The biggest lesson learned from the Feb. 10 edition of WWE Raw is that it pays to be in a team, as the night's winners all came from the tag team division.
The Usos closed in on a championship match. The Wyatt Family and The Shield dominated fans' attention. Antonio Cesaro thrived despite his team losing.
These were the Superstars whose stocks most improved, whose trajectories pointed ever upward.
The less fortunate members of the WWE roster include Dolph Ziggler and Emma. For the former, he was used as the fish fed to the orca. For the latter, the recent NXT transplant is still waiting for the sound of the starting pistol.
Winners: The Usos
The Usos defeated Curtis Axel and Ryback on Monday's Raw with little trouble as The New Age Outlaws looked on from the announce desk.
As fans have come to expect, Jimmy and Jey Uso darted around the ring in thrilling fashion. In their short match, they provided a number of highlights, including Jey tagging his brother as he dove over the top rope onto Ryback.
Defeating Axel and Ryback is no career-defining victory, but WWE made it clear that The Usos are now the No. 1 contenders for the Tag Team titles.
Not only did The New Age Outlaws sit in on this bout, but much of the commentary focused on The Usos' chances of beating the more experienced champs. Cody Rhodes and Goldust, meanwhile, stayed busy brawling with The Wyatt Family.
It seems that pair of brothers is now stepping aside to allow The Usos their latest opportunity at championship glory.
Loser: Dolph Ziggler
Alberto Del Rio didn't just defeat "The Show Off"—he steamrolled him.
Ziggler had a brief moment on top, hitting the Fameasser and getting a two-count, but then Del Rio's foot met Ziggler's chin and the brief match ended. In the process, Ziggler looked easy to topple, more of a mild pest than an actual threat.
WWE reportedly does have plans for him, though.
According to F4WOnline (h/t WrestlingInc.com), the company wants to pair Ziggler with The Miz as a pair of "disgruntled angry men." The Miz showed a glimpse of that when he interrupted Fandango and Santino Marella's match to complain about his lack of airtime. Ziggler hasn't yet had a chance to rant on Raw.
His tirade last week was relegated to the WWE App.
Winner: Antonio Cesaro
It didn't matter that he was supposed to be the villain or that he and Jack Swagger were facing fan favorites Christian and Sheamus, Cesaro received one of the louder chants from the Staples Center fans.
The Real Americans lost, with Swagger suffering the decisive pinfall.
Cesaro shined in the match, clubbing both foes with uppercuts and delivering the Cesaro Swing, much to the delight of the crowd. The Swiss Superstar continues to garner increasing fan support, and WWE continues to hint at dissension in the group.
Swagger is being painted as the team's weak link, losing to Christian last week while Cesaro hung his head in disappointment, for example.
This is all likely preparation for Cesaro to go solo. His career is headed upward, his popularity booming.
WWE is introducing Emma to fans too slowly.
After having her come out of the crowd to win a dance-off on last week's Raw, the company chose to let her accompany Santino to the ring and stand in the background this time around. Fandango dominated Santino as Emma watched on.
She didn't get to do her trademark dance. She still hasn't wrestled, and her role at ringside involved a look of disappointment and little else.
The infectious character NXT fans are familiar with is nowhere to be seen yet. WWE hasn't showcased enough of what makes Emma so fun and had her serve as a two-dimensional accessory on Monday's Raw.
Winner: The Shield and The Wyatt Family
The most thrilling portions of the night came courtesy of WWE's two destructive trios.
The Wyatt Family defeated Cody Rhodes, Goldust and Rey Mysterio, a match Bray Wyatt followed with another haunting performance on the mic, calling The Shield toy soldiers.
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins made the most of their chance to respond. Rollins dismissed Wyatt's rants, and Reigns exuded confidence.
Following Ambrose's title defense against Mark Henry, The Wyatt Family slunk toward their foes. The ensuing staredown was the lasting image of the night. No other match or segment created as much electric energy.
Both squads had opportunities to look fearless, dangerous and compelling. Only The Wyatt Family or The Shield will be able to claim victory at Elimination Chamber, but on Monday's Raw, both teams won in terms of momentum and perception.
They joined Cesaro and The Usos as the stars of the show, the wrestlers with the biggest reason to grin after the night ended.
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