By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw (Episode 1,440)
Live from Tampa, Florida at Tropicana Field
Aired December 28, 2020 on USA Network
[Hour One] Raw opened with a memorial graphic for the late Jon Huber (a/k/a Brodie Lee, Luke Harper)… The Raw opening aired… Tom Phillips opened the show by saying, “It’s Monday and you know what that means” as a tribute to Huber, who used to write that message on his Twitter page. Phillips was joined on commentary by Byron Saxton and Samoa Joe…
WWE Champion Drew McIntyre made his entrance. Once in the ring, he opened his promo by saying, “It’s Monday and you know what that means” in another Huber tribute. McIntyre spoke about the No. 1 contender’s match and pondered whether he would face Keith Lee or Sheamus.
Sheamus made his entrance and joined McIntyre in the ring. McIntyre recalled telling Sheamus to behave himself last week. Sheamus spoke about how he honored that request during the match and they got the win. Sheamus said they spoke 15 years ago about facing each other for the WWE Championship. Sheamus said he would kick Lee’s head off his shoulders, then face McIntyre for the WWE Title on the first Raw of 2021.
Keith Lee made his entrance. Lee recalled Sheamus kicking him in the face after they won last week’s match. Lee said McIntyre told him that he could trust Sheamus, and now there’s zero trust. “Your word is just as good as his,” Lee told McIntyre. Lee said he wanted go after Sheamus on the spot, but he decided to wait until the bell rings.
Lee told McIntyre to consider that Sheamus might stab him in the back. Sheamus said he kicked Lee last week because he runs around telling everyone that he is going to stab his best friend in the back. McIntyre interrupted and suggested they open the show with their number one contender’s match. A referee came out. Sheamus threw a Brogue Kick at a distracted Lee. McIntyre jawed at Sheamus going into a commercial break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good opening that effectively set up the Lee vs. Sheamus match while also establishing that Lee no longer trusts McIntyre. This served as a good hook for whenever the match ends up taking place. Meanwhile, I’m pleased that WWE paid tribute to Jon Huber with the opening graphic, and via the words of McIntyre and Phillips.
Phillips recapped the opening recap…
1. Keith Lee vs. Sheamus for a shot at the WWE Championship. McIntyre sat in on commentary for the match, and it was confirmed that the winner will challenge him on next week’s Raw. Lee suplexed Sheamus over the top rope and then he tumbled to ringside.
Lee followed to the floor and ran Sheamus into the apron, the barricade, and the ring post. Sheamus caught Lee with a kick as he was trying to return to the ring, then threw a knee that knocked Lee to the floor. Sheamus went to the top rope and dove at Lee, who was knocked onto the broadcast table. [C]
Lee ducked a Brogue Kick and then picked up a two count following a running cross body block. Sheamus came back with White Noise for a near fall of his own. Both men got to their feet and traded headbutts. Lee got the better of the exchange and then performed a Spirit Bomb and scored the clean pin…
Keith Lee defeated Sheamus in 12:55 to earn a WWE Championship match on next week’s Raw.
Powell’s POV: Lee going over was the right move, as they need to continue to establish the McIntyre and Sheamus friendship in order for their split to pack a punch. Plus, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing McIntyre vs. Lee. Here’s hoping they get plenty of time next week.
Elias played his guitar in his dressing room while Jaxson Ryker nodded along. There was a knock at the door. Ryker was going to answer the door, but Elias stopped playing his guitar and told him not to pay attention to the knock. Elias went back to playing his guitar…
The Miz and John Morrison made their entrance. Phillips said Miz looked despondent and said he would face Gran Metalik after the break… [C] An ad aired for Raw Legends Night… Gran Metalik made his entrance…
2. The Miz (w/John Morrison) vs. Gran Metalik (w/Lince Dorado). A Lucha House Party pre-tape aired. Metalik went right at Miz and picked up three near falls. Joe said Miz’s head clearly wasn’t in the match. Saxton said things didn’t work out for Miz and now he’s trying to find a loophole to get the Money in the Bank contract back.
Metalik sent Miz to ringside and then performed a moonsault from the top rope onto him. Back inside the ring, Metalik continued to dominate the majority of the match and ended up scoring the upset pin…
Gran Metalik beat The Miz in 3:20.
Powell’s POV: Miz is clearly distraught over his loss of the MITB contract. Has he considered throwing tantrums on social media, taking a trip to Florida, and playing a lot of golf?
Elias was playing his guitar and the knocking at his door continued. Eventually, Elias had Ryker open it. Omos and AJ Styles were at the door. Ryker backed right up. Styles said he’d been on the phone with WWE management trying to right their wrongs, but he can’t hear them because of Elias playing his guitar. Elias ended up telling Ryker that Styles was upset because he didn’t get the job done at TLC. Styles threatened to break his fingers so that he couldn’t play his guitar anymore…
Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke made their entrance… [C] An ad for Wednesday’s NXT television show listed Pete Dunne vs. Roderick Strong, the NXT Year-End Awards, and Johnny Gargano vs. Leon Ruff for the NXT North American Title… Shayna Baszler made her entrance…
3. Shayna Baszler vs. Dana Brooke (w/Mandy Rose). Footage aired of Baszler taking out Rose by stomping her arm, which led to her being removed from Team Raw at Survivor Series. Baszler tried to stomp the arm of Brooke early on, but Brooke avoided it. Baszler continued to target the arm.
Brooke came back briefly. Baszler choked her out at ringside and then returned to the ring to break the referee’s count. Baszler went back to ringside and ran Rose into the apron. Baszler set up for another stomp on Rose’s arm, but she avoided it and then Brooke dropped Baszler face first onto the apron.
Back inside the ring, Brooke picked up a couple of near falls. Baszler avoided a top rope move, then performed a knee strike and applied the Kirifuda Clutch for the submission win.
Shayna Baszler beat Dana Brooke in 4:20.
Afterward, Rose checked on Brooke, only to have Baszler put Rose in the Kirifuda Clutch…
Powell’s POV: A solid match. Baszler looked dominant until she shifted her focus to Rose, which opened the door for the Brooke near falls. By the way, the first hour moved at a decent pace. I’m not dreading the last two hours of the show like I have been in recent weeks or even months.
The broadcast team hyped Randy Orton visiting Alexa Bliss’s playground, then set up a video package on Orton, The Fiend, and Bliss. Saxton hyped Alexa’s Playground as coming up next.. [C]
Alexa Bliss was shown swinging on her swing set, which was set up in the ring along with a hobbyhorse. Bliss spoke of “him” returning. She said she hasn’t seen him since the inferno match at TLC “when things got a little bit heated.” Bliss wondered if he would return for Raw Legends Night to meet his hero Hulk Hogan. Bliss said he could also be waiting for Randy Orton to come back to her playground.
[Hour Two] Bliss called for Randy Orton to “come on down.” Orton’s music played, but he didn’t come out. Bliss said maybe Orton didn’t want to help find him. Bliss giggled and said that can’t be it. Bliss called for Orton, but he didn’t come out. She said maybe Orton didn’t want to play with them anymore. “You start someone on fire one time and it goes straight to their head,” Bliss said. She called him inconsiderate and rude.
The Firefly Funhouse opening aired. Randy Orton opened the door and walked onto the set. He said he knew the set would be empty because Bliss was in the ring and The Fiend was burnt to a crisp. Orton kicked the Huskus puppet. Orton asked if Bliss really believes The Fiend is coming back.
Orton picked up the buzzard puppet and threw it at the Abby puppet. Orton said he would show how demented and cruel he is by making sure that The Fiend had nothing to come back to. Orton ripped the head off of the Ramblin’ Rabbit puppet. Bliss told him to stop, then challenged Orton to join her in the ring. Orton assumed that’s when The Fiend was supposed to return. “Then I accept,” Orton said. [C]
Powell’s POV: I get a kick out of the Bliss character, but I hope this is just a one-off and they’re not doing yet another talkshow. Either way, this segment served as a nice hook for viewers wondering if The Fiend will return.
Charlotte Flair was interviewed by Charly Caruso after footage aired of Jax attacking Flair months ago. Flair said she was ready for the match. She said Jax is to be feared and is a strong competitor, but she’s betting on herself. Caruso asked if she had any reservations about starting 2021. Flair said her resolution is the same every year, and that’s to climb to the top and stay there. Asuka showed up with a party favor for a New Year’s celebration…
AJ Styles and Omos made their entrance… An ad for Friday’s Smackdown hyped Big E vs. King Corbin for the Intercontinental Championship, and spotlighted Roman Reigns… [C]
4. AJ Styles (w/Omos) vs. Elias (w/Jaxson Ryker). Elias’s entrance was also televised. There was a moment of confusion, but Styles appeared to get them back on track quickly by throwing a dropkick. Elias ended up running Styles’ shoulder into the ring post. [C]
Elias dumped Styles to ringside. Ryker approached with the intent of attacking Styles, but Omos walked over, causing Ryker to stop in his tracks and sell for the big man by falling down. A leery Elias watched Omos while throwing Styles back inside the ring.
Styles came back with a series of signature strikes and then knocked him down with a forearm. Styles set up for a Styles Clash, but Elias avoided it. Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Elias caught him and ended up performing a neckbreaker for a near fall.
Elias went to the ropes and was cut off. Styles performed a Pele Kick that knocked Elias back into the ring. Elias performed a TKO on Styles and covered him for another near fall. Elias showed frustration over not getting the win. Styles rallied with a couple of kicks, then followed up moments later with a Phenomenal Forearm for the win…
AJ Styles beat Elias in 14:00.
Powells POV: I’m not really sure who they wanted fans to cheer for, but the virtual fans gave the thumbs up to Styles going over.
Phillips set up footage from last week’s Raw Talk of Ricochet discussing the toll that his feud with Retribution has taken on him. Ricochet said he doesn’t want to be involved with Retribution, but he can’t be the one that people step over to further their careers. He questioned whether that could lead to him trying something different… Ricochet made his entrance… [C]
5. Ricochet vs. Mustafa Ali (w/T-Bar, Mace, Slapjack, Reckoning). The Retribution entrance was televised. A few minutes into the match, Ricochet caught Ali on the ropes, but was tossed into the barricade by T-Bar and Mace while the other distracted the referee. Ali performed a top rope splash onto Ricochet on the floor. Damn. [C]
Ali spun Ricochet in the ropes and performed a Codebreaker style move that led to him getting a two count. Ricochet came back and turned Ali inside out with a clothesline. Ricochet hoisted Ali and performed a Recoil. Ricochet went for the pin, but Mace pulled Ali to ringside right in front of the referee.
The Retribution members stood on the apron. Ricochet took them out and then sent Ali into the ring post. Back in the ring, Ricochet went up top for a shooting star press, but Ali put his knees up. Ali applied the Koji Clutch, and the referee called for the bell.
Mustafa Ali defeated Ricochet in 11:50.
Afterward, Ali offered Ricochet a chance at a new beginning by offering him a shot in Retribution. Ricochet took the mic and said he’s made a decision. “I will…not join.” Ali went after him, but Ricochet performed the Recoil on him and escaped before the rest of Retribution could attack him…
Powell’s POV: It’s a shame that Ricochet and Ali are saddled with this lousy Retribution saga, but God bless them for doing what they could to salvage it by working their asses off in the ring.
Backstage, Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler were interviewed by Caruso. Jax said Flair is smart to be afraid of her. Jax said her resolutions were to end Charlotte’s time on top before she makes it to the first rung, get the tag titles back, and officially enter and win the Royal Rumble match. Baszler acted surprised by Jax’s Rumble announcement. Baszler stuck around and told Caruso, “Actually, I kinda like that idea”…
Powell’s POV: So it looks like Jax and Baszler are both in the Rumble match.
Charlotte Flair and Asuka made their entrance for Flair’s match against Jax… [C] Zayde Wolfe’s “Rumble” was listed as the official theme song of the Royal Rumble… Footage aired from the opening segment with McIntyre, Lee, and Sheamus. Phillips hyped McIntyre vs. Lee for the WWE Championship for next week…
Caruso stood on the backstage ring interview set and spoke with McIntyre, who said he’s excited for Raw Legends Night and to face Lee. McIntyre said everyone has been waiting for Lee to step up and he did in the match against Sheamus. McIntyre said they would beat the hell out of each other. McIntyre said it’s Lee’s chance to prove to the world what he can do. He said he knows that Lee can beat anyone on his best day except him…
[Hour Three] Jax’s entrance was also televised. The broadcast team confirmed that Jax and Baszler are in the women’s Rumble match…
6. Charlotte Flair (w/Asuka) vs. Nia Jax (w/Shayna Baszler). Jax targeted the left arm of Flair early on. Flair came back and used a dropkick to knock Jax to ringside briefly. Both women ended up at ringside. Baszler was going to go after Flair, but Asuka took her out.
Back inside the ring, Flair set up for a figure four, but Jax pulled her back so that her head hit a turnbuckle pad. Jax splashed Flair in the corner and covered her for a two count. [C]
Late in the match, Flair applied a figure four and was setting up for the Figure Eight when Baszler entered the ring and applied the Kirifuda Clutch on Flair for the DQ. Asuka quickly ran off both heels…
Charlotte Flair beat Nia Jax by DQ in 10:50.
Powell’s POV: I guess this served as a reminder that the feud between the teams is still going, but it didn’t accomplish anything else beyond filling some time.
Footage aired from earlier in the day of The Hurt Business arriving at the building. They approached a guy who was on his phone. MVP politely asked him to move out of their way. The guy shrugged while staring at his phone. Once he looked up, Alexander startled him by saying “boo” and then the guy stumbled toward Lashley and fell over in fear…
The broadcast team hyped The Hurt Business vs. Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Riddle, and Jeff Hardy for later in the show… [C]
Backstage, Angel Garza was interviewed by Caruso. He spoke about 2020 being a year of ups and downs (get it?). Caruso wondered who his rose was for. Garza said a gentleman never tells. R-Truth stormed into the picture and knocked the rose out of Garza’s hands, then ran away while being chased by Akira Tozawa, Erik, and Drew Gulak. Garza picked up the broken rose and handed it to Caruso…
Saxton did a fake laugh and then the broadcast team recapped footage of Big E winning the Intercontinental Championship on Smackdown…
Backstage, Jeff Hardy and Riddle congratulated Kingston and Woods on Big E winning the IC Title. Woods spoke about regaining the tag titles. Riddle said they needed a name. He suggested the Little Bronies. Woods said it’s already taken. Riddle suggested the Positively Hard Bros. The New Day couldn’t leave soon enough to make their entrance. Hardy followed… [C]
Riddle and The Hurt Business made their entrance coming out of the break. MVP spoke as his faction walked to the ring and handed the mic to Lashley, who announced his entry in the men’s Royal Rumble match…
7. “The Hurt Business” Bobby Lashley, MVP, Cedric Alexander, and Shelton Benjamin vs. Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Riddle, and Jeff Hardy in an eight-man tag match. Riddle and Alexander had a nice exchange to start the match, then Lashley tagged in once Riddle got the better of it.
Lashley picked up Riddle and suplex position and then just dumped him in the ring. Riddle was isolated by the Hurt Business. The babyface team rallied and took turns kicking Lashley before Hardy clotheslined him to ringside. Lashley threw a fit and had to be held back by his teammates. [C]
Riddle was once again isolated by the heels. He eventually made a hot tag to Kingston, who worked over Alexander and performed a Boom Drop. Kingston set up for his finisher. Benjamin grabbed Kingston from behind long enough for Alexander to take advantage of the distraction. Woods tripped up Alexander. MVP ran in and was dumped to ringside by Woods, who performed a two for one move on MVP and Alexander.
Hardy dove onto MVP at ringside. In the ring, Woods turned Alexander inside out with a clothesline. Hardy tagged in and performed a Swanton Bomb on Alexander and had the pin, but Lashley broke it up. Following some rapid fire moves involving the illegal men, Hardy performed a Twist of Fate on Benjamin. Lashley tagged into the match and set up for a spear on Hardy, who avoided it. Lashley regrouped and applied the Hurt Lock to beat Hardy again.
“The Hurt Business” Bobby Lashley, MVP, Cedric Alexander, and Shelton Benjamin defeated Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Riddle, and Jeff Hardy in 13:45.
After the match, Kingston took out Benjamin with a superkick. In the ring, Riddle blasted Lashley with a knee to the head. The babyfaces got together on the ramp while the Hurt Business seethed and then celebrated their win inside the ring…
Powell’s POV: Yes, Hardy once again tapped out to the Hurt Lock. But the broadcast team acknowledged that it’s becoming a weekly occurrence, which gives me some hope that it might be going somewhere. Maybe?
The Miz and John Morrison were shown sitting in steps in the venue. Morrison told Miz he has to get past this and said it’s not as bad as when he lost to Kevin Federline. Miz said he lost Money in the Bank. Adam Pearce showed up and said they looked as miserable as the Cleveland Browns did the day before.
Pearce held up the MITB briefcase. Miz and Morrison wondered if he was taunting them. Pearce said he was actually returning it because Miz was right, only the MITB holder can announce that it’s being cashed in. Miz and Morrison had an over the top celebration on the staircase…
Keith Lee, Asuka, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods were announced as the guests for Raw Talk on WWE Network… Saxton questioned whether Randy Orton would accept Alexa Bliss’s challenge and said we’d find out next… [C]
A Raw Legends Night video aired, then the broadcast team hyped McIntyre vs. Lee for the WWE Championship for next week’s show…
Alexa Bliss made her entrance. Once in the ring, she motioned for Randy Orton to join her. Orton made his entrance. “Where is he?” Orton asked once he was in the ring. Bliss said it’s not about him, it’s about her. Bliss went to ringside and brought a gift box back inside the ring with her.
Bliss opened the gift and pulled out a gas can and a book of matches, which she placed at Orton’s feet. Bliss challenged Orton to do to her what he did to The Fiend. Bliss laid down in the middle of the ring. Orton crossed his arms and looked down at Bliss, who then stood up. Bliss grabbed the gas can and poured some gasoline in the middle of the ring, then placed the can at at Orton’s feet. Bliss said she did Orton’s job for him, then told him to light the match and do to her what he did to him.
Orton leaned in the corner. Bliss stood up and grabbed the gas can and then poured more in the middle of the ring. “You’re not going to do it,” Bliss said. “You don’t have the guts. Look at you. You say you’re sick, twisted, demented, but you’re not. You’re nothing. You’re nothing but a little bitch.” Bliss picked up the can and poured the contents over her head and body.
“You think that I won’t do it,” Orton said before picking up the matches. “You think that I’m not capable. I want to do it. But I know it’s what you want me to do, so right now I’m trying to process the whole thing.” Orton said he likes seeing people suffer in pain. Orton told her that if she wants to see The Fiend, then maybe he would set her on fire.
The Fiend lighting change started and wound down until the arena was black. Orton lit a match, then looked into the camera and smiled. The announcers pleaded on commentary for Orton not to do it. The show went off the air…
Powell’s POV: WWE continues the build to The Fiend returning, but he and Bliss still feel like heel characters, so I’m not sure what they want from fans. I realize this occurred at the end of the show and it’s fairly late, but I can’t help but wonder how many kids are up late while on holiday vacation who have unhappy parents after Bliss poured gasoline over her head.
Anyway, the pacing of this week’s show was better. This wasn’t a strong show and there weren’t many memorable moments and yet it still felt like an upgrade compared to other recent episodes. I will be back shortly with my same night audio review of Raw for Dot Net Members. Let me know what you thought of the show by voting for a letter grade below. Have a great holiday weekend as we all say farewell to this sorry ass year. Here’s hoping for a great 2021.