The WWE was in somewhat of a holding pattern last week, but with TLC now less than two weeks away, things promise to heat up on Raw. Most of the event's top matches have already been announced; however, there is still plenty of buildup that needs to take place in order to get the fans excited for what is generally considered a "B-level" pay-per-view.
CM Punk vs. Ryback and Sheamus vs. Big Show will headline TLC, but an encounter between John Cena and Dolph Ziggler figures to be added as well. They have been feuding for the past several weeks, and Cena has been romantically involved with A.J. Lee during that time as well, so there is a lot going on when it comes to the company's top star.
If that isn't enough, the young trio of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns continues to run amok in the WWE. They took out Ryback yet again last week and dubbed themselves The Shield while claiming to be against injustice in the WWE. They figure to make an impact yet again on Raw this week.
Here are the top five things to keep an eye on while watching Monday's edition of Raw with TLC quickly approaching.
The Shield certainly hasn't wasted any time making its presence felt in the WWE. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have yet to compete in a televised WWE match, but they are already the talk of the company. They're obviously just getting started, though, and Monday should lead to even more notoriety for the rising stars.
The WWE did a fantastic job keeping the NXT invasion angle feel fresh last week, as Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns were interviewed by Michael Cole. Ambrose did most of the heavy lifting, as he is the best promo man in the group by far, and he was successful in keeping the buzz surrounding The Shield intact. They explained their actions by saying that they are a shield against injustice, so fans got answers, but there is still plenty of mystery surrounding the triumvirate.
Not only did The Shield attack Ryback for the third time in eight days last week, but they also decimated Kane and Daniel Bryan. It appeared as though they might take out WWE Champion CM Punk after helping him at Survivor Series, but they left him unscathed once again, and Punk stood tall to close the show.
It's great seeing fresh faces on Raw, and it's also great seeing a storyline that seems complex and interesting. There are a lot of potential motives behind The Shield's actions, and they're likely to be revealed in the coming weeks and months. Until then, everyone wants to know who they'll target next.
The strange saga between John Cena and A.J. Lee continued last week, as they made out for the second week in a row and appear poised to enter into a relationship. Cena and A.J. initially denied any type of involvement with each other when Vickie Guerrero accused them of having an affair, but they have since been much more open about their feelings for one another.
Cena and A.J. haven't yet "made it official," but they figure to do so this week or in the very near future. The cat is out of the bag with regards to their relationship, so it doesn't make sense for them to deny it anymore. There is a good chance that Cena and A.J. will reveal on Raw that they're dating, which should set the table for a huge twist at TLC.
Nothing has been announced yet, but Cena and Dolph Ziggler are likely to face each other at TLC since they have had several run-ins over the past few weeks. Cena beat Ziggler in a match on Raw last week, but I fully expect Ziggler to get the last laugh and the ultimate rub by defeating Cena at TLC.
Also, to make matters worse for Cena, an A.J. heel turn is blatantly obvious. I can't help but think that she has been leading Cena on all along while working with Dolph behind the scenes. Perhaps A.J. will begin accompanying Cena to his matches, including his match at TLC, only to help the Show Off come away victorious.
In a fairly rare occurrence when it comes to WWE pay-per-views, the vast majority of the TLC card appears to be in place two weeks before the event, so there isn't a ton left for the creative team to do in that regard. One fairly obvious bout that has yet to be officially announced, however, is John Cena against Dolph Ziggler.
It's obvious that Cena is going to be on the card in some capacity, and since he and Ziggler have been engaged in a rivalry as of late, it's a near certainty that they'll go one-on-one at TLC. Ziggler has sought to expose Cena's supposed relationship with A.J., and he has also contributed to Cena's storyline knee injury, as he first twisted it while chasing Ziggler a couple weeks ago.
Ziggler furthered the damage by spearing him through a bathroom stall, and Cena tweaked the knee once again in his win over Ziggler last week. Everything is set up for them to do battle at TLC, and it is also set up for Ziggler to win. Cena has already gotten the better of Ziggler once and Cena has an excuse to lose at TLC because of his knee, so it's clear as day that Ziggler will win the match.
Once the match is announced, it will be interested to see if a stipulation is announced. The TLC pay-per-view offers plenty of options, and although it could be a normal match, I'd prefer a ladder match with Ziggler's Money in the Bank briefcase on the line. It would make a Ziggler win seem even more important, and A.J. turning on Cena with such big stakes on the line would be fantastic as well.
Despite the fact that Ryback appears to be an unstoppable monster, WWE Champion CM Punk has managed to get the better of him on several occasions. Punk has needed help each and every time, though, as Brad Maddox assisted him at Hell in a Cell and The Shield interfered at Survivor Series. With TLC two weeks away, though, it may be time for Ryback to get his licks in.
Ryback hasn't been dominated in the feud unless you only take match results into account. Ryback did pin Punk in a tag-team match on Raw prior to Survivor Series, and he has largely been dominant in all of their matches. Because of that, Ryback still looks very strong despite what some fans might say. Even so, Ryback needs to have the momentum heading into TLC.
The WWE is in a difficult spot because pretty much everyone realizes that Punk is going to win at TLC. There is a slight possibility that Ryback could win only to drop it back to Punk prior to Royal Rumble so Punk can go on to face The Rock, but it simply wouldn't make sense to interrupt Punk's title reign ahead of such a massive match at Royal Rumble.
With that said, it's still important to make Ryback look like a major threat prior to TLC. The Shield's dominance of Ryback has been entertaining thus far, but it can't be an every-week occurrence. Ryback figures to look very good this week and next before getting upended at TLC, likely due to interference from someone like Brock Lesnar.
Team Hell No has held the Tag team Championships for the past few months, and the relationship between Kane and Daniel Bryan has been tumultuous to say the least, but they appear to be coming together as a team. Kane and Bryan were a dominant force on SmackDown, as they teamed with Kofi Kingston to defeat Wade Barrett and The Prime Time Players.
With TLC two weeks away, it hasn't yet been announced who they will defend their titles against, but The Prime Time Players and the team of Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara are in the mix. Team Hell No has gotten the better of The Prime Time Players on several occasions, but Mysterio beat Bryan in a singles match on Raw last week and definitely has his team in the running for a title shot.
If the TLC match is a typical two-on-two contest, then Mysterio and Sin Cara will probably be the challengers, but there could also be a triple-threat tag match with The Prime Time Players involved as well. It's difficult to say for sure which direction the writers are leaning in, but my money is on a triple-threat match with a TLC or ladder stipulation.
The tag-team division was bolstered by a triple-threat TLC match in the past, and there's no reason not to try something similar. Nothing will ever measure up to The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge and Christian, but a current version could be very good as well. Also, with Kane and Bryan finally on the same page, it will be interesting to see if that somehow leads to their demise as Tag Team Champions.