With Raw's ratings struggling as of late, the WWE needed to do something big at Survivor Series in order to generate fan interest. It's safe to say that mission was accomplished, as even fringe WWE fans are likely to tune in on Monday night in order to find out why Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns interfered in the WWE Championship match.
CM Punk emerged from Survivor Series with the title, just as he did last year and has done at each and every event since. Normally, the fact that he has reached the one-year mark as WWE Champion would take precedence over everything else, but the NXT Wrestling stars who helped him are the real story.
In addition to that, there are several other storylines that were advanced or started at Survivor Series that figure to be addressed on Raw. The A.J. Lee vs. Vickie Guerrero saga took an interesting twist with Tamina Snuka getting involved, while Dolph Ziggler was victorious in his match, so he promises to have plenty to say.
Here are the top five things that you should be looking out for while watching this week's edition of Monday Night Raw.
The odds of WWE Champion CM Punk retaining his title through unfair means against Ryback and John Cena were pretty good on Sunday, but few could have predicted that NXT Wrestling prospects Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns would be the ones to help him. Nevertheless, Punk escaped Indianapolis with his championship run intact.
What everyone is wondering, however, is why those three men jumped Ryback. The scene was somewhat reminiscent of the Nexus invasion back in the summer of 2010, although it happened during a match of much greater importance. Ryback seemed poised to win as he hit Cena with Shell Shocked, but Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns intercepted him, allowing Punk to make the cover.
I get the feeling that Punk and Paul Heyman will continue to feign innocence, much like they did following the Brad Maddox incident at Hell in a Cell. Maddox later went on to say that he acted on his own accord without the direction of anyone, but it was odd that Heyman spoke with him prior to his $1 million contract match against Ryback last week.
It's pretty safe to assume that Heyman has been enlisting help from NXT in order to take out Ryback and advance Punk as WWE Champion. Perhaps Heyman has promised them that he will get them contracts in exchange for their efforts. Aside from that, they could simply be trying to prove themselves by going after the biggest, baddest man in WWE.
Whatever the case, Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns are likely to explain themselves on Monday, and hopefully, their response is satisfactory.
It was 365 days ago that CM Punk defeated Alberto Del Rio at Madison Square Garden at Survivor Series to become WWE Champion. There have been several trials and tribulations since, but he has somehow managed to hang onto the gold by clearing every hurdle he has been faced with. Sunday may have been his biggest challenge yet, but he was able to come through once again thanks to a big helping hand.
Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns attacked Ryback in the closing stages of Sunday's triple-threat match, allowing Punk to pin John Cena and retain his title. Despite that fact that Punk lucked into yet another victory, he and Paul Heyman celebrated in a big way following the match. It stands to reason that the celebration will continue on Monday, as it marks the one-year anniversary of his win over Del Rio.
While most will try to say that his victory at Survivor Series was tainted because of the NXT interference, Punk won't let that put a damper on his party. Punk has obviously been quite boisterous since turning heel and joining forces with Heyman, so I'm expecting an all-out celebration on Raw complete with confetti and perhaps even a red carpet in the ring.
It may be a long shot, but I also sincerely hope that this milestone could lead to a new title belt. Punk has said for months that he has been working on getting a new title to debut, but every opportunity the WWE has had to make it happen has been squandered. There is no better occasion to make it so than the one-year anniversary of Punk's reign, though.
Even if that doesn't come to fruition, there is no question that Punk's promo on Monday will be fantastic and it should succeed in getting the fans riled up.
One of the most shocking moments at Survivor Series happened during a promo segment rather than a match, as A.J. Lee called out Vickie Guerrero to discuss her allegations of A.J. having an affair with John Cena. It seemed like little more than a throwaway segment, as A.J. presented various photoshopped images of Vickie fraternizing with WWE superstars, but things quickly escalated, as Tamina Snuka attacked the diminutive diva from behind and hit a Superfly Splash.
I was 100 percent convinced that A.J. was working with Vickie, Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk, et al behind the scenes in order to screw over Cena, but now I'm not so sure. The manner in which A.J. stepped down as Raw general manager in favor of Vickie was suspicious, and the fact that Vickie was able to get her hands on footage as well as voice messages that made an affair between A.J. and Cena seem possible was quite strange as well.
With Tamina taking out A.J. as Vickie looked on happily, though, it makes me wonder if the entire angle was all for naught. I can't imagine that Cena will be removed from the storyline suddenly, but why should he be involved with A.J., Vickie and Tamina when he has a WWE Championship to chase? Maybe this was simply a way to transition A.J. back into a full-time wrestling role.
Color me confused. The WWE can barely handle one divas feud, as evidenced by the fact that Divas Champion Eve continues to steamroll her competition. I'm really not sure how the writers will go about making this feud seem relevant, but I'm interested to see where things go from here. Tamina looks like a hired gun who was brought back by Vickie to take out A.J, but there could be more than meets the eye.
With TLC almost exactly a month away, the creative team figures to get to work quickly in terms of building the upcoming card. There were only three weeks between Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series, and that prompted some pretty quick announcements in terms of matches.
Things were obviously changed, as CM Punk was moved from a traditional Survivor Series match to a triple-threat WWE Championship match, but the effort was there.
The extra week may give the writers a bit of time to make some decisions, but I have to believe that the topic of No. 1 contender for the WWE Championship will at least be brought up on Raw. John Cena took the fall at Survivor Series, while Ryback was attacked by Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, but Cena seems like a far more likely and sensible opponent for Punk at TLC based on the fact that the winner will face The Rock at Royal Rumble.
I could see Cena and Ryback facing each other for the No. 1 contendership, only for the "NXT Three" to interfere once again, allowing Cena to pick up the victory. Based on the fact that Cena is the face of the company and Ryback is the fastest-rising star, though, I would announce the match for next week in order to build hype and draw ratings. Fans are already going to be watching this week because of what happened at Survivor Series.
Whatever the writers decide, Cena has to be the one who comes away as No. 1 contender. It would be silly to have yet another triple-threat match at TLC, so Punk will have to face either Cena or Ryback. No fan believes that anyone other than Punk or Cena will take on The Rock, though, so having Ryback involved in the match against Punk would lead to an anti-climactic finish.
I anticipate Punk winning at TLC regardless of his opponent, but at least a match with Cena would open up the possibility that he could drop the title to set up Rock vs. Cena II at Royal Rumble.
Since winning Money in the Bank several months ago, Dolph Ziggler has largely been treated like a run-of-the-mill heel. He lost to Chris Jericho at SummerSlam, he was defeated by Randy Orton at Night of Champions and he wasn't even a part of the Hell in a Cell card. When you add in the fact that he has constantly lost on Raw and Smackdown, he simply didn't look credible as a future world champion.
Based on what happened at Survivor Series, however, that could be changing.
Ziggler was the sole survivor of the traditional five-on-five elimination match between his squad and Team Foley. Ziggler and Orton were the final two men remaining in the match, but when Orton kicked out of a Zig Zag, he seemed to be en route to victory. Rather than hitting Ziggler with an RKO, however, he set up for a punt and was ultimately foiled when Ziggler delivered a superkick flush to his jaw for the victory.
Not only was it great to see Ziggler win on a pay-per-view, but the fact that he did it cleanly against a top star like Orton made it even better. Say what you will about the fact that heels always lose anyway, but Ziggler needs to look strong before he cashes in his contract. If he doesn't go on a roll prior to becoming World Heavyweight Champion, then casual fans simply won't buy him as a legitimate titleholder.
Hopefully, this leads to a hot streak for Ziggler, but it will also be interesting to see where Orton goes from here. A strange look came over Orton when he was about to go for the punt, and it almost seemed like a foreshadowing of a heel turn. I certainly would like for that to be the case, as Orton has grown incredibly stale as a face. The top face depth is pretty thin right now, but if The Miz officially turns, then the coast will be clear for Orton to go the opposite way.
Now that Ziggler finally has a win of note under his belt, though, he can start to transition toward World Heavyweight Championship status.