SmackDown “Goes Home” to Elimination Chamber as Raw begins the push towards WrestleMania. All that, and more in this week’s edition of Red Versus Blue!
There are few things that I enjoy more than professional wrestling. Yes, wrestling has always been a major passion of mine, but the old cliché of a man being unable to live on bread alone absolutely rings true when it comes to me. One of the only things that has ever rivalled my love of wrestling is my love of comics books. More specifically – Batman comic books. The core premise behind the character of Batman is the idea of duality. Batman is the perfect balance of two polar opposite personas. The care-free, millionaire playboy; and the ever brooding, masked vigilante. This fact is even evident in the films based around Batman, with some actors being able to embody Bruce Wayne perfectly while being unable to personify his alter ego, and vice versa.
Although most might say that the only common factor shared between Batman and wrestling is the level of implied violence, the truth of that matter is that wrestling also exists primarily off the idea of duality. How many times have we seen a talent that defies expectation within the ring, only to fail the moment they have a mic in their face?
Similar to the base concept of Batman, wrestlers must achieve a balance between being great inside the squared circle and being great talkers outside the ring. Never is this truer than on the Road to WrestleMania. During the weeks leading to the “Granddaddy of Them All”, WWE’s talent are challenged with building as much hype as possible before having to ultimately deliver a match that is everything they said it would be.
This week saw the launch of the hype machine as SmackDown teased what could be after Elimination Chamber and Raw shifted into full gear with Tampa on the horizon. With Vince and company giving us two promo heavy offerings of their flagship programming, the question we gather each and every week begins to linger in our minds… which show was better?
You know the schtick, 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. So, with the introduction and explanation dutifully handled in usual fashion, it’s time for us to jump right into this week’s positive highlights!
This week, the blue brand’s good list kicks off with the latest edition of The Firefly Funhouse. This is the calibre of build I knew we could expect going into this feud. Bray referencing past events such as his WrestleMania loss to John Cena is what’s going to keep this from being just another legend versus current star match taking place in Tampa. I assume that “Big Match” John’s part-time status will lead to more and more Firefly Funhouse segments taking place before Mania, and I’m completely content with that. The history surrounding this rivalry very well could be enough to make this the must-see match come April 5th.
Next up for SmackDown’s positives is the main event Tag Team Gauntlet match. After weeks of being presented with a sad and despondent Otis, it was beyond refreshing to see Heavy Machinery booked this strong. Otis is possibly the most over superstar currently on the SmackDown roster and in-ring moments like this are definitely needed to keep that status.
However, I have to say that I personally think seeing Heavy Machinery treated this favourably could very well be the first signs of the team splitting. In my opinion, Otis and Tucker have a tag team championship reign in the near future that’ll end with the revelation that Tucky was the one behind Mandy’s mystery text. Still, no one says you can’t enjoy something until it’s over.
Switching over to the red brand, this week’s Raw positives starts off with the sensational promo Raw Women’s Champion, Becky Lynch delivered to begin the night. After highlighting Shayna Baszler’s stellar performance at Elimination Chamber, Lynch followed the Chamber package with cutting retorts to Baszler’s post-match comments.
Promo work like this is the stuff that’s made Becky the undisputed standout among her fellow former NXT Horsewomen. We don’t need Lynch driving herself to a medical facility when all it takes is putting a mic in her hands to more than establish her as the badass she claims to be. Even the subtle mention of Shayna refusing to shake Becky’s hand after last year’s Mania was better than any bite or contract signing we’ve seen up to this point.
Raw’s next positive has to be AJ Styles’ over the top heel promo on The Undertaker. There is no one who embodies the “schoolyard bully” heel style better than The Phenomenal One. Styles’ ability to build a rivalry solely based around his heel work and two appearances by The Undertaker is something very few current workers could pull off. AJ questioned The Dead Man’s wrestling prowess, referred to him by his real name, and even called out Taker’s wife! This wasn’t your typical heel promo, this was AJ Styles defiantly drawing a line in the sand.
Wrapping up this week’s positives is the much-awaited return of Edge. I have to admit that it’s hard to complain about weeks of “why Randy why” when this was the ultimate payoff. Edge reacted exactly how anyone who’s been through as much as he’s been perceived to be should. Whether it was shocking Randy Orton with his own finisher or hitting MVP with the “Con-chair-to”, Edge expertly personified a man hell-bent on payback all while sporting a look that would made Charles Manson proud. Hopefully, this is the beginning of us seeing more of Edge before his inevitable match with Orton at Mania.
Flipping over to the less admirable aspects of the week, SmackDown’s bad list starts off with Tuesday’s opening “Moment of Bliss”. As someone who grew up being a gigantic mark for anything involving the New World Order, it was incredibly hard to watch this cringe-fest. The combination of years of supposed use of certain substances as well as knowing that they are true living legends has resulted in Nash, Hall, and Waltman being less than fantastic when it comes to promo work.
These guys are vets that really don’t have any reason to sell kayfabe and it shows. Tying this whole spot together with Sami Zayn and Braun Stowman’s current feud did no favours towards making the entire thing more cohesive either, even if it did result in the comical image of Sami hiding behind Alexa Bliss. I have no doubts that a quick backstage interview with the nWo trio about their induction would have been ten times better than this.
Next on the Blue Brand’s bad list is the entirety of Bayley and Sasha Banks’ segment. After a mediocre tag match against the team of Lacey Evans and Naomi, Banks and Bayley were shown backstage gloating about their win. Never have I seen two wrestlers try to make everyone think they’re bad guys so terribly.
Seriously, how are you going to have Banks and Bayley smack talk the Women’s Evolution when they’ve spent years talking about how much it meant to them?! These two sounded like those kids you knew in school that lied to make themselves seem better than sliced bread. And how are these two taking the night off when they’ve already worked?! This was just another in a long line of flat Bayley promos.
The last negative for SmackDown is the women’s tag match between Fire and Desire and the team of Carmella and Dana Brooke. I truly can’t complain about the women’s tag division getting more focus, but there really needs to be more attention paid to actually developing teams. Both Raw and SmackDown saw teams seemingly put together at random this week, with the mismatched teams all losing to their more established opponents.
Also, using these matches to push storylines such as Dolph and Otis’ growing feud seriously doesn’t speak well of a division that’s supposed to be centred around female talent. Moments like this are the lingering proof that WWE still isn’t quite sure how to book women’s wrestling.
After an incredibly well-executed promo from Becky Lynch, the red brand’s first negative of the week comes from Charlotte’s attempt at the same. Truthfully, just about any promo that had to follow that extremely emotional Rhea Ripley package was more than likely to fail, but making it Charlotte’s usual arrogance drenched dribble all but killed this segment.
Charlotte is the only person that could be booked as a champion while not actually holding a championship! Rhea’s main focus should be defending the first NXT title to ever be featured on a WrestleMania card, but she’s too busy talking about how much beating Charlotte means – why?! You’re the one with a championship, Rhea. If this really is Vince and company giving NXT some recognition during the biggest show of the year, then maybe we should stop talking about how great Ric Flair’s daughter is!
Raw’s next negative is Drew McIntyre’s squash match against Erick Rowan. How are you going to tease Rowan’s mystery cage for months and finally reveal it’s a cheap animatronic spider, just to literally “squash” said spider a week later? This completely felt like the live killing of a gimmick. Rowan has no means of recourse against a man that’s already in a rivalry with Brock Lesnar and truthfully didn’t seem all that distraught about the whole event. My biggest complaint may come from the lack of any evidence of the spider being in the cage at all. You’re telling me AEW can drop expletives like a drunken sailor on a weekly basis but we can’t get a squirt of blood when Drew obliterated Rowan’s little buddy?
Finishing off this week’s negatives is the debacle that was Raw’s main event. How in the hell does a single’s match become an 8-man tag match that doesn’t involve one of the competitors from the original single’s match?! What could’ve easily been a fantastic match between Seth Rollins and Aleister Black quickly turned into yet another played out chapter of Kevin Owens and Seth’s current storyline.
I will never understand why talent on the level of Black, Ricochet, and Cedric Alexander always finds themselves as minuscule pieces of bigger angles. Stuff like this is why WWE has had continued issues signing outside talent. Why would anyone want to go from holding the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship or anything similar to competing on Main Event?
It’s safe to say that the closer we get to WrestleMania, the better the overall quality of the weekly programming is bound to become, and this week seems to have been the beginning of that mindset. Mania brings the best out of the WWE, but when it comes to which show was the best of the week, I’m calling this one in favour of…
Once again the red brand has found itself at the top of the mountain. Although the main event left a lot to be desired, a night of great promos and decent matches was more than enough to synch this win for the Monday night tradition. So, with Raw reclaiming its title of the best show of the week, 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!
You can find me on Twitter @DirtSheetDandy