WWE Raw 9/18/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

It's a tough time of year to have a professional wrestling program airing on Monday nights. The NFL season is underway, and the league unleashed not one, but two "Monday Night Football" games tonight. After walking into the TV ratings buzzsaw that was last week's Buffalo Bills-New York Jets game, the backstage braintrust at WWE had to know they were facing the possibility of an even tougher competition for viewers tonight.

That's not to suggest that it's all doom and gloom for WWE right now. Last Friday's "SmackDown" featured the bombastic one-night returns of The Rock and Pat McAfee, who helped lift the show to one of its best TV rating nights of the year. Over on Tuesday nights, "NXT" is surging, thanks to a guest appearance by Becky Lynch, who's now the new "NXT" Women's Championship, ensuring even more appearances from "The Man" in the weeks to come.

With the stage set, let's take a look at what WWE served up on tonight's "Raw." A reminder that this column is not intended to be a complete recap of the episode. You can check out this link for the complete blow-by-blow. Now, let's get into what our staff loved and hated about tonight's "Raw." 

Loved: Surprise! A Great Match Between Kofi Kingston & Ivar (Matthew Carlins, WINC News Editor)

This wasn't supposed to happen.

We were supposed to get a two-out-of-three falls match between The Viking Raiders and The New Day's Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, but that fell apart just hours before the show with the news that Erik was not medically cleared. So, a quick backstage skit set up a one-on-one match instead between Kingston and Ivar.

In case you needed a reminder, Kingston is really good at professional wrestling. He's one of those wrestlers who sneaks up on me. I don't typically settle in for a Kingston match expecting to be blown away, but if it's the right kind of match and he gets enough time, the former WWE Champion inevitably wins me over.

This was a great match with no less than three convincing nearfalls where Ivar appeared to have Kingston put away. In the end, not even a moonsault from the top rope was enough. In the end, Kingston hit Trouble In Paradise for the win. It was just a fantastic example of a babyface fighting from underneath, never giving up, and getting a hard-fought win. I can't forget to give credit to Ivar too. He and Kingston played their roles perfectly and delivered a surprise hit tonight.

HATED: What Is The Point Of Dominik Mysterio Being Put In Big Matches If He's Just Going To Lose? (Olivia Quinlan, WINC News Writer)

Let me see if I have this right. Dominik Mysterio is set to defend the "NXT" North American Championship against Dragon Lee on next week's "Raw". Cool, it'll bring more eyes and attention to "NXT". Lee appears in the crowd to watch Dominik's match against Cody Rhodes tonight. Got it so far. WWE wants to create some hype for the match. Rhodes and Dominik have a solid match, but it only lasts a little more than two minutes and Rhodes defeats Dominik ... now I'm totally lost.

Rhodes feels like he's kind of just been floating around the main roster as of late, with arguably the most notable thing he's done being announcing Jey Uso as the newest member of "Raw" at WWE Payback. Yes, I understand that Rhodes is a big name and WWE wants to keep him strong, but this is not a win that he needed. He could've taken a loss given that Dominik not only has a title defense next week but a champion versus champion match against "NXT" Champion Carmelo Hayes tomorrow night on "NXT" and a title defense against Mustafa Ali at "NXT" No Mercy later this month. Dominik could've been given some good momentum going into both of those matches, but instead, he looks weak in a situation that could've been easily avoided.

With all that being said, I have to give a little shout-out to whoever came up with the idea of Dominik blaming his loss on the fact that he was distracted by Rhea Ripley's absence in Adam Pearce's office. It made me laugh much more than it should've.

Loved: Geography Lessons With Chelsea/Nia Puts the Division On Notice (Jon Jordan, WINC News Writer)

Since her return to WWE at the Royal Rumble, from a character perspective, Chelsea Green just hasn't missed. Her record-setting five-second elimination at the hands of Rhea Ripley jumpstarted her "Karen"-esque persona and she hasn't looked back since. Her success is also coming despite some adversity, with a rotating door of tag partners thanks to pregnancy (yay, Carmella!), injury (boo, Sonya!), and hostile takeovers (for which, Piper, you're perfect).

Backstage tonight, Byron Saxton tried to inquire about the chemistry between Green and Niven as WWE Women's Tag Team Champions to which Green informed "Brian" that the two were best friends. Niven, only now entering the frame to ask, if they're such good friends, to tell her what country she was from, set the stage for the Green gold we've gotten used to.

"Eng ... Ire ... Florida!"

One, as a resident of the great country of Florida myself, it's always nice for us to get the rub when we get dumped on so much on account of a handful (okay, millions) of Neanderthals. And two, sometimes, something so simple can be funny and effective without any overthinking. (Just like the "Brian" bit. So easy. So good.) Now then, with "Brian" reminding Chelsea that "her bestie" is from Scotland, she's off to the ring for the pair to take on another odd couple team of sorts in Zoey Stark and Shayna Baszler.

I wondered aloud where this one might be going and, never a fan of non-title matches, was a bit concerned it would just be another pointless loss for Green and Co. But this was all about another invasion by the returning Nia Jax, who plowed through Niven, Baszler, Stark, and finally, a frantic Green, whose heelish screams and begging-off mannerisms are also right on point.

This part of the take won't win me any fans but I dig what's going on with Jax so far. Re-introducing her as a beast, here to attack anyone she pleases, and putting the division on notice, as she verbalized tonight, is just perfect. A big bad in the women's division is a great touch, with Jax posing a threat to everyone from Ripley, as we've already seen, on down. Hell, if she embraces it, I could see Jax getting "Dirty" Dom-level heel heat before too long – and hey, maybe there's something to that down the road given the recent interactions with Mami.

Hated: Not the Spot for Natalya (Jordan)

In addition to it coming in a fantastic match, Becky Lynch becoming "NXT" Women's Champion with a win over Tiffany Stratton on last week's "NXT" just made all kinds of sense. From a business perspective to continue to draw more eyes to Tuesdays, to Lynch joining an exclusive club as the sixth Grand Slam Champion in WWE history, and to put "The Man" in a position to elevate younger stars – likely whoever is pegged to as the next face of the "NXT" Women's Division, there isn't a lot in the way of legs to stand on in terms of arguing the title switch – assuming we're moving that story forward that is, which I'll get to.

Tonight's follow-up - an open challenge from Lynch - however, fell flat when it was answered by Natalya, with the crowd echoing as much. Look, Nattie is beyond great, an all-timer as far as I'm concerned. But just about everything about this was a flop. What wasn't? Nattie's intensity in approaching the ring and calling Lynch a "hypocritical ginger witch" was a plus, if only because I've never heard that word combo before. What was, though, was a lot.

For starters, Natalya's reasoning for bestowing that unique moniker on the champ was because of her penchant for taking away opportunities from younger talent. Well, what the hell was this then? Not that the blame here goes to Nattie, by any means. (And uh oh, we heard of potential last-minute changes to tonight's "Raw," possibly including Tegan Nox challenging Lynch instead, which would have erased this part of the problem and saved me some keystrokes.) But in character, to blame Lynch for holding younger talent down and then effectively doing the same yourself tells me that unfortunately, Nattie's not going to halt running in circles anytime soon. The fact that she sat in the corner looking bewildered after a loss harkened back to her "looking to find herself" bit that didn't really take either.

Natalya's gotta find something that'll stick at some point. Maybe aligning herself for a time with a heel up-and-comer (Stratton?) only to split with that whomever and riding that until the wheels fall off would do some good.

But since Becky announced she'll be back on "NXT" tomorrow night, I'm sure we'll get another interaction with Stratton there. Hopefully, that's not it. Hopefully, someone else will enter the fray as well. If not, this wasted segment will be compounded by yet another in just a day's time.

Loved: Drew McIntyre's Many Moral Dilemmas (Carlins)

Drew McIntyre can't seem to step on screen anymore without uncovering a new enemy-in-waiting.

From Matt Riddle to The New Day's Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods to Jey Uso and now, potentially (and hopefully, in my opinion), Cody Rhodes.

Tonight's main event saw McIntyre take advantage of The Judgment Day's meddling to hit the Claymore and pin Jey Uso. It wasn't McIntyre's fault that Damian Priest, Dominik Mysterio, and Finn Balor were at ringside. He's not their ally. He's also no ally of Uso, who was on the receiving end of a post-match attack by the J-Day crew. McIntyre stood in the aisle for what felt like forever, watching, turning away, and then pausing for a moment, seemingly pondering whether he should rescue someone involved in costing him the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship.

Would McIntyre have eventually come to Uso's rescue? The fans in Salt Lake City, Utah seemed to want him to, but we'll never know because Cody Rhodes came screaming out from backstage to clear the ring instead. McIntyre didn't wait around to make faces. He simply disappeared backstage after Rhodes appeared.

McIntyre is not the only member of the "Raw" roster to be skeptical of Uso. Kevin Owens is also suspicious of him. But while Sami Zayn and others seem to insist that Owens will eventually come around, no one is making such assumptions about McIntyre. He is a simmering pot of water left unattended on the stove, certain to arrive at its boiling point soon. The question now is who will be the unfortunate one caught in his path when that moment arrives?

The interminable Bloodline story has turned into a punchline in WWE, but the many reactions to Jey Uso's arrival on "Raw" are really fun for me to watch right now. Everyone seems to have different opinions and agendas, and McIntyre's internal torment over what to do next is by far the most intriguing.

HATED: Chad Gable Deserves A Win (Quinlan)

Much like Dominik Mysterio and Cody Rhodes, I was totally baffled by this booking decision.

Chad Gable has been one of the hottest stars on the entire WWE roster, if not, the hottest. He has always been a guy who has lacked the recognition that I feel like he deserves, and he is finally getting it. 2023 has been Gable's year, and his incredible Intercontinental Championship matches with GUNTHER have not just helped to further his popularity, but Alpha Academy's as a whole.

So why have him lose to Bronson Reed?

You could argue that WWE wants to keep Reed strong, but in that case, he should've been the one to emerge victorious in his two most recent bouts on "Raw" against Shinsuke Nakamura and Tommaso Ciampa last month. If you ask me, going about things with the "underdog" angle having Gable defeat Reed would've been much better in terms of storytelling. Here's hoping that WWE doesn't start pushing Gable down the card rather than keeping him in the upper mid-card and (hopefully) the main event scene down the line.