WWE RAW HITS:
Overall show: With half of the RAW crew missing in action (who thought it was a good idea to schedule a live event in Toronto on the same day as a Monday Night RAW taping in Richmond, Virginia?), the last RAW of the year ended up being one of the best RAW’s of the year. Everything felt like it had a purpose, and although there was a limited crew available for the taping, not much during this episode felt like filler. A good episode to end the year.
CM Punk vs. Seth Rollins: I caught the beginning of RAW while still at work, and a co-worker immediately chimed in “Well he just beat all three of the Shield at the PPV, so why should he have any trouble defeating just one?” With WWE’s illogical handicap match logic aside, this was an excellent match. It took a little while to get out of first gear, and Rollins suffered from a few slight mistimed steps early in the match, but overall it was an excellent contest that really showcased what makes Rollins different, and important going forward in 2014. The focus to begin the year will absolutely be the eventual dismantling of the Shield from within, and this kept true to that story without advancing it too far. In my opinion, given how over the Shield has been as a ground, they should tread water carefully and not give too much away too soon when it comes to their breakup. This followed that idea, and was executed very well.
Fandango vs. Big E. Langston: At first, I wasn’t sure if I was on the Big E. bandwagon, or not. I’m still not 100% convinced he’s going to be anything more than the flash-in-the-pans that other guys of similar size have been in the past (hey, whatever happened to Mason Ryan, anyways?), but this moved my meter more in his favour. Fandango has had a really unusual year in 2013. His debut videos aired, then Vince decided to pull the plug on the entire gimmick. Vince warmed up to the idea of him again, and after his debut, and feud with Chris Jericho, it looked as though he had solidified himself a spot in the upper-mid-card, with room to grow into a future main eventer. Instead, he kind of toiled in the lower midcard, showing signs of greatness when given the opportunity, but was largely used as fodder to get something else over. I hope he has better things lined up for him in 2014, as I truly believe he can be a player going forward.
Brock Lesnar Returns: I’m a Brock Lesnar guy. I’m a Paul Heyman guy, too. We knew this return was coming, and it makes sense to happen around WrestleMania time. Although Brock’s intentions to go after the WWE World Heavyweight Champion were clearly stated in his promo, my money is still on an Undertaker/Brock Lesnar showdown at WrestleMania. Who else (besides John Cena) could conceivably end the streak in WWE currently? I can’t think of any better challenger than Lesnar. His monster mystic alone will sell PPV’s. And lets not understate the incredible feat of strength in hoisting Mark Henry up, and F5’ing him on the outside of the ring. Such an incredible feat of strength that Lesnar practically made look effortless. The impact of the move was absolutely devastating, and created an incredible visual that was replayed throughout the night. This was one hell of an impressive return for the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar. On a side note, RIP Mark Henry.
Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper: Given that most of the crew was in Toronto for this particular episode, I knew going in that we would be getting some lengthier matches. Daniel Bryan being “forced” to defeat both Harper and Rowan before getting to Bray Wyatt was a nice way to eat up time, put the best wrestler in the company in the ring for an extended period of time, tell a great story, and keep viewers captivated. The first match of the bunch went the longest, and was the best. Luke Harper is going to be a player going forward. The whole Wyatt Family bring something so fresh and intangible to the able that it really does create captivating TV, regardless of what they are actually doing. An excellent “first step” in the process of getting to Wyatt.
Daniel Bryan vs. Erick Rowan: While maybe not the workhorse that Harper is, Rowan’s offense is unique enough, and his look is captivating enough that he commands your attention in the ring. And with Bryan’s ability to draw in an audience, this became an excellent second step before getting the payoff of Bryan/Wyatt. You knew what the outcome of this match was going to be going in, but with the quality of the work here, remained interested in how they would actually get there.
Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt: Probably the best 20 second match in WWE history. Wyatt is just plain incredible. His character is off-the-charts good, and was on full display here. Excellent, excellent stuff.
WWE RAW Misses
Dolph Ziggler vs. Curtis Axel: Wow. That’s basically all I have to say here. What a waste of both guys. This is absolutely not a miss for match quality. The match was good, for the 4 and a half minutes they were given to work with. On a night where they could have easily been given more time (double or triple what they were given), for whatever reason, they weren’t. I don’t even know where to begin with that, so I’ll just begin by looking at the retrospective years these two guys have had. Axel had the Heyman rocketship strapped to him earlier this year, and somehow didn’t manage to catch on. That’s unfortunate, but sometimes that’s what happens. Ziggler on the other hand is a mind-boggling story. He began 2013 as hot as ever. Carrying the Money in the Bank briefcase, and siding with AJ Lee (who was as hot as ever at the beginning of the year, too), there were huge things in Ziggler’s 2013 future. I implore you to find a more passionate reaction to a wrestler in 2013 when he cashed in that briefcase the day after WrestleMania. It rivaled CM Punk’s 2012 Money in the Bank/Chicago reaction in terms of shear passion and excitement. After being unfortunately sidelined with a concussion early into his title run, he immediately dropped the title in his first defense, and never recovered. He is still the same amazing worker, and still turning in show-stealing performances every single night, but WWE management seems to have lost faith in him, and that’s a crime. I don’t get it. I can’t even begin to get it. It’s mind-boggling and as a lifetime WWF/E fan, it’s incredibly frustrating. Sometimes there are those guys that you know have “it” and it just seems like WWE management just don’t see it, or choose to ignore it. Daniel Bryan is another prime example of that. And I’m about to get into that now.
Daniel Bryan joins the Wyatt Family: What do you do with your most over superstar? Reward him with a lengthy championship run? Put him in a prime feud with a main event star? Position him in a way that makes fans believe he’s truly made it? NOPE! WWE has a better idea. Screw him out of his championship run, never let his character get angry about the way he’s treated, position him as a superstar that’s “lucky to be there”, accentuate his weaknesses and faults, and bury his strengths. On top of that, have him apparently join one of the biggest heel factions by essentially telling the WWE fans that although they cheered for him, and made him, that their voice doesn’t matter to the “machine”, and they’ve wasted their time, so he’s going to join up with the bad guys instead. WHAAAAAAAAAAAT!? The WWE Creative team has outdone their own stupidity this time. I’m 100% all for a Daniel Bryan heel turn, if it happens organically like it did last time when he won the World Heavyweight Championship. Remember, that’s where this whole “Yes!/No!” phenomenon began. Instead, in a feud that began less than 60 days ago, we’re expected to believe Daniel Bryan would abandon everything we know about his character to join the Wyatt’s, because what Bray Wyatt said “makes sense” to him? Uuuuugh. Soooo lazy, so insane. This isn’t a mid-card guy joining to get a push. It’s a MAIN EVENT guy throwing his hands up (in the storyline) and saying “screw it, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”. Wishy-washy crap. UGH!
Bad News Barrett: Sucks.