The John Report: The WWE Raw Deal 01/11/21 Review

Welcome to the WWE Raw Deal review as we head towards the Royal Rumble in about three weeks. The original plan for tonight’s show was to have WWE Champion Drew McIntyre face off against Randy Orton in a non-title match, but that’s not happening now. That’s because WWE announced that Drew tested positive for COVID-19 recently, so the WWE Champion can’t wrestle right now. Best wishes to Drew and to everybody else dealing with it. Be safe and be smart out there, my friends.
From the WWE ThunderDome at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, Florida, this is the Raw Deal for episode #1442 of Monday Night Raw. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit daily for our regular updates on the wrestling business featuring WWE news coverage, insightful columns from our team along with reviews about wrestling’s past and present. Let’s roll.
There was a video package showing highlights from last week on Raw when Randy Orton was a jerk to some WWE Legends like Big Show, Mark Henry and Ric Flair that were on the show.
The show began with a shot of the WWE ThunderDome in Tampa. The announce team of Vic Joseph, Byron Saxton and Samoa Joe were on hand to call the action.

Let’s Hear from Triple H
The entrance of WWE legend and on-screen Chief Operating Officer Triple H began the show. He was not originally advertised for Raw, but then after the McIntyre news, WWE decided to put Triple H on Raw. There were some “Triple H” chants with Hunter saying he’s still got it.
Hunter welcomed us to the ThunderDome and Monday Night Raw. Hunter said it’s a really difficult job…and here comes Randy Orton with a microphone in hand.
Orton said that “The Office” decided to show up because Drew McIntyre couldn’t be there. Orton said that he was supposed to have a pretty big match and Hunter told Orton he was aware with Randy being aware that it’s not going to happen. Orton got in the ring saying that Triple H might have a big announcement. Orton wondered if Hunter was going to guarantee him #30 in the Royal Rumble or just hand him the WWE Title. Hunter told him if he wants a shot he has to win the Royal Rumble.
Hunter told Orton it’s been impressive watching the old Randy Orton back on Raw over the last year. Hunter said that a lot of people didn’t understand what Orton was doing or crossed lines and went too far. Hunter said he watched Orton burn The Fiend and Hunter said he didn’t know if he was any more proud of Orton than it that moment. Hunter said he would have done the exact same thing because The Fiend stood in front of what Orton wanted.
Hunter said that there are a few things that Orton has done that Hunter doesn’t understand like kicking legends in the head like Big Show or humiliating them like Mark Henry, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair. Hunter said he doesn’t understand when it doesn’t benefit Orton. Hunter said that humiliating Flair was no benefit to Orton. Hunter said that it solidified in his mind that Orton is not a legend, he’s nothing more than a no-good prick. Ouch.
Orton said that he is at his peak, he is in prime and he’s a legend in his own time just like Hunter was. Orton wondered If Hunter still had it in him – is the Cerebral Assassin, The Game, the King of Kings still there? Orton said he didn’t want to have a match – he wanted a fight. Orton said they’ve known eachother for two decades. Orton suggested they go toe to toe in this ring tonight. Hunter told Orton there’s no benefit in it to him, so the answer is no. Hunter was about to leave the ring.
Orton said that is there no benefit or is it because Hunter’s wife Stephanie isn’t there tonight, so Hunter was unable to retrieve the balls from her purse. Hunter punched Orton in the face with Orton bumping out of the ring. Orton laughed about it: “I guess that means yes.” Orton’s music played to end it as they had a staredown.
Analysis: This was the rumor earlier in the day. With no Drew McIntyre on the show this week, they had to go with another option and apparently putting Triple H in the main event is the best choice since he barely wrestles anymore, so WWE might think of it as a big deal for the fans. Anyway, I love how Triple H is out there criticizing Orton for being a jerk to people when Hunter is one of the greatest and most pushed heels in WWE history. That's wrestling, though. Wrestlers can't remember what they did in their own careers, I guess.

There was a replay from last week with Ric Flair accidentally tripping daughter Charlotte Flair and then Peyton Royce pinned Charlotte in a tag team match.
Charlotte Flair was interviewed in the Gorilla position with Sarah Schreiber showing up for an interview. Charlotte said Lacey Evans isn’t the first woman to hit on her dad in front of her and won’t be the last as if Ric Flair in his 70s is still a stud. Anyway, Charlotte’s comment made it seem like her and Ric are okay now. Charlotte wondered why she was being asked about her dad, so then she talked trash about Lacey ahead of her match. Charlotte Flair made her entrance with the Women’s Tag Team Title around her waist.
Lacey Evans was interviewed by Sarah Schreiber backstage. Evans claimed that Ric was a handsome man and she was dedicating the match to Ric Flair as Lacey blew a kiss towards the camera. That was followed by Lacey’s entrance.

There was a video with Drew McIntyre talking into a phone camera likely at home. McIntyre said that he tested positive for COVID-19. Drew: “I am one of the fortunate ones with no symptoms, but I assure you, COVID should not be taken lightly.” McIntyre said if it can happen to him then it can happen to anybody. McIntyre said he’ll see us really soon and stay safe.
Analysis:  In the past 10 months, I don’t think WWE has even mentioned COVID-19, so having Drew talking about it is rare. I am glad that they are honest about it instead of saying Drew has some worked injury. Drew saying he has no symptoms is a great sign as well.
Charlotte Flair vs. Lacey Evans
Charlotte got an inside cradle for two and then Evans grabbed a headlock leading to Flair with a shoulder tackle. Charlotte with chops, Evans bumped to the mat and Charlotte hit a running knee for a two count. Charlotte with a knee drop to the leg of Evans against the turnbuckle. Evans left the ring as Ric Flair’s entrance hit as Ric made his way down to the ring. Charlotte was confused by it because she said earlier he was at home.

The match returned with Evans avoiding a knee attack and sending Charlotte into the turnbuckle. Evans jumped onto Charlotte while against the turnbuckle. Charlotte left the ring, Evans followed, forearm by Charlotte and Evans sent Charlotte into the barricade. Evans missed a Flair-like knee, but then Evans avoided an attack and Evans slapped on a chinlock. Charlotte came back with a belly to back suplex. Charlotte charged with a knee, Evans avoided it, Evans went for a rollup and Charlotte hit a kick to the face. Charlotte went for a kick, Evans moved and Evans did a takedown while grabbing the hair. Charlotte with tow boots to the face, then two clotheslines, a neckbreaker and an exploder suplex across the ring. Charlotte with a forearm while Evans was on the apron and Charlotte with a kick to knock Evans off the apron to the floor. Charlotte sent Evans into the turnbuckle and Charlotte hit the Natural Selection by the ropes. Ric put Lacey’s foot on the rope during the pin attempt. Charlotte went for a suplex by the apron, Ric tripped up Charlotte and Ric held onto Charlotte’s foot. The referee never saw it as Evans won the match by pinfall after about 12 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Lacey Evans
Analysis: *1/4 This sucked. I like Charlotte a lot and Lacey can be good at times. The story was bad and they just seemed to have no chemistry in there. I don’t think the feud is story is that interesting either. The old man is costing his daughter matches because a woman 40 years younger than him is flirting with him? It makes Ric look like a dumbass more than anything and I don’t think it makes Charlotte a sympathetic face. It’s not like WWE is going to have Charlotte lose clean, so it’s the second week in a row where Ric costs Charlotte a match. There's some bad acting going on here too. Please turn Charlotte heel soon. She's not good in the face role and she probably hates it too.
Jeff Hardy faces Elias up next because WWE loves rematches.

PLUG TIME: The month of January means that it is Royal Rumble time in WWE land, so I’m re-posting my reviews of every Royal Rumble PPV event in WWE history. I’ll post them all before this year’s event on January 31. I’m also planning on a couple of columns/list articles before this year’s Royal Rumble as well. Last week I ended up shilling 1992, so here’s the 1993 Royal Rumble won by Yokozuna, then there was 1994 Royal Rumble featuring the dreaded tie finish involving Bret Hart and Lex Luger. The 1995 Royal Rumble saw Shawn Michaels win it as the first entrant in the match and then Michaels won the 1996 Royal Rumble again. There was a repeat winner in the two years that followed as well with Steve Austin winning in controversial fashion at the 1997 Royal Rumble and then Austin won again as the most predictable winner ever at the 1998 Royal Rumble. I really didn’t like the next one with Vince McMahon winning the 1999 Royal Rumble in a match where Vince and Austin spent most of the night out of the ring instead of in the ring. After a few Rumble PPVs that were not very good, two of the best Royal Rumble events took place with The Rock winning the 2000 Royal Rumble that also saw Triple H have an all-time great match against Cactus Jack. The following year, Steve Austin won the 2001 Royal Rumble for a record third-time in his career. I’ll be posting at least one per day and sometimes more than that, so keep visiting TJRWrestling daily to check out the reviews. I’m proud of the fact that I have detailed reviews of every Royal Rumble. Thanks for the support!
Lacey Evans was shown walking backstage with Ric Flair while Sarah Schreiber showed up asking what happened out there. Lacey simply said that she’s going to change at the hotel to insinuate that they are “together” now. I guess so.
Analysis: They are both married. When Lacey was a face we were supposed to respect her for being a working mom and now she’s doing this. Ric is 40 years older than Lacey, but I guess we are to believe they are a thing now. Sure.
There were highlights shown from last week’s Raw when Drew McIntyre beat Keith Lee in a great match in the main event.

Keith Lee was interviewed by Kayla Braxton, who is normally on Smackdown so I guess Charly Caruso is off this week. Sheamus interrupted saying that Lee put on a hell of a fight last week. Sheamus said that Lee earned Drew’s respect, so if Drew respects him then so does Sheamus. The Miz and John Morrison showed up to call them losers while reminding them that he is Mr. Money in the Bank. Sheamus called them Dumb & Dumber while Keith wondered who was dumber and Morrison said “he is” referring to Miz. That led to Miz challenging Sheamus/Lee with Miz referring to his Cleveland Browns winning in an upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Lee accepted the match. Miz and Morrison reminded their opponents that the last time they had a match, Sheamus hit Lee with a Brogue Kick. The heels left while Sheamus and  Lee seemed to be on the same page.
Jeff Hardy was shown in the ring at the end of his entrance. Elias did a promo claiming he had some injury, so Jeff will face Jaxson Ryker. There was a quick promo from Ryker saying he was inspired by the music of Elias.
Jeff Hardy vs. Jaxson Ryker (w/Elias)
There was a brace on the right thumb of Elias, so that was the injury he claimed he had. Ryker charged, Hardy moved and Hardy hit a neckbreaker. Hardy went to the apron, there was a distraction from Elias and Ryker got the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! with tights for the pinfall win in about one minute.
Winner by pinfall: Jaxson Ryker
Analysis: 1/2* Awful booking that made Jeff Hardy look like a rookie instead of a 25-year veteran. Babyface wrestlers in WWE are made to look like idiots and can’t seem to kick out of the deadly rollup.

Post match, Jeff Hardy called out Elias to get in the ring to have a match. Elias told Ryker “don’t” get involved in the match.
This Wednesday on NXT, the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic returns with two tag team matches. Plus, fallout from the NXT New Year’s Evil event from last week.
Jeff Hardy vs. Elias (w/Jaxson Ryder)
Jeff was in control with an atomic drop, there was a dropkick and an elbow drop. Jeff went for a Twist of Fate, but Elias put Jeff on the shoulder and Elias hit a slam off the shoulders like an Attitude Adjustment for a two count. Jeff came back with a twisting splash off the turnbuckle called Whisper in the Wind. Jeff with a jawbreaker, but then Elias hit a jumping knee. Elias with a lifting neckbreaker for a two count. Jeff hit a Twist of Fate neckbreaker. Jeff went up top and hit a Swanton Bomb for the pinfall win after about five minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Jeff Hardy
Analysis: **1/4 That’s the end of this rivalry…again. It was already finished when Jeff won the last time they had a match. This was just average stuff. Elias matches are rarely that interesting. I don’t see why they needed Jeff to lose the match before this because it made him look dumb, but WWE booking on Raw is messed up sometimes.

Post match, Elias asked Ryker why he didn’t help him. Ryker said you told me not to. I guess Ryker is too dumb to know what Elias was insinuating earlier.
That Sheamus/Keith Lee vs. Miz/Morrison tag team match is next at the top of hour two.
There was a recap of the opening promo with Randy Orton challenging Triple H to a fight. The graphic on the screen said that it’s “The Legend Killer’s Challenge” later on Raw.
Sheamus made his entrance for the tag team match. Keith Lee was up next for the team. The Miz and John Morrison were the opponents with Miz bringing his Money in the Bank briefcase down to the ring with him.
Sheamus and Keith Lee vs. The Miz and John Morrison

Sheamus and Morrison started the match. Somebody’s spray tanner stained the ring either in this match or the match before it. Anyway, Lee tagged in with a body slam on Morrison. Miz went into the ring, Lee tossed him over the top onto Morrison on the floor. Sheamus tagged in with a clothesline on both heels on the floor. Sheamus with a rolling senton on Miz while Lee tagged himself in. Morrison with kicks to the leg, then a forearm to the back of the leg and Lee came back with a headbutt. Lee tossed Morrison across the ring and Lee hit a running shoulder tackle where the top rope broke from the impact. Usually that involves the guy taking the bump to subtly pull the turnbuckle off. Nice spot as they headed to break.
The match returned with Lee holding Miz with an armbar while a ring crew member was fixing the top rope. Lee whipped Miz into the turnbuckle, then Sheamus tagged in for a whip into the turnbuckle and the ring was fine. The heels managed to isolate Sheamus in their corner of the ring. Miz prevented a tag briefly until Sheamus did a back body drop and Morrison tagged in to keep Sheamus from tagging out. Miz back in with a running kick and knee combo for a two count. Sheamus hit the backbreaker on Miz. Lee tagged in against Morrison with shoulder tackles and overhead suplexes on both opponents. Lee with running splashes against the turnbuckle on both guys followed by a spinning powerslam on Morrison for a two count. Lee with the double chop to Miz and Lee tossed Miz out of the ring. Morrison with a Pele Kick on Lee, but when Morrison jumped off the ropes Lee punched him down. Sheamus tagged himself in with a Brogue Kick to Morrison for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Sheamus and Keith Lee
Analysis: *** This was a solid tag team match. It got plenty of time, Sheamus was the face in peril for most of it and Lee was very effective as the guy that got the hot tag. It seems like Miz and Morrison lose every week. The point of the match was to show that Lee and Sheamus could co-exist, which they did even though there were moments where each guy was a bit upset about being tagged in at different points.

Post match, Lee and Sheamus seemed to be happy about the win as they touched fists as a sign of respect.
Triple H was interviewed backstage. Hunter said that he came there in a business capacity as an official of WWE. Hunter said he didn’t come there to fight, but things happen at the drop of a hat. Hunter said Orton can’t seem to respect legends like Ric Flair paved the way for him or that Orton’s dad and grandfather paved the way for Hunter. That led to Hunter staring into the camera saying he’ll fight Orton.
Analysis: That was obviously expected. Good promo from Hunter as usual although I’m not sure if the audience watching is really into seeing Hunter vs. Orton again.

The show returned with Keith Lee and Sheamus arguing in the ring while shoving eachother. Referee John Cone was there, so it was another impromptu match.
Keith Lee vs. Sheamus
Sheamus went after Lee with punches, Lee shoved him down and Sheamus came back with punches again. Lee tossed Sheamus over the top onto the apron, which led to Sheamus hitting the forearms to the chest until Lee blocked it. Sheamus with a punch, Lee with a headbutt and Lee brought Sheamus back into the ring. Lee with repeated chops to the chest of Sheamus. Lee lifted Sheamus, who got out of it and sent Lee out of the ring. Sheamus kicked Lee off the apron to the floor. Sheamus jumped onto Lee on the floor, Lee caught him and sent Sheamus over the barricade at ringside. Lee sent Sheamus into the turnbuckle, Lee charged, Sheamus with a shot to the knee and Lee went into the turnbuckle. Sheamus whipped the left arm of Lee into the ring post two times. Sheamus stomped on the left shoulder of Lee leading to an armbar. Lee shoved Sheamus off, but Sheamus kicked him in the left arm. Sheamus went to the turnbuckle, Lee met him with punches and Sheamus blocked a Spanish Fly attempt with knees to the body. Sheamus jumped off the top with a clothesline followed by a pump knee to the face for a two count. Sheamus went back to working on the left arm with an armbreaker attempt and Lee managed to power out of that. Lee lifted up Sheamus leading to a Powerbomb. Lee picked up Sheamus again and hit the Spirit Bomb for the pinfall win after about seven minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Keith Lee
Analysis: **1/2 This was a hard-hitting, physical match like their match a few weeks ago, but not as good as that match. That match also went a lot longer. Lee sold the left arm injury well, Sheamus was relentless in attacking the left arm and Lee’s ability to come back showed he’s a babyface that is tough to beat. The right man went over because the veteran Sheamus put over the newer Raw guy Lee twice in the last month.
Post match, Lee extended the fist and Sheamus touched it. Sheamus also hugged Lee to show that Lee has earned his respect.
Analysis: It was a matter of building respect between them and now they’re on the same page.

Drew McIntyre responds to Goldberg up next.
There was a commercial for the Royal Rumble on January 31. I like the comic book theme graphics for it.
There was a video from last week’s Raw with Drew McIntyre beating Keith Lee to retain the WWE Title. After the match, Goldberg challenged McIntyre to a match.
Let’s Hear from Drew McIntyre
McIntyre once again spoke into a camera phone. McIntyre said putting his current condition aside, he wanted to respond to Bill Goldberg’s challenge from last week. McIntyre said after getting pushed to the limit by Keith Lee, he saw legends standing on that stage watching Drew defend the WWE Title, but then he was interrupted by Goldberg. McIntyre said he didn’t see that coming. McIntyre said that he used to love Goldberg while adding you should not meet your heroes because they’ll let you down. McIntyre said that Goldberg let him down. McIntyre said Goldberg got him all ring with Drew noting he’s a believer in giving respect to get respect. McIntyre said that he did not want to accept the challenge because Goldberg is 20 years older than him and wondered if Goldberg would want to fight himself in his prime? McIntyre said that his opinion changed when Goldberg put his hands on him and said Goldberg needs to be taught a lesson in respect. McIntyre said that he accepted Goldberg’s challenge for a WWE Title match at the Royal Rumble. McIntyre held up the WWE Title: “In your own words, at the Royal Rumble, you’re next.” End promo.

Analysis: That should be a win for McIntyre in five minutes or less. If it’s a win by Goldberg, it would be terrible. I also don’t want to see Miz cash in Money in the Bank. I want McIntyre to at least make it to WrestleMania as the WWE Champion. He deserves that.
Riddle was backstage doing a promo about his US Title match. Riddle did a promo about how it’s like getting a pizza and smelling how great it is. The camera panned over to see Riddle was talking to Lucha House Party. Lince Dorado told Riddle to watch his back, Riddle said you can’t physically do that and Dorado wished Riddle good luck.
Analysis: These dumbass Riddle promos are usually ridiculous and that’s what this was.
Xavier Woods entered for singles action.

T-Bar of Retribution made his entrance with the four others in his group. T-Bar did a promo as if he was Bane from the Dark Knight Rises movie. Great film. Kofi Kingston is out with a broken jaw injury.
T-Bar (w/Mustafa Ali, Mace, Slapjack and Reckoning) vs. Xavier Woods
T-Bar with a shoulder tackle, then Woods bounced off the ropes and T-Bar hit another shoulder tackle. Woods with some kicks to the legs, but T-Bar stopped that momentum with a big clothesline. T-Bar slapped on the dreaded chinlock, Woods with a jawbreaker. Woods with chops, a kick to the chest and T-Bar sent Woods into the turnbuckle. Woods avoided a turnbuckle charge, Woods with a jumping kick on the apron and Woods hit a missile dropkick that sent T-Bar out of the ring. Nice bump there. Woods with a kick that sent T-Bar into the barricade. Woods was distracted by Retribution on the floor, so T-Bar worked on the right arm of Woods by pulling it against the top rope. T-Bar hit the slam off the shoulder into a knee strike called Eyes Wide Shut and that was enough to win. It went about five minutes.
Winner by pinfall: T-Bar
Analysis: ** Just a short match to put over the bigger man in Retribution. Woods was great on the babyface comeback. T-Bar’s matches were a lot better when he got to be Dominik Dijakovic and he could tell a story in a match instead of the basic stuff that he does now.
Randy Orton was interviewed backstage by Sarah Schreiber. Orton said that he goes way back with Triple H while claiming that Hunter knew him better than anybody else. Orton said times have changed. Orton said he has this newfound hatred including a hatred for himself. Orton said he can direct that hate at someone else like Triple H. Orton had an evil look on his face.
The US Title match between Lashley and Riddle is next.

The show returned at the top of hour three with another recap of the Orton/Triple H promo leading to their “fight” later on Raw.
Riddle entered as the challenger for the US Title…bro. Riddle pinned Lashley non-title last week although it was controversial because the referee didn’t see Riddle tap out moments before that. Bobby Lashley entered as the US Champion with his Hurt Business buddy MVP joining him.
United States Championship: Bobby Lashley (w/Montel Vontavious Porter) vs. Riddle
While the referee was holding up the title before the match, Lashley jumped Riddle with punches. The referee Shawn Bennett made Lashley back away, but then Lashley attacked Riddle with a clothesline. Riddle said he wanted to do the match, so the bell rang.
Lashley attacked Riddle against the turnbuckle. Lashley lifted up Riddle and sent Riddle’s ribs into the top rope leading to Riddle bumping to the floor. Riddle was bleeding around his mouth. Riddle countered a move on the floor by shoving Lashley into the ring post. Riddle with a running knee that knocked Lashley off the apron to the floor. Riddle with a twisting Floating Bro splash off the ropes onto Lashley on the floor. Riddle went for a springboard attack, Lashley moved and Lashley hit a huge spinebuster. Lashley slapped on the Hurt Lock submission and Riddle tapped out to give Lashley the win after about two minutes.
Winner by submission: Bobby Lashley
Analysis: * That was quick. It was a cheap win because of the attack by Lashley before the bell rang. Lashley remains a dominant US Champion that is the best booked champion that isn’t holding the most important title on a brand. The problem is that Riddle is a guy the fans like and as a newer guy, he’s somebody that WWE should book stronger. Instead, Riddle looks like a fool again.

Post match, Riddle did a promo calling out MVP. Riddle said that he couldn’t beat Bobby Lashley tonight, but he sure as hell can beat MVP.
MVP was wearing a suit, so he took off his jacket and walked towards the ring. That match is next.
Analysis: Riddle is another person working twice this week. Limited roster, I guess.

Riddle vs. Montel Vontavious Porter (w/Bobby Lashley)
MVP was wrestling in a dress shirt, slacks and dress shoes. MVP with a knee to the face followed by the Ballin’ elbow for two. Riddle with a kick to the head, then a running forearm against the turnbuckle and Riddle hit a rising knee to the face. Riddle to the apron, he kicked Lashley and Riddle went up top where he connected with the Floating Bro splash. When Riddle got up, Lashley was in the ring and hit Riddle with a Spear for the DQ after just over one minute.
Winner by disqualification: Riddle
Analysis: 1/2* A short match to give Riddle a win right after a loss even though this win was by DQ.
After the match, Lashley continued the attack with punches and a flatliner. Riddle got to his knees, so MVP kicked him hard in the ribs with Riddle writhing in pain to sell it.

Analysis: This booking doesn’t really help Riddle that much in my eyes. I guess it makes him more sympathetic to the fans with fans wanting Riddle to take the US Title from Lashley, but Riddle was booked in such a way that it made him look inferior.
There was a video showing highlights with WWE Official Adam Pearce winning a Gauntlet Match on Smackdown to get a Universal Title shot against Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble. Reigns told Pearce it was his show as Jey hit Pearce with a superkick and Pearce covered Shinsuke Nakamura to win the Gauntlet Match.
AJ Styles was shown talking to Adam Pearce backstage with Styles wondering who can eliminate him in the Royal Rumble with Omos by his side. Styles told Pearce that if he somehow wins the Universal Title then he could face Styles at WrestleMania. Drew Gulak showed up to officially declare his entrance in the Royal Rumble match. Pearce said that he can’t just let him in the match. Gulak said that AJ did while mentioning AJ blew his WWE Title match. Styles said he can enter the Royal Rumble because he’s a two-time WWE Champion. Gulak had a flash drive showing who he has beat. Pearce told Gulak he’ll put him in the Royal Rumble match if he can beat AJ Styles and that match was next. Omos showed up to scare off Gulak.
Analysis: What I liked about that segment is that a lot of people declare for the Rumble, so it makes me wonder why can’t anyone do that? At least they tried to explain it here by saying Styles can do it since he’s a main event talent while Gulak is not. Explaining things is a good thing!

AJ Styles made his entrance with the big man Omos while Drew Gulak was in the ring.
AJ Styles (w/Omos) vs. Drew Gulak
Gulak got a pin attempt with a bridging fallaway slam and then a Tiger Driver got a two count. Gulak went for a superplex, Styles got out of it and Gulak managed to get a pin attempt for two. Gulak with a backslide pin for a two count, but there was Styles with a Pele Kick to the head. Styles with strikes to the head, then a clothesline and a running forearm. Styles blocked a kick from Gulak and then tossed Gulak over the top to the floor. Gulak was near Omos and was freaked out by the size of the foot of Omos. Good camera work there. Styles sent Gulak into the announce table. Back in the ring, Styles with a springboard Phenomenal Forearm for the pinfall win after about three minutes.
Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles
Analysis: **1/4 A lot of action in a three-minute match to put over Styles. Gulak got some decent nearfalls, but I don’t think anybody believed he was going to win the match. I think it was stupid to move Gulak on Raw away from Daniel Bryan on Smackdown since he worked well with Bryan.  That’s WWE, though. They break up teams and partnerships that work, which often leads to nothing.

There was a video package about Bill Goldberg showing his rise in WCW in the late 1990s including his first win over Hugh Morrus. That led to the big winning streak over the next year, the fans were behind him and WCW had him beat Hulk Hogan for the WCW Title in July 1998. That led to clips of Goldberg in WWE in 2003-04 and then his return in 2016 along with the years that followed that included two Universal Title wins.
At Royal Rumble, Goldberg challenges Drew McIntyre for the WWE Title. It was pointed out by Saxton that Goldberg has never won that title although he has won the World Heavyweight Title and Universal Title in WWE.
Triple H was warming up backstage with Keith Lee going up to him. Lee said that he gets that Randy Orton is pushing his buttons, Lee said that Triple H has been there for Keith ever since Keith got to WWE and Keith doesn’t mind getting his hands on The Viper once again. Hunter told Keith he appreciates that and Hunter said that he has to do this because he made this mess, so he has to clean it up. Lee gave Hunter the leather jacket and said it’s time to put the Game on.
Analysis: That is a good use of Keith Lee as a babyface that admires Triple H and was willing to step up to face Orton. They can use that in the future to have Lee face Orton again.
Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax entered for a tag team match.

This week on Raw Talk the guests were Bobby Lashley, MVP, Angel Garza and Nia Jax. That is on WWE Network now.
Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke entered for tag team action. They are called Sexy Muscle Friends by Asuka and look wonderful as usual. There was a pre-tape promo with Mandy and Dana declaring for the 2021 Royal Rumble match.
Analysis: Earlier in the same show, Drew Gulak was told he can’t just declare for the Royal Rumble while Mandy and Dana just did. I guess the difference is the women’s division has less people, so most of the current women’s roster is going to be in the Royal Rumble match.
Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler vs. Dana Brooke and Mandy Rose

Baszler took down Rose, she went for the arm and Rose got out of there as Brooke got the tag. Jax tagged in with a running body attack to knock down Brooke. Jax with a corner splash on Brooke for a two count. Jax grounded Brooke with a chinlock and Brooke came back with a jawbreaker. Rose got the tag against Baszler with two clotheslines and a flapjack that sent Baszler into the mat with Rose doing a kip-up to get back up. Rose drove Baszler into the turnbuckle followed by the pump knee to the face for two. Jax pulled Rose out of the ring and hit a headbutt on the floor. Jax sent Rose into the ropes leading to a Samoan Drop for two as Brooke saved her partner. Baszler with a spinning backbreaker on Brooke. Jax with a running splash on both opponents. Baszler tagged in, Jax didn’t like that and Baszler slapped on the Kirifuda Clutch on Rose for the submission win after about three minutes.
Winners by submission: Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler
Analysis: *1/4 A dominant win by the former Women’s Tag Team Champions to give them some momentum going into Royal Rumble. Baszler lost recently, so it’s typical booking to get her a win back. I think Rose and Brooke could be future champions although they lose too often to be taken seriously at this point. I’d like to see Rose and Brooke booked better in the future.
Randy Orton was shown walking backstage for the main event.

Triple H made his entrance for the fight with taped up wrists. Hunter was wearing jeans, a Motorhead shirt and a black leather jacket. Good piped in crowd noise for the water spitting spot. The jacket was only on for the entrance. Randy Orton entered in his regular wrestling gear.
Analysis: Triple H is 51 years old while Orton is 40 years old. I was at the Raw where Evolution turned on Randy Orton to begin this rivalry. That was over 16 years ago.
Triple H vs. Randy Orton
There is no referee out there for this fight. Hunter with a punch, Orton left the ring and Orton went back into the ring as they exchanged punches. Hunter sent Orton into the ropes with Orton hitting him with a kick to the chest and an uppercut that knocked Hunter out of the ring. Hunter whipped Orton shoulder first into the steel steps. Orton hit the steps and he had some blood on the left side of his face. Hunter sent Orton into the barricade. Orton with an eye poke. Hunter came back with a punch and Hunter slammed Orton on the hood of the announce table. Hunter sent Orton into the ring. Hunter grabbed the sledgehammer from under the ring, but then he slowly stood on the steel steps. I guess we’ll call the match there at around four minutes.
Analysis: It wasn’t an official match. Just a decent brawl to set up the post match angle.
The lights went out in the building as Hunter entered the ring and as the camera was on Orton, they went back to a shot of Hunter, which led to the sledgehammer mysteriously being on fire now. Some of the lights went back on around the ring with Triple H also being gone at that point.
Some of the creepy Firefly Fun House music played as Orton turned around to see Alexa Bliss standing in the corner. You can tell that was likely pre-taped because Orton was cut on the left side of his face during the match, yet here there was no cut or blood on his face. Bliss put her left hand under her chin with a glove that said “PAIN” on it. That led to Bliss shooting a FIRE BALL towards Orton with Randy going down to the mat and grabbing his face.

Orton was grabbing his eyes and covering them up while the announcers showed some concern about it, but nobody really checked on Orton after he got FIRE SHOT IN HIS FACE! Good job, trainers. Anyway, Orton was covering his eyes some more as the show ended there.
Analysis: I like how nobody checked on Orton. Way to care about your wrestler, WWE! Anyway, somebody in WWE must have watched a movie or TV show recently with fire attacks in it because they sure love these fire angles. It's silly and over the top, which is okay with me. I don't love it, but I'm sure some people will enjoy this story more than I do.

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Keith Lee
  2. Sheamus
  3. Randy Orton/Triple H


The Scoreboard
4.5 out of 10
Last week: 6.5
2021 Average: 5.5

Final Thoughts
This was a bad show. I know fans think that shows in January automatically mean there’s more excitement because of the Royal Rumble coming up, but this was not a fun show to watch. There were a lot of short matches throughout the night, so it was tough to really get excited about the ten matches they put on.
They used Triple H against Randy Orton to continue the story of Randy vs. legends because Drew McIntyre missed this show due to testing positive for COVID-19. The good news is Drew isn't showing any symptoms and will likely be back soon since WWE announced him against Goldberg at Royal Rumble. It was a decent way to set up the main event, which was a short “fight” that ended with Alexa Bliss throwing a fireball at Orton to continue Orton’s issues with Bliss and The Fiend. I’m not sure who in WWE decided they need more fire angles, but there have been a lot of them in the last month. That was also obviously a pre-tape since Orton was cut open during his fight with Triple H, but had no cut when the fire was shot at him. The magic of television, pal.
It felt like the roster was limited with some people unable to compete because several wrestlers had two matches. I’m not going to speculate on who or why, but I’m sure others will do that. Somebody must have felt like it was a good idea to have Jeff Hardy and Riddle lose matches leading to another match. I don’t think it helps either guy. The Charlotte Flair angle with Ric/Lacey is just weird and awkward. The Sheamus/Keith Lee story at least worked in the sense that they got along and then they had a match where Lee beat Sheamus for the second time in the last month. At least that is good booking for the younger guy. I can’t say the same about Riddle.
I do have sympathy for WWE trying to do a show with some talent missing. I just think they could have done better than this.

The next WWE pay-per-view on WWE Network is the Royal Rumble on Sunday, January 31. Here’s what we know so far:
30-Man Royal Rumble - Daniel Bryan, Elias, Bobby Lashley, Randy Orton, Riddle, AJ Styles and more.
30-Woman Royal Rumble - Charlotte Flair, Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Bayley, Dana Brooke, Mandy Rose and more.
WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Bill Goldberg
WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Adam Pearce

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John Canton
Twitter: @johnreport
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