SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE RAW TV REPORT
NOVEMBER 20, 2023
GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. AT VAN ANDEL ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON USA
Commentators: Michael Cole, Wade Barrett
Ring Announcer: Samantha Irvin
-The show opened with a two minute video package recapping last week’s tag team title match during which Drew McIntyre gave a Claymore Kick to Jey Uso to cost Jey & Cody Rhodes the chance to win the WWE Tag Team Titles.
-Drew stood mid-ring and was bombarded with boos. “I’m not Dominik Mysterio, so I’ve earned the right to talk,” he said. “So I will talk and you will listen.” (I wonder if they primed the crowd to boo him before going live or that was their natural inclination.) He said a lot of people are upset over what happened last week, and he’s more upset with the reaction to what he did last week than anyone. He said he’s been called a coward and a back-stabber. He said he’s the same person he’s always been. He said he hasn’t lied. He said he didn’t lie to Seth Rollins last week and he’s not now. He said if you’re a fan of his, he doesn’t have to explain himself, and if you’ve turned on him, he doesn’t give a damn what you think. “That’s on you, you were never a fan in the first place.”
Drew said he gave Jey something that Jey never gave him when he attacked him time after time – he looked him in the eye. He said Jey is probably looking for an apology. He said he doesn’t remember one apology to him or anyone else he’s screwed over with his family. A “You suck!” chant broke out. He said Cody technically brought Jey to Raw and he noticed that Cody attacked Solo and Jimmy on Smackdown. He said people are probably telling Cody to “get over it” like people are telling him.
He said at Clash at the Castle, Jey and his family “cost me the biggest moment of my life in front of my family.” He said 16 years he’s been away from them, sacrificing everything including birthdays and Christmases. He said his family took his big moment from his family. He asked if he’s starting to make sense to everyone.
He said the million dollar question is “Has Drew McIntyre joined The Judgment Day?” He said they’ve watched him since he was 22 and they should know him by now. He asked the fans what they think. They shouted answers. He said they clearly don’t know him very well. “No, I have not joined The Judgment Day,” he said. He said he will be on their team in War Games, though. He said Rhea Ripley gave him something no else could – Jey Uso in a cage. Drew said wherever he sees him, he’ll drop him. Jey’s music interrupted. Drew yelled, “Your ass belongs to me! Get over here.”
Jey strutted onto the stage. Fans chanted “Yeet!” Jey said Drew should let it go. He asked fans to say “Yeet!” if they want to see Drew get beat up. All five members of The Judgment Day showed up on the ring apron standing behind Drew. Seth’s music then played and he came out. Then Sami Zayn to his music. And then Cody Rhodes to his music. Cole said “these two teams” will face off at War Games. Wade Barrett pointed out one team is a man short. As they all entered the ring and squared off, Adam Pearce entered and said War Games is Saturday. He said whoever throws the first punch before then will cost their team the advantage on Saturday. “Am I clear?” he growled.
Pearce said he has more business since he has their attention. He told Cody, Sami, Seth, and Jey that they need to a pick fifth member by the end of the night. Pearce said by 9 o’clock he needs to know which member will fight in the “advantage” match later in the show. “You pick, or I’ll pick for you,” he said.
Drew took a step toward Jey, but then snarled and left the ring, looking frustrated that he had to.
(Keller’s Analysis: Stellar interview from Drew, which is the next stage of what we’ve witnesses building up for many weeks now. He is that heel character who you can believe fully believes in what he’s saying. The “fifth member” mystery should help hold the audience better than usual going through the third hour. Pearce, with a new fierceness in his delivery since getting “promoted” with a job title, gives viewers a big hook to stay tuned until late in the show to find out who the fifth man is joining Jey & Co.)
-They went to Cole and Barrett on camera who talked about the importance of gaining an advantage in War Games. They then previewed the rest of the show including a Face-to-Face between Gunther and The Miz.
-Nia Jax made her ring entrance for the opening match. [c]
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-The Judgement Day were hanging out backstage. Finn Balor was talking passionately to Dominik Mysterio and J.D. McDonaugh. The camera panned over where Damian Priest told Rhea Ripley that he doesn’t care for Drew, but adding him to the team is good business. “But as the leader of the team, you should’ve brought it up to me so we could all discuss it.” Ripley said she didn’t even know Drew’s decision because he’s unpredictable. She said it all worked out. Priest asked, “Did it, though?” Ripley said as the leader going into War Games, he’s right that they should have discussed it together first. Priest asked where Drew was. She said he’ll be there soon. Priest said while they wait, he wanted to say it should be him in the Advantage Match. Ripley said they’d wait for Drew and then decide. “Sure, whatever,” Priest agreed, halfheartedly. Balor told Priest, “Like you always say, take it easy.”
(1) NIA JAX vs. RAQUEL RODRIGUEZ
They showed Nia standing in the ring. Then Rodriguez’s entrance took place. The bell rang 20 minutes into the hour. Raquel charged at Jax in the corner, but Jax caught her and delivered a one-arm slam hard to the mat. Jax stood over her and kicked her. When Jax charged at Raquel in the corner, Raquel moved and knocked Jax through the ropes to the floor. Raquel leaped off the ring apron and took Jax down with a crossbody. She played to the crowd and then tried to throw Jax back into the ring. Jax overpowered Raquel and shoved her into the ringside barricade and then lifted her onto her shoulders and rammed her back-first into the ringpost. They cut to a break at 2:00. [c]
Raquel continued to dominate after the break. She grounded her with a cobra clutch mid-ring. Raquel tried to stand out of it, but then her back gave out. Raquel made a comeback and staggered Jax with two clotheslines. Jax headbutted Raquel. Rodriguez head scissored Jax to the mat and then gave her a boot to the chest. Rodriguez got fired up and then landed her corkscrew swing splash out of the corner. She yelled for Jax to stand and then tried to lift Jax, but her back gave out. Jax took Rodriguez down again and landed a senton. Jax looked up, smiling. When Jax climbed to the second rope, Raquel got under her and lifted her. Jax, though, held her ground. Rodriguez collapsed and Jax sat down on her for the three count.
WINNER: Jax in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: The crowd was more into Rodriguez here than I can remember, which is good news for her and a credit to Jax for being so unlikable. Dramatic match that was well-executed, built around Rodriguez trying to overpower Jax but eventually caving under Jax’s sheer force.)
-Cole and Barrett hyped scheduled matches including Becky Lynch vs. Xia Li.
-A vignette aired of Xia Li training. [c]
-The Judgment Day were discussing who should wrestle tonight. Priest asked Ripley where her guy is. Then Drew showed up. Ripley told Drew that Priest is the leader at WarGames and he wants to fight for an advantage. Drew volunteered himself. He said he doesn’t like them, but he despises Jey Uso. Priest said he doesn’t like Drew, either. He said Drew cost him the World Championship. Drew told him to take it easy. Priest said that’s what he tells people. Priest agreed to let Drew “show his worth and go get the advantage.” Drew smiled and said, “That’s leadership.” He walked away. Priest said that Drew better win them the advantage.
-They went to Cole and Barrett at ringside. Barrett said the next question is who will Drew be facing. Cole said they’d explain more about the WarGames advantage later. Cole said they just opened more seats for this weekend’s Smackdown and Survivor Series in Chicago. Cole threw to a sponsored video package on the Women’s WarGames match.
-Becky made her ring entrance. [c]
-Cole touted the media coverage of WWE partnering with the Big 12 Conference for the 2023 Big 12 Football Championship.
-Cody, Sami, Seth, and Jey discussed who should represent them later against Drew. Seth pitched himself. Jey said he wants the spot. Seth said they need him Saturday and Drew wants to destroy him. Jey said Drew talked about family stuff, so “Drew is mine. Let me get him!” Seth said it’s him and he’s got it. Sami and Cody agreed it was settled. Sami then brought up the fifth member question. They discussed whether Nick Aldis would make Smackdown wrestlers off limits. Cody said he has an old friend he can call whom he thinks will come through for them. He told Jey to take care of business.
(Keller’s Analysis: Cody with a clear hint that he’ll be calling former Legacy partner Ted DiBiase Jr… I mean Randy Orton.)
(2) BECKY LYNCH vs. XIA LI
Xia Li’s entrance took place. As she entered the ring, they showed Lyra Valkyria standing at ringside with her NXT Title belt. The graphic noted she defends against Xia Li tomorrow night on NXT. Cole touted Valkyria and said she’s one of the fastest-rising stars. The bell rang 49 minutes into the hour. Becky took early control and knocked Xia to the floor. She then leaped off the ring apron and punched her. Cole and Barrett talked about whether Becky and Charlotte can coexist in the match at Survivor Series. They cut to a break at 3:00. [c]
Xia made a comeback and landed a spinning kick and scored a near fall. Becky surprised Xia with a Disarm Her at 9:00. Xia struggled and fought it and leveraged Becky’s shoulder’s down to force a break. Xia lifted Becky onto her shoulders and delivered an airplane spin into a faceplant leading to a two count. Xia climbed to the top rope, but Becky knocked her off balance and then superplexed her for a near fall at 11:00. Barrett said, “We are getting a WrestleMania main event out of these two!” Becky played to the crowd and many stood and cheered. Xia countered a Manhandle Slam with a spin kick and then dumped Becky to the floor.
When Xia went after Becky at ringside, Becky shoved Xia into the ringpost. Both rolled into the ring at the count of nine. They slugged it out mid-ring. Becky landed a sudden Manhandle Slam for the win.
WINNER: Lynch in 13:00.
-Before Lynch could celebrate for long, Damage CTRL walked to ringside. Charlotte Flair, Shotzi, and Bianca Belair snuck up behind them and threw them over the barricade. A brawl broke out with everyone. Pearce sent a bunch of security guys to the ring to separate them. They separated them briefly, but then they broke through security and brawled again.
-They cut to Ludwig Kaiser backstage. Gionvani Vinci approached him and asked if he’s ready. Kaiser said he didn’t appreciate how he tried to get on Gunther’s good side last week. Vinci said he’s going to do what’s best for Imperium. Kaiser said Gunther said Vinci is his responsibility, so what he says is what goes. He told Vinci to stay there and let him take care of Johnny Gargano. He patted him on the chest and walked away. Vinci soaked up his words. [c]
-A vignette aired on Rhea Ripley vs. Zoey Stark at Survivor Series.
(3) JOHNNY GARGANO (w/Tommaso Ciampa) vs. LUDWIG KAISER
Gargano was already in the ring and his music faded after the break. Kaiser then swaggered to the ring. The bell rang 13 minutes into the hour. At 2:00 Gargano dropkicked Kaiser to the floor and then leaped through the ropes. Kaiser punched him out of mid-air and then gave him an uppercut. They cut to a break at 3:00. [c]
Gargano rallied and scored a near fall after a second rope faceplant. Kaiser came back with a spinning lariat for a two count. Barrett said that is the type of move that knocks people out. A “Johnny Wrestling!” chant broke out. Gargano landed an enzuigiri, but Kaiser then flipped Gargano over and slammed him to the mat for a near fall. They fought back and forth with rapid-fire moves and near falls. Vinci made his way to ringside. Kaiser stopped and told him to get to the back as he told him to do earlier. Gargano then caught Kaiser with a kick and his One Final Beat DDT for the win. Gargano was bleeding from his mouth.
WINNER: Gargano in 11:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: A heck of a match. Those two could have an excellent match more than twice that long and have fans engaged throughout with the proper context and story. Kaiser continues to look like a future singles star for WWE.)
-Chelsea Green and Piper Niven were complaining to Pearce about having to share a locker room with non-champions. Natalya and Tegan Nox walked in. Natalya told Pearce they want to take the titles off of them. Katana Chance & Kayden Carter walked up to Pearce and said they deserve the chance. Indi Hartwell & Candice LeRae then showed up and wanted in. Maxxine Dupri & Ivy Nile showed up. Pearce asked if they want a title shot, too. Maxxine was about to say they were there to talk about another matter, but Nile stopped her. A stressed-out Pearce booked a fatal four-way. When Green threatened to complain to Nick Aldis about this, Pearce said, “Tell him I said hi.”
-Cole wondered if Pearce regretted taking the job as Raw G.M. “Poor Adam Pearce,” he said. [c]
-Cole hyped Backlash tickets going on sale.
-Backstage, Ripley and Dom were walking backstage when they saw Baszler and Stark hanging out on their couch. Ripley asked what they were doing there. Stark said they heard so much about The Judgment Day clubhouse, they wanted to check it out. Baszler said she had seen enough and left. Stark then told Ripley their clubhouse is really cute with the decorations and toys and knickknacks. She said what really stood out was Ripley’s women’s title belt. Ripley said she kind of respects her stunt tonight, but she’ll get a beating at Survivor Series anyway. Stark said, “Good, just the way I like it.”
(4) NATALYA & TEGAN NOX vs. CANDICE LARAE & INDI HARTWELL vs. MAXXINE DUPRI & IVY NILE vs. KATANA CHANCE & KAYDEN CARTER
Green and Niven joined in on commentary. The bell rang 33 minutes into the hour. Cole asked who they want to defend against and noted they don’t defend often. Green called Cole “Matthew” and said he “has jokes.” She said they’re too busy to defend them. Cole asked Green how she trains for matches and if it includes her vocal cords. Green said it’s none of his business. Green said she takes “adult gymnastics classes.” By 4:00 they all were battling at ringside. Maxxine leaped off the middle rope and landed a body press onto all the others. “You go girl!” shouted Cole. They cut to a break as Nile and Maxxine hugged. [c]
Back from the break, Natalya was rallying. Green told Cole that he should appreciate their presence because she could be anywhere including at home with her husband. Cole kept asking who they wanted to defend against. Green said she doesn’t need to answer that. Nile powerbombed Nox and Natalya and then Carter splashed Chance onto them for a cover. Others broke up the cover.
Nile broke up Natalya’s attempt at a Sharpshooter. Maxxine tagged in and took over against Nox. Maxxine did an Otis hip swivel and then a Caterpillar Elbow followed by a suplex into a bridge for a near fall on Nox. Maxxine landed a crossbody on Nox, but Nox rolled through and scored a three count.
WINNERS: Natalya & Nox in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m enjoying Piper Niven’s new look and demeanor playing off of Green. The match itself went longer than I’d have predicted and wasn’t bad, actually, given the chaos in this type of match.)
-Backstage Kaiser and Vinci were arguing when Gunther approached them. Kaiser told Gunther he told Kaiser to stay away. He said he would have defeated Gargano easily. Gunther told Kaiser to stay quiet. He said he has disappointed him by not holding up the prestige of the group. He said he thinks he put the wrong person in charge. He told Vinci he’s in charge now. Kaiser was displeased.
-The Miz made his entrance. [c]
-Cole plugged that fans van vote who will get the advantage in the Women’s WarGames match. The vote is sponsored by a potato chip brand.
-Pearce stepped into the middle of tag teams arguing backstage. New Day said they want a chance to earn a tag title match. Pearce said they can’t do it tonight, but they can next week. Everyone yelled. Tozawa then yelled, “Let’s Go!” He gyrated his hips and held up a Detroit Lions replica belt. Aldis showed up. Pearce said, “Let’s have a conversation.” It was tense between them.
-The Miz stood in the ring as his music faded. He said before Gunther “sucks the life out of the arena,” he wanted to talk about what this industry is all about. He said it’s all about respect including the part WWE fans play whether they’re booing or cheering. He said Gunther doesn’t show him respect. Gunther’s entrance interrupted him. Barrett said Gunther and Miz are different. He said Gunther entertains with his performances on the mat whereas Miz is “more of a character, more of a mic-man, if you will.” Cole said he’s also a former WWE Champion.
Gunther began: “Mike, let me clarify something.” He said it’s not a lack of respect, but rather he has zero respect for him. Gunther said he’s just an entertainer. Miz said he gets it done inside the ring and out. He said he is just like all the Superstars he grew up watching. He imitated “Macho Man” Randy Savage and then listed “Mr. Perfect,” Rick Rude, Shawn Michaels, and Bret Hart. He said he watched Bret give his sunglasses to kids in the crowd and said he wanted to be like him. He said they are remembered because they’re not “a one-note robot like you.”
Miz plowed past Gunther’s attempt to interrupt him. Miz said he’s reinvented himself time after time when he’s been knocked down. He said he will do whatever it takes to survive and win to elevate the Intercontinental Title. He said they don’t know a lot about Gunther because he hasn’t hit the bottom. He said when that happens, then and only then will he show if he deserves their respect. He asked Gunther if he’ll become just another cog in the machine with zero personality to invest in when he hits rock bottom. He said if he doesn’t respect him yet, he will beat it into him at Survivor Series and become IC Champion again.
Gunther smiled and said, “Cute.” He said he can talk a big game, but he has a point of view. He said on Saturday, people think he’s going to face The Miz at Survivor Series, a future Hall of Famer with a ton of championship reigns, but he sees through him. He said who he’s really facing is someone who is exactly like everybody else in the arena. “Little Mike Mizanin, some little weirdo that got bullied in high school because he idolized all those heroes you just named,” he said. He said the heroes he looked up also bullied him, showing him that he didn’t belong in the sport. Scattered boos. Gunther said, “It’s truth.”
He said it’s 20 years later and things haven’t changed. He said he still doesn’t belong “in this sport, in my ring.” He said he belongs on the other side of the railing “with all those other weirdos who are just like you.” Fans chanted “USA! USA!” Gunther said that’s the smallest form of some sort of self-identification. He said they’re all weak and simple and insecure “like little Mike.” He told Miz he hasn’t been bullied enough
Gunther shoved him several times and pie-faced him and dared him to do something about it. Miz had enough and fought back. Gunther gave him a big boot to cut off his flurry. Barrett said, “This is the best dressed fight that I’ve ever seen.” Gunther lifted Miz and shoved the IC belt in his face and told him to have a good look. Miz mule-kicked him and then fixed his suit and tie. Miz then signaled he had big balls and then delivered a Skull Crushing Finale. “Do it for all those little weirdos, Miz!” said Cole. Barrett said, “Speak for yourself.” Cole said, “Say what you will about Miz, but he is a proud, proud man and he will go toe-to-toe with Gunther no matter what the cost Saturday.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Really good segment. Gunther is excellent right now. Miz’s babyface character is cheesy, but it just might work when standing up to Gunther.)
-Seth told Jey he meant no disrespect earlier, but they need the advantage tonight. He said he knows how important that advantage is. Jey assured Seth he was ready.
-Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance. [c]
(5) CHAD GABLE (w/Otis, Maxxine, Akira Tozawa) vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
They cut to a break a few minutes in. [c]
Gable applied an anklelock. Nakamura broke free and then sat down on Gable’s shoulders for the win. Cole said Gable had to avoid going into the exposed turnbuckle, and that’s when Nakamura got the final advantage he needed.
WINNER: Nakamura in 12:00.
-Drew and Priest crossed paths backstage. Drew said he didn’t want their help. Priest said, “Great. We weren’t offering.” Ripley told Drew to get the advantage. Drew said he would, and he would also be taking Jey out for good.
-Drew’s ring entrance took place. [c]
-A soundbite aired with Bronson Reed asking Ivar if he had the audacity to challenge him. He said he’s not a true warrior. He said he’s a cosplayer. He said he accepts his challenge for a match next week and he won’t survive him.
-They went to Cole and Barrett on camera. They hyped the entire Survivor Series line-up. A video then played hyping WarGames.
-Backstage, Sami and Seth gave Jey a pep talk. As Jey left, Cody stepped up and asked if they had any luck with a fifth member. Sami said he reached out to someone and it won’t work out. Cody said the person he called picked up and he’s in. Seth and Sami were thrilled. Cole asked, “Who’s he? We have to find out before the end of the night.” Barrett said Cody doesn’t talk to him these days, so he doesn’t know.
(6) JEY USO vs. DREW MCINTYRE
As Jey Uso made his ring entrance, Cole explained the rules of WarGames and noted the importance of getting the advantage. The bell rang 38 minutes into the hour. Cole said that Drew earlier said the reason he agreed to join the WarGames match is to get the chance to get Jey in a cage. Cole said he can understand both sides of the story and said what Drew says makes sense. Jey got the advantage and threw Drew into the ringpost as they cut to a break at 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Cole has done a really good job having sympathy for the source of Drew’s frustrations, but taking issue with Drew dwelling on it. Barrett’s push-backs have also been good. Announcers are often instructed to be heavy-handed with these storyline beats, but Cole and Barrett are making this feel more genuine and less manipulative than usual. I think this works by steering fans toward booing Drew because Cole is acknowledging it’s not that he’s wrong, but it’s how he’s expressing and dealing with his gripes.) [c]
Drew took over with sustained offense. Drew kneeled and had some words for him. Cole said this has to be cathartic in a way for Drew. Jey slapped Drew as Drew lifted him. He then landed an enzuigiri. Drew winced and clutched his shoulder. Drew headbutted Jey as he flew at him. Jey fell to the floor. Drew threw him onto the announce desk. They cut to another break at 11:00. [c]
Jey had taken over during the break. He scored a two count at 16:00. Drew knocked Jey off balance on the top rope a minute later and landed a Future Shock DDT for the win.
WINNER: McIntyre in 19:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: That finish was a bit out of nowhere and a statement in a meta-sense to give Drew that decisive of a win over Jey.)
-Ripley came out and smiled. She told Drew to finish Jey. Drew cleared the announce desk. Jey fought back. When he picked up a chair, the rest of The Judgment Day attacked him. Cody, Sami, and Seth ran out. They used chairs to clear the ring of the heels. Cody said he’s so glad they have the advantage and have a star the caliber of Drew. Cody said they found a partner, “someone I have a legacy with.” Cody said they know what he’s talking about. He said they’ve got The Apex Predator. Fans cheered. Cody said everyone knows who he’s talking about. A loud chant of “Randy! Randy!” broke out. Cody said they’re not just hearing voices inside their headsz, because the fans are right. He threw the mic down as The Judgment Day were shown reacting at ringside.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m glad Randy Orton didn’t just magically appear at ringside on short notice. We talked two weeks ago on the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Post-show about Orton being a great fifth man if they did expand WarGames to five-on-five. Saving his first big in-person pop for intros on Saturday makes sense. Good way to raise the ante on the star power in this match tonight.)