What you need to know
Don't F with The Shield.
The Authority instructed Vickie Guerrero to deal with the Hounds of Justice in a redux of the eleven-on-three handicap match that did them in a couple of Raws back. When pieces of the eleven started getting dismantled well before main event time - 3MB backstage, Fandango off the side of the stage - Triple H and/or Stephanie McMahon made the call to put Brad Maddox in charge of the Friday night show. Beautiful Brad ended up having Dean Ambrose do who knows what to him behind a couch , so that didn't work.
Brad didn't have it quite as bad as Jack Swagger, though. The Real American followed up a clean loss to him former tag partner, Cesaro, by being laid low by The Shield. And it only added insult to the injury of watching a debate between his manager and The King of Swing's advocate turn into just another opportunity for Paul Heyman to remind us that his client, Brock Lesnar, conquered The Undertaker's undefeated Streak at WrestleMania.
Tamina beat Natalya in a battle of 80s Superstar's daughters, and provided some evidence to go with everyone telling us how tough an opponent she's going to be for Divas champ Paige at Extreme Rules. On the subject of legacy Superstars and building up title challengers, both Ryback and Curtis Axel won singles matches against The Usos as a way to position the only established heel tag team for a shot at Jimmy and Jey's bronze eagles.
Bray Wyatt preached to his followers from inside a steel cage similar to the one he and John Cena will lock-up in at the upcoming "special event". Before singing his favorite traditional folk spiritual, he reminded the WWE Universe that he and the Cenation leader would be fighting for our love at Extreme Rules. He the sent forth Luke Harper and Erick Rowan to defeat The Rhodes Brothers and in so doing further the rift between Goldust and Cody.
The remaining members of The Authority's eleven headed to the ring for their showdown with Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. Eventually, Bad News Barrett and Alberto Del Rio bailed. But while the man headed for the finals of the tournament to decide the #1 contender to Big E's Intercontinental title escaped, Del Rio was caught by Reigns. Everybody got spears and then Ryback got another triple powerbomb to pad his lead in the "most times triple powerbombed by The Hounds" standings.
What to look out for
Guess who's back in St. Louis tonight? Actually, there are a ton of correct answers for that, so we'll save some time and just tell you.
Daniel Bryan returns from his kayfabe spinal contussion (via a deranged former tag partner) and real life heart break (due to some sad losses). Steph is supposed to be there to apologize to him for Kane's actions from last week. How sincere she is is up for debate, as is her ability to control the Devil's Favorite Demon.
Last time Academy Award nominee, song & dance man and Men's Fitness cover model Hugh Jackman was on Raw, he was wearing a Long Island Iced Z head band and cold-cocking Dolph Ziggler. Well, he and Dolph had made nice and Zack Ryder doesn't get on Raw any more, so look for the man who made comic book fans forget that Wolverine is supposed to be short to wow the live audience with some humble pie for Damien Sandow.
There's no more midcarders for Triple H to put between Batista, Randy Orton and himself. Will Evolution and The Shield go nose-to-nose tonight, and who will get the upper hand before their three-on-three showdown this upcoming Sunday?
Barrett faces RVD in the finals of the IC title contender tournament. Rybaxel have earned a shot at The Usos belts - tonight! And undoubtedly more go home show shenanigans!
What they should do
There's so much being hyped for tonight's show that I almost forgot about Ric Flair's supposed return to television.
While Naitch will obviously be doing something around the issues between his old running buddies in Evolution and The Shield (it remains to be seen if he will revert to siding with the villains or if his new role as baby face elder stateman dictactes that he back the popular young trio), the fact that whatever he does won't involve any physicality due to the wisdom of WWE medical got me thinking about the old chestnut of gaining heat for the heels by beating up a beloved legend.
And that got me thinking about another big angle for Extreme Rules that has gone adrift: Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena.
There are several things that have gone wrong with this program over the past month or so, a big part of the hardcore fans' dissatisfaction with it has to do with "our guy" not winning. Wyatt is the up-and-coming star, the thinking goes, so Cena should be doing the right thing and putting him over.
Even among the so-called smarks, though, there are fans that don't "get" Bray. And I think a large part of that is WWE's attempt to co-opt his popularity with some fans by encouraging them to treat him as a babyface.
They should stop that. And they should start by getting him some serious heat by having them beat up Ric Flair, or someone like him.
It doesn't need to be on camera. And it really doesn't even need to be "beat up the old fan favorite", but that's just what's on my mind right now (too bad the whole company's feuding with Mick Foley. He'd be great for this, and that Extreme Rules is in his backyard is just icing on the cake). But more clearly delineating him as the bad guy would help the fans who don't understand The Eater of Worlds character to place him in a role that makes sense. And the folks supporting him now will do so anyway - it's not like we've ever been afraid of cheering a heel.
Plus, it would help even his supporters to accept his inevitable loss to the face (and face) of WWE. You might not like it, but as wrestling fans, we know that good eventually triumps over evil. The way things are being written now, everybody looks like they're both, and we're even more upset when our sympathies are with the guy who entertains most - and he still loses.
So, stop having Bray encourage sing-a-longs. And start having him shock people with the brutality he shows when beating up old men.
What we're afraid they will do
Flair's back, and there's a Hollywood guest star. Please, please, please don't bring Miz back tonight. But if they do, they should have The Wyatts beat him up again. Forget everything I just said. For that, it'd be worth it.
What do you want to see WWE to re-frame Cena vs. Wyatt, or just make sure the picture they paint for Sunday is one you want to watch on WWE Network?
Sound off below, and then join us tonight for the Raw live blog and all the usual fallout!