Bono may have famously sung about all being quiet on New Year’s Day, but evidently, the legendary Irishman never spent January 1st at a WWE show. There is one thing for certain when WWE comes to town, things are far from quiet. As far as I’m aware, this isn’t something that WWE has ever done before, although it seems like it should be obviously genius. Following the festivities of Christmas and New Year, this seems like the ideal final gift for wrestling fans, right before the January Blues kick in. That, and this show was on a Saturday night (hopefully a growing trend moving forward) which is ideal when you imagine the majority of fans have work or school on most Mondays. Although, in this instance, you have to feel for anybody in the arena who may be nursing a sore head from the night before.
Of course, when it comes to WWE, noise isn’t only confined to the ring. Merely one hour before the kick-off show went on air, it was announced that Roman Reigns has tested positive for Covid-19, and therefore is unable to perform at WWE Day 1. While this obviously has a knock-on effect on the planned main event for this show, some things run deeper than pro-wrestling and it’s important to remember that there is a real man behind the Roman Reigns character. All of us at SteelChair send our best wishes to Roman Reigns and wish him a speedy recovery.
As a result of this breaking news, Brock Lesnar was instead added to the WWE Championship match, making it a Fatal Five-Way, but more on that later. For the time being, WWE has had to shift away from the Lesnar vs Reigns rivalry, plus there was the ongoing factor of Paul Heyman and how that may have played into the finish of the planned match. We’ll have to wait and see if WWE gets back to that story in due course.
In the pre-show, Sheamus defeated Cesaro and Ricochet. Sheamus was teaming up with Ridge Holland but Ricochet broke Holland’s nose and forced him to be taken backstage. Sheamus found himself in what was essentially a 2-on-1 Handicap Match.
SmackDown Tag Team Championships
The Usos (C) vs The New Day
Michael Cole and Pat McAfee welcomed us to the show and reminded us of the breaking news concerning Roman Reigns. Then the new year officially kicked off with two of the most decorated teams in WWE history doing battle yet again for tag team gold. Despite so many matches together, I think they’d spent long enough time apart – plus there have been significant tweaks to gimmicks of both teams – that there has been a level of freshness to this feud. However, the fact the Usos are henchmen for Roman Reigns these days can both elevate them and diminish them, depending on the case by case context. I felt that the Samoan twins found a little something extra tonight, perhaps as a tribute to their absent cousin, and they genuinely came across as legit badasses at times.
That said, this wasn’t a match that tried to re-invent the wheel, but it was everything you’d expect as a greatest hits slugfest between these two teams. Perhaps the writing was on the wall when King Woods reminded us they were in his home town of Atlanta, Georgia if you pay attention to WWE trends like that. While Jimmy and Jey had paid tributes to Roman Reigns, Umaga and Rikishi, early on in the match, the greatest surprise might be that they won the match with a homage to the Dudley Boyz, a 3D to Kofi Kingston.
Winners: The Usos
Verdict: Solid match to kick off WWE’s first Premium Live Event of 2022 (yep, apparently we’re not calling them PPVs anymore).
Madcap Moss vs Drew McIntyre
It’s felt abundantly clear, since the last draft in October, that Drew McIntyre is destined to challenge for the Universal Championship, at some point. However, it feels painfully clear that WWE has no other plans for Drew between his move to the blue brand and that eventual match for the Universal title. If ever you had any doubts about that, look no further than this match. While I got their intention; Madcap Moss is the henchman one has to defeat to get to the final boss, but Happy (Baron) Corbin has never felt like that level of a boss, and McIntyre has been leagues above him for a long time.
At less than ten minutes, this match still felt too long and I felt the crowd was appropriately flat to reflect that. McIntyre won with a Claymore, but this really should’ve been more of a squash.
Winner: Drew McIntyre
Verdict: It would be one thing putting this on SmackDown, but it had no business being part of a Premium Live Event. Moss had some moments where he showed what he can do, but this character just doesn’t work for me. Likewise, Corbin was best utilised with his Lone Wolf gimmick, but the problem for him is that Damian Priest is currently making more out of a similar look.
RAW Tag Team Championships
RK-Bro (C) vs The Street Profits
The RAW commentary team of Jimmy Smith, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton took over proceedings (officially there were no more SmackDown matches left on the card. I guess that means Cole and McAfee got to go home early). The champs were accompanied to the ring by Migos – the hip hop trio who provided the official them tune for WWE Day 1. Migos then watched the match from the commentary position. With Bad Bunny last year, now Migos, WWE continues to associate with acts that I have never heard of, so I can only come to the conclusion that I am now ancient beyond belief.
I had a feeling going in that this match may be the beginning of the end for RK-Bro. As much as I really enjoy this team – and it constantly seems that Orton is genuinely having a lot of fun too – but these odd couple teams can’t last forever as we’re now on the Road to WrestleMania, a Riddle vs Orton feud feels like the logical next step. However, that turned out to not be the case, at least not tonight. While Riddle worked the early portion of the match, with his mentor looking on, Orton eventually got his trademark Spike DDT’s and picked up the victory with an RKO.
Verdict: It’s difficult to look at the current WWE tag division and not think that they’re all some levels below Randy Orton – such is the legacy star he’s become. While on hand, I think the division could do without the distraction of Orton, perhaps they do need him to help elevate the division. This was a by the numbers match that also served WWE’s obligation of having a Migos appearance.
Backstage, Drew McIntyre was giving a post-match interview when he was attacked by Madcap Moss and Happy Corbin. Moss trapped McIntyre’s neck in a steel chair while Corbin hit the chair with a piece of scaffolding. That would appear to be the sort of angle that would write McIntyre out, even if just for a few weeks. It would also seem that this feud isn’t over just yet. Sigh.
The Miz vs Edge
I try to make a point of not mentioning AEW when writing about WWE (and vice versa) because it really shouldn’t be the point. However, with the build-up to this match, I couldn’t help but wonder if this feud would ever have occurred to Vince if it wasn’t for the CM Punk and MJF promo, which Edge made reference to. That said, the circumstances could be a silver lining, as both guys were left with nothing else to do, following Edge ending his feud with Seth Rollins and Miz was fresh back from “Dancing With the Stars” and his feud with John Morrison was no longer possible. I would imagine that there is some sort of marquee match planned for Edge at WrestleMania, but he needs something else to do in the meantime. It feels like Edge and Miz didn’t have much to do with each other during Edge’s last tenure with the company, so this instantly struck me as a potential show-stealer. I have also enjoyed Maryse’s return and the part she’s played in this feud.
Edge came out to the hybrid version of his Brood and Metalingus themes, which instantly pumped up the crowd, in a way they hadn’t appeared to be all night. This match showed that Miz has benefitted from some extended time away. He’d become so much of a comedy character in 2021 – it seems strange to think that he was WWE Champion in February – so I think he needed a soft reboot. He’s the perfect chickenshit heel and that’s exactly what’s needed against an undisputed fan favourite in Edge. Speaking of Edge, this was the perfect match to showcase the veteran that we’ve become accustomed to since his return in 2020. This Edge works a smarter and more cerebral style in comparison to the years flying from ladders and crashing through tables. This Edge had made the crossface his own, and every time he applied it, you could believe he was close to making the Miz tap out, and maybe he could’ve done, were it not for Maryse’s interference.
Maryse provided a distraction that enabled Miz to hit the Skull-Crushing Finale, but Edge dug deep and managed to kick out. Then, Hall of Famer, Beth Phoenix came out, scaring Maryse away from ringside. Phoenix also succeeded in distracting Miz, who walked into a Spear from Edge for the victory.
Verdict: A fun match. If WWE commits to this presentation of Miz, he can go a long way. Sadly, I’m not convinced they will go that route. I’d have been happy for that to be a one and done for Edge before he moves onto something bigger – ideally, I’d like to see him as a World Champion at least one more time, while he still can. However, the appearance of Beth Phoenix suggests we’re going to get a mixed-tag match, maybe as soon as the Royal Rumble?
RAW Women’s Championship
Becky Lynch (C) vs Liv Morgan
My only criticism with this match is that they’ve been telling a similar story across the road at SmackDown. Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair are both in similar roles as the sour, multi-time Champ veteran, while Liv Morgan and Toni Storm were in similar roles as the white-meat babyface underdog with a point to prove. As is evident, from Liv’s previous title shot on a recent episode of RAW, Morgan is clearly popular with the audience. Every so often, WWE stumbles upon gold like the Angry Liv Girl, which shows that surely we will see Liv Morgan as a Women’s Champion, it’s just a case of when not if.
This was a scrappy match in the best possible way. It felt like this match had the most angst and animosity in comparison to every other match of the night so far. There were moments that were earned from the build to this match over the past month. Liv got revenge for Becky trapping her arm between the ring steps and the corner post. Liv also showed the characteristics of a rookie who had learnt from her previous mistakes. If the last match was a wrestling match, then this one felt more like a fight. There were also numerous moments where Becky’s facial expressions told the story of somebody who had underestimated her opponent. Liv appeared to have Becky’s number on this night until Lynch reversed with a Manhandle Slam for the victory. At the very end, it looked as though Becky was trying to put her feet on the bottom rope, for a leverage pin, but couldn’t quite reach.
Winner: Becky Lynch
Verdict: It did seem as though the finish wasn’t intended to be as clean. Becky cheating to win could’ve added more fuel to Liv’s fire, demanding she gets another rematch under fairer circumstances. While this feud has done a lot to elevate Liv, and 2022 year could be a big one for her, it is a long year ahead and there doesn’t need to be a rush. So with a drastically reduced Women’s division, where do WWE go from here? I think the most obvious option is for Bianca Belair to win the Rumble – becoming the first woman to do so twice – and then finally dethrone Becky at WrestleMania. Not only am I not against that idea, but I’d actually advocate for it.
WWE Championship Fatal Five-Way Match
Big E (C) vs Seth Rollins vs Bobby Lashley vs Kevin Owens vs Brock Lesnar
Just like there are many types of film, there are many types of wrestling matches. From arthouse cinema to the edge of your seat action movie, this match was certainly the latter. It was the shortest match of the night, at just over eight minutes, but it was completely non-stop from bell to bell. There was a good mix of styles in this match, even if three of the five men were the big powerhouse types. Bobby Lashley speared Brock Lesnar through the ringside barricade early in the match. Big E sent Lashley crashing through the commentary table. Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins worked as an efficient team, taking out their opponents with the steel ring steps. However, for a no disqualification match, that was as far as the use of weapons went.
There were some good interactions between Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley in this match. I think many fans have been salivating over a match between Lesnar and Lashley for some time. They both have pro wrestling and MMA backgrounds, they both have the BL initials. Their interaction may have been brief, and Lashley held Lesnar captive in the Hurt Lock in a way we haven’t seen the Beast in trouble for a long time. We’ll never know how that may have turned out, as Big E made the save. All five men got to hit their finishing moves, many of which were within a chain of moves in the frantic final moments. But this match was dominated by Brock Lesnar, who hit a number of F5s, the most decisive of which was to Big E, which enabled the Beast to capture his sixth WWE Championship in his third decade in this business.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Verdict: There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, we can’t help but wonder what may have been if Roman was able to work tonight. With a feud that’s been burning since SummerSlam, with rumours there was a big finish planned for her, potentially leading to another WrestleMania main event, this is an abrupt shift to have Lesnar win the WWE Championship instead.
That was a decisive way for Big E to lose the title. My initial hunch would’ve been that somebody else would’ve taken the pin, to keep Big E in the title picture. However, that loss strikes me as the one similar to how Kofi Kingston lost the WWE title back in late 2019. My suspicions here are that the experiment with Big E as a main event player is over.
Following the match, there appeared to be quite the staredown between Lashley and Lesnar. It may turn out the circumstances of this match are a happy accident, but I think they’ve certainly done enough to whet the appetite for a Lesnar vs Lashley singles match. At this point, I daresay Lashley could win the Rumble to set up that match at WrestleMania.
Overall: I really enjoyed this show, more than many WWE shows in recent memory. Simple things, like the usage of ‘Day 1’ as a name, gave the feeling of a soft reset, a fresh start at the new year. It’s a different start to the Road to WrestleMania, but one that I am completely in favour of. While this certainly didn’t have the feeling of a Big Four show, perhaps that’s a good thing, as it may have diminished the Rumble otherwise. But this was a solid second-tier PPV – sorry, Premium Live Event. There will be mixed reactions to Lesnar winning a World title, again, but I felt this show needed something big, in the way of a title change in the main event.
All images and videos courtesy of WWE