In 2001 Vincent Kennedy McMahon shocked the wrestling world when he definitively ended the Monday Night Wars by purchasing World Championship Wrestling.
Throughout the mid to late ‘90s, WCW was considered the primary rival to McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. However, fueled by eighty-three weeks worth of failures, Vince finally accomplished the unthinkable. Not only had he beaten his competition, he literally owed them.
Unfortunately, with every great victory comes the inevitable drawback. Sure, McMahon had conquered the wrestling world, but his empire was built on the rivalry with WCW and the ratings that had come from it. With no other pro wrestling company at that time being nearly on the same level as the WWE, Vince decided to once again reach into his bag of insane brilliance and create his own competition! So, in March of 2002, the entire WWE roster was split into two separate brands; Monday Night Raw and Smackdown. The Monday Night Wars were over and the Battle of the Brands had begun!
Ladies and Gentlemen, that long-winded, history lesson of an introduction was intended to give a minuscule amount of backstory to this new weekly article series I’ll be handling for the foreseeable future. Red versus Blue! From here on out I’ll be viewing both current weekly primetime WWE shows, making notes of the positives and negatives from both, and wrapping it all up with my opinion of which show was the best. With the introduction and explanation out of the way, I say it’s time we jump right into Monday Night Raw!
WWE started off the week strong with a banner episode of its flagship program. The King of the Ring quarterfinals kicked off, we got a brand new Firefly Funhouse, and Bayley turned heel… or did she?
Starting off with Raw’s pros, the King of the Ring continues to be an excellent platform for pushing mid-card talent. As I’ve said before, even failing to continue within the tournament has a possibility of leading to a push in another angle. The O.C. assaulting Cedric Alexander tonight may have cost Cedric his opportunity at the throne, but it also planted the seed of him facing AJ Styles at Clash of Champions for the United States Title. Even the “Dusty Finish” of Ricochet and Samoa Joe’s quarterfinal match later in the night leading into a triple threat semifinal match next week brings a new unique twist to the classic tournament. My money is still on Ricochet taking the crown, especially since I’m fairly sure he’s the only person who hasn’t added the king moniker to his name since the event started.
Moving on, the Firefly Funhouse returns! This latest edition of Bray’s twisted series of vignettes may very well be the best yet. From Wyatt feeding cash to a money-hungry Vin…uh…”Boss” puppet, to the heavy implication of the Fiend getting a Universal Championship shot at Hell in a Cell, this one had it all. Once again, the Funhouse has established a strange feeling amongst the fanbase, almost as if we know something we shouldn’t, or maybe we truly have no idea what’s actually going on…
Finishing up the pros of this week’s Raw, I’d like to praise all the spotlight the women’s division received. Throughout Monday’s episode, several members of the female roster were featured prominently. Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks addressed their feud early on by making their match at Clash of Champions official, Lacey Evans and Natalya delivered a stand out match mid show, and the main event featured a tag match between the team of Raw and Smackdown Women’s Champions Lynch and Bayley facing Women’s Tag Team Champions Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss. Even Sasha swearing like a sailor and Bayley proving she indeed does know how to swing a foreign object felt like overall positive moments. It’s understandable that the female talent can’t be given this much attention every week, but it’s nevertheless refreshing to see it handled this well when they are.
This week’s episode of Raw was mostly good in my opinion, but I will cover a few quick “rapid fire” negative points in the interest of fairness.
It’s painfully obvious how much WWE wants the 24/7 Championship to be over. No one cares about the b.s. facts you’re trying to sell us about your dinner plate belt! And how is one of the facts not the amount of times the championship has been won by roll up pin?!
Speaking of unbelievable facts, The Miz beat Cesaro… Listen, I get it. The Miz is undeniably one of the biggest baby faces in the company currently, but you’re not gonna sit there and tell us he’s on Cesaro’s level. There they go insulting our intelligence again!
And finally, I don’t care how many times you rename them, if you don’t get The Viking Raiders out of squash matches, then you might as well release them so we can go back to enjoying the work they did for New Japan and ROH!
Ah, Smackdown, WWE’s in house alternative. I have to admit, it’s been some time since I’ve watched the blue brand. With my former weekly series being dedicated to Raw, it’s never felt pertinent to also take in Smackdown Live. That being said, I looked forward to seeing what Tuesday night’s show had to offer.
In regards to positive aspects, this week’s Smackdown definitely wasn’t lacking. The quarterfinals of the blue bracket of the King of the Ring took place, with Elias seizing the first semifinal spot and a surprise advance by Chad Gable later in the evening. I’m positive the finals will feature Ricochet facing Elias, but I know I’m not the only one considering the possibilities of a match between Gable and Ricochet!
Next up, the women’s division is still feeling that shine on Tuesday night as Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville received not only a non title victory over Cross and Bliss but also the possibility of a Women’s Tag Title shot at Clash of Champions. “Fire and Desire” issued a challenge earlier in the day in a WWE.com exclusive promo between the two teams, but after being denied the championship opportunity, Rose and Deville opted to instead prove their worthiness in a non title contest. This is that small level of old school booking WWE needs to work from time to time. You want a shot at the title? Beat the champ. Not only does it make total sense, but it also creates the idea in the fan’s minds that maybe the champion isn’t unbeatable… or maybe, that one time was just a fluke… This kind of storyline writes itself.
Lastly, I need to talk about Rowan. The final segment of this week’s Smackdown Live featured the revelation that Daniel Bryan hasn’t been dictating Eric Rowan’s violent actions towards Roman Reigns. In fact, it would seem Rowan has chosen to target Reigns based on his own motive, a point made even clearer after Rowan put Daniel Bryan through the announce table! Truthfully, I really hope this is the start of a heel singles push for Rowan, but I’m not holding my breath. Also, Roman versus Rowan…. You really booked a match between two guys who have basically the same name with one letter flipped?!
Switching gears to Tuesday Night’s negatives, it would seem Bayley’s heel turn is over before it started. During the opening segment of the show, Bayley herself proclaimed that nothing about her had changed. Not really something you’d expect to hear from the same person who beat their friend with a steel chair the previous night, and then also went on to launch another chair attack not five minutes after saying that! You can’t see stuff like this and not think that WWE had no idea what going heel meant for the Bayley character. This is why giving the fans what they want can be detrimental. If you can’t make sense out of it, there’s no point in doing it.
I know I already mentioned the 24/7 Championship in Raw’s negative highlights, but I think I’d take hokey title facts over what happened on Smackdown this week any day. Starting off, we saw Bo Dallas capture the title in the usual backstage roll up scenario, what followed can only be described as possibly one of the most cringeworthy things to be shown on television. Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura facing off against a local talent dubbed “The Miz” by Sami Zayn, in a match that featured Zayn shrieking loudly into a microphone at ringside for the duration. And, if that’s not enough to make you want to change the channel, before Nakamura stalked out of the arena, we got another 24/7 scramble where Drake Maverick won, Corey Graves mockingly referenced AEW, and then R-Truth reclaimed the title by pretending to be a lamp! Credit where it’s due, it takes serious balls to mock your competition while giving your own fans this level of content!
Wrapping up Smackdown’s cons, how are we expected to believe Kofi Kingston won’t retain against Randy Orton at Clash of Champions? I mean, I know im behind on the current angle, but it certainly seems like Orton has laid out Kofi consecutively for a few weeks now. You don’t get much more underdog champion than that. Also, where’s the New Day? Randy is teamed up with The Revival and suddenly Woods and Big E are nowhere to be seen? Not like WWE to miss 6-man tag match opportunities. All I’m saying is it’s pretty bad when Raw is headlining Clash with a nonsensical partner versus partner Universal Championship match, and that’s still more anticipated than the Kofi/Orton rematch.
I think it goes without saying that Monday Night Raw was the clear winner this week. With better quality King of the Ring matches, more positive attention paid to the women’s division, and an unexpected heel turn to close the show, this week’s Raw was the superior program without question
There you have it, folks. Monday Night Raw takes the inaugural edition of Red versus Blue! Come back next week to see if Smackdown Live can claim a victory of their own or forever be known as the “B” show.
Until then, may all your kicks be super, and every frog splash five stars!