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CALDWELL'S WWE NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS PPV REPORT 9/16: Complete "virtual time" coverage of live PPV - Punk vs. Cena, six title matches

Sep 16, 2012 - 9:51:16 PM
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WWE Night of Champions PPV Results
September 16, 2012
Live from Boston, Mass.
Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor
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PPV Pre-Show

On the YouTube PPV pre-show, Scott Stanford and Matt Striker set the stage for the show, focusing on the top matches on the actual PPV.

After a video package aired on the Sheamus vs. Del Rio World Title feud, WWE cut to Josh Mathews backstage with Smackdown GM Booker T, who re-iterated that the Brogue Kick is banned.

Ringside: Stanford said it will be a 16-man battle royal to determine who faces Antonio Cesaro for the U.S. Title on the actual PPV. This led to a video package on the Cesaro & Aksana duo.

In-ring: Brodus Clay was the first man out for a 16-man battle royal. He was accompanied by dancers Naomi and Cameron, who returned to WWE TV following a brief suspension following a DUI arrest. Rosa Mendes then led out Primo and Epico. Justin Gabriel was out next. Sakamoto then led out Tensai. Tyson Kidd, Michael McGillicutty, and Zack Ryder were the next three. Strong reaction for Ryder, followed by the Prime Time Players. Jinder Mahal was out next, then JTG. Drew McIntyre's elaborate ring entrance got some TV time next. Ted DiBiase then returned to TV from injury. Out next were Heath Slater and former U.S. champion Santino to round out the field.

A -- U.S. TITLE #1 CONTENDER BATTLE ROYAL

Heath Slater took center-stage and did a rock-band dance before everyone dumped him to the outside for the first elimination. Lower-carders started disappearing left and right before Tensai powerbombed Kidd onto a host of lower-carders ringside. Tensai and Clay then came face-to-face for a big-man battle. Santino tried to take out both, discovered that wouldn't work, and walked away. Suddenly, mid-carders dumped Clay over the top and Striker sold a shoulder injury for Clay. Santino then Cobra'ed JTG off the ring apron for another cut.

Down to six. Ryder dropkicked Mac over the top rope to bring it down to five. Santino then pulled out the Cobra and struck Tensai. Suddenly, Santino tried to cover D-Young, prompting the refs to provide instructions to the former U.S. champ. Santino then got dumped by Titus O'Neil. So, Final Four is Titus, Tensai, Ryder, and D-Young. Ryder then dumped Titus over the top rope. D-Young was out next, leaving Ryder and Tensai. The crowd popped for Ryder, who looked in trouble when Tensai had him set for a powerbomb, but Ryder head-scissored Tensai over the top rope. Ryder wins another battle royal to add to his resume.

WINNER: Ryder at 5:43 to earn a U.S. Title shot. Ryder finally gets his U.S. Title re-match months after dropping the U.S. Title back when he was actually featured on TV. Overall, the outcome felt like WWE going for a feel-good moment to potentially entice last-second PPV buys from fence-sitters.

Post-match: Josh Mathews brought in Ryder for a post-match interview. In his own language, Ryder said he plans to beat Cesaro tonight for the U.S. Title.

Announcers: After a video package on the PPV matches, Striker announced the Tag Title match of Kofi & Truth vs. Bryan & Kane will open the actual PPV broadcast.

Backstage: Mathews was shown standing outside C.M. Punk's locker room. He said Punk has not granted an interview request tonight, then Paul Heyman walked up to the door. Heyman offered no hints about his association with Punk before walking inside. ... Striker fed to a video package on the Cena vs. Punk feud, which involved Bret Hart on Monday's Raw. The video concluded the PPV pre-show.

Live PPV Results

The PPV opened with a video package focusing on WWE's collection of titles, including the lineage from past legendary champions to current champions. The video stopped with C.M. Punk, focusing on Punk demanding respect in addition to being WWE champion. The video transitioned to John Cena "dropping a pipe bomb" on Punk six days ago on Raw before focusing on Cena coming home to Boston to challenge for the WWE Title.

Live inside TD Garden, full pyro shot off before WWE panned the crowd in the building. On the air, Michael Cole introduced the show and noted this building and the previous Garden's long history of hosting top WWE champions. On-camera, Cole was shown alone. Cole smiled and said they have fantastic news about Jerry Lawler. The camera zoomed in close on Cole, who said Lawler scared them all by collapsing with a heart attack. Cole said doctors and EMTS saved Lawler's life. He said he has spoken with Jerry throughout the week and he wants to thank the WWE fans for their well-wishes. Cole said the great news is Lawler will be going home to Memphis this week.

Cole tried to set up an announcement for JBL joining him on commentary before Justin Roberts interrupted over the house mic to formally introduce JBL. Fitting the PPV theme, Cole listed JBL's championship accomplishments as JBL made his way to the ring to join Cole at the announce booth. Cole then read Lawler's tweet earlier today announcing JBL as his replacement. JBL commended Cole on how he handled events on Raw before saying he plans to set his seat on fire by the time Lawler gets back.

In-ring: Lilian Garcia introduced a fatal four-way IC Title match to start the PPV, not the Tag Title match. IC champ The Miz came out first with mic in-hand. Miz complained about Booker T booking him in a four-way title defense and vowed to file an official complaint against Booker. Before Miz could offer his catchphrase, Rey Mysterio's music interrupted. Rey came out dressed in a combination purple and red outfit. Cole brought up Rey retiring JBL, which JBL called a long time ago. JBL quickly established himself as heel commentator by agreeing with Miz before Cody Rhodes was introduced third. Sin Cara was out last to a tepid reaction before the Spanish announce team was introduced ringside.

1 -- IC champion THE MIZ vs. REY MYSTERIO vs. CODY RHODES vs. SIN CARA -- fatal four-way Intercontinental Title match

The heels ganged up on Sin Cara early on as Cole listed WWE Legends who held the IC Title. Rey eventually re-entered the picture and cleared Cody to the outside. Rey and Cara then found themselves alone in the ring, prompting JBL to bring up their title histories in Mexico. The two traded high-flying moves before Miz broke up a pin attempt. Miz and Rhodes then picked up a fight, leading to Miz dumping Rhodes over the top rope. Men entered and left the ring at a rapid pace before Rhodes calmed things down by working on Rey alone in the ring. Miz suddenly re-entered the ring to help execute a Tower of Doom spot, but he could not score a pin.

At 7:00, the action picked up as JBL talked about despising Miz when he first joined WWE before Miz worked his tail off to become a legit star. On the outside, Rey head-scissored Rhodes into the guardrail before flying off the ring apron with a seated splash. Back in the ring, Cara corkscrew-splashed Miz for a close two count. After more rapid-fire action, Rey countered Miz's Skullcrushing Finale into the 619. Rey then dumped Rhodes over the top rope before hitting a top-rope splash. Rey had the pin, but Cody yanked him out of the ring. Cody then tried to pin Miz, but Cara broke up the pin.

At 10:30, Rhodes lost his focus by trying to yank off Cara's mask, which allowed Rey to splash him. But, Rhodes recovered and chucked Rey to the outside. Cara then hit a kick to the head before pulling out a matching mask from his trunks. Cara tried to put the mask on Rhodes, but Miz grabbed Cara from behind for the Reality Check. Miz covered, but Cara kicked out. Miz tried to follow with a powerbomb, but Cara put the bonus mask on Miz to block. Confusion ensued, then Miz blindly dropped Rhodes with the Skullcrushing Finale "out of instinct" for a pin and the win.

WINNER: Miz at 12:05 to retain the IC Title. Good moments throughout to offset some early clunkiness. Creative finish to play up the mask issue and keep the issue going without a clear outcome. (**1/2)

Backstage: Prime Time Players were shown complaining to Eve about losing their #1 contender spot to the Tag Titles. Suddenly, there was a commotion off-camera. Eve ran down the hallway and the camera captured Kaitlyn on the floor selling an ankle injury and being tended to by the trainer. Kaitlyn said she was warming up when a masked individual struck her from behind. It looks like a Tonya Harding situation here. Eve jumped to a conclusion that Kaitlyn should not wrestle tonight and they'll figure out what to do about the Divas Title match.

Video package: Daniel Bryan and Kane's recent issues, happy fun-time, more issues, and accidental #1 contender victory. It was pretty eerie watching a replay of the Bryan & Kane vs. PTP match from Raw when Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack in the middle of the match.

In-ring: Daniel Bryan was introduced first to loud "Yes!" chants. Bryan calmly tried to wave off the chants as he slowly walked toward the ring. Bryan paused at a ringside fan, but opted not to engage in a shouting match. In the ring, Bryan calmly completed his ring entrance before Kane's pyro shot off to bring out his tag partner. After Bryan and Kane tried to calmly share the ring, Kofi Kingston's music played to bring out Kofi and Truth to defend the Tag Titles.

2 -- WWE tag champions KOFI KINGSTON & R-TRUTH vs. DANIEL BRYAN & KANE -- WWE Tag Title match

The crowd started a "Daniel Bryan" chant before Kane waved off Bryan to start the match. The tag champs quickly double-teamed Kane, but Kane regained control and slap-tagged Bryan into the match. Loud "Yes!" chants for Bryan, who tried to ignore the crowd, but the crowd's influence distracted Bryan long enough for the tag champs to regain control. Kane then slap-tagged himself back into the match, drawing a crazy smile from Bryan. Kane then worked on Truth before extending a safe, friendly tag to Bryan, who smashed Truth with "No!" kicks to the chest.

Bryan and Kane started exchanging tags, working as a cohesive unit until Bryan missed with a corner dropkick. Kane dumped Truth to the outside, then Kane tried to help Bryan to his feet, but Bryan shoved him in the chest. A shoving match ensued as the crowd chanted, "Hug it out." Bryan saw where this was going, then opened his arms wide for them to have a hug. The crowd popped as Bryan demanded a hug. Kane thought it over, then gave him a strong hug. Bryan celebrated, but allowed Truth to re-enter the picture and tag in Kofi, who cleaned house. Kofi then readied for Trouble in Paradise on Bryan, but Kane yanked Bryan out of the ring. Instead of being grateful for Kane's help, Bryan picked up an argument. Kofi then hit over-the-top splashes on both men as they argued.

The action broke down, leaving Bryan and Kofi in the ring. Bryan delivered a flying dropkick, then Kane slapped Bryan on the back to tag himself in. Bryan yelled at Kane, who stood on the top rope. Kofi then tried a huracanrana on Kane, but Bryan held Kane's feet to help Kane block. Kane readied for a top-rope move on Kofi, but Bryan kicked him, then shoved him off the top. In the process, Kane awkwardly splashed Kofi and it was good for the win.

WINNERS: Bryan & Kane at 8:30 to capture the Tag Titles. The finish was off, but the crowd ate up Bryan's act and the Hug It Out aspect. Kane and Bryan as tag champs could breathe life into the division. (**)

Post-match: Bryan and Kane celebrated individually before yelling in each other's face, "I am the tag team champions!" This continued for a while before the two men huffed and puffed in each other's faces. Kane then lifted his arms in the air for his big pyro explosion, but there was no pyro. Suddenly, there was a story of Kane losing his pyro power, but the pyro was just mis-timed, as it set off late. Kane then bailed from the ring, leaving Bryan to celebrate alone.

Backstage: Booker T and Teddy Long commented on Bryan and Kane winning the Tag Titles. Eve then barged in and claimed Kaitlyn has no chance of competing against Layla tonight. Booker blew things off, but Long said every title must be defended tonight. Eve said there are no other Divas on the roster who have earned a title shot. Booker thought things over, then said Eve did when she beat Kaitlyn two weeks ago. Booker gave Eve the title shot...if she's ready. Eve disingenuously said she could muster enough courage to compete for the good of the company. Eve walked off. Long was very skeptical about Eve, but Booker remained oblivious to Eve's actions. Where's Joseph Park to investigate potentially nefarious actions by Eve?

In-ring: U.S. champion Antonio Cesaro, along with Aksana, came out to defend the U.S. Title. This led to yet another heel complaining about the authority figures on the mic. In this instance, Cesaro said this title match is "unfair" in five languages. Zack Ryder then came out to face Cesaro after winning the pre-show battle royal.

3 -- U.S. champion ANTONIO CESARO (w/Aksana) vs. ZACK RYDER -- United States Title match

Ryder tried to use his quickness to score a quick pin, but Cesaro cut off Ryder and slowed things down to begin dominating the match. Cesaro allowed Ryder to tease a comeback, but came up with a brutal-looking lift-up European Uppercut for a close two count. Cesaro followed with a standing neckbreaker into a neck vice submission, but Ryder broke free and face-planted Cesaro. Cesaro, angry, ran into an elbow smash. Ryder followed with a dropkick from the second rope, but Cesaro kicked out of a pin attempt.

The two men recovered on the mat before Ryder scored a close nearfall with a suplex counter. Cesaro recovered in the corner, then Ryder crotched him on the top rope. Ryder then snapped off a top-rope huracanrana and measured Cesaro for the Broski Boot, but Aksana pulled Cesaro to the outside. Ryder took the bait on a misdirection on the outside, then Cesaro caught him with an uppercut back in the ring. Cesaro then finished off Ryder with the Neutralizer for the pin and the win.

WINNER: Cesaro at 6:40 to retain the U.S. Title. And, Cesaro keeps building his title reign. Fine victory, but not particularly memorable. (*1/2)

Sat. Morning Slam plug: WWE programming in the Vortexx on CW.

Locker room: Alberto Del Rio was shown warming up for his World Title match. David Otunga, in a neckbrace, walked into the room to discuss matters with Del Rio. Ricardo Rodriguez then walked into the locker room, but he was not wearing his neckbrace. Otunga and Del Rio reprimanded Ricardo for not wearing his brace (since they're trying to fake injuries, which exposed their plot in front of millions of people). Del Rio called Ricardo stupid in Spanish, then Ricardo reluctantly put his neckbrace back on after they walked away.

In-ring: Vickie Guerrero excused herself onto the broadcast before introducing Dolph Ziggler, who demanded attention as he entered the ring. After Ziggler placed his MITB briefcase ringside, Randy Orton's music played to bring out Orton for the only scheduled non-title match on the PPV.

4 -- RANDY ORTON vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER (w/Vickie Guerrero)

The two men went through a feeling-out process before Ziggler stopped and shouted in Orton's face that it's time, which drew a sinister smirk from Orton. The two men went back-and-forth trading control before Orton slowed things down with a suplex after bouncing Ziggler off the top rope. Orton suddenly delivered a snap suplex, which sent Ziggler to the ring apron. Orton measured Ziggler for his second-rope DDT, but Ziggler slipped back into the ring to avoid. Ziggler then dropkicked Orton at the knees and tried to follow with a Fameasser, but Orton countered with an emphatic powerbomb for a nearfall.

At 6:00, Orton and Ziggler battled up-top before Ziggler punched Orton down to the mat. Ziggler followed with a dropkick, but it was only good for a two count. The crowd noise picked up with dueling chants, creating more energy in the building. Ziggler then snapped Orton throat-first across the top rope, but Orton escaped a pin attempt. Ziggler then delivered repeated elbow drops to the chest, showed off before a final elbow drop, and scored a two count. JBL reprimanded Ziggler for showing off when he had a chance to win the match, changing his tone from praising Ziggler's show-off tendencies earlier.

Ziggler slowed things down with a reverse chinlock while showing off by doing a headstand. But, Orton reached his feet and side-suplexed Ziggler to escape. Ziggler cut off Orton again, though, before slowing things down with a second reverse chinlock. Orton escaped via dropkick this time, sending both men to the mat to recover. Ziggler was the first man to his feet and tried a top-rope move, but Orton quickly stood up and crotched Ziggler. Orton then took his time setting up for and delivering a big superplex, but Ziggler kicked out of a pin. Vickie smiled at the crowd, which bought the pin as the finish.

At 14:00, Orton stalked Ziggler and delivered an uppercut. The two men started trading bombs as Cole described both men as evenly matched. This turned into a simulated brawl with neither man giving an inch. Orton then knocked Ziggler off his feet with a back elbow, but Ziggler came back to his feet and delivered a Fameasser for a close two count. After the nearfall, Vickie freaked out at the referee as the two men recovered in the ring.

At 16:00, Orton swung Ziggler to the second rope and wanted a trademark DDT, but Ziggler blocked. The fight then moved to the outside, where Orton flung Ziggler back-first into the barricade to slow down the Show-Off. Suddenly, Orton set up Ziggler on the barricade and delivered a trademark DDT from the guardrail to the floor. Orton sold the effects of the move, though, and was slow to get up as the ref reached a six count in the background. At 8, Orton rolled Ziggler back into the ring and covered him, but Ziggler managed to get his foot on the bottom rope directly in front of the ref.

At 18:00, Orton slowly began backing up before spinning down to the mat to tease the RKO. Orton teased it, but Ziggler countered with a quick roll-up for a two count. Ziggler then sat on Orton's back and slapped on the sleeperhold, but Orton flung him away. Orton then took a page from Cesaro by throwing Ziggler into the air and delivering a mid-air RKO. The crowd popped for the surprise RKO, then Orton pinned Ziggler for the win.

Post-match: Orton celebrated as JBL noted that if Ziggler eventually cashes in his MITB briefcase, Orton will be in-line for a World Title match after this outcome. After a replay of the toss-up RKO, Ziggler was shown retreating to the back as Vickie tried to console her. In the ring, Orton celebrated by grimacing.

WINNER: Orton at 18:24. Very good PPV singles match. Ziggler added another very good PPV match to his resume and Orton looked strong heading into a break to film Marine 3. Following the Chris Jericho pattern, it looks like Ziggler could "get his win back" on post-PPV TV before Orton takes time off. (***1/2)

In-ring: Divas champion Layla was introduced first for the next title match. WWE then went straight to Eve as her replacement opponent after Kaitlyn's mysterious backstage attack.

5 -- Divas champion LAYLA vs. EVE -- Divas Title match

Layla controlled early on as Eve sold "not be ready" for the match to get Layla to let her guard down. Eve then faked an injury to take control of the action. Layla tried to make a comeback, but couldn't get back in the game. Eve then avoided a desperation splash out of the corner and scored with a neckbreaker for the pin and the win. New Divas champion.

WINNER: Eve at 7:05 to capture the Divas Title. It's been a good two weeks for Eve.

April 1, 2012: Rock vs. Cena at WrestleMania 28. The video package promoted WWE's new DVD release documenting their feud.

In-ring: Lilian Garcia formally announced WWE's partnership with the Susan G. Komen organization to the live crowd. Lilian then introduced breast cancer survivors in the crowd wearing John Cena's new pink and black ring gear. This led to a video promoting the organization.

Backstage: Daniel Bryan was shown yelling at everyone in the hallway that he is the Tag Team champions. Bryan paused to gloat in Raw GM A.J.'s face before pausing at Dr. Shelby. Suddenly, Kane came down another hallway declaring himself the tag champion. A.J. then jumped in, screaming, and shouted at Bryan and Kane that she went to great expense to bring in Dr. Shelby to fix their issues. Bryan then calmly congratulated Kane on the victory. Dr. Shelby asked Kane if he has anything to say to Bryan, but Kane walked off. Bryan then freaked out about Kane being a bad team player. Suddenly, Kane emerged with a Gatorade bucket and dumped it all over Bryan, Shelby, and A.J., who shrieked. Kane declared himself the tag champ and vowed to head to Disneyland. Kane walked off declaring himself the tag champion as the other three sold the effects of the cold liquid.

Up next: Sheamus vs. Del Rio for the World Title. Cole fed to a video package setting up the match, focusing on Sheamus's Brogue Kick finisher being banned.

In-ring: Alberto Del Rio was introduced first for the World Title match tonight. Del Rio made his way to the ring as David Otunga was shown standing ringside sporting a neckbrace. Sheamus was introduced next and the World champ came out sporting Boston Celtics-inspired green and white gear. Once everyone was in the ring, Ricardo Rodriguez offered a formal ring intro for Del Rio. Lilian then formally introduced Sheamus to a positive reaction as Cole noted the first U.S. city Sheamus ever visited was Boston.

Suddenly, Booker T's music played before the bell sounded. Booker came out on-stage and said he has concluded his investigation. After going through all the evidence and countless hours of video footage, he has concluded that the Brogue Kick is a dangerous maneuver, but when you sign up to become a WWE star, there are risks involved. He said that at this time, he declares the Brogue Kick... re-instated, which popped the crowd as Del Rio freaked out in the ring. "And, that's final," Booker said as JBL complained about Booker delivering his findings right before the title match.

6 -- World Hvt. champion SHEAMUS vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO -- World Title match

The bell sounded and Sheamus went for a Brogue Kick on Del Rio, but Del Rio ducked and Otunga took the Brogue Kick when he was on the ring apron trying to consult with Del Rio. Sheamus smiled after KO'ing Otunga, then tried to finish off Del Rio, but Del Rio bailed to the floor to recover. Back in the ring, Sheamus dominated before Del Rio fell to the outside and Sheamus rammed him with a flying shoulder tackle from the ring apron.

Back in the ring, Del Rio and Sheamus continued to slug it out before Del Rio managed to drop Sheamus onto the edge of the ringpost. Back in the ring, Del Rio proceeded to take control of the match before JBL ripped Del Rio's uncle, Mil Mascaras, and said he's glad Del Rio did not receive any of his traits. As Del Rio slowed things down, Cole listed past WWE World champions and wondered if Del Rio will add his name to the list.

Del Rio lost control, allowing Sheamus to build momentum with consecutive power moves. Sheamus then hung up Del Rio in the corner and blasted him across the chest with consecutive forearm smashes. Sheamus tried to follow with White Noise, but Del Rio shoved him away and hit the Backstabber for a close two count. Del Rio was slow to follow up, allowing Sheamus to hit White Noise out of nowhere. Sheamus then raised his fist in the air and called for the Brogue Kick. Del Rio slowly reached his feet, then ducked the Kick and landed a step-up enziguiri in the corner for a two count only.

At 10:00, Del Rio stalked Sheamus, then taunted him before delivering a kick to the shoulder. Suddenly, Del Rio teased the cross arm-breaker, Sheamus teased the Brogue, Del Rio set up for the cross arm-breaker, but Sheamus flipped over into a Texas Cloverleaf tease. Del Rio broke things up before trapping Sheamus's left arm in-between the top and middle ropes. Del Rio then landed kicks to the exposed arm, nearly getting himself DQ'ed. Referee Charles Robinson admonished Del Rio, then checked on Sheamus. Sheamus tried a desperation kick, but Del Rio countered with the cross arm-breaker. Sheamus teased tapping out, but he offered a Feat of Strength powering to his feet to deliver a flat-back toss to escape Del Rio's finisher.

The two men recovered before Sheamus reached his feet at 13:00 and teased the Brogue Kick again. Del Rio ducked again, then Del Rio went back to the cross arm-breaker. Cole said this might be too much for the Champ to bear and JBL declared a new champion. Sheamus wiggled his arm that almost looked like he was tapping out on Del Rio's leg, but Sheamus made it to the bottom rope to break the hold. Afterward, Del Rio flipped out and nearly had a meltdown selling frustration that he doesn't know what to do to put away Sheamus. Del Rio then tried a desperation corner charge, but Sheamus easily avoided the errant attack and nailed Del Rio with the Brogue Kick. Sheamus win the pin for the win.

WINNER: Sheamus at 14:25. Strong second-half after a slow build early on. Sheamus winning via Brogue Kick after Booker's last-second ruling seems to indicate (a) another Del Rio title opportunity and/or (b) WWE moving closer to removing Booker from the GM position with Del Rio, Otunga, and Co. likely following up with more lawsuit threats and complaints on TV after the PPV. (**3/4)

Video package: John Cena vs. C.M. Punk feud. They played various clips of Punk through his WWE career to stress Cena's words on Monday's Raw that Punk doesn't know who he is and he changes his values to benefit himself only.

Back live, Paul Heyman was in the ring. Heyman introduced himself to boos and said he is from New York, which drew boos. But, tonight, he is like everyone here in Boston to witness WWE champion C.M. Punk's 302nd consecutive day as WWE champion. Heyman said he is here tonight to witness a man of extraordinary character who has declared himself a "Paul Heyman guy." Heyman offered a self-satisfied smile, then Cult of Personality played to bring out the WWE champion dressed in a gray hoodie. (A "tribute" to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick?) Punk bounced out on-stage and unzipped his hoodie to reveal his WWE Title belt and New York Yankees-inspired pinstripe trunks. Punk confidently strutted to the ring and shook hands with Heyman as JBL propped up Punk on commentary.

Once Cult of Personality stopped playing, the crowd showered Punk with boos. "I'm a John Cena Guy" sign was visible on the hard camera side. Cena's music then played to a loud mix of boos and cheers. Cena then flew out on-stage sporting his new pink and black gear debuting tonight. Cena noted he's 20 minutes from home, bounced up and down on-stage, and stormed the ring. As Cena surveyed the crowd and bounced around in the ring, a host of "Cena Sucks" signs were visible on the hard camera side.

Justin Roberts handled formal ring intros, drawing a smile from Cena when he was introduced from West Newbury, Mass. Punk was then introduced to boos. After being introduced, Punk continued to stand in the ring with the title belt in the air, making sure everyone got a good look at him in the spotlight. This allowed Cole and JBL to go through the history of WWE champions, including Cena. Punk continued to hold the title belt in the air, which Cole called a "clever stall tactic." Ringside, Heyman smiled, then Punk finally dropped the title out of the air. Punk proceeded to kiss the title belt in the corner, seemingly mocking Bret Hart. Punk finally handed over the title belt as JBL noted the big match atmosphere tonight. Cena then tossed his t-shirt into the crowd and Cena, Sr. caught it. The bell sounded at 9:20, giving them as much time as they want.

7 -- WWE champion C.M. PUNK (w/Paul Heyman) vs. JOHN CENA -- WWE Title match

The two men felt each other out as the crowd picked up a loud dueling chant. Punk tried to psyche out Cena early on as Heyman was shown leaning against the announce table in the background. JBL noted Heyman was the only one in WWE who wanted Punk here in 2005 when Punk debuted. Cole mentioned Brock Lesnar by name as Heyman's only other known client, prompting a discussion of it not being clear what Heyman's association is with Punk. Another loud dueling chant picked up before Cena back-body-dropped Punk across the ring, but missed with a corner attack, causing Cena to land gut-first in the corner turnbuckles.

Punk took control of the match and slowed things down as Cena continued to sell the effects of eating the corner turnbuckle. Punk then knocked Cena to the outside and proceeded to stare down Cena, Sr. on the front row. Punk rolled Cena back into the ring, then cockily blew kisses into the crowd. This allowed Cena to baseball slide kick Punk into the guardrail before dumping him into the front row. Cena followed with a suplex onto the floor after draping Punk across the guardrail.

Cena quickly tried to follow up back in the ring, but Punk cut him off and slapped on a modified Camel Clutch center-ring. Cena attempted a Feat of Strength powering out of the hold, but Punk blocked before jabbing Cena with right hand blows. Punk then climbed to the top turnbuckle and delivered a double axehandle smash to the head. Punk circled Cena, then teased the GTS, but Cena avoided and hit two shoulder knock downs. He wanted the sit-out slam, but Punk countered. But, Cena came back with an emphatic clothesline for a two count. Cena followed with the You Can't See Me motion and tried the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but Punk stuck his boot in the air to block. Punk followed with a neckbreaker for a two count.

At 12:30, Punk stood on the ring apron looking for a springboard move, attempted it, but Cena rolled through into AA position. Punk grabbed the top rope to block, though, so Cena dumped Punk over the top rope to the floor. Cena then built momentum and suddenly flew through the ropes with a suicide dive, drawing a shocked look from Heyman. Back in the ring, Cena hit the sit-out slam and wanted the Shuffle again, but Punk blocked again. This time, Punk rolled through into the Vice, putting Cena in trouble. Punk declared himself the best in the world, but Cena slipped out and flowed into the STF center-ring. Punk waved his arms in the air trying to reach for the ropes as Heyman covered his mouth. Suddenly, Punk escaped and flowed into a Crossface center-ring. Cena waited out the hold, then powered to his feet to deliver an escaping side suplex. Ringside, Heyman just muttered himself as he sold disbelief.

At 15:45, both men sold on the mat before Cena landed a right hand blow. Punk came back with a right. The two men traded bombs before Punk heel-kicked Cena, landing a glancing blow. Punk then hit a corner knee into a clothesline. He wanted a Macho Man elbow drop and connected center-ring. Punk covered, but Cena kicked out at two. After a pause, Cena knelt on the mat, raised his arms in the air, stood up, and did the GTS signal. Punk stalked Cena for the GTS, but Cena grabbed Punk's foot in mid-air and slapped on the STF. Punk swum around the ring looking for the bottom rope before finally grabbing the rope for a break.

At 18:30, Punk suddenly grabbed a charging Cena and hit the GTS, but Cena kicked out of a pin attempt, drawing all sorts of shocked reactions from Heyman. Punk looked across the ring toward Heyman for some sort of non-verbal guidance before Heyman suggested he try something else. Punk, selling an injured leg, hobbled over to Cena and delivered body shots with his foot. Punk followed with a knock-down clothesline for a nearfall. Punk then slapped himself in the face to keep himself focused on the task at-hand.

At 20:30, Punk reached back and slapped Cena, then tried the GTS again, but Cena blocked. Cena then hit a sit-out slam and delivered the Shuffle this time. Cena hoisted Punk in the air for the Attitude Adjustment and connected. Cena covered Punk, Cole declared him an 11-time champion, and Punk kicked out just in-time. Heyman smiled and covered his mouth in disbelief as Punk slowly rolled out of the ring at Heyman's feet. Cena, perplexed, questioned the ref before slipping out of the ring to pick up Punk and toss him back into the ring.

At 22:00, Cena climbed to the top turnbuckle and measured Punk for a guillotine leg drop, but Punk just kind of fell over to avoid the move. Nice. Punk followed with a roundhouse kick to the head, but Cena kicked out again. Punk tried to avoid flipping out before measuring Cena for his next move. Punk lifted up Cena and the two men traded bombs before Punk kicked Cena in the head for another two count. Ringside, Heyman sold frustration mixed with potential desperation. Punk then climbed to the top turnbuckle. He tried to hit a moonsault, but awkwardly crashed to the mat, drawing a head-shake from Heyman. Cole said that was an awkward, desperate attempt.

At 24:15, Cena teased the AA again, but Punk blocked. Punk then hit the GTS and covered Cena again, drawing a "What a match" comment from JBL, but Cena kicked out again. Punk, stunned, stood up and checked his GTS hands to see why he can't put Cena away. Punk then readied for his next move as Cena slowly stood up. Punk measured Cena and delivered Rock Bottom this time. Punk covered, stuck out his tongue, and Cena kicked out. Punk stood up and covered his face in frustration as Cena sold with a far-away look in his eyes. Cena then suddenly stood up, grabbed Punk, and hit the AA for another close nearfall. "Who is going to win this match?!" Cole asked.

At 26:30, Cena took a breath and slowly lifted up Punk before placing him on the top turnbuckle. Cena fought off Punk, who tried to block him, then reset and hit a German Suplex with a bridge. Cena scored a three count on Punk, but his shoulders were on the mat, too, after executing the move.

After the three count, Cena's music played and there was a big pop, but not a huge reaction because Cena's shoulders were on the mat. Cena then grabbed the title belt and celebrated ringside before re-entering the ring. Referee Chad Patton tried to talk to Cena as he celebrated, but Cena wasn't paying attention. Suddenly, Patton grabbed the title belt from Cena and handed it over to Punk. Justin Roberts announced that both men's shoulders were on the mat for a count of three, therefore it's a draw. Roberts said Punk is still WWE champion.

In the corner, Punk celebrated like a kid on Christmas still clutching his prized title belt. Cena asked the ref if he's really going to end this on a draw, then Cena turned around and took a belt shot to the face from Punk. Punk stood over Cena in the ring before WWE replayed the double-pin finish. Back live, Cena was still KO'ed in the ring before Punk was shown celebrating on-stage with Heyman while the crowd taunted him. Cole said the belt shot from Punk is not how you earn respect. Cult of Personality then played, the ringside doctor checked on Cena, and Cole dejectedly signed off at 9:51 p.m.

WINNER: Draw at 26:55. Excellent, PPV main event-worthy match. Wrestlers kicking out of finishers to get a reaction is over-done, but it worked for the most part in this context to give Cena's fanbase some positive take-away moments before the draw. It also allowed Punk to slip in a Rock Bottom to continue teasing Punk-Rock at Royal Rumble, but have Cena kick out of Rock Bottom to set up a potential Cena-Rock re-match. As for Cena-Punk, WWE clearly wanted to set up a re-match coming out of this match, so it's refreshing they did not resort to outside interference to get there, even if a "draw" should have led to A.J. coming out to re-start the match. (****)

***

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