Raw drew 3,457 million viewers this week, meanwhile Smackdown drew 2,556 million viewers.
The thing about the upcoming Royal Rumble that has me so excited for it is the fact I truly have no clue what is going to happen. About a month ago I was pretty sure I had the Wrestlemania card figured out but news keeps on coming out saying “This match won’t happen” “This guy is having a big match” “This guy isn’t challenging for the title” and I quite honestly don’t know what will happen. Additionally to this, this match will be star studded. Many Royal Rumbles are filled out with low down the card guys. Yet of the announced participants thus far, I’m not sure any of the competitors can be categorised as that. You’ve got rising stars, guys on the edge of being main eventers, guys who are main eventers and genuine superstars – The Undertaker, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. This of course excludes Seth Rollins, Triple H, Kevin Owens, John Cena, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles and more. I think this is a testament to how the brand split has helped to create more stars in the WWE.
The ending to Raw this week was just fantastic. You take three complete superstars and give them a moment like that, it’s bound to get a reaction, and this one certainly got a reaction. I’ve talked before about how having Roman Reigns in the ring together week after week doesn’t really build up anticipation for me about their match at the Royal Rumble. This was an example of the opposite way it can be done. All three guys stood in the ring, stared each other down and didn’t lay a hand on each other. Lesnar and Goldberg have hardly been in the same ring together, never mind touched since the whole storyline started. Not so surprisingly, there is massive anticipation for their potential match at Wrestlemania. Of course you can’t always build things this way, sometimes you need an all-out war with plenty of violence in the build-up, but even then having them have matches week to week probably isn’t the right way about it almost ever.
Smackdown has heavily relayed on AJ Styles since the brand split, and that isn’t exactly surprising – the guy is obviously amazing – but it does leave the question of where do you go after his reign is over. As a fan my outlook on Smackdown is that there are more potential main eventers on the brand than I believed back at the start of the brand split. With the right build I could see Styles, Ambrose, Corbin, Cena, Wyatt, Harper, Orton, Ziggler and Miz as potential champions or challengers. This gives real potential of an exciting main event scene on Smackdown for the next year. I think the fact guys like the Miz, Harper and Corbin are in that list shows just how successful Smackdown has been at building up guys since the brand split.
In terms of NXT guys coming up and debuting at the rumble, I am holding out that we could see 5-6 new superstars come from NXT to Raw or Smackdown between now and the night after Wrestlemania. My picks would be Tye Dillinger, Samoa Joe, Asuka, The Revival and potentially another superstar closer to after Wrestlemania such as maybe Shinsuke Nakamura depending on how NXT storylines pan out and of course if more indy wrestlers are signed to NXT, allowing Nakamura to move up with sufficient replacements on the NXT brand. Personally it seems a no brainer to me to bring up Tye Dillinger as the 10th entrance at the Royal Rumble. It will get a massive reaction, which is always the best way to debut a new star as that shows those in the audience who are not already aware of Tye that people care about him and they should too. Additionally we get these ten chants all the time now, they may as well capitalise on them. I’d put Tye on Smackdown as he could fit really nicely into that intercontinental title picture at first and if the crowd stays behind him could easily be a main eventer on the brand in the next few years. I’d also bring up Samoa Joe, he’s had his time in NXT, he could instantly become a big star, this seems like another no brainer. Joe could fit into either brand, although I feel he may also find himself on the Smackdown brand. Asuka and the Revival could come any time. I’d like to save them both for when they will make maximum impact though and they likely wouldn’t do that with so many other big surprises at the Rumble. So you could save their debuts for a few more weeks or months down the line where those debuts could have a larger impact.
We saw a stare down between Big Show and Braun Strowman on Raw this week, which actually made me slightly sad I already know Big Show is meant to face Shaq at Wrestlemania, as this seems like a perfect match. While generally WWE crowds don’t like to see two big guys face off anymore as it can be quite slow, this could have been an exception. It would be completely different from anything on the card, fans would see it as an improvement over Shaq and Strowman has gained quite a lot of popularity lately while Big Show’s reduced time on TV and fantastic transformation has fans on his side too. I see why they are doing Big Show Vs Shaq; it makes sense as a publicity stunt. I just hope we get a significant Braun Strowman Vs Big Show match sometime before Big Show retires, maybe at next year’s Summerslam? Although I have heard rumours Big Show intends to retire after this Wrestlemania.
It’s great to see Mickie James back on Smackdown and I feel she’s really going to add to the women’s roster. Smackdown’s women’s roster felt like it might be a little short when the brand happened. Originally just six women’s wrestlers were on the brand, one being Eva Marie, another two newly called up Alexa Bliss and Carmella, Naomi who had been missing from TV for a while and the two who were assumed to carry the group, Natalya and Becky Lynch. Well most of these women have taken the opportunity with both hands. Eva hasn’t been seen since her suspension and Naomi has disappeared and reappeared on TV, but the rest have really excelled, with Nikki Bella and now Mickie James joining their ranks. I think we could be seeing a lot of great on goings with Smackdown’s womens roster for the next year.
With the fallout from the Royal Rumble, as long as it goes well, I see both Raw and Smackdown jumping up in viewership next week.