The Dawning of a New Era
Last week marked the beginning of the WWE’s New Era, with Commissioners Stephanie and Shane McMahon announcing their respective General Managers on RAW, and the draft occurring on the revamped Smackdown Live, on it’s brand new night of Tuesday nights. But this week was when the party really got started.
Things kicked off on Monday, with Stephanie McMahon and new RAW General Manager, Mick Foley, introducing the new title belt for RAW: the WWE Universal Championship. Now that name might be a little meh, but that’s where the meh stopped, because RAW was awesome for the rest of the night. GM Mick Foley announced there would be two Fatal 4-Way matches, with the winners of each match facing each other in the main event to be the No. 1 Contender for the Universal Championship against Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. Finn Bálor, in his debut match, won the first Fatal 4-Way over Kevin Owens, Cesaro, and Rusev, and Roman Reigns won the second over Sami Zayn, Chris Jericho, and Shaemus.
The main event between Finn Bálor and Roman Reigns was great, showcasing the two’s contrasting styles of Reign’s bruising power to Bálor’s quickness and technicality. The night ended with Finn Bálor earning the most ultimate of pushes: winning clean over Roman Reigns on his debut night. I can’t wait for that co-main event at SummerSlam between Bálor and Rollins, two of the absolute best wrestlers in the world going one on one.
But that wasn’t the only action we saw on RAW. We saw not one, but two squash matches! When’s the last time you saw a legit squash match? Braun Strowman(sporting a new haircut) and Nia Jax each laid waste to local wrestlers, showing off their physical dominance and giving a little taste of what’s to come for the rest of the RAW roster. We also saw the addition of Corey Graves to the commentary team, a teaser for the Cruiserweight division, the return of Neville, a new feud between The New Day and The Club, and more Enzo and Cass(you can never have too much Enzo and Cass). But Sasha Banks and Charlotte stole the whole damn show.
Sasha Banks made Charlotte tap to the Bank Statement the night before at Battleground, so it was only fitting she deserved a title shot. And boy did these two not disappoint. You had great story telling, technical wrestling, escaped finishers, near falls, two high-flying, death-defying spots, and when it was all said and done, the Boss, Sasha Banks, came out on top as the new Women’s Champion. A new champion for a New Era, and I’m looking forward to more excellent matches like this from a loaded Women’s Division.
The following night, SmackDown Live picked up right where RAW left off. Shane O’Mac and new General Manager Daniel Bryan announced there would be a Six-Pack Challenge for the No. 1 Contender’s spot to face Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Championship at SummerSlam. It would be between John Cena, Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, AJ Styles, and the 6th spot was reserved for the winner of a Battle Royal. The Battle Royal was about as interesting as a Battle Royal could be, but ultimately Apollo Crews, one of the original cornerstones of the New Era movement, was the last man standing. The rest of SmackDown Live was pretty good too. (My boo)Becky Lynch got the win over Natalya, which was then followed by an introduction to the SmackDown Live Women’s Division roster, Miz TV was interrupted by Randy Orton, which lead to a weird match won by Orton, and a great Heath Slater promo that was ruined(yea I said it) by the return of Rhyno. But the best things that happened(besides the main event) didn’t actually happen in the ring. It was the teasers of the debut of American Alpha and the return of Shelton freaking Benjamin! Hopefully the WWE won’t misuse him like they did the first time around, and who knows, they might have him team with American Alpha like how Kurt Angle did with Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. I can’t wait.
SmackDown Live’s Six-Pack Challenge main event was as good as it was billed. 10 minutes of non-stop action between some of the roster’s top talent. You really had no idea who was going to win the match, until after a flurry of finishers, Dolph Ziggler pinned Styles to become the No. 1 Contender against Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Championship. Another stellar co-main event for SummerSlam that you know will be high-energy from start to finish.
Along with the changes to the flagship shows, the WWE’s New Era will have separate Pay-Per-View events dedicated to each show. Shane O’Mac announced that SmackDown Live’s first PPV will be Backlash, and it’s rumored that Hell in a Cell will be RAW’s first PPV. Some people are saying this might be WWE overload, and it might be too much and wear some fans out. But if it’s going to be like what we saw these last two days, then I say bring it on, I’m ready to watch all the WWE I can. The best thing about this New Era is the attitude change, and they made sure everyone knew it and felt it. The biggest problem fans had with WWE was how predictable everything became. But on RAW, I legitimaely had no idea who was going to win either Fatal 4-Way. And when it was Roman Reigns vs Finn Bálor in the main event, I mayyyybe thought there was a chance that somehow Bálor would win, but who could’ve imagined he would win clean? Then on SmackDown Live, I didn’t know who was going to win the Battle Royal, but when the final four competitors came down to Apollo Crews, Zack Ryder, Kalisto, and Kane, I got a little nervous, especially when Kane manhandled and eliminated Ryder and Kalisto. Just when it seemed like “here we go again with the old guy winning”, Apollo Crews won. Same thing with the Six-Pack Challenge. When Cena went full Cena adjusted just about everyone’s attitude, it was “here we go again”. Then he was taken out by AJ Styles, and then Styles was taken out by Ziggler. Out of those six guys, did you think Ziggler was going to be the one to come out on top? This is when wrestling is at it’s best: when even though you know everything is scripted, you still don’t know what’s going to happen. Now I know that not every RAW and SmackDown Live will be like this week’s, but if they can keep up this new feeling that anything can happen, on any given night, at any given moment, then I, along with the rest of the WWE Universe, will gladly follow the WWE into it’s New Era.