Daniel Bryan left fans with tears in their eyes as he relinquished the Intercontinental championship on “Monday Night Raw” this week from Cincinnati.
It was a déjà vu moment for the popular leader of the “Yes Movement,” who had to vacate the WWE world championship due to a neck injury around the same time last year. No word on Bryan’s future in the ring, but he is scheduled to serve on the judging panel for the new season of Tough Enough, premiering on June 23 on USA Network. The IC title itself is now up for grabs heading into the Payback pay-per-view this Sunday, May 17.
Former champion Bad News Barrett defeated Dolph Ziggler thanks to interference from Sheamus. Ziggler dresses like a student out of Bayside High heading to the ring in his denim jacket, but don’t let his looks fool you. The “Show Off” has picked up the intensity with his feud with Sheamus. The two meet at Payback. 2015 King of the Ring winner Barrett will have Neville to contend with at the same event.
The “New Sensation” answered John Cena’s United States Championship challenge. Just as Neville looked about ready to win the gold Rusev caused the disqualification finish. This was actually great booking, leaving Neville looking strong, even though the NXT standout didn’t win. Rusev applied his “Accolade” submission move on Cena, his Payback opponent. The rivals close their string of confrontations with an “I Quit” match. Unfortunately, Rusev’s blonde cohort Lana didn’t appear, despite “We want Lana” chants. The “Ravishing Russian” has a small part in the movie Pitch Perfect 2, out in theaters May 15.
The four participating in the main event WWE world championship match at Payback were in action throughout the evening. Roman Reigns was the last man standing against Kane in a match that never really started. They have been teasing Kane leaving The Authority with his dissension with WWE World Champion Seth Rollins for many weeks now. The stipulation was added by Triple H that Kane would lose his position as Director of Operations if Rollins loses the fatal 4-Way. J&J Security, who deserves “Employee of the Year” plaques, lost to Cincy’s own Dean Ambrose. Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury would show up in the main event later on in the show to stop Randy Orton’s victory over Rollins. Reigns and Ambrose rushed the ring to even the odds. When the dust settled, the “Lunatic Fringe” stood tall.
The tag team division got some love during Raw as well. Cesaro with Natalya and Tyson Kidd got the win over New Day’s Big E to preview the tag team championship match at Payback. Cesaro’s power knows no bounds, even against a powerhouse like Big E. The Mega Powers exploded (well sort of) when AxelMania and Macho Mandow came together against a greater enemy in the Ascension. Erick Rowan with Luke Harper made quick work of Fandango. There hasn’t been an explanation of why the Wyatt Family reunion is happening, but maybe that is still to come. Later in the night Bray Wyatt had words for Ryback and gave children of the world life advice by saying, “Sometimes the bad guy just wins.”
Rounding out the show, Tamina defeated Brie Bella with Naomi and Diva’s champion Nikki Bella at ringside. I was disappointed Adam Rose didn’t appear on Raw. Days before fans got an intimate and touching view into his life through the E:60 “WWE: Behind the Curtain” special on ESPN. It’s my hope this means they are revamping his character. Aside from Payback, fans can now look forward to the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view returning, exclusively May 31 on WWE Network.
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