WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Jan. 20, 2014) from the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio, featuring the go home show to the Royal Rumble pay-per-view (PPV) this coming Sunday night in Pittsburgh. Plus, Batista returned!
Click here for full results and the live blog from the show if you missed it. Let's get right to reactions. Remember, these were written as the show moved along with real time reactions to everything that occurred hour-by-hour.
- I really like Randy Orton crashing the big return ceremony for Batista. He's already insecure about never really being able to defeat Daniel Bryan, feeling like he can't win against John Cena in a rematch, and losing to Kofi Kingston, of all people, on Raw last week. Now Batista is back? This man is not the WWE world heavyweight champion The Authority really wants, so of course he's off his rocker. And man is he good at being off his rocker.
- Am I the only one who is still struggling a little bit with the unreality era? It's tough to listen to Triple H argue with Orton in the middle of the ring, live on USA, about the decision to make him champion. There are too many times I feel like I'm watching a movie with the commentary on over it than just the movie itself. Sometimes it's enjoyable, but I would still rather watch the movie without the commentary most of the time.
- Okay, fine, I marked out a bit for Batista's entrance. Always did enjoy the machine gun style pyro gimmick.
- Well, he's back and I'm incredibly underwhelmed. I like the idea behind having him come out, pose for the crowd, get in Orton's face, and tell him he's going to win the Royal Rumble, headline WrestleMania, and win the WWE world heavyweight title. That's all good, and simple but effective writing. But I guess I was hoping for something more. Or maybe I was hoping this would feel like a bigger deal, and it really didn't. Batista was a legitimately big star when he was last with WWE and while times have certainly changed, he did not age well. His initial run was good, though somewhat forgettable. This should have been bigger. It wasn't. Oh well.
- Roman Reigns superman punch and spear combination is the best thing. The way he caught Cody Rhodes while he was going for the Disaster Kick? Money. It helped save the six-man tag match with the Rhodes Brothers and Big E. Langston last night, though Seth Rollins' foot stomp on Langston to finish it was phenomenal. Still, one of the weaker six-mans we've seen from the players involved here. I maintain, however, that no one does chaos like these fellas.
- Hey look, it's Daniel Bryan! So I guess that concussion wasn't all that serious after all, huh? I'm not complaining. And I won't complain about Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt at the Royal Rumble either because, well, that's the story and we need it to come to a satisfying conclusion, though I'll be very disappointed if this means he's not even going to enter the Royal Rumble match. I also thought WWE did a good job explaining away Bryan joining the Wyatt Family, namely because he just wanted to get Bray one-on-one, so he did what he had to and took advantage of an opportunity as soon as it presented itself.
- I've never met a Bray Wyatt promo I didn't like. Last night might have been the best of the best. If he could deliver even half as good in the ring, he would be one of the top stars in the industry. He'll just need some subtle protecting to get there.
- Fandango squashing Xavier Woods? I mean, at least he's not just outright walking out on matches anymore.
- Watching Kane get dressed down by Stephanie McMahon was an experience. I actually really like him in this role. He's a far better talker than he ever gets credit for because they constantly booked him like an idiot. I must admit, though, that a boss lady like Stephanie in power and exerting it in this way is super attractive, especially when it seems natural opposite someone like Kane, who towers over her. Good stuff here.
- Kane's apology might have been the best thing on the show to this point. "I'm real sorry, even though I totally saved you from catching a beat down from five guys by choke slamming you." That's just good heeling, y'all. Also enjoyed CM Punk using the microphone as a weapon again. I always wonder why more guys don't do that, and Punk is the best at quickly turning it around and clocking guys over the head with it.
- Oh god, Punk vs. Bad Ass Billy Gunn in a singles match on Raw in 2014? That was the thought when it started but by the time it ended, I was impressed with how Gunn held up. He's hasn't gotten significantly worse since leaving WWE for all those years despite the fact that's he's aged quite a bit.
- CM Punk number one in the Rumble match? It was really fun the last time that happened.
- I love that the camera set up for John Cena's arrival was really just a cute way to give us a look at Brock Lesnar walking in with Paul Heyman. Cheap? Sure, but I really liked it. Lesnar is exactly the guy you want to spotlight randomly walking around places because he's such a big, burly badass you can't help but wonder where he's going and if he's going to fuck a lot of shit up when he gets there. Answer: Probably.
- Still get choked up at the Mae Young tribute videos.
- It's at least somewhat confusing to me that WWE spent all that time on Alberto Del Rio setting up for Batista's return -- and Batista himself played into it with those "shoot" style tweets that some backstage folks didn't like -- yet there was no follow up on TV when Batista was actually there. Instead, "The Animal" went after Orton and Del Rio simply had another match with Rey Mysterio. At least the two had a decent little match and Del Rio actually got some heat from the live audience. Then again, how many times can we watch these two wrestle each other?
- Oh, okay, Del Rio beats Mysterio and here comes Batista, so we are getting some follow up. It's just like Big Dave to attack a guy who just worked a long, hard match, though. Props to Del Rio for his sell job on the Batista Bomb. He really went up for it and did everything just right. That was much better than just having him come out and tell Orton he is going to win the Rumble and headline 'Mania.
- I tried to avoid it because it's too easy, but Batista came back in skinny jeans. I mean, come on, man.
- Big Show's impression of Paul Heyman is dead on the money. He did something that actually entertained me. Color me shocked. It couldn't match Heyman's response to it, of course, but it was good. I may be a mark here -- in fact, I know I am -- but Heyman's facial expressions are one of the best things about pro wrestling.
- Still pop big for Brock Lesnar's entrance music.
- I've really come to appreciate when WWE pulls troll moves. Sometimes they're done well, and that was the case last night when Lesnar came out all strong, trying to look tough like he was going to step to Big Show. Then he just stops at the ring, laughs, and walks away. That's good stuff.
- Naturally, they have to ruin it by having Show repeat himself and this be what draws Lesnar into the ring. I did like Brock's feint that made Show flinch, though, that was another good troll move.
- Actually, I loved this segment by the end of it and here's why: Big Show might be the only guy on the WWE roster who can believably throw a guy like Lesnar around and Brock is so damn athletic, he makes it look incredible. A man of Lesnar's size is not supposed to be able to move around like he does, but he can and it works when Show is the one tossing him. He bumps like Dolph Ziggler but he's twice Dolph's size. It's awesome.
- Also, that man threw a monitor at Show. If you don't like Lesnar, I don't understand you and I don't want to.
- Look at this! WWE is actually starting to understand how to use the Bad News Barrett character. Of course when they do so, it's shown on the WWE App. I'm actually going to advocate downloading the thing because it does have some good content like this. If nothing else, here's to hoping they continue to use the character the right way.
- Uh-oh, we're getting the crazy AJ Lee character again. Let's just hope they keep her within the Divas division while doing it. More work with Naomi and Cameron, please.
- Really nice tribute video to Martin Luther King Jr. Good job, WWE.
- Do NOT like the new Wyatt Family entrance. The whole teleportation gimmick sucks because it deprives us of "Live in Fear". Maybe WWE is going through some sort of licensing battle and they don't want to play any other music for their entrance, so they're using this dumb angle to get around it. Either way, it sucks and should end immediately.
- The fist head squeeze Erick Rowan does is so ridiculous it's glorious. The Usos sell job of it makes it that much better. Didn't really enjoy the match between the two teams, but Bryan ran out and laid out Bray before leading a YES chant, so it's all good.
- Here's what I wonder: How did Kofi Kingston react when he got to TV and was told the creative plan for him that night? "Hey Kofi, you're working Randy Orton in the main event." Anyone care to fantasy book his response?
- I loved the "John Cena arrival cam" not just because it gave us the cool Lesnar walk-in but because it led to another troll move by WWE, namely the fact that we had to go through all three hours pretending like Cena would wait until Raw was almost off the air just to arrive at the building. Like The Authority are just totally cool with the biggest star on the roster just not showing up until the very end of the show. How would he even have time to shake everyone's hand? Then he finally does make his way in and he's wearing full wrestling gear already. The lesson? John Cena never changes clothes.
- That was an incredibly weak brawl to end the show and an even worse ending to the Royal Rumble go home episode. Cena chases Orton out of the arena and dude just jumps in a car and drives off? And they stick with Cena walking through the crowd to get back to the ring shaking hands with fans and kissing babies? He gets there, shouts "THIS IS WHAT WE DO", poses and the show ends? Awful.
There was a lot of good on this show but that ending left a super sour taste, same as last year.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last nights's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?