Monday night's Raw was a pivotal one on the road to WrestleMania XXX.
CM Punk did not return in his hometown of Chicago, and it appears as though the Best in the World will watch this year's Showcase of the Immortals from the sidelines.
One Superstar who will not is Batista, who continues to put down the fans who greet him with boos whenever he enters an arena. The Animal took on Daniel Bryan Monday night and lost by disqualification when Randy Orton interfered.
Already advertised for this week's SmackDown, what will the star of the upcoming Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy have in store for the WWE Universe?
Speaking of advertised talent for Friday's broadcast, the Big Show returns to the ring for the first time after being savagely assaulted by Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble in January. There will undoubtedly be questions surrounding just how The World's Largest Athlete figures into the creative team's plans for WrestleMania.
What will Friday's show hold for Daniel Bryan, who was verbally and physically assaulted by Triple H on Raw? The leader of the Yes! Movement figures to play a key role at this year's WrestleMania, but exactly what the role will be has yet to be revealed.
The Shield nearly imploded Monday night as Seth Rollins abandoned his teammates and watched from the ramp as they fell in defeat to the Wyatt Family. After trying so desperately to keep the unit together, a frustrated Rollins took drastic measures on Raw. How will Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose respond?
Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Christian, Alberto Del Rio and Divas champion AJ Lee are all in action on this week's show.
What goes down this Friday on SmackDown?
Let's take a look, courtesy of our friends at WrestlingInc.com.
Joe Louis Arena in Detroit
Michael Cole and John Bradshaw Layfield
- Batista opens up the show but is interrupted by Daniel Bryan, which brings Kane to the ring. Bryan finds himself on the receiving end of a beatdown, and Big Show hits the ring to make the save. A huge tag team main event is made for the night's main event.
- Christian defeated Dolph Ziggler after Alberto Del Rio provided a distraction.
- The Usos defeated Ryback and Curtis Axel.
- Eva Marie and Natalya defeated AJ Lee and Tamina Snuka when Natalya made AJ tap out.
- The Shield cut a promo and agreed they needed to get back to being as strong as they were before. Rollins and Ambrose hit each other, then made up.
- Sheamus defeated Alberto Del Rio with the Brogue Kick.
- Big E defeated Jack Swagger; more tension between the Real Americans followed.
- Alexander Rusev and Lana cut a promo.
- Big Show and Daniel Bryan defeated Batista and Kane when Big Show delivered the knockout punch to Kane and Bryan rolled him up for the win.
Bryan keeps on rolling
With the spotlight being placed solely on Daniel Bryan's vendetta against Triple H and the Authority this past Monday on Raw, it only made sense to feature Bryan heavily on this Friday's broadcast. Not only does he kick off the show by interrupting Batista, he partners with Big Show to pick up a big tag team victory in the night's main event.
The continued interaction with Batista is interesting in that no one really believes that the company will keep the announced Batista-Randy Orton WWE title bout come WrestleMania. Both men are heels, and the crowd of diehard wrestling fans would likely create an embarrassing environment for the former Evolution teammates to perform in.
Perhaps fans are treated to both a Bryan-Triple H match as well as a championship opportunity for the leader of the Yes! Movement. A stipulation stating that Bryan will compete for the title if he can knock off The Game gives fans more motivation to invest themselves in the match.
Regardless, Bryan picks up another win this week with former rival Big Show as his partner.
Del Rio's revenge
Monday on Raw, Dolph Ziggler was accompanied to the ring by Need for Speed and Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul for a match against Alberto Del Rio. Paul would provide a key distraction that allowed Ziggler to score the victory following the Zig Zag.
On Friday night, Del Rio takes a page out of Paul's book and distracts Ziggler, costing him a victory in a match against Christian.
With nothing else better to do at this point, a competitive rivalry between Ziggler and Del Rio that plays up their past and gives them the opportunity to deliver a show-stealing performance come April 6 may be best for everyone involved.
The Shield reunites
Monday night appeared to be the end of The Shield as we knew it.
Seth Rollins walked out on his partners, and the crack that had formed in the weeks leading up to the match against the Wyatt Family appeared to be irreparable.
That diagnosis seems premature as the trio overcomes its issues and ends Friday night reunited and feeling much better as they finally embark on the road to WrestleMania.
While there is still time for the split to occur, it appears as though the company may hold off on pulling the proverbial trigger on the dissolution of The Shield until after the Showcase of the Immortals concludes on April 6.
If that is the case, it should be very interesting to see exactly what the company does with the trio. Recent matches with the Wyatt Family have been phenomenal, and given that Erick Rowan and Luke Harper will be without a match thanks to Bray Wyatt's impending showdown against John Cena, a match between those two Superstars and Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins could prove wildly entertaining.
That leaves Dean Ambrose without anything to do.
While it is highly unlikely the company would force one of The Shield members to miss out on a spot on the card, that may be the case thanks to a huge card, which has been populated by part-time stars in key positions.
So much talent, so few spots
If the never-ending feud between Sheamus and Christian has taught us anything, it is that WWE has so much talent on its roster at this point that they simply do not know what to do with it.
With the two aforementioned stars without anything substantial to do, not to mention others such as Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, Cody Rhodes, Goldust, Ryback, Curtis Axel, Big Show, Mark Henry and Rey Mysterio floating around aimlessly, the notable Superstars left off the card may prove to be as plentiful as those who make it on.
A handful of those talents are in action this week on SmackDown. With only so many weeks to go before the biggest show of the year, creative will have to begin devising ways to get some of them on the April 6 card.
Perhaps 2014 is the year to bring back Money in the Bank to the biggest show of the year.