Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of Jan. 6
The future of television and tapping into the "old school" led to the best of the week in all things WWE.
A Superstar from the past returned, the company made an announcement that will forever change the industry, and CM Punk, Roman Reigns, Cody Rhodes and Goldust made WWE programming mighty entertaining.
The week's low points saw one Diva leave the company, while another had her approach of a major accomplishment go essentially unnoticed. The usual misuse of Damien Sandow happened again as well.
The optimist fan will see past those stumbles, though, and focus on a journey back to the spotlight, excellence in the ring and the approach of a streaming service that reshapes WWE's future.
Best: The Brotherhood Shines
The tag team champions continue to be a big reason for the WWE tag team division being so much fun to watch right now.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust defended their titles against The Wyatt Family on Friday's SmackDown in a match that was one of the most engaging of the week. They followed that up with a standout performance against The Real Americans on Monday's Raw and, as a bonus, they had a decent match against 3MB on Wednesday's Main Event.
WWE isn't giving them much in the way of narrative beyond the ropes, but Rhodes and Goldust are thriving anyway. Their bouts are stories in themselves—stories of survival, heart and drama.
Many fans expect the brothers to break up before too long in order to begin a rivalry that leads to them clashing at WrestleMania.
In the meantime, fans have plenty of reason to look forward to every battle that The Brotherhood has until that point.
Worst: AJ Lee Approaches Record, Little Made of It
AJ Lee is now the second-longest reigning Divas champion in WWE history, but too few people even know that. WWE announcers have offhandedly mentioned the historic length of her reign, but not making this a bigger story is a wasted opportunity.
Maryse held the title for 216 days. AJ has been champ for more than 208 days.
Instead of turning the spotlight AJ's way and making her fight a slew of challengers as she approaches the record, WWE is all but ignoring the feat.
On Monday's Raw, The Bella Twins, Alicia Fox and Aksana were in action, not AJ. A few days earlier, Aksana and Nikka Bella clashed on SmackDown instead of AJ defending the title against either woman.
A compelling story is up for grabs here, and the company is just letting it sit in an unopened box.
Best: Roman Reigns vs. CM Punk
After Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose both failed to best CM Punk in singles action, it was Roman Reigns' turn at bat. The result was the best match of the week and more proof of Reigns' bright future.
Punk began the battle by squeezing down with a headlock that took a burst of power from Reigns to break. Outside the ring, the New Age Outlaws evened things up for Punk, keeping Rollins and Ambrose at bay.
Reigns took charge of the bout, grinding his forearm into Punk's face, smashing him with strikes and tossing him around the ring.
Punk suffered with every move received or delivered thanks to his injured ribs. He gutted through the action, dodged Reigns' Superman punch and hit his foe with running knee after running knee.
It wasn't enough, though. As the match's pace quickened and the drama swelled, Reigns hit a spear for the win. The story soon became centered on a returning legend, but this was a fantastic main event that punctuated Monday's Raw.
The Shield and Punk feud is clearly going to continue, and Reigns is certain to get other major opportunities like this one. His momentum is picking up speed just in time for the Royal Rumble, making him one of the favorites to win.
Worst: Damien Sandow Made into a Punchline
Remember when Damien Sandow was seemingly guaranteed a world title run, when he awaited an opportunity to ambush John Cena and ascend the WWE ladder?
That memory is continually being replaced with images of Sandow being the center of silliness and serving as WWE's punching bag. On Monday's Raw, he lost to The Great Khali after the big man dominated him. His foot was on the rope during the decisive pin, so he decided to argue the decision with guest referee Sgt. Slaughter.
Slaughter (65 years old) then overpowered Sandow and put him to sleep with his trademark Cobra Clutch.
Some losses can be shaken off, and others leave a stink. This is in the latter category—the kind Sandow has been accumulating far too often as of late.
WWE is creating a bigger and bigger hole for Sandow to climb out of if he's ever going to be a top-level heel.
Best: The Snake Returns
Monday's old-school theme for Raw saw a number of familiar faces make cameos, but none was more surprising and buzzworthy than Jake Roberts coming back.
He has famously spent his post-WWE career mired in his own personal darkness. Drugs and alcohol have too often been the focus when his name came up—not his contributions to wrestling or his career highlights.
A more promising part of his journey—aided by Diamond Dallas Page, yoga and seemingly finding some inner peace—led him to show up on Raw.
He chased away The Shield and plopped a snake onto Dean Ambrose's mug, all while wearing a radiant grin. Fans now want to know if Roberts will get the Royal Rumble spot he's been lobbying for, but even if he doesn't, this was a moment to savor.
Worst: Kaitlyn Leaves WWE
The Divas division wasn't deep before, but Kaitlyn's departure leaves WWE with even fewer female options.
Kaitlyn left on her own terms, reportedly because of frustrations over "a lot of storylines involving her that she was wanting/expecting that never came to fruition," per F4WOnline.com. That's not surprising with how much the cast of Total Divas has taken over the division.
The Bellas, Eva Marie and The Funkadactyls have been a consistent part of WWE TV, while Kaitlyn and others have been pushed aside.
Kaitlyn was one of the better wrestlers in the division. She was part of the best Divas feud in a long while, and her match against AJ Lee at Payback was the best her division had to offer.
WWE now goes into 2014 with one less talented woman, having to lean on The Bellas and Eva more. Does AJ Lee eventually join Kaitlyn on the list of underused women wrestlers who leave the company, which includes Gail Kim, Beth Phoenix and now Kaitlyn?
Best: WWE Network Set to Launch
It's finally real.
WWE announced on Wednesday that the WWE Network is coming on Feb. 24. Fans had been hearing rumors, speculation and tidbits of information, but now the mystery is gone. The announcement came at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The result is a value-rich product that fans should be salivating over.
Every pay-per-view including WrestleMania will be available, as will original shows like WWE Countdown, episodes of Raw and SmackDown and eventually an archive that will include every WWE, ECW and WCW pay-per-view ever produced. The monthly fee for that pro wrestling buffet is less than one pays to watch a single pay-per-view now.
WWE misses its target sometimes, but the company got it right here. Vince McMahon created what Gizmodo.com called, "the future of TV."