We’ve got a title match, a blowoff match with two top stars, and CM Punk on the show. Who would have thought that a video would steal my attention. WWE RAW was in the Intro Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on January 8, 2024. Here are my thoughts:

  • Starting with a shot of Cody Rhodes entering the building to announce his main event match to the audience, followed by a cut to the ring with Drew McIntyre already in it to cut a promo gave the show a very full and alive feel. Yes, WWE has done this sort of thing in the past, but not recently.
  • Drew talking in the ring at the start of the show is something we have done quite a bit recently, but this time, it had a whole other level, multiple levels, in fact. CM Punk, who was advertised to be on the show, but not in what specific capacity, interrupted Drew. Punk is still at the being interrupted, or just talking, stage, so him interjecting himself into someone else’s promo was new. So was him playing an active part in Drew’s current story, instead of letting an increasingly bitter McIntyre mention him along with others.
  • Punk’s referencing the fact that Oregon was Piper Country, and bringing up Drew’s lack of a kilt, was a solidly entertaining way to start, as was letting Drew talk first, while relaxing on the ropes a la Shawn Michaels. Drew loosening up a bit with his joke about the backstage bet on when Punk would flare out was a nice touch, too. So was Drew relaxing on the ropes himself when Punk retorted.
CM Punk rests on the ropes listening to Drew McIntyre cut a promo on him on WWE RAW January 8 2024
  • They did both get serious, and that part felt real. This was a good way to establish Punk’s heat with another star, and set up another potential feud. Also, Punk made it clear that no one would stand in his way, not even Cody Rhodes. His response to Drew was sort of like an expanded version of his first return RAW promo, as well as the line he said just to the camera. Showing both sides of CM Punk.
  • Tommaso Ciampa’s walk-and-talk promo heading through the backstage, through the Gorilla Position, and into the arena was a nice change of production. Not sure if 40 plus year WWE production head Kevin Dunn leaving is why we’re getting these new touches, but I like ’em.
  • Ciampa versus Finn Bálor was a short match that ended with interference, predictably from Damian Priest, and then surprisingly from Johnny Gargano in response, giving Ciampa the win. Finn couldn’t believe it, and I was a little surprised, too, TBH. DIY versus Bálor and Priest for the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships could be interesting with this new, edgier, though still justifiably babyface Ciampa and Gargano.
  • Becky Lynch isn’t done with Nia Jax. Though apparently she will be for the moment, or at least until the Royal Rumble. It’s nice that even when they don’t have anything for her to do in the ring, WWE still manages to get The Man on RAW.
  • Kofi Kingston Ludwig Kaiser very aggressive match at the start, lots of chops and punches. Kaiser playing Giovanni Vinci’s real match-stopping injury as a revenge storyline Kofi got back into it with high-risk. double count-out, brutal beatdown by Kaiser after Kofi flew at him, security there, but where’s Jey Uso?
Ludwig Kaiser after attacking Kofi Kingston following their match on WWE RAW January 8 2024
  • I’m glad they’re bringing back the Michael Cole in-ring interviews they had started late last year. This time it was Nia Jax.
  • Of course, Jax didn’t get to speak for too long, because she had mentioned Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley, and, sure enough, Mami headed to the ring to confront her. The crowd reactions to this segment lead me to believe that Jax won’t win the Royal Rumble, but will make an excellent Elimination Chamber challenger for Ripley. If they can build this feud, and make Nia a credible threat, then WWE has the perfect way to get Rhea the massive babyface pop in her home country, without changing who she is the rest of the time.
Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley confronts Nia Jax on WWE RAW January 8 2024
  • I had thought that Kayden Carter and Katana Chance only won the Undisputed WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships so they could lose them to the Kabuki Warriors/Damage CTRL over on Smackdown. That probably will be the case this Friday, but I am liking their feud on RAW with the former champs Chelsea Green and Piper Niven. In particular, Chelsea looked really strong in this rematch. If it wasn’t for Piper accidentally landing the Vader Bomb on her own partner, Green wouldn’t have gone on to lose to the Keg Stand.
Piper Niven after accidentally hitting partner Chelsea Green with a Vader Bomb during the Undisputed WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Match on WWE RAW January 8 2024
  • Carter and Chance are growing on me. I may even be a little sad when, say, Bayley cheats and they lose the belts. They were on fire in this match, and so were Green and Niven. A real banger.
  • That R-Truth video was pure gold, and the highlight of the show for me. The reference to the Judgement Day In Your House Pay-Per-View from the 90s! The imagery! Tom and Nick Mysterio! If you haven’t seen it, just watch it. If you have, watch it again:
R-Truth’s amazing video promo on WWE RAW January 8 2024
  • I bet that Nick Mysterio is the opposite of his brother. A real nice guy with a loud speaking voice that never gets drowned out by the crowd.
  • Judgement Day’s response was a solid continuation of their ongoing story, and it’s good to see that they’ve got the whole band back together on RAW. I’m starting to think that we may just get them going into Mania still holding the tag titles and the Money in the Bank briefcase.
  • The first part of their plan didn’t work out, as JD McDonagh lost to The Miz. Dominik Mysterio was at ringside causing distractions, and so was R-Truth. Miz eventually took advantage of all of this and hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the win. It was a decent match, but mainly designed to progress the R-Truth/Miz/Judgement Day story, and to set up the newly reunited Awesome Truth’s match against Bálor and Priest. Let’s just fast-forward to that.
The Miz hits the Skull Crushing Finale on JD McDonagh on WWE RAW January 8 2024
  • World Heavyweight Champion Seth “Freakin” Rollins was surprised when Jinder Mahal interrupted his in-ring promo. Not that someone was interrupting him, that’s to be expected. Rather by who had chosen to come down. Had CM Punk already left the arena? I think we all were. The back-and-forth was decent, and came across as honest, at least on Seth’s part when he explained that they were ignoring Jinder. Mahal’s annoyance felt real, and his cheapshot at the end, and the ensuing fight became the predictable part of an unpredictable segment.
World Heavyweight Champion Seth “Freakin” Rollins is surprised when Jinder Mahal interrupts his in-ring promo on WWE RAW January 8 2024
  • It’s important to note that I’m writing this part of the review after Jinder Mahal trended on Tuesday. As we don’t usually talk real-world things (or real Internet Wrestling Community mud throwing contests) in articles like this, I won’t tell you why he was. If you know, you know. I will say that while Mahal may have not been around, or winning, for a while, a title match for a heel who got nuclear heat in a just a couple of minutes, against a fighting (sometimes to his own detriment) champion not only makes perfect sense, but should be a good one to watch.
  • Otis catching Ivar mid-air, as he attempted to do a Springboard Crossbody, and turning it into a World’s Strongest Slam, was such an impressive move, I can almost forgive WWE for having the Number One Guy losing on TV again. Almost. Don’t get me wrong, Ivar getting a win is always nice to see, as is two giants like this battling. I just wish Otis could sometimes be the Alpha Academy member to pin someone, instead of being a springboard to Chad Gable, or a reason to get Maxxine Dupri and Valhalla into a fight. Still, this was a short, but fun match to watch.
Otis catching Ivar mid-air and turning a Springboard Crossbody into a World’s Strongest Slam on WWE RAW January 8 2024
  • And speaking of Coach Gable: Where is he? He hasn’t been on RAW for a few weeks now. Sure, maybe it seems a bit longer because of the holiday break, but I’ll be glad when he’s back. Maybe he’ll return next week along with Gunther, hint hint.
  • Of course, we may just get Jey versus Gunther, after Uso tangles with Bronson Reed, as their backstage encounter seems to suggest.
  • The Cody Rhodes versus Shinsuke Nakamura Street Fight Main Event was a good final blowoff for their feud, though I do suspect they will interact with each other in the Royal Rumble. It had plenty of time, and they pulled out all the proverbial street fight bells and whistles. There were kendo sticks, outside of the ring action, and yes, tables. Two of them, in fact. Cody went through the first one, and Shinsuke went through the second, eventually. And then Cody finished him off with a pair of Cross Rhodes, and that was that. I would not be disappointed if we got this match on a Premium Live Event, but since it wouldn’t work at the Rumble, RAW is fine.
Cody Rhodes going after Shinsuke Nakamura with a kendo stick during their Main Event Streetfight on WWE RAW January 8 2024
  • Fun Fact: The timekeeper Shinsuke misted is Berkley Ottman, who is Cody’s cousin, and the son of Tugboat aka Typhoon, or Shockmaster in WCW.

This episode had a few banger matches, solid and interesting promos, and some good setup for what’s to come. But what I will remember most is that R-Truth video. A true classic.

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