It’s week nine of the ongoing battle between RAW and SmackDown. It’s the Clash of Champions go home show for RAW and SmackDown is continuing its build for No Mercy. Last week the red brand squeaked out a narrow victory. Could they keep it up or did SmackDown strike back? Let’s find out.
Monday Night RAW
Pros of the Show
- No Tag Main Event- Was certain when Seth Rollins vs Rusev was announced that it would somehow turn into a tag team main event pitting Rollins & Reigns against Rusev and Kevin Owens. To WWE’s credit though they kept Sunday’s main event feeling fresh by limiting KO and Rollins to the cage spot at the end of the night. Here’s hoping the meaningless tag matches that give away PPV match ups are becoming a thing of the past.
- Braun and Sin- Sin Cara was a great first feud for Strowman. He’s someone where it doesn’t matter of he loses, but more importantly he’s a guy who can show that Braun is not untouchable without having to resort to 50/50 booking. Both of Braun’s matches with Sin Cara have shownthat the one weakness he had is speed. This sets up perfectly for someone better than Sin Cara to use that and finally take Braun down.
- Triple Threat- While I’m still not sure if the double pin was the intention, I am glad that the Women’s Championship match became a triple threat tonight. It helps build towards the eventual Sasha/Bayley feud and it gives Charlotte a way to retain (I hope) without having to pin Sasha.
- Cruiserweight Action- The cruiserweights have finally arrived. Great to see guys like this get the bigirls spotlight to show what they can do and it definitely helps break up the 3 hour show. I was also happy that they didn’t just make it a spot fest exhibition but employed great ring psychology by having Brian Kendrick work viciously to get his shot at the Cruiserweight Title.
- He’s Making A List- Chris Jericho has become one of the most entertaining parts of Monday Night RAW. No exception last night as his interaction with Mick Foley and him reading his list to the crowd was great stuff. Wish the segment could have just been him reading the list but we’ll get to that in the cons.
Cons of the Show
- Why Mick, Why?- Mick Foley booked two matches on this show and neither made a whole lot of sense. Rusev vs Rollins was supposed to be a punishment for both men interfering in last week’s main event. How is that a punishment? And while it was a good match, there was no heat between the two competitors to drive the narrative of the match or justify them brawling, not caring about the count, and Seth’s jump off the table. Similarly, Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns did not justify a cage match, there were also no stakes involved so again it just served the purpose of being an entertaining match. The finish though was not good, and not just because of the camera not even showing Reigns’ escape but because it didn’t help either man, and a champion lost a match on TV. I also don’t like that we got Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns two weeks in a row after last week made me eager for a future, more epic PPV encounter and I wanted to keep them to keep that match fresh.
- He Jumps Off Stuff, So We Like Him?- Seth is clearly being positioned as a face right now. The problem is, nothing has really been done to redeem his character after two years of being the biggest scumbag on the roster. It seems that WWE thinks if they just have him jump off of stuff, that’s enough to constitute a face turn. This is where Mick Foley’s punishment would have come in handy. They seem to want to tell this story of Mick being a bad GM, make his punishment over the top to build up sympathy. Have Seth put up his number 1 contender’s spot in a gauntlet match where he gets beat down but manages to overcome, just something besides “hey, look at him jump off of this.”
- Worst of 7- This Best of 7 series between Cesaro and Sheamus was perhaps a good idea but the execution has been lacking. Other than the one match done at a live event, there hasn’t been anything to distinguish one match from the other. Would have been nice to see a quick roll up or an accidental DQ mixed in. The telegraphed comeback of Cesaro to win the whole thing after being down 0-3 hasn’t been compelling at all because it made it seem too obvious. Would have created more drama by having him take a quick 2-0 lead, then lose 3 straight, then have to win the last two. As it is I’m actually hoping for Sheamus to win on Sunday just because I don’t want what’s being forced down my throat.
- Still No Love For Dana- Still feel no sympathy for Dana Brooke and I’m not sure why WWE seems to be trying to build any. If they’re not, okay, but then having Charlotte bullying her really serves no purpose. Here’s hoping that it leads to some sort of angle where Brooke turns on Charlotte in a heelish manner, instead of the babyface getting retribution against her tormentor like they seem to be building to.
- Dead Bo-ets Society- Bo’s squashes just aren’t working. The crowd isn’t buying into them like they do with Braun or Nia and neither am I. Side note: “Let’s go jobber” might be my new least favorite crowd chant.
- And Your Next Contestant Is- I get that Mick Foley is the GM, but he’s one of the furthest things from my mind when I think cruiserweight. While the cruiserweights dazzled in their first match on RAW, the introduction was painful. Between Mick flubbing his lines and then introducing the competitors sounding like a dating game show host, it didn’t do much to get me or anyone in the crowd hyped. Luckily the cruiserweights took care of that in the ring.
- The Champ Is… Where?- Was really odd that they rolled out the cruiserweight division, had a number one contender’s match for the Cruiserweight Championship, but they didn’t bother to have the champ TJP come out at all. At least have him do a stare down with Kendrick after the match.
- Quick Get Everybody Out There- Why WWE feels they need to get everyone out into the ring on every episode of RAW, I will never know. Chris Jericho was doing a great job going through the best list since Jericho listed his 1004 holds (that’s a WCW reference for those who don’t know. Armbar). Then people who had nothing to do with Jericho came out until they were servicing 3 separate feuds in one segment. This of course led to a 10 man tag match, babyfaces vs heels. These matches are undoubtedly fun for live audiences but they should really be relegated to house shows or post show dark matches. The time this took up could have been better used. There are other ways to build to a match besides getting everyone in the ring together, such as back stage interviews, a video package etc. I know WWE operates under the idea that they need to get everyone out there for the live audience but it hurts their television product.
Pros of the Show
- Alexa Is Bliss- Alexa Bliss was always a great talker in NXT. I had been waiting for them to give her time on the mic since she got called up and she finally got that chance last night. She did not disappoint. I was even taken aback. This is in front of a large audience and on live TV and Alexa did not stumble over her lines and delivered them so effortlessly it all sounded authentic rather than lines memorized from a script. She is a rare talent in that regard. Her attack on Becky also perfectly fit her character as an opportunistic quick attacker who may be out talented in the ring but will exploit any opening given to her. Becky did well in this segment too but it was Alexa who made a contract signing , something I usually consider to be a trite procedure, into something I enjoyed watching.
- No 50/50- Baron Corbin beat Apollo Crews at Backlash. Last week he beat down Apollo Crews. This week he once again beat Apollo Crews. Baron Corbin owns Apollo Crews. If you like to include NXT in your WWE continuity, Baron Corbin has beaten Crews every time they have met. It’s refreshing. It makes Corbin look like an actual threat rather than just another guy who trades wins with everyone. It gives Crews a monkey on his back to set up for a time down the line when he finally does get the better of Corbin. It’s just smart.
- Bravo Usos, Bravo- The Usos have been a revelation as heels. Their viciousness is fantastic. They were made to look strong by getting a win over a great opponent like American Alpha yet SmackDown brilliantly told a story with the match that didn’t make Alpha look weak in the loss. So often WWE uses distraction finishes to get heels wins over faces and it never makes anyone look good. This was just perfect. When American Alpha eventually beats the Usos for the tag titles, it’s going to be epic.
- Classic- The Miz is a classic heel. It’s great. I can’t even expound upon that. He has elevated his game so much and has been the first person to say they were going to elevate the IC title that has actually elevated it.
- Yes, That Just Happened- Do not adjust your television set, you did just see John Cena take a completely clean loss on TV. Amazing. So glad we’re finally past LOLCENAWINS. They’re telling a compelling story right now with John. He’s finally not coming out on top every time. He’s starting to doubt himself. This is the best way for WWE to get him to his 16th title reign, likely next year.
Cons of the Show
- No Swagger- Jack Swagger shouldn’t be on commentary. Not sure Jack Swagger should even be on TV anymore. Here’s hoping he’s just fodder for Corbin.
- Yeah, Okay Pal- Curt Hawkins is probably going to be a complete misfire.
- Say It Again Bray- Bray Wyatt is saying the same stuff. I don’t care anymore.
Winner: SmackDown LIVE
Last week, I may have been a little too generous with RAW. I really should have given it a tie, if not SmackDown getting the win outright. I think my decision had more to do with finally seeing an improvement on RAW combined with a bit of lazy booking on SmackDown. The win last week stands though. This week though, the Blue brand absolutely crushed it. Nothing on RAW was extremely bad but nothing was extremely good and a lot of stuff lacked real purpose. SmackDown had extremely strong showings from the women’s title scene, the tag title scene, the Intercontinental title scene, and the WWE title scene. Imagine that, all titles feeling important. SmackDown is also booking damn near everyone extremely well. They’ve set themselves up to continue delivering quality programming that’s going to make it hard for RAW to get wins.