Last week, the WWE Brand Extension: Part 2 debuted. We have Raw, we have Smackdown. Two brands once aligned, then separated, then aligned again, now are separated once more. You can’t help but to compare the two now on a weekly basis. Hell, Vince McMahon appeared on screen a few weeks ago to remind us to do just that. So, which show was better? With week one of the WWE brand extension now complete, we can now work to answer that very question.
A New Era: Advantage Raw
WWE Raw was the new era show in week one, coming out of the gate with the unbelievable rocketing of Finn Bálor to the top. Talk about tides turning. Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan were supposed to bring this new era to Smackdown Live; However, countering Raw’s push of Finn Bálor with the returns of Rhyno and Shelton Benjamin doesn’t quite seem so new era. For pure excitement on a one night basis, as well as long term interest for the brand, Raw undoubtedly wins the new talent race in the first week.
SummerSlam Main Events: Advantage Raw
The big focus of each show was to determine the top matches each brand would be presenting at SummerSlam. We knew going in that Brock Lesnar (Raw) would take on Randy Orton (Smackdown) in one of the key matches. However, what would happen with Dean Ambrose’s WWE Championship? Also, what would Raw even do without a heavyweight title?
Raw came out of the gate addressing their issue. They had no world title. Well, fear not – The WWE Universal Championship is here! I can’t wait for years and years of fans bashing the name of the title, even though it’s rather harmless and insignificant. Named after the WWE Universe, and not so much our galactic universe as a whole, the new Universal Championship will be the Raw brand’s major championship. With the debut of Finn Bálor and his subsequent victories on Raw, including a big one over Roman Reigns in the main event, the Universal Championship truly signifies a new era of the brand. Bálor goes up now again Seth Rollins in the main event of SummerSlam, with the match truly feeling like a special deal.
On the Smackdown side, the championship situation doesn’t feel too special. Dolph Ziggler won the main event 6-Pack Challenge on Smackdown, which gives him the match against Dean Ambrose. Ziggler being seen as a mid-carder, even on the depleted Smackdown roster, makes his sudden push to the main event of SummerSlam strange. It also makes an Ambrose vs Ziggler title match seem mid-card. Which, in turn, quickly seems to establish the Universal Championship as the top title in WWE. That title being on Raw may have been enough to established it, though, as Raw remains the #1 WWE show in fan perception and viewership.
In terms of main events of SummerSlam, Raw wins. However, a Cena vs Styles clash coming out of the Smackdown side could be enough to turn those tides.
Women’s Division: Advantage Raw
There really isn’t anything Smackdown could have done at all to challenge Raw this week. Sasha Banks’ emotional victory over Charlotte to finally capture the WWE Women’s Championship was not going to get topped. Smackdown’s effort of introducing the entirety of their division in one segment certainly wasn’t going to do it. The good: Becky Lynch beat Natalya in a fun match. The bad: Eva Marie is being set up as a star on the brand. With no championship yet for the Smackdown female Superstars to fend for, the division is in a wait-and-see mode until further notice. Raw’s side is quite clear – We’re in the Era of The Boss.
Undercards: Advantage Push
The first week of each brand was focused on determining a main event for SummerSlam, so that meant that undercard programs were put on the back-burner. Raw’s US Champion, Rusev, was involved in a Fatal 4-Way match for the right to fend for the new Universal Championship. He lost. Smackdown’s Intercontinental Champion The Miz was put up against the returning Randy Orton. He lost. So, a banner night for the undercard champions. Oh well, there’s always next week!
American Alpha, the highly touted NXT tag team drafted by Smackdown, debuts next week on the show. In a way, Smackdown giving fans something to look forward to on the “new era” side of things is probably a good move. Raw didn’t have much of that, unless you count more interactions with Finn Bálor as a main eventer. Smackdown gave us a specific item to look for, and its a big one for fans of new talents on Smackdown.
Back on Raw, Roman Reigns’ future is unknown, as well. Could he spend some more time in the mid-card before reemerging as a main event force? Could a spot in the Rusev-Owens-Zayn-Cesaro mix of talent be in the cards? Whatever is done, Reigns being in a SummerSlam undercard match adds depth to a show that is scheduled for a robust four hours.
Conclusion: Raw wins week one!
Indeed, WWE’s staple Monday Night Raw was the better television show than the two-hour Tuesday nighter. I don’t see that result changing anytime soon, either. Next week, Brock Lesnar returns to Raw, Finn Bálor continues his impressive Raw beginnings, and the future of Roman Reigns is possibly revealed. On Smackdown, American Alpha’s debut and the continuation of a Styles-Cena program are the main hooks. With Raw’s impressive depth in the midst of a reduced roster, the Monday night show looks to be the A-show for the next month with little competition.