CM Punk's path has taken an unexpected turn.
Many wondered where the champion would go after retaining his WWE Championship against Ryback at Sunday night's Hell in a Cell.
The million-dollar question was answered in the opening segment of Raw, but it was an answer as unexpected as the conclusion of Sunday night's pay-per-view.
Punk denied having any knowledge of referee Brad Maddox's plans for the evening, suggesting he did it to make it up to Punk for screwing him in a tag team match against John Cena several months ago. (Yay continuity!)
But "Hardcore Legend" Mick Foley soon came out to confront the champion, bringing up his previous speech about making moments versus making statistics. That's when the challenge came down.
At November's Survivor Series, it will be Team Foley versus Team Punk in a traditional Survivor Series match. And we didn't have to wait long to learn who would represent the champ and the legend in the match, either. In a shocking move, both captains announced their teams live on Raw.
Punk's team, handpicked by Paul Heyman, includes The Miz, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow and Alberto Del Rio. Foley's team, meanwhile, will be Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan, Kane, Randy Orton and Ryback. Foley won't be competing; he'll be managing.
While this makes the match simply a combination of four different ongoing rivalries, it still means WWE is actually putting emphasis on promoting a main-event level Survivor Series match.
After rumors in recent years that the pay-per-view, considered one of the big four, could be going the way of the dodo, this is tremendous news for wrestling fans - and it offers a number of scenarios.
It's a very early prediction, but I'm calling Ryback as the sole survivor, last eliminating Punk and earning a title shot at the December pay-per-view.
In one night, WWE has already started a strong build to Survivor Series. Let's hope they can keep a strong momentum going for the next few weeks.
** It was really cool to see the entire locker room on stage as WWE presented the Susan G. Komen For the Cure group with a check for $1 million. Yes, some people have already said WWE should have done it silently rather than on television, but I disagree. This shows fans that the company does good things. It was a special moment, and I'm glad it was televised.
** The storyline with Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler trying to prove that John Cena and AJ were having an affair (though Cena was divorced by the time it started, so whose cheating on who?) is a little too similar to the TNA storyline involving A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels and Kazarian for my tastes. If AJ (Lee, not Styles) is revealed to be pregnant, it's over. Also, why was Cena wearing his own merchandise on a business dinner at a nice restaurant? Regardless, much like that storyline, it may give us some fantastic in-ring action. The thought of a Ziggler-Cena rivalry is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I can imagine it building Ziggler and giving him real credibility before cashing in his Money in the Bank contract, but on the other, I can see this being a way to get Cena back to the top of the card and him steamrolling Ziggler. Let's hope it's the former - and that AJ isn't pregnant.
** Randy Orton earned his win back over Wade Barrett after losing on Smackdown last week. Barrett, though, continued to look good in the ring. These two have good chemistry and put together good matches, and this was no exception. Barrett used some smart psychology, working over Orton's weakened arm, while Orton carried his side of things. Hopefully Barrett gets his opportunity at the top soon. Orton's time, though, seems to be now. After defeating Alberto Del Rio at Hell in a Cell and Barrett tonight, he seems poised to be Big Show's top challenger for the World Heavyweight Championship.
** United States Champion Antonio Cesaro and Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston were in the midst of a really good match when The Miz attacked Kingston to draw a disqualification. The two heels beat Kingston down, and R-Truth made the save. Again, a great sign of continuity playing off the relationship between Truth and Kingston. It looks like R-Truth may be Cesaro's new challenger, and I'm OK with that. We'll likely get a tag match on Smackdown or next week's Raw, and that should be top notch. I'd really like to see a full-length Cesaro versus Kingston match in the future, too.
** I admit it; I enjoyed the "Behind the Music: 3MB" segment. Jinder Mahal's "I'm the funny one" may be the best line dropped on WWE television in a long time. WWE has been trying a new approach to comedy in recent months, and while it's been hit or miss, I appreciate it. The following tag match, pitting Mahal and Heath Slater against Zack Ryder and Santino Marella, was actually pretty good, too. People crap all over both these teams, but they're solid midcard acts for the tag team division.
** What could have been a really good match between AJ and Beth Phoenix was cut really short. Phoenix dominated the early part of the match, and AJ won with a roll-up. Vickie Guerrero then ordered the match restarted, so Phoenix could hit a Glam Slam and win. Wasn't Phoenix a babyface the last we saw her? After the match, in a backstage promo, Guerrero fired Phoenix. This was odd all around.
** The issues between Sheamus and the new World Heavyweight Champion Big Show are apparently far from over. They had a promo exchange that ended with Sheamus hitting White Noise on the champ. Sheamus has promised the rematch will be a war. They had a really good match Sunday night, but I'd like to see them top even that.
** WWE Tag Team Champions Kane and Daniel Bryan scored a decisive victory over the Primetime Players. After retaining their titles by disqualification at the pay-per-view, they needed the clean win. Rhodes Scholars have to be waiting in the wings for a rematch.
** Speaking of Rhodes Scholars, they defeated Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara in a rematch of the No. 1 contendership tournament finals. This match was given a lot of time to develop, and all four men capitalized and gave the fans a great match.
** One night after a strong outing against Cesaro, Justin Gabriel was back in action against Alberto Del Rio. The match was made to make Del Rio look strong, but Gabriel is still getting ring time with top-of-the-card guys, so that's a positive for him.
** Why is WWE acting as if a referee has never been a villain or screwed a wrestler out of a match or title in the past? Earl Hebner even sells shirts that say "Yes I did."
** Jerry Lawler returns in two weeks. I'm going to miss JR and JBL.
Ryback d. JTG
Randy Orton d. Wade Barrett
Daniel Bryan and Kane d. Darren Young and Titus O'Neil
Kofi Kingston d. Antonio Cesaro by disqualification
Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal d. Santino Marella and Zack Ryder
Beth Phoenix d. AJ Lee
Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes d. Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio
Alberto Del Rio d. Justin Gabriel
I found Sunday night's pay-per-view to be exceptionally strong, though many disagree, and I thought Raw was a good follow-up, as well. I liked a lot of the decisions that were made and the seeds that were planted. The Beth Phoenix treatment was odd, but it was the only part of the show that really stood out. There was some good action on the show, and the future looks pretty bright right now. I'm actually becoming more interested in WWE programming than I have been in a while. Now that I'm confirmed as going to WrestleMania, I'm really hoping the next few months offer some stellar programming.
Ring Posts' Adam Testa has teamed up with My 1-2-3 Cents and All American Pro Wrestling to bring you From the Rafters Radio, a weekly pro wrestling talk radio show airing from 8-10 EST every Thursday on Monster Radio 1150 AM in Southern Illinois and streaming worldwide on wggh.net.