The Raw before the Royal Rumble features a spelling bee, some half-joking father/son confrontation, one great match, and a birthday celebration that couldn’t possibly go badly. Read on for a full report!
Opening up the night is a weigh-in between WWE Champion Brock Lesnar and his challenger Bobby Lashley. Lashley is announced at 273 pounds while Lesnar, refusing to remove his big ol’ plaid coat, weighs in at 286. I hope that you find that information truly compelling.
Lashley is mad that Lesnar isn’t taking this seriously, and two men that thrive by having other people speak for them have a go at each other on the mic. It goes about as well as you’d expect. Lesnar takes a strange path by saying that people will be referring to Lashley as “Bobby Who?” after he beats Brock for the title. Burn, I guess? The champ did just predict his own loss.
Jimmy Smith and Byron Saxton extoll the importance of the Royal Rumble by looking back on Bianca Belair’s win from last year. It’s so strange seeing clips of big moments in front of the ThunderDome.
Bianca Belair VS. Queen Zelina
Right out of the opening lock-up, Belair picks up Zelina like a toy and drops her on the apron. The Queen is not amused, so Belair picks her up again and swings her into the ring, laying her out soon afterwards with a dropkick. Zelina responds with a jawbreaker, but Belair regains the advantage with an extended press slam, though it’s interrupted by Zelina who wriggles out and cinches in a chinlock while perched on Bianca’s back.
Belair just keeps on overpowering Zelina though, with a suplex and stalled suplex, and even blocks the Code Red and turns it into a KOD for a pretty easy win.
Winner via pinfall: Bianca Belair
Backstage in the locker room, Kevin Patrick has some questions for Kevin Owens about his questionable in-ring antics against Damian Priest last week. Owens is offended and promises to fight his way to a championship victory tonight.
Kevin Owens VS. Damian Priest (champion) for the United States Championship
Owens tries a stunner at the bell, but Priest blocks him and sends him into a corner, slugging him repeatedly. Owens surprises the champ with a shoulder block and a senton, but Priest interrupts a cannonball attempt and instead kicks Owens out to the floor. He gives chase and runs him into the barricade, and after the fight goes back into the ring for a moment, Owens launches himself back out towards Priest on the floor, only for the champ to get his knees up and take command going into commercials.
Back from the break, Priest is going for a superplex but Owens counters with a tornado DDT and quickly follows with a frog splash, and seems to be suddenly unanimously the crowd favourite as they bemoan Priest kicking out before a three-count. Owens take a wicked swinging kick to the face and has to kick out of a pinning attempt, then slinks into a corner and indicates his left arm is hurt. Priest is taking none of it and moves in to stomp Owens despite the admonishments of the ref.
Owens was indeed playing possum and tries for another stunner, but Priest pushes him away and rolls him over with a hard clothesline. Priest backs Owens into a corner and pounds away at him, again ignoring the ref repeatedly until the official calls for the bell.
Winner via disqualification: Kevin Owens, but STILL United States Champion: Damian Priest
Time for one of my favourite annual traditions as we hear short snippets from a series of wrestlers pitching their case to win their upcoming Royal Match. For now, it’s Dana Brooke, followed by Liv Morgan, Tamina, Carmella, and Nikki A.S.H. — they all express their belief that it’s their match to win.
Rhea Ripley, Liv Morgan, & Dana Brooke VS. Tamina, Carmella, & Nicki A.S.H.
Brooke and Tamina open up the contest, but after Tamina throws Brooke around for a bit the 24/7 champ scrambles to her corner for a tag to Ripley. She comes in hot with a dropkick before knocking Nikki and Carmella to the floor as well. Ripley drops Tamina with a headbutt and a low dropkick, then holds her in a bridging suplex for what was pretty well a three count, but delayed long enough for Carmella to come in and “break it up”.
It’s then time for a “one at a time” moment as each woman enters and lands a big move before the dust settles and Carmella is trapped in Ripley’s inverted cloverleaf, tapping vehemently.
Winners via submission: Ripley, Morgan, & Brooke
Nikki lands a cheap shot on Ripley on her way out of the ring.
Kevin Patrick is in the ring with The Alpha Academy, ready for the academic challenge that awaits Randy Orton and Matt Riddle. Chad Gable lets the crowd know that there are three events awaiting RK-Bro over the coming weeks. Gable also announces himself and Otis as entrants in the Royal Rumble, where Corey Graves attempts to convince us us of how hard it’s going to be to eliminate Otis over the top rope. Big John Studd and Yokozuna. That’s it for big men winning the Rumble (unless you want to count Strowman winning The Greatest Royal Rumble).
We finally find out what’s happening tonight and it’s a spelling bee. Otis is up first and correctly spells “emmental” (a Swiss cheese). Riddle then gets his word: calibration. He asks for the word to be used in a sentence, then realizes he calibrates his scales for “weighing stuff”, which gets the crowd all excited. Anyway, that helps Riddle spell it correctly.
Gable gets “disillusion” and spells out “dissolution”, and is infuriated when told he is incorrect. Now it’s Orton for the win, and if they don’t ask him to spell out “RKO” then I don’t know what the point of all this is. Nope, he gets “dumbbell” and spells it correctly. Gable is even more upset, which leads to…
Randy Orton VS. Chad Gable
A slow start here with lock-ups, headlocks, and a lot of glaring. Gable picks up the pace with a pair of quick arm drags. As Orton charges out of a corner, Gable tries for a third only to have Orton back away and nearly land an RKO. Gable then nearly gets an ankle lock on Orton, forcing to escape as well.
A series of strong uppercuts in the corner rock Gable and send him to the floor, but Orton simply stalks him and drops him from up high onto the announcer’s table. After Orton throws Gable back inside the ring, Otis distracts Randy just long enough for his partner to chop block Orton and drop a top rope moonsault on him for a two count before a commercial break.
Coming back, clotheslines and a big backdrop from Orton put him in control of the match, followed by his greatest hits of a backbreaker, rope-leveraged DDT, and a scoop slam. Gable dodges a punt, though, turning it into an ankle lock. Orton powers out, sending Gable into the corner and bouncing back into an RKO for the win.
Winner via pinfall: Randy Orton
Riddle grabs a mic and says that since RK-Bro won the academic challenge they get to pick the next contest, and Riddle picks a scooter race. As an academic contest — he picked a scooter race.
Next up is Alexa Bliss’ latest therapy session, as her doctor tries to get to the heart of her connection to Lilly. Bliss says she’s always been there to support her when she was bullied as a kid. She goes on and on about all the candy she and Lilly would eat, and it simply fades out and that’s the whole segment.
Next, Vince McMahon and Austin Theory catch up, as Theory asks if a later number in the Rumble would be a possibility for him. McMahon wonders why Austin would think he has any influence over that at all. Instead, McMahon tells him that he’d better focus on his next match.
Austin Theory VS. AJ Styles
Theory pushes Styles into a corner and Jimmy talks about “the power of Austin Theory”, saying that Styles shouldn’t try to match strength with Theory. That’s just silly. Anyway, Styles doesn’t match power, he just dropkicks Theory in the face and sends him rolling to the floor, following up with a phenomenal-ish forearm. Back in the ring, Theory strings together a nice sequence ending with a snap suplex, but Styles counters with hard chops, kicks, and a leaping knee drive on top of Theory’s head before delivering his own snap suplex.
Theory gets the advantage back by throwing Styles hard into the corner, which Styles takes chest first in a way that would make Bret Hart proud. A superplex attempt is thwarted, though, so Theory changes gears and dropkicks Styles off the top all the way down to the floor.
Coming back from commercials, Theory is still in control as he launches Styles with a high back body drop, but Styles responds soon afterwards with an inverted DDT, a suplex into a neckbreaker, and a low diving forearm, all of which nets but a two-count. A rolling blockbuster by Theory and a Pele Kick by Styles continues the back-and-forth, before Theory shakes the ropes to send Styles tumbling in mid-Phenomenal Forearm,. Theory tries a dirty pin which the referee stops, allowing Styles to try the forearm again, nailing it this time for the win.
Winner via pinfall: AJ Styles
A split-screen interview segment with Becky Lynch and her Royal Rumble challenger Doudrop is up next. Lynch wants to be thanked for giving Doudrop this opportunity, while the challenger is supremely confident that a title change is imminent. As Lynch rants, Doudrops takes off her mic and leaves the interview. Lynch continues talking herself up when Doudrop enters, I guess having known where the champ was all this time. That seems like it should have been an avoidable situation.
Elsewhere backstage, Sarah Schreiber talks to Rey and Dominik, who have differing opinions on which Mysterio is going to win the Rumble.
The Street Profits (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins) VS. The Mysterios (Rey & Dominik)
Dominik starts with his bouncy offense, leaping off the ropes to bring Dawkins down with an arm drag, but Angelo puts him in his place with a flying elbow. Dominik sends Dawkins to the floor with a sort-of-hurricanrana, then dives through the ropes (and between his father’s outstretched legs for some reason) to continue the assault. With Rey on the outside as well, Ford does his great-looking Superman dive over the top to take them both out.
After a commercial break, it’s still Dawkins and Dominik until the younger Mysterio drops Angelo with a tornado DDT which allows for a double-tag. Rey lands a vertical senton from the top rope, but Ford pivots from a backdrop to a straight-up launching of Rey. Ford is sent into the ropes and ready for a 619, but he catches Mysterio and carries him into the middle of the ring where Rey rolls him up for the win anyway.
Winners via pinfall: The Mysterios
After the bell, Dominik tries to throw his father over the top rope, but Rey reverses him out instead. Ford then chucks Rey, Dawkins does the same to his partner, and finally Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler throw Angelo out before all the good guys team up on the Dirty Dogs.
Kevin Patrick is back again, backstage with Seth Rollins. The Universal Championship challenger feels really good about his odds at the Rumble, and promises one more visit to SmackDown this week.
We’re going to wrap up the evening with The Miz celebrating Maryse’s birthday in a ring loaded with blown-up posters, presents, and cake. As Maryse joins him in the ring, The Miz touts the top-of-the-line security that he has hired to keep Edge and Beth Phoenix away from the event. Maryse opens a present before asking to open the big one, but The Miz says he thought that was something she got for him.
He summons security to open it up, but it was a ruse. Inside is the brick that Maryse used on Phoenix last week. The Miz instructs the crowd to stand up and sing Happy Birthday. Music hits and The Miz delivers an awful rendition before Edge and Beth interrupt. Security tries to stop them but they prove to be less than top-tier. They lay waste to all of them and tear up the celebration set in the ring.
All in all, a pretty flat ending to the show.
Monday Night Raw, Jan 24th, 2022
As always with Raw, it’s hard to gauge its true value because there’s just too much of it. There were some good bits, a great match between Theory and Styles, but so much filler than it all gets bogged down. A highly predictable ending also did nothing to cap off the show and drum up excitement for Saturday’s PPV.