1/18 WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW REPORT: Hazelwood’s alt-perspective on Bliss pulling double duty with match vs. Asuka and Orton answering her fireball attack, The Hurt Business, Rumble build, more

BY BRUCE LEE HAZELWOOD, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW TV REPORT
JANUARY 18, 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

[HOUR ONE]

-They started with their expected video for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, highlighting his “I have a dream” speech, playing only those few seconds everyone’s heard over and over, but not the rest of the context of the speech (of course). The montage was a collection of different pictures of Dr. King and others during his activism. They played clips of other speeches, including his “I have seen the mountaintop” speech, and ended the video with different pictures of interracial friends and couples, including a photo of a cop hugging a couple of Black people. Phillips then welcomed us from the “award winning and critically acclaimed” Thunderdome.

-The lights went dark. Orton began speaking about fighting fire with fire usually ends with being in ashes. The camera showed him wearing an old-school looking plain white wrestling mask. He said the voices in his head have never been louder, encapsulating his every thought like the mask encapsulates his face. He said he held Alexa Bliss’ fate in his hands and showed a side of himself he didn’t know existed: compassion. They showed him watching a TV with a replay of the ending three weeks ago (he was actually facing the screen!). He said the pure hatred he had for himself needed to be redirected and his next victim arrived “like a lamb to the slaughter…until she interrupted,” and they showed replays from last week’s ending with Triple H and Bliss standing in the corner. Orton said now look at him; this is the damnation he receives? He said every time he closes his eyes is that fireball hurling towards his face as they showed the replay. He said that inescabable feeling of fire melting flesh would never go away and any sense of compassion left his body as that inferno engulfed his face. He said he’s wearing the mask to shield his face, but also to protect others from the horror he endured. His exposed skin is really red. He said he considers himself lucky that he only came away with first-degree burns and that fireball could have disfigured his face forever. He said he doesn’t blame her, but blames, “HIM. I blame The Fiend, and I sent him straight to hell.” He said there’s no doubt this is The Fiend’s responsibility and Bliss was merely the vehicle. He said The Fiend wants to stop him from achieving the inevitable; here they showed Orton winning the Royal Rumble match in 2009 and 2017. He said he knows everyone enjoyed seeing his face burnt to a crisp knowing he was eliminated from the match, but you could “chop off all his limbs” and he would still win. He vowed to remain in the match, but said he can only compete as long as he can tolerate the pain. He laughed and said he enjoyed the pain as it fuels his every move. He said everyone can thank The Fiend when he burns their Royal Rumble dreams to ashes and he main events WrestleMania. He lit a match and then blew it out.

-They returned to with Samoa Joe, Tom Phillips, and Byron Saxton discussing what just transpired and then shifted to recapping the WWE Championship match between Drew McIntyre and Goldberg. They hyped Goldberg on “The Dirt Sheet” later, as well as Asuka vs. Bliss in a non-title match. Phillips then transitioned to discussing the Charlotte Flair-Ric Flair-Lacey Evans saga, which led to Papa Flair turning heel and Evans pinning Charlotte Flair. They showed video of Papa Flair and Evans arriving together earlier in the day as Charly Caruso approached asking about the relationship. Evans called her a nasty thing and asked if it was TMZ. Caruso said she felt compelled to ask since Flair helped Evans beat his daughter. Before he could answer, Evans told her to show him some respect and called Caruso’s question insolent. She said she is simply learning from the greatest man to ever step foot in the ring. She brushed aside Caruso as they walked off. Back at ringside, Charlotte Flair made her entrance for her match against Peyton Royce. Royce attacked Flair from behind, but Flair responded as the referees split them apart. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Hmm, interesting start to Raw. Even though that kind of overacting does come off as laughable with others, Orton’s menacing, sadistic character seems to mesh well with his acting. Maybe this is due to the fact that so many people view Orton as a real-life heel. He vowed to remain in the Rumble match, so it’ll be interesting to see if the facial injury is exploited and/or if The Fiend appears and costs Orton a shot at main eventing WrestleMania.)

(1) CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. PEYTON ROYCE

-They began with Flair rushing Royce in the corner and blitzing her with strikes. Royce countered by thrusting Flair’s head into the turnbuckle, but Flair rolls them outside where she hit a few chops. She rolled Royce back in who rolled right back out as Flair followed. Flair no-sold a kick from Royce and maintained control. Flair chased Royce around the ring a little. Royce ducked as Flair looked for a chop and hit the post. Royce rolled Flair back in and locked in a rear chinlock as Phillips reminded us of Royce and Evans both holding pinfall victories over Flair in recent weeks. Flair fought out and hit a clothesline to regain control. Royce regained control by countering a Flair corner rush attempt and slamming her down by her hair for a two-count, the second pinfall attempt of the match (I’m going to try tracking that). Irish whip sent Flair over the top, she hit a shoulder thrust, rolled in for a pin attempt, then hung Royce up in the rope and hit a neckbreaker for a two-count. Papa Flair’s music hit as he strutted out, then motioned for Evans, who was wearing one of his old robes, a purple one. Joe said she was stylin’ and profilin’. Flair turned around to a spin kick for a two-count as they cut to break. [c]

They returned with a Flair pin attempt, but Royce kicked out. I think that’s five pin attempts (assuming none during commercials). Royce hit a jawbreaker, Flair hit a kick, Royce hit a crescent kick, then a scorpion kick from the apron. She leapt of the top, landed awkwardly, but then was hit by a Flair flatliner into the turnbuckle for a two-count. Flair hit a big boot to Royce on the apron, then turned and yelled for Evans to “get her ass in the ring.” Royce barely made the count and was met with a flurry of Flair stomps. Flair started working Royce’s left leg, but Royce countered, hit a back elbow to Flair and a roundhouse kick, then a step-up kick for a two-count (that’s seven). Royce yelled at Flair, went for a suplex, but Flair floated over and hit a chop block. She started attacking the left leg and locked in the Figure Eight for the victory. Flair held on for a long, fully elevated, before releasing as Royce cried out in pain.

WINNER: Charlotte Flair in 12:00 by submission (Figure Eight)

-Phillips then transitioned to Flair’s partner, Asuka, and her match with Bliss. They also hyped an “Alexa’s Playground” as Bliss invited Asuka. They cut to The Hurt Business making their entrance in the back as Riddle approached them. M.V.P. commented on his attire. Riddle said he was going to take the high road. Shelton Benjamin said, “Yeah, you would.” He then complimented them on their “swag,” and gave them all bad nicknames. Bobby Lashley told them he got this, so the others walked away. Lashley said he likes the flip flops, but heard they’re bad for your feet. Riddle said no right as Lashley stomped on his foot. Riddle said he’s going to see his foot later “right up your ass!” They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: That was a sloppy match. Whatever potential people, including me, saw in Royce during her time in NXT and The IIconics has dissipated; it just doesn’t seem like she’s improved very much in the ring, rather plateauing along the way. It especially looks worse when her former partner, Billie Kay, is absolutely on fire on Smackdown. Still, even with the attempted distraction, having Flair go over strong was the right call. I’m of course ecstatic that Lashley made a fool of Riddle. Do that all the time, please.)

-They returned  with Riddle nursing his left foot in the locker room with his tag partners for the night, Lucha House Party, asking if he was going to be fine. Riddle said he would be as the commentators shifted to Xavier Woods vs. Mace. They showed a WWE Network Exclusive from earlier with Mustafa Ali saying he wants to break Kofi Kingston’s spirit by destroying who he cares about over and over again. He said he hopes Kingston misses all of the PPVs so he knows what Ali feels sitting at home seeing someone steal what he worked for, harkening to his injury that opened the door for “KofiMania.” Kingston has an injured jaw. Woods made his entrance first, followed by Mace and Retribution. Joe commented that being in battle by himself, without his partners, is new territory for Woods. Ali mouthed off to Woods, who popped him in the mouth. Ali held back his crew as they cut to break…again. [c]

(2) XAVIER WOODS vs. MACE (w/Mustafa Ali & T-Bar & Slapjack)

-They returned and started the match as Mace walked Woods into the corner. Woods hit a chop, but Mace didn’t even react. Woods did all he can to gain the advantage with quick strikes, but Mace elevated Woods with a double choke and turned it into a huge slam for a two-count. He lifted Woods off the mat by the throat, surprising Joe, and thrust him into a corner, then another and hit a running knee to Woods’s back for another two-count. Mace locked in a chinlock to a seated Woods with a fishhook in the mouth as Ali yelled about Mace breaking Woods’ jaw like Kingston. Woods fought back with strikes, which only seemed to infuriate Mace. Woods used his speed to hit a basement dropkick to Mace’s knee, bringing him to one knee. He hit some elbows to the head, went for the Honor Roll, but was caught by Mace. Woods fought out and hit an enziguri that sent Mace outside. Baseball slide from Woods hit Ali into the commentary table, then he hit Mace off. Ali angrily grabbed Mace and told the rest of the crew to “do it.” They encircle the ring, Woods attacked one member, but then was caught by Mace, who hit a swinging driver that looked a lot like the Time Bomb for the victory (fourth pinfall attempt of the match I believe). They stood over Woods after the match as they showed replays. Ali looked into the mic and hoped for Kingston to get well soon.

WINNER: Mace at 4:01 via pinfall (Time Bomb-esque maneuver)

-THey cut to Asuka in the back as Sarah Schreiber approached and asked her what to expect. Asuka said simply, “I don’t know” as they replayed the fireball angle. They came back with Asuka saying Alexa’s dark side and cut to break. It seems like there was a miscue as we missed her promo. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Look, if members of Retribution can’t gain victories over Woods, and can only win by distraction, then what are we doing? It’s just disappointing. Mace looked pretty good for a hulking big man in this character, and being asked to not do too much may be the best thing for his development. His finisher doesn’t look anywhere as good as Hiromu Takahashi’s, but then again, it’s freaking Takahashi.)

-They returned and played their intentionally atrocious WrestleMania announcement video from over the weekend where they announced they next few locations and confirmed this year’s will take place over two nights on April 10 and 11. Avoid it if you can…seriously, it’s painful, even if it was intentional. They cut back with Bliss making her entrance to her revamped theme in an “Alexa’s Playground” getup. There was a slide and swing set in the ring on top of turf.

[HOUR TWO]

Bliss welcomed everyone as she swung from one of the swings. She said she’s so excited everyone is with her and she wanted to address “the viper in the room.” She said last week she was just coming out to talk, to clear the air, then things got a little heated (as she snickered). She said if you need a good suggestion on some sunblock to let her know and that she’s good to see he’s feeling OK. She continued saying she has a very special guest as she welcomed her opponent, one-half of the Women’s Tag Team Champion and Women’s Champion Asuka, who made her entrance. Asuka went to sit on the swing, but Bliss refused her attempt. Bliss asked if she was OK, and Asuka responded nervously as she went towards the slide. They laughed together as Bliss shifted back to her cheery self. She said she has breaking news, big news, and declared for the Royal Rumble match (she looked at the empty swing a couple times asking if she should reveal the news first). Asuka congratulated her, but Bliss said they could potentially face each other at WrestleMania. Asuka said it would be an honor and that she’s a big fan of Bliss. Asuka did a “yowie wowie” that made Bliss upset. She turned to the empty swing and apologized for Asuka saying that. Asuka said let’s have fun and called for music as she danced. Bliss said that’s enough twice before getting in Asuka’s face and yelling for her to stop. She turned back to the swing and said, “You’re right, it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” and began talking more about it being “cold.” Asuka said it would be OK and said some stuff in Japanese that my rudimentary Japanese (that I took three years of in high school) didn’t understand. Bliss angrily turned to Asuka and said don’t say his name. Suddenly, a rocking horse began, well, rocking in the ring, and Asuka retreated in fear as Bliss went over to it with a smile. Saxton said it was weirder than he thought it would be as the segment ended.

-Phillips said it’s official for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble and said we’re going to hear from Jeff Jarrett on the match later. They showed The Miz & John Morrison in the back as Schreiber approached and asked if they could give some insight for what’s in store tonight. They did some bad accents saying “I want the scoop” and told her no spoilers. They did say what they have in store is controversial, controversy breeds cash, and they left. Mandy Rose made her entrance with her partner, Dana Brooke. They showed Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax in the back as Baszler gave a standard Rumble match promo, but irked Jax when she said she didn’t care if she had to eliminate her partner. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Even for Bliss and The Fiend, that was a WEIRD segment. I’m honestly not sure what the intended goal of it was, but if it was to make Bliss seem more creepy and unhinged while making Asuka look like a chump, they succeeded in that. Asuka was FAR too complimentary and conciliatory to her opponent and potential title foe. Look, Bliss played her role well again, and there were further hints at The Fiend returning, but I’m still trying to process what happened.)

-They returned not to the match, but to comments from Jeff Jarrett talking about the WWE Championship match between McIntyre and Goldberg. He said it’s an easy call for him and called upon Toby Keith as he chose Goldberg to win with a spear and jackhammer. Help us all.

(3) MANDY ROSE (w/Dana Brooke) vs. SHAYNA BASZLER (w/Nia Jax)

-Rose & Brooke were flexing in the ring (were they flexing the entire time?) as they showed replays from last week’s match where they highlighted the continued tension between Baszler & Jax. They made their entrance next with Jax still looking a little perturbed at her tag team partner. They began in a lockup and Rose, for some reason, tried shooting a single-leg on a legitimate fighter. Baszler fought off and rolled up Rose for a two-count. Jax joined commentary and needled Saxton for his questions about their inability to communicate as a team. Baszler just with some nasty kicks to Rose, followed by some Thai clinch knees. Two-count. She locked in a neck crank, shifted, but Rose fought back with strikes. Baszler shut that down by slamming Rose to the mat and started working Rose’s left arm, which Baszler injured previously. Baszler talked off Brooke as Rose rolled her up for two. Rose fought back with one arm, using her right to clothesline Baszler twice and hit a flapjack. She attacked Baszler in the corner over and over until Baszler moved and kicked the arm out from Rose. Rose still fought back with her good arm (the right one), but Baszler held onto the left. She cranked the arm and then did basically an arm-DDT. She locked in the Kirifuda Clutch for the victory (three pinfall attempts). Saxton said Baszler could very well win the Rumble to which Jax replied, “Shut up.” After the match, they argued with each other as Brooked dropkicked Jax into Baszler into the ring post on the outside. They cut to break. [c]

WINNER: Shayna Baszler at 3:45 via submission (Kirifuda Clutch)

(Hazelwood’s Take: First, why do I want to hear Jarrett’s thoughts on the WWE Championship match? As a friend said, he does have a history of being in championship matches no one wanted him in, so I guess that works. As for the match, Rose probably inflicted too much offense on Baszler, especially considering she tapped out so quickly. This “partners having strife” storyline is so tried, and the events after the match just made Baszler & Jax look stupid.)

-They returned with Caruso approaching a still-bickering Baszler & Jax. Jax said not like it matters, but they’ve never gotten along, even as champions. Baszler said now is a good time to receive their rematch for said titles they never received. Jax said that’s a good idea and walked off. Phillips reminded us that both are in the Rumble match as he shifted to the Flair-Evans issue from earlier in the night (he said “daddy issues”). They cut to Schreiber in the back with Flair and asked about how uncomfortable it is to see Evans in her father’s robe. Flair said ever since she stepped in the ring, she’s been accused of being in a place she never earned based on her last name, but here is someone who’s actually living off her last name in Evans. She said she’s learned from her father her whole life, but just hasn’t gone down that road. “Lacey can wear my father’s robe, but she’ll never wear my crown.” Phillips then shifted to recapping the Universal Championship contract signing from Smackdown last Friday that saw Kevin Owens replace Adam Pearce in a bit of a switcheroo. They showed Pearce encouraging Ricochet in Gorilla, I think insinuating that if Ricochet wins his match, he’ll be entered into the Rumble match. His opponent, A.J. Styles approached (with Omos), and asked why anyone would take advice from Pearce, who ran from his opportunity at the Universal Championship. Yes, he would have lost, but he would have at least had his dignity, like Ricochet tonight when he loses to Styles. He said Styles has a selective memory and brought up 50 First Dates, which Styles replied is in his “top ten.” Ricochet brought up TLC and Styles angrily said it was The Miz’s fault. Ricochet made his entrance. Styles then said he doesn’t like Pearce and that means Omos doesn’t like him. Omos stepped to Pearce, who looked up as they cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Charlotte referenced the Daily DDT article! I also contribute there, by the way. Still, she didn’t harp on that too long and in my opinion, made a smooth shift to Evans being the one literally making a name for herself off of the Flair name. That was actually good from Flair, but not sure if that offsets her heel-like move of extending her finisher after the bell in her match earlier. I hope this Ricochet-Styles match gets at least one in-match commercial because they can work magic.)

(4) RICOCHET vs. A.J. STYLES (w/Omos)

-They returned with Ricochet posing on the turnbuckle. Styles then made his entrance (with Omos) as Phillips reminded us of a new WWE Network documentary profiling Styles’ debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble. They began with Styles gaining the early advantage. He held a side headlock even through a pin attempt. A one-count, and finally Styles released. Ricochet hit a Japanese arm drag, then a series of counters by both men ended with two near-falls for both men, another from Ricochet, and then he hit two head-scissors, then a back handspring head scissors and dropkick to Styles, who rolled outside. He slid and hit Styles with a head scissors on the outside. Ricochet went for a springboard splash to the outside, but was caught by Omos. The ref yelled for him to put Ricochet down, so he literally just dropped Ricochet to the ground as they cut to break. [c]

They returned with Styles in control as he hit a pendulum backbreaker. Styles locked in a modified rear chinlock with his knee placed behind Ricochet’s head. Ricochet fought out with a jawbreaker, flipped out of a half-and-half suplex, and hit a tornado DDT. Both men slowly rose to their feet as Ricochet hit a series of strikes with a big lariat for a two-count. Ricochet looked for the Kickback, but Styles fought off. Ricochet hit his (completely unnecessary) moonsault into a deadlift German suplex pin combo for a two-count. Ricochet went for an Asai moonsault, but Styles drilled him with a forearm, then a brainbuster for a two-count. Ushigoroshi from Styles hit, but again only a two-count (nine pin attempts thus far, excluding the break). The commentators really put over Ricochet’s heart as Styles set for the Phenomenal 4-Arm, but Ricochet caught him with the Recoil in midair for only a two-count as it took Ricochet a few seconds to make the cover. Ricochet set for a springboard, then climbed the top, but Styles chopped out Ricochet’s legs as he fell onto the turnbuckle and to the apron. Styles wanted a suplex back into the ring, but Ricochet countered. Styles hit a front suplex onto the top rope and as Ricochet rebounded off the rope, he was caught perfectly by Styles into the Styles Clash position for the victory (11 pin attempts). [c]

WINNER: A.J. Styles at 12;57 via pinfall (Styles Clash)

(Hazelwood’s Take: WOW. Catch a replay of that ending because for a spot that could have gone so bad, it went about as smoothly as possible. Great match between the two that really put over Ricochet, who’d been defined down so much. It wasn’t quite the 15 minutes I was hoping for, but it was definitely the palette cleanser needed for such a lackluster show.)

-They returned recapping the events of “Alexa’s Playground” from earlier in the night and hyped the upcoming match, presumably for the main event at this point. “The Dirt Sheet” intro played (unfortunately). They transitioned to The Miz & Morrison in the ring. Morrison said something stupid about a steak dinner as The Miz welcomed us to what Morrison called “an extra dirty” edition. The Miz said their guest can be a hero for a new generation if he defeats McIntyre. He then welcomed the “biggest guest” in their show’s history with an increasing voice level, Goldberg. They drummed along to the music as “Goldberg” chants were piped-in. Wait a minute, it’s Gillberg! The Miz & Morrison look kind of worried, but it was for show. They hyped up “Bill” and how he’s been working out. Gillberg said the first thing he does is bash his head into the door.

[HOUR THREE]

McIntyre’s music hit (he shouldn’t be back from COVID yet), but out came another fake, some pudgy dude in a wig and kilt (he lost the wig on his entrance), complete with a toy sword he laid on the ramp. They did some bad (stereotypical) humor. The segment just went to crap, with Gillberg doing his bad impression of Goldberg for levity, I guess? They go back to doing their schtick, which ended with them saying The Miz would cash in his contract. The Miz said he’s the future WWE Champion. He said, “I’m The Miz, and I’m….NEXT,” as he held up the briefcase. The McIntyre actor’s crack was showing way, way too much. Phillips reminded us that if The Miz wins the Rumble match, he will have two opportunities at the WWE Championship. The Hurt Business made their entrance for their six-man tag team match against Riddle and Lucha House Party as they cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Do yourself a favor and AVOID that “The Dirt Sheet” segment at all costs. What a way to immediately destroy the good vibes from the Ricochet-Styles match.)

(5) THE HURT BUSINESS (Bobby Lashley & Shelton Benjamin & Cedric Alexander w/M.V.P.) vs. LUCHA HOUSE PARTY (Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado) & RIDDLE – Six-Man Tag Team match

-They returned with The Hurt Business waiting in the ring as Lucha House Party entered first, followed by Riddle. They replayed the match between The Hurt Business and Lucha House Party from two weeks ago as the latter defeated the former, leading to more dissension with Benjamin & Alexander. Alexander and Metalik began with Alexander gaining the quick advantage with strikes. Metalik and Alexander with a few counters before Alexander hit a dropkick. Benjamin reached out for the tag, but Alexander stared at him and moved away. He hit a backbreaker and stared down Benjamin, but Metalik was able to tag in Dorado. Alexander regained control, but as he went to tag in his partners, they looked away as Lashley told Alexander to take care of business. Joe said maybe some lessons are being learned right now. Dorado nearly pinned Alexander on a rollup. Benjamin made the blind tag to Alexander’s chagrin as Dorado tried another rollup for a one-count. Benjamin hit a huge lariat and even bigger Irish whip into the turnbuckle. Benjamin tagged in Lashley as they hit a double shoulder tackle. Lashley threw Dorado into their corner, but Alexander tagged in. Benjamin then tagged in and stared down Alexander as M.V.P. yelled at Alexander to leave the ring. Alexander then tagged himself back in again only to be hit the Golden Rewind by Dorado. Still, Alexander was able to tag in Benjamin, but after more mouthing off, Benjamin pushed Alexander out of the ring. They cut to break. [c]

They returned with Alexander in control of Dorado, working the left arm as they replayed the dissension from before the break. Lashley tagged in because Benjamin & Alexander were arguing with each other, and after dropping Dorado with a suplex, he yelled at both of them. He tagged in Benjamin who hit a huge biel and a snap suplex, taking his time. Alexander tagged in (blind) as Benjamin left the ring perturbed. Alexander pummeled away at Dorado in the corner, then placed him on the top turnbuckle. Dorado fought him off and hit a huge crossbody splash. Both men made tags as Riddle gained the advantage over Benjamin. He went for an exploder suplex, but Benjamin countered with knees. Riddle fought off a powerbomb and hit a head kick, then a Final Flash knee for a two-count. Riddle missed the Floating Bro as Benjamin moved. Metalik tagged in and started doing his thing, working the ropes and hitting a headscissors. Benjamin countered a wheelbarrow bulldog attempt by slamming Metalik. Alexander tagged himself in again, hit a suplex, yelled at Benjamin, then Lashley tagged in and hit a spear then The Hurt Lock for the victory (I counted three pin attempts). After the match, Lshley is incensed at the two arguing teammates, but Riddle hit Lashley with the Final Flash before retreating. M.V.P. and Lashley do their best to calm down the TAG TEAM CHAMPION (did I mention that yet?)

WINNER: The Hurt Business at 12:20 via submission (The Hurt Lock)

-Phillips then shifted to the Jeff Hardy-Elias rivalry as they recapped last week’s matches between Hardy and Jaxson Ryker and Hardy and Elias (Ryker won, then Hardy). They cut to the back with Elias speaking to Ryker saying not to have any more miscommunication. Ryker said when Elias said don’t get involved, he took it literally (as he should have). They did their “Walk with Elias” line as Ryker said he will embody the universal truth and everything Elias stands for and will beat Hardy until he accepts the universal truth. He asked, just to be clear, if Elias isn’t going to interfere in the match; Elias just said, “Go.” They hyped McIntyre joining next (probably by video) next as they cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Seriously, just stop with these “partners who hate each other” stories. It’s also way too early for that to even happen with The Hurt Business, and considering this is another Tag Team Champion mired in this story after Baszler & Jax, it’s just tired at best and bad at worst. They should be DOMINATING other teams as that’s their mission and generally how they’re presented. Moving on, I’m really not feeling this whole Elias-Ryker thing. It just seems like a waste of TV time.)

-They returned hyping “Raw Talk” with Baszler, The Miz & Morrison, and Styles (with Omos). They highlighted the WWE Championship match again as they shifted to McIntyre’s video. He said he’s still asymptomatic since testing positive for COVID last week. He said he had a good laugh between Gillberg and “Mini-Me with the body of a melting candle.” He said the clowns and lions get to intermingle in WWE, and sometimes the lions eat the clowns. He said the reality is he respects Goldberg, and that his title defense record is a “never-miss” record (except that one match to Orton). He said no matter the delusions in his mind or the words he conjured from McIntyre’s mouth, he saw the real Goldberg and suggested that Goldberg bring that guy to their match or McIntyre will eat him alive in two minutes. McIntyre said he’ll be back on Raw next week, the go-home show. After that, Hardy made his entrance for his match against Ryker. They announced Hardy entered the match as Ryker (with Elias) made his entrance.

(6) JEFF HARDY vs. JAXSON RYKER (w/Elias)

-Ryker started by rushing Hardy in the corner and using his strength to lay in strikes to Hardy. Hardy regained control with his inverted atomic drop-leg drop-basement dropkick-standing splash for a two-count. Hardy hit a mule kick and whipped Ryker into the corner. He missed a splash and Ryker hit a running Polish hammer for a two-count. He mounted Hardy and struck him a few times. Belly-to-back suplex for a two-count for Ryker, then locked in a (light) looking chinlock. Hardy hit a jawbreaker, then a Twist of Fate that turned into a neckbreaker. Hardy climbed, but Elias interfered and the ref called for the bell (three pin attempts). Ryker was upset and said NOT to help, but Elias said I thought you meant “NOT” NOT to help. Hardy kicked Elias, but Ryker responded with a swinging side slam (like Abyss’ Black Hole Slam) as the segment ended with Elias & Ryker still arguing in the ring. They cut to break. [c]

WINNER: Jeff Hardy at 3:10 by DQ

(Hazelwood’s Take: The big news is McIntyre’s returning next week. Pretty standard promo, but he did well for the most part.)

-They returned by informing us that both McIntyre and Goldberg will appear next week. Asuka then made her entrance for her non-title main event match against Bliss. Bliss entered next. Asuka didn’t look as scared as she was earlier in the night. They showed the fireball spot again.

(7) ASUKA vs. ALEXA BLISS – Non-Title match

-They started with both women trading arm wrenches and counters; remember, Bliss hasn’t had a match in a while. Asuka took control with a misdirection running shoulder tackle, but Bliss tripped her up into a rollup for a two-count. Bliss smiled creepily at Asuka, avoided a kick, and rolled her up for another two-count. Asuka, fed up, just used her striking ability to ground Bliss, hit a Shining Wizard, and gained a two-count. Bliss kept a smile on her face even as she was being controlled. Asuka looked for the Asuka Lock, but Bliss fought it off for a good minute before reaching the ropes to break the hold. Bliss exited the ring, Asuka missed a baseball slide, Bliss rolled back in, and the lights started going out as Bliss looked excitedly happy. They cut to break and I have no idea why they chose right THERE to go to break. [c]

They returned with Bliss staring into the camera in the middle of the ring wearing new attire and black lipstick, Asuka and the ref in one corner with Asuka looking scared, and Bliss looking at Asuka with a detached look. Asuka circled Bliss, who slowly began to circle her foe. Asuka went for the spinning backfist, but missed wildly. Bliss still emotionless as she ducked an Asuka kick, then blocked Asuka’s strikes until Asuka caught her with a kick to the gut. Bliss dropped her with a shoulder tackle and Asuka rolled outside. Bliss kept her hands behind her back the entire time (besides blocking strikes) since they returned from break. Asuka back in the ring, countered a Bliss strike and hit a knee, then rushed Bliss in the corner who bent backwards like Bray Wyatt would do in the corner. She looked at some smeared black lipstick on her hand and tried to apply the Mandible Claw to Asuka, almost overpowering Asuka. Bliss hit a huge elbow and right hand for a two-count. Bliss slowly paced around Asuka, who took a while to regain her footing. Bliss stared down at a seated Asuka, lifted her up by the chin, but then was hit by three head kicks from Asuka. Suddenly, Bliss, emotionless, set Asuka for Sister Abigail, hit, pin, win (she had Asuka set in the Sister Abigial for a LONG time); I counted five pin attempts. After the match, Bliss looked into the camera again, then all of the sudden the camera did a glitch transition and the old “Alexa’s Playground” character was in the ring smiling until we heard a “Let me in,” where her expression changed to one of anger. The show ended.

WINNER: Alexa Bliss at 11:36 via pinfall (Sister Abigail)

(Hazelwood’s Take: Well, that was one way to make your WWE Women’s and Tag Team Champion look pretty dumb. Further, having Asuka inflict such heavy offense on Bliss only for her to no-sell it and get the clean victory just makes Asuka’s offense seem weak. Also, just how many shenanigans and “supernatural” effects are we willing to accept in our wrestling stories?)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Why does this show just continue to be so bad? The matches are all pretty forgettable (aside form one or two a week, this week’s being Ricochet-Styles) and lacking any real significance. The angles are poorly written, lack coherency, and everything they do to build up someone (like having Hardy defeat Ryker) they immediately mess it up (like having Ryker plant Hardy after the match). There’s only so much McIntyre and The Hurt Business can do to carry the show, and after tonight, I’m not confident that Asuka will be booked to be a show anchor, unfortunately.

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