'WWE Raw:' A Reboot to the Face

Bray Wyatt issues his warning, Ryback feeds again and the build to 'Survivor Series' begins

The Authority on WWE's 'Monday Night Raw' Credit: WWE

Different cultures wipe their slate clean at varying points on the Gregorian calendar. For instance, Jews around the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah just over a month ago, while Chinese descendants await their annual New Year festivities this coming February.

For the WWE, last night's Raw represented some kind of fresh start in their cyclical programming, as several superstars either went back to the drawing board and/or returned from hiatus, ready to spark new rivalries and set aside any residual SummerSlam rancor. As always, in the interest of providing a service to you readers, I've broken the action down into five essential takeaways. And, as a bonus, a bunch of stuff that may have taught us nothing, but gave everyone something to tweet about.

Here's what I learned from the October 27 edition of Monday Night Raw.

5. Punk's Not Dead…But It's Not in JBL
There was a funny little bit amid AJ Lee's otherwise routine encounter with Alicia Fox (which AJ won, thanks to a distraction from Paige, who's gimmick appears to be making and systematically breaking "best friends"). As guest-commentator Paige reiterated how Alicia had supposedly instigated her loss at Hell in a Cell, she also insinuated that Ms. Fox had begun emulating her "punky woman" ring attire.

Flummoxed, JBL (whether in-character or simply being his ten-gallon-hat self) muttered, "Your what?" When Paige clarified, Layfield (now clearly playing up his ignorance) queried back, "A funky woman?" Not to be outdone, Michael Cole piled on, "I've never heard that phrase before," parroting it back as if phonetically. Jerry Lawler, ever the moderator/cultural interpreter, interjected, "She looks like a punk-rock chick, right?"

Never mind that the very Divas champion in the ring is married to a certain former WWE icon whose entire persona was defined by explicit punk-rock ethos and, at one point, entrance theme. So while we may not have paid much mind to Lee and Fox's performance between the ropes, and still aren't totally convinced of why Paige beat the snot out of poor Alicia afterwards, we do know that our trio of analysts would have no idea what to make of this.

4. Ryback…Rules?
I guess? The San Antonio crowd made it kind of hard to know how those of us at home should feel (a pattern throughout the night) as the Big Guy emerged sans Curtis Axel to answer Bo Dallas' open challenge. Maybe we're ready to hit reset on the former fan-favorite wrecking ball and encourage that he be fed? Or, just possibly, he's got a lot of work to do before winning us back over after failing to generate heel heat throughout much of 2014.

It's all very confusing, and probably not fair to blame the live attendees for fluctuating from hot to cold and back again toward the former Nexus bully within the squashed span of his victory over Dallas. Aligning him with Team Cena at Survivor Series could be an interesting twist that would maybe steer some of that current Cena/Dolph Ziggler momentum Ryback's way. So long as they don't just pit him against ex-partner Axel, cause that's one meat hook that would simply fail to deliver.

3. Welcome Back, Seth Rollins
Not that the newly christened "standard-bearer" of the WWE had been on the shelf like a Ryback, or taking a break to refresh à la Bray Wyatt, but his main-event performance against John Cena last night felt as if we'd reunited with an old friend. Specifically, the Seth Rollins who executes somersaulting inverted neck breakers and daring top-rope reversals into modified power bombs, the guy who can slow a match down with collegiate holds until deciding to break things open with flying knees or by taking Olympian bumps.

Too bad, then, that he and Cena's terrific bout was besieged by Kane, before devolving into a melee theoretically inspired by the locker room's desire to stake a place on Team Cena or Team Authority at Survivor Series. But X out the copout finish (a second in successive nights for a Rollins-featured headliner), and forgive Seth for overselling his banged-up ribs, and it was a pleasure to see the real Rollins stand up… and get launched to the outside… and dive head-first into the security barrier.

2. What's Eating the Apex Predator?
I mean, I'm all in favor of an unhinged viper, and love the decision to tap his earned intensity rather than play up the spoiled brat. But even I was surprised to hear a seething, bloodshot Randy Orton uncoil at Rollins and assert, "I'll calm down when he's dead." That's gotta be considered fairly PG-13 first-hour stuff.

And even if the third-generation superstar's current temperament is still being written, it's enticing to have him on the edges, lurking as a wild-card who could upend any number of angles and be a major player at Survivor Series. As we saw at Hell in a Cell, there are still few talents in the WWE who measure up to the way Cowboy Bob's boy marries primal ring instincts with explosive, "next-gear" charisma, and having him essentially go AWOL from the Authority could be what's best for the Randy Orton business.

1. Anyone Seen Dean?
Was I the only one who flinched and rewound when Bray Wyatt's promo cut right back to Cole and crew without any kind of lingering shot on an either stunned or unwavering Dean Ambrose? It was an odd transition out of an oddly placed segment that resonated with several different bits of information: 1) They really have appointed Cesaro as some kind of super-utility man right now; 2) Bray has set his sights on Ambrose because they're birds of a feather, and Papa Wyatt's the kind of cat who feeds on those of his species he doesn't call family; 3) None of us have any idea what that previous sentence meant; and 4) This feud should be a really nice fit for Ambrose, who doesn't have to be the "out there" one, and can instead more comfortably inhabit the role of street-kid shit-kicker with more guts than brains. Still, where did Dean go?

Below the Belt:

  • That was one long-ass Cena/Steph/HHH promo just to set up Survivor Series
  • Between "no-good" Orton, "stinky beast" Lesnar and the audience's "wave of pink," Hulk Hogan was getting downright kinky.
  • Here's hoping they let Miz and Mizdow liven up the tag-team division before Mizdow's inevitable insurgence.
  • It took way to long to get there, but Mark Henry's heel turn was worth it.
  • Where's Rusev? No Rusev crush?
  • Roman Reigns has definitely lost my interest, but he and Rollins could recapture it right quick.
  • Hate the Usos going for the cheap, heel-move win.
  • Love Stardust's new attire.
  • Who's got a better seat than Lilian?
  • Who's got a cuter outie than Kane?
  • Thank God we were spared a Halloween Raw. Though there's still SmackDown.
  • Line of the night: JBL suggesting Team Cena be filled out by four Rosebuds and the Bunny.
  • Fan Getup of the Night: The gentleman in the front row with what I assume was a Million Dollar Man-inspired faux-tux.
  • In case you fast-forwarded through commercials: You won't know which awful local politician to vote for; you might miss Adult Swim's absurd-looking Mike Tyson Mysteries; and you'll have forgotten how much you don't really need to know what's become of Lloyd and Harry in Dumb and Dumber To.