WWE RAW 7/17/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s analysis and review of "WWE Raw," the show that continues to be three hours long for reasons that still haven't been explained even though it happened in 2012! It was a pretty action-packed three hours, we have to say, with a couple really excellent tag team matches, a ton of story advancement, several good promos, and a surprising title change. Oh, and Cody Rhodes showed up in his hometown of Atlanta entirely so he could get his ass kicked in front of his mom. That also happened.

As always, you can find the cold, hard facts of the show via our live coverage, if this kind of subjective, opinion-based content isn't for you. For those who enjoy our takes, we have more coming at you hot and fresh, as we present three things we hated and three things we loved about the 7/17/23 episode of "WWE Raw."

Hated: The Brockman's music only plays twice

The third installment in the Cody Rhodes/Brock Lesnar feud has been largely unremarkable to this point, not because anyone in particular has put on a poor performance, but just because there hasn't seemed to be much point to it. They've fought twice; they're 1-1. A rubber match is the most obvious thing in the world, so why bother with much of a build? Just announce the thing, or if you have to, have Rhodes challenge Lesnar, have Lesnar accept, and there you go.

The problem, of course, is that Lesnar isn't going to show up on every episode, and there was a lot of time to fill between Night of Champions and SummerSlam, not all of which could be taken up by Cody's brief Dominik Mysterio detour. And so we've gotten this feud, which has essentially consisted of Rhodes challenging Lesnar and Lesnar showing up everyone once in a while to brawl about it without actually accepting. He finally did tonight, but only after yet another meandering Rhodes promo in which Cody brought his mom into the equation, who was in attendance in their hometown of Atlanta. Everything about this just screams "artificially drawn out," from the teases of Lesnar's music to the fact that he apparently again injured Rhodes' arm with the Kimura Lock, because God forbid Cody go into a match without some kind of disadvantage.

The problem here, of course, is that there's just nothing here for Rhodes to sink his teeth into as a storyteller. Lesnar has no connections to Rhodes family; they have no prior history before this year. It's just a feud that's happening because it's happening, and while that works the first time, you need to add more meat to that bone if you want to stretch it out into three matches over three months. Much the same way we felt about the Cody/Dominik feud, you can only do so many segments where Cody comes out and talks into a microphone before we start getting bored, and in this case, they apparently decided to just do the broken arm thing again, because everyone loves it when Rhodes fights hurt. We are beyond ready for the blowoff to this; unfortunately, there are two more "Raws" between now and SummerSlam, and assuming the Lesnar appearances are done for now, we're not terribly interested in whatever Cody wants to talk about.

Loved: Promos setting up SummerSlam matches

GUNTHER vs. Matt Riddle was certainly a match that had Matt Riddle in it, but the post-match promo from GUNTHER was the highlight of the segment. That dude is really good on the mic, and he actually looks even stronger standing there doing his thing without Imperium. He didn't do a lot to advance his feud with Drew McIntyre (the set-up last week with McIntyre warning Riddle that he won't be around this week never really paid off, as GUNTHER easily beat Riddle on his own, again) but the promo was perfectly delivered and actually succeeded in making us want to see someone beat him, which isn't normally how we feel about the "Ring General."

Similarly, Shayna Baszler's match with Nikki Cross was an extremely brief squash similar to her victory over Emma (seriously, WWE, you might want to start using some of these women as more than just cannon fodder, they are extremely talented) but she had another fantastic promo exchange with Ronda Rousey to set up their SummerSlam match, with Rousey actually managing to come-up with a halfway decent rationale for why her journey to WWE was actually harder than Baszler's. I mean, we're not buying it, because it's objectively not true, but it was superficially well-reasoned. We're looking forward to that match, and very much hoping that Rousey goes out on her back and is never seen in WWE again.

Finally, we had a Miz TV confrontation between Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus in which Lynch was good and Trish was better. We had ... let's say complex feelings about Trish getting down on her knees to demonstrate how she wanted Lynch to thank her, which was eerily reminiscent of her infamous "bark like a dog" segment with Vince McMahon, but everyone involved in this storyline continues to do great work, and contrary to our Rousey feelings, we seriously hope heel Trish never goes away again, because she's better at this than most people in wrestling.

Good promos this week. Even Ricochet got the mic yet again and continues to demonstrate his improvement. Progress!

Hated: Whatever is going on in the singles undercard

We might be officially done waiting for Johnny Gargano to arrive, at least for a while, as Tommaso Ciampa got involved with Bronson Reed and Shinsuke Nakamura this week after attacking Reed to get revenge before getting kicked in the head by Nakamura for handing Reed the DQ win in their singles match. Despite the fact that we like all the performers involved here, there was really nothing about this that felt special or even terribly important, and that's been the case for this "Raw" singles undercard for a while now. They're all just kind of in spin cycle mode, going around and around with each other until one of them gets plucked out for a more important feud, and we hate seeing Ciampa get added to that morass. There's still time for that to change — Nakamura could be teasing some kind of heel turn again, which we're not sure would be a good thing but would at least be something, and as long as we're being optimistic, maybe Gargano comes back and he and Ciampa feud with a Reed/Nakamura tag team?

Okay, that might be a stretch, but we don't have very many ideas, and neither does WWE. This isn't just a "Raw" problem; "SmackDown" has similar issues that we talk about pretty much every week. They have to get better at telling actual stories for these guys who aren't even at the level where they're feuding for the midcard titles, because all three of these performers, and many others on WWE's talent roster, are way too good to be in this position.

(Come back soon Johnny, we believe in you)

Loved: Basically everything the Judgment Day is doing

The Judgment Day all being on the same page again is inherently less interesting than The Judgment Day in turmoil, but we can't complain too much. For one thing, Balor's obsession with Seth Rollins is taking him to new heights as a character and performer; their backstage segment was far and away the best thing they've done together during this feud, and unlike Rhodes/Lesnar, we almost wish there were more than two "Raws" left before SummerSlam so we could get them in a room together to stare intensely at each other a couple more times. Their Money in the Bank match was undeniably a let-down, but hopefully that was just a product of the focus being on Damian Priest and the JD drama after his MITB win. With enough time, Rollins and Balor can and ought to put on a classic — even if we are once again in the unenviable position of hoping Balor wins.

Meanwhile, Priest and Dominik Mysterio talked themselves into a tag team title match against Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, which main-evented the show and delivered in exactly the same way last week's six-man tag didn't. Zayn and Owens are such a well-oiled machine right now; it's actually kind of scary how synchronized they are and how seamlessly they work as a unit. The final spot of the match was a perfect example of this, with Owens hitting a Stunner on Priest in the middle of the ring and Zayn not even waiting until Owens is out of his way before beginning his run across the ring to deliver the Helluva Kick to Mysterio. They are on another level, and it would be really nice if WWE gave them some kind of feud or extended storyline given that they're out here main-eventing "Raw" more often than not. If this Judgment Day thing has some legs in it, that's great, but the fact that they've already beaten JD with the titles on the line suggests it might not. Is WWE really going to leave Zayn and Owens off SummerSlam? What an absolute crime that would be.

And then, of course, there's Rhea Ripley, who ultimately didn't do her stablemates any favors by getting herself involved in a different feud...

Hated: We actually would like to speak to the manager

In a vacuum, we're fine with the idea of Sonya Deville and Chelsea Green as women's tag team champions. Actually, more than fine — we're thrilled! They're an incredibly entertaining act, Green deserves every bit of the push she's gotten since coming back, and it's about damn time Deville won a championship in WWE after eight years with the company. It also has some narrative logic behind it — they're building to Raquel Rodriguez vs. Rhea Ripley at SummerSlam, so it makes sense for Ripley to injure Rodriguez in a backstage segment and cost her the tag titles as part of the transition into a singles program. The match also did a good job of making Liv Morgan look hard to kill — and she got to come out during the main event to neutralize Ripley — so hopefully she also gets back into singles action, because she's way too big a star for the women's tag division.

But therein lies the problem: The women's tag division is, deservedly, a laughing stock right now. This is the fifth time the gold has changed hands since Damage CTRL lost the belts back in February. That's five new sets of champions in less than five months, with the longest reign during that time period lasting 42 days. Poor Raquel is a five-time tag team champion now, if you include the now-defunct "NXT" women's tag titles, and her five reigns have lasted a combined 74 days, with this most recent 17-day reign going down as her second-longest ever. It's fine if WWE views Morgan and Rodriguez as singles stars, but if that's the case, why give them the titles back in the first place? And where do Deville and Green go from here? They earned their tag title shot by running a full gauntlet of just about every women's tag team WWE has, and some they don't. Now they're the champions — so what next? A feud with Kayden Carter and Katana Chance is probably in order, but beyond that, the division remains a total wasteland. Again, we like the move taken on its own merits, but for the sake of the championship, Deville and Green had better have a long reign, and they had better defeat some meaningful competition along the way. Otherwise, we might have another 24/7 title situation on our hands.

Loved: Tag team f***ing wrestling

It might be about time for us to look around the landscape and just be thankful for all the amazing tag team wrestling we've been getting lately. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens main-evented WrestleMania against the Usos. Then they main-evented Night of Champions against Roman Reigns and Solo Sikoa. Then Reigns and Sikoa had an absolutely incredible tag team main event against the Usos at Money in the Bank, while over in AEW, FTR and Bullet Club Gold had a match that some people are calling the greatest American tag team match ever to be broadcast on television. It's been a really, really good year for tag team wrestling so far, and that continued Monday night — not just in the tag team championship match main event, but in the Viking Rules match between the Viking Raiders and Alpha Academy, which was almost certainly the best match of this week's "Raw."

The two teams have incredible chemistry and are perfect opponents for each other — Chad Gable and Ivar are complementary opposites — and the match was built around a series of spots that slowly but steadily escalated in scale. The dramatic heart of the contest was once again Maxxine Dupri, who finally got to put on her letter jacket right before been driven through a table, but the most impressive participant was Otis, who got a lengthy spotlight late when he took on both members of the Raiders and once and nearly beat them himself. That man has some serious athletic gifts and a natural connection with the crowd, and he's only 31; there's a world where he becomes a major WWE star, though time will tell if it's this one.

We can see why some people might be upset about the Raiders getting the win with the audience so completely behind the Academy, but they really needed it — this was only their second win in four months, both against the Alphas. The former Hanson and Rowe have been largely mishandled on the main roster, and them winning this feud — assuming it's over, which feels safe — could and should be the beginning of something bigger. We would absolutely love a program between the Viking Raiders and Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens...