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Raw recap & reactions (Nov. 20, 2023): Holding a grudge

Adam Pearce loses it, Xia Li shows her skills, and Cody’s team gets a surprise fifth man on this week’s Monday Night Raw.


Whew, I have words about this week’s main event angle. Walk with me a bit.

Let’s start at the beginning like most stories do. Drew McIntyre addressed the crowd with the spotlight on him and everything else blacked out. Great presentation for the big man and I loved his explanation. No, he’s not in Judgment Day, but yes he's on their War Games team. And anyone questioning why he did what he did, they’re clearly not paying attention. No argument with that last point. Drew never lied; he dislikes Jey Uso and figured he at least gave Jey the respect the Bloodline never afforded him with a face-to-face attack.

I especially dug Drew talking about his family and what Clash at the Castle meant to them. He missed out on birthdays, Christmases, and other important dates over 16 years. Winning that championship in front of them at that event validates all of that sacrifice. But Jey and his family robbed that moment from Drew.

I get it. How would anyone just get over something like that? It goes beyond not getting the WrestleMania he wanted, which definitely came off as whiny when put in context of a global pandemic. But everyone relates to family, especially this time of year. While it didn’t make the crowd forgive and forget, it made complete sense. He even rationalized tangentially screwing Cody Rhodes, citing the fact that Cody brought Jey to Raw, so he too deserved what he got.

The more Drew talked, the angrier he got. And more anger meant he wanted Jey not now but right now. Jey answered the call but the Judgment Day impeded his progress. That led to a big standoff with both teams that Adam Pearce came between. I love stressed out and overworked Adam. Next to Sgt. Slaughter and Gorilla Monsoon, he’s my favorite WWE authority figure. Well, this version anyway. He’s always at his wits end and tired of playing principal for a bunch of immature adults. Principal Pearce informed the teams that the match for the War Games advantage is the main event and they need to pick representatives. He also told Cody’s team to pick a fifth person by the time the clock strikes 11.

That intrigue carried the show’s first few minutes. After some continued simmering drama between Damian Priest and Rhea Ripley, the Judgment Day picked Drew. Naturally, Cody and Co. picked Jey. Both men want each other and, according to Drew, the only reason he accepted Rhea’s offer is because she promised him Jey in a cage. So, our main event featured two guys who hate each other and who seemingly fought every bone in their bodies to not hit each other during the show’s first segment.

Then the match started and it felt no different than a normal WWE match. All that rage Drew felt towards Jey and the distaste Jey feels toward Drew? Yeah, they opened the match with a feeling out process. For the entire match actually, it felt like two guys just wrestling each other because they have to and not because they want to kill one another.

Now, before anyone jumps the gun, I’m not asking for a death match or anything wild by WWE standards; I just want actions that match with words. Drew waited months for this one moment; he should unleash all of that on Jey rather than looking calm, cool, and collected. And if the match can’t convey that because Drew gets Jey in a cage at War Games, then put two other people in the match. In fact, why not do that? Let the first time these two truly get their hands on each other come in a cage. Show Drew so focused on Jey that he neglects everything and everyone else, possibly to his team’s detriment. That can still happen but the confrontation loses a little juice with them wrestling on Raw.

And then the ending came so abruptly and felt wrong for the setting. Drew defeated Jey with the Future Shock DDT. And it came at such an awkward point because the match’s rhythm felt far from a finish. Maybe someone ran over on the show and they cut the match for time. At least, I hope that’s the case. At least that’s a good excuse.

Jey and Drew will more than likely do this again but I’m not even sure if I want it now. They got their moment for a grudge match and it felt no different than a normal Monday night match. Both guys deserved more than that and Lord knows this thing between them needed more.

I got so caught up with the match and its finish that the Randy Orton news felt anticlimactic. But Randy’s the fifth man and I’m curious how he gets along with Jey, the one guy not grinning or excited at the thought of teaming with the Viper.

Jey better keep his head on a swivel.


Shut ‘Em Down

I liked the story here, even if, in retrospect, it’s not complicated. Can Raquel Rodriguez lift Nia Jax? Not this week because Nia shut that down almost immediately. She rammed Raquel’s back into the ring post and rendered Big Mami Cool (is that still a thing?) practically useless for the rest of the match. No matter what happened, even when Nia went to the top rope and Raquel thought a power bomb might work, her back betrayed her.

I’m not sure how the loss affects Raquel but it definitely made Nia look strong and like, well, an annihilator.

I Declare War

Xia Li kept prank calling her shot against Becky Lynch. She meant it this week and wrestled her best match since stepping on the main roster. Xia beating Becky was never in the cards; hanging with becky and pushing her was the goal. It’s what I call the “Rocky finish.” Just go the distance and hold your own. And that’s exactly what she did. In fact, they gave Xia a spot where she hit her finishing move on Becky and if not for the ropes saving The Man. Xia walks away with a huge victory.

That one moment tells the story here: Xia came close and kept coming close but Becky’s experience put her over the top.

This is definitely a “watch this match now” moment. Xia served herself well, and looked good going into her title match against the woman who defeated Becky not too long ago.

Of course, since this is wrestling, we got big brawl with the women’s Survivor Series teams. A fun but quick brawl that set the stage for War Games but didn’t take anything away from what happened in the ring before it.

Do It

The main drama here, surprisingly, had nothing to do with IMPERIUM’s beef with DIY. All the heat popped between Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci before the match and during its ending. Ludwig, clearly jealous about the way GUNTHER looks at Giovanni, banned him from ringside. Giovanni disobeyed that order, distracted Ludwig, and Johnny Wrestling took advantage with One Final Beat.

The match itself was fine, though I admit I’m over this DIY vs. IMPERIUM thing. It feels stalled and now too much plot with this latest twist concerning Ludwig and Giovanni. One other big thing besides the ending? The crowd’s Johnny Wrestling chant. It’s a good sign after he and DIY as a unit elicited tepid responses at best. I say this with no sarcasm at all, but that’s progress!

Can’t Complain

That’s an ironic title because Chelsea Green complained the whole time on commentary. And I want more of it. She was fantastically passive aggressive and showed why she needs more tv time. I hope this woman stays around forever.

I love a tag match with multiple teams like we got this week. It usually means chaos with big spots, like Maxxine diving into the other three teams or the incredible top rope move Katana Chance & Kayden Carter pulled. It also means highlighting at least one team. And for this match, that belonged to Maxxine & Ivy Nile.

With a championship match against Chelsea Green & Piper Niven on the line, Ivy & Maxxine showed out. They got the biggest spots, the best crowd reactions, and looked great together for the “plucky underdog” role they filled as a team with no experience together. And that makes sense given the fact that of every team in this match, which included Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell and Tegan Nox & Nattie, Maxxine possibly gets the most spotlight. Alpha Academy remains a big part of any show they’re on and she’s a big part of that. Then there’s Ivy, who only showed up once last week for basketball reasons after shining bright during the women’s battle royal. Of course they both killed it this week.

But then they lost. It’s weird giving the underdog team all those moments and momentum only to go with Tegan & Nattie in the end. Especially the way they got it, with Tegan snatching victory from defeat’s carnivorous jaws.

Nothing against Tegan & Nattie at all, but I think the wrong team got the W here.

Nightmares 2 Dreams

I loved Miz sparring with GUNTHER on the mic. Once again, I ate my words about Miz as a face. They found the entry point with the Ring General because he presents a big contrast in philosophy and path. GUNTHER came to this wrestling thing easily and he lords that over everyone. He disrespects those who entertain and worked hard for this chance just to entertain.

Miz countered all that this week when he listed the entertainers he idolized: Randy Savage, Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, and my favorite, Shawn Michaels. He also listed Bret Hart and how he wanted that moment where Bret gave him a pair of shades. The Bret moment caught my attentions simply because he’s the one true babyface of the bunch and it showed Miz’s innocence. GUNTHER, to his dastardly credit, took all that and made himself more hatable.

The two eventually came to blows because GUNTHER bullied Miz into a fight and it all felt so real. These two cats are just different and it’s hard seeing a world where they ever get along. Miz wants that championship because it means he’s living up to everyone who held it before him. GUNTHER wants it because it means he’s better than everyone who held it before him.

Fantastic moment that hopefully the video does justice. I don’t know if he’s winning at Survivor Series, but I’m pulling for Miz. Once again, a sentence I never imagined typing. Or even thinking.

As far as go home shows roll, Raw was fine. I didn’t hate the show at all or even dislike it. But I found it rather middling by its usual standards and for the last one before a big show.

I didn’t touch on the Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Chad Gable match, which I dug quite a bit. The reason I didn’t give it much time is because the stakes just weren’t there. And on a go home show, that felt like weird placement for this one. Even Nia vs. Raquel carries implications for Rhea’s championship.

But I digress. Randy is back, although he didn’t show at Raw. That’s a big deal and clearly the hook going into the event. Are you excited for the Viper’s return?

What say you, Cagesiders?

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