Raw VS SmackDown: Week One

This is a new feature I’ll be running where each week I’ll compare both Raw and SmackDown and choose a winner for the week based on which was the better show. This first one will focus on the overall production of each show as we’re seeing the new sets, camera angles, etc for the first time. It will also touch on the content of each show. Moving forward the content will be the focus unless anything particular happens to the production.

Monday Night Raw

Pros of the Show

  • Presentation- The new presentation felt fresh and was enjoyable. There are some good new camera angles. The new set feels just fresh enough without being too overdone. The opening video and song are fitting. Moving the announce table was a great decision.
  • Commentary- While Michael Cole will never be ideal, the pairing of Corey Graves and Byron Saxton is a gem. I loved them together in NXT and they still have that great chemistry. Corey making fun of Byron will never get old. Byron’s pre and post match interviews are great, especially the one with Reigns where Finn was put over.
  • Squash Matches- Oh how I love a good squash of local no name talents. Nia Jax got the kind of debut she deserved by absolutely destroying Britt Baker. Braun Strowman began to establish himself as a monster singles competitor. The pre match interview with his opponent was great because one, it’s awesome that they let the guy get speaking lines on national television, had to be a great moment for him, also he sold the fear of Strowman perfectly. Great stuff all around here.
  • Stakes- The set up for establishing the new championship on Raw was executed fairly well. Two big fatal 4 way matches had the stake of earning a spot in a match that would then determine who would get to fight for the championship. It really makes it feel like the opportunity was earned.

Cons of the Show

  • Golden Truth- While I’m a fan of the Golden Truth, the Pokemon Go stuff felt forced, was not genuine and was not funny. They also factored into a win by Enzo and Cass that did nobody any favors.
  • Camera Cuts- It was less of a problem later on, but early in the show the amount of camera cuts was enough to cause a seizure.
  • No Crusierweights Yet- This is a bit of a nitpick as I know it’s probably something that they’re still formulating but I was very excited about the announcement of the cruiserweight division but other than a promo announcing that it’s coming soon, it was absent from this episode.

SmackDown Live

Pros of the Show

  • Intro Song- It’s a cool song for the show.
  • WWE Championship- Regardless of how they’re handling the title situation, having the WWE Championship on the show is a huge boon for SmackDown. It makes you care about the show just because of the history of that title.

Cons of the Show

  • Presentation- It’s certainly different but the presentation just didn’t feel fresh. Nothing stood out to me.
  • Women’s Division- Oh boy what a hot mess this was. It really highlighted the lack of a women’s title for SmackDown and the fact that WWE just can’t seem to be able to run multiple women’s story lines. The parade of the entire division coming out after Becky and Natalya’s match was reminiscent of the infamous roll out of the Divas Revolution last year, without the benefit of Stephanie McMahon explaining anything. All these women are coming out to what, just let us know they’re here? What is their goal? Why not establish some of the new comers with matches instead. Also, what the hell was up with Eva Marie’s long introduction by voice over while she just stood there and didn’t even say anything afterwards? That was awful.
  • Commentary- I’ve never liked JBL. Otunga is new to the table so I won’t judge him too harshly but I don’t think there’s much there. I actually missed King and his play off of Ranallo.
  • Title Picture- I don’t like that, with the exception of one participant, guys were just given a number one contender’s match without having to earn it. Also, I find it very hard to get excited for Dolph vs Dean at SummerSlam.
  • Promos- For a show that is stressing the fact that they are live now, to the point of including it in the title of the show, the promos given by the participants in the main event felt like they were pre-recorded (they may even have been) and while there is certainly a place for recorded promos, they just didn’t work here.
  • Management- For all the talk of SmackDown being all about the superstars and not about management, they were certainly focused on here. The show opened with a shot of them. They came out at the end to stand in the ring with Dolph and Dean seemingly to just get cheers. It did nothing to help the title picture as everyone just stood around while countless replays were shown and the end of the show dragged on.

Winner: Monday Night Raw

This was an absolute clear cut victory for Raw. If this week was any indication, Raw might be the winner for a long time to come. The main deciding factors for me were the awful presentation of the women’s division on SmackDown and how each brand handled their title situation. Raw did it perfectly. Other than Seth Rollins (and him getting a bye to SummerSlam was just a good decision story and character wise) no one was just given a number 1 contender match. They had to earn their way into that spot first. All the participants in the two fatal 4 way matches felt justified in some way, even Finn who was justified by his high draft pick, further justified by him winning the whole thing. SmackDown just threw guys in a number one contender’s match, sure you can say that John Cena and AJ Styles deserved the spot but why is Baron Corbin there? Also, even though he did have to earn his way into the match, Apollo Crews felt out of place in this situation. This felt like SmackDown trying to make it look like guys are getting opportunities even though they were never really going to win (pretty much the opposite of what Raw did, and this is supposed to be the show that eschews the old trends). Then, uninspiring # 1 contender aside, the post match did nothing to help the situation, how many times have we seen the same thing of a champion just holding up the belt as they stand and stare at each other. Then Shane and Daniel coming down just to celebrate and the show is just on for a few minutes while nothing happens. Raw on the other hand, had a shock win by Finn and then helped advance him as a contender by Reigns putting him over in the post match interview. Raw absolutely dominated SmackDown this week and it’s a shame because I was hoping for quality shows for both. We’ll see how things progress.