Here’s a quick roundup of the major happenings in the world of pro-wrestling from January 2021, covering WWE, AEW, and Impact Wrestling.
This year began with what WWE were hoping to be huge bang, with a special Raw legends night on the 4th of January. However, this turned out to be a disappointing episode of Raw, yet again. We had to endure Randy Orton belittle a host of legends backstage, as he tried to goad the likes of Big Show and Mark Henry into a fight.
One of the few highlights during the backstage skits, was the returning Melina making only her second appearance in WWE since 2011.
The main event of legends night saw Drew McIntyre defeat Keith Lee, retaining his WWE title with all the legends sitting on the entrance ramp way. After McIntyre retained his title, the familiar war drums of Goldberg’s iconic entrance music began to play and he marched his way to confront McIntyre, challenging him to a match at the Royal Rumble.
The following week saw WWE announce that Drew McIntyre had been diagnosed with Covid-19. With McIntyre out for a couple of weeks, a gaping hole was left on Raw, and WWE tried to fill it by placing Triple H in the main event against Randy Orton, in a street fight. The show had previously started with Randy Orton interrupting The Game while he was making an announcement.
This ‘match’ would however not be a match, but rather a fight in the ring. In a most bizarre turn of events, Triple H made a move for his signature sledge hammer and while entering the ring, the arena lights began to switch off leaving the sledge hammer on fire whilst still in the hands of HHH. After all the lights had gone out and come back on again, Orton was then left in the ring on his own with Alexa Bliss who shot a fireball into his face.
The 18th of January edition of Raw saw Drew still out with Covid-19, which left WWE having to be creative with their build to the McIntyre/Goldberg WWE championship match at the Royal Rumble. It was announced that the Miz and Morrison would have Goldberg as a guest on their talk show the Dirt Sheet, but in a twist we were given the return of Gillberg instead.
This show also saw Charlotte Flair lose to Lacey Evans, thanks to outside interference from Ric Flair, as WWE looked to began a feud between father and daughter with Lacey in the middle. The main event saw Asuka go one-on-one with Alexa Bliss in a pre-taped match, where we saw Alexa cycle through her alter egos until eventually transforming into the darkest version of herself, and squashing the Raw Women’s champion.
On the go home edition of Raw for the Royal Rumble, Edge returned for the first time since his match against Orton at last year’s Backlash and declared himself for the Royal Rumble. The main event of this week’s show saw Bliss face Asuka for the second week running, but this time for the Raw Women’s title. With it looking likely that Bliss was going to capture the gold, Randy Orton then appeared out of nowhere and delivered an RKO to Bliss, ending a very disappointing month for the red brand.
Smackdown has been the best and most consistent show in any promotion by far this month, and began the year in a blaze. On the 8th of January edition, a gauntlet match was announced by WWE official Adam Pearce between Sami Zayn, Rey Mysterio, Shinsuke Nakamura, Baron Corbin, and Daniel Bryan, in which the winner would face Universal Champion Roman Reigns for the title at the Royal Rumble. After a backstage altercation with Paul Heyman, Adam Pearce was informed that Reigns had pulled some strings and that Pearce himself would be coming out of retirement to take part in the gauntlet match.
The match saw a break out performance from Shinsuke Nakamura who defeated Rey Mysterio, Baron Corbin, and Daniel Bryan before being attacked by Roman Reigns and Jey Uso, as they marched Adam Pearce to the ring and threw his body over Nakamura after a super kick from Uso, thus making him the number one contender for Reigns’ Universal title.
The following week saw the contract signing between Pearce and Reigns. After Reigns spent the night complaining about the terms of the contract, he finally demanded a last man standing match between the two of them at the Rumble. After meeting Reigns in the ring and both of them signing the contract, Pearce then began to limp as he made his way up the ramp – claiming he had an old injury that would keep him out of the match, but as with every standard WWE match contract, he had the right to name a suitable replacement. Pearce would then go on to tell Reigns that he would face a returning Kevin Owens at the Royal Rumble instead.
The 22nd of January edition of Smackdown saw Bianca Belair continue her growing feud with Bayley, as the former Smackdown Women’s Champion challenged Belair to an obstacle course challenge.
The main event saw Adam Pearce take on Paul Heyman after an earlier confrontation in the ring, but as Heyman made his way to the ring he began to limp and announced that Universal champion Roman Reigns would take his place in the match. Reigns then went on to maul Pearce, until Kevin Owens came out and made the save.
The go home edition of Smackdown saw Daniel Bryan interrupted in the ring by Raw superstar AJ Styles, who had used the brand invitational to challenge Bryan to a match in the main event of the show. Miz and Morrison also used the brand invitational to make their presence known backstage.
The opening match of the show saw Bianca Belair defeat Bayley one-on-one in a very strong match.
Although the main event started out with Styles taking on Daniel Bryan one-on-one, it soon broke down into a 10-man tag match between Daniel Bryan, Nakamura, Big E., Otis, and Sheamus taking on Cesaro, AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, The Miz, and John Morrison. In what was a very chaotic and messy main event, Sheamus went on to pick up the win before a returning Braun Strowman arrived and wiped everyone out.
The Rumble Pre-Show saw new Women’s tag team champions crowned, as Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax became 2-time champions after interference from Ric Flair and Lacey Evans.
The main card saw Drew McIntyre face Goldberg in the opening match. McIntyre retained his title in what was Goldberg’s strongest outing for some time in the company.
Up next, Sasha Banks retained her title over Carmella in another strong match, which was presumably the final match in their feud.
The Women’s Rumble took centre stage next, with Bayley drawing number 1 and the returning Naomi drawing number 2. The match was won from the number 3 position when Bianca Belair cemented her place in WWE history by successfully winning the Rumble after a strong performance. There were also a number of returns during the match, including Jillian Hall, Victoria, Alica Fox (who won the 24/7 title during the match), and Torrie Wilson.
Sandwiched between the two Rumble matches, was the match of the night as Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens in a last man standing match to retain his title (despite a botched finish).
The men’s Rumble match saw Edge and Randy Orton enter at number 1 and 2 respectively. After an attack outside the ring from Edge, Randy Orton was helped backstage to the doctors room with an injured knee, and would not be seen until the end of the Rumble when Edge was the final man. It looked like Orton was going to steal the Rumble, but Edge quickly reversed an attempt from Orton to eliminate him, dumping Orton over the top rope and claiming his second Rumble win – 11 years to the day after his first win. The match also saw Carlito and Christian return to in ring action. Kane and the Hurricane also made cameos.
AEW kicked their year off in style, as Kenny Omega faced Rey Fenix for the AEW title on the 6th of January, in one of the most outstanding matches of the month. After Omega retained his title, the Impact tag team champions Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows invaded Dynamite, aligning themselves with Omega and Don Callis. After fighting off several wrestlers including Jon Moxley, the Young Bucks rushed the ring in what looked like an effort to help end the chaos, but instead aligned themselves with Omega, Anderson and Gallows. This was a reunion of 5 members of the Bullet Club for the first time in 5 years.
The following week was meant to be Omega teaming in 6-man tag action with the Young Bucks, but after being shunned by Omega and Don Callis backstage before the match, the Good Brothers replaced the Bucks in the match. The main event for night two of the New Year’s Smash event saw Darby Allin defeat Brian Cage to retain his TNT title, after Sting came to ringside and stopped Team Taz from interfering in the match.
On January 20th, team Taz went on to challenge Darby Allin and Sting to a street fight at the upcoming Revoultion PPV, which the duo would accept the following week. The main event saw Inner Circle members Sammy Guevara/Jake Hager vs Santana/Ortiz vs Chris Jericho/MJF in a match that would decide what duo from the Inner Circle would go on to challenge for tag titles at a later date. The match was eventually won by Jericho and MJF.
The final January episode of Dynamite on the 27th saw the Young Bucks and Good Brothers team together in a 8-man tag where they defeated members of Dark Order. After the match, Omega rushed the ring but got quickly dispatched by Jon Moxley as the pair continued their ongoing feud.
This episode also saw Cody Rhodes respond to an earlier video from Shaquille O’Neal in which he challenged Cody to a match anytime, anywhere. This has now set up a tag team match between Cody and Red Velvet vs Shaquille O’Neal and Jade Cargill at the upcoming Revolution PPV.
January saw a busy month for Impact, continuing their working relationship with AEW. The month began with Ace Austin defeating Blake Christian in the final of the Super X-Cup to claim the trophy. Genesis also saw Willie Mack defeat Moose in an I-Quit match, after Rich Swann came out to beg for mercy and stop his beat down of Willie. Moose agreed, but only if Swann gave him a shot at the Impact world title. Swann agreed to this, resulting in Moose saying ‘I Quit’ thus ending the match.
At the Hard to Kill PPV, Kenny Omega and the Good Brothers defeated Chris Sabin, Moose, and Rich Swann in the main event. Moose had earlier replaced Alex Shelley in the match, due to Shelley being unable to travel as his day job as a physiotherapist prevents him from travelling until he has been vaccinated for Covid-19.
On the January 19th edition of Impact, Matt Hardy returned with tag team Private Party in tow, as the duo have now become the number one contenders to the Good Brothers’ tag titles. The episode also saw Taya Valkyrie finish with the company, as it was revealed that she was the one who shot John E. Bravo and was carted away to prison.
The 26th of January edition of Impact saw the return of Trey Miguel to the company, as well as Tommy Dreamer being named the Number 1 contender to face Rich Swann at the upcoming No Surrender event, which will be aired live on Impact Plus.
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