By Gwen Lombard
WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW
The show opened with Cody Rhodes about to speak to the crowd but was quickly interrupted by Dominik Mysterio. Dom announced that he had a North American Championship title match against Dragon Lee scheduled for next Monday, but before that, he’s scheduled to face Cody tonight. He let the crowd know that while Mami Rhea wasn’t at Raw tonight due to Nia Jax’s attack last week, he was going to dedicate his victory over Cody to her. The match that followed between the two had Damien Priest and Finn Bálor come out to ringside, but they didn’t do much to boost Dom’s luck. Cody beat him in about two minutes, and Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn came down to even the odds against Judgement Day before a beatdown could occur. They chased Judgement Day off, before Kevin confronted Cody Rhodes, asking why he brought Jey Uso to Raw. Stating that if it wasn’t for Jey, Sami would’ve won the Universal Championship in his match against Roman Reigns months ago, that Cody would’ve won the Universal Championship at WrestleMania, that hell, Kevin himself would’ve been Universal Champion by now. Cody explained that he believes in second chances. Jey is adored by the fans, and everything Cody does is for the fans. The segment ended with Sami trying to calm Kevin down by reminding him that he’s given Kevin plenty of second chances over the years, and Kevin agreed, but reiterated that he doesn’t trust Jey, he only trusts Cody and Sami.
Next on the show was a match that saw Ivar from the Viking Raiders take on New Day’s Kofi Kingston in an amazing match. Ivar is incredibly athletic, and Kofi is a walking highlight reel whenever he gets in the ring. This was an excellent match for what it was, seeing Ivar hit a beautiful moonsault from the top rope onto Kofi. In the end, though, Kofi hit Trouble In Paradise (a spinning enziguri kick) to win the match. As far as television matches go, this has been my favorite one for a while I think, just a lot of fun to watch with no huge stakes to worry about. Definitely my match of the night.
Shinsuke Nakamura took on Ricochet for what I think is the third week in a row now in a match that Nakamura couldn’t have cared less about winning. He only focused on putting Ricochet through as much pain as he could manage to inflict. He managed to get Ricochet to disqualify himself and continued to beat him up after the bell rang. Seth Rollins ran down to try to save him, but it only resulted in Nakamura hitting Seth with a backdrop onto a steel chair. I like the touch about Nakamura forgetting he’s supposed to be winning matches instead of just beating his opponents to a pulp, all in an attempt to play mind games with Seth.
A tag team match took place next with the teams of Shayna Baszler and Zooey Stark facing off against the Women’s Tag Team Champions Chelsea Green and Piper Niven. The match was decent and gave Shayna and Zooey a place to begin to shine up their tag team compatibility. If these two stick together for a while, I think they could hold the Women’s Tag Titles soon. I also just want to see Shayna Baszler as a champion again, but that’s beside the point. The match didn’t last too long because soon, Nia Jax showed up and beat down all four women.
The main event saw Jey Uso take on Drew McIntyre in a fun match that showed off the both of them quite well. Judgement Day came out partway through to watch, awaiting the answer Jey promised them earlier in the night when they asked if he would join them. Jey got caught up in the mental games he’d trapped himself in, however, knowing they were watching and waiting. He finally gave them the answer, superkicking them one by one in an emphatic no, only to turn around and eat a Claymore kick right in the face from Drew. After the match, Drew turned and walked out while Judgement Day swarmed Jey and beat him down. Cody Rhodes came out to make the save and stood tall as the show closed.
The long-awaited Grand Slam episode of Dynamite has officially arrived and opened in one of the most epic matches Grand Slam has ever seen. New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) STRONG Openweight Champion Eddie Kingston faced Ring Of Honor World Champion Claudio Castagnoli in a Winner-Take-All match. These two have had troubles with each other, spilling over into the ring from real life, since the mid-2000s. Eddie’s genuine hatred of Claudio reached its boiling point about eight years ago, and at this point, it caused this match to pit Eddie against not only Claudio but himself as well. This show took place in Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York, just a subway ride away from Eddie’s hometown of Yonkers. This was his hometown show, and he was fighting for a world title. This was everything Eddie had dreamed of and never thought he’d get. But he was here, and he just had to defeat one man. One man whom he despised so greatly, that he’d almost thrown out his incredibly long-lasting and deep relationship with Jon Moxley for. Eddie waded into the war zone, loaded down with the expectations of his hometown and his rage on his shoulders. Claudio wrestles for a love of the game, he enjoys the practice of it too much to give up, but that was no match for a man weighed down with decades of rage and expectation. After a definitive war of a match, with a final empathic powerbomb, Eddie pinned Claudio for three and it sounded like the entirety of New York City stood on their feet and cheered. Eddie Kingston is now a double champion, bringing home the Ring Of Honor World Championship and the NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship. On top of all of that, after everything, Claudio stood and shook Eddie’s hand. The respect that Eddie felt had been denied to him all those years ago was finally given to him. All congratulations are due to Eddie, and I couldn’t be happier.
The next match saw Chris Jericho face off against his protege Sammy Guevara. These two have had an odd on-again-off-again friendship for a while now, and with the recent dissolution of the Jericho Appreciation Society, nothing was keeping them together anymore. This was proven when, after Jericho pinned Guevara for the win, Guevara turned on Jericho, low-blowing him and joining Don Callis and his ‘family’.
Later on, Jon Moxley defended his International Title against Rey Fenix. In a rather unfortunate turn of events coming from such an amazing start to the show, this match was rather short and ended abruptly when a Piledriver from Fenix onto Moxley seemingly went awry with Moxley landing on his head. The referee only counted to two, but Moxley didn’t kick out. There was some miscommunication, Fenix hit the Piledriver again and pinned Moxley for three this time. Rey Fenix is now the International Champion, and as happy as I am for him, don’t get me wrong, I wish it hadn’t come due to the possible injury of Moxley. It’s rumored that he only suffered a concussion, but there’s no official report yet. I extend my good wishes to Jon Moxley for a quick recovery and my congratulations to our new International Champion Rey Fenix.
Saraya faced off against her former friend Toni Storm to defend her Women’s World Championship, and it was a good match that showcased Toni’s gimmick as an old-school Hollywood darling wonderfully. The fans were entirely behind her the whole time, which only made it worse when Saraya, utilizing her underhanded tactics, hit her finisher Rampage on Toni and retained. I hope Toni gets to have her spotlight soon, while at the same time, I’m hoping that Saraya gets new challengers soon.
The main event saw Samoa Joe face off against MJF for the AEW World Heavyweight Championship. Unlike how we saw Eddie deal with being the hometown boy earlier in the night, MJF reveled in it here. He’s the baby-faced good guy backed by a whole stadium filled with his hometown supporters. He’s facing off against Joe after harboring that momentary bad treatment from him like a festering wound. He’s found a friend in Adam Cole who accepts him as he is, and he’s finally feeling for the first time like he has a genuine friend. He’s starting to overcome his past, and Joe is seemingly the last step in finishing the process. This match was amazing, highlighting both men and showcasing their incredible skills. MJF pandered to the crowd, and Samoa Joe shut them down. After Joe hit MJF with a Piledriver onto the concrete floor outside the ring, he managed to lock in the Coquina Clutch, and at that moment Adam Cole ran down to ringside (he had been called to the hospital at the incessant request of Roderick Strong, who neck just hurts so bad, he needs Adam there, no one else is going to ease his neck pain). He yelled to MJF, encouraging and empowering him to finally manage to break free of the sleeper hold. Behind the referee’s back, MJF took some of his wrist tape and choked out Joe until he was able to pin him for three and retain his championship. MJF is still the World Heavyweight Champion, and both hometown boys got to leave this event with feel-good wins. I’m not sure I can choose between this match and Eddie versus Claudio as my favorite of the night, so I’ll just recommend them both.
The show opened this week with John Cena coming out to address the crowd, saying that as much as he’d love to take down the Bloodline all by himself, he’s got a phenomenal partner. This brought out ‘The Phenomenal’ AJ Styles who then proceeded to call out the Bloodline, saying if they wanted some, to come get some. Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso indeed came out, but did not get some as they refused to engage. Later on, Cena and Styles were told that before a tag team match could be made official, it had to be run by Paul Heyman first.
Next, there was a tag team match between the Street Profits Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford and the LWO’s Rey Mysterio and Santos Escobar. This was a great match, as all four men in this match can put on quality matches in their sleep, and their chemistry in the ring is amazing. Bobby Lashley, who’s been leading the Street Profits lately, interfered while the referee was distracted, slamming Rey on the apron of the ring so Dawkins could capitalize. However, Dawkins hesitated in taking advantage of a blindsided Rey, and this momentary pause gave Rey the chance to capitalize instead and he was able to pin Dawkins for the win.
A replay of The Rock’s return to Smackdown last week brought out Austin Theory who proceeded to throw a temper tantrum through the ringside area, tearing the cover off of the announce desk, and shouting. Later, a backstage segment was shown where the Brawling Brutes were laughing at Theory, but Grayson Waller backed him up, and a tag team match was set for later in the show.
Iyo Sky took on Asuka in a WWE Women’s Championship match where Charlotte Flair was ringside to watch. These two women have always put on wonderful matches together, and this was no exception. They have excellent chemistry, grappling and striking ferociously. Asuka was able to cinch in the Asuka Lock on Iyo, and just as Iyo was fading, her Damage Control faction mate Bayley snuck her foot onto the bottom rope behind the referee’s back to force a break. This prompted Charlotte to attack Bayley and this proved enough of a distraction to Asuka for Iyo to capitalize and get the win, retaining her title. I’d have to say that this was my match of the night, Iyo and Asuka always work wonderfully together.
A brief backstage segment showed WWE official Adam Pierce offering a contract to Paul Heyman and the Bloodline for a tag team match against Cena and Styles for Fastlane. Jimmy took the initiative, speaking over Heyman to tell Pierce it looked good, and there would be a contract signing happening tonight. Heyman informed Jimmy that these things usually require approval from the Tribal Chief Roman Reigns, but Jimmy walked out.
The tag team match between The Brawling Brutes and the team of Grayson Waller and Austin Theory was up next, and this was a perfectly average television match. Pete Dunne is incapable of having a bad match, however, Austin Theory and Grayson Waller are entirely capable of that. This seems to have canceled both forces out and the result was perfectly average. Austin pulled out the win, pinning Ridge Holland with his finisher, A-Town Down. It’s always a sad day when Pete Dunne loses a match, but we shall carry on nonetheless.
The main event segment saw John Cena come down the ring to sign the contract for Fastlane, but AJ Styles never appeared. It was revealed that the Bloodline was attacking him backstage, Solo Sikoa hitting a splash onto him from the top of a lighting rig. Styles was quickly loaded onto an ambulance, and the Bloodline made their way down to the ring to sign the contract and warn that this is what happens when you mess with them. John Cena tried to attack them, but they utilized their number advantage and laid him out to close the show.
This Grand Slam edition of Rampage (which means two hours instead of only one!) gave us the first match of what I hope is a long, happy, storied tag team and friendship between Hook and Orange Cassidy. The two of them tagged with Kris Statlander to take on the team of Angelo Parker, Daddy Magic Matt Menard, and Anna Jay in a mixed trios match. This was a fun match that might be setting up Anna Jay as a future opponent for Kris’ TBS title, but in the end, Hook locked Daddy Magic in his RedRum submission while Cassidy pinned Angelo for the win.
After everything Sammy Guevara did to Chris Jericho on Wednesday, Don Callis invited him down to the ring to discuss why he turned on his mentor and joined the Don Callis Family. Guevara explained that Jericho was simply holding him back and that he didn’t need to pander to the fans anymore (was he trying to before? Didn’t do it well). Jericho quickly came down to attack him, but the numbers game was too much until Kenny Omega ran down for the save, scaring off Callis and Guevara with a steel pipe. Later in a backstage interview, the hesitant team of Omega and Jericho challenged them to a match at WrestleDream on Oct. 1st. I never thought a team would be possible between Jericho and Omega, but I’m excited to see what becomes of it.
There was a fatal four-way tag team match between the Hardys, the Best Friends, The Righteous, and The Kingdom next for a chance at the Ring Of Honor Tag Team Championships, currently held by Better Than You BayBay, the team of Adam Cole and MJF. It was a fun, chaotic match with bodies flying everywhere. The Righteous won in the end, and I think this is the third cult in AEW now. Maybe the fourth? There are a lot of cults right now, but these guys are the most obviously cult-y I think. They now have a chance at the ROH Tag Team titles, most likely taking place at WrestleDream.
The Acclaimed teamed with Daddy Ass to face off against the Dark Order next, and this was a very fun match. These two teams have some great chemistry together, and with Dark Order’s recent attitude change, they truly are starting to feel worthy of a title shot. Despite that Evil Uno used one of the title belts as a weapon against Max Caster while the ref’s back was turned, it made no difference as Anthony Bowens pinned John Silver for the win. This was certainly a quality showing from both teams.
Julia Hart had a match against Skye Blue next, and though it was rather quick, it was a very good match that accentuated both women’s abilities. However, Julia was able to take the win with her Heartless submission hold which she refused to release even after the bell was rung. This caused Willow Nightingale to run down and force Julia to release the hold and escape the ring to the safety of her House of Black faction mate Brody King’s side. Julia is undefeated in 2023 so far with 9 straight wins.
The main event saw The Young Bucks team up with Hangman Adam Page as the Hung Bucks to take on the Mogul Embassy for the Ring of Honor Trios Titles in quite a great match. These two teams fed off each other well for the first time they faced each other. There was a flurry of near falls, and despite Swerve Strickland coming down to ringside to distract Hangman, Hangman was able to counter Brian Cage’s attempt to capitalize and roll him up to win. The Hung Bucks are now ROH Trios Champions for the second time. I’d have to say that this was my match of the night, and even though that might just be my Young Bucks and Hangman bias speaking, I thought this was a great main-event match.
The show opened with a triple-threat match that was anything but. Christian Cage versus Luchasaurus versus Darby Allin for the TNT Title was a handicapped match under a different name. Darby was outnumbered this whole match, but he’s never let that stop him before. This was an incredibly fun match with shenanigans everywhere. Darby thought he had won after hitting a Coffin Drop onto Luchasaurus, but he was thrown out of the ring by Christian so he could pin his teammate and win. Christian is now officially the TNT Champion.
Don Callis cut a backstage promo next, accepting Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho’s team with Kota Ibushi to challenge him. He explained that at WrestleDream, his dreams will come true because the Don Callis family is stronger than it’s ever been with Will Ospreay, Sammy Guevara, and Konosuke Takeshita in it. He explained that Kota Ibushi has a weak point because he and Kenny love each other, and are closer than brothers. They share weak points, and it’s each other, and the Don Callis Family will take advantage of that.
The next match was a tag team match between the teams of Daddy Magic and Angelo Parker and the team of Hook and Rob Van Dam. This was just a match of pure fun. RVD teamed with Hook’s real-life dad Taz back in 2001 when Hook was barely a year old and how he’s teaming with Hook. Also, it’s RVD, so this whole match was just a lot of fun on that fact alone. Hook locked in the RedRum submission on Angelo while RVD hit the 5-Star Frog Splash on Daddy Magic for the win.
Eddie Kingston appeared in a quick vignette to announce he will put his NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship and his newly won ROH World Title on the line at WrestleDream, challenging NJPW living legend Katsuyori Shibata. This is going to be such an insanely incredible match, and I am extremely excited, to say the least.
The next match has Julia Hart taking Kiera Hogan. Originally, the match was supposed to be Julia taking on Willow Nightingale, but Julia attacked her backstage before the match and Willow was sent to the hospital to be examined. This was, like her match with Skye Blue, a rather quick and decisive win for Julia. She’s now 10-0 in 2023, rivaled only by Mark Briscoe who’s sitting at an 8-0 record. After the match, however, she wouldn’t relinquish her submission hold on Hogan, which brought out Skye Blue to try to save Hogan. However, Julia sprayed her in the face with the Black Mist, blinding her. Brody King took the microphone to recall all of the people Julia’s beaten and to officially lay down the challenge to Kris Statlander for the TBS Title at WrestleDream.
Jay White was up next, taking on Andrade El Idolo in a fantastic match. Since Jay White joined AEW several months ago, this is the most Jay White he’s felt. This match is exemplary of all of the reasons I love Jay White. It was fantastic, with the rest of Bullet Club Gold at ringside to sneak Jay out of nearly losing (which happened many times), to distract the referee, or to attack Andrade while the referee wasn’t looking. While this wasn’t Jay at his scummiest, nowhere near that really, this is the classic Jay that I’ve been waiting to see again. This match was fully in his element, and after Juice clocked Andrade with a clipboard behind the ref’s back, Jay managed to hit a Bladerunner, and it was all over. This was a textbook amazing Jay match, and though this is probably my bias once again, this is the best Jay White we’ve seen on AEW yet, and I have to recommend this as my match of the night.
The main event was a Texas Death Match between Ricky Starks and Bryan Danielson and it was an fantastic match. A Texas Death Match means that there are no rules, no disqualifications, and the only way to win is to incapacitate your opponent until they can’t answer the referee’s count of ten. This match was brutal and terrible in all the best ways. Bryan and Ricky have consistently put on amazing matches recently, and though I expected no difference here, I think this one might be my favorite. Collision ended up going a few minutes over its allotted cable time due to staying live to finish the match, which ended when both men were incredibly battered, bloody, and bruised, but Bryan hit one last Psycho Knee, having wrapped his knee in a chain. Ricky couldn’t answer the ten count, and Bryan could only stand by holding himself up with the ropes, but he still answered. Bryan handed Ricky one last decisive loss, and is heading into WrestleDream on a win, it seems.