With so little time between Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series, Monday's edition of RAW will be extremely important when it comes to building toward the WWE's upcoming pay-per-view. Although the writers didn't do much with the six weeks it was allotted from Night of Champions to Hell in a Cell, I'm optimistic about the prospects of Survivor Series.
A huge main event pitting CM Punk's team against Mick Foley's team has already been announced for the November classic.
That angle is sure to heat up on Monday, as are several other feuds. Sheamus is set to face Big Show in a rematch for the World Heavyweight Championship at Survivor Series, while Vickie Guerrero continues to accuse John Cena of having an inappropriate relationship with former RAW general manager A.J. Lee.
Perhaps most importantly, though, rogue referee Brad Maddox is scheduled to explain his actions at Hell in a Cell. Maddox, seemingly out of nowhere, helped Punk retain his WWE Championship against Ryback at WWE's most recent pay-per-view as he hit him with a low blow and executed a fast count.
With his explanation forthcoming in addition to all the angles that are leading up to Survivor Series, this week's edition of RAW promises to be a can't-miss show.
Here are the top five things you should keep an eye on while watching on Monday.
Heading into Hell in a Cell, it was quite obvious that the WWE had few options when it came to the booking of the CM Punk vs. Ryback match.
Punk had to retain the title in order to preserve his long reign, but Ryback couldn't lose in a way that would kill his momentum. Because of that, some sort of interference was a given, but it wouldn't be easy with the match taking place in the confines of a cell.
The popular school of thought was that Brock Lesnar would break into the structure and assist Punk. Not only would it have allowed him to reunite with Paul Heyman, but he could have started a potential feud with Ryback as well. Lesnar's involvement was talked about so much, though, that it would have been predictable.
In order to combat that, the creative team decided to have referee Brad Maddox be the difference instead.
Maddox made a mistake in his initial appearance back in September, as he didn't see Punk's foot on the ropes in a tag-team match against John Cena, and that made his support of Punk even more shocking. It hasn't yet been explained why Maddox did what he did, but he is scheduled to appear and give his side of the story on RAW.
It's impossible to know for sure what he'll say, but I anticipate Maddox insisting that he acted alone and that he had no involvement with Punk or Heyman. I believe that the truth, however, is that he is part of a conspiracy along with Punk and Heyman as well as A.J. Lee, Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler.
It may seem strange, but the fact that A.J. hired him has to be more than a coincidence.
Two weeks ago, Vickie Guerrero forced A.J. Lee into resigning from her post as RAW general manager on the basis that A.J. was allegedly involved in an affair with John Cena. The evidence was circumstantial at best, as Vickie revealed a picture from a business dinner as well as video of A.J. getting on an elevator with Cena, but apparently RAW's managing supervisor will reveal even more on Monday.
Vickie maintains that she has footage of A.J. in a state of "undress" entering Cena's hotel room. It seems obvious that Vickie's accusations were merely a ploy to gain control, but Cena became heated last week when Vickie pressed him.
He then proceeded to snap when Dolph Ziggler talked about him and A.J., as he threw Ziggler to the canvas.
Things became even stranger after a backstage conversation between Cena and A.J.
Cena gave her a pep talk, but as he walked away, A.J. stared at him admiringly. Vickie's supposed evidence isn't likely to prove anything, but it will probably make Cena look bad yet again this week.
With that said, I believe this whole angle is leading to A.J. screwing over Cena in favor of CM Punk.
The fact that A.J. willingly gave up power to Vickie is suspicious, as is the fact that she is the one who hired crooked referee Brad Maddox. I feel very strongly that A.J. will cost Cena in his WWE Championship match at TLC against Punk, and it will ultimately lead to A.J. revealing that she was with Punk the entire time.
Until then, though, this storyline will take baby steps in that direction.
CM Punk may have escaped with his WWE Championship at Hell in a Cell, but his feud with Ryback is far from over.
Punk won't be defending his title at Survivor Series, however, he will have to deal with his new nemesis again as they will face off as part of a five-on-five elimination match in a couple weeks.
Punk will captain one team, while Mick Foley will lead the other, as announced on last week's edition of RAW.
Foley questioned Punk's tactics at Hell in a Cell and challenged him to prove his true worth as champion. Punk's team is comprised of himself, The Miz, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow and Alberto Del Rio. Foley won't be competing in the ring, but he put together a formidable team as well in the form of Ryback, Randy Orton, Kane, Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston.
Although the concept of the match seemed to be rushed, I'm very interested to see where this leads.
There aren't any stipulations to speak of, but I anticipate one to be added this week. One possibility is that if Ryback's team wins, he gets another shot at Punk's title at TLC. If Punk's team wins, however, Ryback can't challenge for the title as long as Punk is in possession of it.
This stipulation would work incredibly well since it would be the perfect way to remove Ryback from the main-event scene.
Punk is going to face John Cena at TLC since they are the only two guys who make sense to go against The Rock at Royal Rumble. Ryback is technically entitled to another title match, but the WWE can circumvent it by having him lose at Survivor Series, possibly due to interference by Brock Lesnar, which is what many expected at Hell in a Cell.
Big Show's shocking win over Sheamus at Hell in a Cell was certainly one of the highlights of the night, and now they are building toward a rematch at Survivor Series. I wasn't enthralled with the feud ahead of Hell in a Cell, but they put on a surprisingly great match, so I'm actually looking forward to seeing them lock horns again in a few weeks.
The issue is that while Sheamus and Big Show can handle themselves on the mic, neither is interesting enough to really make the feud pop.
If either of them were to feud with someone like John Cena, CM Punk, The Miz or someone similar, then the build would be fantastic since they're both capable of feeding off a really skilled promo man.
With that said, it will be worth monitoring who has the momentum heading into Survivor Series.
Sheamus had the last laugh prior to Hell in a Cell and ended up losing, although Big Show seemed to dominate the feud for the most part. Sheamus got some quick revenge against Big Show last week as he hit him with White Noise on RAW, but there is still plenty of time left before their next match.
It may not be the greatest rivalry ever, but with so many main-eventers and upper mid-carders in the five-on-five match at Survivor Series, Sheamus vs. Big Show promises to be a very important part of the show. As stale as Sheamus' title reign seemed at times, I'm hopeful that he regains the belt at Survivor Series since there isn't much Big Show can do with it.
Perhaps he'll start on that path this week on RAW.
This is a question that I ask myself every week, but it remains pertinent: When will United States Champion Antonio Cesaro have an actual feud?
The Swiss Sensation won the title from Santino Marella at SummerSlam, but he still hasn't engaged in any type of sustainable angle. He did unceremoniously dump Aksana, which was good for his character development, but it didn't lead to anything bigger, so he's in a state of flux right now.
Cesaro has essentially just beat a host of different mid-carders over the past couple months, including the likes of Brodus Clay, Tyson Kidd, Ted DiBiase, Zack Ryder, Justin Gabriel and others. His in-ring work has been superb and his gimmick is better without the five languages garbage, but the fans won't provide major heat until he does something that they care about.
If last week was any indication, Cesaro may be beginning a feud with R-Truth very soon.
Cesaro had a match with Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston, but it turned into a two-on-one mugging as The Miz helped Cesaro attack Kofi. Truth made the save to bail out his former tag-team partner, and with Kofi and Miz already in the five-on-five match at Survivor Series, Cesaro and Truth ought to do their own thing.
I don't necessarily believe that their feud will lead to anything huge, as Cesaro retaining is a given, but three weeks of build is way more than anything Cesaro has done to this point.
Cesaro needs to go at it with a pro-American face in order to really get over as the cocky, European heel, but Truth wouldn't be a bad rival in the interim.