OVER & UNDERS – WWE RAW (4/8): High Risk and High Reward, Poor Ironing, Secrets, Dragunov’s dental self-exam, smart wrestlers, Ricochet’s sacrifice, more

By Kevin Duncan, PWTorch contributor

Cody Rhodes (photo WWE Twitter/X)


Welcome to the first Monday Night Raw of the Paul “Triple H” Levesque Era, the longest name in the history of pro wrestling eras. I’m still recovering from 4 days straight of wrestling, my voice is gone, my back hurts, and I’m still annoyed at how long the cheesesteak line was at Lincoln Financial Field, but let’s dig into the most overrated and under-appreciated moments from Monday Night Rhodes!


First off, I hadn’t seen that slick, new, constellation-inspired, WWE Superstars in space-intro. That, coupled with Paul Levesque’s voice, really does make this feel like a new era, nay, a new planet, a new dimension, whatever it is, I’m ready. So don’t even ask…but I’m sure you will anyway. Moving on… what in the Michael Bay, Martin Scorsese with the attitude of Quentin Tarantino was that opening shot?! The camera pans the crowd with a lengthy B-roll shot that suddenly surprises us by landing on the entrance ramp, and then pedals down it, in all of its steadicam glory. Then, against all concerns of playing it safe for live tv, the camera doesn’t cut, it soars down the ramp, like a futuristic aircraft on a takeoff ramp, green lights strobing around it, like a Nickelodeon-themed rave, and we land on Paul “Triple H” Levesque. It takes a moment for the fog of awesome to clear, and the set comes into focus. No oversized tron screen, just a triad of smaller screens pumping out graphics, but a full 360-view of every single seat filled with hungry fans, drooling over whatever they’re serving tonight. Then, good lord, THEN we follow him to the ring as he humbly takes in, and reciprocates the adulation, only to take one last risky gamble with a shot that rotates around Hunter in a way that would rival Will Smith in “Bad Boys”. That’s two Michael Bay references and we’re just getting started. That’s how you know it’s a good show. The live TV risks WWE is rolling the dice with, are paying off exponentially. They’re betting the farm on black every night and doubling their profits. That’s probably not true. Doubling is too modest. On a side note, I think every time a camera op does successfully pull off one of these fluid shots, they should get an “I didn’t trip” bonus. Maybe call it the Non-Titus O’Neil. Rumble, stumble and fall, baby…for life.


I really like the non-tron set. I don’t know if this is a new thing, or just scraping together a partially Frankensteined set from WrestleMania leftovers, but it’s impressive. Why have a big impressive screen when you can flat out see every seat filled behind someone walking out? They are cooking with peanut oil now. Unless you’re allergic to peanuts. Then they have the best vegetable oil money can buy, and it’s sizzling on high. I love seeing Hunter just point to the crowd. Hell, point anywhere and you have pods of rabid fans. I don’t know who’s calling these shots, but let’s just say it’s jolly old Saint Nick Kahn. Yeah, I know it’s not Nick. It’s the guy who replaced Kevin Dunn, mixed with Triple H’s ability to tap into a new cerebral cortex, now that he got that hair out of the way. Maybe that cortex is also where assassins hang out. Anyway, back to Nick because he fits into my joke more. Great job Nick Kahn. Nick, as far as I’m concerned, you Kahn do this then. You Kahn do this now. You Kahn do this forever…You Kahn do it in a box. You Kahn do it with a fox. You get the idea…at least I think you Kahn. This production value is so good, it may just make Triple H smile so much that he adds another line across his forehead, which by the way, is perfectly horizontal for 1st grade handwriting practice. Yes, I just pointed out that Triple H’s forehead is college ruled. At least it sounds smart. Also, college did indeed rule, but I promise I’m not living in the past.


Now, before I ding Cody Rhodes for anything, I have to tell you this. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to him on Thursday. I was in the building for both nights of WrestleMania. Cody is, if not a consummate gentleman, true magic, lightning in a bottle, vulnerably driven, and the best thing to happen to wrestling since Daniel Bryan’s surge several years ago. That said, who ironed Cody’s jacket? If you go back and watch his entrance, there is a colossally jarring crease in it, holding his jacket open like a door stop on a windy day. Maybe he got paid to show the name of the tailor. Maybe it was really hot in the building and that was his stylish way of cracking a window. Or maybe, just maybe, the jacket was gimmicked to allow for a more fluid “Wow.” Whoever helped Cody with his outfit tonight, assuming it’s a guy for the sake of my gender-reliant joke, was a very poor iron man match for him. I’m going to attempt to take a bow, but my back is pretty sore from doing Jimmy Uso’s Yeet wave, the Cody Rhodes “Wow” and shielding my eyes from the spotlights they blinded us with in the audience at ‘Mania. Did anyone hear the “Shut the lights off” chant during both WrestleMania nights? It was ferociously prominent in the arena.


During Cody Rhodes’ entrance, when he hit the second “Wow”, we sat on an awkwardly restrictive angle of him and some of the audience. Then, like a tongue-in-cheek John Cena entrance, we hear pyro, and don’t see one bit of it. I found this so absurdly amusing I’ve watched it twice. I would love it if Cena played this up one year, and just had the audio of pyro since, you know, he’s invisible. Such is life though. We can’t have it all.


That video package Triple H presented to Cody Rhodes as being a gift from the production crew was, according to my sources, an authentic gesture. This is further evidenced by the fact that you can see some actual welling up and waterworks from the guy who gets a lot of flak for not creating real tears. He looked like he could legitimately cry Jack Perry a river. Too soon? Those lights are hot folks, and the dehydration struggle is real. Not everyone has Prime pumping through their veins. I love seeing Cody’s vulnerable side. It’s what makes him so endearing and relatable to us. That and a morbidly patriotic neck tattoo, but hey, we all have those right? RIGHT?!


I love and hate secrets at the same time. What did The Rock hand Cody Rhodes? This has “Se7en” vibes, though, I don’t think these are human heads he’s handing the WWE’s Brad Pitt. This is gloriously layered storytelling. They could leave this seed to fester and grow until SummerSlam, and it would still pack a punch. Is it Altoids because The Rock smells Cody’s breath and doesn’t like it? Is it The Rock’s grandfather’s WWE Hall of Fame ring? Is it a metaphorical death threat and he’s harnessing all his “Black Adam”-failure rage towards the Rhodes family? We’ll find out soon, but for now, let’s just enjoy the wrinkles under Cody’s eyes, which are also college ruled. Did anyone else notice that we just went 45-minutes, nearly ⅓ of the show, with JUST the Cody party…and it felt like 10-minutes? It’s like no one says, time flies when you’re having nightmares.


Philly hilariously chanted “This is awkward” as The Rock held Cody Rhodes’ title. Kudos for an always vocal, dare I say, inventive, crowd. Nothing more awkward than awkwardly pointing out the awkwardness of an awkward moment, that the crowd sees as awkward. Did I just make it more awkward? Ugh, this is awkward. Here’s my awkward apology. On a side note, the more I look at that word, the more I think I’m spelling it wrong. What an American nightmare…poor grammar.


If you look to the left of Pat McAfee, you see The Rock’s mother sitting with his wife, Lauren Hashian and one of their many kids. It takes me out of it a bit to see his very recognizable family there, right as the bitterness of his exchange with Cody Rhodes is still lingering. It’s even worse seeing them smiling. Turn heel, Johnson family. Go with the flow. I get that they want to be there. I get that they are privy to the front row. But do we really need them on camera right behind the spotlight-drawing McAfee? On a side note when they show Sami Zayn and family walking toward the arena, Sami’s title is missing. Sami, don’t you know that if you’ve got it, you must always flaunt it in front of cameras. Or just do what Logan Paul does and flaunt it in case there’s a camera.


What’s with the invisible pyro during Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance?! We hear it. It has a nice plump pop to it, so it’s probably amazing, and yet, no camera angles that share such bright, sparkling explosions with us commoners watching at home on our phones or iPads. At least the visibility of the pyro matches his push. Hey, maybe it’s not pyro, and Bron Breakker is just smashing everything in the production truck since he’s as visible as the pyro. Useless superhero powers of invisibility aside, it’s nice to see Nakamura back in the spotlight and hopefully getting as much attention as he did when he was playing Dr. Nakamura with Seth Rollins’ back. He’s got to have a chip on his shoulder after being left off of the WrestleMania card entirely.


Aside from looking like a shunned and bitter 4th Hanson brother, Ilja Dragunov’s explosiveness is enough to warrant a Pepto Bismol ad…if you’re sliding into first…and you feel something bur… Yes, I’m a child in a man’s, errr, grown up kid’s body. But I digress. One of the best things about Dragunov’s wrestling is his subtle, constant trash talk to his opponent. His self-narration really pulls you into a level of realism that’s hard to achieve in today’s era. Hearing him grunt “I got you. I got you now” before delivering a German suplex is like a warm blanket with a good movie, they just work together.


The last time I checked, by obviously kicking someone in the face, kicks don’t sound like slaps. Unfortunately because of the bare skin Ilja Dragunov is slapping when he kicks, his foot strikes sound like kick slaps. This makes me think he has pancake feet under those boots, which is both an absurdly amusing image (how do you run with pancake feet?) and a distraction.


Ilja Dragunov just unlocked a new level of selling. He hilariously checked to make sure several of his teeth weren’t loose after taking a Shinsuke Nakamura knee to the face. A self-dental exam is such a simple concept, and yet, it sucked me in like a Dyson on sand. I also enjoyed (a few moments later) him staring blankly into the distance after taking another shot to the head. His look was so absent and hilarious, that I half-expected animated birds to circle his head.


I have to (preemptively) give the line of the night to Pat McAfee for saying “Just Dumb” (J.D.) McDonagh, while Judgment Day stood awkwardly, waiting to announce their brethren as the new World Heavyweight Champion. I know McDonagh is wearing trunks, but would it kill the guy to rock a pair of pants once in a while? Also, there is an inherent irony to men and women fighting for oversized belts while never wearing pants. Think about it. Not that McDonagh will ever have an oversized belt, unless he visits the Big and Tall section at Kohl’s. Even then, I bet the person at the register would ask him if this is for his dad’s big boy pants.


The only thing worse than J.D. McDonagh’s overall presence in the Judgment Day is Finn Balor’s forced, fake cackle. It’s so bad that I feel like I’m watching a middle school production of “the Wizard of Oz” and Balor is playing the wicked witch of the west.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. R-Truth is a national treasure. Truth sliding into the celebration of holding Judgment Day belts high, was a brilliantly unexpected way to reinvigorate the Truth and Judgment Day confusion. I wish he had taken a shot at McDonagh who isn’t supposed to be in it anymore (a bet is a bet, and he lost). It was redeemed by him saying he brought the titles back to the Judgment Day, when he technically won them (with Miz) off of the Judgment Day. I also appreciate the metaphorical return of Little Jimmy, when Truth challenged Judgment Day to a six-man tag match, but I do hope he’s actually referencing John Cena and his clinically diagnosed invisibility, of which hair loss is also a symptom (sorry John). If you think that’s a bald-faced lie, look at the back of his head. Again, sorry John.


Seeing we’re having a number one contenders match tonight for Damian Priest’s title is a good move, but unfortunately we don’t have enough solid options to partake. Right now, it’s Ricochet versus Bronson Reed, versus Drew McIntyre, versus Jey Uso. This is a 2-man contest between Jey and Drew. Ricochet doesn’t have the charisma to be a main event guy, and it’s far too early for Bronson “I Lick Blood” Reed. They don’t have any need for other top main eventers, so here’s to hoping the draft shakes things up. Why wouldn’t Gunther be in the mix by the way? Blasphemy, I say. I do think Bronson Reed made a good point about it being a “heavyweight” championship. But it’s not all about girth, Mr. Reed. If that were the case, then Otis would have hung onto his Money in the Bank contract a few years ago.


201,924 WWE fans attended WrestleMania’s five day ongoings. But considering most fans attended both nights of Mania, I think they’re inflating that number a bit, and ignoring the fact that a lot of seats were filled with the same butts twice. That said, WWE world was so packed that you could barely do anything without gambling your entire day on a single line, so I’m sure the number is large, if not exaggerated a bit.


Okay, The Liv Morgan chair throw at Rhea Ripley, within seconds of Dominik Mysterio walking away, legitimately made me jump. That was a seamless and effective surprise transition from one story to the next. I feel like just outran a pack of wolves only to find myself in a bear cave. And just when I think this amazing oner of a shot can’t get better, Dom grabs the camera, says “get out of here” and throws the angle to the side. The camera then pushes forward and out into the arena, into a sea of fans. Who is thinking of these brilliant shots? Who has the massive balls (sorry Miz) to try them on live TV?! I feel like I’m watching through an Apple Vision Pro. Sure, I’m broke like all the fans who spent their savings on the tickets tonight, but it’s totally worth it!


I don’t know if it’s Roxanne Perez’s weak-looking, completely contactless punches and kicks, or Indi Hartwell’s poor selling, but it makes every exchange of blows seem like someone is beating up imaginary friends. Be careful ladies, even imaginary friends will turn on you in wrestling at some point.


Seeing Sami Zayn bump into Jey Uso and give him their old handshake, warms my gritty pro wrestling-loving heart. It’s nice to be constantly reminded of who is friends with who, even though every friendship will deteriorate in the fires of wrestling over time. But for now, it keeps dozens of potential stories ripe for exploiting later. Also, that’s a super impressive handshake that must have taken a ton of choreography, patience and practice.


They are doing an incredible job of making the fans a major elevator of the superstars. Seeing the rotating shot around the ring as Sami Zayn lifts his Intercontinental title above his head, with fans cheering him from behind, is like watching Rocky Balboa on the stairs every single time they do this in an entrance. Much like how Cody Rhodes did in his promo earlier, I also really like this trend of hyping up who the new champ beat. It simultaneously keeps the heel hot, and boosts the new champ up even more.


Did Chad Gable really need to run out and save Sami Zayn with the cheesy “Shoosh” music? They did a great job building him up as a serious force for a couple weeks, and this feels like he just fell off the wagon, into a muddy pile of watered-down relevance. Shoosh-relapse. The struggle is real, folks. Thank youuuu.


Watching Chad Gable wrestle Imperium (or anyone for that matter) is like watching a man try to fend off a rabid squirrel running all over him…if said squirrel was a trained collegiate wrestler. Don’t shoosh me. You know it’s true. It’s borderline absurd to see, but I’m here for it. His athleticism is inhuman, and the rest of the world seems to be moving in slow motion for him. Now, all that said, he still looks like a 12 year old boy wearing a shirt with muscles drawn on it. The juxtaposition between his Boy Scout face and his “Rambo” physique is always amusingly jarring.


Sami Zayn and Chad Gable have enough of a cool factor to not Young Buck it up with synchronized moves. We already got that at the end of The Miz, John Cena, R-Truth and the Judgment day. We don’t need it in a match where our own Rocky Balboa is more over than Christmas in January (double entendre), and Gable is like the son Kurt Angle never had. Maybe he does have a son…but he’s no Chad Gable. There is no need for this tandem, silly offense. Less is more guys. Unless you’re double-teaming J.D. McDonagh. Then you can tandem until your hearts are content. On a side note, Sami Zayn is very hairy. Ludwig Kaiser is the exact opposite. Watching them wrestle is like watching Bigfoot play with a Ken Barbie doll. So much baby oil. So much beard. So much fun.


Go back and watch the arena hallway shot WWE does after the commercial break, off of the Chelsea Green segment. It’s at the 2-hour and 21-minute mark. They start on one level, slowly drop down to the next, and then pedal forward. But it doesn’t end there. The camera weaves through some fans and out into another amazing arena shot. Unless they have the camera on a jib arm, connected to a navigable base with wheels, I have no idea how they did that, and I absolutely love my own confused bliss with that. Well done, WWE. They really seem like they’re just having fun with all these toys they found locked up in Kevin Dunn’s closet, collecting dust. What the shot, WWE?! You keep being this cool and Carlito is going to change his gimmick to swallowing apples. My God. On a side note, I find Chelsea Green’s character more extra than Samantha Irvine’s over-announcing of her. It’s a bit much. I get that she’s embracing her annoying side, but it’s distracting to the point that she’s not going to get booed. She’s just going to get silently ignored. Maybe she’s too Green to be at this level so soon. See what I did there?


I love seeing smart wrestlers like Sami Zayn knowing exactly what Chad Gable meant when he said Sami owes him a favor (title match). Wrestlers as a whole seem smarter all of a sudden. It truly is a new day (yes it is). It’s refreshing to see a wrestler get ahead of setting the match, instead of waiting for their friend to stab them in the back and force their hand. Keep your enemies close and all of that jazz.


Drew McIntyre is furious, fuming, seething through his teeth, but he has the restraint to not say bullshit, and just uses the acronym? What, did WWE only hire a censor bleeper for the nights The Rock was there, dropping every word in the book? This is sad to see someone with such sharp words be forced to use a dulled down vocabulary. The rest of his promo was on fire after this, though. I particularly liked him labeling Damian Priest as a bondage-Undertaker, whose arse he would whip, but he’d probably like it. That is some great wordsmithing there. I also liked Drew calling Priest a transitional champion. It’s a bit below the belt, and possibly true, but with him having free reign to say what he wants, Damian better keep up.


Ricochet’s 450 splash to the announce table was insane. Unfortunately though, without a mouthpiece in the form of a mic-smith manager, all he’s ever going to be is a highlight reel like John Morrison. He’s the McRib Sandwich. He comes around every so often, people love him, then he goes away and we forget about him. His career definitely isn’t going to be long because of the risks, so he won’t have nearly enough time to get himself over before retirement. This guy sacrifices more in a night than most wrestlers do in a year, but sadly, I don’t think it’s going to get him anywhere except first in line for jello at the hospital cafeteria. Yes, I know they bring it to your room, but room service isn’t funny. All that said, Jey Uso is the right choice. The guy is more popular than a Furby on a 90s Christmas.

See you Friday for the last show before the draft, where we’ll have more NXT main roster-prospects, some last matches before post-Mania layoffs, and round 2 of Cody Rhodes’ victory lap!

RECOMMENDED NEXT: WWE RAW HITS & MISSES (4/8): Cody and Rock, Four-way for World Title shot, Judgment Day and R-Truth, Jade Cargill, NXT appearances

OR CHECK THIS OUT AT PROWRESTLING.NET: Powell’s WWE Raw Hit List: The Raw After WrestleMania with Cody Rhodes and The Rock, Drew McIntyre vs. Jey Uso vs. Bronson Reed vs. Ricochet for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship

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