On a night where fans in Omaha, Neb., roared their support for CM Punk, a debuting Diva, Daniel Bryan and Titus O'Neil were among the biggest winners of the Feb. 3 edition of WWE Raw.
Emma is now 1-0 in dance-offs, O'Neil flourished in his new villainous role and Bryan added another early candidate for 2014's Match of the Year. The episode's losers include a man seemingly set to part ways with his manager, a bearer of bad news and signs bearing Punk's name.
An odd night produced excellence at times and poor decision at others. Of the good news to emerge from the show, one item will have NXT fans happy enough to dance—Emma stepping into a WWE ring.
Summer Rae and Emma look to be taking their NXT rivalry to a bigger stage.
After weeks of appearing in the audience holding up signs, Emma made her way into the ring on Monday's Raw. She has yet to apply a singe headlock, but took a major step in her career in winning a dance-off against Summer.
Santino Marella pulled Emma in from the crowd, much like he was first pulled out of the crowd for his debut, and hosted a quick dance competition.
While it would have been more entertaining for Emma to actually wrestle, a new group of fans got to see her quirky dance moves. Being thrust into a feud with Summer is excellent for her as well, as they have good chemistry together and will produce high-quality bouts.
Loser: Jack Swagger
There is little shame in losing to Christian in consecutive matches. What should concern Swagger fans more is that it appears he's on the verge of breaking up with Zeb Colter and The Real Americans.
Thanks to Christian, Swagger failed to qualify for the WWE title Elimination Chamber match on Friday's SmackDown. On Monday's Raw, fans witnessed similar results. Christian countered just about everything Swagger threw at him and eventually rolled him up for a win.
After the bout, Colter reprimanded Swagger. Antonio Cesaro stood just outside the ring with his arms crossed and his head down.
The developing story seems to be that Swagger is disappointing his comrades. This defeat follows a tag match where Colter slapped Swagger in the face to motivate him. Monday's Raw showed more cracks in their alliance.
The team splitting up would hurt Swagger as Colter's rhetoric and Cesaro's partnership have been a lot of what has kept the Oklahoma native relevant.
Before joining Colter, Swagger struggled for airtime. He may soon be walking down that road once more.
Winner: Titus O'Neil
For the moment at least, WWE has turned the spotlight on O'Neil.
After he attacked his tag team partner on last week's SmackDown, O'Neil entered to more sinister music on Monday's Raw and battled with Zack Ryder. Ryder put up a fight, but found himself outmatched.
O'Neil dominated thanks to his power and new-found aggressiveness. He slammed Ryder's face to the mat and tossed him around the ring before hitting Clash of the Titus for a three count.
As a member of The Prime Time Players, O'Neil had become far less of a focus for WWE in recent months. He now gets a story, a character shift and is booked as a dangerous force. This added attention may not last, but it's a significant step up for him.
Loser: Bad News Barrett
At its best, Barrett's new gimmick has been highly entertaining. At its worst, it feels like rushed filler. On Monday's Raw, Barrett was given little time to work with as he tackled the well-worn "Americans are fat" angle.
Jerry Lawler stood up during his speech and made some vague threat about Barrett not being around next week.
Fans knew that someone would eventually stand up to Barrett, but Lawler getting that role is a shock. For a senior citizen to be the one to put Barrett in his place, a man he can't retaliate against, makes him look weak.
WWE seems to be running out of gas with this gimmick and is seemingly unsure of what direction to take it. If this develops into a verbal feud with Lawler, it won't be of any benefit to Barrett. He needs a Superstar to challenge him and his negativity, something that has simply not happened yet.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio has seemingly landed himself a prominent match at Elimination Chamber.
Del Rio vs. Batista isn't yet official, but it appears to be a lock. Batista came out to the ring on Monday's Raw to address the crowd and discuss who he'd like to face at WrestleMania. He didn't get the chance.
"Mexico's Greatest Export" interrupted him, calling him a "perro" and bad-mouthing him. Batista said he had no issues with Del Rio, but that changed when the 2011 Royal Rumble winner clocked him with a sucker-punch.
A brief brawl led to Del Rio escaping and Batista fuming. That moment all but assures that these two foes will meet at the upcoming pay-per-view.
While many Superstars will be watching that event from the back, WWE has chosen Del Rio as Batista's first singles opponent since his return. That feels like a victory now, but "The Animal" may end up stomping on Del Rio like a roach.
Loser: CM Punk Signs
The support for Punk during Monday's Raw was thunderous. The first Raw since word of Punk's departure came out saw chants for him drown out segments and take over matches.
WWE thought it could simply ignore Punk's absence and move on. The company even went so far as to confiscate many pro-Punk signs. WrestleZone.com reports that "numerous CM Punk fan signs were being confiscated."
One fan made light of the situation. Hat tip to The Nick & Bryan Show for the find.
This followed WWE confiscating Punk signs at a taping for NXT, per PWInsider.com. This is a strange set of circumstances that can't just be disregarded. It's not as if WWE can just produce Punk for these fans, but the company has to address it by doing more than removing fans' signs.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
It's unclear what his reward for defeating Randy Orton will entail, but Bryan won the main event of Monday's Raw.
Earlier in the night, Triple H warned Orton that if Bryan won, The Authority would consider making him the new face of WWE. Bryan earned that victory in an instant classic, a match brimming with violence and intensity.
Each man focused on a single body part and attacked it with no mercy. Bryan went after Orton's leg while "The Viper" went after Bryan's shoulder.
The win is a multi-layered one for Bryan. He gets a singles victory over the world champ, adds to his collection of great matches, perhaps gets crowned as the face of the company and appears to be headed toward the path of revenge.
Kane attacked Bryan after the bout, diverting The Authority's wrath from Punk back to Bryan. That leads one to believe that WWE's new plan for WrestleMania XXX is to have Bryan finally get vengeance against Triple H in a marquee match.
Bryan's fanbase would certainly prefer for him to win the WWE title, but should he end up defeating Triple H at WrestleMania, that's a mighty tasty consolation prize.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!