WWE Battleground 2013: Projections for Top Stars After Raw on Sept. 16
A noticeable shift in tone accompanied Monday night's Raw, which was one of the most brutal and violent shows in quite some time.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon continued to assert their authority, which directly resulted in the hospitalization of "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes and former WWE champion The Miz.
Randy Orton rekindled the rage he was once known for, injuring the aforementioned Miz's thorax and nearly doing the same to Daniel Bryan.
The Big Show was once again humiliated and manipulated by Stephanie while referee Scott Armstrong saw his tenure in WWE end thanks to the COO.
WWE was a dark and dreary place for the majority of the three hours during Monday's show.
Then came the locker room mutiny.
After weeks of abuse by management, several popular babyface stars (and Justin Gabriel) hit the ring and fought off The Shield before making it known to Triple H, Stephanie and the entire world that they support Daniel Bryan as the face of WWE.
It was the game-changing show that Night of Champions should have been.
Where does the eventful edition of Raw leave the company's top stars heading into WWE Battleground on October 6?
Find out after the jump.
Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton
The public display of acceptance by the locker room directed at Daniel Bryan on Monday night, after weeks of abuse by Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Randy Orton, gives him the support he needs in his war with management.
There are a number of paths Bryan could take leading into Battleground but two, in particular, seem the most likely.
The first is another WWE Championship match against Randy Orton. With the title vacant, it would make the most sense to have the last two champions compete for the right to be called champion.
The second is much more intriguing and fits perfectly with the title of the first of two October pay-per-views.
Triple H, The Shield and Randy Orton have been a constant thorn in Bryan's side. Now with backup of his own, the Battleground pay-per-view could easily be headlined by a multiple-man tag team match, not unlike the Bragging Rights pay-per-views that used to occur early every October.
A ten-man tag team main event, featuring the aforementioned heels against a team such as Bryan, Ziggler, the Prime Time Players and Rob Van Dam would allow several different Superstars to appear in a spot on the card they typically would not, all the while continuing the hot Bryan vs. The World storyline that has dominated television over the last month-and-a-half.
A possible substitution for Triple H, for whom it may be too early in the angle to wrestle his first match, would be a reluctant Big Show.
Regardless of which option the company goes with at Battleground, it is very likely that Bryan and Orton will once again meet in the show-closing match of a major WWE pay-per-view event.
Rob Van Dam
Prior to Monday's Raw, it appeared as though Van Dam was destined to challenge Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight title at Battleground in a rematch of their Night of Champions contest.
Then he rushed to Daniel Bryan's aid at the conclusion of Raw and his path to the October 6 show is suddenly far less certain.
There will undoubtedly be retribution from Triple H directed at each and every one of the guys that supported Bryan and there is no bigger star among them than Van Dam.
He could very easily find himself mixed up with The Shield or Orton in the coming weeks. In fact, since returning in July, Van Dam has had several in-ring encounters with Orton on SmackDown and briefly feuded with Dean Ambrose over the United States title so at the very least, the history is there.
There is potential for a major battle between a team led by Bryan and Triple H's group of henchmen.
But there is an elephant in the room in the form of the aforementioned Del Rio. Van Dam's match with the current World champion ended in such a way at Night of Champions that it is begging for some sort of follow up.
The disqualification finish typically indicates a rematch, or a series of them, but with no interaction between Van Dam and Del Rio on Monday night and the involvement of RVD in the show-closing angle, it remains to be seen if the Van Terminator to the World Heavyweight champion on Sunday night was the end of their rivalry.
My gut says Van Dam becomes involved in the angle with Triple H and company but my brain says another RVD-Del Rio title match is in Mr. Monday Night's future.
Always go with the brain.
Alberto Del Rio
The World Heavyweight champion was noticeably absent from Monday night's show, likely to sell the effects of the rarely-seen Van Terminator from Rob Van Dam the night before.
He will likely appear on this week's SmackDown, where he will have a few choice words for his Night of Champions opponent. The question is, will Battleground be the, well, battleground for another Del Rio-Van Dam title match or will the champion be faced with a new challenger?
There is a distinct lack of credible challengers to Del Rio as things stand right now. Dolph Ziggler has been knocked down a peg since losing the World title to the Mexican Aristocrat.
Christian had his opportunity and delivered an outstanding match at SummerSlam but a concussion currently has Captain Charisma sidelined.
Mark Henry is always an option but he has yet to be seen after a hamstring injury left him sidelined late last month.
That leaves Van Dam as the only legitimate challenger to Del Rio's reign of dominance, save for a returning Rey Myserio.
Expect Del Rio and Van Dam to again clash with the second most prestigious prize in WWE on the line at Battleground.
CM Punk, Ryback and Paul Heyman
The CM Punk-Paul Heyman rivalry will continue into another pay-per-view, this time with the added wrinkle of the beastly Ryback.
On Monday's Raw, Ryback hypocritically denounced Punk's bullying of Heyman at Night of Champions. He vowed to put an end to Punk before being awkwardly kissed on the cheek by the man whom he saved the night before.
It has been months since Ryback mattered. Even when he made his heel turn and feuded with John Cena over the WWE title, no one really believed he was a threat and he most certainly was not booked that way. He became a stronger talker during that rivalry but there was little else to be gained.
In the months that followed, he got lost in the shuffle and never regained the momentum he had prior to WrestleMania 29.
Now, he finds himself smack dab in the middle of one of the hottest angles in wrestling with the opportunity to once again prove himself. Ironically, it will be against the man that he originally found main event success working with in Punk.
As the first match in their latest program, expect a singles match between the two as Punk tries to overcome the final hurdle between he and Heyman. Ryback will have a lot to prove from a performance standpoint as he attempts to get back to the level where he once was.
The second-generation Superstar has been getting significant television time, despite being "fired" from WWE a few weeks back. The company has done an outstanding job of treating his angle with great importance and as a result, Cody is guaranteed to be a far bigger star when he returns than he ever had been before.
To maximize the importance of that return, it should take place on October 6 at Battleground.
What better way for the youngest Rhodes to make his greatest impact than by returning in the middle of a hot Daniel Bryan-Randy Orton title match or a big tag team main event and costing Triple H and company a victory?
Rhodes would have made his return, he would have gotten his revenge on Triple H and his major push as a babyface could begin the following night on Raw.
It is a win-win situation for all involved and it would create buzz coming out of a pay-per-view event that most feel is a place-holder, further proving that anything can happen on a WWE extravaganza.