By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar Called Out Seth Rollins
Is it just me or has Lesnar spoke more in the last two weeks than he has in his entire run with WWE the last few years? Either way, he's been simple and effective in his short stints on the mic, and I love how Seth Rollins has been holding his own against him (including here). John Cena was good in this segment as well, but I fear all the talk of him being a failure will lead to a title win for him at Royal Rumble. Whether he captures the gold or not on Sunday remains to be seen, but they've really peaked my interest with this three-way rivalry over the belt. I loathe long talking segments at the start of Raw as much as the next guy, but at least this set up a big match with Cena for later on in the show.
Bray Wyatt def. Daniel Bryan
This two had one of the best matches of 2014 at last year's Royal Rumble event and it was cool to see that rivalry renewed here. I didn't expect them to have the same match they did on that show and the two commercials hindered its momentum, but it was still very good for the time it was given and I was surprised to see Wyatt score the victory. I wasn't a fan of Bryan losing his second week back (especially after interference from Kane for what felt like the millionth time), but Wyatt needed the win more, it put heat on Kane going into their match on Thursday's SmackDown, and Bryan fits the underdog persona to perfection.
Big Show Interrupted the Legends Panel Featuring Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels
Wasn't this the same panel of Superstars who discussed John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar at Night of Champions back in August? This was a far better segment that didn't feel as forced or contrived, and the humor thrown in from Michaels only helped. It wasn't the most riveting segment, but it was solid hype for the 30-man Royal Rumble match which desperately needed it. Big Show's interruption got a groan out of me (why is this guy getting as much TV time as he is?!) and Roman Reigns' involvement was only inevitable, but at least it was kept to a minimum unlike last week.
Dean Ambrose def. Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett (Non-title)
I'm all for fresh matches on Raw and these two worked a good matchup, but it was a lose-lose situation from the moment it started. Barrett recently lost a non-title match to Sin Cara on SmackDown and needs wins in order to establish himself as a credible champion. Meanwhile, I can't remember the last big singles win Ambrose scored. It was a nice win for Ambrose going into the Royal Rumble, but Barrett's reign is already off to a bad start and it's only been two weeks.
The New Day def. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro
You had to know The New Day was going over given that it was Martin Luther King Day, but at the same time, Martin Luther King was rolling over in his grave while The New Day was making their entrance. The gimmick is as bad as it is, so was it really necessary for them to televise their entire entrance? The match was fine for what it was, but seeing a talented team in Kidd and Cesaro lose to this extremely limited act is quite depressing and disappointing.
The Ascension Interrupted the nWo
Being the major "mark" that I am for the nWo, seeing Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and X-Pac reunite on Raw was a real treat (and I don't blame them for not putting Hogan out there since he was already in another segment). The returns of the APA and the New Age Outlaws were also great and it made JBL's recent burial of The Ascension on commentary make sense. I don't know how big of a rub The Ascension got from being on the receiving end of a beating from all these old-timers, but it sets up a (random) match with New Age Outlaws at the pay-per-view.
Natalya and Paige def. Summer Rae and Alicia Fox
Wait a second. The Divas are going to be in a tag team match at Royal Rumble where the Divas Championship isn't even going to be on the line? It's not like the tag match (Paige and Natalya vs. Bella Twins) is anything that will light the world on fire. That was a weak addition to the card, but it's something, I guess. Natalya and Paige were obviously going over here to gain momentum going into that match, and The Bella Twins were barely tolerable on commentary. In short, the Divas division is in a sad state right now. AJ Lee, where you at?
United States Champion Rusev def. R-Truth (Non-title)
This was a simple squash for Rusev as he prepares to take part in the 30-man Royal Rumble match. Truth getting mic time was rather pointless, but at least this match didn't overstay its welcome. Rusev has been directionless in recent weeks with Ryback being "off the roster," but hopefully their rivalry will resume following Sunday.
WWE Tag Team Champion Jey Uso def. The Miz
How many times can we possibly see variations of this match? We've seen Miz take on both Usos a million times over and it got old a long time ago. The matches aren't bad, but I don't blame the crowd for being disinterested. The feud desperately needs to reach its end, and thankfully that looks like it will on Sunday. On the topic of the Royal Rumble, the only thing worth noting about this match is that it was announced both Miz and Damien Mizdow will be in the Rumble. Expect them to finally tease tension between them during that bout.
John Cena def. Seth Rollins, Big Show and Kane in a 3-on-1 Handicap Match
We've seen Cena face all three of these men on countless occasions, so I can't say this match exactly held my interest. The stipulation was huge, of course, but the action itself was nothing out of the ordinary. That said, the lack of excitement during the match actually ended to the Raw debut of Sting since no one saw it coming. His arrival on Raw was handled beautifully and to follow it up with Brock Lesnar coming out and destroying the heels was brilliant. Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan getting their jobs back was overshadowed, but who cares? Sting's Raw debut and Lesnar unofficially turning babyface were two moments that made the ending of this show incredible.
Coming out of this show, the only thing people will be talking about will be the amazing ending, and rightfully so. It increased interest in the Royal Rumble and it sure as hell sold some pay-per-view buys (or WWE Network subscriptions). Was that the first time a Raw before the Rumble didn't end with a massive brawl? Sure, the hype for the Rumble match has been lackluster, but that's the case every year so I can't say I'm surprised. The undercard also doesn't look strong on paper, but at least they finally announced said matches on this show. Along with this episode's epic conclusion, the "Raw Reunion" concept was very entertaining for this viewer and the three hours on the whole seemed to fly by more than usual.