TJR: WWE Raw The Absolute Best Of 2023 Review

wwe best of raw 2023

This week’s WWE Raw was a recap show featuring some of the best matches of 2023, comments from top stars and more as we head to 2024.

Raw landed on Christmas Day for the final episode of 2023, so WWE rightfully decided to do a “Best Of” that they are calling “The Absolute Best of 2023” similar to what they did last year. Since I’ve reviewed all of the matches that they aired on here, I’m going to paste in my review from when the match happened. They didn’t air the full matches, but they aired most of the matches that made the show. I’m also going to summarize the rest of the show.

There will be no Three Stars or final score rating for the show. My massive WWE Johnny Awards column is coming this Thursday, December 28th or if I need an extra day then it will be on Friday. Let’s get to it.

The Miz introduced the show welcoming us to the show and talking about how they are going to relive some of the greatest moments of the year. I guess that means they won’t include his “matches” at WrestleMania 39 this year. The Miz mentioned some of the matches that will be shown on this episode.

The hosts were Jackie Redmond and Peter Redmond in a studio. They said there will be exclusive interviews and they’re going to show matches.

First up is Night of Champions 2023 when Seth Rollins faced AJ Styles to crown the Inaugural World Heavyweight Champion.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Seth “Freakin” Rollins vs. AJ Styles

The brand new WWE World Heavyweight Title was at ringside and it will go to the winner of this match. The title belongs to Raw. Seth is already a Raw guy and if AJ wins then he goes to Raw too.

Rollins played mind games early by getting the crowd to sing his song repeatedly. Styles hit a dropkick and knocked Rollins out of the ring. Rollins quickly got back in the ring. They exchanged some holds leading to Rollins hitting a Blockbuster neckbreaker and a running knee to the face. Rollins charged with a kick, Styles caught him and Rollins hit a back kick. Styles with a snapmare leading to a knee drop to the face. Styles avoided a charging Rollins, who hit the turnbuckle and Styles chopped Seth a few times. Rollins caught a leaping Styles with a flatliner into the turnbuckle and Rollins sent a sliding Styles into the middle turnbuckle as well. Rollins wanted a superplex, Styles slipped out of it and sent Rollins face first into the top turnbuckle. They exchanged punches with the friends liking Rollins more as Styles suplexed Rollins into the turnbuckle. Rollins with punches, Styles came back with his strikes leading to a clothesline and a sliding forearm. Styles hit a corner clothesline followed by Styles hitting a sitout slam driving Rollins face first into the mat. Rollins has gold fingernails, which is unique. Styles with an elbow followed by a backflip into a reverse DDT for two. Rollins hit a sunset flip for two, then Rollins picked him up and hit a Buckle Bomb into the turnbuckle. Rollins went up top and a hit a Frog Splash across the ring for a two count. Rollins with a forearm to the head, Styles avoided a move and Styles hit the Ushigoroshi (slamming the neck into the knee) for a two count. Styles and Rollins each tried, moves Styles got out of that and hit a step up enziguri kick to the head. Rollins blocked a Styles Clash attempt off the ropes and hit a hurricanrana. Rollins set up Styles on the turnbuckle, Styles hit Rollins with elbows and Rollins was back up with a reverse superplex followed by a lifting reverse suplex for a two count. Great sequence of moves by Rollins there. Seth usually does a superplex into a Falcon Arrow combo, so he reversed it this time.

Rollins went up top, he went for a twisting attack, but Styles avoided it and Styles went to the apron while Rollins was in the ring. Styles lifted Rollins to the apron and gave Rollins a brainbuster on the apron! Ouch. Styles did it safely and the referee checked on Seth if he was okay. It’s still a dangerous bump, but Styles did it about as safe as you could. Styles went for the Phenomenal Forearm and Rollins knocked him down to the floor. Rollins hit a suicide dive on Styles on the floor. Rollins was grabbing his left knee as if he hurt it doing that move. Back in the ring, Styles immediately applied the Calf Crusher submission on the left leg. Rollins managed to get out of it by grabbing Styles around the neck. Rollins hit a clothesline to knock Styles down as both guys were down selling. They got back leading to an exchange of strikes, Rollins ducked a clothesline and hit a kick to the head. Rollins avoided a Pele Kick and hit a superkick. Styles stomped on AJ’s right hand. Rollins wanted a Pedigree, Styles got out of it and Styles hit a Pele Kick. Style shit a Pedigree for one…two…and no. Styles kicked out. Rollins with a forearm to the face. Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Rollins hit a superkick. Rollins went for The Stomp, but Rollins collapsed like his left knee buckled. Rollins hit a Pedigree, sold the left knee injury and Rollins hit a Pedigree. Rollins covered Styles for the one…two…and three. It went 20:38.

Winner by pinfall AND NEW WWE World Champion: Seth “Freakin” Rollins

Analysis: ****1/2 That was an outstanding match. They both hit the Pedigree in the match, but Rollins was the only one to hit his own finisher and that’s what he used to get the win. The right guy won because Rollins is the top face on the Raw brand, Rollins hasn’t held a World Title in a few years and it just makes sense to put the title on him. I think it was AJ’s best singles match in a few years. It’s not because Styles is slipping, but he just hasn’t had those great matches that he had in the first few years in WWE. The story of Rollins selling the left knee injury added to the drama because Styles was able to weaken Rollins with the Calf Crusher submission and Rollins was able to overcome all that to win. I thought maybe Rollins would need to hit The Stomp twice to win, but he only did it once and that was enough. I’m glad they got a lot of time and delivered a memorable match to crown the new World Heavyweight Champion.

(I rewatched the match and I think I overrated it a bit because I’d probably go ****1/4 now. It’s still an outstanding match. Rollins winning the match was never in doubt.)

Seth Rollins Interview

Seth “Freakin” Rollins was interviewed at home (I assume) talking about his daughter Roux celebrating Christmas. Rollins said it has been his honor to be the first World Heavyweight Champion. Rollins spoke about making this entire place as good as it can be.

CM Punk’s return to WWE was mentioned. Rollins said he had a mixture of emotions that were rage and disappointment. Rollins admitted you kinda knew it was coming. Rollins was asked about CM Punk possibly earning his respect and Rollins said we have a long road to get to that point. Rollins said he had a lot of respect for this guy and he was the epitome of don’t ever meet your heroes. Rollins said he’s known him for 20 years. Rollins said it would be a long road for him to get there. Rollins joked that he would send CM Punk a lump of coal.

Rollins talked about his match against Drew McIntyre next week on Day 1 Raw. Rollins said he understood a lot of what Drew was saying. Rolins said that he is on an untouchable level. Rollins said that Drew has to get in the ring and find a way to beat Rollins, but he doesn’t think Drew can do it. Rollins said he’s feeling untouchable. Rollins said Drew is a jerk, no Merry Christmas to him and may the best man him.

Analysis: A confident interview from Rollins as usual. They covered the key points well. I think Rollins-McIntyre on New Year’s Day will be great and I don’t predict a title change because I think Rollins defending his title against CM Punk at WrestleMania 40 is very likely.

They showed Alpha Academy in the locker room with Chad Gable, Otis, Maxxine Dupri and Akira Tozawa talking about the year that was. This turned into a WWE Shop advertisement for deals being on sale all week. Tozawa did his nasty dance.

The hosts talk about Jade Cargill signing with WWE. They can’t wait to see her in the ring.

It was WrestleMania 39 time when Rhea Ripley faced Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Title.

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley

Flair got the first advantage with a clothesline that sent Ripley over the top to the floor. Flair was on the apron, she hit a boot to the face and a cross body block off the top. Flair tried a move to the knee, but Ripley caught Flair on her shoulders and Ripley sent Flair face-first into the turnbuckle. Flair tried to fight back, but Ripley sent Flair into the middle turnbuckle. Ripley with a body scissors around Flair’s waist, Flair powered out of it with punches and a rollup for two. Ripley with two forearms to the spine. I think I heard Flair say “do it again” so Ripley hit another forearm to the back. Flair with a back elbow, but Ripley hit a German Suplex for two. Flair kicked the arm, then drove Ripley back-first into the knee and Flair hit two clotheslines. Flair chopped Ripley repeatedly in the chest followed by Flair doing a knee drop to the back of the knee. Flair sent Ripley into the turnbuckle. Flair jumped off the top with a cross body block, Ripley rolled through and Flair countered a Riptide attempt into a DDT for two! That was a great spot about ten minutes into this match.

Flair was going for the Figure Eight, Ripley kicked herself free and Ripley got an inside cradle. They did a double running boot to the face. They exchanged forearms, Ripley drove Flair’s head into the knee and Flair came back with an overhead suplex across the ring. Flair kipped up leading to a mix of cheers and boos. Flair went up top, Ripely went after her, Flair knocked her back, Ripley went after Flair again and Ripley hit a German suplex with Flair doing a moonsault bump into the ring. Ripley got a two count. Flair with a chop block to the knee and the Natural Selection neckbreaker for two. Ripley was on the floor, Flair charged, Ripley avoided that and Flair went hard into the steel steps. Back in the ring, Ripley slammed Flair hard into the mat for a two count. Ripley wanted Riptide, Flair got out of that and Flair hit a German Suplex. Flair hit another German Suplex. Ripley with an elbow to the head and Ripley hit another German Suplex with Flair doing a moonsault bump again. That was a dangerous spot with Flair landing on her head/face instead of her hands. Flair came back with a running boot to the face for two. Ripley was on the apron, so Flair hit a running boot to knock Ripley down to the floor. Flair went up top and hit the moonsault onto a standing Ripley on the floor. It was mostly Charlotte’s left arm that hit Ripley. Flair went for a Spear, Ripley avoided it, Flair nearly hit the referee and Ripley hit a headbutt. Ripley hit a Riptide for one…two…and no! Flair got her right shoulder up. You could see Charlotte staring at the referee so she could time it perfectly. Ripley was frustrated by that. Flair managed to get an inside cradle for two. Ripley came back with the submission move tying up Flair’s knees, but Flair got to the ropes. Flair sent Ripley into the turnbuckle and the referee was nearly hit, but she was not. Flair hit a Spear for one…two…and no! Ripley kicked out. The crowd was coming alive for this as the women exchanged forearms with Ripley getting more cheers even though she’s a heel. Ripley with a kick to the head, but Flair hit a boot to the head again. Flair with a Figure Four Leglock, but they were near the ropes so Ripley held the ropes to break free. The fans were mostly standing at this point. Flair sent Ripley into the ring post. Flair was on the middle rope going for a move, but Ripley fought out of it. Ripley sent Flair face first into the top of the ring post. Ripley went up top, Flair was on the ropes and Ripley picked her up with Ripley hitting the Riptide slam off the middle ropes for one…two…and three! It went 23:36.

Winner by pinfall AND NEW Smackdown Women’s Champion: Rhea Ripley

Analysis: ****1/2 This ended up being an outstanding match. The first half of the match wasn’t that interesting, but then it got really good after Flair countered the Riptide with a DDT and they each hit some huge moves after that. From there it was a barrage of big moves throughout the match with each woman kicking out of big moves. I thought they could have had Charlotte go for the Figure Eight some more. Anyway, Ripley getting the win was the right move and hitting the Riptide off the middle rope was a great way to end it. Their styles work well together because they are both talented athletes that are also powerful women, so they can do it all in the ring. Ripley winning seemed like an easy prediction. It just made sense for her to win and I think she’ll have a long title reign too.

(This was an excellent match. I think it was probably the best women’s match in WWE this year. They really took their time building it up and the last few minutes were outstanding. The right woman won too. It was probably the best WWE women’s match this year.)

There were comments from Rhea Ripley talking about how 2023 was the year when Rhea Ripley and The Judgment Day took over WWE and Raw. Ripley issued a warning to Ivy Nile, who she’ll face on the Day 1 Raw episode.

They showed clips of Logan Paul beating Ricochet at SummerSlam. It was only a few minutes of highlights.

San Juan Street Fight: Bad Bunny vs. Damian Priest

Bunny had a staredown with Priest, who is the bigger man and Priest shoved Bunny down. Cole said they grew up in the same town in Puerto Rico. Priest sent Bunny into the turnbuckle, Bunny with a slap to the face and a Michinoku Driver for a one count because Priest powered out of it. Bunny brought a kendo stick into the ring, but Priest knocked him down and broke the kendo stick. Priest went for an arm wringer, Bunny punched him and did a jawbreaker. Bunny did a sunset flip, Priest got out of it and hit Bunny with a forearm to the face. Priest hit a running back elbow splash against the turnbuckle. Priest hit a South of Heaven slam for two because he picked Bunny up at two. Priest got an axhandle, Bunny left the ring and Priest teased a jump to the floor, but Bunny threw a chair at him. Bunny hit Priest with two kendo stick shots, but Priest shoved him into the turnbuckle. Bunny with a kick followed by a tornado DDT and Bunny hit a clothesline over the top to the floor. Bunny went up top and hit a cross body block onto Priest on the floor. Bunny used trash can lids to hit Priest repeatedly while they were on the floor. Back in the ring, Bunny hit Priest with kendo stick shots to the body. Priest got the kendo stick, but Bunny ran into Priest to knock it down. Bunny hit the Falcon Arrow slam for two. Cole called it a Michinoku Driver at the start, but Corey corrected it and Cole said he was right. Priest was bleeding from the nose a bit as he walked toward the back. Bunny grabbed a trash can, but Priest was ready and Priest kicked the trash can into Bunny’s face. Priest hit Bunny in the back with a trash can. Priest hit Bunny with the blue, red and white kendo stick. Priest simulated like he was hitting a home run with a baseball bat. They went fighting into the crowd and into the tech area. Priest put Bunny on top of some sort of equipment box. Bunny fought back with punches, Priest punched him back and Priest gave Bunny the Broken Arrow slam off the equipment box/road case and through a table that may have had some padding as well, but I don’t know about that. WWE Officials like Adam Pearce and Shawn Daivari tried to get Priest to stop, but Priest said he wasn’t done.

Priest carried Bunny back to the ringside area leading to Priest kicking Bunny in the chest a few times. Priest went for a spin kick, Bunny ducked and Priest’s left foot hit the ring post. Bunny brought a kendo stick into the ring and hit Priest’s left leg two times. Bunny charged, Priest got the boot up and Bunny drove Priest’s left leg onto the shoulder. Priest was telling the referee that his leg was not okay. Bunny rammed Priest’s left knee into the ring post. Bunny used a steel chain to ram Priest’s left leg into the ring post. Bunny hit Priest’s left knee with the steel chair. Bunny had the chair as he stood over Priest, who was pleading with Bunny and apologizing to Bunny. That led to Priest delivering an up kick with the right leg. Bunny came back with a low blow uppercut, which is legal in a match like this. There was the cue for The Judgment Day as Dominik Mysterio and Finn Balor went into the ring to attack Bunny. Dominik and Balor stomped on Bunny repeatedly, but that led to the LWO’s Rey Mysterio to run out for the save. Dominik and Balor stomped on Rey. Here comes Carlito! Carlito ran down to the ring to a huge ovation. Carlito with a backstabber on Balor. Carlito bit into an apple, Dominik hit Carlito in the back and Rey hit a 619 on Dominik. Carlito spit the apple on Dominik. And here comes Savio Vega in an LWO shirt! The fans were going nuts for Savio as well. Savio called for some more help as the rest of the LWO (Santos Escobar, Cruz Del Toro & Joaquin Wilde) made their entrance. The LWO guys fought with The Judgment Day. Savio hit Balor with a few chops, an uppercut and a back kick to the face. The Judgment Day was chased to the back.

Let’s go back to the match as Priest went for a kick, but then he was selling the left leg injury again. Bunny applied the Figure Four Leglock submission, Priest was down for a two count and then he got his shoulder up before the fall. Priest grabbed Bunny by the throat to get out of it. Priest tried a slam, but Bunny got out of it and got a two count. Priest charged, Bunny moved and Priest hit a steel chair. Bunny hit a Slice Bread neckbreaker off the turnbuckle and nearly landed on his neck, but he was okay as he covered for two. Bunny got a steel chair that he used to beat down Priest with chair shots to the back. Bunny hit a Canadian Destroyer for the one…two…and three! Cole called it a Bunny Destroyer and I think that name is fitting. Bunny covered Priest for the pinfall win at 25:02.

Winner by pinfall: Bad Bunny

Analysis: ****1/4 It was a very entertaining brawl. It’s not easy going over 20 minutes in a singles match like that, but kudos to Bad Bunny for pulling it off and Damian Priest deserves a lot of credit as well because he is the professional wrestler in there working with the singer. They had a great match together. It was smart to make it a Street Fight with weapons. They did big spots throughout the match including the table spot that was out in the crowd. There was no cover there because the finish has to be in the ring for a Street Fight. I thought Bunny really exceeded expectations in this match because you don’t know how a guy is going to do in that kind of match when he’s not a full-time wrestler, but he was impressive. It was his first match in over two years and he did better than he did in that WrestleMania 37 tag team match. Anyway, Priest deserves a lot of credit too. That was one of the biggest matches of his career and he delivered.

bad bunny wwe backlash

(It is so impressive that Bad Bunny had such a great match in his first ever WWE singles match. Priest and Bunny worked very well together. The crowd was amazing too.)

The New Day’s Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods did a promo mentioning they are 12-time WWE Tag Team Champions. They spoke about “Big Meaty Men Slapping Meat” while talking about Bronson Reed and Ivar. They also spoke about the Women’s Tag Team Division. They named women who you don’t want to kick you in the head: Xia Li, Sami Zayna and Shinsuke Nakamura. They also talked about the WWE Tag Team Division saying eventually those championships will be in their hands again. They spoke about WWE Tag Team Champions Damian Priest & Finn Balor along with challengers Indus Sher, #DIY, The Creed Brothers and Imperium. They also mentioned Alpha Academy while talking about Akira Tozawa’s “That’s Nasty” dance.

Analysis: The Men’s Tag Team division is pretty good right now. They ignored the Smackdown teams since this is a Raw show, but the titles are on both shows.

Next up is the Labor Day Raw on September 4th when GUNTHER defended the Intercontinental Title against Chad Gable.

Intercontinental Championship: GUNTHER vs. Chad Gable

They were going for moves in the first couple of minutes with each guy doing counters. Gable sent Gunther out of the ring, then when Gunther went on the apron, Gable knocked him down again. That led to a break.

Gable was in control by wrenching on Gunther’s left knee against the middle rope. Back in the ring, Gunther hit a boot to the face on a charging Gable. Gunther chopped Gable to knock him on his ass. Gable tried some chops, but Gunther knocked him down with another chop. Gunther put his boot to Gable’s throat by the ropes, which led to Gable bumping to the floor.

Gunther went for a Powerbomb, but Gable got out of it and grabbed the left ankle. Gable did a hurricanrana to send them both over the top to the floor. Gable gave Gunther a German Suplex on the floor. The referee was counting, so Gable put Gunther back in the ring. Gunther was back up and hit a Powerbomb for two. Gunther went up top, Gable went after him there and Gable jumped up with a superplex off the top. Gable hit a top rope headbutt for two with the fans popping for that nearfall. Gable applied an Ankle Lock, but Gunther kicked him back. Gunther fought off a move with an elbow smash, so Gable came back with a belly-to-back suplex. Gable pulled the straps up and then straps down like Kurt Angle. Gable hit the Chaos Theory ending with a German Suplex for one…two…and no! Gunther kicked out. Gable went up top with a moonsault, Gunther got a boot up to block and Gable applied an Ankle Lock. Gable applied a heel hook submission on the Ankle Lock. Gunther managed to kick Gable off leading to Gunther applying a rear naked choke sleeper on the mat. There were loud “Gable” chants. Gable rolled through for a two count by reversing the suplex. Gunther hit an overhead release German Suplex with Gable landing on his head/neck. Gunther with a Powerbomb. Gunther decked Gable with a stiff lariat for the one…two…and three! Gunther wins! It went 17 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: GUNTHER

Analysis: **** That was an awesome match. It was one of the better TV matches this year. It sucks that they put two commercials in there, but that’s what happens on a live TV show. Gable put up a fight with a couple of great nearfalls and near submissions. I didn’t think Gable had any chance of winning, but the crowd sure bought into it and that’s what matters. Those final five minutes were outstanding with Gable coming so close to winning a few times with the crowd really getting behind hm. GUNTHER matches always end in such a flurry with multiple power moves, so that ending was typical for him. I thought the finish was excellent because it was so decisive.

(There weren’t many GUNTHER matches this year where I thought he might lose and that was the case here as well, but it was still fun to watch a competitive match for the coveted IC Title. They did a great job of making it feel like a big deal. Incredible performance by Gable, who also had his family in the front row including his daughter in tears. That added to the drama as well.)

A video aired featuring the “Wise Man” Paul Heyman talking about Roman Reigns celebrating 1212 days as the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion (it’s just the Universal Title and the WWE Title is less than that). Heyman spoke about the monumental 365 days that Reigns had. Heyman talked about Reigns beating Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Cody Rhodes, LA Knight and Jey Uso. All of those wins were cheap, by the way. Heyman said everybody that challenged The Bloodline fell in 2023 including John Cena, who got destroyed by Solo Sikoa. Heyman had a spoiler for 2024 saying no challengers will unseat the true GOAT of sports entertainment. Heyman didn’t care if you’re Phenomenal (AJ Styles) or a Legend Killer (Randy Orton) or someone who can’t stop saying the word “yeah” (LA Knight). Heyman reminded us that 2024 is a Leap Year so there’s a gift of one extra day to acknowledge the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion…Roman Reigns.

Analysis: A great promo from Paul Heyman as usual. Reigns only wrestled 11 times this year and had tainted wins throughout the year as usual. I think Roman’s title reign will end at WrestleMania 40 against Cody Rhodes.

Cody Rhodes Interview

Cody was wearing a grey suit for this interview. Cody started by saying he was looking to go back to back as the Royal Rumble winner. Cody said in his family it’s Christmas in November and all of December. Cody spoke about his wife Brandi and daughter Liberty seeing Santa Claus multiple times. Cody said that Christmas for his dad used to be a huge show day, but for WWE they go on the holiday tour starting on Tuesday at MSG in New York City.

The Shinsuke Nakamura feud was mentioned. Cody said he used to respect Nakamura and he admits he was terrified of The Great Muta as a kid. Cody said that this has become more personal and they’ll settle it for however long this has gone on.

Cody’s rivalry with Brock Lesnar was brought up beginning from the night after WrestleMania to SummerSlam. Cody said he enjoyed his time in Suplex City, but he never wants to go back. Cody said he had one thing in mind. I think that was a reference to beating Roman Reigns to become WWE Champion.

When asked if Cody had a favorite moment from the last year, Cody said he had a lot of unbelievable moments in the past year. Cody mentioned winning the Royal Rumble match. Cody said a top moment for him was the post match press conference at Fastlane with Jey Uso. They showed some highlights of that with Cody admitting they may have had a “libation” on the bus. Cody said it was so much fun and he’s glad they did it.

Analysis: It was interesting that they didn’t mention Roman Reigns at all in that interview since Cody Rhodes has his sights set on The Tribal Chief. Cody did allude to it saying he had one thing in mind, but it wasn’t mentioned directly.

The next match featured was the SummerSlam battle between Cody Rhodes and Brock Lesnar. Each man had one win against the other going into this match.

Cody Rhodes vs Brock Lesnar

Cody tried going after Lesnar right away, but Lesnar fought back and hit a German Suplex. Cody came back with two Disaster Kicks. When Cody went for another one, Lesnar hit him in the ribs to stop that. Lesnar with shoulder tackles. Lesnar charged, Cody moved and Lesnar hit his left shoulder against the ring post. Cody hit a suicide dive onto Lesnar on the floor. Lesnar picked up Cody and drove him back-first into the ring post. Back in the ring, Cody tried going after Brock’s legs, so Lesnar just tossed him across the ring. Cole mentioned Lesnar has beaten 16 Hall of Famers in his career. Lesnar hit a belly-to-belly suplex on Cody across the ring. Lesnar kicked Cody in the ribs followed by a vertical suplex. Lesnar hit a release German Suplex across the ring. Lesnar delivered another German Suplex across the ring as Cody rolled out of the ring to try to get back into it. Lesnar delivered another German Suplex across the ring. Lesnar tossed Cody out of the ring to the floor. Cody was on the apron, so Lesnar knocked him down again. Lesnar was shouting “save yourself” at Cody. When Cody got back into the ring, Lesnar said: “Cody, this is only going to get worse.” Lesnar hit a vertical suplex and sent Cody out of the ring again. When Cody got back into the ring, Lesnar clotheslined Cody over the top to the floor. When Cody got to the apron, Lesnar picked him up and hit an F5 on the floor. Lesnar was shouting at Cody to stay down and told Cole to tell Cody that as well. Cody got back in the ring before the ten count.

Cody got back up by the ropes, Cody delivered punches and Lesnar hit another German Suplex. Cody was on the floor again, Lesnar grabbed him on the floor and Lesnar gave Cody an F5 through the table! The fans chanted “holy shit” for that. Cody managed to get back up while Cole was trying to tell Cody to stay down. Cody snuck back in under the bottom rope to beat the ten count. Lesnar gave Cody a belly-to-belly suplex across the ring. Cody had visible scars on his left side from the table bump. Cody pulled the turnbuckle pad off as Lesnar hit another German Suplex. Cody left the ring again, Cody picked up the steel steps, but Lesnar kicked the steps. Cody shoved Lesnar into the ring post twice and Cody hit Lesnar with the steps. Cody hit a Disaster Kick and a springboard leap into a Cody Cutter. Cody jumped off the top with a Cody Cutter for two. Lesnar sold that so well. Lesnar came back with the Kimura Lock submission on the left arm. After about a minute of that, Cody got the rope to break the hold. Lesnar with a lift, Cody slipped out of that and shoved Lesnar into the steel turnbuckle. Cody took down Lesnar with the Kimura Lock on the left arm. Lesnar was screaming in pain, Lesnar was turning purple and then Lesnar slammed Cody into the mat to force the break. Lesnar tried a lift, Cody got out of that and Cody hit Cross Rhodes. Cody hit Cross Rhodes a second time and Cody hit Cross Rhodes a third time for the pinfall win at 17:34. Lesnar had his shorts torn by the finish somehow, but nothing was exposed at least. Big pop for the win.

Winner by pinfall: Cody Rhodes

Analysis: ****1/4 Awesome match with the right finish. Cody won clean with the Cross Rhodes three times in a row and that’s exactly how it should have ended. I think the part of the match where Lesnar kept sending Cody out of the ring dragged on a bit too much, but that was also done to tell the story that Cody wouldn’t quit. Cody using the Kimura Lock was an interesting choice. We know Lesnar probably wasn’t going to tap there, but it was a way to weaken Lesnar leading up to the finish. I don’t like a commentary table bump during a regular match because that could be a disqualification, but it’s well established in WWE for decades that it counts as part of the steps. I guess you could say it’s like using the ring post or steel steps. Anyway, I loved the booking of this match. Brock Lesnar in year 21 in WWE after 10 World Titles shouldn’t beat a guy like Cody, who is on his way up in the company. This was probably Lesnar’s best match since last year’s SummerSlam with Roman Reigns while Cody is always putting on great matches like this.

After the match, Lesnar took off his gloves and went face to face with Cody. Lesnar extended his hand. Cody shook his hand. Lesnar hugged Cody and Lesnar raised Cody’s hand for the crowd. That is how you put a guy over the right way. After Lesnar left to the back, Cody celebrated around ringside. Cody hugged his mom to celebrate the win.

Analysis: I loved that post match interaction. That is Lesnar endorsing Cody and telling the fans that Cody is the guy that you need to get behind. Cody beating Lesnar like that will do wonders for his career while Lesnar knew what his role was in this four month story. Great moment.

cody rhodes brock lesnar handshake wwe

(The post match handshake and arm raising was so awesome. That was Lesnar’s impromptu idea wanting to put over Cody in a big way. Cody winning was obviously the right move as the younger guy got the huge victory over the legend. It was definitely the best of their three matches too.)

There was a video package shown of NXT on September 12 when Becky Lynch beat Tiffany Stratton to become the NXT Women’s Champion.

Becky Lynch Interview

Becky Lynch was interviewed by the hosts. She was asked about her daughter being three years old and was asked who does the bulk of the work at her house with Seth Rollins. Lynch said she does it. Lynch said it was teamwork because she buys it, but then Seth is great at putting things together. Lynch spoke about her NXT Women’s Title win. Lynch spoke about redeeming herself from ten years ago and then she was able to give opportunities to others. Lynch spoke about there’s more time to get in the ring with other people in 2024.

Lynch was asked about her match against Nia Jax at Raw Day 1. Lynch said that Jax will see that she can’t just punch Lynch down. Lynch said that bloody nose symbolized that you don’t just stay down, you get back up and you keep fighting.

Peter mentioned Lynch’s rivalry with Trish Stratus with Peter saying they had a match of the year. Lynch talked about being Women’s Tag Team Champion with Lita and then fighting against Trish Stratus would make her 15-year-old head explode. Lynch wished them a Merry Christmas.

(Becky really had a great year. If it wasn’t for Rhea Ripley, I think you could say Lynch was the best Women’s Wrestler in WWE this year. I guess that’s a WWE Johnny Award spoiler. Lynch was amazing everywhere she went even without holding one of the main roster Women’s Titles.)

The next match was Becky Lynch facing Trish Stratus in a Steel Cage Match at the September PPV Payback. It was the opening match at that show.

Steel Cage Match: Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus

The way to win a WWE Steel Cage Match is by pinfall, submission, escape the cage or going out the door.

It was pointed out by Cole that Trish has never been in a cage match. Trish tried to get out of the cage, but Lynch stopped her and Lynch sent Trish into the turnbuckle a few times. Lynch hit three Bexploder Suplexes in a row. Trish got some offense with a hair pull takedown. Trish tried to climb out of the cage, but Lynch knocked her down. Trish came back by sending Lynch into the cage. Trish sent Lynch into the cage a few times. Lynch charged, but Trish caught her with a spinebuster for two. Lynch came back with a rollup for two. Stratus hit a clothesline on Lynch for two. Trish pulled back on Lynch’s face against the ropes. Lynch got some offense going by sending Trish into the cage a few times. Lynch picked up Trish to send Trish’s head/hands into the cage and Lynch hit a running forearm. Trish sent Lynch face first into the cage a few times. When Trish ducked a clothesline with a Matrix-like bend, Lynch came back with a leg drop to the body. Lynch sent Trish into the cage again. They took turns throwing eachother into the cage, but then Lynch took over sending Trish’s head into the cage repeatedly. Trish was hanging up by the ropes, so Lynch hit a leg drop to the back for two. Trish had a purple welt/bruising on her forehead. Lynch tried a climb, but Trish grabbed the leg to stop that. They were fighting on the top turnbuckle. Trish tried to climb up, but Lynch caught her. Lynch gave Trish a Powerbomb out of the corner for a two count. The fans chanted “this is awesome” for them.

Lynch went for a submission, but Trish countered it by shoving Lynch away and Trish hit the Widow’s Peak that her former rival Victoria used to use. That was awesome. Lynch came back with a Twist of Fate that Lita used in her career (and the Hardys used) for a two count. Lynch went up top, Lynch jumped off, Trish moved and Lynch was favoring her knee as she landed. Stratus hit a Stratusfaction bulldog off the middle ropes for two. There is Lynch kicking out of a finishing move. Trish tried to climb out of the cage again, but Lynch held the leg to stop her. Trish hit Lynch with a strike on the top rope and then Trish hit a bulldog off the top for two. They climbed to the top of the steel cage and they were sitting on the top of the cage. Trish sent Lynch back into the ring, but Lynch climbed back up and pulled Trish back up by the hair. Trish had her two legs caught in the top of the cage and was bent backward. Trish freed herself, then Lynch was standing on the top rope and Lynch gave Trish a superplex from the top of the cage! That was a great move that was executed perfectly. It was a big landing for both women. Lynch covered with just her left arm across the chest, but Trish got her right arm up. Lynch climbed to the top of the cage, then Trish crawled to the door and Lynch grabbed Trish to prevent her from leaving out the door. Zoey Stark showed up while Trish was near the door. Stark pulled on Trish’s arms, but Lynch kept Trish in the cage. Trish got a rollup on Lynch for two. Lynch hit a Manhandle Slam on Trish for a two count because Zoey Stark broke up the pin attempt. Lynch shut the door and stared at Stark. Stark hit a clothesline. Trish tried to climb out, Lynch got a hold of Stark and Lynch hit a Manhandle Slam on Stark. Trish tried climbing out of the cage again, but Lynch got a hold of her and Lynch gave Trish a Manhandle Slam off the top rope! What a great move. Lynch covered Trish for the pinfall win! This match went 20:02. Cole said it was a contender for Match of the Year.

Winner by pinfall: Becky Lynch

Analysis: ****1/4 That was a great, competitive match that was very even for most of the way. It really was an outstanding match that was one of the better women’s matches in WWE this year. They pulled out all the stops with a lot of nearfalls for Trish throughout the match before Lynch was able to put her away. There wasn’t a lot of cage climbing early, but then they did it toward the end of the match. I loved seeing Trish use the Widow’s Peak in the match. That was such a cool tribute to Victoria, who is her friend and one of her greatest rivals. I was not a fan of Zoey Stark getting involved in the match, but it does fit the story between these women, so at least Lynch was able to overcome it to get the win. I think that’s the right finish to this story. Lynch should have won to end the rivalry.

(They crushed it. I had high hopes going into it, but I think they exceeded those expectations that a lot of us had for it. I think it’s right behind the Ripley-Flair match from WrestleMania as the best women’s singles match in WWE this year. The Lynch match with Tiffany Stratton at NXT No Mercy was right near the top too. Also, as a Trish Stratus fan for 20+ years I was so proud of her during this run where she reminded us just how talented she is.)

The Raw General Manager Adam Pearce was in his locker room talking on the phone. Chelsea Green walked in to complain about how there were three hours of highlights on Raw that didn’t include herself. Pearce said she instructed the production team to air a video about Chelsea Green right now.

There was a video package about Chelsea Green that showed her getting beat up by various WWE superstars. Green’s five-second performance in the Royal Rumble was shown. They also showed some of Green’s complaining moments. It also included Kayden Carter & Katana Chance beating Chelsea & Piper Niven last week on Raw too.

After the video, Chelsea complained about it and left. R-Truth walked in to talk to Pearce saying that was even better than It’s A Wonderful Life. Pearce thought that was great.

Analysis: Chelsea does a great job with her “Karen” gimmick. She is fun to watch.

Jey Uso Interview

Jey Uso was interviewed from inside a locker room. Jey was asked how Christmas has been going and Jey said it wasn’t like other years since he had a family feud going on. Jey said that Thanksgiving was really weird so we’ll see how it can go. Jey talked about moving to Raw saying it was about a new start. Jey spoke about how he has known Cody for 15 years and if it wasn’t for him, he may still be out on the islands somewhere.

When Jey was asked about Sami Zayn helping him on Raw, Jey said that Zayn helped him a lot and “that’s my dog.” Jey said that everybody knows that he didn’t like him early on, but now he’s the one texting him about going to eat and getting coffee.

Jey was asked about what lies ahead for him in 2024. Jey said he’s reaching for the stars. Jey said he has to handle his Drew McIntyre problem and he has unfinished business with The Bloodline. Jey wants to be Main Event Jey Uso, have a good year and he’s excited about it. Jimmy said “Yeet” to end it.

Analysis: I think Jey Uso was one of the best wrestlers in all of WWE this year. It really was an incredible year for him when you consider how involved he was in the first half with The Bloodline story, headlining SummerSlam with Roman Reigns and then the Raw run in the last third of the year.

A video package aired about The Judgment Day’s year. Damian Priest & Finn Balor are the WWE Tag Team Champions while Priest is also “Senor” Money in the Bank, Rhea Ripley is the Women’s World Champion, Dominik Mysterio had a breakout year and JD McDonagh joined the group toward the end of the year. They really were featured on Raw a lot throughout the year.

The final match shown on this episode was the Men’s WarGames match from Survivor Series.

Men’s WarGames Match: Cody Rhodes, Seth “Freakin” Rollins, Jey Uso, Sami Zayn & Randy Orton vs. The Judgment Day (Damian Priest, Finn Balor, Dominik Mysterio, and JD McDonagh) & Drew McIntyre

The Judgment Day has the advantage in this match since Drew McIntyre beat Jey Uso on Raw.

It was Seth Rollins and Finn Balor starting the match for their teams with the clock counting down from the five-minute mark. There were some fans chanting “CM Punk” while other fans were booing that. Rollins dove onto Balor to start the match followed by Rollins sending Balor into the cage. They went into the near ring with Balor hitting a clothesline. Balor whipped Rollins into the steel cage three times. Balor hit a Slingblade as more “CM Punk” chants started. Balor charged, but Rollins hit him with a superkick. Rollins teased a Pedigree on the steel in between the two rings, but Balor hit a back body drop leading to Rollins bumping on the steel. Rollins was able to come back with a Slingblade neckbreaker. Rollins hit a forearm along with a slam onto the knee. Rollins hit a running knee on Balor as the clock counted down.

JD McDonagh was second for The Judgment Day. JD had a kendo stick that he used to hit Rollins. JD brought two kendo sticks into the ring for his buddy Balor and himself. Balor and JD hit Rollins with repeated kendo stick shots to the body and legs. Balor choked Rollins with a kendo stick. Rollins tried to fight back, but was knocked down again. Balor grinded Seth’s face with the kendo stick to the face. Balor and JD hit a double team suplex on Rollins.

The second man in for the babyface team was Jey Uso, who got the pinfall win in last year’s WarGames match. Jey brought in a steel chair with chair shots to the backs of both opponents. The fans were chanting “YEET” for Jey as he delivered punches to his opponents. Jey hit two spinning kicks in a row on JD and Balor. Jey hit the running hip attack on Balor, but JD hit a Spanish Fly slam on Jey. Drew was angry inside the shark cage. Rollins saved Jey from a double team move leading to Seth & Jey hitting a double superkick. Rollins hit a double axhandle on Balor in the far ring. Jey put his foot against JD’s throat as the clock counted down.

Drew McIntyre wanted to go next, but Damian Priest stopped Drew and told Drew they had to stick to the plan. Damian Priest was the next man into the cage. Priest was met by Rollins and Jey, but Balor and JD were back up. Priest pulled out a baton that he had in his tights and he used it to hit Jey and Rollins. Priest hit a running back elbow on both guys. Priest hit a Broken Arrow slam on Jey along with a flatliner on Rollins. JD & Balor held up their opponents as Priest hit a twisting cross body block on both opponents. Balor hit a chair jab to Jey and a chair shot to Jey’s back.

The third man in for Cody’s team was Sami Zayn with the fans cheering for him. Zayn slammed the cage door on Balor’s head. Zayn pulled out a table from under the ring, which always draws a big ovation and it did here. Zayn clotheslined Priest over the top onto the steel between the two rings. Zayn was fired up as she shook the cage. Zayn hit a Blue Thunder Bomb on Balor. Zayn teased going to the top of the cage, but JD stopped that briefly and Zayn slammed JD’s head into the side of the cage. Zayn grabbed a steel pipe that just happened to be there. Zayn hit JD and Balor with the pipe. Zayn jumped over Priest and hit Priest with the pipe too. Loud “Sami” chants and “Ole” singing by the crowd. Zayn hit Balor in the back with a kendo stick. Rollins sent Balor into an open chair in the ring.

Drew McIntyre was very angry as he walked down to the ring as the fourth man on The Judgment Day team. Drew slammed Rollins down and suplexed Zayn across the ring. Drew hit a reverse Alabama Slam on Rollins onto Zayn in the near ring. Drew went after Jey Uso in the far ring. They exchanged strikes, the fans chanted “YEET” for Jey’s punches and Drew hit a neckbreaker into a kip-up back to his feet. Drew whipped Jey into the steel cage repeatedly. Drew launched Jey face first into the steel. Drew charged at Jey, but Jey was back up with a superkick. Jey and Sami hit a 1D on Drew like The Usos used to do.

It was Cody Rhodes as the fourth man in for his team with Cole mentioning that Cody’s dad Dusty Rhodes invented WarGames. Cody went after Priest and sent him into the cage. Cody hit a clothesline on JD followed by a back body drop. Cody suplexed Balor onto JD. Cody reached down beside the ring/cage and Cody pulled out a bullrope that had a bell on it. Cody and Seth worked together to attack the heels with the bullrope including the bell. Rollins was yelling at Cody wondering to know if he was coming. The faces were in control.

Dominik Mysterio was the fifth and final man into the match for The Judgment Day as the fans chanted “Dom you suck” at him. Dominik hit two vertical suplexes on Cody, but then the other babyfaces were on their feet staring at Dominik. The four faces all teamed together to stomp on Dominik repeatedly. Cody tossed Dominik into the cage. A table was set up against the turnbuckle, but Dominik’s teammates saved him. Drew and Priest hit Chokeslams on Cody, Seth & Rollins at the same time. JD hit a moonsault off the top, Balor hit a Coup de Grace and Dominik hit a Frog Splash. The Judgment Day was in full control. Priest gave Rollins a Razor’s Edge through the table as the clock ticked down to zero.

Rhea Ripley ran out to ringside with a referee and she had the Money in the Bank briefcase with her. They went down to ringside. That’s when Randy Orton’s music hit to a huge ovation and Randy Orton was officially in the match! There was no Money in the Bank cash-in officially. Orton was looked more muscular than ever and he was always in good shape.

Randy Orton is back in action as the WarGames match officially began. Dominik charged at Orton, who hit a clothesline. Orton with a powerslam on Dominik and a powerslam on JD. Orton sent both guys into the cage. Orton hit the draping DDT on Balor. Drew faced off against Orton in the near ring while Priest attacked Orton from behind with forearms to the back. The five heels were in the middle part of the ring and the five babyfaces got a hold of them so they all hit draping DDTs. Cole called it “Vintage WarGames” instead of “Vintage Orton.” That was well played by Cole. Orton teased going after Jey Uso, then Orton talked to Jey and Jey superkicked Priest. Orton hit the RKO on Dominik. Rollins hit The Stomp on Priest on the steel in between the rings. Cody Cutter by Cody and a Helluva Kick by Zayn. Jey hit an Uso Splash off the top onto Drew. JD climbed up to the top of the cage, so Zayn and Rollins went after him. Orton was waiting in the ring. Rollins and Zayn launched JD off the top leading to Orton hitting an RKO on JD. Orton told Cody to put them away as Cody hit Cross Rhodes on Priest for the pinfall win at 34:50.

Winners by pinfall: Cody Rhodes, Seth “Freakin” Rollins, Jey Uso, Sami Zayn & Randy Orton

Analysis: **** I liked the match a lot, but it was also a different kind of WarGames match since Orton was so dominant when he got in there. They really didn’t have Orton sell much at all, so there wasn’t that much drama in the WarGames match. It was just the babyfaces kicking ass and dominating the match as soon as Orton got in there. Randy looked great and it was fun seeing him in the ring again. I just think the heel side looked a bit weak in terms of how they were dominated as soon as Randy got in there. With that said, I’m sure The Judgment Day will be fine and I really don’t mind seeing Orton look as dominant as he was.

(It was a very entertaining Men’s WarGames match. Randy Orton’s return was a big deal after 18 months off due to major back surgery. Once Randy got in there, the babyfaces absolutely destroyed the heels so it wasn’t that dramatic with nearfalls toward the end of the match, but I still enjoyed it a lot.)

The WWE Return of CM Punk

When it looked like Survivor Series was about to end, “Cult of Personality” hit and CM Punk made his WWE return after nearly ten years away. A video aired about Punk’s return at Survivor Series along with some of his comments since then.

Here’s what is coming on the Day 1 WWE Raw on January 1st next week:

* World Heavyweight Championship: Seth “Freakin” Rollins (c) vs. Drew McIntyre

* Becky Lynch vs. Nia Jax

* Women’s World Championship: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Ivy Nile

* Natalya & Tegan Nox vs. Shayna Baszler & Zoey Stark

The hosts talked about how excited they are about the Royal Rumble and wished us a Merry Christmas. End of show.


Final Thoughts on WWE Raw

It’s a clip show so there’s not much for me to say here other than it did a nice job summarizing some of the big moments of the year on the Raw brand. I thought their match selection choices were very good since every match they picked was a match that I rated at four stars or above, which means they were excellent matches.

The interviews they did with Seth Rollins, Cody Rhodes, Becky Lynch and Jey Uso covered the key points of their years and spoke about the future optimistically. I would have liked to hear a heel interview from Drew McIntyre or somebody from The Judgment Day, but I get that they wanted to keep it positive with the babyfaces.

There’s a new episode of NXT on Tuesday and Friday’s Smackdown is the “Absolute Best of 2023” on the blue brand. Day 1 Raw on New Year’s Day next week should be great. Bring it on.


Thanks for reading. Please check out my reviews of every WWE PPV ever listed in order. Go Los Angeles Rams, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. My contact info is below.

John Canton


Twitter/X @johnreport