In a slight tweak to the traditional “Hits & Misses” column, let’s start 2021 by delving into one BIG Hit & Miss from Raw.
A new year brings a new column or at least a modified version. Unlike my previous iterations for Dynamite (“Booms/Duds“) and Smackdown (“Smacks/Downs“), this version for Raw will take a departure from that format and instead identify a singular Hit & Miss for Raw moving forward.
In determining the hits and misses for each episode, it is important to remember how I determine what constitutes a Hit or Miss. My criteria, if broken down to a few short items, would include how much coherence does an angle/match/promo have within the micro context of the story involving those wrestlers and the macro context of the larger show? Does the booking help elevate any acts, and does said booking advance angles believable and understandably in kayfabe?
There’s more involved of course, but let’s also remember this is subjective. You might have different opinions and/or choices, and that’s great!
Now, let’s move first to the Hit from the Jan 4., 2021 edition of Raw.
HIT: The in-show evolution of Randy Orton’s character
Let me just get this out of the way: I don’t think WWE knows the exact purpose of a cliffhanger considering it took them nearly half an hour to address the attempted murder by immolation angle that ended last week’s show between Orton and Alexa Bliss. Even when they did address it, it was so…anti-climatic.
Orton admitted he put the match out. He said he couldn’t light Bliss on fire because, as with everyone who’s faced The Fiend, he’s changed after his encounter. He lost his evil side and “hates” himself for showing compassion and mercy. He then pondered what would happen if he channeled that anger towards others.
We saw what can happen, and goodness, it should be a fun ride and a “back to the future” to the viciousness that was “The Legend Killer.”
First, he intimidated The Big Show and forced Show to cower in his wake. He berated a (hobbled) “World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry, forcing the former World Champion to exit the scene dejected beyond belief. Then, with Ric Flair still reeling from being told off by his daughter, Orton boiled Flair down to being a decrepit old man.
There are multiple ways to display sadism and evil, and Orton has always excelled at using his words and gestures in this regard.
Finally, he showed the physical side in his match with Jeff Hardy. He hit his belly-to-back suplex on the commentary table much earlier in the match than usual, used a methodical pace with physicality, and in a scene reminiscent of their 2018 Hell in a Cell match, Orton twisted at both of Hardy’s earlobes, this time using his fingers. It looked painful.
Orton won by hitting the RKO in a sequence similar to when he won his first World Championship at SummerSlam 2004 against [REDACTED]. The chemistry between the two longtime rivals showed in this match.
I’m excited to see what other means Orton will resort to to “find” his evil side again and how he will “channel” that self-hatred at others. Tonight was a great first step in helping us forget the absurdity of last week’s show-ending angle.
MISS: A night of infuriating booking
The booking was downright atrocious. There was no coherence from last week to this week, save for maybe The New Day and A.J. Styles. However, I shouldn’t be surprised that the show is booked in a vacuum, that vacuum being whatever Vince McMahon is feeling every Monday.
Charlotte Flair is pinned by Peyton Royce after her father inexplicably trips her and not Royce. Flair then proceeds to lecture and sendoff her father. Why does WWE treat their Legends so terribly (aside from those that served Orton’s evolution storyline)?
Shayna Baszler loses to impromptu opponent Dana Brooke, who has had some victories lately (including in tag matches against Baszler & Nia Jax), but Brooke wasn’t even in-ring gear. Sure, Baszler held onto the Kirifuda Clutch, but she was laid out by a Mandy Rose pump knee. Baszler should be running roughshod through the division.
After weeks, months of building The Hurt Business, what was that?! I’m going to leave the in-depth discussion for another article, but suffice it to say they pretty much killed any momentum the group had as both Lashley and Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin lost their matches, the latter rather quickly.
I’m also gonna save the discussion on Goldberg for another article, but his appearance, all two minutes or so of it, wiped away a good match between McIntyre and Keith Lee. It’s even more egregious since there had been talk in some circles that Lee’s conditioning and in-ring work had taken a step back and this match answered those questions.
Raw did NOT impart any confidence that they learned from their terrible booking to end the year. Rather, it seems they’ve doubled down on the absurdity of booking at Vince McMahon’s whim. I hope next week’s show does more to steer the show in a positive direction.
What are your thoughts? What were your Hit and Miss? How do you like this new format? Let me know!