For months we heard the words “The New Era” thrown around on Raw. Sure, we had some new names on the roster, but what else was new? Absolutely nothing. It was the same show, with the same format with new names in place of some older names, doing the exact same thing.
With the brand split, WWE had a chance to reset, reboot and actually make something “new”. That’s exactly what we got last night after a superb Battleground PPV that saw great wrestling and great logical booking to prepare WWE for one of the biggest weeks in their recent history.
From the moment Monday Night Raw went on the air we instantly saw that this was something different. The first thing we saw wasn’t just a new set, a new logo and red ropes, but we saw the announcers facing away from the ring with the arena in the background, instantly making the show feel like a sporting event as opposed to an overly produced television show. This along with new camera angles and post match interviews made things feel a lot different. Post match interviews make everything feel a lot more real and add real emotion to things. More of this would be great. It allows the talent to be themselves and not come off as reading rehearsed lines.
We saw the return of squash matches to introduced new talent. Many times in the past we have seen mid card talent pointlessly fed to a new talent, only doing more harm than good by making certain guys look like jokes. A squash match allows talents to slowly create momentum and show what they can do as people anticipate what might happen when a new powerful superstar might face another top star, making their first meeting actually mean something. Nia Jax and Braun Strowman would both benefit from several of these.
Three hours of Raw is very often a chore to sit through. That was not the case this week. The show flew by. Everything felt like it was there for a reason and wasn’t just being done to kill time until we got to the next main event segment. Every time the “up next” graphic popped up, I found myself actually wanting to see what was next as opposed to wanting to get through it while waiting for the next thing that looked interesting. We had no meandering backstage authority figure segments. Mick Foley & Stephanie McMahon showed up at the start of Raw, made an important announcement and then disappeared. Just as it should be. They do not need to be the focus of the show. Ever.
It has been obvious for months that WWE were saving Sasha Banks for her big moment. As much as people complained about her not being on TV, or not being a big part of the women’s division at times, the signs all pointed to this coming. We assumed Summerslam would be her moment, but doing it tonight only reinforced that Raw was making a statement. Sasha vs Charlotte may have been the best women’s match to ever take place in WWE outside of NXT. NXT is exactly what this felt like. Many times we have seen these incredible women’s matches full of raw emotion happen on NXT Takeover events, but we have never seen that translate to the main roster. Tonight we got all of that. We got the big fight feel, big time performances, the feeling of two women battling for an important prize and that feel good moment. A moment that people will remember for years to come, and a moment that left many with tears in their eyes. Sasha Banks represents something new in WWE and they knew that. She blazed a trail in NXT and she can do the same now on Raw if she is presented like the star that she is.
You can probably count on one hand the amount of times that WWE have introduced a new talent and made them a legitimate top guy in one night. WWE did what many hoped, but very few thought would ever happen and went all in on Finn Balor. The second there was mention of a new title on Raw, just about everyone was expecting Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns at Summerslam, and that’s exactly what I thought. I was delighted when Balor won his four way and thought it was a nice little introduction for him, but fully expected a Reigns win in the main event. Instead WWE shocked us all and gave us Finn Balor pinning Roman Reigns cleanly. What a statement and what a start for Balor. WWE just don’t do thing like this. They don’t sacrifice their top guys for the good of something new even when it would do more good than bad. Balor was presented as a star and got the major main event win to back it up. This was his night, and just like Sasha, he represents change and something fresh. He now walks in to face Seth Rollins at Summerslam in what is a dream match that has everyone excited.
When is the last time Raw went off the air with people full of excitement over the show and what might happen next? The morning after Raw on Twitter is usually a depressing read full of grumbling, complaining and disinterest in the show. Today was the exact opposite, and everyone is begging for it to continue and not be just a memory in two months time. For one night WWE have entered a new era. The question is will it be a new era or just something we look back on as what could have been. It’s WWE’s call.