Monday's WWE Raw is a potentially explosive bridge between SummerSlam and Night of Champions.
Phoenix, Ariz., hosts an episode that promises to further the storylines involving Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton and CM Punk while beginning to shape the card for WWE's next pay-per-view. Fans can expect questions to be answered and tension to increase between rivals.
Expect The Shield's latest challengers, Ricardo Rodriguez's newest employee and Ryback's reign of backstage terror to be prominent elements in an episode of Raw that is easy to get amped up about.
Punk's Rage Continues
WWE has confirmed just a single match for Monday, but it is one that highlights one of the better feuds of the year in Punk against Paul Heyman.
After Brock Lesnar smashed his face on a steel chair for a win at SummerSlam, Punk has barreled ahead, still obsessed with hurting his former friend. Curtis Axel and Punk have battled several times recently, including an unsanctioned brawl on last Monday's Raw. Axel took to SmackDown Friday to issue a challenge for a rematch.
Axel continues to get a robust share of the spotlight thanks to this rivalry.
The questions fans will be concerned with surrounding this match include how WWE will intensify this feud and if we are headed for a scenario where Punk challenges for the Intercontinental title. Some may view Punk's potential pursuit of Axel's midcard belt as a step down, but it can be spun the other way.
An established top star desiring that championship will have the title feel more important than it has in recent years.
Dissecting the Five-Point Preview
WWE.com's Raw preview offers several hints about what fans can expect to see Monday.
Mitch Passero asked a number of intriguing questions on the preview slideshow, which contains a number of strong hints.
Passero asked in regard to Kane, "Will we find out more about his whereabouts on Raw?"
Bray Wyatt and his followers carried Kane off in ritualistic fashion at SummerSlam, and many fans thought that would be the last we heard of The Big Red Machine until he was done shooting See No Evil 2.
The fact that this question is being brought up suggests that we'll at least get a storyline explanation of where Kane is. Whatever the answer is, we can count on it being something creepy.
In response to recent tension between Rob Van Dam and Alberto Del Rio, Passaro wrote, "Will the World Heavyweight Champion be looking for retribution on Raw?"
Van Dam's partnership with Rodriguez and his altercations with Del Rio look and smell like the beginnings of a blossoming rivalry headed for a championship bout. Van Dam lost out to Orton and Christian for a chance at the world title at SummerSlam, but this Monday will have him step closer to the World Heavyweight Championship.
The big story of this Monday's Raw will be the same story that has been WWE's focus in recent weeks: Bryan versus the corporate conglomerate conspiring against him.
Passaro wrote on the Raw preview, "What might the powers that be do next to try to keep Bryan down?"
That will be one of the most compelling parts of the episode and of the coming weeks. Orton, Triple H and the McMahons will no doubt continue to keep Bryan away from the WWE Championship. It will be exactly how this rebel versus authority narrative plays out that fans will be tuning in for.
Who's Showing Up
WWE employees and random independent wrestlers hanging around the backstage area need to stay extra alert because Ryback is scheduled to appear on Raw.
James Caldwell of PWTorch.com listed the names advertised for Monday's episode, and Ryback's name appears next to The Shield, AJ Lee, Kaitlyn, Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston. Caldwell also writes that "Triple H, Mr. McMahon and Stephanie McMahon are all advertised for Raw."
Ryback will certainly bully a new victim as he's made a habit of doing so, but when will someone stop him? This has been a refreshing shift for Ryback after his feud with John Cena. Whoever is chosen to face him will look like quite the hero for putting a hurting on the bully.
Cena won't be a part of the fun Monday. He's busy recovering from surgery.
It will be strange to have an entire Raw without Cena who has been such an ever-present figure. It's also a huge opportunity for Bryan and other stars to shine in his absence.
Fans longing to see folks get the 619 to the mouth will have to wait; Rey Mysterio won't be at Monday's Raw either.
Del Rio's recent talk of being the only hero to the Latino people in WWE has stirred up speculation that Mysterio would come back to battle his old rival. In a recent interview with Arda Ocal, Mysterio said that he won't be ready to come back until at least September.
Perhaps he later slides into a Triple Threat match against Van Dam and Del Rio at Night of Champions, but he'll have to hurry. Sept. 15 will be here momentarily.
Night of Champions Card, From Rumor to Reality
The one match everyone was expecting for Night of Champions is already official as of Friday's SmackDown. Bryan gets his rematch against Orton.
As for the rest of the card, F4WOnline.com, via WrestleZone.com, reports that it is rumored to look like this:
|Rob Van Dam vs. Alberto Del Rio||World Heavyweight Championship|
|Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan||WWE Championship|
|Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler||United States Championship|
|CM Punk vs. Curtis Axel||Intercontinental Championship|
|Big Show and Mark Henry vs. The Shield||Tag Team Championship|
|One of the Total Divas vs. AJ Lee||Divas Championship|
|The Usos vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan||Non-Title|
Ziggler taking on Ambrose is an interesting choice because like Punk, Ziggler was just in the mix for a world title. This will be something to keep an eye on for Monday's Raw. Do Ziggler and Ambrose butt heads to initiate that rivalry?
Big Show and Mark Henry challenging The Shield for their tag titles is something WWE has been building up to even before SummerSlam, so that's no surprise.
Keeping with recent tradition, those two giants will likely get an official team name. CagesideSeats.com asked fans to suggest possible names for them resulting in some prime picks like Wight Chocolate and Big Pain.
Are we set to decide their moniker via RAWactive poll?
If this rumored card turns out to be true, Kaitlyn is out of the running for the Divas title, and a new challenger is set to step up.
Natalya is the best option in terms of ring ability, but WWE may decide to go with one of the Funkadactyls. Monday's Raw should give us a peek of who the company chooses for that spot and how Night of Champions will look beyond the main event.