Hello, everyone. I hope your week is going well. For the last few weeks, WWE has been trying to find themselves in the new lay of the land following the brand extension. The first week Raw was the clear winner with the debut of Finn Balor and the crowning of Sasha Banks as Women’s Champion. Last week, Smackdown was the stronger show with the story of Dolph Ziggler fighting against critics. This week, it was hard to find a true winner between Team Red and Blue. And it all boils down to this week’s international tour in Australia and New Zealand.

Monday’s Raw had no real stakes. Everything advertised over the weekend really didn’t have any bearing on anything. Don’t get me wrong there was a good action. Cesaro versus Sheamus and Chris Jericho versus Enzo come to mind as standouts from Raw. Everything else was quick and kind of meaningless. Although I will say one thing about Monday’s Raw that not many people were talking about.

There was a little more explanation on why things happened the way they did. For example, Sasha Banks going into Mick Foley’s office and wanting a handicap match with Dana Brooke and Charlotte. Mick Foley then gives her the option of emanating Dana Brooke in the SummerSlam encounter next Sunday. That would’ve been glossed over in the previous era. Even the long-winded Rusev-Lana segment had some merit as it gave The Bulgarian Brute a reason to want to fight Roman Reigns. I thought the Finn Balor and Seth Rollins stuff was decent. And the Randy Orton Brock Lesnar interviews did a lot to add layers to the feud.

Similarly, Gallows and Anderson got to show a little bit more of the personality this past Monday and I think they’re starting to find a real groove within the WWE hierarchy.

All this said the Mick Foley-Daniel Bryan Summit as WWE was calling it, really was an anticlimactic way to end the night. I’m glad they had Cesaro come out and request a title shot as it gave something a little more interesting to close out with.  And it gave the US title a little more prestige being in the main event of the show. One of the good things about not having a World Champion currently on that brand.

But I think WWE missed out on a top opportunity to really make Cesaro and an interesting three-way for SummerSlam. Then Cesaro would be seen on the same level as the US champion and a former WWE Champion. Maybe they have other plans for the Swiss Superman like he will be the first guy drafted from one show to jump to another. I personally think that should not be done at least until Survivor Series at the earliest.Overall, Raw felt like it was kind of in a holding pattern until the following week’s go home show in Corpus Christi. I don’t think Raw used the talent they had the strongest that they could. And if WWE wants to make this brand split work this time around they’re going to have to be more strategic in how they format and use talents.

Tuesday’s Smackdown had an interesting dilemma when It came to talent as well. AJ Styles, Apollo Crews and John Cena were on their way to New Zealand for the international tour, so The Blue Crew definitely was at a disadvantage. John Cena and AJ got a recap package hyping up their match for SummerSlam; While Apollo Crews was talked about during the Miz interview on the show. But even with these notable absences, I thought Smackdown hid those things well.

The women got a chance to shine with new main roster competitors Alexa Bliss and Carmella picking up the first big victories on the main roster. Eva Marie once again malfunctioned before her debut against Becky Lynch. While her in-ring ability has gotten much better over the last six months. You can definitely tell that Eva Marie is not very strong on the mic. I’m glad they’ve got the announcer for her entrance because she has yet to find herself behind the microphone. But if The Red Queen could give Alexa a place to shine then I think was all worth it.

Carmella getting the submission victory over Natalya gives the audience the impression that the Staten Island Princess is tougher than she looks. It will be interesting to see how the women’s division develops on the Blue Side.

Alberto Del Rio and Randy Orton definitely had the match in the night with ADR working on the shoulder of the Viper. But given his place on the card with Brock Lesnar you knew what was going to happen although I do like the DQ finish. As it makes Alberto still appear strong even though he took an RKO.

I loved the tag team segment as it showed everybody is hungry for new opportunities. The biggest challenge of the new division will be rehabbing of The Ascension. That team has been put through the ringer since coming up to the main roster.

One team interestingly missing from that segment though was Tyler Breeze and Fandango. I wonder what’s going on with those two?

I liked the backstage segment with Baron Corbin and Kalisto as it was quick, simple and to the point. Corbin is mad at the Lucha Dragon for costing him a shot at The Intercontinental Title the week before. Feuds don’t need to be something that elaborate. The simpler they are the easier it is for the audience to understand the story.  This is similar to the main event story of Dolph Zigler and Dean Ambrose. You don’t need anything flashy just two guys that want to battle for the title.

Once again, my MVP for this week is Heath Slater. His in ring work and promo ability on Smackdown was great. The interaction between Rhyno and Slater before the match was awesome. Both men gave the reason why the match is important to them. I love that simple stuff. Plus, Heath was great trying to get sympathy from the Man Beast talking about his ever-multiplying offspring. And the backstage segment with Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon was great as the two Smackdown head honchos were going to offer Slater a contract. But in Heath’s frustration, he didn’t  let them speak leaving before he could hear the news. It’s this kind of comedy that WWE need to do more of. We saw a lot of Scooby Doo related hijinks this week due to the promotion of the new animated movie that just fell flat. But this works for me it’s not good enough to be outlandish but it’s just enough to be funny.

I think just for time management alone Smackdown edges out Monday Night Raw this week. I thought the show was a little tighter and a bit better paced. Even without the top stars, Smackdown felt a little bit stronger of the show than Raw which was very talk heavy.

This is the first international tour of this new era and it was very evident the effect that these live events will have on the WWE television product from now on. With international dates planned in Mexico and South America next month and the November UK tour, WWE has quite the daunting task ahead of them heading into the fall.

I will be interested to see how both shows head into SummerSlam next Sunday.

About The Author

Dan is host of Shooting from the Hip which you can hear every Sunday at 8pm EST, 7pm CST right here on PWpop.com.