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Raw: Batista returns with the Royal Rumble just days away
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


Dayton, Ohio is the lucky city that gets to play host to the return of Batista, and with only days remaining until the Royal Rumble, the Animal isn't likely to wait to make his intentions known. Let's find out what they are together as Raw goes live on USA.

The show begins with a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and others who helped “Keep the Dream Alive.” Out in the ring, The Authority welcomes everyone to Raw and hypes up the Royal Rumble pay-per-view this Sunday. In case you didn’t know, the winner of the Rumble match gets a title shot at WrestleMania. Triple H wants to welcome one of the 30 participants back to the WWE, but he’s interrupted by the sudden arrival of WWE Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton. When Orton starts to complain about recent events, Stephanie asks for the footage of last week’s show to be played, showing Orton attacking John Cena’s father after losing a match to Kofi Kingston. Yep, he attacked a “helpless old man” at ringside. Steph threatens to kick Orton off the roster if he loses his cool like that again, but the champ suggests that it’s their fault for putting him in a rematch against Cena and bringing people like Brock Lesnar and Batista back into the fold. Orton is as unrepentant as possible, saying he’d do it all over again if given a chance. Triple H responds that the reason they made Orton champion is that they had faith in him, but perhaps he’s losing faith in himself. While there’s no shame in losing to Kingston, Trips says he would expect the Viper to rise up and make it right. Yes, Cena, Lesnar and Batista probably all have their eyes on his title, but Hunter wants to see Randy respond to those challenges. To start, Orton will get another chance to face Kingston tonight, as well as an opportunity to make things right with Cena when he arrives at the building -- and he’s going to have to accomplish these tasks alone. While Orton’s getting a chance to digest all that, Batista officially makes his return after nearly four years away. And he speaks! Batista is back to be champion and to headline WrestleMania, and Orton is just going to have to deal with it!

Match 1 - Big E Langston, Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. The Shield

Cody’s dive to the floor to take out Seth Rollins is the highlight of the pre-commercial portion of this showdown. After the break, Roman Reigns gets nailed with the Disaster Kick, and Rhodes gets Langston into the action for the first time. He catches Dean Ambrose coming off the top rope, splashes him and forces a save. A flurry of signature moves follows, but the Shield’s teamwork proves too much to handle, and Rollins pins Langston with the Black Out.

A video package takes us back to last Monday, when it appeared that Daniel Bryan shook free from the mental shackles of the Wyatt Family in record time. He’ll break his silence over his time with the Wyatts later tonight. And by later tonight, I mean in the very next segment. The fans seem overjoyed to see him back to his normal self, something that Bryan acknowledges by saying, “And some people say I shouldn’t be the face of this company!” Did he have a plan when he joined the Wyatts? Bryan says we should have figured it out already, but taking down a guy with a messiah complex requires beating him not just physically but mentally. He had to wait for the perfect moment, and that moment came last week inside a steel cage when he got Bray Wyatt one-on-one. Bryan even goes so far as to say he exposed Wyatt, something that doesn’t go unanswered as Bray appears on the screen. Wyatt calls Bryan a traitor and warns that everything that happens to him from now on is his fault. Creepy!

Match 2 - Xavier Woods vs. Fandango

R-Truth joins the announcers to talk up his appearance on Main Event this week and keep an eye on his protege. Unfortunately, what he sees is Fandango putting Woods away quickly with a top rope leg drop.

Brad Maddox claims that it was his idea to bring back Batista, but before Kane can retort, Stephanie bursts in and wants to know why he chose to choke slam CM Punk last week on SmackDown. She warns the Director of Operations that he needs to lead by example and can’t afford to put his hands on any of the superstars. He apologizes, but she wants him to say he’s sorry to Punk as well. Kane’s not happy about it, but it looks like he’s going to play ball.

Kane heads down to the ring and calls out Punk, and he actually does apologize for the choke slam. Never one to pass up an opportunity like this, Punk claims he can’t hear him and makes the big man do it again. The he decides to express his feelings in a different way, knocking Kane out of the ring with a running knee. Maddox appears on stage and says he’ll give Punk a fight against one of the New Age Outlaws. They play rock, paper, scissors for it, and it looks like Billy Gunn will get the call.

Match 3 - CM Punk vs. Billy Gunn

Road Dogg sits down with the announcers, explaining that he and Billy walked out on Punk because it garnered them a lot of attention, and they’d like to join the returning superstars hunting for some gold. Gunn can still deliver a nice dropkick, but man, that hair. Punk decides to take some of his frustration out on Road Dogg when Billy is recovering on the outside, and he returns to the ring to get a near call with a swinging neckbreaker. A distraction from Road Dogg allows his partner to get a two count with a tilt-a-whirl slam, but Punk is able to sidestep the Fame-Ass-Er and nail Gunn with the GTS to get the win. Maddox and Kane are out quickly to offer some mock congratulations and give Punk some potentially bad news: while every other entrant in the Royal Rumble match will get a random spot in the draw, he’ll be going in first.

A promo shows to promote the general awesomeness of the Royal Rumble match. Speaking of awesome, the late Mae Young gets a nice retrospective video as well.

Match 4 - Rey Mysterio vs. Alberto Del Rio

The problems between these two seem to be ongoing. Rey uses a springboard moonsault to nail Del Rio on the floor before hitting a sliding kick in the corner. He rains down mounted punches, but ADR finally gets untracked with a jumping stomp and various forms of abuse on the outside. Del Rio gets a near fall with a knee shot off the top rope, and another with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Time for more commercials. Rey is still in trouble after the break, as Alberto looks to wear down his arm. Mysterio manages to hoist himself up and avoid a charge into the corner, and he goes up top for a flying shoulder block. He presses the advantage with a seated senton and a kick to the head, but it’s not enough to put ADR away. A 619 looks like it will connect, but Del Rio blocks it, catapults his foe into the corner and uses a vicious head kick for another two count. Mysterio doesn’t miss with his second 619, and he Drops the Dime only to see Del Rio grab the bottom rope to avoid a three count. Del Rio counters Rey’s body scissors by slamming him face first, and the cross armbreaker gets a quick tap from Mysterio. Ah, but ADR has been talking smack on Batista for a while, and the Animal comes to the ring to, um, discuss the matter. Del Rio tries a sneak attack and runs right into a spinebuster. A Batista Bomb pretty much settles this for now. The Animal gets a hug from the Filipino Flash, boxer Nonito Donaire, who is in the front row tonight.

The Big Show hits the ring to make fun of Paul Heyman and call out Lesnar. Brock acts like he’s not going to oblige, but Show is insistent. The showdown doesn’t go the way Lesnar would like, so he throws a ringside tantrum and even tries to ambush his big opponent with a chair. That doesn’t work either, but Heyman is able to calm his client down long enough to get him to make a slow retreat. Brock yells that he’ll see Show on Sunday.

Match 5 - AJ Lee and Tamina Snuka vs. The Funkadactyls

AJ got some bad news from Bad News Barrett about why no one attended her party for becoming the longest reigning Divas Champion ever. Maybe her reign has been long because she never has to wrestle in anything but tag and six-woman matches! Here’s more bad news: AJ gets pinned by Naomi. Ouch.

Match 6 - The Usos vs. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan

Lost in the shuffle of the Bryan-Wyatt feud is the fact that the Usos defeated the Wyatt Family in the steel cage match that saw Bryan turn on the clan last week. Undoubtedly Harper and Rowan have been ordered to get some revenge while Bray sits in his rocking chair. After some ads, we see how Rowan took a big kick to the head, but now Harper seems to be in control of the action. Wyatt decides to address the crowd while the match is still going on, warning the fans that this type of punishment awaits Bryan. Harper hits a power bomb on one of the Usos for a near fall right before Bryan comes running down the ramp to assault Wyatt. That’s enough of a distraction for the Usos to roll up Harper for the win, and the faces got one over on the Wyatt Family again.

Match 7 - Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton

Will things go better for Orton this time? I mean, they almost have to, right? The announcers argue about how big an upset it was for Kofi to win last week, and for once, I agree with JBL: calling it “one of the biggest upsets in WWE history,” as Michael Cole did, isn’t giving Kingston much credit. He hangs in pretty well over the first few minutes of this rematch, even getting Orton in trouble more than once. The camera set up in the back part of the arena finally pays dividends as Cena arrives. Orton should be able to see him coming in his new neon t-shirt and hat. The match is thrown out as Cena attacks Orton, and poor Kofi is relegated to the role of bystander (plus he probably officially lost the match since the help arrived on his side). Cena and Orton battle up into the stands, where the champ wriggles away from an Attitude Adjustment attempt. They keep climbing the stairs, headed for the very top of the arena. Orton finally makes it into the passenger side of a car outside the building, escaping a frustrated Cena. He heads all the way back to the ring in what turns out to be a strangely anticlimactic ending. But who cares -- the Rumble is six days away! Enjoy the PPV, and we’ll see you in seven.

Nick Tylwalk is disappointed no other wrestling writers have ever taken him up on his challenge for an online battle royal in the spirit of the Royal Rumble. But it's not too late! Announce your participation to Nick on Twitter @Nick_Tylwalk, on Google+ +NickTylwalk, or by email to ntylwalk7@yahoo.com.