Coming off what was arguably the WWE's best pay-per-view -- and certainly best SummerSlam -- in years, I thought the Aug. 19 episode of Monday Night Raw failed to deliver anything meaningful or memorable, sans John Cena's opening promo telling us he was leaving for a while and essentially, handing the mantle of top babyface to Daniel Bryan. However, there are a couple things we learned about the storyline direction of the company moving forward, at least I think so. Here are 10 things I think I learned on Raw.
1. This John Cena injury is more serious than we originally thought. The fluid on his elbow was from a torn triceps and Cena said he couldn't put off the surgery any longer and will be out 4 to 6 months. That puts him back on track to return for WrestleMania season. Does this mean a surprise (or even announced) Royal Rumble return? I don't know. But barring any major setbacks, Cena will be a part of WrestleMania XXX.
2. Cody Rhodes should really be getting a World Heavyweight Championship title shot soon. Two consecutive victories over Mr. Money in the Bank Damien Sandow, which as JBL notes is essentially the uncrowned champion, should put Rhodes in the catbird's seat to challenge for the belt. I also think Cody needs to grow his mustache back. It was the most over thing about him and made him stand out.
3. Except Rhodes isn't going to be the No. 1 contender, Rob Van Dam is. I don't understand the pairing of Ricardo Rodriguez and RVD. Especially when Del Rio is cutting promos about how he represents the Latino community. RVD certainly doesn't. With that said, Van Dam, who is from Michigan, makes sense as a challenger since the next PPV Night of Champions, emanates from Detroit.
4. Apparently all the Prime Time Players needed to get a push was have Darren Young come out. I figured a feud with the Real Americans would make sense, but WWE seemed too scared to push the envelope and actually have Zeb Colter say something derrogotory about the LGTB community and Young specifically to really get some heat, instead relying on a thinly veiled reference to WWE "making headlines" this past week. (For the record, I'm not encouraging "gay bashing" per se, but these are all just television characters. It's not like having a homophobic character hasn't been done on hundreds of other televisions shows.) From a pure kayfabe perspective, as a fan, I'm not sure why I'm rooting for the Prime Time Players now since they've always been heels. However, I do like the PTPers and think they will get over because they have a fun catchphrase and gimmick.
5. I like that WWE seems to be investing some time into creating actual storylines for the mid-card, but no one there is really keeping my interest right now. Except Ryback. I love his bully gimmick. I just wish he had a good foil. Sheamus would've been the obvious choice, but he's hurt. Big Show, now that he's a babyface, could be, but he's got his own feud right now. Heck, Daniel Bryan would be perfect because he's undersized like all the jabronis he's beating up backstage, but obviously, Bryan's got bigger (no pun intended) fish to fry.
6. I think The Shield's role as mercinaries for the McMahons, Triple H, Brad Maddox and apparently Randy Orton, is a good fit, but it would be nice to get some reasoning behind it. Vince obviously put them over in a backstage segment a few months back, but they were keeping Orton from cashing in his Money in the Bank just a few weeks ago on Raw and at one point beat the tar out of Maddox. Remember that? Oh, you don't? OK, that's what WWE was hoping for. Nevermind.
7. With that said, it was good storytelling to bring up the comments from Dolph Ziggler and Big Show and to kayfabe punish them for daring to question the authority figures and their decision making by putting them in unwinnable situations against the Shield. While neither match was something to write home about, they both worked in their own way, making both Ziggler and Show look strong before ultimately succumming to the insurmountable odds.
8. I actually fell asleep during the CM Punk-Curtis Axel fight. I like Axel, and I like Punk, but somehow, I couldn't care less about the two of them working together. They've sort of dropped the ball with Axel, in my opinion, since his big debut. Not that he's been booked poorly per se, just that he's been kind of lost in the shuffle. And when is the last time he defended the Intercontinetal Championship by the way? He'll have to at Night of Champions, when all titles are on the line, and I suspect it will be against Punk, even though the IC title is a huge step down for him. I doubt he actually wins the belt though. It will just be another way to get at Axel-Heyman. Punk noted on WWE.com he doesn't care about wins and losses, he cares about hurting Heyman and that's all now.
9. With Cena out and WWE needing star power (ie: name recognition) while building up Daniel Bryan and fending off Monday Night Football this fall, I fully expect to see a lot more long-winded promos from Triple H and the McMahons, which traditionally get good ratings but can get really boring. I was about to turn off the TV when Triple H started to say, I guess this is where I owe you people an explanation, and I thought he was going to do the ol' "we don't have a good reason to turn you heel other than we wanted to swerve you so I'm going to tell the fans they don't deserve an explanation," explanation. I'm glad he didn't, but "what's best for business" is pretty lame too when you have 15,000 people chanting "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
10. Bryan should come out of this feud looking like a million bucks, but without an advocate for him, it's going to be difficult to explain why "the corporation" is going to allow him another title shot. Realistically, he should be granted a rematch since that's how things are supposed to work in the kayfabe sport, but I'm guessing he's going to have to be an absolute pest to Orton and enrage the Viper so much that he tricks him into giving him another title shot. I do hope they don't end Orton's run too quickly, however. Bryan in the chase position for the better part of the fall is definitely going to get him over even more than he already is. Ultimately, I think Vince or Stephanie will "see the light" with Bryan and back him. Perhaps giving us Triple H w/ Stephanie vs. Daniel Bryan w/ Vince McMahon at WrestleMania XXX if WWE choose to go that route and have the Game finally put someone over rather than bring back a former star for him to face.