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WWE Raw preview (Jan. 18, 2021): Boomin’

Live from ThunderDome!

The Headliner

It’s tempting to dismiss much of what happened on Raw last week as the product of last minute rewrites driven by COVID outbreak concerns.

For example, I wouldn’t make too much of Raw Tag Team champions Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin being held off the show a week after they were upset by Lucha House Party in a non-title match. But their Hurt Business teammate? I do think how United States titleholder Bobby Lashley was booked on Jan. 11 could be indicative of a larger plan for him.

Lashley’s been extremely well protected since aligning with MVP, and especially since winning the red, white and blue belt from Apollo Crews at Payback. He hasn’t lost much, and singles losses are especially rare. A non-disqualification loss such as the one he took against Riddle on Legends Night stood out, even thought it was clear the referee missed Bro tapping to The Hurt Lock before he rolled Lashley up. But any damage to the All-Mighty’s reputation was repaired by last Monday’s rematch, where he submitted Riddle in under two minutes... then helped his manager kick some stoner ass in MVP’s subsequent DQ loss to the ex-mixed martial artist.

To what end, though? It’s Rumble season, but Lashley hasn’t been mentioned as a favorite to win that match. He spent one PPV cycle in the main event last summer and can certainly be a credible #1 contender to Raw’s top prize, but that doesn’t feel like the direction. Maybe later in the year, but not for WrestleMania.

What could work for ‘Mania is a one-off, marquee match-up of heavyweights. Now, there’s no dirt from the sheets to back this up either, so it’s likely just one blogger’s probably bad idea. But what if Lashley’s latest run of domination is paving the way to the Brock Lesnar match he’s long campaigned for?

Vince McMahon is going to want all of his marquee names represented on the two-night WrestleMania card, and a showdown of big guys with legit fighting skills would be a nice attraction. It’s been said working empty arenas doesn’t interest Brock, but it’s likely some fans will be in attendance at Raymond James Stadium. Wrestling Lashley in Tampa could give Lesnar a taste of what the next year’s worth of shows will probably look like while giving him & Vince time to see if they can work out another part-time deal.

And if they go ahead and have Bobby beat Brock? Then he really has momentum for a main event run.

This would mean there’s some long-term planning going on, which hasn’t been Raw’s strong suit for a while now. We’ll see where Lashley’s push takes him. As for tonight, don’t be shocked if Alexander beats Riddle then aggravates Benjamin by bragging about it. Titles or no, there’s some tension between those two.

The title scene

With WWE champ Drew McIntyre still quarantining as he gets over his case of coronavirus, we’ll probably be treated to pre-taped promos from him and his Rumble challenger Goldberg. Hopefully they both make sense.

With fellow WWE Women’s Tag Team titleholder Charlotte Flair off dealing with her dad’s new squeeze Lacey Evans, Raw Women’s champion Asuka finds herself going one-on-one with The Fiend’s friend Alexa Bliss. The belt’s not on the line and the Empress isn’t easily spooked, but she should still watch out for fireballs.

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

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Speaking of that fireball, Orton and his seared eyeballs will be on tonight’s show to address Alexa’s attack. Is this finally when Bray Wyatt re-emerges in a new form?

- After becoming the latest team to beat Miz-ter Money in the Bank & John Morrison, Keith Lee & Sheamus beat each other up for a while. Lee earned the victory, and both men earned the other’s respect. Is this The Bar 2.0, or was one of these guys not being sincere?

- There are lots of spots left in both the men’s and women’s Royal Rumble matches. Will Drew Gulak keep trying to earn one of them? Is Shayna Baszler ever going to officially be entered along with her tag partner Nia Jax?

- Are Elias and Jeff Hardy feuding again, or was the Charismatic Enigma only working with Jaxson Ryker & his guy last week to kill time?

- What in the hell happened to Triple H and his burning hammer?

Two weeks until Royal Rumble!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?

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