Another week is in the books with similar results from the first week, Raw continues to put on a stellar program while SmackDown is struggling to find meaning and purpose for its program.
Raw’s major highlights came from various events which we will discuss. The major talking points were Roman’s Rebuild, the episodes opening segment, Balor and Rollins going face-to-face and Lesnar getting a welcome back RKO out of nowhere.
Our SmackDown talking points will also look at an opening segment which featured a trio of new era stars, AJ and Cena continuing their program, Brock getting his revenge, Dolph once again getting pushed by Shane’s brand and plenty more.
There were plenty of ups and downs to discuss, so let’s get started. Be sure to let us know what you liked. Did you enjoy Roman’s confrontation with Rusev? Is SmackDown doing a good job with Ziggler? Which show did better this week?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section. With that out of the way, let’s get started, here are the ups and downs from Raw and SmackDown this week. Enjoy!
Once again, Raw had a decent episode starting with its first segment, which was arguably the best of the entire show, lasting a total of 37 minutes between a promo, followed by an inter-gender tag match. There were so many positives to take from this segment. For one, the performers are finally being given the proper amount of time to excel and that certainly showed as the four talents were able to take their time and perfectly deliver a solid promo. Another major plus was that the in show story telling once again played a part, as the segment was built on the show and set up a matchup right after. It was brilliantly worked.
The segment also showed two things, one, Enzo is more than capable of doing things on his own and, two, Jericho is an absolute stud on the microphone and in the ring. Man is the guy ever timeless. The entire segment was truly brilliant and Kevin Owens added to it by aligning with Y2J. The show really hit a home run with this one.
A less is more approach seemed the right way to go for these two talented performers. Instead, the WWE took on odd route and decided to make the two go face-to-face in a verbal bout which came across as rather awkward. For some reason, the encounter began with a comedic approach, with both Superstars going for zingers, which was pretty odd to watch and it came across as disappointing. The biggest pop of the entire segment came from a stare down that featured no words whatsoever. This is how the creative team should have approached such a match. Again, less is more, especially when the PPV is just weeks away.
In terms of booking, there needed to be more of a mystique factor behind the match, as putting them together in a ring should feel like a privilege and not something that you should overbook with such an odd promo. The build up should have presented a 'who is the best' type of story as opposed to a verbal dust up. The segment was not good.
Okay, let’s get it out of the way. Yes, Daniel Bryan made a horrific mess of Apollo’s name by calling him Apollo Creed, but it's live and the brand is still adjusting. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s shed some light on the opening match, which was the best of the show. The match featured new era stars Apollo Creed, sorry Crews, Baron Corbin and Kalisto. The match delivered and finally gave the fans what they wanted: wrestling. The men all came out of the match looking great, Apollo for picking up the win and Corbin for showing his ruthless side by hitting the End Of Days on The Miz following the match.
We predicted it here on The Sportster, The Miz’s goal will be to make a new era star look great while eventually passing the torch that is the Intercontinental Championship. It's very like that the torch bearer will be Apollo Crews.
The entire angle was a massive plus and gave the show some much needed depth, creating a division with new era stars being led by a seasoned veteran hanging on to the championship. The show did well to the title relevant again, let’s hope they can build on this.
Last week, the division was on the down side of things and once again this week it finds itself right back at the bottom. Can you really blame us? We're not sure who is making these decisions, but the women had two segments which featured no matches. The Carmella and Natalya angle did make sense and we understood that they are building something, but the Eva and Becky Lynch situation was a complete waste of time and absolutely laughable. Somehow, we are still waiting for the debut of various women on the roster ,which includes Eva, Carmella and Alexa Bliss, who was nowhere to be found.
If you want the division to have some type of credibility, just book a match. If this is an indication of what is to come, we are likely in for a bumpy ride. With no title in play, the division seems to be in complete disarray. The women need a championship to build off of and that needs to be done immediately. It’ll be interesting to see if the women make the down side of things for a third week in a row. Sadly, at this point, it seems more than likely.
When it comes to booking dominant and mammoth stars, you must take your time and build their dominance. Finally, Raw has the chance to do so with a slimmer roster and a three hour show. The old school booking of Nia Jax and Braun Strowman gives you that nostalgic feeling of the good old days when squash matches actually had importance and meaning in terms of building a wrestler. Raw’s creative team has done this concept justice lately, by properly booking their two new dominant figures. Braun came out to destroy his opponent and the WWE added a cool cash reward twist pertaining to the bout, while Nia obliterated her opponent with an excellent new finish.
Looking to the future, only good can come from this. Both Nia and Braun will slowly get comfortable in their roles while establishing a serious degree of credibility before they embark in a real feud with a main roster player.
The comedy in the opening segment was brilliantly worked, as it was edgy and really hit a grand slam with the Atlanta crowd. The other segments, however, were just way too cheesy and scripted, as they came across as nothing but time fillers to an eventual Cruiserweight Division that will take up that allotted time frame.
So many segments could have easily been taken out. The R-Truth Goldust story of catching Pokémon was pre-show worthy and should not have made the show. The Heath Slater segment was equally painful and was, once again, a comedic act that just came across as cheesy. In a PG-Era, the company stresses the importance of comedy, especially in terms of entertaining a younger audience. However, they need to do a much better job with their comedy for it work.
Once again, Randy Orton lands on the plus side of things, giving the SmackDown a dose of desperately needed depth throughout the show. Like we said last week, we forgot just how important Orton really is and his selection quite frankly flew under the radar.
On the second week of SmackDown Live, we once again saw what a brilliant talent he is. Orton is still extremely over with the audience and is building a tremendous story alongside Brock Lesnar. The way the angle played out was really cool with the security at ring side. It gives you that old school feeling of having a rebellious invasion with a Superstar invading foreign soil. It’s a great interbrand feud that really helped SmackDown on a night where it once again desperately lacked a degree of depth. We said it last week and we'll say it again this week, thank god for Randy!
Rebuilding Bray was a crucial component for SmackDown. They succeeded in week one and it looked like the same for week two, until Erick Rowan showed up following his match.
Similar to Roman on Raw, the company needs to start from scratch with Bray, so making him lose to Ziggler was perfectly fine, especially when looking at the circumstances. With that being said, Bray needs to go on and do different things, like perhaps turn face or embark in a feud or even align himself with different Superstars. Well, SmaclDown’s creative team opted to go back down a failed route by making his Wyatt family member join his side once again. All it really did was remind us how bad Rowan is in the ring, while showing us how much better off Bray was on his own for almost two entire shows.
I think we can all agree that putting Rowan with Bray is not the answer to this problem. Let’s put bets on the likelihood of a tag match next week featuring SummerSlam opponents Ziggler and Ambrose taking on Bray and Rowan. You heard it here first.
In show segments are absolutely thriving with the Raw brand. They not only give the show purpose, but it also seems to be sparking some veterans. First, the WWE used a kayfabe type of angle with Mark Henry in a classic booking approach. Henry discussed that he still had it and added to his legitimacy by getting the crowd behind him. It was a major plus to not only see him competing with some meaning, but also seeing a championship match on Raw. It certainly gave the vet some value.
Another kayfabe type of angle that played off very well was Sheamus and Cesaro discussing their purpose on the show. Stephanie and Mick Foley gave the two some added incentive by putting a clause that would see one of the two be a legitimate contender for the new Universal Championship. Once again, an angle that gave veterans meaning that took place on the show. Very well done.
In a new era which is all about the talent, Raw made a curious booking decision which saw part timer Brock Lesnar main event the show, while everything the new era represents in Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins was relegated to the second last segment.
If the WWE really wanted to make a statement, this was the time. Yes, Lesnar returning was a draw, but those fans that are with you on a weekly basis would love to see a good old fashion one on one matchup as opposed to a return that saw Brock basically stand there and not say a word while Heyman dropped another epic promo.
No matter how you look at it, this segment should not have closed out the show. The decision was extremely weak, as the new era of Raw is all about the talent and in-ring performers. This was the biggest blemish on the night for an otherwise pretty good show all around.
It took way too long, but we can finally rejoice that The Club has finally arrived to Raw after laying a pretty brutal beat down on the Tag Team Champions, the New Day. Win or lose, that’s what these guys do, they beat you down. Finally, the Raw audience got a taste of this after the team brutally assaulted the group upon losing the match. Remember, win or lose, The Club will hurt you and this finally came into fruition months after their debut.
The booking for this encounter will make for some brilliant television, as it is a classic tale of the over babyfaces talking on the villainous and brutal heels that just want to punish them. Regardless of the outcome, we are happy that The Club is finally starting establish an identity. This story was a major up for the week and will continue to entertain us until; an eventual match which currently see the New Day’s championships in serious jeopardy.
It's kind of insane that John Cena and AJ Styles were not featured in some type of match. On top of that, the champion and face of the brand still hasn’t even fought a match (we're referring to Ambrose, in case you forgot who the champion was). Before the draft took place, fans thought Raw would be the entertainment brand, while SmackDown would play the role of the wrestling brand. Well, two weeks in, that couldn’t be further from the truth with SmackDown overbooking promo segments for a second week in a row. Look, we love the fact that Cena and Styles are working a long term storyline but that promo was WAY too long.
The segment basically saw AJ yelling half the time, to the point that I had to literally turn down the volume every time Styles' spoke. Things also got pretty awkward when AJ was referencing parents and children in crowd. That must have made for a pretty awkward car ride home for several young fans and their parents.
At the end of the day, the angle was a huge miss and SmackDown needs to start playing to their strengths. Then again, what are their strengths?
SmackDown is filled with problems at the moment, but one of their best storylines early on is the re-emergence of Dolph Ziggler as a prominent player. We wanted something new and the WWE finally gave it to us in the form of a seasoned veteran that still has plenty left in the tank. His promo to kick off the show was absolutely brilliant, as he and Ambrose just seem to have great chemistry together and it was certainly apparent during the heated exchange. The company is booking the match as a young and established star against the old vet trying to do the impossible with the odds stacked against him.
His win later on in the night was another brilliant piece to his puzzle, as all of a sudden fans believe that he may win the championship against all odds. You can’t help but feel happy for the guy. As of now, this is SmackDown’s finest work.
So far, what are SmackDown’s strengths? Well, it’s two weeks into the program and we still have no idea. The brand has no clear direction without any other meaningful divisions asides from the WWE Championship and the Intercontinental Title race, which just started to get interesting.
Asides from these two factors, the brand is struggling to develop sustainable depth over the course of an entire program. Does it stem from a thin roster? Yes, but there needs to be ways to work around this by establishing more meaning to several segments during the show. The tag team and women’s division are desperate for anything right now and these are two major problems that the WWE needs to assess quickly. It’s great to have American Alpha, but who will they be put up against? We'll see what improvements are made, if any, next week.
We hate to break it to all the Roman haters, but his rebuild is off to a tremendous start. We can’t deny that the US Championship picture suddenly got a lot more interesting. Not only did Rusev defend his championship, but after his successful defensem Roman showed up to confront the dominant Bulgarian Brute.
In terms of rebuilding Roman Reigns, this was absolutely brilliant. It really makes you wonder why the company didn’t build him like this before, but at least we are getting to see it now. This feud will do nothing but good, as not only will it add prestige to the championship, but it will also give Raw yet another fantastic storyline. It will also help to build Rusev’s credibility even further.
This plot twist was a major plus not only for the show, but for Raw’s future, adding yet another dimension to the program. Project Roman is off to quite the re-launch, wouldn’t you agree?
SmackDown Live: C-
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