When Drew McIntyre was forced out of his planned WWE Raw main event with Randy Orton as a result of McIntyre’s COVID-19 diagnosis, it left WWE with a need to scramble to fill the void. Needing star power, WWE reached into the legends bag which resulted in Triple H’s first match since June 2019.
Triple H faced Orton in the night’s main event, though the match was cut short by the involvement of Alexa Bliss, still seeking revenge for Orton having lit “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt on fire at TLC. After making Triple H’s sledgehammer catch on fire, followed by Triple H disappearing, Bliss ended the night by shooting a fireball into the eyes of Orton. It was yet another odd wrinkle in one of the most unique storylines in recent WWE history. Now, once again, fans will need to wait a week for fire-related fallout.
Triple H returns, Orton hit with a fireball
Triple H was ready to open the show with an in-ring promo when he was cut off by Orton, who pointed out that “the office” showed up because Drew McIntyre is out with COVID. Orton asked if Triple H was there to either announce Orton as the No. 30 entrant into the Royal Rumble or simply hand him the WWE championship. Triple H asked if, after all these years, they’re now at the point of implied threats before saying Orton impressed him when he lit The Fiend on fire. That was, Triple H said, the exact thing he would have done in Orton’s position. He did not, however, support Orton disrespecting legends, especially Ric Flair. As tensions escalated, Orton challenged Triple H not to a match but to a fight instead. Triple H said no because there’s no benefit to him. Orton asked if Triple H was “unable to retrieve his balls” from Stephanie McMahon’s purse, leading Triple H to knock him from the ring. Later in the show, Triple H officially accepted the challenge.
Triple H vs. Randy Orton ended in a no contest after Alexa Bliss shot a fireball into Orton’s eyes. Triple H hit Orton with a right hand right at the start of the match, knocking him from the ring. The two brawled until they went to ringside where Triple H sent Orton into the ring steps. Orton used a thumb to the eye but was dumped onto the announce table. After bloodying Orton, Triple H grabbed his sledgehammer and was walking to the ring when the lights began to go out in the arena. Triple H’s sledgehammer was suddenly on fire and the lights fully went out, returning to reveal that Triple H had disappeared. A distorted version of the Firefly Fun House song played before Alexa Bliss was revealed as standing behind Orton. Bliss then shot a fireball into Orton’s face and Orton stumbled around in pain, clutching at his eyes as the show went off the air.
Almost everything involving Orton, Bliss and Bray Wyatt is a matter of personal taste. For some, it’s simply too corny to watch a dummy get lit on fire and Alexa Bliss shoot fireballs. For others, it hits an acceptable level of entertainment. There’s no real middle ground with an angle like this. The little we got of Triple H vs. Orton was solid fun, but it’s hard to not feel a little let down every time there’s a three-hour build to a match that then doesn’t fully happen, especially something like a Triple H return to the ring. All that said, the fireball is a classic bit of wrestling shenanigans, so it gets a slight bump. Grade: B-
What else happened on WWE Raw?
- Drew McIntyre spoke in a brief video, addressing his COVID-19 diagnosis. He said he does not have symptoms and urged everyone to take the virus seriously and take proper measures to prevent its spread.
- Lacey Evans def. Charlotte Flair via pinfall after interference from Ric Flair. Before the match, Flair explained that her father was at home and that there were no lingering issues despite his costing her a match by accident last week. Ric Flair’s music then hit during the match and he strutted to the ring. Ric blatantly helped Evans, putting her foot on the ropes and then tripping Charlotte to help Evans score the pin. Ric and Lacey hugged and left ringside together after the match.
- Jaxson Ryker def. Jeff Hardy via pinfall with a schoolboy pin. Elias claimed his thumb was injured and he couldn’t compete, then distracted Hardy to allow Ryker to score a very quick pin.
- Jeff Hardy def. Elias via pinfall after a Swanton Bomb. Hardy called out Elias to fight him, saying he knew Elias didn’t want the world to think Ryker was better than him. Elias agreed and winkingly told Ryker not to interfere. Hardy won the match clean, after which a confused Ryker told Elias that Elias said not to help.
- Sheamus & Keith Lee def. The Miz & John Morrison via pinfall after Sheamus hit Morrison with a Brogue Kick. The match came about after a backstage challenge by Sheamus and Lee. During the match, Lee pounced Morrison into the corner, causing the top rope to fall when the turnbuckle “broke.” Sheamus used a blind tag to tag himself in and steal the win for his team, but Lee and Sheamus hugged and celebrated the victory together.
- Keith Lee def. Sheamus via pinfall after a Spirit Bomb. The show returned from commercial and the two were now in singles competition. After a hard-hitting match, Lee scored the pin and offered a fist bump. Sheamus smacked his hand away and the two exchanged a hug.
- Drew McIntyre responded to Goldberg’s challenge. McIntyre said Goldberg was one of his heroes, but he was let down by the legend who put words in his mouth. McIntyre said out of respect, he didn’t want to respect the challenge of a man 20 years older than him. But after Goldberg put his hands on him, his mind changed, ultimately leading him to accept the challenge.
- T-Bar def. Xavier Woods via pinfall with Open Your Eyes. Woods did not have Kofi Kingston with him, and Retribution distraction allowed T-Bar to score the win.
- United States Championship — Bobby Lashley (c) def. Matt Riddle via submission with the Hurt Lock to retain the title. Lashley attacked before the bell, getting an early advantage and never really looking back before scoring a fairly easy submission win to get revenge after losing to Riddle last week. After the match, Riddle said he couldn’t beat Lashley, but sure as hell could beat MVP.
- Riddle def. MVP via disqualification after interference from Bobby Lashley. MVP wrestled in dress clothes, but Lashley interfered as soon as Riddle got his offense rolling. Lashley and MVP continued to attack after the bell.
- AJ Styles def. Drew Gulak via pinfall after a Phenomenal Forearm. Styles was talking to Adam Pearce about Pearce’s upcoming match with Roman Reigns at Royal Rumble when Gulak interrupted to declare for the Royal Rumble match. Pearce told him that with only 15 spots for Raw, Gulak would have to earn his spot, leading to the match. Gulak was competitive but came up short in the end.
- Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler def. Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke via submission when Baszler locked Rose in the Kirifuda Clutch. Before the match, Rose and Brooke declared themselves for the Royal Rumble — facing none of the pushback given to Gulak. Jax and Baszler won with relative ease, though Jax seemed bothered that Baszler didn’t tag her in for the finish.