Red Vs Blue

Before And After WrestleMania | Red vs. Blue (SmackDown 3/4/20 & Raw 6/4/20)

Benjamin Clem looks at the go-home SmackDown and the Raw after WrestleMania, to decide which bramd did it better.

From heartfelt farewell match replays to NXT call-ups, we look at the before and after of one of the most interesting Wrestlemanias to ever take place in this week’s Red Versus Blue!

Holy cinematic wrestling, Batman! This had to be one of the most interesting weekends in the history of professional wrestling. Intent on delivering entertainment to the quarantined masses, WWE gave us two nights chocked full of empty arena titles matches and overly produced gimmick segments akin to what put Lucha Underground on the map.

Although, the WWE fanbase may still be struggling to decide whether Wrestlemania 36 was an overall failure or success, this week’s Red Versus Blue is set to take an extensive look at the before and after of the first Mania to ever take place during a global pandemic.

Similar to the way many things have changed since the world wide spread of COVID-19, this week’s RvB will continue the style of determining an overall winner for the week solely based off what both shows did well. As I’ve said in recent weeks past, it is beyond selfish of us to judge these shows negatively when Vince and company are delivering the absolute best they can do during such uncertain times.

Sure, you may be upset that the “Firefly Funhouse” match wasn’t technically a match, but at a point in time where most of us are just thankful that live wrestling events are still taking place at all, it’s better to stifle the naysaying for a later day.

So, with a New Day level of positivity in mind, it’s time to address the question we gather to answer each and every week! In a time of quarantines and filming from undisclosed locations, 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. With the introduction and explanation handled in the usual fashion, it’s time for us to jump into the before and after of Wrestlemania 36!

Kicking off the Blue Brand’s highlights is the continuation of the Mandy Rose and Otis storyline that I’m sure many of us were beyond ready to see. When things got a bit out of hand during a singles match between Dolph Ziggler and Tucker, all parties involved found themselves audience to the first appearance of the entity that’s seemingly been keeping an eye on Dolph. After weeks of programming “glitches” taking place whenever Ziggler was featured as a main focal point, the perpetrator of these “blink and you’ll miss it” moments was finally revealed as a hooded figure surrounded by computer monitors.

Proclaiming that the “truth would be heard”, this mystery figure revealed that not only had Sonya Deville been the one behind Mandy’s “running late” text to Otis, but also that Dolph’s involvement was a quid pro quo style bargain between himself and Deville. This was exactly what needed to happen to properly set this Mania match up!

Yes, the “GTV”-Esque reveal could’ve taken place during Otis and Dolph’s match at Wrestlemania, but with overproduced segments like the “Boneyard” and “Funhouse” matches already in the chute, it made all the sense in the world to have this happen Friday night to set up Sunday’s takeaway being Mandy and Otis’ first kiss. I’m normally the first to criticize WWE’s ability to successfully manage long term booking, but this was undeniable proof of Vince and Co’s capabilities.

Smackdown’s next highlight had to be the decision to make this week’s pay per view replay match, the emotionally charged Ric Flair retirement match from Wrestlemania 24. If we’re going to be revisiting matches of the past for the foreseeable future, then this is absolutely the type of history-making content that should be featured. Not only is this one of the best matches of both Shawn Michaels’ and Ric Flair’s careers, but its tear-jerking final moments are the stuff of pure legend.

There is not a fan alive that would take Reigns v. Triple H over “I’m sorry, I love you.” any day of the week! Hopefully, this is the beginning of us seeing more high profile past matches featured rather than ones that just happen to be relevant to current storylines.

The Blue Brand’s last highlight of the week is the final tease we received going into Sunday’s polarizing “Firefly Funhouse” match. Friday night’s closing minutes saw John Cena accept Bray Wyatt’s Wrestlemania challenge before being given a small taste of what The Fiend had in store for him two days later. In what may have been an ominous foreshadowing of Cena’s fate at Mania, Bray’s funhouse puppet friends appeared amongst the empty first row of the Performance Center to unnervingly chant that Cena would soon be playing with them forever. This lead to The Fiend appearing to stare down John from the “crow’s nest” PC interview structure before the horror movie like jump scare of Bray suddenly materializing behind Cena.

This was the perfect precursor to the mental trip that was the “Funhouse” match! Closing Friday night’s show with “Big Match” John looking beyond unsure of what his future held was an amazingly refreshing divergence from past weeks of the stereotypical, ego-driven Cena swagger. I’m more than certain that we haven’t seen the last of John Cena, but if Sunday night was his last hoorah in professional wrestling then I’d say that both the lead up to and subsequent “Funhouse” match could easily be considered as some of his best work as a performer.

Switching gears to the night after Wrestlemania, Raw’s first highlight has to be the apparent call ups of a number of NXT roster members. Sure, it kind of negates NXT being considered a viable third brand when you are still having people moving up to the “main roster”, but that is never going to take away from the feeling we get from seeing a developmental talent featured on one of WWE’s flagship shows.

Last night’s Raw saw the inclusion of Oney Lorcan, Danny Burch, and Bianca BelAir as part of the Raw roster. After years of all three of these wrestlers being the sleeper hits of NXT, it’s safe to say that they will be welcomed editions to Raw’s tag and women’s divisions respectively. Although BelAir getting the most screen time could mean she’s the only legitimate post Mania call up, it’s still nice to see WWE using dire times as a reason to feature some of the more underutilized NXT roster members on their established programs.

Raw’s next highlight is the long-awaited return of Nia Jax. Truthfully, this completely felt like a moment that was originally scheduled for Mania before the world went topsy turvy, but having it take place the night after in no way took away from how great it is to see the “Irresistible Force” finally back on WWE television. When the current landscape of women’s professional wrestling includes uber-popular figures such as Jordynne Grace, Nyla Rose, and Maria Manic, there is no reason that Nia Jax shouldn’t be pushed more than ever before.

I’m more than positive that we’ll see Nia positioned as the next challenger for Becky Lynch’s Raw Women’s Championship. Not only could Lynch and Jax deliver an absolute classic, but I’m sure that it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that Jax could be the person to finally dethrone Becky’s long reign as “The Man”. Personally, I’m looking forward to what’s next for Nia Jax.

Wrapping up this week’s highlights is the impromptu WWE Championship match we saw between The Big Show and new champion, Drew McIntyre. Now, I said before that I’m avoiding negativity, but am I the only one who was surprised The Big Show could still work this hard?! This has to be considered one of the best matches of Show’s recent career! Even if this was a cheap way to promote Show’s new…show on Netflix, it definitely did its job and then some! If Raw had one moment that held a candle to the Flair retirement replay on this week’s Smackdown, it was this. There is nothing more inspiring in these troubled times than seeing a living legend still being able believably to work a great match.

The Victor

This week’s offering of prime time programming may be the best we’ve gotten since the sudden world-changing effects of COVID-19. Although many of us would be perfectly content with the world of wrestling taking an indefinite break like many other mainstream sports, it’s incredibly commendable that WWE has taken current events in stride and seem to have proven once again that they are ever adaptable. So, with two great shows serving as the bookends to an undeniably interesting weekend of wrestling, I’m going to have to say this week goes to…

As I said, both shows this week succeeded in delivering well beyond current expectations, but I’m handing this one to the Blue Brand due to the expert wrapping up of the pre-Mania storylines and the inclusion of the Flair retirement match. You just can’t give me an excuse to rewatch possibly one of the best matches in Wrestlemania  history and not expect me to side with that show! Well, with Smackdown stealing this one with emotionally palpable history, 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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