Quick Takes on AEW's Brodie Lee Tribute, Rhea Ripley's Final WWE NXT Match, More
2020 was nothing short of a tumultuous year for WWE and All Elie Wrestling, especially in regard to how the pandemic affected their ability to create electric atmospheres because of the lack of fans in attendance.
Even with a limited audience, however, AEW managed to deliver arguably its strongest episode of Dynamite to date Wednesday night while celebrating the life and career of the late, great Brodie Lee. The former AEW TNT champion died Boxing Day, and the tribute show the promotion held in his honor was the perfect way to close out the year.
With 2021 here, it is a time of new beginnings for both WWE and AEW. NXT, in particular, will be kicking off the year in exciting fashion Wednesday with New Year's Evil, an event that could well feature Rhea Ripley's final appearance on the brand.
If she's headed for Raw, she will have to prepare for the creative turmoil that has plagued the show for many months. That was evident Monday night, when The Miz, despite failing to capitalize on his Money in the Bank contract cash in at the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-view, was given back the briefcase by WWE official Adam Pearce.
With the way he's been booked over the past year, The Awesome One would be almost impossible to take seriously as WWE champion.
WWE's bizarre decision to make Miz Mr. Money in the Bank yet again will be discussed in this installment of Quick Takes along with what needs to change in the Kevin Owens-Roman Reigns rivalry, whether Bobby Lashley is primed for bigger and better things in 2021 and more.
AEW Perfects Brodie Lee Tribute with Emotional Episode of Dynamite
AEW's Brodie Lee Celebration of Life edition of Dynamite on Wednesday night was everything it needed to be and so much more.
The former AEW TNT champion was a part of the promotion for less than a year prior to his death, yet he was given the star treatment—as he should have been. By all accounts, he was an exceptional human being and beloved by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Between the emotional retrospective to the touching tributes from the wrestlers, the two hours were perfect. That's in addition to all of the matches that were held in his honor, featuring members of his Dark Order.
The episode ended on an emotional note when AEW President Tony Khan and Cody Rhodes presented Lee's son, Brodie Jr., with the AEW TNT Championship, the same belt his dad held over the summer. It's safe to say there wasn't a dry eye in the house and that AEW did Lee's life and legacy justice.
The cameo from Erick Rowan, who teamed with Lee for years in WWE, was a terrific touch as well. AEW deserves major props for putting together a show that allowed everyone to grieve as a community and pay their respects to a man whose impact on the industry will be felt forever.
Kevin Owens Can't Continue to Get Annihilated Every Week
There can be little doubt that the trio of Roman Reigns, Jey Uso and Kevin Owens have been the best part of SmackDown for the past month. They were once again the highlight of Friday's episode, on which Owens battled Uso in a heated main event.
The only issue with the program has been that Reigns and Uso have stood tall over Owens almost every week. Although it has effectively established the dynasty as dominant heels, it hasn't done Owens many favors.
The story seems to be that Owens refuses to stay down and will battle back from anything and everything Reigns and Uso throw at him until he becomes universal champion. He's been booked as a resilient babyface, but he also hasn't been able to win when it has mattered most—or at least whenever the gold is up for grabs.
Uso cost Owens the Universal Championship on back-to-back occasions toward the end of 2020. Owens had his chance to avenge his actions by beating him on SmackDown, but Reigns wasted no time in ambushing the former NXT champion and throwing him through a table to close the show.
As cool of a visual as it was, it sent the message that Owens has no friends and shouldn't be taken seriously as a contender to the title. Worse yet, the odds of him defeating Reigns for the belt are slim to none, with other opponents seemingly being lined up for Reigns at WrestleMania 37.
It's acceptable to keep his feud with the heels going because of how well they work together, but Owens needs to get one over on them at some point to prevent him from appearing like a loser.
WWE Returning the Money in the Bank Briefcase to Miz Was the Wrong Call
Aside from the occasional win, The Miz hasn't had a lot of luck lately. He failed to win after cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase at TLC and then lost in embarrassing fashion to Gran Metalik on Raw.
Despite his misfortune, WWE gave him back the contract on Monday's Raw. This was one week after he claimed that John Morrison cashed it in at TLC instead of him and thus it didn't count.
The company went with that logic, raising the question of why it bothered putting Miz into the match that night in the first place. Not only was it a waste of a cash-in, but Miz also feels more like a loser than he did then because of how he's been booked.
On paper, Miz was a better choice to be holding the briefcase than Otis when he beat him for it in October, but that doesn't mean he should be next in line for a run with the WWE Championship. If Miz had the momentum he did back 2016 or 2018, then absolutely. But it would be virtually impossible for fans to take him seriously in that role in his current state.
There are a handful of Superstars who would make for stronger opponents for McIntyre in the months ahead. There's no reason for Miz to continue holding the contract if the endgame is for him to lose again, and having him take the title from McIntyre would be an even worse option.
The Miz character needs some serious rehabbing before he can be viewed as being a main event player, and putting the briefcase back with him will do nothing to change that.
WWE May Be Quietly Grooming Bobby Lashley for a Main Event Push
Although Bobby Lashley has been out of the WWE Championship picture since the summer, he has been heavily protected in that time. In addition to capturing the United States Championship back at Payback, he has won a majority of his matches and has forced Jeff Hardy to submit on the past four episodes of Raw.
WWE wouldn't be giving him such a strong push unless there was something else to it. Secondary champions usually fall victim to bad booking, but Lashley has been the exception to that and is building momentum by the week.
It's possible he's gone undefeated so that it will mean more when he loses the star-spangled prize, but there's also the chance it's because bigger things are in store for him sooner rather than later. That would explain why he was the second person to declare himself for this year's men's Royal Rumble match Monday night.
He and Drew McIntyre worked well enough together at Backlash in June that a rematch for the top title at WrestleMania 37 wouldn't be out of the question. Even if that isn't in the cards, a match against Brock Lesnar has to happen at some point, and this could be WWE's way of making him feel like a threat to The Beast Incarnate when that comes to fruition.
Either way, the tear Lashley has been on lately has been a breath of fresh air considering how underutilized he was for his first two years back in the company. He's finally the monster heel he should have been a long time ago, and a sustained main event run should be his next step.
New Year's Evil Should Mark Rhea Ripley's Swansong from NXT
Of all the matches set to take place at Wednesday's special New Year's Evil edition of NXT, the Last Woman Standing match between Rhea Ripley and Raquel Gonzalez has best chance of stealing the show. More importantly, it may prove to be the last we see of Ripley in NXT.
Ripley has been a staple of the NXT UK and NXT women's divisions for the past two-and-a-half years. She was the first to hold both of their women's titles in addition to headlining a TakeOver event, ending Shayna Baszler's record-setting reign, and defending the NXT Women's Championship on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
Her stock took a bit of a dip following her loss to Charlotte Flair, but she did manage to work her way back up the ladder in the second half of 2020 with wins over Gonzalez and Mercedes Martinez. Having lost recently to Io Shirai and Toni Storm, it looks like Ripley is one more defeat away from being main roster-bound.
As established on the most recent edition of NXT, Ripley and Gonzalez have been close for years. With the way Gonzalez has been built up lately, it's safe to assume she will win Wednesday and go on to contend for the NXT Women's Championship.
That would also free up Ripley to transition over to either Raw or SmackDown, potentially as soon as the Royal Rumble. Of course, WWE doesn't have the greatest track record with NXT call-ups on the main roster, but it's a move that has to be made seeing as how she's done all she can do on the black-and-gold brand.
The women's Royal Rumble match would be the perfect time to reintroduce her to the masses and kick off what could be another huge WrestleMania season for her. The NXT women's division is so stacked that it shouldn't miss a beat once Ripley is no longer in the mix.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.