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Day 1 recap & reactions: Wait, what just happened?

WWE’s first big event of 2022 got some bad news to start the show but recovered marvelously and stuck the landing

Merry New Year! At least that’s what Eddie Murphy says in Trading Places. WWE is rolling out Day 1 on January 1, a great way to wind down after a long and eventful holiday season. So get your beverage of choice, get cozy, read Claire’s blog, and then come in as we talk WWE’s first big event of 2022.


Maximum Carnage Incarnate

I bet you’re wondering how we got Brock Lesnar in the WWE Championship match. That story starts and ends with COVID. It’s the year of our Lord 2022 and that’s still a thing to deal with. WWE called an audible and the Beast Incarnate, a noted free agent, tangoed with the boys from Raw.

And what a chaotic dance it was.

The match started with Big E, Kevin Owens, and Seth Rollins making smart plays at neutralizing Brock and Bobby Lashley. Whew, did they do that. E did his best to assert his dominance and remind the world he’s champ. KO and Seth put their plan into action, communicating to all of us just how smart they are. Bobby and Brock? Well, you know what they look like so it was pretty simple what they wanted to do.

For a second, it looked like KO and Rollins were on top of the world. They rightly figured Lashley and Brock might cancel each other out. When the All Mighty speared Lesnar through the barricade, it looked like they were right. But a little barricade isn’t enough to keep down the Beast. KO and Rollins hit both men with steel steps, Owens landed a Frog Splash on Brock, and even issued a DDT to Lesnar on top of the diamond steps. Even Big E—oh, hey champ—got in on the action, dishing out a Rock Bottom to Bobby on the commentary table.

And that was the story here. E, the champion, was pretty much an afterthought. So much so that it was baked into the narrative, as commentary noted several times E wanted to “remind” everyone who he was. That’s never a good sign and it’s an even worse sign when two other men are the big threats and not the cat holding the belt.

To that point, KO and Owens did their best to finish E but to no avail. In the end, the time they spent on the champ allowed Lashley and Brock to relocate from Dream Street, USA, and make their way back to the State Farm Arena.

That’s when more fun happened.

Lashley, who clearly wanted to defeat Lesnar from the first ding ding, hit the big man with a spear but only got a two-count. This frustrated Bobby but gave him the opportunity to slap on the Hurt Lock.

E, realizing his championship was slipping away, saved Brock, slapped a Big Ending on Lashley, and for a second, looked like he would do the same to Sami Zayn’s other favorite Canadian.

Nah.

Lesnar powered out of the Big Ending, reversed it into an F-5, and is your new reigning, defending, WWE Champion.

A great match with a wild finish that sets up a Lashley and Brock feud. I have no clue if the plan was always for E to lose his title here, but it was academic once Lesnar got a spot. Alas, so ends Big E’s first reign as WWE Champion and I wish we got more from it. E is dope but everything they did with him as champ was lackluster at best. The feuds lacked fire or purpose, and the “personal issues,” as Jim Ross might say, never materialized.

E never got a chance to sink his teeth into anything meaty like Brock and Roman over on the Blue brand. And with Lesnar now representing Raw, I doubt E gets a rematch anytime soon. At least not a meaningful one. Especially since he took the pin here. And I really wish he didn’t take that pin.

But Lesnar as WWE champ seemingly means only one man can challenge: Bobby Lashley. Lashley was clear as crystal he wants to defeat Brock for the championship, and I’m down for MVP and Paul Heyman (?) sparring on the microphone and hopefully giving this thing more juice other than two very big men going at it. The other issue is no other person on Raw feels like a credible threat to dethrone Lesnar. Lashley is the only one who kinda comes close to the aura of invincibility that Lesnar has. And even saying that feels like a bit of a stretch.

On the one hand, this is potentially very dope. On the other, I’m bothered a tad that two guys synonymous with WWE’s Ruthless Aggression phase are going to battle almost 20 years later and it’s the big money match.


Fair and Square Big Time W

Liv Morgan wanted to show the world she was ready for primetime. That’s one reason Morgan started this match giving Becky all of the smoke. Morgan countered every move Becky threw at her, she kept the champion on her heels, and genuinely caught Lynch off-guard.

That narrative played throughout the match as Becky just wasn’t ready for Liv’s aggression. While the two women don’t have the best chemistry, they did everything right to get this point across. Becky looked stunned when she needed, and Liv looked emotional when she needed. They needed to show Liv dishing out a beating and she did that and more.

And yet, the result was never in doubt. At least not for me. While Becky, at times, shook in her boots, it always seemed like a “when” not “if” the champion prospered. WWE keeps telling us Becky is getting wins by the skin of her perfect teeth. She cheats at the last minute because she wants to prove a point and also because—maybe—she isn’t as dope as she used to be.

Tonight was a tad different.

While Becky barely got the W, she didn’t cheat. Becky pinned Liv’s shoulders to the mat fair and square for the three-second tan. Becky countered Liv’s finishing move, took the challenger by surprise, and the rest is history.

Liv was ready but not quite ready enough. And isn’t that what Becky preached week after week? Liv came to play—not a Miz shoutout—and made Becky sweat. But in the end, she just didn’t get the job done. And this time, there’s no excuses.

I don’t believe this is the end of Liv Morgan’s time in the title picture, but it’s the sign of a hiatus as we go into the Royal Rumble and Mania season. I have no clue who’s next for Becks, but with a clean loss on her record, even my 20/20 vision can’t see how it’s Liv.


Extracurriculars

Day One (Ish)

There was a great character moment during this match where Jey Uso pushed Jimmy Uso out of the way when King Woods dialed up a suicide dive. Jey kept his brother, the legal man, out of harm’s way and ate one for the team the only way one can in professional sports entertainment. A dope moment that shows how great these two teams are together and separately.

It was also indicative of how smooth and realistic their tag matches often are. And also why they’re dope as hell. This one was no exception.

At Day 1 (ish) The Usos and The New Day built on past matches. The normal finishers didn’t get it done because they just know each other way too well. So how do you finish it off? If you’re the Brothers Uso, you play Santa and go to your bag. What they pulled out was a 1D, their version of the vaunted 3D, and remain SmackDown tag champs.

Incredible way to start the show proper and if you missed it, correct that egregious error.

Glam with an Edge

Edge and Miz, shocker, put on a great match. The best moment was Miz signaling to Maryse that Beth Phoenix was in the building. Beth looked at Maryse the way my mom used to look at me when I was in trouble. Phoenix proved the equalizer as removing Maryse from the equation, and taking Miz’s eye off the prize, helped give Edge the W. The moment Maryse made her presence known in this feud, it was obvious where it was going. Now we’re here and with the talent involved, I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

Seriously though, great match,

For the Culture

I need to address something. Migos are cool. But to call them the greatest group in the world, let alone the greatest rap group in the world, while in ATLANTA, home of OutKast, offends my good sensibilities. Have you no shame, WWE? We all know the answer to that but at least pretend for my benefit. Also, for the record, the answer is Wu Tang Clan. But that’s neither here nor there.

Moving on, this outcome was obvious the minute Migos came out with RK-Bro. The short (ish) length was also telegraphed because Migos aren’t sitting ringside for a 15-20 minute bout. The ending, with the alley-oop RKO, was a great finish. The match itself? It was okay but again, the four men barely had a chance to get anything started. Especially when we know they’re all capable of a whole lot more. Consider me disappointed, even though I get why it was what it was.

Get to Claymore Country Earlier

Drew McIntyre wrestled Madcap Moss way longer than necessary. The end was never in doubt, but I suppose they wanted to make Moss look good. And they did. But just because it goes long doesn’t magically make the feud interesting. Drew O’Mac finally nailed a Claymore to end it and move us on to the next match.

Happy and Moss wrecked Drew later in the show, which looks like an injury angle for the big man.

Shameful Embarrassment

If you missed Ricochet’s heel meeting Ridge Holland’s nose, catch a replay. That’s why the pre-show tag match turned into a handicap match. It’s also wild things like that don’t happen more often. Shoutout to Ridge and here’s hoping for a speedy recovery from a broken nose.

Sheamus dominated when it was him vs. Ricochet. When Cesaro entered the match? Different story. Until Cesaro made one false move and Sheamus got the W. All by his lonesome. Ordinarily, this is when I say “Cesaro isn’t done with Sheamus yet.” But after losing what became a handicap match, cleanly I might add, there’s no real reason for Sheamus to give Cesaro a single match. Even though we all know it’s coming.


Day 1 was a hit. For my money, top to bottom, a very good show. There was one match that went a touch too long for me and the event overall didn’t need three hours, but it was a good way to spend three hours.

Grade: A

That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.