Smackdown gets a little more “phenomenal” and Raw finally finds a crowd in this week’s Red Versus Blue!
Thirty three years ago, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and the Iron Sheik were arrested in the state of New Jersey for presumably driving while under the influence of marijuana.
Although marijuana was one of the most commonly used substances amongst much of the WWE roster during the late 80’s, Duggan and the Iron Sheik found themselves in majorly hot water as a result of this seemingly minor event. Yes, these two living legends were undeniably guilty of breaking the law, but in the eyes of Vince McMahon, the more punishable offense was the breaking of kayfabe.
Two members of the roster getting nicked for driving while high as a couple of Georgia pines is one thing, but the fact that this event involved a heel and babyface travelling together made this a different matter entirely. In the 1980s, professional wrestling was a world of heroes, villains, and talent being “on” at all times. Duggan was a flag wielding American patriot, and Sheik was the epitome of a foreign antagonist, the sheer idea that these two would be caught sharing a doobie between towns was enough to be considered hurting the business in some people’s minds.
As silly as it all may seem today, this one occurrence can easily be blamed for Jim Duggan’s lack of a world title push during his in-ring career, and the Iron Sheik’s tumultuous relationship with the WWE afterwards.
To many of my younger readers, this brief stroll down wrestling memory lane may seem like a ridiculous tale of overblown reactions considering how blurred the lines of kayfabe and reality are in WWE’s current product.
The dawn of social media and an ever-evolving fanbase has resulted in kayfabe being regarded more as a suspension of disbelief than the law it once was. However, this loss of what can be considered one of the fundamentals of wrestling has created a new opportunity for talent to get themselves over organically. Currently, the most shining example of this is AEW’s Maxwell Jacob Friedman.
By simply “living the gimmick”, MJF has successfully made himself one of the most entertaining members of AEW’s roster. Truthfully, it’s completely inconceivable to think we’ll ever see a heel character in WWE flipping off kids during autograph signings, but this week’s editions of flagship programming proved that the company still knows how to make the “bad guys” act accordingly.
From ropes being held during roll-up pins, to mouths writing checks that butts can’t cash, this week’s shows were chocked full of heels acting “heelishly”. That being said, it seems the question we gather to answer each and every week has quietly begun to knock at our door.
So, when it comes to a week of WWE denizens and they’re dastardly doings…which show was better?
You know the schtick, ladies and gentlemen! Every week, I watch the shows, make the notes, and deliver unto you fine readers my semi-informed opinion of which show was better overall. Again, this week’s victor will be determined solely on what each show did best. With the introduction and explanation dutifully dealt with, it’s time for us to jump right in to this week’s highlights!
Kicking off this week’s list of Blue Brand highlights is the “Dirt Sheet” segment we saw open the show. This is exactly the type of antics we should be seeing from a heel tag team like Miz and Morrison.
Whether it was the not so subtle jabs at other talents, or the old school style of resisting a chance to back up their claims, John Morrison and The Miz perfectly personified what professional wrestling heels should be. Even the short backstage spot later in the show built the bad guy bona fides of this duo, showing the two in good spirits and casual dress despite Miz suffering a loss to Braun Strowman earlier.
Strowman defending his Bluniversal Championship in a handicap match may not make the most sense in the world, but I think Miz and Morrison will make it one of the more entertaining matches we’ve seen from WWE as of late.
Next on Smackdown’s highlight list is AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura’s first round Intercontinental Championship tournament match.
Now, I’ve gone on record as saying that AJ and Shin’s match at Wrestle Kingdom 10 will always be their best confrontation, but I’m still not going to complain about any opportunity I get to see these two face off! Not only did Styles and Nakamura deliver what could easily be awarded Friday’s “Fight of the Night”, but the news of AJ being traded to Smackdown and his advancement in the tournament could mean we’re headed towards Styles facing Daniel Bryan in the finals.
Similar to the recently returned Jeff Hardy, Styles has proven that he can make in-ring magic with just about anyone on the current Blue Brand roster, so it goes without saying that we should all be excited about what the future holds for the “Phenomenal One”.
Wrapping up the Blue Brand’s highlights for the week is the fantastic bout we saw between NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair and Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley.
This was a great heel moment for Bayley and the logical next step in the build to Bayley facing Sasha Banks. Although it was through nefarious means, Bayley proved that she can beat the top female talent WWE has to offer without the aid of “The Boss”. Sure, this is old school “friend versus friend” booking, but it’s always refreshing to see WWE throwing a modern filter on something that’s been proven to work.
Hopefully, Bayley’s work in this match is a preview of what we can expect once she and Banks finally do come to blows.
Switching over to the Red Brand’s highlights, first up is the use of the NXT roster as a crowd.
Finally, WWE has figured out one of the ways AEW has made their product increasingly more watchable amidst the global pandemic! I think I speak for us all when I say that the reaction of a small group of under talent absolutely trumps the stark silence of the Performance Center. Even a minuscule pop makes all the difference and giving talent the likes of Shotzi Blackheart and Simone Johnson a few moments on primetime television is never a bad idea.
Yes, the “hockey-like” wall of plexiglass surrounding the ringside area is slightly distracting, but if this is what it takes for us to move away from a soundtrack of mat noises and grunts, I’ll take it!
Next on Raw’s highlight list is the outstanding United States Championship match between Apollo Crews and champion, Andrade.
It is about time Apollo Crews got his hands on a WWE title! After five years of name changes and failed pushes, it seems that Vince and Co are finally ready to give Crews the single’s push he absolutely deserves. Truthfully, this could easily be perceived as Crews being an intermediate champion so that Andrade can fill a much needed main event heel role, but I’m choosing to look at the positives, so let’s just be thankful that Apollo now has at least one title reign to his name.
Finishing off this week’s highlights is the women’s division storyline that last night’s Raw was structured around.
Taking a concept as understandable as a triple threat number one contender’s match and building subtle offshoots from it is exactly how the current stock of WWE shows should be handled. The “KO Show” precursor introduced viewers to the players involved and expertly opened the door for the women taking part to forge angles that would carry throughout the match. Possibly the biggest takeaway from this portion of the night is the “blink and you’ll miss it” Tyson Kidd reference Natalya made during a pre-match interview spot. With rumours of Nattie’s husband possibly being able to make an in-ring return, it seems WWE already has plans to stir up the speculation.
As things around the world slowly return to normal, it seems WWE has finally found their stride when it pertains to putting on wrestling shows during a pandemic. Both Raw and Smackdown were extremely entertaining this week, with the glaring hindrances that plagued the last few months of programming not shining through nearly as brightly. With that being said, the point of this article is to crown an overall winner of the week, and when it comes to this week I’m going to have to call this one for…
From great tournament booking, to heels acting like heels, Smackdown won this week by utilizing classic wrestling troupes and proving the adage that “less is more”. My hat is absolutely off to the Blue Brand’s creative team for being able to make a superior show without Bray Wyatt appearing in any form! Well, with Smackdown earning this week’s win, 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