Joseph Hegarty: Monday Night Four 17/02/14
Monday Night Raw began this week with the familiar sound of “The Time is Now” blaring out around the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado and the arrival of John Cena which that music signified. The usual boos rang out as the music cut, Cena battled this with a cheap pop and his routine acknowledgement of the mixed reaction for him from the live crowd. He continued to cut a promo selling the importance of the Elimination Chamber match as a guaranteed main event match versus Batista for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the thirtieth Wrestlemania. On the subject of the Elimination Chamber match contestants, Cena declared that all six of the men had momentum except for the champion Randy Orton, but before Cena can finish what he has to say he is interrupted by the music of the Real Americans. The newly mononymous Cesaro and his manager Zeb Colter appear at the top of the entrance ramp, where Colter claims Cena is looking at the next WWE World Heavyweight Championship in Cesaro. The man himself then pipes up as he takes the microphone from his manager, making the amusing assertion that when he wins the title on Sunday, he will not only become the face of the WWE but the new face of America. After the Swiss made his way to the ring, Cena congratulated him on his victory against Orton this past Friday on Smackdown, but Cesaro warns him not to patronise him. However, Cena and Cesaro facing off was delayed due to the arrival of their fellow Elimination Chamber competitor, Sheamus. The Celtic Warrior playfully threatened on his way to the ring that while he isn’t particularly bothered about being face of the WWE, he’ll enjoy kicking in their faces this Sunday. With Sheamus on the scene, Christian joins the trio to address the Brogue Kick he received while teaming with Sheamus last Friday on Smackdown. However, as he made his way to the ring to approach the Irishman, he himself was interrupted by the the man who holds the very title that the four of them are vying for, Randy Orton. The Face of the WWE thanked Triple H and Stephanie McMahon of the Authority for giving him the opportunity to beat all the men in the ring this Sunday, addressing them all one by one in turn.
Of course so far there’s one man missing and he joins his five opponents in the Pepsi Center to the usual chorus of “YES!” chants from the fans in attendance. It’s to these fans he addresses before turning to his fellow WWE Superstars, explaining that while they’ve all been arguing, it’s the fans that to his talking for him. Much like Cena’s opening gambit, Bryan then sells the importance of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Elimination Chamber, finishing his promo with another “YES!” chant. However, while you perhaps wouldn’t be blamed in thinking that with all six Elimination Chamber participants in the ring that there wouldn’t be any more interruptions, WWE Director of Operations Kane made his way to the ring, welcomed by a loud “You Sold Out!” chant. He declares that the Authority has left him in charge tonight to prove his worth after the mistakes he’s made as of late adjusting to his corporate role in the WWE. His first action is to attempt to keep things fair for Sheamus and more importantly Randy Orton, who are booked to compete in tonight’s main event, by putting the other four participants of the Elimination Chamber in matches on Raw. John Cena will take on Cesaro, leaving Daniel Bryan to take on Christian in Raw’s first contest of the night.
As Raw returns from its first commercial, Christian is seen blindsiding Bryan, who is distracted by Kane before the bell has rung to signal the start of the match. Christian appears to turn heel as he throws Bryan into the barricade at ringside before slinging the fan favourite hard into the steel steps. As the match begins, Christian works the arm and shoulder of his opponent with the use of submission holds and bending the rules, using the ring ropes for leverage. There’s a first glimpse of hope for Bryan fans as he hits a kitchen sink knee to the onrushing Christian, before throwing the Canadian to the outside and attempting a suicide dive, only to see it blocked by a hard right hand from Christian. After making his way back into the ring, Christian continued to execute his gameplan, locking in a fujiwara armbar before hot shotting Bryan’s arm off the ring rope. Captain Charisma then solidified his heel turn, mocking Bryan’s iconic “YES!” chant gesture, to which the crowd responded with a chant of “NO!”. Christian continued to put pressure on Bryan’s now injured arm, executing various maneuvers focused on the arm whilst continuing to goad the fans , claiming “I should be champ!” as he beat down their hero. The match’s finale occurred as Christian attempted to finish the match of with the Killswitch, only for Bryan to turn the tables with a Yes! Lock, only for Christian to counter and to once again pursue the Killswitch, only to be the victim of a roll-up pinning combination from Bryan that pinned him to the mat for the three count.
However, Bryan’s night wasn’t over quite yet as we learned with Kane’s subsequent declaration form ringside that he neglected to tell Bryan that he had another match tonight, against Kane himself. As Raw returned from commercial break, the match was in full swing with Kane dominating the weary Bryan, suplexing him from the apron back into the ring. Kane continued Christian’s work by targeting Bryan’s injured arm, but there was still fight left in Bryan, who tried to fight back with his signature roundhouse kicks. However, as he went to deliver the final blow, he found himself caught by the throat by Kane and clotheslined over the top rope. Outside the ring, Kane used his surroundings to his advantage, throwing Bryan into the barricade before bending Bryan’s injured arm around the ring post. Nevertheless, Bryan gained a surprisingly victory as Kane held onto his submission under the ropes after the referee had completed his five count, handing the win to his opponent via disqualification. Kane wasn’t finished there though, he followed up his loss by kicking the steel steps into Bryan’s prone arm, before ending the segment by getting on the microphone and manically declaring “Yeah, I know I’m disqualified!”
Our second focus for this week begins with Renee Young hosting all three members of The Shield in a backstage interview after a recap video of their interaction with Mark Henry on last week’s episode of Raw (covered in full in last week’s Monday Night Four column) where Seth Rollins saved Dean Ambrose’s United States Championship and Roman Reigns hit a post-match Spear on the World’s Strongest Man. The tension detailed in last week’s column between Ambrose and Reigns continued in this segment leading to Young questions The Shield’s unity going into their match with The Wyatt Family at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. Rollins continues to play peacemaker of the group and underlines their unity, leading Ambrose to agree that “Mind games don’t work on us because The Shield is real.” Next, it was Henry’s turn to be interviewed by Young, as he claims that while he should’ve won the US title last week, this week isn’t about titles, winning or losing but only about inducting someone into the Hall of Pain. Good Promo.
Later in the night Roman Reigns faced Mark Henry, with a chant for the former breaking out around the Pepsi Center as the match began. He then went on the offense, trying to soften up Henry with multiple headbutts, but this wasn’t enough to incapacitate his opponent who resisted Reigns’ attempt at an Irish whip. Henry didn’t have such difficulty throwing Reigns, who bounces off the ropes and eats a big boot from the World’s Strongest Man. Reigns attempted to get back into the match, trying to slap a sleeper hold onto Henry, who slipped out only to be the victim of a huge Samoan drop from Reigns leading to a nearfall. Both men were down and it was then time for Henry to hit his own headbutts, doing his best Junk Yard Dog impression. However, once again the heabutt seemed to be an unlucky manoeuvre, as Reigns fought back with a Superman punch before hitting the Spear to cement another victory for the up and coming superstar. Seth Rollins ran to the ring to enthusiastically congratulate his fellow Shield member. The remaining member, Dean Ambrose, made his way to the ring in a more restrained fashion; brilliantly performing a jealous egomaniac. Once in the ring, Ambrose petulantly kicked Henry out of the ring, acting as if it was he who’d won the match while Rollins and Reigns looked on disapprovingly.
After the match, The Shield found themselves faced with The Wyatt Family on the titantron, where Bray Wyatt sang the song “I’ve Got the Joy Down In My Heart”, before explaining that a childlike excitement was building up inside him for the coming match with The Shield. Roman Reigns laid down a challenge declaring “I’ve got a pretty good idea, why don’t you come out here and talk that noise?” leading Wyatt to respond in saying “Funny, we were thinking the exact same thing…” and Erick Rowan to menacingly warn them to “Run!”. The Wyatt Family then entered and repeated their standoff with The Shield from last week, Reigns stepped forward to face Wyatt, but the family turned and left. This was another great segment from the two stables, really building up the tension for Sunday. While, I was dying to see them duke it out there and then, the build is refreshing. It’s not often you go into a big fight in the WWE without seeing the competitors go to blows.
Number three in this week’s Monday Night Four sees John Cena take on Cesaro in this week’s LockUP Raw Match of the Night. Before, I go through the match I have a quick disclaimer: while this is probably a bit counterproductive for the blog’s sake, I advise you to skip this segment and watch this match if you can, it was brilliant. Otherwise, if you’re not going to be able to catch the match or just for some reason love my writing, read on… the two wrestlers locked up to begin the match, with Cesaro first coming out on top, flooring Cena for a quick pin. A “Let’s Go Cena/Cena Sucks!” chant then rang out in the Pepsi Center as Cesaro secured a headlock, only for Cena to counter into a headlock of his own transitioned into a hip toss. With the match still in its infancy, Cesaro rolled out of the ring to regroup with his manager Zeb Coulter and tag team partner Jack Swagger. Once Cesaro made his way back into the ring, he was once again grounded by Cena, but kipped up impressively to hit a headlock takedown of his own. Cena sprang back up and attempted to leap over the incoming Cesaro, only to be caught by the Swiss with a breaktaking modified tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. He then followed that up with one of his signature European Uppercuts before hitting a double stomp to the chest of the downed former WWE Champion. Cesaro then applied an armlock but Cena powered out dramatically with a hip toss, however the Swiss stayed on top by sending his opponent sprawling over the top rope. On the outside, Cesaro made the most of his surroundings, flinging Cena into the barricades at ringside.
Cesaro waited for Cena in the ring, hitting a superb dropkick as the Leader of the Cenation returned. Once back on his feet, Cena seemed somewhat desperate to put the match away, attempting the Attitude Adjustment, only for Cesaro to slide out onto the apron, hotshotting Cena off the top rope before hitting a rare diving elbow from the top rope. The commentary team sell Cesaro’s different European style and how it makes him stand out. However, out of nowhere Cena hits his half-nelson neckbreaker to force a nearfall from Cesaro. Cena then continues to throw some of his less used moves into the match with a running crossbody, but Cesaro shows his imposing strength, catching Cena in midair and hitting a remarkable modified fall-away slam with a beautiful bridging cover for another nearfall. The middle portion of the match then saw Cesaro work Cena with multiple sleeper holds until Cena powered out and attempted a comeback with his trademark running shoulder blocks leading to the spin out powerbomb, which Cesaro slid out of with a sunset flip counter to set himself up for the Cesaro Swing. However, Cena had a counter of his own, trying to apply the STF, only for Cesaro to counter the counter and hit an impressive looking deadlift gutwrench suplex to end a fluid sequence of moves.
Nevertheless, a Cena match wouldn’t be a Cena match without him hitting his spin out powerbomb followed by the Five Knuckle Shuffle, which soon happened, but the accompanied Attitude Adjustment was once again countered, this time into Swiss Death. A “This is awesome!” chant followed Cesaro’s pop-up European uppercut and the fans were happier still as he signalled for the Cesaro Swing. However, once again the swing was countered, this time by a unique DDT counter that showed monumental strength from Cena, pulling himself up from the ground to hit the maneuver for a nearfall. Cena then went up top, presumably to hit his signature diving leg drop bulldog, but before he could execute, Cesaro came running across with a huge European uppercut sending Cena flying to the outside. Brilliant spot. Cena made it back to the ring before the referee had completed his tencount but Cesaro wasn’t letting up, hitting an innovative superplex (yeah that one he hit on Kofi last year, but on the 251 lb Cena!) standing on the second rope and lifting Cena from the apron, rather than the top rope, all the way over in an awe-inspiring display of strength. Another “This is awesome!” chant erupted from the crowd in Denver after Cesaro forced two near falls out of Cena before he brought Cena back to his feet to inflict yet more punishment. However, Cena slipped his opponent into the STF, but after Cena repositioned to stop the Swiss from making a rope break, Cesaro powered out and finally locked in the Cesaro Swing, much to the crowd’s glee. The Swing forced another nearfall, inspiring Cesaro to go for the Neutralizer, only for Cena instead to hoist him up to finally hit the Attitude Adjustment. But, what? Cesaro countered the move by landing on his feet! Yes we’ve seen others, most notably CM Punk and more recently Daniel Bryan, perform this counter but they’ve never quite executed it right, always falling over somewhat. This time Cesaro landed square on his feet. Phenomenal athleticism. He then bounced off the ropes and hit a big boot but Cena responded with a huge lariat, followed up by a unique Attitude Adjustment in which Cena rolled over the downed Cesaro and deadlifted him from the floor to finally hit his finish and put this great match to bed. Truth be told, this really was a top, top match; my Raw match of the year so far and only falling behind Bray Wyatt versus Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble in terms of WWE’s best match of the year so far. Congratulations Cena and Cesaro, you win this week’s Match of the Night award by a country mile, and this week’s Raw featured good wrestling across the board. In fact, since Antonio Cesaro was even better this week than in his LockUP Superstar of the Week winning performance last week, I’m really going to have to hand it to him again aren’t I? Bravo.
The final focus of this week’s Monday Night Four sees Raw’s main event with Randy Orton taking on his fifth and final opponent from Sunday Elimination Chamber matchup, Sheamus. The match was preluded by Orton thanking Triple H backstage (Wait, I thought the Authority had left Kane in charge tonight…) before insulting Batista, who of course was standing right behind him, teasing their likely Wrestlemania WWE World Heavyweight Championship match later this year. Orton began the match pointing at the Wrestlemania sign in the rafters, to which the crowd responded with the loudest CM Punk chant of the night. Sheamus comes out brawling before hitting a suplex on the champion. Orton retreats to the outside, luring Sheamus in to bounce his skull off the announce table before throwing him into the steel ringpost. However, as we come back from a commercial break, it’s Sheamus who’s making the most of the combustible elements at ringside, driving Orton into the barricade, however it seems Orton is most at home here as he hurls Sheamus into the ring steps. As the two make their way back into the ring, the Orton attempts to deliver a superplex but is shrugged off by the Celtic Warrior who dives down hitting a flying shoulder block on the Viper. However, the actions doesn’t seem to want to stay in the ring and soon enough in the biggest spot of the match, the Apex Predator backdrops Sheamus through the announce table. The match then begins to build as Sheamus only makes it back into the ring at a count of nine and Orton hits his trademark scoop powerslam to an on rushing Sheamus. The two then exchange counters as Sheamus reverses Orton’s rope hung DDT before Orton himself turns a fireman’s carry into his unique backbreaker manoeuvre. The champion then successfully hit his signature DDT but his RKO attempt was nixed with three brutal looking Irish Curse backbreakers. Sheamus then goes for his own finish, calling for the Brogue Kick, but out of nowhere The Shield appear to once again save Orton’s bacon, presumably at the behest of The Authority. Although really shouldn’t it have been Christian who attacked Sheamus, considering he Brogue Kicked him on Smackdown ‘n’ all? Cena then joins the fold to defend his Irish twin, followed by a heavily taped up Daniel Bryan, Cesaro and finally Christian. Wait a second, Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns are here? Y’know what that means, and the Wyatt Family is soon on the scene, that’s presumably why it was The Shield who attacked Sheamus, so the two main events of the pay-per-view can be at the spotlight at the chaotic end to the show. I’ve gotta admit, I’m pretty hyped for Elimination Chamber, yes the match results seem likely predictable but they should be two very entertaining affairs, especially the battle between WWE’s two resident badass trios, even if they couldn’t keep their hands off each other until the pay-per-view. Hey, they don’t play by the rules…
The rest of Raw consisted of Fandango once again defeating Santino Marella, Big E defeating Jinder Mahal & Drew McIntyre, Batista versus Alberto Del Rio being announced for the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view as well as Titus O’Neil versus his former tag team partner Darren Young, Jack Swagger defeating Kofi Kingston and Jey Uso defeating Billy Gunn going into their WWE Tag Team Championship match on Sunday where they’ll be accompanied by Jimmy Uso and Road Dogg respectively. Overall it was a pretty good go home show for the pay-per-view, putting the most important angles front and centre. I hope you enjoyed this week’s Monday Night Four column. Make sure you come back to this blog and tell me exactly what you think by commenting below or tweeting me @HelloHegarty, I would love to hear you opinions on the column, Raw and the build to Elimination Chamber. I’d really like to turn this blog into more of a dialogue, rather than me just telling the internet what I think about wrestling each week, so please get in touch! Cheerio.