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WWE Raw preview (Jan. 25, 2021): Goosebumps

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Live from ThunderDome!

The Headliner

As is often the case when you pin a champion, Alexa Bliss is getting a shot at Asuka’s Raw Women’s championship on the Jan. 25 Raw.

Whether or not Bliss claims the belt tonight, it seems clear she’s not too far away from her eighth title. After a couple years of being limited to mic work and the tag scene, WWE’s ready to push Alexa as a singles wrestler again. The vehicle for that push is her alliance with Bray Wyatt, which has somehow conveyed to her his ability to transform into a nigh-indestructible monster. That served her well last Monday, and figures to help her pick up another win either on Raw or in the Royal Rumble on Sunday.

And I honestly don’t have much of a problem with that. The show’s PG rating and the company’s often lax approach to continuity hamstring the type of horror story Wyatt & Bliss are trying to tell. Their performances make up for a lot, though. There are intriguing questions about who’s pulling whose strings, and whether their motives are purely good or evil.

There are however two big things about the way Alexa’s rise has played out over the past week that stick in my craw:

1. WWE.com’s description of what happened in the Jan. 18 main event is that Bliss underwent “a horrifying transformation” that made her ”more powerful than ever”. Which sounds cool!

But what we saw on-screen wasn’t that. During a commercial break that followed a Fiend-ish interruption of ThunderDome’s lighting and production gimmicks, Alexa changed out her pink t-shirt for a black one and applied some matching eyeliner and lipstick. She could then evade or block Asuka’s strikes, and no-sell some other offense. Mimicking Bray’s signature poses was suddenly presented as the scariest $#!+ ever. She won the match with a Sister Abigail, something we’ve seen her do sans “horrifying transformation”.

A lot of people have some of the same problems with The Fiend, who still largely wrestles as Bray Wyatt - just a more impervious version. But at least The Fiend has some seriously creepy trappings. There’s the mask, of course, but he also has his decaptitated head lantern. And he doesn’t use the Mandible Claw when he’s not Fiend-ified.

I guess WWE’s decided fully transforming Alexa from a pixie into a demon would be too scary for their all-ages audience, but they need to do more than give her some lip gloss to smear on her face. A different finisher would help, too.

Another thing that would have helped?

2. Asuka shouldn’t be the first opponent to witness this “horrifying transformation”.

Now, I’ll fully admit some of this is sour grapes over how the Empress’ has been treated as a supporting character throughout her reign. And I get using the champ to let us know that if she’s crapping herself over the Lexi-Fiend, then it must be really scary.

But I think for a lot of the viewers it just makes the whole thing even more ridiculous. We’d be more likely to just go with it if we’d seen Bliss assume her new form against a few other opponents. Given how minimal the changes to her look were, the changes in her wrestling ability play as more LOL WTF than OMG. The reaction is only amplified by the fact she’s suddenly outclassing Asuka - a woman who’s spent her entire WWE career telling us no one is ready for her.

The champ should be the person who makes the last stand against this new version of Alexa, not the first to fall.

Maybe there’s more to be revealed, and maybe WWE’s perfectly happy with the attention the angle’s getting. But for me, the company’s not committing to this story enough to allow it to live up to its potential.

The title scene

After a couple weeks in quarantine, WWE champ Drew McIntyre returns for a face-off with his Royal Rumble challenger Goldberg. It can’t be any more awkward than their first encounter, or the one their stand-ins Gillberg and David Krumholtz had last Monday.

The Hurt Business put down WWE’s version of the Lucha Bros in trios action a week ago, but the biggest problem for MVP’s crew is probably the lingering issues between Raw Tag Team champions Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin. He should probably just have United States titleholder Bobby Lashley put them in the Hurt Lock. That’s what settles most of their business these days. Lashley’s not supposed to be in the gauntlet match Riddle will run against the faction on Raw. But seeing as Bro will get a shot at the red, white, and blue belt if he wins, I’m thinking the champ might get involved.

Speaking of tag acts on the verge of exploding, Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler are struggling to stay on the same page heading into the every-person-for-themselves Rumble. It probably won’t serve them well whenever they get their rematch for Charlotte Flair & Asuka’s WWE Women’s Tag Team titles. Baszler gets a singles match with Flair tonight.

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

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Circling back to Fiend business, Randy Orton has vowed to not let the burns he suffered from Bliss’ fireball stop him from winning the Rumble. Will Bray returning from his own fiery fate keep The Viper from the WrestleMania main event? And, hey, where’s Edge?

- Why is Adam Pearce using AJ Styles as his Royal Rumble gatekeeper? And who will the Phenomenal One & Omos beat next to keep them out of Sunday’s match?

- Is RETRIBUTION going to keep beating Xavier Woods until Kofi Kingston is cleared?

- Are Jeff Hardy & Elias still feuding?

- Other than a robe, what is Lacey Evans going to get out of her relationship with Ric Flair? All her sometimes-tag partner got out of it is a meme, and some sore legs after a pissed off Queen kept her in the Figure Eight past the bell.

It’s the Royal Rumble go home show!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?