Live from Richmond, Virginia this is the Raw Deal for episode #1075. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. This review was written live.

The great CM Punk made his entrance to start the show. No pyro or video package. It's CM Punk for a promo. The announcers for the show are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and John Bradshaw Layfield like usual.

Punk sucked up to the crowd by saying he was happy to be there in Richmond, Virginia. He spoke about starting the year as WWE Champion, going one on one with The Great One (The Rock), went head to head with The Undertaker at WrestleMania and spoke about beating up Paul Heyman as well. He said he didn't know if 2013 was the Year of Punk. Punk said there were three guys who he could say it was their year. Punk called them unstoppable. I guess him beating The Shield at TLC is already forgotten. As he spoke, The Shield's music started up and they entered through the crowd.

Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns went into the ring to face off with Punk. Ambrose told Punk to finish his thought. Punk wanted to fight one of them one on one. He wondered which one of them is the best. Ambrose wanted to do it right now. Punk was talking to Reigns and Rollins since he's beat Ambrose a half a dozen times. Ambrose was mad, so Punk called Ambrose the weak link. He asked Reigns to look at him. Rollins spoke up to say he was the best member of The Shield. Reigns took exception to that so they argued about it. Rollins said he wanted to prove it. The crowd was chanting "Roman Reigns" while they argued.

Raw GM Brad Maddox (remember him?) appeared on the stage to wish us a Happy New Year. He booked CM Punk vs. Seth Rollins. He said that match starts right now when a referee gets out there.

Analysis: That was a good opening promo that did a good job of driving a wedge between the members of The Shield. It puts Punk over as a smart guy that wanted to cause a problem with the group by questioning which one was the best guy. That chant for Reigns was pretty telling. The crowd is buying into him as a big deal.

CM Punk vs. Seth Rollins (w/Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose)

Punk went for the GTS right away, so Rollins slipped to the floor and they went to break right there.

(Commercial)

Cole hyped it as the first time they've had a match. Rollins took control early on by focusing on Punk's back and Punk hit a bit of a sloppy rollup on Punk for two. He didn't flip Rollins over easily. Not sure who messed up there. Punk got a boot to the face and he went to the top for an attack, but Rollins shoved Punk into the barricade outside the ring. Punk took that one pretty hard. That's a vintage floor to commercial break.

Analysis: Second commercial in a match that started 7 minutes earlier. The show is 18 minutes old. Sometimes we go 20 minutes with no commercial yet here we are with two already.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Punk was shoved into the steel post. Cole referenced Rollins incredible match with Cena on Smackdown. It really was awesome. They had great chemistry. Punk made a comeback with the jumping sidekick, clotheslines and a nearfall for two. Punk went for the running knee, but Rollins caught him and gave him a powerbomb into the turnbuckle. That was a great spot. Punk avoided a foot stomp, Rollins avoided a roundhouse kick and then Rollins hit a leaping enziguiri kick for two. Punk came back with a running knee followed by a clothesline and then Rollins avoided the Flying Elbow off the top. Rollins slammed Punk face first into the middle turnbuckle. The counter wrestling in this match is terrific. They battled on the top rope, which Rollins won with a cross body block. Punk rolled through for two. Ambrose distracted Punk. Rollins and Punk countered each other some more with Punk wanting the GTS, but Rollins got out of it. Rollins flipped back and hit a neckbreaker. Punk gave Rollins a back body drop over the top that sent Rollins crashing on Ambrose & Reigns. Rollins blocked a Punk dive with a punch. Rollins went for a springboard attack, but Punk caught him and hit the GTS. Punk covered for the win after 17 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: CM Punk

Analysis: ***1/2 That was an awesome match as expected. The first half of it had some points that didn't really click and two commercials didn't help either. Then they really got going, the counter moves were amazing and Rollins looked like he could hang with a top guy like Punk. That's the point of matches like this. You know Punk's going to win, but what's important is that Rollins looks like a star too. I really loved the last five minutes of it. It was outstanding action. Punk's my favorite guy in WWE along with Bryan. Rollins is probably in my top five at this point too. He continues to impress me.

Backstage, Brad Maddox was talking to a referee when Triple H & Stephanie McMahon showed up. Maddox said Kane wasn't there tonight (he's at a house show in Toronto although they didn't mention it). Daniel Bryan showed up to ask for a match against Bray Wyatt. Maddox suggested take on Harper, then if he beats him he gets Rowan and then if he beats him he gets Wyatt. Stephanie was impressed. She left to announce the main event of the Royal Rumble.

Analysis: So Bryan gets a gauntlet match against The Wyatt Family. That should be a long match. Fine with me.

(Commercial)

Stephanie McMahon entered for a blockbuster announcement. She stood at the top of the ramp to deliver the message. She claimed that if they could look back at 2013 they wouldn't change anything that they did this year. What about the awful buyrates to end the year? I guess it's not a shoot promo. She cued up a video package for Randy Orton that covered his career. When they showed Orton's World Title win at SummerSlam 2004 they made sure not to include Chris Benoit in the clip, of course. It was just Orton celebrating. The video highlighted a lot of his key wins over guys like Undertaker, Triple H and John Cena among others.

Analysis: They did that video package because Orton's at the house show in Toronto along with John Cena. It's rare that they have a house show on a Monday. It's only because it's the holiday season.

Stephanie said that Randy is a fighting champion. At the Royal Rumble, Orton will defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in a regular matchup against John Cena.

Analysis: That's not a surprise. Cena was expected to get a rematch. No stipulations is a bit surprising because I have a hard time thinking Cena would lose clean. Perhaps he loses because somebody costs him the match. There's a rumored WrestleMania match with Cena taking on Wyatt so maybe that's how it gets started. I don't know if the match is a lock at WrestleMania. Just saying it's a rumor.

Later on, Bryan gets Harper and possibly Rowan & Wyatt. Also, Big E Langston defends the IC Title against Fandango.

(Commercial)

The Batista return video aired. He returns to WWE on the January 20th edition of Raw.

Backstage, Triple H and Stephanie said they'll finally know who the real champion is. Didn't we already find that out at TLC? Hunter said he had an announcement for later in the show as well.

Prior to the next match, Curtis Axel did a pre-match promo saying he had a great year in 2013. At least he got a new name. Dolph Ziggler did a promo where he didn't say too much except he would put on a show in this match.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Curtis Axel

Axel sent Ziggler flying over the rope early on. It was a beautiful flip over the top by Ziggler that saw him land on the floor hard. That probably hurt. Chinlock by Axel as the crowd tried to rally behind Ziggler. Ziggler threw Axel into the turnbuckle to knock him down. They each got some nearfalls. Ziggler wanted a DDT, but Axel turned it into a neckbreaker for two. Axel was stalling on offense, so Ziggler came back with the Zig Zag out of nowhere to win after five minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Dolph Ziggler

Analysis: *1/2 The match was brief, but it worked as far as coming up with an exciting finish. Neither guy is really going anywhere although I hope Ziggler gets a push soon.

The announcers plugged the WWE App for a vote. Pick Damien Sandow's opponent for tonight: Kofi Kingston, The Great Khali & The Miz.

Langston vs. Fandango coming up next.

(Commercial)

Next week's Raw has the "Old School" theme to it with Ric Flair, Bob Backlund, New Age Outlaws, DDP, Booker T, Ted Dibiase, Rikishi, Mean Gene and IRS (may be others I missed) shown in the video for it. Other stars from the past will likely be there too. That could be a fun show.

Intercontinental Championship: Big E Langston vs. Fandango (w/Summer Rae)

Summer Rae was looking extra nice, for the record. They made a big deal out of it by having Justin Roberts announce the participants while they were both in the ring. The IC Title means more with only one major World Title. Langston used his power early. He even did a nice leapfrog that they replayed in slow motion. Fandango tripped up Langston to take control with Langston's face hitting his knee. Cool spot. Fandango tried to ground Langston with a submission move. Langston powered out and he went for a corner charge, but Fandango moved so Langston hit the post. He rolled to the floor for the vintage floor to commercial break.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Fandango was still on offense going after the legs of Langston. After taking a lot of punishment, Langston hit a nice belly to belly suplex while Fandango was on the apron. Fandango came back with a perfect Tornado DDT using the ropes for a two count. Fandango went for the top rope leg drop and he hit it. Langston rolled out to the floor while Cole complimented his ring presence. Fandango brought Langston back into the ring, but he took too much time to get in and Langston hit an overhead belly to belly suplex. Big splash by Langston. The crowd cheered a lot when the straps went down and that set up The Big Ending by Langston for the win after 13 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Big E Langston

Analysis: *** Good job by both guys. Fandango's offense really worked. I liked some of the submission moves he was going for and he got some big moves in there too. He showed how athletic he is. Langston did a good job of selling the leg injury through the match. His babyface comeback worked. He needs to keep throwing those overhead suplexes because he's great at them. It puts over his power really well.

Daniel Bryan runs the Wyatt Family gauntlet later in the show.

(Commercial)

Next week on Old School Raw it's CM Punk vs. Roman Reigns.

Booker T's music started up as the WWE Hall of Famer brought out a bunch of midcarders to celebrate the New Year. He did a promo saying it would be a new beginning. Booker said he would give us something that would spin us into the new year. He wanted to do a New Year's Spinarooni.

Wade Barrett's music started up and Bad News Barrett showed up by the ramp. He said New Year's is about realizing dreams and new opportunities, so he had some bad news for us. He said the end of 2013 will just bring us one step closer to the apocalypse. Barrett did a ranting promo about all the bad news in our lives by mentioning the environment and Mother Nature tormenting us. It was nothing special. He wished us a Happy New Year.

Analysis: These segments have been pretty bad in the past. This one was better than some of the other ones, though. I guess it's getting better. I'm trying to be positive.

Backstage, the lovely Renee Young interviewed Damien Sandow. He didn't care who his opponent was. If he loses this match and he doesn't end the year on a high note then he quits. The opponent will be Kingston, Khali or Miz.

Analysis: I guess that saying he would quit offers up some intrigue, but fans shouldn't believe a heel either.

(Commercial)

They showed a picture of Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy with a replica World Title last night on Sunday Night Football. Then LeBron James asked for a WWE Title. John Cena and The Rock responded to it. I'm sure WWE is sending him a WWE Title.

Damien Sandow's opponent after WWE App voting: Khali 39%, Miz 33%, Kingston 28%. How sad must Miz and Kingston be knowing the fans voted for Khali.

The Great Khali vs. Damien Sandow

Sandow applied leg submissions on Khali because he has to do what he can to make this match go a few minutes. Khali can't sell anything else at this point in his career. Sandow hit the Elbow of Disdain for two. Khali came back with a chop to the chest. Khali tried to continue his offense, but Sandow avoided it and Khali went into the turnbuckle. Sandow rolled up Khali for the pinfall win after four minutes. It was a very slow roll up. The replay showed that Khali's shoulder is up.

Winner by pinfall: Damien Sandow

Analysis: 1/4* Please stop putting Khali in matches. Sandow won't quit now. That's nice to know.

Brodus Clay vs. R-Truth is next.

(Commercial)

Brodus Clay vs. R-Truth

Xavier Woods was on commentary. JBL said Clay was better now. He likes the heels. Clay dominated the action with his power and went after Truth by giving him a hard whip into the corner. Clay delivered an elbow drop for two. Clay splashed the back of Truth two times in the corner. Woods jumped on the announce table to distract Clay. The Funkadactyls danced to their music on the apron. That distraction allowed Truth to come back with a boot and then a leaping DDT. He pinned Clay to win after 4 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: R-Truth

Post match, Truth & Woods danced with the Funkadactlys. Clay made angry faces.

Analysis: 1/2* It wasn't an interesting match. I hate when music interrupts the action. When it's a boring Clay match I don't mind as much. I think Clay could work as a heel, but this storyline is already very boring by this point with no end in sight. Fans aren't going to buy into Clay as a badass heel when he loses to two moves. He comes off like a loser.

There's a ten diva tag match coming up later. Triple H was shown walking to the ring.

(Commercial)

There was another video for Old School Raw next week. I think I forgot to mention Roddy Piper. He'll be there too.

WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H entered the ring for a promo at the top of hour two. He said 2013 was an epic year, but he guarantees us 2014 will be unlike anything we've seen before. He asked us to welcome back this man back to WWE: Brock Lesnar. Big reaction for him. The announcers said "oh my God" at the same time.

Brock Lesnar entered the ring along with Paul Heyman. I'm a huge Lesnar fan. Love seeing him back in a WWE ring. It's the first time since SummerSlam. Heyman shook the hand of Triple H. Hunter shook Brock's hand and then Hunter left.

Heyman said "The Beast is Back." He said his client Brock Lesnar isn't there to settle old scores. He beats people and then he forgets about them. Lesnar isn't there as an instrument of revenge for those that attacked Heyman. In other words, Lesnar vs. Punk is over. Heyman said this isn't about him; it's about Lesnar. Why is Lesnar back in WWE? Heyman said Lesnar has a desire to be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Heyman claimed that the winner of Orton vs. Cena will have to face the challenge as the self declared #1 contender Brock Lesnar. Lesnar said he didn't care if it's Orton or Cena. Lesnar said there was nobody in the company or in the building that can stop him. He said he didn't have to win the Royal Rumble to get a title shot or stand in line for it. As far as he's concerned that line starts right behind him. He dares anybody to try to do something about it. Heyman doubted anybody would come out. As Heyman was ranting, Mark Henry's music started up.

Mark Henry slowly made his way out to the ring to face off with Lesnar. Lesnar attacked Henry before he could get into the ring. Henry dumped Lesnar over the barricade by ringside, but then Lesnar came back by driving Lesnar through the barricade. That was great. Lesnar put Henry on his shoulders and gave him the F5 on the floor outside the ring. Heyman told him to stop. Henry was out. They replayed the attack and it looked even better seeing it again. Lesnar celebrated his destruction with a loud yell.

Analysis: That was a terrific segment. It felt like a big deal. I tweeted about it earlier in the day. Anything Lesnar does comes off like it's important and him being back in the mix helps WWE going into the new year. There's nobody else like him. He's a legit badass who has credibility as a guy that was successful in MMA as well as pro wrestling. Henry walking out there as the sacrificial lamb was the right choice too because seeing Lesnar hit the F5 on a 400 pounder was very impressive.  The sad thing is this Lesnar return was given away by reading the Smackdown spoilers (taped Sunday), but I still enjoyed it as much as I would have without knowing. Lesnar's one of my favorite people in wrestling history, so seeing him back out there makes me happy. Regarding the #1 contender promo that Heyman gave, I believe they'll have Lesnar in the Rumble match. I don't expect Orton to lose the WWE WHC, so heel vs. heel doesn't make sense. I doubt he wins the WWE WHC because I expect him to face Undertaker at WrestleMania. Perhaps Undertaker's in the Rumble too and they set up a WrestleMania showdown during the Rumble match. Anyway, that's for the future. For now we can be happy that Lesnar is back. Always great to see The Beast return home.

(Commercial)

They replayed Lesnar's attack on Henry.

Eva Marie, Cameron, Naomi, Nikki & Brie Bella vs. Kaitlyn, Alicia Fox, Aksana, Rosa Mendes & Summer Rae

Eva Marie started for some reason against Kaitlyn. None of Eva's teammates wanted to tag in, so she tagged Cameron. Alicia slammed Cameron face first into the mat. Rosa did a few kicks after tagging in and then tagged in Aksana. Don't overwork yourself, Rosa. Aksana gave Cameron a chinlock. Nikki made the hot tag and hit a couple moves. She went for the Torture Rack, but everybody else broke it up. Aksana tripped up Nikki while she was on the ropes after a Rosa distraction. Aksana drove an elbow to the back of Nikki's head and sent her face first into the mat. She covered for the win after 5 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Kaitlyn, Alicia Fox, Aksana, Rosa Mendes & Summer Rae

Analysis: * It was weird not seeing Brie or Naomi in there since they're the better performers on their team. A push for Aksana? Not sure if it's in the works, but it's not like she's won a lot of matches on Raw or Smackdown in her career. Could be something. Could be nothing.

They aired plenty of videos about Bryan vs. the Wyatt Family all night long.

Another Batista return video aired. He's back on January 20th and he'll be in the Royal Rumble too although it's not official yet.

(Commercial)

A video aired showing highlights from WWE Tribute to the Troops with photos and videos from over the years.

Mark Henry needs medical attention for the beating that Brock Lesnar gave him. At least he didn't have anal bleeding.

The WWE WHC match at Royal Rumble is Randy Orton defending against John Cena.

Backstage, Brad Maddox told Triple H & Stephanie McMahon that Khali's shoulder wasn't down earlier. The situation has been handled. Maddox said he has got some old favorites lined up for Old School Raw next week. Maddox let out a "woo" as a way to tell us that Ric Flair will be on the show next week. The video package told us earlier too.

Daniel Bryan made his entrance for the main event of Raw.

(Commercial)

This week on Smackdown it's Cody Rhodes & Goldust defending the tag team titles against Luke Harper & Erick Rowan. It was taped on Sunday night (because Tuesday is New Year's Eve), so if you want results you can find it on the internet.

The Wyatt Family made their entrance. The story is Bryan has to beat Harper to get to Rowan and if he does that he finally gets to face off against Wyatt.

Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper (w/Bray Wyatt & Erick Rowan)

Bryan hit a nice running dropkick to the knee of Harper. Surfboard submission by Bryan that Harper got out of. Harper used his power to get control of the offense as he did his "yeahyeahyeah" yelling. Harper drove Bryan neck first into the middle rope in a slingshot type move. Bryan came back with a drop toe hold and dropkick, but Harper hit a nice sitout slam for a two count. It went to break there.

(Commercial)

During the break, Harper was still in control of the action. Bryan hit a flying clothesline that sent both guys down. Harper missed an attack, so Bryan hit the Flying Goat dive outside the ring. He hit it twice to knock down Harper. Back in the ring, Bryan hit a series of kicks for a nearfall as he finally got some offense in. Harper countered a top rope hurricanrana with a powerbomb off the middle rope. That was an outstanding spot. I've seen it before, but it still works every time. Harper got another nearfall. Bryan came back with the Yes Lock, but Harper avoided it. Running boot to the face by Harper. Harper went for a suplex, but Bryan landed on his feet and hit the running knee to the face of Harper. He pinned Harper after 17 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Daniel Bryan

Analysis: ***1/2 I've seen a few matches with them in recent months and they're always good. Harper continues to impress me. He's a big guy that has believable offense and sells really well too. That powerbomb spot coming out of the corner is excellent. I liked Bryan's babyface comeback with the running knee for the finish. He still needs a name for the running knee, though.

Rowan attacked right away, but the ref kept him away until Bryan could stand up.

Daniel Bryan vs. Erick Rowan

Rowan aggressively sent Bryan outside the ring. He gave Bryan a body slam that sent Bryan over the announce table and into the barricade. They went to break there.

(Commercial)

There was another Old School Raw video for next Monday.

Back to the match, Rowan slammed Bryan hard after Bryan came running off the ropes. Another slam by Bryan and Bryan was selling a knee injury. Rowan took his time getting over there. Bryan gave Rowan a small package and that pinned him after about 6 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Daniel Bryan

Analysis: *1/2 Not as good as the Harper match because it was much shorter, but the same finish with Bryan getting the win this time with the small package.

After that was over, Rowan attacked again. Harper pulled him off. Wyatt entered the ring for his match. Wyatt did his pose where he's upside down in the corner of the ring.

The match never began because as Bryan went to attack Wyatt, Harper & Rowan went into the ring to attack Bryan. They threw Bryan outside the ring and into the barricade several times. Back in the ring, Rowan hit a corner splash while Harper hit a vicious clothesline. Double Chokeslam by Harper and Rowan on Bryan.

Wyatt had a microphone. He told Bryan this is where their story ends because he has no more mercy left to give. He said it was Bryan's fault and he told Bryan to open his eyes. Bryan said "you're right" into the microphone. The crowd chanted "no" during all this. Wyatt handed Bryan the microphone.

Bryan: "You're right. You are always right. No matter how many matches I won, no matter how loud these people cheered for me, you were always right - the machine would never let me win. No matter how loud you people chanted, you chanted yes in every building I've ever been to and they don't care." He looked at Wyatt: "I'm yours. Let me join the family." The crowd chanted "no" at that.

Bryan stuck out his arms for a hug with Wyatt, but Wyatt grabbed him, kissed him on the head and hit the Sister Abigail neckbreaker. Harper & Rowan pulled Bryan out of the ring. They helped him up the ramp as Wyatt walked led them like always. Bryan struggled up the ramp as the crowd chanted "no" during all of this. Bryan looked at the fans. Fans chanted "Daniel Bryan" as he tried to fire himself up.

Bryan turned his back to the fans, they booed and he walked backstage with the Wyatt Family as Raw ended.

Analysis: That was definitely a different kind of ending to Raw. The big question is will Bryan really join  the Wyatt Family and become one of them or is this just a ploy by him to get revenge on the guys that have made his life difficult? It's part of the story. Obviously he's going to come out of this as the babyface that he is and this angle will hopefully elevate the Wyatt Family to become bigger stars too. That's likely the goal of it at least. I think the story has a lot of potential. I'm intrigued by it. I'm sure some reading this might think Bryan is going heel. I really doubt that. It's being done to give him more sympathy as a broken man who is sick of always having to fight back.

This is what I'm thinking: Next week or the week after, Bryan walks out with the Wyatts looking like them or whatever. Instead of working together he kicks Bray in the head. He then says the only way he knew how to get his revenge was by pretending to be one of them because then he could find out how Wyatt thinks. Then Bryan is more beloved as a smarter wrestler and a resilient wrestler who will find a way to overcome the odds.

It's important to have good cliffhangers when you end the show. It keeps the viewer wondering what's next and hopefully they tune in next week to find out more.

----

Three Stars of the Show

1. Daniel Bryan

2. Brock Lesnar

3. CM Punk

Guys like Seth Rollins and Luke Harper also had a really good showing too.

 

The Scoreboard

7 out of 10

Last week: 5.5

2013 Average: 5.87

2013 High: 8.5 (August 27)

2013 Low: 3.5 (January 28)

Last 5 Weeks: 5.5, 8, 7, 5.5, 4.5

 

Final Thoughts

It's a solid 7 out of 10 for me.

The good in-ring action carried this show with strong showings in the matches between Punk/Rollins, Langston/Fandango and Bryan/Harper. The others were fine. Nothing was too bad except trying to watch Khali go for five minutes, which seems like too much for him.

My favorite part of the show was the return of Brock Lesnar. I knew it was coming, but it was still an awesome segment with him destroying Henry. Any time Lesnar is on the show it's a good thing in my opinion.

The ending to the show was different and unique. Let it play out before complaining. I trust the performers to pull it off. I just hope it's a story that makes sense and elevates all of them to another level.

---------

That's all for me. Thanks for reading the Raw Deal in 2013. I'll be back next week and every week going forward. I enjoy doing what I do. No plan to stop any time soon.

Have a safe and Happy New Year. Thanks for reading.

John Canton - mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling.com on Facebook