RAW Seeks to Set a High Bar for SD
Tonight on RAW, WWE will do everything in their power to make sure that their flagship program does not get overshadowed by what is shaping up to be a momentous edition of SmackDown, taking place tomorrow night.
That means a rare WWE Title defense will headline tonight's show: Dean Ambrose defends the belt against co-#1 Contender Seth Rollins, in a one on one match. Regardless of outcome, both men will reassemble in 6 days for the Battleground PPV, at which Roman Reigns joins them for a Triple Threat, also for the WWE Title. You may wonder "Why bother?" but Rollins has made it clear that one-on-one, absent any shennanigans, he's the best wrestler in WWE, and the rightful champion. He feels he's never been cleanly defeated with the title on the line, since he won it the first time -- he was stripped of it due to injury, won it in his first match back, only to lose it on a cheap MitB cash in -- and doesn't expect to let Ambrose end that streak tonight.
Regardless, my instinct is that WWE will also want to split the World Title, so each brand has its own champion... and you can do the math from there: somehow, someway, two guys walk out of Battleground with a legit claim on the gold (it could be as simple as the champ not being the one to get pinned on Sunday, or infinitely more convoluted than that), only this time, WWE WANTS there to be two champions, so they run with it.
In addition to a huge main event, tonight will also feature the dual announcements by Shane and Stephanie McMahon regarding their new General Managers for each brand. Last week, Shane revealed on Wednesday that he'd already done a handshake deal with his new GM (and a possible flub by WWE.com suggests that Daniel Bryan may be the week-in, week-out authority figure on SmackDown. Steph has not given any public sign of having made a decision, but she's on the clock, too, as Vince declared that if his kids didn't have GMs in place by RAW, he would pick for them; presumably, she would choose a heel to represent her interests, in order to make sure the heel/face tension between brother and sister is mirrored in the GMs.
Those two issues are the rock stars tonight, but besides a WWE Title Match and the table setting for tomorrow night's Draft, we also do have a PPV coming up on Sunday, which means WWE needs to service those stories...
A notch below the Triple Threat, you've got a pair of marquee matches that ought to be tremendous: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens should be their final blowoff (at least for a while), while John Cena is backed up by Enzo & Cass in a match against the Club. Zayn and Owens have already done all the heavy lifting necessary, and if you're not stoked for their grudge match, trust me, you are doing it wrong. Tonight, they can do their standard "find a tag match to be on opposite sides of" schtick (just last Thursday, they formed a tag team Voltron with Ambrose and Rollins, with outstanding results), or just do guest commentary and interfere in each other's singles matches. Whatever works for them, works for me.
Meantime, Cena and his boys vs. Styles and his boys has plenty of super easy iterations they can play with (they've been teasing Styles/Cass in a singles match for the past week). Throw in a little mic work, along with whatever pairing they do for a match, and you're on perfect course for Sunday.
The other PPV (and preshow) storylines that will get attention tonight include: the New Day vs. the Wyatt Family; the New Day's visit to the Wyatt Compound did not go well, and now, the two sides are apparently gonna to a non-title Six Man Tag at the PPV, with the upshot being that the New Day are getting to slowly reveal a more serious side.... Darren Young's make-over got off to a fantastic start last week when he won a Battle Royale, and now he's the #1 Contender to Miz's IC Title.... hostilities between Women's Champ Charlotte and Sasha Banks are on the rise, with Charlotte using her protege Dana to get the better of Sasha; with the challenge of a tag match on the table, Sasha should reveal her partner of choice tonight... meantime, the women's division is also home to a red hot singles issue, as Becky Lynch is still looking for revenge after Natalya became the latest "friend" to stab Becky in the back... believe it or not, Zack Ryder has earned a shot at Rusev's US Title, and WWE has already announced that it will take place on Sunday....
Rounding things out, Battleground will also feature a special edition of The Highlight Reel... or at least, that was the plan as of last Thursday. Chris Jericho was going to have Randy Orton come on out to discuss the big SummerSlam match against Brock Lesnar, but WWE has not yet clarified their specific plans for Lesnar since he was found to have failed a drug test in the run-up to UFC200.
I'll have RAW Results posted here on the main page shortly after the show ends, and you are always encouraged to join in the conversation and live play-by-play that takes place in the OO Forums.