Warriors closing in on major battles earned the biggest victories on the Jan. 27 edition of WWE Raw.
Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar and two ruthless trios ended the show as its most prominent winners. They celebrated championship opportunities or the promise of marquee matchups at Elimination Chamber.
The night's also-rans included a pair of midcarders who not only lost in the ring but have been offered little from WWE creative going forward. They wade through stagnant rivalries as WWE's best stories get handed to others.
The Usos earned another impressive win, Jake Roberts earned a spot in the 2014 Hall of Fame class and Antonio Cesaro looked excellent in tag team action, but no one gained more on Monday's Raw than the bearded pitbull.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
After a night where fans bemoaned his absence in the Royal Rumble, Bryan was one of the major focuses of the show. Beyond that, he earned the championship match that his vocal fanbase has been demanding.
In the opening segment, Bryan confronted Stephanie McMahon and Triple H about his absence from the Rumble.
Condescension dripping from their mouths, McMahon and Triple H told him that they didn't want to strain him by having him work two bouts in a single night. Bryan correctly pointed out the hypocrisy in that reasoning, as The Authority has had no issue putting him in Handicap and Gauntlet matches for the last few months.
It felt as if Bryan provided a voice for the disgruntled fan, further playing up his connection to the crowd.
To close the show, Bryan joined Sheamus and John Cena as entrants in a Elimination Chamber match against Randy Orton by winning a qualifying bout against The Shield. The six-man tag highlighted Bryan's frenetic energy as he exploded into action, a thunderous Cleveland crowd serving as his soundtrack.
Being asked to stand in the spotlight on Raw, tear into The Shield and be assured another shot at the WWE title is not as glorious a victory as winning the Rumble, but it's plenty reason to exclaim, "Yes!"
Loser: The Miz
Miz's home-field advantage has not led to much success.
Sporting a Cleveland Browns jersey, Miz took on Dolph Ziggler in a bout dubbed, "The Battle of Cleveland" on Monday's Raw. It was a fast-paced match that ended with Ziggler hitting a Zig Zag and covering Miz for a three-count.
A good showing and making Ziggler wail with the figure-four leglock is more of an accomplishment than Zack Ryder can claim, but it felt especially unclear what WWE has in mind for "The Awesome One." After flipping from heel to face a few times at the end of 2013, Miz has been an announcer who provides filler action from time to time.
He is without a rival for now, but Bad News Barrett trashed him again before the match. If this is Miz's next foe, it will be a lateral move.
Barrett and Miz were rivals for much of last year. Only Barrett's character has evolved since then. If the next story that Miz is a part of is Barrett insulting the quality of his matches, he may long for the days of getting assaulted by the world champ in front of his parents.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Lesnar's appears to be leaving a trail of broken chairs and writhing men behind him just in case he needs to find his way back home.
On Monday's Raw, Paul Heyman demanded that "The Beast" get a crack at either Orton or Batista. When The Authority didn't respond to the ultimatum, Lesnar used the Tag Team title match as the place to throw his tantrum.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust were trying to reclaim their championships from The New Age Outlaws. Lesnar broke up the match and then demolished a number of steel chairs against the Rhodes brothers' backs. That followed a night where he left Big Show in need of medical attention.
WWE is highlighting Lesnar's destructive power and teasing that he will soon get his chance to battle for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
With the announcement that Orton has to put his title on the line in the Elimination Chamber, it's almost certain that Lesnar will be placed in that match. Judging by how enraged and unstoppable he has seemed in his last two appearance, the other Chamber combatants should make sure their medical insurance is in order.
The chatter after Monday's Raw is unlikely to include Fandango. His match against R-Truth was one of the night's most forgettable offerings.
The ballroom dancer's bout offered no lasting images. The announcers strayed during the action, discussing whether or not East Carolina University was the "Harvard of the South."
The lack of developments in the Fandango vs. Xavier Woods/R-Truth feud hurts fan interest in any of their bouts. There is nothing personal or special about the rivalry, leading to unspectacular matches that are easily overshadowed.
R-Truth at least got a win out of it. On the bright side, losing to R-Truth is an improvement over getting eliminated from the Royal Rumble by a miniature bull.
Winner: The Wyatt Family and The Shield
Bryan and his fellow WWE title challengers will create the majority of the post-Raw headlines, but WWE also teased a match that promises electricity.
The Shield had a chance to send all three members to the Elimination Chamber against Orton. Instead, The Wyatt Family stormed into the night's main event and throttled Cena and company.
That attack earned Cena, Sheamus and Bryan wins and had each member of The Shield feverish with anger. Roman Reigns stood on the announce desk and growled like an animal with its foot in the teeth of a bear trap.
Rest assured, The Shield will respond to this, and it won't include anyone sharing their feelings.
That inevitable collision, one fans have pined for since The Wyatt Family debuted, promises to be a Match of the Year candidate. A step below from a title bout, this battle has a significant slice of the spotlight pointed at all six wrestlers involved.
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