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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JANUARY 11, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (“THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Samoa Joe
-They opened with a scene of a stage full of (closely packed, unmasked) Legends from last week followed by clips of Randy Orton tormenting various Legends verbally including Big Show, Mark Henry, and Ric Flair.
-They went to a wide shot of ThunderDome as Phillips welcomed everyone to the critically-acclaimed ThunderDome. Triple H’s music played and he walked out. They piped in a “Triple H” chant. (Don’t those computers remember how awful he has been as part of The Authority?) He said, “Welcome to the ThunderDome! Welcome to Monday Night Raw!” He was then interrupted by Orton’s music.
Orton said, “The Office decided to show up tonight.” He then said there was a pretty big match scheduled tonight that won’t happen with Drew McIntyre. Triple H said Orton is aware that’s not going to happen. Orton agreed he is aware. (So far, they’re getting along so well.) Orton said since he flew to Raw, he must be there to make an official ruling. He wanted to know if he’s going to announce that’s going to enter the ring last at the Royal Rumble or just do what’s best for business and hand him the WWE Championship. Triple H said if he wants the title, he has to win the Rumble “however you have to.”
Orton said the only reason he could possibly be there is to say something and “make a call.” He said he should make sure it benefits him. “So what is it?” he asked. Triple H called those cheap threats and asked if he’s going to stare at him and flex his jaw muscles and think it scares him. He said it’s been impressive watching him over the last year. He said he’s sat back and watched the old Orton step back into the dance. He said a lot of people thought he crossed lines and went too far. “Not me,” Triple H said. He said he watched him light the match, watching it burn down, knowing everything he wanted was on the other side of that flame. He said the last thing that stood between him and that WWE Title was there, and all he had to do was drop it. “I don’t know if I was ever more proud of you than in that moment because I would have done the same thing.” He said it stood between him and what he wanted.
He said during that period of time, some things have happened. “There’s a few things you’ve done that I don’t understand,” he said. “I don’t understand you kicking Legends in the head, or threatening them or humiliating them.” He listed Henry, Shawn Michaels, and Flair. He said he doesn’t understand doing that when it doesn’t benefit him, whereas watching “the Fiend sizzle” benefited him. He said it made him look at him differently. He said it showed he is not a Legend. He said it showed him that Randy Orton is a no-good prick.
Orton soaked up those words. He said he can call him what he wants, but it remains that he is in his prime. He looked Triple H up and down and asked if The King of Kings is still in there. He said maybe he’ll take the Legend of Triple H out once and for all. He challenged him to a “good old fashioned fight” rather than a match. He said he’s known him for two decades. “What do you say you and I go toe to toe,” he said. Triple H asked if he wants to fight him. Orton said he does. Triple H said they both know when someone wants something, you don’t give them the satisfaction. “There’s no benefit to me,” he said. “So the answer is no.” He turned to leave. Orton asked if he is saying no because his wife Stephanie isn’t there and therefore he couldn’t retrieve his balls from her purse. Hunter paced and wiped his nose and then punched Orton in the face. Orton went down and then looked up from ringside smiling, checking his chin. He said into the mic, “I guess that means yes.” Orton’s music played. Triple H didn’t confirm anything.
(Keller’s Analysis: There were aspects of this that are dumb beyond words – namely Triple H approving of burning the Fiend to a hollow corpse. But that’s just built into that stupidity when you “go there” with a hotshot angle. The rest felt like two big-time pros with a history butting egos and coming across as big deals. I get WWE feeling the need to come through with a “big main event” to replace Drew vs. Orton in order to not lose too much momentum after a rating increase for last week’s Legends episode.)
-The announcers wondered if this meant the fight was on. Joe said Triple H is in shape, but there’s a difference between being in shape and being in ring shape. Phillips said everyone needs to assess the situation. He talked about Flair being at the center of a controversy with Charlotte Flair last week. Phillips said Lacey Evans was flirting with Ric throughout the match. Phillips wondered if when Ric tripped Charlotte, he was really trying to trip Peyton. “Maybe, maybe not,” said Phillips.
-Backstage Sarah Schreiber approached Charlotte and said Lacey shamelessly flirted with her dad. Charlotte said it was classless, but Lacey wasn’t the first woman to flirt with her dad in front of her. “She’s not the first and she won’t be the last,” she said. She said she loves him and he is family. Charlotte said she’s about to have a match, it’s 2021, and she wants to know why she’s asking her about her dad. Charlotte said she plans to show “this classless woman” how to act like a lady.
-Charlotte began her ring entrance.
-Lacey told Schreiber that Charlotte needs to calm down, grab a sweet tea, sit down on a swing on a porch, and take some deep breaths. She said she didn’t flirt with anybody that didn’t want to be flirted with. She said Ric is a charming, powerful, handsome man’s man. She said tonight is dedicated to Flair. “Tonight, Ric Flair, this one is for you, sweetheart,” she said flirtatiously.
-Lacey made her ring entrance. [c]
-Phillips threw to a selfie video message aired with Drew McIntyre who addressed the audience. He said he wished he could be there, but he tested positive for COVID-19. “I’m one of the fortunate ones with no symptoms,” he said. “But I assure you, COVID should not be taken lightly. Don’t think you can’t catch it, because you can. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. The only way we’re going to be able to stop this thing is if we work together. So please, wear your mask, follow social distancing guidelines – it’s not just to protect you, it’s to protect everyone and their loved ones. And stay safe.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Now there’s a leader. Wish WWE had that message on the air eight months ago, but as we hit our worst stretch yet, this is a good time to set a good example and send that message.)
(1) CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. LACEY EVANS
Early in the match, Charlotte went after Lacey’s knee. She grabbed the bottom rope and pulled herself to ringside to avoid a figure-four attempt. Then Ric’s music played. Charlotte looked perturbed. He walked onto the stage, smiling and strutting. The announcers said Charlotte said Ric was at home, so she appeared perplexed. They cut to a break as Ric smiled at Charlotte. [c]
Flair watched the match from ringside. Phillips noted tonight marks 28 years of Monday Night Raw. Charlotte shot Ric some looks suggesting he was a distraction for her. Charlotte hit her Natural Selection conveniently right next to the bottom rope where Ric put Lacey’s leg over the bottom rope. Charlotte got up and gave Ric a nasty look. “I’m not home,” he said. “I’m not staying home.” Ric then tripped Charlotte on a suplex attempt, again conveniently near Ric at ringside, and Lacey fell onto Charlotte for the three count. Lacey celebrated with Ric at ringside.
WINNER: Lacey in 8:00.
-Clips aired of Elias and Jeff Hardy’s past battles with the guitar. Phillips said they wrestle next. [c]
-Schreiber approached Lacey and Ric backstage who looked elated and ready for some fun. Lacey said, “I think I’ll change in the hotel.” She laughed.
(Keller’s Analysis: It’s 2021 and Ric Flair is still playing the dirty old man playboy effectively. As for Charlotte, I suppose this makes her the babyface here, but she sure was a jerk to Ric last week.)
-They went to the announcers at ringside. Byron Saxton said his mind was blown right now.
-Backstage Kayla Braxton asked Keith Lee how he’ll bounce back from last week’s defeat. Sheamus barged in and said he doesn’t want to kick him when he’s down. He gave him credit for putting up a hell of a fight. He said he earned Drew’s respect, so he respects him too. In walked Miz and John Morrison. Miz showed off his Money in the Bank briefcase. They acted obnoxious. Sheamus asked which one is dumb and which one is dumber. Morrison pointed at Miz as “dumber.” Miz said their resolution is to right all the wrongs in 2021. He said the next two wrongs are both of them. Sheamus asked if they’re challenging them to a fight. Miz brought up the Pittsburgh Steelers as proof no one is untouchable. Lee said, “Challenge accepted.” Sheamus didn’t seem on board with it. Miz brought up Sheamus gave Lee a Brogue Kick the last time they were in the ring against each other. They walked away. Sheamus looked like he was on board by the end.
-They cut to Jeff Hardy in the ring as his entrance theme played. Elias then walked out and said he has bad news and worse news. He said he suffered a debilitating injury while recording music this week, so Jeff has to face Jaxson Ryker instead of him. Ryker said he’ll do whatever it takes to prove his allegiance to Elias who inspires millions.
(2) JEFF HARDY vs. JAXSON RYKER
Elias joined the announcers at ringside. He showed off an injured thumb from playing his guitar. Phillips pressed him on what the actual injury is. Hardy yelled at Elias seconds into the match. Elias stood up and talked back at him. Ryker rolled up Hardy and yanked on his pants to get a three count.
WINNER: Ryker in 1:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Boy did that make Hardy look undisciplined.)
-Hardy told Elias that he won’t wrestle him because that would show the world that Ryker is better than him. Elias bit and told Ryker not to interfere in the match. [c]
-An NXT ad aired hyping Finn Balor among others in NXT, and then hype for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
(3) ELIAS vs. JEFF HARDY
Hardy won with a Twist of Fate and a Swanton.
WINNER: Hardy in 4:00.
-After the match, Elias was upset with Ryker for not helping. Ryker reminded him that he instructed him not to help. [c]
-A recap aired of the Orton-Triple H confrontation earlier. They hyped “The Legends Killer Challenge” without overtly hyping that there’d be a fight. Saxton said he’s not sure Hunter has agreed to the match. Joe said he knows Hunter is ready anytime, but even he might not be ready for this version of Orton.
(4) SHEAMUS & KEITH LEE vs. MIZ & MORRISON
Early in the match, the announcers talked about how Sheamus and Lee are ultra-competitive with one another. Lee charged at Morrison in the corner, knocking the top turnbuckle loose and the top rope fell down. They cut to a break as Phillips marveled at Lee’s power. [c]
Miz and Morrison double-teamed Sheamus for a while. Lee hot-tagged in and powerslammed Morrison. Miz broke up the pin. Lee threw him out of the ring. Then he turned to Morrison, but Morrison hit a Pelé kick. When Morrison springboarded toward Lee, he slipped a little and then Lee swatted him out of mid-air. As Lee celebrated, Sheamus tagged himself in and finished Morrison with a Brogue Kick. Lee laughed. Sheamus hugged him. Saxton said Sheamus and Lee successfully coexisted.
WINNERS: Sheamus & Lee in 13:00.
-Schreiber asked Triple H how he responds to Orton’s challenge. Triple H said he came to Raw in an official capacity, not to fight, but things can change in a drop of a hat. He said since Orton can’t get it into his head that people like Ric Flair, Mark Henry, and Big Show deserve respect because they paved the way for him, he accepts his challenge. He said Orton wants to see if he still has what it takes inside. [c]
-After the break, Joe said Lee and Sheamus were about to beat the hell out of each other. Sheamus shoved Lee, who was fuming mad. Phillips said a minute ago they were tag team partners.
(5) KEITH LEE vs. SHEAMUS
The called a start to the match. Saxton said they were getting along so well just a few minute ago. Phillips asked how it could go from zero to sixty so suddenly. Joe said it’s competition. They didn’t show or explain what happened at all since they were happy in the ring together after their win. Lee shoved Sheamus into the time keeper’s area early. Sheamus came back and bashed his arm into the ringpost. Several minutes in, Sheamus scored a two count after a knee strike. He was slow to get up. Phillips said he’s still perplexed that they went from happy to fighting. (If only someone who was sitting at ringside the whole time the commercial aired could tell Phillips what went down!) Sheamus went for an armbar. Lee resisted, then lifted and slammed Sheamus to break free. Lee then landed a Spirit Bomb for a three count. (Weak cover, by the way.)
WINNER: Lee in 7:00.
-After the fight, Sheamus stood and hugged Lee out of respect for a tough fight.
-They went to the announcers at ringside. Joe said, “I guess they were having fun out there.” Phillips threw to a video clip of the Goldberg-Drew confrontation last week. They hyped that Drew would respond next.
(Keller’s Analysis: You can’t help but watch Goldberg and Drew spraying saliva at each other in that segment last week in a different light knowing that Drew would go on to test positive for COVID less than a week later.) [c]
-A longer video package aired on Goldberg-Drew.
-In a selfie video, Drew then said he didn’t see Goldberg’s interruption coming. He said he and his brother used to watch Goldberg back in the day, take out one opponent after another. “As the old expression goes, never meet your heroes in person because they will always let you down.” He said he wanted to like him, respect him, and admire him, but he let him down and let his legacy down. He took Goldberg to task for presuming to read his mind and put words into his mouth. He said he’s a firm believer in giving respect in order to get respect. He called him “Billy” and said he doesn’t know anything about being WWE Champion. He said it’s the most prestigious title and it’s eluded him his entire career. He said he didn’t want to accept his challenge because he is 20 years older than him. He said his opinion changed when he put his hands on him. He then accepted his challenge. “Your next,” he said. They piped in cheers.
(Keller’s Analysis: This sure paints Goldberg as the heel. Not sure how Goldberg will feel about that given how he takes his image so seriously. But his paydays are great for what he’s asked to do. The idea that Drew has to destroy Goldberg in order to appear to achieve anything is strange. They’re marketing this as a mismatch, since it doesn’t make any sense to have Drew be delusional or cocky here.)
-Riddle told someone off camera that he can’t wait to beat Bobby Lashley. He compared it to buying a pizza loaded with cheese and then you taking that first bite. He was talking to Lucha House Party. They asked if he’s saying he’s hungry. Riddle explained it was an analogy. Lince Dorado told him to watch his back out there. Riddle said it’s impossible even if he bends over and puts his head between his legs.
-Xavier made his ring entrance without Kofi Kingston.
(6) XAVIER WOODS vs. T-BAR (w/Mustafa Ali, Reckoning, Slapjack, Mace)
As T-Bar came out, a soundbite aired with him. He said he’ll twist Xavier’s body into the shape of his trombone and the sound people here will be of his broken spirit and broken bones. The announcers acknowledged that Xavier was alone and they’re not at all used to seeing that. They said Kofi suffered a broken jaw and that’s why he’s not there. Ali taunted Xavier, asking where his “family” is since he had his family with him at ringside. A few minutes in, Xavier dropkicked T-Bar hard and he tumbled to the floor. Retribution distracted Xavier at ringside. He kicked at Ali. T-Bar yanked Xavier’s arm across the top rope and took control. He finished him with Eyes Wide Shut seconds later.
WINNER: T-Bar in 5:00.
-Backstage Schreiber asked Orton about Triple H accepting his challenge. Orton said Hunter knows him better than anyone else. He said years ago, Hunter knew him better than he knew himself. He said times have changed, and he has this newfound hatred for himself. He said it can be a horrible thing for others, but he’s embracing it and directing that hate at someone else. He said that someone else tonight is Triple H. He then looked like he was relishing imagining what he has in store for Hunter. [c]
-They replayed the Orton-Hunter confrontation from earlier.
(7) BOBBY LASHLEY (w/MVP) vs. RIDDLE – U.S. Title match
They replayed in slo-mo Riddle leaping into the ring and kicking off his flip-flops. After formal ring introductions, Lashley attacked Riddle before the bell. Joe said Riddle did that last week, so “turnabout is fair play.” The ref pushed Lashley away from Riddle. Lashley pushed past him and beat on Riddle more in the corner. The ref checked on Riddle. Lashley clotheslined Riddle. Riddle said he wanted to fight. The ref signaled for the bell.
Lashley continued to dominate. Riddle was bleeding from the mouth. At ringside, Lashley went after Riddle, but Riddle slipped free and shoved Lashley into the ringpost. He corkscrew springboarded onto Lashley at ringside. He threw Lashley back into the ring and then set up a back suplex. Lashley blocked it, and then powered Riddle up and slammed him down hard in a near botched sequence. Lashley then put Riddle in a Hurt Lock for the win.
WINNER: Lashley via tapout in 2:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Yes, Riddle was attacked before the bell, but losing clean in two minutes after having made a full comeback, thus offsetting the sense that the pre-match attack was the reason, really buries Riddle. Lashley should’ve beat him in 30 seconds or it should have gone much longer.)
-Riddle sat up and said he couldn’t beat Lashley, but he sure could beat MVP. MVP took the bait and walked to the ring. He said he’ll get what he asked for. [c]
-They hyped Orton vs. Triple H.
(8) MVP vs. RIDDLE
The match was joined in progress with MVP in control. When Riddle made a comeback a minute in, Lashley tried to grab at his leg. Riddle kicked him. Riddle climbed to the top rope, then landed his Floating Bro. Lashley attacked Riddle as he was going for the cover.
WINNER: Riddle via DQ in 2:00.
-Lashley beat up Riddle some more after the break. MVP joined in and kicked Riddle in the ribs. Riddle sold it like MVP just broke several of his ribs.
-A video package aired on Adam Pearce “winning” the Gauntlet match last Friday on Smackdown.
-A.J. Styles told Pearce backstage that if Reigns slips on eight banana peels and he beats Reigns, and then he wins the Rumble, they could end up facing each other at WrestleMania. Pearce said there’s three weeks left before the Rumble, so he has a lot on his mind. He didn’t deny he’s facing Reigns, though. Drew Gulak barged in and declared himself for the Rumble match. Pearce said he respects him, but there are only 30 spots, so he can’t let him do that. “Why not, A.J. did,” he said. Drew said Styles already had his chance at the title. Styles asked, “Who have you beaten?” Drew produced a thumb drive with some evidence. Pearce said he can have a spot in the Rumble if he can beat Styles. “And the match is next,” he said. Styles was happy. The camera then turned to the very tall Omos. [c]
(9) A.J STYLES (w/Omos) vs. DREW GULAK
They fought back and forth for a few minutes. Styles dumped Gulak over the top rope by his leg. Phillips, as is required this time of year, said if this was the Royal Rumble, that would have been an elimination. Styles threw Gulak back into the ring, then hit the Phenomenal Forearm for the win.
WINNER: Styles in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: I do like that they established that not just anybody can self-declare themselves entered in the Rumble. I wonder what scheduled match got bumped for that impromptu match???)
-Saxton plugged a video package on Goldberg would air next. [c]
-A Goldberg video package showed him spearing people on Nitro and later Raw with crowds popping. Then Saxton plugged Drew vs. Goldberg for the WWE Title at Royal Rumble.
-Backstage, Lee told Triple H that he knows Orton is pushing his buttons. Lee said ever since he got there, he’s been there for him, so maybe he should be there for Triple H tonight. Triple H said he appreciates it, but he made this mess, so he’ll clean it up. A resigned Lee said he understands. They fist-bumped, and then Hunter put on his leather jacket.
-Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler made their ring entrance. [c]
(10) MANDY ROSE & DANA BROOKE vs. SHAYNA BASZLER & NIA JAX
As Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke made their way to the ring, a soundbite aired where they declared themselves for the Rumble. Dana then very proudly flexed her bicep. (I was waiting for Adam Pearce to step in and say they are no more qualified to be in the Rumble than Gulak and deny them entry.) Brooke made the save for Rose after a Samoan Drop by Jax. Baszler tagged herself in just as Jax climbed to the second rope. She applied the Kirafuda Clutch for the win. Jax wasn’t happy. Jax then calmed down and gave Baszler a pat on her shoulder and seemed happy. (I can’t wait to see them fighting one-on-one after the commercial break.)
WINNERS: Baszler & Jax in 3:00.
-They showed Triple H backstage. [c]
(11) TRIPLE H vs. RANDY ORTON – A Fight Not A Wrestling Match
Tripe H’s ring entrance took place. (He got the biggest pop of the night! He’s still got it.) Orton’s ring entrance took place next. Orton took it to Hunter in the corner early. Hunter fired back, but then Orton kicked him on a backdrop attempt. As you probably suspected, with this match coming on short notice, Hunter didn’t takeoff his “Motorhead” t-shirt. At ringside, Hunter reverse-whipped Orton into the ringside steps. Orton had a bleeding cut on his cheek. Hunter threw Orton into the ringside barricade.
They battled at ringside. Triple H dropped Orton onto the announce desk. Hunter threw Orton into the ring, then reached under the ring and grabbed his sledgehammer and held it up in the air. Suddenly The Fiend sound effects began. The lights went off. Orton looked around wearily. Hunter looked around nervously. Hunter then lifted his sledgehammer and it was on fire like a torch. Triple H held up, dare I say, a Pro Wrestling Torch. The Firefly Funhouse jingle played. Suddenly Alexa Bliss was in the ring. Orton turned and stared at her. “What the hell is going on here?” asked Joe. Bliss held up her hand and it had “Pain” written on it. She shot a fireball at Orton’s face. Orton cried out in pain and held his eyes as the show ended.
(Keller’s Analysis: Wait! Who won?)