Twenty-four hours removed from WWE Payback, Raw hits the airwaves from Grand Rapids, Michigan and the immediate future of the company was changed forever.
Alberto Del Rio cemented his heel turn, CM Punk dumped Paul Heyman, the McMahons continued to exhibit dissension, Mark Henry retired then did not, Dolph Ziggler is a babyface now and the main event was marred by the fury of an F5.
It was an action-packed show that nicely set up at least four different feuds going forward and delivered all of the excitement a fan could ask for.
This is the good, great and awesome of June 17's Monday Night Raw.
It has been a long time since Christian has appeared on WWE programming. The former World champion suffered a shoulder injury and had been off of television for nearly a year when Vickie Guerrero revealed him to be her big surprise on Monday's broadcast.
Captain Charisma entered the arena to a huge pop from the fans in Grand Rapids and proceeded to have a solid match with former Intercontinental champion Wade Barrett. After a few minutes of action, Christian delivered the Killswitch and picked up the win.
Christian's return is a welcome one. A hugely talented veteran and entertaining performer, he brings star power to a company that could use it.
Whether that happens in the mid-card or main event is the bigger question.
Antonio Cesaro and Zeb Colter
The allegiance between Antonio Cesaro and Zeb Colter may not make sense on the surface, especially considering the fact that Colter and protegee Jack Swagger were denouncing foreigners as late as a month ago, but the pairing may prove to be just what Cesaro needed to finally get over with the WWEUniverse and elevate himself up the card.
Cesaro's "we, the people" was also pretty funny, for what it is worth.
Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan
A match that was showing tendencies that it would up in the "great" or "awesome" sections was, unfortunately, marred by injury and prevented from becoming the show-stealing match it should have been.
Bryan's never-say-die attitude after being informed by the medical staff that he was injured will only help win him even more fan support, while Orton's compassion and sportsmanship after the match was called indicates that the anticipated heel turn may not be as close as most thought.
CM Punk dumps Paul Heyman
In a backstage segment just after the night's first commercial break, CM Punk informed Paul Heyman that he was his friend, not his client. From there, he went on to tell Heyman that he no longer wanted him to accompany the Best in the World to the ring for his match against Alberto Del Rio, especially not after Heyman nearly cost him his match against Chris Jericho one night earlier at Payback.
The move frees Punk up to become a top babyface in the company and sets up a feud that could very well see the Second City Saint have to tear through the so-called "Paul Heyman Guys" in order to get his hands on his former friend.
It is a textbook, classic wrestling angle that has been done hundreds of times before, usually to great success. With someone as hot as Punk is right now, and a slime ball manager-type in Heyman, there is no reason the same success cannot be achieved.
More on Punk and a certain Heyman client later on.
Damien Sandow gets payback on Sheamus
On the Payback Kickoff show, Sheamus defeated Damien Sandow in a tremendous one-on-one match to start the evening's festivities and get the fans in Chicago fired up for the pay-per-view offering.
One night later, Sandow scored a measure of revenge against the Celtic Warrior as he teamed with Cody Rhodes to defeat Sheamus in a two-on-one handicap match.
Late in the bout, Sheamus was gearing up for the Brogue Kick on Rhodes but, before he could execute the trademark maneuver, Sandow rolled him up and picked up a huge upset victory.
The win by Sandow proves that his loss Sunday night was not simply part of a short program to get Sheamus a win at Payback. It proves that there are plans to continue to rivalry and the Sandow push.
AJ and Stephanie McMahon come face-to-face; Kaitlyn attacks
After defeating Kaitlyn to win the Divas title at Payback, AJ was in a celebratory mood on Monday's Raw. She called herself smart, cunning and referred to herself as the strongest and most powerful woman in WWE. She even issued a challenge for any woman in the locker room to come out and prove differently.
Enter Stephanie McMahon.
The former Billion Dollar Princess came face-to-face in a moment that has fans chomping at the bit for some sort of match between the two, even if the prospect of Stephanie ever wrestling another match are dim.
From there, Kaitlyn and the rest of the Divas interrupted and made their way to the top of the stage. Stephanie made her way up the ramp and warned Kaitlyn to never interrupt her again before leaving the two active Divas to settle their issues.
Kaitlyn hit the ring and took down the new Divas champion, engaging in an old-school catfight (complete with momentary wardrobe malfunction). AJ escaped the ring, thanks in part to Big E. Langston, while an enraged Kaitlyn was left in the ring.
The continuation of the Kaitlyn-AJ rivalry gives fans a layered story they can sink their teeth into and a series of matches that, if similar to their match at Payback, could redefine what fans expect from Divas in-ring action.
THAT'S WHAT HE DOES!!!!
Mark Henry made his way to the ring Monday night with rumors swirling that he was announcing his retirement. John Cena watched from the ring as Henry left his boots sitting at the top of the stage, the World's Strongest Man appearing to be emotional as he took to the squared circle.
Henry would go on to deliver a performance so spectacular that even the most cynical wrestling fans bought into the emotion he was displaying as he said goodbye to the WWE Universe, to the boys in the back and to John Cena, who had in his possession the WWE Championship. It was the only title Henry had not won, something he brought up on more than one occasion.
With tears streaming down his face, he told his daughter he was coming home as Cena entered the ring and raised Henry's arm high in the air. Then, as he moved in to hug the big man, Henry delivered the World's Strongest Slam to the shock of the audience!
Gone were the tears, gone was all of the emotion that had been etched on Henry's face, and in its place was the look of an angry man. He made his way up the ramp, retrieved his boots and told the world "that's what I do!" A backstage interview, conducted by Renee Young, resulted in a challenge from Henry to Cena about a match for the title at Money in the Bank.
Throughout wrestling history, even the very best and most elite performers have had embarrassingly bad acting segments on WWE programming. Mark Henry, however, was so good and convincing in what he was saying and doing that fans felt bad for the creator of the Hall of Pain. Then, in one fell swoop, he turned on everyone and left fans absolutely stunned by his sudden attack on Cena.
It was a great moment, a great performance and one that should create tremendous heat for their title clash in Philadelphia on July 14.
Raw is chaos!
The closing moments of Monday's Raw were reminiscent of Attitude Era shows in which fans were never really sure of what they would see and, more times than not, Raw would go off the air with utter chaos reigning supreme.
Feeling as though CM Punk was gaining momentum and in danger of losing his first match as World champion, Alberto Del Rio bailed out of the ring and accepted defeat in the form of a count-out after heading up the ramp and abandoning the bout. His escape was short-lived as Dolph Ziggler appeared and attacked the man that had taken from him what he worked so hard to earn.
The crowd erupted for Ziggler, who showed phenomenal aggression and intensity as he assaulted Del Rio. CM Punk, meanwhile, watched from the ring as the assault continued. Then, without warning, the music of Brock Lesnar played and the beast entered the arena. He stalked towards the ring while Punk looked slightly confused as to why he would be there. Lesnar grabbed a microphone and teased a promo before delivering the F5 to Punk.
The arrival of Lesnar and the F5 to CM Punk sets up a marquee match for August's SummerSlam pay-per-view and a summer of what should be entertaining promos and vignettes to set up the huge main event.
Ziggler and Del Rio's story, meanwhile, has the potential to create a huge babyface star out of Dolph Ziggler, who has been among the best in-ring performers for years now and has been the recipient of more and more cheers in recent weeks.
Del Rio, naturally a smug, cocky heel who showed a ruthlessness and lack of mercy that he had been missing previously, should provide a perfect foil for Dolph.
Their upcoming series of matches could be truly special.
The most important and surprising part of Monday's Raw was the manner in which feuds and storylines made progression and moved forward. One of the most common complaints by fans is that, often times, nothing really happens on Raw or SmackDown.
Monday night, the company tried to change that, introducing a minimum of four feuds/stories (Cena-Henry, Punk-Lesnar, Ziggler-ADR, Axel-Miz) that will develop and advance in the weeks leading to Money in the Bank and SummerSlam while continuing two (Sheamus-Sandow, AJ-Kaitlyn) that produced excellent matches the night before.
The creative side of things was extremely focused on Monday and it resulted in one of the best episodes of Raw, not only in 2013, but in years.