RAW is starting to get really interesting. Well, the WWE in general is, but tonight RAW in particular. This is the show most of us think CM Punk will sign with, and definitely where I hope he lands, at least for now to set up the initial feud with Seth “Freakin” Rollins over the World Heavyweight Championship. He can reconnect with Paul Heyman, so to speak, and go after Roman Reigns later.

He said he’d announce his choice tonight. Also, we may get an idea of Gunther’s next challenger for the Intercontinental Championship (I’m hoping Brock Lesnar). Regardless, I’m excited.

WWE RAW is in the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio on December 11, 2023. Here are my thoughts:

  • We’re starting, like we did last week, with a promo-off leading into a match, and not just a thrown-together intro match, but one we want to see. I like this new approach.
  • Main Event Jey Uso was out first. I’m glad he (well, WWE) sorted out that trademark issue, and he has “Yeet!” back. I also like how he worked CM Punk into his promo, encouraged him to sign with RAW, and then basically gave his take on the recap we had just seen, leading to some Sami chants. He’s also using “Yeet!” the same way Stone Cold used “Hell yeah!”, which is an interesting development.
  • Drew McIntyre also worked Punk into his entrance promo, albeit from a contrary viewpoint. The connective tissue of this show is palpable. Drew’s heel crowd work was also really solid. I honestly felt like he was trying, in vain, to prove his point.
  • Their match was very exciting, with quite a few false finishes, which I even fell for. When Jey kicked out of the Future Shock DDT, I thought he had it. He almost did win. While both men were at the top of their game, Drew went full heel in his ring work. Removing the turnbuckle pad, and then using the ensuing distraction to rake Jey’s eyes had as much to do with McIntyre’s victory as the Claymore.
Drew McIntyre eyerakes Jey Uso during their match on WWE RAW December 11 2023
  • No one does packages like WWE, and the Punk one made his Smackdown promo even better. Then Shinuke Nakamura’s package on Cody Rhodes, complete with anime versions of them, was something else indeed.
  • The Judgement Day tension is back, like it never left. Good to know some things never change. I think Dominik will win back the NXT North American Championship, which he lost over the weekend at Deadl1ne, but until then, he and JD McDonagh seem to be the designated whipping boys in the Rhea Ripley/Damian Priest low-key power struggle.
  • Speaking of Mami, she’s great, and I really like Maxxine Dupri, too. But the two of them in a singles match sounds a little unfair. Maxxine and Ivy Nile going for the tag titles works, but Dupri against Rhea, looks like this could be a squash.
  • At least Maxxine got a few moves in before the inevitable Riptide, and Rhea playing with her food a bit, so to speak, by then submitting Dupri with the Prism Trap to win. I have to admit, though, that Ivy Nile staring down Rhea, and Ripley doing the same, after the match, does have potential.
Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley hits the Riptide on Maxxine Dupri during their match on WWE RAW December 11 2023
  • I don’t think too many people were waiting with baited breath to see what CM Punk’s decision would be, but we were all very excited to hear it, nonetheless. I know I was. Choosing RAW absolutely made the most sense, given the way they have been teasing World Heavyweight Champion Seth “Freakin” Rollins as his first opponent (and the behind-the-scenes reason of the red brand’s TV rights still being under negotiation). So this was more of an announcement, and I wanted to see what in-universe reasons he had. They were good ones, and drew from reality, specifically the reality of his experience when in, and then leaving the WWE a decade ago, and how things are backstage these days. There was a nice apology to Indi (Hartwell, presumably) for walking out when she was a young fan. It was honest, and heartfelt, like his return RAW promo, not scorched earth, like his Smackdown return promo.
CM Punk comes to the ring to announce his decision on WWE RAW December 11 2023
  • The fiery passion was waiting backstage, and arrived on the scene with the appropriate line “Burn it down!” Seth Rollins brought the passion, and it felt real, because it was real, or at least from a very real place. Punk had walked out on the WWE, and publicly slandered the company, and some of those still loyal to it, for years. Rollins meant it, and you could tell. Punk was serious, too. Stonefaced, in fact, for most of it. And the crowd was split, some singing Seth’s song, and some chanting “CM Punk! CM Punk!”
World Heavyweight Champion Seth “Freakin” Rollins confronts CM Punk on WWE RAW November 11 2023
  • Before tonight, I was thinking Rollins versus Punk might be a good starter match, maybe at the Royal Rumble. But after Rollins’ promo, the split crowd, and the realness of it all, I think we’ve got our Night One, or maybe even a Night Two WrestleMania Main Event ready-made with these two. Talk about lightning in a bottle.
  • Yes, while I don’t watch AEW, I am aware that Rollins’ promo took some verbiage from the promo Hangman Adam Page cut on Punk when he was in that company last year. From what I can tell, there are two differences: Page was going into business for himself, whereas Rollins was obviously working with Punk. And while Page was trying to provoke a reaction, Rollins was speaking from personal experience.
  • How do you follow up one of the hottest, and most intense, angles in recent memory? Why with the two largest guys on the roster, that’s how. Ivar, with Valhallah in his corner, versus Bronson Reed wasn’t as outside the box, or outside the ring, as their last encounter, and it was a lot quicker. Plus we got a clean victory, with Reed suplexing Ivar off the top rope for the win. This feud looks like it’s going to continue, and I’m here for it.
  • Punk meeting The Judgement Day backstage was just what it needed to be.
  • Priest, Finn Bálor, Mysterio, and McDonagh’s in-ring promo was vintage Judgement Day, until R-Truth came down. Truth is perma-over no matter who he’s interacting with. Of course that means he risks turning Judgement Day babyface if they’re too nice to him. So Priest attacking him (after he and Bálor almost broke character) made perfect sense.
Damian Priest attacks R-Truth on WWE RAW December 11 2023
  • The Creed Brothers came down to defend Truth, effectively making this a segment that further put over the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship match, with Priest and Bálor defending against Brutus and Julius, which, we found out, will take place next week on RAW. I’m glad they’re giving this encounter a bit more seriousness than they have recently with other real tag teams challenging singles star tag champs.
  • Punk’s backstage tour continues. He confronted Drew, then caught up with Kofi Kingston, with an old reference, gave props to Chad Gable, and pulled a video game quip out of nowhere for Ricochet. It was fun, but in this segment, but we also heard from Adam Pearce that they have a Day 1 RAW coming up on, well, January 1st, and it will have Seth and Drew Round 2 for the World Heavyweight Championship, plus something involving Gunther and the Intercontinental Championship. Looks like they’re budling a Premium Live Event-like RAW. Should be good.
  • Kayden Carter and Katana Chance beat Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell. It was a high-flying, fast, and well-fought match between both teams. There were dropkicks, sentons, and Carter and Chance finished it off with the After Party. Neither team is really that over on the Main Roster yet, but that could be due to their lack of ring time onscreen, or a push. Hopefully that is changing.
Kayden Carter dropkicks Indi Hartwell on WWE RAW December 11 2023
  • The presence of Undisputed WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Chelsea Green and Piper Niven once again on commentary, along with Carter and Chance’s promo package earlier in the evening makes it clear that they will be going for the tag titles soon. And this match might have solidified that program. Sounds good to me, as long as they don’t drop it.
  • So DIY has a mystery partner against Imperium? I’m hoping, at this point, that it’s Brock!
  • “She went on to get double ACL surgery, because Nia is so unlikeable that even her own knees won’t stand up for her.” Becky Lynch wins the zinger contest tonight!
  • Lynch’s promo battle with Nia Jax was a good one, and made something that happened at the end of the last decade relevant in late 2023 WWE. I love how they’re no longer forgetting their past. And while I don’t think Jax is in the same promo league as The Man in general, on this night, her verbiage won out with a great dismissive final line. The inevitable fight, presumably to be held on the Day 1 RAW, promises to be a good mid-PLE contest.
Nia Jax and Becky Lynch during their promo battle on WWE RAW December 11, 2023
  • Okay, so it wasn’t Brock. Of course not. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa teamed with The Miz. It makes sense that the combined Imperium would face a team with Gunther’s most recent opponent. It also makes sense that two Clevelanders (Gargano and Miz) should be in this match. What doesn’t make sense, is that we’re in an era of remembering things that happened a year ago, a few years ago, and even a decade ago, but somehow we seem to be forgetting the separate issues Gargano and Ciampa had with Miz just a few months ago. Turns out we’re not, and they were acknowledged on commentary. This was just an “enemy of my enemy” sort of thing, apparently.
  • The match itself was real fun, and fast-paced. This is not always the case with a match involving Gunther, who likes to slow things down in the ring. The crowd was really into it too, and their local heroes. Gargano got “Johnny Wrestling” chants near the start, and there was audible excitement when Miz almost made The Ring General submit. Of course, Gunther didn’t tap out. Ludwig Kaiser almost saved him, but DIY took care of him, and just as it looked like Miz may beat him, Gunther was able to tag in Giovanni Vinci, who took a Skull Crushing Finale and the pin for his troubles.
The Miz hits the Skull Crushing Finale on Giovanni Vinci on WWE RAW December 11 2023
  • So we will get Miz versus Gunther for the IC Title Round 2, with the stipulation that if he loses, Miz will never be able to challenge for the belt as long as Gunther is champ. Sounds fair. But I wonder when this match will happen. I think Gunther is already busy at Day 1, and the Rumble is unlikely. So maybe just a random RAW?
  • Cody Rhodes versus Shinsuke Nakamura is a match I thought we’d have to wait a bit to get, seeing as this seems to be Cody’s current feud. But since the next PLE is the Rumble, and Cody’s back to finishing his story then, maybe they’re giving us a trilogy, like Cody had with Brock, but all on RAW. I would have thought that was a terrible idea a few months ago, but in recent weeks, the quality, and importance, of some RAW matches has significantly improved. Smackdown is still mainly the promos and the angles, but for the past two RAWs, the first and last matches, and one in the middle, have really been allowed to shine.
  • This Main Event continued that trend. It lasted just under 20 minutes from bell to bell, with a couple of commercial breaks, which is standard RAW fare, but it felt like it had time to breathe. There was the feeling out phase, for two competitors who never had a singles match against each other, then they turned up the intensity. Near the end, Cody hit Shinsuke with a Disaster Kick, followed by a Bionic Elbow, then a Cody Cutter, and went for the Cross Rhodes, but Nakamura freed himself and hit Rhodes with red mist, for the second time in thee weeks. Cody won by disqualification. Maybe it won’t be a trilogy, but there definitely will be a rematch, probably with a special stipulation.
Shinsuke Nakamura mists Cody Rhodes, ending their match on WWE RAW December 11 2023
  • After the match, Shinsuke continued to go after Cody, and then, with the save, it was…The Creed Brothers? Saving Truth made sense, as he was part of their backstage crew, plus they are feuding with Judgement Day. But they have nothing to do with Shinsuke, and aren’t interacting with Cody. Maybe this will lead to something next week, or maybe we’re getting the 2023 version of the APA, the CPA, or Creed Protection Agency. Instead of money and beer, they will save anyone over with the crowd.

The matches were either quite good or decent, with one exception. Things are being set up, and the promos are getting more real every week. Of course, this RAW will be remembered for one thing: setting up a WrestleMania Main Event with one heartfelt, and passionate promo from Seth “Freakin” Rollins. A strong contender for promo of the year.

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