By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Usos def. Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan by Disqualification
It was a well wrestled match for what it was, but it is just so hard to take Bryan seriously as a heel. His mannerisms and attire are great and everything, but live crowds just don't want to boo him. I was numb to the non-finish since we have seen so many of them in Wyatt Family matches as of late, but it was a nice way of setting up the Steel Cage tag match for later in the night. It also gave good rub to The Usos, who continue to prove that they are tag team championship material.
John Cena def. Damien Sandow
While this obviously wasn't as great as their World Heavyweight Championship match from October (which I am glad they acknowledged before the bout), it was still a strong effort from both men. The ending outcome was in never in doubt, but at least Sandow looked credible in defeat. Honestly, I would much rather see him work a competitve match against Cena than see him feud with The Great Khali. Kudos to WWE for also making Cena's first match of the new year feel important. By the way, is Cena back to wearing jean shorts on a regular basis? I surely hope not.
Big Show def. Jack Swagger
It has been a while since we last saw this match, but it still didn't feel any more fresh. Swagger hasn't a legitimate threat in ages, but seeing him job out in a minute match was depressing. On the other hand, it was a basic squash win for Show to give him some momentum going into his Royal Rumble match with Brock Lesnar. I understand Show going after Antonio Cesaro, but why would he knock out Zeb Colter? What did Colter ever do to him?
The Shield def. CM Punk and the New Age Outlaws
Is it obligatory for WWE to hold a rematch from SmackDown every week on Raw? I am not complaining, though, as it was just as fun of a match on this show as it was last Friday nigh. It just continues to amaze me that The New Outlaws haven't lost a step in the ring despite not having wrestled for years. I did not at all see the swerve of them turning on Punk coming, and it makes sense considering their relationship with Triple H. They didn't receive much of a babyface reaction on this show (though that could be due to the crappy crowd), but at least they will be regulars on WWE television for the time being.
Divas Champion AJ Lee and Tamina Snuka def. The Funkadactyls
It was your standard Divas match featuring nothing noteworthy outside of exceptional performances from the competitors. We have seen the match before, so it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. It was nice to see AJ and Tamina go over, and it appears AJ is heading for a feud with Naomi over the Divas Championship. Naomi has improved immensely in the ring over the last few years and would be a fresh face in the title picture. Also, it was very cool to see NXT's Emma make a surprise appearance in the crowd, even if it was brief. I surely hope it means we will be seeing her on the main roster sooner rather than later.
Kofi Kingston def. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton (Non-title)
The live crowd was dead for most of the matchup, and who can blame them? They felt no sympathy for Kingston when he was getting attacked by Orton, and why should they given the way he has been booked in recent years? It appeared to be an extended squash from the start, but the crowd popped for Kingston's surprise win. The commentators did a nice job of putting over Kingston's upset victory and it definitely was a shocker (especially given that it was clean), but don't expect this to be a sign of things to come for Kingston. I am not saying it shouldn't be, but rather WWE always gives Kingston a mini-push around this time of year and it almost always leads to nothing. Rather, it was all about Orton selling the loss by taking his frustration out on Cena's father at ringside. Sure, we have seen this done before, but it was a simple yet effective tactic that furthered the feud between Orton and Cena.
WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust def. Curtis Axel and Ryback (Non-title)
The commentators referenced Ryback's recent Twitter rant quite a bit throughout the match, so perhaps it was a part of a storyline all along. Either way, I have found his latest tweets hilarious and at least he is getting himself noticed in some fashion. The match was decent for what it was, but basically what you would expect it to be. It was a good win for the Rhodes brothers going into their upcoming match against the New Age Outlaws on SmackDown, which I am very much looking forward to. Speaking of the Rhodes brothers, why didn't the backstage segment where Goldust said he would eliminate Cody in the Royal Rumble match air on the WWE App instead of on television where it belongs?
Alberto Del Rio def. Rey Mysterio
These two always work well together and this match was no exception. It was pretty apparent who was going over given that Del Rio called out Batista last week, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment of the bout. Mysterio is a veteran in the twilight of this career who can take a clean loss and lose nothing from it. It was a nice win for Del Rio to boost his momentum, but it will more than likely all be erased either at the Rumble and shortly afterward at the hands of Batista.
The Usos def. Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan in a Steel Cage Match
The pre-match video package highlighting The Usos was very well done and didn't make them look like afterthoughts in this match. Speaking of afterthoughts, what was the point of Kane coming down to the ring before the bout? I liked the fact that the cage door was padlocked shut, but I thought he would help one of the two teams win. I am glad he didn't interfere, though, as it was an excellent contest and the flat live crowd was actually into the action. I would have never expected to see The Usos win a match in the main event of Raw, much less inside a Steel Cage. It felt like it was too soon to break Bryan away from The Wyatt Family after only two weeks, but the angle was poorly executed and turning Bryan back was necessary, especially with the monster reaction he received while taking out Bray to close the show. I expect the two to face off at the Royal Rumble, but I also hope both of them are still in the Rumble match itself.
I expected this to be a skippable show considering how hot last week's Old School Raw was and Batista coming back next week. However, it was anything but. There were plenty of pleasantly surprising moments including Kingston's win over Orton, the New Age Outlaws heel turn and Emma's appearance. I am also ecstatic to see Ultimate Warrior finally a part of the WWE Hall of Fame, as I believe he is definitely deserving of the honor. My only complaint coming out of this show was that there wasn't enough hype for the Rumble match itself. Granted, we had a handful of people, including Punk, confirm they were going to be participating, but that was about it. Hopefully WWE can right that wrong next week with the Rumble pay-per-view quickly approaching.
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