Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman
WWE rang in the new year this past week with entertaining episodes of Raw, SmackDown and even Main Event. From the shocking return of Brock Lesnar to Daniel Bryan joining The Wyatt Family, this week in WWE kicked off 2014 with a bang and gave fans plenty of to look forward to in the new year.
Appearing on Raw for the first time since August, Lesnar announced his intentions to contend for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the new year. How will this factor into the newly made title match between John Cena and Randy Orton at the Royal Rumble?
At the conclusion of this week's Raw, Bryan walked out of the arena under the control of The Wyatt Family. Has The Bearded One officially turned his back on the WWE Univerise by joining the the clan he rivaled against for so long?
CM Punk's rivalry with The Shield raged on this week, defeating Seth Rollins on Raw before knocking off the rogue trio in six-man tag team action on SmackDown. Will the Second City Saint now shift his focus to winning the Royal Rumble match later this month?
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.
It was well over one year in the making, but we were finally treated to CM Punk and Seth Rollins facing off one-on-one for the first time ever in a WWE ring this past Monday night on Raw. At the start of the show, Punk's promo was interrupted by The Shield, triggering The Voice of the Voiceless to challenge any member of the group to a match.
Rollins accepted in an attempt to prove to his stablemates that he wasn't the "weak link" in the faction. Although there were a few clunky spots here and there, it was an excellent contest that saw both competitors score suspenseful near-falls over one another down the stretch.
Following miscommunication from Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns at ringside, Punk capitalized on the distraction and picked up his final win of 2013. Not only was more tension was teased among the members of The Shield, but the match gave a glimpse of what these two former Ring of Honor wrestlers are capable of when they're facing each other.
CM Punk reflects on his overall performance in 2013 at the start of Raw.
As he stated at the start of this week's Raw, 2013 was surely an interesting year for CM Punk. He spent the better part of the year out of the main event picture, but he said himself that he will look to change that in the new year.
Punk took a step in the right direction to making good on his promise by picking up a big victory over Seth Rollins in Raw's opening contest. Four days later on SmackDown, the self-proclaimed best wrestler in the world saved The Usos from an attack at the hands of The Shield, thus leading to a six-man tag team bout later in the night.
Punk once again got in the heads of the rogue trio by pinning Ambrose for the three-count. Will Punk be able to reclaim world title gold in 2014? Only time will tell, but it surely looks like it at this point.
Similar to last week, I fully expected WWE to phone it in for its last episode of Raw in 2013. That has been the case in recent years, and I expected this year's show to be no exception.
However, WWE proved us all wrong in a big way by producing a quality show on Monday night. The opening match saw CM Punk and Seth Rollins face off for the first time ever in a WWE ring and have an excellent outing against each other.
A little later on in the show, Triple H welcomed Brock Lesnar back to the WWE. Lesnar made his intentions clear that he hopes to contend for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after the Royal Rumble before decimating Mark Henry in a brutal brawl.
Finally, Daniel Bryan took on all three members of The Wyatt Family in separate matches the final half-hour of the show. Although Bryan emerged victorious, he left the arena mesmerized by Bray Wyatt's spell.
With Old School Raw next week, the WWE product is surely heating up going into the new year.
Brock Lesnar returns: I didn't expect to see Lesnar on WWE TV until at least the Royal Rumble event, so seeing him make an appearance on the final Raw of 2013 was a pleasant surprise. Having him announce his intentions to become the WWE World Heavyweight champion makes the title picture, John Cena vs. Randy Orton at the Royal Rumble and the Rumble match itself all the more interesting.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Wyatt Family: On a show short of stars, WWE made good use of Bryan by having him go against all three members of The Wyatt Family in separate matches. Granted, his match against Bray was over before it even started, but his matches against Luke Harper and Erick Rowan were both very good. More important, the post-match angle with The Wyatt Family recruiting Bryan was incredibly intriguing, and I can't wait to see how it plays out in coming weeks.
Big E Langston vs. Fandango: I am no fan of Fandango, but he had a good match with Langston on Raw. The fans had zero incentive to think he would actually win the Intercontinental Championship, but he put up a strong enough fight that he looked good in defeat. I have also been appreciating the effort that WWE has put into making the Intercontinental title feel prestigious again, so here's hoping Langston continues have a great run with the title.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. The Wyatt Family: Luke Harper and Erick Rowan dominated most of the match, and the Rhodes brothers sold well for their offense. Since The Wyatt Family lost via a roll-up, they didn't lose anything in defeat. If anything, they gained something by having a solid match with Cody and Goldust. I have a feeling this isn't the end of the feud between these two teams, so expect a title rematch sometime soon.
CM Punk and The Usos vs. The Shield: We have seen Punk and The Usos work with The Shield countless times in the past, but their matches never get any less entertaining. It was an entertaining contest on SmackDown, and the finish furthered the eventual breakup of The Shied. As much as I don't want to see it happen this early in the group's run, at least WWE is going about it the right way.
Bad News Barrett: Barrett has a good look and a cool entrance theme, but his gimmick is still as terrible as ever. There was a reason why it worked on The JBL and Cole Show: It wasn't scripted by crappy writers! The least WWE could do is put him in the ring and all this "heat" he has been garnering to good use.
R-Truth vs. Brodus Clay: It is great to see Clay as a full-fledged heel, but having him constantly job out to Truth is doing him no favors. I even enjoyed his promo on this week's Main Event, but WWE is hesitant to push him as a monster heel for some reason. On a side note, Xavier Woods needs a fresh feud in the new year and really needs to ditch The Funkadactyls, as they are adding nothing to his act.
Damien Sandow vs. The Great Khali: Not only was the match horrendous, but fans had no reason to believe that Sandow was actually going to lose. I mean, his opponent was Khali. Could it get any more obvious than that? The good news is that things might actually be looking up for Sandow going into 2014 if his great match with Kofi Kingston on Main Event was any indication. The bad news is that a rematch with Khali might be in his future.
R-Truth vs. Fandango: Following their meaningless match against each other at Tribute to the Troops last week, WWE apparently felt the need to repeat it on SmackDown with the same exact result. What was the point of making Fandango look good in defeat on Raw if he was only going to lose to Truth on SmackDown? Isn't Woods causing the distraction by calling out The Funkadactyls for no good reason a heel tactic?
Aksana vs. Nikki Bella: Aksana pinning John Cena's girlfriend had to be one of the biggest upsets in 2013. Unfortunately, any momentum that Aksana may have gained from this big win was erased with her quick loss to Nikki on SmackDown. While both Divas have improved in the ring as of late, they still aren't capable of having an exceptional one-on-one match at this point.
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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.