8 Ups & 4 Downs From WWE Raw (26 February - Results & Review)

Cody blows up, Gunther has many suitors, McIntyre shines, Lynch and Ripley face off.

WWE Raw Drew McIntyre

During the past decade, even the best episodes of WWE Raw have come with their fair share of negative moments. It’s just not possible for a three-hour show to be “up” for the entire 180 minutes. But some shows manage to deliver the goods well enough that even the negatives are couched and qualified, while the enjoyable moments come rolling in throughout the program.

Monday night’s offering was that kind of episode.

Raw managed to get fans hyped about the uncertainty surrounding the Intercontinental Championship and Gunther’s next challenger. It turned a Sami Zayn victory into a major story development. It gave fans another solid Nia Jax match, defying conventional wisdom. And Raw also presented fans with a street fight that felt like an actual fierce rivalry rather than a series of plunder spots.

Of course, then there was Cody Rhodes being Cody Rhodes, advancing his journey toward WrestleMania XL by evolving from the calm, respectful babyface to the pissed-off hero who is done being a target of the Bloodline. One slap from The Rock apparently is enough to push a man over the edge.

All told, this was a solid, fun show that continued the build to WrestleMania XL and gave everyone reason to tune in later this week, and then again next week.

Let’s get to it…


4. Meh

WWE Raw Grayson Waller Cody Rhodes

There’s an obvious reason why the main event involving Cody Rhodes was a “mid” match against a midcarder like Grayson Waller. But that didn’t stop it from being a disappointment for a Cody main event.

Rhodes easily defeated Waller in an average match whose result was never in doubt. That’s not to say that Waller was a bad opponent, but the circumstances surrounding the match didn’t scream “main event”; it bellowed “top of the second hour filler”.

At least if Cody had faced Austin Theory, there would have been the added benefit of a guy with an eminently punchable face squaring off with the American Nightmare.

3. Please Don’t Ruin Becky’s Moby Dick

WWE Raw Nia Jax Becky Lynch

When Rhea Ripley defeated Nia Jax at Elimination Chamber, it opened the door to a great dividing line between her and the woman who has done it all in WWE, Becky Lynch.

Lynch lost clean to Jax last month, marking a rare defeat for The Man, and one that clearly damaged her psyche. The fact Ripley beat Jax clean is something the Women’s World Champion could use as fuel against Becky for the remainder of the build, sowing doubt along the way. At the same time, if Lynch is indeed successful in winning the title at WrestleMania XL, Nia would be a logical first or second challenger for that title.

By moving directly to Lynch challenging Jax next week, WWE is potentially unraveling all of this if The Man defeats Nia. It nullifies Ripley’s psychological edge and takes the mystique of a post-Mania challenger off the plate.

However, there are some “outs” here they could explore: Jax could actually win (clean or with some help), further damaging Becky’s mindset. It could also end in a DQ, with Liv Morgan getting involved. An inconclusive decision here, though, could detract from Rhea/Becky, which would undermine the build.

Call this a tentative “down,” as WWE has earned a decent “let it play out” response, but there’s just potential here for things to go slightly awry.

2. More Truth Hijinks

There’s no denying that R-Truth is a sentimental favorite among fans right now ,and that anything he does sends a large contingent of the WWE fanbase doubling over in laughter. But his continued confusion about everything – right now, he still refers to #DIY as D-X… but he now calls them Re-Generation X – just isn’t landing. It’s not a joke: It’s a guy with a barely functioning brain.

Going to Austria instead of Australia for Elimination Chamber was legit funny, because it’s such a silly mistake, but it’s one even smart people have made in referencing those countries. Confusing Tomasso Ciampa for Triple H – a man he’s wrestled before – for weeks on end despite being told repeatedly he’s wrong is just intelligence insulting.

Comically, Truth is perfectly capable of delivering laughs with good material. This stuff isn’t that.

1. Still Playing To Silence

WWE Raw Candice LeRae Zoey Stark

Kudos are in order to WWE for at least giving Shayna Baszler and Zoey Stark motivation to be pissed off about Indi Hartwell and Candice LeRae getting a tag title match at Elimination Chamber simply because Indi is from Australia.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that during their near-squash of Hartwell and LeRae, Shayna and Zoey wrestled to near-silence. They got some polite applause a couple times, but it was nowhere near the energy level of every other match on the card Monday night, and that’s what makes it so noticeable.

The real criticism here has to fall at WWE writers, bookers, and agents. Whatever they’re doing with the women's tag division isn’t working, and they’re not really trying anything big to change it. A pre-match promo is a decent attempt, but it clearly isn’t going to be enough to get fans to invest in these characters. They’re still being thrown out there to die on television every week.

The longer this goes on, the more you have to wonder if WWE has any idea how to fix this problem, or if it’s just an acceptable loss.


8. Perfectly Acceptable Squash

WWE Raw Raquel Rodriguez Chelsea Green

Few characters perform their role better than Chelsea Green, whose entitled, chickensh** heel routine is great fun when it clicks.

Monday, Green ranted pre-match about how she would have won last week’s Last Chance Battle Royal for the final spot in the women’s Elimination Chamber. Chelsea was the last tossed, sneaking back in and unsuccessfully trying to eliminate Raquel Rodriguez, who was a last-minute addition to the match. Green felt that she would’ve won if Raw GM Adam Pearce hadn’t allowed Rodriguez to enter the battle royal.


Her cries of a fraudulent decision fell on deaf ears, and she soon was face-to-face with Raquel, who quickly stepped over two imaginary lines Chelsea drew on the mat and squashed Green like the proverbial bug. It was simple, short and effective, which is really all you needed here as a reminder of Rodriguez’s potential dominance and Green’s annoyance.

7. Opening Salvo

WWE Raw Dominik Mysterio Rhea Ripley Becky Lynch

Rhea Ripley vs. Becky Lynch would be a PLE main event contender on almost any show, and even with The Rock most likely returning to action at WrestleMania XL and Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns clearly closing out night two, the Women’s World Championship match is bound to get some looks for the final slot for the first night.

Monday night, we got the first face-to-face interaction between Mami and The Man since both punched their respective tickets to WrestleMania XL at Elimination Chamber. Both women offered congratulations to the other, but both also made their case as the Alpha Female in WWE, delivering some decent patter: Ripley’s “behind every great man is an even greater woman” line was pretty good, while Lynch leaned into some heelish behavior by invoking Rhea’s family.

The two kept this first interaction relatively simple, sticking to their catchphrases and doing the usual WWE “respect your opponent’s accomplishments” trope, but it worked for the first promo battle between two women who have five more episodes of Raw to wade through before 'Mania. There’s no reason to empty both barrels on the first night.

It will be interesting to see if Ripley softens her approach or goes full heel now that she’s back stateside, while Becky could play into any potential fan backlash as the perpetual megastar trying to upend the shiny new star.

6. Back On The Winning Track

WWE Raw Sami Zayn

The last time Sami Zayn won a singles match, it was during the Crown Jewel kickoff show against JD McDonagh. His last Raw singles win came three months earlier, also against McDonagh.

That six-month drought ended Monday night when Zayn defeated Shinsuke Nakamura, reversing the losing streak and restoring the confidence he has been seeking for the past several weeks. The match itself was fine, with Sami getting beat down and battered inside and outside the ring, to the point where he was nearly counted out and dove back in at the last second, just to eat a Kinshasa.

Zayn kept saying he desperately needed to win this match to get himself back on track for WrestleMania and to “reaffirm the belief” that he is a contender for a championship. By publicly putting that pressure on himself, fans knew what was at stake and were along with him for the entire ride. It turned what could have been a pedestrian Raw match and made it feel like a life-or-death fight.


For Sami, his story continues for another week. And as a potential plot development, we got a glimpse of what could be in that future when Gunther stopped by backstage to snicker at him. Can’t wait to see what happens next for the Underdog from the Underground.

5. A Brutal Street Fight

WWE Raw Ludwig Kaiser Kofi Kingston

The ongoing feud between New Day and Imperium has had its moments during the past few months, bringing out an edgier side of Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, while raising the profile of Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci.

Monday night’s street fight might have been a high-water mark for both teams and their rivalry though, as they battered each other around the ringside area, fought into the crowd, availed themselves of plunder, and maintained a level of viciousness throughout that kept fans craving more. Bonus points to the New Day for wearing jeans with kneepads to a street fight, which is always a plus.

The finish was perfectly executed, with Imperium obliterating Kofi and Woods by using every bit of previously set up plunder, including a table, cookie sheet, and chair. Kaiser and Vinci looked like they survived a war, rather than winning a choreographed fight.

Street fights typically are supposed to mark the end of a feud, but there very likely is at least one more battle left in these two teams. But if it is the end, it hopefully means we finally will see Imperium treated a bit more seriously and not just as Gunther’s sidekicks.

4. Another Jax Over-Delivery

WWE Raw Nia Jax Liv Morgan

Nia Jax continued her run of solid work Monday night, battling Liv Morgan in a match that was part grudge, part rage release.

Jax was still seething at losing her Women’s World Championship match at Elimination Chamber, while Morgan was equally frustrated at losing inside the chamber and at getting jumped by Nia last week.

The result was a match that saw Liv rely on her quickness to pepper Jax with attacks, using the ropes and turnbuckles to her advantage – though Nia did use a turnbuckle herself when she put Morgan in a Stretch Muffler and swung her into one of the buckle pads. Liv got plenty of offense before Becky Lynch interfered for the DQ, which was payback for Jax’s attack earlier in the show.

This was designed to set up a Lynch/Jax match for next week, but just as interesting was Liv giving Becky lip backstage later about getting in the middle of her match and causing a DQ. That could very well be another feud for Lynch heading into WrestleMania XL or for right after.

3. Best Heel In The Business

WWE Raw Drew McIntyre

It’s probably safe to bestow this honor on Drew McIntyre at this point.

McIntyre has established himself as a nearly perfect heel, a guy who earnestly believes he’s the hero – witness him slapping hands with fans on his way to ringside – and has justified all his actions. But he didn’t just get smug Monday night about winning the Elimination Chamber, he proceeded to take some wonderful swipes at the sidelined CM Punk.

The Scottish Warrior revealed he had a burst eardrum at the PLE, and the doctor told him he might miss WrestleMania XL, to which Drew replied, “Who do you think I am, CM Punk?” He then proceeded to sit cross-legged in the middle of the ring to deliver a message to Punk, including a comment on him being straight-edge, so McIntyre drank twice as much to celebrate his chamber win.

When Seth Rollins made his way to the ring, McIntyre didn’t hold back in begging Rollins to stop meddling in Bloodline business, noting that it was going to lead to him getting injured and tainting Drew's WrestleMania XL moment. Rollins played the perfect babyface, pointing out that the Bloodline is a cancer that will come after his title at some point, so he’s taking the fight to them despite the risk.

It’s not a big leap for McIntyre to lose patience with Rollins’ bravado and to put the World Heavyweight Champion down, perhaps targeting the injured knee, as part of a twisted plot to keep him away from the Bloodline.

2. IC Title Fantasy Booking

WWE Raw Judgment Day Imperium Damian Priest Gunther

One very simple way to know you have a hot product with numerous wrestlers who are popular, is to throw two of them together onscreen for a few seconds and watch fans lose their collective minds over the prospect of them tangling.

WWE did this twice Monday night, both times with Intercontinental Champion Gunther as the catalyst.

Sami Zayn was backstage celebrating his first singles win in nearly four months, and discussing his path to WrestleMania XL and becoming a champion, when Imperium interrupted to glare at him. Gunther stopped, looked him up and down, and laughed. Fans, however, were buying this, and be damned if you weren’t suddenly tearing up your prediction for Chad Gable to get another shot at the IC Title at WrestleMania XL.

Then, while in the ring declaring there was no one left to challenge him, Gunther was joined by the Judgment Day, with Damian Priest stepping right up to the Ring General. And again, be damned if you didn’t suddenly want that match. Things got heated and Priest had to be held back, and that just seared the image in your head even more.

Later on, WWE went for a third potential opponent, as a suited Chad Gable approached Raw GM Adam Pearce and made his case for why he should get another shot at Gunther, citing the humiliation his daughter experienced sitting in the front row when he lost last year. Gable simply made the point that a title match “means more” to him than to others, which is the kind of thing any person with a child can relate to.

Gunther’s reign is a success if only because as a fan you still want to see all of these matches. WWE has several directions in which they could go, even less than six weeks out from 'Mania. That’s not a bad thing and could make for intriguing television down the stretch.

1. Rhodes Snaps

WWE Raw Paul Heyman Cody Rhodes

Cody Rhodes’ polite behavior and almost deference to The Rock and the Bloodline as successful acts atop the WWE landscape, has been born out of respect for them and the business at large. It’s superior babyface attitude.

But as the old saying goes, don’t mistake his kindness for weakness. And Monday night, Rhodes’ kindness and patience wore out when Paul Heyman pushed his buttons by trying to get Cody to withdraw his challenge to Rock – or else.

That threat, along with the hired muscle, was enough to finally send Cody over the edge and declare that he’s “fed up with being nice”, daring the Bloodline to “come and get me”. He instead got to drop the three goons before telling Heyman that he was done being the hunted – he was now hunting the Bloodline.

Rhodes’ reaction was perfectly understandable and ratcheted up the tension nicely, keeping him as a babyface one step ahead of the villains, or at least keeping pace with their increasingly aggressive tactics. Fans don’t necessarily mind if their heroes are vulnerable, but they don’t like them to be stupid or gullible.

Cody turning into the Bloodline hunter certainly is more the former, and it should make for an intriguing response from Rock and Roman Reigns later this week.

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Scott is a former journalist and longtime wrestling fan who was smart enough to abandon WCW during the Monday Night Wars the same time as the Radicalz. He fortunately became a fan in time for WrestleMania III and came back as a fan after a long high school hiatus before WM XIV. Monday nights in the Carlson household are reserved for viewing Raw -- for better or worse.