First Impressions of the Triple H Era: Women’s Division Shines, United States Championship Brought to the Forefront

Ciampa vs Styles - United States Championship #1 contendership
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The Triple H era is off to a good start, seemingly bringing the focus back on the women’s division, midcard, and Raw‘s top title, the United States Championship.

When Vince McMahon retired and Triple H was named head of creative, fans instantly wondered how quickly and impactfully the product would change. It didn’t take long for the first signs of a new era to emerge.

In the three shows leading up to SummerSlam and even the Biggest Party of the Summer itself, fans were fast to note Triple H’s imprint. But in reality, these were still Vince McMahon shows. The first SmackDown Triple H presided over, occurred just hours after McMahon had stepped down. The first Raw, which was a SummerSlam go-home show, along with that week’s SmackDown, didn’t offer Triple H much opportunity to make dramatic changes as the road to the PPV was at its end. Even SummerSlam, which saw the first taste of Triple H’s hands on the product with the returns of Dakota Kai and non-Royal Rumble debut for IYO SKY, had outcomes that would have largely been booked while McMahon was still at the helm.

SummerSlam marked the end of an era, and Monday began a new one.

And while one show is too early to really say what we should expect from a Triple H-run creative, if early results are any indication, it seems a return to midcard prevalence and a focus on the rebuilt women’s division will be two of the main calling cards.

United States Championship #1 Contender’s Matches Highlight First Raw of the Triple H Era

Ever since the WWE Championship was born at WrestleMania 38, unifying the former world titles for both SmackDown and Raw, the flagship show has become without a top champion. Sure, Roman Reigns has made appearances here and there, but he’s a SmackDown superstar, currently holding court on the blue brand with the championship. And while Reigns hasn’t wrestled much since the unification, his presence alone is a boost on Friday nights. The championship is not absent the way that it has been on Raw.

Without a world title around which to build weekly creative, Raw could have relied on their next top men’s title, the United States Championship. But save for a few memorable reigns here and there, the United States Championship hasn’t felt prestigious in quite some time. Often, it’s felt ignored, as has the entire midcard on both brands at times. It is this lack of midcard that complicates things when someone like Reigns or Brock Lesnar, takes time off and takes the title with them. But Monday night seemed to suggest that could all be changing.

The first Raw of the Triple H era started with not one, not two, but three #1 contender’s matches for Bobby Lashley‘s United States Championship. Raw also featured a video package that aired prior to the matches, reminding fans of the lineage of the title, the legendary past champions, and the significance of holding this championship. It was a great way to return this title to the forefront. But the video could only do so much. It was the in-ring action throughout the night that served as a reminder of just how important this title can be going forward.

In the night’s first triple threat match, AJ Styles defeated Miz and Mustafa Ali to advance to a one-on-one match against Tommaso Ciampa, who won his triple threat against Dolph Ziggler and Chad Gable. Both matches delivered on the action, providing a high quality of wrestling content not always seen on these sports entertainment programs. It made sense that the final contendership would come down to Ciampa and Styles. Those two have been at odds for a few weeks, ever since Ciampa joined Miz’ side in the midst of his feud with Styles. Ciampa and Styles had wrestled once previously, in a match that went a little over four minutes and was largely one-sided. Monday’s match took a different tune as with legendary United States Champion Booker T on commentary, these two exceptional wrestlers had plenty of time to showcase why the United States Championship scene will be one to watch going forward.

In the end, Ciampa picked up the huge win (in part thanks to the Miz), perhaps no bigger sign of the Triple H era. And fans won’t have to wait for a PPV to see Ciampa vs Lashley as the two will meet in the ring on next week’s Raw. Yet another sign that the United States Championship is about to become a fighting man’s crown. As Lashley noted on Raw, “I’m going to bring some respect back to this title.”

Bayley’s Return Brings New Focus on the Women’s Division

Monday Night Raw began with Becky Lynch cutting an impassioned promo and it also featured no shortage of segments and matches in between, largely focused on a new-and-improved women’s division.

Lynch will be missing some time due to the injury she sustained at SummerSlam but when she inevitably returns to Raw’s women’s division, it will be a much stronger unit than the one she left. In one night, Triple H revitalized a division that has struggled ever since Bayley has been out injured, Charlotte has been out on sabbatical, and Sasha Banks has been out following her and Naomi‘s walk-out in mid-May. It has been no secret that outside of the Four Horsewomen and occasionally Alexa Bliss and most recently, Bianca Belair, WWE has struggled to really spotlight their women’s wrestlers. Six wrestlers aren’t enough to build a division, especially when those wrestlers were split across two shows.

On Monday night – and SummerSlam before it – Triple H took huge measures to return the focus on the women’s division and showcasing new stars, much like he did in NXT. Raw’s women’s division now features IYO SKY, Dakota Kai, Bayley, Asuka, Alexa Bliss, Bianca Belair, and Becky Lynch among others. All of those women were featured in matches and segments throughout the night.

As mentioned, Lynch opened the show, sharing an embrace with Belair, to whom Lynch is entrusting the title…for now. Then, Bayley’s trio made their impact, attacking Lynch backstage. They would later attack Asuka and Bliss in the middle of a match as well, which led to Belair coming out to make the save. Bayley’s presence was felt throughout the night through several backstage segments and ringside as she once again attacked in the midst of Belair and SKY’s match. This led to a three-on-three tag match where Bliss and Asuka joined Belair against Bayley’s trio. The match ended in a chaotic brawl.

So much was made of the women’s division tonight, especially Bayley’s first match in over a year. The future looks bright for this division as you should expect to see the women on TV more frequently and in more prominent positions going forward in the Triple H era.

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