The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw (1/6/14)
On the heels of last week's newsworthy Monday Night Raw, this week's special "Old School" edition of Raw kicked off from Baltimore and set out to answer a few pressing issues.
What is the deal with Daniel Bryan, who chose to join the Wyatt Family at the end of last week's show? Would he explain his actions, or would the creative team sweep that important element of the story under the carpet (hopefully) for another time?
After making his return last week and destroying Mark Henry, Brock Lesnar would invade Old School Raw. What would he do to follow up last week's dominant display against the former World Heavyweight champion Henry? Would another Superstar attempt to step up to the plate and prove his worth against Lesnar?
The Shield showed dissension during Friday night's SmackDown. With a guest spot on Piper's Pit with the legendary Roddy Piper, would that dissension intensify, and if so, what role would the 2005 Hall of Famer have in it?
With so many questions, as well as one of the more fun gimmick shows booked for this week, what would go down as WWE rolled into the Baltimore Arena? More importantly, what segments and surprises would rank as the good, the great and the awesome of this week's broadcast?
Find out after the jump.
The Evolution of the Viper
Ric Flair kicked off this week's show and uncharacteristically stuttered and stammered his way through a promo before being interrupted by WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton.
Raise your hand if you thought Orton would out-perform Flair on the mic.
John Cena's arrival and his sticking up for Flair, whom Orton referred to as "overrated," was solid and helped portray Cena as someone who cares about the history of professional wrestling. It did little to hype the upcoming title match between he and Orton, but there is still plenty of time to add a new element to that bout outside of the "hey, its a rematch" booking approach they have taken so far.
I wanted this to end up later in the article, I really did.
I wanted the followup to the intriguing "Bryan joins the Wyatt Family" segment that ended last week's broadcast to be awesome, but instead, I'm forced to settle simply for good.
Bryan made his way to the ring with the Wyatt Family and wrestled in the evening's first match, a six-man tag team bout against Rey Mysterio and the Usos. There was nothing inherently wrong with the match. In fact, it was a nice, action-packed way to kick of the evening's festivities.
The story surrounding the finish, of Bryan and Harper disagreeing on a tag, setting up Harper to be rolled up and pinned by one of the Usos, was interesting, and the backstage segment that followed did a little to explain why Bryan joined the group.
You see, he wants to be a monster. Or something like that. And he wants to share his expertise with the Wyatt Family. Maybe.
Anyway, a match between the Usos and Bryan and Bray Wyatt was set up for next week's show where, hopefully, the creative team can focus more on the angle and less on where to fit Nikolai Volkoff on the show.
Laying the foundation for Langston vs. Ryback
As a main event heel, Ryback failed miserably because he simply is not good enough to work at the top of the card against guys like John Cena, Daniel Bryan and CM Punk. His in-ring limitations rear their ugly heads, and he looks incredibly out of place against workers of their quality.
But as a midcard heel, Ryback has great potential to make an impact in World Wrestling Entertainment. As we saw this week, he appears poised to be the next challenger to Big E Langston's Intercontinental title.
That match could be a very interesting and entertaining clash between jacked Superstars, and with Ryback's involvement, it could restore some legitimacy to the Intercontinental championship.
Which is always a good thing.
Rikishi and Too Cool vs. 3MB
OK, so the match was nothing special, but for a fan who grew up watching Scotty Too Hotty, Grandmaster Sexay and Rikishi have some extraordinary tag team and six-man tag team bouts in 2000, seeing them return to Raw to face the modern-day Job Squad known as 3MB was not only nostalgic but also entertaining.
Scotty, in particular, brought a ton of energy to his performance, something that always made him one of the better midcard acts throughout his time with the company.
This was the perfect use of the legends, as it reminded fans of why they loved Too Cool and Rikishi and allowed them a moment in the spotlight without damaging any other Superstars on the roster.
Face it, as talented as the members in 3MB may be, they are going nowhere at this point and another loss meant nothing.
Sure, it was an abbreviated edition of the legendary talk show segment, and yes, it took "Hot Rod" a few minutes to warm up and really get into his interview with The Shield, but when he finally did, he once again knocked it out of the park, as only Roddy Piper can.
He was perfect as he continued to create tension and dissension within The Shield. The way in which he backed away from Roman Reigns, who he infuriated by playfully touching on the face, really put Reigns over as a force to be feared.
The run-in from CM Punk made sense, but the involvement of the New Age Outlaws, who I really hoped would be in tag team action tonight, did not. Why they would want to involve themselves with the members of the The Shield, whom they have no history with, was interesting to say the least.
Overall, a solid segment that continued to plant the seeds for the eventual split between Reigns and his teammates.
Bad News Barrett
Was there another guy on this week's Raw that looked to be having as much fun as Wade Barrett?
The way he ran down the legendary WWE Superstars was pretty great in and of itself, but the fact that he did it so passionately and with a smile on his face showed that Barrett has grown into the character and feels comfortable in his new skin.
When he first debuted the gimmick on television just over a month ago, he came across as wooden and the fans did not bite. But as the weeks have passed, he is doing the little things—like obnoxiously pounding the gavel—that will ultimately help the gimmick succeed.
Long one of the best young talents on the roster, Barrett finally has a gimmick that may help him get over that final proverbial hump and get him back to where he wants to be.
The Beast is back...again
Sure, it was disappointing to see Mark Henry be the whipping boy for Brock Lesnar for a second week in a row. After all, instead of looking tough and courageous for standing up to the Beast, he looked like a damn fool who deserved the broken arm and dislocated elbow for his stupidity, but who's counting?
The reason this segment lands in the "Great" section of this week's article is because it featured a showdown between Lesnar and the one man who, from looks alone, could stand a legitimate threat to the former UFC star: the Big Show.
Add to that the history they have with one another and the fact that Show was the first Superstar to ever pin Lesnar's shoulders to the mat, and you have enough for a solid story leading into the Royal Rumble, should the company opt to use one of Lesnar's remaining contract days on that show.
While it would have been best for everyone involved had Lesnar continued to look like the dominant, destructive force he is, being tossed around by Big Show does not hurt him and, if anything, helps restore a little legitimacy to the giant, who suffered a major fall off after his putrid Survivor Series performance.
CM Punk vs. Roman Reigns
In 2005, Batista took on Chris Benoit in a match that, at the time, felt like any other on the card but in retrospect was a key moment in Batista's rise from enforcer for Evolution to legitimate main event player and future World Heavyweight champion.
The manner in which he dissected Benoit before finishing him off with the Batista Bomb was impressive and really caught the collective eye of the WWE fans.
Fast forward nine years and you have Roman Reigns, a man who is drawing a great deal of comparisons to Batista, taking on respected in-ring veteran CM Punk in a match that could very well be looked back upon as the moment fans and management knew the explosive young star was the real deal.
Reigns hung in with Punk, who is widely considered one of the best workers in the world today, and managed to defeat him relatively cleanly following the spear.
After the win, Reigns will have an argument that he is better than teammates Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, seeing as how they could not beat Punk when they had their opportunities.
Jake the Snake Roberts is back!
It may have been a one-night return, but the return of Jake Roberts to close out Raw was not only unexpected, it made the little kid in many longtime fans mark out.
Roberts looked to be in really good shape and health as he made his way down the aisle, his trademark bag slung over his shoulder. Once inside the squared circle, he unleashed a huge yellow boa constrictor on an unconscious Dean Ambrose, who could be seen sporting a smile as he probably relived days gone by when he would watch Roberts do the same to the likes of Rick Martel.
It was a great moment for one of the most talented and captivating performers in wrestling history and one that brings his rehabilitation full circle.
Alicia Fox is on my TV! And she wins!
Sorry, this one is more for selfish reasons than anything.