WWE RAW 12/18/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE Raw," the show that celebrates Christmas the old-fashioned way (by putting an Irishman through a table, of course; why, what did your family do for Christmas?). It's not technically the last "Raw" of 2023, but it's basically the last "Raw" of 2023, and it concerned itself primarily with setting up the first "Raw" of 2024, which is already looking like a loaded show. But what about this week's show? What did the WINC writing and editorial staff think of 2023's mostly-official send-off from the red brand

We can't cover all three hours of "Raw," of course. We have our live coverage/results page for that. But we can talk to you about the parts of the show that made us feel the most stuff, positively or negatively. Are we enjoying the Becky Lynch vs. Nia Jax program that culminates on "Day 1?" Are we thrilled to have new women's tag team champions? And most importantly, can they just make R-Truth a member of The Judgment Day already? These are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 12/18/23 episode of "WWE Raw."

Loved: A Very Truthy Christmas

Has there ever been a more underrated on-screen talent in not just WWE but all of wrestling than R-Truth? His return at Survivor Series, even in bit-part backstage sponsored segments and social media clips, was the unsung hero of an already memorable PLE. His interactions with The Judgment Day, Alpha Academy, and others since have been nothing short of hilarious. And oh yeah, did you miss him actually wrestling? You forgot, didn't you? Yeah, I bet you did.

Truth be told (see what I did there?), you could anoint this guy as one-of-a-kind for the work he did with the 24/7 Championship alone — and if you're thinking of blasting me there, just imagine what that nonsense would have been like without him! — but the true measure of what R-Truth brings to the table, officially as of this writing, is that he GOT ME TO THOROUGHLY ENJOY A HOLIDAY GIMMICK MATCH!

The buildup helped, with Truth simply assuming for weeks now that he is, in fact, in The Judgment Day, despite their beatdown last week, which he chalked up to an initiation ceremony — a beat-in, if you will. And his "Loser Leaves Judgment Day" stipulation for the "Miracle on 34th Street Fight," as if he had that authority, put it over the top for me. The in-ring action took a back seat from there, and even that was great. In the end, a table spot off the top rope saw R-Truth get the pinfall, and damn it, that's it, JD, you're out! (Hey, Priest was thinking about it!)

R-Truth. Future Hall of Famer. National Treasure. A Christmas Miracle. That's what's up!

Written by Jon Jordan

Hated: Street Fight stipulation leads nowhere

While I absolutely loved the "Miracle On 34th Street Fight" and I am forever a sucker for gimmick matches, the stipulation behind this one just didn't land for me. R-Truth opened the show still thinking he was in The Judgment Day and last week's beat down was just "initiation," and he didn't seem to realize the street fight against the newest actual Judgment Day member, JD McDonagh, was already set. While the entire interaction between Truth and Judgment Day was funny and enjoyable, the stipulation set by Truth just didn't make sense. Loser leaves Judgment Day; It's funny because Truth isn't actually in the stable and all, and that's not the part I have an issue with. It's the fact McDonagh lost the match, but remained in the group without much of a fight, that I take issue with.

McDonagh lost in kind of a major way in a silly gimmick match — Truth was able to put him through a table, whether that was because his shirt ripped and something went awry or not. You'd think there would be a bigger fight in the backstage segment later on in the night. Dominik Mysterio, of all people tried to make McDonagh feel better, while Priest just told McDonagh he was out of the group. Finn Balor — who fought to bring McDonagh into the group in the first place — just stood back and waved in a condescending manner, which I thought was VERY strange. He didn't say much during the entire segment and didn't go to bat for his friend. It took Rhea Ripley to tell Priest to basically back off, and McDonagh leaving Judgment Day wasn't discussed again. If that was going to be the case, why even have this silly stipulation in the first place? To make a gimmick match all the more sillier, I would have made the stipulation that if R-Truth wins, he's added to the stable. He could even still win, and Judgment Day could beat him down afterward to once again keep him out of the group. But this seemed unnecessary and didn't do much for anyone.

With all the infighting in Judgment Day regarding McDonagh even joining in the first place, the angle should have gone somewhere. That doesn't seem to be the case, and his loss against Truth will be forgotten by the new year. It also seemed pretty final to me when it comes to the "Truth joins The Judgment Day" story, which is rather sad, as it was a funny, bright highlight of "Raw" for a while there. In 2024, I'm hoping there's more to McDonagh being pushed back out of Judgment Day (I'm just not a fan in the first place and I don't think he fits well), and even more importantly, R-Truth getting another comedy storyline that's just as funny as this one.

Written by Daisy Ruth

Loved: Nakamura verbally violates Rhodes

Shinsuke Nakamura calling the late Dusty Rhodes "inbred" was not something I had on my 2023 bingo card, but life is all about surprises.

Nakamura's "The American Nightmare Before Christmas" was a great combination of a quirky holiday segment and a well-done, delightfully malicious promo. Nakamura held nothing back, invoking Rhodes' daughter and failure to capture a world title since his return at WrestleMania 38 in order to dig at Rhodes on a personal level. The ornament of Rhodes writhing in pain after the mist was a nice touch as well.

All of that was great to watch, but the moment that made my mouth drop was when Nakamura told Rhodes his "father was inbred". While there have been plenty more mature promos in WWE's history, this era of WWE programming has been comparably clean. Comments about family are not uncommon, but the claim that Dusty Rhodes was inbred came completely out of left field. Shocking statements like that, when used sparingly, can quickly raise the stakes of a feud, and that is exactly what happened with Nakamura and Rhodes. Shortly afterward, Nakamura was attacked by Rhodes and a ruthless brawl ensued.

Everyone benefited from this segment. By going after Dusty like he did, Nakamura not only added another, deeply personal aspect to his ongoing conflict with Cody, but also stepped up his game as a malicious locker room villain. Cody got to look strong by attacking Nakamura in a rage, and he now has more motivation to win. The scene has been set for an incredibly personal fight between Nakamura and Rhodes, and if calling your opponent's dead dad inbred on live television is something they can do, I'm excited to see how far this feud can go.

Written by Angeline Phu

Hated: The Becky Lynch/Nia Jax feud

Let's talk about this Becky Lynch and Nia Jax feud, shall we? Because I have some thoughts.

I will be the first to say that I am not the biggest fan in the world of Jax, but I do feel that it makes sense for her to be in a high-profile program given that WWE has pushed her heavily since her return, and think she's done some good work and decent promo segments. That being said, there is one glaring major issue with this: It feels like this storyline is five years too late.

Doing this around the time that Jax accidentally broke Lynch's nose in late 2018 makes sense, but constantly referencing the event and building a story around it now so long after it happened just seems like a really odd choice. I would be fine if there was the occasional reference here or there, but I just don't understand why WWE is bringing this up as the central focal point in (almost) 2024.

Written by Olivia Quinlan

Hated: GUNTHER and The Miz fought for nothing

I want to make this very clear: this match, from a technical standpoint, was great. The Miz had an excellent showing in the early moments of the match as they went hold-for-hold, and GUNTHER's chop against the ring post was a nice addition to the narrative arc. GUNTHER and Miz have spectacular in-ring chemistry, and their feud has produced some of GUNTHER's best Intercontinental Championship work.

What I am not a fan of is the match's stipulation, and the out-of-ring repercussions of that stipulation. A match with a serious stipulation, like one that could prevent an individual from ever challenging a particular champion again, feels like it should be on a premium live event, or at least a special episode of "Raw" like "Day 1." This one felt forced, like production was trying to hastily tie things up between champion and challenger before the holidays.

Such a carelessly applied match stipulation hurt both parties. The Miz suffered two losses in a row to GUNTHER and is now locked out. He's so close to a career-defining achievement, and it's being postponed indefinitely as GUNTHER continues his historic reign. Miz' whole goal was to become a record-tying Intercontinental Champion, and now that he cannot do that, there is little for him to look forward to. Meanwhile, GUNTHER isn't particularly hurt from the fallout of his match, but he's certainly not helped. Everybody knows GUNTHER is the most dominant Intercontinental Champion in recent history — beating The Miz again on a holiday episode of "Raw" does nothing for him. What makes it worse is the lack of direction following the match. There was no new challenger, no face-off — there was little done to give GUNTHER any sort of purpose after defeating The Miz. There was a small segment with Bronson Reed and Adam Pearce having a conversation about GUNTHER's next challenger, but GUNTHER and Reed didn't interact in any way, so the effect of that segment is nominal at best and dismissible at worst.

This startling disregard for the consequences of a hastily assembled stipulation overshadowed a great match by two very talented performers. Hopefully both men can soon be put in storylines with a clearer path and a stronger payoff.

Written by Angeline Phu

Loved: Ending the year with tag team f***ing wrestling

Back in July (when I was writing these opinion columns by myself) I talked some about how good a year 2023 was for tag team wrestling, particularly in WWE. That trend cooled off a little bit in the second half of the year, but it was still very much a thing, and it's only fitting as a result that the last real "Raw" of 2023 featured tag team wrestling as its biggest moments.

First, we had Katana Chance and Kayden Carter winning the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship, a welcome development for those of us who watched those two develop into a cohesive act that put on consistently awesome matches in "WWE NXT." Since the women's tag titles were re-introduced in 2019, they have suffered from the fact that there just aren't very many true women's tag teams in WWE. The vast majority of champions have been established singles stars who got thrown together, including now-former champs Chelsea Green and Piper Niven, and while they had an entertaining run, it's really nice to see the belts around the waists of a dedicated tag team. And if Chance and Carter actually get some time on TV to wrestle, "Raw" viewers are in for a treat.

Then, in the main event, Damian Priest and Finn Balor defended their own tag titles against the Creed Brothers, a match that was awesome and clearly intended to establish the Creeds as a very real force in the tag team ranks, bolstering a division that has been decimated by injuries and pretty severely marginalized in a world where the tag titles have been held exclusively by main event level stars at least since WrestleMania. It was also nice to see Balor and Priest pull out a win without help from the rest of The Judgment Day, which they really should have been able to do considering the Creeds' main roster rookie status.

Finally, this wouldn't be a celebration of tag team wrestling if it didn't shout out Kofi Kingston being attacked by Imperium and being saved by Jey Uso, because dammit, Xavier Woods might be out with an injury and Jimmy might be ... doing whatever Jimmy's doing, but the love and respect that exists between The Usos and The New Day is unbreakable and undying. Wait, are they going to team up against Imperium? Are the two greatest teams in WWE history going to fuse like the gems from "Steven Universe," is that what's happening here? Because my heart might actually explode.

Tag team f***ing wrestling. It's the best thing ever. Happy new year!

Written by Miles Schneiderman