We’re two months into the brand split, a split that has so far been dominated by SmackDown LIVE. The red brand looks to fight back as they build towards their first exclusive PPV and SmackDown is dealing with the fallout of their PPV this past Sunday. Let’s take a look at how they did in the ongoing war.
Monday Night RAW
Pros of the Show
- Nothing’s Automatic- Champions getting an automatic rematch is something that needs to go away. As such I like that GM Mick Foley made Sasha Banks earn her way into a title shot at Clash of Champions. I may not have liked how this was all set up but I will never complain about matches with stakes. It makes them better.
- The Gift That Keeps Giving- Y2J is fantastic. He hit Sami Zayn in the face with a cell phone. That is all.
- Nia Smash!- Nia Jax absolutely decimated Alicia Fox and it was, with all due respect to Bobby Roode, glorious!
- Scamming Stars- So Primo and Epico are actually trying to sell a time share in Puerto Rico. Wish they would have come up with that for them sooner as it finally explains their characters. I may not like them but I will always classify character development as a pro.
- Fleshing Out The Roster- Speaking of character development both Jinder Mahal and Jack Swagger both got a bit of that (though I think they wasted what they did with Jack). Again I like the character development here even if I might not necessarily be behind the characters myself. They have motivations and a reason for being on our screen. This sort of lower card development has been missing from WWE for a long time. Lower card guys just jobbed on TV but them being beat didn’t do anything for the person who beat them. Need to build the lower guys up a bit before they can help put over the guys destined to be higher up.
- Main Event Fun- By all means I am not completely satisfied with the main event program on RAW, but for all its faults they did a good job last night. Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens have some great chemistry in the ring. They added a layer of intrigue with Rollins disobeying Foley’s orders to stay out of the match making us wonder if he’s still going to get his title shot which, and this is of paramount importance, gives is a reason to watch next week. And while I don’t like KO only winning because of a distraction, it was a good way to rekindle the Reigns/Rusev angle.
Cons of the Show
- No Love For Dana- I think Dana Brooke does great character work. I loved her down in NXT. I don’t think the current story they seem to be running with her works in her favor. The idea, I assume, is to have her continually abused by Charlotte, build up sympathy, and that will eventually lead to the cathartic moment when she stands up for herself and breaks away from Charlotte. Why does that seem so familiar? Oh right because they’re running the exact same angle over in TNA with Maria and Allie. The difference is that Allie is actually likable and plays her role so well that she has gained the crowd’s support. Dana is not likable, nor should she be, and they shouldn’t be trying to make me feel sympathy for her because it just doesn’t work.
- No-lieve- I can’t take Bo Dallas as this ultra aggressive ass kicker who squashes jobbers seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I love squash matches, but it just doesn’t work with Bo. I understand they probably want to build him up to feed him to someone but this isn’t the best way to do it.
- More Time Wasted- So the New Day came out and complained about how much of our time Gallows and Anderson wasted on their thoroughly unentertaining skit last week, and then they proceeded to waste our time again by being New Day and doing their stupid New Day stuff. Then they had a match against Gallows and Anderson but it wasn’t for the titles because…… yeah I don’t know either. Gallows and Anderson won, so they should be champions right? I know that they did it this way because they’ll be facing Big E and Kofi for the titles and this time they faced Kofi and Xavier but the champions are not Big E and Kofi, the champions are the entire New Day, Gallows and Anderson beat New Day. Yeah I’m just going to stop now because I keep getting more pissed at this stupid booking.
- Cheating Cesaro- While I completely understand the selling of the back injury and the desperateness of the situation, Cesaro cheating to win just didn’t feel right. Maybe if he had a promo or something before the match which sold the idea that he’s willing to do anything, it might have worked. As it is, it just seems like they want us to ignore a supposed babyface cheating.
- Not My KO- I don’t like Kevin Owens suddenly being HHH’s golden boy as he was referred to as on Monday night. Not sure how much of it is just him claiming that to get under Rollins’ skin, as HHH has been absent since the night KO won the belt so we’re not completely sure how he feels. Still Kevin Owens as a HHH lackey just doesn’t feel right and I worry that his title run will be marred by many of the same things that marred the last HHH lackey to be champ. We’ll see how this continues to develop but the more HHH’s name gets dropped in association with Owens, the worse it gets.
Pros of the Show
- Opening Fire- There was a lot to like about the opening segment (and some to dislike, we’ll get to that later). AJ Styles is an excellent heel champion. Dean Ambrose is always best when he’s pissed off and focused. What really stood out to me was John Cena. This is a different John Cena we’re seeing although it’s very subtle. Cena didn’t do anything to shift his alignment but if you’re paying close attention there’s a definite shift in his character that is long needed. He didn’t once say anything about fighting for the WWE Universe or any of the same tired stuff we’ve heard from Cena a million times before. Instead, he said he wanted his championship back (definitely a bit heelish to refer to it as his championship). He wants to tie Ric Flair’s record because it’s something he wants. Him confronting Dean Ambrose was also very refreshing.
- The Reign of Awesome- The Miz has been absolutely killing it lately and last night he kept it up. His attack of James Ellsworth and subsequent shouting at the camera that he was the main event as he held up Ellsworth’s limp body was pro wrestling gold.
- Heeling Usos- For the longest time I was so indifferent towards the Usos that it led me to actively hate them when they were on the screen. They have been nailing this heel turn though and I actually want to see more of them.
- Oh Sweet Bliss- Alexa Bliss as the number one contender is a smart choice. It’s a fresh match up. It allows Nikki and Carmella to continue their excellent feud. Most importantly is that Alexa is someone that can lose to Becky but still be elevated by the match because she was a surprise to win the opportunity.
Cons of the Show
- I Thought Wins and Losses Matter?- While I loved the character work of Styles, Cena, and Ambrose in the open, I hated that Cena was just given a title match. The last match he competed in, he lost cleanly to the man he will be challenging at No Mercy in a triple threat. They could have gotten to the triple threat a different way (Cena vs Ambrose ending in a no contest for example) and for a show that had been good about making it feel like wins and losses matter it’s disappointing.
- Rushing Things- I do like Alexa as the number one contender but would have preferred they didn’t do the 5 way for it. No Mercy is 4 weeks away. They could have extended the number one contender build a little bit so that it felt a bit more earned. Now that we’ve moved into singles feuds in the women’s division hopefully they’ll let things breathe a bit.
- Bored of Bray- I’m sort of over Bray Wyatt. It’s been hard to stick behind him for a while now but there was always that hope that there was something bigger coming for him. It hasn’t. Nothing that happens to him seems to affect him in any meaningful way. Also the sporadic use of Erik Rowan isn’t helping him either as he should really be standing on his own at this point. I just can’t get invested in his program with Orton knowing it will probably result in a loss that won’t change him at all.
- Lack of Set Up- Another step back this week was a lack of set up for matches. The Usos were facing the Hype Bros again for what reason? Presumably Zack Ryder was upset about the Usos attack on his knee but they didn’t bother to set that up with a backstage confrontation or anything. Same for the match (that ended up not happening) between Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews.
- Dropping the Ball- Jack Swagger finally got a bit of meaningful character development on RAW and I feel like WWE wasted it by sending him over to SmackDown so quickly. If there had been a few weeks of build where we saw Swagger struggling to stay relevant on RAW, there might have been a bigger reaction when he came out on SmackDown.
- That Is Not A Fact- I’m all for creating new characters but sometimes a character is a dud. Curt Hawkins appropriating Chuck Norris jokes is a dud.
Winner: Monday Night RAW
This was tough. I almost wanted to call it a tie but decided that there must be a winner. SmackDown was not a bad show by any means but it also wasn’t a “wow” show and they took some steps back in regards to things they had been doing well. In the end, for all its flaws, which are still glaring, RAW was more entertaining this week and took steps forward. It will be interesting to see how the addition of the cruiserweights next week affects the dynamic.