As of Saturday afternoon, Brock Lesnar was set to challenge Roman Reigns for the Universal championship. But as has been the case for much over the past two years, COVID-19 changed things in a hurry, and a positive test for Reigns short-circuited that match.
Lesnar was instead placed into the multiway WWE championship match, which was a whirlwind of wild moves that allowed all five participants to shine in a short window. Despite being the last-minute add to the match, Lesnar walked out of State Farm Arena in Atlanta as the new WWE champion to end the night at Day 1.
It was the only title change of the night, but it was an exclamation point on a card that produced good matches from top to bottom, as well as the return of WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix.
Beyond the last-minute nature of the main-event match, the result was shocking because of how sudden it was. From the instant the bell rang, it was pedal to the floor from start to finish. Lesnar handed out a plentiful bounty of German suplexes to both Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens. Owens saved Rollins from an F5, and then Big E charged in with a huge clothesline, sending Lesnar out of the ring.
After Bobby Lashley cut in and slammed Big E into the ringpost, Lashley lined up Lesnar and speared him through the barricade. Rollins and Owens, largely recovered, started working in tandem. They double Superkicked Lashley, and then moved their attention back to Lesnar. Rollins hit Lesnar with a Suicide Dive, and Owens followed with a Frog Splash from the apron onto Lesnar on the floor.
Lashley fought off a double suplex attempt through the commentary table, but Big E ran in and hit a Uranage through said table. Lesnar absorbed even more damage as Owens and Rollins worked together on a double DDT onto the well-worn steel steps.
An absolutely CHAOTIC start to this #WWEChampionship #Fatal5Way Match!— WWE (@WWE) January 2, 2022
Will it @WWEBigE @fightbobby @WWERollins @FightOwensFight or @BrockLesnar who leaves #WWEDay1 with the title?! pic.twitter.com/FYhCaqQyCu
An Owens Pop-Up Powerbomb to Big E led to the first pinfall attempt of the match, but Big E kicked out at two. A Senton Flip for Owens was stifled when Big E got his knees up, but an immediate splash by Rollins got him a two count as well. Rollins lined up a stomp on Big E, but threw himself directly into an F5 from Lesnar instead. Big E and Owens received an F5 as well.
Lashley speared Lesnar for a second time, though, and then slapped the Hurt Lock on Lesnar. Big E broke it up, and connected on a Big Ending on Lashley. Big E then tried for the same on Lesnar, licking his lips. But Lesnar fought his way out, turned the tide and hit Big E with a second F5, winning himself the WWE championship for the sixth time in his career.
What's next: It gets kind of messy from here. It's hard to imagine his rivalry with Reigns could be over this quickly. It might depend on how long Reigns is out for. But with a Royal Rumble winner to come in the next few weeks, as easy as it is to visualize a champion vs. champion match at WrestleMania, the road map to such a clash is hard to figure out. Big E may get a rematch at the Royal Rumble, but WWE cameras focused on Lashley staring a hole through Lesnar postmatch, so that's a strong possibility as well.
Raw women's championship: Becky Lynch (c) def. Liv Morgan
If you've watched a Liv Morgan match at various points in her WWE career, you'd be able to see the progression and the amount of work she's put into improving herself in the ring. She also has a tendency to try new, often wild and innovative moves, and Saturday's title challenge against Becky Lynch at Day 1 was no exception.
Morgan stood toe-to-toe with Lynch from start to finish, and had the biggest highlight of the match with a mesmerizing spinning Sunset Flip Powerbomb that picked Lynch off the middle turnbuckle.
There were times at which Morgan, a prohibitive underdog in most any sense of the word heading into this match, felt moments away from winning. She took everything Lynch had to give her, and gave it right back. She fought off multiple attempts at the Dis-Arm-Her. She broke down Lynch's arm throughout the match, even going so far as to return the favor for an earlier attack by using the ring steps to her advantage.
After a double flying armbreaker to Lynch from the top rope, a submission attempt put Lynch on the brink. A mad scramble ensued, and Morgan had Lynch in position for Oblivion, her finishing move. But Lynch caught Morgan, held her in midair and then hit a manhandle slam. Lynch looked to put her feet on the bottom rope for leverage, but didn't need it as she pinned Morgan for the victory.
What's next: It was a breakout performance for Morgan. Her time directly in the title picture is seemingly over for now, but keep an eye out for a big performance in this year's women's Royal Rumble. As for Lynch, the crowd keeps trying to throw enough support behind her to turn her a little less villainous. That could happen in the weeks and months to come.
In the world of professional wrestling, if there are two people wrestling each other who have significant others who are also wrestlers, the longer a rivalry goes on, the likelier it is that both partners will get involved. And after The Miz and Maryse got the upper hand against Edge on multiple occasions, it was only fitting that Edge's wife and fellow WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix would enter the equation.
Edge vs. The Miz had its highs, including an Edgecution from the apron to the floor, and a reversed Skull Crushing Finale on the commentary table. And even through the match dragged at times, with the crowd slipping in and out, the big moments are what will be remembered.
Everything led up to the climactic ending. The Miz dodged a spear, faked a knee injury, and distracted the ref. That allowed Maryse to hit Edge, who had gone shoulder-first into the ring post, in the face with her purse. That fed right into a Skull Crushing Finale by The Miz, but it was only worth a two count.
Maryse got up on the apron to complain, and that's when Phoenix walked out to even things up. She chased Maryse around ringside and up the ramp. And with The Miz distracted by the spectacle, Edge lined up a spear and got the 1-2-3.
What's next: A mixed tag team match seems obvious. It could happen quickly, at the Royal Rumble, or it could be put on the back burner and line up for WrestleMania. I'd lean towards sooner, rather than later.
Raw tag team championships: RK-Bro (c) def. The Street Profits
When Migos walked out with RK-Bro, it seemed likely that Randy Orton and Matt Riddle would retain their Raw tag team championships against The Street Profits. But even in the face of a likely outcome, both teams showed up ready to go, and for the second time in as many tag team title matches at Day 1, the match overdelivered.
Montez Ford shined early with a series of reversals and a moonsault, as he and Angelo Dawkins beat up Riddle for an extended stretch. When Orton got a hot tag, he cleaned house and nailed a double Hangman's DDT with Ford and Dawkins both draped over the middle rope.
Orton's first attempt at an RKO to Ford was reversed, as The Street Profits began their comeback. Ford eventually got the upper hand, sent Orton shoulder-first into the ring post, and then did a flip over that same post out of the ring onto both Riddle and Orton.
But Orton won the race back into the ring as they slowly scrambled back. And with an assist from Riddle, who popped Ford into the air, Orton hit an RKO for the victory.
All roads lead to @MontezFordWWE taking F L I G H T as The #StreetProfits aim to knock off #RKBro for the #WWERaw #TagTeamTitles!#WWEDay1 @AngeloDawkins @RandyOrton @SuperKingOfBros pic.twitter.com/QRKqOQVsYz— WWE (@WWE) January 2, 2022
What's next: The bond between Riddle and Orton seems to be getting stronger, which in the world of wrestling means that the countdown timer for their implosion is ticking. As for the Street Profits, it was a strong showing in a big event, but outside of another title challenge down the line, something feels like it needs to change. Perhaps a villainous turn is in order.
Drew McIntyre def. Madcap Moss
The outcome of Drew McIntyre vs. Madcap Moss was the most predictable of the matches on the card at Day 1. McIntyre, the two-time WWE champion, took care of business against Moss, a wrestler who spent his early WWE days vying for the WWE 24/7 title and has gone through several different character rebrands along the way.
But it wasn't as quick and easy as it appeared on paper. Moss had several stretches with significant control. He even fended off McIntyre's first attempt at a Claymore kick, albeit for just a moment.
McIntyre emerged with a clear pinfall win, but if there's any indication of McIntyre falling out of the top tier of WWE title contenders, it's how long this match lasted against Moss.
What's next: Corbin and Moss attacked McIntyre in the locker room after the match, so this feud is far from over. After Happy Corbin volunteered Moss for this match, it stands to reason that Corbin will try to do the work himself in the weeks to come.
SmackDown tag team championships: The Usos (c) def. The New Day
The Usos and The New Day have history that dates back to December 2014. And after seven years and countless big matches, their rivalry has entered the annals of WWE history for a reason.
King Woods, Kofi Kingston, Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso added another chapter to their story to kick off WWE Day 1, showing off their incredible chemistry and storytelling ability from beginning to end. There were familiar spots throughout the match -- superkicks and splashes from The Usos, and all manner of signature moves from Kingston and Woods. There were tributes from The Usos to their cousin Roman Reigns, who was pulled from Saturday's card at the last minute due to a positive COVID test.
Both teams seemingly had the match won two or three times over. Woods interrupted a pinfall at the absolute last second following a double superkick and double top rope splash from The Usos. A backbreaker/top rope double stomp from New Day to Jey Uso only got a two count.
It took something different to take New Day out for good. After a blind tag, and a superkick by Jey to Kingston, Jimmy and Jey hit their version of the Dudley Boyz's 3D to Kingston to seal the match via pinfall.
Sir @TrueKofi was thinking about #TroubleInParadise, but it turned into serious trouble for #TheNewDay courtesy of The @WWEUsos! #WWEDay1— WWE (@WWE) January 2, 2022
🌎 https://t.co/aEwGYUp0uE pic.twitter.com/Ms6mbW5Nhg
What's next: The Usos might not be done for the night, despite Reigns' absence, as their conflict with Brock Lesnar is far from over. The next step for Kingston and Woods, following a clean defeat, is less clear. A Royal Rumble appearance seems a likely outcome for both, but the next few weeks remain to be seen.
The match went sideways in a hurry, as a double-team flip maneuver by Cesaro and Ricochet ended with Ricochet landing wrong, directly on Holland's nose. Holland quickly started bleeding profusely from his nose, tagged out, rolled out of the ring and was escorted backstage -- leaving Sheamus to fight 2-on-1 for more than 10 minutes. After Cesaro missed a splash in the corner, Sheamus connected on a brogue kick to his face, and secured the pinfall victory.
What's next: Sheamus' clean solo victory will give him something to brag on for the next few weeks. One-on-one rematches with both men seem quite likely in the leadup to the Royal Rumble, with all three likely to participate in that match. As for Holland, hopefully his injury isn't too severe.