WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from January 25
Six days before the Royal Rumble, WWE Raw hit the USA Network needing to build anticipation and excitement for the annual extravaganza and sought to do so with a faceoff between WWE champion Drew McIntyre and Hall of Fame No. 1 contender Goldberg.
That segment headlined a show that also saw a championship defense and another Superstar looking to earn a title opportunity.
What went down, who built momentum heading into Sunday's event and what does it mean for the Raw brand moving forward?
Find out with this recap of the January 25 broadcast.
Drew McIntyre and Goldberg Face Off, The Miz Teases Money in the Bank
WWE champion Drew McIntyre returned two weeks after his positive COVID-19 diagnosis for a showdown with Goldberg, six nights before his date with the Hall of Famer at Royal Rumble.
McIntyre discussed his recovery from the illness and put over his top contender, noting that Goldberg has defeated every opponent he has come back and challenged. He vowed to put an end to the WCW icon's newest streak...just in time for Mr. Money in the Bank The Miz and John Morrison to interrupt the proceedings.
The former tag team champions teased Miz cashing in Money in the Bank on Sunday night.
Goldberg entered the ThunderDome and came face-to-face with McIntyre. "You. Me. Sunday. You're next."
The babyfaces wiped out Miz and Morrison with a spear and a Claymore, respectively, before coming face-to-face once more in a final sell-job for their PPV title clash.
There is a lot to be said about WWE turning to another star of yesteryear to bolster one of its pay-per-view main events, but in terms of putting the final sell on Goldberg vs. McIntyre, this worked extremely well, and that is because the company's creative team didn't overthink things.
Goldberg is a badass. McIntyre is a badass. This had a badass staredown and let the visual speak volumes. On top of it all, WWE Creative planted the seeds for Miz to cash in Money in the Bank in a moment that would throw WrestleMania prognosticators into an uproar.
A hot start to the show.
Charlotte Flair vs. Shayna Baszler...Until It Wasn't
A year ago, Charlotte Flair vs. Shayna Baszler would have been a pay-per-view main event.
Monday, the second-generation competitor and The Queen of Spades battled in a singles match that lasted mere seconds before Nia Jax saved partner Baszler, drawing a disqualification. Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke hit the ring to fend off the heels until Lacey Evans joined the fray, an all-out brawl leading into the commercial break.
Predictably, a Six-Woman Tag Team match ensued following the timeout.
Flair and Baszler paired off briefly before the fight spilled to the floor. Then, referee John Cone called for the bell, stating the latter did not beat the count back into the ring. He awarded the contest to the babyfaces.
WWE official Adam Pearce restarted the match during the break.
Jax downed Brooke, wearing her out with a modified cobra clutch. Brooke fought her way back into the match and made the tag to Rose. The Golden Goddess laid out Evans while Flair flattened Baszler with a spear.
Brooke continued her gutsy fight with Jax, only for The Irresistible Force to deliver a choke bomb and leg drop for the pinfall victory.
Flair defeated Baszler via disqualification
Flair, Rose and Brooke defeated Baszler, Jax and Evans
Baszler, Jax and Evans defeated Flair, Rose and Brooke
Two false finishes? That botched countout?
Why WWE decided it was necessary to overbook a match it very easily could have booked from the get-go is a question only it can answer, but the result was a confusing couple of minutes that ultimately gave way to a fun, energetic tag bout that highlighted Jax.
It's not surprising that WWE opted to put the emphasis on her, either. The Royal Rumble match is one that, historically, features a dominant competitor at some point. Jax can fill that role, the female equivalent to Big Show or Kane.
Would it have meant more if she pinned Flair? Sure, but it served its purpose.
Xavier Woods vs. Slapjack
Mustafa Ali's personal vendetta against Kofi Kingston again reared its ugly head this week as the beloved babyface's tag team partner Xavier Woods battled Ali's Retribution henchman Slapjack.
Woods took the fight to the masked villain, rocking him with the Honor Roll and picking up the win with a shining wizard, staring at Ali as he made the cover.
After the match, T-Bar flattened Woods on the floor and then joined Mace for a double chokeslam bomb at the direction of Ali. The leader of the faction ordered Slapjack to retrieve a chair and then demanded Woods look at him.
Ali sat in front of Woods and addressed him. "All this talk of being a king of the ring, but you sure look like a peasant now." He told Woods to deliver a message to Kingston: Though Kofi cannot compete because of injury, there is a replacement. And his name? Mustafa Ali.
Woods defeated Slapjack
Ali is one of the most engaging and intriguing characters on Raw, and this storyline with New Day is great stuff. "KofiMania happened at my expense!" he exclaimed in his pre-match promo and then sent the former WWE champion a message in an apropos twist of fate.
See, Kingston capitalized on an opportunity presented him as a result of Ali's injury. Now, Ali enters the Royal Rumble match as a replacement for the injured Kofi. It's karmic, and while Ali is unlikely to win, it throws gasoline on a fire that should result in some great in-ring work and storyline potential when Kingston returns from injury.
Riddle and R-Truth Interrupt 'The VIP Lounge'
The Hurt Business hit the ring for another edition of "The VIP Lounge."
United States champion Bobby Lashley and Raw tag team champions Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin expressed their gratitude for MVP's belief in them by presenting him with a "THB" necklace. Alexander took credit, further creating tension between him and Benjamin, before 24/7 champion R-Truth interrupted.
The usual suspects arrived in time to chase after the 24/7 title but found themselves on the receiving end of a beatdown at the hands of the no-nonsense Hurt Business. This left MVP alone in the ring, where Riddle appeared and rocked him with a big knee strike.
Riddle escaped, leaving the dismayed faction to stare him down.
This was fine for what it was and further hinted at an eventual split between an overzealous, overconfident Alexander and an increasingly peeved Benjamin.
Beyond that, it was further proof that three hours is entirely too long for a wrestling show and leads to the presentation of mostly unnecessary segments. Everything about this could have been accomplished in the framework of a match rather than in an entirely separate segment leading to a match featuring the same crop of Superstars later in the show.
It overexposes the talent and gives fans the option of changing the channel if they are not sold on what they have seen out of the performers.
Sheamus vs. John Morrison
Earlier in the afternoon, Sheamus and John Morrison were announced for the Royal Rumble match. In the evening, they battled in a singles match while The Miz, totally coincidentally in wrestling gear, watched from the floor.
A spirited back-and-forth exchange early gave way to Sheamus grounding Morrison with an armbar. The Shaman of Sexy recovered briefly but ate an Irish Curse as the former WWE champion continued to control the pace.
Morrison finally turned the tide in his favor, targeting the left leg of The Celtic Warrior.
Sheamus caught Morrison mid-flight and drove him into the mat en route to a near-fall. The heel answered, hanging his opponent up on the top rope. Sheamus rebounded, rocked Morrison with a knee to the face and put him away with White Noise for the win.
After the match, Miz challenged Sheamus to a two-on-one match, citing the need to "keep your head on a swivel."
Sheamus defeated Morrison
Anyone who remembers the battles Sheamus and Morrison had a decade ago knows how good, physical and hard-fought they were. This was a nice reminder, as the strikes were solid and the chemistry was clearly still there.
The only thing hurting the match's ability to garner a higher grade was the lack of time. This felt very much like a match that had a lot more to offer but fell victim to time constraints. Given how good this was, WWE officials might want to consider a rematch on a grander stage at some point in time.
The Miz issuing the challenge for a handicap match is, as we have already discussed, textbook WWE overexposing its talent.
Sheamus vs. John Morrison and The Miz
Back from the break, Miz and Morrison beat down Sheamus, using the numbers game to their advantage as they punished The Celtic Warrior and wore him down ahead of Sunday's Royal Rumble match.
The fight spilled to the floor, where the former tag team champions downed him. Miz and Morrison punished Sheamus, dominating him for the majority of their clash.
The Irishman fought back, laid into the opposition with 10 Beats of the Bodhran for each man and set up for the Brogue Kick. Morrison grabbed his leg, but Sheamus recovered and rocked him with his finisher. The Miz capitalized on an opening and delivered the Skull-Crushing Finale for the win.
Miz and Morrison defeated Sheamus
This really positioned Sheamus as a world-beater, a guy who showed tremendous guts in accepting the challenge of former tag champs and nearly upset them. His performance on this night is most notable, but it still raises the question: Why did this handicap match exist?
Miz and Morrison got back a semblance of heat, but a win in a handicap match does not make up for Morrison's loss moments earlier and the ass-whupping they caught in the opening segment. No one really benefited from this, especially considering we already knew Sheamus is double-tough.
It was, like most segments when WWE looks to eat up time with overly long matches, good enough but not at all a necessary part of the show.
R-Truth vs. AJ Styles
Earlier in the show, R-Truth told Adam Pearce he wanted an opportunity to prove he could compete in the Royal Rumble match. AJ Styles, on a roll of denying Superstars said opportunity, stepped up to battle the 24/7 champion in a non-title bout.
An angry, determined and focused Styles systematically picked Truth apart. When the beloved babyface tossed him to the floor in a preview of Sunday's Rumble, Styles answered with raw intensity.
Truth again mounted an offensive, channeling John Cena as he delivered the Five Knuckle Shuffle. An attempt at the STF proved costly as Styles reversed into the Calf Crusher for the win.
Styles defeated Truth
Well, this got Styles on television and reminded us that Omos is really, really tall.
Otherwise, it was an uncompetitive match that saw a former world champion beat a comedy act.
Ahead of her Raw women's title match against Asuka later in the show, Alexa Bliss joined us for a remote edition of "Alexa's Playground" and recapped the last few weeks in her feud with Randy Orton.
She said she could not wait to see "him" again, a reference to The Fiend, before revealing that she doesn't feel like playing this week.
The camera shot a close-up and, with the magic of preproduction, flashed bits and pieces of The Fiend's face with a voice-over of "let me in" while Bliss stared menacingly into the camera.
Was this little more than a recap segment? Sure.
Was Alexa Bliss utterly fantastic? Hell yeah.
Little Miss Bliss has been nothing short of extraordinary and one of the bright spots in some pretty awful episodes of Raw. She has completely embraced this character, and the result is one of the most interesting and engaging characters on the show.
It was on full display here, and the segment worked exponentially because of it.
Riddle Runs the Gauntlet
Riddle entered a gauntlet match for the opportunity to challenge United States champion Bobby Lashley on Monday night and immediately faced fierce competition in the form of Shelton Benjamin.
The former intercontinental champion downed Riddle with a spinebuster and dominated the majority of the action. An ill-timed bit of interference from Cedric Alexander distracted the referee and robbed Benjamin of a roll-up win. Seconds later, Riddle pinned him with a victory roll to eliminate Benjamin.
MVP, playing peacemaker, fell prey to a heel hook by Riddle and had no choice but to tap out.
Back from the commercial break, Alexander rocked his opponent with a gutbuster. Riddle answered with strikes, but Alexander downed him and scored a near-fall. MVP corrected him from ringside, telling him he would have had the win had he cradled his head, his tone that of a frustrated mentor.
Riddle delivered an exploder. Alexander countered a triangle choke with a powerbomb. Riddle recovered and caught Alexander with another victory roll for the win.
Lashley wasted no time sending a message to Riddle, beating him down and leaving him lying in the aisle.
Riddle defeated Benjamin, MVP and Alexander
Riddle and Alexander tore the house down in the final third of this gauntlet match, demonstrating the sort of chemistry that creates genuine excitement for an eventual showdown between them. Everything was smooth, flawless even. They cut an even pace and showcased some strong grappling and counter-wrestling until the finish.
It is that finish, as well as the mounting dissension within Hurt Business specifically involving Alexander, that really put this over the top.
What started subtly as professional envy on the part of Benjamin has evolved into overconfidence, arrogance even, on the part of Alexander. That is costing The Hurt Business the dominance it has enjoyed to this point. MVP's prized addition may be the very piece that brings about the group's unraveling.
That thread has helped make for one of the best ongoing stories on the Raw brand.
Edge returned to WWE television Monday with an update on his injury status.
He recalled the words of his mother shortly after he was forced to retire nearly a decade ago, giving up a World Heavyweight Championship he never lost.
He talked about the long journey back and the injury that derailed his comeback a year ago.
Finally, The Rated-R Superstar announced his entry into the Royal Rumble match this Sunday night in the biggest blockbuster announcement of the show to this point.
Edge delivered his typically excellent emotion-filled promo, painting the picture for the audience and letting them know how incredibly important going out on his terms is to him.
He reminded us of the obstacles before looking forward, announcing his return in the Rumble and leaving it up to fate, determination and grit to decide whether he will have the outcome he so desires.
The announcement adds another layer to Sunday's pay-per-view and provided that boost in significance to a show that had done a rather so-so job of conveying the importance of the event to The Road to WrestleMania.
Raw Women's Championship Match: Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss
A week after thoroughly defeating Asuka, Alexa Bliss sought to win a shiny new toy as she challenged The Empress of Tomorrow for the Raw Women's Championship.
She threw the already-concerned champion off early in the match, tossing her to the floor and then riding a toy horse in the middle of the ring.
She dominated the action, overwhelming Asuka with an arsenal of mind games.
The champion mounted a late-match comeback before Bliss' old theme music played and she appeared in her old Goddess apparel. Appearing confused and scared, she lured Asuka in and sent her into the corner. The lights dimmed and a pink light engulfed the ring.
Bliss shook off a knee to the face and applied the Mandible Claw...just in time for a burned Randy Orton to appear and deliver an RKO. The show went off the air with Orton standing over Bliss.
Bliss defeated Asuka via disqualification
The layout of the match and the theatricality within is not something everyone will be eager to embrace. Traditional wrestling fans will denounce it, while fans of theatricality will champion what this Bliss character brings to the table.
It creates controversy and debate, something that is rarely bad in wrestling.
With that said, there is a very real issue with the way Asuka has been used throughout her title reign.
Never the star, always the second-most-important performer in any storyline she has appeared, she continues to be underutilized and mismanaged by a creative team that has never understood or embraced what Triple H and NXT accomplished with her.
She deserves better than that.
Randy Orton dropping Bliss with an RKO was the next natural progression in this story, so the show-closing angle was fine in that regard. Unless The Fiend returns at the Rumble, this was a curious conclusion to the final episode of Raw before the PPV.