With the recent return to the brand extension in WWE and the repeated mention of competition between the brands, I thought it might be interesting to do a weekly report on how the RAW and SmackDown rosters are faring against each other. I’ll take a look at different elements from each show (and their respective sub-shows) and decide which side won the week. Maybe after a while we can see some trends develop so we can see if red or blue is winning the war and which color needs to make some changes.
After watching the first full week of the new brand split, I must say that I think this will be an easy one to call. I came away from this week enjoying RAW much more than SmackDown. But let’s break it down a little to see why.
Since it’s three hours long compared to two, RAW should always have more matches than SmackDown, but that doesn’t necessarily mean RAW will always win the week when it comes to in-ring action. Like Cesaro has recently said, SmackDown is known to be the wrestling show (or at least it was at one point). Even up until just recently before the new rosters, SmackDown seemed to have more unique matchups and often put more of an emphasis on matches than RAW did. That standard didn’t hold true this week.
RAW had some great matches. In fact, it is currently one of the more memorable wrestling shows all year for WWE. First, they had the terrific Women’s Title match between Charlotte and Sasha Banks. For me, this was easily WWE’s best women’s match of the year and should be a contender for match of the year at this point. RAW also had a very good set of number one contender matches. The two Fatal Four Ways were quite good on their own, and the main event between Finn Balor and Roman Reigns was very satisfying. I liked how those three matches helped tie the whole show together. The downside of RAW’s wrestling were the squash matches and super-quick matches. Also, I question giving matches to two people who weren’t drafted to RAW (Britt Baker and James Ellsworth). The Ellsworth this was slightly amusing, but to have a brand new roster that is significantly deeper than SmackDown’s and not try to get as many people in the ring as possible seems odd.
SmackDown didn’t fare as well as RAW. The matches were mostly fine, but none of them were as good as the four good RAW matches. They had a battle royal, a Battleground rematch, Orton vs Miz, and a Six Pack Challenge that wasn’t as good as either of the Fatal Four Ways on RAW. The Miz/Orton match was the biggest bust for me. There was a segment between RKOs where absolutely nothing happened for nearly two minutes. For the show that’s supposed to be about wrestling, they’re going to have to work a bit harder.
+ Women’s Title Match
+ Dolph Ziggler
Both shows started off with the GMs and Commissioners in the ring addressing their roster. RAW had everyone on the stage while SmackDown had them all standing on the apron of the ring. I enjoyed them both about equally, so that’s a push.
I think RAW has some better talkers than SmackDown including New Day and Enzo and Cass, but neither of those teams really delivered this week. Their time on the mic this week was just okay. What I did really like was Golden Truth playing Pokemon Go throughout the show. That was great, and to have them walk through the ring during a match was a fantastic payoff towards the end of the night. I also really enjoyed Sasha’s emotional speech after her huge win.
SmackDown’s biggest talking segments were Miz TV and Heath Slater trying to convince Shane to sign him. Miz TV was not good. It was worse than any talking segment on RAW. And please, don’t let “Viper-ville” become a thing. Seriously. I liked the Heath Slater segment, but the reveal of Rhyno was, again, just okay for me. I still want to see Slater show up on both shows. I think the good segments of RAW, combined with the bad Miz TV, make this an easy decision.
+ Sasha Banks
+ Heath Slater
Since both shows debuted new looks this week I think the shows’ presentations should be taken into consideration. I’m not blown away by either new logo, but SmackDown’s is a little better if I had to choose. The intro music is also new for each show. RAW got a song from Shinedown while SmackDown had WWE’s in-house crew put something together. Again, I’m not blown away by either (and I’m certainly not rushing to buy either one), but the slight advantage again goes to SmackDown.
The commentary teams have been rearranged as well. Cole, Graves, and Saxton got RAW while Ranallo, JBL, and David Otunga got SmackDown. I really like Mauro Ranallo, but I don’t care for David Otunga or even JBL much anymore. JBL is a bit too much of a cartoon-character heel at this point. I’m glad he’s away from Saxton because I was getting very tired of JBL’s constant jabs.
On the other side, I don’t care for Cole (but can mostly tune him out), but I like Graves, and Saxton is fine. I think that means the commentary teams are about equal for me, thought they are both an upgrade from before the draft.
For ring announcers, Jojo moved to RAW and Greg Hamilton took over SmackDown. I already miss Lilian Garcia. Jojo is fine, and so is Hamilton, but they both just seem like a step down from earlier in the year when it was Lilian and Eden Stiles sharing announcing duties. Currently, I think this is another even matchup between the brands.
As far as the rest of the presentation, they both are pushing their brand colors even harder than before. The ring ropes are now red or blue depending on the show (rather than white like before). SmackDown also has some slightly different camerawork and angles that set it apart from what we’ve become accustomed to. I think that puts SmackDown slightly over RAW in this category.
Main Event (the SmackDown show) and Superstars (the RAW show) were both fine for what they were this week, but Main Event won by having the best match between them: Tyler Breeze vs Jey Uso. With the roster depth on RAW you’d think they would easily win the late-week shows, but they failed in their first outing. Not that the Superstars matches were bad, they just weren’t terribly memorable.
On a side note, I think it’s funny that everyone has been split between the rosters except, apparently, for Tom Phillips (and the referees, but I don’t guess that matters). He commentated on both Main Event and Superstars. He’s also still doing NXT, so with Byron Saxton now being limited to just one show, it seems as if Tom is poised to overtake him as the underground voice of WWE.
Taking all things into consideration, the good stuff on RAW was just way better than the good stuff on SmackDown this week. I think SmackDown will pick up considerably in the weeks to come (especially with the debut of American Alpha, the possibly big and complex women’s division, and the return of Shelton Benjamin), but RAW came to compete this week. They won the debut week of the new brand split hands down.
Match of the Week
Sasha Banks vs Charlotte for the WWE Women’s Championship
Overall Show Winner