Last week’s RAW revealed Mustafa Ali’s motivation for founding the anarchistic faction RETRIBUTION made up of disenchanted, masked athletes taking vengeance for their broken dreams. For months, this amounted to not much more than vandalism, cutting the fuse box at the Performance Center, and a sneak attack by Reckoning on Dana Brooke. They’ve struggled to define themselves as a true threat, but the wind seems to be changing after the reveal that Ali is out for revenge against Kofi Kingston for supplanting him in the 2019 Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania. He promised to punish Kingston in absentia by going after Woods, the remaining half of the New Day while Woods is out with a broken jaw, and Big E pursues solo glory as the reigning Intercontinental Champion.
Ali made good on his promise on the January 25 broadcast, as Woods faced Ali’s minion SLAPJACK. Woods walked the ramp pensively, eschewing New Day’s signature spirited entrance, not even uttering a note on his trademark trombone. It was clear that he meant business, but this is also a new phase for the New Day.
Superstars like Drew McIntyre, MVP, A.J. Styles, Roman Reigns, and The Miz, who thrive on getting into and selling their character have thrived in the Thunderdome, but acts who thrive on crowd participation like The New Day have an adjustment hurdle. Kingston has even pondered whether his injury would have happened with the energy of a live audience spurring him on at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs.
The New Day may not have packed arenas to clap along to the Woods’s trombone and chant “New Day rocks!”, but they do have over a decade of goodwill from loyal WWE fans. Positioning RETRIBUTION as a threat to them capitalizes on the New Day’s perennial popularity to position RETRIBUTION as the menace they aspire to be, and allows the New Day to show some edge.
The New Day, at the moment, is just Xavier Woods, who was not messing about. He announced his presence in the ring with a flying dropkick to opponent SLAPJACK. Woods also issued body slaps to SLAPJACK, who maneuvered Woods outside the ropes, and then issued a backward neck breaker. SLAPJACK got a cover on Woods, who kicked out. While he had Woods down, SLAPJACK punished Woods with kicks and stomps. Woods fought back with a leg sweep, and an honor roll, getting a cover on SLAPJACK. Though Ali, who was looking on, deployed T-BAR to somehow intervene in his stablemate’s favor, but Woods acted fast and deployed a shining wizard knee strike to SLAPJACK, and got a cover, taking the win.
However, RETRIBUTION were not done with him. T-BAR struck Woods hard, and MACE joined him in hoisting Woods to the air and dropping him hard into the canvas. SLAPJACK retrieved a steel chair and handed it to Ali, who seemed poised to punishingly thrash Woods. Instead, he issued an order to Woods: to tell Kofi Kingston that he, Ali, would be taking his place in the Royal Rumble.
The combined veteran babyface appeal of the New Day, the competent menace of Ali in his return to his origins as a heel, and drawing on the history of the events between Ali and Kingston in 2019 is giving RETRIBUTION much-needed relevance. This latest faceoff between the two factions benefits the New Day, as well, preparing the stage for Kingston’s return and giving Woods a victory and a chance to shine on his own.
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