An injured champion and the home stretch toward Payback highlight the May 26 edition of WWE Raw.
Uncertainty surrounds Daniel Bryan and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Stephanie McMahon considered stripping him of the title on last week's show but wanted the warrior recovering from neck surgery to give it up himself. Will this be the night Bryan's third WWE title reign ends?
Knoxville, Tennessee, hosts the Memorial Day edition of Raw that will build toward the pay-per-view and provide answers, definitive or otherwise, about what happens to Bryan's championship.
Neither Kane nor Big Show have been around much lately, but both are scheduled to appear on Monday's show. They will join The Shield, Evolution, John Cena, Bray Wyatt and perhaps the star of The Marine 4.
Digging through backstage reports and James Wortman's "Five-point Preview" on WWE.com gives fans insight into what to expect on the go-home episode.
News, Potential Spoilers
Summer Rae, who was filming The Marine 4 with The Miz, returned last week and pressed her lips onto Fandango's. The Miz likely won't be kissing the ballroom dancer but could be back in action.
"The Awesome One" worked several shows during WWE's tour of Europe. He joined forces with Cody Rhodes and others in both Strasbourg and Orchies, France.
Another pic of The Miz yesterday in Orchies pic.twitter.com/fsk3dzDz6R— Josefine Kresse (@MizAwesomeJK) May 22, 2014
Should he make it back on Monday's Raw, he may not be alone.
According to PWInsider, via Wrestling Inc's Marc Middleton, there is word going around that "Flair will be put with the Miz again." Flair would have to pass a series of medical tests to make his way back as a regular on WWE TV. Their previous history together and The Miz's need of a spark make this a probable scenario.
Flair's old group Evolution is sure to be a prominent part of the show.
Evolution's feud with The Shield has led to both Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins battling Batista. It appears that two other folks in this rivalry will get a chance to shine this time.
Should they collide, the match is not likely to actually come to a finish. Brawls and no-contests have been the norm when these two squads meet.
Other than Payback's marquee matchups, what will happen with the world title is the most anticipated part of Monday's show. It's unclear how long this situation will take to play out, though.
Middleton of Wrestling Inc passed along word from F4WOnline that "word is that the official on-screen decision about the WWE World Heavyweight Title will be made on this Monday's Memorial Day RAW." However, the report also notes that "there was some speculation that they might carry the angle out over a few weeks."
Championship and Pay-Per-View Question Marks
A not-so-hidden hint in this week's preview only adds doubt that there will be a final decision on Monday night. Wortman writes that if Bryan doesn't relinquish the title, "we can only assume that the consequences will be dire. "
The implication that Bryan has an option here suggests that WWE may try to keep the belt on Bryan and turn this situation into an extension of The Authority-versus-Bryan storyline.
The only thing fans can count on with this situation is that Bryan won't be competing at Payback. The pay-per-view will instead have to focus on its grudge matches and midcard bouts.
Four women could be added to that card come Monday's Raw.
Last week, the now-deranged Alicia Fox pinned Paige in non-title action. Traditionally, that means that Fox will get a crack at the championship.
That seems to be the direction WWE is going. Wortman asks, "Has Alicia secured herself a Divas Championship Match in the near future?" That question, the recent focus on Fox and a limited supply of challengers with AJ Lee still out, all point toward Fox and Paige clashing at Payback.
Fandango's dance partners, past and present, could join them at the pay-per-view. The cat fight that broke out between Summer and Layla last week likely precedes more violence between them.
Is this something they can settle on Raw, or is the Fandango love triangle storyline going to be added as pay-per-view filler?
Expect the Evolution vs. The Shield and Wyatt vs. Cena battles to be the focus of Monday's Raw as WWE looks to deliver one last hard sell for Payback.
Wyatt continues to try to influence Cena's young followers, spreading his dark, cryptic message on any platform he's given.
Count on "The Eater of Worlds" to have more to say and for him and Cena to increase the animosity between them. The two foes stared each other down on last Friday's SmackDown. Days before that, Wyatt left Cena lying on the entrance ramp as Luke Harper counted to 10.
Cena has already taken on both Harper and Erick Rowan in singles action several times. The Usos could be a part of a six-man bout with The Wyatt Family to vary things up.
In addition to the reported Ambrose vs. Orton match, it look as if Brad Maddox is going to be a part of the story involving Evolution.
When Triple H made himself ring announcer and Orton the official timekeeper for Rollins vs. Batista last week, Maddox evened things up by sending Ambrose and Reigns down to the announce desk.
The fact that Wortman asks, "Will Maddox be punished by The Authority for his apparent act of defiance?" means of course he will. There's a strong chance that Triple H and company use a beatdown of Maddox to head into Payback looking like a wrecking crew without hurting The Shield's aura.
Done right, The Shield vs. Evolution and Payback's biggest bouts can be so drenched with excitement that thoughts of the lack of resolution regarding the world title will fade into the background.