Previously on Monday Night Raw
The WWE champion welcomed us to Canada, and took a second to bask in the crowd's love of Bret Hart. He announced that his match against Ryback at Payback would be more than just an ambulance match - it would be that AND a lumberjack match AND a tables match. Three stages of hell! Ryback agrees.
Cena wasn't done there, either. When Paul Heyman came out to tout his new man, Curtis Axel, Cena said he'd take him on later in the evening.
Alberto Del Rio got the better of World Heavyweight Champion (WHC) Dolph Ziggler's muscle in their rubber match. Big E Langston's loss didn't sit well with Dolph's girlfriend, AJ Lee.
All three members of The Shield were victorious in their championship matches. Team Hell No continued to show signs of breaking, as an angry Daniel Bryan was much more impressed with the advice of Hart than his partner. Even though Kane told him the same thing.
Chris Jericho welcomed Heyman to the Highlight Reel. Y2J didn't want to talk about any of the guys that Paul E. wanted to, though. He not only asked about CM Punk, he requested a match at the next pay-per-view (PPV) against the Chicago native. And his manager accepted!
The Great Khali and the Bella Twins sang birthday wishes to Natalya, and even though the latter came after she and Diva's champion Kaitlyn were defeated in a tag match, I still think the Punjabi playboy's version was probably more painful.
Ryback interrupted the last match of the night, presumably because he was furious that Cena kicked out of a Perfect-plex. John's decision to chase Big Hungry cost him the win. And at least the camera found Axel this week as he was getting his hand raised.
The leader of the Cenation ended last week slumped against the stage following Ryback's attack. What will his response be tonight in Connecticut as we draw closer to the Chicago PPV?
Mr. Perfect's son is technically 4 - 0, with "big" wins over HHH and the WWE champion. Can he keep his record "perfect"? And after main eventing against the biggest names in the company, who might his opponent be on June 3rd?
Fandango managed a win over the Intercontinental champ last week, but he needed help from the special guest referee. The Miz was chosen by the WWE Universe for the role, and he chose to hit Wade Barrett with a skull-crushing finale to let the dancer win the bout. But he also helped the dancer's partner, Summer Rae, to a win over Fandango. Are both mean taking steps toward Barrett's IC strap?
The most exciting things in all of pro wrestling right now might be the rise of The Shield and the new, more aggressive Daniel Bryan. After last week, those two things look like they might be on a collision course. Will the rest of the locker room follow D-Bry's lead and bring the violence to Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns for a change, instead of the other way around?
What could potentially eclipse that story is one so far marked by an absence. Following Jericho's questions and challenge on last week's Raw, will we get any news concerning the Second City Saint?
Expect to pop for:
AJ Lee. Last year's Slammy Award winner for Diva of the Year (and the highest ranking woman in the Smark's Shoot Standings - damn near cracking the top three) has kept her momentum going post-WrestleMania this year. Even though the circumstances have been less than ideal.
What looked like a nice spot at the top of shows - or at least, the top of Friday night's Smackdown - when her kayfabe man Ziggler won the big gold belt didn't even make it to the first PPV of the new season due to Dolph's severe concussion. But WWE creative knows that Cagesider rancho king isn't the only member of the universe who's focused on the geek goddess. As they have for more than a year now, the powers that be have found a way to keep Lee in the spotlight as Big E's chaperone.
Langston's character has always seemed more tied to AJ than her Zigglypuff. Whether it was the plan all along to have her be central to the NXT champ and WHC splitting, or if she was elevated in the story due to Dolph being sidelined...who knows? But I don't doubt that she'll end up as big a star as ever on the other side of this program. She made it through the mistake of naming her Raw's General Manager, she can make it through just about anything. And the brass and mainstream fans seem to respond to her wicked witch character the most.
I may be the only one holding out hope for the reunion of babyface Daniel Bryan and babyface AJ. But I respect Lee's ability to stay over in a company that hardly lets its female performer's develop any character at all.
The heat is on:
Zeb Colter. Very few people are crying over Jack Swagger's fall from prominence. The Real American's absence from last week's shows was a welcome respite from "We the People" and worrying about his opponent's health.
But one of the things (maybe the only thing) that was interesting about Swagger's rebirth was his mouthpiece. Dirty Dutch Mantell, Southern rasslin' legend, had an opportunity with the then WWF as Uncle Zebekiah in the mid-90s, but nothing so high profile as managing the #1 contender for the second biggest prize in the company in a 'Mania feud.
While the program wasn't my thing, and the nuance attempted in having the pro-American team be the bad guys not WWE's strong suit, Colter was almost always entertaining. He was certainly always the better speaker between he and his charge.
So if Jack really is headed back down to Superstars, or on his way out of the company all together, what's next for his "family friend" Zeb? Are there new Colter guys on the horizon? Can Dutch reinvent himself again - a veteran like him can definitely talk through a bunch of different characters - or is the xenophobic role he has played for so long what he's most comfortable with at this stage in his career?
In what seems like a new golden age of WWE managers and valets, of which AJ is a trendsetting exampl, what role will Colter play now that his original client seems to be on his way down the card?
Raw didn't do a whole lot with its three hours of airtime last week. Will we get more bang for our buck this week?
Join us for play-by-play and the one-of-a-kind commentary of your fellow Cagesiders in the live blog, and check back throughout the week for the fallout from the June 3rd edition of WWE Raw!