Quick Takes on WWE Raw Reaching a New Low, Pat McAfee on SmackDown and More

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2021

Quick Takes on WWE Raw Reaching a New Low, Pat McAfee on SmackDown and More

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    How much longer will WWE Raw remain in a rut?
    How much longer will WWE Raw remain in a rut?Credit: WWE.com

    In the near-30 years that WWE Raw has been on air, there haven't been many periods that have been as creatively dull as the one we find ourselves in.

    Monday's edition, which featured one of the show's worst first hours of all time, felt like it reached a new low. Little was accomplished, time was wasted and few Superstars were showcased. In other words, the show simply existed, and there wasn't a ton to it.

    Thankfully, SmackDown has been the polar opposite for the past several months. The blue brand is coming off one of its stronger shows in some time Friday night, and the addition of former All-Pro punter Pat McAfee to the announce table has been nothing but a positive.

    All Elite Wrestling also has a bit of momentum heading into its highly anticipated Blood and Guts show on Wednesday and its Double or Nothing pay-per-view later in May. Some stars are finally getting their rightful push toward stardom, such as Miro, while others are meandering in the midcard, waiting for their time to shine—most notably Cody Rhodes.

    This week's installment of Quick Takes will tackle how AEW has handled Miro and Cody lately, as well as how WWE should be handling Aleister Black upon his return to SmackDown. Other topics of discussion include what McAfee has brought to commentary and the creative landscapes of Raw and SmackDown.

Raw Reaches New Low Creatively While SmackDown Continues to Kill It

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    It's safe to say that Monday Night Raw desperately needs a creative overhaul in the worst way.

    The roster is incredibly gifted, but with WrestleMania in the rearview mirror, it seems like WWE doesn't have a clue what to do with most of the talent. That couldn't have been any more apparent on Monday's episode, which was arguably the weakest in years.

    Braun Strowman wrestling in three matches throughout the night, while historic and also record-setting, illustrated just how little the rest of the roster is being utilized. The WWE Championship picture with Bobby Lashley, Drew McIntyre and now Strowman has been entertaining enough in recent weeks, but nothing else on Raw comes close to feeling remotely as important.

    Charlotte Flair getting reinstated so quickly served no storyline purpose, the tag team division is nearly nonexistent, Sheamus lacks credible challengers to this United States Championship, Bray Wyatt is nowhere to be found and the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship picture has been dreadful.

    Even with Superstars out injured or inactive for other reasons, there is no excuse for Raw's Creative being as stagnant as it is.

    Meanwhile, over on SmackDown, there are several storylines worth investing in. Almost anything Roman Reigns touches turns to gold, the Intercontinental Championship scene has been consistently compelling, Aleister Black is on his way back, the tag team division is featured fairly regularly and new stars are in the process of being made.

    The blue brand is far from a perfect show, but it's more bearable than Raw, and not only because it's an hour shorter. To think that the same company produces both brands is almost unbelievable—in the same given week, no less—and there's no sign of when Raw will be able to bounce back.

Pat McAfee Has Been a Breath of Fresh Air on the SmackDown Commentary Team

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    WWE's post-WrestleMania commentary shakeup saw Adnan Virk join the Raw announce team, while Pat McAfee replaced Corey Graves as SmackDown's play-by-play commentator alongside Michael Cole. So far, McAfee has excelled his role far more than Virk has for a variety of reasons.

    For starters, McAfee was obviously far more familiar with the product than Virk prior to becoming a commentator for the company. McAfee signed with WWE in early 2019 as a contributor and took part in several Kickoff shows and Watch-Along events before becoming a regular on NXT TV for a time in late 2020.

    Virk has potential, but Raw has a tendency to cycle through commentators before whoever it is at the helm has a chance to get comfortable. Look no further than Vic Joseph, who was touted as the new voice of Raw in 2019 before being booted for Tom Phillips mere months later.

    SmackDown has been firing on all cylinders in 2021, and having McAfee there to call the action is a huge help. Although Cole has credibility, having been around for more than two decades, he doesn't have the energy or the excitement for the product that McAfee has, and that's going to be what keeps him around in the long run.

    At a time when most of WWE's announcers sound the same, McAfee is exactly what the main roster needs. He doesn't come across as overproduced, speaks with passion and has quickly proved to be a natural fit for the role.

Cody Rhodes' Rivalry with QT Marshall Is Beneath Him

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    Cody Rhodes not being able to contend for the AEW World Championship, per the stipulation of his loss to Chris Jericho at Full Gear 2019, has painted AEW into a corner in terms of his booking options.

    He was perfectly positioned in the AEW TNT Championship picture upon the introduction of that title in May 2020, and it allowed him to work with several fresh faces and up-and-coming stars. However, once that ran its course, he was left with nothing to do and has been bouncing around randomly from feud to feud ever since.

    His latest storyline has seen him at odds with his former friend QT Marshall, who betrayed him in late March and split The Nightmare Family into two factions. Despite Marshall's best efforts, the rivalry hasn't been interesting and has felt like a waste of Rhodes' star power.

    AEW was wise to announce Cody vs. Marshall for the Blood and Guts edition of Dynamite as opposed to saving it for Double or Nothing at the end of May. That would be the best place to blow it off and move forward with The American Nightmare, but it's a lot likelier that something will happen to keep their feud alive for a little longer.

    If the endgame is a match between Cody and newcomer Anthony Ogogo, who has been protected thus far, then that could be used to help elevate Ogogo and get him over as a credible threat. Beyond that, Cody is doomed to flounder until settling on something a bit more significant.

    Kenny Omega could use a notable challenger, which would have been an ideal spot for Cody if his ban from the title picture didn't exist.

Who Will Be Aleister Black's 1st Rival Upon Return?

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    After more than six months of inactivity, Aleister Black is finally on his way back to WWE TV. A vignette promoting his return aired on the April 23 edition of SmackDown and indicated he will be a heel once he resurfaces.

    Although having him in that role is better than not having him around at all, it does make it more challenging to pair him with someone on SmackDown. Following the loss of Daniel Bryan on Friday, there's one less top talent he can possibly feud with.

    Despite being one of SmackDown's lead babyfaces, Kevin Owens isn't an option. He and Black already had a series of matches against each other last fall, and rekindling that rivalry wouldn't offer anything new.

    That leaves four potential Superstars: Cesaro, Big E, Rey Mysterio and Shinsuke Nakamura. Interestingly, all of them except for Nakamura are chasing championships and are tied up in other storylines. Seeing as how Black's vignettes just started up and aren't expected to end for another few weeks, there's a chance he could target any one of them post-WrestleMania Backlash,

    Of the four, Nakamura might be the best bet because of how WWE has shown that there are no plans in place for him anytime soon. Plus, he has enough credibility that Black beating him would mean something. The matches between the two would be physical and hard-hitting to boot.

    Black is a welcome addition to already star-studded SmackDown roster.

Miro Breaking Out on His Own Is Long Overdue

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    Miro debuted on AEW Dynamite in September and is only now seemingly about to be thrust into the singles spotlight—where he belongs.

    The whole idea behind pairing Miro with Kip Sabian was that they had a shared interest in gaming and that they could be used to keep Best Friends busy in a rivalry that lasted a lot longer than it needed to. Miro and Sabian beat Orange Cassidy and Chuck Taylor at the Revolution pay-per-view, but Best Friends avenged the loss and ended the feud with a win in Arcade Anarchy on March 31.

    Ultimately, Miro gained nothing from teaming with Sabian but did offer a few glimmers of greatness in the few instances he was let loose. Viewers finally got to see that side of Miro on full display on Wednesday's Dynamite when he viciously assaulted Sabian in the locker room.

    That was a terrific way of setting the tone for what should be a breakout singles run for him. As a three-time United States champion, he had his fair share of success in WWE, but he was underutilized for years. Now he has a better chance of being booked as the monster heel he was destined to be.

    He's been putting all champions on notice lately, but with Kenny Omega in possession of the AEW World Championship, it would make the most sense for him to set his sights on Darby Allin's AEW TNT Championship. The size dynamic alone would make for a wonderful match that should result in Miro taking the title.

    A stint in the main event scene could be coming at some point. But in the meantime, it's satisfying to see him find his footing after a less-than-stellar start in the company.

                   

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.