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WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW TV REPORT
JANUARY 11, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (THE “THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY BRUCE LEE HAZELWOOD, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Samoa Joe
Ring Announcer: Mike Rome
(Hazelwood’s Take: Just before 2 EST, WWE announced that WWE Champion Drew McIntyre tested positive for COVID-19 and is in quarantine. What a blow to McIntyre, whose done admirably as WWE Champion during the pandemic, although I guess it might save him from a match with Goldberg. This is also a huge blow for WWE with their WWE Champion needing to miss any sort of time, let alone during Wrestlemania season. I’m hoping McIntyre recovers soon and with no setbacks; get well, Champ. It’s going to be very interesting to see how WWE pivots tonight, and the usual chaotic nature of Vince McMahon’s booking may be even more prevalent.)
-They began with a video recapping last week’s (terrible) “Legends Night” with Orton’s journey humiliating Legends. Tom Phillips then welcomed us from the “award winning and critically acclaimed WWE Thunderdome” after not saying it last week. Triple H then entered to his “Bow Down to the King” theme as Phillips said this is Triple H’s first time in the Thunderdome. Samoa Joe alluded to the news of McIntyre being COVID-positive, but Phillips shifted to discussing Randy Orton as Triple H entered the ring. He grabbed a mic and paced the ring a bit. With some piped-in “Triple H” chants, he jokingly said he’s still got it and then welcomed us to Raw. Before he could begin, Orton’s music hit as me made his entrance with a mic in hand and laughing. He said look who it is and that “the office” decided to show up because “Drew McIntyre couldn’t.” He said he was supposed to have a pretty big match tonight, but Triple H said they’re both aware it’s not happening tonight. Orton said since Triple H got all dressed up and prettied up to be in the Thunderdome that he has some official ruling. Orton asked if he will be announced as the last participant in the Rumble match or be handed the WWE Championship. Triple H said if he wants the title, he should win the Rumble. Orton said the only reason he could possible be here is to make a call, anything, and to make sure it benefitted Orton. Triple H asked if that’s where they’re at now, threatening him and “flexing his jaw muscles” as if that’s going to scare him. He said he’s sat back and seen the old Orton appear and that he was in awe while a lot of people criticized him. Triple H said they didn’t understand Orton and they think he went too far.
Triple H said he saw him light that match, but also watched it go out as he knew everything he wanted was in that flame. He dropped it, and Triple H said he was never more proud of him because he stood between what benefitted him. He said that there are a few things Orton’s done he doesn’t understand like punting The Big Show or threatening and humiliating Mark Henry, Shawn Michaels, and Ric Flair. He said it made him look at Orton differently, that he’s not a Legend, that he’s nothing more “than a no-good prick.” Orton said he could call him what he wants, but Orton’s in his peak and is a Legend in his own time, just like Triple H. He asked if Triple H still has it, if the “Cerebral Assassin,” “The Game,” “The King of Kings” is still in there. He asked if Triple H will accept a challenge not for a match, but for a fight. Triple H said Orton’s smart enough to know that when someone wants you to do something, there’s no benefit. He said no and before he could leave, Orton said is it that there’s no benefit or just that you can’t “retrieve your balls from Stephanie’s purse?” Triple H reacted and then just punched Orton in the face, who rolled out of the ring, laughing as he shook off the punch. Orton said, “I guess that means yes,” as his music played and they glared at each other. The commentators wondered if that was consent for a fight or not.
-They shifted to discussing Flair’s other tribulation from last week when he cost Charlotte Flair her tag team match by accidentally tripping her after spending most of the match flirting with Lacey Evans. They showed replays of the events, which resulted in Petyon Royce pinning Charlotte Flair and the latter telling off her father. They shifted to Gorilla position where Sarah Schreiber (with a nice, wicked harido) approached Flair. She said Evans was classless and isn’t the first or last to hit on her dad in front of him, but her dad is her dad, too. She said her dad raised her and knows how competitive she is, and then asked Schreiber why in 2021 as she’s preparing for a match is Schreiber asking about her dad? She then entered for her match against Evans. They then showed Evans in Gorilla who said Flair needs to calm down and that she didn’t flirt with anyone who didn’t want to be flirted with. She said Ric Flair might be Charlotte’s dad, but that he’s charming and handsome and what woman wouldn’t want a piece of that? She then dedicated her match to Papa Flair as she made her entrance. They cut to break as Evans entered the ring. [c]
-They returned with McIntyre saying he tested positive for COVID-19 and that he’s asymptomatic. He actually asked fans to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines, to take it seriously. He made no mention of the WWE Championship, so it looks like he won’t be stripped.
(1) CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. LACEY EVANS
-They began with a lockup and another as Flair went for a quick rollup pin. Flair signals for a test of strength, but Evans kicked her in the gut and locked in a side headlock. Flair sent her into the ropes and floored her with a shoulder tackle. Flair caught an Evans kick and unloaded with chops across the chest, Irish whip into the turnbuckle, corner boot for a two-count. She locked in the Figure-4 headlock and bashed Evans’ head into the mat several times, then just cinching in the hold. She rolled around Evans in the lock and started working the left leg, targeting the knee. Evans grabbed the rope and rolled out of the ring as Papa Flair’s music hit to Charlotte Flair’s chagrin. He strutted out with a smile and “a pep in his step” as Joe said with his daughter looking confused as they cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: It took them 20 minutes, but they finally addressed McIntyre’s removal rather than just alluding to it. To actually hear him say “COVID-19” on WWE TV is shocking, but I’m thankful he did and made such a strong stance to take the pandemic seriously. Kudos to him and all the ill will he built with me for the Terry rub last week is gone, and then some. He’s asymptomatic, which makes a return at the Rumble more likely, so the Goldberg match is probably still scheduled. Let’s see if there is any further news as the show progresses.)
They returned with Flair still in control, but Evans countered and took over with corner stomps to Flair. She then hit her rope-assisted handstand bronco buster and rolled Flair out of the ring. She followed and was able to whip Flair gut-first into the ringside barricade. They rolled back into the ring as Evans styled and profiled like Papa Flair, but missed the knee drop. She still maintained control with big strikes and a modified Cobra Clutch. Flair fought back with a belly-to-back suplex. Flair sat up and glared at her father. Evans tried to rollup Flair, but she rolled through and responded with a kick to Evans’ face. She went for another boot, but was caught up on the top rope as Evans pulled her to the mat hair-first. Flair fought back with a boot and clotheslines, then her modified neckbreaker into an exploder suplex. She booted Evans off the apron to the floor, then followed and rolled her back in as she climbed the turnbuckles. Evans pulled her off, but Flair responded with a flatliner into the turnbuckle and hit a (disgusting looking) Natural Selection. Papa Flair put Evans’ foot on the bottom rope to break the pin. His daughter responded angrily as Papa Flair said he’s “not staying home.” As she tried to suplex Evans back into the ring, Papa Flair grabbed her foot and caused Evans to fall on top for the pinfall victory. After the match, Flair said, “Someone wants me here,” and then hyped the forthcoming Elias vs. Jeff Hardy match as they cut to break. [c]
WINNER: Lacey Evans at 12:24
(Hazelwood’s Take: Aiyah…what is it with WWE and the “old man can’t contain his perverted desires around young women” storylines? Why do they treat their legends so badly? At least Triple H was right about all this humiliation going on because it is not endearing. While I’m usually someone who would NEVER complain about Flair putting others over, it’s the PROCESS of the last two weeks that leaves me shaking my head. She should NOT have put over either Royce or Evans, simple as that.)
-They returned as Schreiber approached a jubilant Flair and Evans, the latter saying she’s going to “change at the hotel.” The commentators looked shocked as they shifted to recapping last week’s WWE Championship match between McIntyre and Keith Lee, applauding their effort and the match. They showed Lee in the back as Kayla Braxton approached and asked him how he bounces back. Sheamus interrupted before Lee could answer and said Lee marched into Claymore Country last week and put up a hell of a fight and earned not only McIntyre’s respect, but his as well. The Miz & John Morrison then interrupted and reminded everyone he still has the Money in the Bank contract. Sheamus asked about Dumb & Dumber, and Lee asked which one’s dumber? Morrison said, “He is!” The Miz said they’re on a quest to right the wrongs on their list and the next two are Sheamus & Lee. The Miz said it will be like the Browns defeating the Steelers. The Miz asked what happened the last time their opponents teamed and that it ended with Sheamus Brogue Kicking Lee. They cut to the ring with Hardy already in the ring, music playing and pyro blasting. Elias then entered saying he was bad and worse news. The bad news is he suffered a “debilitating injury” while recording music. The worse news is Hardy has to face Ryker. Ryker said he’ll do whatever it takes to proves his allegiance to the “universal truth.”
(2) JEFF HARDY vs. JAXSON RYKER (w/Elias)
-Elias joined commentary as Ryker took control with heavy strikes. Elias said he injured his thumb by “playing the guitar enough.” Hardy countered and immediately looked to climb the ropes, but was distracted by Elias. Ryker rolled him up and grabbed Hardy’s pants for the victory. Hardy grabbed the mic and then, instead of calling out Ryker, called out Elias to face him. He said Elias is afraid that people will see that Ryker is better than him. Elias told Ryker not to get involved as they cut to break. [c]
WINNER: Jaxson Ryker at 0:48
(Hazelwood’s Take: There is just NO room to breathe between segments as they’re going segment-to-segment with no break, aside from the commercials. I’m not happy that Lee isn’t in the main event against Orton instead of Triple H, but at least by being in this tag match, he maintains his presence towards the top of the card. He should be pushed, and working in a tag match should help cover some of the conditioning and timing issues he’s been criticized for recently. Also, not a fan of Ryker for many reasons, so yeah, this has been a trying first hour.)
(3) JEFF HARDY vs. ELIAS (w/Jaxson Ryker)
-They returned with the match in progress (match time will be an estimate) and Elias in control after a big lariat to Hardy for a two-count. Hardy dodged some strikes and hit his inverted atomic drop-leg drop-basement dropkick-elbow (not splash) pin attempt for a two-count. Elias reversed the Twist of Fate into a Death Valley Driver for a two-count. He hit some shoulder thrusts to Hardy in the corner followed by some strikes, but Hardy hit Whisper in the Wind for a two-count. He went for his mule kick, but Elias threw him off using the momentum, then a huge pump knee into a lifting spinning neckbreaker for a believable two-count. Elias hit a few uppercuts, but Hardy reversed one into a backslide, then a Twist of Fate. He climbed for the Swanton, hit, victory. They hyped the tag match between Lee & Sheamus and The Miz & Morrison as they cut to break. [c]
WINNER: Jeff Hardy at about 7:23
-They returned by recapping Orton’s challenge to Triple H to begin the show. Let’s stop with these “You aren’t man enough” stories, yeah? They kind of, sort of confirmed the challenge, at least showing a graphic that said Triple H would answer the challenge later.
(4) SHEAMUS & KEITH LEE vs. THE MIZ & JOHN MORRISON
-Sheamus made his entrance for his tag team match, followed by his partner Lee, then their opponents, The Miz & John Morrison (slomo enhanced); The Miz tripped a little on his entrance pirouette. Phillips hyped Straight Up Steve Austin, premiering after Raw. Sheamus and Morrison began with the latter trying to use his speed to gain an advantage. However, Sheamus used some mat wrestling, Morrison responded with some of his own, but Sheamus used a judo leg trip. He tagged in Lee who hit a big body slam, then a Sheamus knee drop for a two-count. Morrison tagged in The Miz, who ran into Lee and bounced off. Lee lifted up Morrison, said, “Hey catch!” to The Miz, and tossed him onto The Miz outside. He tagged Sheamus, who flew off the apron to take out both, then rolled The Miz back in. He hit a rolling senton and tagged in Lee, who threw The Miz to his corner to tag in Morrison. Morrison attacked the left leg of Lee with big kicks and chop blocks, finally grounding Lee. Lee responded with a big headbutt (a little Glasgow Kiss?) and then threw Morrison across the ring with a biel. He pounced Morrison in the corner, causing the top turnbuckle to dislodge. Sheamus clapped him on the chest as the two looked on amused as they cut to break. [c]
They returned the rope still being repaired as they replayed Lee’s pounce to Morrison, the back of his neck and head ramming the top turnbuckle out of place. Lee worked The Miz and tagged in Sheamus as they whipped him into said turnbuckle, checking the integrity I presume. The Miz countered a cloverleaf attempt and hit a DDT to gain the advantage. Morrison tagged in and laid in heavy forearms to Sheamus in the corner, who had a smile on his face. The Miz tagged in and went to work with boots to a grounded Sheamus in the corner. Lee shouted encouragement, asking Sheamus to show him his desire. Sheamus responded by backbody dropping The Miz, but Morrison tagged in and prevented Sheamus from making the tag. An ugly sequence on the ground that added to the real fight feel followed by a Morrison gator roll. The Miz tagged in and hit a boot for a two-count. The Miz employed a front facelock with knees to the top of the head to maintain dominance and ground Sheamus. Sheamus fought him off with an Irish Curse, both men prone. Tag finally made as Lee entered and met Morrison, who tagged in. He tossed around both opponents, then hit corner avalanches on both. He then used Morrison as a projectile as he threw him into The Miz. Lee hit basically a Tour of the Islands on Morrison, but the pin was broken up by The Miz. He hit The Miz with Grizzly Magnum, and then one to Morrison off a springboard. As he was in the corner, Sheamus tagged in, hit the Brogue Kick, and pinned Morrison. After the match, they celebrated together with smiles on their faces as they showed replays. Phillips reminded us this is turnabout-is-fair-play as Lee had done that previously.
WINNER: Sheamus & Keith Lee at 12:52
-They cut to the back as Schreiber asked Triple H about Orton’s challenge. Triple H said he came in an official capacity, not to fight, but things change. Since Orton “can’t get it into his head that people like Ric Flair, Mark Henry, Big Show, Legends should mean to him,” that they paved the way for him, that Orton’s father and grandfather paved the way for Triple H, and he called out Triple H. Would he still be “The Game” or not? He said yes (in his trying-hard-to-be-menacing) growl of his. He accepted as they cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: It’s not much to say at this point, but here’s your best match of the night so far. I like the evolving dynamic between Sheamus and Lee, but kind of disappointed Lee looked like a punk for not giving Sheamus a receipt for the Brogue Kick a few weeks back. Still, the right team went over, and it was a clean, non-distraction finish! Woohoo! As for Triple H and Orton, I’m not enthused.)
-They returned with the two arguing and a match started! So much for what I just said.
(5) SHEAMUS vs. KEITH LEE
-They began by slugging each other. Sheamus went for the Ten Beats of the Bodhran, but Lee blocked it. Sheamus slapped Lee, who responded with a headbutt. Lee trapped Sheamus’ arms behind his back as he slapped the chest over and over. Lee’s facials are good in this one. Lee sent to the outside and Sheamus hit a dropkick to knock Lee off of the apron. He tried flying at Lee, but Lee hit a bad belly-to-belly that sent Sheamus into the timekeeper area. Sheamus just beat the count to get back in. Lee said, “You think you’re tough!” He whipped Sheamus into the corner, but Lee kicked a charging Lee in the knee. Sheamus then slammed Lee’s left arm against the ring post several times. He continued stomping away at and then working the left arm. He maintained the hold for a good while, maybe 90 seconds, before Lee finally worked his way to his feet and fought off Sheamus after glaring at him. Sheamus kicked away Lee and climbed the top, but Lee intercepted Sheamus. He climbed, looking for another avalanche Spanish Fly, but Sheamus fought it off. He hit a flying clothesline on Lee, then a pump knee for a two-count. Sheamus locked in a key lock, then shifted looking for an Alberto del Rio cross-armbreaker with some kicks across the face. Lee rolled through, lifted him with the compromised left arm, and hit a modified Spirit Bomb. He then hit the actual Spirit Bomb for the victory. They showed replays of the Spirit Bomb after the match. Lee looked at Sheamus after the match, smiling, and approached the latter for a fist bump. Sheamus responded by slapping his fist away and embracing Sheamus. What better way to become friends than to beat the hell out of each other, right? Phillips FINALLY shifted to a video recapping what happened between Goldberg and McIntyre last week as they hyped Goldberg’s answer. They cut to break. [c]
WINNER: Keith Lee at 6:50
(Hazelwood’s Take: Wow, way to make me look dumb right away, WWE! A stiff match, exactly what you’d expect from a Sheamus match, but Lee going over emphatically, with a compromised arm, and clean salvages this randomness a bit. I just realized WWE is making up for their roster having COVID-19 by having those who don’t have COVID compete in multiple matches, first Hardy and now Sheamus/Lee.)
-They returned with Phillips discussing the uncertain nature of the WWE Championship, then shifted to an extended highlight package of the McIntyre vs. Lee match and Goldberg confronting McIntyre though they didn’t show Goldberg shoving McIntyre on his butt. They then showed McIntyre cutting a different pre-recorded promo on the Legends and Goldberg. He said he didn’t see that coming, one of his personal favorites when he was young (I see what you did there, McIntyre). He said never meet your heroes in person because they’ll always let you down, and he let McIntyre down. He let his own legacy down. He asked how Goldberg would know what McIntyre is thinking. He said he believes in giving respect to earn respect, and Goldberg wouldn’t know what it’s like to be WWE Champion. He said he doesn’t want to accept the challenge of a man 20 years older than himself; he said it would be like Goldberg facing himself in his prime. McIntyre said he accepts the challenge for the Royal Rumble, and said, “You’re next.”
-They shifted to Riddle in the back hyping up his match against Bobby Lashley, saying it’s like getting the fattest slice of pizza with all the toppings, and the camera shifted to show him talking to the Lucha House Party. They were confused as Riddle said the pizza is a metaphor. They said they hope he wins because they can’t stand The Hurt Business and to watch his back. Riddle said that’s physically impossible. He called them “Brochachos,” and I want to throw something at my window. Xavier Woods made his entrance as he yelled a message to the camera wishing Kofi Kingston well. They cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: McIntyre did well with his material, but no, just no, no Goldberg. As I said last week, I can’t imagine anything good coming out of this for McIntyre. He wins, he should have; he loses, he lost to man he just said is 20 years older than him. Also, if we have to have Riddle on TV, can we just cut his mic? Please? Pretty please?)
(6) XAVIER WOODS vs. T-BAR (w/Retribution)
-They returned with Woods playing the trombone draped across the ropes. T-Bar and Retribution then entered. They played a pre-recorded promo with T-Bar growling that he’s positive he’ll twist Woods into the shape of his trombone and the sound it’ll make is that of his broken bones. OK then. They began with a hesitant Woods locking up with T-Bar, who shoulder tackled Woods to the mat. Ali yelled, asking Woods where his family was. T-Bar continued to use his size and strength to ground and punish Woods. Woods fought off T-Bar for a moment, only to be drilled with a thunderous lariat to the chest for a two-count. He locked in a modified rear chinlock, placing the point of his knee into the back of Woods’ neck. Woods finally fought off T-Bar, but for every five strikes, one of T-Bar’s stops Woods. He doesn’t quit, relying on his speed. Woods hit an enziguri, climbed to the top, and hit a missile dropkick that sent T-Bar out of the ring. Woods kipped up and yelled out his fighting spirit. He attacked T-Bar on the outside, held off Retribution, but the distraction allowed T-Bar to gain the advantage. He hit the Feast Your Eyes/Eyes Wide Shut for the pinfall victory.
WINNER: T-Bar at 4:55.
-After the match, they cut to back with Orton pacing as Schreiber approached him about Triple H accepting the challenge. Orton said Triple H knows him better than anyone else, even better than Orton knew himself at one point in time. He said what Triple H doesn’t understand now is that Orton has a newfound hatred, a hatred for himself that he can embrace and direct at someone else, someone else like Triple H. He stared off-camera as the commentators hyped the forthcoming United States Championship match between Lashley and Riddle. They cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: Why does someone as talented as T-Bar, coupled with his size and strength advantage, need a distraction to help him put away Woods, who is yes, a former Tag Team Champion? It would do wonders for the credibility of Retribution if their members entered matches alone and won clean, but that’s not how WWE books. All members have talent, so it’s a bit disheartening to see them utilized as such.)
-They returned recapping (once again) Orton’s challenge to Triple H earlier in the night. They updated the earlier graphic to indicate that Triple H accepted Orton’s challenge for the main event. Riddle’s music hit as he entered for the United States Championship match against Lashley. They replayed the events from last week where Riddle jumped Lashley before the match and ended up pinning him after the ref failed to see Riddle tap out, which resulted in tonight’s match. Lashley & M.V.P. entered next, looking focused. The United States Champion Lashley didn’t take his eyes off Riddle, glaring a hole in him as he walked down the ramp. Mike Rome gave formal ring introductions, though he gave them from ringside and not from within the ring. Lashley attacked Riddle before the bell rung as Riddle had done the same last week. The ref checked on Riddle, Lashley ran him over, but Riddle said ring the bell.
(7) RIDDLE vs. BOBBY LASHLEY (w/M.V.P.) – United States Championship match
-Lashley immediately hit a big biel and corner shoulder tackle. Riddle bled from the mouth as Lashley hit a chokeslam-like move on Riddle across the top rope, sending Riddle to the outside. Riddle sent Lashley into the post and as he tried to reenter, Riddle hit a Final Flash knee and a springboard Floating Bro to the outside. Riddletried going for ripcord Final Flash and then springboard, but Lashley caught him and lifted him with a huge one-armed spinebuster. The Hurt Lock in, Riddle tapped, and the ref sees it this time. They showed replays after the match, including the tap. Riddle grabbed the mic and called out M.V.P. He said he didn’t beat Lashley, but he can sure as hell beat M.V.P. M.V.P. said OK, since you asked for it, and they cut to break as he and Lashley reentered the ring.
WINNER: Bobby Lashley at 1:57 to retain the United States Championship
-They returned hyping Orton vs. Triple H for later in the evening and M.V.P. vs. Riddle already in progress (match time estimated).
(8) RIDDLE vs. M.V.P. (w/Bobby Lashley)
-M.V.P. was in control, hitting his Ballin’ Elbow for a two-count. Riddle fought back with a head kick and corner forearm, then hit the ripcord Final Flash knee. He climbed the top, then hopped over to give Lashley a PK. He then hit the Floating Bro on M.V.P., but Lashley hit a spear for the DQ. After the match, Lashley hit a flatliner on Riddle as M.V.P. looked on. Lashley then taunted Riddle with the United States Championship before M.V.P. turned around and gave a big kick to Riddle’s midsection. They exited as Riddle writhed in pain.
WINNER: Riddle at 3:21 by DQ
-Phillips shifted to recapping the events of Smackdown, with Adam Pearce becoming the #1 contender to face Universal Champion Roman Reigns at Royal Rumble. The shifted to the back with Pearce and A.J. Styles discussing the upcoming pay-per-view, saying they could face each other at WrestleMania if they both win. Drew Gulak approached and declared for the Rumble match, but Pearce said he can’t just let him enter himself. Gulak asked why not, A.J. did? He also said Styles said he blew his chance already. Styles said he can enter himself since he’s a 2-time WWE Champion. He pulled out a flash drive for Pearce, but Pearce said Gulak is in if he can beat Styles, which is next. Omos appeared at the end, intimidating Gulak, who’s wearing a cutoff of his usual ring jacket. They cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: Lashley ragdolling Riddle and winning quickly was the best booking decision of the night…until they “protected” Riddle with the DQ finish against M.V.P. Oh well, at least Lashley rebuilt his momentum with emphasis. I’m also glad to see Pearce not dwelling on Friday and focusing on his duties for the night. Well done by Pearce.)
-They returned with Styles’ entrance (accompanied by Omos) with Gulak already in the ring.
(9) A.J. STYLES (w/Omos) vs. DREW GULAK – Gulak enters the Rumble match with a victory
-They both started with a dropkick, but Styles took over with strikes and a backbreaker. Gulak’s donning some long orange tights with white accents that make him look like an orange creamsicle. Gulak took over using his technical ability for some rollups and a Tiger Driver for a two-count (hope Tyler Bate isn’t watching). He placed Styles on the top, climbed, looked for a superplex, but Styles slipped out, put Gulak in the electric chair, and Gulak turned it into a victory roll, then a backslide. Styles stopped the momentum with a Pele kick that floored Gulak. Styles with his patented strike combo and a sliding forearm to a sitting Gulak. He sent Gulak over the top as Phillips reminded us that would be an elimination in the Rumble match. They zoom in on Gulak’s face as Omos’ foot stepped into the frame. They panned up to Omos, showcasing his height, as Styles rolled Gulak back in and hit the Phenomenal 4-arm for the victory. They replayed the ending sequence, and Omos spent the entire time glaring at Gulak in the corner. They hyped a career retrospective on Goldberg up next as they cut to break. [c]
WINNER: A.J. Styles at 3:12
(Hazelwood’s Take: Poor Gulak. A very serviceable three-minute match that actually allowed Gulak to highlight his technical prowess with the repeated pinfall attempts and counters. The story of the match also made sense as Gulak, being placed far below Styles’ level, knew a quick and sudden victory was his best hope. I’m really going to hate commentary the next few weeks as they constantly remind us about going over the top rope.)
-They returned with Phillips reminding fans that McIntyre accepted Goldberg’s challenge as they shifted into a package highlighting Goldberg’s career, matches, and accomplishments from WCW and both stints in WWE, including comments from Eric Bischoff and only Bischoff. I guess this is a good way to educate newer viewers who missed Goldberg’s heyday and to take up time with a depleted roster.
-They cut to Triple H in the back as Lee approached. Lee said Orton is pushing Triple H’s button, but ever since Lee’s been in WWE, Triple H has been there for him and it’s time for him to be there for Triple H. He said he’ll get in the ring for a third time tonight, but Triple H said he made this mess so he needs to clean it up. Lee looked apprehensive as he hand Triple H his leather jacket (that only he thinks he looks cool wearing). He donned the jacket as they cut to the ring as Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler made their entrance. They cut to break. [c]
-They returned with a Raw Talk promo featurein Angel Garza, Jax, M.V.P, and Lashley. They showed Jax (standing still) and Baszler (pacing) as their opponents made their entrance. They both flexed at the top of the ramp…sigh. A pre-recorded promo played where they made some Rumble match puns and declared for the match, flexing, then saying they’ll toss Jax over the top rope quicker than Kim Kardashian threw Kanye West to the curb.
(10) NIA JAX & SHAYNA BASZLER vs. DANA BROOKE & MANDY ROSE
-Baszler and Rose began the match as Baszler feigned injuring the arm again. Rose tagged in Brooke, but Jax tagged in and bulldozed Brooke. Jax locked in a modified Cobra Clutch, but Brooke fought it off with a jawbreaker. Baszler tagged in and prevented Brooke from making the tag, but Brooke was able to fight off Baszler and make the tag. Rose with a few flying clotheslines and a flapjack, followed by lifting and rushing Baszler into the corner. She hit a running pump knee (her former finisher), but Jax pulled her out of the ring to prevent the pin. Jax then tagged in and rolled Rose back into the ring. She hit a Samoan Drop, but Brooke broke up the pin. Baszler entered and hit a modified swinging backbreaker on Brooke. Jax hit a double corner avalanche on both of them. Baszler tagged in and locked in the Kirifuda Clutch for the victory. After the match, they showed Orton walking towards the ring from the back as they cut to break. [c]
WINNER: Nia Jax & Shayne Baszler at 3:23
(Hazelwood’s Take: Brooke & Rose shouldn’t have gone over, so that’s good. However, don’t be surprised to see both of these teams in the Women’s Dusty Classic on NXT considering all four began in NXT.)
-They returned with Triple H entering to his “Time to Play The Game” entrance theme. He did his whole pose-and-spit-water entrance like it was 2004 and not 2021. Phillips reminded us it’s been over a year and a half since Triple H had a match, but that last match was against Orton. Orton made his entrance after, glaring at Triple H the entire time.
(11) TRIPLE H vs. RANDY ORTON – Fight, not a match (whatever that means)
-There is no referee. Orton apprehensively approached the ring, then charged in only to eat a Triple H right hand. He rolled right back out, then back in, and started punching away at his former mentor in the corner. Triple H turned it around and punched away, then ate a kick as he set Orton for a backbody drop. Orton sent Triple H to the outside, but was whipped into the steps by Triple H. He sent Orton into the barricade by the commentators, then slammed Orton’s head into the steel steps. Orton, blood dripping down his cheek, responded with an eye poke. On second look, blood looked like it was from the side of Triple H’s head. Triple H blocked the belly-to-back and hit his own onto the commentary table. He rolled Orton back in and grabbed the sledgehammer (which is SO unrealistic to hit someone without killing them). He slowly made his way up the steps, but the lights start playing like The Fiend is about to appear. Orton and Triple H look around and as Triple H went to strike Orton with the sledgehammer, it was on fire. The lights went out, come back in an eerie purple, and Triple H is gone. Orton looked around only for the distorted “Firefly Fun House” theme to play. Alexa Bliss appeared behind him and surveyed him, then slowly approached him. She threw a fireball into Orton’s face. He writhed around holding his face as the show went off the air with the commentators wondering if Orton is blind.
(Hazelwood’s Take: Well, the “fight” was plodding and uninteresting even for as short as it was. Triple H, amiright? They really need to stop with the sledgehammer as it makes no sense that someone could be struck in the face/head with it and survive. Also, I had completely forgotten about The Fiend & Bliss being involved with Orton, which I’m not sure yet is good or bad, so I did a half sigh/half laugh when the lights started going out. I am not a fan of having another fireball angle in WWE. I would be more amenable to it had it been The Fiend to throw it since he’s a character with supernatural leanings; Bliss is not, so for something so unrealistic, it takes it even further that way.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: It was yet again a bad show in a string of bad shows. The only matches to watch would be Sheamus vs. Lee and Styles vs. Gulak. It’s also curious just how many times they had wrestlers compete in multiple matches tonight. I count Sheamus, Lee, Hardy, and Riddle. I wonder if this has to do with possibly a depleted roster, a desire to avoid backstage segments because of the more narrow confines, both, or neither. There’s potential in this kind of booking, but tonight doesn’t really give me hope that WWE will find the right balance. With the Royal Rumble just under three weeks away, let’s hope the booking picks up.