Roman Reigns and John Cena ended the July 7 edition of WWE Raw as distrustful allies, each man celebrating the other, the scene offering a hint of them meeting in a one-on-one capacity in the future.
They will battle in a Fatal 4-Way match in less than two weeks, but WWE signaled that there is a headlining bout between them on the horizon. A staredown and restrained tension in Montreal's Bell Centre speak to that possibility.
Cena took on Seth Rollins in the show's main event, a match that devolved into chaos. Kane and Randy Orton attacked the champ before the bout was done. Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Rollins' briefcase all played major roles in the brawl that followed.
This fight served to escalate the Rollins and Ambrose feud and increase tension between the Superstars entering the Fatal 4-Way at Battleground.
Those were expected additions to those continuing stories. The final image of Monday's Raw speaks to something in the long term.
Cena looked confused as Reigns held his arm up in victory. The Montreal crowd offered the champion a blend of boos and cheers. After a moment of hesitation, Cena did the same for Reigns, inspiring the crowd to fill the arena with approval.
The two men then stared each other down, animosity bubbling under a layer of respect.
It felt like WWE was holding a test screening to gauge how fans would react to a future one-on-one match between these two. It looked a lot like the moment The Wyatt Family and The Shield had last November.
After being on the same side in a six-man tag match, Luke Harper and Dean Ambrose started barking at each other before the fist-swinging began.
The crowd went nuts for this, essentially telling WWE, "This is what we want to see." WWE stored the match away. It wasn't until Feb. 23 of this year at Elimination Chamber that those teams met in an official contest.
On Monday's Raw, WWE seemed to be planting a seed for a future collision, just like it did with The Wyatt Family and The Shield. Earlier in the night, Reigns interrupted Cena's interview with Renee Young, as Richard Trionfo recaps for PWInsider.com.
Reigns and Cena exchanged another tense moment there.
Did Cena call Reigns "holmes"?— Cageside Seats (@cagesideseats) July 8, 2014
This is designed to make the Battleground title match more interesting. The company, though, can choose to focus on anything it wants about that match. Having Reigns step up to Cena this way feels like a long-term investment as well as standard pay-per-view buildup.
Locking horns with Cena alone is going to have to wait, though. After Battleground, Cena and Reigns look to be headed in different directions.
According to PWInsider.com (h/t WrestlingInc.com), starting the buildup for Triple H vs. Reigns was WWE's main goal in doing an Evolution vs. The Shield feud. That should occupy Reigns' time for the next few months, especially if he has to go through Orton or Kane before tangling with the COO.
Cena will likely soon be busy with Brock Lesnar anyway.
A leaked SummerSlam poster suggests as much. The same is true based on news reports. According to F4WOnline.com (h/t WrestlingInc.com), there is talk that Triple H's "plan B" for Cena, if he retains at Battleground, is Lesnar.
Once those feuds come to a close, though, WWE has a money match in hand with Reigns vs. Cena.
Take a good look at Roman Reigns & John Cena on the screen together. MAJOR Main Eventing will happen between them in the future #Raw— Wrestle Reaction (@Wrestle_React) July 8, 2014
Having those two Superstars stand alongside each other in front of a ravenous Montreal crowd felt symbolic. It's an image WWE can refer to when these two collide at a future date. It's one that foreshadows a potential changing-of-the-guard moment.
If Reigns is going to climb into Cena's spot at some point, he'll likely have to go through him, a bout fit for the marquee.