Match #1: The New Age Outlaws Def. Cody Rhodes & Goldust
A solid opener to kick off the show. It's great to see the Outlaws having a little run again, and they still look the part too. The in-ring action was very good and there seemed to be an immediate chemistry between these four, so hopefully this isn't the last skirmish we see between them. Vickie Guerrero's interruption mid-match annoyed everybody greatly, but while I'm sure that would get under the skin of many a wrestling purist – interrupting the middle of a decent match like that – I thought it made for a brilliantly snide heel move. It gave Billy Gunn the opportunity to sneak the win, and with Vickie teasing that it could be brother vs brother at the Royal Rumble, it plants the first seed in terms of the Goldust/Cody Wrestlemania match. I expect we'll get a rematch for the titles soon with the Outlaws going over. From there, Cody and Goldust will kick-start their program and the Outlaws will likely put over another babyface team (surely the Usos?) at Wrestlemania.
Rating: 8/10. - A lot going for this match and the possibilities that could come from it.
Match #2: Rey Mysterio Def. Alberto Del Rio
Another good TV bout, and better than their Raw match too. Even though Rey got the decision via roll-up, Del Rio still got put over afterwards as he launched into a post-match attack. I'd have had him beat Mysterio altogether and not lose, purely because he's going to be going up against Batista now and needs all the momentum he can get. Rey is so over that losing twice in a week wont hurt him and they can always give him the win back on another occasion anyway. But that's me being pedantic; The match and the assault afterwards were both great and continued the fine start to this show.
Rating: 8/10. - Would've given the win to Bertie, but with the beatdown afterwards he still looks good going into the altercation with Batista. Match was really good too.
Bray Wyatt promo
Bray is one of the best promos in the business right now. He's clearly put so much effort into his character and it's showing in spades. As ever, it was delivered with an uber-creep panache and despite how erratic his style is, you find yourself hanging on his every word. This not only served as a good recap of the Raw events, but it gave Bray the spotlight to further engage with the audience and further set the tone for what's turning out to be a great little rivalry with Daniel Bryan.
Rating: 9/10. - Bray's a beast on the stick. Worth checking out.
Match #3: Naomi w/Cameron Def. Tamina w/AJ Lee
Naomi badly botched what was supposed to be either big back body drop or a big front bump and looked completely out of her depth at times. In fairness to her, she pulled it back as this short match progressed. Cameron -- who I heavily criticised in the Raw section of the R's this week – was actually working the crowd well from the outside trying to get them behind her partner. Another sign that she's a decent valet and should stick to that, because I think she's got potential in that role. Back to the match, and as a setup for a forthcoming title defence for AJ, this was ok despite Naomi's horrible hiccup. Still, it's a filler feud and they've got their work cut out for them to make people invest in it.
Rating: 5/10. - They pulled it together after the botch, but it's clear after this week that both the Funkadactyls need to cut out the mistakes and get it together.
- There's a lovely Mae Young tribute video, highlighting all of her best moments in recent years. As ever, WWE's video production team have done their subject matter justice. The voice-over from Stephanie was a nice touch too. 10/10 for one tough broad.
Paul Heyman and Big Show trade insults
More good hype for the Brock/Big Show clash at the Royal Rumble in just over a week's time. Obviously it would be better if Brock was full-time, but it's still great to have Heyman appearing regularly on our screens again as his advocate. Show bringing up their past was a nice touch and something maybe they could expand upon down the line. As I've stated before, I don't expect the actual match to be anything to write home about, but the actual build-up continues to be good television and I'm now at the stage where I keep looking forward to see what happens next.
Rating: 8/10. - We know Heyman's qualities on the stick, but when motivated Show can hold his own too. More decent build-up.
Match #4: Big E Langston Def. Fandango
I like Big E, but his matches are in danger of becoming one big blur. This was the same as most of the matches he's had now since becoming C champion. Nothing wrong with that in principal, and I'm a firm believer in following a simple-yet-effective formula to get yourself over, but he's in danger of treading water a little bit. Match itself was fine, but felt like filler because we've already seen it recently.
Rating: 6.5/10. - Got its point across but I think we need to freshen things up with Big E now.
- The Shield have a spirited debate about the Rumble match and who may or may not win it out of the three of them. It continues the teasing of a split and it adds a little extra spice to the Rumble match. Good stuff.
Match #5: The Usos Def. The Real Americans
More momentum for The Usos off the back of their strong showing on Raw earlier in the week. As mentioned earlier, it looks like they might be switching the tag titles onto the Outlaws in order to prepare for a possible showdown with the twins down the road where they'll get the straps themselves, and I think that's the perfect scenario. This match started a little slow and plodding but picked up down the stretch which really brought the quality up a notch. Top work from Zeb tonight as well with his facial expressions: The bit when they're at the top of the ramp and Swagger & Cesaro are doing the "We the People!" pose, and Zeb's wheelchair starts rolling down the ramp is priceless. Also priceless was Zeb's face as one of the Uso's drove him in his chair straight into Cesaro on the outside.
Rating: 7.5/10. - Started slow but finished frenetically.
Main Event Promo – Punk calls out The Shield and Outlaws but winds up getting a Chokeslam from Kane instead
We've seen some good microphone work tonight, and Punk continued that trend and had the crowd going wild. There's good and bad to this segment which I'll try and break down; I thought it was good in the sense that it well and truly kicked off Punk's Road to Wrestlemania, which looks as though it'll start by him going through Kane en-route to Triple H. It also leaves you wondering what'll happen next on Raw when they cross paths again. On the downside, I think it's a bit of a waste to have Kane revert back to his traditional monster-mode without much build-up. They've done such a good job of making him this awfully stuck-up jobsworth of an authority figure who is desperately trying to control the monster within, and I think that could've been teased and spread out over a longer period of time in the form of continuous goading and name calling from Punk. Also, how does a Kane Chokeslam outweigh a 5-on-1 beat-down? Still, as a segment in it's own right it closed the show nicely and gives us a reason to tune into Raw to find out what happens next.
Rating: 7.5/10. - Good main event promo to close the show even if there's some elements I disagreed with.
No Cena, Bryan (concussed, sadly) or Randy Orton which is always a pity, but there's still lots of good content this week even without some of the heavy hitters. The promos are all worth checking out and there's a couple of solid matches in there too. It wasn't a broadcast without it's faults, but it kept current storylines ticking over nicely. Hopefully next week is a little more jam packed seeing as it's the go home show for the Rumble.