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WWE Raw preview (Jan. 20, 2020): Underbaked

Team Red’s last stop before Houston? Wichita, Kansas.

The Headliner(s)

The Royal Rumble PPV is six days away. The third ever women’s Royal Rumble match will happen at the event. There are four women entered, and the only storyline involves Sarah Logan trying & failing to prove herself against Charlotte Flair.

Traditionally, the Rumble has been a key piece of the build to WWE’s biggest show of the year. We’ve heard a lot of rumors about plans for 2020’s WrestleMania being more up in the air than they usually are at this point on the calendar, and there’s no better evidence in support of that than the lack of attention being paid to the women’s match.

We’ve got a great feud brewing between Raw Women’s champ Becky Lynch and Asuka (who’s also one half of the Women’s Tag Team champions). Continuing their feud to ‘Mania could be a great story, but it doesn’t seem like something WWE will do. Someone emerging from the Rumble to challenge The Man in Tampa would give them an alternative, but there’s nothing currently brewing there that presents a compelling opponent for Lynch.

With 26 spots open in the match, you have to think most of the current Raw women’s roster will end up in the match (the Superstar page only lists 14 women wrestlers for the red brand, and that includes names mentioned above and folks who are currently injured/inactive). There’s not a fresh or particularly interesting rival for Bex among them.

Which is why conventional wisdom points to a late or surprise entrant outlasting the other 29 women on Sunday and setting her sights on Becky’s belt. The bookies think it will be Shayna Baszler, and the two-time NXT Women’s champs appearance in a battle royal on that show last Wednesday may have been a bit of misdirection to try and preserve that surprise.

There’s a good angle for Baszler/Lynch, with Shayna being one of Ronda Rousey’s best friends & training partners. Will it excite the masses? With time to sell fans who don’t watch NXT on Baszler, sure. As a moment at Minute Maid Park this weekend? Ehh…

Fortunately, a show like Royal Rumble should have other big moments to pop the crowd. And unless Rousey herself is coming back, none of the potential surprise entrants are going to generate an immediate buzz. Internet fans like you and me love Ruby Riott, but she doesn’t read as instant title contender. WWE’s pushed Nia Jax to the world at large, but isn’t someone I sense a whole lot of excitement for amongst the hardcores (although some reminders about what happened during SmackDown’s invasion of Raw in Nov. 2018 would be all that’s needed to re-start a great ‘Reality’ Era beef with Becky).

We’ll see how it works out. Even if it turns out great, the lack of build will still be a head scratcher, though.

The title scene

By entering himself at #1, WWE champ Brock Lesnar added to the intrigue of the men’s Rumble match. The field for that one is filling up, too. Paul Heyman’s client is on television for the third straight week tonight, and we’ll be looking for hints as to his program for Sunday and beyond when he bounces around the Intrust Bank Arena ring.

Rey Mysterio is looking for revenge when he faces United States champion Andrade in a ladder match - both for losing the title and having his mask ripped off his head. This should be fantastic, and a big step in confirming Andrade’s time has come.

How cleared out is the Raw Tag Team championship scene? Erik & Ivar of Viking Raiders are beating up former 24/7 titleholders like The Singhs, that’s how cleared out it is. (Speaking of the green-and-gold belt, Mojo Rawley is still holding it (unless I missed something in the Sunday house show results)).

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- The time has finally come... Liv Morgan & Rusev vs. Lana & Bobby Lashley. It probably won’t end the storyline, but it’s happening. Watch for more signs of tension between the heels, and fingers crossed Liv will get some more offense in against the non-wrestler who kicked her ass last Monday.

- Buddy Murphy threw his lot in with Seth Rollins, helping The Messiah & AOP put away Big Show (Kevin Owens & Samoa Joe kind of put away themselves). That’s a formidable faction. The good guys may need to recruit Murphy’s kryptonite, Aleister Black.

- The RKO war between Randy Orton & AJ Styles is headed into the Rumble match. But so is the man who got the better of both of them last week, Drew McIntyre. This is the kind of “story within the match” angle the women’s Rumble will be missing.

- Whatever’s in Erick Rowan’s cage will cut a bitch. Even if that bitch is Erick Rowan.

It’s the Royal Rumble ‘go home’ show!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?

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