Having to follow a masterful episode like last week's makes a solid show like Monday's WWE Raw seem like a letdown, but this week's episode had several highlights and did a number of things right, including the CM Punk and Paul Heyman saga.
At its low points, this episode felt transitional. A lot of the matches were short and hurried and some angles didn't get much of a boost.
The Damien Sandow and Sheamus feud is essentially in the same place it was last week, as is Kaitlyn and AJ Lee. It's CM Punk and Paul Heyman's complex relationship that offered the most surprises and the most drama.
In addition, the Charleston fans saw Chris Jericho and Alberto Del Rio put on a fantastic match and then Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton outdo them.
Here are the full results and recap of all that happened on the episode along with grades for the effectiveness of each segment and match, of how well they told their stories and moved the feuds along.
Daniel Bryan told the audience that he was tired of people telling him that he has a little man syndrome or that he is a weak link. His count-out victory over Randy Orton on WWE SmackDown was not good enough; he needed a legit win.
Orton came down to the ring, snatched the microphone from Bryan's hand and told him to shut up.
The two foes brawled before the bell rang and things only got worse once the match officially began. Bryan threw wild punches at Orton, knocking over the referee in the process. Orton and Bryan were too focused on pounding each other's faces in to notice the referee disqualify them both.
Backstage, Bryan demanded a rematch. He told Vickie Guerrero he was either fighting Orton again or taking on Brad Maddox. A nervous Maddox was relieved to hear that Guerrero chose Orton.
While WWE was clearly teasing us for the main event, it could have been stretched out a tad longer before having it descend into chaos.
This earned a good grade because of how much the two men's hatred bubbled over the on the screen and how much it made us look forward to the final match of the night.
Cody Rhodes and Christian opened the match, trading blows and setting an enjoyable pace.
Damien Sandow distracted Christian while he was going for his trademark uppercut from the outside out of the ring. Rhodes then hurled him into the steel steps as the heel team took control.
As Rhodes and Sandow beat on Christian, Jerry Lawler took a moment to honor his friend Jackie Fargo. Fargo, who passed away on Monday, was a big star in the Memphis area. Lawler said he would be sorely missed.
Lawler and Co. soon went back to calling the action.
After delivering a delayed reverse suplex on Christian, Rhodes growled at him, "You shouldn't have come back."
Once Sheamus came in on a hot tag, his aggression seemed to have an extra gear. As Sheamus clobbered Sandow in the chest, JBL said, "There was some malice in those."
After a moment of confusion where Rhodes and Sandow bumped into each other, Sheamus cracked Rhodes in the jaw with his boot.
Sheamus pinned Rhodes after a Brogue Kick.
The short match had a handful of exciting moments. It kept the Sandow and Sheamus feud in our minds and gave fans some more Christian.
Aksana has become the official receptacle for Kaitlyn's anger over losing the Divas title.
AJ Lee's former best friend was barely in mid-match with Aksana when her own music came on. AJ came out dressed as Kaitlyn to little reaction. She kind of looked more like Hulk Hogan in her foam muscles and blond wig.
Aksana tried to steal a win with a roll-up, but Kaitlyn has apparently seen that trick before and soon hit her with a spear.
AJ proceeded to make fun of the deepness of Kaitlyn's voice and the thickness of her legs. Layla had to hold Kaitlyn back or else she might have throttled AJ. It's a curious move to keep putting Aksana in the role of the person sparking Kaitlyn's rage with so many Divas sitting on the bench.
Kaitlyn wins after hitting the spear.
Kaitlyn vs Aksana again? #RAW— WrestleEnigma.com (@WrestleEnigma) June 25, 2013
The good news is that WWE is pushing this story forward. The bad news is that this week wasn't as moving as what fans have seen from Kaitlyn and AJ over the past few weeks.
There was far too little from the match itself.
Ricardo Rodriguez slapped on a ridiculous Carolina accent to make fun of the crowd before he announced Alberto Del Rio's name.
Del Rio fought through an initial burst of offense from Chris Jericho before displaying an extra level of aggression. The world champ tossed Jericho into the barricade and delivered a thunderous kick to Jericho's head.
That kick nearly led to Jericho losing by count out, but the match went on.
An early candidate for the best match of the night told a full, engaging story of two men unable to put the other way, of resiliency and stubbornness disallowing defeat.
Jericho, drained and red-faced, landed a nice suplex bridge and later a beautiful counter from the cross armbreaker into the Walls of Jericho with the help of the ring ropes.
JBL was right on when he said, "Both these men know how important this match is." Both Jericho and Del Rio made the match feel important. Their emotion covered up for some sloppiness like when Del Rio laughed at his own frustration after Jericho kicked out once again.
After Rodriguez attacked Jericho and ended the match, Dolph Ziggler got a small measure of revenge against Del Rio with a Zig Zag on the champ. Jericho and Ziggler followed this with a stare-down and Ziggler attacking his longtime foe.
So Ziggler’s not a face then, right? Perhaps instead he's a tweener, or maybe the turn is going to be of the slow-burn variety.
Del Rio lost by disqualification after Rodriguez walloped Jericho with a bucket.
Great match... Del Rio and Jericho pulling out all the stops... #RAW— NewGenWrestlingTalk (@NewGenWrestling) June 25, 2013
Del Rio and Jericho's intense match featured two foes trading momentum and superb performances by both men. It just barely lost out the right to be called the best of the night.
The two authority figures were featured in several segments all night.
Vince McMahon suggested Vickie Guerrero cancel the Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan match. Triple H had her change her mind.
She has a tough, unenviable job.
The two later appeared in a segment unveiling the cover art for WWE 2K14. WWE apparently didn't go with Brad Maddox's suggestion to put him on the cover, instead going with The Rock as the cover man.
When Vickie tried to speak during this segment, the Charleston fans drowned her out. Even her screechy voice struggled to make it through the flood of boos.
Watching Vickie struggle to deal with all the McMahons and their power struggles is interesting TV. The video game launch was the opposite.
Ryback doesn’t normally look small against his opponents, but with The Great Khali chopping him in the corner, he looked like a child wrestling a man.
Khali dominated, hitting Ryback with strikes. The commentators did a fantastic job selling, calling Khali’s arm a "tree limb" and making him seem like a movie monster come to life.
Ryback soon fought back and got Khali up for the Shell Shocked.
Ryback earned the pinfall victory courtesy of Shell Shocked.
It was great to see all the fans rise to their feet as Ryback put Khali on his shoulders. #Raw— Greg Parks (@gregmparks) June 25, 2013
This was about as good as one can expect from a Khali match.
Ryback looked strong. Khali looked strong. It was short and efficient, but it featured Khali on offense for longer than most fans would like to see.
John Cena played up the prestige of the WWE title as he heads toward a pay-per-view clash against Mark Henry.
He talked about men like Bruno Sammartino, Ric Flair and Rey Mysterio holding the championship and what it means to wear it. He called a Henry a disgrace for his actions.
Holding the championship above his head, Cena shouted, "You have to earn this."
Funny John Cena would mention Rey Mysterio's brief WWE title reign since he was the one who ended it. #Raw— Graham Mirmina (@SAVE_US_GSM) June 25, 2013
This was a solid promo that had some quotable phrases and decent emotion. Cena has certainly done better.
Tons of Funk, 3MB and The Usos battled it out with the winner getting a chance to challenge The Shield for the tag team titles.
This is a strange group of challengers considering The Prime Time Players are on the roster and should have had a spot here.
The match flew by with the story chugging toward the climax in a hurry. Sweet T nearly got a pin on one of the Usos and then found himself a victim of their trademark moves. A Samoan drop, superkick and splash later and Sweet T was done.
The Shield came down to ringside, but only to glare at their future challengers.
The Usos earned the No. 1 contender’s spot by pinning Sweet T.
— Because Wrestling (@BecuzWrestling) June 25, 2013
Pitting The Usos against two comedy teams made the result obvious. The match felt hurried. The Shield now seem to have a sure victory next on their schedule.
Paul Heyman stood in the ring with CM Punk as Punk talked about all the ways that they were both connected. Punk talked about his history with WWE developmental and how Heyman was the only one who believed in him.
The recap of their relationship works to remind the audience of their bond before it eventually breaks apart.
Punk promised to beat Lesnar, saying "I'm going to bring your beast incarnate down." Heyman would then deny any involvement in the Lesnar attack in a tense segment.
Heyman was hard to read.
He was hesitant to answer at first, but then began to talk about how personal jealousy ran deep between his clients. There was certainly undertones and secrets being held back, and it'll be fun seeing all that unfold over the next few weeks.
The crowd booed when Heyman and Punk embraced, but delaying the inevitable explosive collision between them is a wise move.
Heyman "CM Punk, I Love You! You're my best friend!". Damnit those Heyman "Newt Rockne Speeches" are so great. C'mon & drink the KOOLAID!— WrestleZone.com (@WRESTLEZONEcom) June 25, 2013
Both Heyman and Punk did a fabulous job in maximizing the drama of this moment. There is clearly some tension between them that could worsen, but WWE is smart to move this story along at this pace.
Darren Young came mighty close to pulling off an upset over The Best in the World.
After CM Punk stomped on Young in the corner, Young spent much of the match in control. Punk may have been distracted by his situation with Paul Heyman, but he couldn't manage to sustain his offense.
Young tore at Punk's nose and tossed him around the ring. The Prime Time Player even hit his finisher for a two-count.
Punk managed to shake Young off and finish him off with the Anaconda Vise.
Titus O'Neil hopped into the ring and pounded on Punk before Curtis Axel rushed down to fend O'Neil and Young. The two Paul Heyman guys looked to have some tension, and Punk was unsure if Axel was on his side.
Heyman later announced that Axel and Punk would go up against the Prime Time Players next week even with Punk being extremely reluctant about it.
WWE may be setting up for a major internal war between Axel, Brock Lesnar and Punk. The uncertainty of what's coming next is only going to get more exciting over time.
Punk won via submission.
Young vs Punk was a surprisingly good match. Punk wins by submission. #raw
— FTW Podcast (@ftwpodcast) June 25, 2013
What looked like a sure squash match turned into an interesting in-ring story, followed by foreshadowing for the Heyman and Punk story.
Stephanie McMahon announced who would be battling in the WWE title Money in the Bank ladder match. Like last year, it's a match of men who have already been champion.
That means the star power is high, but there's no dark horse to root for unless you count a returning Rob Van Dam.
In addition to Van Dam, the MITB match for the WWE Championship will include CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Randy Orton, Christian and Kane. That's a lot of the most successful men in the match and some folks with bad blood between them.
Later, Vickie Guerrero broke up a tense, backstage moment between Chris Jericho and Ryback and announced that those two would face off at Money in the Bank 2013.
That means neither man is getting a spot in a Money in the Bank ladder match, but it's sure to be a good match. Judging by what was said on Monday, the banter should be interesting along the way as well.
After Ryback said, "I could eat you alive," Jericho responded with "You a cannibal now?"
Ryback will probably destroy Chris Jericho at MITB so they can write him out for six months.
— Paul McIntyre (@Paul_Mc7) June 25, 2013
The segment was funny thanks to Jericho, and Vickie looked both overwhelmed by her position and forceful in her dealings with these men.
Mark Henry followed up with his buzz-worthy performance from last week with a short, effective promo.
He gloated about fooling all the fans and about bringing folks to tears for a retirement that was only a ruse. He came off as threatening, merciless and as legitimate a threat to John Cena as one can be.
He promised that a "no good, cheating Mark Henry is going to show up" at Money in the Bank and come home with the WWE title. The big man giggled about how he made us all dance like puppets in his second straight home run of a promo.
An excellent promo helped sell the Cena and Henry main event and further his own reputation as a monster.
Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan gave Monday's WWE Raw a cyclical feel, ending the night as it began with the two rivals smashing each other in a slugfest.
The WWE fans voted for their match to be a Street Fight. Orton and Bryan then used tables, chairs and kendo sticks as extensions of their hatred.
Orton was the early master of weapons, cracking a chair over Bryan's head and tossing one into Bryan's face. Bryan then came back with a powerbomb through a table and a thrashing via a kendo stick.
Other highlights include Orton tossing Bryan down in a mid-air powerbomb and Orton escaping the No lock by cracking Bryan with the kendo stick.
It was an enthralling fight where each man looked to be closing in on victory several times. Violence and emotion built to a surprising climax.
Bryan celebrated after getting Orton to tap out with a kendo stick-assisted No lock and Orton later shook his hand as a sign of respect.
Bryan got the win by submission.
— The Brain (@BobbyTheBrain_) June 25, 2013
If this was WWE’s way of helping Bryan gain momentum on his way to a WWE title shot, then job well done. Bryan looked like a tough, gritty competitor after winning this great match.
It will be fascinating to see these two involved in the same Money in the Bank ladder match and to see where Bryan goes next.