Wrestling fans have seen the heel authority figure storyline over and over.
It generally plays out in a similar way. The authority figure supports a heel wrestler, targets a face wrestler or both. Then, the heel wins the title, and the authority figure does a lot to try to help him keep the title.
And for a while, The Authority storyline has played out exactly that way. On Monday's WWE Raw, however, it took a bit of a turn.
At the beginning of the show -- as Randy Orton was ranting about how he was being mistreated, and that as the face the company, he should be treated better -- The Authority came out.
It had been teased over the past few weeks that there might be dissension between Orton, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon, but Monday night was the first time that it was acknowledged directly.
McMahon said that maybe he wasn't good enough to be the face anymore, and maybe the WWE needed a new face, which could, yes, possibly be Daniel Bryan. She decided that, over the next few weeks, Orton would have to face all five of his Elimination Chamber opponents in singles matches, starting with a match against Bryan later in the night.
This sent two very odd forks in the typical storyline.
For one, The Authority seemed less like true heels, and more like tweeners. They've acted that way in the past, but it always came off as them poorly trying to trick whatever wrestler they were going against, whether it was The Rhodes Brothers, Bryan or CM Punk.
This time, though, it was hard to see Triple H leading the "Yes!" chant and not wonder exactly where they were trying to go with it. While it's illogical for Bryan to get their support, it could be a case of art imitating reality, as they might be getting their hand forced when the Seattle Seahawks are tweeting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” after their Super Bowl win. That makes it very hard, both in reality and in a storyline, to keep ignoring Bryan.
Also, the running of the gantlet (not a gauntlet match, but just having all of these matches in successive weeks) is something that a heel very rarely has to do. Occasionally, you'd see it if a heel champion is forced into it by a face authority figure, but never in this situation.
And as Orton is, for the most part, overcoming these obstacles -- and doing it cleanly -- it makes him actually look better in the process. It got to a point where Jerry Lawler, who, if you remember, is the face analyst, was questioning if Orton was being treated unfairly.
So the blurred lines are seeping into all parts of the show.
Bryan ended up getting the pin cleanly in the match, even after Kane came out and tried to distract him. Kane's attempted interference, and then subsequent beatdown of Bryan after the match, likely signifies that The Authority is still firmly against Bryan, and possibly with Orton, but the waters, for now, are still murky.
A couple months ago, there were rumors that Vince McMahon wanted to blur the lines more between the faces and heels. While many people wrote it off at the time, this storyline may be showing that there is something to that, and it's something that we may need to expect more often.
The rest of Raw
-- There were a good amount of CM Punk chants throughout the night. No sign of him, and very little mention of him, outside an odd moment when The Miz came out during a match and complained about not being on the show before storming away, which many people took as a thinly-veiled shot at CM Punk. At one point, it seemed like they turned down the crowd mics in response to the CM Punk chants.
-- The New Age Outlaws retained their titles in a cage match against The Rhodes Brothers. At the end of the match, Cody Rhodes did a blind moonsault off the top of the cage and crashed and burned when he barely got any of The Road Dogg. First, I absolutely hate the blind moonsault as a move. Off the turnbuckle it's dangerous enough, and we've seen miscommunications between him and his opponent in the past. But doing it off the top of the cage is crazy. He wasn't lined up perfectly with The Road Dogg -- and never realized it because he never looked back -- and then he moved even farther off with the jump and over-rotated. It's almost better that The Road Dogg didn't catch him flush, because Rhodes' knee would've been driven right into his head. It was simply an unbelievably dangerous move that should have never been attempted. So far I haven't heard anything about Rhodes' well-being, so hopefully he was just shaken up a little, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was more than that.
-- The Shield beat Rey Mysterio, Big E Langston and Kofi Kingston in a six-man tag team match. Roman Reigns was going for a spear on Langston, and Dean Ambrose tagged himself in to get the pin. As they bickered, The Wyatt Family came onto the big screen and had another of their rambling promos. If you missed Smackdown, they made a six-man tag team match between the two, and Bray Wyatt hinted at a possible War Games match. Tonight, Luke Harper was actually allowed to talk a little, and even Erick Rowan got to say one word, “Run.” Later, The Shield replied after The Wyatt Family beat R-Truth, Xavier Woods and Dolph Ziggler. This feud is interesting, as it's the rare heel/heel feud that actually seems to be gaining traction with the crowd.
-- Christian beat Jack Swagger in a rematch from Smackdown. On last week's episode of Smackdown, both Christian and Antonio Cesaro qualified for the Elimination Chamber. After this match on Raw, both Zeb Colter and Cesaro showed displeasure in Swagger, though they didn't make any move to split the team yet.
-- Speaking of teams breaking up, Titus O'Neil turned heel on Smackdown and beat down his partner, Darren Young. He came out with new music as a heel on Raw, and beat Zack Ryder in a squash match. Just a quick note here, recently Smackdown has become much more interesting as far as storylines go. I'm not sure whether it's a conscious effort to make Smackdown more relevant, or a consequence of unifying the titles, but it's refreshing to see Smackdown be used as more than a time-filler.
-- Batista came out to cut a promo, but before he could start talking, Alberto Del Rio came out and ran him down verbally. He then started attacking Batista. Batista cut him off, and went for a Batista Bomb, but Del Rio escaped up the ramp. It looks like we'll be getting that match at Elimination Chamber.
-- Emma made her “official” debut in a dance-off competition against Summer Rae. It seemed like it was going to be Fandango against Santino Marella in the dance off, but he decided to bring Emma out of the audience instead. The fans seemed somewhat confused by Emma's quirky dancing, and that kind of hurt her debut. But trust me, when you get a chance to see her in the ring, you'll be impressed. She can definitely add something to the Divas division.
-- Sheamus beat Curtis Axel as they continue to build him up since his return.
-- Alexander Rusev had a taped segment, where his valet, Lana, sounded like Bridgette Nielsen in Rocky IV and said “Rusev hits, Rusev crush.”
-- Bad News Barrett was doing a segment, and then Jerry Lawler interrupted him. I really hope this isn't the start of a feud between the two.
-- Naomi pinned Aksana with AJ Lee on guest commentary.
-- Betty White will be the special guest star next week.
-- Finally, be on the lookout later this week for a special interview with former WWE Diva and TNA Knockout Mickie James before she returns to Maryland for the MCW show Saturday.