It’s been a difficult week for the wrestling community, with the sudden and heartbreaking loss of Brodie Lee last Saturday. Lee, known as Luke Harper in WWE from 2012-2019, was an incredible talent and the tributes posted in the wake of his passing have made it clear that he was an even better man, husband, and father. I never met Lee, never saw him perform live, and yet, like many fans, I felt a deep and difficult sadness when I read what happened. It’s a strange relationship, to see someone perform on your television most weeks, to be involved or attached to their character, to appreciate the talent behind the gimmick. Others have said far more far better- Colette Arrand wrote a wonderful ode to Lee’s career and the immense hole he’s leaving behind- but I’ll throw my small hat in the ring for Brodie Lee. He’ll be sorely missed. Much of the roster offered personal tributes to Lee throughout the week, giving this week’s shows a slightly different feel as we rolled into 2021.
Sheamus and Keith Lee decided to settle their differences with an old fashioned big boy brawl, with the winner getting a chance to challenge Drew McIntyre. Sheamus started off with a Brogue Kick before the bell, much to Drew’s chagrin. McIntyre and his oiled upper body joined commentary as Keith and Sheamus went at it, offering some insights into the Celtic Warrior’s new ‘tude. Sheamus overpowered Lee and ground his face on the mat, going after Lee’s injured shoulder. Lee battled back with some shots to the stomach, then tossed Sheamus to the outside. Sheamus scaled the ropes and delivered almost a meteora to Lee on the outside, knocking Keith onto commentary. Back in the ring, Sheamus got Five and a half beats of the Bodhran, but Lee blocked his attempt at a flying clothesline. He knocked Sheamus down with a big shoulder tackle, but the Celtic Warrior just kicked out. He hit White Noise for a 2.5 count, and Sheamus shocked. A fired up Sheamus slapped Lee around, but it only encouraged Keith as he delivered two headbutts and a massive Spirit Bomb to get the win. This was a very physical match, exactly what you’d expect from these two.
Shayna Baszler Ruins Everything (Again)
After Flair and Asuka claimed the Women’s Tag Titles from Jax and Baszler, Charlotte and Nia went one on one with their respective friends at ringside. It’s great to see Charlotte back, and even in two weeks she’s already bolstered the women’s division immensely. Partly, because they never really bothered to develop many other women on Raw while she was gone, but it’s also always fun to watch the Queen in action. Charlotte sent Nia out of the ring with a drop kick through the ropes, but Jax came back in to meet Charlotte’s strikes. Another drop kick sent Jax into the commentary desk, and Asuka wiped out a Baszler attempt at interference. Charlotte sent Nia into the steps and went for the Figure Four, but Jax sent her into neck first into the turnbuckle. Flair came back and battled Jax into the corner, then escaped a Samoan Drop for a 2.5 roll up. Jax countered the Big Boot into a powerbomb, and Charlotte just kicked out. Charlotte almost got the Figure Four when Baszler came to the rescue, getting Flair in the Kirifuda Clutch for the DQ. Asuka ran the team off, and we’ll likely get a rematch for the tag titles in the near future. Jax and Flair worked well together here- it’s not often we see somebody who can match Nia for power. Baszler and Jax still feel like a mismatch tag team that would be better suited in singles runs, but it also seems like WWE has forgotten the Raw Women’s title can be defended. It’s hard to keep track of two separate women’s titles, I guess.
Pyromaniac Gets Christmas Wish
All night, commentary hyped Randy’s visit to Alexa’s Playground, which is a very questionable sentence that I am currently forced to type. As Alexa cut a promo on the swing set about The Fiend, complete with a “yeah, yeah, yeah” for Brodie, Randy snuck into the Funhouse. He demolished all the puppets, including decapitating Ramblin Rabbit, and praised Bray’s beautiful depiction of that time Randy burned down his ancestral home. Alexa challenged Orton to a match, which could have actually be great if it happened. In the main event, Alexa came out micced up, which already gave away that we had a very slim chance of seeing her hit Twisted Bliss on Orton. Randy was ready to see The Fiend, but Alexa went to grab him a big present waiting at ringside instead. She opened it to reveal a can of gasoline and matches, which is exactly what Randy asked for. Alexa set them on the ground and asked Randy to set her ablaze. Literally. When The Viper wasn’t enthused, she poured the gas herself and ruined a perfectly good pair of fishnets as she laid down. Randy, for his part, stood there looking as bored as one can in this situation. With his reputation, I imagine this isn’t the first time Orton’s gotten this request. Alexa called him out for being sexist in his arson pursuits and dumped the entire thing of gasoline in her head, but still Randy refused. He wouldn’t do what he wanted, because it was what she wanted, which made it not what he wanted. The lights went out and he lit a match, but the show faded to black before we could see the conclusion. It’s not impossible to build an entire angle around Randy being into setting people on fire, but this hasn’t quite caught on the way they wanted.
Bite to Win
New Year’s Evil is just around the corner, and NXT celebrated with their annual end of the year awards. After winning team of the year, the resident himbo of Undisputed Era (and that’s a some stiff competition), Roderick Strong faced Pete Dunne to remind us that the sins of 2018 will never be escaped. These two were very evenly matched, trading mat holds early on. Pete went for the fingers, as he likes to do, while Roddy screamed in pain. Strong powered to his feet and dropped Dunne into the ropes, then followed up with some hard strikes. He delivered a kick through the ropes that sent Pete flying into the barricade. Dunne took control back in the ring, sending Strong into the corner. A huge drop kick sent Pete to the mat, and both guys were down. Roddy landed series of punches and a big slam, but Pete still kicked out. Strong countered the Bitter End for another slam on the apron, and still Dunne made it out at 2. Pete stomped away on Roddy’s chest, then went for the Triangle choke for a second time, but Roddy landed several punches to force him to break it. Pete kept hold of Strong’s wrist and snapped the fingers, then landed Bitter End to score the win. This was hands down my favorite WWE match of the week- it’s hard to imagine these guys not putting on magic together.
New Champ Rings in New Year
New Intercontinental Champ Big E came out looking incredible in black and gold with his title before he faced King Corbin. Corbin was, of course, flanked by the Knights of the Lone Wolf, who dress like frat boys attending their first career seminar. E was in control early on, much to Sami Zayn’s chagrin on commentary. Corbin started to mount a comeback until E hit the Big Ending, but before he could get the 3 count, Sami ran in to beat him down. The Blake and Cutler joined in, leading Apollo Crews to come in and clear house. This led to a tag match-Corbin and Sami vs Big E and Crews. The heels were in control as we started, with Corbin tossing Crews to the outside for the knights to dig in. Sami tagged in to drag Crews back into the ring, but Apollo hit a huge powerslam to make the tag to E. He hit a splash on Corbin, but couldn’t capitalize. On the outside, Sami got into an argument with Blake and Cutler, distracting Corbin and giving Crews a chance to run him down. Sami tagged in and almost hit the Helluva Kick on Corbin, but another argument with Corbin left him all alone as the knights and their king hit the road. Apollo hit a sit out powerbomb to score the win, and that was all she wrote for poor Sami. We’re getting Apollo vs Big E for the IC title next week, which is a very encouraging start to the year.
Sasha and Bianca teamed again this week to take on Bayley and Carmella, feat Reginald the sommelier. Bianca and Carmella started us out, with Corey being a regular wife guy on commentary. Bianca overpowered Carmella early on, and she tagged in Bayley to take on the EST. Banks and Belair double teamed the heels on the outside for a two count on Bayley. Bayley and Carmella fired back, keeping Belair from making the tag as Bayley landed a big elbow. She tied Bianca up in the ropes and worked on her elbow, following a superkick from Carmella. Belair kicked out of a roll up and landed a vertical suplex on Bayley, but Carmella tagged in to prevent Bianca from reaching Banks. Finally, Belair tagged in the Boss, who took down Carmella. Bayley tried to eliminate Bianca’s braid from competition, but Belair sent her into the ring post. In the ring, Carmella hit a superkick, but still found herself caught in the Bank Statement. Reginald ran in to pull her free, but risked his perfectly tailored capri pants when he found himself facing Banks, who slapped him in the face, even after some impressive athletics from the sommelier. Carmella took advantage of the distraction to land a Mella buster and pin the champ. Carmella and Bayley teaming works weirdly well, and Banks and Belair are an incredible duo, to the surprise of no one.
Bad Luck Kev
Roman Reigns tried to kick off the New Year with his winning smile and backhanded compliments to his cousin, but Kevin Owens had other plans. He interrupted and called out Jey for interfering in his two title oppprtunities. Roman was outraged, but after demanding a match from Adam Pearce, Kevin vs Jey was our main event. KO started out heated, stomping on Jey and throwing him into the corner. A senton got him a two count, and he started to target Uso’s leg. Uso made a small comeback, but Owens wasn’t down for long, as he sent Uso into commentary. After commercial, we came back to see Owens score a quick victory, and then go to town some more on Jey Uso’s leg. He hit a stunner and dropped Uso like a sack of potatoes, but Reigns didn’t take the bait. Owens brought out his own handcuffs and attached Uso to the ropes so he could beat on him some more. Still, Roman wasn’t interested; I guess he’s got plenty of other cousins. Owens said he would bring Uso back to Reigns and the two made their way up the ramp, but Jey tried to break away. Kevin hopped up on the ThunderDome screens and was sniped by Reigns, who tossed him into the fake crowd. Reigns and Uso double teamed Owens, throwing him off the bleachers and through a table to close the show. Roman and Jey continue to look dominant, but what a performance from Kevin. While Uso vs KO wasn’t the main attraction here, I wouldn’t mind another full length match between the two down the line. Once Kevin’s entire torso heals from that bump, that is.
Cowboy Curt and Friends
Curt Stallion has been #1 contender to the Cruiserweight Title for at least a month or two, but he hasn’t quite gotten his shot for reasons unknown. Instead, it will be Gran Metalik who faces Escobar at New Year’s Evil, which is a huge win for anyone who enjoys wrestling. Still, Stallion continues to wait in the wings as he teamed with Ever-Rise to take on the Bollywood Boyz and Ariya Daivari this week. The Bollywood Boyz controlled Martel for a while, until Daivari tagged himself in. Martel tagged in Stallion, who hit a sudden DDT and almost won. Daivari came back in and unloaded on Stallion; Samir went for the dive but Stallion rolled out of the way and he connected with Daivari instead. Ariya threatened to leave and the Boyz tried to convince him otherwise, as Stallion landed a dive to knock them all out. Ever-Rise hit a doubleteam in the ring, and Parker got the pin on Samir to score one for the good guys.