Last week, there was no new WWE content on TV. The company’s Holiday Tour house show circuit became the focus, and really did well, both in terms of box office and reactions (I was at the Montreal show and wrote about it). Now, it’s back to TV, as RAW kicked off not only the year 2024, but also New Year’s Knockout Week, with Day 1.

Yes, that used to be the name of a Premium Live Event, so will this show live up to the importance granted to it by having a name? Let’s find out.

WWE RAW Day 1 was at the sold out Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California. Here are my thoughts:

  • Starting with Michael Cole and Wade Barrett setting up the show for the live crowd, as well as the audience at home, by doing their intros in the ring, was an interesting choice. While the audio difference did throw me at first, I ultimately liked it and hope they make it a regular thing.
  • Becky Lynch versus Nia Jax was one helluva match to kick off the year. It was exciting, I didn’t expect the finish, despite it being a modified version of what started this feud, and this was probably Nia Jax’s best performance, at least of those I’ve seen. I couldn’t ask for anything more in this match, and it made me want to see a rematch, which I didn’t before going in. Lynch had her usual great match, and showed she could work really well, and tell an in-ring story, with Jax. The final sequence that started with Lynch’s attempted Merry-Go-Round, and finished with Jax punching Lynch mid-air, as Becky flew off the apron, was gold.
Nia Jax punches Becky Lynch on WWE RAW Day 1 2024
  • Yes, Lynch did get a bloody nose, or lip, or both, at the end. While it was purportedly by accident, given the story they were telling, and the setup video package, it wouldn’t surprise me if she had a capsule stashed away somewhere. Of course, that wouldn’t really fit into WWE’s no blood PG narrative. So who knows.
  • Chelsea Green and Piper Niven confronting new Undisputed WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Kayden Carter and Katana Chance at the club was a fun on-location segment. From what I have heard, Carter and Chance have been part of segments like this on NXT a number of times. I think including Green and Niven, and their characters, in this situation, is a nice way to make this feud more interesting, and make Kayden and Carter’s gimmick more relevant on the Main Roster.
  • I’m glad they continued the Cody Rhodes/Shinsuke Nakamura feud, but it would have been better if it was a second match, say, in a trilogy. Instead it was almost a repeat of how they “met” before, just with no mist this time. This show was stacked, though, so setup for a match next week is okay. A special stipulation would have been nice, though.
Shinsuke Nakamura responds to Cody Rhodes’ challenge via video on WWE RAW Day 1 2024
  • I’ve got to hand it to referee Shawn Bennett. Calling in the doctor and stopping the Jey Uso and Kofi Kingston versus Imperium match after Giovanni Vinci hit the mat hard, and wrong, was some good quick thinking and action. Vinci later said he was fine, but Kingston’s accidental kick to his face looked rough enough that you can even see Uso reacting to it. I hope they run Vinci and Ludwig Kaiser versus Uso and Kingston again next week, as I’m liking Jey’s inclusion in the Imperium story. But with the risk of concussion, this was absolutely the good decision, and it’s nice to see WWE is prioritizing its wrestler’s health.
  • Miz TV with the only likeable “member” of Judgement Day, R-Truth (I kid, but it’s kinda true) was a fun segment, decent setup for the next match, and a good way to get JD McDonagh and Dominik Mysterio a spot on the show, what with Mami busy, Finn Bálor not there, and Damian Priest, um, kept under wraps for a purpose (more on that later). I wonder if Gunther set a trend of top heels no longer appearing on Miz TV, or more specifically, refusing to come on the “talk show” officially as guests (walking down to the ring mid-segment seems okay).
JD McDonagh and R-Truth tell each other they are not in Judgement Day as Dominik Mysterio and The Miz look on during Miz TV on WWE RAW Day 1
  • The following match was a tough needle to thread, but they pulled it off. R-Truth couldn’t lose his belief that he was in Judgement Day, but he also couldn’t lose the crowd by causing his team, the newly reunited Awesome Truth, to lose the match. There were funny spots, like Truth tagging himself in on the Judgement Day side. But when it came to the key moment, Miz ducked. Truth hit JD, then Miz won with the Skull Crushing Finale. Well played!
  • Hats off to Ivy Nile. She was a solid challenger for Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley. No, I didn’t think Mami would lose, by any stretch of the imagination, but Nile kept things interesting, in what amounted to a solid matchup. She looked strong when she hit Ripley with a DDT outside of the ring, and turned a Riptide into a Gutwrench Powerbomb. Rhea, of course, looked strong, as always, landing a great missile dropkick, and headbutting Nile mid-air, which she turned into a successful Riptide for the win. Rhea’s streak continues, while Ivy looks great for someone who has only been on the Main Roster for a few months.
Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley missile dropkicks challenger Ivy Nile on WWE RAW Day 1 2024
  • Jinder Mahal? For about a minute, I thought he may actually be the teased, and later promised, returning former WWE Champion, a quick check of the time all but confirmed that this was a fakeout. It was eight minutes before the top of the hour, so we had another seven minutes until the real returning star’s music would hit.
Jinder Mahal returns on WWE RAW Day 1 2024
  • Mahal’s promo did fool me into thinking that WWE was going back to the anti-American foreign heel trope. Was Vince McMahon back? Nah. Jinder’s promo was a solid example of that tired wrestling technique, but it was quickly dismissed, as the real return dismissed Mahal’s Iron Shiek name drop, and made the recently departed legend part of his babyface promo.
  • The real return was, of course, The Rock. Not seen on WWE programming since a random Smackdown last September, and before that, it was years. As with Smackdown, the crowd pop was massive, the promo itself was classic Rock, and the in-ring opponent was kinda random.
The Rock returns on WWE RAW Day 1 2024
  • Of course, the major difference here, and what everyone will be talking about for months, is what Rock said at the end. That he wants to sit “at the head of the table”. Yup, Rock/Roman has been officially teased. I’ll have some thoughts on this, where and when it will happen, and what it means for Cody’s story, elsewhere (once I wrap my head around it, multiple times. For now, all I’ll say is wow, we’re really going there!
  • Shayna Baszler and Zoey Stark beat Tegan Nox and Natalya, putting them in contention for the Women’s Tag Titles. I know this because I looked it up. It was a short match, which I missed because I had it on in the background as I was making a snack. I was still thinking about what had just happened, so my focus really wasn’t on this match.. No disrespect to any of the participants, it was just bad placement.
  • While it, inevitably, will be overshadowed by The Rock’s return, at least in terms of headlines, the Main Event of World Heavyweight Champion Seth “Freakin” Rollins defending against Drew McIntyre was still a riveting way to cap off the first RAW of the year, in particular the final sequence. The first part of the match had its hard hitting, its missed Claymores, and its kickouts from Pedigrees, but when Damian Priest came down with Dominik Mysterio to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase, things escalated quickly. Priest hit Rollins in the head with the briefcase, and I felt like the cash-in would be successful this time. Drew took out Priest and Dom before they could make it so, and took advantage of an out-of-it champ to hit a Claymore and go for the pin, and I was sure we were going to see a title change. But no, foot on the ropes! Drew screwed up, lost his cool, and then Rollins woke up, took Drew out on the announce table with a Pedigree, then a Stomp in the ring, and 1-2-3! Yes, you can argue that Priest should have tried the cash-in again after the match, but he didn’t, so fine. This was really good stuff.
World Heavyweight Champion Seth “Freakin” Rollins hits Drew McIntyre with the Pedigree on the commentary table during their title match on WWE RAW Day 1 2024

WWE RAW Day 1 2024 did feel PLE-esque in some of the matches, but also felt like a really important RAW episode with what happened, and with whom. Of course, what The Rock said at the end of his return will inevitably be the game changer, or at least one of the biggest conversation starters WWE has had in a while. Let’s see if Smackdown caps off this exciting week the way it started.

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