WWE RAW 7/24/2023: 3 Things We Hated And 3 Things We Loved

Welcome to Rllegends's weekly analysis of whether or not we felt the physical weight of three full hours of "WWE Raw," aka our "Raw" review! We had some exciting matches announced for Monday night, including a high-stakes contest between Becky Lynch and Zoey Stark and Tommaso Ciampa vs. Bronson Reed, but for the most part this show seemed like it was going to involve a whole lot of talking. There was a Seth Rollins/Finn Balor contract signing planned. There was a face-off between Drew McIntrye and GUNTHER on the docket, and another one between Ricochet and Logan Paul. And of course, it wouldn't be "Raw" without a Cody Rhodes promo, as he addresses the arm injury he suffered at the hands of Brock Lesnar. You know, again.

For just the no-nonsense results of the show, free from subjective opinion, go find our live coverage. That's not what this is. This is three things we hated and three things we loved about the 7/24/23 episode of "WWE Raw."

Loved: Not surprised but impressed

It's beyond hilarious that Cody Rhodes found a way to make this feud with Brock Lesnar about Cody's dad, but credit where credit is due: He did find a way. And actually, this is the first time in a while that a Cody Rhodes promo did something for us. We've been pretty vocal lately that this third match in the Rhodes/Lesnar series doesn't really need a story beyond "they're 1-1 against each other," and thus it was difficult for Cody to sustain his usual narrative style, which utilizes a ton of in-ring promos and is much easier to pull off when your opponent shows up every week to react to what you're saying. Lesnar hasn't really reacted to anything Cody is saying, he just appears once in a while to attempt some beatings. But despite (a) the lack of a need for a typical talk-first Rhodes rivalry and (b) Lesnar's infrequent participation, Cody finally got this dog to hunt a little bit this week.

To be clear, Cody invoking the image of Dusty Rhodes yet again by saying Lesnar's actions didn't impress Cody's mom, because Cody's mom used to watch all kinds of horrible things happen to Dusty, was funnier than it was anything else. But the destination mattered more than the journey in this case — Cody ran through Lesnar's laundry list of accomplishments, but then used the story of his mom's reaction to say that the thing Cody wants most of all is to embarrass Lesnar, to knock him off his pedestal. This isn't just "things got more personal," this is Cody laying out a fairly specific goal. Beating Lesnar isn't enough — at least, that's our takeaway from this promo. Cody wants Brock to feel like all his accolades don't matter, because in the end he still got his ass kicked by the son of the son of a plumber. We're not saying it's much, but it's something.

We've got one more "Raw" left until SummerSlam, and we know Lesnar will be part of it. It will be truly bizarre if WWE doesn't add some kind of stipulation to this match next week.

Hated: The anti-Rhodes

Okay WWE, giving Ricochet a microphone every week was cute and funny for a while, but let's maybe start toning it back now, huh? At first it was like, "Hey, cool, Ricochet has gotten better at promos," and you were instantly ahead of the game. But then you just kept giving him promo time, all the time, constantly, and as much as he has gotten legitimately better on the mic, he can't carry a story with a part-timer entirely via promo work for multiple weeks in a row. Who does he think he is, Cody Rhodes? Even Cody Rhodes can barely do that.

We probably shouldn't be so hard on the Pastor here — this segment was okay as a whole, and the crowd was at least somewhat willing to go where Ricochet was taking them in his "we all agree Logan Paul doesn't belong here" promo. We're really happy Ricochet is getting to do something important. The mic time thing just seems like a bit at this point. They even had multiple backstage segments of him asking around trying to find Paul. He also kind of fell into a repetitive cadence during his actual in-ring promo, punctuating each of his major points with a distinctly growly voice. It just seems like there might have been a better way to develop this feud beyond "Ricochet cuts a promo and gets at least one backstage segment every single week," that's all.

Loved: Zoey Stark rules

There wasn't a ton of women's division content on "Raw" these week, especially after Rhea Ripley attacked Liv Morgan before their match even got started, and that sucks. However, the match we did get, Becky Lynch vs. Zoey Stark, was very good. Lynch prevailed, of course, getting her win back on Stark from two weeks ago and setting up another match with Stratus at SummerSlam, but it was Stark that jumped off the screen for us, even in defeat.

One of the reasons Stark stands out from the pack as much as she does (besides the fact that she's been booked extremely well and put in an act with one of the great performers in WWE history) is that her presentation doesn't exactly match her in-ring style. She looks like a striker, like she's going to spend all her time going for big kicks and knees. And she does do that. But she also has a high-flying element to her game, with a lot of springboard stuff and even some top rope moves. It's an inherently fun combination, and it allows her to control the pace of her matches by going back and forth between her two major flavors of wrestling move. She already feels like she belongs on "Raw," but it's more than that — unless most other "NXT" graduates, Stark legitimately feels like the future of the division, and putting on highly competitive matches with people like Lynch will only bolster that feeling. We also really enjoyed the way this match was structured, particularly the spot where Stark and Stratus went back to their previous winning strategy of the distraction roll-up, only for Lynch to kick out.

We're looking forward to Stratus vs. Lynch 2 at SummerSlam, but in another way, we're even more excited about Stark's long-term future in WWE.

Hated: If a match happens in the ring but nobody cares...

We made our feelings about "Raw's" lower-level men's singles division pretty clear last week, so it might just suffice to say that the song remains the same. Tommaso Ciampa vs. Bronson Reed was a really excellent match that the Tampa crowd wasn't terribly interested in, and it's a shame that these two fantastic wrestlers, plus Shinsuke g**damn Nakamura, have to be out here trying to get people to care about a nascent feud built pretty much entirely on the concept of the distraction finish.

We're just confused as to who is benefiting from any of this. Reed got the win, but Ciampa took him to the limit this week and he got a DQ victory last week, so it's not like he's out here looking ridiculously strong. Ciampa looked fantastic, especially when he lifted Reed off his feet for an Air Raid Crash, but he did allow himself to become distracted enough to take his second consecutive loss. Nakamura looks ... the same? We're theoretically excited about a Nakamura/Ciampa feud, but only if it's built on some kind of actual story beyond "I told you not to come down to ringside during my match, and you did!" which will likely not be happening due to time constraints. As for Reed, we have no idea what's next for him. Are any of these guys likely to make the SummerSlam card? Maybe the kickoff show? We were happy the match was good, but part of us also has questions about why any of this is happening.

Hated: The Kaiser interlude

Don't get us wrong, there were lots of things about the Drew McIntyre/GUNTHER confrontation we enjoyed. They started out strong with dueling microphones, and they ended strong with McIntyre putting GUNTHER through the announce table, but in between those things was an entire segment involving Ludwig Kaiser's unique promo delivery, followed by an entire match between Kaiser and McIntyre. It might actually have been the best singles match of Kaiser's WWAE career, but on a night where we're expecting many fans to be upset about Dominik Mysterio looking like he belonged in the ring with Sami Zayn, we're actually way more down on McIntyre not just wiping out Kaiser in five seconds. Instead, the match was long enough that Graves pulled out his somewhat insulting impression of Kaiser's mic skills at least three times. We're not usually the ones who are out here like "Vince McMahon clearly booked this or that decision," but we could almost hear McMahon in Corey's earpiece laughing that way he laughs and demanding Graves do the impression again.

Honestly, we might just be over Imperium at this point. They've been the same basic thing for like a year now. Everyone GUNTHER faces has to go through Kaiser first, and they always do, so why should we care that McIntyre is doing it? We're not even sure why they exist anymore; it's not like GUNTHER really needs them. He can cut promos on his own, he can win matches on his own, and they don't really do anything ever, so ... what's the draw here? Meanwhile, what seemed to be a plot point a couple weeks back involving Giovanni Vinci being on the outs with the faction has apparently just been dropped, as there was neither sign nor mention of it in this segment. Oh, to be back in those halcyon days when it seemed like some kind of interesting change might be happening!

Loved: A good night for The Judgment Day

Remember when The Judgment Day was just this super-goth stable of midcarders that most talked a lot of s*** before losing a big match to Edge? How the winds have shifted. We've been documenting the group's recent push in more than just the weekly "Raw" column, as they have been spreading their wings to overshadow other brands as well, but "Raw" remains their home field, and this week, every member of The Judgment Day looked good. Not only did they end the show standing tall over a fallen Seth Rollins, they each had individual moments to shine on the episode.

Damian Priest beat Apollo Crews in a match that was much more competitive than it probably needed to be, but we're not going to complain about a guy as talented as Apollo Crews getting some offense in before being crushed. Ripley, meanwhile, attacked Morgan brutally before the bell, ultimately crushing her arm with a chair. We can't say we love where this leaves Morgan, who was selling her arm like it had just been severed in a horror movie and who has really been let down by WWE's booking since her women's title run, but we most certainly do love where it leaves Rhea, who continues to look like, in the words of Corey Graves, "what would happen if Oppenheimer took place in Barbieland." And Finn Balor had another excellent promo against Rollins ("seven year itch/b****" jokes aside) and continues to be the most interesting version of himself we've pretty much ever seen on the main roster.

But nobody came out of "Raw" looking better than Dominik Mysterio, who got a whole victory celebration from his JD teammates for winning the midcard championship on WWE's lower-tier third brand, complete with a dramatic video package about how great he Is, and then came out and made the crowd watch a second video package about how great he is. BOO THIS MAN. BOOOOOOOOO.

Perhaps more directly helpful to Dom's place in the WWE power rankings was his singles victory over Sami Zayn. Given the well-documented nature of our extensive love for Sami, we're actually not upset about this. The match was fun, especially after both Kevin Owens and Judgment Day were ejected from ringside, and Sami made Dom look legitimately good, which is exactly what he should be doing. Sami was also protected in the finish by the fact that Judgment Day had attacked Owens on the ramp, and that distraction plays directly into the internal story of Zayn and Owens as a tag team, as Owens has graduated from just being annoyingly hot-tempered backstage to actually costing his partner wins because he can't keep his cool.

So yeah, excellent showing from this suddenly dominant stable. We really want to see WWE commit to this and take it as far as it'll go. In other words, give Balor the title at SummerSlam, you cowards.