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Raw recap & reactions (Apr. 17, 2023): When factions feud

The Judgment Day and the Bloodline make a deal, Trish Stratus explains herself, and Cody Rhodes finally gets what he wants.

Eye for an Eye

Paul Heyman engineered a brief alliance between the Bloodline and the Judgment Day. It’s rare WWE gives us two factions working together in this fashion, but it makes perfect sense. We get heels working with heels all the time towards one common goal, so why not get heel factions working together? Little touches like that make the world feel real and alive, so please do more of that.

Before getting to Raw’s main event six-man tag with Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens & Matt Riddle on one side of the ring and the Judgment Day on the other side, I want to give a shoutout to Rhea Ripley. Actually, Rhea and Solo Sikoa. During Raw’s opening segment, we got a stare down between the Bloodline and the Judgment Day.

But the absolute best part came when Rhea and Solo stared darts through each other. Paul noticed and comically asked Jey Uso to switch places with his younger brother. But Rhea switched places with Finn Balor just to keep her eyes squarely on Solo. Brilliant.

The fact that I want a Rhea and Solo match says so much about both of them. This might be a Hip Hop deep cut, but Rhea gives off Queen Latifah in the Native Tongues vibes. Years ago, Busta Rhymes said Latifah was the hardest member in their crew; that’s Rhea. And all want now is her vs. Solo. She can even put the championship on line for all I care. Would that make sense? No. But whatever.

Heyman charged the Judgment Day with eliminating Sami, KO, & Matt before Puerto Rico. That proved easier said than done once Rhea got herself eliminated from ringside. After several interferences, mostly directed towards KO, the ref caught her right in the act and threw her to the locker room. That made everything easy for the tag champs and Matt, who got ahead in the match and won with the numbers finally even.

While I enjoyed the match quite a bit, the aftermath proved more memorable. The Bloodline rushed the ring after Judgment Day fumbled, followed by Rey Mysterio and the LWO. We got a big brawl that saw Damian Priest slammed on a table and the babyfaces stand tall while begging for more fight.

I’m all about faction warfare and this is giving me all of that plus more. More importantly, everyone looks good because they’re all in a big feud, with the LWO raising their stock considerably. One wonders how Roman Reigns handles the Judgment Day not holding up their end of the bargain and the LWO putting their nose in his business....



Say Your Prayers

Part of the unholy alliance between the Bloodline and the Judgment Day saw Solo wrestle Rey Mysterio Jr. Solo’s mission? Obliterate Rey and, to quote a Power Rangers villain, make it as though Rey never existed. What really got me here is just how good Solo looks. Of course Rey helped because he’s Rey, but Solo completely blends his persona with his moves. There’s no wasted energy or movements, and he never looks out of his element.

Solo dominated this match for the most part, with Rey giving a few hope spots and even landing a 619. But the Usos got involved, which brought out the LWO! Props to WWE for smoothly flowing into a potential feud between the Bloodline and the LWO.

But even with all that help, it wasn’t enough. Rey went down even with all the shenanigans, then Rey and the LWO got more punishment when the match ended. Solo and the Bloodline had a mission this week and they fulfilled it during Raw’s first hour.

Lost Ones

The end seems near for Damage CTRL. Sure, that’s stating the obvious, but we got another layer to the story this week when Bianca Belair pinned Dakota Kai. While they wrestled a non-title match, it still showed that while Dakota is good, she’s not good enough. She gave Bianca a run for her money and countered the KOD a couple times as well, but the champ is the champ for a reason. The writing is on the wall for a Bailey meltdown where she complains about giving up her title shot to IYO SKY after IYO loses, and that Bianca beating both women proves she’s carrying dead weight.

Raw started strong with two entertaining matches out the gate with larger implications.

No Hook

Cody Rhodes didn’t show up to Little Rock with any of his usual schtick in his mind. Cody showed up in the middle of the ring ready to wrestle. Adam Pearce, the worst manager ever, reminded Cody he’s not medically cleared and the match just cannot happen. He respects Cody’s heart and aims, but yeah, the facts are the facts.

But then Cody lost it. He grabbed a chair and went upside the head of several “security” members after Adam made his match with Brock Lesnar at Backlash official.

Brock showed up, dressed in all black like the Omen, but no actual fight between the two. Which is the right move. Keep them a part from each other until Puerto Rico, while giving us a new side of Cody. He lost at WrestleMania then Brock punked him the very next night. And he kept all that rage bottled up because he’s Cody.

I wish we got that fire the night after Mania because he got screwed and took it very graciously. But better later than never, right?

Ain't No Love

Miz clearly felt disrespected after the last few weeks. WrestleMania? Disrespectful. Raw after Mania? Disrespectful! With that in mind, Miz picked a fight with Seth Rollins. And why not? Miz wins whether he gets the W or not if he simply looks competitive against Seth. But he attacked Seth before Seth even hit the ring, showing Miz meant business and is more than a joke.

After that, these two put on a very dope match filled with big moves, counters, false finishes, and plenty of drama. Like I said, Miz comes out on top regardless of the outcome. I’m curious where Miz goes from here and whether a feud between these two is on the horizon. Or maybe I’m bugging and the match means nothing in the larger scheme. But either way, watch the match now and get reminded that Miz is truly excellent at this pro wrestling thing.

Capital Punishment

All throughout the solid, if unspectacular, match between Bobby Lashley and Austin Theory, I wondered about Bronson Reed’s presence. No way the match finished without Bronson making his presence felt. Right?

The answer is yes. Bronson picked his spot and interfered right when Bobby put Theory in the Hurt Lock. Bobby picked up the DQ win but whew, he didn’t look like the winner. Reed kept the beatdown going after the bell, and even got some help from Theory, who dropkicked Bobby during the All Mighty’s last ditch effort at putting Bronson in a Hurt Lock.

Just give me this match at Backlash and put it inside of something. Please? Is that too much to ask?

Story to Tell

Trish Stratus’ reasoning for the heel turn worked for me. She took umbrage with Becky Lynch claiming that the Four “Horse Ladies” revolutionized women’s wrestling. She took umbrage with fans and Becky regarding her as a footnote in WWE’s history. And she took a lot of umbrage with Lita playing Becky’s sidekick. Trish says she only played the sidekick role to play the long con with Becky; get up close and personal and see if she really believes her own hype.

And yeah, Becky does.

They painted Trish as this devious mastermind that goes back to her initial days as a heel manger where she knew all the angles and played them perfectly. But it also felt true because her feelings, even if you disagree, are understandable. As she said, she’s nobody’s sidekick, she’s not a nostalgia act, and she’s no one childhood fantasy. Trish took out Lita to “put her out of her misery” and purposefully lost the championship match just to get to this point.

Trish still has it and there’s potential here for a really good story between WWE’s past and its present, while giving us a different version of Trish that harkens back to her early days.

As One

I thought WWE might play an angle where Chelsea Green & Sonya Deville get underestimated going into their tag team championship match against Raquel Rodriguez & Liv Morgan. But they’re going with the idea that Chelsea & Sonya deserve more respect and might be the champs if the champs take them lightly.

Chelsea & Sonya defeated Michin & Candice LeRae and earned a shot at that those tag titles. It was a pretty sound defeat too. That’s the right call going into a championship match where we need some belief that the champs might lose. Plus, going against a heel team for their first title defense benefits Raquel & Liv. I like the disrespect shown towards the champs at the end of the match when Chelsea threw water at Liv. That’s so in character and feels like something a Karen might do.

I don’t know if these four will have the best match on SmackDown, but they will surprise a few folks.

Good matches, few big storyline developments, pretty seamless writing and a well-paced show. Look at that! That’s all I ask for if it’s a three-hour show and thankfully, WWE delivered that this week. This also serves as a perfect lead to SmackDown.

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