It was the final week before SummerSlam and both shows needed to make the most of it. With SmackDown defeating RAW two weeks in a row, Monday nights had to show what it was made of and bounce back. But did it? Let’s find out in this week’s Smackdown versus RAW.
The team of Jericho and Owens was always going to be a masterstroke. The chemistry they have is amazing and they should be given every chance to cut backstage promos together. Throw Enzo and Cass into the mix and you have some of the best promo talent in one feud that you’ll ever see. This should be a fun match at SummerSlam.
Heath Slater continues to shine, stepping right up to Brock in a way that made him seem courageous, but in a way that kept his comedic strengths in the foreground. For a moment, it seemed like Brock was going off-script and genuinely thought Slater had kids, which he doesn’t, but then he did what Brock does, and that’s put Slater in a hole in the ring. Regardless, watching Heath’s story progress has been genuinely one of the best parts of the show.
RAW had one key theme this week and that was give SummerSlam away six days early. We saw Finn Balor fully kitted out in paint, Rusev versus Roman Reigns and The New Day took it to The Club in multiple segments. Unfortunately, it made a lot of key selling points of the pay-per-view feel redundant instead of hyping them. Rusev and Roman had a great match, but can they deliver anything better and/or different at SummerSlam? It’s hard to say.
The treatment of Balor has been frustrating too. Week one made it seem like the focus was back on the wrestling, but the last fortnight has reverted back to the cartoony themes that many dislike about the current product. Even calling Finn the ‘Demon King’ feels corny and takes away from the mystique. NXT did a fantastic job of explaining the paint as Finn channelling and focusing his otherwise shy persona. RAW seems to be going all-in on the supernatural side of things, which is not good.
Finally, the treatment of the Women’s Championship storyline continues to disappoint and through no fault of the competitors. Charlotte and Fox’s match was somehow shorter than Sasha and Dana’s last week and as (WHAT SHOULD BE) the second biggest match on the RAW side of the SummerSlam card, it’s unacceptable. It’s incomprehensible that the male roster has been split in half and yet the women are still getting no time on a three hour show.
Jinder Mahal also lost his RAW debut… after losing on Superstars in his WWE return last week… why did they bring him back again?
SHOW GRADE: C-
SmackDown has to contend with having one hour less than RAW, but has done a great job of packing as much as possible into its shows without it feeling overcrowded. The use of The Miz as an antagonist in the Dolph/Dean rivalry was perfect as nobody was better placed to stir the pot between them. Ambrose and Ziggler’s match at SummerSlam is, by far, the most anticipated match due to its build-up. Both men have been superb and the multiple storylines at play make it super fascinating. Rollins and Balor may have the better match, but Ambrose versus Ziggler should go on last.
The women’s division is also flourishing. Despite having the disadvantage of no championship and only two hours, SmackDown has done a much better job building this division and in three weeks, we have more full-roster character development than the ‘Divas Revolution’ gave us in six months. Eva Marie is being used perfectly and should not even step in the ring at SummerSlam to continue that trend. The women’s division should never have been split, but since they have, full points to SmackDown so far. Naomi’s entrance was something new and interesting too.
Once again, Slater was the star. He took a savage beating from Orton, WON HIS CONTRACT, and then lost it in a delirious state after the show. Whatever their plan is with Slater, the ride to get there has been excellent.
Finally, quick shout-out to Talking Smack which is MUST WATCH content. Seriously, Bryan and Renee are fantastic and this show really delivers in every way.
Apollo’s run in occurring during the commercial break was disappointing. The Intercontinental Championship feud has really taken a back seat to other feuds. Only having two hours isn’t an excuse either. The John Cena versus Alberto Del Rio match went on a segment too long and that segment should’ve been given to Miz and Crews.
The entire tag team division being thrust into the ring at the same was odd. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but there were probably better ways to go about building this division. They’re clearly taking their time with the tag and women’s division, but they’ve done a better job with the latter so far.
Rowan breaking up with Bray seems strange. What else could they have planned for Rowan? The best thing they could do is have Harper and Rowan as a team, have them turn on Wyatt and begin Bray’s face turn again. Harper isn’t too far away from ring action so that should be their plan. SmackDown needs more tag teams anyway.
SHOW GRADE: B
SmackDown Live: 3
The first month after the brand split clearly goes to SmackDown live which seemingly has better booking, better storylines and better usage of stars. Can RAW bounce back? We’ll have to wait and find out!
Follow Nic on Twitter at @NicNegrepontis.
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