BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Raw began only 24 hours after the conclusion to Night of Champions, but the controversial coda to the pay-per-view left a fallout so severe it felt like it had been brewing for years. From the second the opening pyro boomed, the WWE Universe was riled up, hungry for answers as to what the implications of the WWE Championship Match — a double pinfall draw that saw CM Punk retain his title against John Cena — would be. Salvation seemingly arrived moments into the show as the opening chords of “Cult of Personality” ripped through the Webster Bank Arena, and who should arrive but … Paul Heyman.
Far from a glimpse into the future, though, the mad scientist was only on hand to bring vindication to his friend’s dubious retention. Heyman wasted no time in summoning WWE referee Chad Patton, who officiated the title contest, to the ring to bring vindication to the double pinfall that left the title in Punk’s hands. Heyman produced not only a still photo from the title match, but somehow procured fan-shot footage from a camera phone in the front row of the fateful German suplex that led to the double pinfall. His work seemingly done, Heyman began to extol the virtues of The Second City Saint and took up the champion’s cause of demanding respect.
John Cena, however, was having none of it. The Cenation leader, showing no ill effects of the ankle injury he suffered at Night of Champions, stormed down to the ring and shockingly agreed with Patton’s decision, but not the “finality” of it. Unable and unwilling to accept that Punk and Cena’s roiling rivalry could possibly conclude in a double pinfall (and unwilling to give Punk respect based off of same), Cena offered up a solution: a title rematch later that same night.
Heyman, evoking his status as “The Voice of the Voice of the Voiceless,” began to respond until the overture of Alberto Del Rio’s music cut him and Cena off mid-sentence. The Essence of Excellence, still flanked by the injured Ricardo Rodriguez, wasted no time in condemning SmackDown General Manager Booker T’s reinstatement of the Brogue Kick, and the fact that it (according to Del Rio) cost him the World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions. As “the man who never lies,” Del Rio demanded that he receive a title rematch.
That brought out Raw GM AJ Lee to settle the debate: Eyes wide with the fire of inspiration, AJ declared she’d come up with a “super main event”: A tag match pitting WWE Champion CM Punk & Del Rio against World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus & Cena. “And who knows?” she concluded. “Whoever wins will go a long way toward determining if there will be a rematch and who will be in it.”
World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus & John Cena def. WWE Champion CM Punk & Alberto Del Rio
“Super main event” was, as it turns out, an understatement. Raw General Manager AJ Lee’s big idea for Raw’s main event — a tag match pitting Sheamus & John Cena against CM Punk & Alberto Del Rio — was a battle for the age. With four of WWE’s most dynamic competitors clashing between the ropes, rematch implications were on the line for the victors. And, when all was said and done, it was Cena who got the monkey off his back, finally getting a hard-earned pin over The Second City Saint to seal the contest for his team.
Surprisingly, The Voice of the Voiceless seemed to want no part of Cena following his narrow retention of the WWE Title at Night of Champions. Punk went out of his way to avoid a one-on-one matchup with the Cenation leader and either sent Del Rio in to do the dirty work or waited until Cena was outnumbered to get his licks in. The strategy didn’t last long, though. After ending up on the wrong exchange of a Cena offense, Sheamus tagged in and promptly pounded The Second City Saint into the corner before Punk managed to tag in Del Rio. The longtime rivals from opposite ends of the social spectrum clashed yet again, with victory seemingly in hand as Sheamus called for the Brogue Kick.
Punk’s instincts kicked in and a cheap shot on The Celtic Warrior saved the match for his team, leaving him an opportunity to tag in again. The WWE Champion got the better of Sheamus this time, trapping The Great White in a torturous-looking submission hold and slowing him down enough for Del Rio to re-enter the match. A strong surge from Del Rio met a brick wall, though, after The Celtic Warrior felled The Essence of Excellence with the Irish Curse.
Two tags later and Cena and Punk re-entered the fray, with Cena unleashing his signature sequence of moves, countering Punk’s counter into an STF before Del Rio broke up the hold … only to suffer a Brogue Kick that sent him into next week. Punk was next to strike, but his sneak attack on Sheamus left Cena just enough of an opportunity to send Punk flying with an AA and notch that long-elusive pin over the WWE Champion
The victory, hard-earned as it was, did not come without controversy. As Cena finally secured that three-count, Punk placed his foot on the bottom rope, negating the pin. But the official didn’t see Punk’s foot on the ropes, and counted the pin anyway. And so, 24 hours after controversy favored CM Punk, the scales tilted back in Cena’s favor. As Raw drew to a close, the final images were of Punk screaming at the official all the way up the ramp, with respect, peace of mind and a decisive victory over John Cena still eluding him.