WWE followed a tepid Night of Champions with a red-hot Raw.
Dusty Rhodes, Randy Orton, Curtis Axel and Daniel Bryan's allies were the stars of an exciting week of WWE programming, playing either the victim or the predator in their various storylines.
Rhodes returned and found himself ensnared in the teeth of the Triple H regime, Orton put The Miz on the shelf in dramatic fashion, Axel had one of his best bouts yet and the cavalry finally rode in. It's almost enough to make fans forget how much they regretted ordering Night of Champions.
From "The American Dream" taking a trip to the emergency room to a triumphant moment in Bryan's tale of torment, here is the best and worst of the week in WWE.
Cody Rhodes' story has quickly become a saga.
Two weeks after losing his job and one week after his brother failed to gain it back, his father met with Stephanie McMahon in the ring on Monday's Raw.
Dusty Rhodes ranted about family and honor, "The American Dream" evoking a preacher giving a sermon. McMahon then came out and further established herself as one of WWE's top heels today. She was cold and heartless as she toyed with Dusty and then ordered Big Show to knock him out.
Big Show's crying episodes have met mixed reactions, but this performance was moving.
He reluctantly punched out the Hall of Famer and then immediately cradled his unconscious body. The segment worked to make McMahon more hate-worthy, gave Big Show more pathos and continued to make Cody's storyline important and intriguing.
While picking a favorite SummerSlam match was difficult because of the number of great performances, Night of Champions made that choice difficult by offering few options.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Rob Van Dam was good, but not the standout match one might expect from those two talents. The undercard underwhelmed and the opening Triple H segment was a poor choice to kick off the night.
The pay-per-view felt like an episode of Raw at times and wasn't even as good as Monday's episode.
Having the world title match end in a disqualification and Daniel Bryan's WWE Championship win overturned just one night later apparently disappointed fans to the point that many asked for and received refunds, per PWTorch.com.
Tearing apart his foe like a lion ripping at flesh; this was Randy Orton at his finest.
His beatdown of The Miz not only made him look like a more dangerous foe for Daniel Bryan, but sent Miz out with plenty of pity. Orton smashed, slammed and throttled Miz in front of his parents and in front of his hometown crowd.
Stephanie McMahon demanded that Orton bring out the old, more vicious version of himself and he did exactly that.
Orton's attack was one of the highlights of Monday's Raw and of the week, even if Miz's dad looked mighty unconcerned about seeing his son get whooped. Orton's heel turn was best for him and this was him delving deeper into his own darkness, a welcome sight.
Triple H announced the main event for Battleground in an interview on WWE.com. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan will battle for the vacant WWE title.
There’s no reason that Bryan and Orton can’t impress in the ring, but WWE had a surplus of options available in settling the championship situation and chose the safest, most predictable one.
Why would Triple H be okay with letting Bryan get another shot? Why wouldn’t he make it harder for him to win the title again?
WWE could have gone with a tournament a la WrestleMania IV and Survivor Series 1998, made Bryan earn a future title shot by going through Triple H, made the match a Fatal 4-Way or some other unexpected direction.
Perhaps Bryan’s path to Battleground will be lined with thrilling obstacles, but it looks as if WWE missed out on an opportunity to do something more memorable than a straight rematch.
Curtis Axel and Dolph Ziggler delivered more proof that WWE fans should be tuning in on Wednesday nights.
As has become the norm, at least one match from WWE Main Event stands out and this time around it was Axel's win over Ziggler.
With Paul Heyman and Ryback lurking outside, Ziggler did his best to outrun and outmaneuver Axel, but ended up losing. In the process, he did what does best—making his opponents look great. It was a well-paced match that was smooth and compelling.
Add this bout to mounting evidence that Axel does his best work against smaller, faster, athletic foes.
Kofi Kingston, Tyson Kidd and now Ziggler have been a part of Axel's best matches to date. WWE would be wise to find a challenger who had a similar skill set to these men, or better yet, have Kidd return and renew their rivalry from NXT.
The scene of Daniel Bryan lying on his back as Randy Orton and The Shield hovered over him as they gloated had become all too familiar.
Bryan suffered beatdown after beatdown and to watch the fighter fail so often was disheartening. That's why the end of Monday's Raw was so cathartic, why it made fans want to pump their fist in the air.
After his match with Roman Reigns, things broke down as we've come to expect. Bryan soon found himself wearing a steel chair around his neck as Orton looked to put him out of action as he had done to The Miz earlier.
A crew of fan favorites then rushed down to the ring.
The Prime Time Players, Zack Ryder, Rob Van Dam, Dolph Ziggler and others fought off Bryan's enemies. The brawl had the crowd roaring. "Yes!" echoed as Bryan flipped Seth Rollins over with a flying knee.
WWE did a fantastic job in being patient, hitting us over the head with Bryan's misery for so long and just now letting justice triumph for once.
What punishment awaits those rebels on Friday's SmackDown and beyond? Can WWE now make the most of this emotional swing?