WWE
Tim Fiorvanti, ESPN.com 25d

What's next for the key players on Raw after No Mercy?

WWE

When it comes to the WWE, the 52-weeks-a-year schedule lends itself to a constant "on to the next one" mentality. But even as WWE's schedule picks back up, with two more pay-per-views to come over the next month, and less than two months to go until Survivor Series, the aftermath of No Mercy feels as good a time as any to stop, take a breath and take stock of everything going on with Monday Night Raw.

Brock Lesnar has been solidified as the well-tested, undefeatable Universal champion, after a championship match where Braun Strowman, for better or worse, didn't quite live up to the hype and required just one F-5 to dispatch. Roman Reigns fought off everything John Cena had to give and then some, walking away with a definitive victory that seems to bring an almost instant ending to their hostilities.

Those two points fit together and will almost certainly lead to one outcome in particular: Lesnar is going to face Roman Reigns with the Universal championship on the line, and it's likely going to close out WrestleMania 34.

Before you go to your closets and dust off the pitchforks, understand that this was always going to happen. It's taken a lot longer than some might have imagined, after their initial conflict at WrestleMania 31 was cut short because Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase midmatch. There have been multi-way matches, to be sure, but the one-on-one match was left as an open-ended conflict always ready to be reignited.

If we work backward from a theoretical Reigns vs. Lesnar main event next April, however, we can see a lot of fun possibilities along the way. The Miz teased a true Shield reunion in a major way during a backstage segment with Kurt Angle during the No Mercy broadcast, and that should play out during Miz TV on Monday.

There's a world of possibilities for what could happen over the next 200 days, but with our eyes specifically focused on what lies ahead in just one month at TLC, let's look at what could be next for Raw.

Brock Lesnar: After eating all of the punishment that Strowman has doled out over the last month, including three more running powerslams at No Mercy, Lesnar finished Strowman off with a single F-5. I'm all for protecting moves, but when you have someone who's walked away from ambulance crashes and other traumatic incidents still standing, would a second F-5 really been that egregious? Now that that rivalry is quite possibly done for Lesnar, what does the rest of 2017 look like for the Universal champion? After being around since SummerSlam, he may be due another lengthy hiatus. Appearances at TLC and Survivor Series are possibilities, but by no means guarantees.

Roman Reigns: Reigns weathered the dreaded "CM Punk" and "boring" chants the antsy Los Angeles crowd hurled at him and John Cena and built up to a nice finish. Reigns ate the two seemingly unbeatable Cena combos -- an Avalanche Attitude Adjustment and a chained double AA -- and put together a Superman punch/spear combo of his own to pick up a rather decisive victory. It seems so weird that this would be a closed-ended loop, with the conflict between Cena and Reigns still so new, but here we are. As Cena said multiple times, it now becomes about Reigns and his ability (or inability) to carry this kind of heart and edge forward. A Shield reunion leading up to TLC (where the Shield debuted) and/or Survivor Series could be a nice way to keep Reigns occupied until his date with Lesnar and destiny arrive.

John Cena: "I'm not gone, but things are changing for me." Of all the points Cena made during his appearance on Raw Talk after No Mercy, this was likely the most telling of them all. It was a lot of the same feelings he echoed during his appearance on the Edge & Christian "Pod of Awesomeness" last week, where Cena admitted that his age was catching up to him and that even if outside opportunities weren't there, he might not be able to pull off a full-time schedule after 15 years of that kind of wear-and-tear.

While Lesnar's schedule seems a bit more flexible, I can't imagine we see Cena for a while (could we ever, though?) as he mends his body and enjoys the fruits of his other labors. This was a fun 3½-month run, with strong matches of note against Reigns, Strowman, Jason Jordan, Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev, along with some tag contests. When we see Cena again, expect it to be centered around his push for record-breaking world title run No. 17.

Braun Strowman: Strowman doesn't feel like every other monster that's come before him, but for the first time since he's pushed his way into Raw's main event scene, Strowman was treated that way at No Mercy. He certainly got plenty of offense in against Lesnar, but in the end it didn't mean a whole heck of a lot. It felt as though Strowman had earned the right to push Lesnar to the very brink and then some, even though the title likely wouldn't have done much for him in the long-term.

A star turn could certainly have been solidified by getting Lesnar to within an inch of defeat. After pushing Lesnar to the point where he was carted off on a stretcher at SummerSlam, the fact that one F-1 did Strowman in, and that Lesnar was able to walk out under his own power felt like a letdown. We can fully expect Strowman to lay down a path of destruction in light of this moment, but to what ends? Can he get another shot at Lesnar, and will it matter?

The Miz and Jason Jordan: This rivalry seems far from over, and we may well have seen Jordan turn a corner in a thrilling opener to No Mercy. His suplexes from every angle and in every direction are an asset he should be exploiting to his fullest. Please, no more cheesy neckbreaker finish, some kind of suplex combination would do him wonders. With the way things ended on Sunday, he'll have a rematch coming. As far as The Miz goes, he proved once again that you underestimate him at your own risk. He has a history of doing great work with whomever he's allied with, be it Maryse, The Miztourage or any of his other partners along the way. This match blew expectations out of the water and set the tone for the rest of the night.

Alexa Bliss, Bayley, Emma, Nia Jax and Sasha Banks: Given the unenviable task of following the Raw tag title match (see below), these five women went all out and took a Fatal 5-Way match format that can often get out of hand and made it a showcase. The centerpiece of it all was Jax, who is really coming into her own of late. The double Samoan Drop spot and the quadruple-team sunset flip powerbomb she took to the outside were the two biggest highlights of the match, without a doubt.

Emma is still working towards reminding everyone of how good she can be in the ring and she took advantage in several big spots along the way in this match. Banks and Bayley costing each other the match and the title several times along the way is worth watching, and Bliss slid in the end to keep her title. She'll carry this division into the Asuka era, and then all bets are off.

Raw tag team division: The Usos and New Day have been killing things on SmackDown of late, and No Mercy allowed for two of Raw's best tag teams to "raise the bar," as it were. That Cesaro was able to do so much with several of his teeth knocked out early in the match only made their performance more impressive. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins may be on their way to a reunion of some kind with Reigns, but one of TLC's stipulation matches with the tag titles hung above the ring sounds about right.

Cruiserweight division: Making Enzo Amore the cruiserweight champion was either the smartest or dumbest idea related to 205 Live to date. Having all of the ultra-talented cruiserweights chase a loud-mouth in-ring charlatan makes all the sense in the world, but only if you do what makes the most sense by making Amore the heel he was born to be.

He has all of the swag and none of the measurables to back it up. Amore has only won matches since he joined the division through low blows and roll-ups with a handful of tights. Twitter was already blowing up with fans begging #SaveUsCedric to 205 Live's resident overlooked superstar. Time in the ring and a chance on the microphone opposite as strong a talker as Amore can only sharpen Alexander's chops, he has the built-in revenge factor for how Amore stole the No. 1 contendership and his in-ring skills stack up with the best of them. Once Neville is dispatched through some other nefarious means, give Cedric a chance.

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