The April 28 edition of WWE Raw began and ended with victories outside of the ring.
Bray Wyatt and John Cena opened the night with the latest chapter in a story that has sunk its claws into the audience's attention. The Shield capped things off with evidence of its toughness and high standing.
Aside from the haunting song that Wyatt led and the slobberknocker that The Shield delivered, Bad News Barrett's big win was one of the most notable moments of the show. His 2014 has improved dramatically in the last few weeks, including earning a trip to Extreme Rules at a former WWE champ's expense.
Damien Sandow and Extreme Rules' level of "hardcore" didn't fare as well.
WWE once again pegged Sandow as the court jester, this time after a bit of cosplay. The company also failed to make use of what makes Extreme Rules special.
Those stumbles won't make as many headlines as Cena and Wyatt's latest interaction, though.
Winner: The John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt Rivalry
The ideal WWE feud benefits both rivals. As Wyatt and Cena's battle unfolds, that is exactly what is happening.
Cena revealed some darker elements to his normally Boy Scout persona. He angrily addressed the crowd wondering why they would choose to have him face all three members of The Wyatt Family last week. It wasn't the full heel turn many fans have been waiting for, but it was a significant shift.
The best part of this rivalry with Cena has been that it's forcing him to change and grow.
Watching him undergo whatever metamorphosis he's experiencing is compelling. The story surrounding him and the creepy moment that Raw's opening segment produced was that and more.
Wyatt came to the ring with a flock of singing children behind him.
They eventually surrounded the steel cage where Cena stood, slipped on lamb masks and constructed one of the more haunting sights in WWE history. It felt like something that belonged in a Children of the Corn movie or as part of a WrestleMania entrance.
The moment made Wyatt come off as even more of a Pied Piper powerful enough to command a cadre of kids and frightening enough to unsettle a superhero.
Loser: Damien Sandow
"The Intellectual Savior" continues his descent into laughingstock territory. Monday's Raw rivaled the night he played Bad Santa in ridiculousness for him.
Sandow donned a pajama-esque Magneto costume and stumbled on his cape on his way into the ring. Dolph Ziggler and Hugh Jackman laughed at him as he tried to demean them.
The wanna-be supervillain tried to will Jackman's mic out of his hand with the powers of magnetism.
Instead, Jackman plunked the mic against Sandow's chest. "Wolverine" hip-tossed Sandow before Ziggler hit him with a Zig Zag. The segment further cemented his position as WWE's rodeo clown.
Someone has to be the butt of the jokes on Raw. That role has increasingly gone to Sandow.
Winner: Bad News Barrett
Barrett scored his third win in three weeks on Raw defeating Rob Van Dam in the finals to determine who faces Big E at Extreme Rules.
Distraction from Cesaro aided the Englishman's victory, but the story of the match before that was Barrett's dominance. He controlled the action wearing down and punishing his foe for most of the bout.
He not only becomes the No. 1 contender for the Intercontinental Championship, but completes a transformation that has seen him go from little-used to teeming with momentum.
Had he just been handed a shot at the IC title, the opportunity wouldn't have felt as significant as it does now. He fought through three rounds of competition, knocking off Ziggler, Sheamus and now Van Dam.
That rough journey leaves him looking stronger. His stock is improved regardless if he dethrones Big E or not.
Barrett is headed for Extreme Rules' spotlight while men like Ziggler, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio have to settle for watching the event from the backstage area.
Loser: Extremeness at Extreme Rules
The Extreme Rules card is lacking bite.
Compelling stories and talented wrestlers will be a part of the show, but WWE didn't add "extreme" stipulations to several of the matches on Monday's Raw. Van Dam will meet Cesaro and Jack Swagger in a Triple Threat match, Barrett will clash with Big E and The Shield and Evolution meet in a tag match.
As of now, no tables, chairs or cages are involved in those contests.
Having Hornswoggle and El Torito square off in a "WeeLC" match is not most fans' idea of WWE going extreme. Since we are in the PG Era, no one is expecting First Blood or a Clockwork Orange House of Fun, but fans were certainly hoping for more gimmick matches and more edge.
The Shield and Evolution's animosity demands a bout beyond a standard six-man tag and that element didn't get added on the go-home Raw.
Winner: The Shield
Even with Cena in the midst of a complex feud and Daniel Bryan returning to Raw with revenge on his mind, The Shield stood on center stage on Monday's Raw.
The night's main event pitted Roman Reigns against Randy Orton. More than that, though, The Shield ended the show by fighting off Evolution, forcing it to flee from the ring.
Reigns vs. Orton ended in expected chaos. Orton, Triple H and Batista handed out a severe beating The Shield rallied back from.
Raw's final image was The Shield standing in the ring, steel chairs in hand, watching its enemies retreat.
Add to that the fact Ric Flair endorsed it before this brawl started and "The Hounds of Justice" head into Extreme Rules with fistfuls of momentum. The trio showed resilience, and that it is on equal footing with a once-dominant group.
Their upcoming bout is now awash with buzz. Regardless of where their six-man tag match ends up on the card, it's feeling like Extreme Rules' main event.
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