The Jan. 27 edition of WWE Raw follows a Royal Rumble where fans spent much of the event howling in disapproval. Daniel Bryan's fanbase grows increasingly frustrated. Will the company work to pacify those fans or simply trudge ahead with its plans?
The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio hosts an episode that will provide both answers and intrigue. Batista will celebrate his victory, The Shield has issues to deal with and Bryan's direction has to be determined.
Breaking down Anthony Benigno's five-point preview on WWE.com and backstage reports reveals much of what fans can expect to see from the show.
Big Plans for Bryan?
Bray Wyatt defeated Bryan at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view and, satisfied with hurting him, moved on to another victim—John Cena. While "The Eater of Worlds" goes after marquee prey and Batista journeys toward WrestleMania's main event, where does the hottest star in the company go?
According to F4WOnline, via WrestlingInc.com, "Despite everything that went down, or didn't go down, at the Royal Rumble last night, WWE is still planning on pushing Daniel Bryan in a big way."
With the amount of negative feedback fans gave the Bryan-less Rumble, expect WWE to show its hand early. Whatever it has in mind for Bryan for the near future will be revealed, at least enough of it to entice his fanbase to keep watching.
Perhaps instead of championship glory and the spotlight of the main event, Bryan will get a chance to go after Undertaker's undefeated streak. Undertaker has reportedly, per Wrestling Observer (h/t WrestlingInc.com) asked to face Bryan, and that is the one thing short of making the bearded one the champ again that would please the chanting masses.
The Monster After Cena
Cena will address his title loss at the Royal Rumble and specifically Wyatt's part in it. Wyatt cost him a chance at championship gold, kick-starting a rivalry that was rumored to be a part of WrestleMania, per F4WOnline, via WrestlingInc.com.
WWE appears to be building toward that bout already. Look for Cena and Wyatt to exchange only threats and rhetoric for now, as this narrative has to be stretched out until the beginning of April.
Benigno teased at another confrontation between hero and monster on his WWE.com preview when he asked of Bryan, "What he does next—particularly where Cena is concerned—will be must-see."
While Wyatt's target is clear, his intentions aren't. Is someone behind his attack on Cena, or does he have some agenda that involves destroying the former champ? He offered little help in answering those questions with his latest cryptic tweet.
The Authority vs. CM Punk
Another WrestleMania match already in the works is Punk vs. Triple H.
After forcing Punk to enter the Rumble as the first entrant, Kane joined the fray himself and eliminated Punk. The director of operations then sent Punk crashing through the announce table.
There's no chance that Punk leaves that attack unanswered. Expect him to confront Kane and goad him into a match at Elimination Chamber.
Before Punk ascends The Authority's hierarchy to get a crack at the COO, he must first make his way through Triple H's cronies. He's already defeated The Shield and battled with The New Age Outlaws; Kane is next.
The Hunt for the World Championship
"The Animal" is set to face the champ at WrestleMania; "The Beast" has already declared himself the No. 1 contender.
Benigno asks on WWE.com, "Will Raw bring the first face-off between champion and challenger?" The fact that the question is being asked is plenty reason to believe that this will indeed happen. The showdown won't just be a two-man affair, though.
With Elimination Chamber coming up, Lesnar is sure to demand a title shot at that event. Expect him to interrupt Orton and Batista with Lesnar having disposed of Big Show.
The Collapse of The Shield
Roman Reigns tossed both Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose out of the Royal Rumble and barked at them afterward. That's a far cry from the unity the group once showed. Reigns readied himself for his eventual solo flight with a record-setting performance in the Rumble.
Benigo writes on his Raw preview, "It would appear that The Shield’s unity is in question for the first time in their collective history. Can The Hounds of Justice keep from mauling one another before WrestleMania?"
With as long as The Shield has been together now, the trio's breakup is more likely to be of the slow-burn variety. Expect tension between Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose beyond what we've seen before but for the group to stay together for now.
The group's cohesion will suffer a major crack, but it won't implode just yet. There is more drama in dragging this out, as WWE did with Team Hell No's eventual breakup.
In addition to The Shield's struggles, Batistia's boasting and the early build for WrestleMania, Sheamus and The New Age Outlaws will be showcased. Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com reports that Monday's Raw will also feature the "latest between WWE Divas champion AJ Lee and Naomi."
The amount of rivalries, old and new, that fans will see has the Royal Rumble fallout show sounding like it will be brimming with intensity. Will Cleveland fans be as vocal and critical as the ones from Pittsburgh? Will WWE show us that its plans for Bryan are better than we could have expected?