By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton Interrupted The Authority; Batista Returned
It has been three weeks since we last saw The Authority on Raw, so I didn't mind seeing them in the opening segment. Orton's interruption made sense given his recent issues with them as of late, but it is probably all a ploy to get viewers to think that they are at odds with each other. Batista's return was nicely timed and it was very cool to see three members of the original Evolution in the same ring together. Batista's promo was short and sweet, making it abundantly clear that he is back in WWE to be an undisputed champion. I hope he doesn't end up facing Randy Orton for the millionth time at WrestleMania, but this was at least a nice teaser for it if it does come to fruition. I didn't mind Batista's apparel as much as some other people did, but I do agree that the skinny jeans have to go.
The Shield def. Intercontinental Champion Big E Langston and WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust
On paper, this match didn't make much sense. Sure, Langston and the Rhodes brothers have history with The Shield, but it isn't like they have been involved in a heated rivalry with them in recent weeks. If nothing else, I suspect it was to hype the Royal Rumble match since all six competitors will be participating. Regardless, it was a very good six-man tag team match with an enjoyable final few minutes. I was surprised to see Langston take the pinfall at the hands of Seth Rollins of all people, but it could very well be building to something between them down the line.
Daniel Bryan Explained His Actions
Bryan gave the logical explanation that he was looking to destroy The Wyatt Family from within. We all expected him to say that, so it was nothing new, but his delivery was good and he had the crowd right in the palm of his hand. It is amazing to think just how over he is right now and even more mind boggling to think that he isn't in the title picture as of now. The announcement of him challenging Bray Wyatt to a match at the Royal Rumble came off well and I am very glad to hear that Bryan has been cleared for competition after suffering a concussion last week.
Fandango def. Xavier Woods
I was disappointed to see their first match cut short, and I was even more disappointed to see this match not last any longer. It isn't like it would have been a five star mat classic or anything, but I just hate to see Woods underutilized right now. The win does nothing for Fandango, who hasn't been consistently pushed in a long time. Both men have been announced for the Rumble match, so guess this was their way of building towards it.
Kane "Apologized" to CM Punk; Punk def. Billy Gunn
Stephanie McMahon forcing Kane to apologize to Punk was strange since she and Triple H were more than likely the ones who put him up to attacking Punk in the first place, but I guess they want to come off as unbiased authority figures. Punk refusing Kane's apology was typical of his character and his subsequent match with Gunn was good. Gunn was sloppy and slow at certain points, but he and Punk pulled together a decent matchup. The announcement of Punk entering at No. 1 in the Rumble match on Sunday was huge and made sense given that The Authority doesn't want him contending for the title. Even still, he is still my favorite to win the match and I look forward to his performance in the annual battle royal.
Alberto Del Rio def. Rey Mysterio
Seeing these two face each other three times within the span of one week has of course grown tiresome, but their matches are always enjoyable to the point where it doesn't bother me all that much. They worked the same match they did last week, but the finishing sequence woke the crowd up with the suspenseful near-falls. Del Rio's win was predictable, but any momentum he has garnered up to this point was squandered when Batista decimated him. That isn't to say that wasn't the right move, though, as one had to expect they would cross paths at some point before the Rumble. The pop for Batista wasn't as loud as it was when he first came out earlier in the evening, but that was understandable.
Big Show Called Out Brock Lesnar
While I haven't really been anticipating this feud at all from when it first started, I have to admit that they have done a nice job of building it up. Show is making viewers want to see him get his hands on Lesnar and possibly even Paul Heyman. He is far better in serious mode, hence why his performance was spot-on here (with the exception of the Heyman impersonation). The brawl was mediocre at best, but Lesnar didn't look extremely cowardly since he at least attempted to fight Show and it was a good preview of what is to come on Sunday.
The Funkadactyls def. Divas Champion AJ Lee and Tamina Snuka
The match lasted about as long as one would expect a Divas match to go (just under three minutes), which came as no surprise. It was an exceptional match that highlighted Naomi's strengths and hid Cameron's weaknesses. I have no problem with Naomi getting the pinfall win over AJ, as it earns her a shot at the Divas title either at the Royal Rumble or at some point down the line. Of all the women in the Divas division, I would be completely content with Naomi being the one to take the title off AJ (especially now since AJ has already broken the record of the longest reigning Divas champion of all-time).
The Usos def. Luke Harper and Erik Rowan
These two teams always work well together and this was no exception. However, I rolled my eyes at the thought of it happening again since we have seen it multiple times in the last few weeks. While it was a solid tag match that was given great time, I don't blame the live crowd for not getting into the action. Some might say that The Usos' victory might have been overshadowed by Daniel Bryan attacking Bray Wyatt at ringside, but a win is a win and a huge momentum booster for the tandem at that. Have I mentioned that I strongly believe The Usos should be tag team champions sooner rather than later?
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton def. Kofi Kingston by Disqualification (Non-title)
The match was fine for what it was, but similar to their encounter last week, it was just plain boring. Everyone and their mother knew John Cena was "arriving" at some point, so it was hard to care about the match itself and buy into the possibility of Kingston winning again. Thankfully, the bout was kept short and the disqualification loss protected Kingston, as it would have been terrible to have him get pinned one week after beating the champ. The post-match brawl between Orton and Cena was fun and the crowd seemed to be into it, but Orton driving away and Cena celebrating with the fans for no apparent reason for the next few minutes was confusing. I am not sure if the driver of the car that Orton escaped in will be a pivotal part of the storyline, but if I had to guess, it was a member of The Authority.
To call this show the worst Raw of 2014 to date sounds harsh, but it certainly wasn't on par with the last two shows surprisingly enough. The opening segment was hot and Batista's WWE return was by far the highlight of the show, but everything else was either decent or forgettable. There was plenty of hype for many of the matches at the Royal Rumble... except for the Rumble match itself. Wait, what? The Rumble hype has always proven to be terrible and this year was no different, unfortunately. Sure, Batista will be participating and CM Punk will be entering at No. 1, but those are the only two compelling stories in the match. Thankfully, the match sells itself and I am very much looking forward to Sunday's pay-per-view.