SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The week after WrestleMania could quite possibly be the most important week to gain momentum as WWE starts a new season with fresh matchups and storylines. Both Raw and Smackdown delivered quality programming, so lets take a closer look at who stood out and who came up short.
RAW ALL-STAR: THE HARDY BOYS
In what was most certainly the pop of the night at WrestleMania, Matt and Jeff Hardy returned home to WWE and won the Raw Tag Team Championships. As WWE turned the page to Monday, it was the brothers’ first opportunity to have a traditional match against Gallows & Anderson and performed wonderfully (pardon the pun). Sure, they could have done no wrong on Sunday night with the nostalgia of being back in WWE, the support of 6 other wrestlers, as well as the distraction of all of the ladders, but Raw was the perfect opportunity for The Hardys to show they still had it (especially to those who have not followed them for a while). Both Matt and Jeff defended their titles looking very strong against Gallows & Anderson, and were able to blend their older, more familiar move set with their fresh approach to create an extremely entertaining and dynamic presentation. These two might not be BROKEN any longer, but Matt and Jeff proved Monday that they are more than capable to perform at the highest level and maintain the respect of the WWE fan base.
RAW ALL-STAR NOTABLE: ROMAN REIGNS
The opening 10-15 minutes of Raw this week was one of the most captivating, shocking, and unpredictable segments we have seen in some time. Now, while I understand that Roman spoke just four words, his presence and body language told an incredible story that will hopefully lead to him being portrayed in a much different way. As he motioned to the lively Raw after WrestleMania crowd, he had them in the palm of his hand and finally handled himself like a star in a truly hostile environment. As written about by PWTorch Specialist Contributor Tom Colohue, this could be the perfect scenario to turn Roman heel, or at least begin WWE’s official process. If he would have performed some dastardly act on a popular babyface, it may incite the crowd to finally cheer Reigns. In this scenario, however, he simply spat in the face of everyone booing him which just incited the live audience in Orlando even further. The cherry on top was the proclamation of this being his yard now, dropping the mic, and walking out. Absolutely brilliant from Roman on Monday.
SMACKDOWN ALL-STAR: SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
My goodness, I have been waiting to write about this for some time now. Similar to Roman on Raw, Nakamura made his presence felt without saying a word. WWE placed his debut so well on the card, with Nakamura’s violinist appearing as The Miz sang goodbye to John Cena with the crowd. One star leaves (for only a little while, of course) and another breaks onto the scene. Nakamura entered the arena with more confidence and charisma than ever which made for an amazing moment live and on television. He took control of the crowd the moment he entered the ring and acted as if he belonged there this whole time. The best part about Nakamura’s debut was the unbelievable crowd reaction and support. Anyone that was in that arena or home watching on television who had never seen or heard of Shinsuke Nakamura was forced to take notice after the pop he received. That will most definitely help him grow into his main roster run organically. While some may argue that he should have said something or even had a match, this was the absolute best way to introduce him to the WWE fan base. With the roster moves that will be coming next week there would have been no reason to start a program with anyone until the rosters take shape. With regards to having a match – seeing Nakamura work should be something promoted and built to. A throw away match with (insert Smackdown mid-card heel here) would have done nothing to enhance Shinsuke’s segment. Very well done.
SMACKDOWN UNDERPERFORMER: ALEXA BLISS
Two nights after losing her Smackdown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania, Alexa Bliss had the opportunity to reclaim her title and pride in a rematch against Naomi. Unfortunately, she was not able to do either and was defeated decisively. In typical WWE fashion, the championship rematch was not promoted or advertised at all, and was placed in a very unflattering spot on the show which helped no one. Alexa worked hard no doubt, but the match came off a bit clunky and the finish made Alexa look quite foolish. Leading up to the finish, before Bliss even had both of Naomi’s shoulders on the mat, she reached as far as she could and grabbed a hold of the ropes and looked directly at the referee. While both Bliss and the ref looked equally confused, Naomi capitalized by reversing the hold and securing a submission victory. In defeat, Alexa had hardly any time to shine in this match and was disposed of quickly. This felt very much like Alexa and Naomi both moving on to different programs, especially with Bliss being rumored to join Raw next week. Not the best look if this was her last match on Smackdown, for sure.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: ALL-STARS & UNDERPERFORMERS: Smackdown writers, Seth Rollins, Raw Women’s Division, Shane McMahon, Naomi