One of AC/DC’s songs from Stephen King’s one and only time in the director’s chair asks the question, “Who made who?” That’s the vibe I picked up from Damian Priest this week as all this talk about Mami clearly got under his skin.
Last week, WWE made it clear that Rhea Ripley runs the red brand. She’s the straw that stirs the drink and everything works when she does. To that end, I wondered why we got less Rhea this week and then it hit me that even though we saw her less, she still made her presence known. Everyone calling her Judgment Day’s leader bugged Damian. Rhea making matches for him and JD McDonagh also rubbed him all types of wrong ways. Even the fact that Rhea, JD, and Dirty Dom went to the ring without Finn Balor & Damian in tow bothered the big man. Despite Rhea explaining there is no leader and why she booked Damian in a match with Sami Zayn, he didn’t seem swayed.
That’s why Damian asserted himself this week. He almost cashed in (more on that below) and sent a message to Cody Rhodes during the main event when he pulled the Reckoning out of his bag of tricks. Why? Because it’s essentially the Cross Rhodes and he did it with Cody Rhodes in mind. Damian wrestled with more purpose this week. He started aggressively against Sami and rarely relented. The match ended in a DQ because, well, both men have big matches at Crown Jewel and can’t take Ls. But before Judgment Day and Jey Uso showed up, Damian felt different. He made embarrassing Sami his business.
But then that DQ came. Judgment Day got the upper hand on Jey & Sami, then Cody came to the rescue. JD, poor soul, got left on his own and Cody made an example out of him.
None of that hit me as hard as Cody taking the microphone and throwing shots at Señor Money in the Bank. Cody compared his story to Damian’s and mentioned there is no competition. Cody leads while Damian follows. He follows Rhea, Finn, and even Dirty Dom. Damian takes orders while Cody does what he wants.
Obviously, Cody wants Damian off his game, so the whole divide and conquer move makes sense. It’s also setting up a potential power struggle within WWE’s most powerful group or, possibly, Damian leaving. I know they teased Damian bolting before, but this one feels earned. Establishing Rhea’s dominance means someone will get insecure. And Damian fits that description. He’s one step away from a championship, he joined Judgment Day before Rhea, and they got ride of Rated R Adam Copeland because they didn’t want a leader. Why wouldn’t Damian be in his feelings about all this? I get it.
This story, along with LA Knight and Roman Reigns, interests me most at Crown Jewel. I’m not sure if anyone can placate Damian’s ego right now. Not even defeating Cody.
If you slant a bit, this match is the Spider-Man meme come to life. The Creed Bros.’ vibe reeks of Alpha Academy. From the way they handle their business in the ring to their personalities outside of it, the similarities certainly exist. It’s a pleasure for me, a longstanding Brothers Creed fan, watching them wrestle Chad Gable & Otis. I love he showcasing them on Raw against this team. I watched the Academy less than than the NXT boys because I expect nothing but consistency from the Academy under the bright lights. Julius & Brutus may not have much time left in NXT, so it’s important that they shine.
And shine they did. We even got a brief beef vs. beef collision with Otis and Brutus. In fact, if I have one complaint, it’s how short that was. But Julius showcased his incredible strength hoisting Otis on his shoulders and putting him into position for the Brutus Ball. Hell of a finish because, I mean, Julius put Otis on his shoulders! Far from light work.
Great matchup and yeah, the Creeds are almost done in NXT. They’re more than ready.
Giovanni Vinci is in trouble right? DIY wrestled IMPERIUM and Giovanni not only took the pinfall, but he made a huge mistake during the match which led to said fall. For this IMPERIUM story, that’s the perfect ending. And them losing to Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa, who teamed for the first time in years, only makes it worse.
But speaking of DIY, they looked great together. I’m not a big Johnny Wrestling fan but Tommaso gives him some flavor and makes him a bit more exciting. Tommaso remains his best dance partner, whether tagging together or squaring off against one another. Another fun tag between two dope teams. Can’t ask for much more.
However, let’s get to something else that happened before the match. We talked about a rumor in the Cageside offices that none of us really liked: Miz turning face and teaming with DIY against IMPERIUM. Well, it looks like at least some of that is coming because I’m sure we just got a Miz face turn. He invited GUNTHER to Miz TV, and of course the crowd took his side against the Ring General bully. Miz wants GUNTHER and his championship, and, apparently, some babyface adulation.
I don’t like babyface Miz. He’s a natural heel and one of WWE’s most dynamic bad guys. WWE doesn’t really need more faces right now, but they need utility heels like Miz. Hopefully they change my mind but as of now, I don’t like this move.
I almost went with this idea that Drew McIntyre continues the trend that Finn Balor set in the challenger’s story sounding more compelling than the champion’s. Raw ran a great video package with Drew reminiscing on his 2020 while sitting in the Performance Center. He detailed his broken dreams and why it’s on sight for the Bloodline from now until forever. And I felt him; he worked hard for that moment in time that no one wants to remember.
But then Seth Rollins came along and put it all in perspective: A lot more people dealt with worse during the pandemic. Some of those people aren’t even here anymore. So he feels no compassion for Drew or sympathy. He doesn’t have any cheese for Drew’s wine either. And if bringing up real life stakes rubbed some the wrong way, Seth brought it home when he noted that Sami Zayn and Cody Rhodes aren’t whining about the Bloodline even though they have more than enough reasons. They got over it and Drew should too.
While Seth turned me around, both men made their cases. And that makes the match stronger. When both competitors get equally compelling stories and reasoning for a bout, the in-ring wrestling usually flourishes. It also makes for tougher predictions. I can see either man winning the championship and deserving that W.
Speaking of “deserves,” can they just make JD McDonagh an official Judgment Day member? He wrestled a hell of a match with Seth and almost teed up a Damian Priest cash-in. Almost but not quite. But it’s yet another cash-in tease, which means hopefully we get one sooner rather than later.
From start to finish, this entire segment delivered and was my favorite.
I really don’t know what to say about the Trick or Street Fight between Nattie and Chelsea Green. Pumpkins, candy corn, and Nikki Cross’ head all made an appearance. I do know Chelsea won and that Piper Niven’s Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart costume delighted me. Piper’s Neidhart laugh is perfect.
I see what they’re doing with Xia Li. Or, at least what they’re trying to do. She wrestled Candice LeRae and knocked her out. The ref stopped the match and the trainers helped Candice. Xia reveled in the whole thing. Cool.
But then she approached Becky Lynch and, once again, accused Becky of ducking her. Becky, once again, said she’s down for a fight. Only for Xia to say, once again, that they fight on her time. Becky, hilariously, asked when is it her time after three weeks of the same thing? Same, Becky, same.
It makes zero sense that Xia keeps doing the same thing.
This was definitely a go home show with a lot of moving parts. I didn’t mention Ricochet and Dirty Dom. Not because I didn’t like it but just because this show filled a lot of purposes. But the fact that that match, which set off Raw and actually kinda rocked, slipped my mind illustrates how much happened this week. A solid episode that put everything firmly in place for Crown Jewel.
What say you, Cagesiders? Are changes on the horizon for Judgment Day or is this another false start?