By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton Addressed the WWE Universe
I have lost track of how many championship celebrations we have seen in the last few months involving Orton, and they all seem to go the same way. Orton's mic work was good, but seeing John Cena stand up for Daniel Bryan was encouraging. I don't understand why The Authority is granting Bryan a title shot when they were the ones who cost him the strap in the first place, but I guess Stephanie McMahon justified it by saying he was the Superstar of the Year and they want to give the fans what they want. All in all, a solid segment to kick off the show.
Big Show and Rey Mysterio def. WWE Tag Team Cody Rhodes and Goldust (Non-title)
These two teams weren't able to create the same magic they did at TLC, but they still had a good tag match with the babyface vs. babyface dynamic working to their advantage. The crowd was into the action and the match was given a substantial amount of time. I am afraid that Show and Mysterio will be the tandem to take the titles off the Rhodes brothers, and I dislike that move for two reasons. Firstly, it is too early to end the title reign of the Rhodes brothers, who have been great champions thus far. Secondly, Show and Mysterio don't have much chemistry as a team and feel randomly paired together.
Dolph Ziggler def. Fandango
How often is it that the rematches of the pay-per-view pre-shows are held the next night on Raw? It makes the matches the first time around feel inconsequential. The latest encounter between Ziggler and Fandango was well wrestled, but it was just as disappointing as their initial bout. Is there any real need to protect Fandango? If not, why have him lose via a roll-up? At least Ziggler got his win back, but that isn't saying much.
Intercontinental Champion Big E Langston and Mark Henry def. The Real Americans
I am not exactly sure what the point of this matchup was, but I enjoyed the action for what it was. Henry was very much over with his home state crowd, which made the match all the more fun. Henry and Langston worked well with The Real Americans and it would be cool to see the two teams feud, but it is still undetermined if Langston and Henry are a full-fledged team yet. If so, wouldn't it be smart to keep Langston in singles competition for now for him to focus on his run as Intercontinental champion? Regardless, I like the pairing of Henry and Langston and hope it leads to a feud between the two at some point down the line.
Ryback and Curtis Axel def. Tons of Funk
It was pretty obvious from the get-go that Brodus Clay would be turning on Tensai, so the match was essentially an afterthought. Ryback and Axel gained nearly nothing from the victory, but at least Clay's heel turn was finally completed. I didn't care for R-Truth and Xavier Woods getting the better of him, but the important thing is that he looks to be separated from Tons of Funk at last and can now make a name for himself as a monster heel in singles competition.
Shawn Micheals Interrupted CM Punk
Punk's promo was excellent as usual and did a nice job of establishing that his beef is with The Authority and not with The Shield. That being said, I have a feeling that Punk will be feuding with WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton before long, possibly at the Royal Rumble. Shawn Michaels coming out instead was a pleasant surprise, but I am not sure what purpose it was supposed to serve. Unless HBK is coming back for one more match or will be involved in WrestleMania in some way, then why return? I understand this was his hometown, so maybe that's why, but I am intrigued by what HBK's involvement will be on WWE programming going forward.
The Shield def. CM Punk and The Usos
In the year that they have been around, The Shield have yet to have a bad match as a team. They have great chemistry with both Punk and The Usos, so it was a foregone conclusion that this was going to be a quality six-man tag team match. The final few minutes were entertaining with the finish being excellently executed. It is somewhat illogical that The Shield couldn't beat Punk by himself but could beat him in six-man tag tam action, but they picked up the win they needed after their loss at TLC.
Divas Champion AJ Lee, Tamina Snuka and Alicia Fox def. Natalya and The Bella Twins
After reading that AJ apparently had heat backstage following an incident at the Tribute to the Troops taping, I expected AJ to be punished on TV somehow, but I guess not. She won the match for her team and didn't get tapped out or pinned in a tag team match for once. It was a fine yet uninspiring Divas match that didn't do much to signal who will next to challenge for the Divas Championship.
Daniel Bryan def. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton by Disqualification (Non-title)
The last time Orton and Bryan were in the main event of Raw together, they tore the house down, and this match was no exception. Does anyone else find it odd that they have their best matches together on the flagship show as opposed to the pay-per-views? Anyway, this was a great match that received an awesome amount of time. The live crowd was very hot for the exciting action and Orton garnered strong heat throughout. I was expecting The Wyatt Family to interfere at some point, but I am glad they didn't. The disqualification finish was smart booking, as it protects both Bryan and Orton and allows their feud to continue. John Cena making the save only to get laid out by an RKO moments later was a nice touch and furthered the feud between Cena and Orton as well.
After a relatively good pay-per-view, this show was a solid follow-up and was very wrestling-heavy. I wouldn't have expected it to be, but I guess WWE felt the need to get the wrestling aspect of the show out of the way with the next few episodes of Raw being holiday-themed. It was a good first night for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the title feels more prestigious already. The rest of the show filled out nicely with several solid tag team matches. Creatively, WWE is headed in the right direction, so here's hoping they can continue to improve their stale product in coming weeks.
Don't forget to vote in the WWE/TNA 2013 Year in Review Awards! Polls close December 17th!