Now that SmackDown has been moved to Tuesday nights, WWE fans are looking at three straight nights of wrestling with Raw on Mondays and NXT on Wednesdays. Then add on a PPV every couple Sundays, and that’s a whole lot of content to watch in a short period of time. To help out with this new flood of shows, each week going forward we will go over both the best and the worst that Raw and SmackDown has to offer the WWE Universe.
On Monday night, Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley began building up their PPV Clash of Champions by booking Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens, New Day vs. Gallows/Anderson, and Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks. While the show had a few interesting moments, easily the worst thing to come out of this week was Gallows and Anderson who brought out “The Old Day.”
On SmackDown Live, there was plenty of good to go around as nearly every segment deliver with some surprising results in the tag team tournament. Plus, the Women’s Division received a whole lot of attention heading towards their big match at Backlash. So let’s get right to it, starting with the eight awesome moments of the week!
15. Raw’s Opening Segment – A Promo That Mattered
Raw usually starts out with an extended promo and it bores the heck out of the fans, but not this time; we actually were interested in hearing what Kevin Owens had to say as the new WWE Universal Champion. As the live crowd began cheering him on and showering him with “You deserve it!” chants, Owens quickly reminded them how little he cared for their approval and just like that, he was getting his proper boos.
The fun didn’t last though as Seth Rollins came to the ring and gave a searing promo to Stephanie and Mick, in particular. Feeling there was a conspiracy afoot Rollins’ words nearly got himself suspended by Stephanie, with Mick stepping in to book a match between Rollins and Owens at Clash of Champions. There are so many layers to this story as Rollins and Owens look to battle, Reigns is suddenly in the picture, while Stephanie may or may not be in cahoots with Triple H’s radical turn.
14. Rollins Face Turn – It’s About Time
Foley booked Rollins to go up against Chris Jericho, who spent much of the night trying to defend his “best friend,” Kevin Owens. With Rollins suddenly a face in the past week, the live crowd wasn’t exactly sure who to cheer for during the match, but once Rollins got the pin, it was clear who their guy was as they erupted into elation when Jericho was defeated.
Thanks to turning on The Shield and siding himself with The Authority, Rollins built himself up as one of the most hated wrestlers in all of the WWE Universe. To be able to come back from that and get massive cheers shows the talent and flexibility he has as a performer. Both on Monday and at previous times (usually going against Reigns) fans have had no problem cheering on Rollins, a huge babyface run is surely in order for him over the next few months.
13. The Women’s Division Gets Going – Tons Of New Talent
Raw may have picked up the bigger names in the women’s division, but it definitely was top heavy with only Sasha and Charlotte battling over the title. Now, Bayley has been added to the mix and is already going for the championship, getting a win on Monday (via miscommunication on Charlotte/Dana’s part) over the current champion. Bayley’s win seemed rushed, but hopefully this was just a vehicle towards breaking up Dana and Charlotte; we can also assume Emma will be coming to Raw whenever she’s cleared – possibly re-teaming with Dana.
Sasha then teased a major injury via an in-ring promo that was just a ploy to let everyone know she’ll be having a rematch against Charlotte at Clash of Champions. Will WWE continue to play hot potato with the title? Finally, Nia is getting an actual feud against Alicia Fox, who has restarted her “I’m crazy and things are getting thrown in this room!” gimmick. During their encounter, Alicia mistakenly threw a small box into Nia’s face, causing Alicia to break character for a split-second, Nia then shoved her back into a table, and the feud was on! Fox will almost assuredly get destroyed in this one, but it’s nice to see Nia get someone who’s actually on the roster and for Fox to get some TV time.
12. Fight Forever – Owens vs. Zayn Steals The Show Again
Remember back in later July at Battleground when WWE proclaimed Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn would have their final battle? Yeah, that lasted not even two months before these two got booked in a match together, which is a minor blip, but still worth noting. These two had a solid pre-match promo that revisited their history and how at one point Owens actually felt like he had to catch up with Zayn, who was signed first to WWE and winning the NXT Title.
Now it’s Zayn who is catching up (he mentioned feeling directionless) and he let Owens know, he will also be WWE Universal Champion, one day. The two got the main event and went all out like you would expect, whether it’s the indies, NXT, a PPV, or on Raw, they always put on a match worth checking out. The match had plenty of bumps on the outside with a pretty predictable ending, Owens got the clean win. With Owens at the top, hopefully WWE plans on getting Zayn in the Cruiserweight Division, possibly as their first champion.
11. Women Getting Serious TV Time – The SmackDown Division Takes Charge
To kick-off the show, we had Daniel Bryan in the ring to have a forum with the six women who will be fighting for the title this Sunday at Backlash. Props to SmackDown for changing things up from the usual and giving the opening segment to the women. Each wrestler got in some banter, although it was a bit awkward as four out of the six participants just came out without an entrance. The reason for that was probably to save the pop for later in the night when they had their six women tag match.
The match itself was a final showcase of everyone battling for the title that also included the mini-feud between Carmella and Nikki Bella. Carmella has spent the past two weeks sneak attacking Nikki and on Tuesday night whenever Nikki tried to get at Carmella in the match, she would bail out of the ring. Once Nikki was worn down, Carmella jumped in and was able to lock in the Code of Silence on Nikki for the tap out. In a two-hour show, the Women’s Division had two lengthy segments in the first hour and that’s always awesome.
10. Dolph Ziggler – A Natural Talent
As The Miz took on Apollo Crews, Ziggler took to commentary to talk about how he doesn’t accept the “Loser” label that some have put on him. Since coming to SmackDown, he’s had plenty of opportunities, but has yet to come through in the big match. Ziggler got extremely intense about how he’s always given it one-hundred percent and the day he doesn’t, he will think about doing other things. Ziggler continued on how he fought through being a “Cheerleader” and 11 years later, he still has fans cheering him on because they know he might just win one of these times.
Aside from giving a passionate promo throughout the match, he was able to dig at those on Twitter saying people hide on there just like Miz hides behind his shades and his wife. This would foreshadow upcoming events as post-match Miz got chased out of the ring, leaving his title behind. Dolph demands he come back to retrieve it, but Miz sends Maryse into the ring, Ziggler responds: “Are you kidding me? You’re a coward, sending your wife in to get the title!” Ziggler may not be winning much, but he’s consistently been one of the more entertaining personalities, no matter who he works with.
9. Uso Losing – Heels In The Samoan Dynasty
Most fans expected a hard fought match between American Alpha and The Usos, but that changed in a hurry. After shaking hands, The Usos instantly attacked AA, trying to get the upper hand, unfortunately for them AA recovered and were able to get the quick win in less than thirty seconds. Post-match, AA went for a second handshake, but Jordan ended up getting superkicked and The Usos began mauling Gable!
After beating up on both men, they chop kicked Gable’s leg and splashed him off the top rope while in a half Boston crab leg submission. Unfortunately, the crowd was either too bored to respond or in shock that Jimmy and Jey acted in such a way as they didn’t really give a huge reaction. The Usos haven’t been heels since their initial run with the WWE, which most people probably don’t even remember. This will be a nice wrinkle in the tag division with them not playing so nice with the other teams, hopefully more attitude and less smiling is on the way. Later in the night, it was confirmed that AA was out of the finals and instead it will be the Usos vs. Hype Bros with the winner taking on Slater and Rhyno in the finals.
8. Heath Slater And Rhyno – An Unusual But Fun Pairing
In the semis, Heath Slater and Rhyno took on The Hype Bros to see who would get one step closer to the Tag Titles. Before the match got started, Slater went to the edge of the ring and acknowledged a bunch of kids in the front row- they were Heath’s Kids! WWE actually brought in a bunch of kids (some were in a suit while others in overalls) to cheer on their “Dad.” This was easily one of the funniest moments of the night, with a close second going to AJ Styles’ “I’m carrying this company on my shoulders!” (which was most likely a dig at CM Punk for say those words earlier in the week about his time in the WWE).
With the crowd chanting “Let’s go Slater!” right off the bat, it’s obvious just how over he’s become with the WWE Universe. The crowd suddenly got hot for Rhyno though and once he got in the ring, the crowd exploded with joy. Rhyno eventually Gored Ryder for the win and Slater immediately went over and hugged each one of his kids.
7. “The Old Day” – Gallows & Anderson Tank
This was so bad. It seems unlikely that SmackDown Live will be able to top this horrid mess of a segment that involved Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and a bunch of dudes dressed up as old guys. With plenty of bathroom humor to go around, this segment died the slowest of deaths as the live crowd gave pretty much nothing to these guys. Even New Day (who thankfully came out, after a lifetime of misery) couldn’t save this segment from being one of the worst things on WWE TV in a long time.
New Day chased away Gallows/Anderson and eventually beat-down the old guys for being super annoying. The best part of the whole segment came when Kofi went to toss one over the top rope; he instead ate the rope hard before getting launched again. For whatever reason, WWE has cast Gallows/Anderson as this comedic duo, rather than being serious jerks that just want the title. New Day does a decent enough job with the jokes, but please let Anderson/Gallows be something different.
6. Big Cass and Enzo’s Rough Night – A Birth Nobody Wanted
These guys are usually on fire when it comes to promos, but this one was a swing and miss as Enzo did breathing techniques, delivered an invisible baby (Labor Day, get it?) and handed it off to a woman in the front row. This was all done as they looked to tear down the undeniably lame Shining Stars, Primo and Epico, who make pretty much any segment awful.
To make matters worse, Cass and Enzo ended up losing to these two guys! Described as “stealing the match” it’s incomprehensible as to why WWE would have Cass and Enzo lose to two wrestlers who have done nothing since their inception. Did they get a reaction and some heat from the crowd? Yes, but it won’t last, because their gimmick sucks, it’s been dead in the water since the very beginning. With three (yes, three!) failed gimmicks, it apparently pays to have family connections with the WWE, because there is no way these two would have lasted otherwise.
5. Bo Dallas Returns – Trapped In The Mid-Card
Some background first, if you don’t follow the personal lives of pro wrestlers. Recently, Bo was going to board a plane for Mexico, but decided to have a few pre-flight drinks that got him in such a mood that they ended up throwing him off the flight. Apparently, he cursed at some people then broke out “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King; he was arrested for public intoxication.
Typically, WWE will keep their wrestlers away from TV after anything remotely embarrassing happens in their personal life, but not Bo. On Monday, he came out with his usual “Bo-Lieve” gimmick, although it was much more serious and intense compared to the previous which was more on the comical side. He got a full entrance and beat up some jobber for his big return that the crowd hardly reacted to. At this point, it’s tough seeing him make it anywhere past the mid-card, as fans on a larger scale have never latched onto his gimmick since his move to the main roster.
4. Mid-Match “Injuries” – Who’s Healthy At This Point?
For much of 2015, injuries became a plague within the WWE as people like John Cena, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Nikki Bella, and a number of other wrestlers went down for months. The problem became so big that WrestleMania’s lineup had to be completely changed, even bringing back Shane McMahon as a desperate attempt to save the day. For reasons unknown, WWE has decided to continue to remind fans of the risks by having their wrestlers get “injured” mid-match.
We’re not talking about a wrestler “working the leg” as a wrinkle in the story, they had Sami Zayn, Bayley, and Cesaro all have varying degrees of injuries added into their matches (or storylines) and it just doesn’t seem necessary. Even Sasha Banks came out to give a faux retirement speech in reaction to her legit back injury that has kept her out of action. Yes, there’s a risk, and people get hurt, but to continually remind fans of that (which they also did when Enzo got legit knocked out in a match against The Vaudevillians) is going overboard on their part.
3. Apollo Snooze – It’s Going To Take Some Time
Getting a shot against The Miz, Crews has basically been crushed since his jump to the main roster. Commentary tried to twist it as him just going up against the toughest competition right off the bat and that losing isn’t necessarily a bad thing for him. He just recently took on Miz at SummerSlam for his title, so it seems unlikely WWE will stick him back in that feud anytime soon and, fans don’t see things like the “quality” of Crews’ opponent, they just see him losing over and over with a sub-par gimmick that is without much depth.
Crews’ run in NXT wasn’t exactly off the charts and for whatever reason WWE thought it would be a good decision to bring him up without really any plan at all. At some point, it might be worth finding him a tag team partner which would allow him to learn the ropes a little more and have some direction in the tag division.
2. Cut To Fandango – An Awkward Segway To Absolutely Nothing
After Randy Orton gave an awesome Bray-esque promo about a hunter who killed a rabbit, as he walked towards his prey, the hunter noticed a snake in the distance. The man slowly walked towards his prey while watching the snake, the snake did nothing, so the man grabbed his prey and went to walk away. This is when the snake struck because he was patient and knew he could have both the rabbit and the man.
After that serious promo, cut to Fandango’s hip swivel in the ring, it was such a bad transition, you just had to laugh. Tonight, he didn’t have a tag partner, instead, Fandango has some random middle-age sleeve tattooed woman in the ring to dance with. As you would expect, it was terrible and awkward, she was kicked to the curb and for whatever reason out came Kane. Fandango loved the thought of Kane being a partner, but ends up getting a chokeslamed for his trouble. Kane actually does a little “Fandangoing” before heading to the back… okay then.
1. Nikki Bella Gone Good – The Wrong Decision
The show this week was pretty good, so we’re just nitpicking at this point about the current state of Nikki Bella. Tonight she came out, did her usual entrance with a lot more smiling, but it is so bland. The reaction from the crowd wasn’t that great and it’s a trend that has become of Nikki in the past. It’s pretty simple; she makes for a much better heel than face both now and in the past. Even if it’s a petty “mean girl” gimmick, she’s just so good at it compared to this vanilla gimmick that she currently has.
It’s understandable why WWE made this decision as Nikki’s comeback story will be better received by the fans and especially if she’s made the first SmackDown Women’s Champion. It was also necessary because Carmella was getting absolutely no reaction since her call-up and a heel turn was definitely in order. Carmella’s turn and subsequent sneak attacks have helped her stock, but the interest in Nikki might go down a bit as fans remember her entire championship run as a mean girl. Again, a small detail that might not be worth whining about as SmackDown put on yet another great show.