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Both Raw and Smackdown were still sorting out the aftermath of Summerslam while beginning new feuds to head into the fall. Let’s take a closer look at who stood out and who missed the mark.
RAW ALL-STAR: JOHN CENA
My goodness, where to even begin with the contract signing between John Cena & Roman Reigns? Whether you like either guy or not, we cannot deny that the polarizing reactions they illicit are the loudest in WWE and it was on full display Monday. Reigns tried his best to keep up with Cena, but Big Match John threw haymaker after haymaker while blurring the lines between storyline and reality. Sure, some of what he said did not exactly line up with what he or the WWE is currently doing, but catching Reigns in a moment in which he forgot his lines, then telling Roman that the only reason he still wrestles is because The Big Dog cannot do his job was unbelievable. Cena is one of the greatest of all time with a microphone in his hand, giving it 100 percent every time he steps foot in the ring. It is up to the wrestler standing opposite of him to bring his A game and match the intensity and wit of Cena which does not always happen. What Cena did better than anything else on Monday was bring out a side of Roman that the fans had not seen before, making the anticipation for their match at No Mercy that much more heightened. Cena got a little cheeky with the “backstage language” not usually used on WWE TV, but all in all it was one of the most captivating promo segments we have witnessed since the CM Punk pipe-bomb. Scripted or not, every moment of it felt real nd it leaves fans waiting to see what they will do to follow up next week. This was Cena at his best, well done.
RAW NOTABLE ALL-STAR: JEFF HARDY
What a feel-good story it was for Jeff Hardy this Monday on Raw. Since returning to WWE, Matt & Jeff have done a great job recapturing the magic they once had and the fans have undoubtedly eaten every bit of it up. With no tag title program for them to work in right now, it was fantastic to see Jeff get an opportunity to challenge for the Intercontinental Championship. The Battle Royal itself was fun to watch and Jeff executed on all of his major spots leading into the finish. It was a nice swerve there at the end as most folks watching probably assumed Jason Jordan would be victorious. (Side note – that story has fizzled awfully quickly, hasn’t it?). Hardy got a big reaction after hurling Kurt’s son over the top rope and quickly turned his attention to The Miz. I think Jeff & Miz could have a fantastic feud and this was a great kick start into it. Couldn’t be happier for Jeff.
RAW UNDERPERFORMER: PAUL HEYMAN
Typically Paul Heyman makes for incredibly entertaining segments on Raw each week, but that was not the case this past Monday. Heyman has fallen into quite the pattern of delivering the exact same promo for weeks which has left much to be desired among the viewing audience. Previously, Paul would come out and talk abut the next “victim” of the beast, touting how indestructible his client is and how he will destroy anything in his path. For the purposes of promoting upcoming pay per view events, Heyman seems to have changed course a bit, using a different strategy which has not worked quite as well. Instead of talking about how badly Brock will be hurting his opponents, he has spoken so highly of everyone that has gotten in Lesnar’s way. This Monday was more of the same, as Heyman talked about how big of a threat Braun Strowman was and what a challenge it will be for Brock to overcome a man that put him on a stretcher at Summerslam. The promo was far too long, drawn out, lacked substance and fell flat. Paul understands the concept of building up an opponent better than almost anyone, but the regularity in which he uses this approach is starting to diminish Brock’s mystique. Brock stepping in to give his two cents saved the segment a bit, but this is the first time in a long time where I have reached for he remote when Paul Heyman was on my television. It was strange.
SMACKDOWN ALL-STAR: RANDY ORTON
I’ll be the first one to admit that I have been incredibly hard on Randy Orton and his recent performances, but I am always happy to give credit where it is due. With his #1 contenders match set up for next week, Orton seemed to really turn up the intensity during his tag match against Mahal & Rusev. While we did see some of the usual “vintage Orton” moves, he sprinkled a little salt and pepper (thanks Stone Cold!) on his offense and selling which really shined through. The dynamic between he and Nakamura during the match was spot on in knowing they would be squaring off next week. It was a really entertaining match to close the show. The way Randy attacked Nakamura after the match was perfect for his Viper character, and Shinsuke sold the RKO like a pro. This was a much better showing from Randy after one of the most lackluster title programs in recent memory and I am sure fans are hoping to see more of this in the coming weeks.
SMACKDOWN UNDERPERFORMERS: TAMINA & LANA
This, my friends, was cringe-worthy. Lana is doing everything she can to get Tamina over, but the creative direction in all of this baffles me. Tamina may be working hard, but the fact that she is getting television time while someone like Becky Lynch has hardly any role on the program is absolutely ludicrous. Tamina’s ring work is clunky at best and the notion that anyone should “fear her” is laughable. Her promos are some of the most overly-scripted and poorly acted on the entire roster. Further, after watching the first round of the Mae Young Classic it is hard to believe that these women are battling for the chance to be signed to a developmental contract while Tamina is being featured on weekly television. When Lana grabbed the mic and started shouting orders to Tamina in the ring the awkwardness in the arena translated straight through the screen. It was something that was so terrible you just couldn’t look away even if you wanted to. There is no crowd reaction, good or bad, and the WWE is setting up a no-win situation for themselves with this story. Either this never gets over and the company is forced to reset Lana once again, or they follow through and Tamina becomes WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion at some point. Certainly do not mean to be overly negative, but this is by far the worst program on either show and frustrating on so many levels.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: WWE ALL-STARS & UNDERPERFORMERS: The Miz, Bobby Roode, Dolph Ziggler, John Cena