(Courtesy of WWE.com)
It was a roller coaster of a week for the WWE Universe, both inside and outside the ring. However, it was a successful first full week of 2014 that left fans with more questions than answers.
Roman Reigns proved once and for all on Monday's Raw that he was superior to CM Punk by defeating him in the main event. Will this huge victory be the catalyst for Reigns' inevitable split from The Shield?
After many weeks of inactivity, Big Show returned to WWE TV this week, setting his sights on Brock Lesnar. Now that Paul Heyman has accepted Show's challenge to a match at the Royal Rumble on Lesnar's behalf, how will the former UFC champion respond?
Following his win over Sin Cara on Monday night, Alberto Del Rio predicated he will win the Royal Rumble after eliminating Batista. Will The Animal target Del Rio upon his return to Raw on January 20?
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.
Match of the Week: CM Punk & New Age Outlaws vs. The Shield (SmackDown, Jan. 10)
On Old School Raw, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn backed up CM Punk in his crusade against The Shield, standing in his corner for his main event match against Roman Reigns. At the conclusion of the show, The New Age Outlaws and Punk cleared The Shield from the ring, thus setting up a six-man tag team match for SmackDown.
As Michael Cole noted on commentary, this marked the first time that The New Age Outlaws were in action on the blue brand since February 2000. Despite that, Dogg and Gunn still wrestled as if was the Attitude Era, keeping up with the young guns known as The Shield.
Throw in Punk's entertaining offense as well, and you have yourself a solid six-man tag bout that closed out SmackDown on a high note. Before Gunn could connect with the Fameasser, Reigns speared the former Tag Team champion into next week to pick up the pinfall victory.
There is no doubting that The Shield is as dominant as ever.
Superstar of the Week: Roman Reigns
(Courtesy of WWE.com)
It has been a well-known fact for quite some time now that backstage officials are high on Roman Reigns and see him as a money-making main event player someday down the line. It is hard to argue with the fact that he has "breakout babyface" written all over him, but it is all a matter of when he will break away from The Shield.
He proved his potential with two big wins this week, both on Raw and SmackDown. The first came over CM Punk due to outside interference, meaning that Reigns now holds a victory over the longest-reigning WWE champion of the modern era.
It was only four days later that Reigns pinned Billy Gunn to pick up a huge victory for The Shield. When should we expect to see Reigns finally snap on his Shield stablemates?
Show of the Week: Old School Raw, Jan. 6
The premiere episode of Raw in the new year is always a good one, and this year's was no exception. While it didn't live up to my lofty expectations, it was still a fun show with a handful of unforgettable moments.
From the vintage opening to the throwback stage setup, there is always a lot to like about Old School Raw and the nostalgia it brings. From Ric Flair to Jake "The Snake" Roberts to "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, the list of Legends present at Monday's show was illustrious and helped make the night that much more memorable.
While I found the previous two Old School Raws (2010 and 2013) to be a bit better, the latest installment was still a good way to kick off the year. Not only that, but there was still plenty of hype for the upcoming Royal Rumble event as well.
John Cena and Randy Orton confronted one another, Big Show manhandled Brock Lesnar and Batista was confirmed for the Rumble, so this show set the stage for what is to come in the next few weeks.
This Week's Highlights
CM Punk vs. Roman Reigns: The match was nothing special early on, but Punk got a great match out of Reigns down the stretch with the suspenseful near-falls. Although it was through the means of dirty tactics, Reigns defeating Punk was huge for him and a major momentum booster. He still has some polishing to do in the ring, but don't be surprised to see Reigns at the top of the card sooner rather than later.
The announcement of the WWE Network: It has been nearly three years in the making, but the WWE Network has finally arrived! Well, we technically still have to wait another six weeks before the actual debut of the network, but it is nice to know that it is now set in stone. With all that is being offered for such a low price, there is no excuse for not purchasing it.
WWE Legends: My favorite part about every Old School Raw is the return of the Legends. Sure, we sometimes see familiar faces such The Million Dollar Man or I.R.S., but it has been a while since we have seen the likes of Too Cool, Ric Flair and Jake The Snake Roberts, who looked to be in great shape at the conclusion of the show. Here's hoping he is able to land a spot in the upcoming Rumble match.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. The Real Americans: The Rhodes brothers have had so many good matches since coming together in October that this should come as no surprise. If anything, seeing these two contest a bad match would be newsworthy. We have seen these two teams work against each other plenty of times in the past, but they still put together another great contest that saw the WWE Tag Team champions pull out the win.
Randy Orton vs. Big E Langston: It didn't come off as the special match it should have been considering it was a champion vs. champion match (when was the last time that kind of match meant anything anyway?), but it was still a solid matchup, nonetheless. Langston looked good in defeat against Orton, but I hope Langston doesn't fall victim to the midcard title curse where he constantly loses to the main event stars.
AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn: Seeing how Kaitlyn was one of my favorite Divas, hearing the news of her departure this past week saddened me. However, having her last match against AJ on Main Event was great, as the two had their first match against each other and, coincidentally, Kaitlyn's last as a member of the WWE. It was a nice send-off for a Diva who has come a long way since her NXT days.
This Week's Low Points
Daniel Wyatt: I was initially intrigued by Daniel Bryan joining The Wyatt Family, but the execution of the angle has been poor thus far. Bryan had a decent showing on SmackDown and a confusing performance on Raw. I am not sure how long this will last, but I hope the final outcome will be well worth it.
Big E Langston vs. Curtis Axel: It isn't that they wrestled a bad match, it is just that we have seen them face off one too many times in the last few months. The live crowd was dead for this match on Raw, and understandably so. If nothing else, at least Ryback on commentary seemed to signal a potential feud between him and Langston, which could be fun.
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.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Sin Cara: What was the point of Sin Cara's two wins over Del Rio last month if Del Rio was just going to win in quick and decisive fashion in their third encounter? The match was fine for what it was, but Cara's renewed "push" already appears to be over. Del Rio talking trash about Batista doesn't get me excited about a potential match between the two down the road, but at least it served as proper hype for the Rumble match.
Damien Sandow vs. The Great Khali: Another mediocre match from these two with another atrocious finish. I always enjoy Sgt. Slaughter, but it would have been nice to see Bob Backlund or even Arn Anderson out there as the special guest referee for a change. The fluky finish indicates that we are in for yet another match between Sandow and Khali. Oh, joy! I feel for Sandow after all the garbage he has been put through as of late. At least Rajin Singh returned, albeit for one night only.
The Bella Twins vs. Alicia Fox and Aksana: The match wasn't tremendously terrible, but I don't really understand what the point of it was supposed to be. With Aksana picking up a second win over a Bella twin, does that mean she is set to be pushed? That wasn't made clear, and honestly, I couldn't care less.
Read the original version of this article here.
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.