Cody Rhodes opened the show but the opener really wasn’t about him. He addressed why he saved Jey Uso last week and it came down to the fact he sees Jey making better decisions. And rejecting Judgment Day sits at the top of that list.
Say their name and they shall appear. That’s when the segment truly started. Dom, Damian Priest, & Finn Balor surrounded Cody, who valiantly stood his ground like a good babyface. Then the intrigue: Jey joined his side, simply out of respect and to repay the favor. Then Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn joined to have their friend’s back. KO and Jey have beef, yeah, but Cody is still his man. And, as Jey said later, he and Sami are still tight, so they’ll always look out for each other.
Judgment Day, noting the odds no longer in their favor, backed away. With a tag title match against KO & Sami coming later, Damian saw no need to venture into a losing situation and give their opponents any advantage. Smart, right?
Well, yeah, but then came JD McDonagh showed up. With two chairs in hand no less. He passed one to Finn, and they went into battle, followed by Dom. The chairs did nothing as four men still beats three, even three men with plunder. Damian reluctantly joined the fray and then caught most of the heat. After the babyfaces cleared house, they surrounded Damian. Señor pesos en el banco knew the beat down facing him and he told them all to bring it.
You know how that ended. And if you somehow don’t understand how math works, then Damian’s reaction later to JD and the rest of Judgment Day spelled it out for you:
Damian put the fear of God in everyone, including Finn.
But therein lies the rub because without JD, Judgment Day don’t retain their championships this week. As commentary pointed out, they’re not champions at all without JD. Once Dom showed up during the tag match, followed by Jey, then Cody, it became clear that Judgment Day needs more hands. There are too many targets on their collective backs with seemingly no end in sight. JD keeps doing his best to earn Damian’s goodwill and at what point does Damian relent simply because of the odds?
Mami seems against it, even from afar:
But one wonders how long they can keep this up with all these enemies?
Otis. Bronson Reed. Do I really need to say anything else? Oh, I’m told by someone that I have to.
A bunch of meat slapping each other in a fun match between mastodons. Bronson continued his run through Alpha Academy in what one assumes primes him for an Intercontinental championship match down the line once Tommaso Ciampa handles his business.
Ironically, Bronson got the W simply because he was quicker than the more agile Otis.
But you don’t care about any of that. You care about meaty men doing what they do best.
While I really liked the match between Tommaso and Ludwig Kaiser, I don’t like that it happened. GUNTHER told Tommaso to go through his people for a match, which feels similar to what he did with Chad Gable not too long ago. And the way it ended, with Giovanni Vinci and Ludwig on different pages, which led to Giovanni getting his nose busted, and possible dissent between the two. The ref missed Ludwig’s pin attempt, and possible three-count, while checking on Giovanni’s nose. Ludwig, understandably frustrated, went possibly too far when he booted his partner out the ring and complained about his presence.
We’ve done the whole “GUNTHER upset at IMPERIUM’S overall imcompetence” thing before and while I’m glad Tommaso will eventually get his shot—he told GUNTHER to sign the contract—I can do without GUNTHER berating his boys to get it together. Again.
After the berating, GUNTHER told his crew that he’ll handle Tommaso on his own since he’s the only one who handles his responsibilities.
this feels like an IMPERIUM break-up tease, but I wonder whether GUNTHER just disbands the team or if a big betrayal happens. Giovanni & Ludwig can’t let another adult who isn’t their father talk to them like children, so if it’s me, I know what I’m doing.
Natalya probably has too much and Tegan Nox needs a bit more.
Tegan approached Becky Lynch backstage and The Man loved seeing her. But she didn’t like the fact that Natalya accepted her challenge last week instead of Tegan. Especially since she saw Tegan waiting by the curtain ready to pounce. I like doing a little character development here with someone rarely, if ever, used on Raw. Especially in a division that needs more character motivation than “I want my opportunity,” a word and motivation used way too often on WWE television. Becky challenged Tegan to step up and take advantage of her spots rathe then deferring to veterans, like she did with Nattie last week.
And right on cue, Tegan goes to Adam Pearce and asks for the NXT championship match against Becky if Becky survives Tiffany Stratton at No Mercy.
Quick point of order: Isn’t that Shawn Michaels’ decision on who gets a shot at that belt? Did Adam just run roughshod over Shawn’s authority? Should Shawn tune up the band on AP?! I think so. Violence.
But I digress. Nattie stepped in, asserted her ego and somehow believes she deserves a rematch against Becky even though she lost. That set up a Nattie vs. Tegan match with Becky doing guest commentary.
What followed was a pretty short match. Shorter than I expected. Tegan got the W, much to her surprise, but I wanted more from the match given all that backstory and character work.
Another dope segment between Seth Rollins and a recorded Shinsuke Nakamura. You can see it above these words so let’s skip to the main point: Last Man Standing championship match at Fastlane. Makes complete sense given the story and Seth’s weakness. I expect brutality, no Rhea Ripley.
Also of note? Ricochet doing a backstage interview on crutches. He made it clearer than white crystal that he wants Shinsuke after Fastlane, regardless of the outcome.
Dirty Dom can go. He isn’t wasting his time in NXT, and his match with Dragon Lee made that clear. Now, let’s also note that Dragon Lee is incredible. He shows and proves almost every Tuesday but he really shines with a strong heel dance partner. As of now, there’s no stronger heel partner for him than Dom. They have the Rey Mysterio connection and juxtapose each other perfectly.
That’s why this match rocked; a strong heel vs. a strong babyface. Watch it. Just watch it now. Actually, no, read this recap, then watch it. From a story standpoint, it only makes Dom stronger. He proved he can win without Mami around, and do so after gutting out a comeback.
Michael Cole interviewed Nia Jax, who came equipped with a new attitude and new music (I think). She’s still not like most girls, however, as she made mince meat of Zoey Stark. Zoey interrupted the interview and got in Nia’s face for what Nia did to her. The match ensued after everyone broke up the skirmish, and Nia pretty much controlled the whole thing.
While it’s weird seeing Zoey in this position given that she just stepped away from Trish Stratus and formed a partnership with Shayna Baszler, but here we are. Nia got the W, which no doubt means she’s Rhea’s next target whenever Mami comes home.
Drew McIntyre constantly telling Miz to shut up made me cackle.
Miz hosted Drew on Miz TV and it got into a philosophical battle about, who else, Jey. Miz instigated the best he could while also sympathizing with Drew’s plight. Miz made good points: Drew has every reason to throw Jey to the wolves after all the pain the Right Hand Man dished Drew’s way during The Bloodline’s reign of terror. New Day hit the scene and Drew questioned how they of all people can greet Jey with open arms. Acknowledging their history with The Bloodline, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods simply said that it’s time to forgive and forget. Jey’s on Raw with atonement on his mind; give him a shot rather than holding the past against him.
Both sides made great points before Drew and Kofi locked up, and it gets at the heart of this whole thing with Jey: Is he truly a changed man or is this an act? And even if a leopard did change his spots, does that mean all is well? Bygones be bygones, that sort of thing?
Of course, this dances around the fact that we got a match between two former WWE champs! That’s a big deal and the match delivered on that understated promise.
Drew controlled most of it, illustrating his rediscovered anger and aggression. Kofi wrestled from under and got a few hope spots, even an SOS, but Drew seems motivated for a match with Jey. And he’s letting his rage push him through everyone until he gets to the younger Uso.
Ivar, he of Viking Raiders fame, showed up and manhandled Xavier. That abuse distracted Kofi, obviously, and Drew took advantage. And when Ivar set his sights on Kofi, Drew, once again, walked away.
Whole lot of Christopher Nolan’s Batman happening in Drew’s life right now: “I won’t kill you. But I don’t have to save you.”
Really enjoyed this week’s Raw. We got several fantastic matches and the stories went in fun directions. This felt like setup for Fastlane and possibly Survivor Series. Two birds with one very big stone.
Can’t wait for next week.