WWE Monday Night RAW Wrestlers of the Week 4.16.12
By Neil Borenstein
Each week here at 1wrestling.com, I will select three of the top wrestlers from the Monday Night RAW brand and present them to you in inverse order as the show’s Wrestlers of the Week. In choosing the brand’s top three superstars, performances from that week’s RAW and any relevant preceding programming will be taken into consideration. This is a RAW exclusive. However, SmackDown brand wrestlers will be eligible if they appear with any significance on that week’s RAW broadcast.
Monday Night RAW Wrestlers of the Week for April 16, 2012
3. Daniel Bryan – for building up some confidence going into his two-out-of-three falls World Heavyweight Title rematch by forcing Kofi Kingston into submission:
Daniel Bryan’s 18-second loss of the World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus at WrestleMania did not exactly hurt his popularity. Fans are still very much aboard his bandwagon and have made that increasingly clear by making “Yes!” the WWE’s newest money catchphrase.
Bryan’s confidence has not diminished, either, and he has taken steps to climb right back up the ladder in the WWE by ditching AJ as his girlfriend and utilizing his rematch clause for the World Heavyweight Championship. On last week’s episode of Smackdown, Bryan announced that he would see Sheamus at Extreme Rules. And to avoid the same embarrassment suffered at WrestleMania, Bryan implemented a two-out-of-three falls stipulation to assure that another 18-second loss would not squash all hope for him to reclaim the gold.
Though he never really valued AJ being his girlfriend and seems just fine not having her by his side, that doesn’t mean he wants others to hang around her. Bryan took great offense to Kofi Kingston talking to AJ backstage on RAW and stepped in to make it clear that it wasn’t open season. He then threatened to put Kingston in the LaBell Lock later on in the ring before renaming the move the Yes Lock, and then he proceeded to scream “Yes!” repeatedly until Kingston decided to just walk away.
Walking away wasn’t going to be an option for Kingston in their match, however. He suffered a decent amount of punishment in the early stages of this match and played quite a bit of defense against Bryan.
He did finally break through with a late rally, however, and managed to come up with a near fall off an SOS. After Bryan kicked out at two, Kofi kept on top of him by kicking him in the corner and getting another boot to Bryan’s head as he drilled him charging in at the opposite corner. An aerial maneuver by Kingston was temporarily put on hold when Bryan met him up top and attempted a superplex. A headbutt by Kingston dropped Bryan back to the mat and allowed Kingston to go for a crossbody. Bryan moved out of the way, though, and quickly slapped on the Yes Lock that Kingston had no option but to tap out to.
After the match, Bryan decided to put Kingston right back into the Yes Lock. But Sheamus hit the ring for the save and tried to take Bryan’s head off with a Brogue Kick. Bryan ducked and escaped from the ring, staying just one step ahead of The Celtic Warrior.
Sheamus is a much larger and more dominating opponent than Kingston is, so Bryan will need to bring a different offensive strategy with him to Extreme Rules. But he does seem to be focused and mentally prepared to avoid another 18-second defeat when he steps back into the ring with Sheamus, which is a good sign as he looks to reclaim the World Heavyweight Championship that so quickly left his grasp at WrestleMania.
2. Lord Tensai – for coming up with a huge victory in main event action over John Cena:
Lord Tensai has not been back in the WWE very long, but he’s already made an immediate impact. The man better known as A-Train or Prince Albert to long standing fans comes back from Japan with a renewed sense of ability and confidence. Thus far, he has made victims out of Alex Riley and Yoshi Tatsu in dominating fashion. But his biggest test to date would come on this week’s episode of RAW, where general manager John Laurinaitis would look to him to take care of some dirty work.
It’s clear that Laurinaitis is not John Cena’s biggest fan. One need not look further than Laurinaitis bringing Brock Lesnar back into the WWE for the purposes of re-introducing “legitimacy” back into the company to prove that point. Cena is ready to take on that challenge and isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with Lesnar at Extreme Rules, as witnessed by the slap to the face he delivered to the former-UFC Heavyweight Champion last week on RAW. But that doesn’t mean Laurinaitis won’t take some steps to try and hurt his chances en route to the pay-per-view.
So, after Cena was finished delivering a rousing promo to address that he was coming to fight Lesnar at Extreme Rules, Laurinaitis hit the arena in London to inform Cena that a contract signing will take place next week on RAW – and that he has an Extreme Rules Match scheduled for later on in the show to give the people a taste of what’s to come in two weeks. And just to keep things interesting, Laurinaitis wouldn’t reveal who Cena’s opponent would be.
When the main event finally rolled around, it turned out that Laurinaitis selected Lord Tensai to serve as Cena’s opponent. Cena didn’t quite expect that, as could be seen by the look on his face. But Tensai’s sheer size and power could provide Cena a decent warm-up for what he’s in store for at Extreme Rules.
Unfortunately for Cena, he just better hope the result turns out differently at the pay-per-view.
Tensai was dominant in this matchup and stifled almost every attempt Cena put out there at trying to get some offense in. But Tensai would realize that putting Cena away for good is no easy task.
After a back splash on the mat failed to net him a pinfall, he seemed to be a bit surprised that Cena was still able to go. So, he grabbed the arm of Cena in hopes of putting a submission hold on him. When Cena rolled through and locked on an STF, though, it should have been the end for the big man.
Instead, David Otunga entered the ring. Cena saw him coming and released the hold on Tensai so that he could drop Otunga with an Attitude Adjustment. But when he turned back around toward Tensai, he caught a shot of green mist to the face. Tensai was then able to drop Cena with the sitout two-handed chokeslam to capture a surprise three-count over the former-12-time heavyweight champion.
I still can’t get behind this treatment toward Cena, who deserves a hell of a lot better from the WWE. But for Tensai, this win is monumental in getting him over as a dominating big man. He worked over Cena really well during the match and managed to come out with the victory, despite needing some help along the way to get the three-count. It’s just a matter of time before Tensai is engaged in some sort of meaningful feud; perhaps even against Cena once his whole deal with Lesnar is said and done
1. CM Punk – for using a no countout, no disqualification stipulation to his advantage against Mark Henry in retaining the WWE Championship:
CM Punk’s greatest nemesis right now is undoubtedly Chris Jericho, who took his lumps at WrestleMania but remains steadfast in his pursuit to turn Punk into a raging alcoholic. Jericho bashing beer bottles over his head and spilling liquor all over his body has definitely played heavily on the mind of Punk over the past few weeks.
But he’s had a much larger foe to try and conquer inside the ring, as well. And he has managed to escape with the WWE Championship in hand on two separate occasions over the past two RAWs by losing to Mark Henry by both countout and disqualification.
It only made sense that this week would provide Henry another chance at securing the WWE Title. This time, he would open the show to face Punk with the belt on the line in a no countout, no disqualifications matchup.
While those terms would initially appear to favor Henry a great deal heading into this match, it was that very set of rules that ended up working in Punk’s favor by the time the final bell rang. Much like their bout two weeks ago, there was a great deal of action before the final result. And it played Henry’s power advantage against Punk’s ability and resilience very well.
But what really influenced the ending of this match was the introduction of a steel chair by Punk. Initially, the foreign weapon worked just as much against him as it did for him. Henry, who took a whack at Punk, soon abandoned use of the chair by sticking it in between the turnbuckles in one of the corners. And that’s what would end up benefiting Punk the most.
After the champ broke free from a rough bear hug and planted Henry into the mat with a DDT, he headed up top from a crossbody attempt. Henry caught him and looked to deliver a World’s Strongest Slam, but Punk broke free when Henry lifted him and came right back at the World’s Strongest Man with a devastating kick to the side of the head. Punk ran into Henry in the corner with a knee to the face before holding on for what he hoped would be the running bulldog. Henry threw Punk off, however, and geared up for a charge at him into the opposite turnbuckles. That’s where the steel chair was placed, though, and Punk dodged the attack by Henry to send him crashing face-first into it. Henry reeled to the mat and remained there as Punk grabbed the chair and headed up top. He signaled up above and came flying off for an elbow drop with the steel chair. It landed perfectly and Punk was able to cover up for a decisive pinfall that should end this series of matchups with Henry.
Punk had to deal with some more shenanigans from Jericho after the match, as Y2J showed a video up on the Tron of Punk walking in and out of a pub. He also informed Punk that he was granted a WWE Championship Match at Extreme Rules.
That match should favor Punk, however, as it comes with a Chicago Street Fight stipulation. Punk is thrilled to be able to face Jericho under those conditions in front of the family he has insulted. Of course, that doesn’t mean Jericho doesn’t have plenty up his sleeve to combat Punk. But with Henry seemingly out of the way and Jericho giving Punk plenty of reasons to beat the crap out of him, the champion will be plenty stoked to take on Jericho in two weeks.