The increasing heat of rivalries and the electricity of a major return will make the Jan. 20 edition of WWE Raw one not to miss.
Batista is back, beginning a new WWE tenure on an episode that will center around hype for the Royal Rumble. Expect intense confrontations, foreshadowing aplenty and for the pay-per-view's match list to grow.
The Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio hosts a Raw armed with big stars and storylines nearing their apex. A look at WWE's own preview and several backstage reports provides insight into what fans can expect as WWE tries to hard sell the pay-per-view and welcome back a former world champion.
Batista fans have had Jan. 20 circled on their calendars. "The Animal" makes his way back to the WWE ring after a nearly four-year absence.
It doesn't take Nostradamus to figure out what his first order of business will be. Alberto Del Rio has been barking about Batista for weeks now. Del Rio has stated that he's irked by how much attention Batista is getting and has promised to eliminate him at the Royal Rumble.
Look for Batista to begin his latest run by making "Mexico's Greatest Export" regret his choice words.
With both men entered in the Rumble, WWE will work on increasing the animosity between them to elevate the drama of their inevitable collision in that match. As for Monday, Del Rio stands to suffer in a brawl between the two.
Batista is not the only big name to be coming back. Brock Lesnar, who has been away for just a matter of weeks, is scheduled to be a part of the action as well.
His upcoming match with Big Show will be a big focus of the episode. Anthony Benigno's five-point Raw preview on WWE.com not only features Lesnar on the first slide, but strongly hints that fans will see the two powerhouses go at it before their official bout.
Benigno writes that "Heyman has often said that Lesnar doesn't fight for free, but might The Beast Incarnate break his rule when he faces The World's Largest Athlete on Raw?"
Paul Heyman has had to carry Lesnar's side of the feud due to his client's limited contracted appearances. As compelling as the manager has been, for WWE to sell this match, Lesnar needs to get involved once more.
The last time the two rivals met, Big Show tossed Lesnar across the ring. "The Beast" needs to balance things out with a few shots of his own.
Clashes to Come
Daniel Bryan ended last week's Raw in celebration atop a steel cage. His defection from Bray Wyatt and The Wyatt Family is the early leader in the "moment of the year" race.
What happens next between them depends largely on Bryan's health.
A concussion suffered in a tag match against The Usos has Bryan's supporters hoping he doesn't mirror what Dolph Ziggler experienced. F4WOnline, via WrestlingInc.com, reported that Bryan "barely remembered anything that happened in the cage."
WWE kept Bryan out of the ring at some recent house shows including the Jan. 18 event in Hammond, Ind., per PWInsider.com.
The injury is also reportedly affecting WWE's plans for him at the Royal Rumble. Dave Scherer of PWInsider.com writes, "There had been talk of WWE doing a match with him against Bray Wyatt at the Rumble."
The fact that there was discussion of not putting Bryan in the 30-man battle royal is shocking as many fans predict that he'll win the Rumble. The reported severity of the concussion apparently has that singles match off the drawing board, though.
Wrestling Observer, via WrestleZone.com, reported though that "his planned match against Bray Wyatt at the Royal Rumble is off."
It appears that the company is still planning on having those two meet on Monday's Raw. In his Raw preview, Benigno asks, "Can the fan favorite evade the preacher's wrath, or is their gruesome rivalry finally coming to a head?"
The fact that this was one of the major points in the WWE.com preview is a clear sign that the feud is still of high importance. Plans will have to shift, though, meaning that their clash will have to be more vocal than physical.
While Bryan is set to face a familiar foe, CM Punk looks to have made a new enemy.
On Friday's Smackdown, Punk called Kane a "sell-out." Kane's response came in the form of a chokeslam.
That marks the latest of Triple H's allies to attack Punk. After battling The Shield for weeks, Punk's hit list grew when The New Age Outlaws turned on him on last week's Raw. WWE is hinting that Kane will join them in Punk's sights.
Benigno writes on his Raw preview, "Might Punk’s anti-Authority mentality have resurrected The Big Red Monster?"
The rumored Punk vs. Triple H WrestleMania match, per PWMania.com, will seemingly have "The Best in the World" have to go through every one of Triple H's associates. Next on the list, The Director of Operations.
WWE Title Match, Etc.
Last week, Randy Orton lost to Kofi Kingston, a moment that inspired "The Viper" to attack John Cena's father who was in attendance that night.
Expect Cena to seek vengeance after watching his father be wheeled to the emergency room. He will no doubt dole out punishment to his longtime enemy, but won't get enough revenge to satiate him. WWE has to sell a pay-per-view match after all.
This latest development rekindles the personal nature of the rivalry and adds a layer beyond Orton's growing issues with The Authority.
As for the man who pinned the champ last week, his win is a sign of more things to come it seems. WrestleZone.com reports the following.
We've been told a change in both entrance music and booking is expected in the future weeks for Kingston. It's not clear what direction WWE creative is aiming for in terms of him being a heel or face, or who he will work with, but he's become a priority in WWE creative meetings as a talent to use more of.
Look for Kingston to impress in the Rumble come Feb. 26, but hints on the direction of his character are sure to come on Monday's Raw. Will he become more aggressive as he was during his 2009 feud with Orton? Will he just be given some superficial changes?
Those questions possibly being answered on Monday is just one of many reasons to tune into Raw on a night where tension will be amplified and Batista will reenter the world of WWE.