WWE RAW 9/25/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE Raw," which, if we were really doing a proper tribute to this show, would end with the same final section just copied and pasted over and over again! More on that later, though. In the mean time, we're less than two weeks away from WWE Fastlane, which means that it's probably about time we start putting actual matches on the card. (What is this, AEW?) And while we didn't get a ton of forward momentum in "Raw's" various stories this week, we did at least start filling in the gaps and getting a sense of what we can actually expect on the next WWE premium live event.

As always, if you want to know absolutely everything that happened on the show this week with zero subjective opinion, our live coverage is yours for the reading. But if you want to know what various members of the WINC news crew thought about the show, here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 9/25/23 episode of "WWE Raw."

Loved: The new best story in WWE? (Miles Schneiderman, WINC senior lead news editor)

Hey look, it turns out when you get rid of the dead weight dragging everything down, the slow heel turn of Drew McIntyre is some of the most compelling stuff on current WWE TV. And now that Drew's heel turn motivation has been severed from "Matt Riddle is annoying" — a relatable motivation for a heel turn if there ever was one — and settled firmly on "you're all stupid for giving a member of The Bloodline a second chance," the story has suddenly blossomed into something three-dimensional and real.

For three years, the Bloodline story was the biggest and most important thing on WWE TV. Its impact should be massive; the characters who spent three years living in this world should be acutely aware of it. This entire segment revolving so completely around Jey Uso, despite Jey Uso not appearing at any point, is indicative of how deeply the Bloodline has impacted the fictional environment. Playing into that, acknowledging it, and using it for character development makes the world of WWE feel bigger, something with deep wells of history to draw from. And as a bonus, all the characters in the segment express completely valid, contradictory opinions. When McIntyre fights Kofi Kingston, there may not be a title on the line, but it feels like both men are battling for ideas they believe in, which should be more important than a championship. When Kofi gets distracted by Xavier Woods getting attacked on the outside, but McIntyre just decides not to care and wins, it's a victory for Drew's point of view. "You see, Kofi?" he's functionally saying. "You think you can trust Jey Uso? You probably thought you could trust me, too."

Anyway, the thing that works best about this entire segment is the inclusion of The Miz. Drew hasn't officially turned heel yet, and people like Kofi are still assuming he's a good guy. On a certain level, Drew still thinks he's a good guy. But then you've got The Miz over to the side, repeatedly insisting that McIntyre is behaving (and seeing the world) just like he would, while Drew repeatedly tells him to shut up. It's glorious. Miz has been quietly putting in some of the best work of his career recently, and he really should get his flowers because he's legitimately one of the best performers on the show. For all that The Bloodline is the gravitational center of this story, and despite McIntyre putting in some amazing work of his own, Miz is the guy who really made this thing cook.

Oh, and it's looking like this is probably heading toward a Drew McIntyre vs. Cody Rhodes program. Sign me up for that.

Hated: Imploding Imperium (Jon Jordan, WINC news writer)

For the most part, there's not much to hate about Imperium's run on the main roster. Highlighted by GUNTHER'S record-setting Intercontinental Championship run, Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci have benefitted from flanking him throughout, with Kaiser especially showing promise as a singles star. But the nanny-nanny-boo-boo stuff between GUNTHER'S minions of late has been beyond annoying, with DADDY ending their spat in a backstage segment as if he'd simply had enough over and over and over again. We get where this is going (I think). We don't have to like it.

Somebody mark this down: Vinci is going to get lost in that shuffle. He's the third guy in a three-man band whose name nobody remembers at this point. And I'm not sure he deserves what's coming to him. Kaiser will be alright, having shown enough character with his part in introducing "The Ring General," interactions with Maxxine Dupri and Alpha Academy, and overall, just being far more fleshed out as a character. And GUNTHER is GUNTHER. No worries there ... unless ...

We keep getting reminded that Chad Gable is coming back for GUNTHER at some point for another shot at the Intercontinental title. That's not happening imminently, with a defense against Tommaso Ciampa up first. So when the return engagement for Gable and GUNTHER does finally take place, will it be an Imperium implosion that sets the stage for a Gable win? I hope not, because Gable deserves that glory on his own if it is meant to happen. But I also understand that GUNTHER, even when he loses after all this time, has earned the right to be protected to a certain degree.

I just don't think we're ready for the faction itself to come undone. Not that I have big time championship aspirations for Giovanni Vinci by any means, but maybe that's because the constant blame game nonsense between he and Kaiser has done nothing but annoy me, and with no other personality shining through for Imperium's third wheel, I don't think I even know what we have in that guy to begin with.

Loved: Fastlane Gets in The Fast Lane with Stipulation Match (Daisy Ruth, WINC news writer)

WWE's Fastlane premium live event is a week from Saturday, and before Monday night, I wouldn't exactly have described it as a must-see. After this latest episode of "Raw," however, I personally am much more interested, thanks to the inclusion of a Last Man Standing match for the World Heavyweight Championship.

To be honest, I wasn't entirely feeling the build-up to a rematch between Shinsuke Nakamura and Seth Rollins, especially with the random shots Nakamura was taking at Rollins' wife and child for really no reason, but what I can I say — I'm a sucker for a stipulation match. These two are going to beat the absolute crap out of each other, and the match is going to be a banger. I didn't even mind Nakamura not appearing in person to beat down Rollins in the middle of the ring before demanding the stipulation. There's always next week for that. The promo video in Japanese really worked for me and it made Nakamura feel formidable after seeming a little ... off, for lack of a better term. This segment got me invested in the feud once again.

A Last Man Standing match also leaves a wide-open opportunity for Señor Money In The Bank, Damian Priest, to cash in and win the title without either Nakamura or Rollins looking weak or silly. There's a great chance that Rollins and the Japanese star beat each other up so badly that Priest can lay them out with a single briefcase shot before cashing in. The stipulation makes all options possible for the title, and definitely adds some spice to a premium live event that is severely lacking build.

Hated: Nia Jax Is Back In WWE and (Not) Better Than Ever (Olivia Quinlan, WINC news writer)

Despite not being a glass half-full type of person, I normally try to find something positive about each segment to talk about. But I won't lie, I had a hard time doing that with Michael Cole's in-ring interview with Nia Jax.

Nothing about this worked for me, from Jax's new entrance music to her delivery of the promo. It just completely missed the mark. She started things off with introducing herself as "the baddest human in all of WWE", speaking in what I can only describe as a strange cadence and sounding very monotone. She continued on to brag about how she "squashed" Rhea Ripley before listing off all the other women she's run over in the two weeks she's been back. And she kept saying "squashed." Over ... and over ... and over ... and over ....

Zoey Stark confronting Jax towards the end of the segment, after which Jax repeated verbatim what she had said thirty seconds before, was the only part I even remotely liked, but that quickly dissipated after Jax defeated Stark in quick fashion in the subsequent match. I can't say I was a very big fan of the match itself either, but that's something I don't feel is the fault of Stark, who has become a recent favorite of mine in the women's division. I thought her time could've been used towards something better than this (such as, oh I don't know, a title match).

Loved: Opportunity Nox (Jordan)

What a difference a week makes. Last week's reported last-minute changes to "Raw" included nixing Tegan Nox accepting Becky Lynch's open challenge for the "NXT" Women's Championship. That begat the usual "Uh oh, Vince is running creative" panic, which is to be expected after several years of PTSD-inducing episodes of this show. But paired with the latest "Bloody Thursday" in WWE, which saw a multitude of releases, it also begat fear that Nox was one of those affected, making theoretical sense of why her purported segment would have been cut. (It didn't help that Mark Henry erroneously namedropped Nox as one of the fallen on "Busted Open," but hey, everyone makes mistakes.)

But here we are, seven days after not getting to witness an opportunity for Nox, actually getting to witness an opportunity for Nox! And what's more? She earned yet another opportunity, with a shot at gold next week! Lynch even blurred the lines between realities, noting that she saw Nox by the curtain last week and was hoping, as she hit the ring, that Nox would be the one to answer her challenge — that's always cool. Were the reports of changing script accurate? Or was this the plan all the while? Look, given the history here, everything was probably torn up near the 11th hour, but I'm okay with burying my head in the sand every once in a while, and I'm cool with doing it here given the way they've set up this story.

On top of Nox being easy to root for, with her battling back from knee injuries far more times than anyone should have to, being released, returning and not really doing too much so far, this works in several ways. One, there goes the whole "not much to do so far" thing, which is always great, because while returns are awesome, returns for no reason suck, and eventually you'll end up on the scrapheap anyway. Two, this lets me walk back my hatred of Natalya's place on the card last week, seeing as how this places her in a storyline just perfectly, using her veteran privilege to step in front of a less confident up-and-comer. And three, this could very well set up a smooth transition for the "NXT" Women's Championship if a few things shake out — one that I wasn't seeing until now.

Nox has earned #1 contender's status with her win tonight, meaning next week on "Raw," she'll get the winner of this weekend's Lynch/Tiffany Stratton rematch. I wouldn't think a lengthy "NXT" title run is in the cards for Lynch, who will be just fine going back to Monday nights without that particular piece of gold. Does Stratton take the return engagement? By most accounts, she's ready for a call-up herself. What better time to make that happen than next week, even in a losing effort? And sending Nox back to "NXT" for a while, strapped with the title, and set for a decent run will give her a chance to establish all kinds of credibility she hasn't had the chance to previously. I think it fits in this "NXT" era, with a glut of female talent not quite at the main event level, especially if Stratton is no longer in the picture. Let them chase Nox for a bit. Let Tegan thrive there. Then let her help anoint the new face of the women's division down in Orlando.

(But most of all, I'm just glad they're telling a story that makes sense here.)

Hated: Please do something else. I don't even care what it is. Just anything else. (Schneiderman)

You'll never believe this. Cody Rhodes came out to cut a promo again.

It was about Jey Uso, again, and the idea of somebody getting trades to "SmackDown," again. But he got interrupted, again, by the Judgment Day, who then used their numbers advantage to threaten the babyface, again, until other babyfaces came to back him up and send the heels into retreat. Again.

That was the beginning of the show. At the end of the show, there was a match between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens and The Judgment Day, the eighth time some incarnation of this match has happened (and that's using the generous criteria). So that match happened again. And it was good! That match is good pretty much every time you run it, as WWE is now attempting to demonstrate by running it for the eighth time. But it is getting to the point where it's just impossible to care, especially given the finish. Again.

The match ended, again, with The Judgment Day winning due to interference from JD McDonagh. But once again, Damian Priest doesn't want JD McDonagh to be in The Judgment Day, and yet, again, it seems like McDonagh might be in The Judgment Day now, only maybe he's not, guess we'll see what we learn next week. Again. The first time JD McDonagh attacked Sami Zayn to try and gain favor with The Judgment Day was the August 7 episode of "Raw." That was seven weeks ago, plus Payback. What are we doing here? Why are we not moving forward?

Every time I ask that question, I remind myself that it's football season and nobody is supposed to be watching "Raw" every week right now, but that doesn't make it any easier for those of us who do. The stuff about Jey Uso trying to be a babyface and everyone being mad about it is pure gold, but there was none of that here. All that stuff happened in the Drew McIntyre segment. This was just the same Cody promo that's happened every week for the past three weeks, followed by the same match that's been main eventing "Raw" since April. Are we really going to try and drag this out another two months to Survivor Series? Because I feel like I might just keel over and die.