WWE all but buried its main angle this past Monday, opening the door for Cody Rhodes to become an elite star moving forward.
Monday's Raw ended with Daniel Bryan being given The Miz treatment on an even playing field against Randy Orton.
Bryan was reduced to being RKOed through a table while his fiance, Brie Bella, begged for mercy. Bryan even admitted to being small, pathetic and weak prior to the beatdown, which was a self-deprecating assessment supported by the show-ending sequence.
Bryan has lost the very momentum that threatened John Cena headed into SummerSlam. With a first-time pay-per-view set to air this Sunday, and Orton appearing to be the overwhelming favorite based on booking, casual fan interest in this pay-per-view won't be pretty.
Along with drawing the lowest rating of the year this past Monday, fans have particularly tuned out during segments related to the Bryan-Orton saga.
The apparent phasing out of Bryan could open the door for Rhodes, who has been one of the best-booked Superstars on Raw despite missing multiple shows in the month of September.
Rhodes' valiant effort to save his job against Orton created sympathy for his character, especially after he was fired.
The involvement of Rhodes family members, who have already established a connection with WWE fans, has also helped Cody. The back and forth between the Rhodes and the McMahons has set the stage for a meaningful match against The Shield. Jobs are once again at stake, this time for both Dustin/Goldust and Cody.
As of late, the authority has had more interaction with Rhodes and his plight than Daniel Bryan. In fact, the week after an apparent uprising led by Bryan, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon kicked off Raw all smiles, basically laughing off the first evidence of resistance.
The go-home show saw a confrontation between the authority and all three members of the Rhodes family. Given the top heel status of the authority, their time spent in a feud with the Rhodes family is a strong vote of confidence for Cody.
Whether he succeeds in getting his job back this Sunday, fails or even turns heel, the ball now seems to be in Cody's court to become a major star in Cena's absence.
With Cena out, who should be WWE's top babyface?
To say the least, it would be unfair to blame WWE's recent ratings plunge on Bryan. Triple H has been ineffective connecting with fans as a character and often seems uninterested in selling for the opposition, let alone taking any opposition seriously.
The authority has spent weeks making the entire babyface roster look weak, and that roster was recently joined by the only guy billed to be their leader.
All this before mentioning the Monday Night Football effect.
Unfortunately, WWE Superstars are here today, gone tomorrow. It's too early to write Bryan off just yet, but if he becomes a victim of WWE's indecisive booking, Cody Rhodes will certainly be the next man up.