As the first stop on the “Road to Wrestlemania” inches closer, we cover a week full of puppet mutilation and fistfights in this edition of Red Versus Blue!
It’s undeniable that this past week has kicked off 2020 with a bang when it comes to the world of professional wrestling. With news of Marty Scurll resigning with Ring of Honor, Nick Aldis invading an ROH pay per view, and Tessa Blanchard becoming the first female talent to capture a promotion’s World Championship all taking place just a few weeks into January, it’s very possible that this year could be one of the biggest in recent wrestling history.
As “main event” news poured in from a plethora of the “alternative” promotions, the anticipation for WWE’s reaction had already begun to grow. Never wanting their dominance of pro wrestling questioned, while also never straying from the blueprint set by Vincent K. McMahon, the WWE went about business as usual with a seemingly renewed sense of purpose. Utilizing the ambient hype left lingering by their competition, Vince and Co. sought to keep viewership high with two above-average editions of weekly programming. But, the question we gather each and every week to answer still remains…
You know the drill, ladies and gentlemen! 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 expertly handled, it’s time to jump right into this week’s positive highlights!
Now, before anyone calls me out about a lot of the indy happenings I referenced in the intro taking place after Friday night, let me just say that Marty’s contract status has been on a lot of minds since the final weeks of last year, and Tessa’s World Championship reign was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Anyone who knew how big the following days could prove to be more than likely would’ve tuned in to Smackdown.
This week’s blue brand offering kicked off with an overly promoted edition of MizTV featuring the “Shaman of Sexy”, John Morrison. Not only was this exactly the right segment to start the show with, but it also conveyed the struggle Miz is having with his inevitable heel turn perfectly. The addition of John Morrison as the proverbial devil on Miz’s shoulder makes this storyline even more enjoyable with moments like Morrison completely contradicting Miz’s opening apology by chastising the fans, and his eventual interference in the match that followed. From the exquisite back and forth between Morrison and Big E on commentary, to the booking of back to back singles matches, this absolutely feels like an old school tag team rivalry. It’s safe to say we’ll see a Smackdown Tag Team Championship match at Royal Rumble with Miz and Morrison most likely winning by nefarious means.
Switching gears to the Universal Title scene, the saga of Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt continues to be the most entertaining part of Smackdown. With no matches scheduled for The Fiend or the father of the “YES” movement, the entirety of this week’s continuation was featured in various backstage spots. A new Firefly Funhouse was shown early on, with Bray Wyatt excitedly proclaiming his love for everyone, only to quickly exclude Daniel from this grouping. Next, a backstage interview from Bryan was interrupted by Funhouse puppet, Ramblin’ Rabbit, appearing on a monitor behind Daniel. Ramblin’ began to tell Daniel that he knew how to defeat The Fiend, but Bray’s gloved hand quickly silenced the raggedy puppet before he divulged any information.
The final segment of the angle saw Daniel Bryan opening a gift wrapped box mysteriously left in his locker room, with the contents being the demolished “remains” of Ramblin’ Rabbit. Since being drafted to Smackdown, the gimmick of The Fiend has very obviously been handled as a horror film homage. That being said, the reason Bray supernaturally terrorising The Miz’s family falls flat and this doesn’t is because this feels more real. At the end of the day, fans know that paranormal characters like Bray and The Undertaker are just wrestlers. Therefore, it’s far more creepy to see Wyatt gift his own mutilated puppet than it is to see him popping up on baby monitors. WWE needs to think more Joker, less Freddy Kruger.
Last up for Smackdown’s positives has to be the match between Braun Strowman and Shinsuke Nakamura. Truthfully, there’s not much to be said about the rivalry surrounding this match. Nakamura has had a lengthy reign with the Intercontinental Title, and Braun is a very obvious choice to succeed him. That being said, the real positive of this whole angle has been the quality of wrestling we’ve seen resulting from it. It’s widely known that Strowman highly enjoys being in the wrestling business, and pairing him with competition on the level of Cesaro, Sami Zayn, and Nakamura has allowed the “Monster Among Men” to shine brighter than ever before. Friday’s exhibition between Shinsuke and Braun not only utilized the old school troupe of someone pinning the champ to receive an eventual title match, but it also gave us a small taste of how Nakamura’s striking offensive will match up against the overwhelming strength of Strowman. This could very possibly be the sleeper match of the Royal Rumble.
After history was made less than twenty-four hours before, WWE’s flagship show stepped up to reestablish dominance and build the hype for the Royal Rumble.
Starting things off for the Red Brand’s positives has to be the Brock Lesnar and R-Truth segment. Now, I’ll be the very first person to tell you that I’ve never claimed to be a fan of the recent use of R-Truth or Brock Lesnar. In fact, usually, I’ll come right out and say that Brock is an overpaid, over-hyped part-timer and Truth is a former NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion who’s been reduced to a joke holding an even bigger joke of a championship. However, last night’s promo between these two was the stuff of legend! Starting this spot off with a more agitated than usual Brock nearly walking out over his displeasure with the fans, just to have Truth break the tension by promising to eliminate Heyman from the Royal Rumble was comedy gold! And I know I wasn’t the only person hoping we’d see Brock roll up Truth for the 24/7 Championship after the latter ate a well-deserved F-5 from the former.
The Red Brand’s next positive came in the form of what may be the final match of the Aleister Black/Buddy Murphy feud. Like the Strowman/Nakamura rivalry covered in Smackdown’s positives, there’s not a lot to be said about the storyline that brought us to this match. Black delivered several vignettes referencing an open challenge, with Murphy eventually becoming the one who quite literally knocked on Black’s door.
After several intense confrontations and multiple “dusty” finishes, Aleister and Buddy finally went one on one to determine the better warrior with Black coming out on top. Black and Murphy are both amazing talents and this match perfectly showcased the skills these men possess. Possibly the best part of this whole segment had to be Murphy’s reaction to being beat. Allowing Buddy to continue to sit ringside looking completely shell shocked as the next match took place was the absolute best way to convey his desperation.
Wrapping up Raw’s positives is the main event “First Fight”. Turns out a “First Fight” is actually a Tornado 6-Man Tag Team Street Fight, but “Fist Fight” does roll off the tongue slightly easier. I personally don’t think I could’ve booked a better ending than this for last night’s show. It had everything! Table spots! kendo sticks! This was the epitome of “controlled chaos”. And the final moments?! Well, not to spoil anything too much, but I’d say Seth’s new faction will have a name soon…Please be “The Sword”!
Although this week’s WWE programming was of better quality than usual, that definitely doesn’t mean there weren’t a few missteps. Launching into Smackdown’s negatives, let’s talk about this Otis and Mandy angle.
I’ll admit that even I have been guilty of sympathizing with Otis, throwing out the occasional “Aww” reaction to his misguided attempts to woo the undeniably beautiful Mandy Rose. But, this story is all over the place! This week Mandy was first shown lost in thought as she prepared for her match, then she delivered an apology cake to Otis for upsetting his mother. Pretty sweet imagery, huh? Well, how about following that with Mandy being the definition of “shitheel” in that match she was getting ready for, and Otis earning her the win by distracting Alexa Bliss with a… let’s say “seductive” cake eating entrance. The only plausible place I see this going is some strange take on “Of Mice and Men” where Mandy uses Otis’ affection to her advantage, and I really don’t think anyone wants to see that.
Next on the chopping block is the interaction between Lacey Evans and Smackdown Women’s Champion, Bayley. Once again, the failing face turn of the “Sassy Southern Belle” has found itself under my microscope as this week saw Evans “stood up” by Sasha Banks. After “The Boss” failed to answer her entrance music, Bayley appeared on the Tron to inform Evans that Sasha was currently working on her rap album and therefore wouldn’t be taking part in the match. This would lead to Lacey storming backstage only to be ambushed by Bayley.
Firstly, implying that Sasha Banks would “no show” an event seems like a fairly obvious jab at her time off last year. Speaking of obvious, how did Lacey not realize Bayley was setting her up? The “Come Get Me” troupe has only been around since WWE started putting giant screens at the top of the ramps! Oh, and how about the ref that stopped Evans from retaliating by saying, “It’s not with it.”? She just had her head slammed into a utility box several times, man. Pretty sure it would’ve been worth it.
Finally, let’s discuss Friday night’s main event. I honestly thought that bringing the Usos into Baron Corbin and Roman Reigns’ feud would prove to be the jump-start this rivalry desperately needs, but it seems I was horribly wrong. This week’s main event saw Jimmy and Jey making their in-ring returns in tag action against Dolph Ziggler and “King” Corbin. What could have been a very well crafted match between four extremely gifted individuals quickly turned into a muddled cameo fest that included one nasty table botch by the time everything was said and done. I get that this entire storyline seems to be setup to the Rumble so it’s not a big deal to incorporate as many wrestlers as possible, but that really doesn’t come close to explaining Roman causing a disqualification when his cousins were defending the actions taken against him. The sudden appearance of Robert Roode only served to make this entire match feel even more convoluted. At least if Roman does win the Rumble, the result could be more entertaining than this was.
Moving along to the Red Brand’s follies first up is the fledgeling rivalry between Charlotte and Sarah Logan.
Like the previously mentioned Reigns/Corbin feud, I think this is a Rumble centric angle because it makes zero sense otherwise. For two weeks, Sarah Logan has competed with a slightly different gimmick and guerrilla-style of wrestling, but no one has told us why! Nor have they told us why she’s decided it’s Charlotte Flair that deserves her focus. Liv Morgan becomes the former implied lesbian lover of Lana and she gets four weeks of vignettes, Logan starts a rivalry that showcases her ring work against possibly the most talented woman currently in wrestling and she gets nothing!
Speaking of Lana, you know the newlyweds were making the negatives. Truth be told, the match between Rusev and Lashley that took place last night was actually decent. It was everything before and after that earns it a thumbs down. I’ve said before that the smart move was to keep anything involving this angle short and to the point, so you can imagine the eye rolls that came from yours truly as we were treated to pre-match interviews, pre-match recaps, mid-match interruptions, and post-match interviews. I’m going to keep saying this until this God awful angle finally dies…NO…ONE…CARES!!!
Closing out this week’s negatives is the contract signing between Asuka and Raw Women’s Champion, Becky Lynch.
This is one of the rare examples of everything being set up exactly how it should be just for the end result to fall flat. Every part of this was good, Kairi’s playful interaction with Lynch, Becky getting misted as she signed the contract, her emotional promo as she painfully wiped her eyes…it just didn’t land how it should of. There’s something off about this entire rivalry. Maybe it’s the fact the Asuka is already holding a championship, maybe it’s the sense that this is a result of Raw having a less than stellar women’s division, maybe it’s the fact that Becky is rocking Bruce Lee inspired gear despite the fact that he was Chinese! Where ever the fault my lie, it doesn’t mean that the match between these two at the Rumble will be anything less than spectacular. It just means it’ll take one more awkward week to get there.
Any week where I find myself enjoying more of WWE’s programming than I do cringing at it should be considered an absolute win for Vince and company, but that’s not the win we came here to determine. Only one show can stand as the superior product of the week and this week the winner has to be…
From Fist Fights to Four Man Factions, this week’s Raw is the standard I’d like to see moving forward in 2020. Well, with a more than deserved win going in the Red Brand’s column, the time comes once again 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. Thanks for reading.