Recap: The show opened with Stephanie McMahon in the ring. Before she could introduce Becky Lynch, Becky took it upon herself to come to the ring.
Stephanie noted that she had never seen anyone stand in Ronda Rousey’s face and smile the way Becky did last week. She then feigned concern for Becky, commenting on her knee brace. She noted that Becky had refused medical treatment for the past 8 days since tweaking her knee. Stephanie said she couldn’t let Becky compete unless she allows herself the be cleared by WWE medical staff.
Becky angrily told Stephanie that she saw what was going on. She said she was the glitch in Stephanie’s plans. She contrasted her struggles in getting to the top with Stephanie never needing to struggle for anything.
Stephanie went on to say that it’s a liability for Becky to be in the ring without medical clearance. She said that if Becky didn’t see a doctor, she would be suspended. Becky warned Stephanie not to say that again. Stephanie ignored the warning and suspended Becky. Becky then attacked Stephanie, but quickly had trouble walking after a kick by Stephanie to her injured knee. The scrum was broken up by backstage hands and Becky was escorted out of the building.
On the way out of the arena, Becky ran into Ronda Rousey. Ronda chastised Becky for endangering the “women’s evolution” by risking their match at WrestleMania. She said that Becky tests the limits of her professionalism every time they meet. Becky stared her down and smirked. Before heading to the ring, referencing Becky’s injury, Ronda exclaimed, “Ice and advil, bitch!”
Recap: Becky was great tonight. The injury angle gives her more adversity to overcome, which will make her victory over Ronda at WrestleMania more satisfying.
Becky’s patented silent smirk is an instant classic.
Forecast: Tonight was notably heavily focused on Becky and Ronda with no mention of Charlotte. I hope this is an indication that we will get a one-on-one match at WrestleMania.
RONDA THOROUGHLY UNLIKEABLE…
Recap: After the events above, Ronda quickly dispatched Liv Morgan in a match. After the match, she angrily called out the fans’ boos and then challenged Sarah Logan. Sarah accepted, and also quickly lost. Ruby Riott acted as if she was going to step up, but backed off.
Evaluation: I don’t know if WWE intends Ronda Rousey to be playing a straight heel right now, but she is so thoroughly unlikeable that it’s certainly being preceived that way by the fans.
When Ronda and Becky encountered each other backstage, Ronda immediately jumped into “empowerment-speak,” framing the situation in terms of some supposed negative impact on the “women’s evolution” rather than a dispute between two athletes. As I’ve discussed in this column many times, part of the reason Becky rose to popularity in the first place was that during the height of WWE pushing its empowerment narrative she stood out as the one woman who avoided such talk and came across as simply being “cool,” tough, and capable. WWE seemed to have noticed the negative effect of the empowerment-talk as well, as in recent months it had completely disappeared until Ronda’s promo tonight. This makes me think the writers knew what they were doing and were using it as a heel gimmick.
I’m further bolstered in this conclusion by the segment that followed the encounter. Ronda angrily called out the fans for their boos when challenging Sarah Logan (not a face manuever). She also ran through Liv and Sarah without any effort, which is not typically a strategy one would use to rehabilitate a face character against whom the fans have turned, as such booking feeds a narrative that the fans’ opinions are being ignored, breeding even more heat.
Forecast: Hopefully WWE is in fact embracing the idea of Ronda as a heel.
KURT RETIREMENT FAKEOUT…
Recap: Near the top of the second hour, Kurt Angle came to the ring. He gave a retirement speech recounting his achievements beginning with the European Title and eventually becoming a multi-time WWE Champion. He went on to say the one enemy he couldn’t defeat was Father Time. He said his three Is have become three Ds: doubt, defeat, and depression.
Kurt was interrupted by Baron Corbin, who asked him to wrap things up. Corbin said Kurt should’ve retired two years ago. He called him a broken down shadow of a man. Kurt threatened to break Corbin’s ankle.
Drew McIntyre then came to the ramp. He chastised Kurt for being unable to help himself in threatening Corbin. He said people used to look into Kurt’s eyes and see a warrior, but now all he could see was fear. Drew said he thought he’d never see Kurt again, but that he knows Kurt has no quit.
Drew and Corbin then approached the ring. They surrounded Kurt, but Braun Strowman came out to even the odds.
We were later informed that the four would meet in a tag match in the main event.
In a backstage interview, Charly Caruso asked Kurt about being “humiliated” in recent weeks. He ignored the question. When she pressed, he said that while he didn’t expect to be competing tonight, he ended up bringing his gear due to a feeling he had. Braun Strowman then appeared, saying it was an honor to be teaming with Kurt.
The main event ended in DQ when Strowman attacked Corbin despite not being the legal man. After the match, the heels gained the upper hand and set up the steel steps for a double choke slam to Kurt Angle. Strowman recovered, however, saving Angle and choke slamming both heels onto the steps. The show ended with Braun raising Kurt’s hand in the ring.
Recap: This worked. Drew came across as a mean alpha. Corbin was detestable as always. Kurt was sympathetic, but unfortunately has been weakened too much by prior events.
Forecast: With two PPVs between now and WrestleMania, I would expect at least one PPV tag match, followed by Kurt vs. Drew at WrestleMania.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – RAW 1/28: Seth Chooses, New Gimmick for Nia, Ronda Booed Out of the Building