Alexa Bliss Squashes Asuka, Randy Orton's Haunting Promo, More WWE Raw Fallout
Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton dominated the conversation Monday night on WWE Raw, writing new chapters in a program that will eventually bring them together and The Fiend back to life.
That storyline dominated on a night that also saw the latest in Charlotte Flair's budding rivalry with father Ric and Lacey Evans, as well as the continued head-scratching utilization of Ricochet.
Dive deeper into those topics and how they may affect the futures of those involved with this recap of the January 18 episode of WWE's flagship show.
Alexa Bliss' Dark Turn, Squash of Asuka Makes for Defining Night
When it comes to Raw's watchability of late, there are few who can claim credit more than Alexa Bliss.
The five-time women's champion has embraced her evil harlequin character to its fullest, investing herself in the haunting persona and delivering some of her finest work to date.
Monday, she introduced a new element to the act with a mid-match transformation and squash victory over Asuka that has her poised to capture the Raw Women's Championship sooner rather than later.
Not only did The Goddess excel during her "Alexa's Playground" segment with The Empress of Tomorrow—intimidating the champion while alternating between addressing her and the absent Fiend—but she was also utterly dominant between the ropes in a way that we have never seen her before.
There will be some who take exception to the idea that she could match Asuka between the ropes and even decry how the titleholder was disrespectfully utilized, but that is more a WWE Creative issue than anything Bliss has done to somehow steal her spotlight.
She has been extraordinary throughout this story and that did not change Monday night. She has carried her share of the feud with Orton, and the result is a star burning (pun intended) as brightly as it ever has.
Here's hoping Bliss can continue to excel with the material given to her because she has been instrumental in making the rather repetitive and unmotivated Raw brand more entertaining than it otherwise would be.
Randy Orton Evolves as Feud with Bliss, The Fiend Burns
Though it felt a lot like Randy Orton had just watched Jordan Peele's modern masterpiece Us, looking like a combination the film's young pyromaniac Pluto and Mr. Wrestling II, there is no denying that he hit the opening promo of this week's Raw out of the ballpark.
And only The Viper could.
A less-experienced or less-talented performer would have ventured way past the line of ridiculousness, making the segment laughably bad. Instead, Orton kept it grounded, thanks to his steady and consistent tone.
Like Bliss, he is wholly invested in what he is doing. He believes his words, understands what management is calling for with this storyline and is delivering it to the best of his ability.
Does that mean he agrees with all of it? Probably not. Some of it is so far out of the realm of ordinary that it would be difficult to imagine the grizzled veteran with roots in old-school wrestling would agree with some of the absurdity of it all.
However, he absorbs the material, strikes the right tone and has delivered beyond expectations. It is further evidence of Orton's greatness as a performer.
Not only can he execute the stories with Edge and Drew McIntyre that he did throughout 2020, but he can also flip a switch and work in the supernatural with The Fiend and Bliss, all while remaining completely believable.
That is the sign of a performer far and above the majority of his peers and another reason why the red brand is incredibly lucky to have The Viper firing on all cylinders during what has been a tumultuous stretch for the flagship show.
Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see if the mask sported by Orton remains a part of his performance or if it is a short-term deal thing to bridge the gap until Bray Wyatt returns in all of his fiendish glory to write the latest chapter in the program.
Lack of Explanation by Ric Flair Hurts Storyline with Charlotte, Lacey Evans
The Lacey Evans-Ric Flair relationship works if there is a reason behind The Nature Boy's actions toward his daughter, Charlotte.
As it stands, we have yet to hear that reason.
Yes, we got a look at the manipulative and controlling Evans Monday night as she repeatedly interrupted Flair during a backstage promo, but two weeks into The Nature Boy's return, there really should have been some hint of why he would so blatantly cost his daughter wins.
He nearly did it again Monday when The Queen battled Peyton Royce.
Is it possible he is merely smitten with Evans and willing to break his father-daughter bond for the sake of a new female companion? Sure, but it would seem to fly in the face of the dad who has stuck by his daughter's side no matter how many times she has disrespected and talked down to him.
Maybe therein lies his reasoning.
After giving her everything and helping her chase success as a wrestler, maybe he is tired of being treated badly by Charlotte.
Whatever the case may be, WWE Creative owes its audience an explanation because Naitch's actions have not been in keeping with his previously established bond with Charlotte.
What Is the Endgame with Ricochet?
Ricochet's feud with Retribution felt like redemption of sorts for the former United States champion.
After spending most of 2020 as an afterthought in a show he should be starring in, he found himself regularly on television against a talented crop of young talent. Then, he dismissed the idea of joining the group and even beat Mustafa Ali to get one over on the faction.
Then, it was over.
What felt like the start of something big for The One and Only was, instead, another example of the start-and-stop booking that has plagued him since his main roster debut.
Monday only enhanced that sentiment as he battled AJ Styles for a spot in the men's Royal Rumble match. He lost, all but ensuring he will not compete in the annual spectacle.
In a match affording 30 Superstars the opportunity to compete, one of the most talented and awe-inspiring performers of his generation will watch from the sidelines as WWE trots out legends of bygone eras to pop the crowd for one night, again turning to nostalgia rather than creating new stars to carry the company forward.
Maybe this is part of Ricochet's redemption story, a "one step forward, two steps back" approach.
While that may sound good in theory, its execution has only further devalued a guy who should have been a sure thing the moment he first appeared on television.