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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JANUARY 3, 2022
GREENVILLE, S.C. AT BON SECOURS WELLNESS ARENA
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Commentators: Jimmy Smith, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves
-They opened with a video package recapping the Fatal Five-way match at Day 1 on Saturday night ending with Brock Lesnar winning the WWE Title.
-Jimmy Smith introduced the show as the camera panned the crowd. They went to Smith, Byron Saxton, and Corey Graves at ringside and announced the Fatal Four-way main event, originally scheduled for Day 1, to determine who will face Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. They also hyped the rest of the scheduled line-up: Nikki A.S.H. & Rhea Ripley vs. Queen Zelina & Carmella, Damian Priest vs. Dolph Ziggler for the U.S. Title, and A.J. Styles vs. Omos.
(Keller’s Analysis: This is quite the line-up. Raw is feeling like the A-show with everything going on including now Drew McIntyre being sidelines with an injury and Brock and Paul Heyman now part of Raw.)
-The lights went dark, then came on with Paul Heyman standing mid-ring. He introduced everyone to his client, Brock Lesnar. Lesnar’s music played. They cut to fans going bonkers in the crowd. Lesnar walked out with the WWE Title belt, all smiles. Lesnar slid the WWE Title to Heyman, then threw the base of the ringside stairs into the ring. Lesnar stood on the base of the steps and was all smiles.
Lesnar said, “Before we get the party started, I want to give a big shout-out to my good buddy, Roman Reigns.” Lesnar said he’s likely at home watching the real world champion in WWE, Brock Lesnar. “Get well soon, buddy,” he said. Then he winked and clicked. He held up his arms and said, “Now South Carolina, acknowledge me.” Lesnar turned and acknowledged “my advocate.” He thanked him for making him a free agent and pulling the strings necessary to get him into the match on Saturday. Heyman bowed a bit toward Lesnar as he held his extended hand.
Heyman talked about his negotiations and recapped what Lesnar did on Saturday. He shifted to talking about the potential challengers in the four-way match later. He said Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens have to be lumped in together because they are a team. He said they have to figure out how to proceed if they both want the title match, though. He said Seth Rollins should be enough of a visionary to know his wife is going to leave him if he doesn’t win the WWE Title. He said his wife won’t leave him for Kevin Owens, because Owens can’t win the WWE Title either. He suggested they ask to be traded to Smackdown because there’s a certain Tribal Chief who is feeling vulnerable right now. The crowd oooh’d. “Don’t go oooh,” he said. “It’s a historical fact; I’m going to prove it to you. One week without me as special counsel, Roman Reigns already has COVID.”
Heyman shifted to MVP, then said they would pivot away because no one talks about him. Heyman said Lesnar and Bobby Lashley have never crossed paths anywhere. He said they’ve never shaken hands or said hello to each other. He said it’s like they are avoiding each other, but that’s not true because neither of those two men avoid anything. Heyman talked about what Lashley did to Lesnar on Saturday night. Heyman said he’s told Lesnar to his face that it didn’t look like Lesnar was going to escape the Hurt Lock, either. He said all of those moves by Lashley were when he hit Lesnar from behind, though. He said it’ll be a whole different story if they meet face to face, one on one.
He said they have nothing bad to say about Big E. He said he is a great champion and the odd’s on favorite. He said he’s a credit to WWE, the company, the audience, and the lineage of the WWE Title. “Big E is all that and more,” he said. He said he’d still be champion if it weren’t for Lesnar, but they have nothing but respect for him. He said if Big E wins tonight, it will be an honor to witness that match. He said Big E will lose, but it’ll be an honor to see him lose to greatest WWE Champion ever. Lesnar’s music played. Lesnar put his arm around Heyman as they made their way to the back.
(Keller’s Analysis: They were 17 minutes into the show at this point. That was a lot of talking to set up the main event, but it was effective at discussing the key intrigue regarding each of the possibilities. The curve ball of having Lesnar win the WWE Title and end up on Raw without closure on the Reigns-Heyman dynamic in an actual match at Day 1 seems to have left the crowd confused. Heyman is such an established heel, that his mere association with Lesnar dampened fans’ enthusiasm for Lesnar, who they otherwise want to cheer. I think there needed to be more of an explanation by Lesnar about how long he and Heyman were working together, and why fans should be okay with him associating with Heyman. It does feel like you’re tuning in after missing a week, if not a month, of storyline developments. I’m not sure what they expected, but the crowd just wasn’t ready to embrace Heyman without a little more explanation and context. Heyman gushing about Big E was well-received, and perhaps done in part to try to offset some of the disappointment Big E fans feel about the COVID situation with Reigns leading to him losing his title to Lesnar. That finish also dampens some enthusiasm for Lesnar becoming WWE Champion, because so many fans really like Big E and are disappointed for a lot of reasons that his reign ended – especially that way. I wonder if KO and Seth will be sent to Smackdown to fortify it given Reigns is out with COVID and Drew is out with a neck issue.)
-They showed Randy Orton backstage when Riddle rode up to him on his scooter. Orton shot him a look of tolerance, not happiness. Smith hyped RK-Bro vs. Otis & Chad Gable was up next. [c]
-Riddle then approached Orton again. Orton asked where he has been and then said, “No, no, no to all of this.” Riddle was wearing chains around his neck. Riddle said it was great hanging out with Migos at Day 1. Riddle talked about becoming a rap group with Orton. Orton held out his hand. Riddle handed over his sunglasses and chain. Orton threw them aside. Orton said he doesn’t care about his connections with celebrities. He asked Riddle what happened to their New Year’s Resolutions. Riddle said they talked about going to the Grand Canyon together, going grocery shopping because they needed some things, and also listening to Randy more. Randy said they retained their tag team titles on Raw because their name is RK-Bro.
-RK-Bro made their ring entrance.
-A clip aired of RK-Bro beating the Street Profits at Day 1.
-Chad Gable walked to the ring alongside Otis and touted his 4.0 GPA. He told fans not to boo education. “It’s gross,” he said. He told Riddle and Orton that they will learn the meaning of acceptance that their title reign is coming to an end. Otis and Gable jumped RK-Bro before the bell. Orton and Riddle rolled to the floor, but Otis and Gable went after them. Otis gave Riddle an overhead toss. Riddle made a cartoon face when he landed. They cut to a break. [c]
(1) RK-BRO (Randy Orton & Riddle) vs. THE ALPHA ACADEMY (Otis & Chad Gable) – Non-title match
They joined the match after the break. Gable and Otis beat up Riddle for a while. Smith noted that the titles were not on the line in this match. That’s unlike WWE to draw attention to that. He also didn’t call it a Championship Contenders match. Riddle avoided a charging Otis, but couldn’t crawl to Orton before Otis caught up to him. Gable yanked Orton off the ring apron just as Riddle did get within reach. Otis beat up Orton at ringside, then returned to the ring where Riddle met him with a high knee. Riddle went for an RKO, but Otis blocked it and then powerslammed Riddle for a three count.
WINNERS: Otis & Gable in roughly 4:00. (About 3:00 aired on TV.)
(Keller’s Analysis: I know they like to move the show along, but that fast finish lacked credibility. I now they’re selling the idea that the RKO doesn’t work on Otis and attempting it backfired on Riddle, but still. That said, I’m a fan of Otis & Gable getting a full-fledged push at the top of the tag division.)
-Sarah Schreiber interviewed MVP and Bobby Lashley. MVP seemed nervous and said the All Mighty faces a herculean task. He walked away. Lashley stared at the camera and said sternly, “Brock Lesnar fears me.”
-They showed Kevin Patrick standing backstage. Omos had his arm over his shoulder. Smith said that interview would be next. [c]
-As the camera panned the crowd, Smith said break-ups happen, but the break-up of Styles and Omos has serious consequences. They aired a video package of their time together and their break-up.
-Patrick asked Omos how he feels about Styles saying he regrets ever taking him under his wing. Omos put his hand up to Patrick’s face to stop him from talking. Omos said, “That’s how I react.” He then left.
-Tamina didn’t look amused by Tozawa’s enthusiasm after their ring entrance. Dana Brooke danced onto the stage, wearing her 24/7 Title belt with pride. Reggie then launched and flipped into the ring. As the match was about to begin, Graves hyped the Fatal Four-way main event and they showed graphics for the match. They also hyped the Women’s Tag Team Title match. They cut to a break. [c]
(2) AKIRA TOZAWA & TAMINA vs. REGGIE & DANA BROOKE – 24/7 Title on the line
Saxton said he’d wear Reggie’s outfit every week when he does his grocery shopping, if he could. Tozawa mistakenly kicked Tamina early in the match. Saxton said Tamina already didn’t like him, so this doesn’t help his cause. Tamina gave him the evil eye as Tozawa made a cartoonish panic face. Tamina slapped Tozawa. Reggie then flipped onto Tozawa for the win.
WINNERS: Brooke & Reggie in under 2:00 so Brooke retained her 24/7 Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: No crowd reaction here at all.)
-They went to the announcers at ringside. Smith threw to a video package on the Becky Lynch vs. Liv Morgan match at Day 1.
-Becky Lynch made her ring entrance. [c]
-Fans booed as Becky’s music faded after the break. She talked about it being 2022. She said there’s something about the new year that inspires so much hope in people. She said it doesn’t matter how much you failed in the past, “new year, new you, huh?” She said all of those women in the back have at the top of their New Year’s Resolutions to become the Raw Women’s Champion. She said her resolution is to remain the Raw Women’s Champion. She said she is the homeostasis of the division and they cannot beat her.
She said she hasn’t yet reflected on her prior year yet, but she realizes she has become a work of art. She said if you go to a museum – then added “I don’t know if you people do that” (funny) – you might not understand all of the nuances and complexities, but you look at it in awe and “it makes you feel.” She said, “I make you feel, because that’s what good art does. I make you feel.” She said fine art also reveals the truth. She called herself WWE’s Vincent Van GOAT. She told the crowd they’re not going to lose that last ten pounds or get that job promotion they’ve been looking for nor are they going to get out of South Carolina any more than the women in the back are going to finally win the Raw Women’s Title. She said Liv failed on the very first day of the new year, breaking her promise to herself and all of the fans. Liv’s music then played.
Liv told Becky she doesn’t like her new jacket. She said no one is harder on herself than she is. She said Becky knows just how close she was to wining the title on Saturday. Becky said she got one thing wrong, though. As Liv entered the ring, she told Becky she got one thing wrong. She said she vowed to herself to give it her all every time she got the chance to step into the ring, “and that’s exactly what I did at Day 1.” Becky said, “That’s lovely and all.” She said one day she might win the title, but only after she retires. She said there’s only one Big Time, and it sure as hell isn’t Liv. Bianca Belair then danced out to her music.
Belair said she is sick and tired of hearing Becky coming out there week after week saying she is untouchable. She said she isn’t buying her hype. She said she doesn’t trust her as far as she can throw her, but that doesn’t make sense because she can throw her pretty damn far. She said she took a Doudrop Detour and stepped aside graciously, but she is right back in line for Big Time Becks. Becky said the two of them have fallen victim to her routine – Beat, Sleep, Repeat. She said they can get together and form a support group for people who almost beat her but came up short. She said it already exists, and it’s called the Women’s Locker Room. Liv mock-laughed and asked what she’d know about it because she hasn’t been in it in years. (But does she buy everyone Christmas gifts and invite them into her locker room?)
Belair told Liv that she has a score to settle with Becky that long predates hers with Becky. Becky said they should go settle their issue and decide who it’s going to be and let her know later. They both kicked Becky and threw her out of the ring. Belair and Liv then turned to each other and fought. As Belair set up a K.O.D., Becky hit Belair from behind. Then she gave Belair a one-armed slam. Her music played as she left the ring with her title belt.
(Keller’s Analysis: I think everybody did well here. Becky is a star and her digs at people’s New Year’s Resolutions rang too true. Liv seems to have a spring in her step and is more comfortable in the mix with established top stars. Belair was good reinserting herself into the title mix. We’ll see where this leads – triple threat or a qualifying match between Liv and Belair.)
-Kevin Owens walked up to Seth Rollins enthusiastically. Seth asked what they should do about Heyman. He said they should maybet staple his lips shut or rip his tongue out of his mouth. He said he considered castration, “but I don’t think he uses it much anyway.” (Singular? Does Seth know something.) KO voted for staples, but said they can figure it out later. He said they need to devise a strategy for tonight. He said they’re back to the original issue going into Day 1, with Lashley and Big E as obstacles. KO suggested they stick to their plan of winning together. He said it doesn’t matter which of them wins, and the person who doesn’t win helps the winner beat Lesnar, and then they face each other at WrestleMania. “Sounds like a huge match!” he said, hopefully. Seth said he loves it and called it a great plan. He said they can trust each other. Seth said, “I trust you implicitly.” Seth patted KO on the shoulder and walked away. KO yelled over to him, “You’re not lying, are you?”
-Rhea Ripley and Nikki made their entrance. Then Carmella followed by Queen Zelina. The announcers, meanwhile, hyped Styles vs. Omos with accompanying graphics. (This is new, really drilling into viewers’ minds or catching up people joining the show in progress why they should stick around. It might show up in the third hour viewership number, since this is a pretty loaded line-up for Raw.) [c]
(3) CARMELLA & QUEEN ZELINA vs. RHEA RIPLEY & NIKKI A.S.H. – Women’s Tag Team Title match
Ripley was in briefly at the beginning, then tagged in Nikki. Nikki lifted Zelina on her shoulders, but Zelina slipped free and rolled her up for a leverage three count. Ripley looked upset with Nikki letting them down again. Nikki stood and tried to explain what happened.
WINNERS: Carmella & Vega in 3:00 to retain the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles.
-They went to the announcers at ringside who threw to Johnny Knoxville’s selfie announcement on Instagram saying that he is entering the Royal Rumble.
-The Street Profits made their ring entrance. Smith touted their performance at Day 1. A soundbite aired with the Profits from earlier, declaring themselves officially entered in the Royal Rumble match. Angelo Dawkins said it’s every man for himself. Montez Ford shot him a look. [c]
-A brief backstage promo aired with Rey & Dominik Mysterio. Rey reminisced about the Rumble and said both he and his son will be in it this year. He said they’re an unstoppable duo.
(4) THE STREET PROFITS (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) vs. APOLLO CREWS & COMMANDER AZEEZ
Azeez and Ford opened the match. Ford ducked Azeez charging him in the corner and then chopped away at him. A minute in, Crews and Dawkins each tagged in. Dawkins dominated and hit a Silencer. Azeez broke up the cover. Azeez dragged Dawkins to the floor. Dawkins shoved Azeez into the ringpost. Crews then gave Dawkins and enzuigiri. Dawkins came back with a slam. Ford then landed a top rope frog splash for the win.
WINNERS: The Street Profits in 2:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Nice feel-good win for the Profits after coming up short at Day 1. The quick loss defines down Crews and Azeez a bit, but they didn’t have that far to fall.)
-Highlights aired of Damian Priest losing by DQ to Dolph Ziggler last week when he lost his temper, leading to tonight’s rematch where Ziggler wins the title if Priest gets DQ’d.
-Schreiber asked Priest about the unique stipulation tonight. Priest said the Champion’s Advantage isn’t a thing tonight. He said if he can keep his cool, calm, collected Priest side, he’ll win. He said he’ll win also if the Damian side comes out. “Either way, either side, Damian Priest remains United States Champion,” he said.
-Priest began his ring entrance. Smith said all of his losses since coming to Raw have been by countout or disqualification. [c]
-Backstage, Doudrop barged in as Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville were chatting about 2022. She took issue with Belair and Liv wanting another title match. She didn’t want to be left out. Pearce asked respectfully why she is yelling. Doudrop said she is tired and everybody is tired of seeing the same women get chance after chance at the title. She demanded she get her first chance. Sonya told her to take a deep breath and relax. She said they do give opportunities to competitors who want to prove themselves. She booked Doudrop vs. Liv vs. Belair next week on Raw, with the winner getting a shot at Becky at the Royal Rumble.
(5) DAMIAN PRIEST vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER (w/Robert Roode) – U.S. Title match
Seconds into the match, they fought at ringside. Ziggler countered Prist with a tornado DDT onto the mat. Both were down. Graves exclaimed if there’s a countout, there will be a new champion. What better time for a break than now! They cut to a very early break. [c]
Priest got fired up during a comeback after the break. Ziggler avoided a charging Priest, then landed a running high knee leading to a two count. Graves said Ziggler doesn’t take days off and on any given day can beat anyone on the roster. Ziggler trash-talked Priest, which enraged Priest, who took over with a barrage of kicks. Then he lifted Ziggler into an inverted body vice and inverted slammed him for a near fall. Ziggler met Priest on the top rope and went for a superplex. Priest blocked it and round-kicked Ziggler in the mouth. Next he climbed to the top rope, but Roode shoved him off the top rope. Ziggler hit the Fameasser for a believable near fall. Roode threw a fit at ringside. Priest got that look in his eyes and went after Roode. He leaped to the floor and pounded away at Roode. He then grabbed a chair, but decided to re-enter the ring to beat the count. Ziggler begged Priest to hit him with the chair. Instead, Priest threw it at Roode, knocking him off the ring apron. Ziggler hit a Zig Zag for another dramatic near fall. Priest blocked a Ziggler superkick and delivered his Reckoning for the win.
WINNER: Priest in 9:00 to retain the U.S. Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: Those were good near falls. They almost had me.)
-Austin Theory walked in on Vince McMahon on the phone. Vince was upset. Theory apologized and offered to leave. McMahon said when people say they’re sorry, it’s a sign of weakness. Theory asked about his rematch with Finn Balor. McMahon said he lost to the guy, but then made up for it and then some. He liked that he attacked him from behind. Theory said McMahon taught him to expect the unexpected. They sat down and chatted some more. Theory was an eager audience to McMahon’s sage words. McMahon told Theory he is entered in the Rumble, giving him a path to main event WrestleMania. Theory was at a loss for words.
-Miz and Maryse made their ring entrance. [c]
-Footage aired of “Glamazon” Beth Phoenix’s return at Day 1.
-Miz and Maryse stood mid-ring and were booed as their music faded. Miz said Edge was a one-time Grand Slam Champion. Maryse corrected Miz’s attempts at French. He said he could see a look of defeat in Edge’s eyes on Saturday night. “The look of a young boy asking for his mommy, or in Edge’s case, his wife,” he said. “I was going to lay Edge to rest, then his wife showed up.” He said Edge hid behind his wife. “What kind of man does that?” Miz asked. He said Edge doesn’t deserve their respect. Maryse looked into Miz’s eyes and said he’s brave and that’s why she married him. She said if Phoenix showed up tonight, she’d punch her in the face. Cue Glamazon’s music. Phoenix walked out. Then Edge came out to his music.
Edge told Miz most people “would take the L and move on.” He said he knew Miz would come out and make every excuse in the book about his loss. He said he might have blamed the Cleveland Browns for losing or the deuce he dropped in his shorts when he heard Phoenix’s music. He said he doesn’t ask Beth to fight his battles. Beth said what happened at Day 1 was all her idea. Edge said they’re just crazy enough to give Miz what he wants. He suggested they face off in a mixed tag at the Royal Rumble. Fans chanted “Yes!” Miz rambled and Beth said a simple yes or no would work. Miz said, “We accept!” Maryse didn’t like that and yelled at Miz. Beth wound up with a fist. Maryse fell backwards.
(Keller’s Analysis: Phoenix looks like she’s having fun out there, but we are being reacquainted with the fact that acting isn’t her strongest skill.)
-Patrick interviewed Big E. He said being WWE Champion meant a lot to him and it meant something to a lot of people too. He said there’s no shame in losing to Lesnar. “What we don’t do is get kicked and stay down or wallow in self-pity,” he said. “What we do is make sure our next chapter is our best chapter.” He said tonight he starts his path back to reclaiming what is his. He said he’ll be damned if there’s a soul on Earth who can stop me!”
(Keller’s Analysis: Nice quick promo. He spoke not just for himself but for the broader disappointment his fans are experiencing, something skipped over after Kofi Kingston’s loss to Lesnar. This wasn’t the time for joking around, and he realized that and played it straight.)
-Styles made his ring entrance. [c]
(6) A.J. STYLES vs. OMOS
Omos made his ring entrance. Smith said he’s never seen fear in Styles’s face before a match before. Styles bailed out seconds into the match. He went after Omos’s leg, but back in the ring Omos gave him a big boot as he charged at him. Styles crumpled. Omos then went after Styles in the corner. He whipped Styles across the ring. Styles collapsed and hit the ringpost under the bottom turnbuckle. Styles rocked Omos briefly with a forearm. Omos lifted him onto his shoulders. Styles slipped free and set up a Phenomenal Forearm. Then he went for it, but Omos grabbed his head. Styles dropped down and knocked Omos throat-first over the top rope. When he leaped at Omos, Omos chopped him out of mid-air. Omos lifted Styles and then dropped him. Then he pinned him.
WINNER: Omos in 5:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: This doesn’t seem worth it. The crowd didn’t really seem emotionally invested. Are they going to have Omos win the Rumble and take on one of the champions at WrestleMania? Or bring in Goldberg to lose to Omos? What’s the payoff to sacrificing Styles like that?)
-A clip aired of Lesnar and Heyman earlier.
-Kevin Owens made his ring entrance. [c]
-A clip aired of Charlotte destroying Alexa Bliss’s doll four months ago. They said they haven’t seen her since. They hyped that next week, they would show “Alexa Bliss’s Journey Back to Raw.”
-Big E made his ring entrance. Then Seth. Then Lashley. [c]
(7) BIG E vs. BOBBY LASHLEY vs. SETH ROLLINS vs. KEVIN OWENS – Fatal Four-way for a WWE Title match at the Royal Rumble
Lashley helicoptered Seth into the ringpost as KO and Big E battled in the ring. Big E dove through the ropes and knocked KO off the ring apron to the floor. Big E and Lashley battled. KO then entered the mix. Lashley beat him up. Fans chanted, “Lashley! Lashley!” Lashley then charged and speared both Seth and KO into the time keeper’s area. Big E then cleared the announce table. He set up a chokeslam of Seth on the table, but KO broke it up and threw Big E into the ringside steps. KO and Seth double powerbombed Big E though the table. They cut to a break. [c]
All four were battling in the ring after the break. They all knocked each other down and were slow to get up. Big E stared at Lashley and then they turned toward KO and Seth, agreeing to work together. Seth and KO rolled out of the ring. Smith said if Seth and KO want to work as a team, that can work for Big E and Lashley too. They brawled up into the concourse. Of course, security had already put up barricades to keep fans away. (How did they know this was going to happen? That is so stupid when they do that.) Big E and Lashley slammed them through a concession stand. [c]
Back from the break, Big E, Seth, and Lashley were brawling in a tunnel area when KO leaped at them from above with a flip splash. They replayed KO’s dive a couple times. They brawled back to the ring. Fans chanted “This is awesome!” KO landed a top rope cannonball on Big E. Seth then hit a top rope frog splash. Big E kicked out. Graves observed that KO was celebrating as Seth made the cover, meaning maybe KO isn’t as big of a liar as they all thought. Big E stood and fought off both Seth and KO. They blocked each other’s key moves. KO powerbombed Big E. Lashley shoved Seth into KO to break up the cover. Lashley then gave KO an overhead suplex. Then he did the same to Seth. Lashley charged at KO and knocked him over at ringside. Seth gave Lashley a rolling elbow when he re-entered the ring. Lashley speared Big E as he lifted Seth for a Big Ending. Then he gave it to Seth. Lashley fended off KO and speared him for the three count. Graves said Lesnar vs. Lashley two have never wrestled before one-on-one. He called it a super fight.
WINNER: Bobby Lashley in 16:00 to earn a WWE Title match at the Royal Rumble against Lesnar.
(Keller’s Analsyis: Big match at the Rumble. Does Lashley just win it there and Lesnar goes back to Smackdown to pick up where he left off with Reigns?)
-Patrick approached Lesnar backstage who was watching on a monitor. He asked for a comment. Lesnar smiled and said, “Tell Roman Reigns I’ll see him this Friday on Smackdown.”
(Keller’s Analysis: That would seem to indicate Reigns will be back on Smackdown by then, indicating they expect he’ll be past his protocol period and isn’t suffering from symptoms still. It also indicates Lesnar isn’t Raw-exclusive right now, not that anyone expected that would necessarily be the case.)