Randy Orton has riled up his enemy, he’s alienated his handlers, and before the first ten minutes of Raw had gone by, he’d found himself inside the pit of danger when an old friend came back to say hello. Indeed, the Champion of Champions’ first moments on the final Raw before the Royal Rumble were hardly his finest: not only did his petulant attitude rub The Authority the wrong way but WWE COO Triple H all but vowed to throw Orton to the wolves once John Cena – likely spoiling for a fight after Orton attacked his father last week – arrived, but Batista’s return added another bullseye to The Viper’s back.
Despite Orton’s attempts to play nice when The Animal did make his return, the former WWE Champion made his intentions clear: to take the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, no matter who held it, and headline WrestleMania 30. And on top of everything else, Orton was given a match with noted Viper-killer Kofi Kingston later in the evening to help him "make it right." After a meeting like that, it's likely he could use the opportunity.
2.) The Shield defeated Big E Langston, Cody Rhodes, and Goldust
What tension? The Shield – seemingly on shaky terms last Friday during SmackDown – looked as dominant as ever on Raw, mauling Cody Rhodes, Goldust & Big E Lansgston into defeat in what may be among their finest Six-Man Tag Team showings. That the bout ended in victory was something of a surprise for The Hounds of Justice, though, because the three champions seemed to have The Shield’s number from the jump-off.
Emulating their opponents’ numbers-game strategy, Langston & “The Brotherhood” sequestered Seth Rollins from his teammates and went to town on the men in black’s resident strategist, to the tune of a soaring cross body by Cody Rhodes to the outside. Roman Reigns got the Hounds rolling again, though a Disaster Kick and a fresh tag from Big E cut the comeback short. Langston had Dean Ambrose all to himself, and if not for timely interferences by all three Shield-mates, the bout might have ended in his favor. Alas, it was Rollins who won the day, capitalizing off a timely knee to Big E’s gut from Ambrose by stomping Langston’s head flat into the canvas.
3.) Alberto Del Rio defeated Rey Mysterio
If Alberto Del Rio’s victory over Rey Mysterio in the rubber match of their recent rivalry was somewhat unexpected, surely The Essence of Excellence’s punishment for his trash-talking the last few weeks was as severe as the WWE Universe thought – and hoped – it would be. Del Rio was still fuming after being pinned by The Master of the 619 on SmackDown, and his frustration only mounted when Rey picked apart Del Rio’s careful plan of attack with an array of moves that left the former World Champion seeing stars.
Del Rio found daylight when he strung Rey up in the ropes and went to work, stomping Mysterio into the mat and pummeling him with a top rope axe handle. A brief resurgence from Rey fell short when Del Rio targeted Mysterio’s tenderized left arm, plying the Cross Armbreaker for the tapout … at which point, of course, his chickens came home to roost in the form of Batista, who repaid Del Rio's trash talk and all but drilled “Mexico’s Greatest Export” south of the Equator with a Batista Bomb that, for once, left Alberto Del Rio speechless.
4.) Fandango defeated Xavier Woods
If Fandango does indeed tango his way to victory in the Royal Rumble Match, it may be his win over a bona fide PhD candidate that gave him the boost. The dancing sensation cha-cha-la-la’ed all over Xavier Woods in the latest installment of their ongoing rivalry, demoralizing the doctor just six days before he throws his hat into WWE’s marquee melee. Woods seemed set to silence Fandango almost immediately with a jaw-jacking missile dropkick, much to the delight of R-Truth on commentary. Their elation was short-lived, though, when Fandango powered back and flattened the doctor with a top-rope leg drop.
5.) WWE Director of Operations Kane apologized to CM Punk
Hell has indeed frozen over when The Devil’s Favorite Demon offers up an apology. Kane – the same man who once electrocuted Shane McMahon in the groin and Tombstoned a man of the cloth – offered up an Authority-mandated mea culpa to CM Punk just a few days after attacking The Second City Saint on SmackDown, though the forced act of contrition didn’t exactly calm the former WWE Champion’s anti-establishment demeanor. In fact, Punk not only made light of Kane’s apology but literally threw it in his face when he clobbered the corporate demon in the head with the microphone. The Director of Operations seemed ready to unleash the monster within until Brad Maddox arrived to contain the situation, offering Punk up one of The New Age Outlaws – Billy Gunn, determined via Rock, Paper, Scissors – as an opponent instead.
6.) CM Punk defeated Billy Gunn
Billy Gunn’s actions of late have been as crooked as the double-letter in his nickname, but the former King of the Ring got his comeuppance when he was laid low by the scruffy Chi-town savior, CM Punk, in an impromptu match from Raw GM Brad Baddox. The Road Dogg’s presence at commentary at ringside gave Gunn an early advantage over Punk, who was distracted moments into his opening barrage.
Gunn’s brief comeback was cut short when he paused to gloat for a bit too long, and the showboating gave Punk a leg up – literally; he kicked Gunn in the head – and some breathing room to properly pounce on Road Dogg while Gunn recuperated. The two-pronged attack briefly compromised Punk’s focus and the former Intercontinental Champion managed to stay in the match, though Punk sent Gunn up in smoke with a Go to Sleep after the Famouser missed its mark. And his reward, courtesy of Kane? The No. 1 entry in the Royal Rumble Match.
7.) Big Show called out Brock Lesnar
If there is one Superstar Brock Lesnar doesn’t scare, it’s Big Show. The giant has said as much over the last couple of weeks and, like Richard Sherman and Dolph Ziggler before him, he backed up the talk six days before the Royal Rumble when he flat-out called out The Beast Incarnate for a final confrontation. Even though Lesnar and Paul Heyman seemed slightly hesitant to give in at first, Show not only baited his enemy into the ring but he ruined the twosome’s party when he humbled The Anomaly once again by tossing him around like a rag doll. The frustrated Lesnar opted for a hasty retreat that brought their confrontation to an abrupt end … though this is the last night he’ll have the luxury of doing so.
8.) The Funkadactyls defeated AJ Lee and Tamina Snuka
AJ Lee officially has the longest Divas Title reign of all time. And Naomi, apparently, is not impressed. The Funkadactyls soared over the reigning Miss Lee & Tamina Snuka on Raw one week after a harsh loss, handing the Divas Champion her first solo defeat in weeks and giving AJ a distinctly unhappy memory – though not the evening’s first bit of Bad News – to mark her milestone achievement.
AJ started the match off by picking up where the last one ended, teaming with Tamina to batter Cameron about the ring, though The Funkadactyl did what she couldn’t last week and reached Naomi before it was too late. Even though the “Total Divas” star ate a big boot from Tamina, AJ’s would-be victory skip turned sour very fast when Naomi rolled her up for a surprise 1-2-3.
9.) The Usos defeated The Wyatt Family
Bray Wyatt talks often about the strength of his Family, but it was the old-fashioned family that prevailed when The Wyatts were summarily grounded by the soaring Usos, who extended their remarkable run into a second week by defeating Luke Harper & Erick Rowan. This came despite a bleak-looking beginning to the contest, where Jimmy Uso was summarily pulverized by the two brutes and sent tumbling outside the ring. Jey Uso helped turn the tide and the two brothers teed off on Harper in fantastic fashion … that is, until Rowan got himself involved and saved his “brother” from defeat.
With Jimmy stranded from his brother, The Wyatts took control and Bray took the opportunity to prophesize Daniel Bryan’s inevitable downfall at the Royal Rumble. Jimmy used the breathing time to make a final rally, letting lose with a top-rope corkscrew senton that spurred the twins into the advantage. A sudden attack of Bray by Daniel Bryan distracted Harper from a late-game burst and left him vulnerable to a match-ending roll-up.
10.) Randy Orton defeated Kofi Kingston
With the specter of John Cena looming and an upset loss haunting him from last week, Randy Orton’s very pride was on the line in the main event of Raw … and on the eve of the biggest rematch of his life, the Champion of Champions was left duly shaken up by both of his foes. First in that equation has to be Kofi Kingston, who didn’t so much wrestle Orton as try to beat him up, battering The Apex Predator outside the ring until Orton knocked him loopy by bashing his head against the announce table.
Kingston didn’t lay down for “The Face of WWE,” though, proving his “doubters” wrong by hanging tough with Orton. The Viper’s failure to pay Kofi proper respect nearly cost him the match, but once Cena made his presence known Kofi did what he could to aid the former World Champion, holding Orton by the ankle while Cena made his way to the ring. The assist bought Cena valuable time as he took a page out of Orton’s book of brutality, fighting the Champion of Champions throughout the arena until Orton finally made his escape. Keeping his title, though may not prove so simple.