Four long months after the inaugural coining of the term ‘New Era’, we get our first show displaying a new look, style, and feel from the WWE. Armed with a lackluster draft and followed by a sleeper Battleground, we arrive at Raw where visually things are quite different. A new logo, intro, and additions to the set are among the visual changes. Sure it looks different, but does it feel different?
The answer is yes, this week at least. Forget the new coat of paint that we were given, let’s look at what made this episode of Raw feel important.
Almost every match on Raw this week meant something. Huh! Something as minuscule as making the matches important and presenting ramifications wind up bringing the product together as a whole, making a three-hour experience easy to digest and, more importantly, getting you excited for what’s to come. What a novel concept!
Amongst these, the WWE gave us all the Women’s Champ we’ve been screaming for. How could the crowd not be excited? Although, they did basically skip the build for a match that could have been even bigger and better, Sasha vs Charlotte at Summer Slam. It’s a logical choice, Sasha ruled the Barclay’s Center last year at NXT Takeover Brooklyn. Why not have her first WWE title win in the same building one year later?
Next, is the long awaited return of the squash match, a proven way to help get over new talent. He or she enters the ring, kicks ass and leaves; showcasing their unique ability or skill set. Who knew that Braun Strowman would reverse chokeslam some poor guy with a shitty Offspring tattoo?
The majority of the show was made up of three matches in total to figure out who would face Seth Rollins at Summer Slam for the new, WWE Universal Championship; making an instant star out of Finn Balor in the process. The name of the title does come across a little wonky, I know, but we all expected there to be a second title, and at least, this time, they’re being creative.
Sadly, Smackdown came across as Raw’s baby brother, it did everything the same, from the opening to the ending of the main event, just to a smaller scale. Their women came across as second rate, the battle royal was forgettable, and a less popular surprise made his way into the main event. Dean Ambrose will defend his title against Dolph Ziggler, a far cry from Rollins and Balor. However, the additions of Shelton Benjamin and Rhyno will start to round out the mid-card role nicely, giving us time to wait until next week when American Alpha debut. It’s just good business, make us watch week to week.
I do have hope for Smackdown in the long term, they just need to figure out who they are. Last time around it took Smackdown almost three months to get its footing and as the “B” show. I believe we should give them some time. One thing they need is to establish a solid core group of upper mid carders and perhaps an out-of-nowhere tag team division to catch us all by surprise. I’m not saying copy Smackdown 2002 entirely, but it worked well for a while.
In the end, you really have to look at WWE’s track record. Continuity is not their friend. Look at it this way, I’m sure you all had times when you wondered “Does Erick Rowan still make exquisite wine?” or “Why did the Bellas go back to being friendly following that servant angle?”. Whatever happened there? I don’t know? Do you? Do you even care? I don’t. Here’s why. Most of the time we are presented with garbage angles and lackluster characters. Three hours is still three hours. How many weeks will the WWE be able to fill that time with exciting new content and keep this train rolling? I don’t mean to be a Negative Nancy, but the past has told us to be aware and only time will tell if the new visual aesthetics will outlast the revived feel of importance to the Raw brand and god help us if Smackdown doesn’t find its stride sometime soon.