The question of what to do with the world heavyweight title has been hanging over the WWE since Daniel Bryan announced two weeks ago that he needed surgery. While it seemed like there might be a resolution on Raw, the decision on the belt was postponed, and the lack of a title feud had a ripple effect over the entire show.
The previous week, Stephanie McMahon said that Bryan needed to surrender the title on Raw this week. And yes, he did show up. He said that his injury was worse than expected (which I believe is a work, and was just used to get a reaction from the crowd) and did say the fans deserved a champion. However, he refused to hand his belts over. Stephanie responded by giving him an ultimatum: give up the belts at Payback, or Brie would be fired.
Normally, the WWE acts decisively when it comes to injuries, especially when it comes to the main title. If someone was missing a good amount of time, they were stripped quickly, and if they made the wrong decision, they just went back and fixed it. Right now, it almost seems like WWE is biding its time deciding what to do. Based on most of the reports, Daniel Bryan should be out another two months or so, returning sometime in July. Which, granted, is one of those in-between times where there's not a clearly correct decision. When you take into account that the pay-per-view after Payback is Money In The Bank, where the title match is usually a secondary thought to the ladder match, there's even more of a reason you can stall, if you're the WWE.
At the same time, some of what Stephanie McMahon said on Raw had truth to it. The show should have a champion. I will say, it's been nice to see some midcard feuds get more time these past few weeks due to the lack of a title feud on Raw, but at the same time, there is a noticeable void there. If Daniel Bryan truly won't be able to wrestle until the Battleground pay-per-view at the earliest, possibly not until SummerSlam or later, it's going to become really hard to keep stalling on the decision.
I will say, if this isn't simple stalling and is actually part of a storyline, there's a decent reason to do that at this point, and that's simply the fact that almost everyone who could be involved in the title picture is involved with another feud right now, whether it's someone in Evolution, someone like Roman Reigns, or John Cena. So if they wanted, they could stall until just after Payback, and then move to get a new champion then. Whether that would be a simple strip of the title and getting a new champion, like we've seen in the past, or possibly adopting something from UFC and naming an interim champion until Daniel Bryan returns, that's yet to be seen. The interim champion has some interesting possibilities, simply for the novelty in the wrestling world. Granted, in practical terms, there's no real difference between the two, as either way, Daniel Bryan would come back and feud with whoever that champion is, but anything new should be embraced in wrestling.
Our questions should be answered in the upcoming week. If something concrete doesn't happen by next week's Raw, I'd be very surprised. And while I hope that there have been some misreports and Daniel Bryan will be ready to go within a month, I'm not counting on it, and I expect something to happen with the title very soon.
The rest of Raw:
** The Shield and Evolution had a contract signing, which broke down even faster than a usual wrestling contract signing. Evolution ended up getting the upper hand and sending Roman Reigns through the announce table with a triple powerbomb. There was one very interesting thing about the segment. Both the announcers and The Shield hyped up the fact that this was the final confrontation between the two groups. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that hasn't been brought up to this point. You would think that it would've been a point to focus on earlier than six days before the pay-per-view. The fact that it was something that was clearly planned, as multiple people brought it up, makes me think that some sort of big swerve is happening at the pay-per-view. I've talked seemingly for months about someone, likely Ambrose, turning on The Shield, and it seems to fit even more after that segment.
** Bray Wyatt and John Cena had yet another confrontation. While I am still into both sides of this feud, it’s definitely started to show signs of running its course. This time, they had to fall back on the tried and true practice of attacking the commentators when the heel needs to get some heat. This time, it was JBL who took the physical abuse, trying to assist Lawler when he was getting run down. Cena and the Usos saved Lawler before any damage could be done to him.
** Brad Maddox was “fired” by the Authority, and also caught a beating from Kane for his troubles. Before his run as a corrupt ref and then authority figure, he was a wrestler down in NXT, so we’ll see if he gets a better chance at that. This is a guy whose mic skills has been somewhat underrated, but we haven’t really seen him in the ring much. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens once he’s rededicated to the in-ring part of things.
** Batista and Randy Orton beat The Rhodes Brothers in an elimination tag match. I’ll say this, letting Orton and Batista look dominant again was probably a good thing -- though it was at the expense of the Rhodes brothers, who it appears the WWE still isn’t quite sure what to do with.
** Cesaro beat Rob Van Dam. This was a decent match, but it really served to just push both title matches (Cesaro vs. Sheamus and RVD vs. Bad News Barrett) at Payback. After that match, Sheamus came out to blindside Cesaro. Later in the night, Sheamus beat Alberto Del Rio, and then Cesaro attacked Sheamus while Paul Heyman distracted him on the mic.
** Bo Dallas made his Raw debut and beat Sin Cara. There, rightfully, have been doubts as to whether his NXT gimmick, which was somewhat similar to Kurt Angle’s gimmick when he joined WWE, could make the transition to the main roster. And in response, the WWE has taken the gimmick and cranked it up a notch. I've enjoyed his work, so I hope it will translate to the bigger crowd.
** Rusev beat down Zach Ryder after Lana came out to make some anti-American comments about Memorial Day. Big E came in and came to the aid of Zach Ryder, and got to wave the American flag. Presumably these two will meet at Payback.
** Adam Rose made his main roster in-ring debut, against Damien Sandow dressed as Davy Crockett (for some reason, which they never quite explained). I’m a fan of Adam Rose’s gimmick, but one thing they’ve had a bit of a problem with is incorporating his gimmick into his in-ring work. He’s added a couple flamboyant moves, but for the most part, he wrestles just like he did when he was Leo Kruger, the deranged South African. He needs to get more Adam Rose into his in-ring work.
** Eva Marie beat Summer Rae when Fandango and Layla distracted Summer Rae.
** El Torito beat Drew McIntyre. After the match Hornswaggle ripped off El Torito’s tail. Yes, I just typed those words in my column. Remember when Drew McIntyre was The Chosen One? For the second straight pay-per-view, Hornswaggle will face El Torito, this time in a hair vs. mask match.
** Emma beat Alicia Fox. Alicia had another crazy rampage ringside after the match while shouting “I am not a loser!”
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