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WWE Raw preview (Jan. 11, 2021): Puzzle pieces

Live from ThunderDome!

The Headliner

We’ll see if WWE follows up on Ric Flair’s Legend Nights appearance, and how his daughter reacted to him inadvertently costing the WWE Women’s Tag Team champions their match against Lacey Evans & Peyton Royce. Whether or not they mention the Nature Boy again, Charlotte Flair’s latest dressing down of her Hall of Fame father and the loss itself could be used as the impetus for a heel turn. And that makes The Queen’s inevitable feud with her partner Asuka over The Empress’ Raw Women’s belt that much easier to start.

That’s only part of fixing a scene that’s been handled pretty poorly since... well, since WrestleMania 35, if we’re being honest. Sure, it hasn’t been all bad for the last two years. But it’s been mostly rough sledding since they decided Becky Lynch’s first post-Mania main event program should be against Evans.

Some think they were waiting for Charlotte’s return from hiatus. Now we hear Flair’s old rival Rhea Ripley is about to be permanently moved to the main roster, and she could be part of the solution to Monday night’s problem.

Really though, the issue isn’t that they don’t have the performers & characters. Last week proved that.

Evans & Royce’s win could either be used to make them more of a threat as a team or fuel a simmering split if Peyton takes a stand against Lacey’s tactics. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler still have some heat from their Tag championship run and plenty of singles credentials between them, too. The program they’re resuming with Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke could be used to elevate the duo Asuka calls Sexy Muscle Friends or position one of the heels for a title shot.

That’s eight wrestlers, set-up and ready to go. It doesn’t even include the person the entire division was working to get over just a month ago. Agree or disagree with the push, why abandon Lana’s babyface push after dedicating a quarter of last year to it?

Let the Ravishing One return to managing. She can teach the lessons in fighting spirit she’s learned to others. Put her with Nikki Cross and move that former Tag champ’s feud with RETRIBUTION’s RECKONING from Main Event to Raw.

All that without even mentioning Bray Wyatt’s abettor Alexa Bliss, hoping for a Naomi return, or figuring out where Ripley fits.

The issue isn’t a lack of talent. It’s a lack of commitment to dedicating a three-hour show to using it. The Road to WrestleMania is typically a time when mid-card stories go by the wayside, but they advanced three different women’s angles while making time for the Legends last week. The Rumble match coming up on Jan. 31 will be better off for the time dedicated to these ladies now.

Now, I’m not holding my breath for a Cross appearance tonight. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Evans, Royce, Rose, and Brooke weren’t on the show. But if the Raw women’s division continues to flounder, and the brand’s lengthy episodes continue to lag - don’t blame it on a roster deficiency.

The title scene

Fresh off surviving a battle with Keith Lee, WWE champ Drew McIntyre had to deal with a confusing challenge from Goldberg. Now he’s got firebug Randy Orton to deal with (again). Randy says he controlled himself and didn’t set Bliss on fire two weeks ago, but I think the matchbox will come back out when The Fiend returns. Look for this one to either further McIntyre or Orton’s next PPV clash. Or both of them.

The Hurt Business had a bad time of it on Legends night. First, Riddle survived a Hurt Lock to pick up a win over United States titleholder Bobby Lashley. Then, Raw Tag Team champions Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin did the job to Lucha House Party in support of Gran Metalik’s NXT Cruiserweight title shot at New Year’s Evil. MVP argued that the referee missed a tap in the first one, and Ced blamed his partner for the loss in the second. So at least their stories moved forward, even if their win/loss records suffered.

One week and counting on R-Truth’s 46th run as 24/7 champion. God is good.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- They’ve got the Money in the Bank briefcase back, but Miz & Morrison still can’t pick up a win. New Day not only beat them in last week’s opening segment, they also stole their talk show segment.

- Still not sure why AJ Styles and Elias are feuding, but I enjoyed seeing Omos turn a guitar to dust with his foot a week ago.

- Mustafa Ali is mad as hell RETRIBUTION didn’t get any screen time last week. The target of Ali’s anger, and recruitment efforts didn’t get much, but Richocet did get a pep talk.

- After a brief, Cardi B clout chasing trip to the 24/7 title scene, will we ever find out why Angel Garza’s rose is for?

Three weeks until Royal Rumble!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?

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