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Raw recap & reactions (Feb. 12, 2024): The sword and the shield

The last time we saw Cody Rhodes on WWE television, so to speak, was at the WrestleMania 40 Kickoff press event, where he was getting slapped in the face by The Rock after running afoul of “The Great One” over remarks about Roman Reigns’ family being ashamed of them. CM Punk implored Rhodes to fire back in kind.

This is the fight game, damn it!

Well, Rhodes appeared on Monday Night Raw this week to address the events of the aforementioned presser and my biggest fear was he would walk out and work the gimmick, opening his promo with the same tired refrain.

“So, what do we wanna talk about?”

Which, I mean, it’s fine. It’s his thing and all that. But I’m with Punk, this is about getting good and pissed off and firing back, not going back to what’s familiar. But that’s what he did, he worked the gimmick with a smile, and it felt a bit too standard for my tastes.

But what can you do?

Meanwhile, he told the fans that they made a big difference with their words and how they treated him following Royal Rumble and this whole situation that came up once The Rock returned. The “we want Cody” chants really mattered.

Almost enough to make him emotional.

But he can’t do that because then he would be a crybaby.

Then they went the comedy route, with Rhodes throwing it to The Rock’s appearance on Pat McAfee’s show and talking about the “Cody crybabies” and how they eat chicken nuggets and maybe also shove them up their ass. So Cody responded with “what am I supposed to do with the nuggets?”

He he.

Ha ha.

Finally, mercifully, Rhodes brought up the fact that a grown man slapped him across the face and what that means. “I’m going to hit you back.”

Yeah.

At this point, Seth Rollins entered the picture.

He, too, worked some comedy with a fun little Moana reference before saying he was looking forward to another battle with Cody but he understands why he made the decision he did. And then he gave him one hell of an endorsement.

Rollins told him he has to finish his story, for his father and for himself but just as importantly for everyone else. This is maybe the last best shot they all have of taking down Reigns, the most powerful champion for many years, and taking the power back and giving it to the people again.

It was a hell of a motivational message but he couched it with a question — what’s the plan, man?

Because we all saw how the match went down at WrestleMania 39, with Reigns and all his lackeys and all the help he always has. And now he’s got even more help, in the form of one of the most influential forces in not just pro wrestling but Hollywood, The Rock. So it’s become clear that enough is enough and it’s time for a change.

And he needed to tell Cody that yes, this is his fight, but he needs to know that he does not have to be in this fight alone.

Rollins then took some of the blame for Reigns and what he has become, seeing as they used to run together in The Shield and everything that happened there. But that just means one thing — when it comes to fighting off The Bloodline, there is only one man fit to be Cody’s “shield.”

This was one of the best promos of Seth Rollins’ career, maybe the best, and he did more for the story than even Cody did on this show. They took this from just Cody trying to finish his story and turned it into a fight for the future of the entire damn promotion. Rollins made it feel like the most important match in the history of the industry.

I was already absurdly excited for all of this and they somehow just cranked that up to 11.

WrestleMania can’t get here soon enough.


Elimination Chamber qualifiers

Bronzilla — I will be calling him this now — Reed duked it out with Bobby Lashley in the first qualifier on this show, and the match was fun if only to hear Pat McAfee called Reed round and talk about how it constantly looks like he’s carrying extra luggage. Plus, he probably can’t wipe his own ass.

That’s a big meaty man, folks.

They had a fun big man match and Lashley survived all that meat to advance to Perth.

We went to the women’s side for the second qualifier of the evening, as Liv Morgan is back and on what she’s calling a revenge tour. She needs to get back at Rhea Ripley for putting her on the shelf. She really wants you to watch her, as well.

Considering Zoey Stark didn’t even get an entrance on TV, it was obvious which way the match was going. She was competitive but ultimately Morgan scored the pinfall to advance to the Chamber and another shot at getting closer to a showdown with her former tag team partner.

The last qualifier featured none other than LA Knight (YEAH) with arguably the toughest of any qualifying matchup against Ivar of The Viking Raiders. The latter has been on one hell of a run of awesome TV matches and this one was no different, as the crowd made clear with “this is awesome” chants during it.

Knight ultimately won the match by avoiding the Doomsault and hitting Blunt Force Trauma. It was a fun little showcase for these two but they could do more if given more time.

What’s unfortunate is it seemed clear to me that Knight’s star is fading just a bit as time goes on and he’s not featured in the way a top star needs to be to maintain a hot streak. Inevitable, I suppose. Still, he’s got the goods.


Becky Lynch gave an unexpectedly emotional promo on this show, talking openly about the many struggles she has faced while chasing these dreams of hers in this business she loves. She missed her own father’s funeral for this, she’s had to have difficult conversations with her three-year-old daughter for this, and said daughter is going to have to watch her mom get her face thrown into a cage in Australia.

All in service of winning the Elimination Chamber so that she may go face-to-face with one of the most dominant women’s champions we’ve ever seen.

Mami.

And, hey, the people love Mami, and Becky realizes that. In fact, she knows the people don’t think anyone can beat her but she isn’t just anyone and Rhea Ripley hasn’t faced anyone quite like her. So whether you love Rhea or you love Becky, here’s a toast to the wild journey ahead, from Kentucky on through Perth and all the way to Philadelphia.

Bottoms up.

But wait, we’re forgetting something here — Nia Jax.

They’ve had their differences but Jax wanted to get in the ring with her and say a few words. She, too, got emotional while saying she has “so much respect” for Becky. If her own mom was half the mother Becky is she would be really lucky. “God willing one day I become a mother and I can be the example you are.”

What was this?

Jax said Lynch will win at Elimination Chamber because she’s got the passion and drive for it, and nothing will stop her.

(stop tears here)

Just like nothing will stop Jax from beating Ripley at Elimination Chamber and going on to WrestleMania to defeat Lynch once more.

The Becky part of this was really good but the Jax part felt entirely too forced and unnatural. Ripley showed up to fight Jax off, saying “you’re gonna have to kill me” at one point, and we got yet another staredown between Ripley and Lynch, with Jax looking on from afar. It really just feels like WWE wants to promote the match they are inevitably going to and they don’t care at all about spoilers.

And you know what? All things considered, I’m good with it.


All the rest

  • One of the things I really like about Monday Night Raw is they can start the show by going straight into a six-man tag team match that has nothing to do with the main storylines, instead pushing the Intercontinental title program we’re about to get. In this case, that meant The New Day & Jey Uso teaming up to battle Imperium. What this match made clear as much as anything else is Jey still has the fans eating out of the palm of his hands. He even got something close to a visual pin on GUNTHER before it was broken up and the babyfaces banded together to handle business on Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci to score the victory. Uso vs. GUNTHER is clearly going to be a fun one, as they announced later their title match goes down next week.
  • Andrade told us via pre tape that he left years ago to find who he is again and now that he’s done so he’s back and his “direction is clear.” It was a brief video but he looked and sounded cool!
  • Sami Zayn got a follow up interview up in the empty bleachers with Jackie Redmond and vowed once again to become a champion in WWE, no matter how long or how much it takes to get there. Shinsuke Nakamura interrupted said interview to do that thing he does and claim to bring out the real man underneath the empty words. While preparing for the match, Rhodes approached Zayn and offered some words of encouragement. Everyone still believes in Sami. Zayn vs. Nakamura was actually given the main event slot, and a distraction from Drew McIntyre helped Nakamura score the win. Rhodes, of course, showed up to help Zayn fend off a post-match beatdown. Another ally for Cody, and it helps set up Cody vs. Drew for next week. Solid piece of business.
  • The Judgment Day once again attempted to get R-Truth out of their group, with Damian Priest even calling his match against JD McDonagh an “execution.” Sure enough, McDonagh won the match with relative ease and Truth attempted to fight them off after but was no match for their numbers. DIY ran in to make the save and run the group off. I’m certainly not saying JD has fallen off but it felt like they were involved in all the hottest stories and running Raw for a while and now they’re mid-card players in a comedy angle with Truth. I’m not even sure what happened either.

This was a solid show but that Rhodes/Rollins segment was absolute money, enough to carry this grade.

Grade: A-

Your turn.

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