Cesaro comes close to defeating John Cena on Raw.
With Elimination Chamber this Sunday, WWE heavily hyped the card for the pay-per-view over the course of the week. In a strong week for in-ring action, several Superstars shined and built momentum going into the event.
In the main event of Raw, Randy Orton suffered yet another loss, this time to Sheamus via disqualification. Could his WWE World Heavyweight Championship be in jeopardy come the feared Elimination Chamber match?
Between Raw and SmackDown, Daniel Bryan scored four wins this week, two of them due to interference from Kane. What role will Kane have in Bryan's quest to recapture the prestigious prize on Sunday?
After weeks of teasing tension, The Shield and The Wyatt Family finally came to blows at the conclusion of the flagship show on Monday night. With their highly anticipated encounter quickly approaching, which stable will prove to be the most dominant force in the WWE?
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.
I can recall only one other time that John Cena and Cesaro have faced off in one-on-one competition, and that was in December 2012 at the Tribute to the Troops taping. So, when it was announced at the start of this week's Raw that Cesaro would be taking on Cena later in the evening instead of Randy Orton for the umpteenth time, it felt fresh and exciting.
Following his amazing performance against Randy Orton last week, Cesaro has since been seen in a new light by members of the WWE Universe who had underrated him in the ring for so long. He proved on Monday night in his match against the true face of the company that he is here to stay, taking him to the absolute limit.
Take nothing away from Cena, either, who once again validated his strong skills inside the squared circle and put the "You can't wrestle" chants to rest once and for all. It was the best Raw match of the year to date, and I surely hope we see more of these two against one another in singles action down the line.
Sheamus prepares for in-ring action against Randy Orton on Raw.
Since returning to the ring in the 2014 Royal Rumble match a few weeks match, Sheamus has had a strong streak of good matches on both Raw and SmackDown. Of course, this week was no different. On Monday night, he squared off against WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton.
Before Sheamus could close in on the victory, The Shield interrupted and ambushed him, thus granting The Celtic Warrior the disqualification win as a result. Four days later on SmackDown, Sheamus took on another familiar foe in Christian.
Although Christian dominated most of the match, Sheamus battled back and ultimately scored the win. Sure, his character isn't any more interesting than it was before he left, but at least his in-ring skills haven't changed at all.
The primary goal this week on WWE programming was to build up the card for the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. In one way or another, each of WWE's flagship shows managed to accomplish that, leaving me more excited for the upcoming event than I was beforehand.
However, of all three of the shows that aired over the course of the week, Raw had to the best of them of all. It was a strong week for in-ring action all around, but the two top matches occurred on Monday night.
Daniel Bryan vs. Christian kicked off the night on a high note, while John Cena vs. Cesaro stole the show a short while later. Everything else that happened in between, with the exception of the Wyatt Family-Shield showdown, was forgettable, but at least most of the matches for Elimination Chamber were heavily hyped.
SmackDown also had its fair share of enjoyable matches from Sheamus vs. Christian and Bryan vs. Cesaro, but the overall show was nothing compared to the latest episode of Raw.
Daniel Bryan vs. Christian: Similar to John Cena and Cesaro, these two don't face off all that often, and they had a great match at the start of this week's Raw. Christian seemingly turned heel prior to the contest getting under way, making the match all the more interesting. He showed here that he is not to be taken lightly inside the Elimination Chamber and that he is willing to do whatever takes to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Bryan's roll-up win was a nice way of keeping his momentum going strong as well.
Sheamus vs. Randy Orton: They may not have the best in-ring chemistry together, but there is no questioning that every time they clash, they take one another to the limit. The hard-hitting and incredibly intense action kept the contest interesting and made both competitors look good going into Sunday. Granted, Orton lost yet another match going into the Chamber, but it was via disqualification, so at least he was somewhat protected in defeat.
Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro: Was there every any doubt that this match would be great? I could have done without Bryan's quick win over Jack Swagger, but at least this match made up for it. It was given great time, and the action was very entertaining. I would have rather seen Cesaro pick up the victory as opposed to Kane interfering, but at least he got the better of Bryan following the match.
Sheamus vs. Christian: If you haven't already noticed, all the matches pitting the Elimination Chamber combatants against each other this past week were all great, and this one was no exception. Sheamus and Christian have had some very fun matches in the past, and they proved that once again here. Sheamus may have emerged victorious, but Christian attacking The Celtic Warrior afterward was a good way of keeping him relevant.
The Wyatt Family vs. Rey Mysterio, Cody Rhodes and Goldust: Since The Wyatt Family and The Shield are both heel factions, it would have been odd for them to face off in any kind of match before Elimination Chamber. The only other option? Putting them against randomly paired-up trios in six-man tag team action. The Wyatt Family has looked strong going into their highly anticipated encounter with The Shield, and this victory only furthered that. It is just sad to see the Rhodes brothers reduced to enhancement talent, though.
Fandango vs. Santino Marella: How many times must we see these two face off? I care less and less every time this match happens. It was essentially the same exact thing we saw last week on Raw, so I don't see what purpose it was supposed to serve. What's even worse is that Emma is being wasted away in a comedic act with Santino instead of being utilized as a wrestler.
Jack Swagger vs. Kofi Kingston: Both guys are better than this, honestly. Swagger isn't all that interesting on his own, so I don't blame the live crowd for not caring at all. Not only that, but Kingston scored much more offense over Swagger than he should have considering Swagger will be contending for the Intercontinental Championship on Sunday.
Big E vs. 3MB: Unlike Swagger and Kingston, this one-sided squash dragged on much longer than it should have. It was also quite sloppy, as there were several spots were both members of 3MB could have been seriously injured due to poorly executed spots. Zeb Colter shouting at Big E during the bout didn't help matters, either, and overall, it didn't have me looking forward to his upcoming title defense against Swagger.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Titus O'Neil: The fact that Ziggler is a directionless lower midcarder at the moment shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but I still can't get over the fact that he needed help beating O'Neil of all people. Sure, it might help O'Neil in a way, but Ziggler's win was quickly overshadowed in all the silliness with the former Prime Time Players. It is nice to see the feud between O'Neil and Darren Young get a little love on SmackDown, but it hasn't been exposed to the Raw audience at all, which will explain the silence during their match at Elimination Chamber.
Cameron vs. Aksana: I applaud WWE for actually putting some thought into this match, as it was Aksana who put Cameron's best friend Naomi out of action with an eye injury a few weeks back. So, on paper, this match on paper made sense. In the ring, though, it was painful to watch. Although Cameron has improved leaps and bounds from where she was two years ago, she still isn't capable of holding her own in the ring. The match didn't last long, thankfully, but it made me miss Naomi that much more.
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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.