Welcome to this week's edition of Raw Afterthoughts, where we give you more analysis of last night's show than we can do during a show recap.  Got questions, comments, or opinions of your own?  Feel free to comment below.

This week, we’re going to approach “Afterthoughts” a little differently.  Let’s take an overall look at the major theme of the night, which was the Daniel Bryan story.

First thing first:  it’s time for a more serious Daniel Bryan and I think he started to show that side last night just a little.  Daniel Bryan is being thrust into the top babyface role, somewhat by default with the absence of John Cena and Sheamus coupled with Randy Orton’s turn.  Bryan is way over with fans, no doubt, and WWE has some tricky territory to navigate here to keep him there.

They need to focus on Bryan giving chase to Randy Orton and the WWE Championship.  We got a taste in some of the segments of that “Stone Cold” feeling where Bryan would be feuding with the McMahons rather than Orton.  That is a corner they may have painted themselves into.  It’s going to be hard to convince fans that the McMahons won’t just screw Bryan over again when he earns another title shot.

Triple H’s promo was good, given what he was dealt to work with.  I still think there is just too much emphasis placed on the McMahon family situation rather than the principals (Orton and Bryan) involved.  I thought it was good that Hunter addressed his previous issues with Orton in the way that he did.  Had they simply ignored it, it would have felt like a big hole in the story.

There was the unbelievable moment in his promo that said that WWE might crumble if Daniel Bryan were to win the championship.  If you could get beyond that and suspend your disbelief, the promo was much stronger.  

The one other apparent end result of Triple H’s promo points to the overload of heel authority figures.  We have seen a run of those over the past several years (John Lauranaitis, Vickie Guerrero, and now Brad Maddox among others) and the gimmick is always pretty much the same.  Booking lopsided stipulations for the faces, ridiculous gauntlet matches and handicap matches are all trademarks of these roles.  Being honest, I’m not a fan and the heel authority figure role has worn its welcome out with me.

In their bit part, we saw the Shield take on Dolph Ziggler and Big Show in separate three on one handicap matches.  Obviously, they’re aligned with the McMahons or at least are their “guns for hire” to support their cause.  They really got roughed up in the two matches and in their altercation with Bryan at the end of the show.  Yes, they won the two matches and did get the better of Bryan, but they did a LOT of selling.  I think this hurt them a little bit.  As an aside, the match with Ziggler was particularly good.

One last point on the overall story thread through the night is how the McMahons ended up making the faces of the roster look pretty bad.  The entire roster was on the stage for that final segment, and not one face character stepped up to help Bryan when he got roughed up by the Shield and then Orton.  I get it that they were told to not do anything, but a true babyface is going to do what’s right regardless.  This just looked bad and was a miss in the storyline.

We are venturing into new territory right now with the face of the company on the sidelines for up to six months.  WWE is in transition right now.  I’m cautiously excited for what they do here, because with Daniel Bryan opportunity exists to really do something big.

Other Thoughts:

When Zeb Colter said that WWE has recently made headlines, I got very nervous.  If you read Drew’s article from last week, you know why I got nervous.  I am glad that WWE is holding to a “business as usual” approach to Darren Young announcing his homosexuality.  It really should remain as such as well because it doesn’t need to be exploited as an on-air story.

Happy go lucky Cena opened the show and I thought “oh, here we go…” but he turned away from that once he started to speak.  Cena has a history of blowing off losses, especially championship losses, at times but this one he played decently.  He made it clear that his triceps/elbow injury was not being used as an excuse and did a good job of putting Bryan over as “the better man” for winning.

Also concerning Cena, I thought it to be a bit odd that fans cheered his leaving for 4-6 months.  I am in the front of the line when it comes to feeling Cena’s character is stale and needs to evolve.  That said I’m not one to ever cheer a legitimate injury regardless of how I feel about any character.  Best wishes to John Cena as he recovers.

I really don’t get the pairing of Ricardo Rodriguez and Rob Van Dam.  I didn’t get the pairing of Rob Van Dam and Bill Alfonso back in the ECW days either but it worked out alright.  This could be great, but I don’t see it being necessary.  I am assuming that RVD will be chasing the World Heavyweight Championship and Alberto Del Rio next.

We got a stark contrast in “fan management” between John Cena and CM Punk.  When Cena announced his departure for surgery, he smiled when fans cheered.  Last night was no exception to Cena even embracing the booing as he hit the ring. CM Punk, on the other hand, decided to take a different approach.  When a fan booed during his promo, Punk turned and verbally confronted the fan and gave him a tongue lashing, challenging him to get in the ring.

The beauty of that tongue lashing though was that it fit Punk’s promo.  I thought it nested in beautifully with Punk’s frustration and anger at Paul Heyman.  The brawl with Curtis Axel was physical, with both men getting the upper hand momentarily until Punk put him away with the GTS at the steps.  Heyman definitely got a “no” answer to his brilliant offer to reunite with Punk from earlier in the show.

The one concern I have with CM Punk at the moment is that he needs a true in-ring opponent.  I just don’t see money in Curtis Axel vs. CM Punk because Axel hasn’t been handled very well to this point.  He’s been lost in the weeds a bit as the Intercontinental Champion.

Truthfully, Heyman needs a bigger stable.  Luke Gallows has a history with CM Punk – why isn’t WWE calling him?  What about a guy like Matt Morgan?  They could stretch out a possible Lesnar vs. Punk rematch to Wrestlemania if they wanted to with some additions to the Heyman stable.

Final Quick Points:

 - Bray Wyatt carried himself pretty well in his short squash match over R-Truth.  I feel like the Wyatt story is stuck in first gear, but damn are they entertaining.

- Stephanie cut a very good heel promo.  Definitely beats watching her cry on TV.

- Cameron and Naomi are just not likeable to me for some reason.

- The fans reacted well to Sin Cara’s appearance.  It’s a shame he got injured again so quickly.  Reports are that it was a dislocated finger that stopped the match, so he may be able to keep working.

- Big Show does indeed look fit now that we've seen him in ring gear.  Hopefully he stays as such.

- I promise this is the last time I’ll say it:  Ryback’s character is so lost, confused and essentially a rip-off of Bully Ray without the mic work.  Such a far fall from where he was three months ago or so.

That's all for this week.  Be looking for the Staff Roundtable coming up sometime later today, and join us next week for more Raw coverage right here on Ring-Rap.com.