WWE Week in Review, Jan. 25: Batista Returns, CM Punk Ready to Rumble
In the final week of WWE programming, all eyes were on Sunday, as the Royal Rumble pay-per-view quickly approaches. Many Superstars looked to gain momentum going into the annual Battle Royal, but who will truly be the one to win it all at the event?
Following a hard-fought victory over Billy Gunn on Raw, CM Punk was notified by Kane that he will be entering at No. 1 in the upcoming Rumble match. Will Punk reign supreme against all odds, or will his ongoing rivalry with The Authority play a factor in his performance?
Daniel Bryan made it clear this past week that him joining The Wyatt Family was nothing more than a ploy. Now that he has gotten the upper hand over Bray Wyatt, will he still be able to participate in the Rumble match on Sunday?
John Cena interrupted a match between Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston on Raw to ensure that he exacted revenge on The Viper for his actions against his father. Will Cena be able to stay cool, calm and collected during his WWE World Heavyweight Championship match against Orton to avoid getting himself disqualified?
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, I will give an award to the show and Superstar that shined the brightest over the course of the week.
Match of the Week: 10-Man Tag Team Match on SmackDown, Jan. 24
By the end of the WWE week, not many matches stood out in my mind. Most of the week was dedicated to building toward the Royal Rumble pay-per-view (or at least attempting to), so the emphasis wasn't on in-ring action.
Still, the main event of Friday Night SmackDown had potential on paper and ended up being the best bout on WWE TV this week.
On Raw, The Shield defeated Cody Rhodes, Goldust and Big E Langston in a six-man tag team match, but The Usos and The New Age Outlaws were thrown into the mix for a blockbuster 10-man tag team match on SmackDown.
Both teams put forth a strong effort and provided an enjoyable contest. The competitors picked up the pace down the stretch and delivered a fantastic final few minutes.
Although the match ended in a no-contest, the chaos continued after the bell with the inclusion of other Royal Rumble participants. Who will be "the one" come this Sunday?
Superstar of the Week: CM Punk
If you couldn't already tell, CM Punk is riding a wave of momentum at the moment.
From Ryback to The Wyatt Family to The Shield, Punk has plowed through everyone who has gotten in his way in recent months, and he hasn't suffered a loss on pay-per-view since September.
His hot streak continued this past week, starting with a win over Billy Gun in one-on-one action on Raw. Even though he was informed shortly afterward that he would be entering No. 1 in the Royal Rumble match on Sunday, Punk wasn't fazed in the slightest.
He cut an excellent promo on SmackDown that made the match feel more meaningless, and he joined the Pier 6 brawl at the end of the show.
Will Punk make history by winning the Rumble from the No. 1 spot?
Show of the Week: Monday Night Raw, Jan. 20
For the last two weeks, naming Monday Night Raw the Show of the Week was a no-brainer.
The last two episodes of the flagship show were so good that WWE Main Event and Friday Night SmackDown couldn't come close.
Although Raw once again takes home the award this week, it isn't by a landslide. It isn't because all three shows were equally entertaining, but rather because they had all had very little to offer.
Raw simply beat out the others because it had only a few more solid matchups and moments, with less filler than the others. Since this was the final week of television before the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, it was crucial for WWE to sell viewers on the event.
Per usual, they think they can rely on the Rumble match itself to lure people to purchase the show, but they didn't even do an effective job of hyping that, either.
Don't get me wrong; I am still very much excited for the Rumble, but it is a shame that WWE didn't take advantage of building it up more in advance.
This Week's Highlights
Batista's return to WWE may not have lived up to the lofty expectations of many, but I still enjoyed it. I am a fan of Batista and am excited that he is back, but I can see why some people might have been disappointed by his comeback on Monday night.
I am sure the odd clothing he was wearing didn't help matters, either.
Speaking of Batista, the pop he received on Monday night didn't come close to the one Bryan received later in the show, strangely enough. Bryan provided a simple yet effective explanation for why he turned on The Wyatt Family before getting the better of Bray a little later on.
Here's hoping Bryan still finds a way to land a spot in the Rumble match on Sunday.
The Shield vs. Big E Langston, Cody Rhodes and Goldust
It seemed like a randomly put together match on paper, but the competitors made it work. It started out slowly but definitely delivered in the home stretch. The finishing sequence was well done, and I was pleasantly surprised that Seth Rollins was the one to pin Langston for the win.
I was stunned, though, that no tension was teased among the members of The Shield.
Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show
Unlike some people, I am not all up and arms about Lesnar backing off against Show on this week's Raw. He did take the fight to him at one point and attempt to take him down but to no avail. Lesnar hitting the F-5 on Show should be the blow-off to the feud (even though we already saw it a decade ago), and that is what I expect to see in their upcoming match.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Rey Mysterio
Yes, having this match three times in the course of one week was tiresome, but it was billed as a rubber match, so at least it had some meaning even if the ending outcome was pretty predictable. It was a nice, clean win for Del Rio going into the Royal Rumble, and seeing Batista get physical after the bout by attacking Del Rio was a cool moment as well.
This Week's Low Points
Fandango vs. Xavier Woods
A minute match between two comedy acts does nothing for me.
Fandango has had so many start-and-stop pushes in the last year that I have simply stopped caring, and Woods is a highly underrated talent in my opinion. Getting him the scraps of The Funkasaurus gimmick was a stupid idea, and WWE should just let him establish his own identity.
R-Truth vs. Damien Sandow
I am still in shock that this match was even advertised for Main Event this week.
Did WWE really think that this match would make people want to watch the show? We have seen it multiple times before, and it is the same thing every time. Truth going over is mind-boggling to me if only because Sandow has much more potential than Truth.
The Miz vs. Brodus Clay
It was going to be a throwaway match regardless, but they just had to throw Bad News Barrett out there and bury the match (and its competitors) for good measure. The match was over within a minute anyway and made Clay look weaker than he was before, if that was even possible.
Are they setting up yet another feud between Barrett and The Miz? They can't be serious, right?
Kofi Kingston vs. Fandango
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Seriously, how many times have we seen this match in the last few months? I lost track the 9,403,593,923,920th time they faced off. It was a fine match for what it was and there wasn't anything wrong with it, but viewers had very little reason to care about it.
I realize Kingston was merely a body in the main event of Raw and had no significance, but it is a shame they didn't follow up on his big win over Randy Orton properly.
Curtis Axel and Ryback vs. Los Matadores
Ryback and Axel continue to make zero sense as a team, and I still despise Los Matadores. Primo and Epico are great, don't get me wrong, but the Los Matadores shtick ran its course months ago. The match was forgettable, but at least Los Matadores are no longer undefeated.
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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.