Mind games before SummerSlam

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July 30, 2007

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Less than four weeks away from the biggest party of the summer, SummerSlam, Superstars were already playing mind games with each other and appeared hell-bent on sending messages throughout the locker room and all of WWE. But Cody Rhodes may have sent the most definitive message with his first victory Monday night on Raw: I belong in WWE and I will not back down from anything, no matter what the odds are.

Cody breathed a sigh of relief and pumped his fist as he looked at the fallen body of Daivari with his blackened eye. For two weeks, our fans -- and especially Acting Raw GM Jonathan Coachman -- watched Cody valiantly try to defend the honor of his father, the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes and his family against Randy Orton, only to fall victim to the RKO. And Cody watched in horror as Orton punted his father into oblivion -- and the Dream was taken away from the ring on a stretcher.

Coachman, noting that Cody was winless in his first two matches, gave the newcomer a simple ultimatum: win or go home. Prove that you belong in WWE and win an official spot on the Raw roster with a victory over Daivari.

The pressure on the youngest son of Dusty Rhodes was enormous. Besides having his young career already at a critical point, his ailing father -- who was at home in Austin, Texas, recovering from a severe concussion -- had to weigh on his mind. In addition, Cody may have carried some lingering guilt that he was he was responsible for his father's injury.

However, the son of the son of a plumber showed the heart and resolve that was a hallmark in his father's career. He overcame his personal demons and self-doubt and managed to defeat Daivari, and showed the Raw locker room that he had arrived. (WATCH)

Also on Raw, Randy Orton, Coachman's handpicked No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship, used Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter and Carlito to send a loud and clear message to WWE Champion John Cena: I'm coming for your championship and your career at SummerSlam, but before then, I'm going to make your life a living hell. (WATCH)

On the heels of his brutal attack on the American Dream, the third-generation Superstar laid out Cena with an RKO from behind last week, drawing the line in the proverbial sand for their SummerSlam showdown.

To further show Cena that he was serious, Orton this week struck down another WWE legend, Sgt. Slaughter, the same way he has his other recent victims -- with a vicious skull-caving boot to the head. Read the latest on Sarge's condition here ... 

But Orton wasn't finished playing with Cena as he later cost him his non-title match against Carlito. The second-generation Caribbean Superstar wanted to prove that he deserved to be the No.1 contender by defeating Cena. Ironically, Orton helped Carlito prove his point when he distracted Cena and left him vulnerable to the Caribbean Superstar's Backstabber. (WATCH)

Carlito left Cena with chewed-up apple and spit dripping off his face. It appears that the infuriated Champ has a lot to think about, and must be wary of Orton in the weeks leading up to SummerSlam. Read the full story ... 

Another Superstar Cena may have to worry about is Mr. Kennedy, who also wanted to be the No. 1 contender. Kennedy made perhaps his loudest statement yet in WWE (and that's saying something). The braggadocios Superstar, who vowed to WWE.com over the weekend that he would somehow find a way to reclaim his top spot in WWE, was granted a request to battle Bobby Lashley to show that he deserved to be the No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship. Read the full story ...

There was a fire in Kennedy's booming voice and a gleam in his eyes that few of our fans and Superstars had ever seen in the Green Bay, Wis., native. The former Mr. Money in the Bank wanted to prove a point, and he sure did in his battle with Lashley. Kennedy did the unthinkable -- he injured the powerful former ECW Champion, who nearly ended Cena's nearly year-long championship reign at The Great American Bash. (WATCH)

Two rivals -- specifically royal rivals -- who failed to find a real resolution in their battle over the title "King" in WWE were King Booker and Jerry "The King" Lawler. The time for squabbling ended Monday night on Raw as Booker and Lawler attempted to once and for all settle the debate over who was true king of WWE in the squared circle. (WATCH)

But alas, though Lawler won by disqualification after Booker refused to stop punching him in the corner, Monday's battle between these regal rulers settled nothing. Monday night's encounter assured only one thing: Booker and Lawler are far apart from a diplomatic solution to their royal war. Read the full story ...

As kings in WWE, both Booker and Lawler love law and order in their kingdoms. And so apparently, does Santino Marella -- as long as it benefits him. Last week on Raw, Marella had used questionable tactics to help his paramour, Maria, and Women's Champion Candice Michelle get the victory in a tag team match, but Maria made him promise never to do that again.

This week, Marella was outraged when Melina, Jillian Hall & Beth Phoenix used chicanery to defeat Maria, Candice & Mickie James. The fiery Italian berated the referee and suggested that WWE had crooked referees, like the alleged ones in the NBA. As Santino's tirade continued, Intercontinental Champion Umaga -- who has never forgiven or forgotten Marella's upset win for his championship months ago -- stomped his way to the ring. The ref, against Marella's protests, rang the bell for an impromptu match, which the Samoan Bulldozer won in devastating fashion.

One team who looked impressive this week on Raw and may be looking to send a message in the tag team division is Cryme Tyme. The duo from Brooklyn, N.Y., returned after weeks of absence with a win. As is typical Cryme Tyme style, Shad and JTG brought a smile to our fans' faces when they made some "money, money … yeah, yeah!" after selling one of the boots of their hapless opponents to a member of the Raw fan nation.

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