clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Raw recap & reactions (July 17, 2023): Balor & Rollins get serious

New tag champs, new SummerSlam matches, and the World Heavyweight Championship picture paints some new strokes on this week’s Monday Night Raw.

Da Art of Storytellin’

Finn Balor and Seth Rollins hit their stride a few weeks ago when Finn demolished Seth on sight at the drop of a dime. They hit another level this week during Seth’s sit-down interview with Byron Saxton.

I complained about Seth’s character not allowing the serious Finn brings to the table right now. Well, this week proved me wrong. Finn interrupted the interview and Seth got deadly serious. He looked like a man who not only understood Finn, but feared him. Seth recognized something in Finn’s eyes and knew it meant nothing but trouble.

He said as much when he empathized with Finn’s feelings but told him to stop living in the past and try his best to move forward. Obviously, Finn said nah, but the way he said it got me shook a bit. Finn wants everything from Seth that he feels owed and showed no remorse for anyone in his path.

Seth told Finn that to leap if he felt froggy and Finn happily obliged with a sucker punch that any wrestling fan saw coming from three country miles away.

Seth relayed the favor during the main event and took Finn out the picture before the bell even rang. Great stuff but I’m awed with how they turned this thing around after that first encounter many moons ago. Everyone adjusted and figured out the best way forward, then simply executed. Seth showed a new angle tonight that plays perfectly against Finn, while illustrating he’s more than just a Joker impression in fashion choices louder than a football field littered with cicadas.

I like the fact Finn forced everyone’s hands into this rematch too. It says Seth realized that getting rid of this problem sooner than later helps him. It’s dangerous letting Finn go unchecked, so he did the only logical thing.

Strong storytelling that built on everything, got beyond the shouting, and just put two guys in a room with nothing but air and opportunity.

Their story comes full circle at SummerSlam. Do I think Finn wins? No. But I hold out hope he does and still think it’s the best move for the tale.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.



*There’s a running theme through the song choices this week. Can any of you Cagesiders figure it out?

While I enjoy a good fight, and please believe Matt Riddle and GUNTHER gave us a fight, I’m not really sure if it served a point. Drew McIntyre suggested Matthew hold off fighting the Intercontinental champ until Drew comes back from handling WWE business elsewhere. Matt forged ahead and WWE barred the rest of IMPERIUM from ringside.

And then GUNTHER did what GUNTHER does. While much more competitive than their Money in the Bank match with Matt’s ankle no longer being of the bum variety, nothing really changed. GUNTHER got on the mic afterward and told Drew to come get all this heat if he wants it. But we already know Drew wants it. And beating Matt fair and square won’t suddenly increase Drew’s animosity. It’s a perfect time to let GUNTHER get ahead through chicanery and truly stoke Drew’s ire.

But, yeah, I want it to be one way but it’s the other way.

Call of Da Wild

I’m glad Brock Lesnar showed up fasionably late because I didn't want another week with Cody pulling this thing by himself. After Cody welcomed everyone to the show and shouted out his moms and family in the front row, Brock showed up with violence on his mind. He used a chair but mostly his fists, the F-5, and the Kimura Lock.

Oh, and he accepted Cody’s challenge. Great opening that set the tone for the rest of the night. I said it before but everything with Brock just looks different because he’s such a scary looking human. It all looks real and feels real.

Number One Spot

I knew it. I knew after Rhea Ripley “injured” Raquel Rodriguez’s knee during their dust up in the back that those tag titles had a new destination. Also, shoutout to Rhea for head butting Liv into...oblivion.

Chelsea Green & Sonya Deville are the new tag champs—well deserved—because they capitalized on Raquel’s knee injury. They essentially wrestled a handicap match with Raquel hopping on one leg and Liv doing her best.

While I initially disliked the idea that Liv took the pin since Raquel’s the hobbled one, I understand why Liv took the L. This represents another brick in the wall for Raquel vs. Rhea, so keeping her shoulders off the ground makes sense. Plus, Liv doesn’t look bad losing to two people in that fashion while her partner screamed in agony on the floor after taking a mean chop block.

I like the title change and think it’s time for Chelsea & Sonya.

Goodie Bag

Kevin Owens’ temper almost wrote a check too big for the Undisputed Tag Team champs. This non title match morphed into a title match simply because he has no chill.

The Judgment Day almost took those tag titles if not for Liv showing up and getting a little revenge on Rhea. That distracted Dirty Dom because he’s a great boyfriend, and gave the tag champs just enough time to put the finishing touches on the match and retain their titles in a really dope main event.

Hear me out though: I don’t like the result. Sami & KO rock but I’m over them as champs right now. More to the point, I think Judgment Day does more with the tag titles than the current champs since their biggest moment came when they won the championships at WrestleMania. I can’t think of a hotter heel team more deserving and with a better story at the moment. To say nothing of the fact that Dom going into a championship match with Wes Lee with one belt draped around his waist sounds like a good story.

But alas, the champs retain and the status quo remains. Though I believe WWE made a mistake here, one I hope they soon rectify.

I do like throwing Liv back into the mix though. Great touch that sets up a grudge match between her and Rhea.

Players Ball (Remix)

A couple things: The Viking Rules match? Insane. Fun, but insane. Two, Maxxine got her jacket and then took an awkward looking but effective spear through a table from Valhalla. Ms. Dupri keeps showing and proving, and I enjoy every second.

The Viking Raiders got the W, thanks to Valhalla giving a huge assist that went unchallenged with Maxxine out of commission.

I mean, that’s really it. Actually, one more thing: This isn’t over by a long shot. At least I hope not.

Trap Muzik

Shayna Baszler defeated Nikki Cross in what felt like record time. So, yeah, let’s talk about Ronda Rousey, who showed up in the press box with a lot of words.

Ronda still lacks smoothness on the microphone and rushes through everything to the point that it feels rehearsed. Like I said before, more fighting and less talking. But the good thing is they finally made the match official: Shayna vs. Ronda at SummerSlam.


One step closer to Trish Stratus vs. Becky Lynch at SummerSlam. The Miz Tv segment overall didn’t do much for me as it seemed a little disjointed with no energy, but it got to its logical conclusion and set some stakes. If Becky beats Zoey Stark, then she gets Trish. If not? Well, she gets on her knees and thanks Trish, and gets a matching tattoo.

I’m curious what obstacles they throw in front of Becky during her match with Zoey. Obviously she gets the win but the “how” matters since Trish set the terms. But there’s another big issue here: Why did Trish accept this after dismissing Becky? Yeah, Becky threw a few insults Trish’s way after Trish declined, but they were light and nothing new from Becky.

I don’t think anyone understood how to move this thing from point a to point b, so they found the thinnest reasoning. There’s no emotion here that feels earned and no story that serves anyone well. Everyone deserves better than this.

Splash Waterfalls

Tommaso Ciampa got in Shinsuke Nakamura’s way this week.

Shinsuke got another shot at Bronson Reed, but Tommaso showed up and got Shinsuke disqualified. Both men want Bronson for their own reasons but now Shinsuke wants Tommaso. Or at least he better because I can’t imagine Tommaso letting Shinsuke’s attack go unanswered.

I like Shinsuke acknowledging the fact everyone keeps butting into his business. He needs to bring back some aggression and get back that edge he had back in NXT. And putting him against Tommaso feels like the perfect moment for bringing that old thing back.

We got a lot of fun matches tonight and WWE treated Atlanta very well. Great storytelling with everyone involving the Judgment Day, a home run from Finn and Seth, and some intrigue in the women’s division. Oh, and people wrestled on a semi viking ship.

What more can you ask? And who figured out this week’s theme?

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Cageside Seats Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your pro wrestling news from Cageside Seats