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Both Raw and Smackdown provided very solid shows that were compelling and entertaining throughout. While many turned in fantastic performances there were others that missed the mark. Lets take a closer look.
RAW ALL STAR: BIG CASS
So we finally got the payoff to the backstage attacker saga which ended up being Big Cass all along. I knew that shoulder brace made of saran wrap was awfully suspicious. As the story unfolded with the help of a great performance from Corey Graves, Big Cass completed a full heel turn with a tremendous promo directed towards his former tag team partner. This was by far the most mic time Cass has received on either WWE or NXT television and he seized his opportunity with an emotional and vengeful delivery that really got people’s attention. This was a huge make or break moment for him. If he would have fell flat it would have left a bad taste in people’s mouths moving forward and it could have been difficult to recover from. This set the tone for his heel run in a big way and Cass absolutely knocked it out of the park. Really laying into Enzo for being the person that he was and continuously dragging Cass down was such a nice touch and blurred the lines of a worked storyline and real life. The question now is – Do he and Enzo have a blow-off match or does Cass move onto Big Show as a way to get him over? Only time will tell, but this was a great start. He has come a long way since is trademark “deer in headlights” look he tended to have for much of his NXT run.
RAW NOTABLE ALL STAR: BRAUN STROWMAN
Just so we are all on the same page here – Braun is definitely not finished with Roman. The recovery timeline WWE laid out for Braun after sustaining his injury was definitely overstated and made for a really exciting and surprising return. The visual of Braun busting out of the back of the ambulance and screaming in anger was an amazing visual which provided just enough of a distraction to allow Samoa Joe pick up another singles win over Reigns. The fun was only beginning, however. Braun hit the ring with a purpose and reinforced how much of a monster he truly is by picking apart and already beaten down Roman. His promo work continues to improve and I like how WWE always keeps it short and sweet with him. Braun made it clear that he is back to destroy the big dog and will try to finish him off in an ambulance match. This made for one of the most compelling segments on Monday and it is great to have Braun back on television.
RAW UNDER PERFORMERS: WOMEN’S DIVISION
Week after week I am baffled by the way WWE portrays their Raw Women’s division. Much like I wrote about Bayley last week, I place almost none of the blame on the women involved here and much more on the creative team laying out these segments. More often than not, all of the women in the division are featured in one jumbled segment with each wrestler jockeying for mic and ring time. Whether it is multi-women tag matches or all-encompassing segments, we are left not knowing who will be the next challenger for the Raw Women’s Championship or any one story to really buy into. It would be just fine to leave some of these women off of television for stretches of time if they are not going to be featured in a positive light. While I understand Smackdown is only two hours and Raw is three, Smackdown continuously features understandable and intriguing angles while utilizing different segments throughout the show. Raw, on the other hand, has been shoving all of their women’s wrestling content into one segment (usually accompanied by a lengthy commercial break) and when it is over fans are left more confused than when it started. It is a shame because there is so much female talent on Raw and until the writers come up with a way to highlight one or two feuds at a time it just won’t work and they will continue to define the division down.
SMACKDOWN ALL STAR: CARMELLA
Much like Big Cass on Raw, Carmella was put into a sink-or-swim position after winning the Women’s Money in the Bank match on Sunday. On Smackdown we saw Carmella have significant mic time to justify how she won this historic match and knocked it out of the park. While not only fighting though the heat she garnered for the way she won the match but also the anger coming from fans that were upset with the booking, Carmella shined on the microphone and really expressed her frustrations with the lack of opportunity and recognition she had been getting. Further, I absolutely loved how she told the crowd that she couldn’t care less about what they thought of how she won, and all that mattered was that she was the one holding the briefcase. The way she sold everything Daniel Bryan was saying to her in the ring later that evening was brilliant and perfect for her egotistical and entitled persona. It will be interesting to see what happens next week but based on her performance Tuesday, I am completely in favor of Carmella coming out on top and retaining her briefcase. Something that should also be noted here is the influence of James Ellsworth in getting Carmella over with the crowd. Since they have found their groove Ellsworth has been able to heat up Carmella before even entering the arena, setting her up perfectly for when she grabs a microphone. Without him at ringside next week the princess of Staten Island will need to devise a different plan that leads to her climbing the ladder and being victorious.
SMACKDOWN NOTABLE ALL STAR: BECKY LYNCH
If someone were to say that Becky Lynch is a top 5 babyface in all of WWE right now, there would be no argument out of me. Her performance on Tuesday can be exhibit A. On a night where Charlotte, Natalya, and Tamina plead their cases in noticeably scripted fashion, Becky came off so incredibly real and endearing. Her interaction with Bryan was heartfelt and toed the line between storyline and reality. Becky is still getting the biggest reaction out of any woman on the Smackdown roster despite coming up short quite a bit in the past few months. The reason for that is her tremendous ability to connect with the fans in a way that very few WWE wrestlers can in the modern era. It is a pretty simple formula, speak with passion and convey your emotions as you would in any other conversation with another person. She doesn’t need to make pop culture references or use catch phrases to make her point, just an honest conversation about her current situation and why she feels it to be so unfair. Becky put on one of the best backstage segments we have seen in quite some time and I hope she is able to build on that in the weeks to come. Understanding a babyface is carrying the blue brand’s Women’s Championship, WWE needs to find a prominent role on the Summerslam card for Becky. My guess – a match with James Ellsworth.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: ALL-STARS & UNDERPERFORMERS: Elias Samson, Goldust, R-Truth, Bayley, Mojo Rawley, Tamina