is good stuff. The false finishes got the crowd revved up and so did the Perfect homages. Miz and Wade fighting over covers after the SCF was really effective and the finish was a satisfying conclusion if you can get over the selective rules. **3/4
• Cole: “23 years ago, Mr. Perfect won the Intercontinental title. His son, Curtis Axel, follows in those footsteps tonight on Father's Day. It was a perfect ending for Curtis Axel, tonight.”
• After getting a month off for nagging injuries, Henry gets a promo saying he'd return the night after Payback.
• Meanwhile, Axel and Heyman are celebrating, but run into COO Trips. He obstructs their path, but before tempers can explode, Vince interrupts to wish them congratulations and to take off. Trips is none too pleased and walks off.
• WWE Divas Championship: AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn (c). Big E was revealed as Kaitlyn's secret admirer. He dipped her for a kiss but threw her down to reveal AJ's master plan. Let's get to it. AJ blows Kaitlyn a kiss, so Kaitlyn pounds her down to start. AJ takes a breather but Kaitlyn follows and throws her OVER the announce table. King: “Why can't that ever happen over here?” Cole says that AJ tried to get out of this match by feigning sickness. JBL: “Do you have any idea how hard it is to wrestle with the sniffles?” Back in, Kaitlyn exposes the business with forearms faker than Total Divas. AJ with a rope-assisted dropkick as Cole reveals AJ became number one contender by winning a battle royale “some time ago.” Back in, AJ covers for 1, 2, only 2. Cole brings up some backstory but JBL isn't biting. JBL: “SO WHAT?! This is about a WWE championship. You have any idea how many times in your life you get to compete for an opportunity to become champion? You beat your best friend, you beat ya mama, you do whatever you have to do.” AJ chokes and covers for another 2 count. AJ goes to a cravat but Kaitlyn elbows out. AJ cuts her off again with an elbow. Cover gets 1, 2, only 2. King: “I've had 3 weddings and no anniversaries. That shows you what I know about women.” AJ goes to some rolling neckbreakers to crickets and another nearfall. AJ: “WHAT'S A MATTER, KAITLYN, HUH?! YOU THINK BIG E LOVES YOU?!” The boys go back to talking about Axel as AJ goes to a Sleeper for some more “neck” psychology. Time to take it home.
• JBL: “How bad will Kaitlyn's week be if she loses the championship?” Cole: “Ummm.... like one of the WORST WEEKS EVA?!” Kaitlyn slowly backs into the corner and AJ rightly no sells and kicks her back down in the dirt. Kaitlyn comes back with a dropkick as King and JBL set back Betty Friedan thousands of years. Kaitlyn pounces her. Cole: “THE POWER OF THE CHAMPION!” 1, 2, no. AJ wants a crucifix roll up which Kaitlyn thankfully lays down for. They roll through it and Kaitlyn powers up for a fireman's carry ribbreaker. Nice. Kaitlyn pulls AJ's belt free because she can't break the rope break. AJ now grabs the apron and the ref does a little housekeeping. AJ waffles Kaitlyn with the belt and the oblivious ref counts 1, 2, only 2. That sound have been the finish because they're dying. Instead, AJ like Ken Shamrock is a sore loser and snaps. She tries a crossbody but Kaitlyn catches her. She wants a slam but AJ rotates around into the Octopus Stretch. OK, that got a pop. Kaitlyn powers out for a backdrop. Spear follows and rather than cover, Kaitlyn blows her a kiss too. Delayed cover gets 1, 2, 2 ½. JBL: “WHAT IS KAITLYN THINKING?! SHE HAS A CHAMPIONSHIP AND SHE DOES THAT!?” AJ slides out and avoids a charge in the corner. Kaitlyn runs into the turnbuckle presumably giving herself a concussion. Octopus Stretch finishes it at 9:56.
• Like the opener, they got the crowd back with a nifty finishing sequence, but 10 minutes was still long. The boy's club on commentary didn't do them a lot of favors either even if JBL was trying to be serious at least half the time. **
• Post-match, the Chicago fans pay Kaitlyn back by telling her that she tapped out and Kaitlyn weeps with self-pity. But never fear, Layla is there to comfort her.
• We’re back to the boys in the crew and they recap how so far we’ve had two championship matches and two new champs. They toss it to the analyst crew of Showster, Truth, and Cody Rhodes. Josh Matthews wants to know if we’ll see more new champs tonight. Show credits Heyman with Axel’s victory and Cody agrees. Truth puns off Bret Hart’s name and says that it wasn’t excellent execution but stealing a victory. Cody: “Key word: victory.”
• Another creepy Wyatt family promo.
• WWE United States Championship: Kane vs. Dean Ambrose (c). A couple months back, The Shield were arguably the hottest act in wrestling. WWE wanted to further capitalize on their infamy, so they dumped the win streak gimmick and instead gave the whole crew belts with Ambrose pegged as the singles breakout star by going over Kofi. Adding to that, Hell No was showing new signs of friction with DB wondering if he was the weak link and taking particular umbrage at Orton’s match-losing antics. Vickie gave them all title matches but with Orton and DB getting the tag champs and Kane going after the US championship.
• Cole wants to know if the Shield finally losing clean and Rollins tapping out to DB just a few days ago on Smackdown will control Ambrose’s psyche. Good stuff. Ambrose piefaces him early and uses his speed to stay a step ahead. LET’SGOAMBROSE says Chicago as Kane overpowers him out of the corner and takes him down with an uppercut. Cole brings up Kane’s title pedigree as a former WWE and world champion. He’s on fire tonight trying to get things serious and on point. Kane with another uppercut and a Kane-line. He suplexes Ambrose over for a quick 1 count. TOTHECHINLOCK! Ambrose escapes out by going to the eyes and a headbutt. Ambrose runs off into the usual sideslam from Kane. He kicks Ambrose to the back a few times and lands another uppercut. Kane whips him across for a mild Bret Hart bump. Kane with some s..l..o..w shoulder surges in the corner as the crowd chants for Ambrose again. Ambrose shoves him away and cuts off Kane’s basement dropkick by clipping the knee. Good cutoff. Ambrose with some rights and a DSLW as JBL marvels at how “eccentric” he is. Where the hell did that talking point come from? I know it has to be at least partly based on his indie stuff, but what exactly makes this iteration of him eccentric? Having a mildly disheveled look and throwing looping punches and contorting your face? ANYWAY, Ambrose talks trash and chokes for a bit. Ambrose with another DSLW and taunts to mostly cheers. Elbow drop gets nothing as Kane kicks out. Ambrose has to CRANNK THAT NECK WITH AUTHORITY! He tries a neckbreaker but Kane shoves him off for a Bulldog powerslam. Kane SELLS THE LEG!
• He heads up top but Ambrose cuts him off. Kane cuts him back off with a headbutt. He wants the flying clothesline but Ambrose moves and comes back with a flying Euro uppercut. Ambrose covers for only 1. Ambrose tries a nerve hold before abandoning it for half of a Dragon Sleeper as JBL tries to explain their rather labored pace by saying that they’re fighting for championships and that’s taxing work. Kane tries to power out so Ambrose switches to a sleeper. Kane drives him back into the corner but Ambrose gets the boot up. Kane staggers backward but comes back with the patented throat thrust cutoff. Kane goozles but no ChokeSlam as he has to settle for a curb stomp, basement dropkick combo. Cover gets 1, 2, 2 ½. Ambrose wants a sunset flip but Kane blocks. Ambrose cuts him back off with a knee to the gut and smacks him around and lands a soft dropkick. Cover gets 1, 2, nearfall. Cole and JBL trip over themselves putting over Ambrose’s “chaotic” and “unorthodox” regime of restholds and punches. Ambrose gives Kane the throat slash and calls for Old School. That doesn’t quite elicit the hatred they wanted, but it works as a diversion and motivation for Kane to fire up. Kane hits a couple Ho Trains and another side slam. Cover gets 1, 2, no. Kane finally hits the flying clothesline to a mixed reaction. He wants the ChokeSlam but Ambrose escapes to the apron for a Stun Gun. Kane no sells to land a haymaker. Ambrose sells to the floor and Kane gives chase. Ambrose fends off off with the BLATANTSMACKTOTHEFACE. Kane blasts him and preps the announce table but Ambrose lands the Chaos DDT and slides back in to win by countout at 9:34.
• I haven’t enjoyed a Kane singles match this side of ever. I dig the character and think he’s a good hand and a company man and etc., but I’m bored to tears with his singles work. They tried with forcing Kane to have to fight for the flying clothesline and Ambrose trying to get DQ’ed with the smack and going for Old School. Ambrose even sprinkled in a little leg work and some stuff on the upper back. But they just don’t have a lot of charisma together and were stuck spinning their wheels while the commentary kept relentlessly labeling the pedestrian affair as chaotic, eccentric, and crazy. **1/2
• Next, we get an RVD promo announcing that he’d return at MITB and that gets one of the loudest pops of the night.
• Earlier tonight, Sheamus defeated Damien Sandow on the preshow.
• World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler (c). The night after Mania 29, Dolph cashed in on a downed ADR to take the strap. With Dolph sidelined with a concussion, ADR defeated Jack Swagger in an I Quit match at Extreme Rules for this shot. For the entire build up to this PPV, ADR had an announced, impromptu Best of Five series with Big E taking it 3-2. Tonight is Dolph’s first match back after 5-week layoff.
• ADR comes out to a nice but subdued reception. Dolph gets a bigger pop but nothing earth-shattering. LETSGOZIGGLER says the crowd at the bell. ADR sends him off but Dolph takes the low road for a breather. Crowd doesn’t care as it’s still LETSGOZIGGLER. Back in, Dolph pounds down ADR in the corner only to fall victim to a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. ADR goes for a cover but Dolph again bails out. Back in, the ref forces ADR to give a break in the corner and that allows Dolph to take over with more rights and kicks. ADR shoves him back into the corner with a stiff kick and a HEADBUTT! MY GOD, THIS MAN HAD A CONCUSSION! JBL: “We saw an unusual headbutt from Alberto Del Rio. That’s something you don’t usually see.” Dolph isn’t showing too many effects early but runs into another elbow from Del Rio. The crowd switches over to an RVD chant just because. Dolph is a bit woozy and Chioda checks on him but ADR pounces with kicks to the gut and mercilessly starts stomping on Dolph’s head. ADR with a back suplex for a quick 1 count. King: “You certainly can’t feel sorry for your opponent when a championship is on the line.” ADR drops some knees on the skulls and more CLUBBINGBLOWS as JBL says the match might have to be stopped. Dolph comes back with a Bluechipper dropkick. He charges into the corner but ADR backdrops him and Dolph gets pole vaulted to the floor and DOWN ON THE CONCUSSED HEAD!
• ADR smashes him into the announce table. Big E stands up for Dolph, so ADR shoves him but E stands stiff and knocks him on his ass to a bit of a pop. Chioda has had it and ejects E to an even bigger pop. ADR basks in the good fortune of his plan working. Dolph jumps ADR in anger and blasts him with the announce table awning but is still too out of it to do much damage. Dolph almost collapses into AJ’s arms but recovers to get ENZUIGIRIED FROM HIS BLINDSIDE! BRUTAL! ADR with more headbutts leveling Dolph. ADR covers for 1, 2, only 2 and goes to a chinlock. AJ tries to get the crowd behind Dolph as he elbows his way out. ADR pounds him down with MOARCLUBBINGBLOWS and gets booed out of the building. Dolph floats out of a suplex attempt into the SLEEPER! TAPTAPTAPTAPTAP! Del Rio recovers to drop down and send Dolph into the turnbuckle… HEAD-FIRST! Dolph crawls and writhes in agony as Del Rio chases him down and punts him to the head. Cole: “Del Rio had a gameplan, no doubt about it, when he walked through this match tonight.” JBL: “Of course, he did. That’s what makes Alberto Del Rio such a great champion.” ADR hangs him in the ropes and fires up for the crowd so he can hit more forearms to the back and another to the concussed head. ADR slyly inching toward heel-dom but still wanting the crowd not to abandon him is one of my favorite wrestling little things of all year. Backstabber gets 1, 2, 2 ½. ADR begins tapping the arm calling for the Armbar. He goes for it but Dolph counters to a neckbreaker. Cover gets 1, 2, 2.7. Even in going for the cover and the aftermath, Dolph can barely get to his feet to fight off the pain. LETSGOZIGGLER!
• He fires back on ADR with rights and flips out of a backbreaker. He hits the Rocker Dropper! 1, 2, kickout. Dolph slowly steps through the ropes to head up top and Chioda checks with him again to stop the match but no go. ADR cuts him off with a KICK TO THE HEAD! THATNOGOODBASTARD! ADR hits a reverse superplex. Cover gets 1, 2, no. Del Rio can’t believe it. In anger, he boots Dolph to the floor. Dolph tumbles out like a tackling dummy and pulls himself up to the apron only to eat a DR FG ENZUIGIRI! STOP THE MATCH! Dolph crumbles in a heap and AJ and the doctor at ringside rush to his aid. ADR poses in the ring to boos as Dolph shoves the doctor away so he can fight the good fight. BASEBALL SLIDE TO THE HEAD! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Ricardo: “HE’S FINE! HE’S FINE!” Back in, ADR tunes up the band for another enzuigiri. Cover gets 1, 2, 2.9999999999. Huge pop for that kickout. Del Rio is beside himself with anger and shows no remorse in blasting Dolph to the head several times. Dolph shows all the guts and determination in the world using Del Rio to pull himself to his feet and ADR mocks him like a coward. I love it. Dolph clips the knee long enough to hit the ZIG ZAG! DOLPH IS TOO OUT OF IT TO COVER! Del Rio recovers and Dolph is out of it on his knees as ADR blasts him one more time with the Superkick. Del Rio covers for the academic 1, 2, 3 to crown a new champ at 13:50.
• Dolph comes out a hero and ADR comes out a ruthless champion. I know the double turn has escalated in recent years to be only uttered in hushed whispers like the spying of a unicorn or frogs falling from the sky. That’s why Austin/Bret has risen to such storied heights, because the double turn is impossible and yet here it is in WWE 2013 of all places carried out by perennial upper midcarders Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler. Don’t get me wrong, I like both guys a lot, but both are much better as heels, so it’s difficult for a crowd to have a favorite between them. Still, with the hot crowd ready to take a bullet for Ziggler and burn Del Rio in effigy, the turn was a brilliant idea and beautifully executed with a match that is basically all story. ****1/4
• Post-match, a lot of the crowd is stunned. Ricardo and ADR embrace with tears in their eyes while Dolph is attended to by doctors. Dolph is helped to the back barely able to walk and AJ can’t bring herself to stop crying. The crowd chants for ZIGGLERZIGGLERZIGGLER.
• We kick it back to the boys in the analyst booth. Cody is scared of ADR after what he just witnessed. Truth and Show both agree and talk about the drastic change that came over him and the deranged look in his eyes in repeatedly kicking Dolph in the head. On cue, ADR pops back out with Ricardo to speak to his fans. Del Rio gets the stick and cuts the bluest babyface promo possible that with each second grows more and more heel: “C’MON CHICAGO, LET’S SO GIVE IT UP FOR THE NEWWWWWWWWW HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION! GRACIAS, CHICAGO! TONIGHT, I PROVE TO YOU AND TO THE ENTIRE WORLD, WHY ALBERTO DEL RIO DESERVES TO BE YOUR CHAMPION! I HAVE DONE EVERYTHING SINCE I CAME TO THE WWE AND I DID IT JUST FOR YOU EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! SO TONIGHT, CHICAGO AND TO THE ENTIRE WORLD, I ASK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! YOU ALL KNOW ALBERTO DEL RIO IS ONE OF THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS! EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, I COME TO THIS RING AND GIVE MY LIFE, 100%! SO AFTER TONIGHT, I FEEL LIKE I DESERVE TO BE YOUR CHAMPION! SO LET’S HEAR IT ONE MORE TIME FOR THE NEW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION, ALBERRTTTTTTTTOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DELLLLLLLLLLLLL RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
• I love the match and the promo makes it even better. I change my mind. ****1/2
• Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk. After losing three straight to the Rock and Undertaker, Punk took a hiatus because of crippling self-doubt. He was gone upwards of two months before Jericho called him out for a return match in Punk’s hometown of Chicago. With Punk nowhere to be found, his confidante and (former) best friend, Paul Heyman stepped up and accepted on Punk’s behalf.
• Even though Jericho is a megaface, a legend, a future HOFer, and always over. Tonight, in Chicago, he’s a glorified co-star to the “Punk returns in Chicago” pop. CMPUNKCMPUNKCMPUNK! Despite last being seen mocking the dearly departed Paul Bearer in every way imaginable and calling all of the fans assholes for months and demanding respect, Punk is instantly a face by virtue of being awesome and being in his hometown.
• CMPUNKCMPUNKCMPUNK as Cole recounts Punk’s lengthy 434 day reign, the longest in the last 25 years. Lockup takes them into the ropes for a shoving match as Cole now switches to covering the rivalry between the two going back to last year and that Jericho “needs this one” to even the score. Good stuff from Cole so far. Jericho with a go behind so Punk goes for the drop toe hold. Jericho floats into a hammerlock and suddenly he’s the most wanted man in Chicago. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Punk counters to a snapmare and we’re back to a stalemate. King: “One thing that I can’t help but think about is the fact that we saw in the previous match the long layoff by Dolph Ziggler obviously affected Dolph. Even though CM Punk’s was a self-imposed sabbatical, he’s been out of the ring for a long time.” More good stuff. Punk tries a headlock but Jericho takes him with a shoulderblock to loud boos. Punk takes him back down with a dropkick and goes back to the lying headlock. Cole switches to talk about not Punk’s ring rust, but the mental effect of the layoff, coming this close to ending UT’s undefeated streak only to come up short. Punk works an arm wringer and adds some shoulder surges as it’s a slow go to start. They chop it out and Jericho wins with forearms. He whiffs on a Stinger Splash and Punk tries a tornado DDT but Jericho shoves him off and clotheslines him out to the floor. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Be that as it may, Punk is definitely gassed a bit and the shitcan is to stall. Jericho dropkicks him into the apron and Jericho buys some more time with the ear-cup routine. Punk comes back with a Stun Gun. Back in, he heads up top for a double sledge and a quick 2 count. Punk goes back to the top wristlock as Heyman looks on as Cole speculates that Punk may not seeing quite eye-to-eye with Heyman by having to return tonight. Punk sends off Jericho for a knee to the breadbasket.
• Cover gets 1, 2, only 2. Punk goes back to the arm and even the crew is noting the slow pace. Cole: “Now, Punk wearing down Jericho. It’s a slower pace, John, that’ll help Punk because of the layoff.” JBL: “I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. It helps them get back into the groove.” King: “There is absolutely no substitute for being in that ring against an opponent. There’s no way you can simulate that. There’s nothing you can do in the gym, no working out that’s even close to this.” Cole: “Well, Jericho is in ring shape and he wants to pick the pace up.” Jericho punches his way free as the boo birds are out in full force again. Punk gets the boot up in the corner and we’ve got some major league huffing and heaving going on. Punk takes his time and slowly heads up top as the boys again talk about ring rust and conditioning. Jericho cuts him off and goes to the shoulderblocks. He avoids a shitcan and heads up top for a LIONHEART HAMMER. He fires up to boos and hits the bulldog. He wants the Lionsault but lands on his feet. Punk ducks under for the swinging neckbreaker. Cover gets 1, 2, 2 ½. Punk catches his breath and Cole tries not to completely bury him. Cole: “Although, Punk does look like he’s in tremendous condition.” JBL: “He may be Michael, he may just be a little nervous.” ANYWAY, Punk connects with the step up knee in the corner. Punk: “VINTAGE PUNK!” He wants the bulldog but Jericho shoves him off and lands the Lionsault. 1,2, no. Jericho kicks him around and elbows out of a G2S attempt.
• He wants the WoJ and rolls Punk over. IS PUNK GOING TO TAP OUT IN FRONT OF NEARLY FIFTEEN THOUSAND HOMETOWN FANS?! Punk powers his way out and goes into full mount and then side control with the Anaconda Vice. Slick. Heyman: “TAPTAPTAPTAP!” Jericho though fights and makes the ropes. Punk says it’s over and calls for the G2S. That seems a bit premature as Punk has hit like two moves and worked the arm a bit but mostly gotten beat up the whole match. Punk gets him up but Jericho blocks and tries the Walls again. Heyman gets on the apron but Punk is all STRAIGHT EDGE MEANS NO CHEATING and waves him off. Jericho temporarily takes advantage only for Punk to enzuigiri him back down for a double KO spot. Jericho lands a desperation Codebreaker for 1, 2, kickout. Jericho kicks Punk while he’s down and tells him to STAY DOWN, PUNK! The crowd fires back with CMPUNKCMPUNKCMPUNK. Punk fights back with rights and kicks and a leg lariat. Step up knee, a clothesline, and a Macho elbow later and Punk is in the groove and seems to have found his legitimate second wind. Punk wants the G2S again and HITS IT! VINTAGE PUNK! 1, 2, 2.99999999999! Crowd wants ONEMORETIME. Jericho elbows out this time to boos. Punk shoves off another Codebreaker and clotheslines Jericho to the floor. Punk follows with a suicide dive as both are down. Back in, Punk heads up top again for the patented flying clothesline but Jericho catches him on the way down with a CODEBREAKER! Heyman: “OH MY GOD!” 1, 2, NO! Crowd chants This is Awesome but quickly switches to boos as Jericho nails Punk with several MMA elbows. He wants the Walls again. NO! SMALL PACKAGE! 1, 2, 2.999! They slug it out and Punk wins and tries a rana but Jericho catches him in the WOJ! JERICHO DEEP SEATS IT! Punk punches one arm free so Jericho switches to a half crab nicely. Punk finally punches the rest of the way free and gets Jericho up. G2S! ONE MORE TIME! G2S! 1, 2, 3 and Punk wins it at 21:22.
• A very good if not great match. Expectations were through the roof and probably unfair on both guys given that they had good not great matches through an entire PPV run back in 2012 even though they had plenty of bells, whistles, and gimmicks to use which they didn’t have this time. Punk likely had a combination of ring rust and adrenaline dump coming down off the high of the pop for his entrance and it showed a bit in the first half as he noticeably needed breathers. The face/face also might have shaved just a bit of an edge off the possible dynamic in the match as Jericho never went even half heel in trying to crowd to hate him. Still, an electric atmosphere and a rousing series of cutoffs and false finishes down the stretch bring it home in style. ****
• WWE World Tag Team Championship: Randy Orton & Daniel Bryan vs. The Shield (c). Cole nicely brings up that Ambrose is the only champ to retain tonight. Orton had been gunning for the Shield on and off for months but was unable to secure a victory himself. DB on the other hand was winless against the hounds of justice even longer all the way back to December. He, along with Orton and Kane, achieved the first clean victory over them just days before this on Smackdown.
• DB and Reigns to start. Reigns pounds him down but DB sidesteps for some kicks. DB flips up and over but runs right into a LARIATO. Reigns covers for 1, 2, only 2. Rollins works him over behind the ref's back and then tags in. They hit combo burritos for another 2 count as Reigns is back in. Reigns goes to a quick chinlock. JBL puts over the Shield's as favorites while he openly questions DB and Orton's ability to co-exist. DB elbows out but runs into an elbow and a TROLL YELL knee. Rollins talks trash from the corner: “WE ARE THE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS, BRYAN!” Crowd chants for DB while Reigns works another chinlock. Dragon elbows out again and this time takes over with a burrito. Tags to Orton and Rollins. Orton fires up to mild boos as he hits a powerslam. He dumps out Rollins for the apron DDT. Reigns cuts him off so Orton interrupts himself to DDT Reigns instead. Orton ducks a kick from Rollins only to run into one in the corner. Rollins comes flying off the top but Orton recovers to catch him in a SWEET POWERSLAM! Apron DDT follows to a mild reaction. Cole: “CLASSIC ORTON!” Dynamite drop in, Monty. Broadcasting school is really paying off. Orton calls for the RKO but Rollins rolls to the floor so Reigns can pummel Orton with the Superman Punch. Reigns covers for 1, 2, only 2. The Shield team up for a wishbone on Orton. Reigns chokes for a while and distracts the ref, so Rollins can as well. RVDRVDRVDRVD! Rollins tags in to Downward Spiral Orton down into the second turnbuckle to cut him off. Crowd is getting a bit restless. Reigns backs Orton up and he bumps in an odd spot that gets 2.
• MOARCHINLOCK! Orton escapes only to eat a Samoan drop. 1, 2, nearfall. JBL: “THIS IS THE SHIELD'S YARD!” Cole: “How can you argue with them?” JBL: “I wasn't.” Cole: “That was a rhetorical statement.” JBL: “Rhetorical question.” Rollins back in to mix things up with yet more stomping and chinlocking. Orton tries a Euro uppercut to get going only for Rollins to hit an enzuigiri. Rollins calls for a combo whip but Orton avoids both and almost kills Rollins with a FUGLY T-Bone suplex. TAG TO DB! YESYESYESYESYES! Double missile dropkick and THREE IED's follow. Cover on Reigns gets 1, 2, kickout. Dragon with several DR FG's to Reigns. He ducks the penultimate one but catches one coming from the other direction. 1, 2, 2.99. Reigns tries to come back but DB shitcans him and backdrops Rollins as well. DB is primed and flies out for a TOPE SUICIDA! NO! THE SHIELD MOVE AND RANDY ORTON TAKES THE BRUNT! Reigns steamrolls DB with a LARIATO on the floor. Back in, Reigns covers for 1, 2, 2.7. JBL: “Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan haven't been on the same page this entire time. They have only made one or two tags.” The Shield collide and crotch each other. DB with an IED and Reigns sells to the floor. DB hits Rollins with a CHICKEN WING SUPLEX OFF THE TOP! YES LOCK! NO! Reigns breaks it up. Rollins tries to sneak a roll up but DB counters back to the Yes Lock! Reigns in again to break it up: “KEEP YA SKINNY ASS DOWN, SON!” Reigns is a house of troll yell but Orton is in. He avoids a charging DB but sidesteps him right into a SPEAR! RKO on Reigns but Rollins dumps him out. Curb stomp finishes DB at 12:10.
• A solid match with a well-told story and a logical finish. Personally, I enjoyed how they stretched the Shield-Hell No feud into a couple more PPV's by injecting Orton into the mix. It helped facilitate the DB weak link angle and perfectly springboard into the Orton-Bryan feud that has subtly been the strongest part of the show for two solid months (other than some Heyman-Punk promos and Wyatt's debut). ***1/4
• Three Stages of Hell Match for the WWE Championship: Ryback vs. John Cena (c). Back in October of 2012, Cena suffered an arm injury and backed Ryback as suitable replacement for the main event at HITC against Punk. In one of those simultaneously condescending and supportive touches, Cena would cut promos for Ryback and even try to get the crowd to chant for him.
• This would all culminate with Ryback turning heel the night after Mania to one of the biggest pops of his career. At Extreme Rules, Ryback Speared Cena through the stage for a no contest, so finally this is the blowoff.
• First fall is a 30-man lumberjack match. Second fall is a tables match. Third fall is an ambulance match. Ryback dominates the lockup to start and pounds away. Looks like the lumberjacks are aligned with faces and heels on parallel sides of the ring from each other. Cena comes back with rights. He wants a bulldog but Ryback catches him in a Bulldog powerslam for 1, 2, only 2. Cena tries a crossbody but eats a snap-ab suplex from Ryback. Lawler, in an unexpected great touch, explains the origins of lumberjack matches going back to Canadian lumber yards where guys didn't have rings but still had fights. He should be bringing up stuff like that all the time. Ryback goes for a Spear but eats post and then gets suplexed down by Cena. Cena goes for an elbow drop and hits it. Ryback shitcans him out and Cena gathers his bearings and hangs out; however, because it's the face side, no one touches him. Dicks. The heel lumberjacks give them hell and rightfully so. Ryback drops a leg for 1, 2, only 2. A small YOUBOTHSUCK chant arrives but doesn't catch on. Ryback is gassed, so he applies a chinlock. Cena does a few calf raises while Ryback hugs him which I guess qualifies as an escape counter. Cena wants the FU but Ryback slides out and hits a TKO BACKPACK CHINBREAKER! SWEET! Ryback dumps him out and now the heels put the boots to him. They toss him back in quickly and Ryback covers for 1, 2, only 2. Ryback hits a suplex and poses to jeers. Ryback dumps him out again and now the faces come over to jaw with them, because locker room allegiance! Or something. Back in, Ryback stomps away and talks on camera as the crowd chants for RVDRVDRVD. Ryback tosses Cena for the THIRD CONSECUTIVE SHITCAN! Cena slides back in and catches Ryback off guard with the shoulderblocks to boos because the Chicago crowd hates both. Cena wants the 5KS, but Ryback pops up and press slams him to the floor. The heels work him over and shove him back in. Ryback says it's over and tries a Shellshock but Cena no sells to get up him and fireman's carry him to the floor. The heels, of course, leave Ryback alone. BUT WAIT! Ryback shoves Cesaro and every heel AND face in sight starts pummeling him to the loudest pop of the match. Cool spot. Cena dives out with a plancha and all 30-ish guys tumble over like dominoes. That was not so cool. For a few brief seconds, I have acid flashbacks to WW3 as there are too many guys and not enough cameras to tell what's going on. Cena and Ryback though are slid back in for a double KO as Cole credits Cena's eleven WWE championships with his plancha prowess. Cena rolls Ryback into the STF. Ryback no sells to power out for the Shellshock. Cover gets 1, 2, 3 for Ryback to go up 1-0 at 7:33.
• The lumberjacks exit and after a minute break, the bell rings to start the second fall, tables match. Ryback Harpoons Cena and then goes furniture spelunking. He sets up a table. Ryback: “TIME TO GO TO HELL!” Ryback tries a powerbomb, but Cena lands on his feet. He wants the FU but Ryback counters and Cena LEAPS into a Spear. That was slick. GOLDBERGGOLDBERG chant but it doesn't last long. Ryback tries a press slam but Cena escapes for the FU! NO! RYBACK SHOVES OVER THE TABLE! Ryback tries a LARIATO but Cena dumps him out. Whoa. The last 10 seconds were better than the first 10 minutes. On the floor, Ryback whips Cena into the steps for the shoulder bump. Ryback throws part of the stairs in the ring and drags Cena back in. He waffles Cena with the stairs WITH AUTHORITY! RYBACKRULES! He wants one more but Cena moves and the stairs go flying through the table. Cena hits the Proto-bomb and revenge waffles Ryback. Cena gets a table but Ryback recovers with the steps. He BLASTS Cena and Cena lands on the table. He goes for another, but Cena moves and the table isn't so lucky. Ryback: “DAMMIT!” Cena ducks a stair throw and hits the 5KS. He wants the FU but Ryback slides out for a spinebuster. He fires up for the Meathook and hits it. FINISH IT! Ryback sets up a table as JBL forecasts that we won't need the ambulance match. He tries the Shellshock but Cena peek-a-boo no sells right into an FU through the table for the second fall at 16:06.
• Immediately, Ryback is up to no-sell while Cena goes back to selling. Ryback dumps him out and preps the announce table. GOLDBERGGOLDBERG. Yes, yes, because Goldberg was known for his announce table spots. Ryback gets his heat back by powerbombing Cena through the EAT. NICE! This hasn't been the most graceful match in the world, but I'm digging it. Ryback: “John, it only gets worse from here.” Finally, the bell rings to start the third fall and Ryback hoists him up to carry Cena over to the ambulance. Cena recovers to push Ryback into the ambulance door. Cena goes hunting for supplies and comes up with a crutch. Ryback boots him to the breadbasket and the crutch goes flying. Ryback winds up for a haymaker but Cena moves and Ryback smashes the passenger window. Crowd audibly winced on that one. Cena gets another crutch to waffle him. Ryback no sells for a slug it out. Cena scoops him up to ram him into the side of the ambulance. Cena counters a whip and Ryback goes flying and takes out the ambulance door. Cole: “TALK ABOUT A DRIVE-BY!” That fucking guy. ANYWAY, Cena gets the door to waffle Ryback. Cena tries to force Ryback into the driver's seat which makes no sense, but produces the cool sound effect of Ryback pressing the siren. Ryback spent some of his childhood playing Street Fighter because he tears the front quarter panel off and blasts Cena with it.
• Cole: “THAT'S A REPO MAN!” Ryback wants a powerbomb but Cena counters to a backdrop and Ryback has to shove down to prevent from breaking his neck. No one's fault, just a consequence of that spot in that location. Cena tears loose the flashing lights and waffles Ryback. Ryback no sells just because and gets a crutch. He chases Cena up top only to get beat down with his own crutch. FU off the roof and through the roof, just like against Kane last year and Batista before that, ends it at 24:40.
• Shockingly, that didn't suck. Each fall is self-contained (obviously) but is entertaining in a different way from the other falls. While largely a pile of nothing, the first fall has a few cool counters and power moves and the comic relief from the lumberjack hypocrisy ending when Ryback threw a hissy-fit and got a beatdown for his trouble. Similary, the second fall is mostly power moves and nifty reversals but it works better in a table's match than in a sub-10 minute lumberjack match that is 5 minutes of shitcans. Ryback dumping over the table while in the fireman's carry was good stuff, as was getting his heat back with a table spot of his own. And the ambulance match succeeds in spite of itself, but mainly because it's better than the gimmick usual provides. The visual of tearing parts off a car is cool in-and-of itself and it was kept short to avoid the usual pratfalls of dozens of teased door slams, stretcher rides, etc. I have some love for this, not much, but some. ***
The 411: Are you serious? Two **** matches and a slew hovering around *** matches makes this easily one of the better WWE PPV's all year.