Coming off what can only be described as a polarizing SummerSlam, SmackDown and RAW had a lot of work to do avert both shows being derailed. RAW was faced with the extra dilemma of having their newly crowned Universal Champion put on the shelf for six months, leaving them with having to rebook their entire show. SmackDown meanwhile was coming off a lackluster WWE Championship match and had to bounce back from that.
Which show delivered and one the battle of week five? Let’s find out!
RAW – Positives:
How can you not start with Bayley? This was a rather sad themed RAW with Finn’s relinquishment and The Dudley’s farewell, but the one thing that allowed everyone to leave happy was this. Bayley debuting in the arena where she won the NXT Women’s Championship and her genuine excitement to be there was thrilling to see.
Sami Zayn is officially the best seller of an injury in the world. Everyone watching would’ve had their hearts in their mouth, wondering if the ankle injury was real. Of course it wasn’t and what it allowed Sami to do was take the loss to Rollins and continue his build as an underdog that the fans are clearly rallying behind. There aren’t many on the roster that can turn the crowd against Seth Rollins. The match was fantastic too… but of course it was! It’s Zayn and Rollins!
The farewell of the Dudley Boyz was handled well. If they’re truly retired, they went out in the perfect way. We got to see their shtick one last time and then they allowed Gallows and Anderson to get some heat by taking them out. Well played by all parties.
RAW – Negatives:
Injuries are an inescapable reality of professional wrestling and RAW got hit hard this week. Finn Balor’s shoulder injury obviously comes at the absolute worst possible time and forces them to completely shuffle their plans for Clash of Champions. The Fatal 4-Way match should be interesting at least, but it’s a damn shame that we’re even in this position.
Speaking of, the fact that Sasha Banks is out for a month or two is also awful timing wise. It’s been reported that she was injured coming into the match and was always going to drop the title in order to take some time off and if that’s the case, kudos to her for putting on a fantastic and ridiculously risky match despite knowing she was hurt. With Paige suspended, the RAW women’s division is in a lot of trouble without Sasha. Alicia Fox and Summer Rae are undercard competitors at most and Nia Jax versus Charlotte isn’t a feud that can happen, leaving them forced to put Bayley in the title picture. This isn’t ideal as Bayley needs to be built in the same vein as Sami Zayn. Putting her straight at the top of the card isn’t how you build an underdog. Unfortunately, they now have no choice because they were dumb enough to split the women’s division in the first place.
Titus O’Neil’s promo… no analysis needed.
SHOW GRADE: B-
This show did not mess around. We started with the unveiling of the two new titles, with both looking better than their RAW counterparts, had the Backlash matches announced in simple fashion and went straight into Styles and Ziggler. SmackDown live has been fantastic pacing wise so far.
It’s amazing how SmackDown manages to have a show with two pay-per-view quality matches considering how restricted they are time-wise. While it was disappointing to see Breezango knocked out of the tournament in the first round, their match with American Alpha was befitting a serious tag team. It was tag team action at its best with plenty of near-falls that got the crowd invested.
The other amazing match was the main-event with Ziggler and Styles. While the RAW main-event didn’t really feel like a main-event and the crowd didn’t really care for it, this was the opposite. Ziggler and Styles put on their first ever match together and their similarities in speed and amateur wrestling backgrounds turned it into something special. It’ll be interesting to see where Dolph goes from here, but Styles versus Ambrose is the perfect main-event for Backlash.
Carmella turning heel is also a great move. She was being lost beneath Becky Lynch’s charisma and Naomi’s revitalized gimmick. Nikki Bella coming back would’ve shoved her even further down that totem pole, even if Nikki was heel. Carmella will thrive as a heel, as she did in NXT.
Really, the only negatives with this show come from nit-picking. Calling the new belts ‘SmackDown Tag Team Titles’ and ‘SmackDown Women’s Champion’ makes it feel like they’re beneath RAW’s titles, which are not referred to in the same sense. It’s only an issue if you think about it too much though and it won’t really make any difference.
The Intercontinental Championship has not been featured properly since the draft, but with The Miz and Daniel Bryan having their, shall we say, awkward shoot segment on Talking Smack this week, you can expect that to change. That will get the wrestling world talking and expect them to follow up with something on the show next week.
SHOW GRADE: A
SmackDown Live: 4
That’s four wins in a row for SmackDown Live which is simply proving be the better show between the two brands. RAW, as a three hour show, is struggling to stay relevant. It has the talent, but three hours of content is almost impossible to fill completely with good material. It’s amplified by the male roster being split in half and the women’s division not existing underneath the title scene. By comparison, SmackDown’s streamline two hour format is so much more digestible. While you might find yourself fast-forwarding through a lot of RAW, SmackDown has been worth watching from start to finish and right now, is beating RAW comprehensively.
Can the red team bounce back next week?
Follow Nic at @NicNegrepontis on Twitter.