A noisy, unsettled Chicago crowd watched as Daniel Bryan continued his battle against The Authority and CM Punk did not return as expected on the March 3 WWE Raw.
Sheamus and Bryan both seem to have their WrestleMania spots locked up. Each of those warriors had the cameras on them for a significant amount of time as they collided with their respective rivals.
Punk appeared only in the form of chants and his name written on signs.
Monday's Raw, depending on one's perspective, was either the story of WWE hoodwinking Punk fans or a night where Dolph Ziggler celebrated and Mark Henry fell again. It was also home to another enthralling battle between The Shield and The Wyatt Family. That bout, though, saw both sides emerge as winners, with the members of The Shield technically losing but furthering their story of implosion.
The following is a look at who most benefited from the events on Raw and who left the Allstate Arena stinging.
Sheamus not only appears to be getting a coveted WrestleMania spot, but he's steamrolling toward a potential matchup on the card.
On Monday's Raw, Sheamus continued his winning ways, this time outlasting the vicious Christian. Christian seemed to have the strongman well scouted, evading Beats of the Bodhran and some of Sheamus' other signature moves.
Still, The Celtic Warrior knocked Christian on his back with a Brogue Kick for the win.
Christian attacked Sheamus in a post-match interview, leaving his arm bloodied.
The attack and all of their previous altercations point to this being a feud sure to continue at the biggest show of the year. With the WrestleMania card filling up, several Superstars aren't guaranteed to be a part of the action, while Sheamus' battle with Christian will give him the chance to add to his impressive win-loss record in 2014.
Loser: Mark Henry
Henry was once a one-man demolition crew, but he has fallen into the new role of pushover.
When WWE wanted to show Roman Reigns' dominance on Feb. 17, it turned to Henry to play the victim. Reigns pinned Henry with little effort. On Monday's Raw, WWE wanted to make Brock Lesnar look like the destructive force that Henry once was.
With Undertaker not around to take any blows, it was Henry who felt Lesnar's teeth gnash against his flesh. Lesnar smashed the ring steps into the big man's face and sent him through the announce table with the F5.
That moment felt a lot like Lesnar dislocating Henry's elbow back in January. Back then, he was helping to build Lesnar up for a match against Big Show. Henry has now been asked to do the same for Lesnar's bout against Undertaker.
Henry was at his best when he was inducting foes into the "Hall of Pain." Becoming "The World's Strongest Stepping Stone" is a far less flattering role.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
Even if WWE doesn't insert Bryan into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania, he continues to get a healthy helping of the spotlight, as he did on Monday's Raw.
Bryan was in the main event, battling against Batista. Before that, he confronted Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. Bryan demanded that Triple H face him at WrestleMania, but the COO again scoffed at the idea.
The power couple has been magnificent at being irksome and unjust, amplifying the fan support for Bryan each week. The longer WWE delays making Triple H vs. Bryan official, the more anticipation builds and the more satisfying the eventual climax will be.
Against Batista, Bryan was not booked as the plucky underdog but instead as a pitbull who had his opponent off-balance for much of the match.
Bryan hit Batista with painful kicks as the pro-Punk crowd seemed to forget about their hometown hero for a few moments.
Bryan ended Monday's Raw as he did so many episodes last fall—beaten and outnumbered. Still, he is the central figure of the drama WWE chose to highlight the most. Even Cena's feud and the WWE title bout got less attention.
Loser: CM Punk Fans
A source told Dave Meltzer that Punk would be at Raw in Chicago, per F4WOnline, via WrestlingInc.com. Word spread quickly, and the audience in the Allstate Arena and at home waited for Punk's situation to be resolved and for him to possibly be a part of the WWE title match.
None of that happened.
Punk's music came on, but Paul Heyman came out instead. Heyman mocked Punk by sitting cross-legged in the ring. He blamed the fans for keeping Punk away.
Although Heyman told everyone that Punk was not in the building, fans held out hope. Chants for Punk echoed throughout most of Monday's Raw. They were all for naught, though, as Punk didn't appear.
WWE seemed to either be tricking angry Punk fans into not exploding or "rickrolling" the audience as a way to show the fans that Punk is at fault for not being around, not the company.
Either way, waiting around for Punk to come, only to realize he truly is gone from the ring with no chance of him competing at WrestleMania XXX, had to be a numbing experience for Punk's biggest fans.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
While his midcard brethren either sat around off-camera or competed in a goofy mixed-tag match, Ziggler earned a win over a former world champ and rode shotgun with Raw's guest star, Aaron Paul.
The Breaking Bad star drove Ziggler into the arena in a car that would be right at home in his new movie Need for Speed. Ziggler took on a familiar foe in Del Rio, while Paul sat at the announce desk.
It took a distraction from his new ally, but Ziggler hit the Zig Zag on Del Rio and got the win.
He got to be a part of a celebratory moment with Raw's guest star, add a victory to his resume and received some of the louder chants from the Chicago fans for anyone not named Punk.
One can count on Ziggler balancing all that out with a loss next week, as he hasn't been able to hold onto momentum for long in the last year. But for now, he joins Bryan and Sheamus as the Superstars who emerged from Monday's Raw as the night's biggest winners.