Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow and Brian Damage.
This week, to mixed results, were the first episodes of Raw and Smackdown live from the new era. In today’s Sunday Sermon it’s only right that we take a look at the goings on on both shows and assess whether they have improved or not.
Craig: It seems logical to start with Raw then move on to Smackdown. I have to say, Raw was excellent. It had to be but it was. That’s not to say it was perfect – the name of the new Raw title is awful. But the rest was solid. Emphasis on creating a sense of importance around being the number one contender for the new title was very well done. And what a way to debut Finn Balor on Raw. Really was exceptional.
I’m also thrilled that Corey Graves is on announce duties. Thought his opening night was solid. Not exceptional, but solid none the less.
And, for me, the big one of Raw: Sasha Banks winning the women’s title. I really thought they’d hold off on this until SummerSlam so this was a nice, and a big, moment on the first Raw after the brand split.
It will be difficult to keep the forthcoming weeks’ shows as strong but there were plenty of positives on show. Right?
Jamie: Having watched both shows I’m sold on Summerslam already, so job done in that regard. I think I preferred Raw to Smackdown though. My hesitation is that I wanted to like Smackdown more, but I found Raw much easier to watch. Raw was essentially the same format as it usually is, only with an emphasis on fresher faces. It’s amazing what a small change can do, and just shows that WWE weren’t actually doing much wrong before.
I liked the two fatal four way matches because it helped to sort out who the top guys are going forward. Obviously Reigns, Sheamus etc. were always going to feature, but we now know where we stand with the likes of Cesaro and, of course, Finn Balor. I will be intrigued as to where Raw goes from here though, there is always the chance that it could slip back into the same old pattern of Stephanie opening the show to kill some air time before booking a Roman Reigns vs everybody else match.
Oh, I’d agree regarding Corey Graves. In fact, I liked the line up of all the announce teams because they look – and sound – relevant and credible. My only gripe would be David Otunga sitting in Renee Young’s chair! That was her spot for the taking, where did he come from?!
Brian: I guess they need to justify paying David Otunga. The announcing teams are definitely a strength now on both shows. All the new faces certainly helped strengthen the watch ability on both shows. I really think the WWE is going through a renaissance period.
More emphasis is being put on younger talent, more wrestling and less talk. I see a lot of potential that I hadn’t seen for quite some time in the WWE. Will it sustain for weeks, months and years to come? I don’t know, but they are doing things that are usually been out of their comfort zone. It’s a great time to be a wrestling fan!
Craig: I disagree re announcers. I thought JBL was poor on SmackDown. But I think he’s a pretty woeful commentator anyway.
I also really didn’t like Smackdown. It felt too heavily made up of promo videos and seemed a chore to watch. It was easier, and certainly more enjoyable, to watch 3 hours of Raw than 2 hours of smackdown.
It was a shame for smackdown. The brand split brought them a lot of new viewers and you’d expect some would have stayed on for this week. Unlikely to tune in next week after this showing.
Jamie: I take your point regarding JBL, he is quite grating and obnoxious, but I’m a fan of antagonistic commentators. If only Paul Heyman could be persuaded to take his place…
I will, sadly, agree with you regarding Smackdown in general. Immediately after the show I felt quite good due to Dolph Ziggler winning the six pack challenge. However, now that has sunk in there really wasn’t much else to get excited about. The ‘here’s the entire women’s division’ segment was unoriginal. Becky Lynch’s face said it all during that segment i.e. “what the f*ck is this?!” I get that Smackdown is only two hours, but there’s always next week. We don’t need to be introduced to everybody all at once. A Randy Orton and Miz segment hardly screamed ‘new era’ either.
Also, was it just me or did Smackdown seem a lot smaller than Raw? It may have been the smaller arena, the lack of a ramp or the different camera angles, but it felt like smaller than Raw, figuratively and literally.
Brian: While Raw was the better show this week…I still say it needs time to gain traction. Will it ultimately be better than Raw? I doubt it but as long as it becomes the show of opportunities, it will do just fine. As for JBL, I may be in the minority, but I enjoy his rants. He is a true heel commentator.
Craig: I agree with Jamie regarding Smackdown feeling smaller. Despite various attempts to try and make Smackdown feel like it wasn’t Raw’s b-show, this week did nothing to change that opinion. I agree with the rest of the assessment too. Compare surprises as well: Raw had Sasha win the women’s title whilst Smackdown had the return of a 90s ECW talent… It’s hardly a like for like? Not advocating a title switch on Smackdown, merely that after the previous week being a huge episode of the show, they needed to follow it up with something else big. And I don’t believe that they did.
Jamie: A very valid point. Raw was good, but we’re not going to see new champions and NXT graduates pushed into title matches every week. It is hard to judge both shows when they are both trying to start with a bang, but Smackdown didn’t half start with a whimper for me. Seeing Ziggler win was cool, but unless he goes on to defeat Ambrose – which I doubt – then what will have changed? WWE can’t just undo years of bad booking in one night and make us believe Dolph Ziggler really is higher up the ladder than John Cena and Randy Orton. I hope it lasts, but WWE specialise in stop/start booking so I can’t help but feel that Dolph will feuding with The Miz over the IC Title by Survivor Series.
Brian: I see what you’re saying Jamie, but I disagree 100% with that thought. I think Dolph will turn heel and have a little faction of some sort behind him. Just a guess, but I see that happening at SummerSlam. The way I see this “New Era” is very much the way I saw WCW’s reboot before they went under. A clean slate for everyone with past mistakes erased and new beginnings.
What better way to really send that message then to revitalize Dolph Ziggler’s career. I think it will happen.
Jamie: That would certainly be something I’d like to see, and there is a vacancy for a top heel on Smackdown. There’s AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt, but after that we’re looking at Baron Corbyn. I’d love to see Ziggler get a fresh start as a heel, but ‘new era’ or not, history has taught me to believe it when I see it.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.