The first WWE Raw of 2014 begins the new year by calling on names from the past.
On Jan. 6, Raw goes "old school," looking to build toward the Royal Rumble while providing heavy doses of nostalgia. The upcoming WWE title bout receives some hype, Daniel Bryan's transformation gets some spotlight and Hall of Famers mingle with future inductees.
Baltimore, Md., plays host as John Cena and Randy Orton continue their rivalry and Brock Lesnar's story advances.
It will be a night that answers several questions. Who will show up from Raw's past? Can a member of The Shield finally defeat CM Punk? What's next for the newest member of The Wyatt Family?
Daniel Bryan becomes Daniel Wyatt
Fans won't have to wait long to see Bryan in his new role. WrestlingInc.com reports that the Jan. 6 episode "is scheduled to be kicked off by Daniel Bryan and The Wyatt Family."
Last Monday, Bryan finally gave in to Bray Wyatt and joined his clan. He said that he was tired of The Authority holding him down and that he was ready to rise against the machine with Wyatt's crew.
Images from house shows and Twitter show off Bryan's new look.
PWTorch.com reports that Bryan was referred to as Daniel Wyatt at a show in Hampton, Va. His relationship with his new family is apparently an abusive one.
The report also shares that, "Following the introduction, Daniel faced Bray Wyatt in a cage match. However, Daniel took a beating from the Wyatts, then Bray hit Sister Abigail for the pin."
Look for Bryan to come to Old School Raw decked out in Wyatt-style gear and continue this narrative. Does his new alliance change his attitude? Will WWE book this story as if Bryan is brainwashed or suffering from Stockholm Syndrome?
Judging by the violent nature of their interactions so far, one would guess that Bryan will become more aggressive and more vicious against his opponents. He is morphing from underdog to pitbull, and the journey is going to be a thrilling one.
Legends, Alumni, Special Guests
The names listed to appear on Old School Raw include former world champions, several of Hulk Hogan's old rivals and John "Bradshaw" Layfield's former tag team partner.
Ric Flair will be in attendance. WWE.com is advertising that "The Nature Boy" will make an appearance along with The New Age Outlaws, Roddy Piper, Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page.
WWE, via PWInsider.com, is also promising that Ron Simmons, Rikishi, Scotty 2 Hotty, Gene Okerlund and Bob Backlund will be showing up as well. Per WrestlingInc.com, "Brian Christopher is also in Baltimore," so perhaps a full Too Cool reunion is on tap.
The two men who once teamed up as Money Inc. will definitely be getting back together. Ted DiBiase announced on Twitter that he and Irwin R. Schyster will reunite on Jan. 6.
PWInsider.com reports that both Godfather and Sgt. Slaughter will be a part of the festivities as well. Godfather was briefly a part of the 2013 Royal Rumble, and Slaughter was seen over a year ago battling Antonio Cesaro.
Mick Foley is advertised to appear at Tuesday's SmackDown, taping in Philadelphia, Pa. That is perhaps reason to believe Foley will be a part of Raw as well. It'd be no surprise if he did.
Fans may be hoping for Jim Ross to show up tool, but he confirmed on his blog that he won't be a part of the show. Ross wrote, "I do plan on trying to watch it on TV, but I will not be a part of the broadcast."
As he told his Twitter followers, Edge won't be there either.
The same goes for Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
There are sure to be a few surprises, however. WWE is looking to compete with the BCS National Championship Game. Filling the night's three hours of programming with buzz-inducing surprise guests will help keep viewers from straying to that game.
Taking advantage of the explosiveness of current storylines will do that as well.
Storylines to be Addressed
Cena and Orton weren't around for last week's Raw. This week, their feud over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship will be a major focus of the show.
Orton must defend his title at the Royal Rumble against the man he defeated at TLC 2013. Expect some strong words from both champion and challenger but little else. The pay-per-view is still three weeks away, and WWE can't afford to fire all its narrative guns in the buildup yet.
Whatever happens between these two men, count on Cena pulling out the jorts once again. WrestlingInc.com reports that Cena "will be going 'old school' at tonight's RAW by wearing his classic jean shorts."
The lone advertised match pits Punk against Roman Reigns.
Punk has knocked off Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose in singles competition recently, as well as defeating the entire trio at TLC 2013. He has managed to create tension within the group.
Look for the dissension to continue.
WWE appears to be heading toward an eventual breakup for The Shield. That's a climax best saved for WrestleMania or a pay-per-view, so only expect cracks to grow slowly for now.
The man who Punk couldn't overcome at SummerSlam will be on Raw for a second consecutive week. Paul Heyman told Michael Cole in a recent interview that his client will indeed be at the show and promises to "do something rather old school."
Anthony Benigno's five-point preview on WWE.com hints at Lesnar attacking a new enemy after leaving Mark Henry out cold last week. Benigno writes, "With Lesnar running wild, is there anyone in the locker room who could possibly stop him? More importantly, is there anyone with the guts to try?"
With Batista not coming back until Jan. 20 and Heyman claiming that Lesnar is not back to settle old scores, it'll be intriguing who Lesnar goes after. Will he and Big Show lock up once more, or does Big E Langston get a crack at "The Beast" on Monday?
In between all the cameos and returns, it will be Lesnar's choice of prey and Bryan's new family ties that highlight an episode set to start 2014 in exciting fashion.