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Raw recap & reactions (Aug. 21, 2023): Judgment deferred

Raquel Rodriguez returns, Chad Gable does a thing, and Payback takes shape on the latest edition of Monday Night Raw.

Revenge is Sweet

I’m lukewarm on Raw’s ending this week. Not burying the lede at all here. The main angle involving the Judgment Day started strong and there’s still enough there, but nothing moved forward once the credits rolled.

Let’s start at the top. Sami Zayn kicked off the proceedings. His hometown greeted him like royalty. Judgment Day spoiled the homecoming, as they often do, and Kevin Owens made his triumphant return. That set off a chain of events that got my attention and my curiosity. KO challenged Judgment Day to a tag match. Which two members? He didn’t say and he didn’t care; he just wanted a match.

The weird thing here, and Wade Barrett pointed this out as well, is how Finn Balor & Damian Priest went from peaceful to painful in just one week. After seemingly patching up their differences on the previous Raw, they now distrust each other again. It makes more sense if they don’t stand triumphant together when Raw closed last week, which is one reason the ending here felt so lackluster.

Finn and Damian argued which of them gets to face KO & Sami. Rhea Ripley told them if they can’t make a choice, she’ll choose for them.

Are you going to argue with her? I know I’m not and neither did they.

Meanwhile, JD McDonnagh lurks in the background. He clearly wants something from Judgment Day. If you ask me, and you’re reading this so I assume you did to a degree, he wants Damian’s spot. How he gets it intrigues me. And if that happens without Damian turning face really interests me because he works so much better as a heel. But that’s for a different week.

Rhea put Finn & Damian together since they didn’t choose, and everything went well! No dissension in the group, no bickering, and neither one looked over their shoulders. The tag match ended in DQ when KO got caught using Damian’s briefcase. Cody Rhodes showed up after Judgment Day went to work on their opponents, and the tag match restarted as a six-man tag.

But like the tag match, no drama between Damian & Finn. Yes, they lost, but Dirty Dom took the pin. And not because of anything his partners did or didn’t do. The hometown heroes and Cody stood triumphant while Judgment Day licked their wounds. But they did so together.

Right now, this thing between Finn and Damian is just dragging. We need another gear for the story because even Raw’s endings feel the same. Judgment Day either wins triumphantly or they get beat and walk away mad.

The NFL starts in a couple weeks. WWE needs its hottest angle and group on Raw to move into another level. But maybe they’re saving the fireworks for the first time they go head-to-head with Monday Night Football.

Or perhaps I’m too optimistic for my own good.


B-Sides

Firing Squad

The Viking Raiders sent a message to the New Day and whatever Matthew Riddle & Drew McIntyre call themselves. New Day eventually landed on McRiddle. I don’t hate it. I still prefer Highlanders.

What started as Matt & Drew proving themselves as a “real tag team” turned into something with much larger implications.

McRiddle clearly stood no shot against the New Day because, well, they’re the New Day. But they began establishing what their “same page” looks like. Maybe the Viking Raiders threat fashions them into something formidable and consistent. In fact, I’m sure that’s part of the story here; brothers forging a bond through combat. Will it be enough though? Especially with New Day in full effect and the Viking Raiders on the prowl. Honestly, I hope it leads to a breakup because their tandem still bores me.

Runnin’

I’m torn on GUNTHER vs. Chad Gable. On one hand, fantastic match. They worked a similar story from the last time these two hooked up: GUNTHER punishes Chad, takes him lightly, and Chad’s resilience shines through.

But then there’s the ending that made no sense. They sold the match as Chad’s big break; his possible crowning moment. After years, he finally gets his shot at singles gold. So I found it disconnected from that narrative when Chad celebrated like he won the championship when he defeated the Ring General by count out. Yes, GUNTHER showed his displeasure because to him, any loss is unacceptable. But it’s a weird moment for Chad and makes it seem like the Intercontinental championship didn’t matter when they told us it’s the only thing that mattered.

Back 2x

I initially rolled my eyes. Shinsuke Nakamura whispered he knows about Seth’s hurt back? That’s it?

But the longer the video promo went, the more Shinsuke sold me. Seth’s weakness represents fragility. And the champ’s response signifies he understands just how fragile his back really is right now. It also means puts a time limit on his reign; Seth only has but so much time to truly make his mark with that championship. Shinsuke knows what that feeling does for a competitor and how it potentially plays into a big match.

Simple but effective.

Seth answered in kind when he got the chance. He delivered a passionate promo that made all of this personal. And he challenged Shinsuke to show up the next time Raw comes to us live. In the meantime, we got word that their match at Payback is officially official.

The Bridge is Over

Finally. It’s now time for Raquel Rodriguez vs. Rhea Ripley.

Rhea plowed through Candice LeRae this week. Candice put up a fight with a hope spot that lasted all of five seconds.

This gave way to Raquel making her triumphant return doing her best Willy Wonka impression. I actually think Wonka sold the injury a bit better but in Raquel’s defense, Wonka’s partially magic.

Raquel gave Rhea something to fear and fans something in which to believe. Then told the world that she challenges Rhea for her championship at Payback. Which, according to my calendar, is right around the corner.

I Cry

LA Knight says Miz is what you get if Biff Tanen slept with a frog and pushed it down stairs. I cackled.

Miz talked more trash about the megastar, challenged Akira Tozawa—who Miz says is better than LA in every way—and LA blessed us on commentary.

This thoroughly entertained me, mostly because LA got some mic time, handed Miz some tissues for all his whining, and Miz took the L. He got so caught up focusing on LA that he took his eyes off the prize.

Just book the match now. Please?


Raw held serve this week. A competent show that produced solid wrestling but nothing truly exciting or newsworthy. It’s the equivalent of car that gets from point A to point B with no fancy bells, whistles, or horns. That’s not a bad thing at all, but it’s not a great thing either.

What say you, Cagesiders?

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