WWE Champ CM Punk collides with Daniel Bryan.
Solid segment to kick off the show featuring John Laurinaitis, WWE Champion CM Punk, and World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk. Laurinaitis provided some good humor in his "glad handing" role, as well as successfully hype the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view that is only mere weeks away. Punk interrupting him was typical, but Bryan coming down was a pleasant surprise. They were able to get viewers about their upcoming match, as well as build towards Johnny's potential "firing" later in the night.
Regardless how many times they collide in the squared circle, I never get tired of seeing an entertaining match between Randy Orton and Dolph Ziggler. Orton's victory was logical, but I was not at all bummed that Ziggler came up short. Wade Barrett adding his insight on the bout from the box seats was unique and a nice touch.
Quick squash match with Brodus Clay predictably defeating Tyler Reks in a decisive fashion. At this point, Clay is in need of a story, otherwise his act will get old fast. However, it was good to see Reks finally make his in-ring Raw debut, as he would make for a suitable opponent for Clay if a rivalry was in the works between the two.
Extremely awesome match between WWE Champion CM Punk and World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan that certainly lived up to my high expectations of being a classic. Without a doubt, these two former Ring of Honor stars are the best wrestlers WWE has to offer on today's roster, so I was a bit surprised this first-time-ever dream bout wasn't saved for a later date. With that being said, I was beyond satisfied with the match Punk and Bryan provided, and Chris Jericho's shocking interference was a smart move in both saving this for another day and setting Jericho's expected feud with Punk in motion. The American Dragon's disqualification victory is another great way to give Bryan something else to brag about from now on.
Good opening match between World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan, Big Show and Mark Henry that was just as most would expect. Henry's recent injuries limited him, but he made the most of it and was still able to compete well. The Steel Cage was once again a nice environment and saved this bout from being a complete disaster, and I'm glad Bryan escaped with the victory in a decisive fashion to retain the belt. The only real issue I had with this bout was that it was only nine minutes.
Fine Divas tag team match that was of course unadvertised, but was nothing groan-worthy. It was as as clunky and quick as Diva tag matches usually are, so it was good in that aspect. It's about time Divas Champion Beth Phoenix remerged on television, and hopefully this is an indication that they'll continue to establish her as a threat in the Divas division.
Sloppy match between John Cena and Kane that certainly didn't live up to my high expectations. Sure, they've never had great matches in the past, but I had my hopes that they'd pull out something good enough. However, it was a smart move in having both Superstars get counted-out to keep the feud going and save the finish for a later date. The brawl between the two that followed was dragged out, and bringing back Ryder onto to television so soon only to be attacked again was a mistake. This rivalry no longer holds my interest, and I can't wait long enough to see Cena's feud with The Rock finally kick off extremely soon.
Meaningless match with Brodus Clay quickly defeating Drew McIntyre. Luckily, my feed got off moments before the bout, so I was saved from the horror of McIntyre being once again buried, this time live on pay-per-view. As much as I love Clay and his fan favorite gimmick, it doesn't seem to be winning over the crowd while his squash matches feel more and more repetitive.
Randy Orton returns to brawl with Wade Barrett.
Strong segment to kick off the show featuring World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan, Big Show, and Mark Henry. As previously stated, Bryan is slowly growing as a great heel, and his mic work further proved that. Show did great here as well, displaying emotion and pity from his accident on AJ two weeks ago. To top it all off, Henry performed excellent as he usually does on the mic, successfully hyping the World title match on Sunday.
Extremely brief match from Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes and Justin Gabriel, much shorter than I would have liked. When I heard a rematch was being held between the two, I expected for them to go much longer than their five minute bout from last week, but sadly, it was not meant to be. I hope to see the feud continue in hope of longer matches, as this felt pointless.
Decent match from Sheamus and Drew McIntyre from what we were given. Given the chemistry between these two Celts, they deserve much longer time-wise in order to truly shine. The Sheamus victory was predictable, but it seems as if Creative has absolutely no idea what to do with McIntyre at the moment. The Chosen One needs direction desperately, so one can hope this angle is actually leading somewhere.
Painless match with WWE Tag Team Champions Primo and Epico defeating the impromptu team of Santino Marella and Yoshi Tatsu. Although I do like the comedy team of Marella and Tatsu, the tag champs need a legitimate team to feud with if they have any hope of getting over as credible champions. Obviously, the brief bout was too way to mean anything.
Good brawl between Randy Orton and Wade Barrett that saw the Viper return to SmackDown. I'm glad we didn't end getting the match between the two, as that is something that can be saved for a later date. Orton came off as intense when he was beating on Barrett, but the five RKOs delivered on the enhancement talent of the blue brand was ridiculous. They looked like complete morons selling the finisher one after another, so it felt unnecessary.
Chris Jericho hosts the return of the Highlight Reel.
Excellent segment to kick off the show with WWE Champion CM Punk and John Cena. While Punk's rant on John Laurinaitis was expected, I'm glad he was also to include Dolph Ziggler in the mix to get some heat on his challenger. Cena's interruption came as a bit of a surprise, but the impromptu tag team match that followed did not.
Solid tag team match with WWE Champion CM Punk teaming with John Cena against Dolph Ziggler and United States Champion Jack Swagger. All Superstars were allowed to shine, while Ziggler's pin-fall victory over Punk was a smart move in re-establishing him as a threat going into Sunday. Punk's challenging Laurinaitis to a match later on in the night was also successful in hyping the rest of the show.
Another awesomely booked segment with Chris Jericho, this time hosting the anticipated return of the Highlight Reel and speaking his first words on the mic since his WWE return. The video package of Jericho's career that aired on the Tron was well-done, as was his brief promo that followed. Announcing him as a participant in this Sunday's Royal Rumble match will certainly stir some major speculation that he might be walking out as the victor.
Although it dragged on a bit longer than it should have, Kane destroying Zack Ryder in such a decisive fashion was the best thing we've seen from him in the last month. I'm enjoying Ryder's new take on adding a more serious side to his character, as it made the match seem much more heartfelt and dramatic. Cool spot with Ryder being choke-slammed through the steel grate, but having it take so long to stretcher the former U.S. Champion seemed like it was meant for killing time more than anything else. Keeping Ryder off television for the next weeks would be the best move, reinserting him back in the U.S. title picture upon his return. Sure, Eve is a terrible actor, but her line to John Cena about it being all his fault was fantastic, but Cena really shouldn't attempt to make any more "angry" faces. I seriously broke out in laughter.
Meaningless match with Sheamus once again finishing Jinder Mahal off in minutes. I've officially lost track at this point as to how many times Sheamus has squashed this guy, so executing it once again did no favors for anyone. Meanwhile, Wade Barrett did well on commentary, and seemed like the major highlight coming out of this.