After months of build and anticipation, January came and went in a flash of excitement with twists and turns aplenty.
It’s timing in the WWE calendar makes January one of the most pivotal months of all, so did the company deliver?
Though certain outcomes may have been somewhat expected, WWE’s weekly programming provided viewers with an entertaining product that kicked off the Road to WrestleMania in the greatest fashion possible.
In the first piece of this twelve part series, this article identifies five of the key talking points to come from the month of January, evaluating how they could impact the company moving forward.
The headlining act of the past month was undoubtedly the Rock vs. CM Punk for the WWE Championship.
While the Great One’s title win at the Royal Rumble may have been somewhat predictable, the promos between the two men prior to the event certainly lived up to the lofty expectations that many a fan had for the feud.
The Rock was as impressive on the mic as ever, while Punk also elevated his game, delivering that line that many have dubbed the quote of the year already.
The finish to their match at the Royal Rumble was also highly dramatic, as the WWE teased defeat for the Brahma Bull in his first Championship bout in a decade.
But ultimately it was Punk who tasted defeat, bringing an end to his epic 434-day title reign.
The result may not have been a surprise, but the sheer quality of the rivalry’s build is what makes The Rock vs. CM Punk (part one) one of January’s biggest success stories.
As mentioned in the previous slide, many saw The Rock’s win coming a mile off.
And the same can be said for the outcome of the Rumble match itself, as John Cena entered at No. 19 to win his second Royal Rumble.
The issue here is less the predictability and more the fact that it makes Rock vs. Cena II appear all the more likely – thus rendering last year’s “Once in a Lifetime” tagline redundant.
However the story is not finished yet.
Punk is still very much in the title scene, so a Triple Threat match is not entirely off the cards. Furthermore, with Cena currently embroiled in a feud with the Shield, his route to the WWE title may not be as smooth as first anticipated.
Nonetheless, the fact that the two top matches on the Royal Rumble card offered little surprise in their outcomes does detract slightly from the quality of the month of January in the WWE.
That being said, the Rumble did provide us with one huge piece of unexpected news—the return of Y2J Chris Jericho.
This is great news for WWE fans and Superstars alike, as you can bet your bottom dollar that Jericho will put on some great matches and continue to unselfishly push other talents at his own expense.
And as well as Jericho, there was also the surprise return of Brock Lesnar on Monday Night Raw.
His subsequent confrontation with Vince McMahon showed that Lesnar still has what it takes to be the company’s monster heel, as he remains perhaps the most intense and intimidating guy on the roster.
Signing a two-year deal with WWE is another positive step, and in my mind such surprises atone for the predictability of the Royal Rumble PPV.
Back at the start of January, we witnessed a fairly impromptu title change, as Alberto Del Rio defeated the Big Show for the World Heavyweight Championship on SmackDown.
The two put on a decent match, and did so again at the Royal Rumble to open the show.
Not only did this move freshen up the World Heavyweight title scene, but it has been hugely advantageous to Del Rio’s initially questionable face turn.
But with the belt around his waist, ADR has propelled himself to new heights and is now very much over with the WWE crowd.
Fans now have a new babyface to get behind—and more importantly one who isn’t incredibly cheesy in pandering to the fans.
He and his ally Ricardo Rodriguez make for an entertaining double act, and as a result Del Rio’s new face persona makes much more sense and is a lot better than his previous gimmick.
For me, it has already been a successful decision from the Creative Team, and is another positive aspect of WWE’s booking throughout the month of January.
One of the latest developments from the month of January was the revelation that Paul Heyman had in fact been working with both Brad Maddox and the Shield.
After weeks of uncertainty, the cat was let out of the bag and we now have a potentially huge storyline on our hands heading towards WrestleMania.
Will Heyman, Maddox and the Shield form an official stable? Perhaps with Heyman’s “guys” CM Punk and Brock Lesnar involved as well?
One can only hope, as such a faction could become one of the most dominant in WWE history.
But wherever this angle goes, expect it to result in a decent pay-off, as this represents an opportunity that the WWE cannot afford to not capitalize on.
While the Royal Rumble PPV may not have been the greatest of all time, that shouldn’t make fans forget how good January was for the WWE.
It got the Road to WrestleMania underway in brilliant fashion, with returns of the likes of Lesnar and Jericho as unexpected as they were impactful.
Furthermore, Punk’s performances since losing the title both in the ring and on the mic have been as good as ever, so fans shouldn’t be worried about seeing him slip off the radar after losing the title to the Rock.
With Elimination Chamber just weeks away, February has all the potential to continue the momentum that January managed to build as WrestleMania draws ever nearer.
Stay tuned for next month’s article, but until then feel free to comment below with your thoughts on how the WWE fared in January, as well as any opinions you may have on the article itself.