The New Era enters week two, and Raw slacks off while Smackdown steps up... a bit.
The New Era ran headlonginto the Old Era this week. While you certainly can't expect every show to have the momentous sense of Things Happening that the first new Raw had, this was a pretty big backslide.
The opening segment was OK - a verbal faceoff between Sasha, Charlotte, and then inexplicably Chris Jericho and Enzo Amore. All four are decent to excellent talkers. The subsequent intergender tag match was nothing special, though. Just the usual time-killing booking where Dana Brooke helped Charlotte pin Sasha.
Squashes! Braun Strohman (with new generic entrance music) and Nia Jax both beat the crap out of Local Talent. Probably necessary but not interesting.
The Golden Truth (ugh) lost to the Shining Stars (ugh) when R-Truth (ugh) couldn't stop playing Pokemon Go (ugh).
Finn Balor and Seth Rollins argued about their upcoming match, which somehow set up a Rollins vs. Sami Zayn main event.
Mark Henry still hasn't retired yet, so he's going to prove himself by SHOCKINGLY losing to Rusev the way he SHOCKINGLY lost to Rusev during Rusev's first run with the US belt. This leads to Roman Reigns running in after the match, so I guess Reigns is being punished by beating Rusev for the US title.
A longtime criticism of WWE is that the only way they know how to book black wrestlers is to team them up or have them fight each other. Coincidentally, Titus O'Neill cheated to beat his former tag partner Darren Young, then got into it with Bob Backlund backstage before Young knocked him out. Four words nobody was rooting for: "Titus O'Neil Heel Turn".
Thank fuck for the New Day. Long promo featuring a fruit penis led to a short match against The Clerb, with a New Day rollup win and a pos-tmatch beatdown and a possible New Day dick injury angle for Big E. Standard stuff elevated by New Day.
Cesaro wrestled Sheamus to Impress The GM's in the hopes of a future title shot. Cesaro won, as is well and good.
Heath Slater's undrafted status continues to be used to add talent. Rhyno last week on Smackdown, and Jinder Mahal this week on Raw. Whee.
Seth Rollins beat Sami Zayn, which lunder current circumstances is how things should be. Decent match
And finally, Brock Lesnar comes out and Paul Heyman has to stretch and keep saying how Randy Orton will never RKO Brock Lesnar to give Orton time to get to the ring through the crowd and RKO Brock Lesnar. At least Orton didn't tell any jokes.
Weird start to Smackdown. Ambrose calls out Ziggler and is acting borderline heelish. Are they going for a sort of "power corrupts" thing with Dean? Ziggler's response somehow fails to mention that he's held the big belt twice as many times as Ambrose has. I suppose that fact messes with the story they're telling. And then Bray Wyatt comes out, lays out Ziggler to a huge face pop (!) and challenges Ziggler for the #1 contendership later tonight. Not sure where they're going with this at this point and I'm not sure they know either.
Speaking of #1 contenderships, Apollo Crews (who Bryan calls Creed 90 seconds into the show) vs. Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin for a shot at the IC belt at Summerslam (which Bryan almost called "Slumberslam" in the first 100 seconds of the show0. Kalisto needs new theme music now that the Lucha Dragons are no more. Crews won, which was the right call, but with a rollup on Kalisto, which was the wrong call. The Kalisto-Corbin thing kept going with a post-match beatdown, which led to a Crews save, which led to a Miz finisher on Crews, which led to a Corbin End of Days on Miz. And the unpredictable vs. makes no sense line gets straddled again.
The combination of Eva Marie's new ridiculous entrance and faking an injury to not wrestle is probably the best Eva Marie will ever be. It won't last, of course, but it's fine for now.
As much as I hate that the Vaudevillains got relegated to jobberville after their one big push at the start, they were a good choice for American Alpha's first opponents. Alpha got a dominating win. Of course, the commentators can call AA "future tag team champions", but until SD gets a tag championship...
AJ Styles comes out to fuckbotch a promo against John Cena. It's the same promo every John Cena heel opponent has cut for a couple of years now, only more clumsy. For the record, Kevin Owens did it best. It's Cena-Styles at Summerslam to make sure the show runs four hours.
Randy Orton wrestles Fandango for reasons we would have known even if the show hadn't been warning us all epsode that Brock Lesnar might show up. is the exact mirror to the Raw encounter, to nobody's surprise.
Carmella sort of kind of starts to get people to care about her a little before getting jumped on the entrance ramp by Natalya, and the Smackdown women's division has two non-matches in one week.
In the main event Dolph Ziggler won by Backfiring Expsed Turnbuckle, so I guess Dolph /ziggler's road to pseudo-redemption goes through Ambrose. The face-heel dynamics re-establish themselves with a post-match Wyatt beatdown on both guys, so I guess it's tag matches from now until Summerslam.
Hideo Itami has a problem. Out for over a year with two shoulder injuries, he returns to NXT unchanged - a popular Japanese wrestler with hard strikes and a running knee finisher. Unfortunately, while he was out injured, Shinsuke Nakamura came in - an even more popular Japanese wrestler with harder strikes and a better running knee finisher. Itami needs to be allowed to use the GTS as his finisher, for one thing. For another, he needs some kind of repackaging or personality or gimmick to distance himself from the perception that he's Nakamura Lite. His return match this week didn't do that.
Samoa Joe is angry. He beats up Mojo Rawley's squashponent, then he beats up Mojo Rawley. He's going to destroy everything because the system is unfair. Rampaging Joe is the best Joe, so I'm fine with this.
Asuka is playing up her heel characteristics in preparation for her rematch with Bayley. Her squash of Aliyah is amazing because of the way she taunts Bayley throughout, including heel mkoves like pulling Aliyah off the mat before the three count and holding the Asuka Lock long after the bell rings. It's not quite a full heel turn, but it's enough to drive the match story better than their first match.
A video package tells me Ember Moon is coming with a ridiculous pagany gimmick. Google tells me she used to be Athena. History tells me that video packages announcing a new wrestler have a very mixed success rate in NXT. Anybody seen Elias Samson lately? No? Good.
And now it's time for Bobby Roode to join the Parade Of Forgotten TNA Stars in NXT, from James Storm to Eric Young to Austin Aries. That's not entirely fair, since Aries is still around feuding with No Way Jose and Joe is the champion, but still, what does Roode bring? He's coming in with an impressive entrance theme and an arrogant rich famous heel, gradually turning the crowd against his debut pop. He's gonna replace the Full Sail crowd with businessmen and presidents, which is a good approach for Roode to take. Whether it works or not will depend on who they pit him against.
Our main event is a non-title match between TM61 and The Revival. Four technically sound guys, four pairs of black trunks, two beards. The perfect match for people who think wrestling has too much character and personality getting in the way of in-ring action. The wreslting is good, which keeps the match from being boring. But a fairly quick finish out of nowhere sees The Revival winning, which means the whole match was just an excuse for Gargano and Ciampa to come out, make fun of The Revival, and goad them into a likely title match at Takeover. Which should be a much more interesting match.
First round's over! And it went out with a bang, as Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano showed what some familiarity between the wrestlers and even the slightest hint of a story can add to a match.
Gargano advanced in what was two tag partners competing against each other and struggling with the friendship vs. competition thing. The match was great, the post-match was great, and there's a reason they put this match on last.
The other three matches were, with one exception, nothing special. Rich Swann, apparently back from injory, advanced in a match against Hong Kong wrestler and budget fighting game ccharacter Jason Lee. Swann's performance was his usual impressive self, but there wasn't much to the match.
Gurv Sihra and Noam Dar had an uninspired match, and the CWC booking continued its pattern of wiping out "lesser" countries in the first round, as the Scottish (and Israeli) Dar advances.
And oh, Gentleman Jack Gallagher. There have been other mat-wrestling throwbacks in the CWC, but none have riveted the eyes the way Gallagher did in his win over Fabian Aichner. I was disappointed that Gallagher, who described himself as almost entirely mat- catch- and submission-based ended up winning with a corner dropkick, but it was a hell of a corner dropkick.
They're promoting Tajiri vs. Gran Metalik and Alexander-Ibushi for next week. I'm not sure two matches can carry a one our show, so I don't know if they're not promoting the rest or if that's all we're getting. Let's hope they can find more exuses to sneak some story into these matches.