Becky Lynch took a pretty big L when 2024 started. Nia Jax defeated her, surprisingly, and in a match that Becky said she needed more than anything else.
With that loss under her belt, Becky’s having a small crisis. And that’s why she stepped to Rhea Ripley this week in a promo that fascinated me. It’s not often we get this much character development from wrestlers anymore. They usually adapt from one persona to the next while letting the past remain just that. Few incorporate every part of their journey into their present. The ones that do stand the test of time and become everlasting for fans across this spinning blue ball. We got that from Becky this week when she acknowledged the similarities she and Rhea share, but also their differences. Interrogating all that brought Becky to the reason she needs to win the Royal Rumble and face Rhea at WrestleMania: She’s afraid Rhea’s better than her.
It reminded me of Steve Austin telling The Rock that defeating him at WrestleMania 17 for the big belt was a need, not a want. Stone Cold needed that belt and the victory over his arch rival for validation. Becky needs the W over Rhea for similar reasons. She says the thought that Rhea might be better than her keeps her up at night and gives her nightmares, which is a different angle for how these championship matches go. If Becky wins the Rumble, that creates new drama for Rhea as well. Her title reign seems defined by matches with outcomes never really in doubt against opponents the audience never quite buys as a threat. She’s truly eclipsed her division and the matches felt like afterthoughts. I said before that I’d buy Rhea as World Heavyweight champ and I stand by that.
Becky offers a wrinkle though; Rhea wants Becky almost as much as Becky wants her. For once, Rhea finds herself against an opponent she sees as a measuring stick. Defeating Becky puts several dozen feathers in her cap. Becky gets a shot at proving she’s still got it and still the best. It seems less about the title for Becky and more about defeating Rhea on the biggest stage, but of course the belt is a bonus.
I want Becky to win because it means we get more of this from her. This vulnerable and unsure version in desperation mode really gets my attention. I normally think wrestlers pointing to the Mania sign is corny but when Becky said she needs that moment, I felt it and wanted it for her.
That’s why she’s the man and why if anyone can or should defeat Rhea, it’s her.
Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes entertained me this week. Not my fav promo segment of the episode, but they both hit every note perfectly, What really intrigued me is both men acknowledging their similarities but Cody pointing out their differences. And it’s that juxtaposition that explains why Cody smiles when he hits the ring while Damian sulks. Damian thinks or wants everyone to be like him while he blames them for his shortcomings. Cody accepts the past and moves forward. And if he points the finger at anyone, it’s to a mirror.
The bottomline is this set up another fun confrontation for the Royal Rumble, with both men wanting the same thing but only one of them seems willing to do anything to make it happen.
I have a bone to pick with DIY. Not them actually, but more with how WWE handles them. Johnny Gargano & Ciampa are NXT royalty. They told dope stories as a team and as enemies. Whenever some great author writes the NXT story, these two cats get their own chapter.
Translating that to the main roster isn’t always easy. The audience that watches Raw and SmackDown is considerably larger than NXT, which usually helps broader and bigger personalities, like Grayson Waller. Grayson chews scenery and builds his whole persona around being larger than life. WWE has, and always will be, larger than life characters and putting them in conflict with each other. When given characters with more intimate personalities, like Johnny Wrestling & Ciampa, it usually falls on WWE to work a little harder at making that bigger audience care. And I don’t think they did that with these two.
We got those digital exclusives months ago about putting The Way back together and Ciampa looking for Johnny, but none of it happened on TV. I know it’s 2024 and the internet is a thing, because duh, but everyone isn’t “online.” And every WWE fan certainly isn’t. At least not to the degree that those of us who write about this business are. So re-introducing DIY to this audience takes more than a few internet segments and a bunch of behind the scenes happenings. They deserve better than that as does the audience.
I say all this because the crowd still seems unsure about them. They get muted responses during their entrance, then get the crowd into their matches sometimes, like this week, only to repeat the same thing the next week. There’s no consistency and they seemingly only get the crowd on their side when they’re beating down someone the crowd genuinely hates, like Dirty Dom. Because he’s Dirty Dom, so of course they hate him.
But I want us at the point where that crowd reacts to them upon seeing them or hearing their music. Not just when they beat up the guy everyone hates. Like I said, consistency. They had a great match because that’s what they do. And it helps that Dom & JD McDonagh are great dance partners. I just need them on a more sustainable path. I know the aim is a tag match for the championships but as of now, I have no reason to cheer for them in that fight.
It all came down to this. Xavier Woods lost his cool, and the match, when wrestling Ludwig Kaiser. He wanted payback for Kofi and he got himself a taste with a disqualification for good measure. But let’s rewind a bit.
GUNTHER made his triumphant return this week after becoming a proud papa. Of course he said nothing about his child but instead ran down Little Rock and declared himself for the Royal Rumble. He then turned his attention to Ludwig and that’s when Kofi made his return. Much less pomp and circumstance accompanied the King of the Ring, but I get it. This moment revolved around GUNTHER while Xavier wasn’t there for fun, games, pomp, or circumstance. To quote one of my favorite movie characters, this was a play for blood.
The ensuing match with Ludwig worked well for the larger story. Ludwig is more aggressive and dangerous, while Xavier wrestled a little unhinged given the stakes. And it eventually got the point where Xavier tasted his own blood with either a busted lip or something worse. Shortly thereafter, things got crazy.
Last week, Ludwig threw a chair at Kofi. Yes, he threw a chair at him. Xavier returned the favor and that’s when the DQ came. They continued brawling afterward and Ludwig got out of dodge realizing he possibly bit off more BS than he can chew. Xavier stood victorious for a while but Ludwig finished the job during Xavier’s backstage interview. With no Kofi in sight, Jey Uso made the save.
I like all of this. Love the aggression from both men, love the physical match and the DQ finish, and really love Jey making the save given his history with New Day. This sets up a few possibilities but I’m hoping for a Jey Uso vs. Ludwig in a street fight.
Once again, make sure you treasure R-Truth. First, he gets his hustle on selling semi-bootleg Judgment Day t-shirts. Damian Priest tries stopping it until he realizes how much bread R-Truth profited. And, more importantly for Damian, Truth has a fat cut for Damian and the rest of the crew. Damian killed this segment with how quickly he went from wanting to kill Truth to giving him full permission to continue doing what he’s doing as soon as the money came out. Cash still rules everything around here.
Damian only had one caveat for Truth: Don’t tag in during their match.
And that’s exactly what happened when Damian & Finn Balor faced Awesome Truth. At least for most of its runtime. Truth started the match and stuck to his conflicted act. Props to everyone involved for playing their roles here. Miz tries talking sense into his friend while dishing out offense. Finn fights like Truth isn’t part of the crew but looks confused whenever Truth does something really violent, while Damian clearly lets his anger towards Truth boil under the surface until it erupts. Damian tried giving the man the benefit of the doubt this week, but the man only has but so much patience. Judgment Day got the W after pinning Truth, but the story continues.
Eagle-eyed viewers surely caught Truth inserting himself in the Judgment Day entrance graphic, right?
We have a lot of completion for Kayden Carter & Katana Chance’s tag championships. And I love that. Zoey Stark & Shayna Baszler stepped to the champs and told them the deal straight up, which seemingly puts them in line for a championship match. They need some Ws before that happens, hence this efficient but fun match against Nattie & Tegan Nox. It further established Shayna & Zoey, even if they don’t have the same chemistry the tag champs have in spades.
Speaking of chemistry, Indi Hartwell & Candice LeRae certainly have it. I liked the short video clip before the match that explained just a little bit about them as individuals and their team. Putting them against Piper Niven & Chelsea Green felt like the smart play. Chelsea & Piper don’t need Ws at this point since Ms. Green keeps that team entertaining. While I always wish these women tag matches got more time, I appreciate that we’re getting them and seeing character.
Indi & Candice vs. Shayna & Zoey has potential for something interesting based simply on the contrasting personalities. That sounds fun.
I never quite understood this thing with Jinder Mahal and Seth Rollins before the match, and I still don’t now that it’s over. It’s not that I disliked the match; it was perfectly fine and something expected when it involves champs. The drama caught my attention though, even if some of it is old hat at this point. And by some of it, I mean Damian coming ringside with that briefcase again. Dude, like fetch, it’s not happening. But it played into the show’s first segment and segued into next week, which made it work. Drew, fresh off blaming everyone but himself for losing, got in Damian’s way. He prevented the cash in and stoked the fire for their upcoming match. I liked that touch and it’s logical. Drew wants no success for no one but himself, so ruining Damian’s chances sound right up his alley.
As for the match itself, I don’t like Seth looking seemingly indestructible. It was one thing when he kicked out at two after a cheap shot from Indus Sher, but kicking out after a chair shot and the Khallas? That felt like a bit much. I don’t think they did Jinder any favors with that. Especially when he goes down to one stomp.
This was a thoughtful night. Clearly. The show packed some inspired moments and kept a brisk pace. The main event didn’t do it for me but the rest of the show carried most of the weight. The Royal Rumble keeps piling on the intrigue and I can’t wait for the show.
What say you, Cagesiders? How do you feel about Becky, Rhea, and of course, Jinder?