For years, it would be difficult to find a more newsworthy episode of Raw and Smackdown every calendar year than the one airing in the immediate aftermath of WrestleMania.
Debuts, returns, main roster call-ups, title changes, heel turns, face turns, new feuds… you name it, and we saw it. On top of that, the shows were held in front of the most raucous crowds that WWE was going to see all year long. Put all that together, and you have must-see television.
Ric Flair’s retirement (lololololol) ceremony after WrestleMania 24. Brock Lesnar returning after WrestleMania 28. Brock Lesnar’s main roster debut after WrestleMania 18. Dolph Ziggler’s Money In The Bank cash-in after WrestleMania 29. Paige debuting on the main roster and winning the Divas Title after WrestleMania 30. Triple H and the rebirth of Degeneration X after WrestleMania 14. Countless moments. Countless memories.
In recent years, there seems to be a shift in WWE’s focus for these shows. The live crowds are still as loud and as hyped as you’ll see WWE crowds be, but we’ve been getting less of those big moments. Even things like NXT call-ups tend to happen by “coming soon” vignettes now. The episodes are still fun, sure, but there’s just some magic missing.
With Triple H seemingly looking to reverse the direction of every decision Vince McMahon made over the last few years, could we be on the verge of seeing the Raw and Smackdown after WrestleMania make a return to past glories?
For obvious reasons, I really hope so. I have a list of things I would love to see on Raw and Smackdown this week. It’s worth pointing out that I’m typing this column up before NXT Stand & Deliver and WrestleMania, so some of these things may have already happened or be out-of-the-question by the time you read these words. Some of these things are a lot more realistic than others, but they’re all things I have floating around in the ol’ noggin at the moment. Here it goes, it no particular order…
The Street Profits Split Up: (Writer’s Note: This one is a juuuuust a bit more difficult based on their match result at WrestleMania.) Honestly, I don’t care if Angelo Dawkins or Montez Ford turns heel, as long as one of them makes the turn. Ford has more of a charisma that will translate better to being a heel on-screen, but he also has a much more fan-friendly offense in his matches. It could go either way, really. This is the type of newsworthy thing that these episodes have thrived on in the past. The Profits have been together for seven years now. They’ve won Tag Team Titles in NXT, on Raw, and on Smackdown. They have developed into one of the more popular tag acts in all of wrestling. We’ve been seeing and hearing rumors about a split for a long time. Now is the time to pull the trigger on it.
Bron Breakker’s Official Main Roster Debut: First and foremost, I’m writing this with the assumption that Bron drops the NXT Championship to Carmelo Hayes at Stand & Deliver. Second, I’m well aware that he wrestled on Raw twice last year, including winning the NXT Championship back from Dolph Ziggler after losing it to Dolph a month prior. Those appearances were as a member of the NXT roster, though. This would be his official debut as a member of the Raw or Smackdown roster. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t want to see a “coming soon” vignette, either. He needs to be there and actually appear on the show. It can be a squash match to introduce him to new fans who aren’t tuning in to watch NXT every week. He could make the save for a face on the receiving end of a two-on-one beating, or have a heel turn of his own by taking an established face out. There are a lot of options, and that’s what makes this fun. In case you’re wondering… if Bron retains his title at Stand & Deliver, then I want Carmelo Hayes to make his main roster debut instead.
Roman Reigns Goes From Fighting One “Royal Family” To Another: Note… this is only in the event that Roman walks out of WrestleMania as the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, whatever the odds of that are. If Roman retains, you can fully expect The Bloodline to be doing all sorts of celebrating on Smackdown. We’ll probably get one of those in-ring promos where Roman gets to gloat and make sure that he is acknowledged by the crowd in Portland, Oregon. You know the deal… he has beaten everyone, blah blah blah, he put the entire Rhodes family in their place, blah blah blah. Just as he’s about to wrap the promo up, “I HEAR VOICES IN MY HEAD, THEY COUNCIL ME, THEY UNDERSTAND” is heard in the arena, and the crowd blows the roof off of the Moda Center. It would be nearly 11 months since we last saw Orton, and he’s just the type of big-time opponent Reigns needs. We haven’t seen Roman vs Randy in singles competition since May 2015, so it’s more than fresh enough for the WWE Universe. Orton is perfect for this spot. Again, though, if Roman loses to Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania, then you can forget this paragraph exists, and I will attach a Writer’s Note at the beginning of it.
A Long Match: I don’t mean “ten-ish minutes” long. I’m talking about one of those matches that surprise everyone once they start to approach the 30-minute mark. As we’ve seen through the years, you often see the Raw and Smackdown episodes after WrestleMania containing a smaller cast than usual, as if a bunch of people get the week off after Mania. Less people on the show means you might need certain things to run longer to fill up the hours of television time. An example of this would be the Raw after WrestleMania 36, where Aleister Black and Apollo Crews wrestled for 27:30 completely out of nowhere. A lesser example was when Booker T and Rob Van Dam faced The Dudleyz on the night after WrestleMania 20, and that match went nearly 20 minutes. Neither of those matches were the main event, by the way. If Austin Theory retains the United States Title at Mania, have him put the title up in an open challenge on Raw. Hell, you could kill two birds with one stone for me and have the challenge answered by Bron Breakker or Carmelo Hayes. The team that wins the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Title match at Mania could face The Street Profits on television, leading to the Profits split… also killing two birds with one stone for me. It doesn’t have to be a title match, though. Fuck it, give me a rematch between Ricochet and Chad Gable. Whatever works. Just one of those matches that pulls the live crowd in more and more as the match goes on, getting “this is awesome” chants and everything.
Information About A Draft: The last three editions of the WWE Draft (2019-2021) have all taken place in October. Of the 13 Drafts prior to that, eight of them happened within a couple weeks of WrestleMania ending, and four more happened within about two months of WrestleMania ending. The odd one out was the 2016 version, which took place three-and-a-half months after Mania. WWE’s current landscape is pretty lax with any sort of “brand split” for wrestlers, with Raw wrestlers appearing regularly on Smackdown, and vice versa. A lot of that is simply due to the fact that WrestleMania is upon us. Some of it is due to the fact that the company’s two men’s World Titles and Tag Team Titles have been merged. We don’t know what will happen with the tag straps, but there have been approximately seven million different rumors that Raw and Smackdown will each have their own World Title again once Roman Reigns loses, whenever the hell that ends up happening. Once WrestleMania comes to an end, it would be a good time to run a tighter ship once again. I’m on record saying just how much I hate when WWE has their Draft right before Survivor Series, then turns around and gives us these stupid “brand supremacy” matches involving people who have been a representative of their brand for about a month. Obviously, a Draft won’t be happening the night after WrestleMania, but even a vignette that says “starts three weeks from tonight” or something like that would suffice.
I could probably go on, but with my busiest writing weekend in full effect, it’s probably best to not go on for too long here. I’m just looking for these episodes to reach the levels of entertainment value that they’ve had in the past.
Hopefully, all of you were able to find some sort of enjoyment out of WrestleMania Weekend, no matter what shows you watched or what companies you supported. That’s what it’s all about.
Weekly Power Rankings
Roman Reigns vs Cody Rhodes: Roman Reigns has perfected the modern-day cinema that is required out of main event matches. Cody Rhodes has one of the greatest “wrestling minds” of anyone in the business today. Putting them together in the main event of WrestleMania gave us pure magic.
The Usos vs Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn: The fact that this match isn’t even in the top spot of my rankings this week tells you how strong WrestleMania was. One of the best emotional rides a pro wrestling match has taken me on in a long, long time.
Gunther vs Sheamus vs Drew McIntyre: As soon as this one was announced, you knew it would be as hard-hitting a contest as you’re going to see under the WWE umbrella. Sure enough, that’s exactly what we got. They beat the shit out of each other. It looks like it’s going to take quite the superhuman effort to get the Intercontinental Title off of Gunther, and frankly, that’s how it should be.
Bianca Belair vs Asuka: A super fun display of athleticism, counters, and reversals. They had a high bar to reach after the match Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley had the night before, but they were game to do it. Bianca Belair really is one of the most dependable performers on the WWE roster when it comes to what she’ll give you in a “big match” situation. Like I said for Gunther, it seems like it will take a superhuman effort to get the Raw Women’s Title from out of Bianca’s grasp.
Charlotte Flair vs Rhea Ripley: There was nothing pretty about this at all, and that is the greatest compliment I can pay these two. They weren’t looking to do anything flashy. It was like they received word that they weren’t going to get the main event spot on Saturday and they took that personally.
Wes Lee vs JD McDonagh vs Axiom vs Dragon Lee vs Ilja Dragunov: A fantastic blend of high-flying action and hard-hitting European stylings. Wes Lee is building up a very strong North American Title reign. Unless he loses the title on this week’s episode of Raw, he will have the fourth-longest North American Title reign in the belt’s five-year history. If he survives the month of April as the champion, he will have the second-longest reign in the title’s history, and will only be less than three weeks away from passing The Velveteen Dream for the longest North American Title reign ever.
Seth Rollins vs Logan Paul: I really want Logan Paul to decide he wants to become a pro wrestler full-time. He simply “gets it.” With more training, he could end up being something really special.
El Hijo del Vikingo vs Komander: Wrestling is subjective. What I like might not be what you like, and vice versa. Lucha seems to start more “I hate it” debates more than any other style, though. I understand that not everyone is going to watch a match like this and come out of it blown away. That’s fine. I will freely admit that Lucha Libre isn’t my favorite type of wrestling. A full Lucha show will sometimes have me struggling to get through the whole thing, as many of the matches start to blend together in my brain. Vikingo, though… he is someone unlike any wrestler I’ve seen in a long time. I watch him and seem to find myself with my eyes bugging out of my head multiple times in every match. What makes it even better is that I’m becoming a bigger and bigger fan of Komander with each match of his I see. These two in the same match was extra special, and I look forward to what the future might hold for their budding rivalry.
Johnny Gargano vs Grayson Waller: It needed to be extra physical because of the build and the story behind it, and that’s exactly what it was. I just wish we could see more of this Johnny Gargano on Raw instead of the silly version we’ve been getting.
Rey Mysterio vs Dominik Mysterio: Dom is a heat magnet that continues to get better in the ring. Rey went above and beyond to bump for his son, making him look even better. If you’re a fan of child abuse, this was an extra fun one for you.
“Reach For The Sky” Ladder Match: It’s unfortunate that Dante Martin’s gruesome injury is what will be the lasting memory of this one, because it was a really fun, and really wild, match. Tons of high spots that kept me entertained from start to finish.
The Street Profits vs The Viking Raiders vs Braun Strowman & Ricochet vs The Alpha Academy: Are we ever going to get that Street Profits split? Whenever you think it might be a good time for it, Tez and Dawk win a big match. I’m starting to think we’re being ribbed. This was as fun a multi-tag, sub-nine minute match you’re going to see, with everyone getting their moment in the sun.
Roxanne Perez vs Tiffany Stratton vs Gigi Dolin vs Zoey Stark vs Lyra Valkyria vs Indi Hartwell: I really dislike the story that led to this match, especially when it ended up with Roxanne Perez losing the NXT Women’s Title, anyway, but at least the match was good. All six women worked really hard, and we got the feel-good ending with InDex reuniting again.
Bron Breakker vs Carmelo Hayes: Maybe I had my expectations set too high, but I was disappointed with this. I really thought it would end up being better than it was. Obviously, I still enjoyed it a ton, but there was just something missing for me. Now, we await the inevitable main roster call up for Bron.
Kenny Omega vs Jeff Cobb: While not as good as Omega’s match with El Hijo del Vikingo, this was still plenty good. Jeff Cobb is someone who should be more famous than he is. He is an absolute freak of nature in the ring, capable of pulling off feats of strength that don’t seem like they should be possible. I’d love to see him in AEW more often.
Samoa Joe vs Mark Briscoe: Good story being told with Mark never having defeated Joe in singles competition before, but now that he had some extra emotional motivation, this could be his time. I actually like that he fell short again, though. The motivation is fine, but pushing him as a bigger singles wrestler just because his brother tragically passed away doesn’t seem right when Mark could just be built up in a “normal” fashion instead. The fans will still be there with him.
Claudio Castagnoli vs Eddie Kingston: This really seemed like it was going to be Kingston’s time to become the top guy in any promotion in years, perhaps since he lost the AAW Heavyweight Title in 2016. It wasn’t to be, and while Eddie continues to be incredibly popular, it sure seems like he’s running out of time to reach the top of RoH or AEW, doesn’t it?
Wheeler Yuta vs Katsuyori Shibata: Nothing against Yuta, but perhaps this surprise title change was done to add some buzz and prestige to the RoH Pure Title. It could use some.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Daniel Garcia: I think I’m going to have to say this every single time he comes up in conversation, but Garcia REALLY needs to get away from Chris Jericho. There was a time when Garcia’s profile was really high, and he looked like he was ready to possibly become a main event talent in AEW. It looked like he was going to leave Jericho to either join the Blackpool Combat Club, or at least break out on his own. Then… he strengthened his bond with Jericho and has been running in place, at best, ever since. He’s so good in the ring. This silly “I’m a sports entertainer” shit isn’t working for him.
Becky Lynch vs Iyo Sky: I’ve been waiting for Iyo Sky to have a match on the main roster where she really showed the WWE Universe what made her so special in NXT. This might… might… have been that match. It was as good, and as motivated, as I’ve seen her in a while. Perhaps that will bode well for her moving forward.
Konosuke Takeshita vs Sammy Guevara: I’ve said it a million times before, but apparently I’ll need to say it a million more… Takeshita needs to pick up more wins on AEW television. Not AEW YouTube, not RoH Honor Club, not RoH pay-per-view dark matches… AEW television, where there are more viewers to witness it. He’s someone that could win the AEW World Title this week and the AEW fans would eat it up with a spoon. Take some of the 8,492 people on the roster that aren’t doing anything right now, have Takeshita build up some momentum by picking up wins over them, and go from there. Come on now.
Drew McIntyre & Sheamus vs Ludwig Kaiser & Giovanni Vinci: Now that The Usos no longer have a record-breaking stranglehold on WWE’s tag team scene, I would really love to see Imperium get their shot. Kaiser and Vinci are such a good team, working very well with each other, and their connection to Gunther would help their profile as they try to “mini-Bloodline” a monopoly with titles on Smackdown.
Bryan Danielson: While I would rather see him as a face, his heel turn makes sense. The rest of the Blackpool Combat Club had already turned, and now, we might be getting another match between him and Kenny Omega. You will see no complaints out of me if that happens.
Willow Nightingale vs Ruby Soho: Willow is a lot of fun to watch in the ring, and she comes across as super likeable. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t “look” a certain way, so there are always going to be people on the internet who feel she can’t be pushed as any sort of legitimate threat. That’s a shame. She is also around AEW at a weird time, with Jade Cargill and Jamie Hayter looking like absolute monsters as the two women’s champions on the roster. I don’t think we’d see a lot of the same issues from people if, say, Ruby Soho or Britt Baker or Riho were champions at the moment.
Cody Rhodes vs Solo Sikoa: I know some people are upset because this was Solo’s first official loss on the main roster, but it had to happen at some point. It was a good move to make Cody look even stronger as WrestleMania crept closer.
Adam Cole vs Daniel Garcia: Adam Cole is back! Hooray! It appears he will now have to feud with Chris Jericho for the next six-plus months, with every stupid member of Jericho’s group posing no real threat along the way! Booooo!
Braun Strowman, Ricochet & The Street Profits vs The Alpha Academy & The Viking Raiders: We get these types of matches right before WrestleMania every single year, where opponents team up in random tag matches. They’re almost always fun and inoffensive, and this was no different.
Ricochet vs Montez Ford vs Chad Gable vs Erik: Ahem… we get these types of matches right before WrestleMania every single year, where opponents team up in random tag matches. They’re almost always fun and inoffensive, and this was no different.
Isla Dawn & Alba Fyre: They’re the brand new NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions. That’s good. Unfortunately, the two-year history of the titles are littered with reigns that were either short, featured two randomly thrown together singles performers, weren’t very good, or some combination of the three. These two women were feuding out of nowhere (to those who weren’t watching NXT UK), and then… weren’t feuding anymore, equally out of nowhere. Okay then. We’ll see what happens.
WWE: Their biggest event of the year broke a bunch of records, got a ton of mainstream publicity, and might end up being the best WrestleMania of all-time when it comes to match quality. That’s quite the win for them. On top of that, it appears that the company is being sold to Endeavor, who also owns UFC, forming a gazillion-dollar (or something close to that) merger. Money, money, money, money, money.
This Week’s Playlist: “LEMONHEAD” by Tyler, The Creator & 42 Dugg… “JUGGERNAUT” by Tyler, The Creator, Lil Uzi Vert & Pharrell Williams… “HEAVEN TO ME” by Tyler, The Creator… “Raised Different” by DJ Drama, Nipsey Hussle, Jeezy & Blxst… “FMFU” by DJ Drama, Lil Wayne, Roddy Ricch & Gucci Mane… “350” by DJ Drama, Rick Ross, Westside Gunn & Lule… “Softest Touch” by Khalid… “Fight The Feeling” by Rod Wave… “Tulips & Roses” by G-Eazy… “No Evil” by Catch Your Breath… “So Alone” by Currents… “Predestination Paradox” by Like Moths To Flames… “Destiny” by Archetypes Collide… “Bastard Son” by Last In Line… “Into You” by Fabolous & Ashanti… “Candyman” by Dirty… “Westside” by TQ… “Oh Girl” by The Chi-Lites… “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by The Stylistics… “You Are Everything” by The Stylistics… “Betcha By Golly Wow” by The Stylistics… “Shining Star” by The Manhattans… “O-o-h Child” by The Five Stairsteps… “I’ll Be Around” by The Spinners… “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” by The Spinners