The advertisements for the Aug. 1 Raw clearly showed that the presence of Brock Lesnar was going to be the main attraction of the show.
Lesnar making his first appearance since WrestleMania 32 may have made one assume that the progress made by the New Era was going to be put on hold. However, diehards supporters of the New Era would not leave disappointed. A match between Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins would have been enough to satisfy their appetites. In addition to that dream match, fans were treated to an uber-entertaining opening segment that cemented the fact that the WWE has not only put nearly all of its eggs in the New Era basket, but it also acknowledged that women’s wrestling is on its way to be as esteemed as men’s.
“Sky’s the Limit” hit the loudspeakers at the very beginning of the show as the Atlanta crowd erupted as “The Boss” Sasha Banks entered the arena.
The opening segment of a Monday Night Raw is always reserved for one of the main storylines to be progressed. Once upon a time, Mr. McMahon and his Corporation would reveal their latest plan to get the WWE Championship from around the waist of Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rock or John Cena would also frequently use the opening segment of Monday Night Raw to lay the rhetorical smackdown on the present villainous heel hoping to dethrone them from their headlining mantle.
Rarely, if ever, does Monday Night Raw kick off with anyone other than a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
By kicking of Raw with Sasha Banks (then almost immediately having Charlotte enter to confront the new Women’s Champion), WWE made two emphatic statements. First of all, the New Era has received full investment backing from the WWE. Secondly, even more progressively, WWE has made it abundantly clear that women’s wrestling can now carry its own in both action and fan buy-in when being compared to men’s.
Enter “Smacktalker Skywalker.”
After Chris Jericho came out to confront Banks for verbally abusing wrestling royalty in Charlotte, Enzo Amore entered the ring to defend Banks against Charlotte and the six-time heavyweight champion. What would ensue was a galactically enthralling segment that featured Amore going toe-to-toe with Jericho, easily of the best microphone masters in the history of professional wrestling. His mastery aside, he has been verbally surpassed by Enzo Amore. If you watched Jericho’s face closely during the segment, it was slap-in-the-face apparent that he has so issues with being surpassed, even going as far as grabbing Charlotte’s arm during a flirtatious “how you doin’” exchange between Enzo and Sasha to keep her from interrupting the two.
Not only was his microphone work going up against Jericho’s polarizing, so was the fan reaction as Amore was by himself without being accompanied by Big Cass. Big Cass by light years is the better wrestler of the tag team, but Enzo is the team’s charismatic heartbeat; the team does not function without him. Enzo Amore might never be remembered years from now for his catch-as-catch-can ring work, but he will be a legend remembered for his work on the microphone. One day, Enzo Amore will be holding one of the WWE’s heavyweight championships, and the crowd will elicit a thunderous response that will impale the eardrums of anyone present in that building.
Although WWE’s future was the headlining act of Monday Night Raw’s opening segment, fans were given another reminder of the timelessness that is Chris Jericho. As has been his trademark since his first return to the WWE in 2007, Jericho has once again reinvented his character, this time as a snarky heel that is an enemy that does not fit his definition of “cool.” He has played a heel on several occasions, but this version is fresh, and comes at a perfect time as the New Era has arrived to vanquish Jericho’s era. This reinvention, combined with his still-mint mic work and still-elite in-ring work, shows just how valuable Jericho is and will remain until he chooses to hang up his boots. Every fan should be going out of their way to drink in the gift of Jericho until this day comes.
Monday Night Raw’s opening segment worked in every possible facet a professional wresting television segment could possibly excel at (minus a match).
Brock Lesnar’s appearance was clearly the main event of the show, and his contract dictates that. However, WWE made it clear that Lesnar’s appearance was not a detriment to the New Era’s progress. He is a high-profile, temporary distraction that will not come close to doing so. Handing WWE’s flagship show’s opening segment to the young bucks shows that the New Era is being fully invested in by the WWE.