The Season Premier of Smackdown on Friday was quite the hot show, so I was excited to see if WWE RAW’s Season Premier from the Paycom Center in Oklahoma City on October 16, 2023 would live up to that standard. I also hoped they would address one of the loose threads left untied on Smackdown. Here are my thoughts:

  • They did, right off the bat! Sami Zayn kicked off the show, and talked about what his longtime friend and recent tag team partner and co-champion Kevin Owens’ transfer to Smackdown. His conflicting feelings made sense and felt real, like the truly relatable babyface that he is. There was the expected Judgement Day interruption, and Jey Uso coming in with a chair for the save, but that was nowhere near as important as Sami’s encounter with Jey backstage, first upset with him, then upset with himself and forgiving him.
Sami Zayn kicks off the WWE RAW Season Premier on October 16 2023
  • Wait, that was a RAW match? Ricochet versus Shinsuke Nakamura Falls Count Anywhere had all you’d expect from a Premium Live Event stipulation match. Shooting Star Press off a balcony in the crowd, tables, and even nunchucks. It was like a condensed version of Nakamura’s Fastlane Last Man Standing Match, and hearkened back to Attitude Era RAW hardcore matches. When Shinsuke finished off Ricochet with a Kinshasa, my main thought was “Where do they go from here?”
Ricochet executes a Shooting Star Press from a balcony in the crowd during his Falls Count Anywhere Match with Shinsuke Nakamura on WWE RAW October 16 2023
  • Chelsea Green taunting Tegan Nox backstage, and threatening her with what her partner Piper Niven could do led us into Niven versus Natalya. The match itself was short, and after Piper won it with a Cross Body, it expectedly led us to the next angle, which, I imagine will be Natalya and Tegan versus Piper and Chelsea for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships, and maybe a stable of younger wrestlers led by Natalya, if those hanging around Tegan was any indication. I’m interested in that angle, feud, and tag title match(es). I was less interested in this match.
  • The Seth “Freakin” Rollins/Drew McIntyre in-ring discussion over their upcoming Crown Jewel World Heavyweight Championship Match was intense, to say the least, and brought up more questions and doubt than it answered. I love that something happening in the background during a backstage segment last week, something only the observant, and the internet, caught, became front and center. Why was McIntyre talking to Rhea Ripley? But mainly, both competitors’ reasons and motivation felt real. If this really does stay Babyface versus Babyface, it will still be intense, and with solid storytelling.
Drew McIntyre and Seth “Freakin” Rollins discuss The Judgement Day, The Bloodline, and their upcoming Crown Jewel match on WWE RAW October 16 2023
  • Ludwig Kaiser versus Johnny Gargano was a decent way to forward the internal Imperium strife storyline, with Giovanni Vinci first messing up, then helping Kaiser get the win (and later Gunther laying down the law, so to speak). It didn’t do anything, though, to get me into the DIY versus Imperium feud. Admittedly, I never watched DIY when they were a team in NXT, and I know a lot of people who did are very excited they are reunited on the main roster, but I just haven’t seen why yet. Maybe I’ll see the appeal when they actually wrestle as a team.
  • I’m enjoying this new series I call The Backstage Adventures of Becky Lynch. Agreeing to a match with Indi Hartwell (which should be a good one) led her to an encounter with Rhea Ripley, where she muttered “Becky Two Belts” just as the camera cut. Getting RAW General Manager Adam Pearce to sign off on the match let to another challenge from Xia Li, which, in turn led her to an encounter with the hottest WWE talent still in developmental Jade Cargill. That last one being the most interesting of all of Lynch’s match teases tonight, though the Rhea one’s a close second.
  • Rhea Ripley versus Shayna Baszler was exactly the match I hoped it would be, until it wasn’t. It was intense and physical, with big moves and submission attempts. I was into it. And then, in sequence, Nia Jax, Raquel Rodriguez, and Zoey Stark showed up, leading to a disqualification, and eventually a Fatal 5-Way match for the Women’s World Championship at Crown Jewel. I’m sure that match will be good, and I’m sure Rhea will prove herself more dominant than ever by retaining, but a one-on-one feud with a credible opponent like Baszler would have been better.
Rhea Ripley dropkicks Shayna Baszler on WWE RAW October 16 2023
  • Sami Zayn and Drew McIntyre’s hallway conversation was an excellent bit of storytelling, playing on separate elements from earlier in the show. This might put Drew back on track for his (I think) inevitable heel turn. And it cements Zayn as a top-tier solo babyface. I’m really looking forward to their match next week.
  • Gunther versus Bronson Reed was a solid match, and a very impressive outing for both the Intercontinental Champion, and the challenger. Gunther didn’t have size as an advantage, and Reed delivered a Superplex, but missed the Tsunami. There was way more ariel stuff than expected, there were holds that were expected, and, eventually, the Ring General was able to Powerbomb Reed for the pin and win. There wasn’t any story behind this match, and both competitors were heels, so this was all about the physicality, and it delivered on that.
Gunther applies a headlock on Bronson Reed during the Intercontinental Championship Match on WWE RAW October 16 2023
  • After a well-executed feud with LA Knight, it looks like The Miz is back to being, well, The Miz.
  • I like that Alpha Academy still got a moment in, and a solid comedy one at that. But they still kept Chad Gable’s focus on Gunther, while shifting him back to working with Otis and Maxxine Durpri, and now Akira Tazawa, for some reason. Their match against The New Day next week should be fun.
  • Wait. What? The Judgement Day won back the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships from Cody Rhodes and Jey Uso? Just a week and two days after losing them? Just as I was really starting to like the new pairing. I guess the writing was on the wall when Finn Bálor kicked out of the Cody 1-D, or whatever the move is (or was) called. Sami took out Dirty Dom, Damian Priest took out Zayn, Cody was out of commission, but Jey almost had it won until Jimmy Uso, out of nowhere, superkicked Jey. A Coup de Grace from Finn later, and, bang, new champions. Obviously this means there is still some alliance between The Judgement Day and The Bloodline, which Roman Reigns will probably deny. I’m very intrigued to see where that goes, but I’m also sad that we don’t get any more of the Jey and Cody Champions Show. I mean, they could ask for a rematch, but I’m not sure they’ll win the belts back.
Judgement Day celebrates after Finn Bálor and Damian Priest win back the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships on WWE RAW October 16 2023

Did the Season Premier of RAW deliver like the Smackdown premier did? Yes, and then some. WWE’s really firing on all cylinders again.

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