By Chuck Carroll
It’s been a busy week for WWE. The company invaded Brooklyn and ran four straight nights at the Barclays Center, including their second-biggest pay-per-view of the year. The post-SummerSlam crowds were almost as entertaining as the night after WrestleMania where the crazies really come out. The result of their shenanigans? WWE has now apparently banned beach balls at the shows. Cesaro got that bit going when he jumped into the crowd and ripped one apart that had been bouncing around Sunday night.
Coming off of SummerSlam, Braun Strowman appears ready to take the next big step forward in his career. His domination of Brock Lesnar has led to a Universal Title shot at WWE No Mercy. That match alone makes the $9.99 for the WWE Network worth it.
But all is not pristine on the RAW roster as Big Cass will miss significant time due to an injury. They’ve also shipped one of their most entertaining talkers to another show. However, they did add John Cena — for now — which should help boost ratings a bit.
Here’s a more detailed look at all of that plus, a review of SummerSlam’s effect on RAW and SmackDown’s ratings and a “glorious” debut. This is the week in WWE…
Braun Strowman Takes Giant Step Forward
To say Braun Strowman stole the show at SummerSlam would be a gross understatement. The destruction of Brock Lesnar at his hands was incredible. Unlike Goldberg’s 10-second shocking defeats of the Beast Incarnate, Strowman was methodical with his annihilation. He took his time doling out punishment by power-slamming Lesnar through two announce tables and flipping a third on top of him for good measure. Although it was Lesnar and Reigns in the ring at the end, Strowman was clearly the big winner of the night.
The powers that be in WWE have been high on Strowman for some time and the response from Sunday’s crowd left little doubt that the agile Monster Among Men is the next big thing. His performance was rewarded with a title shot against Lesnar at WWE No Mercy next month. As popular as Strowman is it would be shocking to see the title changes hands, but you never know. Lesnar still has his eyes on UFC, but he’ll be with WWE until his contract expires following WrestleMania. So, this is a feud that should last a while.
Big Cass Injured, Tears ACL On RAW
While one big man is climbing to the top another is down and out. Big Cass is sidelined after tearing his ACL during a match against former tag-team partner Enzo Amore on RAW. WWE reports surgery is scheduled for this week and he will miss somewhere in the ballpark of nine months. Given that timetable, next year’s WrestleMania seems doubtful at best for the seven-footer.
It would have been a mistake for WWE to have kept the program with Enzo going much longer as the bloom was definitely coming off the rose. With his “little buddy” in the rearview, Cass would have been able to start climbing the same ladder Strowman did when the Wyatt Family disbanded. Recently, the audience has been merciless when he’s been on the mic, which is always a good sign if you’re a heel. Hopefully that feeling will be there upon his return.
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Enzo Amore Debuts On 205 Live
Just 24 hours after defeating Cass via injury on RAW, Enzo Amore made his 205 Live debut in front of a still fired up crowd in Brooklyn. It makes sense for him to jump to the cruiserweight division. He needed a fresh start after becoming WWE’s whipping post, albeit an entertaining one. His credibility as a wrestler has been eroding for months and there was hardly any left on Monday night’s.
This move is a win-win for Enzo and WWE. It gives him a clean slate — something that may not have been possible even with a move to SmackDown. His credibility is already replenished by throwing him into feud with current champion Neville. The move also provides an opportunity to boost viewership of the WWE Network exclusive 205 Live which has been losing traction of late. Given Enzo’s popularity, if his shift is promoted on RAW and SmackDown, WWE may even gain subscribers.
Is This The Reason John Cena Moved To RAW?
Free agent John Cena is back on Monday nights and finds himself in a feud with a man who has the same love-hate relationship with the audience as he does. I suspect that WWE pulled the trigger on a feud with Roman Reigns for a specific reason. Reigns is reportedly penciled in to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. With Cena getting ready to exit, it makes sense to give the heir apparent a nice push before riding off into the Hollywood sunset.
Yes, Reigns defeated the Undertaker at WrestleMania, but memories are short and this would help stoke the fire until next April in New Orleans. That and, you know, it’s two of WWE’s biggest names in a feud. It helps move the needle.
SummerSlam Gives RAW And SmackDown Best Ratings In Months
The casual wrestling fans curious about SummerSlam happenings gave WWE a nice boost in viewership this week. Both RAW and SmackDown experienced their best ratings since April. Perhaps most interesting, WWE beat the NFL in the 9 p.m. hour and was the most watched show on cable Monday night. RAW on USA Network did a 1.21 rating in the money demo compared to the NFL’s 1.20 on ESPN. The Giants-Browns game did top RAW in the 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. hours. RAW averaged 3.4 million viewers for the night, which is up by almost 200,000 from last week.
Likewise, SmackDown topped Tuesday’s cable ratings and drew 2.7 million viewers — a week-over-week increase of about 150,000. The show did a .87 rating to beat The Haves and the Have Nots and Hannity to reign supreme.
Bobby Roode Debuts On SmackDown
It’s been a long time coming, but 40-year-old Bobby Roode finally made a “glorious” debut on WWE’s main roster. He flourished in NXT with a seven-month run as champion and the time was now to move on to the next level. The writing was on the wall after he lost the NXT Championship to Drew McIntyre at TakeOver: Brooklyn on Saturday. The only real question after the loss was whether he’d wind up on RAW or SmackDown. PWInsider’s Mike Johnson reported Monday afternoon that Roode was backstage at RAW leading to speculation he’d wind up on the flagship show. But alas, it wouldn’t be until Tuesday that we saw him.
Roode earned a decisive win over Aiden English, but that was just a table-setter. His future will become more clear in the weeks to come.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.