WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: The Superstar Shake made some much needed changes

Jeff Hardy won the US Title on Raw on Monday and debuted with it on SmackDown on Tuesday. Photo by WWE.com

This is a weekly look at the action in the WWE:

Raw

Kurt Angle welcomed the fans to the Superstar Shakeup, a week full of surprises. Jinder Mahal was the first to be moved from SmackDown Live to Raw, and he was welcomed to Raw having to defend his US Title. Mahal’s arrival would be spoiled by Jeff Hardy who defeated him to become United States Champion. Bayley and Sasha Banks tried to settle their differences in the ring, but were interrupted by an attack from former SmackDown faction, The Riott Squad.

The Miz welcomed Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to Raw, and explained to the audience how they would be joining him in creating the best faction. Kurt Angle crashed the party, though, revealing to Miz that he will now be part of SmackDown Live. He offered Miz a going away present, a ten man tag in the main event. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt defeated The Revival to win a chance to challenge The Bar for the Raw Tag Titles. Dolph Ziggler made his arrival, and Titus World Wide raced to the ring in attempts to recruit him. Ziggler explained he did not need to be recruited, as he did not come to Raw alone. Drew McIntyre surprised Titus and Apollo with a brutal attack.

The newest Raw member, Natalya, defeated Mandy Rose with a Sharpshooter. Sonya Deville spoiled Natalya’s victory by attacking her. This prompted Ronda Rousey to come down for the save. Breezango had a nice debut as they upset The Bar after Tyler Breeze rolled up Cesaro. The Miz, Mizterouge, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn challenged Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, and the new member of Raw, Bobby Roode in the main event. Strowman sent Miz to SmackDown with a loss after hitting him with a  Running Power Slam and pinning him for the win.  

SmackDown Live

AJ Styles opened the show expressing his frustrations with Nakamura’s recent behavior. He demanded Nakamura come and face him. Instead, he was confronted by Rusev and Aiden English. AJ Styles accepted Rusev’s challenge, though their match did not go for long as Aiden English got involved. Daniel Bryan raced to the ring for the save. Paige, the new SmackDown GM, announced a tag main event featuring all four men. Shelton Benjamin demanded an opponent worthy of his level. Randy Orton appeared to answer his call, instead, the new United States Champion, Jeff Hardy did. Hardy defeated Benjamin after a Swanton Bomb. Samoa Joe made an impactful debut on SmackDown defeating Sin Cara. He, then, took to the mic to explain things are about to change in “the land of hand outs.”

Carmella celebrated winning the SmackDown Women’s Title. Her party was spoiled by Charlotte, and the Iconics. This led to a match between Charlotte and Billie Kay which Charlotte won. The Iconics tried ambushing Flair, but Becky Lynch and a debuting Asuka saved the former champion. Nakamura once again spoiled a main event as he lowbrowed Styles. His attack distracted Styles’ partner, Daniel Bryan, who was, then in turn, surprised by a monster kick from a returning Big Cass.

Boy, did the Superstar Shake Up do a lot of good for both shows.

Raw’s tag division finally looks in good shape, and Bobby Roode desperately needed a change in the cards. Ziggler getting paired with McIntyre makes him the most interesting he has been in years. Also, the seeds have been planted for Ronda Rousey’s first solo feud with Natalya. All in all, Raw got a plethora of talent to rebuild their mid card. Getting guys like Corbin and Roode allows two guys the opportunity to be freshened up.

SmackDown Live, though, absolutely left the week with a better roster. It’s clear there was no space for people like Samoa Joe and Asuka at the top of the cards, where they belonged, on Raw. Moving them to the blue show was absolutely brilliant. Moving Absolution to SmackDown can lead to a future story where Paige starts to favor her girls. Not to mention, it freshens up the Women’s Division. Where I think SmackDown really got elevated, though, was with the wrestlers they added via NXT. Former Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega will add so much to the blue show, especially considering what Zelina can do on the mic to elevate Almas’ feuds. The call up of Sanity, too, adds another dimension as there is absolutely no telling what the faction will get themselves into when they arrive on SmackDown.

All in all, the Superstar Shake Up did exactly what it should have for both shows. For the better part of last year, SmackDown was clearly behind Raw. These moves, at least on paper, give us the impression that SmackDown will once again be the dominant force it was when the brand split first happened almost two years ago.

Also, worth mentioning is the fact that WWE will go back to sharing their Pay-per-views. This was something that was definitely needed. The excess of shows was definitely taking its toll last year with the story lines. Combining them again allows the PPVs to be focused. There is no need to fill a card with filler matches. So long as they do not fall into a trap where every title has to be defended at every show, this effort should pay off.   

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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