After a spectacular WWE Payback opened up the potential for several intriguing storylines, Monday night's episode of Raw figured to be a must-see event.
What was the best part of the show?
That assumption turned out to be spot-on.
The show started off with new heel Alberto Del Rio in a segment with CM Punk, but we also saw the highly anticipated return of an underrated star, another return of a massive (literally) superstar, a potential injury to one of the company's most talented studs, a possible retirement from a future Hall of Famer and a slew of other tantalizing developments.
Let's take a look at all the jam-packed action from Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Alberto Del Rio gives a promo, CM Punk challenges him
CM Punk tells Paul Heyman he doesn't want him ringside anymore
Christian defeats Wade Barrett
Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes defeat Sheamus in a handicap match
Randy Orton defeats Daniel Bryan via ref/trainer stoppage in no DQ match
AJ Lee and Stephanie McMahon argue in the ring. Kaitlyn attacks AJ. Big E carries AJ away.
Kane defeats Dean Ambrose via disqualification. The Shield attacks Kane afterwards
Antonio Cesaro (with new manager Zeb Colter) defeats William Regal
After John Cena makes a promo, Mark Henry fakes his retirement speech and attacks Cena
Chris Jericho defeats Heath Slater
Curtis Axel defeats Sin Cara
CM Punk defeats Alberto Del Rio via count out. Afterwards, Dolph Ziggler attacked Del Rio and Brock Lesnar attacked Punk
CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio Along With a Few Surprise Guests
After Payback, everyone seemed to be hyped for the next chapter of Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler.
But Ziggler "wasn't cleared by the doctors," so after Del Rio started Raw with a promo that seemingly completed his heel turn, it was CM Punk who came and challenged the new world heavyweight champion, adding a potentially awesome wrinkle to this storyline.
Good start to RAW. Liking this Del Rio heel turn. Punk vs. Del Rio sounds good for tonight. #RAW— Ross (@GoldStandard000) June 18, 2013
Punk and Del Rio's match was unsurprisingly terrific from a technical aspect. Each wrestler showcased some impressive offense, Del Rio worked Punk's arm and drew heat in true heel fashion and Punk was getting some big pops.
In the end, Punk hit Del Rio with the Go to Sleep, and Del Rio simply walked away.
But that was far from the end of the show.
As Del Rio headed back towards the entrance, Ziggler attacked him, and after they disappeared, Brock Lesnar returned and hit Punk with an F-5.
Lesnar and Punk are both "Paul Heyman guys," and the ground for a breakup between Punk and Heyman was laid earlier in the night, so this seems like it will be a feud going forward.
Either way, it's going to be incredibly intriguing to see where the WWE takes all four of these guys moving forward.
Mark Henry Fools the Wrestling World
When Mark Henry put forth a series of cryptic tweets on Sunday, it appeared that retirement was inevitable (even though he said he wasn't a week earlier):
Henry seemingly made it official on Monday. He came out in a snazzy salmon jacket and tie, made an emotional retirement speech and had the crowd enthralled, chanting things like "Thank you Henry," and "One more match."
As Cena, who had just made a promo about how the next WWE champion would have to earn it, went to congratulate Henry, the World's Strongest Man hit the champ with the World's Strongest Slam.
It sent some prominent names within the wrestling universe into a frenzy:
It's going to be difficult to top that promo and sequence. Henry showed unbelievably crazy range by showcasing what seemed like true sadness and emotion, and he received a major pop from the fans when he slammed Cena.
Later, it was announced that Henry and Cena are scheduled to battle for the WWE championship at Money in the Bank:
Is Daniel Bryan Injured?
Towards the beginning of the show, Kane and Daniel Bryan met backstage in what appeared to be the final nail in their tag team coffin. After Bryan refused to give Team Hell No another shot, he mentioned that he needed to go after the WWE championship.
That perked up everyone's ears. Bryan has been scintillating over the past month, and a push towards a major title is what everyone has been waiting for:
Daniel Bryan wants the WWE Champion. So Cena vs. Daniel Bryan at MITB. #Raw— Team John Cena™ (@OfficialCenafan) June 18, 2013
It was an encouraging development (although it was revealed later that Henry would be taking on Cena).
However, as Bryan took on Randy Orton in a no-DQ match later in the night, he attempted a suicide dive but rammed into the barricade as The Apex Predator stepped out of the way.
The head or neck injury was played up for the rest of the match, and the match was eventually ended when the trainer deemed Bryan incapable of going on, leaving the entire wrestling world holding its collective breath:
How bigger blow would it be to WWE if Daniel Bryan was injured, though? It couldn't be worse timing. #raw— WrestlingNewsSource (@WNSource) June 18, 2013
The hope is obviously that the injury is just part of the storyline. But that would make the embrace between Orton and Bryan after the match slightly perplexing:
You never want to see anyone suffer an injury, but if this is legitimate, it could be crippling to the company. So let's just pray that it's not legitimate.