2/1 WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW REPORT: Hazelwood’s alt-perspective on Rumble Fallout, Edge, new Women’s Tag Champs and contenders, Lashley vs. Riddle for U.S. Championship, more

BY BRUCE LEE HAZELWOOD, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR


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

WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW TV REPORT
FEBRUARY 1, 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 began with Mike Rome introducing Drew McIntyre, who made his way to the ring as Tom Phillips summarized last night’s WWE Championship match as they showed still shots. Phillips once again put over strong how impressive it was for McIntyre to kick out of the Jackhammer. McIntyre welcomed everyone to the show and said this is no ordinary episode and they’re taking it up a notch because they’re officially on the road to WrestleMania as he pointed to the sign. He said the Royal Rumble was freaking awesome. He said he and Goldberg beat the hell out of each other and earned each other’s respect. He ran down every card on the match, really put over Bianca Belair (the winner of the women’s Rumble match), and shifted his attention to Edge as Edge’s music hit. Phillips reminded viewers that Edge lasted nearly an hour before winning the men’s Rumble match last night, and raised the question of who he will challenge. McIntyre said he’s always been around Edge since he’s been in America and puts over Edge as a mentor. He thanked him for all he’s done for McIntyre and said he was there where Edge retired. He said he was getting a foot in the face from A.J. Styles in last year’s Rumble when he heard “You think you know me.” He laughed, and congratulated Edge, saying he’s happy and proud of him.

Edge said he appreciates the compliments and that he really likes Drew, so he’s going to be blunt: “What is wrong with you?” He said he won the match and can challenge McIntyre for the WWE Championship. He said McIntyre won it last year and knows that Edge is an immediate and viable threat and instead of kicking his head off, he’s showering Edge with compliments. He said that’s something an opportunist would do, but not him. Edge said he’s damn right he’s not Edge as Sheamus made his way to the ring. He congratulated Edge with his cheeky grin and said Edge should be happy and flattered he’s being shown respect. Sheamus said he isn’t happy because who is Edge to question McIntyre? He said Edge was sitting home “on his arse” nursing his triceps. He said “Who are you?” again and said McIntyre might want to take the high road, but he sure as hell won’t. McIntyre backed off his friend and turned toward Edge, asking if he needed to make Edge’s decision for him. Edge said he’s been in this game a long time, and since he’s the Ultimate Opportunist, he’s going to assess the situation and let him know. He looked at Sheamus and told McIntyre he’s playing a dangerous game and he has a big target on his back. Sheamus took exception, but Edge turned back to McIntyre and said whoever he chooses, he is walking out of WrestleMania a champion. He left to his music. Sheamus suddenly delivered a Brogue Kick to McIntyre as Byron Saxton asked, “Why?” Samoa Joe said, “Oh, I know why!” Sheamus walked off as McIntyre recovered, holding his jaw. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Edge on the mic has been money since he’s returned. It doesn’t hurt he’s had a lot of practice acting outside of WWE. Further, his comments to McIntyre were almost too accurate, too logical for WWE! Sure, I would have liked to have held off on Sheamus kicking McIntyre’s head until after Edge made his decision, especially since I’m sure they’re heading towards Roman Reigns-Edge, but now they have a definitive path to set right after the Rumble. Even if Edge faces McIntyre, they may have Sheamus face the WWE Champion at one of the two PPVs before the big event.)

-They returned with replays of the Brogue Kick as the commentators tried to explain what happened. They showed Sheamus in the back as Charly Caruso asked him what happened. Sheamus said everyone knows me as Drew McIntyre’s friend, but he’s no longer his friend and he wants THE WWE Championship. He grabbed his bags from Drew Gulak and left, with Caruso looking confused. Saxton was confused, but Joe said yeah, it’s about the most coveted prize in WWE. Phillips shifted to the United States Championship match as Riddle made his entrance. They put over his performance in the Rumble match and replayed his title shot earning victory from last week. Bobby Lashley made his entrance next as the commentators also put over his performance in the Rumble match (be prepared to hear it all night). Rome gave formal ring introductions and they cut to break (the hell?). [c]

(1) BOBBY LASHLEY (w/M.V.P.) vs. RIDDLE – United States Championship Match

-They returned and started the match with Riddle quickly attacking Lashley, but Lashley used his power to regain control. Riddle fought back with strikes, but Lashley hit his huge one-armed Ron Simmons spinebuster to turn the tide. Lashley then hit a delayed vertical suplex, more just throwing him than slamming him. As he went to clothesline Riddle over the top, Riddle turned it into a head scissors to send Lashley outside. He hit the Floating Bro and rolled Lashley back int. As he tried to renter the ring, Lashley caught him in The Hurt Lock in the ropes. Lashley failed to heed the referee’s call and was DQd. Riddle tapped after the bell rung. On the outside after the match, Lashley locked it in again and just ragdolled Lashley. M.V.P. tried to reason with Lashley and said, “You trying to go to jail, man? Don’t kill him!” Lashley glared at M.V.P., then applied the hold again, and finally sent Riddle over the barricade. Phillips said Lashley’s incensed that it took four men to eliminate him last night. M.V.P. had a smile on his face as Lashley walked up the ramp, liking the intensity being shown by Lashley.

WINNER: Riddle by DQ at 1:39; Lashley retains

-They shifted to recapping the Women’s Tag Team Championship match from last night’s Kickoff, which saw Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler regain the titles after interference from Ric Flair & Lacey Evans. They hype a triple threat match next with the winners receiving a title shot. They showed a CLEAN Bugatti drive up and showed Bad Bunny step out. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: I’m actually fine with what happened in the match. The story of Lashley’s Rumble failure carried over as he just took out all of his frustrations on Riddle, and you know I LOVE seeing that. I think this could conceivably lead to Lashley having a strong run in the Elimination Chamber match (should he be booked for it) or a possible title match with McIntyre at Fastlane. I’ve long been a fan of Lashley, and he’s just been on another level since joining The Hurt Business. Let’s see how far he can go.)

-They returned with referees and a doctor helping Riddle. He asked what happened and who he was wrestling, selling a concussion it appears. His right eye is black from the Curb Stomp he took from Seth Rollins last night. The commentators showed replays and discussed what led to Riddle being in his condition. Joe said no one can prepare for a vengeful Bobby Lashley. Phillips reminded viewers that he was thrown onto exposed concrete, so it adds credence to a concussion angle however poor taste it might be. They showed Orton in the back as he addressed Edge, saying he didn’t think it was possible that Edge would return and win the Rumble match as the first entrant. He congratulated Edge, said he truly meant it, but said there was a problem because he told the world Edge was never coming back and that makes Orton a liar. “Me, look like a liar?” He listed all the things he did to Edge, enraged, and then said Edge isn’t going to main event WrestleMania because Edge made the decision to look past Orton, look past everything Orton’s done for him and his family. He said there will be no mercy, no compassion, no main event for WrestleMania for Edge. They hyped Edge vs. Orton for later in the evening. They showed The New Day in Gorilla as Xavier Woods discussed his series with Retribution. Kofi Kingston said Mustafa Ali’s lost his mind because he believes everything that happened to Kingston in 2019 was at Ali’s expense. They did their “New Day Rocks” clap and chant as their music hit and they made their entrance for their match as Saxton said it’s good to see Kingston back with Woods.

(Hazelwood’s Take: A concussion angle? Really? The optics, as they say, are not good.)

(2) XAVIER WOODS (w/Kofi Kingston) vs. MUSTFA ALI (w/T-Bar & Slapjack)

-They returned with the two dancing in the ring as Retribution (sans Reckoning) made their entrance. Reckoning (Mia Yim) tested positive for COVID, so hopefully she heals soon and doesn’t have negative effects. I haven’t seen anything on Mace (Dio Maddin), so hopefully everything’s OK (or he’ll show up as interference). They played a WWE Network Exclusive with Mustafa Ali welcoming Kingston back. They invited him to ringside to see him “torture” Woods. They began in a collar-and-elbow tie-up with Woods gaining the advantage in the corner. Ali kicked him in the gut to take control, but ran right into a big shoulder tackle from Woods, who sent Ali over the top. Ali avoided a Woods springboard, but Woods landed on his feet. He sent Ali back in, but was distracted by T-Bar & Slapjack and was met with a neckbreaker upon reentry. Ali yelled at Kingston and then attacked the back of the neck of Woods. He drove him into the corner and shoved his boot in Woods’ face. Ali sent Woods into the opposite turnbuckle chest-first (a weak Irish whip) and hit a neckbreaker for a two-count, the first pin attempt of the evening and we’re 47 minutes into the show. Ali locked in a rear chinlock, but Woods fought to his feet and caused separation with a few gut kicks. He struck Ali over and over, then hit a float-over side Russian legsweep. He rushed Ali, was hit with a kick, countered a tornado DDT, and hit a Brodie Lee discus clotheslines for a two-count as T-Bar broke up the pin. Kingston used T-Bar to launch himself at Slapjack. Ali tried to rollup Woods, but Woods countered into a crucifix pin for the victory (four pin attempts). Ali & Retribution are incensed in the ring as The New Day celebrate. They showed replays after as The New Day continued to talk smack as they celebrated. They shifted to the back with Damian Priest talking to Bad Bunny in Spanish. All reports are that Priest is now a member of the Raw roster. They cut to break. [c]

WINNER: Xavier Woods at 4:07 (crucifix pin)

(Hazelwood’s Take: I really don’t know what to make of this angle anymore. They’re probably just waiting until Kingston’s healed up to have the blowoff tag match. I guess we’ll just wait until then.)

-They returned with a WrestleMania ad as Phillips hyped the event. They then showed replays of the McIntyre-Edge-Sheamus angel from the start of the show. They showed a graphic for a McIntyre interview for later in the show. The Miz’s music played as he & John Morrison made their way to the ring for “Miz TV” with Bad Bunny, who they’ve repeatedly called “the biggest guest in ‘Miz TV’ history.” Phillips reminded viewers they were eliminated by Priest and Bad Bunny. The Miz gave the whole “road to” speech and discussed the events of last night. They said the star of the night was Bad Bunny, calling his performance spectacular. Morrison said his music inspires everyone around the world to get up and have a good time. They introduced Bad Bunny. Morrison did some terrible dancing as The Miz tried posing like Booker T from last night.

[HOUR TWO]

Bad Bunny looked less than enthused, but took a seat. They thanked him for being there and said they want to clear the air about last night. They showed replays of his performance, being approached by The Miz & Morrison (and rejecting them), The Miz destroying the DJ set with his briefcase, and their subsequent elimination by Priest. They showed Bad Bunny leaping off the top onto both as well. The Miz said he thinks they both did things they regret, so he apologized from the deepest part of his heart. Bad Bunny accepted the apology, but said he had nothing to say to them. The two were a bit perturbed, then asked if Bad Bunny wanted to become a “WWE Superstar.” He said it’s a dream. The Miz discussed his “learning tree,” starting with “B+ player” Daniel Bryan. Morrison said they had connections in Hollywood so they could be on red carpets everywhere. The Miz said they could teach him for a favor of recording an album. Morrison said they had a lot of ideas. Morrison gave a very bad Spanglish rap that made Bad Bunny turn his head away. He said that they’re “special,” but he’s not interested. Morrison asked, “Estas loco?” The Miz asked if he has any idea who he’s talking to. “We aren’t J-Lo or Shakira!” (duh) He said he knows who they are and the only reason he came here is because a good friends asked him to be here. The lights go out and then back on as Damian Priest received his full entrance familiar to NXT viewers. “The Archer of Infamy” strolled to the ring, dapped up Bad Bunny, and gave The Miz a huge forearm shiver. Morrison rolled out before getting clocked as they cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Hey, Bad Bunny’s actually done fine as a celebrity guest on Raw, especially considering the history. He didn’t do anything over: act, talk, etc. I understand WWE thinking this will give Priest a big rub, and it makes sense if you think about it from their perspective. Not only does Priest get associated with Bad Bunny, but in WWE, if you can go with The Miz, you’re generally set on a path to be a secondary champion at worst. The future looks bright for Priest, who fills ALL of Vince McMahon’s desires for a top star, aside from not being White.)

(3) THE MIZ (w/John Morrison) vs. DAMIAN PRIEST (w/Bad Bunny)

-They returned with Priest taking it to The Miz as the match started with his array of strikes from his long limbs. The Miz rolled outside, but Priest did his step-up tope con hilo to the outside, taking out both men. He dapped up Bad Bunny again as he rolled The Miz in for a two-count. The Miz poked the eyes and drove Priest shoulder-first into the ring post. He struck Priest with kicks and punches in the corner before doing his flying clothesline, then climbed to the top and hit a double axe handle for a one-count. He mounted Priest and hit him with some lefts. He raked at Priest along the middle rope and then gave a running kick across the back of the neck. He taunted Bad Bunny some before turning back to Priest. He went for a kick, but Priest blocked it by punching his thigh, then hit a strike combo that ended with a clothesline. He gave his archer pose and hit The Miz with a corner avalanche and hit the Broken Arrow (Falcon’s Arrow) for a two-count. Morrison climbed to the apron and distracted Priest, who then ran into a kick from The Miz. Morrison climbed onto the apron again as The Miz went for the briefcase. Bad Bunny snatched it away as Morrison approached him. He gave Morrison the briefcase, then blasted him with his mic. Priest hit The Reckoning (he tweeted it’s called “Hit the Lights” now, probably because of Reckoning in Retribution) for the win (three pin attempts). Great debut for Priest. They showed replays after.

WINNER: Damian Priest at 4:24 (The Reckoning)

-They shifted to the ongoing story between Alexa Bliss and Orton, playing last week’s big of “Alexa’s Playground” and her match with Asuka for the Women’s Championship that involved Bliss’ multiple transformations, eventually turning into the character that no-sells everything, and Orton giving her an RKO to end the show. They showed a graphic for Bliss vs. Nikki Cross for later in the night as they cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: As far as debuts go, this was about as good as you can hope for if you’re a fan of Priest in NXT. Aside from winning the Rumble or WWE/Universal Championship in his first match, his rub from Bad Bunny and victory over a former multiple-time WWE Champion gives Priest a level of credibility that sets him on an upward trajectory. At worst, he’ll probably be locked into the secondary title picture. You know what? That’s an absolutely fine career.)

(4) THE HURT BUSINESS (Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin) vs. LUCHA HOUSE PARTY (Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado) – Tag Team Championship match

-They returned with the Champions in the ring as M.V.P. joined commentary. Lucha House Party made their entrance next. They asked about Lashley, and M.V.P. replied he just doesn’t want Lashley to “catch a court case.” Phillips said LHP earned this match by defeating the Champions three weeks ago, but M.V.P. said the Champions lost to themselves. Shelton Benjamin took control with his power, including a biel, but Lince Dorado countered with his quickness as Gran Metalik made a blind tag. Metalik walked on his partner’s shoulders and went for a head scissors, but Benjamin caught him. Metalik succeeded in countering, but Benjamin hit a big Olympic slam. He tagged in Cedric Alexander, who made a pin for a two-count. Metalik hit a dropkick and tagged in his partner. They hit some double-team strikes, then sent both opponents to the outside. They hit synchronized scorpion kicks to knock Alexander & Benjamin off of the apron as they cut to break. [c]

They returned with Alexander and Dorado trading strikes, but Alexander hit HUGE Michinoku Driver for a two-count. M.V.P. called him “his little Pitbull.” Benjamin tagged in and hit a big body slam, then another for a two-count. He cinched in a rear chinlock, but Dorado fought to his feet and hit a jawbreaker to break the hold. He hit a wheelbarrow stunner and a crucifix pin for a one-count, but Benjamin rolled him into a gutbuster for a two-count (that was impressive strength). He tagged in Alexander, who hit a snap suplex for another two-count. Benjamin tagged as they’re doing a good job of cutting off the ring and keeping Dorado in their area. Benajmin drove Dorado into a netural corner, hit a bunch of strikes, and countered a head scissors attempt into a powerbomb attempt that Dorad turned into a spike DDT. Alexander tagged in and grabbed Dorado before he could make the tag, but Dorado hit a dropkick and tagged in Metalik. He hit a springboard dropkick, then took out Benjamin. “The King of the Ropes” did some of his stuff, ending with the second-rope missile dropkick. Dorado tried hitting a springboard splash on Benjamin, who caught him, but Metalik immediately hit a tope. Back in the ring, Metalik attempted a pin on Alexander for a two-count, hit a reverse slingblade, Dorado hit a splash, Metalik hit a senton, but Benjamin broke up the count. He kneed Dorado out, then turned Metalik around right into a big Alexander knee. Benjamin tagged himself in and hit Paydirt for the victory (about nine pin attempts), a little to Alexander’s chagrin, but they celebrated afterwards with the demeanor of, “You dare question our dominance?”

WINNER: The Hurt Business at 11: 14 to retain (Paydirt)

-They shifted to recapping the Women’s Tag Team Championship match from the Kickoff show again. They showed Asuka & Charlotte Flair in Gorilla as Sarah Schreiber approached asking about their mindset for tonight. Flair said Lacey Evans may think she’s elevating her career using her father, but Evans isn’t playing games with her. She said she only feels bad that her drama affected her tag partner and that they lost. Asuka said she’s not happy they lost and that she was ready. She said if it wasn’t for the distraction, they would have won. She looked at Flair and said, “Right?” Flair agreed, said the only thing on her mind is regaining the titles, and then made her entrance first for the triple threat tag team match to determine the #1 contender for the Women’s Tag Team Championship as they cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: A perfectly serviceable match with the correct finish. Keep building The Hurt Business at least through WrestleMania. It was good to see Lucha House Party, but they just haven’t been built enough to be credible champs. Still, the subtle story within The Hurt Business is intriguing; just how will Alexander react next week?)

(5) CHARLOTTE FLAIR & ASUKA vs. MANDY ROSE & DANA BROOKE vs. NAOMI & LANA – #1 Contender Triple Threat Tag Team match

-They returned with Flair in the ring as Asuka made her entrance as they used the high res camera (sweet camera). Phillips brought up how Asuka might be challenged by Belair, an “ever-present threat” as Joe said. Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke made their entrance next, followed by Lana (whose music played before the other two were even in the ring). Naomi made her entrance, and Saxton said he’s glad Phillips said Lana was “one” of the biggest surprise returns last night because Naomi was probably the biggest return. The played a little promo from the two before the match, and they both just said things about working together to win the titles. Flair and Naomi started the match, with Flair gaining the advantage with a shoulder tackle. Both women displayed athleticism as they showed the Champs in the back watching from an awkward angle. Asuka and Rose tagged in and Asuka scored a two-count. Blind tags from Lana and Brooke with Lana getting a one-count on a rollup. Brooke hit a handspring splash in the corner as Rose tagged in. Rose hit a high knee for a two-count. Asuka tagged in, but Rose countered a kick with a knee, then took out Naomi & Lana before tagging in Brooke for a double flapjack on Asuka. Rose knocked off Flair, they flexed together in the ring, and they cut to break. [c]

They returned with Brooke in control of Flair in the corner, but Flair hit a forearm shiver to Brooke as she attempted her handspring splash for a two-count. She put Brooke in the Figure-Four headlock, slammed her to the mat several times. Rose tagged in, but Flair rolled her up for a two-count and then kicked Rose in the chest. Lots of work this match in the lone neutral corner. Rose reversed Flair in said corner and took it to her, then brought Flair to their corner and tagged in Brooke, who hit a cartwheel splash for a two-count. She punched Flair some before taking it to her in the corner. Flair fought her off, but Brooke stayed on her and tagged in Rose. They looked for a double suplex, but Flair rolled out and hit a double clothesline as Asuka tagged in. She kicked Rose and hit a running hip attack in the corner, then a German suplex and a Shining Wizard for a two-count. She climbed to the top and hit a big missile dropkick. Lana tagged off Rose, but was met by Flair, who also punched Naomi. Consecutive two-counts for Flair as she cinched in a rear chinlock (the Randy Orton Special), then slammed Lana down as she attempted to get to her feet. Flair attempted a powerbomb, but Lana countered with a head scissors and tagged in Namoi, who hit a flying back elbow, flying jawbreaker, and a litany of strikes. She hit the springboard kick (Disaster Kick of sorts) for a two-count on Flair. She tagged in Lana, who hit double knees to the back of Flair draped across the second rope. However, Flair hit a big boot. She went for the Figure-Four, but was broken up by Rose. Naomi took out Rose, but Brooke took out Naomi. Asuka took out Lana, then Flair hit Natural Selection as Papa Flair’s music hit as he and Evans made their way to the ring. Flair tagged out (as did Lana), and Asuka turned right into a huge Rear View from Naomi for the victory (about nine pin attempts). They showed McIntyre pacing in the back as they cut to break. [c]

WINNER: Naomi & Lana at 11:05 to become #1 Contender (Rear View)

(Hazelwood’s Take: So, I understand them wanting to continue the story between Flair and Evans. However, especially with Flair saying she’s only focused on winning and upset her issues cost them last night, she did the exact same thing tonight. Further, it makes Asuka, your WOMEN’S CHAMPION, look absolutely terrible, particularly if you consider basically losing clean without losing last week to Bliss and her continued fear in reaction to Bliss. The women’s division on Raw needs better booking.)

[HOUR THREE]

-They returned with Caruso in the back welcoming McIntyre. She asked about the events of the past two nights, including Edge’s victory and Sheamus turning “his back on you.” McIntyre said he would be honored to face Edge, but regarding Sheamus, he doesn’t know. Families fight all the time, he said, and those two have fought more times than he can count. He seemed emotional as he said this is different and he doesn’t know what to say. He said if Sheamus is willing to throw away a 20-year friendship, spending Christmas day in a diner because they had nobody else, over the WWE Championship, then so be it. He said, “You want the match? You got it,” and walked off as Saxton said McIntyre is still clearly gutted and we still don’t know why Sheamus did what he did (THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP, BYRON). Phillips shifted to Carlito, who will be in action for the first time in ten years on Raw. Elias & Jaxson Ryker made their entrance for their match against Carlito (MY MAN CARLITO) & Jeff Hardy. Phillips said you can “see the reverence” Ryker has for Elias. Hardy made his entrance next, then CARLITO!!!! If you can’t tell, I’m a BIG fan of the former Carlito Caribbean Cool.

(6) ELIAS & JAXSON RYKER vs. JEFF HARDY & CARLITO

-Carlito and Elias began the match with Elias gaining the early advantage. Carlito hit a back elbow and applied an arm wringer, then some technical wrestling into a one-count as Carlito is taking Elias to school. He tagged in Hardy after an arm wrench. Elias hit a knee to the gut and tagged in Ryker, but he ran right into Hardy’s standard combo into a splash pin for a one-count. Ryker forced Hardy into their corner as Elias tagged in. However, Hardy regained control quickly, but was distracted by Ryker grabbing the towel from Hardy’s back pocket. This allowed Elias to gain the advantage, then tag in Ryker for a two-count. Ryker hit a big suplex for another two-count, then tagged in Elias. Elias hit some body shots, then whipped Hardy into the ropes for a back elbow as Hardy crumpled. Elias took out Carlito from the apron, then tagged in Ryker, who Elias whipped right into Ryker, then to Elias for a sit-out one-handed chokeslam for a two-count. Ryker went for a second-rope diving headbutt, but Hardy moved. Ryker tried grabbing Hardy, but he hit a mule kick and tagged in Carlito. Carlito with furious offense here including a knee strike and dropkick. He kipped up, but Ryker drove Carlito face-first into the canvas. He tagged in Elias, who rolled up Carlito for a two-count. Carlito hit a backstabber then tagged in Hardy. Carlito took out Ryker as Hardy hit the Swanton Bomb for the victory (seven pin attempts). They showed replays after. They showed a graphic for Edge-Orton before cutting to break. [c]

WINNER: Jeff Hardy & Carlito at 5:55 (Swanton Bomb)

(Hazewlood’s Take: Carlito being back makes Raw infinitely better in my opinion. He is also in fantastic shape, and you still saw that smoothness that characterized his in-ring style during his first stint in WWE. I’m excited, to say the least.)

-They returned with a video recap of the Edge-Orton saga, starting with Edge relinquishing the World Heavyweight Championship and his return at last year’s Royal Rumble. They then shifted to Orton giving Edge an RKO and Conchairto to reignite their rivalry, then their Last Man Standing match and the “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” where Edge tore his triceps. They played his announcement last week of entering the Rumble match and winning last night. This was one of their award-winning worthy video packages, one that called in the last time they will face off. They showed Edge in the back who said he’s torn. On one hand, he won the Royal Rumble match after returning from a torn triceps, going bell-to-bell. However, on the other hand, there’s always a black cloud that hangs over his and his family’s head, that cloud being Orton. He said Orton had the chance to go bell-to-bell, but he didn’t; Edge did. He said that’s what it’s really about: jealousy because Orton isn’t the type of man as Edge. He said yeah, he’s beat up, but tonight, he has to put Orton in the rearview so he can walk into WrestleMania so he can take back a championship he never lost. He said tonight he gets closure for him, for his little girls on why he couldn’t piggyback them or go to their soccer matches. He said it ends tonight. Another great promo from Edge with the right amount of emotion at just the right spots. Bliss made her entrance for her match with Cross to the “Firefly Fun House” music and that high res camera. They cut to break. [c]

-They returned with a Raw Talk promo including Evans & Papa Flair, Naomi & Lana, and The New Day. They showed Edge walking in the back as he approached Priest and gave him the old atta boy. Bliss was waiting by sitting on the second rope and swinging back-and-forth as Cross entered to her new (bad) music.

(7) ALEXA BLISS vs. NIKKI CROSS

-Cross immediately rushed Bliss, who ducked out and smiled. Cross asked what Bliss wants from her, her former best friend. She talked some more, asked if Bliss wants to fight, and they finally engaged. Cross hit a side headlock takedown and kept yelling at Bliss, who countered with a headscissors hold. Cross broke out, but Bliss just sat there smiling at Cross. Cross hit some of her double thrusts and a crossbody for a two-count. She yelled, “What do you want from me?” again, and that Bliss just couldn’t leave her alone. She continued to pound away at Bliss in the corner, then hit a snap suplex for a two-count. Bliss countered with a jawbreaker and two haymakers that floored Cross. She jumped in joy like a child before making a cover for a two-count, then a frustrated cover for a one-count. Bliss hit a basement dropkick to Cross, then stood on her back while using the ropes for leverage and stomping on Cross’ head. She slammed Cross into the mat, then again, then did a hopscotch routine that ended with a stiff kick to Cross for a two-count. She cinched in a bodyscissors hold. Cross eventually broke out, but Bliss set up for Sister Abigail. She took too long and Cross countered. She stomped away at Bliss in the corner and then Goddess Bliss was sitting in the corner after her old music started. Cross looked weirded out as Bliss said, “Come on, let’s do this.” Cross hit Bliss a few times and drove her into the corner. The “Fun House” music played again as “Playground” Bliss appeared, smiling and happy. She drove Cross to the ground with a shoulder tackle, then went for another Sister Abigail that she turned into the [Redacted]-style turning DDT (if you follow NXT, you know who I’m discussing) for the victory (five pin attempts). As she skipped up the ramp, Orton’s music played as he entered for his match with Edge. They stopped on the ramp next to each other, but Orton didn’t look at Bliss while Bliss glared at Orton. They cut to break with Orton posing on the second turnbuckle. [c]

WINNER: Alexa Bliss at 6:43 (Sister Abigail DDT)

(Hazelwood’s Take: If you don’t mind or like this Bliss character and the mid-match transformations, then you probably like this. If you dislike it, then you probably disliked this match. Still, let’s give credit where it’s due: Bliss continues to act her role well, has a moveset that fits this character even if the hopscotch spot was weird, and has perfect facial expressions. It does seem weird to suddenly bring back the Cross rivalry, but maybe this means we’ll see more Cross moving forward?)

(8) RANDY ORTON vs. EDGE – Billed as “One Last Time”

-They returned with Orton waiting in the ring as Edge’s music played. Edge had full pyro. Edge started immediately taking Orton down, then kicked him for a two-count. He hit a high knee for another two-count. Edge looked to lock in the Antivenom (standing arm triangle choke), but Orton fought it off and slammed Edge to the mat. Orton took some time to recover, then methodically went at Edge. He hit a European uppercut before driving his boot into Edge’s gut for the ref’s full count in the corner. He pounded away at a prone Edge in the corner, taking his time. He lifted Edge and hit another European uppercut, then shoved Edge’s throat into the second rope he was draped on. The commentators reiterating how tired Edge must be after last night, but Edge hit the Edgecution DDT out of nowhere and scored a two-count (it took a few seconds to make the pin attempt). Edge went to the corner to setup for the spear, labored, but Orton hit a huge powerslam instead. He then drove Edge shoulder-first into the post and shoved him to the outside. He Irish whipped Edge into the steel steps as they cut to break. [c]

They returned with Orton stalking Edge, who was unbalanced on his feet. Orton punched Edge, who fell to the mat, then stomped Edge’s gut. Orton employed that traditional Randy Orton pace as he methodically struck Edge, but Edge exploded out of the corner with a clothesline to floor both men. Both men hit a double clothesline into a slight pin by Edge for a two-count. Edge looked to drag himself to the top rope, but Orton met him and punched him a few times as Edge draped over the turnbuckle. Orton climbed, looking for a superplex, but Edge countered. He punched at Orton’s knee, then the face, but Orton dropped down then punched Edge in the face. He climbed to the top, but Edge punched Orton in the ribs and a headbutt to feel Orton. Edge hit a flying clothesline off of the top rope, but was slow to cover, which resulted in a two-count. They keep reiterating how exhausted Edge must be after nearly an hour in the Rumble match last night. Edge countered an RKO attempt with the Edge-O-Matic for a two-count. Orton rolled to the apron as both men used the ropes to regain their footing. Edge rushed Orton on the apron and gave him a forearm shiver, causing Orton to fly into the barricade. The ref started the count, but Edge rolled outside to reset the count (it was at six). He rolled Orton back in, but Orton rolled back out as Edge crawled for a cover. Edge, unsteady on his feet, followed Orton, who poked the eye of Edge and hit his belly-to-back suplex onto the announce desk. He rolled Edge back in the ring, stalked Edge, and hit a slingshot into the bottom rope, causing Edge’s neck to snap back. He setup Edge for the draping DDT and hit. He then setup for the RKO, pounding the mat, but then “Rock a bye baby” played creepily as Bliss was on the ring post behind Orton, sitting. Blood poured from her mouth as she stared at Orton, who then turned into a spear form Edge for the victory (about seven pin attempts). Edge rolled out of the ring as they said he has closure and the show ended.

WINNER: Edge at 16:01 (Spear)

(Hazelwood’s Take: They really sold Edge being exhausted, but it also led to a laborious match as a viewer; you could almost feel Edge’s energy level, or lack thereof, through the screen. While it makes sense to extend the Bliss-Orton angle, it also comes at the expense of Edge, who LITERALLY just won arguably the biggest match of the year in WWE. Sure, he’s exhausted, but still, the Rumble winner should be booked a little more strong. Why not hold off on the match another week? I get it, this helps build an older Edge as extremely resilient, but there’s still no reason why the match couldn’t have happened later. Still, Edge looked good, Orton is a great dance partner considering their history, and now Edge has more momentum.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was actually a decent Raw, even grading on a curve, coming out of the Rumble event. Sure, some of the micro booking decisions can and should be questioned, but it was really one of those rare story-building and story-driven shows: every match and segment had a purpose. If WWE just uses that as their base standard, then the show will improve dramatically. We’re also left to wonder what’s going to happen with McIntyre, Sheamus, Edge, Orton, Bliss, The Hurt Business, and this suddenly #1 contender team of Naomi & Lana. All in all, considering I’m not particularly mad or upset about anything, tonight was a big win for Raw.

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