WWE Day 1: What to Expect

Becky Lynch Liv Morgan WWE Day 1
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The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “the only constant in life is change.” That holds true even for the WWE’s plentiful yearly pay per view schedule. In lieu of another installment of its TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs series, WWE is debuting a new event, Day 1 on January 1. The event will be broadcast from the State Farm arena in Atlanta, Georgia.

The matches on the card are, for the most part, ones with weighty underpinnings for WWE’s current storylines. As 2021 came to a close, WWE sought to get back to basics with championship driven storylines featuring some of its most popular Superstars. Day 1 is the denouement of these narratives. If this is to be WWE’s modus operandi going forward, that the autumn and winter cycle of storylines will lead up to and be concluded at a pay per view event to kick off the New Year, it is not a bad working model at all. At the inaugural event, some titanic clashes are planned, including:

Big E Vs. Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, & Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship:

Big E’s first run with the WWE championship was heralded by both fans and the pro wrestling industry: in Big E, WWE had a credible and beloved babyface champion. With his big personality, one could easily have imagined E taking on a John Cena-esque role, embodying tenacity and charisma in the face of challenges. However, Big E’s bombast and eccentricity were largely toned down, and he was quickly overshadowed by his challengers, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, and Bobby Lashley. Timing was a factor: Rollins was coming off an electrifying Friday Night SmackDown series against Edge, and speculation was rife that Owens was soon to sign with All Elite Wrestling (which did not come to fruition), putting more eyes on them than on Big E.

When Bobby Lashley was added to the storyline, it renewed the memory of Monday Night Raw viewers of how much fun it is to watch Lashley brutalize his adversaries. His own WWE Championship run, ‘the All Mighty Era’, was one of routine and extravagant violence, which was once the ethos of Raw. In its inception, Raw was meant to be more adult, more spontaneous, and more violent than WWE’s previous offerings – it is where the “Attitude Era” was born. How things pan out at Day 1 for this fatal four-way for the WWE Championship depends on if the company wishes to renew their investment in Big E or start afresh.  Lashley’s Pandemic Era turn with the belt was one of the highlights of the ThunderDome residency, and the reliably violent heel once again just might be the champion that Raw is asking for.

Conclusion: Lashley will reclaim the WWE championship, sending Big E on a quest to win it back.

Becky Lynch Vs. Liv Morgan for the Raw Women’s Championship:

As “The Man”, Becky Lynch parlayed her leather jacketed, never-say-die brawling tweener character into a level of mainstream exposure perhaps not seen for a female WWE star since Chyna during the 1990s and New Millenium. However, Lynch largely escaped the innuendo that plagued Chyna, and set a new bar for female pro wrestlers to be taken seriously as athletes. Anticipation was high for her return from parental leave after rescinding the Raw women’s championship to Asuka  in 2020.

“The Man”, however, did not come around. Instead, at SummerSlam 2021, WWE fans got “Big Time Becks”, a grandiose, hypocritical, cowardly Conor McGregor-esque heel character. It was an interesting choice, to overhaul a wrestler’s gimmick so drastically when that gimmick is such a top merchandise seller, and fan favorite. Still, Lynch has been the undisputed alpha of the women’s division since her return, claiming first the SmackDown then Raw women’s title, which she is now defending at Day One against Liv Morgan. Morgan is a perpetual underdog: seldom featured on television or invested in by WWE’s creative powers that be, she is also the lone remaining member of the Riott Squad to escape WWE’s notorious releases. However, she has long been considered full of potential, and has an ardent fan following on social media. Morgan has had some of the best moments of her career thus far in her current feud with Lynch, but will she claim the Raw title?

The “red brand’s” highest women’s honor is synonymous with Lynch and her unexpected, meteoric rise to fame, and WWE might still be betting it all on “Big Time Becks” to be able to follow the blueprint of Bayley and Roman Reigns, who became only more popular when they turned heel.

Conclusion: Lynch will retain the Raw women’s championship; WWE still has their money on Big Time Becks.

Brock Lesnar Vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship:

Day 1‘s main event is the climax of one of WWE’s most finely crafted storylines. The Brock Lesnar arc of Roman Reigns’s “Tribal Chief” saga has been satisfyingly nuanced. After winning the belt in a triple threat against the formidable personages of Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman, putting down challengers like Kevin Owens, Edge, and Bryan Danielson, and getting the better of John Cena at SummerSlam, Reigns could have become predictably, tediously invincible. Enter, “The Beast Incarnate”: the longest reigning Universal Champion on record at 507+ days, the man who broke the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak, the steely behemoth who has left his indelible mark on pro wrestling and MMA, alike, Brock Lesnar. Lesnar’s presence starting at SummerSlam’s last minutes changed the narrative between Reigns and his special counsel, Paul Heyman, throwing his loyalties into question.

Lesnar is the only WWE player who can convincingly be a threat to Reigns. The seed of this leg of the story was sewn long before Lesnar’s return, from the inception of Reigns’ heel turn. As cousins Jimmy and Jey Uso at first recoiled at Reign’s newfound ruthless aggression, Reigns repeatedly professed that it was necessary to keep his prominence and honor their family. Insecurity, bordering on paranoia, is his Achilles heel. Lesnar is the phantom that he was fighting all along when he tore through Wyatt, Strowman, Edge, Danielson, Owens, Finn Balor and Rey Mysterio. In the fabric of his character’s dominance is the fear that someone will take away what is his.

That fear might be realized at Day 1. It wouldn’t be the first time that Lesnar held a WWE title despite his part-time status as a performer, and losing the Universal Championship could kick off a face turn for Reigns. He silenced his detractors and rose to new heights as a heel: Day 1 might begin Roman Reigns’ second chance at playing the hero.

Conclusion: Even if he hangs onto the WWE Universal Championship, Reigns’ encounter with Lesnar will most likely be a game changer for his character. A shaken “Tribal Chief”, who either loses his belt or narrowly hangs onto it, may become SmackDown’s top babyface.

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