The Good, the Great and the Awesome from Raw 1/27/14
Just 24 hours removed from a polarizing 2014 Royal Rumble event, Monday Night Raw hit the airwaves live from Cleveland.
Daniel Bryan is the talk of the wrestling world, and World Wrestling Entertainment did a far better job spotlighting him Monday night than it did during Sunday's pay-per-view extravaganza. The goat-faced Superstar teamed with John Cena and the returning Sheamus to take on The Shield in six-man tag team action, with the winning trio earning three of the six spots in the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE title in just four weeks.
Would the all-star babyface tandem reign supreme, or would The Shield rebound after a Rumble match that saw them nearly tear apart at the seams?
Elsewhere on the show, WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton was confronted by both Batista and Brock Lesnar. With his title reign consisting of victories by the narrowest of margins, how would the threat of two of WWE's most physically imposing Superstars eyeing Orton's championship affect The Viper?
The Usos, The Real Americans, R-Truth, Fandango, The Miz and Dolph Ziggler were all in action, while Goldust and Cody Rhodes met the New Age Outlaws in a rematch from Sunday's kickoff show that saw the latter capture their sixth tag title from the talented sibling opposition.
With Elimination Chamber only four weeks away, WWE began building to the annual February event.
What good, great and awesome matches and segments did the company produce one night after the annual January spectacular?
Let's find out.
Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara vs. The Real Americans
The evening's first bout featured two very talented tag teams. Mysterio has shown great chemistry with both Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro in a number of matches in recent months, while Hunico has completely revitalized the Sin Cara character, even if booking has not exactly backed him up.
Speaking of booking, fans were treated to a hint of dissension between the villains when Swagger got into a verbal confrontation with Zeb Colter, leading to questions surrounding a potential babyface turn for the former World Heavyweight champion.
Swagger managed to get back in the ring and work well enough with Cesaro to secure a victory, but it remains to be seen if the argument with Colter will be revisited down the line or if the creative team will forget about it come Tuesday night's SmackDown tapings.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. The New Age Outlaws
In a rematch from Sunday's kickoff show, new WWE tag team champions The New Age Outlaws took on former titleholders Cody Rhodes and Goldust. While the match was better than its predecessor, it still failed to live up to the truly awesome matches Rhodes and Goldust had with the likes of The Real Americans and The Shield over the last five months.
With that said, "Road Dogg" Jesse James and Billy Gunn still managed to perform admirably.
The inconclusive finish helps the champions escape with their titles and prevents the challengers from suffering a second loss in as many nights.
Even if they did end up as victims of Brock Lesnar, whom we will get to in a few moments.
Kofi Kingston vs. Alberto Del Rio
Despite attempts by the Cleveland fans to make themselves the center of attention during the match by chanting for announcers JBL and Jerry Lawler, Del Rio and Kingston had a very strong, competitive match that showcased both men's talents and helped the former regain momentum following a pitiful Rumble performance.
It would have been nice to see Kofi score the win, especially given his recent win over WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton and his impressive, memorable performance in the Rumble. But the company clearly sees Del Rio as a more valuable asset as Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania XXX approach, so one cannot fault it for giving him the win as it attempts to rebuild him following very questionable booking in recent months.
This would have been the match of the night had it not been for the awesome main event.
Divas Tag Action
The eight-Diva tag bout featuring The Funkadactyls and The Bella Twins taking on AJ Lee, Tamina, Aksana and Alicia Fox may not have been great by regular standards, but considering some of the bad matches fans have witnessed from the Divas division in recent weeks, Monday's match was as close as we may get to great anytime soon.
Nikki Bella did a fine job as the babyface in peril before making the hot tag to Naomi, who brought incredible energy and excitement to the closing moments of the match. Her Rear View finisher is quick, can be hit from anywhere and was responsible for the downfall of Divas champion Lee on Monday night, setting the recently married Diva up for a future title opportunity.
The match also got the aforementioned Alicia Fox on Raw, which makes this writer very happy.
Ruthless Aggression and the WWE title
Randy Orton made his way to the ring to address his victory over John Cena at the Royal Rumble but found himself interrupted by the arrival of new No. 1 contender Batista.
The Animal reiterated his plans to take the WWE world heavyweight title from whomever the champion is come WrestleMania, whether it is Orton, Cena or even Daniel Bryan.
Suddenly, the music of The Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar, interrupted, and he and Paul Heyman made their way to the ring. Heyman informed Raw general manager Brad Maddox that he should give Lesnar a match against Orton or Batista—"or else."
Later in the evening, Maddox and the entire WWE Universe found out what "or else" meant when Lesnar interrupted the tag title match and laid waste to both Goldust and Cody Rhodes, delivering an F5 to each of them before bashing them repeatedly with steel chairs.
Lesnar is at his best when he is destroying things, and fans found out why on Monday night.
The interaction between Orton, Batista and Lesnar reunited three of the top young stars of the Ruthless Aggression era, all of whom would go on to win multiple WWE and World Heavyweight Championships. While a potential title match between Batista and Orton may not drum up a great deal of anticipation or excitement, a triple-threat match involving Lesnar would be fresh and would bring together three Superstars who have never competed against one another in a major 'Mania bout.
Opening In-Ring Segment
WWE needed to present Daniel Bryan very early in Monday night's program, and it did just that, having the goat-faced Superstar interrupt Triple H and his lovely wife, Stephanie, to kick off the evening's festivities. He discussed not being allowed to enter the Royal Rumble match.
Things got heated, and the former WWE and World champion was soon face to face with the COO.
This brought about the arrival of The Shield, and just as it appeared as though Bryan would be on the receiving end of a three-on-one beatdown, Sheamus and John Cena hit the ring, setting up a huge six-man tag team main event to determine three of the Superstars to compete inside the Elimination Chamber on February 23.
The segment was simple but did a great job of accomplishing a few different things all at once.
It reminded fans that the war between Bryan and The Authority is still ongoing, even if it was placed on the back burner for two months. It also set up an awesome main event that had implications for the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view.
The very definition of an effective show-opening promo.
The Main Event
The six-man tag team main event was as good, if not better, than any match from Sunday's Royal Rumble, which should not be a surprise given the absolutely outstanding talent involved.
The Shield is the best faction WWE has seen since Evolution a decade ago while John Cena and Daniel Bryan are among the best workers in the business. Sheamus, in his two appearances since returning from injury, looks like he barely missed any time and was crisp in his ring work Monday night.
The fast-pace led to dramatic near-falls and more than a few hot sequences late in the bout. The exchange between Bryan and Seth Rollins was extraordinary and Cena locking in the STF to Roman Reigns, who was largely unstoppable throughout the bout, had fans rising to their feet as they anticipated the conclusion.
Then the Wyatt Family arrived, drawing a disqualification win for the babyfaces, who cleared the cult-like faction out of the squared circle and stood tall to close out the show.
The most interesting aspect of the finish was the way that the Wyatts indirectly cost The Shield the match. With Cena now part of the Elimination Chamber match, freeing up the Wyatt Family until WrestleMania, one has to wonder if fans will finally get the much-anticipated six-man war between them and The Shield upcoming at the February pay-per-view.