The Rock confronts WWE Champion CM Punk on Raw.
Excellent match between John Cena and Dolph Ziggler. The pre-match promo was uninspiring, but the match more than made up for it. Needless to say, Cena and Ziggler have amazing chemistry and I was glad they received nearly twenty minutes of in-ring time. I would've preferred to see Ziggler score the victory here (especially given Big E Langston's mid-match interference), but the bout was so enjoyable that there's no need to complain about it. However, my only major gripe with this match was the fact that it was not previously advertised, which could have made a significant impact in the ratings.
Exceptional match between Divas Champion Eve and Kaitlyn. We've seen this match countless times before, so it was nothing out of the ordinary. The count-out finish was effective in furthering the feud and putting even more heat on Eve. Given the fact that Kaitlyn has beaten the former Divas Search winner via count-out and disqualification in recent weeks, I expect her to finally win the Divas title in her hometown next week on Raw's 20th Anniversary show.
Solid match between WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No and Team Rhodes Scholars. This was another match we've seen numerous times in recent months, but it was still well wrestled nonetheless. I'm glad Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow went over here, as it warrants them another shot at the WWE Tag Team titles. Here's hoping they actually win the belts the next time they contend for them, as it's time for a change and they'd make for some great champs.
Fine filler match with Randy Orton defeating Heath Slater. The build to this match was strange, so I'm not sure why WWE even bothered hyping it. The action was basically what you'd expect, but the ending result was never result. I truly hope Orton hitting the RKO on all three members of 3MB isn't a sign of things to come this year for The Viper.
Typical squash match with Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett defeating Santino Marella. I would've rather seen Barrett against a more serious opponent than Santino since he was just involved in a series of stellar matches with Kofi Kingston, but it was mostly used to further Barrett's momentum. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat's involvement in this bout was intriguing, though. I think a match between The Dragon and Barrett is out of the question given Steamboat's recent medical issues, but I'd love to see his son Richie get called up from NXT at some point in this story-line.
Antonio Cesaro delivers a Neutralizer to The Great Khali.
Impressive outing from United States Champion Antonio Cesaro with his valiant victory over The Great Khali. While we basically saw this same exact match on last week's WWE Main Event, it served its purpose in showcasing Cesaro's unadulterated strength to the Raw audience. Miz played his role well on commentary and I look forward to his apparent feud with Cesaro over the star-spangled prize.
Meaningless match between Sheamus and Jinder Mahal. I wouldn't have had problem with it had we not seen 3MB earlier in the evening. Obviously, Sheamus went over and absolutely nothing was furthered at all with this bout. I realize it was purely to kill time, but why not use someone else as the Celtic Warrior's opponent who didn't already see before on the show?
Great match with CM Punk defeating Ryback in a TLC match to successfully defend his WWE Championship. It wasn't the best TLC match we've ever seen, but it definitely had some awesome, hard-hitting action that I throughly enjoyed. Both guys took some nasty bumps at various points, which surprised me given Punk's recent surgery. Of course, The Shield's interference was predicable, but it was logical in protecting Ryback and giving the Voice of the Voiceless the win.
Brief match with World Heavyweight Champion Big Show squashing Kofi Kingston within seconds. Sure, some may argue that Kingston was caught up in the referee and was unable to defend himself, but I still see this as unnecessary loss for Kingston. He should've put up a fair fight against the World Champ, especially since he's coming off a hot feud with Wade Barrett. It goes without saying that 2013 is not off to a hot start for the former Intercontinental Champion, which is a shame given his immense talent.
Incredibly intense promo between WWE Champion CM Punk and The Rock. This was first time Punk has provided edgy, scathing mic skills in quite some time, so that was fun to watch. Everything he said rang true, and I also appreciated the fact he took a trip down memory lane in explaining his gradual heel turn from this past summer. The Rock's interruption was perfect and his rebuttal towards Punk was excellently executed. The jokes he used may not be for everyone, but I personally got a chuckle out of some of them. Not only that, but Punk's straightforward approach with The Great One was brilliant, as it's not about who wins in a war of the words. It's all about who walks out with the WWE Championship at Royal Rumble. This segment made the title, pay-per-view and pending match felt prestigious, and I, for one, am extremely excited for what lies ahead in this ruthless rivalry.
Overall, a great show that was highlighted by two strong matches at the start and finish of the broadcast in addition to a phenomenal promo. Everything else was mostly filler, but nothing was bad to the point where it hindered the show as a whole. My only gripe with this week's Raw was that a number of things (Cena vs. Ziggler, the Divas title match, Punk's pipebomb) could've been hyped out in advance to boost the ratings. That aside, they successfully built towards the Royal Rumble event, left me looking forward to next week's 20th Anniversary show and kicked off the new year on a very high note.