Wayne Utterback writes about the WWE and sports entertainment at large for We Are Regal Radio
The theme of this week’s Monday Night Raw was “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Look no further than the show’s closing segment featuring the all too-tired McMahon family drama at center stage. Traditionally, when Old Man McMahon sees the ratings start to slump, we can always expect a timely visit from Vince. Lo and behold, ratings continue sinking and here comes Vince to attempt to inject some passion into the product.
Mid-show, Vince drops a bomb that he’s going to be selecting the Smackdown commissioner during this week’s episode and he actually lives up to his word. After a lengthy and drawn out segment where Steph, Shane and Vince all attempt to talk over each other (which feels so scattershot that it loses any sort of excitement quickly), until Vinny Mac decides that he’s going to select Shane to run Smackdown and Steph to run Raw.
This decision is solid in that Shane will decidedly give Smackdown a good job of energy as the commissioner, especially with Smackdown going live next week WITH the draft. WWE is putting a lot of eggs in one basket to convince many viewers, new and old, that Smackdown can be relevant and require weekly viewings.
Had this segment felt true to its word where Shane and Steph actually had legitimate control over each brand and were encouraged to think outside of the box, this would be a truly fascinating prospect for viewers. However, I remain unconvinced that this is going to change anything too drastically.
All the momentum of this brand split will rely on the draft and how it shakes out. I don’t want tag teams broken up, I don’t want factions separated. I want guys to get spotlights previously unattainable to them with the current power structure within the company. In other words, I’m reserving full judgement until the week after the draft when the players start moving into place and we get a clearer picture of how all of this will pan out.
Did I just watch New Day-liverance?
The New Day vs. Wyatt Family segment was a bizarre distraction from our regularly scheduled programming, unless you watch Lucha Underground or checked out the ludicrous, but fun, Final Deletion match on TNA that aired last week. Other shows have done this kind of bizarre, multi-cam, cinematic concept match or backstage segment before, so it felt odd to see WWE be the last to the party.
I will give them some credit though, because this segment was particularly dark. It felt brutal, it felt gross and it felt like something I shouldn’t be watching. It was devoid of a lot of the campiness that came with The Final Deletion and can be found in some of Lucha Underground’s segments. However, a terrible filter on the footage made this a terribly unwatchable mess. The “match” ended at a stalemate with The New Day running from a veritable army of Bray’s followers. I expect The New Day to emerge from this detour a little more serious, at least for a little bit. It will do them good.
Sami and Kevin, the neverending story
I am loving the feud between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens and while I know it needs to end soon in order to avoid overexposure, these two have done a great job of building an organic and natural feud that keeps me locked when they are on the screen. Their match at Battleground could be one for the ages. WWE, give this one 15 minutes at least, these two deserve it for the work they’ve put in.
Darren Young + Bob Backlund = ???
Look, starting Raw off with a ring full of mid-card talent didn’t seem like the most exciting thing, but I enjoyed how it played out. I had Baron Corbin, Apollo Crews and Darren Young as the guys I wanted to win. Lo and behold, Darren Young — after weeks of awkward promos with Backlund — re-booted and won an opportunity at Miz’s Intercontinental strap.
Kudos to WWE for taking the time to hype a guy up and then letting him win, regardless if he didn’t actually look too dominant by not throwing anyone out to claim victory in an over-the-top battle royal. They should run with Darren and let Bob be Bob. It’ll be entertaining if they let it just be what it is.
- Seth Rollins doing an interview where he took Roman Reign’s previous interviews and spliced them together was just not funny enough for me. However, WWE champion Dean Ambrose coming out after the “Rollins Report” and delivering a rage-filled, confident promo about being the best and being the hardest working guy in the company was refreshing. We need more serious Dean. No more jokes. Make him Stone Cold. Ass kicker. Name taker. Winner.
- Zack Ryder loses to Sheamus, then Rusev beats up Ryder and accepts a U.S. Title match at Battleground. I’m not a huge Ryder fan, so I hope Rusev crushes him. It’s time to make Rusev a true monster again.
- Breezango is proving to be immensely entertaining and if WWE will let them be completely air-headed and vain from here on out, I’m all in.
- The Club has been solid in every appearance during this John Cena feud. I don’t want Enzo and Cass teaming with Cena, but the right thing is for The Club to destroy these three at Battleground and assert themselves as a top faction.
- Sasha Banks beat Dana Brooke, obviously. I want this feud with Charlotte to be over so we can eventually have Sasha in a feud that isn’t being re-hashed from NXT.
- This week is a huge one for WWE fans that prefer Network-exclusive programming to Raw and Smackdown. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Finn Balor main events NXT this week and it’s going to be great. Nakamura has to pull out this win as he sets himself squarely in the NXT title picture while Finn is allowed to move on to bigger pastures on the main roster.
- Also happening this week is the start of the Cruiserweight Classic. DON’T MISS THIS. If you don’t know many or any of these guys, I recommend checking out Gran Metalik, Zack Sabre Jr., TJ Perkins, Akira Tozawa and, foremost, my lock for the winner of this whole damn thing, Kota Ibushi. The talent WWE assembled for this tournament is insane and any fan of wrestling will be better for having watched it. THIS is why I pay for WWE Network. Give me more of this.
Wayne Utterback is a contributor to We Are Regal Radio, Editor in Chief of Rudo Can’t Fail and co-host of Spandexistential Thoughts, follow him on Twitter @DubyaLucha; Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio