On the surface, with December 30 falling on a Monday, it looks like the annual big "New Year's" Raw is tonight's show in Richmond, VA instead of the first show of 2014. In reality, it may not turn out that way, as WWE isn't pushing any major ongoing storylines going into tonight's show. The WWE.com preview stresses the following:
- Big E. Langston defending the WWE Intercontinental Championship against Fandango, who earned the shot on last week's show by defeating Dolph Ziggler in a Christmas Present on a Pole Match.
- Big Show in a diaper as the "world's largest New Year's baby."
- Some kind of followup on the announcement that Batista is returning on January 20.
- Teases of the direction for John Cena and The Authority.
Not exactly tantalizing, is it? Well, there's a reason for that. There's also a very good reason to expect a...well, not exactly a surprise, but something WWE isn't advertising.
News, Rumors, Potential (Well, More Than Potential This Week) Spoilers:
For the second time in a few weeks, WWE is taping shows out of order. Two weeks ago, to get the Christmas week shows out of the way, they taped two weeks of Raw followed by two weeks of SmackDown. This week, SmackDown was taped last night (Sunday) so everyone can have the holiday off.
The one big spoiler for tonight's live Raw came when Renee Young interviewed Big E. Langston, who mentioned that "last night on Raw," his friend/mentor/sometimes tag team partner Mark Henry was attacked by the returning Brock Lesnar. Yes, it looks like Lesnar is back for a clash of the titans with Henry or Langston at the Royal Rumble.
I'm giddy at the thought of Lesnar and Henry squaring off. At least on TV, I'm pretty sure it's only happened once, back in 2002, Lesnar's first year on the main roster. It was awesome then, with both guys throwing each other around in ways nobody else could, and while Henry is older and slower, he's a better overall performer now.
From there, Raw gets weird. As you may or may not be aware, the week after Christmas, WWE schedules house shows in a number of major markets like New York and Chicago. Tonight, they scheduled a rare Monday house show in Toronto as the last show of that swing. Being a major market house show, a lot of key talent is advertised there and not in Richmond for Raw. Here's how each live event page on WWE.com lays it out:
Raw Live from Richmond: CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Mark Henry, The Wyatt Family, The Shield, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Curtis Axel.
Yes, Big Show is supposed to be in Toronto even though the promos for Raw have centered around the New Year's baby skits. I'm going to guess that those will all be backstage skits shot at one of the tapings two weeks ago.
While there's plenty of good talent on Raw this week, it's definitely being robbed of its depth. Still, there's an upside to that: We'll probably get some really good, long matches featuring Punk, Bryan, The Shield and the Wyatts. It wouldn't shock me if the teams are split up into singles matches, most of which are potentially pretty awesome on paper.
Undercard Feuds and Storylines:
This is where the show is hurt this week. Goldust and Cody Rhodes, who have been having the best matches on the show a of late, are in Toronto. Rey Mysterio isn't advertised for either show and his tag team partner Big Show is likely confined to pre-taped skits while he's actually in Toronto. Antonio Cesaro, one of the most reliable wrestlers in the company for good matches, is also in Toronto, as are the sort of feuding Alberto Del Rio and Sin Cara.
Wrestlers who were at the tapings last night and not advertised for either show yet are: Damien Sandow, Kofi Kingston, The Miz, Brodus Clay, Tensai, The Usos and R-Truth. Cody Rhodes and Goldust are the only wrestlers used at the SmackDown taping who are advertised for Toronto, so I guess it's possible they were moved. If so, that would definitely make for a much better Raw since they've been on fire as of late.
As I mentioned earlier, the one advertised match is Big E. Langston vs Fandango. It's way too soon for Langston to lose the title or really do anything other than squash Fandango. Against any other Intercontinental champion, I'd lean towards a title change since they don't usually hype I.C. title matches, but they're trying to build the title back up and this is a nice way to do it.
Thoughts? Predictions? Lesnar fantasy booking suggestions? Post them in the comments.