The new era of the WWE began in theory when Shane McMahon returned to the company, but the reality is that it truly began on Monday night. It was in the first edition of Raw after the brand-extension that marked the official start to this supposed new era of wrestling.
It was rather awesome, too.
Yes, the Monday Night Raw logo — which, honestly, isn’t that big of a deal — left a little to be desired. Still, every other thing was done to near perfection.
The stage received a much needed makeover, the broadcast team did surprisingly well together (more on that in a minute), and moving the broadcast team away from the ring was a shockingly nice touch. All of that was only for appearances, but it did manage to make Raw feel fresh.
Corey Graves helped with that, too. Here is a talented broadcaster who can add several layers of commentary other people can’t. Not only is he a former pro wrestler, but he has known a lot of Raw’s stars for a long time. His extra added — sometimes breaking kayfabe — insight is a welcomed addition to this new era.
So, too, was the lack of Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon being shoved in our face for three hours. Save for the opening of the show, which had to be done and made total sense, neither of the two management figures were forced onto to us. It was a Monday Night Raw that had more to do with the wrestlers.
Oh, and speaking about that… did we ever get a wrestling-heavy Monday Night Raw!
While we have no idea if this is the type of programming we should consistently expect in the future, we got a Raw that rivaled Battleground — a bleeping Network Special — in importance.
We had two fatal-four way matches that determined who would fight in the main event, that would then determine who would face Seth Rollins at SummerSlam to determine who would be the new WWE Universal Champion.
That turned out to be Finn Balor, who can be considered the complete opposite of the type of wrestler the WWE prefers to push, and the new literal face of the new era.
Circling back to the name of the new title: It is going to take some getting used to. It’s not perfect, either. But we should applaud the WWE for thinking outside the figurative box. Bringing back an old title would be more of the same, but we are in this supposed new era — so a new era title name is what should come with it.
The names of the new stars and the wrestling-heavy programming isn’t something we should expect to continue on. Eventually the pushes of Balor or Neville or who have you will wear off and/or they will become entrenched in big event matches, which will inevitably take away their freshness.
But that’s an overall good thing. New stars can’t forever be new. As long as they do indeed become stars that aren’t retreaded versions of old-time guys, it is a net-win.
As it is with the wrestling-heavy product, the WWE had a great chance to book the first new era Raw that way because it had to put together its SummerSlam main event in a rather quick way. This won’t be an opportunity afforded to the company each week. Still, it doesn’t mean it takes away from the latest edition of Raw.
All in all, from top to bottom, to pillar to post, from start to finish, the first Monday Night Raw post-brand split was a stunning success. The show felt fresh, new stars were very literally made, and it was as good a three-hour program one can hope to have. All of that, mind you, without the cruiserweight division even taking shape yet.
Sure, we have no idea if that sort of Raw is sustainable moving forward, and even if it isn’t, man was that ever fun to consume.
Between that Raw and creating Finn Balor into a main event level star in one night, all wrestling fans need to take a step back and give the company a standing ovation. The new era could have started off on the wrong foot, but it didn’t. It started off as well as humanly possible.
Seriously. Wrestling fans couldn’t have asked for anything more. Well, they could have, but we tend to be a fickle bunch.