This week’s WWE action was highlighted by the beginning of the Kevin Owens era over on Raw while SmackDown produced a stellar takeaway show on their way to the brand's first PPV this Sunday, Backlash.
SmackDown had some major ups which we will discuss in this article. Two storylines in particular shinned the brightest with the women being given the spotlight on the program to kick off the show and the tag tournament reaching maximum heat with some interesting storylines coming out of the tournament. Despite American Alpha picking up the win, it was later announced that the duo will be out of action for two to four weeks after an injury sustained by Chad Gable via The Usos. SmackDown announced that at Backlash, the same Usos will take on The Hype Bros and the winners will face the unlikely duo of Heath Slater and Rhyno that same night. Once again, very solid booking.
There was also some bad on the show pertaining to the main event but will have more on that a little later.
Raw was mediocre this week, but the opening segment was brilliantly worked by the four parties involved; Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon. The night was highlighted by Chris Jericho and Seth Rollins partaking in a brilliant in-ring display, which we'll discuss a little more as well. Similar to SmackDown, the show had a lackluster main event along with an even worse ending and we'll elaborate on this point during the down side of things.
Let us know your thoughts on the week that was, which show did you like more this week? Did the company do a good job on pushing SD’s first PPV? Did the Kevin Owens era start off on the right foot? Let us know! For now, here’s The Sportsters Takeaways for the week that was in the WWE, enjoy!
15. Up: Promos & Acting to Kick-Off Raw
Since Raw began its journey as a unique brand following the draft, the show has thrived on kicking off the show in a positive manner by grabbing the viewers attention right from the get go. This past week, the company upped the ante, delivering a brilliant video package followed by a tremendous backstage segment featuring Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon. The acting and intensity by the two was truly a sight to behold and both should receive some serious praise for that opening angle.
The intensity continued in the ring during the "Kevin Owens Live Celebration." Not only did we see KO unleash on the crowd, but we also got the first glimpse of Rollins as a babyface and it was amazing. All four involved in the opening segment delivered spectacularly well and deserve a five star rating for the acting and intensity given to start the show off. For the first time in a while, it didn't feel scripted.
14. Down: Roman Back In The Title Picture
With Rusev out of the picture and apparently touring the world alongside Lana as the couple celebrates their lengthy honeymoon, the WWE creative team has decided to once again slot Roman Reigns back in the main event picture and it feels like a huge mistake. We had praised the creative team for finally re-launching Reigns properly, only to see them once again give him an unwarranted push back into the main event scene. We seriously hope Reigns loses his bout to KO next week, sending the former WWE champion into a different feud which is suitable for the mid card and not the upper main event scene.
Booking wise, their truly is a plethora of talent Roman can take on which would make for interesting television while rebuilding the star properly. Major candidates for Roman’s next feud include a couple of babyfaces in Sami Zayn or Neville. In all likelihood though, we hope the company wisely chooses to continue his feud against Rusev which made for great television. No matter what happens, we hope it does not involve the Universal Championship.
13. Up: Women Kick-Off SmackDown
Yet again SmackDown Live cranked up the heat in the Women’s Division, allowing the females the opportunity to kick off the show. Daniel Bryan stressed that SmackDown is the land of opportunity and starting the show with such a segment really backed up that statement.
Some of the women still feel a little green on the microphone, but for the most part they thrived to open the show. Becky Lynch makes it look effortless when speaking to the crowd and she’s an absolute star. Alexa Bliss also continues to hold her own as a future Triple H-like heel on the show and she even went as far as taking a shot at Daniel Bryan, asking him what it was like to be a “Bella trophy husband.”
The segment carried over a little later with a six women tag match and the finish told a great story with Carmella taking advantage of Nikki’s injured neck. Major plus for the women on the episode.
P.S.: Naomi’s entrance is the real deal!
12. Down: Apollo Loses Again
Previously known as Uhaa Nation, the WWE had high hopes for Apollo Crews when signing him to a developmental deal. His work with Dragon Gate was top flight and the company had a big time blue chipper on its roster. His stint with NXT was ultimately cut short and pretty much uneventful, but his skill was certainly WWE ready. However, some questioned whether his charisma and mic skills were.
Well, fast forward to his main roster stint with SmackDown Live and those problems seem to be plaguing the 29 year old California native. His in-ring ability is among the best on the entire roster, but he's been a pushover over the last couple of weeks, losing repeatedly.
Another loss this week simply wasn’t the way to go. Losing to A.J. Styles last week made sense, but not this week to The Miz. We get the creative team wants to put Miz over, but did it really have to be against Apollo? We seriously hope for the best, but at this point, Apollo’s momentum seems to be seriously squashed.
11. Up: Raw Adds Depth to the Women’s Division
What was a down last week literally took one week to turn into an up, as Raw’s creative team finally added some much needed depth to the women's division with three different storylines running.
At first glance, the division seemed limited to all the stories being link to the championship. Finally, things changed after Alicia Fox finally made herself relevant again by going face-to-face with Nia Jax backstage.
Things also took a major turn when Sasha announced her return to the ring, which set up some major turmoil between herself and Dana Brooke. Not to forget that Dana and Charlotte look to be on the rocks as of late, with a potential break up looming in the near future.
With these three stories running, along with Bayley’s championship quest, the division has finally arrived and looks to be taking a nice shape. We hope the creative team continues to pounce on these stories in the upcoming weeks heading into Raw’s next PPV Clash Of Champions.
10. Down: The Shining Stars Go Over on Enzo & Cass
We couldn’t really process the fact that The Shining Stars were chosen to go over Raw’s most popular team, Enzo and Cass. Let’s take a step back for a minute and look at why this decision made no sense.
The night before Raw launched, the duo reached new heights of popularity by teaming with John Cena at WWE Battleground. They killed it on the microphone and in the ring that night, making the duo as hot as ever at that point. Their momentum continued for the next couple of weeks and it led to a high profile SummerSlam bout against Jericho and Kevin Owens. Yes they lost, but being booked with such opponents in what was a brilliant build up was really a win/win no matter what. Then, Big Cass got the opportunity of a lifetime competing for the Universal Championship and came out of the match red hot.
Which leads to this week, with the team losing to The Shining Stars after all that momentum.... do your hear those crickets, cause we do. I don’t think we need to say anything else.
9. Up: SmackDown’s Tag Team Tournament
A well booked tournament can lead to a tremendous outcome. SD's tag tournament has done exactly that and you can argue it’s been the most successful tournament on Raw or SmackDown television in recent memory.
American Alpha look like the team to beat, so The Usos finally turned heel and will likely work a brilliant long term angle with American Alpha. The Hype Bros actually look like a legit team and Heath Slater tagging with Rhyno has created a compelling storyline out of nothing, making the duo one of the most over acts on the entire program. The crowd arguably gave its greatest pop of the night when Rhyno hit the gore, giving his team the victory.
At this point, we wouldn't be surprised to see Rhyno and Slater possibly pull off the upset in the finals. It would make sense, as the team is extremely over while American Alpha is set to work a long term storyline with The Usos and their a feud really doesn’t need Tag Title in order to go over.
All in all, the division looks to be in great hands and no matter what the outcome, we applaud SmackDown for this major up the last couple of weeks.
8. Down: Bray Still Hasn’t Won a Match
If you haven’t been keeping track at home, Bray Wyatt still has not won a single match since the brand extension took place.
Fans rejoiced when they heard that Bray was joining the Tuesday show, mainly because it meant a new beginning and a chance for him to be a prominent player. Well, as of now, his booking hasn't been all that bad, but it’s his losses that have been been ridiculous. The guy has yet to win, but keeps on being placed against upper card talent, which just leads to more losses, which hurts his brand value in the process.
The likely scenario for this week should have seen Bray pick up a win of any kind, whether it be against an enhancement talent or anyone in the locker room, as he just simply needed a win. Instead, he gave another typical promo backstage, which was something we’ve seen far too many times at this point. Bray’s involvement this week was a major fail and let’s hope he can redeem himself this Sunday.
7. Up: Enhancement Talents Paying Off Big Time
Particularly on Raw, enhancement talents seem to show up on a weekly basis, putting a couple of wrestlers over and steadily building their characters.
Nia Jax and Braun Strowman seem to be thriving with the experiment, Strowman in particular looks more and more comfortable every week and is finding his footing as a legit big man in the company. This past week, Strowman took on Sin Cara and seemed like a natural in the ring, using his size and looking rather comfortable for the first time ever. His work against enhancement talents gave him the proper amount of time to get comfortable and gain some confidence, so it really looks to be paying off at the moment.
The creative team is now launching a similar program with Bo Dallas. We seriously hope this works out as Dallas has some serious untapped skill waiting to be exposed. It’ll be interesting to see if another Superstar can potentially be salvaged by working with enhancement talents. As of now, the potential for Bo to thrive looks good and let’s hope he builds his brand properly in the next couple of weeks.
6. Down: No Mid-Card Championship for Raw
With no mid-card championship at the moment as Rusev continues to celebrate his honeymoon and the Cruiserweights still a couple of weeks away, Raw's depth has suffered over the past couple of weeks.
With no prominent mid card championship to work with, Raw has chosen to book some segments for far too long. Two in particular seemed to drag on the latest episode.
First off, the never ending story of Titus O'Neil and Darren Yonug just continues to roll along despite the crowd clearly not being invested in them. This past episode, the two continued their lackluster feud, which resulted in an awkward scrum outside of the ring, which was met with no reaction from the crowd whatsoever.
The New Day/Club angle was also overbooked. The long term story has been great thus far, but the angle could have been a lot shorter. Once again, it seemed obvious the company was filling sometime with this angle.
Hopefully, with the Cruiserweights and Rusev back in the picture, we won’t have to endure such antics. Then again, we can never be sure as to what the WWE really has up their sleeves.
5. Up: The Miz
For the second week in a row, The Miz makes the 'up' category and rightfully so, as he’s enjoying the most entertaining run of his career at the moment.
The Miz has quite the track record, as a five-time IC Champion, two-time US Champion, four-time Tag team Champion, Money in the Bank winner and a WWE Champion. Despite all these accomplishments, his work always seemed to be somewhat lacklsuter.
Since arriving on SmackDown, the veteran has changed things around, becoming the face of the mid card. He’s changed his style in the ring as of late, becoming the aggressor and doing a good job of it. You don’t have to like the guy, but you have to appreciate the effort he’s put forward since the brand extension took place.
4. Down: No Wrestling in the Main Event
We applauded SmackDown Live last week for their booking of a wrestling main event that featured the WWE Champion, Dean Ambrose. We also appreciated the fact that AJ Styles was in action, as the show really felt like the 'wrestling' show.
Well, fast forward to this week and they went the opposite direction with Ambrose and Styles, as they attacked each other verbally rather than in the ring. In a recent interview, Styles admitted he really didn’t anticipate how much promo work went into being a WWE Superstar.
The show ended with two of the SD's best in-ring workers attacking each other with words and ended with AJ hitting the champ with a low blow. The booking was pretty lazy, as we’d rather see both stars involved in a match instead. The ending was typical and something WWE fans really don’t care for.
3. Up: Chris Jericho & Seth Rollins
When the draft came to an end, we're not sure anyone could have predicted the impact Chris Jericho would make on the Monday Night program. From his antics out of the ring, like calling Owens the longest Universal Champion in WWE history or Mick Foley a "stupid idiot" to his constant five star matches every week, Jericho truly is a sight to behold at the age of 45. Once again this week, he was terrific, providing some serious entertainment value. We're seriously “drinking in” every moment of this living legend.
Another Superstar that truly thrived this week was Seth Rollins. We finally got to see a glimpse of him as a babyface and the crowd was on board. He sealed the deal by defeating Chris Jericho with an emphatic Pedigree. His aggressive babyface demeanor is truly a breath of fresh air and we can't wait to see what this new Rollins has in store for the WWE Universe.
2. Down: Raw’s Main Event Booking
The purpose of the main event match was quite obvious; to put KO over as the Universal Champion. However, they made a big mistake by making Sami Zayn his opponent.
The match wasn’t their best and Zayn losing really didn’t do him or the show any good. This type of match was best to be saved for a later date, as the Battleground wound was still fresh.
The creative team should have opted for someone else in that position. The options certainly were there, Neville could easily stepped into the main event match. Even someone like Big E could have stepped in, as The New Day is extremely over and it could have given a deserving wrestler like Big E the chance to finally main event as a solo act. Even if he did lose, just being in the main event against the champ would be an accomplishment in its own right.
Putting Sami was a lazy choice, so this was a major down to Raw this week.
1. Up: The Veterans
The purpose of the brand extension was made very clear by WWE officials behind the scenes, as the goal was to push young talents to newer heights in the company by giving them a proper opportunity and platform to showcase their value.
More than a month into the brand extension, it seems like the veterans have instead thrived. A 45 year old seems to be at the very top of his game, as Chris Jericho is the most natural heel in the entire company and is thriving on a weekly basis. He literally trends on Twitter every Monday. Triple H also received a massive pop in his return, proving he still is a massive draw.
Over on SmackDown, vets are adding some serious depth. Randy Orton is basically what Jericho is to Raw, providing the brand with an excellent upper mid card worker who seems to be over no matter what he does. Kane received a massive pop after he chokeslammed Fandango. The 40 year old Rhyno is also thriving on SmackDown, finding some brilliant chemistry alongside Heath Slater. The master of the gore can still go in the ring and got the pop of the night when spearing his way into the finals of the tag tournament.
Say what you want about this new era, but the fact remains that the old guard is thriving on both respective shows. Major props go to these wrestlers.