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WWE Raw preview (Dec. 28, 2020): Third wheel

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Live from ThunderDome!

The Headliner

AT TLC, WWE champion Drew McIntyre vanquished both #1 contender AJ Styles and Money in the Bank briefcase holder The Miz. The stage was cleared for a new challenger, perhaps in a program that shined the spotlight on the King of Claymore Country.

Drew’s proven he can handle the top spot this year. All of his feuds have provided compelling television at points, and it’s hard to pin their low points on McIntyre. There wasn’t any suspense in Dolph Ziggler as the #1 contender, for instance. And the Randy Orton feud just dragged on too long.

It was probably in the brief Survivor Series rivalry with Roman Reigns that we got the clearest picture of what the Big Scot could be as the #1 babyface in WWE. Sure, everyone has looked great opposite Reigns since he returned as the Tribal Chief. But Drew’s the ony one who didn’t come across as an underdog running on fighting spirit. He looked every bit Reigns’ equal.

There was nothing wrong with his booking at the most recent PPV. He overcame the odds to retain his title, just like the hero of the story of the should. But in the build to TLC, McIntyre often felt like a supporting character - not only to Styles and Miz’s stories, but also to those of his friends Sheamus & Keith Lee. Hopes that would change were dashed on the fallout show when a six-man tag featuring the same characters ended with Drew trying to keep the Celtic Warrior & the Limitless One from tearing each other apart.

Tensions between those two men have been simmering for a while now. Lee doesn’t trust that the recently heel Sheamus won’t turn on the champ. The Irishman doesn’t like being questioned, and really didn’t like Keith claiming the pin in their win over Styles, Miz & John Morrison in last Monday’s Holiday Street Fight main event. A post-match Brogue Kick left McIntyre trying to play peacemaker.

It’s a logical enough way to fill time until the Road to WrestleMania starts in earnest next month, and should give us some real slobberknockers via singles matches and a seemingly inevitable Triple Threat. But “filling time” has been part of why Raw is the least must see wrestling show on television this year. And if McIntyre is the star he seems to be - and fans voting him Superstar of the Year in last week’s Slammy Awards backs that notion up - why not make the show’s biggest story about him?

There’s not much announced for the last Raw of 2020 as of our publication time, but the only thing they are promoting (more on that below) doesn’t mention Drew or his belt. It’s a curious decision in the face of flagging ratings, and worth paying attention in the weeks ahead... for those of us still paying attention to Raw at all.

The title scene

All of the above applies to Raw Women’s champ Asuka, only more so. She hasn’t had a singles challenger for months. But we’re all counting down the days until she faces the person she now holds the WWE Women’s Tag belts with, Charlotte Flair. It looks like the tag team division will be more of a story on Friday nights, but Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax are angling for a rematch on Raw.

MVP’s managed The Hurt Business into a gold-laden position of power. He’s got things lined up so he can focus all his attention on Jeff Hardy & Riddle. They seem to be the challengers for both Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin’s Raw Tag Team titles and Bobby Lashley’s United States championship.

Five weeks and counting on R-Truth’s 45th run as 24/7 champion. God is good.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- WWE’s counting on Alexa Bliss to draw interest in tonight’s show, as her endeavoring to hold our interest in the Randy Orton/Bray Wyatt feud is the only thing they’re promoting for the Dec. 28 episode.

- Ricochet got my boss excited for his ongoing program with RETRIBUTION on Raw Talk last week. I hope his hopes aren’t dashed. We’ll see if the follow-up to T-BAR beating Ric & Mustafa Ali’s continued demands the former U.S. champ join his group play out on the red brand, or Main Event.

- Angel Garza and Jaxson Ryker both won squash matches last week, which you’d think would mean there are plans for them in the future. But who knows. It’s just as likely neither of them will be back on TV this week.

Five weeks until Royal Rumble fallout show!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?