CM Punk takes hold of United States champion Dean Ambrose on SmackDown.
In the first full week of December, WWE did a superb job of building toward their upcoming TLC event. With four new matches added to the card, the pending pay-per-view could very well be worth watching if it ultimately lives up to the hype.
We were guaranteed on this week's Raw that we will indeed have an undisputed world champion after TLC. That being said, will it be John Cena or Randy Orton who emerges victorious in unifying the titles for the first time in over a decade?
CM Punk spoke out against The Authority Monday night, leading to Stephanie McMahon placing Punk in a three-on-one handicap match against The Shield at TLC. With a singles win over Dean Ambrose under his belt, will Punk be successful in overcoming the odds at the event?
Apparently, Daniel Bryan's kidnapping lasted all of a week, as he returned to in-ring action on Raw this week, defeating Erik Rowan. However, the million-dollar question remains unanswered: Will Bryan eventually join The Wyatt Family, or will he find a way to defeat them all on his own next Sunday?
Here, I will break down the week in wrestling by analyzing the Monday Night Raw, Friday Night SmackDown and WWE Main Event broadcasts, including each show's highlights, low points and other noteworthy, monumental moments. Also, an award will be given to the show and Superstar that shined the brightest over the course of the week.
Although it isn't a category in the upcoming Slammy Awards, Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan are most definitely in the running for Feud of the Year. From their brawls earlier in the year to their championship confrontations in the main event of pay-per-views, these two are simply incapable of having bad matches together.
Their latest clash came on this week's edition of SmackDown with Bryan challenging Orton to a match and claiming that he should be the first in line for a shot at the WWE Undisputed Championship after TLC. Not only did it live up to expectations, but it was pure proof as to why they are two of the best competitors in the company today.
Their chemistry always makes for great matches, and this bout was no exception. Following a distraction from The Wyatt Family, Orton nailed The Bearded One with an RKO to pick up the win.
Something tells me the rivalry between Orton and Bryan is far from over.
Could Damien Sandow capture his first championship in WWE at TLC?
Damien Sandow showed true promise upon winning the SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder Match in July, but his series of subsequent losses derailed his strong momentum big time. Many believed his unsuccessful cash-in against World Heavyweight champion John Cena in October would catapult him into the main event scene, but no such luck.
Thankfully, Sandow broke his recent streak of bad luck by defeating Dolph Ziggler in a rubber match on this week's Raw to become the new No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Championship. He then went on to score an impressive victory over R-Truth on WWE Main Event two days later.
Could Sandow be closing in on his first championship in WWE come TLC?
I think it goes without saying that the WWE isn't in the best place at the moment, thus it gets more and more difficult each and every week to determine which show is better. This week's Monday Night Raw was a slight improvement over last week's atrocious edition, only because several new matches were added to the WWE TLC card.
However, it lacked that special something that cost it from being the Show of the Week. Friday Night SmackDown, while being much of the same, featured two great matches in CM Punk vs. Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan.
These two star-studded matches saved the show from being utterly forgettable, barely beating out Raw to earn the award. WWE Main Event featured three solid matches, but none of them were worth going out of your way to see, making the episode average at best.
With one week to go until the next pay-per-view, one can only hope that WWE does a good enough job next week of making the event feel important.
CM Punk vs. Dean Ambrose: It was awesome to see this match finally come to fruition on SmackDown, even if the early going of the bout was slightly underwhelming. However, I assume they were holding back a bit, but the match's final few minutes were fun. I look forward to the next time Punk and Ambrose go one-on-one.
Daniel Bryan vs. Erik Rowan: I never expected Rowan to be as good in the ring as he showed Monday night. Granted, I still believe Luke Harper is the better performer of the two, but Rowan still held his own against Bryan and dominated most of the match. The roll-up loss protected Rowan and made him look strong in defeat while also furthering Bryan's feud with The Wyatt Family. Job well done.
Sin Cara vs. Alberto Del Rio: I was pleasantly surprised to see Sin Cara cleanly defeat Del Rio on Raw. It was a huge victory for the Sin Cara character, and I hope WWE follows it up properly next week. Regardless of who is under the mask, it is nice to see Cara get pushed for the first time in a long while, and I hope to see the feud between these two continue.
Brodus Clay: I didn't care for the match between Tons of Funk and Xavier Woods and R-Truth on Raw, but I love the idea of a potential heel turn for Clay. I had high hopes for Clay as a monster heel two years ago, and it appears to be finally coming to fruition. I like how it is slowly being built toward, and I am excited to see when he will finally reach his breaking point.
Ryback and Curtis Axel: I still have zero idea why these two are still teaming despite no longer being "Paul Heyman Guys" and having no chemistry together, but there is no denying that they were successful this past week. They scored wins on both Raw and SmackDown and look to be headed for a potential Tag Team title match with the Rhodes brothers at WWE TLC.
Bad News Barrett: The only reason why Bad News Barrett was so entertaining on The JBL & Cole Show was because he would appear at random times and would give bad news relevant to the situation. That wasn't the case on Raw or SmackDown this past week, as Barrett simply insulted the audience to garner cheap heat. I am happy to see Barrett back on TV and actually being utilized for once, but seriously, how many bad gimmicks will he have to go through until he finally wins the world title he rightfully deserves?
Natalya and The Bella Twins vs. AJ Lee, Tamina Snuka and Summer Rae: I am all for AJ and Natalya facing off for the Divas Championship at TLC, but was it really necessary for Natalya to make AJ tap out yet again? AJ has taken far too many pinfall and submission losses in recent weeks. Natalya could have easily won a No. 1 contender's match instead of beating the champion for a millionth time, making AJ look weak in the process.
The Miz and Kofi Kingston: So, Miz turned on Kingston two weeks ago, went back to being buddies with him this week, only to turn on him again? Kingston looked like a complete fool, and Miz didn't receive any heat for slapping him. I was initially intrigued by this angle, but it is quickly starting to lose my interest. I don't think even the Creative Team knows where this is headed.
The Real Americans vs. The Prime Time Players: The fact that they did a puking angle on SmackDown last week was bad enough, but to carry it over to Raw a few days later was absolutely asinine. It was a throwaway, and the silliness could not have been stupider. I hope you're happy, Vinny Mac.
Contract signing: A minor low point, but a low point nevertheless. John Cena's mic work was strong, but Randy Orton was boring in his delivery (as expected), and their subsequent brawl was predictable and might haven given away a bit too much of their upcoming TLC match. At least they attempted to make the unification match feel more meaningful.
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Graham Mirmina, a.k.a. Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.