Asuka defends the RAW Women’s Championship against Alexa Bliss this week, on the Royal Rumble go-home show. That should be a great match… it was fun last week. Drew McIntyre returns to RAW after his COVID quarantine to go face to face with Goldberg ahead of their title match on Sunday. Riddle wants Bobby Lashley to grant him a United States Championship match, so he faces the other three of the Hurt Business in a gauntlet match. And Charlotte Flair goes one on one with Shayna Baszler, or two on one as Baszler will have Nia Jax in her corner, before their tag title rematch on Sunday. As it’s the final show before Royal Rumble, expect to see lots of people being thrown over the top rope.
I’m Amanda and this is the RAW review.
Charlotte Flair def. Shayna Baszler (DQ)
Shayna Baszler, Nia Jax, & Lacey Evans def. Charlotte Flair, Mandy Rose, & Dana Brooke
Xavier Woods def. SlapJack
Sheamus def. John Morrison
The Miz & John Morrison def. Sheamus
AJ Styles def. R-Truth
Riddle def. Shelton Benjamin > Riddle def. MVP > Riddle def. Cedric Alexander
Asuka vs Alexa Bliss – No Contest
♦ Drew McIntyre opened the show and started by saying how good it felt to be back and thanking his fans for the outpouring of support. He had a mild case. He’s back to 100% and feels very lucky. He dedicated Sunday’s match to everyone dealing with COVID-19 and said, ‘We’re going to get through this thing and we’re gonna beat it’.
This Sunday it’s Drew McIntyre versus Bill Goldberg for the WWE Championship. He’d be out of his mind to take Goldberg lightly because he succeeded and rose to the top in a system not set up for him to succeed and he went through everyone, 173-0. The last thing to go on a heavyweight fighter is their power and Goldberg returned as the exact same animal he’s always been and started a new streak. This Sunday, at the Royal Rumble, Drew McIntyre ends the current Goldberg Streak.
The Miz and John Morrison interrupted then. In their whiny and annoying way, they pointed out that a match as hellacious as McIntyre versus Goldberg is likely to create injuries. Whoever wins will be a sitting duck for them to come and beat up before Miz cashes in the Money in the Bank briefcase and walks away champion.
Goldberg arrived while McIntyre was trying to coax Miz into the ring. He got in McIntyre’s face and kept it short, ‘You. Me. Sunday. You’re Next’. Miz and Morrison were chattering away on the apron. McIntyre and Goldberg stared at each other, then dragged them into the ring. Miz took a Goldberg spear and Morrison took a Claymore, then McIntyre and Goldberg got face to face while McIntyre held the title aloft.
♦ Before Charlotte Flair vs Shayna Baszler, with Nia Jax, Charly Caruso asked Flair what was on her mind in the run-up to the Royal Rumble. Flair said if there’s one thing she does well it’s to perform under pressure. She takes it day by day. She’ll be defending her tag titles and entering the Rumble on Sunday. She always defies the odds and if there’s one person she’s willing to bet on it’s herself. She’s seen her dad in a lot of dark places, and this might be his darkest. She knows what Lacey is up to. It’s one thing to have the last name Flair, it’s another to carry the weight of it.
Asuka did not accompany Flair, she’s got a title match later, which left her at a disadvantage with Jax on the outside. It didn’t matter in the end. Less than a minute in, Flair had Baszler in a Figure-Four. Nia Jax came in and delivered a leg drop to Flair, ending the match and starting the beatdown. It wasn’t Asuka who came to save her partner, it was Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke, who have had enough of Jax and Baszler. Lacey Evans arrived and started beating on Flair… guess what happened after the ads.
Charlotte Flair, Mandy Rose, & Dana Brooke vs Shayna Baszler, Nia Jax, & Lacey Evans was pretty good. Flair and Baszler did have a spell, but Flair was obviously a little distracted by Evans’ presence. It didn’t cost her this time and Baszler took quite the beating from Rose and Brooke as well as Flair.
It ‘finished’ with an unsatisfying count out when Baszler pushed Flair back into the ring at nine and a bit but didn’t make it back in herself.
It was back on when we came back from the ads. Adam Pearce restarted the match during the break with the agreement of Flair, Rose, and Brooke. Nia Jax was in the ring with Brooke and was busy making her regret that decision.
Dana Brooke took a lot of punishment, including Baszler’s elbow stamp, before escaping Nia Jax and tagging Mandy Rose. It broke down after Baszler had to save Evans from being pinned by Rose. Flair speared Baszler. Jax bulldozed Flair then dragged Evans to the corner to tag. Evans pulled Flair out of the ring by her leg, took one look at Flair’s face and ran off through where the crowd would be with Flair in hot pursuit. Left alone in the ring, Nia Jax slammed Dana Brooke into the canvas then finished her with a leg drop.
♦ SlapJack, with RETRIBUTION, vs Xavier Woods was the latest in Mustafa Ali’s attempts to destroy Kofi Kingston by destroying Xavier Woods. Earlier, Ali said RETRIBUTION want to be a reminder of reality not their escape from reality. He also sent a message to Kingston that he’s coming after him because the greatest moment of Kingston’s career came at his expense. Kofimania was born because Kingston took Ali’s spot in the Elimination Chamber and everything that went with it. Reckoning was not with RETRIBUTION.
The match didn’t do much to further Ali’s cause. Despite the early stages of interference from RETRIBUTION, Xavier Woods pinned SlapJack with a shining wizard. He paid for it though. T-BAR flattened him as he tried to get away and put him back in the ring where he and MACE delivered a double chokeslam and Ali faked out hitting him with a chair while he was being held, then sat on it and talked at him instead. He told Woods to take a message to Kofi Kingston. He’s heard the news Kingston won’t be participating in the Royal Rumble match, but a replacement has been found and his name is Mustafa Ali.
♦ R-Truth told Riddle The Hurt Business were going to throw him (Truth) a surprise party on the VIP Lounge. Truth wittered on a bit, but he inspired a plan from Riddle.
The VIP Lounge started with MVP’s ramblings and a pep-talk for Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander for their gauntlet match, before turning it over to Lashley. They bought MVP a present, a big gold chain with a diamond-encrusted THB. There was still tension between Benjamin and Alexander, but R-Truth arrived and demanded to know where his party and presents were.
Lashley tried to encourage Truth into the ring, but the 24/7 chasing pack arrived and chaos broke out. In the middle of it all, when MVP was alone, Riddle dived into the ring and kneed him in the face. He escaped unscathed, but he’s still got to face them in a gauntlet match.
♦ R-Truth asked Adam Pearce for a chance to qualify for the Rumble match. Actually, he asked him for a chance to qualify for Money in the Bank Ladder Match, but AJ Styles arrived and translated. He also offered to be Truth’s opponent in a match to prove his worth.
♦ WWE are putting WWE Network on Peacock in the US, starting in March. So far there are no implications for viewers in the rest of the world, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
♦ Sheamus vs John Morrison was decent. Miz had a couple of attempts at interference, which came to nothing. Morrison took out one of Sheamus’ legs as Sheamus came off the top turnbuckle, and worked on it for the remainder of the match. It was clearly bothering Sheamus, but he carried on regardless and won the match with White Noise.
The Miz was furious and demanded he faces them both immediately. Sheamus has never backed down from a fight.
The Miz & John Morrison vs Sheamus wasn’t even a tag style handicap match, it was a straight two on one. The majority of it didn’t go well for Sheamus, as you’d expect. He was tossed over the top rope, because the Rumble is on Sunday, and thoroughly beaten up and beaten down all around ringside and in the ring. Eventually, he pitched Morrison over the top rope as he charged at him and took Miz down with a clothesline. That was Sheamus’ comeback. He would’ve had Miz pinned if Morrison hadn’t come back in. But if Morrison hadn’t come back in, then he wouldn’t have been able to hit a rolling senton on Miz onto him.
Miz and Morrison both took Ten Beats of the Bodhran and got landed on by Sheamus from the top turnbuckle to the floor. Morrison prevented a Brogue Kick on Miz. Sheamus evaded a Skull Crushing Finale and Brogue Kicked Morrison, but the second attempt at a Skull Crushing Finale successfully ended the match.
♦ Charlotte Flair walked in on Ric Flair coaching Lacey Evans. She told Evans to get out, which she did when using Ric as a shield. Ric told her that just because she’s a big star now doesn’t mean there’s no place for him in the dressing room. He can still pass on his wisdom, and he’s always going to be him. She asked if that meant the man who was spending all his money on everyone except the family and told him she wasn’t the bad guy. It was cute when she was young, but she’s the only one protecting him now. He’s going from legend to old man, and she has no trouble saying it to his face. She’s not the bad guy.
As she turned to walk out, she took a Woman’s Right from Lacey Evans and a kick in the head when she was down. Evans dragged Ric away while he was trying to check on her and was asking for advice on how to Woo as they walked away.
♦ R-Truth vs AJ Styles, with Omos, had more Royal Rumble baiting. Truth threw Styles over the top rope, but he couldn’t get the win. After a short but fun match, AJ Styles submitted R-Truth with a calf crusher.
♦ After a replay of Randy Orton’s speech last week, Alexa Bliss appeared from her playground singing a nursery rhyme. She said last week was so much fun and asked invisible Fiend if he saw Randy’s face after what they did. Interspersed with footage to illustrate her points, she said she wanted to have fun with Asuka in her playground but Asuka didn’t want to play nice. But then, neither did she. She asked if we liked her mid-match gimmick changing trick. He taught her that. He taught her a lot of things and she can’t wait to see him so she can thank him. But tonight she has a chance to win a shiny new toy. And just like last week, she doesn’t feel like playing nice. She held up the Pain glove, finished with another nursery rhyme and a Fiend voiced ‘Let Me In’.
♦ Riddle vs Shelton Benjamin was much tougher on Riddle than could be considered ideal as it was potentially the first of three. It went long for the first match in a gauntlet as well. Benjamin had Riddle pinned off a reversed roll-up, but Cedric Alexander was distracting the ref, and Riddle kicked out before he got to the count. The ref didn’t miss Riddle’s pin on Benjamin while MVP was still telling Alexander off.
MVP tapped out in a heel lock before Benjamin and Alexander had finished arguing, so Riddle vs MVP was about five seconds in total.
Riddle vs Cedric Alexander was The Hurt Business’ last chance to stop Riddle getting a title match against Lashley. Riddle was tired but focused. Alexander had the advantage of not having gone through a gruelling match already but was as interested in proving a point to his colleagues as he was in the match. MVP yelled instructions at him throughout, in an attempt to focus him, but it was counter-productive if anything. Alexander took much took long going to the top, so Riddle moved and caught him in a triangle. A powerbomb failed to dislodge him but he let go on the second attempt. Some tricky manoeuvring later, without ever losing contact, Alexander’s legs were hooked, and Matt Riddle has a title opportunity.
Riddle escaped the ring before he could get beaten up, but Bobby Lashley charged out and put him to sleep in the Hurt Lock.
♦ Edge gave an update on his health. He said if 2020 has taught him anything, it’s that you can’t sleep on tomorrow. If you’ve got a dream you’ve got to wake up every day and reach for it. You’ve got to fight for it every day. Tomorrow’s not guaranteed. Sometimes you find yourself in a place where you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep walking forward, always forward.
He asked us to bear with him and told the story of having to retire, then went right back to telling his mom he was going to be a wrestler and how her words, ‘Just go do it’, motivated him through his career and to get it back after nine years. He moved onto the triceps tear at Backlash and reminded him how easy it is to have everything can be torn away just like that. But you can’t live int that space, you’ve got to fight. He knows what his mom would say, she’d say, Adam just go do it. So, he’s entering the Royal Rumble match. It won’t be like last year. The stakes are higher because the window closes for him more and more every day. So, he needs to win the Royal Rumble, main event WrestleMania and take back what he never lost, what is his. If you’ve got a dream at some point, you’ve got to fight to make that dream a reality. At Royal Rumble, he’s going to fight with every fibre of his being to make this maybe farfetched dream come true.
If we’ve been with him on this ride from The Brood until now, we know he has to try. Because a world without dreamers, a world without fighter is a much less magical place. He quoted Henry Ford’s ‘If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right’. He thinks he can.
♦ Asuka (C) vs Alexa Bliss – RAW Women’s Championship match – was the main event of the show, just like their non-title match did last week. It was good, but there was going to be weirdness. Asuka still looked a little creeped out, but she channelled it into aggression. A missed hip attack let Bliss kick Asuka out of the ring and creepy music box music started up. When Asuka looked up, Bliss was in the ring on a rocking horse.
Another gimmick change, later in the match, saw Bliss’ gimmick change again. Her original music played and suddenly she was pre-Fiend Alexa Bliss and she was crying. Asuka charged her and Bliss sent her into the turnbuckle. Instead of following up, Bliss stood in the opposite corner with her head down as the lights went out. Rock a bye Baby played, the lights came back on in purple and it was dark side Bliss in the crab pose.
Asuka got her in the Asuka Lock but Bliss powered free and got her in the mandible claw. Before Asuka could tap, Randy Orton appeared behind Bliss and RKO’d her.
So, WWE will allow an RKO on Bliss, but not allow Sasha Banks and Reginald to have a proper match. I’m sure there’s a rational explanation… or maybe there isn’t. Anyway, that was a very packed episode and Royal Rumble will probably be great.