Tonight will deliver one of the most important episodes of Monday Night Raw in recent history. The brand split is Tuesday night on the live edition of Smackdown and that means Raw is the final opportunity to build interest in the huge event. Shane McMahon is slated to name the General Manager of Smackdown and Stephanie McMahon is scheduled to do the same for Raw. Both selections will give us an insight into the direction of the two brands as they officially split in the upcoming week. We’ll also find out if there are any new features being added to either show during the brand split.
A huge match will main event the show as Dean Ambrose defends the WWE World Championship against Seth Rollins in a singles contest. The two are still going to be involved in the triple threat title match with the returning Roman Reigns on Battleground this Sunday. This may forecast the future of Rollins and Ambrose being on separate shows after the draft. WWE loves their rivalry and having the big match takes place on a television episode this close to the PPV is interesting. We’ll break down all the relevant happenings with the top five takeaways from this week’s edition of Raw.
5. We have new GMs
The selections for the General Managers of Raw and Smackdown were made to start the show and both delivered big time. Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon made the shocking decision of naming Mick Foley as the GM of her show. Most of us expected Triple H to be named for the position or at least another villainous character. The curveball decision saw a legendary fan favorite return to give us a healthy dose of nostalgia. Foley has a reality show on the WWE Network this summer and did well in the role back in 2000. This makes sense to give Raw a face to get fans excited about the direction going forward.
Shane McMahon’s selection was less surprising due to rumors leaking the name of Daniel Bryan. The beloved underdog hero received a massive pop much bigger than Foley’s. Fans still adore Bryan and everything he represents. Over the loud “Yes” chants, he cut a promo stating the fans will have to help him build Smackdown up against “The Authority” of Stephanie McMahon. The choice of Bryan basically confirms rumors that Smackdown will be considered the “wrestling show” with an extra emphasis on competition over dramatic storylines.
4. Cruiserweights are coming
Last week’s debut of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network provided an extremely cool new element to the wrestling world. WWE booked tremendous competitors from all over the world to compete in a single elimination tournament for the sake of proving who the best cruiserweight wrestler is today. There are many intriguing prospects on the radar and that has officially led to the Cruiserweight division being brought back to WWE.
Stephanie McMahon announced that this time the division will be exclusive to Monday Night Raw. The fact that Raw is three hours definitely makes it more important to have variety to its roster. Cruiserweights typically bring a more entertaining in-ring style with speed, depth and stronger matches than the average WWE wrestler. The company is likely going to make quite a few NXT call-ups and sign many stars from the CWC to make this division relevant. Tajiri, Gran Metallik and Kota Ibushi have been rumored to have signed new deals with the company going forward and now it all makes sense. Maybe the tournament will crown the new Cruiserweight Champion?
3. Faction warfare
The longest match of the night featured The Club and The Wyatt Family teaming together to face The New Day, John Cena, Big Cass and Enzo Amore. There was a lot of excitement with back and forth action. WWE draft rules specifying that teams would be selected as one pick unless chosen otherwise means New Day, The Club and Big Cass & Enzo will all likely stay together. The Wyatt Family was not placed under the listed names that were allowed to be chosen as a group.
Keep in mind trios such as New Day and even The Social Outcasts were on the list. This could be the last week The Wyatt Family are a faction before Bray Wyatt is sent on his own. New Day’s popularity still is firing on all cylinders with fans buying into the act by purchasing merchandise. Big Cass and Enzo are gaining credibility among new fans with Cena at their side. The Club has been tremendous since Styles turned heel. Everyone has reasoning to stay together but the Wyatt Family and they may be done after Sunday.
2. Randy Orton will play a huge role in the brand split
A video package aired spotlighting Randy Orton for his return match against Brock Lesnar next month at SummerSlam. The dream match will pit two future Hall of Famers against each other for the first in a marquee match. Orton’s injury has not been treated the same from the fan base as John Cena and Seth Rollins earlier this year. Despite being extremely talented and accomplished, Orton always flies under the radar but the company is hoping he will be positioned into a bigger position.
The match is obviously important as we rarely see Lesnar in a WWE ring and his rare appearance always provides a special attraction. The video package tried to portray the star power of Orton by reminding us just how long he has been around and how much he has done. Rumors have circulated that Orton is expected to be an important part of the Smackdown brand. There’s no doubt he will have to play a huge role in the short term success of WWE with both rosters split and the company still trying to build new stars.
1. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose are the faces of the draft
The main event match between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose for the WWE Championship proved the company is investing in everything in both men. Roman Reigns getting suspended damaged his trust from the WWE brain trust and his former Shield teammates are benefiting. Rollins and Ambrose had a great main event that ended in a double pin. Raw ended with Stephanie McMahon declaring Rollins the new champion but the aftermath on the WWE Network revealed Ambrose retained via draw.
This was the elaborated way of setting up the draft special on Tuesday night. It will be surprising if anyone but Rollins and Ambrose gets selected with the first two overall picks. The fact that they are being treated as equals is important to their future. Rollins showed he was back to 100% tonight with an array of incredible moves. Ambrose had one of his better outings as champion. They have done a great job carrying the title program without Reigns and WWE is treating them like absolute stars due to it.