As WWE Battleground draws near, the card of the pending pay-per-view has already started to take shape. The three matches advertised for the inaugural event were heavily hyped over the course of the last week.
In the main event of Raw, Daniel Bryan finally overcame The Shield in a Handicap Elimination match, but not before Randy Orton dismantled Rob Van Dam earlier in the evening. Will Orton's new-found mean streak help him regain the WWE Championship, or does Bryan have Orton's number?
CM Punk returned home to Chicago in front of an electric crowd on Monday night. His celebration was short-lived, however, as Paul Heyman's henchmen, Curtis Axel and Ryback, soon dismantled Punk and put him out of commission indefinitely.
Alberto Del Rio continued to further his strong momentum by winning matches on both Raw and SmackDown this week, even adding insult to injury by ambushing Rob Van Dam on Monday night. Will Del Rio find a way to survive in the Hardcore match at Battleground, or will RVD walk out as the new World Heavyweight champion?
Here, I will break down the week in wrestling by analyzing the Monday Night Raw, Friday Night SmackDown and WWE Main Event broadcasts, including each show's highlights, low points and other noteworthy, monumental moments. Also, an award will be given to the show and Superstar that shined the brightest over the course of the week.
In recent weeks, Daniel Bryan has been the target of many ruthless attacks at the hands of The Shield. So, in a random act of kindness, Triple H decided to even the odds on Monday night by placing all of the rebellious Superstars that aligned with Bryan last week on Raw in a Handicap Elimination match alongside The American Dragon against The Shield.
Despite that, The Shield managed to eliminate a total of six Superstars, two of whom were injured and were taken out early. Chicago made for an exciting environment, and the crowd cheered on in anticipation of The Shield finally getting its due after months of ambushes.
Not only did Roman Reigns suffer his first pinfall defeat in WWE, but Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose also eventually fell victim to Bryan and his merry men. In the end, it was Bryan standing tall, gaining momentum going into his upcoming WWE Championship match with Randy Orton.
Don't expect to see Zack Ryder in any more main event matches going forward.
Since their abduction of Kane at SummerSlam, The Wyatt Family hasn't been featured on WWE programming as prominently as they once were. However, that doesn't mean their act isn't any less awesome, as their reign of terror continued to be felt this past week.
On Raw, Luke Harper and Erik Rowan took one step closer to becoming Tag Team champs when they decisively defeated The Prime Time Players. The two disciples of The Wyatt Family looked incredibly impressive as well as intimidating.
Four days later on SmackDown, Bray Wyatt asserted his dominance by scoring a squash victory over Zack Ryder. Sure, Wyatt's undefeated streak is still intact, but he will need to be inserted in another meaningful program before long.
One of the biggest flaws of the fall season is the fact that WWE hosts a total of three pay-per-views over the course of several weeks. Not only is that is extremely excessive, but it is incredibly difficult to make each and every one of those events feel meaningful.
Night of Champions has already flopped, and I'm currently fearing the worst for WWE Battleground. Only three matches have been confirmed for the card as of now, so it is up to WWE to heavily hype the event during all of next week.
Thankfully, though, this week's Raw was successful in building toward Battleground as well as providing plenty of enjoyable matches and moments in front of a rabid Chicago crowd. WWE always puts out quality content when its live in Chicago, so this shouldn't have come as much of a surprise to most people.
While the episode surely wasn't perfect, there was enough entertainment throughout the night to keep this viewer on the edge of his seat going into next week's flagship show.
CM Punk and Paul Heyman: CM Punk coming home to Chicago is always a treat, and his appearance in Chi-Town this past week was no exception. The fact he related his current rivalry with Heyman to the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup victory from earlier this year was amazingly awesome, and the post-promo brawl that ensued between Punk, Ryback and Curtis Axel was also excellently executed. Ryback getting the better of the hometown hero will surely sell pay-per-views come Battleground.
Randy Orton: I am loving Orton's transformation into the crazed monster he used to be, as it is making for intriguing television. His ruthless attacks on Rob Van Dam and The Miz on Raw and SmackDown, respectively, this past week did a great deal in putting heat on Orton and making him one of the most hated heels in all of the WWE.
"Miz TV": No, you're not seeing things, "Miz TV" was actually considered a highlight this past week. The Miz showing his serious side was a nice change of pace for his character, and he sold the knockout punch by Big Show like a champ. He also played his role well on SmackDown, and his enjoyable exchange with Stephanie McMahon on Raw has me hoping this isn't the last time we'll be seeing Miz featured in a top-tier storyline.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Kofi Kingston: By this point, I have honestly lost track of how many times these two have clashed over the years, but their latest encounter was surely a fun one. Kingston hasn't meant much as of late, but he put forth a strong effort against the World Heavyweight champion and looked good in defeat. It never hurts for Del Rio to be picking up clean victories, either.
The Shield vs. Dolph Ziggler, Rob Van Dam and Kofi Kingston: The Shield's six-man tag team matches will never get old for this viewer. I was initially disappointed that the United States Championship match on SmackDown was cut short, but this match more than made up for it.
Fandango vs. Santino Marella: So, wait, you have Santino defeat three credible heels in Antonio Cesaro, Jack Swagger and Damien Sandow only to lose to Fandango? Where is the logic in that? To make matters worse, Fandango's "winning streak" was short-lived, as he went on to lose in tag team action two days later on WWE Main Event.
Santino Marella vs. Heath Slater: There are weeks where I adore Santino, and there are other weeks where I just want him to go away. This week fell into the latter category, as Santino's match with Slater was so beyond atrocious that I am starting to think that children are writing for WWE right now. Then again, even children could write better material than this garbage.
Alberto Del Rio vs. R-Truth: This match wasn't truly terrible, but it definitely paled in comparison to Del Rio's entertaining match with Kingston from Raw. Truth is beyond irrelevant at the moment and offered nothing as Del Rio's opponent. Also, this was the third time this match has happened in the last month, so it would be nice to see Del Rio take on some new faces in the coming weeks.
AJ Lee vs. Cameron: As big of a fan as I am of AJ, not even she could save this match from being a compete and total Diva-aster (see what I did there?). Cameron is much better off in tag team competition where she can at least be limited. This train wreck of a match was pure proof that she shouldn't pursue a singles career any time soon.
Big Show vs. Damien Sandow: Everyone is well aware of the fact by now that Big Show is a conflicted giant. So, what was the point of furthering that tiresome story on Main Event? If there had to be someone for Show to unleash his anger on, why couldn't it have been an enhancement talent? Sandow is falling further down the ladder in WWE as each week passes, unfortunately.
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Graham Mirmina, a.k.a. Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.