WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from January 18
It's not often a WWE show ends with a fireball. Alexa Bliss made a lasting impact when she threw a fireball into the eyes of Randy Orton. Just one week later, The Goddess was set to speak on the January 18 edition of Monday Night Raw, only the beginning of a major night for Bliss.
She also returned to the ring in a huge non-title clash against Asuka. The Raw women's champion has been absolutely dominant, but she has never faced this new dangerous form of The Goddess.
The Hurt Business has tormented everyone on Raw. One man constantly on the group's radar has been Riddle. This week, The Original Bro teamed up with Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik to face Bobby Lashley, Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin.
The Royal Rumble is less than two weeks away, and that means it is time for wrestlers to build lasting momentum. Only one man and one woman can get to WrestleMania 37 through the Rumble match.
This January 18 episode did not promise much before the show, but three hours on the road to Royal Rumble cannot be anything less than memorable.
Randy Orton Addresses His Burn Wounds at the Hands of Alexa Bliss
After a video package celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Randy Orton spoke in a dark ring, wearing a mask to protect his burned face. He explained that he was lucky, only taking first-degree burns to his face.
He warned that his compassion was now gone. He blamed The Fiend for what happened, even though he was burned alive. He told Bray Wyatt that he would not stop him from winning his third men's Royal Rumble match. He promised he would compete even masked.
This was all too much, even for WWE. The dramatic music in the darkened ring just did not land. The mask looked too absurd to sell the idea that The Viper was burned in any way. It all came off as WWE taking an already-ridiculous story too far.
There is so much happening right now with Wyatt, Bliss and Orton. The production focus is selling this like a completely different show when the three are involved. If WWE is not careful, this angle will come crashing down into the realm of self-parody.
Charlotte Flair vs. Peyton Royce
Backstage, Charly Caruso asked Lacey Evans and Ric Flair about their relationship. The Sassy Southern Belle was not interested in any gossip.
Evans did not have time to get her front-row tickets before Peyton Royce attacked Charlotte Flair from behind. Evans' partner dominated early in this contest, blasting The Queen at every opportunity. Fully distracted, Charlotte struggled to even put together a comeback.
An elbow smash set up a hanging neckbreaker from The Queen, but Ric and Evans finally arrived. The Sassy Southern Belle came out in a dramatic Flair robe, setting up Royce to blast the former women's champion with a big boot. However, neither woman went down easily.
Royce hurt her left knee, and The Queen knew exactly what she needed to do. She set up her signature finisher with a series of knee drops and then locked in the Figure-Eight, forcing a tapout. Afterward, Charlotte refused to relent, holding the submission well past the bell.
Charlotte def. Royce by submission.
This was a major opportunity for Royce, who rarely gets to work solo, let alone in matches this long. While it was not a mess, there was certainly room for improvement due to what seemed to be a lack of strong communication.
The story was there, but the two did not carry it through. Charlotte was not nearly as aggressive as she sold at the end of the match, and Royce was too focused on kicking Charlotte rather than wearing her down with a focused attack and clever shortcuts.
She used an impressive, varied move set that could pair well with Charlotte in the right type of match. This showed that Royce has the stamina for lengthy contests but may need a stronger road agent behind her to help frame the work.
Xavier Woods vs. Mace
WWE showed the interview Mustafa Ali recorded earlier in the day where he explained that he wanted to hurt Xavier Woods to break Kofi Kingston's spirit, the man who stole his opportunity two years ago.
Ali talked trash to Woods before the match and got a fist to the face for it. While Woods kept that fire, the group at ringside was too much of a distraction. Ali took a baseball slide into the table and lost his cool. He demanded Mace finish it, and Mace obliged, hitting a leg lariat and spin-out fireman's carry slam for the win.
The leader of Retribution smiled at the fallen Woods and told him that he would soon join Kofi out of action.
Mace def. Woods by pinfall.
Other than a sloppy finish, Mace looked good working with Woods. This was a fast-paced contest built around the overwhelming odds that Woods had to overcome. He fought hard but clearly needs help against Retribution's size and power.
Ali's explanation for coming after Woods was further proof that he is carrying Retribution through all of this. He sold a midcard angle by putting it in focus with a WWE Championship opportunity he lost because of Kofi. His anger felt real in every word. It will be fun to watch Ali vs. Kofi soon.
Asuka Walks off Alexa Bliss' Playground in Fear
The video aired Sunday announcing the location for the next three WrestleManias was replayed. Asuka was asked about what she expected from Alexa Bliss tonight, and The Empress of Tomorrow seemed uncertain and perhaps worried about the dark side of Bliss.
The Goddess introduced Alexa's Playground to Asuka before making clear she would enter the women's Royal Rumble match. Asuka tried to play nice with Bliss, but she only seemed to get on The Goddess' nerves. After she invoked Bray Wyatt's name, The Goddess scared the Raw women's champion into walking away.
This was a much better angle than the first part of the Wyatt/Bliss story for the evening. The Goddess carried this segment with her manic energy.
From speaking to an empty swing set that Bray Wyatt once sat on with her to almost exploding when Asuka invoked Wyatt's name, Alexa's dynamic with Asuka was well set up. It will be interesting to see if this leads to WrestleMania.
The Goddess is well-established as a rival for Asuka and probably the clearest-cut challenger to The Empress of Tomorrow on the current Raw roster.
Shayna Baszler (w/ Nia Jax) vs. Mandy Rose (w/ Dana Brooke)
Jeff Jarrett predicted that Goldberg would defeat Drew McIntyre at the Royal Rumble. Shayna Baszler explained that she was willing to do anything, including going through Nia Jax to win the women's Rumble, which ticked off The Irresistible Force.
Jax watched on commentary as The Queen of Spades went after the elbow of God's Greatest Creation. A vicious stomp on the left elbow left Mandy Rose working with only one good arm to fight back. A fierce comeback was not enough as Baszler manipulated the elbow and caught her in the Kirifuda Clutch to win.
Dana Brooke knocked Jax into the steel post as the heel team argued at ringside. Backstage, Baszler demanded another shot at the WWE women's tag team champions Charlotte Flair and Asuka. The Queen said in an interview that she was now focused on hurting Lacey Evans.
Baszler def. Rose by submission.
This was a solid short squash where Baszler and Rose worked the style that works best for both of them. However, this contest did not need to happen. This was close to the same match from last week with the same result.
Rose and Brooke are supposed to be a tag team with some clout while Baszler and Jax continue to fracture. Despite this, the heels have dominated to the point of ending this feud weeks ago. It is time to move on.
It is not surprising that Jax and Baszler are falling apart. The two were never a well-established team and add little to the women's tag team division. It is a shame that the two have not already broken up so that Baszler could go after the Raw Women's Championship alone.
Royal Rumble Opportunity on the Line: AJ Styles (w/ Omos) vs. Ricochet
Adam Pearce explained to Ricochet that he would only earn a spot in the men's Royal Rumble match if he won against AJ Styles. The Phenomenal One mocked The One and Only as a loser not worthy of the Rumble.
Ricochet came out confident from the onset, faster and more aggressive than Styles. Omos caught The One and Only jumping and dropped him to the floor. This allowed The Phenomenal One to take over with vicious focus, even nearly taking the win with a brainbuster.
Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm that The One and Only turned into the Recoil for a near-fall. The two fought on the top rope, and Styles knocked him down. He bounced Ricochet off the top rope right into the Styles Clash to win.
Styles def. Ricochet by pinfall, confirming The One and Only would miss out on the men's Rumble match.
Ricochet came to fight, putting in one of his best performances on Raw to date. He and Styles brought it throughout. This may have been their best match together. It truly showcased why The One and Only deserves so much better than he gets.
That was the main part of this segment that hurt. Ricochet should be able to declare himself for the Royal Rumble. He is a former United States champion and made an impact in last year's Rumble. It makes no sense to keep him out of the match.
WWE's insistence that certain stars must earn a spot in the Rumble establishes a bad message to the roster. It shows fans that there is an unspoken hierarchy where certain stars earn their opportunities while others are given those spots. Either anyone should be able to declare, or everyone should have to earn it.
The Miz and John Morrison Host Gillberg and "Drew McIntyre" on The Dirt Sheet
The Miz and John Morrison introduced the biggest star to ever appear on The Dirt Sheet, Goldberg. However, it turned out Miz and Morrison had actually brought Gillberg. Drew McIntyre's music hit, but it was another impersonator.
The A-Lister and The Shaman of Sexy quickly lost interest in their terrible McIntyre impersonator from New Jersey. Miz took over and explained that McIntyre and Goldberg would lose come the Royal Rumble because Miz would cash in and take the WWE Championship.
The only thing keeping this above a completely failing grade was seeing Gillberg again. The Goldberg impersonator suffered a heart attack in November. Getting this chance to return to his role in January is a testament to his strength.
Beyond that, this was a trainwreck. The McIntyre impersonator was bad intentionally, but Miz and Morrison added nothing to any of this by ultimately announcing Miz might cash in soon. It was just a way to keep people talking about McIntyre vs. Goldberg with neither available.
Lucha House Party and Riddle vs. The Hurt Business
Riddle played nice with Hurt Business until he decided to throw a snide comment toward Bobby Lashley. The All Mighty attacked and injured The Original Bro's left foot.
Cedric Alexander talked trash to his own tag team partner Shelton Benjamin, far too cocky for his own good. His own partners were not interested in letting him tag out afterward, and Alexander almost got rolled up for three by Lince Dorado.
Finally, Benjamin forced his way into the match and threw around Dorado. The All Mighty did damage as well before more miscommunication ensued, angering MVP. Benjamin knocked Alexander clear out of the ring. After talking to MVP, Alexander seemed to refocus.
The heel failing to put Dorado away, though, set up a big hot tag to Riddle. The Original Bro moved quickly in spite of his foot, hitting a Final Flash knee followed by a Floating Bro that just barely missed. Gran Metalik took the tag and went down to a brainbuster followed by a Spear and the Hurt Lock.
Afterward, The Original Bro caught The All Mighty with a kick before bailing.
Hurt Business def. Lucha House Party and Riddle by submission.
This six-man tag team match was a couple of minutes too long, but the storytelling was on point. The whole contest built around Alexander's conflict with Benjamin and Lashley. The miscommunication explored the one way that the dominance of The Hurt Business can be stopped, internal conflict.
Hopefully, this tease will not play out fully. The Hurt Business has not been at full strength for long. Alexander just won the Raw Tag Team Championships with Benjamin. A tease for later is fine, but it is far from the right moment for a breakup.
Jeff Hardy vs. Jaxson Ryker (w/ Elias)
Drew McIntyre spoke from his home gym, calling The Miz and John Morrison clowns. He gave respect to Goldberg but was confident he would give everything to remain WWE champion. The Scottish Psychopath promised he would return next week to Raw.
In a locker room, Elias told Jaxson Ryker to listen clearly and not mess up like last week. While Ryker had The Charismatic Enigma struggling for a time, Hardy hit the Twist of Fate and then set up for the Swanton Bomb. The Living Truth knocked Hardy off the top rope to cause a disqualification.
Afterward, Ryker and Elias argued about another miscommunication, and Ryker took out The Charismatic Enigma in anger.
Hardy def. Ryker by disqualification.
This felt rushed and unnecessary. These two fought last week, yet this week Hardy was better than Ryker. The miscommunication between Elias and his biggest fan does not do anything for this brand-new duo. The two should be working together well early.
There may be a plan long-term. For the moment, Elias vs. Hardy continues on endlessly. The feud ran its course months ago.
Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss was outmatched early. Asuka came after her with vicious strikes, and The Goddess could only escape outside the ring. Suddenly, the lights went down, and Bliss changed completely, staring down the Raw women's champion without emotion.
Asuka was caught off guard and found herself struggling to match the speed and intelligence of Bliss. The Goddess dominated The Empress of Tomorrow, blocking and dodging her best strikes. Asuka barely escaped the Mandible Claw but got planted with a left hand.
The Empress fought back with a series of vicious roundhouse kicks, but Bliss felt no pain, planting Asuka with Sister Abigail to capture an impressive victory. Afterward, Bliss switched right back to her smiling persona.
Bliss def. Asuka by pinfall.
This started out as expected but transformed into something completely unique. Much like Wyatt has two personas, it seems The Goddess has her own dual personalities, inhabited by The Fiend. This was the first time that Bliss has ever wrestled a new style in the ring, and it worked for her.
The contest felt shockingly like a squash. It was the first time fans have ever seen Asuka so outmatched. This type of contest may have been best saved for a moment where the title was on the line, but the effect was clearly felt. Bliss just became a true threat to the Raw women's champion.