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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JANUARY 18, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (“THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Samoa Joe
-WWE’s annual video tribute to Martin Luther King aired.
-Phillips introduced the show as the camera panned the ThunderDome.
-A vignette aired with Randy Orton speaking. He was wearing a mask, indicative of having burns from the fireball that Alexa Bliss shot at him. His nose looked badly burned. He talked about people who fight fire with fire ending up ashes for their affliction. He said the voices in his head have never been louder. He said he had Bliss’s fate in his hands last week, yet he showed a side of himself last week he didn’t know he had: compassion. “Look at me! This is the damnation I receive for showing compassion?” he said. “Now when I close my eyes, all I see is that ball of fire hurling toward my face.” They replayed it in slow motion and played his cries of pain and agony. “That unmistakable feeling of that fire melting my face will never go away.” He said he will never show compassion again. He said he wears his mask to protect himself and shield everyone from the horror he endured.
He said he doesn’t blame Bliss, he blames The Fiend. He said Bliss was “merely the vehicle,” but he knows what The Fiend wants. He said he wants to stop him from achieving the inevitable. They showed clips of Orton winning the 2017 Royal Rumble. He said he knows everyone in the locker room took pleasure in seeing that fireball because it eliminated the greatest threat in the Rumble. He vowed to remain in the Rumble match. He said he could have all his limbs chopped off and he’d still enter. (That’s be quite the site.) He said the pain fuels his every move. He pulled out a match and said everyone can thank The Fiend when he burns their Royal Rumble aspirations to ashes and goes on to main event WrestleMania. He lit a match, then blew it out.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was ambitious, lasting eight minutes. A few minutes in I wasn’t so sure if it was a good call, and I’m still not sure, but by the end, I think it really drove home a big storyline in the Rumble in memorable way. I also applaud WWE – if they’re going to do outlandish fire angles – that there’s significant follow-up this week by having Orton’s face badly burned. Of course, they’re still talking about The Fiend coming back after burned to a crisp hollowed out corpse, so realism hasn’t been a priority. But Orton is a regular human in this storyline, so it makes sense to have him suffer burns and talk about it’s impact on him psychologically.)
-The announcers reacted to the segment. Joe wondered if Orton’s obsession with nature makes him a danger to himself. They announced Goldberg would be on The Dirty Sheet with Miz and John Morrison later. They also hyped Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss. They shifted to recapping the happenings with Charlotte Flair, Ric Flair, and Lacey Evans. Phillips said Charlotte thought Ric was at home, “but he was apparently at Raw.” (Apparently?)
(Keller’s Analysis: I still don’t get WWE’s decision, for both health and optics, to have announcers sit so close and not have plexiglass separating them. Every other sports or announce or anchor team I’ve seen for the last nine months has been spread apart by six feet or separated by plexiglass.)
-Charly Caruso approached Flair and Lacey who were arm-in-arm. She asked what’s going on with them. Lacey called her a “nasty thing” and asked if this was TMZ. “This is beneath even you to ask,” she said. As Ric was about to talk, Lacey cut him off and she buttered him as a legend. She said Ric is known as the dirtiest player in the game, and last week he was just living up to his name. She said as for their relationship, she’s learning from the greatest wrestler ever and that’s all. She said she’s now going to watch her partner Peyton Royce “knock that nasty queen off her throne.”
(Keller’s Analysis: You can see the signs already of Lacey being the dominant one in that relationship, cutting off Ric but then playing to his ego. It seems she’s destined to reveal she’s just using him to get at Charlotte.)
-Charlotte made her ring entrance. Peyton attacked her from behind. [c]
(1) PEYTON ROYCE vs. CHARLOTTE FLAIR
A few minutes in, Charlotte was in control and going for a cover when Ric’s music played. He strutted out and then pointed to the stage entrance. Out walked Lacey who was wearing a Nature Boy robe. Saxton said, “The nerve of Lacey Evans to come out here wearing the Nature Boy’s robe.” Royce kicked a distracted Charlotte in the face and scored a near fall. Charlotte rolled to the floor. [c]
Charlotte made a comeback after the break and scored a near fall. She knocked Royce to the floor, then yelled at Ric and Lacey on the stage. “Get your asses in the ring!” she yelled. A graphic in the corner advertised Xavier Woods vs. Mace later on the show. Charlotte eventually won the Figure-Eight leglock.
WINNER: Charlotte in 12:00 via tapout.
-After the match, Charlotte held the leglock beyond the ref’s five count, but she wasn’t disqualified for some reason. (Is it too much to ask for some consistency?) A second ref ran out and get the hold broken. Phillips touted it as a “statement” and a message to Lacey via Peyton. The first ref still raised Charlotte’s arm as her music played.
-The announcers hyped Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss. Saxton said Bliss has invited Asuka to her Playground.
-Backstage, The Hurt Business walked up to Riddle. Riddle said he lives his live free and untethered. Cedric said, “And unkempt.” Riddle said, “I’m going to take the high road.” Shelton said he’s sure he does. Riddle dished out some attempts at clever insults. Lashley said he kind of likes flip flops, but heard they’re bad for feet. Riddle said they’re not. Lashley stomped on his feet. Riddle dropped to the floor in pain and told Lashley that he’ll see his foot later “right up your ass.” [c]
-Backstage Riddle was icing his foot. Lucha House Party asked if he’ll be okay for their tag match later. Riddle said his cousin Dillon ran over his foot with his pick-up truck back in high school and he still made it to prom.
-A promo aired with Mustafa Ali that originally aired on WWE Network. He said he wants Kofi Kingston, sitting at home with a broken jaw, to watch Retribution break the people he loves the most over and over. He said he prays his broken jaw keeps him out of the Rumble and he’ll also miss Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania. He said then he’ll know how he felt having to sit at home watching someone else take what’s his.
-As Xavier made his way to the ring. Phillips explained Ali’s issue with Kofi goes back to WrestleMania two years ago when Ali was injured in the Elimination Chamber and Kofi took his place and ended up winning the WWE Title at WrestleMania. Ali yelled in Xavier’s face before the bell. Xavier punched him. They cut to a break as the referee tried to restore order.
(Keller’s Analysis: As poorly as Retribution has been booked, Ali is so good at promos, he’s almost single-handedly keeping Retribution relevant. I like seeing them reference the history of Ali and Kofi two years ago.)
(2) XAVIER WOODS vs. MACE (w/Mustafa Ali, Reckoning, T-Bar)
Xavier landed a sueprkick, but he hesitated when Retribution members were on all sides of the ring trying to intimidate him. Mace then gave Xavier some sort of sloppy looking finishing move that led to the three count. Afterward Retribution bent over Xavier and then Ali told Xavier to tell Kofi to get well soon. They left the ring and said it’s just a matter of time before he gets back at Kofi.
WINNER: Mace in 4:00.
-Backstage Sarah Schreiber asked Asuka what she expects at Alexa’s Playground. Asuka said, “I don’t know.” They awkwardly and abruptly cut to a clip of Bliss’s fireball last week. Then they went back to Asuka who said something about a dark side.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was awkward.) [c]
-They went to a news desk for “The WrestleMania Report” with hosts Henry E. Panky and Anita Reelman wearing wigs. Stephanie threw to Sunny McCloud. Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman were on camera instead at a board room table. Heyman announced WrestleMania will take place in Tampa, Fla. at Raymond James Stadium. Triple H threw to “Hailey Mary” (Sasha Banks) announcing WrestleMania would return to Dallas in 2022. Stephanie hit on Triple H. Then “Hugh Kantseeme ” (John Cena) was up next. He said what he’s supposed to say sounds so manufactured. He announced WrestleMania will be in Los Angeles in 2023. Triple H and Steph took their disguises off and said nobody knew it was them and sounded relieved.
(Keller’s Analysis: If Reigns and Heyman weren’t part of this, it might have been mildly amusing because it was so unabashedly and intentionally stupid. Reigns and Heyman shouldn’t be anywhere near tongue-in-cheek content like that, though.)
-Alexa’s Playground: Alexa Bliss entered the ring and sat on the swing next to her kids’ slide. She said last week she wanted to talk to Orton and clear the air, but then things got heated. She laughed at her own pun. She said she has suggestions for some sunblock for Orton. She said she’s glad he’s in good spirits and feeling okay. She said tonight she has a special guest and she’s so excited to have Asuka in her playground. She introduced Asuka.
Asuka entered the ring with enthusiasm and smiles. She was about to sit in the other swing, but Bliss told her that’s not her seat. Bliss asked, “Are you okay?” Asuka said she was okay. Bliss said, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t talking to you.” They began giggling together. Bliss said they have a match later tonight, but first she wants to have some fun. She said she has breaking news. She asked the invisible swing if she should say it. She then declared her entry into the Royal Rumble match. Bliss said she could win the Rumble and face Asuka at WrestleMania.
Asuka said she’d be honored because she’s a big fan of hers. Bliss said, “That’s so sweet.” Asuka excitedly said, “Owie Wowie.” Bliss lost her smile and apologized to the empty swing. “She wasn’t supposed to say that,” she said. Asuka’s music played and she began dancing. Bliss yelled at Asuka to stop it. The music stopped. She looked over at the empty swing and started to cry. She said if she had done things the right way, “you would still be here and things would be great, but now it’s just so cold.” Asuka tried to cheer Bliss up. Asuka said, “Fiend is still here.” Bliss looked up and glared at Asuka and said, “Do not say his name.” She then looked at the camera and smiled and waved. Asuka was shaken up and left the ring. The hobby horse began rocking. Bliss then sat on it as the segment ended.
-They went to the announcers at ringside. Saxton said that was weirder than he expected it’d be. Phillips hyped Drew McIntyre vs. Goldberg. He said they’d hear from WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett for his thoughts on the match.
-Schreiber approached Miz and Morrison backstage and asked what they’d be asking Goldberg about later. Miz said, “No spoilers!” He said she’ll have to tune in like everybody else. He said what they have store for him will be controversial. Morrison said, “Controversy creates cash.” Miz said, “Like Money in the Bank.” They were satisfied with themselves and left.
-Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke stood on the stage and flexed their biceps.
-Backstage, Shayna Baszler, with Nia Jax at her side, said she’s going to eliminate anyone in the Rumble, even if it’s her partner. Jax took exception to that and asked if she really wants it to be “every woman for herself.” She added, “My back hurts from carrying this team, are you kidding me?” [c]
-Jeff Jarrett quoted Toby Keith and said, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m good once as I ever was.” He said that will be the story at the Rumble. “We’re going to see a spear, a Jackhammer, and a 1-2-3,” he said. “And we’ll see a new WWE Champion – Goldberg.”
(Keller’s Analysis: The audio quality was pretty rough there. I’m not sure the value of acknowledging Goldberg is old and way past his prime as opposed to just pushing the idea he’s always been explosive and he still has that power and explosiveness. It’s a fine line, but this is almost apologizing for how old Goldberg is.)
(3) SHAYNA BASZLER vs. MANDY ROSE (w/Dana Brooke)
Jax joined the announcers on commentary. Jax said since Shayna has said she won’t have her back, she won’t have hers in the Rumble, either. Mandy got in some offense early. Baszler eventually won with an armbar after twisting and slamming her arm to the mat.
WINNER: Baszler in 4:00.
-Jax stood and yapped at Baszler at ringside after the match. Rose leaped off the ring apron and dropkicked Jax into Baszler and the ringpost. Saxton suggested there seems to be some issues between Jax and Baszler. [c]
-Backstage, Caruso approached Jax and Baszler as they continued to bicker. Jax said, “Not that it matters, but we’ve never gotten along.” She said Charlotte with her daddy issues and Asuka being frightened by Bliss, they’re not getting along either. Baszler said this is a good time to go after the tag belts. Jax said it’s a good idea and asked her to follow her.
-Saxton said Baszler wants a rematch, but he’s not sure if Jax is as enthusiastic. The announcers then commented on a replay of the Charlotte vs. Royce match involving Ric and Lacey earlier.
-Backstage, Schreiber interviewed Charlotte and asked how uncomfortable it was to watch Lacey in her father’s robe. Charlotte said she’s always accused of living off her father’s fame, but now Lacey is using her dad to get to her. Charlotte said she can only take only so much trash. She said Lacey can wear her dad’s robe, but she’ll never take her crown.
-Saxton congratulated Lacey for getting Charlotte’s full attention. Phillips then threw to a clip of the Reigns-Pearce contract signing from Smackdown last Friday.
-Backstage, Adam Pearce told Ricochet that a win against A.J. Styles tonight can go a long way toward getting him an opportunity in the Rumble. Pearce said he’s opening the window, but he still has to go through it. Styles and Omos walked up to them. Styles gave Pearce a hard time for relinquishing his title shot. He said he would have lost, but at least he’d still have dignity. Styles then said Ricochet will lose tonight, but he’ll still have his dignity. Ricochet said Styles apparently has magically forgotten about TLC. Styles said that was Miz’s fault. Ricochet said he’ll need more than a seven-foot giant to stop him from taking a step toward earning a spot in the Rumble.
-Ricochet’s ring entrance took place. They cut backstage to Styles telling Pearce that he doesn’t like him anymore. He said that means Omos doesn’t like him, either. [c]
(4) A.J. STYLES (w/Omos) vs. RICOCHET
A few minutes in, when Ricochet dove through the ropes at Styles, instead Omos caught him when Styles ducked. Ricochet told Omos to put him down. The ref yelled the same thing. Omos dropped him. [c]
After several more back-and-forth minutes, Styles knocked Ricochet off the top rope. Ricochet snapped Styles’s throat over the top rope and went for a springboard. Styles caught him mid-air, bounced him off the top rope, and on the rebound gave him a Styles Clash for the win. Saxton said that has to be devastating for Ricochet and his Rumble hopes.
WINNER: Styles in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match with a cool finish. Interesting that they’re telling a story of Ricochet coming up short in his hopes to earn a Rumble slot. I wonder where it’s going.)
-Saxton hyped Goldberg would be out next. [c]
-Clips aired of the Bliss-Asuka segment earlier.
-The Dirt Sheet with Miz & Morrison: Morrison introduced the show. Miz said some are saying this is the biggest episode ever. Morrison said Goldberg was a hero for many growing up. Miz said he can be a hero to new fans if he wins the WWE Title at the Rumble. Miz then excitedly introduced Goldberg. Saxton said it’s a huge “get” for Miz and Morrison. Instead, Gilberg came out as two people held sparklers for his entrance. Another worker sprayed him with a fire extinguisher. Saxton said she should have known. Phillips said, “This man has made a career of poorly impersonating Goldberg.” Miz said he looks like he’s been training. Miz asked for his gameplan. Gillberg talked about banging his head on doors, blowing smoke out his nose, and shooting fire out his ass. He knocked over a chair. Drew McIntyre’s music then played. Miz and Morrison went wide-eyed. Out walked a McIntyre impersonator. He kept losing his wig.
“Drew” entered and spoke in a Scottish accent and said he’ll kick his ass back to 1998. Morrison tried to improve on Drew’s accent. “Drew” asked if they want to cut and try again. Miz said they’re live. Miz called this a trainwreck and blamed Morrison for hiring an actor from New Jersey. Gilberg stepped between them and made a stupid Goldberg face to ease the tension. Miz asked Morrison if Goldberg will lose at the Rumble. Morrison said, “Of course.” Miz asked if Drew will lose. Morrison said, “Yes.” Miz said of course, but asked how there can be two losers in one match. Morrison said it’s because Miz will cash in the MITB contract. They yelled “Corrrr-rect.” Miz said he’s a future WWE Champion “because I’m The Miz and I’m next.”
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m not sure Miz gets what “next” means in the context of Goldberg. Does the heat for false advertising Goldberg go on Miz & Morrison, scripted fictional characters, or WWE? They advertised Goldberg for two hours before revealing it was Gilberg. There’s a lot of history with Gilberg, but WWE would have saved themselves some lost goodwill by saying Miz and Morrison were promising a huge guest and “rumors” suggest it would be Goldberg. There were ways to play this that didn’t amount to a false advertisement. Now, I would say there’s a chance most viewers were more happy to see Gillberg than Goldberg, so that should factor in, right?)
(5) THE HURT BUSINESS (Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin & Bobby Lashley w/MVP) vs. LUCHA HOUSE PARTY & RIDDLE
Cedric wanted to start the match. He beat down Gran Metalik early. A few minutes in Cedric tagged himself. Shelton then quickly tagged himself in. Shelton and Cedric exchanged some heated words. Shelton got in a few shots at Lince Dorado, then Cedric tagged himself in again. MVP was agitated. When Lince made a comeback against Cedric, MVP yelled at Cedric that bad things happen when you play stupid games. Shelton ended up shoving Cedric out of the ring. They cut to a break. [c]
When Cedric got the advantage on Metalik, instead of following up, he bragged to Shelton. A frustrated Lashley tagged himself in and finished off Metalik quickly with the Hurt Lock. Riddle took a quick shot at Lashley as Lashley was trying to make peace with Shelton and Cedric. He then slipped out of the ring as his music played. Cedric and Shelton continued to bicker.
WINNERS: Hurt Business in 12:00.
-The announcers talked about how Hurt Business need to figure things out. They pivoted to the Jeff Hardy vs. Jaxson Ryker match last week.
-Elias told Ryker not to disobey him. Ryker said he took him literally when he told him not to get involved. He said they got their signals crossed. Elias said this isn’t Thomas the Train. He told Ryker tonight that his mission is to finish what he started last week and embody the universal truth and everything Elias stands for to the point that Hardy accepts the Universal Truth that is Elias. He told Elias he wants to be sure that he’s not actually going to help him. Elias was irked and grabbed his guitar and told him to just get to the ring.
-Saxton hyped that they’d hear from Drew next. [c]
-McIntyre said he’s still asymptomatic after testing positive for COVID last week. He said he was coming from his home gym. He said the mini-man imitating him had the body of a melted candle. He said they have a little something for everyone sprinkled into Raw. He said Miz and Morrison are the clowns and he’s the lion, and sometimes the lion eats the clowns. He said he has respect for Goldberg, but he is prepared, focused, and intense. He said he will win. He took exception to the words Goldberg put in his mouth and he didn’t think Goldberg even believed what he was saying. He said he wants the best Goldberg. “That’s what this title deserves,” he said. “And if you don’t, I will eat you alive in two minutes.” He said next week he’s coming back to Raw.
(6) JEFF HARDY vs. JAXSON RYKER (w/Elias)
Hardy landed a neckbreaker and then climbed to the top rope for a Swanton. Elias shoved him. The ref DQ’d him.
WINNER: Hardy via DQ in 3:00.
-After the match, Ryker said he thought Elias wasn’t going to help him. Elias held up finger quote marks. Hardy went after Elias with a slidekick, but Ryker spiked him to the mat. Ryker and Elias continued to try to clear up when they’re being literal.
-They showed Bliss skipping around backstage happily. [c]
-Phillips said they have breaking news for next week. He said both Drew and Goldberg will be at Raw next week.
(7) ALEXA BLISS vs. ASUKA
Joe said Bliss is in a playful mood, but he wondered when they’ll see the real Alexa Bliss. Saxton said he thinks both personalities are actually real parts of the real Bliss. Asuka danced and celebrated some offense. Bliss rolled up Asuka for a two count. Bliss sat up smiling. She rolled up Asuka and scored a two count. Asuka popped up and punched Bliss in the face, then kneed her in the forehead followed by a Shining Wizard. Eventually, with Bliss in control, The Fiend noises kicked in and ThunderDome screens began to shift to black. They cut to a break. [c]
Back from the break, the lights were back on and Bliss had been “transformed.” The announcers went into a hushed tone as they tried to assess what they were seeing. Asuka looked shaken up and unsettled. She threw some strikes, but Bliss ducked and blocked them. Asuka eventually landed a kick to the gut. Bliss shook it off and knocked Asuka to ringside. They circled each other mid-ring. Asuka landed a kneelift, but Bliss bent over backwards in the corner. The announcers acted shocked as Asuka stopped in her tracks and backed away. Bliss looked at two fingers and they were red. She tried for a Mandible Claw. Asuka blocked it, but Bliss blocked a suplex attempt and then knocked Asuka to the mat for a two count. Saxton said, “It is clear that Asuka is psychologically rattled right now. I’ve never seen anything like this.” Asuka exploded with three strikes, but Bliss shook them off and then delivered a Sister Abigail for the three count. Joe asked, “What the hell just happened? What are we looking at?” Bliss stared at the camera. Suddenly her appearance returned to cheerful happy Bliss. She mouthed “Let me in,” but Fiend’s voice played over the speakers.
WINNER: Bliss in 12:00.