Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of Jan. 27
The Royal Rumble, its buildup and aftereffects generated the WWE's best and worst offerings in the last week of January.
Chaos ruled on SmackDown, an NXT prospect forced fans to take notice and CM Punk quit. For everything great fans experienced this week, like the instant classic that opened Sunday's pay-per-view, there was something unsettling or unimpressive to balance it out.
Pessimists will focus on the Rumble's predictable result, while optimists will remember this week for a snake getting his due and Daniel Bryan's latest addition to his greatest collection. The following is a look at those highs and lows and what WWE happenings made fans cheer, moan or simply stare at the screen in awe.
Best: 10-Man Tag Team Chaos
The go-home edition of Raw ended with a tepid climax where John Cena watched Randy Orton drive away in a car. The last SmackDown before the Royal Rumble did a far better job of hyping fans for the pay-per-view.
The main event featured Goldust, Cody Rhodes, Big E Langston and The Usos vs. The Shield and The New Age Outlaws.
As one would expect with those men all going to battle, the action was thrilling. That was especially true for the hectic, finisher-heavy ending. Every Superstar hit whoever was close enough with their best weapon before The Shield completely abandoned the rules and turned the match into a brawl.
A number of wrestlers, including Ryback and R-Truth, charged in ready to fight. The result was a compelling preview of the crowded, manic madness that is the Royal Rumble.
Worst: John Cena vs. Randy Orton
The Pittsburgh, Pa., fans had no interest in watching John Cena and Randy Orton clash at the Royal Rumble.
While those foes have produced excellence before, they gave the audience little reason to be excited. Blame WWE for overusing this rivalry or the difficulty of having to wrestle in front of a restless, unhappy crowd, but the result was a forgettable bout.
Cena vs. Orton didn't have the intensity of the match at TLC or what one expect after their feud had become so personal in recent weeks.
Even Big Show and Brock Lesnar's strange match that saw little official action and more chair shots than wrestling holds was more moving. Orton did his best to play up to the fans chanting about everything other than the match itself, but it wasn't enough to combat the uninspired nature of the championship bout.
WWE has leaned on both Orton and Cena as top guys for so long that it's hard to stay interested.
Best: Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt
Should another match eventually win the 2014 Match of the Year award, it's going to have to be near perfect to top Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan's collision at the Royal Rumble.
The pay-per-view's opening match pitted the monstrous Wyatt against the most popular Superstar in the company right now. From bell to bell, intensity grabbed the audience's attention.
Wyatt flung Bryan around like a bear batting his prey around. Bryan's submissions, speed, fearlessness and captivating energy made for the kind of entertainment WWE fans slobber over. Wyatt showed that he was ready to take a step up WWE's hierarchy with his best performance by far.
Bryan showed his value as a composer of classics and as a wrestler who truly makes fans care about the drama inside the ring.
Unhappiness about Bryan not being in the 30-man Rumble later that night overshadowed the greatness of this match. He proved that he will always be an asset to the company regardless of his place on the card.
Worst: Lack of Surprises at Royal Rumble
Fans who were upset with Batista, a man who hadn't wrestled for WWE in four years, winning the Royal Rumble and earning a spot as a WrestleMania headliner had to have seen it coming.
WWE hinted at this outcome in a big way leading up to the event. It was Batista who received much of the hype beforehand and who had one-on-one time with Randy Orton a week before.
His win capped off a match that had many highlights, from Roman Reigns breaking the record for most eliminations in a single Rumble to CM Punk's marathon performance, but had little in the way of surprises.
The man many expected to win, even if they were rooting against it, won. The surprise entrants weren't very surprising.
Kevin Nash's appearance had far less impact that when he came back for the 2011 Royal Rumble. Dolph Ziggler had been out a few weeks recovering from a concussion and Sheamus' recovery timetable had him scheduled to come back at the time of the Rumble. The Irishman's return was the opposite of Chris Jericho's last year in terms of unexpectedness.
In contrast to all the excitement that the Rumble's best offered, its shock factor underwhelmed.
Best: Big Cass Shines
Colin Cassady continues to show that he's not Enzo Amore's sidekick; he's a star on his own.
The big man faced Tyler Breeze on the Jan. 29 episode of NXT and revved up the crowd before even throwing his first clothesline. Breeze delayed the opening of the match by taking selfies in the corner. Cassady grew impatient and eventually decided to mock "The Gorgeous One."
He hopped out of the ring and grabbed a fan's cell phone to take some selfies of his own.
Cassady hammed it up and charmed the audience in the process. Just as he did in his singing contest with Aiden English a few weeks prior, "Big Cass" showed versatility and an ability to connect with the crowd.
He followed that up with a hard-hitting, short bout and a backstage segment with Amore. As obvious as it is that Amore is bound for big things, one has to say the same thing about his partner.
Worst: CM Punk Quits WWE
Skeptics are still waiting for this to all be revealed as an elaborate storyline, but it appears that CM Punk is no longer a WWE Superstar.
His sudden departure had the wrestling world buzzing, with TMZ.com weighing in and speculating that Batista being in the main event of WrestleMania was the impetus for Punk leaving. Whether it was that, burnout, frustration with backstage politics or anything else, Punk quitting is a stomach punch to many fans.
WWE is now minus one of its top talkers and best overall wrestlers just as it nears its biggest event of the year.
The company will inevitably recover as it did when Steve Austin and Brock Lesnar left, but the WWE team is down one all-star, and that hurts. Vince McMahon has now some unexpected scrambling to do en route to WrestleMania and beyond.
Best: Jake Roberts Announced as 2014 Hall of Fame Inductee
The WWE Hall of Fame continues to add names that belonged there long ago.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts didn't have to wait as long as Bruno Sammartino, but it was always mind-boggling that one of wrestling's best talkers ever and a man who left such a lasting mark on the WWE fanbase had yet to be inducted.
That wrong has been corrected. Roberts is going in this year with The Ultimate Warrior, elevating the Hall with his addition.
Roberts had been pushing to be a part of the Royal Rumble, but is instead honored in a big way. After years of headlines about his faults, addictions and misfortune, the narrative is now about redemption. He joins his peers Hulk Hogan and Ted DiBiase in the Hall of Fame, scratching another name off the list of the most deserving candidates to not yet get the call.