SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – MISS: I hated the start of Raw. Last week’s show ended with a cliffhanger where we didn’t know whether or not Randy Orton lit Alexa Bliss on fire. The fact that WWE didn’t address this at all for a long stretch of the show was terrible. Is Bliss dead? I get that the theme for this show was the legends, so starting off with Hulk Hogan made some sense, but I don’t want to see him on my TV. Later on, it was quite telling that the man who got in trouble for making multiple racist statements endorsed the white wrestler instead of his black opponent. In addition to the issues of the lack of follow up on the cliffhanger, Miz TV was terrible as usual and New Day taking over with their New Day Talks segment wasn’t any better. I did get a kick out of John Morrison briefly playing along with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods. Teddy Long had the best appearance by a legend on this show, but that wasn’t enough to save the segment considering how bad it was otherwise.
New Day vs. Miz & Morrison – HIT: The match that Teddy Long made ended up being good, but not great. With the way that New Day dominated so much of the match, I assumed it meant that Miz & Morrison would get the win to balance things out in typical WWE fashion. So, I suppose I should be happy that they broke from their formula. Of course, that also meant that Mr. Money in the Bank lost again. But as I said, the match was good enough.
Orton and the Legends – MISS: It seemed like WWE was moving Randy Orton past his feud with The Fiend, which I’d certainly be in favor of. I doubt that they are actually doing that though. The idea that Orton would be asked about the possibility of Fiend coming back is crazy considering they are playing up the fact that he was burned to death. This led to Orton deciding to channel his anger at himself for not burning Bliss into berating a bunch of legends throughout the show. When you spend much of 2020 reinforcing Orton’s old Legend Killer persona by having him destroy Ric Flair, Christian, Shawn Michaels and The Big Show on two different occasions, the bar is set high for how dark and twisted he gets when dealing with legends. So, when you have a group of legends on a show and all Orton does to kill them is make fun of them and make them cry, it doesn’t have quite the same impact. It also emasculates the legends in a way that diminishes their usefulness in the future.
Angel Garza – MISS: It makes sense to have Angel Garza hating on some of the female legends as it fits in with his character. However, he is so talented, it was disappointing to see him involved in the 24/7 title silliness. I didn’t like having him berated by Sgt. Slaughter. I don’t want to see him portrayed as a joke like when he was tricked by Torrie Wilson into going into the room with the Boogeyman. Hopefully losing the 24/7 title back to R-Truth is the end of it and he can actually move on to something worthy of his talent.
Styles vs. Elias – MISS: We didn’t need their match last week and we didn’t need this rematch. Setting up Omos vs. Ryker as they seem to be doing doesn’t get me excited at all.
Asuka & Flair vs. Royce & Evans – MISS: I don’t get breaking up a team with chemistry like The IIconics, in an effort to create a singles star out of Peyton Royce, only to team her up with Lacey Evans with whom she has no chemistry. I don’t want to see their team continue, so I didn’t like seeing them get a win in a tired formula over the Tag Team Champions. This match had some very sloppy spots; Particularly Charlotte Flair’s terrible looking Natural Selection on Royce. The bigger issue was the use of Ric Flair at ringside. Flirting with by Evans due to Evans being pushy and ultimately tripping his daughter to cost her team the win? He seemed upset at himself, but did he think he was tripping Royce? Did he lose his mind and want to help the hot blond who flirted with him and then realize what he did? I’m not even sure what they were going for with that moment. Then Charlotte berating her dad didn’t make her seem like a babyface. She should be a heel, but turning her so soon after her return as a babyface doesn’t make much sense. So, this was problematic on a number of levels. On a side note, Charlotte should never talk about defying the odds to win anything.
Riddle vs. Lashley – MISS: Matt Riddle and Bobby Lashley executed this match well. The problem is that the match shouldn’t have happened. Lashley is one of the few wrestlers who has been protected by WWE. He shouldn’t lose. Riddle needed to be built up better than he has been before getting a match against the United States Champion. As I’ve advocated many times over the years, I would do away with non-title matches entirely. Make Riddle earn a US Championship match without having him beat the Champion in a non-title match. WWE clearly wants to get to that title match, but they don’t know how to do it without having the challenger win a non-title match first. They must have realized that Riddle winning would hurt Lashley, so they came up with this convoluted ending to “protect” him by having Riddle tap out to the Hurt Lock when the referee was not looking. This gave Riddle a cheap leverage win which didn’t mean much considering he was tapping out a moment before. It is backwards booking. It doesn’t help either wrestler an it hurts the US Champion’s credibility.
Brooke vs. Baszler – MISS: Shayna Baszler should be the top heel in the women’s division. Instead, we have her losing to a perpetual loser in Dana Brooke and getting beat up afterwards by Mandy Rose? I don’t get it. Plus, after the pre-match beating on Rose, it appeared Rose couldn’t wrestle at all. Then all of a sudden Rose was healed and perfectly fine about a minute later to help Brooke after their impromptu match? Inconsistent storytelling at best.
Orton vs. Hardy – HIT: This was a solid to good stretch of 14 minutes of in-ring action. Jeff Hardy loses all the time, so he simply doesn’t matter as much as he should. Orton is still being built as a top heel. Having him win clean here was the right way to go.
Lucha House Party vs. Hurt Business – MISS: WWE has too many champions lose non-title matches. The Lucha House Party have been jokes for a long time (despite their talent), so having them beat the Tag Team Champions in 3 minutes was a mistake. It was the fourth match of the night to end on a leverage pin attempt which means the producers and wrestlers need to do a better job of communicating when planning out the matches so that the finishes aren’t so redundant. NXT jumpstarted a push for Lucha House Party and they will presumably be in the Dusty Classic and that’s ok. They wanted to continue that push here which is ok too. That said, Gran Metalik is the one getting the Cruiserweight Title match on New Year’s Evil. Why not at least have him get the pin here instead of his partner Lince Dorado? In regards to the Hurt Business, they are telling the story of tension between CedricAlexander and Shelton Benjamin too soon given how hot of an act Hurt Business has become.
Lee vs. McIntyre – HIT: There was a scary moment early in this WWE Title match where Kieth Lee didn’t get high enough on a leapfrog and it was almost a disaster. Luckily, he and Drew McIntyre recovered quickly. The top rope Spanish Fly was also scary as I was worried that Lee was going to land on his head, but he seemed to just make it around. Despite a few reservations, this was a good main event. Lee didn’t look as gassed as he has in some of his other recent matches. The pounce over the barricade was a great spot. In addition, McIntyre was able to show off his great athleticism and strength. They did some nice teases of both hitting their finishers, but neither could until the very end when McIntyre finally hit the Claymore for the clean win. I thought Sheamus would get involved, but it was good he stayed away so the match could finish cleanly. The legends watching from the stage was a nice touch to sell the importance of the match.
Goldberg – MISS: I have zero interest in watching Goldberg wrestle anyone – particularly the WWE Champion in a match that he hasn’t earned. The background for this match is that Goldberg feels that McIntyre is disrespectful towards all the legends?Where did that come from? That story made no sense and totally rang hollow. What was he talking about? If they wanted to get to Goldberg vs. McIntyre, there had to be a different way to do it. Do they want Goldberg to be a heel? Furthermore, McIntyre acted out of character by playing into the idea that he is disrespectful to the legends when he talked about Goldberg being as old as his dad. Is he the heel here? It was bad all around.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.