Monday Night Raw has seen its share of ups and downs throughout the year of 2014, but I believe that the show ended the year on a high note.
Unlike most weeks, a lot went down on this edition of Raw, which means we have a lot to get to.
Before we dig into all of the happenings, let's run through the full match results from the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.:
- Dolph Ziggler def. Rusev via disqualification
- Nikki Bella def. Natalya
- WWE Tag Team Championship – The Usos def. The Miz & Damien Mizdow
- Bad News Barrett def. Cesaro
- Luke Harper def. Jack Swagger
- Roman Reigns def. Seth Rollins via disqualification
- The Ascension def. The Miz & Damien Mizdow
Now, let's jump right into my thoughts from Monday Night Raw:
The Authority is back in power
We'll start my observations and highlights from Monday's show on a bit of down note in storyline and in reality.
That's because Seth Rollins forced John Cena's hand and made him give The Authority (Triple H and Stephanie McMahon) back its power.
Remember, Cena was handed that power for some strange reason by Vince McMahon at Survivor Series.
Regardless, we knew this was going to happen at some point. That's why Cena was given the power to begin with.
My main problem with this is people who rejoiced at their return. For one, they're heels. It's not supposed to be a good thing.
Secondly, what have we really missed without The Authority on the show every week? It's like people believe that the show desperately needs Triple H and Stephanie McMahon to be the heel authority figures every week? My only question is why?
What do they really bring to the table that the show severely lacks without them? People may say that Raw was terrible without them. I counter by saying that the show was marginally better with them, which isn't saying much because the shows were still pretty bad.
Regardless, the shows will not see any improvement solely because of The Authority. It's going to be because it's WrestleMania season and the WWE typically raises the stakes this time of year anyway.
I yearn for the days when there weren't heel authority figures on television every week. Remember Jack Tunney? Remember J.J. Dillon in WCW? They stepped from behind the curtain merely to settle disputes while the wrestlers handled everything else.
Now, the fans are almost conditioned to believe that a wrestling television isn't complete without a heel authority figure that is trying to hold down the top babyface(s).
It's a shame that people don't realize that it isn't needed to make a successful wrestling show, not to mention it removes the focus from the wrestlers to people that don't work in the ring.
Wrestling is about settling disputes in the ring, not about what a guy in $2,000 suit believes is what's best for business. The guy wearing the $2,000 suit was your world champion. (i.e. Ric Flair, Nick Bockwinkel)
Sure, the hottest time in the history of wrestling was when Vince McMahon was the chief heel holding down Steve Austin, but that was 15 years ago. The WWE has tried on numerous occasions to recreate that type of heat and hasn't come close yet and they probably never will.
It's not like business has gone up since The Authority storyline started. If anything, it hasn't really affected business at all. WWE's house show attendance is down and its pay-per-view numbers are low as they've ever been, but that's The Authority's fault. That's an organizational problem.
I like what Triple H and Stephanie McMahon bring to the table, but they're not needed to make the show better. You know why Raw was terrible for the last two months? That's because there was a lack of booking logic, logical story elements and long talking segments.
What's going to change with The Authority around? They're going to start the show every week just like they've done for the past 16 months and talk for 20 to 25 minutes about mostly nothing and they're going to announce a couple of matches that could have been announced in a much more succinct fashion by the announce team.
That may sound crazy in modern wrestling, but that's the way it was for decades before now.
Maybe things will get better as we lead into WrestleMania, but after that The Authority needs to go away. The story has gone for more than a year and probably could have wrapped up after Daniel Bryan won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania, but of course, he had to have someone to feud against after.
Daniel Bryan enters the Royal Rumble
Speaking of Daniel Bryan, we're now going to discuss some good news. As a matter of fact, it was some very good news.
Bryan tweeted earlier in the day that he was going to make a special announcement on Raw. This sent wrestling fans into a crazed fear that he was going to retire as a result of his injuries.
But that wasn't the case, as the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion not only announced that he was returning to the ring, but that he was entering the Royal Rumble.
That's the best news the WWE has received in a long time. Not only do they get a great in-ring performer back on the show, they also get arguably the most popular star in the company back, which will definitely help ticket and merchandise sales, along with television ratings.
However, this makes for a very interesting situation for the WWE.
You see, Bryan is everyone's darling, especially for those who follow wrestling on the Internet, which is essentially everyone because who isn't on the Internet in 2014?
He would make for a wonderful candidate to win the Royal Rumble, but the WWE may have other plans. Those plans are named Roman Reigns, who's seemingly being groomed to be the next big star for the company.
Remember last year? When the fans in Pittsburgh basically revolted against the WWE because they wanted Bryan to win the Royal Rumble? How did the WWE respond? By not even including him in the match and handing the win to Batista, who was booed out of the building.
The Royal Rumble will be moving from western Pennsylvania to southeastern Pennsylvania in Philadelphia this year.
Eastern and western Pennsylvania may feel like two separate states at times, but the situation will more than likely be very similar than to the one in Pittsburgh last year — maybe even worse.
I can tell you right now that the Philadelphia fans will want Bryan to win the Royal Rumble. The only person that will remotely come close to the support he will have would be Dolph Ziggler. That's if he's even in the match.
They will not want Reigns to win. It won't be because they hate Reigns. It won't be anything personal. They will just hate the fact that he's suddenly the chosen one like Batista was last year.
People have threatened to riot before, but this time it may actually happen. It will be interesting to see if the WWE bypasses Bryan for a second year in a row.
Ryback cuts a very good promo
Daniel Bryan wasn't the only person to cut a heartfelt promo on Raw Monday, as the big guy Ryback cut one himself.
His promo wasn't anything flashy or spectacular. It was straight the point of telling his story of his journey to WWE stardom.
It gave a glimpse into Ryan Reeves, not Ryback. This is something we almost never see in the WWE today, but it worked like a charm.
We now know what motivates Ryback and what his purpose is. He talked about all of the setbacks he faced in his career and how he persevered to become the star he is today.
I just don't understand why the WWE doesn't do this for more characters. Why don't more people, especially babyfaces, get a chance to tell their real stories? It only adds depth to the characters, which is essential to creating an emotional connection with the fans.
It's not like Ryback is a new guy. He's been with the WWE off and on for years, but they didn't think to share his story until now, until after he shared his story on Chris Jericho's podcast?
You mean to tell me that no one in the WWE cared to know about the guy's background and upon hearing about it, thought that it could add depth to his character, which it is definitely lacking.
I don't understand how it could take this long for someone to realize any of this. He's with the company everyday and no one of importance knew this until now?
Regardless of the timing, I'm happy it happened now. Let's hope that this could happen for more people. Maybe Dolph Ziggler could get some time to explain his story. He could use some depth. Maybe The New Day, who desperately need some depth, could explain what drives them.
It worked in helping Bryan become a very popular and sympathetic figure. Maybe it could help others as well.
The Ascension made their debut
After weeks of build up and vignettes, The Ascension finally made their debut on the main roster by easily defeating The Miz and Damien Mizdow.
I think The Ascension is going to add some much-needed depth to the tag team division on Raw, but I just wish they weren't so reminiscent to the Road Warriors and Demolition.
I think they have talent, but everyone will make that connection every time they see them. The WWE didn't do them any favors by giving them faux shoulder pads and painting their faces either.
The people in NXT were smart enough to keep them away from that, but as soon as Vince McMahon and company gets their hands on them, they go right to what worked 25 years ago.
Bad News Barrett returns
Just when you thought Cesaro was going to get push after cutting a good promo, he received some bad news.
He received that bad news in the form of a returning Bad News Barrett, who defeated Cesaro in his first match since relinquishing the Intercontinental Championship during the summer.
I'm happy to see Barrett back, but I wish it wasn't at the expense of Cesaro.
What happened to Natalya?
Natalya won last week and held up the Divas Championship as if she was the next in line for title shot.
That means essentially nothing now because she lost to champion Nikki Bella in less than two minutes Monday night.
I guess Natalya could still receive a title shot at some point, but it wouldn't make any sense now after that quick of a loss.
New tag team champs
Before The Ascension trounced The Miz and Damien Mizdow, they lost their tag team titles to The Usos, who gained the titles for the second time this year.
I really like The Usos, but I understand why people are kind of tired of seeing them in the tag team title scene. It's not really their fault. They've been overexposed throughout the course of this year despite putting on great matches.
For The Usos' detractors, take solace in the fact that The Usos are probably keeping the titles warm for The Ascension to eventually take them.