Contenders emerged and champions cowered on the last WWE Raw before the Royal Rumble.
Batista won big without an official match. Randy Orton's night didn't go as well.
As WWE tried to hype the upcoming pay-per-view, several Superstars improved their position and gained momentum. For others, Monday's Raw damaged how the audience perceives them. They were the show's victims, while Raw's biggest winners charged toward the Rumble.
Among those who had the most to celebrate after Raw, "The Animal" is first on that list.
Batista stepped right back onto the WWE mountaintop upon his return.
When Triple H addressed Orton in the opening segment, he rattled off the men gunning for the WWE title. John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Batista were on that shortlist. The Animal soon entered and had the champion flustered and nervous.
Batista talked about wanting to wear the championship again and headlining WrestleMania.
He's instantly one of the favorites to win the Royal Rumble and if he fails to do that, he will surely still get a high-profile match at WrestleMania. WWE has thrust Batista right into the spotlight, trying to make full use of his star power.
He later got some payback on Alberto Del Rio who had been insulting him from afar for weeks. A pair of power moves on his newest foe provided an exclamation point to Batista's return, his slide back into the company's top tier.
Loser: Xavier Woods
Fandango bested Woods with ease. In a match that only featured a handful of moves, Woods quickly ended up on his back with the referee counting to three.
The complexion of the loss hurts worse than the effect on his win-loss record. Woods had no standout moments to speak of, and the match was over as quick as his Dec. 9 loss to Brodus Clay.
Barely getting in any offense against the ballroom dancer isn't a great sign of where WWE believes the recent NXT transplant belongs.
To be asked to get steamrolled like this so early in his run has it looking like Woods is slotted in the same place as Zack Ryder. Ryder had won the United States and Tag Team titles before that fall to jobber status, though.
Winner: The Usos
The Usos defeated The Wyatt Family again.
Even if the victory came in the form of a schoolboy pin and could be labeled fluky, it's another step forward for Jimmy and Jey. The Usos fearlessly went after Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Against bigger, stronger foes, the brothers held their own in a brawl for a long while.
The Usos withstood the clubbing blows the brutes handed out and responded with flesh-stinging slaps and kicks to the gut.
Harper and Rowan eventually took control, but The Usos showed a versatility that will make them a more valuable team. Beyond just being a fun, high-flying duo, they are now showing themselves to be warriors.
Look for The Usos to continue to rise and eventually win the Tag Team Championships.
These wars with The Wyatt Family, along with their many bouts with The Shield last year, have served as windows to The Usos' heart and a showcase of their abilities.
Loser: Randy Orton
Monday's Raw emphasized Orton's cowardly side.
His run as champion has seen him assault The Miz in front of Mr. and Mrs. Mizanin and, during last week's Raw, maul John Cena Sr. As for the go-home episode, Orton whined, pouted and fled Cena's wrath.
As much as heels are supposed to do those very things, they also often pair them with acts that show that they are dangerous as well.
Orton tried to weasel out of his match with Cena. When Batista promised to win the Rumble and come after him, Orton had no answer.
The night's closing segment had Orton play the mouse skirting through the arena as Cena hurried behind him.
There was nothing to counterbalance Orton's weaknesses on Monday. There was no reason to fear him going into the Rumble, making him seem like more of a lame-duck champ than a worthy titleholder.
Winner: Big Show
Like last week, Big Show came out of Monday's Raw looking like the dominant force that Lesnar will struggle to overcome.
Lesnar's recent resume of violence includes bloodying Cena, breaking Mark Henry's arm and leaving Triple H suffering from concussion symptoms after their cage match at Extreme Rules 2013. Big Show has been the predator against the man leaving all that destruction behind.
Big Show called out Lesnar, and "The Beast" looked genuinely afraid of him as he thought about stepping between the ropes to face him.
A week removed from tossing Lesnar across the ring, "The World's Largest Athlete" flung his foe over the top rope. The narrative is now about Lesnar being unable to overpower the giant, making Big Show the favorite going into their Royal Rumble match.
Although this ignores the dynamic of the two men's previous battles, it puts Big Show in a position reserved for only him—the man capable of turning Lesnar into an underdog.