WWE Raw vs. SmackDown: Winner, Top Highlights and Botches for Week of Sept. 14
The week that was in WWE television provided fans with the latest build to Raw's No Mercy pay-per-view on September 24 and SmackDown Live's Hell in a Cell on October 8.
The red brand delivered the latest in Braun Strowman's path of destruction and another heated verbal exchange between John Cena and Roman Reigns that struck a nerve with some viewers.
The blue brand countered with a night of championship defenses, the return of Vince McMahon to television and a cowardly attack by Kevin Owens.
Each show added heat to its top rivalries, featured at least one headline-grabbing angle and continued the superb build to two shows that someone forgot to tell WWE Creative are supposed to be B-level presentations.
Find out which brand did enough to emerge from the weekly battle for brand supremacy and why with this recap of WWE TV for the week of September 14.
The flagship featured the continued domination of Braun Strowman, another verbal spat between John Cena and Roman Reigns, a hotly contested main event and a joyous revelation from the current intercontinental champion, as The Miz and Maryse announced their pregnancy.
Braun Strowman's Path of Rage Continues
On Monday's show, Braun Strowman laid waste to both John Cena and Brock Lesnar. It is rare that a Superstar is allowed to leave one of those men lying in a heap let alone both in the same night.
It was further evidence of WWE Creative's devotion to The Monster Among Men and his push as the most unstoppable force on the Raw roster.
Even though he did not beat Cena, he did leave him lying following a vicious powerslam on the ring steps that allowed him to stand tall over the most recognizable star in the company—a major feather in the proverbial cap of the surging big man.
Asuka Is Coming
The first vignette announcing the arrival of Asuka to the main roster aired during Raw, and it is difficult not to be excited about The Empress of Tomorrow's prospects on the red brand.
Absolutely dominant during her time in NXT, where she spent two years undefeated, the potential for engaging stories and matches against the likes of Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Emma, Sasha Banks and Bayley is enormous.
Arguably the best, most accomplished female worker in the company, it will be interesting to see if she can replicate the big match feel of so many of her NXT matches on Monday nights.
Tag Team Chaos
Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Sheamus and Cesaro brawled early in Monday's broadcast, then met again in the night's main event.
Raw tag team champions Rollins and Ambrose recruited The Hardy Boyz as their partners for the marquee bout and eventually picked up the victory when Sheamus and Cesaro walked out on Anderson and Gallows, leaving them at a numbers disadvantage.
The emphasis on tag teams is a nice change of pace, even if it took putting the titles on Rollins and Ambrose to earn the division main event spotlight.
It should be interesting to see if a Fatal 4-Way match is ultimately booked for No Mercy or if WWE Creative sticks to the straight Rollins/Ambrose vs. Sheamus/Cesaro rematch.
Roman Reigns vs. Jason Jordan
WWE Creative may not be working hard to develop Jason Jordan's character, but it is damn sure putting him in a position to be accepted as a wrestler.
Monday night, he went toe-to-toe with Reigns, and just as he had against Cena earlier, he nearly upset The Big Dog.
He may have ultimately lost, but his performance was strong enough for fans to continue building respect for his ring work.
Imagine if WWE Creative put any effort into developing him beyond "Kurt Angle's illegitimate son" and the further success he could enjoy as a result.
SmackDown returned to Las Vegas for a Sin City episode that saw the return of Vince McMahon as well as United States, Tag Team and Women's Championship defenses.
Kevin Owens' Breakthrough Performance
Kevin Owens has been utterly great for WWE for a long time now. Even in times of creative bankruptcy, he has been a silver lining on a dark cloud. That is how good the Marieville, Quebec native is. Tuesday night, he delivered one of his finest performances to date during a face-to-face confrontation with the mighty Vince McMahon.
Seething more and more with every word that comes out of his employer's mouth, Owens came closer and closer to snapping.
But not before he manipulated the boss into giving his word that he would not fire Owens for attacking a McMahon.
With that confirmation, Owens delivered a nasty headbutt that busted his boss open, punted him in the ribs and finished him off with a sickening frog splash against the pleas of longtime friend and WWE road agent Adam Pierce.
The ordeal popped the fans in Las Vegas and left some wondering if, after two-plus years on WWE's main roster, Owens had just enjoyed his true breakthrough moment.
Working with the McMahons and being involved in a high-profile angle with them will do that for you.
New Tag Team Champions
The New Day defeated The Usos in a Street Fight to win the SmackDown Tag Team Championships Tuesday night. The match, the culmination of their months-long feud, was a fitting exclamation point on a rivalry that has delivered some of the best in-ring action of the summer.
Some will question the switching of the titles as frequently as they were, but the truth is the two teams wrestled each other so often, with no other teams ready to step up and interject themselves in the title picture, that switching the titles was really the only way to continue the rivalry.
The question now is who will step up to present the next challenge to Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods.
The U.S. Title Feud Continues
There was a moment during AJ Styles' United States Championship defense against Tye Dillinger in which it looked like The Perfect 10 was about to capture the title. The crowd bought into the false finish, the fans viewing at home bit and the result was a legitimate moment of drama.
Of course, Styles ultimately secured the victory with the Calf Crusher, but Dillinger emerged from the defeat a bigger star and more credible title threat than he was before he squared off with The Phenomenal One.
Baron Corbin's interference, and subsequent attack of Styles and Dillinger after the match, continued to set the stage for his United States Championship match.
With Dillinger playing such a key role throughout the rivalry, one has to wonder if WWE Creative is setting the stage for a Triple Threat match rather than the singles bout most assumed would take place on October 8 at Hell in a Cell.
There will be some who disagree or argue that John Cena bringing up Roman Reigns' Wellness Policy violations was awesome and added to the heat between the two ahead of their No Mercy match on September 24.
They are entitled to their opinions.
By revisiting Reigns' two personal failures during his time at the top of the roster, WWE is unnecessarily tearing down the man it so desperately wants to supplant Cena.
Reigns vs. Cena is a marquee, WrestleMania-quality match.
The war of words worked to bring excitement to Cena's battle with The Rock back in 2012, but this is different. The electricity for that "Once in a Lifetime" battle is not present for Cena's match with Reigns. It is not comparable. Leaning on worked-shoot comments while trying to manufacture that excitement only serves to eat away at Reigns' character beyond the squared circle.
How thrilled is the WWE Board of Directors to know WWE Creative, management and its franchise star gave the OK for a comment that essentially labels Reigns a cheater at a time when the company is still trying to push him to the forefront of the company as an ambassador, fan-favorite and hero to millions?
It is detrimental to the three years of work put in by the entire writing team and wholly unnecessary given the star power of the two men involved.
It was a cheap line and one that everyone from Vince McMahon to Cena himself should have known was against their better judgment.
Raw presented another solid episode this week, but SmackDown's special Sin City episode felt like a big deal and featured the red-hot angle at the end of the show involving Owens and McMahon.
That segment, coupled with the title bouts and the championship change, helped the blue brand surge past Raw this week and into the winner's circle.
Without the Owens-McMahon ordeal, the outcome would have been different.
Raw's treatment of Braun Strowman was fantastic, and the emphasis on building the tag team division, teasing Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax for next week and legitimizing Jason Jordan all helped the overall quality of the broadcast.
The big event feel of its competition, though, was too much for the red brand to overcome.
Winner: SmackDown Live