Alexa Bliss Shoots a Fireball, Wasting Triple H and More WWE Raw Fallout
A major announcement ahead of the January 11 edition of WWE Raw changed everything: Drew McIntyre has tested positive for COVID-19.
The WWE champion has been the bedrock of the red brand for the past year, and the show wasn't able to function without him.
The Scot was supposed to answer Goldberg's challenge for the Royal Rumble and fight Randy Orton in the main event. While he remotely announced he would face the legend, it was Triple H who stepped into his shoes to face The Viper.
With the chance of tracing limiting the roster, other stars were left off the show. This led to a whole host of unnecessary double bookings. Keith Lee and Sheamus teamed together and then fought one-on-one. Riddle got squashed by Bobby Lashley and then wanted a match against MVP.
Drew Gulak got a chance purely because there was no else this week for AJ Styles to wrestle. He never had a chance, but he showed why he continues to be better than WWE gives him credit for.
The women's division looked short-staffed, though it was no more underutilized than before. Charlotte Flair fought Lacey Evans in an awkward spectacle that should be rethought before it gets out of hand.
The only saving grace was likely a segment that was the plan all along. Alexa Bliss interrupted the main event to attack Orton with a fireball, a spectacle of computer generation that WWE has avoided until this point. While it made an impact, WWE using CG might be a dangerous rabbit hole to fall down.
Without McIntyre and once more relying on the legacy of talent far beyond their prime, Raw only further proved that three hours of wrestling is far too much for WWE to be able to book convincingly.
WWE Using CG with Alexa Bliss Fireball Opens New Avenues or Dangerous Short Cuts
Alexa Bliss struck again. After Randy Orton chose not to burn The Goddess alive, she got her revenge by ruining The Viper's match against Triple H. She set his sledgehammer alight and then threw a fireball in his face to end the night.
The final minute of Raw was the most memorable of the show by a wide margin. That does not mean it was good, but it was certainly effective. Bliss has seemingly gained some ability to manipulate fire that may extend to Bray Wyatt on his return.
On the surface, The Goddess having the ability to set people ablaze with just the wave of a hand makes sense. It follows the powers of past supernatural entities such as The Undertaker and Kane. However, the use of computer graphics was a little too much on Monday night.
WWE has slowly introduced CG with production. Entrances of top stars include symbols floating above the ring, and it is also used to promote certain brands throughout the night. Outside presentation is fine, but the company is now setting a dangerous precedent that cannot be followed.
Cinematic matches allow wrestling to get weird. WWE should not extend that too far into what happens in the ring. If Wyatt can start using CG in his contests, it will distract from the match quality to the point of making everything feel more fake than it actually is. It will also hurt normal matches without CG.
While WWE may have something special, it must be used sparingly. Others have used fireballs in wrestling. The Deadman had lightning. With the progression of technology, this can be a tool for better storytelling, but it can also be a crutch the company overuses to the point of boredom.
Drew McIntyre's Absence Leads to Unnecessary Appearance from Triple H
The most egregious example of WWE's desperation on Monday night was bringing in Triple H last minute.
The King of Kings has been out of action for years, instead happily playing a role in building up NXT. At this point, he is best in the background similar to the legends on last week's Raw.
However, he was pitted against Randy Orton on Raw in a battle that seemingly never ends. If the plan was to put someone over by pairing them with HHH, anyone would have worked better than The Viper, who has been HHH's primary rival for much of the past two decades.
While it all ended up leading into a moment rather than a match, this only further emphasized that The Game was just there for the cheap attempt to draw in viewers. Anyone could have been in his spot in the main event. Christian has been in a similar position with Orton recently.
Over the last two weeks, WWE has brought in legends of the past to try to boost ratings for early 2021. It has led to a disastrous waste of time and talent. Three hours is far too long to keep fans invested in anything, especially a show that airs every week.
It is an indictment of WWE that the grand plan with Triple H was slotting him into the main event in Drew McIntyre's place as though both serve the same purpose for WWE.
These Superstars are not interchangeable, certainly not to those invested in the product.
Sheamus and Keith Lee as a Tag Team Isn't an Alternative to Pushing Them
With Drew McIntyre out of action, Keith Lee and Sheamus tried to reconcile their difference. The Celtic Warrior told The Limitless One that he respected him because his friend respected him, and they teamed together to defeat The Miz and John Morrison.
Afterward, though, they decided to fight. Lee put down the Irishman with a Spirit Bomb, and the two hugged afterward. This was an awkward segment for many to wrap their heads around, but it was likely a callback to the way The Celtic Warrior and McIntyre work together, then fight, and then remember they're friends.
This may be a way to get Sheamus and Lee out of the picture with McIntyre for a while. With the champion out for likely a few weeks before the Royal Rumble, the two cannot just be stuck waiting for him to return.
Both should be setting up to fight in the Rumble. Instead, they seem to be building each other up as a tag team. While The Celtic Warrior is a fantastic tag team performer, he is also great on his own. He has deserved this run as a solo star, and Lee is better off on his own.
If this is an excuse to not push either man, instead sending them after the Raw Tag Team Championships, it would be a shame. Lee and Sheamus should be among the top stars to potentially fight the WWE champion at WrestleMania 37.
Lacey Evans and RIc Flair Together Is a Waste of Everyone's Time
After seemingly costing his daughter a match last week, Ric Flair got involved in a contest between Charlotte and Lacey Evans. He set up The Sassy Southern Belle to take an upset victory over a multiple-time women's champion.
Evans and Flair seem to be selling a romantic angle that could rival the terrible Torrie Wilson/Dawn Marie angle with Torrie's father. This is a bad idea all around, and it could make a joke of so many involved.
Charlotte has been protected for so long. She has escaped her father's shadow and created her own legacy. This angle only emphasizes that she is defined by her generational status. It makes her dad her one weakness, which makes a mockery of one of the best women wrestlers in the business.
Meanwhile, Evans has gone from a potential title contender, particularly with Peyton Royce as a tag team, to an awkward gold-digger character. It has already been established that she is married with a daughter. WWE does not want to slip down this odd path.
For the sake of The Sassy Southern Belle's future and the potential for fans to take a talent-starved Raw women's division seriously, WWE needs to stop this angle in its tracks.
Let Evans and Royce earn their way to a title shot and tell a better story along the way.
Drew Gulak Deserves Better Than Working as a Backup
WWE official Adam Pearce did not allow Drew Gulak to add himself to the men's Royal Rumble match like so many others already have.
AJ Styles mocked The Philadelphia Stretcher, setting up a match between them where Gulak could enter the men's contest at the pay-per-view on January 31 if he won. But The Phenomenal One put away Gulak after a game performance.
Gulak deserves better than he has gotten these past few years. The former WWE cruiserweight champion is clearly well-respected for his work in the ring. He has been involved in training top stars at the Performance Center.
However, he cannot catch a break on Raw. He has become an inconsistently-used comedy act, playing the foil for R-Truth, but just like so many others before him, he was never going to truly live up to the legacy Truth has made with the 24/7 Championship.
With all the talent of Gulak, he should not be a last resort option after a COVID breakout. He should be one of the competitors in the men's Rumble match. Even if he is seen mostly as a comedy act, he should be used to his fullest. He could use some of the time Riddle gets each week with a similar level of respect in the ring.
There are few in the business as talented as Gulak. He and Daniel Bryan proved that in early 2020. It is a shame WWE could not keep that dynamic together. Still, he shouldn't need The Yes Man to get TV time on a three-hour show.