By Graham "GSM" Matthews
CM Punk Called Out The Shield
Punk did a nice job of recapping his 2013 and teasing that he might eventually re-enter the WWE Championship picture. I am glad to see his feud with The Shield continue and him getting in the heads of each of The Shield members, which will ultimately lead to their breakup. The segment also served as a suitable tie-in to Punk's subsequent match with Seth Rollins. This was a good start to the show, but then again, anything not involving The Authority in the opening segment works for me.
CM Punk def. Seth Rollins
As noted on commentary, this was the first time that these two have ever gone one-on-one in a WWE ring, so it was great to see this dream match finally come to fruition. Although the match could have gone on a bit longer, they were given good time and made the most of it by having a great matchup. Punk and Rollins have such good chemistry together that this leaves me wanting to see a rematch between the two. More tension was teased among the members of The Shield, but I hope WWE holds off on the breakup until after WrestleMania 30 so they can face The Wyatt Family.
Stephanie McMahon Made a Blockbuster Announcement
I have never been a fan of giving The Authority multiple talking segments on one show, but at least this approach to announcing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at the Royal Rumble made it feel important. John Cena still has his rematch clause, so the fact he is getting it at the event comes as no surprise. However, I am glad to see Daniel Bryan not involved in the title match, as this opens him up for the Royal Rumble match itself and possibly winning it to go to 'Mania to contend for the title.
Dolph Ziggler def. Curtis Axel
These two work well together, but is it really a smart idea to put two guys that no one could care less about at the moment against each other? Both competitors have fallen far this year, and one can only hope that the new year brings a push to each of them. It was a nice match for what it was, but the live crowd didn't react much and the win didn't do much for Ziggler.
Intercontinental Champion Big E Langston def. Fandango
Langston and Fandango worked a good match and were given more a pleasantly surprising amount of time. Fans had no incentive to believe that Fandango would win the title (just look how he has been booked in the last few months), but at least Fandango got in enough offense during the bout to look credible in defeat. Langston has had a very good reign as Intercontinental champion thus far and is gradually making the title feel more prestigious in the process.
Bad News Barrett Interrupted Booker T's New Year's Celebration
As much as I enjoyed Bad News Barrett on The JBL and Cole Show, it has no place on television. It makes for terrible TV and does nothing for Barrett at all. You had to expect this sort of holiday silliness with Raw short on stars, but Barrett's gimmick is no less stupid than it was when it first debuted.
Damien Sandow def. The Great Khali
Sandow has been so horribly booked in recent months that no one cared if he was going to quit or not. Not even that, but it was pretty predictable that he was going to win and the match itself was terrible. The crowd found other things to chant and even cheered Sandow over Khali at times. Throw in the fact that the finish was also botched and you have yourself one of the worst televised matches in recent memory.
R-Truth def. Brodus Clay
The string of matches/segments that the audience couldn't care less for continues. I love the fact that Clay is back to being a heel, but this match did him no favors. It was a boring match while it lasted and the finish was more of the same from Xavier Woods and The Funkadactlys. This whole program isn't benefiting anyone, so why not just move on to something new already?
Brock Lesnar Returned and Attacked Mark Henry
I am shocked to see Lesnar back on WWE TV so early, as I expected him to be back sometime after the Royal Rumble event. Having him announce his intentions to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship was incredibly intriguing, as it makes the title match at the Rumble all the more interesting. It even makes the Rumble match more interesting as well. Lesnar's brawl with Mark Henry was also intense and did a great job of re-establishing his dominance, if that was even necessary.
Aksana, Alicia Fox, Summer Rae, Rosa Mendes, and Kaitlyn def. The Bella Twins, The Funkadactyls, and Eva Marie
I have honestly lost track of how many matches we have seen between the Total Divas and "true" Divas in last couple of months. As I wrote last week, why continue on with this feud if Total Divas isn't even airing right now? It was your typical Divas match, of course, but if nothing else, the true Divas actually won for once. It could mean Aksana is on the verge of getting pushed, but it is probably a case of Creative flipping heads this time instead of tails.
Daniel Bryan def. Luke Harper
As always, Bryan and Harper had a solid match together that definitely brought the best out of both men. Harper scored enough offense over Bryan to look strong in defeat. Of course, we have seen this match plenty of times in the past, but they always find ways to keep things interesting when they are in the ring against one another. Bryan has already proven that he can beat Harper one-on-one, so his win wasn't much a surprise, but it was still an enjoyable bout for what it was.
Daniel Bryan def. Erik Rowan
These two have had good matches in the past, so I was disappointed to see it cut short. However, I am glad that this was the match that ran short as opposed to Harper vs. Bryan. It is a well-known fact that Harper is the better worker of the two, so at least Rowan was protected by losing via a roll-up.
Daniel Bryan def. Bray Wyatt by Disqualification
I was really hoping we would actually get a match out of these two, but no such luck. The match was over before it even started, which was weak. Shouldn't someone from The Authority have restarted the match? Regardless, the post-match bit with Bryan seemingly joining The Wyatt Family was very intriguing. Everything he said about "the machine" rang true, so his motives for joining were logical, but it is hard to believe that Bryan, one of (if not the) most over guys in the company right now would be turning heel. Then again, this is WWE we are talking about here, and they have a tendency to screw things up more often than not. I have a hunch that he will turn on them at some point, but one thing is for sure: the ending to Raw was an excellent cliffhanger and will certainly get people talking.
For those unaware, WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton, John Cena, Big Show, Kane and others were at another house show in Toronto, hence why they didn't appear on this show. Honestly, I think it was for the better, aside from the fact that the second hour was complete filler and was only because a number of top stars weren't present. However, more time was given to CM Punk, The Shield, Daniel Bryan, and The Wyatt Family, all angles that I am currently intrigued by. Plus, Brock Lesnar's shocking return made this episode noteworthy, even if it was spoiled in advance. This was an entertaining final edition of Raw in 2013 and I very much look forward to next week's Old School-themed show.