Monday Night Raw recap: Time to forget the past, Lawler collapses

After 15 years, it appears the infamous Montreal Screwjob may finally be put to rest.

The events of that fateful November night will certainly live on in the minds of wrestling fans, who continue to debate and scrutinize just how much of what transpired had been planned in advance.

But now, two months shy of the 15th anniversary, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels have publicly buried the hatchet with a hug in the ring (which went better than last week's between Kane and Daniel Bryan), Hart got his revenge on Vince McMahon by defeating him at WrestleMania and Hart received a hero's welcome from the fans in Montreal.

Hart opened the show to the cheers of the fans, and the Hall of Famer had to stand silent for the first few minutes while those in attendance showed their support and admiration with applause and a "Thank You, Bret" chant.

The moment came across as a special one for Hart and the fans alike, and this truly seems to be the last piece of closure to moving past the Screwjob -- and that's honestly something long overdue.

As mentioned before, the events of SummerSlam 1997 are forever ingrained in pro wrestling history, but it's time to let the past be the past and move beyond replaying the scenario and dredging up the sorrows of the past.

Hart's special moment on Raw, though, was ruined by WWE Champion CM Punk, who came out with his own words for Hart, as well as Jerry "The King" Lawler and John Cena.

The saddest part of the whole experience, which seems surreal on many levels, is that it's only a tease of what could have been had Punk's career come at a different time.

The self-proclaimed "Best in the World" vs. the "Best These Is, The Best There Was and the Best There Ever Will Be" would have been a big-money match, but alas it's one that will have to transpire on a video game.

Hart returned to the ring for the end of the show, which had to be a difficult task given the circumstances. He moderated a promo exchange between Punk and Cena, which came across extremely well in establishing their character roles.

When Punk declared himself better than Shawn Michaels, the crowd turned on Punk, and it only continued when the champ declared himself better than "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock, as well.

The match between Punk and Cena got a final bit of hype, and both men came across as stronger characters than they've been in recent weeks. The winner in that will be the fans who watch Sunday's Night of Champions pay-per-view.

Punk has certainly earned his reputation, but at the end of the day, this night in Montreal was about one man -- the best there was, the best there is and the best there will ever be.

Quick Hits

• Lawler collapsed at ringside during the tag team match pitting the Prime Time Players against Kane and Bryan. By the time this is published, there will likely be more news available about the situation, but Lawler is in our collective thoughts and prayers. Here's hoping everything is alright for the King.

• Punk and Randy Orton had a really good television match that seemingly ended with a disqualification when Dolph Ziggler interfered. Lawler hit the ring to even the score, and the match was restarted as a tag team match. The action continued to be really good, but the storytelling was taken to an entirely different level when Punk left the ring to talk to Paul Heyman at ringside, allowing Orton to pick up the win over Ziggler. Orton receives much criticism from wrestling fans -- and I've done my fair share myself -- but he really doesn't deserve as much negativity as he receives. Lawler, as well, continues to perform exceptionally well for his age.

• The reigning Tag Team Champions logically should prevail over a team of two guys who have never tagged together before, but it was a shame to see United States Champion Antonio Cesaro take a pinfall. Cesaro and Intercontinental Champion The Miz had a good television match with Kofi Kingston and R-Truth. They didn't seem to hit high-gear, but what they did looked good, and I would enjoy seeing Cesaro work more with either guy, especially Kingston, in the future. Word on the street is that he really doesn't like people with that last name, anyway.

• Cody Rhodes needed the win he picked up over Rey Mysterio. Rhodes has been on the losing end of things too much lately, and this win gave him some good momentum. The match was really good, as these two continue to have great chemistry, but it was really odd to not have commentary, as Michael Cole left the booth out of respect to Lawler. The Miz was involved in the finish, and after the match, Rhodes laid him out while raising the Intercontinental Championship. That was certainly an interesting development, and it seems we may see a multi-man match at Night of Champions.

• As much as I enjoy Titus O'Neil and Darren Young as a tag team, I'm glad WWE has pulled the trigger while things are hot with Kane and Bryan. The company struck gold with this pairing, and a run as tag team champs could prove memorable. It makes Night of Champions much more appealing than another Kingston and R-Truth vs. Prime Time Players match. The action itself in this match was really good, but the entire atmosphere was affected by the incident with Lawler. Cole's voice became sporadic on commentary and the fans were obviously more focused on Lawler. Kudos to all four men for focusing on the match at hand rather than becoming distracted themselves.

• During the legal deposition with Sheamus, David Otunga and Ricardo Rodriguez, the World Heavyweight Champion's lawyer said Otunga's questioning was "bordering on absurd." The same could be said about the segment. Comedic Sheamus may be more annoying than comedic Cena - and that says a lot. In their match, Sheamus used the banned Brogue Kick before making Otunga tap to the Texas Cloverleaf. Smackdown General Manager Booker T decreed that if Sheamus uses the move again, he will be stripped of the world title.

• Multi-divas matches sometimes work better than singles matches because they still receive limited time, which allows each woman to get her spots in without being required to carry too much weight. That's what happened when Divas Champion Layla, Kaitlyn and Eve defeated Beth Phoenix, Natalya and Alicia Fox. The action was short, but sweet, and the finish saw continued tension between Eve and Layla.

• Tyson Kidd using the Sharpshooter on Alberto Del Rio was a nice nod to the Montreal crowd. But it came as no surprise that Del Rio picked up an easy victory over Kidd. At least they gave the Canadian star even the slightest chance to shine. After the match, Del Rio called out Sheamus and declared himself the next World Heavyweight Champion.

• WWE seems to be building a rivalry between Zack Ryder and Heath Slater. How they expect to do that by jobbing the latter to Ryback is a little baffling. Like most Ryback matches, there wasn't much to this.

• An "Ole! Ole! Ole!" chant broke out in the crowd early in the show. Somewhere in a far away land, a generic luchador cracked a smile.

Match Rundown

Kofi Kingston d. R-Truth Eve, Layla and Kaitlyn d. Alicia Fox, Natalya and Beth Phoenix Randy Orton and Jerry Lawler d. Dolph Ziggler and CM Punk Ryback d. Heath Slater Alberto Del Rio d. Tyson Kidd Sheamus d. Alberto Del Rio Cody Rhodes d. Rey Mysterio

My Take

To call tonight's Raw a strange affair would be an understatement. The wrestling on the show was all top notch, but the whole aura of the show was thrown into disarray in the wake of the Lawler incident. I have the utmost respect for everyone who went out and continued to put on a show after that, especially Michael Cole. I give mad props to everyone involved with the show. With this recap, I tried to continue in the way that I would on any given night, just as WWE did. The company did a tremendous job of providing updates through the night. In the end, one has to wonder how this show would have been received without the incident, as it was a solid Raw. But, it's really Lawler's health and safety that matters the most, so it's nice to see Raw end with a positive outlook. Get well soon, King. The WWE Universe is pulling for you.

Ring Posts' Adam Testa has teamed up with My 1-2-3 Cents (www.my123cents.com) and All American Pro Wrestling (www.aapwrestling.com) to bring you From the Rafters Radio,(www.facebook.com/RaftersRadio) a weekly pro wrestling talk radio show airing from 8-10 EST every Thursday on Monster Radio 1150 AM in Southern Illinois and streaming worldwide on wggh.net (www.wggh.net).