On Raw, Finn Balor’s injury was truly disappointing as it presented not only a new face but also a new direction. Rumours of Jericho and Owens being involved in the Universal title hunt until Survivor Series were particularly intriguing. Those two are constantly entertaining as heels and can put on good matches with a varied move set. This was arguably the best Raw since the stellar premiere but dragged at times as even their larger roster felt stretched and exposed for how shallow the roster is. More on that in the booking.
Smackdown was very well paced and quite enjoyable. By the time the show was over, I barely felt like an hour had passed, no less two. Much of that was the commercial interruptions. Styles and Slater were both the MVPs of the show. The only weakness was Naomi and Natalya on commentary. Both women were hardly engaged in the banter. The former felt very subdued and showed little passion or presence. I can certainly understand not wanting to overshadow what is going on the ring, but the two women need to take a page from Dean Ambrose or the Miz on commentary to see how to contribute to the match at hand while also showing personality.
Talking Smack though has opened quite a debate in the light of the Miz vs Bryan promo. Their feud feels genuine on screen. Bryan set things up well to allow the Miz to deliver the promo of his career. Instead of resulting in a shouting match, Bryan’s walk off stage gave Miz the platform to deliver his message. While I enjoy the Miz’s work as a chickenshit heel, the passion he showed definitely deserves recognition for greater things to come. Whether or not it does, remains to be seen but I feel invested in Mike Mizanin to have greater success whether as a face or heel. The Miz wasn’t the only one to be fleshed out more but the talk with the Usos and even the Carmella vs Nikki Bella acts were enhanced. The show is becoming quite integral to the experience. I know more about the Usos in that one segment than I did throughout their entire program against the Club. Now, they didn’t necessarily endear themselves to me (they sound like jocks), but at least I have something to relate to other than “twins who dress alike and do the Rugby pre-match chant; also cousins to Roman Reigns”.
Prime Time Players Tussle
I start off with the worst segment from last week. Titus O’Neil flubbing his lines at numerous occasions made him look amateurish in front of the audience. Further, the whole Darren Young vs O’Neil feud is not captivating although I at least enjoy the fact Titus is calling out Young on never having been great in the first place and to their shared history. But as easily as he dismisses Young, he needs to explain why it matters that he come out on top of the feud. There needs to be stakes for us to feel invested. The Young and Backlund relationship is an interesting one. The amount of time it took for Young to intervene during the Backlund and O’Neil fight did no one a service except maybe Backlund. I think this can be exploited.
During the show, O’Neil will be interviewed backstage on what happened last week. O’Neil will point to him having Backlund being the one with the initiative to come out and Young being too late to help him. Return this back to their time as a tag team with O’Neil accusing Young to not pull his own weight and never having his partner’s back. Accuse Young (the face) to be the selfish one. As the heel, O’Neil should look like the hypocrite and get the audience against him at least. Later in the show, Young attacks O’Neil face to face instead of a sneak attack in the locker room. Have him yell out the accusations of not standing up or not taking initiative to motivate himself in the attack. This enforces the narrative that the underdog is stepping up to the bully.
Universal Title Fatal Fourway
The WWE has booked a lot of impressive fourway and even six-pack matches with talented workers. However, the emphasis here is “a lot”. Too much of a good thing becomes stale. Thankfully, there appears to be room for some outside shenanigans with Enzo, Jericho and even Rusev having reason to interfere in the match. This can make for a great title match which normally could be reserved for a PPV. However, putting this on free TV will certainly help give a slight bump to the ratings.
I’d start Raw with a Highlight Reel segment involving KO and Jericho. Here, KO and Jericho essentially give themselves verbal pats on their backs, before running down the remaining competitors. This draws each in turn to give their rebuttal before all hell breaks loose. Throughout the night, the backstage interviewers will attempt to speak to the four for their thoughts after the altercation. Tom Phillips will do the honours with JeriKO of course. Tangential to this, Jericho and Neville would have a match where Jericho wins due to a low blow missed by the referee.
The details of the match would have Rusev screw Reigns, Enzo and Jericho more or less cancel each other out. I’d involve Neville to tip the scales against KO in revenge for Jericho’s involvement. Rollins will pick up the win and claim the title confirming his status as top heel on Raw. I’m hoping this sets up a Sami Zayn challenge the next week.
Raw Women’s Division
Bayley’s promotion to the main roster was a welcome arrival. The women’s division on Raw is sorely hurting with numerous injuries and poor builds. However, her and Nia Jax are still new and not firmly established yet to be seen as legitimate contenders to casual fans. The squash matches for Jax should continue here with her facing another local talent. Bayley however will face a tougher challenge. No, not Dana Brooke but rather a current heel on the women’s NXT roster. She will face off against Ember Moon. The story here is Ember will be jealous Bayley was promoted despite her loss against Asuka and wants the opportunity. Foley agrees but on the condition she can defeat Bayley on Raw. Moon will come up short but gracious in victory, the two will hug after a good match (hopefully) and allow Moon to go back to NXT with some more momentum despite the loss.
For the heels, Dana Brooke will face off against Alicia Fox after a segment where Charlotte tells Dana she better “step up” her game. Charlotte will be on commentary heeling on Fox and Bayley. Dana will earn a win here with a pin using the bottom ropes as leverage to regain Charlotte’s favour.
Raw Tag Team Division
With Enzo and Cass set to be involved in the main event and a rematch against JeriKO at Clash of Champions, that leaves few options for a lower card build. With the Dudleys departing WWE, there are only two established teams: The Shining Stars and the Golden Truth. The Puerto Rican gimmick was dead on arrival and so despite their talents, I can’t see them accomplish much without another repackaging. Golden Truth is a comedy act. Having both fight one another is fine for Superstars but not necessarily Raw. Which is why I think it is time for a call up.
Tommasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano are well suited for Raw. They can pull double duty for the upcoming Cruiserweight division (more below) and tag team division. Have them come up on a visit to Raw and being shown around by Foley. The pair are introduced to the Shining Stars who suggest instead they visit Puerto Rico instead; implying they might not be ready for the main roster. The two NXT guys will take exception and request a chance to prove themselves. Foley acquiesces by having them fight a group of local jobbers to allow the two the opportunity to show off their move set and hopefully wow the audience. They won’t immediately go to the main roster, but their show case will create some buzz around their eventual promotion.
Along with the Ciampa and Gargano match, I’d have Sin Cara shown backstage paying attention to the two on a monitor. However, the show would be of the back of his head, unmasked. The mask itself will be positioned next to him to inform everyone of his identity.
I’d also include a video package going into further detail on the four guys officially confirmed to be coming up to Raw; basically a repeat of their CWC interviews.
In light of my plan to have Zayn challenge for the title at the next PPV. I’ll need to give Zayn a high profile win. Although the Big Show isn’t on TV very often, he still cuts an imposing figure. A competitive match between the two with Zayn prevailing over the much larger opponent would be good, particularly if Zayn can manage a Blue Thunder bomb or at least a flying helluva kick to pull out the win.
Cesaro vs Sheamus Best of 7
For Sheamus to have any credibility in this series, he’s going to have to win again. This time, let’s go for a win after he targets Cesaro’s taped up shoulder throughout a long match. This would put the Celtic warrior 2-0 in the series (in truth a 2-2 tie as they had fought twice just prior to the series).