You learn new things every day, and one thing this lifelong Montrealer learned watching the September 25, 2023 WWE RAW is that California has its very own Ontario, too. Yes, the Toyota Arena in Ontario, California was the site of the Monday night staple, and the crowd was hot, and so was the show. Here are my thoughts:

  • I’ve heard and read the complaints that RAW keeps starting the same way: some variation of Cody Rhodes, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens being interrupted by Judgement Day, or vice-versa, to either set up or plug a match at the end of the show. Now with Jey Uso thrown into the mix. This week I saw what people were talking about, and was totally fine with it. Even the Attitude Era, it was almost always Austin interrupting McMahon and co. at the start, and it just worked. This night, Cody kicked things off, got interrupted by Damian Priest, Finn Bálor, and the forever booed Dominik Mysterio (never gets old for me), Sami and KO evened things out, then Jey gave the babyfaces in the ring the advantage. We even got a JD McDonagh walk in, to the chagrin of Priest. It set the tone for the night well, and even set up something else (more on that later).
Sami Zayn, Cody Rhodes, Jey Uso and Kevin Owens stare down Judgement Day members Dominik Mysterio, Finn Bálor and Damian Priest on WWE RAW September 25 2023
  • Now, when I hear “Shoosh!” I get excited because I think we’re going to get more of Chad Gable’s quest to finally dethrone Gunther. No such luck this time. Instead the rest of the Alpha Academy got some ring time with Otis, accompanied by Maxxine Dupri, facing Bronson Reed. This was a short, though impressive contest on both parts. The whole big man advantage is lost when facing someone of almost equal size. of course Otis lost, Reed is getting somewhat of a push, but the Number One Guy will get a win soon, I’m sure.
  • We did get to see Gable in a later backstage segment with Alpha Academy that Ludwig Kaiser of Imperium crashed, bringing back his creepy flirtation with Maxxine, and also reinforcing indirectly that Gable versus Gunther wasn’t over yet.
  • Speaking of Kaiser, he took on Tommaso Ciampa, and lost, in a hard-hitting match that was clearly just setup for Ciampa’s inevitable confrontation with Gunther for the Intercontinental Title. Giovanni Vinci tried to interfere, and got kicked in the head for his troubles, giving Kaiser a scapegoat for his loss, in a way that only makes sense in the WWE.
  • Watching Becky Lynch encouraging Tegan Nox backstage made me want to see Lynch versus Nox for the NXT Women’s Championship. Instead we got Nox versus Natalya, but at least Nox got some camera time. The match was short but sweet, ending with a Sharpshooter attempt by Natalya, and a Shiniest Wizard by Nox for the win. Plus The Man is always fun on commentary.
Becky Lynch advises Tegan Nox backstage at WWE RAW September 25, 2023
  • Okay, a Last Man Standing Match at Fastlane. Now we’re talking! The segment that led to the stipulation was passionate and made sense. Shinsuke Nakamura once again speaking Japanese in a spooky video, and World Champion Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins’ logical acceptance were both on point. If you want to make this feud feel real, and not just a setup for a Money In The Bank cash-in, as I once suspected it was, this is how you do it. Of course, Last Man Standing may just end up being the ultimate MITB cash-in setup.
  • Wait. What? Dirty Dom can actually wrestle pretty well, and can win without cheating or interference? I should really watch NXT. Dominik Mysterio’s NXT North American Championship defense against Dragon Lee was quite the exciting, high-flying match. It showed another side of Dom than the smarmy chickenshit heel, and also introduced the main roster audience to Lee, who I hope we see more of.
  • I’m glad Nia Jax ended up fighting one person, Zoey Stark, instead of the whole roster. I’m not thrilled Stark didn’t end up putting up more of a fight. But I guess you have to do that with a returning heel billed as a monster’s first match. Maybe it will be Rhea who finally defeats her after all.
  • The Miz is right. Never thought I’d write that, but in this case, it’s true. Drew McIntyre is turning heel. Miz sees it, the New Day see it, and I see it. Telling Miz to shut up does not make you, or keep you, a babyface, just ask Logan Paul.
Drew McIntyre interviewed by The Miz on MIZ TV on WWE RAW September 25 2023
  • If Miz TV furthered the turn that really gained steam last week when Drew didn’t save Jey Uso from a beatdown, the ensuing match against Kofi Kingston all but cemented it. Drew was tough, merciless almost, and angry. Kofi put on a good show, but lost to a Claymore when he was distracted by Viking Raider Ivar, with Valhalla, beating up Xavier Woods outside of the ring. Drew took the victory and left, not returning to save either New Day member from the attack. You can argue that refusing to save Jey was personal, but this refusal was a heel move through and through. I think Drew attacking Cody may be the final straw. This turn has a real slow burn, but the payoff, I think, will be worth it.
  • My logic and knowledge of how WWE operates these days told me that there was no way Judgement Day weren’t retaining the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships. But the quality of the match, and the storytelling within had me believing that Sami and KO might actually leave California with the straps for the second time this year. It even looked like Sami might beat Priest with a Blue Thunder Bomb, and he almost did, until Bálor made the save. If their match at Payback was a chaotic masterpiece (and it was), this was a great, and truly wild RAW match by 2023 standards. The beautiful mess at the end made it feel important. Even though it also meant that that dastardly McDonagh stole one for the baddies.
Sami Zayn hits the Blue Thunder Bomb on Damian Priest during the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship main event of WWE RAW September 25 2023

One thing became clear, at both the beginning and the end of this show. They’re setting up the factions for another WarGames match at Survivor Series. It’s looking like Cody, Sami, KO, and Jey versus The Judgement Day and JD (hey, those are the initials of Judgement Day, just realized that), without Rhea, obviously. Now I’m wondering who the fifth member on each team will be.

This was a really energetic RAW, and it seems like things are moving.

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