The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw 6/2/14
Only 24 hours after an incredible Payback pay-per-view, World Wrestling Entertainment delivered a Monday Night Raw that focused heavily on the stories coming out of that show and delivered a shocking heel turn that has the wrestling world buzzing.
Seth Rollins betrayed Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, joining Randy Orton and Triple H as the newest member of Evolution.
The far-reaching effects on WWE of that show-closing segment could be great. While some will question the decision to split The Shield, Rollins' actions have created an interest in the product after a month of treadmill booking.
Elsewhere on the show, Stephanie McMahon continued her quest to take the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from Daniel Bryan but found some interesting opposition in the form of John Cena.
The two had a spirited exchange before the leader of the Cenation found himself on the receiving end of Stephanie's wrath and Kane's fury.
Tag team wrestling took center stage as The Usos took on Luke Harper and Erick Rowan of the Wyatt Family in a stellar bout. Earlier in the night, Rob Van Dam and Sheamus squared off with Cesaro and Bad News Barrett in an intense, physical battle.
Throw in a ceremony praising Rusev's recent success, the culmination of the Adam Rose-Jack Swagger feud and Nikki Bella's punishment for her sister's actions and you have a night in which many smaller stories made for an entertaining and eventful episode of Raw.
Relive Monday's broadcast now by taking a look back at the best of the best from the flagship program.
Rollins Adapts, The Shield Perishes
The biggest shocker to come out of Monday Night Raw was the breakup of The Shield, courtesy of a Seth Rollins heel turn.
The timing of the turn is a bit questionable following the huge win for the Hounds of Justice just 24 hours earlier. Rollins' dive off the TitanTron helped fuel The Shield's comeback and ultimately their win. His knee to the side of Triple H's head set The Game up for the spear from Reigns.
Why go through so much trouble to ensure that your team wins if you are going to turn on them one night later?
The turn felt very inorganic, made for no reason but to try to keep the program alive and fresh.
With that said, Rollins was the perfect guy to make the turn. Back on March 3, Rollins walked out on Reigns and Ambrose, proving even back then that his connection with his teammates was not as strong as it appeared on the surface.
With the allure of Evolution and the success stories that came out of that group proving too much for him to remain loyal to The Shield, Rollins now finds himself in a position where he will be working against the teammates with whom he rode a tremendous wave of momentum.
The rub from being associated with Triple H and Randy Orton will help him get over as a heel, but his first promo, where he explains his actions to the WWE Universe, will be the most important of his career. Knock it out of the proverbial park, and he will be fine. Falter or fail to make an impression, and it could prove to be a major blunder on his and the creative team's part.
The Rollins turn was set up earlier in the night when Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista made their way to the ring to kick off the evening's broadcast. The Game repeatedly mentioned a plan, but Batista, who was sick and tired of sitting back and waiting for things that were promised to him, up and quit to the delight of the Indianapolis crowd.
The brief opening promo spelled the end of The Animal's latest run and opened up a spot in the group that would be filled in short order.
Nikki Bella vs. Alicia Fox and Aksana
The match itself was nothing special, but the Divas Handicap match on Monday night was a perfect example of logical booking.
Just 24 hours after being slapped and humiliated by Brie Bella, Stephanie McMahon got a measure of revenge by booking Brie's sister Nikki in a two-on-one Handicap match against Alicia Fox and Aksana. Nikki took a nasty beating at the hands of the unstable Fox and partner Aksana. She was left lying in a heap, as one would imagine Stephanie intended.
The way that Stephanie is now going about getting revenge on those who cross her is far more effective than anything The Authority did early in their run last fall. Whereas Triple H and Stephanie used to call out an employee, belittling them and going against business ethics, she has taken to punishing Superstars and Divas in wrestling settings.
Nikki suffered at her hands on Monday night, as did Cena later on, while Kofi Kingston found himself on the receiving end of a beatdown at the hands of Kane at Payback. It is excellent booking and makes Stephanie look that much more vindictive.
More on her in a bit.
Hero of the Russian Federation
The Rusev celebration ceremony was an outstanding old-school wrestling segment. Had it gone on earlier in the show, it would have likely received a better reaction than it did three hours into it.
Lana was great on the microphone, as she has been since debuting, and Rusev looked like a star as he ascended the podium and stood absolutely still while confetti fell from the ceiling and the Russian national anthem played over the PA system.
Traditionally, a hero would have hit the ring and dumped Rusev out. In an attempt to let the heat build for the super athlete, the creative team opted to let it play out uninterrupted.
Allowing the character to partake in segments like this one rather than following up Sunday's match with Big E with another squash match will only help the evolution of the Rusev-Lana act.
It's now a question of who will step up to challenge the Bulgarian Brute.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio
A year ago, Ziggler and Del Rio were engaged in a program over the World Heavyweight Championship and carrying Friday Night SmackDown on a weekly basis.
Now they are two guys capable of having a great match at any time, on any show, but who are wildly misused.
Monday night they fought for the right to enter Money in the Bank on June 29. Late in the show, they delivered a highly competitive bout that saw counters and reversals dominate the majority of the contest. With so little time to perform, they wasted none with rest holds. It was nonstop action from bell-to-bell.
Del Rio caught Ziggler in the Cross Armbreaker and forced the tapout for the win, as the company again opted against pushing one of their most talented in-ring competitors.
Both Del Rio and Ziggler are excellent ladder-match competitors, and either would have worked well in the upcoming Money in the Bank match. Del Rio is simply in the match to fill a spot and take a bump, and nothing more.
Rob Van Dam and Sheamus vs. Cesaro and Bad News Barrett
Van Dam, Sheamus, Cesaro and Barrett have been intertwined since the weeks immediately following WrestleMania. On Monday night, they came together to deliver a great tag match that kicked Raw off on a high note.
It was a tough bout that featured the babyfaces going over after Cesaro walked out on Bad News Barrett.
Barrett is so over as a heel that there is an argument for a babyface turn that can be made. Could Cesaro walking out on the Intercontinental champion, costing him a match against two very popular stars in Van Dam and Sheamus, be the emphasis for that turn and result in a great feud between two extremely hard-hitting competitors?
That remains to be seen, but it is difficult to imagine that Barrett will let Cesaro's cowardice go without any sort of retribution.
The Usos vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan
Jimmy and Jey Uso have been two of the MVPs of WWE in 2014 from an in-ring standpoint, and they once again proved it Monday night with a stellar match against top tag team contenders Harper and Rowan.
The action was fast and frantic, especially near the end, and Rowan was put over strongly for the first time in his WWE career, scoring the pinfall victory off a sidewalk slam.
The win instantly catapults Rowan and Harper into title contention and makes them the favorites to dethrone the second-generation champions.
The chemistry between the teams is incredibly strong, and both are very over with the audience. Expect a quality feud that elevates the tag titles in the eyes of the fans, thanks to great performances from Superstars whom fans care about.
John Cena and Stephanie McMahon
Including these two in the Awesome section is sure to catch heat, but their exchange showcased a chemistry between Cena and Stephanie as performers that has never really been explored before. They were witty, played off one another well and delivered the meat of the promo when the time came.
Cena stood up for Bryan, described what it is like to fight through an injury and even was able to relay the emotion that comes with having to give up a title due to said injury. Stephanie counteracted by reminding Cena that he did do the right thing by giving up the championship and allowing the fans to have a fighting champion.
They went back and forth, each making valid points and leaving the fans to decide which side of the argument they fell on.
The line of the night went to Stephanie who, after Cena pointed out the one big surgery she had (breast enlargements), shot back with, "That put me in action." That line was a fun callback to the reputation that the Billion Dollar Princess once had.
Stephanie ended by saying, "Payback is a b---h, John, but then again, so am I."
It was a great exclamation point on a segment that showed a shift in Stephanie's philosophy. She spent months being the disingenuous authority figure but is now embracing the fact that she is not a nice person. She will do whatever is necessary to get what she wants and get revenge on anyone who crosses her.
That fans were also given an idea of what the top of the Money in the Bank card will look like, which put the promo over the top in terms of success.
An awesome segment, regardless of the opinions some have of those involved.