WWE RAW 12/04/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE Raw," the show that saves its wrestling-heavy episodes for the weeks CM Punk isn't there to attract AEW viewers! Masterful. Anyway, there was a lot of wrestling Monday night, including Sami Zayn vs. Drew McIntyre, Nia Jax vs. Shayna Baszler, and Seth Rollins vs. Jey Uso for the World Heavyweight Championship. But you probably already knew that, since you either watched the show yourself or followed along via our live coverage/results page. What you don't know, but are about to find out, is how the WINC writing and editorial staff felt about those matches and anything else that caught our attention on the red brand.

So, did we dig WWE's explanation for the feud between Cody Rhodes and Shinsuke Nakamura? Were we thrilled by meaningful high-flying action like Kayden Carter and Katana Chance picking up a win while the women's tag champs looked on? And most importantly, why wasn't CM Punk here, dammit, what are we doing? Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 12/4/23 episode of "WWE Raw."

Hated: No Punk, no problem (but it wouldn't have hurt)

As I've mentioned here before, "hate" is a strong word, but the only thing I could point to during tonight's episode of "WWE Raw" that I didn't like was the fact that CM Punk wasn't around. (My goodness, that's still weird to type.)

Given Punk's unprecedented momentum, and a storyline with Seth Rollins that we're oh-so-quickly diving right into, my thinking was that, like it or not, Punk is already once again the biggest lightning rod in WWE and people want to see him. But, with apologies to tonight's (pretty meh) Albany crowd, I guess sometimes you gotta make people wait a bit, and with Punk set for "SmackDown" on Friday, coupled with his "free agent" status, it makes sense, all things considered. We're living in a "good problems to have" universe with WWE at the moment, so really, we should just count our blessings.

Still, even a pretape from Punk would have moved the needle a bit more and given the Albany folks something to get juiced about. They needed it, after all — maybe I'd have been better off railing against upstate New Yorkers — but for now, no Punk gets my hate, even if he is back next week.

Written by Jon Jordan

Loved: A worked ankle injury actually works

Normally, I absolutely hate it when someone targets a specific body part to injure their opponent and get the win. It's just way too overused and has become a cheap way for heels to get a victory over babyfaces. The case of Drew McIntyre and Sami Zayn is the one exception I'm willing to make, however, as it was used to perfection to solidify McIntyre's current character and further the storyline that he's out for revenge on everyone who he feels has done him wrong in the past year.

During their match, McIntyre capitalized on a kayfabe injury to Zayn's leg and began to target it and wear it down. When Zayn went for a move off the ropes later, his leg gave way again, and the referee naturally checked on him. McIntyre chose to see what the referee was doing as nothing more than an oversight, and delivered a vicious chop block to Zayn's knee, further ingraining into the audience's mind that he will stop at nothing to exact his revenge. As if that wasn't enough, McIntyre blatantly ignored the referee's instructions to back down and hit Zayn with a Claymore while he was being checked on.

I'll be honest, I've been going back and forth on heel McIntyre over the past couple weeks and wasn't really sure how I felt about it given that I am not big on tweener characters. After tonight though, I can confidently say that I am fully onboard with the change, and feel like McIntyre has found his niche.

Written by Olivia Quinlan

Loved: Blood feud

I thought Shayna Baszler vs. Nia Jax was better than it really had any right to be. Jax has always been somewhat limited in the ring, and I don't think Baszler really works as an underdog fighting from underneath, but they have really good chemistry together (they are former women's tag team champions, after all) and they got enough time that the match was allowed to really develop and tell the story of Baszler trying (and ultimately failing) to overcome a massive obstacle. Did it bother me, as an old school "NXT" fan, to see Jax spend that much time in the Kirifuda Clutch without tapping out? Yes. But I understand the need to build Jax back up as a monster, particularly given who she's now feuding with.

Some will tell you that Becky Lynch owes her superstardom, or at least part of it, to Jax, who accidentally broke Lynch's nose during a "Raw" brawl prior to Survivor Series 2019, creating an iconic bloody image that helped catapult Lynch to the top of the company. And yet, Lynch and Jax have never had a televised singles match. In fact, aside from Survivor Series team matches, Royal Rumbles, and a smattering of 2015 "NXT" live events, the two have never officially shared the ring together. That's about to change. A high-profile women's division feud that disdains championships in favor of playing on two characters' prior history while also giving us something entirely new? I am here for it.

Written by Miles Schneiderman

Hated: The party girls steal Nox and Natalya's momentum

There's suddenly an abundance of women's tag teams on the WWE main roster, and while I genuinely think that it's a great thing to see, I can't say that I'm a major fan of the way that they're being booked.

Natalya and Tegan Nox have been pegged as two of the top players in the division, so it seemed as though they would beat Kayden Carter and Katana Chance in order to get one step closer to their rematch against Chelsea Green and Piper Niven for the Women's Tag Team Championship. However, this was not the case, as Carter and Chance emerged as the victors and found themselves involved in a verbal altercation with Green that turned physical.

Don't get me wrong, Chance and Carter are talented individuals, but given the current state of the division, it seemed like an illogical booking decision to have them defeat Nox and Natalya, especially given the momentum the latter team seem to have as of late in the midst of their push. I would've been happy if the match ended in a no contest or double countout, but the choice to have Carter and Chance go over clean just seemed like a weird one.

Written by Olivia Quinlan

Loved: Nakamura ties Cody's story to his own

For weeks, Shinsuke Nakamura was delivering cryptic messages in Japanese language pre-taped segments, which was equal parts confusing and exciting in that most of us were thinking, "Who the hell is he talking about?" mixed with a little bit of, "Oh, did he just make a CM Punk reference?" Well, we know now that the latter wasn't in the cards, (though Punk did come back, of course). And we found out last week that the "Who?" was none other than Cody Rhodes. Monday night, we got the "Why?"

Nakamura, the 2018 men's Royal Rumble winner, failed in his quest to capture the WWE Championship from AJ Styles at WrestleMania 34. Rhodes, of course, won the 2023 Royal Rumble and came up short against Roman Reigns at Mania in turn. Monday night, the dichotomy was masterfully displayed, literally side-by-side. Rhodes as Nakamura's target didn't make much sense last week, but now it makes all the sense in the world. And yes, that makes me think they had no idea where this was going when they started it, but I live in an "all's well that ends well" sort of world, so let's dance!  I love it when a plan comes together, even haphazardly.

A quick reality check tells me that there's no chance in hell Nakamura goes over in this feud against Rhodes, but that's not the story here. The story here is his story, which is akin to Rhodes' story, and Rhodes' story continuing into the Rumble and beyond.

Written by Jon Jordan

Hated: What is this, Dynamite?

Seth Rollins vs. Jey Uso was a really good match, but the finish is what matters, and the way WWE booked this one really didn't work for me.

I have two major issues with this match. First, it's annoying to me that Rollins pinned Jey clean. I know it was a departure from typical WWE style that would have seen a distraction finish or a no contest due to interference or whatever to keep both guys strong, but in this case I was not only expecting that, I thought there was a good reason for it, and his name is Drew McIntyre. It made complete and total sense for McIntyre to interfere in this match — is he really going to stand by and let Roman Reigns' cousin win WWE's other world title? The consistency of McIntyre's character has been "Raw's" secret sauce for a couple months now, and I just assumed the whole reason we were doing Seth vs. Jey was because Drew would also have to be involved, thus furthering that story. Maybe it would have been typical WWE, but it would have made sense.

Instead, surprisingly, the match went full AEW on us: too long, clean finish, approximately 47 kick-outs after signature or finishing moves. Not only that, but those finisher kick-outs favored Rollins pretty heavily — without checking the tape, I'm pretty sure he kicked out of two Splashes and two Spears, while Uso didn't even get to kick out of a single Stomp. I call BS on that. Jey pinned Reigns earlier this year and had him pinned again before his brother interfered at SummerSlam, now he's losing clean to Rollins after one move? Seems like a step down for him, which is not a choice I would have made.

I don't know, maybe the people who tell me WWE has brainwashed me into thinking TV title defenses don't matter are right. It just felt like this match was trying to be something it wasn't. You can tell they knew McIntyre had to be involved because of his post-match run-in, which seemed rushed because the match itself went so long. I wish that — the story — had been the focus, even if it meant a distraction finish or a DQ. And I wish people would stop kicking out of finishers as often as they do, in every promotion.

Written by Miles Schneiderman