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15 HUGE Raw & SmackDown Takeaways (Sept 19-20, 2016)

A major reason behind the brand split was to have both shows compete against one another, for not only bragging rights on who has the better show, but ratings as well. After the two shows this past week, we can finally legitimately ask the question: which show was better?

With football back on the tube and ratings dipping, the WWE desperately needed a strong showing. Both shows hit big time home-runs this past week, starting with Raw, who let the in-ring action do the talking. This week’s show was highlighted by the debut of the Cruiserweights and the return of the steel cage in the main event, which saw Universal Champion Kevin Owens take on Roman Reigns. Aside from those two great angles, the show was littered with good from start to finish. We shall take a look at all the good and minor bad pertaining to this week’s Raw in the article.

Similar to Raw, SmackDown had a terrific week which was also led by some fantastic matches. After a terrible show last week filled with meaningless promos, the show wisely booked two co-main events for the evening. The matches were absolute hits and the show put on a terrific display starting from the very beginning of the episode. We will examine all the good and the bad coming from the show as well.

Like always, let us know which show you thought was better, as this week was certainly a toss up. Who gets your vote: Raw with the Cruiserweights and the steel cage main event or SmackDown with its co-main event featuring the IC Title and the first ever encounter between Cena and Ambrose? Let us know!

15. Up: Everything Seth Rollins

A crucial part of a performer and the longevity of their career is character development. Over time, a wrestler must change, as staying complacent will make a character grow stale.

Seth Rollins was stuck in his "Authority" persona for far too long. Since the June 2nd, 2014 heel turn which saw Rollins turn on his Shield Brothers, not much has changed in terms of him gimmick and characteristics. Until now.

Watching Rollins as a babyface is a breath of fresh air. Not only is he being booked into new matches against heels like Rusev but his in-ring demeanor is also changing, as he's becoming a risk taker that simply doesn’t care anymore. During this past episode of Raw, Rollins put his body on the line twice with reckless intent. In the first instance, he jumped off the stage, landing on top of Rusev with a smooth flying cross body. He later returned for another cameo at the end of the night, this time, landing a breathtaking cross body off the top of the steel cage.

His character development is a major up thus far.

14. Up: SmackDown’s Opening Segment

Unlike last week’s edition of the show, everything seemed to be on point on SmackDown. Becky and Alexa kicked off the show with a fast, but very effective contract signing, which featured both women showing their strengths, whether it be Lynch as the loveable baby face or Bliss as the evil heel. The two mesh extremely well together and the entire segment flowed really well with the verbal assaults going back and forth.

The angle was only ten minutes long, but managed to show how great these two are in their roles. This feud has 'long term' written all over it. You can probably bet we'll be seeing a lot of these two facing one another in the future. Look for the feud to carry over following the No Mercy PPV and into Survivor Series.

13. Down: Giving Foley Way Too Much Responsibility

Mick Foley’s introduction of the Cruiserweights was horrific. We love Mick dearly, his intro to the Cruiserweights was poor, starting off with his botched “it’s not the size of the dog” reference which came across terribly wrong. Hell, even Mick seemed confused. Things went from bad to worse when Foley took out a piece of paper during the Cruiserweight intros. Could WWE have selected a guy who didn’t need some cue cards to introduce the ground breaking Cruiserweights set to perform? Corey Graves covered the entire tournament and it's shocking that he wasn't chosen to introduce the stars of the match.

It's hard to blame Mick though, as the poor guy was all over the show, being worked to the bone with various segments backstage and in-ring cameos. Piece of advice, the guy has half a ear and no teeth, give him break and ease up on the script.

12. Down: Apollo and Bray Continue to Struggle

The only blemish SmackDown Live had to show on this night pertained to both Bray Wyatt and Apollo Crews, who found themselves in similar situations once again. Starting with Wyatt, he was again relegated to promo work, giving his typical scripted speech claiming he’s “God” and “cannot die.” His character development continues to fail on a weekly basis.

As for Crews, he once again found himself on the losing side of a result and it was sad to see him as a prep opponent for Corbin on his way to facing Jack Swagger. Apollo is just too good to become an afterthought and we seriously hope SmackDown Live can somehow revive him in the next coming weeks.

Even if it means a spot in the tag division, the guy just needs something at this point. His booking was yet another failure for the week.

11. Up: Enzo/Cass & New Day Back on Track

Leave it to a 45 year old veteran to get two popular duos back on track, as the gift of Jericho was once again prominent on Raw, helping both New Day and Enzo & Cass reclaim their allure after weeks of terrible showings, which resulted in losses and bland dialogue.

Everything changed this past week, as both teams were spectacular on the microphone, landing some terrific zingers which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed. The brilliant in-ring segment was followed by a ten-man tag match which was also well received. The finish saw Enzo & Cass finally regaining some momentum by picking up the victory for their team.

Thankfully, the creative team seems to be making amends rather quickly for their failed usage of both teams over the past couple of weeks. Following the Clash of Champions event, we seriously hope these two teams (Enzo/Cass & New Day) can finally rival one another heading into Survivor Series, as it would make for some brilliant television looking at the great chemistry they share with one another.

10. Down: Getting Lazy With Bo

The wrestling world watched quietly as Bo Dallas took on Gary Graham. It was likely quiter as people were either changing the channel, buying food at the arena or taking a bathroom break. Truth be told, the entire Bo taking on enhancements week in and week out seems rather lazy. Using this tactic with Braun Strowman and Nia Jax seemed effective because of their size and the fact that it hadn’t been done in a while, but doing it with Bo just feel wrong.

We hope the writers can come up with a unique twist, like maybe a jobber who beats Bo gets a contract or something like that. The guy has talent, but is just being used poorly time and time again. We hope the WWE can figure this one out sooner rather than later.

9. Up: American Alpha Returns

What a difference a week can make. Last episode, SmackDown kicked off the show with a lackluster tag match featuring The Usos and The Hype Bros. This week, the show cranked up the heat to ten with a match featuring The Usos and American Alpha.

It was great to see AA back in the ring, even though they loss. The team has a long way to go win or lose, but the most important thing is showing them off every week. The match built a brilliant old school story with The Usos taking advantage of Gable’s injured leg. With Chad unable to help, the match finished with Jordan unable to sustain both Usos and finally losing the match.

It's also nice to see The Usos not only winning, but developing their characters into something new. Their old gimmick felt outdated and the team was in desperate need of something fresh. Again, another example of character development working out nicely for a deserving pair of Superstars.

8. Up: The Steel Cage Returns

The reason behind the match seemed pretty flawed when you really think about it. Roman and KO were randomly thrown into a steel cage match just six days before both men had to compete in championship matches. Furthermore, the WWE did not hype the match up, nor did they give any indication that this kind of fight was going to happen.

All these reasons actually made this match an 'up'. For once, the WWE threw us a nice curveball and booked a matchup spontaneously, which added to the intrigue of the night. Once again, the in-show storytelling was a prominent part of the show. It was great to see the steel cage back on Raw for the first time in a while, as it really made for a great main event and even greater aftermath, which saw Rollins leap of the top as we discussed earlier.

The cage returning in the main event was a major plus.

7. Up: Ziggler and The Miz

A major plus of the brand split is seeing how many careers have managed to be resurrected thus far. In terms of character development, The Miz has absolutely shined, taking things up a notch since his angry dispute with Daniel Bryan. Ziggler has also done quite nicely, by being involved in both WWE and IC Championship storylines.

If the brand split never happened, chances are these two would have never have gotten such an opportunity to showcase their skills. Instead, the two co-main evented the program and put on a match of the night performance which the crowd adored.

The ending was worked to perfection, with The Miz retaining his championship by once again cheating his way to victory. Despite the loss, Ziggler came out of the match looking spectacular and once again showing that he is more than capable of performing in a big match environment. Look for the two veterans to continue this rivalry with another match at No Mercy, with a stipulation put in place so Miz can't cheat. Kudos to the vets for the match of the night!

6. Up: The Cruiserweights

Despite the botched intro from Mick Foley, the Cruiserweights absolutely thrived in their WWE Raw debut, with a Fatal-Four-Way match featuring Gran Metalik, Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann and Brian Kendrick.

The match did exactly what it was intended to do: showcase each wrestler’s strengths with their breathtaking abilities. Along with their acrobatics, the Cruiserweights are redefining and revolutionizing the business with a foreign in-ring style which is regarded as the “Strong Style.” The match featured a variety of heavy chops, stiff punches and kicks that rang around the entire arena. These wrestlers are truly changing the art of 'WWE' wrestling in front of our very eyes.

The division has a bright future and it’s only just begun, as the Cruiserweights will aid Raw immensely and hopefully entice the old school viewer to tune back in.

Promos are limited, respect is shown and it’s just all about the wrestling! Major plus goes to the division’s debut and it was nice to see THE Brian Kendrick pick up the victory.

5. Up: Ambrose Goes Over on Cena

SmackDown’s highly anticipated main event saw John Cena take on Dean Ambrose for the first time ever in a singles match. In a shock to some, Cena picked up the loss in the main event, a rarity for the poster boy of the WWE.

The decision to have Cena lose was certainly the right call. According to reports, John is set to depart once again following No Mercy, as he is booked to film the second season of American Grit. With that being the case, the WWE has not promoted Cena for any dates following No Mercy until December, meaning the face that runs the place will be gone for a while.

So really, it was only right for Ambrose to go over as the company will invest a lot of stock into him when Cena leaves as one of the top baby faces to rival the heel champion, A.J. Styles. Also, another loss would have really hurt Dean’s credibility, which added to incentive for him to win the match.

It was nice to see this bout end with a winner and not the typical DQ finish, so this is another major plus.

4. Up: The Booking of Raw

The booking of the show is generally the most critiqued aspect of a WWE program. For the WWE, booking the show properly is the main goal week in and week out. If Raw is booked correctly, it engages the audience for a full three hours and this exactly what the latest edition of Monday Night Raw finally managed to achieve.

The edition of the Cruiserweights finallu eliminated some meaningless angles. We saw that this week with various second rate stories being removed from the show. This week, all the angles had some meaning and were properly booked. Even the ten man tag segment was particularly brilliant, cramming in multiple storylines into one match.

All and all, the show thrived like never before from top to bottom with some great action, whether it was Rusev/Rollins, the best out of seven match, the women’s tag match, the Cruiserweight fatal-four-way or the main event. Each bout and angle was well developed and served their purpose on a strong night for Monday Night Raw.

3. Up: SmackDown Rebounds with a Perfectly Booked Show

Last week, SmackDown delivered their worst program so far, as the episode failed to gain any momentum. The first hour featured one match, while the night was dominated by a bunch of tag matches.

This week, the show learned from its mistakes and was booked perfectly. Meaningless backstage segments were cut completely and in-ring promos were to the point. The show played to its identity and it finally was all about the wrestling, with matches from every division. Even Randy Orton made an appearance in the under card defeating Erick Rowan and always a plus to see The Viper in action.

The creative team touched base on every division on the night and there really was no need to fill the show up with any nonsense. We applaud SmackDown Live for a brilliant display on a week that saw both shows hit home-runs respectively.

2. Up: SmackDown’s Main Event Announcement for Next Week

After a terrible show last week, SmackDown instantly started off in the right direction by announcing two massive co-main events for the episode. Both match announcements added to the show and gave the fans a reason to watch. The co-main events met the hype and proved to be a brilliant tactic.

SmackDown kept with this theme at the end of the program, announcing yet another blockbuster main event for next week’s episode. Daniel Bryan announced a rematch for the WWE Championship, featuring title holder A.J. Styles and the challenger Dean Ambrose who is invoking his rematch clause. This old school style of hyping main events a week before the show is a breath of fresh air and something that will certainly draw in some extra viewers. And for an added plus, the WWE Title is on the line during a Tuesday show. We hope to see SmackDown, and even Raw, use this formula more often, as it’ll definitely draw in some other viewers.

1. Up: Both Shows Deliver

It took a while, but both Raw and SmackDown finally hit home runs on the same week. The winning formula was simple for both shows: cut the BS and get to the action.

Both shows finally were able to minimize the “entertainment” aspect of it all this week by focusing on the in-ring action. Over on Raw, the show dazzled with its Cruiserweights and followed that up with the return of the steel cage match to the program. Meaningless segments like R-Truth catching Pokémon or Titus O’Neil feuding with Darren Young were finally put on the back-burner. The show excelled with great matches and promos that were straight to the point.

SmackDown did exactly the same and it was even more significant for the show considering how much talking took place on the last episode. This week, it was all about the action in the ring and the show hit a massive home run with its co-main events and everything in between. We hope to see this trend continue for both brands heading into the Survivor Series in November.

Ratings:

Raw: B

SmackDown Live: B+

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15 HUGE Raw & SmackDown Takeaways (Sept 19-20, 2016)