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.
While Monday night provided the biggest story and moment with Kevin Owens winning the Universal Title, it was SmackDown that put on the more enjoyable show overall. Just over a month after the WWE Draft, this seems to be the growing trend with Raw providing big moments laced with mediocre segments in between, and SmackDown chugging along with consistently entertaining shows week after week.
There were actually so many enjoyable segments on SmackDown that one will only get an honorable mention – the promo between Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton. Both men did a fine job building up the tension between each wrestler. Bray feels Randy is weak and that he is now the predator while Orton relied on his experience, letting Bray know he’s not afraid of whatever he brings to the ring. Then, they agreed to a match at Backlash. Now, let’s start off the eight awesome moments of the week!
15. Kevin Owens Wins The Universal Title
After the unfortunate news came out about Finn Balor’s shoulder injury, the WWE had to quickly change course with how the title scene would go over the next couple months. The easiest way is to hold a tournament, and that’s exactly what they did! With Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Big Cass each coming out victorious the previous Monday, they battled each other for the title.
Expectations were that either Rollins or Reigns would win and take the title back, with Kevin Owens as the dark horse pick. Big Cass was in there pretty much because Vince loves him and decided to give the big man some exposure. Ultimately, Triple H made a surprise appearance during the match, seemingly helping out Seth Rollins, until he pedigreed his protégé and basically gave Kevin Owens the title. The response from the fans was extremely positive as they were happy to see some new blood hold the title for awhile. Owens has had an amazing run on the main roster and for the time being, it looks like the good times will continue to roll for him.
14. Bayley Hangs With The New Day
Teaming people with New Day is a sure fire way to get them some more love as WWE did the same thing with Sasha Banks when she was still fairly new to the roster. On Monday, Bayley was treated to the same experience as she first got to rip on Dana Brooke in front of the dynamic trio before heading out to the ring with them. Along with Big E and Kofi, Bayley was able to join in on the fun as they took on Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, and Dana Brooke.
Once all of the guys got wiped out of the match, it was down to Dana and Bayley, with Bayley landing her Bayley-to-Belly Suplex for the 1-2-3. After much celebration, she taunted Charlotte who was on commentary for the match. It’s pretty clear Bayley is going to be the next contender for the title until Sasha Banks is cleared to return. Most importantly, the crowd went nuts when she got the win which is a great sign for someone who is still extremely new to the main roster.
13. Cesaro And Sheamus
Even though these two have great chemistry, the last thing fans wanted to see is another meaningless match between them. Luckily, WWE decided to give them seven, but at least it has a prize at the end, so there is something to keep people interested. After falling down 1-0 to Sheamus, Cesaro was looking to even things up this week, and not only did he fail to do that, but got injured in the process.
Initially, people thought his back injury was real, but it indeed looks like to be just a part of the story as Cesaro will really have to dig deep to have a major comeback win. Both men have been lost in the mid-card (Cesaro for a longer period of time), so winning a potential title shot would be a nice boost to their status. At this point, it will be interesting to see if WWE will let him drop to 3-0 or finally give him a win.
12. Heath Slater
If we were picking only individuals, Heath Slater would definitely be in the top three this week with his amazing work. He did most of the work in his tag tournament match against the Headbangers. If you missed it, Rhyno got fed up with Slater getting beat down, got in the ring, and literally dragged him back to his corner so Rhyno could tag in.
Slater then had his own “Meet the Slaters” segment where earlier in the week Renee Young went to his home for an interview. There, we met his lovely wife, and for whatever reason, Rhyno was also just hanging out there. Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet the “seven to eight” kids that Slater currently has. If that wasn’t enough, he went on Talking Smack and was hilariously entertaining without much of a script to guide the way. He has been one of the biggest winners since the WWE Draft and the guy didn’t even get drafted by either show! Finally, WWE has found a balance for him where his gimmick is believable; and while he’s still goofy, he’s not quite Santino Marella-goofy any longer.
11. SmackDown’s Women Division
Compared to Raw’s top heavy women’s division where it’s basically Bayley, Sasha, and Charlotte, with Nia Jax needing some time to grow, SmackDown is basically wide open for who could become champion. This week, the women only got one segment but they made it count as everyone was involved in some way. It’s refreshing that WWE decided to pull the trigger on changing up Carmella so early in her main roster run. Clearly, fans weren’t getting her as a face (especially with no Cass or Enzo around) so going for heel heat was a great change as she got plenty of boos for, yet again, blindsiding Nikki Bella.
Another big winner since the draft has been Naomi, thanks to her getting a total makeover. She’s back to being good (which she prefers); and WWE finally let her go all out with her “Feel the Glow” idea which has made her entrance one of the best in the company. Not only did fans change the entrance, but she got some solid pops throughout the match. Will it be enough to get her the title though? Time will tell.
10. AJ Styles
If you were new to WWE, you would think AJ has been working there for over a decade; his comfort level with the WWE wrestling style and ability to get crowd reactions has been similar to that of a seasoned pro. Instead, he’s still in his “rookie” year for the company and has been absolutely out of this world, thanks in part to John Cena making him look so strong. With that momentum, AJ has been able to take the “Face that Runs the Place” and “Beat John Cena Up” phrases and run a long way with them.
This week, AJ did it all – backstage promo, in-ring promo, a match against Apollo Crews, commentary, and interfering in the main event. Everything he did was worth seeing as he works his way towards his match against Dean Ambrose at Backlash. Unfortunately for him, his night ended by getting straddled on the top rope for an extremely long time. Ambrose even bounced the rope up and down to add insult to injury. Mr. Perfect used to do this spot all the time back in his day and it’s not one we see often, maximizing its effect.
9. Opening SmackDown Segment
The show opened with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan conversing about the intense conversation Bryan had with The Miz on last week’s Talking Smack. Shane scolded Bryan for his actions and advised him to not get in the talent’s faces anymore. Bryan shot back, saying that statement was funny coming from him – a guy who just fought the Undertaker at WrestleMania.
Cut to the ring as The Miz storms down the ramp (before his music even starts) with mic in hand. He then continues his tirade from the previous week on how he is always the guy who is available whether it’s for a media appearance or dressing up as a chicken. Dolph Ziggler then came out (how many people is he going to start stuff with?) and continued his great promo work with the Miz. The two didn’t come to blows; but later in the night, Daniel Bryan booked a match at Backlash for the Intercontinental title.
8. Talking Smack
This last one wasn’t actually on Raw or SmackDown, but SmackDown’s post-show has consistently been one of the best shows produced by WWE. It’s on the WWE Network and is usually under a half-hour long, but every single week there is at least one must-see moment, whether it’s high drama or just freaking hilarious. A few weeks back, John Cena said he’s “Openly waiting for someone to take his place,” last week Miz exploded on Daniel Bryan, and this week, Heath Slater continued to entertain with the help of Rhyno by his side.
Slater has a natural ability on the mic and had some fantastic banter about his career, the tag tournament, and his family including his questionably ambiguous number of children. The great thing about this show is that it’s not crazy scripted; sure there are bullet points, but wrestlers are pretty much allowed to go out and just talk about whatever they want and it’s awesome!
7. Stephanie And Paul’s Promo
These two have the weirdest chemistry; not sure if they just generally dislike each other or what, but the promo between Stephanie McMahon and Paul Heyman this week was just off. Maybe the issue is just that the topic at hand is (while funny) kind of dumb. Basically, Brock was fined $500 for his actions against Shane McMahon, which Heyman brought to her in one dollar bills. He began throwing them down, one at a time, and counting the number out loud. Stephanie then smacked the money out of his hand, and said she was going to avenge her brother, “A storm is coming and it’s coming your ugly way!”
The main problem here is the feud is between Shane and Brock Lesnar, yet neither man was there, thus making this a little on the boring side. Also, family aside, why does Stephanie care about what happens to Shane? She was basically burying her brother not too long ago when Vince McMahon was trying to figure out who would take control of the WWE. The segment ended with Stephanie giving a less than sincere acceptance of Heyman’s apology on Brock’s behalf. Crowd wasn’t sure what to make of this entire engagement.
6. What To Do With Sami Zayn?
Just over a month ago, Sami Zayn defeated Kevin Owens at Battleground, since then, it’s been a whole lot of nothing for the former NXT Champion. He’s become lost on the Raw roster, just wrestling guys here and there without much direction for his character. Not to say he hasn’t performed well, but what exactly is WWE going to do with him? This week they had Sami go up against Jinder Mahal, and even though Zayn got the victory, is that really the best WWE can do for him?
It’s possible that WWE is waiting for the Cruiserweight division to get going in a few weeks and at 205 pounds Zayn is just light enough to qualify. With the talent already signed to the division, this will clearly be a breeding ground for some amazing matches that Zayn can take advantage of. Plus, a title should be on its way, so hopefully this is where Sami is headed over the next couple months.
5. Titus O’Neil Vs. Darren Young
This is the feud that never ends, it just goes on and on my friends. Ever since the WWE Draft, O’Neil has been slowly working towards becoming a heel at the expense of Darren Young. He’s gotten the best of his former tag partner over the past few weeks, but lost on Monday, only to come back and destroy both Young and his mentor, Bob Backlund.
The problem with all of this is nobody cares! WWE is trying so hard to make O’Neil a successful singles’ wrestler, working him both face and heel, neither has worked though. He recently cut a long promo that damn near killed the live crowd and any hopes of him getting over in his current state. Young actually got off to a solid start when he won a battle royal, but his match against The Miz wasn’t great and this feud has just sunk him even further. Not sure what WWE can do with these guys, but this feud needs to end yesterday.
4. Local Competitors Runnin’ Wild
This is kind of a weird pick, because the awfulness isn’t necessarily about Nia Jax or Braun Strowman, nor is it the use of local competitors on WWE programming. The problem here is it’s been over a month since the draft and these two have done nothing but face a bunch of nobodies. Yes, the purpose is to make them look strong, while also giving them some much needed experience, but at some point fans are just going to lose interest in this repetitive booking.
When you have someone like Jinder Mahal or Summer Rae on the roster, why not use them at this point? We know Nia and Braun are going to crush nobodies, so why not give them semi-nobodies? At some point the monster has to start moving up the ladder, otherwise it gets a bit tiresome when the first steps take so incredibly long.
3. Kane Hates Milk
What has become of Kane? Seriously, this guy is supposed to be a monster from Hell and he’s out here beating up guys with “Milkman” in their name. At 49, Kane could easily retire and become a road agent/producer for the rest of his life and yet he’s still sent out for strange segments like this one. If you missed it, this guy challenged the entire roster and stripped down to his very white underwear, only for Kane to come out, chokeslam him, and walk away.
The placement of this segment was really strange too as it happened just before the main event, after AJ Styles came down to commentary to watch Dean Ambrose take on Baron Corbin. The silver lining from all of this is as Kane walked back up the ramp as Corbin was coming down, giving Kane a very quick look. So, maybe Kane will be working (and hopefully putting over) Corbin in his next feud, WWE just used a really strange vehicle to get to that feud.
2. Headbangers In 2016?
In SmackDown’s tag team tournament there was an open spot for a mystery team and WWE filled it with guys who hadn’t wrestled for the company in over 15 years. Yes, the Headbangers came out doing the exact same gimmick (except they are now in their mid-40’s) to take on Heath Slater and Rhyno. The fact that they could even wrestle a match was impressive, but ultimately they lost when Rhyno had enough and Gored his team to victory.
Confusing tag team pick aside, Thrasher and Mosh were able to leave some noticeable marks on Heath’s face and legit split open Rhyno’s head (which required stitches) in a fairly quick match. In an attempt to make a good impression, it seems like these two went a bit overboard in the match. This isn’t a good look for them as WWE really doesn’t like to see blood of any kind show up on their programming. No word on if they are returning, yet.
1. The Vaudevillians
Ever since getting called up to the main roster these two have been on a sinking ship and it doesn’t look like anyone is coming to rescue them. The most heat they were able to generate was when Enzo got legit hurt during a match with them, but that’s all seemingly forgotten now by the fans. Even with changes to their look and entrance music, it’s just not working for The Vaudevillians.
Last night, they took on the Hype Bros, another team that is struggling to really get over, and the Vaudevillians got absolutely creamed by Mojo and Zack Ryder. The match itself was pretty short as it was clear WWE had no interest in making this a competitive affair. The Hype Bros now get to go forward and lose to American Alpha, while Simon and Aiden continue to sit at the bottom of the tag division, possibly a turn is in order for these two?