The past few weeks of RAW have felt like a big breath-hold as we approached the draft. Finally, the biggest piece of the puzzle fell into place as Vince McMahon returned and announced who would run RAW and Smackdown.
While WWE tried to create mystery over the past few weeks, most wrestling fans realized exactly where the brand split was going. So it came to nobody's surprise when Vince officially announced that Shane would be taking over Smackdown, while Stephanie will run RAW. However, while obvious, it was an important step that allows the next few shows to really flesh out what we will see next Tuesday.
For all who had been complaining about the details being sparse about the draft, literally nothing could be done from a kayfabe standpoint until we found out who was running each brand. Now, we can spend the next few weeks officially setting up the draft.
The interesting part of the announcement is that while Shane and Stephanie are the "commissioners" of their respective brands, Vince has ordered them to assign a GM to their brand who will handle the day-to-day operations (presumably when Shane and Stephanie don't want to be there).
While my initial reaction is a bit sour, as I feel like the authority figure is already a bit of a tired trope in wrestling, it does help prevent overkill when it comes to the McMahons. So it all comes down to the GMs that are picked.
Thanks to a major hint in a WWE app release, it seems like Daniel Bryan is a strong possibility for Shane's GM on Smackdown. It would be a great way to get him back on television, which is much-needed. I think many people were hoping for him to come back on commentary since he is doing color commentary for the Cruiserweight Classic, but him in this role at least gets him back on television.
RAW is a bit more complicated....or maybe less complicated? Both Triple H and Corporate Kane make sense as Stephanie's GM. The problem is those two possibilities each present a similaer dynamic to what we had with the Authority, at a time when it seems like even WWE realizes the Authority might be a bit played out. I wonder if they might try to pull a swerve here, just to shake things up a bit.
We're a week away from the draft, and while one major question has been answered, there are still a lot left to be answered.
The Rest of RAW:
-The most talked about thing from this week's RAW was the New Day visiting the Wyatt Family compound. People rightfully compared this to TNA's "Final Deletion," and not in a positive way. It felt to me that they couldn't quite figure out what they wanted out of this segment. They wanted it to be weird and creepy, but also grounded in reality, and what we got was somewhat disjointed. It was interesting though, and served to build the feud.
-We have a new No. 1 contender for the IC title, and, surprisingly, it's Darren Young. He won the battle royal to start RAW, and he didn't even eliminate the last competitors in the ring. Instead, Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin eliminated each other, just leaving Darren Young. After weeks of the "Make Darren Young Great Again" promos, we're finally going somewhere with this, which is a good thing. I'm curious to see how the abbreviated feud with The Miz plays out.
-Speaking of curious title contenders, it seems like Zack Ryder is going to be getting a US title shot against Rusev. He had picked up a win over Sheamus on Smackdown. He challenged Rusev on Smackdown for the title. On RAW, Sheamus got his rematch and beat Ryder. However, after the match, Rusev came out, attacked Ryder some more, and accepted. It's an interesting way to try to get Ryder more relevant, even with the loss, so we'll see what happens. I feel like the brand split is really opening up possibilities for Battleground, which is why we're getting some unorthodox matches.
-Seth Rollins debuted his new segment, "The Rollins Report." Although I question why they never used that graphic when he was dealing with Jon Stewart, it worked here. They played an obviously spliced together "interview" with Roman Reigns where the answers they used made Reigns look like he admitted to steroids and laughed at the fans who cared. It was a bit silly, but it was effective. That brought down Dean Ambrose, and we finally got to see the side of Ambrose that has been missing for a while. Gone was the silliness, and in its place there was an intense side that only pops up every now and then. However, it's clearly Ambrose's best quality when he's on the mic. Now that he's champion, we need to see more of that, and less of the goofball.
-Kevin Owens beat Cesaro but this was basically just a setup for Owens and Sami Zayn to brawl some more on the outside. As I said before, I really think the brand split is going to help both of them. While I truly love the feud, there would have been such an issue separating the two without the split.
-Enzo and Cass beat Anderson and Gallows by DQ. Before the match, Enzo and Cass explained that they saved Cena because while they want Cena's spot, they want to earn it. They don't just want to see someone take it by using shortcuts. It's an interesting explanation, and good that they at least gave an explanation, considering WWE usually won't give explanations like this. Of course, the match ended in DQ when AJ Styles interfered. Cena came out and made the save, despite supposedly being in Los Angeles for the ESPYS rehearsal. Cena got a huge pop for his return. It seems like his association with Enzo and Cass, plus the excellent heel work by The Club, is paying off dividends.
-Sasha Banks beat Dana Brooke in a solid match. We don't have an official match for Battleground yet, but it does seem like Sasha will get her title shot there.
-Titus O'Neil beat Heath Slater
-Tyler Breeze and Fandango beat the Lucha Dragons