Red Vs Blue

A Big Debut & A Retirement Looms? | Red vs. Blue (SmackDown 29/5/20 & Raw 1/6/20)

Benjamin Clem looks at the latest episodes of Raw and SmackDown, deciding which brand was best in ‘Red vs Blue’.

SmackDown gives us some “fast times” with Otis and Mandy, while Raw builds towards the possible debut of Dominik Mysterio! All that, and more in this week’s Red Versus Blue!

Professional wrestling is easily one of the most polarizing facets of modern day pop culture. While the tried and true criticism of wrestling has always fallen on it’s predetermined nature, the advent of social media and podcasts has cast a new light on the multitude of diverse opinions that exist within the wrestling fandom.

Sure, you have your plethora of fans that enjoy the indifferent antics of AEW’s Orange Cassidy, but existing in the same fanbase are those that yearn for the technically thrilling days of WCW’s fantastic Cruiserweight division. The fact of the matter is that pro wrestling truly is an art form, thus making it highly open to both debate and scrutiny.

Whether you’re a diehard fan of the “good ole’ days” of wrestling’s yesteryear, or more interested in the indie centric current product, the global spread of COVID-19 has forced most of us to view wrestling through a more abstract prism.

The absence of overly populated arenas and lacking rosters have resulted in most promotions embracing more cinematic, entertainment-based programming in an attempt to keep home viewership high. The fluidity of a business that can go from cemetery brawls to MMA-like “pit fights” undeniably proves that wrestling is an art form at its core. That being said, this week’s offerings of primetime WWE programming show that a balance can still be reached between sport-based athletics and entertainment-focused storylines.

With both Raw and Smackdown expertly delivering some of the best content we’ve seen since the dawn of the current “empty arena” era, the question we gather each and every week to answer once again begins to rear its head. So, when it comes to this week’s flagship WWE shows, which one was better?

You know the schtick by now, folks! Every week, I watch the shows, make the notes, and then deliver unto you fine readers my semi-informed opinion of which show was better overall. Once again, this edition of RvB will determine a winner by focusing purely on what both show did the best. With the introduction and explanation out of the way, it’s time for us to jump right into this week’s highlights!

Kickstarting this week’s Blue Brand highlights is the impromptu battle royal we saw open Friday night’s show.

Although this week’s opening segment was centred around an uncomfortable blurring of the line between kayfabe and reality, the resulting battle royal to determine a replacement semi-finalist was an amazing example of logical booking. From AJ Styles heelishly wanting his free ride to the finals, to the first of two appearances by former PWG World Champion Adam Pearce, this completely felt like a reactionary moment we’d actually see if all the kayfabe events taking place were real.

Now, by show’s end, it was painfully obvious that everything centred around the Intercontinental tournament finals was designed to further Jeff Hardy and Sheamus’ current feud, but that absolutely doesn’t take away from booking that makes sense in the heat of the moment.

Next up on Smackdown’s highlight list is Otis and Mandy’s poolside vignette. In usual WWE cornball fashion, this spot was a gender swapped take on the classic “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” pool scene.

It’s amazing how segments like this would be utterly cringeworthy if Mandy and Otis weren’t the ones taking part in it. As much as I praised the last highlight for making sense, this one earned a mention for the completely opposite reason. Nothing about the Otis and Mandy angle makes sense, so moments like this work better than they would in any other situation. I’m not going to lie, Mandy pausing mid-kiss to give an “oh, yeah” resulted in an audible chuckle from yours truly, and that alone makes this one worth mentioning as a highlight.

Wrapping up this week’s Smackdown highlights is the announcement that Matt Riddle will be moving from NXT to the Blue Brand’s roster.

Since officially being established as the third prime time brand in WWE’s weekly lineup, it’s become a rarity to see main event tier talent being moved from NXT to the “main roster”. Although the success rate of NXT call ups has proven to be hit or miss in the past, I personally think the former UFC star has the perfect combination of talent and charisma to get himself over on Friday nights. If Riddle continues to be handled as he has been in instances like NXT’s recent “Fight Pit” match, I see no reason why he won’t find himself as one of Smackdown’s top stars within the next six months.

Switching over to the Red Brand’s highlights, first on the list is Asuka and Charlotte Flair’s champion vs. champion match.

This is exactly the technically sound style of match I was hoping we’d get from Becky dropping the title to Asuka. Until the conclusion saw Nia Jax strangely distract the Raw Women’s Champion, this match could easily be compared to the technical clinic we saw put on by Drew Gulak and Daniel Bryan a few weeks ago. Even the recent over-exposure of Flair wasn’t enough to detract from the quality of this bout. Hopefully, this is a preview of what we’ll see once Asuka ends up defending her title against the likes of Shayna Baszler in the future.

Next on the Red Brand’s highlights is the latest continuation of Seth Rollins and Rey Mysterio’s growing feud.

After Seth kicked off the show with a faux retirement ceremony for the masked legend, Rey and his son Dominik responded “via satellite” with a not so subtle tease concerning the latter making his in-ring WWE debut. This spot earned a mention due to where Dom’s introduction made led.

Imagine if after losing in his debut against Seth, Dominik courted the idea of joining the ranks of Zelina Vega’s Latin centric stable…Dominik could be the catalyst for Rey’s last great run in the WWE, complete with a rare father versus son conclusion!

Finishing off this week’s highlights is Randy Orton’s “trap” promo.

Say what you will about Randy, but there’s no denying that the man can deliver one hell of a promo when called upon. Who else could come out of a spot where they admitted to “phoning it in” looking more like a badass than the “Apex Predator” himself?! No, Edge and Randy’s match at Backlash probably won’t be the “greatest wrestling match ever”, but spots like this definitely do their best at conveying the feeling of stakes being extremely high. I’ll never complain about seeing Edge back in the ring, but I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping this will be the “go home” match of this rivalry.

The Verdict

Yet again, both shows adequately delivered this week. While Smackdown has seemingly mastered their two-hour formula, Raw is finally figuring out how to fill the extra hour present in their current format. So, with both shows bringing their “A” game to the table, I have to call this week in favour of…

Although Raw was full of emotionally charged segments from the likes of Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, and Edge, Smackdown redeemed the show’s turbulent opening with top level matches and a much needed comedic break. Once again the Blue Brand has snatched another victory from it’s elder counterpart which means the time has come for me to bid you fine readers farewell the only way I know how…

Until next week, may all your kicks be super and every frog splash five stars!

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