Daniel Bryan is left lying by Kane on SmackDown.
We are already well on our way on the road to WrestleMania, but it just doesn't feel like that time of year yet. The absences of CM Punk, John Cena and Brock Lesnar were certainly felt on this week's Raw, but how long will it be before the product heats up again?
Daniel Bryan defeated two of his Elimination Chamber opponents this week in Randy Orton and Antonio Cesaro. However, with Kane now setting his sights on WWE's resident "Yes!" man, how will this affect Bryan's WWE World Heavyweight Championship aspirations?
Batista and Alberto Del Rio continued to cross his paths this week, with Batista getting the better of the Mexican aristocrat on Raw. Will Del Rio prove to be a thorn in the side of The Animal going into WrestleMania 30?
Sheamus continued to ride his wave of momentum with wins over Curtis Axel and Ryback on Raw and SmackDown, respectively. What will this mean for his chances inside Satan's structure in a few weeks?
I will break down the week in wrestling by analyzing the 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.
Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton fought on multiple pay-per-views last year and more often than not, their matches were disappointing. However, for some strange reason, whenever they face off for free on Raw, their matches are amazing.
Why that is, I will never know, but let's just appreciate the fact that these two had yet another barn burner of a match this past Monday night. The Authority told Orton at the start of Raw that he would be facing off against each of his Elimination Chamber opponents in singles matches in the coming weeks, and Daniel Bryan was first in line.
Stephanie McMahon mentioned that if Bryan were to win, he might be considered the new "face" of the WWE, but he couldn't have cared less about that. He only had his sights set on exacting revenge on Orton, and that is precisely what he did.
Despite a last-ditch attempt from Kane to interfere, the bearded one still overcame the odds and emerged victorious over the WWE World Heavyweight champion.
Daniel Bryan speaks out against former friend Kane on SmackDown.
By my record, Daniel Bryan has been named the Superstar of the Week in this column more times than anyone else in the last year. While I always enjoy a little variety, it is hard to argue that this man has deserved the honor due to being on a massive roll as of late.
He headlined this week's Raw in a match against WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton, whom he defeated cleanly despite interference from Kane. Four days later on SmackDown, he competed in an equally excellent match against Antonio Cesaro.
Following his win over the Swiss Superman, Bryan was once again ambushed by Kane. Although Bryan's nights on Raw and SmackDown ended with him looking up at the lights, his momentum is still hotter than ever before.
Although my enthusiasm for the WWE product has dwindled considerably as of late, the in-ring action certainly hasn't. There were many matches on WWE TV this week that were worth going out of your way to watch again, but most of them occurred on SmackDown.
Sure, Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan in the main event of Raw was astoundingly awesome, but nothing else about that show really stood out. Nothing was necessarily terrible, but it was easily one of the most boring episodes of Raw in recent memory.
SmackDown, on the other hand, was entertaining as a whole, with three great matches in Daniel Bryan vs. Antonio Cesaro, Sheamus vs. Ryback and Randy Orton vs. Christian. SmackDown may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it was most definitely worth checking out this week.
With the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view quickly approaching, here's hoping WWE can put together a strong card for the event to salvage any momentum for their biggest event of the year, WrestleMania 30.
Randy Orton vs. Christian: I may be a bit biased on this one considering it was among of my favorite feuds of 2011, but there is still no denying that this was an entertaining main event for SmackDown. These two have such great chemistry together that they never cease to amaze me whenever they go one-on-one. Sure, Orton predictably went over, but at least it helped him regain the momentum he lost from coming up short against Daniel Bryan on Raw.
Daniel Bryan vs. Antonio Cesaro: Speaking of Bryan, his match with Cesaro on the blue brand was another work of art. Personally, I enjoyed their Gauntlet match from last summer just slightly more, but it was still an excellent showing from both men. Don't be surprised if we see this match being contested for a world title down the road.
Sheamus vs. Ryback: Honestly, in a show of hands, who expected this match to be any good? Exactly. I have been hoping to see them go against each other for a while now, but I never thought the bout would be as enjoyable as it ended up being. It was a nice win for Sheamus, who has been booked dominantly since returning last week. I would not mind at all if this was a match ultimately added to the WrestleMania 30 card.
Christian vs. Jack Swagger: Did anyone else have flashbacks of their feud from 2009's ECW, or was that just me? Nonetheless, they worked a good match that once again hinted at dissension between Swagger and Zeb Colter. I still think Cesaro would benefit more from a babyface turn than Swagger would, but only time will tell as far as where this goes.
Emma's debut: Remember this moment, as it may be the only time that I will ever place a dance-off under the "Highlights" section. The actual dance-off was rather flat (the live crowd didn't react to Emma's signature dance at all), but it was nice to see Emma actually do something substantial instead of waving her signs in the crowd like she has been for the last month. I can't say I am excited for her potential pairing with Santino Marella, but hey, at least she is on the main roster.
Batista and Alberto Del Rio: I am a fan of Batista and even like Del Rio to an extent, but not even I enjoyed this segment from Raw. Batista's return has been a major flop thus far, and a feud with Del Rio won't rectify that. The lack of reaction for their promo should be a sign that it just isn't working. Either turn Batista heel or transition him into a feud with someone (such as Brock Lesnar) that fans would actually be excited to see him face.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. New Age Outlaws: I defended their previous matches when very few other people did, but I don't have many (if any) good things to saw about this match. The steel cage was essentially pointless, and the one spot it offered was both botched and dangerous. If the Rhodes brothers don't end up facing each other at WrestleMania 30, then taking the Tag titles off them was a major mistake.
Titus O'Neil vs. Zack Ryder: First off, O'Neil's new entrance music is horrendous. Secondly, the crowd couldn't have cared less about his squash match against Ryder. I understand it will take time for fans to get used to him as a heel, but I still feel it was too soon to split up The Prime Time Players. Also, what was with the random run-in from The Miz on commentary? Not only was it confusing, but it was also pointless.
Naomi vs. Aksana: A reckless matchup. Aksana can be fine in the ring more often than not, but her injuring Naomi was just sloppy. The match was of the throwaway variety, but if nothing else, it boosted Naomi's momentum going into her upcoming Divas title match against AJ Lee. Props to Naomi for finishing the match despite being injured.
Big E Langston vs. Curtis Axel: There was nothing wrong with the match, per se, as it was actually quite good. My real issue with this match was that we have seen it a million times before. Axel hasn't meant anything in ages, so it was pretty obvious who was going over here. The ovation Langston received from the live crowd was cool, but his current booking is mind-boggling and he is need of new challengers for his Intercontinental title.
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Graham Mirmina, aka 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.