Welcome to the Wednesday Afternoon Rundown, where we break down all the biggest stories from this week’s Monday Night Raw and Tuesday’s Smackdown Live. By the end, we’ll determine which brand reigned supreme and delivered a superior product for their faithful audience.
With Summerslam less than two weeks away, WWE set out to cement their top storylines, while adding on to any additional side storylines as best they could. With main event matches between AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe, Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar, and Ronda Rousey vs Alexa Bliss, WWE used this week to add some fuel to the fire of their secondary titles. Let’s take a look at the highs, the lows, and everything in between as we get ready for Summerslam.
The KO Show
Kevin Owens welcomed Jinder Mahal to the KO Show, an appearance which was quickly interrupted by the Monster himself, Braun Strowman. Almost everything we’ve seen so far from Strowman and Owens has been entertaining, and their match at Summerslam with the briefcase on the line is definitely one to look forward to. The involvement of Mahal adds little to the matchup, other than him potentially being the man to take the pinfall August 19.
The Numbers Game Prevails
Seth Rollins was left all alone when tag team partner Roman Reigns was prevented from competing in their tag match, having already fought against Constable Corbin earlier in the night. Rollins did his best in the one sided affair, before succumbing to the duo of Ziggler and McIntyre. As always, Rollins remains the best performer on Raw, and any match he’s involved in is sure to entertain. It will be interesting to see if the inevitable split between Ziggler and McIntyre occurs at Summerslam, or if WWE pursues a slow burn approach.
Ronda’s Raw Debut
Ronda Rousey competed in her first single’s match on Raw this week against Alicia Fox. To nobody’s surprise, the bout served as little more than a squash, as Rousey made quick work of Fox before setting her sights on Bliss. Ronda has been built up almost perfectly thus far as an absolute killer. The only problem is, Alexa Bliss poses little to no threat whatsoever to Rousey, and it’s almost unbelievable that Bliss could pull off the victory without outside interference. Look for WWE to do something on next week’s Raw to even the playing field somewhat for the Raw Women’s Champion.
The Hound vs The Constable
One of the biggest issues that continously surrounds Brock Lesnar’s absence is how WWE is able to build a feud without their champion present. Tonight, we saw #1 contender Roman Reigns square off with Baron Corbin for no other reason than that there is nobody else for him to fight. The match felt pointless, which resulted in the bout feeling like it lasted an eternity, which it did in a sense (20mins). With Reigns vs Lesnar on the docket for Summerslam, it’s hard to see this feud going any other way than what we witnessed earlier this year at Wrestlemania.
Bobby Roode and Mojo Rawley have absolutely no momentum whatsoever right now. Even as midcarders, neither guy is anywhere close to earning a shot at the Intercontinental Championship. With those stakes, it’s really hard to care who wins. As expected, Roode did pull off the victory in a bout that does very little to increase either superstar’s stock.
Authors of Mediocrity
Since arriving on the main roster, the Authors of Pain have hardly been given the acknowledgement they deserve. Here we saw Rezar square off with Titus O’Neill in singles competition. The match was fine, and Titus is a worthy adversary who is great at putting over his opponents due to his tremendous size and athleticism. The issue here is that the Authors need to be destroying their opponents in the same vein as the Bludgeon Brothers are doing on Smackdown. Winning competitive matches against a tag team like Titus Worldwide does very little to improve AoP’s stock. Considering the rest of Raw’s tag team division consists of the Revival, Hardy+Wyatt, and the B-Team, there’s no reason the Authors shouldn’t be in the title picture.
A Drifter Interrupted
Elias continues to be one of the most entertaining superstars on all of WWE programming. He delivers week in and week out with his promos, and his in-ring work is continuing to grow. Paired with the extremely vanilla Bobby Lashley, their feud has yet to really take off. A win over Lashley would be a huge feather in Elias’s cap, but sadly it feels like Elias will fall victim to the Dominator come Summerslam.
A Division in Purgatory
The underdog story of the B-Team rising up and claiming the tag team championships was phenomemal, and in many ways reminiscent of the title run we saw from Rhyno and Heath Slater as the inaugural Smackdown Tag Champions. But now, they seem stuck in an endless feud with the Deleters of Worlds. It would be great to see a straight up series of matches between The B-Team and the Revival, yet the Deleters of Worlds are constantly looming. With recent rumors of Matt Hardy’s retirement, hopefully we can see Bray move back to single’s competition, and the Raw tag team division move forward on the strength of the Revival, B-Team and Authors of Pain.
Riott Squad, Assemble!
With the back and forth friendship between Bayley and Sasha seemingly on hold for now, the duo squared off against the extremely stale “Squad’ of Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, who had created absolutely zero momentum for themselves since Squad leader Ruby Riott went down due to injury. Fortunately for the Riott sisters, their beloved leader returned to provide the assist needed to pick up the victory. The return of Riott is a welcome one, but the circumstances leading into the match are evidence enough that it is time for Ruby to move on from Logan and Morgan and carve her own path as a single’s competitor. As for Bayley and Sasha, it remains a mystery what WWE has in store for these two, who are just begging to be given a legitimate feud to work with.
A Viper on the Prowl
Randy Orton is without question a Hall of Famer whenever he decides to hang up his boots. Over the past five years or so, fans have criticized the Apex Predator for growing stale, only to show flashes of greatness on the grand stages. With Summerslam on the horizon, Orton has turned his character up to 11, crafting a vicious blend of his early “Legend Killer” persona, blended with his current reputation as a disgruntled “over-the-hill” wrestler demanding respect from the audience who doesn’t appreciate him. Now, Orton finds himself in the midst of a feud against Jeff Hardy and Shinsuke Nakamura, both legends in their own right, and both fan favorites. Motivated by a desire to eliminate “fan favorites”, the Viper seems as deadly as ever, and a triple threat match between Orton, Hardy and Nakamura at Summerslam is suddenly far more enticing than it should be.
It’s A New Day, Yes It Is, …again
The New Day squared off with the Bar in the main event of this week’s Smackdown to determine the challengers for the Smackdown Tag Titles at Summerslam against the Bludgeon Brothers. The match was nothing short of exceptional, which is almost expected from these two teams at this point. The New Day pulled off the win, which is surprising considering the Bar would match up more formidably with the Bludgeon Bros, and we’ve also seen the New Day come up short against the Bludgeons before. The true travesty in all this is how criminally underused the New Day, the Bar, and The Uso’s are considering the incredible quality of the matches they put. These guys could put on the best match of the night every night if given the chance, and the match here was no exception.
Welcome Back Truth
R-Truth, who has been almost non-existent on WWE Television over the past year, squared off with US Champion Shinsuke Nakamura in a match where the outcome was never in question. The match did little to raise Nakamura’s stock, other than just reminding fans that he is the champion and has a match coming up against Jeff Hardy, and likely Randy Orton.
The Bludgeon Bros squashed a group of jobbers. Nothing new here, other than a reminder that the Bludgeon Bros are the champs, just like Nakamura’s match earlier in the night. Would be nice to see the Bludgeon Brother used a little better than routine squash matches.
Women’s Triple Threat
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair teamed up against the IIconics in preparation for the upcoming Women’s Championship bout against Carmella at Summerslam. I don’t care what people say, every one of the IIconics promos are absolutely painful to endure, and the live audience can’t stand listening to them. The segment did it’s job, showing that Lynch and Charlotte each have their own motivations for winning at Summerslam, and their friendship may have to be put aside in order to achieve their goals.
Today Is Not Lana Day
WWE gave us another Lana vs Zelina Vega match week, and this feud has seemingly come to a complete stand still. Any momentum that had been created by the “Rusev Day” gimmick has been lost, and the whole “Lana Day” aspect is the epitome of “jumping the shark”. WWE now seems to be stuck between building a feud between Rusev and Aiden English, or creating a mixed tag team matchup between Rusev and Lana against Vega and Cien Almas. The indecisiveness of the creative team shows, resulting in a feud that feels muddled overall. Hopefully WWE can get this sorted out, because Rusev and Almas are top tier superstars, and both Lana and Zelina Vega continue to be under-utilized as managers.
With Summerslam less than two weeks away, WWE is full systems go. With many of their high end matches already scheduled, Raw stumbled with their delivery of their mid-card programs. We saw strong showings from reliable faces like Kevin Owens, Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins, and now Ronda Rousey, but the other programs featuring Elias, the Tag Team Titles, and Roman Reigns fell flat. While names like Rollins and Rousey are almost guaranteed to deliver in Brooklyn, the same can’t be said for Reigns vs Lesnar, Elias vs Lashley, or the B-Team.
On the flip side, the blue brand did wonders the strengthen their supporting mid-card matchups, while still adding a little depth to their main event matchups. AJ Styles stoked the flames for his feud with Samoa Joe by adding a personal touch to the story, increasing the animosity between two life-long friends turned rivals. In the women’s division, the neverending friendship/rivalry between Charlotte and Becky Lynch is ready to boil over as the two women take on Carmella for the Women’s Title. Elsewhere, Randy Orton has reinvigorated the United States Championship picture with his antics against Jeff Hardy and Shinsuke Nakamura, while the Bar and New Day reminded the WWE Universe that tag team wrestling is alive and well, and better than ever. Throw in the impending faceoff between Daniel Bryan and The Miz, and Smackdown is without a doubt the must see show right now on WWE Television.
Smackdown takes the cake this week in an absolute landslide. From top to bottom, Smackdown has crafted quality feuds, not spending too much time on any one feud while also making sure to give enough time to the smaller feuds. Because of this, every matchup feels important, whether it be for the WWE Championship or the Tag Titles. As for Raw, the only matches to really be excited for going into Summerslam are Rousey vs Bliss, and the IC Championship. With just one week left until the biggest bash of the summer, Raw seriously needs to step it up.
Thank you for reading and make sure to tune in every Wednesday for the Wednesday Afternoon Rundown, when we cover all the top stories from Monday Night Raw and Tuesday’s Smackdown Live, with expert analysis on what storylines to keep an eye on moving forward.