WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from December 29

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterDecember 30, 2014

WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from December 29

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The Dec. 29 edition of WWE Raw looked to be on its way to churning up a surplus of momentum heading into the new year.

    The Usos won the tag titles in an outstanding match. Daniel Bryan made an announcement worth celebrating. Then the show spiraled downward.

    The Ascension's debut underwhelmed. The night's final segment outdid that match in terms of leaving fans unsatisfied. Seth Rollins forced John Cena's hand, getting him to bring The Authority back.

    Just when 2015 looked to be a year promising progress, WWE returned to a familiar formula. The following recaps, pick apart and grade that decision, as well as the promos and in-ring battles that went down on Monday's Raw.

Edge and Christian Kick Off Raw

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    Christian wanted to host a Peep Show segment. Edge wanted to do his Cutting Edge show. To compromise, they decided to have a Cutting Edge Peep Show.

    The duo who called themselves the best tag team in history announced that Rollins would face Roman Reigns, and Rusev would battle Dolph Ziggler. Christian joked that Rusev and Ziggler should do their match naked.

    Just as the guys tried to do a five-second pose, Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman sauntered into the ring. Neither Edge nor Christian moved. Heyman explained that Lesnar had no desire to attack them, but instead he had his eyes set on John Cena.

    Cena emerged in the middle of a Heyman speech about what Lesnar would do to the fan favorite.

    Cena putting his hands on Heyman incited Lesnar. He tried to hit The Beast Incarnate with the Attitude Adjustment, but the powerhouse slipped out of it, title in hand.

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    Edge sports a Sami Zayn T-shirt.

    "The Peep Show sounds like perverts in 1920 would pay a nickel to watch."—Edge.

    "I can't help but wonder why a man with a broken neck who can never wrestle again and a man with far too many concussions to ever wrestle again would swim in the shark-infested waters that are inhabited by the biggest, most unmerciful predator in the WWE Universe."—Heyman.

    "My client wants to conquer the virgin neck of someone whose conquering is truly newsworthy."—Heyman.

    Grade

    A

    Analysis

    Too often, recent editions of Raw have opened with drawn-out segments that drag. This time out, it moved along well, smoothly traveling from comedy to tension. 

    Edge and Christian provided some funny moments, and Lesnar gave the segment plenty of intensity.

    It's smart of WWE to have Heyman explain why Lesnar wasn't attacking Edge or Christian. Instead of being a plot hole, that lack of action served as an added element of Lesnar's character. He wants a viable challenge, not a pair of injured retirees.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Chants of "USA!" echoed as the two champions battled. 

    Rusev grounded Ziggler early. He stomped on The Showoff and then wrapped his arms around his neck, trying to wear him down.

    Ziggler continued to fight back. He doubled up several moves, needed two dropkicks for example, to get the powerhouse off his feet.

    An angry Rusev went on a rampage in response. He stomped on Ziggler in the corner until the referee disqualified him.

    The Bulgarian Brute continued his assault beyond the belt, though. He locked Ziggler in The Accolade with his foe still in the ropes.

    Ryback ran in to break up the attack. Rusev darted out to escape.

    Result

    Ziggler wins via disqualification.

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    "Momentarily doesn't count."—JBL.

    "Happy New Year, Dolph."—JBL when he had Ziggler in The Accolade.

    Grade

    B+

    Analysis

    Ziggler and Rusev's chemistry led to fluid, exciting action. An abrupt ending kept this match from being even better.

    The announcers talked up Ziggler's resilience and how great of a year he had. In the past, he would have been fed to Rusev, but the ending protected both men. This is one of several recent signs that WWE plans to showcase Ziggler, even if it's not ready to elevate him to the main event level.

Ryback Addresses the Fans

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Ryback recounted his journey to the WWE, to becoming Ryback.

    He talked of attending a live WWE event in Las Vegas as a kid, showed a clip of himself on Tough Enough as well as footage of him as part of Nexus. The Big Guy revealed how depressed he was when WWE let him go but that reading The Secret changed his outlook.

    The revealing promo eventually turned to Rusev. Ryback promised to take down the Russian, but this would not be a rivalry based on national pride. 

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    "All that I had was a stack of WrestleMania DVDs to remind me of everything I'd lost."—Ryback.

    "This isn't going to be a USA versus Russia thing. This is going to be a 'one big guy kicking another big guy's ass' thing."—Ryback.

    Ryback shows the camera a scar running up the side of his leg.

    Grade

    B-

    Analysis

    This was a mixed bag. It's smart of WWE to let Ryback be himself, but the format hurt him here.

    He's not charismatic enough to hold the audience's attention for as much time as this speech took. It was great to see how his past shaped him and certainly a welcome surprise that WWE mentioned his old gimmicks, but this dragged in spots.

    The company would have been better off producing a video that captured the essence of what he had to say.

    WWE now has to let this version of Ryback stick. It has too often switched his persona around just as a new version of it is introduced. Let him get comfortable in this new, closer-to-home role. And let fans warm up to it.

Natalya vs. Nikki Bella

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Nikki Bella pounced on Natalya, peppering her with right hands.

    The brawl soon sent Nikki out of the ring where Tyson Kidd caught her. Nikki flirted with him for a brief moment.

    That angered Natalya and caused her to lose focus. Nikki clubbed Natalya and then followed up with the Rack Attack for a three-count.

    Natalya seethed as Kidd tried to console her. 

    Result

    Nikki wins via pinfall.

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    Natalya hits a crisp spinning clothesline. 

    Grade

    D+

    Analysis

    Another short, unmemorable match from the Divas division hampers the story WWE is trying to tell with these two women. It's clear that Nikki and Kidd's relationship is going to get more flirtatious, causing Natalya to flip out at some point.

    Jealousy is the crux of a feud that is hard to move along when the in-ring action lasts only a blink of an eye.

The Usos vs. The Miz and Damien Mizdow (Tag Team Championship)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Naomi thanked The Miz backstage for helping get her a meeting with a producer.

    Once the action began, Jimmy Uso wore a predator's glare. The Miz kept slipping away from him, stomping on the challenger as the crowd chanted "We want Mizdow!"

    The Usos took control, both brothers hitting The Miz with hard right hands and chops to the chest. The Miz refused to tag Damien Mizdow in, but he managed to hold his own against both Jimmy and Jey.

    Jimmy flew at The Miz. Mizdow flung himself all over the ring in the name of his method acting.

    A chaotic ending saw The Miz counter Jey's splash but suffer two superkicks to the face. Another splash earned The Usos their second title reign.

    Result

    The Usos win via pinfall.

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    "He's the Bill Gates of Hollywood."—JBL on The Miz. 

    Jey lifts The Miz off his feet with an uppercut. 

    Mizdow mirrors The Miz getting thrown out of the ring.

    The Miz throws Mizdow in front of a superkick.

    Grade

    A

    Analysis

    A tremendous tag match showcased the division at its best. This was far beyond the usual Mizdow show that his matches have become.

    It was smooth, fast and brimming with energy. The Miz worked extremely well with both Usos. Mizdow provided the humorous backdrop.

    This feud hasn't been as emotionally fulfilling as it should have been even with Naomi's inclusion. That takes away from The Usos' win, but this was still a fun way to end the year.

Cesaro vs. Bad News Barrett

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Cesaro sat in the corner of the ring, saying that 2014 should have been his year. He said that he had no issue with criticisms about his lack of connecting with the crowd. He was more concerned with being a great wrestler.

    He issued an open challenge which Bad News Barrett answered.

    Barrett dominated early, pounding on Cesaro and sending him flying over the top rope. Cesaro responded with forearms to his foe's face and cranking Barrett's shoulder backward.

    The brawl came to an end when Barrett landed the Bull Hammer.

    Result

    Barrett wins via pinfall.

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    "I don't care about connecting with all of you."—Cesaro.

    "It's me! It's me! It's BNB!"—Barrett.

    Cesaro transitions from a Cesaro Swing to a half-Boston Crab.

    Grade

    B-

    Analysis

    Cesaro embracing the critiques of his connection with the crowd is a bold, intriguing move. It gives him a direction, a way to push back against the fans and focus on his in-ring prowess.

    As for Barrett, it seemed that he played the babyface role here, but it's not clear if that is going to stick. He and Cesaro produced a solid match, but the crowd didn't know how to react with two heels in there.

Jack Swagger vs. Luke Harper

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Jack Swagger fought off Luke Harper's uppercuts and stiff punches. He delivered a big clothesline, but couldn't maintain control.

    Harper held Swagger down with a chinlock. Once the bout moved out of the ring, he sent Swagger flying into the ring steps.

    The action remained slow, Harper controlling the pace.

    Swagger eventually fought back and clamped on the ankle lock. He couldn't follow it up, though. Harper countered the Swagger bomb and hit his discus clothesline for the win.

    Result

    Harper wins via pinfall.

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    Swagger hits a massive running clothesline outside the ring.

    Harper nails Swagger with a superkick that makes the crowd ooh.

    Grade

    B

    Analysis

    Both Harper and Swagger's strength is brawling that belongs in a barroom. They got a chance to show off that strength in a hard-hitting match.

    WWE is still high on Harper it seems, padding his win-loss record with another victory. Swagger is lost following his second go-round with Rusev.

    Given a story, Harper vs. Swagger could be a compelling feud. They have the in-ring part of the equation down.

Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Big Show sat in on as commentary as Roman Reigns took on Seth Rollins.

    The two former teammates stared each other down before Reigns sent Rollins out of the ring with a shoulder block. Reigns toyed with Rollins, whipping him around the ring by the arm and slapping him in the back of the head.

    Rollins briefly took control with a chokehold, but Reigns started firing off high-impact moves. It took interference from J&J Security for Rollins to put the powerhouse back down again.

    The pace picked up, each man scoring near-falls.

    Big Show interrupted just as Reigns looked as if he was ready to finish Rollins off. The giant flung Reigns over the announce table before dumping it onto his prone body.

    Doctors attended to Reigns as Big Show stormed off.

    Result

    Reigns wins via disqualification.

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    Reigns picks Rollins off the mat following a modified sunset flip and powerbombs him.

    "Big guy can't breathe; big guy can't get up."—Big Show.

    Rollins lands on his feet and hops up into an enzuigiri. 

    Grade

    B+

    Analysis

    Reigns' progress as an all-around wrestler continues. This was one of his better singles performances, the disqualification ending preventing it from being more of a standout match.

    He's working in more transition moves and getting better spacing out his high-impact ones. 

    Working with the talented Rollins certainly helps, but Reigns' in-ring ability is catching up to his natural physical skills.

Daniel Bryan's Career Announcement

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    Daniel Bryan talked about how much of an honor it was to be in the ring. He reminisced about his two WrestleMania victories. Teary-eyed, he talked about his father's passing and his injury.

    He doubted whether or not he could compete, teased his retirement, only to announce that he would be in the 2015 Royal Rumble.

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    "Being in front of you is the only thing that has taken the pain away."—Bryan to the fans.

    Grade

    A

    Analysis

    WWE toyed with us, making Bryan's return a huge moment to look forward to. He gave a moving speech that ranks as one of his best to date. 

    The reaction he received on Monday showed that his popularity hasn't waned, even after all that time off. 

    His return changes the WWE landscape right away. Not only does the company have a top-flight star, but it also has another option for who wins the Royal Rumble.

    Hopefully, he's not returning too soon.

The Ascension vs. The Miz and Damien Mizdow

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    Konnor began the bout by bashing Damien Mizdow with forearms to the back. Viktor took his shots soon after.

    Mizdow fought back briefly before The Ascension rolled. They hit The Fall of Man for a three-count.

    The Miz pouted on the outside.

    Result

    The Ascension win via pinfall.

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    The Miz flees from Konnor and tags Mizdow in.

    Grade

    C-

    Analysis

    The Ascension looked awkward, nervous and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the moment. Their altered gimmick did them no favors, neither did taking on Mizdow.

    If WWE wants them to be babyfaces, they should have attacked The Miz, not the more popular Mizdow. 

    Their destruction wasn't convincing either. Konnor and Viktor have to be anxious to get in there again for another crack at impressing the crowd.

Cutting Edge Peep Show

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Backstage, Seth Rollins invited both Brock Lesnar and John Cena to the segment. After Edge and Christian poked fun at him, Rollins talked about how much they influenced him. 

    Edge and Christian tossed out jokes before Rollins welcomed Big Show to the ring. He then tried to coax Cena out to the ring.

    When Cena didn't show, Rollins whacked Christian with the Money in the Bank briefcase. Edge stood up for his friend, but Big Show pushed his head down to the mat, Rollins threatening to Curb Stomp him on the briefcase.

    Rollins demanded that Cena bring back The Authority or he would injure Edge. Cena hesitated, but he finally gave in.

    After gloating, Rollins nailed Cena with a Curb Stomp. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon emerged to celebrate with their favorite sellout. 

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    Christian calls Rollins, "The Walking Pile of Suck." Edge calls him "General Zod 2000."

    "I don't need to be you; I am better than you."—Rollins to Edge and Christian.

    "This is a husband, John. This is a father."—Rollins to Cena as he hovered over Edge.

    "You know me better than that. I'm going to kill him him anyway."—Rollins to Cena.

    Grade

    D-

    Analysis

    A long, awkward beginning bled into a tense display of villainy into a gut-punch of an ending.

    Rollins gets props for playing the heel role tremendously well. It's the decision to bring back The Authority after less than two months that hurts the momentum the majority of Raw generated.

    Having Triple H and Stephanie McMahon come back so soon leaves the end of Survivor Series feeling less meaningful. It has fans experiencing deja vu with WWE going back to an angle that was tired back in November.   

    The end of the year circles back to the beginning of 2014 in most disappointing fashion.