themiz
WWE

WWE Weekly Recap: The Pros and Cons of Raw and SmackDown

Leave a comment

With the first presidential debate and Monday Night Football to contend with, Raw had quite a bit of competition to contend with. Even though WWE’s “flagship show” was coming off of its first brand specific Pay-Per- View since the draft (a PPV usually gives Raw a bit of a boost), this episode felt, well like a mediocre episode of Raw.

There was some good action from the cruiserweights, a great promo by Mick Foley (and a true SMH promo from Stephanie) and just the right amount of Chris Jericho to make the final two segments entertaining.

Please don’t put me on the list of Jericho.

SmackDown on the other hand was a show that I was actually looking forward to. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose actually felt integral to the build of the No Mercy main event triple threat match between the two and John Cena. Plus, two hours are just so much easier to digest.

Did SmackDown deliver? Not really. The main event wasn’t as good as I expected it to be and the Randy Orton-Bray Wyatt stuff was just odd to say the least. Having said that, the show moved quickly considering there were only three matches on the card.

OK, the review aspect of this week’s recap is done, I can now move on to the main topic of this column. Now that both Raw and SmackDown have held their first brand specific PPV since the WWE draft, I think it’s a good time to weigh the pros and cons of each show.

giphy

If you’re a fan of Raw, you’re probably not going to like what I have to say about the red brand because it’s been mediocre af since SummerSlam.

Raw pro: Quality of in-ring work. We all know the Raw roster is stacked to the gills, but Clash of Champions really showed just how many solid hands are working on Monday nights.

Every match on the PPV featured compelling wrestling, even if most of them ended with questionable finishes. The in-ring quality of the show never dipped. Maybe that’s why Nia Jax’s match was scheduled for the pre-show.

Raw pro: The cruiserweights. Even though the crowd in Cincinnati felt the need to take control of the T.J. Perkins vs. Tony Nese match by chanting for a guy that’s never going to appear on WWE television again and a legend that died in 2011, the cruiserweights are an incredible asset for Raw.

The action isn’t quite the same as it was during the CWC, but we shouldn’t have expected it to be. This is going to be a WWE version of the CWC (as weird as that is to say, it’s the truth. We’re not in Full Sail anymore).

Still, most of the guys are going to get over with the general audience due to their athleticism and the stiff shots they’re using. Every big kick from Cedric Alexander or Rich Swann gets a reaction. Just wait until Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa get called up.

Quick rant: Can we please see the cruiserweights get a segment in the first hour of the show when the crowd still has at least 85% of their energy? Putting out two guys to wrestle a match with no build in the third hour of a long show is going to equal death.

SmackDown pro: The length. Two hours is the perfect length.

Raw con: The length. Three hours is not the perfect length.

SmackDown pro: Old faces feel fresh. I spilled almost 1,000 words on the importance of keeping John Cena strong last week, but I will say that he feels like he has a new coat of paint on since the draft due to those losses. Crowds aren’t booing him like they used to.

The Miz’s renaissance has been a joy to watch. He’s firing at all cylinders, especially in the ring. Ever since his spirited exchange with Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack, Miz has stepped his game up inside the ropes. His promo work has been top notch.

While some may disagree here, I like the direction of the Dolph Ziggler character. The passion he showed on Tuesday night during his promo wouldn’t have felt the same if he was following the 50/50 booking plan. It really feels like the character is at a crossroads, which is exciting.

Raw con: The roster has zero depth. This is the tag division on Raw: The New Day, Gallows and Anderson, The Shining Stars, Enzo and Cass, and now Cesaro and Sheamus. You’re telling me Sami Zayn and Neville can’t be added to the mix here?

This is the women’s division: Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Dana Brooke, Nia Jax, and Alicia Fox.

SmackDown con: The roster has zero depth. This past Tuesday, The Ascension won their first match since December of 2014.

Viktor and Konnor celebrated like it was 1999.

Raw pro: Squash matches! Who doesn’t love a good Braun Strowman scream?

Raw con: A Squash match…When Bo Dallas is involved.

SmackDown pro: The titles feel important. The central issues on SmackDown don’t revolve around the GMs and their “talent.” Becoming champion, or holding onto a title is the motivating factor for almost everyone on the roster.

Yes, Daniel Bryan and The Miz have had their on-screen issues, but that story eventually led us to a title vs. career match at No Mercy between Miz and Ziggler.

Becky Lynch deserves credit for making the ultra-thin women’s division feel like they’re fighting for a big prize. Heath Slater and Rhyno also don’t have a lot of guys to work with in the tag division, but they’re the most over tag team in the entire division. When they drop the titles, it’s going to feel like a big deal.

Styles has made the WWE World title feel like the focal point of the show, which is exactly what a professional wrestling show should focus on.

For example, when Styles was looking for a tag partner to face Ambrose and Cena two weeks ago, Baron Corbin declined AJ’s offer, but made it a point to say that he’ll be coming for his championship. Little touches like that make the title important.

Raw con: The Universal title is just a prop for Stephanie and Foley to play with, while the other titles are just there. Kevin Owens is the WWE Universal champion, but he’s feuding with Seth Rollins about HHH, not the title.

Foley makes a best out of seven series between Sheamus and Cesaro that ends in a tie (which was supposed to be a mathematical impossibility!), so his solution is to form a tag team between the two and give them a future shot at the tag titles.

giphy-1

Reminder: Demolition’s tag team title record is 478 days. Monday night’s show marked the 400th day of the New Day’s title reign, so yeah, they’re not dropping the straps anytime soon.

Charlotte feels like the most well booked champion on Raw, but she’s probably going to lose the title to Sasha at Hell in a Cell because it’s in Banks’ hometown of Boston.

(That match really should be in the cell. It’s time to give the women a chance to work inside the “demonic” structure.)

Hopefully Roman Reigns can give the U.S. title some of the steam back that it had when Cena held it last year. This feud with Rusev is running out of gas very quickly.

The cruiserweight title is still too new to get worked up about, but as I said above, it would be really beneficial to have a T.J. Perkins match open an episode of Raw.

SmackDown pro: McMahon appearances are kept to a minimum. Shane O’ Mac feels like an afterthought, which is a good thing. He only appears when he has to and doesn’t dominate the screen when he’s sharing it with talent. Let’s revisit this paragraph when his feud with Brock Lesnar heats back up.

Raw con: McMahon appearances dominate the show. Dude…Stephanie did it again. She just had to be scripted in a way that emasculated Foley to a point where he seemed worthless. This was designed to build sympathy for Foley and give Stephanie heat for treating him like poop, but instead he came off like a (expletive deleted) moron, while she engulfed the TV with turn-the-channel heat.

giphy-2

SmackDown con: Trying to get too cute with storytelling. On paper, I’m sure the Orton-Wyatt segments from this past Tuesday looked great, but the final product was just too wacky to take seriously.

Orton is a veteran, which means in storyline he should have just stayed in the ring until Wyatt showed his face. Instead we got segments like this all night:

American Alpha is another example. The Usos “took out” Chad Gable by injuring his knee, which knocked AA out of the tag team title tournament and put Gable “on the shelf” for weeks. In the Usos next two encounters with AA, Gable’s leg was once again attacked and they ended up losing both of the contests.

Now, wins and losses aren’t supposed to matter, but these losses are killing Alpha’s momentum. Why not save AA’s return until after the tag title match at No Mercy when they can beat down the Usos?

Was Raw better than SmackDown this week?

(Hell nah GIF)

Time to “Go Home”

– Line of the week: “Go redesign, rebuild, and reclaim your couch,” Kevin Owens to Seth Rollins.

– I freaked out when I saw T.J. Perkins’ entrance for the first time at Clash of the Champions. The music is awesome and the graphics on the stage are unique (even though a heath bar should appear instead of the words “Max Health,” The Roommate though that was his name).

– Sometimes you don’t need words to be funny:

– Mick Foley is on my TV way too much, he’s been doing a fine job (which is impressive considering the amount of material he has to remember on Mondays), but he doesn’t need to be involved in every backstage segment.

– Why was Sheamus wearing a WrestleMania 32 hoodie on Monday?

– Why was he using the thumb holes?

– Dean Ambrose and Dana Brooke both need some practice on banging their head off of the top turnbuckle.

– Who has a better move set: Kevin Owens or AJ Styles?

– One SmackDown pro that I failed to mention above is “Talking Smack.” It’s a great avenue for guys or gals to elevate their characters in a free flowing environment. Just look at the boost The Miz got from being on there. Cena’s promo on this week’s episode was simply fantastic.

– Watching Luke Gallows “run” cracks me up on a weekly basis.

– Can we go back in time when the Curt Hawkins promos were just text?

– Did the Usos hit up H&M before their match on SmackDown?

– If WWE buys the TNA tape library, I can’t wait to binge watch on X-Division matches from 2003-07.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Kurt Angle to be inducted into WWE Hall of Fame

ORANGE, CA - MAY 08:  Wrestler Kurt Angle arrives at the Lions Gate Premiere of "See No Evil" at the Century Stadium Promenade 25 on May 8, 2006 in Orange, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Oh it’s true, it’s true.

WWE announced today that Kurt Angle will be going into their Hall of Fame on March 31st at the Amway Center in Orlando as part of WrestleMania week.

The 1996 Olympic gold medalist is a five-time WWE world champion and regarded as one of the best in-ring talents to ever grace the squared circle. Angle last appeared in a WWE ring way back in August of 2006.

In a press release, WWE’s Executive Vice President Paul “HHH” Levesque said, “Kurt Angle’s accomplishments both in the Olympics and WWE were extraordinary. He was one of the most gifted athletes to ever enter the ring, and we are honored to welcome him into the WWE Hall of Fame.”

WrestleMania 33 will be held Sunday, April 2nd from the Orlando Citrus Bowl live on WWE Network.

WWE Weekly Recap: 2017 Royal Rumble Odds

corbin
WWE
Leave a comment

For the first time in many years, the favorite to win the Royal Rumble isn’t obvious. In fact, this feels like one of the more unpredictable Rumble matches in WWE history.

Five guys who would be considered a favorite to win the match (Seth Rollins, The Undertaker, Braun Strowman, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar) are rumored to have their WrestleMania programs locked in and none are scheduled to be for either of the company’s main championships.

Instead of being a device that’s used to give an established star a main event spot at Mania, the Rumble might actually be used as a launching pad for a future world champion.

trampoline

With that in mind, here’s how I would rank the field:

Baron Corbin 6/1 (+600)

The odds may surprise you, but Corbin has been booked very strong ever since his better-than-expected chairs match with Kalisto at the TLC Pay-Per-View. He was given a lot of offense in the triple threat match for the WWE title on the “Wild Card Finals” episode of SmackDown and “controlled” 80 percent of his match against John Cena this past Tuesday.

Corbin is ascending into the world title picture and it’s totally logical to picture “The Lone Wolf” ending the first PPV of WrestleMania season by pointing at the giant WM sign.

With Goldberg-Lesnar, Undertaker-Strowman, and HHH-Rollins penciled in for Mania, Corbin vs. Styles, Cena or both, is a perfectly fine match (with entrances) to fill 20-25 minutes of the show. Corbin has shown enough in the ring lately for me to buy that he’s ready for a high level match.

Finn Balor 8/1 (+800)

If either Owens or Reigns walk out of the Universal Championship match in San Antonio with the red strap, Balor has a built-in story with either guy.

Balor beat Reigns clean in the middle of the ring during his first night on Raw and after the match Roman said he would love another crack at Balor.

Owens was handed the championship by Triple H, but HHH also has a connection with Balor that could easily be worked up with one or two backstage interactions if creative wanted to go that route.

If not, Balor and Owens could hearken back to their feud in NXT, which produced a set of extremely good matches in the Summer of 2015. Their NXT title match at “Beast in the East” was one of my favorites that year and 30 percent of that was thanks to the streamers that were thrown at the end of Balor’s entrance.

jim

No matter who Balor works with, he’s going to put on a great performance and if WWE wants to have a NJPW style match at Mania, the Demon King would be the perfect person to insert into it.

Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura 9/1 (+900)

A debuting superstar has never won the Royal Rumble, but if there was ever a time to do it, this is it.

Joe is the more likely option out of the two, considering that he just dropped the NXT title to Nakamura and failed to beat him in the rematch, but if Nakamura loses the title to Bobby Roode at Takeover: San Antonio (unlikely, but you never know), he instantly becomes a favorite.

If either guy won, it would make sense for them to face Styles for the world title at the company’s biggest show of the year. Joe is one of Styles’ best friends in the business. They’ve made magic in the ring together and understand how to put on a clinic in front of a massive crowd.

Nakamura wrestled Styles in the second to last match at Wrestle Kingdom 10, which is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s version of WrestleMania. It was predictably awesome and if you haven’t seen it yet, set aside a half hour and watch it:

Chris Jericho 10/1 (+1000)

As much as I want to see Team Chris and Kevin face off for the Universal title in Orlando. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. If Owens does somehow hold onto the title at the Alamodome, Jericho would instantly become one of the three favorites to win the Rumble.

Owens and Jericho are the hottest act on the company’s flagship show. Roman Reigns may get a bigger reaction in some cities, but he’s still not ready to be a main event promo, which is exactly what Y2KO have been since September, which is why I’m still holding out hope that this match will be for the title.

If Chris and Kevin are going to feud with each other, someone is going to have to turn and it makes sense for K.O. to beat the crap out of Y2J.

Imagine the verbal jabs between a heel Owens and a sympathetic babyface version Jericho who keeps the same character tone, but plays into the cheers.

wow

Now imagine Reigns cutting a 5-10 minute promo about defending the title.

cena

Randy Orton/Bray Wyatt 12/1 (+1200)

It’s easy to see a scenario in which Orton and Wyatt square off at Mania, but what if creative actually has long-term plans for the group?

If Wyatt or Orton were to win the Rumble and wrestle for the world title at WrestleMania, it could set up a title program between the two for the May-July period.

The Miz 14/1 (+1400)

Even though he’s currently in a feud with Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Title, Miz has been one of the best acts on SmackDown since the draft and deserves a main event run.

He and AJ teased a feud during a Miz TV segment a few weeks back, but I think the pair should be saved for a SmackDown exclusive PPV later on in the year.

Miz will eventually climb up the card, but sadly, he’s going to be left out of a high profile match at WrestleMania.

John Cena, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens 17/1 (+1700)

I’m expecting the losers of both title matches to enter the Rumble later on in the night. If I had to rank the four in terms of most likely winners I’d go: Styles, Cena, Reigns, Owens. It would be an interesting swerve to the Cena-Styles storyline if Cena won the title from AJ earlier in the night and then Styles responded by winning the rumble.

Owens is likely locked for a Mania match with Jericho and it would be a major letdown if Reigns won the most unpredictable Rumble in years.

Sami Zayn 25/1 (+2500)

If the Owens-Zayn storyline had any heat left, Zayn would be a logical choice. It would be a genuinely shocking moment and Zayn could use a boost after doing the job for Strowman.

With Owens likely taking on Jericho at Mania and Zayn’s current placement on the card, I don’t expect the taxi driver to make any real impact in the Rumble.

Rusev 25/1 (+2500)

The Bulgarian George Clooney deserves a featured spot in WrestleMania season because he’s one of the most entertaining full-time performers on the roster, but there are only so many spots to go around.

rusev

Big Cass 25/1 (+2500)

I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Big Cass ends up as one of the “Final Four” participants in the Rumble match. Either that or he’s going to have a spot midway through where he runs through a couple dudes before going out quickly.

Any member of The New Day 28/1 (+2800)

Big E is the only legitimate option here. This would be an ideal moment to begin the inevitable breakup between the three, but it needs to be a slow burn.

Dean Ambrose 40/1 (+4000)

He’s headed for another multi-man match for the IC title at WrestleMania.

Seth Rollins 50/1 (+5000)

Rollins is obviously penciled in to face Triple H in Orlando, so there’s no need for him to be near the title picture until after Mania.

Braun Strowman 50/1 (+5000)

He’s most likely facing The Undertaker. While it may seem like Strowman isn’t ready for the level of a match, if the company is serious about pushing him, he needs to be in this spot.

The split rosters have created a need for new stars, which means a clean win for Strowman over the Undertaker could be in the cards.

The Undertaker 50/1 (+5000)

As noted above, Taker most likely has a date with Adam from Tinder at Mania.

Yes, I know I used that line last week, but why not bring it back for round two?

Goldberg and Brock Lesnar 50/1 (+5000)

I’d love to see Brock and Goldberg “draw” the first two numbers and beat the hell out of guys until Braun Strowman eventually comes out.

Kane 70/1 (+7000)

Kane has shockingly been protected since the draft, so don’t be surprised if he has a strong showing in the Rumble. Who knows, maybe he makes it all of the way to the “Final Four.”

Shelton Benjamin 75/1 (+7500)

Benjamin was scheduled to return to the SmackDown brand after the draft, but needed surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. He had a six-month recovery time frame and the Rumble falls perfectly in line with his rehab, so don’t be surprised if “ain’t no stoppin me now” blares over the speakers in San Antonio.

American Alpha 75/1 (+7500)

Enjoy the SmackDown tag team titles. Jordan has a chance to win this in a few years.

Apollo Crews 100/1 (+10000)

He should still be in NXT.

Any cruiserweight 100/1 (+10000)

Nope.

Dolph Ziggler 100/1 (+10000)

The guy’s gimmick is that he loses, so there’s no way he’s going to win.

James Ellsworth 1000/1 (+100000)

Any man with two fists has a chance to be eliminated.

Holy Schnikes moment of the week:

Take it away Becky Lynch.

If you don’t know what see you next Tuesday means, Google it.

Time to “Go Home”

– Stephanie was harder to listen to than Otunga this week. Was it necessary for her to talk down to Sasha and Bayley like that? As a fan, how am I supposed to cheer either of the babyfaces if they don’t have a snarky retort ready to counter Steph’s heelish lines.

– So Nia Jax pins Bayley essentially clean in the middle of the ring just two weeks before Bayley faces Charlotte for the women’s title. Makes sense.

– Has anyone else noticed that Karl Anderson’s pants say #BC on them? I find it a bit strange that no one backstage has said anything to him about this.

– Everything about Neville’s heel turn is great, including the variety of moves he’s displaying in the ring. This week he worked a mat wrestling/submission style that resulted in him using the Rings of Saturn to get the victory over Lince Dorado.

– I like the fire Rich Swann showed when he attacked Neville after the match.

– I thought Natalya and Nikki Bella had an excellent brawl on SmackDown. Nattie caught Nikki with a kick right to the face.

So Seth Rollins is supposedly getting new music after all. Once I heard this version by Downstrait, I got bummed out every time I heard Rollins’ actual music:

– Please WWE, no more Big Cass vs. Jinder Mahal matches.

– I like that Ziggler’s heel turn accelerated this week. The worst thing for his character would have been to come out this week and apologize for his actions. Instead, he beat the crap out of Kalisto after their match and then waffled Apollo Crews with a chair when AC came out to help his “friend” Kalisto.

– This was American Alpha’s best showing since their call-up to the main roster. Gable used his hot tag effectively and Jordan had a very nice amateur wrestling sequence with Bray to begin the match.

– I LOVED Cena’s backstage promo this week. It felt a bit like a Doctor of Thuganomics promo, just all grown up.

The Twitter Machine: @ScottDargis