WWE RAW Review: (12/29/20) Change Is In The Air

randy orton

Photo Credit: Bill Pritchard

Twisted Bliss And A Cliffhanger

WWE RAW ended on a cliffhanger. This dramatic fade to black will likely cause a divisive reaction throughout the WWE Universe. Plenty of fans will argue that the cliffhanger was quite frustrating. With Randy Orton holding a match in his hand, seemingly prepared to light Alexa Bliss on fire, the lights went out, and just like that, the show was over. From a storytelling perspective, it’s easy to see why some viewers might be put off by that approach.

But here’s the thing: this cliffhanger was quite a dynamic way to end the final WWE RAW of 2020. Few fans can say they truthfully saw it coming. Most fans thought the show would end conclusively as if it was a Christmas present wrapped up in a bow. Instead, given this conclusion, the fans have no idea what happened to Alexa Bliss on Monday night. Was she set on fire, or did Orton spare her? Many viewers were probably left on the edge of their seats. That’s a sign of a compelling finish.

WWE RAW rarely has that effect these days. The show’s declining viewership has been in the headlines for quite a while now. But by deciding not to reveal Bliss’ fate, WWE just made the first RAW of the new year a must-see program. Who could have thought someone would say that about the red brand today, given its consistent struggles throughout 2020?

The segment leading up to the cliffhanger was also remarkable. Week after week, RAW can feel stale. The storylines follow the same paths. This challenger gets the upper hand on that champion, this Superstar seeks revenge on a bitter enemy, and so on. Wash, rinse, repeat. But that wasn’t the case here. Bliss begged Orton to light her on fire. She pleaded with “The Viper,” as she wanted to meet the same fiery fate that Bray Wyatt suffered at WWE TLC. Just like Roman Reigns’ storyline is unparalleled on WWE SmackDown, this triangular storyline between Orton, Bliss and Wyatt can now be considered, at worst, the second-best thing on WWE programming right now.

Each new chapter is fresh. It’s increasingly intriguing with each passing week. The Firefly Inferno Match was just the beginning. There’s no telling where this story will go from here. Sure, Wyatt will probably return sooner rather than later. But there’s no way to know what will happen when he does, and which direction WWE will take with these characters. Orton’s 2020 has been quite impressive, and he continues to excel with his acting here. Bliss is the shining star, though. Her character remains intriguing, and she’s thriving as this layered character. She’s playing her part brilliantly, and Monday night was her latest stellar performance. Her begging Orton to light the match was unsettling in a storyline that continues to feel like a horror movie that’s playing out on WWE programming.

Elias WWE

Photo by Marc Pfitzenreuter/Getty Images

Elias Stands Out In A Fresh Match-Up

Change was in the air on Monday. Before the unexpected cliffhanger, the show featured a similarly unusual match between Elias and AJ Styles. Both stars are firmly entrenched as heels, so this match defied WWE’s pattern of presenting matches between “good guys” and “bad guys.” Heading into this week, nobody thought this show would include Styles facing Elias. But it did, and the match delivered. The motive for the clash was quite simple, and even a little goofy. Styles and his bodyguard, Omos were annoyed by Elias backstage when the musician was strumming his guitar. Styles called Elias “Johnny Trash,” and the two prominent stars went on to face each other in the ring.

As with the Orton/Bliss segment, this match was unconventional, and WWE RAW needs to more content that’s different from its usual formula. Far too often, RAW presents the same match-ups week after week, so the show can feel quite predictable. That’s why it was so refreshing to see a match that came out of left field. Styles vs. Elias offered fans a new match on a program that could really benefit from shaking things up more often. As for the in-ring action itself, Elias proved that he’s more than a former WWE 24/7 Champion. He held his own with a former world champion, and he came out of the loss looking better than he did before the bell rang. That’s a recipe for success right there. WWE stands for Walk With Elias, and he might have just taken his first step toward shedding his comedy player role and becoming a legitimate Superstar.

This week’s episode of WWE RAW didn’t magically fix the red brand’s various issues. There’s a good chance that next week’s Legends Night show will be more of the same. But for a program that often garners so much negative publicity, it’s important out those nights when RAW was actually good. Hopefully, it will continue this positive momentum next week and beyond.

RELATED: Alexa Bliss Begs Randy Orton To Light Her On Fire