The last WWE Raw of July could see a windfall of returns. A powerhouse on the mend, a fan favorite written off TV and a bat-wielding vigilante are among those potentially set to make their way back to the ring on Monday night.
As WWE turns up the volume on SummerSlam hype, expect more matches to fill up that card—and for increasing bad blood between rivals to be a priority.
Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City plays host to Seth Rollins and Company. What storyline lies ahead for the world champ? What are WWE's plans for him, Cesaro, Roman Reigns and others at SummerSlam? Monday's Raw promises to provide at least partial answers.
Offering a glimpse at what's in store for the night, the following preview pulls info from backstage reports, Twitter and James Wortman's five-point preview on WWE.com.
News, Potential Spoilers
SummerSlam already boasts a rare in-ring appearance from Undertaker. Continued rumblings suggest that Sting will join him at the pay-per-view.
The latest comes from PWInsider's Dave Scherer. He wrote, "There has been a lot of talk that Sting will be back wrestling for WWE at SummerSlam (which I expect will be announced tomorrow, in front of Thursday's Financial and Network Subscriber update)."
That makes a ton of sense. Announcing Sting as part of the event will certainly aid in boosting numbers for the WWE Network. Plus, it will keep WWE's momentum strong after a memorable blowup between Brock Lesnar and Undertaker last week.
Fans will be on "Sting Watch" every Monday night from now until he either emerges from the shadows or SummerSlam arrives sans Stinger.
Meanwhile, Nikki and Brie Bella started their own rumors by publicly offering Natalya a spot on their squad. Natalya further teased joining Team Bella with a tweet of her own:
Natalya has been away tending to her husband following his neck surgery. F4WOnline reported at the end of June, "The plan was for her to take some time off while husband Tyson Kidd starts his recovery from neck surgery, but she is on call for television if needed."
One would expect that it's about time for WWE to start easing her back into its programming. With the warring-factions angle being the dominant story of the women's division, inserting Natalya into the same narrative would be a logical move.
Should she pop up in Oklahoma in red attire a la the Bellas, she won't be the only wrestler undergoing a wardrobe change.
Curtis Axel won't be sporting red and yellow anymore. Amid the current Hulk Hogan controversy, the Meta Powers gimmick is apparently on the shelf. Damien Sandow and Axel worked the weekend's live events sans homages to Randy Savage and Hogan, respectively.
As noted by PWTorch, the duo wrestled as themselves rather than Macho Mandow and Axelmania. A fan calling himself The Axeman tweeted a shot of Axel's new non-Hogan look:
Axel and Sandow struggled for airtime when the Meta Powers were at their "peak," though, so it's hard to bet on them getting much spotlight on the show with these new stripped-down gimmicks.
Dolph Ziggler and Ryback, however, may be back to taking down WWE's bad guys again.
James Caldwell noted on PWTorch that Ziggler (who suffered a storyline neck injury) and Ryback (who was sidelined with a legit injury) are both listed for Monday's Raw. On the other hand, neither Lesnar nor Undertaker are advertised for the show.
Furthering Feuds, Building SummerSlam
Whether the ongoing battle between The Wyatt Family and Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose eventually involves Sting remains to be seen, but it's clear that the feud will get plenty of attention.
On last week's Raw, Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper brawled with their old rivals. Days later, those bruisers cost Ambrose a win on SmackDown, distracting him during his fight with Sheamus.
The five-point preview pointed to more collision between the two duos. Wortman wrote, "Will Ambrose and Reigns be ready should Wyatt and Harper strike again?"
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon will be doing some striking of their own. After ordering the bulk of the roster to keep Undertaker and Lesnar separated on last Monday's Raw, they can't be happy with the chaos that ensued.
Wortman told us, "Expect The Authority to assert their power on Monday night."
It's hard to know what to look out for with these corporate characters, though. Inconsistency has plagued them of late. One moment they are merciless tyrants, and the other they are more like babyfaces. Where WWE heads with them next in that sense will be intriguing on its own.
Fans should also keep an eye on how much airtime the women's division gets.
After introducing Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch from NXT, WWE has treated the division far better than it usually does. The women are getting a sustained story to work with, not to mention much longer bouts to tell that story.
Team BAD, Paige's crew and the Bellas are sure to be at each other's throats again. A twist on that three-way battle may be on its way, though.
Hinting at possible strife between the Bellas' enemies, Wortman wrote, "Should The Bella Twins continue fighting a war on two fronts, or will we see them turn their adversaries against one another?"
It's not clear yet whether WWE wants to have all three teams go at it for SummerSlam or focus on select members of those teams. As for what's ahead for Cesaro and Kevin Owens, things are far more obvious.
By asking, "Will we see these rivals collide on Raw?," Wortman confirmed what many fans were thinking: Owens and Cesaro are set to engage in a full-fledged feud.
This follows the pair's clash over the past few weeks as they both strive to get into U.S. title contention. Owens' powerbombing Cesaro on last Thursday's SmackDown is a strong indication that they will be locking horns heading into and at SummerSlam.
As for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match and what fans can look forward to, it's looking more and more like it will be a champion-versus-champion affair.
John Cena and Rollins squabbled on last week's Raw. That doesn't look to be just a one-time meeting between the two.
The WWE.com preview hints at more to come. Wortman wrote, "We wouldn't be surprised if the tense exchange between Cena and Rollins last Monday night spurs another altercation—perhaps a more physical one—this week."
That would take care of the spot on the card for two champions. WWE will then just have to figure out where to fit in guys like Sheamus, King Barrett and Randy Orton.