RAW has been on fire lately, mainly with promos, but the match quality has been up, too. This week, we already know there are three titles on the line, plus it’s their Holiday Show. Next week is a Year-in-Review show, and this Friday’s Smackdown was already recorded.

All of this is due to HHH’s novel concept of letting the wrestlers spend time at home with their families for the holidays. What this means for us viewers, is that this is the final live televised WWE event of the year. It’s also sort of the Go-Home RAW for Day 1 (I say “sort of” because Day 1 isn’t a Premium Live Event this year).

So on December 18, 2023, WWE RAW took over the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines Iowa. Here are my thoughts:

  • CM Punk’s in the intro. I heard he’s not on the show tonight, but still nice.
  • Starting with a Judgement Day promo. It’s been a while. Their entrance with the augmented realty snow was a nice touch. I’m not sure about JD McDonagh’s new look, though. Is he going for Irish Scott Hall with a really big head?
The Judgement Day (l-r) Damian Priest, Finn Bálor, Rhea Ripley, Dominik Mysterio, and JD McDonagh kick off WWE RAW December 18 2023
  • R-Truth is really killing it. Pun intended, his real name is Ron Killings. But seriously, he’s great, and really over with this crowd. This was a really hot crowd throughout the night, and it started at the top of the show.
  • The Miracle on 34th Street Fight was just what I needed. It was fast, fun, and surprisingly really well-timed, especially when it came to Dominik Mysterio’s interference. Accepting Truth’s hug, and then ramming him into the ring post got two excellent reactions from the crowd. So did Truth’s tribute to John Cena by giving McDonagh the You Can’t See Me. And when Truth won by accident, falling with JD through a table, it was priceless.
R-Truth does the You Can’t See Me to JD McDonagh during the Miracle on 34th Street Fight on WWE RAW December 18 2023
  • There also was that stipulation, that this was a Loser Leaves Judgement Day Match. Truth proposed it, and Priest had agreed to it, possibly jokingly, as Wade Barrett argued on commentary. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
  • The crowd wasn’t into Nia Jax, but in a good and intended way. Becky Lynch was as over as ever, but this crowd really wanted to see them fight rather than talk. The promo was a re-hash of last week’s, but it dd a good job of setting up their match at Day 1.
  • The Miz promo on the show was good, but his “candid” interview shot without him in the outfit, and released by WWE on social media, really had me putting aside my certainty that the longest Intercontinental Championship reign in history would not end on a random December RAW.
  • Yes, Gunther retained, but that was one helluva great match. It’s definitely the best match I’ve seen Miz wrestle (I had taken a few decades’ break from wrestling, so missed the start of his career), and was up there among Gunther’s best bangers. It had more heart, and more excitement than their recent encounter at Survivor Series.
  • Miz started off with a very technical style, replete with submission holds, and no theatrics, to the point Michael Cole compared the work he was watching to Karl Gotch. Not a name you expect to hear associated with the career-long sports-entertainer. Things sped up, and got a bit more theatrical, but it remained, largely, a Gunther-style wrestling match. Mid-match, Gunther went for a chop, and Miz moved out of the way, causing The Ring General to hurt his hand on the ring post. He continued to sell this injury throughout, adding another layer to the matches story, and making it more believable that the longest-reigning IC champ might actually lose. When Miz managed to hit the Skull Crushing Finale, I though it would happen. But, of course, Gunther rolled out of the ring, made a comeback, and won. While not cheating in the slightest, it was still a heelish, though entirely believable, way to get the victory. This was a WrestleMania-calibre match, and when it was over, we still had just under two hours of show left.
The Miz hits a Skull Crushing Finale off the second rope on Gunther during the Intercontinental Championship Match on WWE RAW December 18 2023
  • While Gunther is heading to GOAT status, his Imperium cohorts Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci clearly aren’t, at least not at the moment. The Ring General made that clear, as he told them he is taking a few weeks off. And then Kofi Claus gave Kaiser a lump of coal. So their role, for the next bit, seems to be reacting negatively to comedy bits, at least that’s what I thought at this point in the show.
  • And then we got the segment billed as The American Nightmare Before Christmas. In a nutshell, it was Shinsuke Nakamura reading his version of Twas The Night Before Christmas, in English, with lines changed to allow him to cut a promo on Cody in verse. It wasn’t a very good promo, and the line about Dusty Rhodes being inbred was a real jaw-dropper. But it was also the kind of holiday schtick WWE is famous for, and it gave me a bit of a chuckle. Cody seemed to take it tongue-in-cheek on X/Twitter:
  • On camera, though, Cody was feeling not that jolly, and fought Shinsuke to the ring, and almost did an announce table spot, before security stopped him. I’m hoping this sets up for a rematch on Day 1 with some sort of stipulation (steel cage, maybe?).
  • Title Change! This might be our only one for the night, but congratulations to Kayden Carter and Katana Chance on becoming the new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. The Chelsea and Piper Era is over, and I’ll miss it. Makes sense, though, as they make more sense against The Kabuki Warriors/Damage CTRL.
Kayden Carter and Katana Chance celebrate after winning the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships on WWE RAW December 18 2023
  • The match itself was decent, considering it didn’t have all that much build. Just a week, really, for Carter and Chance. The pair hit some nice moves, neutralized Piper, and eventually hit their After Party finisher on Green. While the champs did put up a good fight, the end made sense. Now we get to see what kind of build Kayden and Katana get as champs, and whether or not Chelsea and Piper stick together without the straps.
  • Akira Tozawa versus Ivar wasn’t the squash match we all thought it would be. I mean, it was a squash match, it just wasn’t a quick one. Tozawa did get some moves in, and Ivar messed up once. But the Strongest Slam off the second rope sealed the deal. I suspect this match was booked to get Ivar an easy win, to stir things up between Maxxine Dupri and Valhalla, who were both at ringside, and to highlight Chad Gable’s prowess as a coach.
Ivar hits the World’s Strongest Slam off the second rope on Akira Tozawa on WWE RAW December 18 2023
  • We got Serious Seth Rollins twice in two weeks We did start off with the fun, cackling, crowd-pleasing Seth. He was in his home state, after all, and dressed in a Christmas-red frilly shirt. But once the guy who is still bitter about losing in his backyard (not the same country, but this is WWE) came in, the mood changed, and the World Heavyweight Champion got serious real quick.
  • Drew McIntyre did the heavy lifting in this promo segment, just as Rollins did last week. He spoke from a very real and honest place for most of it, and was extremely relatable, right up to the heel language at the end, when he turned it back to what he would do to win. He turned mid-promo. Real good stuff. Serious Seth got the last line, but Drew got the last bit of physical action. This is succeeding in hyping me for their rematch at Day 1.
Drew McIntyre and World Heavyweight Champion Seth “Freakin” Rollins stare each other down on WWE RAW December 18 2023
  • Kofi Kingston’s Kofi Claus bit for the evening was a fun mini-throughline that fit in with how WWE traditionally celebrates the holidays. It also led to a match, and, who knows, maybe an angle for 2024. We all know that tangling with one member of Imperium and winning might just end up with you versus The Ring General. Jey Uso versus Gunther for the Intercontinental Championship sounds like a great match.
  • No, they aren’t blurring Jey’s “Yeet!” shirt, the shirt itself is blurred. Clever.
  • Even losing, just getting a competitive televised singles match with Jey Uso is a big step up for Ludwig Kaiser. This impromptu match was a solid one, and a fun one. Kaiser held his own, getting in some good offense, but ultimately the Uso Splash put him away. Sure, Kofi Claus coming back and taking care of Vinci was a bit predictable, but it also kept this a singles match, and one that may lead to more for Kaiser in the long run, and Uso in the short run. Yeet!
Jey Uso, wearing a blurred “Yeet!” t-shirt, hits the Uso Splash on Ludwig Kaiser on WWE RAW December 18 2023
  • So Truth isn’t in Judgement Day, and McDonagh isn’t out, after all? That’s not what the faction’s Wikipedia said, at least for a few hours. I suspect, though, that this angle isn’t over yet.
  • I quite enjoyed the Main Event. While I thought, going in that Finn Bálor and Damian Priest would retain, I wasn’t sure. The Creed Brothers may be new on the Main Roster, but they are getting a helluva push, and taking the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships from The Judgement Day so soon was conceivable. The match played out in a way that kept me guessing. It was a solid performance from both teams, with a number of false finishes and high spots, including the Brutus Ball twice. The way Priest landed on the second one looked rough, and he didn’t seem too pleased after. Also, after Finn broke up Julius Creed’s cover of Damian with a Coup de Grace, and Priest hit Creed with a South of Heaven Chokeslam for the win, Julius kicked out at 3 and a half. I’m not sure if that was a setup for something, or was a mistake. Regardless, overall, Brutus, Julius, Finn, and Damian all came out of this looking stronger, and we got a bit of a showcase of Rhea versus Ivy outside of the ring (they’re fighting on Day 1). A nice way to cap off the show, and the year for RAW.
Finn Bálor hits the Coup de Grace on Julius Creed, breaking up his pin of Damian Priest during the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship Match on WWE RAW December 18 2023

This RAW capped off 2023, a very successful year for the show, and WWE in general, and it didn’t disappoint. It was fun, and it had a really fun match right out of the gate, and a truly stellar one at the end of the first hour, and the rest of the show just flowed. It got me excited for 2024, and for the WWE Holiday Tour house show in Montreal (Laval, actually) on December 28th, which I’m going to. Good job!

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