WWE Payback 2013 Success Carries over to Monday Night Raw

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IJune 18, 2013

Photo courtesy of WWE.com
Photo courtesy of WWE.com

The WWE creative team is on fire. 

It seems few and far between that those seven magical words are ever uttered in the same sentence these days, but we are in the midst of a brilliant spell of wrestling entertainment. 

Sit back and enjoy it, because this is awesome. 

It all started on Sunday night at Payback. 

Sandwiched in between the Super Bowl of pay-per-views, WrestleMania, the always spot-filled Extreme Rules, Money in the Bank and Summer Slam, the oddly named Payback didn't figure to garner much of the spotlight. 

But it would appear the WWE saved its best for when no one would be looking. 

With every single title on the line, the action from Allstate Arena in front of an absolutely hyped Chicago crowd was scintillating from start to finish. 

It started with Curtis Axel defeating Wade Barrett and The Miz for the Intercontinental championship. It was a solid match, but the legendary finish had everyone buzzing: 

Up next, A.J. Lee and Kaitlyn almost single-handedly resuscitated the Divas division with a spectacular 10-minute, back-and-forth match.

Alberto Del Rio continued the title-changing trend when he destroyed Dolph Ziggler, but it was a match that will be remembered for its flawless story-telling and remarkably well-executed double turn.

CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho and The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton came next, and although each match probably could have been better, it's tough to ever do wrong with any of those guys, especially Punk and Bryan. 

Finally, you had the main event. John Cena vs. Ryback wasn't loved by everyone, but it had some electrifying spots and a memorable—albeit slightly cheesy—finish. 

Throw in a Rob Van Dam return announcement, and all in all, it was a pay-per-view that had a little bit of everything and would have been very difficult to improve upon—and most importantly, it opened up avenues for so much more. 

And on Monday night, we got so much more. 

Raw was at its very best from Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. 

The moment of the night was undoubtedly Mark Henry's fake retirement. He drew the crowd—and the viewers—in with an emotion-filled retirement speech before delivering a World's Strongest Slam to Cena, who had come to embrace the big man:

It was a candidate for promo of the year, and it was a beautifully played segment we won't soon forget. 

But that unbelievable moment was just the tip of the iceberg. 

We also saw the highly anticipated return of Christian. 

We saw Bryan vs. Orton, which had a perplexing ending but still had interest piqued. We saw Stephanie McMahon threaten A.J., another indication that the Divas division is on the up-and-up. 

To end the night, we saw Punk take on Del Rio in a tremendous match before surprise appearances—and attacks—from Ziggler and Brock Lesnar. 

Punk vs. Lesnar, whether it be at Money in the Bank or SummerSlam, is going to have fans incredibly enthralled, and the start of that feud was the perfect way to end the perfect night. 

WWE is on another level right now. The product being put out right now is arguably on par with WrestleMania quality, and it has the wrestling world absolutely tantalized.

We can only hope the momentum continues on SmackDown and beyond.