Raw & SmackDown Takeaways: 8 Ups And 7 Downs

Another week is in the books and we are officially ready for what Jeremy Piven calls “The SummerFest.” Both shows had some ups and downs this week which we will discuss  in this article. The upcoming four hour event has some matchups that we're looking forward to, you can expect various potential show stealers like Big Cass & Enzo Amore taking on Y2KO. On the SmackDown side, another classic waiting to erupt between Cena and AJ Styles will likely close this chapter on their long term storyline.

Which matches will thrive and which will flop, we will just have to wait and see. Ultimately, the most intriguing matches are two encounters. One, a battle between Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar that the WWE has overly booked and promoted way too much. The second is for the Universal Title, as hardcore enthusiasts cannot wait to see what Rollins and Balor have in store for us. We have no doubts that the match will be an instant SummerSlam classic.

For now, let’s put SummerSlam aside and discuss the week that was, SmackDown had arguably its best show while Raw had a decent showing with some ups and downs. Let us discuss this further with our Raw and SmackDown takeaways. Enjoy!

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15 Up: Best Of Seven Series

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It seems like wrestling fans have been demanding a best of seven series between anyone for several years now and the WWE has finally caved, making the announcement of Sheamus and Cesaro embarking on this epic journey. In remind us of the classic best of seven series between Benoit and Booker T. The seven matches were not only spectacular but eventually led to the wrestlers becoming major stars and reaching the pinnacle of their professions.

The situation between Cesaro and Sheamus is different. but still serves a huge purpose. The encounter can help Cesaro reach new heights while Sheamus can prove he's still a credible mid card talent, so it really seems like a win/win situation for both.

We can expect some fantastic matches featuring stiff upper cuts and a variety of barbaric wrestling moves filled with strength and agility. This match announcement was a major plus and something most fans are really looking forward to.

14 Down: Still No Cruiserweight Talk

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We all knew the Cruiserweight Classic was shaping up to be something special, but what it has delivered thus far has been absolutely ridiculous and has caused many fans to absolutely mark out during events.

Last episode, things were taken to another level with Kota Ibushi and Cedric Alexander putting on a phenomenal display in what is being called the match of the year. The contest was filled with emotions, along with insane technical ability and aerial displays that were simply breathtaking to watch.

With all this being said, the main WWE programs have failed to capitalize on such an epic event. It’s one thing to make the event stand on its own, but an entirely different thing when your bringing that division to Raw. With this in mind, the company needs to shed more light on the tournament, whether it's showing the stars that will be on Raw from the division or giving mainstream fans deeper highlights of the tournament. Something needs to be done to improve the exposure of what is being regarded as the best concept the WWE has done in decades.

13 Up: Heath Slater

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It seemed like nothing but a time filler at first, but we must give the WWE praise for improving the angle and bringing in an unexpected level of seriousness to it all. Heath Slater has shown in recent weeks that he can not only cut a comedic promo, but he can also thrive when things get serious. Not to mention his ring ability is still pretty good despite putting on short matches for the last couple of years.

His angle with Brock was terrific and we finally saw an intense side of Slater, as you could argue that he shined more than Heyman and Lesnar during the entire segment which seems like an impossible thing to do. He had another great cameo on SmackDown and all of sudden has become one of the most worked Superstars in all of the WWE. Props to the company for successfully rebuilding Slater and we hope to see this continue in the following weeks.

12 Down: SmackDown Championships

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Let’s give props to SmackDown, as it has improved over the last couple of weeks, especially in solidifying the identities of their division.

However, without a championship, things still seem very off and weird. Each class needs a champion to revolve around. At the moment, Becky Lynch looks like the leader of the women’s division while American Alpha are the clear front runners in the tag division, though they do not have anything to show for it.

The brand needs new champions immediately, as the show lacks championship depth at the moment, especially taking into account that The Miz has yet to defend his title on the program and rarely wrestles altogether. The Tuesday show needs fighting champions and we seriously hope Apollo Crews wins the championship and helps elevate the belt as a fighting champion. As for the other titles, we hope to get more clarity sooner rather than later.

11 Up: Rollins and Balor Segment

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We all are aware that the match between these two will surely deliver, though we were all confused by the build up to such a match. For the last couple of weeks, the company has failed to get the fans emotionally invested, as it's all seemed unnatural.

The WWE picked the perfect time to heighten the build just days before SummerSlam, Balor made his debut with the “demon” persona, as the crowd looked on in absolute awe following his entrance. The “this is awesome” chants certainly put the cherry on top of a brilliant segment (despite the shoddy camera work as he came to the ring).

The stare down at the end was the perfect finish and we can safely say we’re more than excited to see this epic battle to crown the new Universal Champion. Looking to the match, expect an absolute classic with Rollins most probably walking out of the contest as the first ever Universal Champion.

10 Down: Prime Time Players Feud

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With a three hour show. comes meaningless segments that the WWE just seems to have a knack for. With the Cruiserweight division on the horizon, we seriously hope the WWE will burn bridges with various angles that just seem to be pointless.

One that we'd like to be rid of pertains to the Prime Time Players, featuring Titus O’Neal and Darren Young. It’s pretty obvious the WWE are quite fond of these talents as they have proven to be valuable commodities as brand ambassadors outside of the ring. However, in the ring, the crowd just doesn’t seem to be into them enough and it has caused for a lackluster storyline between the two, which seems like nothing but a time filler at this point. The crowd is not invested at all and the entire angle seems to be slowing down the show week after week.

It remains to be seen how the company will book this rivalry going forward, but most of us hope it ends sooner than later.

9 Up: Ambrose In A Match

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What made the 90s so great was seeing the face of the company take on random opponents during a televised show. Who can forgot the days of watching Shawn Michaels be promoted for the Raw main event, as he'd take on an established mid carder.

With Ambrose at the helm as a fighting champion, many of us hoped the WWE would bring back this ritual and it seems like they've started to listen. Ambrose was put into a bout against Erick Rowan which solidified Ambrose dominance at the top and showed he is a fighting champion who can go week in and week out.

Fans were disappointed with his lack of involvement early on, but it seems like the WWE is finally listening and making him compete on a weekly basis. With Dean expected to retain the championship at SummerSlam, we hope to see these types of one on one encounters more often, as they give us the nostalgic feeling of the good ol’ days.

8 Down: Naomi’s Return

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I'm not 100% sold on the entire glow stick thing, but I must admit it was pretty cool to see Naomi finally have some sort of identity. She’s worked very hard and has improved quite nicely, so Naomi certainly deserved a proper reboot.

Ultimately, she did not get that full treatment, as her entrance was cool but it all ended there with Eva Marie no showing the contest. We like the gimmick of Eva not competing, but it didn't make sense to do it against a returning talent. The company could have easily done that Eva bit with someone else, while putting Naomi up against an enhancement talent. She deserved a win for all her hard work rehabbing from her injury.

Her return was poorly booked and showed that the company might be giving the NXT rookies some preferential treatment early on. We hope to see Naomi show off her skills on the next episode.

7 Up: Y2KO

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As of right now, there are no two Superstars better on the mic than Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho. Week after week, the two Canadians deliver fantastic promos which continued this past Raw with a brilliant segment backstage with Tom Phillips. The duo called him a variety of names at every turn, from Brian to Nathanial, as the guys called him everything but his actual name. Everything just seems so organic and natural when these two are cutting a promo or putting on a match and, at this point, they seem miles ahead of anyone else.

With their fantastic work comes their SummerSlam opponents in Enzo Amore & Big Cass, who are another duo catching some serious heat. The build up to their encounter has been the best thing on Raw by far. Look for a potential show stealing bout at SummerSlam followed by an extended feud between these four men.

6 Down: No Bray

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One of the downfalls on SmackDown thus far has been the booking of Bray Wyatt. He’s been placed in several main events only to lose every single time. It's the theme of his career thus far, as they gave him opportunities but not the win when it counts.

Another thing the WWE also typically does following a series of loses to Bray is take him off the program altogether. It's really laughable to think that such a talent wasn't involved on the show that is days before SummerSlam, the company’s second biggest event of the year. To makes matters even worse, Wyatt has been incapable of finding a spot on the four hour PPV and will be once again relegated to watching things from the sidelines.

His lack of direction still remains quite problematic. Most of us seriously hope this major down can somehow change with an interesting twist because right now Wyatt seems to fading away rather quickly. We hope his teased breakup with Rowan sticks, as we like the idea of a solo Wyatt.

5 Up: SmackDown Main Event

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The Tuesday show finally appears to be regaining its footing with another stellar main event matchup, featuring a classic one on one bout between the seasoned veteran Alberto Del Rio and, the face that runs the place, John Cena. The show needs more one on one main events like this one in the future.

The match was great, as both wrestlers worked to their strengths throughout the match.  Seeing Cena compete was also another major plus, as his draw value adds a lot of depth to the SmackDown brand. The finish to the program was also entertaining and well worked, with Cena putting AJ through the table. Their encounter will be another fantastic matchup filled with terrific spots. Well done SmackDown!

4 Down: SmackDown’s Mid Card Depth

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Following the WWE Draft, a factor that did excite many of us was seeing SmackDown’s depth in the mid card, as they drafted a plethora of young and emerging stars. Again this week, the Tuesday show failed big time to use these elements, as the likes of Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, Bray Wyatt, Kalisto, Kane and The Miz were nowhere to be found when it came to an in-ring match. It’s particularly disappointing that the young studs in Kalisto and Corbin were relegated to a backstage segment and, in order for these two Superstars to thrive, we must see more of them in the ring on a weekly basis.

We discussed this earlier, but the company desperately needs a changing of the guard in the Intercontinental Championship picture which is regarded as the title for the mid carders. We hope that Crews can win and elevate the division, by welcoming new talent into the picture like Corbin and Kalisto on a weekly basis. This was a major con in what was a pretty good SmackDown show all around.

3 Up: Neville’s Win Streak

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Neville continued his winning ways this past Monday, defeating the newcomer Jinder Mahal. Since his return from injury to the Raw brand, Neville has not lost a single match. Asides from a small botch during his entrance, the booking and his in-ring ability have been spot on. He looks incredible and seems to be one of Raw’s best all around talents.

We hope the WWE keeps this up for a while and eventually books him into a big feud. They potentially hinted at that with a backstage segment featuring Neville and Seth Rollins. If Seth is to win the championship, a feud with Neville would be tremendous to watch and would give Neville an upper card boost that he definitely deserves.

For now, however, we applaud the Raw brand for their tremendous booking of this upper tier Superstar. All we can say at this point is keep it up!

2 Down: Brock Lesnar

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Brock Lesnar’s appearance sent shock waves down the spines of the WWE universe when he actually took the microphone and spoke for the first time in months. Seriously, it’s nice to see he can still talk.

As a casual fan, it’s great to see Brock, but the hardcore enthusiasts seem to be getting tired of his typical booking. It seems like every time we see The Beast he’s doing the same exact thing. He stands there while Heyman speaks, jumps around, and occasionally delivers suplexes followed by an F-5.

It was pretty cool last year, but it just seems all too familiar and lazy at this point. If this is how the WWE intends on keeping things, they might be better off keeping him at home for a little while, so fans will be excited when he returns again.

1 Up: Rusev

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In terms of Superstars thriving during the brand split, Rusev is clearly the frontrunner at the moment, enjoying the best run of his entire career. The guy is absolute money, as if you can make fans cheer Roman Reigns, you know you’re doing something right. He’s gone as far as to mock the fans during matches when the crowd cheers for him, as he literally took the microphone and insulted those in attendance for cheering him on during his bout against Roman in the main event. He’s certainly excelling at generating real heel heat, something many villains find difficult to achieve nowadays.

Rusev started off Raw with a brilliant promo and ended it with another fantastic matchup. At this point, a Universal Championship opportunity seems like a must in the future. We applaud him for his tremendous work and can’t wait to see what the future holds for The Bulgarian Brute following SummerSlam.


Raw: C+

SmackDown: B-

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