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WWE Raw Report
CALDWELL'S WWE RAW RESULTS 2/23: Complete "virtual-time" coverage of live Raw - Fast Lane fall-out, no Lesnar, Orton & Rollins vs. Bryan & Reigns main event, WM31 build-up, more

Feb 23, 2015 - 10:12:36 PM


WWE Raw TV Results
February 23, 2015 - Episode #1,134
Live in Nashville, Tenn.
Report by James Caldwell (@JCTorch), PWTorch assistant editor

- The Card: Fast Lane PPV fall-out, WWE World champion Brock Lesnar advertised, Tyson Kidd & Cesaro vs. The Usos in a Tag Title re-match from Fast Lane, and more.

Live Raw on USA Network

Raw opened with Michael Cole noting they are 34 days away from WrestleMania tonight on Raw. After a pause, Randy Orton's music played to kick things off. "He's back!" Cole declared as the crowd popped. Orton stepped out on-stage dressed in a t-shirt and wrestling trunks. Orton clapped it up on the way to the ring as Cole recapped Seth Rollins trying to end Orton's career four months ago.

In the ring, Orton waited out loud applause before beginning his return promo. Orton told Nashville that he's not here for a long-winded 20-minute promo, speech, or monologue, like some other people, but he has to get something off his chest after being away for four freakin' minutes. Why? Because of The Authority. More specifically Seth Rollins, which prompted a video replay of what happened four months ago on Raw when Triple H gave the okay for Rollins to take out Orton.

Back live, Orton said he's been replaying that over and over for four months. Which is why he's here to tell The Authority to tell the world that he's just getting started. Orton said Rollins ran away from him last night, then he called him out right now because he's done talking. Instead, Triple H's music played.

Hunter, Stephanie McMahon, Big Show, and Kane emerged on-stage dressed in dark office clothes. The quartet entered the ring to square off with their former hand-picked champion. Stephanie took the floor to addressed Orton, telling him "welcome back." Steph said Orton has made a huge return to WWE. And even though it was at the expense of The Authority, they're seeing the Randy Orton they've wanted to see for a long time. Steph said that's the Randy Orton that she wants as the Face of WWE.

Orton shot back to step off because he wants nothing to do with this family. Orton vowed to bash Seth's brains in. Steph told Orton to forgive Seth because The Face and Future of WWE can co-exist. She claimed that Orton forced their hand, but they're willing to forgive and forget. "Come back, join The Authority," she said. "No!" from the crowd. Steph calmly said that's tempting, but he would rather kick some ass than kiss some ass.

Big Show stepped in, saying he knows Orton is frustrated and very angry. Loud boos for Show. Show told Orton that all of his frustration and anger is understandable. But, joining The Authority was the best personal decision that he's ever made. Loud boos. "You sold out" chant from the crowd. Show said he knows him. Coming back to The Authority is the best decision that he could ever make.

Steph then re-approached Orton, saying he's not a good guy. He just does what he does for his own reasons and he is a vile, despicable man who has done some awful things to her. She said she cannot even re-visit the footage, then proposed a business conference to do what's right and come back home. Orton contemplated Steph's proposal as the crowd chanted "No!"

Stephanie left the ring while Triple H continued to lock eyes with Orton. He eventually slipped out of the ring, then Show and Kane followed them out of the ring. Orton remained in the ring with arms folded, then he cut off their music saying to hold on one minute. Orton sold thinking about their proposal, then said he'll be there. "Business meeting, fine," he said, taking the crowd down. Orton tossed down the mic, then sold contemplating matters as Hunter's music resumed.

[ Reax: Orton was strong on the mic and the crowd was really into The Authority as heels ... until the ending, which fell flat with the "business meeting" hook, Authority just walking out of the ring, and Orton's weak finishing line. They need to find a "finish guy" for these long promo exchanges. ]

Announcers: Cole, Booker T, and JBL reset the show. JBL hyped words from #1 contender Roman Reigns tonight.

In-ring: IC champion Bad News Barrett, without his title belt, came to the ring for match action. Barrett demanded his title back from Dean Ambrose.

[Q2] [Commercial Break at 8:15]

Back live, Barrett was mid-promo complaining about Dean Ambrose as a common thief. Dolph Ziggler's music cut off Barrett, bringing out Ziggler. R-Truth was randomly ringside staring down JBL at the commentary position. They broke from the staring contest to greet each other, then Cole explained that Truth beat Barrett in a non-title match on Smackdown, so he's looking for a title shot.

1 -- IC champion BAD NEWS BARRETT vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER -- non-title match

On commentary, Cole offered a hashtag for this match, cuing that it's going to be a two-segment match. Also, Truth said he wants to put his name next to the great IC champions in history, echoing Dean Ambrose's recent promos. In the ring, Ziggler delivered a neckbreaker and elbow to the chest for a two count. Barrett responded with a hard whip into the corner for a two count. Barrett tried a punt near the ropes, but Ziggler kicked and Barrett got hung up on the top rope. Ziggler dropkicked Barrett out of the ring to the floor heading to break.

[Commercial Break at 8:26]

[Q3] Barrett was working on Ziggler with a headlock back from break, but Ziggler smashed him with a jawbreaker. Ziggler followed with ten corner punches, then nailed a DDT for a two count. But, Barrett came back with a powerbomb and nearly fell down trying to execute the move, which could have been bad news for Ziggler. Barrett wanted to follow with the Bullhammer, but Ziggler ducked, ducked a boot, and ran into the Winds of Change, but Ziggler kicked out of a pin.

Barrett put the boots to Ziggler in the corner, drawing the ref's ire. Barrett lost focus, then Ziggler nearly rolled him up for a pin. Barrett, frustrated, ran into the corner, where Ziggler ducked. Ziggler capitalized with Zig-Zag for the pin and the win. Truth celebrated on commentary.

Post-match, Dean Ambrose's music played to bring out Ambrose holding the IC Title belt. Ambrose circled around the ring with the title belt, walked past the announce table, and slid into the ring. Ziggler was also still in the ring as Ambrose taunted Barrett with the belt. Ambrose initially refused to give him the belt, then Ambrose and Ziggler had a little exchange. Ambrose brushed past Ziggler leaving the ring, retaining possession of the belt as Barrett yelled at him.

WINNER: Ziggler at 11:05. So, a four-way match at WrestleMania for the title? Heck, Sin Cara needs to get in the mix of everyone who has beaten IC champ Barrett.

[Commercial Break at 8:34]

Last night: Triple H and Sting had a face-to-face confrontation. Hunter tried to finish off Sting following a cheap shot, but Sting answered Hunter with a baseball bat. JBL dogged WCW, saying Sting doesn't know what he got into. Booker said Hunter was pouting like his four-year-old son.

Raw tonight: Sting video package. "A Man Called Sting."

Backstage: Seth Rollins was in The Authority's office. The camera moved back to Stephanie, Triple H, Kane, Big Show, and Randy Orton standing there for the business meeting. Rollins interrutped Stephanie to ask Hunter if he's going to let Orton rejoin The Authority. Steph shot back at Rollins to shut up and stop thinking about himself for once. Hunter continued to stand off in the corner with his mad-face on, still upset by Sting embarrassing him last night, so Steph talked up their potential as a dominant force. Absolute Power.

Rollins asked how they're going to trust Orton ever again. Steph said if Orton can find it in his heart to forgive Rollins for coming up with a plan to take him out - "My plan?!" Rollins interjected, selling that he felt like he was being thrown under the bus for following Authority's heelish orders all these months - then they can find it in their hearts to forgive Orton. Steph kept talking as Hunter just stood there with arms folded. Orton extended his hand to Rollins, who reluctantly shook. Show said he likes this. Hunter continued the 1,000-yard stare, unmoved. Steph then booked a tag match for tonight - Orton and Rollins against Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns. Seth wasn't so sure about this plan. Show liked it, though. Orton didn't tip his hand on his gameplan.

[ Reax: So, is Steph just that optimistic that Orton will be part of the team, or is The Authority punishing Rollins for something by putting him in an obvious three-on-one situation? Or, is The Authority making it seem like they're setting up Orton for a favorable situation and Rollins in a bad situation, but they have Plan B in mind? Or, is this set-up for just good old fashioned giant chaos in the main event? ]

[Q4] [Commercial Break at 8:45]

Vignette: Sheamus is returning.

In-ring: Prime Time Players were in the ring, which brought out The Ascension for tag action. In an inset promo, Ascension dogged The Bushwhackers, who are being inducted into the Hall of Fame.


The commentary was all over the place early on for this match, which was treated like a comedown for the top of the hour segment. D-Young ran over Konnor, then suplexed him and declared that this is his house. Konnor took exception and smashed Young in the head. Tag to Viktor and they combined for a double bodyslam.

Titus broke up a pin, then clotheslined Konnor to the floor. But, Viktor kneed Titus in the back of the head, knocking him to the outside. In the chaos, D-Young rolled up Viktor from behind for the win. Booker started shouting random things, and Ascension angrily attacked D-Young right after the decision. Ascension combined for Fall of Man on Young. Despite losing and their post-match unsportsmanlike conduct, Ascension got their music on the way out.

WINNER: PTP'ers at 3:04. WWE got the whole "undefeated streak" out of the way early for Ascension. Either this is the start of a classic losing streak/frustration deal that leads to nowhere, or they can start over.

[Commercial Break at 8:53]


Back from break, WWE hyped The Rock presenting at The Oscars, then The Shield's music played. Roman Reigns, dressed in a t-shirt instead of Shield jacket, came out in the stands and walked through the crowd. Cole hyped Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan last night at Fast Lane, where Bryan had Reigns beaten, but Reigns speared Bryan for the win. Now, Reigns faces Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Title at WrestleMania.

Reigns entered the ring and grabbed a mic. He looked around the arena, where women were heard and shown cheering for him. Reigns said it's been a crazy month, going back to the Royal Rumble. Winning the Rumble wasn't good enough, so he beat Bryan at Fast Lane last night. Now, he is going to WrestleMania. Mostly cheers for Reigns thus far. Reigns said he knows that a lot of people were rooting for the other guy, but for all his doubters -- Bryan's music interrupted.

[Q5 -- second hour] "The other guy" Daniel Bryan emerged on-stage and led Yes! chants as he bounced down to ringside. Cole noted Bryan has to find a way to even appear at WrestleMania now. Bryan entered the ring and stood opposite Reigns for a stare down. Bryan said he didn't mean to interrupt - actually, yes he did. Because Reigns mentioned the doubters. He said he saw Reigns win the Royal Rumble match (boos). Reigns smiled. And he knew that Reigns deserved that chance to main-event WrestleMania (boos coming out now). But, somehow, he felt like all of these people. And, inside, he just booed and booed. Because a lot of people see promise and potential in Reigns, but the biggest Roman Reigns doubter is right here in Daniel Bryan. "Yes!" chants from the anti-Reigns crowd.

Because when people talk about promise and potential, they're talking about size, strength, and athletic ability. And he's seen so many people with those traits come down to the ring, but they don't have heart. The heart that he has. And that's why they like him (Bryan) and they don't like you (Reigns). Bryan paused to say that's why he didn't like Reigns, but last night, he had a chance to beat Reigns and main-event WrestleMania to win back the WWE World Title that he never lost. And he gave it every single thing that he had. Bryan said he had all of his hearts and guts in the match, but he still didn't get it done.

Bryan solemnly said that he does not regret a thing because he gave it every single thing and it wasn't me. "You proved to me last night that you have more heart than I ever thought," Bryan said. Bryan said they fought last night. "And I fought with everything I had," but you sir, beat me. The women cheered. Bryan said all he has left to say is congratulations. Bryan and Reigns shook. He said if there is one Superstar who he wants to team with tonight against Seth Rollins and Randy Orton, it's Reigns. Bryan told Reigns to do him one more favor and beat the crap out of Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.

Bryan left the ring and Paul Heyman suddenly appeared on the stage. Heyman gave Bryan a clear path to exit, then he marched down to the ring to congratulate Reigns on a great victory and main event last night. And he was not surprised by Reigns's win, because his money always has been and will be on Reigns. He said that only a fool would not pick Reigns against any "man" from history - Bruno Sammartino in the 1960s and 1970s, Hulk Hogan in the 1980s, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in 1998, The Rock in 1999, Triple H in 2000, and John Cena any time in the past 13 years. Heyman said his money would be on Reigns, who smirked at Heyman buttering him with obvious over-exaggerations. But, at this year's WrestleMania, Reigns does not face a man, but a beast, his client, the WWE World Hvt. champion Brock Lesnar.

Heyman said that at the end of WrestleMania, the ring announcer will declare, "The winner, and still reigning, undisputed, WWE World Hvt. champion of the world, Brrrrrock Lesssssnar." Reigns was unmoved, then he asked Heyman to stand right here. Heyman slowly shuffled his feet. He told Heyman to tell him again that he can't. Reigns said all of this is motivation for him. "Tell me again. Give me some more motivation," he said.

Reigns said Heyman was there the night after the Royal Rumble when he was face-to-face with Brock Lesnar. He said he got his Samoan blood boiling going face-to-face with Lesnar, so he's going to tell Heyman what's going to happen at WrestleMania. It's not about beating Lesnar, but the way that he's going to beat Lesnar. Reigns said when he's done with Lesnar, he ain't gonna like him. "Believe that," Reigns declared. Shield's music played and Heyman exited the ring in a huff.

[Q6] Still to come: Reigns & Bryan vs. Orton & Rollins in tag action.

Up Next: Usos get their Tag Title re-match against Kidd & Cesaro.

[Commercial Break at 9:16]

In-ring: The Usos were introduced first for the Tag Title re-match from last night's Fast Lane PPV. Cue the siren to bring out Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, and Natalya.

3 -- WWE tag champs CESARO & TYSON KIDD (w/Natalya) vs. THE USOS (JIMMY & JEY USO w/Naomi) -- WWE Tag Title match

Physical lock-up between Cesaro and Uso early on, setting the tone of The Usos not being happy about losing the belts last night. The action quickly moved to the floor, where The Usos knocked down the tag champs with a double combo. Kidd then hid behind Natalya, allowing him to cheap-shot Uso with a forearm after jumping out from behind Natalya. Booker, whose announcer character is as consistent as a weather report, condoned the action. Cole, Booker, and JBL argued the same argument they always argue as The Usos regained control of the match on the floor.

Back in the ring, then back outside the ring again. Action everywhere. Back in the ring, Jey landed a cross-body block on Kidd for a close two count. The Usos were in control heading to break.

[Commercial Break at 9:26]

Back on Raw, the battle was in the ring. Kidd and Cesaro were in control, but Uso blocked a springboard elbow with a knee to the point of the elbow. Booker implored The Usos to get the titles back with their dad, Rikishi, going into the Hall of Fame this year. Cesaro tagged in and lost a superplex attempt, leading to Uso hitting a top-rope Superfly Splash. But, Kidd broke up the pin with a springboard elbow. No tag, but Kidd covered Uso for a nearfall that the ref counted. The announcers noted that Kidd did not legally enter the match, but apparently he is legal now.

[Q7] Uso missed a corner butt splash, then Kidd covered Uso and tried to use the ropes for leverage, but Naomi shoved Kidd's feet off the ropes. This brought over Natalya, who argued with Naomi. A shoving match ensued, then Uso climbed to the top rope in the background, so Natalya reached up and grabbed the Uso for a DQ. Heelish move by Natalya, interestingly.

Post-match, Naomi yanked Natalya off the ring apron and Natalya fell down to the ground holding her ankle. Kidd quickly tended to Natalya, removing her boot and helping her limp toward the stage. The Usos were announced as the winner via DQ, but Kidd & Cesaro remained Tag Champs. The Usos and Naomi sold anger in the ring as Kidd, Cesaro, and Natalya retreated up the stage.

WINNERS: Usos via DQ at 10:27; Kidd & Cesaro retained the Tag Titles. Good build-up to a potential re-re-match at WrestleMania. Interesting shift for Natalya taking matters into her own hands now that her husband has gold and she wants to keep gold in the family.

Up Next: Bray Wyatt-Undertaker saga continues.

[Commercial Break at 9:35]

Back from break, WWE hyped Vince McMahon's Muscle & Fitness cover. Cole read prepared lines about McMahon having a "healthy lifestyle."

Backstage: The Miz waited for Damien Sandow to grace him with his presence. He complained about Sandow packing his lint roller incorrectly, but Sandow ignored his reprimand and tried to say he has an announcement. But, Miz cut him off and said the only achievement he has yet to achieve in WWE is winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Miz spun a yarn, so Sandow finally cut him off and said he was contacted by a company who wants him as a spokesperson for a commercial. He thanked Miz for firing him as his stunt double and hiring him as his assistant so that he could step out of his shadow and be a leading man. Miz was not impressed, then calmly told Sandow to roll the lint on his jacket.

Video Package: Bray Wyatt-Undertaker. Bray is waiting for Taker's answer for WrestleMania.

[Q8] Funeral Parlor: Bray Wyatt spoke into an empty casket about what Undertaker sees when he closes his eyes. Do you feel what I feel? Bray said maybe Taker sees 21-1 when he closes his eyes. Bray chuckled, then said that moment when Taker lost signaled the end of his moment. "The mighty Undertaker reduced to a pile of broken bones and broken dreams on the grandest stage of them all," Bray said. Bray said Taker could feel those claws on the back of his neck pulling him down, saying his time is over. Now, that evil exists inside him. And now he comes for Taker. Bray tapped the casket and said it's so much better down here. "Find me," Bray said after shutting the casket lid.

In-ring: Starduts f/k/a Cody Rhodes was introduced for the next match. JBL was indignant over Stardust disrespecting Dusty Rhodes last night at Fast Lane as Raw cut to break.

[Commercial Break at 9:47]

Ringside: Dusty Hill from ZZ Top was shown ringside as Jack Swagger completed his ring entrance. "Real American" Swagger is apparently defending the honor of "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes.


Cody aggressively attacked Swagger at the opening bell. "Cody, Cody" chant caused Stardust to flip out, but he maintained the attack on Swagger. Cody hissed in Swagger's ear, then went for a corner attack, but Swagger countered with the Patriot Lock. Cody pulled himself to the ropes for a break, then neck-snapped Swagger.

Suddenly, Goldust's music played. Goldust walked out on-stage pointing his finger into the ring, where Cody ran into Swagger's Patriot Lock. Cody quickly tapped out, giving Swagger the win. Post-match, Cody scampered to the corner selling an injured ankle as Swagger's music played. Goldust continued to squat down on the stage as Cody flipped out in the ring.

WINNER: Swagger via submission at 2:02.

Last Night: John Cena "never gave up" against Rusev, who forced Cena to pass out to The Accolade following a distraction by Lana. Cole emphasized: "John Cena did not give up." He asked where Cena goes from here.

Up Next: Cena is live to address his future.

[Commercial Break at 9:55]

Cena Promo

Back in the arena, John Cena's music played to a mixed reaction. Cena came out looking fresher than you would expect the night after passing out to The Accolade. Cena stormed the ring, took a knee, and looked around the arena as the WM sign hung over his shoulder.

[Q9 -- third hour] In the ring, Cena said Music City is raucous tonight. He got down to business talking about a match to decide the United States Title last night at Fast Lane. Cena took his hat off to Rusev, saying it was a true championship contest, but he saw concern in Rusev's face. In the end, he found himself caught in "The Acolyte," and one thing went through his mind - "Do not give up, John." So, he powered Rusev to his feet and was determined to win, but Rusev spun him around, kicked him low, and forced him to pass out to The Accolade.

Cena said he lost (cheers), Rusev won (boos from the pro-Cena crowd), and Rusev proved to the whole world that he is a coward. Rusev's music interrupted to offer a rebuttal to Cena. From the stage, Lana spoke on Rusev's behalf: "We told you so." The crowd responded with a "USA" chant, so Lana told them to "shut-tup." She added that Cena let everyone down last night, failing like all Americans. "The great John Cena, humiliated and humbled by the superior athlete and human being, Rusev," she said.

Lana said Cena has been searching for words to justify his failure over the past 24 hours, while Rusev has been receiving messages from their fearless leader, Vladimir Putin. Rusev then took the mic and ran down Cena and America, saying he is pathetic and needs to admit that Rusev and Russia are better. Cena replied that he can talk all he wants about him, but you better not disrespect the United States of America.

Lana laughed and said Cena is quitter who did not get back up. Cena, fired up, said Americans might get knocked down, but they always get up. Cena went hyper-patriotic referencing Iwo Jima 70 years ago today. He vowed to humble Rusev and get back the U.S. Title on the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania. From the stage, Rusev laughed and asked Cena what makes him think he deserves a re-match at WrestleMania. Rusev talked in his native language, then mocked Cena for thinking he gets a title re-match just because he's The John Cena. But, "the great John Cena" is just a quitter. "My answer is no," Rusev said before dropping the mic.

From the ring, Cena stared straight ahead, upset over Rusev rejecting him. The Russian flag dropped from the ceiling as Cena stared around the arena upset by this gesture. Booker, missing the point of the finish at Fast Lane, said Cena lost "fair and square" last night, so how is Cena going to get a re-match? JBL said Cena might not even make WrestleMania as Cena left the ring with a determined look to make this right.

Earlier Tonight: Randy Orton attended a "business meeting" with The Authority, setting up Orton & Rollins vs. Bryan & Reigns tonight.

Locker Room: Randy Orton was warming up. Seth Rollins walked in and Orton told Seth to leave his pets, Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury, at the door. Seth took the insult in stride and sent them away. He then turned to Orton, saying he knows Orton hates him. "Hate?" a calm Orton retorted. He said that's such a strong word. He won't forget what Rollins did to him, but they can work together to show Reigns and Bryan that they're lucky he was not one of the 30 men in the Royal Rumble match. Orton and Seth shook on The Face and The Future of WWE working together. Seth excitedly walked off, leaving Orton standing with a "gotcha" look on his face.

Still to come: Sting special look.

In-ring: Paige was introduced for Divas tag action the night after losing the Divas Title match to Nikki Bella.

[Q10] [Commercial Break at 10:15]

Video Feature: Sting. WWE pulled plenty of footage from the Best of Sting DVD going back to Sting's origins as All-American Sting. Voice-overs from WCW Jim Ross, then talking heads from Cena, who is more Sting than Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Ron Simmons, Booker T, Dusty Rhodes, Tony Schiavone, Hulk Hogan, and Dean Ambrose on that era of Sting.

Then, the NWO came along to challenge Sting, who went dark to combat the black & white. Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, Diamond Dallas Page, Hogan again, Daniel Bryan, Booker, Paul Heyman, and Cena again talked up Sting as the last hope. Booker talked about "Sting" being the first thought associated with WCW. Bret Hart talked about Sting staying true, even when it was difficult to do so. Next were talking heads from William Regal and finally Gene Okerlund on the end of WCW. Now, 14 years later, Sting has come to WWE to take his shot at Triple H. Why? ... That's so nice of Triple H and The Authority to give Sting a full video package feature on WWE TV time.

WM31 hype: Sting vs. Triple H in 34 days.

In-ring: Emma joined Paige for Divas tag action. The Bellas were introduced as the opposition.

5 -- BELLA TWINS (Divas champion NIKKI & BRIE) vs. PAIGE & EMMA

Before the bell sounded, Emma tried to calm down Paige, who wanted another piece of Nikki after losing to her last night. Instead, Emma and Brie started things off. Brie smashed Paige off the ring apron, then pinned a distracted Emma. Post-match, Paige angrily entered the ring and kicked Brie in the face, but Nikki KO'ed her. Nikki, the last one standing, checked on Brie as Emma and Paige tried to recover.

WINNERS: Bellas at 0:30.

Up Next: The next 2015 Hall of Fame announcement.

[Commercial Break at 10:26]

[Q11] HOF Announcement: The Bushwhackers, Luke and Butch. The video package went through all of their antics in WWF. There was a brief mention of Tag Title success outside of WWF/E, but no mention of The Sheepherders run. Live in the arena, some of the fans picked up on the Bushwhackers's alternating upward/downard hand motion.

In-ring: Curtis Axel was standing in the ring pointing to the WM sign. Axel, sporting an "#AxelMania" Hulk Hogan-themed t-shirt, said he's been in the Royal Rumble match for 29 days since he was never eliminated. Axel said the movement is still alive and well. That's why he is entering his name in the Andre the Giant battle royal. Axel vowed to be the last man standing, just like in the Rumble. Axel said you can't stop him.

Ryback's music interrupted. Promo for Ryback, too. Ryback said that since they're here in Nashville, he told Axel to turn his upper lip south and shut his mouth. Ryback talked up their tag team run, then shook his head no. Ryback said one man will be left standing in the Andre battle royal and that man is him. But, considering they're here in Music City, he thinks he should take the Axe Man to Smashville, cheap-popping the hockey team nickname. "If you're hungry, make some noise," Ryback said.


Axel took early control, then almost comically shouted down at Ryback: "Axel-Mania!" Cole called him delusional thinking the Rumble is still ongoing. Ryback then smashed Axel with a meathook clothesline and hit Shell-Shock for the pin and the win.

WINNER: Ryback at 0:45.

Up Next: Reigns & Bryan vs. Orton & Rollins, burying the hatchet for one night.

[Commercial Break at 10:38]

This Thursday on Smackdown: Ziggler & Ryback & Rowan vs. Rollins & Kane & Big Show in a six-man tag re-match from the Fast Lane PPV opener that was announced the morning before.

In-ring: Seth Rollins's music brought out Rollins with J&J Security, Big Show, and Kane for the main event. But first, a look at Rollins dogging Jon Stewart, who responded on TMZ. Back in the ring, Seth Rollins had a mic. Rollins gave an over-the-top, dramatic introduction for "The Undisputed Face of WWE, The Viper, Randy Orton." Out came Orton ready for his first TV match back in WWE. The crowd was unsure how to react to Orton yet.

[Q12] After a pause, The Shield's music played to bring out Roman Reigns back in his standard Shield gear. Reigns marched through the crowd down to ringside past some unimpressed fans. WWE cut to a clip from Reigns's speech to Paul Heyman earlier tonight. Sliced up into a quick soundbyte, it sounded really forced and unnatural. Daniel Bryan was out next leading "Yes!" chants down to the ring. Bryan continued to "Yes-ercise" with the crowd heading to break.

[Commercial Break at 10:49]

7 -- DANIEL BRYAN & ROMAN REIGNS vs. RANDY ORTON & SETH ROLLINS (w/J&J Security, Big Show, and Kane)

As the bell sounded back from break, Cole offered the marketed attendance for tonight's Raw and used "WWE fans" instead of "members of the Universe" to describe the audience. Rollins started things off against Bryan, who put Rollins in the Surfboard Stretch. Reigns tagged in and smashed an exposed Rollins to a big laugh. Orton then tagged in and slowly approached Reigns. (WWE tried to set-up babyface-ish Orton going up against babyfaces Reigns and Bryan by having Orton explain his motivations of standard competition earlier in the night.)

Orton controlled Bryan, who tagged in for Reigns, but Bryan knocked Rollins to the outside. Rollins remained on the outside and Orton played the cool head of the group getting everyone huddled up to talk strategy and try to earn their trust. Reigns and Bryan waited in the ring as Raw cut to break.

[Commercial Break at 10:56]

Back from break, Orton and Rollins were working over Reigns as J&J Security clapped it up ringside. WWE tried to get sympathy on Reigns by having him take a beating, which produced mixed results. Orton then cut off Reigns with a clothesline. Bryan did his part trying to get a rally clap for Reigns as they hit the top of the hour.

[Q13 -- over-run] Reigns bodyslammed Rollins to escape. Another rally clap from Bryan, who took a hot tag from Reigns. Bryan kicked Orton off the ring apron, then punched Rollins with Yes! blows. Bryan clotheslined Rollins, then delivered Yes! kicks to the chest. The crowd was all-in, then Bryan missed the roundhouse, avoided a roll-up, and slipped on the Yes! Lock. Orton broke it up.

Chaos broke out until it came down to Rollins and Bryan, who tossed Rollins over the top rope to the floor. Bryan followed with a suicide dive to the outside. Back in the ring, Bryan wanted to end it, but Mercury ran a distraction. Rollins crotched Bryan, then tagged in Orton as the announcers discussed Cena and Bryan currently having no WrestleMania. Orton called a spot in the corner, then whipped Bryan across the ring. In the opposite corner, Orton landed a big right to Bryan as Show went cheerleader mode at ringside.

Up top at 12:22, Bryan blocked a superplex and headbutted Orton down to the mat. Bryan tried to follow with the (unfortunate) Chris Benoit diving headbutt, but Orton moved and Bryan crashed into the mat. At least he broke his own fall taking the dive, but it's so unnecessary.

Tags to Reigns and Rollins. Reigns lit up Rollins with ten clotheslines in the corner, then dropped him with a Flatliner. Reigns Superman-punched Mercury off the ring apron, but turned around and took a kick to the face from Rollins. Orton tagged in and slowly stalked Reigns, but Reigns blocked and they had a standing exchange. Orton emphatically powerslammed Reigns, which the crowd wasn't sure how to receive. So many mixed elements in this match.

Orton wanted his signature DDT to Reigns, but Rollins slap-tagged himself into the match. The crowd knew how to receive that, oohing Rollins taking over. Orton delivered his trademark DDT anyways, then Orton stormed out of the ring. "Screw this!" he shouted. Big Show and Kane tried to calm down Orton. Meanwhile, Reigns avoided a Curb Stomp and smashed Rollins with the Superman Punch. Reigns prepared for the spear, but Bryan blind-tagged in. Reigns smiled and played nice giving Bryan the floor, leading to Bryan delivering a running knee to Rollins. Bryan covered Rollins for the win as Reigns watched with a non-upset, "I can't believe he did that, but I'm cool" smile.

Post-match: Bryan did Yes! chants, then shook hands with Reigns, who kept smiling. Bryan sold being in his own world not understanding that his actions had any effect on Reigns, who left the ring with Bryan. Meanwhile, Cole and JBL debated whether Bryan stole the spotlight from Reigns.

WINNERS: Bryan & Reigns at 16:06. They raised expectations for something big in the main event, but it was a basic deal that the crowd wasn't sure how to process, with Orton a returning babyface on the heel side, Reigns the next top star getting a mixed response, and Bryan the fan favorite who is currently out of the WrestleMania picture. The result was continuing passive-aggressiveness between Bryan & Reigns and waiting for Orton to snap.

Back to Orton, who paced ringside unsure how to handle things, no longer in control of his emotions. Suddenly, the screen went black. The crowd popped in the audio feed. Sting? Cole said they were having technical difficulties and Orton was in the ring when the video resumed. Noble tried to play peacemaker, but Orton dropped him with an RKO.

Orton then picked up Rollins, pushed him into the corner, and left the ring to boos. Cole said he was surprised, as was Rollins, that Orton showed restraint. Orton kept marching toward the stage and disappeared to the back as Rollins sold shock now standing up in the ring.

Announcers: Cole, JBL, and Booker were shown on-camera talking about WWE Network, a rarity to end the show with the announcers. Cole hyped a birthday marathon on WWE Network as WWE returned to a shot of Rollins selling disbelief in the ring. WWE replayed Orton dropping Noble with an RKO, then not hurting Rollins before leaving the ring. Back to Rollins, Show, and Kane trying to sort things out as Raw kind of faded out 11 minutes past the top of the hour.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Up-and-down show that set things up for WrestleMania, but also muddied the waters. The water will eventually clear up on Cena-Rusev and Orton-Rollins, but there's Daniel Bryan hanging out in left field, Roman Reigns on a yo-yo, part-timers mixing with full-timers, and a sense of too many moving parts in the main event scene at one time. They have to keep things interesting for five weeks leading to WrestleMania, but the last two nights have felt too much like a post-WrestleMania lull period sorting out the next set of feuds than the pre-Mania build to a crescendo.


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