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Raw recap & reactions (June 26, 2023): Finn don’t miss

An NXT wrestler makes their Raw debut, Finn Balor finally gets something off his chest, and Rhea Ripley sees challengers coming from all angles on the last Raw before Money in the Bank.

One Day

Finn Balor got his this week. For starters, WWE gave us a recorded segment where Finn got the chance that alluded him a couple weeks back. And you know what? I bought it. Finn’s issue with Seth isn’t the fact that he hurt him during their match seven years ago; his issue lies with Seth laughing in Finn’s face during his lowest moment. That’s incredibly relatable and in any other story, that’s the babyface angle. Everyone has bad days but as the best Batman stories remind us, it’s what one does after that bad day that determines who they are.

Finn let his bad day define him for seven years and he blames it all on one man. In fact, he says his bitterness comes from Seth, which is a lot to throw on one person’s shoulders. But that’s what villains do. Eddie Brock had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and blamed it all on Peter Parker. Eddie became Venom and the rest is history. Peter Parker, on the other hand, is no stranger to bad days and dedicated his life to ensuing that no one else suffers that much loss in their lives. Clearly Finn chose Eddie’s path and this week, we saw more results from that choice.

Seth called out Finn but not before acknowledging Carmelo Hayes sitting in the crowd. Let’s get this out the way for those who don’t know: Carmelo is my favorite wrestler at the moment. Him showing up on Raw and becoming a plot point for one of WWE’s big angles tickles me to no end. I even chuckled at the old woman sitting next to Melo as the crowd gave him props.

But I digress. To Seth’s surprise, Finn showed up with chair in hand. The two fought and, once again, Melo saved the champ from taking a vicious blow from Finn. That inspired the worst GM in the world, Adam Pearce, and we got a match between the NXT champ and possibly the greatest NXT champ of all time, The Prince.

Before I talk about the match itself, a quick bone to pick with Melo’s backstage promo. Something about it felt off and if you’re one of the NXT faithful, maybe you felt it too. Most of it sounded like generic babyface stuff.

He thanked Seth for the invitation, gave Seth all the props in the world, acknowledged the challenge Finn poses, and even the possible stupidity in taking on Finn the night before defending his championship against Bum Ass Baron Corbin. That all sounds good and dandy but that’s not Melo.

I have no problem with him showing Seth respect but he was too conciliatory. He revered Finn a bit too much. And Melo never aspires to be like anyone but Melo. Yes, he’s a babyface now but let’s not shave down those heel edges that made the NXT audience fall in love and basically force a face turn.

I have nightmares about the last time WWE took a charismatic, athletic, cocky wrestler and basically took away everything that made him cool the minute they made him “the man” and turned him into their top good guy. The fact that Melo is reportedly close with Shawn Michaels and Shawn sees so much of himself in Melo only makes that amplifies my deja vu.

But that’s for down the line. The immediate future involves a match with two objectives: Make Finn look strong and showcase Melo. They wildly succeeded on both parts.

Finn just looks great right now. Every move comes from a violent place with so much passion. Melo looked great too, hitting all his signature spots, showing his innovative offense, proving he can hang with the big boys. I didn’t expect a clean W either but I’m glad they gave us an actual finish instead of shenanigans.

Seth gave Melo the rub and they spent a lot of the runtime talking and showing Melo’s dopeness. Seth also noted how dangerous Finn is right now. That Finn defeated Seth’s handpicked guy, even after said guy gave him his best, says a lot about Finn and the challenge Seth faces.

Melo? His status raises. He looks great in defeat, much like Bron Breakker did on last week’s NXT, and raised the stakes for his championship match with Baron.

Everybody wins but none more than Finn. After the mishap a few weeks ago, WWE called an audible. They let Finn talk in his own words, showed him getting physical, and then reminded everyone just how serious he is between those ropes.

Props to everyone involved.


Dead Presidents II

Bronson Reed made his presence felt during the Ricochet vs. Shinsuke Nakamura match, but not the way I expected or wanted. The big man sat ringside until Ricochet & Shinsuke essentially teamed up against him. Once they got the very big man out the very big picture, Shinsuke and Ricochet focused more on each other.

Don’t get me wrong, they put on a fine match because they’re both spectacular. But going into MitB, I expected a non finish or at least a DQ. I like the idea of all competitors going into the big match for the briefcase with momentum on their side. Ricochet goes in with a leg up over his rival, which has its merits, but my preference is they never fight tonight so all of that frustration boils over during the ladder match.

They may still very well go after each other at MitB and hurt their chances at winning, but it’s not the same knowing one of them just defeated the other.

As per usual though, I know I’m overthinking it but I stand by those thoughts.

Afro Puffs

I never quite know what to think of Ronda Rousey singles matches. She wrestled Raquel Rodriguez this week in a rather short affair that didn’t really impress. Ronda still looks awkward and rough (hence the song) in the ring and her moveset is still limited. Her best matches utilize her strengths, which is to say she looks best when the match resembles a fight and not a wrestling match.

Raquel is a wrestler, not a fighter. The same goes for Liv Morgan, who had her partner’s back and took out Shayna Baszler. Ronda got the win when she caught a distracted Raquel by surprise. The story is Raquel & Liv working from underneath to get their rematch with the tag champs. We’ll get there, but I’m still uninterested in Ronda’s part of that equation.

Welcome Back

Tommaso Ciampa elaborated on why he turned his back on Miz last week. Long and short of it is he never heard from Miz while he sat home on the shelf, and all that time away gave him a chance to think. He asked himself why is Tommaso Ciampa playing second fiddle to anyone, let alone Miz? And this week, he starts carving out his own path.

Yeah, about that.

Miz walked to the ring with a different energy this week for his scheduled match against Tommaso. And he lit into his former partner. The match never even started. We got angry, vengeful Miz who only had one thing on his mind.

I liked this side of Miz a lot. Every now and then he reminds us not to sleep on him because he does have a nasty streak. It presents a different wrinkle for Tommaso as well, so we’ll see if he finds rebound.

Public Enemy No. 1

Dom Dom and Rhea Ripley kicked off Raw this week. Well, they tried. The boos drowned them out as per usual, so Cody Rhodes stepped in for welcoming duties.

With Dom and Cody in the same ring, both men exchanged the traditional war of words. Rhea stood up for her man because she's the best, but Cody kept his focus on Dom. He even challenged Dom to prove he’s half the man that Rey Mysterio is instead of Mami’s little boy.

Dom accepted that challenged in his own way. Meaning he took his frustration out on someone else in hopes of proving a point. Dom requested a match with Tozawa, thinking he saw an easy win on the horizon. Tozawa, of course, gave Dom some competition and caught him off guard. But Dom recovered relatively quickly, Tozawa found himself distracted by Rhea, and Dom got the W courtesy of a Frog Splash.

I don’t think any of this has bearing on his match with Cody in London. It just makes people hate Dom even more than they already do, and I for one can’t wait to hear London boo him back across the pond.


Corey Graves hosted a women’s MitB summit that, to the surprise of no one, ended in a brawl. Imagine that!

Most of the mic time went to Zelina Vega, which makes sense as she’s still defining herself in this framing and has the least accolades. She held her own as she either gave props to or ran down her competitors. Trish Stratus took the cake though for the best heel performance as she somehow beat Bayley in the obnoxiousness contest. She ran down everyone, said they’ll thank her for letting them be a part of her big moment in London, and came off as perfectly smarmy.

Becky Lynch though? Becky let her fists do the talking. Great touch since Becky is done with the crap and just wants to fight. Fun segment that saw The Man climb the ladder and IYO SKY, well, take to the sky for a big spot outside the ring.


Becky ran into Rhea backstage. Rhea, posted up like the villain in a western, caught Becky’s attention and tried intimidating her. While Becky spoke with fists and kicks during the summit, she used words this time and called Rhea a “main event side piece” who doesn’t get the main event spots that Becky got as champion.

It’s either a misdirect or a direct telegraph for Becky vs. Rhea this summer.

Bring it on.

Fed Up Wit the Bulls*t

The Undisputed Tag Team champs are fed up with Imperium. They’re fed up with them interrupting them, fed up with the fact they went after Matt Riddle’s ankle again this week, and just tired of their faces.

So Sami Zayn did something about it and challenged GUNTHER to a match with vengeance on his mind. And what a match it was.

GUNTHER and Sami always put together impressive bouts and this one delivered. Just watch it. Don’t even read what I’m saying, just peep the bout. We even got a Giovanni Vinci sighting as he hobbled to to the ring on crutches. And Chekov’s crutches say we gotta see those crutches used.

Sami pushed GUNTHER to the limit like a song on the Scarface soundtrack. When it got dire for the Ring General, Giovanni hit Sami with a crutch. That, along with a Power Bomb from the Intercontinental champ spelled the end for Sami.

Kevin Owens, clearly beside himself for a bunch of reasons, brawled with GUNTHER and Ludvig Kaiser. Then Matt hit the ring! Well, he limped to the ring but still! The odds evened and we’ll see what happens at MitB when GUNTHER puts his championship on the line against young Matthew. But I predict Matt comes to the ring with Sami & KO by his side since all three men know IMPERIUM plays by their own rules. If that doesn’t happen, then I just don’t know what WWE is doing.

Judgment Day

Cody had a long night. He found himself in the main event against a motivated Damian Priest. Damian continued his streak of putting together good matches, while Cody looked great in front of his home crowd. He beat Damian even with interference from Dom and Rhea.

I mean, that’s really it to say about that. Dom won’t have anywhere to hide in London and Cody’s ready for a fight.

Another solid Monday night! Nattie challenged Rhea to another championship match, and the Viking Raiders & Alpha Academy exchanged words. The fact I didn’t even get to those up top says what a packed show this was because the Nattie story intrigues me and anything Alpha Academy touches turns to gold.

While SmackDown might provide the better go-home show atmosphere in front of a raucous London crowd, Raw pulled its weight this week with worthwhile matches and more plot for current stories.

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