This go home edition of Monday Night Raw is brought to you by absolutely nobody. But this recap is hosted by yours truly, while Claire handles blogging duties as per usual.
The Royal Rumble is Jan. 29. Is WWE ready? Dig in and find out.
Let’s talk Raw!
Do Not Boo Birthdays
Miz is an awful singer. Lucky for us, he’s a pretty good wrestler. That means Miz can take even the most stereotypical professional sports entertainment wrestling segments, like a birthday celebration for Maryse, and make it work. In fact, Maryse, Edge, and Beth Phoenix all played their parts just as well in Raw’s best story going into the Royal Rumble.
For those who missed last week due to football or just living their lives, Maryse hit Beth with a brick. Yes, a brick. Sure, it was wrapped in a leather purse, but it was still a brick. Chaos ensued when Edge and Maryse hit the ring, dispatching members of Miz and Maryse’s security one by one with odes to tag teams of the past.
And it was cool. But this was the main event angle on the go home show for the Royal Rumble. I know, I know. “The Rumble sells itself,” is what you’re probably saying to yourself. And maybe they don’t really need to give us a hook other than a bunch of guys on camera saying how much they want to win. But this is a visual medium, people. Show, don’t tell is still the name of the game, and it’s a game WWE used to play really well. What main event star on Raw made it known just how much they
want need to win?
Kevin Owens is suddenly more interested in the United States Championship, Seth Rollins is fighting for the Universal Championship, Bobby Lashley is squaring off with Brock Lesnar, and Big E is milk carton status as of earlier this month. This speaks to a larger issue within WWE, which is the black hole that is both men’s championship pictures, but in particular, the second-class citizen treatment of the WWE Championship.
Does anyone really believe one of the Street Profits, The Mysterios, or the Dirty Dawgz have a shot at winning the main event spot at WrestleMania? Maybe Rey, and that’s only because he’s the cover boy for their (hopefully) rehabilitated video game. But for the most part, it doesn’t compute.
WWE spent a lot of last year and the past several months telling us that these championships have permanent residences. What’s worse is not many cats are booked to look like competent competitors for either. There’s nobody to believe in and no one like Steve Austin, Bret Hart, or Shawn Michaels, three men who needed to be the last man standing more than they needed oxygen.
Rather than Raw closing with someone out for blood and ready to burn the entire arena down to beat 29 other guys, we got Beth and Edge, posing for the cameras looking ready to partake in a mosh pit.
We Need to Talk about Damian
Let’s not mince words here: The “Damian” thing isn’t working. I waxed semi-poetic about this several weeks ago, but this week made it clearer than white crystal. Damian Priest defended his U.S. title against Kevin Owens because the latter gave the former his first loss on the main roster last week. The nature of Damian’s “I’m not a killer but don’t push me” character means he gets DQ’d more often than not. WWE solved this once when he wrestled Dolph Ziggler. Shockingly, Priest controlled himself because he knew a DQ meant the end of his championship reign.
But then there are matches like this week, where a DQ means he takes the L but keeps the gold. Guess how it ended? And it’s a shame because Priest and KO put on a pretty good contest before the ending. Priest lost it when KO faked another injury, and managed to retain the title. The crowd was on KO’s side the entire time and rightly unleashed the boo birds when the match ended. And no, Damian, they weren’t shouting “Boo-urns.”
Priest’s current gimmick means he retains his title damn near every match because someone makes him lose his cool. It’s cheap, renders matches moot, and, at least for one week, got the crowd rooting for the supposed heel. And we still don’t know where the gimmick is going because or why it exists!
Whew, okay I’m done now. Carry on with the rest of the recap.
Get Your Weight Up
Brock Lesnar doesn’t take Bobby Lashley seriously, doesn’t take the WWE Championship seriously, nor did he take this segment seriously. Lashley and Lesnar partook in a weigh-in. Why? To tell us both men are incredibly large and capable of popping most human heads like grapes. Lesnar’s attire, demeanor, and overall vibe made it very entertaining. Lashley still wants Lesnar to view him as a threat, but it’s just not happening.
There’s nothing more to say about Raw’s opening segment. It worked because the people involved made it work, not because the idea of a weigh-in does anything for this match or furthered the story at all. We’re still where we were last week, and the week before that, and the week before that.
From Spelling to Sports Entertaining
Anything RK-Bro and the Alpha Academy do is a home run. These four cats took something potentially silly—a spelling bee—and made it work. Chad Gable is still on fire as the condescending descendant of Kurt Angle. That very specific character needs egg on their face as revenge for their smarminess, so of course Chad was the weak link in the spelling bee.
His reaction to spelling the wrong word correctly, thrown off by Kevin Patricks Irish accent, was priceless. That meant two things: RK-Bro picks the contest for the second leg of this intellectual triathlon, and Randy Orton challenged Gable to a match.
And what a match it was. These two work really well together, threw in some psychology, and weren’t afraid to brawl either. We got multiple table spots, several false finishes, and a scooter. Yes, Riddle hit Otis with a scooter. Multiple times no less.
In the end, Randy eeked out a win with the RKO, and Riddle challenged the Academy to a scooter race on next week’s Raw. Also? Otis and Gable formally entered themselves into the Rumble.
If you missed the match, watch it. Come for the dope RKO and even doper sell by Gable, stay for Otis’ face when the words “scooter race” were uttered.
Big Bang Theory
So the Vince McMahon and Austin Theory thing is still happening. The downside? The Vince McMahon and Austin Theory thing is still happening. The upside? We got a great match featuring Theory and AJ Styles as a result.
Theory wanted to prove himself before Royal Rumble and earn a favorable entry spot. AJ wanted revenge for Austin’s disrespectful acts a week ago during their first encounter. Following Randy Orton and Chad Gable, these two knew they needed to show up and show out. So, yeah, they did that.
AJ ended up getting the win as Austin, despite hanging with AJ step for step, did his best to cheat his way to victory. This was a rumble warmup, a showcase for Theory, and a way of getting some momentum back on Styles’ side.
Shocker, but the Street Profits and The Mysterios put on a very good tag match. Who knew, right? This match evolved out of their friendly competition a week ago, and with all four men setting their sights on earning a spot in the WrestleMania main event. Rey Mysterio got the win for his team because of course he did. WWE 2K22 got its trailer debut tonight, and Rey got his flowers as the cover wrestler. Did you really think his team was losing? Or that he wasn’t getting the pin?
In typical Royal Rumble fashion. after the match ended, we got a lot of people getting tossed out of the ring. Even the Dirty Dawgz got in on the action. The problem, however, is that none of these cats looked serious. Throwing each other over the ropes felt like it was for laughs rather than seriously wanting to win, essentially, the biggest matches of their careers.
More Rumle Prep
A six-woman tag match with Carmella, Nikki A.S.H., & Tamina on one side of the ring, and Dana Brooke, Liv Morgan, & Rhea Ripley on the other was all about, you guessed it, the Royal Rumble. This wasn’t a long contest and didn’t really work for me. That’s not indicative of the women, but an indictment of the amount of time they were given. Rhea, who needed wind at her back after the past few weeks, got the submission win for her team.
Of course, Nikki A.S.H. got her post match licks in, so Rhea will have vengeance on her mind during the Rumble match. Will Rhea let Nikki distract her from winning the Rumble? To quote Miz, oooooof course.
Two Rooms. One Interview
Becky Lynch and Doudrop did a one-on-one video interview. No one said anything new so you know how this went. Doudrop wants to make a name for herself and lay claim to the throne. Becky got meta and talked about Doudrop being another name to fill out the card until Becky made her relevant. Cool, cool. If that wasn't enough to make me dock points for this segment, it turns out they were barely 10 feet apart from each other! Doudrop eventually went off camera and it took her no less than 1 minute to get to Becky and throw hands.
Why did we even bother with the video interview?
All Hail the EST
This match...was a thing. My love for Bianca Belair is well-documented, and Queen Zelina is no slouch. That said, this match was a waste of their time. I get it. We need to give Bianca some momentum heading into Royal Rumble. But can’t we accomplish that putting her against someone who isn’t half comic relief half royalty? Zelina can go but right now, she isn’t presented as even a minor threat to someone like Belair. The match proved that point.
I still really like Alexa. And still really dislike these therapy segments. But it’s not her fault. Alexa is doing all she can to make the best of it and she at least makes it watchable. Bliss’ therapist says she’s making progress, so it shan't be long until she’s live and in person.
I can’t get over the lack of build for the actual Rumble itself. Or even the fact that there’s no one positioned as the favorite. Or the fact that the match feels like an afterthought to everything else happening on the show. That said, we got a few good matches this week and a couple entertaining segments. That counts for a lot in my book.
If there’s one more thing I would change, it’s that Edge and Beth’s vengeance wasn’t a running story throughout the show. I’m sorry, but if someone hits me with a brick, I’m not waiting until the show is almost over to get my hands on them. A running storyline of Beth and her husband on the prowl for Maryse and her husband, leading to the ultimate showdown during Maryse’s birthday just feels right. As it stands, the angle, much like Raw this week, was just okay.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.