By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw (Episode 1,444)
Live from Tampa, Florida at Tropicana Field
Aired January 25, 2021 on USA Network
[Hour One] The Raw opening video kicked off the show… Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, and Samoa Joe were on commentary…
WWE Champion Drew McIntyre made his entrance. McIntyre said it felt so good to be back on Raw and said he couldn’t even say how good he felt. He thanked the fans for the outpouring of support. He said he lost his sense of smell due to COVID-19, but he’s 100 percent now. He gave a shout out to everyone affected by the virus and said we would get through this.
McIntyre turned his focus to his WWE Championship match against Goldberg at the Royal Rumble. McIntyre said he watched Goldberg when he was a kid and saw The Streak. He noted that Goldberg ran through Hulk Hogan and The Rock, and then he disappeared. McIntyre said the last thing to leave a fighter is his power, and Goldberg is the same guy he was then. McIntyre said he would end Goldberg’s current streak and retain the WWE Championship on Sunday.
The Miz and John Morrison made their entrance. Miz said McIntyre vs. Goldberg is the WWE equivalent of King Kong vs. Godzilla. Miz said that when something hellacious happens, there are consequences. He said that McIntyre or Goldberg could end up injured. “Oh, no,” Miz and Morrison simultaneously mocked. Miz and Morrison said the winner of the match will be a sitting duck and then they will hit the ring.
Goldberg made his entrance. Once in the ring, Goldberg stood face to face with McIntyre. Miz and Morrison chirped from the apron, which led to McIntyre and Goldberg bringing them into the ring. Goldberg speared Miz, then McIntyre put Morrison down with a Claymore Kick. McIntyre and Goldberg went face to face while McIntyre held up the WWE Championship. The finishing moves were replayed, then Goldberg left the ring while McIntyre tossed the MITB briefcase to ringside…
Phillips hyped the previously advertised segments… A Royal Rumble ad aired… [C]
Powell’s POV: I know they have to tease the MITB cash-in, but WWE officials have to know that Miz and Morrison feel ice cold. Aside from their involvement, it was a solid segment. McIntyre delivered a good promo, and Goldberg did Goldberg things.
Charlotte Flair was interviewed backstage by Charly Caruso. Flair said she would defend the WWE Women’s Tag Titles with Asuka and win the Rumble match. She was asked about “the situation” with her father and Lacey Evans. She said she’s seen her father in dark places and this might be the darkest. She said it’s one thing to have the last name Flair and another to carry it. She said her focus was on Shayna Baszler…
1. Charlotte Flair vs. Shayna Baszler (w/Nia Jax). Saxton recalled that last year’s Rumble match came down to Flair and Baszler. Flair applied an early figure four. Before she could turn it into a Figure Eight, Jax entered the ring and leg dropped her for the DQ.
Charlotte Flair beat Shayna Baszler by DQ in 1:00.
After the match, Baszler and Jax worked over Flair until Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke ran out to help. Lacey Evans entered the ring and attacked Flair. All six women fought heading into a break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Rather than showing that Flair was on the verge of beating Baszler in a minute, why not just book the damn six-woman tag match to start with?
2. Charlotte Flair, Mandy Rose, and Dana Brooke vs. Shayna Baszler, Nia Jax, and Lacey Evans. Sheamus vs. John Morrison was listed in a graphic for later in the show. Late in the match, Flair and Baszler fought at ringside. Baszler shoved Flair back inside the ring, but didn’t beat the referee’s count herself.
Charlotte Flair, Mandy Rose, and Dana Brooke defeated Shayna Baszler, Nia Jax, and Lacey Evans via count-out in 4:45.
After the match, Evans barked at Baszler, who then protested with the referee.
Powell’s POV: It seems like the only time referees deliver normal counts are when they are actually going to do a count-out finish. I’m not really sure what was accomplished here other than filling some television time and getting all six women on the show.
3. Charlotte Flair, Mandy Rose, and Dana Brooke vs. Shayna Baszler, Nia Jax, and Lacey Evans. The match was joined in progress. Footage aired of the heels barking at Adam Pearce on the stage. Pearce checked with the babyface team and then restarted the match, which was joined in progress.
Rose showed good fire while fighting the heels. She hit Evans with a running knee and covered her for two before it was broken up. Jax dragged Evans to her corner and then tagged herself into the match. Evans ended up at ringside. Flair chased Evans away from the ringside area. Brooke performed a neckbreaker on Jax for a two count. Brooke went up top and was cut off and tossed back into the ring by Jax, who followed up with a one-armed slam and a leg drop for the win…
Shayna Baszler, Nia Jax, and Lacey Evans defeated Charlotte Flair, Mandy Rose, and Dana Brooke.
Powell’s POV: I don’t think we really needed three matches, but at least we finally got a definitive match finish.
Highlights aired of Mace beating Xavier Woods on last week’s Raw. They also aired a Mustafa Ali post match promo, and then a new promo. Ali said he couldn’t believe that Kofi Kingston had the audacity to ask why he’s coming after him. Ali said the best moment of Kingston’s career came because of the worst moment of his own career. Ali accused Kingston of taking everything away from him…
Retribution made their entrance for Slapjack’s match against Woods… An ad aired for Saturday’s WWE Backstage on FS1 at 7CT/8ET hosted by Renee Young, Booker T, and Paige… [C] The broadcast team thanked Zayde Wolfe for this year’s Rumble theme…
4. Slapjack (w/Mustafa Ali, T-Bar, Mace, Reckoning) vs. Xavier Woods. Woods’s entrance was televised. Slapjack was talking with Ali when the bell rang, so Woods raced over and dropkicked him. Later, Woods performed an Honor Roll clothesline for a two count. Ali sent T-Bar to distract Woods, who was rolled up by Slapjack. Woods rolled through and then blasted Slapjack with a knee to the head and pinned him.
Xavier Woods beat Slapjack in 2:45.
After the match, T-Bar and Mace performed a double chokeslam on Woods. Ali barked at Slapjack, who went to ringside and brought a chair back with him. Ali would up and teased hitting Woods over the head with the chair, but he stopped, set it up, and took a seat. Reckoning brought Ali a mic. Ali said Woods talks about waning to be king of the ring, but he looks more like a peasant.
Ali said he was showing mercy on Woods so that he would deliver a message to Kingston. Ali said he heard the unfortunate news that Kingston won’t be able to compete in the Rumble match. Ali declared that he would replace Kingston in the Rumble match…
Riddle was shown walking backstage when he came across his character’s intellectual equal R-Truth. Truth said everyone forgot his birthday last week, but he heard they had a surprise for him. He said they got 24 gold carrots for him. He said it makes sense because he’s a Capricorn, sign of the goat… Phillips said the VIP Lounge was up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: I like the idea of Ali being jealous of the success that Kingston had when he replaced him due to injury, but the rest of Retribution continues to be a disaster. I wish they would at least try a fresh approach by having the wrestlers remove their silly Purge masks, which could go a long way toward making viewers forget about just how disappointing this faction has been.
Samoa Joe hyped Bad Bunny performing his song “Booker T” live at the Rumble…
“The Hurt Business” Bobby Lashley, MVP, Cedric Alexander, and Shelton Benjamin made their entrance for the in-ring VIP Lounge. MVP said the VIP Lounge is for people like them, who are better than the fans.
[Hour Two] MVP told Alexander and Benjamin that Riddle might be a braindead moron, but luck is on his side and he can be crafty. MVP told Alexander specifically not to forget the task at hand in their gauntlet match. MVP turned things over to Lashley.
Lashley noted that they have the U.S. Championship and the Raw Tag Titles. Lashley said they’ve only just begun. Benjamin started to talk, but Alexander cut him off to say that he thought Benjamin was going to say. Lashley presented MVP with a gift for everything they did for him. It turned out to be a “THB” gold chain. Alexander took credit for working with the designer. Benjamin said Alexander didn’t know what he was talking about.
R-Truth’s entrance theme interrupted. Truth assumed he was the guest of honor at his surprise party. MVP told him that he wasn’t on the list. Truth said he overheard them talking about his birthday last week. Alexander said it had nothing to do with Truth, it was all about MVP. Truth assumed that the “THB” chain stood for “Truth Happy Birthday.”
Lashley said he’s been busy training for the Royal Rumble and he almost forgot Truth’s birthday. He invited him to enter the ring for his gift. Tucker, Humberto Carrillo, Drew Gulak, and Akira Tozawa ran out. Tucker rolled up Truth for a two count. Lashley, Alexander, and Benjamin roughed up the 24/7 contenders, while Riddle snuck inside the ring and threw a knee to the head of MVP…
Phillips hyped Riddle’s gauntlet match against MVP, Alexander, and Benjamin for a shot at the U.S. Championship. Saxton hyped the Raw Women’s Championship match… An ad for Smackdown focused on Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens heading into their Last Man Standing match for the WWE Universal Title at the Rumble… [C]
Powell’s POV: A harmless segment with some light Truth comedy and a little teaser for the gauntlet match.
A Rumble flashback aired of Edge returning at last year’s event… Phillips hyped that viewers would hear from Edge for the first time in months during the show…
Backstage, Truth told Adam Pearce that he wants to prove that he’s capable of being in the Money in the Bank match. AJ Styles and Omos showed up. Styles said he would love to help Truth show that he belongs in the Rumble match while saying he’s benevolent. Truth said he’s a Capricorn. Pearce booked Styles vs. Truth as a way to give Truth a chance to prove himself…
The broadcast team recapped the opening segment with Goldberg telling McIntyre that he’s next, followed by Miz and Morrison being annoying and being beaten up for it… Sheamus made his entrance for his match against Morrison… [C]
A “Did You Know?” graphic touted WWE Network moving to Peacock… Miz and Morrison made their entrance…
Powell’s POV: If you missed the Peacock news earlier today, you can find all the details on our main page. Long story short, it’s $4.99 rather than $9.99, and there’s no additional charge for the monthly pay-per-view events.
5. Sheamus vs. John Morrison (w/The Miz). Morrison caught Sheamus with a nice kick. Sheamus came back with an Irish Curse backbreaker for a two count. Sheamus went up top and was distracted by Miz. Sheamus leapt off and into a kick to the knee from Morrison, who then wrapped up Sheamus’s knee in the ropes.
Sheamus eventually got to his feet and knocked Morrison down while selling knee pain. Morrison performed a chop block and went for a springboard move, but Sheamus caught him and slammed him to the mat and then covered him for a two count. Sheamus applied a Cloverleaf. Morrison reached the ropes to break the hold.
Morrison used the top rope to clothesline Sheamus, who came right back with a knee to the head. Sheamus followed up with White Noise and scored the pin.
Sheamus defeated John Morrison in 9:35.
After the match, Miz called for a handicap match while saying that it would help Sheamus prepare for the Rumble. Sheamus accepted the match… [C]
Powell’s POV: A solid match. It really is a shame that Miz and Morrison have been defined down. Of course, you can say something similar about so many people on the roster. They have been booked as comedic boobs and have lost credibility with viewers. Anyway, I like the idea of Sheamus winning a match with White Noise for a change. It’s just one of those moves that most fans recognize as something that leads to a two count rather than a win, so its good to shake it up. Of course, it’s also possible that they went with White Noise in this match to save the Brogue Kick as the finish of the handicap match.
6. Sheamus vs. The Miz and John Morrison in a handicap match. The heel duo were both in the ring at the same time and the referee even made a count when they both piled onto Sheamus for an early two count. Sheamus eventually cleared Morrison to ringside and then clotheslined Miz.
Morrison returned and was slammed to the mat, then Sheamus performed a rolling senton with Miz onto Morrison. Sheamus clubbed the chest of Miz on the apron. Morrison tried to break it up, but Sheamus avoided him and then gave him the clubs, which sent both heels to ringside.
Sheamus went up top and dove onto Miz and Morrison with a double clothesline. Sheamus rolled Miz back inside the ring and set up for his finisher, but Morrison grabbed his leg. Sheamus ended up hitting his finisher on Morrison moments later, but Miz grabbed him from behind and performed a Skull Crushing Finale that led to him getting the pinfall…
The Miz and John Morrison beat Sheamus in 6:50 in a handicap match.
Powell’s POV: The match accomplished what it needed to in terms of Sheamus showing heart while trying to fight off both men at once. Miz and Morrison didn’t gain anything from a handicap match win, but it still beats them taking yet another handicap match loss.
Backstage, Ric Flair showed Lacey Evans some moves until they were interrupted by Charlotte Flair. Charlotte told Evans to get out, and she obliged. Ric said that just because she’s a star now doesn’t mean there’s not a place for him in the locker room. He said if someone wants his advice, he’s going to give it. Charlotte said Ric spent his money on everyone other than his family.
Charlotte said it was cute when she was young, but Ric has gone from legend to old guy. Charlotte said she’s not the bad guy. Evans hit Charlotte from behind with a Woman’s Right. Evans kicked Charlotte. Ric went to check on his daughter, but Evans pulled him away… [C]
Powell’s POV: Charlotte delivered a good teary-eyed performance. Say what you will about the storyline, but it’s nice to see her doing something more than the cliche royalty promos.
7. AJ Styles (w/Omos) vs. WWE 24/7 Champion R-Truth in a non-title match. Phillips touted that the Super Bowl and WrestleMania with both be held at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. Truth’s entrance was not televised this time around. Phillips said Styles has a record of 12-2 since being drafted to Raw.
Truth tossed Styles over the top rope. Styles got hot and raced back to the ring. Truth ended up under the bottom rope and showed fear when he looked up at Omos. Truth put Styles down and performed a Five Knuckle Shuffle. Styles avoided the Attitude Adjustment, then applied a Calf Crusher and got the submission win…
AJ Styles defeated R-Truth in 2:35.
Asuka was shown warming up for her title defense against Alexa Bliss… [C]
Powell’s POV: Holy shit, Phillips actually used a sports-like statistic on Raw by citing AJ’s record since being drafted to the brand.
Phillips touted the ThunderDome and then set up a highlight package that featured footage of The Phantom of the Orton promo from last week…
[Hour Three] Alexa Bliss delivered a promo on her swing set in the backstage area. She said last week was so much fun and asked the empty chair next to her if it saw what “we” did. Footage aired of the fireball from two weeks ago. Bliss said she wanted to have fun with Asuka, but she didn’t want to play nice. “But neither did I,” Bliss said. Footage aired of her possession moment, which included her hitting Bray Wyatt’s finisher to win the match.
Bliss asked if viewers liked her trick. She said “he” taught it to her and a lot of other things. She said she can’t wait to see him again so she can thank him. She said she gets to win a shiny new toy tonight. Bliss said that just like last week, she doesn’t feel like playing nice. Bliss sang “Ring Around The Rosie” and concluded with a Wyatt voiced “Let Me In” line…
Riddle made his entrance for the gauntlet match… [C] Highlights aired from the VIP Lounge segment, then MVP, Cedric Alexander, and Shelton Benjamin made their entrance…
8a. Riddle vs. Shelton Benjamin (w/MVP, Cedric Alexander) in the first stage of a gauntlet match. Benjamin blocked an early knee and then powered up Riddle and slammed him to the mat for a two count. Benjamin dominated the offense for a stretch. Riddle eventually came back with a submission hold, but Benjamin powered him up. Riddle delivered a knee to the head. Riddle rolled up Benjamin, who rolled through and had the pin, but Alexander was distracted the referee. Alexander told Benjamin that he was trying to help. MVP told him to do nothing. Riddle rolled Benjamin into a pin for the win.
Riddle beat Shelton Benjamin in 4:50 to advance in the gauntlet match.
Powell’s POV: It was bad enough that Riddle fluked his way into a cheap win over Lashley, but now he needed an Alexander distraction to beat Benjamin in the first stage of a gauntlet match.
8b. Riddle vs. MVP (w/Shelton Benjamin, Cedric Alexander) in the second stage of a gauntlet match. MVP leaned between the ropes and tried to play peacemaker with Benjamin and Alexander. The bell rang. Riddle rolled him into a heel hook and got the submission win. [C]
Riddle beat MVP in 0:07 to advance to the final stage of the gauntlet match.
8c. Riddle vs. Cedric Alexander (w/MVP, Shelton Benjamin) in the third stage of a gauntlet match. The third stage of the match was joined in progress. Alexander threw a great dropkick and got an early two count. MVP told Alexander to focus on the task at hand. Phillips said Alexander had been showboating and seemed to be rubbing it in the face of Benjamin.
Riddle came back with a Pele kick and performed an exploder suplex. Alexander avoided a kick and put his knees up when Riddle went for a Broton. Riddle rallied with a German suplex, but Alexander came right back with a brainbuster for a near fall.
Alexander went up top and spoke to MVP and Benjamin before he leapt. Riddle avoided whatever Alexander was going for, then rolled him into position for a triangle. Alexander powerbombed him. Moments later, Riddle rolled Alexander into a pin and got the three count.
Riddle defeated Cedric Alexander in 5:50 of television time to win the gauntlet match and a future shot at the U.S. Championship.
Riddle went to the stage and said it’s only a matter of time. Lashley’s entrance theme played. Riddle turned around and was knocked down by Lashley, who put him in the Hurt Lock and eventually left him lying…
Powell’s POV: The final stage of the match was definitely the best. I wish Riddle’s character wasn’t such a doofus. It’s hard to take him seriously or even care what happens to his character. I never had that issue with him in NXT or when he was working on the independent scene. There was announcement of when the U.S. Title match will take place. Phillips labeled it a “future” shot before the match, so it doesn’t seem like they will be adding it to the Rumble lineup.
Highlights aired of Randy Orton beating Edge in “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever.” Phillips recalled Edge suffering a torn triceps, then hyped him appearing after the break with an update on his injury… [C]
Phillips spoke about WWE Network moving to Peacock’s streaming service… Highlights aired of Drew McIntyre and Goldberg’s segment from earlier, along with their beatdown of The Miz and John Morrison… The broadcast team hyped the Royal Rumble event…
Edge was shown sitting in the corner of a ring. He said that if 2020 taught him anything it’s that you can’t sleep on tomorrow because it’s not guaranteed. He said you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself up, and always move forward. Edge recalled that he went to bed after WrestleMania 27 as the world champion, then within a week he had to forfeit the championship and his career.
Edge said it was the only career he ever wanted because it was his dream. Edge said he would never forget when he told his mom that he was going to be a wrestler and she told him to just go do it. He said those simple words were the jet fuel that lit a fire in his gut and made him fight for nine years to get his career and his dream back.
Edge said he got another reminder that everything you hold dear can be torn away. Edge said you have to fight. He said he knows that if his mom was here, she’d tell him to go and do it. “With that in mind, I am entering the Royal Rumble,” Edge said. He said he knew it wouldn’t be like last year because the stakes would be higher. He said the window closes on him more and more every day, so he needs to take back what he never lost, what is his.
Edge said he had a dream and he has to fight to make that dream a reality. Edge said a world without dreamers and a world without fighters is a much less magical place. He quoted Henry Ford as saying that if you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. “Well, I think I can,” Edge said. “I’ll see you at the Rumble”…
Asuka was shown walking backstage and the broadcast team hyped the Raw Women’s Title match for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: I wasn’t really sold on the possibility of Edge winning the Rumble earlier today when it was brought up in my Q&A audio show. He sold me on the possibility with that strong promo. Great stuff.
Phillips hyped Charlotte Flair, Bobby Lashley, MVP, Elias, and Jaxson Ryker as the guests on Raw Talk… Ring entrances for the main event took place. Bliss made her entrance to the Firefly Funhouse theme…
9. Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship. Mike Rome delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Asuka was dominant to start. Bliss avoided a Hip Attack and then kicked Asuka to ringside. Suddenly, Bliss was riding a hobby horse in the ring while eery music played. [C]
Bliss was in offensive control coming out of the break. Asuka came back with a kick to the face of a charging Bliss. Asuka took charge until Bliss’s old entrance theme played and faded, then she got emotional in the corner. Asuka stood back and watched as Bliss looked around while acting confused. Asuka finally charged at Bliss, who sidestepped her and then shoved her into the corner.
Bliss went to the opposite corner and stood there while The Fiend lighting routine played out. The lights went out. When they turned on, Bliss was dressed in the darker gear and doing the upside down Wyatt pose in the corner. Asuka looked apprehensive, then charged at Bliss, who blocked a couple of strikes. Asuka connected with one. Bliss no-sold it. Asuka went for the Asuka Lock, but Bliss powered out and then applied the Mandible Claw.
A red-faced Randy Orton appeared behind Bliss, who turned around and took an RKO. Orton looked down at Bliss to close the show…
Asuka fought Alexa Bliss to an apparent no-contest in 12:30 in a Raw Women’s Championship match.
Powell’s POV: This was very similar to last week, only this time Orton put Bliss down with an RKO. I’m not into the supernatural saga, nor did it do anything to sell me on the Rumble. Overall, this was a slightly better than average Raw show. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much these days.
Let me know what you thought of the show by assigning it a letter grade below. I will be back shortly with my weekly same night audio review of WWE Raw for Dot Net Members. Join me on Sunday night for my live review of the Royal Rumble.