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Raw recap & reactions (Jan. 3, 2022): Is it Friday yet?

Brock Lesnar showed up to Raw but the champ really wanted to be somewhere else and it showed.

Welcome to the first Raw of 2022! Get cracking on those resolutions, people. I do hope the first is to read more of Claire’s blog and more of these recaps when you’re done.

Let’s talk Raw!

Brock Ain’t Looking at You Dudes, He’s Looking Past You

Brock Lesnar adds a wrinkle to Raw’s WWE Championship picture. Not an actual picture because who wants a wrinkle in their picture? But a metaphorical one that changes the situation for everyone involved. The potential problem, one that kinda revealed itself this week, is Brock looking to the Island of Relevancy on Friday nights and minimizing the threats on the day Garfield hates.

The Beast and his advocate, Paul Heyman, hyped up the Fatal Four Way main event for Raw. Ya know, the one originally planned for Day 1 before COVID did what COVID does. Speaking of which, Heyman’s line about Roman Reigns catching COVID just one week after firing his Special Counsel was hilarious.

Heyman beautifully talked up each competitor in the main event, with the most reverence reserved for Big E, a man Heyman’s adoration for is the stuff of legend. Plus? It’s a nice way to at least attempt to soften the blow of E taking the clean L at Day 1.

The alliance between Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins was the thing here. Big E and the All Mighty eventually smartened up and realized the need for their own unholy alliance. This led to a madcap brawl throughout the arena, getting up close and personal with the South Carolina crowd. The bigger playground gave the match a bit of a different flavor than the last time we saw these men fight, and it all led to the inevitable.

You know what that is, right? Of course you do. You’re smart and you pay attention.

Eventually, Lashley ended his partnership with E, perhaps on accident, with a giant spear. Rather than stop and check on the man, he kept going and was like Oprah. Seth? You get a spear! KO? You get a spear!

In the end, it was that final spear to KO that punched Lashley’s ticket to a championship match at Royal Rumble as Brock looked on from his locker room. Note, Brock watched the match from his locker room, not the middle of a hallway on a giant television in the most awkward way possible. 2022 goal is to have someone treat you the way WWE treats Brock Lesnar.

But I digress. When Brock was asked for his thoughts on facing Lashley at the Rumble, something Heyman already seemed a tad jittery about, the WWE Champion had words for Reigns and plugged his upcoming appearance on SmackDown. Lashley? Barely a thought apparently, as he wasn’t even worth half a bar, as JAY-Z once famously said.

The obvious angle here is Lesnar’s obsession with Roman leads to a Lashley W. But the problem lies in that thing I said earlier. If the WWE Champion is more concerned with the champion on an entirely different show, then why should I, the viewer, invest in his bout with Bobby Lashley? No matter how much hype emitted from the commentary table, Lesnar undercut it with a smug smile and a few words.

The match already feels like an afterthought, thus degrading the thing that still has the more historical and important lineage in the company.

Could things change? Of course. It’s only January 3 according to the phone and laptop I use to tell me these things. But as of right now, in this moment on this night, it feels like Brock, and by extension the company that signs his very fat checks, are looking past Royal Rumble and already focused on WrestleMania. You know, like that meme.


The It Couple Steps in It

It’s official: The Miz and Maryse will tango with Edge and Beth Phoenix at Royal Rumble. This was a fun segment with four pros, and Maryse still showing she and her husband aren’t on the same page. Beth, rubbing salt in the wound as Maryse argued with her husband, put her future Rumble opponent on her ass.

Therapeutic Win

I said it before but it bears repeating: The split personality thing with Damien Priest isn’t my cup of tea. I still don’t think it’s necessary and the way he sells it feels more like I’m watching a Looney Tunes cartoon than an actual person embracing their dark side.

All that said, this was a solid match between Priest and Dolph Ziggler for the United States Championship. It’s hard to have a match anything but solid with Ziggler, and Priest is no slouch.

Unlike last week, this match came with the stipulation that if Priest loses by count out or DQ, he loses the title. The key moment was Robert Roode, Big Bob himself, making an appearance to tempt the champion.

And it almost worked. Priest lost it and almost risked losing his title to beat the piss out of Bob. Damian maintained his composure, and retained his title.

With Damian showing he can control his “inner Hulk” I’m not sure where we can go with this persona now. Besides more ridiculous facial expressions and gyrations.

Nikki Almost a Super Hero But Always an Anchor

The Women’s Tag Team Championships were on the line! Guess who won? If you said “Super Brutality,” then you didn’t watch the show nor do you follow story logic. Queen Zelina and Carmella had a simple game plan: Isolate Nikki and never let Rhea Ripley put even a pinky between the ropes.

Mission accomplished. Rhea showed her frustration when Nikki got beat seemingly before the match even started. This partnership either dissolves peacefully or Rhea chooses violence.

Who am I kidding? It’s wrestling, so it’s only a question of when Rhea enacts the decree of violence, not if. Probably before the Rumble so Rhea frees herself of any commitments other than competing in the Women’s rumble.

Don’t Boo Education

Riddle is too big for his britches. Which is saying something since he rarely wears pants, much less anything that qualifies as britches. But that’s why Riddle and Randy Orton lost to the Alpha Academy this week in a mildly entertaining match.

This being WWE, I’m sure this means Alpha Academy just earned a shot at the Raw Tag Team Championships. Maybe then, Riddle will remember he’s not Randy Orton, no matter how hard he tries, and he can’t RKO a human as massive as Otis.

Here Comes a New-Ish But Old Challenger!

Oh, first Raw of 2022, what would you be without a weird segment? Becky Lynch, all by her lonesome, did what heels do in professional sports entertainment, tearing down the crowd and predicting disappointment in those New Year’s Resolutions. It was a meandering promo, with the best part being Becky’s new nickname for herself, Vincent van GOAT.

Eventually we got to the point where Liv Morgan and Bianca Belair both challenged Becky. Bianca is ready to move on from Doudrop and Liv believes she needs another shot because basketball reasons. Doudrop politicked her way into the match too, despite the fact she’s on a losing streak just like Liv. But okay, sure.

So next week, we’re getting a triple threat match between Liv, Bianca, and Doudrop with the winner getting Becky at Royal Rumble. I get why we’re here but how we got here was clunky with some logical leaps previously only accomplished by Mario and his taller, thinner brother.

Profits with the Layup

The Street Profits made proper quick work of Apollo Crews and Commander Azeez. The Profits needed a rebound after losing at January 1 Day 1. There’s also a tease of some friction as the Profits announced they’re entering the 2022 Royal Rumble. Angelo Dawkins admitted he’s ready to risk it all to get a main event spot at WrestleMania, even if it means beating his partner.

Not saying they’re headed for a breakup, but keep an eye on this space.

The Colossus and The Phenomenal One

This was...a thing. Omos is good in small doses, not a full singles match. AJ Styles sold everything and made Omos look like a lot of Benjamins, but it never clicked for me. There’s something about Omos as a solo act that doesn’t work in my head. The big man doesn’t have the fluidity of some great big men of the past, and still has a lot to learn. Unfortunately for him, not all of his future opponents are AJ Styles.

Hate that AJ took the L here but the way they’re building Omos, that was the only option. Sucky option, but still.

All Day Everyday Tag Team

Despite what anyone tells you, I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong or don’t know something. So maybe I’m wrong but I don’t know how the rules of this match work. Dana Brooke put her 24/7 title on the line in a mixed tag match.

With Reggie by her side, Brooke took on Tamina and Tozawa. If Brooke gets pinned, she loses the title. But it’s mixed tag rules meaning only one person in the match could pin her.

But Tozawa also wants that championship, so why would he allow that to happen? And wouldn’t Reggie save Dana from taking the L? Also, what’s up with Reggie helping Dana soooo much? I couldn’t get with the match because I didn’t understand the parameters or the narrative logic.

The first Raw of 2022 was fine. Eventful? Yes. Royal Rumble is coming into view, with a few entrants announced for the Rumble, including Austin Theory in another weird segment with Vince McMahon, and several championship matches on the docket. This week’s Raw was all about setting the table for the next few weeks and as far as that goes, they did what they needed to do. Even if I don’t agree with some of the logic or narrative choices.

Grade: B-

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

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