Previously on Monday Night Raw
Newly re-heeled (to everyone but himself and his mejor amigo Ricardo Rodriguez) Alberto Del Rio came out to tell the Universe how they had done him wrong while he was a babyface. Newly returned Best in the World, CM Punk, came out to take issue with ADR's claims of greatness.
Team Brickie saw a match, and made themselves a main event.
When Paul Heyman tried to talk him out of fighting for free, Punk told him that he'd always be his guy, but that he didn't need his help anymore.
To the delight of peeps like me everywhere, Vickie Guerrero's second move of the evening was to bring back Christian for a match against the rapidly plummeting down the card Wade Barrett.
In the show's major subplot, the Managing General Supervisor was asked some questions about her approach to leadership by the Chief Operating Officer, HHH. Later, both his wife (Vice-President Stephanie McMahon) and father-in law (Chairman Vince McMahon) would offer advice to Guerrero and her assistant, Brad Maddox.
Kane and Daniel Bryan went their separate ways, in a break up that was considerably more moving than Heyman and Punk's. Bryan would go on to have words of his own with The Game, when his match with Randy Orton was stopped due to a stinger.
New Divas champ AJ Lee got more mic time on Raw than the last ten Divas titleholders combined, and while her former best friend Kaitlyn still wants revenge, she also has a billion dollar princess either trying to bury or right her path - depending on who you talk to.
The Shield ran wild - earning Vince's admiration and HHH's ire. Antonio Cesaro earned both my admiration and ire by allying himself with Zeb Colter.
Mark Henry - world's greatest actor. Is he the next WWE champion?
The World Heavyweight Champion (WHC) walked out of his match with Punk, and into an attack from the irate former WHC, Dolph Ziggler. Then, the biggest Paul Heyman guy came out and F5'd Chicago's favorite straight-edge son - with a smile.
Was Brock Lesnar acting alone, or did Heyman not take CM Punk's declaration of independence as well as he pretended to last week?
The most interesting story in the business takes its latest chapter to a third round. Will Bryan get a clean win on the flagship show? Is Orton as good of a guy as he's seemed to be the last few weeks?
Will John Cena respond to Henry's theater and attack with intensity or jokes?
And a whole lot is riding on the McMahon family now. Luckily, they seem to be taking this story away from the concussion angle (that seems to be Ziggler's road to babyface-dom now). But last week they pulled The Shield and AJ Lee - arguably four of the biggest stars that WWE has created in the last couple years - into their orbit. With Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy still in the rear view, I'm not ready for another power struggle story. At least the dynamics of this one are different with Vickie and beautiful Brad in the middle.
Should be interesting...
Expect to pop for:
Paul Heyman Guys. Past, present and future. The Intercontinental Champion. The Best in the World. The Beast Incarnate. The Whole F'n Show.
And the man himself.
Is anyone not psyched for Punk vs. Lesnar? As great as that match (or matches) will be, is there anything more exciting than the thought of the straight-edge superstar dropping pipe bombs in a feud where Heyman can return verbal molotov cocktails in his direction? Watching them interact as a team was golden, I think watching them on opposite sides might melt my TV.
Curtis Axel is floundering a little bit, but he's gone from Superstars to IC champ in about a month. Hopefully, Paul E. doesn't leave him to fend for himself, because a feud with The Miz couldn't save former IC champ Barrett from obscurity. But I bet even part-time Heyman management will keep Perfect Jr. afloat.
Rob Van Dam is synonymous with the Philadelphia-based promotion that made being a Heyman guy mean something. The only reason I'm intrigued about his pending WWE return is to see how he might interact with Paul, his current charges and their storylines. A showdown with the former Mr. Dangerously in the city where they both rose to prominence, then putting over Axel would be a good use of Mr. Monday Night, whatever the details of his contract.
It's a good time to be a Paul Heyman guy. And, to be fans of Paul Heyman and his guys.
The heat is on:
Antonio Cesaro. I still have a hard time not thinking of him as Claudio Castagnoli. I've been watching him in Chikara and Ring of Honor (ROH) since I discovered wrestling that occurred outside of my cable television provider in the mid-aughts. I bought his shirt, because I like the design, I like thinking that he gets a cut of his merchandise sales, and I hope that WWE Shop sales factor into corporate decision making about who gets what kind of push (I mean, Miz's first "Awesome" shirt was in their top sellers list before he won the Money in the Bank briefcase in 2010).
I loved his United States title run. The Swiss Death pop-up European uppercut is one of my favorite moves in pro wrestling today. I thought his series of "I put the W in WWE" promos were strong stuff.
And I hate the idea of him being paired with Zeb Colter.
I've got nothing but respect for the work of Dirty Dutch Mantell. I've only seen most of it via YouTube and tapes, but he was a classic Southern territories heel.
I think his work in his current WWE run has been boring and beneath him.
So I guess you can see why I'm not excited about a guy who I don't think needs a mouthpiece being put with someone already hamstrung by a Vince McMahon dictated gimmick. Watching Zeb try to be draw heat by being a right-wing parody without saying anything too outrageous is boring. Seeing Cesaro cover his heart and parrot "We the People" makes me sad. The idea of Antonio in a tag team with that heat sink Jack Swagger makes me furious.
I don't know what AC could show the powers-that-be that he hasn't already shown them. And I'm concerned that I'll be watching him in Chikara and ROH again some day wondering what might have been.
Raw has re-captured the 'big show' feel as we head to what could be a monumental SummerSlam. What tricks does WWE have up their sleeve tonight?
Fantasy book the show in the comments. Join the always wild live blog tonight, and mark out with your snark out. Then check back tomorrow for results, reactions and more from Cageside Seats!