WWE Week in Review, Feb. 1: CM Punk Quits WWE, Batista Wins the Royal Rumble
As the road to WrestleMania gets under way, we look back at what was one of the most controversial weeks in recent WWE history. From Batista emerging victorious in the annual 30-man Royal Rumble match to CM Punk departing the company, fans were left with more questions than answers going into next Monday's Raw.
Many members of the WWE Universe were left disappointed by the conclusion of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view that saw Batista earn the right to challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of WrestleMania 30. Will The Animal continue to target Randy Orton, or will his sights shift between now and The Show of Shows?
A handful of Elimination Chamber qualifying matches were held over the last week to determine who will contend for the prestigious prize inside Satan's structure later this month. How will Orton react to his newest set of challengers come Monday night?
Following a loss to Ryback and Curtis Axel on SmackDown, The Prime Time Players parted ways when Titus O'Neil aggressively attacked Darren Young. What will this mean for the tag team division going forward?
I will break down the week in wrestling by analyzing the Royal Rumble, 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: Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt (WWE Royal Rumble)
Honestly speaking, I didn't have high hopes for Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt going into the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. The feud had been entertaining up to that point, but it was quite clear that it was time for it to come to an end at this event.
It is no secret that Bryan is one of the best wrestlers in WWE today, but Bray had yet to prove himself inside the squared circle. However, he silenced all critics on this show by participating in what is being called the best WWE match of the year thus far.
The action was exciting, hard-hitting and intense from start to finish. Both competitors brought the absolute best they had to offer, making the match all the more memorable.
The fantastic finish saw Bray counter Bryan's aerial maneuver through the ropes by catching him in midair and connecting with Sister Abigail into the barricade. A clean win over Bryan will ensure that the bearded cult leader will never be underestimated again.
Superstar of the Week: Antonio Cesaro
In a week where Batista won the Royal Rumble match and CM Punk took his leave from WWE, a number of Superstars who shined were overlooked, most notably Antonio Cesaro. In the annual Battle Royal, Cesaro had one of the more memorable moments of the night when executed his patented Cesaro Swing on various competitors.
The next night on Raw, The Real Americans went to war with Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara, whom they defeated with ease. Cesaro would go on to pick up his biggest win to date on SmackDown, defeating Dolph Ziggler to qualify for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Elimination Chamber.
Is it only a matter of time before the Swiss Superman leaves Jack Swagger to fulfill his true potential?
Show of the Week: Friday Night SmackDown, January 31
Much like everyone else, I was highly anticipating this year's Royal Rumble pay-per-view, if only for the Rumble match itself. The undercard was solid, and the right people went over, but the annual Battle Royal was going to either make or break the show.
As entertaining as it ended up being, the disappointing finish that saw Batista emerge victorious by lastly eliminating Roman Reigns left a sour taste in the mouths of many. It didn't make the show terrible by any means, but it didn't leave me feeling satisfied by the end of it.
Monday Night Raw was a slight improvement, but featured much of the same for the most part. It wasn't until Friday's SmackDown that I didn't feel truly excited again for the road to WrestleMania.
The show featured two excellent qualifying matches for Elimination Chamber, an entertaining main event and more. I am still not overly optimistic about what is being rumored for WrestleMania, but SmackDown at least ended the week on a high note.
This Week's Highlights
The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan, Sheamus and Rey Mysterio: It was a standard rematch from Raw (with Mysterio replacing John Cena), but it was still a quality six-man tag team match. It was given good time, and chaos ensued down the stretch, making for a fun final few minutes. Mysterio served his purpose well in taking the pinfall loss for his team while furthering The Shield's strong momentum.
Christian returns: It has been a long five months, but Christian has finally returned! He worked a very good match with Jack Swagger on SmackDown to earn a spot in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber match in a few weeks. It is great to see Christian in better shape than ever before and to see him receive the "one more match" he rightfully deserves.
New Age Outlaws vs. Cody Rhodes and Goldust: A lot of people are up in arms about the New Age Outlaws winning the WWE Tag Team Championships, but I personally have no problem with it. It allows the Rhodes brothers to feud with one another going into WrestleMania, while the New Age Outlaws will have one last run with the straps before dropping them to The Usos at (preferably) WrestleMania 30. The matches contested between the two teams at Royal Rumble and on Raw were enjoyable, and the Pittsburgh crowd popped for the title change on Sunday night.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame: It has been a long time coming, but Jake The Snake will finally be entering the hall of the immortals this April. After his long road to recovery, it is great to see his long list of accomplishments, both personally and professionally, recognized by WWE. The Hall of Fame Class of 2014 is shaping up to be a good one thus far.
Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz: I liked the fact that WWE placed the two hometown heroes against each other on Raw this week (despite the fact Ziggler is usually billed as being from Hollywood, Fla.). It was a fun match while it lasted, and the live crowd appeared to be into both competitors. It was a nice win for Ziggler, but ultimately, it was nothing that will catapult him back up the card, where he belongs.
Royal Rumble surprises: The surprise entrants in the Royal Rumble match are probably the most exciting element in the bout every year, and this year was no exception. From a one-off appearance from Kevin Nash to the returning Sheamus to the debut of Alexander Rusev, there were a handful of highlights in the annual Battle Royal that made it worth watching.
Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show: Some people were left disappointed by this match, but I thought it was exactly what it needed to be. I wasn't looking forward to them facing off to begin with, so the fact the bout ran only two minutes was pleasantly surprising. It was a dominant victory for Lesnar going into WrestleMaina season, and the injury angle writes Show out of storylines for the foreseeable future.
This Week's Low Points
CM Punk quits WWE: It was unclear only a few days ago whether this whole thing was real or one giant work, but it is slowly starting to lean toward the former. Regardless of his reasons for leaving, Punk's absence on WWE TV will definitely be felt for weeks to come, and the timing couldn't have been worse with WrestleMania 30 right around the corner. He will be deeply missed by the WWE Universe, but I expect to see him back in the company before long.
Batista wins the Royal Rumble: Sure, we all saw this happening from the moment Batista was announced for the match, but sometimes predictability is indeed a bad thing. Similar to last year with John Cena, we were all hoping that WWE would provide us with a shock finish to this year's Royal Rumble by allowing Daniel Bryan to enter and having him win. But no such luck. Although I am a fan of Batista, not even I can get excited about the thought of him headlining WrestleMania 30 for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Randy Orton.
Randy Orton vs. John Cena: The match itself was solid and well wrestled, but it was extremely difficult to get excited about the idea of these two facing off on pay-per-view yet again. Them stealing each other's finishing maneuvers didn't do much for me, and apparently, it didn't do much for the live audience, which jeered both guys the entire time. The finish was well done and the crowd came alive down the stretch for the near-falls, but one can only hope that this was the last time we see Orton and Cena facing off in a WWE ring for a long, long time to come.
The Prime Time Players split up: Where did this come from? It had absolutely no build and seemed like poor timing considering it is WrestleMania season and both guys are bound to get lost in the shuffle. I realize many people see potential in Titus O'Neil as a singles star, but it was still too soon to break them up. They were one of the most entertaining tag teams in the division but were never even given a run with the belts. What a shame.
Fandango, R-Truth and Xavier Woods: It's the same minute matches from these three every single week. None of them have any direction at the moment, and both Woods and Fandango are being underutilized with terrible gimmicks. Constantly putting them in matches against each other doesn't do anyone any favors.
Kofi Kingston vs. Damien Sandow: Another meaningless match between these two individuals, both of whom are deserving of so much more. It was a fine match for what it was, but I have zero idea where they are going with this Sandow losing-streak angle. Meanwhile, the win did nothing for Kofi, who knocked off the WWE World Heavyweight champion just a few weeks ago.
Natalya vs. Tamina Snuka: These are two of the better women's wrestlers in the Divas division right now, yet they aren't even given more than a few minutes on WWE Main Event. It was a throwaway win for Natalya, but if nothing else, at least the feud between AJ Lee and Naomi was furthered here.
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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.