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Raw recap & reactions (Jan. 22, 2024): The championship problem

CM Punk and Cody Rhodes meet, New Day flash their teeth, and the World Heavyweight Champion doesn’t relent on this week’s Monday Night Raw.

Lithium

Is Damian Priest the dumbest man alive?

That’s what I kept asking myself while Seth Rollins stood in the ring on one leg. I’ll get to Seth’s decision and its potential impact in a bit, but like every like Mr. and Mrs. Thorn, we need to talk about Damian.

Damian’s countless cash-in attempts are laughable now. So much so that I chuckle whenever he shows up. He’s Wil E. Coyote and that belt is Road Runner. No matter what he does, he hits a wall or falls off a cliff while holding a “Yikes” sign. He’s tried taking advantage of every situation where Seth looked weakened but nothing ever comes together for the big man.

So why, with Seth hobbling on one leg with a brace wrapped around his left knee, did WWE make Damian look like an idiot?

After all those failed cash-in attempts, I needed an explanation for him not attacking Seth as soon as possible. I wanted a backstage brawl between Judgment Day and whomever. Or something popping off between him and Drew McIntyre. Maybe even a quick mention that Judgement Day isn’t in the building. But we never got that. No, the first time Damian popped up on television this week, he had Drew on his brain. That made no sense within storyline or character.

Before anyone reading this says that was a real moment and Seth clearly couldn’t wrestle, I hear you. I’m not advocating for any actual fighting between those two. What I am saying is within Raw’s parameters, Damian is a ruthless character who, like Joe Pesci, will do anything for dinero. But he’ll do even more for a championship. He has no scruples about cheating on any level or taking shortcuts. So why didn’t he take this extremely short path to obtaining his ultimate goal? Show me why he’s not this one time so it at least makes sense. I couldn’t even process GUNTHER showing up and all the nice things he said about Seth because I kept waiting for something with Damian.

For any story in any medium, characters and their actions must make sense. As it stands, someone dropped the ball on both accounts this week when it comes to Damian.

However, that wasn’t the case with Seth. He got real, he bore his soul, and he remained defiant. The doctors tell him he won’t be ready for WrestleMania but he’s not listening to them. He says he’s coming back for the big show and will defend his belt against anyone. GUNTHER, a man who doesn’t have a purple briefcase but does have a brain, said after he wins the Rumble, he’s picking Seth. Not just because of all the respect he has for the man but because he’s weakened. Duh! It makes perfect sense.

Seriously though, I wonder if there’s a backup plan here. Seth can talk about defying doctors all day, but actually doing it is another story. If he’s not ready for Mania, who gets the title? And how does that exchange happen? There are tons of questions here that I hope WWE has answers for.

At the least, I hope they’re smarter than Damian Priest and at least prepared for the future should it come sooner than they think.


B-Sides

Take it Personal

The title says it all. This thing between New Day and IMPERIUM is no bread, no water, just meat. Translation? Beef.

Xavier Woods took his shot last week and that ended in a DQ. Kofi Kingston returned this week and tag teamed with his partner against Giovanni Vinci & Ludwig Kaiser. Guess how this one ended? If you said in a clean three-count with a clear winner, you clearly didn’t read the headline or listen to the song. Or maybe you don’t watch enough wrestling. Those of you who said their tag match ended in a double count-out because these teams hate each other? Congrats, you win a set of steak knives.

Beautiful brawl that took them from the ring floor to the crowd. I enjoyed seeing both teams equal for once and getting incredibly violent. New Day got the upper hand here as you see in that video above all these words.

But the best part came after the match. New Day spit a fiery promo reminding everyone who they are. They made it clear that they aren’t 12x champs by accident; they get down when the time calls for it and the disrespect ends now. They felt themselves so much that Kofi challenged GUNTHER for the latter’s Intercontinental championship next week. New Day wants gold this year and I’m down for all of this. I love seeing their new side, love seeing the vicious version of IMPERIUM, and can’t wait to see this thing continue. GUNTHER made it clear he has bigger belts in mind so maybe KOFI defeats him next week.

What Up Gangsta

Royal Rumble is just over the horizon, which means, duh, setting up the Royal Rumble. For our purposes, that meant putting a few men and a few women together in the ring. They exchanged cold stares, grabbed microphones, and staked their claim for winning the whole thing.

For the women, that meant Nia Jax, Bayley, and Becky Lynch told each other how much they hate each other. Then they counted the ways. And no, that’s not a typo. Bayley and Damage CTRL strolled into Raw and gave Bayley the chance to say hi to her old friends Nia and Becky. But it really emphasized how high that deck is stacked against The Man. Obviously she’s not cool with either woman, but she’s possibly got the biggest target on her back. As Nia said, Becky’s one of the greatest. And taking out someone of her ilk puts multiple feathers in one’s cap. Doing it for a main event spot at WrestleMania just makes it sweeter. They furthered that intrigue when Rhea Ripley stepped to Becky backstage and told her to change her plans. Oh, and Becky’s scowl also told a story.

As for the men, we got something that didn’t quite match WWE’s hype: CM Punk and Cody Rhodes face-to-face.

These guys have history besides their obvious recent past together, which they brought to light. But everything felt too rehearsed and calculated. And it never got out of first or second gear. For something that, in theory, drips in emotion, this felt emotionless for the most part. Things got a little heated in the end if only a little. And I really liked Punk drawing parallels between his WrestleMania path several years ago and Cody’s current journey. The Rock derailed Punk’s Mania main event dream, the same boat Cody might find himself sitting in this year. Other than that, it didn’t do much for me. Especially compared to Punk’s segment with Drew McIntyre.

That said, I’m always hype for the Rumble, so not even a very meh segment can dim my excitement.

Oh, and that “what do you want to talk about” thing needs to go in 2024. Sweet Jesus if there’s any mercy in this world, it will go swiftly. That is all.

A Quarter to Cutthroat

Rhea had another mission this week besides getting under Becky’s skin: get Judgment Day back on track. I already talked about the group’s huge swing and a miss that started Raw, but Rhea meant getting the tag champs ready to defend their championships against DIY, putting a win on Dirty Dom’s ledger, and resurrecting Finn Balor’s nasty side.

What Mami wants, Mami gets.

Dom faced the Miz in a match that moved well, contained plenty of drama, and featured both men on top of their game. Dom was my pick for best heel and most improved in 2023 and this match put all that on display. All of that negative energy played perfectly with Miz’s new found sainthood. In fact, Miz did a crossbody from the top rope! I said it before, but I eat my words when I decried Miz’s face turn. I’m into his matches, into his character, and he shows new sides almost every week. It helps when he’s working against the numbers game, which is Judgment Day’s best gameplan.

I like Finn & JD McDonagh getting involved while the latter remains a crash test dummy. Seriously, JD can’t catch a break and it’s hilarious every time. I said it before but this is almost a parody of his NXT character. He talks tough and tries looking tough but he’s a clown who takes himself too seriously.

None of that for Finn, however, who showed exactly what Rhea demanded. That nastiness helped Dom get the W and made the Prince attack Miz like a rabid animal post match.

DIY made the save, which continued their union with Miz and set their sights on one-half of the tag champs. Smart booking moves all around and a fun match.

Mama Told Me (Not to Come)

Lot of Rhea tonight! As there always should be since she’s the show’s main character.

Mami told Damian there’s no reason to mess with Drew McIntyre. He’s got the briefcase so his championship shot is guaranteed, and he has bigger fish worth frying in DIY. Let Drew cook and go about your business.

Yeah, well, Damian didn’t and he got a Claymore, along with an L, for his troubles.

The match was okay. It didn’t feel like the main event for a Royal Rumble go-home show. Possibly because on a night before an event with so much on the line, these two going toe-to-toe with no stakes felt anticlimactic. Toss in the R-Truth drama and it seems more like they’re building towards Damian vs. Truth. While I appreciate everything R-Truth does right now, including his bits this week, that’s not a match I want to see. And I definitely don’t want it when Damian has that briefcase.

The Big Battle

On the flip side, there’s Chad Gable vs. Ivar. This match rocked my world and it’s my pick of the night.

I’m running out of superlatives for both men so just watch the match for yourself. If you don’t like it, that’s cool, just know we want very different things from our professional wrestling entertainment and that’s cool.

Chad works well with everyone so it’s no surprise he and Ivar did this thing this week. Ivar’s gracefulness amazes me weekly. That he exudes it no matter the opponent or their size just says so much about his skill.

Dream Warriors

Damage CTRL showed up for another reason. To paraphrase Adam Pearce, they went into business for themselves and caused chaos. They attacked Katana Chance & Kayden Carter after Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell vs. Shayna Baszler & Zoey Stark. Shayna & Zoey got the W but the Kabuki Warriors & Damage CTRL are the bigger story.


A very solid go home show filled with set up for Royal Rumble. While the main event left me wanting, the rest of the show delivered a fun time. Ivar and Chad Gable tore down the house, while New Day and IMPERIUM gave the show fire that carried it through the first hour. Oh and Damian got what he deserved for multiple reasons, chiefly his stupidity.

What say you, Cagesiders? Is Damian Priest the dumbest man alive or was he just having an off night and not thinking?

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