What you need to know
The champs are here. Both WWE champion Randy Orton and World Heavyweight Champion (WHC) John Cena retained their belts at Survivor Series. And the seeds have been planted for the two to feud with an eye toward maybe unifying the titles, or possibly just slapfighting like sisters who want mommy and daddy to like them best.
The elimination tag match from last night's pay-per-view (PPV) in Boston that wasn't a mish-mash of face/heel alignments booked around a reality show that was airing at the same time as the event confirms Roman Reigns of The Shield as a made man. As the sole survivor who eliminated 4/5 of the opposing team with his finisher, the only question is how quickly he starts a solo run.
Big E Langston's push continued with a decisive win over Curtis Axel in their rematch for the Intercontinental title. While Mr. Perfect's son seems destined for a return to jobber-dom, what's going on with the other former Paul Heyman guy is anyone's guess. Some time in the spotlight for Ryback last week was set-up for yet another PPV loss, as a returning Mark Henry showed up looking like Rick Ross and channeling the Junkyard Dog to defeat The Big Guy last night.
Meta-Powers CM Punk and Daniel Bryan truly established themselves as the kings of the mid-card with a win over the Wyatt Family. While The Best and The Beard join a growing pool of guys just south of the main event without clear direction, the tag match went a long way to establishing Bray Wyatt and charges as legit. Luke Harper has basically established himself in the last few weeks, but Survivor Series proved that the Eater of Worlds intrigues the larger fan base and that Erick Rowan has a future as more than just a sheep's mask wearing flunky.
What to look out for
Woo Woo Woo. Raw hits Nassau County - will Big O be joining Michael Strahan, I wonder?
Vote now for what video game you want to watch someone else play tonight. This week, they're asking who The Rock's greatest WrestleMania opponent was? There is obviously a Stone Cold correct answer to this, but it is intriguing that both Rock and Hulk Hogan's names are being thrown around by the company as we head toward Mania season.
Mark Henry is back as a babyface. The Big Show is still roaming around as a good guy. Kane has yet to do anything other than rock a suit. What are they going to do with all these monsters?
Bray Wyatt's slide away from a physical confrontation with Bryan and Punk last night, but he did it with a smile on his face. While we've never understood one of his plans, he certainly seems to have them. What will have planned for the men who defeated him family last night?
And probably some sort of balls-to-the wall tag match extravaganza that tomorrow we'll all be saying was the main reason to watch the show. If said match actually does anything with story development for tag champs Cody Rhodes and Goldust, The Real Americans, The Usos or The Shield...too early to tell.
What they should do
Put me in the super-dubious that they'll unify the titles camp. I mean, they have a hard time coming up with compelling reasons for most of the roster to be fighting each other as it is. Many fans were blasé toward both the WWE title bout and the WHC match last night - imagine if Creative was just trying to sell you on Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio because the Mexican hates arms or something.
What's clear - and I beat this drum so often that I think the drum is broken and my arm has fallen off - is that they need to pay attention to building up secondary programs. Things were looking up after SummerSlam when The Authority angle was used to make the typical thrown together Raw matches feel like they had a purpose. But now it feels like we're in danger of slipping back into "because...reasons" type booking as they put all of their eggs in the John Cena basket.
One of the more promising developments for sub-main event program involves, shock of all shocks, The Shield. Dean Ambrose's early elimination in the Survivor Series match last night develops the idea that he is getting a little too cocky as the only Hound of Justice holding a title right now, and Reigns' path of destruction positions him as strong enough to be quickly believable against nearly any opponent.
The powers-that-be should be careful to not repeat the mistakes of the past with Roman's push, though. He should definitely be handled more along the lines of how Batista left Evolution, as opposed to how Orton did. And breaking him off too quickly is only one of the pitfalls to avoid there.
With Langston, the other new guy rumored for a major rise up the card, cutting post-match promos straight out of the Mick Foley "Cheap Pop for Babyfaces" manual, I'm not sure the big Samoan needs a face turn right now at all. Rather than have two young técnicos running around, maybe after a slow burn dissolution of The Shield (possibly including a heel vs. heel showdown with The Wyatts), why not have Dean spin off into an unrelated program while the Shield-man whose in-ring style almost demands he be a babyface stands up to his former tag partner.
From the talking I've seen Reigns do, both with Seth Rollins and Ambrose on the big stage and by himself in NXT, he really does remind me of Dave "The Animal". I think he'll be able to switch alignments fairly easily throughout his career, so having his first big solo storyline feature him as a heel doesn't mean casting him in that role forever. And doing do subverts what's expected out of this kind of storyline (both Randy and Batista left Evolution as faces), creating some suspense for the mid-card while The Viper, The Game and The Champ clog up the top of the card for a while.
What we're afraid they will do
I don't want to harp on the negative, but the thought that they'll unify the titles in a story where John Cena does what Bryan and Show couldn't - take down The Authority - just pisses me off.
What can WWE do to warm your wrestling fan heart as we head into the bleak mid-winter of their calendar?
Let us know how you'd fantasy book The Shield's dissolution while you get ready for tonight. And don't forget to join Rex and the gang for tonight's live blog!