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Triple H’s fingerprints are already all over WWE’s in-ring product

WWE, Triple H, SmackDown, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Shotzi, Ronda Rousey, Liv Morgan

It’s officially been a week since Vince McMahon retired from the WWE, and frankly, not much has changed.

Sure, Madusa returned to NXT to help out Roxanne Perez, Brock Lesnar maybe almost quit, and Goldberg was reportedly called to almost take his place, but since then, other than the absence of the 24/7 Championship and a few minor calls, nothing much has changed. Every match that was scheduled to be wrestled under Vince McMahon has gone on as planned–barring injury–and even non-wrestling segments, like the Rey Mysterio Celebration and the segments featuring The Miz and Logan Paul, have gone on as planned.

Even the most notable change to the WWE Universe post-McMahon’s retirement, swapping out Max Dupri for his sister Maxxine as the leader of the Maximum Male Models, wasn’t a Triple H decision, and was ultimately walked back this week when the man formerly known as LA Knight re-appeared at the end of the MMM’s video package to hype up the group’s SummerSlam summer wear collection (more on that here).

However, eagle-eyed fans may have noticed that there, in fact, have been a few changes to the WWE Universe’s televised presentation of wrestling in that there is simply more of it. That’s right, after years of watching Mr. McMahon save legitimate matches for the Pay-Per-Views “Premium Live Events” and replace them with goofy finishes, backstage brawls, and more than a few “funny” segments, Trips has brought back the action of mid-2010s NXT right onto SmackDown, onto RAW, and onto his old brand for good measure too.

Triple H Bringing Longer Bouts Back To WWE TV

When Drew McIntyre took the ring for a Good Old Fashioned Donnybrook Match in the opening segment of SmackDown, it started in very Vince McMahon fashion. McIntyre took to the ring in typical fashion save his signature sword, but before the Brawling Brute’s music could hit and the dynamic duo of Butch, and Ridge Holland hit the ring with their fearless leader, Sheamus burst out from the back and attacked his long-time rival before the bell could officially ring. 

Now granted, in this particular match, that actually wasn’t a gimmicky way to start the match, as a “Good Old Fashioned Donnybrook Match” was basically announced by Adam Pearce as a No-Hold Barred, no DQ match with the addition of Sheamus’ familial weapon, the shillelagh, but still, it was hard to imagine the bout ending with anything other than some ridiculousness like a double-count-out to set up another match at SummerSlam with a definitive finish.

… except that didn’t happen. No, after not one but two commercial breaks, the duo of McIntyre and Sheamus – plus Holland and Butch – duked it out to the logical conclusion, and “The Chosen One” secured a spot in the main event of Clash at the Castle, WWE’s Premium Live Event scheduled for September 3rd. The 25-ish minute match had build, had lulls, moments of extreme action, and even featured a table spot that was set up, worked away from, and worked back to like the best wrestling setups you’d see on a promotion like NJPW or AEW.

Heck, outside of the lack of picture-and-picture, this match felt very much like an AEW main event and thus, was a very good opener that got over huge with the fans both online and assembled in Atlanta as if it was booked by a genuine wrestling lover like Tony Khan instead of an angry 77-year-old who doesn’t believe that finishes should be given away on free TV.

If that was that, then hey, maybe folks could point to it as an outlier – McIntyre-Sheamus matches are notoriously good, and pretty much any booker could throw the duo in a ring together and get a quality match out of the booking, but guess what? The rest of the two-hour show featured good wrestling too – far more than one would expect from a go-home show before the company’s second-biggest show of the year.

The four-way bout between Ronda Rousey, Liv Morgan, Natalia, and Sonya DeVille went through a commercial for a double-digit minute runtime, as did the match between the Viking Warriors and New Day, and even the impromptu match between Shotzi and Aliyah, which was booked on-the-fly due to an injury by Lacey Evans, was booked respectfully, with both women getting in some offense before the formerly Blackheart-ed one secured the win to set up an interaction with Rousey.

And the best part? No wrestler stood in the ring for 10 minutes while a half dozen video segments played over the Titantron a la RAW before having their match cut to smithereens by uber-distracting camera editing. Goodness, did Kevin Dunn call off work this week? If so, let’s hope he doesn’t come back, as this was one of the more entertaining modern-day SmackDown episodes you will see.