It's the first Raw of 2014, and we're going Old School tonight. A bunch of legends are going to appear on the program tonight. Also, CM Punk is slated to face Roman Reigns of the Shield. Also the story of John Cena getting his rematch at the Royal Rumble against Randy Orton should kick off, as both men were absent from last week's show.
But the big story is Daniel Bryan. It looks like he has joined the Wyatt Family, at least as last week's show ended. Is this a long term story, or did he do this to get his hands on Bray Wyatt? Only time will tell, and that story should unfold tonight.
Show Open, Live from Baltimore Arena, Baltimore MD
We get the old school opening and Cole welcomes us to the show. We go right to the ring with the familiar "WOOOOOOOO!" and Ric Flair comes to the ring. Cole and JBL check in on commentary (no Jerry Lawler) and talk about Flair visiting the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night to give a motivational talk to them prior to the wild card NFL game.
Flair welcomes us to the Old School Raw program. He talks about his past in Baltimore and says "we've had some fun in Baltimore." Flair does his trademark strut to some "woooo!" from the fans. Before he can say too much more, Randy Orton's music hits and here he comes, carrying both title belts that we would never see together on Raw again.
Orton puts over his respect for Ric Flair, but tonight is about Orton. He says he is the greatest of this generation or any other. "It's my time, it's my show, and it's my ring," says Orton. He asks Flair to step aside because he has something to get off his chest. Flair stands aside in the corner and smirks.
Orton talks about the rematch with John Cena at the Royal Rumble. He says he doesn't understand why WWE gives consideration to the what the fans like. Orton questions why the Authority didn't consult him before this decision. He asks them to reconsider the decision and says he has beaten Cena and has nothing left to prove because he is the man.
"Whoa..." says Flair. He says that in his day the champion defended the title seven days a week and he did it for three decades. He shows and kisses his Hall of Fame ring and says that's why he has two of them. Flair accuses Orton of doing nothing but cry about the rematch, and tells Orton to go out and wrestle the man again. Orton tells Flair that he had someone watching his back whenever he was champion.
Orton tells Flair he is "the most overrated superstar in history." He tells Flair he was great, but times have changed. Orton tells Flair to leave the ring or he won't be responsible for what happens. Flair tells Orton he won't leave because he has something to say. He recalls how great Orton was when he came in, but brought along an "immature punk attitude that (he) never grew out of."
Flair tells Orton that the title belts he has make him the man in the business, but he asks if Orton is the man when he closes the bedroom door at night. Orton winces, then tells Flair he could go old school on his ass right now. Before anything can happen, John Cena's music hits and he marches to the ring with a purpose.
Cena hugs Flair, then puts over all of Flair's accomplishments. He chastises Orton for calling Flair "overrated." Cena tells Orton that if he's feeling froggy then he needs to jump. He challenges Orton to fight, but Orton backs away and leaves. Cena and Flair pose in the ring for the fans.
A strong opener. The big surprise here was how comfortable Orton seemed to be here. Flair and Cena were good, but Orton actually seemed to flow in his promo more so than his robotic nature.
Cole and JBL checked in with the old school commentator gear and table. Cole says that Jerry Lawler is not with them and is "under the weather" tonight. He says that Jerry's heart is fine.
There was a scare that Lawler was having heart issues again, but in an App special, Lawler attributed his illness to some seafood he had that didn't sit well. Glad he's seemingly alright, as he was checked out at a local hospital and given a clean bill of health as far as his heart was concerned.
We get a recap of the main event of last week, with Bryan beating Harper and Rowan but getting bested by Wyatt. He then asked to join the Family and left with them.
Match #1 - Rey Mysterio and The Uso Brothers vs. The Wyatt Family (Daniel Bryan, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, w/Bray Wyatt)
The Usos and Rey are in the ring. Wyatts get an entrance, and there's some dramatic pausing to have Bryan join them. He's wearing a blue jumpsuit with no arms. Cole says he can't believe Bryan joined the Wyatts
Bryan checks in early. He stares at Mysterio, then strikes him. He throws knees and goes after Rey aggressively. Mysterio sends Bryan out to the floor though going into commercial. Out of break, the faces get in some offense, with Rey countering a power move from Harper, but the Uso misses a follow-up splash from the top.
Some miscommunication late in this one. Bryan tags in, but so does Harper. The three look at each other, and Bryan steps out with Rowan. Uso rolls up Harper and gets the win. The faces escape to the entry as the Wyatts (with Bryan) stand in the ring and look up the aisle at them.
Not at all what I expected there. I get the feeling that Bryan won't be with the Wyatts long, with this immediate dissention. I guess the fans will will Bryan back fast - like by the Rumble or something.
Rowdy Roddy Piper hosts a Piper's Pit with The Shield later, and the announcers hype up CM Punk facing the Shield's heavy artillery - Roman Reigns - in the main event.
We get the hype video for the return of Batista on January 20. We get told that Batista will be in the Royal Rumble. Cole gives a quick rundown of the rules of the Royal Rumble. JBL reminds us that Batista won in 2005 in the "overtime" session.
There's talk that Batista will go against Orton at Mania. But, you could also see it go with Brock and Batista eliminating each other, setting up a Mania match too.
Cole gives us a rewind of last week's Raw, when fans got to choose Damien Sandow's opponent. He faced Khali in a match that he said if he didn't win, he'd quit. Khali's shoulder was up and the official didn't see it.
Brad Maddox says that due to incompetent officiating, Sandow will again face Khali. There will be an App vote for one of three Hall of Famers - Bob Backlund, Sgt Slaughter, or Arn Anderson.
Kane emerges and asks Maddox if there's something he wants to say to his face. Maddox asks Kane if he's threatening him with violence. Kane says that the HR policy doesn't permit him to do that and he'd be fired if he did act that way. Kane tells Maddox he is in a no win spot, and would make sure that Maddox is not heard from again if Maddox became the Big Red Monster again.
Big E Langston is walking to the ring, and he passes Nikolai Volkoff who is singing the national anthem. He keeps walking and comes across Ted DiBiase (the Million Dollar Man), then across IRS who reminds him to pay his taxes.
I like seeing these guys, but I was hoping for more than a cameo.
Match #2 - Big E. Langston vs. Curtis Axel
Ryback is on commentary for this one. He says he's hoarse from hanging out with Lilian Garcia. He banters back and forth with the announcers as Axel works on Langston in the early going. They talk about the formation of "Rybaxel" and gives JBL credit for bringing the name up. He also says Langston is probably the third strongest man in the company behind him.
In the end, Langston is able to get Axel up and hits the Big Ending to get the win.
The fans sat on their hands for this one until Langston opened up with the power at the end. Obvious next program is Langston/Ryback.
They show Rowdy Roddy Piper walking backstage. He's up next with Piper's Pit, featuring the Shield.
This could be good watching Piper go with Ambrose on the mic. But right now this show is letting me down.
Roddy Piper makes his entrance to a nice reaction. He gets a mic and says he was old school before old school was cool. He talks about having fought some guys, but The Shield's music interrupts and they make their way through the crowd. The announcers talk about past signs of dissension between the Shield, but JBL says we're seeing cracks because we want to.
Ambrose asks who gave Piper a live mic on live TV. He says they were going to wait but they didn't want to listen to Piper ramble. He says if the Shield was around when Piper was, he wouldn't have made it to 112 years old. Piper tells him this is Piper's Pit, not Ambrose Alley, and asks if he's done with the foolishness.
Piper tells Ambrose that only one guy can match him on the mic and that's CM Punk. Ambrose tells Piper to tread lightly. Rollins backs up Ambrose and asks if he can call Piper "Hot Rod." He tells Piper it's not 1985 and they're too smart for his tactics. He tells Piper that he's jealous that Ambrose is a better US Champion than he was.
Piper says he knows that it's possible that Ambrose is a better US Champ. He says that Rollins couldn't beat Punk, nor could Ambrose. He pinches Reigns' cheek and says he has Punk tonight. He says if he beats Punk, does that make Reigns better than the other two?
Reigns stands up and tells Piper that he will beat Punk tonight. He goes on to say that if Piper touches him again, he will break his old ass in half. Ambrose proposes they leave a memorable impression on Piper.
The Shield starts to surround Piper, but Punk's music hits. He charges the ring with the New Age Outlaws. A scrum ensues, and the Outlaws and Punk get the better of the Shield. The Shield retreats, and Punk, Piper, and the NAO do the Shield's fist pose in the ring.
A good segment. They took a little of the Shield's danger away by keeping them off of Piper, but they still looked badass. Reigns was the important one here with the main event match and he looked very good and delivered on the mic. He lost nothing even though he got cleared out from the ring.
The announcers talk about the return of Brock Lesnar, and how he said he would do something old school on the show tonight. Cole feeds it to a recap of Brock Lesnar's return from last Monday, complete with the beatdown of Mark Henry.
Match #3 - Sin Cara vs. Alberto Del Rio
They recap the past two matches between these two men as Del Rio comes to the ring. As Del Rio controls the early offense, the announcers chat about WWE being broadcast in Japan and various dialects. Sin Cara hits a springboard elbow for a two count. He goes up top for the swanton but Del Rio moves. Del Rio comes back with a superkick to get the win.
As we get highlights, Cole reminds us that Batista will be in the Royal Rumble. Del Rio gets a mic and says that everyone is talking about Batista, but they should be talking about him. He says that he will throw Batista over the top rope, and everyone will be talking about the winner...Alberto Del Rio.
Match was just a vehicle to get to Del Rio's promo. Are they foreshadowing a feud between Del Rio and Batista?
Cole shills the poll for the Hall of Famers to be the official in the Khali/Sandow match for later as we go to commercial.
Out of break, Cole reminds us again that Lawler isn't on the show, but is fine aside from a stomach virus. He's fine but resting backstage for the night. He feeds it back to the first match of the show and asks if there's dissension already in the Wyatts as a result of the loss.
Bryan tells Harper and Rowan that he came here to learn and be transformed from man to monster. He says he came to learn but to teach as well. He says that he was a former champion as well with Kane. He invites either of them to team with him. Wyatt says it won't be necessary, as he will be tagging with Wyatt.
Match #4 - Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. The Real Americans (w/Zeb Colter)
No promo from Colter, but he's holding a sign that says "The best defense is a fence." As the Rhodes' make their entrance we get a bit of hype for the Royal Rumble. Swagger starts off with Goldust. Both men tag out to their partners. Cesaro throws Rhodes out but he skins the cat and comes back with a clothesline for a two. He tags back in Goldust, but Cesaro backs him to the wrong part of town and Goldust sells for the heels. They work quick tags.
Goldust gets a huracanrana and the hot tag to Cody. He hits a springboard drop kick on Cesaro. He follows it with a Disaster Kick to Swagger, but takes an uppercut from Cesaro. The match goes to commercial. The app recap out of break shows that Cody Rhodes got the big swing. The heels are still in control, with Cesaro hitting a leapfrog double stomp.
After a whip, Rhodes kicks Swagger then dumps Cesaro. Rhodes tries for the tag, but Cesaro boots Goldust off the apron. Cesaro hits an uppercut from behind and rolls Cody up for two. He throws Cody to the corner but comes up empty on the charge.
Swagger gets the tag and nearly a Disaster Kick but he counters to the Patriot Lock. Rhodes tries to counter but can't. Goldust breaks it with a big boot then gets the tag. He goes off against Swagger, then hits both heels with a cross body. A bit later, Goldust whips Cesaro across but Cody pulls the top rope down and Cesaro goes out to the floor.
Swagger tries a roll-up but only gets two. Goldust comes back a few moments later with his finisher to grab the win. Colter sells the defeat.
A good television tag match. Brothers Rhodes just keep producing in the ring.
Diamond Dallas Page is stretching when Booker T walks in. Booker asks if he's getting a cheap sell for DDP Yoga and shows off the "max pack." DDP demonstrates a move and tells Booker T that he will get him doing the spinaroonie better than ever. Booker T shows off a move then acts like he pulled a muscle in his back. Ron Simmons walks in to say "damn!"
Cole gives one final shill for the vote for Khali/Sandow's referee.
Match #5 - Damien Sandow vs. Great Khali (w/Runjin Singh)
Sandow is in the ring out of commercial. Khali comes out with Runjin, who we haven't seen in a while. JBL gives us the results of the officials' poll, and it's Sgt. Slaughter who wins the vote. He comes out in official's gear and we're underway.
Khali stomps Sandow down in the corner to start off, then slaps Sandow across the chest a couple times. Khali sets up for a chop but Sandow retreats to a corner then begins to fight back. Sandow and Slaughter argue, then Sandow gets beat up a bit more by Khali.
Khali hits the chop and he covers, but Sandow puts his foot on the ropes. Slaughter counts it anyhow and Khali wins. Sandow protests but takes the Cobra Clutch for his troubles. He, Khali and Singh dance afterward.
Typical comedy stuff. Looks like we'll get a rubber match of some sort between these two.
We get a shot of Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. The self-proclaimed #1 Contender is coming to the ring next. Cole asks what he will do for an encore.
After a show reset, Brock Lesnar's music hits and he makes his way out to the ring. He's got a new shirt already - "Eat, Sleep, Conquer, Repeat." That didn't take long. Heyman introduces himself as the advocate for the self-proclaimed number one contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar.
Heyman says, on Lesnar's behalf, that old school is not trotting out the legends. He says it's when one man reigns supreme, and the locker room sends out people to challenge that one man to be the best. Lesnar pointed out to him in the back that back in the day Bruno Sammartino reigned supreme and everyone wanted a piece of him, that is old school. Back in the day, Hulk Hogan reigned supreme and everyone wanted a piece of Hulk Hogan. Heyman mentions Stone Cold Steve Austin, then says he's not dropping names for the fans' approval. But Austin reigned supreme and everyone wanted a shot at him.
Heyman says that today one man is the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and after the Royal Rumble, whether it's John Cena or Randy Orton, they will have an expiration date on their neck. He says that whoever that champion is, they will have a target on them and Brock Lesnar will be coming for them.
He says no man in WWE, MMA, or sports in general compares to Lesnar's claim of being the man. He rewinds it to what happened last week between Mark Henry and Brock Lesnar. He reminds us that Henry got pummeled. Heyman says that Lesnar's life is like his slogan on his shirt - "Eat, Sleep, Conquer, Repeat." He repeats the phrase a couple times.
Mark Henry's music hits and he comes out holding his ribs. He charges the ring and the two go at it. Henry gets a momentary advantage, but Lesnar delivers some knees to the midsection. He gets Henry down in the Kimura and breaks Henry's arm. Heyman slides in the ring and begs off Lesnar. Trainers come to the ring as Heyman asks Lesnar "why would you do that?"
As Lesnar's leaving, Big Show's music hits. Show has a look on his face, and Lesnar backpedals. Lesnar gets in the ring, and Big Show slowly approaches. As Show climbs over the ropes, Lesnar retreats out of the ring. Heyman says "that's why you don't fight for free." Heyman tries to distract Big Show, and Lesnar tries an attack from behind but Show catches him and shoves him to the corner. Show tosses Lesnar halfway across the ring and Lesnar tumbles to the floor.
Heyman regroups out on the floor and tells Lesnar not now and begs him to go with him. The fans sing the "na na hey hey goodbye" song as the announcers recap what Show did to Lesnar. Show stares a hole in Lesnar as Cole says there are not many men that Lesnar backs away from but he did back away from Show.
This was a good segment as well. I like Serious Big Show, and we got that here. It was also a good and effective tease of Lesnar going after the WWE World Champion, whoever that is after Royal Rumble. Show vs. Lesnar will get some buzz.
They recap the opening of the show, where John Cena came to the defense of Ric Flair when Randy Orton threatened to "go old school" on him. Cole then moves to a sell for Punk vs. Reigns for the main event tonight.
Out of commercial, we get a recap of the previous segment. Cole confirms that Henry's elbow is dislocated, and they marvel over how easily Show threw Lesnar around.
Match #6 - The Bella Twins vs. Alicia Fox and Aksana
Cole says that this story is whether Brie can stay focused with her future husband, Daniel Bryan, joining the Wyatt family. Alicia starts with Nikki, with Nikki hitting a couple arm drags then works an armbar. Alicia comes back with a leg scissor, but Nikki uses a facebuster off the knee followed with a monkey flip.
Nikki sells a leg injury as the announcers talk about various events that have happened on the show. Nikki ends up in the wrong corner and the heels work the leg. The fans actually start a chant for her.
Hot tag for Brie and she starts a run. She hits the running knee in the ropes, then a bit later tries to get a missile drop kick but Aksana moves. Aksana covers to get the win. The announcers recap it and say Nikki's leg injury might have come back to haunt her.
Cole hypes an announcement streaming live on Wednesday night at 9:30PM EST from Las Vegas.
If the stars align, we will bring you coverage of this announcement. Got a full work week ahead, but this one is allegedly a big deal.
Backstage, Grand Master Sexay, Rikishi, and Scotty 2 Hotty are getting ready to head to the ring. We'll see them, up next.
Match #7 - 3MB vs. Rikishi, Grand Master Sexay, and Scotty 2 Hotty
3MB is in the ring, and they cut a picture in picture promo. They say they're reunited and it feels so good. Too Cool gets a good reaction as they come out to the ring. 3MB taunts a little, and Grand Master Sexay gets the start with Jinder Mahal. Mahal gets an early advantage but Grand Master hits a nice missile drop kick.
Too Cool does the hip hop twins elbow, but Scotty ends up in the wrong corner and ends up selling for McIntyre. Scotty comes back with a bulldog then gets this look on his face. He delivers the Worm to a rousing chant from Baltimore. McIntryre hits a big boot to get the control back for 3MB. Scotty finally gets a hot tag to Rikishi.
Rikishi takes on all three members of 3MB and hits a kick to get a near fall. Slater and Mahal gang up on Rikishi, but he gets the better of them. Grand Master hits the Hip Hop Drop, and Mahal works with Rikishi. He tries to hit a sunset flip, but Rikishi just drops down and pins Mahal for the win. Too Cool dances for the fans and gets a nice reaction.
Fun to see these three guys again. The match wasn't all that special other than for a nice spot for these guys to come back for a night.
They have all the participating legends come out to the stage for recognition. Nikolai Volkoff, IRS, Ted DiBiase, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ron Simmons, Too Cool, Rikishi, The Godfather, Sgt. Slaughter, DDP, and Rowdy Roddy Piper among others are all at the stage.
Bad News Barrett appears on his stage. He puts over that they are all legends, but flea markets were in a frenzy today. None of them were available to sign $20 autographs on 25 year old photos for people who have no clue who they are. He says they're doomed to anonymity and he will make a point of forgetting who they are the minute they walk out of the arena, and the fans will forget them too.
A cool moment to see all the legends, a bad moment to see Barrett in this gimmick.
Cole gives some hype for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at the Royal Rumble between Cena and Orton.
Going to commercial we get another hype video for the return of Batista.
Gene Okerlund comes out. He says he has stories to tell about Baltimore, but he can't tell them here. He invites fans to call his exclusive hotline for those stories for $5 a minute. He introduces the New Age Outlaws. They ask Gene to not talk about a story involving a clown and farm animals. They do their normal introduction gimmick, and if you're not down with that, suck it.
Match #8 - CM Punk (w/Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) vs. Roman Reigns (w/Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, The Shield)
Road Dogg turns his attention to "the next competitor" and says he will make your short hairs straight and your long hairs curly because he's the best in the world. CM Punk's music hits and he comes to the ring for the main event. The Shield makes their entrance through the crowd.
The Outlaws stick around as backup for Punk. Reigns shows his strength in the early going, resisting some whip attempts. Punk uses a headlock takedown while Cole recaps the various events of the night. A standoff going into the break.
Out of break, Cole recaps some of the action via the app. Regins controlled the action with power. Punk is on the floor, and the NAO come over to keep the rest of the Shield at bay from attacking Punk. Back in the ring, Reigns continues to work the midsection with a waistlock followed with a belly to belly suplex. Punk continues to take the heat.
Regins misses an elbow drop, which gives Punk an opening. He hits a cross body but can't cover. Reigns locks on a bear hug. Punk fires back with elbows, but takes a Samoan drop for two.
Reigns backs up and calls for the superman punch. Punk evades and hits a big kick to the head. Jawjacking going on between the NAO and the rest of the Shield. Punk starts on a flurry of kicks, followed with a leg lariat and some clotheslines into a swinging neckbreaker.
Punk hits the running knee for two, then hits it again and delivers an elbow. Punk calls for the Macho Elbow, but Reigns counters on the buckle. As Punk was going up, Ambrose asks what Punk thinks he's going to do. Reigns goes up and tries for a superplex, but Punk counters with elbows to the back of the neck. Reigns goes down, so Punk hits the Macho Elbow.
Punk says it's naptime. Ambrose runs a distraction, so the NAO gets involved. Ambrose runs Road Dogg to the steps, and Rollins sends Billy Gunn to the post. Rollins takes a dive from Punk that sends him over the table. In the ring, Punk tries a springboard but takes the Superman punch for a near fall.
Reigns tries the spear, but Punk leapfrogs him and Reigns eats the buckle. Punk rolls him up for two, then hits a big kick again for another near fall. Punk tries the GTS but can't get it. Some back and forth ensues, and Punk hits another running knee. He tries for the buldog, but this time Ambrose gets on the apron. The distraction is enough for Reigns to hit the spear for the win.
The Shield gets in the ring and taunts. They start to set up for the triple powerbomb, but some strange music hits. You ain't gonna believe this...
JAKE "THE SNAKE" ROBERTS!!!!
Jake comes to the ring with his familiar bag with Damien inside. He throws the bag on the apron, and the NAO help Punk clear Rollins and Reigns from the ring. Punk hits an airplane spin and the GTS on Ambrose. After a moment, Jake pulls Damien out of the bag and puts him on Ambrose.
Jake taunts Ambrose with the snake for a bit, then offers him to the other Shield members but they back away. Jake holds Damien up to the crowd to a nice reaction, and that's how the show ends.
I go way back, guys...I remember Jake in his prime in the 80's. I admit to marking out when he walked down the aisle...no shame. He looks good too. Here's hoping that he gets his moment in the Rumble and perhaps a long-awaited Hall of Fame induction.
It did take a little of Reigns' win here though. That said, it's not something they can't come back with some good solid mic work next week, or on Smackdown, and re-emphasize to put some heat on it. A good main event match.
Old School left a little to be desired for me tonight. I love all the small touches they do with wardrobe and entrances and everything, but it just seemed like the atmosphere was flat. Not sure if it was a flat or poorly mic'd crowd, but all night it just seemed like no one was all that into whatever was going on.
It's always fun to see the legends of days gone by. I really enjoyed Jake and Too Cool and Rikishi, but they're all fun to see. But last week's show with Lesnar's return and Daniel Bryan turning to the Wyatt Family seemed much hotter than this first show of the year. And on the subject of Bryan, the follow up is leaving much to be desired, so far. I'm thinking this is a very short-term storyline with what we got tonight.
I'll have more to say tomorrow night in Raw Afterthoughts. Thanks for following along tonight, and remember you can always join in the conversation on Twitter also.