The preview for tonight’s show is short, and Alexa Bliss is doing a lot of the heavy lifting. She has a match against Asuka, which could be very interesting with Bliss’ new persona. And she’ll have to deal with the fallout of throwing a fireball into Randy Orton’s face. The only other advertised match is Lucha House Party and Riddle versus The Hurt Business in a six-man tag.
I’m Amanda and this is the RAW review.
Charlotte Flair def. Peyton Royce
MACE def. Xavier Woods
Shayna Baszler def. Mandy Rose
AJ Styles def. Ricochet
The Hurt Business def. Lucha House Party & Riddle
Jeff Hardy def. Jaxson Ryker (DQ)
Alexa Bliss def. Asuka
Today was Martin Luther King Day in the US, so the show began with a tribute to him.
♦ The opening segments started in complete darkness, just Randy Orton’s voice saying, ‘There’s a saying that people who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes. Ashes of the one responsible for their affliction’. Orton’s face is in a pressure bandage mask with visible burns at the eyes nose and mouth. He said the voice in his head has never been louder encapsulating his every thought like the mask encapsulates his face. Three weeks ago, he held Alexa Bliss’ fate in his hands and he showed a side of himself he didn’t know existed: compassion.
The pure hatred he had for himself needed to be redirected so he did just that. His next victim arrived like a lamb to the slaughter, until she interrupted. Now look at him, this is the damnation he receives for showing compassion. He hasn’t been able to sleep because every time he closes his eyes he sees the ball of fire hurtling towards his face. That inescapable feeling of melting flesh will never go away. If there was any compassion remaining in his body it left when the inferno engulfed his body. He’s wearing the mask to protect himself and to shield everyone else from the horror he endured. Despite the agony, he considers himself lucky. He came away with first degree burns, it could have been much worse. He could have been disfigured. But he doesn’t blame Alexa Bliss he blames The Fiend and Orton sent him straight to hell. There’s no doubt The Fiend is responsible, Bliss was merely the vehicle. And he knows that The Fiend wants to stop him achieving the inevitable and winning the Royal Rumble match again.
He knows everyone in the locker room enjoyed seeing him burn, thinking the biggest threat had been eliminated from the match, but he’s not out. He’s allowed to compete if he can tolerate that pain. Funny thing is, he enjoys the pain, it fuels his every move. So everyone can thank The Fiend when he burns their Royal Rumble dreams to ashes and goes on to WrestleMania.
♦ Charly Caruso asked Lacey Evans and Ric Flair to explain their relationship after they turned up to the arena together. It was all very suggestive, but Evans said she’s learning from him, so we’ll go with mentor/mentee. They left to go and watch Peyton Royce fight Charlotte Flair.
♦ Peyton Royce attacked Flair from behind before The Queen was even halfway to the ring. They were separated by officials, and Charlotte Flair vs Peyton Royce got underway after the break. The opening moments suggested pissing off Flair might not have been in Royce’s best interests. Royce resorted to running away but caught a break when she ducked a chop against the post. While Flair was still holding her hand, Royce smashed her face into the post and rolled her back into the ring.
She couldn’t make it stick and the match rolled on. Flair was trying to pin Royce when Ric Flair came out to the stage, with Lacey Evans on one of his robes. Royce caught Flair with a kick in the face off the distraction, but couldn’t make that pin stick either. Royce only had three-quarters of Charlotte Flair’s attention, but it turned out that was enough for Flair to lock in the Figure Eight and tap her out. Flair left the hold on for much longer than she needed to, just to send a little message to Evans and her dad.
♦ Alexa Bliss has invited Asuka to visit her in Alexa’s Playground
♦ Riddle and The Hurt Business had a little backstage confrontation. It ended with Bobby Lashley stamping on Riddle’s flip-flop adorned foot and Riddle promising to shove that foot up Lashley’s ass later. After a break, Lucha House party were worried it would take Riddle out of their match,
♦ Mustafa Ali’s Twitter promo was aired before Xavier Woods vs MACE. In it, he talked about wanting to destroy Woods while Kofi Kingston was sat at home with a broken jaw because he wanted Kingston to know what it felt like (the start of the KofiMania phenomena came after Kingston replaced an injured Ali at Elimination Chamber). It wasn’t as straightforward as Ali would have hoped. Woods smacked Ali in the face before the match and even managed to knock him down with a baseball slide through MACE’s legs. Once Woods had been made wary by RETRIBUTION spreading out around the ring, it was over. MACE slammed him into the canvas and pinned him.
♦ Asuka said she wasn’t sure what to expect from Alexa’s playground, maybe Alexa’s dark side.
♦ Two people who were ‘definitely not’ Triple H and Stephanie McMahon hosted a WrestleMania report. It was… nope, no words, just watch.
♦ Alexa Bliss addressed ‘The Viper in the Room’ before she brought Asuka out to her playground. She said she just wanted to talk to Orton last week and clear the air but things got a ‘little heated’. When Asuka came out, Bliss wouldn’t let her sit on the swing because it wasn’t her seat, and checked the invisible person was ok. Before they got into anything else, Bliss declared herself for the rumble match and Asuka wished her luck. Bliss pointed out they could face each other at WrestleMania. Asuka said it would be her honour and she’s a big fan. She said Yowie Wowie and Bliss got serious and apologised to the invisible person. Asuka got them to play her theme and danced until Bliss screamed at her.
It became clear she was talking to The Fiend. Asuka tried to reassure her it would be ok and told her, “The Fiend is still here.” Bliss got angry and told her not to say his name then smiled and waved at a rocking horse that was moving on its own. Asuka left and Bliss went and sat on the rocking horse.
♦ The Miz and John Morrison declined to give Sarah Schreiber any spoilers on what to expect from their Dirt Sheet interview with Goldberg.
♦ Jeff Jarrett predicted Goldberg as the winner and new WWE Champion at WrestleMania.
♦ Mandy Rose vs Shayna Baszler started with a promo from Shayna Baszler. Nothing unexpected in what she said, she’s going to beat Rose and win the rumble match, but it ended with her and Nia Jax arguing again. Jax joined commentary for the match. She reminded them you don’t have to get along to be successful, but kept repeating that they are a team. They won’t have each other’s backs in the Rumble match though.
The match was largely ignored, but decent. After avoiding it for weeks, Mandy Rose got caught with the arm stamp that injured her the last time she took it. This time it fired her up instead. Anger and adrenaline gave her a good couple of moments, but they ran out when Baszler almost ripped her arm clean out of the socket, and she tapped in a Kirifuda Clutch.
Jax and Baszler argued at ringside after the match. Dana Brooke snuck up behind them and dropkicked Jax into Baszler sending them both crashing into the post.
Backstage, after a break, they were still arguing about whether they were loyal to each other. Charly Caruso asked them about it and they said they’ve never got along, even when they were champions. Jax and Asuka probably aren’t getting along as Flair has Daddy Issues and Asuka is creeped out by Alexa Bliss. Baszler said that was right and meant it was the right time to get their rematch. Jax didn’t look like she completely agreed, but she said it was a good idea and they went off to sort that.
♦ Charlotte Flair told Sarah Schreiber she’s been accused of living off her last name and getting opportunities she didn’t earn. Now there is a woman legitimately doing that. She knows Evans is using Ric to get to her. But she’s been learning from the dirtiest player in the game all her life and has never gone down that path (I disagree, but whatever). Maybe she should rethink. Lacey Evans can strut around in Ric Flair’s robe, but she’ll never wear Charlotte Flair’s crown.
♦ Adam Pearce told Ricochet that his match against AJ Styles was a potential opportunity to get into the Rumble match. Ricochet thanked him, then Styles arrive with Omos. Style tried to humiliate Pearce and Ricochet. Ricochet told him he was going to need more than a seven-foot giant in his corner to stop him. After Ricochet left, Styles told Pearce he doesn’t like him anymore. And if he doesn’t like him, Omos doesn’t like him. Considering Pearce barely reaches Omos’ shoulder, that could be an issue.
Ricochet vs AJ Styles was great, except for the interference. Omos is a distraction at the best of times, but he got actively involved when he caught Ricochet’s dive over the top rope. The ref demanded he put him down, so Omos dropped him on the floor. Styles’ Phenomenal Forearm was met with a Recoil, but Ricochet wasn’t in good enough shape to capitalise. The actual finish came when Styles bounced Ricochet off the ropes and caught him in the right position for the Styles Clash. Awesome finish.
♦ The guest on The Dirt Sheet was Gillberg, not Goldberg. They were interrupted by a fake Drew McIntyre as well, the real one still recovering from COVID-19. It was ridiculous. Good ridiculous or bad ridiculous is a judgement call, but it wasn’t for me. Miz and Morrison argued, then redirected it at Gillberg and got to the point of the segment, which was Miz promising to cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase.
The funniest thing about that segment was the look on Samoa Joe’s face after it, which leads nicely to a reminder that Samoa Joe on commentary is invariably one of the best things about RAW.
♦ The Hurt Business (Lashley/Alexander/Benjamin) vs Lucha House Party & Riddle displayed considerable tension in The Hurt Business. Specifically, Cedric Alexander was so arrogant, refusing to tag Benjamin in and going as far as to check Benjamin was watching as he punished Gran Metalik. When Alexander needed a tag, Lashley and Benjamin turned their backs. Benjamin tagged himself in later and there were ‘looks’ between them. Alexander tagged himself in on Lashley. Benjamin did the same to Alexander, then Alexander did it too.
MVP got frustrated when Alexander got flattened and told his team ‘you play stupid games you win stupid prizes. When Alexander got shoved out of the ring by Benjamin, MVP kept him from retaliating. The match good when The Hurt Business weren’t fighting amongst themselves. Lashley finished it with a spear and Hurt Lock on Gran Metalik while Benjamin and Alexander were bickering. Riddle got a cheap shot in on Lashley afterwards and ran away before they could get at him. The Hurt Business were still arguing when the segment ended.
♦ Drew McIntyre is asymptomatic after testing positive and joined the show live from his home gym. He said the Miz and Morrison segment made him laugh, and in the next breath called them clowns. He turned serious to talk about Goldberg though. When Goldberg got angry with him and shoved him to the mat, he saw a glimpse of the real Goldberg. He strongly suggests Goldberg brings that guy to the ring, or he’ll eat him alive in two minutes. And if Goldberg wants to get a head start, he’ll be back on RAW next week.
It was later announced they’ll both be there and there’ll be a face to face.
♦ Elias and Jaxson Ryker sorted out their misunderstanding from last week and Ryker apologised for taking ‘don’t interfere’ literally. He’s got another chance to beat Hardy this week and he’s got to make him accept the universal truth that WWE stands for Walk With Elias.
Jeff Hardy vs Jaxson Ryker didn’t work out exactly as Ryker wanted. It ended with a disqualification after Elias pushed Jeff Hardy off the top turnbuckle. Ryker yelled at Elias then got his chance to put Hardy down after Hardy dropkicked Elias through the ropes.
♦ Asuka vs Alexa Bliss was the main event of the evening. That immediately rings the shenanigans alarm because a non-title women’s division match with no stakes and nothing in the way of prior rivalry is not the general choice for the RAW main event. That’s not a good thing, but it is demonstrably a thing.
The lights went off and there was weird music, but it didn’t sound like The Fiend’s effects. That’s when we went for a break. When we came back, the lighting was purple and it was a different version of Bliss in the ring. Serious and dangerous Bliss instead of happy, playful, and dangerous Bliss. Asuka was unnerved, and more so when Bliss dodged or blocked an entire series of offensive moves. Bliss finally got caught with a kick in the stomach but levelled Asuka with her next move.
Asuka went from unnerved to creeped out when Bliss did Wyatt’s crablike pose then wiped her own black lipstick down her face. She resisted the Mandible Claw and kicked out of a pin after being punched in the face. When she wasn’t delivering violence, Bliss strolled around with her hands behind her back. Asuka came back time and time again, but it was Alexa Bliss with the win via Sister Abigail.
She magically transformed back into happy childlike Bliss after the match but closed RAW saying, “Let Me In,” in The Fiend’s voice.
Not the most exciting episode of RAW, but not the worst either. Something I’ve overlooked and let go in previous reviews is the quality of the camerawork. Not just the nausea-inducing number of cuts, but tonight they missed a whole list of important shots and it’s not the first time. If RAW is supposed to be WWE’s flagship show, it needs to look like it.