Red Vs Blue

Big Return After Big Return | Red Vs Blue (SmackDown 3/1/20 & Raw 6/1/20)

With a whole host of debuts and big Royal Rumble announcements, Benjamin Clem reviews the latest episodes of Raw and Friday Night SmackDown.

After a week of returns, lacklustre promos, and botched spots, Red Versus Blue is back to see which brand stood tall overall!

There’s nothing quite like an end of the year break to recharge the batteries, am I right? After a full year of calling the “battle of the brands” on a weekly basis, your’s truly took this opportunity to step away from WWE programming. So, you can imagine my surprise when I sat down to watch this week’s editions of Raw and Smackdown

Apparently, Vince and company have decided to embrace the “New Year, New Me” cliche by rolling into Royal Rumble with all guns blazing! Both Raw and Smackdown featured a heavy emphasis on storylines as well as highly anticipated returns. However, this full roster push towards the Rumble did result in several botched spots and screwy promos. As we inch closer towards the Rumble, it’ll be interesting to see if WWE will be able to shake the air of “rush” that was felt during this week’s shows, but that’s a question vastly overshadowed by the one we’ve gathered to answer today!

I know it’s been a few weeks, but hopefully, you all still know the shtick. 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 handled, let’s jump right into the positive aspects!

The Good

The Blue brand kicked off the new year as the first televised WWE event of 2020. Friday night’s focus appeared firmly set on the continuation of Daniel Bryan and Brat Wyatt’s current rivalry, with this week’s twist in the road being The Miz’s apparent descent into madness. The Fiend’s recent psychological attack on The Miz’s family has undoubtedly left a disturbing impression. One of the biggest highlights stemming from this night long angle has to be the promo that took place between The New Day and Miz. The always jovial duo of Big E and Kofi Kingston started the segment off with their usual antics, reminding Miz of his stellar championship decade while also leaving us to wonder what exactly Big E watched on New Year’s Eve.

However, The Miz was having no parts of being cheered up and what started off as a fairly comical promo quickly became a tension-filled confrontation between Miz and Kofi. This perfectly built the tone for the match between the two later in the show as well as the heelish outburst from The Miz after said match. You can’t ask for a better setup to a presumed heel turn than this! It was the perfect use of the “wrong place, wrong time” angle but with the twist of Kofi actually being able to stand up to Miz’s challenge. Topping all this off with the surprise return we’d eventually see after Kofi and Miz’s match made it the most probable choice for the best moment of the night.

Next up, how about that Dana Brooke push?! Now, I know that this is all predicated on Dana’s implied relationship with soon-to-be Hall of Famer, Dave Bautista, and he could very well be the person behind the recent attention Brooke has received, but when it comes to Dana doing her part, this lady is knocking it out of the park! What we saw from Dana Friday night was an absolute 180-degree turn from her early days as Charlotte’s sidekick or her faux Alexander York gimmick. Brooke shined throughout this week’s women’s triple threat tag match, finishing the contest with an impactful senton on Sasha Banks that made my midsection hurt just watching it. It definitely appears as though this push could carry Dana all the way into a profile spot at this year’s Wrestlemania, and after years of hard work and a noticeable improvement in the ring, it’s safe to say she’s earned it.

Wrapping up Smackdown’s positives, we have to talk about the multitude of returns the Blue brand hosted this week. First, we were treated to Sheamus seemingly coming to the aid of Shorty G, just to cement his heel persona by Brogue Kicking the pint-sized pugilist.

Then, John Morrison re-debuts by speaking on behalf of the Miz after the latter’s apparent breakdown in the ring.

And finally, Jimmy and Jey Uso (complete with new hairstyles) returned to prevent Roman Reigns from having to take part in another cringeworthy dog food shower. Seeing this many talents return at one time is always refreshing and creates a feeling of anticipation for what’s ahead. This was the perfect example of the booking that’s needed for the first show of the year.

There’s an interesting dynamic that comes from Brock Lesnar currently holding Raw’s top title. With a full-time roster member like Bray Wyatt reigning as Universal Champion, Smackdown has to allocate a certain amount of time to Bray’s current rivalry. However, Brock holding the WWE Championship while working on a limited date contract allows Monday Night Raw the ability to push non-title angles such as everything leading into the Royal Rumble. Now, this style of booking isn’t without its critics, but even I can see where this is the safest way to use a part-time talent as over as Lesnar is.

That being said, you can imagine my surprise when Raw opened with Paul Heyman and Brock announcing Lesnar’s decision to enter the Royal Rumble in the number one spot! Sure, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a world champion enter the rumble, but no one was expecting this, and the questions it raises are near limitless! Is the Rumble match for the title now? What happens if Brock wins? Is there anyone entering the Rumble that could conceivably eliminate Brock? When it comes to securing viewership for an upcoming show, this is exactly how you do it.

Moving right along, what the hell is in Erick Rowan’s cage?! Now, I know that before the break I talked about how I was starting to sour on the mystery of what Erick Rowan keeps bringing to ringside, but last night’s Raw added enough levels to reignite my interest. Rowan allows Mojo Rawley a peek and it results in a reaction that would make Tommy Wiseau proud, then Erick’s most recent jobber victim is forced to look under the burlap, only to emerge with a crimson covered face.

What was that? Blood? Mist? Jam? Doesn’t matter, the important thing is that this was just enough to get people caring about the angle again, but the reveal still needs to come sooner than later.

Lastly, the WWE’s flagship program saw a return of its own as living legend Paul “The Big Show” Wight re-debuted as Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe’s mystery partner for the main event six-man tag match. With the question of who would be partnering with KO and Joe persistent throughout the night, fans were undoubtedly blown away when the future Hall of Famer’s entrance music hit. This was, by far, the best setup and delivery the WWE has given us in a long time. Nothing felt flat, the hype was perfectly handled, and the reveal resulted in a deafening pop. As far as returns go, this is exactly how it should be done.

The Bad

The new year’s offerings of WWE programming definitely weren’t without their flaws. Any deviation to the “tried and true” method of doing things inevitably comes with the chance for problems. A fact that obviously reared it’s head several times Friday night. First off, let’s talk about Lacey Evans. Transitioning from a heel to a babyface is rarely an easy process, and Evans’ prematch promo was undeniable proof of that. Interrupting a promo between Bayley and Sasha Banks, Evans made her way to the ring while chastising Banks and Bayley for mentioning her daughter, finishing the speech with a campy remark about “bad guys always being defeated”.

Here’s the thing, I’ll admit I may have missed Banks and Bayley referencing their previous ringside interactions with Lacey’s daughter, but even if it that is the case, Lacey’s rant still would’ve felt out of place. Sasha and Bayley are portraying the perfect smarmy heel personas, and Evans’ response is a cringe-worthy rant about defeating “evil” when she used to shove sweaty handkerchiefs in her opponent’s faces! You can’t make us forget that by dialling up the southern mom schtick up to eleven! She had another wrestler’s fiancee’s name sewed on the ass of her tights at one point! How’d she explain that one to her daughter?!

Speaking of bad promos, let’s cap off the Blue brand’s negatives with the series of segments that served as the precursors for Sheamus’ return. Kicking off this angle was a decent enough live promo from Elias which referenced The Revival. This segment would be the setup to a supposed earlier filmed backstage spot where The Revival found themselves at odds with the ever-optimistic Shorty G. Here’s where things started getting screwy. Not only did Shorty’s appeal to The Revival sound bland and scripted word for word, but he also mentioned the statement made by Elias which had just been shown live! You could even see The Revival stifling their reactions to Shorty referencing something that supposedly hadn’t happened yet! Canon is key when it comes to kayfabe, and a slip of the tongue is understandable, but it definitely hurts that suspension of disbelief you want going into a return as anticipated as Sheamus’ was.

Monday night would see the missteps continue, starting off with the lacklustre promo between Becky Lynch and Asuka. A fair amount of Becky’s recent success is based off her skills on a microphone. Throughout the years, there have been very few women that have been able to elicit a purely emotional response while addressing the crowd. Normally this is where Lynch stands unrivalled, however, much of her verbal bravado is lost when the current Raw’s Women’s Champion is paired with an opponent who speaks English as a second language.

Much of Asuka’s career in the States has been defined by her in-ring work, which can’t be overly pushed unless the two face off before their match at the Royal Rumble. Thus, we end up with what we saw last night. An adequate promo delivered from Lynch, followed by Asuka shouting in Japanese as she danced to the ring, only for it all to end with a poorly pulled punch from Lynch. I can only assume Lynch will end up getting misted by Asuka next week in response, but having it happen after this promo last night would’ve made the entire segment much more enjoyable.

Next on the chopping block is the revisited wedding of Lana and Bobby Lashley. You know, it’s hard to believe creative even cares about this storyline when the powers that be forget to tell security that the wedding officiant was going to be entering the ring! Honestly, the only thing that saved this entire segment for me was green screen beach Rusev, and the fact that this seems like WWE trying to beat AEW to the intergender wrestling punch. In terms of where this angle could’ve ended up, this isn’t so bad, but I think most fans will still breathe a sigh of relief once this one is over.

Lastly, let’s talk about the over-promotion of next week’s Raw closing out this week’s show. Nothing says, “We know this show was bad” quite like WWE bribing us to watch next week’s edition! I’ve praised several moments for creating questions this week but ending Raw like this completely kills that. The only questions Raw left us with was “What exactly is a Fist Fight match?” and “Why should we care?”. Honestly, Brock could’ve come out and obliterated everyone in the ring, and that would’ve been a better ending than what we got.

The Verdict

With Royal Rumble on the horizon and AEW taking the month off from pay per view, it certainly seems like WWE is attempting another push to keep their top spot in the wrestling business. But, the question of which brand was better this week still remains. In my opinion, this week’s winner is…

Both Brands brought their best to television this week, but Smackdown continuously delivering throughout the night despite a few setbacks definitely puts it over a Raw that tried to entice us into thinking next week will be better.

There you have it, folks. Another victory for the Friday night crew, and another Red Versus Blue in the books. With all that said, the time has come once again 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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