Cody Rhodes has issues everywhere he looks, but he’s building a healthy network of allies. World heavyweight champion Seth Rollins lent his support to Rhodes ahead of WrestleMania 40, plus Sami Zayn needed his aid against Drew McIntyre and Shinsuke Nakamura. It all went down on Monday’s episode of WWE Raw.
The 2024 Royal Rumble winner officially challenged undisputed WWE universal champion Roman Reigns for a WrestleMania match last week. It was a sigh of relief for fans who thought The Rock’s return would impede Rhodes’ plans. At the same time, WWE appears to be building to a blockbuster tag team match pitting Rhodes and Rollins against Reigns and Rock. Monday’s show followed up on that story while giving Rhodes plenty to worry about elsewhere.
SmackDown was well represented on the red brand this week as three qualifiers took place for Elimination Chamber matches. LA Knight and Bobby Lashley both attempted to qualify for an Elimination Chamber match to crown a No. 1 contender for Rollins’ title.
CBS Sports was with you all night with recaps and highlights of all the action from Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
Rhodes has allies and enemies in every direction
Rhodes thanked the fans for making their voices heard amid discourse over who would challenge Reigns at WrestleMania 40. Loud “We want Cody” and “Rocky sucks” chants broke out. Rhodes assured that he would give The Rock a receipt for slapping him at the WrestleMania 40 kickoff press conference last week.
Rollins implored Rhodes to beat Reigns at WrestleMania. The world heavyweight champion said he was tired of Reigns throwing his weight around. Rollins assured that he would have Rhodes’ back against Reigns and The Rock. He also partially claimed responsibility for the current predicament as Reigns’ old ally in The Shield.
Later backstage, Rhodes thanked Zayn for having his back and wished him luck in his main event match against Nakamura. Zayn crossed paths with McIntyre moments before making his entrance.
Nakamura def. Zayn via pinfall after hitting Kinshasa. The pair had a back-and-forth match that surprisingly went Nakamura’s way. Zayn’s best moments had him twice landing his signature Blue Thunder Bomb. The finish saw Nakamura hit a diving Kinshasa followed by a standard Kinshasha for the victory while McIntyre watched from the entrance ramp.
Post-match, Rhodes saved Zayn from a two-on-one attack. Rhodes hit McIntyre with a Cody Cutter before laying out Nakamura with a Cross Rhodes to end the show.
It was a solid if unspectacular episode of Raw highlighted by a some good story beats. Rollins encouraging Rhodes was a simple but effective tool for building to Rhodes and Rollins vs. Reigns and Rock tag team match. The storyline with McIntyre, Nakamura and Zayn gives Rhodes something to sink his teeth into while involved in a WrestleMania-level feud with three superstars who aren’t very active at the moment. It was a pleasant surprise to see Nakamura pick up the win. Nakamura has been a weak link in the broader main event scene and needed a significant win. Zayn excels as a plucky underdog and this seemed like a deliberate attempt to angle him as such heading into WrestleMania. Grade: B+
What else happened on WWE Raw?
- Jey Uso and New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) def. Imperium (Gunther, Giovanni Vinci and Ludwig Kaiser) via pinfall after Uso hit a diving splash on Vinci.
- Andrade starred in a vignette.
- Lashley def. Bronson Reed via pinfall after hitting a spear. Lashley qualifies for the men’s Elimination Chamber match.
- Liv Morgan def. Zoey Stark via pinfall after hitting Oblivion. Morgan qualifies for the women’s Elimination Chamber match.
- JD McDonagh def. R-Truth via pinfall after hitting Devil Inside. DIY saved R-Truth from a post-match beatdown by Judgement Day.
- A brawl broke out between Rhea Ripley, Nia Jax and Becky Lynch after an in-ring promo.
- LA Knight def. Ivar via pinfall after hitting BFT. Knight qualifies for the men’s Elimination Chamber match.