It's official — the WWE has ventured into a brand new era. The company that has been notorious for its ability to adapt and morph with the times has undergone many transformations in the past. From the glory days of the Golden Era to the cutting edge Attitude Era of the late 90s, and from the compelling Ruthless Aggression Era to the controversial PG Era of today — the WWE is renowned for its evolution. And things are about to change again thanks to last week's WWE Draft.
The Draft saw the return of the brand extension, which is set to change the wrestling landscape in a huge way. The premiere episodes of Smackdown LIVE and RAW have been well-received by fans, signaling that the brand extension will be a great addition to the company.
As the WWE prepares itself for this new chapter in sports entertainment history, let's take a look at some of the things WWE got right heading into their new era.
A Complete Revamp
Ever since the "HD Era" began in 2008, WWE has maintained the same identical staging for both RAW and SmackDown They would have similar opening titles, white ring ropes and the exact same stage structure. This removed each show's individual identity and was partly responsible for the downward spiral that led to SmackDown becoming a RAW recap.
However, thanks to the return of the brand extension, both shows have undergone complete overhauls. Starting with new logos, both brands now feature their own unique rosters, management teams and commentary teams. But they have undergone a visual revamp as well. The ring ropes and microphones have changed back to red for RAW and blue for Smackdown, and the show's even have unique opening credits sequences. The new staging could be a little more exciting, particularly for SmackDown, but the different setups are much appreciated.
Check out RAW's new gritty intro below:
At least WWE finally got the message and took this new era seriously by changing what's on the surface. By distinctly separating the two brands physically, we will see them as completely different shows, and that's exactly what needs to happen if we ever want to see SmackDown as an equal ever again.
Moving The WWE Championship To SmackDown LIVE
Although the original rumor stated that the WWE Champion would appear on both shows, we now know that the organization has once again ventured down the 2003-2013 route of having separate champions for each show. Thus, the championship would go to whichever show the champion was drafted to appear on.
It says a lot that the WWE has allowed its most prestigious championship to end up on SmackDown instead of its flagship show RAW. Putting the title on the number one babyface in the company — Dean Ambrose — and moving both him and the championship to the blue brand highlights the amount of effort the organization's putting into making SmackDown great again.
Of course, we found out this week that RAW will get its own (oddly titled) WWE "Universal Championship", so the red brand won't be without gold for too long. Although I would like to see SmackDown have the solo title for a little bit longer, it makes sense that both shows will have major gold.
It's important that both shows have solid main events for SummerSlam and that's exactly what they worked towards on the premiere episodes of the new era. Monday Night RAW had two Fatal 4-Way matches and a single match between the respective winners to determine its number one contender. Meanwhile, SmackDown went for a different but equally awesome approach to determine its contender. Choosing five superstars to compete in a Six-Pack Challenge, the sixth spot was determined by the winner of an entertaining Battle Royale. Dolph Ziggler ultimately triumphed as SmackDown's number one contender while Finn Balor would come out victorious on Raw.
It's also interesting how Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley opened RAW in the ring while the superstars were made stand on the stage, contrasting how Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan opened SmackDown on the stage with the superstars around the ring. The setup reinforces how SmackDown is "all about the superstars," just as the WWE claims. The healthy competition between the shows and their differing styles should make for some great storytelling as they try to outdo each other.
Focusing On The Next Generation
For the past few years, the WWE has constantly pushed reliable athletes to the forefront and kept the better wrestlers in the midcard. However, with the brand extension, execs have utilized their next generation stars to perfection. Having fan favorite NXT star Finn Balor defeat Roman Reigns cleanly in the main event of RAW was a beautiful symbolic move, representing the changing of the guard. Furthermore, the fact that Balor will challenge the amazing Seth Rollins in a championship match at SummerSlam also highlights the faith WWE finally has having in its most talented wrestlers.
And let's not forget about Dolph Ziggler triumphing over 5 other superstars on SmackDown. Ziggler defeated AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt, Baron Corbin, Apollo Crews and yes, even John Cena to advance to SummerSlam where he'll face Dean Ambrose for the WWE Championship. Ziggler has shown he's capable of carrying the company, but questionable storylines kept forcing him to the bottom of the heap. But the fans always stuck by him and now he has his chance to shine.
Focusing on the next generation sets this era apart, but it's nice to see legends like Kane, Big Show and Mark Henry still competing alongside these up-and-comers. The best of both worlds will be showcased on both brands, with plenty for fans to enjoy.
The New Women's Champion
When Stephanie McMahon reinvigorated the Divas Division and brought forth many NXT competitors, the Divas revolution began. Despite being hit and miss at times, it was mostly a resounding success. Why? Because it did what it said it would — revolutionize the WWE's women's division.
Despite a rich heritage, the Divas Division had been less than stellar until the recent changes. The "divas" tag was dropped, the Divas Championship was dropped and the Women's Championship returned — there was no doubt that this was a new era for women's wrestling. Charlotte was a great choice to begin the revolution, but fans wanted Sasha Banks on top. And at the beginning of this new era, the WWE Universe now finally has Sasha as the new WWE Women's Champion. It's a move fans have wanted for a while, and we're happy the WWE's finally delivered.
The Rollins Show VS. The Ambrose Show
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose are without a doubt the future of the company. Picking Rollins as the number one draft pick for RAW and Ambrose for SmackDown just solidifies that these two will carry WWE into the new era. In the first week of the brand extension, Ambrose is SmackDown's WWE Champion while Rollins was treated like an honorary champion, automatically securing a spot in RAW's championship match at SummerSlam.
Although many believed that Reigns and Cena would be forced down our throats again, they will likely be used in the role of the reliable star who could be sprinkled throughout the midcard, while the focus will remain on the stars of tomorrow — Ambrose and Rollins.
So, now that this new era is off to an explosive start, expect to see more healthy competition between shows as they strive to produce the most cutting edge programming week after week. After the long and somewhat stale PG Era, things are finally starting to look up for the WWE. Although RAW may have had the edge this week, it was completely refreshing to watch SmackDown LIVE and thoroughly enjoy it. Hopefully more killer matches and exciting twists are on the way.
Are you enjoying WWE's new era so far? Let us know in the comments!