What you need to know
Daniel Bryan's WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign started with a bang at WrestleMania 30, but it ended with a whimper on Monday Night Raw. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon announced that they were stripping Bryan due to his not being medically cleared to compete at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view (PPV). Instead of defense of the belts by The Beard, we'll get seven men competing for them in a ladder match.
Alberto Del Rio qualified for that match (even though we didn't know the stakes at the time) last week, and Randy Orton is in because, well, because he's The Viper damnit. Throughout the course of Raw, two more men would gain entrance by winning their matches - United States Champion Sheamus and Paul Heyman guy, Cesaro.
In other Authority-related news, in an effort to end The Shield once and for all, The Game and his new suit-wearing buddy Seth Rollins schemed to have Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns face The Wyatt Family in the main event. The villains doubted they could find a third man to make it a fair fight, though.
After the remaining members of The Hounds of Justice declared their intent to take out Rollins and Evolution, Seth responded by explaining that he had "evolved" because not only had The Shield accomplished everything possible, but he had always been the one responsible for those accomplishments. He then tried to bait his former partners into a fight, only for them to be ambushed by The Wyatts. When John Cena came to the rescuse, the three-on-three main was set.
Rollins, for his part, would go on to beat up Dolph Ziggler on Main Event again, and still not even have the decency to get some new ring gear - although he did get a new entrance theme.
Lana (and probably Vince) hates President Obama, and Rusev crushes. Bo Dallas loves everybody, especially people who he can beat in the ring (but Vince might not love him). Layla and Summer took turns pouring milk on each this week (because - you guessed it - mostly likely Vince).
Cody Rhodes still can't find a winning combination for his brother Goldust's tag partner. Zeb Colter still can't succeed in getting anyone deported, but at least Jack Swagger got a win over Santino Marella. And Emma wasn't there to be degraded by the whole affair.
Divas champ Paige got a minute's worth of offense in during her latest win over Alicia Fox. Fox then pulled her crazy act on the soon-to-be released Aksana, but, no, it still doesn't seem like any of that is going anywhere. Similarly directionless champs The Usos defeated impromptu comedy jobbers Fandango and Damien Sandow before having another solid outing with the men they should be officially feuding with, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper, on Tuesday night.
But back on Monday night, those boys and Bray couldn't get the job done against John Cena and The Shield, as the men in black stood with their hands raised by the man in neon green, much to the dismay of smarks everywhere.
What to look out for
Taped on Tuesday night in Geno's favorite city in the whole wide world - Green Bay, Wisconsin. Previews are spoiler-free, but you can find out what happened right here.
Sheamus vs. Cesaro in a non-title showdown is your advertised main event, and with both men having a slot in the upcoming PPV ladder match, this one should be a great match AND have a ton of story ramifications.
The Money in the Bank championship match should remain a central focus with four more slots to fill, even on Friday night. Expect a qualifying match and some other angles that lead to either more announcements on Monday night, or fallout that leads to peripheral feuds for those that don't make the cut.
The Shield and their turncoat brother remains the hottest angle in the business, so look for that to fill out much of the show - especially now that they're intertwined with Cena and Wyatt.
(Note: I know some folks have come looking for a more definitive match listing. We still don't want to risk spoiling anything, but as WWE.com releases more information on anything that's officially going to take place on tonight's show, I'll update it here)
What they should do
The Wyatts need to emerge as a legitimate tag team.
It looked like they might do something with Rybaxel. But then they lost last week, and it looks like Big Hungry and Perfect, Jr. are just going to be the backdrop for whatever story they're telling with the Rhodes brothers. And, not that they were ever a credible threat, but with 3MB gone, there are no other established heel tag teams.
Harper & Rowan have shown that they have good chemistry with Jimmy & Jey, and the more that Luke is given the opportunity to speak, it seems like he could handle the talking for the whole program. A back and forth duel would get WWE through SummerSlam; time with which they could develop a new team or two and/or call up NXT tag champs The Ascension (who are similarly lost in a small pairs division in developmental).
And the sooner they start positioning Harper as a singles' star, the better. Anyone who watches him work can see that he's got a long future ahead of him, not only because he can go with just about anyone, but because he may have to serve as the heir apparent to folks like The Big Show or Mark Henry. He comes across as being bigger than the 6'5" he's billed as, and his high impact offense makes him seem more like a Goliath than he actually is.
There's no reason to not use these guys for a feud. If you're a fan of tag team wrestling, it should be a great program. If you think tag team wrestling should be used to groom individual's for bigger things, Luke Harper needs grooming (figuratively and literally).
What we're afraid they will do
Watching the Bo Dallas push lately, I'm noticing that there's something else behind the "Rusev hates African-Americans" jokes that have been going around since the Bulgarian Brute got his call-up.
It's not that they booked Lana's man exclusively against black guys - it's that 95% of their babyface jobbers are black guys. Dallas is running the same Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Xavier Woods gambit right now. The técnico tag team are Latino. Heck, the only guy I can think off the top of my head who isn't brown-skinned is Santino, and he's still a foreigner.
If the attempts to get over a person of color as a bigger star didn't work, okay. I could no doubt critique the pushes, but history has shown that WWE can botch a debut and build for white folks, too. But if it comes to pass that they only workers you can send out to establish new heels all look the same, maybe you could mix that pool up with some local talent, or take the time to make some of your heel jobbers into faces, or something.
Here's hoping tonight's show on SyFy can build to Money in the Bank and a hot tag team title feud - maybe with something other than African and Latino-Americans doing the jobs.
Chime in on any or all of the above, and join the chorus in tonight's Open Thread as you watch Smackdown!