Drew McIntyre has COVID, potentially as a result of working maskless in a state with very high case numbers, but who’s to say for sure. The good news is he’s a symptomatic and hopefully will be able to make a full recovery post-quarantine. Still, a major player contracting corona didn’t seem to dampen WWE’s plans as they pushed forward with the Royal Rumble build and NXT’s Dusty Classic.
Stop Dating My Famous Dad
After Lacey Evans put the moves on Ric Flair last week, she and Charlotte went to battle over who has the rights to microwave Ric’s dinner at 4 pm. Charlotte made a more than fair point when she asked Sarah why her storyline still had to include her dad in 2021, but we didn’t get any answers for that one. This started out with Charlotte easily overpowering Lacey, delivering some chops and going for an early pin. Charlotte locked Lacey in a submission, and rolled her around the ring, but Evans barely fought back with a kick. She grabbed the rope to break Charlotte’s attempt at the Figure Four just as Ric’s music hit. This was surprising, since it was several hours past his bedtime, but he strutted to the ring anyway. Ric lent Charlotte some moral support ringside, as Lacey took control of the match. Charlotte came back with a big kick to Lacey’s midsection, but missed the Big Boot. Evans stomped away in the corner right in front of Ric, who watched with as little interest as he could muster. A neck breaker and an exploder rocked Lacey, but Charlotte had to caution Ric to mind his own beeswax before climbing up for the moonsault. Lacey knocked her off the turnbuckle but still found herself hit with Natural Selection. Fed up with being told to head home, Ric got Lacey’s foot on the ropes, then grabbed Charlotte’s leg to help Evans get the win. A shocking turn from the worst dad in professional wrestling; and that’s some steep competition.
Man Briefly Escapes 24/7 Realm
AJ Styles was questioning Adam Pearce about his upcoming match with Roman Reigns when Drew Gulak interrupted to announce himself for the Royal Rumble. Pearce had to put on his stern teacher voice and very gently tell Gulak that there were only 15 spots available for Raw, and as someone who definitely wasn’t going to win, he’d have to earn his way onto the team. He then made a match between Gulak and Styles that was way better than filler has any right to be. Again, we already knew the outcome, but when given time to actually wrestle, both these guys can put on a show with anyone. Gulak looked good here- as good as he’s ever looked on Raw, managing to get control of Styles with some suplexes and a few near falls. Styles tossed Gulak to the outside, where he found himself face to foot with Omos. AJ used the distraction to hit the Phenomenal Forearm and win, crushing Gulak’s hopes and dreams yet again. The worst part of this segment was Gulak’s orange tights, but the best was Adam Pearce very seriously trying to sell earning a spot in the rumble after we’ve just seen multiple upper midcarders declare themselves over the past two weeks. Turns out rules don’t apply if you rank above the 24/7 division. This was a good match regardless, and it was interesting to see a style change from AJ’s recent feuds.
The Game, The Viper, The Flames of Hell
Triple H announced he was gracing Raw Monday night, crawling out of his black and gold cave to shame Randy Orton about his life choices. The Viper interrupted Trips about two sentences in, reminding us all about how Drew McIntyre couldn’t come to Raw on account of having COVID-19. Triple H told Orton arson was fine, but draws the line at being mean to Big Show on live tv. Randy issued a challenge to beat up yet another middle aged dad, but Hunter wasn’t having it. He tried to leave before a Steph joke prompted him to nail Orton on the jaw, and we had a main event.
Even Keith Lee couldn’t talk Trips out of suiting up tonight, which is how you knew things were serious. They started out heated, Triple H getting the best of Randy before Orton nailed him with an uppercut. On the outside, Hunter sent Orton into the steps and opened up his cheek, but Randy still came back to slam the COO’s head on the commentary desk. Triple H returned the favor with a powerslam of his own on the table, then went for that pesky sledgehammer tech guys keep leaving under the ring. As The Game tried to use his favorite toy; the lights went out, and the sledgehammer caught fire. When they came back up, Triple H was gone, and Randy was joined in the ring by Alexa Bliss. She shot a fireball into Randy’s eyes, and that was our show. I don’t know who in creative just watched Firestarter for the first time, but they’re really into it for this storyline. Giving Alexa pyrokinesis seems a little out there even for a Fiend storyline, but I will admit this was a stronger ending than “can Randy drop a match?”
Tag Team Love Fest
NXT kicked off the first round of the Dusty Cup this week, and the big drama wasn’t around if underdogs Ever-Rise could topple Grizzled Young Veterans (as expected, they couldn’t), it was all about the three most mysterious letters in sports entertainment: MSK. Commentary hyped the big question all night; who would be facing Jake Atlas and Isaiah Swerve Scott? A mitski superfan? The debuting duo could be literally anyone , since MSK (musk?) doesn’t stand for anything, but they turned out to be 2/3 of the team formerly known as The Rascalz. Dezmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz made their NXT debuts as Wes Lee and Nash Carter to bring the high flying fight to Atlas and Scott. The Rascalz were always entertaining, and Lee and Carter proved they can go it alone. A very high energy match against two incredibly athletic cruiserweights in their own right gave MSK the chance to shine here. Both teams were evenly matched for a while; Lee wiped out Scott and Atlas on the outside with a huge dive, but couldn’t capitalize. A great double team almost got them the pin on Atlas, but Scott made the save. Scott came back with some quick striking offense of his own, and suplex from Swerve rocked Lee, but Carter returned the favor and broke up the pin attempt. MSK finally finished Swerve with another double team, and then hugged for a good 90 seconds. Always nice to see that from a tag team. Also, UE defeated Breezango even after interference from McAfee’s boys, further proving that friendship is the strongest force in wrestling.
After declaring herself too hardcore for school last week, Billie Kay joined The Riott Squad on commentary for Liv Morgan vs Natalya. Morgan started out with a hurricanrana to wipe out Natalya, then nailed her with an elbow while Billie discussed her moshing skills. Natalya dropped Morgan on the rope then got her in a submission, but Liv escaped. She took control, much to Billie’s delight, until Natalya landed the discus clothesline. Kay tried to argue with the ref but got too close to Tamina, sending her running through the ring to escape. The distraction gave Natalya the chance to roll up Morgan and score the win, which might make things awkward at the post match mosh pit Billie had organized. Kay is always entertaining in just about anything she’s given, and I don’t mind her odd couple attempt at joining the Riott Squad, but this fell flat. Throwing the same five women in matches and just seeing what happens has been SmackDown’s midcard strategy for a while, but it’s really feeling especially grating in the new year.
Wrestling Is Fun, Turns Out
Daniel Bryan and Cesaro faced off last night to prove that WWE can, in fact, put on incredible wrestling when they absolutely have to. Cesaro made fun of Bryan’s hips based training from Gable and Otis to set up this match, but these guys could have been fighting over the right to the color green and I wouldn’t care as long as we got to see it. They started off with some great mat wrestling, countering each other until Cesaro backed Bryan into the corner and nailed him with an uppercut. Daniel came back and twisted Cesaro’s arm into something horrific, pulling at his fingers. My bones are creaking just thinking about it. Cesaro landed on his neck and Bryan took advantage, launching himself onto the Swissman on the outside. Cesaro ducked a kick and Bryan hit the ring post instead, and Cesaro started targeting the injured leg. Bryan still managed to get the Yes Lock in, but Cesaro powered out and stomped on his knee. Some fluid chain wrestling and a series of holds ended with Cesaro grabbing the rope to force a break. Cesaro hit a suplex off the top rope, but Bryan still kicked out. An uppercut and the Neutralyzer finally scored Cesaro the win to end a fantastic match. Having seen how they handle momentum for Cesaro over the past 8 years I can’t say I’m hopefully it’ll lead anywhere, but it was some damn good wrestling.
Lessons in Reading Comprehension
Paul Heyman presented Adam Pearce and his new associate Sonya Deville with a no DQ contract for the universal championship match at the Royal rumble. Pearce wisely registered this as a chance for Reigns to beat the absolute hell out of him, but he signed the contract anyway. Later in the night, Roman told Heyman No-DQ was so 2020, and he wanted a Last Man Standing match instead. Heyman was skeptical that Pearce would agree, but Reigns pointed to his new friend Apollo Crews and said Crews would back up his very strong suggestion. Crews being recruited in Reigns’ entourage could be fantastic- especially as he gets another shot at the IC title next week. In the main event, Reigns came to the ring to sign his Rumble contract with Pearce, who looked much more comfortable in a classy suit than his Planet Fitness gear last week. Pearce initially signed the contract, but then dropped a bomb- he wasn’t medically cleared to compete. Instead, he announced that he had found a suitable replacement, and Kevin Owens music hit. Roman looked like he was hit with the worse migraine of his life as KO signed on the dotted line. This is, understandably, a significantly more enticing match for the Rumble, and a fair way to work Owens back into the story after Roman refused to fight him again.
Best Friends Beat Moderately Good Friends
Killian Dane made his 205 Live debut last night as he teamed with partner Drake Maverick to take on Curt Stallion and August Grey. Dain being 100 pounds over the weight limit didn’t seem to be an issue, even though Maverick himself once disqualified Buddy Murphy from appearing on the show when we weighed in at 207. 2018 was a different time. Maverick and Stallion started off, with Maverick managed to out-maneuver the Lone Star and still execute some peak British dance moves. A very excited Grey tagged in to face Dain, who easily knocked him down in a crossbody attempt. Dain slammed Maverick onto Grey, then swung his partner on his shoulders to lay out both Stallion and Grey. Maverick called for a dive from Dain, but once again found himself the missile to wipe out the duo on the outside. A headbutt from Stallion let Grey get a headlock on Maverick, but Drake made it to his corner to tag Dain, who cleared house yet again. Stallion barely broke up a pin from Dain on Grey, but he couldn’t put away Maverick. A double powerbomb on Stallion got Maverick and Dain the win, and your favorite small and tall couple advance in the tournament.