This is something I used to do every week but gave up on when it didn’t seem necessary for every show. However, given how big of a week this is for WWE, I figured it was time to bring it back for a one off appearance. The idea here is pretty simple: I’m going to look back at the show (or shows in this case) and take a better look at it now that the show isn’t live and now I can actually think about what happened. Not all of this will be in chronological order as there are some stories that ran through the show which I’ll cover all at once. I’ll be looking at the shows one at a time but there will be plenty of stuff to compare.
Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley had the roster on the stage to start. I’m not normally a fan of this but for a big special show like this it’s acceptable. The idea here is that there will be two fourway matches tonight with the winners facing off in the main event for the right to face Seth Rollins at “Summerslam 2016” for the WWE Universal Heavyweight Championship. I know what they’re going for here but I really don’t like that name. It just sounds so forced and doesn’t sound like a title that is going to be taken seriously. Just call it the World Heavyweight Championship and be done with it.
The first fourway saw the debuting Finn Balor defeat Rusev, Cesaro and Kevin Owens in a nice, long match. This was the workrate match with everyone running all over the place to excite the crowd. Balor won by pinning US Champion Rusev because the midcard titles exist for the sole reason of putting people over. I know he loses a lot but this would be the perfect place for Cesaro to give up a fall. It’s a fourway and a competitive match but this really shouldn’t have been Rusev getting pinned.
What it should have been though was Balor getting the win. If you really want this to be a new era, you need to have some new names crack into the title scene. Rollins being in the title match already is fine but you have to at least tease the idea that someone new might be getting a shot. No one would buy Cesaro in that spot and you don’t want to do heel vs. heel (why I’m not sure but that’s just not going to happen) so Balor was the only real option. The fact that he also made the most sense helped quite a bit.
Nia Jax won her debut in a squash. This was all it needed to be.
Now we get to the running joke of the night as Golden Truth is playing Pokemon Go. There were three sketches over the course of the night and the payoff was them costing the Shining Stars a match against Enzo Amore and Big Cass. Where do I even start with this one?
To begin with, it’s one thing to do a Pokemon Go bit as it’s one of the hottest things in pop culture right now. However, doing it three times in one night and capping it off in a match is way too much of a stretch. Second, Amore and Cass do not need help beating the Shining Stars no matter what the situation is. Third, Amore and Cass shouldn’t even be in the same ring as the Shining Stars, especially not a day after teaming with John Cena on pay per view. I was fine with the build to this but the ending was just stupid and should have been used on someone else.
Roman Reigns beat Sheamus, Sami Zayn and Chris Jericho in the other fourway. This would be a great example of “well what else were you expecting” as they had to have Reigns at least in the main event tonight. The match wasn’t quite as long and not quite as good but it did everything it should have and Jericho took the fall, as he should have too.
New Day came out to celebrate their record reign as Tag Team Champions and brought a plant into the ring for a comedy bit. The whole point of this was to have the Club interfere and set themselves up as the next challengers. This wasn’t much of a surprise as there aren’t exactly a lot of teams to go after the belts. Amore and Cass are around but I’m not sure WWE wants to put them against New Day. The Club makes sense here and that was really all they could have done.
Neville returned and beat Curtis Axel in a quick match. Just like Jax, this was all it should have been and worked fine.
In possibly the most important match of the night, Sasha Banks defeated Charlotte clean to win the Women’s Title. This was a long and very good match with Banks more than looking like the better woman to get the title. I’m almost positive that this sets up the rematch at “Summerslam 2016” and that’s all well and good, though it kind of makes me want to see Bayley around more for a fresh match.
Above all else though, this felt like something really important for the first time all night. At this point there was a very real chance that Reigns was going to go to the pay per view for the title shot so really it’s been a night of squashes and fourway matches to set up what looked like the inevitable. Much like the Tag Team Titles changing hands at “Wrestlemania I”, this added something historic to the show and that’s a very important thing to get taken care of.
Braun Strowman won the third squash of the night. Same thoughts as earlier.
In the main event, Balor actually beat Reigns completely clean to earn the shot against Rollins for the title. This was a star making performance, not because of the quality of the match but because of the way Balor won on this stage over a major star. This match turned Balor into a star, no matter what he does at “Summerslam 2016”.
Overall, “Monday Night Raw” was a smash hit. It had the perfect balance of squash matches, good wrestling and surprise results to make this really feel like a new show. One of the most important factors here was having the bosses to a minimum. You just don’t need to have them around all the time and it would have been a waste of time to have them out there every few minutes to hold our hand through something this simple. This was a great show and the whole thing worked very well, especially for a big show.
That brings us to “Smackdown”, which also started with the bosses coming into the arena to address the roster standing on the apron. Above all else, this makes me think that the roster isn’t all that big and that more names are needed (which will be addressed later on in the show).
Just like “Monday Night Raw”, the theme of the night will be finding a person to put in the World Title match at “Summerslam 2016”. In this case it’s going to be a Six Pack Challenge with five names being announced at first and then the final person qualifying by winning a battle royal, which started right now.
This is where things started going downhill. For one thing, there were people on the apron not in the match, including Miz and American Alpha. On top of that there was only one Uso for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. The battle royal was rather dull for the most part with a lot of tag wrestlers in the match, meaning they were just warm bodies for the bigger names to throw out. Apollo Crews actually pulled off the win by eliminating Kane, giving us a nice option and a potential new star. Crews was the right call and I had no complaints about him winning.
Speaking of fixing the weak roster, Shelton Benjamin is returning. I’m sure he’ll just be there to put people over but that’s the right call for him. Benjamin will get a nice reaction and the fans will be entertained so this is another good choice.
Becky Lynch beat Natalya in a rematch from Sunday’s “Battleground 2016”. The match wasn’t very entertaining and dragged quite a bit, which is the problem with the women on this show. So much of the talent is over on “Monday Night Raw” and these are the best two the show has to offer. The problem with that is their matches aren’t great and there aren’t a lot of people for either of them to fight otherwise.
Speaking of white, after the match, Alexa Bliss, Naomi, Carmella and Eva Marie came out to say very little in their official introductions. This felt really thrown together and didn’t work like they were shooting for, save for Marie whose completely over the top entrance alone made it feel like something entertaining. If this is all the division has, they’re in major trouble. Someone like Paige would be a huge breath of fresh air and would have fixed a lot of the issues around here but nah, let’s put her on the other show where there’s more female talent than they know what to do with.
Now we get to the match where everything goes flying off a cliff. Next up was MizTV with Miz interviewing himself until Randy Orton interrupted. After making some jokes about Miz and Maryse’s sex life, a non-title match was set up in Orton’s first match back after a nine month layoff due to shoulder surgery.
Then Orton was beaten down for a few minutes, hit an RKO, waited for Miz to lay around for two minutes, and then hit another RKO for the pin. In other words, Miz’s offense had almost no effect and he was finished in less than five minutes, two of which involved Orton waiting around for him to get up. It was barely a match but the problem here was who took the loss.
Of all the people on the roster, the only option they had was the Intercontinental Champion? You have Alberto Del Rio, Kane, Erick Rowan (hard to pull off but not impossible), Fandango, Tyler Breeze or even a team like Ascension or the Vaudevillains. But no, instead it just HAD TO BE the Intercontinental Champion in yet another loss. This was a stupid, shortsighted decision and a hard punch to the show’s gut.
Again, compare it to “Monday Night Raw” where the big established names went down while Balor got the title shot. That felt like a cool moment where something was really changing. Instead, this one felt like the old guard coming back and beating down the person who has done some good things in his absence for the sake of building up a match that won’t need much effort. That’s not a good idea and it’s something that happens way too often in WWE.
We got a video on American Alpha. You remember them. They’re the white hot team from NXT who should be the stars of the division but could only make cameos on the apron in the opening segment and had to be saved for next. Now I could believe the idea that they’re saving them for a big match next week and that’s fine, but this show really needed something to make it feel more special and American Alpha would have done it.
Instead of American Alpha, we got a segment with Heath Slater, who wasn’t happy about going undrafted last week. The fans got behind him but Shane McMahon came out and said there was a new free agent signing. This led to Rhyno making his debut and Goring Slater in a segment that really wasn’t special or worth seeing. Just have Rhyno beat a jobber and then have Slater do the same thing. That way Rhyno and Slater are getting something out of it instead of Rhyno getting something at Slater’s expense.
That left us with the main event between Crews, John Cena, Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin with Ziggler of all people (all six of the people that is) getting the win off a superkick to Styles. This was uh…..questionable on its best day. Ziggler has been the same wrestler for a very long time and I’m really not sure how they see him as someone who could challenge for the title at a major pay per view. The match will be fine but that’s all it’s going to be. Maybe they could turn Ziggler heel to freshen things up a bit but this really isn’t the most exciting idea in the world.
Then Bryan and Shane McMahon came out to celebrate while WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose came out as well to stare Ziggler down multiple times to fill in the final four minutes of the show. Maybe they could have let Miz lay around off the RKO a bit longer to fill in the time instead. It felt really awkward and that’s not how you want to end the first show of a big era.
This show was far from horrible but it was certainly not all that interesting or inspiring. The best part of the show was…..I guess Crews winning the battle royal. The fact that I actually had to think about it for a bit really isn’t a good sign though as there were so many things on “Monday Night Raw” that stand out as a big deal.
However, as mediocre as the show was, the biggest issue was having it come one day after “Monday Night Raw”. Monday’s show was outstanding and really felt memorable. In this case though, the show was just so ok and middle of the road that it feels like a show that should be taking place six months from now instead of on the big night for “Smackdown”. The show is watchable but it’s really not going to inspire much confidence for the fans.
I don’t think it’s any real secret that “Monday Night Raw” won this week. It was a much tighter show with better storytelling, better action, less of a destruction of a midcard champion and a new breakout star in the form of Balor. Crews getting the win was a nice touch but it doesn’t matter if this doesn’t lead to at least a fairly big match at “Summerslam 2016”. It’s certainly not too late to fix “Smackdown” but they really need to tweak some of this stuff next week before it gets bad.
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