Only a few short hours after learning Drew McIntyre was COVID-positive, how did WWE respond to this loss on Raw? Let’s examine the hit/miss from Jan. 11, based around the WWE Championship picture.
With WWE Champion Drew McIntyre having tested positive for COVID-19 and quarantined, the big question heading into the Jan. 11 Raw was how WWE would respond to losing their WWE Champion right at the start of WrestleMania season.
How’d they do a mere six hours after the news first broke (though I’m sure they knew before it was released)?
Let’s look at a Hit & Miss, with both actually being the same thing.
HIT: Various wrestlers competing in multiple matches
MISS: Various wrestlers competing in multiple matches
I’m not sure why WWE decided to have Sheamus, Keith Lee, Jeff Hardy, and Riddle compete in multiple matches tonight (two each). Was it because of COVID concerns and they decided to have a smaller crew? Was it because they wanted to avoid having too many backstage segments with the narrow confines? Was it just another of Vince McMahon’s booking whims?
Regardless, it is an interesting concept to employ at this juncture in the pandemic. I would have liked this more than the random yet forced nature of the 2-out-of-3 falls matches WWE employed for a quick minute before abandoning it like “Underground.” There’s more potential in this booking strategy if executed well…
…and that’s always the issue with WWE, right? Let’s use tonight as a (small sample size) case-study.
Out of the four wrestlers, only Sheamus and Lee competing in multiple matches made any sort of sense, and really only because they teamed up and then faced each other. With the lingering tension between the two (remember Sheamus Brogue Kicked Lee after they won a six-man tag match with McIntyre) and their proximity to the WWE Champion in McIntyre, each trying to assert the dominance over the other is highly believable and coherent to the story.
Sheamus stole the victory in their tag match from Lee. Both laughed it off after, and I was a bit irked that Lee hadn’t yet responded by laying out Sheamus. They returned from a commercial break to these two going at each other with the ensuing match. Lee going over emphatically with his finisher (Spirit Bomb) while nursing a compromised arm firmly placed Lee in that rung just below McIntyre, Goldberg, and Orton. These two provide the “Hit.”
For the other two, the main reason it’s a “Miss” (and a big “Miss”) is that after losing their matches, they challenged the other person at ringside for the match rather than who just defeated them. Hardy challenged Elias after losing to Jaxson Ryker and Riddle challenged M.V.P. after being ragdolled by Lashley.
Why? Why not try avenging your loss rather move on to another opponent? I’m not for 50/50 booking, but if I lost to someone, my immediate reaction wouldn’t be challenging their friend or second, but challenging them to a rematch.
While both won their rematches (albeit Riddle by DQ after being speared by Lashley), did they really gain anything from their second match victories? I’d argue no. Hardy was distracted and rolled up by Ryker in less than a minute, only to take way too long to prevail against an “injured” Elias. Hardy should have won both matches unless the plan is to push Elias.
Oh yeah, remember when Elias was ran over and blamed Hardy? There was no mention of that tonight even though Elias has been harping on it for weeks.
With Riddle, I’m glad he lost quickly to Lashley. They basically reinforced the notion that it was a fluke victory for Riddle last week as he put up little resistance in a loss that lasted less than two minutes. It also helped rebuild some of the momentum Lashley lost last week (more on this below).
While yes, Riddle should be able to defeat M.V.P., a wrestler past his physical prime, it was nice to see M.V.P. slightly protected by the DQ finish. One, The Hurt Business lost too much momentum from their losses last week. Two, Lashley and M.V.P. laying waste to Riddle after the match helped reestablish some of said lost momentum and the notion that you don’t want to mess with The Hurt Business.
However, it’s still a miss because the execution was lackluster with Hardy and Riddle. If they tweaked it just a little, it would have worked much better for both men.
If WWE continues with this tactic, it would behoove them to have some logical and coherent booking (which they should have for every angle anyway!). This could be a great way to use their gauntlet match technique of building wrestlers through hard-fought, consecutive victories on a smaller scale (in terms of match type) and larger scale (in terms of how many wrestlers can be pushed/built). The gauntlet match worked wonders for Kofi Kingston, The New Day, and Shinsuke Nakamura after all, so a facsimile might prove just as beneficial.
Then again, maybe this is all forgotten next week. With Vince McMahon and WWE, truly anything is possible.