Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan's violent masterpiece was the star of WWE's best offerings worth savoring this week.
The company couldn't produce the Superstar fans were chanting for, but it did deliver tension-escalating performances from The Shield and The Wyatt Family. Dolph Ziggler and Titus O'Neil flourished as well.
The week's worst matches include a tepid steel-cage affair and a bout on Main Event WWE would surely like to forget.
Emma's debut was somewhere in the middle. It was a welcome sight to see her in a WWE ring and introducing her by way of dance-off makes sense as her gimmick is dance-centric. It's just disappointing that she didn't begin this phase of her career with an actual wrestling match.
From SmackDown to Main Event, WWE's highs and lows this week were a mix of disappointments and memorable collisions.
Dolph Ziggler gave the best performance on his career on the mic, but unfortunately, only a limited audience witnessed it.
After losing to Antonio Cesaro in an Elimination Chamber qualifying match on the Jan. 31 SmackDown, Ziggler erupted in emotion backstage. "The Show Off" talked about his current frustrations and how he's always been a winner, his volume increasing with every sentence.
When he screamed, "Every night, I deliver!," he seemed on the verge of either crying or punching a hole in a wall.
Emotion this raw is rare in wrestling promos. The stirring speech is likely the precursor to his rumored angle with The Miz, per F4WOnline (via WrestlingInc.com). Beyond that, it's proof of how powerful he can be when armed with a mic should WWE ever decide to make him a headliner.
The interview was only featured on WWE.com and the WWE App. The company should have shown this on Raw or at least put it up on its YouTube page. Instead, a classic promo is sitting in the far corner of the gallery where few will ever see it.
The intensity one expects from a steel cage match was absent from Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. The New Age Outlaws on Monday's Raw.
Beyond the match's slow pace, a sluggish energy hurt it. At this point in their feud, these teams should have been more aggressive toward each other. Instead, it felt as if the Superstars were pacing themselves and holding back.
Perhaps that's simply the result of depending on guys at such late stages in their careers. The Rhodes boys have thrilled in earlier bouts against The Shield and The Usos.
Against Road Dogg (44) and Billy Gunn (50), though, the result was underwhelming.
It took too long for anyone to start incorporating the cage itself into the match. The fans noticed, at one point chanting, "Use the cage!"
WWE's two dominant trios sucked in the audience as they barked at each other.
The Wyatt Family is set to face The Shield at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. Before they collide in the ring, each group has taken to calling the other out. The results have been electric.
Bray Wyatt warned The Shield on Friday's SmackDown about inviting a devil into their backyard. Luke Harper told them, "You picked a beautiful hill to die on."
On Monday's Raw, each group followed the other's match with more threats. Wyatt talked about building an empire next to the sea. Dean Ambrose claimed to be unafraid of Wyatt and company, mocking him and his haunted rocking chair.
Each speech upped the anticipation for the upcoming match while showcasing some of WWE's best mic workers today.
The WWE production team already has a number of choice lines to cut into a promo video. Both The Shield and The Wyatt Family are sure to give them more to work with in the coming weeks.
The Miz and Fandango's battle on Wednesday's Main Event was hard to watch.
Off-rhythm and out of sync, the two wrestlers sputtered through the bout. Several of the counters lacked fluidity. The pace was often jerky.
It was as if Miz and Fandango were both singing off-key and could never quite recover.
It's matches like this one that make a fan appreciate just how difficult it is to put on smooth, exciting in-ring action. They have looked far better in previous efforts against each other, so it isn't necessarily an issue of poor chemistry.
As often as WWE Superstars work, everyone is due a bad night it seems.
The Prime Time Players' split means one of the more entertaining duos outside of the ring is no more.
After weeks of spotty activity, the team ended on Friday's SmackDown when Titus O'Neil clocked his partner. He told Darren Young that he wouldn't be held back anymore and he wanted to return to his winning ways.
The beatdown that followed unnerved the audience. O'Neil slammed Young into the security barricade, and it was hard not to cringe.
While The Prime Time Players' fans will lament the end of this pairing, WWE has done a good job so far in showcasing O'Neil as a villain. His short, unfeeling interview on Backstage Fallout after SmackDown was effective, as was his first singles match as a newly-turned heel.
O'Neil throttled Zack Ryder on Monday's Raw and was compellingly vicious.
Whether O'Neil manages to turn this angle into a headlining gig or not, he is certainly thriving for the moment. A big, powerful man just joined the ranks of WWE's bad guys, and it's going to fun watching his path of destruction.
Paige in action on NXT.
For a short time, fans could watch the stars of tomorrow for free.
That's now over. WWE put NXT back on Hulu Plus this week, forcing fans to decide if they want to pay a subscription fee in order to see Adrian Neville, Paige and Enzo Amore in action.
Soon enough, NXT will be a part of the pro wrestling buffet that is the WWE Network, but for the moment, the newest episodes will evade the frugal among us.
The $8 monthly price tag isn't much, but try telling that to fans who already spend 45 bucks on pay-per-views. WWE is clearly looking to entice folks to sign up for the network by taking away free NXT, and the developmental show will be incentive aplenty, beginning with the live NXT: Arrival special on Feb. 27.
When they provide the kind of thrill ride that Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan did on Monday's Raw, it doesn't matter if two wrestlers have clashed countless times before.
Just as they did on Dec. 16, Orton and Bryan produced a match that would have been a fitting end to a pay-per-view. They tore at each other, each man selecting a body part to focus on and demolish.
Bryan worked on Orton's leg. He left "The Viper" howling like he'd been stabbed. When it was Orton's turn to take control, he wrenched and pounded Bryan's shoulder.
Their animosity was just as powerful as it has ever been.
This was Orton's first match in a series against every opponent he'll face in the Elimination Chamber. Triple H said that if Orton lost, The Authority would consider Bryan for the position of face of the company.
Bryan did win, capping off an instant classic with a running knee. It's unclear whether that will actually net him what Triple H offered, but the match that ended Raw is certainly one fans will treasure.