The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw 1/20/13
With the 2014 Royal Rumble event just six days away, Monday Night Raw emanated from Dayton, Ohio.
After a four-year absence, "The Animal" Batista made his return to World Wrestling Entertainment and immediately sent messages to both WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton and Mexican aristocrat Alberto Del Rio.
Speaking of sending messages, The Wyatt Family had a message for turncoat Daniel Bryan. Bray, in particular, promised that everything that happens from here on out will be his fault. As fans would see, however, Wyatt's threats fell on deaf ears.
Just days from their monumental clash, Big Show and Brock Lesnar came face to face with each other. Just like the last time they met, Lesnar was left frustrated as Show tossed him around the ring and ringside area and thwarted any kind of attack the Beast Incarnate attempted.
With so many stories heating up leading into the Royal Rumble this Sunday night, here is a look back at what the company did good, great and awesomely on the January 20 episode of Monday Night Raw.
This writer is a self-proclaimed Batista mark. With that said, The Animal's return to Raw Monday night was admittedly a bit flat.
That is not to say it was not good. He interrupted Randy Orton's show-opening promo and cut a short and sweet promo in which he revealed his intention to win the Royal Rumble and then capture the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
His spinebuster of Alberto Del Rio later in the evening was what it needed to be without giving away too much physical activity from The Animal on free television.
Yes, his return on Raw was greatly anticipated, he received a huge reaction from the audience, and the commentators put over the importance of Batista, but it still felt like a wasted opportunity for one of the biggest stars of the last decade to make a bigger impression on an audience that may not be familiar with him.
CM Punk vs. Billy Gunn
The Best in the World had a very competent match against Billy Gun, one-half of the New Age Outlaws and the 1999 King of the Ring, on Monday night's show.
There was nothing bad about it, nor was there anything flashy or exciting.
Punk and Gunn simply delivered a solid match that built upon the Outlaws' betrayal of the Straight Edge Superstar on last week's show and seemingly put an end to their rivlary.
At least for now.
Cena and Orton Brawl
The entire story between John Cena and Randy Orton leading into the Royal Rumble has been lethargic and flat, and Monday's show-closing brawl did not deviate. Sure, it was a hot way to close the show, and the fans in Dayton ate it up, but that does not change the fact that it felt like a lazy way to cap off the build to a big title match just six days out.
Six-Man Tag Action
The six-man tag bout pitting intercontinental champion Big E Langston and WWE tag team champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust against The Shield was as good as everyone thought it would be, and it put the spotlight on Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns heading into their first Royal Rumble match.
Should the second-tier champions in WWE have been spared a loss in such a meaningless six-man tag when guys like Zack Ryder, Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd are floating around the backstage area and could use some exposure on television?
Probably, but given the quality of the match we got, it is forgivable for now.
Especially with the Rumble match right around the corner.
Big Show Frustrates Brock Lesnar
Regardless of how excited (or not) you are about Sunday's match between Brock Lesnar and Big Show, Monday's segment involving the former WWE champions did a great deal to put heat on Show prior to the bout.
Though the likelihood of the giant knocking off Lesnar at Royal Rumble is akin to JTG winning the Rumble match, Show finally looked like a threat of sorts to the man Paul Heyman affectionately refers to as "the Beast Incarnate."
Lesnar was frustrated and thrown off his game. He was tossed around with ease and made to look like a fool by his opponent for Sunday's match.
Make no mistake about it: Brock Lesnar will beat Big Show at Royal Rumble. But on Monday night, the company went a long way in building the match to a point that it will not be an afterthought on a fairly strong card.
CM Punk is No. 1
Irritated and insulted after being physically assaulted by CM Punk, Director of Operations Kane got sweet revenge by informing the Straight Edge Superstar that he will be the very first Superstar to take to the ring for Sunday's Royal Rumble match.
It is an interesting development for two very different reasons.
The first is that Punk is easily one of the best wrestlers in the sport. Putting him in the ring at No. 1 and asking him to carry the load of the match for what one can only assume will be a long period of time is a testament to him as a performer.
Unfortunately, Punk has been competing almost nonstop since returning to WWE in June of last year and has been hampered with injuries as a result. Is it really worth physically draining a Superstar further than he is and risking serious injury this close to WrestleMania XXX?
The potential storyline developments deriving from the announcement are plentiful, and the idea of Punk going the distance and lasting, at the very least, to the final four is exciting. Therefore, this lands in the "great" section of this week's article.
Rey Mysterio vs. Alberto Del Rio
It is impossible for Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio to have a bad match—at least given the evidence fans have been presented with since the two first stepped into the ring for a match against each other all the way back in 2010.
That did not change here, and the two in-ring veterans arguably had the best match of the evening. It was a smart match that was wrestled incredibly well and really masked the limitations the oft-injured Mysterio may have at this point in his career.
Del Rio won the match, as was to be expected, but the efforts of both men deserve applause.
The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family
The penultimate match of Monday's broadcast featured The Usos taking on The Wyatt Family's Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.
The match was a very good tag match—the type Jimmy and Jey Uso have perfected in recent weeks. Both teams worked the tried-and-true formula that saw the heels isolate one of the babyfaces before a hot tag leads to a high-energy finish. The twist came in the form of Daniel Bryan, who rushed the ring and assaulted Bray Wyatt, leading to a distraction for Harper and Rowan and allowing The Usos to continue their winning ways.
The Usos have worked so hard for so long, and seeing them finally get the recognition and wins to back it up is refreshing.
The Bryan-Wyatt match has a ton of heat on it entering Sunday's Royal Rumble and should make for one of the better matches on the show's undercard.
Bray Wyatt: Man of Many Words
The leader of the Wyatt Family was absolutely outstanding Monday night. His promos, the first of which came when he interrupted Daniel Bryan early in the show and the second during the tag match between Harper, Rowan and the Usos, were money promos that only helped to add heat to this Sunday's bout between he and Bryan.
The promos were full of conviction and were expertly delivered by a young star who is rapidly becoming the best talker in the sport.