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Raw recap & reactions (Jan. 1, 2024): The Rock reserves a table for one

Rhea bites off more than she can chew, Cody issues a challenge, and The Rock makes a statement at Raw Day 1.

Know Your Role

I originally put this kinda far in my show rundown. But then The Rock dropped the A Bomb at the end. It’s happening now. Right? It has to. I’m not even excited for it (yet) because the idea of Rock competing against Roman Reigns at this age does nothing for me. But it does show that Cody Rhodes’ story might take another turn evolving into his version of The Neverending Story. Turn around, Cody and wait just a bit longer.

Anyway, as for the segment with Jinder Mahal, I don’t really have thoughts on them doing the “foreign guy disrespects the USA” angle in 2024. Actually, I have thoughts but I’m just not in the mood for all that on January 1. That said, Rock killed it. His performance, along with the insane pop when his music hit, showcased a true wrestling star. Cats often ponder about certain wrestlers going to Hollywood or being big stars outside of wrestling. Yeah, nah.

When Rocky shows up, it puts all that talk into perspective. That guy got pops like that consistently during one of wrestling’s most popular and competitive eras. A time where they often matched or surpassed Monday Night Football’s ratings. That sounds incomprehensible now since Football is king, but that’s how big WWF was at the time, thanks to people like Rock.

I understand why him vs. Roman makes sense. It’s huge box office, it’s got an obvious storyline, and it attracts people who might not watch. And it also helps Roman. It puts him under a bigger spotlight and gives him the biggest match (in terms of box office) of his career. I don’t think that’s how hire reign ends because I don’t see Rock sticking around. But it does beg the question what’s left for Roman after that? Once/if he defeats his more famous and at least equally impressive cousin, where does he go? Defending his championship against Cody, let alone anyone else at that point, feels anticlimactic. Wrestling against John Cena felt big but Rock always waited in the wings as a distant mountain. If Roman climbs that summit, what lands are left for Alexander to conquer?

Rock wants to sit at the head of the table. Roman, no doubt, has all the incentive to give him a chair. But, as someone who ran WWE often asked, and then what?

And just like that, I just got a little interested in this match. Let’s make it official, WWE.


All Apologies

Forgive me, Nia Jax. I gave you no shot in this head-to-head against Becky Lynch. After all, she’s Becky Lynch! But Nia got the W, possibly the biggest in her career, and no doubt wrestled the best match of said career. Props to Becky for that but also Nia and the match’s production. They established Nia as unmovable while giving Becky all the fire in the world. This went hand-in-hand with the narrative leading into the match: Becky needed the match itself more than Nia. Annihilating Nia meant everything to Becky and the match went with that. Becky stayed on offense and while Nia took several licks, she held her own thanks to sheer power.

But the match hinged on Nia keeping her word about that punch. She told Becky that the last time she bloodied her face, she hardly put her all into that blow that created The Man. This time, she promised Becky the full force. After Becky kicked out of a top rope Samoa Drop, Nia looked flummoxed. So much so, that I almost rendered her promises empty. Almost. You see what happened above once Nia composed herself and Becky took one risk too many.

One Annihilator later, that was all she wrote. And by she, I mean Nia. Not only that, but she bloodied Becky yet again. If they’re building towards Nia vs. Rhea Ripley, this is quite the way.

I never saw that coming and frankly, I’m still in shock. But I love it because I have no idea where it goes from here. Monday Night Raw’s initial appeal was that “anything can happen.” As the show approaches its 31st birthday, I hope it gets back to that and becomes less predictable. This helps.

The Truth

R-Truth is a national treasure. The man takes anything WWE gives him and makes it entertaining. He showed up on Miz TV as the lone “Judgment Day” member. And where there’s Truth, JD McDonagh & Dirty Dom aren’t far behind. Awesome Truth reunited for one night and defeated JD & Dom.

It says something about Judgment Day that they have two comic relief members who take Ls without hurting the group. I understand these two aren’t as formidable as the more “serious” members, while also love rooting against them. And interacting with Truth makes them better in their roles. Admittedly, JD playing the crash test dummy first gave me several pauses. I watched the guy play a psycho killer in NXT, and he played a similar role when he first graduated to the main roster. But him parodying that NXT character feels more appropriate for a guy mobbing with Dominik Mysterio of all people. He fills an important role on the main roster and within the group, so good on him for finding his niche.

Fun match that truly hinged on Truth’s facial expressions, mannerisms, and Shawn Michaels impression.

Old to the New

Ivy Nile did the damn thing. She didn’t defeat Rhea , nor did she truly put the champ in jeopardy. But she made Rhea work for the W. Most Rhea matches are foregone conclusions. That’s partially based on how WWE presents Rhea and the lack of presentation for Raw’s women’s division. It’s different with Ivy; she’s fresh blood and talked that talk. If anything, it’s a victory that Rhea didn’t demolish her easily or even at all. Rhea accepted this match because she tired of people scoring points off Judgment Day. She talked about restoring order within her division and making Ivy into an example. Well, she didn’t.

Rhea expected something short and sweet. Instead, she got an actual match that made her sweat against an opponent who, much like the Terminator, just kept coming. Ivy impressed with her strength, versatility, and ability to play the scrappy underdog. She competed with the champion, pushed Rhea to her limit, and showed she can hang.

That’s a big W for Ivy as a wrestler and character, and an L for Rhea as a character if only a little one.

My Own Worst Enemy

Drew McIntyre screwed Drew McIntyre. No doubt, the way this very dope main event match ended will play into wherever this story goes next, but whew that hurts. The big man had Seth Rollins dead to rights. Game Over. Send everyone home. We’re going to breakfast. That sort of thing. He did everything right during the match too. And he even showed how little mercy he has. But his overzealousness got in the way. And that’s the story with Drew: No matter what happens, something else happens. And most of the time, like this time, it’s on him. I can’t wait to see how this affects him next week and what wild stuff he does as a result.

If I have one complaint about the main event, it’s the cash-in stuff with Damian Priest. It’s laughable now and feels like a running joke. I get teasing something like this but it’s too many; either he’s getting the belt or not. That he can’t even get a bell ring on his attempts makes him look rather inept.

Before I get to my overall feelings on the show, want to show some love to Giovanni Vinci. He hit his head on the mat pretty hard during the tag match between IMPERIUM and Kofi Kingston & Jey Uso. They stopped the match and got him out of the ring. Here’s hoping he’s okay.

As for the show itself, I really dug it. It moved with purpose, produced several solid matches, and turned the screws on characters in ways I love. Plus, Rock made news and that’s always fodder for my speculating brain.

What say you, Cagesiders? Is Rock vs. Roman tantalizing? And if so, is it a WrestleMania match or Elimination Chamber?

Sound off, 1, 2!

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