In 2013, WWE really revolved around the rise of Daniel Bryan.
From his feud with The Shield at the beginning of the year to his break from Kane and rise to the title picture to winning the title (briefly) and his feud with Randy Orton, he captivated the WWE audience all year long. He even was voted as Superstar of the Year by the WWE fans.
So it was only natural that the final shot of the final WWE Raw in 2013 had Daniel Bryan in it. I’m not sure if anyone expected exactly what that shot was though.
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Early in the show, Daniel Bryan went up to Brad Maddox and The Authority, demanding a match with Bray Wyatt. Maddox responded by placing him in a gauntlet match with all three members of The Wyatt Family.
It's interesting that some of Bryan's most notable moments this year have been in these gauntlet matches, as you could make the claim that his rise took off after a gauntlet match with the Real Americans and Ryback in July.
After getting video packages highlighting the feud all night, the match didn’t disappoint.
Bryan was able to defeat Luke Harper (who is quickly becoming one of the more entertaining in-ring guys in the WWE) first after 15 minutes of back-and-forth action. Despite selling exhaustion and being tossed around by Erick Rowan, he was also able to catch him in a roll-up for the win. Finally, Wyatt and Bryan faced off, and as many might expect, Rowan and Harper ran in and beat down Bryan to end the match in a disqualification.
However, after the beatdown, as Wyatt ranted, Bryan admitted that Wyatt was right all along. He said that no matter how many matches he won, or how loud he was cheered, that “the machine” would never let him win. And then he asked to join The Wyatt Family. The crowd remained silent as he walked up the ramp with Harper, Rowan and Wyatt, and despite one last plea from the crowd as they reached the stage, he left with them.
This certainly elevates The Wyatt Family, who had been floundering a bit since their debut in Baltimore in July. Not just winning, but mentally breaking someone like Bryan instantly gives Bray Wyatt the credibility he’s been lacking.
As to where this leaves Bryan? That’s the big question.
We’ve seen the unwilling member of a stable rise up and take them out many times over the years, but generally this happens after a couple of months, at least. With the Royal Rumble less than four weeks away, that would be a very quick turnaround if they intend on happening at the Rumble or before -- which, if he was going to win the Rumble, you'd think would be necessary.
They could have it continue past the Rumble, but then how far does Bryan stray from his feud with The Authority and Randy Orton? Or, could the WWE be pulling a huge swerve and actually keeping Bryan with The Wyatt Family for a while?
It's hard to picture that with how over he is right now with the fans, but WWE has done stranger things in the past. No matter where they go with this though, WWE might have had the most shocking ending to Raw since the Nexus attacked in 2010.
As for the rest of Raw?
-- Who thought that the return of Brock Lesnar wouldn’t be the most talked about thing on the show? Surprisingly, it was Triple H who introduced him, which I’m sure will go back to “what’s best for business,” despite their feud. Lesnar declared himself the No. 1 contender after the Royal Rumble and dared anyone who didn’t agree with him to come out. Mark Henry came out, and after briefly getting some offense, Lesnar tackled him through the barrier. In one of the more impressive feats of strength we’ve seen lately, Lesnar then F5’d Henry on the floor.
-- Stephanie McMahon announced the title match for the Royal Rumble: a singles match between Randy Orton and John Cena. She made a big deal about it being a regular singles match, probably in large part that after a TLC match the previous month, it will be a little hard for many to get excited about a straight wrestling match.
-- The show opened with CM Punk calling out The Shield, and specifically asking for a singles match with “the best” member, letting them decide who that was (though he specifically said it wasn’t Dean Ambrose). Seth Rollins stepped up, and the two had a great match. Despite both of them coming up through the independent organizations, their paths hadn’t crossed much over the years, as CM Punk left Ring of Honor just as Seth Rollins arrived. The two put on a good match that let Rollins showcase his abilities just when he was starting to become the forgotten man in the stable, and it also contributed to the dissension in The Shield as interference by Ambrose backfired and cost Rollins the win. CM Punk will face Roman Reigns at WWE Raw next week in Baltimore.
-- Speaking of next week’s Raw, the WWE officially announced that it will be an “Old School” Raw. Ric Flair was all but promised by Brad Maddox, and other wrestlers like Diamond Dallas Page, Roddy Piper, Ted DiBiase and Rikishi were heavily featured in the video package.
-- Big E Langston defeated Fandango in what might have been the best match for both men in their WWE careers. Fandango got in a lot of offense and Big E continued his strong push.
-- Damien Sandow beat The Great Khali in a match that was notable only for the WWE app results. In a poll to determine Sandow’s opponent between Kofi Kingston, The Great Khali and The Miz, the results were in order from most to least: The Great Khali, The Miz, Kofi Kingston. If that Miz/Kingston feud was supposed to elevate either of them, it clearly hasn’t worked.
-- Another promo for Batista’s return on Jan. 20 aired.
-- R Truth pinned Brodus Clay after a distraction from the Funkadactyls. R Truth, Xavier Woods and the Funkadactyls danced in the ring after the match, and Brodus Clay walked away disgusted.
-- Dolph Ziggler defeated Curtis Axel.
-- Aksana got the pin on Nikki Bella in a 10-diva tag match.