WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from January 11
WWE is preparing for the Royal Rumble on January 31 but Monday's news could change things.
Drew McIntyre has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be self-isolating for at least two weeks, which means there is a possibility he won't be back before the pay-per-view.
The most important thing is the WWE champion's health, so the company should plan around the possibility of not having him at the event, which means Goldberg might need something else to do.
McIntyre addressed the WWE Universe this week and Triple H opened the show. No other segments were advertised ahead of time, so the creative team was probably writing the show until the last minute.
Let's take a look at everything that happened on Monday's Raw.
A Feud Reborn
After a recap video of last week's show, Triple H made his way to the ring. He spoke for all of five seconds before being interrupted by Randy Orton.
The Viper thought he deserved to have the WWE title handed to him due to McIntyre being out of action, but Triple H told him he would have to win the men's Royal Rumble match.
The Game and The Legend Killer went back and forth as they always do. HHH said he was proud of Orton when he put his own career ahead of everything else by lighting The Fiend on fire.
He also said he doesn't understand why Orton felt the need to embarrass so many legends. The Viper said he is in his prime and challenged Triple H to a match.
The Game turned him down at first but then punched him in the face, which Orton took as an agreement to fight Monday night.
Triple H and Orton have been feuding on and off for almost two decades. There is no new ground to tread. This was a rehash of stuff we have seen a dozen times.
Both guys pulled off their part in this segment but it fell flat because it felt too pre-planned, which is ironic seeing as it was probably something they set up late in the day.
WWE has plenty of people who could have opened the show but this was sufficient. It just wasn't anything special.
Charlotte Flair vs. Lacey Evans
Charlotte Flair gave an interview before the match, saying she and her father know things can get heated but there is no problem between them after last week. She also said Lacey Evans is not the first woman to hit on Ric in front of her.
They locked up and The Queen forced Evans to the corner. She knocked The Sassy Southern Belle down with a running shoulder but let her get to her feet.
Charlotte talked a lot of trash as she chopped away at her opponent. She began working over the knee of Evans but failed to apply the Figure Four. For some reason, Ric's music hit and he made his way to the ring as the show cut to a commercial.
The Queen continued to control the majority of the action until Evans ducked a big boot and whipped her down by her hair. As Charlotte was about to pin Evans, The Nature Boy placed The Lady's foot on the bottom rope.
Charlotte began to yell at him and he tripped her during a suplex and helped Evans win by holding her feet to prevent a kickout. Evans and Ric celebrated in the aisle.
If Asuka is the Raw women's champion, why is Charlotte treated like the biggest star?
There is no denying how good The Queen is, but WWE needs to start using the rest of the women's roster in meaningful ways. Naomi is healthy. Where is she?
The match between Evans and Charlotte was kind of slow and illustrated how much Evans still needs to improve in the ring before she is on The Queen's level.
The alliance between Ric and Evans feels random, but it's still new. Let's give it time before we judge the storyline harshly.
Jeff Hardy vs. Jaxson Ryker
The second match of the night saw Jeff Hardy take on Elias' new heavy, Jaxson Ryker. After an initial onslaught from Ryker, Hardy took him down and prepared for the Swanton.
Elias provided a distraction and Ryker rolled Hardy up for the win. The Charismatic Enigma grabbed a mic and challenged the musician to face him. He said Elias was scared the world would think Ryker is better than him, so Elias told him not to interfere under any circumstances.
After a break, the second part of this got started. Elias took an early lead and aggressively cornered Hardy for some shots to the body. The high-flyer took him down with Whisper in the Wind for a two-count.
The Enigma hit a Twist of Fate and a Swanton for the win. As ordered by Elias, Ryker did nothing to help.
The match between Hardy and Ryker was obviously meant to build up heat for the bearded duo, but all it did was make Hardy look more gullible than he should be after more than 20 years in the business.
Elias and Ryker might work as a pairing eventually, but they would be better off as a tag team. It's a weird look when the bodyguard is slightly smaller than the guy he is supposed to be protecting.
Hardy is always fun to watch but even he couldn't pull a great match out of this situation. It wasn't bad. It just filled time.
The Miz and Morrison vs. Sheamus and Keith Lee
After a confrontation backstage, Sheamus and Keith Lee put their differences aside to take on The Miz and John Morrison in a tag match.
JoMo and The Celtic Warrior started but Lee was quickly brought in by Sheamus for a double-team combo. They showed no signs of animosity and seemed to want to work together.
The Limitless One threw Morrison into The Miz and then tagged Sheamus. They seemed to be having fun as they took turns beating on their opponents. Lee crushed Morrison in the corner and the top rope snapped off the turnbuckle in what appeared to be a planned spot. Sheamus looked entertained.
We returned to see The Miz hit Sheamus with a DDT for a near-fall. The A-Lister cornered him so he and Morrison could take turns beating him down to the mat.
Lee got the hot tag and started bulldozing over both opponents. Sheamus tagged himself back in to hit the Brogue Kick for the win. They hugged and shook hands after the bell.
Surprisingly, Lee and Sheamus not only managed to get along, but they also made for a pretty good tag team. They hit some good double-team moves and had no communication issues until the end when the Irishman stole the win. Lee didn't even look mad about it.
If the plan is for Sheamus and Lee to become a tag team permanently, they would be quite the force. Two versatile powerhouses like them could help add some depth to the division.
This was the first match of the night that was worth watching from start to finish. All four guys looked good, and the spot with the top rope breaking was both surprising and entertaining.
Keith Lee vs. Sheamus
While they may have been getting along before the break, something happened during the commercial that caused Lee and Sheamus to get upset with each other.
The match got started right away. They traded strikes until Lee hit a huge headbutt. He tied up Sheamus against the ropes and lit him up with clubbing blows to the chest.
The Celtic Warrior took him out at the knee and whipped his left arm into the ring post a few times. He spent the next few minutes keeping The Limitless One grounded with various holds.
Lee lifted him off the mat and dropped him to break an armbar before hit the Spirit Bomb for the pin. Lee offered Sheamus a fist bump after the match but the Irishman hugged him instead.
Well, this certainly changed things. The announcers seemed just as confused as everyone watching at home as to why they were mad at each other. It made no sense.
Had the commentary team said something happened during the break, this might have been fine. They were hugging each other and smiling, so their renewed hostility seemed too sudden.
Thankfully, the two of them beat the stuffing out of each other and put on a good match. Sheamus' chest was quite red after all of the shots he took from Lee.
The feud between Lee and Sheamus might not be original, but at least they work well together. It will be interesting to see if they become a tag team or if this was just a way for them to move on.
T-Bar vs. Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods came out by himself to take on T-Bar, who had the rest of Retribution by his side. Mustafa Ali asked where Kofi Kingston was as his man took control.
After a couple of minutes of T-Bar dominating the match, Woods hit a jawbreaker to give himself a chance to recover. He started to build up a head of steam as he hit a series of different moves.
He nailed a missile dropkick that sent T-Bar out of the ring and followed up with a dropkick through the ropes. A distraction from Ali allowed T-Bar to yank Woods into the top rope.
He picked Woods up and hit his finisher, which the announcers called Eyes Wide Shut, for the win.
This was decent but would have benefited from being a bit longer. Kingston will be out for a few weeks with a broken jaw, so that is why Woods was by himself.
Retribution is finally starting to pick up a little momentum, but WWE needs to start letting Ali deliver the same kind of promos he has been giving on Raw Talk lately.
Bobby Lashley vs. Riddle (United States Championship)
Bobby Lashley was flanked by MVP as he came to the ring for his United States Championship match against the man who defeated him last week, Riddle.
The All Mighty attacked his opponent before the bell to get an early advantage. Riddle told the ref he could continue and as soon as the bell rang, Lashley began punishing him in the corner.
He dumped Riddle out of the ring, but The Original Bro was able to shove him into the ring post and hit a Floating Bro at ringside. Lashley caught him in midair and slammed him to the mat before applying The Hurt Lock for the submission victory.
Riddle called out MVP on the mic and challenged him to a match. The Hurt Business leader seemed happy to accept as the show went to a break. We returned to see them already fighting as MVP hit the Ballin' Elbow for a two-count.
Riddle took control but Lashley hit him with a Spear to cause a disqualification.
If the plan was to make Lashley look dominant, this match accomplished that goal. It made Riddle look weak, but he is young enough to recover from this kind of loss in no time.
It was a little strange to see this end so quickly, but this week's show was not exactly planned well, so it wasn't surprising.
The second match between Riddle and MVP was another example of somebody pulling double duty this week and a possible sign of WWE being shorthanded. Is it possible there are more Superstars with COVID than we were told or is the company just being careful by having fewer people involved in the production? It's too early to tell.
Lashley looked strong, MVP looked like a wily veteran and Riddle got his butt kicked more than once. That just about sums up everything.
Drew Gulak vs. AJ Styles
Drew Gulak asked Adam Pearce for a spot in the Royal Rumble, but the WWE official said he had to earn his spot by defeating AJ Styles.
The Phenomenal One took control early but Gulak was able to turn things around and almost won with a couple of pinning combinations.
Styles dumped him over the top rope to the floor and Omos stood nearby. Gulak saw his giant foot and looked up to see the imposing figure looming over him.
Styles brought him back into the ring and hit the Phenomenal Forearm for the victory.
WWE gives us two great wrestlers like Gulak and Styles in a match together and only lets them go for a couple of minutes. Go figure.
They could have put on a Match of the Year candidate under the right circumstances. Instead, WWE had Gulak job to Styles for no reason.
Nobody gained anything. Styles was already in the men's Rumble match and now Gulak has to try to earn another spot next week if Pearce lets him. More filler.
Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax vs. Dana Brooke and Mandy Rose
Dana Brooke and Mandy Rose declared themselves for the women's Royal Rumble match in a quick backstage promo before this contest got started.
Shayna Baszler took control of Rose almost immediately but was unable to do her signature arm stomp. Brooke and Nia Jax came in, and The Irresistible Force took her down with ease.
Rose tagged in and had a burst of offense before Jax picked her up for a Samoan Drop. Brooke barely managed to break up the pin. Jax stacked them up in the corner for a running splash.
Baszler tagged herself in and locked Rose in the Kirifuda Clutch for the win. Jax did not look happy.
The longer this show went, the harder it got to watch. Nothing about it was exciting or new, with most of the segments accomplishing nothing and most of the matches being too short to be anything special.
It's hard not to feel sorry for everyone on the show this week. Most of them tried but they were not given anything meaningful to work with.
Triple H vs. Randy Orton
Orton hesitated to get into the ring at first but once he did, Triple H decked him right in the mouth. However, The Viper fired back with some punches of his own.
The Game ate a kick to the face and Orton brought him out of the squared circle. Trips sent him into the steel steps and both men went down.
Triple H found his sledgehammer under the ring and set his sights on his former protege. As he walked up the steps, the lights began to drop in the arena. Orton and Triple H both looked confused, and The Game realized his hammer was on fire.
The lights went out and Triple H was gone. A distorted version of the Firefly Fun House theme song played as Alexa Bliss appeared in the ring. She shot a fireball into Orton's face as the show went off the air.
Orton and Triple H have fought so many times that it's almost impossible for them to do anything new. Luckily, they didn't have to fight for long.
The way the show ended was odd even for this episode. Triple H disappearing and Bliss shooting Orton with a fireball both need to be addressed next week.
Fireballs have been used many times in pro wrestling, and it always comes off as a forced attempt to do something violent without actually doing anything.
This was an odd ending to one of the weakest episodes of Raw in recent memory. Let's hope SmackDown carries the load this week.