By Gwen Lombard
WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW
The Judgment Day’s Finn Bálor and Damien Priest opened the show this week and were quickly interrupted by Cody Rhodes this time, telling them that Rhea is the real leader of their group, despite all their claims that there is no leader. Damien antagonized Cody into a brawl, where Rhea and Dominik came down to get in on the action, as well as Jey Uso. JD McDonagh took out Rhodes’ leg by smashing it between a steel chair and the steel ring steps, bringing out Adam Pearce and security to pull the teams apart. It was made official later in the night that Damien Priest will be facing off against Cody Rhodes at Crown Jewel.
The New Day took on Alpha Academy next, and this was a lot of fun. It’s great to see New Day in tag team action again, they even debuted new black and white gear with some red highlights, and I like the new look! Xavier Woods got the win when he pinned Otis off a beautifully executed elbow drop.
Then we got a backstage segment showing Rhea Ripley talking with Seth Rollins in the hallway. She offered Judgment Day’s support when he takes on Drew McIntyre at Crown Jewel, and hinted that even further greatness might be possible if he joined them. She even tempted him by comparing him to Roman Reigns, something that’s been a consistent character note throughout Seth’s career that Roman might be better than him. He never did say no, though, so there’s a possibility.
Becky Lynch defeated Indi Hartwell next in a pretty good match. These are two women who work well together but would benefit from a more put-together story. Unfortunately, Indi is just another name to further Becky’s NXT Women’s Title reign. But I did enjoy this match, as at least Indi is having time on TV.
We then had a contract signing segment in the ring, with Adam Pearce calling out all five women in the Fatal Five Way for the Women’s World Title at Crown Jewel to sign their contract. This went about as well as you could expect, with everything breaking down into a brawl rather quickly that required security to pull them apart. In the end, Nia Jax stood tall in the ring, glaring down at Rhea as she walked off.
Johnny Gargano took on Giovanni Vinci next in a great match that almost saw Ludwig Kaiser interfere before Tommasso Ciampa ran down to make the save. This gave Johnny just enough time to recover and pin Vinci for the win.
I was then forced to once again sit through a Logan Paul promo, gloating about how great his recent boxing match was until Dominik Mysterio came out. Never thought I’d be thankful for Dom, but here we are. The boos in the arena were so loud the rest of this segment was just about inaudible, until somehow Samantha Irving the announcer was pulled into the ring so Paul could flirt with her. This brought out Ricochet, Irving’s husband, to brawl with Paul.
Drew McIntyre took on Sami Zayn next in a wonderful match. These two men are arguably two of the best on Raw right now and are both at the top of their respective games. This was a lot of fun to watch, with both men trading strikes: Drew attempting his Claymore Kick, and Sami attempting his Helluva Kick in return. Rhea made her way down to the ring to distract Sami and this unfortunately worked as Drew capitalized on the distraction, hitting his Claymore kick and winning the match.
The main event between Damien Priest and Jey Uso was a fun but highly predictable match. These are two men who have faced each other so often lately that they know each other inside and out, they can expect each other’s moves, and think ahead. However, Jey still didn’t expect Finn’s interference, causing Damien to win. The beatdown continued after the bell, and Cody Rhodes made his way down with a steel chair in hand to even the odds, despite his ankle being in a cast. He and Jey stood tall to end the show.
The show began with MJF taking on ‘Rock Hard’ Juice Robinson for ownership of the Dynamite Diamond Ring. This was a great match, heated, tenuous, and brutal. MJF held nothing back in this opening match, especially after all the swipes Juice has made at him over the past number of weeks. Juice was busted open and bleeding not even 10 minutes in, his face coated in red and MJF refused to let up. He eventually won by knocking Juice’s lights out with the Diamond Ring behind the referee’s back, granting him his fifth straight year of ownership over the ring. The Bang Bang Gang attacked him after the bell rang though, and The Kingdom (Matt Taven and Mike Bennet, Roderick Strong’s besties) ran down to give the lamest attempt of a save I think I’ve ever seen. This prompted The Acclaimed to come down and run off the Bang Bang Gang. MJF then declared that he would accept the Gunn’s challenge for the ROH World Tag Team Championships at Full Gear, despite the fact Adam Cole still isn’t cleared to wrestle. He continued to say that he would face off against the Bang Bang Gang in an 8-man tag team match with three partners of his choosing, though he didn’t announce who. Then, because the first thirty minutes of this show weren’t crazy enough already, Kenny Omega made his way out to ask a small favor from MJF. Asking that he has a chance to defend his World Title reign record of 346 days, which MJF is within three days of breaking with his reign. MJF agreed, and they have an AEW World Championship match set for Collision on Saturday. This is a match that could main event any Pay-Per-View of the year, in any city, on any stage. And yet, the fact they’re facing off on Collision makes it feel like so much more. It’s a sportsman fight now; Kenny asked for a chance and MJF gave it to him. No more, no less. This match feels stripped back, and yet so big at the same time. It’s just incredible. Wardlow also appeared in a brief vignette to say that he would take everything from MJF, and Samoa Joe offered his partnership to MJF, but only if he received a World Championship rematch afterward.
Rob Van Dam then teamed with Hook again to take on Dark Order’s Alex Reynolds and John Silver. This was a fun match that had RVD forgetting the fact he’s supposed to be 52, moving like he’s 25 again, and Hook simply being Hook. It was over rather quickly, with RVD picking up the win.
AEW then had a brief vignette announcing a new Pay-Per-View called World’s End will be happening on Saturday, December 30th in Long Island, NY.
Sting was in the ring next, where Tony Schiavone introduced Tony Khan’s retirement gift to him: Ric Flair. Flair came down to the ring and the two embraced. He spoke about how his match against Sting 35 years ago on the first-ever Clash of Champions set Sting on his path to greatness, and how he’s proud to have been a part of it. And that if Sting will have him, he wants to ride out these last few months of his great path with him. Christian Cage couldn’t let a nice, warm, heartfelt moment pass him by if he tried, so he came out and interrupted the festivities to tell Sting that Tony Kahn had gotten him a terrible gift, Ric’s just a suit, some gold chains and a black liver at this point. He wanted to give his own retirement gift to Sting, that of an early one. If they can find themselves a third partner, then Christian, Luchasaurus, and Nick Wayne will fight them at Full Gear. Backstage later on, Sting requested that Adam Copeland be their third partner, but Copeland declined, still unsure about fighting Christian.
The Young Bucks and Hangman Page defended their ROH Six-Man Tag Team Championships next against The Hardys and Brother Zay. This was a great match, as is expected when the Hardys and Bucks are in there together. It was full of great back-and-forth moments, and in the end, Matt Jackson won the match for his team, pinning Brother Zay after a wonderfully executed BTE Trigger. Almost immediately afterward, however, a video began to play, showing Swerve Strickland in Hangman’s house. Swerve made his way through the house to Hangman’s son’s room, setting the camera so Hangman could watch as he declared his son indebted to him forever, because of his father. This was a great segment from Swerve, by far my favorite of his so far.
Our main event saw the unlikely but also just so wonderful tag team of Orange Cassidy and Kazuchika Okada take on Bryan Danielson and Claudio Castagnoli. This was a fantastic match, with a considerable amount of time given to letting Okada and Danielson try to break each other again. The best part of the whole match absolutely has to be the moment when Okada hit his iconic Rainmaker pose, arms outstretched, and Orange Cassidy walked in to hug him. Perfection, no notes, A+, wrestling is amazing. The end came soon after that though, when Claudio hit a picture-perfect European Uppercut on Cassidy for the win.
The show opened with Roman Reigns’ music as he made his way to the ring for his contract signing with LA Knight for their match at Crown Jewel. Only a minute into his entrance, however, Knights’ music interrupted him as LA Knight made his entrance, quickly making his way into the ring and taking a seat at the head of the table. The contract was signed, but it quickly devolved into chaos, with Roman throwing the table at Knight and attacking him. Jimmy Uso then appeared to help his cousin but got put through the table before he could help much.
Carlito and Santos Escobar then took on the Street Profits in a pretty good match. This was nothing over the moon spectacular, but it was fun to watch. The LWO members had a solid upper hand on the match until the titantron began showing footage of Logan Paul attacking Rey Mysterio backstage. Escobar sent Carlito to the back to go check on their friend, keeping the Profits at bay momentarily before the numbers advantage became too strong and they hit their Revelation finisher for the win.
Logan Paul ignores an interview backstage before he runs into Kevin Owens, leading to an intense stare-down. Paul eventually walks off, and before Kevin can follow, Grayson Waller and Austin Theory get in his way. They taunt him with Paul’s snippet “It just takes one punch”, and this leads to security having to separate them before Kevin Owens manages to hit both of them square across the face with a singular punch.
John Cena made his way down to the ring next, hyping up the crowd for his match at Crown Jewel. He said that he’s not ready for this ride to end yet, but to keep it from ending he must win at Crown Jewel. Paul Heyman came down to show his respect and shake his hand. He let him know that while his career has been legendary, Roman beat him back at SummerSlam. And just like that happened, Solo Sikoa will beat him at Crown Jewel. Solo then ran down and attacked Cena from behind.
Dragon Lee then took on Cedric Alexander in a great match that unfortunately didn’t last too long. This was a great example of why Cedric is such a great wrestler despite how little time he gets to show his skills. Lee was a great opponent for him, and each move seemed picture-perfect. In the end, Lee beat Cedric with a Destino, and they raised each other’s hands.
Bianca Belair came out to the ring next to show the footage of her getting attacked by Damage Control and said that she’ll face Iyo Sky at Crown Jewel to get back her WWE Women’s Championship.
We then had our main event match between Jimmy Uso and LA Knight. This was a pretty good television match, nothing overly spectacular but solid nonetheless. Knight won with a great series of moves, and the real meat of the segment happened once the bell rang. As Knight was celebrating, Roman snuck into the ring and tried to hit a Spear but missed. Knight managed to counter the missed Spear into his BFT finisher as the show ended. This was a great way to end this show.
The Show opened with Santana taking on Ortiz in a brutal Philadelphia Street Fight. The tension between these two has been boiling over for months, and it was only a matter of time before they beat the ever-loving hell out of each other like they did here. This was a fantastic match that ended with Santana emphatically proving that he can stand on his own two feet, he doesn’t need Ortiz anymore. Despite that, he reached out for a fist bump afterward, and Ortiz pushed him away.
There was then a brief backstage segment that saw Kenny Omega and Jay White come face to face for the first time in a long time. They have a long shared history, foreigners in Japan trying to find their space and finding wild success with it. Jay, flaunting the AEW World Title the whole time, stopped Kenny in his dressing room and let him know that, should he beat MJF for the World Title on Saturday, a truly elite champion will be waiting when he gets to Full Gear.
Kip Sabian was in the ring next with Penelope Ford to address the crowd, pulling out every entirely false sports quip he could think of to rag on Philly, from the Eagles’ Superbowl track record to the 76ers. Thankfully this didn’t go on very long before Mark Briscoe made his way out. Mark isn’t one much for words, and that hasn’t changed these past few months he’s been out of action. He quickly sent Kip running for Penelope’s protection with a few solid right hands and chops.
Then came a fatal four-way match for an opportunity at the AEW Women’s Championship against Hikaru Shida on Collision. Skye Blue, Willow Nightingale, Anna Jay, and Abadon faced off, and I’d just like to say that this is the point in the night where things really started to go my way. Abadon had a match on television, pinch me I must be dreaming. They are routinely one of my favorite wrestlers who are so underutilized, and every time they get a match on television it’s my legally and morally sworn duty to be as obnoxious about it as possible. Incredibly biased opinion aside, this was a fun match. Lots of back and forth between four great wrestlers. Skye Blue is starting to shine lately with this new character path she’s been going down since getting misted, and a turning point happened during this match. She continuously went after Willow Nightingale, her friend, and this finally forced Willow to fight back against her. Willow seems to have stopped trying to save her. In the end, Abadon won this match by pinning Anna Jay and is on their way to a Women’s World Title opportunity.
Our main event was next as Konosuke Takeshita took on Kyle Fletcher. This was a fun match that exemplified both men’s abilities. Takeshita is coming into his own under Don Callis’ tutelage, and Kyle Fletcher is quickly falling into the rhythm of singles competition. In the end, Takeshita put away Fletcher with a tremendous Knee Strike for the win. After the bell rang, however, Don Callis and Powerhouse Hobbs made their way down to the ring and extended Fletcher an offer to join the Don Callis Family. Fletcher responded by burying a steel chair in Hobbs’ and Takeshita’s backs, so I’ll have to take that as a no.
The show opened with Jay White taking on AR Fox. This was a great match that highlighted Fox’s skills as a high-flier, as he held the upper hand in this match for a decent amount of time. However, in the end, Bang Bang Gang had the numbers advantage and used it to their advantage, letting White capitalize and hit a beautiful Bladerunner for the win. Just moments after the bell rang, MJF tried to sneak his AEW World Championship belt away by putting on a hoodie and pulling up the hood. Juice noticed instantly and called the attention of the celebrating White and Gunns which forced MJF to abandon his title belt and run to safety ahead of his main event bout.
The Bang Bang Gang stayed in the ring because the next match saw Austin and Colten Gunn take on Brandon and Brent Tate, who together make up Dalton Castle’s Boys. The match was over quickly, the Gunns effectively playing with their prey for a moment before dispatching The Boys with their 3:10 finisher.
We then got a Fright Night Fight next, as Abadon challenged Hikaru Shida for the Women’s World Championship. The ropes draped in spiderwebs, jack-o-lanterns and skeletons, and even some gravestones littered the ring, this was a perfect match for Abadon and they held the upper hand over the Women’s champion for over half the match. They used Shida’s fear of them against her, as well as a litany of Halloween-themed weapons. Including a bucket full of candy that they drove Shida into with a beautiful Blockbuster. The fans absolutely lost it when Abadon finally wielded a pumpkin against Shida, and after they missed, the fans lost it even more when Shida brought out the massive jack-o-lantern and stuck it over Abadon’s head. She hit a perfect Katana kick, cracking the pumpkin, and pinned Abadon for the three count. As sad as I am that Abadon didn’t win, this was such a fun match to watch. I’m a big fan of these gimmick matches, there’s just something about them that makes them so much more fun to watch; they don’t take themselves as seriously as say, a Claudio Castagnoli match, and it’s nice to just be able to sit and laugh at some of the absurdity.
The next match saw Samoa Joe defend his ROH World Television Title against a former champion, Rhett Titus. This was Joe’s match to win, and he did it in decisive fashion. Titus never had a chance to employ any offense, and simply tried to survive the onslaught, eventually tapping out to the Coquina Clutch.
Claudio Castagnoli had a backstage promo next where he announced that Bryan Danielson suffered a broken orbital bone on Wednesday, though they don’t know if it came from Okada’s Rainmaker or Cassidy’s Orange Punch. But Claudio said he didn’t care who it was, because he’ll make them both pay. Okada simply needs to name the time and place, and Cassidy will suffer in Louisville on Dynamite next week. Declaring that they hurt a member of the Blackpool Combat Club, and now he has to hurt them back.
We then saw Dax Harwood take on Ricky Starks. Before the opening bell even rang though, the lights went out, and when they came back up, The House Of Black was standing in the crowd, watching on in silence. The match that ensued was wonderful, with both men getting a great showing. Dax had Cash in his corner just as Ricky had Big Bill, and though outside interference from both of them was teased, the end came when Ricky hit a Piledriver on Dax for the win. Once again, as Ricky began to celebrate his win, the lights went down, and only a spotlight on the stage came up, focusing on Julia Hart who we haven’t seen since WrestleDream, who raised her hand and commanded the lights go out once more. When they came back up, House of Black was stood in the ring, surrounding Big Bill and Ricky Starks. They turned though and stared down FTR until La Facción Ingobernable’s music hit and Rush, Preston Vance, and Dralistico provided backup and sparked the brawl with the House of Black. Ricky and Bill stole away in the chaos, and La Facción Ingobernable and FTR stood tall in the ring.
Kris Statlander then asked for some time backstage with Willow Nightingale and Skye Blue to address the growing tension between the two. Willow was willing to talk about it and wanted to figure out why, after Julia Hart misted them both, it’s’ only been getting worse. Skye however, simply said that anything she had to say to Julia was between her and Julia, and walked away, leaving Willow and Kris behind.
Then we had our main event, Kenny Omega challenging MJF for the AEW World Championship. A match that could headline any Pay-Per-View, and we got it for free on television. This was an amazing match, as we all expected it would be. A consistent back-and-forth battle between The Best Bout Machine and The Devil; between the man who founded this company off the back of his fame, and the man who wrestled in the very first AEW match and has forced his way up to this moment. These two are unmatched in their in-ring talent and they had a brutal battle that saw Kenny Powerbomb MJF through a table off the ring apron, and saw MJF hit a fantastic dive over the top rope onto Kenny. For 30 minutes, the world was reminded just why Kenny has some of the highest-rated matches in the history of the business, and why MJF is still the champion today. Despite Kenny throwing constant offense and giving everything he had into this match, MJF persevered through, standing and going chop for the chop with him. In the end, MJF hit a beautifully executed Panama Sunrise (Adam Cole’s finisher move!) on Kenny, immediately maneuvering into hitting an elevated DDT to put Kenny away with the three count. This was an emphatic end to an incredible match, and even though MJF didn’t use any of his finishers to put Kenny away, it still had the same big moment feeling to it when the bell rang. Kenny built this company on his back, and this felt like the final step for MJF to officially say he runs the place now. After the match, the two shook hands and embraced each other in a great show of sportsmanship between two of the best wrestlers this company has to offer. This was everything that I had hoped this match would be and even exceeded my expectations. I have no other choice but to name this match as my recommendation for the night, and encourage all of you to go watch it if you have half an hour to spare. It’s a great reminder of just who Kenny Omega is, and just how good MJF is.