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WWE Weekly Review (Raw & SmackDown Live): 7/25 – 7/26

Sam BrooksJuly 28th, 2016Blog, News, The Suplah Reviews1 Comment »

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Well, colour me surprised, folks. Usually, WWE’s Battleground PPV often leaves fans disappointed, unentertained, or generally apathetic towards wrestling (see the finishes to the 2015 and 2013 events…). However, this time, WWE pulled something great out of their magic hat, and impressed me with how many good decisions they made. Our full review of Battleground 2016 can be found here, on the latest episode of The Suplah.

The Raw following Battleground was probably one of the best Raw episodes we’ve seen in many years, with the new era in WWE officially underway. Following up with a fantastic edition of SmackDown, leading into a promising looking WWE SummerSlam, this week in WWE has been satisfactory, to say the least. Let’s take a look and see what’s happened in the WWE, with our WWE Weekly Review.

 

WWE Raw 7/25

WWE Raw (July 25th Edition) – Grade: A-

The new era has truly begun, with a kickass new theme song and stage set-up for Monday Nights. Whilst reception to the Raw logo was, at first, negative, I feel that it looks ten times better on TV than on paper. With this in mind, if you go off and watch Raw (which I’d recommend), take note of the new camera techniques and see just how different it feels watching the show.

We kick off with the announcement of the new Raw world title, named the WWE Univeral Championship… typical Stephanie, always needing to one-up her brother with his WWE World Championship. Named after the WWE Universe itself, the first man to hold the title will be crowned at SummerSlam, with tonight’s edition of Raw determining who will face Seth Rollins at SummerSlam for the title, and the chance to make history. Two fatal 4-way matches are made, with the winners of each match facing each other in the main event, the winner of that match facing Rollins at SummerSlam. With me so far? Call it needlessly complex, but I enjoy the structure of these matches, as it gives viewers reason to stay glued to the TV for 3 hours. Also announced is a match for the WWE Women’s Championship, with champion Charlotte defending against Sasha Banks.

The first match of the night, the first 4-Way between Kevin Owens, Rusev, Cesaro and Finn Balor, was fantastic. Balor picked up the win, with Roman Reigns solidifying his place in the main event by defeating Sami Zayn, Chris Jericho, and Sheamus in the second 4-Way. Would the longest-reigning NXT Champion in history really be pushed to the moon on his first night? As it turns out, yes, he would. Because not only did Balor win his first match, he also pinned former champion Roman Reigns in the main event, clean as a whistle. To further send the fans home happy, Sasha Banks would capture the Women’s Championship from Charlotte in a great match mid-way through the show. Both of these encounters were a surreal thing to see, each for their own reasons, but I thoroughly enjoyed them both. It was the most fun I’ve had watching wrestling in the WWE for a long time.

With all this in mind, Raw blew me away with how entertaining it was. A lot of expectations were defied, and the presentation of the show was a great change of pace from the regular monotony of Raw from the past several years. Commentary is on top form, with Corey Graves delivering like always, and Byron able to escape from his abusive relationship with JBL. Interviews with the winners of the matches are conducted at ringside immediately following the match, which is something Keelan Balderson encouraged in his “Keelan’s Call” video on the topic of Raw. That adds a new dimension to these characters, and is something different than the cardboard cut-out backstage interviews we get. Coupled with the interview of the jobber that would be murdered by Braun Strowman, as the monster made his entrance, this felt like a step in the right direction on the whole.

However, the one segment that I felt was lacking is, unfortunately, The New Day’s segment. Celebrating their record-breaking Tag Team Championship reign, with “Sunny Boi”, and the whole segment just serving the purpose of putting the New Day on the show with no reason behind it, was kinda lacklustre. Gallows and Anderson attacking the trio and yelling at Sunny Boi afterwards just felt awkward. Other than that, it set up the Club as challengers for the titles, which will presumably be the match at SummerSlam. Overall, Raw was fun to watch, for the first time in years, despite one or two criticisms. Welcome to the future!

 

WWE SmackDown Live 7/26

WWE SmackDown Live (July 26th Edition) – Grade: B+

Many people, myself included, had their doubts about SmackDown following the draft, quick to point out that Raw had a majority of the championships, divisions, and competitors… but that didn’t stop SmackDown from being a high-quality show this week, by any stretch of the imagination. The only downside to SmackDown going forward will most likely be the commentary desk. JBL talking over Mauro Ranallo, Otunga delivering dated pop-culture references and Ranallo’s groove thrown off by this combination of broadcast partners is no good sign, by any means. Get rid of JBL and replace him with Lawler, and that’s one problem solved. Failing that, a two-man broadcast team never hurt anybody.

SmackDown starts with its own process for determining a number one contender for the WWE World Championship, with Bryan and Shane booking a Six-Pack challenge match in the main event, featuring Cena, Styles, Corbin, Ziggler, Wyatt, and a sixth participant to be determined in a battle royale, which opened the show. Crews last eliminated Kane to earn his spot, with a ringside interview conducted afterwards. A rematch from Battleground followed, with Lynch submitting Natalya in a standard women’s match. What followed was the entire SmackDown women’s division coming out to interrupt each other. Alexa Bliss interrupts Lynch, Naomi returns to interrupt Bliss, Carmella debuts to interrupt Naomi, and Eva Marie makes the greatest entrance in her career. Yes, you read that right. Taking inspiration from Tetsuya Naito, Eva Marie has a new element to her entrance, which lasts about three minutes longer than necessary… and I loved it. If they all had something to fight for, however, it would all be hunky dory.

Following that nonsense, Randy Orton makes his in-ring return in a match with The Miz, following a Miz TV segment between the two. Two RKOs later, Orton picks up the win, and it dawns on me how good Orton is when used properly. A win over a champion such as The Miz seemed unnecessary, but with the thin roster and the need to make Orton look good going into SummerSlam, what else can you do? After this, a jobber makes his entrance, only to be interrupted by the hottest free agent in sports entertainment, Heath Slater. This sets up for the re-debut of Rhyno, who gores the hell out of Slater, providing another body for SmackDown. Good. Speaking of which, to everybody’s collective shock, a video package for the returning Shelton Benjamin plays. Unbelievable, considering his recent run in Japan, I never saw it coming. At least the people who’ve been spreading rumours about Benjamin returning for years finally get their moment.

The main event was a spectacular showing between our potential star players of the blue brand, with a surprise victory from Dolph Zigger, meaning that the show-off finally gets a chance at glory, facing off against Dean Ambrose for the World title at SummerSlam. Everybody looked good in the match, and it solidified that anyone could potentially win big in the new era. With Balor and Ziggler both fighting for a top-tier title at a main PPV, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking someone left Universe Mode on in 2K16. Overall, SmackDown was great, but the various small downsides mean that Raw was better this week.

 

WWE SummerSlam 2016

Overall Grade – A

With the Road to SummerSlam officially underway, I couldn’t be more excited. With Battleground breaking the curse, Raw bringing the new era into reality, and SmackDown surprising everybody, it’s safe to say that this week in WWE was definitely the best in recent memory. In addition to NXT and the Cruiserweight Classic tournament on the Network, and SummerSlam shaping up to be a fantasy booker’s dream, it’s safe to recommend a free month on the WWE Network for August. A wrestling fan usually has to suffer through mediocre, tedious, hours long programming just to get a couple minutes of satisfaction, but this time? We had hours of solid content and enjoyable matches across the board. This can either mean a consistent track going into the next PPV, or a steady decline over the next few weeks… let’s hope for the best.

What were your thoughts on Battleground, Raw, and SmackDown Live? Comment below!

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  • Ghost Rider Vs The Punisher

    RAW
    I agree Sam. Love the new RAW theme song and I enjoyed RAW which in itself isn’t something I have said for a very long time!

    I thought the card was good and Stephanie is only mildly annoying now she isn’t trying to constantly ad-lib with her brother because she thinks she is really funny! BTW, did you notice last week when Mick Foley was announced as RAW GM he needed a few prompts from Stephanie on what the hell he was supposed to be saying. I respect Mick a lot and hope this is just teething as he’s been away from this aspect of WWE for a while. Awful TV if he ruins it all but then again could be mildly entertaining too.

    So pleased Charlotte is no longer Champion. I wouldn’t mind if she takes some time off tbh!!!

    So pleased Finn is now up on the main roster. Did you think his entrance was a little less impressive on the bigger stage than on NXT? Too much light maybe or perhaps it just needs getting used to.

    Roman really needs to go full ‘heel’ now especially with his thicker more menacing beard!!
    I hope Cesaro gets some good slots soon.
    Looking forward to the Cruiserweight division.

    SMACKDOWN “LIVE”!!
    I love Daniel Bryan being back but even now I’m getting a little tired of his constant theme song and the forced ‘Yes’ chants. I never thought I would feel that way but…eh!

    I want Alexa Bliss to do well. Aside from that rear view putting her over with me and many others she is a good in ring worker but a little too forced on the mic I think.

    Something still needs to click with Carmella for me. Again a little too forced and locationally (Staton Island) gimmicky!

    Hate Naomi!

    Eva…keep going and not talking, you’ll do good! Who’s the guy doing that voice over in her entrance?

    I want AJ to be pushed to the moon but I guess it’ll take time. I wasn’t bothered about Dolph winning as per my last sentence.

    I know everyone complains about RAW being 3 hours but man did SMACKDOWN seem like it fizzed by quick, only 1 hour and a bit I think. No wonder RAW has all the bits like Cruiserweight Division and larger Tag Team Division.

    Final note: Mojo, unless you drastically change your gimmick…

    FUCK OFF!!!!

    Cheers
    GRvsPunisher

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