Wednesday Wrap-up: 04/17 RAW and 04/18 Smackdown

Must Watch 

Dean Ambrose and The Miz reignite a feud: The Miz had Dean Ambrose on Miz TV, and it doesn’t take long before he starts to insult him.  He calls him a someone who is a “rassler” rather than a superstar, someone who should “wear zubaz and a fanny pack.” He then calls him out on being on the pre-show of Wrestlemania because he is “lazy and complacent.”   Ambrose retorts that guys like Miz care about “image” and “branding.”  He loves the ring, whether it is “in front of 20 people or 100,000.”  Ambrose gets in his face, but Maryse steps in his way.  She then runs down Ambrose herself and tells him “the championship doesn’t make the man, the man makes the championship.”  Ambrose attacks Miz soon after.  Both men go for their finisher, but neither were successful, and  Miz and Maryse retreat.  This was a well-done segment.  There was no payoff per se because neither man got the upper hand.  The title was focused on throughout the segment, which made it feel important.  And it was just enough of a shoot promo that it felt real.  This is what Miz was doing on Smackdown all last year, and it’s still working here.  It’s a little ironic that the best segment on RAW were two guys that just came over from Smackdown.

Braun and Big Show explode the ring:  The main event match between Braun and Big Show was good – perhaps not quite as good as the match from a month or two ago – but still a solid big man match.  Big man matches don’t usually work well, but the athleticism of Braun and the recently-fit Show make these matches a must watch.  The superplex of Show that collapsed the ring is the big spot of this match though.  The collapsing ring has been done before, but it’s still impressive, and it works well with this story of setting of Braun’s superhuman strength although hopefully it’s not building to another Roman victory.

Jinder Mahal becomes #1 contender to the World Championship:  Smackdown held a six-pack challenge that featured Mojo Rawley, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Jinder Mahal, Sami Zayn, and Dolph Ziggler to determine the #1 contender for Orton’s World Title.  Sami Zayn looked like he was going to win with a Helluva Kick, but the Bollywood Boyz held his legs which ended up letting Mahal get the upper hand and getting the victory.  The crowd gave Mahal legitimate heel heat, which was surprising.  Jinder then cut a strong anti-American promo stating that they don’t value diversity and boo him for his promise and his ethnicity.  Randy Orton came out and said stuff before Bray Wyatt interrupted him on the Titantron, which killed the excitement of the crowd and the segment.  Until that point though, it was definitely an interesting turn of events, and Mahal could be a true heel that they desperately need right now.  The possibility of an Indian stable with the Bollywood Boyz is also intriguing, as the brothers could be a good tag team for the lacking roster.

The Good

Braun dragging Kalisto: During Braun’s multiple segments of destruction backstage, he comes down the hallway at one point dragging Kalisto by the foot like he’s a doll.  Because he’s been told he has to leave, he’s “taking” Kalisto with him.  The officials tell him he can’t, so he kicks Kalisto and says, “Roman Reigns is garbage, and you are too.”  Then he picks him up and throws him in a dumpster.  This segment was simply funny.  There is an almost child-like element to Braun’s character sometimes that makes him almost endearing.  If WWE isn’t slowly turning him babyface, they are missing the boat here.

TJ Perkins beats Jack Gallagher with special and specialer appearances: The cruiserweight match was great, and a TJ Perkins’s heel turn is exactly what was needed.  His slow dab as a taunt is perfect.  But the best part of this match was TJ’s new mentor, Neville, coming to sit at ringside as a “special guest.”  However, Austin Aries decides to come out and watch the match as well and announces himself as a “specialer guest.”  The two men sitting in chairs in opposite corners of the ring watching the match, and Aries eating a banana, was a great touch.

Booker T on commentary:  Booker T was a pleasant surprise on commentary.  Perhaps it’s because Byron is always such a non-factor on commentary or Booker’s disastrous history on commentary.  He was calm and measured most of the time, he had some funny lines, he put others over, and he tried to keep the focus on the action when Corey and Cole were talking about Payback or spouting other corporatisms.

Women’s #1 contenders match: This was a strong match from the four women involved.  It was constant action with little-to-no botches.  Nia seemed the favorite to win this, so it was a good surprise to see Alexa cleverly allow Nia to take out Sasha then steal the pin.  This might be a loss of faith in Nia after those life-threatening botches last week on Charlotte.  This is also two weeks in a row that WWE has had a #1 contenders match, and it is definitely something they need to do more often as was mentioned this past week in my article about improving the sports feel in WWE matches.

Jeff Hardy beats Cesaro in a singles match: In the build to the Hardys taking on Cesaro and Sheamus, Jeff took on Cesaro in a decent match that really picked up towards the end.  Hardy got the win with a Swanton Bomb.  The best part of this is that Sheamus and Cesaro shook the Hardys’ hands after the match.  This face/face dynamic was refreshing to see and needs to happen far more often.

Jericho puts The Drifter on The List: Jericho cuts a promo backstage about Kevin Owens and their match at Payback.  He says Kevin Owens isn’t the face of America, he is.  He has the “face of Jericho…frame it in, maaaaaan.”  The Drifter walks by playing his guitar, and Jericho stops.  “You know what happens, strange, straggling strummer when you interrupt Chris Jericho?  You know what happens weird, wandering wayfarer when you walk through Chris Jericho’s promo? You know what happens daffy drifter dandy?  You just made The List!”  Suddenly after that, this is the feud I didn’t know I wanted.  It’s immediately more interesting than Jericho and Joe.

Kevin Owens’s Face of America Open Challenge: Kevin Owens has reinvented himself again as an anti-American Canadian who holds the United States title.  He ran off the ring announcer to announce himself, squashed an enhancement talent from Kentucky in less than a minute, spoke in French, and was drawing true heel heat.  This is the Kevin Owens he needs to be – hostile, hateful, and egotistical.  Making fun of Americans is just the icing on top.

The Drivel

Seth and Samoa Joe build: Chris Jericho and Samoa Joe had an okay match.  The crowd was into Jericho, but not so much into Joe.  Joe got the victory and finally got some mic time as well.  The crowd noticeably reacted more when he was on the mic.  He has barely talked, and his motivation has made no sense since before Wrestlemania, so maybe this is a step in the right direction.  Seth had a short but effective promo, ending with the line, “payback is a bitch” to promote their match in a couple weeks.  This wasn’t bad, but this feud feels…tacked on.  Joe should have come before HHH, not after.

Gallows and Anderson booking: Gallows and Anderson got to speak this week as well.  They had a decent, short promo where Anderson said they came from Japan to “be mean and make green.”  Like Joe, this helps establish motivation at least.  They beat Enzo and Cass in standard but well-executed match, but it feels empty.  This is how Gallows and Anderson should have been booked six months ago.  Now, it is bordering on too late.

Dana Brooke and Emma build:  Dana was backstage hanging out with Alicia Fox who was complaining about getting covered in powder on 205 Live last week.  Emma interrupts and lies to Alicia that Dana was making fun of her.  Alicia gets angry and doesn’t want to be friends with Dana anymore.  Emma is trying to show Dana what it is like to “stand on her own two feet.”  Hopefully, this leads to the two getting back together.

Finn Balor beats Curt Hawkins:  This was simply a squash match for Balor as he bides time until Bray is wrapped up with his Orton feud.  This should have been a promo rather than a match since Finn hasn’t talked since returning.

Charlotte wins a #1 contender match: Charlotte beat champion Naomi in slow-paced, methodical, but ultimately uninteresting non-title match to become #1 contender.  This seems right.  Charlotte is the best wrestler and talker on the roster, so they might as well put the title on her as quickly as possible.

Women of Smackdown upset over Charlotte: Natalya, Carmella, Tamina were all upset over the fact that Shane McMahon allowed Charlotte to have a #1 contenders match, and they weren’t considered themselves.  They banded together to attempt to bully Charlotte backstage, but Charlotte no-sells their attempt.  After that, nothing was done with this storyline, which made it seem pointless.

AJ Styles beats Baron Corbin by countout: This was a solid even match, and Corbin keeps showing that he belongs in the upper midcard (although being in the ring with Styles so often is helping), but this was certainly a lackluster ending.  It makes sense as it keeps Corbin strong by not taking the pinfall and it keeps a potential feud open for them down the road, but the crowd was noticeably disappointed.  Kevin Owens, who was on commentary and was accidentally hit during the match, didn’t even get involved afterwards.

The Shining Stars beat American Alpha: The Shining Stars got a fairly clean win over Alpha to establish themselves, but there is little indication that the crowd cared either way.  WWE needs to do something with one of these teams to try to get some heat on them because Alpha is going downhill fast and The Shining Stars getting a win isn’t going to rub the stink of a comedy gimmick off them that quickly. At this point, The Shining Stars need to be relegated to enhancement or repackaged again, and Breezango should try to be rebuilt if possible because this tag team division is a mess.

The Bad

Braun still being portrayed as a heel:  When the show opened, Braun Strowman came out to address the crowd.  He was receiving about 75 percent of the cheers in the audience, but the story is still continuing to portray him as the heel and Roman as the babyface.  Maybe there is a longer play here by WWE, but the odds are there isn’t.  If they are just deciding to ignore the crowd in this one instance but listen in others, then this is simply stupid.

Bray’s promo about his “House of Horrors:” Bray says he controls “fear” and that he will “drag [Orton] down to hell.”  He says all of this while creepy PG images of skeletons and insane asylums and the like are shown.  Bray’s promo on Smackdown was shorter and even less effective. This feud cannot end fast enough.  The pattern with Bray is so obvious now; he won’t win, and the match won’t be what it needs to be.  Everything with Bray is a let down.

The Final Analysis

RAW was a solid show this week.  It had segments that were dragging, but the number of bad or eye-rolling segments were kept to a minimum.  The main event between Strowman and Big Show and the promo between Miz and Ambrose were the must watches, but they had a number of good segments as well.  This was a good start after the shake-up; hopefully, once the feuds that are carrying over from ‘Mania wrap up, this will get even better.  Smackdown, on the other hand, didn’t fair quite as well.  The women’s segments were underwhelming, and Becky didn’t even make an appearance.  The tag division is a disaster – the champions didn’t show up at all, and The Shining Stars beat the former champions, but it only hurt both teams.  The two bright spots were surprising heat that Jinder Mahal received for becoming the #1 contender to the World Title, and the tease of an actual stable with The Bollywood Boyz, and Kevin Owens being “The Face of America.” Otherwise, this was a weak episode.  Nothing was offensively bad, but nothing was necessarily exciting either.  This was a clear win for RAW this week.

The Final Analysis by the Numbers

Raw – 60% good or better segments; 2 “must watch” segments

Smackdown -33% good or better segments; 1 “must watch segment

 

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