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Raw recap & reactions (Jan. 29, 2024): The worst in the world

CM Punk bows out, Judgment Day jogs memories, and Bayley rethinks everything on the latest Monday Night Raw.

Evil Walks

Drew McIntyre is the best in the world at being the worst. He’s my favorite character in WWE at the moment, a spot he solidified during the opening segment with CM Punk.

First off, wishing Punk a speedy recovery. It sucks he tore his tricep again but hopefully some good comes from it. He’s absolutely right when he said he has bad luck recently.

To that end, Punk set a somber mood when he addressed the audience with some tears in his eyes. He talked about his injury and the fact that WrestleMania isn’t in the cards this year. It may never be in the cards for all he knows but he’s going to fight. Punk’s at his best when he keeps it real and all that felt genuine. I really liked him mentioning his friend battling cancer because it put all of this in perspective. There are people out there who truly fight for their lives everyday who would give anything to live with Punks bumps and bruises.

Punk kept talking but business picked up when Drew hit the ring. For a moment, it looked like the big man might wish Punk well or bury the hatchet. But nah. he not only rubbed salt in the wound, he spit in it and put dirt in it as well.

The wind up was perfect, too. Drew sounded very somber and respectful. He compared he and Punk’s challenges and for a moment, looked like he might even make a face turn. Then he said this:

“I’m not a spiritual person, but I prayed for this and it happened.”

Cold. Blooded. You have to really hate someone to not only pray for their downfall but then gloat about it once it happens. That’s reality tv hate. My mother used to talk about not wishing certain things on even her worst enemies; Drew clearly feels differently.

He said he couldn’t sleep Saturday night after Punk eliminated him from the Rumble. But once he found out about Punk’s injury and the fact that it occurred during his DDT, he slept like a baby.

Punk got in his face one more time and talked about seeing Drew when he gets back. Drew said cool to that and swung on a one-armed man. And because Punk has one arm, you know what happened. Also, I posted the video so there’s that.

Beautiful. Every part of it. That’s the best way to take a real-life injury and turn it into gold. In the spirit of not wasting anything, that segment created the main event once Sami Zayn rushed in to get a piece of Drew and play the hero. That not only puts Sami on a path for his vengeance but highlights his character who rights wrongs.

I liked their match but didn’t love it. I appreciated the idea behind it a lot because it kept things rather simple. Drew is Drew and Sami is Sami. No matter how big Sami’s heart is, defeating Drew is a hard task. Sami refused to give up but an inadvertent low blow spelled the end for him. Calling it a “low blow” feels like an understatement considering it happened while running full speed at Drew for the Helluva Kick. I felt that from here and I’m nowhere near Florida.

Drew left Raw victorious and on top of the world. He’s a bastard who will eventually get his comeuppance. Until that day comes, I plan on enjoying every moment of his villainy.



B-Sides

Who I Am

The Judgment Day came into Raw with one goal: Reestablish dominance.

First on their checklist? Successfully defending their undisputed tag team championships against DIY. They did that but DIY made it tough.

Fantastic opening match between these four. The match did the one thing that’s seemingly escaped DIY since their reformation on Raw: made them believable champs.

They put the champs in jeopardy multiple times, which is smart booking for the present and the future. It’s the first time I saw these two as champs and saw no real problems with doing a title change. I didn’t want Finn Balor & Damian Priest to lose, of course not. But this is the first time I saw the spark that made them NXT royalty. They’re hindered without that NXT story and storytelling, but they made lemonade out of the things people use for lemonade.

Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano looked great but the champs always look that way. And based on the storyline, they looked sharper and crisper. And also more vicious. Damian Flatlining Johnny Wrestling into the commentary table was a dope moment that said a lot about Damian, Judgment Day’s edict, and how much they initially took DIY for granted.

But they won without cheating and proved the champs stay the champs.

How did they celebrate their well-earned victory? Giving us the long-time coming R-Truth beatdown. Oh, and they threw in Miz because he poked his nose where it didn’t belong.

Yeah, I’d say those are good steps in accomplishing their goals.

Choosey Lover

Whether on one leg or two, Seth Rollins is exquisite. I know this segment started with Cody Rhodes doing a victory lap, but it became about Seth. Shortly after winning the Rumble, Cody made it clear he wanted his rematch with Roman Reigns. I wanted it too. I mean, that’s the final point this whole thing built toward. Leave it to Seth to not only upset the apple cart, but make him vs. Cody at WrestleMania possibly more compelling than Cody vs. Roman.

All of that felt like it came from Seth’s gut. He talked about the reasons that championship exists and how it’s truly of the people. He took several shots at Roman’s schedule and predictable matches. He commended Cody’s workhorse mentality, then said the World Heavyweight championship is the title for workers. It also sounded like he threw in a Hulk Hogan diss, which you know I love, then referred to the Undisputed Universal championship as the Hollywood championship and the one for people who politic their way to the top.

But the kicker for the segment, and for Cody, came when Seth asked which of those two championships would Dusty want?

The bottomline? We’re back to square one with Cody now pondering his WrestleMania choice. While that didn’t go over great in the Cageside offices, I have no problem with it because of this story. I can’t say enough about Seth’s performance here and I think everyone reading this should watch.

Locotes

Kofi Kingston vs. GUNTHER went on for a long time before it became competitive. I’m glad it did because it became exciting but also emphasized where New Day are right now. Kofi & Xavier Woods said 2024 is about reminding everyone New Day wins championships. Champions fight through adversity and stand tall against all odds. Well, if that was the story going in then they told that one incredibly well.

GUNTHER punished Kofi for the first two acts. Kofi showed some fight every now and then but it was like a big brother playing with his smaller little brother. That played into Kofi’s strengths as well. He sold GUNTHER’s shots like he got hit with a cannon, which I imagine is what a hit from the big Austrian feels like.

Eventually, they put the champ in just enough jeopardy to give hope that Kofi might dethrone the champ and bring gold back into the New Day fold. GUNTHER ducked a Trouble in Paradise but kicked out of S.O.S. After that, it became academic.

Smartly, they continued the larger IMPERIUM story when Giovanni Vinci & Ludwig Kaiser attacked Kofi & Xavier post match. Everything here felt logical, emotional, and satisfying.

Good as Gold

That’s how I feel about the Kabuki Warriors. Their match against Nattie & Tegan Nox had one major story: They’re a well-oiled machine. Their teamwork contrasted with their opponents, who just never seemed on the same page. In fact, one might imply that’s part of the reason they lost. I wonder if we’re coming to the end of the Tegan & Nattie connection and starting a feud between the two.

An okay match that really displayed just how great Asuka & Kairi Sane are together.

That led into am interesting segment with Bayley & Damage CTRL. Bayley’s so great at turning a crowd because as soon as they showered her with love for her Rumble win, she insulted them. And, of course, she patted herself on the back so hard her hand almost broke.

But the interesting part came when Rhea Ripley showed up with a mic in hand. Nia Jax attacked her mid-speech. Nia did something no woman thus far even came close to doing, and that’s making Rhea look human. I don’t remember the last time I saw Rhea in that much pain, or another woman in the division look that intimidating. Nia was so effective that Bayley put off making her WrestleMania announcement until Friday. If she heeds Nia’s words not to challenge Rhea, then that spells drama for Damage CTRL. Shoutout to the cameraperson for the shot of Bayley in the ring cowering from Nia while IYO SKY looked concerned in the foreground outside the ring.


I enjoyed Raw this week. Solid matches with two standouts, logical storytelling, and two dope promo segments. Plus we got some good news: Andrade and Pat McAfee are both on the red brand now, so it has that going for it.

If I have one complaint it’s that the show ended a little flatly. No big angle to close the show, no attack on Drew as he walked away, no nothing. It’s not terrible but I like when Raw starts and ends with something major. They started on fire with only a few embers left when the credits rolled.

What say you, Cagesiders? Does Cody go after Roman or take Seth up on his offer?

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