Cody Rhodes' Royal Rumble return will be no surprise, so reintroducing him on Raw before then is a good idea. Credit:

Cody Rhodes' WWE Raw Return, a New Era for AEW, Desperate Hit Row, More Quick Takes

Graham GSM Matthews

Cody Rhodes has been a hot topic of conversation heading into WrestleMania season and whether he'll ultimately challenge Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship.

His anticipated return was always expected to take place at the Royal Rumble, but the vignette that aired during last Monday's WWE Raw indicated it will soon be announced instead of it being kept a surprise.

Aside from the inside look at Rhodes' road to recovery, the first Raw of 2023 was largely uneventful, whereas AEW Dynamite was an all-around excellent show on Wednesday. The company's "new era" was heavily hyped ahead of time, and it no doubt delivered.

All Elite Wrestling has plenty of positive buzz as the new year gets underway and maintaining that momentum moving forward will successfully send the message that its difficulties from 2022 are over.

This instalment of Quick Takes will delve into the importance of AEW staying consistent, Saraya's "mystery" tag team partner for Dynamite revealed, the lack of hype for the Rumble and Raw's upcoming 30th anniversary show, and more.

Cody Rhodes Announcing Rumble Return in Advance Is Right Call

If WWE didn't intend to have Cody Rhodes take part in the men's Royal Rumble match, then there's no way vignettes would be airing on Raw right now detailing his road to recovery.

Not only must he compete in the Rumble, he's the strongest candidate to win the whole thing. If The Rock isn't able to appear at WrestleMania 39, Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship is the next best choice for the main event.

The men's Rumble match could use all the star power it can get, so announcing The American Nightmare's entry ahead of time is the right move. It will give the fans a story they can get invested in leading into the event as opposed to waiting for a "surprise" we all know is coming.

It's reminiscent of Triple H's return ahead of the Rumble in 2002. His comeback on Raw at Madison Square Garden is widely regarded as one of the best of all time, and he had also been out of action injured for a substantial period of time.

Rhodes' story is strong enough to where it should be told throughout the month to maximize how meaningful a Rumble win for him could be.

It also begs the question of whether Triple H has another notable surprise in store for the January 28 pay-per-view that fans won't be expecting.

WWE Fails to Build Excitement for Rumble and Raw 30th Anniversary

Another important reason to announce Cody Rhodes for the Royal Rumble in advance is because the pay-per-view would benefit from some buzz at the moment.

As one of WWE's most unpredictable nights of the year, the Rumble essentially sells itself. Regardless of how good or bad the build to the show is, fans will always look forward to it.

That isn't an excuse for WWE to coast, though. Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens and Bray Wyatt vs. LA Knight have been built up well, but the Rumble matches themselves have largely been neglected this last month.

Worse yet, there has been zero mention on WWE TV recently of Raw's 30th anniversary show on January 23. The company previously went all-out for Raw 1000 in July 2012 and Raw 25 five years ago, so more effort should be put into making this upcoming occasion special as well.

It's imperative WWE kicks the hype for both events into high gear as soon as this week. Beyond The Bloodline, the product doesn't feel as hot as it should considering WrestleMania season is fast approaching.

Will WWE's Desperate Attempt to Salvage Hit Row with Heel Turn Pan Out?

Of everyone Triple H has brought back to WWE since the summer, Hit Row have been his most unfortunate failure yet.

Following their abrupt release in November 2021, the group returned to SmackDown with some fanfare in August. Although they were protected for a few months, Isiah "Swerve" Scott's absence was painfully noticeable and caused the act to suffer significantly.

Their heel turn, which occurred when they attacked Ricochet on Friday's SmackDown, might be their final shot at getting over with the audience. Otherwise, they could be considered damaged goods before long.

It's too soon to write them off just yet, though. Top Dolla and Ashante "Thee" Adonis are a talented team with B-Fab by their side, and the hope is that turning heel will allow them to show more personality and get the crowd to care about their characters.

There are no guarantees with how it will pan out, but it's commendable Triple H is at least affording them another opportunity before calling it quits.

Adding another member is another possibility, but no one on the active roster would feel like as logical of a leader as Swerve was.

Saraya's 'Mystery' Partner Will be a Win-Win

It's been weeks since Saraya announced she'll be teaming with a mystery partner on the January 11 edition of AEW Dynamite to take on Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter, and prior to this past Wednesday, not much more was said about it.

Many fans had their hearts set on it being Mercedes Moné (f.k.a. WWE's Sasha Banks). Those hopes were dashed when, hours removed from Moné's New Japan Pro-Wrestling debut at Wrestle Kingdom 17, Saraya picked Toni Storm to be her partner on Dynamite.

As underwhelming as it may seem to some, Storm still has unfinished business with Hayter, so the choice makes total sense. Waiting until right beforehand to introduce her alongside Saraya would have backfired badly.

Interestingly, Hikaru Shida didn't look the slightest bit pleased when Saraya settled on Storm, leading fans to wonder if she will seek revenge by targeting the Antipodean. That would leave an open slot for Saraya's partner that could easily be accepted by Moné.

Either option works, though Moné debuting would obviously make for the most interesting scenario. She is bound to make her presence felt in AEW eventually, and this would be the perfect time for it to happen coming off her historic arrival in New Japan.

AEW Must Keep Positive Momentum Rolling

To say AEW's 2022 was tumultuous would be an understatement, but the promotion has done an excellent job already of attempting to start fresh in the new year with a successful first week of shows.

From Ricky Starks besting Chris Jericho to Darby Allin unseating Samoa Joe as TNT champion, Wednesday's Dynamite focused largely on its homegrown stars and reinforcing the future. That was exactly the message AEW needed to send after promises of a "new era" being ushered in.

Quality consistency was hardly an issue for the promotion in its early years, but booking woes, injuries and other unforeseen circumstances caused its momentum to take a nosedive last year. Getting back on track will not be an easy feat, but last week's Dynamite and Rampage were a strong start.

The true test will be whether AEW can keep it going with this week's Dynamite in Los Angeles. Not every episode will be a home run, but making more of an effort to learn from past mistakes while also continuing what works will be Tony Khan's best bet in ensuring this era is a resounding success.

Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.


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