Previously on Monday Night Raw
Or, more importantly I guess, Previously on Extreme Rules...
Chris Jericho's quest to best (and in the process, make) ballroom dancer Fandango continued through a dance-off that never included any footwork, to a pay-per-view (PPV) victory that was given a lot of time last night in St. Louis.
We've got a bevy of young talent wearing mid-card title belts. Despite both matches being booked one week ago on the Monday night flagship, Dean Ambrose and his Shield-mates Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins can all call themselves champions this morning. Ambrose took down Kofi Kingston for the United States championship and R & R beat the long-reigning Daniel Byran and Kane of Team Hell No.
This despite the group taking their first loss as a unit when the now-deposed tag champs and WWE champion John Cena (well, mostly Cena) earned a disqualification victory over the trio last week.
AJ Lee, still steaming over her man's concussion at the foot of Jack Swagger, was unable to help her BFF Big E Langston in his match against the Real American. She did break out her submission finisher for a big win over Natalya, but it wasn't enough to get her a match at the big show last night.
Speaking of The Big Show, his issues with Randy Orton didn't end well for the giant when the hometown boy punted him in the head at Extreme Rules last night. The sister feud between Mark Henry and Sheamus also saw the babyface (and I use that term loosely) go over.
All of the current events angles were poured into the Swagger - Alberto Del Rio "I Quit" bout in WWE's continued quest to get both men over by hook or by crook. In addition to tea party and immigration politics, we can now add instant replay in sports to the list. A decision for the big Oklahoman was overturned after referee Mike Chioda went to the monitors, and ADR is now the #1 contender for Dolph Ziggler's World Heavyweight Championship (WHC).
In the story of the other major title, Cena battled through his ankle injury but may have picked up several new ones in a brutal spotfest with Ryback. Big Hungry also failed to answer the official's call in time, and their last man standing match ended in a no-contest.
HHH and Brock Lesnar did manly things that don't matter a whole lot. More interesting and equally depressing for this writer, Damien Sandow and Antonio Cesaro continued to get jobbed out on Raw and then didn't merit a PPV appearance.
Cena couldn't overcome the odds enough to win his match and end the Ryback feud, but he did no-sell an ambulance and refuse to go to the hospital. The challenger who claims to #Rule did manage to stand up and walk away under his own power, just outside the window of a ten count. As shitty as a non-finish to a match you paid to see is, there is plenty of storyline fodder over which the two men can posture.
Daniel Bryan didn't take well to losing the bronze eagles. Kane's best efforts to convince him that he should apply Dr. Shelby's anger management techniques weren't working, and it looks like don't-call-me-goatface might be about to snap.
If standard WWE booking is in effect, Hell No and Kingston will probably get immediate rematches for their just-lost straps tonight.
The WHC should show his face in some capacity tonight. With Swagger seemingly out of the way for now, there's a program with the guy that Ricardo Rodriguez personally announces to be built. I'd expect Langston to continue to do the heavy-lifting for Ziggler, as WWE will hopefully treat a real concussion issue more seriously than any that the viper's punting may create in kayfabe.
The Divas will probably do something, even if that something is have lackluster matches, push their E! show and forget they had a secret admirer angle going.
Fallout shows have a history of being better than go-home shows for WWE of late, so that's something to be hopeful about. On the other hand, they've announced that Kevin Jonas of the Jonas Brothers will be tonight's social media ambassador, so expect Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole to talk about that until you want to blow up your television.
Expect to pop for:
The Shield. We can debate whether the belts they now hold are a step down from beating the Undertaker - I have and will - but it's undoubtedly true that it was time for them to do something. And if we have any hope or, dare I say it, belief that those straps can mean something again, this is a logical, pro wrestling thing to have them do. The optimistic way to look at it is: the former Tyler Black and Jon Moxley as WWE titleholders. The reality also is that for the now Ambrose and Rollins, as well as legacy superstar Reigns, what they do next is even more important.
The tag titles have been somewhat protected as long as cash cows Bryan and Kane were wearing them, but before Hell No, those belts weren't treated much better than the red, white and blue one that Dean's got after last night. Do they trash them? Unlikely. Crow about them? Maybe, but that - or ignoring their recent less-than-glorious history - doesn't really fit with the group's past promos. Proclaim them stepping stones on the path to changing the industry? Probably. But what's the endgame then?
Enjoy your moment of triumph, boys. You deserve it. But don't be surprised when we're all asking what you're going to do for us next.
John Cena. Credit where credit is due. Before the finish, that was probably my match of the night. His promos and schtick may grate, but the leader of the Cenation maybe foolishly puts his body on the line for our entertainment. So regardless of the understandable but still frustrating no contest, the battle with Ryback adds to the champ's record of working with unlikely opponents to create strong matches when the company needs him to. And on a show without the other major title and minus CM Punk, the company needed him to. Now they need him to keep it going, because there are no other contenders built up and/or immediately ready to challenge for his WWE championship.
The heat is on:
Daniel Bryan. The post-show seems to be positioning Bryan for a heel turn now that he and his partner are unencumbered by having to argue over which of them is "the tag team champions". And while I'm excited for a more serious D-Bry who every once in a while is in matches where he doesn't get pinned, I think WWE is leaving money on the table if they go in the rudo direction they seem to be.
No one else on the roster gets cheers and adoration from as wide a spectrum of fans as the man who doesn't want to be told that his face looks like that of a goat. His current character is a babyface that remains a good guy despite swinging from petulant child to delusional badass. A section of the audience (us) is never going to want to boo him. Why bend over backwards to get heat on him like you have to do with Punk? From Saturday Morning Slam to the JBL & Cole Show to Make-A-Wish appearances, everybody loves this guy. Why make him a bad guy - especially when it means keeping "the Devil's Favorite Demon", a character who once BBQ'd good old JR, a face?
Or, ally him with Cesaro and I'll shut right up.
All of the full-time roster members. Rock bounced after WrestleMania. Undertaker gave a few more weeks before heading back to Texas. Now with Lesnar, Triple H and soon Jericho ready to follow suit, there are opportunities for others to raise their game and get a shot at the main event. But there's a lot of responsibility there, too. Roster cut season is upon us, there's a ton of hungry and talented talent in NXT...this is not the time to drop the ball.
Unless you're Jack Swagger. Then, I guess you can do whatever the hell you want.
It's make or break time for the "the months after WrestleMania are booked for the smarks" theory. Can a Raw that should feature The Shield and Daniel Bryan shift us into the right gear?
Give us your theories below, join the live blog crew tonight and check back tomorrow for reactions and news concerning Monday Night Raw right here at Cageside Seats!