By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
I’ve sat on the revelation of WWE’s new brand split for about a week now, because I wanted to collect my thoughts and talk rationally. I’ll be honest, my initial thoughts on the matter were not rational at all. There were a lot of four-letter words, and a lot of nerd rage. I generally try and talk calmly and rationally about this kind of stuff. But I was really disheartened and angry about this announcement at first.
Not because of Smackdown going live on Tuesdays, which is a great thing.
Not because of wrestlers being specific to both shows.
It’s because of the titles, and the prospect of having two world championships again.
Yeah, I know. Geek much? But the championship picture in WWE has a lot to do with how shows are structured, and what a wrestler’s motivation is. In theory, when a wrestler signs a WWE contract, their number one goal should be to win the WWE Championship. Right now Roman Reigns is, as he says, the guy in WWE. Why? Because he’s the champion. He’s got the prize everybody’s gunning for. If you take that prize and split it in two, it ruins the novelty of there being one man at the top of the mountain. If you go for the title and you lose, in theory you can just go for the other. We just cleaned up this mess when the two world titles were unified in 2013. Are we really going to go back to it?
When WWE did their original brand split in 2002, the WWE Champion and the Women’s Champion could appear on both shows. If they put me in charge of all this, I’d put the Intercontinental Title on one show, the United States Title on the other, and have the WWE, Women’s, and Tag Team Champions given immunity to the whole thing. That way there’s added privilege to being the top dog of your particular title picture. Meanwhile, you still have the novelty of, say, John Cena only appearing on Smackdown or Roman Reigns only appearing on Raw.
That’s all I’ve got on the brand split for now. We’ve still got a little while before it comes to fruition. Lord knows there’ll be a lot to say between now and then. I just wish I had more faith in WWE creative to pull this off well.
Ponderings From WWE Raw:
The New Day ask Shane and Stephanie questions about the brand split. Why do they always feel the need to say “Welcome to Monday Night Raw!” at the start of the show? Isn’t that what the opening title sequence is for? To welcome us to the show?
This seems like it was designed to get people excited about the brand split. Frankly, it was more frustrating than anything else. But it echoed the reports of what’s going on creatively. Nothing is in con crete yet. If that is the case, it seems weird. You’d think they’d have this kind of thing mapped out before they actually announced it.
The New Day def. The Vaudevillians via disqualification after Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson attack. Okay, so we’re probably getting The New Day against Gallows & Anderson at Money in the Bank. I don’t expect them to win the titles yet. . But their personalities contrast nicely with that of the champs.
The Big Show advises Apollo Crews on dealing with Sheamus. This is the first time we’ve seen Show on Raw in several weeks. I’m pleased he’s sticking to a supporting role for the time being. I imagine once the roster split comes around, we’ll be seeing him on a regular basis again. Show and Crews are both pretty natural on the mic. I just wish they weren’t being given such heavily scripted dialogue.
The Usos def. Tyler Breeze & Fandango with Golden Truth on commentary. The heels take a beating after the match. I was a little bummed The Usos took this one. Breeze & Fandango look good as a tag team. If you elevate them a bit, they might be able to challenge The New Day for the tag belts at some point. I don’t know if you give them the belts. But they can at least have a match, right?.
Roman Reigns calls out Seth Rollins. Rollins teases the crowd. I happened to be listening to one of Vince Russo’s podcasts yesterday. I don’t agree with a lot of what he says. But on this show, Glen Gilbertti (formerly Disco Inferno in WCW) was talking about “the eye test,” i.e. having a casual viewer take you seriously as a wrestler based on your look. Make no mistake about it, Roman Reigns passes the eye test with flying colors. The problem is, what he’s saying rarely sounds genuine. That stuff about “The Man” being afraid to face “The Guy” was just cringeworthy. How’s that for an epic confrontation? The Man vs. The Guy.
So the idea here (I think) was for Rollins to continuously tease the audience with either a promo or a fight, and draw heat by never following through. Not a bad idea in theory. But in an era where a big portion of audience has DVR remotes, it’s probably not the best idea. This was basically a big waste of everyone’s time.
Goldberg appears in epic WWE 2K17 commercial. It’s amazing how these video game commercials are often better than anything on Raw. I still remember how awesome those commercials with The Ultimate Warrior and Sting. Why can’t WWE’s vignettes for new wrestlers ever be this cool?
Rusev def. Zack Ryder. Titus O’Neil confronts him after the match. It’s great to see Rusev return to being a dominant United States Champion, and I’m happy they didn’t feed him to John Cena for a Memorial Day American hero story. I’m also pleasantly surprised to see Titus featured like this. And that punch he threw at him looked awesome!
But no one, and I mean no one, would ever say “Bulgarian Blowhard.” Again, a wrestler falls victim to overly scripted dialogue.
In a pre-tape, Stephanie dresses down Charlotte for how she treated Ric Flair. This segment made me mad for all the wrong reasons. Again Stephanie shouts down one of the wrestlers and gets over at the expense of the talent. And after they’d just aired a video package and shown us tweets about how everyone hated what Charlotte did. We got it. Charlotte did a horrible thing. How was this segment necessary? Also, isn’t Stephanie supposed to be a heel?
Enzo & Cass def. The Dudley Boyz. I was rolling my eyes at how much Enzo was brown-nosing the Green Bay crowd. But he won me over as he and Cass went on. This is the difference between over-scripting, and letting a wrestler get over himself. I was surprised they had the Dudleys lose clean. You’d think they’d have saved this for Money in the Bank. Maybe they put them together again in a Tables Match?
John Cena gets dropped by AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, & Karl Anderson. This was out of left field. Like a lot of folks, I thought for sure it was going to be Styles going against Gallows & Anderson. But low and behold, here they are together.
While I usually prefer babyface AJ to heel AJ, this isn’t a bad move, per se. We’ll get to see AJ’s personality come out a bit more, and working with John Cena definitely isn’t a bad spot for him to be in. Gallows and Anderson should benefit from this as well. But here’s my question: Can we call them the Bullet Club now? Or at least something other than The Club?
Dana Brooke (w/Charlotte) def. Natalya. Becky Lynch comes out to save Nattie from a beatdown. This duo of Charlotte and Dana Brooke is growing on me. And now it looks like they’ve got a team to face. Rumor has it WWE likes Brooke enough to make her the “female Roman Reigns.” I assume that means they want her to be the face of the women’s division. I say it’s too early to make a call like that. But you never know.
Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler by disqualification when Ziggler hits a blatant low blow. Corbin didn’t exactly look like a million bucks here. Ziggler simply punted him in the nuts. But Corbin’s a rookie, and Dolph is a veteran. So I guess it’s passable. The bait-and-switch was nice. Ziggler’s use of the headgear was fun.
Dean Ambrose, Cesaro & Sami Zayn def. Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens & Alberto Del Rio. So are there only six men in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match this year? If so, I’m fine with that. But WWE.com was hyping up another person possibly qualifying. Did they change their mind?
Moments after Del Rio hits an axe handle on Cesaro and then puts him in a rear chin lock, Jericho shouts “Tear his head off!” About a second later, Ambrose calls “C’mon Claudio!” As in Claudio Castagnoli, Cesaro’s real name. What a weird moment…
As I’ve said before, I’m not a big six-man tag fan. But they do this every year with the Money in the Bank participants. I can’t say this did much for me. But something occurred to me during this match. Chris Jericho is 45 years old, and this will be his fifth Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Not that 45 is ancient by any means, but how he still does this at that age is beyond me. That DDP Yoga stuff must truly work wonders.
In Other News:
Former announcer Tony Schiavone reveals he’s training to be a barista at Starbucks. So in addition to his duties as a sports announcer, writer, and producer, Schiavone wants to be a barista so he can fill most of his time working. I think that’s awesome. I don’t know how old Schiavone’s five children are. But if he wants to spend his extra time providing for them, who are any of us to judge him? Even if that’s not the case, what an amazing work ethic this guy has.
Image 1 from goliath.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com.