Grading Every Current Championship Run on WWE Raw and SmackDownApril 30, 2021
Grading Every Current Championship Run on WWE Raw and SmackDown
Walking out of WrestleMania with gold is an honor and a huge responsibility. For the most part, it's also WWE's way of saying the ball is in the winner's court.
Some champions can hold their head high immediately, while others can find themselves on shaky ground after some lackluster time with their title.
Let's grade all the champions on Raw and SmackDown with a performance evaluation based on their current run.
WWE Champion Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley's title reign started with a whirlwind when he dropped the United States Championship, beat down Drew McIntyre for The Miz's benefit and then destroyed The A-Lister to capture the WWE belt for himself.
It seemed likely he would drop the gold back to McIntyre at WrestleMania 37, but The All Mighty retained with some help from MVP.
Largely, Lashley has been booked as a dominant champion on the best run of his career. If he can keep this up, he should keep the title until SummerSlam at least.
If he successfully defends at WrestleMania Backlash on May 16 against both McIntyre and Braun Strowman, that will push him to an even higher grade.
Raw Women's Champion Rhea Ripley
WWE doesn't seem to quite know what it wants to do with the Raw Women's Championship. To be fair, that's been the case for an entire year.
Asuka won the title by forfeit when Becky Lynch went on pregnancy leave. However, The Empress of Tomorrow was overshadowed by other feuds and Superstars for the next year, and she even temporarily dropped the title to Sasha Banks.
It wasn't a memorable reign for Asuka, and her WrestleMania feud did not feel particularly genuine. Rather than building up Ripley as the next logical option, Charlotte Flair was positioned at the top and then had to step aside due to a positive COVID-19 test. She was replaced by The Nightmare at the eleventh hour, and chaos has ensued ever since.
One week, Ripley's a heel; the next, she's a babyface and The Queen is the biggest heel on the brand. This week, she's teaming with Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler, seemingly a villain again.
Ripley is fantastic, but WWE is lost with her direction right now. Her reign is in its infancy and has plenty room to grow but only when the company settles on what to do with her character.
Eventually, she'll be A+. She has it in her to be one of the greats, but the focus is more on Flair now than anyone else, which makes things confusing.
United States Champion Sheamus
A few months back, WWE likely had no plans for Sheamus to leave WrestleMania 37 with the United States Championship. That didn't appear to be his trajectory, but he fell into that role and is fitting it rather nicely.
As a multi-time champion of every belt bar the intercontinental title, The Celtic Warrior is a rock solid go-to Superstar who can have a run out of nowhere and elevate the title's credibility.
This reign is still new, though, and Sheamus has only confronted Humberto Carrillo, who spends most of his time as an enhancement talent on Main Event.
Sheamus works as a gruff champion. Someone will eventually pry the belt away from his hands, but he'll keep wailing on the competition until then.
Raw Tag Team Champions AJ Styles and Omos
After winning the Raw Tag Team Championship from The New Day at WrestleMania, AJ Styles and Omos have disappeared.
They've not been seen since The Show of Shows; not even a backstage segment, pre-recorded video from their homes or anything has been showcased to highlight their position at the top of the division.
Instead, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, The Miz and John Morrison, Elias and Jaxson Ryker, The Viking Raiders, Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin, Mace and T-Bar and even the unlikely pairing of Drew McIntyre and Braun Strowman have teamed up.
Whatever is keeping Omos and Styles away from Raw is also making their title reign seem nonexistent. Before long, they'll be forgotten about and all that momentum from the biggest show of the year will disappear.
Women's Tag Team Champions Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler
Grading Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler requires some clarification, as there are two sides of the spectrum.
Evaluating the creative direction alone would result in disappointment, and the likelihood of anyone tuning in to see the umpteenth match with Lana and Naomi, Tamina and Natalya or Rose and Dana Brooke is slim.
However, if we're grading on pure kayfabe credibility, the champions continue to prove their dominance.
They perpetually swat aside every challenge and are the queens of the tag team division. This dominance, combined with some terrible storylines and performance value, balances out to a middle-of-the-road score.
24/7 Champion R-Truth
It's always hard to grade a championship reign that revolves around very short runs.
The 24/7 title is a gimmick to pass around whenever WWE wants to do something silly, rather than something where credibility or even storyline comes into play.
The undisputed king of this belt, though, is R-Truth. When he's not holding it, it's only a matter of time before he wins it back.
Sadly, he's been missing for weeks. Outside of this promotional tie in with Old Spice, the 24/7 Championship has had less screen time than it did when it was on Bad Bunny's shoulder for a brief backstage clip once a week.
This title seems to be sitting at home, collecting dust.
Universal Champion Roman Reigns
After retaining the Universal Championship over both Daniel Bryan and Edge, it's impossible not to acknowledge Roman Reigns as the definitive top guy.
The Tribal Chief suffers from WWE's insistence that all heels need to cheat to win, which means each time Jey Uso interferes, it stops the champion from being an A+.
However, Reigns still gets the job done. He comes out each week and talks about how he's above the rest and then retains his title.
This bravado is only going to grow over time and the longer he holds the belt, the better. It will mean significantly more when he drops it if he continues to add to his legacy.
Now that he's poised to potentially boot Bryan off SmackDown entirely, Reigns is entering uncharted waters as champion.
SmackDown Women's Champion Bianca Belair
WWE has done little with Bianca Belair as the new SmackDown women's champion.
Still, The EST of WWE and Sasha Banks was one of the best matches at WrestleMania and one of the most historic and newsworthy topics to discuss.
On the strength of that main event match alone, Belair is coasting on high marks. Once she hits the ground with this run and really starts showing off her prowess as champion, it will likely be a great run.
Intercontinental Champion Apollo Crews
It took outside interference to retain the Intercontinental Championship, but Apollo Crews did score a victory over Kevin Owens.
That's a win over a former universal champion just days after winning the title at WrestleMania. That's impressive.
Of course, it took over six attempts to win the belt to begin with, but WWE's booking philosophy is very much to tell the fans to forget about the things that aren't part of the current narrative.
Instead of selective hearing, it's selective remembering. If you forget everything that came before WrestleMania, Crews is on fire. That's what WWE wants you to see: The confident heel champion scoring some wins alongside his giant enforcer, Commander Azeez.
It will be interesting to see if he retains his title when Big E gets his rematch.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Dirty Dawgs
Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode are great Superstars who haven't reached the levels they arguably should have. But that doesn't mean giving them the SmackDown Tag Team Championship results in a fantastic reign.
What have these two done that is worth gushing over? They've dodged several title shots but not even in a fun, weasely heel fashion.
Then, they continue to fight the same three teams in whatever combination WWE books that week. None of the wins or losses matter as the same contenders keep getting chances.
If you were to ask even casual fans who held these titles, they probably couldn't tell you. It's an entirely forgettable run for The Dirty Dawgs.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.