For the first time in WWE‘s illustrious history, the promotion is airing two live promotions a week. Fans of the WWE are used to having Raw live on Monday nights, but for the first time since premiering in 1999, SmackDown also airs live every week. In a controversial move intended to combat historically bad ratings, the WWE have split their roster in half, creating two different products.
Monday Night Raw vs. Smackdown Live!
Vince McMahon told his children, Stephanie and Shane, that their shows would be competing with each other. McMahon told his children that the two shows would be competing in everything from ratings to merchandising sales. After Monday Night Raw pulled out all the shots in the first episode of the “new era”, it became apparent that the competition was very much real. So who won the first showdown?
The Announce Teams
The winner of this category is a bit obvious. While Mauro Ranallo is exceptionally talented, being paired with David Otunga and John Bradshaw Layfield did him no favors. The trio lacked structure, and they took away from their matches. JBL and Ranallo exchanged awkward one liners like “Miz went down faster than a plate of Buffalo wings” and “What’s the difference between the Buffalo Bills and Cigarettes? Bill Belichick doesn’t smoke cigarettes.” Why would JBL try to irritate the Buffalo audience when he’s on commentary and presumably anyone in Buffalo who wanted to watch the show would be in attendance? Otunga was mostly forgettable except for when he said “Zack Ryder has a knack for winning big matches”.
Meanwhile on Raw, the team of Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, and Corey Graves were great. Without the task of babysitting JBL, Cole was allowed to call the action fairly, even referring to what was happening in the ring as pro wrestling. Graves and Saxton revived their chemistry from their time together in NXT, and the unit worked extremely well.
Winner- Monday Night Raw
The Minor Belts
One thing that both shows did consistently is bury their minor champion. On Monday night, United States Champion, Rusev was pinned by NXT call-up, Finn Bálor in his first main roster match. On Tuesday, Intercontinental Champion, the Miz took two RKO’s from Randy Orton and was effortlessly pinned.
It’s true that Orton is a future WWE Hall of Famer, being built up for his match against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, but the Miz is still the Intercontinental Champion. Once upon a time, the white belt was considered the second belt in the company. Now? It’s nothing more than a tool to make Orton look strong.
Meanwhile, Rusev has been built as one of the strongest wrestlers in the company. Fatal fourway aside, Rusev shouldn’t be pinned by someone on their first night. It’s true that Bálor will be facing Seth Rollins at SummerSlam for the Universal Championship, but Cesaro should have taken that pin.
Ultimately, SmackDown wins this category because Randy Orton beating The Miz makes much more sense than a rookie defeating a strongly booked heel in his first match.
Winner- SmackDown Live!
The Women’s Division
On Monday Night Raw, Nia Jax made her main roster debut, crushing a jobber in a classic squash match. It was quick, and it accomplished its mission of making Jax look like a monster. If this had been the only women’s match on Raw, SmackDown might have had a chance. But later on that night, Charlotte and Sasha Banks made history. Banks and the Women’s champion had the match of the night, ending in Banks finally winning the title. These two put on a wrestling clinic and made it clear that women’s wrestling was here to stay.
Meanwhile on SmackDown Live, we were treated to yet another Becky Lynch and Natalya match. Lynch got the win in a decent match, but after losing at Battleground, it didn’t feel important. Not only did we get a stale match, but immediately after it ended, Alexa Bliss, Naomi, Carmella, and Eva Marie came out to re-introduce themselves and the segment ended awkwardly.
On Raw, we were treated to women’s wrestling. We witnessed a fantastic match between two talented individuals and a title change. On SmackDown, it just felt like every Diva’s segment from 2014 all over again.
Winner- Monday Night Raw
On Monday night, Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley had a problem. Despite being the flagship show, Monday Night Raw did not have a world champion. So they decided to invent one and hold a tournament. There would be two fatal fourways, with the winners meeting in the main event for a chance to face Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam. In the first fatal fourway, NXT call-up Finn Balor defeated Kevin Owens, Cesaro, and Rusev. In the second, the most popular man in the world, Roman Reigns defeated Sami Zayn, Chris Jericho, and Sheamus to advance to the main event. In that main event, the WWE Universe were treated to a real surprise when Bálor defeated Reigns clean. Finn Bálor vs. Seth Rollins is an indy dream match, and should be incredible.
On Tuesday night, they have a champion in Dean Ambrose, but they needed a number one contender. So Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon decided to have a six man match to determine Ambrose’s challenger. The competitors were Bray Wyatt, John Cena, AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Apollo Crews, and Dolph Ziggler. Despite being in the lower midcard for most of the last two years, Ziggler won, and will be facing Ambrose for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam.
Despite not having a world championship, Monday Night Raw blew SmackDown out of the water. As awesome as Bálor vs. Rollins should be, that’s how underwhelming Ziggler vs. Ambrose is. How could Ambrose conceivably lose to Ziggler when last week, he defeated Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins?
Winner- Monday Night Raw
The elephant in the room is that Raw’s dominance may have been by design. This isn’t the first time that the WWE has seen and brand split, and the last one ended because Raw was the favorite show. Raw has more time, more superstars, and on Tuesday, it just felt like they were trying to keep up. Monday Night Raw comes first on the calendar and in Vince McMahon’s priorities, and it’ll be hard for SmackDown Live to keep up.