I don’t like happy go lucky CM Punk. I’m not the first to say that and I’m sure I shan't be the last. Yes, I said shan't. But you know what gets me on his side? Seth Rollins cheerleading for the gigantic corporation that is WWE.
Now, on its face, I get it. I understand why Seth feels how he feels and I don’t doubt a single word he said. WWE is his home; he loves the wrestlers and the fans. He has no problem telling anyone with a microphone that he can’t stand CM Punk for the way Punk handled, well, everything since 2013. I don’t blame Seth for those feelings. It’s just hard getting on his side here when he’s waving the company flag against a guy who would never pick it up. Personally, that latter part speaks louder to my sensibilities than the former. I don’t fault anyone who rides with Seth either. In this tribalism age in which we live in, everyone picks sides for everything.
I’m sure there’s someone reading this now who will tear me a part in the comments section and call me a WWE hater because how dare I not take out the billion dollar pom poms. That’s cool, but let it be known this isn’t a WWE thing for me; if Seth sat there and stuck up for Disney or Apple or any billion dollar company with questionable business practices and history shadier than 10 palm trees, I’d type the same words. And that’s despite me liking or loving things all those companies, including WWE, produces.
That said, Punk choosing Raw sets up this interesting meta angle that has a chance to right the wrongs the last time Punk went against the system. Remember Triple H, Kevin Nash, and the mysterious text messages? Yeah, unfortunately so do I. That went south quicker than a Scarface record but WWE told the story they wanted: The rebellious upstart is wrong about the company and we’re better than him. I’m curious how this plays out with this current alignment that puts Seth in the company man position. They clearly do not like each other and I believe every word Seth said as it relates to Punk. He hates him, he thinks he’s a fraud, and preys on his downfall.
Those feelings remain raw. Seth also wants to stick up for the company and a locker room that, at least the way Raw tells it, truly detests Chick Magnet Punk. I dig that last part because I can at least identify with sticking up for your people and protecting them from outsiders with bad intentions. I like the overall story here. Yes, despite my misgivings about Rollins as the company man, that’s who he is in real life. It’s not my cup of tea but it’s real and that makes the best feuds.
That aside, the confrontation itself left me wanting. The last time Seth saw Punk, WWE officials held him back. Emperor Palpatine smiled somewhere watching that hate swell within him. So it’s weird that when he finally gets a chance to lay hands on the prodigal son, he doesn't. It lacked the intensity that overflowed from that Survivor Series moment. A pull-apart brawl felt appropriate here as it really illustrates the hatred that Seth spoke about. Especially after Punk declared himself for the Royal Rumble. That one piece turns a good moment into a great one.
As it stands, this whetted my appetite for coming attractions. As a guy with a rebellious streak, I know who I’m rooting for when these two eventually lock up. But, and this is a big but, I think I know how this story ends. CM Punk is essentially going against the house and no matter what arena where it happens, the house always wins.
The opening track off Pusha T’s first solo album set it off for the whole (uneven) album. A few words he said on that song make me think about Drew McIntyre right now: No excuses, no remorse. And this is the match I wanted between Drew and Jey Uso weeks ago.
Drew held nothing back. Besides the cheating (removing turnbuckle pads, eye gouging) he showed his vicious streak. He barely relented when he put Jey down and reluctantly moved away when the ref intervened. But he also trapped Jey under the ring and executed a slingshot. That meant Jey’s throat collided with the steel bar under the ring. Those moves make the character’s words mean something; Drew says he has zero remorse to give and stuff like that makes it less of an empty threat.
Drew got the W but they saved Jey in the process. Like I said, Drew cheated and did it pretty viciously. Raking a thumb in someone’s eye with the ref not looking is pretty dastardly. After the Claymore, Jey had no shot.
I don’t think Jey lets this sit for long and I wouldn’t mind seeing these two in a much more violent environment. Maybe a cage? Or a Falls Count Anywhere brawl? Something that enables Drew’s heel behavior and gives Jey permission to let loose.
Good opening match that advanced the story and both characters.
Judgment Day acknowledged their slide. Tempers did that thing they do amongst frustrated people before Rhea informed her whole group that they need to reassert their dominance. And she felt insulted at Maxxine Dupri’s unmitigated gall and audacity in thinking that she’s ready for bigger matches. Mami made an example out of her and sent a message to the entire women’s division.
Normally I don’t like squash matches like this; they’re not entertaining at all. But, it worked for me here because of the larger implications. There’s a story playing out with Judgment Day externally and internally; Rhea’s journey is part of that tale. Maxxine showed improved offense but let’s keep it real here: This wasn’t about her in the least bit. She gets to say she tried and Ivy Nile stepped to Rhea post match, but this was all about domination, baby. It’s her world and everyone just lives in it.
The more desperate Judgment Day gets as a group, the more aggressive their matches should feel. All that said, they need to do something interesting with Rhea related to her division other than just killing everyone in sight. Like I said, I have no problem with it here but going to that well too often is a bad look. Give her something compelling that uplifts the division because right now, she’s bigger than everyone and that makes for uninteresting television.
Speaking of Judgment Day, the rest of the crew hit the ring to mark their territory, No, that’s not as nasty as it sounds. R-Truth hit the ring and pretty much spoke for the audience. The video tells that story and I can’t say I disagree with any word out his mouth.
The Creed Bros. hit the ring to protect Truth because those were fishing words, and then you know what happened at that point. They’re setting up a pretty basic story here: Damian & Finn Balor are too distracted. Despite what they say, they’re taking the Creeds lightly and we might get an upset. I dug this segment for Truth’s comedy, Damian’s latent evil, and Julius Creed’s continued freak show. Seriously, the man is incredible.
Could we see an upset when these two teams fight?
I really, really like this story between Becky Lynch and Nia Jax. I wish Nia was better on the microphone to truly carry her end (though she hit with that line at the end), but this feels like a natural progression for both women.
Becky wants Nia for one reason: She’s tired of people saying she owes her career to Nia bloodying her nose. Simple, effective, and believable.
Nia, for her part, comes a little too soft on the microphone. But telling Becky at the end that The Man needs this fight more than she does? Perfect. Becky never backs down from a fight but what happens when facing someone who is already in her head and knows it? That’s a cool angle. My only hope is that we get something more from Nia on the mic that complements her improved ring game.
This was fun. DIY faced IMPERIUM in a six-man match. But they needed a third man, shoutout to the nWo. Who did they pick? Fellow Cleveland man The Miz.
Watching the two Cleveland kids, Johnny Gargano & Miz, entertain the crowd just felt right. We also furthered the story of IMPERIUM coming apart at the seams, and Miz doing everything for another shot against GUNTHER.
Miz showed more fire and aggression here as he makes his point. DIY looked good but Miz and GUNTHER’s battle made this match for me. It built to their confrontation and didn’t disappoint. Miz caught the big man off guard and we got more of GUNTHER’s tremendous selling ability.
That said, GUNTHER didn’t take the pin here. That responsibility fell to Giovanni Vinci. Very nice transition between Giovanni and Miz that resulted in a Skull Crushing Finale and a three-count. Who is the weak spot in IMPERIUM? The world turns and we await the final answer.
And yes, Miz got his title shot. However, if he loses, he gets no more shots at the Intercontinental championship so long as it remains around GUNTHER’s waist.
Once again, I stand corrected: Face Miz works and I’m rooting for him.
Ugh, what is happening?!
I figured this was too soon. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Cody Rhodes happened tonight and it didn’t feel right. During the third act of a very solid and grueling match, Shinsuke, well, you see the video.
If both men have a story to tell and finish, then it makes sense that it doesn’t end here. The Brothers Creed assisted Cody during Shinsuke’s post match beatdown, but this isn’t about a W for Shinsuke. Well, not entirely. He’s dismantling Cody and ensuring he never makes it to the Royal Rumble. To paraphrase Ivan Ooze, he wants to make it so that Cody never existed.
With Shinsuke operating at this level, this has potential for interesting turns. If Cody gets to WrestleMania, or even Royal Rumble, Shinsuke wants him to work for it.
Solid and fun Monday Night Raw. After last week felt rather inconsequential, this show produced quite a few developments. Punk’s story remains the most interesting (sorry, Cody...and Shinsuke), but everything else kept me interested. But that’s not really surprising is it?
What say you, Cagesiders?