The Jan. 20 edition of Raw emanated from Wright State University’s Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio and marked the return of “The Animal” Batista.
Monday wasn’t just three hours of Batista, however. There were a number of other things that took place as well.
Here are my 10 observations from the final Raw before the Royal Rumble Sunday.
Batista returns, beats up on Alberto Del Rio
Batista made his first appearance on WWE television since April of 2010 and looked to be in as good of shape as he did when he left.
He got a big ovation from the fans in Dayton and made sure he took it all in. After taking it all in, Batista kept it short and sweet with his former Evolution running mate Randy Orton by telling him the only reason why he came back was to win Orton’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Later in the show, Batista finally went face-to-face with Alberto Del Rio. Del Rio had been calling out Batista on the microphone for weeks and the two even got into a little bit of a Twitter spat.
Batista made quick work of Del Rio Monday with a spine buster and a Batista Bomb for good measure.
Batista’s appearance on Monday would indicate that he is the odds-on favorite to win the Royal Rumble match. It’s pretty obvious. It’s so obvious that I can also see it not happening. As of Monday though, he is one of my two favorites to be the last man standing Sunday night.
The Authority has a very short memory
Before Batista made his triumphant return, The Authority, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, attempted to give him a hero’s welcome, but Orton interrupted them.
Orton wasn’t too happy about the return of Batista, Brock Lesnar nor his match at the Royal Rumble against John Cena.
McMahon and Triple H proceeded to undress Orton on the microphone by threatening his status as champion and even his job.
They even admonished him for punching Cena’s dad last week. Lest we forget what they were doing last fall when they ordered Big Show knock out a man older than Cena’s father in Dusty Rhodes and many others.
Later on, McMahon admonished Kane for choke slamming CM Punk on Smackdown last week. Lest we forget Triple H got the entire authority storyline started by delivering a pedigree to Daniel Bryan?
Maybe they’re just pretending to be nice only to heel it up again later on, but I don’t know what their roles are anymore. They started off as such diabolical heels, but now they’re just there telling everyone how much power they have. It’s kind of confusing, especially if CM Punk eventually goes against Triple H. There’s no way to finagle their way around being heels at that point.
Daniel Bryan out-smarts The Wyatt Family
Daniel Bryan got the microphone for the first time in weeks Monday and explained why he joined and quickly turned on the Wyatt Family.
Bryan said he joined the Wyatts in an effort to get closer to its leader Bray Wyatt. He said in order to do so he had to do some things he was not proud of. But once he got the opportunity, he took full advantage.
He then announced that he would get Wyatt one-on-one again at the Royal Rumble being as though Luke Harper and Erick Rowan will be in the Royal Rumble match. What that means is that Bryan will not take part in the Royal Rumble match. That could change by Sunday, however.
I have no issue at all with the storyline. The only thing I had a slight issue with was the timing. It all happened kind of quickly. But with the Royal Rumble coming up, I guess WWE felt the pressure of making another big match so they turned him rather quickly to set up this match.
CM Punk will be the No. 1 entrant in the Royal Rumble
Batista is only one of my favorites to win the Royal Rumble Sunday. The other is CM Punk. Kane was ordered by McMahon to apologize to CM Punk after choke slamming on Smackdown.
CM Punk accepted the apology and then attacked Kane. Brad Maddox then came out and announced that CM Punk was going to face Billy Gunn of the New Age Outlaws.
After an entertaining match, CM Punk defeated Gunn with the GTS. After the match, Kane announced that CM Punk would be the No. 1 entrant into the Royal Rumble match.
Now, being No. 1 is supposed to be a huge disadvantage in a Royal Rumble match. It only makes sense after all — having to go through all of those people and last the duration should be a tough task. The same is true for the No. 2 entrant.
But in the world of wrestling, that’s merely an obstacle for someone to overcome. When someone has the focus on them as being No. 1, you can count them lasting a long time during the match and possibly winning it. A prime example was when Paul Heyman made Chris Benoit the No. 1 entrant in 2004. Benoit went to win the match. I believe CM Punk will be among the final four Sunday.
Cena-Orton match has no anticipation
Triple H told Randy Orton in the beginning of the show that he had set up a camera in the backstage area so that Orton could see the exact moment Cena arrived at the arena.
Well, of course, Cena waited all night to show up as he didn’t step into the arena until the main event between Orton and Kofi Kingston.
Once he got there, he headed straight to the ring with a new black and lime green shirt on and attacked Orton. He chased Orton all the way through the crowd and out of the arena. Orton jumped into the passenger side of a car, which pulled off away from Cena.
One issue I had was that it was apparently freezing cold in Dayton Monday as there was snow on the ground and you could clearly see people’s breath in the air. But here comes Cena in his jean shorts (jorts) and t-shirt as if he’s at WCW Bash at the Beach. Orton ran into the cold with nothing but his trunks on.
The brawl itself was pretty cool, but I don’t think it did anything to get people more excited for this match. No one is buying this pay-per-view for that match alone. I’m almost sure of that. People will buy the Royal Rumble for the match itself and the fact the table is going to be set for WrestleMania moving forward.
This match as no heat going into it at the moment and it won’t pick up any by Sunday.
Brock Lesnar, Big Show have one last brawl
Brock Lesnar and Big show were scheduled to have a last face-to-face before their match at the Royal Rumble Sunday.
Big Show went to the ring first and called out Lesnar. Lesnar came out, walked to the ring and turned around and began walking to the back.
Big Show was not satisfied with that and called out Lesnar again. Lesnar came back down and got right in the face of Big Show. After some taunting, the two began to brawl. Big Show eventually tossed Lesnar out of the ring, which made Lesnar very upset.
Big Show maintained his ground in the ring while Lesnar and Heyman walked away. I don’t know why, but I’m kind of looking forward to this match. I wasn’t a couple of weeks ago, but I am looking forward to seeing just how much damage these two can cause.
Naomi (Trinity) pins AJ Lee
Last week I briefly mentioned that WWE specifically didn’t have Naomi take any damage in her tag team match against AJ Lee and Tamina last week.
This week, she got in the ring, did some very athletic moves and eventually pinned the Divas Champion AJ Lee.
It seems pretty clear to me that WWE is positioning Naomi to at the very least be AJ’s next opponent for the title.
Naomi is very athletic in the ring and has great presence in front of the camera. She’s not 100 percent polished but once she is she could be very exciting in the ring. Time will tell if she takes advantage of the opportunity.
Seth Rollins pins Big E Langston
This may not lead to anything in the future, but during a six-man tag between the Brotherhood (Cody Rhodes and Goldust) and Langston versus The Shield, Seth Rollins, not Roman Reins, got the pin to win the match and did so on Langston.
It was nice to see a match with The Shield end with something else other than the spear and it was great to see Rollins’ curb stomp finisher again. I absolutely love it. It’s simple yet brutal all at the same time. Even more important, he could perform it anyone. That’s crucial.
Again, this may not lead to anything big for Rollins, but it was nice to see nonetheless.
Fandango squashes Xavier Woods
Despite having a running angle on Main Event and Smackdown, Fandango defeated Woods Monday in quick fashion. Didn’t make a whole lot of sense as they’ve been running an angle with the two for a couple of weeks.
Royal Rumble announcements
The New Age Outlaws were given a shot the WWE Tag Team Championships in the Royal Rumble pre-show match after beating the Brotherhood on Smackdown.
The panel for the pre-show will consist of Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels and the winner of the first-ever Royal Rumble, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. It should be quite entertaining to say the least.
Last but not least, all six men that were involved in the six-man tag match are in the Royal Rumble match.