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WWE Raw Report
CALDWELL'S WWE RAW RESULTS 2/25: Complete "virtual-time" coverage of live & loaded Raw - Cena vs. Punk Instant Classic, Heyman-McMahon "fight," big returns, but did Taker return?

Feb 25, 2013 - 11:12:10 PM
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WWE Raw TV Results
February 25, 2013 - Episode #1,030
Live from Dallas, Tex.
Aired on USA Network
Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor


This week's stacked three-hour WWE Raw episode opened with a video flashback to January when Mr. McMahon tried to fire Paul Heyman, but Brock Lesnar interrupted, injured McMahon, and temporarily saved Heyman's job. Tonight, McMahon has challenged Heyman to a fight. And, John Cena tries to "win the big one" against C.M. Punk tonight. Winner advances to face The Rock for the WWE Title at WrestleMania.

Live in the arena, Justin Roberts introduced Mr. McMahon for the "fight" against Heyman. McMahon came out on-stage in a trademark suit and on crutches. McMahon pretended to hobble down to the ring on crutches as Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler put over McMahon's "unreal" recovery from hip surgery following Lesnar's attack.

Once in the ring, McMahon said he likes to do things in a big way and they are getting close to WrestleMania, so they need something big each week leading to Mania. McMahon said it's only been three weeks since his surgery, but he should be able to do "this" on one leg, one crutch, one foot. McMahon asked the crowd to give it up for the "ultimate fighter" Paul Heyman.

Heyman, dressed in a black track suit looking like Joseph Park in TNA, came out on-stage mockingly saying here's the showman and entertainer. Heyman told the crowd they will have a story for their children because he will kick McMahon's ass after all these years. "I am all man," Heyman declared to boos. Heyman said McMahon has as much chance of beating him as Tony Romo leading the Cowboys to the Super Bowl, which drew boos in Dallas.

Heyman entered the ring and said he wants to deliver a message right to McMahon before the fight. Suddenly, Heyman popped McMahon with a cheap-shot before grabbing one of McMahon's crutches and smashing McMahon with it. Heyman swung the crutch like a baseball batter waiting for his pitch, then tried a second shot, but McMahon intercepted and jabbed the crutch in Heyman's gut. McMahon followed with a crutch shot across the back.

Suddenly, Brock Lesnar's music played to huge shrieks in the crowd. Lesnar bounced out on-stage before stomping down to the ring as McMahon sold massive concern in the ring. Lesnar then slowly entered the ring as McMahon stood his ground in the ring. Lesnar's music stopped and he eyeballed McMahon, who tried to beg off. Lesnar inched closer to him, then Triple H's music suddenly played to huge cheers.

After a pause as the announcers frantically asked, "Is it him?" Triple H walked out on-stage dressed in a leather jacket, t-shirt, jeans, and with the short hair making him look like a movie boss. Completely different vibe to Hunter standing in the smoke of his ring entrance. Hunter then removed the jacket and slowly, slowly walked toward the ring. The camera got a good look at Hunter looking like Kevin Nash with his different hair.

Lesnar then hit the ringside area and started a brawl with Hunter. Cole noted Lesnar's UFC background as the fight continued ringside. Hunter then reversed a whip and sent Lesnar head-first into the ringpost. Lesnar came up bleeding heavily from the top of his head. Hunter then clotheslined Lesnar over the guardrail into the timekeeper's area. Hunter tried to follow up with a crutch, but Lesnar smashed him, then delivered knee strikes. Lesnar then slammed Hunter onto the announce table before checking his head for massive blood coming from the top of his head. Lesnar then rolled Hunter back into the ring and walked around ringside contemplating his next move. Lesnar then went under the ring and retrieved a chair before sliding back into the ring.

In the ring, Hunter intercepted with a Spinebuster. Hunter then picked up the chair and smashed Lesnar across the back with the chair. Lesnar, gushing blood, rolled out of the ring as Hunter stood tall in the ring before his music played. Ringside, Lesnar caught his breath as Cole noted Hunter came to the aid of his father-in-law. WWE went to a shot of Lesnar covered in blood before Lesnar smirked toward Hunter. Cole called it an explosive way to start Raw. The segment closed with a final shot of Hunter selling determination in the ring.

Miz TV tonight: The Miz hosts Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger (and Zeb Colter) to discuss their issues.

Backstage: Ryback was shown walking down the hallway. He faces Dolph Ziggler next.

[Q2] [Commercial Break]

This Friday: Social Media Smackdown.

Moments Ago: McMahon-Heyman turned into Hunter-Lesnar. Cole reminded the audience that Lesnar broke Hunter's arm on two different occasions. No mention of Lesnar beating Hunter at Summerslam, and the highlights of the segment focused on when Hunter had the advantage on Lesnar.

Announcers: Cole and Lawler were shown on-camera. They asked for the audience to "tout" their thoughts on what just happened between Hunter and Lesnar.

In-ring: Dolph Ziggler was bouncing around behind Big E. Langston. In the deep background was A.J. Lee. Ryback was then introduced for a match against Ziggler.

1 -- RYBACK vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER (w/Big E. Langston and A.J. Lee)

As the match kicked off, Cole noted Ryback is just as angry as Triple H because of The Shield's recent victories over Ryback and twice costing him the WWE Title. Lawler said this has fed Ryback's anger and desire to feast. Ryback quickly took control of the match as Cole noted Ryback has become obsessed with The Shield. Ryback delivered a big powerslam as A.J. shot Ryback a mad-face from ringside. 2:30 into the match, "Goldberg" chants picked up. Ryback quieted the crowd with a powerslam into the buckle before Ziggler casually rolled to the outside. Ryback in full control leading to break.

[Commercial Break]

Ziggler survived the break, but was in the middle of a delayed vertical suplex when Raw returned live. The delayed vertical continued for another 20 seconds before Ryback dropped him to the mat. And, Ziggler rolled to the floor again. On the outside, Ryback stalked Ziggler before rolling him back into the ring. Suddenly, Big E. blasted Ryback with a clothesline as the ref was checking on Ziggler in the ring.

Ziggler "helped" Ryback into the ring to try to pin him, but could only get a one count. Ziggler followed with a dropkick to the back of the head, but Ryback kicked out at one again. Ziggler then executed a leaping DDT that looked like it impacted Ziggler more than Ryback. Lawler called Ryback "like a superman" for escaping a follow-up pin.

[Q3] Ziggler slapped on the Sleeperhold at 9:30. Ryback bounced around on his feet, though, before escaping as A.J. sold concern ringside. Ziggler tried to charge Ryback, but Ryback intercepted kind of with a headbutt a la Brodus Clay around this time last year. A.J. and Big E. ran interference, but it did not help Ziggler, who ate a slam from Ryback. Ryback then wanted Shellshock and connected as A.J. held her head in her hands. Ryback pinned Ziggler for the win.

Post-match, the announcers highlighted Ryback's power and offense during a replay. Lawler said there was no stopping Ryback tonight. Back live, Ryback celebrated as Big E. dragged Ziggler away from ringside.

WINNER: Ryback at 11:09. Subject to change, it appears Ryback and The Shield are on another collision course for WrestleMania, so how will WWE differentiate this match from the previous three editions?

Movie Trailer: WWE Studios's "The Call" starring Halle Berry.

Back live, Cult of Personality suddenly played to bring out former WWE champion C.M. Punk sans Paul Heyman. Cole wondered aloud if Punk is going to main-event WrestleMania as Punk knelt down on-stage before slowly walking to the ring. Cole said they will hear from Punk in the next segment ahead of his "huge match" against John Cena tonight on Raw.

[Commercial Break]

Punk Message

Back live, C.M. Punk was in the ring hyping tonight as a monumental night. He said it's epic, but not about a match. Nor is it about John Cena. Nor is it about The Rock. Punk said he could stand here and point at the WM29 sign, but tonight is not even about WrestleMania. He said tonight isn't even about The People, which drew boos. Punk said that tonight is not even about the WWE Title. He said tonight is about The Future. It's more important than The Rock and WrestleMania, "It's me!" Punk said, drawing big boos after the big build-up.

Punk called himself "the single-most important Superstar of this era." Punk said Mania is about him taking his rightful place at the Showcase of the Immortals. Punk said he has held the WWE Title for longer than anyone else in decades. With these two hands, he beat John Cena more times than he cares to remember. Punk said he has pinned The Almighty Rock not once, but twice in four weeks. He claimed to be the Best in the World and the BITW has earned the right to main-event WrestleMania.

"I am not just a Superstar, but an Icon that walks among Superstars," Punk said. "You are in the presence of greatness on two feet." He said he is not just a human being, but immortal. Punk called himself a legend, icon, the greatest, and "God." Punk slammed down the mic before blaspheming again, "I am God." Punk flipped over the top rope as his music played. Cole casually under-stated that Punk has always thought highly of himself. Very strong verbiage from Punk that came across like WWE positioning him opposite The Undertaker.

[Q4] WWE HOF Announcement: Cole fed to a video package on Donald Trump being this year's "celebrity" Hall of Fame inductee. The video included a soundbyte from Michael Cole, clips of Trump negotiating to bring WrestleManias IV and V to Trump Plaza, and a fast-forward to McMahon-Trump with their hair on the line. In a soundbyte, McMahon said the only thing he would re-do is the wrong person got his haircut.

Backstage: Mark Henry and Great Khali were shown walking down the hallway on a split-screen. They collide next.

[Commercial Break]

2 -- MARK HENRY vs. GREAT KHALI

Back live on Raw, both men were already in the ring. Unfortunate for the audience not to get the full Mark Henry experience by not showing the ring entrance. Khali delivered an early boot to Henry's face, but Henry came back with a big powerlift into the World's Strongest Slam center-ring. Henry covered Khali for the win. "That's what I'm talking 'bout!" Henry shouted after the bell.

WINNER: Henry at 1:23.

Announcers: A quick shift from Henry to Cole & Lawler plugging more WWE movies. Cole said they're going to show a sneak-peek of The Miz in The Marine 3. As reported last week, WWE is going to fill these three-hour Raws leading to Mania with a lot of movie clips for both WWE's movies and The Rock's movies.

In-ring: The Miz was introduced to the ring four minutes before the top of the hour. As Miz marched to the ring for MizTV, Cole plugged Del Rio and Swagger & Colter as Miz's guests next.

[Commercial Break]

Raw returned from break one minute before the top of the hour with...a vignette for Fandango. Johnny Curtis introduced his name with an echo. The graphic indicated that Fandango premieres this Friday on Smackdown.

[Q5 -- second hour]

MizTV Segment

Back from break, everyone was assembled in the ring. The participants were Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter on the right, Miz in the middle, and Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez on the left. Miz started with Swagger and Colter, saying they have been engulfed in controversy over the past week. No, not Mr. Swagger's DUI arrest, but their YouTube videos about Del Rio. Colter said they wanted to speak to Glenn Beck, but he "chickened out," so he'll address Del Rio. Colter formally introduced himself and Swagger before addressing "fellow patriots" in this country that there are 11 million undocumented workers in this country. Colter said the PC crowd will not call them what they are: illegals. Colter said the government wants to grant them amnesty to put them on the path to citizenship. He said Americans already have a tough time finding work. He said these people sneak across the border, take resources, and stop productivity. "You and your people drain us," Colter said, leaning forward toward Del Rio.

Del Rio tried to interrupt, but Colter cut him. Miz then cut off Colter and gave Del Rio the floor. Del Rio tried to answer Miz's question about obtaining citizenship in Mexico, but Colter cut him off. Colter said it takes 10 years to become a citizen of Mexico because it's paperwork, corruption, and pay-offs. He said he will say something that no one in this building knows. He said a foreigner cannot own property in Mexico, then asked what is wrong with Del Rio's people. Del Rio told Colter not to talk about his people, then Colter told him he will talk and Del Rio will listen.

Colter said he doesn't want Del Rio to think this is personal. He said what it is is what Del Rio represents. He said Del Rio represents success, the American Dream, and he encourages millions of illegal people to cross the border in search of the dream. But, for those millions, there is only one Del Rio success story and for the millions that fail, they conveniently forget to leave the country. Colter said they are not going to stand by and let this happen. He said these people are called criminals. "Hey, enough!" Del Rio shouted. Del Rio said it's time for Colter to shut up.

Del Rio said this country is great because it's for everyone. He said he's no different than anyone in the crowd, Swagger, or "big-mouth" Colter. Del Rio then stepped to Swagger and told him that he descended from immigrants and they are here for the same reason to provide their families with a better life. Del Rio said if you work hard in America, everything is possible. He said he is living proof of that. And, Colter and Swagger think they can disrespect and bully everyone by hiding behind the Constitution. He said two weeks ago, he didn't know anything about Colter. Unfortunately, now he does.

Del Rio backed up and said that he doesn't like bullies. So, if they have a problem with him and if they have the cajones, why don't they do something to make him leave right now? Del Rio removed his suit jacket as Swagger remained standing like a statue with his arms folded. Swagger then dropped his arms and asked Colter for the mic. Swagger said, "We...will see you at WrestleMania. (pause) We the People!" Swagger slammed down the mic and backed out of the ring with Colter. Lawler said that was uncomfortable. Del Rio's music then played to signal the end of the segment. So, apparently there is no pre-Mania punishment for "Mr. Swagger" following his DUI arrest, which WWE has yet to formally address.

Still to come tonight: Cena vs. Punk; winner advances to face The Rock for the WWE Title at WM29.

Backstage: Randy Orton was shown walking down the hallway. Lawler said Orton faces Antonio Cesaro up next. Yes, again.

Raw Promo: "Mean" Gene Okerlund narrated a promo for next week's Raw, which will be Old-School themed.

[Commercial Break]

[Q6]

During Commercial: The Miz was leaving MizTV, but Zeb Colter interrupted and accused Miz of biased reporting. Swagger then jumped Miz from behind after Colter distracted him. Apparently this will set up a future TV match.

In-ring: Antonio Cesaro was waving the U.S. flag back in the ring after a review of the commercial break action. Randy Orton was then given a full ring introduction before facing the U.S. champ. Before the match started, Lawler kind of announced that he will be part of Friday's Smackdown. Cole clarified that they both will be on the show (replacing JBL during his mountain-climbing quest). Lawler declared, "I haven't been on Smackdown in years!" Cole asked if he's been watching, then Lawler paused before answering, "Of course!"

3 -- U.S. champion ANTONIO CESARO vs. RANDY ORTON -- non-title match

During the opening minute, Cole announced that Triple H has sent out his historical first tweet. In the ring, Orton controlled the action early on before running into a big knee from Cesaro. Cesaro went to the second rope for a high-impact move, but Orton suddenly delivered a quick-strike RKO. It was good for the win in three minutes. After a replay of the mid-air RKO, Cole wondered aloud if Orton is rounding into WrestleMania form.

WINNER: Orton at 3:02. So, whatever Orton ends up doing at Mania is apparently more important than whatever Cesaro will be doing. If he's booked at this point of losing a TV match in three minutes.

Backstage: Daniel Bryan told Kane that Orton is quite impressive. Bryan then said they should just get along in-time for facing the Prime Time Players. Bryan joked that he could beat the Players with one hand tied behind his back. Kane tried to one-up him by saying he could beat the Players blindfolded. Vickie Guerrero and her echo Brad Maddox interrupted and booked them in a tag match with the stipulations they inadvertently suggested, with Bryan blindfolded. "But, I can't see," Bryan said. Vickie said that's the point. Bryan was left alone contemplating this.

Announcers: Cole and Lawler were shown on-camera talking about the Academy Awards last night. They fed to one of the WM21 mock movie scene from 2005. This was of John Cena and JBL setting up their WrestleMania 21 match that resulted in John Cena winning the WWE Title to begin his eight-year run on-top. The mock video also got Orlando Jordan's name and the Bashams's names on TV for the first time in years. Back live on the air, Cole recapped that Cena beat JBL at WM21 to win his first WWE Title.

Up Next: Sheamus's "Oscar Snubs." Apparently this will be a Sheamus comedy segment. At least WWE provided fair warning beforehand.

[Commercial Break]

Back from break, Cole said Swagger vs. Miz has been made for tonight's Raw. In the two-hour era, WWE saves that match for next week's Raw to allow viewers to anticipate it.

[Q7] In-ring: Sheamus was introduced for an Oscar Snubs segment. Sheamus, dressed in a tuxedo, marched to the ring as Cole and Lawler debated Seth MacFarlane's performance as Oscars host. Once in the ring, Sheamus stepped up to a microphone positioned center-ring. Sheamus said he watched a recording of the Oscars last night after driving to Dallas for Raw. He said he didn't like what he saw last night because they over-looked one of the greatest actors of the 21st Century...Wade Barrett.

Sheamus said Barrett really is that talented. Then, Sheamus fed to a video preview for "Dead Man Down." Two things here. WWE is going to cause the WWE TV audience to regurgitate the blatant movie hype, but there is also a separate marketing promotion airing during non-WWE programming that makes it look like WWE has nothing to do with the movie, which could lead to decent business since a lot of moviegoers won't know they're seeing a WWE-produced movie.

Back live, Sheamus asked for a second clip to play. It was of Wade Barrett standing in the background. "He's so inspiring," Sheamus said. "He's so, so, out of focus." Sheamus then evaluated Barrett's facials conveying his emotions. He said he sat there watching the movie just waiting for Barrett to say something, but he just sat there trying so hard to do...nothing.

Wade Barrett's music interrupted to bring out the IC champion. He said Sheamus is so envious right now. Barrett said Sheamus can make his jokes and "these idiots" will laugh it up, but Sheamus is just jealous that he's about to become a global movie star. Barrett said tomorrow night, he won't need a fake red-carpet in the ring, but he will be walking the real thing tomorrow night at the "Dead Man Down" premiere. Meanwhile, Sheamus will be returning his rented tux and drowning his sorrows in a sleazy Irish bar.

Sheamus responded with a jab to try to set up a fight, but Barrett dipped out of the ring. Barrett said he has a big premiere to get ready for tomorrow night. Barrett smirked and slowly backed up the entrance ramp before Sheamus posed in the ring.

Still to come: Cena vs. Punk to determine who gets the WWE Title against The Rock at WrestleMania.

Tonight: The Shield has a message to deliver. The video and delivery came across too sanitary, too cleansed for the audience, and pre-produced, not gritty, uncensored, and unauthorized befitting of The Shield.

[Commercial Break]

Back live, Cody Rhodes was in the ring without advanced notice. Ringside, Damien Sandow was in a suit and on commentary. Sandow noted Rhodes is still his best friend. R-Truth was then introduced to face Rhodes.

4 -- CODY RHODES vs. R-TRUTH

As the bell sounded, Cole read a promo from Truth that he danced with Sandow last week and determined that Sandow is not a good dancer. In response, Sandow called Truth a coward. Why? "He assailed the castle that is my body," Sandow said. Amazing. Cole paused before asking what he's talking about. "He assaulted me," Sandow dummed it down. Cole asked why Sandow and Rhodes broke up, and Sandow said they simply parted ways. In the ring, Truth pinned Rhodes.

Post-match, Sandow hit the ring to try to assault Truth's castle, but Truth saw him coming and ran Sandow out of the ring. Ringside, Sandow angrily unbuttoned his tie and glared into the ring. In the ring, Truth appeared to be limping as he celebrated the win.

WINNER: Truth at 2:22.

[Q8] Announcers: Cole and Lawler transitioned to more from Colter & Swagger from the "We The People" series. Cole fed to their video titled "Jobs." Swagger said he was working at age 14 to help put food on the table because his dad was laid off. Why? Colter said it's because of illegal immigrants working for cheap to leave hard-working Americans out in the cold. Colter said he hopes people crossing the border are wearing ski masks because they are criminals. He said he knows it's wrong, Swagger knows it's wrong, and in Swagger's America, it's time they correct this wrong.

Back live, Lawler plugged Swagger vs. Miz still to come tonight.

[Commercial Break]

5 -- WWE tag champions DANIEL BRYAN & KANE vs. PRIME TIME PLAYERS (TITUS O'NEIL & DARREN YOUNG) -- non-title match

The tag champs were being tied up immediately upon returning from break. Kane had his left arm tied behind his back and Bryan was blindfolded, then the bell sounded. As the Players worked on Bryan and Kane, Cole plugged a look at where D-Young has been as of late during Friday's Smackdown. Bryan had enough and bailed from the ring, where he "accidentally" slapped Kane. Bryan then felt this way through the dark to hot-tag Kane. Kane used his free hand to blast D-Young before kicking Titus away. Kane then one-hand chokeslammed D-Young for the pin and the win.

Post-match, Bryan entered the ring and tried to find Kane to celebrate, but he was still in the dark. Ref Charles Robinson then removed the hood to reveal...Daniel Bryan! Bryan was as stunned as the rest of the audience to see himself. Bryan and Kane celebrated their victory.

WINNERS: Kane & Bryan at 3:33.

Up Next: The Shield delivers a message at the top of the hour.

[Commercial Break]

Back on Raw one minute before the top of the hour, Cole and Lawler recapped events from "earlier tonight" when Paul Heyman and Vince McMahon's "fight" turned into a brawl between Brock Lesnar and Triple H.

[Q9 -- third hour] The recap spilled over into the first few minutes of the third hour.

On-camera, Cole and Lawler noted they want to hear from the audience on the Hunter-Lesnar fight. They will play Touts later tonight.

The Shield's Message

The Shield's music played to interrupt Cole and Lawler, then Ambrose & Rollins emerged in one aisle while Reigns emerged from another aisle in the arena. The trio marched down to the ring before Rollins grabbed mics from ringside.

In the ring, Dean Ambrose said things are going to become a lot worse before they get better. Ambrose said there will be chaos until they restore justice and honor to WWE. Shield said they make a lot of people "back there" very uncomfortable. He said that's too bad. Ambrose noted WWE can assemble any super-army they want, but that will not stop them from completing their mission. Reigns said they will win every single time and if they don't believe that or believe in The Shield, then justice will hunt you down.

Seth Rollins spoke next that at TLC, they defeated Team Hell No and Ryback. Then, at Elimination Chamber, they did something that no one thought they could: solved the John Cena Problem. "Yay!" one vocal male in the crowd shouted. Rollins said if that wasn't warning enough, the wannabe, washed-up Rockstar named Chris Jericho stuck his neck out last week. But, he stuck it out too far, because he put his knee to Jericho's throat. Just like they dropped Ryback, Sheamus, and Cena. "Is there anyone else who wants to step up?!" Rollins shouted.

Suddenly, Sheamus's music interrupted. Rollins said "else," but Sheamus said he wants to fight tonight. Sheamus stood on-stage and called The Shield to come on down. Shield's Ambrose and Reigns left the ring and marched toward Sheamus, but Rollins stayed behind. Suddenly, Randy Orton snuck in the ring, tapped Rollins on the shoulder, and delivered an RKO. Orton then ran out of the ring and ran into the crowd to stand tall among the people. Ambrose and Reigns jumped back into the ring to check on Rollins as Orton posed in the crowd. On commentary, Cole wondered aloud if it was wise to kick the hornet's nest.

Overall, it appears WWE is setting up Shield vs. Sheamus & Orton and a third person at WrestleMania. But, at this rate during the three-hour Raw era, it will be in the next segment or next week.

Still to come: Cena vs. Punk. Up next, it's Swagger vs. Miz.

[Commercial Break]

Next Week: Old-School Raw.

Moments Ago: Cole recapped Orton dropping Rollins with an RKO as Sheamus distracted The Shield.

In-ring: Jack Swagger was standing by in the ring, flanked by Zeb Colter. The Miz was then introduced to face Swagger.

6 -- JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter) vs. THE MIZ

Miz ducked an early punch before dumping Swagger clear over the top rope. That was enough for Cole to declare that Miz is on-fire. Miz was too aggressive trying to follow up on the outside, leading to Swagger planting him on the floor with a big suplex. WWE cut to a backstage shot of Del Rio and Ricardo watching the match as Cole continued to advertise Del Rio vs. Swagger for the World Title at WrestleMania. Meanwhile, Lawler brought up Cole trying to get a word from Glenn Beck earlier in the day, but Glenn refused.

[Q10] Back in the ring, Swagger assaulted Miz with an aggressive attack. Miz tried to mount a comeback, but Swagger ran him over with a knock-down clothesline. Meanwhile, the announcers wondered aloud if Colter brain-washed Swagger. Swagger delivered a Swagger Bomb for a nearfall, then tried to wear down Miz. Lawler instilled fear in the audience's minds by solemnly asking what will happen if Swagger becomes World champ at WrestleMania, setting up Del Rio to erase that fear via victory at Mania.

Swagger continued to wear down Miz, who came back with a clothesline into a running boot to the mouth. Miz followed with a corner clothesline before climbing to the top rope. Miz wanted a flying attack and connected with a double axehandle. Miz covered, but Swagger escaped the pin attempt. Suddenly, Miz found himself caught in the ropes, setting up Swagger to target Miz's leg.

Miz finally freed himself from the ropes and sold an injury before Swagger chopblocked him. Zeb's eyes lit up as he saw Miz in a compromised position before giving instructions to Swagger. Swagger followed with the Patriot Lock and Miz had no choice but to tap out. Swagger kept it locked in a few extra seconds to make Miz cry out in pain selling the leg injury.

WINNER: Swagger via submission at 7:11. You wouldn't even know "Mr. Swagger" was arrested for DUI and possession six days ago since nothing has changed from last week to this week. It's clear that WWE sees more value in building up Swagger strong for Del Rio to knock down at Mania than to suspend Swagger before Mania to send a message that his behavior was unacceptable and punishable.

Ringside: Lawler and Cole were shown munching on Sonic as part of an in-show promotion. Cole talked about new spicy food from Sonic's menu as Lawler, who suffered an on-air heart attack in September, munched on tater-tots.

Video Recap: The Rock unveiled a new WWE Title belt last week. Then, C.M. Punk blasted John Cena with the old title belt to end last week's Raw.

Up Next: John Cena speaks before facing C.M. Punk in the main event.

[Commercial Break]

Coming back from break, WWE aired Triple H's mid-Raw tout aimed at Brock Lesnar. "Are you going to stand around and bleed or do something about it?" was Hunter's big line.

Back live, Cole and Lawler relayed news that it took 18 staples to close the gash in Lesnar's head following his brawl with Triple H in the opening segment. Cole then fed a collection of touts from WWE fans commenting on the Hunter-Lesnar brawl. One fan said Lesnar will retire Hunter once and for all. Another video speculated on Lesnar vs. Hunter "hopefully at WrestleMania." All adhered to Bruce Mitchell's Rules For Having Your Tout Played On-Air - play up the storyline.

[Q11] Backstage, Josh Mathews brought in John Cena for his first appearance of the show. Cena quickly jumped into promo mode, noting they are moments away from Thunderdome in Dallas. Two men enter. One man leaves with a chance at immortality. Cena said he will face C.M. Punk, a man who says Cena can't win the big one when it's all on the line. Cena said he asked for this match tonight to prove that Punk is wrong. He said he once held the WWE Title for 380 days, has been to the mountain-top ten times, and none of that matters tonight. No excuses. No second-place. "Tonight, either step up or step aside," Cena said.

Cena said he asked for this match to prove that John Cena is back. He vowed to serve humble pie to all of his critics. And, if you haven't given up on Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect, then you know that "their time is up and our time is now." Cena signed off.

Up Next: Cena vs. Punk. Lawler went heavy on hyperbole, calling it the most important match of their careers ever.

Cole and Lawler were then shown on-camera to set up a plug for Chris Jericho hosting "Robot Combat League" premiering tomorrow night on Syfy.

[Commercial Break. "Duck Dynasty" spot during the break. Still waiting for a D-Bryan vs. Uncle Si beard vs. beard deal. Also during the break, a spot for "Dead Man Down" aired.]

Back live, Cole and Lawler were shown on-camera. Cole said you never know what's going to happen at a WWE live event, then Lawler narrated a tout of Undertaker's entrance returning at the Saturday house show in Waco. He said it's that time of the year when "rumors and speculation" abound about whether Taker will return for WrestleMania. Apparently this was a "reminder" of who Taker is before returning to TV, similar to WWE "accidentally" playing Ric Flair's "Whoo!" the segment before Flair made a surprise return a few months ago.

In-ring: Cult of Personality brought out C.M. Punk for the TV main event. Lawler said it's for all the marbles tonight. Once int he ring, Punk knelt down on the mat and glared toward the ring entrance. After a noticeable pause, John Cena's music played to a loud initial reaction. As kids jumped up and down in the arena, Cena stormed the stage and declared, "Our time...is now." Cena then charged the ring to survey the arena and fire up the crowd. Cole and Lawler set the stage for the match, then Cole noted they have a tendency to over-hype some matches, but this is not one of those. Some self-awareness on WWE's part.

Once everyone was assembled in the ring, Justin Roberts handled formal ring introductions. Punk flashed his cross-arm pose to the hard camera before Cena was introduced to a 90-percent-favorable reaction. Lawler said he thinks Cena looks a little nervous, and Cole surmised that it could be because Cena gave up his Rumble victory in order to prove that he can beat Punk.

7 -- JOHN CENA vs. C.M. PUNK -- Winner advances to face WWE champion The Rock at WM29

The bell sounded and the other 10 percent made their voices heard engaging the pro-Cena audience in a back-and-forth "Let's Go Cena / Cena Sucks" dueling chant. Cena and Punk went back-and-forth early on, then Cena delivered a hip toss that sent Punk rolling to the outside to sell a back injury. Cole said the main event rolls on next.

[Q12] [Commercial Break]

Back from break, Punk was in control of the match as Lawler described the tension in the ring tonight. Cena then over-powered Punk as Lawler wondered aloud if The Rock has a favorite in this match. Punk again slowed the pace with a mathold, drawing loud "Cena, Cena" chants from the pro-Cena audience. Cena punched at Punk to get separation, then delivered a flying shoulder tackle, but Punk ducked a second tackle and Cena went flying to the outside. "C'mon, John!" a small kid said from the front row. Punk then flew through the ropes with a suicide dive to Cena. Punk rolled Cena back into the ring as Raw cut to break, with no sense of urgency from Cole that Punk was about to attempt a pin that could have ended Cena's Road to Mania.

[Commercial Break]

Before returning to the match, WWE ran an ad for the Social Media Smackdown episode this Friday. The Rock was included in the hype video, but Rock is not scheduled for Smackdown.

Cena vs. Punk returned at 13:35, four minutes before the top of the hour. Punk was in control, but Cena started to build momentum with shoulder tackles, but Punk "read Cena's book," and slapped on the Anaconda Vice. Cole sold a sense of urgency for Cena, who countered the Vice with a side roll-up for a two count. Punk came back with a strike for a nearfall of his own. Punk then nailed a top-rope flying clothesline, but Cena kicked out of a pin attempt.

At 15:30, Punk crawled to the ring apron to measure Cena. Punk tried a springboard smash, but Cena side-stepped Punk and slapped on the STF center-ring. Punk fought the hold, then reversed into the Vice. But, Cena over-powered Punk back into the STF. Cena sold crazy intensity, then Punk used Cena's momentum to push him on his shoulders for a close two count.

[Q13 -- over-run] Cena vs. Punk hit the over-run with both men selling the effects of the previous sequence. They came to their feet and started trading bombs. Cena got his hands up to block, but Punk kicked him in the gut. Punk tried a headbutt, but Cena no-sold. Punk then landed a roundhouse kick to the gut that doubled-over Cena. But, Cena finally nailed the sit-out slam to get the crowd fired up. Cena tried the Shuffle, but Punk kicked him in the face. Punk tried the GTS, but Cena escaped, only to have Punk roll him up for a close nearfall.

Cole reset the match as both men recovered in opposite corners. At 18:30, Punk blasted Cena in the face with a high knee. Punk then tried a bulldog, but Cena delivered the sit-out slam. You Can't See Me, Five Knuckle Shuffle, and Cena waited for the AA. Punk slipped out, though, and then Cena delivered a very rare sit-out powerbomb. Cena covered, but Punk kicked out just before three. Cole, Lawler, and the crowd flipped out after the close call. Cena was shown talking to himself, wondering what he has to do to put Punk away. Cole told a story of Cena perhaps doubting himself at this point.

Right at 20:00, Cena climbed to the top turnbuckle for a high-risk move. Cena wanted the guillotine legdrop, but Punk punched him before Cena could try the move. Punk then climbed up-top to attempt a superplex, but Cena headbutted Punk to block. This put Punk on the mat, then Cena measured Punk for the guillotine and he connected. Cena covered, but Punk kicked out again. After the nearfall, Cena questioned himself and the ref. "It's electric in Dallas!" Cole declared.

WWE went to a wide-shot of the arena to show the WM29 banner hanging in the rafters before going back to the ring to show Punk deliver another high-knee in the corner. Punk wanted the bulldog, but Cena countered with the AA. Cena quickly covered, but Punk kicked out again. Cena flopped to the mat in disbelief over Punk kicking out. Cole said something has to give tonight, and they seem to have hit over-time.

Suddenly, Cena found himself on the outside after the close call. The ref hit nine, Cena was still on the floor, and Cena suddenly flung his body back into the ring just before ten. "This is incredible," Cole said before noting both men are in the prime of their careers. Punk then stalked Cena for the GTS and connected. Punk covered Cena, but Cena kicked out just before three. Punk, angry, wanted another GTS, but Cena intercepted by grabbing Punk's leg and slapping on the STF. The crowd went nuts as Punk teased tapping out. Punk tried to crawl toward the bottom rope, and he lunged toward the bottom rope for a break.

The crowd came down as the two men recovered and reset. "What else can they do?" Cole asked just before the 25-minute mark. At 25:00, Cena tried to follow up on Punk, but Punk kicked him in the knee. Punk then lifted up Cena for a piledriver and he connected. "A piledriver to Cena!" Cole said, selling shock over the move and its impact after not being seen on TV for years. Punk covered, but Cena kicked out. Punk tried again, but Cena escaped again. Lawler said he's spent watching this; Cole said he wants to know what Rock is thinking watching this.

At 26:00, a loud "Let's Go Cena / Cena Sucks" chant picked up. Punk then climbed to the top turnbuckle and wanted the Macho Man elbow, but Cena moved. Cena then snapped off a huracanrana that he experimented with at a house show last night. Cena followed with another AA and this one was good for the pin and the win. After the bell, Cole listed all of the adjectives he could think of to sell the emotion, passion, and energy that both men brought to the match.

After a recap of the finish, WWE aired a tweet from The Rock congratulating Cena on the victory. He said he'll see Cena at WrestleMania. As Cena declared on-stage, "I'm coming home," Cena signed off 12 minutes past the top of the hour.

WINNER: Cena at 26:32. A classic TV match. About as close to five-stars as a TV match can get on TV with Cena and Punk just have this perfect chemistry in the ring. It's also worth noting that Michael Cole - aided by Lawler - offered one of his best career calls. Bottom line is WWE effectively set the stage for both men desperately wanting to main-event WrestleMania for a shot at the WWE Title and then everyone executed their roles in telling that story. Concerning Mania, it came across like WWE wanted to tell the Cena Story this week to officially set up Cena-Rock at Mania, then they will shift to Punk's Mania Story next week. Good decision to hold off on Taker this week.

Alerts: Follow PWTorch staffer's live, real-time tweets during Raw at Twitter.com/PWTorch/torch-staff .

We welcome your 0-10 score and comments on this show for a "Raw Reax" feature in the Torch Feedback section of PWTorch.com. To contribute your thoughts on Raw, email to pwtorch@gmail.com .


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