WWE RAW 1/22/2024: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Wrestling Inc.'s weekly review of "WWE Raw," the show that also doesn't understand when a 52-year-old R-Truth became its main character! We have a lot to talk about this week (though perhaps not as much as expected) and as always, there are some things we're going to leave out of our discussion. (Sorry, New Day vs. Imperium; you were really fun though!) If you want to know what those things were, our live coverage/results page comes highly recommended. This space, in contrast, is for our strongest opinions, on both the positive and negative sides of the spectrum.

So, what did WINC's writers and editors think about Seth Rollins' opening announcement? Were we enticed by the face-off between CM Punk and Cody Rhodes? And most importantly, did they do the video package with all the Royal Rumble statistics again? Here are three things we hated and three things we loved about the 1/22/24 episode of "WWE Raw."

Loved: Ivar and Chad Gable make mid-card magic

A few weeks ago, I gave Otis and Ivar their flowers for an incredible match. Tonight, Ivar and Chad Gable had such a good match, I briefly considered buying out my local florist. Even that many flowers would not be enough.

Gable is one of WWE's most underrated wrestlers. He is a hidden gem — he has all the technical skills, physical prowess, agility, and sociability to be a main event star. Like anybody, however, Gable's impressive arsenal can become stale if he is not pushed outside of his comfort zone. Ivar was the perfect opponent to push Gable, and Gable did his part in making his opponent look good.

Both men displayed innovative offense and committed themselves to giving the New Orleans crowd a never-before-seen display of pure wrestling capability they had not shown before. Ivar's splash to the outside was amazing to see from somebody his size, and Gable's blockbuster was a wonderful surprise. Neither man sacrificed execution with these new moves, and their match was not only astonishing, but entertaining to watch and a clear testament to both men's hard work and experience.

Ivar and Gable's match was not preceded by any lengthy promo exchange, so when these two performers were able to tell me a story of grit and resilience through their movements alone, I was thoroughly impressed. Gable's early attempts to pick up Ivar for one of his signature suplexes did not just fail, but gave Ivar an opening to pummel Gable. At first, it may have seemed like a testament to just how big Ivar is — not bad, but nothing amazing. Towards the contest's ending moments, however, when Gable was at the end of the line with little left to lose, he mustered up all of his strength to pick Ivar up from the mat and get a near-fall on a beautiful German suplex. In this in-ring microcosm of a feud, full-circle moments like this serve as a reminder that yes, wrestling is storytelling, down to the tiniest of choices.

At first, I was a bit deflated by the finish of this match. Valhalla's interference was less than welcome, but in a match as deadlocked as Ivar and Gable's was, perhaps it was wholly necessary in order to have a believable ending. As Valhalla charged Ivar's Doomsault with her Spirit Bomb motions, I slowly came to accept that a finish like this was necessary for cementing Valhalla and Ivar as a legitimate team, and a legitimate threat. If they want to be taken seriously by literally anybody else besides the Alpha Academy, they need to pick up wins while also reinforcing their team dynamic. As tired, corny, and played-out outside interference is, it is necessary for the Viking Raiders' upward mobility.

Written by Angeline Phu

Hated: Hulk Hogan doesn't need to be in the Royal Rumble

On the go-home show for the Royal Rumble, WWE also promoted the new "WWE2K24" game, and on the "Forty Years of WrestleMania" Edition, Hulk Hogan is featured alongside The Rock and Undertaker. So who better to promote this than the controversial Hogan himself? Sure, there's the tie-in to "Forty Years of Hulkamania." But we as a society have moved past the need for Hogan on TV, video games, or WWE Shop (new Hulkamania merch was also plugged during the show). During the segment that aired on "Raw," Hogan implied that he might be in the Royal Rumble match, teasing "You never know — I might have one more left in me." To which most of the WWE Universe replied with "please, no."

WWE loves to rely on nostalgia, and it's hard for them not to cash in on the man who was a pop culture icon in the '80s. However, there's a laundry list of reasons to dislike Hogan as a person, from his explicit racism to him squashing efforts within the early WWF to unionize, which is a big part of the reason wrestlers are still classified as independent contractors today.

WWE has to reckon with the fact that many men who moved their company forward and changed the landscape of pro wrestling are also questionable people. Both things can be true. Those people do not need to be celebrated in 2024. Don't take away someone else's spot in the Rumble to give it to a 70-year-old man, with health problems, who doesn't deserve the honor.

Written by Samantha Schipman

Loved: A+ Women's Rumble go-home angles

When "Raw" started this evening, I honestly thought it was going to be a bit of a bust when it came to go-home angles ahead of the Rumble on Saturday, because usually, it's "SmackDown" that does that better, considering it's the night before all these premium live events. Boy, was I ever wrong, at least when it came to the women's side of things. While angles and continued storylines were really only set up in the first hour or so of the show, it was good enough for me, and left me feeling hyped up to see the ladies compete.

The main segment that did this was Nia Jax heading out to the ring to run her mouth about the match (to a chorus of "what" chants, which I actually think she did her best to combat, at one point even acknowledging them by putting her hand to her ear, and she did change up her cadence at one point, so props to her!) before Becky Lynch's music hit. Those two had a continued war of words after Jax recently beat Lynch, to the surprise of many, but gave her a lot of credibility that she needed moving into the Rumble.

Their promo battle then brought out Bayley, who is my personal pick to win the Rumble match. Now, if you look at the BetOnline odds for the women's Royal Rumble, Bayley and Lynch are numbers one and two, respectively, with the highest odds to win. I don't know if the booking tonight was planned around that, but for someone who has recently been looking at the odds of both matches out of curiosity, I found that very interesting. Adam Pearce even subtly acknowledged Bayley hyping up the Rumble match, saying in a backstage segment with Damage CNTRL that's exactly what he invited her to "Raw" to do before Kairi Sane and Asuka stepped out of line.

Lynch also had a backstage segment with Rhea Ripley after their amazing face-off in the ring last week on "Raw" that I wrote about loving. It was quick and to the point, with Ripley basically telling Lynch she might need a new plan for WrestleMania before sauntering off, with Lynch looking nervous. Ivy Nile even got a well-earned Rumble shout-out in a backstage interview segment before her match with Valhalla, where the backstage correspondent recognized how hard she had been training before her first shot in the match. While I didn't think the build-up to the men's Rumble match was particularly good tonight outside of the opening segment with GUNTHER (and don't get me started on the CM Punk/Cody Rhodes face-to-face, it would ruin the good vibes of my love for the women here), the ladies of "Raw" absolutely crushed it, and I can't wait to see them in action on Saturday.

Written by Daisy Ruth

Hated: Yet another main event ends in interference

Ah, yet another solid "Raw" main event with an ending that put a damper on the rest of the match.

It seems to be becoming more and more commonplace for WWE to end their final match of the show with a disqualification due to outside interference or someone interfering in the match while the referee is distracted. It just makes things feel far too predictable, and takes away from the enjoyment of everything and the rest of the match. Tonight was no different, as Damian Priest shoved R-Truth after becoming frustrated by his presence at ringside. This led to Truth inadvertently keeping the referee from seeing Priest pin McIntyre and in turn allowed McIntyre to emerge victorious.

Not only did this feel slightly convoluted, but it almost retconned everything WWE has been doing in regards to showing a blossoming friendship between Truth and Priest. It didn't make much sense from a storytelling perspective and was completely unnecessary in a match between two of the top stars on "Raw."

Written by Olivia Quinlan

Loved: Rumble by the numbers

If you're thinking that loving a video package could very well be a tell as to what I thought of this episode overall, congratulations, you get me, and you nailed it. I expected more from the first "Raw" running unopposed by "Monday Night Football" since August, for a go-home episode ahead of a "Big Four" PLE like the Royal Rumble (but I suppose "SmackDown" will have something to say about that come Friday), and from a show advertising a promo battle between CM Punk and Cody Rhodes, which didn't suck, for whatever it's worth. But it fell short.

Still, I do very much love the "Rumble by the Numbers" video package each year. Breaking down the official start to WrestleMania season with such numerical detail both highlights the Rumble's history and cranks up the enthusiasm for this year's matches — yeah, both of them, because the women's Rumble was long overdue upon its debut in 2018 and has been a must-see in the time since.

Tonight, I keyed in on a few stats more than others:

  • Only 34 of the 1,310 superstars (2.6%) who have competed in a Royal Rumble have won. And good, it should be a rare feat indeed.

  • No superstar has won consecutive Rumble matches in 26 years (since "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in 1997 and 1998). Not great news for Rhodes there, is it?

  • Punk will compete in a Rumble 3,653 days removed from his last one and ... boy, they're sure spending a lot of time talking about Punk and the Rumble. If it's not him and Cody as the final two, I'll be shocked at this point.

Now I do think it's silly that these packages never reference performers no longer with WWE (or at least those signed elsewhere) because what would be the harm in saying, "Former WWE superstar Chris Jericho still holds the all-time iron man record, competing in a cumulative total of four hours, 59 mi ..." You know what? Don't answer that. Probably best not to talk about that guy for a while here still.

Written by Jon Jordan

Hated: Sound and fury, signifying nothing

In case you couldn't tell, a decent portion of the WINC staff was unimpressed by "Raw" this week, despite the fact that most of us came into the show excited to see what would happen. With "Monday Night Football" finally vanquished for another year, WWE had incentive to actually try with the red brand for the first time since September, and a lot of us were expecting big things. What we got was a lot of noise and very little news, and that was best encapsulated by the two major segments we were all there to see.

Seth Rollins' opening segment was the most boring instance of an injury announcement I've ever heard. He said he tore his MCL and meniscus, which lines up with the reporting, and that he's been told it's a 3-4 month recovery after surgery. He didn't say he was going to miss WrestleMania, but he didn't say "to hell with the doctors, I'll be at WrestleMania" either. He said "to hell with the doctors, I'm going to try my best to be at WrestleMania." Which is just incredibly lame. If WWE knows Rollins is going to make it back for Mania, he should have said so with his chest. "I will be at WrestleMania, I will defend this title," etc. Would've been a huge moment; instead it was weak sauce. If Rollins has to be out for a while but will be back by Mania, which is my current assumption, they had to address the injury somehow, but they're trying to create drama out of the "maybe he won't make it back in time" question even though we all know that yes, he will be back in time, otherwise he would have given up the title tonight. As a result, there's no drama to be mined, and instead we're left with a toothless segment that doesn't even have Rollins interacting with the MYRIAD of characters who would have something to say about him keeping the "workhorse" championship at home for two months (like Drew McIntyre) and ostensibly going against doctor's recommendations and potentially inviting lawsuits (like Adam Pearce). Instead, he interacted with GUNTHER. For no reason. Baffling.

And if that wasn't enough, Cody Rhodes and CM Punk came out later on and performed the most boring possible version of a Cody Rhodes/CM Punk interaction. Punk told a story about Cody's dad (how novel) and they proceeded to heap mutual respect on each other for what felt like a solid hour (I am so sick of mutual respect in wrestling, can we please go back to the days when guys just hated each other). Even when they started getting more heated, it was the same old s*** you'd expect. "Hell Froze Over" CM Punk doesn't have a character beyond "famous wrestler who was gone for a long time and is back now"; he's supposedly "controversial," but nobody will say why, they just toss out a few vague references for the online crowd and call it a day. At the risk of punning, he's a necessarily edgy persona with no edge to him whatsoever. And Cody is no better, memeing himself further into oblivion every time someone brings up that his dad was Dusty Rhodes, stubbornly refusing to accept that the phrase "finish the story" isn't actually a character trait. There's nothing going on here that we can grab hold of or relate to, it's just narrative mush, and when one of them wins the Royal Rumble, I cannot imagine myself finding any reason to care.

Tl;dr — Something better start actually happening on these episodes, pronto, because it really sucks to sit through three hours of television with no storyline momentum whatsoever.

Written by Miles Schneiderman